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Wishin and Hopin

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Arizona, 1967

The car shuddered briefly, the engine cutting out for a moment as Nicole stepped on the clutch desperately. She hunched over the driving wheel and tapped the dashboard like that would help. Her shirt clung to her back, sweat dripping down her neck.

“No, come on,” she muttered to herself as the car roared back to life. The car behind her honked and she just waved an apology at them as she put the car in gear and drove it onto the campus. She ducked her head in an attempt to look at the street signs as she passed. The campus map they had sent her a few weeks ago just sat crumpled in the seat next to her. It was no good, really. Just a bunch of lines on a piece of paper, tiny icons indicating certain buildings. Nicole knew what dorm she was supposed to be in and that was about it.

“Arizona State University”, a sign proclaimed proudly as she got deeper into the campus. There were students milling around on the streets and grass that she passed, all off in their own little worlds. Nicole tapped nervously on her steering wheel to the song playing over the radio. The announcer came on after the song and introduced the next one.

“You're listening to KTUF and here's some Glenn Campbell to start off your morning!”

“By the time I get to Phoenix she'll be rising. She'll find the note I left hangin' on her door. She'll laugh when she reads the part that says I'm leavin'. 'Cause I've left that girl so many times before-”

Nicole switched off the radio immediately, her stomach turning. Talk about hitting a little close to home. Her mind wandered to Shae back in Colorado, probably waiting by her dorm phone. She glanced at her watch, it was a half hour after she told her she'd call.

“Shit,” she muttered as she quickly turned down a street with a “Matthew’s Hall” sign at the end of it.

It was fine. She'd just explain that her car had broken down somewhere in the middle of Utah and it had taken her a moment to get it running again. Shae would sigh and tell Nicole that she had warned her about driving the Cadillac that far. It was about fourteen years old at this point and riddled with problems but she refused to get rid of it. It wasn't that bad after all. It even had an Airtemp! Which only worked half the time but...the option was there.

Shae hadn't been happy about her transferring to Arizona, that was made abundantly clear. Despite all the support she had offered, Shae didn't bother hiding her disapproval. But Nicole knew she couldn't spend another day in Colorado. She had suffered there far too long and she needed out as soon as possible. Plus Shae was busy with medical school...they’d probably see each other just as much anyways.

Not only that...but Nicole was kind of looking forward to time away from Shae. Even if she'd only admit it when she really let herself. Things hadn't been easy since...well since her world was turned upside down almost nine months ago now. She had rationalized that they needed the time apart to grow back together. Or whatever bullshit she had convinced herself.

Nicole pulled her car into a spot and turned it off. The engine popped as it cooled, sounding relieved to finally get a rest. She sat back in her seat for a moment, letting the dry heat roll over her body. She plucked at her t-shirt, grimacing when it stuck to her skin before opening the heavy door of her car and sliding out.

All around girls were unloading the back of their cars with boxes and duffles, moving back into the dorms. Some greeted each other like they'd known each other for years, most exchanged pleasantries. Nicole wiped her sweaty hands on the rough denim covering her thighs before reaching into the backseat of her car for her duffle. She was a light packer. She had managed to stuff everything she needed into her brother's old army bag and her backpack.

She grabbed the welcome papers she had been sent and double checked her room number. 259. Second floor. Better than the top floor at least. Stuffing her keys in her jean pocket and closing the car door, she headed for the entrance. She ducked her head and made her way inside, dodging between the other girls who were bringing in their own suitcases. She made her way up the stairs, taking two at a time despite the heat.

Walking down the hall she read through the numbers until she made it to her own. The door was slightly ajar already and Nicole pushed it open cautiously, poking her head in.

“Hello?” she said to a girl who’s back was turned to her. The girl turned around, long ponytail whipping over her shoulder as she did.

“Hey!” the girl said offering a bright smile. Nicole couldn’t help but look over her bright paisley dress, feet bare, “I’m Rosita. Are you my roomate?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” Nicole said stepping into the room, large duffle following behind. “I’m Nicole.”

“Nice to meet you,” Rosita said holding out her hand. Nicole took it with a smile before dumping her duffle bag on the bed. The frame of the cheap bed creaked under it and Nicole grimaced for a moment. “You’re a light packer, huh?”

Nicole shrugged off her backpack and checked the time on her watch again. Now she was almost forty-five minutes late calling Shae. “Do we have a phone in here?” she asked.

“No, an RA has to come by later and set it up. They have the ones downstairs though. Down the stairs and to the left. You can’t miss ‘em,” Rosita said as she continued folding her clothes, “Got someone special back home to call?”

“Yeah,” Nicole said with only a slightly forced smile, “My um...girlfriend.” She blushed, avoiding Rosita’s gaze as she dug in her backpack for some change.

“Ah,” Rosita said in recognition, “Now we have at least one thing in common.”

Nicole turned to look at the other girl who gave her a wink back. She chuckled when she realized what she meant and nodded. It was a relief, really. She had met more than her share of people that were definitely not okay with her being...well, gay. A nickel in hand, Nicole nodded at her new friend. “Thanks for the tip,” she said, “I’ll be right back.”

She slipped back out of the room and down the stairs, taking two at a time. Following the path that Rosita had told her, she found the row of payphones and sat in front of one. She pushed the nickel into the slot, metal clicking against metal as it went down. Her knee bounced nervously as she dialed the number and listened to it ring. She counted them, plucking at her shirt again. With the fans going it was definitely cooler in the building, but she still hadn’t cooled down completely.

“Hello?” Shae’s voice came over the phone.

Nicole let out a small sigh of relief. “Hey, babe,” Nicole said running a hand through her hair.

“You’re late. Did your car break down?”

Nicole grimaced and rubbed the back of her neck. “No,” she lied.

Shae chuckled anyways. “I don’t believe you. How was the drive?”

“Long. Boring,” Nicole admitted, “But I’m here and it’s really fucking hot.”

“That’s what happens when you move to the desert,” Shae said, “I’m just glad you’re there safe after driving in that death trap of yours. Did you meet your roommate yet?”

“My car is not a death trap,” Nicole argued, “And yes, I did. She’s really nice it seems. So far.”

“Did you call your mom?”

“No,” Nicole said quickly, “And you know I’m not going to.”

There was silence over the line for a moment and Nicole picked at a hole in the edge of her shirt. She had switched school partially to get away from her parents. She wasn’t about to call them.

“I miss you,” Shae said softly.

Nicole felt her stomach drop and she closed her eyes, gripping the phone with two hands. She breathed harshly through her nose, and tried to remember what it used to feel like when Shae said things like that. The butterflies...lightheadedness. What it felt like before...everything changed.

She remembered opening the door. An officer in his formal uniform standing there with a somber look on his face. Her mother screaming.

“Nic?” Shae’s voice brought her back from her daze and she wiped a stray tear from her cheek. “Where'd you go? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, sorry,” Nicole said clearing her throat, “I'm fine. I miss you too.”

“I can't believe I'm not going to see you until Thanksgiving,” Shae sighed.

Nicole smiled despite herself. “I'm going to call you so much you won't even get a chance to miss me, babe.”

“Sounds good,” Shae said with a smile in her voice, “Call me tomorrow then?”

“Of course.”

“Okay. I love you,” Shae said.

Nicole swallowed a sickness in her throat and croaked out. “I love you too. Bye.”

She hung up the phone and slumped in the seat for a moment. She already felt strained and it was barely noon. Rolling up her sleeves sloppily, she trudged her way back up to her dorm. As soon as she opened the door, she could hear The Doors playing. Rosita had set up a record player on her desk and was arranging albums in a box.

“How's your girl?” Rosita asked with a smile.

“Good,” Nicole said as she unzipped her own duffle. She turned it over and dumped it’s contents unceremoniously on the bed. Shifting through her clothes, she found what she was looking for. A green army jacket, slightly too big for her, with the patch on the right breast that read “Haught”. She hung it carefully on one of the bed posts and started folding her other clothes. “She's in med school in Colorado.”

“Oh a doctor. Nice,” Rosita said with a wriggle of her hips, “Sounds fancy. How long have you two been together?”

“A little over two years now,” Nicole said with a small smile, “We met in one of our English classes Sophomore year.”

“That's really cute,” Rosita said sitting on her bed, “I feel like English classes are like aphrodisiacs for lesbians. I met a girl in mine last year too. Something about reading literature just really gets a girl going I guess.”

“Girlfriend?” Nicole asked putting some shirts in a drawer.

Rosita chuckled. “No. We kinda...have a thing. On and off,” she shrugged, “But not almost two years serious. You know? She's all about that free love right now.”

“Ah,” Nicole said with a knowing nod, “I get that. I think.”

Silence fell over the two as “Light My Fire” ended and the needle fell off the record. The speakers hissed with empty air as Rosita got off the bed to turn the record over. Nicole's stomach rumbled and she blushed, turning back to her roommate.

“Hey, is there a snack cart or...vending machine somewhere near here?” she asked as she threw the rest of her pants in the drawer unfolded.

Rosita bobbed her head along with the music. “Sure. There's a snack cart down the road. Sandwiches and stuff,” Rosita said pointing in a vague direction.

“I'm gonna get something. What anything?” Nicole said tapping her pocket to make sure she had money there.

“Nah, I'm groovy, thanks,” Rosita answered.

Nicole left the dorm again, the sun hitting her hard as soon as she stepped outside. She frowned, wishing she had brought her sunglasses as she continued in the direction Rosita had pointed. There was a large lawn in front of the dorm parking lot, other buildings along the edge of it. There was a road between the buildings and lawn, a steady stream of cars moving along it.

The snack cart was under a large tree and it was fairly cool in its’ shade. Nicole breathed a sigh of relief and looked in the clear case at the selections before walking up to the man behind the register.

“What can I get ya?” he asked as he fanned himself with a paper lunch bag.

“Just a bologna sandwich and a coke,” Nicole said digging in her pocket for change.

“Sixty cents,” he said holding out his hand. She dropped the change in his palm and he went behind the case to get her sandwich. He came back and handed her the sandwich wrapped in butcher paper and her coke.

Nicole took her food and walked the few feet away to sit under the tree. Back against the trunk and long legs out in front of her, she unwrapped her sandwich. She watched as students went to and fro with emotional parents scattered through out.

When her parents dropped her off at college for the first time, her mother cried. She knew her dad had gotten emotional too but he would deny it.

“We’re glad you decided to go to college, sweetie,” her mom had said as her dad and brother carried boxes in from the back of the family station wagon. She was dabbing at her eyes with her handkerchief.

“Yeah, it's the only place for squares to be,” her brother said winking at her from over a box.

“Don't listen to your brother,” her mom said as she fussed over her, wiping some imaginary dirt off her cheek with a thumb, “We’re very proud of you. Just because he's fine working with your dad instead of school doesn't mean you have to be too. You hear me, Nicky?”

Nicole leaned away from her mom's fussing. “Yes, mom,” she mumbled just as Chris came back and put her in a headlock. He ruffled her hair as she struggled to break free.

“Chris!” their mom shreiked, “Stop it. I swear you'd think you two had never grown up.”

Nicole finally broke free and socked her brother in the arm. He rubbed his arm dramatically despite the smile on his face. “Ouch, baby sis, you been using my punching bag in the garage?”

Mrs. Haught had slapped Nicole's hands down just as she put them up in her fighting pose. “That's no way for a lady to act.”

A car honked somewhere in the distance and Nicole blinked herself out of her memory. Had that really been three years ago? It felt like forever and yesterday all at once. Some days she felt like everything had happened yesterday, other days it felt like she'd lived five lifetimes.

A car rolled by, Doris Troy pouring through the windows over the radio and Nicole took a big bite of her sandwich. Something or-...someone caught her attention out of the corner of her eye and she turned. A bright pink bike was riding down the sidewalk but that's not what made her pause in her chewing and time to slow down. Riding the bike was a sandy haired girl, round sunglasses on and hair blowing in the wind behind her.

“Just one look. And I knew, knew, knew that you, were my only one. I thought I was breathing, but I was wrong. Yeah yeah yeah-”

It was hard to tell with the sunglasses on, but Nicole swore the girl looked right at her and smiled. Nicole smiled back and watched her as she passed, wondering how long it would be until she could breath again.

***

Nicole was sweating. Again. Not that she should be surprised. But sprinting across campus with her backpack in tow certainly didn't help. When she left for class that morning she had been looking at it upside down and...yeah. Now she was ten minutes late and praying she wasn't the only one. It was her European History class and she was sure she would forget everything as soon as the class was over anyways, but she still didn't want to risk her grades.

She practically burst into the building without slowing down. Her Chucks slapped against the linoleum, skidding to a halt when she reached the correct classroom. She reached for the handle but her hand was slapped away at the last moment.

“Hold up there, Red,” a dark haired girl said shoving herself between the door and Nicole.

“Hey!”

The other girl held up a finger to silence Nicole as she peered through the small window in the door. If Nicole hadn't been panting from the run she would have protested more.

“Okay, Red, it’s Professor Lucado. We're fine,” she said opening the door and going into the classroom, Nicole following. The entire class turned to look at them and the tip of Nicole's ears tinted. The professor stopped talking, an unamused smile on her face.

“Wynonna Earp,” she said, hands on her hips, “I should have known.”

“Lucado, long time no see,” Wynonna said. She clapped Nicole on the back, forcing her forward a little bit from the force. “Sorry I'm late. I was just showing my new pal Red here the way. She got a bit lost.”

Lucado looked at a paper on her podium. “Nicole Haught?”

Nicole nodded, “That's me. Sorry I'm late, ma’am.”

“Just take a seat, girls,” she said with a tight smile. Wynonna grabbed the sleeve of Nicole's jacket and pulled her to the back of the classroom with her. Nicole slid into a seat, backpack dropping to the floor with a thud as Lucado went back to explaining the syllabus.

“Nicole, right?” Wynonna whispered, leaning over from her own seat.

Nicole pulled a notebook and her book from her backpack, frowning a little at Wynonna. She really has a lot of gall to keep talking even after being late. Nicole just nodded and offered a friendly smile, hoping she'd get the hint and then back towards the front of the room.

“Don't worry about Lucado,” Wynonna continued, “As long as we don't disrupt too much she's fine. It's easier for her to ignore me then get one hair of her tidy beehive out of place.”

Lucado cleared her throat loudly, eyes staring at them through cat eye glasses. Wynonna held her hands up in defeat and slid down in her chair.

“Alright,” Lucado continued, “Our first assignment is a partner one-” Wynonna hit Nicole’s arm immediatly, claiming her as her partner. “-and it’s due at the end of the quarter. So turn in your topics by next class. Now, open your books and we'll talk about The Black Plague.”

***

Nicole sat on the main quad where she had found a bench under a tree. There were groups of students spread out over the grass, talking and catching up after a summer away. Just watching the interactions made her feel not as lonely.

She had managed to survive her first two classes, and now she was done for the day. It was hot still, surprise surprise, so she had bought herself a bottle of Coke from the commissary. She wasn't quite ready to go back to the dorm yet. She checked her watch and took a long sip of her drink as she checked her watch. Shae would be done with her classes in about an hour then Nicole could call her.

She noticed a class getting out in the building closest to her and watched the students spill out. She spotted Rosita walking out of the building and waved, faltering only when she saw who was walking with her. It was the same girl she saw riding the bike a couple of days ago near her dorm.

Rosita smiled me waved back but Nicole's eyes were still on the other girl and the way her long hair fell over her shoulders, nearly covering the vest she was wearing. Long legs disappeared under the all too short skirt of her dress and Nicole felt her whole body flush with a different kind of heat than the one she'd been used to these past couple of days.

“Hey, Nicole,” Rosita said approaching her roommate. Nicole smiled at her, scrambling to her feet as they approached. “You're wearing a jacket in this heat? That's brave.”

The redhead looked down at the army jacket slung over her shoulders and shrugged, “I-it was cold in the classroom,” she managed, looking between the two girls.

“This is Waverly,” Rosita said putting her hand on the shorter girl’s shoulder. Nicole nodded at her, Waverly smiling back. She was even prettier up close, Nicole couldn't help but notice. “Waverly, my new roommate Nicole.”

“Nice to meet you,” Nicole said, her smile only widening.

“You too,” Waverly said. The two gazed at each other for a moment and Rosita nudged Waverly's hip with her own before looping their arms together.

“Well, we have to go, but I'll see you later, Nicole?” Rosita asked.

Nicole finally tore her eyes away from Waverly and nodded. “Yeah, I'll see you at the dorms.”

“We're going to Shorty’s later if you want to join,” Waverly piped in, “At around eight to celebrate the first day of classes.”

“Shorty’s?”

“Yeah it's a bar right off campus,” Waverly explained, “I actually work there too. Part time. So I know the service is good.” Waverly winked at Nicole and it felt like butterflies had erupted in her stomach.

“I'll be there,” Nicole said without thinking.

“Groovy,” Waverly said, smiling even wider, “We’ll see you there then.”

“Yeah, see ya,” Rosita said as the two walked away.

Nicole watched the two girls leave, her mouth dry so she picked up her Coke from the bench and finished the bottle. She whispered under her breath as the girl's finally disappeared from view. “Groovy.”

***

Nicole had found Shorty’s fairly easily. It certainly wasn't the only bar off campus but it was the most obvious. While the others were polished and new looking, Shorty’s looked like it was right out of an Old West town. Before Nicole headed inside, she straightened out her turtleneck and jacket, making sure it was all in place. She used the streetlight overhead to look down at herself and make sure everything was in order. After all, she was meeting new friends and wanted to make a good impression.

Friends. Just friends.

The muffled bass of “Wild Thing” was coming through the door of the bar and the full song hit her as she walked through it. The smell of stale beer and cigarettes was heavy around her, it felt like she was wading through it. Her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting of the bar as she looked around for Rosita and Waverly. Finally spotting them at some pool tables in the corner, she walked over to them while swallowing the nerves in her throat.

Rosita spotted her first and waved Nicole over. There was a jukebox behind them that clicked over to a new song as Nicole approached. A waitress walked by with a tray of beers and Rosita grabbed one from the top and handed it to the redhead.

“Welcome,” Rosita said balancing the end of the pool stick on the top of her high boots. Nicole took the beer gratefully.

“Thanks,” she said taking a sip as her eyes landed on Waverly who was bent over the pool table, cue in position in front of the cue ball. She really wished she hadn't been drinking then, because Waverly bent over in that short skirt made her choke. She tried to cover up her sputtering, covering her mouth with her jacket.

Waverly took her shot, waiting as the balls rolled over the pool top. A striped ball went in and she stood straight, cheering for herself and turning back to Rosita. “Ha!” she said over the pumping music, “And I'm back in the lead.”

“Not for long,” Rosita said setting her drink on a ledge that ran along the wall of the bar. She walked over to the pool table, purposefully walking close to Waverly and Nicole looked away. It felt like she was intruding on something...private.

“Nicole! I'm glad you came!” Waverly said stepping in the redhead’s eyesight.

The pesky butterflies lit up her stomach again and she smiled at the brunette. “I figured I'd check the place out.”

“I'm glad. It means you can watch me kick Rosita's ass in pool,” Waverly said even as Rosita threw her a look.

“How do you know Rosita?” Nicole asked trying to make conversation. She didn't want Waverly to lose interest and wander away, leaving her alone.

Waverly picked up her drink next to Rosita's and drained the contents, glass clinking at the bottom. “We had an English class together,” she said leaning against the drink ledge.

Something clicked in Nicole's brain and she looked over at Rosita. She had said she was having a casual thing with a girl from one of her English classes…”Ah,” Nicole said taking another long sip of her beer. Something heavy settled in her stomach but she tried to ignore it.

Waverly’s frown was evident even in the dim lighting. “What does that mean?”

Nicole's eyes widened and she shook her head. “Nothing. All I said was ‘ah’.”

“Yeah you said it like you had just figured something out,” the other girl pressed.

“Waves, your turn,” Rosita said walking up to the brunette. Waverly squinted at Nicole for a moment before picking up her cue and going back to take her turn.

The game continued and Waves did eventually win. All three of them several drinks in and feeling it. They had all found stools at the bar, Waverly between the other two girls. Nicole was giggling at...something Rosita had said. She didn't even remember what it was, but it was hilarious. The only one not laughing was Waverly who was staring at Nicole like she was trying to figure out a puzzle.

“What?” Nicole asked as her laughter died.

Waverly had one elbow on the bar, fist holding up her head as she looked at the redhead. Nicole couldn't help the stupid smile that spread over her face at the way this girl was looking at her. This girl that she had known for a handful of hours had wormed her way into a part of her heart she thought had died a while ago. Maybe it was the alcohol making her head feel all fuzzy...maybe that was the feeling she had right now. But she had the feeling that if Waverly looked at her with those hazel eyes and asked Nicole to drive her far away right now she'd do it.

Thoughts of Shae crossed her mind and she felt a sickness roll over her for a moment. But just a moment. After all she wasn't doing anything wrong, just making friends.

“You're interesting,” Waverly finally said as Rosita slipped away to the restroom.

Nicole pointed at herself. “Me?”

“Yeah you.”

“I'm not interesting.”

“Sure you are,” Waverly said frowning, “I think you're interesting so you're interesting.”

Nicole was completely enamored with the way Waverly was slurring her words, even if she was sure her slurring was just as bad.

“An’ why do you think that?” Nicole asked softly.

Waverly leaned a little closer to Nicole. “I can sense it.”

“Sense it?”

Waverly nodded slowly and leaned so close that Nicole could count every one of her eyelashes even in the low light. “I can sense it here,” Waverly poked Nicole right between the eyes, “and here,” she brushed her fingers along the edge of the name patch on Nicole's jacket, “and here.” Waverly slipped her hand under Nicole's jacket and settled her hand on her shirt just over her heart.

Nicole's breath caught in her throat. It felt like Waverly's fingers were pressing directly into her heart, squeezing it and warming her whole body. Is this what dying felt like? Or maybe just what it felt like to be alive again.

“I can sense it,” Waverly repeated before her hand slid out of Nicole's jacket.

Nicole licked her lips and let her eyes trace Waverly's features. “We'll see about that,” she said just as the song on the jukebox faded out.

“Just one look and I know. I'll get you some day, oh, oh, oh.”

Chapter Text

“Hey, stranger,” Shae said over the phone, “How was your first week of classes?”

Nicole laid back on the bed, cord of the phone stretching halfway across the room to reach her. “It was good. Pretty uneventful. What about you?”

Shae sighed, “Already stressful. There’s a whole group of stupid people who refuse to sit near me in class.”

“People are small minded,” Nicole said, an anger rising in her stomach, “You’re smarter than them anyways. All they see is your skin.”

There had been more moments then she could count that Nicole almost got into fights with people that had something ignorant to say about Shae. There were times they’d gotten kicked out of restaurants and stores. Every time Shae would have to tell Nicole that getting arrested wasn’t worth any of those problems.

“I’m strong and I’m proud, nothing makes them angrier than that,” Shae said, “And that’s what makes me bigger than them too.”

Nicole couldn’t help but smile despite everything. “Just let me know if I need to beat anyone up, okay?”

Shae chuckled, “My knight in shining armor, huh?”

“Not at all.”

“Our song came on the radio today and I thought of you,” Shae said softly, a smile apparent in her voice.

Nicole licked her lips as she played with the edge of her green and blue plaid shirt. Her mind blanked for a moment as she strained to remember what their song was. She remembered dancing together in Shae’s dorm room...record playing in the background… Just the memory alone made her ache in longing. But not for Shae or to be near her. She longed to feel what she used to feel when she thought about their times together. The gentle ache in her chest she felt from missing her. Nicole didn’t feel that anymore.

“Sing it for me,” Nicole said softly.

Shae said flatly, “You don’t remember it do you?”

“Sure I do, babe,” Nicole said looking up at the ceiling, “I just like it when you sing to me.”

“Baby love, my baby love, been missing ya, miss kissing ya. Instead of breaking up, let's start some kissing and making up. Don't throw our love away, in my arms why don't you stay?” Shae sang softly.

Nicole felt her heart sinking with every word and she blinked away tears. “I always forget how depressing of a song we have,” she mumbled.

Shae laughed. “I think it’s sweet. It’s the first song we danced to.”

“You mean the first song you danced to,” Nicole said,”I still can’t dance to save my life.”

“Sure you can, you just refuse to. Have you made any friends?” Shae asked, some vague noise in the background.

Nicole thought of Wynonna and how close Waverly had gotten to her at the bar. She cleared her throat as a heat rose on her neck. “Yeah a couple.”

“As long as you’re not just holing yourself up in your room and not talking to anyone,” Shae said. There was a rustling on the other side of the phone and Nicole strained to hear. “Oh, my times about to run up on the pay phone. I’ll call you tomorrow?”

Nicole glanced at the clock. “Good timing. I have to meet my project partner in the library. What time do you want to call?”

“Eight?”

“Talk to you then,” Shae said, a smile obvious in her voice, “Love you.”

Nicole’s mouth went dry and she forced out, “I love you too.”

She hung up the phone and stood up to walk the phone back to the small table at the end of the dorm. After talking with Shae, Nicole always ended up in her own thoughts. She knew she hadn’t felt the same about Shae in a long time. Before everything happened, she was going to break up with her. But after that soldier came to the door it felt like everything with Shae fell into place just as everything was falling apart. Shae held her and comforted her. She was there for her when her parents realized they couldn’t ignore the way their daughter seemed to only hold eyes for women. They decided losing one child wasn’t enough and they had to lose both of them and Shae picked up the pieces. She was the only thing Nicole had that even resembled stability.

Nicole did love her, she always would. Just maybe not in the same way that Shae loved her. Not anymore anyways.

She didn’t realize that she had been standing staring at the phone until the door opened, almost hitting her in the head. Nicole jumped back, narrowly dodging it as Rosita came through the door.

“Oh! Sorry,” Rosita said when she realized she’d almost hit her roommate, “Did I get you?”

Nicole shook her head, all words dying in her throat when she saw Waverly behind Rosita. She swallowed a lump in her throat and looked away as soon as Waverly smiled at her, cheeks hot. “I’m fine.”

Rosita sat on her bed, Waverly following her. Nicole took in how Waverly’s hair was pulled into a side ponytail with a white ribbon to match the belt around her waist, stark against her orange dress. As she folded her legs on the bed, the skirt rode up just enough to make Nicole blush and look away again. She quickly put on her Keds, lacing them up and straightening her shirt again.

“How have you been, Waverly?” Nicole asked running a hand through her hair nervously. She asked like she hadn’t just seen her the day before. So maybe Nicole figured out that Waverly and Rosita’s schedule was the same Monday, Wednesday and Friday...and maybe she figured out if she sat on that same bench she had been sitting in on Monday when she ran into them she could wave at Waverly as she walked to her next class. And Rosita. Of course. Nicole, after all, was just putting herself out there like Shae said. Making herself accessible and making friends.

“Good. I work tonight at Shorty’s if you wanna swing by. I might be able to get you a deal,” she said with a wink.

Nicole smiled stupidly and rubbed the back of her neck as she reached for her backpack on the desk shoved up against the wall besides her bed. “Um, yeah maybe,” she said.

“Maybe?” Waverly asked, “Or definitely?”

Nicole saw the playful look on Waverly’s face and caved almost immediately. “Yeah, definitely then.”

“Right on,” Waverly said as she toed off her moccasins and they fell to the floor with a dull plunk. “I’ll see you later then.”

“Later,” Nicole said as she slipped out the door. She put her backpack straps over her shoulders and started down the stairs. She was already out the front door when she realized she had forgotten her keys. “Fuck,” she whispered to herself as she turned around and walked back up the stairs. She opened the dorm door and instantly her whole face turned red.

Rosita was on top of Waverly, their lips connected and Waverly’s leg hooked over the other girl’s hip. The two girls jumped apart as soon as they realized they weren’t alone, both turning red.

“Sorry!” Nicole sputtered as she slapped her hand over her eyes and walked blindly to the desk. Her knee bumped into it in her earnest and she yelled. “Fuck! Shit. Sorry!”

She looked between her fingers just to grab her keys and began to the door again, this time stubbing her toes on her bed frame.

“Nicole!” Waverly said, “You can open your eyes. You’re going to hurt yourself.”

She let her hand fall from her face, eyes daring to land on Rosita’s bed. The two girls were just sitting again, and it would all be fairly innocent if it wasn’t for Waverly’s ponytail being crooked or both of their lips being swollen.

“Sorry, again,” she mumbled moving swiftly to the door again, “I’m just going to kiss off now if you don’t mind.” Nicole saluted them awkwardly before leaving the dorm and closing the door behind her. She just stood for a moment, still a little in shock at what she had seen. Shock and...a burning that felt a lot like jealousy in her chest. Or something close to it anyways.

“Fuck,” she whispered to herself for a reason she wasn’t completely sure of yet.

***

“I’m so bored,” Wynonna groaned to herself. Nicole looked up from her book to see the brunette stretched out over a big armchair in the library, her own book resting open on her stomach. Wynonna had been productive for about a half hour before losing interest and just grunting to all of Nicole’s questions. Rubbing the palm of her hand with her thumb to ease a cramp, Nicole leaned back in her chair and looked at her partner.

“Is that you giving up?” Nicole asked with a raised eyebrow.

Wynonna turned her head to look at her. “I’m not giving up. Just pausing. What time is it?” she sat up just enough to look at a clock on the wall, “Looks like whiskey o’clock to me. Wanna go get a drink?”

Nicole looked at her notebook. They had a good start of the project...it couldn’t hurt she supposed. Plus, maybe they could go to Shorty’s if Waverly was working there...she still hadn’t been able to get the image of Rosita and Waverly out of her mind. It made her face burn and the urge to rub her eyes.

“Sure,” Nicole relented, “Shorty’s?”

Wynonna sat up in her chair and looked more energized than she had the whole time they’d been working. “You read my mind.”

They gathered their stuff and got into Nicole’s car. Thankfully it started the first time and Wynonna was too busy going through the radio stations to notice how the engine stalled just about every time they came to stop on their short drive to the bar. Wynonna was out of the car before Nicole even came to a complete stop at the curb, through the doors before Nicole could get out. She checked her appearance in the rear view mirror quickly grabbed her jacket before getting out and wandering into the bar.

She blinked as her eyes adjusted, shrugging the jacket on and eyes immediately finding Waverly behind the bar. Wynonna was sitting on a bar stool and waved Nicole over, patting the seat next to her. “Red! This is my baby sister, Waves,” she said pointing to the other girl.

Waverly’s eyes landed on Nicole and they both blushed, Nicole just thinking how it looked when Waverly was under Rosita. Her ponytail was picture perfect again, dress crisp like she hadn’t been rolling on the bed in it just a few hours earlier.

“I know her already, Wy,” Waverly said leaning her elbows on the bar, “She’s Rosita’s roommate.”

Nicole sat down next to Wynonna who looked over at the redhead. “You didn’t tell me you knew my sister.”

“I didn’t know she was your sister,” Nicole said softly.

“Yeah, well she got the smarts and I got the looks,” Wynonna said winking at Waverly. The younger girl rolled her eyes and threw a bar towel at Wynonna.

“What can I get you two?”

“Whiskey.”

“Just...a beer,” Nicole said smiling at Waverly.

Waverly looked at her for a beat and said, “Sure, soldier.”

Nicole opened her mouth to ask what she meant but Waverly was already moving behind the bar, getting their drinks and helping a couple of the other customers that were in there. The bar was quiet, especially compared to how it was on Monday. Most of the people in there looked like other college students, a couple of older patrons too. Waverly came back and put her beer in front of her, whiskey in front of Wynonna.

Wynonna nudged Nicole, eyes on the corner of the room as she tipped her chin towards the pool table. “Isn’t that Lucado’s TA?”

She looked over towards the pool tables and saw a man with a thick mustache and cowboy shirt bent over the table. His blue eyes were piercing even in the low lighting and Nicole shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Wynonna purred and took a long sip of her whiskey before sliding off of her stool. “I’m gonna go find out. Wish me luck, Red.”

“Good luck,” Nicole said as Wynonna sauntered over to the pool table. She chuckled and turned back to the bar, drinking her beer.

“So, you know my sister,” Waverly said stopping in front of Nicole.

“So, you’re dating Rosita,” Nicole said with a raised eyebrow. She wanted to laugh and take the words back, to hide how much she was affected by the whole thing even when she didn’t want to be. She had no right to be...disturbed in any way. Yet here she was...bringing it up anyways.

Waverly smiled, head tilting. “No, we’re not...dating per say.”

Nicole felt her heart lighten a little as she took another drink of her beer. “Just necking then?”

“Something like that,” Waverly said biting her lip, eyes darting over Nicole in a way that made her nervous, “Why do you care, soldier, I thought you had a girl back home.”

“I don’t care, I was just curious,” Nicole said hoping her pink cheeks wouldn’t show in the dark of the bar, “And I do.” She paused for a moment, licking some beer foam off her top lip before continuing. “And why do you call me that?”

“Call me what?”

“Soldier.”

Waverly leaned across the bar and tugged on the collar of Nicole’s jacket. Her fingers drifted down and played with the green buttons before she looked back at Nicole. “Soldier.”

Nicole shrugged and shifted in her seat. “It’s just a jacket.”

Waverly hummed as she straightened back up. Her face turned serious as she looked at the name patch on Nicole’s jacket. “Nothing is just anything anymore. It’s just a jacket just as much as it’s just a war.”

The redhead felt her stomach drop at the mention of the war. You couldn’t turn on the television or the radio these days without the mention of it. The reminder of everything that had been lost. She took a long sip of her beer before answering. “What, are you a hippie or something?”

Waverly smiled and Nicole couldn’t help but notice how the dread in her stomach lifted just a little at the sight. “What, are you a soldier or something?” she teased.

“If I was I wouldn’t be here,” Nicole said softly. The condensation from the glass had formed water droplets on the bar and Nicole ran her fingers through it, making unknown shapes on the worn wood. A warm hand settled over hers and she stopped, looking up to see Waverly looking at her again. Her hand warmed at Waverly’s touch, tips of her ears tinting.

“Take me to a movie,” Waverly said, “That new ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ movie is supposed to be groovy.”

Nicole’s heart fluttered. It was happening so often now she could probably be convinced that her heart had up and grown wings. At least around Waverly. “I have a girlfriend, remember?” Nicole said.

Waverly’s hand was still on top of hers. Nicole felt like each second her entire body heated up just a little more. “I know. Friends go to movies together, right?”

She tilted her head again and Nicole’s eyes lingered along the column of her neck for just a second too long. She licked her lips and looked down at their hands. “Yes...they do,” she said looking up at the brunette through her eyelashes, “What about Wynonna?”

They both looked back towards the pool tables. Wynonna was sitting on the edge of the pool table, the TA leaning on the pool cue and standing close to her. They seemed more than occupied by themselves in the corner. Waverly lifted her hand from Nicole’s and it felt like air rushing back into her lungs after drowning.

“I’m sure my sister won’t mind,” Waverly said, her smile bright, “Is that a yes, then?”

Nicole pretended to think for another moment before sighing. “Fine. When do you get off?”

“Right on! I get off-” Waverly bounced in one spot and untied the apron from around her waist, looking at the clock, “-Now.”

She watched Waverly throw her apron somewhere under the bar and signal another girl that she was leaving. Nicole took a long sip of her beer before looking down at it. “I haven’t finished my beer yet,” she said as Waverly came over to her and grabbed her jacket sleeve in an attempt to pull her off the chair.

“It’s okay, it’s on the house,” Waverly said with a wink. Nicole slipped off the stool, the rubber of her Keds sticking a little on the bar floor. Waverly’s hand trailed down Nicole’s arm as she led the way back out of the bar. It felt like a trail of fire burning down her skin.

Nicole let herself admit, just for a moment, that she had a crush. Just a harmless crush. It was normal to have crushes, they never meant anything. A crush was just mere...fascination. She knew it would fade soon. Especially with Waverly being...attached to Rosita. Nicole briefly mused that the crush was probably just a product of her being away from Shae and things being rocky with her. Nothing more.

“This one’s mine,” Nicole said pointing to the green Cadillac. Waverly ran her fingers over the edge of the hood and Nicole shrugged. “It’s not much.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I think it’s groovy,” Waverly said as she slid into the passenger door.

Nicole got in, looking over at the brunette. “Really? That’s-...not something anyone usually says about my car.”

Waverly smiled and ran her fingers over the dashboard like it was made of gold. “It has history. And it clearly means something to you. That makes it groovy.”

The redhead started the car, thankful the engine didn’t stall out this time. “How do you know it means something to me?”

Looking around the interior, Waverly shrugged. “I can sense it.”

“There you go sensing things again,” Nicole teased as Waverly pointed her in the way of the movie theater.

“I’m never wrong about these things,” Waverly said angling her body more towards Nicole in the bench seat, “Am I right? Does it mean something to you?”

Nicole shifted in her seat, making a show of looking out the window as she drove. “Yeah,” she said as easily as she could, “It was my brothers.”

“You have a brother? Older?” Waverly asked readjusting her already perfect ponytail.

“By a year,” Nicole said, already regretting mentioning Chris. She could feel Waverly’s eyes on her, but kept looking straight ahead as she drove. The movie theater marquee glowed in the distance and she willed it to be closer.

“It was nice of him to give you his car,” Waverly continued.

“He didn’t need it anymore,” Nicole said quickly as she pulled into the parking lot behind the theater.

Waverly sighed, “Wynonna wouldn’t even teach me how to drive. Gus wouldn’t either. Said Wynonna could drive me around.”

Nicole exhaled, thankful the subject had changed. “You don’t know how to drive? And whose Gus?”

“I don’t,” Waverly said pointing to an empty spot that Nicole pulled into, “Gus raised us. She owns Shorty’s actually.”

Waverly got out of the car and questions filled Nicole’s head, but she kept them to herself. If she didn’t want Waverly asking her questions, she figured she shouldn’t ask her any complicated ones either. As soon as she closed the car door, Waverly looped their arms together and started walking with her towards the front of the theater. Nicole stuffed her hands in her jacket pockets and tried not to think of how the side of Waverly’s body was pressed against hers.

Crush, she reminded herself, It was just a stupid crush.

“You know, I could teach you how to drive,” Nicole mumbled as they approached the marque.

“You would do that?” Waverly asked looking up at her with a smile that stretched all the way across her face. She said almost dreamily, “Nicole, that would be far out.”

Her heart thrummed in her chest as Waverly squeezed her arm and leaned her head ever so briefly on Nicole’s shoulder. “It’s not a big deal,” she muttered, her throat tight. They got up to the ticket booth, a bored teenager smacking her gum behind the glass and Nicole pulled her wallet out of the inside pocket of her jacket. Her fingers brushed against the crumpled cigarette packet there that she hadn’t taken out since she first put the jacket on. “Two for ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, please.”

“Two fifty,” the teller said as tore off two tickets.

Nicole handed her three dollars and got her fifty cents back, immediately handing it to Waverly along with her ticket. “For popcorn or whatever.”

Waverly squeezed her arm again and Nicole hated how much she liked it. “Wow, you’re a great date, you know that?”

The redhead’s face matched her hair as Waverly dragged her away from the ticket booth. “I have a-”

“I know, I know, you have a skirt back home waiting for you,” Waverly said with a playful roll of her eyes, “I was just teasing you.”

Waverly ordered a popcorn and drink with two straws from the concessions, making Nicole carry the drink so she could hold the popcorn bucket to her chest. “I love how warm it is.”

“Waverly, it’s a million degrees outside right now,” Nicole said as they walked into the theater and found two seats.

“Says the girl wearing a jacket,” Waverly said as they sank into their seats.

The movie started and Nicole stayed sat on her own hands the whole time. She remembered her brother talking about how when you took a girl to the movies, you’d let her hold the popcorn and make sure you put your hand in at the same time as her so your hands would touch. Nicole definitely did not want that happening on accident. She already wondered what Shae might say when Nicole told her that she went to a movie with a girl. Alone. As friends, obviously, but still.

“Don’t you think Faye Dunaway is such a fox?” Waverly whispered. Her mouth was close to Nicole’s ear, her hot breath tickling her and making the hair on the back of her neck stand up.

“Yeah,” was all she managed, eyes still on the screen.

“Mama's an old woman now. I don't have no mama. No family either.”

“Hey, I'm your family,” Clyde insisted.

Bonnie continued, fifty feet tall on the screen, “You know what, when we started out, I thought we was really goin' somewhere. This is it. We're just goin', huh?”

Nicole swallowed a lump in her throat just as Waverly leaned over again. “I love this picture.”

“Me too,” Nicole said.

***

As they passed under the streetlights on the way back to Waverly’s dorm Nicole was finding it harder and harder to concentrate on the road. Probably because Waverly seemed to keep scooting closer to her as they drove to better control the radio. She would tune it every few seconds, unable to find a suitable station.

“Just pick one,” Nicole chuckled, chancing a look as they passed under a light to watch as it lit up the top of Waverly’s hair, creating a halo before they were plunged back into darkness.

“Oh! I love this song,” Waverly said finally removing her hand from the dial to sing and dance animatedly, hands holding a fake microphone, “My baby love, I need ya oh how I need ya. Why you do me like you do, after I've been true to you. So deep in love with you. Baby, baby ooh.”

Nicole’s cheeks hurt from the wide smile on her face as Waverly continued. She remembered that song was different for a reason, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Not with Waverly singing along, voice filling the car.

***

When Nicole got back to her dorm, Rosita was lying back on her pillows with a copy of “Rosmary’s Baby” propped up on her knees.

“Hi,” Nicole said toeing off her Keds and going to her drawers for her pajamas, “How was your night?”

Rosita sat up on the bed a little more, legs crossing over the other as she got comfortable. “Pretty quiet. You?”

The redhead opened the door of her closet to shield her from view as she changed out of her jeans and plaid. “It was nice. I went to go see a movie with Waves.”

For some reason saying it felt...nice. She had a twinge of pride as it came off casually. Her and Waverly saw a movie. Together. As friends.

“Oh,” Rosita said. There was silence for a moment until Nicole was changed and she closed her closet door. “Actually, speaking of, I wanted to um...bring something up to you.”

Nicole felt dread begin in her stomach and she grabbed her own book before getting on her bed. “Go ahead.”

“So, I’m going to have Waver-...girls over once in awhile. And I felt bad about you...walking in earlier...and obviously you’re going to have girls here too-” Rosita quickly corrected herself, “Er, your girl over. Shae is her name, right?”

Nicole nodded, her stomach already in knots.

“Anyways,” Rosita continued, “I thought we should find a way to kind of...signal the other person that they maybe shouldn’t come in. Like a sock on the door or something.”

“That works,” Nicole said quickly, getting under her own covers as if it would shield her from the awkward conversation she was having, “Seems all...dandy to me.”

She opened her book, hoping this whole conversation would just go away. Because all she could think of now was Rosita on top of Waverly, an image she’d managed to get rid of throughout the day. After a few moments, Nicole could hear Rosita open her book again and keep reading. Nicole’s eyes tried to process her book, but she kept reading the same line over and over. She kept thinking of Waverly’s arm through hers and how her head tipped back when she laughed really hard.

“How’d you like the movie?” Rosita asked casually as she flipped the page of her book.

Nicole could hear a twinge of something in her voice and it made the corner of her lips quirk up. She snuggled back into her pillows and sighed, “It was wonderful.”

Chapter Text

3. Times They are a’Changin

Nicole woke up in a panic, eyes fuzzy and brain lagging as she sat straight up. There was a ringing...was it in her head? No...the phone. Fuck. She slid out of the bed in the least graceful way possible, legs barely working as she made her way to the phone. Blinking at it for a moment, she picked it up, the plastic receiver cold against her ear.

“ ‘ello?” she mumbled, her voice thick with sleep.

“Well thank god you’re alive.”

Nicole blinked a few more times, a couple more of her brain cells finally kicking in. “Shae?”

“Yes! Who else?” the voice came over the phone. Nicole could hear the annoyance there and picked up the phone, tripping on the cord a little as she carried it over to her bed. She glanced over at Rosita who was still dead asleep.

“Sorry, it’s just so early,” Nicole said glancing at her watch on the nightstand, “Eight in the morning to be exact.”

Shae was silent for a minute as Nicole stretched the cord as far as it would go, but it stopped at the end of her bed. She put the phone body on top of the comforter, thankful that the cord to the receiver was long too. She slid down between her sheets once more with the receiver pressed between her ear and the pillow.

“Nicole,” she said lowly, “It’s exactly twelve hours from when you were supposed to call me. I needed to make sure you weren’t dead in a ditch somewhere.”

It clicked in Nicole’s brain and she groaned, rubbing her eyes with her free hand. “Fuck,” she mumbled. She had completely forgotten about calling Shae the night before. Instead she’d been at the movies with Waverly.

“I’m sorry, baby,” Nicole sighed, “It slipped my mind.”

“I slipped your mind?” Shae asked. Her tone was hard but Nicole could feel the vulnerability in her tone. Nicole felt her stomach drop and she shook her head, even if Shae couldn’t see it.

“No, Shae, you never slip my mind, babe,” Nicole said softly, “I just was busy with my project, then we went drinking and to a movie. I’m really really sorry I got distracted.”

“Distracted by who?”

Nicole licked her lips, thinking of the way Waverly’s arm felt looped in her own. “A friend from school.”

“What’s her name?”

The heaviness in Nicole’s stomach dropped and she felt nauseous. She swallowed thickly as she answered. “Waverly.”

“Huh.”

“It’s not like that,” Nicole said softly, “I promise.”

There was a beat and Shae sighed. “I know you’d never do that, babe. I was just...worried about you. I thought maybe you had disappeared again and I would have to drive to fucking Arizona to find you.”

Nicole cringed at the memory, her stomach only twisting further. “That was...that was only once. And you know why I took off.”

“I know. I was just worried,” Shae said again, “I wish I could be there with you. And be the one you’re going to go see movies with.”

Something that felt like shame settled in Nicole’s stomach because her automatic response wasn’t that she wished the same thing. She had missed Shae...to an extent. Mostly when she was bored and wandering around campus by herself or thinking of home.

“Me too,” she said simply, her eyes fluttering shut with sleep. It was too early to fight with herself. The shame had curled and settled over her stomach like a cat looking for a warm place to lay. A voice in the back of her head told her to tell Shae everything. To tell her that this girl she had known for barely a week made her feel things she hadn’t felt for Shae in almost a year. It was on the tip of her tongue, but she remembered the nights Shae held her while she cried.

There were the nights that she couldn’t even cry. She just laid there in shock and shivered from some unknown cold, her entire body heavy with grief. Those were the same days she couldn’t even go home. Her dad had changed the locks and there wasn’t enough effort left in Nicole’s body to break in.

“Well, you’re obviously still half asleep,” Shae said, “I’ll let you go. I’m here all day so just...call me when you can. Okay?”

“Okay, babe,” Nicole said with a yawn.

“I love you,” Shae whispered.

Nicole sighed, “You too.”

She sat up just to put the phone back on the hook and snuggled herself back into her bed, falling back to sleep before she could let her guilt eat away at her.

***

Nicole sat with her back pressed against a tree trunk, long legs stretched out in front of her and the half eaten remnants of her lunch next to her. She had found this tree in the front of her dorm and decided it was a good enough place to do homework when she wanted to be outside. Her hand ached as she pressed the pen into the paper of her notebook. Four pages of her Criminology essay were done, one more to go before she could call it a day. It should be a crime to require an essay the first week of school, but thankfully it was the only class with anything besides reading due. She had meant to do the essay the day before but going out with Waverly had taken her time instead.

Well, not going out, like a date. Going out like...just out.

Nicole furrowed her brow, the arguments in her head distracting her from the paper in front of her. She heard a sharp click somewhere close to her and her frown only deepened. With a sigh she prepared to tell off whoever was taking her picture and looked up in the direction of the sound. As soon as her eyes landed on Waverly Earp standing a few feet away and looking at her through a camera lense, Nicole’s face dissolved into a soft smile. Another click and Waverly's thumb swiped over the lever that advanced the film.

“Are you a stalker now?” Nicole asked as Waverly lowered the camera from her face. She let it hang around her neck with a leather strap and walked over to where Nicole was sitting.

Waverly plopped herself on the right of Nicole, back against the tree as she stretched her own legs out. “If I was I’d be a bad one,” Waverly said checking the number of exposures left in the little window at the top of the camera, “I’m taking pictures for my photography class.”

Nicole set her pen down on her notebook, hand instantly cramping from the furious paces she had been writing. She rubbed the palm of her hand with her thumb as she spoke, “What's the project?”

“Mystery,” Waverly said toeing off her moccasins so she was barefoot and crossing her ankles.

The redhead shook her head and pushed some hair behind her ear. “I don't see what I have to do with that. You just wasted film.”

“You're the greatest mystery,” Waverly whispered with a teasing smile on her face, leaning into the taller girl for just a moment.

Nicole laughed and rubbed her hand on her jean clad thigh, still trying to get rid of the cramp there. “You’re ridiculous,” Nicole mumbled. Without a word, Waverly took Nicole’s hand and pulled it into her lap.

“What are you-”

She held it palm up and began to dig her thumb into the muscle that ran along the heel of Nicole’s hand.

“Ow! Fuck-” Nicole reflexively tried to pull her hand away but Waverly’s grip only got stronger and she held her hand there. After a couple of moments the pain dissolved and she could feel her cramp loosening. “Jesus, woman.”

Waverly looked up at her for a moment, a couple of strands of her long brown hair falling over her face. Nicole’s free hand itched to reach up and push them away so she shoved it under herself, keeping it in place.

“You’re welcome,” Waverly said as she continued to rub Nicole’s palm, “Gus has always had problems with her hands cramping, so I learned this a long time ago to help her out.”

“Well it definitely works,” Nicole sighed, head leaning back against the rough bark of the tree. She could get lost in the feeling of Waverly’s fingers pushing and pulling at the muscles in her hand. The feeling of relaxation ran all the way up her arm and over her whole body. She could only imagine what it would be like to have Waverly working her other muscles this way. Nicole instantly blushed just at the thought and looked up into the branches of the tree where a squirrel was running.

“And you are a mystery, by the way,” Waverly said bringing up their earlier conversation, “Don’t pretend like you’re not.”

Nicole shrugged and looked back over at Waverly, “I’m not pretending. I’m not.”

After a moment, Waverly asked, “How’s your girlfriend?”

Her voice was a little too high, eyes squinted and concentrated down on Nicole’s hand a little too hard when she asked. Nicole just blinked at her for a moment, watching how the corner of her mouth was turned down before she answered.

“Shae? She’s good,” Nicole replied, deciding to leave out the part about her being mad Nicole had missed their phone call because she was at the movies with Waverly, “Her classes are kinda crazy this year. Med school, you know?”

Waverly just hummed and nodded. She had begun massaging the rest of Nicole’s hand, each knuckle getting individual attention from Waverly’s fingers. The redhead felt like putty under Waverly’s hands. They were so small and soft yet...so so effective.

“Is it hard? Being apart like this?” Waverly asked, eyes still on Nicole’s hand.

Nicole sighed and nodded, “Yeah. A little bit.”

She could feel all her weight and worries about Shae rise up in her chest, pushing their way out of her mouth but she snapped her jaw shut to keep them back. Nicole didn’t want to burden anyone with her relationship problems. Particularly Waverly who already seemed oddly good at getting information out of her that she didn’t want to divulge.

“It could be worse,” Nicole concluded.

Waverly nodded wordlessly, only looking up when Rosita became visible walking towards the dorm. Waverly waved briefly before returning to Nicole’s hand. Her touch became a little lighter, moving up to tickle Nicole’s wrist before working the muscles of her palm again. Nicole’s cramps were long gone, but she wasn’t about to tell Waverly to stop.

“Hey,” Rosita said, her eyes looking between Nicole and Waverly for a moment before she smiled, “Waves, you still need help with those signs?”

“That would be real groovy, Rosie,” Waverly smiled, “We could do that while we watch ‘Swiss Family Robinson’? It’s on tonight and it's one of my favorites.”

“Perfect,” Rosie beamed, adjusting the purse on her shoulder. She looked down at Nicole's hand in Waverly's lap again, her hands subtly tightening on the strap of her bag. “I'll see you two up there then?”

“Sure,” Waverly said turning Nicole's hand palm down. She felt a blush crawl up her neck as Rosita walked away, only because Nicole noticed that her hand was resting on Waverly's thigh. Thankfully, Waverly was wearing jeans instead of her usual short skirts.

Clearing her throat, Nicole pulled her hand away and forced a smile on her face. “Thanks,” she said softly, “that actually...really helped.”

“Of course it did,” Waverly said with a wide smile.

“What are the signs for?” Nicole asked, picking her pen back up again as she willed the blood to leave her cheeks.

Waverly smoothed her hands over her jean clad thighs. “It's for a war protest,” she said breezily.

Nicole felt something click in her and she shut her notebook quickly. It felt like her whole body was itching and she needed to get out of there fast. She didn’t want to be around...this. More like she didn’t want to listen to Waverly talk about the war and inevitably prying into Nicole’s own thoughts on the matter.

“Ah, okay,” she said as she picked up her book and stacked it under the notebook with her mostly finished essay. She picked up her lunch trash and put it on top of that, “I’m gonna go inside.”

“Groovy. I’ll go with you,” Waverly said standing up, and slipping her moccasins back on, “Do you want to make signs and watch ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ with us?”

“I have a lot to do,” Nicole shrugged as they went up the stairs towards her dorm. She threw her trash in a bin that they passed absently. She felt her focus narrowing, chest tightening. She could hear the soft patter of Waverly’s footsteps behind her. It made her want to go slower and faster at the same time. They reached the room and Waverly leaned her shoulder on the doorframe as Nicole dug for her keys out of her pocket.

“So no?” Waverly asked, eyes wide and questioning.

There was a small smile on her pink lips that made Nicole pause, keys tumbling from between her helpless fingers and to the floor. Nicole grabbed them off of the ground and slipped the correct one in the keyhole. She let out a small sigh of relief when she heard it click and turned back to the shorter girl.

“Probably not,” Nicole said with a half smile, “Sorry, Waves.”

She opened the door, going in with Waverly behind her. Rosita had arranged a pile of poster board on the bed, a bag of paints next to it. She was also going through her desk looking for something.

“Okay,” Waverly said walking over to Rosita’s bed and sitting on the edge of it, “Well if you change your mind...we’ll be in the common room.”

Nicole set her books down on the desk and sat down. There was a hopeful edge in Waverly’s voice that made Nicole’s heart ache and wand to agree to whatever she wanted. It was dangerous.

“Okay,” Nicole answered simply, “I...maybe. If I finish this essay.”

“Babe, leave the poor girl alone. She said she’s busy,” Rosita said closing her desk drawer with a little more force than probably necessary. “Come on, let’s go to the common room.”

Rosita’s nickname for Waverly threw Nicole off even further and she tried to focus on her paper. Her eyes kept reading the same lines over and over. She couldn’t be jealous, Nicole kept telling herself, you can’t be jealous over someone who doesn’t belong to you in any way. Especially when you have someone. And Nicole had Shae.

Out of the corner of her eye, Nicole saw Rosita lean in to kiss Waverly and the shorter girl turn her face to give her a cheek instead. She felt a small thrill at the gesture she was never meant to see and cursed herself for feeling any way about it at all. Rosita grabbed the poster boards, Waverly the paints, and they left the dorm. Nicole let out a little sigh of relief and rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands, lights popping under her eyelids.

She tried to focus on her assignment but couldn’t manage to get the last page onto the paper. Standing up quickly, she walked over to the record player and pulled out the Martha and the Vandellas album that Shae had given her a few months ago. Setting it down, needle ready on the A side, she clicked the knob to ‘on’. The initial hiss of the empty sound before the record began worked it’s way through Nicole’s bones and calmed her down. She rolled her shoulders as the music finally began and sat down again.

”Whenever I'm with you, something inside, starts to burn deep-”

***

Ding!

Nicole pushed the carriage of the typewriter over to the left with the reflex of practiced habit and typed out the last sentence. Then hit the period key with an extra flourish and sighed in relief. Finally she was done. Releasing the paper from the machine, she stacked it on the bottom of the other pages carefully and placed them all in a folder. Nicole shook out her hands and leaned back in her chair to relax for a moment. The last few notes of “Mockingbird” played on the record before hissing into silence once again.

She rubbed her nose and pushed her hair back as she stood up from the chair. Long limbs popped and cracked as she stretched. She had gotten up just once to flip the record over in the time she had been working. Apparently the music had been enough distraction to get her through the paper and to stop thinking about Waverly.

The door opened and she jumped in surprise, hand to her chest as she got her breath back. Waverly stood in the doorway looking almost as surprised. Speak of the devil.

“Sorry,” Waverly said, “Did I scare you?”

Nicole shook her head, “No, well...yes. Sorry my mind was just somewhere else.”

She noticed the signs under Waverly’s arm for the first time and felt herself grimace.

Make Love Not War

End the War Now

Stop Killing Our Children

Nicole felt a little lightheaded when she read the few signs she could, looking away and clearing her throat. Waverly propped the signs against Rosita’s desk as Nicole went to sit on her own bed. She looked down at her knees, hoping the feeling of dread would leave her chest some time soon.

She felt a pressure building around her and tried to focus on her breathing, eyes closed. In...and out. She remembered walking into the Army Headquarters to get her brother’s stuff...wading through a sea of protestors. It felt like walking into a riot and it had made her head hurt even more. Why did she go alone? That was stupid.

“Nicole?”

The redhead kept her eyes shut but she felt herself returning to the moment, a warm touch on her leg. There was a soothing touch in her hair and she leaned into it as her breathing returned to normal. She was fine. She was sitting on her bed and someone smelled like flowers and incense.

Finally blinking her eyes open, she looked up and saw Waverly looking back at her. Hazel eyes were filled with concern and Nicole slowly returned back to the moment. Waverly was pushing a piece of hair behind her ear. There was a smudge of something purple on her cheek and Nicole focused on it.

“I think you have paint on her cheek,” Nicole muttered. She lifted her hand with some effort and rubbed the spot with her thumb. The paint came off after a little difficulty, but even after it was gone Nicole brushed her thumb over Waverly’s cheek one last time. For good measure. Just good measure.

“Yeah, well you have ink on her nose,” Waverly said with a tilted smile as she tapped the end of Nicole’s nose with a finger, “What a pair we make, huh?”

Nicole just nodded and looked back down at her knees. The top of Waverly’s thighs were pressed against them, one hand resting on the bed close to Nicole’s knee while the other was still busy in red hair. The other girl being so close made Nicole feel crowded again and she looked up towards the ceiling for a moment. Waverly gripped Nicole’s chin gently between her thumb and forefinger, forcing her eyes back down.

“Are you okay?” Waverly asked softly, “You seem...off.”

The corners of Nicole’s mouth twitched in what was supposed to be a smile. “I’m fine. Just tired I guess.”

She saw Waverly’s eyes searching her face as her hand fell from Nicole’s chin. “I don’t believe you,” Waverly said not unkindly as her fingers traced the outline of the name patch on Nicole’s jacket. It was a habit she had seemed to pick up. Waverly placed her hand flat on Nicole’s chest over her heart, fingers barely curving over her collarbone. Nicole could swear that her touch was burning a hole through her. “You’re sad.”

Nicole’s eyes met Waverly’s and she suddenly felt naked. “Isn’t everyone these days?”

Waverly shook her head. “Not like this.”

“Really, Waves, I’m fine,” Nicole said shrugging it off, “It’s just the first week of school and being away from Shae. You know?”

“Right, Shae,” Waverly said, her hand dropping from Nicole’s chest as she took a step back. Immediately, Nicole felt the air thin. She could breath a little easier again. Waverly tipped her head like a confused puppy, waves of hair falling like a curtain over her shoulder. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

Nicole nodded and tried to rub the ink on her nose away with her sleeve. “I promise. Did I get it?”

Waverly giggled, the sound jumpstarting Nicole’s heart. “Not at all.”

The redhead sighed in defeat, “Oh well.”

They just looked at each other for a moment, the air thickening again before Waverly looked back down. “I should...go back. ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ is on.”

“And it’s one of your favorites,” Nicole finished with a small smile, “So yeah, you better get back.”

Waverly sighed and nodded, backing up towards the door like she had something else she wanted to say. With a final nod she turned to walk out the door. The door was almost closed when she popped her head back in.

“Oh, um...I’m having a little birthday thing next weekend. In my dorm if you want to come,” she said trying to play it off with a shrug, even though Nicole could see right through it, “It’s like...not a big deal.”

“I’ll be there,” Nicole said as soon as Waverly finished.

Waverly practically beamed and nodded, “Okay. Groovy. I’ll see you later. Tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow,” Nicole confirmed.

The other girl finally slipped away, door clicking closed behind her and Nicole could breath again. She took a long deep breath, flower and incense filling her lungs.

***

The next week, Nicole had chosen to walk to Waverly’s dorm instead of driving. It wasn’t that far, really, and it was a nice night. The desert heat wasn’t so bad that she’d had to roll up the sleeves of her jacket. She had taken...more time then she would admit to anyone getting ready that night. She’d finally settled on her usual outfit of jeans and a plaid shirt tucked in with her jacket. She didn’t want to seem like she was trying...too hard.

By the time she got to Waverly’s building, she didn’t have to wonder which dorm was hers. She could hear the party happening upstairs and started towards the noise.

The rest of the week had been normal. Nicole had managed to avoid talk of the protest Waverly was organizing. She had still been waiting outside of Rosita and Waverly’s class every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It was a wonder neither of them had figured out that Nicole really had no reason to be there at that time. She wondered if they ever would.

Shae had made sure to call every day this week. It would be sweet if Nicole hadn’t run out of things to talk to her about. Her life was pretty boring, honestly. She went to class and maybe spent time with Wynonna or Waverly. Sometimes Rosita, but her roommate had been a little cold with her lately for whatever reason. The only time she wasn’t was when they were all together or she had been drinking.

With the neatly wrapped record tucked tightly under her right arm, Nicole approached the door she assumed was Waverly’s if the noise coming from the other side was any indication. She stood on the other side for a moment, wondering if she should...knock or…deciding not to take a second thought, Nicole opened the door and stepped into the dorm. She could smell stale beer and smoke that was...decidedly not cigarettes as she looked around the dorm for a familiar face.

Bob Dylan’s voice crooned through the apartment, setting Nicole a little on edge as he sang.

Come mothers and fathers, throughout the land, and don't criticize, what you can't understand. Your sons and your daughters, are beyond your command. Your old road is
rapidly agin'. Please get out of the new one, if you can't lend your hand. For the times they are a-changin'-

“You must be Nicole!”

The redhead turned and saw a tall girl with dark hair looking at her. She blinked, trying to remember if she’d ever met her. “Um, yeah?”

“You don’t sound too sure of that,” the girl said taking a drink from the cup she was holding.

“Depends who’s asking I guess.”

“Oh, silly me,” the girl said gently hitting herself on the forehead before holding out her hand, “I’m Chrissy. Waverly’s roommate.”

“Then yes, I am Nicole,” she said switching the record to the other arm so she could shake Chrissy’s hand, “Nice to meet you.”

Chrissy raised an eyebrow at her and leaned in like she was about to spill a secret. Nicole could smell the alcohol on her breath even from a distance. “Waverly,” she began with a snort and giggle, whispering loudly over the noise, “has told me a lot about you.”

Nicole could feel herself blush and opened her mouth to ask what kind of stuff exactly Waverly had been spreading about her when a hand gripped her forearm. They spun Nicole towards them, arms wrapping around her entire body and trapping her arms at her sides. If it wasn’t for the scent of flowers and incense, it would have taken Nicole a lot longer to figure out who it was just based on the top of their head.

“Hey, birthday girl,” Nicole said as Waverly looked up at her. Her pupils were blown and Nicole wondered if it was just because of alcohol, or something more.

“You came!” Waverly said leaning back, but arms still around Nicole, “And you met Chrissy.”

“I did. And I have,” Nicole confirmed as she pulled her arms from Waverly’s grasp, record still in hand, “I brought you something.”

Waverly dropped her grasp from around Nicole’s waist to take the record, eyes wide in surprise. “You didn’t have to get me anything.”

Nicole shrugged and rubbed the back of her neck. “Of course I did. It’s your birthday.”

Waverly clutched the still wrapped gift to her chest and looked up at Nicole with glassy eyes. “Can I open it?”

Nicole nodded and Waverly opened it, wrapping paper placed gently on the desk for whatever reason. A sudden nervousness clenched at her stomach as Waverly looked at the record for the first time. Johnny and June looked up at Waverly from the cover, title printed in big bold letters at the top.

Carryin' On with Johnny Cash and June Carter

“It’s...not much,” Nicole began, “But it just came out the other day and you mentioned Johnny Cash-”

She was interrupted again by Waverly’s arms returning around her waist, only to squeeze her tight. “Nicole! I’ve been saving up my tip money for this. This is-...you’re real groovy, you know that?” Waverly said, her cheek pressed against Nicole’s chest.

“I-...” Nicole didn’t even know what to say, so she just wrapped her arms around Waverly and gave her a light squeeze. “You’re welcome.”

In what felt like a flash, Waverly lifted herself on her tiptoes and pressed a soft kiss to Nicole’s cheek. She was sure her entire face was on fire by that point and it was only made worse when Waverly grabbed her hand. It was almost like Waverly was gripping her heart instead of her hand, the way it squeezed in Nicole’s chest.

Nicole was helpless to just follow Waverly around the party as she introduced her to people. She was sure she wouldn’t remember anyone’s name after this. Not that she could hear half of what was happening with the music playing through the dorm. Although the dorm was small, it still felt like forever for Waverly to drag her around the room. Finally they reached a corner where Wynonna and Rosita were sitting.

“Nicole came!” Waverly announced proudly to them, lifting Nicole’s hand between them with the record still clutched tightly to her chest. Rosita looked at their hands for a moment before standing up.

“Want anything?” Rosita asked Waverly tipping her chin towards a cooler on the other side of the room. Waverly dropped their hands back between them, but still kept Nicole’s tightly grasped.

“No,” Waverly said with a smile.

Rosita bent down and kissed Waverly quickly before looking over at Nicole. “Anything for you, Haught?”

Nicole just shook her head, her skin feeling itchy all of a sudden. Rosita walked away and Nicole pulled her hand from Waverly before sitting down next to Wynonna.

“Are you two just going to sit in a corner all night by yourselves,” Waverly pouted.

“No,” Wynonna said nursing her drink, “Rosita will be with us too.”

Waverly rolled her eyes and Wynonna held her beer up to her. “Cheers, baby girl,” Wynonna said with a wink before taking a long sip, “Go be social. We’re fine.”

Wynonna pretended to kick towards her sister and Waverly jumped back. Chrissy grabbed her arm and pulled her to another part of the dorm. Nicole felt like she might be able to breath again. She watched as Rosita found Waverly almost immediately and put a hand on the small of her back as she joined whatever conversation Waverly was in. Nicole had to look away and ended up taking Wynonna’s beer out of her hand, taking a long sip of her own. Wynonna remained undeterred, reaching down on the other side of her and pulling out another beer.

“It’s going to be a long night,” Wynonna said clinking the neck of her bottle with Nicole’s, “Welcome to Waverly’s world. Beautiful, bubbly, ‘everyone likes me’ Waverly.”

Nicole just nodded, trying not to think of how easily Waverly had pulled her in. Wynonna kicked her legs out in front of her, heavy boots thumping against the floor. With her fringed leather jacket and simple tshirt, Wynonna easily stood out among the rest of Waverly’s friends. Nicole probably did too. But the general tone of the room seemed to be...well...a bunch of hippies honestly. As Nicole quickly finished off her drink, Wynonna pulled out another and handed it to her.

She wasn’t sure where Wynonna was getting these from, but she definitely wasn’t about to complain.

Her eyes couldn’t help but follow Waverly around the room as she flitted from conversation to conversation easily. Rosita, of course, was behind her every step of the way. As Waverly’s hand gestures got more wild and Rosita kept drinking, the darker haired girl seemed to get bolder. Her hand rested on the curve of Waverly’s bottom for one conversation and moved lower for another. Her thumb hooked in one of Waverly’s belt loops, Rosita’s hand almost fully grabbing her ass.

Nicole gripped her beer tighter as her head got lighter. It was probably a mixture of the alcohol and the smoke from whatever that was floating in the air around them. Nicole didn’t really want to know right now. She watched as Rosita pulled Waverly into a corner after a conversation died and wrapped both of her arms around the smaller girl. Nicole could swear she saw Rosita look at her from over Waverly’s shoulder before leaning down and kissing her.

Licking her lips, Nicole quickly looked away and chugged the last half of her beer. Something ugly was growing in her stomach and she hated the feeling. “I’m leaving,” she announced as she stood up, “I...have a headache.”

Wynonna blinked up at her and stood too. “I’ll go with you,” she said finishing her own drink.

“No, it’s fine,” Nicole said. She didn’t feel like being around anyone at this point. She wanted to stew in whatever this feeling in her stomach was on her own.

“Don’t be dumb, Red, I’ll walk you to your dorm. It’s on the way to mine,” Wynonna insisted taking Nicole’s empty bottle and leaving it on a desk. Nicole led the way out of the dorm, looking over and seeing Rosita and Waverly still attached at the lips. As they left the dorm, Nicole breathed a sigh of relief.

They were almost out of the building when Waverly’s voice echoed through the hall. “Wy! Nicole!”

The redhead turned around with a sigh, forcing a smile on her lips. “Sorry, I...have a headache.”

The excuse felt even lamer the second time around.

Waverly blinked up at her for a moment when she came to a stop in front of them. Wynonna shrugged, stuffing her hands in her pockets. “Yeah, and I’m walking her back to her place,” she said, “Unless...do you and Rosie like...need her dorm tonight?”

Nicole felt the feeling in her stomach grow and she shifted uncomfortably. Memories of Rosita on top of Waverly began flashing in her mind and she scratched the back of her head.

Waverly frowned and shook her head. “What? No,” she said.

“No birthday sex then?” Wynonna teased, pushing Waverly’s shoulder a little.

Waverly blushed and looked over at Nicole for a moment. “N-no. I mean...she was going to stay at my dorm.”

“There, that’s all I needed to know,” Wynonna said, “Let’s go then, Red.”

Nicole more than happily turned on her heels with a quick. “Happy birthday, Waves. Sorry I can’t stay.”

Once they were into the open air, Nicole breathed a sigh of relief. Wynonna, thankfully, just walked silently next to her. Sometimes she hummed to herself or mumbled something, but Nicole was just grateful for the silent company at the moment. She willed the ugly feeling in her stomach to go away, but it only grew every time she thought of Rosita with her hands and lips on Waverly.

Nicole knew she had no right to feel this way. She had no right and no reason...Nicole had Shae. Her wonderful loving girlfriend who held her hand when her world fell apart. Her girlfriend who called her every day and made sure she was okay.

Fuck.

She hated this feeling. The way her chest constricted and tears just barely pricked at the corners of her eyes. It made her angry that she was feeling this way. The worse part was that she had no one to blame but herself. Maybe she just needed to...distance herself from Waverly. Sure she was one of the only friends she had here but-

No.

Nicole knew she couldn’t do that. The idea of being without Waverly was almost worse than the idea of Rosita touching her.

“Here’s where I leave ya, Nic,” Wynonna said when they stopped in front of her dorm, “I’ll meet you tomorrow for our project?”

“Sounds good,” Nicole said to the other Earp sister, managing a smile and a wave as she walked away.

Nicole sighed and continued into her dorm, the sickness in her stomach only getting worse. She would deal with this though, she decided. It was bound to fade soon. It had to. Especially with Rosita hanging on Waverly all the time it seemed. And Nicole would rather see that then think what her life might be like at this point without Waverly Earp.

Chapter Text

Nicole spread out on Wynonna’s bed, her desert boots haphazardly tossed onto the floor. Wynonna was on the floor, feet propped up on the mattress so that her legs were over her head. She had the book propped up on her stomach while Nicole finished going through their notes. Their presentation for European History was due the next day and Nicole wanted to make sure they were more than prepared for it.

“Do you have that bit about the dying?” Wynonna asked lazily.

“It’s the Black Plague, Wy, the whole thing is about dying,” Nicole said chewing on the end of her pen.

Wynonna dropped her legs from the bed and sat up. “So you have it then?”

“I have it,” Nicole said making one more note on the paper, “Okay. I think we’re ready.”

“Great! Drinking time!” Wynonna said slamming the book shut dramatically and standing up. She reached under her bed and pulled out a bottle of whiskey, holding it up in triumph.

Nicole let their notes fall on her stomach as she looked at the other woman. “Isn’t it a little early?”

“It’s never too early,” Wynonna said pulling a couple of plastic cups out of her desk drawer. Nicole wondered if there were any actual school supplies in there.

The door that led to the small living room of their dorm opened and Wynonna’s roommate Mercedes came in. Her eyes immediately landed on the whiskey Wynonna was pouring into a cup and she smiled.

“Far out. Looks like I got here just in time,” Mercedes said dropping her purse on her own desk as Wynonna got another cup.

Mercedes had her dad pay off the housing admin to get them the best dorm. It was the newest one with a small living room and kitchen attached with two more roommates in another room. It was basically a small apartment and Nicole was infinitely jealous. Especially since the second bedroom was currently empty after their roommates got kicked out.

Mercedes took a long swig of her drink and snapped her fingers towards Wynonna as she thought. “Mm, you know what we should put on?”

“Kinks?” Wynonna asked with wide eyes. Her roommate nodded her approval as she poured herself another drink. Nicole slipped off the bed and took her cup before sitting on the end of the mattress. She was content just watching the two friends do...whatever it was they were doing.

Mercedes danced over to the record player and put what looked like a well used record on the player.

Beautiful Delilah, sweet as apple pie. Always gets a second look from fellas passin' by. Everytime I see her she's with a different guy-

Both of the other girls were on their third drinks and Nicole downed her first, feeling the liquid settle warmly in her belly.

“Hey, Nic,” Wynonna said pouring more whiskey in the redhead’s cup almost immediately, “I was supposed to tell you that Waves was looking for you.”

Nicole choked on the whiskey she had been drinking. “When?”

“This morning.”

Nicole had been doing what she could to avoid Waverly since her birthday. Which was hard when it felt like she was constantly in her dorm to see Rosita. Even the times she’d come by when Rosita wasn’t there Waverly insisted on staying in the dorm and waiting for her. Of course it wasn’t helping that Nicole had still been waiting outside of Waverly’s class for her to walk out with Rosita. Whenever she was around the youngest Earp, she was worried about the subject turning to Waverly’s protest. Just the thought of it made a panic rise in her chest. She quickly drained her cup, the alcohol almost immediately going to her head.

“What’d she want?” Nicole managed as she choked down the whiskey.

Wynonna shrugged, “I’m her sister not her keeper. She hardly tells me anything anymore.” With that, Wynonna poured herself another drink and Mercedes squeezed her roommate’s shoulder.

“Guess that whole sister bonding thing isn’t going too well?”

“It’s going fine,” Wynonna shrugged as she looked at the bottom of her empty cup like it was betraying her, “She’s just-...these things take time.”

“You guys weren’t close?” Nicole pried. She set her empty cup aside, not interested in partaking in any more celebrating.

Wynonna sat on the edge of her desk and Mercedes sat on her own bed. “No. I fucked up,” she said, “I wasn’t there for her when she needed me to be. I don’t think she’s ever forgiven me for that.”

“It’s not your fault,” Mercedes assured her friend, “Your dad was awful. So was your sister. What happened was totally his fault.”

Nicole watched Wynonna carefully, watching her eyes glaze over a little. She chucked her empty cup towards a trash can, watching as it bounced off the edge and missed. “He was still her dad,” the brunette mumbled, “I took that away from her.”

“Did you tell him to drive that night? And take Willa with him?” Mercedes asked seriously even if it was apparent she knew the answer to the question.

“I pushed him to do it.”

“You were twelve,” Mercedes reminded her, “He was an adult.”

“Yeah,” Wynonna said dismissively. She jumped off of the desk and headed towards the door, stopping short of it, “Maybe we should go to Shorty’s.”

Mercedes shook her head. “Gus is going to kill you if you show up already drunk.”

Nicole just watched the two go back and forth like a tennis match. She was fascinated, questions swirling in her mind. Though she had known that Wynonna’s father was dead, she didn’t know about her sister. Willa apparently. She also wasn’t completely sure what role Wynonna felt she played in the whole thing. One thing she did know, though, was that she knew better to ask. If she asked, then she opened up the door for other people to ask her questions. And that wasn’t something she was about to do.

The dorm door opened suddenly, hitting Wynonna in the back. She jumped forward with a yell, turning quickly to see Waverly in the doorway.

“What the hell, spaz?” Wynonna said rolling her shoulders, “I should have never given you that key.”

Waverly gave her sister an apologetic smile before she noticed Nicole still sitting on the bed. She waved at her and Nicole nodded in acknowledgement.

“I was actually looking for you,” Waverly said ignoring her sister and Mercedes, eyes focused on the redhead.

Nicole raised an eyebrow at her, even as her stomach fluttered. “You found me.”

Her eyes couldn’t help but trace Waverly’s features, the soft slope of her nose and the way her cheekbones protruded when she clenched her jaw. Even behind Waverly’s round sunglasses Nicole could feel her stare on her.

“I wanted to know if you wanted to go see a picture,” Waverly said tucking some long brown hair behind her ear, “My treat this time.”

“I can’t go,” Wynonna interjected as she threw herself on Mercedes’ bed, “I’m super busy with all my friends.”

Mercedes snorted back a laugh and Wynonna pushed her a little from where she lounged. Waverly looked at her sister for a moment.

“You can go too, Wynonna, that wasn’t an exclusive invitation.”

“I told you, Waves, I’m super busy,” Wynonna said with a serious nod.

“Are you drunk?” Waverly asked.

Wynonna scoffed, “Hardly. I can hold my liquor. I’m on my way to drunk. Just not quite there.”

Waverly sighed and looked back at Nicole, a smile back on her face. “So?”

The record slipped to the next song. Girl, you really got me goin'. You got me so I don't know what I'm doin' now-

Nicole knew she should probably make her own excuse. She should tell her that she was busy and avoid spending alone time with her. Waverly made her feel...things. Things even her tipsy mind wouldn’t let her really think about. Like how she could look into her eyes for hours if not days at a time. Or how her fingers always itched to push long hair behind her ear. Or how her entire body thrummed when she was around her.

“Sure,” Nicole said without really thinking. Waverly’s wide smile was all she needed to know she had made the right choice. The smile that made her so easy to forgive and oh so easy to forget why she had been avoiding her to begin with, “What are we seeing?”

***

Rosita had seen them walking to Nicole’s car and asked to tag along. Nicole certainly wasn’t going to say no, even if Waverly seemed a little surprised by her asking. Out of the corner of her eye the whole way to the theater, Nicole kept seeing Rosita reach for Waverly’s hand. Every time the brunette would avoid it in someway or take her hand just to release it a few moments later. Each little touch or intimate gesture between them made Nicole’s skin crawl.

“The Jungle Book” was the movie that Waverly wanted to see. She sat between Nicole and Waverly in the theater, popcorn in her lap so the two of them could reach it. It had come out the week before and it was cute. Nicole kept getting distracted by the way Waverly would smile every time there was a song. Especially the song with Mowgli and Baloo sang as they floated down the river.

After the movie, Waverly babbled cutely about it with Rosita. Nicole walked besides them back to her car, hands stuffed in the pockets of her jacket as they went. Suddenly she felt an arm work it’s way between her own, hand clutching her bicep. Waverly squeezed her arm to get her attention.

“Did you like it?” she asked.

“I did,” Nicole said catching Waverly’s smile, “I thought it was cute.”

Nicole found herself looking at Waverly a little too long as they finally approached the car. She was actually relieved when Rosita sat in the middle of the seat, separating the two of them. Rosita fiddled with the radio to find a good station as they drove back to campus, Nicole’s thoughts wandering to the brown haired girl next to her.

Oh yeah, you really got me now, you got me so I can't sleep at night. You really got me. You really got me. You really got me-

***

Nicole was coming from the library when she saw it approaching. It made her chest tighten, breaths becoming shallow. It was coming from her left, crossing in the street just in front of the library. She hoped that if she hurried fast enough she could avoid it. Narrowly miss it.

Stop the war NOW

Stop killing your children!

She could hear the chanting too. Chanting and some singing. Her ears were ringing like that time her dad slapped her when he found a letter from Shae.

Nicole quickly ran down the front steps of the library, trying to focus on the soft hits of her boots hitting the stone stairs. One by one. Quickly. Like the bullets in a machine gun. The ones her brother had written to her about. She kept her eyes straight ahead, watching the protest get closer and closer in her peripherals as she quickly walked down the path in front of the library towards the street.

She would just barely make it. She knew it. Nicole breathed a deep sigh of relief as she crossed the street in front of the protest, putting it behind her. Her heart beat against her ribs roughly, palms sweating as she adjusted her backpack on her shoulders. The protest was behind her. She could walk back to her dorm and avoid the whole thing.

A hand closed on her arm as she was walking away, stopping her in her path. Cautiously she turned, only slightly relieved to see Waverly standing there.

“Nicole,” Waverly smiled, “I’m glad I could run into you here.”

The redhead’s eyes darted nervously up to the protesters slowly marching along the road behind Waverly, passing them by. She felt the tightening in her chest again. She felt the weight of the memories on her shoulders. People yelling at her-

Why?

“Nicole?” Waverly said, brows furrowed in worry, “Are you okay?”

Nicole tore her eyes away from the crowd and instead focused on the girl in front of her. “Yeah, sorry. Hi,” Nicole said lowly.

Focus. She had to focus on Waverly.

Waverly with her pretty eyes and long hair. And a piece sign in lipstick on her cheek.

“I was just studying,” Nicole said lamely.

Waverly’s hand was still around her arm, thumb rubbing up and down over her jacket. “Will you walk with us?” she asked with a hopeful smile, “You don’t even have to hold a sign. We actually ran out.”

Nicole’s mouth dried up and she tried to lick her lips to no avail. “Waves, I-...can’t. I have to go.”

“We’re going right by your dorm,” Waverly continued, “You can just walk with us until then.”

Waverly looked up at her hopefully and Nicole probably would have given in if it were any other situation. But it felt like her whole body was under pressure, like there was a rock crushing her into the ground. It was getting harder to breath.

“I can’t,” she shook her head, “Sorry.”

Nicole turned to leave, walking swiftly away as she blinked against a pressure behind her eyes. Waverly jogged up besides her and stopped in front of Nicole, halting her walking. Nicole nearly ran into Waverly, her eyes focused on a building far in the distance.

“Nicole,” Waverly tried again, “Not even for a little bit?”

A flame of anger managed to ignite in her chest despite the heaviness and Nicole shook her head. “Why are you trying to pull me into this?”

Waverly looked a little taken back at first but then smiled. “I like-. I like to spend time with you.”

The pain and the pressure was too much. That and Waverly saying she liked spending time with her, a phrase that would have meant so much more if she didn’t feel like her entire chest was being ripped open. It was like she was open on a table, exposed, each painful memory slowly being dragged out of her. But all she could focus on was the need to leave and the way her feet itched to move. The only thing anchoring her was Waverly.

“Yeah, well, I have a girlfriend,” Nicole said, tone clipped. She looked away from Waverly, choosing to look at nothing instead of the look on Waverly’s face in that moment.

“I know,” Waverly said softly, “I just-...I’m just dumb I guess.”

“You’re not dumb, we both know that,” Nicole said looking back down at her feet.

There was silence for a moment before Waverly spoke up again. “You have a girlfriend and that’s why you can’t walk with us?”

“I can’t walk with you because...I can’t,” Nicole said for what felt like the millionth time, “Please, Waverly. Don’t push it.”

“Are you for the war?” Waverly asked almost sternly.

“What?”

“You heard me.”

“Waverly, I’m not talking to you about this,” Nicole said trying to walk past Waverly again but the shorter girl stopped her path.

She looked at the brunette and saw the anger in her face. “It’s a pointless war,” she said, “They’re killing people. Our boys and others when they have no right-”

“I’m not talking to you about this!” Nicole all but shouted, “So drop it! Let me go home.”

“Nicole-”

The redhead pushed past Waverly again, but the brunette followed her and jogged alongside her. “Nicole, just listen to me. Let me tell you why we don’t need to be there-”

Nicole turned abruptly, taking Waverly and herself by surprise.

“I’m enlisting,” said said softly, “After college. As soon as I get my diploma I’m going down to the recruiting station.”

Waverly blinked at her, shocked. “But-...you can’t-”

“I can. And I am,” Nicole said firmly. She watched the pain and hurt move over Waverly’s face, mixed with confusion. The pain in her own chest was almost becoming unbearable at that point as she struggled to control her breathing.

In, out. In-

“I can’t believe you,” Waverly said, “You wouldn’t do such a thing.”

“I would and I am,” Nicole said. She hated how her voice cracked.

“You’re going to voluntarily go over there and kill thousands of innocent people?” Waverly asked in disbelief, “Innocent women and children?”

“You don’t even know me! Don’t act like you know why I’m going. I’m going to help our soldiers. Our families,” Nicole said angrily, “Don’t you ever insinuate that I just want to kill!”

Waverly balled her fists at her sides. “Then why else would you be going?”

“Grow up!” Nicole said throwing a frustrated hand in the air, “Grow up and figure out that there’s more than just what you’re seeing on the surface! Nothing that you do or say is going to change my mind about leaving, so just accept it.”

Nicole watched Waverly clenched her jaw, but didn’t say anything more.

“If you don’t like that, then stop bothering me,” Nicole said, voice cracking as the pressure behind her eyes became unbearable. With that she turned on her heels and walked away, leaving Waverly behind.

***

Nicole avoided Waverly the rest of the week. Which was harder then she would have thought. Whenever she popped up in her dorm, Nicole would find an excuse to leave. She hadn’t been waiting outside Waverly and Rosita’s class, but Waverly seemed to be around more.

She was coming back from her Criminology class, exhausted from the day, when she opened her dorm door and nearly fainted from the shock of seeing Waverly in Rosita’s bed. She was clad only in a sheet that barely clung to her chest, bare breasts almost completely uncovered.

“Shit!” Nicole said slapping a hand over her eyes as her entire face flushed,“Sorry! There was no sock.”

“It’s okay,” Waverly said thickly, “I’m decent.”

Nicole peered through her fingers and saw that Waverly had pulled the sheet high on her chest. She had propped herself up on her elbows, watching Nicole carefully. Waverly’s hair was beautifully tousled, cheeks flush and eyes soft. Nicole hated the implications of her current nature but...she was a vision. Thankfully Rosita seemed to be absent and if the running sink in the bathroom was any indication she was in there.

“I just have to drop off my backpack,” Nicole muttered, avoiding looking anywhere near Waverly’s direction. She threw her backpack on the bed and made for the door again quickly. Her hand was on the handle when she stopped.

“Wait!” Waverly called from the bed, “I um...are you going to Wynonna’s Halloween party? Next weekend?”

Nicole licked her lips and chanced a look over her shoulder at the other girl.

“Yeah,” she answered. As if she even had the capability to say anything else at the moment. “I’ll be there.”

“Groovy,” Waverly said with a smile. Nicole just nodded and slipped back out the door.

She ran down the stairs to the pay phones in the hall and found the one at the very end furthest away from the other people using them. She sat on the stool and pulled a nickel from her pocket to stick into the slot. That’s when she noticed her fingers were shaking.

“Nicole?” the voice on the other line answered.

“Hey, baby,” she answered, relaxing a little in her stool.

Shae laughed and Nicole felt a little more relaxed, melting into the familiarity of it all. “How was your week? Did you miss me?”

“Always,” Nicole said with practiced ease. It was like a routine now. Most of their phone calls were.

“How are you? After that protest thing last week,” Shae asked seriously.

The pressure started in Nicole’s chest again and she shook her head. “Shae, can you just talk to me for a bit? Tell me about your classes.”

There was silence on the line for only a second before Shae started off into a long story about how her professor unfairly graded her paper. Nicole breathed a sigh of relief and let her eyes slip shut as she listened. Well, half listened. Her mind instead wandered to brown hair spilling over a shoulder and resting along a collarbone, hazel eyes looking up at her dreamily.

***

Nicole weaved her way through Wynonna’s dorm, practically swimming through the smoke. She was having a hard time seeing with the cheap toy eyepatch over her left eye so she flipped it up. Wynonna had convinced her to come to the party, saying Nicole had nothing better to do for the holiday. She would have been perfectly content to sit in her dorm like any other Tuesday night and mind her own business. But here she was.

Despite the clash with Waverly a couple of days before, Nicole had to admit that part of the reason she was there was to see the youngest Earp. It was like she had some sort of hold over Nicole that she didn’t want to admit to. Even if it was getting harder and harder to ignore.

She didn’t get far into the apartment before Waverly bounced up to her, wide smile plastered on her face. Nicole couldn’t help but smile back despite their last encounter, eyes helpless to scan over her outfit. And when she did she choked on air.

Waverly was dressed in a short blue and white pleated skirt, long blue socks ending just below her knees and a white sweater with a “P” on the front. She had two blue and white pom poms in her hands and used one to tap Nicole gently on the nose.

“You’re staring,” Waverly said simply.

Nicole blinked at the brunette, tips of her ears a deep red. “No I wasn’t.”

“Sure,” Waverly said with a teasing raise of her eyebrow.

“You’re costume is um...interesting,” Nicole managed.

Waverly shrugged, “It’s my old uniform from high school. Figured I could still get some use out of it.” Hazel eyes darted over Nicole’s form and she shifted uncomfortable. “I like your pirate costume. It’s cute.”

The redhead went to run a hand through her hair nervously but remembered the bandana she had tied around her head as part of the outfit. She looked down at the white button up shirt she’d rolled to the elbows and the baggy pants Shae had made for her the year before for the same outfit.

“Thanks,” she muttered, wishing the pants had pockets she could shove her hands into. Instead she fidgeted with the end of her shirt.

They stared at each other for a beat too long before Nicole looked down at her desert boots. She dragged the toe of her boot on the cheap dorm carpet for a moment, eyes watching as she scuffed at a stain. Her gaze was interrupted by two saddle shoes stepping close to her, toes touching her own. She blushed as the smell of flowers and incense overtook her for a moment.

“Nic,” Waverly said softly. It was a shock that Nicole could even hear her over the noise of music and her peers having a good time around her. They might as well have been in a bubble, just the two of them.

Nicole looked up, straight into bright eyes as she swallowed thickly. “Yeah?”

“Are you okay?” Waverly asked.

“As okay as I’ll ever be,” Nicole said with a small smile.

Waverly smiled back, but there was a twinge of sadness in her eyes and Nicole had to look away.

“You can talk to me you know,” Waverly tried.

Nicole sucked in a breath, back of her eyes burning as she looked back at the brunette. “Where’s Rosita?”

Waverly blinked at her for a moment before her eyes moved back down to her pom poms. “I don’t know, she’s around here somewhere,” Waverly muttered, “Why?”

“Just wondering,” Nicole said with a little more bite to her voice then she intended. She looked at some of the other party goers around them. Most of them were people she didn’t recognize, but a few of them she remembered from some of her classes. Wynonna was still...nowhere to be seen. Of course.

“Nicole,” Waverly said getting her attention again, “Are we...okay?”

Nicole sighed, rubbing the back of her neck. She avoided Waverly’s eyes because she knew as soon as she looked into them she would melt. Nicole was a sand castle and Waverly was the ocean crashing onto the shore, breaking her down and pulling her away from the shore. She was helpless as soon as their eyes connected. Nicole wanted to stay indifferent. She didn’t want to get drawn into Waverly like she always did. With Shae waiting for her in Colorado along with all the other reasons she couldn’t let Waverly get to her.

Just like she knew it would happen, as soon as she looked up and saw Waverly peering at her Nicole had given up. She let out a long breath, smile quirking at the corner of her lips.

“Yeah, Waves,” Nicole sighed, “We’re okay.”

The smile that graced Waverly’s face lit up the room and Nicole felt it deep in her bones. Waverly stepped even closer, fingers smoothing out Nicole’s collar.

“It’s weird seeing you without your jacket.”

“It didn’t quite go with the outfit,” Nicole said. She pulled Waverly’s hand from her collar and squeezed it briefly before dropping it, “Have you seen Wynonna?”

Waverly tilted her chin towards the kitchen on Nicole’s right, “By the drinks. As usual.”

Nicole looked over to see Wynonna and Mercedes taking shots together.

“I should have known,” Nicole said just as Wynonna noticed her. She waved overdramatically at the redhead and grabbed Mercedes wrist, pulling her towards Nicole. “Hey, Wy.”

“Haught,” Wynonna said winking at her. She slung an arm over Nicole’s shoulders as she tapped the breast pocket of her jacket. “I have something to make you relax a little. You’ve been uptight lately.”

“Have not,” Nicole said eyeing Wynonna’s pocket cautiously.

Wynonna didn’t answer, instead she grabbed Nicole’s wrist and dragged her through the dorm into her bedroom, Mercedes close behind. She pulled herself from the older Earp’s grasp as soon as they were in the room. She sat on Wynonna’s bed, legs dangling off the side. Opening the window, Wynonna pulled what looked like a cigarette.

“Is that-?”

“Grass, Red,” Wynonna said with a wink. The brunette sat on the desk in front of the window, legs crossed under each other with Mercedes next to her. She pulled out a book of matches and balanced the cigarette between her lips.

Nicole looked up just as Waverly came in the room, shutting the door behind her so it was just the four of them. The dull sound of music and partying filtered through the walls, but mostly Nicole just heard the beating of her own heart as Waverly sat on the bed next to her and her skirt rose high on her legs. The redhead rubbed the back of her neck nervously as Wynonna lit a match, bringing the flame to the end of the cigarette as she inhaled. The tip glowed a bright orange and an almost sweet smell began throughout the room.

Wynonna held the cigarette from her lips and handed it to Mercedes as she exhaled. A slow smile spread on her lips at Nicole’s blush and she wriggled her eyebrows at her. “That look on your face tells me you’ve never smoked a marijuana cigarette before,” she said, “Didn’t know you were so straight, Haught.”

The redhead blushed even deeper, watching as Mercedes took an expert hit off of the cigarette. “Once. In high school. And I got sick.”

“Well,” Wynonna said taking the cigarette off of Mercedes and holding it out to Nicole, “then you weren’t doing it right.”

Nicole looked at the smoking roll for a moment before taking it between her thumb and forefinger. A wolf-like grin spread over Wynonna’s face as she watched Nicole put the joint between her lips. Nicole looked at her present company nervously for a moment before sucking in. The smoke hit the back of her throat and lungs harshly, but she managed to hold in the smoke. She handed the joint to Waverly as her eyes watered and she coughed, smoke billowing from her mouth.

“There you go,” Wynonna said with a slow nod, “Grass and sex are the two things guaranteed to make you relax. And we all know you’re not getting the last one.”

Nicole’s throat burned like she had swallowed ashes, but her head started to feel light and her limbs heavy. She blinked through the smoke, looking over at Waverly who took a long drag herself. Nicole watched as the smoke fell out from between plush pink lips, only looking away when hazel eyes turned to her.

Her brain finally registered what Wynonna had said and she kicked her foot. “Not funny,” Nicole said shaking her head, “Just because my girlfriend is a state away.”

“That’s why you’re not getting any,” Mercedes said wisely, nodding her head.

“Exactly,” Wynonna said pointing at Mercedes, “Poor Haught here is just a bundle of sexual frustration.”

She heard Waverly giggle next to her. “No, I’m not,” Nicole insisted with a frown, “I do just fine on my own. I mean-...I’m not...that.”

Wynonna’s eyebrows shot up into her hairline at Nicole’s choice of words and she cackled. “Does Rosita know about you doing fine on your own? Do you have to put a sock on the door for that too?”

Nicole threw a pillow at Wynonna who still managed to knock it out of the way. “That’s not what I meant.”

“Yeah yeah, sure,” Wynonna said passing the joint back to the redhead.

Nicole took one more slightly less embarrassing puff from the joint when it was passed back to her, but let the other three finish it off. Wynonna put the end out on the window sill and flicked it outside.

There was a loud crash in the living room and Wynonna groaned. “Guess I better go figure out what that is,” she said hopping off of the desk.

“I’ll go with you,” Mercedes said with a slow blink, following the brunette out of the room.

Nicole just sat there for a moment, feeling the heaviness seep through her body. She wanted to get up and follow Wynonna but felt like she was melted into her seat. She knew she was high, and the idea of being around strangers in that state at the moment didn’t feel like the best idea. So she stayed put.

She didn’t feel sick like the first time she had smoked. Her brother had gotten ahold of some pot and they sat in their backyard treehouse smoking it. She must have done something wrong because she was throwing up off the side after just one inhale.

Soft fingers on the back of her hand brought her back and Nicole looked down. Waverly’s fingers danced over her hand lazily and she followed the arm up to see the sandy haired girl leaning back against the wall, pupils blown.

“What are you thinking about?” Waverly asked softly.

“Nothing,” Nicole lied as she scooted back on the bed so her back was against the wall. She felt Waverly’s weight lean into her side, a knot starting in her stomach.

Waverly let her fingers drift up Nicole’s forearm, goosebumps erupting in their wake. “You’re lying to me again. You do that a lot.”

“I’m not lying,” Nicole said swallowing thickly. She kept her hands busy by playing with the edge of her shirt. A string had come loose and she picked at it absently. Even through her haze, she felt Waverly’s eyes on her but she dared not look. Nicole felt like she shouldn’t be here. Like she should run. But Waverly’s fingers on her skin was soothing and...fairly innocent. What wasn’t innocent was when she felt Waverly’s breath and the lightest brush of her lips on her jaw.

“Waves,” Nicole said warningly, even if she didn’t move away. Her eyes fluttered shut and she licked her lips. “Stop. I-...Shae.”

After a beat she felt Waverly pull away, hands pulled back into her own lap. Nicole both missed the touch and felt relief roll through her.

“Sorry,” Waverly said softly, “I shouldn’t have-. I wasn’t thinking.”

Nicole looked over at Waverly who was staring at her pom poms, playing with one of the streamers. She nudged the brunette with her elbow, smiling when the other girl looked up at her. “I’m sorry I-...haven’t really been discouraging it. Have I?”

A gentle smile curled her lips and she tucked some hair behind her ear. “You haven’t been encouraging it either.”

“Even so, Shae would-...actually I don’t even know what Shae would think,” Nicole muttered with a frown, “I don’t think I really know her anymore.”

Waverly was quiet for a moment before speaking up. “But you love her?”

Nicole rolled her neck, head hitting the wall. The drugs flowing through her system made her feel like putty, lips loose. “I think so. I definitely love her I just...don’t know if I’m in love with her anymore.”

“How do you tell? If you’re in love with someone?” Waverly asked. Nicole looked over at her, hazel eyes wide. She wanted to drown in them.

“Well, I’m no expert,” Nicole began, “But if I had to describe it...I’d say it’s like falling into a warm bath. You feel yourself falling and slipping but you don’t want it to end. You always want to be around that person and everything about them captivates you. Even the things you don’t necessarily like about them are...magic.”

Waverly blinked up at her and Nicole suddenly felt self conscious. She watched as Waverly’s eyes darted down to her lips ever so briefly before she spoke. “That sounds groovy.”

“It is,” Nicole said looking away and back at her hands, “It can be.”

“Even though you don’t know if you love Shae, you’re staying with her?” Waverly asked.

“Maybe our love just changed,” Nicole said, “That happens sometimes too.”

Nicole watched as Waverly’s fingers weaved and played with the streamers of the pom poms. Fingers, so elegant for someone so small, pulled at the colorful pieces of plastic that crunched under her fingers. She could feel her eyes getting heavy, the warmth of Waverly’s body besides her not helping much. She wanted to sink into her and just sleep.

“Waverly,” Nicole whispered, voice hoarse and cracking, “I’m tired.”

The brunette smiled gently at her and moved her pom poms from her lap. She lifted her arms, one hand on Nicole’s opposite shoulder to gently guide her head into her lap. “Just take a little nap.”

“But the party,” Nicole protested weakly as her head fell into Waverly’s lap. She adjusted herself on the bed, legs curled up on the mattress. She felt fingers pull at the knot of her bandana, pulling it loose so that her short red hair fell around her face. Waverly brushed the strands away from her face and Nicole hummed at the feeling of her fingers in her hair. It felt like someone had spilled warm water down her spine.

“We’ll go back in a little bit,” Waverly said as she continued to rake her fingers through red hair.

Nicole just nodded, letting Waverly’s scent overtake her as she drifted into a heavy sleep and her voice drifted through her ears and slowly faded into the background.

”Oh yeah I tell you somethin', I think you'll understand. When I say that somethin'. I want to hold your hand...”

Chapter Text

Nicole woke up in her lap only a few minutes after she had fallen asleep. Her mind was still cloudy from the drugs, limbs heavy. Waverly’s fingers still ran through her hair causing chills to erupt up and down her spine at the contact. Once fingers caught on hairs, pulling slightly she let out a soft moan. She felt Waverly’s movements falter, breath hitch. That’s when Nicole opened her eyes and looked up at the brunette, lids heavy.

God, she was beautiful.

“Are you feeling okay?” Waverly asked softly.

Nicole just nodded, lazy smile on her face. “This is a much better high than I had last time. I feel a little like I’m floating. Is that normal?”

Waverly giggled and twisted a piece of Nicole’s hair between her fingers. “I’m not talking about that, silly,” she said before her face fell serious, “Are you okay? In general? I mean...you just had a lot of sadness.”

Nicole looked away for a moment, “I don’t know why you always say that.”

“I can sense it,” Waverly said as her fingers trailed briefly down Nicole’s neck, “I can just tell. You have a lot of pain here.”

She laid her hand flat on over Nicole’s heart and it was like every ounce of sadness she had ever felt was magnified by the touch. She swallowed thickly, eyes closing as she thought of the signs carried by people no older than her brother. Children. She thought of the jacket hanging over the post of her bed back in her dorm. All the words, everything she was holding back was on the tip of her tongue, begging to come out but she swallowed them. Her eyes burned and she briefly turned her face into Waverly’s stomach. The wool of her sweater scratched her chin and she breathed her in for a moment before looking back up at her.

“It’s just trippy, being in a new school. You know?” she said. She had to deflect. She couldn’t let Waverly in. “I don’t really know anyone and I-...miss Shae.”

The fingers brushing through her hair stopped for a moment. “I can imagine,” Waverly said softly, “I bet she misses you too.”

Nicole nodded and the sadness got heavier in her chest. “She does. Sometimes I wonder if-”

She stopped herself. Her fears of not being in love with Shae anymore were there in her throat, ready to come out but she held them back. She was fine. Her and Shae were fine. She loved her. Shae helped her through a lot of pain that she probably wouldn’t have survived without her.

“Wonder if what?” Waverly asked.

Nicole shrugged, “Nothing. Just...I miss her.”

“Why did you transfer?”

“I needed to get away from Colorado,” Nicole said simply, “There was just...too many memories there.”

Waverly frowned a little. “But Shae is there.”

“Yeah,” Nicole breathed, eyes fluttering shut again as she focused on Waverly’s fingers in her hair, “I like this. S’nice.”

She felt Waverly chuckle. “You look so peaceful when you sleep,” she said almost as if it were an afterthought, “It was like all that weight you carry was just...gone.”

“There is no weight,” Nicole insisted softly.

Waverly’s fingers brushed over her temple just as Rosita came into the room. Nicole noticed the way Waverly smiled when the other girl walked in the room and her stomach felt like lead. Rosita looked between the two shifting awkwardly. Nicole made to sit up but Waverly pressed on her shoulder to keep her down.

“Hey, Waves, I was looking for you,” Rosita said.

The brunette looked at the other woman a moment later with a smile. “Hey, Rosie. I was here. Where have you been? I was looking for you before.”

“I see that,” Rosita said gently closing the door behind her, “I was with Chrissy.” She looked between the two of them with a small smile. Nicole gently took Waverly’s hand from her hair, thumb brushing along her palm before she let go of it.

Nicole took the bandana and began tying it back over her head. “I should go back out there and find Wynonna,” she said slowly as she got off the bed. Waverly followed but Rosita wrapped her arms around her waist, scooping her into her arms. The brunette giggled and pressed her face into Rosita’s neck. It make Nicole’s face burn as she slipped out of the room and back into the party.

***

Nicole stared at a water stain on the ceiling, eyes following the edges of the brown stain curiously. If she let her mind wander enough she could still feel Waverly’s fingers in her hair. She had reasoned with herself that if she wasn’t high, she would have never let herself lay in her lap that way.

“Okay, so I’m leaving in the morning,” Shae said over the phone, successfully bringing Nicole from her daydream, “So I should be there by the next morning.”

“Are you sure, Shae?” Nicole said looking up at the poorly painted ceiling of her dorm, laying on the mattress, “That’s a long way for you to drive.”

“You drove it.”

“Yeah but-”

“Nicole,” Shae said firmly, “Tell me. Do you not want me to come?”

“No! You know that’s not it,” Nicole said even as her stomach turned, “I’m just worried about you.”

Shae sighed audibly over the phone, “I promise you. I’ll be fine. If you can make it in that car that’s half broken down, I can make it in mine.”

Nicole licked her lips, eyes falling shut as she tried to make the nausea in her stomach go away. “I know, I know. Just be careful, yeah?”

“You know I will be,” Shae said, “I can’t wait to see you.”

There was silence for a moment as Nicole swallowed a lump in her throat. “I can’t wait either, baby.”

“I’ll call you tomorrow when I get to my motel,” Shae said with a yawn, “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Nicole said easily out of habit. They hung up and Nicole just listened to the dial tone for a few moments before placing the phone back on it’s cradle. When Shae had brought up coming to visit Nicole over the Thanksgiving break a week ago, she was all for it. She had figured that maybe this was just what their relationship needed. They could spend the week together, rekindling their love. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that.

Though as the time for Shae to come had gotten closer and closer, Nicole found herself regretting it a little more every day. The idea of Shae being with her at school, meeting Wynonna and Rosita and-...Waverly...That didn’t sound like any way to spend her days. Shae already seemed on edge any time Waverly came up. Which was often since Nicole truly didn’t have many friends.

“How’s your girl?” Rosita said from her bed. She was reading, back against the wall as she sat with her feet hanging off the side of the mattress.

Nicole had almost forgotten the other girl was there. “She’s good. She’ll be here the morning after next.”

“You must be excited,” Rosita said looking up from her book, “I’m guessing you’ll want the room that night.”

Nicole blushed, nearly choking on air. “Um-...No, I mean-”

“It’s fine,” Rosita said with a smirk, “You guys need time to catch up. I’ll stay with Waves that night.”

Nicole chewed the inside of her cheek, sickness rolling in her stomach. All she could say was, “Okay.”

“You haven’t really told me a lot about Shae,” Rosita realized, closing her book on her lap, “You mentioned she’s in medical school.”

“Yeah, she is. She’s...really smart,” Nicole said remembering all the times she had rambled on to her about things she couldn’t even begin to understand, “And passionate. She started the first Civil Rights group on campus.”

“Wow,” Rosita said in genuine interest, “She sounds like quite the girl.”

Nicole thought about all the sit ins and walks she helped organize. She had been just as involved as Shae before...well before shit hit the fan in terms of her life. There had been days she’d sit and help Shae make signs. When they first met, just a smile from Shae would make her heart flutter and her entire body warm. She remembered all the times they would just sit together, wrapped in the other. Just the memories of those feelings made Nicole think of Waverly. Of the way her hands moved when she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear or her heart beat faster when she smiled at her. Nicole shifted on the bed, trying to push the brunette from her mind.

A stupid crush. Just a stupid crush.

Things between Nicole and Waverly had been better. They avoided the topic of the war as best they could and Nicole definitely avoided being in any sort of compromising situation with the younger girl. She knew that there was no way she’d ever actually act on anything, but she felt the more time away from the Earp was more time to get over the stupid crush. And she was pretty sure nothing would make her get over it faster than Shae coming to visit. Her wonderful, caring, amazing girlfriend.

“Hey, nerds,” Wynonna said bursting through the dorm door. Nicole should have been shocked, but it was such a common occurrence these days she hardly paid it any mind. Except this time Waverly was following close behind. She had on patterned tights and a yellow dress that seemed all too short for the sharp chill that was in the air, but Nicole wasn’t going to complain. “I’m bored. We finished moving Waves into my dorm. Want to do something?”

Nicole watched Waverly’s eyes dart between Nicole’s bed and Rosita’s as she stood in the doorway. Nicole instantly sat up to make room for the youngest Earp. They looked at each other for a moment. Waverly looked like she was about to walk towards her but Wynonna took the opportunity and threw herself on Nicole’s bed instead. Nicole blushed in embarrassment as Wynonna propped her feet up on the wall, head hanging over the edge of the mattress. She tried not to watch as Waverly sat on Rosita’s bed next to her.

“What do you want to do?” Rosita asked as she looped an arm around Waverly’s waist and pulled her closer.

Wynonna sighed dramatically. “Anything. I’m so bored. Entertain me,” she said hitting Nicole’s arm. Nicole automatically hit Wynonna back in retaliation.

“We could see if there’s anything good on the television in the common room?” Nicole suggested. She couldn’t help but look at the girls across from her. Rosita had grabbed Waverly’s leg to swing them over her lap so that the shorter girl was sitting sideways on the bed. Her head rested against Rosita’s shoulder but her eyes were on Nicole. One of Rosita’s hands rested high on Waverly’s thigh and Nicole cleared her throat.

“I’m actually going to go get a snack at the snack cart,” she said getting off the bed and slipping on her shoes.

“I’ll go with you,” Wynonna said practically falling off the bed from her awkward angle. Nicole usually would have protested, but she was thankful for the company. She just wanted to get as far away from Rosita touching Waverly as possible right now.

“Want anything?” Nicole asked the other two girls.

“Just a Coke, please?” Waverly asked as Rosita shook her head.

“You got it,” Nicole said looking away when Rosita pressed her face into Waverly’s neck.

Nicole and Wynonna walked out of the dorm and towards the snack cart. Wynonna hip checked Nicole lightly and wriggled her eyebrows at her.

“So Shae is for sure coming? I bet you’re excited to finally get laid.”

Nicole blushed and pulled at her collar. “I mean-...yeah. I’m excited that she’s coming. But a little worried I guess,” she admitted.

“Why? Aren’t you two all lovey dovey?”

“It just feels like forever since I’ve seen her. You know? I’m worried it’ll be weird between us,” Nicole admitted as she stuffed her hands in her pockets.

Wynonna shook her head. “It might be weird at first but then you’ll just screw it out and it’ll be fine,” she said with a shrug, “I have to say I’m not looking forward to how gross you two are gonna be together.”

Nicole snorted, blush deepening, “It-...we’re not going to be gross.”

“I’m just saying. Keep that shit to yourself,” Wynonna teased as they approached the snack cart. I have to deal with it enough with Waverly and Rosie.”

“Yeah,” Nicole croaked with a forced smile, “We’ll...try and keep it to ourselves.” The dread of Shae visiting began to sink into her stomach and Nicole rubbed the back of her neck. In a day Shae would be here. Shae would meet Waverly.

Shit.

***

Nicole and Wynonna walked into Shorty’s the next day with John Henry, Lucado’s TA, in tow. He had been hanging out more and more with Wynonna, therefore more with Nicole. He was nice. Odd. But nice. He seemed to have an affinity for talking like an old Texan, but there were worse things.

She had become a frequent visitor of Shorty’s since Nicole got to school. At least until the last few weeks when she started avoiding Waverly more. It wasn’t the most popular bar off campus, but it was certainly the seediest. Not only that, but it became pretty clear to Nicole that a certain type of person hung out at Shorty’s. The gay kind.

Nicole couldn’t help her eyes from finding Waverly as soon as they stepped into the dimly lit bar, cigarette smoke floating all in the air around them. The smoke filtered the light in a way that made it look like there was a halo around Waverly’s hair. The jukebox played in the background under the sounds of glasses clinking and the balls of the pool table hitting each other.

And the beat goes on, the beat goes on. Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain
La de da de de, la de da de da-

“Hey, sis,” Wynonna said as they got to the bar, “Drinks on you tonight?”

Waverly looked over at Nicole with a small smile as she sat on a stool and the redhead blushed. Before looking back at her sister and sighing, “I’ll give you guys one drink. Just one.”

“Fine, better than nothing,” Wynonna said as John Henry sat on the other side of her.

Nicole watched Waverly move behind the bar, looking away quickly when hazel eyes turned to her. She nodded in thanks as Waverly slid a drink in front of her, hands immediately wrapping around the glass.

“Nicole, are you coming to Thanksgiving here?” Waverly asked wiping the towel over the bar.

“Right,” Nicole said pretending that she forgot Waverly’s invitation, “I would love to. But Shae is going to be visiting too.”

Waverly blinked at her for a moment, eyes flickering down to the wood surface. “Oh. I didn’t know she was coming to visit you,” Waverly said.

“Yeah she’ll be here tomorrow morning,” Nicole said taking a drink.

“Well she should come too,” the brunette said with a small smile, “It’ll be real groovy. Gus makes the best stuffing. And she already says the more the merrier.”

Nicole wondered how bad it would be to have her girlfriend and the girl she had a crush on in the same room. She tilted her head in thought. It couldn’t be...that bad. Right? It was just a crush and she was sure that the only thing she’d be able to think about would be that Shae was finally with her.

“Yeah, why not,” Nicole said rubbing the back of her neck, “We’ll be there.”

They were silent for a moment as the two just looking at each other. Nicole cleared her throat and looked away, blush creeping up her neck. It was always easy for her to get lost in Waverly. The stupid crush was really getting out of hand.

She looked to where Wynonna and John Henry were but they had disappeared. Looking around, she saw they had migrated to the pool table at some point.

“Hey, soldier,” Waverly said softly as she tried to get Nicole’s attention again, leaning her elbows on the wood of the bar, “I missed seeing you around here.”

“I’ve been busy,” Nicole lied as she pushed some hair behind her ear. The brunette was leaning so far over the bar that Nicole could smell her perfume. It made her lightheaded.

Waverly reached out and brushed her fingers over Nicole’s name patch on her jacket. “You’re lying,” Waverly said with a wink, “I don’t know why you bother lying to me. I always know.”

Nicole stuttered for a moment. “No, I-...how?” she asked, still not convinced.

Waverly smiled slyly and covered Nicole’s hand with her own. “Well, you always pick at the skin on your thumb when you lie,” she said brushing her fingers along some reddened skin next to Nicole’s thumbnail, “And you always look up to the left.”

Nicole blushed, her mind searching for an answer but Waverly squeezed her hand to stop her.

“I know you have your reasons for lying,” the brunette said with a sad smile, “I just missed you.”

The redhead sighed as Waverly’s hand left her own. “Yeah, I missed yo-...coming around here.”

Waverly looked at her for a moment and Nicole knew that Waverly could see right through her with those eyes. Nicole felt so exposed around her and it was terrifying. She saw Waverly looking deep into her soul and wondered how she could get rid of this hold she had on her. No one had been able to read Nicole the way Waverly seemed to be able to. Not even Shae.

“You always think you know the truth,” Nicole smiled, looking down at the drink cradled between her hands.

“I can sense it, remember?” Waverly said plucking an invisible piece of lint from Nicole’s collar just as Rosita walked up to the bar.

“Hi, you two,” she said with a stilted smile.

Waverly’s eyes lingered on Nicole’s for a moment before she stood up and looked over at Rosita. “Hi,” she said already pouring Rosita’s drink, “I was wondering when you’d get here.”

“I was in the library, lost track of time,” Rosita said leaning over the bar and kissing Waverly’s cheek quickly. Nicole’s eyes darted to the alcohol bottles lining the walls behind the bar. Anywhere but at the two of them.

“Can I still come over later?” Rosita asked the brunette.

“Sure,” Waverly answered as Wynonna saddled up to them, throwing her arm around Nicole’s shoulders.

“Just try not to make too much noise tonight, huh?” Wynonna said with a fake gag, “I never needed to know my sister was a screamer.”

Nicole wasn’t sure whose face was redder, hers, Waverly’s or Rosita’s.

“Wynonna!” Waverly hissed at her, “That’s not-...shut it!”

“I’ll shut it if you get me and John Henry some shots?” Wynonna bargained. Waverly grumbled and moved to the other side of the bar, Wynonna following her as she poured them shots.

Nicole sat quietly for a moment but she could feel a nervous energy radiating off of Rosita. They had never not gotten along but they were always a little on edge with each other. Nicole licked her lips nervously and took a long sip of her drink.

Rosita sighed and spun in her stool to face Nicole fully.

“Nic, can I talk to you for a second?” Rosita asked Nicole softly. The redhead felt something in her stomach drop a little but she just nodded slowly.

“Sure, what is it, Rosita?” she asked finishing off her drink nervously.

Rosita squinted at Nicole for a moment and licked her lips. “Shae is coming tomorrow, right?”

“Yeah,” Nicole said simply.

“And she’s your girlfriend,” Rosita said in a way that Nicole wasn’t sure if it was a question or not. So she just nodded in acknowledgement. “Then you need to back off of Waverly.”

Nicole’s eyes widened, heart stopping in her chest. “What?”

Rosita leaned forward a little bit. “Don’t do that.”

“Do what?” Nicole asked.

“Do…that,” Rosita said gesturing to all of Nicole before her voice got soft, “Listen, I just-...I see the way you look at her and I see the way she-”

Rosita looked away. Nicole opened her mouth to protest but the dark haired girl continued.

“You have a girlfriend,” Rosita said firmly, “So I need you to back down from Waverly because I have feelings for her too. And I don’t have a girlfriend.”

“I don’t have a thing for Waverly,” Nicole said with a shake of her head and a nervous chuckle.

Rosita rolled her eyes, “Nicole, stop denying it. It’s getting a little pathetic honestly. You have a girlfriend so figure out your life. I get that you have this mysterious and tragic backstory that Waverly seems to find charming, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to be an asshole.”

Nicole sat in shock, jaw hanging open. Her stomach twisted uncomfortably as she tried to sort through everything that Rosita had said. She wanted to deny everything that had come out of her mouth but she couldn’t bring herself to. She was a little offended but mostly Nicole just kept focusing on Rosita insisting she had feelings for Waverly.

“I-,” she started, “Um...sure.”

“Thank you,” Rosita said with a relieved sigh, “I know she doesn’t want to do the whole...exclusive thing. It’s just-...I just...like her. You know?”

“Yeah,” Nicole breathed, heart squeezing as she looked over at Waverly bussing tables near the pool table, “Yeah I do.”

Nicole willed the panic in her chest to subside. If Rosita could tell that she had feelings for the brunette, who else could? She thought she had been hiding them pretty well by avoiding her and trying to stay away from her. Maybe Rosita could tell because she lived with Nicole. That had to be it...always being around each other.

“Hey, Red, help me settle something over here, huh?” Wynonna said coming up behind Nicole and looping an arm around her neck again. She tightened her arm around her neck and dragged her towards the pool table. Nicole was thankful to be pulled away from that situation.

“What’s the problem over here?” Nicole mumbled as Wynonna finally released her. John Henry was standing on the other side of the table looking amused, pool cue resting over his shoulders and his arms hooked over it.

“Henry here is cheating,” Wynonna said sitting on the edge of the table right next to Nicole so she was facing her, “And he says he wasn’t.”

“I wasn’t,” he drawled, “You can’t cheat at pool.”

“You can cheat at anything,” Wynonna said looking over her shoulder at him before turning back to Nicole, “An’ I tell you ‘e was cheating.”

“How?” Nicole asked more than a little amused by the way Wynonna was slurring her words.”

Wynonna leaned close to Nicole. So close the redhead’s eyebrows shot into her hairline. “By gettin’ me drunk.” Nicole laughed and looked over at John Henry who looked just as amused.

“So, Nicky,” Wynonna said hooking her finger in the collar of Nicole’s shirt and yanking her close. She arched an eyebrow at her friend and at the man behind her who seemed unsurprised by the turn of events. “Jus’ tell us. Is that cheating?”

Nicole looked at Wynonna for a moment, a blush lighting her cheeks before rolling her eyes and pushing the other girl’s hand away from her shirt. Something about the Earp girls really had some sort of hold over her it seemed.

“Yes, that sounds like cheating,” she said giving John Henry an apologetic look. He just shrugged. Wynonna cackled in celebration and planted a sloppy kiss on Nicole’s cheek. She wiped it away with her sleeve and pushed off of the pool table to sit on a nearby stool. She watched Wynonna gloat to the man for a moment

Nicole looked back at the bar to see Waverly looking back at her, Rosita sitting at the bar in front of her. Nicole smiled and offered a small wave. The brunette stared back until Rosita placed a hand on her arm to get her attention. Hazel eyes turned away from her and Nicole turned back to half watching the pool game in front of her, trying to push Waverly out of her mind.

***

Nicole sat on the steps of her dorm, leg bouncing nervously. She pushed her sunglasses up her nose and stuffed her hands in the pocket of her jacket. It was finally starting to get colder. Mostly the mornings were just more crisp and nights felt like a different part of the world entirely. But she sat waiting for Shae to pull up. She had called her a while ago saying she was at a gas station about a half hour away. The nerves kept squeezing at her stomach, unwilling to let go as she waited.

After a few more moments, she saw the red Mini Cooper roll into the parking lot. Nicole stood up and smiled as soon as she saw a familiar face looking back at her. The car shut off and the creak of the metal door opening echoed through the parking lot as Shae stood out of her car.

“Hey, baby love,” she yelled over at Nicole with a wide smile, “Are you just going to stand there and wait for me to come to you?”

Nicole chuckled and walked over to Shae. The other woman wrapped her arms around Nicole’s neck as soon as she could, kissing her hard on the lips. Nicole wrapped her arms around her and kissed her back, the knot in her stomach loosening a little. It felt nice to hold her again. To be held. She pulled away from her lips and pressed her face into Shae’s neck, sighing in contentment. She smelled spicy, familiar. Like Autumn by a fireplace.

The familiarity of it sunk into her bones and she got some comfort from it. She felt eyes on them and pulled away suddenly. Two boys were walking along the sidewalk, staring them down and Nicole just stared back. Sometimes it was hard to tell if people were offended because they were two women, or because Shae was black. Either way Nicole always felt her spine straighten and hands tighten into fists.

She felt Shae’s hands smooth down her arms and her posture relaxed. “Baby love,” Shae said getting Nicole’s attention again, “It’s fine. Ignore them.”

Nicole nodded and released the fists, smiling softly. “Sorry.”

Shae shook her head and tugged on the edges of Nicole’s jacket. “It’s sexy.”

Nicole blushed and looked down at her shoes but Shae ducked her head to look into her eyes. “Hey, wanna show me your dorm?”

“Sure,” Nicole said leaning into Shae’s car and grabbing her overnight bag. She slung it over her shoulder and waited for her girlfriend to lock her car before heading towards the dorms. She was a little shocked when she felt fingers lace with her own but recovered quickly as she led her up the stairs. Rosita and Waverly had been in the common room when she went down to wait for Shae and she silently hoped they were still there. Nicole didn’t think she was quite mentally prepared for those introductions.

As she opened the door, she poked her head in and breathed a sigh of relief when the room was empty. She walked in, Shae behind her, and set her bag on the floor. Shae looked around as Nicole sat on her bed.

“It’s nice,” her girlfriend said running her fingers over the records sitting in a box on her desk, “You like your roommate?”

Nicole faltered before she answered, “Yeah.”

Shae caught her misstep and raised an eyebrow at her, “Do I need to have a talking to her?”

“Definitely not,” Nicole chuckled as Shae walked to stand in front of Nicole. She moved to slot herself between Nicole’s legs and the redhead felt her cheeks heat. The other girl flattened her palms on Nicole’s jean covered thighs, running her hands up them until she palmed at her hips.

“I will,” Shae said lowly as she placed soft kisses along Nicole’s jaw. She sighed, her hands fisting in her comforter as she let herself get lost in the feeling of lips on her skin. She tried, really tried, not to think of long brown hair tickling at her collarbone as Shae’s lips connected with hers. Nicole placed her hands on Shae’s hips, melting just at the feeling of being wanted again. Her stomach felt sick but her heart fluttered at the way Shae was gripping at her. Like she couldn’t let go if she wanted to.

“Oh.”

Nicole pulled away suddenly at the interruption, hissing a little when Shae’s teeth bit down on her lip unexpectedly. She looked over at the door and saw Waverly looking just as shocked as she was.

“Sorry,” Waverly said with a nervous chuckle, “I’ll just-”

“No, it’s fine,” Shae said pulling away from Nicole. The redhead touched her lip gingerly, checking for any blood as her cheeks heated. “I’m Shae,” her girlfriend said striding up to Waverly with her hand out, “You must be Rosita?”

“Waverly,” the brunette said as her eyes darted to Nicole for a moment. She looked back at Shae with a smile and took her hand, “Waverly Earp.”

“Oh,” Shae said with a curious smile, “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

The tips of Nicole’s ears burned and Waverly giggled awkwardly.

“I’ve um-...I’ve heard a lot about you too,” she responded, “Nicole doesn’t shut up about you.”

Nicole frowned and rubbed the back of her neck, eyes on the two women. They dropped their hands and Nicole let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding.

“Thank you for keeping my Nicole company,” Shae said looking back at her girlfriend, “I know she’s been lonely.”

“It’s no problem,” Waverly said playing with the edge of her skirt, “Well, I’ll leave you two be. I just came to get Rosie’s book for her.”

Waverly went over to the desk and picked up a book before turning back around and putting her hand on the doorknob. She hesitated for a moment and turned back to the other girls.

“We’re watching Lucy in the common room in you two are interested in joining us?”

“Sure!” Shae said with a smile. She turned back to Nicole and held out a hand for her, “Come on, babe. I want to meet your friends.”

Nicole slipped off her bed and took Shae’s hand. She was torn. She didn’t necessarily want to be alone with Shae, afraid of the pressures of being….well...intimate. Not that she was avoiding it, she was her girlfriend after all. Plus she would be lying if she said she didn’t have...needs. It had been two months since she’d slept with Shae and she was feeling a little...pent up. But she was nervous about going through with it. If she could barely stay focused on Shae when they were kissing how was she supposed to stay focused during sex?

She squeezed Shae’s hand as they all walked into the common room. She introduced Shae to Rosita and they all sat on the couch to watch the television. Shae snuggled into her side and Nicole could feel Waverly on the other side of her, hands fidgeting in her lap. She tried to focus on the television, but all she could think about were the two girls next to her. Silently she wondered if she’d make it through this week.

***

After Wynonna called her dorm every five minutes telling her to, “stop fucking for five minutes and come over” so that she could meet Shae, Nicole finally gave in. They went over to Wynonna’s dorm despite Nicole fearing the worst from her friend. Probably in the form of crude comments. Shae was eager to meet the eldest Earp having heard so much about her. Nicole never shied away from telling Shae about Wynonna. She may never tell her this to her face but she was her best friend. Even if she might not admit it.

Nicole sat on the counter, Shae leaning back between her legs and head on her chest as they spoke.

“Nicky,” Wynonna said as they sat in her small kitchen, “you can’t tell me you’ve never seen ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’,” Wynonna said with a scoff.

“I haven’t,” Nicole said with a shake of her head. Wynonna looked like she was about to have an aneurysm when Waverly came out of her bedroom.

“She hasn’t seen a single Clint Eastwood movie!” Wynonna lamented as Waverly went into the fridge for a drink.

Shae looked up at the redhead and Nicole just looked down fondly. Shae placed a small kiss on the underside of Nicole’s chin and the other girl blushed, wrapping her arms around her girlfriend.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Waverly watching them. Though it seemed like Waverly was actively not trying to. Her head was faced towards the fridge but her eyes were strained, watching Shae turn in Nicole’s arms and bury her face in her neck.

“I guess I never just found interest,” Nicole shrugged before kissing Shae’s cheek. She noticed Waverly look away quickly, shutting the fridge a little too hard before Wynonna spoke again.

“You’re delusional,” Wynonna said with a shake of her head. Nicole watched Waverly walk back into her bedroom and wondered if Wynonna was right, her mind wandering back to Waverly. Always Waverly.

***

Through the week, Nicole took Shae to all the places on campus she spent time. She took her to the library, the cafeteria, Shorty’s...but only on the days that she knew Waverly wasn’t working. They had kept mostly to themselves for the few days Shae had been there. Rosita had been staying in Waverly’s dorm to give them privacy, but had headed home the day before for Thanksgiving.

What had been extra odd to her was that Shae and Waverly seemed to really get along. They seemed to have a lot in common. At one point they had a long conversation about Emily Dickenson that Nicole didn’t even try to follow. She just looked between the two girls and wondered if she was in heaven or in hell. It really could have gone either way.

“You look nice, baby love,” Shae said coming up from behind Nicole as she slipped her sweater over her head. She wrapped her arms around the redhead from behind, hands flat on her stomach. She kissed up the slope of Nicole’s neck and she leaned back into Shae’s arms. She had gotten more comfortable with the intimate nature of things in the few days Shae had been there.

When they slept together, Nicole just...pushed every thought of Waverly out of her mind. She thought it had been impossible but she did it. Instead she focused on the tan skin under her lips and hands. She knew Shae better than she had ever known anyone.

Shae wasn't her first girlfriend or lover. In high school she'd had her fair share of trysts with other members of the softball team. Her first love was a girl that smelled like summer and tasted like the ice cream they got every day from the corner store. But they had never been hers. Not completely. Shae had been hers. And because of that she knew her better than she probably knew herself.

Nicole had been focused completely on the other girl, knowing which buttons to hit, how to bring her to the edge and over it. Every time she thought of Waverly she would look at Shae and remember why she was with her. She loved her. She had brought her out of her darkest times and held her throughout it. If Nicole ever owed her life to anyone, it was Shae.

Two hands cradling her face brought Nicole from her thoughts. She blinked and looked into dark concerned eyes.

“You okay? I lost you for a second there,” Shae said looking over the other woman's face.

“Yeah,” Nicole said clearing her throat, “I'm fine.”

“Were you thinking about Chris?”

It felt like she had been punched in the stomach, air leaving her lungs quickly at the mention of his name. She blinked quickly, trying to release some of the pressure behind her eyes. Her hands gripped Shae's forearms, trying to ground herself.

Last year at this time she sat in the dining room with her brother and parents. They said thanks over the turkey their mom had made. Chris has gotten leave for the holiday.

“I'm sorry,” Shae said softly, pressing her forehead to Nicole's, “Focus on me. Focus on my voice. I'm right here.”

Nicole just nodded and swallowed thickly. “I'm fine,” she said taking a deep breath, “I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.”

Shae shook her head, “Nicole. Baby love. Don't apologize. Do you hear me? That's the only thing I'd ever be mad at you about.”

She felt soft kisses on both of her cheeks and felt her heart slow back to it’s normal pace. She nodded again and kissed Shae briefly.

“I'm fine. Thank you.”

Shae looked at Nicole cautiously before nodding. She smoothed some hair from pale cheeks and smiled at her. “That's my girl,” she said taking a step back, “And as beautiful as always.”

Nicole couldn't help but smile as Shae’s hands dropped from her face. She smoothed a hand over the front of her sweater and ran a hand through her hair. Her breathing returned to normal and she cursed herself for getting in her head.

“Ready?” Nicole asked, looking over Shae's dress, “You look great.”

“Thanks,” Shae said picking her purse up from the bed.

They went down to Shae's car and got in. She insisted on driving, saying that is was only a matter of time before Nicole's car broke down. Nicole sat with the pie in her lap they had picked up the day before from a bakery just off campus as Shae drove to the McCready house. The nerves bundled in Nicole's stomach as they got closer.

Despite the number of times she'd been to Shorty's, she still hadn't met Gus. She'd heard plenty about her to know she had raised the Earp girls. The fact that she was basically their mother made her nervous as it was.

They pulled up to house that was fairly isolated, just on the outskirts of town. Nicole checked the address before getting out of the car and running another nervous hand through her hair.

Shae looped their arms together as they walked up to the house. Nicole heard Wynonna yelling about something from inside and for some reason it brought her some comfort. Balancing the pie in one hand, she raised a fist to knock when the front door swung open.

“Hello!” Wynonna said instantly grabbing the pie from Nicole's hands. “See ya.”

She shut the door in her face and the two just stood there for a moment. Nicole rolled her eyes and heard scuffling behind the door before Waverly opened it again.

“I apologize for my sister,” she said with an exasperated sigh, “She never learned her manners.”

“Don't be a bitch it's the holidays!” Wynonna called from somewhere deep in the house.

Waverly stepped aside and gestured for the two to come in. She gave Nicole a quick hug as she came in, the redhead stiffening for a moment before Waverly pulled away and hugged Shae too.

“Thank you for coming despite my sister's rudeness,” Waverly said as Wynonna wandered out from what Nicole assumed was the kitchen with a couple of beer bottles and a glass of wine.

“I was being hospitable,” she insisted. Wynonna handed Nicole one of the beers and Shae the wine, “I figured you seemed classy. Way too classy for Haught here, anyways. Cheers.”

Wynonna bumped the top of her beer bottle with Nicole’s and winked at Shae.

A shorter greying woman came out of the kitchen, wide smile on her face as she took in the two newcomers.

“You must be Nicole and Shae,” she said, arms outstretched, “Welcome, thank you so much for joining us.”

Nicole smiled and held out her hand, “Mrs. McCready-”

“Gus, dear, call me Gus,” she said ignoring Nicole’s hand and hugging her instead, “I’ve heard a lot about you.” She released Nicole and hugged Shae. “And you dear, thank you so much for the pie.”

“I’m sorry it’s not homemade. My mamma’s gonna be mad when I tell her,” Shae smiled.

“Don’t be ridiculous, it looks delicious. Your mamma never has to know,” Gus said with a wink. She looked around and nodded, “Looks like Wynonna got you guys some drinks. Dinner’s almost ready so let’s head into the dining room. Waverly, lead the way.”

They all followed Waverly into the dining room, everyone sitting around the table that already had all the food laid out. Nicole sat across from Waverly, their eyes catching. She smiled and Waverly quickly looked away. If Nicole was holding a fork she probably would have dropped it.

“Oh, I need to put the sweet potatoes in,” Waverly said standing up suddenly, “Wynonna, will you help me?”

“No,” the eldest Earp said taking a long sip of her beer, “Haught stuff can help.”

“Wynonna-”

“No, it’s fine. I’ll help,” Nicole said standing up from the table. She squeezed Shae’s shoulder briefly before she followed Waverly into the kitchen. Waverly moved around the kitchen for a moment and Nicole just watched, stuffing her hands in her pockets. “What can I do?”

Waverly looked at her like she just remembered she was there. “Oh, right, do you mind just putting these in the dish?”

She pointed towards some sweet potatoes in a bowl and Nicole nodded. She silently began to arrange the sweet potatoes in the baking disk as Waverly cut more, standing a few feet away from her at the counter. Nicole looked over at Waverly every few seconds but she seemed focused on the cutting.

“You okay?” Nicole finally asked. She scooted the baking dish over so she was closer to the brunette.

Waverly looked up at her and smiled softly, “Yeah, why?”

Nicole shrugged and took some of the potatoes that Waverly had just cut to put in the dish. They worked in silence for a moment, the sound of pleasant talking coming from the dining room as they worked.

“I like Shae,” Waverly said suddenly, “She’s really groovy.”

Nicole nodded, “She’s great.”

“Are you going to be sad when she leaves again?”

Nicole chewed on the inside of her cheek. That was the question, wasn’t it? Would she be sad? Part of her felt she might be a little relieved. She would miss her in the same way she’d missed her before. She’d miss her comfort. The sound of a record player began in the living room and it was strangely soothing.

Sweet dreams of you, every night I go through. Why can't I forget you and start my life anew? Instead of having sweet dreams about you-

“I-...yeah,” she said in a not entirely convincing way, “I guess.”

Waverly looked over at her as she cut, a spark of something in her eyes. Nicole looked back and shrugged. Suddenly Waverly jumped back from the cutting board, knife clattering to the table as she hissed in pain. Blood bloomed from her finger and Nicole sprung into action. She grabbed a small hand towel from the sink and rushed back over to Waverly.

“Here, I got you,” Nicole said grabbing Waverly’s wrist and looking at the wound up close. It wasn’t too deep, but it was still bleeding pretty impressively. She wrapped the towel around the injured index finger, wrapping her hand around it to put pressure on it. Nicole lifted it above Waverly’s head and watched a small red stain spread on the towel.

“Are you okay?” Nicole asked finally looking down at Waverly. In the scuffle she had gotten closer to her and they were only a few inches away. Her breath caught in her throat to see Waverly look up at her through her lashes so she just offered a half smile.

“I’m fine now,” Waverly said looking up at her finger, “Is it bad?”

“Not that bad,” Nicole confirmed before teasing, “It only cut off about an inch of your finger.”

Waverly paled for a moment before catching on to Nicole’s teasing smile. She faked being mad and poked Nicole in the chest. “That’s mean, Haught.”

Nicole chuckled and grabbed the assaulting finger, holding it close to her stomach. “It’s a joke, Earp. Plus, I saved your life. Clearly,” Nicole said looking back up at the towel wrapped finger.

Waverly giggled and said softly, “My hero.”

The redhead blushed, smile softening as she looked down into hazel eyes. The way brown hair framed her face made Nicole want to stare at her forever. Her lips soft looking and pink. She forgot they were in the middle of the McCready kitchen until a voice interrupted their bubble.

“Hey, need help?”

Nicole looked over and saw Shae standing in the doorway, looking between the two girls. Her cheeks burned, stomach churning as Shae looked blankly at them. Nicole immediately dropped both of Waverly’s hands and grabbed the baking dish. She sprinkled some spices on the top and shook her head.

“Nope,” she said, voice shaking, “Waverly cut herself and I’m finishing up the sweet potatoes for her.”

You don't love me, it's plain. I should know I'll never wear your ring. I should hate you the whole night through. Instead of having sweet dreams about you-

“Are you okay, Waverly?” Shae said, brow furrowed in concern.

“I think so, just a little thing,” Waverly breathed, eyes still wide.

Nicole put the baking dish in the oven and straightened up. “Done! Let’s go.”

Shae gave them one last look before turning and walking back into the dining room. Nicole didn’t look back at Waverly, following her girlfriend blindy back into the other room. She heard Waverly close behind as she sat back down at the table. Waverly sat across from her, hand towel still wrapped around her finger.

“Are you okay?” Gus asked her.

“I’m fine,” Waverly said with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. She looked over at Nicole who looked down at her plate.

Fine. Everything was fine. She reached over and took Shae’s hand under the table, smiling at her girlfriend. Everything was fine.

***

Nicole sunk her teeth into the flesh just below her collarbone, grinding down into the girl below her when hips rose to meet her thigh. Nails dug into the flesh of her back and she groaned. Their sweat slicked bodies slid together easily, both bodies nerves on fire. She kissed up a slender neck, imagining long brown hair tickling her nose as she went. Pushing her hips down into the girl below her, she faltered when dark eyes looked up at her instead of hazel.

Nicole kissed Shae deeply, wondering what it would be like if it were pale pink lips sliding with her own. She kept her eyes shut as she ground her thigh into a hot core, head dipping so that her lips could brush along an angled jaw. The sculpted thigh between her own legs pushed up into her as they began a rhythm.

The air around them was heavy as their movements got more frantic, finally coming to a crescendo as their strangled moans mixed together in the air. Nicole bit her own lip painfully to prevent herself from saying a name she’d deny ever tried to escape her lips as tears burned heavy behind her eyes.

She collapsed on top of Shae, hiding her face in her neck as the last twinges of their orgasms faded away. Nicole breathed deeply and strong hands smoothed along the muscles of her back. Shae turned her head to kiss Nicole’s cheek, nudging her with her nose until the redhead looked at her.

“Where’d you go?” Shae whispered.

Nicole shook her head, “No where.”

Shae cupped Nicole’s cheek, forcing the eye contact as she smoothed her thumb over the redhead’s cheek. She felt exposed, more than she ever had maybe. Shae’s eyes shone with a sadness Nicole couldn’t place. She pressed her lips softly against Nicole’s, sighing against her lips. It was soft and caring and felt...final.

***

The next morning, Nicole woke up with an empty space in the bed next to her. She rubbed her eyes with the heel of her palm and sat up. Her eyes immediately landed on Shae who was folding clothes and putting them in her overnight bag. Nicole looked over at the clock. It was fairly early, but she was still sure that it was tomorrow Shae was going home and not today.

“What are you doin’?” Nicole asked, voice thick with sleep.

“Packing,” Shae said with a forced smile, “I um...think I should go home.”

Nicole felt her heart stutter in her chest, confusion written on her brow. “Why?”

Shae licked her lips and stopped packing for a moment. Her fingers played with a button on one of her shirts and she shook her head. “It’s just...it’s not the same. Is it?”

“What isn’t?” Nicole asked as the nerves in her stomach bundled.

“Us,” Shae whispered.

Nicole scrambled out of bed, quickly pulling on her clothes from the night before as her mind tried to catch up with what was happening. Because it sounded like they were breaking up and that’s not something she wanted to do naked.

“You’re...leaving me?” Nicole asked after she pulled her sweater over her head.

Shae sighed. “It’s for the best. For both of us.”

Nicole felt her heart stop in her chest as Shae zipped up the bag and slung it over her shoulder. She didn’t know what to say. Her mind was still going a mile a minute as she tried to figure out if this was a dream or not. She followed Shae down to her car, watching as she put her bag inside.

“Shae,” Nicole trailed off as they stood in front of her Mini Cooper. Her duffle was sitting in the back seat, mocking her. “Come on. You can’t stay for just one more day?”

Shae took Nicole’s hands in her own and shook her head sadly. “You know this is for the best.”

Nicole pulled her hands away, tightening her jacket around her as she looked away. Her eyes burned and she couldn’t tell if it was sleepiness or sadness. Probably both. They were-...they were breaking up. After all this time.

“I just don’t understand,” Nicole croaked, stomach turning at the lie. She hadn’t meant to lie. It was probably meant for herself just as much as it was meant for Shae. The other woman looked at her, hands cradling Nicole’s face lovingly.

“You do,” Shae said, voice breaking, “Baby love, you understand completely. I just...I’m sorry I wasn’t enough for you.”

Nicole looked down at her boots, tears gathering in the corners of her eyes. She let out a shaky breath, eyes fluttering closed as she nodded. She did understand. She understood completely. That was probably the worst part. She knew the exact reason that Shae was leaving.

“Look at me, please?”

Nicole licked her lips and shook her head. “I’m...I’m really sorry you couldn’t be enough I-...god, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I wish…I really wish I could-”

Shae shook her head, effectively shushing her, “She’s special.”

She didn’t have to say any names, Nicole knew who she was talking about. The idea made her stomach sink and heart soar at the same time.

“I’m sorry,” Nicole said.

“Stop apologizing.”

“I-...I can never thank you enough. For everything you did for me. After Chris-...you-...I’d be dead without you.”

“No you wouldn’t...even if you feel that way,” Shae said simply, “I don’t want you to thank me. Or repay me, because I know you’re thinking about it.”

Nicole felt the corner of her lips quirk despite herself. “You’ve been...amazing,” Nicole quickly wiped a tear from her cheek and shook her head, “I don’t-...I love you, Shae.”

“Don’t-...she could be it for you,” Shae said softly, “I’ve seen the way you look at each other”

“Shae-”

“Just don’t be dumb...I only want you to be happy. She makes you happy.”

Nicole looked back up at the girl, hands grasping blindly for her hips as she drew her close. She kissed Shae softly, desperately. She could taste tears as their lips moved together, but she wasn’t sure who’s they were. Pulling away, Shae rested their foreheads together and smiled sadly. She ran her fingers over Nicole’s face, the pads of her fingers soothing over her eyebrows, down her nose and over her lips as if she were memorizing how she felt.

“I love you,” Shae whispered firmly, ”I always will.”

“I love you too,” Nicole whispered. That wasn’t a lie. She loved her, just differently. It had been different for a while.

Shae kissed both of Nicole’s cheeks. “Don’t be stupid. Okay? Be smart. Be brave.”

Nicole sniffled and nodded leaning into Shae’s touch.

“I’m always here if you need me,” Shae said as she ducked her head to make sure that Nicole was looking at her.

“I know,” Nicole nodded. Not able to hold herself back, Nicole wrapped her arms around Shae and squeezed her affectionately. Shae ran her hands through Nicole’s hair, holding her just as tight.

“Call me,” Shae said into Nicole’s hair. With one last kiss to the side of the head, Shae got into her car, the engine turning easily. The radio began playing as she pulled away. Her eyes were red and Nicole was sure hers were just as red. She shoved her hands into her jacket pockets as Shae looked at her one last time. Nicole watched as she drove away. As Nicole let out a sigh, she felt like a weight lifted from her heavy heart.

”Love is a losing game. Love can a be shame. I know of a fool, you see. For that fool is me-”

Chapter Text

There was an insistent knock at the door and Nicole just pulled her comforter over her head. She wasn’t in the mood to deal with anyone today. Shae had left the day before and Nicole had spent all of yesterday in bed too. All semblance of an appetite was gone and her face felt puffy from all the crying.

She wasn’t in love with Shae anymore, that much was made clear during her visit. She loved her, but she wasn’t in love with her. When she thought about it, she probably hadn’t been completely in love with her since before Chris. Shae had become a comfort, a rock. And it wasn’t fair to either of them.

Nicole knew it was for the best, but it still made her sad to lose her as friend. Shae had done more for Nicole then she would ever repay her for. They would be friends eventually, but they both needed some time to heal. She was beginning the healing by wallowing in her bed and refusing to acknowledge the outside world. It had been working. Somewhat. Her sleep had been fairly peaceful, thankfully. Rosita was gone until the beginning of the week so she had the dorm to herself. She had gotten a couple of phone calls but ignored them. It was probably just Wynonna wanting to drink anyways.

The knock came again and Nicole groaned. If she ignored them, they had to go away.

“Haught! Open up!” came Wynonna’s voice from the other side. Nicole tightened her grip on the blanket. The fabric tightened around her face making it hard to breath and she got lightheaded for a moment. Maybe then she could pass out and go back to sleep.

The knocking stopped and Nicole breathed a small sigh of relief. Maybe Wynonna had given up and gone home. That would have been ideal. But there was the brief sound of some metallic clicking before she heard the door bang against the wall and felt the blanket being pulled from her grasp. The cold air hit her body suddenly and she blinked as her eyes adjusted to the light in the room.

“What the hell?!” she croaked, reaching for the comforter. Wynonna stood above her, a concerned look on her face. “What if I had been naked?!”

“Then I would have seen you naked,” Wynonna said sitting on the edge of the bed, “Where have you been?”

Nicole looked at the open dorm door and frowned. “Did you...pick my lock?”

“The things you learn from felons,” Wynonna said with a wink, “Now answer me. Are you okay? I thought you’d died.”

“I’m fine,” Nicole said reaching for her blanket again, but it was pulled away from her by Wynonna again. She flopped back down on the bed with an exasperated sigh.

“Then why does it look like you’ve been crying?” Wynonna pointed out, “Tell me what’s wrong.”

Nicole looked up at Wynonna. She figured there was no real reason to hide this from her. She’d find out eventually anyways. But she hadn’t said it outloud yet. For some reason getting it out felt like a rock was in her throat and refused to come up.

“Shae and I...we...broke up,” Nicole managed.

The brunette managed to keep her face neutral and looked down at her friend. “Do I need to beat her up?”

Nicole even chuckled a little at that. “No, it was amicable,” she said scooting over so Wynonna could lay down next to her, “it was...a long time coming.”

They were silent for a moment as the two girls laid on Nicole's small dorm bed, arms pressed together. Her hands were folded on her chest as she stared up at the ceiling. Finally Wynonna spoke up.

“You stink,” she said elbowing Nicole lightly, “Take a shower and let’s go to Shorty’s. Waves is working today.”

Her stomach flipped just at the sound of Waverly's name and she shut her eyes for a moment. She missed her. It was the same way she missed Shae but at the same time completely different. Vaguely she wondered what would become of her little crush now that she didn't have the Shae in the back of her mind.

“I don't really feel like going out,” Nicole said with a shake of her head.

“Sure you do. Nothing makes you feel better about a break up then alcohol,” Wynonna said with a smile, “Now come on.”

Nicole let out a long sigh like she was debating whether she was actually going to go, but she had already made up her mind.

“Fine,” she said rolling over Wynonna who just grunted. Nicole headed for the shower, already feeling a little better.

***

Nicole wouldn’t admit that she carefully picked out her clothes to go the Shorty’s. She just wanted to be presentable. And so what if Waverly was there? That didn’t mean she chose her nice button up to go under her typical jacket.

They drove Nicole’s car to Shorty’s, the cold sharp air being a little too much to walk off campus. As they stepped in, Nicole’s eyes adjusting to the familiar low lighting and smoky air, she tried not to search for a certain brunette. Wynonna pulled Nicole by her elbow to two open seats at the crowded bar. The brunette leaned on the bar with her elbows to get Waverly’s attention who was down at the other side of the bar pouring drinks. When she finally got her attention Waverly looked over and rolled her eyes at Wynonna, holding up a finger to tell her to wait.

Nicole watched as Waverly turned to walk towards them, a smile lighting up her face as their eyes met. Her heart instantly felt ten times lighter, the heavy weight she had been carrying gone for the first time since Shae left.

“Hey,” Waverly said, “Where’s Shae?”

Nicole’s own smile faltered and she looked down at the wood of the bar. Wynonna leaned in and whispered not so subtly, “She’s gone.”

Waverly frowned and looked at Nicole who rubbed the back of her neck and shrugged. “She um...we broke up.”

A surprisingly strong set of arms were around her neck before Nicole could even comprehend what was happening. Waverly had somehow managed to lean across the bar and embrace Nicole in a tight hug. Her hands tentatively reached around to embrace Waverly the best she could from her current position. It took all she had not to completely melt into the hug. Instead she just breathed Waverly in, eyes fluttering shut at the contact. After a moment, Waverly pulled away but her hands remained on Nicole’s shoulders as she looked at her seriously.

“Want me to beat her up?” Waverly asked.

Nicole chuckled and shook her head, “Your sister already offered.”

Waverly gave her a half smile and cupped the side of Nicole’s neck with one hand. The touch was so light and gentle that Nicole felt her lean into it slightly. She could feel her pulse pounding under Waverly’s palm and wondered if she could feel it too. She felt her thumb brush along the underside of her jaw and swallowed thickly.

“Just let me know if you need anything,” Waverly said softly before dropping her hand back onto the bar.

Nicole felt like she could breathe again and just stared at Waverly as she got her a beer and Wynonna a whiskey. Waverly went off to handle the other customers again and Nicole’s eyes followed her until Wynonna tapped her arm to get her attention.

“We have to get you a new girl,” Wynonna said spinning her chair so that her back was against the bar as she surveyed the room, “There are plenty of skirts here, I’m sure we can snag one for you.”

She blushed and stayed facing the bar, elbows on the wood. Both of her hands circled the cold glass of beer. She watched the foam on top settle, the warm comforting scent of the beer filling her lungs. She took a long sip, almost immediately feeling the alcohol settle in her stomach. Maybe drinking after not eating for two days wasn’t the best.

“I don’t think that’s necessary.”

“Why? Just a girl to have fun with for the night and cleanse your palette,” the dark haired girl said pointing her chin towards a girl at the jukebox, “What about her?”

Nicole looked over at the girl as she chose the next song, head bobbing to the music.

What do I do when my love is away? Does it worry you to be alone? How do I feel by the end of the day? Are you sad because you're on your own?

Nicole continued to looked over her shoulder at the girl who was very pretty, but still shook her head, “I don’t want to cleanse my palette.”

No, I get by with a little help from my friends. Mm, get high with a little help from my friends. Mm, going to try with a little help from my friends-

“You’re so boring, Nicky,” Wynonna said finishing off her whiskey, “Let me help you get a girl.”

“Leave her alone, Wynonna,” Waverly said coming up to them from the other side of the bar, “She just broke up with her girlfriend.”

“And I’m helping!” Wynonna insisted spinning back around in her chair to look at her sister, “Who do you think she should have a go with?”

Nicole watched as Waverly’s cheeks blushed, eyes darting over to the redhead. “Doesn’t sound like she wants to have a go with anyone,” Waverly said with a shrug as she refilled Wynonna’s glass, “Maybe just let her do what she wants?”

“Ugh, you’re both boring,” Wynonna said throwing back all the liquid in the whiskey glass in one swallow.

Waverly shook her head, “Don’t listen to her. You’re not boring.”

Nicole shrugged, “I’d be okay with it if I was.”

“But you’re not,” Waverly reiterated as she undid the apron from around her waist, “I’m off now. Want to go for a walk?”

“What about-” Nicole turned to where Wynonna had been sitting but her seat was empty. She looked around and saw the eldest Earp leaning against the wall near the pool table talking to John Henry. She definitely wouldn’t notice. Nicole turned back to Waverly with a smile, “Sure.”

It was cold outside and if it was anyone else, Nicole would have said no to a walk. But it was Waverly and Nicole really wasn’t any good at saying no to her. It was something about her eyes and the way she looked at Nicole when she asked things. Nicole was a goner every time.

Nicole drained the rest of her beer and jumped off the stool. She could feel the alcohol flowing through her system more easily now that she was standing. Waverly passed by her and Nicole followed, eyes following her high boots to the expanse of thigh that disappeared under and short brown skirt. She was wearing a blue gypsy shirt with a brown vest over that and Nicole wondered why her heart had started beating so fast.

She opened the door to Shorty’s, the bright light blinded her for a moment and she blinked against it. As the cold air hit her in the face and she sobered a moment, she wondered where she would be if she was still there. That was until Waverly turned around from the corner and gestured for her to follow.

Nicole walked up to Waverly and the shorter girl instantly looped their arms together with a smile. She smiled back at Waverly as she pulled them along. They walked in relative silence for a block, Nicole wondering why her heart beat impossibly fast with Waverly’s arm through hers.

“Do you miss her?” Waverly finally asked quietly.

The redhead put both of her hands in the jacket pockets, “She only left yesterday.”

“So that’s a no then?” Waverly asked looking up at Nicole almost cautiously.

Nicole felt the instinct to get defensive at first, hands tightening in her fists in her pockets. Then she remembered Shae’s face and the way she told her it was okay.

“Yeah, I guess that’s a no,” Nicole admitted softly.

Waverly held Nicole’s bicep with her other hand and squeezed, “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine it-...was unavoidable,” she said, “It...probably should have been done a long time ago. I was just too chicken.”

“How long have you felt that way?”

Nicole hummed, trying to think for a moment how long she had felt that her and Shae had fallen out of love. “A...while,” she said as her brain gave up on calculating numbers.

“I’m sorry,” Waverly said so softly that Nicole wasn’t sure if she had imagined it.

“Don’t be,” Nicole answered. It was the first time in two days that Nicole could think about Shae without her heart completely shattering. There wasn’t even the threat of tears in the corners of her eyes, something that had become common. Waverly’s hand on her arm was grounding in a way her pillow hadn’t been apparently. Though that wasn’t very surprising, was it? The loneliness she had been feeling seemed to slowly drain away too, with each step they took down the street together.

“Where are we going?” Nicole asked curiously.

Waverly shrugged as she stepped off the curb, Nicole following easily along, “Does it matter?”

Nicole thought for a moment. Did it matter? She felt...free. It was an odd feeling but it was something she hadn’t felt in months. Her heart was a little lighter and she never wanted Waverly to let go of her arm. The warmth of Waverly on her arm went straight to her heart.

“No. It doesn’t.”

***

Nicole was driving towards the grocery store when stopped at the stop sign on the street in front of Waverly and Wynonna’s dorm. She looked at it for a moment, eyes going to the second floor, third window to the left to see if she could spot any movement in the dorm. The curtains were drawn and she drummed her fingers on the steering wheel as her mind wandered to what Waverly might be doing right now.

In the two weeks since Shae had left, Nicole found herself hanging out with Waverly more and more. Nothing ever went beyond Waverly leaning into her or linking their arms. Nicole sometimes lingered on the idea of what would happen if she pushed Waverly’s hair behind her ear the way her hands begged to. But the ache in her heart reminded her how Shae told her to be brave. She wasn’t brave. She had been with Shae for almost two years. That couldn’t be erased in two weeks. Even just thinking about touching Waverly a little longer than normal felt like a betrayal of her relationship with Shae.

There was a loud bang on her window and Nicole jumped what felt like five feet into the air. Her heart was beating rapidly and she turned to see Wynonna standing on the driverside of her car. Both hands were on the glass where she had hit it and a shit eating grin was on her face.

“Hey, loser,” Wynonna said, her voice slightly muffled from the glass.

Nicole clutched her hand to her chest as her heart beat evened out.

“What the fuck?!” she yelled, her voice echoing in the metal body of the car.

Another car behind her honked and Wynonna flipped them off. Waverly walked up from behind Wynonna and waved at the car behind in apology as her sister ran and slid along the hood. Wynonna wrenched open the car door and slid in, Waverly running to the other side of the car and sliding in with her sister.

“Let’s go,” Wynonna said pounding on the dashboard as she slid into the middle seat. Nicole began to drive again and shook her head.

“Am I being kidnapped?” she asked.

“We’re going to the movies,” Wynonna said matter of factly.

“I was going to go to the grocery store.”

“Not anymore.”

“Wy-”

Waverly reached over her sister and put a hand on Nicole’s knee as she drove. “We don’t have to go to the movies if you don’t want to. We can go with you to the grocery store.”

Nicole could practically hear Wynonna rolling her eyes. Waverly’s hand on her knee almost burned to the touch and Nicole knew she was a goner. “I um...I’ll go. And then we go to the store after?”

“Deal,” Waverly said squeezing her knee and settling back into her seat.

The redhead sighed, “So what are we going to see?”

***

“You know, I just had a thought. Why don't I check in a hotel and rest.”

The movie had just barely started when Waverly rested her arm on the armrest of Nicole’s seat. Nicole didn’t think anything of it until she felt a soft touch along the back of her hand. Goosebumps erupted over her skin, trailing up her arm. Even the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. She chanced a look over at Waverly but her eyes remained firmly on the screen.

Nicole looked down at her hand, the light from the screen illuminated the room just enough for her to watch as Waverly’s fingers idly drew patterns on the back of her hand. It was the barest of touches and it was almost too much. Nicole swallowed thickly, trying to concentrate on the screen. It felt like her entire body was on fire and her breathing got shallow.

How easy it would be to reach up just a little and grasp Waverly’s hand. They could be like teenagers, holding hands in the dark of a movie theater for the first time. But Nicole wasn’t that brave at all.

Instead she turned her hand over so that Waverly’s fingers could run along her palm. The tips of their fingers brushed for a moment, Waverly’s fingers playing with Nicole’s gently. It felt like her heart was beating out of her chest and she knew there was no way she’d ever be able to follow this movie.

“You may be in for the biggest shock of your young life.”

***

The next day, Wynonna had called Nicole earlier and convinced her to go to Shorty’s and help them decorate for Christmas. Not that she needed much convincing. She had finished writing all her finals and felt like if she’d studied anymore she might actually combust.

She noticed the ‘closed’ sign on the door before she pushed it open. There was a Christmas tree in the corner and lights strung along the bottom of the bar. Wynonna was on a ladder in the middle of the room hanging some garland.

“I’m telling you, Waverly,” Gus said. She was sitting at the bar and looking at the television that was hanging above the bar as she strung popcorn onto a string, “That Dolly’s gonna be something someday.”

Nicole looked up at the screen where The Porter Wagoner Show was playing even though the sound was off and Christmas music was playing through the juke box. A young blonde woman was singing along with Porter, crooning at the camera. The picture flickered on the old television set as Waverly came out of one of the side rooms with a wreath in hand.

“I believe you,” Waverly said. She spotted Nicole and walked over to her, handing her the wreath. “Now that our tall person is here she can hang this above the door.”

Wynonna pointed at them and yelled from the top of the ladder, garland falling from her hand, “Wait! Look up you two.”

Nicole frowned at the brunette but looked up to see a small sprig of something green hanging above them.

Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree, won't be the same dear, if you're not here with me-

“What-?”

“It’s a mistletoe, dumbass,” Wynonna said with a wide grin, “You two gotta kiss.”

Nicole blushed, eyes firm on Wynonna so she didn’t have to see Waverly’s reaction. She briefly wondered how many ways she could kill Wynonna for this.

“Wy-” Waverly began lowly.

Wynonna shushed her, “It’s tradition, baby girl, I know how much you love tradition.”

“Leave them alone, Wynonna,” Gus said half heartedly, not even looking up from her popcorn string.

“You have to do it,” Wynonna said with a shrug, “I don’t make the rules. If you have a problem you have to take it up with Santa.”

Nicole licked her lips, gripping the wreath nervously between her hands. She looked down at Waverly who was looking up at her with a blush. Waverly smiled nervously and half shrugged.

“Tradition, I guess,” she said softly.

The redhead swallowed thickly as Waverly took a step closer to her, body bumping up against the wreath. “Yeah, tradition,” Nicole managed.

Waverly put her hands over Nicole’s on the wreath and lifted herself on her tiptoes so that their faces were close. She couldn’t believe she was about to kiss Waverly Earp. Right now. In the middle of Shorty’s with Wynonna watching and a depressing Elvis song playing in the background.

You'll be doin' alright, with your Christmas of white. But I'll have a blue, blue, blue, blue Christmas-

It was just going to be a quick peck. That’s all. A quick innocent peck. Not like she had been dreaming about this moment for-...well for far longer then she’d ever admit. Just a quick little peck. She licked her lips again, feeling her palms get sweaty as she watched Waverly’s eyes flutter shut. Nicole closed her eyes and leaned forward until their lips brushed.

Their lips just barely pressed together but Nicole felt like her whole body was floating. Waverly’s lips were soft. The softest lips she’d ever felt. It felt like fireworks were exploding behind her eyes and she leaned a little more into the kiss. It felt like only a moment later that Waverly pulled away, but Nicole stayed in place, eyes closed as she tried to commit the feeling of Waverly’s lips against hers to memory.

Waverly’s hands were still on hers and she felt the other girl squeeze them. Nicole opened her eyes. Waverly’s face was still close, breath playing on Nicole’s lips. She could vaguely hear Wynonna saying something in the background but couldn’t hear anything beyond the blood rushing through her ears.

A moment later, Waverly leaned forward and reconnected their lips. Nicole sighed into the kiss and took a step closer to Waverly. The wreath between them blocked her from pressing her body completely into hers the way she ached for but this would do too. Waverly cupped Nicole’s cheek, thumb brushing against her cheekbone.

Nicole was pretty sure she could stay like this forever. It was the gentlest kiss, their lips moving together easily as the jukebox clicked on.

Rockin' around the Christmas tree, at the Christmas party hop. Mistletoe hung where you can see, every couple tries to stop-

The change of pace brought Nicole back to her senses and she pulled away, lips still tingling. She looked down at Waverly, her lips still tingling. She couldn’t help but smile at the brunette as she took a step back, nerves bundling in her stomach again as she worried about her reaction.

“I um-...tradition,” Nicole said lamely as she chuckled nervously. She looked at the wreath in her hand as Waverly’s hand fell from her face. She instantly missed the touch but held the wreath up closer to her chest. “Where did you want this?”

“Above the door,” Waverly whispered as she tried to fight a smile from her face.

“Right,” Nicole said with a nod. She looked down into hazel eyes for one second longer before turning towards the door, “Right.”

Nicole swallowed thickly and cursed to herself, wondering if she’d just made the best or worst decision she could have.

***

To say that Nicole had been avoiding Waverly wouldn’t have been...completely wrong. She finished helping them decorate Shorty’s and left after. Wynonna had been relentless about teasing them until Waverly grabbed her by the ear and whispered something that felt vaguely threatening even if she couldn’t hear.

The week after, everyone was busy with finals so it was easy to avoid the Earps. But by Thursday, Nicole was done with her finals and couldn’t avoid thinking about Waverly anymore. She would think about how perfectly their lips moved together and how right it felt to be kissing her finally. Did Rosita feel the same way when Waverly kissed her?

She didn’t want to know.

What she did want to know was if Waverly had been thinking about her. If she’d been thinking about the kiss specifically. Nicole wasn’t-...

She didn’t know if she was ready for something with someone. Even if that someone was Waverly Earp. The guilt from Shae was still there. Just thinking about her brought a pain of guilt sharp in her stomach. Especially when she thought about how she could only think of Waverly the last time she was with Shae. She blushed at the memory as she walked down to the snack cart.

”Be brave.”

Shae had said it to her before she left. But what did it mean? Really? Be brave about what? It could mean be brave and let yourself be alone. Or be brave and-...go for what you wanted. If Nicole really let herself think about it, she wanted Waverly.

She'd wanted Waverly for longer than appropriate.

When she thought about going after her though, she just thought of all the reasons she had stayed with Shae even after they should have broken up. Not to mention Rosita.

Waverly hadn't been visiting Rosita at their dorm and her roommate had the tendency to mention when she was hanging out with Waverly but hadn't lately. Though that didn't meant anything with finals.

”Be brave.”

Nicole stood staring at the snack cart with her hands deep in her pockets. Looking at the row of snacks, she turned on her heel and walked away. Her feet began to carry her down a familiar path and she picked up the pace.

She was being crazy. She was sure. There was no plan. No course of action.

”Be brave.”

Brave. She could be brave. Couldn't she? She had moved to a strange state with no friends or family, that was some sort of courage. And she deserved to be happy. Or at least try and be happy. That’s what she kept telling herself anyways.

With a deep breath she realized her feet had stopped moving and she she was in front of a familiar door.

“Fuck it,” she whispered before knocking.

Her stomach twisted in knots as soon as her knuckles hit the wood. Nicole considered turning around and running back down the stairs. It wasn't too late. She rocked on the balls of her feet just as the door opened. Waverly stood there with a look of surprise on her face. Her hair was damp and hanging in curls around her face.

Nicole felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room. She stared at her blankly before forcing herself to speak.

“I-...hi,” she said. It was now or never.

“Hi,” Waverly chuckled, “What are you-?”

Nicole stepped forward and cut her off with her lips. She felt Waverly gasp against her lips and a small twinge of panic began in her chest. Maybe Waverly hadn't been thinking of her.

She pulled away a little but she felt herself being pulled back by her collar. Nicole smiled against Waverly’s lips, letting herself melt into the kiss. Waverly deepened the kiss and Nicole was sure her heart soared out of her chest when she felt the other girl’s tongue brush along the seam of her lips. A hot prick of desire began in her belly and she held Waverly’s hips, drawing her close like she wished she could have the first time they kissed if it hadn’t been for that wreath. It was now hanging over the door to Shorty’s and all Nicole would be able to think of when she looked at it was how the plastic poked into her skin like tiny needles.

Waverly’s hands raked through Nicole’s hair, tugging gently on the strands. Nicole’s mouth opened in a groan and Waverly’s tongue curled around her own. She pulled the shorter girl as close as she could and nipped lightly at her bottom lip, drawing it into her mouth and sucking. The prettiest moan left Waverly’s lips and she pulled away. Her pupils were blown, lips slightly swollen. Nicole felt dull nails drag across her scalp and her eyes fluttered shut again.

Her heart was beating so fast she was sure she’d pass out soon. Her knees felt weak and the adrenaline was coursing through her veins like fire.

“Nicole?” Waverly said as she placed a soft kiss on the underside of her jaw. The redhead just hummed in response. “Kiss me again?”

If there was one thing Nicole knew from the beginning, it was that she could never deny Waverly Earp.

***

Waverly pressed her hips down into Nicole’s and the taller girl groaned, the seed of arousal in her belly only growing.

They had been going on like this for the past couple of days and Nicole had no complaints. Kissing Waverly was everything she had dreamed of. Sure all they had been doing was kissing. Not much time for talk between. Rosita was back home for the holidays so they had spent their time in Nicole’s dorm where Wynonna couldn’t yell inappropriate things at them.

Thinking of Rosita made Nicole’s stomach turn so she had tried not to think of her. But she remembered the times that she walked in on Waverly and Rosie much in the same position they were now. Jealousy tightened in her chest and she slipped a hand up the back on Waverly’s shirt. The girl’s spine bowed down, her entire body pressing into her like two puzzle pieces trying to fit.

Music played gently in the background. They had put it under the ruse they were just going to listen to Nicole’s new record. But they both knew that it would soon be forgotten. And it was.

Have you seen her face? With her eyes reflect the colors in the sky. On one familiar place, to be swept into. Whenever she's close by, makes me wonder why. Run by, don't turn back. Can't hide from the look in her eye-

It was one of the moments when Nicole kept asking herself what she was doing. She had never been one to...share a girl. Let alone be okay with a no strings attached situation. She wondered if she was setting herself up for more hurt because every moment she spent with Waverly she felt herself slipping a little further into her web.

“Waves,” Nicole said as the brunette’s kisses trailed down her jaw, “Waverly, wait.”

Waverly placed one final kiss below her ear before pulling away. She looked down at Nicole with a small smile. “What is it?”

Nicole couldn’t help but smile back at her, placing a soft kiss on her nose. “I um...can I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” Waverly said running her fingers along Nicole’s hairline. She slipped her hand out of Waverly’s shirt.

“You and Rosita…” Nicole said before trailing off. She didn’t know how to finish the question. What would she ask? If it was serious between them? If Rosita was a better kisser?

Waverly shrugged, “We’re friends.”

“Friends who kiss sometimes?” Nicole asked.

“Yeah like...us,” Waverly said carefully.

Nicole knew that, but it broke her heart anyways to hear it outloud. “I know,” Nicole said quickly as she played with the edge of Waverly’s shirt, “I just...I don’t know. Nevermind, I don’t know why I brought it up.”

Waverly smiled and pecked Nicole’s lips lightly. “Free love, baby, right?”

Nicole couldn’t help but be charmed by the way the corners of Waverly’s eyes crinkled when she smiled. “You think you’re real groovy,” Nicole teased.

The shorter girl chuckled and ducked her head shyly. “I think you’re groovy,” she said.

With a smile, Nicole pressed the side of her face into the pillow beneath her. Her heart fluttered pathetically like a butterfly just learning how to use it’s wings.

“Nicole,” Waverly said, “I don’t want to do anything you’re not comfortable with.”

She trailed off and Nicole’s breath caught in her throat, dread filling her lungs instead. “But?”

“But...I-...don’t really do relationships. I’m not just...waiting to pick between you and Rosie,” Waverly continued.

“I know,” Nicole said as casually as she could, even as her heart stopped in her chest, “I mean...I just broke up with Shae...”

She left her statement unfinished, letting Waverly fill in the gaps. She’d probably assume that meant that Nicole wasn’t looking for a relationship either. Mostly she didn’t know what she was looking for but the idea of letting Waverly go was hard. How could she let her go after knowing what it was like to kiss her?

Still the seeds of doubt her planted.

Waverly’s fingers dusted along Nicole’s jaw and neck. Her eyes closed at the touch and she let herself focus on that instead. She looked up at the brunette, watching the way the light reflected in her hair. She was a vision.

Nicole brushed some hair behind Waverly’s ear and leaned up. She was sat up on the bed with Waverly straddling her thighs. She ran her hands along Waverly’s hips and thighs, the cloth of her dress moving up a little bit as she did so. Waverly wrapped her arms around Nicole’s neck, their foreheads pressed together. Nicole’s heart squeezed in her chest as Waverly’s eyes darted down to her lips. She was going to let herself be happy. At least...she was going to try.

She kissed Waverly hungrily, all open mouths and teeth. Though with each kiss her heart broke a little more. With each thought of Rosita she felt more and more sick. Was it this hard to be happy?

Nicole kissed down Waverly’s neck and scraped her teeth along her pulse point. Waverly’s hands pushed up her shirt and flattened on her stomach, muscles jumping at the touch. Did she touch Rosita this way? Did Rosita know that if she bit and sucked just below Waverly’s ear she would moan dreamily? The sound always hit her right between the thighs.

She bit down on Waverly’s neck a little too hard, the brunette’s hips jumping forward as she gasped. Nicole focused on that. She focused on the feeling of Waverly’s body against hers.

It was when they were like this that Nicole could stop thinking about the fact that Waverly wasn’t hers. She might never be. But for now this was fine. It had to be fine.

You'll find you're locked in her spell. All the sights and sounds, your senses will be found. And only time will tell, how much love can be to wait so patiently. Wait and see-

Chapter Text

Christmas Eve maybe wasn’t the best time to break up with someone. Though, Nicole wasn’t really...breaking up with anyone, was she? You couldn’t break up with someone who wasn’t yours.

Nicole wondered how she had gone letting herself be happy with Waverly to deciding that she couldn’t do...whatever they were doing anymore. But she didn’t have to think hard. It was because she couldn’t stop thinking about Waverly. As soon as she was away, her heart ached for her. After only a few days of kissing, Waverly had taken over every inch of Nicole’s mind. It wasn’t healthy.

Maybe now Waverly was out of her system. She’d kissed her...a lot. She felt her under her hands and figured out that if she kissed her in just the right way under her ear she would melt underneath her. It was intoxicating. It was too much too fast.

It was like she could feel Waverly’s touch, even when they weren’t together. Nicole knew she was in trouble and the longer she let it go on, the worse it would get. All she wanted to do was gather Waverly in her arms and kiss her all over her face. She wanted to hold her hand while they drove and give her flowers. But Waverly wasn’t that kind of girl. She didn’t want to be anyways.

Nicole went over to Waverly’s dorm on Christmas Eve with the intention of breaking off...whatever it was they had. Back to friends. Just friends.

As soon as Waverly looked up at her with those hazel eyes and told her how glad she was Nicole was there, she was a goner. Instead they ended up making out on the couch while the Doris Day Christmas album played in the background. At least until Wynonna came out and threw a pillow at them, announcing they had to go to Gus’.

Waverly invited her along but Nicole declined, making a dumb excuse she was sure Waverly could see right through.

She was a coward. She knew it. Nicole reasoned that a major holiday wasn’t the time to bring such things up. But now it was the day after Christmas and...she couldn’t think of an excuse anymore.

“Hey, Waves,” she said with a forced smile as soon as the brunette answered the door to her dorm, “Sorry I didn’t call. I just...wanted to see you.”

Waverly didn’t answer, just threw her arms around Nicole’s neck and kissed her. “It’s okay,” she said against Nicole’s lips, “I wanted to see you too.”

Nicole returned the kiss until she felt Waverly try to deepen it. She squeezed Waverly’s hips and gently pushed her away. She felt loss as soon as she held Waverly at bay, and that’s when she knew this was the right thing to do. Waverly looked confused as she rested her hands on Nicole’s forearms, but smiled just the same.

“Waverly,” Nicole said swallowing a lump in her throat, “I just wanted to say that-...can we sit down?”

“Sure,” Waverly said leading Nicole into the dorm and into her room. Nicole was pleased to see that Chrissy was gone. One less thing to keep her from saying what she wanted to say. Nicole closed the door behind her and Waverly sat on the bed, just under the Snoopy poster she loved so much. The wall that Waverly’s bed was pressed against was covered in magazine clippings and posters, not a single inch of wall showing. The picture that always drew Nicole’s attention was a picture of John Lennon from the cover of a Rolling Stone magazine that was tacked under the Snoopy poster. It was designed to look like a newspaper, Lennon wearing an army helmet and looking towards the camera. It always made Nicole shift uncomfortably.

Waverly patted the bed besides her, bottom lip pulled between her teeth. Nicole rubbed the back of her neck, standing in the middle of the room. She pointed to Waverly’s desk chair and pulled it out, sitting down there instead. Waverly looked at her oddly for a moment.

Finally chuckling, Waverly joked quietly, “Why do I have the feeling you’re about to tell me something bad?”

At least it was intended as a joke, but definitely wasn’t one.

“It’s not bad,” Nicole said with a tilt of her head, “It’s just-...I think we should stop-...I think we’re better off being friends.”

Waverly blinked at her, “We are friends.”

Nicole sighed and fiddled with a loose thread on her shirt. “No, I know,” she sighed as she tried to ignore the sick feeling in her stomach, “I think we should just stay friends who...don’t kiss.”

“Oh,” Waverly said simply, “I-...okay.”

Nicole ran a hand through her hair and avoided Waverly’s eyes, afraid she’d crack and take it all back if she didn’t. “I’m sorry, I just...I guess I’m not built that way,” Nicole said with a shrug, “To...function that way.”

“I get it,” Waverly said with a stiff smile, “You don’t need to explain it.”

They sat in silence, the seconds ticking by like hours. Finally Waverly stood suddenly and Nicole automatically followed suit.

“I should go,” Nicole breathed out, eyes still avoiding Waverly, “I’ll um...talk to you later.”

Nicole made for the door when she felt Waverly’s hand softly close around her wrist. She turned back to look at her and wished she hadn’t. Waverly looked up at her with big eyes, worry bunching up her eyebrows.

“I didn’t...make you do anything you didn’t want to do, did I?” Waverly asked, concern laced in her voice.

The redhead shook her head, moving her hand so that she could lace her fingers with Waverly’s. “Trust me,” Nicole said squeezing her hand, “I didn’t do anything I didn’t want to do. That’s part of the problem. I wanted...more. More than you can give me.”

“Oh,” Waverly blinked as if she were caught off guard.

Nicole just nodded, the sickness still heavy in her stomach. “I’ll see you later.”

“Yeah,” Waverly said as their hands dropped. Nicole offered one last smile and made her way out of the room. The sound of the door closing behind her felt final in some way and louder than it probably was. But she walked out of the dorm with her hands stuffed in her pockets, trying to keep the tears at bay.

***

There was a pressure in the back on Nicole’s skull. One that she was trying to avoid. It had been there the past couple of days but she was trying to beat it back. It started the day she had broken things off with Waverly. Once again she found herself avoiding the brunette as much as she could. Something had felt heavy the last time she left the brunette and she wasn’t interested in figuring out what it was.

It wasn’t just Waverly though. The feeling was something she had been fighting off for a while now. There was a date on her calendar that wasn’t marked and was, for the most part, insignificant. But her eyes landed on it every time she glanced at the calendar. The date was getting closer and closer and she was worried it was only going to get harder to fight off the heavy feeling in her chest.

She was coming back from a walk that had intended to clear her head but only seemed to make things worse. Nicole was too aware of things around her. Like how the air was just a little too sharp on her face. Or the way her footsteps sounded when they echoed down the wooden floor of the dorm halls.

If she hadn’t been focused on how her jacket felt a little too heavy on her shoulders today, she might have heard the muffled sounds coming through the door. The sounds that could have told her she should turn around and walk a little bit more. But she didn’t, so she opened the door and immediately wished she could take it back.

To say that Waverly and Rosita were in a compromising position would be selling it short. To be fair, as soon as Nicole opened the door Rosita stood up from where she was kneeling on the ground and Waverly tried to pull down her skirt. But the damage was done. Nicole felt like she was going to be sick right there in the doorway, her face getting hot.

“Jesus- fuck! What the fuck?” Nicole said turning on her heel, “We have rules for a fucking reason!”

She slammed the door behind her, mind somehow running even faster. The hot feeling of jealousy coursed through her blood but she tried to swallow it down. Her heart squeezed uncomfortable along with her stomach and she practically ran back down the stairs to get as far away from the other two women as possible.

What bothered Nicole the most is that while Rosita seemed surprised to see Nicole, Waverly didn’t. She breathed out harshley through her nose, the little voice in the back of her head getting louder and louder as she went.

Not good enough. Too broken.

***

The persistent pounding in the back of Nicole’s head was getting harder to ignore. She felt it creeping on her, waiting for a vulnerable moment to strike. But she was determined not to let it. Determined to get past it. Even as the date on her calendar drew closer, she was convinced it would pass without incident.

Wynonna convinced her to go over to Shorty’s for New Years. She knew Waverly would be there but she couldn’t quite bring herself to care in that moment. She needed a distraction and Wynonna always was good at distracting. Even if it was in the form of alcohol.

She could still see Rosita kneeling between Waverly’s legs and had made it a habit of knocking on the door every time she went to her dorm. There was no way she was going to risk walking in on them again.

She straightened out the sleeve of her paisley buttoned up shirt and shrugged her usual jacket on as she stepped out of her car and headed down the street to Shorty’s. Just based on the lack of parking around, Nicole figured to bar was busier than usual given the holiday. Even from the corner she could hear the noise spilling from the bar.

As soon as she stepped through the door, it was like a wall of sound hit her. Nicole stood for a moment, just overwhelmed by the noise. The chaos made her head pound a little more but then she spotted Wynonna pushing through the crowd to get to her and breathed a sigh of relief.

“How ya doin’, Red?” Wynonna said slinging her arm around Nicole’s shoulders, “Haven’t seen you sniffing around my sister lately.”

Nicole blushed and let Wynonna steer her towards the back of the bar. “We’re not-...doing that anymore,” she muttered. She looked around for a drink and was pleasantly surprised when Wynonna shoved a whiskey into her hand.

“Ah, I see,” Wynonna said before clinking their glasses together, “Guess you really need this then.”

Nicole took a long chug, hoping the pounding in her skull would go away the more she drank. She felt herself grimacing as the whiskey ran over her tongue and warmed her belly. As soon as the ice landed against her lips, alcohol gone, she handed the glass back to Wynonna.

“Damn, Haught,” she said, looking impressed, “You really did need that. I’ll get you another.”

She nodded and sat on a nearby stool. They were nestled back near the pool tables where Nicole could see John Henry and a large dark skinned man playing together. They looked oddly focused, lips tight as they played. Nicole’s eyes wandered back to the bar where her eyes landed on Waverly. The brunette looked like she was working at a breakneck pace, pulling the beer taps and pouring drinks. Rosita was back behind the bar with her helping.

Waverly’s eyes landed on her and she felt her heart stop. She forced a small smile and waved at the other girl who waved back. Her hair was pulled away from her face, sitting atop her head, and Nicole couldn’t help but follow the line of her neck down to her collarbone. She pulled her eyes away when Rosita moved behind Waverly, hand landing naturally on her hip as she moved past her. It was an intimate move that only reminded Nicole that Waverly wasn’t hers. She wasn’t anybody's, according to her, but she definitely wasn’t hers.

Wynonna was back with another glass of whiskey and Nicole took it gratefully, glancing up at Waverly one last time before turning in her stool to face the older Earp. She was looking at Nicole with a knowing look and shook her head slowly.

“You got it bad,” Wynonna muttered.

“I don’t,” Nicole said taking another long sip of her whiskey. It was a little more than two hours until midnight, so she figured she should take it a little slower at least. She could already feel the alcohol getting to her head and making her vision blurry.

“You’re a bad liar,” Wynonna sighed as she nursed her own drink, “I really should kick your ass for sleeping with her.”

“We never slept together,” Nicole said with a blush.

Wynonna’s eyebrows shot into her hairline and she looked at Nicole over her glass. “Interesting,” she said, “Wasn’t expecting that.”

“What do you mean?”

She shrugged, “You two just seem closer than like...just necking all the time.”

“Yeah, well,” Nicole said taking another long sip of her drink, “Sorry to disappoint.”

Wynonna looked Nicole over while she drained half her own glass. She squinted at the redhead for a moment, Nicole squirming under her scrutiny.

“What?” she finally asked.

“Waves is...she’s been through a lot. I certainly didn’t help in that,” Wynonna finally said. Her blue eyes wandered to her sister behind the bar, a cloud coming over her face, “Mamma left when she was barely four. I think that was the hardest on her. She was always Mamma’s favorite. Than when-...well when Daddy got himself killed and Willa ran off, I wasn’t in a place to take care of her. She thinks she knows what she wants, but she doesn’t. She’s just...scared.”

Nicole tried to sort through her thoughts, alcohol clouding her mind. “We’re all scared of something, aren’t we?” she finally asked softly. She was surprised Wynonna could even hear her over the bar noise.

Wynonna shrugged, “Waverly’s always been...more mature for her age. I think it’s just now catching up to her. Everything she’s been hiding away.”

Nicole chanced a look over at Waverly who was smiling at a customer. But as soon as Nicole’s eyes were on her, Waverly was looking back at her. The redhead turned to face Wynonna again. She hummed, her eyes moving between Nicole and her sister.

“There’s something about you I think,” Wynonna said, her words slurring only slightly, “She’s different with you, you know.”

Those words lit a small flicker of hope in Nicole’s chest, but she quickly extinguished it. She looked down at her glass with a sigh.

“Yeah well, she has a funny way of showing it,” Nicole said.

“You know what you need?” Wynonna said, clapping her on the shoulder, “A new girl.”

Nicole snorted into her drink, “You said that when I broke up with Shae. Is that your answer for everything?”

“No, sometimes I suggest alcohol. But you already have that,” Wynonna said with a wink. She leaned against the same table Nicole was leaning on and scanned the crowd. She gestured vaguely in Mercedes direction. “What about her?”

Nicole raised an eyebrow at her, “I’m not necking with your roommate.”

“Not her,” Wynonna grimaced, “Her sister. Beth. If you squint real hard and make yourself deaf, she’s just like Waves.”

“No,” Nicole said with a shake of her head, “I’m not going to just pick a girl to makeout with tonight. Or any night for that matter.”

Wynonna groaned, “You’re so boring! Let’s just talk to her.”

“Is she even gay?” Nicole asked, even as Wynonna was gesturing them over.

“Sure why not,” Wynonna shrugged, “We’re in a gay bar after all.”

Mercedes and Beth wandered up to them, the latter’s eyes squinting at Nicole curiously. The redhead smiled politely as Wynonna introduced them but looked away immediately. She wasn’t interested in any kind of one night stand deal, not right now anyways. But it wouldn’t be completely horrible to kiss someone at midnight, even if she didn’t plan on seeing them again. She was sure Waverly would be kissing Rosita at midnight. The thought alone made Nicole look back at Beth to find her eyes looking back at her.

After two more whiskeys, Nicole and Beth were getting along great. Beth was interesting enough. She was a Sophomore apparently and that’s about as much as Nicole remembered. Beth didn’t really stop talking once she got started but Nicole couldn’t really register what she was saying. She was odd, for sure, and kept bringing up her little brother. Nicole just nodded and felt how her head seemed to move slower than her movements thanks to the alcohol.

Waverly finally got a chance to wander out from behind the bar when a couple of other bartenders arrived. Rosita was there right behind her, hand on her hip as soon as they stopped with the group. Nicole smiled at the younger Earp, alcohol making the ache in her heart sting just a little less.

“Hey, soldier,” Waverly said softly. Her fingers briefly brushed against Nicole’s hand that was hanging by her side and the redhead felt that familiar flutter in her stomach.

“Hi, I’m Beth,” Beth said stepping up to Waverly. The other girl blinked at her for a moment before smiling.

“I um...we have a bunch of classes together,” Waverly said. Beth just blinked blankly at her and Waverly forced a small smile, “I’m Waverly.”

“Nice to meet you,” Beth said with a wide smile.

Waverly leaned into Nicole for a moment and her attention pulled away from Beth. Even with all the whiskey flowing through her system, she still felt her breath catch in her throat with hazel eyes looking up at her.

“I’ve missed you,” Waverly said.

Nicole licked her lips and took another sip of her drink. She wanted to open her arms and envelope Waverly in them, but Rosita’s hand on the shorter girl’s hip was enough to remind Nicole where she stood.

“I saw you a couple of days ago,” she mumbled, not looking at Waverly so she didn’t have to see how she responded to that. Nicole was just trying to push down her feelings. It was something she seemed to be good at lately. Or at least something she was trying to be good at. There was still that insistent pounding in the back of her head that seemed to get stronger and stronger.

Beth went to move and stumbled over something, so Nicole looped her arm around her waist to keep her upright. The move surprised even the redhead, but Beth seemed pleased as punch. She smiled up at Nicole as she righted herself, hands grasping Nicole’s arm to keep her in place.

“Thank you,” Beth said leaning her side into Nicole’s front. She blushed and looked up at Wynonna for support but she just looked at her with raised eyebrows, an amused expression on her face. Mercedes rolled her eyes at her sister and flicked her ear.

“Stop embarrassing me,” Mercedes said. Beth shot her a look, grip on Nicole’s arm only tightening.

Waverly disappeared for a few moments and came back with her hands full of shots. Nicole watched out of the corner of her eye as Waverly laid them on the table and knocked them back quickly.

“You okay there, sis?” Wynonna said pushing her shoulder as she finished the last shot.

“Just catching up,” Waverly said as she smacked her lips to get the taste of the last shot out of her mouth. Rosita kissed her temple and Nicole looked away again.

“Welp, we have only a few minutes left of nineteen sixty-seven, folks,” Wynonna said as people started passing around flutes of champagne.

Nicole finished her whiskey with a grimace as she took the champagne. She turned slightly to place the empty whiskey glass on the table behind her and when she turned back around, Beth’s front was pressed to her own. With the whiskey and the way everyone was pairing up around her, putting an arm around Beth’s shoulders seemed like a great idea to Nicole. Rosita’s arm was around Waverly’s waist and Wynonna well…neither John Henry or the taller man seemed bothered that she stood in the middle of them with an arm around both.

The television cut from The Tonight Show to Ben Gruaer in Times Square. He was standing in front of the ball and it was hard to understand what he was saying over the bar noise, but a minute timer had started on the bottom of the screen. She felt Beth slip a hand inside her jacket, face looking expectantly up at Nicole.

“You’re gonna miss the ball drop,” Nicole said as nerves began in her stomach.

“Then why don’t you just kiss me at midnight so I know?” Beth said fluttering her eyelashes up at the taller girl. Nicole let out a shaky sigh and looked over at Wynonna who just wriggled her eyebrows at her. She looked back down at Beth with a small smile and nodded curtly. Beth smiled and pressed even more against Nicole, fingers curling into the back of her shirt.

She looked on the other side of her and immediately regretted it. Rosita had Waverly around the waist, whispering something in her ear. Waverly had her eyes glued to the television, tight grip on her champagne glass.

Nicole huffed and looked back at the television in the corner. The camera was on the ball now as it slowly descended. People around the bar started to shout.

Ten, nine, eight, seven, six-

Nicole gripped her champagne glass tighter and snuck a small sip, wanting every bit of liquid courage she could get before the “big moment”. She placed a tentative hand on Beth’s waist, fingers playing with the loose fabric of her dress.

-five, four, three, two, one!

Nicole looked down at Beth who already had her lips puckered in waiting. She leaned down to kiss her when she felt a hard jerk on the collar of her jacket. A familiar pair of lips crashed into hers instead of Beth’s and Nicole gasped in surprise. The sound from the bar drowned out and it felt eerily quiet. Her hand fell from Beth’s dress and went to Waverly’s instead. She vaguely registered Beth huffing in surprise and protest besides her as she pulled Waverly against her, effectively pushing Beth away. Who even knew where Rosita was at this point. All Nicole could focus on was Waverly’s lips moving against hers.

If there was any less alcohol in her system she would have the good sense to stop the kiss. She wasn’t doing this with Waverly any more. But her lips were so soft and she missed her. Her heart was expanding so much in her chest that it hurt, stomach tightening in excitement even if Waverly’s lips tasted like the whiskey. She was sure hers weren’t any better.

The sound came rushing back. People were cheering, setting off poppers and blowing mouth horns. But as she pulled away all she could hear was each ragged breath that fell from Waverly’s parted lips. Hazel eyes fluttered open and looked up into brown, something swimming just below the surface that Nicole couldn’t decipher.

Both of Waverly’s hands were curled into the collar of Nicole’s jacket, keeping their face close. Waverly smiled nervously up at Nicole as the bar burst into a drunken revision of ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

“Happy New Year,” Waverly said softly, eyes flickering back down to Nicole’s lips.

“Happy New Year,” Nicole said with her own soft smile.

Waverly looked at her for a beat longer before loosening her hold on Nicole’s collar, smoothing it out clumsily with drunken hands. Nicole swallowed thickly, eyes landing on Rosita standing significantly further away now. One arm was tight against the front of her body, propping up her other elbow as she nursed her champagne. Her eyes were glued on the television but Nicole was sure she wasn’t really watching it. She turned to the other side of her just to see Wynonna with a smirk on her face, eyebrow raised at the two of them.

Nicole looked back to where Waverly stood, still looking up at her and hands fidgeting with her collar. She drained all of her champagne, grimacing as the bubbles made her nose itch.

“I um...should go,” Nicole said, her voice cracking.

“I-...can I go with you?” Waverly asked pressing more against Nicole.

The alcohol coursing through her veins told her to just nod and take Waverly back to her dorm with her. To throw caution to the wind and just go with her gut. It would hurt in the morning, she knew it would. It would hurt more than anything to have Waverly tell her again that she wasn’t worth trying for. Even after everything Wynonna told her.

“No,” Nicole said with a shake of her head, “No, Waverly I...can’t do that.”

Nicole shrugged and watched Waverly’s face fall. She had to look away, setting the empty glass next to Waverly’s shot glasses.

“Sorry,” she said before slipping away from the group. She maneuvered her way around the crowd to end up outside. She gasped for a breath, the cold air stinging her lungs. There were some people wandering down the street singing loudly, all clearly drunk. She stood there for a moment, just letting the night wash over her. She swallowed thickly, head still swimming from the whiskey.

A blue and white Ford Falcon stuffed with college students rolled back slowly. A girl was hanging out the side with a party hat on her head, radio turned up all the way as music poured from the windows. The girl winked at Nicole before she waved a sparkler out the side of the car and sang along with the radio.

Break another little bit of my heart now, darling, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, oh, have a! Have another little piece of my heart now, baby. You know you got it if it makes you feel good-

Nicole stared after the car as it drove down the street. It was too far to walk all the way back to campus. She figured she’d sleep in her car until she sobered up. Her mind kept wandering back to Waverly as she walked. She could still feel Waverly’s lips on her own, the way it felt to have their bodies pressed together. She sang softly and off key as she walked.

”I'll say come on, come on, come on, come on and take it! Take it! Take another little piece of my heart now, baby. Oh, oh, break it-”

***

“Hey! Kid!”

Nicole awoke with a start, heart pounding as she tried to get her bearings. Her neck hurt like a fuck and it was freezing. As she blinked the sleep from her eyes, she looked up to see a police officer standing outside of her car. She waved awkwardly at him and he motioned for her to roll down the windows. She nodded and reached for the crank, her head pounding with each small move that she made.

“Hey Officer-” Nicole looked down at his name badge as she finished rolling down her window, “-Nedley.”

Her hungover brain made a vague connection to the name but lost it immediately. The officer ducked and looked around the inside of her car. He rested his hand on the roof of the car and squinted at Nicole. “Are you okay? Just decided to sleep in your car for the night?”

Nicole began to nod then regretted it as pain shot up the base of her skull. “Yeah,” she said with a thick tongue, “I just um...didn’t want to drive. Last night.”

Officer Nedley stared at her for a moment then nodded curtly, “Smart girl. Alright well, you should get a long then.”

“Yes, sir,” Nicole said searching for her keys as he walked back to his cruiser that was parked behind her. She watched him in her rearview and her foot bumped something on the floor. She grunted and realized that it was her keys. She rubbed her temples for a moment before reaching for her keys.

It had been a while since she was this hungover. She felt sluggish, head pounding as she started her car. Slowly, she drove back onto the campus. Everything from the night before was...too vivid. Alcohol might have dulled her inhibitions last night but they did nothing to help her forget them this morning. The thing she wanted to forget the most wasn’t necessarily Waverly kissing her at midnight. It was the way it made Nicole feel. Safe and warm, the pounding in her head subsiding just for a moment.

Her grip tightened on the steering wheel and she took a deep breath. It wasn’t fair of Waverly, was it? To play her like this.

She pulled into the parking lot and got out of the car as quickly as she could with her body moving at half speed. Despite the chill in the air, the sun was still shining brightly. It nearly blinded her and she fished her sunglasses out of her pocket. She slid them over her nose just as she walked into the dorms. It felt like a million years, but she made it to her door. She knocked loudly a few times just to make sure she didn’t walk into any surprises and opened the door when she deemed it safe.

Nicole dragged herself over to her bed and collapsed on it. She made a vain attempt at sliding her shoe off by pushing the back of the heel with her other foot. Her boot came halfway off and she gave up with a grunt just as the phone rang. She slid off the bed again and walked awkwardly hunched over as she tried to untie her shoe and walk at the same time, sunglasses slipping down her nose. She picked the phone off of the hook and cradled it between her shoulder and ear.

“‘Ello?” she mumbled as she finished untying her shoes and threw them over towards her bed. She pulled her sunglasses off and threw them onto her desk.

“Nicole?” came Shae’s familiar voice.

“Oh, hi,” Nicole said straightening up far too quickly for her head. She groaned and ran a hand through her messy hair, fingers getting caught in some knots.

“Sorry, I-...is this okay? That I called?” Shae asked softly.

“Yeah, sorry, I’m just...hold on,” Nicole said as she picked up the phone body and carried it over to her bed. She set the body at the end and flopped onto the bed, phone still pressed against her ear. “Okay. Go ahead.”

“Are you okay?” Shae asked with a small chuckle, “You sound awful.”

“I was...drinking last night,” Nicole admitted.

“Right,” Shae said. She was silent for a beat and then continued. “I just wanted to check up on you,” she said, “I know the...things are getting close.”

Nicole swallowed thickly, throat closing as the pounding in the back of her head got heavier. “Yeah, I um...I’ve been fine.”

There was silence for another moment. “Are you sure?” Shae practically whispered, “I know we’re-...not together anymore but I still care about you. Do you want me to come by-?”

“No, Shae,” Nicole said not unkindly, “I’m fine. I promise you. Okay? I’m not going to run off and disappear.”

“Is there someone-...do you have someone who would know if you disappeared if you decided to?” Shae asked.

Nicole shrugged, “Yeah. I think so. I’m sure Wynonna would notice.”

“Right,” Shae said, “And you’re sure you don’t want me to come?”

“I’m not your burden anymore, Shae,” Nicole said before she could stop herself, “You don’t have to worry about me.”

Shae was silent for a moment. “You were never a burden. Don’t say that.”

Nicole sighed and pressed the receiver harder to her ear as she curled up into a ball. She tugged her jacket tighter around her. “Sorry.”

“Will you call me if you need anything? Please?”

“Yeah.”

“Promise?”

“Promise,” Nicole said with a small smile.

“Thank you,” Shae sighed, “Okay. I’ll...talk to you later?”

“Yeah, I’ll talk to you later,” Nicole sighed. There was the soft click of the phone hanging up on the other end and Nicole listened to the fuzz over the empty line. She slowly got up and put the phone back on the hook. She let herself flop back into the bed as she stared up at the ceiling.

The pounding was getting harder to ignore but she just took a shaky breath. The pressure was getting heavier and heavier, almost making a rhythm in her brain. Like someone knocking at a door she didn’t want to open. Nicole frowned and tried to push the thoughts away, but she started to lose against the images that were struggling to break free.

A beat to a song she only knew half the words to started to resound through her skull and she mouthed the words to herself.

”I see your red door, I want it painted black-”

***

She awoke a couple hours later when Rosita came in the room. Nicole opened an eye to look at her and forced a smile when their eyes met.

“Hey,” Nicole managed, for a moment forgetting about when Waverly pushed Rosita aside to kiss Nicole the night before.

Rosita dropped her coat on the bed and turned towards her roommate. Her hip was popped out to the side, hand resting on it as she looked at Nicole. “Are you and Waverly-? Are you two a thing..again?” Rosita asked almost nervously, “She told me about over the break when you two-...But last night-...”

Nicole shook her head, stopping Rosita from her rambling, “No, we’re not. She was-...we were both drunk. Last night.”

Rosita looked at Nicole for a moment then nodded. Nicole looked at her for a moment before slowly turning over so her back was facing her roommate.

“Night,” she mumbled even though it was bright outside.

“Night, Nicole,” Rosita said. And the redhead drifted off again, the same song running through her mind on a loop.

I see the line of cars and they're all painted black. With flowers and my love, both never to come back-

***

Nicole was hot. It felt like there was fire all around her, scorching her lungs. There was flames. Everywhere. She looked down at her hands and watched the skin blister and crack under the heat. She tried to scream but only got ashes in her mouth, no sound coming out of her lungs. Trying to rub at her eyes, her skin popped as fire licked at her from all sides. She looked up and saw Chris laying on the ground a few feet from her. He was curled into himself, skin nearly burned completely off. He clawed at his throat, whatever skin left coming off in his fingers. Nicole reached out for him but her hand turned to ash in front her her eyes. Suddenly it felt like the world fell out from under her and she jerked.

She sat up quickly in her bed, fingers twisted in the sheets. She breathed heavily, hardly able to catch enough air in her lungs to breathe out before she was gasping again. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness and she managed to calm herself a little. She was in her dorm. She was safe she was fine and Chris was-...

With a shaky breath, she ran a hand through her hair. Rosita’s sleeping form was in the bed across from her. Nicole slowly laid back down on the bed. Her pillow was soaked and so were the sheets beneath her. She shivered and reached for the comforter, pulling it around herself as she tried to get warm again. Her eyes felt heavy with sleep, but she felt the memories of her brother just skirting along the edges of her brain.

This was the second day like this. Nicole had barely gotten even a couple of hours of sleep since New Years Day. After the call from Shae, she had fallen asleep for a good amount of before having her first nightmare.

It was always the same. Fire. Lots of fire. And...Chris. Just beyond her reach.

She wanted to sleep, but she was afraid to. Even if she could sleep, she wasn’t sure if she’d let herself.

Turning her face into the pillow, her body wracked with a sob. She cried until sleep over took her for another few minutes. Still the song, the same fucking song that had been plaguing her played. She didn’t know where it began or ended, the same chords playing over and over in her mind-

I look inside myself and see my heart is black-

***

There was a tentative knock on the door and Nicole slowly opened up her eyes. They had been closed but she couldn’t sleep. It was going on the third day it had eluded her. Her stomach was twisted up in a knot, making it impossible to even have an appetite. Her body felt heavy in grief and the idea of moving even a little bit felt like a chore.

All she could see when she closed her eyes was Chris.

Chris before he shipped off. Chris when he gave her the keys to his car and told her to take care of it until he got back.

She squeezed her eyes tight, fighting back the images but they kept coming.

There was another knock at the door. This time followed by Wynonna’s muffled voice. “Hey, Nic, I know you’re in there,” she rattled the knob a bit, “Can I come in? Please?”

Nicole remained silent, just turning over on the bed so her back was towards the door. Her mind was hazy with exhaustion.

“Okay, I’m going to have to just break in!”

She tried to grunt but her throat was so dry it just sounded like air pushing through her mouth. There were some sounds of metal against metal before Nicole heard the door click and unlock. The door opened and closed softly behind her but she remained curled up on the mattress.

“Hey, Nic,” Wynonna said putting a gentle hand on her arm, “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Nicole managed, voice cracking from being unused.

“You don’t look fine,” she said with some vague attempt at humor, “What can I get you?”

Nicole just shook her head and curled more into herself. “I’m fine, Wy, I promise,” she whispered, “Please just leave me alone.”

The hand on her arm squeezed for a moment before letting go.

“I’m gonna get you some water,” Wynonna said. Nicole heard her leave the room and scooted closer against the wall until her nose was touching the cold plaster. She drifted off and jerked awake again what felt like moments later.

“Woah there, tiger,” Wynonna muttered. Nicole found that the bed dipped behind her and looked over her shoulder. Wynonna was sitting on her bed, leaning against the wall and going through one of Nicole’s books. Blue eyes were looking at her cautiously and Nicole turned back around.

“I thought you left,” she sighed.

“I went to get you water and you passed out,” Wynonna said with a shrug. She reached over and took a cup from the nightstand before handing it to Nicole. “Drink.”

Nicole wanted to tell Wynonna fo take her water back, but she was sure there was no way the eldest Earp would let her get away with that. Instead she sat up on her elbow and took the glass. The liquid hitting her tongue made her realize how thirsty she was and she drank it all down. She gave the cup back to Wynonna who set it back down.

“You okay?” Wynonna asked, “Do you want to talk about it?”

“How’d you know I was here?”

“Rosita told me you hadn’t left your bed in a couple of days,” Wynonna said.

Nicole just grunted and rolled back over on her side. “Well you can leave now.”

“I’m not leaving until you tell me what’s up with you,” Wynonna insisted, “You look like shit.”

“Thanks,” Nicole said flatly.

“Am I wrong?”

“...No.”

“Come on, Red-”

“Just let me sleep, please? For a little?” Nicole mumbled as she felt another wave of exhaustion take over.

Wynonna sighed, “Sure. Can I put on a record?” Nicole just nodded as she felt Wynonna slide off the bed. “Any preference?”

Nicole shook her head and drifted off again.

***

Nicole was back in the fire. But this time she looked around and there was no Chris. Her skin popped and sizzled, lungs full of ash. She looked down at herself and she was wearing a soldier's uniform. She looked up again and Chris was standing there in the flames. His eyes were hard and he just stared at her as the fire licked at him. His skin burned too but he seemed unaffected.

“Chris,” Nicole gasped out, throat feeling like sandpaper.

He lifted a hand and pointed at her, eyes still hard. “You,” he said, “You’re just sitting there. I died for you.”

“Chris-”

“I burned for you-”

“Chris!”

Nicole had her hand twisted in someone’s shirt, she could feel it. It took a moment for her eyes to catch up with her brain, but when it did she saw Wynonna looking at her, eyes wide. Nicole’s chest expanded painfully with each deep breath she took, hand tight in Wynonna’s shirt. Somehow she had ended up on her knees, sinking into the mattress.

“Nic,” Wynonna said softly, one hand cautiously covering the redhead’s, “Are you okay? You were...screaming.”

Nicole’s grip loosened on Wynonna’s shirt, the appendage tingling as blood rushed to it. Wynonna still had her hand in her own as blue eyes searched Nicole’s face. Nicole tried to nod, she tried to say she was fine like she’d been saying for days, weeks...months. But instead her chest stuttered with a sob and she fell forward, collapsing into Wynonna’s arms.

Strong arms circled her body as Nicole felt herself finally break. Each sob felt like a stab in the chest. Each time she moved it felt like every bone in her body was broken and her stomach felt hollow and sick. She cried into Wynonna’s shirt, surprised she even had enough water for tears. Wynonna whispered nonsense into her hair as she held her, the record player spinning in the background.

No more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue. I could not foresee this thing happening to you-

***

Nicole was positive she couldn’t even cry anymore. Physically her entire body was exhausted, head pounding. Still she couldn’t sleep. Laying there in her bed, Wynonna wrapped around her from behind, she couldn’t sleep. Wynonna’s arms did bring her a comfort though. The pressure of the arms around her made the shaking to her body less frequent. She leaned into her strength and tried to borrow at least some of it.

“You okay, Red?” came Wynonna’s voice from behind her. Nicole nodded slowly. “Now do you want to talk about it? Chris is...that your brother?”

Her eyes fluttered shut again and her chest tightened. She wanted to cry she just...couldn’t.

“Yeah,” she said hoarsely, “He died. In Vietnam. A year ago.”

“Shit,” Wynonna said tightening her hold around Nicole’s waist, “I...I’m sorry. It feels like a shitty thing to say but-”

“It’s not,” Nicole assured her, “It’s not just-...thank you.”

There was a long silence before Wynonna spoke up again, “Hey, you slept for more than a half hour this time.”

Nicole managed a small smile even though her back was to the brunette. “Good.”

“Nic, I hate to bring it up but...you stink,” Wynonna teased, “Layin’ in bed for three days straight will do that to ya.”

“Three days?” Nicole said, suddenly panicked.

“Hey, it’s fine,” Wynonna said tightening her grip once more, “Who cares. Classes haven’t started yet. Right?”

“Yeah,” Nicole sighed, “I guess I...should shower.”

“Good idea,” Wynonna said giving her one last squeeze before getting off the bed, “I’ll get it started for you. You seem like a scalding hot water sort of gal. Am I right?”

Nicole turned in the bed, body aching as she did, but she squinted at Wynonna just the same. No one had been this attentive to her before. Besides Shae but-...she was her girlfriend. That was different. Nicole didn’t have a ton of friends back home but she had enough. “Why are you being so nice?”

Wynonna shrugged and stuffed her hands in her jacket pockets, looking at Nicole with a look that told her she was trying to play it cool. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m just like...worried about you,” Wynonna said toeing the carpet, “My sister’s sweet on you and-...You’re my friend or whatever.”

Nicole smiled as far as her dry lips would allow. “Thank you.”

Wynonna rolled her eyes, “Don’t mention it. Seriously, don’t. I can’t have it spread around what a good person I am. I don’t want people clamoring to be my friend.”

“Your secret’s safe with me,” Nicole said. She thought for a moment and asked, “And...Waverly...does she-?”

“I just told her you weren’t feeling too hot,” Wynonna said as she continued into the bathroom.

Nicole nodded, relieved that Waverly wasn’t fully aware of everything. Hell, Wynonna wasn’t even completely. Even though she had been sitting with her for...how long? A day? Two? She heard the water start in the bathroom and dragged herself out of the bed. She willed her legs to work, pins and needles prickling down them as she walked. Wynonna handed Nicole a towel as she passed her and she took it gratefully.

When she finally got into the shower, the hot water stinging her skin, she took a deep breath. Her lungs expanded painfully for a moment, then felt like the first breath she had taken in...years. The tears caked on her cheeks washed away and aching muscles seemed to subside a little and she started to feel human again.

***

Wynonna convinced Nicole to leave her dorm. She told her they would go over to her dorm and just hang out somewhere to give her room time to air out. Nicole didn’t think it was that bad, but she went anyways. Her dorm had started to feel like a cage, especially with the calendar in the corner reminding her that it had been a year. A whole year. She could hardly believe it. It felt like yesterday and a lifetime ago at the same time.

They walked slowly to Wynonna’s dorm, the brunette talking mindlessly about John Henry and someone named Dolls that she assumed was the tall muscular man from New Years. Apparently neither minded the other being around. At least that’s what Wynonna was convinced of. Nicole just nodded along and wondered if she would be forced to see Rosita with Waverly over at their dorm. As far as she knew, Rosita hadn’t been in their dorm so she had to be somewhere.

When they finally got to Wynonna’s dorm, Nicole’s eyes scanned for any sign of her roommate. She heard Waverly and Chrissy’s voices in their room but no one else. Her hands were shoved nervously in her pockets as she stood in the doorway. Wynonna went into the kitchen and got a bottle of whiskey down along with some glasses.

“I don’t know if I should,” Nicole said remembering her empty stomach.

As if she heard the sound of Nicole’s voice, Waverly’s head popped out of the dorm room. Nicole still hated how her heart flipped when she saw her. She looked at Nicole with a smile that quickly faded into concern. She looked over her and slowly came out of the room.

“Are you okay?” Waverly asked as she got closer.

Nicole just nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine,” she said.

Waverly stood in front of her and tentatively reached up to brush some still damp hair behind Nicole’s ear. She couldn’t help but lean into the touch, a warmth spreading through her body. Nicole felt nervous under Waverly’s gaze.

“Just one?” Wynonna said pouring out four shots as Chrissy wandered out of her room to see what the commotion was, “For your brother?”

Nicole rocked on the balls of her feet and then nodded, “Yeah. For Chris.”

Wynonna handed her a shot then gave the other two to Waverly and Chrissy who looked confused but didn’t say much. The dark haired girl held up her glass towards Nicole, blue eyes boring into her.

“To Chris,” she said firmly.

“To Chris,” they all said before throwing back the shot. Nicole squeezed her eyes shut as the alcohol burned it’s way down her throat. It warmed her stomach and Wynonna took the glass from her hands.

“Nic, go sit on the couch,” Wynonna said softly, “I was...making myself food anyways. I’ll make you some.”

Nicole nodded and blindly turned towards the couch. She didn’t feel much like eating, but even the slight mention of food made her stomach growl. She sat heavily on the couch, letting the old cushions suck her in. A moment later, Waverly was sitting next to her.

“Wynonna’s specialty is macaroni and hot dogs so...be warned,” Waverly said as Nicole ran a hand through her red locks.

She managed a chuckle and nodded, eyes feeling heavy as the whiskey relaxed her a little bit. “Thanks for the warning.”

Nicole leaned her head back on the back of the couch, rolling her neck so she could look at Waverly. Hazel eyes were filled with concern and it made Nicole squirm. They hadn’t talked since the New Years kiss. Since Nicole basically told Waverly she was done with her games. It was easy to remind herself of that when the girl wasn’t around. But with her sitting here next to her it-...Nicole just wanted to lean over and kiss her.

“Are you okay?” Waverly finally asked softly.

Nicole began to nod but the heaviness in her chest reminded her that she wasn’t. She was better, but she wasn’t okay. Not yet. She didn’t know how long until she would truly be...okay. So instead of lying again, Nicole just shook her head.

Waverly crossed her legs up on the couch and turned so that she was fully facing Nicole. She reached for her hand and Nicole let her pull it into her lap.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Waverly asked.

Nicole felt her chest tighten. If it got any tighter it would strangle her organs, ribs popping from the pressure. She shut her eyes and took a deep breath. The images of fire and the soldiers at her door...the one holding a flag.

“He was supposed to be home the next week,” Nicole said softly, eyes still shut, “He was supposed to be home on leave and-...instead it was just...a box of his things.” Nicole felt the words pouring out of her, almost as if they weren’t on her own accord. She wasn’t sure she could stop them if she wanted to. Tears glimmered in the corner of her eyes and along her lashes. She could feel them there, hot and heavy, but she wouldn’t let them fall. “We buried an empty casket,” she continued, barely above a whisper, “they couldn’t even find enough of him to ship home.”

She felt the tears fall down her cheek then. Her body wracked in a silent sob, her free hand clasping over her mouth to keep it in as best she could. She felt Waverly pull her down so her head was resting in her lap. Nicole pressed her face into the top of Waverly’s thigh, tears soaking her pants as she cried silently. She cursed herself for crying. She was tired of it. She was tired of crying and tired of this broken heart in her chest. It had been like that since the day they told her Chris was gone.

Waverly began running her fingers gently through Nicole’s hair as she laid in her lap. She sniffled, eyes heavy. She felt her entire body relax for the first time in-...well in a few days at least.

“I should have done something,” Nicole whispered, eyes still squeezed shut, “I should have-...I could have helped him.”

Waverly shushed her softly, hands still moving through her hair. “Sleep, Nicole,” Waverly said softly, “Just rest.”

Nicole sniffled, the fingers running through her hair making her body feel heavier and heavier.

“I could have changed it,” she said, “He could still be here.”

“Rest,” Waverly said, “I’m here.”

Nicole felt Waverly’s lips on her forehead as she drifted off to the first dreamless sleep she had had in days.

Chapter Text

Nicole woke up feeling oddly refreshed. It felt like she was fully clothed and she certainly wasn’t on a bed, but there was a comforting warmth behind her. She kept her eyes shut and sighed, snuggling back into the warmth a little more. Her jeans and boots were still on, but this was still the most comfortable she’d been in a long time. She felt an arm tighten around and Waverly’s familiar scent reached her nostrils.

“Mornin’,” Waverly said, her voice thick with sleep. Nicole could feel her hot breath on the back of her neck and couldn’t help but shiver.

Waverly sighed, her arm lifting from Nicole’s middle just long enough to pull a blanket off the back of the couch and over them. She put her arm back around Nicole and pulled her closer, the tip of her nose nuzzling the back of the redhead’s neck.

“Morning,” Nicole said, suppressing a yawn. She blinked her eyes open just long enough to see that she was still in the living room of the Earp’s dorm. The sun had begun to creep through the slotted blinds over the windows but Nicole just closed her eyes again. Even with the two of them shoved onto a couch together, this was still the most peaceful sleep she had in a long time. She definitely didn’t want to read too much into that.

After a few more minutes she felt Waverly’s arm tighten, trying to roll Nicole onto her back. She complied, adjusting on the couch as best she could to avoid falling off. Waverly had her elbow on the couch, head propped up on it. It was unfair how amazing she looked even after just waking up.

“You slept,” Waverly said softly, her arm casually draped over Nicole’s stomach.

“I did,” Nicole said with a raise of her eyebrows, “It’s a fucking miracle.”

“No nightmares?” Waverly asked, fingers absently tracing the name patch on Nicole’s jacket.

Nicole just shook her head and shut her eyes. It was hard being this close to Waverly. To feel her entire body pressed up against her side this way. But at the same time she didn’t want it to end. It still made her heart flutter and stomach flip.

“Good,” Waverly said with a small smile, “You already look more rested.”

Nicole just hummed and let her eyes close. Waverly was...Waverly. She was her own and no one else’s. Especially not Nicole’s anymore. She hated how she felt like this could be their normal. That she could wake up every day like this and not be upset in the least bit.

“Hey, Nic?” Waverly began softly, “Can you...tell me about your brother?”

The taller girl felt her guts contract in sadness at the mention of her brother. She felt the familiar pressure of tears starting behind her eyes and licked her lips in some vague attempt to keep them at bay.

“What about him?” Nicole asked, voice still deep with sleep.

“Anything. If you want,” Waverly said, adding the second part on quickly.

She thought for a moment. Did she want to talk about Chris? She had spent most of the last year avoiding talking about him or even mentioning that she had a brother. It would prompt questions she didn’t want to answer and responses she couldn’t see. She hated it when someone would look at her with just sadness. They pitied her because she lost her brother, the only person in her family who accepted her. Every look of pity was like a stone in her stomach, dragging her deeper and deeper into a pit of depression. She didn’t want people to feel sorry for her.

But this was Waverly. Waverly who had given her the option of talking about Chris. Waverly who had only looked at her in understanding since she found out about her brother. Waverly had faced loss too and knew what it was like. She didn’t offer pity, just...understanding.

“I do,” Nicole said opening her eyes to look up in to hazel ones, “I just...haven’t talked about him. In a long time.”

Waverly nodded, “I understand. I-...hardly talk about Willa or my dad at all. Sometimes I can hardly remember what they even look like. The only thing I remember of my Mom is a picture I have of her holding me as a baby.”

“I bet she was beautiful,” Nicole whispered without thinking, her eyes scanning over Waverly’s features. They both blushed, Waverly smiling shyly.

Waverly nodded and replied, “She was.”

“Chris looked just like my mom,” Nicole said looking up at the ceiling, “I always...looked more like my dad. He was very handsome, Chris was. He knew it too. Such an ass.” She rolled her eyes playfully at the memories.

“Did he ever steal your girls?” Waverly asked with a small smile.

“No,” Nicole said with a scoff before smirking, “But I stole his once. Jennifer Wright. That was a skirt.”

Waverly rolled her eyes and poked Nicole in the ribs. “Yeah yeah. Moving on.”

“Jealous?” Nicole said wiggling her eyebrows. Waverly just shot her a look. They stared at each other for a moment before Nicole looked back at the ceiling. “He worked for my dad. At his body shop. My car was-...well it used to be his. He fixed it up himself. I inherited it after-...later.”

She wasn’t sure when, but Waverly’s fingers found their way to Nicole’s hairline. They were brushing away the baby hairs there, the act causing goosebumps to erupt over her skin. It was unfair how soothing the younger girl’s touch was. Nicole laced her hands together over her stomach, resisting the urge to pull Waverly completely into her arms and just hold her.

“He was the only one in my family okay with the whole...lesbian thing,” Nicole said softly, “I think he knew before I did, honestly. When I told him he just held me and let me cry. And told me that it didn’t matter to him if I was straight or gay. I was always going to be his annoying little sister.”

“He sounds like a great guy,” Waverly said gently.

“He was,” Nicole said letting out a shaky breath, “He really was.”

For the first time since Chris died, Nicole didn’t feel like crying at just the thought of him.

***

“What are we watching?” Waverly said as she made herself comfortable on the couch of the common room.

Nicole turned the dial on the television until she found the channel she was looking for. It was a little fuzzy so she stood and adjusted the rabbit ears. As soon as the picture became clear, Waverly rolled her eyes.

“I should have known,” she said as Nicole turned to her with a broad smile, “You and your crush on Barbara Eden.”

She walked over to the couch and sat so that she could lean on the armrest. Waverly’s feet were almost immediately in her lap as she stretched out to take over the rest of the couch.

“I just really like this show,” Nicole argued half heartedly.

“More like you really like Jeanie’s outfit,” Waverly teased.

“She’s really making strides for women on television,” Nicole said, her eyes not leaving the screen.

Waverly just hummed her disagreement next to her as they watched. This had become a sort of tradition with them since Nicole had talked to Waverly about Chris. It was nice to have someone to talk to where she didn’t have to avoid all topics of Chris. Waverly knew what happened and she knew not to look so sad every time Nicole brought up his name.

Waverly nudged Nicole’s thigh with her foot to get her attention. Nicole looked over at Waverly, eyebrows in her hairline.

“If you found a genie, what would you wish for?” Waverly asked.

“Three wishes?” Nicole asked to Waverly’s nod, “You asked me this last week during ‘Jeanie’.”

“Yes, but last week you gave me the generic answers everyone’s supposed to say when they’re asked those questions,” Waverly explained, “I want the real answers.”

“What if those were my real answers?”

“Money, fame and a new car?” Waverly said doubtfully, “I don’t think so.”

Nicole shrugged and looked back at the television. “Fine. Well...Chris back. Obviously,” Nicole said as her throat tightened, “Um...I don’t know what else honestly. Money still. Then save one wish for later.”

Waverly nodded, “Those are good too.”

A commercial for Camel Cigarettes came on and Nicole looked back at the brunette. “And what about you?”

Waverly frowned like she was thinking, lips bit between her teeth in thought.

“Well,” she began, “World peace, obviously.”

Nicole chuckled but nodded in agreement.

Waverly trailed off, her eyes getting serious for a moment, “Uncle Curtis back. For Gus,” she said softly.

“Not your Dad or sister?” Nicole asked curiously.

Waverly shook her head with a sad smile, “Sometimes you’re better off without people.”

Nicole put her hand over Waverly’s foot and squeezed it in an attempt to comfort her. At least in what little way she could. She didn’t know much about Willa and Ward, but she knew enough to know that Waverly’s statement was probably putting it mildly.

“And you’re third wish?” Nicole asked. She poked a sensitive point on the bottom of Waverly’s foot causing her to giggle and pull her leg away briefly.

Waverly sighed and looked back at the television. She played with the edge of her shirt before answering quietly, “Maybe I’ll tell you someday.”

Nicole squeezed her foot again. “Tease,” she joked as she turned back to the television. The safe that Jeanie was stuck in got sent to the trash dump and Nicole wondered what magical way they’d get out of this one.

“Hey, Nicole,” Waverly said, moving her foot to get the other girl’s attention.

“Yeah?”

“I’m sorry,” Waverly said softly, eyes trained on the redhead.

Nicole frowned and turned more towards the other girl, “Why’s that?”

Waverly shrugged, “I haven’t been fair to you. About...a lot.”

Nicole felt her stomach drop, anxiety crawling up into her throat like bile. She didn’t want to talk about things between them. Nicole would rather just let it be swept under the rug so she didn’t have to be reminded that Waverly wasn’t hers. Never would be.

“It’s okay,” she said quickly, turning back to the television.

“But-”

“Waves,” Nicole said seriously, “I forgive you. For whatever you think you need forgiveness for.”

The corner of Waverly’s lips twitched in a smile, “It’s that easy?”

“Yeah,” Nicole said with a shrug. She wouldn’t mention the fact that she would forgive Waverly for pretty much anything. It was impossible for her to stay mad at Waverly for more than a day. If even that.

“You’re sure?” Waverly asked, eyebrows in her hairline.

“I’m sure,” Nicole said with a reassuring smile.

Waverly smiled and snuggled into the couch more. “Groovy.”

***

“Hey, Nicky,” Rosita said as Nicole put her book in her backpack. She looked up at her roommate who was standing awkwardly at the end of her own bed. “Your class is in Armstrong Hall, right? Mind if I walk with you?”

Nicole smiled at the other girl with a nod, “Yeah, sounds great. I’d like the company.”

Things had been a little tense between her and Rosita lately. It was undoubtedly because of Waverly. As far as Nicole knew, the times Waverly wasn’t hanging out with her, she was with Rosita. She was sure they still had their...thing. Even though the thought of it made Nicole squirm uncomfortably. But it wasn’t any of her business. So it was nice that Rosita seemed to be making an effort to be friendly. Nicole was worried that they wouldn’t be friends with the tension between them.

They began the walk towards Armstrong Hall in relative silence. They talked about classes, nothing too controversial. But eventually Rosita got quiet and Nicole could feel the tension around them. She stopped right as they approached the outside of the building, turning to look at the redhead.

“So...you and Waverly,” she began, “Are you two...together. Again?”

Nicole watched as Rosita crossed her arms in front of her chest, chin held high. She was trying to look casual, like she didn’t care. But the way she kept clenching and unclenching her fists, eyes a little too hard, Nicole knew it was the opposite. She cared too much. It was the same question Rosita had asked after New Years.

“No,” Nicole said simply.

“You’ve been together a lot,” Rosita said. It wasn’t a question.

Nicole shook her head and put a comforting hand on Rosie’s arm. “We’re not. Trust me,” she said hoping the other girl would understand, “And...Rosie, I think you need to talk to Waverly. About...whatever you two are.”

“What? Why? No,” she said shaking her head.

“This is the second time you’ve asked me if Waverly and I were-...more than friends. Again. Are you just going to ask me every week?”

Rosita looked down at her feet before looking back up at the redhead, “No.”

“That’s what I thought. So...you should talk to Waverly,” Nicole said, “I mean, I can’t tell you how to live your life but...I dropped things with Waverly because I couldn’t do the no commitment thing. You know? I’m just not...built that way. Maybe you’re not either.”

“I’ve never had an issue with it before,” Rosita admitted, “It’s just...Waverly.”

Nicole sighed, her heart sinking a little. She knew exactly what Rosita was feeling. There was something about Waverly that once she got her hooks in you, it was hard to let go. What made it even worse was that there was no malice in it from Waverly’s part. She just...was living her life.

“I know,” Nicole said, squeezing Rosita’s arm, “Trust me, I know.”

***

“Nicole!”

The redhead turned around at the sound of Waverly’s voice approaching her. She couldn’t help the smile that tilted her lips when she took in the brunette. Her hair was loose around her shoulders and she had a thin band around her head, a flowy shirt covering her torso. Nicole licked her lips and adjusted the backpack on her shoulder.

“Hey,” she said as Waverly came to a stop in front of her.

Waverly smiled up at her, “I haven’t seen you in a couple of days.”

“Sorry,” Nicole said with a blush, “I’ve been busy.”

“Are you sure? You’re not avoiding me?” Waverly asked softly, “You do that from time to time.”

Nicole shook her head, “No.”

The smile that lit up Waverly’s face at the confirmation made Nicole’s stomach flip. It wasn’t a lie. It was true that she had avoided Waverly before. But this wasn’t one of those times. For once.

“Are you busy tonight? Want to come to a thing at Shorty’s?” Waverly asked crossing her arms over her chest, “It’s a thing Gus does every other month or so for-...” Waverly leaned forward, “For the homosexuals.”

Nicole blushed for whatever reason, “Like a...dating thing or-”

“No!” Waverly said quickly before catching herself and recovering, “Well...yes. Maybe. If you want.”

“Is Rosita going?” Nicole asked with a tilt of her head.

Waverly blinked, “No...I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

Nicole rocked on the balls of her feet, “Are you going to...ask her? She’s kinda your...person.”

“She’s not my person,” Waverly said, arms tightening across her chest, “And if everyone would stop saying that, it’d be real groovy.”

Nicole didn’t know where the sudden concern for Rosita came from. She would consider her a friend, of all things. She was her roommate after all. But that was about it. She didn’t owe Rosita anything and Rosita didn’t owe Nicole anything. Maybe it was just because she knew all too well where Rosita was coming from with Waverly. Even if she started off being okay with Waverly’s preferences, it was pretty clear to her that she wanted more.

“Sorry,” Nicole said rubbing the back of her neck, “I just...she’s my roommate and-”

“I get it,” Waverly said putting a hand on Nicole’s arm to stop her rambling, “I’ll ask her. Now. Are you coming?”

“Yeah, I’ll be there,” Nicole said.

“Groovy,” Waverly said with a wide smile, “I’ll see you there. Nine o’clock.”

Waverly bounced in excitement and leaned up to plant a quick kiss on Nicole’s cheek. Her entire face heated, palms sweaty at the exchange. The look on Waverly’s face when she pulled away told Nicole that she had surprised herself too. With one last smile, Waverly turned on her heels and went back the way she had come from. Nicole stood dumbly in the middle of the sidewalk, other students pushing past her as a nearby class got out. Even after Waverly was hidden in the sea of students, Nicole still stared, cheek tingling.

***

In the time it took Nicole to freshen up, change her clothes, and get to Shorty’s, she had made a decision. Waverly was her friend. That was it. Part of her mind, the part way in the back, had let herself pretend that Waverly was more than a friend. Could be more than a friend. All the little touches and words that passed between them was becoming too much. She didn’t want to trick herself into thinking she could ever be anything more to Waverly than a fuck buddy. Or that she was anything to Waverly other than a former fuck buddy.

It hurt more than she expected it too. It was like someone had stuck a fork in her stomach and started twisting her intestines like pasta. She felt more for Waverly than she had ever felt for anyone, including Shae. That was the scary part. It was hard to go even a day without seeing the brunette and her smile that lit up the world. At least as far as Nicole was concerned.

She knew she had to let go of that thinking. That Waverly could be someone for her. Besides a friend. Nicole knew she was going to have to consciously think about Waverly as a friend. Every little touch that lingered too long or every soft word meant just for her...she had to remember it wasn’t going to go anywhere. Even though Waverly looked up at her in a way that made her feel like she could take on the world. Waverly was just special that way. Nicole was sure she wasn’t the only one.

So when she walked into Shorty’s with her freshly pressed button up shirt and dusted off boots, she squared her shoulders and told herself that Waverly was a friend. Nothing more. Never anything more.

Even when Waverly turned and looked at her from across the room, radiant smile curling her lips and making Nicole’s heart squeeze...she was just a friend. A friend.

“You came!” Waverly said as she approached her, squeezing her way through the packed bar.

“I said I would,” Nicole said with a smile.

Friend, she reminded herself, Just a friend.

She looked away from Waverly to look around the bar. It was more packed than she had seen it, save for on New Years. Some of the tables had been pushed back to create a makeshift dance floor and the jukebox seemed to be extra loud to be heard over all the talking in the room.

“Wow there’s...a lot of people here,” Nicole said as her eyes landed on two women unashamedly making out in the corner.

Waverly looked behind her and shrugged, “People like having a place to go. You know? Can’t say there’s a lot of friendly places around here for people like us.”

“I guess not,” Nicole said shoving her hands into her pockets. There weren’t a lot of familiar faces in the crowd, just a couple people she’d noticed in passing around campus. She looked back at Waverly and tipped her chin towards the bar. “I’m gonna um...get a drink.”

“Yeah yeah,” Waverly said taking a step back and gesturing towards the bar. Gus was behind the counter pouring drinks and making conversation with the people sitting there. She saw Nicole and winked at her before beckoning her over. Waverly played with her hands in front of her. If Nicole knew any better she’d say she looked nervous. “I’m gonna um...be over there,” Waverly said gesturing vaguely to another part of the room.

“Okay,” Nicole said resisting the urge to ask Waverly to join her or asking if she could join her. Maybe tonight was a good time to start getting over Waverly. There were plenty of girls here that seemed to be looking. Why shouldn’t she? She was unattached after all.

With one last look, Waverly turned and walked back through the crowd. Nicole let out a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding and went to the bar. She sat on an empty stool and smiled at the woman behind the counter.

“Hey, Gus,” she said, “How’ve you been?”

“Can’t complain,” Gus said with a smile as she dried a glass, “Waverly told me you and Shae broke up. Shame.”

Nicole shrugged, “It’s fine. It was mutual.”

“That’s good than. She was a nice girl,” Gus said, “What can I get you?”

“Just a beer, please,” Nicole said pulling out her wallet and putting some money on the counter.

“Comin’ right up, sweetheart,” Gus said turning around to get a new glass and pour her a drink.

Nicole felt another body slide onto the stool next to hers but she kept her eyes forward. Gus slid the beer in front of her and she took it with a smile, earning another one from the older woman.

“Let me know if you need anything, dear,” she said with a wink before moving on to some other customers. Nicole took a long sip of her beer but felt eyes on her. She turned and saw a girl sitting in the stool next to her that had recently been empty. As soon as Nicole’s eyes landed on her the girl looked away with a blush before looking back.

“Hi,” she said a little too loudly, even with the noise in the bar.

Nicole set her drink down and smiled at her, “Hi.”

She looked taller with long dark hair and light eyes shining out from tan skin. Nicole couldn’t help but take her in for a moment.

“I’m Jesse,” the girl said holding out a hand.

“Nicole,” she answered shaking her hand with a smile. Their hands remained connected for a little too long before Jesse giggled and dropped her hand. Nicole smiled her most charming smile, dimples on display. She could flirt. She was allowed to flirt. Even if she did feel oddly guilty for it. “Nice to meet you.”

“I actually-...not to be creepy or anything but we have psychology together,” Jesse said pushing some hair behind her ear.

Nicole blushed in embarrassment and looked down at her drink. “Sorry,” she said scrunching up her nose, “I’m not very observant apparently.”

“Don’t apologize,” Jesse said shaking her head, “I sit behind you. So.”

“I guess I’m just disappointed in myself,” Nicole said with a raise of her eyebrow, “I usually notice the pretty girls.”

Jesse blushed even deeper and Nicole gave herself a pat on the back for that one. Before Shae, before Chris died, Nicole was actually pretty good at this whole flirting thing. These days she seemed to carry around so much sadness and guilt that she couldn’t bring herself to flirt the way she used to. She was sure it also had something to do with Waverly but she wasn’t going to let her think about that anymore.

“So, what’s your major?” Jesse asked taking a sip of her own drink, “People don’t usually take psychology just for fun.

“Criminology,” Nicole said running a finger along the rim of her glass, “My brother used to tell me I’d make a good narc one day. What about you?”

“Psychology,” Jesse said with a shrug, “Boring and risky, I know. But it’s the only thing that interested me. My mother was still harping on me going to secretary school.”

Nicole chuckled and took another long sip of her drink, “Well, I’m glad you ended up in psychology instead.”

“Me too,” the other girl said looking up at Nicole through her lashes. Nicole felt a familiar flutter of excitement low in her belly as she watched the other girl for a moment. It was the same excitement that always came with flirting. The excitement of the unknown, of the prospect that maybe you wouldn’t be going home alone tonight.

“So,” Nicole said fully turning her stool so she was facing the other girl, “Tell me more about yourself.”

Jesse shrugged coyly, “Not much. I’m a senior. I’m from Arizona originally so I didn’t go far for school. Where are you from?”

“Colorado,” Nicole said, “Also a senior. I transferred here this year actually.”

“Why the move?”

Nicole sighed, “I just...needed a change of pace.”

“Change of pace can do people good every now and then,” Jesse agreed, “What are you going to do after school?”

Nicole looked up and saw Waverly at the other end of the bar. She was looking at her with an unreadable expression on her face and Nicole felt the gnawing pain of guilt start back in her stomach.

Friend, she reminded herself as she cleared her throat and looked back at Jesse. Green eyes looked back at her expectantly and the redhead rubbed the back of her neck.

“Well,” she began as she cleared her throat, “I think I’m going to join the Army. As a nurse, since that’s all they’ll let me be anyways.”

She braced herself for the inevitable fallout. That same look she got from most people when she mentioned the war. Let alone joining it voluntarily. Instead Jesse smiled a little and took another sip of her drink.

“That’s...really groovy actually,” Jesse said, “My dad is in the military.”

“Really?” Nicole asked, relief making her chest feel a little lighter.

Jesse nodded as Gus wandered up to them again. “Can I get you girls anything?” she asked, “A refill?”

“Yes, please,” Nicole said just before draining the last of her glass and sliding it over the bar to Gus, her mind feeling a little cloudier from the alcohol. The jukebox clicked to a slower song and Gus paused for a moment, slow smile taking over her face.

“This used to be mine and Curtis’ song,” she said with a nostalgic sigh, “We danced to it on our anniversary.”

”I fall to pieces. Each time I see you again-”

Nicole felt a hand on her arm and turned her attention to it. She expected it to be Jesse but saw Waverly instead. She blinked at her for a moment before registering what was happening.

“Hey, Waves,” Nicole said with a confused frown as Gus passed her another beer.

“Hey, soldier, wanna dance?” Waverly said tilting her head towards the makeshift dance floor.

Nicole’s initial reaction was to agree, but she remembered Jesse and shifted awkwardly. “I, um-” she looked back up at Jesse who was watching the two carefully, “I’m kinda talking-”

“Go ahead,” Jesse said with a smile, “I’ll make sure no one steals your seat.”

The dark haired girl winked at Nicole and took the jacket from her lap to drape over the stool. Nicole felt her cheeks heat and Waverly’s hand on her arm tighten just a little bit.

“Groovy,” Waverly said flatly, tugging Nicole off of the stool. Nicole offered a last smile to Jesse before following the brunette to the dance floor. She pulled her into the middle and turned around, their bodies close.

Waverly’s arms draped over Nicole’s shoulders and the redhead placed her hands on Waverly’s waist. She smiled down at the other girl before looking over her shoulder to see Jesse watching them.

“Made a new friend?” Waverly asked shortly.

”How can I be just your friend? You want me to act like we've never kissed. You want me to forget-”

Nicole blushed and shrugged. “She’s nice. Do you know her?”

Waverly shook her head, arms tightening around Nicole’s neck. “She’s pretty.”

It felt like a trap for some reason, the guilt she had managed to quell earlier only making itself known again. It didn’t help that they were standing so close, swaying gently to the music together. Their faces were close and the air was thick around them. It was making it hard to breath.

“And you’re beautiful,” Nicole said automatically, so softly she wasn’t even sure if Waverly could even hear it. But the soft blush across her cheeks told her otherwise. She cursed her loose lips when she felt Waverly pull her even closer. Their bodies were pressed together, curve to curve, and Nicole felt her throat tighten.

”Each time someone speaks your name, I fall to pieces. Time only adds to the flame-”

“Nicole,” Waverly began softly, her fingers playing nervously with the hairs on the back of Nicole’s neck, “I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Nicole frowned, ignoring the way her body erupted in goosebumps at the touch, “I already told you the other day-.”

“For not being what you needed,” Waverly interrupted, “I want to try. For you. I want to be better for you.”

The words shocked Nicole and she just stared at Waverly for a moment.

For you.

Two dangerous words that ignited a false hope in Nicole that she immediately squashed down. Waverly was her friend. She would always and only be her friend. It was something she was getting used to. And now, with another pretty girl sitting at a bar waiting for her, wasn’t the time to forget it. Waverly was her friend.

Nicole shook her head, frown still firmly in place. “Waves, you don’t need to be anything for me,” she said, “I would never want you to be something your not.”

“I’m not,” Waverly continued, “I’m not making myself something I’m not. I just want to be better.”

Nicole sighed. “Is this just because there’s another girl talking to me right now?” she asked carefully, “Because-”

“No,” Waverly interrupted, “I’ve been thinking about this for a while now.”

“I can’t promise anything,” Nicole said, “I’m trying-...I’m getting over a lot right now. You know? You and Chris...and I’m just not-...I don’t want to hurt.”

“I don’t want to hurt you. It’s the last thing I want,” Waverly said firmly, “And I don’t expect you to promise anything.”

Her heart beat loudly against her ribs, hands suddenly sweaty. Nicole looked down into hazel eyes that shone back at her with such honesty and emotion. She had to look away for a moment just so she wouldn’t bend down and kiss her right there.

It seemed like a win win situation. Waverly trying...for her. Nicole could just keep living her life with no expectations. But now she felt that stubborn hope rise up in her again, even after she told herself she wouldn’t let it.

“I just wanted you to know,” Waverly said, something like hope shining in her eyes, “That I’m trying.”

“Okay,” was all Nicole could say, a hint of a smile on her face as the song came to an end.

”But each time I go out with someone new, you walk by and I fall to pieces. You walk by and I fall to pieces.”

***

“Haught stuff, get off my couch,” Wynonna said throwing a pillow at Nicole’s head, “Go home.”

Nicole caught the pillow and threw it back at the brunette as she walked towards the kitchen.

“Waverly said I could stay here,” she said, “And Chrissy.”

Wynonna frowned at the other girl, “You’ve been on my couch for two days.”

“Careful, Earp, I’ll start to think you’re getting tired of me,” Nicole said as she sat up.

Nicole had been staying out of her dorm to avoid Rosita at all costs. Things had been fine since their talk on the way to class. But it just took one thing to set Rosita off and Nicole had been hiding here ever since.

Waverly had just left after watching Star Trek with Nicole in the common room (and making fun of her to no end) and the redhead was sitting cross legged on her bed reading. When Rosita came in, she held up a sweater that Waverly left on her bed.

“Nicole,” Rosita said flatly, “Is this yours?”

Nicole looked up from her book. “Oh, um, that’s Waverly’s. She must have left it here earlier.”

She had gone back to her book when Rosita threw the sweater at her and it landed over Nicole’s head. Pulling the sweater away, she looked up at the other girl with a frown.

“What was that for?”

“You can’t just leave your shit on my bed,” Rosita said crossing her arms over her chest. There was an angry look in her eye that was far too heated to just be about a sweater. Nicole set the sweater next to her and lowered her book.

“I didn’t, Waverly did,” Nicole said, “I’ll make sure she doesn’t do it again. Happy?”

“What’s your problem?!” Rosita yelled.

Nicole scoffed, “What’s yours?!”

Needless to say it ended with a lot of shouting back and forth until Nicole finally stormed out. Since then she’d been only heading back to the dorm when she knew Rosita wasn’t there to get things she needed.

“You’re a coward,” Wynonna sing songed, bringing her back into the present, “Just because Rosita’s all jealous of you being buddy buddy with Waves. And now you’re letting her walk all over you.”

“Am not,” Nicole said standing up from the couch and stretching, “I’m just a pacifist.”

Wynonna snorted as she struggled with the coffee maker. “You’re spending too much time with Waverly.”

Nicole ignored her comment and followed Wynonna into the kitchen. She hip checked her out of the way to get to the coffee pot and began to make it for her. Wynonna grumbled and just pushed a mug in front of Nicole, leaning against the counter.

“See, you can’t get rid of me,” Nicole said as she pushed the button and the coffee started brewing, “You wouldn’t be caffeinated.”

Waverly came around the corner from her bedroom, hair pulled back and still in her pajamas. Nicole only let her eyes dart up for a second to take in Waverly’s form. It hadn’t gotten easier to ignore her feelings for Waverly, even with her telling herself that Waverly was just a friend. Over and over.

She had gotten coffee with Jesse once since the event at Shorty’s and it was nice. Still, she couldn’t help but compare her to Waverly.

“Mornin’,” she yawned, leaning on the kitchen counter as she looked up at Nicole, “Is Wynonna telling you to leave again?”

“I’m just encouraging her to face her problems head on,” Wynonna said.

“Because you’re so good at it,” Waverly quipped.

Nicole chuckled and made eye contact with Waverly who looked just as amused. Hazel eyes seemed to bore into her and Nicole felt her cheeks heat as she pulled her lip between her teeth in nerves.

There was a knock at the door and Nicole quickly looked back down at the pot that had finished brewing. She poured some into Wynonna’s cup as Waverly opened the door.

“Oh, hey, Rosita,” Waverly said from the door.

Nicole looked up at Wynonna who looked just as shocked as her by the turn of events. She busied herself getting a cup from the cabinet and pouring her own coffee but she felt Rosita’s eyes on her.

“Hey, Waves...can we talk?” Rosita said softly.

“Sure,” Waverly said. Nicole just heard the door close and their footsteps as they went into Waverly’s room and closed the door. A few moments later, Chrissy came out of the room grumbling.

“I’ve been kicked out,” she said taking the mug of coffee from Nicole’s hand as soon as she was in the kitchen.

“Thanks, Nic,” she muttered through her sleep.

It was probably for the best either way that Chrissy had taken her coffee since Nicole was feeling a little off after seeing Rosita. She couldn’t pinpoint why but assumed it was because of the fight. Even if in the back of her mind she knew it probably had more to do with Rosita and Waverly being alone in a room together just a few feet away.

“I’m going to go to the dorm while Rosie’s not there,” Nicole said going back to the couch to get her backpack. She shoved her clothes from the day before in the bag along with her books. Wynonna just watched her from the kitchen with a knowing look and Chrissy was too tired to register anything that was happening.

“I’ll see ya later, Nic,” Wynonna said with a little salute and a wink as Nicole walked out of the dorm. Hearing the door click behind her, Nicole began to run through different scenarios in her head of what Waverly and Rosita could be doing in her room. But they all ended with the same outcome, Rosita on top of Waverly.

She shook her head as if it would get the thoughts out and ran a hand through her messy hair. Halfway to her dorm she realized she was still in her pajamas of shorts and an old tshirt. She walked a little faster in her attempt to get back into the safety of her dorm. Then she would take a shower and try not to think about Waverly all over Rosita. Though she didn’t think she’d be successful

***

Mama said there'll be days like this, There'll be days like this, mama said-

“I love this song,” Waverly said as she turned the page of The Feminine Mystique.

Nicole hummed in agreement, trying to focus on the book in front of her but she just kept reading the same sentence over and over again.

“He wanted to be near and not near them, he saw them close he saw them far. Suddenly they were awfully small in too large a room in too big a town and much too big a world.”

They were both lying on the couch of Waverly’s dorm, each propped on their own armrest. Their legs were close on the couch to keep them both comfortable and Nicole couldn’t help but think how domestic the whole thing felt. It was scary.

Nicole was still thinking about when Rosita had visited Waverly the day before. She tried to get out of Wynonna what had happened, but the other girl claimed she didn’t know. That she went back to sleep after Nicole had left. She only half believed her.

And then she said someone would look at me, like I'm looking at you someday. Then I might find, I don't want you any old way but I don't worry 'cause-

“Good song,” Nicole muttered. She felt Waverly’s foot nudge her rib and lowered her book a little to look at the brunette. “Can I help you?”

“What’s wrong?” Waverly asked, “You’ve been only half listening to me all day.”

“Just distracted I guess,” Nicole said, lying through her teeth.

They just looked at each other for a moment as if daring the other to break. Finally Waverly spoke up again.

“Is it about Rosita?”

Nicole played with a bent corner on the cover of her book, fingers needing something to stay busy. “No.”

Waverly hummed. “Well, just so you know, I broke things off with her.”

Her heart stopped in her chest and she had to fight the smile off her face at the news. It was dumb and catty and went against all of Nicole’s efforts to maintain that she was going to get over the little brunette.

“Oh,” she said simply, putting her book back up so that she could pretend she was reading. Mostly she just wanted to hide her facial expressions from the girl on the opposite side of the couch from her. “Well, thanks for letting me know,” Nicole said casually, even as her heart fluttered.

She kept telling herself not to get her hopes up. Even as Waverly began to mindlessly run her legs up and down the rough denim of her jeans that covered her shin. The touch was like a fire that heated up her whole body. Nicole’s heart exploded in that moment, happiness and that stubborn hope leaking into her chest and filling it.

Mama said, mama said, hey, hey. There'll be days like this, my mama said. Mama said, mama said, hey, hey. Don't you worry.

Chapter Text

Nicole was keenly aware of Jesse sitting next to her in class. They had gone for coffee the weekend before and Nicole wasn’t quite sure how to feel about it. She liked her, she really did. Jesse was pretty and smart and kind...she was really everything Nicole looked for in a girl.

But she wasn’t Waverly.

And Waverly was trying.

But Jesse’s eyes were just the right green to stand out from her tan skin and when she smiled Nicole blushed.

The professor released them and Jesse immediately reached and put her hand on Nicole’s arm. Nicole looked up at her, smiling kindly.

“Hey, want to get a coffee?” Jesse asked, thumb brushing over Nicole’s jacket.

“Sure,” Nicole said automatically, “I um-...yeah.”

Jesse beamed at her and they packed up their bags, walking out of the classroom and towards the coffee cart just outside the building.

“How have you been?” Jesse asked.

Nicole shrugged, “It’s been fine. Just...classes. You?”

“Same,” Jesse said as they got to the cart. She reached into her bag for her wallet but Nicole stopped her.

“I got you,” she said with the most charming smile she could produce. She was rewarded with a shy smile and a blush back from the other girl. Standing next to her, Nicole thought how tall she was. Almost as tall her herself. She ordered their coffees and paid the employee, handing Jesse the small white cup with a smile.

“Thank you,” Jesse said tucking a piece of hair behind her ear.

Nicole smiled back, “You’re more than welcome.”

Jesse licked her lips and Nicole couldn’t help but follow the movement with her eyes. She blushed and looked away just as she heard a familiar voice.

“Nicole?”

The redhead looked up and saw Waverly waving at her from the other side of the street. Nicole smiled and waved back as the other girl started walking towards them. She noticed Waverly’s eyes dart over to Jesse and Nicole adjusted the backpack on her shoulder awkwardly.

“Hi,” Waverly said smiling up at the redhead. She looked over at the Jesse, smile still firm on her face as she held a hand out to her. “I’m Waverly.”

“Jesse,” she replied taking Waverly’s hand. The two girls looked at each other for a moment before Waverly turned back to Nicole.

“Are we still hanging out tonight?” Waverly asked quietly, like she didn’t want Jesse to hear.

“Uh, yeah,” she said adjusting her backpack again, “I’ll meet you at your dorm?”

Waverly smiled widely. “Sounds great,” she said tugging briefly at Nicole’s sleeve. She looked back at Jesse and waved, “Bye, nice meeting you.”

The brunette walked away and Nicole rubbed the back of her neck, looking down at her feet. She wasn’t quite sure how to act in this situation. Her and Jesse had gone on a date...but there was the weird situation with Waverly. Who was trying.

“Nicole?” Jesse said getting her attention. Nicole blinked away her thoughts and looked over at the other girl. Jesse smiled back at her, lip pulled between her teeth. “Want to get lunch? If you have time before you’re...busy.”

Nicole thought for a second, but nodded slowly. “Yeah, sure.”

“Great,” Jesse said, “I know a place.”

“Lead the way,” Nicole said trying not to think of Waverly.

***

The next day, all Nicole could focus on in class was how Lucado’s beehive looked bigger than normal. Her sharp eyes looked beyond her cateye glasses and bored into every student who looked like they weren’t paying attention. Luckily, Nicole at least looked busy with how intently she was staring at her teacher. Lucado was a hard ass, especially at grading, but the one thing Nicole could always count on her for was letting them out on time. So as soon as the clock hit two o’clock, she was closing her book and shoving it into her bag.

She didn’t have any classes with Wynonna that semester. Nicole got to the registration line two hours early with Waverly but Wynonna was nowhere to be found. Every time Wynonna complains about having bad classes, Nicole just tells her she should have just woken up on time then.

Lunch with Jesse the day before was lovely. To say the least. There was never a lull in the conversation, both of them laughing at the right moments. Jesse would reach over and cover Nicole’s hand with her own halfway through the lunch and not move it. Nicole was okay with it. At the end before they parted ways, Jesse kissed the corner of Nicole’s mouth. It made her sigh and want to turn her head just enough to capture her lips. And she did. It was a soft barely there kiss, but both girls pulled away with flushed cheeks.

Nicole walked out of the classroom and almost immediately, and literally, bumped into Rosita who was coming out of her class down the hall. Her roommate looked just as surprised to see her, even though they would walk to class together. They would walk in stilted silence, both trying to be friendly but never quite knowing what to say. In the past Nicole’s immediate go to was to talk about Waverly but she wasn’t sure if Rosita even talked to Waverly anymore since they broke it off.

“Oh, hey,” Nicole said adjusting the backpack on her shoulder, “You going back to the dorm?”

“Yep,” Rosita replied with a tight smile as they began walking in the same direction. Nicole felt the awkwardness of the situation tighten in her chest and she swallowed thickly. She was suddenly too aware of her body movements as they walked down the stairs. Her fingers tapped a nervous rhythm on the strap of her backpack.

“Classes going well?” Nicole finally managed.

“Hm? Oh, uh...yeah,” Rosita said as they walked towards the building exit, “You?”

Nicole shrugged, “I can’t complain.” There was a silence between them that was only a few moments, but really felt like a lifetime. She hated this. Things in the world were bad enough without her having a weird beef with her roommate. Maybe they could be friendly. She was determined to be Rosita’s friend again so she said the first thing that came to mind.

“Have you talked to Waves lately?”

She silently cursed herself. Maybe bringing up the girl who was the reason for their falling out wasn’t the best idea.

“Um,” Rosita began, a little off, “Not really but um-”

They both noticed her at the same time. As they walked out of the building, surrounded by the other students who were getting out, they spotted Waverly standing under a tree on the lawn in front of them. She was dressed in a dark red skirt, white button up and sleeveless argyle sweater tucked into it. Matching red heels strapped to her feet.

“Speak of the devil,” Rosita said under her breath, visibly holding her book closer to her chest.

Waverly offered a small wave of her hand as she beamed over at them. Nicole couldn’t help but wave back as they walked towards her. The shorter girl smiled at Nicole before her eyes flickered to Rosita.

“Hey, Nicole...Rosita,” Waverly said as she looked between them, playing with the ends of her hair nervously, “Look at you both...being chummy.”

Nicole frowned at Waverly’s odd behavior. “You okay there, Waves?”

Hazel eyes blinked at her in confusion before she shook her head. “No. I mean yes, I just...where are you two groovy girls off too?”

“Our room,” Rosita said looking to Nicole for confirmation. She nodded and looked back at Waverly who seemed to be bouncing anxiously on the balls of her feet, hands still playing with her hair.

“Oh, well um...I was actually wondering if I could speak with you,” Waverly said looking pointedly at the redhead.

“Sure,” Nicole said tucking some hair behind her ear, “What is it?”

Waverly’s eyes darted over to Rosita so quickly it could have gone completely unnoticed. “I was actually hoping we could speak...privately,” Waverly said quietly like she only wanted Nicole to hear.

“I get the hint,” Rosita said turning so abruptly on her heel that her high ponytail whipped around her head, nearly hitting Nicole in the face. She threw her hand in the air in some form of vague wave as she walked away. “See you later.”

Nicole couldn’t help but think that any of the tiniest progression her and Rosita made to being friendly again were probably dashed. Her attention was brought back when she felt familiar fingers brushing along the edge of the name patch on the left side of her jacket. Brown eyes met hazel and she was helpless against the smile tugging at the corners of her lips.

“Hey, soldier,” Waverly said as her eyes fluttered down to watch her own fingers trace the patch.

“What do you want to talk to me about?” she asked.

Waverly shrugged and shook her head, small pout on her lips as she tried to find the words. Nicole gently put her hand over Waverly’s nervous fingers, flattening her hand over her heart. Her eyes snapped up to Nicole’s and it was like she felt her heart expand in that moment. It made it hard to breathe.

“I have two questions for you,” Waverly said.

“And I’ll have two answers,” Nicole teased.

Waverly scoffed at Nicole’s words despite her smile. “Well, I’ve been thinking-”

“They say that’s dangerous for women,” Nicole said just to see the frown crease Waverly’s forehead.

“Will you stop teasing and just let me ask,” Waverly said running her thumb over the side of Nicole’s hand that still covered her own. Nicole nodded and used her free hand to mime a zipper over her lips. Waverly smiled thankfully and continued. “I wanted...to ask you out.”

Nicole blinked at her, “Ask me out?”

“Yes,” Waverly said with confidence, “On a date.”

Nicole felt her heart flutter, that pesky hope filling her chest again. She wanted to just blurt out a ‘yes’. To tell Waverly she would go on a thousand dates with her. But she knew there was too much to ask, too many questions.

“Waverly-”

“Wait!” she interrupted, “I’ve thought about it. A lot. So...I’ll ask again. Will you go on a date with me?”

Nicole remembered what Waverly had said to her a while ago. That she was trying. She licked her lips and nodded, smile slowly crawling over her face. “I would love to.”

Waverly beamed and threw her arms around Nicole’s neck in a hug. Nicole’s arms settled around the shorter girl’s waist. Almost as soon as Waverly initiated the hug, she jumped back with her eyes wide.

“My second question,” Waverly said visibly trying to fight the smile off of her face, “Can I borrow your car?”

Nicole frowned, hands still on Waverly’s waist. “Waves, you can’t drive.”

She blushed, hands smoothing over Nicole’s shoulders. “I can try. I drove a tractor on my Uncle’s ranch once.”

Nicole couldn’t help but laugh. “Why do you want to borrow my car?”

“Because I can’t be expected to take you on a proper date if I can’t drive you,” Waverly said as if it was obvious. Nicole’s heart warmed at the sentiment and she couldn’t help but think how adorable Waverly looked. Hair down over her shoulders, skirt high above her knee.

“I tell you what,” Nicole said suddenly aware of how close they were as they stood under the tree, other students milling around them. To the passing person, they might actually look like a couple. The thought thrilled Nicole. “I don’t let you borrow my car, but I’ll teach you to drive. Soon.”

“Really?” Waverly asked pulling her bottom lip between her teeth.

“Really,” Nicole said letting go of Waverly’s waist to hold her pinky up between them, “Pinky promise.”

Waverly looked at the hand and linked their pinky’s with a sly smile. “Now you’re bound, Haught.”

Nicole chuckled, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

***

“I can’t believe you’re making me watch this nerd stuff,” Waverly said from behind her book. Nicole lifted her head from the couch a little bit to look at the other girl who was sitting on the floor, back against the furniture.

Nicole playfully pushed her book a little, earning her a glare. “It’s not nerdy it’s science,” Nicole said settling back onto the couch, “You’re not watching anyways. You’re reading.”

“I can read and watch the adventures of Captain Lurk at the same time, thank you,” Waverly said with an airy wave of her hand.

“It’s Captain Kirk,” Nicole said as a commercial came on. She looked over at Waverly who was fiddling with the corner of her page. The redhead noticed how Waverly was pulling her lip between her teeth, brow not furrowed in the usual way it was when she read.

It was probably another issue that Nicole knew just the face Waverly had when she read, but that was for a different day.

“Whatcha thinking about?” Nicole asked brushing her fingers along Waverly’s shoulder to get her attention. Waverly blinked away her frown lines and looked over at the other girl. She smiled softly at Nicole, twisting her upper body and resting her folded arms on the couch. Though since Nicole was taking up most of it she ended up with her chin on her hands atop Nicole’s knee.

“I need to tell you something. But I’m worried how you’re going to react,” Waverly said with a bluntness that made Nicole flinch.

Nicole’s mind couldn’t help but go to the scariest of places. Waverly was calling off the date. She probably decided she didn’t want to try this dating thing. Or to even consider the chances of a relationship.

Waverly’s hand covered Nicole’s that was picking at a frayed edge of a couch cushion. “It’s not bad,” she continued, “I just-...wanted to let you know that I’m...helping organize another protest. For next weekend.”

Nicole’s eyebrows shot up into her hairline in surprise, but she couldn’t help the small bit of relief that settled in her stomach. “Oh.”

“Please don’t be mad?” Waverly said, “I won’t let you near any of it or bring any of it to you. Okay? An-and I won’t talk about it.”

Oddly enough, the idea of a protest didn’t immediately make Nicole want to ralph. She blinked at Waverly for a moment and suddenly wished this commercial for televisions wasn’t as loud.

”Come in and discover why RCA Victor is first in color tv! Discover the Mark One-”

“Okay?” Nicole said, voice unsure.

“Are you-...not mad?” Waverly asked squeezing her hand.

”-this year, RCA has a brighter than ever picture! Thanks to RCA’s brand new color tube with thirty eight percent-”

Nicole looked back at the television. “I was never mad about it,” she said, “I just...would rather not think about that kind of stuff. It just...brings up too much.”

Too much she didn’t want to think about. Sure it had been a little better on the subject of Chris lately. But the protesting was still too much. It made her feel like people were marching against her brother.

“Okay,” Waverly said with nod.

“So...if you don’t mind I’d rather not talk about it ever,” Nicole said with a tight smile.

Waverly nodded, “Of course. I just...wanted you to know.”

“Thank you,” Nicole said, her hand twitching under Waverly’s, itching to pick at the skin on her thumb. She nodded back towards the tv, “Come on. Your favorite show is on.”

With a final smile, Waverly turned her back to Nicole again. She opened her book and Nicole watched as her eyes scanned over the page. The rush of affection she felt towards her in that moment was frightening considering they hadn’t even been on a date yet.

“Hey, Waves,” Nicole said tapping her shoulder to get her attention. Hazel eyes turned on her and she smiled, “Don’t get into too much trouble. Huh?”

Waverly winked at her, “Only just the right amount of trouble.”

“Thank you,” Nicole said turning back to Star Trek.

***

“Just let me drive. It’s not that far.”

“No,” Nicole repeated firmly as she held the car keys high above her head and just out of Waverly’s reach. The shorter girl reached for them unsuccessfully as they stood just outside of the dorm entrance. Nicole couldn’t help but let her eyes wander to where the gap between her brown corduroy pants and short knit top exposed her midriff as she her fingers stretched towards Nicole’s keys. Waverly finally gave up, planting her hands on her hips and looking up at Nicole seriously. It was one of the cutest things she’d ever seen, but Nicole tried to hide her amusement.

“Nicole, just let me drive. It’s only two blocks,” Waverly tried again, “I want to take you on a real date.”

The redhead flushed at the word ‘date’, her arm falling just enough for Waverly to grab the keys from her hand. Waverly smiled triumphantly as she clutched the keys to her chest. Realizing what had happened, Nicole grabbed for the keys only to have Waverly dance just out of her reach.

She gave Waverly a serious look, but she skipped towards Nicole’s Cadillac just the same. Waverly looked over her shoulder as she went, throwing a wink at Nicole who was still standing dumbly on the steps of the dorm building. The sun caught Waverly’s hair just right, the reflection of it almost blinding Nicole as she went.

Nicole felt like a bird whose attention was caught by something shiny and she took off after Waverly in a jog. She caught up quickly and looped her arm around Waverly’s waist to catch her. The brunette squealed as Nicole pulled her back against her front just as she got to the car. Waverly held her arm straight in front of her, hand with the keys as far away from Nicole as she could. Waverly giggled and Nicole tightened her grip around her waist. She reached for the keys, but her fingers brushed against the back of Waverly’s knuckles instead.

“Just let me drive!” Waverly said through her laughter. Nicole stopped trying for the keys and settled both of her arms around the smaller girl instead. Waverly squirmed in her grip a little just making Nicole keenly aware of how their bodies fit together.

“Waves,” Nicole said, her breath skirting across the shell of Waverly’s ear, “You don’t know how to drive. I’m not getting in an accident on our first date.”

Waverly turned quickly in Nicole’s arms, hands on her biceps as she looked up at her. “Does that mean we’re going to go on another date?”

“What?”

“You said first date, that implies there will be more than one,” Waverly said with a smug grin.

Nicole scoffed despite her telling blush, “We’ll see how the first one goes. And not crashing my car would be a good start.”

Waverly pouted and held the keys against Nicole’s chest in her cupped hand, “Fine. You win.”

Nicole covered Waverly’s hand with her own, “Thank you.”

They looked at each other for a beat too long before Waverly pulled away. Nicole looked down at herself and noticed her red and blue checkered shirt had come a little untucked when she had run after Waverly. She quickly tucked it back into her jeans. Waverly reached for the driver’s side door and opened it for Nicole with a smile.

“After you,” she said.

Nicole blushed at the gesture and slid into the front seat. She started the car as Waverly got into the passenger side. As soon as the car was on she was fiddling with the radio dial. Nicole couldn’t help but feel nerves settling in her stomach. It was a first date after all. Even if it was Waverly with whom she’d spent endless amounts of time with to begin with. But this was still different. It was a date.

“Where are we going?” Nicole said as she pulled out of the campus.

“The coffee shop on Mill,” Waverly said, still playing with the radio dial.

“I’ve never been to that one,” Nicole said as she drove the car in that direction.

Waverly smiled, hand finally dropping from the radio. “I know. I picked that one out because it has the best food and because I know there’s no way Wynonna will interrupt us there.”

“Ah,” Nicole said, “Excellent plan.”

“I’m a planner,” Waverly said with a wink as she settled back into her seat.

The ride to the coffee shop went by fairly quickly. Nicole absently tapped her fingers on the steering wheel to the beat of whatever song was playing. She couldn’t place it at the moment. Mostly she was focused on the girl in the seat next to her.

She saw the diner from down the block, the large neon sign lit as the sun set on the horizon. They pulled into the parking lot of the diner and Waverly had jumped out before Nicole even turned off the car. She jogged over to the driver’s side and opened the door for Nicole again.

“You don’t have to keep doing that,” Nicole said as she stepped out of the Cadillac with a smile.

Waverly shrugged, “I want to. It’s a date, I’m trying to woo you.”

Nicole chuckled and slipped her car keys into her jacket pocket as Waverly looped their arms together. She wouldn’t tell Waverly that she had already wooed her. If the other girl wanted to be cute and chivalrous, Nicole would let her. She even let go of Nicole’s arm to open the diner door for her.

They got seated immediately at a booth in a back corner of the diner. The waitress handed them their menus before walking away and Waverly practically beamed over the top at Nicole. She couldn’t help but smile back at the girl before forcing her eyes to look at the menu. Her fingers were moving nervously, tapping on the plastic menu as she tried to focus on the words in front of her.

After the waitress came back and they both ordered, Waverly sat across the table smiling at Nicole like she had a secret. The redhead blushed under her gaze, eyebrow raised at the other girl.

“What?” Nicole asked pulling at the sleeve of her jacket subconsciously.

Waverly shrugged, clasping her hands on the table in front of her, “Nothing.”

“Doesn’t look like nothing,” Nicole said as Waverly leaned down in the seat to fish something from her jean pocket. Her face lit up as she found what she was looking for and she straightened, dumping a handful of nickels on the table. Fishing one out of the pile, she pinched it between two fingers and held it out to Nicole.

“You get first pick of song,” Waverly said gesturing to the Wall-o-Matic at their table. Nicole laughed and took the coin, letting her fingers graze Waverly’s for just a second too long.

“Are you sure you trust me with this responsibility?” she asked as she leaned over to look at the tiny jukebox at the end of their table.

“I guess we’ll find out,” Waverly said as she arranged the remaining nickels into little stacks. Nicole used the little handle at the top of the machine to flip through the song selection. She found one that caught her eye and slipped the coin into the slot, punching the ivory buttons with the numbers.

“Let’s see if you have any class,” Nicole said. Waverly feigned offense just as the opening notes of the song started. Nicole watched her thinking for a moment before it hit her.

“I didn’t know you liked The Beach Boys,” Waverly said.

Well East coast girls are hip, I really dig those styles they wear-

Nicole shrugged, a little embarrassed. “Chris used to love them. We would listen to this record in his room. And he told me after college we were going to go to California to pick up some skirts.”

Waverly snorted in laughter as the waitress brought them their sodas. “Just you and your brother cruising for girls together?”

“Yep,” Nicole said dropping a straw in her glass. The carbonation made the straw rise awkwardly and float halfway out of the glass. She tapped the end with her finger in an attempt to make it go down to no avail. “He said we’d both walk away with a wife by the end of the summer.”

“High hopes,” Waverly said taking a long sip of her soda. Nicole’s eyes watched her lips as they closed around the straw. When she realized she was staring she quickly looked away.

“He had a lot of those,” Nicole said softly.

The waitress came and dropped their food in front of them nonchalantly, pulling a ketchup bottle from the front of her apron and setting it heavily on the table. They said their soft ‘thank you’s’ as she walked away. Sitting and eating with conversation flowing easily between them, Nicole couldn’t help but think how right it all felt. It was a first date and there were still a bit of those first date nerves there, but it was still Waverly. The silences in their conversation didn’t feel awkward and the talking wasn’t stilted. It was natural between them. Easy. Nicole wondered what the catch might be. Nothing in life was supposed to come this easy.

They finished up the food, switching back and forth between who picked the songs until their nickel pile was gone. Waverly insisted on paying, even though Nicole tried to throw cash at her.

“No, I asked you on a date,” Waverly insisted, “That’s how this is supposed to go.”

“We can go dutch,” Nicole said still trying to get Waverly to take her money, hand stretched across the table, “I thought you were a modern woman. That means going dutch.”

Waverly rolled her eyes and covered Nicole’s hand with her own. “Sometimes it’s nice to keep certain traditions alive,” she said with a wink, “Now let’s go. We have a second part of this date.”

She slid from the booth, hand still gripping Nicole’s as she pulled her out of the seat too. Their hands remained clasped as they walked out of the diner. Waverly, once again, opened all the doors for Nicole and directed her a little out of town to an area she had never been before.

“Here!” Waverly said pointing at a park off to the side.

Nicole pulled in and parked at the far part of the parking lot. Waverly reached into the backseat and pulled out some blankets. Nicole frowned and looked over her shoulder into the backseat.

“What-? When did you put that back there?” she asked. Waverly just shrugged with a sly smile and got out of the car.

“Leave the car on,” Waverly said as she laid out the blanket.

Nicole frowned but got out anyways, leaving the keys in the ignition. Waverly laid the blankets out on the grass next to the car and turned the radio up just enough so it was audible outside of the car.

“What are we doing?” Nicole asked as she walked around the front of the car. Waverly took Nicole’s hand again and led her over to the blankets.

“We’re stargazing,” Waverly said matter of factly. She sat down and pulled Nicole with her. There was a pile of blankets on the ground, one laid out, and Waverly sat on it. She patted the seat next to her and Nicole plopped down in the spot. Waverly wasted no time laying down and pulling Nicole down besides her. She got comfortable on her back, hands folded over her stomach as Waverly settled next to her. Waverly pulled the blankets over them as a chill ran through the air.

Nicole was keenly aware of Waverly’s side of her body pressed against her own. Her and Waverly had always had a close friendship. Close in the sense that there was lots of touching involved. Though she had a feeling it was because they were always on the precipice of something more than friendship.

“Nicole?” Waverly said softly.

“Yeah?” she answered, eyes still up on the stars.

Waverly shifted next to her until she was on her side. Her hand snaked over Nicole’s stomach, leaving a path of goosebumps in it’s wake even over her shirt. Nicole automatically opened her arm so Waverly could rest her head on her shoulder. Her hand settled along Waverly’s back and she played with the knit fabric of her shirt absently.

“Thank you for going on a date with me,” Waverly whispered.

Nicole chuckled and turned her head a little to look at the brunette, their faces close. “Like I could say no to you,” Nicole said softly.

“You have before,” Waverly pointed out despite the small smile on her face.

Nicole looked back up at the sky, stars shining brightly back at her. “That was...different.”

Waverly didn’t say anything. Instead she played with the loose fabric of Nicole’s shirt just above where it was tucked into her jeans.

“Do you like that Jesse girl?” Waverly asked.

A blush tinted Nicole’s cheeks and she licked her lips, eyes still on the stars. “I mean...yeah,” she admitted softly. She felt Waverly stiffen besides her, fingers pausing against her shirt. “But she’s not-” you. Nicole bit her tongue. “She’s not...I’m not really interested in her...that way. I am but...I’m...not.”

“That’s...vague,” Waverly said with a brief smile.

Nicole shrugged, “I like her. She’s great...but...we’re just talking. Mostly.”

Waverly’s body relaxed again, fingers tugging on Nicole’s shirt so that the edge was untucked from her pants and she could play with the hem. “Oh.”

Nicole felt Waverly’s fingers brush absently against the skin on her hip and sighed. Waverly shivered and snuggled more into Nicole’s side, her nose brushing the nape of her neck. She tightened her hold around the smaller girl, bringing her close.

“Are you cold?” Nicole asked.

“Not anymore. You’re like basically a heater,” Waverly said softly, “You’re like my bonus blanket.”

Nicole smiled and turned her head so that her chin rested on the top of Waverly’s head. “God, you’re cute,” she muttered. She felt Waverly squeeze her side and burrow even closer to her, if possible.

“I figured out what my third wish would be,” Waverly said after a moment of silence.

“What’s that?” Nicole asked.

She felt Waverly’s throat flex against her shoulder as she swallowed thickly. “My third wish would be to find my person. And to be...ready for them.”

Nicole licked her lips and looked down at Waverly, only to see hazel eyes staring up at her. They were pleading but she couldn’t quite tell for what.

“That’s a good one,” Nicole said, voice hoarse. Waverly practically beamed at her. Her hand left Nicole’s hip and she brushed her fingers along her cheek. The song on the radio changed and Waverly smiled brighter.

“It’s your favorite band,” she teased.

Wouldn't it be nice if we were older, then we wouldn't have to wait so long-

Nicole pressed their foreheads together and let out a breathy laugh. “I should have never told you that.”

“Don’t say that,” Waverly said as her hand settled cupping Nicole’s neck, “I like it when you tell me things.”

Waverly’s thumb brushed over her pulse point and Nicole felt herself falling even harder. As dumb as she felt even thinking it, she could stay here with Waverly forever.

“And I like telling you things,” Nicole whispered. Even if they were laying down in an park and anyone could walk up at any moment, it felt like they were alone in the world. Like they were invincible, just for a moment.

You know it seems the more we talk about it, it only makes it worse to live without it. But let’s talk about it. Wouldn't it be nice-

“Nicole,” Waverly said so softly that she almost missed it, “can I kiss you?”

The breath hitched in Nicole’s throat, her mouth suddenly dry. She still had the voice in the back of her mind telling her this was a bad idea. Nicole wanted to kiss her, of course she did. She had never not wanted to kiss Waverly. Sure this was a date and Waverly was trying, but Nicole was still afraid of putting her heart on the line. Waverly could change her mind at any moment

“Waves-”

“I only want to kiss you,” Waverly said as if she could read her mind. Nicole felt her pulling a piece of hair between her fingers, twisting it nervously. Nicole felt her heart flutter in her chest and she licked her lips.

“Ask me again.”

The corner of Waverly’s lips quirked in a half smile. “Can I kiss you?”

“Yes,” Nicole said a little too quickly. The way Waverly smiled at her made Nicole’s stomach twist in anticipation. Waverly’s eyes flickered down to Nicole’s lips, the redhead took her free hand and placed it on Waverly’s hip. She felt Waverly place a finger under her chin and tip her head just enough, her lips parting. Waverly pressed their lips together and fireworks exploded behind Nicole’s eyes.

It was like kissing her for the first time all over again. Her lips were soft and still tasted like the Coke she had at dinner. Waverly’s hand cupped her cheek as she deepened the kiss, tongue sliding along Nicole’s lips. She squeezed the shorter girl’s hip as their tongues curled together, sparks shooting up Nicole’s spine. Waverly’s hand tangled in red hair as Nicole rolled them over so she was on her side, Waverly on her back. She pulled away just enough to look at her.

The stars were reflected in her eyes and Nicole couldn’t breath. Her heart was beating so quickly it felt like it was vibrating. There were about a thousand things she wanted to say and a thousand more she knew she could never say. So instead she leaned down and kissed Waverly again.

 

***

There was a pounding on the other side of Nicole’s door and she sat straight on her bed. She was about to grab her shoe as a weapon when Wynonna’s voice came through the door.

“Hey, Nic!” Wynonna said, “Open up!”

Wynonna sounded more than her usual just annoyed. She sounded frantic and there was something else in her voice that Nicole couldn’t pinpoint. She set her book down on the bed and hurried over to the door. As soon as she opened it, Wynonna pushed her way inside. She turned to face Nicole, both hands stuffed deep in the pockets of her leather jacket.

“I need your help,” she said quickly, “Waverly. She’s-...well her fucking protest got raided. A bunch of people were arrested. Some got sent to the hospital...I couldn’t find her at the protest so she’s either at the police station or the hospital.”

Nicole felt her stomach drop. She was grabbing her jacket before Wynonna even finished. There was a brief flashback to when she opened her door and they told her Chris had been in an incident.

“Let’s go,” Nicole said, “I’ll take the police station. You take the hospital?”

“Yeah,” Wynonna said as they both rushed out of the dorm. Nicole couldn’t bring herself to go to the hospital. The sterile smells, the stark lights. Plus if Waverly was at the hospital, chances were she was hurt. Nicole wanted to prepare herself for that only if she had to, not be blindsided by it.

“Just drive me out of campus and I’ll hitch a cab from there,” Wynonna said already headed towards Nicole’s car. They both jumped in, the radio roaring to life as soon as Nicole turned on the car.

A time of love, a time of hate. A time of war, a time of peace. A time you may embrace-

Nicole turned the dial of the radio angrily, the old plastic creaking in a way she was sure she’d regret later. But silence was better right now. Her senses were on high alert. It felt like everything was too loud or uncomfortable. As soon as she stopped at the stoplight just outside of campus, Wynonna jumped out.

“I’ll meet you back at my dorm with any news,” she said before taking off in a jog down the street. She waved at a car and it pulled over just as the light turned green. Nicole drove to the Sheriff station, pulling into the first parking spot around the corner that she saw. She didn’t realize how much her heart was pounding until she shut off the car. She could swear she heard the blood pumping through the ears at a rapid pace.

She’s fine. She’s fine, she kept repeating to herself. She slipped her keys into her pocket and wiped the palms of her hands off on the front of her jeans.

She’s fine.

She pushed open the door of the Sheriff station and looked around the waiting room. There were a lot of people standing around the front desk, all trying to talk to the officer behind it at once. He looked frustrated, the collar of his shirt slightly askew as he pushed some paperwork at them. Nicole licked her lips and cursed as she stood behind them in the line.

“We’re trying to find our friend!” one guy with a long ponytail said. He was wearing a fringed jacket and smelled less than clean, “You can’t arrest them for nothing!”

“I need his full name if I’m going to tell you if he’s here or not,” the officer said, clipped.

“I told you. He got rid of his given name along time ago and goes by Peace Wolf now.”

“Well, that’s not his legal name so until you can give me that, your friend Peace Wolf isn’t here.”

There was some more arguing and Nicole fidgeted with the end of her jacket, bouncing on her heels. She raised her hand like a child in school, immediately embarrassed by the action. But the officer looked at her with a raised eyebrow anyways.

“Can I help you?”

“Waverly Earp,” Nicole blurted over the other, “I’m looking for Waverly Earp.”

“I got ‘er,” came a voice seemingly from nowhere. Behind the desk was an office labeled ‘Sheriff’ where the same officer that had tapped on her car window on New Years. She breathed a sigh of relief at the familiar face, even if she didn’t know him in anyway. Pushing herself to the front of the desk, she leaned up against it with her elbows propped up.

“Sheriff Nedley, is she okay?” Nicole asked as he saddled up to the desk besides the other officer.

He pulled a pen out of his pocket and looked over Nicole carefully as he clicked it. “She’s fine. But I will be telling Gus about this,” he said grabbing some sort of form from the younger officer and filling it out, “I’ve known the Earp girls long enough to know that she won’t be happy.”

“You...have?” Nicole said, unable to hide her curiosity.

Nedley nodded slowly as he continued to fill out the paperwork, “Yep. Best friends with my daughter Chrissy. Maybe you know her.”

“I do,” Nicole said with a nod, “She’s a groovy gal.”

Nedley chuckled. “Groovy,” he said under his breath, “You kids these days.”

Nicole shrugged, unsure if she was supposed to hear that. Nedley pushed the paper towards her along with the pen.

“Sign that while I go get her,” he said with a sigh. He started to turn but stopped and looked at Nicole again. “Oh, and kid?”

“Yes, sir?” Nicole asked as she picked up the pen with shaky fingers.

“You seem like a good kid. Do me a favor and try to keep Waverly out of trouble,” he said, “Her sister gets in enough mess for the two of ‘em.”

“Yes, sir,” Nicole said with a solemn nod.

Nedley squinted, looking over her critically for a moment before nodding with a grunt. He turned and walked back somewhere Nicole couldn’t see. She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. Her signature was shaky at best, but she didn’t care anymore. Waverly was here and in trouble, but she was okay.

Nicole’s heart didn’t stop racing until Nedley walked out from the back, Waverly in front of him. Her clothes were a little dirty and she looked a little rustled, but that was it. The painted peace sign on her face was a little smudged but there were no visible bruises. Nicole let out a sigh of relief, hand in her hair as she rushed around to where Nedley was leading her through a door to the waiting room. Nedley undid Waverly’s handcuffs and Waverly looked up at Nicole with a sheepish smile as she shuffled forward towards her.

“Hey, Nicky,” Waverly said softly, hands clasped in front of her.

“Alright, Ms. Haught, I trust Ms. Earp is fine with you?” Nedley said adjusting his belt.

“Yes, sir,” Nicole said with a nod. She put a hand on Waverly’s elbow and with a final nod at Nedley, led Waverly out of the station. When they were outside, Nicole remained silent until they reached her car around the corner. Waverly close behind. She put a hand on the side of her car and took a deep breath before she spun towards Waverly. She brushed some hair from the shorter girl’s face and held it between her hands. “Are you okay?”

Waverly looked up at her, lip between her teeth. She just nodded and Nicole sighed.

“Then, let me ask. What the fuck were you thinking?” Nicole asked lowly, hands falling from Waverly’s face.

Waverly flinched, but just barely. She frowned up at Nicole. “You act like I wanted to get arrested.”

“Didn’t you?” Nicole countered, “Going onto private property! Getting in a fight with police l-“

“We didn’t get in a fight with them,” Waverly said crossing her arms over her chest, “At least I didn’t-“

“Waverly, you were there!”

“For a good reason-“

Nicole ran a frustrated hand through her hair, looking up at the sky. The tightness in her chest wasn’t going away. It wasn't anger it was...it was so much more than that. She wanted to cry and scream and…god she wanted to take Waverly in her arms and just feel her. She wanted to feel her warm breath on her neck and just know she was there. That she was alive.

“Waverly, you could have died!” Nicole said, her voice cracking, “I didn’t know where you were I was worried! I was-...scared. Of losing you.”

The tightness in her chest just felt heavier. She felt a pressure behind her eyes and did her best to keep the tears at bay. The tightness was fear. It was pain, it was worry.

She watched as Waverly’s face dissolved from anger to something else. The brunette reached for Nicole’s arm cautiously. Instinct told her to pull away but she took a deep breath instead. Waverly’s hand was warm on her forearm and she stared at it. The skin around her wrist was red and irritated from the handcuffs. She covered her hand over Waverly’s, thumbs brushing over the skin of her wrist.

“Nicole,” Waverly said, voice soft, “Look at me.”

Taking another deep breath, brown eyes flickered up to hazel. “You got hurt,” Nicole said looking back down at the redness on her wrist.

“I don’t even feel it,” Waverly assured her. She took a step closer and looked up at the redhead. Both of her hands smoothed up over Nicole’s arms, squeezing her biceps before moving to rest on her collarbone. Nicole held Waverly’s upper arms, thumbs moving nervously back and forth over her shirt sleeves.

“I thought…” Nicole’s voice trailed off as she tried to shake the terrible images out of her head. Of Waverly on the ground, getting beat up, threatened.

“Hey,” Waverly said softly to get her attention. Nicole looked at Waverly, “I’m fine. Look. See?”

Nicole’s eyes scanned over Waverly’s face. She nodded, swallowing thickly. She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back against the car. Waverly’s hands fell from her chest and she mirrored Nicole’s stance.

“I’m sorry, you were worried,” Waverly said. She hesitated a moment before stepping closer, one hand reaching up to cup Nicole’s neck, “But you can’t-...I can take care of myself, you know. I not trying to get myself killed.”

“Most people aren’t,” Nicole said simply.

Waverly’s eyes darted over her face and she gave her a tight smile. “I’m fine.”

“Yeah, but some people that were at your protest aren’t,” Nicole said, “Wynonna’s at the hospital right now looking for you.”

“Nicole,” Waverly said, “what can I say to make you stop worrying?”

Nicole leaned into Waverly’s hand that was still on her neck. She breathed out harshly through her nose and felt her pulse against Waverly’s hand.

“Am I not allowed to worry about you?”

“You’re not allowed to overly worry,” Waverly clarified. Nicole licked her lips and reached for Waverly’s hips. She pulled her against her, wrapping her arms around the shorter girl’s body. Waverly settled her head in the crook on Nicole’s neck and they just stood like that for a moment.

“I’m sorry,” Nicole said into Waverly’s hair, “I shouldn’t have-...I’ll try not to get as worried next time. If there is a next time.”

She felt Waverly chuckle, the action shaking her whole body in a way that made Nicole warm all over.

“And I’ll try not to get arrested,” Waverly said placing a barely there kiss on the base of Nicole’s neck. She shivered and held Waverly tighter, ignoring the looks they were getting from people passing on the street. They weren’t doing anything illegal. And she was still so relieved that Waverly was okay that she could hardly be bothered with the opinions of small minded people.

She leaned down to kiss Waverly who was still leaning against her chest. The angle was awkward and Nicole’s neck was bent in a weird way but the soft brush of her lips against Waverly’s was worth it. Waverly placed a finger under her chin, tilting Nicole’s head a little as they kissed. When they finally pulled away, both had soft smiles on their faces. Waverly tapped Nicole’s chin with her finger and traced her lips with it.

The Dating Game is on tonight,” Waverly said softly, “Wanna watch?”

“Obviously,” Nicole said as she placed one last kiss on Waverly’s forehead, “Come on. I told Wynonna we’d meet at your dorm.”

She dropped her arms from around the brunette and pushed herself off the car. Opening the door for Waverly, she waited until she was in to close it. The old metal creaked dangerously but Nicole was used to it. She got in the other side of the car and turned on the radio. Waverly reached over and laced their hands together over the stick shift.

Nicole felt herself relax a little, thumb running over the side of Waverly’s hand. After a few minutes of driving, Waverly scooted over to the middle of the bench seat to hold Nicole’s arm across her chest and play with the end of her jacket sleeve. A Rolling Stones song came on and Waverly changed the dial.

“Waves,” Nicole chastised. But, like usual, Waverly didn’t bother listening. She just kept searching the channels until she landed on one she liked.

One fine day, you're gonna want me for your girl-

“Oh, I love this song!” she said turning up the radio. Nicole rolled her eyes playfully, but she couldn’t even pretend to be upset as Waverly started singing.

”The arms I long for, will open wide. And you'll be proud to have me, right by your side. One fine day, you're gonna want me for your girl-”

Chapter Text

“Waves...Waves!”

Nicole ducked in her seat, hand splayed on the window of the car as she gasped. The car jerked to a stop and Waverly looked at her sharply.

“What?” Waverly asked, an edge to her voice.

Nicole blinked up at the brunette before straightening up in her seat. She pointed in front of them where a pole stuck out from the parking lot. It was about twenty feet away still, but Nicole wasn’t going to risk it.

“Did you see the pole?” Nicole asked.

Waverly frowned, “I’m nowhere near the pole, Nicole.”

“But you were going right towards it.”

“Are you trying to teach me to drive or put me off of driving forever?” Waverly asked as a smile began to creep up her face. “I’m not dumb. I’m not going to run straight into that pole.”

Nicole blushed, “Yes, well, sometimes the pedal sticks.”

I run for the bus, dear. While riding I think of us, dear. I say a little prayer for you-

Waverly shifted the car into park and turned to better look at Nicole. She smiled awkwardly at the brunette, trying to play off her terror. Waverly had actually been doing really well in learning to drive. She was just having some flashbacks to when she was learning.

“Did I tell you Chris taught me to drive?” Nicole said turning down the radio. Waverly shook her head and reached for Nicole’s hand, pulling it into her lap. Nicole licked her lips and continued, “My dad had a ‘57 Chevy Bel-Air. Four door hardtop. Air conditioning, cherry red, the works. It was beautiful and I swear my dad loves that car more than anything. He hardly ever let Chris borrow it, but he was out of town one weekend and Chris decided he wanted to teach me to drive. So we go to the church parking lot and he makes me drive it. I was doing fine until I hit a light pole in the middle of an empty parking lot.”

Waverly visibly tried to suppress a giggle as she squeezed Nicole’s hand. “I’m guessing your dad didn’t take it well?”

“Not at all. I had to work at the grocery store all summer to fix it,” Nicole said with a shake of her head, “And Chris never stopped making fun of me for it.”

Waverly scooted closer to Nicole and placed a soft kiss on her cheek. “Then I guess it’s a good thing I have you as a teacher.”

Nicole smiled back and squeezed Waverly’s hand lightly. It had been two weeks since their date and things were going fairly well. They just kissed and definitely tried to keep things less...intense than the last time they did the whole kissing thing. Nicole didn’t want to get too carried away not knowing where they stood. But it was hard not to get caught up in everything about Waverly. Every time she held her hands or kissed her, Nicole had to remind herself that they weren’t anything to each other. Just trying things out.

“You’re a lot better driver when I was to start with,” Nicole said with a nod.

Waverly beamed at the other girl and leaned forward to kiss her. Nicole felt that familiar pull in her stomach that she got every time Waverly kissed her. The one that told her to pull Waverly into her arms and kiss her senseless.

“Want to go to Shorty’s or something tonight?” Waverly asked pushing red hair behind Nicole’s ear.

Nicole faltered and looked down at her hands, Waverly’s touch falling away.

“Right,” she said softly, “I forgot. You’re going on a date with Jesse.

Nicole raised an eyebrow at Waverly who was looking at the pole in the middle of the parking lot like she was considering hitting it after all.

“You know I was technically seeing her before you asked me on a date,” Nicole reminded her gently before teasing, “She has two dates on you.”

Waverly squinted at the redhead and rested her head against the back of the seat, slumping a little. “I know I know. And she’s just soooooo far out,” she mocked.

Nicole licked her lips nervously and decided to say something she had been...avoiding saying since her first date with Waverly.

“You know, if you wanted me to stop dating other people, I would,” Nicole said with a shrug in her own attempt to play off the gravity of what she said. Her stomach sat in a knot as the silence hung between them. She really regretted turning down the radio now. Waverly’s fingers began to trace her own, ever so softly.

“I can’t, you know that,” Waverly said, pointedly not looking at her, “I-...it’s not right. It’s not like we’re exclusive or anything.”

Nicole nodded and cleared her throat, hoping it would hide the sound of her heart cracking in her chest. “I know I just...wanted to remind you.”

Waverly covered her hands again and squeezed them. “Hey, wanna grab some food before you go?”

A slow smile crawled over Nicole’s face and she nodded, “Want to drive?”

Waverly squealed in delight and kissed Nicole so quickly she almost missed it. She fiddled with the radio until she was happy with a song and checked all her mirrors diligently. Nicole’s heart fluttered affectionately as she watched Waverly’s lips move, repeating all the steps to herself quietly before she put the car in drive.

Oogum oogum boogum boogum, boogum now baby. You're castin' your spell on me-

Carefully, she left the parking lot and drove along the street. When she reached the first corner, she beamed over at Nicole.

“How am I doing?”

“Beautiful,” Nicole said softly.

Would you believe little girl, that I am crazy 'bout you-

***

“Charlton Heston is kind of handsome, don’t you think,” Jesse said as she took a handful of popcorn from the bucket on her lap, “Like if we were into men.”

Nicole shrugged and tilted her head, “I suppose. It’s hard to imagine.”

Jesse leaned her head on Nicole’s shoulder and the redhead naturally put her arm over her shoulders. Her mouth dried a little as she got a whiff of Jesse’s perfume. Jesse was sweet and nice and...well she was beautiful. There was still that twinge of guilt for even being on a date with Jesse. Let alone for wanting to kiss her like Nicole was definitely thinking about right now.

Nicole looked over at the car next to them and the windows were all foggy, car rocking lightly. She blushed and looked back at the screen. Jesse noticed the same thing and snickered.

“Guess that’s the risk we all take going to the drive in,” she said softly in Nicole’s ear even though they were alone in the car.

Nicole chuckled, “Guess that’s what I get for trying to be charming.”

“You’re still pretty charming,” Jesse said leaning more into Nicole. She was thankful for the dark lighting or else Jesse would see the heavy blush on her cheeks.

“This looks like an episode of Star Trek or something,” Nicole said as she watched the scenery on the screen.

“I have something embarrassing to confess,” Jesse said looking up at the redhead. She raised an eyebrow but let the dark haired girl continue. “I really like Star Trek.”

Nicole laughed and turned more towards Jesse in excitement, “So do I!”

“Really?”

“Yeah! Should I be embarrassed about that?” Nicole asked suddenly nervous, “I mean I know it’s a nerd show but-“

“Well you definitely don’t have to be embarrassed about it with me,” Jesse said reaching up and squeezing Nicole’s hand that hung over her shoulders, “We should watch it together sometime.”

Nicole blushed and looked back at the screen, “I kind of um...Waverly and I that’s...kind of our thing.”

“Does she like Star Trek too?”

“Um...no. Not really,” Nicole mumbled as she fiddled nervously with Jesse’s fingers. A sudden thought came over her and before she could stop herself she was blurting out, “You know I’m kind of seeing her too, right?”

Jesse shrugged, “I could have guessed.”

Nicole breathed a sigh of relief even under her embarrassment. “And that’s...okay?”

“For now,” Jesse said not unkindly, “I like you, Nicole. And I’d really like to get to know you.”

“I’d like to get to know you too,” Nicole said. Jesse detangled their hands and smoothed her palm over Nicole’s stomach and under her jacket. Nicole sucked in a quick breath and Jesse smiled sweetly at her. Jesse tilted her head and connected their lips in the first of many kisses.

***

Nicole stood in the aisle of Thrifty’s looking over the sickly red and pink display. Her hands itched from the confines of her jacket pockets and she licked her lips nervously. She jumped when a kid seemed to appear next to her from nowhere.

A little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes looked up at her curiously. Nicole looked around for a parent but saw no one. There was a small tug on the edge of her jacket and she looked back to the girl.

“Yes?” Nicole asked awkwardly.

“You getting a card for a boy?” she asked.

Nicole blushed and looked back towards the display. “Um. No.”

She silently hoped the little girl would go away, but she could still feel her eyes on her.

“Why do you dress like that?”

“Like what?” Nicole said looking down at her burgundy corduroys with her button up shirt tucked into it.

“A boy,” the little girl said flatly.

Nicole scoffed, “I do not.”

The little girl pointed high on the display at a Valentine with a puppy on it. “You should get that one.”

Nicole tilted her head to look at it but shrugged. She wasn’t even really sure what she was doing here. She came just to get some aspirin and had wandered into this aisle on accident. Part of her wanted to get something for Waverly. Just a card or one of the many stupid stuffed things they were selling. But were you supposed to get something for a girl you were only dating? Especially when you were dating another girl too?

“I was thinking this one,” Nicole said pointing at one with a little cowboy on it.

The little girl took a step closer and looked over the Valentine with a critical eye. “That one’s good too,” she said, “Puppies are the best though.”

Nicole picked the Valentine from the rack. There was a cowboy on a horse and a gaudy heart next to it with the words “You roped my heart podner” on it. She frowned at the intentional misspelling but the cowboy was cute.

“You love someone?” the little girl asked.

Nicole fumbled, “I um...no.”

She wondered why she was getting flustered by a little girl who couldn’t have been more than eight. Sure she was asking probing questions but...she was a child.

“That card says you love someone,” she said smartly.

Nicole frowned and held it against her chest, “Where’s your mom?”

She shrugged and Nicole looked back at the rack before plucking the puppy card away too.

“You have two Valentines?” the girl asked in a way that seemed far too judgemental for her age.

“No,” Nicole said automatically. She shifted uneasily and sighed, “I don’t know, maybe.”

She looked back at the little girl who was looking just as confused as she felt. She couldn’t get Waverly a Valentine and not Jesse...right? Nicole sighed. It was too much for Nicole to think about under the fluorescent lights of a Thrifty’s with a little girl and a stuffed dog staring at her. She tucked the puppy card under the cowboy card in a moment of weakness and turned on her heels.

“Go find your mom,” Nicole said starting to walk down the aisle towards the register. Just then a frazzled looking blonde woman rounded the corner, almost knocking into Nicole as she went. She looked over her shoulder to see the woman pick the little girl up.

She checked out with her two cards, a blush on her cheeks even if the girl at the register seemed completely uninterested in her purchases. It felt like it took forever for the girl to type in the prices and open the register to accept Nicole’s money. Finally she slowly put them in a brown back and handed them over to Nicole. She quickly walked towards the exit like she was about to be caught with something. As soon as she got into the car she tossed the bag across the seat and began driving back to campus, letting out a sigh of relief for some unknown reason.

***

The newspaper spread out in front of Nicole on the coffee table in the common room looked daunting. The red pen in her hand bounced nervously between her fingers as she scanned the job ads. Her and Waverly sat on the floor, legs tucked under them. They sat so close their shoulders were pressed together.

“What about this?” Waverly said from besides her, finger pointing at a circled ad. Nicole leaned over and wrinkled her nose at the ad for Legend City.

“I’d be no good at being a ride operator,” Nicole said with a shake of her head, “Teenagers and...kids.”

“You know what they say, beggars can’t be choosers,” Waverly said circling the ad anyways. Nicole grumbled as the Bewitched theme song started in the background. Waverly looked up at her and leaned over to peck her lips lightly. A blush tinted Nicole’s cheeks at the gesture even if their kisses had become more frequent. It was in the moments like this, where they were doing something all together boring and pointless and Waverly decided to kiss her that made Nicole’s heart flip. It was a dangerous feeling to have.

When she was with Waverly, it was like Jesse didn’t even exist. Which was a dilemma because when she was with Jesse, she still couldn’t stop herself from thinking about Waverly. Nicole had to constantly remind herself that Waverly wasn’t hers. They kissed and went on dates, but they weren’t together. The voice in the back of her mind told her she was in the same situation that she had run into with Waverly before. But that was also the voice that she ignored.

“Hey, you two,” Chrissy said as she walked into the common room. She flopped onto the couch behind Waverly. The brunette leaned her head back and Chrissy ran her hands absently through her friend’s hair. “Did you two hear about Orangeburg?”

Nicole shook her head and Waverly frowned. “No. What happened?” Waverly asked.

Chrissy licked her lips and looked over at Nicole briefly. “Three kids were murdered at South Carolina State. Segregation protest.”

Nicole turned quickly back to the television, hand tightening around the red pen in her hand. This was exactly the kind of thing she was worried about with Waverly. It was beyond the principles of the whole thing that Nicole just couldn’t get behind. The longer these protests went on, the more the civil unrest and the more likely Waverly might get hurt at some point. Nicole’s jaw tightened as she went back to looking at the newspaper.

She felt Waverly squeeze her hand but pretended like she was interested in the newspaper more. The soft brush of Waverly’s lips along her jawline made Nicole’s jaw relax and she breathed loudly through her nose. Some of the tension left her shoulders and she tried to relax a little bit.

“What are you two doing?” Chrissy asked gesturing towards the newspaper.

“Nicole is looking for a job,” Waverly said leaning a little into the taller girl.

Chrissy waved her hand excitedly towards Nicole, “Oh, my Dad’s looking for someone to help out. Just part time to help organize files and stuff. And it’s at the Sheriff office so that’s kinda close to what you wanna do, right? Be in the army?”

Nicole watched as Waverly shot her friend a look.

“Actually...yeah. You think you could put in a good word for me?” Nicole said eager to be done with her job hunt.

“Of course. And just go by tomorrow to talk to him. He already likes you,” Chrissy said.

Nicole smiled over at Waverly as she dropped her pen dramatically onto the table. “Done.”

Waverly rolled her eyes but dropped her own pen and cuddled into Nicole’s side. The redhead draped her arm over the brunette’s shoulder and kissed the top of her head lightly.

“Ugh, you two are so cute,” Chrissy said almost bored, eyes on the television, “You two lovebirds doing anything for Valentine’s Day?”

Nicole’s cheeks flushed brighter than her hair, eyes firm on the television. Her mouth was suddenly dry and she licked her lips, shifting uncomfortably. She could practically feel Waverly staring Chrissy down next to her.

“Probably not,” Waverly mumbled as she looked up at Nicole, “Right?”

The redhead continued looking at the television, hopefully hiding the way her heart was breaking a little just inches from where Waverly’s head was against her shoulder. “I um...guess. I mean...if you don’t want to.”

Waverly straightened up a little bit, turning to face Nicole better. “Did you...want to?”

“I don’t know,” Nicole lied with a shrug, “I just thought...it might be nice.”

“Nicole,” Waverly said softly in a way that made Nicole brace for what was coming next, “It just...always seemed like such a couple thing. You know?”

“Yeah yeah, I mean...it’s whatever,” Nicole said, eyes focused almost painfully on the television as Elizabeth Montgomery did her signature nose wiggle. She needed to get out of this conversation as fast as possible, so she tilted her chin towards the television. “Think you can do that?”

Waverly looked back at the tv and Nicole breathed a sigh of relief, “Wiggle my nose?”

Nicole nodded. Waverly scrunched up her face cutely as she tried to wiggle her nose, moving her lips awkwardly instead. Nicole’s stomach clenched and she couldn’t help but chuckle.

“You’re going to kill me someday,” Nicole said fondly despite the ache in her chest.

***

“So, Ms. Haught, tell me what you plan on doing after college?” Nedley said looking over the resume in front of him. Waverly had helped her type it up on the typewriter Chrissy had gotten for her birthday. Nicole adjusted her collar for what felt like the thousandth time before forcing her hands to clasp in front of her. She sat a little straighter, remembering all the times her father had hit her and her brother between the shoulder blades to remind them to sit straight.

“I’m enlisting, Sir,” Nicole said confidently, “Army nurse.”

Nedley looked at her over the resume before nodding once. “Honorable thing to do,” he said, “But you ain’t thought of anything you can do here to help?”

Nicole shook her head, “I’m supposed to enlist. It’s what I’m meant to do.”

“Your parents okay with that?”

“Frankly, Sir, I don’t know what that has to do with the job I’m applying for,” Nicole bristled, “But if you must know, my parents don’t have much of anything to say about my life anymore.”

Nedley grunted, “I like you, kid. You got spunk. Can you start on Monday?”

Nicole’s face split into a smile, “Yes, Sir.”

“Then you got the job,” Nedley said letting Nicole’s resume fall to the table with a flutter. He stood up and Nicole followed suit, reaching her hand out for the Sheriff to shake.

“Thank you,” Nicole said with a wide smile.

“Yeah yeah. See you on Monday, kid,” Nedley said even as the twitch of his lips betrayed his gruffness.

Nicole nodded one last time, tipping an invisible hat almost instinctively before she turned and walked out of his office. Walking out onto the sidewalk, her eyes immediately landed on Waverly leaning against her car. The brunette had insisted on coming with her as a form of support. She looked at the taller girl expectedly and Nicole just smiled at her. Waverly squealed and threw her arms around Nicole’s neck in a hug.

“I knew you’d get it, babe,” Waverly said.

Nicole blushed at the slip of the nickname, hands on Waverly’s hips. “It’s just a secretary job,” Nicole said giving Waverly a squeeze before stepping away, “Not a big deal.”

“It is a big deal,” Waverly insisted as Nicole opened up the passenger door, “I’m proud of you.”

“Thank you,” Nicole said as Waverly slipped into the car. She leaned her forearm against the top of the door frame, leaning into the car a little towards Waverly. “Want to go to the movies, sit in the back row and make out the whole time? They’re playing Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Waverly smirked, “Sounds groovy.”

***

”You mustn't give your heart to a wild thing. The more you do, the stronger they get-”

“You know,” Nicole said pulling away from Waverly’s swollen lips for a second to look at the screen, “Watching Audrey Hepburn in this movie is when I realized I was gay.”

Waverly blinked at her dazed for a moment, popcorn tub smashed between them. “Really?”

Nicole nodded, “I told Chris I was going to marry her someday.”

“You brought me here to make out in front of your future wife?” Waverly teased, licking her lips.

“Just wanted you to know your competition,” Nicole said leaning back in to kiss Waverly again.

”I guess you know what you’re doing-”

***

The Valentine seemed to be looking up at Nicole mockingly. The cowboy and the horse were mocking her, she was sure. Though she didn’t blame them. She was the one standing outside of Waverly’s dorm at a time when she knew she was in class. It was Valentine’s Day and Nicole had been avoiding both Waverly and Jesse.

Jesse asked her out for the holiday the day before, but Nicole made an excuse saying she had a paper to write. She had been tempted to go out with Jesse just to give her something to do, but after Waverly’s rejection she decided she’d rather sit in her dorm and listen to records.

She told herself she wasn’t moping. Nicole just...wanted some alone time. Without girls who made her feel confusing things. But she had already bought the Valentine for Waverly so...she might as well leave it. Right?

Sliding the card into the envelope, Nicole ran her tongue over the glue to seal it shut. She made a face at the bitter taste and stuck the card into the small spot between the door and frame. Looking at it, she considered sticking it back in her coat and going back to her dorm. She thought about the second card sitting on her desk that she bought thinking she might give it to Jesse...but now she just wanted to burn them both.

Nicole turned on her heels and quickly began walking out of the dorms before she changed her mind.

Waverly didn’t want to spend Valentine’s Day with her. Fine. Nicole could be fine with that. They weren’t exclusive like Waverly kept reminding her. It was why Nicole was still seeing Jesse. Even if she felt a little dirty after every date with her. Then she’d feel guilty for feeling dirty.

Jesse was just so nice and sweet and Nicole really really liked kissing her. Her only downfall was that she wasn’t Waverly. And Waverly had stolen Nicole’s heart months ago. Even though she hardly ever admitted it to herself. Each time Waverly brought up how they weren’t exclusive, Nicole’s skin would itch just a little bit.

Waverly wasn’t kissing anyone else. She wasn’t dating anyone else. Nicole knew this for a fact. Then why would it be such a big thing to say they should just date...each other? Only?

Nicole was back in her dorm before she even realized it, toeing off her boots and shrugging her jacket off. She draped it over the post of her bed and walked over to the record player. She flicked half heartedly through the records before picking one. Flipping the vinyl once between her palms, she placed it on the player and lowered the arm in the middle of the record.

You'll never know how much I really love you. You'll never know how much I really care-

She flopped onto the bed on her stomach, hair falling over her face. Her throat tightened and it was hard to swallow. Nerves bundled in her stomach and she tried not to think about the possibility that she was letting herself be played again.

Her and Waverly were basically exclusive. Save for Jesse. They spent most of their free time together and held hands and kissed. Nicole groaned into her pillow and tried not to think about it. She especially tried not to think about the Valentine on her desk that was intended for another girl.

It made her wonder if Waverly was just biding her time until she was tired of Nicole and could move on to someone else. Maybe Nicole was wasting her time after all. She turned onto her back and looked up at the ceiling.

“What have you gotten yourself into, Haught?” Nicole mumbled to herself as the song played softly in the background.

Let me whisper in your ear. Say the words you long to hear. I'm in love with you oo-

***

Nicole had told Jesse she was working on a paper. Which wasn’t a complete lie. She did have a paper due, but not until next week. At least now she could get a jump on it and hopefully not have to worry about it later. Now she had the perfect evening to herself. Moping and studying. Well, maybe not perfect. But enough to keep her mind off the fact that Waverly did not want to spend this particular day with her.

Laying on her stomach, Nicole had her book and notebook laid in front of her on the bed. Rosita was gone, Nicole wasn’t sure where to but she didn’t mind. It meant she could play whatever music she wanted.

There was a soft knock at her door and Nicole crawled off the bed to answer it. She wondered who it could be. Maybe Wynonna trying to get her drunk or an RA dropping off candy for the poor saps alone for Valentine’s Day. She opened the door and stopped in surprise. Jesse was standing on the other side with a shy smile and arms full of food. Nicole blinked at her for a moment before a small smile crawled over her face.

“Hey,” Jesse said a little nervously, “I know you said you were busy so I just wanted to drop some things off with you.”

Once Nicole got over her shock, she remembered her wardrobe and looked down at her small red track shorts and white undershirt. She blushed and rubbed the back of her neck.

“Sorry, I...wasn’t expecting anyone,” Nicole said softly.

“Don’t apologize you look-” Jesse’s eyes darted down to Nicole’s legs and she let out a sigh, “-cute.”

Nicole blushed even deeper and stepped aside, “Want to come in?”

Jesse shook her head, “No, you’re busy. I’m intruding I just wanted to give you these.”

She began handing the snacks in her arms to Nicole. She chuckled as she took them and shook her head. Her heart swelled in affection as the other girl handed her the food, noticing all of her favorites in there. She suddenly felt bad for telling her she couldn’t go anywhere with her today. She was sweet and obviously cared for her. Nicole cared for her too, her only flaw was that she wasn’t Waverly. And that wasn’t fair to her. Especially if Waverly was reluctant about being with Nicole anyways.

“Jesse, you’re not intruding I could use a break,” Nicole said softly, giving Jesse her best pleading eyes, “Come in? Please? Help me eat this massive amount of snacks?”

The dark haired girl set one final thing on top of the pile in Nicole’s arms with a small smile. It was a red envelope with her name on it in neat writing. Nicole blushed and tilted her head for the other girl to come in.

“Fine,” Jesse conceded walking in, “But only for a little bit. I don’t want to be blamed for distracting you.”

Nicole kicked the door closed behind her and walked over to the bed, dumping the snacks on it as Jesse scooted onto it, back against the wall. Nicole crawled up next to her so that both of their backs were against the wall, arms touching. She held the envelope up and looked at the blushing girl.

“Can I open this now?” Nicole asked.

“If you want,” Jesse shrugged. Nicole carefully opened the envelope and pulled out a card with a drawing of an orange kitten on it holding a heart.

‘You are puuuuuuurfect’

“It looks like you,” Jesse said pointing at the cat’s face, “You’re both ginger.”

Nicole felt her entire body flush and she looked over at Jesse who was blushing just as much. Without thinking, Nicole leaned down a little awkwardly since they were sitting next to each other and kissed Jesse. She felt the dark haired girl smile against her lips.

“You like it?” Jesse asked softly.

“Yes,” Nicole said pulling away just enough to look into light eyes, “Thank you. Oh, wait.”

Nicole crawled off the bed quickly where she had hidden the Valentine she got with the puppy on it. It was always intended for Jesse, but she decided against it when she started her moping plan. But now that Jesse was here and had given her one...well...there was no point hiding it away, right?

She took it and walked back over to the bed, sitting back next to Jesse with her back against the wall. She held it back out to Jesse with her own small smile, nerves tight in her stomach. But as soon as Jesse smiled, she felt the knot loosen.

“It’s really cute. Thank you.”

Jesse smiled widely and Nicole was blinded by it. Nicole leaned back in and kissed the other girl again. Jesse began to lean back and twisted her body so that Nicole was laying on top of her, their lips never parting. Her elbows pushed into the mattress on either side of Jesse who’s hands were running up and down the redhead’s back. Nicole pushed her books out of the way and onto the floor, not caring where they landed with a thud.

“I thought you had to write a paper,” Jesse whispered between kisses.

“It can wait,” Nicole said connecting their lips again.

***

Waverly’s hips bumped against Nicole’s and she sighed against the shorter girl’s mouth. She had walked into Nicole’s dorm a while ago under the guise of listening to records, but the brunette didn’t seem interested in that anymore. Waverly was leaning against Nicole’s desk and her fingers were tangled tightly into red hair, keeping Nicole’s head just where Waverly could reach her lips from her tiptoes. Nicole’s hands rested just on the swell of the other girl’s ass, pulling their bodies as close as possible.

They had a lovely evening. They went to dinner and a movie. All very typical. But Nicole would be content just sitting in the car and listening to the radio with Waverly. There was still the nagging feelings in the back of Nicole’s mind left over from Valentine’s Day but they were hard to pay attention to with Waverly’s nails scraping against her scalp. Even if Waverly hadn’t brought up the Valentine Nicole had left her.

Nicole began to place slow kisses down Waverly’s jaw until she could pull her earlobe between her teeth. Waverly groaned and cupped the back of Nicole’s neck. She scooted back so that she was sitting on the desk and moved her legs so that Nicole’s body could settle between them. Nicole felt the other girl’s deceptively long legs wrap around her waist and a shot of arousal went up her spine.

One of Waverly’s hands fell from her hair as Nicole continued to kiss down Waverly’s neck to the edge of her shirt collar.

“What’s this?” Waverly asked, her voice rumbling in her throat and vibrating in Nicole’s lips. The redhead pulled away to see what Waverly was talking about, her stomach dropping a little when she saw the Valentine with a kitten on it in her hand.

Nicole blushed, “Nothing.”

Waverly leaned back a little so she could old the Valentine between them, reading over the cheesy phrase. “Is this from Jesse?”

The words made Nicole bristle, “What does it matter?”

The brunette blinked at her, lips still swollen from their previous activity. “I was just asking. But I’ll take that as a yes.”

Nicole’s hands fell from Waverly and pressed flat to the wooden surface of the desk. She pressed so hard she could almost feel her pulse in them. Nicole could sense the jealousy in Waverly’s voice, the way she looked at the stupid piece of paper as she dropped it onto the desk.

“Waverly,” Nicole started, “I thought you were okay with me seeing other people.”

“I am,” Waverly said quickly, returning her arms to around Nicole’s neck, “But it’s not other people it’s...Jesse.”

Nicole shrugged, “I don’t really see the difference.”

Hazel eyes darted over her face for a moment. “I mean...it’s just one other person.”

“So you’d be happier if I was seeing a different girl every night?” Nicole said, unable to keep the edge out of her voice.

Waverly’s arms dropped from around her neck and she chuckled humorlessly. “Maybe.”

Nicole looked down at Waverly’s lap for a moment. It felt like her heart was in her throat and she knew what she wanted...had to say. Had to ask. For her own sanity.

“I’ve said it before but...if you’re...upset...we can be...exclusive,” Nicole mumbled.

She could feel Waverly go stiff, fingers curling over the edge of the desk. Nicole took a step back as if Waverly had physically slapped her. She stuffed her hands into her jacket pockets to prepare herself from the blow. Immediately she regretted saying anything.

“Nic, you know-...I just-...can’t,” Waverly said with a shrug. She forced a small smile, “Don’t love a wild thing. Right?”

Nicole couldn’t help but scoff, “Come on, Waverly.”

“What?” she asked sharply.

“You can’t get jealous of Jesse if you don’t want to be exclusive,” Nicole said.

“I’m not jealous,” Waverly insisted.

Nicole threw her hands to her side in frustration, “We’re practically girlfriends anyways, Waves.”

Waverly stood up from the desk, arms crossed tightly in front of her chest. “Stop trying to make me something I’m not,” Waverly said.

Nicole frowned, “I’m not-”

“You are, Nicole,” Waverly said, fire in her eyes, “I don’t ask you to be someone your not. I don’t ask you to stop obsessing over this stupid pointless war. To stop daydreaming about being over where thousands of innocent people die every day.”

Nicole’s chest tightened, “Don’t you fucking dare-”

“I don’t ask that of you, so don’t ask this of me,” Waverly said, voice shaking.

Nicole’s voice wavered, “You told me you were trying! Why would you even want to try in the first place if you were just going to fucking run the whole time?”

Waverly took a step closer to Nicole and for a moment she thought the shorter girl was going to slap her. “I’m not running.”

“Could have fooled me,” Nicole said weakly. She ran a hand through her hair, trying to calm down but just felt a fire reignite in her chest. Everything she had been thinking, feeling, everything she had been hiding away came spilling out. “You’re a fucking coward.”

Waverly looked like she had been slapped, “Excuse me-”

“Listen to me. For once,” Nicole said through her teeth, “You’re a coward. You’re scared of commitment and you’re afraid of getting hurt, but your just setting yourself up for pain anyways. You’re so afraid of people leaving you. But what are you going to do when you’re alone? Huh? What are you going to do when people stop trying with you? You’re just going to be sad and alone with no one to listen to your bullshit anymore.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Waverly spat.

“Don’t I?” Nicole asked flatly, “Then tell me I’m wrong.”

She looked at Waverly for a moment who just looked back, eyes shining with unshed tears. The redhead chuckled and shook her head, heart cracking with each beat. She walked towards her bed and laid on her back, refusing to look at the brunette. “That’s what I thought.”

Nicole felt Waverly lingering for a second before she quietly slipped out of the dorm. Nicole breathed deeply, her chest tightening with each intake of breath. Her breaths quickened, tears gathering in the corners of her eyes as she tried to keep herself under control. In a flash of anger, Nicole hit the wall. The pain that stung through her hand gave her an excuse to finally let the tears fall.

***

The engine of the Cadillac seemed to struggle as Nicole sat idling in the strip mall. She’d been sitting there for longer than she probably realized. Waverly hadn’t spoken to her since their argument but to be fair Nicole hadn’t tried to reach out to her either.

She ducked her head and looked at the sign looming above her.

Army Recruitment Center

Nicole drummed her fingers on the car steering wheel and leaned back against the seat with a sigh. Admittedly she hadn’t really thought about signing up for a couple of months.

Since Waverly, she thought dropping her head on the steering wheel.

Waverly.

Waverly would stiffen up and look like she was about to cry every time Nicole brought up joining. She always looked like she was biting her tongue, preventing something from spilling from her mouth. Nicole knew now, she had been avoiding the idea of enlisting since Waverly. Because of Waverly.

But now...now…

Well Waverly didn’t even want her. She didn’t want to commit to being Nicole’s girlfriend so what was holding her back? Nothing. She should have never let Waverly distract her to begin with. But now it seemed Waverly didn’t even want to talk to her anymore.

Fine.

Whatever confusing thing they had going on was done. She turned off the car and the engine basically sighed in relief. The midday sun was beating down on the asphalt and reflecting back up at her. Rolling her shoulders, she walked up to the door and looked at the soldier smiling back at her with a far too wide grin.

She nodded once and pushed the door open. She stepped onto dingy linoleum, the sound of a sputtering air conditioning surrounding her. There were a few desks shoved around, but one one was occupied.

The occupant of the desk was staring down at some papers and as Nicole got used to the loud air conditioning, she began to hear the radio. The familiar tinny voice came through the speakers.

When I said I needed you, you said you would always stay. It wasn't me who changed but you and now you've gone away-

Despite the chilly air filtering down on her, Nicole’s shirt stuck uncomfortably to her chest. She plucked at it and slowly began towards the man.

“Hello?”

He looked up quickly, eyes wide. “Woah, you’re quiet.”

Nicole blushed in embarrassment but he scratched at the top of his buzzcut head with a smile.

You don't have to say you love me just be close at hand. You don't have to stay forever I will understand.

“Take a seat,” he said gesturing to the metal chair in front of his desk. Nicole wiped her hands on her jeans and took the few step forwards to sit. The seat creaked under her as she adjusted. He folded his hands in front of him and looked her over.

“So, how can I help ya?” he said in a slight drawl.

Nicole licked her lips and smiled shakily at him. “I...want to enlist.”

Believe me, believe me I can't help but love you. But believe me I'll never tie you down-

Chapter Text

Uncle Sam looked back at her, finger practically in her face even from the poster. Her mattress bounced underneath her as she adjusted a little, taking a deep breath. She moved the propaganda to the bottom of the paper pile to expose the enlistment papers underneath. She sighed and looked at them, half filled out.

The recruitment officer had told her to sign up after she had graduated. It would give her a higher rank and paycheck in the long run. The edges of the papers were wrinkled from her sweaty hands and she tried to smooth them out over her leg.

It felt more real now. The only difference was the paperwork but...it felt like a step forward. Certainly more than she had when she was stagnant in her desire to enlist. Now she was one step closer. The idea made her stomach clench from nerves a little, but she also felt the thrill of excitement along her spine.

She would be a soldier soon. Just like her brother.

Licking her lips, she carefully put the papers between some books on her desk. Her chest puffed out a little in pride when she caught herself in the reflection of her mirror, the ‘Haught’ name patch on her chest standing out. She was going to do it. She was going to make her brother proud.

***

“I’ll bet you a Coke that a red shirt dies in this episode,” Jesse said looking up at Nicole from her lap. Nicole looked down at the dark haired girl and brushed some hair from her face.

“You’re on,” she said with a smirk, “Hope you’re not a sore loser.”

Jesse just scoffed and got more comfortable on Nicole’s lap. It had been about a week since she had talked to Waverly. Wynonna kept telling Nicole that her sister was just stomping around and being an ass, but Nicole told her she didn’t want to listen. Nicole had put all her cards on the table. She wanted Waverly to be her girlfriend, she wanted to be exclusive. She didn’t want to play this game where the two of them just floated around each other with nothing to ground them. Nicole wanted to be that for Waverly and for Waverly to be that for her. But the brunette didn’t want that. And if she didn’t, well...Nicole was tired of wasting her time.

That being said, Nicole missed Waverly. Really really missed Waverly. She missed her smile, the way she laughed, how her skin felt beneath her fingers...the only time she really didn’t miss Waverly was...well when she was with Jesse.

Jesse was as sweet and pretty as always. Nicole would find herself getting lost in her eyes, falling into them and never wanting to crawl out. Over the week Waverly had been absent from her life, Nicole realized that she could be with Jesse. Really be with her. She was more than just a pretty face. The whole thing made Nicole’s mind all jumbled, her thoughts a mess. But she tried not to think about it.

Nicole let herself zone out, eyes focused on the television and whatever drama was happening on the screen. Her arm rested on Jesse’s stomach and the other girl was playing idly with her fingers.

She didn’t even notice when the door to the common room opened until Jesse sat up a little and squeezed her hand. “Um, Nic.”

Nicole looked over, stomach dropping when she saw Waverly. The brunette looked between Jesse and Nicole with an awkward smile on her face, hands clasped in front of her. Jesse sat up on the couch and let Nicole’s hand slip from her grasp. The redhead breathed a sigh of relief at the action despite herself.

“Hey,” Waverly said licking her lips, “I um...thought I might find you here.”

“You did,” Nicole said pushing some hair behind her ear.

“I uh...wanted to talk,” Waverly trailed off, eyes on the television set, “I thought you might be alone.”

Nicole felt a small flare of irritation but it was quickly quelled by Jesse placing a reassuring hand over her own. She sighed.

“Waverly, I...now isn’t the time,” Nicole said with a shake of her head.

Jesse turned to her and whispered, “It’s okay, you know. You can talk to her I’ll leave-”

“No,” Nicole said quickly before looking back at Waverly, “I-...can we talk later?”

“Only if you promise,” Waverly said crossing her arms in front of her chest, “That we’ll actually talk and you won’t keep avoiding me.”

“I’m not-” Nicole bit her tongue and rubbed the back of her neck, “Yeah. I’ll...tomorrow?”

Waverly brightened a little, “Lunch?”

Nicole nodded and Waverly smiled softly, “Groovy. I’ll um...see you tomorrow.”

She turned and walked out of the room. As the door clicked shut, Nicole let out a sigh she didn’t realize she was holding. Jesse leaned into her side, hand smoothing over her stomach and bringing Nicole’s attention to her. There was something in Jesse’s eyes that Nicole couldn’t read so she kissed her gently instead.

“Sorry about that,” Nicole said softly before kissing her again, “I um...wasn’t expecting her to come here like that.”

Jesse shook her head, “It’s fine.” She was silent, eyes focused on Nicole before she spoke up again. “Can I...make an observation?”

Nicole bit her lip and nodded. “Um...yeah.”

“Waverly realizes she was wrong.”

Nicole scoffed and looked back towards the television, draping her arm over Jesse’s shoulders. “Waverly would never admit she was wrong.”

Jesse squeezed her to get her attention back. Nicole looked back at her somewhat reluctantly, tight smile on her face. “Nic, you have to give her a chance to apologize.”

The redhead sighed and kissed the other woman’s forehead. “Why do you have to be so observant?”

“Don’t deflect,” Jesse said despite the smile on her face.

Nicole looked at Jesse, eyes darting over her face. She looked from her green eyes to the gentle slope of her nose, the way her lips were just so.

“You’re so pretty.”

“I said no deflecting,” Jesse whispered, blushing.

“I’m not.”

“You are.”

Nicole pecked Jesse’s lips lightly, “I’ll talk to her tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” Jesse said kissing the corner of Nicole’s mouth. She smiled at the taller girl and snuggled back into her shoulder as a red shirt was evaporated. Nicole groaned and Jesse chuckled. “Also, you owe me a Coke.”

***

Nicole didn’t meet Waverly the next day.

She thought about it, standing in front of Waverly’s dorm. But that morning, Jesse had met her for coffee and well...she changed everything.

“Nicole,” Jesse had said, “I know you’re busy and I don’t want an answer right now but...I want you to be my girlfriend.”

Nicole’s heart was in her throat and thinking about making a decision made her sick. And she knew that if she had knocked on Waverly’s door, she would have said no to Jesse. Waverly had a way of making Nicole bend to her will by just existing.

And Nicole wanted to give Jesse a fighting chance. She wanted to be able to think about it before she told her yes or no. So that meant not meeting Waverly.

She spent the whole day humming the words to a song that had been stuck in her head for almost a week.

***

“Ow, shi-...shoot,” Nicole cursed to herself, looking at the reddening mark on her finger where the file cabinet had pinched her. She shoved the file in it’s correct spot with a little more force than necessary.

“You got it there, Haught?” Nedley said from his office.

“Yes, sir,” Nicole said as she reached for another file. The radio played softly in the corner, a familiar song on.

Tonight you're mine, completely. You give your love so sweetly-

Nicole hummed along as she worked. The sound of Nedley’s utility belt jingling signaled to Nicole that the Sheriff was coming out of his office. He stood in the doorway next to the cabinet Nicole was working at with a coffee cup in his hand. It looked old and lumpy, like something a child would make with ‘#1 Dad’ written on it messily.

“You’ve only been working here a couple of weeks, but you have some real potential,” Nedley said taking a long sip from his mug.

“Thank you, Sheriff,” Nicole said as she put the file in it’s proper place and reached for another.

“Have you considered working here after school?” he asked almost casually.

Nicole smiled politely and placed another file away. “I actually have other plans for after graduation.”

“You still enlisting after school?” Nedley asked.

Nicole nodded, “Yes, sir. It’s something I promised my brother I’d do.”

Nedley nodded, “You stick by your word. I admire that.”

The redhead thought about how she stood Waverly up the day before and blushed to herself. She didn’t stick by her word all the time, obviously...but Nedley didn’t need to know that. The older man lingered and Nicole could feel him wanting to say something else. She kept her eyes trained on the files she was organizing. It wasn’t a secret that most people didn’t approve of her going into the Army, but she was tired of hearing it around every corner.

The bell above the door rang, signaling that someone was coming into the office. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Nedley straighten up.

“Oh, hello, Waverly,” he said. Nicole felt the color drain from her face and she kept working on the task at hand, eyes straight ahead. “What can I help you with?”

“I actually came to see Nicole. If you can spare her that is,” Waverly said in a sweet voice.

“Of course,” Nedley said before clapping Nicole on the shoulder, “Go on, kid. You haven’t taken your break yet.”

“No, sir, I can keep-”

“I don’t wanna hear it,” Nedley said with a sniff, “I appreciate the work ethic, but you deserve a break.”

Nicole sighed and chanced a look over at Waverly. With the way the sunlight was streaming through the front windows of the station, the edges of Waverly’s hair lit up like a halo. Nicole felt her breath catch in her throat at the sight and silently cursed herself. She set down the file she had in her hands and walked slowly passed Waverly and outside. She leaned against the building just out of sight of the windows, arms crossed over her chest.

She looked down at her feet but could feel Waverly’s eyes on her.

“You didn’t come yesterday,” Waverly began.

Nicole rubbed the back of her neck with a sigh, “Sorry.”

“Are you?”

“Yes.”

Silence hung between them for another moment and Nicole felt her throat tighten with nerves in each passing second. She couldn’t bring herself to look at Waverly. There was the shame from ditching Waverly, but also she was almost afraid to look at her. It was like the other girl held a spell over her.

“Waverly,” Nicole said softy, finally looking up at the other girl, “I’m sorry for not coming last night but...can we talk later?”

Waverly blinked at her, “You really think I trust you to meet me after yesterday?”

The words stung, but Nicole knew they were true. She sighed and ran a hand through her hair, making it stand up in weird angles.

“Fine, can you wait for me? I only have an hour left in my shift,” Nicole relented.

Nicole saw Waverly trying to hold back a smile and she nodded. “Yes. I’ll wait for you. As long as you need.”

A chill ran up Nicole’s spine at the words and she felt her resolve melt a little.

“Waves-”

“Nic, can I just...I missed you,” Waverly said taking a step closer to the redhead.

Nicole hung her head and looked up at Waverly with a sad smile, “I missed you too.”

***

Nicole walked out of the Sheriff’s office, the sun immediately warming her. She took a deep breath and looked around for her car. It was in the same spot she left it, except this time Waverly sat in the passenger’s seat.

Waverly’s eyes met her own immediately, the brunette smiling hesitantly. Nicole’s stomach twisted in nerves and she began to walk the half block to her car. She slid into the car without looking over at Waverly and sighed. She kept staring straight ahead trying to organize the thousands of thoughts going through her head.

Waverly wanted to talk. Fine. Jesse wanted to be girlfriends. Officially. Fine.

There was the jingle of keys and Nicole saw Waverly holding out her keys to her from the corner of her eyes. Nicole took them carefully and started the car, radio blasting.

She gives my everything, and tenderly. The kiss my lover brings-

She turned it down and started driving back towards the campus. They sat in silence, but in her peripherals Nicole could see Waverly’s hands fidgeting in her lap. Her own hands twitched, the need to cover them with her own almost unbearable. Instead she rubbed the back of her neck until they got to Waverly’s dorm.

The silence continued as they parked and walked up to the dorm. As soon as the door closed, Waverly took Nicole’s sleeve and led her to the bedroom. Wynonna was laying on the bed flipping through one of Waverly’s books.

She rolled her eyes. “Oh thank goodness. Waves, you’ve been gone for-” she spotted Nicole behind her sister and her mouth formed a silent ‘o’, “Ah, well. I have a feeling things are gonna be dramatic in here so. I’ll be in my room.”

Wynonna winked at Nicole as she passed, squeezing her shoulder and closing the door behind her. Nicole forced a smile at the eldest Earp and just stood behind Waverly, waiting for her to say something.

Waverly turned and so they could look at each other, both standing awkwardly. Nicole shoved her hands in her pocket and looked around the room.

“Nicole,” Waverly said, “can we sit?”

She just shrugged and Waverly hopped up on the bed. She pat the space next to her and Nicole found herself shuffling forward to sit next to her. Again they sat in silence.

Nicole thought about how many times they’d laid on this bed and made out. When they were tangled together. No other care in the world. Well. Except for Nicole’s constant voice in the back of her head going on about Waverly getting tired of her and leaving.

“So,” Waverly said, bringing Nicole from her thoughts.

“So,” Nicole repeated.

“I’ve been thinking,” Waverly said folding her hands in her lap. Nicole put her hands under her thighs and stared at her boots.

“What have you been thinking about?” Nicole asked.

Waverly sighed and tucked some hair behind her ear. “I’ve been dumb,” she whispered, “I-...you know how sometimes things scare you? Even when you know you want them so badly it hurts?”

Nicole chanced a look at the brunette, “I scare you?”

“Yes-...well...no, kinda,” Waverly said turning to face Nicole, legs folded in front of her, “My whole life the only thing I’ve known is that people leave me. My mom, Daddy and Willa...Wynonna...they left me. I invest too much in them and then they break my heart.”

“Kinda like what you did to me?” Nicole said with a humorless chuckle.

Waverly sighed, “I...deserved that.”

The silence fell over them again and Nicole resigned. “Sorry I...you were talking about things that scared you.”

“Can you face me?” Waverly asked timidly, “I just want to look you in the face.”

Nicole made a show of folding her legs in front of her on the bed and facing the brunette. A small amused smile graced her lips and she wiped her hands off on her jeans.

“Better?”

“Yes,” Waverly said gently brushing her fingers over Nicole’s knee. The small touch made Nicole flush and she looked at her own hands in her lap. She couldn’t help but feel hopeful. That was the trap she always got in with Waverly. The stubborn hope that would cling to her heart every time she looked at the other girl. The hope that maybe this time everything would be different.

Waverly scooted forward until their knees were pressed together. She placed her hands lightly on Nicole’s knees.

“Where was I?” she sighed.

“I think you were telling me why I scare you,” Nicole said, the corner of her mouth twitching in a smile.

Hazel eyes shined as they looked back up into brown. “You don’t scare me. You terrify me,” Waverly said.

Nicole’s heart sank, “What every girl loves to hear.”

“No, listen, I-...you terrify me because…” Waverly sighed in frustration and squeezed her eyes shut like she was thinking, “Do you ever just want something so badly that it feels like if you don’t get it you’ll die but if you do you’ll die too?”

Nicole looked at Waverly, brown eyes on hazel. The silence between them said more than either of them ever could.

“Yeah, I might know something about that,” Nicole whispered.

Waverly licked her lips and squeezed Nicole’s knees.

“When I was little, we had an unusually cold winter and the lake near our house froze over. My sister Willa threw my favorite stuffed rabbit out on the ice and told me I had to go get it,” Waverly’s fingers began to absently stroke Nicole’s knees as she talked, “I was terrified but my Mamma had given him to me and I...couldn’t bear to leave him out there. So I went to get him. And when I did I...fell through the ice.”

Nicole covered Waverly’s hands with her own. She smiled up at her as she took a shaky breath.

“You’re my Mr. Rabbit,” Waverly said, “And as much as I want to go out there I’m afraid of falling through the ice again and-...it almost killed me once.”

“How’d you get out of the ice?” Nicole asked.

“Wynonna. She pulled me out,” Waverly said.

“There are always people who will pull you out,” Nicole said carefully, “There will always be a Wynonna. And sometimes...things are worth the risk. You can live your life safe on land and just look out on the ice wishing you were brave enough to go out there.” Nicole licked her lips nervously and let out a short chuckle. “I’m not saying I’m worth the risk, just-“

“But that’s what I’m trying to say,” Waverly interrupted, “You’re worth the risk. You’re worth falling through the ice.”

Nicole was sure her heart had stopped in her chest. She stayed looking at their hands. She tried not to read too much into Waverly’s words. The brunette turned her hands over so their palms were touching. Her fingers traced gentle patterns over Nicole’s wrist and brown eyes finally found hazel.

“I want to be with you,” Waverly said, “Officially. I want to be your girlfriend. I...realized the idea of losing you without trying is worse than never trying at all.”

The redhead just stared at the other girl. Her heart stuttered with that foolish hope again, mind racing. Could she trust Waverly this time? It had been so easy for Waverly to change her mind before and drag Nicole along with her.

“Waves,” Nicole said, “I can’t-...You think you don’t terrify me? Since I first saw you I knew you were special to me. I just...didn’t know how. And I-...it would hurt less to never have you than-...”

Nicole hung her head. She wanted to say yes. God, she wanted to say yes.

Waverly ducked her head, forcing Nicole to look at her, “I promise, I’m not going to just change my mind. Okay? I’m in this. I’m all in.”

Nicole squeezed Waverly’s hands, eyes shining with emotion as she looked at the other girl. Her heart felt a little lighter, blood rushing through her ears. Waverly was all in. All in on her, on them.

“You can’t say that if you don’t mean it,” Nicole said. It was another chance for Waverly to back out, to change her mind before Nicole got too invested.

Waverly’s hand left Nicole’s knee to cup her chin, thumb brushing over her cheekbone. “I would never just say that.”

Nicole leaned into her touch and smiled, “Then...I’m all in too.”

She said it like she had never been all in. Like there had been some semblance of doubt in her heart that Waverly wasn’t everything to her. She could pretend all she wanted that she could walk away from Waverly at anytime but she knew it wasn’t true.

Waverly’s smile got wider. “Really?”

Nicole nodded, her own smile matching Waverly’s. The brunette threw her arms around Nicole’s neck, tackling her backwards onto the bed in a hug. The redhead chuckled and circled her arms around Waverly’s waist. The brunette’s head was on Nicole’s shoulder. As she breathed the fine hairs on the top of Waverly’s head tickled her nose but Nicole could hardly care. They just laid like that for a moment, their breathing syncing as they just soaked each other in.

Nicole was sure her heart would float right out of her chest if Waverly wasn’t laying on her right now, weighing her down. She looked at the pictures on Waverly’s wall and noticed the Valentine with a cowboy tacked up right above where her head rested on the pillow. Nicole blushed and reached up to touch it softly.

“You kept it,” she whispered.

“Of course I did,” Waverly said running her hands through red hair.

Nicole kissed the top of Waverly’s head and the younger girl lifted herself on her elbows so she could look her in the eye.

“So...this means we’re girlfriends, right?” Waverly said with a shy smile, “I can call you my girlfriend?”

The reality of the situation hit Nicole and she smiled widely, “Yeah. I think that’s what that means.”

Waverly squeaked in excitement and leaned forward to kiss Nicole.

It was like kissing her for the first time.

Warmth bloomed in Nicole’s chest, making her heart impossibly light and her hair stand on end. She could feel the kiss all the way down to her toes.

“Hey, love bugs.”

Waverly pulled away with an apologetic smile and looked over at her roommate. “Hey, Chrissy.”

“I’m glad you guys worked it out,” she said with a smirk as she walked in and sat on her own bed. Waverly pressed her face into Nicole’s neck with a blush. She wrapped her arms around the smaller girl protectively and kissed the side of her head. “You two,” Chrissy cooed.

“Let’s go out in the living room,” Waverly whispered against Nicole’s neck. The sensation made the redhead shiver as she nodded. As soon as Waverly got up, Nicole felt the loss. But she followed Waverly into the living room anyways and sat on the couch. Waverly went over to the record player and started it before walking over to the redhead. Instead of sitting next to her like she expected, Waverly sat with her knees on either side of Nicole’s hips so she could straddle her. Nicole flushed as Waverly’s skirt moved higher up her thighs when she sat in Nicole’s lap.

Without another word, Waverly leaned forward and kissed Nicole again as she thread her hands together behind her neck. Nicole breathed harshly through her nose, hands running up Waverly’s back as they kissed.

It all felt like a dream. An absolute dream that Waverly was here and her girlfriend. There was still that trepidation, that small trip of doubt in her mind. But Waverly had her heart. She’d had it since the start.

Waverly curled her tongue with Nicole’s and sucked it into her mouth. Nicole felt arousal begin deep in her belly, especially as Waverly’s mouth moved over her jaw.

“Nicole,” Waverly said thickly, her mouth moving like honey over her neck, “Make love to me.”

Nicole groaned, her hands smoothing up the front of Waverly’s firm thighs. She felt so soft and so warm to the touch. Nicole curled her hands around the back of Waverly’s thighs, her fingers just barely brushing the soaked cotton of her underwear. She nearly choked at the feeling and Waverly pushed down into Nicole’s hands.

Licking her lips, Nicole gasped when Waverly scraped her teeth just under her collarbone. Her hands flexed on Waverly’s thighs, pulling her body even closer so her hips pressed against Nicole’s stomach. Nicole let her hands drift along the soft skin of Waverly’s inner thighs and pressed up into the crotch of her panties. Waverly’s hips jumped and her head dropped to Nicole’s shoulder.

Nicole kissed her exposed shoulder, running her tongue along the slope of her neck until she latched onto her pulse point. She sucked hard earning a moan from the girl above her, hips grinding into her hands. Nicole could feel the obscene way her panties stuck to her, heat shooting straight between her thighs and she bit a little too hard on the brunette’s neck.

Waverly didn’t seem to mind though, hands tightening in red locks as she pressed harder into Nicole’s hands.

“Nic,” Waverly practically choked, “I need you.”

“I know, baby,” Nicole said. Waverly put a single finger under Nicole’s chin and tipped it up to connect their lips again. The kiss was hard and knocked Nicole breathless. One hand left the back of Waverly’s thighs to the small of her back, just keeping her against her. Waverly began unbuttoning Nicole’s shirt, fingers moving clumsily as they kissed.

Nicole undid the zipper at the back of Waverly’s skirt and it pooled around her knees. Waverly stood up from the couch to kick it off and Nicole immediately missed her warmth. The brunette straddled Nicole’s thighs, sitting back against the tops of them to pull at the leather of Nicole’s belt.

The taller girl let her eyes roam up Waverly’s legs, hands palming at her hips and pushing up the thin fabric of her shirt. Waverly stopped working on Nicole’s pants long enough to let the shirt be pushed over her head and fall on the floor.

Nicole took in the sight of Waverly in nothing but her panties, long hair tumbling over her shoulders, body flushed.

“You are a vision,” Nicole whispered.

Waverly blushed and ran her hands over Nicole’s breasts and chest, then over her shoulders to push the shirt off of her. Nicole quickly rid herself of the shirt and tossed it somewhere. Waverly’s hands were on her breasts almost immediately and Nicole tilted her head back against the couch, pants feeling tighter with each pinch and pull on her nipples. Nicole surged forward and brought their lips together again, her hands running up the smooth expanse of Waverly’s back.

Nicole kissed slowly down Waverly’s neck, pausing to suck at the mark already forming on her pulse point. The hand that wasn’t steadying Waverly between her shoulder blades danced along her stomach and over her breast. The brunette pushed her chest into Nicole’s hands, sure fingers rolling her nipple between two fingers.

Both of Waverly’s hands cupped either side of Nicole’s neck, hot breath panting in her ear as Nicole’s kisses moved over the curve of her breast. Nicole flattened her tongue against the breast she wasn’t cupping and pulled the nipple between her teeth.

“Fuck,” Waverly said holding Nicole’s head in place. She rolled her hips but found no friction in Nicole’s lap, a desperate whimper leaving her throat. Waverly’s fingers tickled over Nicole’s stomach, making the muscles jump as she began to pull at Nicole’s jeans that hung open around her waist.

Nicole lifted her hips and let Waverly push them down as far as she could before she kicked them off the rest of the way. They got caught on her ankle but Nicole couldn’t bring herself to care with the little pants coming from Waverly’s lips as she sucked and nibbled on the pebbled flesh. She released Waverly’s nipple with a ‘pop’, the flesh shiny with her spit, and moved to the other.

“You’re so beautiful,” Nicole breathed against Waverly’s chest.

Waverly moved her hands from Nicole’s hair to push down her own underwear. Nicole pulled back a little, her hands covering Waverly’s. She looked up at the brunette, hazel eyes meeting brown. Waverly leaned their foreheads together, her fingers tracing Nicole’s jawline. As her fingers passed Nicole’s lips, the redhead dipped her head to try and catch her fingers with her tongue.

Nicole hooked her fingers into Waverly’s panties and pulled them down until Waverly could shimmy them off the rest of the way. She smoothed her hands all up Waverly’s sides uninterrupted for the first time, her skin like fire under her hands. Waverly lifted herself up on her knees to press their bodies together and so she was slightly above Nicole. Their kisses started as soft, barely there whispers and grew more desperate with each second. Teeth pulling at lips and tongues meeting.

Nicole could feel the heat of Waverly’s body against her own and it stroked the fire deep in her, making her burn hotter and hotter as her hands roamed every inch of Waverly’s skin that they could reach.

Her head was tipped back against the back of the couch, Waverly with her head over her and her hair falling around them in a curtain. It felt like they were in their own little world. Even if in reality they were in Waverly’s dorm living room. Nicole scraped her nails from the inside of Waverly’s knee up to the apex of her thighs, feeling the wetness dripping down Waverly’s thighs. Waverly’s body shuddered and she pressed her hips into Nicole, seeking any kind of friction she could get.

Their breath mingled together, lips barely brushing as Nicole slowly ran her fingers through the curls at the apex of Waverly’s thighs. She listened to each little hitch and pant that fell from parted lips. She heard the nearly inaudible whine when she ran her fingers through slick folds, feeling Waverly’s fingers tighten in her hair.

Slowly she began to circle her clit, Waverly’s hips making gentle movements to mirror her. Nicole kissed down Waverly’s throat, the movements of her hand never ceasing, to lick and suck her collarbone. Waverly breathed harshly through her nose as she moved her hips against Nicole’s fingers. She moved her hips forward to get Nicole’s fingers pressing against her entrance in a not so subtle hint.

Nicole couldn’t help but smirk and let two fingers slowly circle the other girl’s entrance. Waverly moaned and her nails scratched lightly at Nicole’s scalp. A feeling that made the redhead’s body explode in goosebumps, the pounding between her thighs even more evident. Waverly leaned down and kissed Nicole, stealing the breath from her lungs as she sunk down on two of her fingers. Nicole groaned into the other girl’s mouth as she felt the heat envelope her.

Waverly gasped, hips jolting when she practically sat in Nicole’s palm. Nicole held her hip and leaned back against the back of the couch as Waverly began to move her hips. She licked her lips and swallowed thickly, her eyes not knowing where to look. Where Waverly’s hips moved against her fingers, on her breasts that were moving so deliciously and just within mouth’s reach or on her face where her eyebrows were knit together in concentration. The edge of her hairline darkened as sweat gathered there.

Nicole decided to place soft kisses on the underside of Waverly’s jaw as she moved. The brunette found her rhythm as her hips rose and fell. Nicole moved her thumb so that it could circle her clit in time with her hip movements.

“Baby,” Waverly said kissing the redhead, “Y-you’re mine.”

Something warm bloomed in Nicole’s chest, her heart practically exploding as she nodded and returned the kiss. “Yours, Waves, all yours.”

Waverly’s movements became more erratic as she ground harder down on Nicole’s fingers and the redhead’s fingers dug harder into the flesh of her hips. The brunette moaned into Nicole’s mouth. She slid her hand up Waverly’s back, pulling her closer as she moved her fingers to match the other girl’s movements. Her jaw unhinged in a moan as Nicole hit a particularly sensitive spot. Nicole curled her fingers so that the pads of her fingers brushed the spot over and over and Waverly moved on top of her.

“M-more,” Waverly managed as she pulled Nicole’s bottom lip between her teeth. Nicole nodded and increased her pace. Waverly’s body pressed completely into her, arms on either side of Nicole’s neck. Her hands still raking through her hair and grasping like she was looking for something to ground her. Nicole could feel Waverly’s arousal dripping down her wrist and it only spurred her on as she pushed up into her. She kissed along Waverly’s shoulder and bit down on the sensitive part where her neck and shoulder met.

Waverly let out a high pitched moan, head thrown back to expose her throat. Nicole kissed the base of her neck until Waverly bent her head to kiss Nicole deeply. She felt Waverly’s movements get more erratic, her rhythm faltering as she fluttered around Nicole’s fingers. She tightened the circles around Waverly’s clit as she held her close.

Their tongues tangled, Nicole’s wrist aches but god was Waverly beautiful when she came.

The way her face screwed up in concentration and fingers twisted in Nicole’s hair...how her swollen lips parted in the prettiest moan.

Nicole had it bad.

She kissed Waverly through her orgasm, her hand still moving to coach her through it.

Waverly’s fingers loosened in Nicole’s hair and her breathing evened out. Their kisses turned slow until just their foreheads were pressed together and they breathed the other in. Waverly’s eyes fluttered open and a slow smile spread over her face. Nicole couldn’t help but smile back and peck the end of the brunette’s nose.

Waverly sighed as Nicole moved her hand. She wiped it on her own boxers, trying to ignore the pounding between her own legs and she wrapped her arms around Waverly.

Nicole pulled their chests flush together and groaned at the feeling of their overheated skin pressed together.

There was the dull thud of something hitting a wall and Wynonna yelled through the walls, “I get it! You’re getting laid! Shut up!”

The two stared at each other with wide eyes before dissolving into laughter. They tried to hush the other but just ended up laughing harder. Nicole shushed Waverly, pecking her lips until both of their giggles faded. Their kisses softened, a slow passion building back up between them. Waverly ran her hands down Nicole’s chest, taking a moment to cup her breasts before hooking her fingers in the band of Nicole’s boxers.

“Now,” Waverly said between kisses, “where were we before my sister interrupted?”

Nicole’s chuckle turned to a groan when Waverly’s hand slipped down to cup her heat.

“Shit,” Nicole hissed as Waverly’s fingers slipped through her folds. Her bones ached with need, almost breaking under it. Waverly kissed along Nicole’s jawline and flicked her earlobe with her tongue before kissing down her neck. Her kisses went over her chest, stopping to pay attention to Nicole’s nipples. Pleasure assaulted her body with Waverly’s small fingers circling her clit and her mouth on her breast.

It had been...a while. Lately Nicole felt like a giant ball of sexual tension with Waverly and well...with Jesse. She hesitated to say nothing had ever felt like this but...nothing had ever felt like this. Like being with Waverly. It was like each touch sent a jolt of electricity through her and every nerve was on end.

Waverly’s kisses moved over her ribs and stomach as she slowly inched herself onto the floor until she was kneeling between Nicole’s legs. From the awkward angle she had to move her hand from the apex of Nicole’s thighs and she sighed at the loss. Nicole managed to open her eyes long enough to see Waverly’s fingers, shiny with her come, trail over her stomach and kiss along the path. Waverly’s mouth was hot against her stomach, tongue peeking out to taste her skin.

Waverly looked up at Nicole as she hooked her fingers in the waistband of Nicole’s underwear and began to pull them down over her legs. Nicole helped as much as she could without kicking Waverly until they were thrown to some unknown part of the room.

The brunette rested her cheek on Nicole’s thigh, big doe eyes looked up at her too innocently for the image of her kneeling between her legs. Waverly’s hand tickled the inside of Nicole’s thigh and Nicole raked her hand through brown hair.

“You’re real groovy, you know that?” Waverly said slowly kissing up the inside of Nicole’s thigh.

Nicole scooted a little deeper into the cushions and sighed, “If you say so, baby.”

“I do,” Waverly breathed, her hot breath tickling the crease of her thighs. She dipped her head, tongue barely touching Nicole’s heat but making her hips jump all the same.

“Baby,” Nicole sighed, her eyes fluttering shut again. She felt Waverly’s tongue flatten against her and her mind went blank. Not knowing what to do with her hands, Nicole fisted the fabric of the couch. One of Waverly’s arms rested across her hips to keep Nicole in place and the fingers of her other hand began to circle her entrance.

Nicole wished she could kiss Waverly. Especially when petite fingers sunk into her. But her mouth was doing such wonderful things she couldn’t dream of pulling her away in this moment. A knot deep in her stomach began to tighten. With each movement of Waverly’s tongue perfectly timed with her fingers, Nicole felt the knot get tighter and tighter. Coiling until it was on the edge of snapping. Her breathing became labored, eyes squeezed shut and hand blindly tangling in long brown hair.

Waverly moaned against her when Nicole tugged on her hair a little and shocks of pleasure jolted up Nicole’s spine. She whimpered as the string tightened, her whole body tensing. She could feel her lungs squeeze in her chest as she began to pant.

“W-Waves, I-,” she groaned, “I’m close.”

Waverly did something Nicole would call magic that made her whole body explode in pleasure. She felt liquid pleasure run through her veins and lights pop in front of her eyes. Nicole bit down on her own hand to hold back the moan threatening to bubble up from her throat. The last thing she needed was for Wynonna to come out here. All the pressure released like a hole in a dam and she felt her muscles loosen, sinking further into the couch.

Her mind when blank and she only came to when she felt soft kisses along her hips and stomach. Her hand fell from her mouth as she tried to catch her breath, hands loosening in Waverly’s hair. Eyes opened and she looked down at the the brunette who had a smirk on her face as she crawled back onto the couch and onto Nicole’s lap.

“Hey, baby,” Waverly said brushing some sweaty strands of hair from Nicole’s face. Nicole’s limbs felt like led in the best way. She let Waverly pepper her face in kisses as she came down from her high. Her body was warm, a thin layer of sweat over her skin as she circled her arms around Waverly’s waist. A gust of chilly air hit her skin and she shivered so Waverly pulled a blanket down from the back of the couch and draped it over them the best she could. Nicole couldn’t help the smile on her lips, especially with Waverly’s warm body pressed against her own.

“So this is what it’s like being your girlfriend, huh?” Nicole said with a gravelly voice.

Waverly giggled, “Guess so. What do you think?”

“Could be worse,” Nicole teased before Waverly hit her arm playfully. Nicole twisted and laid Waverly down on the couch so that she was hovering over her. The blanket pooled around their waists. Waverly ran her arms up and down Nicole’s arms and bit her lip.

“I never realized how strong you were,” Waverly said squeezing Nicole’s biceps.

“I bet there’s a few things you don’t know about me,” Nicole whispered as she leaned down to kiss Waverly softly.

Waverly’s arms circled her neck loosely as she hooked a leg around Nicole’s leg, heel digging into her calf. “Like what?”

“Like,” Nicole trailed off like she was thinking, looking away for a moment before looking back at Waverly. She placed hot open mouthed kisses down her neck and chest. “Like, I’m really good with my mouth.”

Waverly let out a breathy sigh that hit Nicole right between the legs.

“Maybe you should show me?”

“I plan on it, baby.”

***

Nicole awoke in the middle of the night, heart pounding. Her mind reeled as she tried to remember where she was. Her eyes adjusted to the dark and she saw Waverly sleeping soundly next to her. Her body relaxed and she laid back down on the pillow.

At some point in the night they had moved back to Waverly’s bedroom. Chrissy was sleeping in the bed on the opposite side of the room. Waverly had assured Nicole that she slept naked all the time and Chrissy wouldn’t mind. Nicole had been too spent to argue.

Waverly was laying on her stomach, arms crossed under her pillow. The blanket was bunched around her waist, leaving her back exposed. Nicole laid on her side and watched Waverly’s face for a moment.

This whole night had been...it felt amazing. But like a dream.

Waverly was her girlfriend. Finally. After everything. It felt like the other shoe would drop at any moment. She’d wake up and it’d be a dream or Waverly would change her mind. Nicole wasn’t sure which one would break her more. The song that’d been stuck in her head all week still ran in circles in her head. She didn’t even notice when she started singing softly.

”I'd like to know that your love, is a love I can be sure of.”

It scared her, setting herself up like this. Not knowing. She felt herself on the edge of a cliff ready to fall over the edge. Ready to fall into nothing. It was terrifying but exhilarating. Absolutely exhilarating.

Nicole gently brushed her fingers along Waverly’s exposed back, watching her muscles twitch in response as she did.

”So tell me now and I won't ask again, will you still love me tomorrow?”

***

Nicole took a deep breath and knocked on the familiar door. There was some shuffling on the other side before it opened and Jesse stood there. She smiled when she recognized Nicole.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey.” Nicole shifted awkwardly, hands deep in the pockets of her jacket.

Jesse looked at her, smile falling as she licked her lips. “I’d invite you in but...I have the feeling I know what you’re going to say and I’d rather make this as short as we could.”

The redhead felt her heart ache in her chest and she let out a shaky sigh. “Yeah...I um-”

“You talked to Waverly,” Jesse said flatly. She crossed her arms and leaned against the door frame.

“Yeah,” she said softly.

The silence hung between them, thick with tension. Nicole chanced a look at Jesse and saw her eyes shining with tears.

“You know what’s funny?” the dark hair girl said, “I had a feeling this would happen. When I told you to talk to her. I had a feeling but...I told you to anyways.”

Nicole chewed on the inside of her cheek and picked at her thumb in her pocket. Her throat was tight with emotion and she didn’t think she could talk if she wanted to.

“It’s better this way, though,” Jesse said with a nod, “I can see it. With you two. This was the right thing to do.”

“I’m sorry-”

“Don’t apologize,” Jesse said softly, “Seriously. It’s...it’s okay.”

Nicole looked at her for a moment, Jesse finally smiling at her sadly. “And don’t feed me that bullshit about wanting to be friends still.”

“But I do-”

“I know. Because you’re sweet. And we can be...someday. Just not right now...you understand. Right?” Jesse said pushing off the door frame with her shoulder and standing up straight.

Nicole nodded, “I understand.”

Jesse took a step forward and cupped Nicole’s cheek. The redhead couldn’t help but lean into her touch and offer her a small smile. Jesse smiled back and leaned up to peck her softly on the lips.

“I’ll miss you,” Nicole said with a useless shrug.

“I know,” Jesse said with a wink. She ran her thumb over Nicole’s cheekbone before dropping her hand and stepping back. “I’ll see you in class, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Nicole said watching as Jesse stepped back in her dorm and closed the door. She let out a long sigh as the tightness in her throat slowly dissipated. Her heart hurt just that little, but she turned and walked away anyways.

***

“Oh, I wasn’t expecting a call from you.”

“Yeah...sorry...I just...wanted to talk,” Nicole said, the plastic phone receiver pressed tightly to her ear.

“You okay?” Shae asked.

“I’m fine. Good actually,” Nicole said unable to keep the smile off her face at the thought of Waverly.

“Ah, finally got your girl then?” Shae said with the hint of a laugh in her voice.

Nicole blushed deeply and shrugged before remembering Shae couldn’t see her. “If you’re asking if Waverly and I are together then...yes.”

“Good for you,” Shae said genuinely, “But she does know I’mma beat her up if I have to right?”

Nicole laughed, “I’ll make sure she knows.”

“So what can I help you with then? If you’re set in the girl department.”

Nicole looked down at the enlistment papers in her hand, still half filled out. She had gone to get them when she was frustrated, upset with Waverly. She felt like there was nothing left to hold her back but now…

“Would I be dumb if I didn’t enlist?” Nicole blurted out.

Shae was silent for a moment. “It would depend what your reasons for not enlisting were.”

The redhead let out a grimace, “I mean...Waverly’s very against it.”

“Mhm.”

“And you know...I don’t know how long I’d be gone.”

“Mhm.”

“Is that a bad idea?”

“Nicole,” Shae began, “You have wanted to enlist since before Chris died. It’s about more than Chris at this point. And I know you, probably better than anyone, and you would regret it if you didn’t go.”

She shuffled through the papers and sighed. Shae was right. And Shae probably did know her better than anyone else.

“You have such a big heart,” Shae continued, “And you have to do what you feel is right, but don’t compromise yourself. For anyone. You hear?”

Nicole licked her lips and swallowed down her emotion. “I won’t. I owe this to Chris.”

“You owe this to yourself,” Shae clarified.

“Yeah yeah,” Nicole said pushing off the other woman’s words. There was silence for a moment before Nicole continued. “I miss you, you know.”

“I’m right here when you need me,” Shae said.

“Thank you,” she said. There was a knock at the door and Nicole stood from the bed. “I gotta go.”

“Tell Waverly I said hi,” Shae said, “I’ll talk to you later.”

Nicole hung up the phone and stuffed the enlistment papers back between the books on her desk. She went to open the door and saw Waverly standing there with a big smile. She leaned up and kissed Nicole softly.

“Ready?” Waverly asked before pecking her lips again.

“Ready,” Nicole smiled back before closing the dorm door behind them.

Chapter Text

“So now that you’re scoring with my sister I never see you,” Wynonna said through her mouthful of apple.

Nicole blushed and threw a balled up piece of paper at her head. It bounced off her cheek and landed uselessly in the grass of the lawn in front of Wynonna’s dorm. It had been a week since Nicole and Waverly had started dating and it had been...well better than Nicole imagined. Just the difference of calling Waverly her girlfriend made her heart lighter and smile wider.

“What’s your bag?” Wynonna said throwing the paper back at Nicole.

The redhead just laughed and leaned back against the tree she was sitting next to, legs stretched out in front of her. “You’re the jealous one,” Nicole teased, gesturing at Wynonna with her pencil.

“I’m not jealous,” Wynonna scoffed, “I’m just saying anytime I see you you’re on top Waves.”

“Am not,” Nicole said childishly. She and Waverly had certainly been...handsier since they became girlfriends. Now there was nothing holding them back and they were eager to learn everything about the other. Nicole already had each and every one of Waverly’s freckles mapped out in her mind, a constellation of stars. Nicole sighed as she thought about Waverly’s warm skin under her mouth. Something hard hit her head and she shook herself out of her daydream.

Wynonna was grinning wickedly at her, “Stop perving on my baby sister.”

Nicole picked up a pink eraser off the ground and rubbed her head where she’d been hit. “Did you throw an eraser at me?”

“Stop trying to change the subject,” Wynonna said before rolling her eyes, “But...I need that back.”

She reached for it and snatched it from Nicole’s hand before she could say anything. Nicole frowned at the other girl but looked back down at her homework sitting on her lap. It had started to get warmer now, but still was hovering at an unusually cold temperature for the time of year. It was warm outside but in the shade of the tree Nicole still had her jacket on, grass cold under her.

“We’ve only been together a week,” Nicole said, “We’re in that honeymoon phase.”

“Ugh, gross. Well who knew the honeymoon stage would be so loud,” Wynonna said taking another bite of her apple, “At least you two have stopped moping about each other. That was annoying too.”

Nicole chuckled, “You just can’t win, can you?”

“I can’t,” Wynonna said in agreement, “But...in all honesty I’m...glad you two are going steady. Or whatever. Waverly seems happy.”

Nicole’s stomach fluttered and she smiled widely up at her friend, “Really?”

Wynonna rolled her eyes, “Yeah. You’re like...good for her or whatever.”

The redhead nudged Wynonna’s thigh with the toe of her foot, “Thanks.”

“Yeah yeah,” Wynonna said waving her off, “Don’t let it go to your head. But she was definitely out of her tree a bit when you weren’t talking.”

Nicole absently pulled at the grass beneath her, “I was a little too.”

“But you had that other hot chick you were going with too,” Wynonna said wiggling her eyebrows.

With a blush, Nicole gave Wynonna a look, “We were just seeing each other.”

“Sure, no judgement here, man,” Wynonna said leaning back on her hand, “I mean, I’m currently scoring with two different handsome fellas so I can’t say much.”

Nicole just hummed and stretched her arms over her head, back popping into place. Wynonna’s eyes focused behind Nicole and she arched an eyebrow. “Can’t stand to be away from your girl for longer than a few minutes, huh?”

She looked behind her, around the tree, and saw Waverly walking up to them from the sidewalk. Nicole’s eyes wandered down to her legs and back up to where they disappeared under her short skirt. She licked her lips and found Waverly’s eyes behind her sunglasses. She blushed when she saw Waverly smiling at her knowingly. Tugging at her collar, Nicole looked away just to see Wynonna giving her the same look. She rolled her eyes and decided it was safer to look at her girlfriend.

“Hi,” she said sitting with her legs folded behind her. She leaned forward and kissed Nicole quickly before smiling at her sister, “Wynonna.”

“I see you brought your spy gear,” Nicole said nodding towards the camera around Waverly’s neck.

“More assignments,” Waverly said lifting the camera to her eye to take a picture of Wynonna. The eldest Earp managed to flip Waverly the middle finger just as the camera clicked. She looked pleased with herself despite the look Waverly was giving her as she lowered her camera from her face. “That was rude.”

“I’m just showing you what true art is,” Wynonna said with a wink. Waverly took the camera strap from around her neck and handed the camera to Wynonna.

“Take a picture of us,” she demanded before sitting across Nicole’s lap with her arms around her neck. Waverly placed her cheek against Nicole’s and smiled as Wynonna took the picture. Wynonna advanced the film and handed it back Waverly.

“Let’s hope Red’s face didn’t break the camera,” Wynonna mumbled to herself. Nicole opened her mouth to say something back to Wynonna but Waverly silenced her with her lips. They kissed softly until Wynonna started clearing her throat loudly. Waverly pecked Nicole’s lips one last time before sliding off her lap, leaving the redhead feeling lightheaded.

“Wanna help me develop these later?” Waverly asked Nicole softly.

Nicole just nodded, “After I finish my paper?”

“Groovy,” Waverly said with a little something in her eye Nicole couldn’t pinpoint, “I’ll go start just meet me there when you’re finished.”

“Okay,” Nicole said simply as she watched her girlfriend get up and walk to her bike in the rack. Wynonna let out a long whistle, Nicole’s eyes tearing away from Waverly riding away long enough to look at her friend. “What?”

“You’re head over heels for her,” Wynonna said falling back into the grass, “It’s disgusting.”

Nicole balled up another piece of paper just to throw at the dark haired girl.

***

Nicole found the dark room fairly easily and knocked gently on the door. She waited a few moments before the door opened the smallest bit and she was dragged through the door. Blinking a few times, she let her eyes adjust to the red lighting of the room. A small radio played in the corner. It crackled and popped, probably needed new tubing, but it worked just the same. When she finally adjusted to the light she saw Waverly messing with one of the tubs on a table in the middle of the room.

Yeah, I'm gonna try yeah, just a little bit harder. So I can give, give, give, give him every bit of my soul-

“Hey, babe,” Nicole said letting her bag slip off her shoulder and dropping it on the floor, “How are you doing?”

“Lock the door,” Waverly said. Nicole did as she was told and walked over to her girlfriend, wrapping her arms around her from behind. She brushed some hair away from Waverly’s neck and kissed the skin there gently. Waverly hummed and leaned back against her girlfriend.

“What pictures are these?” Nicole said looking into the tub.

Waverly kissed Nicole’s cheek, “You’ll see.”

If it's a dream I don't want. Nobody to wake me-

A timer went off and Waverly switched it off. She started taking the negatives from the tub and hanging them on a line with clothespins. Nicole watched her girlfriend’s hands as they worked, her hands smoothing over her stomach. As Waverly finished hanging them up, she turned around in Nicole’s arms and put her own arms around Nicole’s neck.

“Hi,” Waverly whispered as she kissed Nicole’s chin, “This is my least favorite part. The waiting.”

“Is that why you wanted me here?” Nicole asked as Waverly’s hands danced across her shoulders.

Waverly nodded slowly as she lifted herself up to sit on the table behind them. Her legs curled around Nicole’s hips, heels digging into the back of the redhead’s thighs. “I brought you here to distract me.”

“Is that so?” Nicole smirked, hands moving over Waverly’s hips and bringing her closer.

“Mhm,” Waverly said.

Nicole dipped her head and began kissing down Waverly’s jaw and neck. “I guess I could do that.”

Her hand began to inch up Waverly’s inner thigh and beneath the brunette’s skirt. Her breath hitched as Nicole’s hand brushed against the damp patch of her underwear.

“Like this?” Nicole breathed in Waverly’s ear.

Waverly nodded and tilted her hips towards Nicole’s hand. “Just like that, baby.”

Try, oh yeah, try ah yeah, try just a little bit harder-

***

Coming home from work, Nicole couldn’t keep the smile off her face. Her fingers danced on the steering wheel along to the radio, sun streaming through the window and warming her body.

I'm just a soul who's intentions are good. Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood

Things with Waverly were...well they were great. There was still that inkling of doubt in the back of her mind waiting for the second shoe to drop but so far things had been...easy. Almost too easy.

Nicole had given Waverly her dorm key to wait there for her after work. They were going to just watch television in the common room if no one was already in there. It was simple but it was one of Nicole’s favorite things they did together.

Rosita had been scarce lately. Nicole didn’t bother trying to figure out where she was but it made her feel bad. She never wanted to hurt Rosita and knew she needed to talk to her eventually about the whole situation. Their paths just never crossed much anymore.

Nicole parked in her usual spot outside her dorm and practically jogged up the steps to her dorm. When she got up to her room, her smile was impossibly wide. Especially when she saw Waverly leaning against her bed. As soon as she crossed into the room, the energy changed and she felt a sick twisting in her gut. Something that told her to turn around and go back. To flee as soon as she could.

“Hey, Waves,” Nicole said as she stepped into the room. Waverly still had her head down, eyes on something in her hands. The redhead approached her cautiously. “Waves?”

Waverly finally looked up at her, eyes swimming behind unshed tears as she held up the enlistment papers. Nicole’s heart jerked in her chest, lips suddenly dry. She shrugged and stood in front of Waverly, nerves making her fidget with her fingers.

“What about them?” she asked.

“When were you going to tell me?” Waverly asked, betrayal in her voice.

Nicole frowned and shook her head, “You’ve known from the beginning I was enlisting-”

“Yeah but I thought-” Waverly’s mouth moved but no words came out, “But we’re together now.”

Nicole took the papers from Waverly and laid them on the desk. The anxiety was building in her chest, making it harder to breath. “So?”

So?” Waverly scoffed, “Nicole, we’re together. You’re my girlfriend.”

“Waverly, I’m just confused as to why you’re so...well, confused,” Nicole said running a hand through her hair.

Waverly looked up at her like she was insane, arms crossed tightly over her chest. “So you have a girlfriend and you’re still going into war?”

Nicole frowned, “Yeah, Waves. I had a girlfriend when I made this decision the first time. It just wasn’t you. It doesn’t have-...it’s not one or the other.”

The younger girl licked her lips, arms getting even tighter over her chest, “So you-...you feed me all this bullshit about being together and then you’re just going to leave me?”

“I’m not leaving you, Waves,” Nicole said putting her hands on the other girl’s upper arms, ready to shake some sense into her if she had to. It was a struggle to hold back that sick feeling in her gut and to keep her frustration at bay. “I’m still going but I’ll still be with you. We’ll still be together.”

“You’ll be in a different country!” Waverly said, “Getting shot at! Did you even consider not going?”

Nicole sighed, “Yes. But then I talked to Shae about it-”

Waverly pulled away from Nicole, eyes narrowing, “You talked to Shae?”

She wished she could shove the words back into her mouth. “Yes. I did. We’re friends-”

“So you’ll listen to your ex-girlfriend and let her talk you into getting shot at?” Waverly said, “You didn’t even tell me you talked to her!”

“She’s my friend. I didn’t think it was a big deal,” Nicole said, “We went through a lot together.”

“You were in love with her.”

“Yes. Was. Past tense,” Nicole said, frustration leaking through in her tone.

Waverly scoffed, “I can’t believe you’re leaving me because your ex-girlfriend told you to.”

“I’ll be safe,” Nicole insisted, “I’m not leaving you.”

“You’re leaving me,” Waverly said under her breath. A single tear managed to escape the corner of her eye before she wiped it away. Like she didn’t want Nicole to see it.

“I’m not. I’m just...going away. It’s not even for a few more months! I’ll be okay!” Nicole tried to tell her, “Just because I’m leaving for a little bit doesn’t mean something bad will happen.”

“Yeah, well, your brother left you and look what happened,” Waverly hissed.

Nicole recoiled like she’d been slapped, chest tight. She felt a hot pressure building behind her eyes as a sickness spread through her chest. It tripped over her ribs and squeezed around her heart like a snake. Her vision got blurry and shoulders fell.

“Seriously, Waverly?” she said with a humorless chuckle.

Waverly looked down at her own feet and licked her lips, “I’m just saying...I don’t-...what was the point of becoming official if you were just going to leave?”

“Because I like you, Waverly!” Nicole said, her resolve finally breaking, “I have feelings for you. I want to be with you. I want you to be mine and no one else’s!”

“Why? When you won’t be mine?” Waverly yelled back, “You’ll belong to them! To the army! To the man! You’re just going to be their murder puppet-”

“I’m helping people!”

“Like hell you are! That’s just the lie they tell you-”

“You’re going to stand here and tell me that my brother died for nothing? Died for a lie?” Nicole said, her voice dangerously low as she took a step closer to Waverly. Her heart was pounding in her chest, tears leaking down her face that she didn’t even notice until she tasted them on her lips.

Waverly stood as tall as possible, chin high even as it wobbled. “Nicole. I can’t do this.”

Nicole frowned, blood roaring in her ears, “What?”

“I’m done,” Waverly said firmly, “I can’t-...If you’re just going to leave me in the end...I can’t.”

“So all this was for nothing?” Nicole whispered even as her heart broke, “All this, all the sacrifices we made. The talk we had. You said you were all in! You lied to me.”

“You lied to me,” Waverly whispered, “When you said you’d never leave me.”

Nicole scratched at the back of her scalp and shrugged. She was exhausted. “Fine,” she said hoarsely, “We’re done. I’m tired of this. I’m tired of fighting for you when you won’t do the same for me.”

“Fine,” Waverly said even though she didn’t move.

Nicole shook her head, “I should have known. I should have fucking known.”

Waverly’s jaw clenched and she turned, shoulder bumping Nicole as she went for the door. Nicole licked her lips, not bothering to watch as Waverly left. She’d watched it too many times before already. After the door clicked closed, she realized her hands were balled into fists at her sides. She looked down at her palms and the angry red marks her nails had left. Her breaths were shallow, hands shaking.

The tears kept silently falling as she whispered to herself, “I should have known.”

***

If you do want me, gimme little sugar. If you don't want me, don't lead me on girl-

The bar was more crowded than Shorty’s. Nicole felt claustrophobic from her place in the corner as she looked around. She’d almost forgotten what it was like in straight bars. Let alone straight sports bars. It was crawling with frat boys and jocks, all screaming at a television about something. Nicole just needed to be somewhere other than her dorm or Shorty’s for risk of running into Waverly.

After the brunette left, Nicole drank all of the alcohol that she had in her dorm which was really only a mostly drank bottle of whiskey that Wynonna had left. Than she wandered off campus to the nearest bar that wasn’t Shorty’s. Her heart ached, eyes unable to cry anymore.

Waverly was gone. For good. Fine. Nicole had been expecting this. She shouldn’t be shocked. Just disappointed in herself for thinking it was different this time.

Her vision was blurry, but not from tears this time. It was the alcohol. She squinted down at her whiskey. What number was she on? She wasn’t sure. And frankly she didn’t care at this point. Nicole just wanted to stop feeling. She wanted to feel numb. If she couldn’t feel good, she could at least feel...nothing.

Her heart was a mess of hurt and betrayal and guilt and frustration and-...

She took another drink.

“Hey, stranger.”

Just gimme some kind of sign girl, oh my baby. To show that you're mine girl. Oh yeah-

Nicole slowly moved her head up to look for the source of the voice, brain practically sloshing in her head. Her eyes landed on Jesse, drink in her hand and looking fairly drunk herself. The redhead smiled at the familiar face.

“Hey,” she said pushing some hair behind her ear, “What are you doing here?”

Jesse shrugged and pointed to the empty seat across from Nicole in a silent question. She nodded and Jesse sit down heavily, some of her drink sloshing over the top of the glass and onto her hand.

“Probably the same thing you’re doing here,” she answered, “Avoiding people. You mostly.”

Nicole flushed and tucked some hair behind her ear, “Yeah well. Sorry.”

“No reason to apologize,” Jesse said taking a long sip of her drink, “I should have known a girl like you would be taken already.”

Nicole rolled her eyes and shook the ice in her drink. “I thought I was. Guess not.”

She could feel Jesse’s eyes on her as she drained the last of her drink. “Things not going great with Waverly then?”

“If by not great you mean came to a complete stand still then yeah,” Nicole mumbled, “We broke up.”

“Sorry,” Jesse said, “I know you probably think I’m not sorry but...I am.”

Nicole chuckled, “I believe you. You’re too sweet for your own good.”

Jesse blushed and ran her finger around the rim of her glass absently. “You know you don’t have to say that kinda stuff to me anymore.”

“No, I mean it,” Nicole said with an easy smile, “You’re one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met.”

And when I'm feeling down, wearing a frown. You be there when I look around-

Nicole absently thought about how easy it would have been with Jesse. They would be together and sure they might have some issues every now and then, every couple did. But Jesse would support her joining the army. She would support her every step of the way and be there waiting when she got home. They’d probably end up moving in together when Nicole came back...Nicole could see the whole thing in her head and she knew it would be so so easy.

She felt a warm hand cover her own and looked up from her glass. Green eyes looking back at her. She watched the way Jesse pulled her bottom lip between her teeth and remembered what it was like kissing her. When she was kissing her she could forget.

“Nicole,” Jesse began, “I don’t want to be with you.”

Nicole frowned for a moment, a little taken back as her mind caught up with what was being said. “Um-”

“I mean,” Jesse squeezed Nicole’s hand, “I know the ship has sailed. For you and me. But...If you don’t want to be lonely tonight…”

She shook her head and turned her palm up so their fingers could lace together, “I don’t.”

“Then...we’ll be lonely...together,” Jesse said softly, licking her lips.

“Together,” Nicole croaked with a sad smile.

Just gimme some kind of sign girl, oh my baby. To show that you're mine girl. Oh yeah-

Jesse squeezed her hand and leaned forward, whispering to Nicole. “I’m really drunk.”

Nicole chuckled and leaned forward to match her, their faces close, “So am I.”

They both giggled conspiritally together until someone bumped into their table. They both looked up, Nicole giving the guy a dirty look as he went. He scoffed at them, shaking his head.

“Now I remember why I don’t go to straight bars,” Nicole mumbled to herself.

“Fuck them,” Jesse said standing up quickly, her chair scooting out from behind her and tipping over. She drained the last of her drink and held a hand out to Nicole. “Let’s dance.”

“It’s a sports bar,” Nicole pointed out even as she took the other girl’s hand.

Jesse just shrugged and pulled her up from the chair. Nicole stumbled forward, nearly knocking the other girl over. But Jesse caught her around the waist and they giggled some more, Jesse’s face hiding in Nicole’s neck. It felt safe and-...familiar.

 

There was a loud scoff besides them and someone said, “Go home, dykes.”

Nicole spun way faster than her drunken head was happy with and she felt dizzy, stumbling a little. But she pointed a finger in the general direction that she expected the voice came from, face hard.

“Shut your fucking mouth,” she said.

It was like the bar went silent and a big beefy boy in a shirt too small for him stood from his barstool. “You talking to me, homo?”

“If you understood basic English you’d know I was, dumbass,” Nicole snarled, “I have just as much right to be here as you.”

He scoffed and crossed his arms over his chest. “Why don’t you just take your bean eater slut and get out of here?” he said nodding towards Jesse.

Nicole wasn’t quite sure what came over her. All she saw was red and she threw her fist at the guy. Fire exploded in her hand and up to her wrist when it made contact with his face. But she barely had time to register what had happened before something that felt like a brick slammed into her jaw and she fell to the floor. Lights popped in front of her eyes and she tried to scramble to her feet but felt arms circle her from behind and drag her away. Her heels dug into the floor as she tried to gain her footing and jump back at the guy who had slugged her, fists punching at air in front of her. Cool air hit her face and she breathed it in as her vision began to clear.

“Fuck,” she said shaking her hand out. She blinked and worked her jaw a little, wincing at the pain.

“You’re an idiot,” she heard Jesse say. Her vision focused and she saw Jesse’s face in front of her. A tender hand touched her jaw lightly and she hissed. “Why did you do that?”

Nicole circled her hand around Jesse’s wrist, hand still on her face. “People can’t talk to you like that.”

Jesse shook her head and Nicole could see her fighting back a smile. Jesse sighed, “That’s gonna smart.”

“I’ll be fine,” Nicole said waving her off. She licked her lips and tasted the blood in her mouth.

“Let’s go to my dorm and I’ll clean you up,” Jesse said dropping her hand from the taller girl’s face.

Nicole blushed and managed to smirk through the pain. “Forward.”

Jesse rolled her eyes, “You’re lucky you already got punched or I’d have a go at you too.”

Nicole had to admit, with the pain in her jaw and Jesse lacing their fingers together, she didn’t think about Waverly.

***

“I don’t want to be with you,” Jesse repeated for what felt like the thousandth time that night.

“I know,” Nicole said, tilting her head back as the other girl placed careful kisses on her already bruising jaw, “I don’t want to be with you either.”

Needy mouths and desperate shaking hands had shed them of their clothes long ago. But they were still hanging in the balance. Somewhere in between turning back and a night of regret. Nicole pulled back a little and held Jesse’s face between her hands.

It would be so easy...so so easy.

She swallowed a lump in her throat, thumbs stroking the olive skin of Jesse’s cheeks. “I wish…” Nicole trailed off, eyes searching Jesse’s face.

She wished she could let it be easy.

“I know,” Jesse said with a small smile, “I wish too.”

And with that they both tumbled into each other, consuming one another’s pain.

***

Nicole had just gotten dressed from the shower, her head pounding. She definitely drank too much the night before. All she wanted to do was curl up into a ball and sleep the rest of the day. But Wynonna clearly had other plans.

There was a heavy knock on the door and Nicole dragged herself to answer it. Wynonna stood on the other side with a wide smile and a cup of coffee.

“Hey! I need help,” she said quickly before jerking her head for Nicole to follow her.

“What?” Nicole asked with a frown, “Help with what? It’s so early-”

“It’s noon,” Wynonna said before noticing the bruise, “What the fuck happened to you?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Nicole mumbled as Wynonna shoved the coffee into her hands.

Wynonna pulled on Nicole’s sleeve, “Let’s go.”

“Where?” Nicole said even though she was already slipping her shoes on. If she had been less hungover she would have questioned it more.

“Don’t worry about it, come on,” Wynonna said a little too eagerly.

Nicole let herself be dragged out of her dorm, shoes untied and jacket barely hanging off of one arm. Her hair was still wet and messy from the shower as she followed her friend. She’d woken up this morning naked in Jesse’s dorm, the other girl spread out on the bed with her limbs draped over Nicole.

It was surprisingly not awkward when Jesse woke up too. They got dressed in relative silence and hugged goodbye. Nicole’s body was deliciously sore from their night together, jaw also still bruised and aching. But she kept touching it anyways, the pain distracting her from her other thoughts.

Nicole didn’t think anything when Wynonna led her to her dorm, mind still cloudy. She followed Wynonna into her room and froze when she saw Waverly sitting on her sister’s bed. The sound of a door slamming shut behind her made her jump and she turned. Wynonna had closed the door of the room and was basically cackling from behind it. Nicole jiggled the handle but it didn’t budge.

She slapped her open palm on the door, “Wynonna! Let me out!”

“No!” Wynonna said through the door, “If I have to listen to either one of you mope about each other one more time I’m going to kill both of you and then myself.”

Nicole flushed and slapped at the door again, “This is kidnapping you know.”

“Have fun!” Wynonna said, “No fucking on my bed.”

“Wynonna!” they said in unison.

Nicole looked back and acknowledged Waverly for the first time with a forced smile. Waverly forced a smile back and Nicole turned back towards the door. She groaned and let her forehead fall against the wood with a ‘thump’.

“Might as well get comfortable. There’s no way that Wynonna’s letting us out of here anytime soon,” Waverly murmured as she pushed hair behind her ear.

Nicole stayed put with her forehead against the hard door. She sighed. Of course less than a day after breaking up with Waverly she’d be stuck in a room with her. And less than even twelve hours since she slept with someone else. Nicole paled. She didn’t regret sleeping with Jesse...just maybe the timing of everything wasn’t the best.

“Nicole?”

She scrunched up her face, head still pounding and slowly turned her head to look at the other girl.

Waverly shrugged, “I mean...if we’re here we might as well...talk.”

Nicole snorted. “I’m pretty sure we’ve done all the talking we can do.”

“I haven’t,” Waverly said.

“That’s hard to believe,” Nicole said finally sliding down in front of the door, her back against it as she sat. She closed her eyes and tried to ignore Waverly’s presence in the room. She had spent all of last night trying to forget Waverly existed and here she was locked in a room with her. Typical.

It hurt just to look at Waverly. Her heart was still aching from the breakup and the urge to just go to her and kiss her was...it was too much. But it didn’t matter because Waverly didn’t want to be with her anyways.

“What happened to your chin?” Waverly asked softly.

Nicole touched the bruise as if she just remembered it was there. “Bar fight.”

“Yeah right,” Waverly chuckled. Nicole just shrugged and raised an eyebrow at the brunette. She watched as Waverly’s face dropped. “You’re serious?”

Nicole just shrugged again.

Waverly huffed and looked up at the ceiling. The silence stretched, seconds becoming minutes until Waverly spoke up again.

“Well, I’m going to talk. You don’t have to listen to me but you’re stuck here so you’re going to end up listening anyways,” Waverly said.

Nicole swallowed thickly but left her eyes closed. She didn’t want Waverly to know she was listening. She’d always be listening when Waverly talked. That was the problem.

“I’m sorry,” Waverly said so softly that at first Nicole wasn’t sure she even heard it, “I really fucked this one up. I just got so scared when I saw those papers.”

Nicole chewed on the inside of her cheek, trying to remain looking uneffected. She’d given into Waverly too many times.

“All I could think about was losing you. In the same way so many people have lost people in war and I-“ Waverly’s voice cracked, “I panicked. And I said stupid things. I thought it would be easier to just let you go but-...god, Nicole. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this shitty.”

The tiny sniffle coming from Waverly made Nicole open her eyes. But she sat on her hands and remained in place. As much as she wanted to go over and comfort the brunette.

“I’ve never felt this shitty either,” Nicole confessed, “And I have the hangover to prove it.”

Waverly wiped at the tears with the palms of her hands and shook her head, “I should have never said those things. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah you probably shouldn’t have,” Nicole said pulling her knees closer to her chest.

“Can you ever forgive me?” Waverly asked.

Nicole closed her eyes again, the truth on the tip of her tongue. The little bit of truth that made her hate herself just the smallest amount. She could say no to Waverly. She probably should. Yet there was still that little voice in her head that said just one more time. Give her one more chance.

“I already have,” Nicole said looking up at the ceiling, “You don’t need to ask me.”

Waverly gave her a watery smile and slid off the bed. She sat next to Nicole, back against the same door. The smaller girl leaned a little into her and Nicole tried not to melt into her.

“I slept with someone. Last night,” Nicole blurted, “Well, not someone...Jesse.”

Waverly straightened up a little before leaning back into Nicole. “Okay.”

“Okay?” Nicole said looking at her with a raised eyebrow.

“She’s very beautiful,” was all Waverly said as she played with the ends of her hair.

Nicole sighed, “Don’t you get it, Waves? No one will ever be as beautiful as you.”

“Are you with her now?”

“No.”

Waverly fidgeted next to her. “Maybe...we could try again?”

Nicole’s mouth went dry and she tried to have an even reaction. “Waves-“

“I know I fucked up-“

“Yes, but-...do you realize every time we do this it kills me a little bit?” Nicole said looking Waverly in the eyes for the first time, “I can’t keep doing this back and forth. If we do this again then that’s it. If things end again I can’t-“

She stopped herself and shook her head. She looked back at her knees and draped her arms over them.

Waverly took Nicole’s hand and held it to her chest. “I understand.”

Nicole turned to look at her again, “And you understand I’m still enlisting?”

Waverly faltered but nodded anyways.

“Waves, I need you to really understand this,” Nicole said turning fully to face her, “Me enlisting has nothing to do with you. I have to do this. For myself. For Chris. You don’t have to be happy about it I just need you to understand.”

“I understand,” Waverly whispered. She held the back of Nicole’s hand to her cheek. The redhead could feel the tear paths down Waverly’s cheeks on the back of her hand and her resolve broke even further. “I’m definitely not happy about it but I understand.”

Nicole licked her lips and turned her hand so she was cupping Waverly’s cheek. “Okay,” she said softly.

“Okay?” Waverly repeated with a hopeful smile, “We can be together again?”

Nicole just nodded and Waverly practically smashed their lips together. The redhead gasped in surprise but her heart soared. She held Waverly’s hips as best she could from their awkward angle right next to each other.

Soon they pulled away but kept their faces close, Nicole’s forehead against Waverly’s as they breathed again. Nicole felt like she took her first full breath since the day before. It was an electric charge to her heart to make it beat again.

“I missed you,” Waverly said against Nicole’s lips.

Nicole smiled and pressed their foreheads together, “I missed you too.”

Chapter Text

She shouldn’t be jealous. Nicole knew she shouldn’t be jealous and yet-

Her feet slammed a little harder into the asphalt as she ran, pushing herself a little harder as she sped up. The cold air stung her face, the fading bruise on her chin pulsing.

She shouldn’t be jealous.

Nicole had walked into her dorm to see Waverly sitting on Rosita’s bed, Waverly’s hand over her roommates. Images had flashed in her mind of Rosita on top of Waverly. Rosita with her face buried between Waverly’s legs. Rosita kissing her, touching her.

Her lungs burned and she gasped for air. She came to a quick stop and leaned against a nearby tree. The cold night air stung her lungs and her vision swam, sweat dripping down her face and into her eyes. She wiped the sweat away with her shirt and tried to calm her breathing.

She shouldn’t be jealous.

Her muscles were shaking under her skin, coursing with adrenaline and exhaustion simultaneously. Nicole looked up at the sky.

She left Waverly in her dorm. She told her she was just going for a quick run. Nicole had to get out of the room, away from the two of them. From their history. For a moment she wondered if they were laying on Rosita’s bed together, limbs tangled-

Nicole let out a long breath. She shouldn’t be jealous.

She finally looked at her surroundings and saw that she was back in front of her own dorm. The light to her room was on and it gave a vague comfort. After her legs started working again, she dragged herself back into the dorm and up to her room.

She shouldn’t be jealous.

But she could still feel the sickness in her stomach grow the closer and closer she got to her door. Part of her fully expected to see Waverly with Rosita as soon as she opened the door. Her eyes involuntarily closed as she pushed the door open. She slowly opened them and Waverly was sitting on her bed, looking at her from behind her book with a frown. Nicole blinked and looked around.

“Where’d Rosita go?” she asked, still panting a little from her run.

“Library,” Waverly said not disguising the way her eyes lingered on Nicole’s long legs in her shorts. “How was your run?”

Relief flooded Nicole, along with a little shame. “Good,” she said peeling her shirt off which
was proving difficult from the way it stuck to her skin with the sweat along her back.

Waverly licked her lips as Nicole raised an eyebrow at her and began towards the bathroom. “I’m gonna take a shower.”

“Okay,” Waverly said as the redhead walked into the bathroom. She let the rest of her clothes fall into a pile near the toilet and turned on the water. As soon as the water was steaming she stepped into it, letting out a small sigh of relief. The hot water felt good on her muscles that she knew were going to be sore in the morning. She hadn’t stretched and certainly hadn’t run like that in a while. But it had helped clear her head. Just that little bit.

Rosita wasn’t even here anymore but...that seed of jealousy was still in her chest.

She was so lost in her thoughts she didn’t hear the bathroom door open. She didn’t even realize anyone else was in there with her until she felt small hands slide around her waist from behind as she lathered shampoo into her hair.

Waverly’s breasts pressed into her back and she groaned, ducking her head under the shower spray to get the shampoo out of her hair. She turned, still in the spray, and looked down at her girlfriend with a wide smile. All thoughts of Rosita were pushed out of her mind for a moment.

“Hey, Waves,” Nicole said as she stepped back so the spray was hitting her head again, washing the rest of the shampoo from it.

“I thought maybe you might need help,” Waverly said running her hands up Nicole’s back and drawing their bodies closer together. Nicole sighed, feeling every inch of Waverly’s naked body against her own. It was an instant shot of arousal to her core and started a fire deep in her belly. The way their bodies slipped together with the water streaming between them was like heaven.

Nicole ran her hands down Waverly’s back and grabbed her ass, pulling her as close as possible. The shorter girl smirked at the move, darkened hazel eyes flickering down at Nicole’s lips before kissing her. Their tongues molded together and Nicole felt like she couldn’t be close enough to Waverly.

Hands palming the other girl’s hips, Nicole flipped her around so that her back was pressed to her front. Waverly leaned back, one hand curling around the back of Nicole’s neck. Nicole placed kisses down the slope of Waverly’s neck. One arm was around the front of her hips, keeping her ass pressed tight against her, while the other palmed at Waverly’s breasts.

Waverly gasped and arched into Nicole’s hands, moaning as they traveled lower until they were cupping the apex of her thighs. She groaned against Waverly’s neck feeling the sticky arousal there and pulled her earlobe between her teeth.

“You’re mine,” Nicole whispered, fingers gliding through silky folds.

“Yours,” Waverly panted, hand gripping onto Nicole’s neck even tighter as the other held onto Nicole’s arm, “I’m yours.”

Nicole bit the sensitive part of Waverly’s neck where it met shoulder and she felt the shorter girl’s hips jump. The redhead smiled against the wet skin of her neck. Three words danced on the tip of her tongue but she swallowed them and showed Waverly what she meant instead.

***

“Hey, Red, your turn,” Wynonna said nudging her thigh with the end of her pool stick. The jukebox clicked onto a new song.

Each day through my window I watch her as she passes by. I say to myself you're such a lucky guy, to have a girl like her is truly a dream come true-

Nicole straightened up from where she was leaning on the pool cue and gave the brunette a look. Waverly was working today so Wynonna had roped Nicole into playing a round of pool with her. She looked at the table, frowning in concentration and lined up her shot. Taking careful aim, she bent over and lined herself up for the perfect shot. Just as she pulled back the cue to shoot, Rosita walked in. Her cue hit the ball anyways but the ball skittered off to the side instead of straight ahead like Nicole intended.

Wynonna laughed behind her. “Better luck next time, Haught stuff.”

Nicole rolled her eyes and straightened up. She picked up her beer and watched as Rosita went behind the bar where Waverly was working. She touched the younger girl’s arm in greeting and Nicole felt her stomach twist. Placing her beer back carefully on the table, she leaned against the pool table casually.

Every night on my knees I pray, dear Lord, hear my plea. Don't ever let another take her love from me or I would surely die

“So, has Rosita been around your dorm a lot?” Nicole asked with a tilt of her head.

The eldest Earp squinted at Nicole with a grin. “Jealous?”

“No,” Nicole said quickly, “Just wondering.”

“Listen, when Waverly’s not in class, she’s with you. When she’s not with you, she’s moping in her room waiting for you,” Wynonna said, “It’s disgusting.”

Nicole looked back at Waverly who was laughing at something Rosita said.

“I mean, I don’t want her to mope.”

“Stop being a drag and play pool,” Wynonna said as she took the perfect shot, “It’s no fun kicking your ass when you don’t try.”

“Yeah, don’t get used to it,” Nicole said kicking playfully at Wynonna’s boot, “I’m just having an off day.”

Her next shot made it perfectly into the pocket.

Tell you it was just my imagination runnin' away with me-

***

She shouldn’t be jealous.

The same mantra she was telling herself a few days ago. Yet here she was again.

It was just a shock to come out of her class and see Waverly waiting for her on the bench she usually sat on. But this time Rosita was sitting next to her and-

She shouldn’t be jealous.

But when Rosita leaned in and hugged Waverly her chest tightened and steps moved just a little faster to reach them. She stopped in front of them just as they pulled away. Waverly noticed her and smiled widely.

“Hey, Nicky,” she said reaching for her hand and squeezing it.

Nicole gave her a tight lipped smile and looked over at Rosita with the same look. Her roommate smiled back at her and stood up quickly.

“I should go. I’ll see you two later,” Rosita said. She reached out and squeezed Waverly’s shoulder affectionately before walking away. Nicole couldn’t help but tighten her grip on Waverly’s hand as the other girl walked away.

Waverly stood up and kissed Nicole’s cheek, “Hey, cutie.”

“You’ve been hanging out with Rosita a lot, huh?” Nicole said casually as they began to walk towards the dorms.

Waverly frowned and shrugged, “I mean...I guess? We didn’t talk for a long time after...you know. But I missed her.”

Nicole pulled her hand from Waverly’s under the guise of adjusting the backpack on her shoulder. She rubbed the back of her neck and cleared her throat. “Missed her?”

“Yeah,” Waverly said slowly, “We were friends.”

“Yeah, friends,” Nicole muttered.

Waverly stopped in her tracks and Nicole sighed. She turned to look at Waverly, head already tilted to the side. “What?”

“Is this what this is about?” Waverly said with a squint, “You’re jealous?”

“I’m not jealous,” Nicole said trying to play it off with a chuckle. Waverly gave her a look and she rolled her eyes. “Okay, fine. I’m...a little jealous.”

“A little?”

Nicole shrugged, “Listen, I saw you sitting in bed with her and holding her hand and hugging her and-...can’t I be a little upset about it?”

Waverly shook her head, “Baby, what's the big deal? We were just talking-”

“It looked like more than talking to me,” Nicole scoffed.

Waverly’s brows furrowed and she crossed her arms over her chest, “So it's okay for you to call Shae behind my back but I can't talk to my friend? Not to mention that you slept with Jesse as soon as we broke up.”

Nicole scoffed. Her jealousy bubbled over into anger at the mention of Shae and overtaking her guilt over the mention of Jesse. “Friend. Sure. That's what you called it Waverly but you were more than that and you know it! And what's Shae got to do with any of this? And we were broken up when I slept with Jesse!”

“Everything with Jesse aside. You spoke to your ex-girlfriend when you could've just come to me!” Waverly said, “You should have come to me. Your girlfriend.”

“You know I couldn’t-”

“Are you still in love with her?” Waverly asked with an edge of vulnerability to her voice.

“We're just friends, Waverly!” Nicole said.

“Yeah? Well so are me and Rosita!” Waverly said throwing her hands to the sides in frustration.

Nicole took a step forward, “You guys were never friends, you were fucking!”

Waverly’s face twisted to something scary. “Seriously, Nicole?”

Nicole said nothing. She just licked her lips and kept her face as hard as possible. Waverly rolled her eyes.

“This is why I avoid relationships!” Waverly said before turning on her heels and walking away. Nicole stared after her, guilt gnawing at her stomach. She pushed it down and just rolled her eyes. She’d rather be angry than guilty. Waverly was the one talking to someone she had been sleeping with for who knows how long before they got together. Nicole ran a frustrated hand through her hair and continued towards her dorm to stew in her anger.

***

The papers in Nicole’s hands were crinkled from all the folding and unfolding she had done with them. The edges were wrinkled from the moisture in her sweaty hands but the writing was pristine. Sure.

She stepped out of her car and looked down at her clothes. Crisp corduroys, tucked in button up shirt and her usual green jacket. In the back of her mind she wondered if she should have dressed better. The same voice that was telling her Waverly was going to be pissed when she found out she officially enlisted.

Nicole gripped the papers tighter, listening to them crinkle even more under her touch.

She walked up to the building and took a deep breath before opening the door. It was the same as last time she was here. The fluorescent lights buzzing overhead, small radio playing in the corner. The office was so big for being so empty.

-is an epic drama of space and exploration. Begins a million years ago and ends with man finding his destiny-

The same man sat at the same desk and Nicole walked up to him a little more confidently this time. He looked up just as she approached the desk and gestured for her to sit down. The metal chair creaked under her as she placed the papers on the desk in front of him.

“I’m ready,” she said with a small smile.

He looked at her and looked down at the papers. He reached into his pocket and pulled out some glasses. Sliding them onto his face, he looked over the paperwork with a small nod.

“Well, kid,” he said setting his glasses back on the desk and extending his hand, “Welcome to the Army.”

***

Looking at the flowers again, Nicole couldn’t help but think they looked wilted. She picked off a sad looking leaf on one of the stems with a grimace and let it fall to the ground. It was a simple mixed bouquet. Nothing crazy. But she just wanted to show Waverly just how sorry she was.

After sleeping on their argument she new she had to apologize. If you could call it sleeping. She’d gotten so used to sleeping with Waverly in her arms the past few weeks that it felt odd to not have her there. Nicole had spent most of the night staring up at the ceiling and shooting dirty looks at Rosita while she slept. Not that it was her fault.

Waverly was working at Shorty’s that day so Nicole decided to go make it up to her. That’s how she ended up in front of the bar with a sad looking bouquet in her hands. With another sigh, she pushed through the door. Her eyes immediately landed on the brunette who was walking back from the kitchen with a tray of clean glasses.

Nicole rocked on her heels before walking over to the bar. Waverly stood behind it, back towards the door as she cleaned.

“Hey, beautiful,” Nicole said with her most charming smile. Waverly turned around, face unamused. She raised an eyebrow at the brunette.

“Hello,” Waverly said, hands on her hips, “Can I help you?”

Nicole’s smile faltered only a little. She held out the flowers to Waverly who looked down at them only briefly before looking back up at her girlfriend.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “I got in my head. I shouldn’t have gotten jealous.”

Waverly’s face softened a little, “I’m not mad you were jealous. I just-...You wouldn’t listen. When I said we were only friends. It’s like you don’t trust me.”

“I do,” Nicole said quickly, “I do trust you, Waves. I just-...I’m sorry. Forgive me?”

She walked around the bar to stand in front of the redhead, looking up at her with a frown. Despite herself, a small smile tilted the corner of Waverly’s mouth. Nicole felt some relief and she smiled back.

“I should stay mad,” Waverly said taking another step closer to the taller girl. She tugged on the edge of her jacket and looked up at her through her lashes. “But...I can’t. And I’m sorry I upset you. But I do miss hanging out with her a little.”

Nicole handed her the flowers again and this time Waverly took them with a smile. She leaned down and kissed the brunette softly.

“I promise I won’t get mad about you being friends with Rosita again,” Nicole said pecking her nose lightly, “I’m sorry.”

Waverly shook her head. “It’s okay. Just don’t do it again.”

“I won’t,” Nicole said. There was a tug on her stomach bothering her to tell Waverly that she turned in her enlistment papers. But she had the prettiest smile on her face and Nicole didn’t want to ruin that.

“Want to help me fill the bottles?” Waverly asked, “I’ll make it worth your while.”

“I’d love to,” Nicole said kissing the side of Waverly’s head.

***

“Baby, you ready?”

Nicole looked up from her lap at her girlfriend who was shrugging on her brown frayed vest. The tassles moved with her movements and distracted Nicole for a moment before she smiled.

“Yeah,” she said standing up from where she was sitting on the edge of her bed, “Is Rosita meeting us there?”

Waverly nodded and laced their fingers together. Nicole kissed the back of her hand and it earned her a small peck on the lips. The shorter girl winked at her and led them out of the dorm.

“Can I drive?” Waverly asked as they got to the car. Nicole took the keys from her pocket and handed them to her girlfriend.

“When are you gonna get your license?” Nicole asked with a raised eyebrow as she opened the door for Waverly, “You can’t be riding around without it forever.”

“Soon,” Waverly said. Nicole got in the other side of the car and closed the door. “As long as your in the car with me I’m fine anyways. And you’re the only one who’ll let me drive their car, so.”

Nicole flushed a little and mentally counted how many weeks she’d be around for Waverly to drive with. She reached for her girlfriend’s hand as she started the car and squeezed it. Brown eyes looked at her, confused...searching. Nicole leaned over and kissed her softly. She went to pull away but Waverly’s hand on her cheek kept her in place.

“Babe, what’s wrong?” Waverly asked looking into Nicole’s eyes like all the answers were there.

Nicole shook her head and forced a smile, bile rising in her throat. “Nothing.”

Waverly tilted her head and smiled gently, thumb brushing over Nicole’s cheekbone. “You’re lying. I can tell. The sadness is back.”

The redhead leaned into Waverly’s hand and silently cursed her intuition. “I’m fine, baby.”

She looked at the taller girl for a moment before nodding. Her hand moved from her cheek, down her neck and under her jacket to cover her heart. She looked at Nicole as if she could read her heartbeats. A morse code to her true thoughts. Nicole’s heart sped up and she wondered if Waverly could actually read her mind. Sometimes it felt like it.

“Okay,” Waverly finally said before pecking Nicole’s lips briefly. She pulled away and they started towards Shorty’s. It was another mixer night and Waverly had been eager to go. Nicole wasn’t going to argue with her. She just wanted to dance with her girl and forget she was hiding something from her that would break her heart.

They got a spot right behind the bar and headed in. Gus greeted them with a smile and a nod, smile just a little wider when she noticed their entwined hands.

“Hi, Gus,” Waverly said leaning against the bar, elbows on the wood. Nicole put a hand on her hip just to let her know she was there and stood behind her. “Can I get two whiskey’s please?”

“You got it, girls,” she said with a wink. Waverly turned so her back was leaning against the bar and looked up at Nicole. She ran her fingers absently over the namepatch on her jacket like she always did, but this time it made Nicole’s heart falter and skip.

“Wanna dance, soldier?” Waverly asked with a wink.

Nicole smiled and put both her hands on Waverly’s hips, “The drinks-”

“Will be here when we get back,” Waverly interrupted. She turned her head and said to Gus, “We’ll be right back, Gus.”

The other woman just nodded as Waverly pushed herself off the bar. Her body bumped lightly into Nicole’s and sent her stepping back a little until she was on the dance floor. Waverly’s arms found their way around her neck and Nicole brushed her thumbs over Waverly’s hip bones as they began to sway to the music.

She looked down into hazel eyes and pressed their foreheads together. The sickness in her stomach was like a stone. It felt like she was hiding something from her girlfriend, even if she really wasn’t. She licked her lips and nuzzled their noses together. Waverly began to stroke invisible patterns on the back of her neck and she practically purred, melting into the smaller girl.

Baby, I'm yours. And I'll be yours until the stars fall from the sky-

“Waves,” she whispered, voice cracking a little, “Can I tell you something?”

Waverly frowned, “Of course. Is something wrong?”

“No no, nothing’s wrong,” Nicole clarified.

I'm gonna stay right here by your side, do my best to keep you satisfied. Nothin' in the world can drive me away-

“Then what is it?” Waverly asked.

Nicole licked her lips and tried to force a smile. “I um...I did it. I enlisted.”

She watched Waverly’s face flutter between surprise, anger and finally resignation. A sadness settling in her eyes that broke Nicole’s heart.

“When do you leave?” Waverly whispered.

“The week before graduation,” Nicole said. She felt Waverly’s hand tangle in the hairs at the back of her skull, keeping her face close, “I don’t know to what fort yet.”

Waverly just nodded, a shaky sigh falling from her lips. She opened her mouth to say something but no words came out. Instead she pulled Nicole’s face to hers and kissed her hard. Nicole held Waverly as close as she could, trying to put all her feelings into the kiss. All her ‘I’m sorrys’.

Baby, I'm yours, baby, I'm yours. And I'll be yours until two and two is three. Yours until the mountain crumbles to the sea. In other words, until eternity-

She could feel Waverly’s tears on her cheeks and her heart ached. As soon as Waverly pulled away she pressed her face into Nicole’s neck. Her hand was still tight in red hair like she was afraid to let go and Nicole just held her tight as they swayed. Her neck was bent, face buried in brown hair.

Nicole breathed her in, head light and heart raw. She wished she could tell Waverly everything. About how she was everything to her and she...well she loved her. She loved her more than anything and it broke her heart to leave her. But it’d break her heart to stay too. So she just kept swaying along with her, their bodies close together and Waverly’s tears soaking through the collar of her shirt.

Baby, I'm yours. Baby, I'm yours-

Chapter Text

There was dark. Then a flash and Nicole was surrounded by fire. The sounds of bullets and bombs whistled through the air but she couldn’t open her eyes. She rubbed at her eyes but they just wouldn’t open. A loud bang landed next to her and-

Nicole’s eyes fluttered open, slowly adjusting to the lack of light. She laid there for a moment, breath evening out as she recovered from her dream. The memory of it leaked through her fingers and soon she couldn’t even remember if she’d dreamed or not. She was actually surprised when she saw Waverly laid next to her still asleep.

Nicole couldn’t even count the number of times she woke up with Waverly staring at her. She looked at her with that glimmer in her eyes that made Nicole’s heart break. That made her question all of her decisions. It made her want to pull Waverly to her chest and never let go. To let the date she was supposed to show up on a bus pass and spend the time holding her girl instead.

But there was that pull.

The pull that told her she wasn’t fulfilling a duty. That she was betraying herself. Her brother. Her country.

As much as she longed to hold Waverly forever and not let go she longed to help. To do something. To make herself useful. After all, there wasn’t much the lesbian daughter of the town mechanic could do. She could fix a car. But people didn’t want a girl for that work. This was Nicole’s way of making a difference. Finally.

Waverly’s brow wrinkled in her sleep and Nicole gently brushed her fingers over it until she relaxed again. She smiled as Waverly burrowed further into her, head pressing against her neck so that she could feel little puffs of breath on her collarbone.

After a few moments, Nicole’s breathing evened out and she began to drift besides Waverly. She held her tight. She wasn’t going to let go until she had to.

***

The backpack on Nicole’s shoulder felt heavier than usual. The strap bit into the skin of her shoulder as she used the key for Waverly’s dorm to unlock the door. Even though things with Rosita were fine now, they still avoided Nicole’s dorm when they could just so things wouldn’t be awkward.

The recruiting officer had helped her sign up for some night nursing classes to catch up before she headed to the basic training. He said the intense course he’d set her up with would be sufficient enough before she received the army training. The problem was that now she was balancing her normal school work, a job and nursing classes.

It was doable. Just stressful.

As soon as she opened the door, her eyes landed on Waverly laying on the couch with a book propped up on her chest. She lowered it as Nicole closed the door and practically jumped off of the couch.

“My poor baby,” Waverly said as Nicole dragged her feet to the couch, “You look exhausted.”

Nicole chuckled and let her bag fall heavily on the floor. “It’s because I am.”

Waverly’s hands were immediately pushing Nicole’s jacket over her shoulders and pulling her towards the bedroom.

“Let’s get you in bed,” Waverly said quietly. They kept the light off since Chrissy was already in bed and Nicole didn’t even bother changing into pajamas. She just stayed in her boxers and her undershirt, crawling into bed with Waverly close behind. The brunette gently laid on top of Nicole, head just above her heart.

“You don’t have to take care of me, you know,” Nicole murmured through sleep, “You don’t need to wait up for me.”

Waverly lifted her head just enough to look at Nicole. That same sadness behind her eyes that Nicole still hadn’t gotten used to.

“I want to,” Waverly whispered as she brushed some hair from Nicole’s face, “Do you...not like it?”

“I do, babe,” Nicole said quickly, “But you don’t have to. If you don’t want to.”

“I do want to,” Waverly said, “I want to for...for as long as I can.”

Nicole’s stomach twisted a little and she leaned up just enough to kiss the brunette, “We have three whole months. Then I’ll only be gone for a year. Remember?”

Waverly nodded and a forced smile on her face, “A year is a long time.”

“It won’t feel like it. I promise,” Nicole said kissing Waverly softer this time.

“You promise?” Waverly whispered.

“With all my heart,” Nicole said.

Waverly searched her face with those sad eyes again and laid her head back on Nicole’s chest. She ran her fingers through long brown hair as she heard a small sniffle coming from Waverly. But she pretended like she didn’t hear it, just like she did every night. At first she tried to comfort Waverly but it only ever seemed to make it worse. So instead she just softly hummed whatever song had popped into her head.

”All my loving, I will send to you. All my loving, darling I'll be true-”

***

“I’m going to write you every day if I can,” Nicole said tangling her legs with Waverly’s.

Their chests were still rising and falling faster than usual, a fine sheen of sweat covering their bodies. Waverly nodded wordlessly, fingers curling against the damp skin on the back of her neck. Nicole’s head bent to Waverly’s will easily, ducking to plant a soft kiss on her lips.

“And I’ll call whenever I can. If I can,” Nicole continued, fingers painting a pattern on the small of Waverly’s back.

Waverly remained silent. A stark difference to the moans and screams that had been passing her lips just minutes before. Nicole propped her head up on her hand, elbow in the pillow so she was leaning a little over Waverly. The other girl looked impossibly small as she curled into the front of Nicole’s body, her forehead pressed to Nicole’s collarbone. Nicole brushed some hair from Waverly’s face and kissed her temple.

“I listed you as my cousin on the paperwork so that you’ll be notified if-” Nicole cut herself off and Waverly’s grip on her hip tightened, “If I get moved or if I can have visitors on the base.”

“I’m going to miss you,” Waverly said against her skin.

Nicole’s heart stuttered and she rubbed her thumb over her hip bone. “I’m going to miss you too. But we have a whole month-”

“Twenty-four days,” Waverly corrected, “Not a month.”

“I was rounding,” Nicole said with a small smile.

Waverly smiled and nipped playfully at Nicole’s collarbone, “Jerk.”

“Your jerk,” Nicole said softly.

Waverly’s smile got wider and she cupped Nicole’s jaw, “My jerk.”

Nicole pressed their foreheads together, “For as long as you’ll have me.”

Something changed in Waverly’s face and her eyes flickered down to Nicole’s lips. She snaked her leg around Nicole’s hip and pulled their bodies together.

“Think Chrissy’s fine sleeping on the couch tonight?” Waverly whispered.

Nicole smirked, “I’m sure she won’t even notice.”

Waverly sighed dramatically as she flipped them so that she was straddling Nicole’s lower stomach. “How am I supposed to go a whole year without-” she ground her hips down into Nicole’s stomach with a groan, “-this.”

Nicole gripped Waverly’s hips and pushed up into her, immediately feeling lightheaded when she felt wetness on her stomach. She licked her lips and looked up at her girlfriend. Something that she’d been thinking about for a while now made it’s way to the front of her mind.

“W-without the sex?” Nicole asked. Waverly pushed her hair back from her face and nodded wordlessly as she continued to move her hips. Nicole squeezed Waverly’s hips and tried to concentrate on something other than Waverly’s wet heat against her stomach. “Well...I was thinking...if you wanted to see other people...while I was gone.”

Waverly’s movements stopped almost immediately. Her hands curled around Nicole’s ribs as she looked at her in the dim light of the room. “What?”

Nicole shifted uncomfortably and looked up at the ceiling. It was something she’d been thinking about for a while now. At first she rejected the idea immediately, but than the more she thought about it the more she thought it might help Waverly while she was gone.

“I mean...You would still be my girlfriend,” Nicole said, “But if you wanted to...sleep with other people. While I was gone…”

Waverly moved so that her torso was laying directly on top of Nicole’s, long brown hair falling like a curtain around them. “Do you want to sleep with other people while you’re gone?” she said calmly.

“Not really,” Nicole said with a blush.

“Then neither do I,” Waverly shrugged, “Did I make you think I did?”

“No. I was just thinking about...how you were before we were together,” Nicole said.

Something flashed in Waverly’s eyes and she sat back up again. Her hands moved down Nicole’s collarbone, squeezing her breasts teasingly before they rested back on Nicole’s ribs.

“I only want you,” Waverly said emphasizing her point with a push of her hips, “Okay?”

“Okay,” Nicole said as something like relief flowed through her chest.

“Now,” Waverly said with a smirk, “Let me prove it to you.”

***

“So I was thinking,” Waverly said as she pushed a piece of pancake around on her plate.

Nicole paused midway through eating a piece of bacon, the strip hanging from between her lips. She squinted at the brunette and nodded slowly. “Okay.”

Waverly sighed and looked up at Nicole, “Do you think-...Would it be a big deal if I didn’t drop you off at the bus? When you leave?”

The redhead took the half a piece of bacon from her mouth and set it on her plate, appetite suddenly gone. “I mean...if you don’t want to,” Nicole shrugged and took a sip of her coffee.

She looked around the diner. It was the one that Waverly had brought her to on their first date. They found themselves there at least once a week. Always with a pocket full of nickels for the jukebox.

A soft hand covered her own and she looked back at Waverly.

“I just...I’m worried if I see you go...I won’t be able to let you go,” Waverly said softly, thumb brushing over Nicole’s knuckles.

“Sure, baby,” Nicole said lacing their fingers together over the table, “Whatever you need.”

Waverly squeezed her hand and smiled across the table from her. All while Nicole’s stomach twisted around something cold.

***

“Are you sure you don’t want to just go back to your dorm and be together? Alone?” Nicole said as she smirked against Waverly’s neck. Her lips dragged teasingly across the skin and the other girl giggled. The sound ran like chilled water down Nicole’s spine and she shivered. The sound had been so rare and fleeting these past couple of weeks that she would do anything to keep hearing it. Even if that meant kissing Waverly senseless in the front seat of her car outside of Shorty’s.

Waverly wrapped her legs around Nicole’s, heels digging into her calves. She held Nicole’s neck between her hands and forced her back to look her in the eye.

“Baby,” Waverly said with a smile, “people are waiting for you.”

“I only want to be with you,” Nicole whispered.

Waverly kissed Nicole so lightly that at first she wasn’t sure if it was just her breath she felt on her lips. “I’ll do whatever you want. It’s your last-...it’s your last night.”

Nicole kissed Waverly’s bottom lip and top lip separately so that she would laugh again. “Okay let’s go for a little bit because Wynonna would never let me forget it if I didn’t,” she said, “and then we’ll go back to the dorms. Just you and me.”

“Okay,” Waverly whispered letting her legs fall so that Nicole was no longer trapped. The redhead placed a soft kiss at the base of her throat before sitting up so that Waverly could move out from under her. Her eyes couldn’t help but land on her stomach, exposed with the shirt she wore that was basically a bra.

Waverly caught her staring and smirked, “All for you, baby.”

Nicole flushed. “Does that even count as a shirt?”

“Come on, this is all the rage in California. And I saw a picture of Twiggy wearing a shirt like this,” Waverly said fixing her hair in the rearview mirror.

“Well if it’s all the rage in California,” Nicole murmured.

“Don’t be a square,” Waverly teased, leaning over to peck Nicole’s lips once more. She smiled and they got out of car. Nicole slipped her arm around Waverly’s waist as they walked through the door to Shorty’s. Wynonna noticed them first and rolled her eyes.

“Finally! Glad you two stopped fucking long enough to join us,” Wynonna said raising her beer bottle to her lips. She jerked forward on her chair when Gus slapped the back of her head with a cleaning towel.

“Wynonna Katherine! I will not have that kinda language in my bar,” Gus said squinting at her. Wynonna frowned at her aunt over her shoulder.

“I’m just stating facts,” she mumbled.

Nicole hoped the blush was mostly gone from her face when Gus focused back on her. Rosita was moving behind the bar and smiled at Nicole. Mercedes and Chrissy were there and even Sheriff Nedley was nursing a beer at the bar.

“Come here, girl,” Gus said hitting the bar in front of an empty stool, “Drinks on the house tonight.”

Nicole shook her head, “No, Gus. I can’t-”

“Hush, girl,” Gus said with a smile, “It’s my bar I can do what I want. And I want to give you free drinks on your last night with us.”

“Thanks, Gus,” Nicole relented, sitting on the stool between Chrissy and Wynonna. Waverly slotted herself between Nicole’s knees, leaning back against her chest. Gus slid a drink in front of her and Nicole took it with a grateful smile.

“Well, Red, guess this is your last night of freedom,” Wynonna said clapping her shoulder.

Nicole took a sip of her drink, “I’m going into the army, not to jail.”

“You’re gonna go into the army and come out a square,” Wynonna stated, “Well...more of one.”

Nicole rolled her eyes and opened her mouth to respond but Waverly turned towards her tapping her finger on the redhead’s lips. Her mouth snapped shut and she pecked the pad of Waverly’s finger.

“No fighting,” Waverly whispered.

“I’m not,” Nicole said playfully biting at Waverly’s finger. She watched as hazel eyes darkened and she wished they’d just gone back to the dorms together.

“Haught,” Nedley said walking up from around the other side of Chrissy, “Can I have a word?”

Nicole blushed and straightened in her seat. Waverly giggled and pat the top of Nicole’s thigh. “I’m going to go pick some songs out on the jukebox,” she said with a wink before slipping away. Nicole looked back at the Sheriff, wiping her palms off on her jeans.

“Hello, sir,” she said.

He waved his hand at her formality and adjusted his belt. “You’re a good kid,” he started, “And when you come back...I want you to know you’ll have a spot on my police force.”

Nicole felt her breath leave her lungs and she blinked at him. “What?”

“If you want it, of course,” he added, “I’m a military man myself, and I know how hard it can be finding somewhere to land. But we’d be honored to have you on the team.”

“But-”

He held up a hand, “I know people aren’t too keen on having a woman in the force but those people can shove it up their asses. If you can go over and serve your country, you can be on my team.”

A slow smile spread over Nicole’s face as a worry she didn’t know she had dissipated. She had somewhere to go after she got out.

“Thank you, sir,” she said shaking his hand with both of her own, “I really really appreciate it.”

Nedley smiled and nodded, patting Nicole’s hand with his free one. “Just worry about getting back here in a timely manner.”

“Yes, sir,” Nicole said finally dropping his hand. Nedley looked at her for a moment and clapped her shoulder affectionately.

“Good luck,” he said tipping a hat that wasn’t there and finishing the last dregs of his drink, “I better get going. Early shift tomorrow. Keep in touch?”

Nicole nodded and waved. She watched Nedley hug his daughter and wave to Gus before he walked out the doors. Nicole picked up her drink and carried it over to the jukebox where Waverly was going through the choices. She wrapped her free arm around her waist from behind and kissed the spot behind her ear. Waverly giggled and leaned back against Nicole.

“Good talk with Sheriff Nedley?” she asked handing Nicole a nickel to pick a song.

She pinched the nickel between her fingers and stood up, arm dropping from around her girlfriend. “Yeah, he um...basically guaranteed me a job when I get back.”

Waverly spun on her, “That’s groovy, babe!”

Nicole kissed Waverly lightly and began flipping through the song sheets. Putting her coin into the slot, she punched in the correct buttons and smiled as the song clicked on.

“I wrote this song for you,” Nicole teased. She wrapped an arm low on Waverly’s waist and drew them close as she sipped on her beer.

Close your eyes and I'll kiss you. Tomorrow I'll miss you-

Waverly rolled her eyes despite the smile on her face, “Don’t be stupid.”

“I’m not,” Nicole said softly, “I would have written it for you if I could.”

Waverly wrapped her arms around Nicole’s neck and played with the fine hairs at the base of her skull. Nicole kissed the end of Waverly’s nose and sang softly.

”I'll pretend that I'm kissing, the lips I am missing. And hope that my dreams will come true. And then while I'm away, I'll write home every day, and I'll send all my loving to you.”

Tears had begun to gather in the corners of Waverly’s eyes as Nicole sang until she shook her head. She looked down and Nicole nudged her nose against the other girl’s forehead. She heard her sniffling and felt her lithe body shake in her arms.

“Hey, baby,” Nicole said pressing a soft kiss to her forehead and then ducking to place a small kiss on her cheek, tasting the salt of her tears against her lips, “Baby, it’s okay.”

“It’s not okay,” Waverly hiccuped, “You’re leaving.”

“Only for a little bit,” Nicole said against her hair, “Okay? Please don’t be sad.”

Something like regret twisted in Nicole’s guts and she tried to push it away. She didn’t want to leave Waverly. It was the last thing she wanted to do. And seeing her like this made it that much harder. But she knew she would regret it if she didn’t go. There were three words that had been on the tip of her tongue for far too long. Three words that could send Waverly packing.

Nicole felt them lodge in her throat, choking her. Something told her that this could be a now or never situation. What if she never got the chance to tell Waverly how she felt?

Waverly’s body shuddered with each new sob and Nicole held her close. She rocked her and continued to sing softly into her ear.

”All my loving, I will send to you. All my loving, darling I'll be true.”

She felt Waverly chuckle through her crying and pressed soft kisses against her ear between lyrics.

”Close your eyes and I'll kiss you, tomorrow I'll miss you. Remember I'll always be true.”

Waverly finally turned her head so that their lips met. Nicole kissed her softly as the last notes of the song played out and faded away. She tasted like Waverly and tears and it was the most heartbreaking thing Nicole had ever felt.

“Hey,” Nicole whispered, their faces still close, “Guess what?”

“What?” Waverly sniffled with a small smile. Nicole couldn’t help but smile back. Waverly’s hazel eyes shimmered with tears, her eyes red and puffy and she’d never looked more beautiful.

“I love you,” Nicole said quietly, “I love you, Waverly Earp.”

Waverly blinked at her for a moment before her lip wobbled and she sniffled. “Nicole, I-”

Nicole shook her head, “You don’t have to say it back. I’m not expecting it. I just want you to know-”

Waverly cut off Nicole by kissing her hard, stealing the breath from her lungs and words right from her mouth.

“If you’d shut up and let me talk,” Waverly murmured with a smile, “Then I could tell you that...I love you too.”

“You do?” Nicole whispered back, heart light.

“I do,” Waverly said running her hands through Nicole’s hair, “It’s the best and worst feeling in the world.”

Nicole grinned, “It really is.”

“Hey, Sonny and Cher, are you gonna hog the jukebox all night?” Wynonna asked as she gently pushed the two out of her way to get to the machine. Nicole threw her a look but couldn’t complain when Waverly pressed her body closer to Nicole’s to get out of the way. Nicole leaned back a little to take a sip of her beer just as Wynonna slung her arm around her shoulders.

“Gomer Pyle, I give you a hard time but...I guess I’ll miss you,” Wynonna said, whiskey evident on her breath, “But don’t read too much into it.”

Nicole chuckled, “Well now you’re just sending me to war thinking you’re in love with me.”

“Whatever keeps ya goin’,” Wynonna winked before dropping her arm and walking towards the bar.

Waverly hung a little on Nicole’s neck to make her presence known. As if Nicole could ever forget.

“How much longer until we can go back to the dorm? Just you and me?” Waverly asked running her fingers along Nicole’s jaw line.

“As soon as possible?” Nicole said with a smirk.

“One more drink and then slip out?”

“Sounds like a plan.”

***

Nicole woke up the next morning to the harsh buzzing of her alarm clock. She slapped her hand on it before it could wake up Waverly who was still sleeping soundly next to her. She blinked the sleep from her eyes as she looked around. It was early so the sun was just starting to rise. It made getting out of bed harder though.

She stretched her limbs, bones popping as Waverly scooted closer to her in her sleep. Nicole smiled and pressed a soft kiss to the top of brown hair before she started to slowly extract her limbs from Waverly. Finally she was able to slip out of bed, muscles sore from the long night they shared together. She wandered over to the desk where she had laid out her clothes for the day and began slipping them on.

“Baby,” Waverly groaned from the bed, still half asleep, “It’s too early.”

“I have to go, baby,” Nicole said as she buttoned up her pants.

Waverly stretched, the sheet falling from around her naked chest and pooling around her waist. Nicole had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep herself from getting back in the bed with her.

The brunette slipped out of bed and picked up Nicole’s button up that had been thrown on the floor at some point the night before. Nicole slipped on her own shirt and when she looked back, Waverly had hers on with the top few buttons open.

“Are you trying to kill me?” Nicole groaned.

Waverly smirked through her sleepiness and pulled on the edge of the shirt that just barely covered her. “I just want to give you a good image before you go,” Waverly said walking up to Nicole until they were standing close, “Or...maybe something to make you stay?”

Nicole sighed, “Baby. You know I can’t.”

Waverly brushed Nicole’s hands away from where she was buttoning up her shirt and took over for her. Hazel eyes focused on her fingers as she pushed the buttons through the fabric.

“I know but...you can’t blame a girl for trying,” Waverly said with a brief smile.

“I have a couple of things for you,” Nicole said kissing Waverly briefly before bending down and opening up her duffle bag. She pulled out her brother’s jacket and held it close to her chest for a moment.

“I need you to keep this warm for me,” Nicole said softly.

Waverly’s eyes shimmered, “Are you sure?”

“Positive,” Nicole said handing the jacket to her girlfriend. She immediately slipped it over her shoulders and pulled it tight around her.

“It still smells like you,” Waverly whispered as if caught by surprise.

“I hope that’s a good thing,” Nicole joked and Waverly just nodded. She pulled out her keys from her pocket, kept them hidden in her fist and gripped Waverly’s wrist. She put the keys in Waverly’s hand and closed her fist around them, her hand covering Waverly’s. “And I need you to get your license.”

Waverly gaped down at the keys in her hand. “But-”

“I won’t need it. Take care of it for me. Yeah?” Nicole said brushing some hair behind Waverly’s ear. Waverly slowly unfurled her fist and just stared at the keys in her hands.

“Hey,” Nicole said trying to get Waverly’s attention, “I love you.”

Waverly had her arms around Nicole’s neck in an instant. “I love you too,” she mumbled into her neck. There was a knock on the door and Waverly’s grip got tighter.

“Red, it’s time to go,” Wynonna’s groggy voice said through the door, “Gus is outside.”

“Coming!” Nicole said just loud enough for Wynonna to hear. She looked down at Waverly who looked at her with shining eyes. She pressed their foreheads together and said, “I’ll see you in no time. Okay?”

Waverly nodded wordlessly and kissed Nicole sweetly. Her stomach pulled, unwilling to let go of Waverly. She squeezed her tighter and kissed her hard as if the harder she kissed her the longer it would last her while she was gone. When she finally had to pull away for breath, her cheeks felt wet but she couldn’t tell if they were Waverly’s tears or her own.

“I’ll write as often as I can. Okay?” Nicole said with a small sniffle, “I promise.”

“Okay,” Waverly said tangling her fingers into red hair. She nodded and pecked her lips lightly. “Okay.”

“I’ll call you as soon as they let me,” Nicole promised, “I love you so much.”

“I love you too,” Waverly said again, “I’m not-...I’m not gonna say goodbye.”

“Neither will I,” Nicole said cradling Waverly’s face between her hands. She dropped soft kisses all over her face, trying to kiss away Waverly’s tears. “I have to go.”

“I know,” Waverly hiccuped, “I know.”

Nicole poured every ounce of passion and feeling she had into their next kiss. Her hands held Waverly’s face, so delicate and beautiful in her hands. Waverly’s fingers curled into the side of her shirt like a death grip. Nicole only pulled away when she needed air, but kept her eyes closed.

“I’ll see you soon,” she said hoarsely.

“Soon,” Waverly whispered back.

Finally Nicole dropped her hands from Waverly’s face and took a step back to sober herself. Waverly clung to her shirt as long as possible, even as she backed away. She lifted her duffle bag onto her shoulder and squeezed Waverly’s hand one last time, eyes connecting before she turned and walked out of the dorm door.

***

The car ride to the bus station was quiet. Wynonna had her sunglasses on despite the low light and had her head against the window, Gus driving her truck.

“I still can’t believe Waverly didn’t come,” Gus said more to herself.

Nicole shrugged, “It’s fine. She felt like she couldn’t do it.”

Gus just grunted as they pulled into the bus station. Nicole saw other girls getting out cars with bags, saying goodbye to loved ones. She remembered dropping Chris off at the bus station. The hugs, the tears. The ‘see you soons’. Her stomach turned at the thought and she shut her eyes tight to block out the memory.

“Ready?” Wynonna said turning in the seat to look at her friend. Nicole just nodded and slung her bag back around her shoulder. She swung the car door open and slid out, the duffle suddenly feeling heavier on her shoulder. Nicole looked at the bus where a line seemed to be forming in front of it and sighed.

“Guess that’s it,” she said, voice cracking.

“You’ll be sure to write us,” Gus stated, hand on Nicole’s shoulder.

“I promise, Mrs. McCready,” Nicole said.

“Gus, girl, how many times do I have to tell you?” the older woman said with a smile, pulling her in for a hug, “Don’t go gettin’ yourself hurt.”

“I don’t plan on it,” Nicole smiled. She hugged her back and was turned as soon as she pulled away.

“My turn,” Wynonna said stepping in front of Nicole. She put a heavy hand on her shoulder, “You like...make my sister happy or whatever. So don’t play a hero. Don’t be stupid. If you even think about throwing yourself onto a bomb, I’ll kill you myself.”

Nicole rolled her eyes, “I won’t.”

“Thank you,” Wynonna said shaking her by the shoulder, “Because I know you.”

“I’ll miss you too,” Nicole said with a raised eyebrow. Wynonna pulled the redhead into a crushing hug that was over just as quickly as it had began. Nicole looked at them both one last time with a final nod and turned on her heels to start towards the bus. Each step felt deliberate and out of place. She couldn’t help but feel like something was missing.

There was that familiar heavy pressure behind her eyes but she tried to keep it in. She didn’t want to cry. Couldn’t cry. She straightened her shoulders and stood tall. Her brother didn’t cry when he left. She wouldn’t either. She stood in the back of the line, eyes straight ahead and hands flexing on the strap of her duffle. There was the revving of an engine in the distance but she kept her eyes forward. She could feel her resolve breaking with each step, heart pounding in fear.

“Nicole!”

At first Nicole thought her mind was playing a cruel trick on her. But then she heard Waverly’s voice again.

“Nicole!”

She turned just in time for a small body to slam into hers. She grunted as Waverly’s body collided with her own, arms immediately wrapping around her waist and holding her off the ground. Waverly’s perfume flooded her nostrils and it was getting harder to hold the tears back. She could feel the eyes on them but really couldn’t care in this moment.

Waverly pulled back, hands on either side of Nicole’s face. “I’m sorry I almost let you leave without me here,” she said through her tears, “It was stupid and I’m sorry-”

“Sssh,” Nicole said soothing Waverly by rubbing her hands up and down her back, “It’s okay, baby. I get it.”

“I needed to see you,” Waverly whispered.

“I’m here, Waves,” Nicole said before realizing something, “Did you drive my car here?”

Waverly nodded proudly, “I only ran one stop sign.”

“That’s illegal. You driving without a license and the stop sign thing,” Nicole reprimanded gently.

“I was in a hurry,” Waverly said, “To see a beautiful girl off.”

Nicole blushed and shook her head. “Impossible.”

“Haught!” the soldier at the door of the bus yelled, looking down at his clipboard. The rest of the line had moved and Nicole looked back at Waverly.

“I have to go,” Nicole said, “I’m sorry I can’t-...I wish I could kiss you.”

Waverly shook her head and forced a smile through her tears, “Seeing you is enough.”

Nicole nodded and put Waverly back on the ground. “I love you,” Nicole said as they slowly let go of each other.

“I love you too,” Waverly whispered, stepping back. Wynonna and Gus stood besides Waverly, the former putting her arm around her sister. Nicole waved one last time before nodding at the soldier at the door and walking towards him.

“Reporting for duty, sir,” Nicole breathed out. He squinted at her for a moment before nodding towards the bus.

“Alrigh’, get in we don’ have all day, girl,” he said marking something on his paper. Nicole stepped onto the bus, pushing her duffle out in front of her so she could walk down the narrow aisle. She found an empty seat in the back and sat in it, duffle falling in the seat next to her. Looking out the window, she waved at Waverly who returned the gesture.

Nicole mouthed ‘I love you’ just as the bus began to pull away. She just caught Waverly saying ‘I love you too’ before she turned into Wynonna and cried into her shoulder. Nicole leaned back against her seat, head tipped back as her eyes fluttered shut. The bus was eerily silent except for the small sniffles and sobs from other people. The sound echoed through the metal body of the vehicle and Nicole let her tears fall silently.

***

Ft. Sam Houston, May 1968

Dear Waverly,

It’s only the first night here, but I said I would write as often as I could and well I can’t sleep. The bus ride was long and exhausting but I managed to sleep the whole way. But right now all I can think about is you and how this is the first night I’ve slept without you in months.

I’m sorry I couldn’t kiss you when we said goodbye. I wanted to. I really did.

They gave us our uniforms today. A lot of the girls were complaining about having to wear pants, but I don’t mind. You know I prefer them to skirts anyways. Our formal uniform is a skirt though, so maybe you’ll finally see me in one.

I could write you all night, but I really should go to bed. I’ll write you again as soon as I can.

Goodnight, my love,
Nicole

PS: Thank you for those pictures you snuck into my bag. I’ll hold them close.

***

Nicole dragged her spent body into the locker room. She had her gun slung over her shoulder and her boots felt ten times heavier than they had this morning. Had they been running the entire day? It felt like it. Running through dirt and grass and sand and mud. The mud that was now caked on the bottom of her shoes. The other girls around her looked equally as spent as they silently went into their lockers. She put her gun in and began to undress for the shower.

“You look like you got run over twice,” a voice next to Nicole said.

She looked over and saw a tall blonde girl who was already stripped naked looking at her. Nicole blushed and looked back towards her locker as she unbuttoned her pants.

“Yeah well I feel like it,” Nicole sighed.

“Shapiro,” the taller girl said holding out her hand for Nicole to shake. She took it a bit cautiously and noticed Shapiro’s eyes wander to her locker door. She pointed at one of the pictures that Waverly had put into Nicole’s bag. It was the two of them under a tree on campus, smiling at the camera. “That your girlfriend?”

“As in my friend that’s a girl? Yes,” Nicole said quickly. She knew better than to even mention having a persuasion to the fairer sex in life. Let alone in the army.

Shapiro chuckled. “You don’t have to worry about me ratting on you,” she said, “I think we may have...a few things in common.”

She shrugged as Nicole looked at her, wondering if she meant what she thought.

“People like us have to stick together,” Shapiro whispered with a wink before walking towards the showers. Nicole looked after her curiously as she took her dirty clothes and put them in a cloth bag, dumping them in the laundry basket on her way to the showers.

***

Dear Nicole,

It’s only been a day and I haven’t gotten your first letter yet but I miss you. I spent the first night alone in bed and I’ve never felt more lonely. I don’t know how you expect me to get through my finals with you gone. I know you’re not even out of the country yet but I still worry.

It’s a really selfish thing that you’ve done, Nicole. You made me fall in love with you and now you’re gone. You made it so I can’t live without you and I’m forced to share a bed with no one but myself. I’ve already dreamed about you. I dream about you with my eyes open too.

Wynonna is grumbling about graduation next week, but I know she just misses you. Even if she won’t admit it.

And I forgot to tell you before you left. Don’t come home with a tattoo or a smoking habit like everyone else seems to come back with. Tattoos are for hawks and will ruin your gorgeous skin. And smoking well...I just don’t like that smell. Anyways.

I love you. And I guess I’ll wait for your letter before I write you again.

Love,
Waverly

***

Nicole walked into the locker room, dirtier than she’d ever been but her limbs didn’t feel like sand this time. They were heavy, but only with fatigue. Not with the extreme exhaustion she had been feeling the first two weeks of her training.

The mornings were for the physical training. They would run with their packs on their back, run drills in the fake Vietnamese town they’d built on base, shoot...and at night they were in the classroom learning about nursing and getting their hands on experience.

Nicole’s body had gotten used to the short hours of sleeping and knew it would only get worse.

Shapiro had proven to be a friend. Someone she could talk to Waverly about without censoring herself. Turned out she had broken up with her girlfriend before shipping off.

After Nicole showered and got dressed, she was drying her hair with a towel when Shapiro came up to her. She leaned against the lockers and kicked Nicole’s boot.

“Come out back with me for a smoke,” she said already tapping out a cigarette for her.

“Waverly doesn’t want me to smoke,” Nicole said tossing her towel in the bin.

Shapiro raised an eyebrow at her, “Your girl here?”

“No-”

“Is she somehow gonna know from hundreds of miles away that you’re smoking?”

“No.”

“Than what does one hurt?” Shapiro said holding one out to her, “Come on it’s good for ya. Opens up your lungs.”

Nicole chuckled as she finished buttoning up her shirt, “That’s what you said last time.”

“And I was right.”

Nicole pretended like she was thinking before taking the cigarette from the other woman. Shapiro grinned and began out the back door, Nicole close behind her. They went out to the steps where other girls were standing around smoking but Shapiro went a little behind some gallon drums before she pulled out her lighter.

“Those girls are just a bunch of birds,” Shapiro mumbled before holding out the lighter for Nicole. She put the cigarette between her lips and held the end to the flame, inhaling so that it lit. The first touch of smoke to her tongue was sharp but she resisted the urge to cough.

Nicole glanced over at the girls closer to the steps. A few of them looked over at them in a way Nicole had gotten all too familiar with.

“Yeah, well I don’t think they’re too fond of us either,” Nicole said blowing out smoke. She coughed a little, her eyes watering.

“You’re real green, you know that?” the blonde chuckled as she expertly blew smoke out her nose.

Nicole sat on top of one of the drums, “How do you stand these things?”

Shapiro shrugged, “My mom used to smoke ‘em for her asthma. Guess I just got used to the smell.”

The redhead reached into her jacket pocket and brought out Waverly’s last letter that she hadn’t responded to yet. As soon as the paper was out, Shapiro snatched it.

“Hey!” Nicole said reaching for it.

The blonde danced just out of reach, eyes scanning the page with a grin. “Damn, Haught,” she said with a low whistle, “You got yourself a little fiery one, huh?”

Nicole grabbed the paper from her hands with a blush. She held it to her chest and began to smooth out the wrinkles in the pages. “That’s private.”

“Nothing in the army is private, sweetheart,” Shapiro said flicking some ashes on the ground. Nicole did the same and took another long drag, each one getting easier than the last.

“I don’t know why I’m smoking these,” Nicole said looking at the cigarette between her fingers.

“Everyone does. Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Jane Fonda,” the blonde said with a sigh, “If it’s good enough for a beautiful woman, it’s good enough for me.”

Nicole rolled her eyes, “Whatever you say, Shapiro.”

The blonde’s eyes had wandered over to the group of girls again, eyes narrowing on them. “Speaking of, I’m pretty sure Travers isn’t unfamiliar with the sapphic side of life.”

Nicole glanced over to the group to see a shorter girl with dark hair looking back at Shapiro curiously. She snorted and took one last drag off her cigarette before flicking it into the dirt. “Your funeral if you get caught.”

“Hey, we all might die as soon as we land in ‘Nam. I’m just trying to live to the fullest,” Shapiro said finishing off her own cigarette.

The words felt like ice in Nicole’s veins at the truth of them. It’s not like she hadn’t been aware of the dangers before she went to training. She knew. Of course. But being on the base it seemed like they were surrounded by the reality of the situation more. She was just glad Waverly wasn’t around to hear it.

“I’m going back inside,” Nicole said getting off of the drum, feet kickin up dirt as she landed on the ground.

“I’ll go with ya,” the other girl said stamping out her own cigarette and following Nicole back into the building. They had a few minutes before lights out so when they got to their bunks, she pulled out some paper to reply to Waverly. She set the her girlfriend’s slightly wrinkled letter on the bed in front of her to reread before she began.

Dear Nicole,

Graduation went well. I finally convinced Wynonna to walk, even though she was drunk when she did. I can’t believe I’m going to be walking next year. You better be back by then! No excuses! I timed it out so your year ends just in time. Just so you know. Anyways.

I got your diploma. It’s sitting in my room right now. I look at it all the time and for some reason it makes me miss you even more.

I had an interesting dream about you last night. Let’s just say it involved you and me and no one else. We were in a lake, I think it was the same lake I told you about with my Mr. Rabbit. I don’t remember. But I do remember your hands and your mouth. I miss you so much. I want to hold you and touch you and do unspeakable things to you. Every day I’m without you it seems to get worse.

But enough of that. Tell me about everything you’re learning. If I slip and fall, could you save me? I read something about that cardiopulmonary resuscitation that’s a big thing now and I just wanted to say that you should practice that on me some time. Tell Shapiro I said hi and to keep you out of trouble.

Wynonna wants me to tell you that there’s no good pool partners since you left. This personally offends me but I’ll let her have this one. She misses you. So does Gus and Nedley and Chrissy. And Rosita actually. I saw Jesse the other day at Shorty’s. She asked about you. Despite myself, I really like her.

Anyways, I wait for your next letter anxiously. Do you know where you’re being assigned yet?

Love,
Waverly

Nicole pulled out a pen and flattened a piece of paper on her knee so that she could write.

Dear Waves,

Thank you for holding on to my diploma for me. If it makes you sad you should put it in a drawer and forget about it. I promise I’ll be back for your graduation. I promise. I can’t wait to watch you walk across the stage.

As for your dream…

I would be lying if I said I didn’t dream of you too. More than I can count I’ve woken up...distracted. I wish I could touch you and feel you. It’s only been a few weeks but I can only hope it’ll get easier.

I do know a lot about CPR now. I can save you from drowning which is a plus. We’ve learned a lot about tying off arteries and handling shrapnel injuries which is terrifying but life saving. Apparently that’s one of the more common injuries.

Shapiro says hi. You want me to tell her to keep me out of trouble, but she is the trouble so I don’t think that’ll do much good. She called you ‘fiery’ after stealing your letter from me so it’s safe to say she likes you. If you ever meet in person she will definitely flirt with you. I’m warning you now.

I’m glad to hear you didn’t give Jesse the cold shoulder. She really is nice, I promise. And she does like you despite everything.

I meant to tell you and...please don’t take this the wrong way. But if something happens to me, please tell Shae. I want you to do this because she’s a good friend, she really is. Plus she’ll know how to get ahold of my parents. I didn’t list them on the contact, only you.

Anyways, I have to go. I’ll write you soon. You’ll notice the picture I put in this letter. It’s me and Shapiro in our uniforms. I thought you might like to put a face to the name.

Love,
Nicole

***

“Did you pick your assignment yet?” Shapiro asked sitting on the bed across from Nicole. She shook her head, carefully folding up all of Waverly’s letters and tying them together with a string.

“No. You?”

Shapiro shook her head, “We should pick the same one.”

Nicole nodded as she finished tying the knot. She put the letters into her duffle bag with a sigh. Today was the day they chose their assignments before being shipped out at the end of the week. The day had been looming overhead for the past month and Nicole had done her best to distract herself from it. It was easy since they were kept busy with their training.

It didn’t make her miss Waverly any less though.

“Which one’s that?” Nicole asked.

Shapiro pulled a piece of paper out of her back pocket and looked at it. She pointed to one and showed the paper to Nicole.

Long Binh, Field Hospital

“That’s the one then,” Nicole said tucking her dogtags into her shirt. Shapiro looked at Nicole with an unreadable smile and crossed her legs in front of her on the bed. Nicole pushed on her feet. “Get your dirty boots off of my bed.”

Shapiro snorted but took her feet off the bed anyways. “What’s it matter? We’re about to go into a warzone.”

The nerves in Nicole’s stomach made her guts twist but she ignored it. “We still have a couple of days left.”

“Guess so,” the blonde said looking down at the mattress, “Are you scared?”

“Terrified,” Nicole whispered with a humorless smile, “But that’s just part of it I guess.”

“I’m scared too,” Shapiro whispered back, matching her tight smile, “At least you have a skirt at home waiting for you.”

Nicole shrugged, “Almost makes it worse. Everything I do affects her. You know?”

Shapiro nodded and Nicole looked down at the name patch on her chest. She imagined Waverly running her fingers over it and calling her ‘soldier’ like she had so many times before. She could almost feel Waverly, almost smell her perfume.

***

The fire licked at her skin. She could smell the burning. Hear the screams. Ash got in her eyes and she wiped them away. When she did she saw Waverly standing among the flames.

She reached for Nicole.

Nicole reached back but just as their fingers brushed Waverly was pulled back into the flames. Nicole screamed into the darkness.

***

Dear Waverly,

I’m being shipped out at the end of the week. As you know. I don’t have much to say honestly, I just wanted to write you. I wish I could call but this will have to do.

I miss you. Just know that I miss you. While I don’t regret joining the Army, I regret leaving you. I’ve told you this a thousand times before but I need to do this. I need to do it for my brother. For me. For my country. For you. I hope you understand that some day.

I love you so much. With my whole body and soul. You’d think all this training would make me hard but I think it’s made me softer. I can’t wait to hold you again.

When I get over to Vietnam, it’s going to be a few weeks between letters as it takes longer to get them to you. But I’ll look forward to every one and still write when I can. I’m going to keep your picture close to my heart so I can imagine you’re with me.

Remember on my last day with you? Do you remember the song I said I wrote for you? Well I did. Don’t let Paul McCartney say otherwise. I’ll send you all my loving and dream of your lips every single night. Don’t ever think there’s a moment you’re not on my mind.

Please don’t worry. Please don’t think the worst in the gaps of time you won’t hear from me. I love you too much to leave you forever. I’ll be back soon, my love. Until then. I can’t wait to kiss you again.

Love,
Nicole

Chapter Text

Field Hospital in Long Binh, Vietnam, June 1968

The helicopter ride was more exciting than Nicole had originally thought it would be. The side doors were open and you could see out over the jungle. Humidity hung in the air like a blanket and even rolling the sleeves of her uniform shirt up past her elbows didn’t seem to help. The shirt was new and still crisp from the starch they used at the factory. Though after the long plane ride and subsequent helicopter ride, it had lost some of it’s stiffness.

She glanced over at Shapiro who was looking passive as ever as she looked out of the helicopter. She turned to Nicole and gestured for the camera hanging around her neck. Nicole handed it to her and the blonde took a picture outside of the helicopter door. She then turned and took a picture of Nicole in the helicopter. Nicole grabbed the camera back and did the same just as they were coming up on a camp.

Nicole put the camera back in the duffle between her feet as they landed. As soon as they were on the ground, the pilot turned and gave them the thumbs up.

“Welcome home, ladies,” he said with a grin.

Shapiro scoffed and picked up her pack, Nicole close behind as they jumped out of the helicopter. The grass crunched beneath her feet and it felt like the humidity got even heavier if that was possible. The smell that hit her was...a mix of dirt, garbage and urine. She readjusted the cap on her head just as an older blonde woman started towards them. She was wearing a stark white nurses uniform that stood out among the muck and grime of her surroundings. They dropped their bags and stood at attention.

“Hello,” she said stiffly, “Guess you’re our new nurses. I’m the Head Nurse here. Constance Clootie.”

Nicole stood straight and nodded, Shapiro copying her. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Ugh stop it,” she said rolling her eyes, “I’m so tired of everyone being so formal. Everyone’s dying. Haught and Shapiro, yes? Follow me.”

They followed Clootie further into the camp and Nicole couldn’t help but notice how...normal it all seemed. There were men lounging and smoking. Some with their shirts off playing soccer in the dirt road between buildings. There was even a radio playing somewhere.

Stars shining bright above you. Night breezes seem to whisper ‘I love you’. Birds singing in the sycamore tree. Dream a little dream of me-

Nicole adjusted the bag on her shoulder as Clootie stopped in front of a row of buildings with white roofs. They were only one step above tents. And just barely. There fifty gallon drums and sandbags lining the sides of the flimsy looking building and she pointed over her shoulder at it.

“These are the hospital buildings. The head doctor is Doctor Del Rey. He’s-...well don’t turn your back on him,” she said with an unreadable look, “You’ll learn how to handle him sooner or later.”

Nicole and Shapiro glanced at each other just as Clootie started moving again. “These will be your quarters Building 1 if you get lost. Only the first floor is women, the second is men. No men allowed in your rooms and you’re not allowed in the men’s rooms. Not that you’ll be spending a lot of time there anyways,” she said, “You two are roommates. The showers are over there. No hot water so plan accordingly.”

They looked to where Clootie pointed and saw an open shack with a couple of stalls. They looked at each other again and back at Clootie.

“You two have the rest of the day to get settled,” she said, “But tomorrow be ready to work.”

“Yes, ma’am,” they said in unison.

Clootie rolled her eyes and started to walk away. Quickly she turned, walking backwards. “Also! Trust none of the natives. Even the kids. They love to throw bombs into the camps. And if one of them gives you a can or something... don’t take it. It’s probably a hand grenade rigged to go off as soon as you open it.”

With that she turned and continued walking away.

“Damn,” Shapiro said under her breath.

“Yeah,” Nicole said rubbing the back of her neck. A group of soldiers standing near one of the other buildings were sneering at them. Nicole shivered under their gaze and Shapiro groaned.

“Gross. Come on, Haught,” she said leading the way into the bunks. It was fairly empty, most of the girls probably outside or working. There was a handwritten sign on their door that said ‘Haught, Shapiro’. “Guess this is it,” Shapiro said ripping the sign off and pushing the door open. The room was small, two beds pushed against the opposite walls with a small dresser next to it.

“Not bad,” Nicole said sitting on the bed. The thin mattress creaked under her, springs groaning. Leaning on the wall between their beds and the dresser were M-16s. Nicole raised an eyebrow at them and noticed the helmet and flak jacket on the bed too.

“Well, guess it’s real,” Shapiro said putting the helmet on her head. Nicole took off her cap and followed suit. Shapiro knocked on Nicole’s helmet and it slipped a little over her eyes. She pushed her friend away. She took the helmet off and set it on the post of her bed.

“Home sweet home,” Shapiro said flopping back onto the bed.

“Home sweet home,” Nicole repeated.

Somewhere in the distance the radio still played.

Stars fading but I linger on dear. Still craving your kiss. I'm longing to linger till dawn dear-

***

Dear Waverly,

We just got to the camp. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. It’s actually a lot more normal than I was expecting. If you let yourself, you might be able to trick yourself into thinking you’re back home.

It’s humid as hell here. That’s probably the worst part so far. The Head Nurse is...odd. But she’s been here a while I bet so that’s probably why.

We got to ride on a helicopter today which was fun. I put a roll of film in here for you to develop with some pictures from the helicopter and a few others. I haven’t met anyone new yet. Just me and Shapiro. I have a little dresser that I’m going to put your picture on so I can look at it every night before I fall asleep.

There’s a system here called MARS that I may be able to use to call you. The next day I have that’s free, I’m going to stand in line and try to call you. We’ll only have a few minutes but it’ll be worth it to hear your voice.

I miss you. It feels redundant to say at this point, but I’ll never tire of saying it. So I hope you never tire of hearing it.

I love you. And until I can write again.
Nicole

***

The sun wasn’t even breaking through the sky when Nicole jogged to the medical buildings the next morning. The adrenaline coursing through her veins surged as noise surrounded her. There were helicopters flying in, men yelling in pain and men yelling instructions. Nicole felt her mind spinning as she ducked into the medical tent.

The smell was overwhelming.

She wasn’t even sure she could describe it. Her stomach lurched, the biscuit she had shoved into her mouth before she left felt like it was stuck in her throat. Her heart pounded.

The smell was heavy and hung on her tongue. It was blood, dirt, burning, fear, sweat. It smelled like hell.

“Haught! Over here!” Clootie said from a nearby cot. There was a man on it screaming, everything below his knees a complete mess as he writhed on the table, “Here. Help me. Get the IV ready.”

Nicole nodded and went to work. Soon her hands were too busy doing the things she had been training to do for months to let herself think too hard. There was even a sense of excitement in her belly that she was finally able to do something. To help.

She got the IV ready and administered it as Clootie put tourniquets on the soldier’s legs. Nicole’s hands shook as she put the IV on a stand and Clootie nodded for her to follow her to the next bed. Nicole followed her and felt her stomach lurch. The boy on the bed was writhing. Nicole was surprised he was even still conscious. Everything under his nose was a bloody mess, tongue barely hanging on. There were teeth, stark white against the bloody mess, where they shouldn’t be. His uniform was ripped to shreds and Nicole wasn’t even sure where the carnage ended and began.

Clootie did a couple of things as Nicole stood uselessly. The boy reached for her hand, eyes bugging out and pleading for help. He barely squeezed her hand and she squeezed it back. Clootie pulled Nicole aside for a moment and spoke softly.

“He’s an expectant, put him behind a curtain and get one of the other girls to sit with him,” she said, “Then find me. You’re going to be working on IV’s today. Maybe some morphine-”

“Expectants?” Nicole asked.

Clootie sighed, “Means there’s nothing we can do. He’s going to die. We need to focus our resources elsewhere. Now move it. We have more wounded coming in in a matter of time.”

Nicole nodded as Clootie walked away. She turned back to the man on the bunk and swallowed thickly. His body was jerking a little and she quickly drew the curtain around him. There was a gentle hand on her arm and she turned. A taller man, blood smeared on his uniform, looked at her.

“He’s my friend,” he said, “Can I sit with him while-...”

He trailed off but Nicole nodded. “Yeah. Yes, please.”

The man nodded back and slipped behind the curtain. She heard his soft soothing words to his friends and a knife twisted in her gut. But she didn’t have time to think about it. She went to where Clootie stood next to the bed of a man who had bullet wounds in his arm and chest.

“IV,” Clootie said simply.

Nicole went to work, trying to stay as far away from the closed curtains as possible.

***

Nicole rubbed her eyes with her arm, blinking away sleep. The chaos in the tent had died down and now they were finally getting to the soldiers that needed help but could wait. She suppressed a yawn and turned back to the wound she was stitching up. It was a fairly simple wound. Graze from a piece of shrapnel that cut just deep enough to need five stitches. It was cleaned and she’d made the first stitch, careful to be gentle.

“Tired?” the soldier asked, his own voice weary.

She looked back up at the man with a smile. For the first time since she had started working on him, she recognized him as the soldier that had sat with the expectant earlier. He smiled back but it didn’t quite meet his eyes.

“Sorry about your friend,” Nicole said softly.

The soldier chuckled, “You must be green.”

“What?”

“New. You must be new,” he winced as she made another stitch, “You’re too nice.”

“Is no one else that’s here nice?”

“Not really,” he said looking away from where she was stitching his arm closed, “People change here. Definitely not for the best. Not that I blame them. I’m definitely not the same person.”

Nicole nodded, “Well you’d be right. I’ve only been here a few days. I’m Haught by the way. Nicole Haught. I’d shake your hand but…”

“I’m Fish,” the soldier said, “Nice to meet you, Haught.”

“I’m almost done here,” she said finishing off the last stitch and tying it off. She snipped the string and put a bandage over the fresh stitches. “Just try not to get it wet.”

“You got it, nurse,” he said with a wink.

Nicole set the needle and left over thread on the tray next to her and peeled off her gloves.

“Haught!” Clootie called from another gurney where she was working on a soldier, “You’re done for the night. Be back here at 0500 hours.”

“Yes, ma’am,” she said standing up to stretch her back.

Fish stood up too, gingerly shrugging his uniform shirt on, “So I’ll see you around?”

“Sure,” Nicole said adjusting the cap on her head, “Just not with you being hurt. Yeah?”

“Sounds good,” he said as she waved at him and left the tent. She took a deep breath of the fresh air and shuddered. It wasn’t fresh. It still smelled like burning. But underneath was the thick fresh scent of the jungle and it felt good expanding her lungs.

“Fuck,” Nicole said to the air before rubbing her eyes and walking towards her building.

***

The shock of it all wasn’t something that happened at once. It was something that happened slowly over time. The first few times they got a lot of bodies in the medical tents, Nicole just snapped into her job. She went around the tent, setting up IVs, stitching up wounds, cleaning wounds. She’d seen more carnage in the past few weeks than she could ever imagine. She’d seen men with missing limbs, stomachs cut open and guts spilling out, bleeding out of their ears from ruptured ear drums.

But it wasn’t the gruesome nature of it that bothered her. At least not at first. She could compartmentalize and put those thoughts in a little box at the back of her mind to examine later.

No. It was the sheer amount of bodies.

It was hundreds upon hundreds. Just in their little hospital.

The number of soldiers that came in and even less that came out was staggering.

It was hard to believe there was even anyone still left back home.

Nicole’s stomach churned just thinking about it.

What made it worse is that she could barely remember the name of a single soldier she’d helped in the time she’d been here. There were just so many of them and everything moved so quickly and-

She couldn’t help but think of Chris. Just another name. Another face. Forgotten by the people that were around him when he died. Just another soldier not going back in the field. Another statistic.

How many brothers had come under her care? How many did she end up pulling the sheet over their eyes because there was no helping them? And she couldn’t even remember one of their names.

***

Dear Nicole,

I never knew a month could feel so long. I know it’s been longer since you’ve been gone, but a month since we’ve been in the same country and it feels like forever. Sometimes I can forget that you’re gone. Like when I’m working or with Wynonna. But then something will always remind me of you and it’s like the first time you left all over again.

Wynonna says I’m being dramatic, but I see her looking at the picture of you that Gus put on the mantel.

Yes, you’re on the mantel. Right next to Wynonna’s graduation picture and my high school graduation picture. Don’t write back saying you shouldn’t be there because you know that’s a damn lie. You’ve captured many a heart, Nicole Haught. Officer Haught? Is that your official title now? Nurse Haught?

Speaking of Wynonna though, I think she’s finally run into a bit of trouble with her two boys. Neither seem content to share her anymore but Wynonna is handling it in true Wynonna fashion. Ignoring it.

Can you believe man was on the moon? It still blows my mind. I’ve been reading all the newspaper articles about it I can find. I want to write NASA and ask for all the information on it they’ll give me. I want to know all about how it worked, Nicole. Doesn’t it just seem wild? Man on the moon! I’m saving all of the articles about it for you to read when you get back. I want your full thoughts on it.

Anyways, I suppose I should wrap this up. I’d write you a novel if I allowed myself.

I love you. I miss you. I say this all the time but please be careful. Every time I see the telegram delivery boy I have a heart attack. Wynonna assures me you’re fine and not in the combat zone. But I still worry. How could I not? You’re at war, even if you’re far from the danger.

I love you. I can’t wait for you to come home to me. Be safe.

Love,
Waverly

PS: I put some...compromising pictures in this letter. Just to give you some motivation to come home unscathed.

***

It was a rare day off. A time to sit and relax. At least for a little bit. Nicole had slipped on some shorts she’d brought with her along with her tshirt and was laying back on the towel she’d brought out to enjoy the sun. Shapiro and Fish were on either side of her. The humidity was so dense it felt like it was sitting on her chest. But she was determined to not pay it any mind.

It was the first full day off she’d had since getting to the base and she planned on using it to her full advantage. Fish took them to a little water reservoir on the edge of the base that people would always lounge in front of like a beach. The slab of cement next to it had towels strewn all over it and other people relaxing.

“Haught, why couldn’t you pick a post near an actual beach?” Shapiro asked, adjusting her sunglasses.

Nicole turned her head to look at her, “If I recall, you chose the base.”

Shapiro just waved the comment off and turned on her stomach, arms folded beneath her head as she looked at Nicole. “You should have known better.”

“But then you never would have had the honor of meeting me,” Fish said with a wink in their direction.

Nicole rolled her eyes and shoved his arm playfully, careful to avoid the fresh scar from his stitches. Fish had become a constant in their lives since the day Nicole had patched him up. He was non threatening, unlike a lot of the other soldiers on the base. Nicole and Shapiro quickly learned to avoid going to the showers alone, especially at night. She could handle the staring and lewd comments, she learned to ignore them. It was the unwanted touching that made Nicole’s skin crawl. And it was all too common.

“I think we could have managed,” Nicole joked as she stretched. She pushed her sunglasses up on the top of her head and sat up. She leaned over and looked at the scar on Fish’s arm. “I do good work.”

Shapiro leaned over and squinted at it, lifting her sunglasses to get a better look before shrugging. “I’ve seen better.”

“Ass,” Nicole said pushing her back towards her own towel.

“Speaking of asses,” Shapiro said with a smirk as she settled back on her towel, “How’s your girl?”

Nicole felt her entire body flush. “I should beat you up for looking at her like that,” she mumbled. Waverly’s last letter included a picture of herself laying belly down on the bed stark naked, feet in the air and hooked at the ankles with her head resting in her hand.

“Then maybe you shouldn’t leave your letters out.”

“It was in the envelope under my pillow!”

“What? Like I wasn’t going to go looking for whatever made you choke on air?”

“You have your filthy magazines. You don’t need my personal pictures,” Nicole pointed out.

”Definitely better than any Playboy I’ve ever seen,” Shapiro said, “I’d pay money for that centerfold-”

Nicole glared at Shapiro who was clearly holding back a laugh.

“You’re lucky you’re one of my only friends here,” Nicole said laying back down, “Because my girl is definitely more beautiful than anyone you’d find in your trashy magazines.”

“Maybe she should audition to be a model for them,” Shapiro said.

“In your dreams,” Nicole said flipping her off, “Stop thinking about Waverly naked.”

Shapiro hummed, “I’ll do my best. No promises.”

“You’re the worst,” Nicole said laying back down on her towel, “Now let me enjoy my day off.”

***

Hey Haught,

Bet you weren’t expecting a letter from me! Well, don’t get used to it. I was bored and had a spare piece of paper lying around so I figured why not. Right?

Hope you’re having a good time over there. But not too good of a time. If I find out you slept your way through those younger more vulnerable nurses I’ll lay you out as soon as you get off that plane. You may be a tough one now, but I can still take you.

Waverly is being extra dramatic with you being away. I swear to god she gets more dramatic every day. I have to make sure I get the mail before her and check to make sure there’s no telegrams in there saying you’ve gone and done something stupid. Which brings me to my next point.

DON’T DO SOMETHING STUPID.

I will definitely lay you out if I find out you’ve gone and gotten so much as a stubbed toe. Only because I know it’ll make Waverly even more insufferable.

If you must know, I’m fine without you. Graduation was boring but I walked because Gus wanted me to. I’ve been helping out at Shorty’s until I can find a real job. Dolls has something promising that I hope to tag along with him on, but we’ll see. He might be dumb and decide to enlist too.

Anyways. Don’t get hurt, Haught. Get your ass back home in one piece.

Wynonna

***

“This song again?” Shapiro said as she replaced the linens on one of the gurneys.

Nicole smirked and turned it up louder.

Say nighty-night and kiss me. Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me. While I'm alone and blue as can be, dream a little dream of me-

She went back to doing inventory on the supplies and Shapiro groaned. She was counting rolls of gauze when an all too familiar voice spoke up behind them.

“Hello, ladies,” the deep voice of Doctor Del Rey came. She looked over her shoulder and saw him walking towards her.

“Hello, Doctor,” she said. She could feel him watching over her shoulder. She felt the gentle puff of his breath on her neck and shivered, focusing on her hands as they shifted through the cabinet to count the bottles of aspirin.

“Need a hand there, Haught?” he asked, his head hovering over her shoulder.

“No, sir,” she said suppressing a shiver. He smelled like tobacco and iodine.

He clicked his tongue and shook his head, “How many times must I tell you, calling me sir is not necessary.”

Nicole glanced up at Shapiro who was also watching them carefully. “Yes, si-...Doctor.”

“That’s better,” he said finally pulling away from her. She breathed a sigh of relief and glanced over her shoulder to see him walking back to the other side of the room. “See you ladies tomorrow morning.”

When he left the room, both of them audibly sighed.

“Hate him,” Shapiro said under her breath, “He gives me the creeps.”

“You and me both,” Nicole muttered as she recounted the aspirin.

“How much longer until we’re out of here?” Shapiro asked.

“Ten months,” Nicole said with a roll of her eyes, “I bet it’ll start to go faster.”

Shapiro sighed, “When can I start to regret enlisting?”

Nicole shook her head and shut the cabinet, writing a number on the clipboard on the wall. “Never. Or else time will only drag on.”

Shapiro groaned dramatically. “Anyways, when is Waverly sending you another naked picture?”

Nicole threw a balled up piece of paper at Shapiro’s head but she batted it away easily.

***

The chocolate bars that Nicole had stocked up on from the shop on base weighed heavy in her pockets as she walked up to the orphanage. Shapiro walked closely next to her, eyes scanning the road.

“You know what irks me?” she asked as they got closer to the orphanage, some other nurses walking behind them.

“What’s that?” Nicole said.

“That they sell chocolate bars and panty hose in the shop, but not sanitary napkins.”

Nicole snorted.

“Seriously!” Shapiro continued, “They have multiple uses too! We could use them to stop bleeding.”

“You think a soldier’s gonna let me put a sanitary napkin on his neck to stop bleeding?” Nicole said with a raised eyebrow.

Shapiro scoffed, “If he’s bleeding he ain’t got much of a choice anyways.”

Someone cleared their throat loudly behind them and they turned to see Clara Johnson giving them a look. “Can we talk about appropriate things only please?” she said tucking a piece of blonde hair back under her cap.

Shapiro turned to walk backwards and winked at her, “Whatever you need, darlin’. We can talk about that tonight.”

Nicole held back a laugh as Clara turned a deep red and sputtered. Shapiro turned back around as they reached the orphanage and Nicole shook her head.

“Are you trying to get in trouble?”

“Definitely,” Shapiro said lowly, “But not the kind of trouble you’re thinking of.”

As they walked into the doors, some children came up to them. Most stayed away, hiding behind the caretakers there. It always broke her heart to see the kids in the orphanage. They’d been here almost every weekend now to give vaccinations and basic medical care. Communication was always hard and going into town was dangerous.

It was hard to tell who was part of the militant population and who wasn’t. There were plenty of times that soldiers and civilians alike would come into the medic tent with injuries just from walking through town. They were bombed, shot at, anything.

“Sô cô la?” one of the kids asked, little hand patting Nicole’s pocket. She smiled and reached into her pockets, pulling out the chocolate bars. Little hands grabbed for them as she tried to hand them out.

“Little scavengers,” Shapiro said, not unkindly. Nicole smiled as some other nurses tried to talk to the kids too. One of the main caretakers came up to Nicole and Shapiro and gestured for them to follow.

“Đỏ. Baby, needs help,” she said. Nicole followed as the other nurses started to set up vaccinations. The nurse took her to a room with cribs on either side, walkway in the middle. She led her to a crib at the end where a swaddled baby was screaming in pain. Nicole looked at it and knew it was bad.

It’s entire body was covered in burns. Nicole pulled the blanket away from it’s body, cringing at how the blanket stuck to her a little.

“Shit,” she said under her breath. She looked up at the caretaker and tried to mime her words, “What...what happened?”

“Sky! Plane,” the caretaker said and moving her fingers like rain falling from the sky.

Nicole dropped her supply bag on the ground and scooped the baby into her arms carefully. It wailed even louder and she tried to rock it.

“Ssh, it’s okay,” she said sitting on a nearby chair, she started to pull supplies from her bag, trying to think what could help. Shapiro came in then and looked over the baby.

“Fuck,” she muttered, kneeling in front of Nicole, “chemical burns.”

The babies eyes rolled up into it’s head and she started to jerk in Nicole’s arms. Shapiro prepared a needle and disinfected a spot on the babies arm before injecting it. Nicole’s chest felt tight as the baby’s eyes closed and she continued crying.

“There’s really nothing we can do,” Shapiro whispered.

“I know,” Nicole said tucking the blanket around the baby better, “I know but we have to try. Right?”

“We can at least take away a lot of the pain,” Shapiro said with a sigh, “I think we’ve done all we can do at this point.”

Nicole nodded as Shapiro stood up. “I’m gonna stay with her.”

“Okay,” Shapiro said with a sad smile, “I’ll um...see you out there.”

Nicole adjusted the baby better in her arms as dazed brown eyes looked up at her. There was a lump in Nicole’s throat that just wouldn’t go down, no matter how much she swallowed. She’d seen a lot of people die lately. Both soldiers and civilians. But this was different. This was...Nicole didn’t even know how to sort through it in her mind right now.

“Hey little thing,” Nicole said with a soft smile, “How about a song, huh? You got a favorite?”

The baby closed her eyes again, breathing shaky.

“Not picky? Okay, let me think of one for you.”

Nicole rocked in the chair a little as she thought. She started humming to herself until she remembered the words.

“Stars shining bright above you, night breezes seem to whisper ‘I love you’. Birds singing in a sycamore tree. Dream a little dream of me-”

***

Dear Shae,

Sorry I’m just now writing you. Things have been a little...overwhelming. I was thinking of you specifically today because we were at the orphanage and there was a baby with really bad chemical burns. I’m pretty sure it was from us. From our planes.

I had to watch the baby die, Shae. I had to watch it die because of something that was for the most part avoidable. Because of us. We’re supposed to be the good guys but...I wonder if we really are. I know I can’t think that way. Not if I want to survive over here. But the people, the locals, they really hate us.

They yell at us, spit on us...even as we’re trying to help them. And the things I’ve seen, Shae…

I can’t tell Waverly these things. I can’t tell her all the horrible things I’ve seen because I don’t want her to worry. She worries enough. I’m proud of what I’m doing. I’m proud to be helping people in the name of my country but...what if we’re the bad guys, Shae?

And how do you do it? You’re a doctor. How do you watch innocent lives wither away in front of you?

Sometimes I want to walk into the jungle and just keep walking. But then I think of Waverly and I can’t. I can’t do that to her. To you, to Wynonna. I can’t do that to you guys. But I want to. And I think about it probably more than I should.

Anyways. I’m sorry I’m dumping all this on you. I love you, I hope you’re doing well and have finally found a new girlfriend. I’ll see you soon.

Love,
Nicole

***

“Haught!”

Nicole looked over to where Clootie was directing some soldiers who had a soldier on a gurney. She rushed over to them, the soldier she had been administering morphine too finally settling into a sleep.

They put him on one of the empty beds and Nicole’s heart immediately sank looking at him. His face was basically gone, just a pulp of mess. He was making vague sounds at the back of his throat, blood staining his clothes so heavily that Nicole wasn’t even sure where he was bleeding from.

Clootie turned to her and said quietly, “Landmine. He’s not going to make it. He’s lost too much blood and is already in shock. I need you to sit with him.”

“Me?” Nicole breathed out. She’d never had to sit with an expectant before. She’d managed to avoid it.

“Yes, you,” Clootie said already pulling the curtain around his bed, “Sit with him than after-...afterwards I need you back. I’m assisting in surgery right now.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Nicole said taking off her gloves. She slipped behind the curtain and sat in the chair next to the bed. It was strangely quiet behind the curtain, despite the noise that was happening all around them. At first she thought maybe the soldier had already passed but then he made a gurgling sound that made her jump.

“Hi,” she said reaching for his hand carefully, “I’m Nicole. Haught.”

She felt a small squeeze of acknowledgement from his hand and breathed a sigh of relief. She looked at the name patch on his pocket, just making out a name behind the blood.

“McCullen? Is that your name?”

Another squeeze.

“I’m sorry we can’t have a real conversation,” Nicole whispered. She wasn’t sure how to comfort him, or if he really was acknowledging her or if it was all a trick.

“It’ll be better soon,” she said, “I promise. It’ll all be better.”

Emotion caught in her throat and she did her best to swallow it down.

“I had a brother,” she found herself saying, “He was a soldier too. He...didn’t make it. But I still think about him every day. He’s why I’m here. Really.”

Another squeeze on her hand.

Nicole licked her lips. “I’m sorry this is happening to you,” she said, unsure of what else to say, “It’s going to be better though. Whatever you’re feeling right now, you’ll never have to feel again. I promise you. And you’ll never be forgotten. Because I’ll never forget you.”

There was no squeeze this time and Nicole sat breathless for a minute. The hand felt limp in her own and she let out a shuddering sigh. With one final squeeze to his hand, she let go of it and blinked away tears.

Her chest ached, heart in a vice grip as shaky hands lifted a sheet over the soldiers face. Or what was left of it anyways.

Nicole left the curtain and nodded at another nurse who was moving bodies back to storage until their families could be notified. She tried to do what she did best. She tried to push the thoughts to the back of her mind. To that little box there. But it was overflowing and it was like she couldn’t close the lid.

All the things she’d been hiding away spilled out, making a mess and filling Nicole’s head with images of carnage and destruction.

But she kept moving, doing her best to stay in her rotation. Her eyes were glassy, breathing shallow, but she had to keep it together. She had to. For now.

***

Her entire body felt cold. But clammy.

She sat on the edge of her cot, arms resting on her bouncing knees as she stared ahead. She breathed harshly through her nose and gagged.

The smell of copper and iodine stuck in her nostrils and she quickly rubbed it with the back of her hand. She hoped to get rid of it but it wouldn’t. The smell only got worse.

It made her stomach turn, entire body feeling like it was turning against her.

Nicole felt sweat prickling at the edge of her hairline, her breath quickening.

Her hands were clasped together and she could feel them shaking. She looked down and the sickness in her stomach only got worse. Her hands were stained red. Blood under her fingernails, stark against her pale skin.

She started to breath heavily, panic taking hold of her limbs as she scrubbed frantically at her hands in some vain attempt to rid herself of the blood.

Nicole picked at the blood under the nails but nothing seemed to work. Tears built up in her eyes, chest tight. She couldn’t stop looking at her hands. The blood. The stains. Blood that wasn’t hers. Blood of men. Boys that had died. Her brother.

Her vision blurred around the edges as she rubbed her hands. They burned. She was probably rubbing them raw. But all she could think about was the blood on her hands.

She felt a firm touch on her arms and looked up quickly, startled.

“Shapiro,” she breathed, holding up her hands, “Who’s blood is this?”

The blonde kneeled in front of Nicole and held her hands between her own.

“It doesn’t matter,” Shapiro said shaking her head slowly, “Whoever’s blood this is today...it’ll be someone else’s tomorrow.”

Ice was running through Nicole’s veins, leg still bouncing as she nodded. “Okay.”

“I need you to calm down,” the blonde said, “Look at me. Not your hands.”

Nicole forced her eyes back up and looked at her friend.

“Okay,” Nicole said swallowing thickly, “Okay.”

“Hey,” Shapiro said getting her attention, “We kicked ass today. Don’t get in your head. Huh? You spend enough time there as it is. We got lives to save.”

“Okay,” Nicole said forcing a smile.

“You have to keep your head,” Shapiro said, “For Waverly.”

Hearing the name was like an electric shock to her heart. She thought about Waverly waiting for her. Expecting her to do good things and come back a hero.

“You’re right,” Nicole said closing her eyes, “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize,” Shapiro said squeezing her hands on the verge of being painful, “I’m sure you’ll have to pull me out of the same mess at some point.”

Nicole couldn’t help but smile and nod. And she couldn’t smell the blood in her nose anymore.

***

Dear Waverly,

Things are going well over here. We’ve gotten a lot of injuries lately so I’m sorry I haven’t been able to write as much as I would like. The time we have off here is fleeting, but nice. I’ve made some friends. I can’t tell all of them about you, but the ones I can I bet they wish I couldn’t.

I can’t stop talking about you to anyone who’ll listen. It’s like it makes you closer to me somehow. I carry your picture around with me always. Right on top of my heart.

Anyways, I’m exhausted, so this will be a short letter. I just wanted to say I love you. And I miss you.

Love,
Nicole

***

One instant there was nothing. Then the next flames erupted around Nicole.

The sounds of war echoed around her. Screaming. The smell of gunpowder heavy in her nostrils.

She heard her before she saw her.

“Nicole!”

Her head whipped around and she saw Waverly standing a few yards away. She was wearing a short skirt and that ridiculous shred of fabric she insisted was a top. Nicole’s heart was standing in front of her and in her throat.

“Waverly!” Nicole tried to yell. But no sound came out. She clawed at her throat but her vocal cords refused to work and she was stuck in place.

Finally her feet moved, but it felt like she was moving through mud.

“Waverly! Go!” Nicole said, but still no sound came out. She heard the sound of a bomb whistling through the air. Then there was a blinding flash of light and-

She jerked awake, chest rising and falling rapidly. She looked around in the dark but Shapiro was still asleep in the other bed. After a few moments she settled back into the bed and stared up at the ceiling.

Nicole had been having these dreams on and off since she got here. Some days it was Waverly. Other times it was Shapiro, Chris or Fish.

She pulled her pillow to her chest and pretended it was Waverly as she tried to lull herself back to sleep.

***

Dear Nicole,

I want to be mad at you. I should be mad at you. Every day I can’t help but see in the newspapers and on the news, all the lives we’ve lost. I can’t help but scan the names for yours and I can’t breath until I’ve read it through to make sure you’re not there.

I want to hold you but I also want to beat at your chest for what you’re putting me through. I’ve woken up crying more times than I care to admit. I feel like a part of me is over there with you. At the same time, I look at that list and think of how many you must have saved. How many names aren’t on that list because of you.

You may not think it. But I am proud of you. So proud of you. It took me a while to get to this point but I’m proud of the work you’re doing. I can’t wait to have you back safe with me.

Please stay safe. Please. If you love me at all, you’ll stay safe.

I love you. I miss you. And we’re not even halfway through the year yet. I thought it was going to get easier but it hasn’t. I look at the pictures you’ve sent me every night before I go to sleep. You’re so handsome in your uniform. My soldier. I can’t wait to see you.

Love,
Waverly

***

Nicole stared up at the ceiling of her room. The only sounds she could hear was the steady sound of rain hitting the roof. Her sheets were pooled around her waist as the humidity stuck to her skin, making her feel clammy.

“Haught, you awake?” Shapiro whispered from her bed.

Nicole nodded then remembered she probably couldn’t see her in the dark, “Yeah.”

She heard the springs under Shapiro’s mattress squeaking. Her voice sounded further away than before when she answered. “I can’t sleep. Haven’t been able to really in a while.”

“Me either,” Nicole confessed, “Every time I close my eyes I just see…”

“Blood,” Shapiro finished for her, “Blood and guts and bones and just...you know what really fucks me up, Nicole?”

Nicole licked her lips, “What?”

Shapiro hesitated a moment, “The eyes. Of the ones that died they-...It’s just...empty. It’s not like what they look like in the movies.”

“I know,” Nicole said, “I know.”

The silence settled between them for a moment before Shapiro spoke up again.

“Haught?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you mind if we-...I know it’s a small bed and I’m not trying to get loose or anything-”

“Shapiro,” Nicole said firmly before scooting over on the bed until she was pressed against the wall, “Come on.”

Silence again until Shapiro got out of her bed and slipped into Nicole’s. Their arms pressed together, they both stared up at the ceiling. Even just the warmth of Shapiro next to her comforted Nicole in a way and she closed her eyes.

“Thank you,” Shapiro said. Nicole didn’t say anything when she curled into her side.

***

Nicole took a deep breath as their Jeep bounced over the dirt road. Shapiro sat across from her, M-16 in her lap and looking around. She took a cigarette out of the band around her helmet and lit it before handing one to Nicole. The redhead took it without preamble. She had stopped arguing with Shapiro about it a few weeks into their term. She figured she’d quit when she got home.

Fish was driving the open Jeep and the small Vietnamese boy was sitting besides Shapiro. He would mutter something they didn’t understand every once in a while, but was quiet for the most part.

“You know what song’s been stuck in my head,” Nicole said lighting her cigarette and taking a long drag.

“What’s that?” Shapiro asked flatly.

“That Mammas and Papas song,” Nicole said leaning back, “The dream one.”

“You would have that stuck in your head,” Shapiro said with a good natured eye roll, “You’re a fucking romantic.”

Nicole shrugged, “It’s a good song.”

Nicole’s attention was drawn to the trees on either side of them. The dirt road was surrounded by a field, but behind that there was only thick jungle. She heard something in the trees and Shapiro and Fish’s attention was drawn there too. Shapiro tapped on the Fish’s shoulder.

“Stop,” she said, eyes not leaving the tree line.

“Don’t leave the car,” Fish said raising his gun up, ready to fire.

“Where the fuck else are we supposed to go?” Nicole whispered back, raising her own gun with her cigarette hanging loosely from her lips. They all sat still, barely breathing as they watched the tree line. Nicole chanced a look at the road ahead and noticed something catching the light in the middle of the road. “Fuck. There’s something in the road too.”

Fish looked over and cursed, “Only way to go is back.”

He nodded and reversed the car, driving it backwards slowly. A shot rang out from nowhere and ricocheted off the side of the car. Nicole made sure her helmet was secure on her head as they all scrambled to get behind the car, using it as cover. Shots continued to ring out and Nicole rested her gun on the edge of the car, shooting blindly into the trees. A bullet whizzed by her ear and she ducked again.

The boy was crying, ducked behind one of the tires with his hands over his ears.

“Fuck!” she said looking over at Shapiro, “We have to call it in.”

Fish grabbed the radio from his belt and handed it to Shapiro as he looked over the car just enough to shoot into the trees. Nicole heard the bullet hit his body before she saw him fall. Hot blood misted over her face just before he hit the ground with a thud. He clutched his shoulder, gun on the ground next to him as he cursed. She heard Shapiro radioing someone in the background but her focus was on Fish.

“You’re fine,” Nicole said quickly. She pulled her t-shirt from her pants and used a pocket knife to rip off a long strip. She quickly tied it above the bullet wound without even thinking. “You’re fine. We’ll get you out of here and to the hospital. Okay? It’s barely anything don’t be a wuss.”

Fish managed a small chuckle at that. “Yeah, you try getting shot. See how you feel.”

“Guys, this is cute and all but we’re still stuck,” Shapiro said. Nicole lifted Fish up by the front of his shirt and propped him against a tire so he was completely covered before she looked back up over the Jeep. Soldiers had started to run out of the trees and duck into the field, bullets still coming at them.

They shouted something in Vietnamese and the crying boy looked up, hands dropping from his ears. He stood up quickly and began to run towards the field before Nicole could grab him.

“Fuck!” Nicole said standing up. Shapiro quickly grabbed her by the back of the shirt and pulled her back down.

“Stay down, Haught!” Shapiro shouted over the noise, “There’s probably mines in that field!”

“More reason not to let him run out there!” Nicole said shaking Shapiro off and running in a crouch after the boy. He was a few yards ahead of her, splashing into the fields. The water soaked Nicole’s pants and she could feel bullets passing her. She felt a hot pain in her arm and stumbled a little, but the adrenaline kept her going. She needed to grab that kid before he got hurt.

The boy was so close. He was only about five feet away. She was gaining on him.

“Stop!” she yelled, “Dừng lạ! I’m trying to help!”

She could sense it was going to happen before it did. All the other sound drowned out and all she heard was a metallic click. Time moved slower as a large blast bloomed from under the boy. Heat engulfed her. A mix of blood and fire from the explosion. A searing pain went through her entire body. Her face, chest, legs. It felt like her legs couldn’t move anymore and she landed in the water, gasping for air that wouldn’t come. It was like her lungs couldn’t fill. She felt her body jerk uncontrollably before her vision blurred and everything went black. The notes from a song were the last thing that drifted through her mind.

Say nighty-night and kiss me. Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me. While I'm alone and blue as can be. Dream a little dream of me-

Chapter Text

Arizona, 1967

“Wynonna!”

Waverly groaned as her sister threw herself on her bed on top of all the clothes that Waverly had unpacked carefully. Her sister looked at her with a smirk.

“What, sis? Relax, man,” Wynonna said, making herself comfortable. Waverly stopped pulling clothes out of her box and wandered over to her sister. She leaned over her and took a good look at her eyes.

“Are you high right now?” Waverly asked, trying to get a glance at her sister’s pupils.

Wynonna smirked slowly, “Maybe.”

“No wonder you haven’t unpacked yet,” Waverly said pulling some of her clothes out from under Wynonna’s body so she could hang them up.

“You’re just jealous because I didn’t share,” Wynonna said pulling some of Waverly’s clothes out herself and handing them off to her sister.

Waverly chuckled, “Actually, I’m meeting Rosie for coffee soon.”

“Ah, Rosie,” Wynonna said lowly, “Still riding that pony?”

With a blush, Waverly gave her sister a look. “Maybe.”

“I thought you were over her.”

“I am over her. And under her,” she smirked.

Wynonna pretended to gag. “I don’t need to know about your sex life, baby girl.”

“You asked,” Waverly said lightly, “But now I have to go so I’m kicking you out of my dorm.”

“Why? I’m sure Chrissy won’t mind me hanging here,” Wynonna said lazily.

Waverly took her sunglasses off her desk and slipped them onto her face, “Fine. Hang up my posters while you’re here.”

Wynonna looked over at the stack of posters and magazine clippings next to her head. Waverly had them arranged in a neat pile, ready to go up. Wynonna picked one from the middle of the pile and Waverly huffed.

“Wynonna! They were in order!”

Wynonna raised her eyebrow while flipping over a picture of Cher. “Seriously?”

Waverly frowned, “What? She’s beautiful and I love her music.”

“I thought you were over this phase.”

“What phase?”

“The bad music phase.”

Waverly rolled her eyes, “Bye, Wynonna. Lock up before you leave.”

“Do I have to listen to you singing ‘I Got You Babe’ all the time again?” she called as Waverly flipped her off and turned to leave.

Wynonna just laughed as Waverly left her dorm, skipping down the front steps to where her bike was locked up. It was the same bike she’d bought almost three years ago in her Freshman year to get around campus. She had saved up all her summer tip money at Shorty’s to get it. It was a little too big for her but it got the job done.

She began to pedal towards the coffee shop at the edge of campus where she had promised to meet Rosie. She and Rosita had been seeing each other in the broadest sense of the term for a couple of years now. At one point Rosita seemed to be getting more attached than Waverly wanted, so she called things off for a little while hoping they would cool. She had wasted that time with a stupid boy who was dull, but - for the most part - attentive. Still, she grew tired of him and went back to Rosita after a while.

As she biked along, a girl sitting on the grass in front of a dorm caught her eye. She had brilliant red hair and even from afar Waverly could feel a certain aura around her that she couldn’t place. She smiled at her, heart fluttering a little in her chest. She frowned as she passed, wondering why she would have this reaction.

After she rode by, Waverly couldn’t help but look back over her shoulder to get another glance at the girl. She leaned over a little bit to see her past the tree and-

“Hey! Watch it!”

Waverly looked in front of her just in time to swerve her bike and put her foot down to stop, narrowly avoid missing a boy who was walking down the sidewalk carrying a large box.

“Sorry,” she called as he passed. He just gave her a dirty look and muttered to himself. Now stopped, she looked back to see if she could get another look at the girl but she was gone. Her stomach dropped a little and she wondered why.

She chalked it up to something she ate and noticed the song playing from the radio of the car next to her for the first time.

Just one look and I know, I'll get you someday uh oh uh oh-

***

When Rosie talked about her new roommate, she’d wondered if it was the same red headed girl she’d seen on her first day back at campus. But she brushed it off as coincidence and didn’t think about it.

When Rosita introduced her to Nicole a couple of days later after class, Waverly knew it was the same girl. Just by the stupid involuntary way her heart fluttered like the first time she saw her.

“Nice to meet you.”

“You too,” Waverly replied. Nicole smiled widely and dimples popped onto her cheeks. Waverly felt her heart flutter again and silently told it to get itself under control. Her eyes were so mesmerizing too, Waverly didn’t even notice she was staring until Rosita looped their arms together. Before she even knew what was happening, she was inviting Nicole to Shorty’s later. She could feel Rosita stiffen a little beside her but thought nothing of it.

Waverly wasn’t going to lie. She was attracted to the other woman. She was tall and pretty and had a great smile. A great smile that made Waverly smile even wider back at her. Especially when she agreed to go to Shorty’s later.

They said their goodbyes and Waverly squeezed Rosita’s arm.

“She seems nice,” she said looking back over her shoulder to catch a glimpse of Nicole. She was sitting back on the bench, flipping through the pages of a book.

Rosita ignored her and instead linked their hands to get her attention, “So...guess that means my dorm is empty...”

Waverly smiled, a small thrill running up her spine as she brought Rosita’s arm across her chest. “Is that so?”

“Yeah. Should we take advantage?”

“We should.”

***

Waverly fell back against the sun warmed pillows with a sigh, her body thrumming with endorphins. Her limbs felt loose, body sated, as Rosita palmed her hip and pressed lazy kisses along her shoulder. Their legs were still tangled together and Rosita’s body was warm over Waverly’s, the gentle weight familiar.

Waverly glanced to the other side of the room where Nicole’s bed was, some clothes strewn over the comforter. She bit her lip and ran her fingers along Rosita’s shoulder blade before she started again.

“So...Nicole,” Waverly said slowly, “What’s-...is she seeing anyone?”

Rosita’s kisses stopped and she lifted herself up on her elbows over Waverly. She frowned at her. “Why?”

Waverly shrugged, “I’m just curious.”

“Curious? Or are you trying to seduce her?” Rosita asked flatly.

“I’m not trying to do anything,” Waverly said with a chuckle. She touched between Rosita’s eyebrows where a frown wrinkled the skin. “Why are you upset?”

“I’m not,” Rosita said rolling off of Waverly and laying on her back.

“You seem upset,” Waverly said with a raised eyebrow.

Rosita rolled her eyes, “Well I’m not.”

Waverly propped her head up on her elbow, body on it’s side so she could look at Rosita. She had already called off their arrangement once before when Rosita got too...attached.

Waverly chose her next words carefully. “You know there’s no...reason for you to be upset, right?”

Rosita looked at her, face unreadable. “And why’s that?”

The brunette forced a small smile and pushed some hair from Rosita’s face. “Because...while I love spending time with you and...the ways we spend time together...we’re not...tog-”

“I know,” Rosita said sitting up, “We’re not together. I can’t call you mine and you can’t call me yours. We do what we want. No strings.” She got off the bed and began searching the floor for her clothes, “That’s the arrangement you made.”

“That we made,” Waverly reminded her, propping herself up on both her elbows so she could watch Rosita, “Right?”

“Right.”

“Rosie,” Waverly said as she watched the other woman get dressed, “I don’t want to make you do anything you don’t want to. That you’re not comfortable with-”

“You’re not,” Rosita interrupted, smile tight, “You’re not. Okay? I’m okay with this. With what we have. And don’t have.”

“Then why are you getting dressed?” Waverly asked reaching for Rosita’s wrist as she buttoned up her pants, “I thought you said you had the rest of the day.”

She pulled Rosita down towards her and kissed her lightly. Rosita kissed her back softly and Waverly wrapped her arms around Rosita’s neck. She tried to pull her back down onto the bed with her but Rosita resisted.

“I remembered I had a meeting with my professor,” Rosita murmured against Waverly’s lips before standing back up. Waverly huffed in defeat, head falling back against the pillows.

“But it’s the first week of classes,” Waverly pouted.

Rosita shrugged and tossed Waverly’s dress onto the bed. “And to answer your question, Nicole is gay. But she has a girlfriend.”

Waverly felt her stomach clench as she looked over at the empty bed. “Oh.”

“But you were just curious, right?” Rosita asked.

“She seems interesting,” Waverly said simply as she picked up the dress, “Is this you kicking me out?”

“I told you I have to see my professor,” Rosita said as she brushed her hair.

Waverly made a show of sliding out of the bed and stretching. She didn’t miss the way Rosita’s eyes lingered over her form. Slipping her dress back on, Waverly sighed dramatically.

“Fine. I’ll walk you to his office?” Waverly asked with big eyes. She watched Rosita’s defenses crumble and she nodded. Waverly put her arms around Rosita’s neck and brought her into a hug. She looked over at Nicole’s side of the room again. For some reason she felt the need to lay on her bed and breathe her in. She blushed at the thought and held Rosita closer.

She was being dumb. Like a teenage girl with a dumb crush. Even if Nicole had a girlfriend, Waverly was determined to get to know her. If it was the last thing she did.

***

Wild thing, you make my heart sing. You make everything groovy, wild thing. Wild thing, I think you move me. But I wanna know for sure. Come on and hold me tight. You move me-

Waverly completely destroyed Rosita in pool. So what if she’d been showing off a little bit for Nicole? You see a pretty girl, you show off. That’s what you did. There was nothing wrong or weird about that. Especially when Nicole was so...intriguing.

Her smile, as beautiful as it was, didn’t quite reach her eyes. Every time she laughed it sounded strained, just a little forced. There was a sadness behind her eyes that Waverly couldn’t quite place. Waverly watched her carefully through the night, with each drink she lost some of her decorum to the point that she didn’t bother hiding the fact that she was staring at the redhead.

Nicole was laughing at something, head tipped back and exposing her throat. Waverly watched as brown eyes noticed her staring, laughter quieting.

“What?”

“You're interesting,” Waverly said after a beat.

Nicole pointed at herself, eyes blinking. “Me?”

“Yeah you,” Waverly said pulling her lip between her teeth.

“I'm not interesting.”

“Sure you are,” Waverly said frowning, “I think you're interesting so you're interesting.”

Waverly could hear herself slurring her words but Nicole didn’t seem to be put off by it, so she couldn’t bring herself to care. She watched as a pretty light blush dusted her cheeks. Waverly squinted at her, eyes studying her face-- trying to figure out why she was so drawn to her. So intrigued by her. What about Nicole made her act and feel like a lovesick teenager?

“An’ why do you think that?” Nicole asked softly.

Waverly whispered, “I can sense it.”

“Sense it?”

Waverly leaned closer to Nicole purposefully to see if she’d have any reaction to being close. Much to her drunken delight, she watched Nicole’s throat flex as she swallowed thickly, her blush getting deeper. She was even prettier up close.

“I can sense it here,” Waverly poked Nicole right between the eyes with a small giggle, “and here,” she brushed her fingers along the edge of the name patch on Nicole's jacket, “and here.”

Waverly slipped her hand under Nicole's jacket and settled her hand on her shirt just over her heart. She heard Nicole’s breath hitch, as she flexed her fingers ever so slightly on the material of Nicole’s shirt. It felt like an electric charge was running up her arm. She squinted at Nicole, trying to keep down her own blush.

“I can sense it,” Waverly repeated before her hand slid out of Nicole's jacket. She settled her hand back in her own lap, fingers playing with the edge of her skirt.

“We’ll see about that,” Nicole said taking a long sip of her drink.

Waverly smiled, “I guess we will.”

***

Waverly pretended not to notice that Nicole just happened to be sitting on the same bench every other day. The same days that Waverly had class in the building in front of the bench.

She pretended to act surprised every time she saw her sitting there. Usually sipping from a Coke bottle. Always in that jacket that was a little too big on her but oh so charming. Nicole was a mystery. A mystery wrapped in an enigma that she was determined to figure out. She was so sweet and even though she had a girlfriend, she still saw the way Nicole’s eyes would linger on her in a way the eyes of a completely committed person just wouldn’t.

Waverly would let her touches linger too.

***

Waverly was delighted that Nicole had taken her invitation to go to Shorty’s again.

Waverly watched as Nicole fluttered about nervously, rubbing the back of her neck and playing with her hair. Nicole really did intrigue her. When she was in the room, Nicole was all Waverly could focus on. Even with Rosita right besides her. As soon as Nicole left the dorm, Rosita pounced, pinning Waverly back against the mattress. Rosita slipped easily between her legs. Waverly smiled against Rosita’s lips, hooking her leg over the other girl’s hips to bring her closer. She liked her. She liked spending time with her. And she definitely liked the other activities they would get up to.

In another time, maybe in another life, Waverly could see herself being with Rosita. Really being with her. After all she was smart and pretty and they got along great.

But the idea of being committed to someone, of belonging solely to that one person and that person belonging only to her...it made her cringe.

She heard the door open again and jumped, Rosita quickly untangling herself from Waverly’s body. Her face turned red and she looked over to see Nicole standing in the doorway looking shell-shocked.

“Sorry!” she said slapping a hand over her eyes. She reached blindly for her desk, knee bumping into the corner. “Fuck! Shit. Sorry!”

Waverly couldn’t help the small giggle as she watched the redhead reach for her keys and turn back towards the door only to stub her toe. Waverly pushed Rosita off of her the rest of the way and sat on the bed.

“Nicole!” Waverly said, “You can open your eyes. You're going to hurt yourself.”

Waverly felt a twist in her stomach at the way Nicole was looking at them. It felt like guilt and Waverly hated it. She had nothing to feel guilty about. Absolutely nothing.

“Sorry again,” Nicole mumbled, going back towards the door, “I’m just going to kiss off now if you don’t mind.”

Nicole saluted awkwardly and slipped back out of the door. Waverly looked at the door, blush finally draining from her cheeks. She felt a hand on her hip and turned towards Rosita who was carefully laying her down on the bed again, a small smile on her face.

“She likes you,” Rosita said softly as she lowered herself over Waverly.

Her blush was back and she smiled, “No, she doesn’t.”

“She does.”

“She has a girlfriend.”

“So? Her girlfriend’s two states away,” Rosita said as she began to kiss along Waverly’s neck. She sighed and tilted her head to the side so that the other woman had better access.

“Are you jealous?” Waverly asked with a smirk.

Rosita bit down on Waverly’s pulse point, making her hips jump. “No.”

“Good,” Waverly said pulling Rosita’s hair out of her ponytail, dark hair falling around her and tickling her chest. “We’re not exclusive, remember.”

Rosita pulled away from Waverly’s neck and kissed her roughly. Waverly groaned in surprise against her lips, hands tangling in her hair.

“I remember,” Rosie said between kisses, “I remember.”

***

Waverly had wrangled Nicole into going to the movies with her after her Shorty’s shift. Not that it was hard at all. Not really. Nicole made a point to remind Waverly that she had a girlfriend before she agreed.

Admittedly Waverly had forgotten for a moment. She had the tendency to do that when she saw the other girl. With her soft brown eyes, holding so much pain.

Nicole sat on her hands through the whole movie.

Waverly pretended not to notice, but she did. She was holding back. Always holding something back it seemed.

On the car ride home, Waverly turned on the radio and sang badly for Nicole. She hardly ever sang in front of anyone, it wasn’t something she was particularly keen on doing. But she did it because it made Nicole laugh as they drove under the streetlights back to campus. A loud slightly grating laugh that Waverly found ever so charming.

In that car ride, Waverly saw a fog lift around Nicole for the first time. The sadness in her eyes was gone for a moment and Waverly saw the real Nicole. Sweet, a little goofy-- but oh so confident. For just a moment. And in that moment, Waverly knew she had to figure out why Nicole was hiding behind that fog.

***

Was it wrong? To flirt with Nicole? To hold her gaze a little too long and lean into her every opportunity she had? Those were the kinds of thoughts she had lately. Probably too often.

Sure Nicole had a girlfriend, but Waverly didn’t. So what if she was making her interest in Nicole known? That was...okay, right? Nicole was doing a fine job of ignoring her anyway. It’s not like there was an actual risk of Nicole doing anything against her girlfriend. She was just being extra friendly anyway. Waverly was a flirt. She liked to flirt. She would flirt with Nicole if she wanted. It didn’t mean anything.

Even if when she pulled Nicole’s hand into her lap, Waverly felt electricity all up and down her spine.

She also noticed how when she asked Nicole about her girlfriend, she would get distant. There was no expanding on her answers, just simple short sentences. Her girlfriend was fine. It was hard being apart, but it could be worse...that sort of thing.

Rosita, on the other hand, had been different this year. She’d been slightly more possessive than before. Little touches, little things she said. Always around Nicole. Waverly knew she felt threatened even though they had an explicit talk where she reminded Rosita that she belonged to no one. The second Rosita became too...too possessive, or too attached...it was over.

The more attached you were to someone, the more it hurt when they left. And they always left.

“What are the signs for?” Nicole asked, the blush on her cheeks still there from when Waverly was rubbing her hand.

“It’s for a war protest,” Waverly said easily.

Anyone who knew her knew her thoughts on the war. It was pointless. It was a money grabbing scheme. Something the government thought would be a good idea. We were invading another country for no reason and sacrificing young people to do it. It was deplorable. She couldn’t say she really knew anyone who was okay with the war. Anyone her age anyway. But it certainly didn’t go unnoticed when Nicole got uncomfortable as soon as Waverly brought it up.

“Ah, okay,” Nicole said as she stacked all her things together, “I’m gonna go inside.”

“Groovy. I’ll go with you,” Waverly said standing up, and slipping her moccasins back on, “Do you want to make signs and watch ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ with us?”

Nicole shifted uncomfortable, “I have a lot to do.”

Nicole began towards her dorm and Waverly followed. She watched her carefully, aware of her stilted movements. She watched as the redhead dug for her keys and Waverly leaned against the doorframe, eyes on her face.

“So no?” Waverly asked with her best pleading eyes, small smile on her lips. The same one that had always worked for her in the past to get what she wanted. Brown eyes landed on her and keys clattered to the ground. Waverly watched as Nicole fumbled with the keys, almost like she was panicking.

“Probably not,” Nicole said with a half smile, “Sorry, Waves.”

Waverly couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed as she followed Nicole into the dorm. She sat on the edge of Rosita’s bed, feet kicking in the air.

“Okay. Well if you change your mind...we’ll be in the common room,” Waverly said. She was unable to keep the hopefulness from her voice. That small edge of vulnerability that she hated to show.

“Okay,” Nicole answered simply, “I...maybe. If I finish this essay.”

“Babe, leave the poor girl alone. She said she’s busy,” Rosita said closing her desk drawer with a little more force than probably necessary. “Come on, let’s go to the common room.”

Babe

There was that possessiveness again that made Waverly’s skin crawl. Calling her baby when they were in bed, when words were hard through the fog of pleasure, was fine. But Waverly couldn’t help but feel like it was Rosita’s way of marking her. Of showing everyone else that Waverly was hers.

Rosita leaned in for a kiss and Waverly quickly turned her head, giving her her cheek instead. She felt Rosita’s hesitation before she pulled away and grabbed the poster boards. Waverly grabbed the paints and led the way from the dorm to the common room.

***

A commercial came on and Waverly set down her paintbrush. Leaning against the couch behind them were finished signs, mostly done drying at this point. Waverly stood and stretched her legs before gathering the signs.

“I’m going to put these back in the dorm,” Waverly said not looking at Rosita even though she could feel her eyes on her.

“You’re not going to bother poor Nicole, are you?”

“What makes you think I’m bothering her?” Waverly asked with a raised eyebrow.

Rosita gave Waverly a pointed look, “She has a girlfriend.”

Waverly bristled and held the signs under her arm. “Rosita, you keep reminding me of that but I’m not doing anything wrong.”

“I’m not saying you were,” Rosita said going back to her own sign.

“It sounded like you were.”

“Well, I wasn’t.”

Waverly looked at Rosita for a moment, who appeared too interested in the commercial playing on the television. With a sigh, Waverly turned on her heels and walked back towards Rosie’s dorm. She opened the door but stopped halfway. Her eyes landed on Nicole who stood behind her desk stretching, long limbs reaching for the sky. Waverly couldn’t help but gawk a little.

Nicole noticed her and jumped in surprise, Waverly blushing at the response.

“Sorry,” Waverly said, “Did I scare you?”

Nicole shook her head, “No, well...yes. Sorry my mind was just somewhere else.”

Waverly noticed Nicole’s eyes flicker to the signs under her arm. She put them against Rosita’s desk, and when she turned back around Nicole was sitting on the edge of her bed with her eyes shut. Waverly frowned, watching her for a moment and the way her breaths seemed purposefully measured.

“Nicole?” she said walking up to her. Cautiously, Waverly put her hand on Nicole’s leg to try and get her attention. When that didn’t work, she ran her fingers through red locks. Her breath caught in her throat when Nicole leaned into her touch and it was all she could do not to push her hips between Nicole’s legs to get closer.

Brown eyes finally blinked open and met hazel. She watched as Nicole struggled through the fog to see and focus on Waverly. She pushed some hair behind Nicole’s ear, fingers lingering along the shell.

“You have paint on your cheek,” Nicole said. Waverly blushed and watched as Nicole lifted her hand, rubbing at Waverly’s cheek with her thumb. Waverly’s heartbeat picked up in her chest, breathing shallow as she resisted the urge to lean into Nicole’s touch the way Nicole had leaned into hers.

“Yeah, well you have ink on your nose,” Waverly said tapping the end of Nicole’s nose with her finger. Her lips tilted in a smile as she took the other girl in. “What a pair we make, huh?”

Waverly watched as the fog slowly drifted back over Nicole’s face. She nodded and looked back at her knees and Waverly leaned more against her. One hand sunk into the mattress besides Nicole’s knees while the other continued to brush through her hair. They were close. Waverly wouldn’t have to lean that much further to plant a kiss on her cheeks.

Nicole looked up at the ceiling and Waverly could tell she was slipping away. She wasn’t sure where she was slipping away to, but she needed her back here. With her. She held Nicole’s chin between her thumb and forefinger and gently pulled her head down to look at her.

“Are you okay?” Waverly asked softly, “You seem...off.”

The corners of Nicole’s mouth twitched in what she assumed was supposed to be a smile. “I’m fine. Just tired I guess.”

Waverly looked at Nicole carefully as she dropped her hand from her chin. She wouldn’t call Nicole a liar, per se. She just knew she wasn’t telling the entire truth. But maybe Nicole didn’t even know she wasn’t being honest with herself.

“I don’t believe you” Waverly said, not unkindly, as her fingers traced the outline of the name patch on Nicole’s jacket. It was a habit she had picked up. Something that grounded her to Nicole. It was an innocent enough gesture that had intimacy if you wanted it to. If Nicole wanted it to. Waverly placed her hand flat on Nicole’s chest over her heart, fingers barely curving over her collarbone. She could feel the heat radiating from the redhead through her shirt. “You’re sad.”

Brown eyes met hazel and Waverly could see the vulnerability there as Nicole licked her lips. “Isn’t everyone these days?”

“Not like this.”

There was something more, something deeper in Nicole that she couldn’t pull out. Every time she got close, it was like the other girl buried it even deeper.

“Really, Waves, I’m fine,” Nicole said shrugging it off, “It’s just the first week of school and being away from Shae. You know?”

“Right, Shae,” Waverly said, her hand dropping from Nicole’s chest as she took a step back. The pointed reminder of Nicole’s girlfriend made Waverly take pause, stomach twisting in a feeling she didn’t like. But she took a breath and tipped her head, her hair falling over her shoulder. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

Nicole nodded and tried to rub the ink on her nose away with her sleeve. “I promise. Did I get it?”

“Not at all,” Waverly said with a giggle.

The redhead sighed in defeat, “Oh well.”

Waverly just looked at Nicole, the air between them heavy. So many things left unsaid. Waverly bit her lip. “I should...go back. ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ is on.”

“And it’s one of your favorites,” Nicole finished with a small smile, “So yeah, you better get back.”

Waverly sighed and nodded, backing up towards the door. She didn’t want to leave Nicole. Not with that sadness floating around her. With a final nod she turned to walk out the door. The door was almost closed when she remembered something and turned back around, head poking through the door.

“Oh, um...I’m having a little birthday thing next weekend. In my dorm if you want to come,” she said trying to play it off with a shrug, again trying to keep hope from her voice, “It’s like...not a big deal.”

“I’ll be there,” Nicole said as soon as Waverly finished.

Waverly practically beamed and nodded, “Okay. Groovy. I’ll see you later. Tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow,” Nicole confirmed.

Waverly slipped out, heart feeling lighter as she walked back to the common room. Rosita looked up at her as she came back in, unreadable look on her face.

“Why are you so happy?” she muttered.

“No reason,” Waverly said sitting back down on the floor and picking up a paintbrush. She glanced at the television and beamed. “This is my favorite part.”

***

The soft red glow of the light bulb overhead always made Waverly’s eyes exhausted. She rubbed at them and rubbed at them but she just wanted to take a nap after spending too long in the dark room. Thankfully she was almost done. She hung the photos from the line overhead and stretched her back.

The radio played softly, the only thing to distract her from how long this whole process was taking. The picture finally started to become visible and she watched as Nicole’s face slowly appeared. She blushed as brown eyes became clearer.

She danced close to me like I hoped she would. She danced with me like I hoped she would. Somethin' tells me I'm into something good. Somethin' tells me I'm into somethin'-

Here in the comfort of the dark room, she could stare unabashedly at the new girl she couldn’t seem to get from her mind. Her eyes traced her jaw, her hair, the elegant form of her hands. Waverly swallowed thickly, unable to help but think about those hands on her. Or them holding her close.

She looked away from the picture. She didn’t want to think about that. Because Nicole had a girlfriend and-...something about Nicole scared her. Maybe it was the way it felt like she could see right through her. Or how the rest of the room faded away when they looked at each other. Or maybe in the way that it seemed like every song was about her now. That was the scariest thing.

We only danced for a minute or two. But then she stuck close to me the whole night through. Can I be fallin' in love? She's everything I've been dreamin' of-

***

“Baby girl, you’re finally fully legal,” Wynonna said gathering Waverly in her arms and squeezing her in a rare show of affection. Waverly chuckled and returned the hug, feeling the warmth of Wynonna’s leather jacket on her cheek. “Now Gus can stop pretending she doesn’t see you drink.”

Waverly laughed and pulled away from her sister. “Thanks, Wy,” she said.

Wynonna reached into her pocket and held up a joint between them, looking triumphant. “I got you a little birthday present.”

Waverly blushed as she looked at it. “Wynonna-”

“Come on, don’t pretend like you’ve never smoked this shit,” Wynonna said, watching Chrissy put some beers in a cooler in the corner of the room.

Waverly shrugged, “Maybe once or twice.”

“Sure,” Wynonna said with a wink. She held it between her lips and lit it, taking a drag before passing it to Waverly, “So is your girl coming tonight?”

“I don’t have a girl,” Waverly said pointedly as she took her own drag of the joint and handed it back.

Wynonna rolled her eyes, “Yeah yeah. I forgot. You don’t do relationships or whatever.”

“No point.”

“I’m sure Rosita would disagree.”

“You’re one to talk,” Waverly said taking another puff after Wynonna passed it back.

“Do as I say, not as I do,” she said with a dismissive wave, “Or whatever it is that they say.”

Waverly sat on the bed as Wynonna went over to the record player to pick out an album. Chrissy plucked the joint from between Wynonna’s lips and nodded towards Waverly.

“Is Nicole coming?” she asked with a smirk.

“Yes,” Waverly said, “At least...she said she was.”

Chrissy’s smile got wider, “I can’t wait to meet her.”

Wynonna took the joint back from Chrissy. Waverly felt her head get lighter and squinted at her roommate.

“Don’t scare her off.”

“Me? Never,” Chrissy said, “I won’t tell her you want to get in bed with her.”

Waverly blushed and threw a pillow at Chrissy, “I don’t.”

“I think you might a little,” Wynonna added.

“You’re both wrong,” Waverly said just as there was a knock at the door. She was thankful for the interruption, walking to the door and opening it before grabbing a beer. Slowly people started to arrive. Mostly friends from her social justice groups or her classes. Every few minutes she scanned the room for a shock of red hair somewhere in the crowd.

She finally spotted Nicole with her back turned talking to Chrissy. Waverly skipped over to her, spun her around and wrapped her arms around her entire body in a hug.

“Hey, birthday girl,” Nicole said as Waverly looked up at her. Waverly smiled wider than perhaps she should have.

“You came!” Waverly said leaning back, arms still around Nicole, “And you met Chrissy.”

“I did. And I have,” Nicole confirmed as she pulled her arms from Waverly’s grasp. She held up a package between them, “I brought you something.”

Waverly dropped her arms from around the taller girl and took the gift. Her heart swelled in her chest at the unexpected gesture. “You didn’t have to get me anything.”

Nicole shrugged and rubbed the back of her neck. “Of course I did. It’s your birthday.”

Waverly clutched the still wrapped gift to her chest and looked up at Nicole, “Can I open it?”

Nicole nodded and Waverly opened it, wrapping paper placed gently on the desk for later. Not that that made sense, but in her mind at that moment it did. As the paper fell away from the record and Johnny and June looked up at Waverly from the cover, she smiled.

Carryin' On with Johnny Cash and June Carter

“It’s...not much,” Nicole began, “But it just came out the other day and you mentioned Johnny Cash-”

Waverly threw her arms around Nicole’s waist and squeezed her tight before she could finish talking. “Nicole! I’ve been saving up my tip money for this. This is-...you’re real groovy, you know that?” Waverly said, her cheek pressed against Nicole’s chest. She breathed her in, her scent like something spicy that reminded her of the fires at Christmas time.

“I-...” Nicole began. She stopped and instead returned the hug. She squeezed Waverly and she was sure her heart flipped. “You’re welcome.”

Without thinking, the alcohol and weed making her bolder, Waverly lifted herself on her tiptoes and pressed a soft kiss to Nicole’s cheek. She could practically feel Nicole’s cheeks heat under her lips and Waverly grabbed her hand. She tugged her along and began introducing Nicole to everyone until they reached the corner where Wynonna and Rosita were sitting together.

“Nicole came!” Waverly announced proudly to them, lifting Nicole’s hand between them with the record still clutched tightly to her chest. Rosita looked at their hands for a moment before standing up.

“Want anything?” Rosita asked Waverly tipping her chin towards a cooler on the other side of the room. Waverly dropped their hands back between them, but still kept Nicole’s tightly grasped. She felt like if she let go she’d float away.

“No,” Waverly said with a smile.

Rosita bent down and kissed Waverly quickly before looking over at Nicole. “Anything for you, Haught?”

Waverly didn’t hear Nicole’s response, she just thought of the wet spot on her cheek where Rosita had kissed her. It made her feel itchy and she rubbed the spot with her shoulder. Rosita walked away and Nicole pulled her hand from Waverly before sitting down next to Wynonna. Waverly couldn’t help but feel the loss.

“Are you two just going to sit in a corner all night by yourselves?” Waverly pouted.

“No,” Wynonna said nursing her drink, “Rosita will be with us too.”

Waverly rolled her eyes and Wynonna held her beer up to her. “Cheers, baby girl,” Wynonna said with a wink before taking a long sip, “Go be social. We’re fine.”

Wynonna pretended to kick towards her and Waverly jumped back. Chrissy grabbed her arm and she let herself be pulled to another part of the dorm. She was talking to some friends when Rosita came up behind her and put her hand on the small of her back. Waverly looked over at Rosita who was focused on Chrissy, her hand feeling like it was burning through to Waverly’s skin. But not in a good way.

But Waverly was too drunk to really care, especially as people kept passing her drinks. She hardly noticed through the night as Rosita’s hands got lower and lower. Plus, it wasn’t like Waverly didn’t like attention. Especially from pretty girls. And Rosita was a very very pretty girl.

As Waverly was walking towards the cooler to get another drink, Rosita pulled her into a darker corner just out of view of most people.

“Hey,” Rosita said with a smile, “You’re being a social butterfly. I haven’t had time to say happy birthday.”

Waverly ran her hands up Rosita’s arms that were around her waist. “How do you plan on doing that?”

Rosita’s eyes darted away for a moment before leaning down and kissing her hard. Waverly sighed against her lips, her body heating slowly as she kissed her back. Rosita’s lips were always wonderfully distracting. She heard the dorm door open and opened her eyes just in time to see red hair disappear out the door. She pulled away from Rosita without a word and followed. Both Wynonna and Nicole were walking out of the dorm.

“Wy! Nicole!” she called, jogging after them.

“Sorry, I...have a headache,” Nicole said with a sigh and a smile that didn’t reach her eyes.

Waverly blinked up at her for a moment when she came to a stop in front of them. Wynonna shrugged, stuffing her hands in her pockets. “Yeah, and I’m walking her back to her place,” she said, “Unless...do you and Rosie like...need her dorm tonight?”

Waverly blushed, eyes darting to Nicole.

“What? No,” she said.

“No birthday sex then?” Wynonna teased, pushing Waverly’s shoulder a little.

Waverly blushed even deeper and looked over at Nicole for a moment. “N-no. I mean...she was going to stay at my dorm.”

“There, that’s all I needed to know,” Wynonna said, “Let’s go then, Red.”

Nicole turned her back on her quickly and waved over her shoulder. “Happy birthday, Waves. Sorry I can’t stay.”

Waverly watched them go, a small knot of something tight in her stomach as red hair disappeared down the hall.

***

Waverly sat at her desk trying to focus on her homework, but her mind kept wandering to Nicole. She stared at the blank paper in front of her and wondered what Nicole was doing. She hadn’t spent as much time with Nicole at her birthday as she had hoped. Her record played in the background and Chrissy was laying on her bed, foot bouncing to the beat.

Now I ain't lookin' to fight with you, frighten you or uptighten you. Drag you down or drain you down. Chain you down or bring you down-

“You alright, Waves?” Chrissy asked, “You seem distracted.”

“Hm?” Waverly said lifting her head, “I’m not. I’m fine.”

Chrissy raised an eyebrow at her, “Is that why you didn’t hear me the first three times I called your name?”

Waverly sighed and rubbed at her temples as she leaned back in her chair. “Sorry, guess I’m a little distracted.”

The other girl turned so she was on her stomach, “Wanna talk about it? Is it about Nicole?”

All I really want to do, is baby, be friends with you. Baby, be friends with you-

Waverly blushed, “Am I that predictable?”

“No. I’ve just known you forever and know how you get when you like someone,” Chrissy pointed out.

“I don’t…like her,” Waverly tried, “I just think she’s...very attractive.”

Chrissy rested her head on her hand, elbow on the mattress. “Are you trying to tell me you’re only interested in kissing her?”

“Wouldn’t you be if you were into that?” Waverly said with a raised eyebrow.

“I’m not saying I don’t now,” Chrissy said with a smirk, “I just find it hard to believe that you’re so distracted just because you want to kiss someone. Seems like more than that.”

“It’s not,” Waverly said quickly.

I ain't lookin' to block you up. Shock or knock or lock you up, analyze you, categorize you. Finalize you or advertise you-

“Okay,” Chrissy said, still smirking, “Whatever you say, Waves.”

“It’s not,” Waverly repeated firmly, “Really.”

I ain't lookin' for you to feel like me, see like me or be like me. All I really want to do. Is, baby, be friends with you-

Chapter Text

“Have you seen Nicole?” Waverly asked as Wynonna threw herself on the bed that she was laying on. Her arm hit Waverly in the stomach and she scooted over to give her sister more room.

“No,” Wynonna said, hair over her face with the way she was lying facedown on the bed, “Why are you so obsessed with her anyways?”

“I’m not,” Waverly said quickly, “I just wanted to ask her something.”

“Like --if you can get in her pants?”

“Wynonna!”

“I’m just stating the obvious.”

Wynonna rolled onto her back and Waverly mirrored her, the two sisters staring up at the ceiling as they lay in silence. The longer the silence stretched, the more Waverly could feel Wynonna fidgeting uncomfortably next to her. Waverly reached for her sister’s hand and held it against her stomach. Wynonna let out a long sigh but was clearly attempting to calm her moving limbs.

“Wynonna,” Waverly said softly, “Have I told you that I’m glad you’re back?”

Her sister shrugged and began picking at the cuticles of her other hand. Waverly squeezed the hand she was holding until Wynonna looked at her.

“I am. I’m glad you’re back,” Waverly said sincerely, “I missed you.”

Blue eyes looked at Waverly sadly, “I’m sorry I left.”

“You had to find yourself,” Waverly said, “I won’t fault you for that.”

Wynonna snorted, “Yeah. Turns out an entire town blaming you for the death of your dad and sister really does a number on someone’s psyche.”

“I never blamed you,” Waverly pointed out, “I never did. And I don’t now.”

Wynonna remained silent, just staring up at the ceiling. Waverly felt Wynonna squeeze her hand back in acknowledgement. Things had been tense between them since Wynonna came back at the beginning of the summer, completely unexpectedly. After their father died, Wynonna was in and out of institutions. Waverly never thought her sister was crazy, but Wynonna started to believe she was. Though Waverly figured that’s what happened when everyone around you was telling you that you had problems. Still, Wynonna had managed to stabilize herself enough to go through high school and get into college.

But suddenly before her senior year of college, Wynonna took off. No one knew where she went. She was just...gone. Fifteen year old Waverly was devastated. Sure she had Aunt Gus and Uncle Curtis, who raised Wynonna and her, but Wynonna was her sister. The only one who had really gone through what she had.

Wynonna had seen how their Daddy ignored Waverly so that she basically had to fend for herself. Most days she wasn’t picked up from the school bus stop and had to walk the three miles to the Homestead on her own until their Daddy finally allowed Wynonna to ride her bicycle to school. Then her older sister would sit her on the handlebars and take her to and from school. And eventually Chrissy joined them.

Waverly was never sure what was worse though. Her Daddy blatantly ignoring his youngest child, or Willa’s incessant bullying. Though she figured being ignored by Ward was better than what Wynonna got. After their Mama left, the heavy hand Ward got after drinking too much usually fell on the middle child. Waverly wondered if Wynonna even remembered that or had spent so much time feeling guilty over his death that she had forgotten it completely.

But now Wynonna was back. Gus made a deal that if she went back and finished her final year of college, she could live at the McCready house and she’d help her find a job. Wynonna was in no position to pass on that offer.

Wynonna sighed, “You know, if I knew we were going to be having this conversation I would have brought a bottle of whiskey with me.”

Waverly turned and snuggled into her sister’s side, kissing her cheek and slinging an arm over her stomach.

“Thank you for coming back,” Waverly said, resting her chin on Wynonna’s shoulder, “I’m not used to people coming back.”

Wynonna shook her head, “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.”

“You’re here now. That’s all that matters,” Waverly said. And the way that Wynonna hugged her back let Waverly know that she believed her.

***

Waverly had seen the newspapers. She’d seen the news. She’d seen first hand how this war, this pointless war, had affected people. She had seen the mental and physical scars that her Uncle Curtis had still carried from World War II, right up until his death.

At least that war felt more justified. Like we were defending something and not just taking like they were in Vietnam. Taking kids from their homes, invading another country, killing its people. For what?

Waverly had always been one to fight against injustices where she saw them. She was involved in the Segregation Movement and now the blossoming Gay Rights Movement. Uncle Curtis had always told her to fight for what she believed in. And she did.

In the end, maybe the protests she organized wouldn’t do anything. But she liked to believe that they would. And she wasn’t about to sit idly while innocent people died for a corrupt government either.

Rosita had gladly gotten involved with her. Wynonna, she knew, supported her but was less inclined to go to social events for her. But Waverly found herself wondering more and more what Nicole’s feelings on it were. Though she shouldn’t be surprised since she had been wondering what Nicole’s feelings on...everything were. More often than not she found herself thinking about the redhead. The girl she had not yet figured out but desperately wanted to. It was a crush. All just a silly unreciprocated crush. She had noticed that Nicole was more scarce lately. Ever since the day she’d walked into her dorm after painting signs. Waverly tried not to think too much on it, but she missed the other girl.

Even though it was a crush, she was also her friend.

The day of the protest, Waverly handed out signs to the other participants and helped paint peace signs on faces. It was all fine and she wasn’t surprised Nicole wasn’t there, but a little disappointed. So when she saw her walking past the protest, Waverly couldn’t help but stop her.

“Nicole,” Waverly smiled, “I’m glad I could run into you here.”

She watched as brown eyes looked over her shoulder at the passing protestors. Something fell over Nicole’s face, like she was somewhere else.

“Nicole?” Waverly asked, “Are you okay?”

Nicole looked back at Waverly and her eyes slowly focused back on her. Her eyes darted around Waverly’s face and she began to rub her arm with her thumb.

“I was just studying,” Nicole said.

Waverly nodded and asked, “Will you walk with us? You don’t even have to hold a sign. We actually ran out.”

The cloud was back over Nicole’s face and she shook her head. “Waves, I-...can’t. I have to go.”

“We’re going right by your dorm,” Waverly continued, not willing to let Nicole go, “You can just walk with us until then.”

“I can’t,” she shook her head, “Sorry.”

At that, Nicole turned to leave. Waverly ran after her without thinking, stopping in front of her to block her way. Nicole was looking ahead and nearly ran right into Waverly. Still her eyes focused past Waverly even if she was standing in front of her. Waverly was stubborn, and this was no exception.

“Nicole,” Waverly tried again, “Not even for a little bit?”

“Why are you trying to pull me into this?” Nicole said with an edge that Waverly hadn’t heard before. She recoiled a little at the tone but tried to smile.

“I like-. I like to spend time with you,” she admitted quietly.

“Yeah, well, I have a girlfriend,” Nicole said quickly, looking away. Waverly was glad that Nicole wasn’t looking at her, because the heartbreak on her face was evident, she was sure of it. She didn’t know why it hurt so much, she knew it was true. She’d known since the start Nicole belonged to someone. But sometimes it was nice to think that maybe Waverly could borrow her for a little bit.

Still she hated that Nicole could make her feel this way even though neither of them had the right to.

“I know,” Waverly said, “I just-...I’m just dumb I guess.”

“You’re not dumb, we both know that,” Nicole said.

Waverly gathered up the pieces of her heart and shrugged, “You have a girlfriend and that’s why you can’t walk with us?”

“I can’t walk with you because...I can’t,” Nicole said, “Please, Waverly. Don’t push it.”

Something inside of Waverly flared and she asked, “Are you for the war?”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

“Waverly, I’m not talking to you about this,” Nicole said. She tried to push past Waverly again but she stopped her. She wasn’t going anywhere. Waverly was going to find out once and for all what Nicole’s deal was. She couldn’t hide the clipped tone of her voice.

“It’s a pointless war,” she said, “They’re killing people. Our boys and others when they have no right-”

“I’m not talking to you about this!” Nicole all but shouted, “So drop it! Let me go home.”

“Nicole-”

The redhead pushed past Waverly again, but she followed and jogged alongside her. She wasn’t going to give up. Nicole just didn’t know the extent of this war, she was sure.

“Nicole, just listen to me. Let me tell you why we don’t need to be there-”

Nicole turned abruptly, taking Waverly by surprise.

“I’m enlisting,” she said softly, “After college. As soon as I get my diploma I’m going down to the recruiting station.”

Waverly blinked at her, shocked. It felt like her heart stopped in her chest. Suddenly she saw Nicole over there, gun in her hand, shooting down innocent people. Nicole getting shot at, attacked.

“But-...you can’t-”

“I can. And I am,” Nicole said firmly.

Waverly looked at her, trying to figure out exactly what Nicole was playing at. There was no way-...she couldn’t be serious. Nicole with the kind eyes and gentle demeanor wasn’t-...she wasn’t a soldier. She joked and called her that but she wasn’t.

“I can’t believe you,” Waverly said, “You wouldn’t do such a thing.”

“I would and I am,” Nicole said.

“You’re going to voluntarily go over there and kill thousands of innocent people?” Waverly asked, “Innocent women and children?”

“You don’t even know me! Don’t act like you know why I’m going. I’m going to help our soldiers. Our families,” Nicole said angrily, “Don’t you ever insinuate that I just want to kill!”

Waverly felt like she was slapped in the face, but she balled her fists at her sides and continued, “Then why else would you be going?”

“Grow up!” Nicole said, “Grow up and figure out that there’s more than just what you’re seeing on the surface! Nothing that you do or say is going to change my mind about leaving, so just accept it.”

Waverly clenched her jaw. So many thoughts ran through her head that she wanted to say. She wanted to scream at Nicole and tell her she was lying. She wanted to force Nicole to tell her she was lying. Because there was no way this was Nicole. And there was no way that Nicole was telling her to grow up. She might not know Nicole, but Nicole didn’t know her either. She was about to speak when the redhead spoke up again.

“If you don’t like that, then stop bothering me,” Nicole said before walking away. Waverly watched her go, heart pulling in five different directions. She almost ran after her again when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned and saw Rosita standing there, sign slung over her shoulder.

“Hey, you okay?” Rosita asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Waverly said, “Just...emotional I guess.”

Rosita nodded and Waverly fell into her arms, allowing herself to feel comfort from the other girl. Waverly didn’t like to need anyone. And as far as she was concerned, she didn’t need anyone. But Rosita was always there when she wanted someone. Someone to share a burden with. And she always did without question.

“Let’s keep marching,” Waverly said finally pulling away and planting a grateful kiss on Rosita’s lips.

“Okay,” the other girl smiled and followed Waverly without question.

***

Lately all of Waverly’s thoughts had been on Nicole. She hadn’t seen her for a while, except in passing. Wynonna kept bringing her up so Waverly knew Nicole was avoiding her. Nicole quickly made herself scarce the few times Waverly went to Rosita’s room. Waverly felt bad for yelling at Nicole at the protest. She felt bad writing her off completely in that moment.

It had just been hard to acknowledge that maybe Nicole wasn’t the girl Waverly thought she was. She was hiding all these secrets and Waverly didn’t even know the half of them. Even now as her body moved with Rosita’s, hands desperately gripping onto tan shoulders, Waverly couldn’t help but think of kind brown eyes. She buried her face in Rosita’s neck, hips doubling in pace as their breaths quickened.

As she felt Rosita’s body shudder against her, Waverly’s release came. Her nails clawed at Rosita’s shoulders before they both collapsed back on the bed. Waverly sighed, untangling herself from Rosita’s limbs as she caught her breath. They had left the air thick around them.

“Wow,” Rosita said placing a soft kiss on Waverly’s shoulder. Waverly smiled and just nodded wordlessly. “I’ll be right back.”

Rosita kissed Waverly briefly and climbed over her, heading to the bathroom. Waverly stretched and pulled the sheet up over her, settling back into the pillow. She felt herself starting to drift when the door opened.

“Shit!” a familiar voice came, “Sorry! There was no sock.”

“It’s okay,” Waverly said making sure the sheet was up over her breasts, face flushed, “I’m decent.”

She propped herself up on her elbows, and looked over at Nicole. This was not the way she wanted to run into Nicole. Ever. She was sure she was a mess, body flushed and hair all over the place. Naked after having sex with her crush’s roommate. Not the best way to get back in her good graces. She wondered why Rosita didn’t follow the sock protocol but smiled at Nicole.

“I just have to drop off my backpack,” Nicole said, pointedly avoiding Waverly’s eyes. It stung. As she reached for the door handle, Waverly blurted.

“Wait!” Waverly said as she thought of something to ask Nicole, “I um...are you going to Wynonna’s Halloween party? Next weekend?”

Nicole looked over her shoulder, “Yeah. I’ll be there.”

“Groovy,” Waverly said with a smile. Her smile faltered as Nicole slipped out of the door again. She stared at the door for a moment before falling back down on the bed with a sigh. Rosita came out of the bathroom just then and slipped back into the bed.

“Did you know you didn’t put a sock on the door?” Waverly asked.

Rosita shrugged, “Oops. Did someone come in?”

Waverly shot her a look, “Of course. Nicole came in.”

Rosita draped her arm over Waverly’s stomach and drew her close. “I mean, it’s not like she doesn’t know.”

“You’re the one that made the sock rule,” Waverly pointed out as she rubbed Rosita’s arm.

“I’ll be better next time,” Rosita whispered as she kissed behind Waverly’s ear. Her eyes fluttered shut and she nodded, letting her body melt into Rosita’s again.

***

Waverly knew she was in trouble.

Nicole’s soft, kind eyes and her voice that sounded like honey. Every time Waverly was around her it was like no one else was in the room. Yeah. She was in trouble. Serious trouble. Because Nicole had a girlfriend. But god Waverly wanted to kiss her.

Which was silly, she knew this. But no amount of kissing Rosita or the other people she occasionally kissed could get the desire to kiss Nicole from her mind.

It scared her too. It scared her because she could see herself getting lost in Nicole. Completely and fully. Something she had told herself she wouldn’t do. Not after her Mama and Daddy and Wynonna and Curtis and the countless other people that had done nothing but disappoint her through the years. It was a promise she made to herself years ago. If no one was going to protect her, she was going to protect herself.

But she couldn’t help but gravitate towards Nicole as soon as she came into the party. Waverly took in her cute pirate outfit and the endearing way she looked around the room for a familiar face. It was no time before Waverly bounced over to her with the hopes of forgiveness for what happened at the protest.

Nicole gave it without issue. And even if Waverly wanted to ask her about her jacket and why she had such strong thoughts on the war, she didn’t. Instead she pointed out Wynonna and the redhead disappeared.

Eventually Waverly found herself in Wynonna’s room with the redhead, watching as she attempted to smoke. She wished she wasn’t so enamored with the other girl, it would have made everything a lot easier. Especially when her defenses were down and head filled with smoke.

Sitting on the bed next to Nicole, Waverly watched as the other girl sat quietly and zoned out. She felt free to stare at her, whether it was because she was high or Nicole was high she wasn’t sure. But after a few moments she brushed the back of Nicole’s hand to get her attention. When brown eyes looked at her, Waverly smiled.

“What are you thinking about?”

“Nothing,” Nicole said in a way that sounded like a lie. Waverly leaned into Nicole’s side, fingers now stroking along Nicole’s forearm. She could feel pale skin erupt in goosebumps under her fingers and sighed.

“You’re lying to me again. You do that a lot.”

“I’m not lying,” Nicole said.

Waverly kept touching Nicole, eyes on her face even if Nicole’s were on her own hands. She was so pretty. So soft. And she smelled like vanilla. Waverly didn’t know how she always smelled like vanilla but she did. Right now it made Waverly want to taste her skin and see if she tasted like vanilla too.

The way that Nicole kept looking down, the way her breathing sped up...Waverly was sure she felt it too. Whatever it was that was between them. Something innocent that could be so much more. She would have never done it if she wasn’t high, she would have thought about it, sure. But she would never have lightly brushed her lips along Nicole’s jaw in hopes the other girl would turn her head and connect their lips.

“Waves,” Nicole said. Waverly could feel her breathing speed up and watched her eyes flutter shut; she wanted this. “Stop. I-...Shae.”

It felt like a bucket of cold water had been dropped on her. She pulled her hands away, keeping them in her own lap. Her fingers played with the streams of her pom poms.

“Sorry,” Waverly said softly, “I shouldn’t have-. I wasn’t thinking.”

Nicole nudged Waverly with her elbow and she looked up at her. Nicole smiled briefly, “I’m sorry I-...haven’t really been discouraging it. Have I?”

Waverly smiled in relief, just knowing Nicole wasn’t mad at her. She pushed some hair behind her ear and sighed, “You haven’t been encouraging it either.”

“Even so, Shae would-...actually I don’t even know what Shae would think,” Nicole squinted down at her hands, “I don’t think I really know her anymore.”

“But you love her?” Waverly asked.

Nicole thought for a moment, “I think so. I definitely love her I just...don’t know if I’m in love with her anymore.”

Nervous fingers continued to play with the strands of her pom pom. She wondered what that was like. To love someone. Someone that wasn’t a friend or family. She’d thought she was in love before. With a boy who was nice and handsome. Everyone told her she would never do better. But even though he said he loved her, he still treated her badly. At first she thought maybe that’s what love was. Especially after seeing her Daddy and Mama together when she was young. But she’d had enough after wasting too many years of her life with him. If that’s what love was, she didn’t want any part of it. Every time she’d loved, it felt like the other person couldn’t return it. So what was the point? Maybe she was just one of those people who didn’t deserve love. That love would never come to. But still she wondered. What must it feel like.

“How do you tell? If you’re in love with someone?” Waverly asked.

“Well, I’m no expert,” Nicole said, “But if I had to describe it...I’d say it’s like falling into a warm bath. You feel yourself falling and slipping but you don’t want it to end. You always want to be around that person and everything about them captivates you. Even the things you don’t necessarily like about them are...magic.”

Waverly lost herself in Nicole’s words. They washed over her like a breeze and settled onto her skin. It sent tingles up her spine hearing Nicole talk about it. About love. She thought for a moment about kissing Nicole to taste the words on her tongue. Maybe they tasted as good as they sounded. But thought better of it.

“That sounds groovy.”

“It is,” Nicole said looking away and back at her hands, “It can be.”

“Even though you don’t know if you love Shae, you’re staying with her?” Waverly asked.

“Maybe our love just changed,” Nicole said, “That happens sometimes too.”

Waverly watched Nicole like she could see the gears working in her mind. She wanted to look deep into her eyes and see if she could see thoughts running back and forth in her brain.

“Waverly,” Nicole whispered, bringing her from her thoughts, “I’m tired.”

Waverly moved the pom poms and guided Nicole’s head into her lap. “Just take a little nap.”

“But the party,” Nicole protested weakly as her head fell into Waverly’s lap. Waverly’s fingers immediately found the knot in her bandana and loosened it so that she could run her hands through red strands. She could almost feel Nicole relax under her touch as she curled up on the bed.

“We’ll go back in a little bit,” Waverly said as she continued to rake her fingers through Nicole’s hair.

Nicole nodded and Waverly started humming. The hums soon turned to words as she sang softly.

”Oh yeah I tell you somethin', I think you'll understand. When I say that somethin'. I want to hold your hand...”

She watched Nicole drift off into a sleep and it was like watching a weight lift off of her. Her face softened, her breathing evened out. Nicole looked so peaceful. Waverly liked this, Nicole asleep on her lap. She could stare at her unabashedly and feel the way her heart sped up as her eyes traced the curves of Nicole’s face.

”And please say to me, you'll let me hold your hand-”

***

Waverly wondered what she was thinking when she invited Nicole and her girlfriend over for Thanksgiving. After Halloween, things with Nicole had been better if not a little stilted. She figured that’s what happened when you tried to kiss your friend who wasn’t into it.

Of course Shae was a tall, gorgeous, future lady doctor. She was so nice and so smart. Waverly admired her. Not only a woman trying to become a doctor, but a black woman? Waverly was in awe of her. Jealous, but in awe. No wonder Nicole snagged her when she could.

She wondered if Shae could tell Waverly wanted to do more than friendly things with Nicole. She wondered if Nicole had told her anything that had happened between them. Not that it was much. The touching, the almost kiss…

Shae couldn’t know, Waverly decided, or she wouldn’t be so nice to her. Unless she was a saint on top of everything. Wynonna had dragged them all to a little coffee shop near campus for lunch and of course Waverly and Shae ended up at the table alone while Nicole and Wynonna ordered at the counter.

“So what’s your major?” Shae asked taking a napkin from the dispenser and setting it neatly in front of her.

“English and Ancient Languages,” Waverly smiled even as her eyes darted to the two ordering at the counter. Wynonna was looking at their table and saying something to Nicole. Probably something inappropriate based on the blush present on Nicole’s cheeks. She turned her attention back to Shae, “And you’re a doctor.”

“Well, on my way to be,” Shae said, “I’m far from it. Especially with the way people keep trying to keep me from registering for the classes I need.”

Waverly shook her head, “Sorry. I can only imagine. People are so small minded these days.”

Shae sighed, “As horrible as it sounds, I’ve kind of gotten used to it. Doesn’t make me want to fight it any less though.”

Nicole’s laugh rang across the coffee shop and Waverly’s eyes automatically found her. She was holding on to Wynonna’s shoulder and had her head tipped back as she laughed. Waverly felt a smile twitch at the corner of her lips, completely mesmerized by her. Especially when Nicole looked up and their eyes connected. For a moment, Waverly forgot anyone else was in the room. It was just the two of them across the coffee shop from each other. Waverly’s heart fluttered and she remembered Nicole’s girlfriend was sitting in front of her.

She blushed and looked back at Shae who had an unreadable expression on her face. Waverly smiled her most charming smile and plucked a sugar packet from the little cup besides her, playing with the edges.

“So what’s your girlfriend’s name?” Shae asked with a small smile, “Nicole’s roommate, right?”

Waverly blushed and sputtered, “I um-...don’t have a girlfriend. I have a...Rosita, but she’s not-...we’re not-...” Waverly took a deep breath and smiled, “We’re just friends.”

Shae nodded knowingly, “I see. That’s very progressive of you.”

“Thank you,” Waverly said with a smile, “I think so too.”

“Commitment isn’t for everyone,” Shae said, “But for some people it’s everything. Like Nicole.”

Waverly tilted her head but tried not to seem too interested in Nicole’s thoughts on commitment. “Oh yeah?”

“Nicole is basically a puppy,” Shae said affectionately, a smile tilting her lips, “She’s really good at making a girl feel special and like you’re her entire world. And she needs that person. That steadfast person. You know? After her parents and-...you know.”

Waverly felt something twist in her gut and she opened her mouth to ask about Nicole’s parents right as the two other girls sat down at the table. Nicole slid her arm along the seat behind Shae and the other woman leaned into her. Nicole pressed a quick kiss to her cheek and Waverly turned away. Something she noticed she’d been doing since Shae got to town.

She didn’t want to say she was jealous. Waverly refused to even consider that she was jealous. Everything was just fine with her and Rosita and their arrangement. No strings. No worries. She didn’t have to worry about being anyone’s world or anyone being her world. No potential for disappointment. The potential for heartbreak was just...too much. Just the thought made Waverly squirm and look back at the couple across from her.

Their heads were ducked together, talking about something. She supposed it could be nice. To have someone that way. Nicole certainly seemed happy. But how did Shae really feel? Nicole had left her. Up and left her for another school, another state. Waverly didn’t think she could handle something like that. If Rosita decided to leave, it was fine. There was no commitment either way and Waverly didn’t have to be upset about it.

Waverly chewed on her lip until Wynonna elbowed her rib. She frowned up at her sister who was looking back at her with a smile that made Waverly uneasy. Thankfully the waitress came with their food to distract her.

Waverly was happy with her life. But she couldn’t help but wonder...what would it be like? To have that person? What would it be like for Nicole to be that person?

***

Waverly rested her forehead against the door as soon as she closed it. She could hear Shae and Nicole get in the car and drive away. Knowing there was a distance between her and Nicole made Waverly breath easier now. She looked down at her finger, now bandaged up, and thought about how close she had been to kissing Nicole in the kitchen before Shae walked in. And Waverly swore Nicole wanted to kiss her too.

“Waves,” Wynonna called from the couch in the living room, “Can you bring me a beer?”

She turned and looked at Wynonna who was spread over the couch. “Don’t you think you’ve drunk enough?” she asked as she walked to the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of beer.

“No such thing,” Wynonna said making grabbing hands in Waverly’s direction as she walked back into the living room. Waverly smiled at her sister and handed her the bottle. She leaned down and kissed the top of her head, grabbing Wynonna’s hand when she tried to bat her away. She walked back into the kitchen where Gus was washing dishes and started drying them.

“Nicole is very nice,” Gus said after a few moments of silence.

Waverly couldn’t help but smile, “Yeah. She is.”

“So is her girlfriend.”

Waverly’s smile faltered, “Yeah.”

The only sound in the kitchen was the water in the sink and the muted sound of whatever Wynonna was watching on the television in the living room. Waverly could practically feel Gus working through words in her head until she spoke up again.

“You know, your Uncle Curtis really scared the shit out of me when we first met,” she said, “And I was engaged.”

“You were?” Waverly asked with a frown, “You never told me this.”

Gus shrugged, “Didn’t feel the need to. Anyways, my fiance at the time was away, we’d been having some troubles. And I had just gotten the job at Shorty’s and your Uncle Curtis kept comin’ around. He was very charming in all the right ways. But I kept telling him I was spoken for.”

“He was okay with that?” Waverly smiled.

“Well, he was respectful of it,” Gus said with a fond smile, “But I knew from the second I saw ‘im that there was something there. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it...but I knew.”

Waverly slowly dried the dish that was handed to her. “You could feel it?”

Gus nodded, “That’s what scared me. I’d never felt anything like that before. I felt sick every time I saw him and every time he left.”

“What’d you do?”

“Womaned up. Got brave,” Gus said with a wink, “Left my fiance, even though my parents were not happy about that, and got with your Uncle. It was probably the best decision I ever made.”

Waverly smiled and set the dry dish on the sink, taking another that Gus gave her. “Uncle Curtis was a lucky man,” Waverly said. She was still unable to keep the hurt from her voice talking about her Uncle even if he passed almost two years ago now.

“I guess what I’m trying to say,” Gus said pointedly, “Is that sometimes...we have to be brave to get the things we want...or who we want.”

Waverly blushed and shook her head. It was always embarrassing how easily Gus could read her sometimes. “Maybe I’m...just not brave,” Waverly said with a sad smile.

“I find that hard to believe,” Gus said, “Waverly Earp? Not brave? I’d never believe it.”

Gus turned and leaned her hip on the edge of the sink so she could get a better look at Waverly.

“What I’m saying, girl, is that you can’t sit and bemoan somethin’ you never tried to get. You hear me?”

Waverly managed to blush even deeper and shake her head. “She knows how I feel, Gus.”

Gus frowned at her, “Does she? Or does she think you want her to be another one of your playthings?”

“Gus!” Waverly said, mouth agape, “I don’t-...What are you-?”

“I’m not as old or blind as you think I am,” Gus said raising her eyebrow.

Waverly sputtered, “Well I don’t-...I’m not-...I don’t want anything...serious.”

Gus nodded like she was thinking and put her fist on her hip, fixing Waverly with a look.

“Angel, remember when you were five and I had to hide the peas in your mashed potatoes?”

Waverly frowned, “Yeah.”

Gus smiled, “Sometimes what you want and what you need are two different things, sweetheart.”

She winked and walked past Waverly, out into the living room. Waverly stood for a moment, trying to digest what her Aunt had said. She shook her head and started putting away the dishes. She didn’t want to dwell on Gus’ advice too long. It left a twisting feeling in her gut.

***

Waverly wanted to kill Wynonna. She wanted to kill her and hug her at the same time. She’d be sure to pinch her extra hard later while getting her a glass of whiskey. Because Wynonna had both embarrassed her in front of Nicole and gotten them to kiss in one breath. Mistletoe. She wondered if Wynonna had planned for this or if it was a happy accident on her part. She’d never been so grateful to hate her sister just that little bit.

The moment Nicole’s lips brushed against hers, Waverly’s heart clenched. It skipped a beat and the air was stolen from her lungs, all from one simple gesture. Nicole, obviously, was not the first person Waverly had kissed. She’d wasted a lot of time kissing people who always up and left in the end, but no one made her body thrum like Nicole.

Even with that stupid wreath stuck in between them, the cheap plastic needles poking her in the stomach.

It wasn’t the best kiss Waverly had ever had. Not by far. Just a simple brush of the lips and a gentle pressure, Waverly’s hands over Nicole’s on that dumb wreath.

But the fireworks.

The way it felt like her whole body was a ball of electricity ready to explode. She’d never felt that before.

Waverly pulled away, eyes opening to see Nicole with her eyes still shut and just standing there like she was in shock. Waverly smiled and squeezed her hands over the wreath so that brown eyes opened. Everything in Waverly’s body was screaming for her to run away. This was all too much. No one should feel this much from a simple kiss, it was too dangerous.

“Damn, Waves, did you kill her?” Wynonna said from where she was still hanging garland.

She ignored her sister as well as her instincts and leaned back in, kissing Nicole again. Maybe it was a fluke, she reasoned. A first kiss fluke. But the second time their lips met, Waverly knew it wasn’t a fluke.

Lights popped behind her eyes and every hair stood on edge. Her hands ached to smooth over Nicole’s arms and touch her face but she kept a tight grip on Nicole’s hands and that damn wreath. Though part of her was thankful for the wreath keeping their bodies apart if this was how Waverly felt from just a kiss. Her hands betrayed her and Waverly’s hand reached up to cup Nicole’s cheek.

Her skin was so soft. Waverly absently wondered if all her skin felt this way as she moved their lips together slowly. Nicole finally pulled away but Waverly’s hand remained on her cheek. Nicole took a step back and Waverly felt her heart sink for a moment. A small smile crept onto Nicole’s lips and Waverly felt some relief go through her body.

“I um-...tradition,” Nicole chuckled. Waverly dropped her hand from Nicole’s face reluctantly. “Where did you want this?”

Nicole held up the damn wreath and Waverly tried not to smile. “Above the door,” she whispered.

“Right,” Nicole nodded. Their eyes remained connected for a second more before Nicole finally turned away. “Right.”

As Nicole hung the wreath, Waverly turned around and walked over to the bar. She leaned against it and took a deep breath. The further away from Nicole she got, the worse she started to feel. She hated that she wanted to kiss Nicole again and again and again. It sounded a lot like dependance and that was one thing Waverly was not. Dependent on anyone.

She reached over the bar and poured herself a shot of whatever was closest. Looking over, she saw Gus staring intently at the popcorn garland she was making and holding back a smile. Waverly shot her drink back and groaned.

“Not a word,” she whispered to Gus before pouring herself another drink.

***

Oh, oh, oh, you treat me badly. I love you madly. You've really got a hold on me-

Waverly sighed as Rosita pulled her earlobe between her teeth. Waverly’s hands pulled at the belt on Rosita’s pants, desperate just to feel her skin against her own.

It was only a couple of days before that she had kissed Nicole and she knew the redhead was avoiding her. But Waverly didn’t quite care because she didn’t want to be around Nicole right now either. Not with the way she missed her or how she kept thinking of what it felt like to kiss her. Like her entire body was on fire.

She was desperate to feel that again with someone that wasn’t Nicole. She needed to know it wasn’t-...that she wasn’t getting soft. Tricked into needing someone. Which is why she waited until she knew Nicole had class and practically jumped Rosita in her dorm. She pushed at Rosita’s pants as much as she could, but the other woman groaned.

I don't want you, but I need you. Don't want to kiss you, but I need to-

“Wait, wait, baby,” Rosita panted, lifting herself up on her arms to hover over and away from Waverly, “I feel like-...are you okay?”

Baby

A spike of frustration hit Waverly in the gut and she shook her head. “I-...don’t call me that,” Waverly said threading her fingers through dark hair and pulling Rosita’s mouth back down to her own.

No fireworks. No lights popping. No tingles that ran through her whole body.

Just the usual feeling of kissing Rosita. Which wasn’t bad. It was never bad. But it wasn’t Nicole.

I want to leave you. Don't want to stay here. Don't want to spend, another day here-

Rosita pulled away again, “Don’t call you what? Baby?”

Waverly nodded and hoped her blush was hidden in the lowly lit room. Rosita blinked at her for a moment and Waverly watched as she licked her lips. It was like the air around them had cooled and Waverly shivered.

“Okay,” Rosita whispered, “I-...okay.”

“Thank you,” Waverly said leaning up and kissing Rosita softly, carefully. After a couple of seconds, Rosita kissed back. She pulled Waverly’s shirt over her head and threw it to some unknown part of the room. Rosita’s kisses got harder, more fevered as she pulled at Waverly’s clothes. It wasn’t soft and sweet like with Nicole. She didn’t feel like her whole body was on a cloud. But it was just what she needed.

You've really got a hold on me. You've really got a hold on me-

***

Just as Waverly finished pulling a new shirt over her head, she heard a knock at the door. She squeezed her hair in the towel to get the excess water out and made sure the hickey that Rosita left on the top of her breast just hours before was covered up. Putting her towel on the hook on the back of the bathroom door, Waverly walked over to the door.

Opening the door, Waverly was shocked to see Nicole standing there. She blinked up at her, hating how the butterflies in her stomach were betraying her. She didn’t want to feel this way. Like she needed Nicole in anyway more than physically. But her heart ached just as much as her body.

“I...hi,” Nicole said.

Waverly couldn’t help the small giggle that escaped her lips at how cute Nicole looked. “Hi. What are you-?”

Nicole’s lips were on hers before she could finish her sentence. Waverly gasped in surprise and she felt Nicole start to pull away, so she gripped her collar and kept her in place. There were those damn fireworks again. Waverly pressed her body as fully against Nicole’s as she could and deepened the kiss.

This feeling...the way it felt like her chest was expanding with each second. Like her heart might burst from her chest she was so happy. She suddenly needed every piece of Nicole she could get. She brushed her tongue along Nicole’s lips, hot desire moving slowly through her veins. Her hands found their way into red hair just as Nicole sucked Waverly’s lip between her teeth. Waverly couldn’t help the embarrassing moan that left her throat.

Waverly pulled away, suddenly feeling overwhelmed. Her fingers idly ran through Nicole’s hair as she took a deep breath. All of this, everything with Nicole was...overwhelming. Her brain was telling her to run. To get away from Nicole and this feeling in her stomach every time Waverly was around her. It was nothing like kissing Rosita. It had never felt like this with Rosita or anyone else.

It terrified her but...she couldn’t imagine not having it. Not having Nicole.

“Nicole?” she said quietly. She considered asking her to leave, to not speak to her again but...she smelled like vanilla dipped donuts and had soft, strong hands that made her feel safe and-

“Kiss me again?”

And Nicole did.

***

They kissed. A lot.

On Waverly’s bed, on Nicole’s bed, on the couch, in Nicole’s car and one time on Wynonna’s bed.

Waverly had thought that maybe...maybe this feeling would go away the more she kissed Nicole. Hopefully, eventually, her feelings would even out and it would feel like when she kissed Rosita. Nice but...that was it.

But it was like the more time she spent with Nicole the more she wanted her. Needed her. The fluttering of her heart couldn’t be calmed. It was like a wounded bird in a cage, fluttering, floundering, and hoping to be free.

When Nicole asked about Rosita, it broke Waverly’s heart to clarify that they were friends. Just friends. Waverly couldn’t handle anything more at the moment. Just the thought of anything more made her want to run for the hills. To protect herself. Shae had insisted that things with Nicole could never be casual, that Nicole didn’t have it in her, but Waverly had to wonder if she was wrong. After all, they had broken up.

***

One night, Nicole had fallen asleep after a long night of making out. Nicole’s shirt was open, bra askew and Waverly’s shirt was long gone on her dorm floor somewhere.

Waverly had woken up in the middle of the night and found herself staring at Nicole as she slept. Her heart swelled with affection as Nicole murmured in her sleep, and she cried. She cried because she didn’t want to feel this. She didn’t want to want Nicole. And Nicole deserved so much more than someone who could never give her more. But Waverly knew she couldn’t let her go.

***

What Waverly wasn’t expecting was for Nicole to break it off with her. And she definitely wasn’t expecting to feel...this way. Like her heart had been stomped on. It made her...well it made her mad. It made her want to prove to Nicole and herself that she was fine. She wasn’t attached to Nicole and she certainly didn’t need her. Or want her.

She took all her feelings, all those butterflies, and put them in a box that she shoved into the back of her heart.

Subconsciously, Waverly thought she left the sock off the door on purpose. She didn’t hope that Nicole walked in but if she did…

“I want your mouth,” Waverly whispered against Rosita’s lips. The other girl complied, kneeling between her legs. Waverly got lost in the sensations, forgetting for a moment that Nicole could really walk in at any moment until-

“Jesus- fuck! What the fuck? We have rules for a fucking reason!” Nicole said leaving the room as quickly as she had entered. Waverly’s heart was pounding as she scrambled to shove her skirt down. When the door closed again, she sighed and fell back onto the bed.

“Shit nuggets,” she muttered to herself. She felt the bed dip as Rosita laid on the bed next to her, both of them looking up at the ceiling.

“Waves,” Rosita started, “Why didn’t you put something on the door?”

“I forgot,” Waverly said, eyes still on the ceiling, “I um...I guess you should know that Nicole and I...well-”

“You fucked her?” Rosita asked flatly.

“No,” Waverly said firmly, “We never-...we just kissed. Over the break.”

Rosita snorted, “I can’t say I’m surprised.”

She got up from the bed and turned the record over so it wasn’t just hissing with static. Waverly lifted herself on her elbows to look at the other girl as she ducked into the bathroom.

“You’re not mad are you?”

She heard the sink turn on and stood up from the bed. She picked up her underwear from the floor and slipped them back on before padding into the bathroom. She leaned her hip on the sink and watched as Rosita cleaned her face. Rosita turned the water off and gripped the edge of the sink.

“No. I can’t be mad. Remember?” Rosita said without looking at Waverly, “I’m not allowed to be.”

Waverly nodded and looked away when Rosita turned her eyes on her. She had the feeling it might look something like the way Nicole had looked at her before.

“Are you two still-?”

“No.”

“Oh.”

They stood in silence for a few moments before Waverly finally braved looking up at Rosita.

“Hey, do you want to just...listen to records and talk?” she asked softly, hating the vulnerability in her voice.

Rosita smiled and rolled her eyes good naturedly. The same way she used to look when they had first started all this. Before it became such a mess.

“Sure. I’d love that.”

Chapter Text

Waverly didn’t know what got a hold of her. She didn’t know if it was the alcohol, the night or just the way Beth was draping herself all over Nicole. It was probably mostly that. Not that Waverly was jealous. There was a whole list of reasons that she shouldn’t…couldn’t be jealous in this situation.

For the first thing, Waverly didn’t care that Beth clearly had a thing for Nicole. Secondly, Waverly was here with Rosita. Her good friend. And third, in order for Waverly to be jealous, that would mean she’d have to like Nicole more than she did. That she had to feel some sort of claim on her and therefore Nicole would have a claim on her in some way. Neither of which were true. Waverly didn’t get jealous. It was one of the advantages of the agreement she had come to with herself regarding relationships.

No no. She was upset because Nicole clearly didn’t want Beth all over her. Beth couldn’t be any more obvious. The way she fluttered her eyelashes up at Nicole and touched her arm when they talked. Or how she “tripped” and fell into Nicole so that the redhead had to catch her? Pathetic.

“Welp, we have only a few minutes left of nineteen sixty-seven, folks,” Wynonna said. A glass of champagne was passed to Waverly and she took it. She looked over at Nicole and Beth just in time to see Beth completely pressed up against Nicole and Nicole’s arm over Beth’s shoulders. Great.

Rosita slipped her arm around Waverly’s waist and drew her close.

“Ba-...Waves, you okay?” she whispered into her ear before placing a soft kiss on the shell. The gesture would usually make Waverly shiver and lean more into her. But right now all she felt was an unpleasant shiver up her spine.

-four, three, two, one!

Waverly’s eyes were glued to where Beth leaned up towards Nicole and Nicole bent down to kiss Beth. She didn’t know what came over her in that moment. It was like she blacked out for a second. She didn’t remember grabbing Nicole’s collar and pulling her towards her until their lips met. She felt Rosita’s fingers dig into her hip for a moment and give a halfhearted attempt to pull Waverly away from Nicole. But after a moment, Rosita’s hands were gone and replaced by Nicole’s.

Nicole pulled Waverly tight against her and the brunette sighed, fingers tightening in Nicole’s collar. Waverly felt something in her chest lighten, the heat of Nicole’s hands over her clothes made her nerves stand on edge. She could press herself completely into Nicole and it would still never be enough.

Nicole pulled away and Waverly chased her lips for a moment before looking up at her. She looked shocked more than anything.

“Happy New Year,” Waverly said, unable to keep her eyes off of Nicole’s lips.

The redhead smiled a little at her, “Happy New Year.”

Waverly felt her heart trip over itself and start beating again, a sudden blush tinting her cheeks as she tried not to think about how she only wanted to kiss Nicole again. She blinked through her drunkenness and smoothed out Nicole’s collar. Nicole finished off her champagne and Waverly wondered where she had been hiding it. Her own hands still played with Nicole’s collar, itching to draw her back in.

“I um...should go,” Nicole said, her voice cracking.

Waverly felt a small flutter of panic in her chest and pressed into Nicole a little more. She didn’t want her to leave. She wanted to be around her, touching her.

“I-...can I go with you?” Waverly asked softly.

“No,” Nicole said with a shake of her head, “No Waverly, I...can’t do that. Sorry.”

Waverly’s hands slipped from Nicole’s collar just as she pulled away. Waverly tried to hide the disappointment on her face. She didn’t bother looking back as Nicole slipped past and out of Shorty’s. After a couple of moments of looking at the spot where Nicole once stood, Waverly reached for an untouched glass of champagne on the table and drained it.

“Hey, where’d Nicole go?” Beth said coming up to Waverly. She resisted the urge to snap at Beth and just smiled stiffly.

“She had to go home,” Waverly said.

Beth snorted, “Guess that kiss made her run for the hills, huh?”

Waverly rolled her eyes and turned to scan the bar for Rosita to no avail. There was that telling pressure behind her eyes. She pushed it away and pushed away all those feelings that made her want to run after Nicole. Those feelings were dangerous. A danger she didn’t want to face.

***

Predictably, Nicole had been absent for a few days. Waverly kept an eye out for her and biked passed her dorm more than she wanted to admit. Nicole was really good at the whole “avoiding Waverly” thing. It was like a talent for her. Waverly was a little embarrassed that she kissed Nicole on New Years...but she was drunk and caught up in the moment and-...well she was protecting Nicole from Beth. So it was fine.

Wynonna told Waverly to stop pining and go make up with Nicole already.

Waverly rejected everything about that idea.

“Have you seen Nicole lately?” Wynonna asked Waverly one day as she made dinner. Waverly looked up from the stove to look at her sister. Wynonna was sitting on the sink with a bottle of whiskey hanging between her legs, staring at the cabinets like they held a secret to something.

“No,” Waverly said simply. She bit her tongue to stop the words ‘she’s avoiding me after I kissed her’ from coming out of her mouth.

“You haven’t seen her since you ruined her hookup for the night?” Wynonna asked, with a raised eyebrow.

Waverly blushed and turned to face her sister, hands on her hips. “I did not ruin anything. She didn’t want to kiss Beth.”

“She told you that?”

Waverly faltered, “Well...no. She didn’t have to. I could tell.”

“Mhm. So you haven’t seen her since after she psychically told you she didn’t want to kiss Beth, but wanted you to jump her instead?” Wynonna asked with a smile.

Waverly frowned at Wynonna but, smelling something burning, turned back around to the stove. “No. I haven’t seen her.”

“Weird,” Wynonna said taking a long pull from the bottle and jumping off the counter, “And Rosita hasn’t said anything to you? About her?”

She blushed. Really she hadn’t heard from Rosita since New Years either, but hadn’t thought too much about it. “No,” Waverly said slowly. Something about the way Wynonna asked the question gave her pause, “Has Rosita talked to you about her?”

Wynonna shrugged, “Maybe.”

Waverly turned to her sister, eyes narrowed. “So Rosita talked to you about Nicole before she talked to me?”

“Don’t act surprised,” Wynonna scoffed, “You ditched Rosie on New Years to kiss someone who didn’t want to kiss you. And now that person is holed up in their room.”

Waverly’s heart dropped. Maybe Nicole didn’t want to kiss her. That’s why she had been avoiding Waverly. And now she was holed up in her room.

“I should go check on her.”

“No,” Wynonna said quickly, “I’ll go check on her. Honestly she’s...probably just sick.”

Waverly wanted to protest but she knew her sister was right. If Nicole was upset about something Waverly did, she would be the last person she’d want to see. Waverly sighed and turned back to the stove.

“You’re right.”

“I know,” Wynonna said kissing the side of Waverly’s head and heading towards the door, “I’ll try and get her back here so you can see she’s alive or whatever.”

“Thank you,” Waverly said with a sigh, “Don’t be mean to her.”

“I’m never mean!” Wynonna called as the door closed behind her.

***

The phone rang the next day, waking Waverly from a lovely nap she was taking. Waverly grumpily got out of bed to answer it. Her voice was thick with sleep.

“ ‘ello?”

“It’s not about you,” Wynonna said quietly over the phone.

Waverly blinked some of the sleep out of her eyes, brain working to try and figure out what her sister could possibly be talking about. Wynonna left last night. She went to go check up on Nicole. Oh.

“Oh.”

“Yeah. It’s not about you so don’t get your panties in a bunch.”

“I-...is she okay?”

“She’s pretty rough. I’m making her come over after she’s out of the shower,” Wynonna said, “Delivering her to you all nice and clean. You’re welcome.”

Waverly blushed, “I...okay. What happened?”

“I can’t say, babygirl. That’s for her to tell you. I’ll see you in a few okay?” Wynonna said.

“Okay. See you soon,” Waverly said, staying on the line until she heard Wynonna hang up. She took a deep breath as she hung up the phone and ran a hand through her hair. She was relieved and curious. She wanted to know what could possibly make Nicole break down like this. It broke her heart to think about it. She had to admit, there was some jealousy of Nicole talking to Wynonna about whatever was happening rather than to her, but she pushed it down. She’d find out soon enough.

***

Waverly ran her fingers through still damp red locks, just listening to the steady breaths from Nicole’s lungs. Nicole’s eyes weren’t as bright as they usually were. It was clear she had barely been sleeping from the dark bags under her eyes..

Now that Nicole was asleep, Waverly could let the tears she’d been holding back fall. Nicole had always given off strength. In the quiet way she observed people and the things around her, she’d always seemed...strong. But now she just looked so small and vulnerable. Waverly couldn’t help but kiss her forehead.

She wanted to wrap her up and never let her go. It broke her heart to hear about Nicole’s brother. In the back of her head she did wonder why Nicole would voluntarily go into a war that had already taken her brother. Her eyes followed the line of Nicole’s neck to the jacket that she always wore. Name patch sewn onto the fabric. Waverly ran her fingers over the rough edge like she had found herself in the habit of doing. She could feel the weight there. The pain. Everything that Nicole was holding.

Wynonna walked over and set a bowl down on the table. Waverly looked over and it was, in fact, her macaroni and hotdogs.

“Thanks, Wy,” Waverly said, her eyes not leaving Nicole’s face.

Wynonna snorted, finally getting Waverly’s attention. Her sister raised an eyebrow at her and sat on the edge of the coffee table.

“Are you really still doing this...free spirit bullshit?” Wynonna asked.

Waverly felt her stomach drop. “You’re one to talk.”

“There’s a difference,” Wynonna said smugly, “I’m not stupid head over heels for Dolls or John Henry.”

“I’m not-”

“Please,” Wynonna interrupted, “You’re totally all Johnny and June for each other.”

“No, we’re not-”

“Sonny and Cher? You’re Cher, obviously.”

Waverly scoffed, “I appreciate the comparison to Cher. But I’m not-...whatever you think I am.”

“In love with Nicole?”

Waverly hushed her sister and looked back at Nicole in her lap, still sound asleep. She pushed some hair behind her ears and looked back up at Wynonna who had a knowing smile on her face.

“I’m not,” Waverly insisted, a sickness rising in her throat, “I can’t be.”

Wynonna slapped her thighs and stood up. “You’re impossible, baby girl. Just don’t be upset when she stops waiting around for you. If she hasn’t already.”

With that she left Waverly alone with Nicole in the living room. Waverly let the darkness settle over them, not bothering to reach and turn the lamp on. Instead she strained her arm to turn the radio on softly.

When you snap your finger or wink your eye, I come a-running to you. I'm tied to your apron strings, and there's nothing that I can do-

She carefully maneuvered herself so she was squished between the back of the couch and Nicole’s body. Waverly wasn’t about to leave Nicole here to sleep by herself, so she figured she should just get comfortable for the night. She settled her arm across Nicole’s stomach and whispered to her.

“I’m not in love with you.”

Nicole’s eyes moved behind her eyelids, but she remained asleep.

Want to tell you I don't love you, tell you that we're through. And I've tried. But ev'ry time I see your face, I get all choked up inside-

“I don’t even think I like you that much. Even if everyone thinks I do.”

She licked her lips and played with the corner of Nicole’s shirt. She didn’t have deep feelings for her. She...barely had any feelings. Right?

“I don’t love you,” she whispered again before she fell back asleep.

Sugar pie, honey bunch. Do anything you ask me to. I can't help myself. I want you and nobody else-

***

Waverly danced around Shorty’s as she wiped the tables. It was a couple of hours before opening so she wasn’t worried about anyone walking in randomly. So she had loaded up the jukebox with her favorite songs and enjoyed the time. She twirled as she sang.

”I saw him today, I saw his face, it was a face I loved, and I knew. I had to run away, and get down on my knees and pray that they'd go away-”

“Who are you thinking about?”

Waverly jumped about three feet in the air. She held her rag out in front of her like some sort of weapon as she turned to see her sister in the doorway, grinning like an idiot.

“What the fuck, Wynonna?” Waverly squeaked, putting a hand on her chest as her heartbeat slowed back down, “I thought I was alone.”

“You were until I walked in the door,” Wynonna said, casually walking behind the bar and pouring herself a drink.

Hey I thought I was smart, I'd won his heart. Didn't think I'd do, but now I see-

“You’re the worst,” Waverly said resuming her duties.

Wynonna leaned her elbows on the bar, “You didn’t answer my question.”

“What question? I was too busy thinking I was about to die!”

“You’re being a bit much,” Wynonna said, boredom apparent in her voice, “Who were you thinking about while singing your sappy song?”

“It’s not sappy. It’s Cher.”

“Exactly.”

“If you must know, I wasn’t thinking about anyone,” Waverly said airily despite the blush on her cheeks.

Wynonna grunted, “You were thinking about Haught.”

“Why do you think you always know everything?”

“Because I do.”

Waverly let out a long sigh and sat on the bar stool across from her sister. She figured there was no point lying to her sister anymore.

“Maybe I was thinking about Nicole,” Waverly said, “It’s none of your business now is it?”

“Finally decided to get your head out of your ass then?” Wynonna asked with a raised eyebrow.

“My head is not in my ass. But I did invite her tonight.” Wynonna was silent and Waverly looked up at her curiously. “What?”

Wynonna poured herself another drink and one for Waverly, “Your brilliant idea is to invite the girl you like to a dating event? That seems dumb.”

“I’m not ready to ask her on a...one on one situation,” Waverly muttered, holding the glass between her hands.

“You mean a date?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

Waverly tilted her head and thought for a moment, “Because I don’t know if I can be that person for her.”

“Does she know you want to be that person for her?” Wynonna asked.

“I don’t want to tell her if I don’t know,” Waverly said taking a sip from her glass.

Wynonna drained her own glass and shrugged, “She should at least know you’re trying. Right?”

Waverly felt a switch flip in her head and she stared down at her glass. “Yeah...yeah maybe you’re right.”

Wynonna smirked, “I know I am.”

Why can't I stop and tell myself I'm wrong, I'm wrong, so wrong? Why can't I stand up and tell myself I'm strong?

***

Waverly’s hand tightened on her drink as she watched a girl sit next to Nicole. A pretty girl. Waverly had seen her around Shorty’s, especially on the nights like this. She had usually paid her no more mind than anyone else in the bar. Only because she was working. But now she was talking to Nicole and something ugly curled deep in her belly.

She pushed it away. Or tried to. But she couldn’t get it to tame. It only got worse with each little smile Nicole gave the other girl. Waverly huffed into her glass and tried to tell herself to stay away from Nicole. They weren’t together. Nicole was clearly flirting with this girl and Waverly had no right or reason to go interrupt. Not if she was trying to be a good friend.

Friend.

For some reason the word stuck like sandpaper in her throat and she took a long sip of her drink but it didn’t help.

The jukebox clicked on, a familiar Patsy Cline song starting to play. The nostalgia hit Waverly in the heart when she remembered Curtis and Gus dancing to it in the living room. A much younger Waverly would sit on the stairs, hiding behind the banister, and watch as Curtis danced Gus across the living room with the record player in the corner.

She remembered the way Gus would laugh and Curtis would whisper secret things in her ear that made her blush.

Waverly had never seen two people more in love.

Even then, love didn’t save them. Curtis had a heart attack and left Gus behind. Even when he said he’d never leave her.

”I fall to pieces. Each time I see you again-”

Something clicked in Waverly and she finished off her drink, setting the empty glass on the bar. She weaved through the crowd until she reached Nicole and set a hand on her arm.

Nicole looked at her confused, “Hey, Waves.”

“Hey, soldier, wanna dance?” Waverly said tilting her head towards the makeshift dance floor. The nickname rolled off her tongue easily. It was one she had picked up a long time ago and for some reason it just...fit.

“I, um-” Nicole looked between Waverly and the other girl. Waverly’s grip on Nicole’s hand got subtly firmer, eyes remaining on Nicole as she spoke. “I’m kinda talking-”

The rejection stung and Waverly almost retracted her hand before the other girl spoke up.

“Go ahead. I’ll make sure no one steals your seat.”

Her head snapped to look at this new competition just as she winked at Nicole. Waverly’s grip got even tighter on Nicole’s arm.

“Groovy,” Waverly said biting the inside of her cheek. She pulled on Nicole’s arm, directing her off the seat and onto the dance floor. As soon as they reached the middle, Waverly turned and made sure their bodies were close. She circled her arms around Nicole’s neck, sighing when Nicole’s hands settled on her waist and she smiled at Waverly. She noticed brown eyes glance over her shoulder.

“Made a new friend?” Waverly asked shortly.

How can I be just your friend? You want me to act like we've never kissed. You want me to forget-

“She’s nice. Do you know her?”

“She’s pretty,” Waverly said as jealousy bubbled in her chest again.

“And you’re beautiful,” Nicole said so softly that Waverly could barely hear her over the music. Like that the jealousy was gone and replaced by a small blush. She tightened her arms around Nicole’s neck, bringing their faces close.

Each time someone speaks your name, I fall to pieces. Time only adds to the flame-

Waverly remembered asking Curtis one day, “How do you know if you like someone? Like like like?”

Curtis squinted as he deciphered eight year-old language and nodded. “If you always wanna be ‘round ‘em. If you want to hold their hand.”

Waverly stuck her tongue out at the thought of holding a boys hand and shook her head. “What if I don’t wanna?”

Curtis chuckled, “Some day you will, lil bug.”

Waverly felt a lump in her throat at the memory. She also thought of holding Nicole’s hand and how her body thrummed in excitement at such a simple thought. Waverly knew she was defeated. In that moment. She knew no matter how hard she tried, she’d never be able to get rid of these feelings for one Nicole Haught. Now she just worried about being...good enough for her. Of being the person Nicole needed her to be. But she could try. Goddamnit she could try.

“Nicole,” Waverly began, fingers playing nervously with the hairs on the back of Nicole’s neck, “I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Nicole frowned, “I already told you the other day-”

“For not being what you needed,” Waverly interrupted, “I want to try. For you. I want to be better for you.”

Nicole just stared at Waverly for a moment and she wondered if she’d said the wrong thing. Nicole shook her head, frown still firmly in place. “Waves, you don’t need to be anything for me,” she said, “I would never want you to be something you’re not.”

“I’m not,” Waverly continued, “I’m not making myself something I’m not. I just want to be better.”

“Is this just because there’s another girl talking to me right now?” Nicole asked carefully, “Because-”

“No,” Waverly interrupted, “I’ve been thinking about this for a while now.”

“I can’t promise anything,” Nicole said, “I’m trying-...I’m getting over a lot right now. You know? You and Chris...and I’m just not-...I don’t want to hurt.”

“I don’t want to hurt you. It’s the last thing I want,” Waverly said firmly, “And I don’t expect you to promise anything.”

Waverly looked up at her with eyes pleading, begging Nicole to believe her. She wanted her to understand that she wasn’t lying. She wanted to do what she could to be everything Nicole needed. She might fail, and that terrified her. But she had to try.

“I just wanted you to know,” Waverly said, her voice cracking, “That I’m trying.”

“Okay,” Nicole said, a hint of a smile on her face. Waverly beamed up at her. It was like a weight was lifted from her shoulders as the song came to a close.

But each time I go out with someone new, you walk by and I fall to pieces. You walk by and I fall to pieces-

***

The sound of the dorm door clicking closed behind them only led to silence. Waverly sat on the edge of her bed, feeling Rosita follow behind her as she went. Rosita’s eyes darted to the bed but landed on the desk chair and dragged it across from Waverly. She sat down carefully, smoothing out her skirt with a sigh.

Waverly’s hands fidgeted in her lap and even though Rosita came to her...she knew what she needed to do.

“I haven’t seen you lately,” Rosita started, voice sad.

Waverly licked her lips, “I’ve been busy.”

“With Nicole?”

Waverly didn’t say anything. She just played with the ends of her hair and watched as Rosita just stared back at her. She finally looked away and looked at some of the posters besides her bed.

“Rosie,” Waverly sighed, “I...I think we should...not do this anymore.”

“Be friends?”

“No, you know what I mean,” Waverly said, “I think we should stop doing things that friends don’t do. Like kiss and-”

“Fuck?” Rosita said flatly and far too loudly. Waverly gave Rosita a sympathetic smile and felt tears in the corners of her eyes.

“It was more than that,” Waverly said.

Rosita frowned, “Are you sure? Because I’m pretty sure you said we couldn’t have more than that. According to you.”

“Rosita-”

“It’s Nicole, isn’t it?” she asked, her voice lower now. Less defensive.

Waverly felt the tears again, hot and heavy in the corners of her eyes. She wanted to break down and tell Rosie all her doubts and feelings. About how she was trying. She was trying to be ready for Nicole. To be who Nicole needed her to be. Who Waverly needed herself to be. She could see that now.

She didn’t know if it was possible. The fear was there, deep inside. She had been feeding it for years in an attempt to protect herself but...now she was here. And everything was a mess.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” Waverly said, “I never wanted to hurt you.”

Rosita chuckled, “It’s okay. I get it. She changes everything. Right?”

Waverly remained silent.

“I knew someone would. I guess I just...hoped it was me,” Rosita admitted.

“Rosita,” Waverly said resisting the urge to just...touch her. Offer her some sort of comfort, “You are more than enough. Just...for someone else. I’m not what you need.”

Rosita smiled and shook her head, eyes closing as a tear slipped down her cheek. She quickly wiped it away with a sniffle.

“Yeah well. I guess I’ll figure that out some day, right?” she said sarcastically, “I know you’re going to want to be friends but...not right now. Okay?”

“Okay,” Waverly said quietly. Her own tears found their way down her cheeks as Rosita stood up. She carefully put the chair back against the desk and Waverly stood up from the bed. They looked at each other for a moment until Rosita gave her a small smile.

“Good luck, yeah?” Rosita said, “I want you to be happy. Nicole is...well the only thing I have against her is that she wants you too.”

Waverly blushed and wiped her tears with the heel of her hand. “Thanks.”

With one final smile, Rosita walked out of the dorm and Waverly felt a weight lift from her chest.

***

Waverly spent at least fifteen minutes walking back and forth in front of the building where Nicole was having her last class for the day. They were supposed to meet later to watch TV but Waverly didn’t want to wait to ask Nicole what she had been gaining the courage to ask.

She was going to ask her on a date.

A real date.

Waverly hadn’t been on a date in years. Only because she refused to. There were plenty of situations she figured could be considered a date, but Waverly didn’t look at them that way. A date implied you were looking for something more. Something lasting. Waverly hadn’t been interested in that until now. Until Nicole.

Her eyes caught sight of red hair coming out of the building and her heart fluttered. It flew high into her chest before crashing back into her stomach when she saw who Nicole was with. It was the girl she had met at Shorty’s. Jesse. Waverly only knew because she’d asked Gus later who the girl Nicole was talking to was.

She was just so...pretty. Tall, light eyes, smooth olive skin. Waverly would be interested herself if she wasn’t sure Jesse was trying to distract Nicole from her. She watched as they smiled and laughed together and Nicole bought her a cup of coffee. Waverly stuffed her hands in the pockets of her sweater and let out a long breath through her nose. Then she remembered, she was here to see Nicole. To ask her on a proper date.

Vaguely she wondered if they’d gone on a date yet as she walked over to the edge of the street and waved at her.

“Nicole?”

She watched as Nicole looked up and smiled at her. Her heart was back to fluttering and she barely noticed Jesse standing all tall and pretty next to Nicole. Until she started walking towards them and Jesse wasn’t walking away.

“Hi,” Waverly said smiling up at the redhead. She looked over at the Jesse, smile still firm on her face as she held a hand out to her. “I’m Waverly.”

“Jesse,” she replied taking Waverly’s hand. God but her hands were soft. And she was so pretty up close. Goddamnit. Waverly forced herself to look away from Jesse. What did she come to do? Right...ask Nicole on a date. But she didn’t want to do it...in front of Jesse.

“Are we still hanging out tonight?” Waverly asked Nicole quietly, chickening out at the last second.

“Uh, yeah,” Nicole said, “I’ll meet you at your dorm?”

“Sounds great,” she said. Unable to help herself, she tugged at Nicole sleeve with a smile. Waverly looked back at Jesse and waved, “Bye, nice meeting you.”

Quickly she turned and walked away. She cursed herself for not asking her on the date. But that girl…Jesse was there and pretty and...Waverly looked behind despite herself and saw them walking off together. Her stomach sank and she quickly looked forward again. Soon. She had to ask her out soon.

***

Waverly had finally gotten up the courage. She finally asked Nicole on a date and she said yes.

Even though Waverly felt her chances were good, she was still worried that Nicole would air on the side of caution. Especially since she noticed that Jesse was hanging around her more and more.

But now she had to figure out the perfect date.

There was still a part of her brain that told her this was a bad idea. That Waverly was going too much against her nature. She was worried this might blow up in her face. In Nicole’s face. But the excitement of the moment outweighed her fears.

***

Wynonna leaned on the frame of the door and took a loud, messy bite of her apple. Waverly looked up from her sister with a look. She was hunched over a piece of white cardboard, paint brush hovering over the half painted sign.

“Can I help you?” Waverly asked.

Wynonna pointed her chin at the sign Waverly was painting. “Does Red know about this?”

Waverly flushed and sat back on her heels, letting the paint brush drop back into the paint.

“No.”

“Hm.”

“Have something to say, Wynonna?”

Wynonna shrugged and took another loud bite of her apple.

“I’m just saying. You know how she freaks out over this stuff. For good reason too,” Wynonna said with a raised eyebrow, “All your hippie bullshit-”

“It’s not bullshit!”

Wynonna held her hands up in surrender. “I’m just saying, you should tell her.”

“I’m going to,” Waverly said leaning back over the sign and continuing to paint, “I wish she’d get involved though. I don’t get why she’s so against it when the war killed her brother.”

“Yeah, Waves, you be the one to tell her that her brother died for a corrupt government, she’ll take that great,” Wynonna said chewing loudly.

Waverly didn’t answer, just continued to paint. “I’ll tell her.”

“Okay,” Wynonna said simply before turning around, “Just be smart, baby girl.”

“I will, Wynonna,” Waverly said like a scolded child as her sister left the room. She ran a hand through her hair, not caring if she got paint in it as she thought over Wynonna’s words. “Fuck.”

***

The cold wood of the door against Waverly’s back had gotten warm in the time she was pressed against it. Nicole was pressed to her front, hands low on her hips and thumbs rubbing at protruding hip bones. Waverly sighed as their tongues curled together, fingers twisting into red hair.

Their first date had been a resounding success. Even if Nicole didn’t let her drive. She’d drive next time.

She groaned as Nicole’s hands slipped under her shirt, skirting across her ribs and up her back. Waverly hooked her leg over Nicole’s hip and silently thanked all that cheerleading she did in high school for her flexibility. Their hips slotted together and she felt Nicole hold her tighter. Nicole tilted her hips into Waverly and she gasped, fingers pulling on Nicole’s hair a little.

Nicole pulled away for air, their foreheads pressed together. Waverly kept her eyes closed and brushed their lips together. Waverly pressed a soft kiss to Nicole’s nose and smiled.

“I missed this,” Waverly said against Nicole’s lips, their breath tangling together.

“So did I,” Nicole said, her palm flat between Waverly’s shoulder blades under her shirt. Nicole groaned and licked her lips. “I should...probably go.”

Waverly pouted but held back her protests. “Okay,” she said as Nicole kissed her softly.

“I’m sorry. But I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“You couldn’t keep me away,” Waverly smiled, letting her leg fall to the floor. She put her hand on Nicole’s chest and pushed her away a little, knowing she’d never let her leave if they stayed that close. She smirked at the flush on Nicole’s cheeks and how her lips chased Waverly’s still.

“I’ll see you tomorrow then,” Nicole said pecking Waverly on the lips.

“Tomorrow, soldier,” Waverly sighed, winking at Nicole as she removed her hands from Waverly’s shirt. Waverly sighed at the loss, especially as Nicole backed away.

“Tomorrow,” Nicole whispered before winking back and turning around. Waverly watched her leave before opening up her dorm door. She couldn’t wipe the smile from her face as she practically skipped to her dorm. With a girlish sigh, she threw herself on the bed, still thinking of Nicole’s lips.

“Good date?” Chrissy mumbled, half asleep from her bed.

“Wonderful,” Waverly sighed. Chrissy just grunted. Waverly stripped herself of her clothes while she lay in bed and let them fall to the side. She’d pick them up in the morning. She got under her covers and closed her eyes, willing her brain to shut off. But all she could think about was red hair and soft lips.

Chapter Text

Waverly had failed to mention to Nicole that part of the reason no one had taught her to drive a car was because the first time Curtis tried, she’d had a panic attack. It wasn’t a huge deal. At least looking back on it. But at fifteen the memory of her father and sister in a deadly car crash was still fresh in her mind. A memory nearly ten years old now, but just as vivid as the day it had happened.

It had taken a year for Gus to get Waverly back into a car after it happened. It made getting to and from school very difficult, but luckily the Sheriff’s daughter was willing to bike to school with her.

So when Curtis sat her behind the wheel and told her to hit the gas, all she saw was her father and sister’s broken bodies in a mangled mess of metal. Waverly had started hyperventilating and couldn’t do anything behind the wheel. Curtis tried again but Waverly refused. After Curtis died, Gus tried to teach her but Waverly again found herself crippled with fear.

This time, Waverly was determined to actually learn. She was twenty-one, after all. It was time to get over her fears and finally learn how to drive. Maybe if someone not completely aware of her past tried to teach her she’d be fine. That was her reasoning anyway.

Nicole picked her up from her dorm and Waverly met her in the parking lot, pecking her on the lips in greeting. Nicole had that charming smile that always made Waverly sigh. The one where her dimples were on display, so deep that Waverly swore she could fall into them.

After their first date, things had been great. Waverly felt comfortable having only Nicole around and no Rosita. She had a moment of weakness once when she called Nicole and couldn’t get ahold of her. Something deep in her mind told her Nicole had left, gone forever. She convinced herself for a few moments that Nicole went back to Colorado until she remembered she had class.

“Hey, cutie,” Nicole said as she pushed some of Waverly’s hair behind her ear, “Ready to learn how to drive?”

“Only if you’re ready to teach me,” Waverly said. She hooked her fingers in the loops of Nicole’s jeans and pulled her closer.

Nicole stumbled forward with a smirk that Waverly would find annoying if it wasn’t so attractive. There was a constant fire deep in Waverly’s belly that was always there when she was with Nicole. They hadn’t had sex and Waverly wasn’t complaining...but Nicole was really good at putting her on edge.

“I’m very ready,” Nicole said kissing Waverly again, “Jump in the car. I have a parking lot we can go to.”

Nicole opened the car door for her and Waverly gladly slid in. As soon as Nicole was in the driver’s seat, Waverly reached for her hand and pulled it into her lap. She didn’t miss the way Nicole smiled, even if she thought Waverly wouldn’t notice. It warmed her from the inside out in a pleasant way that made her just want to kiss all over Nicole’s face.

With her free hand, Waverly twisted the dials of the radio until she found a song she liked and laced her fingers with Nicole’s.

Well, now swing me, swing me, swing me all the way darling. Come on, let's go little darling. Let's go, let's go again once more-

Nicole drove them to a church parking lot that was completely empty. It was big enough that Waverly wouldn’t have to just be turning in a circle the whole time, but not so big as to be intimidating. Nicole parked at one end and Waverly took a deep breath. She would be fine. She wasn’t even on the street and Nicole was here with her and she-

Waverly interrupted her own thoughts with a revelation.

She trusted Nicole. In a way she hadn’t trusted anyone before. It wasn’t as if she didn’t trust Curtis or Gus... she did. But there was just something about Nicole, about her presence, that made her feel safe in a way no one else had. The thought made her want to open the car door and jump out. To run far away from Nicole.

Oh pretty baby, I, I love you so. Well, let's go, let's go, let's go little darling. Tell me that you'll never leave me. Come on, come on, let's go again and again and again and again-

“Are you ready?” Nicole asked, pulling Waverly from her thoughts.

Waverly licked her lips and nodded. She stood up in the seat and gestured for Nicole to scoot over. Nicole scoffed but did as she was told anyways. She pulled herself across the leather as Waverly hovered over the seat and waited for her. Their legs bumped together and Waverly took the opportunity to sit on Nicole’s lap.

“Waves,” Nicole protested lightly. Her hands settled low on Waverly’s hips as she moved her legs on the other side of Nicole’s so she was sitting sideways on her lap. She put her arms around Nicole’s neck and beamed at her.

“We’re switching seats,” Waverly said trailing a finger along Nicole’s jaw.

“I could have just gotten out and gotten back in on the other side,” Nicole said as she turned her head to kiss Waverly’s finger. Waverly pushed on Nicole’s jaw instead, tilting her chin up so she could capture her lips briefly.

“Are you saying you don’t prefer this?” Waverly asked as she pecked Nicole’s lips over and over.

Nicole chuckled and squeezed Waverly’s hips. “I guess I can’t complain.” She placed a quick kiss to the underside of Waverly’s jaw and patted her hip, “Now move so I can teach you to drive.”

“Fine,” Waverly hummed removing herself from Nicole’s lap and settling in the driver’s seat. She adjusted the mirrors and everything, something that she remembered from when Curtis tried to teach her.

Nicole reached forward and turned down the radio. Waverly huffed but didn’t say anything as Nicole turned in her seat so she could see Waverly better. She pointed to the equipment next to Waverly.

“This is a gear shift,” she said slowly. Waverly shot Nicole a look and turned on the car.

“Wait-“

Waverly ignored Nicole and moved the gear shift. She heard Nicole’s nearly silent protests as she slowly lifted her foot off the brake. Waverly felt her heart in her throat as she slowly rolled forward. She adjusted both of her hands on the steering wheel, hands sticky with sweat.

She felt Nicole exhale next to her. “You’re doing good, babe,” she said despite the way her hands twitched in her lap.

Babe

The word rolled a little in Waverly’s mind and she realized something...she didn’t feel the same way she felt when Rosita called her babe. Waverly didn’t feel gross or slimy. She licked her lips and pressed onto the gas pedal a little. The car lurched forward and Nicole’s hand slapped against the dashboard.

“Whoa-“

“I got it! I’m just getting used to it,” Waverly said as she got the hang of it and the car began to move slowly through the parking lot. She tapped her fingers nervously on the steering wheel as her confidence slowly built.

“Am I doing alright?” Waverly paused, “Babe?”

The word fell naturally from her tongue and Nicole didn’t even seem to notice. She let out a long sigh and nodded at Waverly.

“You’re doing great.”

***

Babe

Waverly laid on her bed and thought about the word she’d resisted so long from Rosita. The same one that she willingly used with Nicole. When Rosita had said it, Waverly felt...owned. Claimed. Someone who didn’t belong to herself and would fall apart if the other person weren’t there. But with Nicole...well with Nicole it filled her with a warmth she hadn’t felt before.

She had been warming up to it, getting used to the idea of Nicole calling her ‘babe’. Waverly certainly liked the way it rolled off her tongue when she used it for Nicole. But then Nicole brought up being exclusive and Waverly panicked. Suddenly ‘babe’ felt a lot more like ‘mine’.

It terrified her.

The door opened and Chrissy walked in with her book bag swung over her shoulder. Waverly smiled at her in greeting and Chrissy stopped to stare at her for a moment.

“Are you just sitting here staring at the ceiling?” Chrissy asked as she dropped her bag on her desk.

Waverly blushed, “Thinking.”

Chrissy smiled and waited for Waverly to scoot over so she could lay herself on the bed. “About whaaaaaat?” she asked clicking her tongue behind her teeth.

“Nothing-”

“It’s Nicole, isn’t it?” Chrissy asked wiggling her eyebrows. She propped her head up on her hand, elbow digging into the mattress.

“If you already know why do you ask?” Waverly mumbled.

“Sometimes it’s fun to see if you’ll tell me the truth or not,” Chrissy said, “What are you thinking about? How you totally broke her heart for wanting to take you out for Valentine’s Day?”

Waverly groaned and rolled so that she was facedown in her pillow.

“I didn’t break her heart,” Waverly’s voice was muffled by the pillow.

“You did. She looked like you kicked her puppy,” Chrissy said, “Why don’t you just throw the poor girl a bone?”

Waverly turned her head again, “You know I can’t do that. We’re not-”

“Ugh, if you say exclusive again I’m going to hurl,” Chrissy said with a small smile on her face, “You’re obviously crazy about her I don’t know why you won’t make her your girlfriend already.”

Waverly felt herself bristle, “I’m not-...I can’t, Chrissy. I’m not crazy about anyone.”

Chrissy turned on her side so they were both facing each other. Waverly relaxed, looking at her best friend. The only person besides Gus who had stuck around for years. Through the best and the worst of it.

“Someday you will be,” Chrissy said, “And it’d be a real shame to miss out on it just because you’re scared.”

Waverly chewed on her bottom lip as her guts twisted around themselves.

“Maybe I just...don’t like Valentine’s Day,” Waverly said, defeated. Chrissy smiled at her and tucked some hair behind Waverly’s ear.

“You’re my best friend and I love you,” Chrissy said, “But sometimes I just really want to kick your ass.”

Waverly pouted and grabbed for Chrissy’s hand, squeezing it. “You’re my best friend and I love you. And thank you for being patient with me.”

“I’m not the one you should be thanking for that,” Chrissy said pointedly. She squeezed Waverly’s hand back before crawling over her and off the bed. “Now. Let’s listen to some records. Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Waverly said trying not to wish she was with Nicole.

***

Waverly stared at the card, the little cowboy staring back up at her. When she first opened it and saw Nicole’s messy writing on the bottom, a warmth bloomed in her chest that wasn’t completely unpleasant. She smiled despite herself and kept staring at it as she walked into her dorm.

For a moment she considered calling Nicole to see what she was doing. Maybe suggest getting together. Not for Valentine’s Day of course. It would just be a coincidence that they were together on Valentine’s Day. But the implications behind it...the idea that Nicole might think they were more because of it is what scared her. She’d already had to dodge Nicole’s attempts at being more exclusive. It would only get worse if she went over on Valentine’s Day.

Despite this, she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of the card. She took a piece of tape from the desk and folded it, sticking one side to the card. With a smile, Waverly climbed onto her bed and taped the card on the wall near her pillow.

Wynonna walked into the room and threw herself on Waverly’s bed in the way she always did. Waverly had stopped trying to stop her, she knew it was going to happen either way. Wynonna looked up at the card as Waverly sat on the mattress cross legged.

“Who’s that from?” Wynonna asked with a raised eyebrow, “Perky Tits?”

“It’s not from Rosita,” Waverly said poking Wynonna’s side.

Wynonna looked at it again for a moment before looking back at Waverly. “I thought you hated Valentine’s Day.”

Waverly shrugged and hugged her knees to her chest, staring at the card. “I guess it’s not that bad.”

***

“What’s this?” Waverly asked. Propped up on Nicole’s desk was a Valentine’s Day card with a little orange cat on it. Nicole’s lips felt amazing against her neck but the sight of the card made Waverly shiver unpleasantly. Waverly picked up the card gingerly as if it were dirty. She felt Nicole’s lips pull away from her neck but her eyes stayed on the card.

“Nothing,” Nicole said.

“Is this from Jesse?” Waverly asked as jealousy twisted in her gut. She wished she could go back to before she saw the Valentine. Back to when they were making out with Nicole between her legs.

Nicole stiffened, “What does it matter?”

“I was just asking. But I’ll take that as a yes,” Waverly said feeding off of Nicole’s unwillingness to answer. Her mind went to Jesse and if they were together on Valentine’s Day. Were they here? In Nicole’s room the same way that her and Waverly were now?

Nicole’s hands left her hips and pressed into the wood of the desk. Waverly looked at the Valentine one last time before dropping it back on the desk.

“Waverly,” Nicole started, “I thought you were okay with me seeing other people.”

“I am,” Waverly said quickly, returning her arms to around Nicole’s neck. Her fingers played with the hairs at the back of Nicole’s neck in an attempt to soothe her. Still she thought of Jesse with her hands on Nicole. She thought of her hands running through red hair and Jesse on top of Nicole, kissing her. Her chest tightened again. “But it’s not other people, it’s...Jesse.”

Nicole shrugged, “I don’t really see the difference.”

“I mean...it’s just one other person,” Waverly said looking carefully at Nicole’s face for a reaction.

“So you’d be happier if I was seeing a different girl every night?” Nicole said with a hard edge to her voice.

Waverly’s arms dropped from around her neck and she chuckled humorlessly. “Maybe.”

“I’ve said it before but...if you’re...upset...we can be...exclusive,” Nicole mumbled.

The jealousy was soon replaced by panic and Waverly gripped the edge of the desk. Nicole took a calculated step away from Waverly, hands in her pockets and nerves written on her face. Waverly hated denying Nicole like this over and over. Waverly was trying, she was really trying. She had done everything she could to prove this to Nicole but it never seemed to be enough.

She didn’t want to hurt her. She was tired of hurting her. Of seeing that look in her eyes that made Waverly feel...wrong. Like she was making a mistake.

“Nic, you know-...I just-...can’t,” Waverly said with a shrug. She forced a small smile and remembered the movie they’d seen not too long ago, “Don’t love a wild thing. Right?”

“Come on, Waverly.”

“What?” she asked sharply.

“You can’t get jealous of Jesse if you don’t want to be exclusive,” Nicole said.

“I’m not jealous,” Waverly insisted, anger slowly rising. She wasn’t jealous. She would hold to that until the very end. To be jealous required a sense of ownership that she didn’t have.

Nicole threw her hands to her side and Waverly was shocked by it. “We’re practically girlfriends anyways, Waves.”

Girlfriends

Waverly stood up from the desk, arms crossed tightly in front of her chest as she tried to push down the panic. The fear.

“Stop trying to make me something I’m not,” Waverly said.

“I’m not-”

“You are, Nicole,” Waverly said. She was frustrated and angry but she was not jealous. “I don’t ask you to be someone you’re not. I don’t ask you to stop obsessing over this stupid pointless war. To stop daydreaming about being over where thousands of innocent people die every day.”

As soon as the words were out of Waverly’s mouth, she felt like she had gone too far. But she couldn’t stop. Everything she’d been thinking about, everything she’d been holding back, was coming out.

“Don’t you fucking dare-”

“I don’t ask that of you, so don’t ask this of me,” Waverly said, voice shaking.

“You told me you were trying! Why would you even want to try in the first place if you were just going to fucking run the whole time?”

Waverly felt something dangerous roll in her chest and she took a step closer to Nicole, “I’m not running.”

“Could have fooled me,” Nicole said, “You’re a fucking coward.

Nicole might as well have kicked Waverly. She frowned, “Excuse me-”

“Listen to me. For once,” Nicole said through her teeth, “You’re a coward. You’re scared of commitment and you’re afraid of getting hurt, but you’re just setting yourself up for pain anyways. You’re so afraid of people leaving you. But what are you going to do when you’re alone? Huh? What are you going to do when people stop trying with you? You’re just going to be sad and alone with no one to listen to your bullshit anymore.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Waverly spat. Her heart beat out of her chest and her veins coursed with adrenaline. She felt her throat closing and a pressure building behind her eyes.

“Don’t I?” Nicole asked flatly, “Then tell me I’m wrong.”

Waverly tried to stay neutral and keep her face hard. But she felt the tears gathering in her eyes. She wasn’t a coward. Sure she was scared but...that didn’t mean she was a coward. And Nicole just looked at her, face angry in a way she hadn’t seen before.

Nicole chuckled and walked towards the bed, brown eyes never looking at her, “That’s what I thought.”

Waverly stood there for a moment, finally feeling how her nails were digging into her palm painfully. She didn’t unclench her fists though. It was clear Nicole was done talking. And if Nicole was done, so was she. So Waverly walked out of Nicole’s dorm. As soon as the door closed behind her, heavy tears fell down her cheeks and she crossed her arms tightly in front of her chest.

She wasn’t a coward. She wasn’t.

***

“You roped my heart podner”

Waverly looked at the Valentine that was still taped to her wall. Her heart ached and she hugged her pillow close to her chest, wishing it was Nicole. She groaned and closed her eyes but she could only see Nicole in front of her. No matter how much she tried to get the redhead out of her mind she couldn’t.

She wanted to hold Nicole and never let go. To press her face to her chest and breathe her in. She wanted to feel Nicole’s strong arms around her and just relax into them.

It seemed that Waverly wanted her. More than she’d let herself truly admit. She wanted Nicole and only Nicole and-...it was terrifying. Because it was real.

“Shit,” Waverly said to herself.

***

Walking in on Jesse laying in Nicole’s lap was-...well it felt like the kick to the heart that Waverly needed. She had already decided to talk to Nicole after what Wynonna had said, though she couldn’t say that she knew exactly where she was going to take the talk. She just knew that she missed Nicole.

She should have never walked out of her dorm that day. She should have gathered up her pride and just told Nicole that she was scared. Terrified. And maybe that made her a coward like Nicole said.

Waverly had never stopped trying like she’d promised Nicole. She had just never realized trying would be so hard.

And she certainly hadn’t expected Nicole to stand her up the first time Waverly tried to talk to her.

Now sitting in Nicole’s car and waiting for her to be done with work was like a slow torture. She wanted to be with Nicole. Really be with her. To call Nicole hers. It had taken a long time to get to this. Maybe too long. She just hoped that Nicole hadn’t moved on already. It was clear that Jesse liked Nicole and Nicole liked Jesse.

Nicole picked Waverly first...but Waverly pushed her away and into another girl’s arms. Waverly sighed and reached to turn on the car and radio. It was the only thing she could do to try and take her mind off of things.

Thrill me, thrill me. Walk me down the lane where shadows. Will be, will be-

She rested her forehead against the glass of the window and sighed. Waverly couldn’t ignore the way her heart took flight every time she saw Nicole anymore. She had to admit to herself that she had feelings for Nicole. Real feelings beyond just wanting to kiss her and sleep with her.

’Don't be fooled, thinking this is the last you'll find.’ But they never stood in the dark with you, love, when you take me in your arms and drive me slowly out of my mind-

It was something that made her just...want to see Nicole smile. To have Nicole look at her like she hung the stars. Sometimes Nicole looked at her in a way that made Waverly think she did feel that way.. Then Waverly would realize that she didn’t hang the stars at all. Nicole did. And she did it just for her.

Miss me, miss me. If we ever say "Adieu" so kiss me, kiss me. Make me tell you I'm in love with you-

***

Nicole fell asleep first. Her girlfriend had fallen asleep first. Waverly watched her drift off after they’d dragged their spent bodies into the bedroom and onto the bed.

They had lain on their sides, sheet over their heads as they alternated between talking, kissing and just staring at one another. The moon was filtering down through the sheets and it made Nicole’s skin shine. Waverly ran her fingers over Nicole’s lips, the other girl kissing them lightly every few moments as Waverly beamed.

“You’re amazing,” Waverly whispered.

Nicole shook her head, tongue darting out to tease the tip of Waverly’s finger. “You’re extraordinary.”

Waverly’s fingers traced Nicole’s cheekbone and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Her hand didn’t stop, cupping the back of Nicole’s neck and drawing their faces as close as they could be without kissing.

“You’re...mine,” Waverly said reverently.

Nicole nodded, “Only yours.”

“My girl,” Waverly giggled, brushing their lips together as she sang, “Talking about my girl. I've got so much honey the bees envy me. I've got a sweeter song than the birds in the trees.”

“I don’t think that’s exactly how that goes,” Nicole smiled and pressed their lips together. “Your girl,” she said between kisses.

And that’s how she fell asleep. Between soft kisses and even softer singing. Waverly was smitten and at this moment she didn’t care if Nicole knew.

So she watched her sleep and just kept singing.

“I guess you'd say, what can make me feel this way? My girl. Talkin' 'bout my girl-”

***

Waverly’s entire body felt tight. Like it was on edge ready to explode. Her nails dug into her palms but she was so angry she couldn’t feel the pain.

Nicole was enlisting. Nicole was leaving her. Waverly had been trying. They were girlfriends and still Nicole was leaving. Waverly’s greatest fear was coming true.

Her feet automatically carried her back to her dorm. All she could think about was Nicole talking to Shae about enlisting. Her ex-girlfriend who she had been in love with. Maybe she was still in love with her. After all, they’d been together for years. Shae had helped Nicole through the hardest parts of her life. Waverly knew how that could bind people forever.

But what killed Waverly, what really killed her...is that she had started to become happy. She had felt that maybe they could work...her and Nicole.

The angry ball in her chest finally exploded as she reached her dorm room. It exploded and flooded her veins. It made her hands shake as she reached for her keys and tried to unlock the door. Finally the anger gave way to sadness. When the lock finally clicked open, the first sob wracked her chest.

She managed to make her way into her room, shutting the door behind her until she fell on the bed. It felt like her heart was breaking out of her chest and that’s when Waverly remembered why she didn’t do this. Why she had always swore off relationships. It’s because the heartbreak hurt so damn bad.

***

Waverly was curled on her bed, the pillow under her stained with her tears. She sniffled and looked at the Valentine’s Day card still taped to her wall. It twisted the knife of sadness deeper into her chest. Her choice of record certainly didn’t help.

I, I, I, I should have never ever, ever made you cry. And girl since, since you been gone-

“Jesus, baby girl,” Wynonna said as she kicked open the door, “It couldn’t get more depressing in here if you were watching Bambi.”

Waverly just sniffled again and turned to face her sister, “Leave me alone, Wy.”

Wynonna walked over to the record player and tilted her head as she read the label. She shook her head, “Damn, Waves.”

“What?” Waverly asked into her pillow.

“You’re pulling out the big guns here,” Wynonna said flipping the record cover over to look at the front, “You and Haught okay?”

“We broke up,” Waverly said feeling a fresh wave of tears begin after saying it aloud. She turned her face into the pillow to hide her tears but she felt the bed dip with Wynonna’s weight anyways. Waverly reached blindly for Wynonna’s hand and squeezed it. Wynonna brushed some hair from her face and sighed.

“Baby girl, what happened? Should I beat her up?” Wynonna asked. She shrugged off her leather jacket and took one arm out, replaced her hand in Waverly’s with the other and slipped it out of her jacket. Just so Waverly was never without her sister’s hand.

“No, she’s going to get herself beat up anyways,” Waverly said between hiccups.

Dont'cha know I, sit around. With my head hangin' down. And I wonder, who's lovin' you-

“What do you mean?” Wynonna asked.

Waverly looked up at her sister again, “She’s enlisting. Well...thinking about it.”

Wynonna blinked at her, “Is that why you broke up with her?”

“She’s leaving, Wynonna,” Waverly whispered, her heart breaking just a little more, “She’s leaving and she might not come back.”

Wynonna frowned a little as she adjusted herself on the bed so that she was propped up on the pillows. Waverly moved so that her head was on Wynonna’s lap, arm draped over the top of her thighs.

“You broke up with her because...she might die in the war?”

Life without love, is oh, so lonely. I don't think. I don't think, I'm gonna make it-

Waverly blushed as her tears began to slow again, “Well when you say it like that it sounds dumb.”

“Because it is a little, Waves,” Wynonna mumbled, “You really like her. Obviously. Or else you wouldn’t have even bothered asking her out.”

“But she’s leaving me, Wynonna,” Waverly insisted. Wynonna ran her fingers through Waverly’s hair as if she was trying to lessen the blow.

“You’re a dumbass,” Wynonna said, “You need to go talk to that girl before she moves on.”

“But-”

“Who cares if she’s leaving, Waves,” Wynonna continued, “You like her. She makes you happy. And I can see she’s crazy about you too. I don’t know what the issue is.”

Waverly squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head, “It hurts too much.”

Wynonna chuckled sympathetically and leaned down to kiss the top of Waverly’s head. “Oh, baby girl,” she said affectionately, “That’s how you know it’s worth it.”

Dont'cha know I, sit around. With my head hangin' down. And I wonder, who's lovin' you-

***

Usually Waverly would be upset with Wynonna for locking her in her dorm and...basically holding her hostage.

But this time she just wanted to buy Wynonna a bottle of whiskey or something. Something to thank her for locking her in a room with Nicole. Waverly wasn’t sure if she would have been able to track down Nicole otherwise. Rather, that she didn’t know if she’d have the courage to.

At some point after the apology, Waverly had ended up on Nicole’s lap. They were still sitting on the floor of Wynonna’s dorm, just talking. The talking had lapsed into just holding each other and the occasional kisses.

Waverly’s fingers brushed lightly over the bruise on Nicole’s chin. She pressed a soft kiss to the bruise.

“My poor baby,” Waverly whispered, kissing her lightly.

“It’s not that bad,” Nicole said even as she gritted her teeth in pain.

“What happened?”

Nicole licked her lips and pressed her face to Waverly’s neck. “Some asshole was throwing slurs around about me and Jesse.”

Waverly paused at the other woman’s name but ran her fingers through Nicole’s hair anyway.

“My hero,” Waverly whispered, “My soldier.”

***

Nicole was trying to prove something. Waverly could tell with the way her hands were firm and strong on her hips as she turned her around so her face was pressed to the cool tile of the shower. She shivered and pressed back into Nicole, her hands flat on the wall next to her head.

There was a certain fire in Nicole’s eyes when she had come back from her run. But Waverly ignored it as she watched her girlfriend’s muscles flex under damp skin when she took her shirt off for the shower. Maybe she would have thought more about it at a different time but Waverly was distracted by her need for Nicole.

Pert nipples grazed the cold tile and Waverly hissed, hips pushing back even harder into Nicole.

Waverly’s mind was foggy but she tried to speak anyways. To ask Nicole what was wrong, what she could fix. But Nicole’s hands squeezed her hips and pulled her further back against her and Waverly couldn’t think anymore.

Nicole’s hands left Waverly’s hips and ran slowly down her spine as she draped herself over Waverly’s back. She nipped at the back of Waverly’s neck as her fingers grazed over Waverly’s sensitive bud.

Her hips jumped into Nicole’s hand.

“You’re mine,” Nicole repeated again.

Waverly moaned, her fingers curling against the wall, spine tingling in pleasure. “Yours.”

***

Waverly leaned against the desk of the dark room, watching the prints slowly develop. She was still tense after her fight with Nicole, shoulders tight and on edge. Even if it was a day past now, she still couldn’t shake the feeling.

She couldn’t believe Nicole would think that Waverly still had feelings for Rosita. That she’d ever had feelings for her. Sure she and Rosita had a thing for a couple years. Waverly liked spending time with her. She was her friend after all. And-

There was a little spike of jealousy thinking of Jesse. Jesse, who Nicole had slept with.

Waverly groaned to herself and rolled her neck, trying to get rid of some of the tension.

She reminded herself that Nicole chose her. Nicole was her girlfriend. Waverly had pushed her away and she couldn’t really blame her for trying to find comfort in someone else, could she? Waverly had done the same thing herself many times before.

Nicole’s face slowly started to appear on the photo paper and Waverly couldn’t help the sigh that escaped her lips. Maybe Nicole was wrong in being jealous about Rosita, but Waverly had been wrong before too. She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand and remembered her shift at Shorty’s later.

Waverly bit the inside of her cheek and hopped off the counter. She pulled the prints down from the line and stacked them carefully. Her eyes lingered on Nicole’s face a few moments longer and she smiled to herself.

Nicole. Her Nicole. The only one in a while she wasn’t worried about leaving her.

***

“I enlisted.”

Yours until the rivers all run dry. In other words, until I die. Baby I’m yours-

It felt like Waverly’s stomach had fallen out. Like her whole body had been plunged into ice water. Just two words and Waverly felt like her entire life was over. Everything she had feared came true. When she finally let someone in they were leaving.

She wanted to yell at Nicole. To tell her she knew this would happen all along. But the anger quickly turned into realization. Nicole had already told her she was still enlisting. It was only a matter of time and-...well their time was up. The sadness settled into Waverly’s chest, heavy and cold.

“When do you leave?” Waverly whispered.

“The week before graduation,” Nicole said, “I don’t know to what fort yet.”

Waverly didn’t know what to say. Her mouth tried to form words but nothing came out. Her fingers stroked the soft hairs at the base of Nicole’s neck, grounding her but only barely.

Nicole was leaving. Leaving for a war that Waverly didn’t believe in. Nicole was putting herself in direct danger. The tears pricked at the corners of her eyes and she pulled Nicole’s face to hers to kiss her hard. Nicole pulled her close and Waverly felt the tears leak down her cheeks.

Baby, I'm yours, baby, I'm yours. And I'll be yours until two and two is three. Yours until the mountain crumbles to the sea. In other words, until eternity-

Waverly felt a sob about to leave her lips and she pulled away, burying her face in Nicole’s neck. She didn’t want Nicole to see her cry and completely fall apart. Nicole didn’t need that right now. Her fingers tightened in red hair and Nicole held her equally as tight. She could feel Nicole’s face in her own hair and let out a shuddering breath.

They continued to sway to the song even though Waverly just wanted to crawl into a ball and have Nicole wrapped around her. She hadn’t felt heartbreak like this. Not in a long time. She had tried to trick herself into believing that Nicole wasn’t going anywhere, that she would stay with her. Now Nicole was enlisted and...there was no going back.

Waverly held Nicole tighter and choked on emotions she wasn’t ready to confront yet, hoping that somehow Nicole could sense them.

Baby, I'm yours. Baby, I'm yours-

Chapter Text

Nicole looked exhausted.

She’d been splitting so much time between school and her night classes that Waverly felt like she hardly saw her. Waverly wanted to be selfish and tell Nicole they weren’t spending enough time together. Not when she was headed to war in a matter of months. But Waverly knew that it was all necessary if Nicole wanted to accomplish her goal.

Instead she waited up for her to get back to whosever dorm they’d agreed to meet at that night. Even if she just got to help shuffle Nicole into bed after a long day, Waverly still wanted to spend as much time as possible with her girlfriend before she was ripped from her arms.

It made Waverly sick every time she thought about it. About Nicole being over there.

Waverly hadn’t believed in the war for a while now. She saw it for what it was. Pointless. People, innocent people, on both sides were dying. And for what? For money? For a war we had no business being in?

Before Nicole, Waverly could easily say that the soldiers volunteering themselves to go over there were sick. After all, why would someone choose to go where they were being killed and killing civilians? It made no sense to Waverly. And it had been easy to pretend they were these one dimensional pawns in the government’s plan.

But she knew Nicole. She loved Nicole. And Nicole was none of those things. Nicole was good and kind and hers.

Waverly wanted to support Nicole. She wanted to tell her she believed in what Nicole was willing to die for but she couldn’t. The best she could do is tell Nicole that she believed in her. Not in this war or the shitty circumstances surrounding it...she believed in Nicole--her heart and her intentions. And Waverly had to hold on to that. She had to hold on to that goodness she knew was in Nicole’s heart otherwise she was sure she’d go mad.

The dreams were always different, but the outcome was the same. Waverly would hug and kiss Nicole goodbye before she got on the bus. As the bus left, Nicole would hang out the window and leave.

Then a few different things happened. Either the bus went off course and crashed in a ditch or...It hit a landmine and exploded. Either way, Waverly was stuck screaming after Nicole but unable to move.

Waverly would wake up with a start, heart beating wildly. That was until she realized Nicole was next to her. Safe and sound. Waverly would cuddle into Nicole’s side and hold back the tears. She just tried to remember that Nicole was here with her. For now. But she was here. Waverly would touch any part of Nicole’s skin that she could just to feel her there. It would help her drift back to sleep.

But Waverly knew she couldn’t stand to watch Nicole drive away in that bus. It was going to kill her enough. She would never be able to watch her leave.

***

They were taking their time together.

Waverly could still taste the alcohol on Nicole’s lips from Shorty’s. They had said one more drink before they left but one more ended up being two more. Wynonna got Nicole to play a game of pool with her which is where the extra drink came in. But Waverly didn’t mind. She draped herself over Nicole between turns even as Wynonna grumbled. Waverly would purposefully lean back against the pool table so that her midriff was on display which was definitely worth it with the way Nicole’s eyes lingered on her between turns. Waverly was practically soaked through her panties before they even left Shorty’s.

If she could have straddled Nicole and ground down on her while she drove back to campus she would have.

But now they were finally alone.

Nicole kissed slowly down Waverly’s neck, placing soft kisses behind her ear. Waverly sighed and ran her hands up Nicole’s naked back, slick with sweat. Nicole’s hips rolled down into Waverly’s, the apex of their thighs gliding together in the most delicious way. Waverly gasped, back arching up into Nicole as her legs fell open even wider. Her core was aching for contact. Any kind of contact.

Nicole hiked Waverly’s leg over her hip, gripping it as she continued to grind down into her. Waverly dug her nails into Nicole’s back, her jaw falling open.

A whine built in the back of her throat as Nicole licked a path up Waverly’s throat.

“Baby,” Nicole whispered against her throat, movements never ceasing, “I’m going to miss you.”

A stab of pain shot through Waverly’s heart. Her hands gripped the back of Nicole’s neck and pulled their foreheads together. She squeezed until Nicole’s eyes opened to look at her.

“Let’s not talk about tomorrow,” Waverly said. She moaned when Nicole rolled her hips particularly hard down into her slick sex. “Just make love to me.”

Nicole nodded and captured Waverly’s lips with her own as she brought her closer to the edge.

Waverly felt her body slowly building to that climax. A slow fire ebbed and burned deep in her stomach, seeping into her bones. She wanted to be as close to Nicole as possible. She wanted to feel her inside and out, above and below.

Nicole’s hips got more frantic, breath coming in harsh pants against Waverly’s lips. Waverly’s eyes fluttered closed in pleasure as the warmth in her belly exploded. Pleasure ran up her spine and through her limbs, her mouth opened in a silent scream.

She felt Nicole’s hips stuttering as she came on top of her. Waverly wrapped her arms around Nicole’s back and held her close. Her throat began to close and she felt the tears choke her. She pressed her face into Nicole’s neck, letting a single tear fall as they both came down from their high.

Waverly wasn’t ready to let go. She’d never be ready to let go.

***

Waverly wasn’t sure how long she was staring at the door after Nicole left. With Nicole’s jacket tight around her she hadn’t noticed she was crying. Her limbs shook as she gasped for breath.

Her heart felt like it was breaking right out of her chest. The sadness sat on her shoulders like a weight and she felt like she was drowning.

Nicole was gone. Gone.

She was on her way to a different state, and then to a different country. To war.

For a moment Waverly thought that she might never see her again.

That’s when her legs started moving. She searched through her tears for pants, a skirt...something. Anything. She slipped her jeans on and tucked Nicole’s shirt into it, the tears coming faster. She slipped on her moccasins, hands shaking as she reached for her keys to lock her dorm. They sat in the jacket pocket along with Nicole’s car keys and she locked up quickly before running to Nicole’s car.

She had to see Nicole. Just one more time. She couldn’t let her leave like this. She had to see her until the last possible second. Her Nicole.

She ran to the car and got in, remembering to adjust the mirrors like Nicole had taught her.

Nicole.

Her Nicole. The woman she was in love with.

The woman who was leaving.

She drove quickly to the bus station, only running one stop sign.

She pulled up to the bus station, not caring if she was parked in two spots. She slammed on the brakes and parked quickly. Waverly scanned the crowd and saw Gus and Wynonna but no Nicole.

Waverly stood on the door frame of the car and scanned the crowd. She saw a shock of red hair and yelled.

“Nicole!”

Her heart stuttered in her chest when she recognized her. Waverly started to run towards Nicole, not even looking back.

“Nicole!”

The redhead turned around just as Waverly wrapped her arms around her waist and squeezed her. Nicole’s strong arms lifted her off the ground, she breathed her in and the tears started again. But she needed to see her.

She pulled back and put her hands on either side of Nicole’s face.

“I’m sorry I almost let you leave without me here,” she said, “It was stupid and I’m sorry-”

“Sssh,” Nicole said running her hands over her back, “It’s okay, baby. I get it.”

“I needed to see you,” Waverly whispered.

“I’m here, Waves,” Nicole said as something passed over her face, “Did you drive my car here?”

Waverly nodded, “I only ran one stop sign.”

“That’s illegal. You driving without a license and the stop sign thing,” Nicole said with a smile.

“I was in a hurry,” Waverly said, “To see a beautiful girl off.”

“Impossible,” Nicole said with the prettiest blush.

“Haught!” a soldier from the bus said. Waverly almost snapped at them for interrupting their moment.

“I have to go,” Nicole said, “I’m sorry I can’t-...I wish I could kiss you.”

Waverly shook her head and forced a smile through her tears, “Seeing you is enough.”

Nicole nodded as she lowered Waverly back to the ground.

“I love you,” Nicole said as they slowly let go of each other.

“I love you too,” Waverly whispered, stepping back. Her tears welled in her eyes, blinding her vision as Wynonna and Gus came up next to her. Wynonna put her arm around Waverly and she leaned into it.

Nicole waved one last time and Waverly waved back. Nicole turned to the soldier and got on the bus.

Waverly watched Nicole get on the bus and sit down. She looked over at Waverly who tried to smile, but instead just cried harder. Her heart broke when Nicole waved at her and mouthed “I love you” just as the bus began to pull away.

“I love you too,” Waverly whispered before she couldn’t hold it in anymore. She turned and sobbed into Wynonna’s shoulder.

Wynonna wrapped her arms around Waverly and squeezed her tight. Waverly’s arms were crossed tight in front of her chest as she cried. Wynonna stroked Waverly’s head and hushed her softly.

“Baby girl, it’s okay,” Wynonna said into her hair, “She’s going to be okay. I promise.”

“You can’t promise me that,” Waverly hiccuped, “I miss her already.”

“I know, Waves,” Wynonna said softly, “Want me to drive you home?”

Waverly shook her head against her sister’s chest and sniffled. “No, I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?” Wynonna asked. Waverly just nodded and took a step back. Gus rubbed her back and smiled sadly at her. Waverly saw the tears lining her eyes too and smiled back. As best she could anyways.

“I’m sure,” Waverly said softly. She wiped her tears with the sleeve of Nicole’s jacket. “I’m sure.”

Gus kissed Waverly’s forehead and she turned on her heels to walk back towards Nicole’s car. She had to get out of there before she broke down. She could feel it starting in her chest.

Waverly got into the car and turned it on, hands tight on the steering wheel. She tried to control her breathing but her chest was aching. Ready to crack open. The radio played in the background as she took a deep breath in.

Take good care of my baby. Please don't ever make her blue-

The first sob wracked her entire body. Her bones ached with sadness.

Nicole was gone. Nicole had left and wasn’t coming back for a year. Waverly wouldn’t see her or touch her for a year.

And if you should discover, that you don't really love her. Just send my baby back home to me-

Waverly let her head fall against the steering wheel as her whole body shook with sadness.

Well, take good care of my baby. Just, take good care of my baby-

***

Waverly tossed and turned. If she concentrated hard enough, she could swear the bed was still warm from where Nicole had been laying this morning. She laid on her back, staring at the ceiling. Chrissy was quietly snoring in her own bed and Waverly knew she wasn’t going to be able to sleep tonight.

Her cheeks were still sticky from her dried tears. She had tried holding her pillow to her chest, but nothing helped. It was the first night in months that she had slept without Nicole and it was almost physically painful.

Waverly took a deep breath and swung her legs out of bed. She grabbed her pillow and quietly padded across the hall to Wynonna and Mercedes’ room. She slipped in and saw Wynonna completely spread out on the bed, mouth open and hair spread over the pillow. She carefully crawled over her, Wynonna startling when she dipped the mattress.

“Wha-? Hu-?” Wynonna said, “Wa’s goin’ on?”

“It’s just me,” Waverly whispered arranging her pillow under her head and settling next to Wynonna.

“Why are you here?” Wynonna asked as Waverly pushed her over to one side of the bed.

“I’m sleeping in here with you tonight,” Waverly said quietly.

Wynonna grumbled as Waverly got herself comfortable, but didn’t kick her out the way she might have before. When Nicole wasn’t gone. Wynonna ended up on her back and Waverly curled into her side. Wynonna wrapped her arm around Waverly’s shoulders and pulled her close.

Waverly sniffled and draped her arm around her sister’s waist. As Waverly cried silently, she was sure she heard Wynonna sniffle too. She clung to Wynonna, fingers curled tightly in her shirt as she tried to find comfort in her sister.

***

“Xavier Dolls,” the Dean said over the microphone. Waverly clapped, the same forced smile on her lips that had been there for the whole graduation ceremony.

Saying she didn’t want to be there would be extreme. She wanted to be there for Wynonna even though Wynonna wanted to be there even less than Waverly. Gus had practically forced her into a dress that morning and out the door. Waverly just kept thinking how cute Nicole would have looked in her cap and gown. Some nice corduroys and one of her button up paisley shirts tucked into it.

The lump in her throat got tighter and Wynonna’s name being called certainly didn’t help.

“Wynonna Earp.”

Wynonna walked across the stage, sunglasses in place and gum smacking in her mouth. Waverly rolled her eyes but couldn’t help the smile from appearing on her face. She stood up and clapped, she and Gus yelling for her. Gus snapped a picture as soon as Wynonna shook the President of the University’s hand and took her diploma. Waverly saw Wynonna wink at him before dropping her hand and switching her tassel.

As she walked off the stage, Gus and Waverly sat down again.

“She did it,” Gus said with a wide smile, “I’m not goin’ to lie. I had my doubts for a little while there.”

“So did she,” Waverly said with a smile, “I’m glad she put her mind to finishing.”

“Jeffrey Hallis-“

Waverly swallowed thickly, wishing she could just crawl into herself in this moment.

“Nicole Haught, currently serving with the United States Army.”

There was some scattered applause but a large amount of booing too. Waverly shot to her feet and clapped loudly, her hands stinging. She felt Gus stand up next to her, eyes burning from her held back tears.

“Eugene Havish.”

Waverly sat back down in her chair, arms crossed tightly in front of her chest. She pushed the sunglasses up her nose and blinked away her tears. Gus’ arm wrapped around her shoulders and she squeezed. Waverly stayed looking forward but smiled tightly.

“Thanks,” she whispered.

Gus just kissed the side of her head and Waverly only let one tear fall.

***

Dear Waverly,

I miss you.

I just wanted to start by saying that. I met a girl here. Not in that way. But I think she can be a good friend. Her name is Shapiro and she’s like us. She’s trouble. In a way she reminds me of Wynonna. Maybe that’s why I like her. She just is here to do her job and doesn’t give a fuck. I like her. I think you’ll like her too.

We run drills all day during the daylight then take nursing classes at night. I’m pretty sure my body has never been more exhausted. Makes me want to curl up with you while you’re reading so you can run your hands through my hair the way you do. It makes me fall asleep every time.

I love you. I’ll write again soon.

Love,
Nicole

***

Dear Nicole,

Don’t you dare try to tell me you aren’t smoking when I can smell smoke on your letter. You’re lucky I love you and think you’re the most amazing girl in the world. As long as it’s a habit you don’t bring back with you…

In all seriousness, though...I miss you. And I can’t wait until I can hold you again. You could smell like smoke and I wouldn’t care. I just miss you so much.

I want to go to Shorty’s with you and get drunk. I want to lean on you while you try to play pool until you’re so distracted we just have to leave.

Every time I’m working at Shorty’s and the door opens I half expect it to be you. Then I remember you’re gone and it’s like watching you leave all over again. Maybe it’ll get better someday. But I doubt it.

I’m glad you’ve made a friend. Someone you can be yourself with. Put that camera I sent with you to good use and take pictures of everything for me please. I want to see you in your uniform.

I miss you so much, my love. I can’t wait to hold you again. Thank god we have plenty of time to make up for all the lost cuddling when you get back. I love you. Write me when you can.

Love,
Waverly

***

“Baby girl, you realize she’s pretty safe right now, right?” Wynonna said looking at the back of a cereal box briefly before dropping it in the grocery basket. Waverly groaned as she leaned on the cart she was pushing.

“You picked out a kid’s cereal,” she said wrinkling her nose.

“Waves, stop avoiding me by being all smart and shit,” Wynonna said as they continued down the grocery aisle.

Waverly scoffed, “Yeah, I heard you! But accidents still happen in boot camp!”

Wynonna picked up a candy bar and threw it in the cart. “She’s perfectly safe, Waves.”

Waverly sighed. She knew Wynonna was right. Nicole was perfectly safe at the moment. Accidents happen but they happened everywhere. Waverly was just worried that if Nicole got hurt, she wouldn’t hear about it until a lot later. She wouldn’t be able to sit there and hold Nicole’s hand until she was better.

“I just worry,” Waverly said with pout, “I know she’s fine.”

Wynonna smiled and led Waverly to the liquor aisle, stopping in front of the whiskey. She picked up two bottles and put them in the cart.

“You do worry, but don’t let it get to you,” Wynonna said, “If you worry so much you’ll get wrinkles. And when Nicole gets home she’ll be in for a surprise.”

Waverly rolled her eyes, “You’re awful.”

“I think you meant ‘groovy’,” Wynonna winked, leading them down a new aisle.

***

Shorty’s was busier than normal. They were having another mixer and Waverly opted to work the night. She realized her mistake about half way through the night. Seeing all the people coupled up and dancing made her heart squeeze in her chest and she missed Nicole even more.

She was making her way down the bar, pulling shots and pouring beer. A new girl stepped up to the bar as Waverly handed someone their drink and she didn’t bother looking at her before talking.

“Hey, darlin’, how can I help you?” she said. As she looked up at the new customer, her words lodging in her throat when she saw Jesse. “Oh.”

Jesse smiled shyly and waved awkwardly before folding her arms on top of the bar. “Hey.”

Waverly smiled at her but couldn’t help the frown of confusion that wrinkled her eyebrows.

“What can I get you?”

Jesse shrugged, “Just a beer please.”

Waverly nodded and began to pour her beer. She kept glancing at the other girl who looked just as uncomfortable as Waverly felt. She hadn’t seen Jesse around since her and Nicole called things off. Waverly certainly didn’t have anything against her...even after she slept with Nicole. If she was going to choose anyone to be mad at about that it would have been Nicole. She just wondered what finally brought Jesse back.

Filling up the stein perfectly, Waverly slid it over the counter to Jesse with her best bartender smile.

“Thank you,” Jesse said taking a long sip. Usually by now Waverly would have left, but with the way Jesse’s hands fidgeted Waverly knew she had something to say. Sure enough as soon as Jesse’s beer was back on the bar with an impressive amount gone, Jesse spoke up.

“So, Waverly,” Jesse began, “Sorry I-...I’m sorry if you don’t...want me here.”

Waverly shook her head and covered Jesse’s hand with her own, “No no. Don’t think that I don’t want you here. What’s in the past is in the past. Right?”

Jesse smiled widely with a sigh and Waverly could really see why Nicole was drawn to her. She cursed herself for her own thoughts and smiled back.

“Thank you, I just-...” Jesse shrugged and leaned forward a little, “Don’t get the wrong idea or anything. I’m not like...pining over Nicole or anything. I just want to know if she’s doing okay.”

Waverly’s smile got softer and she nodded, “She is. She’s at Fort Sam Houston in Texas at the moment. She gets shipped off closer to June.”

Jesse looked relieved, “Good. I-...I’m glad she’s doing well.”

“If you want to write her, I certainly won’t be offended.”

Jesse smiled. “Thanks I’m just...glad to hear she’s doing well.”

“And...you know you can come around here, right? If you want?” Waverly said softly.

“I do now,” Jesse said, “And for the record, I’m glad you and Nicole worked it out.”

Waverly blushed, “So am I.”

***

“Wynonna!” Waverly yelled as she walked into her sister’s room.

Wynonna groaned, wet wash rag over her eyes as she lounged on her bed in the same shirt from the night before and underwear. Waverly sat on the edge of the bed and shook her sister’s shoulder.

“Wynonna.”

“Wha-?” she groaned, trying to shoo Waverly away.

Waverly felt tears tighten her throat, “Nicole’s leaving for Vietnam. Next week.”

She waved Nicole’s letter at Wynonna who finally looked at her, throwing the rag on the ground. “What?”

Wynonna took the letter and squinted at it in some attempt to read it. “Next week?”

“Yes,” Waverly said chewing on her bottom lip, “She’s finally going to be gone.”

Wynonna sat up and wrapped her arms around Waverly’s shoulders. “She’s going to be fine, baby girl.”

Waverly sniffled and leaned into her sister, forehead on her shoulder. “Do you promise?”

“I promise,” Wynonna whispered back, “I promise.”

***

Waverly decided that putting on a record was going to help her sleep. Nicole was probably on her way to Vietnam at this moment. If not already there.

Though you are far away, I know you'll always be near to me-

She wasn’t dumb. She’d seen the footage and pictures from Vietnam. She knew how dangerous it was. Even if Wynonna and Gus were trying to tell her Nicole was as far away from the combat as she could be, there was still a danger. There would always be a danger.

Each tear that flows from my eye, brings back memories of you to me-

It had been a month since she got a letter from Nicole. Waverly knew it was typical. She knew she was traveling and it would take longer for and letters to get back to the States. But it didn’t make it any easier.

Each day drags by, until finally my time descends on me-

Waverly knew she had bags under her eyes from lack of sleep. Wynonna kept asking if she wanted to take a nap while not so subtly looking concerned. Waverly hated it. She just wanted to worry about her girlfriend in peace. She couldn’t do that with her friends and family constantly looking at her with those sad eyes.

She sighed as she looked up at the ceiling and willed sleep to take her. Anything more than a couple of hours without waking up would be ideal. She turned on her side and drew a pillow to her chest as she closed her eyes in an attempt to drift off to sleep. Maybe if she slept she could forget for a second that Nicole was gone.

I go to sleep, sleep. And imagine that you're there with me-

***

“Waverly!”

Waverly popped up from her bed and ran down the stairs of the McCready house. Her heart was pounding out of her chest in anticipation as she rounded into the living room where Gus was holding up a letter with a small smile.

She took it from Gus and smiled as soon as she saw Nicole’s messy writing on the front. She squealed and immediately threw herself onto the couch lengthwise. Waverly sighed as she ran her fingers over where Nicole had written her address.

It felt like a weight was lifted. Nicole was okay. She’d made it to Vietnam but...she was okay.

***

Waverly slowly opened up the newspaper to the right page. At the top was the typical headline: List of Local Vietnam Casualties.

Anthony Greenman
Benjamin Gussman
Lawrence Handler
William Hernandez

Waverly let out a sigh she didn’t know she was holding and folded the newspaper back up. She set it on the table as Gus put a cup of tea in front of her.

“No news is good news,” Gus said kissing the top of Waverly’s head.

“I know,” Waverly said softly as she stared at the leaves swirling in her cup. She took a deep breath and let the relief flow through her for a moment. Just that moment. She would let herself relish it, but she knew as soon as it was gone the worry would start again until she got the newspaper the next day. But for now, she could relax.

***

The phone rang and Waverly didn’t think much of it as she walked over to it. She picked it up as she opened the cabinet for a cup.

“Hello, McCready residence,” she said as she always did.

“Hi, is Waverly there?” a familiar voice said over the line.

Waverly frowned, “This is her.”

There was a sigh on the other side. “It’s Shae. Sorry to bother you I just wanted to call and...see how you were doing.”

Waverly remained silent for a moment. She knew Nicole and Shae were still friends. It was something she’d gotten over around the time Nicole had to get over her jealousy of Rosita. She certainly didn’t expect Shae to be calling.

“Hi, I um...I’m fine. How are you?” Waverly asked. Wynonna popped her head into the kitchen and frowned at her sister. She pointed at the phone in a silent question and Waverly shooed her away. Wynonna made a rude gesture and retreated to the living room.

“I’m fine. I just got a letter from Nicole and um...wanted to see how you were handling everything,” Shae said, “If you wanted to talk.”

Waverly smiled even as sadness settled in her chest. “Thank you. I-...” Waverly shut her eyes and already felt tears forming, “I just miss her. And I’m so tired of crying.”

Shae sighed, “I know. But you just...have to remember that she’s doing what she can to get back to you safe. Okay? I could see that in the letter she sent me. She only thinks about you.”

Waverly nodded but remembered Shae couldn’t see her. “I know,” Waverly said through her tears, “I just-...will this get easier?”

“I don’t know, sweetie,” Shae said, her voice thick, “I wish I could tell you it gets easier but...I don’t know.”

Waverly offered a watery chuckle, “Nicole is going to be in so much trouble when she gets home for doing this to us.”

“She really is,” Shae chuckled, “Want to talk about something happier? Want an embarrassing story about our girl?”

“Yes, please,” Waverly said sitting up on the counter to get comfortable.

“Well, in our junior year when Nicole decided to learn how to play the guitar…”

***

It was their typical routine. Wynonna didn’t seem to know that Waverly was aware of what was happening and she would let her think that. Wynonna was always hanging around the mail slot when the postman came by. Waverly knew she was there to catch any potential bad news.

Waverly would sit at her bedroom window and watch the telegram boy with bated breath until he passed by their house. She knew the kind of messages he was delivering. That family’s loved ones were hurt or dead.

She would watch as Wynonna tried to casually rifle through the mail before letting out a sigh of relief and handing it to Waverly. It was the little things like that that Waverly stored away to tell Nicole later. About how much other people cared. Mostly about how Wynonna took care of her even if she didn’t want Waverly to know.

***

Waverly didn’t even have to look at the clock to see the time. She just knew it was time. So she went to the window and watched the telegram boy turn the corner onto their street. Waverly tapped her fingers on the window sill and watched him look at a telegram in his hand to check the address.

The usual sickness that settled in her stomach at this time was still there. Her gut twisted painfully as the telegram boy biked down the street and closer to their house. It was when he began to slow and stopped in front of their house that Waverly felt her heart jump into her throat.

“Wynonna,” Waverly began quietly, even if she knew her sister was downstairs. She found her voice and yelled, “Wynonna!”

The telegram boy got off his bike and started up the driveway. Waverly felt like she was going to be sick. She jumped from her bed and ran down the stairs as fast as her legs would take her. She reached the bottom right as Wynonna opened the door and took the telegram from the delivery boy.

Waverly would normally tell Wynonna off for closing the door on him without saying anything, but all she could focus on was the telegram clutched tightly in Wynonna’s hand.

“Who’s it from?” Waverly breathed.

Wynonna looked pale. She didn’t need to answer. Wynonna licked her lips, eyes trained carefully on her sister.

“Want me to op-”

“No,” Waverly said quickly. She slowly approached Wynonna like she was holding a bomb. Waverly held her hand out to take it and for a moment it seemed like Wynonna wouldn’t let go of it. “Please.”

As soon as the paper touched her hand Waverly felt like she would throw up at any second. She stared at it. At the way the address was typed neatly on the envelope. Nothing like Nicole’s messy writing that was oh so charming. This was cold and..unfeeling. Her hands were shaking but she could barely bring herself to care.

She felt like she might hyperventilate.

“Waves,” Wynonna began, “it could be nothing.”

“What if it’s everything?” Waverly whispered, “What if she’s-...what if I never see her again?”

“Baby girl,” Wynonna said with a slight wobble in her voice, “That’s not going to happen.”

“How do you know?” Waverly asked.

Wynonna just looked at her. Waverly looked back down at the telegram and began to slowly open it. Once the flap was open she took a deep breath and opened it.

The Secretary of the Army has asked me to inform you that your cousin, Nurse Nicole K. Haught was seriously injured in Vietnam on 13 October 1968 as a result of hostile action. She sustained shrapnel wounds on her chest, stomach, left leg, right leg and back when in the blast of a land mine. She also sustained serious burns to the front of her body. Both of her legs have fractures. She continues to receive treatment at USS Sanctuary. Her condition is critical and her prognosis is fair. You will be informed of any significant changes to her condition.

Waverly’s vision blurred with tears. She was relieved but completely devastated. She wanted to cry and scream and...she’d never felt more broken.

“Waves you’re killing me here,” Wynonna said. It barely registered with Waverly as she sank to her knees on the floor. She sobbed, her whole body tensing and curling in on itself as she tried to process. Wynonna fell next to her, one arm around her shoulder as she reached for the letter. Waverly’s grip tightened on the telegram as Wynonna read.

It felt like every bone in her body was breaking, her heart slowly clawing its way out of her chest. Nicole was hurt. A land mine had-...but she was alive. Critical condition but...alive. Waverly felt like her whole world was crumbling in on her. Crushing her body and pulling her down into a deep hole she didn’t know if she’d ever crawl out of. Wynonna later told Waverly that she had screamed, but she hadn’t heard it over her own sobs.

***

The sobbing eventually turned to just stoic silence. Waverly lay curled up on her bed with Nicole’s jacket wrapped tightly around her. It had been months and Nicole’s smell was fading. Almost completely gone. That only added to the blow. Just another crack in her heart that was already completely shattered.

Wynonna came in a few times in the day to bring her water or a snack. Both of which remained untouched. She’d also put on different records that Waverly didn’t bother changing when they ended and warm static popped over the speakers instead.

She couldn’t sleep. All she could think about was Nicole’s body, broken and bloody in the middle of a field. And nothing she could do about it. The crumpled telegram was pressed tight against her chest the entire time.

***

“Hello?”

“Hey, Shae...it’s me. Waverly,” she said thickly. The tears were still choking her even if she’d been crying for what felt like days.

There was silence on the other line for a moment before Shae said quietly, “Is everything-...? Is Nicole-...?”

“She’s alive,” Waverly said quickly, not wanting Shae to wonder for too long. When she heard a relieved sigh from Shae she knew the other woman was on the edge of her seat. “Nicole is just...she got hurt.”

“What happened?”

Waverly felt the tears choke her as she spoke. “They said...they said she was caught in the blast of a landmine. And she sustained shrapnel injuries and burns. A couple of broken bones.”

“Shit,” Shae whispered. Waverly sniffled into the receiver for a moment, squeezing her eyes shut as the tears leaked down her face. She heard Shae sniffling on the other end and it just made her heart break more.

Waverly made Wynonna tell Gus and everyone else what had happened to Nicole. She couldn’t live through it over and over by telling people what had happened. But she knew it had to be her to tell Shae. Shae would have done the same for her.

“She’s still in critical condition,” Waverly managed, “I-...that’s all I’ve heard. I haven’t gotten a letter or anything from her.”

“Not knowing the extent of her injuries I can’t really-...she should be fine. If the shrapnel missed all the important parts which-...sounds like it did...she’ll be fine,” Shae said, “Nicole is strong. She’s one of the strongest people I know. Your girl is strong.”

Waverly nodded. Just hearing Shae seem sure Nicole would be fine was a relief. It would never stop her worrying though.

“She is strong,” Waverly whispered, “Our girl is strong.”

“Can I get the address from you? To send her a letter?” Shae asked.

“Of course,” Waverly said wiping some tears away, “Nicole would like that.”

Waverly let out a shaky sigh and wrapped her arm around herself. They both sat in silence for a moment and Waverly swore that she could feel Shae next to her. It was comforting. Wynonna of course had been a help. And Gus and Chrissy. But Shae knew Nicole in the same way that Waverly did. In a way only a lover could. Not necessarily just because they’d slept together, but in the way you just knew all the ins and outs of someone. Talking to Shae and connecting to her made Waverly feel closer to Nicole, even if her girlfriend was thousands of miles away.

“Waverly?”

“Yeah?”

“Thank you,” Shae said softly, “For taking care of her. For loving her.”

“And thank you,” Waverly said, “For loving her too.”

Shae chuckled, “She better know how lucky she is.”

Waverly laughed. Something that felt foreign in her chest. “She does. She definitely does.”

***

Waverly moved about like a ghost.

She ate just enough to stay on her feet and had gotten used to the lack of sleep. Every day she’d run to the mailbox hoping to see a letter from Nicole. She would still brace herself every time she saw the telegram boy. Worried that he was coming to deliver the message that Nicole had succumbed to her injuries.

Gus had taken all of her Shorty’s shifts from her which she didn’t bother protesting like she usually would. She knew that she’d be useless at work. She could hardly exist in her own home.

She had cried so much that Waverly was sure there was no water left in her body. She physically couldn’t cry anymore. Sometimes the pain was just so intense that it felt like her chest was in a vice. And she wanted to cry. She would have given anything to cry. But she couldn’t.

Two devastating weeks later and Waverly couldn’t even believe it when she saw Nicole’s charmingly messy scrawl on the front of an envelope. She just stared blankly at it before dissolving into happy tears.

Chapter Text

“Nicole,” Waverly’s voice came, choked with tears, “Why did you leave me? I knew you would die.”

“Waves,” Nicole croaked. Her throat felt dry. Scorched. She tried to take a breath but her entire body was on fire... in pain. Excruciating pain. She couldn’t move, even to open her eyes. Panic ran through her but even thinking about moving hurt.

Nicole listened, but heard nothing but muffled sounds around her. Like she was underwater.

“Fuck!” she heard in the distance, over the ringing in her ears.

Everything felt so... so hot. She smelled burning and blood. And dirt...damp dirt.

Her lungs burned. She couldn’t breathe.

“She’s alive!”

“Fuckin’- Fuck!”

Someone grabbed her under the arms and a sharp searing pain gripped her entire body. It was the worst thing she’d ever felt and she screamed.

“Ssh, I got you.”

Nicole finally opened her eyes but was immediately blinded by blistering whiteness. All she saw was white hot light and she thought that maybe...maybe she was actually dead. Maybe this was hell.

“I got you,” Shapiro grunted, her face coming into view as she dragged Nicole back across the field, “We’re getting you out of here.”

“Wha-?”

“Ssh,” Shapiro said, “It’s fine. You’re gonna be fine.”

“Waverly-”

“You’re going to see her soon. Don’t worry.”

“I can’t-...tell her I love her. Tell her I’m sorry,” Nicole managed, the edges of her vision blurring. She could feel herself slipping into unconsciousness.

Shapiro shook her head, “You’re gonna tell her yourself. Okay, Haught?”

Nicole opened her mouth to respond, but slipped away.

***

“Get her off the stretcher! Hurry!”

“She’s lost a lot of blood-”

“Shrapnel injuries-”

“Legs are pretty bad. Possible amputation-”

Nicole tried to speak but she could only scream. It was like all the skin was being stripped off her body piece by piece. Her nerves were on fire.

“We need to get her into surgery-”

“Give her morphine, quick-”

She couldn’t see. She could barely breathe. She scarcely registered the prick in her arm before she faded out again.

***

They were in a field. Music was playing but Nicole didn’t see where it came from. There was nothing around them for miles. The horizon stretched endlessly, bright sky drowning out any clouds. It looked almost...otherworldly. She saw Waverly laying back in the grass. Nicole smiled and stretched out next to her, feeling the grass with her fingers. She leaned over to kiss Waverly, who turned her head with a smirk. Nicole pretended to be offended when she got her cheek instead.

“Tease,” Nicole joked. Waverly beamed up at her and ran her fingers through Nicole’s hair.

In the still of the night, I held you. Held you tight, 'cause I love. Love you so-

“Not until you come home to me,” Waverly said.

“I’m here now,” Nicole whispered, “My home is with you.”

Waverly smiled wider and reached for Nicole’s hand, placing it on her heart.

Promise I'll never, let you go. In the still of the night-

“Here,” Waverly said, “This is your home?”

“That’s my home,” Nicole said leaning down again, and kissed Waverly deeply.

Hold me again, with all of your might. In the still of the night-

***

Seagulls. She could hear...seagulls. And water. The sharp, briny smell of ocean water hit her in the face. A stark contrast to what she’d gotten used to smelling over the past few months.

Nicole groaned and slowly opened her eyes, blinking until they adjusted to the light.

“You’re awake!”

Nicole looked to her side and saw a young girl beside her in a white nurse’s uniform. She looked much younger than she probably was, blonde hair poking out from under her cap. She was smiling brightly and it made Nicole want to go back to sleep. Nicole groaned and shut her eyes again.

“Where am I?” she asked, throat dry.

“You’re on a medical ship. Navy,” she said jotting something down on her clipboard, “Do you remember your name?”

Nicole frowned and swallowed thickly. “Nicole Haught.”

“Good! Do you know what year it is?”

“Nineteen sixty-nine,” Nicole said, “I hope.”

“Your birthday?”

“January fifth, nineteen forty-eight.” Nicole sighed, “Why am I here?”

The nurse’s smile never faltered, “You were injured. You were brought here to recover.”

Nicole nodded. Her neck was stiff and her head felt like it was filled with cotton. She moved to sit up and the nurse gently pushed her down by the shoulder.

“You should stay laying down, sweetie,” she said so gently that it made Nicole’s headache worse. “You’re coming down off morphine.”

“Morphine?” Nicole asked.

The nurse nodded, “The extent of your injuries-”

“When do I go back?” Nicole interrupted, “When am I going back to the base?”

The nurse was silent for a moment, “You’re going to be sent home when you’re more recovered.”

Nicole’s heart sank, nausea seeping through her. She was...done. She was going home. She hadn’t even lasted a whole year. Nicole tried to remember what happened. The last thing she remembered was being shot at. Fish got shot in the arm and she-...it was all blank after that.

“What happened to me?” Nicole said reaching for the nurse’s hand. Blue eyes darted down to where Nicole’s hand gripped hers and she clenched her jaw. Nicole gritted her teeth. “Please.”

“What’s the last thing you remember?”

Nicole painfully squeezed every memory out of her brain.“I-...Fish, Shapiro and I we were...on our way to the orphanage with a boy. He’d wandered into the camp and we were on our way there and then...that’s all I remember.”

The nurse nodded, her voice considerably lower, “You were caught in the blast of a landmine. Both of your legs are broken along with a fracture in your ribs and spine. You had shrapnel injuries to your legs and stomach. There was a piece close to your spine but we got that. And you have third degree burns over thirty percent of your legs.”

Nicole let go of the nurse’s hand and stared at the ceiling. She tried to move her legs but they were stiff. She pulled the blanket away to look and saw casts on her legs. Her arms were bandaged and there was a sharp pain near the base of her spine that knocked the air out of her.

“Shit,” she said screwing her eyes shut in pain.

“You’re probably best to stay still,” the nurse said, a light tint on her cheeks.

“Were they-...did someone contact my family?” Nicole said.

The nurse looked down at a chart on Nicole’s bedside and nodded, “Yes. A telegram has been sent.”

Nicole sighed. Waverly would know. She wondered if she knew yet. Nicole had heard several stories about it taking weeks for families to get telegrams about their loved ones.

“Wynonna’s gonna kill me,” Nicole groaned, “How long have I been out?”

“Not long. You’ve been in and out of consciousness about a week now.”

A pressure formed behind Nicole’s eyes and she squeezed them shut. She’d been out for a week. A week of her life-- gone. Waverly was probably so worried. She wondered if her girlfriend had gotten her last letter yet. Which would come first? News of her being injured or her letter telling Waverly that everything was fine?

“I need to write a letter,” Nicole said, “To my-...to my cousin. Or a call or something.”

She looked around her bedside. There wasn’t much to see except the empty side table and curtains drawn around her bed. She thought about the bundle of letters from Waverly under her pillow and the pictures she’d sent.

“Where’s all my stuff?”

“The items that were on your person at the time of the incident are in this drawer,” the nurse said pointing to her side table, “The rest will be shipped here.”

Nicole just nodded and went back to looking at the ceiling. Her stomach felt sick. Her entire body was starting to ache and it felt like there was a fog over her eyes. Not to mention the ache in her chest that she was sure had nothing to do with her injuries.

“How long until I’m out of here?” Nicole asked softly.

The nurse smiled at her sympathetically, “Hard to say. But probably a month. At least. Depending on how you recover.”

Nicole nodded and shut her eyes, feeling tears pooling at the corners. All of her emotions were conflicting at the moment. She was happy to see Waverly, to get out of this hell hole. But she felt like she hadn’t actually fulfilled her duty. She could have helped so many more people but she just...she lost. Practically gave up.

“I’m going to let you rest,” the nurse said softly. Nicole nodded and waited for her retreating footsteps to disappear before she let the hot tears fall from her eyes.

***

Dear Nicole,

So. You went and got yourself hurt. I would yell at you and tell you to get yourself together but I won’t.

You really scared me, you bitch. I thought you were dead. Then you were barely alive and I thought we were going to lose you. And I thought, of course now that I’ve made a friend she’s going to fucking die right there in front of me. Luckily for you, I’m great at what I do and I kept you alive until we got back to the hospital.

Fish is fine too. The bullet was barely a graze he was just being a wuss.

I packed all your things (and only snuck one look at that picture Waverly sent you). They told me you’re headed home and that’s some shit. You couldn’t have taken me with you? Now I have to suffer through these next months without you.

I got my new roommate. She’s okay. But she’s not as fun as you. She’s always talking about her boyfriend and she’s a real bore.

Tell your girl I said hi. If I can’t have you here with me at least you’re with her.

Don’t forget about me. Yeah? I know I’m forgettable, but don’t forget me. I expect a letter and another sexy picture from your girl. Maybe I can come visit when I’m out of this shit hole.

Your pal,
Shapiro

***

“On behalf of the President of the United States and the citizens of the United States of America, we would like to present you with this Purple Heart medal.”

Nicole felt her throat tighten as the lieutenant pinned the medal to her hospital gown. The cool metal of the pin sent unpleasant shivers up her spine. She wasn’t allowed to stand with her back and legs still injured, so she lay in the hospital bed. Her face burned and she wanted nothing more than for this moment to be over.

Two fully dressed officers standing over her and giving her a medal for fucking up.

“Thank you for your service to this country,” the officer finished as he put the velvet box for the medal on her nightstand.”

“Thank you, sir,” she managed. They walked away and moved on to the next bed, starting the process all over. She let out a long breath when they were gone. The weight of the medal on her chest was suffocating her and she reached blindly for it. Despite her shaky hands she managed to get it off. She put it back in the box and closed the lid so it was out of her sight.

Nicole let out a shuddery sigh and closed her eyes. She could still hear words in the distance as they visited all the beds.

“On behalf of the President of the United States and the citizens of the United States of America, we would like to present you with this Purple Heart medal.”

Nicole felt sick. It was a revulsion deep in her bones and crawling out of her skin like maggots. It felt like a knife was being twisted in her gut. She grabbed a nearby bedpan and lurched the contents of her stomach into it.

“Thank you for your service.”

***

Dear Waverly,

You’ve probably heard by now that I’ve been hurt. I’ll start by saying I’m fine. A little bruised, but I’m fine. I have all my limbs and no horrible disfigurations on my face. So you can still use me for my looks when I get home.

See, I’m making jokes. I’m perfectly okay.

They brought me to a medical ship for recovery then they’re sending me home. I don’t have an exact date yet, but I’m told my plane will be coming into Travis Air Force Base. Which means I’ll have finally visited California. If I didn’t want to get back to you as soon as possible I might do a little sightseeing. I’m going to catch a bus from there back home.

I can’t wait to see you, baby. That’s the only thing that’s getting me through this. I’m sorry I didn’t make it back in time for your birthday, but at least I’ll be there for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I can’t wait to kiss you.

Love,
Nicole

***

Dear Nicole,

I have so many things to say and I can say none of it. Seeing your writing, seeing your name on the envelope made me burst into tears. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am that you’re okay.

Don’t be silly. Wynonna and I will go pick you up in California so I can see you as soon as you land. I need to see you as quickly as possible and that’s the only way. Let me know when you’re getting in as soon as you can.

I love you.

That’s all I can think to say is I love you. So much. And I’m so relieved. And so happy. And I can’t wait to kiss you again. Get well quickly. Hurry back to me.

Love,
Waverly

***

Nicole squeezed her eyes shut as the machine rattled and grumbled around her. Her hands gripped the armrest, knuckles white as they jolted into the ground.

No one is shooting at us, she told herself, I’m perfectly safe.

There was a hand on her arm and she jumped, eyes wide. The flight attendant stared back at her with wide eyes.

“Sorry, um...are you okay?” she asked sweetly.

“Fine,” Nicole said loosening her grip on the armrest and taking a shaky breath, “I’m fine.”

Other passengers were looking at her warily and Nicole just looked at the back of the seat in front of her. She could feel the plane stop and let out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding. She quickly undid her seatbelt and used the seat in front of her to pull herself up, her knee aching a little from sitting for so long. Picking up her crutch and arranging it under her arm, she followed the other passengers in getting her duffel down from the overhead.

She leaned on her crutch and carefully pulled at the duffel with one hand. She felt it catch on something and cursed, tugging a little harder. When it finally came loose, it fell from the overhead compartment and onto her. She managed to grab it and...hopefully make it seem like it wasn’t a total accident. Cheeks tinted with embarrassment, she adjusted the bag on her shoulder. The strap dug into her flesh and sent a pain down her spine that she ignored.

She looked down at herself and made sure her uniform looked straight, hat neatly on her head. Her fatigues were stuffed into her duffel, and she had worn her green cord summer uniform to come home as was customary. She hated the skirt and pantyhose that went with it, but at least she didn’t have to wear it for too long. She planned on changing as soon as she got to the hotel.

Her stomach clenched with nerves and excitement.

Waverly was in the airport right now waiting for her. Excitement lit in her as she hobbled down the aisle with her crutch under one arm and the heavy duffel over the other. Nicole had mixed feelings about coming home. She was haunted by the moment she was told she wouldn’t be going back into the field. But right now, the idea of seeing Waverly after months was enough to keep her other thoughts at bay.

She carefully walked down the steps of the plane and onto the tarmac. She took a deep breath and smiled. The air smelled sweeter here. She’d forgotten what it was like to not smell blood and sickness all the time.

“Nicole!”

Nicole’s head snapped up to the voice. Waverly stood a few yards away behind a barricaded area on the tarmac. Nicole’s heart felt like it skipped a beat, her smile wide as she jogged as best she could towards the roped off area. Her knee protested in pain every time her foot hit the ground, but she could hardly bring herself to care.

Waverly was here and so close.

As she got closer she could see the tears in Waverly’s eyes. When Nicole was only about a yard away, Waverly slipped under the rope and ran the rest of the way to Nicole. She dropped her crutch and her duffel, opening her arms just as Waverly reached her. She slammed her body into Nicole’s, sending a shooting pain through her body, but she just grimaced and held Waverly equally as tight.

Nicole pressed her face into Waverly’s hair, Waverly’s against Nicole’s neck. She could feel tears on her neck and Waverly’s body shaking with sobs. Nicole’s heart felt light. Lighter than it had in months. Maybe even lighter than she ever remembered it feeling. She let out a watery chuckle into Waverly’s hair and the shorter girl pulled back just enough to hold Nicole’s face in her hands. Her eyes shone with tears as she beamed up at Nicole.

“You’re here, you’re really here,” she said through her tears.

“I’m here,” Nicole said, blinking some tears away. Her hands gripped Waverly’s waist tightly, like she was afraid she’d disappear if she didn’t. “I missed you so much.”

Waverly’s hands shook as they ran through Nicole’s hair and finally she leaned up and kissed her hard. The kiss knocked all the air from Nicole’s lungs and for a moment all the pain faded away. All she could feel was Waverly’s body against hers, lips on her own.

Waverly pulled away but kept their foreheads together. Nicole’s lungs burned but in a pleasant way she hadn’t been used to in a while. Her chest felt like it was full with happiness. In her peripherals she saw people staring, gawking, but she paid them no mind. She didn’t care right now. She’d gotten blown up and put back together and she was going to kiss her girlfriend if she wanted to.

“My baby,” Waverly said running her thumbs over Nicole’s cheekbones, “I can’t believe you’re here. I love you so much.”

“Believe it, baby,” Nicole said leaning into Waverly’s touch, “Goddamn, I missed you. I love you too. So much.”

“Hey hey hey, stop hogging Haught stuff,” Wynonna said clapping Waverly on the shoulder and pushing her sister out of the way. Nicole didn’t have time to react because instantly Wynonna was hugging her tight. She groaned a little when she hugged right over one of her bruised ribs, but returned it just the same. Wynonna finally let go and took a good look at Nicole.

“Remember I said I’d kill you if you got hurt?” she said through the big smile on her face.

“Nice to see you too, Wynonna,” Nicole said tipping her hat at her.

Waverly pushed Wynonna. “Leave her alone,” she said falling back into Nicole’s arms.

Wynonna rolled her eyes, “Yeah yeah, I can appreciate the drama of all this, but I think it’s time to go inside.”

Nicole looked around for the first time since the moment she laid eyes on Waverly. All the other passengers were gone and it was only airport employees moving around. Nicole reached down for her crutch and bag but the latter was pulled away.

“I got it,” Wynonna said batting Nicole’s hand away, “Also um...you should probably take your uniform off. Got any civies in this giant thing?”

“Why?” Nicole asked.

Waverly scoffed and turned to look at Wynonna, arm still around Nicole’s waist. “No, she doesn’t,” she said pointedly, before turning to Nicole, “You don’t. Plus I...like how you look in it.”

She flattened her hand along Nicole’s chest, fingers playing with the brass buttons. She looked up at Nicole through her eyelashes and it was like a whole new fire started in Nicole’s belly. One quickly extinguished by Wynonna.

“Gross. And just because you think your hippie friends aren’t going to be assholes doesn’t mean she’s safe,” Wynonna said as they started into the airport, “I’m telling you. I’ve heard things-“

“All exaggerated,” Waverly interrupted. She had to drop her arm from around Nicole’s waist as they walked because of the crutch, so Waverly held on to the bend of her arm instead.

Nicole wanted to ask what kind of things Wynonna had heard, but she also knew Wynonna had a tendency to embellish her tales.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Nicole said earning a squeeze from Waverly.

“Your call,” Wynonna said as they walked through the airport. Nicole knew she was walking slower. Everything still ached from the flight and the crutch certainly didn’t help her with speed, but she noticed that Wynonna would get ahead of them and then find an excuse to stop or slow down for them to catch up. The gesture was heartwarming but...Nicole couldn’t help but feel frustrated. Just another thing to bring her injuries to her attention.

When they got to the airport exit, Nicole saw why Wynonna had said she should put on her civilian clothes. A mob of protesters holding signs waited outside the doors.

NO MORE BLOOD ON OUR HANDS

NO MORE MURDER

MAKE LOVE NOT WAR

“They’re the definition of harmless,” Waverly assured her. Nicole just nodded and stood as straight as she could with the crutch. Wynonna walked ahead of them, opening the door.

“Hey! Hawk!”

Nicole watched Wynonna’s back stiffen, eyes remaining straight ahead as she led the way through the protestors. Nicole could hear the yelling, the chanting, but couldn’t make anything out as she took her first step into the crowd. She reached for Waverly’s hand and kept her close behind her.

She kept her eyes on the back of Wynonna’s head. Her heart pounded in her ears and she felt her chest tighten. Someone pushed on her shoulder and her crutch slipped, her heart lurching for a moment when she thought she might fall. But she dropped her foot just in time to catch herself and right her crutch.

“How dare you!” Waverly said marching up to the guy that pushed Nicole, “Leave her alone!”

Nicole turned to look at her and clenched her jaw, “Waves. It’s fine. Come on.”

When she turned there was a man standing right in front of her, blocking her path from Wynonna.

“Hey, you like killing?” He practically snarled in her face.

Nicole kept her face straight. “Please, move out of the way,” she said firmly.

“How many babies did you kill?”

“I’m asking you again. Please move.”

“You gonna kill babies here too?”

Waverly stepped in front of Nicole, “Leave her alone! We’re just trying to go home.”

“Waves,” Nicole hissed, tugging on her hand to try and get her behind her again.

“And who are you?” the guy asked looking Waverly up and down, “Some kinda hawk whore? What a fucking waste-”

“Hey!” Nicole said stepping in front of Waverly, practically nose to nose with the guy, “You shut your mouth. You hear me?”

“Or what?” he said lowly with a slow grin, “Murderer.”

She felt it before she realized what had happened. She could feel something warm and wet hit her in the cheek. Nicole continued staring at him, unblinking as the spit ran down her cheek. Her face heated with anger and embarrassment. Her hand that wasn’t holding Waverly’s balled at her side.

Her mind flashed with an image of all the men over there, the ones that had died. The flare of pain in her knee when she put a little too much weight on it. The anger filled her chest and she pulled her head back. Before she could think about what she was doing, she smashed her forehead into the guy’s face. He yelled in pain and fell to the ground. Nicole stood there as a couple of his friends scrambled for him. The yelling around them got louder and she could hear Waverly saying something behind her. She felt a hard push on her back and couldn’t save herself this time before she tumbled down onto the asphalt.

Nicole felt someone kick her in the ribs and curled in on herself as pain shot through her body. She reached for the attacker’s leg and pulled hard. Another body fell to the ground next to her.

“Back away, shit tickets!” Waverly yelled. She was using Nicole’s crutch like a shotgun, holding it in front of her as a threat as she tried to keep people away from them.

Adrenaline rushing through her body, Nicole stood back up quickly and ignored the pain in her spine and ribs. She looked over just as a car pulled up to the curb and she saw Wynonna yelling and gesturing for them to get in the car.

Waverly handed Nicole back her crutch and Nicole pulled her to the car. The protesters still yelled and a few followed them to the car. Nicole opened up the door for Waverly, practically shoving her into the car before she slid in next to her and closed the door roughly. Wynonna flipped the protestors off as she slammed on the gas and drove away.

They all sat in silence for a moment, just digesting what had happened. After a second she felt Waverly’s finger on her chin, moving Nicole’s head towards her. Waverly smiled softly and used a napkin to wipe the spit off of Nicole’s cheek.

Something inside Nicole broke and she felt her eyes well up with tears, the pain leaking back into her consciousness as the adrenaline faded away. Waverly held Nicole’s face in her hands but Nicole’s brown eyes were cast down between them. She couldn’t bring herself to look at Waverly. She felt...anger and shame.

“Hey, baby, are you okay?” Waverly asked.

Nicole just nodded, “Yeah, I’m just-”

Her mouth moved but no words came out. Her brain felt like it was running a thousand miles a minute. She had so many things she wanted to ask and say. So many things she knew she shouldn’t.

“Did you-?” she took a deep breath, eyes on Waverly briefly before looking back out the window, “Did you feel that way? Do you feel that way? That we’re all...murderers?”

Waverly started shaking her head before Nicole even finished the question. “No, baby, not at all. Please. I-...I never believed that and I would never believe that. Those people they-...that’s not everyone. Okay?”

“Is that the kind of thing you do at your protests?” Nicole asked, her face still between Waverly’s hands. She wanted to pull away but knew that would do more damage than good.

Waverly faltered, “You really think that I would do something like that? Attack innocent people?”

Nicole licked her lips, looking down at her lap as Waverly brushed some hair from her face. She swallowed thickly, trying to control her emotions.

“N-no...of course not,” Nicole said flatly, “I just-...I don’t know.”

Waverly kissed her forehead and Nicole felt her muscles relax a little. She just started to feel some of the pain seep through her bones and she groaned.

“We’re almost at the motel,” Wynonna said from the driver’s seat. Nicole had actually forgotten Wynonna was there for a second and sat back up. She looked around, realizing she was in her car.

“I can’t believe you drove this thing all the way here,” Nicole said, flipping down the sunvisor to see if the picture of Waverly she had put up before she left was still there. It was, along with a picture of Nicole in her uniform, sitting on some steps and smiling at the camera. She shut the visor quickly. She barely recognized that face anymore.

“It’s in good shape,” Wynonna said patting the dash, “Just needs a little love.”

Nicole just nodded and closed her eyes, trying to relax. She felt Waverly’s arm loop through hers, a hand on her knee tracing small shapes on the inside skin. She focused on her breathing, in and out. Her hand searched blindly for Waverly and found her thigh. Waverly’s hand quickly covered her own. It gave Nicole some comfort, just having Waverly here.

It was hard for Nicole to believe that she was here with Waverly. That she was back in the United States. The air was lighter. Sweeter. Her hand flexed on Waverly’s thigh and she leaned into her. Warm and real under her fingers.

She was home. She was finally home.

***

“Alright, losers,” Wynonna said dumping Nicole’s duffel bag on the squeaky motel bed, “Haught needs to get changed before we go for food and don’t forget I’m just in the room over. So if you’re trying to sneak in a quickie I’ll hear everything.”

She gave them a pointed look and Nicole flipped her off. Wynonna laughed and as she closed the door behind her she said, “I missed you, Red.”

The door clicked closed and Nicole ran a hand through her hair. She took a quick scan around the room, something she’d gotten used to doing. She noted the windows in case they needed to escape quickly, the shades drawn. She set her crutch against the bed, still scanning around for anything suspicious before pulling her bag towards her.

Waverly sat on the bed as Nicole opened her duffel bag to get some clothes. She pulled out her stack of letters, neatly tied together, and her uniforms. Under all of that she found her civilian clothes.

“I brought some of your clothes too if you would rather wear them,” Waverly said running her fingers over the bottom of Nicole’s uniform jacket.

Nicole looked at the jeans she’d been wearing over in Vietnam. They looked worn. “Yes, please.”

Waverly pulled her own bag towards her and opened it, handing some pants and shirts to Nicole with a smile. Nicole took them and leaned down slowly to kiss Waverly in thanks. Waverly’s hand came up to cup her jaw lightly as she deepened the kiss. Nicole sighed, letting herself melt into the kiss. But after a few moments her back began to ache and she pulled away.

Waverly smiled at her and reached out just to touch Nicole’s thigh. “I still can’t believe you’re here. With me. It doesn’t feel real,” she said.

“I know what you mean,” Nicole said tucking some of Waverly’s hair behind her ear. A slow smile curled her lips as she felt Waverly’s hair and skin under her fingers. “I dreamt about this.”

“About what? This?” Waverly asked taking Nicole’s hand and kissing each knuckle.

“About just being with you,” Nicole said, “I dreamt about it so much. I’m still not sure if I’m going to wake up and be back in that hospital.”

“You’re home now,” Waverly said, “Now get dressed so we can get some real food in you.”

Nicole moaned, “I can’t wait for a cheeseburger. And fries. Or a milkshake. Fuck. Even just a salad.”

Waverly giggled as Nicole undid the buttons of her uniform jacket. “I’ll buy you anything you want.”

Nicole shrugged the jacket off and set it carefully on the bed. She untucked her shirt from her skirt without saying anything, toeing off her shoes at the same time. The uniform felt so stiff. She was glad to be out of it again. She unbuttoned the front of her shirt and let it fall open. Waverly gasped and Nicole paused, looking over at her girlfriend. Nicole realized she was looking at the scar that ran up her side and felt a sudden stab of shame..

“You haven’t seen anything yet,” Nicole said flatly. She shrugged off her shirt and set it neatly down over her jacket. She took her stockings off first, wincing as she bent down to get them off of her feet. She unzipped her skirt in the back but then gave Waverly a sad smile. “I...it’s not as bad as it looks. Okay?”

Waverly just nodded and Nicole let her skirt fall. To Waverly’s credit, she didn’t gasp when the burns came into view. They were better healed now, but still red and angry looking. They ran up the front of both of her thighs, curling around the sides a little. The burn scars mixed with the shrapnel scars, deep and pink as they healed over.

Nicole couldn’t look at them too long without her stomach turning. They still ached sometimes, mostly at night, but bandaging them helped. She instead looked at Waverly who had tears shining in her eyes. Nicole felt the shame crawl up her chest again and she cleared her throat, reaching for some bandages in her bag.

“They should be better soon, then you won’t have to look at them,” Nicole said with a stiff smile as she began to wrap up her legs like the nurse taught her, “I know they’re gross.”

A soft hand covered her own and she paused.

“They’re not gross,” Waverly said softly, “I was just...a little shocked. I-...I don’t know what I was expecting. They said you had burns and I just-...”

Nicole straightened up and turned so her back was to Waverly. She pointed at the scars on her lower back from the shrapnel and where they removed it.

“Apparently this one almost paralyzed me,” Nicole said rubbing it a little and feeling the raised edges of her skin under her fingers. She felt Waverly touch it lightly and flinched.

“Sorry,” Waverly said standing up and closing the distance between them.

Slowly she slid her hands around Nicole’s waist until they joined over her stomach. Waverly pressed her front to Nicole’s back and held her. Nicole let out a shaky sigh and covered Waverly’s hands with her own, bandage roll falling forgotten on the floor. She could tell Waverly was holding her gingerly, a stark difference to how she held her earlier. Nicole closed her eyes and cursed these injuries. They were already causing people to treat her differently, something she never wanted.

She squeezed Waverly’s hands and felt herself relaxing after a few moments. She’d missed this. Just touching someone. Being with them. She missed it all but it felt so foreign all of a sudden. Nicole let herself lean back into Waverly who rested her cheek on her shoulder blade.

“I love you,” Nicole whispered, “I missed you.”

“I love you too. I’m so glad you’re back safe,” Waverly said.

Nicole turned in her arms and held Waverly close against her. She nuzzled the side of her head and breathed her in, tears forming in the corner of her eyes. There was that part of her that felt like a failure for coming home so soon. For not being able to stop that kid from stepping on the landmine.

There was a loud knock on the door and Wynonna shouted through it. “Nicole! Are you dressed! The lady at the front desk told me about this place called ‘In-N-Out’ we have to try!”

Nicole rolled her eyes and chuckled, “I missed both of you.”

She felt Waverly smile against her collarbone before she leaned back to look up at Nicole. “But you missed me more, right?”

“Always,” Nicole said kissing her lightly.

***

“I’m so full,” Nicole groaned as she laid down on the bed, arms spread wide so she took over the whole mattress. Waverly laughed and picked up Nicole’s crutch where she had dropped it besides the bed. She propped it up next to the bed and crossed her arms.

“You want the bed to yourself tonight?” she teased, “And maybe you’re so full because you ate two cheeseburgers, plus fries, plus a milkshake.”

Nicole smiled sheepishly, “It was so good though. I’ve been living off rations for months. Eating from cans.”

“My poor baby,” Waverly said sitting on the bed next to Nicole, “Well now you never have to eat rations again.”

Nicole pushed her shoes off with her feet and stretched again. She grimaced when she felt her spine pop but was quickly distracted when Waverly slipped her dress over her head. Her mouth went dry, eyes unabashedly roaming her girlfriend’s body.

Seeing Waverly here, close...just knowing that she could reach out and touch her made Nicole groan. Arousal seeped slowly into her bones and she licked her lips. Her eyes followed the lean lines of Waverly’s legs to her hips, abs and breasts. By the time she reached her eyes, hazel eyes shone back at her.

“See something you like?” Waverly quipped as she dropped her dress onto the floor, leaving her in only her panties.

Nicole reached for Waverly until her thighs were pressed against the mattress and Nicole could run her hand along the smooth muscles of her side.

“I missed you,” Nicole breathed. She squeezed Waverly’s thigh, feeling the soft but firm flesh give way under her hands. She leaned forward and placed soft kisses along Waverly’s hip feeling the warm skin under her lips. Waverly ran her fingers through Nicole’s hair and she felt herself melt under the touch.

“Lay back,” Waverly said squeezing Nicole’s shoulder.

Reluctantly, Nicole pulled away from Waverly and laid back against the pillows. Waverly gingerly placed her knees on either side of Nicole’s hips. She could tell Waverly was being careful in putting any weight on Nicole so she gripped her hips in an attempt to get her to rest more fully on her.

Waverly rested her elbows on either side of Nicole’s head as she leaned forward. Her hair fell around them, blocking some of the light from the room. But it didn’t matter because all Nicole saw was Waverly’s eyes anyway. Waverly brushed their lips together, pulling away teasingly as Nicole chased them and tried to deepen the kiss.

“Let me take care of you, baby,” Waverly said, biting Nicole’s bottom lip and pulling it between her teeth.

Nicole huffed in protest even as a slow smile crawled over her face. “You’re cruel, Waverly Earp.”

“You won’t be saying that later,” Waverly whispered before she kissed Nicole deeply. She felt the kiss all the way to her toes, her entire body crying in relief to finally have Waverly’s lips against hers. She slowly ran her hands over Waverly’s sides and to her breasts. She felt pebbled nipples in her palm and tilted her lips up towards Waverly’s.

Waverly sat a little more firmly on Nicole’s hips to keep her in place. She unbuttoned Nicole’s shirt as their tongues grew familiar with each other again. Nicole’s body began to heat from the inside out. She didn’t think she’d ever been so turned on in her life and Waverly had barely touched her.

As soon as her shirt was open, Nicole shrugged it off and threw it to the floor somewhere. Waverly laughed and placed hot kisses along Nicole’s jaw. Waverly leaned back for a moment to play with the dog tags against Nicole’s chest. Nicole’s hands ran up and down Waverly’s back as the brunette leaned back down to kiss her. Nicole counted each ridge of Waverly’s spine as she went, fingers kneading into the muscles of her shoulder blades as Waverly’s kisses got lower and lower, her hair following in her wake and leaving a path of goosebumps along Nicole's skin.

Waverly placed a kiss against the scars on Nicole’s side and she stiffened under her. Waverly looked up and whispered, “Is this okay?”

Nicole licked her lips and nodded, “Yeah. Sorry, I’m just-...I guess I’m not used to them yet.”

Waverly nodded and spent her time kissing every inch of the scars on her sides. Nicole felt herself relax as she focused on Waverly’s lips against her skin, warm and alive and here.

As Waverly got lower, she began to undo Nicole’s pants. Nicole’s mind was foggy, completely clouded by arousal, but she still managed to shimmy herself out of her pants. They found their home somewhere on the floor just like her shirt. Waverly’s finger’s trailed over the bandages around her thighs.

“Can I...take them off?” Waverly asked as she looked up at Nicole.

Nicole nodded shyly. Waverly sat back as she carefully unwrapped the bandages from around Nicole’s legs and left them at the end of the bed. Nicole felt self conscious again and wanted nothing more than to cover her legs up so Waverly couldn’t see the scars. Waverly kissed the top of Nicole’s thighs over the scars. The gesture ignited Nicole’s skin and she was sure she was burning alive.

She swallowed thickly and let Waverly cover her legs in kisses. Nicole wanted to pull away. She wanted to tell Waverly to just kiss her lips instead. Anywhere but the scars that mangled her body and reminded her of her failure. But she knew Waverly needed this, and she knew she needed this.

Finally Waverly’s lips were back on hers and Nicole could taste her tears. Nicole held Waverly’s face between her hands as they kissed, her chest was tight and she wanted to just focus on Waverly. She wanted to get reacquainted with her body and how it moved against her. She felt her own insecurities and issues lingering in the back of her brain, but she pushed them down as much as she could.

“You’re beautiful,” Waverly said, pulling away to run her finger along Nicole’s jaw, “So so beautiful.”

Nicole flushed under the attention but held Waverly’s gaze. She didn’t feel beautiful. Not with the marks on her skin to remind her what she’d been through and what she’d failed at.

You’re beautiful,” Nicole said turning her head so that she could kiss the end of Waverly’s finger. Waverly smiled through her tears and pressed their foreheads together.

“I missed you,” Waverly sniffled.

“How much?” Nicole whispered.

“So much.”

“Then show me.”

***

Nicole woke up the next day, sun still hidden behind the horizon. Waverly was tucked into her front, head under her chin. She looked at the clock. Five in the morning. She did the math in her head; it was about seven at night in Vietnam. It was actually a surprise she’d been able to sleep the night before. Waverly wearing her out certainly helped.

Nicole smiled at the memory of it and kissed the top of Waverly’s head. It was still hard to believe that Waverly was here with her. Their naked bodies pressing together and making her warm.

Slowly, she extracted herself from Waverly’s grasp. Nicole knew she wouldn’t be falling back asleep anytime soon.

Luckily Waverly was a heavy sleeper and despite a few grumbles as Nicole sat on the edge of the bed, Waverly drifted right back to sleep. Nicole watched her for a moment, watching how her fingers curled into the sheets and her forehead furrowed in her sleep. She leaned down and pressed a soft kiss between her brows until they relaxed.

Nicole stood up, her knee aching as she straightened it out. She grimaced and reached for her crutch. The hard plastic was cold under her bare armpit but she gritted her teeth and hobbled over to where her duffel had landed on a chair. She pulled out some boxers and an undershirt, putting them on with one hand as best she could. Her body ached to run or do something but she knew her knee could barely handle walking without the crutch let alone jogging.

She looked back at Waverly to make sure she was sleeping before grabbing a crumpled pack of cigarettes at the bottom of her bag. Nicole decided she would quit after this pack. She only had three cigarettes left anyway. She decided to write Shapiro and ream her out for getting her into this stupid habit.

Nicole slipped out the front door as quietly as she could with her crutch and into one of the chairs right outside the motel door. She lit her cigarette and took a long drag as she relaxed into her chair.

“Hey, wanna share?” Wynonna said popping her head out from the hotel room next door. Nicole jumped at the unexpected sound, her heart practically leaping from her chest.

“Geez, Haught, I didn’t mean to give you a heart attack,” Wynonna said trying to play it off with a chuckle.

Nicole caught her breath and threw the cigarette packet at Wynonna. “Yeah, well you spend months in a warzone and see how you handle surprises,” Nicole muttered as she relaxed back into her chair.

Wynonna lit her own as she sat in the chair next to Nicole before tossing the pack into her lap. Nicole stared at a car pulling into the motel parking lot.

“You know I couldn’t handle that. I’m not you,” Wynonna said, kicking her legs out in front of her, “How-...how are you feeling?”

The thousand dollar question. Nicole groaned.

“I feel like shit,” Nicole said with a stiff smile, “But honestly I...don’t really know how I feel about being back. I don’t think it’s hit me yet. Obviously I’m glad that I’m back with Waverly and you, I just...I don’t know. It’s weird.”

Wynonna nodded as she blew out smoke. “I’m glad you’re back.”

Nicole gave Wynonna a teasing smile, “You miss me, Earp?”

“No, it’s just because Waverly was so dramatic without you,” Wynonna scoffed, “But I mean...maybe I did miss you a little bit. Especially now since I’ve had so much time to think about how I’m going to kick your ass for getting hurt.”

Nicole laughed, “You would beat up a cripple?”

“What are you talking about? Your knee? Don’t worry I’m just going wait until that bad boy’s all healed up before I destroy you.”

Nicole licked her lips as they sat in silence for a moment. She took a breath so deep that her ribs ached. Her cigarette was finished but she let it hang between her fingers as she and Wynonna stared off into the distance together.

“Hey, Haught?” Wynonna said softly.

“Yeah?”

“I’m glad you’re back.”

Nicole smiled, “So am I.”

***

Nicole took a shower mostly to get the smell of the cigarette off of her. The warm water against her skin felt foreign at first. How long had it been since she had a shower that wasn’t cold? Even on the ship she didn’t get access to warm water. When she first got into the shower, she had to turn the water on its coldest setting and slowly start to add more warm water, just so that she could aclimate..

She wanted to turn the water so high that is was basically scalding, but warm water was already aggravating the burns on her legs. It was a strange feeling...the healing on her thighs. It was like her skin was too tight for her legs and would burst open at any moment.

Nicole shut off the water and reached for a towel. She dried herself slowly, carefully patting off her legs and ribs. Almost as slowly, she got dressed and walked out of the bathroom with the stupid crutch that was her constant companion for now. She was greeted by the sight of Waverly still lounging in bed. Naked with the sheet kicked off of her and tangled around her deceptively long legs. Nicole felt a slow warmth start in the pit of her stomach as Waverly looked at her, eyes dark.

“Hey, baby,” Waverly practically purred, “I wondered how long it was going to take you to get out of there. I was kinda hoping you’d still be naked.”

Waverly reached out for Nicole who smirked and walked over to her girlfriend. Waverly bit her bottom lip and pulled it between her teeth, just making the fire in Nicole burn stronger. When she got to the side of the bed, Waverly tugged on the hem of her shirt with a small smile.

“Baby, why are you wearing this?” she asked softly.

Nicole looked down at herself and realized for the first time that she was wearing her fatigues. The same thing she had worn every day for months. Her cheeks flushed deeply and she pulled away from Waverly with a frown.

“Sorry...I-” Nicole cleared her throat as shame heated her cheeks, “I guess I’m just used to putting this on. Old habits and all that…”

Her fingers shook as she started to unbutton the shirt but Waverly’s hands stopped her. Nicole looked up into brown eyes, Waverly now standing in front of her with a small smile.

“Baby, it’s okay,” Waverly said pulling Nicole’s hands from the buttons, “I think you look good in them so I’ll never complain. But here. Let me help you.”

Nicole just watched Waverly’s face as she slowly unbuttoned her shirt, the green material falling to the floor. She let out a harsh breath and wrapped her arms around Waverly’s waist. Their skin pressed together, Waverly’s warm from the bed and Nicole’s still hot from the shower. They both sighed, eyes shutting as their lips brushed together.

Nicole heard her crutch clatter to the floor but she ignored it, her hands reaching down to cup Waverly’s ass and pull their hips together. Waverly groaned and began to pull at the buttons of Nicole’s uniform pants. As the pants fell to the floor, Waverly slowly sank to her knees in front of Nicole.

She groaned at the sight and the feeling of Waverly’s lips above the waistband of her underwear and Nicole felt all the shame melt away. Just for now.

***

“Now that we’re finally on the road-” Wynonna said pointedly looking at the two girls in the rearview mirror. Waverly giggled and hid her face in Nicole’s shoulder while Nicole just blushed. “Sure you don’t want to stop and see any of the sights, Haught?”

Nicole shook her head and draped her arm over Waverly’s shoulder. “I just want to go home.”

“Home it is,” Wynonna said turning up the radio.

Nothin' in the world can drive me away. Cause every day, you'll hear me say. Baby, I'm yours-

***

Waverly held Nicole’s hand in her own as they both looked out the window. It seemed that they’d gotten out of civilization as they got closer to the state border. Buildings and towns gave way to desert. Cacti and Joshua trees poked up from the dirt. Nicole felt her eyelids getting heavy, head dropping a little bit.

Suddenly there was a loud ‘bang’ and Nicole moved instinctively. Her heart was pounding, blood roared in her ears and she threw herself at Waverly. She covered Waverly’s body protectively with her own and shouted, “Down!”

“Nicole!”

“Haught! What the fuck?” Wynonna said. Nicole felt the car swerve and she reached for a weapon that wasn’t on her belt.

The car came to a stop but Nicole’s mind was still going a thousand miles a minute.

“Enemy fire! Down!” Nicole ordered, lifting her head just enough to try and push Wynonna down into her seat.

Wynonna pushed her arm away and Nicole felt two firm hands frame her face. The hands forced her to focus down at Waverly who was staring up at her with a look she’d never seen directed at her from Waverly before.

Fear.

“Nicole, baby, what’s wrong?” Waverly asked, eyes wide.

“Enemy fire-”

“No, there’s not.”

“I heard a bomb-”

“The car backfired,” Waverly said slowly, “You’re back home. You’re in the United States. There’s no-...you’re not in Vietnam anymore.”

Nicole could swear she heard shouting, the sound of distant gunfire. Like thunder in her ears. But Waverly’s hands on either side of her face grounded her and her breathing evened out.

“I’m home,” she whispered.

“You’re home,” Waverly confirmed with a soft smile.

As the adrenaline started to drain away, shame replaced it. Her face heated up and she pulled herself off of Waverly quickly. She pressed her back against the side of the car.

“Nicole...are you okay?” Waverly asked sitting up. Nicole nodded wordlessly despite the way her chest was heaving, breathing still heavy. She turned towards the front of the car and pushed Wynonna’s shoulder forward. The other woman seemed confused but moved to where Nicole pushed her. Nicole folded down the front seat and fumbled before opening the car door and practically leaping out.

There was still enough adrenaline in her body that she limped around the car without her crutch. All she saw was desert. Nowhere to go. No perceived threat. She just had to get away from the car. She vaguely heard Waverly calling for her but just kept limping into the desert.

She stopped as the adrenaline ebbed away. Her mind felt like a million wasps were buzzing in it. She just kept thinking about guns and the jungle and bodies...all around her.

“Haught?” Wynonna said from behind her. Nicole startled a little. “Whoa there, sorry. It’s just me.”

Nicole resented the way Wynonna said that. Like she was an injured animal out of her cage, ready to strike at any moment. She clenched her hands into fists as Wynonna stood in front of her. Nicole just glared at her and Wynonna looked back before reaching into the inside pocket of her jacket. She pulled out a flask, undid the top and handed it to Nicole.

Nicole stared down at it for a second but then took it. She tilted her head back as she gulped down the liquid, letting it burn her throat and stomach.

“Hey, tiger,” Wynonna snorted, “Slow down there.”

Nicole finally dropped the flask from her lips and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. Wynonna took back the flask and took her own swig. Nicole felt her body begin to relax a little bit as the alcohol coursed through her veins, replacing the adrenaline.

“Are you feeling better?” Wynonna asked.

Nicole just nodded, clearing her throat and looking down at her boots. “Is Waverly okay?”

Wynonna looked over Nicole’s shoulder and back to where the car was pulled over. “Waves is fine. She’s just worried about you.”

“I kinda jumped her-”

“You were trying to protect her,” Wynonna interrupted, “There’s nothing wrong with that. Okay?”

Nicole licked her lips and nodded, chest tight.

“Need another minute?” Wynonna asked sticking the flask back in her jacket.

“No,” Nicole croaked, “I’m fine.”

Wynonna nodded and looped her arm around Nicole’s waist without saying anything. It was a little harder getting back to the car now with her injured knee, and she had bolted without her crutch. She finally got the courage to look at the car and saw Waverly smiling at her from the backseat, concern etched on her features.

Nicole slid into the backseat again with a hiss of pain as her knee bent to fit. Waverly instantly looped their arms together and pressed a kiss to her shoulder. Nicole’s ears burned as she forced herself to look out the window instead of at her girlfriend. But she let Waverly’s touches ground her as they started driving again.

***

Shapiro,

It’s weird being home. It feels foreign and strange and...not like home. People keep telling me it’ll get easier but how much longer is it going to take? Shouldn’t it feel natural? Falling back into life like it used to be?

Normal everyday things like waking up whenever I want and eating fresh food all feels so odd.

My injuries feel better. It’s mostly just my knee now. The doctor told me before I left the hospital that it was pretty fucked up. Something about a fracture and leftover shrapnel. Some days I can’t even get out of bed it hurts so much. Mostly when it’s a little cold outside.

How are things over there? You’re probably cussing me out for complaining about being back home when you’re still over there. Would it be crazy if I said I wish I could be back there with you? Am I crazy? Maybe I am.

Have you finally bedded that girl you were going on about before? Stay safe. Don’t make dumb mistakes like me.

Sincerely,
Nicole

***

Nicole wondered how long it would take for people to stop acting differently around her. She’d been home for about a month now. Still, people were walking on eggshells around her. Waverly would literally tip toe around her in some weird attempt to protect her from loud noises. She had only had one other incident since her car backfired. One morning a lawnmower started, waking Nicole from her sleep.

It took Waverly ten minutes to talk her out from where she had shoved herself under the bed.

She moved into Waverly’s room at the McCready house since Waverly didn’t even let her consider getting her own apartment. Nicole didn’t like living off of charity so she insisted upon paying at least a little bit in rent. Luckily she had money saved away from her army cheques. Gus begrudgingly took it every month.

Nicole mostly struggled with feeling...useless. Some days she just lay in bed and stared up at the ceiling. Those were the days her body hurt too much to even think about moving. Those were also usually the days that Waverly was working. Nicole swore she could feel Waverly’s disappointment when she came home and Nicole had done nothing with her day.

Nicole’s hands twitched to be useful. To do something worthwhile. Not bagging groceries or being a secretary somewhere. Just a couple of months ago she was saving lives. Supporting an effort bigger than herself. But now she was just sitting in her room wasting away.

***

“Hey, babe,” Waverly said slipping into the bedroom. Nicole barely looked over at her, just long enough to see her still in her Shorty’s shirt.

“How was work?” Nicole asked looking out the window.

“Fine. Typical,” Waverly shrugged as she pulled her shirt over her head and tossed it into the laundry basket near the closet. Nicole continued looking out the window, but she could feel Waverly’s eyes on her. “What’d you do today?”

Nicole just grunted. Waverly knew damn well that Nicole hadn’t done anything. Yet she still asked every morning. Each time Nicole felt a small stab of annoyance.

Waverly nudged the still unpacked duffel on the floor with her foot. “I thought you wanted to finally unpack.”

Nicole’s stomach clenched and she shook her head. “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Waverly walked over to the bed and sat on the edge of the mattress. She pushed red hair from Nicole’s face. “That’s what you said yesterday, baby.”

“So now you’re keeping track of me?” Nicole bit, turning more towards the window.

“No,” Waverly said carefully, “I just-...you don’t have to unpack if you don’t want to, Cole.”

Nicole sighed and ran a hand through her hair, guilt immediately overtaking her. She turned on her back and opened her arm for Waverly to fill, which she did easily. Nicole knew she didn’t deserve her. She knew it before and she certainly felt it now. Too many times lately she’d lost her patience with Waverly over something dumb.

“Sorry,” Nicole whispered into her hair, “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine-”

“It’s not fine,” Nicole gritted out. She shut her eyes tightly and focused on her breathing. She could feel the anger tight like a coil in her chest, ready to explode at any moment.

Waverly smoothed her hand over Nicole’s stomach, fingers tracing along the scars there. They laid in silence for a moment. Waverly began to play with the dog tags around Nicole’s neck where they settled on her skin. She had gotten up briefly that morning but had only managed to slip on a fresh pair of boxers and her fatigue shirt. She didn’t even bother buttoning it up, instead choosing to lay on the bed with her shirt open.

Waverly turned her head and placed a soft kiss to Nicole’s shoulder.

“Hey,” she said softly.

Nicole forced her eyes down, “Yeah?”

“Can I get you anything?” Waverly asked, pecking Nicole’s lips lightly.

Nicole shook her head, “No. Just...stay with me for a bit?”

“Done,” Waverly said snuggling into her side. And they lay there while Nicole actively tried not to pull away from her girlfriend, a sickness eating away at her stomach. She loved Waverly...she knew she did. But there was something about being with her - being around her, that always made Nicole’s skin crawl. The way she doted on her and the way Waverly looked at her. There was that gnawing feeling that Nicole didn’t deserve it. She didn’t deserve Waverly. It was a constant battle not to push Waverly away. She wanted to tell her that she deserved more...someone not broken. But selfishly she held on. Even if it killed her.

***

Nicole had tried. She tried. She really did.

She got out of bed in the morning and decided to go on a walk. Easy. Simple. Nothing that could cause any problems. But she only got halfway around the block, hobbling on her crutch, when a sharp pain shot through her leg.

“Fuck,” she groaned to herself, leaning even more heavily onto her crutch. Anger flared up in her chest and she threw the crutch violently into the gutter where it fell with a clatter. She bent over, hands on her knees as she tried to breathe through the pain. Her hands squeezed her knee, the pain pulsing down to a throb.

Tears of anger pricked at the corner of her eyes.

Waverly

For some reason her brain was trying to convince her this was Waverly’s fault. Waverly’s fault for trying to convince her she should do more. Get out of the house. Nicole slowly straightened back up and hobbled over to the curb. She painfully bent down to get the crutch, bones aching as she did.

And she slowly turned around and walked back home with defeat heavy on her shoulders.

***

Nicole wasn’t being paranoid. Waverly said she was being paranoid but she wasn’t. She swore that people looked at her differently. Like they knew. They knew that she’d been to war. The thing that seemed to be dividing this country more than anything.

All she could think about when she was in public was everyone staring at her. Looking at her. Knowing where she’d been. They probably all thought she was a baby killer, just like those people outside of the airport. Waverly’s people.

Nicole avoided going outside. Or anywhere. Even when Waverly begged her. Two months home and she still could barely get herself to go anywhere. She didn’t know if she’d ever be able to. She much rather preferred lying in bed, lost in her own thoughts. Thoughts she could never seem to crawl out of. But lying there helped because she knew she wasn’t hurting anyone.

The thoughts turned over and over in her mind. She should be there. She should have done more to help. Those were the thoughts she couldn’t get away from. Those were the ones that scared her the most.

***

“Don’t you think she should get a job?” Gus asked. Nicole paused in the hall, halfway to the bathroom. She could hear Gus and Waverly talking in hushed tones in the kitchen. Probably preparing for the Christmas dinner for tomorrow.

“Gus, she can’t,” Waverly said, “She’s not ready.”

“Ready for what? She needs to get out of the house,” Gus argued back, “She’s wasting away up there.”

Waverly sighed, “She’s fine. Her knee hurts too much to do anything standing for too long. And she gets paranoid being around people.”

Gus said something that Nicole couldn’t hear and she finished her walk to the bathroom. She closed the door a little too loudly behind her and clutched the sink. She stared at herself in the mirror.

Her hair was hanging limp, longer than it had been in a long time. Her cheeks were sunken and she had bags under her eyes. She could see what Gus meant. She was wasting away. She could feel it.

But she wasn’t sure that she cared.

 

***

“Haught,” Wynonna said, slipping into the bedroom. Nicole was sitting by the window and looking out, legs crossed tightly under her. She looked over at her visitor and hummed in acknowledgement. “What are you doing?”

Nicole shrugged, “Just...nothing.”

Wynonna crawled over the bed and out the window, “Come with me.”

Nicole stretched her knee out slowly, grimacing at the pain before following Wynonna. They sat side by side on the roof and Wynonna brought out a joint.

“What are you doing?” Nicole asked as Wynonna lit the joint.

Wynonna shrugged and passed it to Nicole who only hesitated a moment before taking a drag.

“You know that Waverly sat by that same window almost every day you were gone?” Wynonna said, “She watched for the telegram kid to come by. She was just waiting to hear that you were dead.”

Nicole licked her lips and took another long drag, passing the joint back to Wynonna.

“Yeah, well,” Nicole said, feeling her head start to get light, “Maybe she’d be better off if I was.”

Wynonna punched her hard in the arm and Nicole frowned at her, reaction time just that much slower. “What the fuck?”

“Don’t say shit like that,” Wynonna said seriously, finger in Nicole’s face, “You really fucking think that?”

Nicole snatched the joint from between Wynonna’s fingers and shrugged, “Sometimes.”

“Have you told Waverly this?”

“Of course not.”

Nicole looked at the house across the street for a moment, pretending like she didn’t know Wynonna was staring at her. She tapped the ash off of the end of the joint before passing it back. She finally looked over at Wynonna.

“I know Waverly’s all happy you’re back and shit but...you’re not really back,” Wynonna said softly, shaking her head. She tapped Nicole’s forehead with her finger, “Up here, you’re still over there.”

Nicole felt her throat close and pulled her knees up to her chest in some attempt to cover herself. “I saw a lot of shit, Wynonna.”

“I know. I’m not blaming you for that,” Wynonna said, “I just want to make sure you’re okay.”

Nicole swallowed thickly, forcing a smile on her face, “I’m as fine as I’m going to get.” She knew her smile didn’t reach her eyes and Wynonna didn’t seem completely convinced as Nicole took the joint back for a drag. She blew it out and passed it back to Wynonna. “This helps though.”

Wynonna reached into her pocket and pulled out a rolled up paper bag. “Good. I got these for you. Thought they might help.”

Nicole looked into the bag to see a few more joints in there. “No. I can’t,” she chuckled shoving it back at Wynonna.

“Don’t be a hypocrite, you’re smoking right now,” Wynonna said throwing the bag into the window to land on Nicole’s pillow, “You’ll thank me later.”

Nicole rolled her eyes as she rubbed her knee. Admittedly it did feel a little better than it usually did. Wynonna leaned into her side and Nicole was at first thrown off by the rare show of affection. But after a moment, she looped her arm over Wynonna’s shoulder and leaned her head on top of her friend’s.

“Do me a favor, Haught,” Wynonna said softly.

“Sure,” Nicole answered, eyes feeling heavy.

“Don’t leave my sister alone. Don’t take the easy way out. Yeah?” she finished.

Nicole looked off into the distance and answered noncommittally, “Whatever you say, Earp.”

***

Nicole stared at Waverly as she slept. Her chest was tight and she tried to force some kind of affection. Some kind of...feeling.

She needed her. Nicole needed Waverly like she needed the air in her lungs. The idea of being without her was terrifying. But she couldn’t find that warm affectionate feeling that she used to have every time she looked at her.

Waverly couldn’t even begin to understand what she’d been through. Waverly had no idea what it was like over there. No one around her did. It made Nicole feel more alone.

At her worst, she imagined Waverly with signs, yelling at soldiers getting off of planes.
Mostly she just felt...numb. And it terrified her.

***

The nightmares were getting worse.

Sometimes it was just fire. Burning her. Consuming her.

Other times she relived everything from her accident. There were times that there was no little boy and Nicole ran onto the landmine herself and there was nothing but darkness.

Those were the ones she considered good dreams. At least in those she was the only one being hurt.

***

They lay in a field, remnants of a picnic around them but not much else. Waverly was sitting astride Nicole’s hips in one of her ridiculously small tops that Nicole pretended not to love. She had a colorful band around her head and a flower tucked behind her ear. Nicole looked up at her with a smile and reached for her. She cupped her jaw to bring Waverly down into a kiss but she pulled away from Nicole’s hand with a giggle.

“Waves,” Nicole whispered, “Come here.”

Waverly bit her lip teasingly, “You’ll have to catch me.”

She got up from Nicole and began to run further into the field. Nicole chuckled and pushed herself up on her elbows.

“Waves! Come back!” she said with a pout. Waverly just winked at her, running through the field. Nicole stood up, all the pain in her knee seemingly gone or forgotten. She began to run after Waverly.

Suddenly she was in her fatigues, gun heavy in her hands and helmet on her head. She could hear gunshots whizzing past her but Waverly seemingly obliviously continued to run ahead. Waverly looked back with a smile and Nicole called out for her.

“Waverly!”

She just giggled and kept running. Nicole took off after her. Her legs burned and even though she was going full speed she couldn’t catch up to Waverly. She reached for her hand, barely brushing her back when the metallic click that haunted her dreams rang through the air. Fire consumed the both of them and pain seared through Nicole’s body.

Nicole sat up quickly, chest heaving and beads of sweat rolling down her face. She could still hear the bullets ringing out around her. She could practically feel them grazing her face. There was a touch to her arm and she panicked. Her instincts kicked in and she turned on the person, pinning both of their arms above their head in one swift move while her other arm came across their throat as she straddled them.

“What do you want?” Nicole hissed through gritted teeth. Her brain swam, she couldn’t focus. She could practically feel fire licking at her skin, adrenaline running hot through her veins and making her hands shake.

“Nicole,” a small voice came from under her. It hit Nicole like a ton of bricks. Her eyes focused, softened, and she recognized Waverly under her. Nicole blinked at her for a few moments, she saw the fear in those hazel eyes looking up at her and-

“Fuck.”

Nicole scrambled off of her, scooting backwards on the bed until her back hit the metal bed frame. She pulled her knees up to her chest and looked at Waverly horrified.

“Waverly,” she said, voice shaking, “I’m-...I’m so sorry. I-...fuck.”

Nicole pressed her forehead to her knees and wrapped her arms around her legs. She held them as close to her body as she could. Her body shook and her lungs were burning. Nicole still felt like she was on high alert...like anything could go wrong at any moment.

I’m home. I’m safe. It’s Waverly-

Waverly.

She tried to hurt Waverly. A heavy sob choked her throat.

“Nicole,” Waverly said. Nicole was hyper aware of the sound of rustling sheets, the mattress dipping with movement. Her body went stiff. “Nicole...can I touch you, please?”

Waverly’s voice was small. Pleading. Nicole had tried to hurt her.

“No,” Nicole whispered, “No. I hurt you. I-”

“No, you didn’t,” Waverly interrupted, “I was startled but I’m fine. Look.”

Nicole took a deep breath and looked up. Waverly was about a foot away from her, hand hovering cautiously near her leg. Waverly’s eyes were wide but she didn’t look afraid anymore. Nicole scanned Waverly’s face and neck and didn’t see any marks. She breathed out a sigh of relief and just nodded.

Waverly slowly put her hand on Nicole’s leg and she did her best not to flinch away. Nicole’s breathing got shallow as Waverly moved closer to her. Waverly’s arms began to wrap around her and Nicole stiffened, panic starting again.

“No, I can’t-...” Waverly recoiled quickly and Nicole growled at herself, “I just can’t be...enclosed.”

“I understand, baby,” Waverly said, pressing a soft kiss to Nicole’s temple, “Here. What about this?”

Waverly flopped down onto her back with a reassuring smile. She opened her arms and tried to coax Nicole into them.

“I could have hurt you,” Nicole whispered.

“But you didn’t. And you never would,” Waverly said, “Come ‘ere.”

Nicole nodded and slowly lay down.. Waverly cupped the back of Nicole’s head and made sure she was resting over her heart. Waverly’s fingers began to comb through her hair. That plus the steady sound of Waverly’s heartbeat began to calm Nicole.

Her fingers curled around Waverly’s hip and she clung on for dear life. Afraid to let go. As her breathing evened, syncing to the beat of Waverly’s heart against her cheek, the tightness in her chest started to dissipate. And as it did the tears began to leak from her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Nicole choked, “I’m so so sorry.”

“For what, my love?” Waverly murmured.

“I almost hurt you,” she whispered, “You should be afraid of me.”

Waverly kissed the top of Nicole’s head, “I could never be afraid of you.”

“What if I’m afraid of myself?” Nicole said, fingers tightening on Waverly’s hip. Waverly buried her face in Nicole’s hair and together they cried.

***

“Nedley came in asking about her.”

Gus’ voice floated out of the open kitchen window and up to where Nicole was sitting cross legged on the roof. She figured she wasn’t lying each time Waverly asked if she’d been outside that day and she said yes.

If she had been in the bedroom, there was no way she would have heard the conversation in the kitchen. But being on the roof she had the perfect seat. Her fingers twitched and she wondered if she should go back inside to avoid eavesdropping.

“Gus, please,” Waverly pleaded.

“Please what? We’ve been having this same discussion for months now. She just sits up in that room and does nothing,” Gus said.”

Waverly sighed, “Listen, she pays her share-”

“It’s not about that, Waverly,” Gus said, “You know that just as well as anyone. I’m just worried about her. She needs to get out and do something.”

“Her knee-”

“She can go back and do the secretary stuff she was doin’ before,” Gus said quickly, “Nedley said she’s welcome in any capacity until her knee is better.”

She heard silence, and the soft sound of water running. Nicole pulled her knees up to her chest and sighed.

“I’ll talk to her about it,” Waverly finally said, “She’s not going to like it though.”

“She doesn’t like much of anything these days. Including eating,” Gus muttered.

“She’s figuring things out,” Waverly said, “She’s fine. She’s going to be fine.”

Nicole’s heart sank and she leaned back against the window frame. She didn’t know how Gus believed Waverly. Because Nicole certainly didn’t.

***

Nicole had tried to unpack her duffel. She got most of the way through, putting all of the letters in a cigar box along with all the pictures she had. She even put some of her clothes away, fatigues finding their way to the bottom of her drawer. But halfway through she couldn’t do it anymore. She lay on the bed and told herself she’d unpack later.

Instead she fell asleep until Waverly came home from work. She woke up sometime between Waverly taking off her work clothes and putting on a dress instead.

“I see you started to unpack,” Waverly said with a bright smile that blinded Nicole. She grunted and wiped the sleep from her eyes.

“Yeah, only took me forever,” she said.

Waverly looked down into the duffel and something clearly caught her eye. She reached in and pulled out a flat, light grey case covered in some kind of velvet. It almost looked like a ring box if it didn’t cover Waverly’s whole hand. Nicole knew what it was immediately and looked away. She heard Waverly gasp after she opened it.

“Baby-”

“It’s nothing,” Nicole mumbled. The bed dipped next to her as Waverly sat down. She looked at her but Waverly was still staring at the Purple Heart in the case.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Waverly said running her fingers over it, “We should put it somewhere-”

“No,” Nicole said quickly, “We shouldn’t put it anywhere.”

“Why?” Waverly asked, “You should be proud.”

Nicole snorted, “Of what? Of basically fouling out of the war? I failed, Waverly. That medal is just a symbol of failure.”

“You-...don’t actually think that,” Waverly stated quietly.

Nicole shrugged and looked away again. “You can have it. Do what you want with it. I just...don’t want to see it.”

She heard the case shut and felt Waverly stand up. There were tears hot behind Nicole’s eyes but she kept looking out the window. She felt a soft kiss against her cheek and shut her eyes as she heard Waverly walk away.

But before Waverly left the room, Nicole heard her whisper, “I’m proud of you.”

Nicole felt sick.

***

Dear Haught,

You’re lucky you got out when you did. It’s getting worse. I didn’t think it could but...it did. It’s like there are more and more bodies every day. I worked four days straight with barely any sleep. I don’t know what hell is like but I can guess it’s pretty damn close.

How’s the real world treating you? Is it as good and boring as I remember it? I would kill to feel bored. For once. I don’t even think I remember what that’s like.

Fish is out on some kind of mission so I haven’t seen him or heard from him in a bit. And I may have had a moment with Johnson behind the showers the other day. So I guess it’s not all that bad here.

I can’t wait to see you and your girl, Haught. As soon as I’m out of here.

Sincerely,
Shapiro

PS: I’m still waiting on that nude pic.

***

Sleeping was getting harder and harder. She was afraid of her dreams but she was also afraid of herself. She was afraid of what she might do in her sleep.

Waverly had been trying to get Nicole to open up about why she wasn’t sleeping or eating. But Nicole just shrugged it off and shook her head. She couldn’t talk about it. Not with Waverly. Not with anyone. She couldn’t talk about how she’d seen young men with their faces blown off. How she watched them die. They haunted her.

Some nights she would lay in bed and strain her brain to remember their names. Any of them. Just one. Some nights she could list them. Others she couldn’t think of a single one.

***

“Baby,” Waverly began softly as she traced an invisible design between the freckles on Nicole’s chest. Nicole just hummed in acknowledgement. “Have you thought about...starting at the Sheriff’s Department?”

“They hardly want a woman on the force. Let alone a woman with a bum knee,” Nicole said to the ceiling.

“No, I just mean...I mean Nedley said you could have your old job back for now,” Waverly said propping herself on her elbow so she could look at Nicole. The redhead continued staring at the ceiling. She didn’t want to be a glorified secretary. She couldn’t imagine how she was supposed to pretend that job was worth anything.

“If that’s what you want, then sure,” Nicole said, moving her arm from behind Waverly’s head so she could roll onto her side. Waverly caught her shoulder and made her roll onto her back. Nicole frowned in annoyance and Waverly looked at her pleadingly.

“Baby, this isn’t for me,” Waverly said brushing some hair from Nicole’s eyes, “It’s for you. I think it’ll make you feel better.”

Nicole snorted, unamused, “Yeah. Pushing around files and wasting the day away will for sure make me feel better about myself.”

Waverly rested her hand between Nicole’s breasts just firmly enough to keep her in place. “I’m just worried-”

“Well don’t be,” Nicole snapped, sitting up so that the sheets pooled around her waist. Waverly sat up next to her and shook her head.

“How am I not supposed to be worried about you?” Waverly asked, “You just sit around all day and wallow-”

“Yeah, well about three months ago I saw people die every day so forgive me if I’m not exactly chipper,” Nicole said ignoring the pain in her knee as she scooted out of the bed.

“Nicole, I know it’s hard-”

“You don’t know,” Nicole practically spat, “How could you fucking know? You just sat at home and organized your little fucking protests while I was over there being shot at.”

Waverly looked like she’d been slapped. She shook her head, running a hand through her long hair. Nicole started to pull on her pants as Waverly continued. “You’re right. I can’t-...I can never know what it was like over there,” Waverly said, “But I think it’s a little unfair to think this wasn’t hard on me too-”

“Come on, Waverly,” Nicole said throwing her hands up in the air, “I’m sorry you were stuck at home staring out a fucking window waiting to see if I’d fucking died or not.”

“Nicole-”

“If it was that hard why didn’t you fucking leave me?” Nicole grated, pulling a shirt over her head.

Waverly blinked at her in disbelief. “Are you fucking kidding me, Nicole? Are you fucking serious?”

Nicole looked at her with a non-commital shrug.

“You’re asking why I didn’t leave you? You left me. I stayed with you because I love you!”

Nicole just scoffed and grabbed for her crutch. The anger blooming inside her was too much. She just needed to get away from Waverly. From everything.

“Where are you going?” Waverly asked as she stood up from the bed.

“I just need to go for a walk, Waverly,” Nicole said as she made her way towards the door.

Waverly’s voice shook, “Please, just come back to bed?

“I’m just going for a walk,” Nicole insisted as she walked out of the bedroom. She made her way down the stairs as quietly as she could. Slipping her shoes on, Nicole walked out of the house to the sidewalk before pausing. She took a deep breath and let the crisp desert air fill her lungs. Her mind went blank for a moment and she didn’t know why she’d come out here.

She looked back towards the house and wondered if she should go back inside. Her mind was still cloudy so she turned back towards the street. She touched her pockets and found her car keys in there. Pulling them out, she walked over to her car and put her crutch in before following. She closed the heavy door and all the sounds of the night were gone.

It was too quiet. Her thoughts were always louder when it was quiet.

She turned on her car and turned up the radio. She didn’t care what station.

My girl said goodbye-yi-yi. My girl didn't cry, I wonder why-

Nicole started the car and drove aimlessly down the street. The further away from the house she got, the heavier her heart felt. She felt a familiar pressure building behind her eyes and she licked her lips.

Silly boy, then she said to my surprise. ‘Big girls don't cry’-

Sadness hit her like a bullet to the chest. The pain started in the middle of her torso and spread through her body. It was warm and overwhelming, spreading like a fever before it seized at her throat. She pulled the car over just as the first sob choked her, crawling painfully from deep inside her. She put the car into park and clutched the steering wheel, knuckles white.

Her head fell to the steering wheel as pain spasmed in her arms and chest, her stomach clenching painfully.

She thought of the bodies on bodies. Of the hot heat weighing heavy on her shoulders along with her fears as she walked through the jungle. She could practically taste the copper in the air. The constant smell of blood in her nostrils.

She cried because…what the fuck.

But she also cried because somewhere deep down she missed it. She really fucking missed it. And that was the most fucked up thing she could imagine.

***

“Nicole, please,” Waverly whispered from where she sat on the other side of the bathroom door. Nicole’s back was pressed to the door and she could practically feel Waverly leaning against the other side.

Nicole sat there looking blankly ahead. She had a whiskey bottle half drunk and sitting between her thighs. She counted her heartbeats, trying to find something to ground herself. She felt herself pulling away but then Waverly’s voice sucked her back.

“Nicky, tell me what’s wrong,” Waverly whispered. Nicole swore she could feel her whisper in her ear. “Please. I can help.”

Nicole shut her eyes tightly and took a long drag from the whiskey bottle. She was thirsty and all she had was the alcohol so that would have to do for now. The world spun around her and she breathed in deeply, focusing on the air filling her lungs. If she breathed in deeply enough she could still feel the deep bruise over her ribs.

She wanted to reach through the wood and pull Waverly into her. To hold her and let the comfort of her wash over her. But there was that voice in her brain that just kept telling her to push her away. The closer Waverly was to her, the more Nicole would hurt her. The more she’d cause her pain. She had to keep Waverly away. Far away.

“Baby,” Waverly said softly, “Please, tell me what’s wrong.”

Nicole shook her head and took another long sip of her whiskey.

“I don’t know,” she confessed, tears thick in her throat, “I don’t know. I wish I knew. I-...I wish...I don’t know.” She sobbed, hopelessness clutching at her chest and making everything hurt that much more. “I just...don’t know.”

***

Nicole’s hands shook as she slowly moved through the filing cabinet looking for where the case file belonged. She glanced at the clock and groaned when she saw it had only been an hour. How had she managed this job before?

Four hour shifts? Were they crazy?

One hour had gone by like an entire twelve hour shift at the hospital. She licked her lips and wondered what Shapiro was doing right now. She was probably sewing up someone’s wounds or removing shrapnel from someone...she was saving lives.

Nicole was here filing about-

She opened the file and saw a missing persons report, except ‘persons’ was crossed out and ‘pet’ was written on top.

-missing pugs.

Another groan of frustration as she stuffed the file to what she assumed was the right slot. Nicole flexed her hands on the edge of the filing cabinet drawer, the metal cutting sharply into her palms.

She had to remind herself that she was doing this for Waverly. She was trying for Waverly. It was the best she could do at the moment. But she didn’t think it would be this hard.

Three more hours, she told herself as her knee started to ache, Three more hours for Waverly.

***

Nicole slid into the car next to Waverly with a long sigh. She actually checked her watch again to make sure that she really had only done a four hour shift.

“How was it, baby?” Waverly asked, leaning over to squeeze Nicole’s knee.

“It was fine,” Nicole said letting her forehead fall against the window with a thump, “Awful, actually.”

Waverly started back towards the McCready house. “Really? Why?”

Nicole licked her lips, “It went on forever. It was so boring.”

“Well it was only four hours, right? Couldn’t have been that bad,” Waverly said encouragingly, “I think you just need to get back into the swing of things.”

Nicole felt something in her chest snap. “It’s not just about getting back in the swing of things, Waverly.”

Waverly was silent for a moment before she nodded. “You’re right,” she said shakily, “I’m sorry.”

Nicole scoffed, “Don’t apologize. You didn’t fucking do anything. I’m just an asshole.”

Waverly went silent again and Nicole shut her eyes. A list of hurtful things she wanted to say swirled through her mind, but she chewed on her cheek instead.

“Want me to cut your hair later?” Waverly asked.

“You can call me an asshole, Waverly,” Nicole said flatly as they pulled up to the McCready house, “You can say it because it’s true.”

“You’re not-”

“Stop lying! Call me an asshole!”

Waverly threw the car into park so hard the gears ground together and she turned on Nicole.

“What do you want from me, Nicole?” she asked too calmly, “I’m trying here-”

“Don’t walk on eggshells around me!” Nicole said like it was the most obvious thing in the world, “Don’t act like I can’t take things. That I can’t take the truth. Stop treating me like Gus’ china.”

“So you want me to call you an asshole?” Waverly asked, eyebrows in her hairline.

“Yeah, I do.”

“Fine, Nicole! You’re a fucking asshole! You’ve been a big shit-ticket lately and no matter what I do you get mad at me!” Waverly said as her bottom lip finally quivered, “I know you’re sad and I know you’re hurt but god dammit let me help!”

“There’s nothing you can do-”

“Then forget it! You’re just a fucking shit-...balls-...fuck you, Nicole!” Waverly shouted, getting out of the car and slamming the door behind her. Nicole licked her lips and felt some of her sanity come back. Guilt flooded her immediately and she got out of the car to follow Waverly. She limped into the house, only stopping when Gus stepped in front of her.

“I’m looking for Waverly,” Nicole said as if it weren’t obvious.

Gus shook her head, “She needs a moment.”

“I need to talk to her,” Nicole said almost shocked at how she raised her voice at Gus.

“Listen, girl-“ Gus began.

“I’m not a girl-“

“Fine! Woman, man, whatever you want to be. It doesn’t matter. But listen. I know what you’re going through-“

Nicole dug her nails into her palms, anger rippling through her.

“-You may not think I do. But I do. You think my husband didn’t come back from Germany with some demons?” Gus said taking a step towards Nicole, “You think Waverly isn’t used to this nonsense with her lousy excuse of a father? I know you’ve been to hell and back and I know you’re hurting but don’t you drag her through it.”

She felt her stomach fill with the sickness of guilt. Nicole squeezed her eyes tightly, “I’m not trying to drag her through it. She deserves more.”

“Now none of that-”

“No, I know she does,” Nicole said shaking her head.

“She doesn’t want more,” Gus said, “She wants you. You are the ‘more’ for her. And you made her feel like she was that for you too.”

Nicole pressed her palms hard to her eyes, watching the lights pop behind her eyelids. “All I want to do is love her but sometimes I just feel so...empty. And it hurts so bad. It hurts so bad that I feel nothing. It’s like I know I’m in pain but I can’t feel it. It feels like if I beat my chest it would be hollow and I don’t-...I don’t know if I can fix myself.”

She didn’t realize she was crying until Gus wiped away her tears and pulled Nicole’s head to her chest. And Nicole let herself cry as Gus rocked her.

***

“Hello?”

“Hey, Shae,” Nicole said softly over the phone, “Gus said you called for me.”

“I did,” Shae said, “I’m glad you called me back. How have you been?”

Nicole chuckled and rolled her eyes, “Did Waverly get you to call me?”

“No, I called you on my own,” Shae said, “But I have talked to Waverly on the days you wouldn’t come to the phone. I know you’ve been having a hard time.”

Nicole leaned her forehead against the doorframe, twirling the phone cord tight around her fist as she talked. “I mean, I haven’t been having a ball or anything.”

“Nicole, no deflecting.”

She took a deep breath, frowning for a moment. “Everything hurts, Shae,” Nicole confessed, “Not just physically-- everything hurts...I’m always in pain. Something always reminds me of what happened over there. Or what’s worse, it reminds me why I wasn’t good enough to stay-”

“Hey,” Shae interrupted, “I need to stop you right there. Because this has nothing to do with you not being good enough. Do you hear me?”

Nicole shrugged, “Then what else would it be. I got kicked out-”

“You got sent home because you got seriously hurt serving your country,” Shae corrected, “That is nothing to be ashamed of. Do you understand?”

Nicole hiccuped, “I want to believe you. It’s just so hard. My brain is telling me so many things all the time. Things I don’t like.”

“Nicole,” Shae said softly, “have you told Waverly any of this?”

“No,” Nicole whispered, “I don’t want to scare her. I’m afraid of hurting her.”

“You’re already hurting her by holding this back,” Shae said, “She wants to help you. She can help you get through this.”

Nicole felt the tears fall in a path down her cheeks, as breathing became harder. “I’m scared. What if she runs away?”

“Trust me, if she was going to run away she would have already,” Shae said, “That girl loves you more than anything. Don’t you see that?”

Nicole just broke down and cried.

***

Nicole wrapped her arms around Waverly from behind. Her girlfriend jumped a little and Nicole placed a soft kiss on her shoulder.

“Sorry, did I scare you?” she asked.

Waverly was sitting on the roof when Nicole came home from work and Nicole decided to join her. She slipped out on the roof and sat besides Waverly with a small smile.

“How was work?” Waverly asked, drawing her knees to her chest.

“It was fine,” Nicole said crossing her legs in front of her. She thought back on the conversation she’d had with Shae a few days ago. After practically crying on Shae’s shoulder, she’d felt a little better. At least enough to consider talking to Waverly about everything.

“Waverly,” Nicole began, “You remember that time we went to the student art show and there was that weird painting that was all red with just random things glued to it?”

“Yeah,” Waverly said with a giggle.

“That’s how my brain feels most of the time,” Nicole whispered, “Like...almost all the time.”

Waverly pulled Nicole’s hand into her lap. She turned Nicole’s palm up and began massaging it like she’d done before to relieve tension. Nicole remembered the first time Waverly did this, sitting under a tree in front of their dorm. Waverly’s touch had done things to her that no touch had done before.

“I’m sorry I haven’t been talking to you,” Nicole said, “I...didn’t know how. I still don’t.”

“It’s okay,” Waverly said squeezing her hand, “I know-...I’m not going to say that wasn’t you. Because it was. All the pain and anguish it really...it’s all twisted up into the beautiful woman I’ve loved and will always love. And I love every part of you. Even the pain and anger because I see your heart. Your kindness. The gentleness has never left your eyes.”

Nicole swallowed a lump in her throat and squeezed Waverly’s hand back. “I’m trying. I’m going to keep at that job at the department no matter how much I hate it. And maybe someday I’ll be rid of this stupid limp and I can be a real cop.”

“It’s only a matter of time,” Waverly said, “I know it is.”

“Hopefully,” Nicole said with a crooked smile, the barest hint of her dimples popping through.

“I know you will. You know why?”

“Why?”

“Because you’re going to look really sexy in that uniform and I have to see it,” Waverly whispered, eyebrows wiggling as she smiled. Nicole laughed and the foreign sound pierced her ears almost painfully. But it was worth it to see Waverly’s smile.

***

Nicole was sitting at the window of the bedroom when she saw the car pull into the driveway. She didn’t want it to look like she was waiting for Waverly so she moved over to the bed to lie down and opened up her book.

She heard Waverly start up the stairs and looked up only when she poked her head in. Nicole blinked at her girlfriend who smiled at her like she was caught doing something bad. She raised an eyebrow at her and set her book down.

“What’d you do?”

Waverly didn’t say anything, her grin widening. She awkwardly slipped into the room with one hand behind her back, her front facing Nicole the entire time. Nicole frowned at her suspiciously but just watched as Waverly slowly approached the bed.

“Close your eyes,” she said.

Nicole set her book on the nightstand and closed her eyes. “Okay.”

There was a small pressure on her stomach and she opened them. A little fluffy orange thing with big eyes looked back at her curiously. It wobbled on small, unsteady legs as it tried to balance on Nicole’s stomach. Nicole just looked at it, not sure if she should believe her eyes.

“Is this a- did you bring home a kitten?”

“Yes,” Waverly said sitting next to Nicole on the bed, “I found her behind Shorty’s.”

The small cat tripped over one of Nicole’s buttons and tumbled down her chest with a small ’mew’. Waverly cooed and set her upright, tiny paws digging into Nicole’s throat. She coughed and picked up the kitten carefully. She held it over her head, its little paws dangling as it looked down at her. One paw moved and batted at Nicole’s nose and her heart instantly melted.

Waverly’s hands fidgeted in her lap. “I can...find a new home for her. If you don’t-”

“No,” Nicole said setting the kitten back on her chest and pouting at Waverly, “You can’t bring me a kitten and then give it away.”

A slow smile spread over Waverly’s face, “You want to keep her?”

Nicole scoffed and smiled so widely that the unused muscles in her face ached, “Of course.”

Waverly beamed and leaned down to kiss Nicole. She pulled away with a grimace after a moment. The kitten had started climbing up her chest and onto her shoulder, little claws sticking into the fabric of her shirt as it wobbled along.

“Little needles,” Waverly hissed as she carefully extracted the kitten from her shirt and set her back on the bed.

Nicole chuckled and petted the kitten as it crawled over her stomach to get to the other side of the bed. “Did you name her yet?”

Waverly shook her head, “I thought you might want to.”

Nicole wiggled her fingers across the comforter so the kitten would follow them. She watched as the kitten crouched into a hunting position, butt wiggling a little before it pounced on her hand.

“What about Calamity Jane?” Nicole asked,looking up at her girlfriend.

“It’s perfect,” Waverly said.

Nicole held one of her arms open and motioned for Waverly to lay next to her. She complied happily, resting her head on Nicole’s shoulder and laying on her side. Nicole continued to play with the kitten who kept falling over on the uneven comforter. Nicole pressed a kiss to the crown of Waverly’s head and breathed her in. She smelled like Shorty’s. Stale beer and smoke with the underlying scent of sweat covering her usual smell of flowers and incense. Nicole smiled against her hair and wished she could bottle the smell and keep it forever.

“Thank you,” Nicole whispered. Waverly looked up at her with a smile just as Calamity Jane moved to Nicole’s chest with a yawn. She stretched and circled before flopping down on her chest, eyes closing.

“For what?” Waverly asked as she petted the sleeping cat. Nicole could feel a low rumble of a purr echoing in her chest from the kitten.

“For everything,” Nicole said leaning down as best she could to kiss Waverly without disturbing Calamity Jane. “Just for being here. For being you. I know I don’t always make it easy...to love me.”

Waverly shook her head. “Ssh. Loving you is the easiest thing I’ve ever done,” Waverly whispered, “Getting here was hard but...that was because of me. Not you.”

“I love you,” Nicole said, “I haven’t said that enough lately.”

“You have other ways of saying it,” Waverly said, “Like when you go to the movies with me even when you don’t want to. Or sit at work with me. Even if you’re just reading the whole time.”

“I’m going to try and be better,” Nicole said through the lump in her throat, “For you.”

Waverly placed a tender kiss below Nicole’s ear and whispered, “I love you no matter what, Nicole. Don’t be someone you think I want you to be. Just be...yourself.”

Nicole nuzzled their faces together and ran the tip of her nose up Waverly’s forehead, placing a soft kiss between her eyebrows. Her heart expanded looking down at Waverly and the purring kitten on her chest. For the first time she felt like just maybe...everything was going to be okay.

***

Nicole limped out of the bathroom and towards her room. The door was slightly ajar and she could hear the record player even from the hall.

Listen baby, ain't no mountain high. Ain't no valley low, ain't no river wide enough baby-

She smiled to herself and pushed open the door just enough to lean against the door frame. Her smile only grew wider when she saw Waverly cradling Calamity Jane in her arms and dancing with her. They moved back and forth across the floor as Waverly sang softly along to the record.

”Just call my name I'll be there in a hurry, you don't have to worry. 'Cause baby there ain't no mountain high enough,” Waverly spotted Nicole in the doorway and blushed, her smile widening as she continued singing, “Ain't no valley low enough. Ain't no river wide enough, to keep me from getting to you, babe.

Nicole chuckled when Waverly danced towards her and took her hand. “What are you doing?” she asked gently.

“Teaching CJ to dance,” Waverly said pulling Nicole further into the room and closer to her, “Wanna help, soldier?”

Something warm and sweet spread through Nicole’s veins as she looped one arm around Waverly’s waist, the other taking Waverly’s free hand in her own. They began to move to the beat and Waverly started singing again.

”Remember the day I set you free. I told you you could always count on me, darling,” Waverly giggled when CJ meowed softly, “From that day on, I made a vow. I'll be there when you want me. Some way, somehow.”

As they spun around the room, Nicole watched the sunlight stream through the window and highlight every aspect of Waverly’s face. Nicole felt her heart stutter like an engine struggling to start. It pulled at her stomach and made her skin warm.

“My love is alive. Way down in my heart. Although we are miles apart. If you ever need a helping hand, I'll be there on the double just as fast as I can.”

Nicole leaned down and kissed Waverly, both of them smiling into the kiss. CJ meowed her disapproval between them and Nicole only pulled away when she felt a small paw on her chin.

“She’s jealous,” Nicole chuckled, “Can’t say I blame her.”

Waverly blushed and nuzzled their noses together. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Nicole said leaning down to kiss Waverly again. Their dancing never stopped as they spun around the room together. Nicole pulled away just enough to sing softly to Waverly as they finished the song together.

”Ain't no mountain high enough. Ain't no valley low enough. Ain't no river wide enough. To keep me from getting to you, babe.”