Shorty’s was unusually crowded that night. The Purgatory High School basketball team had just won a big game against their most hated rival from the big city, and fans had flooded into the bar to celebrate. Amidst the whooping and hollering, and the occasional off-key chorus of the school fight song, Waverly could scarcely hear over the din. She leaned in closer.
“Deliver another round of libations to my good friend Xavier,” Doc told her, a wicked gleam in his eyes. “And no matter how many times he might inquire, you convince him that this is only his second indulgence.”
Waverly sighed. This was the fourth time she’d received the same instructions from Shorty’s most recent proprietor. She had no idea what kind of elaborate prank Doc was trying to pull on Dolls, or why, but she knew it was probably best not to ask. And whatever it was, it obviously involved getting the Black Badge agent very, very drunk.
She took the dripping bottle of beer and carried it down to the end of the scarred wooden bar where Dolls and Jeremy were seated. The young BBD scientist was busy demonstrating an array of magic tricks when Waverly walked up. His hands moved in intricate patterns and a look of intense concentration furrowed his brow. Waverly waited patiently while he pretended to pull a peanut from Dolls’ ear.
“Check me out! I’m a wizard!” Jeremy exclaimed happily, oblivious to Dolls’ bleary-eyed stare.
“Yep. You’re a regular Ron Weasley,” Waverly said as she set the fresh bottle down and picked up the empty one.
Jeremy frowned at her.
“Ron Weasley? But he never got any spells right…” he broke off, grinning suddenly. “Oh, wait! You’re totally teasing me, right? That means I’m part of the gang. Cool. Very cool.”
Dolls picked up the bottle in front of him and eyed it suspiciously. He looked at Waverly, who was doing her best to feign innocence.
“Whassthis?” He asked, his voice slurred.
“It’s a beer,” Waverly replied brightly.
“I know it’s a beer, Earp,” Dolls grumbled, attempting to enunciate every word. “I don’t drink. I have a—“
“I know, I know,” Waverly interrupted him. “You have a two-drink rule. Well, this is beer number two, so you’re fine.”
Dolls squinted at her.
“You’re sure? You wouldn’t lie to me, right?”
Evading the question, Waverly scanned the rest of the room in search of an escape route. Jeremy stared at her curiously; he had obviously caught on to her deception, but she managed to avoid eye contact. She also ignored Doc and Rosita snickering conspiratorially behind the bar.
Finally, she saw Nicole and Wynonna shooting pool across the room, and she huffed out a tiny, relieved sigh.
“Sorry guys. I think I hear Nicole calling me,” Waverly lied, already moving away from her two colleagues. “Gotta go. Bye!”
She crossed the bar to the table where her sister leaned against her pool cue. Wynonna rolled her eyes impatiently while Nicole circled the table, frowning down at the colored balls scattered across it.
“I don’t have all night, Haught. Just take the damn shot,” Wynonna said, pausing to sip from a half-full mug of beer. “Well, actually…I do have all night. But you might have other entertainment lined up for later. If you know what I mean!”
Wynonna smirked suggestively, winking at her sister, Waverly felt her face turning a particularly bright shade of red. She was about to apologize to Nicole for her sister’s behavior when she noticed that her girlfriend was swaying unsteadily and her eyes were a bit unfocused.
“Nicole? Are you drunk?” Waverly asked incredulously.
Nicole blinked at her, startled. A slow, happy grin spread across her face and she stumbled to Waverly’s side, wrapping her arms around her in an enthusiastic embrace.
“Hey cutie!” Nicole greeted her loudly. “Me an’ Wynonna are shootin’ pool.”
Nicole’s face fell.
“I think she’s winning,” she confessed glumly. “I keep forgettin’ if I’m stripes or solids.”
Waverly sighed, patting her girlfriend’s shoulder.
“It’s okay, baby. I’m sure Wynonna would never try to cheat you. Just like I’m sure she wouldn’t deliberately get you drunk, just so she could win a stupid game!”
Waverly glared at her sister, but Wynonna merely shrugged and took another sip of beer.
“What? I still owe her for shooting me with a paintball,” Wynonna defended herself. “At least when I win this one, it probably won’t leave bruises.”
“Probably?” Waverly echoed.
She sighed and shook her head. This competitive streak between her sister and her girlfriend was really starting to get out of hand. It had started a few weeks ago during one of Doc’s poker games and had escalated rapidly. And at the rate they were going, Waverly was afraid she was going to find them shooting things off each other’s heads soon.
“Hey! Wait a sec. M’not drunk!” Nicole protested as she finally caught up to their conversation.
“Sweetie, you are so drunk,” Waverly said, eyeing the neat row of empty shot glasses lining the edge of the pool table.
Nicole scrunched up her face in an adorable pout. Or at least, it would have been adorable if Waverly hadn’t been so annoyed. First, Doc had made her his accomplice in getting Dolls drunk. And now, her girlfriend was decidedly tipsy, thanks to Wynonna. Is it National Intoxicate Your Friends Day and no one told me, she wondered. Or maybe they were under some kind of spell that made everyone act like obnoxious teenagers? She’d heard that could be a thing.
“If I was drunk, could I do this?” Nicole continued, leaning over the table while she lined up her next shot.
Waverly’s eyebrows shot up and she tilted her head sideways, admiring the view. She attempted to ignore the faces Wynonna was making and the rude gagging noises coming from her direction.
“Waverly Earp, you are an extraordinarily lucky woman.”
She turned to find Doc standing just behind her, an appreciative smirk visible beneath his bushy mustache.
“Doc! I thought you were a gentleman,” she exclaimed, swatting him with her bar towel.
Wynonna snorted with laughter, and Waverly shot her the dirtiest look she could muster.
Doc folded his arms across his chest and grinned at her, a mischievous twinkle dancing in his blue eyes.
“Well now, I might be a gentleman, but I am still a man. And I do have eyes, after all,” he said. “Rest assured, though. I would never endeavor to steal Miss Haught’s affections from you.”
Waverly rolled her eyes.
“As if you could,” she scoffed.
“Seriously,” Wynonna agreed. “These two only have gooey heart eyes for each other. It’s super annoying.”
Doc’s eyes softened.
“Only a fool could miss the way you look at each other, and I am no fool,” he said. “You adore her, and she quite obviously adores you back. And so I say again, Waverly Earp, you are an extraordinarily lucky woman.”
Waverly blushed. Doc was right. She was lucky. Not that long ago, she had essentially been an orphan, living a lie, destined for a future with a man she didn’t love. She’d spent years running away from her last name, pretending to be anything other than an Earp. Now, she embraced it. Her sister had returned, and together, they had formed this makeshift family that she couldn’t even imagine being without. She’d fallen head over heels in love and suddenly, the future seemed brighter than she had ever dared to hope. Yep, she smiled to herself, watching affectionately as Nicole circled the table, still trying to find the right angle for her shot. I am pretty lucky.
“Come on, Haughtshot,” Wynonna urged, exasperated. “My dead grandmother moves faster than you!”
“Don’t rush me, Earp,” Nicole grumbled under her breath.
Apparently satisfied with her mental calculations, the redhead grabbed her cue stick and began carefully chalking the tip. She glanced up at her girlfriend and winked, and Waverly felt a pleasant flutter low in her stomach.
“You’re going down, Wynonna,” Nicole taunted her opponent smugly as she drew her arm back and prepared to shoot.
Waverly elbowed her sister in the ribs, instantly cutting off the lewd joke before Wynonna could utter it.
At the exact instant that the tip of her stick made contact with the cue ball, Nicole hiccuped loudly. Her arm jerked, and the smooth white ball hopped sideways. Nicole’s face fell and her bottom lip protruded as she sadly watched the cue ball lazily roll across the table and drop into a side pocket.
“Aw, nuts,” she pouted, covering her mouth with the back of her hand to stifle the next hiccup that bubbled up. “I lost again.”
Wynonna threw her arms in the air, laughing triumphantly. Her hips gyrated as she pranced around the table in her victory dance.
“That’s three games in a row,” she crowed. “You sure you don’t wanna quit while I’m ahead?”
“Dare I even ask what the stakes are in this contest of wills?” Doc inquired, his shoulders shaking with barely-concealed amusement.
Wynonna lifted a hand and began ticking off her winnings on her fingers.
“First, Officer Haughtpants has to bring me donuts and coffee every day for a week. Then, she has to do my laundry for the next two weeks. And good luck getting revenant goo off of leather pants!”
“Ew, Wynonna,” Waverly wrinkled her nose in disgust.
“Finally,” Wynonna continued, ignoring her sister. “Miss-Thinks-She’s-Such-Haught-Shit will be washing my truck every weekend for a month.”
“Gimme one more chance,” Nicole pleaded after draining the last of her beer. “Double or nothing. I’ll totally beat you this time, now that my good luck charm is here.”
Weaving slightly, Nicole made her way over to Waverly and planted a sloppy kiss on her cheek.
“You know what, though?” Nicole’s face brightened. “We’re gonna need some more peppermint shots first. ‘Cause it’s like —“
“Drinking Christmas. I know, baby,” Waverly finished, sighing.
She slid her arm around her girlfriend’s waist and began to gently guide her away from the pool table. Wynonna’s indignant shouts of protest rose above the noise in the bar, but Waverly pretended not to hear.
“I think you’ve had enough for one night, okay?” Waverly said. “Let’s get you upstairs so you can lie down until my shift is over. And no more doing shots with my sister. You know Wynonna can outdrink anyone. Except maybe Doc.”
They had nearly reached the stairs when a cry of alarm stopped them. From behind the bar, Rosita called out.
“Hey, guys? A little help here?”
Straining under the weight of Nicole’s arm across her shoulders, Waverly turned towards the cry. She gasped at the sight of the smoldering basket of scorched peanuts that sat on the countertop in front of Dolls. The deputy marshal coughed, and puffs of white smoke emerged from between his lips. Jeremy patted his back with one hand while frantically fanning away the smoke with the other.
“Holy shit,” Waverly muttered. “It’s gotta be a full moon tonight, right? Next thing you know, someone’s gonna turn into a werewolf.”
“That would be sooo cool! Awooooooo!”
Nicole howled, giggling as Waverly maneuvered them over to the bar. Biting her tongue to keep her rising temper in check, Waverly deposited her tipsy girlfriend on a stool.
“That’s great, sweetie. Reaallly awesome howling skills. But I need you to sit here and be quiet for a minute, okay? Can you do that for me, please?”
“ ‘Kay, baby. Wha’ever you say,” Nicole replied, nodding agreeably before slumping forward to rest her head on the bar top.
Waverly took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly, composing herself before turning her attention to Rosita. Rosita leaned over the bar towards her until their foreheads were nearly touching, and when she spoke she kept her voice low.
“You have to help me get him out of here,” she said, tilting her head at Dolls.
“What is going on?” Waverly asked, her irritation beginning to show. “First you and Doc are clearly trying to get Dolls super drunk. Then Wynonna’s over there practically pouring shots down Nicole’s throat. Somebody needs to tell me what’s going on. Right now. Or I’m leaving you all here to clean up your own mess for a change!”
With an angry toss of her head, Waverly threw her long braided hair back over her shoulder. She folded her arms and waited for an answer. This whole crazy scheme seemed to have ‘Wynonna’ written all over it, and as she expected, her sister joined them at the bar, clearing her throat sheepishly.
“It was just supposed to be a stupid joke. You don’t need to get so mad,” Wynonna said.
Waverly just glared at her silently, her raised eyebrow directing her sister to continue. Wynonna lifted her eyes towards the ceiling and sighed dramatically.
“Fine. You win. We were just trying to teach Dolls and Nicole a lesson, ya know? They’re both always such goody two shoes,” Wynonna paused, frowning. “Or, since there’s two of them, would that make them more like goody four shoes?”
Waverly tapped her foot impatiently.
“Well…we just thought…me and Doc…” Wynonna slowly tried to explain.
“You thought it would be funny to get them drunk and watch them make fools of themselves. Is that about right?” Waverly finished for her, disapproval dripping from every syllable.
“Uh, guys? I don’t wanna freak anybody out, but I think it’s happening again!” Jeremy warned, interrupting the impending Earp sister fight.
Waverly looked where he was anxiously pointing and saw Dolls bent over at the waist, hiccuping violently. Smoke billowed from his mouth with every hitch of his chest. Finally, he belched loudly and a column of orange flame shot from between his lips, sending the Earp sisters leaping aside to avoid having their shoes barbecued.
A startled murmur ran through the bar, and with a sinking feeling, Waverly realized that more than a few of Shorty’s patrons had witnessed this particular scene. Someone had to contain the story, to think up a plausible explanation, before everyone in Purgatory knew that the Black Badge deputy marshal was a tiny, sexy dragon in disguise.
Usually, it was Dolls’ job to reassure the locals that absolutely nothing weird was going on in their midst. Although, his method inevitably ended with him threatening to charge everyone with treason. Given his current condition though, Waverly realized she wouldn’t be getting any help from him. She eyed Nicole thoughtfully. Her girlfriend’s calm and reasonable demeanor typically worked wonders when it came to soothing anyone’s fears. However, the redheaded sheriff’s deputy was still in a drunken haze, slumped face-down over the bar.
“I guess it’s up to me, then. Great. Just perfect,” Waverly muttered, running a frustrated hand over her hair.
She whirled around and jabbed her index finger into Wynonna’s chest.
“And you are gonna help me fix this!”
Chastened, Wynonna swallowed and nodded. “Okay, baby girl. What do you need me to do?”
Out of the corner of her eye, Waverly caught sight of Doc trying to slink away like a scolded puppy.
“And where do you think you’re going?” She called out, stopping him in his tracks.
“Well, I was merely going downstairs to fetch some more tequila. A good proprietor ensures that his customers never go thirsty,” he explained smoothly, giving her his most charming smile.
Waverly wasn’t amused, and she wasn’t buying it. She marched over to him, grabbed him by the arm and shoved him towards Dolls and Jeremy.
“No way, Doc. You helped make this mess, and you’re gonna help me clean it up,” she told him firmly.
What to do first, she wondered as she eyed the crowd of customers staring at them suspiciously. Deflect and distract. That was the strategy she’d learned from Dolls. Get everyone focused on something else. With that in mind, Waverly plastered on her most apologetic and accommodating smile.
“Nothing to worry about, folks,” she said, raising her voice so everyone in the room could hear her. “One of Jeremy’s magic tricks just got a little out of control.”
“Yeah,” Jeremy agreed nervously. “I’m a terrible wizard.”
Rosita seemed to understand what Waverly was trying to accomplish. Their eyes met, and Shorty’s bartender gave her a sympathetic nod before moving down to the other end of the bar and making an announcement.
“Hey, everybody! The next round of drinks is on the house!”
Doc winced, watching as everyone rushed to surround Rosita, clamoring for their free drink.
“Now, was that absolutely necessary? A good businessman never gives away his wares for free.”
Waverly fixed him with an icy stare. “You know what, Doc? I’m prettty sure a good businessman doesn’t get a dragon drunk and let him burn down his entire bar!”
Doc nodded once. “You may have a point there, Waverly. How can I be of assistance?”
Waverly thought for a moment. Rosita still had her makeshift lab in the basement, along with a supply of the drugs that kept Dolls’ lizard-like tendencies in check. She shook her head. Too risky with this many people around. She needed to get Dolls outside. Preferably before he started breathing fire again.
“Dolls keeps his drugs in his car, right?” Waverly asked her sister.
“Yeah. They’re in a case under the driver’s seat,” Wynonna confirmed.
“Okay,” Waverly exhaled slowly. “Doc, you and Jeremy need to get Dolls outside before he sets this entire place on fire.”
“I think we’d better hurry,” Jeremy urged.
Dolls was beginning to hiccup again. Waverly’s eyes widened.
“I think you’re right,” she agreed. “Go!”
Doc and Jeremy each maneuvered one of Dolls’ arms over their shoulders and began to half-carry, half-drag him towards the back entrance. A few of the less inebriated customers watched them go curiously.
“Apparently the good deputy marshal cannot hold his whiskey,” Doc told them, tipping his hat as he passed them.
“What do you want me to do?” Wynonna asked her sister.
Waverly sighed. “You’re gonna help me with Nicole.”
Joining the dozing redhead at the bar, Waverly shook her gently to wake her.
“Whas’ goin’ on?” Nicole asked, lifting her head sleepily.
“Nothing, baby. Wynonna and I are taking you home now,” Waverly told her.
“Oh. ‘Mmmkay,” Nicole mumbled before letting her head fall forward again, hitting her forearms with a thump.
“Wynonna, how many shots did you let her drink?”
Wynonna shrugged. “I dunno. Five or six, maybe? Oh, and a couple of beer chasers. How was I supposed to know Red was such a lightweight?”
Waverly rubbed at her face with both hands. “You’re lucky I love you both, or you guys would be in so much trouble right now.”
From the corridor leading to the rear entrance, Waverly heard another whoosh of flame and a startled shriek. She winced and hoped that no one had been inadvertently flambéd. Relieved, she heard Jeremy’s voice calling after someone.
“Sorry! One too many jalapeño poppers!”
A blonde woman stumbled into the bar, pale and shaken, but Waverly thought she looked drunk enough that she might not remember this encounter in the morning. Actually, judging by the condition of most of Shorty’s patrons, it was a fair bet that none of them would remember any of this. And for the first time that night, Waverly was thankful for the generous amounts of alcohol being consumed.
“Let’s get out of here,” Waverly said, sliding her arm around Nicole’s waist and carefully guiding her off her barstool. “Rosita? Are you okay here by yourself?”
The bartender waved her off while she deftly mixed a cocktail and slid the glass over to the waiting customer.
“I got this. Go.”
With Wynonna supporting her from the other side, the Earp sisters walked Nicole out the front door. Waverly inhaled deeply, relishing the brisk night air after the crowded, overheated bar. She shivered as the chill raised goosebumps on her arms. She could see Jeremy at the corner, beckoning to them, and she lifted her hand in response.
“Tell you what, baby girl,” Wynonna said as they poured Nicole into the passenger seat of her cruiser. “You take Haughtstuff home and I’ll take care of…you know…the other thing.”
“You mean Dolls?” Waverly asked, raising an eyebrow. Her sister’s relationship with the stoic deputy marshal was…complicated, at best.
“Yeah, whatever. You don’t have to say it out loud,” Wynonna shushed her.
Waverly frowned. “I don’t have her keys, and I don’t think Nicole brought her purse.”
It was Wynonna’s turn to lift an eyebrow and smirk at her sister.
“Which means her keys are probably in her pocket. Did you want me to stick my hand in her pants, or did you want to do the honor? Not like you haven’t been there before, right?”
Waverly blushed but couldn’t hide the embarrassed grin that curved her lips. She stuck her tongue out at her sister, which earned her a playful shove in return.
“Whatever. Never mind. I so don’t want to know,” Wynonna said with a mock shudder.
“Waves? We goin’ somewhere?” Nicole asked groggily, interrupting the banter between the sisters.
Waverly leaned down and kissed her temple, letting her fingers run through the fine hairs at the nape of her girlfriend’s neck. She smiled at the way Nicole’s eyes fluttered closed and she leaned back into the touch.
“You’ve had a rough night, sweetie. Time to take you home and put you to bed,” Waverly told her.
The sleepy, sultry grin that spread across Nicole’s face was unmistakable, and Waverly felt her blush deepen. Behind her, Wynonna coughed and pretended to gag. She straightened and turned to face her sister, both eyebrows raised in a challenge. Wynonna backed away, hands raised in front of her.
“I didn’t say anything,” she protested.
“Uh-huh,” Waverly replied as she fished Nicole’s keys out of the hip pocket of her jeans.
She shut the passenger door and moved around to the driver’s side. Wynonna followed her into the deserted street. Even though it was well after midnight, it seemed everyone in Purgatory was still inside Shorty’s, enjoying the victory celebration. On cue, a noisy whoop went up from inside the saloon.
“Don’t any of these people have homes to go to?” Wynonna asked, hooking her thumb back over her shoulder towards the bar.
Waverly shrugged. “What? They’re happy. For once, nothing’s trying to eat them or bring about the apocalypse. Let them enjoy themselves for one night. Besides, it keeps them out of our way.”
Wynonna grumbled but relented. “True. Although they have no idea how close they came to being deep-fried dragon snacks.”
“And they never need to know, right?”
“I guess not. Now you go do that.”
Wynonna tilted her head towards the sleeping redhead slumped inside the car. She smirked suggestively, and Waverly rolled her eyes at her.
“Grow up, Wynonna!”
“Never. That would be no fun at all,” Wynonna said. “Go on. Take Nicole home. I’ll handle everything else.”
“Oh you’ll ‘handle’ it, huh? Yeah, I bet you will!” Waverly teased.
Wynonna made a face. “Ha Ha. Very mature, Waverly.”
She kissed her sister’s forehead soundly and left, swatting Waverly’s behind before departing. Waverly watched Wynonna walk down the street and turn the corner. Faintly, she heard the sounds of Wynonna and Doc arguing, then an engine roared to life. A moment later, Dolls’ government-issued black SUV sped past with Wynonna at the wheel, extending her arm out the window, middle finger raised in salute.
Waverly shook her head. She waited until they were out of sight before sliding into the driver’s seat of Nicole’s cruiser. It was probably extremely against regulations for her to drive an official sheriff’s department vehicle, she mused. But what other choice was there? She adjusted the seat, scooting forward until her much shorter legs reached the pedals.
Beside her, Nicole stirred but didn’t wake and Waverly used the opportunity to steal a long, lingering look at her girlfriend. She was struck nearly breathless by how beautiful she was, even passed out and drunk. With a fond smile, she reached over and wiped away the thin line of drool trickling from the corner of Nicole’s perfect lips. Her smile grew as Nicole turned her head and kissed the palm of her hand.
“Hey, baby,” Nicole murmured.
“Hey,” Waverly whispered back, tracing Nicole’s full lower lip with her thumb.
She checked to make sure no one was watching before leaning over and kissing the still half-asleep deputy. She pulled back, breaking the kiss and licking her own lips thoughtfully. Nicole tasted like peppermint, vanilla and beer. An odd combination, but not entirely unpleasant. Waverly filed that discovery away for possible future use. For now, she just needed to focus on getting them both home. She started the car and as she waited for it to warm up, she idly wondered how she was going to get the tall redhead up the stairs and into bed.
“Oh well. Looks like you might be sleeping on the couch after all,” she told Nicole, who squinted up at her quizzically.
“You know what, Waves?” Nicole scrunched up her face and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I think m’drunk.”
Waverly sighed and patted Nicole’s thigh. “I know, baby. I know. Let’s go home, okay?”
“‘Kay,” Nicole agreed, sliding down in her seat a bit so she could rest her head against Waverly’s shoulder.
“I love you, Waves,” Nicole said earnestly, pressing a kiss against Waverly’s cheek.
“I love you too, baby,” Waverly replied, smiling at the sweet gesture.
Waverly stole another glance at her girlfriend as she pulled the car away from the curb. Nicole was gazing up at her, devotion shining in her warm brown eyes. And just like it did every time Nicole looked at her like that, Waverly’s heart melted. In spite of all the night’s aggravations, she had to admit that Doc had been right about one thing. Waverly Earp was an extraordinarily lucky woman.