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Too young to be so scared

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Waverly had seen her around school, she’d started at the beginning of the new school year, Waverly knew that much but to say that Waverly had really noticed her would be a lie. She had always seen her in passing, a flash of red hair hurrying past her on the way to class but now, as she stood in the doorway to her English class, Waverly definitely noticed her. She was tall and a little lanky but she carried herself well as she walked towards Mr Jackson’s desk and handed him a small piece of paper. Her brown eyes and soft features scanning the room nervously as their teacher read the note, her eyes landed on Waverly and she offered a smile to the newest girl in school. The first transfer student that Purgatory High had got in two years. The girl smiled back and noticed the empty desk beside her, the only one in the class and when Mr Jackson asked her to take a seat she headed directly for it.

“Everyone, this is Nicole Haught. She’s moved up from Ms Lucado’s class, Waverly can you catch her up?” He asked hopefully, knowing full well that Waverly was his top student. Something she prided herself on. Mr Jackson was a good teacher but he only seemed to invest his time in students who proved they wanted to learn, this Nicole girl had obviously still to prove that and so passing off the task of catching her up to Waverly really had not surprised her. She nodded her head and leaned over to Nicole.

“Hi!” She smiled, brightly and held out her hand. Nicole looked at it for a second and then took it in her own to shake. “I have a study period next, if you’re free I could bring you up to speed then?”

“Uh yeah, sure.” Nicole nodded as she looked out her notebook from her backpack, placing it on the desk in front of her along with a couple pens. “Thanks.”

“Not a problem!” Waverly shrugged casually, she always tried to be friendly and helpful and she knew that if Nicole was just moving up to their class now she had already missed quite a bit so she would probably need the help to make sure she didn’t fall behind. Waverly noticed Nicole do her best to keep up with what was being discussed throughout the rest of the class and smiled when she saw her write a few questions down followed by ‘ask Waverly’ in big letters.

Waverly leaned over to Nicole just before the end of class and said to hang back afterwards so they could decide where to go. The bell went and Waverly noticed Nicole tense ever so slightly at the noise and then even more so when Pete slammed his hands down onto his desk as he got to his feet to leave. Mr Jackson shot him a warning look but Pete didn’t seem to even notice. Waverly eyes fell back to Nicole and she watched as Nicole took a few deeps breaths and the tension in her shoulders seemed to loosen. She wondered what it was about but she didn’t think she knew her well enough to just ask and so she settled on a general check.

“Everything alright?” Waverly placed her hand onto Nicole’s arm and she jumped in her seat before her eyes met Waverly’s and she shook whatever had spooked her from her mind.

“Yeah sorry…I’m just a little jumpy.” She looked down at Waverly’s hand still on her arm and the brunette pulled it back to rest on her own desk. “We could go to the library?” Nicole suggested and Waverly agreed that was a great idea.

Purgatory High didn’t have the best library but it did have a fairly good selection of non-fiction that Waverly had been making her way through since she had finished reading all of the worthwhile fiction it had to offer and it was quiet so they would be able to talk without interruption. Most kids spent their study periods on the field that time of year, enjoying the warm days while they still could so finding an empty spot would be easy enough. They walked down the hallway, Nicole falling into step with Waverly as Waverly listed off all the classes that she took after Nicole had asked. Two boys down the hall were play fighting on their way to class and one of them pushed the other into a locker causing Nicole to inhale sharply at the loud noise it created. Waverly was nothing if not observant and it was painfully obvious that Nicole really did not like loud noises.

Waverly led the way through the library, smiling and waving at Mrs. Gibson behind the desk reading yet another trashy romance novel. Waverly really wished the librarian would take as least one book suggestion from her seriously but it really didn’t look like that would be happening before she graduated. They found a desk near the back and Waverly started to unpack her things onto the table as Nicole sat down across from her. When Waverly looked up at her she could tell Nicole was visibly more relaxed than she had been since the beginning of English.

“Nice and quiet here, huh?” Waverly offered with a shy smile, hoping she wasn’t overstepping when she barely knew the girl. Nicole nodded with a sigh but didn’t return Waverly’s smile.

“I kinda had a rough time at my last school…” Nicole said fiddling with the edge of her notebook. “So I like quiet.” She finished, not adding ‘and don’t like loud noises’ although Waverly felt it.

“Sorry to hear that, Nicole. Kids can be cruel!” Waverly knew all too well just how cruel some kids could be, she had always been popular but her sister had dealt with a hell of a lot of bitching and judgment when she was at school. Wynonna was a tough one though and so she gave as good as she got but Nicole didn’t look like she’d be willing to punch someone at the slightest mention of her being a basketcase. Unlike Wynonna.

“Why I was in Lucado’s class before, my grades were pretty bad by the time I left so they stuck me in there before realising I was capable of more.” Nicole was sharing more than Waverly expected her too, it felt nice that she thought she could talk to Waverly. Even if she wasn’t able to make eye contact as she did so.

“Well Lucado’s a total bitch so be glad you’ve moved up! Mr Jackson is really nice if you pay attention in class, you’ll like him, I’m sure!” Waverly smiled and opened her notebook to the page from her first English class of the year, she had a whole page of notes outlining what they’d be doing that year and she pushed it over to Nicole so she could read it. Nicole copied down the relevant information and closed Waverly’s notebook before sliding it back over the table. Waverly noticed her eyes scan her name on the top of the book with a curious look.

“Earp? I’m sure I’ve heard that name somewhere…” Nicole looked off to her side as if trying to recall some memory.

“Probably just some assholes talking about my older sister, Wynonna. She’s got a bit of a reputation in town.” Waverly shrugged trying to not let Nicole see that that was the understatement of the century, even though Wynonna had been gone for over a year she still somehow managed to be a hot topic of gossip.

“No…I don’t think that’s it!” Nicole was drumming her hand lightly on the table as she continued to think. “Ah!” Her eyes shot wide and she reached down into her bag. She produced a book, obviously borrowed from the very library there were sitting in, it was one that Waverly had read a couple times before. She opened up the front page to where the names of students who had borrowed it were written and pointed to the last name on the list before Nicole’s. W. Earp. “You’re name is in pretty much every book I’ve borrowed since I got here.” Nicole laughed and Waverly couldn’t help but shine at the sound. It was light and musical and the smile on Nicole’s face it accompanied was striking. It was a genuine smile and once Waverly laid eyes on her dimples she couldn’t tear her eyes away. She surmised that all the other smiles she had seen from Nicole since they had properly met had been a little forced because none of them looked like this one.

“Yeah…” Waverly blushed and she wasn’t even entirely sure why, people knew she was a total nerd and didn’t seem to care but something about Nicole’s smile hit her right in the stomach and she suddenly felt nervous. “I read a lot.”

“Me too!” Nicole beamed and Waverly returned it. She liked Nicole, she couldn’t understand why she had had such a rough time at her last school and she wasn’t sure why it almost physically hurt her to think about.

They conversed about their favourite literature for a while, Waverly giving her some suggestions of what to read after she had finished her current book and suggesting she make friends with the librarian. That way she could borrow more than the allotted number students were usually allowed to take out. Waverly wasn’t sure if anyone other than her was actually given that luxury but she was sure she could put a good word in for Nicole with Mrs. Gibson. Nicole asked Waverly the questions she had jotted down in class, Waverly was able to answer most of them easily enough but when it came time for them to go their separate ways to their next class something pulled on Waverly, urging her to spend more time with Nicole.

“Do you want to sit with me at lunch? Well, me and my friends…” Waverly quickly added the last part so as to not come off too eager. Nicole was new, she needed friends, Waverly told herself.

“That would be nice yeah, thanks. Just in the cafeteria?” Nicole asked and Waverly nodded with a smile. They agreed to meet just outside so Nicole wouldn’t have to try and find them in the crowd.

Waverly couldn’t stop thinking about Nicole throughout her next class and how much she couldn’t wait to speak to her again. She couldn’t quite figure out what it is about Nicole that had drawn her in so much…maybe she could but she doesn’t even let the thought linger for more than second before she told herself that it is because Nicole was just easy to talk to. They shared similar interests, similar sense of humour and Nicole had such a beautiful smile when she laughed…a nice smile. She had a nice smile. She hoped that her friends didn’t mind her taking the new girl along with her to lunch but she wasn’t actually sure that she cared if they did.

Luckily enough they did not, Chrissy and Steph introduced themselves and when Xavier joined them with the usual unreadable look on his face he nodded at Nicole.

“Done that homework for Torres?” He asked Nicole and Waverly clicked that they must already know each other. Torres taught…Chemistry and Waverly suddenly realised that after she had listed off her own classes she had never bothered to actually ask Nicole what classes she was taking.

“Yeah, think I screwed most of it up though!” Nicole scrunched up her face and Xavier held out his hand making a grabbing motion, Nicole’s face softened and she reached into her bag and handed him the loose sheet of paper. Nicole moved from her seat next to Waverly and sat beside Xavier as they went over it together. Waverly watched them interact, it was probably not the first time he had helped her considering how at ease they both looked and it made Waverly smile. Xavier was one of the nicest guys she knew but he also had a tendency to come off as a bit of an asshole to people who didn’t really know him, something he didn’t seem to mind in the slightest. It always made her happy when he allowed new people into his little bubble.

Unlike most of Waverly’s friends, that she’d known her entire life, Xavier had moved to Purgatory when they were about half way through elementary school. Even back then he tended to keep to himself mostly but he and Waverly hit it off instantly after realizing they had the exact same Spider-man lunchbox. The pair had been friends ever since, bonding over their mutual love of superheroes as kids and then as they grew up the friendship carried on and he became friendly enough with most people that Waverly spent time with, even if it wouldn’t look like it to an outside observer. Waverly was actually the only one who knew that Xavier planned on signing up for the police academy after high school and it didn’t surprise her for a second, he had the strongest moral compass of anyone she had the pleasure of meeting. He stuck up for the little guy whenever he could, sadly that also meant he tended to get himself into trouble at school for fighting fairly often but he just couldn’t stand by when he saw older kids picking on people half their size.

Before they headed to their next class Waverly asked Nicole for her number, just so they could get in contact with each other if she needed anymore help in English. Not at all because she just really really wanted Nicole to have her number. Waverly held out her phone for Nicole to add it to her contacts and then she sent a quick hello text so Nicole could add her to her own. She was pleasantly surprised when a string of texts came through that evening as she sat on her bed doing homework.

Nicole

-Just wanted to say thanks for today. Not made many friends at school yet and you’re really nice xx

-That makes me sound super lame…

-I’m cool, I swear! xx

Waverly laughed to herself as she thought of how to reply, something teasing but not actively mean was probably her best bet.

Waverly

-And I’m just supposed to take your word on that?

Nicole

-Yes please! : )

Waverly

-Well until you prove me otherwise I guess your word will do…you should join us for lunch again tomorrow

Nicole

-Awesome!

-I’ll leave you to get on with…whatever it was you were doing before I bothered you! xx

Waverly

-Not bothering me at all : ) I like talking to you!

Nicole

-I like talking to you too : )

Waverly felt a wide smile stretch across her face as that feeling in her stomach bubbled up again and she threw herself back onto her pillow. What was happening to her?

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

Nicole had quickly found herself knitted into Waverly’s group of friends at school, still a little on the outside since she didn’t get most of their inside jokes or know who they were talking about half the time but she felt as if she was getting somewhere. Waverly was popular, surprisingly so Nicole thought, for someone who spent most of their time studying. It wasn’t until one lunch time when Chrissy was complaining that cheer practice just wasn’t the same without Waverly anymore that it made a little more sense. Of course Waverly had been a cheerleader and of course she had decided that in her final year at school she should focus on her studies more because Nicole could tell that Waverly was going places. She was kind, incredibly intelligent, funny, compassionate and open minded.

It was all of these qualities that had made Nicole trust Waverly but putting her trust in someone had got her into trouble before. She wanted to be honest with Waverly, she wanted her to know the real Nicole but her mothers words kept swirling in her head. What if when Nicole decided to reveal that she was gay, Waverly didn’t want to be her friend anymore or worse tell everyone. She couldn’t go through all of that, not again. Her mother had moved them far away so that she wouldn’t have to deal with that again. She knew her mother just wanted what was best for her but asking her not to come out until she was done with high school and at university just felt wrong, like she was pretending to be someone she knew she wasn’t. Her mother assured her people would be more accepting at university but Nicole was sure that Waverly was accepting…she had to be.

The words had been on the tip of her tongue every time they had been alone together at school for the past week and she had finally plucked up the nerve to do it. Just get it out in the open and hope for the best because she wanted to know Waverly and Waverly know her, the real her in return. They were almost out the door, Chrissy and Steph at cheer practice and Xavier in detention because he pushed some kid, who was bullying a younger student, into a locker. Nicole had winced at the sound it made and Waverly gently held onto her arm until she had calmed down. Nicole had never told Waverly outright how badly she hated loud noises and yelling and the sounds of fists hitting flesh but she could obviously tell and she was always ready to help calm her when the flicker of a panic attack started. She had been thinking of someway to thank her and she hoped that letting her in, letting her know why exactly she was such a mess half the time would be a start.

“Waverly, can I tell you something?”

“Hmm?” Waverly had been reading a message on her phone but looked up at Nicole and smiled. “Oh, yeah. Of course!”

“Babygirl!!” A voice shrieked from the parking lot and Nicole closed her eyes for a brief second before Waverly’s hand found her forearm but it was gone almost as soon as it had come and Waverly was running towards the source of the noise.

“Wynonna!!” Waverly jumped into the girls arms and it took a second for Nicole’s momentarily jarred brain to process the information. Wynonna. Waverly’s sister. Been gone for a year. She must be back for a visit. “I just got your message!” Nicole had found herself walking towards the pair who were still hugging enthusiastically, not wanting to interrupt, she hung back a bit until they had released each other from the embrace.

“Sup, Red!” Wynonna nodded to Nicole but she looked behind her to double check that it was actually directed at her. It was. “You this new friend Waves here can’t shut up about?”

“Wynonna, shut up!” Waverly spoke through gritted teeth and then smiled at Nicole, she looked nervous and Nicole couldn’t understand why. “Nicole, this is my sister Wynonna. Wynonna this is Nicole.”

“Nice to meet you!” Nicole smiled, trying to politely ignore the blush that was still showing a little on Waverly’s cheeks. “You just back to visit?”

“Yeah, for a while. Ran out of cash!” Wynonna shrugged and Nicole smiled at the way Waverly rolled her eyes, clearly this was not a new thing for Wynonna to do. “Sorry I missed your birthday the other week, babygirl.”

“It’s alright, least you called this year!” Waverly playfully slapped her sisters arm.

“It was your birthday?” Nicole instantly felt bad, she hadn’t even known about it.

“Yeah, it’s no big deal. I don’t really celebrate it.” Waverly waved her hand at Nicole, obviously sensing how bad she felt about not knowing. It hadn’t seemed like anyone had known about it, no one had mentioned it during the lunches they all spent together. Nicole figured it could have been on a weekend but surely at least one person would have wished her a happy birthday if it was coming up and they wouldn’t see her on the day unless she really didn’t celebrate it.

“Well, normally I’m all for that but eighteen is a big one!” Wynonna hugged Waverly again and placed a sloppy kiss to her cheek as Waverly tried to wriggle free. “Want to meet us at Shorty’s later, Red? Post birthday celebrations!”

“Oh thanks but you guys should catch up!” Nicole didn’t want to impose when Waverly hadn’t seen her sister in so long but Waverly pouted and bounced over to her.

“Come on! We only ever hang out at school!” Waverly took her hand and started playing with her fingers as her eyes pleaded with Nicole to say yes. How could she not when a pretty girl was practically begging her to and she really did feel bad for not knowing about her birthday.

“Ok, ok! What time should I see you guys there?” Nicole acted like it was a hard decision to make but it really wasn’t. Waverly grinned and told her to meet them there around seven. Wynonna reached behind her and picked up a spare helmet before chucking it at Waverly as she turned away from Nicole, Nicole had only just noticed the bike that was propped up behind Wynonna. Waverly put the helmet on as Wynonna pulled on hers and they both hopped up onto the bike.

“See you later, Red!” Wynonna’s voice came out a little muffled through the helmet.

“Her name is Nicole!” Waverly scolded Wynonna as she started the engine and drove away. Nicole gulped. Waverly on the back of a motorcycle was not a sight she was prepared for. And she hadn’t managed to speak to Waverly. Again.

She groaned as she made her way through the car park and out onto the street. She knew she wouldn’t get a chance to speak to her tonight at Shorty’s, she had only walked past the diner once before but she knew that it was a popular hang out spot for the high schoolers. There were a couple pool tables, a few classic arcade games and apparently the food was pretty good too.

Nicole asked her mom as soon as she got home if she could go hang out at Shorty’s that evening, she gave Nicole some money to spend while she was out. Nicole could tell her mom was glad that she was making friends and asked her all about Waverly as they ate dinner together. It was nice to talk about Waverly to someone else, Nicole knew herself just how much the friendship was helping her feel better about being in a new town but speaking it aloud made it feel all the more real.

“You should invite her round for dinner sometime, I’m not working until Friday this week.” Nicole’s mom suggested and Nicole instantly knew it was something she wanted. Waverly in her house, in her space and getting to know her away from school.

“Yeah, I’ll ask her tonight if she’d like to come. Maybe tomorrow?” Nicole knew it was soon but now that the idea had settled into her head she couldn’t wait to have it become reality. Her mom said that would be fine and she had to control the smile that desperately tried to cover her entire face.

Nicole got ready to head to Shorty’s after dinner, not really sure what she wanted to wear she changed multiple times and stared at herself in the mirror when she finally settled on a blue flannel over an old spider-man t-shirt and the same jeans she had worn to school. It was casual but she hoped she looked at least a little cool. She wanted Wynonna to like her and Wynonna seemed unfairly cool.

Shorty’s was fairly busy when Nicole had arrived but Wynonna had already commandeered the pool table in the corner, her leg stretched out onto it from the bar stool she was sat on. Eyes warding off anyone who even attempted to think about playing a game. Nicole walked over to where the sisters were sharing a plate of fries. After offering to get them each something to drink and heading back over balancing the tray with three cokes on her hand, Wynonna jumped up from her stool and thrust a cue into her hand.

“Waverly is refusing to play with me!” Wynonna groaned picking up the coke and dumping a healthy amount of whiskey inside, really not trying to hide what she was doing at all. Apparently it wasn’t that hard to get Wynonna to like you, buy her a drink that she could pour her own whiskey into from the flask in her jacket and you were in. “You any good?”

“I’m alright…” Nicole shrugged, she could hold her own at pool she knew that much but she hadn’t exactly had much time to get good at it. Wynonna had already set up the table and they flipped a coin to see who would break, Nicole won the toss and their game began.

Wynonna was better than Nicole by a long shot but Nicole thought she was holding back a little even when she potted the eight-ball while Nicole still had four of her own still on the table. Nicole sighed in defeat and Wynonna slid along the floor to bounce her hip off of Nicole’s but with Nicole being that much taller than her it ended up hitting her thigh.

“Jeez, how old are you anyway Red?” Wynonna stood next to her using her hand to gauge the difference in height between them. “Like twenty-five?”

“I’m eighteen!” Nicole laughed and playfully pushed Wynonna away from her. “My mum is even taller than I am, she doesn’t think I’ve stopped growing yet but I really hope I have!” Nicole remembered about asking Waverly for dinner the next night, she turned around to ask her but she had disappeared over to the counter and was speaking to the older man behind it.

“Well you don’t want to get much taller, most girls don’t like dating someone who’s like four times their height!” Wynonna cackled and Nicole’s eyes went wide, how had she known? Wynonna watched her curiously and then turned her mouth into an ‘o’. “Shit, didn’t mean to assume I just, y’know?” Wynonna tracked her hand up and down Nicole, she looked down at herself and sighed. It was a pretty gay outfit.

“No…you’re right. I just…I haven’t had a chance to tell Waverly yet so maybe don’t say anything to her until I have?” Nicole looked back over to where Waverly had been standing but she was now on her way back over with a tray of milkshakes.

“My lips are sealed!” Wynonna grabbed her shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. “She’s not gonna care, if you’re worried about that!”

“No..I know, it’s just I don’t want things to change. She’s like my only real friend here.” Nicole lowered her voice, very aware that Waverly was getting closer. She was friendly with a few other people at school but she only wanted to spend real time with Waverly. Xavier was fine too but he seemed to have the whole lone wolf thing going on half the time and Nicole sometimes felt like she was bothering him with her friendship.

“Well you got me now too, Red! You’re pretty cool.” Wynonna winked at her and she felt any lingering stress over Wynonna not liking her dissipate. She knew from what little Waverly had said about her sister that Wynonna didn’t like a lot of people in Purgatory, they liked to talk about her but Nicole didn’t really know why. Waverly had yet to share that information and she wouldn’t push her to. Maybe having someone who didn’t really know much about her was exactly what Wynonna needed in a friend, Nicole was more than happy to be that friend. Waverly set the milkshakes down on the table and asked what they were talking about.

“My mom wanted me to invite you over for dinner some time, maybe tomorrow?” Nicole managed to say quick enough that she hoped it didn’t show the initial panic at coming up with something other than the truth. “Wynonna you’d be welcome too, if you want to come?”

“We’re in!” Waverly answered for the both of them and Nicole was thrilled. “Get to meet Mrs. Haught, how exciting!” As if on cue Wynonna started with the Haught puns, Nicole liked it better when she just called her Red.

Wynonna was on Haught pun number five, if Nicole was keeping count correctly when a guy she reognised from school sauntered over to their table and leaned in the space between Nicole and Waverly. He had his back to Nicole as if she didn’t exist and he hadn’t just been extremely rude by jumping in the middle of her conversation with Waverly.

“Doing anything Friday, Waverly?” Champ, Nicole remembered he was called, asked Waverly in a confident tone that Nicole assumed probably did get him a lot of positive results. She put her annoyance at the situation unfolding before her down to his rude gesture of ignoring her very existence at the table.

“No, Champ and for the last time I will not go out with you…can we be done with this now? It didn’t work every other time, why do you think it’d work now?” Nicole could hear the frustration pouring out of Waverly’s words and she was actually proud of her for being so direct. Far too many girls, in Nicole’s opinion, tried to let obviously persistent guys like Champ down easy. Champed scoffed and turned his head to Wynonna, Nicole now able to see the sleazy smile fixed on his face.

“Wynonna?” He winked and Wynonna instantly gagged, Nicole had to cover her mouth to stop the laugh from escaping.

“First of all. Gross. You’re in high school. Second, you hit on my sister in front of me and then me? I am a first choice or get lost kinda gal.” Wynonna flicked her fingers in his direction ushering him to do exactly that, get lost. Nicole smiled at her as she took the final sip of her milkshake and Champ stomped away. “That boy is a grade A douche.” Waverly hummed in agreement and Nicole just smiled.

“I’m gonna grab a water, Wynonna, Waves you want anything?” Nicole looked at them both and a strange smile appeared on Waverly’s face. “What?”

“You called me ‘Waves’!” She beamed and Nicole hadn’t even realised she had, she knew she liked the way it sounded when Wynonna used it but she hadn’t actually planned to use it herself. It seemed like their thing, she hadn’t heard people at school call her anything other than Waverly. Nicole’s eyes darted away from hers, a little embarrassed. “It’s ok, I like the way you say it but no I’m alright, thank you!” Nicole looked at Wynonna who was staring at the pair across from her and only shook her head when she realised Nicole was waiting for an answer.

Nicole groaned internally as she saw that Champ was currently sitting at the counter exactly beside where she needed to order. She didn’t like him one bit and she had only just had the briefest of encounters with him. Her opinion of him dropped even lower when she overheard the conversation he was having with the guy sitting next to him.

“That Waverly’s a real frigid bitch…and Wynonna god she’s hot, can you imagine how crazy she would be in bed.” This earned a laugh from the other guy, Nicole cleared her throat to alert them to her presence and to maybe stop them being total assholes. He turned his head, grunted and continued in the same vain. Going on about it being a shame that Wynonna is such a nutcase until his friend got up to use the bathroom.

“You should really watch your mouth.” Nicole said through gritted teeth and instantly didn’t know why she didn’t keep her thoughts to herself, she didn’t want Champ to argue back or hit her or worse and her heart rate started to rise. Champ turned in his stool and squared her with a look that told her he had no intention of letting what she said slide.

“What are you going to do about it, huh?” He got right up in her face but she had had enough of being intimidated for a lifetime and her fist connected with his face before she even realised what she’d done. He fell backwards off the stool and onto the floor clutching his nose. Blood was already pouring out of it into his hand as he began trying to get himself up off the floor. Everyone in the diner was watching her, or at least it felt like it. Nicole took a step back, fully realising what she had just done. She didn’t feel like any air she was breathing in was actually making it to her lungs. She took another step backwards and her back came up against Wynonna standing behind her followed quickly by Waverly asking what the hell had just happened.

The man from behind the counter made his way round, picking Champ up off the floor and walking him out the door. Nicole noted how he didn’t even ask if he was alright, maybe nobody liked Champ? Waverly was stood in front of her when her wide eyes left the doorway and the man walking back in their direction.

“Let me see your hand!” Waverly lifted Nicole’s hand that was still clenched into a fist and gently pried her fingers away from her palm, looking it over for any sign of damage. It stung but Nicole was sure she hadn’t broken anything, she was pretty good at making a fist. Nicole saw the man come and stand directly behind Waverly with a hand on her shoulder, Waverly turned and gave him a shy smile. “Sorry, Shorty…”

“Hey, if she didn’t punch him I was gonna! Don’t worry about it kid!” He nodded to Nicole who was a little shocked, she had just punched someone in his establishment without a second thought to how it would look to other customers and he didn’t even mind. He clearly really did not like Champ…or maybe he just really liked the Earp girls.

“I freakin’ love you Haughtshit!” Wynonna wrapped her arms around Nicole’s neck and kissed her cheek. “That is by far the best thing I’ve seen all year!” Nicole tried not to laugh at that but it came out anyway, Waverly did not look too happy though.

“You shouldn’t have done that Nicole, what if he makes things difficult for you…” Waverly tightened her grip on Nicole’s hand, the extra pressure hurt a little but she didn’t mind at that moment because Waverly was right. Champ could threaten her or get her back another time when she didn’t have a diner full of people watching what he might do. Her breathing spiked and Waverly ran a hand up her arm to Nicole’s shoulder, squeezing gently until Nicole’s lungs felt like they were getting the oxygen they needed.

“Come on, Waves. As if Chump is gonna let on he got his nose busted by a girl !” Wynonna laughed and Nicole really hoped she was right, she didn’t want to have that to worry about again. It felt so good to hit him though and shut him up. She had never hit someone when it wasn’t in self defense before, she had really hoped she would never have to hit anyone again.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Waverly wasn’t sure what she was expecting Nicole’s mom to be like but she definitely did not expect her to be so young. She must have had Nicole before she turned eighteen…or the Haught’s just had exceptional genes. Both of which were probably true in Waverly’s opinion.

Wynonna was on her best behaviour thank god because Waverly had begged her and it was much like any other situation that she had met a friend’s parents for the first time, lots of questions about what you wanted to do when you left school. Susan Haught not being from Purgatory though, she also wanted to know more about the town and Waverly being a bit of a local history nerd managed to impress her with little facts all throughout dinner. At one point she did see Wynonna roll her eyes as she laid out another tidbit for Susan and was pleasantly surprised when Nicole gently kicked Wynonna’s leg under the table to get her to stop before Waverly had the chance to.

Susan went to sort dessert in the kitchen, leaving the three girls alone in the dining room of what was actually a really beautiful house. Waverly had passed it before, she couldn’t remember who had lived in it previously but she had always thought it looked nice.

“You’re mom is super cool, Nicole!” Waverly grinned over at her from across the table and Nicole nodded but didn’t seem particularly pleased with Waverly’s assessment.

“Yeah, she’s alright when she’s not getting me to pretend to be someone I’m not.” Nicole muttered, low but Waverly caught it. She didn’t know what to make of the comment and before she could ask Nicole to elaborate, Susan was carrying four bowls and a tub of ice cream into the room.

In true Wynonna fashion, she left almost as soon as the meal was over not wanting to hang around for post-dinner social niceties. At least she actually thanked Susan and Nicole for having her over before she almost ran out the door. Waverly really appreciated that Nicole was getting on so well with her sister, neither of them had many friends in town and both of them deserved more.

Nicole’s asked if Waverly wanted to watch a movie and she didn’t feel like leaving so she gladly followed Nicole up the stairs to her room. Her bedroom was immaculate and Waverly wondered if she had made sure it was before she came round or if it was actually always like that. She could picture Nicole being an incredibly organised person but she could also picture her rushing around making the place look presentable simply because she had guests coming round. Nicole let Waverly look around the room, read over the titles of the books on her bookcase and checked out her DVD collection before she suggested they watch Young Frankenstein.

“It’s in black and white but it’s one of my favourites. It’s really funny!” Nicole joined Waverly beside her DVDs which were organised alphabetically. Incredibly organised, Waverly decided. She pulled the case from the shelf and held it out for Waverly to look at. Waverly had never seen it but if it was one of Nicole’s favourites she was sure she’d enjoy it.

They settled onto Nicole’s bed, a single and Waverly remembered why she was so happy when Gus decided she could get a double bed after her old frame had finally provided its last night of comfort. There just simply wasn’t enough room to get really comfy unless they were to lie cuddled into each other and Waverly was definitely definitely not thinking about that. She was enjoying the movie but what Nicole had said when her mom was out the room earlier had been bugging her and she had to find out if everything was ok.

“Nicole…what did you mean earlier about your mom making you pretend to be someone you’re not?” Nicole stiffened beside her and she worried she had overstepped. She started scratching the back of her hand too forcefully, the same way she did when she needed to walk through the halls at school, with all the noises and people around her making her uneasy. Waverly reached over and pulled her nails away from her skin. “You don’t have to explain if you don’t want to, I just wanted to check that you’re alright.”

“I want to…I’ve been meaning to for a while actually but I just don’t want things to be different between us.” Nicole's hand tried to move back to scratch but Waverly kept a firm grip on it. Nicole sighed. “I like girls…I’m gay. That’s why I got bullied at my old school. Someone found out about me and my…this girl. My mom wants me to keep it quiet til I go to University, she’s worried it’ll just start all over again.” Nicole little speech came out so fast that Waverly wasn’t entirely sure she had caught it all.

“Oh.” Waverly’s hands loosened around Nicole’s as she felt a flutter in her stomach that she couldn’t quite identify. Had she eaten something weird that day?

“Yeah…I wanted to tell you before but then I kept thinking ‘what if she doesn’t want to be my friend anymore’ and I kept losing my nerve. It was silly ‘cause I know you’re really cool and you’d totally be ok with it…you are ok with it right?” Nicole asked and if it was possible, looked even more nervous than before she had started talking.

“Of course I am, Nicole!” Waverly said confidently. “It was bad? The bullying? Well obviously it was bad but…”

“I got beaten up a lot and I used to get threats online from kids at school, someone even managed to find my private tumblr and told everyone about it…just so much shit I can’t even talk about yet.” Nicole eyes were glassing over and Waverly grew concerned that she would burst into tears any second. “It was so horrible, Waverly.” Waverly wrapped her arm around Nicole’s slumped shoulders and pulled her into a hug. Nicole’s tears came hard and fast as soon as her head hit Waverly’s neck.

“Hey, it’s ok. I’m not going to tell anyone you don’t want to know. That’s never going to happen to you ever again, ok?” Waverly rubbed small circles onto Nicole’s back as she let her cry it out. She couldn’t imagine how bad it must have been for Nicole to have to move. She felt overwhelming hatred for the people who had made Nicole feel like that for something she couldn’t control. “What about your girlfriend? Was she at your school as well?”

“Yeah…but she he wasn’t my girlfriend.” Nicole laughed but Waverly thought it sounded fake and when she raised her head to look at Waverly their was no sign that it had been real. “I thought she was but after everyone found out she said she wasn’t like me…that she was just doing what I had asked her to. God, I probably would have done the same if I had any idea how bad it was going to get. It just made it worse, people didn’t just know I was gay, they thought I had forced her into it…made her do things she didn’t want to do!” Nicole closed her eyes, the memories obviously a painful thing to relive and Waverly took hold of one of her hands again and squeezed it softly.

“I’m really sorry that happened to you, Nicole. She didn’t deserve you…” Waverly hated that someone Nicole trusted had done something so horrible even if it was out of fear. There was no way that what she had done didn’t make things worse for Nicole. “You can trust me, always!”

“Thank you.” Nicole sniffed and wiped the final tears away from her face, Waverly thought she looked a little relieved to have told Waverly. “Every cloud has a silver lining though, right?”

“What do you mean?” Waverly questioned, gently rubbing her thumb over the hand that she was still holding.

“Well if none of that ever happened, I wouldn’t have met you!” Nicole said with a smile and Waverly could not explain the sheer warmth that it sent through her.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Waverly returned Nicole’s smile and her eyes returned to the movie that had been continuing on the screen as they talked. She’d lost track of what was actually going on but it was nice just sitting with Nicole. She was glad that Nicole felt she could trust her with something so personal and Waverly was not going to betray that trust. She hadn’t noticed that she was still holding onto Nicole’s hand until Nicole shifted to sit more comfortably. She let it go but instantly missed the comfort she hadn’t realised it had been providing. She thought about taking it back but Nicole had moved to clasp both of her hands on her lap.

When it really was time for Waverly to head home, even if she didn’t actually want to, Nicole walked her out. She said goodbye to Susan, she wasn’t sure how to feel about her now but Nicole hadn’t seemed angry at her mom’s insistence of keeping her sexuality quiet, more…frustrated. Waverly thought about how it would be impossible for Nicole to meet a nice girl if no one actually knew that she liked girls. She hadn’t put much thought into girls at her school being anything other than straight but now that she was, her stomach twisted at the idea of Nicole finding a girlfriend in Purgatory.

She was positive she had to have eaten something weird that day.

“Something wrong?” Nicole asked Waverly as she stood on the front step, Nicole leaning on the door frame looking at her curiously. Waverly realised her brow was furrowed thanks to the thoughts running through her mind and she loosened it as best she could.

“No…just tired, I guess. See you tomorrow, Nicole!” Waverly turned on her heel and sped down the driveway onto the path. She chanced a look over her shoulder but Nicole had already gone back inside. She couldn’t figure out why that bothered her.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Nicole felt so much better after telling Waverly, lighter, just having her know who she really is was better than hiding from everyone at school. She wondered if she should have mentioned that Wynonna already figured it out but when there wasn’t a chance to bring it up naturally that night in her room, she reasoned that it would come around eventually. That brought the grand total of people who really knew who she was in Purgatory to three, Wynonna, Waverly and her mom. She really hoped that if that circle got any bigger it would be alright.

The Earp sisters had quickly become her favourite people in town and she was so glad when they felt that Nicole was worth hanging out with more and more. They had almost become inseparable, Nicole and Waverly meeting up with Wynonna after school and going to Shorty’s or watching movies and playing video games at Nicole’s place. Well, Wynonna and Nicole played while Waverly half-paid attention to whatever game they were playing that day and if Nicole’s mom was around would talk to her. Waverly liked hearing about her job as a nurse and apparently Waverly had a pretty substantial knowledge of medicine that Nicole imagined she had picked up from one of the thousands of books she seemed to have read. Waverly always suggested to hang out at Nicole’s place though, never her own house which Nicole found a little odd. She wanted to ask Waverly about that but figured it was best not to push her, if she wanted to tell Nicole why that was, she would have.

So it did surprise her when one day, as they were making their way out of school, Waverly asked if she’d like to come round to dinner. Nicole immediately said yes and then tried to play it cool but by the massive grin on Waverly’s face she was pleased with Nicole’s eagerness. That is how she found herself sitting on the couch in the Mcready’s house, trying to not so obviously look at all the pictures of young Waverly and Wynonna on the mantel. Waverly or Wynonna had never mentioned that they didn’t live with their parents and suddenly it made more sense that Nicole hadn’t been invited over before. If Nicole hadn’t been so polite she would have asked why as soon as she got there and was introduced to their aunt Gus. But again, she knew that if either of them wanted to explain they would.

Her and Wynonna were alone in the living room as Gus and Waverly prepared dinner together, Nicole was enjoying hearing the musical notes of Waverly’s laugh travelling through the house while Wynonna was incessantly flicking through the channels trying to find something she wanted to watch. This was the first time that her and Wynonna had been alone for any length of time since the day they first met and so she wanted to tell her that Waverly knew about her now too.

“I finally told Waverly by the way…I don’t know if she mentioned.” Although Nicole didn’t like having doubts about her ability to trust Waverly, she unfortunately just had doubts about trusting anyone.

“Huh?” Wynonna’s eyes left the television and focused in on Nicole, clearly not understanding what she had meant. Nicole didn’t elaborate though, she just waited for the pieces to fall into place in Wynonna’s head. “Oh right! No, she didn’t say anything.” Wynonna shrugged and went back to channel hopping. The tightness in Nicole’s chest loosened and she sighed with relief. Waverly seemed to tell Wynonna everything so knowing that she hadn’t said anything to her meant a lot.

“She was fine with it, just like you said. Think that helped me tell her…so thanks!” Nicole smiled to herself and Wynonna just nodded her head in acceptance of her gratitude. One thing she had learned about Wynonna the past few weeks was that she did not take compliments well but that wouldn’t stop Nicole from dishing them out to her when they were due.

The front door opened and she heard someone whistling as they came down the hallway towards the living room. Nicole followed Wynonna’s eyes as they moved to the doorway and saw who she presumed to be their uncle standing there.

“Hi.” Nicole smiled and stood up from the couch, the way her mother had raised her to whenever she was meeting someone new.

“Hello!” He smiled at Nicole and then to Wynonna who was apparently not going to introduce Nicole. He cleared his throat and Wynonna rolled her eyes.

“Curtis, Red. Red, Curtis.” She waved her hand between them and Nicole’s smile grew, she really liked it when Wynonna called her Red. She’d never had a nickname that wasn’t actively mean or had something to do with her last name.

“Nicole.” She leaned over the back of the couch and held her hand out to Curtis who shook it firmly with a smile. “Waverly invited me over for dinner, I hope that’s alright?”

“The more the merrier! Nice to meet you Nicole.” His smile was warm and his eyes caring, he seemed like he genuinely meant it. “How was your day Wynonna?”

“Same old, got turned down for three jobs today!” Wynonna pumped her fist in the air. “Apparently being able to finish a bottle of whiskey in one sitting isn’t classed as a special skill! Who knew?!”

“Everyone, Wynonna! Literally everyone.” Waverly appeared behind Curtis and hugged him as she looked up at him with pure affection. He returned the hug with a wide smile and kissed the top of her head.

“Well Shorty told me he’s hiring, I’m sure you’d be welcome back there!” Curtis suggested and Nicole finally made sense of Shorty’s affection for the Earp girls.

“Not a chance. I will not shit where I eat ever again!” Wynonna laughed and Nicole watched as Curtis narrowed his gaze on her before she apologised for her language, accenting it with a roll of her eyes.

“He is? Maybe I should apply…” Waverly spoke to Curtis who just smiled and nodded encouragingly. “Oh, dinner is ready!” Waverly clapped her hands together as if she had suddenly remembered why she had come through to the living room in the first place and everyone headed through to the kitchen to eat. Waverly hung back as Wynonna and Curtis passed her by, looking straight at Nicole with a look she couldn’t quite decipher.

“Hey.” Nicole bumped Waverly with her shoulder which earned her a giggle before Waverly returned the gesture. “I like them. Your aunt and uncle.”

“Yeah?” Waverly beamed and the look from before disappeared. “Good, I think they’ll like you too!” Waverly slung her arm through Nicole’s and walked them through the house.

Dinner at the Mcready’s was decidedly different from at her own, Wynonna had been pretty well behaved when she had met Nicole’s mom, something she had been very thankful for because if Wynonna had acted how she normally did maybe her mom wouldn’t have been so keen on Nicole spending time with her. Seeing her in her element here though, Nicole thoroughly enjoyed. She always had a snappy retort for whatever Gus said as they ate, Nicole could tell that while Gus acted like she didn’t appreciate them, the look in her eye said otherwise. It must have been very quiet in the house while she was gone and both her and Curtis seemed pleased that she had finally come home. Even if it wasn’t going to be permanent. Whatever circumstances had led Wynonna and Waverly to end up living here, Nicole was glad they were well looked after here by people who seemed to care about them both a lot.

In the back garden of the house there was a small fire pit and Waverly enthusiastically suggested they light it after dinner. Soon it would be too cold to spend the evening outside and Waverly wanted to have one last night out there. Even though she was the one who brought it up, Waverly sat down next to Nicole on the porch as they watched Wynonna and Curtis set up the kindling and start the fire down the bottom of the garden. Gus finished up the dishes in the kitchen, by hand because apparently having a dishwasher was cheating. Something Nicole’s mom definitely would not agree with her on. Waverly looked content just watching her sister and uncle bicker about the right way to build a fire and Nicole really didn’t want to bring her down but her curiosity was getting the better of her.

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to but how come you live here and not with your parents?” Nicole didn’t hold Waverly’s gaze but checked quickly to see that she hadn’t totally ruined a really nice evening. Waverly didn’t look like the question had upset her so that was a start but she did let out long breath, buzzing her lips as she did so.

“It’s a long story but basically my mom left when I was really young. Like three or four, I don’t remember her really. My dad was a bit of a…well he was a raging alcoholic. A few years after she left Gus offered to take us in and he took her up on the offer pretty quick. Don’t think he ever really wanted to be a dad y’know?” Waverly’s shoulders slumped and Nicole put a comforting hand on her knee, she nodded her head and offered a small smile. “He passed away when I was thirteen. I guess I should miss him but I never really knew him so it’s hard. I think about my mom a lot though but no one knows where she is. She’s never told me but I think that’s why Wynonna travels about all the time, just hoping that one day she’ll bump into her…as weird as that sounds considering I don’t think either of us would even recognize her if she walked through the door tomorrow!”

“It’s not weird. My dad left before I was born and I think about what it would be like to just run into him all the time. My parents were really young when my mom got pregnant.” Nicole shrugs and Waverly’s expression softened, Nicole hadn’t told Waverly about her dad before. She had probably figured out by how young her mom was now just how young she was when she had Nicole and she probably just assumed that her parents were divorced or something. “Sometimes I think I should hate him for leaving, for never getting to know me but my mom always said he wasn’t ready to be a father. Better he leave and be happy than stay and be miserable!” Nicole knew it took her mom a long time to come to that conclusion but Nicole was sure it was the best way to live her life. If she longed for someone who never wanted her it would only hurt more. That didn’t mean she didn’t think about him though, what he was like, what job he had, if he had ever got married or had more kids. She could have half-siblings she didn’t even know about and that always made her feel a little weird.

“Ah hah!” Wynonna’s shout broke Nicole out of her thoughts, she hadn’t realised she’d been staring into Waverly’s eyes since she stopped talking and Waverly cleared her throat as she got to her feet. Nicole’s eyes found the cause of Wynonna’s celebration, she had managed to get the fire going. She had clearly ended up using some lighter fluid judging by the container she was trying hard to hide from Curtis.

Gus joined them once the fire was fully roaring and Curtis was adamant that they should tell ghost stories just like they’d done when Wynonna and Waverly were kids. Every time he started a story though, one of the sisters would interrupt him and reveal the end of the story. Reminding him that he had told that one a million times and that maybe it was scary when they were kids but it wouldn’t work on them now. Curtis just laughed every time and commented that maybe he was getting to old to scare them. Nicole felt so comfortable there, surrounded by Waverly’s family, laughing along with Curtis. She was so glad that she had got to know her and now the rest of them too.

Nicole was sure she could feel Waverly’s eyes on her as she listened to Gus telling a story about the first time they all went camping together. Waverly had been totally against the idea until night had fallen and they had looked up at the sky displaying clear constellations, free of any light pollution. Nicole turned her head to look at her but Waverly’s eyes quickly moved to the fire and Nicole was positive she saw traces of a blush on her cheeks. Maybe it was just the heat from the fire…

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Waverly was feeling things for Nicole. If she was honest, she had been for weeks and probably before Nicole had even told her that she was interested in girls but that had definitely cemented what Waverly was feeling. It was confusing and a little scary because she was sure she had never felt that way about a girl before. Every moment she spent in Nicole’s company was making it clearer that this wasn’t just some crush but she had absolutely no idea what to do about it.

Purgatory was having it’s annual harvest festival at the weekend and normally it was something you’d go to together if you were a couple or in a big group of friends if you were single and Waverly wanted so badly to invite Nicole. Just the two of them, Nicole probably wouldn’t know that it was usually a thing couples did right? She decided to bite the bullet after school one afternoon when they were alone walking home, it didn’t have to mean anything. Even if Waverly really wanted it to. They could go as friends and meet up with Chrissy, Steph and whoever else was going once they’d spent some time there. Alone.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen the posters but there’s this festival thing at the weekend!” Waverly said, trying to keep her tone lighthearted and breezy even though she felt like her heart was about to burst right out of her chest. “There’ll be rides, games and food and fireworks! Oh shit…” Waverly sighed, she knew this wasn’t going to work.

“What?” Nicole stared at her as they turned onto Nicole’s street.

“Fireworks…probably not a great idea for someone who doesn’t like loud noises.” Waverly sagged her shoulders, she had been so nervous just to ask Nicole that she hadn’t even thought about the fireworks being an issue. “Never mind…we could do something else?” Waverly noticed Nicole look away from her with a smile, Waverly really liked that smile.

“I can handle fireworks, as long as I know when they are coming I’m sure I’ll be fine.” Nicole looked back to Waverly who was grinning like an idiot, she couldn’t help it. They were just coming up on Nicole’s house and she bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself from saying the words she desperately wanted to say.

“Awesome. Well we’ll work out the details, bye!” Waverly offered a quick wave as she walked quickly shaking her head, continuing the journey home instead of saying the words itching to get out. It’s a date. She dared not look back at Nicole who she was sure noticed how awkward she was being. Normally they would hang out for a bit at Nicole’s before Waverly headed home but she wasn’t risking it on a day when all she could think of was asking Nicole on a date.

Waverly hadn’t dated much, she went out with Perry Croft for about six months the previous year but he was older and moved away for school. He wanted to keep seeing her, he wanted a lot of things from her but she wasn’t ready for that yet. She also wasn’t ready to be in a long distance relationship with someone who was about to meet hundreds of girls who were likely willing to give him what he had wanted from Waverly. So she broke up with him, told him to go and have fun and meet new people, fall in love. She knew she didn’t love him and she had a sneaking suspicion that the day she had broken up with him was the day he was going to tell her he was in love with her. Dumping him before he could make his declaration of love had seemed like the kindest thing to do. Perry was a lovely guy, he really was but he just wasn’t right. Nicole felt right.

They solidified their plans during lunch on Friday, Nicole would come round to Waverly’s and they would head over to the festival together. Waverly caught Chrissy listening in to their conversation and shot Waverly a questioning look but Waverly ignored her. She wasn’t ready to talk to her about it yet even if she was her oldest friend. She knew it was unlikely that Chrissy was going to drop it but until Waverly was ready to talk to her about it, she would brush her off as best she could without being rude.

The moment Waverly got home she was picking out what she wanted to wear, it was going to get chilly as the evening went on and as much as she wanted to wear something that made her look great she knew practicality needed to win. She settled on something both practical and that, she hoped, flattered her figure. She told Gus and Curtis where she’d be and when Wynonna overheard she asked if she could tag along. Waverly managed to convince her that she should go with the new guy she’d be seeing, it took a little while and a forceful glare but she got what she wanted eventually.

A car horn went off right outside, confused, Waverly looked out the living room window to see Nicole leaning casually against a car that Waverly didn’t even know she had. She said her goodbyes and skipped down the front steps as she took in the shiny blue paint job.

“When did you get this?” Waverly smiled, running her fingers along the hood of the car. It didn’t look brand new by any means but for some reason Waverly felt it really suited Nicole.

“My mom surprised me when I got home from school today!” Nicole beamed and opened the driver side door to get in. Waverly followed her inside the car as she continued talking. “I didn’t really need one back home but she figured I could use one here seeing as there is zero public transport!” Nicole watched Waverly run both her hands over the dashboard admiring it as she put on her seatbelt. “You like it?”

“I love it! It’s perfect!” Waverly turned and gave her biggest smile, it faltered for a split second when Waverly’s brain was taken over by thoughts of having a private place to make out with Nicole. Nicole seemed to process her change in expression and raised an eyebrow in question. “Uh…are you a good driver?” Nice save, she thought to herself, question her driving skills. Idiot.

“Well I got here in one piece, didn’t I?” Nicole teased as she started the engine and pulled away. “I’m a good driver, Waves. No need to worry!” Waverly pulled on her seatbelt and hoped that it didn’t look like she was now worried about her crashing. Why did she have to think about kissing Nicole at that very moment?

Almost as soon as they got to the festival, Nicole found a game she wanted to play and Waverly learned something new about her. Nicole was fiercely competitive and when she set her mind to something she went all in to get it. It was a basketball game and all she had to do was put three out of five balls through one of the hoops, however the baskets moved around as soon as the game started. She saw a stuffed bear that she really wanted to win and she was going to get it. It only took three tries before she managed and the look of satisfaction on her face as she was handed the, admittedly really cute bear, made Waverly laugh. Nicole asked if Waverly wanted to play but she already had a game in mind that both of them could have fun playing together.

It was the classic filling up a balloon with a water pistol, they could play at the same time and Waverly knew she was good at it. She really liked competitive Nicole and she wanted to see what Nicole would be like competing against her. Nicole rubbed her hands together mischievously as they both sat down next to each other.

“I hope you know I’m really good at this one!” Nicole winked and Waverly narrowed her eyes as she picked up the water pistol that was attached to the table. As much as she really enjoyed smug Nicole, she was not willing to lose. She held her comeback in until just before the attendant was about to start the game and then she pounced.

“And I hope you know you’re really cute when you think you’re going to win!” Waverly watched as Nicole’s eyes went wide and she started coughing before turning and firing her gun. It took a couple seconds before Nicole’s surprise past and her gun started spraying water in the right direction but it was too late. Waverly’s balloon was already almost full and she threw her arms in the air in victory as the attendant asked her what prize she would like. She pretended to think about it but she had already decided which one she wanted to get as soon as she sat down. A ridiculously fluffy stuffed ginger cat, she hugged it to her chest as she turned around to show Nicole.

“You cheated!” Nicole pouted but she couldn’t stop it from morphing into a smile and Waverly giggled. She was having such a good time with Nicole and she was feeling braver every second they spent together.

“Well…I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true so is that really cheating?” Waverly narrowed her eyes on Nicole and watched as she took in what Waverly had just said, Waverly couldn’t decipher how she took it. God it was hard figuring out if girls liked you, boys were easy. If they liked you, they would usually just try and kiss you or ask you out or at least get one of their friends to ask you out for them. “I think I’m going to call it Nicole!” Waverly pushed the ginger cat straight into Nicole’s face and laughed as she batted it away from her.

“Well as long as she knows I was here first, I think I’m ok with that!” Nicole’s eyes burned into Waverly’s and all the confidence she had been feeling up until that moment seemed to disappear under Nicole’s gaze. She was sure there was something there, she couldn’t just be imagining all the long stares and the lingering touches that she had never experienced with any of her other friends. It brought the nervous thoughts back, how she didn’t know how to really do this even if Nicole did like her back. She darted her eyes away from Nicole and found Chrissy and Steph sitting at a table with a tray of fries between them.

“Let’s go get something to eat! I’m starving!” She looped her arm through Nicole’s and walked them over to where her friends were sitting. They dropped of their stuffed animals on the table next to the three that Steph had been won by a hopeless boy dying for her affections and joined the queue for the food truck.

“How long til the fireworks?” Nicole looked down at Waverly after she’d ordered their food. “Reckon we’ll have time to head back to my car for a sec?”

“Uh yeah, probably. They start in like half an hour.” Waverly smiled up at her, her nerves still getting the best of her as they stood so close in line. She wanted to rest her head on Nicole’s shoulder while they waited for their order to be called, she was sure it was just the perfect height to feel secure but she stopped herself. They stood in silence as they waited, not uncomfortable Waverly thought but nice, peaceful surrounded by all the noise of the food truck, people passing by having a good time and the bells ringing from the games. None of it seemed to be bothering Nicole, which was good. Waverly had been a little nervous that this wouldn’t be Nicole’s thing at all but she thought Nicole looked like she was having a good time.

They sat back down next to Chrissy and Steph who were having a good laugh at Champ. He was trying really really hard to win the strength tester. Every time he brought the hammer down he looked sure it was going to make the bell ring but every time he came just a little short and every time Chrissy and Steph doubled over with laughter.

“I told you those muscles were just for show!” Chrissy prodded Steph in the side as they continued to laugh. Waverly watched as Nicole did her best to look like she wasn’t watching Champ too closely. He hadn’t told anyone at school, as far as Waverly was aware, what Nicole had done at Shorty’s but she knew Nicole was avoiding being anywhere near him just in case. Waverly didn’t want a chance encounter to ruin their evening and Chrissy and Steph’s laughter was only drawing attention to their table.

“Want to run to your car just now?” Waverly put her hand on Nicole’s arm to let her know she understood what was going on in that head of hers and Nicole nodded, keeping an eye out for Champ in case he made his way over. “Ok, let’s go. You guys can finish these!” She pushed the remainder of their food over to the girls across from them and waved goodbye. Chrissy gave her that same look and she knew at some point she was going to have to talk to her about it.

Nicole visibly relaxed the further they got from Champ and after stowing their stuffed animals in the back seat of her car, Nicole opened the trunk. She pulled out a picnic blanket and tucked it under her arm.

“I thought this would be good for watching the fireworks.” Nicole said, a little nervously and Waverly smiled. Of course Nicole would bring something so thoughtful so they wouldn’t have to sit on the cold ground while they watched the display.

“Very good idea! Let’s go find a good spot!” They walked back and Waverly recounted all the times she’d come to the festival with Curtis and Gus but never got to stay for the fireworks because Gus didn’t like them. It wasn’t until she was old enough to go with her own friends that she actually managed to catch them and ever since it’d been her favourite part of the festival. She caught Nicole watching her with a warm smile when she checked to see if Nicole was actually listening to her rambling story, she was and Waverly’s heart pounded in her chest. She was so used to people just tuning her out when she went on and on like that but Nicole seemed hooked on every word.

Nicole let Waverly decide where they would sit, she caught a quick glimpse of Steph’s blonde hair in the distance but picked a spot far away from anyone she really knew. She wanted more time alone with Nicole, even with her confidence wavering she still knew what she wanted. She just wasn’t sure how to get it. Nicole laid out the blanket and settled down before patting the space next to her for Waverly to join. They chatted a little until the display started and then fell into silence as they both watched the colours splay out across the sky before them. When she knew one of the explosions was coming she prepared herself to take a deep breath and do something she’d been wanting to do. Just as the sky lit up once again she settled her head onto Nicole’s shoulder and sighed softly as Nicole bumped her head gently against Waverly’s. It was a tiny gesture but it showed she was more than ok with Waverly being so close. They stayed like that even after the display finished, Waverly asking if Nicole had enjoyed it.

“Hey lovebirds!” Wynonna’s voice sounded behind them and Waverly felt Nicole stiffen up and pull away from her instantly. Waverly’s stomach dropped and she turned to stare at Wynonna, trying really hard not to glare too hard lest she give herself away. Nicole budged up on the blanket and made room for Wynonna and the guy she was with to sit down. Nicole felt further away from Waverly then than she had been all evening and it hurt. “This is John. My sister and Nicole but you can call her Red, I do!” Wynonna winked at Nicole and John sat down stretching his hand out to Waverly first and then Nicole.

“Well you guys can call me Doc. Only my father and Wynonna here seem to call me John.” He rubbed his finger and thumb across his entirely too thick mustache and Waverly swore she heard Nicole stifle a laugh but she still seemed a little uncomfortable after Wynonna’s comment. “Did you two have fun this evening?”

Waverly spoke for a while about what the festival had to offer but Nicole stayed pretty quiet. Wynonna and Doc revealed they had only actually arrived when the fireworks started and so missed the rest of it but neither of them seemed all that bothered about it really. Nicole being the good person that she was offered the pair a lift home when they realised they were some of the last people still milling about. Wynonna took her up on the offer immediately. They wanted dropped at Doc’s place though and that was a little detour but Nicole said she didn’t mind at all. They crammed into the back seat beside the pairs game prizes and off they went. Waverly had to tell Wynonna off for making out with Doc in the back seat a grand total of six times before she shoved them out the car when they finally made it to Doc’s.

“Thanks, Red! Owe you one!” Wynonna threw a thumbs up behind her back as she slapped Doc’s ass on the way up the stairs to his apartment. Nicole rolled her eyes with a laugh as she drove away. Waverly wanted to speak to Nicole about her pulling away from Waverly but if Nicole didn’t want to talk about it she wasn’t sure she could handle the rest of the journey in an awkward silence. Instead she opted for the comfortable silence that felt so easy when she was with Nicole. She’d always felt the need to fill empty space with mindless chatter when she spent time with most people but strangely she simply didn’t when she was with Nicole.

“I hope Wynonna didn’t make you uncomfortable tonight…or bring up bad memories.” Waverly had managed to hold her tongue but as soon as Nicole stopped the car outside of Waverly’s house she couldn’t keep it in any longer.

“No it’s ok, just took me by surprise that’s all.” Nicole ran her hands along the steering wheel, looking out on the road and not at Waverly. “I just wouldn’t want people talking about you or getting the wrong idea because they heard what she said and then saw us sitting so close to each other.” She shrugged and it was killing Waverly that she wasn’t looking at her. Waverly reached over and placed her hand on the side of Nicole’s face, trying to ignore the softness of her cheek so she could say what she wanted to say.

“I don’t care what anyone thinks of me, ok?” Waverly’s thumb brushed against Nicole’s skin and she swore she heard Nicole’s breath catch in her throat. Finally she turned to look at Waverly and everything in her body was telling her to close the gap between them, just kiss her like she’d been thinking about doing for days but what if Nicole didn’t actually want that? What if she totally ruined the best friendship she currently had?

After what felt like an eternity staring at Nicole’s lips she pulled her hand away and joined it with the other resting in her lap. Nicole didn’t look like she was thinking about leaning in, if anything she looked a little shocked that Waverly had been so overly affectionate with her. Maybe Waverly had read whatever was going on between them completely wrong. She stared out the front window and the silence descended again but this time it felt heavier.

“Waverly?” Nicole voice cut through the silence and Waverly turned her head.

“Yeah?” She asked hopefully and watched closely as she saw Nicole’s mind working over what she wanted to say. She couldn’t help but hold her breath in anticipation.

“Thanks for inviting me tonight. I had a really great time.” Nicole swallowed hard and Waverly felt like she had swallowed down the words she really wanted to say but maybe that was just wishful thinking.

“Anytime.” Waverly forced a smile, she had been so sure Nicole was about to say something else. Take the pressure off of Waverly. She reached into the back of the car and grabbed her stuffed cat before opening the car door. “Goodnight, Nicole!” She smiled again and got out the car. As soon as she turned to walk up the stairs inside, her smile faded entirely. She shouldn’t have got her hopes up.