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The Choice

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Nicole Haught never thought she would be here. It was always something she was told to expect, but the realization never really hit her until now. There are a lot of things in her life that she is proud of. She graduated high school and went to one of the best universities in the state. She graduated with a double major in criminal justice and in public administration. After that, she entered the police academy and ended up graduating at the top of her class. She has always kept a good head on her shoulders and tried to be a good person. She is kind and compassionate and she knows those traits make her a better cop. She was so proud when her hometown’s Sheriff recruited her and even more so when the department’s division chief offered to start training her prior to graduation. She arrived back home in her hometown of Purgatory to make it a better place. She was proud of all of these things, these accomplishments.

 

But in this moment, all Nicole feels is awkwardness and discomfort. She looks at the young woman standing before her and she feels a little sick to her stomach as she reads the expression on her face. Fear, anxiety and despair.

 


 

 

6 months earlier…

Nicole walks into the station after a particularly rough shift and is ready to clock out once she finishes up her paperwork. She walks over to her desk and places her Stetson on the desk. She secures her service weapon in its proper place and turns her computer on. She pulls a small stack of papers towards her and is about to start on them when someone walks into the bullpen.

 

“Haught.” Ward Earp greets happily as he takes a seat at his desk next to hers.

 

“Sir. You just come on?” Nicole asks with a respectful smile. “You are a little early. Shift change isn’t for another 45.”

 

“Yup, just clocked in and called in to dispatch. Decided I wanted to catch up on some paperwork before I go out on patrol.” He says with a soft laugh. “So, any plans after you are off?”

 

“Same as always, drive home, eat, sleep, gym, work, repeat.” Nicole says with a smirk directed at her papers.

 

This earns her a laugh from Ward, shaking his head at her as he turns to look at his computer. “You need to get a life Haught. That is no way to live life.”

 

Nicole chuckles. “I just want to focus on being a good cop. It matters. Once I get settled, maybe I will try and… “get a life”. And like you are one to talk. You just go to Shorty’s after every shift with the guys.” Nicole jokes, filling in a sheet with the proper information.

 

“True. But I do that to bond with people. And, as soon as I am done, I go home to my family.” Earp says, smiling at the mention of his girls.

 

“I wasn’t aware you had a family Sir.” Nicole says, smiling at the man. “I guess it really has been a long time since I came back home and talked to people.” She remarks.

 

Ward smiles at the young redhead. “That isn’t all your fault Haught. Your dad sent you off to boarding school the moment he had the chance. It will take time, but you will get caught up. Not much happens in this town anyways.”

 

“Thank you, Sir. I appreciate that.” Nicole says. “And your family?”

 

“My wife left a few years after my youngest was born. She couldn’t take my job and the hours. She was a mess but she gave me my girls so I will never regret her.” He says. “I have three daughters. Willa is my oldest. She is going to be thirty this year. Then there is Wynonna. She is around two years older than you I believe. And my youngest is named Waverly. She is twenty-two.”

 

“I’m sorry, you said your oldest was thirty.” She looks the man over. “Sir, no offense but you don’t look quite old enough to have a child that old.

 

Ward laughs and smiles at her. “I met my wife when we were in middle school. We were together through high school and ended up pregnant with Willa during my junior year. I was sixteen, she was eighteen. It all ended up working out in the end. She delivered Willa and we got married after Wynonna was born.”

 

“I am glad Sir. Much respect. I can’t imagine how hard that was at sixteen.” Nicole says genuinely.

 

“Eh, I made a lot of mistakes along the way. But I have three beautiful daughters so that’s all that matters to me. I didn’t stick with her because it was the “right thing to do”. I did it because that baby, we made her together and I wanted to be there for it all. We waited to get married until after Wynonna. We were a little older then and it made things easier.”

 

Nicole nods, finishing her last sheet of paperwork. She turns to him and smiles. “Thank you for sharing that with me.”

 

“Me getting to talk about my family. I should be the one thanking you. So, what about you? You got anyone special?” He asks.

 

“Not at the moment, no Sir. Although I am sure my father won’t let that go on for much longer.” Nicole says, her distaste for the man evident.

 

“Not one for tradition, are you?” He asks.

 

“Forcing women to marry before age thirty seems a little… old fashioned. In my opinion.” Nicole says.

 

“Some people would be proud to uphold the tradition. But I can understand those who wouldn’t. I am a man and I was with my wife long before she would have had to deal with it.” He says, regarding her with a look of compassion.

 

“You have daughters, any of them have arranged marriages?” Nicole asks as she gets up and shuts her computer down.

 

“Willa married her high school boyfriend a year or so ago. Robert is a good man, known him since he was a boy. Wynonna is a different story. She is arranged to be married to a man named Henry Holiday.”

 

“Henry? As in Doc Holiday?” Nicole asks.

 

“That’s the one.”

 

“I went to high school with Doc. He and I were friends. Lost touch once we graduated. I didn’t realize he came back to Purgatory.” Nicole says with a wide smile. She and Doc had been pretty close during their years of schooling. Both of them came from wealthy families that shipped them off as soon as possible.

 

“I don’t know him all that much, but he seems like a good man. And he seems to enjoy putting up with Wynonna’s antics.” Ward laughs. “Maybe we could all get a drink together some time.”

 

“Sounds good.” Nicole says. “And your youngest?”

 

“Waverly is my baby girl. I love her. But she dated some horse shit rodeo clown in high school. Hasn’t really dated since. Soon, we will have to start thinking about the future.” Ward says, clearly, he is not fond of his daughter’s ex-boyfriend.

 

“Well, you sure do have your hands full. Goodnight Chief.” Nicole says. “Stay safe tonight.

 

“Will do. Get home safe Haught.” Ward Earp replies, watching the young woman exit the station with a grin. “She’s one of the good ones.”

 


 

 

Five months earlier…

“So, is Haught coming tonight?” Bill Rider asks as he takes a seat at the table.

 

“Yeah, she was just finishing up with the Sheriff when I left. Told me she would meet us here.” Ward replies, taking a sip of his beer.

 

“She seems to be blending in well. That partner of hers though, I can’t really get a read on him.” Rider says.

 

“She is.” Ward says with a smile. “She is a good cop and I have enjoyed training her. Nedley and I were up at the academy on weekends for months training her (even before she graduated). She is a hard worker, that’s for sure. Her partner, Dolls, came with her from the academy. He graduated a couple years before her and was interning as an instructor. He was also at the top of his class. He is smart, but guarded. Not really sure what to make of him either but Nicole seems quite fond of him.”

 

“Wait, like… as in…?”

 

“No Rider! No! Not like that. Anyone with eyes can see that Nicole Haught is only friends with her partner. They treat each other like siblings.” Ward exclaims with a loud laugh.

 

Bill blushes, trying to hide it by taking a sip from his beer.

 

A short brunette walks over to their table and places a full pitcher on the table.

 

“Thank you Darling.” Ward says with a warm smile to his daughter. “Any one of these yahoos giving you trouble?”

 

Waverly smiles and places a hand on her father’s shoulder. “Nothing I can’t handle Daddy. And Shorty is here too. Don’t worry.”

 

“I will always worry when the likes of Champ Hardy are hanging out here on the regular.” Ward replies with a touch of seriousness.

 

“I will be alright.” Waverly says with a giggle. “Anything else I can get you?”

 

“Mind getting us two more pitchers? A couple more officers will be joining us.” He asks.

 

“Certainly. Be back in a bit.” Waverly says, jumping over to the bar to fulfill their order. She is just about done when the front doors open and two officers in uniform enter. A redheaded woman enters first, followed by a tall and barrel-chested man. The female smiles at the table as she approaches, the man behind her giving respectful nods but staying stoic. Waverly is about to go over and take them her drinks when Shorty calls for her help.

 

“Will you take the group of construction workers over there? I can take these over. I got to clean up a beer Champ and his buddies just spilled over there anyways.” Shorty asks.

 

“Sure Shorty.” Waverly says, smiling at the man who has been like a second father to her for most of her life.

 

Waverly does as he asks but turns around just in time to see her father motion for the redhead to sit in the chair next to him. She smiles at him, sitting and motioning for the man with her to sit on her other side. Waverly turns away to serve the other customers waiting.

 

It is about an hour after the newcomers’ arrival when things start to go wrong. Before that though, Waverly worked. As she served and made small talk with customers, she stole glances at her father’s table. Along with the two strangers, there was her father, Rider, Stevens and another officer there. The redhead seems to flow well with the others, having seemingly easy conversation with all. Waverly is a little distracted by the group, so she doesn’t notice when Champ comes up to the counter.

 

“Wave.” He slurs.

 

Waverly startles a bit but recovers quickly, her eyes snapping to a very drunk Champ. “What do you want Champ?” She asks, annoyed by his presence.

 

“Another round for me and the boys.” He says, giving her a smile that Waverly finds creepy.

 

“Champ. You already know you were cut off. I can’t and won’t serve you. Neither will Shorty. Call yourself a cab or walk home.” Waverly says.

 

“C’mon babe. Just one more round.” He says, reaching through the line of taps and across the bar to grip her arm.

 

“Champ, let go. And no.” Waverly says, voice low and warning.

 

Waverly notices the redhead stand up from her seat, clearly the only one who has noticed the altercation. Her father turns soon after, eyes widening in anger.

 

Champ grips her harder and Waverly knows that will bruise later. “Champ, let go. Now.”

 

“Just give me another drink.” He says, voice raising a little in drunken anger. He pulls at her, as if to pull her over the bar, but is stopped by the line of taps. He loses his grip on her and she is freed, but his beefy arm hits a few of the taps as it retracts. One… breaks open… all over Waverly.

 

Champ takes a step back and looks at her for a moment before bursting into laughter. She knows her shirt is now practically see-through now, and Waverly instantly hates the man even more. Wolf whistles and cat calling begin to spread from around the bar, Champs and his buddies being the center of it all. She feels a presence behind her and she turns to see the redheaded officer standing a foot away. The redhead has her arms outstretched with her heavy PSD jacket opened in her hands.

 

“Here.” The woman says. She gestures for Waverly to move out of the puddle of beer and towards her. Once Waverly does, the woman carefully wraps the jacket around Waverly and helps her put her arms through it. It is too big for Waverly, but the coverage helps considering it blocks the rest of the bar from seeing her practically bare chest.

 

During the encounter, Ward Earp had taken it upon himself to put Champ in handcuffs. This action and the look on all of the officers’ faces got everyone to quiet down and leave quickly after. You don’t mess with one of their own or their families.

 

Waverly returns her attention to the redhead, who is looking her over with concern filled eyes. “Are you okay?” She asks.

 

“I… um… yes. Thank you for this.” Waverly shudders out, gesturing at the jacket.

 

 The concern is still in the woman’s eyes, but she smiles a dimpled smile at Waverly. The officer’s head whips to the side as she hears the other officers lifting a complaining and cursing drunk off the floor. Nicole nods at Waverly before quickly rounding the bar and walking over to the other officers. Ward Earp had Champ by the handcuffs, whispering threats and obscenities at the intoxicated man.

 

“Chief. I will take him in.” The redhead says.

 

Ward gives her a look that basically asks her what the fuck? Why? But then realization hits him.

 

“Sir. Dolls and I are sober. We will make the arrest and take him in. No need for you to get a strike from the Sherriff for making an arrest with even a drop of alcohol in your system.” She says softly enough so only he can hear her.

 

He nods to her and gives her an appreciative look before handing Champ off to her. She has him by the cuffs when he decides this is the best time to open his stupid mouth. “Hey, babe! Why don’t you call me when you get that stick pulled out of your ass and we can have some fun!” He shouts at Waverly, slurring so bad that only portions were clear.

 

Ward looks like he is about to completely lose his cool and kill Champ, but the sound of a cry of pain and then the sound of Champ hitting the floor stops him.

 

He tries to comprehend what he just saw. Because if he is right and his mind isn’t playing tricks on him… Nicole Haught just close lined Champ Hardy and then let her boot land hard on his groin. He looks at his deputy shocked. He never expected Nicole to be on for street justice.

 

He goes to speak but she does first. “You should go make sure the bartender is okay. We can get her statement later. Got a name for this one?” She asks, looking down at the man who is squirming under the pressure of her boot.

 

“Champ Hardy.” He says.

 

“More like Chump.” She mutters to herself. She and Dolls get him off the ground and start to escort him out.

 

Ward looks over at his daughter and sees Shorty and Stevens standing near her protectively. He turns back just in time to see Nicole and Dolls push Champ face first through the doors. He walks over to his daughter quickly and takes her in his arms. “Baby girl. Are you okay?”

 

“Yes. I’m fine Daddy.” Waverly replies, relaxing into her father’s embrace. “Just a little annoyed by Champ.” Ward grumbles something to himself and Waverly smiles. “I’m serious. I am good.”

 

He reluctantly releases her and takes a step back. He looks at the jacket that his daughter is wearing like a dress. He reads the name Haught that is sewn into the left corner of the chest. He grins slightly, making a mental note to thank his deputy for everything later.

 

“I think I should probably wash this thing before returning it to your officer. Pretty sure it is going to smell like stale beer.” Waverly remarks.

 

Ward laughs lightly and hugs his girl once more. “I don’t think she would mind. But if you want, I can drop it off at the cleaner on my way to work tomorrow and give her the ticket for it. We all have uniform pickups tomorrow anyways, so she can just grab it while she is already there.”

 

Waverly nods and allows her father to walk her out. Shorty tells her to take tomorrow off and enjoy her weekend. She nods gratefully, although a bit reluctantly. “Thanks Shorty.” She says and they are gone.