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Punch & Rivet

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Nico Haught cut the engine of his bike and set down the kickstand, settling his weight comfortably in the saddle. He unclasped the full face helmet and pulled it off his head, hanging it on a handlebar. Slipping sunglasses from an inside pocket of his leather vest, he put them on and looked around, running a hand through his short red hair.

Nico had been on the road for six hours now, and though the highway was decent enough, his stomach was starting to rumble and he’d skipped breakfast to get an early start. He’d seen the sign for gas off the exit and while filling up, had noticed the bar and auto shop across the street. He had ridden over the short distance and backed his bike up at the entrance of the bar.

Nico took his time removing his fingerless gloves and stretching once he got off the bike, rolling his shoulders and groaning. 

“Must have been riding your filly pretty hard, let go a groan like that.”

Nico’s head snapped up and his eyes landed on a brunette he hadn’t noticed, stubbing out the last of a joint against the wall of the bar. 

“Highly personal line of inquiry, but not necessarily inaccurate.”

The girl snorted and let out a laugh, her sardonic smile slipping comfortably into place. She approached Nico and shoved forward her hand. 

“Wynonna.”

Nico took the hand offered and shook it firmly. 

“Nico.”

His voice was rough from lack of use, the last six hours he’d spent in his thoughts and hadn’t actually spoken to another human since he checked into the motel last night. If you could count that milquetoast interaction as a conversation. 

“Well, Nico, what are you doing in my town?”

Nico raised an eyebrow. “Your town?”

Wynonna’s smile turned predatory. 

“Yeah. My bar, my shop, my crew, my town.”

“Alright Queen Wy, I get it. I offer you no trouble. Just passing through.”

She winked at him. 

“You mean running.”

Nico scratched the back of his neck with the gloves in his hand and shrugged at Wynonna. 

“Again, personal, but not inaccurate.”

Wynonna smirked and made to open her mouth. 

Wherever Wynonna’s line of questioning was going to go, she didn’t get the chance as the both of them had to jump back, the front doors of the bar flying open violently and bouncing off the outside wall, noise suddenly filling the space. 

Out of the darkness of the bar came two arguing bodies, the taller and male shaped one leading the way, closely followed by an even louder and red faced brunette. Nico couldn’t help that his eyes were instantly drawn to the girl, her hair half pulled back, the rest flowing down her back as she passed him by, her midriff baring shirt doing a wonderful job of showing off the muscles in her torso as she took in a huge breath to continue yelling. 

“Fuck, here we go again,” muttered Wynonna from beside him. 

“Champ Hardy you’d better get in that goddamn truck and never come back if you’re going to walk away from me like this!!”

Champ stomped to a halt and spun on his heel, “Waverly, I am done having you talk to me like that! I am the five time 25-and-under state rodeo champion and I will not have my woman constantly making me look bad in front of the guys!”

“Your woman? What century are you in, you big ass? I am nobody’s property, Champ Hardy, and I don’t know why I’ve wasted my time with you! I am so much smarter and better than this!”

As the two continued their very public spat, Nico leaned in toward Wynonna. 

“They do this often?”

Wynonna snorted. “I could write you the script.” She winced. “Here’s the finale.”

The fervor of the shouting had continued to rise, Champ and Waverly arguing toward Champ’s truck, a tiny-dick special if Nico had ever seen one, the amount of chrome and aftermarket additions almost ridiculous. Champ swung himself up on the sideboard, tossed his large duffle into the bed and flung the driver’s side door open, Waverly forced to hop back quickly out of its way. Nico bristled. 

“I’m going home to Coulee City and I’m not coming back for you, Waverly. Not this time. I’m done. Done!!”

Champ slammed the door closed, the truck roaring to life seconds later. He punched the truck in gear and the engine rumbled even louder. Instead of forward though, the truck bucked in reverse.  

Nico watched in horror as the truck crashed right into his bike, slamming it to the ground and propelling it backward noisily for several feet before Champ put the truck in the gear he had aimed for and peeled away from the curb, stones and sand spitting up behind his tires. With a screech around the corner, he was gone. 

“WHAT THE FUCK?!!”

Nico rushed to his bike, his heart breaking as he saw fluid start to leak out onto the ground and took in the unnatural angle of the handlebars. He dropped next to the bike and put his hands on the gas tank, followed by his forehead. His beautiful bike. Talulah had been his only friend the last few months, his constant companion as the miles had disappeared under her tires. 

“No no no no no no no.” Nico sagged, shaking his head.

He was beside himself; ten minutes ago all he’d cared about was getting some food, and now he was in this nothing town, almost totally broke, and his only means of movement was a beat up hunk of metal under his fingers. 

All too quickly, his abject shock flamed into anger and he whirled on Waverly. He didn’t know who this girl was, but it was most definitely her boyfriend who had just turned his beloved Talulah into something closer to scrap metal. 

Before he could take more than a step, surprisingly strong arms wrapped around him and a voice spoke from behind his shoulder. 

“Woah, woah there killer. Can’t have you going after my babygirl.”

Nico struggled out of Wynonna’s grip and straightened himself to his full height, anger and hurt battling across his face.

“Who the fuck are you people?”

Waverly had walked back to join Wynonna, her own face a mixture of guilt and anger. She looked down at Nico’s wrecked bike and the guilt won out. Waverly sighed and met Nico’s furious eyes. 

“I am so sorry. Champ is such a d-bag.”

Nico fumed. Sorry? D-bag? Did this girl not realize how absolutely royally screwed he now was? 

“That’s the best you can come up with? Really?! Don’t you get it? I’m so fucked!

Nico whirled away from the women, his hands in fists held tight against his thighs. He took several long steps away from them and let out a loud growl. 

Godfuckingdammit. Shitting fuck monkeys. The anguish he had been able to tamp down since he’d escaped into the night on Talulah all those months ago threatened to crash back over him. He took several stuttering steps, finding himself in front of the brick of the bar. He thumped his fist against the wall, the accidental flash of pain as his knuckle scraped raw on the brick breaking the control he had left. 

He slammed his fist back into the brick, wanting to not feel what he was drowning in, wanting to beat back the hurt and the fear and the utter overwhelming sensation that he just lost his one way to escape. 

Nico got in three more blindingly painful punches, sickeningly delighted in the way the pain blanketed everything else before two sets of arms grabbed him and dragged him away from the wall. He was faintly aware that voices were raised in his direction. 

“Kid! Kid! Stop, you’re gonna seriously fuck yourself up!”

Wynonna held fast to Nico’s arm, warily eyeing the bloody mess at the end of it. 

“Let go of me!” Nico glared at Wynonna. 

Wynonna shook her head. 

“Hell no, I’m not gonna do that. Your hand looks like shit.”

Nico shut his eyes in frustration, willing himself with every fiber to hold still. He took an angry huff of a breath and felt confused when his body started to relax. He searched for the reason and realized the other set of arms were still wrapped around him, rubbing small soothing circles into the flannel under his leather vest. He couldn’t help the shiver that raced along his spine, it had been a very long time since someone had been this tender with him, or touched him at all. The unexpected comfort blotted out his anger and the ferocity left his eyes. His face crumpled and he sagged in Waverly’s arms. 

Wynonna eyed him for a second and then slightly relaxed her grip on Nico’s arm. “Alright Red, let’s get you inside and we’ll talk about all this shit after we get you bandaged up.”

“I can’t just leave my bike like that, I can’t leave her laying there; plus my saddlebags, it’s everything I have.” He knew he sounded like a broken child but he couldn’t help it. 

“My bar, my town, remember; she’ll be safe, and if Nedley comes by, he’ll understand.”

Nico had no idea who she was speaking of, but allowed the women to pull him through the doors of the bar, his eyes glued to Talulah until she was out of sight. 

The inside of the bar was surprisingly quiet and seemed cozy and well taken care of. Wynonna dragged Nico gently to the long oak bar, pushing him down onto a stool. 

“Babygirl, come hold his hand while I get the kit.”

Waverly moved to take Nico’s hand from Wynonna, coming around his other side, having been forced to unwrap her arms from his body when Wynonna marched them into the bar. She glanced at the redhead nervously, not sure what had driven her to be so forward with the mysterious lean fellow. 

She caught Nico’s defeated and empty gaze, the person in front of her clearly there only physically, and sighed. She really hoped Champ never showed his face again, the selfish boy-man had burned his last bridge and in his cowardly run from town, caused destruction in a stranger’s life. 

Waverly mentally flipped briefly through the memories she and Champ had made, but they felt hollow now, the grin that had piqued her interest at the Harvest Fair those few years ago no longer made her heart skip. She had spent two years following Champ Hardy around the Northwest rodeo circuit, celebrating his wins and massaging his ego through his defeats. She hadn’t minded the rodeo family, there was always someone around to talk to, but she often found herself quietly yearning for something more. 

Nico mumbled something she missed and she saw his shoulders sag even more. Her heart hurt for him, and a wave of guilt washed over her, knowing that she had a part to play in Nico’s bike’s destruction. She couldn’t anticipate what idiocy Champ was going to pull, but she knew the public fight had certainly set the stage. 

She absentmindedly began to rub her thumb on the inside of his forearm, the closest she dared hold to the mangled pulp of his hand. She saw a shiver go through Nico again, much like the one she had felt as she had held him earlier. A warm glow spread through her and she frowned, confused by her body’s reaction. 

Wynonna reappeared from the back office, a large medkit slung over her shoulder. She dumped it onto the bar next to Nico and unzipped it, rooting around for the supplies she needed. 

Nico blinked as the bag hit the bar next to him, he had been far far away, lost in a cyclone of despairing thoughts. He looked up to find Waverly favoring him with a small smile. All of his anger was still there, but deadened behind the wall of his hopelessness. He wanted to be angry with the girl still, wanted to lash out through how helpless he felt, but he couldn’t bring himself to find the desire to. The girl’s touch settled him too much, and when Wynonna gestured for Waverly to relinquish his arm so she could start dousing it with alcohol and rinse the blood off, he instantly missed the feeling of her. 

Nico laid his hand gently on the clean bar towel Wynonna had unfolded and hissed when his fingers fought the idea of uncurling, staying bloody claws for the meantime. He finally really looked at his hand, the busted knuckles and blood marring the broken skin, already twice the size it usually was. 

“I’d say this would sting, but you’re the fucking idiot who was taking swings at my bar.”

Nico grumbled under his breath and tensed himself for the alcohol. He wasn’t disappointed, turning his bark of pain into a cough as the bar towel under his hand quickly turned red. Wynonna tutted at him as she carefully poured the liquid onto a thick gauze pad, shaking her head as she dabbed the back of his knuckles. 

“You really messed yourself up good here, Red. If your bike wasn’t fucked, you still wouldn't be holding a throttle down anytime soon anyway.”

Nico grunted, a flash of anger spearing through the fog and he growled back his response. 

“And whose fucking fault is that?”

He felt himself start to shake as his anger grew, the pain cutting back the feelings he had been lost in. Agitated, he started to get up from the bar stool, growing furious that this woman would be so flippant when it was her damn fucking bar and her damn fucking town that got him into this mess. 

Nico opened his mouth to spit acid at Wynonna but two hands tentatively curled over his shoulders, the thumbs working small circles into the muscles of his neck. Momentarily distracted again by Waverly’s touch, he lost all his momentum. Nico slumped back onto the stool, unable to stop the small whimper that escaped him. Waverly’s hands froze at the sound, then continued on their gentle movements behind him. 

Wynonna kept at her ministrations, but leveled a look at Nico. 

“I know you’re angry as a motherfucker right now Red, but I’m gonna need you to take it down a notch. This isn’t going to be quite the crisis you’re wrapped up in thinking it is, so sit still and let me clean you up before we get down to brass tacks.”

Nico grunted, the closest to an agreement he was going to allow. He closed his eyes, the twin sensations of the white hot pain shooting up his arm and his hunger melting into deep nausea and the last thing he wanted to do, even through his anger, was embarrass himself by throwing up whatever could be left in his stomach all over Wynonna. He kept his eyes closed and took a long, slow, deep breath through his mouth and let it out slowly, attempting to quell the feeling. 

With a lack of other stimuli, his focus moved to the body behind him and the strong hands that had started to knead the muscles of his shoulders. The touch was gentle, but sure; Waverly’s fingers slowly finding every knot he carried. She stood close behind him and he could feel the soft puffs of her breath on the back of his neck as she touched him and he clamped down on another shiver that threatened to run through him. 

He knew his body was running out of adrenaline when another lance of pain shot up from his hand as Wynonna tried to gently flatten it out as she cleaned and he grit his bared teeth. The motion didn’t go unnoticed by the girl and she smirked at him, not unkindly. 

Wynonna looked down at Nico’s hand, glad to see there wasn’t anything white catching her eye through the ripped skin. It was clearly swollen now, the cuts and abrasions no longer bleeding, the soon to be storm-cloud dark bruises fighting to surface under his skin. 

“I don’t have x-ray eyes, so you’re gonna have to flex it the best you can and tell me how badly everything feels off. If it’s gravel, Waverly will drive you to the doc to get it set. If it feels ok, I’ll wrap it up and we can get to talking.”

Nico nodded and lifted his hand off the blood soaked towel, holding it in front of him. The swollen nature made the movement feel watery, but he did as Wynonna asked, attempting to straighten out his fingers. He hissed at the pain, but even with the reduced movement from the swelling, nothing immediately grated or felt loose. 

He grunted at Wynonna and placed his hand down on a clean replacement towel Wynonna had laid out next to her roll of gauze and tape. 

“You’re lucky we’re used to getting in scrapes around here, running low now, but this medkit usually carries everything you would find in a field hospital.” Wynonna gently but efficiently wrapped Nico’s hand in gauze, making sure to tuck in the loose end. 

Nico grunted and looked at her wrapping. 

“This is usually my gig. Not bad, Wynonna.”

Wynonna thew him a look as she gathered up the bloodied materials and leaned over the bar, chucking them in the trash. 

“How’s that?”

Nico shrugged. “In another life I was an EMT.”

With his shrug, he remembered Waverly, her hands still resting upon his shoulders. She had stopped her gentle massage, but hadn’t pulled away, and as much as he didn’t want to admit it, he was grateful. He could feel how low his blood sugar was and knew with the injury he’d caused himself, he needed to get food, soon. He was already lightheaded and he was sitting down. 

“Any chance the talking could include food? The death of a loved one usually involves eating.”

He felt Waverly’s twitch from behind him, not aware how gravelly his voice had become. He had meant to make it lighthearted, but it came out almost a growl. Acting before he thought, he raised his good hand to his shoulder, placed it over Waverly’s and gave a gentle squeeze. He felt her surprise, but she seemed to lean unconsciously closer into him, accepting his gesture. 

Wynonna noted the interaction, but decided not to comment. 

“I think we can rustle up some grub before we talk.”

Nico gave Wynonna a grateful look, his head was starting to throb and he just wanted to eat, fall asleep and wake up to Talulah waiting for him to throw a leg over her and continue their travels. He sighed, knowing that wasn’t going to happen. 

He watched Wynonna packing the supplies back into the kit and was struck suddenly with the realization of how kind these women had been to him. It wasn’t their direct action that caused Talulah’s destruction & they sure didn’t have to pull him away from the wall, but they had. He felt sheepish suddenly, forgetting himself in his anger. He should apologize for being so damn brutish. 

He cleared his throat in the relative silence, his hand still on Waverly’s and his eyes on Wynonna. 

“Sorry,” he said to both of them, “I- uh, I kinda lost it there for a bit.” He raised his wrapped hand. 

He heard the shrug in Waverly’s voice from behind him. “It’s not like you didn’t have...reasons.”

Wynonna sighed as she zipped the medkit back up. 

“Again, Red, it’s gonna be ok, just trust me.” With that, she strode back into the office. 

“What, does Wynonna have a magic wand stashed in there?” Nico asked with a snort. 

Waverly came around from behind him, her hands slipping off his shoulders and he couldn’t help the tiny blush that bloomed across his cheeks as they made eye contact. She smiled shyly at him, and he realized guiltily he should probably apologize for intending to verbally take her head off. He made to start speaking, but she held up her hand. 

“I know what you’re about to say, and it’s ok, really. I probably would have attempted the same thing if one of Wynonna’s guys ran over my bike.”

Nico relaxed at her words and looked back at his bandaged hand, bringing it up between them.  He chuckled darkly. 

“If I listened to my mother, this would be God punishing me for being insolent.” 

Waverly quirked her head at him and raised her eyebrows. 

Not expanding on her silent inquiry, Nico cleared his throat. 

“So Wynonna is your...sister? Unless it’s some kind of thrupple situation?”

Waverly unexpectedly laughed heartily, a sound that Nico decided he could definitely hear more of. She wiped a tear from her eye as she calmed down and smiled at him. 

“Yes she’s my sister. The one time Champ tried something with Wynonna it did not go well for him, he ended up getting dragged off the back of a truck half naked with a lasso around his waist, tied to the back of Wynonna’s bike. Had road rash ass for weeks. Could barely sit down.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah, that was a long time ago, before he and I-“ she trailed off. “Waste of time, talking about him now, anyway,” she said decisively, nodding to herself. 

Almost as an afterthought she threw out- “Besides, it’s Wynonna who has the thrupple. I guess now I’m single again.”

Nico’s eyes raised in surprise but Waverly didn’t catch the look, she was moving toward the bar. 

“Alright traveler, what’s your poison? Figure least we can do is toast your bike.” She moved toward the shelves of liquor and gestured. 

“Jameson and ginger?”

“Coming right up.”

Nico watched as Waverly moved smoothly through the space with long years of familiarity, clearly putting little attention into her actions, but Nico was enthralled anyway; the way her fingers slid over the Jameson as she pulled it off the shelf, the lean muscle in her arm as she held the full bottle for the pour & of course the smile she graced him with as she plunked it down in front of him on the bar. 

Nico moved to take a sip but Waverly quickly covered his hand. 

“Forgot one thing!”

He looked at her quizzically while she rummaged in the garnish dispenser. With a plop, she tossed a stemmed maraschino cherry into the drink. 

“Not traditional, but you need something a little sweet.” She smiled at him again and he couldn’t help but grin back, his nausea forgotten, caught up in the way her eyes crinkled when she smiled with her teeth. 

He plucked the cherry from his drink and popped it in his mouth, the sweet of the fruit clashing with the sharp whiskey. He pulled the cherry from the stem with his teeth and chewed. As he swallowed he held up the red stem. 

“Kids growing up here have that cherry stem thing?”

She furrowed her eyebrows and shrugged, not placing the reference. 

“Cherry stem thing?”

He smiled at her, regaining a bit of his confidence. 

“Mmhm. Used to be the thing that if you could tie a cherry stem in a knot in your mouth without using your hands, you were bound to be a wildcat in bed.”

Waverly chuckled and leaned forward, resting her arms on the bar. Nico tried to ignore the way her folded arms framed her upper body, he was in trouble enough as it was. 

“So, stranger, you have what it takes?”

Well, hell.

“You could say that.” He threw her a smirk and stuck his tongue out, laying the stem on it before pulling it back into his mouth. Keeping his eyes on her and waggling his eyebrows, he manipulated the stem in his mouth before pulling it out, the stem neatly and tightly tied in the middle. 

Waverly whistled appreciatively. “Looks like Shorty’s has a new troublemaker.”

Nico laughed and put the stem down on the corner of the napkin under his drink, shrugging as he met Waverly’s eyes and held her gaze. He put a little heat in his smile. 

“I don’t know about troublemaker, exactly. It’s just, when I see something I like, I don’t want to wait.”

It was Waverly’s turn to blush and she did, sweetly. 

“Found ‘em!” 

Wynonna came back into the room, shaking a clacking bottle in front of her. She crossed to Nico and smacked the bottle down in front of him. 

“Knew I still had some of these kicking around from Dolls’ surgery.”

She opened the bottle, shook out two white pills and slapped them into Nico’s palm. 

“Good for what ails ya.”

Nico shrugged and tossed the pills in his mouth, wincing as he washed them down with a hearty swig of his drink. 

“Good. Now food. I started up a burger in the kitchen, figure that’s good enough, yeah? That and some fries?”

Nico nodded his thanks around the rim of his glass and took another gulp. The liquid pooled in his empty belly and he could feel the warmth of it spreading through him. 

“Ok, Waves, you keep an eye on that burger and I’m gonna see what we can do about moving Red’s bike. Don’t get into too much trouble.” 

She gave her sister a saucy wink and disappeared back through the front doors. 

Waverly rolled her eyes and glanced at Nico. 

“Grab your drink, let’s make sure Wynonna didn’t set anything on fire.”

Nico did as requested, and followed Waverly into the kitchen, collapsing on the only seating available, an old ugly striped couch pushed up against the wall across from the grill. He set his bandaged hand on the armrest and held his glass cradled in the other on his lap, kicking his bent legs out. He sunk back into the cushions, the couch deceivingly comfortable. 

Muttering to herself, Waverly grabbed a spatula quickly, flipping the burger and turning the heat of the grill down. 

“I hope you like half well done, because that’s what you’re going to get. There’s a reason we don’t let her cook.”

Nico curled up a corner of his lips and shrugged with feigned nonchalance. 

“How could a fella complain when two women fuss over him?”

“I think that drink’s gone to your head pretty quick there, Nico,” she said as she rolled her eyes playfully at him, but he saw the hint of blush before she turned back to the grill. 

It was the first time she’d said his name, and he liked the little extra emphasis she put on the ‘c’; he wanted to see how many times he’d get to hear her say it before he left this town behind. 

Waverly busied herself around the kitchen as he watched, pulling a tomato, onion and lettuce from the fridge and bag of fries from the freezer. She poured a generous amount of fries into the basket and dropped it in the oil, the kitchen immediately full of the sounds of hot oil spitting around cold potato. 

He watched the way her muscles moved, his eyes roving across her body as she fell into the routine. She was undoubtedly unbelievably gorgeous, and he wouldn’t complain about the view, but he already knew his interest went deeper than that. 

Nico sighed to himself, thoughts like this didn’t help. He shouldn’t focus on anything else but finding work to get Talulah fixed, if it was possible, or to pay for a bus ticket if he was forced to accept that Talulah was truly gone. 

“Pretty big sigh, you want to talk about it?” 

Nico looked up from where he’d been swirling the Jameson around his glass and returned Waverly’s encouraging smile. 

“Just worried about Talulah, and how I shouldn’t get distracted by pretty girls.” 

Waverly’s face flitted between confusion and hesitance. She pulled a few lettuce leaves from the stalk and walked over to the sink, asking over her shoulder, overly unconcerned, “Talulah your girlfriend? I notice you’re not wearing a ring.”

Nico looked down at his left hand, where a ring had sat, not that long ago. He sighed again but smiled at her back, a little embarrassed. 

“No, not married. And not my girlfriend. Talulah’s my bike.”

Waverly’s body language instantly shifted and she seemed sure of herself again. She finished rinsing the lettuce and turned back toward Nico, favoring him with a wry smile. 

“You boys and naming your bikes.”

“What, if you had a bike, you wouldn’t name her?”

Waverly shook the spatula at him before flipping the burger again and throwing a bun to toast on the grill. 

“I do have a bike, and it doesn’t have a name.”

Nico sat up straight at that. 

“Wait. You ride?”

Waverly checked on the fries, pulling the basket out of the oil and hung it up to let them drip. She turned back to him slowly before she answered, wringing her hands with a sad smile on her face. 

“Well, um, no. It was- the bike was my sister’s. And she didn’t name it anything.”

Nico grimaced. “Oh fuck, Waverly, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to step in it like that.”

She waved her hand at him and shrugged.

“No, it’s fine. It was a long time ago now. I loved seeing her roar past on that bike when I was little so much that after she was gone, Wynonna made sure it was mine. I just haven’t found the courage yet to ride it.”

“Wow, Waverly. Thank you for trusting me with that. I’d love to see her bike, if you’d like to show me sometime.”

Waverly blushed and nodded before turning back to the stove and checking the bun. She pulled it off and set it on the plate, then assembled the burger. 

“I hope you like onion, lettuce and tomato.”

“Yes ma’am, I do. Same way my Grammie made them.”

“Trying to be charming now, are we?”

Waverly grinned at him over her shoulder and Nico’s heart beat a little faster. The girl could kill with that “I’m-so-innocent-until-I-surprise-you-with-sudden-sexiness” thing and it was working on him far too well. He didn’t even think she was aware she was doing it, it wasn’t an act, she just purely was that absolutely mesmerizing. 

He realized he’d been staring when Waverly raised an eyebrow. 

“Sorry, it’s just not hard to want to charm you. You’re something else, Waverly. That’s easy to see.”

“I bet you say that to all the girls who make you food after their jerkwad ex-boyfriend’s run over your bike.”

Nico chuckled and took a sip of his drink and then met her gaze, a ghost of a smirk across his lips. 

“I’m hoping this is a once in a lifetime experience. But I would, if they were always you.”

Waverly just shook her head at him and added some fries to the plate, shaking a tiny bit of salt and pepper on them.

“You can take a time out from all that and eat. As much as you clearly have found the energy to flirt with me, you’ve been slowly sinking into that couch the whole conversation. You need food.”

She grabbed a bottle of ketchup, crossed the kitchen to him, and held out the plate. He put the now empty glass down between his feet and took the plate from her with his good hand. 

“Thank you, Waverly, really. I know there’s a reason I’m sitting here on your couch and all, but you and Wynonna didn’t have to be this nice.”

Waverly tilted her head at him and smiled. “Of course we did, silly. Now eat!” She walked back to the counter, turning off the grill and putting her supplies back in the fridge. 

Nico attempted to grab a fry with his injured hand, the only one available, and realized quickly how that was not going to work. His index finger was not bending today. Not seeing much other alternative, he raised the plate to mouth level and tried to fish a fry off the plate with his tongue. He was annoyed that for some reason this wasn’t working out too well, but it wasn’t until he heard Waverly crack up laughing that he stopped, if only to see what had her so in stitches. 

What he did not expect was for her to be laughing at him. She walked back over to the couch and took the plate from him and lowered it to his lap and he felt instantly sheepish and also terribly aware of her hands. 

“That does make a lot more sense,” he admitted, as he used his now free good hand to grab the elusive fry.

Waverly pulled back with a chuckle and sat on the couch next to him, bending one knee so she could face him. 

“Dolls’ pills must be kicking in, if you’re starting to lose higher brain functions.”

Nico nodded in agreement, picked up the burger and took a bite, closing his eyes in happiness. He didn’t care that Wynonna had done a number on one side, it was the best thing he’d eaten. Dolls, whoever he was, had magical pills indeed. He couldn’t feel his hand at all, and Waverly was starting to take on this fuzzy aura, which only seemed to heighten how beautiful he thought she looked. He should really thank this Dolls fellow. But food first. 

He could feel Waverly watching him as he ate, and he wondered what she was thinking, but she kept silent. The silence was oddly comfortable and he let himself enjoy the feeling of her presence next to him. 

By the time Nico finished the plate, he was having a hard time keeping his eyes open. Waverly noticed and took the plate from him as he thanked her, placing it in the sink. 

“I think we need to find you a bed.”

“No, I could sleep right here, it’s so comfy.”

Waverly laughed. “I’m not having you sleep in here when people are going to cook later and you’re snoring away. Come with me, I’ve got somewhere in mind.”

Nico pouted. “I don’t snore.”

“Ok, your High-ness, let’s go.”

Nico struggled to his feet, pain free, but gravity was proving difficult. Waverly noticed and grabbed his hand. 

“C’mon.”

She pulled him out of the kitchen and up a staircase he hadn’t noticed. He followed blindly along, the small bit of focus he had left zeroed in on how soft her hand was in his. Waverly opened a door along the hallway and pulled him into a bedroom, brightly decorated. It looked like a girl’s room. 

“Is this your room?”

Waverly let go of his hand, which he hated, and sat down on the edge of the bed. 

“Yep. Figured it will be quiet enough up here that by the time everyone gets back tonight, even if they get rowdy you’ll be able to sleep through it.”

Nico sat down next to Waverly and awkwardly toed off his boots, the drugs making everything feel like putty. He flopped onto the bed and put his head on a pillow, pulling the other one to his chest. He got comfy and breathed in, enjoying being surrounded by the sweet smell of the girl. 

“Your bed smells nice, Waverly. You smell nice, Waverly. And your sheets are really soft.”

“And you are as high as a kite.” She frowned at him, though her eyes sparkled. 

“Doesn’t mean I’m wrong. You’re cute when you’re serious.”

“Ok, Romeo, get some shut eye, and we’ll talk when you wake up.”

Talk? Wait! Talulah!

“What about Talulah? I can’t fall asleep yet!” He struggled against the pull to close his eyes and tried to sit up, but a hand was placed on his chest and gently pushed him back into the bed. 

“It’s gonna be ok, Nico. Like Wynonna said. Just trust her.”

Looking into Waverly’s eyes, much closer now with her hand still holding him down, he didn’t want to do anything else.

“Ok.”

Nico started to let himself relax and felt the tug to fall asleep but a thought came to him as Waverly went to pull away her hand. He caught it gently in his grasp. He wanted to say this before he drifted off and forgot. 

“I don’t know how you did it, but you grounded me, Waverly. You are the reason I calmed down earlier. I wouldn’t have otherwise. Thanks.” Nico’s head fell back to the pillow and he let Waverly’s hand go, fast asleep a few seconds later. 

Waverly looked down at him, her thoughts swirling. She reached out and brushed a piece of hair out of his face before she stood up and made her way to the door. She gently closed it behind her and headed downstairs, full of more questions than answers.