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i try to work up the courage (to kiss the bottom half of her face)

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There were different types of love, Waverly knew this. Her sister had shown her unconditional love throughout her life, despite her own troubles that she attempted to solve through disappearing for months on end and the more unintentional departures from Waverly’s life which Wynonna didn’t talk about. The youngest Earp didn’t push for answers or any further details. The unconditional love Wynonna felt for her was mutual and it was quite possibly the only thing that kept Waverly grounded.

 

Not only did it keep her grounded, it was all she had left, really.

 

---

 

Waverly discovers the concept of colour when she turns five.

 

She’s at her Aunt Gus’ ranch house, her uncle lulled to sleep close by to the soft sounds of Johnny Cash with Wynonna sleeping against his side.

 

“Did you know your eyes are the prettiest colour I’ve ever seen?” Gus stated, handing Waverly a warm cookie fresh from the oven. “They’re really beautiful.”

 

“I-what colour are they?” Waverly’s fingertips brushed over her fluttering eyelids lightly as Gus moved to sit beside her.

 

Gus cupped the girl’s cheek in her palm and smiled softly. “They’re warm. Homely. Gentle.”

 

“They’re colours?” Waverly furrowed her eyebrows.

 

“No, honey,” Gus chuckled tenderly, the smile on her face never fading. “Your eyes are hazel, but that’s no use to you now. You’ll get it one day, I promise.”

 

Gus looks over to her sleeping partner and her smiles widens. “If I have it, you will, Waverly.”

 

Waverly understands everything with a single look at Curtis and only realises then what other types of love look like. This particular case is healthy, and five year old Waverly hopes it lasts for them and for her.

 

---

 

When Waverly is sixteen, Champ Hardy asks her to a dance at Purgatory High School. Champ, Waverly knows, is a brute. He’s a boy who wants nothing but fun and to tease the less fortunate kids but in front of Waverly, he’s all an act.

 

He holds the door open for her, he kisses her cheek timidly, he holds her hand sweetly on dates and most importantly, he cares for her. Champ is the only boy who has ever acknowledged her politely. He never turned her down or called her names. He even defended her when other boys and even other girls had a remark to make. He’d always tell them to back off. Waverly knew he was trouble but around her, he was different.

 

But Waverly felt nothing. She loved him, sure. He’d helped her, and she couldn’t not respect him for that, but there was something missing.

 

Wynonna could see that, Curtis could see that, and God did Gus know it.

 

---

 

Waverly isn’t sure how, but the longer she stays with Champ, the darker the world seems to become. He becomes cold and ignores everything about Waverly apart from her body and the sex that she eventually refuses to give.

 

And when Wynonna leaves, it’s almost as though everything is just black.

 

---

 

Shorty’s is at its usual for a Wednesday afternoon. There are officers having lunch and Shorty is behind the bar with Waverly serving the regulars. Everything is so normal and familiar that Waverly doesn’t even think about it being any different.

 

Until those saloon doors are almost thrown off their hinges.

 

It’s Gus, and Waverly’s expecting something about Wynonna and she immediately panics. The swirling of grayscale surrounding her started pumping, threatening to close in on her and her breathing picks up and there’s no pattern to her breathing anymore, there’s no pattern to anything. There’s only panic and Wynonna.

 

But when Gus approaches the bar she isn’t panicked. Not even slightly.

 

She’s upset, and somehow Waverly knows everything.

 

When Shorty walks over he’s quiet and he stands patiently, waiting for Gus to just say something. She looks between her and Waverly for what feels like a full minute before the first tear, the first Waverly has ever seen from Gus, slides down her face.

 

“Gus-”

 

And Waverly physically cannot continue when Gus completely breaks down and falls to the floor.

 

---

 

The return of Wynonna does something for her sight. It’s still completely grayscale, but somehow it’s less sad. Even if the reason for her return is the one thing that has ruined the mood of the entire town.

 

Gus can’t see colour anymore, that’s the first thing she says when her sobs become weaker. Waverly wouldn’t let her say his name because she knew she’d be next and damn if she wasn’t going to pay Gus back for the strength she’d given her while growing up.

 

The funeral is worse.

 

Wynonna arrives late and Gus doesn’t know what colour his casket is and Waverly thinks it’s that that finally makes her cry, to know that Gus has lost her soulmate and barely has anyone left.

 

Gus hides away for days and to be honest, Waverly wasn’t expecting much else. She plays the same Johnny Cash record over and over again. She drinks out of his favourite mug or glass. She sits in his favourite chair and God forbid if she left without his cologne in her bag.

 

Above all though, Gus just won’t stop crying. She’s strong in front of everyone, especially Wynonna and Waverly but on her own, her demons are unleashed there is nothing that can hide her vulnerability.

 

---

 

Waverly’s shift at Shorty’s began early that morning. She opened up one day a week and of course it had to be today, the one day she really, really wanted to spend some time with her sister. Wynonna was probably at home completely hungover, Waverly knew this, but they hadn’t seen each other for three years and their uncle had just died and Waverly knew that Wynonna was only trying to be strong for her.

 

It wasn’t the first time the beer tap had decided to inevitably break at the slightest touch but it just so happened that Waverly was the victim of beer-soaking that fateful morning. She was just glad Champ wasn’t around to jump her like he had every. time. before. One glance at a t-shirt soaked Waverly and he was up behind her, gripping her hips and grinding his crotch into her after Waverly had told him to stop.

 

Waverly’s world turns a little darker every time he ignores her pleas for him to just back off.

 

There are still eyes on her though, but they don’t announce their presence straight away. They watch and they stare but not like Champ. Champ desires, Champ is rough and doesn’t take no for answer. He loves Waverly’s appearance and nothing else.

 

So when a voice calls out, Waverly stumbles in confusion at the intruder.

 

“I didn’t know Shorty’s had wet t-shirt competitions.”

 

It’s sarcastic and if it wasn’t for the smile on the intruder’s face Waverly would have thought it was mocking and snarky.

 

When Waverly breaks down the remark she receives nothing but teasing from the tall stranger who Waverly deemed as strikingly beautiful but very out of place.

 

Their interaction is awkward, but the stranger, Nicole has something about her that makes Waverly swoon in defeat and the feel of her hand makes Waverly never want to let go.

 

Nicole not-so-inconspicuously asks her on a coffee date and Waverly declines it because she suddenly remembers she has a boyfriend and she, unlike him, is faithful.

 

It makes her feel sick, but the dimpled smile and the soft look in the Officer’s eyes makes her forget about Champ for a brief moment.

 

And she walks out, head held high and the stetson placed back on her head, which she had of course taken off out of politeness in front of Waverly. The grin on her face is confident like she knows everything going through Waverly’s head and she should feel exposed but she doesn’t. Not in front of Nicole- Officer Haught.

 

It isn’t until the door shuts behind her that Waverly realises she’d acknowledged the colour of Nicole’s hair.

 

---

 

It happens fast, the reaction.

 

She stands for a moment, unable to move without worrying she’d fall and break something. When everything sinks in though, the only thought she has is if Nicole sees it too.

 

She probably should’ve kept a better eye on the bar but dammit she’d finally understood what was going on around her and she needed to know more, to make sure this wasn’t a dream.

 

“Nicole!”

 

Waverly’s stood by the entrance to Shorty’s, doors closed behind her as she stares in the direction of the new officer.

 

She turns to Waverly and oh God she has that smile on her face again and Waverly’s knees go weak at the sight. “I-I mean. Officer Haught.”

 

“You can call me Nicole, Miss Earp,” she grins softly after walking back in Waverly’s direction. “I’d prefer Nicole from you, in fact.”

 

Waverly suppresses the blush threatening to paint her cheeks and clears her throat. “Then we’ll make a deal. I call you Nicole if you call me Waverly and not Miss Earp.”

 

“It’s certainly a deal I can get on board with.” She nods, that damn smile still on her face.

 

They stare for a moment, waiting for the other to speak until Nicole finally breaks the silence.

 

“I know. I see them now, too.”

 

“You- what?”

 

Waverly blinks and her mind is racing so quickly that she can’t land on anything.

 

“The colours, Waverly.” Her smile is somehow softer than before and Waverly swears it’s one reserved for her. “Did you know your eyes are the prettiest colour I’ve ever seen?”

 

Waverly’s heart leaps in her chest because she remembers that exact quote from Gus after they’d spent a day with Wynonna and her now late uncle.

 

“You’ve only ever seen my eye colour, Nicole,” she raises an eyebrow.

 

“I can guess nothing else will ever beat yours.” The slight southern drawl to her accent makes an appearance and Waverly swoons at how cliche this is.

 

“But I,” Waverly sighs and has a deep regret for what she’s about to say. “ I’m not gay.

 

Nicole’s face doesn’t change and if she does react, it definitely isn’t visible.

 

“I know.” Nicole looks her up and down then, not in a disrespectful way either and tips her hat. “I’ll see you ‘round, Waverly Earp.”

 

Waverly feels too sick to move.

 

---

 

Nicole could see it bothering Waverly. Whenever she saw the brunette in the town, usually with Champ in Shorty’s or in her Jeep, Waverly looked distant. Any remnants of connection Waverly had with Champ had, by Nicole’s judgement, completely disappeared because of her.

 

Even with Wynonna, Waverly looked confused.

 

Nicole could see it bothering Waverly, and she hated it.

 

---

 

When Shorty dies, Waverly’s universe doesn’t fade completely, but it grows colder.

 

Blue and grey and white become so much more prominent in everything now and she thinks back to when Gus lost Curtis. When Gus lost Curtis, she lost everything. She lost her soulmate, which didn’t even come close to what Waverly might be feeling.

 

And if Waverly had broken down over this, she never wanted to go through Gus had.

 

She stands behind the bar, where Shorty always used to hang around waiting for orders and just stares.

 

At her hands, mostly.

 

She knows she’s crying, Shorty was family to her in a sense so why wouldn’t she be, but she feels like there is a deeper meaning behind her breakdown. Maybe it’s the threat of danger that’s been lurking ever since Wynonna had returned, or maybe it’s nothing at all, but Waverly hates that she immediately blames Wynonna for it.

 

Nicole is stood in front of her, her eyes soft but sad and there’s sorrow and sympathy but also a hint that she knows Waverly is strong enough to get through to the other side of it, and it’s only here that Waverly realises the depth of her connection with this practical stranger, who also happens to be her soulmate.

 

Nicole holds Waverly’s hands in her own and Waverly’s eyes blow wide for a second at the thought that this is her soulmate and she’s beautiful.

 

She’s truly beautiful.

 

Her hands are soft which means her skin is probably even softer and Jesus there’s no way the younger girl is as male-interested as she thought when Nicole stares at her like she’s the most important thing in the world.

 

Nicole’s eyes, a soft chocolate brown, are burning holes into Waverly’s but she looks genuinely worried and having someone care for her like this makes her heart leap in her chest because Champ shows no interest in her anymore, not for who she is. Not for her mind or her beliefs or anything apart from her appearance and the things she does for him.

 

Champ interrupts them, of course he does, and his arms are tight and constricting around Waverly and his mouth feels wrong when he kisses all over her face, trying to be gentle but inevitably failing. Maybe it’s because Nicole’s hands were just holding hers and they were so much more gentle than Champ’s firm, harsher, more possessive grip that Waverly usually struggled to break free from.

 

When Nicole walks away and Champ marks his disapproval, Waverly uses everything in her power not to break free and yell at him, to tell him that Officer Haught was nothing but good but Champ would hate the attention Waverly gave to someone else.

 

So she leaves it. She lets him maintain his firm and uncomfortable grip around her shoulders. She lets him press rough and unwelcome kisses to wherever he can reach. She lets him have his way, because that’s what’s normal.

 

---

 

She breaks up with him eventually.

 

She doesn’t think about it, not really.

 

One minute they’re arguing about sex, again , and how Waverly won’t let him think with his dick anymore and the next she lays her heart on the table and tells him, a shortened version of everything, but tells him anyway.

 

The words we’re done, Champ roll off her tongue and it’s the easiest thing she’s ever done but once it’s official she’s the happiest she’s ever been. The look on his face doesn’t even show heartbreak.

 

It shows disappointment.

 

He’s not sad that he can’t have Waverly anymore, he’s sad that he can’t have Waverly’s body anymore, and the thought that Waverly is getting rid of that negativity from her life makes her soar higher than she ever has before.

 

She kicks him out of Shorty’s and the second the door slams shut, a smile paints her face.

 

Of course, it’s her luck that Officer Haught is calling her from Shorty’s’ doorway.

 

She has that damn grin on her face again but there’s some worry behind it too.

 

“What’s up with Chump?” Nicole asks casually. “I’ve never seen him so pissed before.”

 

Waverly doesn’t bother correcting her and instead she laughs and she watches Nicole’s face light up.

 

“Broke up with him.” Waverly shrugs, attempting to shove the skull back into the box and behind the piano without looking slightly suspicious.

 

It doesn’t work.

 

Nicole raises an eyebrow but doesn’t push, even if she knows Waverly is hiding something.

 

“And how do you feel?” Nicole asks her, placing her stetson on the bar and perching on one of the stools as Waverly makes her way back behind the bar.

 

“Honestly?” Waverly grins. “Never better.”

 

Nicole nods and gives a clap.

 

“Hey, you want that coffee? We’re actually open now,” Waverly suggests, her tone slightly teasing.

 

“Yeah,” Nicole beams, her dimples showing and oh God she has dimples. “Yeah I do. That’d be perfect.”

 

---

 

Fighting with Nicole, Waverly learns, is worse than not being able to express what she wants.

 

She’s nervous and frantic, she’s Waverly Earp so of course she is, and she can’t get a point across clearly enough and it’s gotten to the point where she had to fight with Nicole over it, who probably had no idea what they were even fighting about.

 

Nicole drops her home and then drives back to the station presumably, but their entire car ride to drop Waverly at the homestead is silent and it’s awkward and Waverly hates it more than anything else.

 

It took Waverly long enough to realise what it was that she was missing and even longer for her to process an attraction not only to a woman, but to the most beautiful and kind woman she’d ever met in her lifetime. She didn’t want to wait any longer for Nicole, she couldn’t physically wait any longer for her but she didn’t know how to tell her.

 

---

 

That’s when she found herself parking the Jeep outside the station, running frantically through the corridors and coming face-to-face with the one person she so desperately wanted-no. Needed. Now was the time to do something.

 

Nedley’s office was the first instinct to scatter to, and she was in there closing the blinds and shutting the door and climbing Nicole so she could kiss her before she could even think about her next move.

 

Waverly could guess this might get her message across.

 

Maybe kissing Nicole was a mistake because God her lips were so soft and gentle but they were all consuming and as frantic as Waverly’s for the first few seconds and Waverly never wants to stop kissing her.

 

They land on the couch and Waverly straddles the redhead awkwardly but somehow it’s still comfortable because she’s there with Nicole and that’s all she needs.

 

Nicole has that fucking smile on her face again that’s filled with nervousness this time as Waverly explains herself.

 

And the second Nicole’s face changes when Waverly admits that she’s scared, Waverly is sure she’s fallen in love.

 

Waverly’s ability to see colour has peaked in this moment, and suddenly everything becomes so much warmer. Nicole’s hair is a deeper orange, more like an autumn shade that is warm and her eyes look so soft and full of admiration that Waverly thinks even people who can’t see the world the way she now does would be able to see the happiness in Nicole’s eyes.

 

Nicole’s fingers curl around her scarf and pull her closer, the smile turning into a smirk that’s suggestive but respectful, her brown eyes becoming brighter with happiness yet darker with want.

 

Waverly asks Nicole to lead without actually asking her but Nicole could read her, so she pulls their lips together and she’s in control this time and God Waverly can feel the difference and the confidence.

 

Waverly hums into the kiss when Nicole takes control, flipping positions so she’s leaning over Waverly.

 

Nicole is just as eager as Waverly and Waverly loves that because she really knows that this feeling that she’s been contemplating and pining over is mutual.

 

Waverly cradles Nicole’s head and tries to tangle her fingers in the hair that she can reach without messing up her braid but when Nicole touches her hips like that, when she runs a thumb over Waverly’s swollen lips when they pull away for a second, Waverly doesn’t care anymore.

 

She can feel Nicole’s tongue lightly trace her lips for a second before it disappears and it’s just lips again, pressing hot against Waverly’s and the Earp kind of hates how tentative Nicole is being.

 

She loves the respect, she does. But she wants Nicole more than anything and she wants the officer to know that she isn’t fragile.

 

Waverly takes matters into her own hands and trails the hand cupping Nicole’s braid down towards the redheads hips and freezes. She nips softly at Nicole’s bottom lip and pulls Nicole’s hips down towards her own.

 

The sound the redhead produces could make everyone in the world see the universe in the same way as Waverly.

 

“I’m not going to break, Nicole,” Waverly mutters. “I’m not going to break. I have you, I’m not going to break.”

 

Jesus , Waverly,” she groans softly and it’s now that she’s more eager with their kisses, joining their lips again and this time sliding her tongue along Waverly’s as she rolls her hips again.

 

“That’s better,” Waverly grins, gripping Nicole’s shirt collar in one hand and her hip in the other. “So much better.”

 

Having to stop is the worst thing Waverly will ever do thus far, but she doesn’t care because she has Nicole and Nicole has her and even if nothing official is confirmed, their lips moving together says more than words can at this moment.

 

Waverly finally gathered up the courage to do what she wanted, what she’d been craving since Nicole had walked into Shorty’s that first day with her head high, her smile on her face and her card at the ready.

 

No, Waverly thinks.

 

This is the happiest she’s ever been.

 

---

 

She doesn’t tell Wynonna because she wants Nicole to herself for a while, and she wasn’t particularly certain she was comfortable enough to tell Wynonna so quickly, and Nicole, being the sweetheart that she is, supports her genuinely through her decision.

 

She escapes to Nicole’s townhouse sometimes.

 

Waverly falls in love with Calamity Jane and Nicole’s house and Nicole’s music collection and Nicole .

 

The redhead is a musical elitist, as she suspected. One corner of her living room is stacked with records and CDs and cassettes from all over time and there’s always something different playing but Waverly loves it all because it’s all so Nicole.

 

One day it’s country, with a twangy guitar and oddly personal lyrics that are mostly love songs and Waverly finds herself smiling at most of the lyrics or watching Nicole hum along softly to whatever is playing.

 

Others it’s the Cure with Robert Smith’s intimate words and their beautiful instrumentation, and Waverly and Nicole always sing along to every word because it’s just so them.

 

Sometimes it’s the Smiths, and Morrissey’s melancholic tone in his voice and the guitar tones and the bass makes Waverly’s heart ache for whatever reason because although it’s sad and it’s mostly depressing she feels so happy with Nicole that the music topic doesn’t matter.

 

She falls in love with Nicole.

 

She falls in love with everything that is Nicole.

 

And it’s the day that Johnny Cash is the pick of the day when Waverly is at Nicole’s place that she thinks Nicole knows.

 

The song Curtis always used to play more than anything else, Johnny Cash’s version of God’s Gonna Cut You Down starts playing softly through Nicole’s speakers on shuffle while they’re sitting on Nicole’s couch and Waverly just breaks.

 

She buries her face into Nicole’s neck and Nicole thinks her heart breaks a little when she feels the wetness of tears sliding against her collarbone.

 

But Nicole waits patiently. She knows there’s more to be said and Waverly will get to that part in her own time so until then, she just holds the Earp close. She runs one hand through her hair, stopping occasionally to cup her scalp and massage it gently before running her fingers through the strands again.

 

When Waverly lifts to face Nicole, her face is stained with tears and she looks as though she’s been holding this for too long, and Nicole’s heart breaks a little more because they can talk about this, but they haven’t. They should have.

 

“I’m sorry,” she sniffles eventually and then chuckles lightly. “I’m such a mess.”

 

“No, it’s okay, Wave.” Nicole laces their fingers together and presses a kiss to Waverly’s forehead. “You wanna talk about it?”

 

“It’s Curtis. I didn’t realise how much I had bottled him up and this song, God that song. It was his favourite. Took me off guard, I guess.”

 

“Oh shit, I’m sorry, Waves.” Nicole attempts to get up so she can turn the song off for Waverly’s sake but she can’t because Waverly has gripped her arms so that she can’t get any further away.

 

“No, Nicole, please,” she takes a breath, deeper than she initially expected and rests her forehead on Nicole’s shoulder briefly before lifting up and locking eyes with her. “I needed to hear it. This- it helps, believe it or not.”

 

Nicole thinks for a minute but nods because she does believe her. “Okay.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Yeah, baby. It’s all good.” Nicole smiles and it’s that smile that’s reserved for Waverly, but the brunette knows it’s not the smile that makes her heart flutter in her chest this time.

 

Her head snaps up from where it’d been staring at Nicole’s hands, which were playing with Waverly’s fingers and she looks at Nicole.

 

Nicole realises what had slipped out for the first time and blushes deeper than Waverly had ever seen and she goes to apologise, dammit. “Ah, shit, I mean-”

 

Waverly surges forward, hands curving around either side of Nicole’s neck as she kisses her soundly on the mouth.

 

When she pulls away she laughs and speaks before Nicole can get a word out and Jesus her smile is so captivating that Nicole cannot look away. “I really, really don’t know why that gave me butterflies but please keep doing that.”

 

“What, call you baby ?” Nicole smirks and kisses Waverly quickly.

 

Please.

 

Nicole kisses her properly then, revelling in the new familiarity of Waverly’s lips against her own and she can tell Waverly senses that thought when she pushes Nicole further into the couch and straddles her hips, smiling so widely into their kiss they’re forced to break it.

 

It’s when Nicole looks at her then that she’s certain she knows the depth of her feelings for her, and even Nicole looks like she’s landed on some sort of answer.

 

But nothing is verbalised, and if one of them was going to say something, the next kiss swallows it down.

 

---

 

Willa is back.

 

Willa is back and Waverly’s world turns a little colder because she’d be insane to forget about the things Willa had done to her and put her through, even if she did go missing all those years ago.

 

Willa is back, and Waverly is nowhere near as happy as she thought she might be.

 

Because Willa isn’t Willa.

 

She’s mean still, but this time it’s different.

 

It’s worse.

 

Before, Willa hadn’t hid her hatred for her youngest sister from anyone, especially Waverly, but this time she pretends to like Waverly and somehow that’s worse.

 

Her fake smiles are painful and she’s so much colder than before.

 

And she can use Peacemaker, and Waverly thinks it’s that that hurts the most. Because Wynonna can use it too, so if two sisters can use it, why can’t three?

 

Nicole seems to be the source of happiness that she turns to, and Waverly is still more than satisfied. If anything, she’s lucky.

 

Nicole was so worried when Waverly told her about the gunshot. It was only a graze, but this is Nicole and she doesn’t take things like that lightly, not when it’s Waverly involved.

 

She’s banished to the barn when Willa barges in with her usual scowl on her face and a  complaint or insult spilling from her lips.

 

This time it’s directed at Nicole, of course it is, because Nicole makes Waverly happy, and Willa can’t have that.

 

It’s almost ironic, the way Nicole exits. She has a grin on her face and the idea of unspoken promises from Waverly in her brain so she isn’t mad at Willa because Waverly doesn’t take her seriously anymore.

 

---

 

Their first ‘almost’ takes place shortly after in the barn.

 

Waverly sighs when she enters the barn and mutters something about her eldest sister before meeting Nicole’s eyes and immediately relaxing under her gaze.

 

Nicole meets her strides and hugs her gently, wrapping an arm around her waist while Waverly nuzzles into the softness of Nicole’s magenta sweater, breathing in Nicole’s scent that’s becoming solely the smell of home.

 

They break apart and Waverly sits on the edge of the bed while Nicole leans back against her spot from before, giving Waverly some space.

 

Nicole senses shortly that it isn’t space that Waverly needs, it’s contact and Nicole is behind her in a flash.

 

Waverly relaxes under Nicole’s soft touch against her neck, the words I know, baby whispered quietly but sensually against her.

 

She loses it after Nicole presses her lips against the back of her ear and almost her neck and she turns around, her eyes already sliding closed and her lips meeting Nicole’s incredibly soft ones.

 

They kiss slow, heart-wrenchingly slowly and Waverly needs more. She isn’t even scared to give herself to Nicole in this moment, and she shows that as their kisses grow faster but still intimate, perhaps even more so. Nicole slips off that sweater and Jesus her skin is so creamy and it looks so smooth that Waverly is afraid to touch it.

 

There are whispers of consent as they realise where this might be going, and then Waverly is removing her first article of clothing to show Nicole that she wants this, that she’s been waiting for the right moment for this to happen and that she craves Nicole more than anything else.

 

And Nicole, Waverly’s gorgeous, sweeter than honey Nicole, takes the lead because she knows that’s what Waverly needs.

 

Nicole is slow still, but her kisses become more frantic as they grasp at each other, afraid they’ll slip away from one another.

 

Nicole’s breath is heavy and hot and Waverly is so attracted to the want and the need Nicole so clearly possesses in this moment that she doesn’t realise they’re being interrupted, their almost becoming a not quite.

 

Willa’s face is painted with surprise, of course it is, but there is some disappointment there too, Waverly thinks.

 

Waverly’s face drops at Willa’s somewhat clear disapproval and Nicole knows she needs to leave now before things get ugly, as much as she wants to stay for Waverly.

 

This was about Waverly and her sister, and even if Nicole did love Waverly, she wasn’t about to cut in the middle of family.

 

She slips her sweatshirt back over her head and tells Waverly to call her before throwing Willa a subtle dirty look and disappearing out of the barn, leaving Waverly to get things off her chest.

 

Waverly should be mad at Willa, and she is, but she has things to take her mind off Willa now and she’s old enough to stick up for herself. She holds her head high and in her own way, tells Willa to fuck off and she feels as though she’s finally come back from the things Willa had done to her all those years ago.

 

---

 

Nicole is breathtaking.

 

Waverly always knew that.

 

But here, now.

 

Fuck.

 

That dress is working wonders for her, the purple dress that hugs Nicole everywhere.

 

Her hair is out of the braid again but it’s more curled this time, and it’s thick and soft and Waverly wants to tangle her fingers through it and pull their lips together but there are so many people and they’re already in so much danger that she can’t.

 

Nicole is the one to tell her how beautiful she is and Waverly wants to scoff because has she seen herself? Nicole hands her a bracelet so casually that it’s almost domestic and Waverly loves the thought of it.

 

She tells Nicole to get ready to run, and Nicole looks confused and perhaps a little upset but Waverly will tell her everything after this. She promises herself that.

 

And she wills that she’ll tell Wynonna, too.

 

And after that, they won’t have to hide anymore.

 

But they need to actually get out of here first, and it’s already proving to be a struggle.

 

---

 

Champ is in front of her, throwing some homophobic, drunken insults and then within seconds, Nicole has thrown him to the ground and shoved cuffs around his wrists. She smirks up at Waverly a little and Waverly heats up everywhere at Nicole defending her and the fact that she looks like that while doing so.

 

There’s something about Nicole sticking up her like that, something about the way that Nicole takes what’s hers but remains mindful and respectful towards Waverly and primarily what Waverly wants that makes her heart soar sky high.

 

The smirk on Nicole’s face tells Waverly that she knows, too.

 

---

 

She’s stood frozen in the station, her eyes trailed on Willa and that gun in her hand that’s aimed at Nicole who is standing up for her again.

 

And Willa blurts it out and Wynonna is confused but not in the same way that Willa was. Waverly doesn’t know what to say, but the kind of that falls from her lips is supposed to be a confirmation, but it doesn’t sound like it.

 

There’s a break in Nicole’s voice when she repeats Waverly’s words as if she thinks that all of this that had happened with Waverly had meant nothing and it makes Waverly’s heart ache in the worst way.

 

Willa is about to put a bullet in Nicole, in her girlfriend and she’s panicking and she knows that the only thing that’ll deter her from doing so is the truth.

 

So she turns to Wynonna and she begs and pleads for her to do something because Waverly loves her, and the look on Wynonna’s face when Waverly admits what she’s been hiding is a look of sympathy and understanding.

 

She hands Peacemaker to Willa for Waverly’s sake, and then Willa fucking shoots anyway and Nicole hits the wall and then the floor so hard that Waverly’s world flickers from light to dark within half a second.

 

She’s kneeling beside Nicole and lifting her round into a position that she might survive in when Wynonna is stood above them, her voice daring when she voices that there is indeed, no blood.

 

Nicole, kind, thoughtful, soft, breathtaking Nicole, doesn’t deserve this even slightly and Waverly wants to laugh when she sees that Nicole actually feels the same because of course she’s wearing a bulletproof vest.

 

And suddenly there isn’t a single sign of darkness to be seen.

 

She’s breathless and she can’t move nearly as comfortably as she wants to because even through a bulletproof vest she still feels in pain, but the bullet isn’t inside of her and she isn’t bleeding and she’s okay dammit she’s alive.

 

Waverly can’t rid her face of a smile when Wynonna straight up approves of Nicole with a wink and you finally picked a smart one.

 

Waverly kisses Nicole then, and she puts every ounce of love and admiration into it as she can in the few seconds that they have. Nicole didn’t hear her confession as it was barely a whisper but Waverly would still try to get the message across to Nicole in any other way she could until she was brave enough to say it aloud.

 

Nicole’s lips are desperate and the skin of her neck is soft and inviting as Waverly curls her hand around it to put more into their short kiss but Wynonna interrupts them, and it’s probably for the best because Waverly wants to keep kissing her, yet they have an angry older sister to catch and that makes it impossible.

 

Waverly leaves with a final kiss and the knowledge that Nicole is okay and that Nicole is alive and it’s all that matters in that moment.

 

Willa isn’t important because Wynonna approves and Nicole is okay and she and Waverly can be together properly now, and it is all that matters.