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“Please have a seat. Mr. Haught is running a bit late today.”

The blonde secretary gives a blinding white smile, sweet and syrupy and an exceedingly warm and friendly demeanor that has to be a well-constructed façade. The kind that would distract—with a delightful “let’s be friends forever” type of persona—from the secretive, covert, partner-in-crime attitude she is sure to have hidden under lock and key. Quickly glancing at the impeccably pristine white of the beta’s short-sleeved cashmere shirt and matching skirt, it’s easy to imagine the woman destroying evidence, burning thousands of pages containing sensitive and damning proof that would otherwise send her boss, herself, and everyone with a slight affiliation with the company into a tailspin. Or worse, jail.

Their eyes meet once more, and there’s a shiver. For an overactive imagination that sometimes escapes her, Wynonna grounds herself in the hope that she wasn’t called in to deal with some sort of corporate, white-collar crime. Last thing she needs is to get roped into some billionaire businessman’s plans for a hostile takeover, or god forbid, insider trading .

The alpha waits patiently, sitting on a bench with a dark wooden varnish up against the wall. Wynonna fiddles with her phone to keep herself occupied, because at twenty-seven years old, she shouldn’t be this nervous about a job; a seasoned veteran feeling like a novice all because her new client is a billionaire, his secretary is an honest to god bombshell, and the entire building is made of glass, steel, and granite—a far cry from the seedy back rooms of the mom and pop stores and McDonald’s parking lots where she used to conduct first meetings like some hitman.

The dark-haired alpha gets through three levels of Candy Crush before her left leg becomes restless. Bouncing up and down uncontrollably, discomfort and anxiety manifesting itself. The secretary stands up from behind her desk and heads to the heavy, dark wooden doors with gold knobs, and disappears inside. “Ms. Earp,” the secretary reappears. “If you may, wait inside the office.”

Wynonna stands and quirks a brow.

“Mr. Haught will be here in just a few minutes, he’s finishing up his a meeting.”

The secretary leaves Wynonna alone, and for a moment, the alpha wonders why the beta is even allowing a complete stranger to stay inside the office, by herself. But then it dawns on her, why not? The entire building is fortified with surveillance cameras and guards, better secured than Fort Knox, as if anyone would have the sheer gall to steal from here.

Looking around the spacious office, the entire room is an interior designer’s—with a modern, minimalist touch—pride and joy. The chair she sits in has a contoured backrest, leather upholstery, and brass nailhead trimming held up by a hardwood mahogany frame. Off to the side, beneath a multi-panel wall-canvas photography art of the Eiffel Tower from a street view, is a couch with thick foam cushions, covered with stylish bonded leather, on four sturdy wooden legs with a mahogany finish to support it.

At Wynonna’s feet is a large carpet with an intricate design, beneath it, the floor is made of marble tiles, and ahead of the private investigator is an exceedingly massive black desk with a smooth top. Behind that is a set of shelves made of out of wood, and the dark-haired alpha imagines one of the books is linked to a secret back room or something. Bit of a stretch, but with the entire room looking like it would belong to a Bond villain, it fits.

On the desk, Wynonna notices a framed family photo, showing them off at an expensive dinner, dressed in formal attire, suits and dresses and the works.

“That’s a photo from last spring. We attended a benefit held by the mayor.” Victor Haught enters the room, CEO of Cerberus Enterprise, and the man who called her here today through his assistant. Beneath the splash of cologne, and even just a bit of aftershave, the man’s scent is rich, smelling of smoke and dark chocolate; the smell of refurbished metal, centuries of power and wealth radiating from his skin.

“You have a beautiful family,” Wynonna says with an appreciative look to the man’s wife and four kids; all of whom look like they’ve walked directly off a photoshoot.

“Thank you. But let’s get down to business, shall we?” Victor says, sitting down behind his desk, honey-golden eyes bright and cold. “As much as I enjoy small talk, I hate to waste time unnecessarily.”

Victor’s auburn hair is dark—unlike the halo of fiery red hair his wife sports—brightened only by the white and gray hairs styled delicately so as not to ruin his angular face, rounded by years of hard work.

“I suspect my wife is cheating on me, and I need you to find out the truth.”

 


 

Monday afternoon, Waverly finds herself having to fight the urge to run out of the classroom like a speeding bullet. It’s the beginning of the week, and everyone is feeling that nervous energy. With only ten minutes left, some of her students are getting fidgety, and others have already packed up before the cleanup bell, ready to run. She’s reminded of a time when she was a student herself, designating the best time of the day—besides her History and English classes—as dismissal. The second that bell rang, a chorus of chairs scraping back against the floor, backpacks being zipped open and lockers being thrown closed as everyone made their way outside. Now, at twenty-four years old, a full-fledged adult despite what her dad thinks, she knows that she isn’t immune to the gloom and doom of Mondays either.

Waverly makes sure that her final class of the day has everything they need to do their homework, even though she knows that a few will make an excuse about losing it between now and  tomorrow, and then she takes her seat and lets them all perpetually kill themselves over who gets through the door first.

A few of her students stay behind for a few minutes; as the newly crowned “cool teacher,” a title she holds going on two years strong, students often try and talk to her. And while it does help the monotonous grind and frees her mind, she’s careful to keep the lines between them from being crossed. All too often, whether it’d be in high school or college, she has seen how some students would try and breach that line, trying to establish a sort of relationship with their teacher or professor that separated them from the rest of the class. Made them feel special.

This was something that Waverly remembered happened quite often when she used to walk the halls of Purgatory High as this wide-eyed teenager who lead the cheerleading squad as their captain, regularly attended the now defunct book club, and tried so very hard to propose a history club that sadly never got greenlit. Many of the popular students back then had clung to their favorite teacher in the hopes of being able to run roughshod over them. Years later, nothing’s changed. She sends the remaining students taking their sweet time getting ready—chatting amicably amongst themselves about an upcoming soccer game—to leave, and they do with a wave and a smile.

It has been years since Waverly was a student here, and during her time, soccer wasn’t talked about as highly, or even as often, as football. No one really cared for it, and rarely did the games attract the amount of attention that football did; but now the ol’ pigskin is just a memory and soccer is the sport that brings people out of their homes dressed and painted in the school’s colors.

Waverly doesn’t know much about soccer, or why everyone is so into it. Thankfully, she isn’t the only one. Sitting by the window in the last row is Tucker Gardner, one of the few students in school that didn’t get swept away by all the hype and fanfare. Instead, the beta was a part of the AV Club, and would sometimes hang around the library during his lunch period and after school when waiting on either of his sisters to pick him up. Unlike Beth and Mercedes, whom the brunette remembered as being very popular, Tucker kept to himself. Having been his English teacher for two years, Waverly noted that he always had his nose in a book. During the few times she popped into Rosita’s homeroom last year, she noticed Tucker in the back listening to music and on his phone. Rarely did he ever talk to anyone else.

Talks in the faculty lounge in the morning before the first bell, during lunch and after school, revealed that the poor boy was, on one hand, weird and just didn’t fit in with the other students. And on the other, purposely chose to alienate himself from everyone else because he believed he was superior. Most of the teachers would agree with the latter; born into the Gardner family, a wealthy and influential family with deep Purgatory roots, it’s only natural to assume the boy looked down on everyone else. But Waverly didn’t believe it, preferring to give the beta the benefit of the doubt.

Gently tapping on his shoulder, she smiles at him. “Tucker, I’m going to need you to leave the room, okay?”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” He takes off his earbuds and hurriedly tries to pack up the rest of his things. “I-I was getting ready, but then I got distracted.”

“It’s alright.” Waverly tilts her head to the side. “I really liked your critical essay on George and Lennie’s relationship.”

Tucker’s eyes light up. “Thanks, Ms. Earp. I had to reread the last two chapters and the scene with Curley’s wife to really drive home the point about everyone vying for the American Dream.”

“It was wonderfully done, and I hope to see the same for the fifteen-page paper on Shakespeare.”

“Of course.”

Tucker looks like he’s about to say something else, but a knock at the door stops him. Standing against the doorframe is Nicole Haught; soccer captain, alpha, everyone’s favorite jock who somehow manages to whip the entire student population—and the staff—into a frenzy during the season.

Having heard on more than one occasion that Nicole had single-handedly led Purgatory High to the championships since she started high school, a serious statement that Waverly has noticed no one seems to care enough about to actually correct. They’re happy to have the alpha take the helm and dominate the entire game—and on that same note, the entire varsity division—just to be led to victory and reap the spoils of war afterwards, and it warrants for the girl to have a massive ego. One that, to the omega’s astonishment, the school is very quick to inflate.

Waverly doesn’t understand it; how can a teenager inspire such submissiveness in others? Especially those twice and three times her age. But Rosita was kind enough to give her the rundown after the first time she witnessed such blatant favoritism. Nicole Haught comes from an incredibly wealthy background; rich alpha parents, her father the current CEO of an international conglomerate, and her mother a prominent socialite and former debutante. Richest family in the entire town, giving the Gardners a good run for their money, they could easily buy out everything. But instead they chose not to, preferring to be active members of the community, and even paying for the construction of some new park.

Admittedly, it didn’t paint a pretty picture of the young alpha for Waverly; the letterman jacket, the expensive clothing, the endless adoration from the rest of the student population—and really the entire town, if anything—only further pigeonholed Nicole into an unflattering light.

“Am I interrupting something? ‘Cause I can just leave and we can reschedule,” Nicole asks in a bored tone, masked beneath a thinly veiled veneer of faux politeness.

“No,” Waverly says sternly, “tutoring is still on.” The alpha quietly sucks her teeth and tightens the strap of her backpack over her shoulder as she steps out of the doorway.

Waverly takes a deep breath, knowing that today (just like all the other Mondays since the school year started) won’t be an easy one. It’s one thing dealing with a classroom full of seventeen and eighteen-year-olds who visibly and wholeheartedly don’t want to be in school and are hit with the Monday Blues, Gloom and Doom—but to deal with one? Just one, head on, steadily tears down a person’s mood, and fortunately, Waverly’s experiences with this have been far and few in between.

She turns to Tucker and tells him that she’ll see him tomorrow and to have a good rest of the day, and the beta smiles brightly, wishing her the same. He leaves, stepping around Nicole, who simply regards him with a dirty look. Tucker scurries around the alpha and slips through the door. Naturally, Waverly’s first instinct is to come to his defense, but she knows, both as a person and as a teacher, that she can’t; there was nothing verbal or physical she could run off of to reprimand the younger woman.

As always, Waverly grabs her gradebook, reviewing the alpha’s grades, and unfortunately, they left much to be desired.

“The year just started, and already you’re failing. Barely a forty on the first exam... that’s not good,” Waverly says. Looking up, she sees Nicole with a completely blank stare. Same one she uses during class whenever she doesn’t have her head down or is busy using her phone underneath the desk. “Did you even look at the summer reading I gave?”

Shamelessly, the alpha responds with a simple, “No.”

Waverly blinks. “Why not?”

“It was boring.”

Waverly… doesn’t know how to respond. She’s never had to deal with problem students beyond the whole teenage angst and warped sense of superiority, where they fake not knowing the rules and then have the nerve to talk back when in trouble—this is something else entirely, and she reaches beneath her glasses and pinches the bridge of her nose. “Did you at least read the first chapter?”

“I read the first page.”

“So, from simply reading the first page, you found it boring and decided the book wasn’t worth reading?” Waverly asks. “Despite it being the assigned summer reading material.”

“Bingo.”

Christ… This kid is going to give her a heart attack. She takes a moment to collect herself; maybe trying a different approach would be a better way to reach the alpha. Because, clearly, the way she’s going about it now isn’t working.

“Okay, so why don’t you tell me what it is you didn’t like about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn?

Nicole sighs. “Well, it’s a semi-autobiographical novel from 1943, written by Betty Smith, focusing on an impoverished, but aspirational adolescent girl and her family living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City, during the first two decades of the 20th century—oh wow, where have I seen this before? Everywhere.

“So just because the book has a familiar premise, you decided that it wasn’t worth reading?”

“The main metaphor of the book is the Tree of Heaven, whose persistent ability to grow and flourish, even in the inner city, mirrors the protagonist's desire to better herself. Yeah, I decided it wasn’t. Could’ve watched the movie to retain some semblance of information like most of the other students have, but even the movie itself was a waste of time.”

Waverly narrows her eyes, quirking an eyebrow up. “Let me guess, you used Sparknotes then?”

Nicole makes a face, as if she’s offended by the notion that she would use such a site that millions of other students across the world do to cheat their way through school assignments. “Uh, no. I saw the musical two years before.”

“The musical, Miss Haught, isn’t a faithful adaptation.”

“No, but neither is Sparknotes or watching the movie; yet, you have students who clearly used it to get passing grades, if they were smart enough.”

Cocky little brat this one.

“Alright, alright, so when we start going through some classics, I hope you find them interesting enough to put some effort in, because if not, it’s going to be a really tough year for you.”

Nicole nods. “I’ll try to do better.”

Smartass.

 


 

Purgatory is a small town tucked away into the countryside of Alberta, Canada, shouldered between the mountains, a few miles off the Trans-Canada Highway. The town, despite its name, isn’t as conservative as one would think. Thankfully, it was progressing into the future instead of being trapped within the mold of old traditions. Gone was the Bible Belt idealism of nuclear homes behind white picket fences and mandatory attendance to the nearest church, lest you be condemned as an outcast and branded with the mark of a sinner on your forehead. No, Purgatory is a quaint little town with a bright future ahead of itself.

A college town, home to Ghost River University and its immensely loyal community; everyone, young and old, turns out for the home games. Painted in the school’s red and black colors, wearing replica jerseys, cheering at the top of their lungs whenever their treasured team scores a point. Mom and pop stores nestled against the more commercial ones, a place where the houses are moderately priced, and everyone knows each other.

It’s a close-knit community, so it’s only fitting to see a few of the sports teams training out on the field forty minutes before the first bell. Waverly gathers her things from the trunk of her Jeep, mostly her gradebook and lesson planner, while she takes notice of some girls from her first period class, seniors by the white and blue sweaters, run towards the nearest field. They stop for a quick moment to ask if she needs any help bringing her things to class, and the omega thanks them for the concern, but shakes her head, instead reminding them to use the bathroom before class starts so they won’t have to during the lecture.

They nod and promise they will, but Waverly knows they won’t. The two girls take off towards the field, where she can see the varsity soccer teams running laps. Formed in a line, the omega can see Coach Valdez blowing his whistle and telling the stragglers in the back to hurry up, struggling to keep up with the others.

While they struggle, at the front is the arrogant brat herself, Nicole Haught. A few paces behind her is Xavier Dolls, a beta and son of Moody, a former veteran and owner of everyone’s favorite diner. They lead the pack, Dolls pushing forward to stay in league with Nicole, who runs flawlessly ahead of everyone else. Even from this distance, Waverly can see them talking; Nicole moving backwards to stay at pace with him, before turning around and taking off at high speed. The beta does as well, but ultimately is left in the dust, unable to keep up.

The young alpha is halfway down the field before Valdez blows his whistle again, this time commending Nicole from the appreciative clap he gives, and then telling her to rest up. Stepping off to the sidelines, she’s instantly tackled by a wave of blonde hair: Stephanie Jones.

Stephanie Jones is a beta, from an upper-middle class family, well-off and living comfortably, what with the constantly changing brand name bags she is seen sporting throughout the year. She never wears the same bag twice in the same week. She is also head cheerleader, and the quintessential ‘80s teen flick preppy, that stereotypical daddy’s little rich girl villain—voice full of money, and without a single thought in her head. Sitting at the top of the social ladder, a construct Waverly never paid attention to during her years as a student here, it’s easy to see how the blonde beta got there.

Arriving at her classroom, she unlocks the door and settles in. It’s wonderfully decorated with banners of her favorite literary quotes around the walls, a few posters of book covers of her favorite novels, rules for critical essays and other things she had come across during that excited time before her first teaching job. Fresh out of college, the feel of her laminated certification still warm, how eager she had been to start. Bright-eyed and ready to “shape the young minds of tomorrow”— Christ, what a pitfall of a mindset.

During her time as a student teacher, the department supervisor had always warned her about certain mentalities that teachers, especially the new ones, tend to fall for that ultimately prove to be more of a hindrance to their career than an aid. The idea of thinking you’re this invaluable prospect, serving as gatekeeper between the students of today and the educated adults of tomorrow, is a horribly horrendous attitude that needs to be gutted immediately. Many graduate students who are young and in their early twenties, fresh faced and not unlike the children or young adults they aim to teach, are the worst offenders of this.

Waverly opens her lesson plan and goes over the notes she’s written for the day, now that the summer reading she assigned was finally out of the way, she could finally get into what she wanted. As a child, Waverly adored classical literature, spending whatever free time she managed to have in reading old worn out editions that were deemed “too mature for a child of her age”. Because while other kids, her best friend Chrissy being one example, enjoyed reading the Harry Potter Series and eventually growing up to read young adult literature like The Inheritance Cycle and (the godawful) Twilight Series , the omega preferred the works of famous American authors of the early 20th century.

While her classmates were busy talking fervor about the latest Potter film to hit theatres, Waverly sat and listened quietly. Talks of fantastical CGI effects and spells, students dreaming of being placed in Gryffindor simply because the protagonist and the majority of his housemates were seen as the good guys while all the omega could only dream of living out on a stretch of land far from the city with a castle-like house in the middle of the Jazz Age.

Grandpa Wyatt was an avid reader as he was a historian during the later years of his life; instilling both loves into his grandchildren. Waverly took after him the most, always excited to visit him and see what knew story he would read to her at night before bed. Instead of tales of evil dragons being slayed by heroic knights climbing up the tallest tower to save the princess, he regaled them with stories of star-crossed lovers and feuding families, adventures of a young boy looking to avenge the death of his father, and how the most resilient woman in the world was the driving force behind helping her husband become king—of course as the girls got older, they learned that Wyatt had twisted the original stories to better serve the timeless happily ever after ending.

She remembers the absolute shock on Wynonna’s face when they learned that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth didn’t actually live the rest of their lives in splendor, how Cleopatra and Marc Antony didn’t reign over Egypt and the Roman Empire as they were so destined. They had gotten over it as soon as Grandpa Wyatt told them the actual story, commenting that they weren’t babies and could handle a little crazy to which he responded, “not at that age, Earps don’t go crazy until later.”

Even on his way out, his once dark thick hair, now white and thinning, he still spoke highly about all his favorites. How he always adored the idea of romance and believed, wholeheartedly that two people who are meant to be together will find their way no matter the hardship, literature and even history being such prime examples. Waverly’s father, Ward, always joked about him falling in love with the idea of falling love.

So, it’s only fitting that the first classic of the year would be Shakespeare’s most famous work and Wyatt’s favorite: Romeo and Juliet.

It’s a bit cliché and more than expected for an English teacher to pick Romeo and Juliet to work on, but Waverly feels like she has a pretty unique handle on it. She aims to go through the entire play, incorporate class discussions, group work, have the class watch a couple of film adaptations—essentially bring the class participation to a whole new level. She’s aware of not falling into the usual trap of trying to teach her students and have them become as enamored in Shakespeare’s work as she is, that’s just not realistic. But if she can at get them to have a better appreciation for literature, and by proxy change a life? It’ll be all worth it.

“Earp,” a voice calls, followed by a rhythmic knock.

Waverly looks up and sees Rosita at the door. “You’re here a bit early, rough night?”

The beta comes forward and pulls a nearby chair up against the desk. “If only, Shorty’s ran out of Ballantine’s, amazingly enough, so I decided to call it in,” Rosita nonchalantly shrugs her shoulders before pulling her phone out of her back pocket.

“You catch the email from Lucado?” Waverly shakes her head and Rosita continues, “Real hard hitter, because of that school shooting in Port Hope over the weekend, she wants to crackdown on bullying and aggressive behavior.”

“Well good, it’s a shame that it takes a tragedy, well, almost tragedy since no one got hurt, for school administrators and districts as a whole to take a stance against this,” Waverly responds opening her mail app and skimming through the email. “Better late than never, I suppose, you know?”

“For sure, she’s also having Helen and the entire infirmary become stricter with keeping track of suppressants. Especially with the alphas.”

“How strict is she going for? I think everyone, at least in regard to my own students, have registered their mating cycles with the health department. Just last week I had two of my kids get pulled out of class to take their heat suppressants.”

“Not sure, but she’s trying to pretty much have an answer for every possible contingency in the event of a tragedy or a scandal, what with some kids having parents who are literally a speed-dial away from phoning a lawyer.”

“Still, I don’t think we’d ever have to worry about a tragedy like Port Hope happening here,” Waverly says earnestly. Purgatory High may have its faults, but a school shooting? That’s improbable. Then again, she’s sure that the teachers and students at Port Hope thought the same thing until the unfortunate happened. “At least I hope not.”

“I doubt it, the kids here are too egocentric and way too into Instagram to bother bullying another person to that point; just yesterday I confiscated three phones during my sophomore chemistry class. Threatened one with five hours of detention if she didn’t cough it up.”

“Unbelievable. Please tell me they had the sense to just hand it over.”

“Oh, the little brat did, right after I issued the five hours for not handing it over and back talk.”

Waverly shakes her head. “And they say teaching high school is so easy.”

“Right?”

Students start to file into the classroom and Waverly walks Rosita to the door, agreeing to head out to the nearby diner for lunch. “Moody’s seventh period?”

“You know it.” Rosita smiles, passing by a couple of students in letterman jackets surrounding an open locker, one in particular holding half a sandwich between his teeth. “Get to class, kids.”

There are murmurs of agreement, the students then dispersing in a wave of blue and white. Champ Hardy shuts his locker, balancing his half open backpack and a bottle of soda in his hands before making his way to her class. Herman Tate and Xavier Dolls take off towards Mr. Malick’s Calculus class and Stephanie Jones attaches herself to Nicole’s side, pulling her down the hall in the opposite direction.

Chapter Text

Nicole sits in her usual chair during fifth period lunch with the same bored look she’s had since the year started. Legs splayed out beneath the table, arm thrown around the back of Stephanie Jones’ chair—not by her own volition, mind you—barely paying even the slightest modicum of attention to whatever nonsense is being spewed out of Champ Hardy’s mouth. Today he chose to regale the lunch table with a story of he, B-Train and Herman Tate recorded themselves drag racing on an abandoned stretch of road along the outskirts of town.

Champ is extremely animated in his mannerisms, telling stories as if he was performing on stage for others to applause or unfortunately reject. But there is something to be said for his ability to do so without care of what others may think, he ultimately wanted to be heard and if he wasn’t the least bit entertaining, Nicole would have never leant him her ear.

He flails his hands arms in the air, “you should have been there,” he says with an ear-splitting grin, “we took the Charger to its full limit and the whole thing drifted seamlessly over the puddles. A perfect Fast and Furious moment, if you ask me.”

The video overall did much better than the last where they taped themselves skateboarding off of B-Train’s roof and cannonballing into the neighbor’s pool; uploaded to Instagram, YouTube and Twitter to the tune of several hundred thousand views, likes and a divisive range of comments from awesome shit guys! to what the fuck is wrong with you?

“Maybe next time we’ll see you drag race, after school?” Stephanie says, looking to Nicole in question. Hopeful.

Nicole shakes her head. As much as she would love to spend a few hours out of her day watching three idiots drag race or do any other asinine stunt in an attempt to go viral, she’s busy. “Can’t,” she tells them. “Tutoring with Ms. Earp.”

Stephanie visibly deflates, fingers tightening in the sleeve of Nicole’s letterman jacket. Champ on the other hand, groans. Sucking his teeth in envy. “Dude, seriously? You’re so lucky!”

He continues, “Ms. Earp is the hottest teacher at this school, I’d give my left nut just to have alone time with her.”

“You don’t have any,” Dolls pipes up and Nicole genuinely laughs.

“Look,” Champ crosses his arms and makes a face, cheeks burning red with embarrassment, actively choosing to ignore Dolls’ comment. “She’s hot, okay? Best looking teacher to come through Purgatory’s halls since Bustillos back in freshman year; I actually pay attention during English now.”

“Oh please, she’s not even that pretty,” Stephanie rolls her eyes with disgust. Not one for being upstaged as being the most highly sought-after female in the entire school. “Everyone’s head over heels acting like she’s all that or whatever.”

“In those pencil skirts? And that button up? You damn right she is—ow!” Champ yelps when Stephanie kicks him. “Easy, don’t be mad at me because you’re not the hottest chick in school anymore. Things change, Steph. Haught tell her!”

Nicole pretends to be pulled out of a deep daydream, responding with a noncommittal grunt that saves her from Stephanie Jones’ impending wrath. She’s been on the receiving end of some brutal slaps to the arm from the head cheerleader and would rather not suffer the same fate as Champ; for a small girl, she certainly packs enough power in those dainty hands of hers. Happy with her answer, Stephanie smiles triumphantly and nestles further into the alpha’s side. Dolls shrugs his shoulders, he is just as indifferent as Nicole is and the redhead finds solace in having him around.

He’s calm. Normal. Focused more on athletics and in turn, is a stable presence that appeals to her.

The other two, much like the rest of student body, are chaotic and typical.

Champ rolls his eyes, before he nudges Dolls with his elbow and quietly points to where the woman in question appears through the cafeteria doors. Walking to the vending machine and chatting with some faceless student with a zipped up hoodie, short, cropped hair and large glasses. Ms. Earp chats amicably with Tucker Gardner and a few others who come to join in on the conversation. A common sight to see the English teacher being so friendly with her students. She’s approachable and sweet.

Nicole furrows her brows.

“Bet you a hundred bucks each of them is going to go home tonight and jerk off to Ms. Earp’s photo in the yearbook.” Champ says suddenly, tactless and crude as ever.

“You’re disgusting,” Stephanie wrinkles her nose and Dolls too, side eyes him with revulsion. Nicole doesn’t say a word, simply touches the back of her neck, feeling the heat rise.

“Oh, I’m gross, but you’re all thinking it. Bet they all do, there’s not one person who hasn’t masturbated to her. The nerds especially, I mean just look at Tucker Gardner, he wishes he could touch her. Then again, what’s a weirdo like him going to do with a woman like Ms. Earp? Jack shit, that’s what.”

“I’m going to get a soda.” Dolls says, getting up from his chair.

“Get me one?”

But as always, Dolls responds to that familiar question with a resounding: “I’d rather die first, Hardy.”

And as always, Champ thinks nothing of it. “He’s just joshing.”

Stephanie is busy twiddling her thumbs away at her phone screen before pulling on Nicole’s sleeve. “Still coming to B-Train’s Halloween party?”

Nicole shrugs her shoulders, “Maybe. If I no longer need tutoring by then.”

Dear God, did she hope that would be the case. In all her years of high school, and even in middle school and elementary, not once did Nicole Haught ever need a tutor. Always at the top of her game, with high scores and excellent conduct—the lowest she ever received being a B+ because her idiot world history teacher had it out for her—there was never a time where her name and the word 'help' were ever thought to be uttered in the same sentence.

Her freshman and sophomore years were the best she's ever had academically. An honor student through and through, scoring in the ninetieth percentile. Along with being awarded a plaque for MVP of the year, two years straight and another for statistically being the highest scoring player of the year with a record of 52 in a single season.

But come junior year it all goes downhill.

Arguments with players from rival teams, personal fouls leading leading to the alpha racking up yellow cards like tickets at a carnival. Being red carded on two separate occasions because she couldn’t control her temper.

The lunch period ends and Nicole slings the strap of her backpack over her shoulder and throws away the half-eaten gluten-free cheese, imitation pizza on her tray. Finishing up her bottle of water before chucking it into a garbage can on the way out of the cafeteria.

Slipping through the throng of students bustling up and down hallways, teachers making their way towards their next class and the administrative staff working dutifully. Some of the security guards, glorified hall monitors really, watch over the traffic from their posts. One in particular, Lonnie, tall as he as is a pushover, greets everyone as they pass him by. Nicole heard he was a cop once upon a time and wonders as to who on earth would take him seriously as an officer of the law.

Making her way to the second floor with Champ and Stephanie in tow, Dolls having separated from them on the first floor to head to Samuel Larson's gym class. Champ drops by his locker to pick up some books for Jim Miller’s history class and Stephanie is on her way to pre-calculus.

A part of Nicole actually envies them for it. Because while Dolls is actually doing something worth his time, Champ can just sit in the back of the classroom and nap to the sound of Miller’s voice droning on and on about World War I and Stephanie has Hetty Tattenhill to cheat off of and help her skate her way through the course, Nicole has no one. Stuck in an English class that she could care less about.

English used to be her best subject, she always had passing grades and was able to just breeze through the course each year without a much effort. But junior year screws it all up and now she has to sit through a class with everyone watching, everyone knowing she has to be subjected to tutoring twice a week after school because God forbid Purgatory High pulls her off the team for poor grades and risk their chances for the championship.

But the worst thing about all this, despite being the center of attention in this athletics’ obsessed school and her father breathing down her neck at all hours of the day, is Ms. Earp.

Ms. Earp is serious when it comes to her class and students. Unlike Mr. Lou Yiska, a Broadway reject who preferred to discuss Shakespeare and reenact his favorite scenes for forty minutes straight instead of teaching the way he was hired to do. He made classical literature simple, easy. Ms. Earp on the other hand, is on a whole different level and Nicole groans when she spots the omega teacher standing outside of the classroom, making sure all the students get in on time.

“You’re so lucky,” Champ whines, “she’s wearing a pencil skirt again.”

Stephanie grabs him harshly by the arm and pulls him away before he’s able to make himself into an even bigger fool, leaving behind a puddle of drool. Quickly, Nicole melts into the throng of students walking into the classroom, not wanting to get caught behind someone who takes it upon themselves to stop traffic and talk to the teacher. There’s always someone who wants to talk to her.

The first few rows fill up fast with overachievers, suck ups, and a whole host of horny bastards battling for the omega’s attention. She catches Kyle York shoving his brother, Pete, out of the first desk in the third row, the one closest to Ms. Earp. Nicole rolls her eyes and takes a seat in the back of the classroom.

The second bell of the period rings and class begins.

“Okay everyone, we’ll start with the homework. Who’d like to go first and answer question number one?”

Nicole groans and puts her head down. Glancing upwards for a quick second, she takes an appreciative look at Ms. Earp. She does look pretty today.

 


 

“Yeah, can I get the Baconator combo with an extra-large soda, Dr. Pepper and two extra-large fries, a small chocolate Frosty, three sugar cookies and a Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad,” Wynonna says into the speaker, leaning out of the window of her car to get a better look at the menu. She then turns around to Doc in the passenger’s seat, staring at her wide eyed. “Want anything?”

“Uh, I’m fine with a small strawberry Frosty.” Doc says, quietly.

“Lame,” Wynonna snorts. “Can I get a small strawberry Frosty as well, please?”

The woman on the other end gets the entire order and instructs them to move to the next window to pick up their food. “We really need to get you to a doctor soon, all this junk food isn’t healthy.”

Wynonna rolls her eyes, “You and Waverly have been on my ass about my eating habits for months now. Both of you need a new hobby.”

“That’s only because we don’t want you to turn into a giant blimp. I mean honestly, you are the only person I know who can eat through half of Wendy’s entire menu in a single afternoon and not keel over praying for death afterwards.” He says as Wynonna happily hums while receiving her order from the pimple-faced alpha at the window.

“Aww, it’s sweet that you guys care but I’m fine.” She says leaving the window and then parking the car in the empty parking lot beneath a broken street lamp. Their usual spot.

“I’m worried.”

“Just do what Willa does: absolutely nothing.” Wynonna hands over the strawberry Frosty to the omega and practically rips open the small box containing her burger. “She says nothing about my eating habits while quietly waiting for the day I croak, so that way she can swoop in like a vulture and harvest my organs for spare body parts—I tell you, her liver’s going to kick out eventually—and Bobo might just turn my skull into an ash tray.”

“Yes well, your sister and brother-in-law and their strangeness aside, can you at least get a checkup?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll think about it—but do you have any of the stuff? C’mon I can’t continue funding my trips to fast food joints if my favorite scouter doesn’t produce any wealth.”

“Oh, so now I’m the one to blame?” Doc shakes his head and reaches into brown paper bag sitting between his legs. He pulls out a manila folder, opens it and reveals several photographs.

Each one is of a different of establishment: a high-end nail and hair salon, a few luxury department stores with Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue being the two the alpha instantly recognizes, a couple of residential homes and most notably a law firm down in Edmonton. The quality of the photos is crystal clear, the redheaded woman with a penchant for wearing a gorgeous pearl necklace posing as their subject is on display for perfect viewing.

“A law firm, huh?” Wynonna quirks a brow, curious and focused. Even with a stray piece of bacon hanging from the corner of her lips.

“Visited Bulshar & Associates twice this week, spending over three hours inside each time. She might be filing for divorce.”

“That, or she’s banging a lawyer, Victor does believe she’s cheating on him with one. Maybe there’s something there?”

Probably. But Doc isn’t so sure, and neither is Wynonna for that matter. “Have you determined the model of her car, yet? We need to get a tracker on it.”

 


 

Waverly goes over the gradebook while students once again hurriedly gather up their things in anticipation for the dismissal bell. It’s Friday and she doesn’t bother with becoming a broken record and reminding them all for the fifth time about their homework and reading for the weekend. Finishing up Act 2 of Romeo and Juliet, making important notes and answering some questions she had written on the smartboard for them to copy down.

It’s not a lot of homework. The omega takes pride in not being one of those overbearing teachers who gives mountains of homework and then subsequently expects their students to complete them each and every night without fail or mistake. The kind of teacher that makes students hate the class and, by proxy, the subject. She had dealt with her fair share of college professors that seemingly took pleasure in breaking their students’ backs with the amount of work they gave.

But she does takes solace in knowing that her students, at least the majority, while not loving literature as much as she does, do have respect for it. The subject, the class and herself as their teacher. Some of them go as far as to bid her goodbye and well wishes on having a good weekend while the others clamor through the door like caged up animals finding freedom for the very first time.

Some students, the ones who take their sweet time getting ready, are busy talking about their plans and it’s always interesting to overhear and learn just what teenagers constitute as “awesome weekend plans” compared to what she used to.

As a teenager, Waverly’s Friday and Saturday nights were all about sitting around the living room and watching the latest episode of her favorite TV show or a new documentary that had just premiered. Only once in a blue moon, did she ever go to a party thrown by her fellow classmates. She remembers how excited she and Chrissy were when they received invites to Beth Gardner’s Halloween party, a cool senior party when they were just lowly sophomores who managed to get on the cheerleading squad by the skin of their teeth.

That was definitely a highlight of their high school years. But listening to the girls in her class, she’s somewhat surprised at how nonchalant they talk about some upcoming party being thrown by Bryce Daulby—or B-Train, as he’s generally called.

“Can’t wait, hopefully it’s a lot better than the one he threw over the summer,” one of the girls says, “I don’t think I can outrun a cop this time.”

Naturally, Waverly’s interest is piqued, and she has half a mind to say something about such behavior. But, she thinks against it. Knowing that they are just teenagers, and today’s generation of teenagers find that kind of stuff cool. Dumb, stupid kids who could very well just be talking nonsense in an effort to sound more popular, as they are taking a liking to such illegal activity.

The girls are among the last few who leave and just as they reach the doorway, Nicole appears.

“Good luck at the game on Sunday, Nicole.” They say cheerfully in unison, although Waverly suspects one of them to have spoken with a bit of a sultry tone.

“Yeah, thanks.” Nicole steps aside to let them out and once gone, she stomps through, unfazed by the two girls who wished her well.

Waverly frowns, what a brat.

“Alright, let’s get this over with.” The alpha huffs, taking a seat behind the first desk she sees. Face bored and annoyed, every motion rough and haphazard. Mentally, Waverly sighs, already knowing that today’s tutoring session wasn’t going to be easy.

“Have you started your literary essay, yet?” She asks as Nicole opens her backpack and pulls out her spiral notebook. Flipping it to a random blank page, Waverly notices small doodles lined around the margins on some as she goes past them. Shaking her head as she realizes all those times she saw Nicole writing in her notebook, she wasn’t actually taking notes or answering the questions the omega had written on the board.

Christ, is the class that boring?

Once Nicole settled on a blank page in the middle of her notebook, an odd and completely unorganized choice in Waverly’s head, they begin the tutoring session with something so inconceivably simple that in no way, shape, or form, would the alpha be able to just grunt and shrug the question away. A question that would tell Waverly something about her she hadn’t already known or surmised from their brief interactions during and after school.

“Do you like Romeo and Juliet?”

Nicole shrugs her shoulders.

Waverly frowns, giving the ballpoint pen in her hand an irritated tap against the surface of the desk. “Have you even read the first act?”

Nicole blinks. “This week or in general?”

She gives the pen another tap. Sure, that a swarm of blood vessels rush to the side of her head to form a furious clot. Where it throbs and promises to explode into a searing headache should the rest of their session be as much of a disaster as it looks to become.

“This week, Nicole. I assigned the reading as the only homework for the entirety of the week.”

“No, it isn’t. You assigned questions too.” Nicole says.

Waverly feels her left eye twitch; an inebriated Wynonna could never be this difficult. “The questions are for you to think about while reading, help you keep track of important details and write notes. I’ll assume you’ve done neither?”

“I’ve read Romeo and Juliet before, just not this week.” The alpha gives a blank stare.

“And the questions?”

“Couldn’t be bothered.” Waverly blinks and for the first time since becoming a teacher, she’s dumbfounded and equally annoyed beyond comprehension.

“You know what?” She starts, “Let’s take a step back and start over.”

There’s another nonchalant shrug.

“Why don’t you like English?” Waverly asks earnestly, closing her lesson planner and gradebook. “Do you even like to read? It’s okay if you don’t.”

The alpha stares, a brow quirking upwards in confusion. The only emotion besides utter indifference and boredom Waverly’s ever seen since the start of the school year.

“Statistically, one out of four Americans say that they haven’t read a book in the last year. The older you get, the most likely it is that your drive to read diminishes.”

“I’m Canadian.”

Waverly sighs, “That’s not what I mean—”

“I like reading, it’s one of my favorite things to do when I have the time.”

It’s something at least; a window into the life of one of her students and, up to this point, the only one she’s had to have given her such a difficult time. And due to her curious nature, she presses forward.

“And what books do you like to read during your spare time?”

Nicole furrows her brows; a hand is then raised to the back of her neck. Scratching at the nape of her neck. “I-It, it, uh, usually depends on my moods. Depends on what I’m interested in at th-the moment.”

Waverly smiles softly at the sudden befuddlement in the alpha’s words. “Anything recent, that I might know of?”

“Just last week I reread The Great Gatsby for the third time.”

Waverly widens her eyes in surprise. “Really?” The Great Gatsby is a literary classic; a 180-page novella that the omega credits as being one of the first stories she’s ever read that truly reinforced her love of literature. She is more than surprised to hear of a student, a teenager, enjoying the book so much to already be on their third read through.

“That is beyond wonderful, Nicole.”

“Thanks.”

“So,” Waverly starts, “What is it about The Great Gatsby that you like so much as to read it for a third time?”

“Oh uh, I like the premise of it; the American dream is illusory. We all want a little piece of happiness in this world, money being the catalyst towards it in most situations.”

“You won’t find me arguing with you there.”

Nicole scratches the back of her neck. “There’s uh, t-the aspect of love that Fitzgerald presents that I really enjoy.”

Waverly quirks a brow upwards. “That’s where you lose me, Nicole. I don’t really consider Gatsby and Daisy’s relationship, a loving one.”

“It’s not a genuine form of love, but it is still love, nonetheless.”

“How you do you suppose?”

“Love is love; there are different variations of it, but at the core it’s all the same.”

“What do you think of Tom and Daisy’s?”

Waverly stares intently, interested. Nicole’s cheeks turn a light pink, blushing. “Usually, Daisy is the one being vilified for the way she abandons Gatsby when he had nothing but then comes back into the picture when he does. She’s a worst villain than Tom in that regard, and Tom can’t even be the bad guy when, yes, he’s an absolute brute, but he’s jealous and has every right to be.”

“So, Tom’s actions are justifiable?”

“To an extent. I’d be the same way if I suspected my wife of have feelings for someone else. Mostly, I’d be furious because she lies to me and continues to do so at every turn. His antagonistic behavior is a direct result from having to deal with Gatsby, he can’t help it. I think Tom genuinely cares for Daisy.”

“You view Tom as a flawed character, whom you agree with.”

“Yes.”

“Who do you relate to then?”

Nicole looks sheepish. “Gatsby.”

“And why is that, Nicole?”

“Because if you take away his obsession with Daisy and his incessant idea that she is this delicate flower who belongs on a pedestal, he really is a romantic. He loves her with every ounce of his being, at least the idea of her. So much so that he was willing to take the blame for accidentally killing Myrtle, which resulted in her husband killing him for revenge.”

“A die-hard romantic.”

The alpha nods. “As much as it is a satirical piece on America during the 1920s, the romance, while flawed, is still another reason for rereading it.”

“If you enjoy The Great Gatsby so much, why didn’t you give Romeo and Juliet a try when I assigned it?”

Nicole stares, pursed lips and narrowed eyes, as though the question had irritated her. “Because Romeo and Juliet is so boring. Star-crossed lovers? I mean, I’d believe it if they were adults, but they were teenagers. Younger than me.

“What do you think Shakespeare was trying to say by writing them so young?”

Nicole shrugs her shoulders. “That teenagers are hormonal driven, ruled by lust and sex and not an ounce of intelligence.”

“According to Shakespeare they were in love, it was love at first sight.”

Waverly tilts her head to the side when Nicole rolls her eyes. “It was lust at first sight.”

“Is that such a bad thing?”

“Maybe it wasn’t back in 16th century, but in modern times I’m more inclined to believe in lust.”

“Interesting, kids your age don’t believe in love. Why is that?”

“What is there to believe in? Nowadays you can’t trust anyone, least of all those closest to you. Like family. If I can’t trust my own family, why would I trust others? Love them?”

“Because love makes everything worthwhile.” Waverly says with a softened expression.

“Is it still worthwhile when the person you love most can’t be trusted?” Nicole doesn’t let up, challenging Waverly with taunting tilt of her head.

“More so then.”

Nicole’s brows shoot up. “Why?”

“Because that is the point of the human experience; there is no greater emotion than love and hate. To hate is destroy yourself. To love is to become someone new. People do crazy things for love; Gatsby went to the ends of the earth and eventually died for his love for Daisy.”

Nicole becomes slack jawed, blinking several times before recollecting herself and clearing her throat. “Maybe I’m not like Gatsby, then.”

Waverly smiles in response. “I think you are, you just need to find your Daisy, first.”

Nicole blushes harder and Waverly, mysteriously enough, does the same in response. The lines of her face, no longer sharp and angular, but softer. Almost childlike. The honey-golden color of her eyes are bright, but also tender. Waverly clears her throat once she realizes how long she’s been staring, getting back to the topic at hand.

“You have a poor work ethic, Nicole.” Waverly says and the alpha blinks before rearing back, as though she had been slapped. “But we can work on it.”

Nicole makes a face. “How do you figure?”

Waverly nods. “Now that I know you like subject matter and not the actual work itself, we can get somewhere.”

“But I need you to help me, to help you,” Waverly continues. As much as she is excited for this newfound discovery, the first official step they can both take towards making these sessions worth something and ultimately help Nicole get her grades where they need to be.

It takes Nicole a moment.

Looking at her, Nicole’s eyes narrow in concentration. Probably weighing the pros and cons of whether she should invest as much time in these sessions as she’s expected to. Waverly only wants to show the alpha the wonders of literature, the different worlds and transcending themes; the one reason as to why she wanted to become a teacher in the first place. But this could only work if Nicole accepts the help and allows herself to.

Nicole sighs, “Okay.”

Waverly leans back against her chair and smiles, relieved. It’s the start of something new.

The session ends a ten minutes later, they hadn’t done what they were scheduled to do but Waverly chalks it all up as a win. Hopefully this upcoming Monday they can get something done.

Waverly packs up her things, saying goodbye to Nicole at the door, reminding the alpha to do her homework this weekend. To take it easy, play well at tomorrow’s game and to do her homework above all else. She won’t accept an excuse apart from a family member dying a horrific death. She’s heard it all in her few years of teaching and more as a student herself, so even then, she’ll be skeptical.

Nevertheless, she closes her planner and gradebook and nods a goodbye to the alpha who returns it with an awkward wave. Admittedly, the omega finds it cute and goes so far as to giggle when Nicole bumps into the edge of the doorframe.

Chapter Text

It takes close to thirty minutes for Waverly to be able to take back control of her radio. If she has to hear another one of Wynonna’s half-assed mixtapes full of “live at concert” song tracks, she’s going to lose it. Probably chuck the woman out of the Jeep through the passenger door knowing how the alpha has the habit of not putting on her seatbelt and casually throwing her feet up onto the dashboard.

Thankfully, Wynonna doesn’t put up too much of a fight this time. Her face a patchwork of different emotions that the omega can only claim to be a moment of deep reflection. One rarely seen on the alpha’s face apart from serious situations and the occasional hovering in the kitchen when hungry.

“How do you think Dad’s holding up?” Wynonna asks, staring out of the window at the passing evergreen trees. “Think they’ll let him out soon?”

Waverly shrugs her shoulders. Fingers tapping against the steering wheel at the age-old question. “Probably, with good behavior. Although I doubt it.”

“You’re right.” Wynonna says simply, looking down at her fingers. “He did get the worse of it after the trial.”

The omega sighs and agrees.

“The rat bastards.”

Within another thirty minutes they arrive at the high, twelve feet tall barbed wire fences surrounding the perimeter of Bowden Prison. Waverly will also hold to the belief that the fences give the wrong impression for what is a low security risk prison.

And the agitation for the use of such brutal looking walls when the inmates are low-level offenders and criminals convicted on non-violent charges. Hell, the majority of the inmates are men well past their prime to do any last damage to another person, men in their upper forties and onwards.

Parking the Jeep, Waverly and Wynonna make their way through the visitor’s section and prepare themselves for the security checks. Wynonna going as far as to already unbuckle her belt and take off her combat boots before heading inside. Once there, they take off all the nonessentials, their jackets, shoes, jewelry and bags, placing them in large containers to be processed through a machine scanning for any dangerous items while they are checked personally by a correctional officer with a horrible scowl on their face. Even the alpha’s attempts at flirting and making suggestive comments does nothing to warm the officer’s sour demeanor.

After being cleared, another walks them to the visitor’s hall and stamping a sticker saying as much on their chests. Nearly toppling Waverly over in doing so. Wanting to get this over with as quickly as possible, she keeps quiet and reminds Wynonna to do the same once they enter and find an empty table in the middle of the room.

In what feels like forever, Ward Earp is escorted into the hall by a pair of officers who stand by the doors. He’s become a bit rounder than last time, his belly several sizes larger than they had remembered. His dark hair is graying steadily, his scruffy beard still holding onto that youthful look. His deep brown eyes are still mischievous as ever despite his current living arrangements. Ward greets his girls with a smile, a tight hug and a kiss to the forehead; with his many faults and poor decisions, he still tries to be the loving father he always as a free man. Wearing a light blue prison jumper doing wouldn’t stop him.

“How have you girls been doing?” He asks, clasping his hands together on the table eagerly. “Willa’s filled me in on some things the last time she was here.”

“Did she come with Bobo?” Wynonna asks, and Ward nods, sighing.

“Yes, although I’m happy that she’s married to someone who clearly makes her happy, he’s a bit of a card, that one. Very sketchy.” He shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly, “And that could just be because he wears a lot of eyeliner and a fur coat in the summer for some godawful reason.”

They share a laugh and for a moment, the walls of the prison, the correctional officers, nor the prison jumper Ward will wear for the rest of his life isn’t a glaring reminder of reality. Three little girls losing their father at a young age to an absurd sentence for a white-collar crime where he was just a pawn. Charitable thinking, in truth, he served more as a bishop or rook.

“But tell me, tell me, anything new?” He asks.

“Well I just got hired by some really rich client,” Wynonna says with a smug grin, “Like, filthy fucking rich, if all goes well I could probably buy out Shorty’s or retire to someplace hot. I’m thinking Cape Fear?”

“Why there? You’re Aunt Gus always had an eye on moving down to Florida.”

“It’s because it sounds cool,” Waverly quips with a sly smile. To which, Wynonna wholeheartedly agrees.

Ward gives an appreciative whistle. “Well, this client of yours must be something then. What’s their name?”

“Can’t tell you, investigator-client confidentiality.”

“There’s no such thing.” His lips form into a thin line, “If they’re this rich to want everything to be done in secret, they’ll be quick to give you up at the first moment something goes wrong.”

“Dad, it’s just the standard cheating spouse case…” But Ward isn’t having any of it.

Wynonna becoming a private investigator has always been a source of tension between them. Even if Wynonna doesn’t take the more grueling and convoluted of cases, preferring to stay simple and predictable, he’s never accepted her line of work with open arms. Unlike Waverly being a teacher and Willa as a real estate agent.

“Is Doc helping you on this case?” Wynonna nods. “Oh, good god, another one... I’ll string him by the neck if anything happens, you tell him I said that.”

“I’m sure he knows that already.”

Ward gives a curt nod, serious, before turning towards Waverly. “And what about you babygirl, there a man, woman, annoying co-worker I should know about?”

Waverly shakes her head. And if there was, she would never tell him. She would never tell Wynonna and she’s free, the thought of them harassing any supposed enemies of hers is enough of a headache.

“I teach high school English, not exactly the best place to meet someone.”

“Nonsense, all you need is to grab the most good-looking teacher there who’s into girls and pull them into the nearest broom closet and there, you’re golden!”

“Wynonna!”

“Christ, I knew I should’ve raised you with a filter.”

The visit continues, trading stories both of the sisters’ lives outside and of his inside. Ward regaling them with one of him being forced to join an acapella group for the Bowden Summer Show, it was either try his luck and patience joining a group with drama queens or be a part of a fun little musical based on Die Hard. Suffice to say the acapella group came a calling when he was muscled out of being Bruce Willis by some crafty beta.

It had been months since they last saw their father and Waverly fiddles with her thumb in lap, bringing up the question they’ve been dreading for quite some time now. Part of her, doesn’t even want to ask, knowing that doing so would change the mood in the atmosphere. But she takes a deep breath, Ward noticing and anticipating it.

“Have you gotten any word back from the parole board yet?” They look to her. “I know it’s been at least six months since you filed for an appeal, but…”

Ward leans back against his chair and scratches the inside of his wrist. Sighing, he says, “I’m on a wait list.”

Waverly deflates and Wynonna growls, crossing her arms. “Fucking bullshit, you’ve been doing so well since they put you in here.”

“I know Wyn, but they don’t see it that way. Remember why I’m in here. Insider trading, not exactly something they’re going to consider lightly like petty robbery.”

“But you weren’t the one who planned it or anything—”

“No, but I was hired to work as an enforcer. Thankfully none of the people I threatened were ever stupid enough to challenge me or else I really would have gone full hitman on them.”

“Dad!” Waverly exclaims.

“I know, I know, but it’s the truth. And the parole board knows that while I didn’t have an intricate hand in the hostile takeover of a few companies, I did force unwilling people to take part and serve as pawns. Millions of dollars were stolen from innocent bystanders and they’ll always see it that way. Nothing we can do girls.”

Wynonna and Waverly look to each other, the omega silently dissuading the alpha from any hairbrained scheme she quietly plans. The mischief in her bright blue eyes giving her away easily.

“If nothing works out there’s always next time.”

 


 

“God fucking damn it!” Nicole yells frustratedly, “Seriously, that’s not fair! I want a rematch!”

Beside her Dolls smirks and sets his controller down. “Sorry, Haught. But just because you’ve got your team stacked with A-list players, doesn’t mean you’re going to win.”

“My buttons got sticky and the analog stick was unresponsive.”

“Uh huh, whatever you need to tell yourself.” Dolls gets up and moves to the refrigerator in the corner of the alpha’s studio apartment, reaching in he grabs a bottle of VitaminWater. Specifically, acai blueberry pomegranate; he has to be the only person on earth who even likes that flavor.

“How’s school work coming along?” He asks.

“September isn’t even over yet and you’re already going to jump down my throat? Come on, let me live a little.” With Dolls still peering through the fridge for a snack, Nicole starts up another match just for herself. Her team, Paris Saint-Germain and their logo are on one end of the loading screen and enemy team, Barcelona, is on the other. The FIFA 19 logo emblazoned in the middle, spins occasionally while they wait for the game to finish loading.

“You almost got kicked off the team last year because you couldn’t keep your grades up, remember?”

“Of course, I do,” Nicole sighs. “Between you and my dad constantly reminding me, and Valdez running my ass ragged during training, I can’t not forget. Trust me I tried, even thought of calling up the York Brothers for an ounce.”

“And you didn’t, right?”

The alpha sucks her teeth but nods her head all the same. Dolls would totally kill her for so much as even contemplating on calling up the town’s resident back alley weed dispensary. Not like she hadn’t tried to get him to smoke a joint on occasion. His stone-cold resolve proving to be a formidable adversary.

“My grades are doing well so far, English is still a pain in the ass though,” She practically jumps when attempting to score a goal with Ronaldo but falling short by just a hair’s breadth, the enemy team’s goalie blocking easily. “Tutoring also sucks.”

Dolls returns to his beanbag chair beside her. Confused. “I thought Ms. Earp was helping you out?”

“She is… I just find the work boring.”

“It’s high school,” the beta responds. “The work is supposed to be boring. We have to suffer a little bit more until we become college students.”

“Speaking of which,” She pauses for a quick second, running down the field again but with Neymar. “Any thought on which college you want to go to?”

Dolls shrugs his shoulders. “Alberta and Toronto are calling for me, but I’m not sure if I really want to go.”

“How much are they offering?”

“Full scholarship, plus room and board.”

“I’d take Toronto and run, it’ll help your dad out a lot.” Nicole suggests knowing how much Moody tends to stress over his son’s academic future.

“But he’d be all alone,” the beta replies solemnly. He then takes her controller and she lets him. “I can’t leave him alone, he needs me.”

The redhead furrows her brows worriedly; he always wanted to go to Toronto, especially since his mother promised to take him one day before she finally succumbed to the cancer. Show him all the sights and her birthplace, to reconnect in a way the chemotherapy had undoubtedly ruined. But his sudden need to stay by his father’s side outweighs everything.

Nicole can’t relate.

“So, what’s the plan then?” She asks.

“Stay here and go to Ghost River. Get a full scholarship, or at least a partial one and find a job to pay my half.”

“Ghost River sounds nice.”

“Yeah, but your dad’s dead set on having you go to an ivy league school, isn’t he?”

Nicole snorts. “More than you can possibly know. Toronto, Alberta, Montreal, British Columbia, he was practically salivating when he saw the invitations to their open houses in the mail.”

“Damn.”

It is Victor Haught’s master plan for Nicole’s life, after all. Phase One; have Nicole blaze a trail through the high school varsity soccer division and become the starring attraction for scouts all across the country. Then, once she’s become a highly sought-after player wanted by every prestigious university imaginable, enroll in his alma mater, Alberta, so she can stay close to the company. Phase Two; secure a position on the university’s varsity soccer team and on the dean’s list. Phase Three; graduate and within two more years, take over the company.

This was always the plan. Since childhood, training in the one sport she’s enjoyed, the one sport she cherishes, so she can be a force to be reckoned with just so she can have a long list of accolades to her name when the time comes that she takes the mantle of CEO. The same path her grandfather had went down, the same for her own father, and if history will teach them anything, her own children will follow suit.

Because what else is there?

“He’s close friends with Alberta’s chancellor,” Nicole explains. The first goal she scores in the game doesn’t inspire much excitement.

Dolls sighs. “Do you even want to go to the University of Toronto? I mean, what difference would it make if you went to Ghost River?”

“Alberta is an easy choice; he’s got connections there.” She says, pausing the game for minute and setting the controller down on her lap. “I won’t even need recommendations.”

“If you did need them, who would you pick? Besides Coach Valdez.” He asks, taking a sip from his bottle. “I’d probably pick Mr. Larson, he’s a good teacher.”

“That’s because he favors athletes and gives them top priority.”

“At least he’d be available.” The beta shrugs his shoulders. “Everyone’s going for Mr. Miller; he signs away recommendations like nothing, no questions asked.”

Nicole quirks a brow. “Miller? The guy who sounds like a zombie, is the one everyone’s clamoring for? Not the hot English teacher that everyone’s got a hard on for?”

“So, you think she’s hot now?”

“Uh no, I think she’s pretty. I get why so many students like her, she’s approachable and different from all the other teachers. But she isn’t drop dead gorgeous—I mean for fuck’s sake the York Brothers were fighting over who got to sit closest to her desk!”

“You know I can still hear Champ’s voice in my head talking about Tucker?” Dolls shudders and Nicole makes a face. “I probably won’t be able to look the guy in the eye anymore.”

“Why would you? You guys don’t even run in the same circles.”

“I heard from Herman, that starting next week, members of the AV Club are going to be joining us whenever we have away games.”

The alpha groans. “For what?”

“I don’t know. Maybe administration wants a better highlight reel of our games at the end of the year.”

“Great.” Nicole sucks her teeth. “Now I've got another reason for my dad to jump down my throat.”

 


 

“Babygirl,” Wynonna whines, needy and petulant. “I’m starving!”

The amount of willpower Waverly summons is astonishing, enough to be righteously canonized as a saint. The biggest test to her faith and resilience? Refusing to acknowledge her older sister’s brat-like behavior and appeasing it just so she can grade her student’s classwork papers in peace.

It is still the beginning of the year and while Waverly prides herself on not wanting to drown her students beneath a mountain of work or boring the class into sleep with long lectures, she still makes sure to keep the class occupied with classwork. Usually in the form of writing questions down on the smart board (or blackboard if the former was currently displaying something necessary that couldn’t be removed), and having her students copy them down and answer them on a sheet of loose-leaf paper to be handed in.

Not the most demanding of tasks, her questions are always simple but straight forward that only a student who did their homework could answer correctly. It saves time, lets Waverly know as to who’s reading the material and is taken the course seriously, even this early in the game. Plus, it keeps Waverly from having to fight her way into the copy room.

Despite Purgatory High having the sufficient funds for a home football and soccer field, a basketball court—Lucado and the administration doing all that they can to have investors pour all their money in the athletics department—something as simple as a copy room, escapes them. Of course, as much as she could bring up the lack of attention to all the other departments, her own especially, Waverly knows that her concerns would fall on deaf ears. And with the entire culture of the school itself centering around being whipped up into a frenzy and the quiet wait between games, would there even be a change?

Nevertheless, a directionless, one-track minded, administrative board and her neglected department, Waverly looks to finding peace in grading her student’s papers. If Wynonna would just let her.

“Waves,” the alpha sings, plopping down beside Waverly on the couch. “Whatcha doin’?”

Waverly sighs. “Grading papers.”

“Still?” Wynonna asks, surprised. As if this wasn’t the tenth time she asked in the last fifteen minutes.

“Wynonna, I teach juniors and seniors, four classes each with differing material. So yes, I’m still grading papers.”

“Ugh… How much do you have left?” Now, after so many years, now, Waverly finally understands as to why Willa spent their childhood years giving Wynonna the short end of the stick.

Waverly blinks, puts the loose-leaf paper of Champ Hardy’s less than unintelligible answers to the side and stares at her sister. Going as far as to point to the large stack of papers sitting on the coffee table, having yet to be graded. So no, she is not done. Nowhere near done.

“Order takeout, Wyn. I really need to get this done.”

“Fine,” Wynonna sucks her teeth, but nods in understanding.

“Thank you.”

A moment passes. “I’m broke, can you pay for it this time?”

Goddamn it Wynonna!

 


 

There’s something calming and structural about taking a single night out of each week just to wind down with friends and not be the high school English teacher or Wynonna’s pallbearer.

“I’m telling you, this is the best part of the week.” Rosita smiles, happily pouring herself another glass of sangria. Taking a bite out of the fruit from the pitcher soaked up with an ungodly amount of alcohol thanks to Chrissy’s lack of delicacy.

As the daughter of Sheriff Randy Nedley, you’d expect her to be the tiniest precautious when drinking. Getting thrown in the drunk tank by your own father isn’t fun, Wynonna would know that first hand.

“Wait, wait, before we get started we need the food ready—Jeremy! Are you done in the kitchen?” Chrissy asks while having to slap Rosita’s greedy hand away from the tray full of homemade cheesy breadsticks. “I’ve got a Hungry Hungry Hippo over here!”

From the kitchen emerges a lanky built omega with boyish looks, holding one too many things in his arms.  Jeremy Chetri, a close college friend from the University of Montreal who shared in Waverly’s enthusiasm for wanting to know everything and anything; be it history, science, fringe theories and even the paranormal, nothing was off limits.

Whereas Waverly and Chrissy returned home after their venture of studying out of the region, on the other side of the country to be exact, Jeremy moved to Purgatory to start a new chapter in his life. Finding his knowledge of computers to be better suited in the hands of a small town. Where he currently works as a freelance IT guy for both the neighboring college, the sheriff’s department and whoever else would have him.

Plus, it gives him the free time to concoct some new experiments in the kitchen. “Le Chef Chetri present to you all, the first in a series of delicious snacks made to accurately attack your tastebuds with a sophisticated taste.”

“Really now?” Rosita asks skeptically with a brow raised and a toothpick hanging from the corner of her mouth.

“It is scientifically proven, madam!”

Waverly laughs. For two people who majored in different branches but under the same science umbrella, the two of them, personality wise, are completely different. Yet, counter each other perfectly.

Even now as Rosita takes a bite out of a slice of freshly baked baguette with a thick slab of brie, topped off with a pinch of garlic salt and pepper. Jeremy looks hopeful for a good review but is teased with a shake of the beta’s head and a tongue poking out from between her lips.

They all gather around in Rosita’s living room, Chrissy excited to share the bit of gossip she gathered during the week from working behind the scenes at the town’s resident newspaper. The Purgatory Gazette.

“Okay, so there’s a rumor going around the office that Robin—you remember right, Waves? Robin Jett, the guy who got taken off the school newspaper for trying to write an article called Privileged Assholes: An Infestation Inside Our Walls, which was essentially going to be a nasty deconstruction on all the rich football players who ever shoved him into a locker—well the cheeky little bastard wrote an attack piece, can you guess who on?”

Waverly, Rosita and Jeremy think for a minute. Although, the smaller brunette reaches the end a lot quicker than they do, having been raised in Purgatory and knowing Robin in high school. There’s only one person who the boy ever disliked to the point of absolute hatred.

“Dear God, he wrote it on Beth Gardner, didn’t he?”

Chrissy nods her head. “Bingo. There was a two-page paper completely annihilating Beth’s botched report on Mayor Cryderman’s election campaign on the bulletin board in the briefing room.”

Waverly shakes her head and takes a sip from her margarita glass. Of course, Robin Jett would go after Beth Gardner in such a way. It really is somewhat hilarious that for a news aggregator, there seems to be more drama behind the scenes then what is written on paper. She knows that whatever problems Robin has with Beth, won’t end there. If anything, it’ll get worse with how vindictive the woman can be. Only time would tell, and Chrissy is beyond ready to have a front row seat to the next blow up.

Though she’ll never admit it, Waverly is too. Listening to the drama helps with the monotonous grind that is teaching high school. Yet, the school year just started so there’s bound to be some sort of scandal or big issue to land on their doorstep soon. Practically inevitable.

“When those two go head-to-head, it’ll be spectacular. Plus, I kind of want that Nazi in nylon to get knocked down a peg or two.” Chrissy grins.

“I don’t know about all that,” Rosita starts, “But I’ve got word that Lucado is looking to get more funding for the athletics department.”

Waverly groans and puts her glass down. “Unbelievable.”

“Didn’t they get funding last year? What more could they possibly do? Paint the gym gold?”

“Probably,” Chrissy shrugs her shoulders.

“Are any of the other departments even on par with athletics?”

Rosita shakes her head. “Financially, they aren’t even in the same league.”

There is nothing more predictable and irritating, than knowing just how obsessed Lucado and the rest of administrative board are with Purgatory High’s continuing reign over the few sports the offer. Soccer being their number one priority, dominating and having three championships in succession under their belt to show off to investors and the region at large. Waverly puts her now empty glass down on the coffee table a little harsher than normal.

All because a few years ago Canada qualified for the FIFA World Cup for, what the third time in the country’s history, a fire was lit under everyone and a new appreciation for the sport no one really cared about has taken hold.

Which is wonderful for all the soccer enthusiasts out there and the amount of attention that is brought to the school, and the town by proxy. But the complete negligence towards the rest of the academic departments is a travesty. It’s a miracle that Social Studies department weren’t teaching their history classes with dated textbooks, or the Science department having to resort to planning useless labs that mean nothing and are only there to pass the time between quarters.

Hell, Waverly’s astounded that English department didn’t keep to the same rigid curriculum that had been in place for the past two decades.

“Last year I made an appeal to the board for a trip to the Ukraine for my AP Environmental Science classes, to learn about Chernobyl and how the power plant’s explosion left the surrounding area an uninhabitable wasteland for the next fifty years due to all the radiation—it was denied because it was too expensive even though I suggested we’d come up with the funds ourselves.”

“Expensive?” Jeremy scoffs, “Flights to the Ukraine aren’t expensive if they can get a group travel package. If I was still in high school, I would have loved to go on a trip like this, the most I did in science class was learn the difference between minerals and rocks.”

“Jonas had scheduled an interview with, I think it was Bass Reeves, and it was to discuss Purgatory High’s plans for building a pool for competitive swimming.”

“Wonderful, instead of a trip for students to learn of the effects radiation has on the environment and wildlife, the school gets a new pool.” Rosita sighs, popping a small piece of boneless honey garlic chicken wings into her mouth.

“According to the dates, the build is scheduled to start the next semester.”

“A pool is only going to encourage students to want to break into it during after hours,” Waverly says, “I overheard a few students in the hall during sixth period talking about some post Champ Hardy put up on Instagram; basically, a video of himself breaking into an abandoned house outside of the Triangle.”

Chrissy groans, “One of these days, that kid is going to get arrested for doing all those asinine stunts.”

“Probably, although he might just get let off the hook because he’s a part of the soccer team, he is a Blue Devil.”

“I still don’t understand how this town is so head over heels for a high school soccer team. Does Ghost River University even get as much of a turnout as Purgatory does for a home game?” It’s a genuine question and Waverly is beside herself when neither of her friends can answer it.