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Beautiful People

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“I got you six months of probation,” a tall man says as he enters the room. Nicole Haught is in a small room with bare walls and windows that she knows are really double sided mirrors. She’s sitting in a chair at a small table, leaning back and resting her feet up on the table. The man pushes her feet, gesturing for her to put them down before he sits in the chair across from her at the table. Nicole huffs and drops her feet to the ground, dramatically. 

“Six months? This is bullshit!” She groans, dropping her head to the table, on top of her hands.  

“First of all, watch your mouth,” the man warns. “Second of all, normally by now you’d be in juvy, so I’ll take a ‘thank you’ anytime now.” 

Nicole peels her head from the table. She glares back at the man, unamused. “Sure, thanks, Dolls,” she says, dryly. “This is my third probation in 2 years. Forgive me for not being ecstatic.” 

She waves her hands in the air, pretending to be excited. 

“Hence the reason you should be locked up by now,” Dolls retorts. “When are you going to learn, Nicole?” 

Nicole looks up, making eye contact with the man. 

“Learn and have to spend less time with my favorite probation officer?” She says with a devilish grin. She leans back in the chair, putting her feet back on top of the table. 

“Cut the shit, Haught,” Dolls huffs. His tone is more stern now. “And have some damn respect!” He gestured toward her feet. 

“And you told me to watch my mouth,” Nicole says with a smug look on her face, moving her feet back to the floor again. 

“Listen, kid, I get it.” The man’s tone softens. “Things haven’t been easy on you since-”

“Yeah, yeah, we really don’t have to get sentimental here, man,” Nicole quickly cuts him off. “Thank you.” She rolls her eyes at the man in front of her.  

“You’re welcome,” he says with a smile. She’s sure he can see through her sarcasm. The pair has spent a lot of time together over the past few years. Too much time if you ask her, but it’s been than the alternative. 

“Even though it was just a form of self expression,” Nicole argues.  

“Sure, but why can’t you self express on paper instead of the side of the Federal building?” Dolls asks. 

“It was dark!” She retorts. “I didn’t realize it was the Fed building!” She lets out another groan, throwing her head back for effect. 

“Seriously, Nicole, you can’t keep doing this.” Dolls tries to be sympathetic, but Nicole can tell he’s at his wits end with her. 

“I know, I know,” she says, a little softer this time. 

“You obviously don’t know,” he tells her. “Look, there’s one more stipulation.” Nicole brings her head back down, making eye contact with the man. 

“Community service?” she asks. 

“Well, yes, but that’s not what I mean,” Dolls says. He’s got her attention now. What else could it possibly be. She’s used to community service, that one is a given.

“What else have you gotten me into?” Nicole says in a warning tone like she actually has a say in the matter. 

“A new foster placement,” Dolls says quickly. It seems like he’s almost bracing himself to upset the redhead. 

“My foster parents are fine, Dolls,” Nicole tells him. “I get everyone I need. This has nothing to do with them.” She’s actually found a place she likes and is comfortable in, the last thing she wants to do is put this on them. 

“Obviously the city isn’t the best environment for you to make good choices,” Dolls tells her. 

“Come on, I like it here,” she pleads with him. “I have friends, I’m doing well in school. It’s almost my senior year!” 

“Too much freedom,” Dolls continues. 

“Isn’t that what we all want at the end of the day?” Nicole asks, laying on the charm. “To be free.” 

“Sure, but when you’re 17 and I’m your probation officer, I own your freedom,” the man says with a wink. 

“So you’re taking me away from my home now? That’s your solution?” Nicole asks. She’s tired and frustrated, but she knows she did this to herself. She was just trying to find somewhere to fit in. She had spent the majority of her life bouncing from foster home to foster home, never sure if she’d ever find somewhere to really call home. The city has been the closest thing to home that she’s felt since her dad was alive. He wasn’t necessarily the best option either, but he tried. 

Her mom left shortly after Nicole was born. She wouldn’t be able to tell her apart from anyone else on the street other than the small, folded up photograph that she has of her. She stole it out of a drawer in her dad’s office while he was alive. She’s not sure if he knew she had it, but it was the one thing that helped her realize where she came from. 

It wasn’t that she ever wanted to see her mom. Hell, she would probably just tell her off and tell her how much better off she’s been without her. She’s not sure if that’s even the truth. Twelve foster homes in ten years isn't really something to brag about. But she did her best. So what if she decides to spend her time tagging buildings throughout the city? It’s not like she was hurting anybody. 

“Look, this new place is great,” Dolls says. Nicole squints her eyes at the man in attempts to see if he is putting up a facade or not. “And I know the man, he’s real nice. We used to work together before I moved to the city.” 

“Oh, hell no,” Nicole suddenly protests. “You’re making me live with a stiff?” The thought of spending quality time with any more police officers was something Nicole wasn’t prepared for. She’s had more encounters with the police than she would like to account for, but never before has she ever thought about living under the roof of one. 

“Sheriff Nedley is a nice man, I assure you,” Dolls tries to tell her. “Purgatory is a quiet, but nice town. I think you’ll like it there.”

“A sheriff? Come on!” Nicole slams her hands on the table and slides her chair further out, allowing herself space to stand. 

“Nicole, I had to pull a lot of strings here. This could be good for you!” Dolls argues as the redhead begins to pace the room. 

“And if it’s not?” She asks, stopping in her tracks. 

“Then I’ll figure something else out. I know you don’t think so, but I got your back,” the man assures her. 

“Fine,” Nicole sighs. She feels defeated but she knows nothing she does or says is going to change the man’s kind. “When do I go?” She asks as she sits back down in the chair. 

“School starts in a couple weeks so we wanted to get you situated out there before before then so you can get acclimated with the area and maybe some of the people,” he tells her.

“Why can’t I just stay with you until I graduate? Or turn 18? You’re a stiff,” Nicole suggests.

“I’m going to pretend that’s not an insult,” Dolls replies, slightly offended.

“You know what I mean,” Nicole groans. 

“As much as I’d love that, that’s not really an option here, Nicole,” Dolls says. “The courts won’t accept that. This man is doing this as a huge favor to me.”

“I’m glad I can be your charity case,” the redhead sighs, rolling her eyes. 

“Maybe being around a new crowd will help you make better choices,” Dolls tells her, ignoring her last comment. 

“Except I’ll be bored out of my mind!” She whines. “What the hell kind of town name is Purgatory?”

“You never know, maybe you’ll find your place there. It’s a nice town,” he continues to try to convince Nicole that this really could be the best thing for her. He’d be doing a better job if Nicole wasn’t so stubborn.

“Find my place in a town called Purgatory? Sounds like hell,” Nicole huffs.

“Not quite,” he says with a wink. “You’ll fortunately still get me checking in on you, so it’s a win win!” 

“Really? Because it sounds like a whole lot of lose to me,” she says. She puts her elbows on the table in front of her and drops her head into her hands. This man is really about to uproot her for her final year of high school? Maybe it could be a good thing. A new scene, new people, new girls. How bad could Purgatory be? 




——————-




Nicole has the weekend to pack up her belongings. It’s more than enough time since she doesn’t really have many things that actually belong to her. There wasn’t much she actually cared about keeping, that was, besides her small collection of sketchbooks that she’s used throughout the years and her electric guitar. The guitar once belonged to her father, it was one of the few things they were able to save when their house flooded when Nicole was six. She doesn't have an amp, but she doesn’t care. She has managed to teach herself some basic skills over the years. She doesn’t quite call herself a guitar player, but it is more of a work in progress. 

She scans over the room that she has called her own for the past year and a half. This is the longest she’s ever spent with a set of foster parents and she found herself getting more used to it than she usually does. The room isn’t big but she has found it to be comfortable, one of the best she’s ever had. 

Her clothes are now all in a couple of cardboard boxes that her foster parents were kind enough to provide her with. She makes sure to let them know how appreciative she has been of everything they’ve done for her. She stacks the boxes on top of each other in the corner of the room, making sure she didn’t miss anything. 

This time packing feels different. She was left alone by her foster parents. In the past, different foster parents would sit in the room with her, watching her every move. It was like they were all afraid she was going to steal from them. Why let her in their house in the first place if they were afraid she was such a terrible person? Oh right, the check. 

Nicole knows she wasn’t much more than a monthly check to some people. She got over that at a young age. She did what she had to survive and sometimes that meant putting her head down and staying quiet. She went to school, made a few friends that never stuck around and moved in where ever she was told because when you’re part of the system, you don’t get many free choices in life. When she was younger she had a sliver of hope about adoption. But as the years went on, she accepted that she would age out of the system when she turned eighteen. 

There’s a knock at her bedroom door and she calls out, “it’s open.” The door slowly opens to reveal the smiling face of her probation officer on the other side. 

“Almost ready to go, kid?” he asks. He takes a few steps further into the room, looking around a little. “Need any help?” She senses sympathy in the man’s demeanor, which is a change from his usual uptight stature, but she doesn’t think too much into it. Once again, she knows she did this to herself. But she also trusts the man that he wouldn’t be putting her in a situation where she wasn’t going to be safe. 

At least with her other moves, she was still in a location that was fairly close to the last. She never really had to uproot her entire life. She was mostly still surrounded by the same faces, the same stores, and the same school. 

“I think I have it down to a science by now, sir.” Nicole mocks him a little. She likes to try to ruffle his feathers from time to time. She knows underneath it all, he’s probably not as uptight as he acts. 

“Nicole,” he’s apologetic. She shakes her head back at him, attempting to stop him before he gets too sappy. 

“No need to apologize, Xavier,” she says quickly. The man stops in his tracks and narrows his eyes back at the redhead. She can’t help but grin back at him. She’s not sure what the appeal is of getting a rise out of her probation officer, but it keeps her entertained. He lets out an audible sigh and pinches the bridge of his nose between his thumb and his index finger, closing his eyes tight for a brief moment. “Fine,” Nicole huffs. “Officer Dolls,” she corrects herself. 

“Thank you,” the man says. “Are these boxes ready?” he asks, gesturing to the stacked boxes in the corner of the room. “I’ll start to load the car.” Nicole nods and watches as the man carries half of her total belongings away in one trip down to his car. She moves over to the window in her room, separating the blinds enough for her to peer outside. She watches as Officer Dolls carefully places the box into the trunk of his SUV. There’s an ache in her chest and she feels her eyes swell. She quickly closes the blinds and takes a deep breath in, blinking her eyes to avoid allowing any real tears to form. 

“Get it together, Haught,” she says out loud to herself. She continues putting the rest of her sketchbooks in a smaller box and closes it by overlapping the flaps. Dolls returns for the second box of clothes and Nicole follows closely behind with the smaller box in her arms. 

She watches in silence as the man places the second box of clothes in the trunk. 

“You don’t have to be so gentle with it,” Nicole tells her. “It’s just clothes.” She sets the smaller box down in the backseat of the SUV. She’s more adamant about the safety of this particular box. 

“They’re still your belongings,” Dolls tells her. She won’t ever admit it, but she does appreciate how careful the man is not to ruin anything that belongs to her. It’s hard to swallow at times, but this man probably knows her better than anyone else in the world right now. 

“Thanks,” she says softly. Appreciation for others is something that she does feel often, but has trouble portraying. The man smiles softly back at her before they make their way back into the room. The only thing remaining is her guitar. Dolls places his hand on it, ready to carry it out for her. “I got it!” Nicole takes the guitar from his grasp. Dolls quickly removes his hand from the guitar, no questions asked. 

Nicole wraps shed fingers around the neck of the guitar and lifts it off the ground. They make their way into the living room of the apartment to find her foster parents. The goodbyes are brief. She never found them to be very affectionate people, but she knew they cared. They always made she sure had what she needed, which was never much. They’d ask about her day, which was more than some people did. They didn’t lecture her when she did something wrong, but she could tell they always wanted more for her. 

After leaving through the door of what was probably her twelfth ‘home’ by now, Nicole places her guitar safely in the backseat of the officer’s SUV. She makes her way around to the passenger side where she finds Dolls holding the door open for her. She shakes her head slightly at the man. “So how lucky are you to be my personal chauffeur today?” She teases as she hops into the passenger side of the SUV. 

“Yes, there is no place I’d rather be in the world than hanging out with a delinquent teenager for the next several hours,” Dolls says, dryly, before shutting the door and making his way around to the driver’s side. 

Nicole laughs at the comment, she’s not offended by what he says. She feels that he’s probably the only person in the world that could say that to her and she wouldn’t want to hit him for it. 

The drive out of the city is fairly quiet. Nicole messes with the radio a few times, only to get her hand swatted away by the officer. “My car, my music,” he reminds her. This isn’t the first time she’s been in his car. It’s becoming a sort of a routine for the pair. She does something to get in trouble, Dolls shows up, gives her the low down and sometimes drops her off at a new foster home until the next time she does something wrong. 

Nicole sits with her seat leaned back, closing her eyes for a moment. She isn’t paying much attention to life outside the car as they drive. The closer they get to Purgatory, the more nervous she becomes. She’s unsure why these nerves are building so fiercely. It’s not like Purgatory is entirely new to her either. Her dad took her there a few times when he was alive, but never to stay. Her dad wouldn’t be caught dead amongst those people. She wonders for a moment what he would think about her going to live there. 

They close in on the town sign and there’s a sudden change in her demeanor. She sits up further in her seat and reads the words on the sign in her head. ‘Welcome to Purgatory; you’ll never want to leave!’ She laughs a little. She doesn’t mean for it to be out loud, but it is. 

“Something funny?” Dolls asks. Nicole immediately shakes her head. 

“No,” she says quickly. She continues to watch out the window as they proceed further into the town. The houses are big, bigger than she remembers. They’re not on top of each other like in the city, she assumes there’s a lot less people here. 

The further they drive, the larger the houses appear to be. They’re surrounded by fences, she assumes to keep the riff raff out. The driveways are longer than she’s ever seen. Some of the houses are set so far back from the road that she can barely see them. There are trees everywhere. They line the streets, driveways, even the perimeter of some of the properties. It’s quiet here, but she’s sure there’s more to the town that meets the eye. 

They drive past the high school. It looks a lot different than the one she spent the last three years at. There’s a big marquee sign out front. The top of it reads, ‘Purgatory High School,’ and the middle advertises an upcoming ‘annual back to school football game.’ She’s not really excited about going to school there. But then again, there’s not much exciting about being the new kid for your senior year of high school. 

There’s a few people walking down the street as they turn the corner just past the high school. She assumes they’ve just come from the high school since a couple of the boys are wearing football jerseys with ‘Blue Devils’ on the front. There were a couple of girls trailing behind in short shorts and tee shirts with cheerleading graphics on the front. Her eyes lingered a little longer on the girls before they turn another corner and fade from her sight. The sound of the man driving the car coughing breaks her from her thoughts. She shifts her attention in his direction. 

He is still focusing on the road, but turns his head slightly to give her his attention before he speaks. “Ready to see your new home?” 

Nicole always uses the word ‘home’ fairly loosely. She was never sure when she would actually consider a house a home. She wasn’t sure she would ever know what it would feel like. 

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” she tries to force a little enthusiasm but is sure she’s failing at it. She is able to muster up a small smile before she turns to look ahead of her again, watching as the vehicle pulls down a long driveway. The driveway leads to a gate that is closer to the road, long before they reach the actual house. Dolls rolls down his window and presses a button on the intercom that is just outside the window.

“Xavier Dolls, here with Nicole Haught,” he says when there is a voice on the other side asking for the reason behind his visit. Nicole isn’t sure what to think. This can’t be a real place, right? She’s sure Dolls can almost hear her thoughts. “I know it’s not what you’re used to,” he says as he starts to drive through the gate that is now opening. 

“That’s an understatement,” Nicole says. She continues to take in the sight of the house in front of her. It’s definitely not a house that any police officer in the city would live in. Well, it’s also not a house that would even exist in the city. 

There are more windows in the front of the house than she can even count. Everything is perfectly landscaped around the front of the house. There is a pathway that leads from the driveway to the front steps. The porch wrapped around the majority of the house. She can’t see behind it but from the looks of it, there might be a pool.

As she opens the door of the car that is now parked, she sees the front door swing open and an older man with a mustache is stepping out onto the front porch. 

Dolls runs around to the passenger side of the car, but Nicole has already out and closing the door. Dolls waves up at the man on the porch and opens the trunk of the SUV. He takes a box out of the vehicle and heads toward the house with it, gesturing for Nicole to follow him. She reaches into the backseat and takes out her guitar before following the man. 

When they reach the front porch, Dolls sets the box down and shakes the hand of the other man. “Randy Nedley,” he starts. “This is Nicole Haught.” He gestures toward the redhead. Nicole gives him a tight smile that’s as genuine as she can manage. She puts her hand out for him to shake it. 

“Nice to meet you, Nicole,” the man’s smile is truly genuine. His handshake is firm but he seems like he’s a gentle man overall. Her nerves subside a little as her hand drops from his back down to her side. 

“Likewise,” he smiles. “Here, I’ll show you to your room,” he says. He reaches out for the guitar she is holding. She quickly retracts, pulling it closer to her body. She knows he was just trying to help. 

“I got it,” she tells him. The man nods and turns to open the front door. As the door swings open, Nicole moves her head to the side to look past the two men and into the house. 

Her eyes widen at the sight of the inside of the house. It’s immaculately clean, she immediately assumes they have a maid. She tries not to pass too much judgement on the people that live here before she meets them all, but it’s hard not to. There’s a large entryway as they step inside. It’s not the kind of entry way she’s used to where people just toss their shoes and coats off and make their way into the rest of the house. 

Everything is so spotless she is afraid she’s going to make it dirty. “Should I remove my shoes, sir?” She suddenly feels the need to be super polite. Randy shakes his head.

“Oh, no,” he says. “You’re fine.” She glances down at her shoes, a pair of old Chuck Taylors. They’re pretty worn in at this point, but she still feels like they have a lot of use left in them. She nods at the man. “Would you like to see your room?” he asks. 

“Yeah,” Nicole says. Dolls picks up the box of clothes and carries it with him as they make their way up the stairs. When they reach the top, Randy leads the pair down a hallway that overlooks what she assumes is the living room of the house. She glances over the railing, noticing the photographs on the mantel over the fireplace. She can’t make out any of the faces in the photos, but she thinks it’s nice to see a family that might actually care about each other.

As they reach the end of the hallway, Randy opens the last door on the right to reveal a bedroom bigger than any room Nicole has ever had in her life. She’s not sure what she’s about to do with all that space. The room is fully furnished with what appears to be a queen sized bed and more dresser space than she is ever going to fill. 

“Here we are,” Randy says with a smile. The two men step to the side and allow Nicole to enter the room. She gently places her guitar in one of the corners of the room and moves around the space, taking it all in. There is a bookshelf with a couple of shelves full of books. Nicole scans over the titles of the books, running her finger along the spines of the books. “I wasn’t sure if you like to read.” Randy’s voice breaks her from her thoughts and she turns around. 

“I do,” Nicole tells him. “Thanks.” She moves around the room again. There’s a desk on the other side of the room with a computer on it. “Thank you for all of this,” she says to the man, gesturing around the room “You really didn’t have to.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Randy smiles. Dolls carries the box of clothes into the room and sets it down near the dresser. Nicole thanks him. “Should we go get the rest of your belongings?” Randy asks.

“There’s not much,” Nicole admits. “I’m a light packer,” she tries to joke. She’s trying to show that she’s grateful for this opportunity, but she’s having trouble understanding what she’s feeling at the same time. 

They make their way back down toward the front of the house. As Randy goes to open the front door, it swings open and a girl with long, blonde hair is standing in the doorway. 

“There’s someone parked in my spot,” she huffs at Randy. She must have realized that he wasn’t alone because she quickly looks back and forth between Dolls and Nicole. Nicole musters a smile. “Oh.” The girl says, knowingly. “They’re here.” She moves past the group and heads for the stairs. 

“My daughter,” Randy says as he watches her climb the stairs until she disappears from sight. “Chrissy.” 

“Wow,” Dolls says. “She’s so grown up now!” Randy laughs. 

“Yeah,” Randy says. “Sometimes I wish she would go back to being little again,” he laughs. “Sorry about that,” he apologizes to Nicole. “She’ll come around eventually.”

“It’s fine,” Nicole says. She leaves the house through the front door to retrieve her box of sketchbooks. She tries to balance the box between her hip and the vehicle but falters, dropping the box on the ground as she goes to close the door. “Shit!” she calls out. Dolls quickly makes his way over to Nicole, helping her pick up the books that have fallen out of the box. “Sorry,” she says. 

“You okay, kid?” He asks in a hushed tone. Nicole nods quickly and shoves the rest of the books in the box, closing the top. 

“I’m fine,” she huffs as she lifts the box from the ground and brings it into the house. Randy holds the door open for her and she moves past him to head back upstairs to her room. 

She finds it weird to think of as her room since she’s only been there for about twenty minutes, but she’s going to try to make the best out of the situation if that’s what she has to do. Maybe if she puts on her best facade, she can get back to the city by Christmas. Or maybe that requires not playing by the rules. She just had to figure out what the rules were with these kind of people first.  

As she makes her way down the hallway, she hears a voice coming from one of the other rooms in the hallway. The door wasn’t open the first time she came through, but now she could see a glimpse of the inside from the angle she is standing at. The wall she can see is lined with pictures of what she assumes is Chrissy and her friends. There’s also a bookcase full of trophies. She’s not close enough to make out what the trophies are for, but based on the shape the girl is in, she makes an assumption she’s an athlete. 

“I don’t know, Waves,” Chrissy’s voice echoes down the hallway. She must be on the phone. Nicole can’t see her but she’s loud enough to hear every word. “Are you sure he was asking about me?” 

Nicole rolls her eyes at the conversation, but is curious about what’s being said on the other end of the phone. “After the back to school dance? Do you think he’ll ask me to go with him? Well I know it’s at his house,” she huffs. “It would just be nice to get a personal invite, you know?” 

“Did you forget where your room was already?” A deep voice comes from behind her, jolting her where she stood. 

“Huh?” She turns around to see Dolls with a smile on his face, carrying the second box of clothing down the hallway. “Oh, no,” she says as she continues her journey to the end of the hall. As she passes Chrissy’s door she sees her get up from her bed to close her door. She gets a slight look from the blonde that she can’t read quite yet but it doesn’t feel friendly. 

She sets the box on the bed in her room and turns to see a Dolls stacking the second box of clothes on top of the first. “Well, that’s all of it,” he says. Nicole waits for the joke, but it never comes. “Is there anything else you need?” 

“Take me back to the city?” Nicole suggests. Dolls laughs. 

“Look, you know where to find me,” Dolls says. Nicole plops down on the bed and looks up at him. She knows he’s trying to do what’s best for her. That’s all he’s ever tried to do since the first time they met. She knows she frustrates the man, sometimes on purpose, but she also knows he cares. She nods back at him. “I know you’re not excited amount this move, Nicole.” 

“It’s for the best, right?” She asks, trying to get to a place in her own mind where she believes it herself. 

“It’s really all you have left,” Dolls says, sympathetically. Nicole gets it. She knows she messed up so many times that there’s no other option right now. After all, the alternative would probably suck more than this. “I’ll be back to check on you periodically.” 

“Will I at least have a warning?” Nicole asks. “We both know how much I hate it when you just pop in unannounced.” 

“I’ll do my best,” Dolls says with a wink. “But in the meantime, make some friends, be a kid. But please, Nicole, within reason.” 

“How much trouble can I get into living with a cop?” Nicole asks. “But that was part of your plan all along, wasn’t it?” 

The man grins back at her. “You’ve always been smart,” he says. 




——————-





Dolls leaves about an hour later. He has a discussion with Randy that Nicole decides not to eavesdrop in on, no matter how much she wants to. She isn’t sure what they talk about, but it is probably for the best. 

She is in her room, laying on her back on her bed. She thinks about how she should probably unpack, but she figures she has time and it won’t take her long. 

There’s a knock at her door that she left slightly ajar and she sits up on the bed. The door slowly opens and Randy is on the other side. “How’s it going in here?” He asks as he enters the room. He looks around at the boxes that haven’t moved since they were placed there. 

“Great,” Nicole says, with a natural side of sarcasm. The man laughs a little. 

“You have time to unpack,” he tells her. “Are you hungry? Do you need anything?” Nicole shakes her head. She wasn’t really feeling anything other than sleep. “Please don’t hesitate to ask.” The man turns to leave the room, starting to pull the door closed behind him. 

“Thank you,” Nicole calls out after him, unsure if he heard. He pops his head back inside the room and smiles at the redhead. 

“You’re welcome,” he says. He seems like a genuinely nice guy. She is still having a hard time believing that it’s all real though. Her last foster parents proved her wrong, so maybe this one will too. Only time will tell. “Wait, one last thing,” Randy says as he makes his way back into Nicole’s room, handing her a box. She looks confused at first, but opens it anyway to discover a cell phone. “For you.” 

“Oh, no,” Nicole says. “You really don’t have to.” She tries to hand the box back to the man but he insists she keeps it. 

“In case you need to get in touch with anyone,” he assures her. She was never big on accepting gifts. They rarely came without a cost. She swallows her pride and stops trying to shove the box back at the man. Instead she thanks him and he leaves the room, closing the door fully behind him. When she hears the click of the door shutting, she climbs off the bed and sets the phone, still in its box, on the desk in the room. 

Nicole makes her way over to her boxes of clothes and decides to empty them, using the space provided in the closet and dresser to put them away. She never had much space of her own, but she was always good at keeping it neat. She empties the boxes onto the bed before organizing them into designated places. Her wardrobe isn’t big, or fancy, but it suits her well. The majority of it consists of jeans and flannel shirts so she’s sure she will stick out like a sore thumb at her new high school, as if she wasn’t going to already. 

Chapter Text

Nicole spends the next hour putting her clothes away. It doesn’t take that long, but her lack of motivation isn’t helping. She looks over at the phone on the desk a few times. She’s had a phone before, but she’s never been attached to having one. Less technology means less chance of tracking her down if she does something wrong. 

She always considers herself a pretty simple person. That’s what happens when you grow up with nothing. You learn to get used to it. She finally reaches the box of sketchbooks that she left on the desk in the room. She opens the top and takes a couple of them out, flipping through the pages. The smell of leather,  paper and graphite hits her nose as she takes a breath in. Drawing was always her main escape away from anything. When she was young, she would draw worlds that she fantasized would come to life. A world she could escape to. Reality sunk in early, however, that it would never be real, so she started drawing anything and everything around her. 

She doesn’t have many photographs and there aren’t many taken of her. She always sees people around her constantly taking pictures of the world around them. They stop to snap a photo with their phone of a tree, a mountain, a building, their friends, and then they lock their phone and store it back in their pocket. They take a moment, make it a memory to look back on in the future. She often wonders if they actually ever revisit some of the photos that they take. What’s the point if they’re just going to sit in cyberspace forever? She never really had that luxury, so she draws instead. She draws faces of people she comes into contact with. Some have had a bigger impact on her life than others, but all are important in one way or another. 

She flips through a few pages of her drawings. She sees the faces of people from her past. She stops on one particular drawing of a girl. She runs her fingers over the lines as if she’s redrawing them. She closes her eyes for a moment. She feels like she’s back in the moment that the drawing took place in. She’s sitting at a picnic table in a park. There’s another girl sitting across from her. She knows her well, better than she knows anyone. And the girl knows her. She moves the pencil smoothly on the paper, holding the sketchbook up with her other hand. 

The girl smiles back at her, asking her to see what she’s drawing. Nicole refuses, attempting to ignore her pleads but she can’t help but smile. She swats at her hands as they try to pull the book down to reveal the drawing. She doesn’t usually share her drawings with anyone, but this isn’t the only time she’s drawn this particular girl. She’s beautiful. Her blonde hair flows just past her shoulders, but she usually has it pulled back in a ponytail. Her piercing blue eyes always make Nicole’s heart beat so fast she fears it might burst. She dons a basketball jersey, putting her muscular, and perfectly tanned arms on display. 

Nicole blinks and the figure girl in front of her starts to fade away. She blinks again, trying to return to the memory. It has been three years since that day and she still feels it like it was yesterday. There’s a knock on her door, ripping her fully from the moment. She slams the sketchbook shut and quickly shoves it in a drawer. “Yeah?” She calls out. 

“Dad says I have to give you a tour of the house,” Chrissy says as she pushes the door open. She doesn’t seem very enthused by the idea. 

“Okay,” Nicole says as she closes the box of books on the desk and turns toward the blonde. “I’m Nicole by the way.” The introduction seems unnecessary. She’s sure the girl knows who she is by now, but she tries to be polite. 

“Yeah, I know,” Chrissy huffs. “I’m Chrissy, but I’m sure you already know that.” Nicole nods with a quick laugh and follows her out of the room. 

“This is the upstairs,” Chrissy says, quickly gesturing around the hallway. Her tone is flat and she avoids making any real eye contact with Nicole. “My room,” she points to her left. There are 4 others closed doors in the upstairs hallway. Chrissy points them out as guest rooms and a bathroom. She wonders how many guests they have to rationalize having that many extra rooms. She was always lucky when she had her own room and didn’t have to share with anyone else in her foster placements. 

She doesn’t bother opening the doors if Chrissy doesn’t. She continues to follow the blonde down the hallway. They turn and descend down a set of stairs that is different from the one that she originally came up. The stairs are a little more narrow and not as open around them. She learns quickly that they lead into the backside of the kitchen. “Kitchen,” Chrissy says plainly. Nicole looks around the room. She feels like she’s in so alternates universe. None of this can be real. How do people actually live this way? Their kitchen is bigger than her last home. 

They make their way further through the downstairs as Chrissy points out different rooms, not taking time to stop at any of them. They pass by the dining room, living room and study. Nicole stops in the doorway of the study. It’s unlike anything she’s ever seen in person. The walls are lined floor to ceiling with shelves full of books. There’s a couple of chairs in the middle of the room and a fireplace on one end with a large mantle above it. She wonders how many fireplaces a house needs. 

“Hello?” Chrissy calls out. Nicole looks up and sees she continued on without her. 

“Sorry,” Nicole says, she moves quickly to catch up with the girl. “That room is fascinating.” Chrissy gives her a weird look. 

“Never seen a study before?” She asks. 

“I’ve never seen anything quite like any of this before,” Nicole admits. She lifts her arms, gesturing around her. Chrissy doesn’t seem shocked. Nicole isn’t sure what Chrissy knows about her and where she came from. She’s unsure even she’s even interested to hear. 

“You get used to it,” Chrissy shrugs. Nicole laughs, assuming it was meant to be a joke. She realizes quickly she was probably wrong when she gets a strange look from Chrissy. 

“Doubt it,” Nicole says. “This is like something out of the movies,” she laughs. 

“I’m sure I’d say the same about where you grew up,” Chrissy retorts. Nicole studies the girl’s face, she swears she sees a slight smile start to grow on her mouth. 

“Probably,” she agrees. “What’s that room?” She asks as they turn a corner. The door is slightly ajar and Chrissy pushes it open a little further. Inside is Randy, sitting at a desk. The room is barely decorated, the walls are rather bare. 

“Dad’s office,” Chrissy says. Randy looks up from what he is working on and offers the pair a soft smile. 

“How’s the tour going?” The man asks as he closes his laptop and stands from his desk. He’s now dress in uniform, he looks a little different than he did earlier in the day when she first met him. Nicole is still having trouble getting over the fact that she now has to live with a police officer. She wonders what her friends from the city would think of her now if they could only see this place.

“Great, dad,” Chrissy forces a smile on her face. Nicole wonders what’s going on in the girl’s mind. Here she is in this huge house, with everything she could probably ever imagine and she doesn’t seem happy about any of it. She’s sure she has something to do with the girl’s frustration though. If things were the other way around, she’s not sure how she would feel about a total stranger coming to share her space during her senior year of high school. But in reality, with the size of this place, she’s sure they won’t have to really cross paths too often if they don’t want to.

“Great!” Randy says in a cheerful manner. “Make sure you show her the pool, feel free to use it whenever!” 

Nicole smiles back at the man. “Sure, thanks,” she says. 

“Of course!” He smiles. “Anything you need, please don’t be afraid to ask. We’d like to make this transition as smooth as possible. I do have to work tonight, but there’s a game at the school,” he says. “Chrissy will give you a ride up there. It’ll be good for you two to spend some time together.”

Chrissy cringes a little and Randy shoots her a warning look. She quickly changes her expression and musters up a smile. 

“Yes, it’ll be great,” she says through her smile. “Catch you later, dad,” she says as she gestures for Nicole to follow her toward a sliding door on the back of the house. Nicole waves at the man and quickly follows behind. Chrissy slides the door open, closing it once they are both outside.

Nicole’s eyes widen at the sight of the backyard. There’s a large, stone patio that leads out to the inground pool with a waterfall on one end. There's a tall ledge made of rocks that towers over the entire length of one side. To the left, there is an inground hot tub. On the other side, a built in fire pit. “So this is how the other half lives,” she chokes. 

“It’s cooler at night under the lights,” Chrissy grins. Nicole isn’t if she’s she’s mocking her or bragging. Nicole continues to look around the yard. It is perfectly landscaped, but she expects nothing less. “There’s a game room in the basement if you want to check that out,” Chrissy tells her. Nicole nods and follows her back into the house. 




———————





After the tour, Chrissy ditches Nicole, leaving her alone in the living room. She makes her way over to the mantle, glancing at the pictures displayed nicely in frames. There’s a few pictures of Chrissy running track. She figures that’s what the trophies are for. There’s a couple family photos. Randy, Chrissy and she assumes Chrissy’s mom. She doesn’t know what happened or where she is, that’s probably a story for a later date. 

She turns and heads for the main staircase, hoping she doesn’t get lost in the house she will now call ‘home’ until the next one. She’s never sure how long placements will last and with her eighteenth birthday coming soon, she’s sure no one is really going to want to keep her. Although she feels this time the placement isn’t about making money off of her. 

She climbs the stairs and makes her way back down the hallway. She hears Chrissy on the phone again, this time she hears the voice of another girl on the other end. “You sure you don’t want me to come over before the game?” The girl asks. 

“No, no, it’s fine,” Chrissy protests. “I’ll meet up with you when I get there. Dad wants to have dinner before it, you know how he is,” she groans. 

“At least you have a dad that wants to spend time with you,” the other girl retorts. “Maybe you should be more appreciative.” 

“Whatever,” Chrissy huffs. “So what’s the plan for after the game?” She asks, changing the subject. 

“I thought you wanted to go to Robin’s party,” the girl says. “Or are you over that because he didn’t send out a personal invite?” 

“Ha ha,” Chrissy mocks. Nicole shuts her door behind her, muffling the sound of the phone conversation happening down the hall from her. She looks at the box that she left on the desk earlier in the day. She wonders if she should put the rest of them away. She decides against it. She moves over to the window in the room, opening the blinds to let more natural light in. She notices her room overlooks the backyard, not a bad view at all. 

She moves back over to the desk and picks up the phone box that she left there. She thinks about opening it, but sets it back on the desk. 

“It’s not going to bite,” Chrissy’s voice comes from the doorway. She didn’t hear the door open and she jumps a little. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. You ready to go to this game?” She asks. Nicole looks up to see she is now dressed mostly in blue. She wears a blue tee shirt that says ‘Blue Devils’ across the chest, with a white spandex shirt underneath. Her hair is in a ponytail and she has what Nicole refers to as blue war paint under her eyes.

“You really don’t have to take me with you, you know,” Nicole tells her. She knows Chrissy has some boy she’s trying to impress and probably doesn’t want her tagging along. 

“My dad insists,” Chrissy reminds her. She’s trying to make it seem like she supports that decision, but she knows she doesn’t. 

“What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, right?” Nicole laughs a little. She sits down on the bed. 

“Look, I know neither of us are very thrilled with this situation here,” Chrissy says, gesturing back and forth between the two of them. “But you don’t really want to piss him off. He’s cool, but when he gets mad…” she trails off. 

“Alright, alright!” Nicole groans. “What’s the big deal about this game anyway?” She asks. She’s never heard of having a football game before school starts. 

“It’s the first home game of the season,” Chrissy tells her. Her tone makes it seem like this is something Nicole should already know. 

“Not homecoming?” Nicole asks. 

“No, Purgatory likes to have their own traditions,” the blonde tells her. “We play our rivals, it’s a big thing. One last hoorah before school starts in a week. Maybe it’ll be good for you,” she tells her. 

“You think?” Nicole asks. Maybe Chrissy can tell she’s feeling a bit out of place too and is really trying to help. 

“You could get to know some people or whatever. See the way we do things around here,” Chrissy suggests. She makes it sound like it isn’t the worst idea in the world. 

“Couldn’t think of a more exciting way to spend my first night in town,” Nicole says, her tone flooding with sarcasm. 

“There’s a party afterwards. You party?” Chrissy asks. Nicole laughs. She’s not sure what she really means by that, but she’s sure the partying she’s seen is much different than the ones here. 

“Life’s one big party in the city,” she teases. Chrissy huffs and turns to leave the room. 

“Meet me in the car in five minutes,” she huffs on the way out the door. Nicole groans and throws herself back on the bed. After a minute of sulking, she stands and looks at her clothes, wondering if she should wear something blue to fit in better. She opts for a black fitted tee shirt instead, changing from what she was currently wearing. She grabs a blue flannel, figuring it’s close enough, wraps it around her waist and heads out the door. 

When she makes it outside, she sees Chrissy is already sitting in her car, blasting her music. Nicole hops in the passenger side of the car and Chrissy barely acknowledges her before putting the car into drive and exiting the property. The drive to the school isn’t long. Nicole remembers passing it on the way to the house. 

The wheels of Chrissy’s car come to a screeching halt at she parks in the lot. Nicole cringes at the sound. Chrissy hops out of the car faster than Nicole does. By the time Nicole is fully out of the car, she sees the other girl taking off around the building, toward the football field, behind the school. She closes the door and sees Chrissy lift her hand up, locking the car with a beep. “See ya,” Nicole says, softly. She shoves her hands in her pockets, sucks in a breath of air, and makes her way toward the football field. “This should be interesting.” 




———————





By the time she makes it around the school, she sees a large crowd has already arrived. The bleachers on one side of the field are filled with people all dressed in blue. They’re loud and excited. The other side is filled with people all in green. Must be the rivals. She heads toward the blue side, even though she feels like it might be safer with the green team. She sees Chrissy over by the fence, near a pack of cheerleaders. She wonders if one of them is the girl she heard her talking to on the phone earlier. She notices one of the girls pointing toward a couple of football players. Chrissy pushes the girl and hides her face. That must be the boy she likes. 

She scans the stands a little. She’s not sure why she does that. It’s not like she’s going to see anyone she knows. The only person she sort of knows wants nothing to do with her. She’s not sure if she should sit down or just continue standing awkwardly near the bleachers until it’s dark enough for her to officially disappear from sight. She leans up against the railing on one side of the bleachers. 

“You look happy to be here,” a voice comes from behind her. She turns around and she’s still not sure where it’s coming from. “Under here,” the voice says. Nicole realizes there’s a girl under the bleachers looking back at her. She gives her a confused look, leaning down to get a better view. “This is where the real party is.” 

“Yeah, no thanks,” Nicole says. “I’ve seen enough horror films to know not to follow the voice into dark places,” she laughs. 

“Damn,” the girl says. “Am I that scary?” She comes closer to where Nicole has now stepped back from the bleachers. She takes a better look at the girls face. She’s actually pretty hot. 

“Um, no,” she stutters a little. She looks around her for a moment, as if she is making sure she’s really the one that the girl is talking to. 

“Man, are you always this awkward?” The girl asks. Nicole shakes her head and tries to breath. 

“No,” Nicole says. “Sorry, just thrown off,” she admits. She didn’t really expect anyone to talk to her tonight. 

“You must be new here,” the girl laughs. Nicole nods.

“What gave it away?” Nicole laughs. She feels herself loosening up a bit. 

“I can tell when someone is born and raised here,” the girl admits. “Usually they have a stick up their ass.” She lets out a laugh at her own joke and puts her hand out for Nicole to shake. “I’m Wynonna.” 

“Nicole,” she says, shaking Wynonna’s hand. “Nicole Haught.”

“Want a drink?” Wynonna asks. She holds up a brown paper bag with a bottle clearly on the inside. Nicole’s eyes widen a little, she's unsure if she should take the offer. It’s her first night in this new place and she lives with a police officer. Is underage drinking really her first peer activity she’s going to participate in? 

She nods and follows Wynonna back under the bleachers. She takes the bag from the brunette’s hand and takes a swig. It feels warm as it hits her tongue and goes smoothly down her throat. 

“Thanks,” she says. She feels her body relaxing for the first time since she arrived at the school. 

“So, what’s your story?” Wynonna asks. Nicole thinks she hasn’t had enough to drink to unload that information on a complete stranger. 

“I, uh,” she starts to stutter a little. She takes the bag from Wynonna’s hand again and takes another drink. 

“Dude, there you are!” A voice comes from behind them. “Replace me already?” The girl huffs, gesturing toward Nicole. Nicole puts her hands up and takes a step back causing Wynonna to laugh. 

“Oh my god,” Wynonna snorts out a laugh. “Relax, Haught.” Nicole lets out the breath she was holding. The other girl takes the bottle from her hand and chugs some of the liquid. 

“I’m just kidding,” she laughs. “I’m Rosita.” Nicole smiles and shakes her hand. 

“Nicole.” 

“Nicole here was just about to tell me what brings her to the wonderful, annual Purgatory back to school football game,” Wynonna informs her. Nicole squints her eyes and shakes her head. 

“No, she wasn’t,” she laughs. She turns to look out through the bleachers. She mostly has a view of other people’s legs as they settle into seats above them. 

One person moves for a moment, giving her a clear view of the cheerleaders who are working on warmup stretches. One in particular catches her eye as she bends forward to stretch. Her wavy, brown hair from her long ponytail falls forward toward the ground in front of her. Her muscular legs radiate in what’s left of the sunlight. Nicole’s eyes can’t help but wander up the full length of her body as she stands to an upright position. She sees the girl turn toward another cheerleader and smile. The squint of her eyes, the glow of her cheeks, who is that? 

“Earth to Haught stuff,” Wynonna says as she waves her hand in front of her face, breaking Nicole from her trance. 

“Huh?” Nicole says. She realizes both girls are staring back at her and she quickly takes the bottle back for another drink. “So you guys go to school here?” She smiles at them, pretending nothing happened. 

“I’m a senior,” Rosita tells her. 

“Finally,” Wynonna teases. Rosita slaps her on the arm causing Nicole to give them a confused look. 

“Okay, so I failed one year,” Rosita huffs. “At least I didn’t graduate already and still hang around high school football games,” she teases as she looks at Wynonna. 

“You know very well that my dad would murder me if I wasn’t here to support my sister,” Wynonna huffs. She takes a mother drink. 

“You’re so supportive,” Rosita says sarcastically, she takes the bottle from Wynonna again. 

“Dad’s not even here,” Wynonna retorts. “He never said I had to watch the game. Besides, she doesn’t do much until halftime.” Nicole watches the banter between the two girls, unsure if or when she should chime in. She’s trying to pick up details from their conversation to answer several questions that she has. “Enough about me and my perfect family,” Wynonna jokes, rolling her eyes. “So where are you from?” She turns her attention toward Nicole. 

“The city,” Nicole finally tells them. 

“Ooh city girl,” Rosita says with a grin. 

“Down girl,” Wynonna says, putting her hand out in front of Rosita. Nicole laughs. “Why the hell are you in this hell hole?” 

“I’m not sure any of us are drunk enough for that conversation,” Nicole says. She takes the bottle from Rosita’s hand, causing both girls to laugh.

“I mean, we can make guesses,” Rosita teases. Nicole isn’t sure she’s ready to play that game. She takes another swig of alcohol and hands it to Wynonna, who is holding her hand out for it.

“It was either here or juvy,” Nicole admits. Both girls’ eyes widen and Nicole immediately regrets giving them that information. She feels the warm liquid starting to course through her veins, which isn’t helping her stay very mysterious. 

There's a loud roar of cheering coming from bleachers above them, interrupting them from their conversation. Nicole sighs out of relief, thankful for the interruption. She hears a voice coming over the loudspeaker, announcing the start of the football game. The man’s voice starts listing names that Nicole has never heard before. 

More cheering erupts in between each name. She peers through the bleachers toward the field. She sees the players running toward the center of the field from the end zones. She hasn’t spent much time at football games in the past, so it’s all pretty new to her. Her eyes continue to scan, landing back on the cheerleaders who are now jumping around and waving their pom poms as they cheer for each player of their team. 

She can’t help but find herself watching the same cheerleader again. There’s something about her that’s captivating Nicole. “You okay, Haught?” Wynonna asks. 

“Just observing,” she says. Her gaze hasn’t broken from the cheerleader yet. She’s feeling the buzz from the alcohol a little more now. She hasn’t felt a desire to be close to another human being in over a year and she didn’t think she ever would again. 

“None of those football players are worth it, I’m gonna warn you right now,” Rosita says. She slurs a little in her speech. 

“Rosita would know too,” Wynonna laughs. Rosita glares back at her and pushes her playfully. 

“Says the girl who dated half the team last year,” Rosita argues. 

“Define date,” Wynonna says, using air quotes when she says the word ‘date.’ 

“Touché,” Rosita laughs, pointing a finger back at Wynonna. Nicole laughs. She’s enjoying watching the two going back and forth, taking the focus away from her checking out the cheerleader. 

“None of them are worth it though, trust me,” Wynonna huffs. She turns to face the field, watching the players making their way toward the sidelines for halftime. 

“You might want to tell your sister that then,” Rosita warns. “Because rumor has it, Hardy has his eyes on her again.” 

“Rumor has it I’m going to kick his ass if he touches her,” Wynonna says. Nicole is impressed with how quickly her tone went from playful to protective in five seconds. 

“Over protective big sister alert,” Rosita teases. Nicole laughs. She looks back toward the field to see the cheerleaders have made their way to the center of the field. Wynonna sets the bottle down and leads the girls out from under the bleachers to watch the routine. 

“Dad can’t tell me I didn’t watch,” Wynonna says. She takes her phone out to record the routine, leaning on the fence in front of her. 

Rosita and Nicole hang back watching the routine. Nicole’s eyes focus on the movements of the cheerleaders. Watching as their arms and legs move in ways she could probably never move in. She feels a set of eyes on her, ignoring it at first. Rosita coughs and nudges Nicole, gaining her attention. “They’re pretty good, huh?” She teases. 

“What?” Nicole asks. She turns quickly to see Rosita laughing. 

“It’s cool,” Rosita assures her. “Secrets safe with me.” It's not that Nicole has ever really kept it a secret, she just isn’t sure if she’s ready to be the new girl, foster kid, the one on probation and to top it all off, the gay one. She smiles back at Rosita before turning her attention back toward the field. 

After their routine, cheers erupt from the stands again and the cheerleaders make their way back to the sidelines, preparing for the second half of the game. Nicole gets a closer look at the cheerleader that caught her eye. 

She’s even more beautiful close up. She smiles toward the crowd, Nicole swears she made eye contact with her for a moment but she quickly looks away, turning away from the field. She sees Chrissy sitting a few rows back on the bleachers. She’s surrounded by a few other teenagers and they’re chatting. She’s not sure if she should say ‘hi’ or just continue to pretend that they don’t know each other. 

When Chrissy doesn’t pay any attention to her, she turns to see where Rosita and Wynonna went. At least they give her the time of day. She didn’t blame Chrissy. It’s not like she told her she was taking her to the game to introduce her to people. She said she was taking there so her dad didn’t get mad, what else did she expect?

Rosita and Wynonna are now seated at the bottom of the bleachers, a little ways away from Chrissy. They gesture for her to join them. She smiles and heads over to them. The sun has gone down and the air cooled off quite a bit. She takes her flannel from her waist and puts it on, leaving it open so it’s hanging loose on her body. She plops down on the cold, hard metal next to Rosita. “Where’s the bottle?” She asks, leaning over to see Wynonna. 

“Ditched it under the bleachers,”Wynonna tells her. “Can’t get caught with that shit,” she laughs. 

“Imagine those headlines,” Rosita chimes in. “Mayor’s daughter caught drinking underage at back to school night!” She puts her hands out in front of her as she pictures it. 

“Mayor’s daughter?” Nicole asks. 

“Oh yeah,” Rosita says. “We’re in the presence of royalty here, Haught.” She laughs and nudges Nicole as Wynonna huffs and shakes her head at them. 

“I might have to retrieve that bottle soon,” Wynonna jokes. 

By the time the game ended, the three girls were back under the bleachers finishing what was left of the bottle. People start to move on the bleachers above them and they duck back, further out of sight. They’re about to leave their spot under the bleachers when Nicole hears Chrissy and another girl talking around the other side of the bleachers. 

“Who’s that girl who was walking behind you when you got here?” The girl asks. 

“Huh?” Chrissy asks. She’s not sure if she’s actually confused or playing dumb.  

“The mysterious redhead,” the girl tells her. Nicole swallows hard at the mention of herself. “No one’s seen her before so people are asking.”

“Oh, uh, she’s my, uh, cousin,” Chrissy stutters. Cousin? Good cover. Not.  

“You have a cousin that I don't know about?” The girl continues pressing her with questions. 

“Oh uh, on my Mom’s side. They needed help. You know how he is with charity cases,” Chrissy laughs a little. 

Nicole turns around to see Wynonna and Rosita staring back at her as she listens in on the conversation. She stares blankly at them, trying to brush the comments that she just overheard off. Rosita looks at her, sympathetically and hands her the brown paper bag. Nicole takes a swig of the rest of the liquid inside the bottle, feeling it burn its way down her esophagus. 

“Thanks,” she says as she hands the bottle back to the girl. 

“Chrissy Nedley sucks,” Wynonna groans. “Don’t let her bother you.” 

“Wait, you’re related to the Nedleys?” Rosita asks. 

“No, I’m not related to them,” Nicole huffs. “I just live there.” She hopes the questions will stop there but she assumes they won’t. 

“Okay, I’m gonna need more details than that. You live with Randy Nedley?!” Wynonna asks. She is a little louder than she hoped she’d be and Nicole gets nervous and looks around her. 

“Yeah, he’s friends with my, uh, probation officer from the city. He’s kind of doing us a favor,” Nicole explains, hesitantly. She’s not sure how much information she should give people if she wants them to actually like her. 

“Probation?” Rosita asks. She doesn’t seem disappointed, but more intrigued. 

“Haught stuff has a bad side?” Wynonna teases. She nudges the redhead with her elbow and Nicole smiles nervously. 

“Everybody has a past, right?” She asks with a shrug. Wynonna and Rosita nod, almost in approval. Do they prefer her with a record? She shakes the thoughts from her head and for now just enjoys the fact that she found people that seem to be willing to give her a shot. 

Chapter Text

As they make their way out from under the bleachers, Nicole sees Chrissy heading toward the parking lot with a group of other people, none of which she knows yet. She sees her walking closely next to a tall boy wearing a football jersey. She assumes that’s Robin by the way Chrissy is practically throwing herself at him. 

“Thanks for the booze guys,” she says, turning back toward Rosita and Wynonna who are lingering behind her. “I should probably get going.” 

“You’re not going to that party, are you?” Wynonna huffs. Nicole isn’t sure if she’s expected to be there, but she assumes she’s not based on the fact that she was just ditched by the person who drove her to the game.

“Nah,” Nicole says. “I’m probably just going to go back to the house.” 

“A night with Randy Nedley sounds riveting,” Wynonna mocks. Nicole rolls her eyes. 

“He’s not home,” she informs them. 

“So we should party there then?” Rosita suggests. Nicole can’t tell if she’s being serious or not. Her eyes widen and she shakes her head. 

“Terrible idea,” she says. 

Rosita breaks out into laughter. “Relax, Red,” she says. “I’m kidding.” Nicole breathes out an audible sigh of relief. “We’re meeting up with a few people if you want to join.” 

Nicole wonders if she should just go back to the house, where she knows she’s not going to make any poor decisions. Her thoughts don’t last long and she agrees to go with them, hell, she’s not even sure where the house is from here. 

She hops in the backseat of Rosita’s car, Wynonna takes the front. Wynonna immediately takes control of the radio, causing Rosita to slap her hand away. “My car, my music,” she says. Nicole laughs. 

“You sounds like my probation officer,” she says. She realizes as soon as the words leave her mouth how uncool that sounds. The other two girls laugh rather loudly. 

“Damn, Haught, how much time do you spend with your probation officer?” Wynonna snorts out a laugh. 

“He’s been around for a while,” she admits. 

“There must be a lot of trouble to get into in the city,” Rosita laughs. 

“You have no idea,” Nicole replies. 

She closes her eyes and remembers, for a moment, her life in the city. She sees the small group of people she once called her friends. She sees the blonde from her sketchbook. She sees her smile, her blues eyes. She takes a deep breathe in through her nose, letting it out slowly through her mouth. One by one the people fade from her sight. The blonde stays the longest, she usually does. Then she’s alone in her thoughts. 

“Well, is he hot at least?” Wynonna’s voice causes Nicole to open her eyes again. She’s back in the car, riding through the streets of Purgatory. Her new home. Her new life. 

“Not sure he would be Haught’s type,” Rosita chimes in. She covers her mouth quickly like she said something wrong. Wynonna gives her a confused look and Nicole shakes her head at the pair. 

“It’s fine,” Nicole assures her. Wynonna is still confused for a moment. She looks back at forth between Rosita and Nicole until they see the lightbulb go off in her mind and they break out into laughter. 

“Oh!” Wynonna says, knowingly. 

The car comes to a stop in a driveway that already has a few cars in it. As Nicole climbs out of the car, she looks to her left to see the driveway of the house next door is flooding with cars. The sound of music fills the air and she sees a few people hopping out of nearby cars, heading toward the house cheering ‘go blue!’ She never understood the hype of high school sports. They were fun to watch but sometimes people make a bigger deal out of them than they should. Not every player is going to be a professional athlete, even if they act like they are. 

She sees Wynonna gesture for her to follow them and she turns toward the quieter house. “That’s the cool party,” she says sarcastically, gesturing to the house next door. Nicole laughs and follows Wynonna and Rosita into the house. 

Inside there are a few people sitting around a table together. There are bottles of beer and cards set out of the table. “It’s about time!” One of the girls says as she stands up from her chair. 

“Yeah, Yeah,” Wynonna huffs. “The game took forever!” She makes her way further into the room, grabbing an unopened beer from the table. She holds it up and the girl nods. Wynonna pops the drink open and takes a sip. 

“Did you even watch it?” The girl asks. Wynonna laughs and shakes her head. Everyone seems to already know the answer to that. “Who’s your friend?” The girl asks, looking past Wynonna at Nicole. 

“Sorry guys, this is Nicole Haught. Fresh meat from the city,” Wynonna laughs as she gestures toward the redhead. “Haught this is Mercedes, Kate, Pete and Kyle York and John Henry Holliday. But everyone calls him Doc.”

“Doc Holliday?” Nicole asks. 

“It’s a family name,” Doc says with a laugh. Nicole laughs and nods. She gets a unanimous ‘nice to meet you from the crowd’ and takes a seat at the table next to Wynonna. The next hour or so is spent playing poker at the table. Nicole learns that Pete and Kyle are serious table talkers. No one trusts that they aren’t cheating and since one of them usually wins, she assumes they most likely are. 

They play more hands than she can count and after a while, people start to stay from the table. Wynonna and Doc have disappeared several times and returned back to the game. This time they’ve been gone for a while and Nicole is unsure if they’re going to come back. Rosita tells her not to hold her breath and invites her out back to hang out with her while she smokes. Nicole accepts and follows the other girl outside. 

“You smoke?” Rosita asks, holding out a cigarette to the redhead. 

“Oh,” Nicole says. She shakes her hand to decline. “No thanks.” She even surprises herself for a moment at the effort she’s making to make good choices, other than the underage drinking thing.

Rosita shrugs and places the cigarette in her mouth, lighting it up and taking a long drag. She blows out a cloud of smoke, attempting to keep it away from Nicole.

“So how much are you actually liking Purgatory?” She asks. Nicole lets out a small laugh. She moves to the edge of the deck that they’re standing on and leans over the railing. 

“It’s okay,” Nicole says. Truthfully she hasn’t really had time to make a real judgement on the place. All she knows right now it that it’s different. 

“Not what you’re used to, huh?” Rosita asks. Her tone is soft and she seems like she actually cares. 

“Not quite,” Nicole says. “I’m sure I’ll get used to it.” 

“Don’t get too used to it,” Rosita warns. Nicole isn’t sure what she means by that, she turns her body around to face her. “This place eats people alive,” she continues. 

“I don’t think I’ll ever stay in one place for long enough to get eaten alive by anything,” Nicole admits. “Roots aren’t really my thing.” 

“By choice or just how the cards played out?” Rosita asks. She’s smart. She seems to be able to read through bullshit better than anyone she’s ever met. 

“You seem smart,” Nicole says with a grin. “What do you think?” Rosita takes a step toward Nicole. She watches her carefully as she stands next to her, close enough where she just barely brushes against Nicole’s arm. She leans over the railing a little, tapping her cigarette on the edge, allowing the ashes to fall to the ground. 

“I think you put up a front,” Rosita admits. She turns to lean up against the railing, standing next to Nicole. “I think you don’t let people in because you never know when you’ll have to start over again.” 

Well, she hit the nail on the head. 

“I guess,” Nicole shrugs. 

Their attention is suddenly redirected to the house next door when there is the sound of yelling and a splash. Rosita shakes her head and Nicole turns her body to get a better view. 

“Is this how they always are?” 

“They always host the annual back to school game after party,” Rosita explains. 

“Are you friends with any of them?” Nicole asks. She can’t help but notice the girls that are standing next to the pool. She recognizes one as Chrissy and the other as the cheerleader from earlier. 

“A few of them are okay,” Rosita admits. Chrissy is standing with the tall, blonde guy from earlier. He looks like he’s trying to push her into the pool. She hears her scream in protest as she tries to turn the tables and throw him in instead. “What’s living with her like?” She asks.

Nicole turns her attention back toward Rosita. “She’s not as bad as she seems,” she laughs. There’s another splash and Nicole looks toward the neighbor’s pool. She sees Chrissy and the boy are now in the pool and the other girl is standing on the outside of the pool laughing at them. She stops and stares at her a little longer. 

“Would you rather be over there?” Rosita asks. 

Nicole breaks her stare and turns her attention back toward Rosita again. She places her hand on the other girl’s arm, not really realizing that she did. 

“No,” Nicole says. She looks back over her shoulder a few times. Rosita’s eyes appear to light up as if she realizes who Nicole’s gaze has been on. 

“She’s nice,” Rosita says. Nudging Nicole in the side a little. Nicole immediately turns her back toward the neighbor's house as if she has no idea what she’s talking about. 

“What?” Nicole asks. Rosita laughs and shakes her head at Nicole. She takes another drag of her cigarette before putting it out and tossing it over the railing.

“Don’t play dumb with me, Haught,” Rosita laughs. She gestures across to the girl standing by the pool. “You’ve been checking her out all night.” 

“I have not!” Nicole huffs. Playfully pushing Rosita. 

“Well, I’m just saying,” Rosita says. “She’s nice.”

“You know her?” Nicole asks. She brings her attention back to her for a moment before making eye contact with Rosita again. 

“Everyone does,” Rosita laughs. “And you could have picked a worse girl to have your eyes on, so good job.” 

She nudges Nicole again. Nicole shakes her head and takes a swig of the drink she has been holding. 

“Like who?” Nicole asks. The alcohol is still coursing their her veins. The air is cool, it’s late. She feels the air on her face and notices the space closing in between her and the other girl. She feels their shoulders brush lightly and she doesn’t move away. 

“Like, uh, Wynonna.” This is the first time she has seen Rosita’s smoothness falter all night. The girl is good with her words and always seems to carry herself with confidence. “Or me,” she says, bravely. 

Nicole appreciates her boldness and she feels Rosita’s fingers brush her own on the railing. Nicole takes another sip of her drink. They both begin to lean in toward each other, closing the gap even further between then. She licks her lips and leans in until she can feel the other girl’s breath against her own. They linger for a moment. The smell of alcohol and cigarettes mix, filling her senses. She closes her eyes and feels Rosita begin to move again when there’s another splash next door, causing them to jolt apart, looking to see what happened. 

The sliding glass door of the house slides open and Wynonna appears in the doorway. She’s a bit of a disheveled mess, but doesn’t seem to care. “What are you two nerds doing out here?” She asks, stumbling out into the night air. 

Nicole isn’t sure what to say. She’s not even sure what’s actually going on out there. She knows she’s drunk. She knows Rosita is really pretty and she’s smart. But this is her first night in town. What is she doing? She just wanted to maybe make a couple friends to help pass her time here. This was not the time to find something more than a friendship. But then again, who said it needs to be anything more. She’s made out with plenty of pretty girls without strings. 

“Uh,” Rosita’s voice breaks her from her thoughts. 

“Rosita was having a cig and we were just talking,” Nicole covers for them. It wasn’t a lie. Wynonna looks them both up and down. They’re still standing fairly close to each other. Nicole notices her checking them out and moved a little further from Rosita. “I was about to head back in.” She gestures toward the door. 

After another hour, Rosita asks Nicole if she wants a ride back home. She tells her she’s about to head out and doesn’t want to leave her stranded. Nicole agrees and takes the ride. They don’t discuss what almost happened on the deck on the way home. Nicole thinks about bringing it up, but doesn’t. They chat about various things, passing the time quickly. She has Rosita drop her off at the gate so she can walk back up to the house. “So this was fun,” Rosita says before Nicole can climb out of the car. 

“It really was,” Nicole says. “I needed this more than you know,” she sighs. 

“Well, hit me up whenever you want to hang out,” Rosita says with a smile. Nicole wonders how she is supposed to do that, then remembers normal teenagers actually carry their phones around these days. 

“I don’t have a phone,” Nicole says. “I mean, I do, but I don't know my number,” she admits. Rosita laughs. “It’s new.” 

“Here,” Rosita says, taking Nicole’s hand and flipping it over, palm up. She pulls out a pen and writes her number down on Nicole’s palm. Nicole smiles back at her. 

“Thanks,” she says. She smiles at the girl again and opens the car door, climbing out. She starts walking up the driveway and turns back for a moment, offering Rosita a smile before she rolls back out into the street. 

When she reaches the house, she hopes the door isn’t locked because she doesn’t have a key. She hasn’t seen Chrissy in hours and isn’t sure if she’s still out at the party or not. She slowly opens the front door, hoping she can just sneak up to her room and not get caught exuding a strong stench of alcohol. She’s almost to the top of the stairs and she hears a voice behind her. “Have fun tonight?” Randy asks.

Nicole cringes a little and spins around to face the man. “Yeah, it was great!” She says with a smile. She thinks she’s far enough away from the man for him to not become suspicious. 

“Good! I hope you’re becoming acclimated quickly! Did Chrissy already head upstairs?” He asks. Nicole stops for a second, realizing he doesn’t know they weren’t together all night. 

“Uh, yeah,” she says. She glances down the hallway behind her. “She was pretty tired.” 

She shrugs. 

“I’m glad you two are getting along,” he says with a smile. If he only knew, but she wasn’t going to be the one to tell him. 

“Oh, yeah,” Nicole says. “I’m pretty tired too, I think I’m going to go to bed,” she tells him. 

“Goodnight,” he says as he turns away from the bottom of the stairs, leaving Nicole to head for her room and sleep off her buzz. She’s home free. 

Just then, the front door swings back open and Chrissy appears. Nicole eyes widen in panic and she hopes that Randy has made it far enough away to not notice. 

He notices. She was almost home free. 

“Chrissy?” Randy is confused. He should be. Nicole just blatantly lied to the man. But she was just trying to help. She didn’t want Chrissy to be in trouble. Now she probably got her in trouble. This is just great. She wants to walk away, but she freezes. 

Chrissy stops in her tracks when she sees her father at the bottom of the stairs. Nicole sees the girl look up at her with a panicked look in her eyes. “Man, Nicole, you got in here real fast,” Chrissy tried to make it seem like they came home together. 

“Oh, yeah,” Nicole says. “I thought you were already in the house. I didn’t realize you didn’t make it in yet,” she laughs a little. 

“Nicole,” Randy says. His tone is stern and she cringes a little. “You’re free to go,” he says. “Chrissy, a word.” 

Nicole hesitates to leave. She makes eye contact with Chrissy. She is apologetic, but she can tell Chrissy is mad. No. She’s pissed. Nicole groans internally as she spins on her heels and heads down the hall. 

She leaves her door open, straining to hear the conversation between Chrissy and her dad. She can’t make out much of what they’re saying, but their voices are raised and she can tell neither of them are happy. 

“I’m not her babysitter!” She hears Chrissy yell. Maybe she shouldn’t be listening to this conversation. Maybe she doesn’t actually want to know. A few moments later, she hears footsteps coming up the stairs. She peeks her head out of her room and sees an angry Chrissy stomping her way down the hall. She tries to offer her a soft smile, hoping to give her some comfort. Chrissy glares back at Nicole and turns toward her room, slamming the door behind her. 



——————-



The next week is fairly uneventful. Chrissy is grounded for ditching Nicole the night of the game. Nicole tries to tell Randy that she didn’t care and didn’t try to go with Chrissy so it was equally her fault, but he doesn’t want to hold her responsible for it. She tries to talk to Chrissy, telling her that she was just trying to cover for her to help her. She explains that she doesn’t care that she left her, but Chrissy doesn’t want to hear it. Most of the conversations are had with Nicole being the only one talking and it’s mostly through Chrissy’s bedroom door.

 

Two days before school starts, Dolls drops in to check in on how Nicole is doing in her new placement so far. “You could have just called,” Nicole huffs when she sees the man waiting downstairs for her by the front door. 

“And risk not getting the chance for some first hand teenage sass?” Dolls retorts. “Sorry, kid, it’s my job,” he informs her. 

Nicole groans as she sits in the front seat of Dolls’ car. She agrees to talk about her new placement over lunch if he promises to leave right after. They settle on a local diner on the outskirts of town. She hopes that it’s not a very busy place and that she won’t see any familiar faces. She still hasn’t gotten to know anyone except for Wynonna and Rosita, but she’s learned a lot of faces from her morning runs. She always tries to be friendly and wave at the neighbors as she runs through town, something that didn’t happen often in the city. Hell, she was lucky if someone made eye contact with her there. 

As they enter the diner she notices it’s littered with teenagers. The good thing is, she doesn’t really know any of them yet. She slides into a booth across from Dolls. “So are you settling in alright?” The man asks as he takes his seat across from Nicole. 

“Yeah,” she says. “It’s great here,” she’s trying not to convey too much sarcasm. Truth is, she doesn’t know the place all that well. So far she has made a couple of friends that she’s only seen once, she has a foster sister that she’s pretty hates her and she starts her senior year of high school in place unlike anything she’s ever experienced. 

“I hope you at least give it a shot,” he warns. He knows her well. He’s never been duped by her facades. A waitress comes over to take their order. They order a couple of burgers and fries. 

“And a Dr. Pepper,” Nicole says with a polite smile. The waitress nods as she leaves the table. “I am giving it a shot,” Nicole tells Dolls. “It’s just all so new still. It’s kind of hard to give you a full review of my time here.” 

“I just wanted to make sure we’re making a good choice here,” Dolls explains. “And that you’re making good choices here,” he warns. 

“Yeah, yeah,” she huffs. “Look, I’ll be eighteen soon and then I’ll just figure it out on my own, right?” 

“How about you focus on starting school in a couple of days and leave the worrying to us?” Dolls suggests. He’s usually fairly tough on the outside, but at times she can see that he truly cares. “I think school is the least of my worries,” she admits. She looks around the restaurant at the other teenagers. She sees how they interact with each other like they’ve known each other forever. They probably have. 

Nicole wonders for a moment what it would be like to grow up in one place. She wonders what it would be like to not move from home to home, not sure what’s going to happen next. She knows that is something she’s never going to experience. 

“I know it’s not easy,” Dolls tells her. The waitress appears at the table with their food. Nicole smiles and thanks her for bringing her food. She immediately dives into eating the pile of fries in front of her. 

“Nothings ever easy,” Nicole says between bites. “I can hold my own,” she assures him. 

“Oh,” Dolls starts. “I have no doubt in that,” he laughs. “So I also wanted to talk to you about your community service.” 

Nicole cringes. She was hoping he forgot. “That's still a thing?” She asks. The man in front of her nods, causing Nicole to groan. “Okay, what do I have to do?” 

“You earned yourself trash duty,” The man says with a smirk. 

“They hardly have highways around here,” Nicole tells him. She’s not new to trash duty by any means. 

“But there is a park,” he informs her. Nicole groans and takes a bite of her burger. “You’ll report two days a week, after school, for six weeks.”

Nicole sighs and sets her burger back down on her plate. “Sounds great,” she says as she smiles through her teeth. 

“Just remember,” Dolls begins. 

“I know, I know,” Nicole huffs. “I did it to myself!” 

She leans her elbows on the table and finishes eating her food. They chat idly for the rest of the meal. She has to admit, there's a part of her that misses having someone around to talk to. 

Dolls drops her back off at the house when they’re done and lets her know he will check in again in the next couple of weeks. She thanks him for the meal and makes her way into the house. 

Chrissy is still giving her the cold shoulder for the most part. She doesn’t bother to try to talk to her again. Everytime she does, she doesn’t get far. It’s exhausting. 

She spends the rest of the day in her room. She decides to draw a little. She starts sketches of some of the people she’s met so far. She draws Chrissy. She wonders if she’ll ever have any form of relationship with her other than being hated by her. 

She draws Randy. She wonders if she’s seen the real Randy yet. So far she sees nothing but sweet. He was nice enough to buy her some school supplies and a backpack for school. He thinks of things she would never think to ask for. Chrissy seems to have a different idea of who her father is, but Nicole can’t quite figure it out yet. 

She hears laughter outside her window that breaks her concentration from her drawing. She stands up and peers out the window, between the blinds. She sees Chrissy outside with the cheerleader from the other night. She must have been sprung from her grounding sentence. She quietly watches the pair for a moment. She wonders if Chrissy is keeping up the charade that Nicole is just her cousin who’s from ‘the other side of the tracks’ and needed a little help. What is the girl going to think when she shows up at school with her? She wonders if she even knows that Nicole lives there. She decides not to rock that boat and sits back down with her sketchbook. 




——————-



Nicole wakes up the morning of the first day of school easier than she thought she would. She’s not particularly excited about school, but she’s more ready to get it over with. She tries to push aside the fact that she’s nervous about the first day and makes her way down to the kitchen for breakfast. She pours herself a bowl of cereal and sits down at the table next to Chrissy. She offers her a ‘good morning’ but only received a grunt back from the other girl. 

“Dad, why does she have to come with me?” Chrissy whines. She talks about her like she’s in the room with her. “She can walk.” She gestures toward Nicole. Nicole ignores her, continuing to eat the bowl of cereal that’s in front of her. 

“You’re going to make her walk two miles when you have a perfectly nice car that I’ve provided you with?” Randy asks as if she even has a choice in the matter. 

“Then provide her with one too!” Chrissy suggests. Nicole hates that idea. She doesn’t need someone to give her a car. She doesn’t even know how to drive one. 

“She doesn’t have a license,” Randy tells her. Nicole wonders if they think she can’t hear them while they continue to talk about her right in front of her face. 

“And who’s fault is that?” Chrissy groans. 

“When you live in the city, there’s not much need for a car,” Nicole chimes in. Chrissy glares back at her as if that’s not the answer she wanted. 

“Listen,” Randy says, sternly. “Either you girls drive together or I’m driving you and you won’t have your car at school.” 

The ultimatum. 

“What? Not fair!” Chrissy whines. She stomps her feet in a childlike way and causes Nicole to shake her head at her. 

“Does that make you change your mind?” Randy asks. Chrissy just shoots him a bitter look and doesn’t respond. 

“I can walk,” Nicole tells them. She doesn’t really want to cause anymore turmoil between Chrissy and her father. “It’s really okay.” She finishes her bowl of cereal and stands from her seat. 

“See!” Chrissy calls out, gesturing toward the redhead. 

“Christine,” Randy says in a warning tone. “Keep it up and you get a police escort for the rest of the year.” 

Chrissy groans loudly, slamming her fist on the counter, dramatically. “Great start to my senior year, dad!”

“You’re young, you’ll survive,” he teases. He clearly doesn’t find as much pitty in the situation as Chrissy is looking for. 

Nicole laughs from entertainment and Chrissy scoffs. “Fine.” She crosses her arms across her chest in frustration. “I’ll be in the car.” 

Nicole watches as Chrissy leaves the house, but not before closing the door a little harder than normal. She offers Randy a soft smile. “Have a good first day,” he tells her. 

“Thanks,” Nicole says as she swings her backpack over her shoulder and heads for the front door of the house. When she exits the house she sees Chrissy already in her car, reluctantly waiting for her. 

 

She climbs in the car, setting her backpack in her lap and closes the door next to her. She doesn’t say anything to Chrissy at first, mostly because she’s not sure of what to say. 

They’re about halfway to the school before Chrissy finally speaks. “Look, no offense or anything but this is my senior year,” she begins. “And carting around a foster sibling is sort of social suicide. No one knows you actually live with me.”

“Oh, sure,” Nicole says. “No offense taken, Chrissy,” she says sarcastically. She doesn’t let it bother her. She’s not interested in arguing with Chrissy, she just needed to get to school. 

When they arrive at the school, Chrissy doesn’t wait for her to get out of the car before she heads for the building. She doesn’t make a big deal out of it. She looks around her as she heads for the front doors of the school. 

She notices people around her all rushing up to each other. She witnesses several reunions of friends, excited to see each other after the summer. She hears some exclamations of excitement for the new school year, some complaints that summer went by too fast and the occasional cheers of school pride from a few students yelling ‘go blue’ again. 

When she enters the school, she heads for the front office to retrieve a schedule. They ask for her name and print her off a small stack of papers that she tucks into her backpack without reading them first. They direct her to the principal’s office, explaining that she likes to meet new students before the start of the day. 

She knocks three times on the closed door. After a moment, the door swings open and an older, blonde woman stands on the other side. 

“Nicole Haught,” the woman offers her hand, giving her a firm handshake. “I’m principal Lucado. I just wanted to take a moment to welcome you to our school and hopefully make this a smooth transition for you.” She gives her a warm smile. 

“Thank you, ma’am,” Nicole says with a reciprocal smile. She feels her nerves subside a bit. 

“If you need anything, feel free to come talk to me,” she continues. “My door is always open.” Nicole nods. She thinks back to having to knock on the closed door before she was able to come into the office in the first place. 

Principal Lucado goes on to explain some of the special events that will take place throughout the school year. Her old school had a few dances here and there, the main ones being homecoming and prom. Other than that they didn’t have too many other events that didn’t include a sports game. 

“And then there’s the fall camping trip,” the principal continues. Nicole squints in confusion, not quite sure what that means. She waits for an explanation. The woman continues on to explain that toward the end of the fall quarter, Senior students go on a camping trip. Nicole nods as she listens to the woman talk. She’s never heard of a class camping trip, but it sounds like it could be pretty cool. 

She thanks Principal Lucado again for her time and takes her schedule back out of her backpack. She finds her first class of the day is math. She internally groans. She’s not bad at math, but starting everyday with it isn’t exactly what she wants to do. She heads out the door, attempting to make it to her class before she’s too late, putting more eyes on her than necessary. 

She skips trying to figure out her locker and heads straight for her first class of the day. There are a few lingering students in the halls still. Teachers stand in the hallways, calling out to people to get to class. Nicole finds the right classroom and ducks inside, hoping to slip under the radar and not be called out for being new. She takes a seat somewhere in the middle of the room. 

The other students in the class are mostly chatting with each other, talking about their summers. She slides her backpack under her seat and leans her elbows on the desk in front of her. Attempting to not make eye contact with people, she begins to pick at her fingers. 

There’s movement in the seat in front of her that causes her to look up. She sees a familiar face on the girl who sits down. The girl turns toward her and offers her a warm smile. Nicole smiles back but not before feeling a flutter in her stomach. 

She spends the rest of the class slightly distracted by the girl in front of her. Every once in a while, she gets a whiff of her perfume. It’s not strong but she smells good. She tries to follow along with what the teacher is talking about, but her mind often wanders back to the girl. She wishes she would turn around, just for a moment, so she could catch another glimpse of her smile. 

The next time she sees the girl isn’t until her class right before lunch. History has never been one of Nicole’s strong points. It’s not that she didn’t do well in history, memorizing facts wasn’t difficult for Nicole, but it was never interesting to her. When she sees the girl come into the room she hopes that she will sit next to her, or anywhere that she can get a better view of her. Maybe it will make the class more interesting. 

She’s pleasantly surprised when she takes the seat next to her. She smiles at her again. “Hey,” Nicole finally says. 

She feels brave for a moment. She’s not sure what took her so long. She’s usually on her game with pretty girls, but there’s something about this one that has her mind spinning. 

“Hey,” the girl says. She smiles so big it makes her eyes squint. “You’re new, right?” She asks. “Stupid question, I know.” 

Nicole can’t help but laugh when the girl laughs. “Yeah,” she says. “I’m Nicole.” 

“Waverly.” 

There is her smile again.

Chapter Text

Waverly.

She finally has a name. 

Nicole has trouble focusing throughout the rest of class. Waverly’s name echoes in her head. Finally a name to the face she’s seen so many times before this point. She hears some of what the teacher is saying, but none of it seems important. 

It probably was. 

She hears a unanimous groan flood the room that brings her back to reality. On the whiteboard in the front of the classroom, the teacher writes ‘class projects.’ She feels like she missed something and tries to focus on what the teacher is saying. 

“I’m sure you’ve all heard about the big senior History projects we usually do in the Spring,” the man explains as he turns back toward the class. “Well, good news, we’re doing them in the fall,” he cheers. 

Nicole looks around her to see no one else is excited. The class groans again when they find out they don’t get to pick their partners for this project. He explains that he’s going to leave the list in the back of the room for the class to read on their way out. 

When the bell rings, she watches as people rush toward the back of the room to read the list for the projects. She hangs back by her seat to let more people file out before she makes her way toward the door. She slings her backpack over her right shoulder and turns toward the door. 

“So when do you want to start planning this project?” A voice comes from next to her. She looks up to see Waverly standing next to the list of partners. 

Nicole’s is shocked at first, she must have given Waverly a weird look before she took a look at the list herself because when she looks back at the brunette, there’s a slight look of offense on her face. “Sorry, I didn’t-” She tries to backpedal. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around such a big assignment so early in the school year.” 

Waverly laughs. 

Nicole sighs. 

That was close. 

She internally kicks herself for almost screwing it up the first chance she gets to talk to this girl. 

“That’s okay,” Waverly says, softly. “I figured we can get started as soon as possible on it.” 

“Uh, yeah,” Nicole says. “I mean, we have time, right?” Nicole shrugs. She sees slight frustration on the girl’s face. Apparently that was the wrong answer. It’s the first day of school, they can at least wait until next week. Besides, she has to start her probation sentence after school. She’s sure that’s something that will truly impress Waverly. 

Not. 

“Look, I just need you to take this seriously,” Waverly tells her. Nicole isn’t sure what she did wrong, but she feels like no matter what she says right now, she’s not right. 

“Oh, I will take it very seriously,” Nicole says, grinning at the brunette. Maybe she can try charming her a little. 

“Are you mocking me?” Waverly huffs. Nicole’s eyes widen. 

“What? No!” Nicole says. 

“I’m sure there’s still time to switch partners,” Waverly tells her. She turns toward the teacher’s desk and Nicole stands where she is, still confused. She overhears Waverly asking about a possible change of partners. 

“This escalated quickly,” Nicole says out loud to herself. She watches as the brunette stomps her way back over to her. “How’d that go?” She asks. 

“My house or yours?” Waverly asks. Her tone is a little softer than before. 

“I have plans tonight after school,” Nicole admits. “How about later this week?” She knows she’s not going to get away with pushing this project off so she might as well just give in. 

“Sure,” Waverly says. “Text me your address?” She asks. Nicole realizes Waverly doesn’t know where she lives. She wonders if Chrissy has said any more about her since the football game. Nicole nods and hands Waverly her phone from her back pocket. Waverly types in her number and hands the phone back to Nicole. 

“Waves, are you coming to lunch or what?” Chrissy appears in the doorway to the classroom. Nicole turns and Chrissy looks confused when she sees Nicole getting Waverly’s number. 

“Yeah, sorry,” Waverly says. “We were discussing this project. We were assigned as partners.” 

“Wait, really?” Chrissy asks, surprised. Nicole assumes that Chrissy isn’t excited about her working that closely with her best friend. Nicole smiles back at Chrissy before the pair take off down the hallway together, leaving Nicole behind. Her eyes linger for a moment on the brunette as she walks further down the hall.

“You’re gonna be late to your next class, nerd.” Nicole turns in the direction of the voice to see Rosita leaning against a wall near the classroom. She sighs at the sight of a familiar face. 

“Late for cafeteria food?” Nicole says with a grin, waving her schedule in the air. 

“Oh yeah, you’re going to want to be late for that,” Rosita teases. Nicole laughs and follows the brunette down the hallway. “So how much are you loving Purgatory high school?” Rosita asks in a mocking tone. 

Nicole laughs. “Four classes in and I already have some huge project that’s supposed to take all semester.” 

“Ah, the history project,” Rosita laughs. “I decided I wasn’t going to do that last year. Probably had something to do with why I’m back here again,” she shrugs. 

“You just blew it off?” Nicole asks. She gets not wanting to do school work, but she’s never been able to just totally blow it off. She may not let a lot of people know, but she always took pride in getting good grades. It was one thing she had control of. 

“I got busy,” Rosita shrugs. The bell rings and Rosita looks around her for a moment. “Shit,” she says. Nicole gives her a questioning look. “I’m late to science,” she explains. “I’m trying here. I’ll catch you later, Haught.”

“Alright, nerd,” Nicole teases. Rosita pushes her, playfully, and ducks into a nearby classroom. 

Nicole turns the corner in search for the cafeteria. When she enters the room, she sees most people have already found a seat. 

She feels a rumble in her stomach and decides to brave the food. It’s not as disgusting looking as the food at her old school. That was the one downfall of free food, you never knew if it was actually edible. But at least she knew she would always be able to eat when she went to school. 

She carries her tray toward the room full of lunch tables. Most people are already deep in conversation with each other and don’t notice her as she makes her way through the cafeteria alone. She sees Chrissy sitting at a table with Waverly. There’s a couple of other cheerleaders and football players sitting with them.

At the other end of the room, there is a table that’s mostly empty except for one boy sitting by himself with his nose in a book. She sighs and heads toward the table. “Mind if I join you?” Nicole asks. The boy looks up from his book with an inviting smile. 

“Not at all!” He says. He’s almost too enthusiastic, but it seems to be either there or on the floor at this point. Nicole takes a seat at the table, setting the tray down in front of her. “New here?” He asks. 

“What gave it away?” Nicole chuckles a little. She starts to pick at the food in front of her. 

“Most people don’t wander around and ask to sit with me,” he answers the question quite literally. “I’m Jeremy, by the way.” 

“Nicole,” she says. “Thanks for giving me some place to sit.” 

She offers him a soft smile. “It’s no problem!” Jeremy says. “I’m sure you’ll find someplace more interesting later,” he shrugs. 

“I’m not sure about that,” she says as she looks around the room. “Everyone seems pretty stuck in their ways here.”

“They are,” he quickly agrees. “It’s all about image and status here.”

“I feel like you get that wherever you go. Except the people I knew from the city would die if they saw how people lived around here,” she admits. 

“How so?” He asks. 

“For starters, my last 4 houses could fit into where I live now,” she laughs. “And the food here isn’t nearly as questionable.” Take gestures toward the tray in front of her. 

“What brings you out this way, anyway?” Jeremy asks. She can tell he’s asking more out of curiosity, rather than giving her a tone to make her feel like more of an outsider. It’s a question she’s already tired of being asked but she’s sure it won’t be the last time. 

“Needed a change of scenery,” she shrugs. The boy looks at her a little harder as if he’s trying to read her. She’s sure he can tell she’s not giving him the full truth. “Change of a foster home,” Nicole admits. She realizes quickly if she’s going to let people in, she can’t lie to them too much. 

“Oh,” Jeremy says. Well, welcome!” She smiles at the response. He’s genuine when he speaks. He doesn’t seem to be judging her for where she comes from or envious of her for where she comes from. He just accepts it. 

The rest of lunch is spent in conversation with Jeremy. She finds it easy to talk to him. She learns that he gets really excited about all things science. He doesn’t play sports, but he’s not against watching them. He tutors some of the football players to help them keep their grades up enough to stay active on the team. He talks a lot, but she likes that. Anything to keep him from asking more questions about her. 



After the final bell of the school day, Nicole exits the building by herself. She didn’t discuss arranging a ride home with Chrissy and she doesn’t have much interest in trying to find her for one now. Besides, she was supposed to report to the park for community service. What an exciting way to spend the first day of her senior year. She groans internally at the thought. As soon as she makes her way around the outside of the school, she hears a voice call out to her. “Where you off too so quickly?” 

Nicole turns around to see Rosita, tucked behind the corner of the school, cigarette in hand. “Are you always lurking around?” she asks as she dips behind the building to join her.

“Listen, I’ve waited all day for this cigarette,” the girl huffs. She takes a long drag, slowly puffing out the smoke. Nicole laughs and takes the cigarette out of her hand, taking a drag. 

She coughs a little, but takes another drag before handing it back to Rosita. “Must be rough,” she says, sarcastically. 

“You’ve now experienced this place,” Rosita tells her. “You should know.”

Nicole laughs. “Gotta go,” she says, gesturing over her shoulder. 

“You gonna tell me where you’re headed?” Rosita asks, taking another drag of the cigarette.

“Community service,” Nicole says in a mocking tone, pretending to be more excited about it than she is. 

“Man, Haught,” Rosita says. She drops the cigarette to the ground, stepping on it with her foot to put it out. “You sure know how to have fun around here,” she teases. 

“Yeah,” Nicole says. “I try,” she laughs, sarcastically. “I’ll see you.” Nicole turns to continue her walk away from the school. 

“Are you walking?” Rosita calls out after her. Nicole turns around and nods. “Come on, ya delinquent,” she teases, gesturing over her shoulder. “Let me drive you.” Nicole isn’t sure how long the walk is from the school to the park so she gladly accepts.

When they arrive at the park, Rosita drops her off, telling her that she can’t stay long. She thanks her for the ride and hops out of the car, heading to the meeting spot from the parking lot. 

On her way through the park, she sees Wynonna sitting on a log scrolling through her phone. “No brown paper bag today?” Nicole teases as she makes her way up to the brunette. Wynonna laughs and shakes her head. 

“Not today,” she says. “What are you doing here?” she asks as she turns her body to face the redhead. 

“Park clean up,” Nicole tells her. Wynonna squints her eyes at Nicole slightly. 

“Tell me you were forced to do this and it’s not voluntary, Haught stuff,” she teases. Nicole shoves her hands in her jean pockets and shrugs her shoulders.

“Probation at its finest,” she informs her. “Wait, people volunteer to do this?” she asks, confused as to why people would volunteer to pick up trash without being forced. 

“Oh yeah, apparently there’s a group from school that wants to add community service to their high school transcript,” Wynonna laughs. Clearly this is something that Wynonna would never sign up for on purpose either. 

“Man, sounds like the chick I was assigned to do a history project with today. It’s the first damn day of school and she’s already wanting me to plan out the entire thing,” Nicole groans. She takes a seat next to Wynonna on the log. She figures she has some time to kill before she needs to report.

“Damn, what a nerd,” Wynonna snorts in laughter. 

“Yeah, I mean, she’s hot, but she seems kind of crazy,” Nicole says. She’s still not used to talking openly about girls with anyone here, but Wynonna didn’t seem to bothered by it the first night they met. 

“Sounds like half the girls in your grade,” Wynonna tells her. “So she’s like bangable but not the type of girl you want to bring home to mom? I mean, uh, Nedley?” she starts to stutter a little. 

Nicole laughs rather than becoming offended by the comment. She knows Wynonna didn’t mean anything by it. It’s probably not normal for teenagers to not have any parents at all. Most of the teenagers she knows spend most of their time complaining about how much their parents suck, but she doesn’t even get that chance. 

“What’s up with your parents anyway?” Wynonna asks. Nicole gives her a confused look. She’s never really had anyone ask that before. She just tells them she’s a foster kid and they assume they have her whole life figured out. Even she doesn’t have it figured out.

“What do you mean?” Nicole asks. 

“You’re a foster kid,” Wynonna says, nonchalantly. “So your parents are most likely not around. So did they die or do they just suck?” Nicole appreciates the boldness of the brunette. She’s not malicious, just curious. “I mean, no offense.”

“No offense taken,” Nicole says, putting her hands out in front of her. “I guess they’re both,” she tells her. “Well, dad was okay. He tried. Mom left years ago. I haven’t seen her since I was really young.”

“Tell me honestly, what’s it like living with Nedley?” Wynonna seems suddenly fascinated in what it’s like behind the walls of the Nedley house. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s chief of police that makes it more interesting. By now she’s lived with so many different people with so many different jobs, it’s just like another day. 

“It’s fine,” Nicole says. “He’s really nice,” she tells her. “He’s also pretty busy so he’s not around often.”

“Man, to each their own, I guess,” Wynonna huffs. Nicole isn’t quite sure what Wynonna’s problem is with Randy Nedley, but she seems like the kind of person that normally has a reason not to like someone. 

“What’s your issue with him?” Nicole asks.

“Let’s just say, we’ve never seen eye to eye,” Wynonna tells her. “You’re not the only one who gets in trouble with the law, Haught. It’s just a little different when your dad is the mayor. You can pretty much do anything and come out squeaky clean,” she continues. “It’s actually really annoying.”

“Oh yeah, seems annoying,” Nicole teases. “What are you doing here anyway? She finally asks. She’s not really sure what Wynonna does with her life now that she’s not in high school. 

“My sister is one of those over achievers I was speaking of,” Wynonna groans. “I offered her a ride so I could have an excuse to get out of the house,” she laughs with a shrug. 

“Maybe you could learn a thing or two from her,” Nicole teases. Wynonna scoffs at the redhead. 

“And risk you not wanting to hang out with me anymore?” Wynonna teases. 

“Man, is your sister that bad?” Nicole asks, more seriously now. 

“No,” Wynonna says. “She’s actually the best.” Nicole watches as Wynonna stops and thinks about what she just said. “It’s also annoying,” she laughs. 

Nicole laughs and stands up from the log. “I should probably get going before my probation officer gets on my ass about being late to community service,” she groans. “Stay out of trouble.” Nicole winks at the brunette who flips her off before she turns to walk away. 

 

On her way toward the playground, she sees a small group of Purgatory High students standing around the area. They’re all wearing gloves and some are holding trash bags. The closer she gets to the group, the clearer their faces become. The first person she recognizes is Waverly. She’s not really that surprised to see her there. After their interaction after history, she can see Waverly as being the type to volunteer to clean a park. She probably has dreams to save the world, one park at a time.

“Volunteering?” Waverly asks the Nicole as she makes her way up to the group. The brunette seems surprised to see her there. She’s unsure what to say. She doesn’t want to lie to her, she’s pretty sure she already hates her. But she’s also not sure if she’s ready to spill all her secrets because, well, she’s pretty sure she already hates her. 

“Uh, not exactly,” Nicole says. There's a part of her that wants to impress Waverly. She’s still extremely captivated by her beauty and she can’t get past it. She thinks about what Wynonna said about her not being a girl that she could take home to her parents. She thinks about how far from the truth that really is. “I’ve been court ordered,” she admits hesitantly. 

The brunette pauses for a moment. It’s like she’s never heard of anyone getting in trouble before. She’s sure people get in trouble around here. Unless everyone is like Wynonna says. They’re never in the wrong because their families are so rich they can just cover it all up. 

“Oh,” was all Waverly says. 

Nicole opens her mouth to speak again and she’s quickly cut off by the organizer of the clean up giving directions. She spends most of the clean up on her own. She is not purposely avoiding the brunette, but she’s not purposely getting close to her either. 

She spends time thinking about what brought her to this point in her life. The choices she’s made, the people she’s surrounded herself with. Maybe spending time with someone like Waverly, someone good, would be a nice change for her. Not that she’s never had anyone good before. 

She finds herself a little deeper into the woods than she anticipated. She figures it’s because she’s so lost in her thoughts. She leans up against a tree to take a small break, hoping to clear her thoughts a little more. She leans her head back on the tree and closes her eyes. 

The familiar blonde girl appears in her line of sight. She’s picking up pinecones from the ground and throwing them deeper into the woods. “You know, Haught,” the girl speaks. “Wallowing in self pity isn’t going to get you anywhere.” 

Nicole sighs and pushes herself off of the tree, pressing her foot against the strong foundation of the tree. “Who says I’m wallowing?” She asks. She flashes a dimpled smile at the girl. The one she knows has always made her melt. 

“Oh, no fair,” the girl says. “Put those things away.” She throws another pinecone before making her way over to Nicole. 

“All’s fair in love and war,” Nicole grins. 

“Oh?” The girl questions. “Are we at war now?” She smiles and slides her hands down Nicole’s arms, intertwining their fingers together. Nicole can almost feel the warmth of her hands again. 

“Life’s a war,” Nicole shrugs. She pulls the girl closer to her, desperate to feel warmth again. 

“Always a cynic,” she smiles back at Nicole as she brushes a loose hair from her face. Her eyes gleam in the sunlight. 

“Not always,” Nicole reminds her. The girl just stares back at her without words. “Your hands are so cold.” 

“You were always the warm one, remember?” Nicole nods and closes her eyes. She remembers all the times she went with short sleeves because the girl never knew how to dress warm enough. She feels a slight weight on her chest, over her heart as if someone has placed a hand there. 

“You’ll be okay,” she hears the familiar voice repeat as it fades into the darkness. She opens her eyes and feels the weight of the garbage bag in her gloved hands. 

 

She decides to rejoin the group, unsure of how much time as passed since she’s seen them last. When she reaches the rendezvous spot, she sees others from the group returning as well. As they finish up, the instructors explain when and where they will be meeting again later in the week. They thank the group and send them on their separate ways. Nicole sees Waverly lingering around the area for a moment and calls out to her. 

“Hey, Waverly,” she says. “I wanted to apologize for earlier. I wasn’t trying to blow you off or anything. I’m going to take the project seriously,” she tries to explain herself a little further. 

“I’m sorry if I came on too strong,” Waverly apologizes. She feels sympathy coming from the brunette. The last thing she wants is for her to feel sorry for her. 

“It’s not that, it’s just the first day of school and I’m trying to get used to everything here,” Nicole says. “But, please, don’t be sorry. You did nothing wrong.” She shoves her hands in her pockets. 

“Maybe we should start over,” Waverly suggests. She lightly brushes Nicole’s arm with the tips of her fingers. Nicole’s breath hitches at the touch.

Nicole nods at the brunette. She pulls her hands out of her pocket and offers Waverly her right hand to shake. “Hey, partner,” she smiles. “I’m Nicole, can’t wait to get started on this project.” 

Waverly laughs and shakes Nicole’s hand. “Well, partner, I’m Waverly,” she grins. “And I know you’re lying, but thanks for trying.” 

“I’m not lying!” Nicole protests the accusation. She throws her hands in the air in front of her. 

“Waves, come on!” A voice comes from behind the pair, breaking Nicole’s attention. “I don’t have all day!” Nicole turns around to see Wynonna standing behind them, whining dramatically. 

“Really?” Waverly huffs. “What other plans do you have tonight?” She asks. 

“Maybe I have plans,” Wynonna tries to fish for something.  

“Maybe you should get a job!” Waverly argues.

“And risk getting cut off from family money?” Wynonna asks quickly. “Hell no!” 

“You volunteered to come with me!” Waverly reminds her. Nicole watches the interaction between the two girls, wondering where this is going and how they know each other. 

“At least I didn’t volunteer to pick up trash for free, nerd,” Wynonna groans. 

“Excuse me for caring about the environment,” Waverly argues, becoming clearly frustrated. “I apologize for my sister,” she says to Nicole. 

Nicole’s eyes widen. Sister? Wynonna and Waverly? How has she not put it together before. She was at the game to watch her sister cheerlead. She was at the park while her sister volunteered. Her brain continues to short circuit until Wynonna waves a hand in front of her face. 

“Haught pants already loves me,” Wynonna tells her. Waverly looks confused at first. Nicole still can’t make words. “What the hell, Haught?” 

“Sorry, I, it’s really warm all of a sudden,” Nicole says. She tugs at her clothing, trying to help her breathe a little better. 

“Wait, do you guys know each other?” Waverly questions then. 

“Do you guys know each other?” Wynonna retorts, gesturing between the two girls. 

“We’re history project partners,” Waverly tells her. Nicole cringes, remembering her conversation with Wynonna about her history project partner earlier in the day. Wynonna's eyes widen, knowingly. Nicole panics internally. 

Shit. 

“I should probably get going,” Nicole says, gesturing anywhere but where she currently is. 

“Do you need a ride?” Waverly asks. “We could drop you off.” The last place Nicole wants to be right now is in a car with Waverly and Wynonna at the same time. 

“Uh, no. No. I’m good.” She is avoiding eye contact with Wynonna. She only assumes she getting a dirty look from the girl. 

“Why are you two being weird?” Waverly asks. 

“We are?” Nicole asks. Why is it suddenly so hot out?  

“Here, babygirl, take the keys, I’ll be right there,” Wynonna says, handing her sister the keys. Waverly gives her a confused look, but takes the keys anyway.

“Okay…” Waverly trails off. Wynonna holds out her arm so Nicole stays with her as they watch Waverly walk out of sight. She wants to call out and tell her to stay, but she doesn’t. 

“Wynonna, listen,” Nicole tries to explain herself a little before the older girl can become more upset than she already is. 

“Hot but crazy is my sister?” Wynonna asks, she’s not quiet about it. She pushes Nicole’s shoulder. 

“I mean…” Nicole trails off. 

“Okay, you’re not wrong,” Wynonna tells her. “But that’s only okay for me to say!” The older girl warns her.  

“Okay, okay! I’m sorry!” Nicole tells her. She takes a step back, avoiding getting shoved anymore than she already has.

“I’m only going to give you this warning once, Haught,” Wynonna points a warning finger at her. 

“No need to threaten me, Wynonna. Nothing is ever going to happen between me and your sister,” Nicole assures her. 

“You’re damn right!” Wynonna yells at her and pokes her in the shoulder. “Now do you really need a ride?” She asks. 

“I don’t think Chrissy wants anyone to know I live with her,” Nicole says. Wynonna immediately scoffs at the comment. 

“Screw Chrissy Nedley,” she says. She gestures over her shoulder for Nicole to follow her. “But not really,” she teases, grinning over her shoulder. Nicole shutters at the thought. 



“So you guys never told me how you know each other,” Waverly says. She’s sitting in the backseat behind Nicole and Wynonna is driving. Nicole tried to sit in the back, but Waverly is apparently very persistent and she was too tired to keep arguing. 

“I found Haught stuff all alone at the back to school game and showed her a good time,” Wynonna tells her. 

“First of all,” Nicole starts. “That’s a really weird way to word that,” she laughs. “And second of all, way to make me sound like a loser.” 

“I’m just calling in like I saw it,” Wynonna teases. There’s an audible gasp from Waverly in the backseat. She slaps Wynonna’s arm causing Nicole to burst out into laughter. 

“Wynonna!” Waverly huffs. 

“Damn, babygirl,” Wynonna groans as she rubs the spot on her arm that she hit. 

“I apologize, once again, for my sister,” Waverly says, placing her hand gently on Nicole’s shoulder. 

“It’s cool,” Nicole shrugs off the comment. Waverly’s hand lingers for a moment and neither of them pull away. Nicole feels her skin burning through the material that separates her and Waverly’s touch.

“Haughty Haught loves me,” Wynonna says in a song-like tone. Waverly laughs and takes her hand down from Nicole’s shoulder.

“Something like that,” Nicole laughs, shaking her head at the brunette. There is something about both of the sisters that she finds endearing. She is usually not quick to let people in or feel an immediate connection with, but they might be an exception. 

Wynonna takes the turn into the Nedley’s driveway. “What are we doing at the Nedley house?” Waverly asks. 

“Home sweet home,” Nicole shrugs. She figures she will find out sooner or later. “This is my new foster placement,” she admits. 

“Chrissy told me you were her cousin,” Waverly tells her. Nicole nods and turns her body toward the brunette to make eye contact with her. 

“I guess everyone has their little secrets,” Nicole says. “Now you know where to find me at least,” she laughs a little. She can’t tell if Waverly is frustrated with her or Chrissy but she doesn’t look happy. 

The car comes to a stop in front of the house and Nicole turns to hop out. She holds the passenger side open for Waverly to climb into the front of the car. Waverly thanks her, politely. “Of course,” Nicole says. She can’t help but feel that she said something wrong. She always says something wrong. 

“Hey,” Waverly says just before Nicole pushes the car door shut behind her. The redhead turns back in her direction. “Text me later so I have your number. So we can, uh, talk about the project.” 

“Right,” Nicole says. “Almost forgot,” she says. “Have a good night, guys.” She shuts the car door and heads for the front door. 


When she makes it inside, she heads directly for her room, closing the door behind her. It’s not long before she picks up her phone and clicks on Rosita’s name. It rings a few times before she hears the other girl’s voice on the other end. “Hello?” 

“So, when were you going to tell me Waverly is Wynonna’s sister?” Nicole huffs. She kicks off her shoes and plops back on her bed, laying down on her back. 

Rosita breaks out into laughter. “Oh man, did you tell her you’ve been undressing her with your eyes?” 

“First of all, I haven’t been undressing her with my eyes,” Nicole huffs. She hears Rosita continuing to laugh over the phone. “I just told her my history partner was hot, but crazy.” She starts to laugh as well. 

“Oh, man, Haught,” Rosita snorts. “Just a warning, Wynonna is super protective of her sister.” 

“Yeah, that’s probably something you should have told me from the start, asshole,” Nicole huffs. 

“This is way more fun for me though!” Rosita tells her. There’s a knock at Nicole’s door, breaking her from her conversation. 

“Hey, I gotta go,” Nicole says. “Talk to you later.” She hangs up the phone and turns toward the door. “It’s open,” she calls out. 

“It’s just me,” Randy says as he enters her room. “How was your first day of school?” He asks. 

“It was alright,” Nicole tells him. She’s not really used to having people ask too much about her day. 

“And community service?” He asks.  

“Fine,” she shrugs. “You don’t have to check in with me everyday or anything,” she tells him. She doesn’t want him to feel obligated. 

“It’s in my nature,” the man says with a smile. “Ask Chrissy, I check in with her too.” 

“I think she’d prefer it if I didn’t talk to her,” Nicole says with a laugh. Randy gives her a sympathetic look. 

“She’ll come around,” he assures her. 

“It’s okay if she doesn’t,” Nicole says. “We all know this isn’t permanent,” she reminds him. 

“Nicole,” he says softly. “You can stay here as long as you need,” he tells her. “We’re not here to kicked you out anytime soon.” 

“Don’t give Chrissy that option,” Nicole laughs. 

“I’ll talk to her,” he says. “But look, I know you feel like you’re a burden here, but I can assure you that you aren’t. When my wife was alive, we always talked about having more children after Chrissy. It was just never in the cards for us,” he says. Nicole listens quietly to the story, feeling bad for the man. “But the world works in mysterious ways,” he continues. “I like to think of this as finally getting my chance.” 

A smile grows on her face. She finds the man endearing and honest. Something she hasn’t seen much of in the past. 

The sound of another person running down the hallway brings Nicole and Randy’s attention toward the door. Chrissy appears a moment later. “Did you tell Waverly you live here?!” She asks, loudly. 

“Christine,” Randy warns. 

“Dad!” Chrissy whines. “I don’t need everyone knowing my business at school!” 

“You’re really going to need to get over this,” Randy tells her. He shakes his head at his daughter causing Nicole to laugh. “If anyone thinks differently of you because of this then maybe you should rethink who you spend your time with.” 

“Maybe if you thought for one second what it’s like to be in high school in this place,” Chrissy tries to argue. Nicole has to admit, she is pretty entertained by the interaction. 

“No thank you,” Randy teases. “Now please, take your attitude elsewhere. Nicole hasn’t done anything wrong.” 

All Chrissy can do is scoff loudly at the pair before she turns to leave. Randy gives Nicole an apologetic look. Nicole tells him it’s okay. She’s getting pretty used to it by now. And maybe Randy is right. Maybe Chrissy will come around. 

Maybe someday. 

Chapter Text

By the end of the week, Nicole feels like she’s becoming more acclimated to the school. Chrissy gives her rides in the morning, but they barely talk. The blonde still ditches her in the parking lot and makes it inside before she does every day. 

Nicole spends more time with Rosita in between classes and after the final bell rings. She eats lunch daily with Jeremy. Waverly says ‘hi’ to her more often in the halls and they usually sit next to each other in their classes that they have together, chatting during free time. She attends one more community service session before the weekend, this time Waverly gives her a ride home and they decide to start work on their history project. 

“Do you always volunteer to pick up trash?” Nicole asks. They’re about half way to Nicole’s house on their way home. Nicole is leaning back in the seat, looking over at Waverly as she concentrates on the road. 

“It looks good on college applications,” Waverly informs her. Waverly seems like she’s pretty smart, Nicole is sure she doesn’t need the extra points on her applications, but she doesn’t question it. “It’s good to be well rounded.” 

“Yeah,” Nicole says. College isn’t a place she ever saw herself. Not because she didn’t think she’d make it, more like because she tries not to picture herself anywhere specific, for too long, in fear that she might get her hopes up. Nicole learned at a young age that if she doesn’t hope for much, she won’t become disappointed. 

“Have you looked into colleges?” Waverly asks. 

“I haven’t put much thought into anything after high school,” Nicole admits. “I like to live day by day.” 

Truth is, there was only one person who ever made Nicole think there might be hope for the future. And even then, she wasn’t sure if would ever happen. Now, it’s the last thing she wants to think of. She’d rather appreciate everything she has in front of her while she can. 

Her thoughts don’t drift too far away while she’s alone with Waverly. There’s something about the girl that keeps her wanting to stay in the present and far from the past. “Day by day is good too,” Waverly says with a smile. 

“When it's all you have, you appreciate it more,” Nicole tells her. Waverly looks over at her with a soft look. Rosita was right, Waverly is a nice person. It makes Nicole question more and more why she is willingly spending time with her. “Sorry to bring the mood down,” she laughs. 

“No need to apologize,” Waverly says with a smile. “You can talk to me if you need to,” she assures her. 

Nicole nods back at the brunette. 

Suddenly Waverly gasps, scaring Nicole. She turns her focus to the road in front of them to see nothing is wrong. She sees Waverly move her hand to twist the knob on the car radio, turning up the volume. She begins to sing along. Nicole can’t help but smile at her. 

When they arrive at the Nedley house, Waverly parks the car and continues singing. Nicole watches her for a moment before the brunette starts to laugh, appearing a little embarrassed. “I love this song,” Waverly says sheepishly. 

“I see that,” Nicole teases. 

“Don’t make fun of me!” Waverly says, playfully hitting her in the arm. 

“Ow!” Nicole groans. “I’m not!” She laughs. She opens the door to the car, quickly. 

“Man, where’s the fire?” Waverly laughs. 

“Gotta get out of here before you hit me again,” Nicole teases. Waverly scoffs at the redhead and hops out of the driver’s side of the car, following Nicole toward the door. 

Nicole unlocks the door and holds it open for the brunette to walk through first. “My book is upstairs, I can grab it if you want to work down here,” Nicole says, unsure if she should suggest working in her room or not. 

“I don’t mind working up there,” Waverly says. Nicole nods and leads her up the stairs. As they are about to pass Chrissy’s room, Nicole sees the blonde bolt for the door. 

“Waves! You’re here!” Chrissy calls out. “I was just about to call you.” She waves her phone in the air. 

“Oh, we were just about to work on our history project,” Waverly tells her, gesturing toward Nicole. Nicole looks back at her, still nervous to do anything more to upset Chrissy. 

“Can I steal you for a minute?” Chrissy asks. She seems panicked. “Crisis.” 

“What?” Waverly asks, confused. Nicole stands quietly, observing the dramatic scene unfolding in front of her.

“I need you!” Chrissy whines. She reaches her hands out and pulls on Waverly’s arm. Waverly looks back at Nicole, sympathetically. 

“Yeah, that’s fine, I’ll be in my room,” she points over her shoulder at her bedroom door. Waverly mouths ‘thank you’ at the redhead as she’s dramatically dragged into her best friend’s bedroom. 

Nicole laughs to herself and makes her way down the hall into her own room. She drops her backpack on her bed and pulls out her history book, setting it on her bed before sitting down at her desk. She pulls out a sketchbook and plays some music that she downloaded on her phone. 

She’s really uninterested in what Chrissy and Waverly could be talking about in the other room. Not that she doesn’t care about the blonde feeling like she’s in a crisis, she’s just sure it involves some boy that Nicole doesn’t want to hear about. 

She’s deep into her sketching, humming along with the song that’s playing when her door opens further and Waverly walks in. She doesn’t see her until she hears her voice. “You draw?” 

Nicole jumps at the sound of another voice in the room. She quickly closes her sketchbook. “Uh, yeah,” she says, looking up at Waverly. 

“I didn’t mean to scare you,” Waverly says, apologetically. “Can I see what you’re drawing? You know we have an art club at school if you’re interested.” 

Nicole sees Waverly’s eyes travel to the closed sketchbook on her desk. She suddenly feels exposed. She places her hand over the top of the cover. “I don’t typically show people,” she tries to brush it off. 

“Sorry, I just got excited there for a minute,” Waverly quickly apologizes. 

“It’s okay,” Nicole says. “Art is usually what I do for me. I draw people and things around me. It’s like my form of a journal,” she tells her. 

“That’s really cool, Nicole,” Waverly says. “You don’t have to show me.” 

“Maybe someday,” Nicole says. She wonders how the brunette would feel if she knew she had started a drawing of her in the book. She’s not sure she’s ready to share that with her yet. 

Waverly’s attention shifts to the other side of the room and Nicole follows her with her eyes. “You play the guitar too?” She asks with excitement. 

“Oh, hardly,” Nicole laughs. “It was my dad’s.” She watches as the brunette makes her way to the guitar, studying it without touching it. 

“May I?” She asks as she turns to make eye contact with the redhead. Nicole nods and watches as the brunette carefully lifts the guitar and sits on the corner of the bed. 

“We lost the amp years ago,” Nicole tells her. Waverly looks down at the guitar from above it and tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear. She starts to strum a melody, nothing Nicole has ever heard before, but it mesmerizes her. 

She watches the brunette’s fingers as they move with ease up the neck of the guitar. Waverly continues to look down at her hands as they play for a moment before looking up to see Nicole watching her. She smiles and puts the guitar back on its stand. 

“Thanks,” Waverly says with a smile. “It’s a beautiful guitar.” 

“You’re really good,” Nicole tells her. “I’m going to have to hit you up for lessons,” she jokes. 

“I might be down for that,” Waverly tells her. “But first, history,” she says, lifting the book up from the bed and waving it in the air. 

“Deal,” Nicole says. 



She’s surprisingly more excited about this history project than she thought she would be. Deep down she’s not sure if it’s because of the project itself or because her partner is Waverly Earp. 

They brainstorm ideas back and forth for an hour. She’s surprised at how easy it is for them to bounce ideas off of each other. Anytime she ever had to do a project with anyone else in the city, it always turned into one person doing most of the work and it wasn’t usually her. It wasn’t that she didn’t care about school in the city, she just always found something more interesting to do. 

The bedroom door swings open and Chrissy is standing in the doorway. The pair looks up and laugh at the expression on Chrissy’s face. She looks like she’s forcing a sad face and in serious need of attention. 

“What’s up?” Waverly asks. 

“I’m bored,” Chrissy says as she makes her way into the bedroom. She throws her hands up in the air and dramatically drops backwards onto Nicole’s bed next to Waverly. “You guys are all studious and shit and we’re not even done with the first week of school!” 

“Have you met me?” Waverly asks. She lays backwards on the bed next to Chrissy. Nicole is sitting on her desk chair, nearby, and looks over to observe the way Waverly’s shirt lifts at the bottom revealing smooth skin and tight abs. 

“Yeah, it’s lame,” Chrissy groans. 

“Thanks,” Waverly laughs, playfully pushing the blonde as she sits back up on the bed. 

“Waves, you know I love you, but you’re still a nerd,” Chrissy huffs. “I want to go swimming,” she whines as she stands up from the bed.  

“Then go,” Waverly shrugs. Nicole continues to observe the interactions between the two girls. 

“But I want my best friend to come with me!” Chrissy tells Waverly. Nicole wonders if she’ll get an invite or if Chrissy will continue acting as if she doesn’t exist at all. 

“Okay,” Waverly sighs. “Fine. We’re probably almost done for the day anyway,” she looks at Nicole for approval. Nicole nods at her, she can’t keep her up there forever. 

“Okay, meet me out there?” Chrissy asks Waverly before heading for the door. “You want to join?” She asks Nicole. 

The redhead is shocked by the invite. “Me?” She asks.  

“Who else?” Chrissy teases.  

“Oh yeah, sure,” Nicole agrees. She’s not sure what the sudden change in character is about with Chrissy but she will take what she can get. After all, she has to live with her. 

Chrissy gives them a ten minute limit and tells them she will see them out by the pool. They both laugh and tell her they’ll be out. When Chrissy leaves, they start picking up the books they have scattered around for their project and stack them on Nicole’s desk for now. 

“What’s with Chrissy suddenly being nice to me?” Nicole asks as she brings the books over to her desk. 

“I yelled at her,” Waverly admits. Nicole is shocked by this confession. She knew Waverly and Chrissy have been friends for a long time and she didn’t think she would disagree with her like that. 

“You did what?” Nicole asks, shocked. 

“I love Chrissy, but she can be sort of,” Waverly starts, searching for the right word. “Selfish?” 

“Isn’t that like everyone around here?” Nicole teases. She turns to see the brunette give her a warning look. 

“Wow, I’ll pretend not to be offended by that,” Waverly says.  

“Not you!” Nicole says quickly. 

“Look,” Waverly says. “Chrissy is used to just getting it her way. She’s afraid of anything ruining her reputation.” 

“What about your reputation?” Nicole challenges. 

“I’m the mayor's daughter,” Waverly informs her. “My reputation is pretty protected.” Nicole laughs. She wants to tell her she doesn’t have anything to worry about with her reputation because she’s one of the few good ones around. 

“It’s funny,” Nicole says. “You and Wynonna are so different but come from the same place.” She always wondered what it would be like to have siblings. She wonders if she’d get along with them if they were anything like her. 

“I think we’re more similar than she wants to believe,” Waverly laughs. “You want different, spend some time with our oldest sister. But don’t really,” she warns. 

“Do I want to know why?” Nicole laughs. 

“She’s just,” Waverly starts, searching for a word to describe her sister. “I don’t know, there’s a lot more to my family than what meets the eye,” she says as she looks down, avoiding eye contact for a moment. Nicole senses sadness in the girl for the first time since they had been working together that day. She wants to reach out and comfort her. She doesn’t. 

“Hey, if you ever need to talk about messed up families, I’m your girl,” Nicole says. Waverly looks up at her and gives her a soft smile. “Trust me, I get it.” 

“Maybe someday we can compare notes,” Waverly jokes, causing Nicole to laugh. “We should probably get downstairs before hurricane Chrissy comes back,” she teases, gesturing over her shoulder. 

“Yeah,” Nicole laughs. “Let me find my suit,” she gestures toward her dresser. Waverly excuses herself to Chrissy’s room where she has apparently left clothes. Nicole wonders what it’s like to stay somewhere long enough to have friends that let you leave your things at their house too, or even own enough stuff for that. 

 

By the time she makes it to the back of the house, she hears Chrissy and Waverly already outside talking. They’re both sitting on the edge of the pool with their feet in the water. Nicole forgets to breathe for a moment at the sight of the brunette in a bikini. What’s left of the sun beams down on her tanned shoulders. The sky is just beginning to turn to shades of pinks and oranges, reflecting off the water onto her face. 

“And what did he say when you mentioned homecoming?” Waverly asks. Nicole feels like Waverly isn’t that interested in the conversation, as if they’ve had this talk multiple times by now. 

“He just says he’ll see me there,” Chrissy groans. “Like I can’t give him any more hints here, Waves!” The girls stop and look up when they see Nicole appear on the back deck. 

“Have you tried asking him out?” She chimes in. Chrissy’s face immediately changes like she’s been offended. 

“No,” Chrissy huffs. “That’s his job!” She argues. Nicole gives her a confused look. 

“People still think that way?” Nicole asks. She never understood why it mattered who asked who out. If she likes him, she should just go for it. 

Chrissy scoffs in disgust, causing Waverly to laugh. “I’ve dropped enough hints!” 

“Maybe you could ask him,” Waverly shrugs. “Ask him to homecoming,” she suggests. “Or to go to my party with you! Start small!” 

“Since when is an Earp party small?” Chrissy asks. 

Nicole decides to join them on the edge of the pool. She slides her shirt over her head, revealing her pale skin that shines brighter in the sunlight. She’s slightly embarrassed when she glances down at her body noticing the difference between her and the other girls. When she looks up she sees Waverly’s eyes on her. Embarrassment comes back over her again and she feels warmth flood her cheeks. She smiles softly at the brunette. 

Chrissy coughs to gain their attention. “You getting in?” She asks. 

Nicole nods and sits down on the other side of Waverly, dipping her feet into the pool. The water is cold, but refreshing. 

“So all I’m saying is, I don’t think asking him is such a bad idea,” Waverly continues the conversation. 

“Maybe he’s gay,” Nicole shrugs. Chrissy scoffs at the redhead again and dips her hand into the pool, cupping the water and splashing her with it. 

Waverly screams as the water hits her as well. “What the hell?!” She yells as she pushes Chrissy, causing her to fall into the water. 

Nicole laughs and shields her face from the splashing that commences. Chrissy reaches up and pulls on Waverly, attempting to drag her into the water as well. Waverly tries to reach out for Nicole to stop her from falling in, which only causes the two of them to both come toppling over into the water. 

Nicole emerges from the water and runs her fingers through her hair to brush excess water out. She gives the brunette a warning look before splashing water in her direction. “Hey!” Waverly protests. “It was an accident!” 

“Sure!” Nicole laughs as she winds up to splash her again. Waverly pleads for her not to and Nicole gives in, lowering her arms. 

She finds herself enjoying her time with Chrissy and Waverly. She’s not surprised about Waverly, they’ve been getting along well lately, but Chrissy is always hit or miss. She feels like she’s been walking on eggshells with the girl and she’s never sure when she’s on her good side.


After swimming for a while, the sun has gone completely down. The backyard is now illuminated by lights that are strung across the deck area. Lanterns surround the pool offering more light as well, but the large moon that is now high above their heads offers the most light. 

“Cold?” Nicole asks the shivering brunette who is now posted in the corner of the pool. Waverly shakes her head but Nicole gives her a look, seeing through her lies. 

“Hot tub?” Waverly suggests. Chrissy agrees quickly and doesn’t waste any time before she’s climbing out of the pool. 

Nicole follows suit, leaving a trail of water dripping from her body as she makes her way to the nearby hot tub. Waverly and Chrissy have already claimed seats across from each other, leaving seats between them on either side open. She slowly steps in, her board shorts clinging to her legs. The temperature change is a bit of a shock at first but she gets used to it when she lowers her body into the water. 

Relaxing quickly, she puts her arms up on the side of the hot tub and leans back, looking up at the stars. “It’s beautiful out,” she sighs. 

“Not a lot of stars in the city?” Chrissy asks. Nicole smiles and brings her head back down to make eye contact with the blonde. 

“Not really,” She laughs. 

“Do you miss it?” Waverly asks. 

Nicole turns her attention to the brunette. She feels like the question is more loaded than Waverly intends it to be. There are things she misses about the city, but most of them are things that she might never have again. She misses parts of her old life, but she doesn’t miss never knowing how long she’ll be in one place or where she’ll be going next. At least in Purgatory, she doesn’t feel like she will bounce from house to house. She’s pretty sure no one else would take her in. 

“Sometimes,” was the answer she settles on. “I guess I don’t mind it here.” 

“Well we're glad to have you,” Waverly smiles. “Right, Chrissy?” Chrissy shoots Waverly a look for putting her on the spot. 

“You’re not so bad,” Chrissy reluctantly agrees. Nicole laughs and thanks her. She doesn’t feel like she’s in the clear with her, but they’re in a better track thanks to Waverly. 

When they’re done in the hot tub, all three girls make their way upstairs to change. Nicole sees Waverly shiver again as the cool air hits her skin. Something in her wants to wrap her in her arms to warm her up. She watches as the brunette wraps a towel tighter around her body and disappears into the house. 

Nicole slowly climbs the stairs to her room and closes the door behind her. She finds a pair of sweatpants and a baggy tee shirt to change into, discarding her wet clothes from her body. She dries herself more with the towel before slipping the fresh clothes on. 

There’s a knock at the door and she finishes pulling the shirt over her head before she calls out. “It’s open!” 

The door cracks open and Waverly’s face emerges. She’s wearing a pair of blue short shorts that can barely be seen underneath the oversized hoodie she has on. “Hey, sorry to bother you,” she says softly. 

“You’re not a bother,” Nicole assures her. “What’s up?” 

“I wanted to invite you to my party next weekend,” Waverly says. “It’s my birthday and my family usually makes a bigger deal out of it than I ever want them to, but we’re having this party and a bunch of people from school will be there if you want to join.” 

Nicole isn’t sure how she feels about the idea of hanging out with a bunch of people from school yet. She likes spending time with Waverly, but she still hasn’t gotten to know many of the others. But then again, maybe this will be her chance to fit in a little more.

“Sure,” she agrees. It’s hard not to say yes to the smile she’s receiving from the brunette. “Sounds like fun,” she lies a little.

“Great!” Waverly seems genuinely excited, which makes Nicole happy. “Alright, well, I’ll see you later,” she says. 

“Yeah, let me know when you want to work on that project again,” Nicole tells her. 

“Oh I will,” Waverly assures her with a laugh. “Goodnight, Nicole.” Nicole says goodnight and watches as Waverly leaves the room, closing the door behind her.

Once she knows she’s alone, Nicole sits down at her desk and takes out her sketchbook, opening to the drawing she had started earlier. She pulls out a pencil and continues to draw until exhaustion takes over, causing her to retire to her bed for the night. 


——————-



Waking up in Purgatory is much more relaxing than the city. There’s no sound of constant traffic or car horns beeping. There’s no sound of people yelling out the windows at each other or police sirens filling the air. 

Nicole rolls over to look at the clock on her nightstand and realizes she slept until 10am. She’s not usually a late sleeper, even on the weekends, but that might equate to the constant noise in the city and the fact that she is a pretty light sleeper.

She finally peels herself from her bed and changed into a pair of gym shorts and an old tee shirt from her school in the city. She goes for a run through the neighborhood, something she’s been doing most mornings since she got there. It helps her become more acquainted with the area so she doesn’t require others to get her from one place to another. Exploring new areas has always been something she enjoyed doing after each move. 

When she returns to the house, she sees Waverly and Chrissy, eating breakfast at the dining room table. She waves politely at them before she turns to make her way upstairs for a much needed shower. 

“We’re going to the mall to shop for homecoming today,” Chrissy calls out. Nicole stops in her tracks at the sound of the girl’s voice. “Do you want to come?”

Nicole cringes at the thought of spending time at the mall for any extended period of time. “No thanks,” she says quickly. 

“Do you have something to wear to the dance on Friday?” Chrissy asks. 

“I don’t dance,” Nicole informs her. “I’ll probably sit this one out,” she laughs. 

“You can’t skip homecoming!” Waverly protests. Nicole pretends to think for a moment. 

“I think everyone will survive without me,” she teases. Waverly scoffs loudly at the statement, causing Nicole to laugh. “You’re not going to let me get out of this that easily, are you?” She asks. The brunette grins and shakes her head. Nicole sighs. 

“You act like we’re torturing you,” Chrissy huffs. 

“This is torture,” Nicole laugh. “I have no money to go shopping,” she tells them. 

“That’s what dad’s credit card is for,” Chrissy says with a grin. Nicole quickly protests. She’s not interested in taking other people’s money. 

“Um, no,” she says. “You two have fun, I’m gonna go shower,” she turns toward the stairs again. 

“Nicole whateveryourmiddlenameis Haught!” Chrissy’s voice booms through the downstairs of the house. Nicole turns and laughs. 

“Oh, damn, you fake middle named me,” she says sarcastically, pretending to be offended. 

“You’re impossible! Just do this one thing!” Waverly whines. Nicole isn’t sure why they’re being so persistent, but she doesn’t think they’re going to stop anytime soon either. 

“Fine,” Nicole sighs. “I’m not going to win this. So I’ll go. But someone owes me a soft pretzel at the mall,” she says, pointing a finger toward the two girls. 

“Deal,” they say, simultaneously. They seem pretty pleased with themselves. 

Nicole laughs and shakes her head. “But I really need that shower first,” she tells them as she turns to make her way upstairs, for real this time. 

She stops in her room for clean clothes and ducks into the bathroom, closing the door behind her. She’s never been much of a shopper in the past so she’s not sure what to expect going to the mall with Chrissy and Waverly. They seem like the complete opposite of her when it comes to picking out clothes. What is she even going to wear to homecoming? 

She strips her clothes off and steps under the hot water that she turned on moments before, waiting for it to reach optimal temperature. She thinks about how it might be fun to spend time outside of the house and school with Waverly and Chrissy. She does enjoy their company even if they aren’t the usual people she surrounds herself with. 

 

Maybe a change of scenery will be good for you. 

 

She hears the voice of her probation officer echoing through her head. She doesn’t like to think he’s right, and she will never tell him, but maybe he is right. 



When she’s done with her shower, she dries her body quickly and puts on her clean clothes. The bathroom mirror is covered with moisture from the steam of the shower. She uses her towel to dry it enough for her to see her reflection in it. She runs a brush through her red hair, smoothing it out a little more. 

She’s never been one to wear makeup or spend much time on her appearance. She takes another moment to look at herself again. She looks rested. The dark circles aren’t as prominent under her eyes as they usually are. Maybe she is adjusting well to being in her new setting. Maybe Dolls is right. She definitely can’t tell him. 


——————



The mall is big and crowded. Nicole is unsure if that’s what it typically is like in this particular mall, but she’s a little uncomfortable with the crowd as they make their way through it. She looks around her, watching people in various places. Some are stopping in front of the windows of the stores just to get a glimpse of what’s inside. Some are going in the store and holding clothing up to get a closer look. There are some people just walking around in groups of friends. 

Waverly must have felt Nicole become more tense because she nudges her to gain her attention. Nicole looks down at the brunette, who is now looking up at her with soft, hazel eyes. “You okay?” she asks. Nicole nods and offers her a soft smile.

Chrissy takes the lead, dragging the pair with her into the first department store that they come to. Nicole braces herself for what is most likely about to be a long day. 

Shopping with Chrissy and Waverly is at least fairly entertaining to Nicole. She tries to keep them more interested in finding something to wear for themselves so she doesn’t have to spend too much time trying things on. She figures she can just wear jeans and a button down. How dressy can this event be? 


Early afternoon hits and no one has found anything they want to wear to the dance. They head toward the food court for lunch. Chrissy stops in her tracks at the edge of the food court, confusing Nicole for a moment until she sees Robin sitting at a table on the other side of the room. She laughs to herself at the lack of confidence Chrissy has as soon as she gets around him. 

“You gonna say hi?” Waverly asks. She nudges Chrissy gently, gesturing toward Robin. “He’s alone, now is your chance!” 

Chrissy’s eyes widen as if Waverly just told Robin directly about her giant crush on him. “Shut up!” She huffs. 

“I’ll go if you won’t,” Waverly tells her, trying to coax her to finally make a move. 

“Okay!” Chrissy finally gives in. “I’ll go!” She turns dramatically and heads toward the table that Robin is sitting at. Nicole watches, proud that she’s finally making her move. 

“Wow,” Nicole says. Waverly looks at her confused for a moment. “She’s finally going for it,” she laughs. 

“It’s about time,” Waverly groans. “You still hungry? I owe you that pretzel,” she teases. Nicole laughs and nods. They find food and walk around looking for a seat. They must have gained Robin’s attention because he invites them to sit at his table as well. They try to come up with an excuse to sit elsewhere, but they can’t. 

Chrissy doesn’t seem too disappointed when they have a seat at the table. They fall into easy conversation. This is the first time Nicole is really seeing Robin up close and having a chance to talk to him. He’s charming, she can see what Chrissy likes about him. 

Waverly gains Nicole’s attention and gestures to her, suggesting they find something else to do, leaving Chrissy and Robin alone. They make up some excuse about needing to go try on more clothes, even though that’s the last thing Nicole wants to do, and make their way away from the table. 

“Nice wingmanning,” Nicole praises Waverly. 

“If she can’t take it from there, I’m not sure what else to do,” Waverly laughs. They turn the corner into another store. “Want to try to find you something to wear now?” Nicole groans, dramatically, and follows Waverly into the store. 

Waverly stops at a rack of dresses, flipping through them. 

“I’m definitely not wearing a dress,” Nicole warns. 

“I’m looking for me, silly!” Waverly laughs. “Chrissy is crazy. Have you ever worn a dress?” 

“Not in a long time,” Nicole tells her. She feels like Waverly really gets her and isn’t here to make her feel any more uncomfortable than she already is. 

“We can find you something you’re more comfortable in, who cares if it’s not a dress,” Waverly tells her. 

“Thanks,” Nicole says, softly. She follows Waverly around the corner to a rack of pants suits and button down shirts. She smiles at the brunette as she watches her take her time to find something that Nicole might actually like to wear. 

“This!” Waverly calls out. She pulls out a royal blue button down shirt with small, white dots on it. “This would look great on you,” she says as she holds it up to her. “Try it!” Nicole takes the shirt and heads toward the dressing room. “Wait,” Waverly says. “These too.” 

She hands her a pair of light grey dress pants. Nicole takes both articles of clothing into the dressing room, trying them on while Waverly waits patiently outside the room. When she is fully dressed, she checks herself out in the mirror. She doesn’t hate it. Actually, she likes it. Waverly was right, it does look good on her. She opens the door, feeling a new found confidence that she didn’t know she had. 

“Nicole!” Waverly says, cheerfully. “You look great!” She adjusts the redhead’s collar. They make eye contact for a moment and Nicole can’t help but smile. “Told you,” Waverly says with a wink.

“Okay. Okay,” Nicole laughs.”You we’re right. Let’s find you a dress now.” 

She changes out of the outfit and drapes the clothes over her arm. They make their way back to the dresses and she watches as Waverly looks through to find something that she likes. She ends up pulling out a simple, yet elegant, black dress. 

This time, Nicole stands outside the dressing room as Waverly tries out the dress. When she opens the door to show the redhead, Nicole forgets to breathe. 

“Wow. Um. Wow,” Nicole stutters. 

“Yeah?” Waverly asks. She looks down at herself in the dress. 

“You look, wow,” Nicole blinks a few times to try to regain consciousness.

“You got any other adjectives?” Waverly teases. 

“Sorry,” Nicole blushes a little. She rubs the back of her neck with her hand, trying to reel herself back in. 

“I’m just kidding,” Waverly pushes Nicole, playfully. 

“You must be used to making people speechless,” Nicole says. She’s not trying to openly flirt with the brunette, but there’s something about this moment with her that she just can’t help herself. Wynonna is going to kill her. 

“Man, does that flattery usually get you far with people?” Waverly teases. Wait, is Waverly flirting back? Yeah, Wynonna really is going to kill her. 

“You’d be surprised,” she responds with a grin. She feels the brunette’s fingers brush lightly against her forearm as she smiles back at her. Nicole licks her lips, her mouth is suddenly very dry.  

“We should, uh, find Chrissy,” Waverly says, suddenly. “I’ll change,” she gestures over her shoulder at the dressing room. Nicole nods as the brunette heads back in the room, closing the door behind her. She leaves the dressing room and waits just outside the entrance until Waverly is done and exits. 

“So is that the one?” Nicole asks, pointing at the dress that Waverly has draped over her arm. 

“I think so!” Waverly says with a smile. They make their way over to the registers to cash out before heading back to the food court, assuming Chrissy hasn’t made it far. 

Chapter Text

“So tell me again, what did he say?” Waverly asks as the three girls pile back into Chrissy’s car, leaving the mall. 

“We just talked, it was nice,” Chrissy says. Waverly looks at her like she’s withholding information. 

“And that’s it? Waverly doesn’t seem to believe her. “So are you going to the dance together?” She asks. 

“Maybe going to the dance with someone is overrated,” Chrissy sighs.  

“Chrissy!” Waverly yells, a little too loud. 

“We didn’t really have a chance to talk about it,” Chrissy explains. “We were alone for a little bit, then Jeremy came.” 

“Jeremy Chetri?” Waverly asks. 

“Yeah,” Chrissy says. “They were meeting up for tutoring, I guess,” she shrugs. “What about you? Where’s your date to the dance?” She asks Waverly, taking some of the attention off herself. 

“We’re not talking about me here,” Waverly warns. Nicole sits quickly in the backseat, observing the interaction.

“Champ is gonna ask you,” Chrissy says, as if she’s reassuring the brunette that she’s not going to have to attend a dance on her own. 

“Yeah yeah. It’s only homecoming, who cares if we have dates,” Waverly shrugs. Nicole can’t tell if she’s just brushing it off because she doesn’t have a date yet, or if she really doesn’t care. She never attended many school dances in the past, but when she did, she usually went with the same person. 



They return back to Chrissy’s house and Nicole brings her new clothes up to her bedroom. She hangs them up and sits back, taking another look at them. It’s been a long time since she’s had new clothes like that and she’s having mixed feelings about it. She remembers, for a moment, the look on Waverly’s face when she first came out of the fitting room. It’s been a while since anyone has looked at her like that, like she really matters. 

She digs through her box of sketchbooks that she still has yet to unpack, and pulls out an old leather bound one. She flips through a few pages, stopping on a drawing of the blonde girl in a dress. She remembers the day she saw her wear the dress and laughs at the memory of the day they picked it out together. 

 

“You have to try it on if I do,” the girl teases. She grins back at the redhead as she pulls the curtain of the fitting room to the side before moving behind it. When she is fully out of view, Nicole laughs.

“No way!” She protests. The girl’s face pops out from behind the curtain as she tucks it back. 

“You’re no fun!” She pouts. 

“You know I don’t wear dresses!” Nicole groans. She can’t help but laugh at the pouty lip she’s receiving from the girl. 

“And I do?” She asks

“Apparently you do now,” Nicole laughs as she gestures toward the girl’s body that is still covered with the curtain. The girl groans and closes the curtain, coming out a few moments later in the dress. Nicole’s jaw nearly hits the floor at the sight and she can only nod in approval. 

It takes her a few moments to be able to form words and when she does all she can say is, “damn.” 



There’s a knock at her door, ripping her from her thoughts. She blinks a few times and rubs her eyes. “It’s open!” She calls out. 

“We’re watching Harry Potter if you want to join,” Waverly says as she enters the room. Nicole closes her sketchbook when she sees the brunette’s eyes drifting toward it. 

“Are you staying all weekend?” Nicole asks out of curiosity. 

“I usually do. Or we stay at my house,” Waverly tells her. 

“Shared custody?” Nicole teases, receiving a grin from the brunette. 

“Something like that,” Waverly says. “So are you down, or what?” 

“Okay,” Nicole agrees. She finds it easy to agree to whatever Waverly asks of her. She’s unsure what this power that the brunette has over her, but she’s not doing too much to fight it either. “The first one? Because I’ve never seen them.” 

She fears the moments that follow after the words fall from her lips. Admitting that she’s never seen Harry Potter has never resulted in positivity from anyone. 

Waverly’s eyes widen in shock. “You what?!”

“Okay, okay,” Nicole says, putting her hands up in front of her. “I’ve read the books!” She tries time defend herself. 

“Okay, some points regained,” Waverly says, pointing a warning finger at her. “We better get started though,” she continues. “Because this is about to turn into a marathon.” 

Nicole sighs. She isn’t sure what she just got herself into. 

 

The rest of the weekend turns into the Harry Potter marathon that Nicole didn’t ask for, but she ends up enjoying it anyway. Throughout the movies, she does take the opportunity to observe the brunette a little more as she is enthralled in what is happening on the screen.

She’s sure she’s seen them several times by now, but they still evoke an emotional response and Nicole can’t help but smile at her. Waverly catches her looking at her a couple of times and smiles back at her. 

As the films go on, she notices Waverly has moved closer to her on the couch. At one point, she tucks her feet up next to her, causing her to lean into Nicole’s side a little more. She definitely doesn’t mind. She puts her arm up on the back of the couch, allowing her to lean as much as she wants. She wonders if Chrissy notices. 

By the end of the weekend, she feels like she can barely walk from all of the sitting she did. But now she can officially say she’s seen every movie. Eight movies later, she’s finally in on what all the hype is about, even if she likes the books better.



School on Monday feels a little different than it did the week before. Waverly stops to talk to her in the halls in between classes at times, which causes more people to recognize her and say hi. Chrissy doesn’t go out of her way in school to spend time with her, but she’s not unpleasant toward her either. They continue to sit at their separate lunch tables like they have since the beginning of the school year. She doesn’t mind eating with Jeremy. She feels like she’s constantly learning new things from him.  

After school that day, Nicole agrees to go over to Waverly’s house to work on their project. There’s a nervous pit in her stomach by the time the last bell rings. She’s never been to Waverly’s house and doesn’t know what to expect. 

“Ready?” Waverly asks as she walks about behind Nicole, causing her to jump. “Everything okay?” The brunette asks. 

“Oh, yeah,” Nicole says. “I just didn’t see you there.” She shrugs and swings her backpack over her shoulder, closing the locker behind her. “Let’s go, partner.” 

She grins at Waverly, playfully nudging her with her elbow. She tries to shake away some of her nerves, but only somewhat succeeds. 

 

When they arrive at the Earp house, Nicole looks out the window to take on the view. The house is just as big as the Nedley house, if not bigger. She still doesn’t understand how someone can have enough stuff to fill a house so big. She mostly spends her time in her room when she is home and she finds that big enough. 

Waverly parks the car and gestures for Nicole to follow her. They make their way into the house. It’s quiet and she’s not sure if anyone else is home. She follows the brunette into the dining room where they set up their books to start working on the project. 

“Haught stuff?!” Wynonna’s voice echoes from the next room over. Waverly and Nicole both look simultaneously to their left to see the older Earp beaming as she’s walking toward them.

“You two have a weird friendship,” Waverly laughs as she shakes her head at the pair. 

Wynonna walks up to Nicole and high fives her, making the younger brunette laugh again. 

“Don’t be jealous, babygirl,” Wynonna teases. Waverly scoffs at her sister and rolls her eyes. “What are you nerds up to?”

“History project,” Nicole informs her. 

“Oh yeah, I forgot you guys started that already,” Wynonna laughs. “You’re probably the only seniors to start it already,” she teases. 

“It’s your sister’s fault,” Nicole jokes, receiving a dirty look from Waverly. “I’m kidding!” She tries to defend herself.

Wynonna sits down at the table with the pair. Waverly gives her a strange look before she finally asks why she is still there.

“Didn’t realize this was a private event,” Wynonna says, defensively. She puts her hands up in front of her and stands up from the table. Nicole laughs. “Haught, hit me up when my sister is done holding you hostage,” she says with a wink. 

“Bye, Wynonna,” Waverly huffs. Wynonna waves at the pair and leaves them alone again. They begin working diligently on their project again. They chat idly at times, but mostly about history. Nicole finds Waverly’s knowledge on the subject to be fascinating. She really is smart and she could probably listen to her all day. 

The door to the house opens and closes again and Nicole isn’t sure who has arrived this time. A man’s voice echoes through the house as he calls out letting whoever is home know that he is home now as well.

“My dad,” Waverly says softly. Her tone doesn’t display disappointment or excitement, it’s more just flat and Nicole has a hard time reading it. 

“Hey, kiddo,” the town mayor says as he comes around the corner into the dining room. “Ready for the game on Thursday?” Nicole wonders why that’s the first question he asks his daughter when he gets home. He doesn’t ask about how she is, or how her day was, he asks about a game that doesn’t take place for another three days.

“Yeah dad, we’re not the ones with the pressure,” she jokes. Nicole continues to observe the interaction between Waverly and her father quietly. 

“You’re still important, sweetheart. You pump them up for victory,” he smiles softly at his daughter.

“Sure, dad,” she laughs. “This is my friend Nicole, by the way.” Waverly finally brings the attention toward Nicole, putting her on the spot but making her feel less awkward than she was when she was just sitting there quietly. 

“I haven’t seen you around here before. Nice to meet you, Nicole,” the man shakes her hand, firmly. “Is your family from the area?” He asks. 

Nicole quickly shakes her head. “No sir, I’m from the city.” He narrows his eyes at Nicole, as if he’s trying to get a better read on her. 

“She lives with the Nedleys,” Waverly tells him. 

“Ah,” Ward says, knowingly. “Randy Nedley’s foster case. He’s a kind man, isn’t he?” He asks, condescendingly.

“He’s great,” Nicole smiles. She bites her tongue, stopping herself from saying something back to the man. She looks at Waverly, who looks quite embarrassed by the interaction. 

“So, Waverly,” Ward continues, ignoring Nicole again. “I spent the day golfing with Champ Hardy’s father.” 

“Sounds exciting,” she replies, sarcastically. 

“He tells me you and Champ have been spending more time together,” Ward tells her. 

“Not really,” Waverly laughs. Even Nicole is unsure of where this information is coming from. 

“He’s got a good family,” Ward tells her. Waverly smiles, politely and nods. Nicole can tell this is a conversation she doesn’t want to get into with her father right now, but she’s clearly annoyed. “Just keep that in mind,” Ward smiles at his daughter. 

He takes another look between Waverly and Nicole before he excuses himself and leaves a few moments later. 

“I’m sorry about my dad,” Waverly says to Nicole when Ward is finally out of sight. 

“Don’t be.” Nicole assures her. “I can handle my own.”

“He’s relentless,” Waverly sighs. Nicole instinctively reaches out for Waverly’s hand, comforting her. Waverly smiles and Nicole pulls her hand away, quickly. 

“So are you still going to the dance with Champ?” Nicole finally asks. She’s not sure what made her ask, but since Ward brought up Champ, she is curious.  

“I’m not sure,” Waverly shrugs. She doesn’t really seem to care either way. 

“Has he asked?” Nicole questions. 

“He leaves it as more of an open invitation,” Waverly says. Nicole looks at her confused. 

“What?” The redhead asks. In her book, he’s either asked her or he hasn’t, she doesn’t understand how there could be an in between. 

“Champ isn’t like most guys,” Waverly tried to explain. 

“In a good way or a bad way?” Nicole asks. She laughs a little. Why is Waverly trying to defend him if she doesn’t seem to like him all that much? 

“That’s up for interpretation,” Waverly shrugs. Nicole laughs. “What if I just said screw Champ and we went together?” The brunette asks. 

“You want to go with me?” Nicole asks. 

She’s a little shocked by the invitation. She’s also unsure on what level the invite is on. Sure, she seems to be getting vibes from Waverly from time to time, but that could also be in her head. Maybe Waverly means just as friends or in a group of people who are also single. 

“It would be fun,” Waverly says with a smile. 

“Um,” Nicole starts to stutter. She wants to tell her ‘yes’ right away. She wants to tell her she would love to accompany her to the dance. But she’s also terrified to ask any more details about the invitation. “Yeah,” she finally says. “Sounds fun,” she smiles. 


——————



The rest of the week leading up to homecoming in fairly uneventful. She attends community service and Waverly is there again. They don’t talk much about the dance. Waverly doesn’t seem like the other girls at school that plan their lives around major school events, Nicole likes that about her. They work once more on the project that week, but this time at Nicole’s house. Waverly continues to apologize for her father’s behavior around her, but Nicole says not to worry about it. 

Thursday night is the homecoming game and after some protest, Chrissy convinces Nicole to go. 

“Man, this school really makes a big deal about homecoming,” Nicole mocks as they make their way toward the field. “Is it always a two day event?” 

“Three if you include Waverly’s birthday party,” Chrissy says with a laugh. 

“Since when is Waverly’s birth associated with Purgatory homecoming?” Nicole questions. 

“When your dad is the mayor, you’re the town sweetheart and your birthday is always around  homecoming weekend?” Chrissy suggests. 

Nicole just laughs and shakes her head. When they arrive at the bleachers, Chrissy ends up sitting with her friends in a different area. Nicole scans the bleachers to find any familiar faces. 

“Nicole!” She hears her name called out and looks up to see Jeremy waving back at her. She didn’t know Jeremy was much of a football fan, but she is happy to see him. She waves back at him and is about to go sit with him when she feels someone slap her arm, gaining her attention. 

“Rosita, hey!” Nicole says, surprised. “I was going to go sit with Jeremy.” 

“You’re actually going to watch the game this time?” Rosita teases. “Don’t be a nerd. We got booze again,” she gestures under the bleachers. 

Nicole looks back at Jeremy for a moment, he’s no longer looking at her. She contemplates whether or not he will miss her if she doesn’t show. She watches him for another moment and realizes he’s still doesn’t seem to be looking for her. She nods at Rosita and follows her back under the bleachers. 

“So you going to the dance tomorrow night?” Nicole asks Rosita as she follows her out of sight of other people. 

“Why? Are you finally asking me out?” Rosita teases in a sarcastic tone. 

“What?” Nicole asks. “No, I already have, I mean,” she stutters. “I told Waverly I’d go with her.” 

Rosita stops walking and turns to face Nicole. “Does Wynonna know?” she asks. 

Wynonna doesn’t know and Nicole plans on keeping it that way. 

“Does Wynonna know what?” a voice comes from behind them. 

“That she’s late and we’ve been waiting for booze,” Nicole says. She turns around quickly and takes the bottle from Wynonna’s hand, taking a swig right away. 

“Damn,” Wynonna huffs. “I didn’t keep you waiting that long!” she laughs as she takes the bottle back from Nicole. 

They spend the majority of the game hanging out and drinking. Nicole begins to wonder why she never did this before. Wynonna makes it a point to be present for the halftime show to watch her sister cheer. Nicole tries not to make it obvious that she’s mostly just watching Waverly as she twirls, spins and jumps into the air throughout the routine. Her eyes narrow in on the brunette who seems to be a natural, never missing a beat. 

The routine ends and Wynonna waits at the fence for Waverly to make her way back to the sidelines. Nicole continues to watch her as she bounces over, the muscles in her legs flex as she moves toward them. 

She doesn’t realize how hard she is staring until Rosita nudges her with her elbow in the side. “Ow,” Nicole huffs, regaining consciousness and remember when she was. 

Waverly stops at the fence to talk to Wynonna for a moment. “You smell like dad,” Waverly huffs at her sister as she pulls away from the tight hug she is receiving. Wynonna cackles at the comment, but from the look on Waverly’s face, it wasn’t meant to be a joke. 

Waverly turns and smiles at Nicole and Rosita who are hanging back behind Wynonna. “Nice routine,” Rosita tells her, prompting an immediate ‘thanks’ from Waverly. 

All Nicole can think to say is, ‘nice legs,’ but she refrains. She just agrees with Rosita instead, receiving a quick wink from the brunette as she heads back to her team and an even quicker dirty look from her older sister. 

Just before the second half of the game, Wynonna gestures for Nicole and Rosita to join her with the bottle of liquor again. Nicole passes on the offer and scans the stands, making brief eye contact with Jeremy. She waves in his direction, but she’s quickly rejected by him turning away from her. She immediately feels bad for blowing her friend off. The first major screwup of the weekend. 



—————-




Nicole’s stomach is in knots for the majority of the day on Friday. The homecoming dance is that night and she’s still unsure what Waverly meant when she asked her to go with her. Chrissy spent the night at Waverly’s house and they didn’t have school that day to allow the students to get ready for the dance. Nicole took advantage of this time off to mostly just sleep. She had no intentions of going anywhere that day until the last minute possible. She didn’t find any point in getting her hair or nails done, she was never into that sort of thing. 

After her third movie of the day, she decides she should probably get up at get ready for the dance. She pulls on the new clothes that they bought at the mall over the weekend. She stands in front of a mirror, looking herself over. She smooths her hands down her body. The fabric feels stiff, but she likes the way she looks in the outfit. 

She checks her phone to see if Waverly has texted her. She hasn’t heard from her for most of the day. She figures she’s just been busy with Chrissy. Randy offers her a ride to the school since Chrissy isn’t there. She’s only slightly embarrassed being dropped off by the town’s sheriff, but he doesn’t stay long after she hops out of the car. She thanks him and he pulls away soon after. 

“Damn, nerd, you look extra Haught tonight.” Nicole turns to see Wynonna leaning up against a post outside of the school. 

“Good one,” She laughs. She walks over to where the brunette is, rather than going inside right away. 

“Got a hot date?” Wynonna asks. Nicole becomes immediately uncomfortable. 

“What? No. I was just going to hang out with Chrissy and Waverly probably,” She lies a little. 

She remembers the threats Wynonna has made toward her about her sister and she wasn’t ready to have that conversation yet. She wasn’t even sure if it was a conversation that they needed to have. 

“Hey, relax there, Romeo. You’re still not trying to go after my sister right?” Wynonna points a warning finger toward the redhead. 

“Contrary to popular belief, Wynonna, lesbians can have platonic friendships with girls,” Nicole informs her. “What’s your issue with that anyway? Would it be a bad thing if she was into girls?”

“No!” Wynonna says, quickly. “That’s not what I said! I just saw you first!” She says. Nicole looks at her, confused.

“Excuse me, what?” She asks, shocked. “Are you even into girls?” 

“I’m not blind,” Wynonna shrugs. Nicole isn’t sure at this point if she is being serious or messing with her. 

“Do I get a say in this?” Nicole asks. She decides to play along for now. 

“Are you saying I’m not the hot Earp?” Wynonna squints her eyes at the redhead and leans in closer toward her. 

“What are you doing out here anyway?” Nicole changes the subject, taking a step back to add more space between them. 

“Rosie wanted to meet here,” Wynonna says. “She apparently had to convince her parents she was actually going to the school dance so she had to make it realistic. I have her change of clothes.” She shakes the bag that she’s holding in front of her. 

“You’ve thought of it all,” Nicole laughs. 

“So do you want to ditch this place or what?” Wynonna asks. “Rosie should be here soon.” 

Nicole looks behind her at the entrance of the school. She watches as people make their way inside to the dance. They’re all dressed nicely, some walking hand in hand with others. 

She sees Champ and a couple other football players stepping out of a car in the parking lot. She hears one of the guys ask why he hasn’t asked Waverly to the dance. She hears him reply something about not having to ask her to know they’re going together. 

Everything in her, for a moment, wants to go in there and save her from that. Suddenly her thoughts switch to fear. Fear of making a fool of herself in front of Waverly. Fear that she walks in the gym and sees Champ with Waverly. Fear of rejection. Fear of jealousy. 

She turns back toward Wynonna. Rosita arrives a moment later, making her way up to the pair. “You ditching too?” Rosita asks. 

Nicole takes another look back at the school. She pulls her phone out of her pocket to see she doesn’t have any messages. She looks back at Rosita and nods. “Yeah, lets go.” 


Throughout the rest of the night, the pit of guilt in Nicole’s stomach only grows. She finds her way out to the deck of the house they ended up at. This time it’s the Gardner house, the home of Mercedes and Beth. Rumor has it they have a younger brother that they rarely speak of. He’s been sent away to some boarding school where he’s been for quite some time now. At least that’s what people say. 

She takes a seat on the steps of the deck. She wonders what Waverly is doing, she wonders if she even noticed that she’s not there. She pictures her dancing with Champ. She sees him holding her close, while they dance during slow songs. 

She takes a swig of the mixed drink that Rosita brought her a little while ago. It burns slightly as it makes its way down her throat. She cringes at the feeling, but quickly chases it with another sip. 

“You cool, Haught?” Rosita asks, sitting down next to her on the steps. 

“Uh, yeah,” Nicole says. She takes another swig of alcohol.

“Convincing,” Rosita laughs. “Do you want to talk about it?” She asks. 

“Talk about what?” Nicole asks. Her tone comes off as more defensive than she meant it to. 

“Why did you really ditch the dance?” Rosita asks. “You’re all dressed up, you seem to have had intentions of actually going.” 

“I don’t know,” Nicole says. “This is more fun.” She's sure she doesn’t sound convincing. “Where’s Wynonna? She was the one who offered for me to come,” she tries to change the subject. 

“She’s off with Doc somewhere,” Rosita shrugs. This seems to be pretty in character for Wynonna at parties. “Sitting on a deck outside by yourself is more fun?” Rosita asks. “You’re going to have to do better than that.” 

Nicole sighs and takes another drink from her cup. “Have you ever had something so that’s so close, if you reach out just a little bit further you’ll finally have it in your grasp?” Nicole asks. “But then you’re afraid once you do have it, you’ll just break it anyway?” 

Rosita takes a moment, listening quietly, letting the words sink in before she speaks. “Yeah,” she admits. 

“That’s been most of my life,” Nicole explains. “Just when things look like they could go a certain way, it’s ripped out from under me. So I try not to let it get to that point.” 

“You really like her, don’t you?” Rosita asks. Nicole looks around to see if Wynonna is in sight. She isn’t in much of a mood to get yelled at at the moment. 

“I’m not sure, Rosita,” Nicole says. “I don’t even know what she thinks of me. Is she even into girls?” 

“I can’t answer that for you,” Rosita tells her. “But I can tell you this. Girls, at least most girls, are into honesty.” 

Nicole sighs and takes another drink from her cup. When her phone goes off a little while later with a text from Waverly, she apologizes and tells her she wasn’t feeling well. Not exactly what Rosita meant when she said girls like honesty. That was the next screwup of the weekend. 



—————



There’s a pain in her head as Nicole wakes up the next morning. The rest of the night was pretty much a blur and she’s surprised she isn’t feeling more hungover than she currently is. She squints her eyes open, shielding her face from the sunlight that’s coming in through the window. She groans as she tries to open them fully, finally being able to see where she is. 

She’s still at the Gardner house, sleeping on top of the covers of a bed that she barely remembers landing in a few hours before. She shifts in her spot, accidentally hitting another person, who is laying next to her, with her arm. 

“Ow,” Rosita groans as Nicole feels her shift where she is laying. 

Nicole’s eyes shoot fully open and she rolls over to see Rosita opening her eyes. “Rosita?” Nicole asks, confused. 

“Still me,” Rosita laughs. Nicole tries to lift herself from her bed, but quickly retracts when she feels the pain in her head again. 

“Fuck,” she groans, grabbing her head. “Tell me we didn’t-” she glances down to see they’re both still clothed.

“Easy there, Haught,” Rosita says, quickly. “Taking advantage of drunk girls isn’t my thing,” she laughs. 

“What?” Nicole says, quickly. “No! That’s not what I meant,” she says. “Damn, my head hurts,” she rubs her temples with her index fingers and lays her head back down on the pillow. 

“I’m just messing with you,” Rosita says. Nicole shoots her a look and rolls over, looking for her phone. She sees that she remembered to text Randy, letting him know she wouldn’t be home that night. She’s shocked for a moment that she would do something like that. “I texted Nedley for you,” Rosita tells her. 

“Thanks,” Nicole says. 

She lays back down and sees that she has a text from Waverly asking if she’s feeling any better. The guilty feeling in the pit of her stomach comes back again. She doesn’t respond to the text. She sets her phone back down and slowly climbs out of bed. 

Rosita gives her a ride back to her house a little later that day. She thanks the brunette for taking care of her and hanging out with her the night before. When she goes inside the house, she sees no one else is home. She assumes Chrissy is still at Waverly’s house for the weekend. 

She takes a much needed shower that makes her head feel a little less like it’s going to explode. After her shower she wanders downstairs to find something to eat. She’s not sure what she will be able to stomach, but she knows she’s going to have to eat something. 

Rosita comes back a little while before they need to leave for Waverly’s birthday party. Nicole isn’t sure what she’s going to say to Waverly about why she didn’t show up for the dance last night. She wonders if Waverly is over it by now or if it’s something that’s eating away at her as well. 

She leaves her room dressed in a pair of dark washed skinny jeans and a red flannel. Rosita playfully looks her up and down, making cat calls at her. Nicole gives her the middle finger as she makes her way down the stairs. 

The party is pretty busy by the time they arrive. Nicole is surprised by the turnout, but she knows she shouldn’t be. Waverly is one of the most liked people in the entire town. 

She sees familiar faces as she walks through the house, but there’s no sign of Waverly at first. She sees Wynonna, who makes some comment at her about being a nerd and wondering where she went last night. Nicole rolls her eyes at the brunette, who smirks back at her knowing that she was the one who keeps disappearing on Nicole. 

She finds her way in the direction of the alcohol, pouring herself a cup of whatever concoction is there. It tastes way better than the drinks Rosita made her, so she’s okay with it. She turns back to see where Rosita went and she sees her talking with a few other people on the other side of the room. 

Part of her wants to ask where Waverly is to wish her a happy birthday. That part of her wants to spend the party in the presence of Waverly, listening to her talk, watching her smile, hearing her laugh. The other part of her wants to avoid Waverly at all costs, afraid of how she is going to take it when she eventually succumbs to telling her to truth. She blew her off. 

“Nicole!” she hears Waverly’s voice come from the next room over as she’s making her way through the house. She smiles at the girl and joins her where she is. “You actually showed,” Waverly says. She doesn’t seem mad, she continues to smile at the redhead. 

“Why wouldn’t I have?” Nicole asks. “Oh, the dance, yeah, about that,” she continues. 

“It’s okay,” Waverly tells her, placing her hand on her shoulder for a moment. Nicole can tell something is bothering Waverly, she sees it in her face. “Are you feeling better? I tried texting you.”

“Yeah, sorry, I’m still getting used to having a phone.” It isn’t a total lie, but she still feels bad. “Look, Waverly,” Nicole starts to try to explain herself. She needs to tell her the truth. “I wasn’t entirely truthful with you,” she admits. Waverly looks confused at first. “I don’t know what happened. You asked me to go to the dance with you and I got there and, I don’t know, I just freaked,” she explains. 

“Nicole-” Waverly starts, but Nicole isn’t finished. 

“You’ve been a great friend to me,” Nicole says. Waverly’s face drops a little but she quickly covers it up with a smile. Nicole isn’t sure if she meant to show that to her. “I guess I just thought,” she continues. “Well, I don’t know what I thought. But I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.” 

She feels a heaviness in her chest. The last thing she wants is to disappoint Waverly. She’s not even entirely sure why.

“Nicole,” Waverly says. Her voice is soft and sweet. She places her hand on her shoulder again. “Breathe. Just breathe,” she says, softly. 

 

Just breathe. 

 

She feels the weight of her father’s hands on her shoulders from when she was six. 

 

Just breathe. 

 

She feels the hand of the girl she once loved pressing against her heart. 

 

Just breathe. 

 

She’s back to reality, Waverly’s hand still on her shoulder. 

“I-” she stutters a little. “I need air.” 

She quickly turns away from Waverly without looking back. She sees a clearing in the crowd, leading her to the back door of the house. There’s something about being alone in the night air that Nicole enjoys about Purgatory. In the city, she was never alone, even when she wasn’t there with anyone. There were always people, always noise, and never as many stars. 

The air is cool and she immediately breathes it in, letting out an audible sigh. She needed to get some space before she became too overwhelmed. She’s not sure what she’s even thinking with Waverly. Waverly is her foster sister’s best friend. She’s her friend’s sister, her history partner, her friend. She isn’t going to be anything more than her friend. 

She quickly jumps when she sees movement to her left, realizing she actually wasn’t alone. “You’re new here,” a dark haired girl says to Nicole as she moves a little closer in the light that is illuminating from the back of the house. 

“Guilty as charged,” Nicole says with a smile. “Are you going to ask me my life story like everyone else around here?” She lets out a laugh.

“Nah,” The girl shrugs. “Sometimes mystery is good. I wish I could be a mystery to people are here. Once they know your business, it’s all downhill from there,” she laughs as she takes a swig of the liquid in the cup that she is holding. 

Nicole laughs. She’s intrigued by this girl who doesn’t need every detail of her from the start. She likes someone who wants to get to know her before hearing about her past. “Well you’re a mystery to me,” Nicole says as she smirks over the edge of the cup as she takes a sip. She doesn’t purposely try to flirt with someone else, but maybe it will help get her mind off of Waverly. 

“Then we have something in common,” the girl smiles. “I’m Shae. Shae Pressman.”

“Nicole Haught,” she smiles back at the girl.

“Well Nicole Haught, you seem to have done something right, already having an in with Purgatory’s princess, Waverly Earp,” Shae teases. 

She turns and leans her elbows on the edge of the deck, looking out into the backyard. Nicole does the same. They’re standing closer now, arms just barely brushing. 

“Luck of the draw, I guess,” Nicole shrugs. Shae gives her a confused look. “We’re history partners,” Nicole laughs. 

“Ah, Shae says knowingly. “Man, I got stuck with Champ Hardy on that stupid thing,” Shae groans. She takes another large swig of her drink. 

“Is he that bad?” Nicole asks. She doesn’t hear the best things about Champ, but Waverly doesn’t seem to hate him, so she doesn’t think he can be that bad.  

“Let’s just say, he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. Emphasis on tool,” Shae says with a laugh, louder than before, causing Nicole to laugh along with her. 

“Then why is Waverly interested in him?” Nicole asks. She is not sure why that question even came out. She’s not even sure if Waverly is interested in him or not. She also doesn’t know why she can’t stop thinking or talking about Waverly. Waverly is her friend. Just her friend. 

“Beauty over brains? The man is gorgeous,” she sighs. And his family is rich.

“So is hers,” Nicole tells her. She gestures around toward the house. 

“Now you’re catching on,” Shae says with a wink. Nicole doesn’t think she understands. She doesn’t try. 

“Yeah, this is like a whole new world to me,” Nicole admits with a laugh. She hopes Shae continues to not ask questions about where she’s from. “Is Champ even here?” she asks. 

“Rumor has it he went to a party in the next town over first,” Shae tells her. She doesn’t seem surprised. 

“On Waverly’s birthday?” Nicole asks confused. 

“I told you, beauty, not brains,” Shae says.  

“She deserves better than that,” Nicole says. 

She feels immediately defensive, wanting to protect the brunette from anything that would hurt her. She takes a breath to calm herself down, she knows it’s not her job. She needs to stop worrying so much about Waverly. 

“What about you? Got your eye on any of the eligible bachelors of Purgatory?” Shae asks.  

“No,” Nicole laughs.

“Me neither. I prefer mysterious people who aren’t from around here,” Shae says. Nicole swallows hard and looks back at the brown eyes that seem to devour her with one look. She doesn’t hate it, it’s nice to be noticed. She goes to take another sip of her drink, realizing her cup is empty. “I’m out,” she waves the cup in the air. “Want anything?” She asks as she gestures over her shoulder. 

Shae nods and leans in toward Nicole. She grasps Nicole’s collar with her hand, bringing her in closer. Nicole doesn’t pull back. She pushes forward, connecting lips with the other girl. She parts her lips and feels Shae’s tongue against her own. She brings her hands to Shae’s hips, bracing herself a little more as they continue to make out.  

A few moments later, the back door to the deck slides open, breaking the pair from their moment. Nicole looks behind her to see Waverly staring back at them. She opens her mouth to talk, but nothing comes out. 

“I, uh, sorry, I,” Waverly stutters. Her eyes remain plastered on the pair.

Nicole stops like a deer in headlights and watches as Waverly turns to leave. She wants to reach out for her and she swears she does. She feels Shae reach for her hand, lacing their fingers together before pulling her by the shirt and in for another kiss. They kiss for a moment before Nicole pulls away. 

“I need some air,” Nicole says. 

Shae looks at her confused for a moment. She’s unsure why that was what she said, seeing as though they’re already outside.

Nicole realizes she has made her third major screw up of the weekend. She quickly turns and makes her way back inside. The music is loud and she can feel the bass pulsing through her body. She scans the party, looking for Waverly but she’s nowhere in sight. 

 

Chapter Text

Nicole continues to scan the party and is quickly stopped by Rosita, asking if she is okay. She must be easy to read at the moment. 

“Have you seen Waverly?” Nicole asks. “I think I messed up,” she sighs. 

Rosita doesn’t ask about what happened, she just gestures over her shoulder. Nicole looks past the girl to see Waverly talking with Chrissy and Robin. She sighs again and makes her way over to the group. 

“Hey, can we talk?” Nicole asks, placing her hand gently on Waverly’s arm. Waverly turns toward Nicole, giving her a look she’s never received from her before. 

“About what?” Waverly asks, a little annoyed. 

Nicole looks at Chrissy and Robin, who are now looking back at her too. Chrissy narrows her eyes, giving her a look. Nicole pinches the bridge of her nose between her fingers and closes her eyes for a moment. 

“Please?” she asks. She sees Chrissy and Waverly exchange a look.

“You can have her later,” Chrissy says, dragging Waverly by the arm. “We have to go dance.”

“Right now? You have to dance, right now?” Nicole asks. They’re really trying her patience. 

Waverly nods and gestures over her shoulder. “I love this song,” she says as Chrissy drags her out of sight. Nicole internally groans and turns back toward Robin who just shrugs his shoulders at her.

“Girls, amirite?” he asks. Nicole shakes her head at him.

“Did she say anything about me?” Nicole asks. She’s not even sure why she asks him that question. She’s sure even if she did, he probably wouldn’t say anything. 

“Her and Chrissy have been whispering back and forth for a little bit here,” Robin explains. “And I’m not gonna lie, I have no idea what it was about,” he laughs and takes a sip of the drink in his hand. 

“I’m gonna need another drink,” Nicole sighs. “You need anything?” she asks. Robin shakes his head and holds up his mostly full cup. Nicole nods and heads toward the kitchen for a refill. 

On her way into the kitchen, she spots Waverly and Chrissy, dancing in the other room. She makes brief eye contact with Waverly as the brunette takes a swig of whatever she’s drinking and continues dancing with her best friend. This is the first time Nicole has ever seen Waverly drunk and she’s trying not to find it as adorable as she does. She tries flashing her a dimpled grin, only to receive Waverly’s back and a warning look from Chrissy. 

The first person she sees in the kitchen is Shae. She’s not sure how to greet her after she just made out with her and took off. Shae smiles at her softly, which makes her feel a little better.

“Hey, Shae,” Nicole says. “Listen, I’m sorry about out there,” she gestures over her shoulder. 

“Hey,” Shae says softly. “No worries,” she tells her. “I didn’t realize you and Waverly-” 

Nicole’s eyes widen at the statement.

“What?” she says quickly. “That’s not-” she pauses for a moment. The last thing she wants for Waverly is rumors going around about the two of them. “We’re just friends,” she assures her. 

“Okay, okay,” Shae says, putting her hands up in front of her. “Friends,” she says. Nicole still feels like Shae doesn't believe her. 

“Yeah,” Nicole says.

“Well, if you ever need something a little more than a friendship,” Shae says as she moves closer to the redhead. “Hit me up,” she whispers in Nicole’s ear. 

She shivers at the feeling of the girls’s breath against her skin. Nicole nods and watches as Shae leaves the room, joining more of their classmates in the other room. She refills her cup and goes back out to the party as well.


Waverly and Chrissy seem to be avoiding Nicole for about another hour. She hangs back, talking with Robin for a while. She finds him to be a really nice guy, she sees what Chrissy likes about him. She sends a text to Rosita to see if she’s still there, but she tells her that she’s already gone. Wynonna and Doc are making out in the corner, so she doesn’t even try to interrupt that. 

Finally Waverly and Chrissy make their way back over to where Nicole and Robin are talking. They look tired from dancing and definitely more drunk. Chrissy says she’s going to go get more to drink, taking Waverly’s cup for her. She gestures for Robin to come with her, finally leaving Nicole and Waverly to talk for a moment. 

“Have fun?” Nicole asks, she shoves her free hand in her pocket. She’s not sure why she’s suddenly nervous to talk to Waverly. She takes another sip from her cup.

“Yeah,” Waverly says. “I love to dance.”

“Well, you’re really good at it,” Nicole says with a smile. 

“Thanks,” Waverly smiles back at her.

“Hey, listen, I’m sorry about earlier,” Nicole starts. 

“What about it?” Waverly asks, putting Nicole on the spot. 

“I feel like I upset you, and that wasn’t my intention. I was just out there for a breather and I met Shae and-”

“And you make out with girls you just met?” Waverly asks. “Hey, if that’s your style, Nicole, who am I to stop you?” 

Nicole stops for a moment. She wants to tell her that she is more than she thinks she is. She wants to tell her she doesn’t know who she is but she wants to find out. 

“I’m here to celebrate your birthday though,” Nicole says.

“Nicole,” Waverly says. Her tone is serious. “I’m old enough now to realize that most people don’t come here to celebrate me, they come here for booze and to be around all their friends,” she explains. “You really have nothing to be sorry about.” She sees Chrissy leaving the kitchen and starts walking toward her to retrieve her drink. Nicole quickly follows after her.

“And what if I’m not most people?” she calls out, causing Waverly to turn around. 

“You’re not,” Waverly tells her. “And that’s-” she trails off and doesn’t complete the sentence. 

“That’s what?” Nicole asks, desperate to know. 

They catch up to where Chrissy is and Waverly takes the drink out of her hand. She leans in to whisper something to Chrissy. Nicole wishes she could hear what it was, but she can’t. Chrissy gives Waverly a warning look at first, then nods. 

Waverly takes a swig of her drink and turns toward Nicole. “Let’s talk upstairs,” she says. 

Nicole agrees right away, she doesn’t want to waste any opportunity to finally get to talk to Waverly alone. She follows the brunette up the stairs, both carrying a drink in hand. 

Waverly stops at a door halfway down the hallway, telling her she needs to use the bathroom and directs her to the room at the end of the hallway. “That’s my room,” she points. “I’ll be right there.” Nicole nods and takes Waverly’s drink for her.

When she arrives in the room, she slowly pushes the door open. She’s never been in Waverly’s room before and feels weird being in there alone. She sets Waverly’s drink down on her desk and looks around the room a little, trying not to be too nosy. 

There’s a shelf full of cheerleading trophies on one end of the room. She looks at them for a moment, it’s impressive. She takes a seat at the end of the bed, waiting for Waverly to return. The room is quiet, but there’s a faint sound of music and people talking coming from below her. 

When Waverly opens the bedroom door, Nicole jumps up, realizing it was probably rude to sit on the girl’s bed without her permission or knowledge. “Did I scare you?” Waverly asks. 

“I just realized I was making myself a little too at home,” Nicole laughs. “Your drink is over there,” she says, pointing at the drink.

“Thanks,” Waverly smiles. She closes the door behind her, locking the handle. Nicole notices and swallows hard. “You can sit, it’s okay,” Waverly laughs. She takes a sip of her drink again and plops down on the bed next to Nicole. 

“So how did you finally get away from Chrissy?” Nicole teases. 

“It wasn’t easy,” Waverly laughs. “She’s just protective,” she explains. Nicole gets it. Chrissy never had siblings before her, not that Chrissy really considers her much of a sister. But Waverly was the closest thing she had to a sibling for most of her life, she definitely doesn’t want to come between that bond. 

“I get it,” Nicole tells her. 

“She also doesn’t like to leave me alone with certain people when I’m drinking,” Waverly tells her. Nicole looks confused for a moment. “She’s afraid I’ll say something that I mean,” she shrugs. Nicole laughs at her honesty. 

“I really wasn’t trying to upset you,” Nicole tells her again. She is apologetic and still can’t help but feel bad.

“I was upset before that,” Waverly finally admits. Nicole turns her head to make eye contact with the girl. “Family stuff,” she shrugs. 

“Do you want to talk about it?” Nicole asks. They haven’t talked about Waverly’s family too much. Waverly just spent most of the time after Nicole met her father apologizing for his behavior. 

“My oldest sister was supposed to come into town this weekend,” Waverly tells her without hesitation. “She called me just before the party and told me she wasn’t going to make it.”

“I’m sorry, Waves,” Nicole says. The nickname is something she’s heard other people call her, but hasn’t tried it herself. Waverly doesn’t seem to care. 

“It’s fine-”

“It’s not fine if it’s upsetting you,” Nicole tells her. “Do you see her often?” she asks.

“No,” Waverly says. “And honestly, I don’t normally care. She’s kind of a jerk,” she admits. “But she said she’d be here and she’s not. I don’t know, am I being too sensitive?”

“Hey,” Nicole says, she places her hand on Waverly’s thigh trying to comfort her. Her brain short circuits for a moment when Waverly’s doesn’t push it away, but places her hand over the redhead’s hand instead. “You’re not being too sensitive,” Nicole tells her. “Families can suck big time sometimes.”

“You really get it, don’t you?” Waverly asks. Nicole nods and thinks for a moment about all the families she has spent time with.

“I’ve seen a lot of families in my life,” Nicole explains. “Every single one of them has different dynamics. You don’t ever need to apologize for being upset or something like that.”

“Thanks,” Waverly says, she squeezes Nicole’s hand. “I’m sorry I got upset when I saw you,” she says. 

So, she was upset.

“It’s okay-” Nicole tells her. 

“I was just not having the best night and you told me about the dance,” Waverly continues to explain. “And I get it, Nicole, I didn’t know what to expect when I asked you to come with me either. I know we’re friends and I just thought it would be nice to hang out together outside of our project and Chrissy’s, I mean, your house. And you seemed excited, you looked so good in your new outfit. You were confident. And when you didn’t show, I was concerned. Like I thought I did something at first, then I was worried about you,” she explains. “Like really worried.” Nicole feels the pit of guilt forming again in her stomach. The last thing she wants to do is upset the brunette. “Then you explained yourself and I was okay with it, I get being unsure of things and scared in a moment, trust me.” 

Waverly stops talking and lifts her hands to her face, rubbing it before dropping her hands back down into her lap. Nicole takes her hand off of Waverly’s leg and returns it to her own lap. “You okay?” Nicole asks.

“Yeah,” Waverly says. “I’m rambling,” she seems embarrassed. 

“It’s okay,” Nicole says with a smile. “Ramble away,” she laughs. 

“Thanks,” Waverly laughs. “When I came outside, I was checking on you. You seemed upset, and I wanted to give you a minute, but I couldn’t help but want to make sure you were okay. And I saw you and Shae and-”

“And?” Nicole asks.

“And I don’t know,” Waverly says. She stands up from the bed, pacing the room. “I don’t know why it upset me, okay?” She raises her voice a little and take a sip of her drink again. 

“Waves,” Nicole says, attempting to calm her down. She stands up and sets her drink down. She places both of her hands on the brunette’s shoulders. “Just breathe,” she tells her like she did for her earlier. She feels the brunette relax, closing her eyes and letting a breath out. “It’s going to be okay,” she assures her. 

“Thank you,” Waverly says as she opens her eyes. Nicole stays where she is, hands still ok Waverly’s shoulders, soft, hazel eyes staring back at her. She nods and moves her hands, picking her drink back up. 

“You’re welcome,” she says as she takes a sip of her drink. 

By this point in the night, the alcohol is close to taking over her ability to think straight. She thinks about taking this opportunity to just go for it and kiss the brunette. She wonders what her lips would feel like against her own. She wants to feel her body pressed closely against hers. But she doesn’t make any moves. She just takes a step back and sits back down on the bed behind her. “You don’t have to have all the answers,” Nicole tells her.

She thinks that’s hard for Waverly to hear. Waverly always has the answers, it’s in her nature. She’s the type of person that if someone needs to know something, she probably knows it. 

“That’s harder for me than you know,” Waverly laughs. 

“I know,” Nicole says. “I just mean not everything is so simple.” 

“Yeah,” Waverly says, stepping forward. She’s now standing directly in front of Nicole. With Nicole sitting in front of her, and their height difference, Waverly is just a little taller than she is now. “That’s for sure,” she says as she leans over to set her drink down on her desk. 

Waverly pauses for a moment in front of the redhead. Nicole looks up at her, eyes gazing into her own. Nicole feels Waverly’s hands gently caress her cheeks before they slide to the back of her head, tangling into her hair. Nicole doesn’t move at first, as if she forgets how to. When she feels Waverly’s lips press softly against her own, she feels like her heart is pounding out of her chest. She reciprocates the kiss right away. 

Kissing Waverly is better than she expected. Her lips and soft and warm against her own. She continues, slowly, afraid to push Waverly too far. It doesn’t take long before she feels the brunette deepening the kiss on her own. Teeth grazing her bottom lip, tongues sweeping against each other. Nicole stands from the bed, lips still connected. She wraps her arms around Waverly’s torso, trying to stop her hands from wandering where they want. Waverly’s hands become more tangled in her hair as they continue to kiss. They migrate across the room, Nicole sets her cup down on the desk and pins Waverly against the nearest flat surface she can find; the door. 

She feels Waverly giggle into her mouth as they continue to kiss, causing Nicole to smile. She’s not sure how much time passes before they pull away for air. Waverly remains with her back against the door, breathing heavily, hazel eyes making fierce eye contact. Nicole has one hand on the brunette’s hip, the other flat against the door above her head as she catches her breath. 

It’s quiet in the room other than the sound of breathing beginning to steady. On the inside, Nicole is screaming. Everything in her body is telling her to continue. Her heart is pounding. Her head is spinning. Every part of her mind is being consumed by thoughts of Waverly. 

Suddenly, there is a knock at the door, causing them to jump. Waverly gives her a panicked look and she moves away, providing the brunette with space. Nicole sits back on the bed, as if the last ten minutes never happened. She watches as Waverly turns to unlock the door, opening it to see Chrissy staring back at her. 

“Champ’s here,” Chrissy tells her. She looks past Waverly, making eye contact with Nicole. Nicole forces a smile and Chrissy gives her a suspicious look. “And he’s wasted,” the blonde huffs as she turns back toward Waverly. 

Waverly groans and opens the door fully to leave. She doesn’t look back at Nicole. 

Nicole makes her way back downstairs again after a few minutes of sitting alone in Waverly’s bedroom. She’s trying to process what had happened between her and Waverly. 

The noise level downstairs seems to have increased from what it was before they went upstairs. As soon as her feet hit the floor at the bottom of the stairs, she heads straight for a refill of her drink. 

“You better not have been using my room as a hookup spot, Haught,” Wynonna says as she enters the kitchen behind Nicole. 

“Uh, no,” Nicole says quickly. She’s nervous to tell Wynonna she was up there with Waverly, but the alcohol is making it difficult for her to hold back. “I was talking to Waverly.” She expects the warning look that comes next from the older Earp. 

“Talking?” Wynonna asks. 

“Yeah, it’s too loud down here,” Nicole trails off, turning back to see a room full of people dancing and talking loudly. 

“Yeah, what’s going on out there anyway?” Wynonna asks, referring to the increase in volume in the other room. Nicole shrugs and heads in the direction of the noise, letting out a breath once she knew she was in the clear from the wrath of Wynonna. 

When she makes it out to the other room, she sees Chrissy and Waverly hanging out with Robin. Champ Hardy, who’s clearly drunk, seems to be having difficulty standing up straight. He keeps making his way over to Waverly, whispering in her ear and receiving a not so welcoming look from the brunette. She sees Chrissy say something to the boy that she can’t hear and Robin holding him back for a moment until he stands up straight again. 

She wants to go over and see if she can help. She wants to protect Waverly from whatever is happening, but she doesn’t really know what’s going on. 

“Fuckin’ Hardy,” Wynonna groans as she walks up next to Nicole. 

“Is she okay?” Nicole asks, not taking her eyes off of Waverly. 

“I’m sure she’s fine, she’s an Earp,” Wynonna says, indicating that Waverly can take care of herself. “He’s just a drunk asshole.”

“Come on, Waves, I wanted to give you your birthday present,” Champ says, wrapping his arms around Waverly’s torso. 

The brunette pushes him away, moving her face away from him before he can press his lips against hers. Nicole feels a surge of anger fueling from within her as she watches the boy putting his hands all over Waverly, his lips landing against the brunette’s cheek.

“Champ, you’re drunk,” Waverly says as she pushes him completely off of her. 

“Everybody’s drunk! It’s a party!” Champ says in a cheerful tone. He gestures around the room at the other people who are drinking and dancing. There are cheers from other people in the room. He tries to wrap his arms back around Waverly. 

“Champ, I’m serious, stop!” she yells as she pushes him away again. Wynonna huffs and heads toward her sister, Nicole following closely behind. 

“Champ I think she asked you to stop,” Robin says, stepping in between the pair, attempting to stop the other boy from continuing. 

“Relax, Jett,” Champ slurs. He tries to move by the taller boy, but fails. “I’m just showing a girl some affection, you know what that’s like, right?” 

Robin’s eyes widen in reaction to the comment. Nicole watches, confused by what he means, but she can no longer sit back and watch.

“Leave him alone, Champ!” Nicole calls out, stepping forward a little more. 

“Oh, the new girl,” Champ huffs. He turns his body toward the redhead. His speech is slurred and his balance is off. “Protecting your own kind,” he croaks. 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Nicole asks, anger brewing inside of her more, almost bubbling over. Robin continues to stand in shock, unsure of what is about to happen.

“Jett you get it, right fag?” Champ barks. Robin’s face immediately drops 

“Okay, that’s enough, Champ,” Wynonna says. She holds the boy back, pushing him away from the group a little more. 

“Wynonna, I’m not here to start any trouble,” Champ says, putting her hands in the air in front of him, backing away from the older Earp a little more. “I was just trying to talk to your sister,” he explains.

“Talk to her with your mouth, not your hands,” Nicole chimes in.

“Oh I’ll talk to her with my mouth,” the boy says with a disgusting smirk and a wink. 

Nicole can’t take it anymore. She moves in quickly toward him, shoving him with her hands. He flies backwards and she continues moving toward him, lifting her arm up, about to strike, until she feels someone pull back on her arm. 

“Nicole, stop!” Waverly yells. Nicole turns around to see the desperate, panicked look in Waverly’s face. She relaxes slightly, putting her arm back down by her side. 

“He’s an ass, Waves!” Nicole protests. 

“I get that, Nicole!” Waverly continues to yell. “But I don’t need you to protect me! It’s not your job!” She drops her hand quickly from Nicole’s arm, pushing it away slightly at the same time. 

Nicole’s face drops and there’s a pain in her chest. “I’m just,” she says, softly.

“Maybe you should just go,” Waverly says.

“What?” Nicole pauses. She narrows her eyes at the brunette for a moment, attempting to gauge whether or not she actually wants her to leave. She’s unable to read Waverly. All she sees is a serious face that doesn’t break. “Okay.” She sets her cup down and puts her hands in the air. “Okay.” 

She looks back at Wynonna, who nods at her like she’s able to take care of it. She even thinks she gets a sympathetic look from Chrissy before she heads for the door. 

 

She steps out into the cool air of the night and starts her trek down the long driveway of the Earp house. The sound of the party fades a little more with every step she takes. It’s quiet all around her, other than the sound of her own feet against the pavement. 

She suddenly hears someone jogging up behind her. “Hey, Nicole!” she hears a familiar male voice call out for her.

“Robin, it’s fine,” Nicole says. She doesn’t turn around, she just continues to walk. “Sorry if I made it worse for you in there,” she apologizes to him.

“What? No!” Robin protests her apology. He’s now walking next to her, catching his breath.  “Champ’s a dick. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Well, he does but he’s still a dick,” he huffs.  

“I’m just really sorry,” Nicole apologizes again.

“Look, Nicole,” Robin says. “There’s really no need to be sorry. Guys like Champ will air out everybody’s dirty laundry if they think it’s going to make them look better.”

“Well, it doesn’t,” Nicole huffs. 

“Yeah,” Robin agrees. “It would take a lot to actually make Champ Hardy look good,” he laughs. Nicole gives in an laughs with him. “Do you need a ride?”

“Are you too drunk to drive?” Nicole asks. She finally turns to make eye contact with the boy. 

“No,” Robin tells her. “I actually haven’t been drinking,” he admits. Nicole is a little shocked by the confession. “I promise I’m good,” he grins. Nicole takes him up on his offer and they make their way to his car that’s parked on the side of the street, down the road from the house a little. 



“Thanks for the ride,” Nicole says as they make their way down the street toward her house.

“It’s really no problem,” Robin says with a smile. “I kinda needed to get out of there,” he shrugs. 

“Is that how all parties go around here?” Nicole asks, receiving a chuckle from the blonde boy. 

“Maybe when Hardy swings by,” Robin says. 

“What’s up with him anyway?” Nicole asks. She doesn’t understand why everyone is so in awe of him if he’s really not a good guy. 

“He just thinks he can do no wrong,” Robin shrugs. “His dad is a lawyer and good friends with Mayor Earp so he thinks he’s important. He’s my co-captain of the football team, I have to be civil,” he groans. 

“You’re a good guy,” Nicole tells him.  

“I just don't want to waste energy being mean to people. That would make me just like him,” Robin explains. 

“Well, from what I see, you’re nothing like him,” Nicole says. She leans her head back on the headrest of the seat she’s sitting in. The world is starting to spin from all the alcohol she has consumed throughout the night. “I see why Chrissy likes you,” she says. She stops herself quickly, but not quickly enough.  She realizes what she just said. “I mean-”

“I know she likes me,” he laughs. “She’s really cool. I mean, what’s not to like?”

Nicole thinks for a moment about who they are talking about. Chrissy Nedley. She wasn’t very nice from the start. She’s a little pushy. She can be selfish. But once you get to know her, deep down she’s actually really nice. She’s loyal. She’s outspoken when she needs to be and reserved other times.

“But, you know,” Robin continues, breaking Nicole from her thoughts. “She’s not really my type, I guess.” 

“Have you told her that?” Nicole asks. 

“We haven’t really had a conversation either way, but maybe I owe her one?” Robin suggests. Nicole respects the fact that Robin is willing to do that much for Chrissy. She sees that he’s not trying to hurt her. 

“Maybe,” Nicole tells him. She’s not looking to tell him what to do, but she doesn’t want Chrissy to feel strung along either. 

“Man,” Robin says. “Girls are complicated,” he teases.

“You have no idea,” Nicole groans. She lets out a sigh at the thought of the damage control she’s probably going to have to go through on Monday. 


—————-



School the next week wasn’t as smooth as the previous weeks had been. She receives several dirty looks from Champ throughout the day. She brushes them off easily, not paying much attention to him. 

She doesn’t speak much to Waverly and they don’t sit near each other in their classes. She’s not sure who’s fault that is, neither of them really make an effort to talk about anything. She’s still upset with the way the party ended. She’s still confused about the kiss they shared upstairs in Waverly’s bedroom. 

By the time lunch rolls around, she’s pretty much over the day. She plops down at the table where Jeremy is already sitting and she sees the boy start to get up from his seat. “You okay?” She asks, confused about why he is leaving. 

Jeremy doesn’t say anything and just looks back at her. Suddenly she remembers the football game and the upsetting look on Jeremy’s face when she decided not to join him to go drink with Rosita and Wynonna. “Shit,” she huffs. “Jeremy, wait,” she calls out. The boy turns around and looks at her with an annoyed expression on his face. 

“Now you want to sit with me?” He asks. Nicole gives him a sympathetic look. 

“Look, I’m sorry,” Nicole says. “I ran into Rosita and she talked me into hanging out with her,” she explains. “Lame excuse, I know.” Jeremy continues to stand by the table, looking unamused by what Nicole has to say. “It’s not easy being new here and I’m just trying to find where I fit in.” 

“So you’re cool with lunch with me but nothing outside of school?” Jeremy asks. 

“That’s not what I meant,” Nicole protests. 

“Listen, I cant make you be my friend, Nicole, and it’s probably stupid for me to be upset,” Jeremy explains. “But I don’t have a lot of friends around here either, and I thought you’d be different.” 

“I am,” Nicole insists. “I’ve been doing a lot of screwing up lately and I’m really not trying to upset you,” she explains. Jeremy sighs and his face softens. Nicole looks up at him as he takes a seat on the bench across from her. 

“This doesn’t mean I fully forgive you,” Jeremy warns her. “But this is my lunch table,” he tells her. Nicole can’t help but laugh. She gets a small smile out of the boy. 

A moment later, someone else sits down next to Nicole, causing Jeremy to give a strange look. Nicole looks next to her to see Robin starting to eat his lunch. “What’s up, guys?” He asks. 

“Hey,” Nicole says with a smile. 

“Do you need to go back over the science work before your test this afternoon?” Jeremy asks him. Robin shakes his head and takes another bite of food. 

Jeremy continues to look at him confused as he eats half his lunch rather quickly. Robin stops eating and looks back and forth between Jeremy and Nicole, who continue to stare at him. “What?” He asks. “Was someone sitting here?” 

“No, we’re just confused about why you are,” Jeremy says with a slight laugh. “No offense or anything,” he says quickly. 

“Needed a change of scene,” Robin admits, looking over at his usual lunch table where Champ is talking loudly, making some sort of jokes that he seems to find funnier than anyone else. 

“Stay as long as you need,” Nicole says, quickly with a laugh. Jeremy nods in agreement and Robin smiles back at him. Nicole looks back and forth between the two boys, unsure if they realize she sees them smiling at each other. 



By the end of the day, Nicole packs up her things and leaves the school as soon as she can. She’s not in the mood for interactions with anyone, she doesn’t even stop to talk to Rosita who’s smoking behind the school. She decides to walk to the park for community service. It’s a bit longer than she realizes, but she doesn’t mind the time to herself. 

She manages to spend most of the park cleanup on her own, avoiding much conversation with anyone. She and Waverly don’t make plans to work on their project that week, they both come up with excuses as to why they can’t. All of the excuses don’t seem real, but neither of them fight it.


——————



Every time Nicole sees Waverly throughout the week, her mind can’t help but flash back to the night of Waverly’s birthday. The feeling of Waverly’s lips on her own, her taste, the smell, all of her senses being consumed by the brunette. 

She’s unsure if Waverly told anyone, Chrissy hasn’t indicated knowing anything yet. That was until the end of the week when Chrissy started questioning her on the way to school one morning. 

“Do you like Waverly?” The question comes abruptly, throwing Nicole off. 

“What? Why?” Nicole asks. “We’re friends,” she tells her, more defensively than she intends it to be. 

“Do you like her?” Chrissy repeats. 

“I like her as a friend, Chrissy,” Nicole huffs. “Or whatever we are now,” she tells her. 

“Don’t mess with her,” Chrissy warns. Nicole looks over at her with a confused look on her face. Chrissy pulls into the parking lot of the school, looking for a parking spot. 

“What?” Nicole asks. She’s not sure where any of this is coming from. Chrissy parks the car and turns toward the redhead.

“Look, you can like who you want, I don’t care,” Chrissy says. “But don’t mess with my best friend, she doesn’t need that,” she explains. 

Nicole still isn’t sure what to say. What has Waverly told her? Did she tell her she had feelings for Nicole? 

“Yeah,” Nicole says. “I get it.” 

How is this all on her? Does Chrissy know Waverly kissed her? Does she know she pushed her away when she tried to stick up for her? 

She sighs. The blonde doesn’t question her any further as she climbs out of the car, Nicole follows seconds later. They both push the doors shut behind them and head toward the school. The beeping sound of the car doors locking fill Nicole’s ears as she sees Chrissy walk further away from her until she’s out of sight. 

Chapter Text

The rest of the month passes rather quickly. Nicole spends more time with Robin and Jeremy, both in and out of school. She sees Rosita from time to time, but hasn’t spent much time with Wynonna since the party. She does her best to avoid as many Earps as possible, finding it better than confronting what went down from the time of the kiss and afterwards. She expects that to blow up in her face at some point, but for now it’s working for her. 

After two weeks, Waverly finally tells her they should keep working on the project. Those interactions are fairly awkward but she gets through them. They don’t do much talking other than about the project and what still needs to be done. Since they’re probably the only group that’s even started it, even at this point, Nicole feels good about where they are. Waverly, on the other hand, spews anxiety about the project and Nicole ends up doing her best to assure her that it’ll all work out in the end. 

“You worry too much,” Nicole says, in a slight teasing tone. 

She’s held back on the flirting with Waverly since the kiss and the fact that they still have yet to talk about it. She’s not sure what Waverly is thinking. She was drunk, maybe she doesn’t remember it. How could she not remember it? It was probably the best kiss of Nicole’s life, and she made out with two different girls that night. She groans internally, using everything in her power not to physically slap herself in the face. She made out with two different girls that night. In her defense, they both kissed her first. 

“I just want it to be perfect,” Waverly tells her. She doesn’t turn to look at Nicole, she continues working seriously on the project.

“Want or need?” Nicole questions. She’s not trying to upset the girl, but she’d like to see her loosen up at some point. Like the night of her birthday, that was the most Nicole has ever seen Waverly let go and honestly, she didn’t think she had it in her. 

“Don’t mock me,” Waverly says, glaring back at the redhead. Nicole immediately puts her hands up in the air in front of her, defensively.  

“I’m just saying,” Nicole says. “We’ve basically been working on this since the first day of school, we have the majority of it completed, I think sometimes it’s okay to just trust that it’ll all work out.” 

“You rely too much on fate,” Waverly huffs. 

“Without it I probably wouldn’t be here,” Nicole replies, softly. Waverly doesn’t speak at first. She looks back at Nicole, this time with a softer expression on her face. She places her hand gently on Nicole’s arm. 

Nicole’s eyes drift toward Waverly’s hand. She thinks for a moment that they’re heading back to where they were before the party, before the kiss. She thinks about the casual flirting, the way she used to feel so comfortable around Waverly, the way she made her feel included. 

Her mind switches to thinking about after the kiss. The way Waverly left her hanging to get tend to Champ. The way she pushed her away when she tried to stick up for her. The way no one stopped her when she left the party. Maybe everyone is on her side until one of their own needs them more. Maybe she doesn’t fit in as much as she thought she did. 

“I think we’re good for today,” Nicole says, pulling her arm away and closing her book. “We can keep going next week.” 

Nicole expects Waverly to protest, but she doesn’t. She nods softly, she almost looks sad. Nicole wants to comfort her but stops herself. She watches as Waverly stands up from her spot at Nicole’s desk and packs her books back into her backpack. 

Nicole lays back on her bed, staring up at the ceiling. She tries hard to not make eye contact with the brunette, hoping she just leaves. 

“Nicole,” Waverly’s voice is soft, but it echoes over the screaming thoughts in Nicole’s head. Nicole lifts her head slightly to make eye contact with the brunette. “I’m sorry,” she says. 

“We don't have to do that,” Nicole says. She sits back up on the end, regain her full view of Waverly’s body. 

“Do what?” The brunette furrows her brow in confusion. 

“The sentimental thing,” Nicole tells her. “We don’t have to be anything more than history partners. I get it.”

“I-” Waverly tries to protest for a moment before she stops. 

Nicole doesn’t know what to say. She feels like she’s caused enough problems for people and isn’t looking to make anything worse. It’s probably for the best. 

“Really,” Nicole tells her. “It’s okay.” 

Waverly stares back at her for a moment. She looks like she wants to speak but she doesn’t. She looks hurt and it’s killing Nicole on the inside, but she doesn’t tell her that. 

When her bedroom door clicks closed as Waverly pulls it shut, Nicole reaches for the closest thing she can find and throws it at the door. It’s only a pillow so it doesn’t have the same effect as actually smashing something, but she figures it’s probably a better choice. She drops back onto the bed, rubbing her face with her hands. 


—————-



That Saturday morning, Nicole made plans with the Nedleys to go to the town’s annual fall festival. She regrets telling them that she will go, because it’s the last thing on her list of fun things to do on a Saturday, but apparently it’s important to Randy so she goes along with it. 

Chrissy explains the festival to her as the town’s big bash before people hibernate for the winter. From the sounds of it, the winter in this town lasts longer than anywhere she’s ever been before. Chrissy explains that her dad is being honored in front of the town for his years of dedication to the police force and they would need to be there to support him.

When they arrive at the festival, Nicole looks up at the giant banner that reads, ‘Annual Purgatory Fall Festival.’ She lets out a sigh and watches as Chrissy and her dad make their way into the event. She shoves her hands in her pockets and trails behind them. 

It doesn’t take long before they’re running into Waverly. Nicole should have known that Chrissy would be meeting up with her soon after they arrived. Chrissy and Waverly did most things together. She continues to trail behind, hoping that the brunette won’t notice her, hoping to avoid an awkward interaction that will lead to her giving Chrissy an explanation later. 

“Why are you walking so slow?” Chrissy huffs, looking behind her at Nicole. Nicole groans internally at being called out by the blonde. 

“Tired,” Nicole makes up an excuse as to why she’s not walking with them. 

“You’re tired already?” Waverly asks. “This is fall fest!” 

Nicole forces a laugh like she’s supposed to know what that means. She’s never been that into carnival type events in the past. She’s been to a few, but normally it just means hanging out with friends and riding so many spinning rides until her stomach can’t take it anymore. The difference here is that she doesn’t really have many friends. 

“I forgot this is a big deal around here,” Nicole jokes. 

“Any town event is a big deal in Purgatory,” Chrissy informs her.

“Of course,” Nicole says with a laugh. She looks around her, and spots Jeremy through a crowd near a row of overly priced carnival games. “Hey,” she says. “I’m going to go see Jeremy, catch you guys later?” she asks, hoping that she doesn’t have to spend her entire day with them. 

“Remember dad’s award is at 5,” Chrissy says. Nicole appreciates that she doesn’t try to stop her from leaving. She nods and makes a mental note to make it to the main stage to see Randy receive his award on time. She figures it won’t be too hard to remember because most of the town will probably be in the same place. 

She doesn’t stop to say anything else to the girls before she makes her way through the crowd of people to catch up with Jeremy. “Hey, Jer!” she calls out before she reaches his side. The boy greets her with a smile and a wave. “Finally someone I know,” she sighs.

“Don’t you know most of these people by now?” Jeremy teases. 

“Not many worth hanging out with,” Nicole shrugs. She’s still unsure of how much information the people of the town know about her and she doesn’t really want them in her business. 

“Well, I feel honored,” Jeremy says, pretending to bow in her honor. Nicole laughs and shakes her head at the not. “I’m glad you’re here though,” he says. “I’m supposed to be meeting Robin here and I’m kind of freaking out.” Nicole sees his demeanor switch quickly from calm to anxious. 

“Like a date?” She asks, trying to gauge the situation a little more. 

“I don’t know!” Jeremy groans. “How do you know when a guy asks you to hang out as friends or as more than friends?” He asks. “Well, I mean a person.”

Nicole laughs, appreciating the correction. “Well, what did he say?” She asks. 

“He just said, ‘Hey, you want to maybe go to fall fest with me on Saturday’ and I just agreed,” he tells her, changing his voice to mimic Robin’s. 

“Okay, so it doesn’t not sound like a date,” Nicole tells him. “But I’m not that great of a judge these days,” she trails off. 

“Still no luck with Waverly?” Jeremy asks. She hasn’t talked much about what happened during Waverly’s birthday party, except with Jeremy. She hasn’t even told Rosita in fear that it’ll get back to Wynonna and the older Earp will come kill her in her sleep. 

“Yeah,” Nicole sighs. “Nothing with Waverly,” she tells him. She tries not to seem too upset over it. 

“What about Waverly?” A familiar voice catches Nicole off guard. She cringes when she realizes who it is, hoping she didn’t overhear the entire conversation. “Haught stuff, you been avoiding me?” Wynonna calls out, causing Nicole to turn around and face the brunette. 

“No,” she says, softly. Truth is, she hasn’t gone out of her way to talk to Wynonna, but she also hasn’t seen much of her over the past month. She figures the less time she spends with her, the less she has to admit that there might be something going on between her and her sister, whatever that may be. 

“Relax, Red, I’m just teasing,” Wynonna laughs, playfully pushing her shoulder. Nicole laughs uncomfortably, finally eyeing the other girl that Wynonna is standing with. “Oh, sorry,” Wynonna says. “This is my older sister, Willa.” 

Nicole puts her hand out for Willa to shake, but she leaves her hanging. She smiles at the oldest Earp, unsure of what else to do, as she lowers her unshaken hand back down to her side. “Nice to meet you,” Nicole says.

Willa just smiles back at her. Her smile isn’t something Nicole would consider to be friendly. She’s unsure how this woman can be related to Wynonna and Waverly. Sure, Wynonna has her moments, but she’s not really someone Nicole would ever consider to be unfriendly. She just has her own way of showing affection. Nicole is unsure how to continue the conversation. She looks over at Jeremy, who is luckily still standing by her side. 

“Haught’s new here,” Wynonna explains. “She lives with Nedley, but other than that she’s cool,” the brunette teases. 

“Ah,” Willa finally speaks. “The foster kid.” Nicole wishes she just stayed mute until she was able to get away. She cringes and nods. 

“That’s me,” she says. She catches Wynonna’s sympathetic eye. 

“Willa, I thought we were working on not being a dick in public,” Wynonna retorts. A smile forms on Nicole’s mouth, she can’t help but laugh at the disgusted look on Willa’s face. “Sorry, Haught, Willa forgets manners.” 

“Wynonna forgets her place,” Willa warns. Nicole feels more uncomfortable and looks around her for an escape. 

Jeremy must have felt the tension when he finally says, “Hey, I forgot I was going to meet Robin by the tilt a whirl, you want to join me?” 

Nicole nods. “Catch you later, Wynonna,” she says before turning to walk away from the pair, but not before catching the dirty look Wynonna gives Willa which makes Nicole happy to see the brunette stick up for her. 

“She’s pleasant,” Nicole says to Jeremy when they’re finally far enough away for neither Earp sister to hear. 

Jeremy laughs. “She’s kind of the worst,” he tells her. “Don’t pay any mind to her.” 

“Where does she come from? The other two are nothing like that,” Nicole asks, then she thinks about her encounter with Ward Earp and figures out the answer to her own question. 

“Thankfully,” Jeremy laughs. “Oh man, he’s here,” he suddenly panics. Nicole watches as Jeremy stops in his tracks. She sees Robin smile from across the way, offering them a friendly wave. 

“You got this, Jer,” Nicole tells him, nudging him softly with her elbow. 

“Maybe I can just tell him I’m not feeling well,” Jeremy says, quickly. “Make you can make up a story?” 

“Relax, dude,” Nicole says. She places a hand on his shoulder.

“I’m trying!” Jeremy groans. Nicole laughs. He doesn’t seem to be trying very hard. “It’s not everyday you get asked on a maybe kind of date with the quarterback of the football team!” 

“Yeah,” Nicole agrees. “I mean, that’s never happened to me,” she teases. Jeremy shoots her a look. Nicole realizes they have been standing in the same spot, staring in Robin’s direction for a few moments now. Robin has almost made his way over to them. “Now or never,” Nicole says, gently pushing Jeremy forward. 

“Hey guys!” Robin says with a smile. Nicole smiles back at the boy and smiles. He looks different than he does in school. During school, he mostly wears jeans and either a football tee shirt or his jersey. Today he has on a pair of skinny legged khakis, and a striped shirt underneath a jean jacket. He walks over to them with his hands in the pockets of his jacket. Nicole glances over at Jeremy, who’s eyes seem to be bulging, checking the other boy out. 

They spend the next hour or so walking around the festival ith Robin. He manages to get them on a couple of rides, despite Jeremy’s protest. Nicole assumes he isn’t the kind of guy to want to ride a bunch of unsafe looking carnival rides, but she figures he does it for Robin. 

 

After riding a few more rides, they migrate over to the carnival games where Robin decides to show off some of his skills, throwing footballs through hoops and darts at balloons. 

“What’s up nerds?” Rosita says as she walks up to the three of them. 

“Way to steal Wynonna’s insults,” Nicole laughs as she turns to see the girl with a grin on her face walking up to her. Nicole is leaning up against the side of one of the carnival game displays, watching Robin.

“I’m surprised you're not up Chrissy and Waverly’s ass today,” Rosita teases, nudging Nicole in the arm. 

“I called dibs,” Jeremy says, quickly. Nicole breathes a sigh of relief when he says that, taking the attention off of her having to actually come up with a real answer. 

“I have more than one friend,” Nicole tells her. “I know it’s probably a shock,” she teases.

“It is,” Rosita says, pretending to be surprised. 

“Ha ha,” Nicole mocks. “I’m surprised you’re not up Wynonna’s ass,” she teases. 

“I haven’t seen her yet,” Rosita tells her. She looks around her a little, most likely seeing if she can find the older Earp.

“She was with Willa around here somewhere,” Nicole tells her. She’s unsure how Rosita feels about Willa, so she doesn’t make it a point to say any more about it. 

“Oh, yikes,” Rosita spits. “Did you have that pleasure?” she asks, sarcastically, indiciating to Nicole that Rosita and Willa are not friends. Nicole lets out a laugh and nods. “Did she say something to you?”

“She called me a foster kid,” Nicole tells her. “I mean, she’s not wrong. But Wynonna looked pretty embarrassed,” she says. “I didn’t think that girl gets embarrassed.”

“Only by her family,” Rosita tells her. She laughs a little. “That family is a lot more complicated than they come off,” she explains. “But that’s a story for another time. Maybe one when we’re not surrounded by the entire town,” she gestures around them.

Nicole laughs. “Good call.”

“So are you going to win me one of these obnoxious stuffed animals, or what?” Rosita asks, gesturing toward the games. Nicole internally groans at the thought of it, but gives in more easily than she thought she would. She blames boredom. 

She scans the games and quickly decides to take a shot at the basketball game. Make the ball in the hoop, win a prize. Make three in a row, win a bigger prize. Seems easy enough. Her first three shots go in easily. Her friends seem impressed, making her want to continue. 

“How’d you get so good at this?” Rosita asks as Nicole shoots the basketball toward the hoop. Nicole laughs and shakes her head as the ball swooshes through the net. 

“Used to play a little ball,” Nicole shrugs. 

“Oh, okay,” Rosita laughs. “I didn’t know we had our very own fresh prince,” she teases. Nicole gives her a confused look. “You know, shooting some b-ball outside of the school?” Rosita continues, this time singing. “Never mind,” she scoffs. 

Nicole laughs and shoots the second ball toward the hoop, nothing but net. “One more and you can pick whatever prize you want,” she tells Rosita. She isn’t much for possessions, she’s really just in it for the thrill of winning. 

When the person working the game asks her what prize she wants, she leans over to Rosita and tells her to choose. Rosita seems more excited that she expects, causing Nicole to laugh. She watches as the brunette carefully scans the prizes before pointing to one. 

When the man hands it to her, Nicole notices Waverly and Chrissy are not too far away at another game. She makes brief eye contact with Waverly, who is watching Rosita collect the prize that Nicole just won. If she’s not mistaken, she senses slight jealousy.

She wins another prize, giving it to Rosita, before they make their way to another area of the festival. She almost forgets to check the time when she realizes that most of the people seem to be migrating toward a large stage in the center of the event. She tells her friends she needs to go find Chrissy and quickly makes her way in the direction of everyone else. She scans the crowd that is already beginning to build in front of the stage. She sees Chrissy and squeezes her way between people to join her. 

“Hey, there you are,” Chrissy says as Nicole makes it to her side. 

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Nicole says. She smiles at the blonde as they take their seats in the front row, next to Randy.  

The ceremony is longer than Nicole expected. She wasn’t aware of how long Mayor Earp could talk. He talks about the town, mentioning the improvements they’ve made in the area, recognizing a few other people for various things before announcing Randy’s award. Nicole finds herself zoning out for most of the Mayor’s speech. She looks down the line of chairs to see the rest of the Earp family sitting in seats, listening attentively to every word he speaks. 

Her eyes narrow in on Waverly. She’s sitting with her legs crossed and her hands places in her lap. Her hair falls perfectly down her shoulders and back. The sunlight shines on her face, lighting it up in just the right way. 

“Is there something going on with you and Waverly?” Chrissy whispers, breaking Nicole out of her trance that the brunette seems to have over her. 

“What? No. Why?” she asks, quickly, bringing her attention back to Chrissy.

“Because before I thought you liked her. Then you’ve barely spoken to her in a month,” Chrissy says. “And you’re weird around her. And you were just staring at her,” she lists off reasons for her accusations. 

“We just hung out yesterday,” Nicole reminds her. 

“You didn’t hang out,” Chrissy says. “You worked on your project.”

“Same thing,” Nicole shrugs. She turns her attention toward the stage when Randy is finally called up to say a few words. 

“Do you still like her?” Chrissy continues to whisper. Nicole sighs, hoping the questions will somehow just stop.

“She’s my friend. I think,” Nicole tells her. Honestly, she doesn't know where Waverly currently fits into her life, but she’s constantly on her mind. 

“That’s not what I asked,” Chrissy says. 

“Why are you asking?” Nicole finally questions.  

“I’m just protecting my best friend,” the blonde says. Nicole looks confused at first. Protecting her from what? She doesn’t think she’s done anything wrong and she especially hasn’t done anything to put her best friend in harm's way. 

“Oh yeah, of course,” is all Nicole can think to say. 

“Just don’t mess with her,” Chrissy warns her again. Nicole groans internally. They’ve already been over this. 

“I’m not messing with her,” Nicole tells her again. 

“I’m just saying,” Chrissy says. 

Nicole rubs her face with her hands and turns her attention back to the stage. She tries not to focus on what Chrissy just said to her. Why is she questioning her again? Has Waverly said anything? Maybe she did tell her that they kissed. Did Waverly tell Chrissy that she likes Nicole?

She has trouble focusing on Randy’s speech, but knows it’s over when the crowd starts to cheer. She stands along with the rest of the town, clapping along with them. She congratulates Randy when he returns back from the stage and he thanks her for being there. 

As the town people start to disperse from the stage area and back to their carnival activities, Nicole hears whispers throughout the crowd, some hard to tune out. Some talk about Randy Nedley giving back to charity by bringing her into his house. Others accuse him of trying to gain points with the town by this act of kindness. Some talk about rumors they’ve heard about Nicole’s life before she arrived in Purgatory. 

She hears whispers about probation, vandalism even theft and attempted murder, which she finds more comical than offensive. With the occasional fist fight here and there, Nicole has never intentionally tried to hurt anyone in her life, so the thought of people thinking she tried to murder someone was entertaining to say the least. She wasn’t interested in impressing these people as a whole, she knows it’s not worth trying. 

She tries to make her way through the crowd quickly, catching back up with Rosita, Jeremy and Robin, who were all sitting together in seats in the back. “So you ready for the Ferris Wheel?” Rosita asks when Nicole makes her way up to them.

“Um, no,” Nicole dismisses that idea real fast. 

“Why not?” the other girl whines. “It’s fun!”

“It’s better at night,” Robin chimes in. 

“Okay, so when the sun goes down then,” Rosita says. 

“No,” Nicole repeats. One thing she’s not a fan of is heights. Although she has been on a Ferris Wheel in the past, it usually takes a lot for her to say ‘yes’. 

Rosita groans, making Nicole laugh. The group continues to wander around the carnival for the next couple of hours. Nicole is surprised that she’s able to make it most of the day without becoming too bored out of her mind. It helps that Robin, Jeremy and Rosita are there to keep her entertained. She watches as Jeremy finally loosens up around Robin, she thinks he's probably still unsure whether or not it’s a date, but they both seem pretty comfortable around each other. 

 

The sun starts to go down and Rosita starts up again with trying to get Nicole on the Ferris Wheel. Nicole continues to refuse, attempting to change the subject every time. “Why do you want me on the Ferris wheel so bad?” Nicole finally asks. 

“It’s fun!” Rosita whines, causing the redhead to laugh. 

“Did someone say it’s time for the Ferris wheel?” Robin chimes back in again.

“Ugh, no,” Nicole huffs as she turns around to face Robin and Jeremy. “You guys go on it with Rosita, count me out,” she laughs. 

“You can’t do three people in one seat!” Rosita protests. 

“Looks like someone’s going solo!” Nicole says, throwing her hands up in the air. She starts to walk further away from the group.

“Don’t be a chicken!” Rosita huffs, reaching her hand out for Nicole, pulling her back. Nicole pauses and looks up at the Ferris wheel that is now lit up against the night sky. 

“Don’t be a chicken!” 

 

She hears the voice of her the last person she rode a Ferris Wheel with echoing in her head. She thinks back to the last carnival they went to together, she feels for a moment like she’s back there again. The blonde begs her to go on the Ferris Wheel and Nicole continues to refuse. 

 

“You know I don't do heights,” Nicole tells her, unable to peel her eyes from the machine. It looks like the people are high enough up to reach the clouds. 

“What if I do them with you?” The blonde tries to reason with her. “Look, I’ll be right there with you, I’ll hold your hand, you have nothing to worry about!” 

“You say that now until something goes wrong!” Nicole tells her. “You know how old these stupid rides are?” 

“Come on!” The girl groans. “You want to forever be known as a chicken?” She asks. 

“If it means I get to keep my life, then sure,” Nicole shrugs. She becomes mesmerized for a moment by the flashing lights and the swirling motion of the ride. 

“Nicole! Don’t be a chicken!” a voice calls out to her. “Nicole?” Rosita asks, breaking her from her thoughts. 

Nicole blinks a few times, bringing herself back to reality. She looks over at her friends. Jeremy looks back at her and then at Robin. He seems to be silently begging her to go so he can ride it with Robin. She looks at Rosita, pleading with her eyes. 

“Okay, fine, let’s do it,” she sighs. She knows she's about to regret this. 

Jeremy and Robin stand in line in front of Rosita and Nicole. The stand close together, talking amongst themselves. Nicole watches the ride as it continuously goes around and around. She grows more nervous and considers ditching Rosita at the last minute, not giving her enough time to stop her. 

When it comes time, Jeremy and Robin climb quickly into one of the carts before it quickly takes them into the air. It’s time for Rosita and Nicole to climb on. She takes a deep breath in, letting it out slowly before she slides into the seat. She closes her eyes, bracing herself for the ascend to the top.

As she feels the ride start to move, she opens her eyes to see Rosita standing on the ground, becoming further out of sight. Confused, she looks to the side of her, seeing hands grasping the bar in front of them. She looks up quickly to see Waverly is sitting next to her, rather than Rosita. 

“What the?” Nicole asks. 

“Hey,” Waverly says softly. 

Hey. That’s all she’s got? Nicole is petrified on this ride and the last person she expected to be sitting next to her is now sitting next to her. 

As the ride makes it’s way back around and toward the ground, Nicole gives Rosita a warning look only to receive a shrug from the other girl. She sees her fingers start to turn white from her grasp on the bar in front of her. 

“You okay?” Waverly asks, looking her up and down. 

“I don’t really do heights,” Nicole admits. She finds herself staring at the ground as they make their way back toward the sky. 

“Then what are you doing on a Ferris Wheel?” Waverly asks.

“Rosita talked me into it. She didn’t know,” Nicole explains. “So I’m going to need you to keep talking to me, if you can,” she tells her. She finally peels her eyes off of the ground and makes eye contact with Waverly. 

“That’s why I’m here,” Waerly tells her.  

“So I can't run away? Clever,” Nicole huffs. She is distracted by the fact that she hates Ferris Wheels, but she doesn’t forget the reason she’s been avoiding Waverly. 

“You said something to me yesterday that I don’t think is fair,” Waverly explains. Nicole tries to focus on her breathing for a moment, keeping it as steady as possible.  

“What’s that?” Nicole asks. She tries to think back to the conversation she had the day before with Waverly, but struggles to remember. 

“You told me we don’t have to be anything more than history partners,” Waverly explains. 

“Why is that not fair?” Nicole asks. She cringes as the ride speeds up, making its way toward the ground again. She feels Waverly’s arm wrap around the back of her. It’s comforting. 

“You didn’t give me a choice,” Waverly says. “You just made up my mind for me and you’ve been running away ever since.”  

“Oh,” is all Nicole says. She never thought of it that way. She was trying to give Waverly an out, a reason not to have to feel guilty for not returning feelings toward Nicole. 

“We were friends, Nicole. At least I thought we were. And now we’re just history partners?” Waverly says. Her tone displays frustration and a little sadness.  

“I just thought it would be easier,” Nicole tells her.

“For who?” Waverly asks, quickly. 

“Both of us?” Nicole takes a deep breath in again as the ride continues to make circles from the ground to the sky and back. She’s sure Waverly feels  her fear because she pulls her a little tighter. 

“How about you let me tell you what I want?” Waverly suggests. 

“I’d love to know what you want Waverly because I’ve been a little confused lately,” Nicole admits. She makes eye contact with the brunette again. 

“I know. And that’s not fair to you,” Waverly admits. “It’s just not that easy,” she says. “I try to go for what I want, but there’s so many other factors, so many other people.”

“It shouldn’t be about other people,” Nicole says. “What you want is what you want, not what everyone else wants.”

“That’s a lot easier said than done,” Waverly explains. “You don’t understand, this is the world I grew up in, I can’t just go against everything they say.” 

“This isn’t real,” Nicole tells her. “It’s not reality. Not everyone is made of money. Not everything is picture perfect,” she says. 

“Maybe everyone’s perception of perfection is different,” Waverly argues. 

“Maybe so,” Nicole agrees. “But can you honestly tell me this is yours?” She gestures over the festival as they reach the top, able to see as far as the event goes. 

Waverly pauses for a moment. She doesn’t answer. Nicole feels her sink a little further in the seat next to her. She doesn’t let up on the grasp she has on her back. Their knees brush. She forgets for a moment how high in the sky they are. She looks back at the brunette and tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear. 

“Tell me what your perfect world looks like,” Waverly finally says, breaking the silence of the moment. 

Nicole thinks for a moment before speaking. The Ferris Wheel is now slowing down with them at the top. She grips the bar tighter, if that’s even possible. “One with less heartbreak?”

“Maybe heartbreak is what makes us real,” Waverly says, her hazel eyes piercing into Nicole’s soul. 

“Then I must be extremely real,” Nicole says with a small laugh. 

“You are.” Nicole feels Waverly’s fingers brush against her own before they lace between each other. She’s able to loosen her grip on the bar for a moment to allow Waverly’s fingers to fit comfortably. Her heart beats harder in her chest, not just because of her fear of heights. They continue to sit in silence, looking back at each other until they’re lowered safely to the ground. The bar loosens and they let go of each other’s hand. 

Nicole turns to face forward as they step off of the ride. The first face she sees is that of Waverly’s father, waiting angrily by the edge of the entrance. She sees Waverly cringe at the sight. She catches up to him and he pulls her by the arm as they walk away. Anger boils within Nicole at the sight. They’re not far enough away before Ward starts his lecture, giving Nicole an earful she never asked for. 

“What the hell was that?” Ward barks at his youngest daughter. 

“It wasn’t anything, dad,” Waverly tells him. “She’s my friend, it was a Ferris Wheel ride.” 

“You have plenty of friends, Waverly,” Ward huffs. “You don’t need to be fraternizing with people like her.” 

Nicole is immediately hurt when Waverly doesn’t say anything at first. What does she expect? It’s her father, she’s not going to go against her father, regardless of whether or not he’s an ass or not. Why does she expect her to be much different than anyone else? 

Probably because she knows she is. 

Nicole doesn’t wait to see what Waverly says next. She decides she’s had enough and heads for the parking lot. She’s unsure how she will get home, but she knows she doesn’t want to be there.

“Nicole, stop!” Waverly’s voice comes from behind her but she doesn’t stop until she calls for her again. 

“No, Waverly. Don’t,” Nicole says. She stops in her tracks and turns to face the brunette. “I get it, I’m never going to belong here. I’m never going to be good enough!”

“You know that’s not true, Nicole!” Waverly tells back. 

“It’s what they all think,” Nicole argues, she gestures back toward the festival. 

“What happened to them not mattering?” Waverly asks. 

“They apparently matter to you,” Nicole argues. “It’s fine, Waverly. I’ll probably be gone in a few months and then you can go back to your life as if I never existed,” she spits. 

“What do you mean you’ll be gone?” Waverly asks. 

“That’s how my life works. Don’t you get it?” Nicole asks. “I don’t get to have roots. I don’t get to even pretend I fit in with anyone. I don’t have time to. I go somewhere and someone changes their mind. Or I screw up and I’m gone again. It’s better this way,” she assures her.  

“And you’re just going to accept that?” Waverly asks, frustration increasing. 

“What else is there to do? That’s the way my life is. Your life is here, with these people and these parties. Your life is set for you but so is mine. We’re from different worlds,” Nicole says, she sounds defeated. 

“I call bullshit,” Waverly says in a serious tone. 

“Huh?” Nicole asks. 

“I call bullshit,” Waverly repeats. “You’re just going to sit there and accept that? Like it’s your only option in life? To screw up? You can make your own choices too you know? You sit here and preach at me telling me I’m from this world that isn’t even real. What about the real you, Nicole? You put on this front all the time and never actually let anyone in!” She yells. “How far is that actually going to get you?” 

“It’s better that way,” Nicole argues. “You don’t let people in, you don’t get hurt,” she says with a shrug. 

“But it’s not real, right?” Waverly argues. 

“It works for you, why can’t it work for me?” Nicole spits back at her. 

“Screw you, Nicole. You can’t just tear other people down because you don’t get what you want!” Waverly yells. Nicole can see the anger brewing inside the brunette. 

“Like you have any idea about what I want,” Nicole huffs. She tries to turn around to walk away, but Waverly continues. 

“Sure, yeah, whatever,” Waverly huffs back at her. 

“You kissed me, remember?” Nicole reminds her as she turns back toward the brunette.  

“We were drunk,” Waverly argues. Nicole cringes at the thought that she’s about to blame alcohol for this mess. 

“So you only make out with girls when you’re drunk?” Nicole asks. 

“You’re one to talk,” Waverly huffs. “You were literally making out with Shae two hours before that!”

“We were drunk,” Nicole mocks. 

“Good one, Nicole,” Waverly huffs. She rolls her eyes at the redhead. 

“Why does it even matter what I want?” Nicole finally asks. 

“Because you matter too,” Waverly tells her. 

“Look, I’ve made it almost eighteen years not really mattering to anyone…” Nicole trails off. 

“Don’t do that!” Waverly groans. Her tone becoming increasingly louder. 

“Do what?” Nicole asks. 

“You infuriate me sometimes,” the brunette huffs and dramatically throws her hands in the air for a moment before letting them drop back to her sides. 

“I infuriate you?” Nicole asks. “Waverly, you could have everything you could ever imagine in life. You could have anyone you want, yet you continue to waste your time on someone like me?” She finally asks. 

“You matter to people, Nicole,” the brunette tells her. 

“That doesn’t answer my question,” Nicole says. She takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly in attempts to calm herself down. 

“You matter to me. You’re my friend and I like having you around,” Waverly answers.

“Friends, right,” Nicole says. It’s not exactly what she wants to hear. She’s unsure how they can go back to being just friends without things being weird. She’s unsure how Waverly can act like nothing happened. How she can act like she didn’t feel anything. She nods and agrees anyway. 

Chapter Text

"So let me get this straight, you can’t just take me back to the city with you?" Nicole asks the man sitting in front of her at the diner, as she takes a bite of her fries that are on the plate in front of her.

 

"No," the man says, plainly.

 

"Okay, so can you at least get me out of this camping trip?" Nicole asks. With the school's fall camping trip quickly approaching and things still being weird between her and Waverly, the last place Nicole really wants to be is anywhere where things can become more awkward than they already are.

 

“No,” he repeats. 

 

“What are you good for then?” Nicole scoffs. “I thought we were friends.”

 

“I’m your probation officer,” the man laughs. 

 

“Close enough,” Nicole groans. 

 

“Do you want to tell me why you don’t want to go?” Dolls asks. Nicole knew he wouldn’t let her get away with not giving him more details. 

 

“These people suck, Dolls,” Nicole tells him. She’s given it a shot. She’s even made some friends, but she doesn’t see this as a permanent residence and doesn’t want to continue wasting her time. 

 

“That’s not what it was like last time I was here,” Dolls reminds her. Sure the last time he had stopped by, she told him she was finding it to be not as bad as she thought. The last time he was around, things weren’t weird between her and Waverly. 

 

“Well, things change,” Nicole huffs. She takes a sip from the water on that’s on the table in front of her. 

 

“What’s her name?” the man asks. 

 

Nicole glares back at him. “What makes you think it’s a her?” she questions. She groans internally at the through of her probation officer having her completely figured out.

 

“Is it a he?” Dolls questions. She knows very well that he’s just joking with her. 

 

“What makes you think it’s a person? Nicole asks. “Can’t I just not want to go?” she continues to question. “Look, I’ll do anything. I’ll add more time to my community service. Don’t make me spend an entire weekend with these people somewhere in the woods!” she pleads with the man. 

 

Dolls continues to deny any request that Nicole makes to get out of going on the school camping trip. She focuses unnecessary anger toward the man about the situation, but finally relaxes, realizing she’s just going to have to suck it up and go through with it. At least she’ll have Jeremy, Robin and Rosita there with her. How bad can it be?




———————




The morning of the camping trip, Nicole is in her room playing her guitar. Her bag is half packed and sitting open on her bed. She figures she’ll just throw some clothes together when it’s almost time to leave. She’s still not feeling great about having to spend the weekend with the kids in her class, so there’s not much urgency to get ready. There’s a knock on her door and she calls out, letting the person know it’s open. Chrissy appears in the doorway seconds later. Nicole doesn’t stop playing, but she looks up to see who it is.

 

“You sound pretty good,” Chrissy says, gesturing toward the guitar. “A little emo,” she teases. 

 

“Secondhand Serenade,” Nicole tells her with a laugh. “My go to,” she laughs. She sets the guitar down on the bed next to her to give the blonde her full attention.

 

“You should really get an amp,” Chrissy says. “It would sound so much better.” Nicole laughs a little at the thought. She knows Chrissy doesn’t mean anything by it, but she’s never been able to just go out and buy whatever she wants, whenever she wants. 

 

“Maybe someday,” Nicole shrugs. “Did you need something?” she asks, looking for the reason for the visit.

 

“Dad’s asking if you’re almost ready to head up to the school,” she says. Nicole turns around and looks at her duffle bag, wishing it would just pack itself. She glances at the clock and realizes she’s pushing it on time a little. 

 

“Um,” she says. “Ten minutes?” she asks. She stands up from the bed and shoves some more clothes into the bag. Chrissy looks down at her bag, then up at her, giving her a slightly disgusted look.

 

“Yeah,” Chrissy says, looking back at the bag before turning to leave the room. Nicole gives her bag a quick once over before throwing on a hoodie and heading downstairs to meet up with Randy and Chrissy. 



When they arrive at the school, the parking lot is already full of other cars. Chrissy groans at the fact that they’re running late and blames Nicole. Nicole shakes her head at the blonde, telling her that they’re all going to the same place and the bus wasn’t going to leave without them. Chrissy huffs and moves quickly toward the bus. Nicole laughs and thanks Randy for the ride before following in the direction that Chrissy just went in. 

 

By the time she makes it on the bus, Nicole scans the seats for an empty spot. She sees Chrissy, who is sitting next to Waverly, by the window. She’s completely ignored by the blonde, but Waverly offers her a smile and a wave. She smiles back and continues scanning the rest of the seats, finding Rosita already sitting next to the window with no one else next to her. The bruette smiles up at her and she slides into the seat next to the aisle, placing her backpack in her lap.

 

“Man, where have you been?” Rosita asks. “I didn’t think you were coming for a minute there!” she laughs. 

 

“Trust me,” Nicole huffs. “I tried to get out of it,” she says. She’s not really into class bonding with a class that she barely talks to. Rosita laughs at the redhead. Nicole is unsure if Rosita realizes how serious she’s being.

 

“At least we have each other,” Rosita laughs, nudging the redhead in the arm.

 

“Thank god for that,” Nicole sighs, causing Rosita to laugh again. 

 

It doesn’t take long before Rosita is asleep on the bus. Nicole looks over to see her leaning up against the bus window, with her head back on the seat. She reaches into her backpack and pulls out a pair of headphones, plugging them into her phone and placing them in her ears. 

 

She hears someone call out across the bus and other loud talking. She leans in toward the aisle of the bus, to see some of her classmates standing in the aisle, others standing near their seats, talking loudly and laughing. She rolls her eyes at the obnoxious football players trying to show off for some of the girls. She sees Waverly sitting near the aisle, a few rows up from her. She catches a quick glimpse of the brunette’s smile before she tucks herself back into her seat and turns on her music. She closes her eyes, hoping the time will go by quickly.



She’s about half way through her playlist when she feels the bus slowly down to make a turn. She looks to her right to see Rosita shifting in her sleep. Nicole looks past her to see the bus driving into the camp. She doesn’t know what to expect when they arrive. She’s never been camping before. The only thing she’s heard about the trip is that it’s at a summer camp that’s not typically used in the fall and it’s the trip everyone looks forward to as a senior. 

 

It looks like a pretty nice place, something she should probably have expected. It’s surrounded by hills and trees. Lots of trees. They drive by a volleyball net, some basketball courts and a tennis court. There’s a dock that leads out to a lake with some boats and a buoyed off swimming area, even though it’s definitely too cold to swim. 

 

As they continue driving, Nicole takes notice of the cabins lined up on the other side of the property. There’s a few fire pits and picnic tables nearby the cabin areas. The thought of sitting by a fire under the stars makes her think, for a short moment, that she might enjoy it here. 

 

As students pile off the bus, they’re given their cabin assignments. As Nicole exits the bus, she’s told she’s in cabin 4. She’s happy to hear Rosita receive the same cabin number and the pair gather their bags and head for their cabin. “I hope you’re good with the top bunk,” Rosita tells her as they walk through the door. Nicole laughs.

 

“Whatever,” she says as she fully enters the cabin to see Chrissy, Waverly and two other classmates of theirs already occupying the cabin. She internally groans at the thought that she has to sleep feet away from Waverly. Rosita must have seen the uneasy look on her face because she taps her on the arm to gain her attention. 

“Unless you just want to shack up in one bed,” she says with a wink. Nicole laughs and shakes her head at the girl as she tosses her backpack up to the top bunk above Rosita’s head. She steals a glance at Waverly just in time to see the brunette rolling her eyes at Rosita. 

 

“Shut up,” she huffs at Rosita. While she enjoys the fact that Waverly gets jealous over the two of them, she still feels bad for upsetting her. Rosita winks at her again and taps her on the ass. “Yeah,” Nicole says. “I’m going to go explore.” She tosses her duffle bag in one of the cubbies in the cabin and grabs a sketchbook out of her backpack before she heads out the door.

 

Nicole spends the next couple of hours checking out the camp. She’s unsure if she’s supposed to be wandering around alone, but she enjoys the quiet enough not to care. After a while, Rosita catches up to her and joins her on her walk.

 

“Man, I thought you wanted to hang out with me,” Rosita whines. 

 

“Are you going to keep trying to make Waverly jealous?” Nicole asks.

 

“Do you think it’s working?” Rosita asks. Nicole stops walking and stares back at her, giving her a warning look. “What?” Rosita asks as if she’s not doing anything wrong.

 

“You don’t have to do that, you know?” Nicole huffs. 

 

“Well, at least you know she’s interested,” Rosita shrugs. Nicole rolls her eyes at the other girl and continues walking. “Okay,” Rosita huffs. “I’m sorry!” she calls after her. 

 

“I don’t need to piss her off more than I already have,” Nicole tells her. “I just want to get through this weekend without making anything worse. It’s bad enough I have to sleep across from her now!” 

 

“Okay, okay,” Rosita says, putting her hands up in front of her. “I’ll stop,” she promises. “But also, I got Robin and Jeremy to switch into our cabin so you at least have more people on your side.” 

 

“Wait, really?” Nicole asks. 

 

Rosita nods. “Figured you’d feel better having your friends nearby,” she says. “Especially if you have to sleep across from Waverly all weekend,” she teases.

 

“Thank you,” Nicole says, turning back toward the dark haired girl. “So what are you up to?” she asks. 

 

“Looking for you,” Rosita says. “I guess we’re supposed to eat dinner soon,” she tells her. Nicole nods and the pair makes their way back over to where the rest of the class is. 



Nicole is impressed by the food at the camp, it’s even better than the school food. Not that the school food is the best, but it’s still better than anything she’s ever had in school. She sits with Rosita, Jeremy and Robin for dinner. She notices Robin and Jeremy have been closer than ever since the fall carnival. Jeremy hasn’t told her if there have been any changes in their relationship, but she still finds them adorable anyway. She notices that Chrissy spends less time trying to gain Robin’s attention. She hasn’t asked him if he’s talked to her yet, but she assumes it’s because of what Champ said at the party.

 

She looks across the way to see Waverly and Chrissy sitting at the next table over. A couple of the football players sit with them at the table. She tries not to look too much in fear of making eye contact with Champ. She hasn’t talked to him since the party and she’s still unsure about anything going on between him and Waverly. Every once in awhile she sees him try to put his arm around her, but she quickly pushes it away, which makes Nicole smile. 

 

After dinner, the plan is to hang out until it’s dark enough to have fires in the fire pits outside. Nicole takes advantage of this time to sit outside at a picnic table, drawing in her sketchbook. The table she finds is far enough away from the group where she can have some privacy, but close enough to be able to observe what’s going on.

 

“What are you drawing?” Waverly asks as she comes up behind Nicole. The redhead turns her head as Waverly takes a seat next to her on the bench of the picnic table. This is the first time the brunette has really tried to talk to her. She misses spending time with her. 

 

“Nature,” she replies, gesturing toward her sketchbook. She doesn’t try to cover up the drawing, she just looks back toward the book and continues putting graphite to paper. 

 

“Can I see?” Waverly asks softly. She straddles the bench next to where Nicole is sitting and scoots her body closer to the redhead until their knees are touching under the table. 

 

“Uh, sure,” Nicole says. She’s never quick to allow someone else to see her drawings, but she continues to have a soft spot for Waverly, regardless of what has and has not happened between the two of them. She slides the book over toward Waverly, allowing her to fully see the drawing. 

 

“Wow, Nicole, this is really good!” Waverly tells her. Nicole watches her as she studies the drawing, eyes tracing each line. 

 

“Thanks,” Nicole says with a smile. She’s not used to getting feedback on her drawings, but it’s nice to hear it. 

 

“Do you still draw people?” Waverly asks as she slides the sketchbook back over to Nicole. 

 

“I do,” Nicole says, taking the book back and continuing to draw a little more. She can feel the brunette watching her as she makes marks on the page. 

 

“Have you drawn me?” Waverly asks. Nicole stops drawing. She’s not sure what to say. Of course she’s drawn Waverly. There are days where she can’t stop drawing her, but she’s afraid to tell her that. 

“I have, yeah,” she says, turning her head to gauge the brunette’s reaction to her confession. Waverly’s face lights up. 

 

“Can I see?” she boldly asks. 

 

“Oh, um,” Nicole isn’t sure why she didn’t expect Waverly to ask her to see the drawings of herself. She suddenly feels exposed and vulnerable. 

 

“I’m sorry if I’m being too forward,” Waverly says, sheepishly. 

 

“No, no,” Nicole says. “It’s okay. I’m just not used to showing my drawings to a lot of people.”

 

“Have you shown them to Rosita?” Waverly asks. Nicole looks at her confused for a moment, unsure as to why she’s being asked that. 

 

“No,” Nicole says. “We don’t really talk about my drawings,” she tells her. 

 

“Oh,” Waverly says. She seems a little confused still. 

 

“Why?” Nicole asks.

 

“Aren’t you guys like,” Waverly starts. Nicole’s eyes widen when she realizes what the brunette is about to ask. “Together?” Nicole breaks out into laughter.

 

“What?!” Nicole asks, still laughing. “No,” she says. “We’re just friends.”

 

“Oh, I, uh,” Waverly stutters. She looks slightly embarrassed. 

 

“Hey,” Nicole says, placing her hand on Waverly’s arm. It feels like electricity. “It’s okay, I know she says a lot of suggestive things,” she shrugs. “But we’re just friends.”

 

“Okay,” Waverly says. Nicole can’t tell, but she thinks she sees relief fall over the brunette. “You really don’t have to show me any more of your drawings though,” Waverly says, retracting her request.

 

“Uh, no, it’s okay,” Nicole reluctantly agrees. She looks around her to see if there is anyone else around. The sun is starting to go down and most of the class is moving down toward the fire pits. She opens her sketchbook to a drawing of Waverly, sliding it across the table. She feels a sudden pit in her stomach, looking away as the brunette scans the drawing. 

 

“Nicole,” Waverly says, gaining the redhead’s attention. She turns back toward her, seeing her face light up. “Wow!”

 

“You’re easy to draw,” Nicole tells her, giving her a soft smile. 

 

“Why?” Waverly asks, continuing to look at the drawing. 

 

“You’re easy to think about,” Nicole admits, easily, with a shrug. She sees a small smile form on Waverly’s face as if she’s trying not to be seen smiling. Nicole smiles back at her when she sees the brunette's cheeks blush. Waverly slides her finger behind the page of the sketchbook and starts to flip to the next page. Nicole doesn’t stop her, she just looks at the next drawing with her. She leans in a little, her body pressing slightly against Waverly’s. 

 

“That’s Xavier Dolls, my probation officer,” she says in a mocking tone causing Waverly to giggle. “He’s a pretty cool guy to put up with me for so long,” she says. 

 

“I’m sure it’s not as hard as you think,” Waverly says. She flips another page.

 

“That’s my dad,” Nicole says. She runs her finger softly against the drawing. 

“He’s handsome,” Waverly says, studying the drawing carefully. Nicole feels her looking back up at her and looks over at her, making brief eye contact before looking back at the drawing.

 

“He was, yeah,” she says. Waverly gives her a sympathetic look. “He died when I was seven,” she tells her, softly. 

 

“I’m sorry, Nicole,” Waverly says apologetically. She feels the brunette place her hand on the small of her back. She’s never sure what to say when someone apologizing for her father being dead. It’s been long enough that she’s had time to cope, even if it still sucks at times. But no one that apologizes for it is ever the reason he’s gone. 

Yeah,” she says. “It’s really okay,” she tells her. Nicole flips the page of her sketchbook to take the attention off having to talk about her father. She immediately regrets it when she turns to a drawing of the blonde girl who takes up several pages of her sketchbooks and her past. She quickly shuts the book and pulls it toward her. 

 

“Who was that?” Waverly asks.

 

“No one,” Nicole says, quickly. She moves the book out of Waverly’s sight. 

 

“Oh, come on!” Waverly whines. She reaches for the book, pulling at Nicole’s hand. Nicole resists, pulling her hand away.

 

“No,” Nicole says. She tries to keep a stern tone, but ends up grinning back at the brunette when she sees the pouty lip she gives her. “That’s a story for another time,” Nicole tells her. 

“Ugh,” Waverly huffs. “Fine!” She puts her lip away, causing Nicole to laugh again and shake her head. “Why are you shaking your head?” Waverly asks.

 

“You’re pouting,” Nicole tells her. 

 

“And?” Waverly asks. 

 

“And nothing,” Nicole can’t help but smile back at the brunette. She’s not sure what’s come over her. Somewhere in the last half hour she feels like she’s thrown the whole idea of avoiding Waverly and just get through the weekend out the window. She groans internally at herself for her lack of willpower, but she can’t help but find the brunette extremely adorable as she pouts when she doesn’t give her what she wants. “It’s cute,” Nicole tells her.

 

Waverly blushes again and looks away from the redhead, avoiding eye contact. 

 

“Waves!” Chrissy’s voice calls her from across the way. Nicole doesn’t mean to externally groan, but she does. She’s annoyed with Chrissy for ruining the moment. 

 

“She beckons,” Waverly laughs. Nicole wants to reach out and grab her hand, telling her not to go. She wants to tell her to forget about them and stay for just a moment longer. She doesn’t. Instead, she watches as Waverly stands up from the picnic table and turns to head toward the fire. What she doesn’t expect is for Waverly to turn back toward her, reaching her hand out. Nicole places her hand in the brunette’s and Waverly pulls, helping her up from the picnic table. She she’s fully standing, she drops her hand from Waverly’s. “Come on,” the brunette says, gesturing to Nicole to follow her. 

 

She gives in and follows Waverly back down to the crowd of students from her class. She groans internally because she didn’t want to moment to end. She felt like they finally had a chance to be alone again, no expectations, no one from her family judging her, just the two of them. 

 

When they reach the others, most of the class is broken up into their friend groups. Nicole sees Rosita sitting with Robin and Jeremy on one side of the fire and Chrissy on the other. She’s torn for a moment, not wanting to leave Waverly, but she decides to take a turn toward her friends. As she sits down on a log, nearby Jeremy, she’s confused when she sees her friends looking past her until she turns her head and sees Waverly take a seat next to her on the log.

 

“Not hanging out with Chrissy?” Nicole says in a hushed tone as she leans in a little toward the brunette. 

 

“I didn’t want to hang out with the guys she’s with,” Waverly explains. She looks over at the group and sees them giving Waverly dirty looks. Champ looks at her with a questioning look and Waverly turns her head away from him. 

 

“Well, you’re welcome over here,” Nicole says with a smile. The rest agree and they spend the next hour or so talking casually. After a while, Chrissy joins them, telling them that she’s had enough of the rest of the football team and their immature conversations. 

 

 

As the night goes on, classmates begin to retire to their cabins for the night. Nicole looks up at the stars and becomes mesmerized for a moment. The thought of going inside doesn’t cross her mind, she would stay outside all night if she could. 

 

“Are you getting tired?” Waverly asks. Nicole looks down from the sky and back toward Waverly. She sees the brunette crossing her arms across her chest and shivering. 

 

“You’re cold,” she says. She doesn’t waste time before she stands up and takes her sweatshirt off, handing it to Waverly. Waverly doesn’t protest. She smiles and thanks Nicole as she puts the sweatshirt on her body. “I’m sorry, what did you ask?” Nicole realizes she was talking to her. 

 

“Are you tired?” Waverly repeats. 

 

“Not really,” Nicole tells her. “I like this,” she gestures to the fire and all around her. “It’s nice.”

 

“It is,” Waverly says with a smile. Nicole realizes that she is staring back at her. Nicole glances around them to see most of their classmates have left now, only a few are left, but they leave soon after. 

 

“I can walk you back up if you’re tired,” Nicole tells her. 

 

“No,” Waverly quickly protests. “I wouldn’t want to leave you alone.” Nicole smiles back at the brunette. She doesn’t mind the company, especially not from Waverly. “Thanks for letting me crash with your group tonight,” Waverly says. “I really can’t stand being around Champ and those other guys.”

 

“What’s so great about him anyway?” Nicole asks. “He’s an ass.”

 

“My dad is friends with his dad,” Waverly explains. “He has this crazy idea that we should be together. And apparently Champ likes to think so too,” she huffs. “It’s all about the image,” she rolls her eyes. 

 

“You’re not one of them, you know?” Nicole says. She looks up from poking at the fire with a stick, turning her focus to the brunette sitting on the log next to her.

 

“Who?” Waverly asks. Nicole notices the way the glow of the fire lights up the brunette’s face. Her eyebrows are slightly furrowed in confusion.

 

“The beautiful people,” Nicole tells her. She sees Waverly’s face drop slightly and realizes she might have said something wrong.

 

“Thanks?” Waverly’s tone conveys the fact that she’s slightly offended.

 

“No. It’s not what you think,” Nicole quickly tries to backpedal out of the situation. She reaches her hand out for Waverly’s. The brunette remains seated with her hands in her lap. Nicole’s fingertips lightly brush Waverly’s leg before he hand drops back down to her side. 

 

She lets out a sigh before continuing. “When I was growing up, we didn’t have much. My mom ditched us. My dad tried but he came up short a lot. I used to get mad at him because we didn’t have anything. I wanted to just have a taste of having whatever I want, you know? So my dad took me out here. He showed me the life of the upper class, how the other half lived. He called them the ‘beautiful people.’ I told him they all looked happy. He told me looks can be deceiving. He told me if I ever had a chance to really see through the facade, I’d understand. He told me that money doesn’t buy happiness and you can still be alone in a room full of people. Those people fit in by changing everything they are. That’s not real, Waverly. And that’s not you.”

 

Waverly doesn’t speak. She looks back at the redhead as if she watches every word come out of her mouth. Nicole’s senses feel heightened. As her voice fades out as if she’s waiting for Waverly to speak, all she can hear is the sound of buzzing from insects in the woods. There’s a soft breeze rustling the trees. The smell of fresh air and a campfire fills her nose. She’s silent. She can’t find words to fill the void.

 

“Are you okay?” Nicole breaks the silence. “Waverly I didn’t mean to-”

 

“No,” Waverly says. “I just-” 

 

The brunette leans forward, quickly, placing her hands on Nicole’s thighs to brace herself as their lips crash together. Nicole is startled by the action but accepts it once her brain catches up with what is happening. Waverly slides her body from the log next to Nicole to where she is now sitting on the redhead’s lap, facing her, lips still connected, bodies flush against each other. Nicole slides her hands to Waverly’s lower back, giving her extra support so she doesn’t fall.

 

The kiss quickly deepens, Nicole feels Waverly’s tongue brush lightly against hers. She parts her lips a little more, welcoming it. She tries to fight the urge to move her hands from the position they’re currently in, in fear that she will take it further than Waverly wants her to. They continue for a few moments until Waverly pulls back, gasping for air.

 

Nicole is slow to open her eyes but when she does, she sees Waverly looking back at her. She is silent and Nicole can’t quite read the look on her face. She desperately wants to continue kissing the girl in front of her, but she waits to see what her next move is.

 

Waverly steadies her breathing without breaking eye contact with Nicole. It’s almost as if Nicole can see the brunette processes everything that just happened in the last five minutes in her head. She finally speaks.

 

“I gotta go.” 

 

Waverly’s words sound desperate and a little panicked. She stands up from Nicole’s lap.

 

“What?” Nicole asks. She is confused. She reaches out her hand toward Waverly but just lets it brush against her side before she brings it back down toward her own lap.

 

“It’s okay, I should just really,” Waverly stutters a little as she gestures over her shoulder toward their cabin.

 

Nicole takes in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. She finally musters up enough courage to do what she wishes she had done the last time Waverly ran off after they kissed. 

 

"Wait," she calls out, stopping the brunette in her tracks. "Please don't go." She can see the deep breath that Waverly sucks into her lungs. She watches as she closes her eyes before releasing the breath back into the night air.

 

Waverly nods and moves back toward the Nicole. She isn't sure what to expect, so she opens her arms for the brunette, enveloping her as she presses her body against her own. She feels Waverly press her face against her chest and she rests her chin on the top of her head. A few moments go by before anyone speaks. Waverly finally peels her head off of Nicole's chest and leans back, Nicole tilts her head down to look into the hazel eyes gazing up at her.

 

"I really need to stop kissing you like that," Waverly finally speaks, her cheeks blush slightly. Nicole can't stop the grin that forms on her face. "Why are you looking at me like that?" Waverly asks, smiling herself. 

 

"You really don't need to stop," Nicole says through her grin. Waverly shakes her head and pushes off of the redhead a little further, placing hand flat against Nicole's abdomen.

 

"I just," Waverly says. "We just," she stutters. "I can't keep-"

 

"Why?" Nicole asks as Waverly turns away from her more. She tries reaching out, gently grasping around the brunette's wrist. Waverly turns back toward Nicole and takes her hand in her own.

 

"I could give you a million reasons why this shouldn't happen," Waverly sighs.

 

"Then let me give you a reason why it should," Nicole says, she pulls the brunette toward her more. Her right hand quickly finds its way to Waverly's left cheek, sliding across her cold skin, tangling her fingers into her hair.

 

There's not much time before their lips crash together again. Waverly returns the kiss immediately. It’s soft and sweet at first, but quickly deepens. Nicole takes a sharp breath in when she feels Waverly’s hands begin to explore her body, something Nicole has always stopped herself from doing before. 

 

She feels Waverly’s cold fingertips graze the skin just above her pantline, under her shirt. The brunette bunches up the fabric of Nicole’s shirt in her hands, pulling their bodies impossibly close. Nicole lets her hands move down Waverly’s back, feeling every curve, stopping at the small of her back. 

 

When they pull apart, they barely separate, leaning their foreheads together. Nicole can feel the brunette’s breath against her own, slowing down with every second that passes. Nicole takes a moment before slowly opening her eyes to see Waverly is doing the same. She pulls a little further apart, but their arms are still wrapped around each other. 

 

“I’m just not sure if anyone is ever going to be okay with this,” Waverly finally speaks. Nicole feels a pain in her chest at the words coming out of the brunette’s mouth, but she knows she’s willing to do what it takes to fight. 

 

“What about you?” Nicole asks. “Why don’t you take a second from trying to please everyone around you and think about what you, Waverly Earp, is okay with? What do you want?” she asks. 

 

She sees tears begin to form in Waverly’s eyes. The pain in her chest is back. She reaches up and wipes a stray tear from Waverly’s cheek. It’s warm against her cold cheek.

 

They stand in silence for a few moments. Nicole gives her time to speak. She gives her time to think. The last thing she wants is to be another person in Waverly’s life trying to make her do something she doesn’t want to do. 

 

“I want,” Waverly finally speaks. She places her hand flat against Nicole’s chest. She grasps the fabric of Nicole’s shirt and pulls her closer, kissing her gently on the lips. “I want you, Nicole.” 

 

The words come out of Waverly’s lips, cutting through the chill of the night. Nicole feels a warmth come over her and a smile grows on her face. “I want you too,” Nicole says. She lays a few more kisses on the brunette’s lips. She doesn’t want to stop kissing her, but she sees the brunette yawn and feels guilty for keeping her out late. “It’s getting late,” she says. 

 

Waverly whines and digs her face into the redhead’s chest, causing Nicole to laugh. “Fine,” she groans. “Can we do this again tomorrow night?” the brunette asks. 

 

Nicole nods. She’d do this every night if she could. She takes Waverly’s hand, lacing her figures between her own and they head toward the cabin together. When they approach the door, Nicole reaches out to open it, but Waverly stops her for another kiss. Nicole doesn't object and returns the kiss. 

 

When they make their way into the cabin, they move slowly, trying to remain as quiet as possible. It’s quiet, other than the sound of their classmates breathing and a few snores here and there. Nicole climbs to her bunk, attempting not to wake Rosita, who is sleeping in the bunk below her. 

 

She rolls over in the bunk, expecting to see Waverly crawling into her own bed. Instead, she sees her climbing the ladder into her bed instead. Nicole laughs, trying to stay quiet. She shifts over, lifting her blanket, allowing Waverly to curl up next to her. She smiles as their heads hit the pillow simultaneously. Nicole wraps her arms tightly around the girl next to her. She doesn’t want the night to end, in fear that things won’t be the same in the morning. Her thoughts run wild in her head. They’re almost deafening and she has trouble muting them. She closes her eyes and feels Waverly kiss her cheek, softly. “Goodnight,” Nicole whispers into the darkness.

 

Waverly slides her arm across Nicole’s torso, resting it gently on the redhead’s back. “Goodnight,” she hears her whisper back before exhaustion takes over and she succumbs to sleep.