Actions

Work Header

cardigan

Work Text:

It didn’t take long for Waverly Earp to find the perfect outfit for the party that evening. A faded graphic t-shirt, one she stole from her sister Wynonna, tucked into her high waisted jeans with simple black stilettos and dark lipstick to match. Her brunette hair cascaded in loose curls down her back.

 

She contemplated driving her jeep over but decided that walking the two blocks would be a smarter move, given that she was planning on drinking. She’d long since mastered the art of walking in heels on uneven ground anyway. The chill of the early fall air bit at her arms and toes. She really wished she’d brought a sweater.

 

As she walked, her mind drifted to the conversation she had with her sister while she was getting ready.

 

“You’re sure this is a good idea?” Wynonna asked.

 

Waverly huffed indignantly, “Yes, Nonna.”

 

“I’m just saying,” the older Earp sipped from a beer bottle, “she’s gonna be there.”

 

“It’s her house, her party. Of course she’ll be there.”

 

“And you’re okay with seeing her?”

 

“I’ll be fine.”

 

“Doubt it,” Wynonna murmured under her breath.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“Just… call me if you need me to come get you.”

 

“Do you seriously think I can’t handle myself around her?”

 

“You can handle yourself, sure, but I just think it’ll be harder for you than you expect. You haven’t seen her in, what, three months?”

 

Three months and five days, Waverly thought. “What, do you think you know better than me?!”

 

“I know you, babygirl. You’re not over her. I don’t want to see you hurting.”

 

“Would you just butt out already?”

 

“Fine. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

 

Waverly approached the doorstep she knew all too well. Music and the echo of voices could be heard already. Good, maybe she could avoid any awkwardness with the crowd between her and the girl she, admittedly, still loved.

 

She entered the house to be greeted by a large group in the living room. Some were dancing on one end of the room, while others were chatting in smaller groups by the couches.

 

“Wave is here!” called her already tipsy best friend.

 

“Hey Jeremy!” she offered a wide smile and excited wave.

 

Joining her friends, Chrissy offered her a drink and they began to chat freely. By the time she finished her first drink, Waverly was pleasantly surprised that she had not seen the party’s host, nor had anyone mentioned her.

 

The thought, apparently, jinxed it. Across from her, Rosita’s eyes widened and her shoulder’s stiffened. Jeremy and Chrissy shared pointed eye contact, and Waverly immediately knew what was happening.

 

“Let’s go grab you another drink!” Rosita suggested in a hurry, grabbing onto the brunette’s arm and dragging her from the room.

 

Waverly knew better than to turn her head, but she did anyway. She wished she hadn’t. On the other end of the living room, Beth Gardener, a girl in the grade below them, was dancing far too close to a certain redhead. Arms wrapped around her, hips swaying and knocking in a way much past friendly. Waverly stopped in her tracks and turned around completely.

 

Unable to do anything but stare, she watched as the girls danced. Rosita attempted to pull her to the kitchen, but it was feeble in comparison to the stone cold weight in Waverly’s bones, in her heart.

 

As if the universe was out to get her, it was then that the redhead looked over. Their gazes locked, and she all but pushed Beth off of her. Equally frozen in place with wide eyes, Waverly could see, even from her place across the room, that she’d sucked in a deep breath and gulped hard. The brunette couldn’t stop herself from watching the way her throat bobbed. Then, down to her chest, flushed red from drinking and dancing. Cleavage barely teased from the top of her v-neck, but it was enough for Waverly to swallow herself. She continued to scan down, trying to not care about the way those Levi’s, the ones that she loved the most, hugged her hips. And then, Waverly’s blood ran cold as she finally noticed the sleeves of a grey cardigan bunched around her forearms.

 

“Let’s go!” A harsh tug on her arm broke her trance. Waverly allowed herself to be pulled out of the room.

 

Rosita handed her another drink. “Are you okay?”

 

“Fine.” The way Waverly followed the statement with a huge gulp of liquor betrayed her. It was tequila and lemonade, if she had to guess, but she didn’t care at this point.

 

“Yeah, and I’m a virgin.” Rosita’s voice was laced with sarcasm, obviously calling her out. “Seriously, do you want to go? We can leave.”

 

“No, I’m fine! I’m staying. Unlike some people, I don’t run away from my problems.”

 

“Waves-”

 

“She left!” Just starting to feel the buzz of one and a half drinks in the past twenty minutes, Waverly’s volume increased with her anger. “She knew it was the one thing that would break me, and she did it anyway.”

 

“I know. But she’s back now, right?”

 

The brunette’s anger was quickly slipping towards hurt, towards sadness, towards remorse. “But you don’t know. Because I didn’t tell you. Not really. I didn’t tell anyone except Wynonna.”

 

“But we know. Jeremy and Chrissy and I - we know that something was happening.”

 

“Oh, it was something alright.”

 

“Do you wanna talk about you?”

 

Waverly sighed and finished the drink in her hand. “I’m gonna need more booze.”

 

With a replenished cup, Waverly beckoned Chrissy and Jeremy into the kitchen. Her friends listened intently as she began the story. “Remember the homecoming after-party last year?”

 

Waverly had been pining after the new girl since the first day of school. The tall, confident redhead walked into her history class and sat down next to her.

 

“I’m Nicole,” she greeted.

 

Too awestruck to respond, Waverly just smiled.

 

“And you must be Waverly Earp. You’re pretty popular around here, huh? I’ve already heard so much about you.”

 

The rest was, well, history. They were paired together for the first project of the school year, and a newly single Waverly developed fast feelings. Nicole incessantly flirted, but she never objectified her like the jocks that never quite met her eyes or truly listened when she talked. Not like her ex boyfriend, who made it very clear that he liked her body and not her brain.

 

Nicole, though, listened for hours as Waverly let her excitement over the project come forth. They worked well together and quickly developed a friendship, with something largely left unspoken, save the flirting, under the surface.

 

With homecoming approaching, the pair decided to throw a party. Nicole’s parents would be gone for the weekend, and Waverly’s popularity would make it so anyone and everyone would attend. It was a huge hit.

 

They hardly left each other’s side the whole night. Casually touching shoulders or thighs, leaning to whisper, holding hands after their third drinks. It was a miracle no one else acknowledged it. Well past midnight, with the party still raging inside, they found themselves sitting on the front lawn.

 

“Dance with me?” Nicole offered, standing up and reaching her hand to help the shorter girl do the same.

 

“Inside?”

 

“No, silly. Come here.” Nicole led Waverly to the edge of the street.

 

“There’s no music.”

 

“We don’t need it.” Waverly giggled and let her hands rest on Nicole’s hips, the alcohol in her system dulling any sense that there might be a more appropriate place for them. The fabric of the other girl’s jeans was thick and rough beneath her fingertips. She clutched at it idly. Nicole draped her arms over Waverly’s shoulders, pulling them close together. They swayed under the streetlight in silence for what could have been an eternity.

 

Their gaze into each other’s eyes never faltered, but at some point, their hands switched positions. Waverly played with the ends of Nicole’s short hair and Nicole let hers run under the hem of the sweatshirt she’d loaned to the shorter girl to combat the fall air. Her fingers gripped the skin at her waste, and Waverly gasped at the contact.

 

“You really see me, don’t you?” Waverly asked.

 

“Yeah, I’d like to think I do,” Nicole answered.

 

“Everyone thinks I’m just some dumb, pretty cheerleader. But not you.”

 

“Well, I do think you’re pretty.”

 

A blush, much deeper than the one from the liquor, warmed Waverly’s cheeks. “Laying all your cards on the table, Haught?”

 

“Waverly, they’ve been on the table since the first time I looked at you.”

 

“Could’ve fooled me. You were so cocky. So aloof. So cool and confident and scary.”

 

“I scared you?”

 

“You scare me, Nicole.”

 

“I do?”

 

“Yes. Because no one’s ever known me like you. No one’s ever looked into my eyes, into my soul, the way you do. I-” Waverly choked on the tears threatening to fall.

 

“Shh,” Nicole soothed. She let her arms wrap around the bare waist under her, pulling the girl into a hug. “What’re you really scared of?”

 

In the safety of Nicole’s arms and her head buried in her chest, Waverly admitted, “Losing you.”

 

“Look at me.”

 

They were both past tipsy, flushed skin and glazed eyes, but it was there. Whatever it was. Waverly looked up to meet soft brown eyes, giving her confidence that only they could. The hesitation, the fear, the uncertainty was nowhere to be found in that moment. Not anymore. It was replaced instead with courage in both liquid form and in the warm eyes looking at her with unmatchable reverence.

 

It was hard to tell who moved first. Waverly shifted to her tiptoes, and Nicole leaned down. Their lips met sweetly, but not without passion. For Waverly, it was life breathed into her again. After trying so hard to be someone she wasn’t - playing the role of a ditsy cheerleader, dating boys who didn’t care about her, trying desperately to make someone, anyone notice her when the people in her life either ignored or left her. Kissing Nicole was the first real thing she did. She was wholly herself. Exhaling through her nose was letting go of her insecurities. Touching her tongue to the inside of Nicole’s lip was striking a match. Tasting vanilla, both from the cake-flavored vodka and something naturally Nicole, was fulfillment beyond her wildest imagination. The movement of their lips together was jumping into the deep end of a pool, only to find out she already knew how to swim.

 

“Holy shit, you kissed her a year ago? I thought you didn’t get together until Christmas!” Chrissy exclaimed.

 

“Wait, I thought it was the New Years Eve party?” Rosita added.

 

“I didn’t know until February!” Jeremy whined.

 

“Okay, okay, yeah I didn’t tell anyone at first. I didn’t actually tell any of you. You just kinda found out.”

 

Rosita shook her head and laughed. “You’re better at hiding shit than I thought. I’ll give you that.”

 

“What’re we hiding?” a voice came from the doorway.

 

Waverly turned, only to be met with the object of her affection and pain standing right behind her. She scowled instantly.

 

Before anyone had the mind to stop him, Jeremy slurred, “You!”

 

Chrissy slapped his shoulder. “Ow! Um… I mean… We were just talk-” Rosita slapped the back of his head. “Shut up, Jeremy. Got it.”

 

“I, uh, came to get a drink. But I can go.” Nicole pointed a thumb behind her shoulder.

 

Ignoring the awkward ordeal surrounding her, Waverly was swimming in her own onslaught of emotions. Of all of them, anger was the easiest to present. “Nice sweater,” she jabbed.

 

Nicole looked down at her outfit.

 

“Drink?” Chrissy shoved a cup in Nicole’s hand.

 

“Thanks,” Nicole mumbled at the both of them.

 

“Great party,” Rosita offered, trying to break the tension.

 

“Yeah, um, thought it’d be nice to have one before school gets too intense.” 

 

Waverly stood awkwardly as her three friends and Nicole made small talk. It would be unfair of her to make them pick just one of them, seeing as Nicole was their friend too, so she stayed quiet. None of them seemed to notice the way she shuffled her feet or clenched her jaw. Of course, she was always the easiest to ignore.

 

She reached a tipping point after a few minutes, interrupting something Jeremy was saying with, “How’s Shae?”

 

“Shae,” Nicole took a step back as if the name physically hit her. “Can we not do this right now? Please?”

 

“It’s a little late for a ‘we.’ Don’t you think?”

 

“Waverly…”

 

“No. You don’t get to say my name like that.”

 

“Like what?”

 

“Like you lo- Nope. No. I gotta go.” With that, Waverly stormed from the kitchen into the backyard.

 

Of course, this was the worst possible place she could have gone. The oak tree in the corner, the fire pit on the deck, the jacuzzi by the fence - everything there brought back memories from the year before. Avoiding the group of people around the fire, she made her way to the tire swing hanging from the tree.

 

Only a brief moment passed before Jeremy found her. “Are you okay?”

 

“Do you all really need to keep asking me that?”

 

“Probably not,” he shrugged.

 

“I want to hate her so bad. But I don’t. I can’t get her out of my head. This stupid yard. We used to hang out here all the time. All I can think about is how she hid behind that stupid shed to scare me. And she got me every single time, even if I was looking for her. And how we’d sit under this stupid tree for hours every weekend. We climbed it a few times, like little kids on an adventure. And that stupid hot tub where- Nevermind. I spent so many weekends at her house. So much happened here, enough for twenty lifetimes.”

 

“It’s okay to be mad at her, ya know. But if you’re pissed then I don’t really understand why you came in the first place.”

 

“That’s the problem. I’m not. Because I believed her. I believed her the first time, and I think a part of me still believes her now.”

 

The beginning of November brought a cold front, but that didn’t stop Waverly and Nicole from sitting outside. 

 

“Here, you should wear my cardigan,” Waverly offered the grey sweater to Nicole.

 

“What’re you gonna wear? It’s freezing out there.”

 

“You’ll keep me warm.”

 

They huddled together under a few blankets next to the fire. Nicole wrapped an arm around Waverly’s shoulder, pulling her into her side. They sat and watched as the sun dropped below the fence line. Conversation flowed easily, Waverly opening up more than she had before about her mother’s abandonment, the death of her father and sister, and how being crowned “nicest person in Purgatory” was more of a facade than she let on.

 

“I’ve never felt like I mattered to anyone. I’m forgettable. Easy to leave. Hard to love.”

 

“Waverly Earp, loving you is the easiest thing in the world.”

 

“What?” Waverly sat up, eyes widening and heart pounding. “Loving. I… what?”

 

“I love you,” Nicole confessed with conviction.

 

“You… You love me?”

 

Nicole chuckled and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “Yes, I love you.”

 

Waverly knew it in her heart already. She knew that Nicole loved her and that she loved Nicole. She’d felt it when they kissed for the first time a month and a half ago. She’d felt it every day since. But hearing it out loud made it all the more real. More beautiful, of course, yet also scarier because she could really get hurt now. She just needed to know for sure.

 

“Why?”

 

“Why?” Nicole repeated. “Simple - you’re my favorite person.”

 

“But, why ?”

 

The redhead pulled her into her chest once more. “I need you to believe me when I say this. You’re not broken or forgettable or any of those things you keep telling me. You’re extraordinary. All I want is for you to see that.”

 

Hearing the words and Nicole’s heartbeat against her ear, Waverly did. She finally believed it. With her eyes closed, she replied, “I love you too.”

 

“You still love her.” Jeremy stated, no hint of question in his voice.

 

Eyes downcast, Waverly relented, “Yeah.”

 

“Hey! We’re playing beer pong, anyone wanna join?” Rosita yelled from the doorway.

 

The brunette stood up. “Let’s go. I came to party, not to sulk.”

 

In the dining room, a group of teenagers gathered around the table. Waverly watched as Rosita and Jeremy went up against Kate, another girl from their class, and Robin, Jeremy’s crush.

 

A throw from Kate sunk in a cup across the table.

 

“Hell yeah!” Nicole cheered from her spot in the room. Another memory hit Waverly like a freight train.

 

For a group of underage people, they spent a lot of time at Shorty’s. The bar that Wynonna and Waverly’s aunt helped run closed at ten on weeknights, but the teenagers were allowed to stay later and hang out sometimes, with the explicit direction to not drink. Waverly worked as a waitress and Wynonna’s boyfriend was a bartender, so they occasionally got away with it. Though most nights, like now, they stuck to soda and just hung out.

 

“We should go in,” Waverly panted as she pulled back from Nicole’s lips.

 

The redhead groaned and squeezed at the girl’s thighs straddling her lap. “What if we don’t?”

 

“Then Wynonna is going to come out here and see you defiling her little sister.”

 

“Hey! There is no defiling going on… yet.” Nicole winked. She leaned forward and began kissing down Waverly’s jaw and neck.

 

“Baby,” she protested weakly.

 

“Okay, okay,” Nicole gave in. “But if you’d just tell her, I could kiss you wherever I wanted and we wouldn’t be stuck making out in my car.”

 

“I will,” Waverly huffed. “Eventually. But I want-”

 

“You don’t want to let anyone else have an opinion. You want to be you, and me to be me, and us to be us. I know. I’m okay with it, really. Sometimes I just wish I could show everyone how much I love you.”

 

“Thank you. For understanding. You’re all I need, Nicole. I want to show everyone, too, but we can’t. Not yet. How about I make it up to you? We can go in and hang out and then you can meet me in the bathroom in twenty minutes.”

 

“Oh? I like the sound of that.”

 

Waverly hummed, “Thought you would.”

 

The pair met their friends inside Shorty’s. Quickly, the Earp sisters began an intense game of pool while the others watched.

 

“Hell yeah!” Nicole cheered from her seat at the bar when Waverly sank a tricky shot.

 

The brunette winked at her.

 

“Who’re you flirting with?” Wynonna looked around at their friends. Of everyone around the bar, Wynonna couldn’t pinpoint anyone that her sister would flirt with.

 

Waverly rolled her eyes. “No one, Nonna.”

 

“Is it Dolls?” They both looked to the man, sitting at the bar with a few others. He was Wynonna’s age, just out of high school, and definitely not Waverly’s type.

 

“Ugh, leave me alone!” Waverly practically yelled.

 

“Geez, someone needs to get laid.”

 

Nicole snorted into her drink, earning a sideways glare.

 

“I don’t need to get laid,” Waverly argued.

 

“Fine, but have you at least thought of playing the field since you dumped the chump? I always told you that you could do so much better than him. Who’re you crushing on now that he’s gone?”

 

“Why are you suddenly so interested in my love life?”

 

“Why won’t you answer my question?”

 

“Because it’s none of your business! I don’t need to be in a relationship!” Waverly turned on her heel and stomped to the bathroom.

 

Nicole followed not thirty seconds later, her mind far from the original intention of meeting there.

 

“Waves?” she called as she opened the door. Before it was even shut, the shorter girl jumped up at her, crashing their lips together. She stumbled back against the wall, kissing her back with equal fervor. If this is what Waverly needed, who was she to deny her?

 

Just as abruptly as she started it, Waverly stepped back. “I didn’t mean it.”

 

“Mean what?”

 

“That I don’t need to be in a relationship.”

 

“Oh.” Nicole paused. “I know.”

 

“We’ve never said what this is. Is this… Are we…”

 

“Girlfriends?”

 

Waverly bit her bottom lip in worry and nodded ever so slightly.

 

A dimpled smile appeared on Nicole’s face. “I don’t know… are we?” she retorted cheekily.

 

Steeling herself, with a determined look in her eyes, Waverly looked up and asked, “Nicole Haught, will you be my girlfriend?”

 

“Yes.” They kissed again, this time chaste with smiles in between.

 

After a few moments, Nicole said, “You don’t need me, you know. You don’t need to be in a relationship. You don’t need anyone but yourself, Waves.”

 

“Ya know, I would have argued with you two months ago. But if there’s anything you’ve taught me, it’s that being my own person is enough. You’re a bonus.”

 

“I am your bonus blanket, after all.”

 

“You’re my bonus everything. I love you so much, Nicole.”

 

They were right, all those months ago. She didn’t need Nicole. An entire summer without her proved that. But, God, did she miss her.

 

Sometime during her reflection, Waverly ended up staring. She couldn’t be sure how long, but if the smirk on the redhead’s face communicated anything, it’s that she was caught red-handed. Or rather, red-faced, as a blush of embarrassment crept all the way from her ears to her chest.

 

Even more frustrating than her embarrassment was the way she still melted at just one look, how her heart skipped a beat at a simple smirk. It was futile, she realized, to keep trying to ignore Nicole. It was no use. She was still putty in her hands, despite the hurt she felt after she left without explanation.

 

Maybe that’s what Waverly needed: an explanation. Finally relenting to her feelings, all the bitterness and love wrapped into one, she tilted her head back towards the archway. It had always been their signal for the other to come with. She marched straight through the living room, right up the stairs, and into Nicole’s bedroom without so much as looking back. She knew Nicole would follow.

 

Once in the room, yet another place filled with countless memories, Waverly turned to face the redhead. She crossed her arms. “So…”

 

“So,” Nicole repeated, closing the door behind her.

 

There was no easy way to start a conversation like this, so Waverly dove right in. “You left me.”

 

“I did,” Nicole agreed.

 

Maintaining composure proved difficult, but somehow the brunette controlled her stoicism. “I thought I knew you. I trusted you. I believed you. You promised you would never…. But you did.”

 

“I did.”

 

“Is that all you have to say?”

 

“What do you want from me, Waverly?”

 

If there was ever a loaded question, that was it. What did she want? Her. Always her. Instead, she settled on, “I want to know why.”

 

“You didn’t let me talk before. You didn’t answer any of my calls or texts. Are you going to listen now?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Okay.” Nicole made her way to her bed and sat down, patting the spot next to her for Waverly to follow. She did.

 

They’d been dating officially for five months, feasibly together for seven. Things were going well for the most part. They had a few fights but nothing major. It always came back to Waverly’s fear of judgement from others. Her desire to be accepted. Nicole was patient, oh so patient, until she couldn’t take it anymore.

 

“Do you even love me?” Nicole practically demanded.

 

“Of course I do! Are you serious?!”

 

“Are you? Because all I asked is if I could post a picture of us from the lake and you started freaking out!”

 

“I’m not freaking out! I said not yet.”

 

“You’ve been saying that for months, Waverly. When is ‘not yet’ gonna be?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Well I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”

 

Waverly’s heart shot straight into her throat. “What do you mean?”

 

“I feel like you don’t even care about me! It’s not about being public, but you hide me from everyone!”

 

“Not everyone. Our friends know about us.”

 

“Yeah, only because they asked. They don’t even know, not really. You’re so defensive. You won’t ever be seen with me. I’m not asking you to hold my hand in the hallway or go to prom with-”

 

“Oh, so we’re back to prom now?” The last time they fought was when they discussed what to do about prom. Nicole wanted to take Waverly as her date. Waverly insisted they go in a group of friends to keep their cover.

 

“It’s the same damn thing. It’s like you’re ashamed of me or something.”

 

“I’m not ashamed of you! I love you so much. You mean everything to me.”

 

“Do I? Do I really? Because you’re sure quick to deny my existence the second anyone asks.”

 

“I just need more time. Baby, please.”

 

“No. I can’t do this anymore. I’m the one that needs time. I’ll call you when I’m ready, Waverly.”

 

Nicole left two days later, going back to her hometown to stay with her grandparents. “Time” turned into the whole summer. For her part, she did reach out to Waverly every single day for three and a half weeks in June. Hearing nothing in return, she decided to stay until school started again.

 

“I needed more than you could give me.”

 

“So you ran back to Shae?” The question was meant rhetorically. She’d seen it on social media. When Nicole went back to stay with her grandparents, she spent an inordinate amount of time with her ex-girlfriend. 

 

Nicole answered anyway, “Not at first, no.”

 

“Did you fuck her?”

 

An obscenity like that coming from the brunette was startling. “I…”

 

“So you did?”

 

“You have no right to be pissed at me over Shae. Or to even ask at all.”

 

“I think I do.”

 

“No, you don’t. Because yeah, I left, and that was shitty, but I told you I’d call. And I did. I was gonna come back, but you ignored me. So whatever I did to try to get you out of my head isn’t any of your business.”

 

“It is. It is my business.”

 

“Oh yeah? How’s that work?”

 

“Because I still love you!” It was unclear who the admission shocked more: Waverly, who said it, or Nicole, who’s jaw dropped.

 

There was a pregnant pause before Nicole stood. “I need a cigarette.”

 

Waverly sat on Nicole’s bed, alone. The noises of the party downstairs were drowned by her own rapid heartbeat and the sobs that escaped her chest. She really just said that, only to be left once more. How typical.

 

No, Nicole didn’t leave her this time. Not really. She just needed space. Like at the beginning of the summer, when she needed very understandable space after Waverly’s trepidations hurt the both of them. It finally clicked. Nicole was just as insecure as her. She needed reassurance. She needed to know she was loved. And Waverly didn’t provide that for her, not in the way she needed.

 

She could fix this. She would fix this. With a long-lost confidence, the same one that Nicole had shown her was inside of her all along, she made her way to the backyard.

 

Nicole was leaning against the side of the shed, a newly lit cigarette between her fingers. The fire pit had long since died down, with the partiers now preferring the inside of the house instead of the crisp air of the night.

 

“Nicole…”

 

“Don’t,” the redhead warned.

 

“Please. Let me talk. And if you want nothing to do with me after this, I’ll leave and you don’t have to see me again. We don’t even have any classes together. I’ll go.”

 

Nicole took a puff and nodded in agreement.

 

“I never stopped loving you. I tried so hard to forget you. That’s why I ignored your calls and stuff. I knew if I talked to you I’d come running back. With the way you kissed me, the way you looked at me, it’s always been there. I kept thinking, ‘what if I just listened? what if I stopped worrying?’ So many what ifs. Like what if we talked? I would have forgiven you, but I didn’t want to. I was so hurt, but I wasn’t actually angry.”

 

A cloud of smoke between them caused her to stumble in her monologue. “I always hated when you did that.”

 

“And?” Nicole quirked an eyebrow.

 

Waverly gave an exasperated groan before letting it go. “Anyway… I thought I knew what I wanted. I thought I could have you and hold onto everything I knew. But I was wrong. I made a choice, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. I chose myself over you. No, not myself. I chose my perception of other people over you. And I was wrong. I should have paid more attention, and I should’ve fought for you.”

 

The redhead was listening intently, the cigarette burning away in her hand.

 

“I was pissed that you left. But I couldn’t get away from you. You were everywhere. When I went into my bedroom. When I walked down the street. When I was in the line at the grocery store and sour patch kids laughed at me from the shelf.”

 

“You remember my favorite candy?”

 

“Of course I do, bab- Nicole. I figured if I ignored you, it would hurt you as much as you hurt me. But what I didn’t realize is that I’d already hurt you. I didn’t know then, but I get it now. I’m so sorry.”

 

Nicole took a long drag, allowing the space between them to be enough for the moment. It wouldn’t last long. She flicked the cigarette to the grass and crushed it with her heel. “Alright,” she said simply.

 

“Alright?”

 

“I forgive you. I fucked up. You fucked up. I should have told you then. I should’ve let you in more. I wanted to be your rock. I couldn’t show my own weakness, my insecurity. I didn’t want to burden you. So I let it eat me from the inside out until it got to be too much. We could’ve fixed it if I had just said something instead of making you figure it out on your own for three months. I’m sorry too.”

 

“Oh, Nicole,” Waverly uttered, “we can fix it. It’s always been you. I’ve always believed you. You’d come back, and I’d forgive you. Please. Please tell me we can fix it now.”

 

Though Nicole had avoided eye contact the entire conversation, she softened now. Brown eyes meeting hazel, truly and fully, for the first time in a long time. “I love you,” she confessed.

 

That was all it took for Waverly to surge forward. Her entire body flush against Nicole’s, lips meeting with the same passion as the first time. Nicole’s arms instinctively found their way around her, while Waverly’s hands grasped at the red hair that had grown several inches in their months apart. Their lips moved together in a familiar ritual, holy and sacred, until the need for oxygen overcame the need for connection. They remained close, however, never moving their arms or eyes from one another.

 

“I’m glad you kept it,” Waverly professed with a peck to the underside of Nicole’s chin.

 

“Hmm?” Nicole cocked her head.

 

“My cardigan.”