"That was Slade's ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’, and you're listening to Spark Radio UK here in Berkshire as we count down the twelve days to Christmas 2003."
Nicole frowned as the radio blared loudly through the wall, somehow managing to ring over the tinny sound of Waverly’s TV playing ‘The Snowman’.
She didn't know who was playing the radio. Maybe Waverly’s sister Wynonna, or Waverly’s Auntie Gus. But it was loud, and it was a bit confusing when there was lots of other noise too.
She blinked, listening hard to try to stay focused on what Waverly was saying instead.
They had built a den. They’d gathered up Waverly’s special snowman covered duvet, and then every other possible sheet and blanket and duvet cover they could find, from Waverly’s room, and Wynonna’s room, and the shelves of the laundry cupboard that Nicole could reach, and they'd stretched them out over Waverly’s bed and her dresser, so that it made a tent. It was big. Much bigger than Nicole, and they had filled it with wrapping paper and some tinsel, and lots of Waverly’s toys pretending to be Christmas presents so that it looked like Santa's workshop.
“Quick, Gumdrop!" Waverly exclaimed, her hand landing on Nicole’s arm like it was something very important. "If we don’t have all the toys ready by tonight then all the children won’t have presents for Christmas day!”
Nicole scrunched her nose.
“Why does my name have to be Gumdrop?” she complained. “Why can’t I just be Nicole?”
“Because Nicole is a person name!” Waverly told her, in her soft voice that sometimes sounded a bit bossy. But Nicole liked it all the same, because Waverly was her best friend. “You have to have an elf name, you’re supposed to be pretending! ”
Nicole snapped her head around at the familiar sound of her mum’s voice, calling above the sound of the TV and the noisy radio.
“I’m not Waverly, I’m Twinkle!" Waverly poked her head through the little curtain of her special Christmas sheets, with the snowmen and the reindeer. "And Nicole is Gumdrop!”
“Is that right?" Nicole's mum chuckled. "In that case, Gumdrop honey, could you come out here for a moment please?”
Nicole grumbled, picking at the ends of her brightly coloured woollen sleeves. Now even her mum was calling her Gumdrop and not Nicole.
She guessed she didn't mind really.
If Waverly wanted her to be Gumdrop, she would be Gumdrop. She always just did whatever Waverly asked her to when they played games, because she didn't want to ever say no. She didn't like it when Waverly’s eyes got sad. But she did like it when Waverly’s smile got big, so she always did things that would make that happen.
Nicole stumbled over several piles of wrapping paper, and Waverly’s plush Little Miss Sunshine cushion as she pushed through the curtain, her little legs picking up speed as she ran to meet her mum. Nicole’s mum knelt down beside her, a big smile on her face as she wrapped Nicole up in a warm hug.
“I’m leaving now, honey, okay?” she said softly.
Nicole nodded. She understood. Her mum was going out, so she brought her to Waverly’s so they could play together while she wasn't at home.
“For your date with Mr Nedley?” Nicole checked.
Nicole knew what a date was.
Nicole’s mum had told her that Mr Nedley was going to pick her up and they were going to wear nice things, and go to eat in a nice place and maybe hold hands, and that it was called a date. And it meant when someone you might want to marry takes you somewhere and treats you all nice and makes you feel special.
“Yes, darling." Nicole’s mum smiled, her eyes twinkling. “In fact, Mr Nedley asked me to give you girls these.”
Nicole’s mum held out her hand, producing two chocolate lollies wrapped up to look like smiling santas. Nicole thought it must be one for her, and one for Waverly. Waverly would be happy about that, and her smile would get big.
“Thank you,” Nicole said, to make sure she was polite like her mum liked her to be.
“Will you be alright with Waverly and her aunt tonight?” Nicole’s mum asked.
Nicole laughed. It was funny hearing Waverly’s bossy voice in the den, and Nicole’s mum laughed too.
“Alright sweetie, I love you lots.” Nicole’s mum pulled her tight, giving her another big squeeze like Nicole liked best, and a kiss on her cheek. “Have fun with Twinkle, and be good, alright?”
Nicole nodded, watching quietly as her mum left. She felt a little bit sad about her mum going out, but she looked very pretty and very smiley, and Nicole liked that. She liked it when people were smiley. Mr Nedley was smiley, even under his bushy moustache. She liked Mr Nedley, so it was okay that he came round to her house sometimes. And she liked being with Waverly, and Waverly’s Aunt Gus and Uncle Curtis, so it was okay that she was staying there tonight.
She gripped the sticks of her lollies tight in her hands, and she waited until she heard her mum finish walking down the stairs before she pushed her way back through the sheets and into the den.
She handed Waverly her lolly, her tummy feeling full of happiness when Waverly’s smile got big, and Nicole could see the crinkles in her eyes and the big gaps in her teeth where the tooth fairy had taken some.
“Your Mummy looks pretty," Waverly whispered.
Her mum did look pretty. Her mum always looked pretty.
"Do you think it would be fun to go on a date?" Waverly asked quietly.
Nicole thought about it. She didn't know if she wanted to marry anybody yet, so maybe a date was just for grown people, like her mum. But it sounded nice to be treated special.
"I think it looks magical in the movies," Waverly whispered. "Like you're a princess, in a pretty dress and someone gives you flowers."
Nicole sat down on the floor, next to all of Waverly’s teddies, and she ate her lolly while she thought about it.
"I think I can't wait to go on a date, when I'm grown," Waverly whispered, extra quiet.
Then she giggled, like it was a secret.
Nicole smiled, her tummy feeling full of happiness again.
"I'll take you on a date when we're grown," she whispered back. "It'll be the best date in the whole world."
Waverly took a bite of her lolly, her face scrunched in thought as she flopped down amongst the scattered, brightly coloured cushions.
"Can two girls go on a date?" she asked. "I think you have to go on a date with a boy, Nicole."
"Why?" Nicole asked. "People who love each other go on a date, don't they?"
"I thought it was just for boys and girls. Like Aunt Gus and Uncle Curtis," Waverly said. "And your Mummy and Mr Nedley."
Nicole felt a bit confused.
Her mum didn't say that it had to be a boy. She said it was someone you might want to marry. Nicole didn't think she wanted to marry anyone yet because she was only six so she wasn't grown, but if she was going to marry someone she thought she would probably like it to be Waverly.
"I dunno," she said, a little bit muffled around a mouthful of her lolly. "But I don't wanna go on a date with a stupid boy. Boys aren’t very nice. I'm gonna take you on a date, Waverly, you can be my princess."
Waverly giggled again, her eyes doing that thing where they went all small and crinkly at the edges, and Nicole felt really happy because she liked that laugh. It was her favourite one.
"We won't be grown for a long time, Nicole," Waverly giggled. "You have to wait.”
Nicole nodded. Waverly was right, it would be a couple of years, probably, before they were grown.
Then Nicole smiled, her tummy feeling a bit excited. She had a great idea of how to treat Waverly special, when they were grown.
"Yeah but when we are grown, I'll take you to get a white hot chocolate at Hetty’s cafe like your favourite! 'Cause we’ll be grown and we won’t have to wait for your Uncle Curtis to take us, so I'll be allowed to do it."
"With marshmallows?" Waverly smiled, big and bright and chocolatey.
"Definitely!" Nicole nodded her head. She held out her hand, to show the number five on her fingers. “Five little ones!”
Nicole jumped as Waverly’s sister’s loud voice shouted outside their den, and she started to shake and hit the sheets that made the roof.
“No, stop it Nonna!” Waverly shouted. “Stop it, you’re ruining our game!”
“Your mum’s ruining the game," Wynonna sneered, shaking the sheets a little harder for a moment.
Nicole wrinkled her nose.
How could her mum ruin the game when she was on a date with Mr Nedley? And Waverly didn't even have a mum.
The sheets around them billowed and shook as Wynonna jumped down, crawling clumsily over Waverly’s My Little Ponies as she pushed her way into the den.
Waverly looked annoyed, but Nicole smiled.
She liked Waverly’s sister. She was twelve, and some of the other children in Nicole’s class at school thought she was really scary, but Nicole thought she was funny.
She had a nice face. Some people had nice faces and some people had scary faces, like Mr Del Ray at school, but Wynonna had a nice face.
Waverly always said Wynonna was a bit annoying but Nicole knew that Waverly loved her sister a lot. Nicole thought she would like to have a sister like Wynonna.
Wynonna reached a hand out, ruffling Waverly’s hair with her fingers.
“Get off!” Waverly demanded, scrambling backwards to get away.
Wynonna laughed, ruffling for a second longer before she pulled away.
“Oh my god, guess what?” Wynonna said.
“What?" Waverly snapped, her little fingers brushing the hair out of her red face. "And you’re not allowed to say that, that’s swearing!”
“Pfft, says who?” Wynonna scoffed.
“Says Aunt Gus!” Waverly folded her arms, shooting Wynonna a pointed look.
“Yeah, well Aunt Gus can eat my shorts," Wynonna laughed.
“Nonna!” Waverly scolded.
It was funny, like in 'The Simpsons' . Waverly's Aunt Gus said Waverly was a bit young to watch 'The Simpsons' , but Nicole’s mum let her watch it sometimes. She didn't tell Waverly in case Waverly was upset that she couldn't watch it.
“What do you want, Nonna?” Waverly demanded, her arms still folded across her chest.
“You two…” Wynonna whispered, "are under mistletoe.”
Wynonna held up a branch with some prickly leaves on it. It had some red berries in the middle. Nicole thought it looked a bit like holly. She knew what holly was, because she helped her mum put it on their Christmas wreath, but Wynonna said it was mistletoe so that must be something different.
Nicole didn't know what mistletoe was.
“So?” Waverly said.
“So, haven’t you seen the movies?” Wynonna smirked.
Waverly scrunched up her nose.
“It means you have to kiss!” Wynonna whispered.
“Kiss who?” Waverly asked.
“Nicole, you muppet!” Wynonna laughed.
Nicole frowned. Why did the branch with the berries mean Waverly had to kiss her?
“Wynonna, they’re like, three!" Wynonna’s friend Mercedes scolded. "What's wrong with you?"
Nicole jumped again. She didn't even know Mercedes was here, but she was outside the den.
“No I am not three, I’m six!”
Waverly stomped her foot, and Nicole felt a bit sad, because Waverly's eyes did that thing where they went really small and her forehead was really wrinkly, and it meant Waverly was upset. Nicole didn't like it when Waverly was upset.
“Really?” Mercedes ducked down, her face appearing in the entrance of the den. “When did that happen?”
“Yeah, and Nicole is nearly seven," Waverly remarked.
“Yeah, Mercedes, they’re six and nearly seven." Wynonna smirked. “Plenty old enough for mistletoe.”
“It’s a sprig of holly, you dick, and they’re literally babies! That is not old enough to kiss," Mercedes retorted, flicking Wynonna’s ear with her finger. “Now leave the children alone! I wanna watch 'I’m a Celeb' !”
Waverly stomped her foot.
“I am not a baby!”
Wynonna narrowed her eyes, studying her sister’s face in sinister amusement.
“Prove it." She grinned, holding the branch up above Waverly’s head.
Waverly frowned. She looked at the branch, her eyes clouding as she considered her task.
Then she turned, grabbing Nicole’s face with both hands, and leaned forward to plant a messy kiss on her cheek.
Nicole’s cheek felt a bit sticky, and she thought there was probably some chocolate on there, but the kiss made her smile grow really big.
Wynonna whooped, throwing her hands in the air as she threw the holly branch behind her. She clapped her hands in triumph as Mercedes chuckled.
Nicole felt like she was a bit shy, but she didn't know what for. Only Nicole’s mum had ever given her a kiss before, and her Grandma before when she was little. Waverly giving her a kiss made her tummy feel a bit funny, but it felt like a nice thing.
“Can we go watch now, loser?” Mercedes demanded, tugging at Wynonna’s jumper.
Wynonna grinned. She reached a hand out, ruffling Waverly’s hair again, and then Nicole’s, before ducking out of the den and disappearing from view.
“She’s so annoying," Waverly huffed, sticky fingers coming up to flatten her hair once again.
Nicole smiled because it wasn't flat, and now it had some chocolate in it.
“She’s not so bad." Nicole shrugged.
“You still wanna play?” Waverly asked.“We still have to save Christmas?”
Nicole looked at Waverly’s face, and thought she looked like she hoped Nicole would say yes. Nicole smiled.
When Nicole smiled, it made Waverly smile.
“Yeah," Nicole said. "What do we do, Twinkle? How do we get it all finished in time?”
〜〜〜〜〜〜 🎄 〜〜〜〜〜〜
“There we have it, The X Factor winner Leona Lewis and her contender for this year’s Christmas number one, ‘A Moment Like This!’ Not your usual Christmas entry, but there's no denying that voice! Stay tuned for The Darkness and ‘Christmas Time, Don’t Let the Bells End!’ You’re listening to Spark Radio UK, as we count down the twelve days to Christmas 2006.”
Waverly wriggled her arms, her favourite Christmas socks shuffling across the floor in time to the music as she danced around the kitchen.
They were her favourite socks because they had funny giraffes on with little Christmas hats, but also because they were fluffy and slidy, and they made it really fun to dance around on the kitchen tiles.
Waverly and Nicole were making popcorn in the microwave for their Christmas movie night.
They had a Christmas movie night every year now, on the 23rd December, while Aunt Gus and Uncle Curtis, and Nicole’s mum and Uncle Nedley had a dinner party with their friends.
The grown-ups were all sitting around in the living room, laughing and talking, and Waverly and Nicole were waiting for the microwave to beep with their popcorn.
Nicole was leaning on the counter, staring into the microwave to see when the popcorn was done, but Waverly wasn't tall enough to lean on the counter yet. So she was dancing, because she felt happy that it was Christmas, and that she was having her movie night with Nicole. And dancing was her favourite thing to do when she was happy.
The microwave beeped, and Waverly grinned as Nicole took the bag out and shared it into two big, special Christmas bowls, with snowman faces and some snowflakes on them. Nicole handed the biggest one to Waverly.
Waverly carried it carefully, her little fingers stretching as they tried to reach all the way around the bowl. She poked her tongue between her lips, concentrating hard as she tried not to drop any popcorn on her way up the stairs to her bedroom.
It lasted until the last step.
Before Waverly could make it across the hallway, Wynonna launched herself out from her own bedroom, pouncing on her little sister.
Waverly squealed, tightening her grip on her bowl as she fought to keep it steady.
A little too tight.
Her arms jerked, and her bowl jolted, and the air filled with pieces of sweet and butter popcorn.
She yelped as her popcorn flew into her own face, across the hall, down the stairs behind her, and all over Nicole.
"Give me your tears, gypsy!" Wynonna yelled, wrapping her arms around a squirming Waverly as she began to tickle her. "If you do not give them to me, I will take them from…"
"Wynonna, if that is Borat again…" Gus's stern voice called from the bottom of the stairs. "How many times do I need to tell you, that awful film is not appropriate for your sister?"
"Sorry, Gus." Wynonna rolled her eyes, still tickling Waverly. “It’s nice.”
Waverly thrashed her arms, fighting to free herself from her annoying sister’s grasp.
Her special snowman bowl, and all of the popcorn in it, clattered to the floor.
"Get off me!" Waverly wailed.
"Guess what…" Wynonna stopped tickling, instead pulling Waverly back into a big cuddle from behind.
"What?" Waverly demanded.
She was still annoyed, but the cuddle was nicer than the tickling.
Wynonna let go, grabbing something from her back pocket and whipping it out in front of her.
"Are we really still torturing them with this, Earp?" Mercedes grumbled, leaning in the doorway of Wynonna’s room. "They're still babies."
Waverly felt her heart get hot, and she frowned as she started to feel angry.
"I'm not a baby!" she growled.
She was really annoyed. She was annoyed because her popcorn was all over the floor, but she was also annoyed because she hated it when Wynonna and Mercedes said she was a baby. Just because they were fifteen now, didn't mean that Waverly was a baby. She was nine, and that was plenty big enough not to be a baby anymore.
And she didn't understand why Wynonna always got the mistletoe out.
She did it last year when Waverly was eight, and the year before when she was seven, and the year before that when she was six. And Waverly still didn't understand why some leaves and some berries meant she was supposed to kiss her best friend.
Waverly felt grumpy.
But when she turned around to see Nicole, she felt less annoyed really quickly.
Her best friend was crouched down on the top of the stairs, picking up all of Waverly’s popcorn and putting it back into her bowl.
When Nicole caught Waverly’s eye, she smiled sweetly at her, her cheeks getting little dimples in each one.
Then Nicole stood up, handing Waverly the other bowl of popcorn. The one that hadn't been dropped all over the floor.
She didn't like it when things had been on the floor, and it was nice that Nicole swapped them so that she didn't have to eat the dirty ones.
Nicole was a very good best friend. She was Waverly’s favourite person in the whole world.
And Waverly didn't understand the mistletoe, but she didn't mind giving Nicole a kiss. She didn't mind because it always made Nicole’s smile get big with her dimples, and her cheeks go a little bit red, and Waverly thought she looked cute when she went a little bit red.
So she took the bowl with a big smile, then she leaned forward onto her tiptoes, and gave Nicole her best kiss on the cheek, right next to her dimple.
"What're you grinning at, Little Haught?" Wynonna chuckled.
"I like it."
"Waverly’s Christmas kiss?" Wynonna raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah." Nicole nodded.
Waverly beamed. She liked that Nicole liked the kiss. And she liked that it made Nicole smile a little bigger.
"Aaawwwh," Mercedes cooed, her hands coming up to cover her mouth.
"Well then, good job it's tradition!" Wynonna grinned, reaching out to ruffle Nicole’s hair, tousling the strands that fell loose from the redhead’s plait.
Waverly furrowed her brows.
"Means you have to do it every year," Wynonna explained. She grinned, wrapping an arm around Nicole’s shoulder and pulling her into her side. "Would you like that, Little Haught?"
"Yeah." Nicole nodded.
Waverly played the word over in her head, picturing the letters and tasting it on her tongue.
〜〜〜〜〜〜 🎄 〜〜〜〜〜〜
“And that was the surprise contender for this year’s Christmas number one, Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name Of’! Simon Cowell is not going to be happy, and there are certainly no bells in this one! Next up we’ve got Mariah Carey, and you’re listening to Spark Radio UK, as we count down the twelve days to Christmas 2009.”
Waverly chuckled at the radio as she finished filling her water bottle in the kitchen, and made her way back up the stairs to her bedroom.
She didn't understand the song. It was noisy, and sweary, and not her style at all, but Wynonna and Nicole had been really excessively excited over its battle against 'The X Factor' for the Christmas number one spot.
She pushed her way into her room, kicking the door closed behind her.
She grinned as she flopped down onto the bed beneath their yearly makeshift sheet-den. It had migrated over the years, from the floor between Waverly’s bed and her dresser, to simply being draped from the curtain pole to the end of Waverly’s bed, like a pseudo-canopy.
And now there was no wrapping paper, or toys, or Little Miss Sunshine cushions. But there were some fairy lights, and some tinsel sellotaped to the inside of the sheets. And a little window, so they could see the TV, and the Christmas movie they really weren't particularly watching.
Both were half watching 'The Holiday' , and half focused on the magazines strewn across Waverly’s bed, in two distinct piles.
A pile of Kerrang and NME , covered in pictures of shouty, noisy bands that Waverly just did not understand, but Nicole insisted were works of art.
And a pile of Teen Vogue , and Shout , and Smash Hits , covered in pictures of clothes, and makeup, and boys Waverly couldn’t stop staring at.
She settled back against the wall beside Nicole, pulling her latest magazine onto her lap and resuming her flip of the pages.
“Oh my god!” she squealed, giddy and girly as she landed on a page that made her swoon. “He is so fit!”
She practically felt Nicole’s head snap up beside her.
“Who?” Nicole frowned, shuffling closer to Waverly as she peered over her shoulder at the magazine. “Please tell me it’s not Justin Bieber.”
“Ew, no,” Waverly laughed. “Taylor Lautner!”
"Jacob Black?" she tried.
Nicole wrinkled her nose.
“You always do that," Waverly laughed, "but you don’t like Edward either!”
“You say that like they’re the only two people in the whole world," Nicole grumbled, her eyes rolling as they returned to her own magazine.
“Sometimes I think they are,” Waverly sighed, deliberately dramatically as she held the magazine page up against her chest.
Nicole snorted, her dimples betraying her efforts at indifference as she shook her head.
“Who do you like then?” Waverly urged, bouncing a little on the bed as she twisted to face her best friend. She gestured at the magazine across Nicole’s lap, squinting as she looked at the pictures. “One of the weird makeup guys in your screamy creepo songs?”
Nicole huffed out a chuckle, narrowing her eyes playfully as she shot Waverly a glare.
Then she softened, her eyes glinting with something that made the teasing corners of Waverly’s smirk drop.
Nicole shrugged softly.
“I don’t like boys, Wave," she murmured, quiet and steady.
Sure, but hesitant all at the same time.
She didn't know if that was a surprise or not, but it sat kinda funny in her belly. Not in a bad way. Just… there.
She guessed Nicole had never really said she did like boys, but she also hadn't ever said she didn’t. And if she didn’t like boys, then did that mean she didn’t like anyone? Or did it mean...
“So…" Waverly prompted softly. "Does that mean that you like…”
“Girls, I guess," Nicole mumbled, shrugging once again as she picked at the corner of her magazine.
She thought about it.
Her stomach felt a little weird, but she didn't really know why. She didn't think it was because Nicole liked girls. She didn't think that was all that weird.
She couldn’t really imagine anyone not liking Jacob Black or Edward Cullen, so that was pretty weird, but then she guessed maybe she could understand why someone might like Bella Swan. Or Alice.
Also, it really didn't feel that weird to hear Nicole say it.
It felt… really normal, actually.
It just felt like Nicole.
After all the quips and the cheeky little comments over the years about taking Waverly on dates, and about how girls made better princes than boys did, it just felt like it had always been there.
And that wasn't weird at all.
“Okay, so who do you like then?” she repeated her question, bouncing forward as she tugged at Nicole’s pile of magazines. “If you could choose anyone to date? In your magazines or from the TV, or YouTube, or movies?”
Nicole exhaled heavily, her shoulders dropping as warm dark eyes searched Waverly’s face.
In relief, Waverly recognised.
Relief that she had told Waverly her secret? Or that Waverly had been okay with it, maybe?
Waverly offered her warmest smile, hoping Nicole would see how okay it was.
“Anyone?” Nicole raised an eyebrow, cheeky playfulness bleeding back into her eyes and that dimpled grin. "You mean besides you?”
Waverly laughed, shaking her head.
“Yes, loser, besides me.”
“Hayley Williams, for sure.”
“Who is that?”
Nicole chuckled, twisting her own body closer to Waverly’s as she flicked through the pages in her magazine in search of a photo.
She pushed the page over to Waverly, pointing a finger at the object of her apparent affections.
“What?” Nicole raised her eyebrows warily. "Why do you look like you're judging me?"
Waverly barked out a laugh.
“Nicole, she looks like you! You know, if she was twelve and had braces."
Nicole wrinkled her nose, her brow creasing in the middle as she pulled the page back to study it.
Waverly giggled, shaking her head.
“How about Santana from Glee?” she offered. “She looks less like you.”
Nicole’s eyes flicked up, her lips pursed as she considered the question.
"She's a bit scary, though," she whispered.
"She's scary, but the screamy people in that magazine aren't?"
Nicole grinned, leaning her head back against the wall as she watched the flickering screen of the movie for a quiet moment.
Waverly watched her. Watched the way the glow of the TV and the fairylights in the den made her hair look redder than usual, and the way her lips twitched at the corners as she watched the scenes on the screen.
Waverly couldn't hold back her smile.
Nicole really was her favourite person in the whole world.
She always had been.
She was just so easy to be around, and for Waverly to be herself with.
And Waverly didn't always feel that way with other people. Not with some of the other girls at school, in her new cheerleading lessons. Girls like Stephanie Jones, or Beth Gardner. Even Chrissy Nedley sometimes, even though she was kind of like Nicole’s sister. Sort of, though she lived with her Mum.
"You're creeping." Nicole smirked, glancing at Waverly out of the corner of her eye.
"I am not creeping, loser," Waverly blushed, slapping Nicole’s thigh with her magazine. She grinned. "I just like looking at you."
Nicole chuckled, swatting Waverly’s magazine away with her hand. She reached an arm out, wrapping it around Waverly’s shoulders and pulling her into her side.
Like she always did. In the way that always made Waverly feel safe.
Waverly nestled herself closer, resting her head on Nicole’s shoulder. They sat quietly for a moment, watching the TV as Jude Law confessed his love for Cameron Diaz.
“So, what does Jacob Black have that I don’t, huh?” Nicole murmured softly, and Waverly could almost feel the playful smirk she knew was pulling at those dimpled cheeks.
“He’s a boy, Nicole,” Waverly laughed. “Some of us do like boys.”
“Details," Nicole huffed. “I’ll get that hot chocolate date one day, Earp. When we’re grown.”
“Oh my god," Waverly laughed, slapping Nicole’s chest as she sat up to look at her best friend. "You remember that?”
“I remember everything, Twinkle.”
Waverly opened her mouth to reply, but before she could form the words in her mind, her thought train was derailed by the goddamn persistent interruptions of her absolute child of an older sister.
“Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!” Wynonna burst through the door, with Mercedes forever following close behind. Both were headbanging, with plastic bottles of god only knew what in each hand. “Motherfucker, ugh!”
She really didn't understand that song.
Nicole chuckled beside her, and Waverly shoved her gently with her elbow.
“Don’t encourage her.”
“She’s got good taste in music," Nicole countered.
“Of course I have, Little Haught," Wynonna scoffed. "We both know you got your music taste from my CD collection!”
Nicole rolled her eyes.
“I’m almost taller than you are," she moaned, "why do you always call me little?”
“Because you’re almost taller than I am."
“You’re an idiot, Earp, now can we please go?” Mercedes complained. “I wanna get to Doc’s party before all the decent booze is gone and we’re left with Barcardi Breezers and fucking Blue WKDs.”
“Can’t go yet, Mercedes," Wynonna sang, her tone and her eyes irritatingly mischievous. “The babies haven’t had their kiss.”
“Again?" she protested. "It’s been like, six years, Wynonna!”
“It’s tradition, sis!” Wynonna grinned, wriggling her eyebrows as she whipped a sprig of holly out from somewhere Waverly couldn't even fathom. “Tradition means every year! You agree with me, don’t you Little Haught? It’s not Christmas without a mistletoe kiss.”
“It’s not," Nicole agreed.
Waverly tutted, throwing a scowl in Nicole's direction.
But she wasn't mad. Not really. She couldn't ever be at that cheeky grin.
“It’s not even mistletoe!” she argued, swatting Nicole with a magazine.
“It wouldn’t be tradition if it was," Wynonna laughed.
Waverly rolled her eyes.
She turned, intent on grabbing Nicole’s face and planting her usual kiss on that flushed, dimpled cheek.
But before she could move, Nicole leaned forward, and soft lips pressed firmly against Waverly’s cheek.
Waverly blushed immediately.
She didn't know why.
It was the first time in six years that it had been this way round. Nicole never kissed her. Usually she just kissed Nicole.
And so she hadn't been expecting it, and the surprise had made her stomach swoop.
Wynonna cackled, whooping and cheering as she dropped the holly and resumed her headbanging, Mercedes finally managing to drag her out of Waverly’s room.
Waverly shot her eyes to Nicole’s.
And the cheeky glint in dark eyes, and the smug raise of her eyebrows, and the self-satisfied grin.
Waverly laughed, shaking her head as she shoved Nicole until she fell down against the bed.
“What?” Nicole giggled. “Hayley Williams wasn’t available.”
“Oh my god!” Waverly yelped through her own giggle. “Read your emo magazine and shut up!”
“There are quite a few contenders for Christmas number one this year! That was Justin Bieber with ‘Mistletoe’, and next up we’ve got just about everything from Michael Bublé! You’re listening to Spark Radio UK, as we count down the twelve days to Christmas 2011.”
Nicole sighed as she filled the water bottles in the kitchen sink, and trudged up the stairs towards Waverly’s room.
It felt a bit less Christmassy this year.
They hadn't made their den. She wasn't sure why, but it just hadn't happened, and something about it felt weird.
She pushed her way back into Waverly’s bedroom, flopping down on the bed beside her best friend as she handed her her bottle.
They didn't have their den, but they still had their movie, and their popcorn, and Waverly still had her faded Christmas sheets with the snowmen and the reindeer, and she was still snuggled against Nicole’s side like she always was. And like always, their movie played out across the TV screen, but neither of them paid it much attention.
Waverly was focused on her phone.
And Nicole was focused on Waverly.
Because she knew exactly who was on the other end of the messages Waverly’s fingers typed out across her screen, and it hurt.
It hurt because Nicole loved Waverly, and Waverly was with Champ fucking Hardy.
Class A douchebag from Nicole’s year at school, with half a brain cell and an unhealthy amount of very sticky looking hair gel.
Nicole never understood why he didn't just use wax, like everyone else.
But Waverly seemed to like him, and she never seemed to see how much of a twat the guy was, because whenever she saw him he was chasing a football around and intoxicating the gym halls with the overpowering scent of Lynx Africa.
Not putting batteries on the bunsen burners, or trying to pierce people's ears with his compass, like he was when Nicole saw him.
“Champ says he's on his way over for a bit, is that okay?”
“Sure," Nicole shrugged.
Because still now, she didn't like it when Waverly was upset. When her eyes misted, and her lip trembled, and she avoided Nicole’s gaze in her hurt.
Which happened every time Nicole tried to tell her she could do better than Champ Hardy.
So she’d stopped trying.
She bit her tongue, and she pushed her feelings for Waverly’s asshole boyfriend down, and she pretended to like Champ.
So that her best friend, and most definitely the love of her life, would keep that smile crinkling at the corners of her eyes.
“You sure?” Waverly raised an eyebrow, twisting in Nicole’s arms until her eyes met mocha. “You won’t get all awkward?”
“Awkward?” Nicole scoffed. “I am never awkward!”
“You’re so awkward around Champ,” Waverly laughed.
Okay, so maybe she was a little awkward.
She pretended to like Champ, but she never had a clue what to say to the guy.
“I’m awkward around boys," she teased, "I don’t see the point in them.”
Waverly laughed, shaking her head.
“Oh, but you see the point in girls?” She grinned, wriggling her eyebrows.
“Exactly,” Nicole confirmed. “Kind of like how bees have a purpose but wasps are just annoying.”
Waverly laughed, swatting Nicole’s chest with the palm of her hand.
Nicole caught the offending hand in her own, pulling Waverly back in beside her.
She leaned her head back against the wall as she let Waverly’s words run over in her mind. Nicole was awkward around Champ because she didn't know what to say to him, but also because she didn't know what to say to Waverly when he was around her.
And that was uncomfortable for Nicole.
She always knew what to say to Waverly.
Things were always so easy with her best friend, until Champ appeared. And then Nicole’s heart would seize up, and the words would stick in her throat, and she wouldn't be able to look at them in case Champ kissed Waverly and she had to watch. Again.
She knew it was jealousy, and she hated herself for it.
Waverly was her best friend, and she wasn't, and had never been, Nicole’s to be jealous over.
She felt her heart sink as a sudden thought crossed her mind, and her chest hitched a little as it filled with dread.
“Wait, are you guys going out?" she croaked. "Or is Champ gonna watch the movie with us?”
“Don’t be silly, of course we’re not going out," Waverly murmured, nestling in a little closer to Nicole’s side.
“You’re my best friend, you idiot," Waverly chuckled, her fingers finding Nicole’s and linking through them. "You’re more important than boys. I’d never bail on Christmas movie night for a date. He’s just coming round to see me for a bit before he goes to his Grandma's for the week.”
Nicole huffed out a breath through a soft smile.
She liked that Waverly saw it that way, but she couldn’t deny that a huge part of her kinda wished she was the same importance as boys.
She couldn't help but wish that Waverly would get all doe-eyed when Nicole texted her.
But she would definitely accept the level of importance that Waverly put in their friendship. That felt good, even if she couldn't ever love Waverly the way she really wanted to.
“A date," she scoffed. "I don’t think Champ knows what a date is!”
Waverly swatted Nicole’s chest again.
“Leave off, he knows what a date is!” she laughed.
“Oh?” Nicole raised an eyebrow, her lips curling into a knowing smirk. “Name one time he’s taken you on a date.”
Waverly sat up, turning to look at Nicole, and the redhead grinned as she raised both eyebrows in question.
Waverly narrowed her eyes.
“Last week when we went to his and played videogames…”
Nicole rolled her eyes.
“A real date.”
“Let me guess," Waverly chuckled, shaking her head. "White hot chocolate and marshmallows?”
“At the very least.” Nicole grinned, nodding her head. "One day when you let me take you on a date, Waverly Earp…"
She giggled, her words cut off as Waverly reached for a pillow, thumping it against Nicole’s face.
Nicole pushed it away, biting back her amused grin as she shrugged nonchalantly.
“Guess we’re just not that grown yet.”
“Waverly, the door is for you!”
Gus's voice called up the stairs, and Nicole immediately felt her stomach sink to the pits as Waverly scrambled up from her place beside her.
She really didn't want Champ there.
This was their movie night. Their tradition. Eight years strong, and never missed.
And Nicole knew it was selfish to want Waverly to herself all of the time. But this wasn't all of the time. This was one night that was theirs. And she didn't want him there.
She didn't want to feel awkward, and she didn't want to watch Champ get handsy with Waverly, and she didn't want to watch the slightly uncomfortable look that always played across Waverly’s face when he did. Nicole never knew what to say. She always wanted to tell him to stop. To leave her alone. That Waverly didn't ever deserve to feel uncomfortable like that.
But she didn't know how. It felt invasive, and Waverly always said she was fine.
Nicole took a deep breath, pushing herself into an upright position as Waverly and Champ crashed through the door and into the bedroom, Champ’s arms wrapped around the brunette waist from behind.
“Hey, Champ,” she breathed, offering a half wave in her immediately awkward fluster.
Waverly smirked at her.
Nicole scowled playfully.
She fought the urge to roll her eyes as Champ hurled both himself and Waverly onto the bed, leaving the brunette sandwiched between her best friend and her boyfriend in an unnecessarily small amount of space.
They fell quiet as they watched the film, the easy air from before Champ’s arrival now stifled and difficult to breathe in. Nicole stared harder than she should have at the screen, desperately trying to ignore the way Champ’s hand kept creeping into her peripheral vision, pulling and tugging at Waverly in his efforts to get her closer to him.
She could hear the hushed murmurs of his whispers in Waverly’s ear, but in thanks to whatever deity was half-heartedly looking out for Nicole tonight, she couldn't hear what the douchebag was saying.
“No, Champ!” Waverly hissed, just loud enough for Nicole to hear the words. “Nicole is here, I’m not making out with you in front of my friend.”
Nicole swallowed thickly, closing her eyes as she leaned her head back against the wall.
She really wasn't sure whether she should be here.
Should she leave?
Was she stopping Waverly from doing something she wanted to do?
She considered running, locking herself in the bathroom until Champ had disappeared to his Grandma's, or his cave in the woods, or whatever hole he'd crawled from.
But Waverly’s ankle was hooked firmly over Nicole’s, and she was still leaning heavily against her side, and the redhead had no idea how to escape without creating a scene she really didn't want to create.
The bedroom door burst open with an obscene slam.
"... I'm shufflin'!"
Nicole exhaled in relief, her lips tugging immediately into an amused smirk as Wynonna twerked backwards into the room.
“Do do do do doo to do…” Mercedes danced in behind Wynonna, both clearly at least a little intoxicated.
“I swear this gets more annoying every year," Waverly sighed.
The interruption was exactly what she needed, and frankly she thought they got funnier every year.
“Haughty!” Wynonna barked, spinning to face them as she pointed a finger at Nicole. “Is that my hoodie?”
“You don’t live here anymore." Nicole shrugged. As if that explained her theft.
"You haven't lived here ever!"
"Finders keepers!” Nicole grinned.
“What do you want, Wynonna?” Waverly huffed. “Why are you even here?”
"Why am I here?" Wynonna gasped, bringing a hand to her chest in mock appall. “It’s Christmas movie night, and the babies need their…”
“No they don’t, Wy!” Mercedes hissed, grabbing behind Wynonna’s back at the damn holly sprig. “Waverly’s boyfriend is here, don’t be weird.”
“It’s tradition!” Wynonna insisted. "Tradition means every year!"
Nicole chuckled as Wynonna wriggled her eyebrows, producing the holly from behind her back with a dramatic flair.
The holly they'd literally seen when the brunette had twerked backwards into the bedroom.
“Ooh, mistletoe!” Champ yelled.
It happened so quickly.
Waverly shifted beside her, but before Nicole could even take stock of the movement, Champ lurched forward.
He grabbed Waverly’s face with both hands, his meaty fingers practically dwarfing the brunette’s jawline as he dragged her into a noisy, unnecessarily sloppy kiss.
Nicole grimaced, her stomach filling with nausea.
Just a split second before her heart crumpled.
It wasn’t the first time she’d seen Champ kiss Waverly. Not by a long shot.
But that kiss was hers. It had been for eight years.
And the instant silence, and the knowing pity in both Wynonna and Mercedes' eyes was too much.
She felt sick, and she wanted to run.
But if she did that now, then everyone would know why.
She swallowed thickly as Champ finally pulled back, and she fought hard against the burn that threatened in the back of her eyes as he grinned smugly.
God, he was such a twat.
"Don't you have to go, Champ?"
Nicole’s stomach dropped, her eyes widening as Waverly’s harsh voice snapped across the silence.
She froze, unable to tear her gaze from the fiery look in Waverly’s eyes as she regarded her boyfriend in blatant irritation.
"Uh…" Champ furrowed his brow. "No?"
Nicole held still, almost afraid to move. She was extremely jealous of Wynonna and Mercedes as they crept slowly backwards, holding their hands out in defense as they closed the door quietly behind them.
"I think you do," Waverly sighed. "It's getting late, and Nicole and I have the rest of our movie to watch."
Nicole closed her eyes, blowing out a heavy breath between her cheeks as Waverly led Champ out of the bedroom, and she heard the heavy thud of his feet on the stairwell.
She had not expected that.
Champ irritated the living shit out of her, but that had been the first time she'd seen Waverly lose her temper with him.
When Waverly pushed her way back through the door, she had both hands behind her back, and a very apologetic look across her face.
“You okay?” Nicole sat upright, her chest tightening at the uncertain look in her best friend's eyes.
“I’m sorry," she whispered, her eyes wide as they urged the apology into her words. “About Champ.”
“What for?” she breathed.
“He shouldn’t have been here, it’s our movie night." Waverly kicked her foot at the floor sheepishly, her face dropping but her eyes still holding Nicole’s. “Our tradition."
“S’okay…” Nicole mumbled, unsure what else she could offer in the moment. Her hand reached awkwardly to the back of her neck, rubbing aimlessly. "You don't need to be sorry."
“Yeah, I do." Waverly wrinkled her nose apologetically. Then she chuckled, half shrugging her shoulders. “I don’t even like him that much.”
Nicole’s eyebrows shot up, her breath catching in her surprise.
Waverly shook her head.
"He's got nothing to say," she huffed, her nose scrunching again, this time in disdain. "And he's way too… grabby."
Nicole breathed out a laugh, her shoulders dropping for the first time since Waverly had mentioned Champ’s name earlier that evening.
Not even because of her jealousy. But because Waverly deserved the best, and whoever that was for her, it damn well wasn't Champ Hardy.
“You wanna talk about it?” she offered, patting the space beside her on the bed.
Waverly’s lips curled, half coy and half playful as she studied Nicole from beneath her eyelashes.
“After," she murmured.
Her grin grew wolfish as she whipped the holly branch out from behind her back, and Nicole squealed as her best friend hurled herself onto the bed beside her, knocking her sideways into the mattress.
Waverly dropped over her, planting three kisses on the very flushed skin of Nicole’s cheek.
Nicole giggled, completely unable to stop the beaming grin that ached in her heated cheeks as Waverly pulled back, and she blushed even harder as the giddy sound hit her own ears.
She spun, wrapping her arms around Waverly and pulling her down into a playful bear hug.
Mainly just to hide her blush.
“Thanks, Wave,” she mumbled, the words muffled into Waverly’s thick jumper as she clutched her best friend against her.
“He stole your kiss,” Waverly murmured, wrapping her own arms tightly around Nicole’s shoulders. “I was just giving it back.”