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This Is What You Came For

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Checking on a possible break-in on a Friday night is the last thing Nicole feels like doing.

She could ask dispatch to call one of her deputies, but hell, they were probably enjoying their Friday night. All she was doing was paperwork followed by more paperwork.

It occurs to her just how many Friday nights she's spent in a similar manner recently. She should really think about giving Natalie a call soon, she thinks absently as she turns the headlights off on the cruiser. It's been a while since she blew some steam off.

Once she puts the cruiser in park she finds herself staring at the one house she usually goes out of her way to avoid. The old Earp Homestead. One long, deep breath in and out later, and Nicole gets out of the car to check things out. When she notices a light on in the window she draws her firearm, moving slowly and silently up the front porch.

The front door is ajar, although there's no sign of forced entry. Must be someone good at lock-picking then, because Nicole knows for a fact Wynonna and Dolls are currently 'on again', which means she stays at the apartment above Shorty’s to be closer to town and other...things.

Turning the safety off on her gun, she pushes through the front door, training her sites on the movement in the living room.

“Hands up! Turn around slowly, no sudden movements.” She calls out, squinting in the faint light at the figure.

Her heart gives a deep thud in her chest.

Nicole swallows thickly as she holsters her gun. Her brain scrambles to catch up with the moment, but it proves difficult. The only thought that comes (annoyingly) to the forefront of her brain is the fact that Waverly Earp is still, even after everything, the prettiest girl she's ever seen.

“I've heard of exes who really don't get along, but this is taking it to the extreme, don't you think?”

“Jesus, Waverly, I could have shot you.”

Waverly raises her eyebrows at the same time she wiggles her fingers. “Well lucky for me you didn't. Can I put my hands down now?”

“Of course.”

She seems so casual, and Nicole hates it, given how blind sided she feels right now.

There is something playing at the corner of Waverly's mouth that looks suspiciously like a smile, and Nicole can feel her annoyance ratchet up a notch.

“Well Officer Haught, now that you've solved the case of a house owner being present in their own house, are we good?”

Nicole scowls, which in another lifetime is a facial expression she'd never direct at Waverly.

“It's Sheriff Haught these days.” She's not sure why she corrects Waverly, it's not like it really matters, and yet...

“Yes, I think I might have heard something about that somewhere.” Waverly mutters. And they both know exactly where she heard it.

“Old habits die hard and all. So...” she draws out the last word, looking at Nicole expectantly.

“Right, well, sorry for the intrusion ma'am, you have yourself a good night.”

She tries her hardest not to notice the flicker of what looks an awful lot like hurt run across Waverly's face as she turns and leaves. She fails, but it doesn't stop her feet from moving her away, away, away.

It's not till she's back in her cruiser that she realizes her hands are shaking.

“Get it together Nicole,” she says to herself, glaring at her hands until they become still again.

Waverly Earp, still the one and only person who could make her feel so off kilter that parts of her shake.

When she senses movement in her periphery she looks over in time to find one of the window curtains fluttering shut. Maybe she's not the only one feeling off center from their encounter.

Nicole laughs at herself. Not likely.

As she drives away she can't help but wonder what the hell Waverly is doing back here. There'd been no word from Wynonna about a visit from Waverly, which tells Nicole that she isn't aware her younger sister is back yet.

Because Wynonna would tell her. Of course she would.

Nicole figures she'll just wait it out. As soon as Wynonna becomes aware of hers sister's presence she'll come round to let Nicole know. Then Nicole can find out exactly how long she has to wait before Waverly leaves town again.

Hopefully not long.

She turns up the music on the drive back to the station to drown out the voice in her head calling her a liar.

*****

The curtains are fluttering in the morning breeze, causing the rays of sunshine to disappear and reappear across Waverly's face. It's a sight Nicole will never get used to and never get tired of.

“Are you staring at me sleeping?”

Nicole jumps a bit at Waverly's question, asked while her eyes remain shut.

“Maybe I am. What of it?”

Waverly gives her a slow, sleepy smile as her eyes slowly open, focusing on Nicole's gaze.

“Seems awfully voyeuristic officer.”

Nicole can't help the smile spreading across her lips. This girl.

“I haven't heard of any complaints lodged yet.”

Waverly breathes a soft laugh through her nose. Her hand slowly makes it's way up from under the sheet, tracing along Nicole's jaw, her thumb running across her cheek for a moment before slipping her fingers further back into soft hair.

“That's because I'm not complaining.” She whispers as she pulls Nicole down into a sweet morning kiss.

Nicole smiles against her lips for a moment before kissing her back properly. God, she'd love to wake up this way everyday. She thinks she just might have to see about making that happen soon.

*****

Nicole awakens with a jolt. She scrubs at her face with her hands, trying to erase the vestiges of the dream. A task she knows isn't really possible, because it wasn't a dream.

It's been awhile since one of her memories with Waverly made its way into her sleep. Nicole lets out a groan when she remembers exactly why it was happening again.

Waverly, back in town. But for how long?

Instead of fixating on the question Nicole pushes herself out of bed and through her morning shower and coffee routine.

She would not waste time thinking about her past, or anyone showing back up unexpectedly in her present. Instead she would go to work, do her job, and focus on the things she could control. She's always been good at focusing on the tasks at hand.

And no way was Waverly one of those tasks.

*****

The sun is far too bright for Wynonna's liking this morning. She meanders along, sunglasses helping in the most miniscule way against her hangover. It isn't the most horrible hangover she's ever had (she tends to drink less when her and Dolls are on again with whatever the hell it was they have), but still.

She's debating between donuts or the diner for breakfast when the sight before her brings her to a stumbling stop.

“Either I got way more drunk last night than I thought and am now hallucinating, or Waverly Earp has come back to town.”

She's grinning as she pulls her sunglasses off, wincing for a moment as she adjusts to the daylight.

“While I can't attest to how much you drank last night, I can confirm that your sister is indeed actually standing before you.” A huge smile spreads across Waverly's face as she pulls Wynonna into a hug.

A too tight and possibly too long hug for this morning, as far as Wynonna's concerned, but a sister is worth sacrificing for. She holds Waverly out at arms length.

“Let me look at you. Did the big, bad world change you? Are you a hardened and wisened gal?”

Waverly rolls her eyes, but she's missed this so much. Missed having her sister right in front of her to banter with instead of over the phone or through e-mail.

“When did you get back?” Wynonna asks.

“Last night. I stayed at the homestead, figured I'd wait till this morning to find you.”

Wynonna catches something flit across Waverly's face, but it's gone in a second.

“Huh. I'm surprised the nosy neighbors didn't call me to report a presence at the house. For some reason every damn person in this place seems to know when I'm staying in town. Two weeks ago I got a call about a great beast taking up residence on our porch. It was a frigging raccoon Waves. I swear, considering all the actual weird shit that goes on in this town, the people are shockingly oblivious.”

Waverly lets her sister ramble on, debating whether or not to tell her about last night. She might as well, Wynonna will find out one way or another.

“Oh the neighbors were definitely nosy and made a call to report me, it just wasn't to you.”

Wynonna cocks her head to the side for a moment, mulling over the words. Her eyes widen slightly just for a moment when it hits her.

“Oh...oh.” She's uncharacteristically lost for words for a second before recovering. “Well that must have been quite the reunion. Tell me, were there handcuffs involved?” She cocks an eyebrow.

Waverly rolls her eyes again (she finds she does that a lot more when she's around her sister). “We were perfectly civil to each other, thank you very much.”

“Oh, well then, if you were civil clearly there was nothing weird about it and it's nothing worth talking about.”

Wynonna waits out the heavy silence while she watches the struggle of emotions across Waverly's face.

When Waverly's eyes fixate on something beyond Wynona's head she turns to see what holds her attention. Huh. She hadn't even realized they were standing in front of Nicole's old apartment. Nicole's old apartment where Waverly lived for 8 months too.

“She moved.” It comes out soft, gentle.

Waverly cuts her eyes back to Wynonna. “Did she? Well that's good. Probably to a nicer place, right? I would think becoming sheriff and all she could get a better place. Definitely good for her. Great, even. I'm happy for her.”

Waverly stops to take a breath, blowing out her cheeks and avoiding eye contact.

“Well,” Wynonna speaks loudly, “that's great that you thinks it's great. As long as it's not awkward or anything.”

“Pssshhh, no.” Waverly waves a hand weakly. “Water over the bridge and all that.”

“Under.” Wynonna corrects, scrutinizing her sister. Her very much in denial sister. “Well, I'm off to stuff my face with donuts. Please tell me you can come along and tell me all about your small girl, big world adventures in person?”

“I couldn't think of a better thing to be doing this morning.” Waverly smiles breezily.

Wynonna doesn't miss the way her eyes flicker to the apartment again before she turns on her heel to head towards the donut shop.

*****

Nicole opts to skip lunch in favor of paperwork. She's not trying to avoid going out into the town per se, she's just trying to give herself more time before the inevitable second run-in with...certain people. It's a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and not at all like hiding.

She startles when a bottle of whiskey clanks down onto her desk along with two highball glasses. She lifts her gaze and raises an eyebrow in question.

“Fancy a drink?” Wynonna asks the question as if having a drink in the sheriff's office at 12:30 in the afternoon is a perfectly normal occurrence. Perhaps it would be if Wynonna were Sheriff.

“Uh, no thanks.”

“Sure about that? Seems like maybe you could use a little something to take the edge off today.”

She's scrutinizing Nicole in that particular way that's a little unsettling, if Nicole's honest. She never, ever expected Wynonna Earp would become one of the people who could read her so well in life, and yet, here they are.

Nicole drops the pen she'd been fiddling with and leans back in her chair. “Let me guess, this little drink offer has to do with you realizing a certain sister of yours is back in town?”

“Awww, this must be why they made you Sheriff, your brilliant deductive skills.”

Nicole grins at her sarcastically. “Just one of many skills I'm great at.”

“So I've heard.” Wynonna winks at her. “But not the point.” Her smile fades to a look of genuine concern. “You sure you doing ok? With Waves showing up out of the blue--”

“I'm fine, Wynonna. Seriously, no day drinking at work required here. I'm perfectly ok with Waverly being back.”

“God I love it when I’m not the only one residing in denial land,” Wynonna sighs happily. It earns her a glare, but it’s worth it for the smug smile she gets to direct at Nicole.

“Fine then,” she picks the bottle and glasses back up, “we'll keep it straight laced at work for now, but Shorty's for happy hour tonight?”

Nicole sighs, shrugging. “Sure, why not?”

Wynonna is already heading out the door before Nicole finishes her response, the answer a foregone conclusion in her mind. “You sure know how to make a girl feel special.” She tosses over her shoulder loudly as she saunters away.

“Pain in my ass.” Nicole mutters to herself.

But she doesn't mean it. Well, she does actually, but it turns out, Wynonna is worth the constant sarcasm and low level annoyance. If it wasn't for their friendship Nicole doesn't even know if she'd be sitting in this office now.

So she'll endure the small town shit show that is Shorty's happy hour yet again, and hell, she'll even buy Wynonna a drink. Or maybe three.

*****

Waverly feels a bit lighter after her visit with Gus. It felt good to thank her in person once again, since it was ultimately her money that funded so much of Waverly's travels. It was also really nice to spend time with someone who didn't invoke any feelings of guilt or sadness when it came to leaving Purgatory.

Speaking of those feelings, Waverly isn't particularly surprised to find Wynonna and Nicole in Shorty's when she walks in. If she's honest, it might be the very reason her feet lead her to the bar.

Wynonna sees her first, smiling in greeting, and calling out 'Waverly' much louder than necessary. It's clearly for Nicole's benefit, who's back is to the door.

Waverly notices the way her shoulders stiffen just for a moment. They relax again before she turns to greet her with a nod and casual “Waverly.” It's almost too casual. Their eyes stay locked a beat longer than could be considered polite or normal.

“How was your visit with Gus?” Wynonna asks, saving themselves from the awkwardness.

“Good. Really good. She was happy to see me.”

Waverly knows the underhanded comment isn't lost on Nicole when her eyes flick away across the bar for a moment and her lips purse in that particular way she has.

“Well I would hope so. The favorite Earp has returned, I would expect she's doing cartwheels right about now.” Wynonna comments.

Waverly rolls her eyes. “She loves you too Wynonna, you just try to annoy her on purpose way too much.”

“True.” Wynonna finishes off the brown liquor in her glass before clinking it back to the bar and signaling the bartender with three fingers.

Realizing her intent, Waverly tries for an exit. “I really shouldn't stay long. Still a lot of people to say hi to, lots of catching up to do. You know how it is.”

Wynonna levels her with a look that says she isn't going anywhere until she has a damn drink with them.

“But I can stay for one drink.”

Wynonna smiles with a wink. “Good. Pull up a stool. Nicky and I were just discussing our conspiracy theories on why the men in this town seem to be getting uglier and uglier.”

Waverly can feel her eyebrows climb up her forehead. “Nicky?” Her eyes turn to Nicole. “You used to hate being called Nicky.”

“Still do.” Nicole takes a drink and levels a glare at Wynonna.

Wynonna just grins. “Oh please, how will Nicole know of my undying affection for her if I don’t constantly antagonize her?” She bumps Nicole's shoulder with her own.

In Wynonna land, Waverly supposes she has a point.

She was aware of their friendship and how close they'd become. And she honestly doesn't begrudge them that, but something is twisting in her chest at the sight of how easy they interact with each other.

Not for the first time in the past twenty four hours, she questions the choice to come back.

Her eyes fall to the bar where Nicole's stetson sits. It takes her a minute to realize it's a different one than she used to wear. This one has slightly different ornamentation denoting her as the Sheriff.

Waverly can't keep her fingers from brushing the brim of the hat and the words tumbling out of her mouth. “You got a new hat.”

Nicole freezes with her drink halfway to her lips. For a moment there's visible emotions flickering in her brown eyes, but then she takes a drink and shrugs. “Yeah, new job position, new hat.”

Their eyes lock onto one another's again, and really, Waverly knows she should look away, but it feels kind of impossible.

Impossible until Wynonna loudly clears her throat and clinks her (yet again) empty glass onto the bar. “Well, that was refreshing. Another one, Waves?”

Her glass isn't even empty yet, and Waverly knows she is definitely not staying for another one. Instead she throws back the remaining contents of the glass, making a face at the burn in her throat.

She takes a step back from the bar; a step back from Nicole.

“No thank you, I really should get going. You staying at the house tonight?”

A partial smile curls Wynonna's lips. “Sure thing little sister. Let's have some family bonding time.”

“Nicole, good seeing you again.” Waverly nods politely to Nicole, not quite meeting her eyes. She turns to exit before Nicole has even finished her polite sounding “You too Waverly.”

Suddenly Waverly can't get out of the bar fast enough. She can feel the liquor spreading warmth through her body, and there's a slight queezy feeling in her stomach.

Once she's back out on the street and taking several deep gulping breaths of air, she recognizes it for what it is. Nerves.

She starts back for the house at a clipped pace, determined to out walk any and all unwanted feelings.

She might have been able to do it too, if it wasn't for the stupid breathtaking sunset taking place. Because even after three damn years she can't see sunsets that have just the right amount of pink streaking across the sky without thinking of the picture.

Wynonna took it. She'd done it with the intention of making fun of them, and oh, had she ever whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Waverly and Wynonna had gotten themselves into a bad situation. Okay, worse than bad. Somehow one of Bobo's henchmen had snuck up on them during reconnaissance, and they'd found themselves extremely reluctant kidnap victims.

Turns out peacemaker isn't much help when it's been taken off Wynonna's hip, and defeating revenants isn't so easy without the gun.

They'd spent a harrowing 48 hours in an old abandoned mill, until the cavalry showed up, Nicole at the head.

Dolls and Doc helped Wynonna do away with the revenants while Nicole got Waverly to safety. Although Nicole had gotten off a cracker of a head shot on one of the revenants, even though it was ultimately ineffective.

Outside the sun was just starting to set, and Nicole was occupied with checking Waverly over for every little cut and bruise, making sure she wasn't badly hurt.

Waverly felt the overwhelming urge to come clean about everything in that moment. The curse, the revenants, everything. She'd been feeling it for awhile, but managed to talk herself out of it each time she came close, brushing aside Nicole's persistent questions.

But with Nicole's hands cupping her jaw and her thumbs stroking along her cheeks, Waverly knew she was safe; knew she had someone she could trust implicitly and tell anything to.

And for the first time, she knew something else with such startling clarity. She had someone she was desperately and foolishly in love with.

The realization had her swallowing thickly. “Thank you for saving me.”

“Always.”

The word came out so softly from Nicole's lips, starting a warmth deep within Waverly. She felt the word everywhere in her body, and she believed it.

Nicole's eyes bounced back and forth across her face, concern still evident and mixing with the reflection from the sunset. The words slipped from Waverly easily.

“I love you.” She breathed out.

The soft, slow smile that spread across Nicole's face had Waverly realizing she'd never been more sure of anything in her whole life.

Wynonna had snapped the picture with her cell phone right when Nicole paused a hair's breadth from her lips to whisper “I love you too.”, before breaching the short distance and kissing Waverly until she was dizzy and her toes were curling.

“Don't worry about us over here, we've got it all under control. You just stay over there making out while we deal with the bad guys.” Wynonna called out to them, finally reminding Waverly they were not alone. That she had, in fact, just escaped possible death.

Despite the reality encroaching back in, the only thing Waverly had eyes for was Nicole.

She moved into Nicole's apartment three weeks later.

It takes a passing by truck honking at Waverly to break her out of the memory. She keeps her head down the rest of the walk, eyes avoiding the sunset sinking into the sky and all the memories that came with it.

*****

Nicole stumbles a little on the walk home. She was way more buzzed than she wanted to be, but nowhere near as bad as Wynonna was when Nicole forced her to leave the bar and head for home.

She passes by her old apartment, their old apartment, and her fingers instinctually find the brim of her hat, pulling it a little lower.

Of course Waverly noticed it was different. In reality it was the second time Nicole changed hats since Waverly left. She swapped the original out for a new one a couple months after the breakup.

Oh she'd tried to view it as just an inanimate object, which it was, but there were just so many memories associated with it.

As much as she wants to fight it, the alcohol coursing through her veins and the view of their old apartment has her thinking back on one particular night.

Nicole thinks their first day as a cohabiting couple is a rousing success. They moved in Waverly's things before going to the market together for the first time to shop for groceries.

Nicole can't stop smiling at the memory of Waverly dropping the most random items into the cart. She really didn't think that much junk food was necessary, but it turns out she's really, really bad at denying Waverly anything.

“I want ice cream.”

Speaking of junk food, Waverly's voice breaks into her musings, and Nicole tilts her head down to raise an eyebrow. 

She's got Waverly wrapped up in her arms in bed, and the feel of skin on skin has her reluctant to let her go. 

"You mean that stuff with gummy bears in it you made me buy that's masquerading as ice cream?”

Waverly scoffs. “Don't diss my ice cream. If I don't try it I'll never know if it's amazing.”

That logic is not enough to convince Nicole it's a worthy distraction, and she pouts when Waverly untangles herself and gets up from the bed.

She stops to pick up Nicole's uniform shirt from the floor, slipping her arms into it and taking the time to button it up halfway while fixing Nicole with an admonishing look.

“Don't pout, you big baby. I'll be back in no time.”

She grins cheekily before leaving the room and Nicole finds herself flopping back on the bed, releasing a slow breath. There are times she's not entirely sure she'll survive Waverly Earp, and this definitely might be one of them.

She becomes more certain of that thought when Waverly returns with the ice cream pint and a spoon in one hand, scooping up Nicole's stetson off the dresser with the other.

She drops it onto her head before crawling back onto the bed. The hat is definitely too big for her, and it dips down adorably over her eyes while she's arranging herself, straddling Nicole's lap.

Nicole can't help the soft laugh she lets out, and Waverly is grinning as she uses the spoon to tip the brim of the hat back up so she can see again.

“Well howdy partner.”

“Howdy.” Nicole responds. Her hands immediately slide under the ends of the uniform shirt to find purchase on Waverly's hips, her fingers starting a soft back and forth exploration of the dips and slopes.

Waverly maintains eye contact as she takes the first bite of ice cream, but she looks down incredulously almost immediately.

"This is....disgusting.” She states, ice cream still in mouth.

Nicole can't help but laugh.

“Don't laugh!” Waverly flicks her spoon at her in response, and a glob of ice cream lands on Nicole's collarbone.

She lets out a small gasp in response to the coldness. 

"Rude.”

Waverly leans over to put the ice cream and spoon on the night stand, giving Nicole a soft smile when she's centered on her lap again.

"You're right, that was incredibly rude.” She takes the hat from her head and drops it onto Nicole's, angling the brim up with her pointer finger so she can lean in for a kiss.

She stops an inch away, holding herself there. Nicole can feel the gust of breaths leaving her parted lips, and her fingers dig a little harder into Waverly's hips.

“Why don't I get that for you?” Nicole isn't entirely sure what she means until Waverly starts kissing down her neck towards her collarbone, having forgotten the ice cream momentarily.

The hat doesn't come off until they're sweaty and spent and ready to doze off in each other's arms.

Nicole shakes herself out of the memory, but the buzz in her body remains.

Going down happy memory lane when it comes to Waverly is not what she needs right now, so she starts reliving the demise of their relationship instead.

It started with Bobo's defeat. When they lost Doc in the process.

Everyone felt the loss, but Waverly seemed to take it hardest.

In the aftermath, Nicole had been more than willing to let Waverly mourn how she needed to. She wasn't one to push or prod, but when Waverly started to pull away it was hard not to notice.

Nicole recalls more than one night waking to find the other half of the bed empty. She'd wander out to find Waverly hunched over a stack of research and files on the table.

At first she'd wrap her arms around Waverly from behind, kissing her head and asking her softly to come back to bed. It was always the same response though. A distracted 'soon' before her attention was right back on the papers in front of her.

Nicole doesn't think Waverly even noticed when she'd leave the room again.

Eventually the late nights at the kitchen table evolved into nights when Waverly would stay out doing research and reconnaissance, never coming home. Never calling to let Nicole know.

The worst fight they ever had came on the heels of Nicole finally working up the courage to confront Waverly about her absences.

Nicole can still hear Waverly accusing her of not caring about losing Doc, of not understanding Waverly's need to end this damn curse because it's the least she can do for his sacrifice; can still hear Waverly's voice when she said “If you don't understand what I'm doing then maybe we don't belong together.”

The fear clawing at Nicole had her relenting in the moment, but she should have known then they wouldn't be able to continue.

The final straw came when Nicole discovered the research buried on the kitchen table one morning. Massive amounts of information on places all over the world Nicole knew Waverly wanted to visit someday.

When, as a last ditch effort, she suggested they maybe take a vacation together, Waverly had delivered the final blow.

“There's not really time for that right now. There's so much we need to do here, still so many revenants to kill. I don't even know where we would go. I don't have the time to do that kind of planning.”

It was another 48 hours, and too many tears later, when Nicole told Waverly she didn't see a future together for them.

Still to this day it felt like she'd cut her own heart out.

The second Waverly walked out the apartment door for the last time Nicole wanted to take it back. But she knew. They were broken, and they no longer fit together the way they once did.

Waverly never even came back to the apartment for her stuff. Wynonna came in her stead, regret and sadness and apologies in her eyes.

Two weeks later Waverly Earp left town.

It's not till Nicole is climbing the steps to her current apartment that she realizes she's crying. She curses the alcohol for making her extra emotional.

She removes her hat and boots and collapses into bed without bothering to change out of her clothes. She just needs to sleep this off. By morning all the memories and feelings will be back in the box where they belong.

*****

Waverly has a mug of coffee ready for Wynonna when she finally wakes up.

“You're my favorite human being, you know that?” She croaks while accepting the mug.

“You say that to anyone who gives you coffee in the morning.”

“True. But today sis, it is definitely you that's my favorite.”

Waverly smiles at her ridiculous sister and goes back to reading the morning paper.

They sit in comfortable silence for awhile, Wynonna going thru her first, then second, and finally onto her third cup of coffee.

Waverly can feel her sister staring at her over the rim of the coffee mug. Normally she would ask right away what it is she wants, but she's reluctant to do so this morning.

“Hey Waves?”

Waverly takes her time meeting Wynonna's gaze. “Hmmm?”

Wynonna sets the mug down, giving a nervous smile. Which is weird. Wynonna doesn't normally do nervous, and it makes Waverly think she doesn't really want to have whatever conversation is about to come.

“What brings you back here?”

Well, that was definitely one of about five questions Waverly figures was coming. The problem is, she's not sure how to answer it.

So she shrugs. “I dunno. I guess it just felt like time?”

It's not a complete lie. The past 6 months she hadn't been able to shake the feeling something was missing. She continued on from place to place, searching for the thing that would make the feeling disappear, but it just wouldn't go away. Finally, she decided maybe she needed to go back to the beginning. Hoped that if she spent some time in her home town things would get clear again.

In reality everything just felt murkier.

Wynonna silently stares at her for a few more uncomfortable moments before giving a light smile.

“Well, whatever the reason, I'm just glad to have you back, for however long you're here.”

Her smile feels genuine. Waverly gives an internal sigh of relief. It appears Wynonna isn't going to continue to press for answers. At least not today.

*****

Three weeks go by, and Waverly doesn't feel much closer to sorting things out. She's settled into a sort of routine, which is at least something.

It feels weird making her way to the police station most mornings with coffee for Wynonna and Dolls, kind of like she's stepped back in time. Only there are important differences that let her know she's very much in the present.

Her avoidance of Nicole at the station at all costs is one. It's a tricky dance, and she's not always completely successful, but their paths don't cross often. Waverly suspects it's due to Nicole avoiding her as well.

That shouldn't hurt nearly as much as it does.

There's also the random mornings when Waverly opens the black badge office door to find Wynonna and Dolls making out. After the third time Waverly demanded they lock the damn door if they were going to behave like a couple of horny teenagers.

She may have overreacted a little due to her own memories of stealing kisses all over the police station.

Maybe.

Today she spent time catching herself up on the remaining known revenants in the area. She's rather impressed the number has been whittled down to a dozen or so.

Wynonna and Dolls have done well...and Nicole. Waverly knows Nicole plays an important part in their operations now, but she's perfectly happy to keep that walled off in her mind. As happy as Nicole seems to be with their current avoidance of each other.

Waverly hates the way her thought train always seem to find ways back to Nicole. It feels like an incessantly building drum beat. She just wishes she knew what it built towards.

Her desire to drown out the current noise in her head leads her to the bar at Shorty's.

She's not even through her first drink when a familiar blonde leans on the bar next to her to order a drink. God this town needs more bars so she can avoid people she doesn't want to see.

“Hey Waverly. Heard you were back in town.”

Waverly swears she's trying to give a genuine smile when she turns, but knows she's failing terribly.

“Natalie. Good to see you. It's been a long time.”

Natalie gives her a thin smile. Waverly wants to pretend she doesn't know why this is so awkward, but she can't.

She's heard the rumors.

She hates the rumors.

And even more so, she hates that she hates the rumors.

“How long you here for?” Natalie asks the question casually, but her eyes hold an intensity Waverly can't miss.

“Honestly? Not sure.” Waverly shrugs. It's the truth.

Natalie makes a humming noise and turns to wait for her drink, their conversation apparently over.

The air is heavy with tension and that is something Waverly has never dealt with well.

“Look, Natalie, you should know that I'm not here to come between anything...or anyone.”

Natalie grabs her drink from the bartender before turning and fixing her with a look. She huffs out a sarcastic laugh, shaking her head.

“Nothing to come between, Waverly. Never was. I've never been anything more than a distraction for her.”

The words are still sinking in as Natalie disappears again to the back of the bar.

Something is unfurling in Waverly's chest. She's not sure what it is, but it has her ordering another drink immediately.

She's not drunk when she leaves, so she can't blame the alcohol for it. No, it's her memories and the too long dormant feelings swirling in the pit of her stomach that have her so distracted.

Maybe if she hadn't been so wrapped up in her head she would have decided to not walk directly by the shady and unnaturally dark alleyway.

The cocking of a gun is what catches her attention.

Well damn.

*****

As far as kidnappings go, Waverly's had worse. The time she almost got hung comes to mind.

She's tied up to a chair in some old barn that actually doesn't smell too awful, so that's a bonus.

Her kidnapper, a revenant Waverly recognizes from old pictures she's poured over at least a hundred times, doesn't seem all that interested in her.

He was positively giddy while tying her up, going on and on about how he's been so patient all this time, waiting for his moment, and now glory would be his when he lured the heir into his trap and finally killed her, blah blah blah.

The spiel honestly almost puts Waverly to sleep, she's heard so many versions of it over the years.

It's probably a testament to how screwed up her life has been, but honestly, the only thing putting fear into Waverly right now is how badly she has to pee.

She sighs and hopes her sister shows up sometime soon so she doesn't embarrass herself by becoming a rescued girl with piss on herself.

*****

Wynonna doesn't even bother knocking as she strides into Nicole's office, dispensing with small talk to cut to the chase.

“Mount up Sheriff, we've got a hostage situation.”

Nicole is out of her chair and grabbing her holster immediately. She knows the drill by now, they've gone through this enough times.

“Intel?”

Wynonna laughs dryly. “Got a call from the revenant himself, smug little asshole. Told me to come alone or the hostage dies.” She scoffs. “I don't know why they always say to come alone, like I'm going to listen to them just because they said so.”

Nicole passes through the doorway but pauses when she realizes Wynonna isn't right behind her.

“You coming?” She asks.

Wynonna hesitates, and that's when Nicole notices the extra seriousness in her eyes, the hint of desperation she'd tried to mask with her sarcasm and joke.

Wynonna must notice the recognition that crosses Nicole's face, because she's raising her hands chest high in a placating gesture. “I need you to not freak out, ok?”

Nicole can feel her face hardening, hands curling into fists.

“Please Nicole, I need you sharp on this one. Regardless of the situation we find, I need your number one priority to be getting Waverly out.”

“Wynonna it's Waverly, she's always my number one priority.” Nicole says the words without thinking, turning on her heel to storm out of the station.

“That'a girl.” Wynonna whispers, noting the present tense, before following behind.

*****

The surprise on Waverly's face is obvious when Nicole emerges from the shadows to whack the revenant in the back of the head with the butt of her pistol.

Absently Nicole wonders just when Waverly stopped putting any faith in her. Wynonna does her whole gunshot-to-the-head-fire-pit-of-hell-opening-up thing while Nicole unties Waverly.

She hates the way her hands shake while she's doing it, and also the fact that she consciously tries to avoid touching Waverly's skin.

Once they're out in the sunlight Waverly gives Wynonna a big hug.

“Thanks sis, I knew I could count on you.”

Nicole averts her eyes. That hurts.

“Well you know me, I live for riding to the rescue.” Wynonna's eyes fix on Nicole. “But you know, I didn't save you alone.”

Nicole's eyes shoot over to the sisters, and she actually wishes Wynonna had let Waverly continue to ignore her participation.

Because nothing prepares her for the soft look in Waverly's eyes when she turns to Nicole.

The gratitude is evident, but there is something else floating just beneath the surface, and Nicole is not sure she's equipped to deal with it.

A small apologetic smile forms on Waverly's face. “Wynonna's right. Thank you for helping Nicole, it means a lot.”

“Anytime.”

Nicole means it to sound casual.

It doesn't.

It sounds an awful lot like 'Always', and Nicole knows Waverly hears it too, the way her eyes momentarily take on a far away look.

The moment is fleeting though, Waverly morphing her face into a grimace before looking back to Wynonna. “I really, really have to pee, so if you don't get me to a bathroom like, five minutes ago, I'm going to have a problem.”

Knowing Waverly is safe is enough for Nicole. She touches the brim of her hat in farewell. “Ladies, get home safe.”

She heads towards her cruiser before they have time to respond. As she drives away, she can't quite tamp down the feeling that something has shifted.

*****

A week goes by, and Waverly makes sure to avoid any potential kidnapping situations, which in a place like Purgatory is sometimes harder than it seems.

One thing she is not completely avoiding any longer is running into Nicole.

They don't really talk, no, that's still not something they've mastered, but they manage to exchange polite little smiles and waves when they see each other at the station and around town.

Which is quite a bit. God this town is small.

And Waverly is having a hard enough time sorting out her feelings without seeing Nicole out and about clearly being a now beloved part of the town.

It shouldn't annoy her the way it does. She should be happy for Nicole, that she fits so seamlessly into the culture of the town now, as if she was born and raised here.

And yet...

Speaking of, Waverly stops in her tracks when she spots Nicole on the street corner chatting with the town butcher. Her hands are on her gun belt the way they so often are, and she's laughing at something the man says.

The sudden tug low in her own belly startles Waverly, and she makes the sudden decision to duck into Shorty's before Nicole can notice her.

She's not avoiding her. She's NOT. It just seems like a good night for a drink.

Waverly wonders absently when she started lying to herself so much as she orders a drink.

The voice in the back her mind tells her it's been for a lot longer than she'll ever admit.

*****

An insistent knocking at her door rouses Nicole from a fitful sleep. A glance at her clock lets her know it’s just past midnight.

She’s surprised when she peaks out the window to find Waverly on the other side of the door.

It’s almost comical the way Waverly’s hand is suspended in mid air ready to continue the noisy tirade when Nicole yanks the door open.

Waverly blinks up at her for a moment, dropping her hand before saying “You moved apartments.” She blows past Nicole into the living room before she can even say a word.

“Come on in Waverly,” Nicole mutters to herself before shutting the door.

She turns to find Waverly pacing across the living room floor. She would ask what the cause of this late night visit is, but she knows the answer will come soon enough if she just waits.

Instead she carefully makes her way farther into the apartment and crosses her arms over her chest, waiting silently while Waverly crosses the room a few more times, back and forth, back and forth. Her eyes are bouncing around everywhere taking in the details of the apartment.

Finally, she stops in front of the door, turning to Nicole with her jaw set.

Here it comes.

“You infuriate me, you know that?”

Nicole barely has time to raise her eyebrows in question before Waverly speaks again.

“Yeah, you do. I come back here ready to be annoyed by everything you do – which I am, oh boy am I – but then you want to walk around flashing that dimple smile of yours, doing that hands-on-the-belt thing, being polite. And it’s just-”, she pauses to run a hand thru her hair before rolling her wrist back and forth like she’s searching for the word, “it’s just so infuriating.”

“O-kay.” Nicole draws out slowly, because she’s not particularly sure where this is going.

“And if that’s not bad enough, everyone in this whole damn town seems to be crazy over you. I used to be the town sweetheart, and now all I hear is ‘Sheriff Haught this, Sheriff Haught that’, and it’s like, I literally can’t get 5 minutes of peace without a mention of you.”

Somewhere in the middle of the second half of her tirade Waverly starts moving towards her, and as much as Nicole hates it, she takes a step back each time Waverly takes one forward.

“Do you have any idea how annoying that is?” Waverly asks, leveling Nicole with a look she hasn’t seen in a very long time.

It completely clicks for her as she’s backing over the threshold to her bedroom. She knows where this is going.

She should have known from the start.

She knows this version of Waverly; knows where the mood she’s in heads. Somewhere in the back of her mind there’s a voice telling her she needs to stop what’s about to happen. That it would (probably) be a colossal mistake. But the delicious tugging low in her body has other ideas.

She swallows thickly when the back of her knees hit the bed behind her.

“Very?” The word comes out much more husky than it should, and Waverly’s eyes dip to her lips briefly.

“Yes, extremely, very annoying.” She answers, her voice taking on a completely different tone. It’s distracted, airy.

When she places a hand against Nicole’s chest and shoves her backwards before climbing on after her, Nicole is powerless to stop it.

The bruising kiss that comes next has her body on fire in seconds. It turns out this part of their dynamic hasn’t dimmed one bit since the breakup. Which isn’t all that surprising to Nicole. Even when their relationship was crumbling down around them, the chemistry in the bedroom never wained.

Nicole is not naïve, she knows this is not the best idea for them. This is not a declaration of love, or even a declaration of like.

Waverly did not come here tonight with the intention of getting back together.

No, the morning light might bring a lot of regrets, but it seems some things have not changed a single bit over the years. Nicole has never been able to deny Waverly anything, and it appears she’s still just as big a fool for her as ever.

Waverly lets out a squeak when Nicole suddenly flips them. She struggles for a moment before moaning at the way Nicole bites at her lower lip.

Nicole pulls back for a moment to meet the blaze in Waverly’s eyes head on.

“Well then,” she breathes out, grabbing Waverly’s wrists and pinning them to the mattress above her head, “please allow me to try and make up for the annoyance.”

*****

Nicole is not remotely surprised to find herself alone when she wakes the next morning.

Nor is she surprised when she scarcely sees any part of Waverly over the next few days.

The sex had been great. Mind blowing, honestly. But it was clear from the start they weren't going to actually talk about anything important as a result of coming together.

No, they had pushed and pulled each other's bodies over the brink multiple times, until they were so tired they couldn't help but drift off into oblivion.

Now Nicole finds herself in an all too familiar position. Waiting for Waverly to make the next move clear. Because in the end, it was always Waverly calling the ultimate shots.

Sure, Nicole had technically been the one to break up with Waverly, but she was just making official what had been apparent for awhile.

But Nicole's self aware enough, and she can't ignore the part of her she's kept tucked away all this time. The part that has always been, and will always be, Waverly's.

That truth terrifies her. Because she doesn't think Waverly will ever let her hold any part of her heart again.

Nicole tries to banish thoughts of Waverly away as she enters Shorty's for the annual town country dance.

God this small town is obsessed with it's weird annual traditions.

She shouldn't be surprised to find Waverly there (in cowboy boots, a heart-stopping short skirt and flannel shirt tied up in the front to bare her midriff, no less), but it startles her when their eyes meet.

Their eyes immediately break contact, wandering the room before meeting again.

Well, Nicole thinks, this is familiar.

---

Wynonna watches the whole thing play out from across the room. When she notes the fleeting eye contact and general body language her eyes practically roll out of her head.

“Oh for fuck’s sake… you idiots.”

“Wynonna, watch that language.” Gus startles her. “And who are you cussing out and calling idiots?”

Wynonna just makes a general gesture between Nicole and Waverly.

“Oh for Pete’s sake.” Gus says.

Wynonna balks at hearing Gus use her own terminology for the very same thing she had just said.

“They’re going to break each other’s hearts again, aren’t they?” Gus asks, shaking her head.

Wynonna watches the two of them make and break eye contact two more times before answering. “God I hope not.”

“What are we staring at?” Wynonna startles at Dolls voice. She shoots him a look that he completely ignores before she answers.

“Not much, just a couple of idiots.” She vaguely gestures at the girls again.

“Ah. Got it.” He doesn’t say anything else, but by the way he’s eyeing the two of them Wynonna knows he does indeed get it.

His phone rings and he excuses himself to take the call while Wynonna and Gus mirror each other with crossed arms and a critical eye on the girls across the bar.

---

Waverly really does try to not be aware of Nicole at all times, but it proves impossible. Her eyes get pulled back to her again and again like magnets, and every single time her stomach does this slow roll that is maddening.

She's saved from seeking her out once more when Champ steps into her line of sight.

“Waverly!”

He says her name too loud, which tells Waverly he's been drinking. She suppresses the urge to completely blow him off.

“Champ, good to see you.”

“It is, isn't it?”

He's still talking, Waverly is aware of that much, but her mind is already wandering. She doesn't mean any offense to Champ, but she has no desire to waste her time talking to him.

She refocuses on his face when she realizes he's asked her a question.

“Hmmmm?”

He grins, not noticing her lack of attention.

“I said, would you like to dance?”

Dancing with Champ is the last thing Waverly feels like doing. The prickle of heat on the back of her neck alerts her to Nicole's presence before she even speaks.

“I do believe you promised me that dance Waverly. Mind if I collect?”

A hand appears before her and Waverly takes her time running her gaze up the arm to meet Nicole's eyes.

There's mirth sparkling in them, and Waverly knows she's casting her a life line from Champ.

“Right, yes, I did promise that didn't I?” She turns and tries for what she hopes is an apologetic look. “Sorry Champ, maybe some other time.”

She's grabbing Nicole's hand pulling her out into the group on the dance floor before he can respond.

They fall into the two-step dance with ease. 

It takes Waverly a good long moment to work up the courage to meet Nicole's eyes, but once she does she's met with a soft smile and understanding eyes.

“Thanks for saving me from Champ, champ.” She mentally high fives herself for the joke.

Nicole does that half smile/half grimace thing she always did when she found one of Waverly's jokes particularly bad.

“Oh come on, it was funny. I'm funny.”

“Sure Waverly, whatever you say.” Nicole teases.

They dance along in silence for a few moments before Nicole's smile grows.

“You still manage to do the two-step remarkably well. I guess you can take the girl out of the country but you can't take the country out of the girl."

Waverly huffs out in indignation. “I've two-stepped in Australia, I'll have you know.”

“Is that so?” Nicole's eyes are sparkling and it makes Waverly smile.

“It is so.”

Nicole's eyes focus just beyond Waverly's head for a moment before returning to her gaze.

“Well, I have a feeling you managed to show them all up too.”

And it's all just so familiar; so easy.

Something warm and soft is taking hold in Waverly's chest. It sets alarm bells off in the back of her head that she really would like to ignore. She's just not sure if she can.

---

Wynonna is pulled from her scrutiny of the dancing couple when Dolls appears back at her shoulder.

“Got a report of suspicious activity.” He eyes the girls across the room. “Want to handle this one alone?”

Wynonna hears the music change to a slow song and watches the two of them pause for a moment before slowly shuffling closer together.

She doesn't like the decision she comes to, but she really thinks it might be for the best.

“No, I think Sheriff Haught might want to ride along.”

---

There's a moment of awkwardness when the music changes to a slower song. Nicole can't help but raise an eyebrow in challenge at Waverly. As if their ability to get through a song together with their bodies this close will prove something. What that something is, she has no idea.

Waverly responds to the challenge immediately, her face taking on a soft kind of resolve.

Having Waverly this close in her arms has Nicole questioning her sanity, because honestly, what is she thinking? She isn't, and maybe that's the problem. But for right now she's feels closer to content than she has in so long, and she can't help but think back on the old days.

Waverly must notice something in her face, because she asks “What are you thinking about?”

Nicole could lie, but something about the proximity makes her want to be honest.

“Oh, you know, just thinking about back when I used to scare you.”

Waverly stops dancing at the admission, so Nicole does too, and they just stand there with their arms around each other.

Nicole sees the dip in Waverly's throat as she swallows.

“You still do.” The admission is so quiet, Nicole may have missed it if she wasn't looking at Waverly's lips.

Nicole is approximately three seconds away from doing something very stupid when Wynonna's voice cuts through the fog she's in.

“Sorry to interrupt the pine-fest, truly, but I need to borrow Sheriff Haught Pants for backup. Got a report of strange activity out at the Conroy Ranch.” She uses air quotes around the word strange.

Wynonna cocks her head to the side, waiting for a response and rolling her eyes when Nicole shoots her a look of utter annoyance.

She directs her attention back to Waverly, eyes softening instantly. “Can we continue this talk later?”

But it’s too late. Waverly is putting more space between them, her face sliding into an impassive state. She shrugs slowly.

“I don't know if there's even anything to continue. I’m sure I’ll see you around at some point.”

It feels like a knife in the heart, and Nicole can't believe she's been such a fool for Waverly Earp again.

Waverly turns her gaze to Wynonna. “Happy hunting.” Her tone is not particularly positive.

She turns on her heel and heads for the door, leaving Nicole with a storm brewing in the pit of her stomach.

Wynonna props an elbow up on one of Nicole’s shoulders.

“I need to file a police complaint. I think my sister stole my personality.”

Nicole lets out a small laugh, shrugging Wynonna’s arm off. She's actually thankful for the sarcasm, it helps her tuck away her current feelings. She’ll spend time overanalyzing and dwelling on Waverly Earp later tonight, she’s sure.

Nicole rolls her neck to loosen it up. “Come on Earp, let’s go eradicate some bad guys.”

*****

The next morning dawns at the homestead and there's no sign of Waverly. Wynonna worries for a moment that maybe she skipped town again without saying a word, but deep in her heart she believes her sister wouldn't do that to her.

Wynonna goes about her day assuming Waverly will show up at some point.

More disconcerting is the way Nicole seems to be avoiding everyone, choosing to stay locked up in her office. If this is a preview of the way things will be if Waverly sticks around Wynonna would like to opt the fuck out.

She loves her sister more than anyone on the planet, but Nicole has wormed her way into a special place in her heart over the years. Not that she would ever tell her that. Fuck, she probably already knows.

Regardless, she can't stand the thought of watching the two of them hurt each other all over again.

She knocks quietly on the doorframe of Nicole's office, for once trying to be considerate of not startling her.

The first thing she notices when Nicole looks up is how tired her eyes seem.

“Hey, any interest in happy hour at Shorty's?”

Nicole shakes her head but gives a small smile. “Nah. I'm beat after the revenant hunting last night.”

Even if Nicole wasn't always an incredibly bad liar Wynonna would know that's not why she looks so tired. But she opts to leave it alone and let Nicole write her own truth.

She offers a small, understanding smile. “Ok then, don't stay too late. I'll catch you tomorrow.”

Nicole gives a distracted nod before returning her gaze to the paperwork in front of her and Wynonna heads home.

She finds Waverly in one of the chairs on the front porch, staring off into the horizon.

“Hey Waves.”

“Hey.”

Wynonna notes the tiredness in her voice too.

“What have you been up to all day?”

“Oh you know, I was around, here and there. Just doing...stuff”

“Huh. Well that's good, because it seemed to me like you were avoiding being anywhere Nicole might be.”

Waverly's eyes cut to her, and there's an anger simmering in their depths. She tries to hide it, but it's there. “I'm not avoiding Nicole, Wynonna. I don't have any reason to.”

“God you both have always been the worst liars, it's pathetic.”

“Is there a point to this, Wynonna?” Waverly's arms are crossed now, and Wynonna is almost amused at the level of attitude being flung at her. Almost.

“Just that, maybe, as a crazy thought, the two of you should spend a little less time avoiding each other, and a little more time talking about the ridiculous amount of things you keep sweeping under the rug.”

Waverly narrows her eyes. “If Nicole has something she wants to talk to me about she's free to do so.”

“Oh Waves, are you shitting me? If Nicole has something she wants to talk about? Pull your head out of your ass and start being honest with yourself.”

The anger in Waverly's eyes goes from simmering to full blown flaming.

“I can’t believe you’re on her side.” Waverly huffs out.

“Whoa now,” Wynonna holds her hands up, palms facing out, “I’m not on anyone’s side.”

“Well, you should be on mine.” Waverly grumbles.

Wynonna sighs, collecting her thoughts for a moment. Does she really want to do this? Yeah, she thinks she does. It’s long overdue.

“Waves, look, I am on your side.” She pauses, measuring her words carefully before speaking again. “And so is Nicole. She always has been.”

Wynonna expects the look of murder Waverly levels at her. Hell, it’s why she avoided this conversation for so damn long.

“Excuse me? Nicole is on my side?” Waverly’s lips open and shut a few times while she tries to find her next words through her incredulity.

“Wynonna, she broke my heart. She’s the reason I left for THREE YEARS!”

Wynonna jumps and winces when Waverly smacks a hand on the arm of her chair to highlight her anger.

She waits a beat before responding. And then another. Finally, she holds Waverly’s glare as best she can.

“Exactly.”

Waverly’s eyebrows shoot up. “Exactly what?”

Wynonna sighs again. “Waves, tell me, what have you been doing the last three years?”

“What have I been doing?” She shakes her head as her eyes wander to the horizon. “I don’t know, lots of stuff. I was all over the place, I didn’t stay in one spot for long.”

“Waverly, you spent the last three years seeing the wold. You sent me a constant stream of pictures and e-mails, all of you in new places, doing new things. Which I enjoyed, thank you. You got out and did things. Things you said you always wanted to do, but certainly were never going to if you were living in Purgatory hell USA.” She jabs a finger in the air at Waverly, trying to give her point the conviction it deserves.

Color rises on Waverly’s cheeks, and Wynonna braces herself for the pushback she knows is coming.

“Oh. Oh, I see. Nicole did me some sort of favor, is that it?”

“Yes.”

“Screw you Wynonna. Screw you and screw Nicole. Like I can’t live my own life without people having to help me do it. ‘Poor little Waverly, everyone needs to take her by the hand and help her figure out how to live her life’. Well I don’t need anyone’s help, thank you very much. So stay out of it, ok? You weren’t the one who got her heart broken. So, spare me the sappy explanations. Stay.Out.Of.It”

“No.”

Waverly cocks her head to the side like she’s not sure she just heard right.

“No?”

“I’m sorry Waves, but no, I’m not staying out of this. Not anymore. I went too long letting you and Nicole idiotically bumble your way around. It’s nauseating, seriously. So you’re going to listen to me right now, got it?” She levels a look at Waverly that practically dares her to challenge.

Waverly just glares back. A minute passes in silence before she finally throws her hands up. “Well? I’m listening, by all means, please enlighten me, Wynonna.”

Wow, that’s actually the closest she’s ever heard her name sound like a swear word, which is surprising considering how often people try to use it like one.

“Nicole was devastated, and I mean devastated, after you guys broke up and you left town. She was literally a more useless human being than I am most days. Nedley was about two seconds from suspending her from from the police force.”

Wynonna very much doubts Waverly has any clue just how much concern shows on her face right now. It just makes her more sure this is a conversation they need to have.

Her pause allows Waverly to speak.

“What happened?”

“Well first I took her out and let her drink her face off. Which, let me tell you, Officer Haught can not hold her liquor, like, at all.”

“Compared to you, no one can hold their liquor, Wynonna.”

“Thank you.” She gives a cheeky grin. “But not the point. Anyway, so the morning after our great drink-fest of the century, I take her out to breakfast- well, lunch- and I start showing her the few pictures and e-mails I already had from you. You should have seen the look on her face, Wave. She was so damn proud of you. Proud that you were already getting out there and doing things on your own, crossing stuff off your life list. After that, I dunno, it was like she got her head on straight again. She knows everything you’ve done on your travels. I think seeing all that stuff made her feel like the heartache was worth it, worth you getting to live your life.”

Waverly’s lips part, but it takes her a good moment before she can speak.

“But, the only reason I left is because she broke up with me, told me that with the way things were, we didn’t have a future.”

Tears start to well up in Waverly's eyes.

“You didn’t have a future, not the way things were. Face it, you were pulling away for awhile, hell, even I noticed. Nicole isn’t stupid. If you guys had continued on the way you were, it would have been worse. I know it doesn’t feel that way, but you would’ve obliterated each other. Instead, she gave you the freedom you’ve always needed, even though she hated how she had to do it. Believe me Waverly, she hated it.”

The tears are coming in earnest now, tracking down Waverly's cheeks.

Wynonna moves herself onto the arm of Waverly’s chair, dropping her cheek down onto the top of her head and wrapping both arms around her shoulders.

“I know you think I’ve been siding with Nicole in this, but I’m not. I’m on both your sides. I know the way it happened sucks to high hell, but I honestly can’t tell you what a joy it’s been watching my sister discover the world and do anything and everything the last three years.”

Waverly wipes at her cheeks. “Yeah?” It comes out a little broken.

“Yeah. You’re kind of my hero, Waverly Earp.”

Waverly smiles at that, calming down a bit.

“I slept with her the other night.” She clamps a hand over her mouth, letting out a little squeak.

Wynonna is shaking against her, and pretty soon her laughter becomes audible. “I know.”

Waverly pushes her back. “What?! Nicole told you that?”

Wynonna scoffs. “Hardly. She would never kiss and tell, she’s far too much of a gentlewoman.”

“Then how-“

“Jesus, Waverly, the two of you emit this crazy energy that takes up the whole damn room. It is literally the most obvious thing. I’m pretty sure astronauts in space can see it.” She makes a disgusted face. “It’s actually rather gross.”

“Shut up.” She mutters out, followed by a long sigh. “What do I do?”

“What do you wanna do?”

“I don’t know.”

Wynonna tilts her head to the side, appraising her sister. She smiles softly before speaking. “I can’t tell you what to do Waverly, but I have a suspicion that deep down inside, you don’t need me to tell you anything, because you already know.”

She reaches out and squeezes Waverly’s shoulder.

“No matter what you decide, be honest with yourself, and be honest with Nicole. You both deserve that.”

Waverly nods, reaching up to squeeze Wynonna’s hand on her shoulder. “I’ll think about it. Thanks Wynonna.”

A tight smile crosses Wynonna’s face. “Anytime kiddo. Now,” she claps her hands together, “that was a lot of feelings, so I’m off to find myself some tequila to dull the after effects.” Her face softens again for a moment.

“You gonna be ok?”

Waverly nods, eyes seeking the horizon once more. “Yeah, I’m gonna stay out here a bit longer, try and figure things out.”

“Okay. Love you sis.”

“Love you too.”

The door clicks behind her and Waverly draws her knees up to her chest, dropping her cheek down onto them.

Her heart feels like it's pounding in her chest, the loud rhythm demanding a truth from Waverly she'd long buried.

She'd pushed Nicole away, she knows that. She let all her fears and uncertainties about life after losing Doc crawl into her head and block out all the good things. Somewhere along the way the ugly idea that maybe Nicole would prevent her from living her life to the fullest had taken root.

Instead of having an actual conversation about it she'd opted for avoidance and deflection.

God, she was such an idiot.

She wonders if she has the courage to finally have an honest conversation with Nicole. More importantly, she wonders if Nicole is still willing to have such a conversation with her.

Waverly surprises herself when she actually laughs out loud. She's willing. The past month has made that clear, Waverly just refused to admit it to herself.

Even more clear is the answer to the question Waverly's been asking herself since she stepped foot back in Purgatory. Because she's finally certain of the reason she came back.

Wynonna might just be right about the need to pull her head out of her ass, and boy does Waverly hate to admit that, because her sister is literally the most smug person on the planet when it comes to being right.

She'll deal with the smugness later, it's time she went after what she wants.

*****

Nicole is exactly where Waverly expects to find her, head down over a stack of paperwork in her office.

“You changed the couch.”

Nicole's head shoots up and she drops her pen in surprise.

Waverly is kicking herself for starting the conversation with that. She couldn't help it though, her eyes were immediately drawn to the unfamiliar piece of furniture and it just tumbled from her lips before she could stop to think.

Nicole recovers from the shock of the intrusion, clearing her throat before she speaks. “Uh, yeah, it was...old.”

“Huh.” Waverly very much doubts that's the reason for the replacement, but she reminds herself to focus.

“Do you know why I came back?”

“Sorry?” Nicole makes the exact same confused face she used to make when she wasn't following one of Waverly's sudden segues.

And it turns out Waverly finds it just as adorable as she used to.

“Do you know why I came back? To Purgatory.”

Nicole leans back in her chair, scrutinizing Waverly before giving her answer.

“No. But if you're willing to share, I'd love to hear it.”

Waverly smiles at the honesty.

“Well neither did I, not at first anyway.” Waverly rubs her sweaty palms on the front of her pants, realizing just how nervous she is.

“I've been all over the world, seen things I didn't even know existed. I jumped out of that plane, only I did it at 18,000 feet instead of 15,000, because why not, right? I scuba dived at the great barrier reef, I did not eat geoduck, because seriously, it's so gross looking, but I did help dig one up.”

Nicole is smiling at her and the ramble about her accomplishments, and it's honestly so beautiful that Waverly finds herself flustered for a moment, unable to go on.

She runs a hand through her hair, taking a deep breath before continuing.

“And it was amazing. Truly. God, Nicole, this world is so beautiful and scary and wonderful, and I'm so happy I got to explore it.”

She pauses, steadying herself before her final point. Nicole's smile has softened, and it looks a little nervous now. Waverly doesn't blame her, because she probably has no idea where this is going.

“But here's the funny thing. Everywhere I went, everything I did, it always felt like something was missing. No matter how many things I crossed off the list, I couldn't shake the feeling. And I think it's because,” Waverly takes a shaky breath, “it turns out, you're still the thing I want to do most in this world.”

Nicole's lips part, but no sound comes out. She stares at Waverly as if she might not be real.

“Yeah, take a second to let that sink in, because I mean it. Something was pulling me back to Purgatory, and I told myself I didn't know what it was, but that is such a lie. Because I came back for you.”

Nicole's brow furrows, but before she can speak Waverly holds up a hand to silence her.

“Don't get me wrong, I loved traveling the world, and I fully intend to see more of it. But right here, with you, is exactly where I want to be. So please don't try to dissuade me, I know what I want. And I know I did a really good job of screwing it all up before I left, but, I will do whatever it takes to get a second chance. So, take whatever time you need, because I'm not going anywhere.”

Waverly thinks she did a rather spectacular job of seeming more confident than she feels. Although doubt starts to creep in when Nicole just stares at her mutely for a full minute, eyes wide.

Finally she stands from her desk, shrugging into her jacket hanging on the back of the chair and grabbing the stetson on the corner of the desk before settling it onto her head.

“Nicole?” Waverly asks, nerves taking over.

But Nicole doesn't speak. She walks around the desk, grabbing Waverly by the wrist and leading her out of the room.

She's walking at a clipped pace, and Waverly startles when she barks out “Jensen I'm done for the night, watch the desk.”

They're out onto the street and heading somewhere when Waverly tugs at the hand Nicole is still holding her wrist in.

Nicole looks back, immediately loosening her grip. Her eyes take in the questioning look on Waverly's face.

“Come on.” She says softly, moving her hand down from Waverly's wrist and threading their fingers together.

They keep walking and it dawns on Waverly then where they're headed. They pass several people they know from town. Nicole nods and smiles to everyone who says hello, none of whom seem even remotely phased when their eyes flicker down to note their joined hands. Except for old Mrs. Higgins, who gives a small smile when she sees the two of them approaching but then hightails it across the road as if to say she wants no part in whatever it is that's about to go down.

Nicole silently lets them into her apartment when they get there, immediately discarding her jacket and hat on the couch as she walks by.

She leads them into the bedroom, and Waverly's stomach does a long, slow roll at the fire she finds in Nicole's eyes when she finally turns to her.

She can hear her heartbeat thudding in her ears as Nicole draws her closer and closer, until finally, she connects their lips in the most achingly sweet kiss Waverly has ever experienced in her life.

Nicole slowly maneuvers her down onto the bed, following after her, never breaking eye contact. She reaches out a hand and softly places it on Waverly's cheek, running a thumb down over her bottom lip.

Waverly's eyes flutter shut. God she's always been such a sucker for that move.

“Waverly look at me.” Nicole commands softly. Her eyes open up and a small gasp escapes her lips at the look she finds in Nicole's eyes.

“I never stopped loving you. Ever.”

Waverly can feel her eyes welling up with tears. Nicole shakes her head softly.

“No, no more tears.” She wipes the twin tracks from Waverly's cheeks with her thumbs. “We'll work through everything Wave, I promise, because I am never, ever letting you go again. If you feel the need to take off again? That's fine, I'm coming with you this time.”

The laugh that bubbles up from her chest takes Waverly by surprise, but she can't help it. She feels so much happiness it's overwhelming.

“Oh thank god. I mean, I hoped that was the case, but I wasn’t sure, you know? I actually thought I might throw up before I got to the station. Talk about nerves-”

“Waverly.”

Hearing her name stops her mid ramble. She can feel a blush heating her cheeks when she looks up to find Nicole with a single eyebrow arched.

“Yes?” She asks quietly.

“Stop talking.”

Oh.

Nicole gives her that achingly beautiful slow grin she's missed so much, and then she's kissing her again, and Waverly can barely recall her own name.

Nicole takes her time, removing every piece of clothing slowly, her touch so soft. By the time she's sliding into Waverly, her fingers starting an insistent but gentle rhythm, Waverly thinks she might just melt.

She buries her face in Nicole's neck, panting out “I love you” over and over with each thrust. Nicole's arms tighten around her as she comes undone, and Waverly has never ever felt so safe and so loved.

They spend hours coming together again and again, neither of them tiring of saying 'I love you.' It's not until the sun is starting to rise that sleep starts to overtake them.

“Hey, Wave?”

Nicole's voice keeps Waverly awake for a moment longer. A tired “Hmmm?” is all she can manage.

“I'm glad you're back.”

A sleepy smile curls Waverly's lips.

“Me too.”

*****

(6 months later)

“Where the hell are you guys? I hear water.”

Wynonna's voice comes through the cellphone currently set on speaker.

“We're on a beach somewhere.”

“Where?”

“Uhhhh, not sure.” Waverly turns her head to Nicole, who currently has her wrapped up from behind. “What day is today?”

“I'm not actually sure babe.” Nicole looks apologetic for not being able to supply the answer.

“You guys are disgusting. Like, top level revolting. Do you hear me?”

“Uh huh.” Waverly manages, distracted by the way Nicole's lips have started to brush along her neck.

“Oh my god, please stop doing whatever horrible thing you are doing for two seconds and at least tell me when you get back from this trip?”

Nicole sighs, tiring of the conversation already.

“Next week, Wynonna.”

“Well good, because you should know this town is literally going to hell without you Sheriff.”

“Okay Wynonna, good to know. Talk to you later.” Nicole reaches for the phone to hang up.

“Don't you dare hang up on me Haught, I swear-”

Her voice cuts off.

Waverly turns in her arms with a small smirk.

“You know she's going to give you hell when we get back, right?”

Nicole chuckles, leaning in for a kiss.

“Oh I know, but it's worth it.”

Waverly grins against her lips. “Yeah?”

“Definitely. And trust me, Wynonna'll be over it no time. I happen to have superior skills when it comes to handling the Earp women.”

Waverly's eyes close at the feel of Nicole's fingers dipping into the waistband of her shorts.

“I'd call you egotistical, but-” she inhales sharply at the brush of fingers against a particularly sensitive spot, “-you speak the truth.”

“Mmmmmm, you know what else is true?”

“What?” Waverly breathes out, far too distracted by what Nicole's fingers are doing to continue this conversation.

“I love you.”

Waverly smiles into their next kiss.

Because Nicole loves her.

Because she loves Nicole.

And nothing will ever, ever, top that.