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The Shovel Talk

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The day after the party Nicole cannot focus on a single damn thing. Once the angry mob hunting Wynonna stopped spitting foam and passed out en masse (which was weird, but hey she'll take it) and the hotel was contained by Metro's swat team, Nedley dismissed the local officers who’d been on shift all day - and her. She tried to insist that she’d had the day off and was rested and ready, but he said she wasn’t about to guard a crime scene in a “fancy purple dress” when there were plenty of other officers available. He told her to go home, change, and get some sleep. In the morning she could come into the office and file the paperwork for her one-on-one altercation with Champ Hardy “in case someone remembers it”. And as if being dismissed wasn't worrying enough, he hadn’t said a word about what Champ announced to the entire town before she punched him in the face.

 

Waverly was not helping her anxiety levels either, ignoring all calls and barely answering texts, just writing that she was safe and with Wynonna and helping with the Black Badge Division’s investigation into what happened because of course this was their problem. Part of Nicole wants to say “their fault” instead, but Wynonna and Dolls are good people. It’s not their fault Purgatory is a magnet for weird-ass shit. Even if they seemed to have known in advance something was going to go wrong, seeing as Waverly warned Nicole to stay close to the exits and Wynonna brought her ridiculous gun to the party. They must not have known what was going to go wrong or Waverly would have told her not to drink the champagne. Or maybe Dolls and Wynonna just hadn't told Waverly everything they know. Or maybe Nicole is just slowly driving herself insane overthinking things.

 

She couldn't sleep and after a lot of futile tossing and turning, she decided that 4:30 AM was “morning” enough. She buried her anxiety and suspicion beneath normal and routine - braided her hair, put on her uniform, made a cup of coffee and some toast. Poured her creamer onto her toast instead of into her coffee, swore, threw out the soggy mess, made a new batch.

 

It was not shaping up to be a good day.

 

No one’s on the road for her to bump into when she doesn't quite stay in one lane, so she makes it into the office in one piece. There's a form already on her desk to report a civilian incident which lists the civilian as Champ, the incident as “justified”, and his injuries as “slight bruising to left side of face; other injuries sustained in unrelated incident”. So that's what they're calling a zombie mob, an “unrelated incident”. The rest, and most importantly the narrative of what happened, is blank. She fills in her basic information - name, badge number, no injuries related to incident in question, etc - but can't think how to even start the rest.

 

Does she start at the actual beginning, with Champ accusing her of stealing Waverly?

 

Does she start with the part Nedley witnessed, when Champ made all sorts of accusations against Waverly and her relationship with Nicole?

 

Or, does she just skip right to when he shattered a glass in one hand, started foaming like a rabid dog, and lunged at Waverly?

 

The report of just what the hell he was on isn't attached, possibly because the official story hadn't been decided yet. She has to wonder how much of his outburst was him and how much was just the poison talking, because she had seen Champ drunk before and it wasn't like that. Unless she had completely misjudged him, even plastered he could never be like that. She knew he was ignorant, cowardly, shallow, and most importantly a shitty partner, but he never struck Nicole as, well... Violent. If he had that violence in him all along, especially if he used it on anyone other than rodeo cattle, then she needs to punch him again. Repeatedly.

 

The fact that this is a BBD case, and basically the entire town was acting out of character after drinking that champagne, is not lost on her. Something strange happened last night and seeing as the whole BBD is still on radio silence (you know, all three of them) it's likely still going on. With her luck it doesn't actually matter what she writes in the report, Nedley is just going to have her change it anyway. She had to rewrite her account of being attacked by the guy who took Wynnona during another BBD case, so if this report doesn't end up being coached as well she will be very surprised.

 

Nedley (still in his suit) rolls into the office, irritated and arguing with someone on his cellphone. “I understand if it's not a poison you've seen before but it can't have just disappeared from fifty people in the space of ten hours without a trace. That isn't how drugs work and I would hope that as a god damn doctor you of all people would know that.” He registers that there might be other people in the office, and looks up to find Nicole, alone, giving him a curious look. The coast is otherwise clear so he doesn't hide the frown on his face or the way he rolls his eyes at the doctor’s response. Whatever this mess is, she's officially in it too. He continues into his office, still berating the doctor. “I need an explanation for the press, and I need it to make sense, okay? The primary suspect said there was an antidote. If it had an airborne delivery mechanism, that could account for everyone being neutralized at once. No, listen, I understand the timing seems odd with folks scattered in different rooms but that building is very thoroughly ventilated, especially for its age--” Nedley slams his door and the stream of excuses is too muffled for her to make out after that. Something about analyzing the sealed bottles to find out “what this shit is” but somehow she doubts they'll ever find anything. Officially, at least.

 

Wynonna and Dolls trail through the door well behind Nedley and don't look her way at all before trudging into their partitioned office. Dolls is still in his suit pants and an undershirt, but Wynonna has his jacket on over her somewhat ripped dress. Nicole isn't sure if she wants to ask whose blood is on them, but it's hopefully neither of theirs with how much of it there is. It occurs to her that it could be Waverly's blood about half a second before the littlest Earp comes into the station. She looks utterly exhausted and also has a suit jacket on over her dress, but she's in much better shape than her sister. For starters, she doesn't look like she was in the center of a blood bath.

 

“You’re here,” Waverly sighs, and turns from joining the rest of BBD to approach her girlfriend instead.

 

“God babe, what happened?” Nicole is on her feet in an instant, but Waverly just shakes her head.

 

“I’m fine, just tired. I didn’t get even a little shot this time, or stabbed, or anything.” She reaches Nicole’s desk and doesn’t resist being lead gently into her chair. A wide, goofy grin spreads across Waverly’s face as Nicole sits on the edge of the desk and holds both her hands. “And, bonus, I’m totally keeping Doc’s jacket. It’s super good luck. And comfy. I haven’t told him yet.”

 

Nicole can’t help returning the grin, though she’s even more confused. “I don’t see how he could refuse, you’re adorable in it. Maybe next time we get dressed up we could go for suits, see how it feels.”

 

Waverly giggles and sways back for a second before she leans forward and rests her forehead on Nicole’s leg. “No, no way, we cannot be the matchy-matchy couple. I refuse. There’s less variety in suits than dresses, it’d be harder to pull off.”

 

“We’ll take turns, then. You can go first, you’re already halfway there.” Waverly snickers and shakes her head, effectively rubbing her forehead on Nicole’s thigh. She hums happily when one of Nicole’s hands moves to rub between her shoulderblades. "Waves, are you sure you’re okay?”

 

Waverly sighs and her grin fades to a crooked half-smile. “I don’t know. I’ll tell you what happened later, I promise, but for right now I just want to sit with you. Have some calm and quiet.” She turns her head to look up at Nicole, like she’s thinking hard about something. After a second or two she quietly admits, “I missed you.”

 

Nicole blushes at that; they saw each other maybe six hours ago but she still feels the same way. When the zombie apocalypse is suddenly a realistic possibility, having the people you care about within arm's reach becomes more of a need than a want. “I’m always here. Any time you want me, all you have to do is call.”

 

Waverly sits up and tugs on Nicole’s hand. “C’mere.” Nicole thinks kissing a punch-drunk Waverly might count as taking advantage, but she can’t resist the doe eyes being directed at her. Waverly leans up to meet her halfway, and they’ve just started a slow, soft kiss when Nedley’s door opens again. Nicole doesn’t register the words Nedley is saying, just that he’s still in his office so they still have a chance. Her immediate instinct is to pull away before he sees, put some space between them so he won’t suspect - but Waverly’s grip on her hand tightens and holds her steady. She shifts back just enough that they're not actively kissing, and Waverly drops her chin back to its normal level. The gentle, persistent pull of Waverly’s hand is encouragement enough to still rest their foreheads together. Nicole’s mentally lecturing to herself to calm the hell down, you're not doing anything wrong, calm the hell down, Waverly wants him to see, he already knows, calm the hell down but it isn't doing her a lot of good.

 

“Look, just-” Nedley stops short, and Nicole tries to shut out the part of her brain screaming that she was just officially caught in the station with a girl and her career is over. When he starts talking again, Nedley's voice is purposefully calm. “Just call me back when you have something I can work with.”

 

He hangs up the call, pockets his phone, and quietly clears his throat. With every bit of calm she can muster, Nicole sits up straight and turns her face to the sheriff. He's standing just outside his door, and is doing all the things she's seen him do when he's forcing a calm exterior. His hands are in his pockets to fidget with his spare change, his face is carefully blank and just this side of a frown, his weight is slightly forward but not firmly on one foot or another.

 

He is preventing himself from doing something, and she isn't sure if it's shouting or laughing.

 

Her career is so over.

 

He glances over the two women again, their joined hands, their nervous faces, the carefully calculated distance recently created between them that is far enough to be proper but not far enough to be impersonal. He gives a half-nod, deciding something, then locks his focus on Waverly. “Miss Earp,” he says, formal and precise.

 

“Yes, Sheriff?” Her voice might sound steady, but the way she squeezes Nicole's hand certainly isn't.

 

“I may be over the line, and if I am feel free to come discuss the matter with me after I have slept and eaten enough to qualify as a human again.” If he realizes the poor humor in that, he doesn’t show it. “However, there is something that I need to say to you and I hope to do so in a way that is easily understood.”

 

Waverly swallows hard, and her voice is slightly higher with nerves. “Y-yes, Sheriff.”

 

Nedley takes his hands out of his pockets to clasp them behind his back, shifts his weight back (though still not to one side or the other, shit) and keeps his stare directed at Waverly’s face. “Good. Now, of all the cops you could possibly choose to date you’ve chosen Officer Haught here. Which I do not mean to say is a poor choice, she's a fine match for you.” - What? - “However, she is also the best rookie I have ever had and easily the hardest-working deputy in my entire force. As such, she is important to the department as a whole and to me personally as both her boss and mentor, and I expect you to treat her as the exemplary person she is. So if you do anything to disrupt her ability to perform - No, if you hurt her in any way. You will have to answer to a long line of people, starting with me. Do you understand?”

 

Oh god. Nedley is doing the thing with his eyes like when he wants to smile at a suspect (the kid who egged Judge Cryderman’s house comes to mind) and really, really shouldn’t. This is. He just.

 

What?

 

Nicole finally tears her eyes away from Nedley and back to Waverly. Waverly, who is gaping at Nedley as though his hair just burst into flame but who is catching up to what he just said. Her face slowly morphs from shock to the widest grin. She tries to say something, chokes, coughs to clear her throat, and finally nods in agreement. “Yes, Sheriff, I understand.”

 

“Well alright. I know you haven't had the best role models of how to treat a lady, but you're a smart girl. Be more like your uncle Curtis and less like any man you've ever dated and you'll be fine.” Waverly laughs and Nedley finally smiles, but Nicole’s relief is short-lived. His focus shifts onto her and he puts his police chief voice back on. “Officer Haught. I trust you will continue to conduct yourself with all the honor and discretion your position requires. I will not tolerate an officer who mistreats their partner.”

 

“Of course, sir.” She glances at Waverly and can't help but smile at the bright grin on her face. “I'll make you proud, sir.”

 

“I'm sure you will,” he mutters, watching the smitten way they’re looking at each other. “Just keep it off my couch from now on and we'll be fine.”

 

“What-”

 

“That-”

 

Waverly and Nicole both go wide-eyed and start talking at the same time to defend themselves. After a second or two of stumbling, Waverly snaps her mouth shut and defers to Nicole. “Ah, sir, what- what do you mean?”

 

He just raises his eyebrows at her. “I'm not stupid, Nicole. The earring you “found” in my office the other day wasn't exactly your style.”

 

“Right.” She turns a brighter red and nods, trying to be demure. Waverly is fighting to hold in a snicker, and also blushing hard. “Right, of course. Noted, sir.”

 

“Get out of here, the both of you.” He waves a hand toward the exit. “I distinctly remember telling you, Officer, to sleep before you came in today and that order was clearly not carried out. Waverly, keep an eye on Nicole. Make sure she takes care of herself for once and not just everyone around her.”

 

Waverly doesn't have to be told twice, she's already out of the chair and tugging on Nicole's hand to lead her away. “Will do. She'll be totally sick of me before I let her out of my sight.”

 

“What about-” Nicole gestures toward her desk, even as she's being pulled across the room.

 

“It can wait.” Nedley shakes his head at them, then turns to go back in his office. “There's better things you could be doing than paperwork, Haught.”

 

“Babe come on, let's run while we can,” Waverly whispers to her. When they pass the door to the BBD side, Waverly leans through and calls for her sister. “Wynonna! Wynonna, I'm going to Nicole's. Don't wait up.”

 

Nicole peers through the half-open door and sees a lump of black and red clothes lift its head off Wynonna’s desk. “Hmmwha-? Okay?” The lump squints at them, realizes Waverly is waiting for a response when she waves their joined hands in the air. “Uh. And. Use protection? Call me if you need a ride after? No. No, call a cab if you need a ride. Call me if you need help hiding evidence. Yeah.”

 

Waverly visibly deflates with disappointment. Nicole snorts out a laugh as Wynnona thumps her head back down on her desk, mumbles something that might be “Love you have fun,” and apparently falls back asleep.

 

“Man, I was really expecting her to threaten you more.” Waverly and Nicole look up to find Dolls leaning tiredly in his doorway and smirking at them. He shoots Nicole a thumbs-up and continues, “So I guess, uh, welcome to the team. If you break her heart they'll never find your body, et cetera.”

 

“I'll put you both on the list.” Nicole grins at Dolls, even as Waverly continues to pout. “Nedley already called dibs.”

 

“Bah, he's soft. Wynonna gets automatic dibs anyway. Sister privileges.” The lump mumbles in agreement.

 

Waverly starts pulling Nicole away and waves to Dolls. “Thank you for defending my honor, text me if you need me.”

 

“Any time, Earp,” he calls after them. Waverly doesn't stop dragging Nicole along until they're outside.

 

“So… Going to my place, hmm?” Nicole tries to not sound too smug as she unlocks her car.

 

“Obviously.” Waverly drops into the passenger seat and grins. “Your shower’s hot water lasts way longer than the homestead's. And I like you or something.”

 

---

 

Much later, when they're curled up asleep together in Nicole's bed, Waverly gets a text from Wynnona.


Y (7:18am): Wait a damn minute, the scar-digging chick is HAUGHT?