She can’t believe it’s happening again.
She’s been teaching at Wainwright College for three years. Nicole Haught has been teaching there for two.
And, somehow, they continually end up across the hall from each other, every single semester.
They aren’t even in the same department, and while she knows that they are in the same school (School of Humanities & Social Sciences), that shouldn’t mean that she has to spend almost every day across the hall from her.
Don’t get her wrong. There’s nothing particularly bad about Nicole Haught. It isn’t really a big deal. It’s just…
Well, as far as Waverly Earp is concerned, spending every day looking at the woman she drunkenly made out with in the copy room during the department holiday party in said other woman’s first year of employment isn’t really what she would define a ‘good year’.
(It was such a great way to welcome a new professor, Waverly. Really. Great job.)
She sits in her office, drumming her fingers on her desk and staring at her laptop, mentally willing her schedule to change. To allow her to teach at any time or any place that isn’t across the hall from Nicole Freaking Haught. If only-
And then right in the middle of her desperate mental pleading, fate laughs mockingly and sends the bastard right to her doorway.
“Have you opened your email yet today?” Nicole asks, leaning against the frame, and Waverly pauses to remember how stupid this woman’s clothing is. Stupid Converse sneakers and stupid dark wash jeans and stupid button-down shirt and stupid sweater vest and the stupid goddamn dimpled grin from hell.
(She knows quite well that Nicole Haught is, to put it simply, stupid hot, but she isn’t going to attempt to properly date somebody that she almost had sex with in a copy room.)
“I know we’re teaching across the hall from each other.”
“You don’t sound very pleased about it.”
Waverly scoffs and leans back in her chair, squeezing her stress ball. “I don’t really like looking at you that much.”
“We both know that’s a damn lie,” Nicole says with a wink and a smirk before she turns and walks away, the slight limp in her right leg heavier than usual.
Waverly throws the stress ball at Nicole’s back and misses. “I’ve never lied before in my life,” she says.
The first day of classes is a blur for both of them, until the last class of the day. The one where they share a hallway.
Waverly runs into Nicole on her way to the room from her office, almost literally, dodging at the last moment to avoid spilling her stack of syllabuses, her laptop, a cup of coffee, and a textbook. Nicole is holding nothing but a leather laptop bag.
“You look a little underprepared there, Haught,” Waverly jokes, scrambling at the last second to maintain her grip on her coffee.
Nicole shakes her bag slightly and smiles. “I’m not requiring a textbook for this class, the syllabus is entirely online, and all of my notes are on my tablet.”
“Which would be…?”
“In my bag next to the laptop.” Nicole’s smile shifts into a grin. “Twenty-first century, Earp. Live a little.”
“I’ll take my books and my papers for as long as I can, thanks.”
“That’s fair.” Nicole unlocks her classroom and pushes it open. “But maybe you should invest in a backpack. Y’know. For the sake of getting through doors.”
As Nicole swings into her room, Waverly looks down at the disaster in her arms. And looks at the locked door. And looks back down at the cluster that blocks all chance of her unlocking her door.
And yet again, she finds herself cursing the existence of Nicole Freaking Haught.
Waverly heads through her door and finds a Pokemon backpack placed neatly on her chair. She immediately grits her teeth, picks it up, and stalks over to Nicole’s office.
The Criminology professor is sitting in her own chair, leaned back, her good leg propped up on her desk and an arm behind her head as she plays with a handheld game system. When she notices Waverly, she snaps the system closed and starts to speak, but Waverly cuts her off.
“I don’t really like being mocked, Haught,” she growls.
Nicole blinks in confusion, opens her mouth again, and is immediately hit in the face by the backpack. And is knocked backwards onto the floor when the chair tips over underneath her.
“Are you okay?” Waverly asks, concern breaking through her annoyance.
“Well, yeah, but I-”
“Then for the record? Video games are a waste of time.”
She turns and storms back to her office, vowing to get a backpack of her own, and wishing she understood the baffled look on Nicole’s face.
When Waverly walks to the class she has directly across from Nicole, she has a plain blue backpack slung over her shoulder.
She swears she can see Nicole flinch.
At the end of the day, Nicole swings by Waverly’s office, leaning in the doorway and gripping her laptop bag tightly.
“How was your day?” she asks brightly.
“Terrible. Some idiot put daisies on my desk and now I’m going to die.”
Nicole’s grin falters. “… O-Oh?”
“Hayfever,” Waverly grumbles, throwing an empty box of tissues into her trashcan and opening up a new one. “I’m dying.”
“Oh. Ah. Well. I’m… sorry to hear that.”
Waverly scoffs and blows her nose. “Yeah, Haught, I’m sure you are.”
Nicole heads back out into the hallway, pausing only to hit her head against the closest wall the moment she’s out of sight.
As she leaves the building, the janitor catches her eye.
“How did it go?” he asks.
She just groans.
She’s skirting around the athletic facilities to avoid the school’s volunteer assistant football coach (another bad idea of interoffice relations that Waverly always preferred to pretend never happened) when she finds Nicole on the old, unused soccer field, playing with her dog.
He’s a light-colored golden retriever, fast and playful, and so well trained that Nicole was more than comfortable bringing him into her classroom on occasion. He just sits next to her desk and naps, as good as a dog could possibly be.
If Waverly remembers correctly, he was just a puppy when Nicole got the job at Wainwright.
He grew up as she grew confident in her position.
Waverly watches from the edge of the field as Nicole throws a long Frisbee and laughs as the dog– Hawk, Waverly thinks –sprints after it.
She’s so lost in the sound of Nicole’s laugh that she doesn’t notice the dog trotting over to her, plastic disk clenched in his teeth.
It takes a moment, but Waverly blinks and smiles and crouches down to pet his soft pale fur.
“Hawk, buddy, what are you doing?” Nicole asks with a laugh, slowly making her way over to Waverly and her dog. “Don’t bother her.”
“He’s fine,” Waverly says quietly, stroking Hawk’s head and picking up the Frisbee. She flicks it across the field and watches the dog streak after it. “Your leg looks like it’s bothering you today. More than usual.”
“It happens.” Nicole gives an awkward laugh and rubs the back of her neck, shifting all of her weight onto her good leg. “Maybe it’s going to rain.”
“Yeah. Maybe.” Hawk returns to Waverly’s side, and she brushes her hand between his ears. “It’s nice back here. I don’t think I’ve ever really noticed it before.”
Nicole nods and throws the Frisbee again. “Hawk and I come back here sometimes. It’s quiet. There are certain days where… I really like the quiet.”
“I guess I shouldn’t bother you, then,” Waverly murmurs.
“Th-That’s not what I meant,” Nicole says quickly, panic flickering into her eyes. “I was just… I just was saying…”
“Relax, Haught. You’re allowed to have some peace and quiet.” Waverly pats Hawk on the head once more. “Even assholes like you.” She grins. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Haught.”
As she walks away, Nicole absentmindedly scratches the top of Hawk’s head.
“Buddy?” she sighs. “I’m an idiot.”
The first test of the semester is mocking Waverly from her laptop screen when Nicole leans in her doorway again.
“Don’t I see your face often enough?” Waverly jokes weakly, sighing and leaning back in her chair. “You’re starting to make this a habit, Haught.”
Nicole rests her thumbs in the belt loops of her jeans and shrugs. “Well, I didn’t think my face was that bad.”
“Mhm,” Waverly mutters, still staring at her computer.
There’s a faint nervous energy in Nicole as she fidgets in place, avoiding looking at Waverly and staring at the bookshelf against the wall instead. “Uhm. I was just. Wondering if you wanted to go to dinner. Tonight. With me.”
Waverly doesn’t look up from her screen, brow furrowed as she tries to invent a question about the hero’s journey. “Nah, I’ll probably just heat leftovers at home when I’m done here. Thanks though.”
Nicole stares at her for a long moment, expression blank. “Oh. Uh. T-That’s… okay.” She stands there for another few seconds before clearing her throat uncomfortably and walking quickly away.
The Peacemaker Pub sits only five minutes off campus, and it’s a popular locale for students and professors alike.
It’s also owned by Waverly’s older sister, Wynonna.
“You look way too tired for this early in the semester,” Wynonna snarks as she shakes up a martini.
Waverly rubs at her eyes and sighs. “Yeah, well, shut up.”
“Such a scathing retort. I see why you’re an English professor.”
“Uh huh.” Waverly takes a sip of her margarita and shakes her head. “It’s just been a weird two weeks.”
“How’s that?” Wynonna asks, sliding the martini down the bartop to a boy who looked just old enough for his ID to be believable.
“Well, I mean… I have a class across from this professor who I have some history with, which is annoying.”
Wynonna grins but waves her hand to allow her sister to continue.
“And there’s just been like… like, she mocked me with this backpack? And then somebody left flowers randomly on my desk. I was trying to avoid Champ and ran into somebody I’ve also been trying to avoid, and then last night she asked if I wanted to eat dinner with her, as if-” Waverly breaks off suddenly, her face paling.
“Waves? Everything okay?”
“Uh. Yeah. I, uh…” Waverly downs the rest of her margarita and gets up from her barstool, swinging her backpack over her shoulder. “I think I need to go.”
“Aw. No more gossip for your big sis?”
“You’re a bartender in a college town.”
Waverly leans across the bar long enough for her sister to give her a quick kiss on the forehead before bolting, shock flooding through her.
Because she thinks she knows what’s been going on.
“You seem kind of miserable today, Haught,” Xavier Dolls says as he sets his PlayStation controller down and gets up to get a beer out of Nicole’s fridge.
“It’s nothing, I just…” Nicole shrugs and leans back in the couch. Hawk snuggles his head in her lap, and she gently strokes the top of his head. “I asked somebody out, and they blew me off.”
“That’s rough,” Dolls says sympathetically, sitting back down and picking his controller back up. “Anybody I know? I can glare disapprovingly at them.”
Nicole laughs weakly and tightens her grip on her own controller. “No. I’m fine. Thanks, though.”
As they play, Nicole tries not to think about Waverly.
She tries not to wonder what she did to deserve being completely brushed off.
Which hurt so, so much more than a simple ‘no’ ever would have.
She isn’t entirely sure what to do.
She doesn’t have Nicole’s number. She doesn’t know any of Nicole’s social media (if she even has any). She doesn’t want to be the kind of creepy stalker who Googles someone. And she sure as hell doesn’t want to use her professional school email to send a message to the asshole professor across the hall with the subject line of “WERE YOU ASKING ME OUT?”
Was Nicole even an asshole to begin with?
Or did Waverly just invent that image of her to ignore the fact that she found her hot?
It wasn’t professional, the voices in her head had screamed at her when she caught herself skimming her gaze up Nicole’s clothes the next workday after they made out in the copy room.
It wasn’t professional, and neither was what they had almost done, before Dr. John Henry Holliday, professor of Anatomy, accidentally walked in and interrupted them.
She can still see his stupid smirk as vividly as if he was still standing in front of her.
(It doesn’t help that he’s a friend of Wynonna’s and hangs out at her bar all the time, flirting with the older Earp with the confidence- and cockiness -of a cowboy.)
It wasn’t professional. And that was what Waverly had told herself over and over and over until she had fooled herself into thinking that Nicole Haught, polite but snarky, annoyingly hot, fumbling dork who was apparently absolutely awful at asking someone out, was an asshole.
“Oh, hell,” Waverly whispers, running her hand over her face and leaning heavily back in her chair. “What do I do now?”
They run into each other in the library café.
Nicole is holding a donut between her teeth, fumbling to open a red Mountain Dew while also carrying her laptop bag and a binder.
“Uhm. D-Do you want me to open that?” Waverly asks awkwardly.
The only response she gets is a flash of anxiety in Nicole’s eyes and the other woman walking away.
When Waverly finally decides to just talk to Nicole, she hunts the entirety of campus before finding her in the Criminology department’s practical staging area, setting up a fake crime scene.
Nicole is wearing rubber boots and gloves and an apron and goggles and she’s covered in bright red fake blood.
She looks like either a mad scientist or an axe murderer, and, damn her, she still looks hot.
“What do you want, Earp?” Nicole asks with a sigh, pausing her efforts to mimic a gunshot wound on a bed and sliding her goggles up on her face.
Waverly finds herself momentarily distracted by the goggle indentations marked into Nicole’s face, but soon swallows and stammers, “I-I had a question.”
“Did…” Waverly clears her throat and leans against the wall once she checks it for blood spatter. “Were you asking me out? On Friday?”
Nicole just cocks her head to the side.
“When you asked me to dinner. Was it like… Was it a date? Or just dinner? Because I mean… I wasn’t really… I wasn’t listening very closely? I was trying to build a test and I wasn’t exactly paying attention to what was going on… uhm… so… I’m not… er…” She clears her throat again and straightens out a wrinkle in her skirt. “What I’m trying to get at… uhm… is whether? You’d still like… to go to dinner sometime?”
There’s a few painful seconds where Nicole just keeps staring at her. Then she slides her goggles down and turns again to her work. “I’ll pick you up at eight.”
Nicole glances back. “I’ll pick you up at eight?”
“Oh. Uhm. Good. Great.”
Waverly is halfway down the hallway when she hears her name being called. Nicole is leaning out of the staging room, face flushed red. “Uh. I don’t… Where do you live?”
“77 Homestead Avenue.”
“Good. D-Do you like Italian?”
“Yes,” Waverly says, smiling slowly.
Nicole rubs the back of her neck, seemingly not noticing the fake blood spread onto her skin. “Uhm. Good. Eight.”
She ducks back into the room, and Waverly continues down the hall.
And wonders what she just got herself into.
When Nicole arrives at Waverly’s place and politely knocks on the door, Waverly almost curses her out. She’s still in her dress shirt and sweater vest, but everything else has been swapped for Dockers, wing tips, and a fucking bowtie.
Waverly, to her credit, is wearing a not-too-casual, not-too-fancy light blue dress that makes Nicole’s jaw go slack and causes her to just stare stupidly for a few seconds.
She recovers well enough to hold out a hand. “Miss Earp?”
“Oh my God,” Waverly giggles. “You’re ridiculous.”
“I try,” Nicole says, almost shyly.
They head over to a red two-door sports car that catches Waverly off guard. “I’ve seen this before,” she says. “I didn’t realize it was yours.”
“1989 SS Chevelle,” Nicole replies, a note of pride in her voice. “My dad bought it the year I was born.”
“Ah, that makes sense.”
Nicole’s brow furrows. “What does?”
“Family car. It’s the only explanation why a nerd such as yourself would have such a badass car.”
“Cute. As in, you’re lucky you are.” Nicole opens the passenger door and her face shifts to a mild panic. She dives forward and quickly brushes off the seat before straightening and facing Waverly and giving her a forced smile.
Waverly grins slowly. “Hawk’s seat?”
“I knew I’d forget something,” Nicole says sheepishly.
“Good thing you’re cute,” Waverly teases, patting Nicole on the cheek and sliding into the car.
Halfway through salad, Nicole says, “I’ve been trying to figure out a way to actually talk to you for like a year, and yet I can’t think of a single thing to talk to you about.”
Waverly gives her a small smile. “Come here often?”
“I know you’re joking, but actually… yeah? Kinda? It’s a nice place. I come here when I get tired of bar food or Chinese takeout.”
“You don’t make yourself dinner?”
“Hm. Let’s see.” Nicole chews on an olive and thinks for a moment, staring at nothing over Waverly’s shoulder. “I can use a grill. I can make cream of mushroom chicken. I can make burritos. And pasta. That’s the extent of my cooking skills.”
Laughing softly, Waverly says, “No breakfasts for you?”
“Cereal, toast and cheese, or frozen waffles.” Nicole shrugs. “I’m talented.”
“I can see that.”
The waiter arrives with their meals, setting them down before heading off to another table. There’s a pause as Waverly watches Nicole sprinkle parmesan cheese on top of her chicken parmesan.
“What?” Nicole asks, a defensive tone to her voice.
“Nothing. It’s just funny. Want some chicken with your cheese?”
“Nope.” Nicole slides the shaker across the table. “Want some cheese on your chicken alfredo?”
“Coward.” Nicole pushes it a little more and knocks it over.
“It happens.” She waits until they’ve both gotten through several bites of food, then says, “So. Tell me. I know you’ve got one by now.”
“One what?” Waverly asks with a frown.
“A student who’s done something idiotic.”
“Ah. Well. I did have someone who turned in a fanfic of a television show based on a comic book as a creative writing assignment.”
Nicole takes a sip of her water. “What’s wrong with that?”
“It wasn’t their fanfic.”
“Ouch.” As she sprinkles a bit more cheese on her plate, Nicole says, “I had a student ask me what the difference is between first-degree and second-degree murder. Which wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except it’s a student in my 400-level crime scene class. I think she should’ve learned that by now? But maybe I’m just crazy.”
“She could’ve watched literally any episode of CSI to find that out,” Waverly comments.
“Please,” Nicole groans. “Please don’t do this to me.”
Waverly grins and reaches across the table to stroke the back of Nicole’s hand. “This is half of my fun, Nicole.”
“I’ll say it again,” Nicole grumbles as she picks up her water. “You’re lucky you’re so damn cute.”
When they get back to Waverly’s place, Nicole walks her to her door.
They pause there, staring at each other, just waiting.
“I don’t think you realize how much I’m considering inviting you inside,” Waverly whispers.
“I know.” Nicole cups Waverly’s face in her hands, leans forward, and kisses her.
Waverly swears it’s the kind of kiss that only exists in fiction. The natural sound is muffled, the music swells, the camera slowly spins around them.
When Nicole pulls away, Waverly can feel the loss.
“Let it be a first date,” Nicole murmurs against Waverly’s lips. “Let it be a real first date, no matter what we’ve done in the past. A kiss goodnight, and a promise.”
“What kind of promise?” Waverly asks, her voice trembling.
“That you won’t wait again.”
A shiver runs through Waverly’s spine, a shiver that bleeds into the rest of her body as Nicole presses another, shorter kiss to her mouth.
“Goodnight, Waverly,” Nicole whispers.
She turns and walks back to her car, and she waits to make sure Waverly gets inside before she drives off.
Inside, where Waverly just leans against her front door, and tries to will her heart to start beating again.
Half an hour before their classes are set to begin across the hall from each other, Waverly knocks on the frame of Nicole’s door. “Hi.”
Nicole grins and leans back in her chair. “Hey.”
“I brought you a coffee,” Waverly says, setting the cup down on Nicole’s desk.
The change in Nicole is immediate. She fidgets with her pen and shifts away from the cardboard container, her eyes flickering with something close to panic.
“I-I saw you with a thermos,” Waverly stammers. “And I guess I just… assumed…”
“Oh, uh… no… it was tea.” Nicole clears her throat, the discomfort plain on her face. “I… got… sick. Off of coffee once. Haven’t drank it since.”
“Sure. Right. Okay. Uhm. I don’t need any more tonight, so just toss it if you don’t want it, alright?” Waverly turns to leave the room, her mind racing. And worrying. Because the simple gesture had produced a negative reaction far worse than ‘got sick off of coffee once’. And her brain immediately assumed that their date had not gone as well as she had thought.
Nicole gets up a bit too quickly and curses under her breath, her injured leg almost giving out on her with the rapid movement. She grabs Waverly’s hand and pulls her back into the room.
“Dinner. Friday. With me.”
The rebellion in Waverly’s brain begins to calm. “Absolutely.” She taps her finger against Nicole’s lips. “But.”
“… But?” Nicole repeats nervously.
“When I asked you out, you drove and you picked the restaurant. So. Since you’re asking me, I’m driving and I’m picking the restaurant.”
Nicole lets out a breath she has apparently been holding. “I can handle that.”
“Good. Friday.” Waverly yanks her forward by the collar of her shirt and kisses her, a long, slow kiss that edges towards not being work appropriate.
“What was that for?” Nicole murmurs.
“Can’t wait until Friday for that.” With a grin, Waverly heads off towards her classroom.
As Nicole walks out of her classroom, Waverly catches her arm. “I forgot,” she says in a murmur. “Seven o’clock tomorrow? And I don’t know where you live.”
Nicole’s stomach swoops a bit as she catches the scent of Waverly’s perfume. “Seven’s fine. 62 20th Street.”
“Right near my sister’s bar. That’s easy enough.” Waverly glances around to make sure all of the students have left, then leans up to whisper in Nicole’s ear. “I’ll wear something nice. Just in case.”
She smirks as she leaves, and when she glances back behind her before turning the corner and catches Nicole frozen in place, the smirk broadens into a grin.
“You know,” Waverly says, fumbling with her chopsticks as she tries to pick up General Tso’s chicken, “you were a little bit of a mess, Nic. The flowers were you, right? Along with the backpack. And telling me you wanted to be alone? Great plan. So was your spectacular attempt to ask me out.”
Nicole pauses in eating a dumpling, annoyance flickering over her expression. “Hey. Look. My attempts to impress you were a mess, but I very clearly asked you out. You gotta give me credit for that much at least.”
Waverly reaches across the table and links her fingers with Nicole’s. “You’re right,” she says softly. “You’re right. That part was on me. And I’m sorry.”
“I guess we’re both kind of disasters, huh?”
“That’s what’ll make it work.”
Nicole laughs and brings Waverly’s hand up to her lips, kissing it gently. “I really want it to, Waverly. I really hope it does.”
“Well, then.” Waverly winks at her and finishes swallowing a mouthful of rice. “I guess we’ll have to do our best to make sure of it, won’t we?”
Waverly steps out of her blue Jeep Wrangler and is too slow to open Nicole’s door for her.
“Wow,” Waverly teases softly. “Can’t even let me be polite?”
Nicole snorts and straightens her sweater vest. “I believe that you’re polite.”
“Are you sure? Maybe I should walk you to the porch.”
“Oh, is that right?” Nicole laughs and links her hand with Waverly’s. “By all means, then.”
When they get to the door, they just stand there. Silent, waiting.
Until Nicole says, “I need to take care of Hawk. Feed him, let him out.”
Nicole pulls Waverly forward and kisses her deeply. “If you’d like,” she whispers, “I’d like to invite you inside. I’d like you to wait for me to take care of my dog. And then I’d like to show you what my bedroom looks like.”
“I hope it’s nicer than the copy room.”
A grin spreads across Nicole’s face as she pulls her house key out of her pocket. “I think you’ll find that it is.”
They lie in bed together, whispering and giggling to each other. While Hawk lies in his bed in the corner, staring at them.
“He won’t stop staring at me,” Waverly mumbles. “It… was unnerving, I’ll admit.”
“If I were you I would get used to it. You’re in his spot.”
Waverly scoffs and kisses Nicole on the cheek, lingers and trails the kiss up to her ear. “I can’t believe I’m replacing your dog.”
“Replacing?” Nicole shakes her head and gives a short laugh. “You’re my mistress, sweetheart.”
“Oh, okay, I see how it is.” Waverly runs her fingers down Nicole’s right leg, stopping at the thick scar in her thigh. She can feel Nicole tense under her touch, a tension that only gets worse as her fingers skim up to another scar just below Nicole’s left breast.
“Wave,” Nicole whispers.
“I won’t ask you,” Waverly says, stroking the mark softly. “But… just know that you can tell me, okay?”
“Yeah.” Nicole presses a gentle kiss to the side of Waverly’s head. “I know I can. Just. Not tonight. I’m not sure when.”
“That’s alright. That’s perfectly fine.” Waverly turns Nicole’s head to face her, stroking her palm along the line of Nicole’s jaw, and kisses her slowly. “So. What will it be, Professor? Sleep? Or would you like to take another run at making your dog jealous?”
Nicole laughs. “How about both, Professor?”
“Oh.” Waverly grins and shoots an arrogant look in Hawk’s direction. “I think I can manage that.”
“I’m going to go ahead and assume that you don’t have a coffee maker,” Waverly teases lightly as she leans against the counter in Nicole’s kitchen.
“I have a Keurig that only makes tea and hot chocolate.”
Waverly shrugs. “I can drink tea.”
Nicole gives a weak grin and puts a mug into the machine. “I don’t really have much breakfast food. It’s pretty much just cereal and frozen waffles.”
“Frozen waffles sound amazing,” Waverly says, trailing a finger along Nicole’s jaw and kissing her on the cheek.
“Uhm. I, uh…” Nicole glances down at the oversized t-shirt Waverly is wearing and stammers, “If you want, you can toss your clothes from last night in my washer. I-I don’t think any of my stuff will fit. But you’re welcome to my supply of new toothbrushes.”
“Funny,” Waverly says, a sly tone to her voice. “I happened to toss a bag with fresh clothes and a toothbrush in the back of my car before I went out last night.”
Nicole blinks at her for a moment, not even noticing that the machine is done with Waverly’s tea. “You’re a planner, aren’t you?”
“Oh, babe.” Waverly grins and plays with the tie of Nicole’s sleep pants. “I’m just getting started with you.”
Waverly watches Nicole slip pieces of her waffles to Hawk under the table and smiles. “You know,” she murmurs, “I’m thinking that-”
She’s interrupted when a small black cat jumps into the kitchen through the dog door and pads over to drink out of Hawk’s water bowl.
“That’s Calamity,” Nicole says. “So named because she snuck in after Hawk while I was out last year, knocked over my Christmas tree, and tried to blame it on the poor dog when I got home. A feral cat, but I give her a warm place to stay and find food when she needs it.”
“Sweet of you.”
Nicole shrugs. “I’m not sure she was going to give me much of a choice.”
“Speaking of choice.” Waverly finishes off her tea. “When we’re done here… any thoughts on the choice of heading back to bed?”
Nicole grins slowly. “I think I’d be a fool to turn that option down.”
Hawk stands next to the bed, resting his head on the mattress and whining.
“I know, buddy.” Nicole strokes him gently and makes soothing sounds. “I know. Go lie down.”
“What’s wrong?” Waverly asks as the dog whines more and circles around to her side of the bed.
“I usually take him out for a while on weekends. He’s complaining.”
Waverly kisses Nicole on the side of the head. “It’s a beautiful day. Take your dog out. I’ll go with you if you want.”
“You’d do that?”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Waverly stands and pulls a pair of jeans out of her bag. “I’m not exactly here to bang you and run, Nicky.”
“Well, considering the very nice breakfast we had, I wasn’t exactly thinking you were doing that.”
Hawk jumps onto the bed and stands on top of Nicole, wagging his tail happily as he stares directly into her face.
Waverly snickers softly. “You’re being summoned, Professor Haught.”
“Okay, okay, okay, alright.” Nicole sits up and Hawk sits down in her lap. She pets him as she watches Waverly get dressed.
There’s a stupid grin on Nicole’s face as she throws a Frisbee for her dog and watches him chase after it.
“You really love that big guy, don’t you?” Waverly asks, linking her fingers with Nicole’s.
“He saves my life sometimes.” Nicole kisses Waverly on the cheek. “Thanks for joining me, Waves. I mean it.”
“Well, I do have to admit that my motives weren’t entirely selfless.”
“Oh, that so?”
“Yeah.” Waverly frees her hand and slips it into the back pocket of Nicole’s jeans. “When we’re done here, why don’t we go back to your place and order some takeout and make out until it delivers?”
Nicole chuckles, a faint blush coloring her cheeks as she awkwardly crouches down to get the Frisbee back from Hawk. “Yeah, Earp. I think we can make that work.”
Nicole wakes to an empty bed, and for a moment she worries that Waverly is gone. Until she hears the soft sound of singing coming from the kitchen.
“What the hell,” Nicole mumbles into her pillow.
She rolls out of bed and follows the sound and finds Waverly making eggs, toast, and bacon that she sneaks a few pieces of to Hawk. Her earbuds are stuck in her ears, and she doesn’t notice Nicole walk in until she turns to pick her coffee cup off of the counter. She flushes and pulls the headphones out.
“Uhm. Good morning.”
“Hi.” Nicole rubs at her eyes. “What are you doing?”
“I went out earlier to get myself some coffee and some real breakfast food. Figured we could use it.”
“You didn’t have to do that,” Nicole says softly, setting her mug in the Keurig to make tea.
“Well… I wanted to.”
Waverly leans up to kiss her, and Nicole gently sets a finger on her lips. “Uhm. Could… could you wait until you won’t taste like coffee?”
“Of course. I’m sorry.” Waverly diverts and presses the soft kiss to Nicole’s cheek, back by her ear. “Maybe we can take Hawk out again today? Watch a movie later?” She presses another kiss to Nicole’s skin and grins. “Spend some more time in bed?”
“You really want to spend more time with me?” Nicole asks, an almost incredulous note to her voice.
“Absolutely. You have a hard time grasping that, don’t you, Haught?”
Nicole blushes. “Yeah, well…”
Waverly reaches up and strokes her cheek. “I’m here, Nicky. Get that through your thick skull.”
As Waverly turns back to the food, Nicole just watches her. “Yeah,” she whispers. “You’re here.”
“God, I wish you had brought clothes for work tomorrow,” Nicole murmurs into Waverly’s neck.
“I wish I had, too.” Waverly glances over at Hawk, curled up in his bed and watching her with big, sad eyes. “Though, your spouse will be pleased to see me gone.”
“He likes you,” Nicole says with a laugh.
“That so? How can you tell?”
“You fed him bacon. He’s not stupid.”
Waverly chuckles softly and gives Nicole a long kiss. “I gotta go. I teach a 9am tomorrow.”
“Okay. I’ll walk you out.”
They head outside, and Waverly kisses her again on the porch. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Professor Haught. Got it?”
Nicole brings Waverly’s hand up to her lips and presses a kiss to her knuckles. “Goodnight, Waverly.”
As Waverly gets in the car, Nicole leans back heavily against her front door. Closes her eyes. And goes back inside to cuddle in bed alone with her dog.
They run into each other in the hall briefly on Monday, smiling shyly and flushing just a little before going about their day.
In between classes, Waverly slips into Nicole’s office and shuts the door behind her.
“Hey there, Professor,” she says slyly. “Have any time during your office hours for me?”
“My office hours aren’t until three,” Nicole replies. After a moment, she blinks and looks up sheepishly. “Oh. Were you flirting?”
“Wow, Nicky, and you called me out.”
“I-I guess I just…” Nicole fidgets with her pen, clicking it repeatedly and looking down at nothing. “I kind of figured that when you went home last night the bubble would burst. You’d realize that I’m not… I’m not what you want. Or something.”
“Baby.” Waverly crosses the office and straddles Nicole in her chair, sitting in her lap. She cups Nicole’s face in her hands and kisses her fiercely. “I want you, Nicole. I know I was a stubborn jackass who spent way too much time pretending that I didn’t like you. Even though it was a damn lie. But the truth? The truth is that I’ve wanted you since I almost had you in that copy room, and I’ve been fighting with myself over it ever since.” She kisses Nicole again, almost roughly. “Nicole. I want you.”
Nicole wraps her arms around Waverly’s waits and rests their foreheads together, her breathing shallow and unsteady. After a long moment, she whispers, “Are you… Are you saying you would…”
“I would what?” Waverly prompts gently.
“Be my… girlfriend?”
Waverly laughs softly and kisses Nicole again. “Yes, Nicole Haught, I’m trying to say that I’m your girlfriend. Are you mine?”
“If you’ll have me,” Nicole says with a small grin on her face.
Waverly strokes Nicole’s cheek gently and presses a quick kiss to the tip of her nose. “Have you? It would be my genuine pleasure.”
When Waverly leaves Nicole’s place late on a Saturday night, she swings by the Peacemaker Pub to have a drink with her sister.
Wynonna is at one end of the counter, smirking at the flirtations of a tipsy college boy. Waverly just rolls her eyes and sits down at the other end to wait.
“Been here long?” Wynonna asks as she finally joins her and hands Waverly a drink.
“Few minutes. You were being attended to.”
Wynonna snorts. “It’s harmless. They’re all idiots. And way, way too young.” She leans towards Waverly and winks. “I prefer to bed men, thanks.”
“Gross.” Waverly takes a sip of her beer and glances at her phone, where a quick goodbye from Nicole has lit the screen. She grins like she can’t help herself, shoots off a quick response, and shoves her phone back into her pocket. When she looks back up, Wynonna is staring at her, eyebrows raised. “What?”
“You seem awfully happy.” Wynonna narrows her eyes and leans forward, squinting into Waverly’s gaze. “You got laid, didn’t you?”
“Waverly.” Wynonna grins and pours a bit more alcohol into Waverly’s glass. “Come on. Who is it?”
“… A professor,” Waverly admits with a sigh.
“Professor?” Wynonna hesitates, a troubled glint forming in her blue eyes. “Waves, you-”
“I know. This is an exception.” Waverly fidgets with a napkin and steals a pretzel out of a nearby container. “I, uh…” She swallows the pretzel and grins again. “I really like her, Wy. Like. I really like her.”
Wynonna reaches across the bartop and pats Waverly’s cheek softly. “I’m glad. I want to meet her.”
“Dude, you look like you just had Christmas and your birthday all at once. I want to meet the person who can cause that.” She pats Waverly’s cheek again and starts mixing a drink. “Plus, this way I can threaten her if I don’t think she’s good enough for you.”
Waverly groans and rests her head down on the counter. “Oh no.”
“Lunch was amazing,” Waverly says as she walks back to campus, her shoulder lightly brushing against Nicole’s bicep. “I’ve never even heard of that place before.”
Nicole shrugs. “When you spend a lot of time eating dinner out different places, you tend to know the best places to go.”
“You mean, when you’re shit at cooking.”
“Yes. Thank you, Wave.”
Waverly leans up and kisses Nicole’s cheek. “You’re very welcome. Maybe tomorrow for lunch we can go to-”
In the parking lot behind them, a car backfires.
Nicole immediately grabs Waverly’s arms and shoves her against the brick wall of the store next to them, pinning her there as if shielding her.
“Nic. Baby.” Waverly reaches up and strokes her palm along Nicole’s jawline. “Baby. It was just a car.”
Nicole takes a few slow breaths, after which an embarrassed flush tints her face. “Uhm. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Waverly says hesitantly. She presses a soft kiss to Nicole’s lips and gently pushes Nicole back until they’re on the sidewalk again. “Are you alright?”
“Y-Yeah,” Nicole stammers. “Yeah. I’m fine.” She slings her arm over Waverly’s shoulders and leads her as they continue on their way.
And Waverly can feel her girlfriend’s entire body trembling.
Waverly walks into the bar and heads up to the counter, where Wynonna is serving a group of locals. “Hey,” she says as she leans against the wood. “Do you really want to meet my girlfriend?”
“Oh, she’s your girlfriend now? Not just some chick you’re sleeping with?” Wynonna grins and lightly taps her sister on the head. “Yeah, baby girl, I want to meet your woman.”
“Fine. I’ll…” Waverly trails off when she notices Nicole, sitting at a table in the back corner of the bar grading papers. “I’ll talk to you later,” she finishes to Wynonna.
Waverly walks over to Nicole and sits down at the table. “Nicky,” she says through gritted teeth, “what are you doing here?”
Nicole blinks up at her. “Uhm. I come here all the time?”
“I… come here a lot?” Nicole frowns in confusion and leans back in her chair. “I nurse a drink over a few hours and do some work. It’s just to get out of the house a bit. Is something wrong?”
Waverly pinches the bridge of her nose and closes her eyes and points at Wynonna. “The owner of the bar. Is my sister.”
Nicole just stares for a long moment. “I did not realize you were talking about this bar.”
“Well, I was.”
“Well, what do you want me to do?” Nicole fidgets in her seat and looks down. “Do you want me to just go?”
“No, you idiot,” Waverly says gently. She reaches over and strokes her thumb across Nicole’s cheek. “Stay here.”
She gets up from the table and returns with the bartender. “Wynonna Earp,” Waverly says nervously, “this is Nicole Haught. My. My girlfriend.”
Wynonna stares at Nicole for a long moment. Then she turns to Waverly. “You’re dating Professor Badass?”
Nicole flushes bright red at the exact moment that Waverly says, “Professor what?”
“Oo. Sorry.” Wynonna grins at Nicole. “You didn’t tell her about that?”
“Oh, god, I completely forgot about it.” Nicole runs a hand over her face.
“Why are you Professor Badass?” Waverly demands.
“This one,” Wynonna says, sitting down backwards in a chair at the table, “kicked some frat boy’s ass.”
Waverly blinks down at Nicole and sits. “Excuse me?”
“It’s not as bad as it sounds,” Nicole mumbles.
“It wasn’t bad. It was badass.” Wynonna smirks. “There was this girl who was getting harassed by her ex-boyfriend, he wouldn’t leave, he started getting aggressive, and Professor Badass over here punched his lights out.” She pats Nicole on the shoulder. “I approve.” As she gets up from the table, she points at Waverly. “We’ll talk about this more later, but I have to get back to work.”
Once she’s gone, Nicole swallows. “What just happened?”
“What happened is that you’re apparently a lot cooler than I thought you were, nerd,” Waverly teases lightly.
“Oh, is that how it’s going to be?”
Nicole shakes her head and downs the rest of her drink. “Somehow that was both better and worse than I expected it to be.”
Waverly laughs and presses a chaste kiss to Nicole’s lips. “Dramatic.”
“I own up to that freely.”
“Good.” Waverly skims her fingers under the table and rests them on Nicole’s belt buckle. “So, Professor Badass. You live so close… It would be a shame not to utilize this advantage.”
Nicole gives a small laugh. “I agree as long as you don’t call me ‘Professor Badass’ during sex.”
Waverly snorts and gets to her feet. “No promises.”
They intend to keep their relationship private, but it doesn’t work out all that well when they forget themselves. Nicole is leaning against the wall in front of her classroom, Waverly in front of her, whispering a story to each other and grinning. Waverly is occasionally interrupting the conversation by bouncing up onto her toes to press chaste kisses to Nicole’s lips.
It’s fine, until they don’t watch their time and don’t realize that their students are arriving for class.
Which also wouldn’t be a problem, if Nicole’s class wasn’t full of assholes.
“Professor Haught can get it,” one of her students snickers from the back of the room once they’ve all filed in and taken a seat.
“Guys,” Nicole stammers. “We have stuff to do.”
“Yeah, we bet you have ‘stuff’ to do.”
One of her snarkier students pipes up, “We’re so proud of you, Professor Haught. Professor Earp is hot.”
Nicole just groans quietly and picks up her phone to check the message that pops up on her screen. And immediately drops her phone as if it burns her.
There’s a scattering laughter throughout the classroom, and a student yells, “Are you sexting?”
“I’m not doing a goddamn thing. It’s her who-” Nicole stops dead and pales. “No. Nope. No. No.”
A student in the front of the room smiles. “Don’t you have a lecture to do, Professor?”
“No. No.” Nicole picks her bag back up and shoves her phone into her pocket. “Finish your papers by Tuesday. Class dismissed.”
She flees in a flustered panic, fully aware of the snickering following her.
When Waverly’s class finishes, she finds Nicole sitting in her office, looking irritated.
“Why do you hate me?” she asks weakly.
Waverly smirks. “I don’t. You just need some entertainment in your life.”
Nicole groans and covers her face with her hand. “They’re never going to let me live this down. Ever.”
“That’s fine.” Waverly locks her door and crosses the room to sit on top of Nicole in the chair.
“W-What are you doing?” Nicole stammers.
“You seem a little stressed,” Waverly whispers, pulling off Nicole’s belt.
“Christ, Wave, we’re in your office.”
Waverly taps her fingers against Nicole’s cheek. “Nicky. We almost banged in the copy room.”
“Well, yeah, but-”
She breaks off when Waverly kisses her throat. “Do you remember my text, Nicole?”
“Uhm. Er. Y-Yes.”
“Would you like me to do it? Right now?”
Nicole clears her throat and blinks rapidly. “You know, uhm, the door’s locked, so… I guess it’s fine.”
Waverly laughs against Nicole’s neck. “Good.”
“Are you doing anything over the midsemester break?” Waverly asks as she follows Nicole towards the campus parking lot.
“Grading midterm papers. A lot of midterm papers.” Nicole’s gaze goes distant. “So many.”
Waverly laughs and bumps her shoulder against Nicole’s arm. “I’m so sorry. How about I come over on Sunday? We can order in some dinner and do literally anything except for school work?”
“Oh, god, please. I would love that.”
“Good.” Waverly kisses Nicole on the cheek. “If you want to see me before that, you know you just need to text me. Maybe we can go out for breakfast, or meet at a park to play with Hawk a bit.”
“Absolutely. And even though I’ll be busy, you can call me whenever.” Nicole stops at Waverly’s car and turns to her. “Have a nice break, Professor Earp.”
Waverly grins and leans up and kisses her deeply. “You as well, Professor Haught.”