Chapter 1: come up to meet you
“I shouldn’t have to do this. Why is it me?”
“You’re the oldest,” Ward snarled. “If we’re going to be driven to something like this, the least we can do is offer up the oldest.”
“Fabulous,” Willa spat, stealing her father’s glass of whiskey and downing it. “I hope you don’t expect me to be happy about it.”
Waverly, hidden behind the doorway to the kitchen, watched as Ward grabbed the glass back from Willa. “You don’t need to be happy,” he growled. “You just need to behave.”
The knock on the door was sharp and precise, and Ward immediately ordered his daughters into their places. Willa standing as politely as possible against the sitting room wall. Wynonna seated in a chair pretending to look amicable. Waverly hidden out of sight in the kitchen.
Ward opened the door and greeted the soldier in the doorway. “Colonel Haught,” he said, his voice pleasant enough to sell snake oil. “Please. Come in.”
Waverly found the right position to stay out of the way while still able to see the soldier as she stepped into the house.
She was pretty. Red hair cut to her chin, a small scar on her cheek, brown eyes that Waverly could tell even at a distance were smart. Her uniform fit her perfectly; all black with golden accents. Boots, pants, belt, and sword, and a jacket pulled together with horizontal strips that ran up her torso and had buttons on both ends. Waverly found her eyes drawn to the epaulettes on each shoulder and the golden circular pins on both sides of the high collar that indicated her division.
The Black Division.
The most respected and hardworking unit in the entire country.
Waverly’s breath caught in her throat as she realized what this woman was.
Worth far more than their entire house and everything in it.
The colonel stepped further inside, and Ward led her into the sitting room.
“This is Willa, my eldest,” Ward said, gesturing. “Willa, this is Colonel Haught.”
“Hello,” Willa greeted, not sounding very enthused.
Haught tilted her head to the side, studying her, and Waverly realized that she could see the animosity in Willa’s eyes.
It wasn’t a secret. And Waverly had already figured out that this soldier was no fool.
The colonel opened her mouth to speak, and Waverly somehow knew just from the twitch of dislike on her face that she was going to decline the offer.
Ward, sensing the same disinterest, cut her off by shouting for Waverly to serve everyone water.
Waverly hurried into the room and immediately felt Haught’s eyes snap to her as sharply as Ward’s belt fell on his daughters’ backs.
Before Waverly could scurry back out, the colonel’s voice said, “What of that one?”
Ward cleared his throat and snapped his fingers to keep Waverly in the room. “Th-This is just my youngest. You don’t want this one. Mousy little thing. Never does anything right.”
Waverly flinched, and she saw Wynonna’s hands tighten their grip on the arms of her chair. She also saw Haught’s expression shift. Get colder. Harsher.
The soldier beckoned Waverly closer, and Waverly set the water pitcher down on the table and did as she was told. She stood still, her entire body stiff, as Haught began circling her like a predator studying its prey. Haught reached out, skimming her finger across Waverly’s back from one shoulder to the next, and Waverly barely resisted the urge to start trembling.
She could see Wynonna in the corner, her knuckles now white, the look on her face one of rage and fear.
When Haught stopped in front of Waverly, however, Waverly could see a softness in her eyes that almost allowed her to relax. At the very least, it allowed her to stop worrying that she was going to be sick.
Haught’s gaze hardened again and shifted to Ward. “Her.”
“If we’re married quickly, I’ll double your gold.”
Ward was on his feet in moments, practically shoving Waverly aside in order to shake the soldier’s hand.
“You can take her whenever you want her, Colonel.”
Waverly was shuffled out of her childhood home so fast that she barely had time to grab her few belongings and hug Wynonna goodbye.
Her father got his gold from Colonel Haught and immediately headed from the courthouse to the nearest tavern, leaving Waverly with a stranger who was now her wife.
When Waverly stepped into Haught’s home, double the size of the one she had grown up in, she nearly dropped her small bag in amazement.
It was a simple place, certainly. One clearly maintained to a limited degree by an unwed soldier who was rarely home.
But to Waverly Earp, who had spent her life sleeping on pillows on the floor whenever Wynonna couldn’t manage to squeeze her into her cot, it was a castle.
“Your home is beautiful, Colonel,” she whispered.
“You can call me Nicole, you know,” the soldier said, shutting the door behind them. “I don’t have anywhere specific for your belongings, so feel free to find space anywhere you’d like for them.”
“O-Oh, I… uh… they can just stay in their bag.”
Nicole gave her an odd look.
“For now,” Waverly added quickly.
“As you like.” Nicole glanced out the window at the setting sun. “I apologize for cutting this short, but I do have to go to work in the morning.”
Waverly’s stomach dropped to her feet. This was what she had only had time to dread for a few minutes in the whirlwind of being sold off for marriage.
She was going to be expected to sleep with someone she didn’t even know.
As she swallowed and tried to stop herself from shaking, Nicole headed past her towards the bedroom and came back with a pillow and a blanket. “You can have the bed,” she said. “It’s only fair. You’ve had a bit of a day.”
Waverly stared at her, her dread rapidly replaced with confusion. “What?”
Nicole blinked and set her pillow down on the couch. She pointed behind her at the bedroom. “The… bed? Go sleep in it? It’s night time. You must be exhausted. I know I am.” She waved a hand at the setup she was making on the couch. “I’m going to sleep here.”
Waverly was utterly confused, but she couldn’t figure out how to question it. She didn’t want to, either.
With a tremble still wracking its way through her body, Waverly headed into the bedroom, leaving her new wife to sleep on the couch.
Chapter 2: don't worry
dowry: (noun) a gift made by a man to his bride or her parents
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Waverly had never slept in a real bed alone in her life.
When she woke up the next morning, after a good night’s sleep, she realized that the sun was already well in the sky. Panicked, Waverly scrambled out of the bed and put on the same clothing she had worn the day before.
She headed out into the main area of the house and found it empty. A paper note was set on the table in the sitting room, and Waverly picked it up hesitantly.
Scrawled in a neat handwriting was:
I leave for work before the sun rises, so I won’t be here when you awake. I apologize that I won’t be able to get you more familiar with your new home.
There is plenty of food in the pantry and the icebox. Help yourself to whatever you need.
I will be home at some point after the sun sets, most likely. I apologize, but my schedule is not very set in stone.
-Nicole (Colonel Haught)
Waverly sat down on the couch, frowning slightly in befuddlement. The note didn’t make much sense to her. Why wasn’t the colonel angry with her for not being awake to make her breakfast before she left? Why did she call it “[Waverly’s] new home”? Why would she give Waverly freedom to eat what she wanted?
She ran her finger over the last words, the signature at the end. On a day when she didn’t still feel ill, she would probably laugh at the fact that the colonel felt the need to clarify who she was, as if Waverly wouldn’t remember her name.
It was a small note of personality that was, even just in the small moment, something that at the very least let her know that Nicole Haught had a better sense of humor than Ward Earp.
Waverly walked into the kitchen and opened up the pantry, and her jaw dropped.
The stock of food was reasonable for someone who had recently been single and rarely home.
It was still more food than Waverly had ever seen at one time.
She hadn’t intended on eating anything in Nicole Haught’s house. Not until she had been given verbal permission.
The hunger clawing at her insides convinced her otherwise.
Waverly pulled out some bread and a fruit she didn’t recognize, and she opened the icebox slowly.
Waverly made a desperate grab and, in mere moments, had assembled a sandwich that she was pretty sure normal people would find disgusting. A strange combination of buttered bread, slices of cheese, whatever meat had been in the icebox (too expensive for Waverly to know anything about), and a green vegetable she had found in the pantry.
She devoured the sandwich like a starved animal, and she was grateful that Nicole was not there to see it.
She was grateful that she had a few minutes to eat like it wasn’t a burden to feed her.
When she was finished, she hastily cleaned up and took the piece of fruit into the sitting room. She fished a book, one she had read about fifty times, out of her bag, and started to read it as she sat on the couch, the fruit sitting on the table next to her.
It was a silly dream, but it had been one she had always had.
To be able to read with food nearby, ready for her when she wanted it, and to be able to leave it alone without desperation taking her over.
When Nicole returned to the house, Waverly was still sitting on the couch, book abandoned, staring at the piece of fruit.
“What is it?”
Waverly picked up the piece of fruit and held it up, excitement lighting up her face. “What is this? I’ve never seen it before.”
Nicole walked over and half-sat, half-fell into a chair. She pulled open the buttons of her uniform, revealing a smoky gray t-shirt. “That’s a pear.”
“Pear,” Waverly repeated in a whisper. “Are they good?”
“I’ve always thought so. You’ve never had a pear before?”
“No. We couldn’t afford any fruit other than apples and one orange a week.”
Nicole sat there in silence for a long moment, frowning and studying her. That was when reality snapped back into Waverly, and she jumped to her feet. “I-I-I’m sorry,” she stammered. “I should’ve gotten dinner ready for you before you got home. I’m so sorry.”
Her rambling apologies broke off with a nervous swallow.
“Come here,” Nicole said softly.
Waverly started to shake, her heart thudding in her throat. She stepped forward and stood in front of Nicole, bracing herself for the inevitable blow.
“You were wearing that all day yesterday,” Nicole murmured. “Do you not have other clothes?”
“I-I-I have this dress, and I have one set of a shirt and pants,” Waverly stammered. “I wouldn’t want to waste water by washing something I can just as easily wear another day.”
“There’s no need for that here,” she said. “You can do you laundry whenever you’d like. But you know, you… You also don’t need to only have two outfits.”
Nicole stood, and Waverly flinched, but the colonel neatly side-stepped her without ever touching her and walked over to the mantle above the fireplace. She picked up a wooden box and held it out to Waverly.
“Go to the market tomorrow. Buy yourself a few things. Whatever you like. Something nice.” She waited until Waverly took the box, and then she headed off towards the kitchen, yawning. “And do me a favor and go to bed, would you?”
Once she was out of the room, Waverly opened the box hesitantly.
It was full of more money than Waverly had every seen in her entire life.
She swallowed, reaching out shakily to skim her fingertips over the coins. “Gods,” she whispered.
Waverly made the decision to do as Nicole had requested, but she did not buy as many clothes as she was tempted to. She had no interest in pushing her luck, but she also was still suspicious about why Nicole had wanted her to get ‘something nice’.
She knew it was only a matter of time before Nicole took what she had paid for.
When she returned from the market, she changed into one of the nicer outfits she had purchased. She set the better portion of the coins she had taken that morning back into the box above the mantle and headed to the kitchen to make dinner.
Nicole stepped into the house about an hour and a half later. “Hey,” she murmured, running a hand over her face.
“Hi,” Waverly greeted through a strained smile as she left the kitchen. “I made a stew.”
“Good,” Nicole said, distracted as she pulled her uniform jacket off. “You deserve one.” She grabbed a roll and a piece of cheese, then headed into the bathroom.
Waverly blinked after her, baffled.
Nicole stuck her head back out, frowning slightly. “You went to the market today?”
“How many outfits did you buy?”
Nicole snorted. “I can afford more than that, you know.” She disappeared, then reappeared again. “That one looks nice, though.”
This time she headed back into the bathroom and stayed there, the sound of water being dumped into the tub echoing out through the door.
Waverly stared at the door for a long moment before turning and heading back into the kitchen to eat some of the stew.
“I don’t think I understand that woman,” she muttered under her breath.
Waverly wasn’t sure why it made her so anxious that Nicole Haught refused to touch her.
She didn’t speak to her much aside from some politeness when she initially got home.
She never ate the food Waverly made.
She always slept on the couch.
She wasn’t having sex with the wife she had purchased.
Waverly appreciated the payment that Nicole had made to save her family from living on the streets. She appreciated having a home and food and clothing. It just made her nervous and sick to constantly feel like she wasn’t holding up her side of the deal.
When Nicole sat down on the couch, wearing sleep clothes and eating a sandwich instead of the stew Waverly had made, Waverly, seated in a chair watching her, finally snapped.
“Why haven’t we had sex?” she demanded.
Nicole slowly lowered a piece of bread from her mouth, looking stunned and baffled. “Uhm. Because. You don’t… seem to want to?”
Waverly sat back in her chair, her entire body going slack with befuddlement. “Why would that matter?”
“Gods, Waverly, what do you take me for?” Nicole set her plate down on the table in front of her. “You don’t owe me sex just because you’re my wife now.”
“No, I owe you sex because that’s what you paid for.”
“You say that like I see you as a whore,” Nicole said, her voice low.
Waverly shrugged and stared down at her lap. “I might as well be,” she murmured. “My father sold me off for money.”
Nicole shifted forward in her seat and rested her elbows on her knees. “Waverly. Look at me.”
She lifted her eyes cautiously and was surprised by how gentle Nicole’s gaze was.
“I’m not going to touch you like that if you don’t want it. Understand? That’s not who I am. You don’t owe me anything.” Nicole picked up her plate and carried it towards the kitchen. She stopped in the doorway and glanced behind her. “I’m sorry. That you don’t trust me. I understand why, and it’s okay. But you don’t need to be scared here, Waverly. This is a place where you can be safe.”
She disappeared into the kitchen, and Waverly slumped down into the chair, completely drained and exhausted.
I'm on Tumblr @youreagoodliar
On Nicole’s day off, Waverly’s nerves were tearing her apart.
The colonel wasn’t doing anything wrong. She was sitting on the couch in casual clothing, working on some paperwork that Waverly knew nothing about. Meanwhile, Waverly sat across from her next to the small bookshelf Nicole had given her, obsessively organizing her stack of books over and over and over again.
She needed to make sure that she was always within Nicole’s line of sight.
Just in case her wife wanted her to do something.
She wasn’t sure how long Nicole had been staring at her before she realized it, and Waverly blinked rapidly, her cheeks flushing red. “What’s wrong?”
“Are you okay?” Nicole asked softly. “You seem... bored.”
“O-Oh. Uhm. I. I’m just… straightening.”
“You’ve been straightening the same books for over an hour,” Nicole said, a gentle smile on her face. “Is this what you do all day when you’re home by yourself?”
Waverly felt red hot panic and embarrassment flood through her body.
Nicole thought she didn’t do anything around the house.
Nicole thought she was useless.
“I-I would do something else but there isn’t… I… I already clean the house and once that’s done I’m not sure what else to…”
“Do you need some more books?” Nicole asked, leaning back and stretching.
Waverly’s gaze flickered down to gaze at Nicole’s exposed stomach for a moment before she realized what she was doing, and she quickly said, “No. No; I’m fine with what I have. If I want more, I can buy them with…”
She didn’t have any money.
That was it, she realized.
Nicole wanted her to get a job.
“I can get a job,” Waverly blurted out.
There was a long pause as Nicole froze mid-stretch, giving her a confused look. “What?” She leaned back down, blinking. “Uh. Okay. If you’d like.”
“I’ll… I’ll go out tomorrow and find something. I’m sure there’s something at a factory like the one my sister works at.”
“A factory?” Nicole fidgeted with the papers on the table in front of her. “Waverly, you came here so that you wouldn’t have to do something like that. We’ll find something different for you.”
“Y-You don’t have to do that.”
“I told you,” Nicole murmured. “That’s not why you’re here. What if I got you one of the carts in the marketplace? I… don’t really know what you’d sell, but I’m sure we can figure something out…”
“Could I grow flowers in the garden?” Waverly asked immediately. “There are already a bunch in there that could start me out.”
“What, the garden out back? Yeah. I’m not particularly attached to it. You’re more than welcome to it.”
“G-Good. Thank you.” Waverly stood up. “I’m going to bed.”
“Are you sure you’re okay-”
Nicole had barely finished the question before Waverly was out of the room.
“You seem nervous, and you look new. First day here?”
Waverly looked over from where she had been straightening her arrangement for the thousandth time. The young woman at the cart next to her was smiling at her.
“Uhm. Yes. I’ve never really had a job before.”
The woman grinned at her. “Well, if you have any questions, you can ask me, okay? I’ve helped my dad out at these carts since I was little, and my cart here might be pretty new, but I know what I’m doing.”
“I appreciate that.”
She held out her hand. “I’m Chrissy. Chrissy Nedley.”
“Waverly Earp.” She winced. “Uh, no, sorry, Waverly Haught.”
Chrissy raised an eyebrow. “You aren’t sure?”
“I’m just still getting used to being married.” Waverly paled. “Please don’t tell anyone. Please. I-I don’t want anyone to think that-”
“Calm down, okay?” Chrissy lightly rested her hand on top of Waverly’s. “I won’t tell anyone.” She paused, her eyes narrowing. “Earp, huh? Like… Ward Earp’s kid?”
“Ah. That explains the panic,” Chrissy muttered.
Waverly’s eyes widened. “What?”
“I know all about the Earp reputation. Most people do. I heard that he was looking to pawn off one of his daughters into marriage so he had more money for alcohol. Though I had heard that it was his oldest.”
“Yeah, well. I was chosen.” Waverly fidgeted with her flowers again. “It’s not bad. I just. I don’t know what she wants from me.”
Chrissy gave her an odd look. “Why does she need to want something from you?”
Waverly opened her mouth to reply but found that she couldn’t form the words. She just shrugged and went back to her organizing, the uncomfortable twisting back in her gut.
After two weeks of her new schedule, Waverly thought that things were settling into something that, if still uneasy, she could handle.
Then, on her way into the house after a long, hot day, she bumped into a small table by the front door and knocked over a glass decoration that had been sitting there.
The decoration fell onto the floor and shattered in slow-motion, and Waverly’s life flashed before her eyes.
Shaking, Waverly just stared at it for a long moment. Once she regained her ability to move, she stepped over it and sat down in one of the chairs, staring at the wall and waiting.
When Nicole stepped into the house, the first thing she saw was all the glass. She immediately tossed her bag aside, jumped over the mess on the floor, and crouched down in front of Waverly.
“Hey,” she said softly. “Are you okay? What happened?”
“I knocked it over,” Waverly whispered, her voice hoarse. “I’ll clean it up. I just… needed to make sure you knew about it first.”
“Don’t worry about it. As long as you’re okay.”
Waverly swallowed. “I’m sure it was really expensive.”
“A bit, but it’s just worthless junk, honestly. It’s not a big deal.” Nicole took a step away from Waverly and got down on one knee, starting to pick up pieces of the glass.
Her voice quiet and shaky, Waverly asked, “Do you want me to go get your belt?”
Nicole dropped the pieces she had been gathering, her head shooting up so she could give Waverly a look of horror. “What?”
Waverly cleared her throat and raised her voice. “Shall I get your belt for you?”
The colonel studied her for a long moment before brushing her hands off on her uniform. “Go to the couch,” she murmured.
She disappeared in the direction of the kitchen, and Waverly, sighing heavily and wincing, stood and braced herself against the back of the couch.
When Nicole walked back into the room, holding a glass of water, she gave a startled look when she realized what Waverly was doing.
“Wave,” she said softly. “No. Please. Sit down, would you? I’m not… I’m not beating you for gods’ sakes.”
Waverly, utterly baffled, moved around to the front of the couch and took a seat as far away from Nicole as she could get. Nicole sat on the opposite side, careful not to touch her, and handed her the glass of water.
“Drink that,” she said, her voice gentle. “Please.”
They sat in silence as Waverly drank the water carefully. Nicole fidgeted with her uniform, flustered, finally just unbuttoning her jacket so that it hung open and showed her t-shirt underneath.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked again, once Waverly had finished drinking.
“Yes,” Waverly whispered.
“Then could you do me a favor? Can you listen to me for a second?”
Waverly raised her head, cautiously meeting Nicole’s eyes.
“I will never touch you like that. I know it’s not going to be easy for you to believe. But I swear on my life, Waverly. Whatever your life was life before? It’s different here. Understand? I would die before I ever hit you. Before I ever even thought about touching you like that.”
Waverly gave half a nod but said nothing. Nicole smiled softly at her. “I’m going to go over there and pick up that glass so that neither of us gets hurt, okay? Why don’t you head off to bed?”
She opened her mouth to protest, but no words came out of her tight throat.
“Shhh,” Nicole hushed gently. “It’s alright, Waverly.” She stood, running a hand through her hair, obviously trying to hide her exhaustion. “All I want is for you to be safe. For you to feel safe. And you can do that within your own timeframe. There’s no rush. It’s going to be okay.”
She paused next to Waverly on her way by, looking down at her. “You are my wife, Waverly Haught,” she whispered. “You aren’t my property.”
With a small sigh, Nicole shoved her hands into her pockets and headed down the hall to get a broom, leaving Waverly where she was.
1) This fic is already completed in its entirety. It posts on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule.
2) The time period is a bit ambiguous, but it's definitely more of a Past setting. Where, say, marrying for love pretty much never happened, but maybe- just maybe -somebody would marry for the sake of helping out someone less fortunate.
Just something to keep in mind.
Chapter 4: get lighter the more it gets dark
Waverly curled up on the couch, trying not to feel scared as thunder and lightning cracked and boomed and shook the entire house.
It had been pouring for hours. She couldn’t be sure exactly how long, because it had already been going when she woke up.
Nicole had already been gone, too.
She almost didn’t hear Nicole come home, the door swinging open in time with a particularly loud smash of thunder. The only indicator was the slam of the door closing just a half a second later.
Waverly started to greet her, startled, but the words died in her throat when she got a good look her wife.
The colonel was soaked to the bone, her uniform jacket hanging open and her sword belt loose in her hands. She looked exhausted, a dull look on her face that was so different from the one Waverly had grown accustomed to seeing.
Nicole walked over to the chair by the fire and slumped down into it, her sword belt slipping from her fingers and clattering to the floor.
“Hey,” Waverly asked softly. “A-Are you okay?”
“One of the coal mines collapsed from all the rain overnight,” Nicole whispered, her brown eyes staring off into space. She rubbed a hand over her face, and Waverly finally noticed the streak of black mineral staining the side of her neck from behind her ear. “We… We spent the day there. The whole day, in the storm. Pulling out the bodies of the workers who had still been in there. Everyone inside once it started to go… they’re all dead.” Her voice dropped further, so soft and hoarse that Waverly had to strain to hear her. “I pulled a teenager out. The only one who came to the surface who still had a heartbeat.” She took in a long, ragged breath, then sighed it out. “I got to sit there in the rain and hold her while it stopped.”
Waverly said nothing. She didn’t know what to say.
It ended up being inconsequential, as Nicole’s face crumbled, and she curled up in the chair, burying her head in her hands and breaking into heaving sobs.
They both just sat there. The thunder and lightning and rain roared outside. Nicole’s crying and the crackling fire rippled through the quiet inside.
Waverly wanted to say something. She wanted to comfort her.
She just didn’t know how.
And to make it even more confusing, this moment, this single, long, uncomfortable moment, watching Nicole break down in front of her, made Waverly realize more than anything else that, perhaps, this woman was far more emotionally open than Waverly had previously assumed.
All she had known before was that Nicole barely spoke to her and Nicole was what Waverly would categorize as “nice enough.”
Knowing that Nicole really did care this much about the people she went out to help every single day… changed things. If it didn’t change things, at least, it put them into a different perspective.
It put them into a perspective that Waverly, quite frankly, thought she actually liked.
Waverly stood and approached Nicole cautiously, crouching down in front of her. “You should go take a bath,” she said gently, skimming her palm down the side of Nicole’s pantleg. “You’re exhausted, Nicole. Go clean up a bit, and then get some real sleep. In a real bed.”
Nicole, starting to choke back her tears, shook her head. “I’m… I’m not making you sleep on a couch, Waverly.”
“Well. I’m not making you sleep on a couch, either. Not after the day you’ve had.”
They had a standoff of sorts, staring at each other, unsure of what to do. Finally, Waverly blurted out, “Why don’t we just both sleep in the bed?”
Nicole blinked at her. “S-Sure. Uhm. If you’re okay with that.”
“Yes. Do you want dinner?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Then go get cleaned up.”
Nicole dragged herself to her feet and wandered off to the bathroom.
And Waverly slowly realized what she had done.
She had always been expecting it. Prepared for it.
The moment that Nicole would take her to bed for what purchased wives were for had come far later than Waverly had anticipated, but it didn’t make it any less nerve-wracking.
Waverly held her breath as Nicole walked into the room, shaking a few stray droplets of water out of her hair.
“Which side do you want?” Nicole asked through a yawn.
Nicole gestured lazily at the mattress. “The bed. What side do you prefer?”
“N-Nearest to the door.”
“That’s fine.” Nicole walked around to the other side of the bed and slid under the covers. She laid on her side, facing away from Waverly, and groaned softly. “Oh, gods, a real bed feels so good after today.”
Waverly stared at her for a moment. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m just tired, Waverly,” Nicole murmured. “Tired, and my heart hurts a little right now. That’s all.”
“I should go sleep on the couch. It would be easie-”
“No,” Nicole said quickly, twisting her head to glance over her shoulder. “P-Please. I just… I mean, if you’re more comfortable there, I understand. But. I.” Her voice dropped to the same hoarse whisper again. “I don’t want to be alone, Waverly. Please.”
Waverly nodded and got into her side of the bed.
She couldn’t help but be surprised when Nicole stayed her polite distance away as she drifted off to sleep.
It was a few months into her marriage before Waverly even realized it, but she hadn’t seen any members of her family since she was escorted away from them.
The city was large, but it wasn’t that large.
Waverly checked her garden to ensure that her plants hadn’t gotten damaged in the heavy rain, and she headed towards the bar where her aunt worked.
Gus McCready wasn’t really her aunt, but she and her husband Curtis had been the only actual adult influence on the three Earp girls after their mother died.
Ward had always been too busy either beating them or drinking.
“Waverly Earp!” Gus set down the mug of beer she had been filling and hurried out from behind the bar, pulling Waverly into a bear hug.
“It’s not Earp anymore, Gus,” Waverly said, her voice strained from the pressure of the hug. “Remember?”
“Always an Earp girl to me,” Gus replied with gruff affection, releasing Waverly from the hug and patting her on the cheek.
“Given my father? I’m not sure I prefer that.”
Gus gave her a sympathetic look and glanced behind her at the man behind the bar. “Shorty, mind if I take a break?”
“For Waverly? Absolutely.” The man gave Waverly a warm smile and a wink, and Waverly waved at him.
“Thanks, Shorty.” Waverly led Gus over to an empty table and took a seat.
“Do you need anything, kid? Drink? Food?” Gus took Waverly’s chin in her hand. “You look like you’ve been getting proper sleep, at least.”
“I-I’m fine. Really. Actually, it’s…” Waverly shrugged. “It’s better than I expected.”
Gus raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
“She’s nice. Or, at least, she acts like it. Doesn’t expect me to make dinner for her or anything.” Waverly gave a humorless smile. “Actually seems to work hard, unlike some people we know.”
Her aunt snorted. “My hair works harder than your daddy.” She gripped Waverly’s hand. “If everything’s okay, Waverly, then why do you look so worried?”
Waverly ran a hand over her face. “I’m just so confused, Gus. I broke something last week. It had to have been worth more money than I’ve ever seen. It was an accident, but I broke it. And she just… It was like it was no big deal? She didn’t yell at me. Didn’t make me pay for it. She didn’t even whip me like Daddy would’ve. I don’t understand what’s going on.”
Gus’s eyes were sad as she lifted Waverly’s chin and held her gaze. “Oh, honey. That’s how people are supposed to treat you.”
“That doesn’t really make any sense,” Waverly muttered.
“No,” Gus murmured, kissing Waverly’s hand. “No; I suppose to you it doesn’t.”
Chapter 5: you pay me no attention do you
Nicole came home late and changed quickly, dropping onto the couch with a soft groan. “Are you okay?” Waverly asked as she headed out of the kitchen.
“Yeah,” Nicole mumbled. “Just tired. We’ve been digging out a tunnel through a mountain for a railroad for the past three weeks.”
“I thought you guys were more…” Waverly hesitated. “Disaster relief? I guess?”
“Mhm. We are. The train’s gonna give us better access to the northern sections of the territory. We got to a fire at a factory up there a few months ago, and we didn’t get there in time to save anyone. This should help.”
Waverly hesitantly reached a hand out and ran it down Nicole’s back. “Do you want me to get you some dinner?”
Nicole shook her head. “No. I’m fine. I’ll get a sandwich or something in a bit. I just want to rest for a few minutes.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, Waverly. I’m alright.”
Waverly’s hand lingered on the small of Nicole’s back. “If you’re sure,” she whispered.
“Haught? Earth to Haught? Are you alive in there?”
Waverly blinked and looked up, flushing when she noticed Chrissy staring at her. “Sorry. I was just thinking.”
“About anything special?”
“Can…” Waverly fidgeted with her flower arrangements. “Can I ask you something that might be a little bit… weird?”
“M-My wife… she won’t…” Waverly rubbed the back of her neck. “I make dinner every day, y’know? But Nicole won’t eat any of it. She comes home and puts away the leftovers in the icebox and then makes herself a sandwich, or a plate of bread, or whatever. I don’t understand it.”
“Maybe she thinks you’re trying to poison her,” Chrissy joked. When she saw the anxiety on Waverly’s face, she said, “It’s probably fine. She’s a soldier, right? She probably just has her own routine, and it’s not easy for her to adjust to things being different. From what I’ve seen, those swordheads have a habit of getting stuck in their little order.”
“I hope so. I just… I hope that she doesn’t think I’m not trying.”
“Of course you are. If she doesn’t see that, she’s an idiot.”
“She’s not an idiot,” Waverly insisted.
Chrissy held up her hands. “Alright. I believe you.” She leaned against Waverly’s cart. “Hey. How about I come over after work sometime? We’ll have some dinner, and I can see if there’s anything weird about the way she treats you.”
Waverly hesitated. “I-I don’t know. I should ask for permission.”
“Did she tell you that you have to?”
“Then why should you?”
Waverly didn’t know how to answer her. “Uhm. I guess I don’t need to. I’ll figure out a good day that we can do it.”
“Great!” Chrissy patted Waverly’s arm. “We’ll figure this out. Don’t worry so much, Wave.”
As the taller girl walked away, Waverly let out a heavy sigh. “That’s all I ever do,” she mumbled.
“So, how do you read these things?” Nicole asked, picking up one of Waverly’s books and opening it upside-down.
Waverly stared at her. “What?”
“I don’t get it. What does this say? It’s complete gibberish.”
“I-I…” Waverly paused. “Nicole. Do you not know how to read?”
Nicole continued holding the book in front of her face.
Waverly pushed the book down, and saw Nicole desperately trying not to laugh.
“You’re an ass.”
“I’m sorry,” Nicole giggled. “The look on your face was priceless.” Waverly shoved her, knocking her onto her back, but Nicole just continued to laugh. “Did you really think I couldn’t read?”
“It didn’t make sense, but how was I supposed to know?!”
Nicole took Waverly’s hand in hers and set the book into it. “I appreciate your concern.”
Waverly glanced down at Nicole’s fingers, resting around her wrist. “Y-Yeah, well…”
A knock on the door interrupted her words. Nicole got up from the couch and headed over to it, adjusting her casual clothing so that it fit more precisely.
When she opened the door, she found Ward Earp standing on the front step.
“Mr. Earp,” Nicole greeted, her voice tight and polite.
“You owe me money, girl.”
Nicole’s lip curled slightly. “Hello to you, too.”
Ward shoved past her, shooting a hard look at Waverly, who couldn’t help but take a step back and shrink away. Nicole clearly noticed, as she slammed the door and got between the two.
“Your payment isn’t due for another month, Mr. Earp,” Nicole said coldly. “They were spaced out so that you got the most out of the deal, if you recall?”
“I don’t give a shit, you little punk,” Ward snarled, leaning in and getting in Nicole’s face.
To her credit, she didn’t even blink.
“I want what’s mine. All of it. Now.” He pointed at Waverly, who backed up until her back hit the wall. “Or that girl is coming with me.”
Nicole’s expression was cold and blank. “You don’t have any claim over that girl anymore, Mr. Earp. But I’m more than willing to give you the rest of your money now.” She smirked. “Would you like it in hand, or shall I drop it off directly at the nearest tavern instead? Save you the trouble.”
Ward swore loudly, but Nicole just knocked the palm of her hand against his chest, buffeting him a few steps back.
“Settle yourself, Mr. Earp, before I toss you out of here without handing you so much as a bronze piece.” She headed off towards the bedroom, pausing momentarily to point at him. “If you even speak to my wife while I’m gone, I’ll make you swallow your teeth.”
While Nicole was in the bedroom, Ward glared at Waverly, but to her surprise, he said nothing. Nicole returned shortly, tossing a small bag to him. “That’s the rest of it. All of the rest of it. I owe you nothing, Mr. Earp, so I suggest you leave now before you regret stepping into my home.”
Ward stared at her for a long moment, holding the bag of coins in his hand. “It doesn’t feel quite right.”
“I tossed in an extra few silver pieces,” Nicole said. “You smell like you could use a few days at one of the local showers.”
Ward’s hand curled into a fist. “If you keep talking to me like that,” he growled, “I’ll-”
“You’ll what?” Nicole challenged. “Threats don’t work here, Mr. Earp. Because unlike the women you raised, you can’t beat me into being afraid of you.”
“… Fine then.” Ward turned and stalked out of the house, slamming the door closed behind him.
Nicole turned to Waverly, her eyes immediately softening. “Hey,” she murmured. “Are you okay?”
“Y-Y-You didn’t… You didn’t have to stand up to him,” Waverly whimpered. “You don’t know what he’s like.”
“I don’t really give a shit what he’s like.” Nicole led Waverly over to the couch and made her lie down. “Just rest for a bit, okay?” She pushed a stray strand of hair off of Waverly’s forehead. “You’re safe here. I promise. I’ll go get you something to drink.”
Waverly watched as Nicole headed off towards the kitchen, confused as warmth settled deep in her chest.
Chapter 6: feels so much lighter
“Are you afraid?” Nicole asked gently, handing Waverly a cup of tea.
“Yes,” Waverly admitted.
“That’s okay.” Nicole sat on the arm of the couch. “You don’t have to be, though. I won’t let him hurt you. I swear it.”
Waverly just nodded.
She didn’t know how to tell Nicole that she was far more afraid of the woman who was apparently so powerful that she could intimidate Ward Earp.
“Hey.” Nicole got off the couch and crouched down in front of Waverly. “It’s okay. You’re not going back to him.” She tilted her head to one side, looking at her like the street dogs begging for snacks while she worked. “Unless… Unless you wanted to go back? I-I don’t think you should. He clearly doesn’t treat you well. But I’m not going to make you do anything you don’t want to do.”
Waverly felt it again, the weird twisty warmth in her chest. She shook her head. “No,” she said hoarsely. “I’m fine here.”
“Good.” Nicole gave her a crooked grin. “Let me know if anything changes that, alright? I’ll do whatever I can to fix it.”
“Okay,” Waverly whispered.
Nicole stood. “Drink your tea,” she said before heading towards the bedroom.
The coldest day of autumn fell on the last day of the railroad project Nicole and her unit were working on. She came home late, shivering and exhausted, and didn’t even bother to change out of her uniform. She collapsed onto the couch face-down, and within seconds she was sound asleep.
Waverly sat in the chair across from her, just watching. The woman was peaceful, but even in her sleep there were worry lines in the center of Nicole’s brow.
Her wife scared her. There really was no way for Waverly to deny it. She seemed sweet and gentle, but Waverly couldn’t help but assume that Nicole was just biding her time before taking what she deserved.
There wasn’t any other reason Waverly could think of for the kindness.
Waverly watched her for another few minutes before deciding that Nicole wasn’t going to get back up that night. She stood, walking over to the sleeping woman as her brain debated itself.
Once it made a decision, Waverly went to get Nicole’s sleep clothes from the bedroom, and she began to carefully, cautiously, remove Nicole’s uniform.
Nicole woke early, but Waverly was already up as well. She leaned in the doorway of the kitchen, watching with curiosity as Nicole got up and headed into the washroom.
A minute or so later, Nicole stepped back out, still sleepy-eyed, in her bra and sleep pants, holding her uniform jacket.
“Uhm. Wha. Hm.” Nicole’s brow furrowed as she stared at her clean shirt in confusion.
Waverly, flushed pink as her eyes skimmed over Nicole’s abs, just shrugged. Nicole mumbled under her breath and headed back in to get dressed as Waverly let out a breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding.
She was in trouble, and she knew it. She had leapt over boundaries by putting Nicole into her sleep clothes and washing her uniform.
There was no way she could get out of punishment this time.
Nicole stepped back out, buttoning up her uniform jacket. She smoothed her fingers over her glinting buttons, still frowning slightly.
When she raised her head, Waverly’s breath caught again.
Nicole just murmured, “Thank you,” picked up her sword belt, and walked out of the house.
When Nicole got home that night, Waverly was convinced that, with the sleep fully worn off, she would get that punishment she had expected.
Instead, Nicole didn’t say anything about it at all.
“You should go to the market again,” she said, her voice raised from the washroom as she changed into casual clothes. “It’s starting to get colder, and you don’t have any particularly warm clothing for winter.”
“I-I’ll be okay,” Waverly said, genuinely surprised that Nicole was, apparently, not angry at all about the effort to wash her uniform.
Maybe, for once, she had found a way her wife would let her be useful around the house.
“Don’t be ridiculous. You need a coat, at the very least.” Nicole leaned out of the doorway, rolling up her sleeves. “And if you want to keep your little cart going, you’re going to need to figure out something new to sell. The garden out back never lasts through winter.” She chuckled. “Unless you’re a magic nature goddess.”
“Why don’t you sit down and relax and start thinking about it? Give yourself a break and let your mind wander. I’m sure you’re smart enough to think of something.” Nicole turned and headed back into the washroom. “I just need to wash my uniform.”
Waverly blinked as Nicole walked off, startled by the casualness of the comment.
She had no idea why she felt like she had been slapped in the face.
Chapter 7: places we've grown
She wasn’t sure what made her finally agree to it, but on a rainy and miserable day, Waverly invited Chrissy over.
“Wow,” Chrissy whispered, wandering around the living room and staring. “How rich is your wife, Waves?”
“You really think I’ve asked?” Waverly demanded, her voice squeaking.
“Knowing you? Probably not.” Chrissy carefully took a seat in a chair. “You’re just so anxious. It worries me sometimes. Are you…” She hesitated. “I mean. You’re safe here, right? You can tell me if you’re not. My dad and I can-”
“I’m fine,” Waverly interrupted quickly.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I think so. I just.” Waverly rubbed her hands together. “Do you ever just.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Do you ever just not know for sure what you’re meant to do and feel and it’s all really confusing?”
“That’s what it’s like to be here.”
“Alright then,” Chrissy said kindly. “Why don’t we talk about something else?”
They chatted for a few hours, until the front door opened and Nicole walked in.
Waverly immediately froze, her eyes widening.
Nicole glanced from her to Chrissy and back. “Oh.” She brushed her hands off on her uniform and walked over, holding her hand out to Chrissy. “I’m Colonel Nicole Haught.”
“My apologies; I didn’t realize Waverly was having company.”
“I didn’t mention it,” Waverly whispered.
“At least I’m not forgetting things,” Nicole joked. She awkwardly skimmed her hand over her jacket again. “Er. I’m sorry for the rudeness, but it has been an extremely long day. I’m going to grab something from the kitchen and then head off to bed.”
“O-Oh, do you want me to…”
Nicole turned to Waverly, her brow furrowing. “Hm? Oh. Take your time. I’m so tired there’s no way I’ll hear you two talking. Don’t worry about it. Enjoy yourself.” She nodded at Chrissy and headed off towards the kitchen.
“Hey,” Waverly said, finding Nicole leaning against the icebox eating a piece of bread. “I can have her head out. It’s not a big deal. I know I didn’t ask for permission for her to come over.”
Nicole blinked at her, slowly lowering the bread and swallowing. “Waverly, this is your house, too. You can invite people over if you want. You don’t need my permission.”
Waverly stared at her as the words slowly sunk in. “Uhm,” she managed hoarsely. “Okay. Well. We’ll try not to disturb you.”
Nicole smiled at her, soft and gentle. “I’m sure you’ll be fine. Go have fun.”
“Right. Yeah. Got it.” Waverly turned and headed back into the living room, confusion flooding through her.
After Chrissy left, Waverly slid into bed next to the sleeping Nicole. She glanced at her wife, passed out with her head on the pillow, a stray streak of soot still brushed across her nose.
The woman worked hard. Harder than Waverly could have dreamed the moment she first saw her.
She didn’t deserve a wife who just invited people over to her house without giving her any warning.
Somehow, Waverly decided, staring up at the ceiling, she’d make it up to her.
“So, have you decided what you’re going to sell when the winter hits?” Chrissy asked, leaning against Waverly’s cart.
“Not yet. The garden is already starting to die out. Poor things.” Waverly pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. “I’m a bit worried about it, but I don’t know what to do.”
“Why not ask Nicole for ideas?”
“What? No. No; she can’t know that I’m failing to hold up my end of the deal. I’m supposed to figure out how to do this for myself. I’m the one who wanted this.” Waverly bit her lip and fidgeted with her coin box. “I’m going to stay here longer hours this week so that I can try to make some more money to bring in.” Her voice dropped to a mumble. “I owe it to her after last night, so I-”
“Waverly,” Chrissy interrupted, raising an eyebrow. “You really don’t see it, do you?”
Chrissy smiled slightly and shook her head. “Let me just say that I really don’t think you have to do this, Wave.”
“But…” Waverly frowned. “Why?”
“Because you found yourself a good one.” Chrissy patted Waverly on the cheek and headed back to her own stall.
Waverly looked up from her pot of stew as Nicole walked into the kitchen, sighing and running a hand through her hair. “It’s getting so damn cold,” she muttered, rifling through the cabinet for a piece of bread. “Did you ever go get those warmer clothes?”
“You should. Feel free to take whatever money you need.”
“Don’t,” Waverly whispered, gripping the counter. “Don’t tell me that, Nicole.”
“Hm?” Nicole leaned against the cupboard. “Why? What’s wrong?”
“It’s not my money.”
“You contribute,” Nicole pointed out. “Besides, you married into my family wealth, Wave. You get to use it. Especially to keep you from freezing to death.”
“And what about you?” Waverly snapped, tossing her wooden spoon into her pot with a loud clattering sound.
Nicole blinked at her. “What?”
“You don’t eat a fucking thing, Nicole! Whenever I make food, you come home, and put it away for me, and then eat a piece of bread and some cheese and maybe a slice of meat! You bought all of this food, and you don’t eat any of it!”
“I-I…” Nicole shrugged and idly started ripping apart the piece of bread in her hand. “You made it. You deserve it. You should have what’s left for the next day, not waste it on me. I’m fine. I just don’t have time when I get home to make anything more substantial.”
“Nicole…” Waverly hesitantly stepped forward and set her hands on the colonel’s shoulders. “Please. Please. You work all day doing hard and difficult labor. You help people. Save them. Dig trenches and tunnels and clear out villages after rock slides. You deserve better than to eat cold bread every night. You don’t need to eat with me if you don’t want to. But please, Nicole. Eat a real, hot meal when you get home.”
Nicole, a distant look in her eyes, leaned forward just a bit before blinking rapidly and pulling back, her cheeks flushed pink. She cleared her throat and said, “Alright. If that’s what you want.”
Waverly, not even noticing the movement, smiled and nodded. “I would like that quite a bit.”
“I’ll start tonight. I just. Uhm. Want to. Bathe real quick. Long day. Y’know.” Awkwardly, Nicole stood up, letting Waverly’s hands slip off of her shoulders and fall back to her sides. She shoved the rest of the bread into her mouth, rubbed the back of her neck, and hurried out of the room.
Chapter 8: unexpected visitor
“You know, I have to admit,” Nicole said softly, lounging on the couch with her feet up on one of the arms, “I feel... a lot better. Now that I’m actually eating real meals.”
Waverly tossed a piece of crumpled up sketch paper at her. “It’s almost like I know what I’m talking about.”
Nicole playfully threw the paper back at Waverly’s head. “What are you working on?”
“The cart. I’m not sure what to do with it.”
“Well. What do you like to do?”
Waverly hesitated. “Read?”
Nicole grinned. “I’m not sure you can sell your ability to read.”
“Oh, shut up,” Waverly grumbled, her cheeks flushing a bit. “Do you have any better ideas?”
“Off the top of my head, no, but I can always-”
Nicole broke off as a knock pounded against the door. Concern clouding her face, she stood and walked over to answer it.
Ward Earp stood in the doorway.
“Mr. Earp,” Nicole greeted coolly. “To what do I owe this… pleasure?”
Ward shoved his way into the house, smirking when he saw Waverly shrink back in her chair. “We need to talk money.”
Nicole closed the door and turned slowly. “I believe I already gave you everything I owed you.”
“You gave me everything you decided I had earned,” Ward growled. “It’s not enough. You owe me more than that.”
“Father,” Waverly started, anxiety glinting in her eyes. “Please, don’t…”
“Shut your mouth, you stupid girl,” Ward snarled, glaring over his shoulder at her.
Nicole grabbed Ward by the collar of his shirt and twisted him around, slamming his back up against the wall and pinning him in place. Her voice low, tightly controlled, and furious, she said, “You don’t get to speak to my wife like that.”
Ward, despite the fear edging into his gaze, sneered at her. “What wife? You haven’t even consummated your marriage. That’s no wife.”
Nicole tightened her grip and pushed her fist up and forward just slightly, putting enough faint pressure on Ward’s throat that his breathing started to become more difficult.
“What I do in bed with my wife is none of your fucking business,” she whispered. “And you can’t prove we haven’t. So why don’t you pretend to be intelligent and leave, now, before I get it in my head to crush your windpipe.”
“This isn’t over,” Ward hissed.
“Yes,” Nicole said simply. “It is.” She dragged Ward to the door and threw him out, not even watching to make sure he didn’t fall into the dirt before slamming the door shut again. She turned to Waverly, concern clear in her eyes. “Waverly? Are you okay?”
Waverly swallowed and nodded stiffly.
Nicole crossed the room and got down on one knee in front of her. “Your hands are shaking, Wave,” she murmured.
“Just nerves,” Waverly rasped.
“Still. Why don’t you go lie down for a bit? Rest. Relax. I promise you. I’m not going to allow him to bring any more harm to you.”
Waverly nodded again, her gaze distant, and she headed off towards the bedroom.
When night fell, Nicole headed into the bedroom and found Waverly still awake, sitting on the bed in her nightclothes and staring at the wall.
“Hey,” Nicole greeted hesitantly. “Is everything okay?”
Tears started to fall down Waverly’s cheeks. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’m sorry. I was taught not to cry. I shouldn’t be. I’m just overwhelmed.”
“Waverly, what’s the matter?” Nicole demanded, fear creeping into her voice. “What’s wrong?”
Waverly stood, still crying, and started to undo the buttons of her sleepshirt.
Nicole blinked and took a step back. “What-”
“My father wasn’t wrong,” Waverly sobbed. “We haven’t… I haven’t fulfilled my end of the bargain. It’s not a real marriage without… without the…” She swallowed, clearly trying to stop the tears. “It’s your right to have this, Nicole. To have me.”
She undid the last button and raised her hands to lift her shirt off of her shoulders.
“Gods, wait a minute, Waverly, hold on, hell.” Nicole hurried forward and grabbed Waverly’s hands, holding her shirt on her body. “Just stop. Okay? Just stop.”
“Shh.” Nicole absentmindedly stroked the back of Waverly’s hand with her thumb. “Waverly. It has been a long day. You’re tired. You’re upset. Don’t think about this right now, okay? Just get some rest.”
“Please,” Nicole interrupted. She tugged Waverly’s shirt back on her more firmly. “Just go to bed, Waverly.”
She stepped back, looking uncomfortable, and picked up her own nightclothes before heading towards the bathroom to change.
Waverly, her bewilderment slicing through her tears, shakily slid into her spot in their bed.
Waverly almost didn’t answer the knock on the door. Fear settled into the pit of her stomach like dead weight as she turned the knob and opened it, fully expecting to see her father standing on the step.
Instead, she saw her sister.
“I’m so sorry,” Wynonna said, barreling forward and all but tackling Waverly into a hug. She kicked the door closed behind her as momentum carried them back into the house. “Gods, Waverly, I’m so sorry. I should’ve come sooner, but the factory has been working me half to hell.”
“It’s okay,” Waverly wheezed, barely able to breathe as Wynonna’s hug crushed her. “You have to take care of Daddy.”
Wynonna made a noncommittal grunt before pulling out of the hug and starting to check Waverly over. She turned Waverly’s head, lifted up her shirt, twisted her around.
“What are you doing?” Waverly asked, baffled, as Wynonna started pushing up the sleeves of Waverly’s shirt.
“Where is it?” Wynonna growled. “Where has she touched you? Where did she hurt you?”
Wynonna took Waverly’s face by the chin and looked her in the eye. “I saw the way she was looking at you, baby girl. When she bought you from our father. I’m not an idiot. What has she done to you?”
Waverly took a step back, shaking her head. “Wynonna, she hasn’t… Nicole has never touched me. I mean, she’s physically touched me once or twice, but just the occasional incidentals or once or twice when she’s touched my hands. She’s never touched me like that. Hit me, or whipped me, or anything s-sexual.”
“Oh.” Wynonna’s brow furrowed. “I never would’ve expected that, honestly.”
“Trust me,” Waverly said with a strained laugh. “I’m confused by it as well.”
“You’re alright, though?” Wynonna asked, stroking Waverly’s cheek.
“Yes. I’m alright.”
“Thank the gods for that,” Wynonna breathed, kissing her little sister on the forehead.
“Why don’t we sit down, and you can tell me how you’ve been?” Waverly prompted, gesturing at the couch.
“Your wife won’t mind?”
“Weirdly,” Waverly said, frowning slightly as she took a seat, “she really doesn’t seem to care if I have people over.”
Wynonna snorted and sat next to her. “Well. She’s definitely not our father.”
It had been pouring for a few hours when Nicole came home, soaked and clearly exhausted. “It’s a total mess out there,” she grumbled as she hung her sword belt up. “I feel like-” She broke off immediately when she noticed Wynonna sitting on the couch next to Waverly. “Oh.”
“Nicole, you remember my sister, Wynonna?”
Nicole cleared her throat, struggling to dry her hand off on her wet jacket. She squared her jaw and took a step forward, trying not to betray the nervousness glinting in her eyes as she held out her hand. “Ms. Earp. Of course. Pleasure to see you again. If I had known you were coming, I would have attempted to make myself more presentable before returning home.”
Wynonna stood slowly, and Waverly tried not to hold her breath. The older Earp walked over to Nicole, paused for a moment to look her up and down, then shook her hand. “I think we can be on first name basis, don’t you think, Colonel? You are married to my sister, after all.”
“Uhm. Y-Yes, of course.”
“Sit down, Nicole,” Waverly said as she stood. “I’ll go heat up some dinner for you.”
“No, Waverly, don’t be silly,” Nicole replied, waving her off. “Talk to your sister. I can get it for myself.”
“Don’t hide in there, though,” Wynonna said, meeting Nicole’s gaze evenly.
Nicole cleared her throat again. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
She disappeared into the kitchen, and Wynonna glanced at Waverly. “You don’t have to get her food for her?”
“I’ve only recently convinced her to even eat what I make.”
Wynonna gave a low whistle. “What the hell kind of arranged marriage did you end up in, kid?”
Waverly shook her head slowly. “I have no idea.”
Nicole sat in a chair across from the sisters as she ate. “You work in a factory, right, Wynonna?”
“How is that?”
Wynonna laughed. “Well. Not amazing. I’m not afraid of hard work, but the hours are terrible.” She shrugged. “Doesn’t help that all of my money ends up going straight to my father.”
“Ah.” Nicole fidgeted with the buttons of her jacket. “From what I’ve seen, I’m sure he spends it wisely, too.”
“Yes, I think Wise Moon is his favorite brand of beer,” Waverly joked.
Nicole grinned at her. “That’s a whiskey.”
“Oh. Well.” Waverly squinted at her. “How do you know?”
“I’m not an alcoholic, Waverly, don’t worry,” Nicole laughed, raising her hands defensively. “I just had to respond to a fire at one of their breweries last year.”
“A fire at a place that makes alcohol?” Wynonna raised an eyebrow. “I’m sure that was fun to put out.”
“Mhm. I smelled like a drunk for weeks.” Nicole set her spoon down in her bowl. “Have you told your sister about your cart?”
Waverly shrugged. “I didn’t really seem that important.”
Nicole smiled at her, a gentle warmth in her eyes. “You’ve done well. You should tell her about it.” She stood, stretching slightly. “I apologize, but I’m going to need to cut my stay short. I’ll go clean this up, and then I have to go wash this rain water off.” She shook Wynonna’s hand again. “It was good to see you again, Wynonna.”
“You as well, Nicole.”
Once the colonel was out of the room, Wynonna turned a smirk to Waverly.
Waverly blinked at her. “What? What’s wrong?”
“You realize what’s happened, right?”
“She’s in love with you.”
Waverly’s jaw dropped. “What?”
“Yeah.” Wynonna was clearly trying not to laugh. “The way she looks at you, baby girl… I’m pretty sure I know why she’s been so nice to you. The fool has actually fallen for you.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Waverly protested, her entire face flushing.
“I’m not,” Wynonna said simply. She leaned back on the couch, checking to make sure Nicole was still in the kitchen. “Trust me, Waves. That kid is a lost cause when it comes to you.”
Wynonna left while the storm was still raging, politely refusing Nicole’s offer to let her have the couch for the night.
As Nicole and Waverly headed in to bed, Nicole said, “Your sister didn’t punch me in the face. I was sort of expecting it.”
“Oh. Uhm. No. She wouldn’t.”
Nicole smirked and raised an eyebrow.
“Okay, she would’ve, but I had already convinced her that you didn’t deserve it,” Waverly admitted.
“Are you sure I don’t?”
“I’m sure.” Waverly took in a long, slow, shaky breath and bowed her head. “I also know that you do deserve to have a full wife, Nicole. What my father said the other day… He was right. I don’t know why you haven’t…”
“Waverly,” Nicole said softly. “Look at me.” She waited until Waverly met her gaze before continuing. “Your father doesn’t dictate my life. We don’t have to do anything.” She very gently set her hands on Waverly’s shoulders. “So we aren’t going to. Especially not when you’re so clearly upset by it. Okay? You don’t owe me anything, Waverly. I promise. Everything is fine.”
Chapter 9: don't let it stand in our way
Nicole spent five days digging a small town just outside of the city limits out of floodwaters
Waverly noticed her cough by day three, a heavy noise that shook her entire body. When she came home on the fifth day, she mumbled, “The general told me I have to take a week off.”
“Good,” Waverly said.
Nicole blinked at her. “Good?”
“You don’t look very healthy, Nicole,” Waverly whispered. Her fingers fluttered up to Nicole’s neck, pressing against her pulse. “You feel warm. You should eat something. Take a bath. Get some rest.”
Nicole nodded sleepily. “Alright, Waves.”
Waverly stirred a pot over the small fire in the kitchen until she heard water falling in another room. She stuck her head out of the doorway.
“Nicole! Are you washing your own uniform?”
“M’fine,” Nicole replied, her voice muffled by the door to the washroom.
“Would you get back out in here and lie down?”
Nicole swung the door open and stepped out, wearing sleep pants and a tank top. Waverly forced herself not to blush as her eyes skimmed over the muscles of her arms, occasionally marred by old, healed scars.
“I’m sick, not dying. I can wash my damn clothes,” Nicole retorted, before doubling over into a coughing fit.
“Uh-huh. Lie down, you big idiot.”
Nicole leaned against the doorframe, smirking. “Oh, what, now you’re confident around me?” she teased gently.
The blush Waverly had been fighting came out full form. “Shut up.”
Nicole begrudgingly made her way to the couch and lied down. “Never.”
“I need to get some water,” Nicole said, starting to get up off the couch.
“For fuck’s sake.” Waverly grabbed Nicole by the shoulders and shoved her back onto the cushions. She sat down next to her and glared as she rested the back of her hand against Nicole’s forehead. “You’re a feverish mess. Knock it off.”
“Stop.” Waverly shook her head slowly. “Will you let me do something for you for once?”
Nicole gave half a shrug. “I never wanted you to have to do anything for me.”
Waverly’s face softened, and she skimmed her thumb over Nicole’s cheek. “I’m your wife, dammit,” she whispered. “I know how much you’ve been doing for me, Nicole. I’ve seen how hard you’ve been trying to make sure that I don’t have to do things for you. But I’m your wife, and I can keep you in one piece for a few days. Okay? Please. Let me do this.”
Nicole blinked at her, and her gaze was so gentle that Waverly dared to think about what Wynonna had told her before. “Alright, Waverly. We’ll do it your way. Just don’t overdo anything on my behalf.”
“I’m not going to do anything I don’t want to do.” Waverly grinned slightly. “You’ve started to convince me that that’s actually true.”
“That’s all I’ve ever wanted you to believe,” Nicole murmured.
Nicole slept on the couch until she had become convinced that she was better.
She made it back just in time for the first freezing cold day of late fall.
At some point in the middle of the night, the fire flickered out, and Waverly, without even waking up, snuggled up close to Nicole. In the morning, they woke up pressed together, with Nicole’s chin resting lightly on the top of Waverly’s head.
Both Waverly and Nicole hesitated awkwardly, unsure of what to do.
“So,” Nicole muttered finally. “Uhm. This is new. No complaints, though.”
Waverly smacked her shoulder instinctively, then realized that Nicole was shaking. She craned her neck back to look at her face, frowning.
“Are you… laughing?”
“Yes,” Nicole giggled. “Come on, Waverly, this is hilarious. We’ve been married for months and we don’t even know what to do with ourselves when we slightly touch after sleeping in the same bed all night.”
“You’re an ass,” Waverly said, though she was giggling too.
Nicole shifted away from her carefully. She was still grinning, but there was caution in her eyes as she asked, “I’m sorry. Are you okay?”
“Yes,” Waverly replied, and she was surprised by how true it was. “It was just an accident. Neither of us did anything wrong.”
“Well. I suppose I did something wrong by screwing up the fire.”
Waverly reached up and softly stroked her cheek. “I think you can be forgiven,” she whispered.
Chapter 10: my heart, it wasn't open
Minutes after Nicole left for the day, a harsh knock sounded against the front door. Waverly opened it and was immediately shoved aside by Ward as he stepped into the house, closely followed by Willa.
“What are you doing here?” Waverly demanded, trying to ignore how her voice squeaked with panic.
Ward ignored her. “You know, Waverly, this is a nice place you’ve got going here,” he said, wandering around the living room.
“Y-Yes, Daddy, it is.”
“I got you a very nice home.”
Ward turned his cool gaze to her as Willa continued her track around the couch. “You’re in a very good place now, Waverly. So you owe me. Your fraud of a wife owes me. I deserve more.”
Waverly swallowed, leaning against the door to keep herself from shaking. “D-Daddy, you’ve already been paid your full share. Nicole hasn’t-”
“I don’t really give a damn what the colonel has or hasn’t done,” Ward interrupted with a dry laugh. “You’re going to convince her to give me more.”
Ward and Willa both stared at her. “What?” Ward asked in a growl.
Waverly cleared her throat and raised her voice above her whisper. “No. I won’t ask that of Nicole. You haven’t earned it.”
“Perhaps I haven’t made myself clear. You will.”
“No,” Waverly replied, strangely calm. “I won’t.”
Ward nodded slowly. He walked over to the living room table and brought his boot down onto it, putting a crack straight through the middle.
“What are you doing?” Waverly demanded, fear and panic shooting through her. She tried to hurry forward to stop him, but Willa shoved her back.
Ward continued to stomp on the table until it had snapped in half completely, then he gave Waverly a chilly smile. “I have no need to punish you for disobedience. When the colonel gets home, she’ll beat you for me when she sees this mess. Then maybe you’ll learn to listen to me when I make requests of you.”
“Father,” Willa said, nodding at the box on the mantle. “There are coins in there. Can’t we just-”
“No,” Ward said sharply. “We are not thieves, Willa. Come along. We should leave.” He shot a grin at his youngest daughter as he opened the door. “We don’t want to be here when Waverly’s wife gets home.”
“Waverly, what the hell happened?” Nicole asked quietly when she got home and found her wife sitting in the chair, staring blankly at a shattered living room table.
“My father. And Willa,” Waverly whimpered. “They want more money, and they want me to get it from you. I tried to stop them, Nicole, I swear I did.” She bowed her head, her breath shuddering. “I’ll understand if this is too much. If you need to punish me. I just need you to know that I tried my best.”
Nicole carefully made her way over to Waverly and crouched down in front of her. “Waverly,” she said softly. “I’m not going to hold you accountable for what your family’s done. When I said that I’d never hurt you, I meant never. Okay? Next time they try to do something like this, just leave, Waves. Go to Chrissy’s, or Gus’s. There’s nothing in this house that’s worth anything except you.”
Waverly broke into sobs and collapsed forward, clutching Nicole in a hug and burying her face in Nicole’s jacket.
“It’s okay,” Nicole whispered, carefully rubbing Waverly’s back. “You’re alright. I know it takes time, Waverly. But you’ll be free of them. I swear it.”
“I don’t know how long I’ll be gone,” Nicole said as she packed her bag. “We don’t really know how many bandits there are up north.”
“Why isn’t the regular military handling it?” Waverly asked, chewing on her nails.
Nicole chuckled softly. “I am regular military.”
“I knew what you meant. We usually do more citizen protection work, but every division needs a few runs at actual combat, or we’ll get rusty. Nobody wants that, just in case there’s ever a real live war. Bandits are a good thing for us to fight.” Nicole shrugged. “Plus, none of the other divisions want to go north. Don’t like the cold. The big babies.”
“Just…” Waverly shrugged. “Be careful? Please?”
“I will.” Nicole slung her bag over her shoulder. “You promise to do as I asked, right? If your father causes any trouble for you, just leave.”
“Good.” Nicole grinned at her. “Be safe.” She hesitated for a moment as if she wanted to say more, then she turned and disappeared out the door.
Waverly was a bit surprised by how poorly she could handle Nicole being gone.
She spent more time at her cart, selling stews that she made with Chrissy, than she ever had before. She slept on the couch, dreading the thought of being alone in the bed. She found herself eating far plainer meals than she had in the past, and she couldn’t even read a book by the fire like she had become accustomed to doing.
There was something about it that wasn’t right without Nicole napping after a long day on the couch across from her.
“What are you drinking today, Waverly?” Gus asked with a smile as Waverly sat down at a table.
“Whiskey,” Waverly rasped.
Gus waved a hand at Shorty and sat down immediately. “Okay. You are not the drinker in the Earp bloodline. What’s wrong?”
Waverly rubbed her hands continuously, an obvious nervous twitch that she didn’t even seem to notice herself doing. “I-I-I don’t know what to do with myself,” she rasped. “I just… I don’t…”
Gus reached out to still her hands, giving her a kind look. “Waverly. What’s wrong?”
“I miss her,” Waverly admitted. “I miss Nicole, and I don’t know when she’s coming back, and I’m terrified, because what if she dies, Gus? What if one of the bandits kills her? What if she catches ill up there in the cold and she’s not able to heal from it? What if… I mean, there are wolves up there, right? What if one of them catches her? What if-”
“Waverly, Waverly, slow down,” Gus interrupted. “Why are you so convinced that something is going to happen to Nicole?”
“I’m not, but what if? I-I can’t… She can’t…” Waverly shook her head and stood up. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m saying.”
She bolted back out of the bar, ignoring Gus calling after her.
Waverly gave a sheepish grin as she held the door open for Wynonna.
“Gus talked to you?”
“Gus practically pulled me out of work by my ear, yelling at me that I had to get my ass over here and find out what the hell is wrong with you,” Wynonna said, folding her arms and leaning against the back of the couch. “So. What the hell is wrong with you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Great. I’ll go tell her that, and you can come to my funeral.”
Waverly sat down in a chair heavily, sighing. “I just miss Nicole, but my brain has gone all weird because of it. It’s like I’m panicking over nothing.”
Wynonna stared at her for a long moment. “Oh, gods. You’re in love with her.”
Her big sister started to laugh. “You’ve actually fallen in love with your wife, and you didn’t even realize it.” Wynonna’s laugh trailed off, and she sat down on the couch. “Of course… given the way we grew up? I can’t exactly say I’m surprised,” she murmured. “You hardly know what love feels like, do you?”
Waverly swallowed and shook her head. “How can I be in love with her?”
Wynonna rubbed her neck awkwardly. “Let me ask you something. When you look at Nicole, do you get a weird twisty feeling in your chest?”
After a momentary pause, Waverly nodded. “It feels warm, and a little bit like I’m going to be sick. Kind of like what happens when I drink bad tea.”
Wynonna laughed. “Yeah. Like that.”
“That’s love? I’m not sure I like it?”
“I’m sure you won’t when it kicks you in the teeth like this.”
Waverly groaned quietly and put her head in her hands. “What am I supposed to do?”
Wynonna shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you, Waverly. The easy thing is that you’re already married. So what you do with it? Well. It’s really all up to you.”
“I-I don’t even know…”
Waverly flushed and looked down at her feet. “What’s sex like?”
Wynonna muffled a pained groan. “Gods. Haught really hasn’t touched you, has she?”
“Well.” Wynonna ran a hand over her face. “This is going to be a fun conversation.”
Chapter 11: get what you wanted
This will be the only letter I send, because I don’t want you to feel as if I’m pestering you.
We should be at around the halfway point of our campaign here. I’m not completely sure yet.
I hope everything is alright at home. I’ve sent this letter to your aunt, because I wanted to make sure that you were getting out and seeing the people who care for you. I hope that isn’t pushing too hard.
Remember to take care of yourself. Please.
I’ll see you soon.
Waverly read the letter again, adding another to the dozens of times she had read it already.
“How soon?” she murmured. She folded up the letter and tucked it into the pocket of her pants, then slowly got up to clean the living room for what had to be the fifteenth time that week.
She hurried out of the kitchen, holding a spoon in what she hoped was a threatening manner, when the front door swung open.
“Hey,” Nicole said quietly, stepping inside the house.
Her uniform was covered in dirt, mud, and sand, and there were streaks of blood across a ripped portion of her jacket.
“Nicole,” Waverly whispered, her eyes immediately drifting down to the red.
“M’alright, Waverly,” Nicole murmured. “I’m fine. I promise. I just-”
She broke off as Waverly tackled her so hard that Nicole’s back slammed the door shut. The rest of the sentence was mumbled into Waverly’s mouth and against her tongue as Waverly kissed her fiercely.
Nicole gave a soft groan of pain as her injured torso vibrated from the blow to the door, and she couldn’t stop herself from pulling roughly out of the kiss.
“I’m sorry,” Waverly stammered. “I-I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
Nicole blinked at her, confused and exhausted and in pain.
“I’m sorry,” Waverly said again. She stroked her fingers down Nicole’s cheek. “You’re filthy. Why don’t you get out of your uniform while I get the hot water ready so you can take a bath?”
“Okay,” Nicole whispered.
Once the water was hot, Waverly went into the bedroom and found Nicole leaning against the wall, breathing slowly, eyes closed, still in her uniform.
“I can’t do this,” Nicole murmured. “I can’t, Wave. I’m exhausted.”
Waverly cupped her face in her hands, hesitantly meeting her gaze. “You can do this, Nicole,” she said gently. “Just a few minutes of washing the grit out. It’s okay.”
Nicole nodded heavily, her head drooping and resting against Waverly’s. Waverly fluttered her fingers awkwardly against Nicole’s jacket before she squared her jaw and started to unbutton it before she led her off towards the bathroom.
Once she got Nicole dry and into warm clothes, Waverly tried to slink away towards the kitchen, still sick from the mortification of the kiss that Nicole had not even responded to.
“Where are you going?” Nicole asked quietly.
“Just… out… there…” Waverly rubbed the back of her neck, her face flushed pink.
Nicole’s eyes were soft. She pulled Waverly towards her and gently held her against the wall. “I know you kissed me, Waverly,” she whispered. “I remember it.”
Waverly’s face reddened even darker. “I-I, uh, uhm, I, uh…”
“Shh.” Nicole leaned forward and pressed a slow kiss to Waverly’s lips.
She felt like she was melting, but Waverly managed, “You don’t have to do this just because I-”
Nicole, her hands resting on Waverly’s waist, pressed a kiss behind Waverly’s ear. “I know, baby.”
The third kiss of their marriage was youthful. Breathless and gasping and hands wandering and exploring. Waverly wasn’t entirely sure what she was doing, but she found that all she had to do was hold on.
Nicole was leading her wherever they should go.
Waverly’s hand wandered a bit too high, ghosting over the gash that had scored across Nicole’s ribcage. The colonel made a quiet yelping noise and pulled back, panting.
“I’m sorry,” Waverly blurted out, panicked. “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t apologize,” Nicole said. “It’s okay.” She reached up, idly pushing a strand of hair behind Waverly’s ear. “But maybe we should go to bed, okay? It might not be a good idea to go further with this right now, tonight.”
Waverly nodded stiffly. “That’s probably a good idea.”
She woke to an empty bed, and a sense of dread flooded through Waverly’s body. She was convinced that she had ruined this. Ruined everything.
She was absolutely certain that Nicole would send her back to her father.
Waverly made her way out to the kitchen, and she was surprised when she found Nicole sitting on the counter, eating a cold bowl of stew and reading one of Waverly’s books.
“Hi,” Waverly greeted hesitantly.
“Hi,” Nicole echoed, setting the book down. “How are you?”
“I’m fine. How are the ribs?”
“Healing fast. It wasn’t a very deep cut. Just something stupid.” Nicole drummed her fingers on the side of the bowl for a moment. “I wanted to give you some space. After last night. Time to think.” She shrugged and stared at the floor. “You… You do know that you don’t owe me anything, right, Waverly? I was serious about that. You don’t need to make yourself like me just because we’re married.” There was a measured pause before she added, “That being said. You’re also allowed to like me. I don’t want you to be afraid of that, either.”
Waverly smiled and walked forward, setting aside the bowl of stew and standing in between Nicole’s legs. “I-I don’t need space,” she said, surprised by her own confidence. She kissed Nicole gently. “I need you, Nicole. I… I want you.”
Even she couldn’t miss the warm glint in Nicole’s eyes. “Then would you like to continue what we started last night?”
“Very much so.” Waverly blushed. “Though… I, uh… I don’t really know what I’m doing, Nicole. I’m sorry, I just…”
“Shh.” Nicole cupped Waverly’s face and kissed her softly. “It’s okay. You don’t have to. I’ll show you. I’m very patient.”
Waverly snorted. “No, you’re not.”
Nicole grinned. “I can be for you.” She pressed a kiss to Waverly’s forehead. “I can be anything for you.”
“You know what still amazes me?” Waverly whispered.
“I actually believe that you’d be willing to.”
Nicole smiled and kissed Waverly’s knuckles. “We couldn’t do this if you didn’t.”
Waverly gave her a smile that was a mixture of nervous and excited. “I’m glad I feel that way, then.” She giggled, slightly anxious but still enthusiastic, and pulled Nicole by the hand back towards the bedroom.
Chapter 12: crossed lines
Waverly didn’t know whether to run or roll on top of Nicole Haught and convince her to do even more to her.
What stood out the most was that Nicole had spent so much time focusing on Waverly. When she decided that she wanted to break that divide between them and let Nicole take her to bed as a wife, she had been convinced that Nicole would use her for her own benefit. Even if that wasn’t all she did, Waverly had firmly believed that that was where it would start.
Nicole had spent almost all of her time making Waverly comfortable, ensuring that she knew every single step that was happening to her and between them. She refused to let Waverly be scared, even once.
And above all, she had made it as clear as was possible that if Waverly was uncertain– in any way –then she was more than able to call the whole thing off, no matter how far in they were.
Waverly had never expected anyone to treat her as carefully as Nicole Haught did. She had no idea how to handle it.
“Are you okay?” Nicole asked in a whisper, pressing a soft kiss to Waverly’s cheek.
“Yes.” Waverly pulled Nicole towards her, hand on her cheek, and kissed her with far more hesitation than their night’s activities would suggest. “Are you?”
“I am as long as you are.” Nicole skimmed her fingers up Waverly’s bare side once, as if devoting the feel to memory. “Waverly, we need to talk about something.”
Fear lit in Waverly’s eyes. “O-Okay.”
“No, no, it’s okay, everything’s alright.” Nicole kissed Waverly’s forehead. “Everything’s fine. I just need to make sure you understand. There are no expectations here, Waverly. I don’t want anything from you. If you want this to be the only time this happens, I’m okay with that. You don’t owe me anything, and you don’t need to feel like just because you consented once, I’m going to assume that it means I have free permission whenever I want.” She purposefully shifted back, putting a distance between them that made Waverly ache. “Just… think about it. Please? I need you to be sure before anything else does or doesn’t happen between us.”
“I’ll be sure,” Waverly whispered.
“Good.” Nicole went quiet, her fingers skimming up one of the deeper scars on Waverly’s back. After a moment she seemed to snap out of it and smiled, rolling out of bed and running her hand through her hair. “And now I should really bathe and put real clothes on.”
“I kind of like what you’re wearing now,” Waverly dared, nervousness edging around the words.
Nicole grinned encouragingly at her. “I like it too, my dear, but if I leave the house like this I’ll get arrested.”
Waverly couldn’t stop her smile as Nicole headed out of the room.
“I-I-I-I don’t know what to do.”
Chrissy stared at her, confusion and worry darkening her eyes. “Wave, what’s going on? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong? I don’t think?” Waverly chewed on her lip for a moment. “I, uh…” She dropped her voice to a whisper. “I had sex with Nicole.”
“You hadn’t already?”
Waverly smacked her hand to her face. “That’s not helping,” she groaned.
“Sorry,” Chrissy replied with a sheepish grin. “I just assumed, since you’re married and everything.”
“I hadn’t wanted to before. And she was really understanding about that. But then I just… Gods, Chrissy, I wanted her so badly, and I loved it so much, but now she wants me to think about it to make sure it’s what I really want.”
“Okay. Is it?”
Waverly stared at her. “How am I supposed to know that?”
Chrissy rubbed the back of her neck. “Well… Do you want to have sex with her again?”
“Do you like her?”
“Do you want to kiss her again?”
“Then I’m not entirely sure what the question here is.”
Waverly blinked. “I… I don’t think I know, either.”
Chrissy laughed loudly and patted her on the shoulder. “Okay. Well. Maybe you should talk that out with your wife, then, pal. Before you work yourself up into a heart attack because you’re an anxious nerd.”
“I’m not… anxious.”
“Sure,” Chrissy said, nodding slowly. “And I’m not looking at you like you’re a disaster.”
Waverly sighed and tightened her coat around her. “I think I was happier when I didn’t have friends.”
Waverly paced around the living room as she waited for Nicole to get home. As the colonel opened the door, she paused. “You aren’t going to tackle me, are you?”
“Don’t laugh at me,” Waverly begged. “I was desperate and missed you.”
“I’m not laughing at you,” Nicole said gently. She closed the door behind her and walked over, skimming her hands down Waverly’s arms in an attempt to calm her down. “You’re allowed to miss me, Waverly. You’re allowed to want me. Just as long as that actually is what you want.”
Waverly took a deep breath and cupped Nicole’s face in her hands. “It is, Nicole. It is. I never thought it would be, but nobody has ever cared about me as much as you have. The more I know you, the more I can’t imagine my life without you. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly it is that I want from my future. All I know is that I’m so, so glad that you’ll be in it.” She tugged Nicole down to her and kissed her. “And I want… I want…” Her voice quivered and cracked, unsure of where to go.
Nicole wrapped her in a hug, holding her tight. “It’s okay,” she whispered. “I understand.”
Waverly squeezed her close, burying her face in her wife’s jacket. “Nicole,” she breathed.
“Shh,” Nicole murmured. “We don’t need to say anything more tonight.” She pressed a kiss to Waverly’s hair. “We have the rest of our lives.”
Chapter 13: never an honest word
“Where are you going?” Waverly asked curiously as Nicole rolled out of bed. “Aren’t you off today?”
“Yes, darling,” Nicole replied, skimming her fingers along Waverly’s jaw and grinning when the younger girl’s eyes fluttered closed. “I just have something I need to take care of. I’ll be back later. I promise.”
“I promise.” Nicole leaned down and kissed her softly. Her touch brushed down Waverly’s back, stilling briefly. Her voice was just a bit rougher as she continued, “Just relax. You don’t have anything you have to do today. You know that, right?”
Waverly nodded. “Yeah, Nicole. I know.”
“Good.” Nicole got up and started pulling on her uniform. “I shouldn’t be long.”
Nicole slammed her fist into the solid wood of the door, completely ignoring the pain that vibrated through her bones. When Ward Earp opened it, he smirked at her. “Colonel Haught. Finally came to your senses?”
She shoved him inside, following and slamming the door shut behind her. “Listen to me, you son of a bitch,” she snarled. “I’ve had enough of you. You’re not going to come over to my house and threaten my wife just because you’re a greedy fucking bastard. So this is done.” She pulled a small bag of coins out of her pocket and tossed it onto a nearby table. “That’s the last piece of bronze you’re getting out of me. Might’ve been more if you hadn’t smashed up my stuff and scared Waverly, but you’re a fucking idiot. This is over, or you’re going to find out what it feels like to get your ass kicked by a soldier.”
Nicole turned to head back for the door, but Ward’s voice stopped her in her tracks.
“How dare you, you insolent little brat!” He grabbed her by the collar of her jacket and pulled her, spinning her around so that he could growl in her face. “You don’t get to tell me what I can and can’t do to Waverly. She’s my family. My daughter. I should go over there and whip that girl senseless for not upholding her end of the bargain.”
A strange calm settled over Nicole’s face, and she smirked at him. “Waverly has my name now, Mr. Earp. She doesn’t belong to you. You already sold her to me.”
Ward stared at her for a long moment before his hand released her jacket. “You won’t get away with this, Colonel. Nobody steals from me.”
Nicole chuckled softly as she headed to leave. “I’m not going to bother to validate that with a true response.” She paused in the threshold, not bothering to look back at him. “I’ve seen the evidence. Of the way you treated her. I’ve seen it on her body and on her soul. And you don’t get to hurt her again.” She slammed the door in his face before he could saying anything more.
When Nicole got back home, Waverly was still in bed, dozing. Nicole leaned down, pressing a kiss to her forehead.
Waverly stirred, blinking up at her. “Hey,” she said.
“You’re back.” Waverly’s eyes widened. “Oh, gods. You’re back and I’m still in bed and I haven’t even made breakfast or… what time is it? Is it lunch time? Oh no I should-”
“Shh shh shh.” Nicole pressed her finger to Waverly’s lips. “I told you. You’re okay. It’s alright to relax.” She lifted the sheet covering Waverly and gave a lazy grin. “Besides, you look good when you relax.”
Waverly flushed bright red and reached up, grabbing Nicole by the front of her jacket and yanking her down on top of her.
“Well,” Nicole said breathlessly. “Hi there.”
“I-I’m sorry. I’ve never been very good at problem solving.”
“I don’t know; this looks like a great solution.” Nicole rested their foreheads together. “You don’t need to be afraid of taking what you want, Waverly.”
“I-I-I-I…” Waverly stroked Nicole’s cheek softly. “I…”
“You what?” Nicole asked with a small smile.
Waverly groaned and pushed forward, easily turning Nicole onto her back and kissing her roughly.
“Wave, I’m going to go help my dad restock his cart,” Chrissy said, pushing some of her hair behind her ear.
“Alright. Make sure Mr. Nedley doesn’t hurt himself.”
Chrissy snorted. “You wanna go tell him to take it easy?”
“I’m not that stupid.”
A few minutes after Chrissy had left, Waverly heard, “So this is what the great Waverly Haught is doing?”
Waverly’s stomach plummeted to her feet. She looked up slowly and met the gaze of her oldest sister, standing in front of the cart.
“What do you want, Willa?” she whispered.
“I want to know why you sent your master to Daddy’s house.”
Waverly blinked. “What do you mean?”
“Colonel Haught came by the house the other day. She threatened Daddy.” Willa gave a bitter smirk. “And she said that you were already bought and paid for, so she could do whatever she wanted to do to you.”
“I don’t believe you,” Waverly whispered.
“Well, you should. I was there. It happened.” Willa reached over and patted Waverly on the cheek. “How does it feel to be property, Waves?” She chuckled softly and walked away, leaving her little sister staring blankly after her.
Waverly started yelling at the exact moment that Nicole walked through the door.
“Really? Really, Nicole? I’m just property to you? Is that really all I am? Some slave that you’re being nice to just so that I feel comfortable when you finally get to fuck me? I cannot believe that I was actually beginning to trust you!”
Nicole blinked at her, confusion clear in her eyes. “… What?”
Waverly’s hands tightened into fists. “You told my father that you own me!”
“Oh, gods.” Nicole pinched the bridge of her nose and briefly closed her eyes. “Wave… I told your father that he didn’t own you because he sold you. Which he did.”
Nicole held up a hand to cut her off. “I don’t own you, darling. We’re married. Equals. I was just running my mouth because he pissed me off. Please, Waverly. You can trust me. You really can.”
Waverly’s hands loosened, going limp at her side. “… Oh.”
“I would have just told you if you had asked,” Nicole said gently. “How did you find out?”
“Yeah, I obviously see the problem now.” Waverly hesitantly approached Nicole, looping her arms behind her neck and kissing her. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I just… I overreacted.”
“It’s okay,” Nicole murmured. “I understand. Just… Know that you can trust me, alright? At the very least, you can come to me and ask me about things. It’s okay.”
“Thank you.” Waverly stroked Nicole’s cheek gently. “Thank you.”
She went to kiss her again, but instead they broke apart and Nicole’s hand went to the sword on her belt as their front door burst open.
“You son of a bitch, Haught!”
Nicole let go of her sword “Wynon-”
Wynonna grabbed her by her jacket and slammed her up against the wall. “You fucking bastard!” she snarled. “You think you can just-”
Waverly cleared her throat loudly, getting Wynonna’s attention.
Wynonna blinked at her before sighing and releasing Nicole, awkwardly smoothing out the wrinkles in her collar. “Willa. Right. My bad.”
“I’m definitely going to need to press my jacket underneath a pile of books after this week is over,” Nicole said dryly.
Wynonna walked over and sat down on the arm of the chair. “I should buy you a beer, Nicky. I’ve never seen my father hate someone this much.”
Nicole and Waverly sat on the couch, and Nicole said, “I don’t really give a shit whether he likes me or not. As long as he’s focused on me and not Waverly, I can live with that.”
Waverly reached over and stroked the back of Nicole’s neck. “You don’t need to protect me from him, Nicole,” she murmured.
Nicole turned to her, squeezing her knee. “I swore that I would. I’m not going to back down from that.”
Wynonna squinted at them as they smiled softly at each other. “Oh, hell. You idiots finally had sex, didn’t you?”
Waverly spluttered awkwardly, and she and Nicole sprang away from each other, both hitting opposite sides of the couch.
“U-u-uh… w-we… uh…”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Nicole said, her voice oddly high-pitched.
Wynonna rolled her eyes and got up to steal a glass of whiskey from their kitchen. “You dumb idiots are married, oh my fucking gods…”
Chapter 14: buy this place and see it burn
“I got you something,” Nicole said, leaning against the back of the couch.
Waverly craned her neck upward, squinting at her. “What?”
Nicole handed her a small box. “I-I don’t know if you’ll like it. I was just skimming your shelf and making guesses.”
The box contained a stack of books, almost as many as Waverly currently had, all brand new copies. Waverly’s breath caught in her throat, and she ran her fingers along the spines. “I’ve never read these before,” she whispered.
“Good,” Nicole sighed. “I was hoping.”
“You didn’t have to get me these. I-I was fine with what I have.”
“Waverly, how many times have you read those books?”
“Uhm…” Waverly frowned. “Maybe about fifty times on the one I’ve read the least?”
Nicole chuckled and kissed Waverly’s head. “Enjoy something new for once, Wave. It’s not a big deal. It didn’t cost much.”
Waverly smiled and shook her head slowly. “Gods, I love you.” She flushed red and looked up at Nicole, panicked.
There was a hopeful, enthusiastic glint in Nicole’s eyes. “I love you, too,” she whispered.
“Yeah, Waverly Haught, I do.” Nicole beamed down at her, kissing her with a passion that made Waverly’s heart flip.
Waverly reached up, gripping the back of Nicole’s neck and pulling her.
“Darling, this is fun and all, but my ribs are being crushed against the couch,” Nicole mumbled against Waverly’s lips.
“Oh, gods, I’m so sorry,” Waverly stammered, immediately releasing her.
“Never apologize for that.” Nicole pressed her forehead against Waverly’s and smiled. “Why don’t we go have dinner, and then we can go to bed, Waverly?”
Waverly grinned. “I would like that very much.”
Waverly sat on the couch, reading one of her new books, while Nicole slept with her head in her wife’s lap. Nicole mumbled something in her sleep and turned, bumping her face against Waverly’s stomach. She opened her eyes with a frown and muttered, “Wasn’t s’posed to do that.”
“No; I imagine not.” Waverly set her book down and gently stroked Nicole’s hair. “Hey. Can I ask you something?”
“Of course, darling.”
“Did you pay my father when you went to see him?”
Nicole’s eyes darkened. “Yes. Not much. I just gave him enough.”
“I-I… I don’t want you to give him anything more.”
“If it’ll keep you safe…”
Waverly cut her off by leaning down to kiss her. “I don’t want him to get anything else from you. We owe him nothing.”
Nicole reached up, brushing her thumb against Waverly’s jaw. “All I’ve ever wanted is for you to believe that,” she whispered.
Nicole sat on the counter, eating the soup Waverly had made. “Hey. I was wondering. Where does your Aunt Gus live?”
“In one of the little apartments above the bar she works at,” Waverly replied, seated at the table as she ate.
“Hm. Okay. I’ll bring her in on this, too, then.”
Waverly blinked at her. “In on what?”
“I was just thinking that your sisters don’t deserve to live with your father. They should be free of him. Maybe Willa will even straighten her attitude out if she’s not under the same roof as him.” Nicole shrugged. “I figured that I’d buy three other houses that Willa, Wynonna, and Gus could all live in.”
Waverly’s jaw dropped. “Are you serious?”
“… Yeah? Why wouldn’t I be?”
“W-Why would you do that?” Waverly stammered, stunned.
“They matter to you. And they deserve better. It’s not like I can’t afford it, Wave. I want to do this.”
Waverly shook her head slowly. “How much money do you have?”
“Quite a bit,” Nicole said with a smile. “My family has been military for generations. We’re good at saving, and we’re good at making our worth. My grandfather passed gold down to my father, my father passed gold down to me, and I hope someday to be able to pass gold down to kids of my own.”
Waverly choked on her water.
“I-I-I-I-I… that’s not… I didn’t… hell. I would never… Wave, that’s obviously a conversation for…” Nicole groaned and covered her face with a hand. “I’m just going to shut my mouth and never speak again.”
After another moment, Waverly said, “We can someday.”
Nicole lowered her hand slowly. “Can… what?”
“Talk about kids.”
The dopey grin on Nicole’s face made Waverly chest flood with warmth. “Okay.”
“You’re my future, Nicole,” Waverly said softly. “And I can’t think of anything better.”
Nicole jumped down off of the train platform, looking up and down the tracks. “I’m so damn tired of looking at rails.”
Her second-in-command, Xavier Dolls, jumped down next to her, fidgeting with his red uniform jacket. “At least all the godsdamn rocks are cleared. I was getting tired of hearing Henry whine about his back.”
“Hey!” J. Henry Holliday, in the blue of the rest of Nicole’s unit, frowned down at them from the top of the rock pile they had put inside of a cart. “I can hear you both talking about me!”
“Never dream about it, Johnny,” Nicole called back.
They could see him shiver even from several feet away. “Colonel, with all due respect, fuck off.”
“Gladly. It’s time for me to go home.” Nicole pulled off her gloves and tucked them into her belt. “You guys good with transporting this stuff back to the quarry?”
Dolls squinted at her. “Colonel Nicole Haught, going home at a reasonable time and allowing a job to be done by someone else? Marriage has changed you.”
Nicole’s only response was to flip him off and climb back up off of the tracks. “G’night, boys.”
She walked away from the station, heading down the alleyway that lead onto the street.
She only made it a few feet before someone full-body tackled her hard into the brick wall and drove a knife into her side.
Chapter 15: bury me in armor
Waverly opened the door and found a soldier standing on her front porch in a blue uniform. His head was bowed, his mustache twitching slightly.
“Wow, that’s weird to hear,” Waverly mumbled. She rubbed the back of her neck, paling as she finally noticed the blood staining his coat. “What’s wrong? What happened?”
“I apologize, Madam, my captain wanted to come in my stead, but I knew he wanted to stay at the healers’.” The man cleared his throat. “I’m Lieutenant Henry Holliday. I’ll start by saying that your wife is alive.”
“What does that mean?” Waverly demanded.
“Colonel Haught was attacked by gang members tonight. She was stabbed.”
Waverly stared at him for a long moment, her jaw tense. “Take me to her.”
A captain in a red uniform was pacing around the waiting room when Waverly and Henry arrived. He paused in his movement and shook Waverly’s hand. “Madam Haught. I’m Captain Xavier Dolls.”
Waverly nodded at him and asked, “How is she?”
“She’s alright. Henry, a few of the others, and I intervened before it got bad. Most of the assailants, including the leader, are dead. The local unit is interrogating the survivors right now.”
Waverly nodded again before her face crumbled and she collapsed into a nearby chair, burying her face in her hands. Henry crouched down in front of her. “Is there anyone we can get for you, Madam?”
“M-My sister,” she whispered. “Wynonna Earp.”
Henry glanced up at Dolls. “I’ll find her.”
“It’s going to be okay, baby girl,” Wynonna said as she sat next to her sister and hugged her tightly.
“You don’t know that,” Waverly whimpered.
“I know. I know.”
“I love her, Wynonna. Gods, I love her so much. If she dies, I don’t know what-.”
“Shh,” Wynonna hushed her softly. “She’s not going to die, baby girl. She’s tougher than that. You know that.”
Waverly’s voice dropped to a whisper. “What if she’s not?”
After a few hours, Waverly was allowed into Nicole’s room.
The colonel was lying down in a bed, pale and sweaty. “Hey,” she whispered, her voice hoarse. “Good to see you, darling.”
Waverly hurried over to her and kissed her hard on the mouth.
“Ow,” Nicole mumbled.
“I’m sorry,” Waverly sobbed. “I’m so sorry.” She stroked Nicole’s cheek and rested their foreheads together. “Are you okay?”
“Just a little stabbed.”
Waverly laughed weakly. “Just a little, huh?”
Nicole shifted and pressed a kiss to Waverly’s nose. “They said I’m gonna be fine, Wave. Honest.”
Waverly laid down next to her in the bed, idly stroking her fingers up and down Nicole’s uninjured side. “You’d better be.”
“Captain Dolls, I need you to tell me something,” Wynonna said, staring at the doorway of Nicole’s room. “I need you to tell me who attacked Nicole.”
“It’s a Blue Division manner, Ms. Earp.”
Wynonna stared at him. “Captain. Please.”
Dolls leaned against the wall and folded his arms across his chest. “They’re called the Revenants. Their leader was called Bobo Del Ray.”
“Oh, son of a bitch,” Wynonna whispered. She closed her eyes and bowed her head.
“I know why Nicole was targeted.”
Dolls straightened off of the wall, and Henry, who had been standing at attention next to Nicole’s door, looked over at her quickly.
Wynonna sighed heavily. “My father was planning on marrying my other sister, Willa, off to Bobo Del Ray.” She met Dolls’s gaze, her eyes dark. “Now I know what the bastard was planning on paying for her with.”
“Easy does it. Watch the step.”
Waverly carefully led Nicole into their house, her arm wrapped around her waist. They made their way over to the couch, and Nicole laid down on it slowly.
“You don’t have to take care of me, darling.”
“Shut up.” Waverly kissed her forehead. “Haven’t we already had this argument?”
“I guess so.” Nicole interlocked her fingers with Waverly’s and tugged her down to sit next to her on the couch. “Waverly. Tell me. What happened with your father and sister?”
Waverly gave a scoffing laugh. “They admitted it. They actually fucking admitted it. My father was proud of it, because he thought they had killed you. Figured that I’d inherit all of your money and then he’d be able to swoop in and take it from me.”
“Darling, no offense, but your father is kind of a dickhead.”
“You’re snarky when you’re on those medicinals the healers gave you. I like it.”
Nicole chuckled softly. “Glad I can make you feel better.”
“Seeing you alive make me feel as good as I can possibly feel, I think.”
“I doubt that,” Nicole said slyly.
Waverly covered her mouth, giggling. “Stop.”
Nicole pulled away from her hand. “If you want me to, I will.”
“Maybe just for right now.”
“Alright.” Nicole rested her head back against the pillow. “Can I ask you something?”
“Why did you keep that letter I sent you? Back when I was off fighting those bandits.”
Waverly flushed red. “You found that?”
“Mhm. It was tucked under our mattress. I just wasn’t sure how to ask you about it.”
“Well… It was the first letter I had ever gotten. And… And it was from you. I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but I would’ve been shattered if anything had happened to you. I kept that letter in case those were the last words I’d ever have that were yours.”
Nicole brought Waverly’s hand to her lips and kissed her knuckles. “You aren’t going to lose me.”
“You sure do have a funny way of proving it.”
The colonel laughed until she winced, her ribs aching. “How’s Wynonna?”
Waverly skimmed her fingers up under Nicole’s shirt, brushing against the bandaged and healing knife wound. “She’s happy. Sort of. Daddy and Willa are in jail, so she can be in the house without getting bullied and beaten down now.”
“I’ll still get her a new place. Gus, too. They deserve to call places their own.”
Waverly swallowed, her eyes watering. “And tell me, Nicole Haught. What did I do to deserve you?”
“Oh, darling. Trust me. You didn’t earn me. I’m doing everything I can in life to earn being with you.”
Waverly got up and carefully straddled Nicole’s hips, letting her hands wander up Nicole’s shirt again. “Do you want to know a secret, baby?”
“I’m actually willing to believe that.”
Nicole beamed up at her, reaching up to cup her face and pull her down into a soft, smooth kiss.
“Oh, Waverly Haught. That matters more than anything else ever could.”
“I’m going to need you to clarify something for me.”
Nicole looked up from her book and frowned at Wynonna as she walked into the living room. “Yes?”
Wynonna plopped onto a chair. “You’re buying me a house. You’re buying Gus a house. You would’ve bought Willa house if she wasn’t a fucking asshole. You married my sister for no specific reason whatsoever. You have more money than most people in this entire city combined, yet you still go to work every single godsdamn day.”
Nicole hesitated for a moment as she closed her book and set it down in her lap. “I’ve not really thought about it before. My parents died when I was young. Barely in my teens. I had plenty of money to live on my own for the rest of my life, but… my father always told me how happy he was to help his people. It’s been our tradition. I was raised knowing that no matter how much money I had, it wasn’t worth anything if I didn’t work for it. Somehow. Anyhow. So I put in my labor just like every member of my family before me has.”
“Right. That explains why you’re a swordhead. But why help us?”
“Wynonna, let me ask you something. Do you know anyone in this country whose marriage hasn’t been in some way arranged? Either for monetary gain, or social status, or protection, or just… arranged?”
Wynonna thought for a moment before shaking her head. “No. No; I don’t. My parents were set up. Curtis sold his farm to Gus’s parents to marry her. And then you and Wave.”
“Exactly. Even without parents to set me up, I was never going to marry for love. That just doesn’t happen here. So I might as well marry someone that I could help.” Nicole grinned softly. “Falling in love was just a nice addition.”
“You’re both gross,” Wynonna scoffed. She fidgeted with her father’s wedding ring, confiscated when he and Willa had been taken to jail. “Tell me, your second, is he married?”
“Captain Dolls, yes.”
“He’s not married.”
Wynonna continued to fidget with the ring. “Interesting.”
Nicole raised an eyebrow. “Would you-”
“Dinner’s ready,” Waverly said as she stepped into the room.
“Come here for a moment, my dear,” Nicole said, holding a hand out to her wife.
Waverly smiled gently and took it, allowing Nicole to pull her forward to sit in her lap. “Hi.”
Nicole beamed at her and gave her a quick kiss. “Hi.”
Wynonna groaned and rolled her eyes. “Whenever you’re both done.” She stood up and headed for the kitchen, trying to hide the smile on her face.
“How are you?”
Waverly tapped Nicole’s cheek. “You’ve asked me that every day.”
Nicole rested their foreheads together. “I know. But your father and your sister are going to be in prison for the rest of their lives. That matters.”
“I’m fine, darling. I swear.” Waverly kissed Nicole slowly, threading her fingers through the back of her wife’s hair. “I have you. And Wynonna. And Gus. And Chrissy. I have so much more than I ever dreamed I would have.” She ducked her head shyly. “I do wish that I could give you more in return sometimes, though. I still occasionally feel like… I don’t know. Like I’m not doing enough.”
Nicole reached up, pushing a strand of hair behind Waverly’s ear. “Do you love me?”
“More than I ever thought was possible.”
“Then what more could I ask for?”
Waverly laughed, kissing Nicole so quickly that it was almost a bite. “I’m not sure that’s an even trade.”
Her wife gave her a steady smile. “That depends on what I think you’re worth.”
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