“Smile!” Wynonna exclaimed and shoved her phone in Nicole and Waverly’s faces.
“Wyn, you’ve taken more than enough pictures,” Waverly placed her hand on her sister’s arm and pushed her away from them.
“Yeah, and your flash really doesn’t need to be on for all of them. You’ve nearly blinded me,” Nicole added, rubbing her eyes.
“That was the whole point, Haught Tamale,” Wynonna shoved her phone into the back pocket of her jeans.
“Wynonna, stop bothering your sister,” Gus warned from the kitchen. “And please, for the love of all things holy, do not blind Nicole. She’s the one driving, remember.”
Wynonna laughed but it fell short as her face went serious. “You crash and I’ll kick your ass way back down to Texas, you got it?” She said, putting her face inches from Nicole’s.
“At ease, soldier,” Nicole held her hands up in defense.
“Good. Glad we’ve established that. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have plans I must attend to alone since you decided to fuck off to prom with my baby sister.”
“You and Doc could have come too, you know,” Nicole raised an eyebrow at her best friend.
“Oh please , like I want to be anywhere near that cesspool of hormones and body spray,” Wynonna gagged.
“But you just said–” Nicole sighed. “Never mind.”
“Great. Any further questions? No? Sweet. Just remember my golden rule,” Wynonna smiled.
“Beer before liquor, never been sicker; but liquor before beer, you’re in the clear?” Waverly asked.
“Yes, but no,” Wynonna shook her head.
“Nothing is ever illegal unless you get caught?” Nicole tried.
“Well, yes, but again...not this time. What I mean to say is always use protection. And be sure to keep the noise level to a minimum, as this house has very thin walls,” Wynonna winked before heading for the door.
“Did your sister just...give us advice on how to get laid?” Nicole asked, staring at the closing door.
“Sometimes I wonder what really goes on in her mind,” Waverly shook her head and faced Nicole. “But that’s not important. What is important is that you look so good right now.”
“I told you I was pulling all the stops for this night,” Nicole smiled.
“Yes, well you showing up in a suit is something I didn’t fully expect...though it’s definitely something I’ve dreamt about,” Waverly smoothed her hands across Nicole’s shoulders.
“I’m glad I settled on the suit then,” Nicole smiled proudly.
“Though I really like the sight of you in a skirt and those gladiator sandals,” Waverly smiled and played with the lilac bow tie around Nicole’s neck, “this tailored suit looks even better. And this navy…” She trailed off, tracing the pocket of Nicole’s blazer.
“Yes?” Nicole implored.
“You’re going to look really good in a Purgatory police uniform,” Waverly breathed out.
Waverly tried to hide the pain behind her eyes, but Nicole saw it; she always saw it. Their time together was quickly coming to an end and Nicole couldn’t help but feel like she had made a huge mistake with following through on the Academy. Her parents were disappointed and were only helping her pay for it because they thought she would drop out after the first month. Waverly had gotten better at hiding her true emotions from Nicole, especially when the topic of leaving came up, but Nicole always saw it. It shattered her heart to know that Waverly was putting on a brave face simply because she didn’t want to have another argument.
“You don’t have to hide from me, you know?” Nicole said suddenly.
“What do you mean?” Waverly asked, not meeting Nicole’s eyes.
“You don’t have to pretend you’re okay with all of this. I know it’s still hard.”
“I know, but this is what you want. This is what I want for you,” Waverly stood up straight and lightly gripped the lappells of Nicole’s coat. “This is what I want for us.”
Nicole lightly squeezed Waverly’s waist and pressed their foreheads together. She felt Waverly take a shaky breath and relax when she exhaled. They stood in silence until Nicole’s phone chimed with a text message. She pulled the phone from her pocket and read the message, smiling before shoving it back into her pocket.
“That was Dolls. He and Kate just arrived and Jeremy said they’ll be there soon.”
“So we should head out then?” Waverly asked.
“Yes,” Nicole nodded and kissed Waverly’s forehead before stepping back to grab her keys.
“Now, you girls don’t be too late,” Gus said as she walked into the room from the kitchen.
“We won’t, Aunt Gus,” Waverly promised.
“Did you decide on that party? If you’re going to go or not?” Gus looked between the two girls.
“I don’t think we’re going to go,” Nicole spoke up. “I’d much rather just come straight home and drop Waverly off.”
“Drop her off? You mean you aren’t staying the night?” Gus asked.
Nicole’s eyes widened and she shoved her hands in her pockets. “I am. I-I mean, that’s been the plan. I meant, I would rather just...come back here. Straight here,” she stuttered.
Gus studied the redhead for a moment before turning to Waverly and tossing her a wink. Nicole let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding and ran a hand through her hair. She didn’t know why, but she always felt nervous around Gus. Ever since her relationship with Waverly began, it was like she had to rebuild her relationship with the Earp’s caretaker, like the bond she’d formed over the years as Wynonna’s friend was gone. She wanted Gus to know Waverly was going to be safe with her no matter where they were. She needed Gus to know that she wasn’t ever going to let anything happen to Waverly.
“I trust you with her, Nicole,” Gus said, bringing Nicole back to the present. “And I trust you’ll be safe.”
“I will, Mrs. Gibson,” Nicole nodded and winced at the formality. Gus just laughed and clapped a hand on Nicole’s shoulder, pushing her toward the door with Waverly.
- - - - -
“Smile!” Click. Flash. Repeat.
Nicole rubbed her eyes after their third picture was taken. Wynonna had blinded her at the Homestead, but this was nothing compared to a cell phone flash. Arriving to the dance early seemed like a good idea, but seeing now as that meant being the test subject of the photographer, Nicole loathed the idea. They’d been standing there for five minutes, smiling and posing for the man behind the camera as he tried to adjust the settings. Waverly seemed fine, but Nicole was growing restless and just wanted to get into the dance. She felt a light squeeze on her hand and looked down at Waverly, who was smiling at her, and suddenly she didn’t seem to mind standing there.
“Alright, girls. I think I’ve got it now,” the photographer peered at them from behind his camera. “I apologize for the wait, I teach English for a living, not photography.”
“It’s no problem, Mr. Moody,” Waverly smiled.
“Give me one last good pose,” Moody smiled and winked at them.
Nicole smiled and moved behind Waverly, placing her hands on Waverly’s waist. Waverly bit her lip and covered Nicole’s hands with her own, bringing them around to rest on her stomach. Nicole melted at the gesture and kissed the side of Waverly’s head, keeping her eyes on the brunette and forgetting about the camera in front of them.
“Were you even looking at the camera?” Waverly asked when they finally made their way into the auditorium.
“I want to say yes, but I’m a bad liar so...no?” Nicole rubbed the back of her neck.
Waverly giggled and lightly slapped Nicole’s arm. “Your soft side is showing, Haught.”
“I’m at prom with my girlfriend, allow me to be soft without consequences for the night,” Nicole shrugged.
“There’s no judgement here,” Waverly held her hands up in mock surrender and smiled as they reached the table currently occupied by their friends.
“There you guys are!” Jeremy exclaimed and stood up. “We were just talking about you.”
“Me?” Nicole asked as Jeremy pointed at her.
“Yeah! We were talking about graduation. Chrissy had asked when you were leaving for the Academy, and that sparked a whole new conversation because Robin didn’t know you were leaving.”
“Yeah, how long have you been set to go?” Robin asked.
“And how long will you be gone? Are you coming back to Purgatory after?” Rosita chimed in.
“Well-” Nicole hesitated.
“Will you get a uniform before you graduate or after?” Jeremy asked.
“N-no, I don’t know, but-”
“If you do come back here, will you be wearing those horrible khaki pants like Dad?” Chrissy made a face of disgust at the thought.
“Are you going to train with a firearm there?”
“How far away is the city from here?”
“Will you be able to see Waverly often? Can she come visit?”
“Do you know anyone else going with you from here?”
“Guys-” Nicole tried to say, but the questions just kept coming.
“I am,” Dolls interrupted the interrogation.
“You are what?” Kate asked from his side.
“I’m going into the Academy this summer. I’ll be with Nicole,” he said again.
“You are?” Nicole’s eyes went wide and she felt Waverly squeeze her hand.
“I got accepted this morning,” Dolls nodded and cracked the barest of smiles.
“I thought you said you weren’t going to go through with it though,” Nicole breathed out, using all of her strength to hold back tears.
“I wasn’t, but then you got inside my head and got me thinking,” he shrugged. “That whole spiel you gave me about Bass Reeves really did it for me.”
“I was just spitting out facts Waverly told me a long time ago,” Nicole admitted.
“Well it worked,” Dolls smiled. “Thank you...deputy.”
“No,” Nicole shook her head and wiped her eyes. “Nope. We’re not doing this, not here.”
Dolls laughed and shook his head, clamping a hand down on Nicole’s shoulder. They stared at each other for a moment before the song playing changed, everyone dancing partnering up for the first slow dance of the night.
“Hey, come here,” Waverly whispered and pulled Nicole out onto the dance floor.
“What?” Nicole asked, placing her hands on the brunette’s waist.
“Are you okay?” Waverly used the hand that wasn’t gently gripping the back of Nicole’s neck to wipe a stray tear away.
“Yeah, I’m just a bit overwhelmed I guess? That was a lot, what just happened.”
“I know, and I’m really sorry they all jumped on you like that,” Waverly sighed.
“They were just asking so many questions. Questions I don’t even really know the answers to. I really thought Robin knew I was leaving, too. Didn’t you tell him?”
“I told Jeremy who said he would tell him, and I’m next to positive he informed me that he did tell Robin but I don’t know anymore,” Waverly shrugged.
“This whole situation has been stressful as hell, and it just got a lot worse after all of those questions. I know absolutely nothing.”
“But Dolls telling you he’ll be going to the Academy too…” Waverly trailed off.
“Yeah that’s...some of the best news I could get right now,” Nicole answered in a whisper. “He’s one of the few people who has supported me through this whole process.”
“He’s your best friend,” Waverly smiled. “He’s been supporting you since before you even considered this.”
“I know,” Nicole sighed and closed her eyes. “And I know you and Wynonna have, too.”
“We have, baby. And we will support you through the end of it all.”
Nicole smiled and leaned her forehead against Waverly’s as the two of them fell into a comfortable silence. The song played on, and they danced slow and out of time though they didn’t seem to notice. Even after the song ended, they continued to sway. Everyone around them had resumed their rager-like dancing and fist pumping, but Nicole and Waverly stayed as close as possible, bodies pressed together, dancing to the rhythm of their own beat.
Waverly kept her hands around Nicole’s neck, playing with the hairs at the base of her skull. Nicole’s hands never strayed from Waverly’s waist where she firmly gripped the fabric of her dress in an attempt to keep their bodies as close as possible. There was something comforting about dancing a different tune than everyone else around them; it was like they were in their own bubble, and nothing could hurt them. Nicole vowed to herself that this night would be the best night she could make it for Waverly, and so far it was off to a good start.
The dance carried on as it should, songs changing from fast to slow in an intermittent fashion. Nicole and Waverly went back and forth between the dance floor and their table. They mingled about and talked to teachers, old friends, and each other. They dined on punch and cheap finger sandwiches, though they weren’t complaining since they were in good company. They talked about plans for Nicole packing and when she was set to leave, and decided to make plans for dinner after graduation the following week. About halfway through the dance, Principal Lucado got on stage to gather everyone’s attention for the crowning of prom king and queen.
“Ladies and gentlemen, can I have your attention?” Lucado spoke into her mic.
The loud talking turned to quiet murmuring as students turned to face the front of the auditorium and Nicole found Waverly’s hand. Waverly gave a light squeeze and leaned into Nicole’s side. She caught Nicole glancing over to Jeremy and Chrissy with a grin on her face but she didn’t question it.
“We’ve reached about the halfway mark of tonight’s dance, which means it’s now time to crown our prom king and queen!”
The crowd of students whooped and cheered, looking around in anticipation. Nicole smiled and glanced down at Waverly, who was staring up at her with a confused look on her face.
“What?” Nicole asked, trying to hide her smile.
“Why are you smiling?” Waverly questioned.
“No reason,” Nicole shrugged. “I’m just excited to see who wins, I guess.”
“I’m now going to hand it over to student body president, Shae Pressman,” Lucado announced and handed the mic to Shae.
“Hey everyone! How’s your night going so far?” Shae asked, gaining some cheering and clapping in response. “Now that’s what I like to hear!” She laughed.
“This is hard to watch,” Nicole whispered to Waverly.
“Why, because she’s your ex?”
“Because she keeps making eye contact with me,” Nicole nodded. “It’s just weird.”
“Our team has been very hard at work counting your votes for this year’s prom king and queen, and the time has come to announce the final results,” Shae motioned for Stephanie Jones to hand her a slip of paper with two names written on it.
“Everyone please join me in congratulating this year’s Purgatory High Prom Queen…” Shae looked down at the piece of paper and a brief expression of confusion passed by her face before she smiled and continued, “Through a series of write-in votes, and a landslide win, Waverly Earp!”
Waverly’s eyes went wide and she looked up at Nicole, who met her with a grin and a wink. People around them clapped and cheered while those actually nominated for the title of prom queen stood on stage with their arms crossed and brows furrowed. They were just as confused as Waverly was. Nicole nudged Waverly slightly, bringing her back to the present, and smiled.
“Go get your crown,” she whispered.
“Wh...How did this happen?” Waverly hissed as she was pulled up the steps of the stage.
“I’ll explain later,” Nicole winked.
Waverly walked past Stephanie and her posse of bitches to reach Shae, smile on her face and fear in her eyes. She didn’t know how this happened or why it happened, and she definitely didn’t feel like she deserved to be standing up there. Shae smiled brightly at her and reached a hand out, gently gripping Waverly’s hand in her own.
“Congratulations,” she whispered and placed the sash and crown on Waverly. “You’re a lucky one to have a girl like Nic.”
“I know...but I’m not really sure why she did this,” Waverly replied. Shae just shook her head and smiled before turning back to the mic to announce the king.
"Everyone please welcome your 2019 Purgatory High Prom King, Champ Hardy!” Shae announced.
There was a moment of hesitation before someone started clapping, sending the rest of the students into a brief round of applause. Nicole’s eyes went wide before her face fell, eyes narrowing and brows knitting together. She watched, jaw tight, as Champ made his way over to Shae to accept his crown. He wore a smug smirk and winked at Nicole from the stage. The applause died down quickly and several students glanced back at the redhead, waiting for her to do or say something.
Against her better judgement, Nicole did nothing.
Nicole kept her eyes trained on Champ as he stood next to Waverly, the two awkwardly posing for a photo. Lucado returned to the mic, making a few quick announcements before turning it back to the DJ, allowing the dance to continue. Champ and Waverly made their way to the middle of the dance floor to have the traditional “first dance.” Nicole stayed still, fists clenched at her side and jaw set, watching Champ’s every move. Chrissy and Jeremy appeared on either side of her and they all collectively sighed.
“Well so much for that plan,” Chrissy grumbled.
“I don’t understand. I thought Shae said we had it under control,” Nicole said.
“You did,” Shae replied as she walked up behind the three. “Your plan worked, you and Waverly were supposed to win.”
“So what happened?” Jeremy questioned.
“Champ and his friends must have swayed the vote,” Shae shrugged. “The last I heard, Waverly had the votes for queen, and you for ‘king’,” Shae answered looking at Nicole.
“And you couldn’t have just lied about the results because…?” Chrissy asked, arms crossed.
“I have an entire committee of people who counted these votes, and recounted them. If I lied and said Nicole beat out Champ then I would have been in more trouble than I’d want to admit,” Shae defended herself. “I was going to lie, for the sake of trying to be a good friend, but I was thrown off completely and had little time to recover.”
“I know, I get it,” Nicole sighed and rubbed her face. “Thank you for trying, Shae. I really owe it to you.”
“I think you owe it to your girl more right now. She looks very uncomfortable,” Shae motioned to Waverly and Champ still dancing in the middle of the floor.
Nicole quickly spun around to face the two and met Waverly’s eyes instantly. She was screaming for help with her eyes, her face remaining emotionless. Champ’s hands were creeping down to Waverly’s waist, the brunette’s ass his final target. Nicole pushed forward through a mess of students, ready to cut their dance short, but Chrissy held her back.
“Wait until he’s there,” she whispered. “If you do something now, you’ll be the one in trouble.”
“I don’t care. He’s feeling up my girlfriend,” Nicole replied.
“Nicole,” Chrissy warned.
“Chrissy,” Nicole replied.
“Get your hands off of me!” Waverly’s voice cut through the crowd and above the music, causing everyone to stop and stare.
Champ stood staring at her, hands below her waist and twisted smile on his face. He looked over his shoulder at Nicole and winked at her, dropping his hands lower. Nicole freed her arm from Chrissy’s grasp and narrowed her eyes.
“Nicole,” Chrissy said.
“Don’t tell me to wait again, Nedley,” Nicole snapped.
“No, I was going to say go kick his ass,” Chrissy answered.
“Oh you don’t have to tell me twice,” Nicole slid her jacket off and tossed it at Jeremy who was caught off guard by the gesture and nearly dropped it.
Nicole pushed her way through the crowd, rolling her sleeves up in the process. Her eyes remained on Champ, her vision blurring from the rage she felt building inside of her.
“Whoa there, Haught, what’s the rush?” Pete and Brice stepped in front of the redhead, effectively blocking her path.
“Stay out of my way or you’re both next,” Nicole grumbled, pushing through the two jocks and shoving them to the side.
“Champ, I said no,” Waverly all but yelled. “Get your hands off of me.”
“Come on, baby. Just one kiss?” Champ asked. “You know you want to.”
Nicole broke through the rest of the crowd and stumbled into the middle of the dance floor just as Champ leaned down toward Waverly, who was using all of her strength to get away from him.
“Touch her and I’ll break your kneecaps,” Nicole threatened.
“You really think I’m afraid of you? Threatening to break...my kneecaps? Seriously, Red?” Champ scoffed.
“I can show you how it feels,” Nicole smiled. “I think you’ll like the sensation.”
“You know what other sensation I’d like?” Champ turned back to Waverly and planted his lips on Waverly’s.
Caught off guard by the action, Waverly barely had any time to react before Champ kissed her. Without hesitation, she turned her head to the side, causing his lips to hit her cheek instead. Nicole nearly screamed at the sight. Pushing her sleeves up even more, Nicole grabbed the back of Champ’s coat and pulled him away from Waverly. The football player spun on his heels to face Nicole, who wasted no time rearing her first back and letting it collide with Champ’s chiseled jaw.
Everyone around them gasped and grew silent, the pumping music filling the void of conversation. Champ stumbled back a few steps before tripping over his own feet, falling to the floor. Nicole started at him, ignoring the throbbing in her hand. She approached Champ and stood over him, bending down to grip the front of his shirt and bringing her face close to his.
“Don’t ever fucking touch her again, or next time it’ll actually be your kneecaps,” she said through gritted teeth.
“You’re insane!” Champ yelled.
“Some call it insane, I call it protective. Learn to keep your hands to yourself and maybe people won’t think you’re such a piece of shit person,” Nicole spat and let go of Champ’s shirt, dropping his back to the floor.
“Miss Haught!” Lucado yelled from behind her. Nicole slowly stood up and turned to face the principal. “We need to talk.”
- - - - -
“I still can’t believe you’re not allowed to even come and sit in the audience,” Wynonna whined.
Nicole sighed and zipped up her duffle bag, grabbing another stack of clothes to put into another suitcase. After her confrontation with Champ at prom the week prior, Nicole had landed herself a week’s suspension and was told she wouldn’t be walking the stage at graduation. Lucado informed her that her diploma would be mailed to her after the fact.
“Would you rather me protect your sister or sit next to you at graduation, both of us knowing what Champ did?” Nicole asked.
Wynonna paused for a moment before shaking her head. “You’re right.”
“That’s what I thought. Besides, I’ve wanted to beat that douchebag up for so long. I thought it’d be worth it to go out with a bang, you know?”
“You went out with a bang alright. Tell it to your still bruised knuckles,” Waverly said as she entered Nicole’s room, basket of clean laundry in hand.
“A Medal of Honor is what I’d like to call it,” Nicole smiled triumphantly at her right hand.
“Yes but that’s “Medal of Honor” got you kicked out of graduation and now I have to leave you here alone, with your pissed off parents, to pack for the Academy,” Waverly frowned.
“Babe, I’m nearly finished. And I’m meeting you guys for dinner after, remember?”
“I know but it won’t be the same without you there.”
“Waves is right. It won’t feel right,” Wynonna added.
“While I’m flattered you Earp girls love me so dearly, I wouldn’t trade what I did for anything. I did what I had to do. Though punching him might have been too far since I knew what was going to happen, but he deserved it.”
“He really did,” Waverly made a face. “Kissing him was by far the worst thing to ever happen to me.”
“You kissed him ?!” Wynonna’s eyes went wide.
“He kissed her ,” Nicole corrected. “Why else would I beat the shit out of him?”
“Oh I don’t know, for being a horrible person?” Wynonna said.
“Well yes, but I have some sort of restraint when it comes to that,” Nicole nodded.
Wynonna’s phone buzzed as she got a text from Dolls, announcing he was in Nicole’s driveway waiting for them. Wynonna sighed and grabbed her cap.
“As fun as this is, Dolls just texted and said he’s here.”
“Which means we need to go,” Waverly pouted.
“I’ll see you both in two hours tops,” Nicole assured her girlfriend with a smile.
“Finish packing, don’t procrastinate,” Waverly warned before giving Nicole a quick peck on the cheek and leaving with Wynonna.
Nicole sighed and plopped down on her bed, hands falling over her eyes. She sighed and tried to relax her body, but nothing seemed to work. She was tense and didn’t know why. Was it because she got kicked out of her high school graduation for protecting her girlfriend? Or was it because her parents were more upset with her than ever before?
It would remain a total mystery.
A light knock came from the door to Nicole’s bedroom and she slowly opened her eyes to look in that direction. Her mom’s voice sounded from behind the door, asking if she could come in. Nicole hesitated before replying.
“Yeah, whatever,” she mumbled and turned onto her side, facing away from the door.
Both of her parents entered the room and stood by the door, waiting for Nicole to turn around. When she didn’t, her dad spoke up.
“Nicole, your mother and I have been talking, and we need to have a discussion with you.”
“If you’re going to tell me how disappointed you are in me again, please save it for another time. I already know,” Nicole replied, tightly clutching the blanket now wrapped around her body in an attempt to keep her tears at bay.
“That’s what we want to talk about,” her mom said. “We want to apologize to you.”
“We’ve been very narrow minded about this whole situation with the Academy. And with Waverly.”
Nicole stayed quiet.
“Though we are a bit disappointed that you got into a fistfight with another student and have to miss graduation because of it, we’re also very proud of you for standing up for yourself and for…” Her mom took a deep breath. “And for protecting your girlfriend.”
“You have the heart and soul of a cop, just like your uncle,” her dad added. “You have a strong sense of morals and you always do the right thing, even if it causes you trouble. And for that, we couldn’t be more proud.”
“It’s going to be hard adjusting to you being away, but we will be supporting you through it all. Which is why we want to pay you back for every ounce of money you spent to get yourself to the Academy.”
“What?” Nicole finally said. She sat up and faced her parents.
“We want to pay you back. You and your friends. We know you didn’t pay your way on your own, and that your friends helped you because they care about you.”
“Yeah, because you seemed to not care about me,” Nicole muttered.
“Nic, we’ve admitted to being bad parents and neglecting to care for the things you’re passionate about. We feel terrible. Please just meet us halfway here?” Nicole’s mom begged.
“You called Waverly my girlfriend,” Nicole said after a minute of silence.
“Is that not what she is?” Her dad asked.
“It is, she is,” Nicole nodded. “It’s just that the last time you talked about her, you called her my ‘friend that’s a girl’.”
“That wasn’t our finest moment as parents, for sure,” her dad replied. “We really do apologize, sweetheart. And we want to help you now, if you’ll let us?”
Nicole looked back and forth between her mom and her dad, wondering if she could forgive them for the immense amount of pain they’ve caused her over the past several months. Their teary eyes and solemn faces tore down her walls and gave her no other option but to forgive them. Slowly, as her resolve crumbled, she stood and nodded. Nicole’s mom crossed the room and hugged her tightly, breaking the last of the wall Nicole had built. Tears spilled from her eyes and she broke down into tears.
She managed to pull herself together after a moment and wiped her eyes. She was met with hopeful smiles from both of her parents, and Nicole placed her hands on her hips, looking around at what else she needed to pack.
“I think I’m done packing, really. I just need to load my car and get the directions in my phone for the city.”
“It’s a straight shot there,” her dad said. “I’ve driven the route many times. I can show you where you need to go.”
“Will Waverly be here tomorrow to see you off?” Her mom asked.
“And Wynonna...and everyone else,” Nicole nodded.
“Why don’t...why don’t you ask her to stay the night then?”
Her mom smiled. “It’s the least we can do to make all of this up to you.”
Nicole bit back a smile and took her phone out, sending a text to Waverly.
- - - - -
The Next Day
“I don’t want you to leave,” Waverly whispered into Nicole’s chest.
“I know, but I have to. Or else I’ll be late,” Nicole sighed and ran her fingers through Waverly’s hair.
“When will you be able to visit?”
“First day off is in September,” Nicole smiled.
“I’ll be here for your birthday,” Nicole nodded.
“Oh thank god!” Waverly hugged Nicole tighter. “I thought I was going to have to drive down there myself. I refuse to celebrate without you.”
“You won’t have to, I promise,” Nicole kissed the top of Waverly’s head.
“Hey! Mind sharing Haught Sauce with everyone else, baby girl? She’s gotta jet in a few,” Wynonna said.
“Sorry! Sorry,” Waverly giggled and extracted herself from Nicole’s arms, gluing herself to Nicole’s side instead.
“I’m really going to miss you, future Deputy Dipshit,” Wynonna sighed. “Things just won’t be the same without you.”
“Hey, I’ll be back before Christmas. I’ll only be gone six months,” Nicole replied.
“Wynonna’s right though. Things won’t be the same without you,” Chrissy smiled sadly.
“Or Dolls, who already seems to be at the Academy,” Jeremy added.
“Ass kisser,” Wynonna rolled her eyes and scoffed.
The group fell into silence and Nicole smiled at her friends – Wynonna, Chrissy, Jeremy, Robin, and Shae. She stood in front of a group of people she considered to be more than her friends, more than her family, and found herself holding back tears for the first time that day. She was happy with what she was doing, but leaving her friends and family behind for the next year was harder than she anticipated. They all hugged her and wished her well, promising to keep in touch and to visit when Nicole was in town. They also all promised to keep Waverly safe and away from Champ. It was a bittersweet moment when the time came for her to leave. Waverly refused to let go of her, claiming she was now going with Nicole to the Academy.
Wynonna laughed and managed to pull her sister away from Nicole, saying she would be back sooner than she thought. She met Nicole’s eyes and they shared a smile, having already planned for Wynonna and Waverly to pay a weekend visit to the big city during the summer. It wasn’t until she kissed Waverly goodbye and was in her car driving away, that Nicole found herself crying. It was going to be hard, but she knew she would make it through. She was coming home in the end and she and Waverly would live a happy life together forever.
- - - - -
5 and a half months later
Nicole took a deep breath and fixed the strap of her duffle bag on her shoulder, shivering from the cold air around her. Her boots crunched in the snow beneath her feet and she clutched the assignment papers in her shivering hand tightly. She had arrived back in Purgatory a month earlier than expected, graduating at the top of her class at the Academy (Dolls following her as a close second), and had a meeting with town sheriff Randy Nedley immediately. He asked for her specifically to join his force, and was excited to hand over a uniform (khakis and Stetson and all) to his newest recruit.
Nicole now found herself walking up the long driveway of the Earp Homestead, at 8PM. She’d yet to go home and drop her things off, so she carried them with her in hopes of being able to crash there for the night. As she approached the front porch, the lights turned on and she feared maybe her plan was foiled. The door swung open and Gus stepped out, wrapped tightly in a robe to battle the brutal cold. Upon seeing Nicole, Gus froze. Nicole’s eyes went wide and she shook her head, placing a finger to her lips and silently begging Gus to stay quiet. Gus nodded and smiled brightly before quickly going back in and shutting the door.
Nicole took another deep breath and nodded before ascending the wooden porch steps. She stopped at the door and raised her hand. She gently rapped her knuckles against the old door, gripping her duffle strap tightly to ease her nerves. She hadn’t seen Waverly since her birthday and things had been weird since then. She wasn’t sure why, and chalked it up to it being the distance, but that only made her worry more.
A few seconds passed before the doorknob turned and Waverly opened the door. She froze when she saw Nicole, eyes wide and jaw slack. Nicole bit her lip and slowly handed the assignment papers to the brunette. Waverly took them and scanned the first page, letting out a small gasp when she got to the bottom and saw Nedley’s signature.
“Home?” Waverly whispered, eyes still on the paper.
“Home,” Nicole confirmed.
Waverly finally looked up and threw her arms around Nicole, hugging her tightly. The force of the embrace caused Nicole to drop her bag, Waverly dropping the papers as well. They blew down to the driveway from the wind’s force but neither girl cared. Nicole was home and she was staying for good.
“My police officer,” Waverly whispered, gripping Nicole’s shirt tightly in her hands and kissing Nicole with as much force as she could muster.
Nicole had gone from zero to Waverly’s hero in a matter of months, and it still remains to be a mystery to Nicole just how that became possible. She wasn’t about to question it, though. Oh no. She knew better. So she just stood there and kissed her girlfriend.
She stood there and thanked her past self for deciding to wear layers that day, because she didn’t see herself pulling away from that kiss to go inside for a second.
Nicole had returned home that morning, but she found herself truly to be home when she was in Waverly’s arms.