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Dunder Mifflin Purgatory

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“Are you ready for Bobo’s Award Show tonight?” Nicole teasingly asks the receptionist, whispering so softly that the boom operator’s equipment barely picks her words up.

 

“Ugh… please, don’t remind me.” Waverly groans miserably in response, but a smile starts to tugging at her lips when she catches the amused twinkle in Nicole’s expressive brown eyes.

 

“Oh, come on, Waverly. You’ve got to stay positive or whatever.” Nicole says unable to contain her light laughter at Waverly’s reaction. “Maybe it won’t be as bad as last year’s Bobo Award Show.” I mean, it couldn’t possibly be any worse than last year’s. Nicole thinks.

 


  

“You know what they say about train wrecks? How they’re so awful that all you want to do is look away, but you just can’t?” Waverly Earp asks the cameraperson and boom operator rhetorically, knowing they can’t answer. She laughs lightly. “Well, these award shows are a lot like that, except the reason you can’t look away is because your boss is right there at the center of it all, making sure you keep your eyes wide open and don’t look away. And this happens every single year.”

 


 

Robert Svane – the Purgatory Branch Regional Manager that insistently tries to get his employees to call him ‘Bobo’ with very little success, thankfully – struts out of his office and makes his way over to Nicole Haught’s – one of Dunder Mifflin’s top sales consultants – desk.

 

Meanwhile, Nicole is doing her best to avoid making eye contact with her overzealous, yet well-intentioned – mostly, anyway – boss.

 

“Hey look, it’s our very own Haughty with a –“ Robert starts to introduce, only to be immediately interrupted by an unamused looking Wynonna Earp.

 

“Robert, I’ve already told you that you’re not allowed to call her that. Only I’m allowed to.” Wynonna growls out without even bothering to look away from her computer screen.

 

Robert chuckles awkwardly and looks around the office in an attempt to avoid the knowing looks on the cameraperson and boom operator’s faces. “Right.” He sighs out before he clears his throat and looks directly at the camera. “Wynonna is the only person who’s allowed to call Nicole that.” He reiterates unnecessarily. “Moving right along… why don’t we take a tour around the office and I’ll introduce you to some of our past Bobo Award winners?” He asks. His expression brightens considerably as he looks around at his employees with boyish excitement on his face. “Why don’t we start with you, Nicole?” He asks, giving her what he perceives as his most encouraging smile. It’s not. “You can show our audience all of your hard won awards!”

 

Nicole clears her throat roughly and awkwardly glances between the camera and her boss a few times before she finally speaks. “Oh, I’d love to Robert, really, I would, but – uh, but I can’t because I – I like to keep them out of sight. I can’t risk seeing them every day. I wouldn’t want my past wins to inflate my ego or whatever, you know?”

 

“Oh, don’t listen to her. She’s just being shy.” Wynonna butts in unhelpfully with a mischievous smirk firmly in place. “I’ve got it on very good authority that she keeps them all in display case right above her bed.” Wynonna stage whispers to the camera as she easily ignores her best friend’s glare.

 

“Okay…” Robert says, shooting the camera an uncomfortable looking smile as he visibly struggles to keep his previous momentum going. “We’ve just going to move it right along then.” He explains to the camera with a barely concealed grimace. He turns on his heel and continues on his trek around the office with the cameraperson and boom operator in tow as Wynonna and Nicole bicker in hushed voices amongst themselves, the equipment no longer able to decipher what they’re saying.

 


 

Waverly sits in the conference room as she distractedly taps her pen against a legal pad that she’d brought in to take notes on while she watches old videos of the Bobo Award Show play on a 32” LED TV. “Robert wants me to watch all of these videos and find highlights, but to be honest, I haven’t found too many – or any highlights, really – since I started watching these an hour ago. Like, here’s the moment when Carl – he’s no longer employed here – sat down and blocked the view all night. “I mean, that’s kind of a highlight depending who you ask, I guess.”

 

“And the Bobo Award for the ‘Longest Running Engagement’ goes to… Waverly Earp! Let’s hear it for her, everybody! I mean, I can’t be the only one who’s wondering when she’s finally going to tie the knot, am I right?” Robert asks the Purgatory Branch audience, completely oblivious to the awkward tension in the air. “Oh, and it looks like Champ is going to come up to accept the award on Waverly’s behalf.” He announces once he spots Champ making his way to the stage. “Is there anything you’d like to say to the audience tonight, Champ?”

 

“Uh, yeah, sure. Thanks for your support, everybody!” Champ says with an overly enthusiastic smile – a smile that’s too big and too white to be natural – as he proudly holds up the small trophy, blissfully ignorant to his fiancée’s obvious discomfort as he cheers into the microphone. “We’ll be back next year!”

 

“Uh, yeah… let’s hope not!” Robert says into the microphone with a laugh once he’s finally gotten it back from Champ.

 

Waverly avoids the camera as she looks at the legal pad, practically burning a hole into it as her cheeks begin to redden. The camera pans away – the cameraperson wanting to give Waverly a moment – and lands on Nicole who’s watching Waverly. Nicole is obviously wanting to come to her side, but Waverly is too distracted to notice.

 


  

“Oh, come on, Nicole! You can’t be serious. How can you possibly ask me to get rid of that award? It’s always the best one!” Robert argues vehemently.

 

“Yeah, no, I know that I’m asking for a lot. I get what you’re saying, Bobo. Trust me, I do. And I know that that award is totally hilarious, but –“ Nicole starts, barely resisting the urge to roll her eyes at her own use of her boss’s nickname, but she knows she has to pull out all of her tricks to get him to agree to what she’s asking. “ – don’t you think that the award for the ‘Longest Running Engagement,’ or whatever…  might’ve already run its course?” She asks him with a shrug of her shoulders that she hopes comes off as nonchalant.

 

“But it’s the best award, Nicole!” Robert argues back. “Every year that passes where Champ and Waverly don’t get married just makes it funnier.”

 

“Right, but don’t you agree that it might come across as lazy if you award it for the third year in a row?” Nicole asks him, knowing by the look on his face that she’s definitely struck a nerve. Oops.

 

“Lazy?”

 

“Well… yeah, kind of.”

 


 

“Hey, so how did it go? Were you able to convince him to give a rest with the whole ‘let’s keep picking on Waverly with the same stupid joke’ thing this year?” Wynonna asks as soon as Nicole sits back down at her desk.

 

“Honestly, I don’t know.” Nicole admits with an exhausted sigh as she rubs at the back of her neck. She barely resists the urge to look into the conference room, knowing – without even having to look – that Waverly is still sitting in there, diligently going through all of the footage like Robert had asked her to. “But I really hope I did, Wy.”

 


 

Later that evening – Purgatory Branch’s office and warehouse employees are all sitting in Shorty’s Saloon.

 

Nicole, Waverly, and Wynonna had gone to Shorty a few days ago and asked him if he’d be willing to part with his establishment for the night so that the Bobo Award Show could be hosted there again, and thankfully, he’d eventually – and somewhat reluctantly – agreed.

 

And now, they were all sitting amongst the crowd, in awkward silence after yet another one of Robert’s poorly executed and cringeworthy cold openings.

 

“I’d like to thank you all for coming to the 2019 Bobo Awards Show!” Robert announces cheerfully into the microphone as he looks around the saloon. “I’m your host, Robert Svane – or Bobo, if you’d prefer – and I just wanted to take a moment to remind all of you not to Drink & Drive because potholes are a very real hazard, and I wouldn’t want you to spill your drinks.” Robert says with a laugh, easily ignoring the collective groan from the audience in response to his joke. “I’m kidding, obviously. Seriously, don’t be assholes, alright? If you drove yourselves here tonight, get a Lyft or an Uber home and leave your car in the parking lot. I’ve already cleared it with Shorty, and I’ll even pay for your ride home if you need me to. No excuses, people.”

 

“I’ve already had enough of this crap. Let’s get out of here.” Perry whispers to Champ. His voice is much too loud to be ignored by the rest of the audience, but it’s clear that he doesn’t care about being overheard. “If we leave right now, we can still make it to the big city in time to watch the game at Chili’s.”

 

“Yeah, I’m in. Let’s go.” Champ agrees easily as he gets up out of his chair and slips his denim jacket back on.

 

Meanwhile, Waverly sits next to his now empty chair, appearing a little lost as she looks between her fiancé and Robert. She shoots Robert an apologetic look once he notices the movement at their table.

 

Robert pauses in the middle of his bit and addresses them. “Wait, are you guys leaving?” Robert asks them, unable to hide the hurt in his voice. “But why? We were just getting started!”

 

Champ and Perry have already started walking out of Shorty’s, neither one of them looking back as they ignore Robert completely and leave Waverly behind to reluctantly gather her own things.

 

Nicole and Wynonna watch from their own seats at the bar as Waverly mouths a sincere apology to Robert before she gets up from her own seat, things in hand and walks out of Shorty’s. Her posture appears defeated as the double doors click shut behind her.

 

Nicole would readily deny it if anyone – mainly Wynonna – dared to ask her, but she had saved Waverly a seat at the bar with them in foolish hopes that the youngest Earp would eventually be joining them.

 

“We’re still staying, right?” Wynonna asks in a whisper that – much like Perry’s had been – is much too loud.

 

“Yeah, we are. We’ve already opened a tab and ordered our food, so why wouldn’t we?” Nicole sarcastically asks, unable to mask the bitterness in her voice as she continues to stare at the doors that had shut behind Waverly, disappointment dulling the usual shine in her eyes.

 


 

“Because he’s always an inconsiderate asshole, Waverly. That’s why!” Champ exclaims loudly,  not caring enough to keep his voice down as he walks to his truck. “I don’t have to sit through that bullshit every year. Honestly, I can’t believe you actually wanted to stay.”

 

“Okay, I know that Robert can be a little misguided, but he really does mean well. And believe it or not, I do want to stay.” Waverly argues back vehemently, determined to stand her ground.

 

“Come on, Waverly. Don’t be like that. I want to watch the game.”

 

“I don’t want to watch the stupid game with you, Champ! Waverly shouts, no longer willing to reign her temper in. “And you would’ve already known that if you’d only bothered to ask me instead of assuming that I would just want to go with you and Perry.”

 

“Jeez, Waverly, calm do –“

 

“No. I told you that I want to stay so, I’m staying.” Waverly says over her shoulder as she storms back into Shorty’s. She ignores the looks she gets as walks in and makes a beeline to the bar where knows Nicole and Wynonna are sitting. She has to bite her lip to keep herself from smiling as she takes in the dumbstruck look on Nicole’s face as their gazes meet.

 

Nicole just stares at Waverly in a confusion – a cheeseburger held halfway to her mouth – as Waverly sits down next to her with an exasperated sigh. The brunette signals to Shorty that she needs a drink and smiles brightly at him when he nods his head in understanding and turns around so that he can get started on it.

 

“I thought you were leaving.” Nicole whispers in Waverly’s ear once she’s managed to break through her stupor and put her cheeseburger back on her plate.

 

“I thought I was too, but I really wanted to stay, so I did.” Waverly admits with a shrug of her shoulders before she grabs a few fries from Nicole’s basket and pops them into her mouth with a cheeky smile.

 

“Oh, okay.”

 

“I’m going to get a ride home with you too, only if that’s okay, obviously.”

 

“Yeah, that’s okay. Absolutely.”

 


  

“Okay, so this next award is going to go to someone who really lights up our office. Someone who I think a lot of us can’t stop ourselves from checking out. The ‘Hottest in the Office’ Award goes to John Henry Holliday!” Robert exclaims enthusiastically as he thrusts the small trophy in Doc’s general direction.

 

Doc smiles awkwardly as he gets out of his seat next to his girlfriend and walks towards the stage to accept his award while Wynonna – pleasantly, and obviously, buzzed – happily jumps up and down and claps.

 

“Hell yeah!” Wynonna yells out between cupped hands once she’s stopped clapping. “That’s 5 years in a row, bitches!” She smugly reminds the audience.

 

“If we didn’t know any better, you’d think she was the one who won that award.” Waverly whispers into Nicole’s ear in mock-annoyance as an amused smile tugs at her lips.

 

Nicole bites her lip as she tries and fails to suppress her own smile as she watches as her best friend continues to cheer while she takes pictures of her boyfriend as he reluctantly follows her directions and holds his trophy up. “Honestly, she probably does.”

 

Waverly just rolls her eyes as a joyful laugh escapes her lips.

 

Looks like Wynonna isn’t the only one who’s pleasantly buzzed. Nicole thinks as a tender look appears on her face.

 


 

“And our next award tonight is going to our very own angel.” Robert says into the microphone with a sincere smile on his lips that his employees rarely see. “I think we all know what award Waverly Earp is getting this year…” The camera pans out to Waverly who has an apprehensive look on her face. It’s obvious that she has no idea what might be coming. “It’s the ‘Nicest Person at the Purgatory Branch’ Award! Because she’s a ray of sunshine at our branch and she always brightens up our day. Come on up and get your award, Waverly!” Robert happily exclaims, taking a moment to discreetly wink in Nicole’s direction, his smile easily widening when he sees how happy – and how relieved – Waverly looks. She’s smiling – genuinely smiling – and she looks absolutely radiant.

 

Waverly jumps out of her seat and quickly makes her way to the stage, almost tripping over her own feet in her excitement to retrieve her award.

 

Nicole watches on with a mixture of amusement, pride, and a bit of concern in her eyes. Because while the Earp Sisters are notorious in town for their almost inhuman tolerance of alcohol – especially Wynonna – she’s been keeping a careful eye on Waverly most of the night and she’s inclined to believe that the youngest Earp has actually succeeded in reaching her limit tonight – a rarity.

 

“Okay, there are so many people that I have to thank for this award.” Waverly speaks into the microphone, her smile widening as she continues her acceptance speech. “Ooh, like my big sister – Wynonna – and uh, my Nicole, and yeah… honestly, I think that’s it. I wouldn’t be standing here without them, you know?” Waverly says in as serious a tone as she can muster in her intoxicated state. “Oh, and thank you, Robert… woo!”

 

Nicole and Wynonna immediately stand up and start clapping as soon as Waverly has finished, Nicole barely concealing a laugh. They cheer happily as Waverly runs back to the bar with a smile that seems to be permanently etched on her face.

 

Nicole keeps a close eye on Waverly the entire time. She easily catches her when she launches herself into Nicole’s waiting arms.

 

Nicole is momentarily shocked into inaction – too stunned to react – as Waverly’s lips land on hers and disappear as quickly as they came. Nicole shakes her head after a few seconds, intent on clearing it and immediately springs back into action. She leads Waverly back to her seat and places a glass of ice water in front of her. “Here, Waves. You should really drink some water.” She tells Waverly gently before she looks up and meets Wynonna’s gaze.

 

The look on her best friend’s face answers her unspoken question. Yes, Wynonna had seen what had just transpired between her little sister and Nicole and in that moment,  she looks just as lost as Nicole feels.

 


 

The moment Waverly walks out of Shorty’s, she runs to where the cameraperson and boom operator are already standing outside recording and happily thrusts her trophy at them. “Oh, my god! I just want to say that this has been the greatest Bobo Award Show ever! Woo!” She shouts at the camera.

 

“Careful, careful, careful.” Nicole softly warns Waverly as she places her steadying hands on her shoulders in an attempt to keep her from toppling over. “Watch your step, Waverly.” She gently reminds her as Waverly stumbles over her own two feet.

 

“Whoops.” Waverly giggles as Nicole leads her towards her truck.

 

Doc tips his hat at Nicole as soon as he notices them making their way towards her truck. He’s already been standing there for a few minutes, waiting patiently with his cigarillo at his lips and Nicole’s truck keys in his hand. He smiles, although most of it is hidden by his signature mustache.

 

He tilts his head towards the truck, wordlessly telling Nicole that he’s already taken care of getting her best friend settled into the backseat of her truck before he bids them both goodnight and walks away.

 

“Your carriage awaits, m’lady.” Nicole tells Waverly with a smile. She opens the front passenger side door and patiently helps her into the seat. Once she knows that Waverly is settled in, she closes the door and opens the back passenger door, smiling as she sees Wynonna’s shoeless, socked feet and hears her soft snores.

 

Nicole has recently taken to keeping a medium-sized cooler in her truck – she can’t help but smile as she remembers that nights like these are why she’d started doing it in the first place. She grabs two of the five Dunder Mifflin reusable water bottles that Waverly had charmed corporate into giving all of their employees earlier that year before she closes the cooler.

 

She closes the door and makes her way around the truck. She jumps into the driver’s seat and shuts the door swiftly. She turns her head to look at Waverly. “Wynonna is already snoring, so I know she won’t be drinking any water anytime soon, but you’re awake, so here you go.” She says as she hands one of the water bottles over. “I’ll make sure to put some glasses of water and aspirin on your nightstands – just in case – before I leave the homestead tonight, okay?”

 

“Okay.” Waverly easily agrees. “Thanks, Nic.”

 

You’re welcome, Wave.” Nicole says with a small smile as she turns the ignition and her truck comes to life. “Let’s get you two home.”

 

“It was a great night.” Waverly mumbles sleepily.

 

“Yeah.” Nicole easily agrees. Her smile widening and dimple flashing as she meets Waverly’s sleepy gaze. “It really was.”

Chapter Text

“Not only did he go through the trouble of getting a background check done on me, he also took the time to print it out and brought it with him on our first date.” Jeremy admits sheepishly to his friends, unable to hide his grimace as the memory of that night replays in his head.

 

“Oh, no… please tell me you’re kidding.” Nicole says as she bites her lip in a poor attempt to contain her laughter. She’d figured it’d be bad, but she hadn’t been expecting Jeremy’s worst first date to involve a background check. Jeez, that’s just not cool. She thinks.

 

“I really wish I were.” Jeremy miserably sighs. “But, unfortunately not. I sat with him awkwardly at a candlelit dinner while he went through it with me, line by line.”

 

“Unbelievable.” Nicole says with a shake of her head, struggling to picture such a sweet guy like Jeremy stuck in such an awkward situation.

 

“What’s going on over here?” Waverly asks as she walks into the break room. She walks directly to the table where Nicole, Jeremy, and Rosita sit and steals a handful of fries from Nicole’s plate.

 

“We’re just telling each other about our worst first dates.” Nicole tells her with an amused smile as she watches Waverly munch on her fries.

 

“Oh, god… seriously? Why would you put yourselves through that torture?” She asks them. “Either way, I’m pretty sure that I’ve already got you all beat.” She admits with a laugh. “It was to a high school soccer game. He brought his big brother along. I told them that I was going to the bathroom, they both nodded – which I assumed meant that they’d heard me and acknowledged what I said – so I got up and went. The second half ended while I was in the bathroom and unfortunately for me, they forgot all about me and left me at the stadium.”

 

“No way!” Jeremy disbelievingly exclaims. “That’s horrible! You’ve got to be making that up, Waverly.”

 

“Nope. Unfortunately, not.” Waverly says with a roll of her eyes. “I called Wynonna up as soon as I realized what happened and I got her to come pick me up.”

 

“Wait a minute.” Nicole says with a flash of recognition shining in her eyes. She distinctly remembers a night when she had been a freshman in college. She had been hanging out on the homestead with Wynonna like they always did when they were in Purgatory for the weekend when Wynonna’s phone had started ringing. Waverly. Wynonna had haphazardly thrown Nicole’s jacket at her, hitting her on the face, as she rushed them out of the house and into Nicole’s truck, telling her what Waverly had said to her on the phone as they drove. “When exactly did that happen?”

 

“Uh – it wasn’t – it doesn’t really matter when it happened.” Waverly stutters out nervously as she realizes that Nicole knows. She can see agitation growing in Nicole’s eyes as she connects the dots.

 

“It wasn’t your first date with Champ Hardy, was it?” Rosita asks her with an incredulous laugh. “Oh, my god.” She exclaims, growing somber as she realizes that no one else is laughing with her. She groans. “Waverly, please tell me it wasn’t your fiancé.”

 


 

“You know, it actually makes sense now that I think about it. Wynonna and I thought it was kind of weird that Waverly has always been so adamant about not going to any sporting events with Champ, and we never understood why… until now, I guess.” Nicole tells the camera with a disappointed sigh.

 


 

“Waverly, is this a real thing?” Nicole asks incredulously as flips through the stack of papers that the brunette had unceremoniously dropped on her desk a few seconds ago. “Where did you even find this?”

 

“Oh, it definitely is. What you’re holding in your hands right now is a screen play written by Robert Svane… starring his alter ego.” Waverly says, biting her lip to contain her laughter. “And I found it sitting in his bottom desk drawer, obviously.”

 

“Bobo Del Rey.”

 

“A revenant.”

 

“How long is this?” Nicole asks as she continues to flip through pages. “Oh, Waverly Earp… you never cease to amaze me. Wait a minute. Stop everything. There are sketches in here.”

 

“Wait, what?!”

 

“Oh, yeah!” Nicole exclaims with an excited laugh. “Robert included drawings. You know, in case the writing wasn’t enough to paint a picture in our heads.” And boom! There he is!” She says as she points to a page with a pencil sketch of a gruff looking man who has a Mohawk and wears a fur coat.” In the flesh – kind of – Bobo Del Rey! And now we know what he’s supposed to look like.” Nicole continues, her eyes shining brightly with an excitement that she can’t quite contain. “Hey, do you think we’d be able to convince everyone in the office to do a table read of this script in the conference room?”

 


 

Unsurprisingly, Waverly makes quick work of getting everyone in the office into the conference room.

 

It hadn’t taken her long to convince them all to participate in Nicole’s table read idea once she’d reminded everyone that Robert wouldn’t wouldn’t be coming into the office today. They’d all be quick to agree after that and they’d walked into the conference room one by one, each grabbing a copy of the script from Waverly as they made their way to their seats.

 

“Do we all have our copies of ‘The Revenants’ by Robert Svane?” Nicole asks as she looks around the conference room and murmurs of agreement are heard. “Okay, great! Let’s get this going, shall we?” Nicole smiles. “I’m going to be the one reading the action descriptions. Rosita, I’d like you to play Catherine Zeta Jones.”

 

“Wait a second. Are you serious? That’s actually the character’s name?” Rosita asks her incredulously as she quickly starts to read her copy of the script.

 

“Yes, it is.” Nicole confirms with an amused smirk.

 

“No fucking way!” Wynonna exclaims boisterously. “Holy shit, Haught, you’ve got to let me be the one to play Bobo Del Rey! This role was made for me!”

 

“Lower your voice, Wynonna.” Waverly mutters. “There’s no need to shout at Nicole when she’s sitting right next to you.” She reminds her big sister with an exasperated sigh.

 

“Wait a minute, Waverly. Wynonna might be on to something.” Nicole says, easily ignoring the betrayed look on the youngest Earp’s face. “Wynonna Earp, will you please play the lead role in ‘The Revenants?’” She asks in as serious an expression as she can muster given the ridiculousness of their situation.

 

“Fuck yeah!” Wynonna happily shouts as she pumps a fist into the air.

 

Nicole bites her lip to keep her smile at bay as she watches her best friend’s over the top reaction.

 

“You two are worse than toddlers.” Waverly mutters as she crosses her arms across her chest. She wants to be annoyed by their antics, but she can’t resist smiling as Nicole sends a subtle wink in her direction.

 


 

“Inside the Ghost River Triangle, Bobo Del Rey sits with his feet on his desk. Catherine Zeta Jones enters.” Nicole reads, nodding at Rosita to cue her in.

 

“Bobo, you’ve got some messages.” Rosita reads.

 

Wynonna clears her throat, ready to dive headfirst into her role. “Not now, Catherine!” She growls out.

 

“But they’re important!” Rosita insists.

 

“Fine.” Wynonna sighs. “What are they?” She asks with agitation in her voice.

 

“The first message is: I love you. That one’s from me.” Rosita flirtatiously says.

 

“We’ve talked about this, Catherine.” Wynonna groans. “Please – just get out of my office.”

 


 

“I mean, yeah – I considered a career in acting once or twice in the past.” Wynonna happily admits. “I even came pretty close to being the lead in a production in the seventh grade, but I chose not to audition or anything because I didn’t want to steal the show and crush any dreams, you know?” Wynonna asks rhetorically. “I was mode selfless then than I am now.” She explains with a shrug of her shoulders.

 


 

“Well, if it isn’t my old partner, Stupid Carl.” Wynonna reads.

 

“Bobo, it’s good to see you again.” Xavier reads out with a roll of his eyes. “You’ve clearly lost some weight.” Are you serious? He mouths to Nicole who merely shrugs her shoulders and sends him an apologetic smile.

 

“I knew you’d notice. I’ve been working out.” Wynonna says as she flexes her biceps. “Now, I need your help.”

 

Waverly catches some movement out of the corner of her eye, and she turns her head towards the conference room’s doorway. Champ’s standing there awkwardly, his back against the doorframe as he waits.

 

Waverly gets up from the table as quietly as she can and walks to him, too distracted by her fiancé to notice a pair of brown eyes watching her. “Hey – uh – I have to work late tonight.” Waverly tells him quietly once she’s reached him.

 

“Champ takes a look around the conference room with a furrowed brow. “You can’t be serious.” He scoffs, clearly agitated.

 

Nicole returns her attention to her copy of the script, choosing to ignore the lovers’ quarrel happening in the doorway as she starts to read. “Bobo Del Rey takes out his nine-millimeter gun and shoots.”

 

“Pew! Pew! Pew!” Wynonna shouts as she playfully points her finger guns in Doc’s direction, her voice drowning out the rest of Champ and Waverly’s conversation as everyone else struggles to maintain their interest in the script.

 


 

“Damn it, Stupid Carl! You’re just as useless now as you’ve always been! How am I supposed to – you know what? I’m already bored. I’m officially done with this script.” Wynonna says. “The end, everybody!” She exclaims as she haphazardly tosses her copy of the script onto the table.

 

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure we’ve all given up on trying to get through it at this point.” Nicole agrees with a sigh. “Thanks for going along with it as long as you did, everybody.”

 

“Wait, I’ve got an idea!” Wynonna exclaims. “Curtis bought me some kickass fireworks, so  –“

 

“Curtis didn’t buy them exclusively for you, Wynonna.” Waverly jumps in to interrupt her.

 

“ – if any of you want to watch a real show, join me outside right now!” Wynonna continues undeterred as she walks out with Doc hot on her heels.

 

“You know, that’s not the worst idea she’s ever had.” Nicole admits with a shrug of her shoulders. She stays in her seat and watches as everyone else gets up and starts walking out after Wynonna. She turns to Waverly with a smile. “Hey, are you hungry?”

 

“Yeah, a little bit.” Waverly admits with a playful pout.

 

“Yeah?” Nicole teases back, smiling as an idea quickly starts to take shape.

 


 

“Well, I had plans to meet with an old teammate – varsity soccer – of mine tonight, but I just sent her a text message asking her if she’d be willing to reschedule, and thankfully, she hadn’t left her house yet and she was cool with it.” Nicole says with a sheepish shrug. “I’m not mad about the change of plans.”

 


 

Nicole and Waverly are side by side on their workplace building’s rooftop. They’re sitting in matching camping chairs – Nicole usually keeps them in her truck – with a medium-sized cooler on the floor between them.

 

Doc and Wynonna are in the empty lot in front of the building – easily visible from where Nicole and Waverly are sitting – setting up the fireworks.

 

Nicole watches as Waverly lights a yankee candle, a small smile on her lips. “Wow.” She says teasingly once the flame catches.

 

“Shut up.” Waverly rolls her eyes even as her cheeks begin to redden. “It’s to keep the bugs away.”

 

“Nice.” Nicole nods in mock-understanding as reaches for the pizza box that she’d managed to keep out of Waverly’s sight until now. “Well, it’s a good thing that you thought to bring it because we all know how much bugs love vegan pizza.”

 

“You bought us a vegan pizza, seriously?!” Waverly asks excitedly, practically bouncing in her seat. “Honestly, I can’t remember the last time someone took the time to do something so incredibly thoughtful for me – other than you or Wynonna, obviously.” She admits with a beautiful smile that easily takes Nicole’s breath away.

 


 

“I guess I’ll see you in ten hours.” Nicole says to Waverly, laughing lightly as they make their way out of the mostly empty building and towards the parking lot.

 

“What are you going to do with all this time off?” Waverly asks her with as much seriousness on her face as she can muster.

 

“Oh, I’m going to use this time to travel. For sure.” Nicole says with a nod, easily matching Waverly’s mock-seriousness. “It’s going to be great. I’m finally going to get the chance to find myself, you know? Really see the world.”

 

“God, you’re such a dork.” Waverly laughs, shaking her head at Nicole’s ability to go along with her antics. “Do you have any music you’d like to share with me this week?” She asks, nodding her head towards the phone that Nicole has clutches in her hand as she looks for ways to prolong their time together.

 

“Oh, yeah, of course.” Nicole says as she quickly hands Waverly one of her AirPods before she unlocks her phone, taps into her music library, and pulls up her ‘Favorites’ playlist. She scrolls down until she finds ‘Dance So Good’ by Wakey!Wakey! And taps it. She loves it and she refuses to acknowledge how close to home some of words hit.

 

And I know you can’t stay, but I wish you would.

Yeah, I wish you would.

Yeah, I wish you would.

 


 

“Okay, I’m about to tell you something, but you e got to promise me you’re not going to tell anyone. Promise?” Nicole asks in a whisper, slightly hunched over Waverly’s desk. She waits until the brunette wordlessly makes her promise, their pinkies momentarily linking together. “I’m pretty sure that Robert hooked up with Constance last night.”

 

“Wait, what?!” Waverly whisper-yells incredulously. “Constance Clootie?”

 

“Shh. And yeah, but honestly, I don’t think she’s a Clootie anymore.” Nicole admits, making sure to keep her voice down. “Maybe our Hell-bound Bobo Del Rey ignited a dangerous flame last night.”

 

“Or maybe you’re just reading too much into whatever it is you heard or saw –“ Waverly skeptically argues. Her desk phone rings, interrupting her. “Oh, holy hell! That’s Constance’s personal number!” She says once the caller’s name registers on the screen.

 

“No way.” Nicole laughs. I told you so she mouths with a smirk as Waverly rushes to answer the phone. She shakes her head as she walks away, making her way back to her desk knowing that Waverly will fill her in on whatever she finds out sooner or later.

 

“Dunder Mifflin. This is Waverly.”

 


 

“Some might even say that we had our own first date last night, you know.” Nicole tells Waverly. She’s standing at the receptionist desk again, shuffling a handful of old receipts in her hands.

 

“Oh, really?” Waverly prompts as she looks up from her computer screen with amusement shining in her eyes.

 

“Yep.”

 

“And why might some say that?”

 

Nicole awkwardly clears her throat, already kicking herself or bringing this topic up in the first place but unable to keep her mouth closed. “Well, because we had dinner… by candlelight.”

 

“Uh huh.” Waverly murmurs as her amusement quickly starts to fade away as her brow furrows.

 

“Actually, we had dinner and a show if you include the table read.” Nicole continues to explain with a painfully awkward laugh. “And there were fireworks and dancing too, so you know, overall… it was a pretty great date.”

 

“We didn’t dance.” Waverly argues back.

 

“You’re right. We didn’t dance.” Nicole agrees. She shrugs her shoulders, trying and failing to appear nonchalant as she tenses at Waverly’s tone. This conversation had taken an uncomfortable turn and it was completely Nicole’s fault. You’ve got to stop talking. She desperately thinks even as her lips continue to move. “It was more like swaying. But it was still romantic in retrospect.”

 

“Swaying isn’t dancing, Nicole.” Waverly rebuts.

 

“Well, at least I wasn’t selfish enough to leave you behind at a high school soccer game.” Nicole says just as bluntly as Waverly had sounded, wincing as what she’d said actually registers in her mind. What the actual fuck?! Why would you say that to her, you idiot?

 

“I’ve got to get these emails sent out before lunch.” Waverly says, her voice stony in a way that very rarely gets directed at Nicole.

 

“Oh, come on, Waverly. You know I didn’t mean to say that. I’m so so –“ Nicole stops. She knows that trying to apologize right now isn’t going to get her anywhere. She shouldn’t have said what she said, she knows that, and she’d regretted her words as soon as they’d left her lips, but she couldn’t help herself. Nicole had been thinking about what Waverly had admitted about her first date with Champ all night. She’d tossed and turned in her bed as she thought about how horribly that asshat had treated Waverly and it ate away at her.

 


 

“Okay, she’s right. We didn’t dance… it wasn’t a first date.” Nicole tells the cameraperson and boom operator. She pointedly ignores the sympathetic looks on their faces. They know. She shrugs her shoulders and continues. “I was totally joking with her or trying to anyway. I mean, it’s not really a date if the girl goes home to her fiancé at the end of the night, is it?”

 


 

Nicole walks back to her desk after her interview, visibly dejected. She shakes her head at the questioning gaze Wynonna gives her. I’ll tell you about it later. She mouths to her, sighing in relief when Wynonna simply nods her head in understanding. She turns her attention to her computer screen and tries not to think about the flash of hurt she’d seen in Waverly’s eyes or how she’d been the one to put it there.

Chapter Text

“I’ve been busy the past few weeks and unfortunately, that means I haven’t been able to mess with Wynonna as often as I’d like to, I thought I’d make up for lost time now.” Nicole tells the cameraperson and boom operator as she opens a bag of chips. She pops a chip into her mouth and turns to leave the break room without uttering another word. “Hey.” She greets Wynonna as they walk past each other.

 

“Hey.” Wynonna greets back. She walks up to the vending machine that Nicole had been standing by and looks into it. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.” Wynonna mutters with a mixture of amusement, pride, and a hint of annoyance in her voice. “Nicole!”

 

“Yeah? What’s up, buddy?” Nicole asks as she nonchalantly walks back into the break room not having gone too far. She walks up to her best friend and stands dutifully by her side as Wynonna continues to stare incredulously into the vending machine.

 

“What’s all my stuff doing in there?”

 

“Huh. That’s weird.” Nicole says she looks into the vending machine, her eyebrows raising in mock-surprise. “Ooh, wait! Check it out! That framed picture of me, you, and Waverly that was taken at Shorty’s three years ago is only a dollar. I think that’s a pretty good deal.”

 

“Yeah, okay. I know it was you who pulled this crap because you’re friends with the vending machine guy.” Wynonna reminds with a roll of her eyes.

 

“Who are you – wait, are you talking about about Lonnie?”

 

“Yeah, him.”

 

“Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch. I wouldn’t call us friends, exactly… we’re more like acquaintances.” Nicole explains.

 

“Whatever.” Wynonna mutters as she reaches out and tries to turn the knob to unlock the vending machine to no avail.

 

Waverly walks into the break room and heads directly to the vending machine that Wynonna and Nicole are standing in front of. “Let’s see, what do I want?” She asks aloud as looks at her options. “Ooh, there’s a pencil cup! I want that.” She happily exclaims as she starts to put her coins into the slot. She keys in her selection on the pad and smiles widely as the pencil cup drops with a soft thud.

 

“Waverly, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” Wynonna asks in annoyance. “That’s my pencil cup.”

 

“I don’t think it is.” Waverly says bluntly as she bends down to retrieve it. “I just paid for it, so it’s mine.”

 

“Yeah, I don’t think so, baby girl.” Wynonna says, sounding very much like a petulant child. “Hand it over.”

 

“No.” Waverly says. “I already love this thing.” She admits to Nicole with a small smile. Her smile widens when she catches Nicole’s eye and sees the smile on her face.

 

They hadn’t talked much about what Nicole had said a few weeks ago, she’d simply chosen to forgive and forget when Nicole had apologized to her again. She knew that Nicole hadn’t intended to hurt her feelings, and she decided she’d rather sweep the whole incident under the rug. They’ve carried on as they’ve always been since then.

 

“Okay, whatever.” Wynonna says as she reaches into her back-pocket in search of her wallet only to find it empty. “Where’s my wallet?”

 

“Oh, I found it!” Nicole exclaims as she points to the wallet sitting in one of the vending machine’s slots. “It’s option J1.” Nicole pretends to search her pockets. “I don’t think I have any – no, wait – yes, I do. I’ve got some nickels.” Nicole gleefully says as she pulls out a plastic sandwich bag full of coins – seemingly out of thin air – and hands it to Wynonna.

 

“What the –“ Wynonna mumbles as she stares incredulously at the sandwich bag. She groans and snatches the bad out of Nicole’s hand, opening it with an annoyed sigh. “5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 …” Wynonna starts counting as Nicole and Waverly share an amused smile as they walk out of the break together, leaving Wynonna to count nickels alone.

 


 

“Good morning, everyone.” Robert greets everyone cheerfully as he walks into the office, stopping by Waverly’s desk to get his messages.

 

“Where are we going, Robert?” Rosita asks him, not bothering to return his greeting.

 


 

Waverly and Nicole sit side by side in the conference room as they get interviewed. “Okay, so last week, Robert sent out this mysterious memo…” Waverly starts to explain. There’s amusement shining brightly in her eyes.

 

It’s time for our first-quarter camaraderie event.” Nicole reads aloud from her copy of the memo. “So, pack your swimsuits, toothbrushes, rubber-soled shoes, and ski masks.

 

“A ski mask and a swimsuit?” Waverly says into the camera with a questioning look. She can already imagine how clueless everyone watching will be about Robert’s planning, or lack thereof.

 

“He’s probably going to have us rob a bank and escape the crime scene through Purgatory’s sewers.” Nicole easily explains.

 

“… and then we’ll brush our teeth and make a minty fresh getaway.” Waverly adds with a light laugh as Nicole watches her with an adoring look on her face.

 


 

They’re going on a booze cruise.

 

They’d had an unnecessary meeting about it in the conference room after Rosita had stormed into Robert’s office demanding to know if she was expected to participate and Dolls had taken Robert to the side and demanded to know if they were expected to be at whatever it was he was planning overnight.

 

Rosita had been livid – understandably so – when Robert admitted that his mysterious memo listed things they didn’t need. He’d chosen things at random to throw them off his trail, and she’d wasted her money on getting things she didn’t need because of it.

 

“I’m the king of the world!” Robert shouts into the night. His arms are spread out and his coat tails are flapping in the wind behind him.

 

The camera pans to Nicole. She’s standing by the door, watching Robert with an amused look on her face and a smirk tugging on her lips.

 

Beth – a woman that Nicole had recently started seeing exclusively – appears at her side and tucks herself under her arm. Nicole looks down and smiles at her before she shuffles them into the sitting area.

 

The camera stays on them as they find an empty booth and sit down, talking in hushed voices and sharing small smiles.

 


  

“It feels like we’re back in high school… and we’re sitting at the cool table.” Beth says as she looks around, taking in the people that are sitting at the tables closest to them. “Right?”

 

“Definitely.” Champ agrees with a laugh.

 

“Were you a cheerleader, Waverly?” Beth asks with a smile, genuinely trying to get to know the brunette.

 

“Yeah, she was.” Champ answers for her. “She was Purgatory High’s head cheerleader our senior year.”

 

“I was our class valedictorian too.” Waverly states proudly.

 

“And prom queen.” Champ quickly adds on, serving as a reminder to Waverly that her fiancé had always been more impressed by her cheerleading achievements and the popularity that dating her in high school had given him by association than by her academic achievements.

 

“Oh, that’s hilarious.” Beth says with a laugh.

 

“I don’t see how that’s –“ Nicole starts only to be rudely interrupted by Champ.

 

“And where did you go to school, Beth?” Champ asks her, his eyes bright as he keeps his attention focused on Nicole’s girlfriend.

 

“Ghost River Triangle.”

 

“Wait, are you serious?” Champ excitedly asks. “I knew you looked familiar! We played against you. You were a cheerleader too, weren’t you?”

 

Nicole groans.

 

“Oh, come on, Nicole.” Beth laughs. “You’ve seen my moves.” She winks at her before she turns to Champ. “Yes, I was.”

 

“A – W – E – S – O – M – E. Awesome, awesome is what we are. We are football superstars.” Beth starts to cheer.

 

Waverly watches with amusement in her eyes. She catches Nicole’s gaze and playfully rolls her eyes. He wasn’t even on the football team she mouths making Nicole laugh.

 


 

 

“Snorkel shots! Snorkel shots! Snorkel shots!” Beth, Perry, and a few more people drunkenly cheer Champ on as he holds the snorkel to his lips. Captain Jack – the booze cruise captain who’d been having run-ins with Robert since Dunder Mifflin Purgatory boarded the ship – pours tequila into the snorkel and cheers along as Champ takes his shot.

 

“Woo!” Champ drunkenly exclaims as he triumphantly throws his fists into the air. He looks around at his audience until he spots his fiancée. She’s leaning against a beam with a slightly disapproving look on her face as she holds both of their beers in her hands. “It’s your turn, Wavy!”

 

“No, thank you.” Waverly says with an appeasing smile that seems far too forced to be genuine. “I’m not putting my lips on that.”

 

“Oh, come on, Waverly.” Champ persists. “You’ll love it!”

 

Waverly just shakes her head ‘no.’

 

Perry stands up and enthusiastically shouts. “Tequila!” As he walks up to Captain Jack, shooting a discrete wink in Waverly’s direction as he grabs the snorkel out of Champ’s hand and makes him take a seat.

 

Waverly is relieved to say the least. She takes the opportunity that Perry gave her and makes her way towards her fiancé. She hands him his beer bottle and puts her own on the table before she leans down so that Champ can hear her over the noise. “Hey, why don’t we go somewhere quiet and hang out for a bit?” She asks him, hoping that he’ll see how utterly exhausted she is after a night of trying to keep up with him and his drunken antics.

 

“Okay, yeah. That’s a good idea, but wait – what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t watch Perry take his shot?” Champ gets up and walks up to the crowd that’s already gathered around Perry. He enthusiastically joins in as they chant. “Come on, Perry! Perry! Perry! Perry!”

 

Waverly rolls her eyes and walks away, completely unnoticed by the drunken crowd.

 


 

Waverly smiles softly as she sees familiar fiery locks peeking out of a beanie. “It was getting too crazy in there.” She says as she pulls her jacket tightly around her body to keep warm. She walks up to Nicole and stands by her side.

 

Nicole has been standing out there – hoping to escape the noise and let the cold weather clear her mind – for the last fifteen minutes or so. “Oh, yeah. Perry! Perry! Perry!” Nicole chants teasingly, smiling as Waverly laughs.

 

“God. Sometimes I – I just don’t understand Champ.” Waverly admits with a sigh, unintentionally ruining the carefree moment between them.

 

“Yeah?” Nicole prompts, not sure what she’s supposed to say as she watches Waverly fidget in place.

 

“I’m sorry, I’m – I don’t know.” Waverly says. She looks up, meets Nicole’s gaze and loses her train of thought.

 

Waverly had always believed that she could automatically know what Nicole is thinking just by looking into her eyes, but lately, it feels like she’s slowly starting to lose that ability and it really bothers her because while awkward silences weren’t a common thing between them before, it seems like they’re constantly finding themselves in them now and she’s struggling to understand why. “So, you’re dating another cheerleader… how does that make you feel?” Waverly teases as she tries to bring a little bit of normalcy back to their relationship.

 

Nicole laughs and it sounds forced in a way that makes Waverly’s heart hurt. “Oh… uh.” She stutters out, and there it is again, a surge of awkwardness that sits heavily between them. Nicole looks down at her feet, unable to meet Waverly’s gaze because she has so many things that she’d like to say to her, to finally admit, but she can’t because that’s just not who she is.

 

What the hell is happening between us? Waverly thinks. “It’s freezing out here.” She blurts out, not knowing what else to say.

 

Waverly turns and walks away without another word. She walks back into the warmth, back to her fiancé.

 

Nicole stays behind, cheeks reddened by the bitter cold and a resigned sigh escaping her lips. The cameraperson and boom operator are still with her, watching on silently, sympathetic looks on their faces as Nicole looks up at the night sky and gazes up at the stars.

 


 

“So, what’s this presentation of yours about?” Captain Jack asks Robert.

 

“Great! You see, someone who’s genuinely interested in what I’m trying to teach my people.” Robert says as he looks around at his uninterested employees. “It’s about choosing your priorities and making the right decisions and I’ve been trying to use your ship as an analogy. Like, what’s most important to you? If the ship were sinking right now and we didn’t have enough lifeboats, who or what would you save?” He asks.

 

“Women and children, obviously.” Captain Jack says confident in his answer.

 

“No, no, no!” Salespeople and profit centers.” Robert counters.

 

“Yeah, that’s a stupid analogy.” Captain Jack snorts.

 

“Well, obviously… you don’t know as much about leadership as you seem to think you do.” Robert says.

 

“Well, it just so happens that I was the captain of a PC-1 Cyclone coastal patrol boat during Desert Storm.” Captain Jack informs him.

 

“Wow, that’s hella badass. You should be a motivational speaker.” Wynonna butts in to say before draining her glass of whisky.

 

“What? Why should he be a motivational speaker?” Robert asks incredulously.

 

“Well, it’s obvious that he knows how to handle a real leadership role.” Wynonna explains with a shrug of her shoulders, getting far too much enjoyment out of upsetting her boss.

 


 

Waverly had reappeared – completely unnoticed by her fiancé who was too preoccupied with taking more snorkel shots – and she’d sat down at an empty booth.

 

And now, Waverly and Beth sit side by side in a booth, their awkward silence looming heavily between them.

 

They’d say there watching as Champ dragged Perry to the bar by the collar of his shirt and as Nicole walked right past them – without giving them a second glance – to the opposite side of the bar where Wynonna was happily signaling her over.

 

They’d sat there watching as Doc had ordered shots and Wynonna cheered the bar tenders on as they’d lined up a row of shot glasses and filled them until they overflowed.

 

And they were sitting there now, watching as Doc, Wynonna, and Nicole toasted, clinking their glasses and downing their shots – taking three shots each.

 

“I’d really like to be engaged.” Beth admits, finally putting an end to the awkward silence between them. “How’d you manage to pull it off?” She teasingly asks Waverly.

 

“Well, I’ve already been engaged for three years, and I don’t really see an end in sight.” Waverly says dully as she watches her big sister, Doc, and Nicole share a laugh. “You probably don’t want my advice.”

 


 

Robert slams his empty beer glass onto the bar top. “Okay, I’ve got a great example. What would you do if your office building caught fire? Who would you save from peril?” He asks as looks around at his employees that are scattered around the bar. “Doesn’t anyone want to answer? How about you, Nicole?” He presses on.

 

“Uh, I don’t kn - let’s see.” Nicole says as she stares into her empty shot glass, mentally restraining herself from looking at the booth where both Beth and Waverly are still sitting. “I’d – uh – I’d save the customer because customers rule the world.” She says, pointedly ignoring Wynonna’s sudden burst of laughter.

 

Robert just stares at her unblinkingly for moment before speaking. “Well, that’s not really the answer I was looking for, but I appreciate the effort.”

 

“Oh, come on. That’s crap!” Captain Jack scoffs out. “It’s obvious that she only gave you that answer because she wants you to leave her alone. She’s telling you what she thinks you want to hear so that you’ll move on to someone else.”

 

“Did you ever almost die while you were in the military?” Champ asks Captain Jack, drunkenly butting in as he pushes in between him and Robert.

 

Nicole just rolls her eyes, gets up, and leaves.

 

“Oh, yeah. I did and I wasn’t thinking about some stupid, random customer while it was happening.” Captain Jack proudly states. “I was thinking about my first wife – obviously, she was only my girlfriend at the time. I asked her to marry me as soon as I got back. We got married the following week.”

 


 

 

“You know what –“ Nicole says, getting the cameraperson and boom operator’s attention as she walks to the booth that Beth and Waverly are still sitting at. There’s determination shining in her eyes as she continues. “I would save the receptionist. Always. Oh, and Wynonna too… obviously.” Nicole is standing at Waverly’s side now and she’s about to try to get her attention, but Champ’s voice sounds through the speakers and stops her in her tracks.

 

“Hey everybody, I just – uh – I just wanted to get your attention for a few seconds.” Champ says into the microphone he’s holding. “So… we – we were up by the bar earlier and we were talking about what’s really important to us, or something and I was thinking – Waverly, I think enough is enough. We need to set a date for our wedding.”

 

The drunken crowd starts to cheer as Champ grins boyishly at Waverly, who’s smiling so brightly at him, practically glowing as she watches him in awe.

 

The camera pans to Nicole.

 

Nicole stands stock still, mouth gaping open in shock. She looks like the wind has been completely knocked out of her, but Wynonna is the only one who immediately senses her distress.

 

“How about June 10th, huh?” Champ asks, emboldened by the positive crowd reaction, “Come on! Let’s do it!” He exclaims, laughing as the crowd starts to chant “Congratulations!” as Waverly jumps out of her seat and runs into her fiancé’s arms. “I love you, Wavy.”

 

Nicole sits down at the booth alone while Beth is standing amongst the gathered crowd, clapping and congratulating the happy couple.

 

“Let’s celebrate!” Captain Jack exclaims into the microphone as he cues the DJ.

 


 

Champ and Waverly sway to the music as they talk amongst themselves about starting wedding preparations. Champ’s actually paying attention because his drunken stupor has him being more attentive to Waverly than he usually would be.

 

Nicole is standing with Beth outside and can’t help but stare at the happy couple through the window. She feels numb.

 

  Beth is smiling happily at Nicole’s side and she starts to bounce on her toes as she watches Champ and Waverly share a chaste kiss on the lips. “Do you think that could ever be us?” She asks her girlfriend, breaking – what she believes to be – the comfortable silence between them.

 

“No.” Nicole answers easily without looking Beth’s way.

 

Beth blinks. “What the hell is wrong with you?” She asks. Her smile disappears in an instant and anger flashes in her eyes. “Why did you even ask me to come with you tonight?”

 

“I don’t know.” Nicole admits. “We should break up.” She continues, surprised by her own bluntness.

 

“Wait, what?” Beth asks incredulously.

 


 

It wasn’t an easy conversation. Especially not after everything that had already transpired that night, but Nicole knew it had to be done. She had to end her relationship with Beth. It was the right thing to do.

 

She liked Beth. She genuinely enjoyed her company, but she couldn’t continue to lead the other woman on when she knew that it wasn’t going anywhere. They didn’t have a future together and she thought it would’ve been unfair to drag things out any longer.

 

Understandably, Beth angrily stormed away.

 

Nicole stands outside – no longer affected by the cold. She’s perched with her back against the railing, staring at her feet when Wynonna walks up to her with two glasses of whisky in her hand.

 

Wynonna wordlessly hands a glass to Nicole.

 

“Thanks.” Nicole mumbles as she grabs the offered glass, puts it to her lips, and smoothly drains the glass.

 

It doesn’t even sting when it hits the back of her throat.

 

Wynonna just watches her best friend, concern shining in her eyes. “What a night, huh?”

 

“Yeah.” Nicole pushes out as she carefully placed her empty glass on the floor at her feet. They stand in comfortable silence for a few minutes before she finally breaks. “You know… I didn’t think my heart could ever hurt more than it did on that Saturday morning when Waverly burst into my bedroom, startled me awake, and happily told me that she’d said ‘yes’ when Champ proposed to her, but – uh – apparently, witnessing Champ drunkenly propose that they set a wedding date, and then Waverly so readily accepting – that hurts a fuck of a lot more.”

 

“I’m so sorry, Nicole.” Wynonna whispers, not knowing what else to say as she bears witness to her best friend’s heartbreak.

 

“Don’t be.” Nicole says with a shrug of her shoulders even as her voice cracks and her eyes glaze over with unshed tears. “It’s my own fault. I mean, I’ve spent most of my life around you two, so I’ve had more than enough time to come to terms with the reality of this situation. I’m not who Waverly wants. I’ve always known that, but I was dumb and stubborn, and I foolishly hoped that she might one day look at me and see someone who’s truly worthy of her. I made a mistake. I just wish it wasn’t as painful as it is, you know?”

 

Wynonna reaches up, placing her hands on either side of Nicole’s face and letting her thumbs catch the tears that are rolling down her best friend’s cheeks in a rare act of tenderness. “You’re more than worthy, Nicole Rayleigh Haught. Don’t you ever dare doubt that.” She tells her gently, but sternly as she makes Nicole meet her gaze. “I can’t even begin to imagine how much your heart is hurting right now, but I need you to know that I’m always in your corner – no matter what, okay?”

 

Nicole just nods her head because she does know.

 

“Good. Now, let’s go get drunk because I’m pretty sure we’ve already hit our yearly quota for these little heart-to-hearts.” Wynonna says with a smile as Nicole takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, letting it settle her.

 

They walk into the sitting area – Wynonna easily maneuvering Nicole around so that they sidestep Champ and Waverly without being seen and without Nicole having to see them – and they sit down at the bar.

 

Doc orders them shots and they down them. He’s stopped drinking for the night – silently volunteering to be the designated driver – not that Nicole notices as she and Wynonna drink themselves into oblivion.

 

The next morning, Nicole wakes up in Doc’s guest room with Wynonna snoring at her side. There’s a glass of water and two aspirin on her night stand. There’s also a note written in Doc’s messy scrawl.

 

N., I’ve got your back. Always. – John Henry.

Chapter Text

“So, what’s the deal?” Champ asks Waverly as he leans on the receptionist’s desk. “We’ve got to pay for our own drinks? That’s lame.”

 

“Oh, come on, Champ.” Waverly says with an annoyed sigh. “It’ll be fun, and besides, I’m a roulette expert.”

 

“That’s impossible.” Champ says with a shake of his head; he smiles condescendingly at Waverly. “Roulette isn’t a game of skill, it’s a game of chance.”

 

“I can always kind of win at roulette.” Wynonna butts into the conversation with a smirk.

 

“Oh, really?” Champ says sarcastically.

 

“Yep.” Wynonna confirms confidently with a nod.

 

“And how could you possibly do that?” Champ asks her disbelievingly.

 

“Mind control.”

 

“You’re not serious.” Champ says, starting to laugh only to stop abruptly as he looks questioningly between Waverly and Wynonna, missing Nicole’s knowing smirk. “Wait, are you – are you joking?”

 

“Yeah, ever since I was a little kid, like, seven or eight years old, I could sort of control things with my mind.”

 

“I don’t believe you.” Champ says, chuckling uneasily. “Are you serious?”

 

“Yeah.” Wynonna says with a shrug. “I mean, it was just little things, you know? Like, I could make something shake or I could make a marble roll off the counter. You know, just little things like that.”

 

“That’s ridiculous.” Champ laughs confidently. “You know what? Why don’t you move the coat rack then?”

 

“Okay.” Wynonna agrees easily with a nod. She shifts her eyes to Nicole, her lips twitching upwards into a barely perceptible smile as the redhead shifts in her seat.

 

“Great!” Champ exclaims. “Excuse me, everyone. Attention in the office, please.” He says as he looks around the office. Most of the office staff ignores him, continuing to work as though he hadn’t spoken to begin with, but a few people are sharing knowing looks amongst each other. “Wynonna is about to prove her telekinetic powers and she needs absolute silence.” He smiles cockily, as if he’s already proven Wynonna wrong. “Go ahead, Wynonna.”

 

“Okay.” Wynonna says as she settles into her seat. “I’ll give it a try.” She lifts her hand, grasping towards the coat rack that’s near the receptionist’s desk, and wiggles her fingers. It starts shaking unevenly, moving slightly in Waverly’s direction.

 

The camera shifts back to Champ, who’s staring stupidly at the coat rack, his mouth gaping wide open. “Oh my God.” He whispers to himself in awe.

  


 

Waverly is sitting in the interview room with the cameraman and boom operator, she’s smirking into the camera as she lifts an arm and proudly shows them the umbrella she has in her hand.

 


 

 

“Hey, what are you working on?” Nicole asks Waverly curiously as she looks over at the receptionist’s desk, watching as the brunette writes something down on a legal pad.

 

“Oh, nothing.” Waverly says as she grabs yet another disk sleeve and adds it to the growing stack on her desk, she hopes that Nicole didn’t notice that the Nicole’s voice had startled Waverly out of her task.

 

’Til Death Do Us Rock?” Nicole continues skeptically. “That doesn’t seem like nothing, Waverly.”

 

“They’re uh – they’re a wedding band.” Waverly finds herself admitting somewhat reluctantly, awkwardly avoiding Nicole’s gaze. She can’t pinpoint exactly why, but there’s something about discussing her wedding plans with or around the redhead makes her feel uneasy, like she’s doing something wrong.

 

“Oh.” Nicole says nonchalantly.

 

“Yeah, Champ was supposed to pick the band for the wedding, but he swears that concentrating on his bachelor party planning is much more important than that right now, so… here I am.” Waverly sighs. She can’t help but feel slightly foolish in that moment, so starts grabbing at the disk sleeves on her desk and shoves them back into the small box that she’d been keeping them in. I’m being stupid, she thinks to herself as she shakes her head at her own behavior.

 

“Wait, what are you doing?” Nicole’s asks as she quickly moves to stop Waverly’s movements, easily noticing how flustered the brunette is. “ I mean, even if you didn’t hire a band, you still have to watch the bands’ audition tapes.” Nicole explains with a playful smirk, hoping to put Waverly at ease and silently congratulating herself when she sees her lips twitch into a reluctant smile. “Waverly, these are people who haven’t given up on their dreams. They’re working to become the next highly coveted wedding band. You can’t shortchange them by not giving them the respect their dedication deserves.” Nicole continues passionately, her lips twitching into an amused smile even as she bites the inside of her cheek to keep a straight face.

 

Waverly laughs to herself, her eyes shining as she shakes her head at Nicole’s antics. God, I’ve missed this, she thinks to herself as she bites her lip and meets the redhead’s gaze, a warmth spreading through her as their eyes meet. “You’re so ridiculous.”

 

“Oh, come on, Waverly, we both know that I’m not as bad as Wynonna.” Nicole’s lips quirk up into a genuine smile, her dimples proudly on display. “I know that they’re probably bad – cringeworthy in some cases – but watching these would honestly make me feel better about not having any dreams of my own.”

 

“Fine.” Waverly says with a sigh. “There’s a Kiss cover band in here.” She admits as she gets up with the box in her hands, excitement making his movements jittery.

 

Nicole grabs the box out of Waverly’s hands with a laugh. “Let’s do this.” Nicole says as she walks into the conference room.

 


 

“I’m pretty happy these days.” Waverly tells the cameraman and boom operator, struggling to keep her smile at bay. “I’m getting married soon and I’ve been getting along with everybody at work – I mean, not that I wasn’t getting along with everybody at work before. I was Dunder Mifflin, Purgatory Branch’s Nicest Person. I even got a sash! – but yeah, things are good.” She rambles on nervously as she plays with her fingertips, completely unaware of what she’s doing it.

 


 

“Why did I talk to Jeannie about transferring to a different branch?” Nicole rhetorically asks the cameraman and boom operator. “I hadn’t realized you guys – you know, it doesn’t even matter – I don’t have a future here. That’s why I talked to Jeannie about transferring.” She continues, trying to appear nonchalant even as she awkwardly shifts her gaze around the room that she’s being interviewed in.

  


 

Nicole smiles to herself as she hears Waverly’s laughter behind her. “Seriously, Waves. I don’t know how you’re going to make a decision.” She tells the brunette as she switches the disks out on the DVD player. They’ve all been good at being bad.”

 

“Maybe we should just hire them all.” Waverly says as seriously as she can muster to be in this situation, not realizing that she’d said we referring to herself and Nicole as a unit. “We could have three stages… it’d be like Lollapalooza!” She exclaims, bouncing excitedly in her seat.

 

“Oh, yeah, I’m sure your mom would get a kick out of that. She’d love it.” Nicole says, laughing to herself as she thinks about how badly Michelle Gibson would react to this idea. “Okay, let’s get back on task. This band is called Purgastory. Let’s see what they’ve got.”

 

“Great.” Waverly says as she settles back into her seat, smiling as a jazzy rhythm starts flowing through the speakers. “Oh my God… Nicole, look at who’s playing the bass. It’s Robin!”

 

“What?” Nicole asks incredulously, squinting at the screen, her eyes widening slightly as she recognized the sandy blonde-haired account. “Holy shit… you’re right!” Nicole exclaims with a laugh.

 

“Did you know that Robin could play the bass?” Waverly asks excitedly, repeatedly smacking Nicole’s thigh with her hand unconsciously. “I didn’t know he could play the bass.”

 

“I didn’t know he could play either.” Nicole says in wonder. “They’ve got a great sound.” Nicole says as she watches the screen, a hint of pride shining in her eyes as she watches Robin’s band perform. She can’t help but smile as she sees how in his element he looks up on that stage. “He’s the bass player and the singer… how did we not know he had such a beautiful voice?”

 


 

“Yeah, we haven’t really played too many paid gigs before, or any public gigs to be honest – just a few open mic nights in the big city – I haven’t even told my friends about Purgastory, but when I heard that Champ and Waverly were looking to hire a band to play at her wedding, I thought it was time we gave ourselves the opportunity to be seen, you know?” Robin tells the cameraman and the boom operator shyly as he fidgets with his tie. “I’d understand if they went in a different direction, but I’m kind of hoping they’ll choose us.”

 


 

“Waverly, you’ve got to choose Robin’s band! They sound incredible!” Nicole says enthusiastically. “You can’t risk losing him to somebody else’s event.” She says as she stands up, fully intent on pulling Robin into the conference room with them. “I’ll go grab him right now.”

 

“No, Nicole! Wait!” Waverly says with a laugh as she gets up out of her own seat and grabs onto the redhead’s wrist to stop her from opening the door and walking out of the conference room. “I know you’re excited, but you’ve got to wait.”

 

“But Purgastory.” Nicole says with a playful pout that only serves to widen Waverly’s smile.

 


 

“Nicole is the greatest.” Waverly says into the camera. “Being with her… it just takes away whatever stress I’m feeling. It’s always been like that between us. I don’t know what I’d do without her here to keep me grounded, especially now that I’m planning my wedding.”

  


 

“It’s Casino Night at Dunder Mifflin!” Wynonna exclaims into the camera as she enthusiastically spreads her arms out, almost backhanding Nicole in the face. “Between myself, Nicole, and Doc… we’re going to clean this place out.” Wynonna continues confidently, winking before she takes a sip of her whiskey.

 

“She’s right.” Nicole agrees with a nod.” We’re all doing our part. Like, I coughed into my hand after looking at my cards during my first poker match, and Champ just folded, so I tested the theory, coughing into my hand again and again, and he just kept folding. It’s like he thinks it’s my tell or something… it’s the weirdest thing.” Nicole says with a smirk as she grabs Wynonna’s whiskey out of her hand and takes a sip.

 

“Dude, what the hell!” Wynonna exclaims as she yanks her glass back out of Nicole’s hand and shields it with her body.” Go get your own.”

 

“You didn’t get your own.” Nicole reminds her nonchalantly. “Doc got that drink for you.”

 

“Shit, you’re right, Haught Shot.” Wynonna agrees with a laugh. “Doc! Wynonna shouts over her shoulder, not having to look in her boyfriend’s direction to know that he’s heard her and is now giving her his full attention. “Get Nicole a glass of whiskey!”

 

“That’s not what I – whatever.” Nicole says with an exasperated sigh and a roll of her eyes.

 


 

Nicole couldn’t pinpoint when it had happened exactly, but between the pleasant buzz and the easy-going atmosphere, she and Waverly had ended up at the same poker table. And now, they were locked in an intense staring contest. Doc was sitting between them – next to the card dealer – as his moustache twitched with obvious amusement, his eyes shifting between the two of them.

 

Waverly looks down at her cards, staring intently at them as a smirk forms on her face. She looks up and meets Nicole’s gaze, her smirk firmly in place and her eyes shining brightly.

 

“Yeah, right.” Nicole breathes out as she laughs lightly. She’s mesmerized by Waverly, like she always has been when the brunette let’s go and enjoys herself.

 

“’Yeah, right’ – what?” Waverly asks her, her eyes mischievous as she tries to tamp down her smile.

 

“You know what.” Nicole says with a laugh. “What was this?” Nicole asks as she mimics Waverly’s earlier actions.

 

“Nothing. I’ve got good cards.” Waverly says with a nonchalant shrug. She bites her lip and continues to meet Nicole’s gaze head-on.”

 

“Really?” Nicole questions with a tilt of her head.

 

“Yep.” Waverly confirms, popping the ‘P’ confidently. “And I’m going to take you all-in.”

 

“Oh, wow.” Nicole laughs. “Well, I kind of think you’re bluffing.” She admits, squinting in Waverly’s direction, causing the brunette to break and laugh again. God, I love that sound, Nicole thinks, kicking herself for not having a better grasp on her thoughts, but she can’t help but smile to herself as Waverly straightens up in her seat and composes herself.

 

“I suggest you tread carefully, Nicole.” Doc’s says, his voice breaking through her Waverly-induced haze. “She’s an Earp after all.” Doc reminds her, his blue eyes twinkling with amusement.

 

“I already know I’m going to regret this.” Nicole says as she pushes her chips into the middle of the table.

 

“Straight.” Waverly says with a bright, winning smile as she turns her cards around.

 

Nicole sighs as she turns her own cards around. “Three 9s.” Her smile mirrors Waverly’s as she loses herself in Waverly’s happiness. It’s intoxicating.

 


 

Nicole walks out of the warehouse, wanting a moment to clear her head. She looks towards the alleyway, smiling to herself when she sees Doc leaning against the brick wall, holding a lit cigarillo in his hand as he stares up at the night sky.

 

“Hey, Doc.” Nicole greets as she walks up to him. She smiles as he tips his hat in her direction. She mirrors his stance against the wall, sighing as she looks up at the night sky, taking in the evening’s beauty. “Did you come out here to clear your head too?”

 

“Possibly.” Doc says with an upwards quirk of his lips. He turns his head slightly and takes her in. “Have you been enjoying yourself tonight?” He asks, watching as her stance seems to tense a bit.

 

“Oh, yeah.” Nicole says, her voice sounding rough. “I’m having the greatest time.”

 

“I hadn’t realized we’d gotten to the point where lying between us was a thing.” Doc says humorlessly but not beratingly. “Wynonna asked me to keep an eye on you tonight. She’s worried about you, you know.” He admits.

 

“Neither of you needs to keep tabs on me like that.” Nicole tells him with a sigh. “I’m an adult… I’ve just got a lot going through my mind right now.”

 

“We’re not ‘keeping tabs on you,’ Nicole. We’re simply worried about you.” Doc says gently. “I know that you still haven’t told Wynonna – or Waverly – about the transfer you talked to Jeannie about. Why haven’t you?”

 

 

“You’re right, I haven’t told them yet.” Nicole sighs, staring up at the night sky. “I just need a little bit more time.” Nicole says somewhat pleadingly.

 

Doc nods in understanding, knowing he can’t push Nicole too much and simply lets her be as they stand in comfortable silence.

 


 

“Sorry, babe.” Champ says apologetically to Waverly, his head leaning against the headrest as he smiles at her. “I’m just beat.”

 

“It’s okay.” Waverly tells him with a smile. “I understand.”

 

“Okay, great.” Champ continues. “I guess I’ll see you at home.” He says, referring to his own apartment, knowing that after all these years, he’s still not a welcome guest on the homestead by Wynonna’s orders. Don’t lose too much of my money, alright?” He chuckles lightly to himself, completely missing the anger that his words invoke in Waverly because he’s already turned his head in the opposite direction, catching sight of Nicole as she makes her way back to the warehouse. “Hey, Haught! Keep an eye on her, okay?”

 

“Uh huh.” Nicole acknowledges him with a nod.

 

“Cool, bye.” Champ says with a wave to Nicole and Waverly as he leaves the parking lot.

 

“Hey.” Waverly says as she walks up to Nicole.

 

“Hey, how’s it going?” Nicole says back, hating the awkwardness that she can sense sitting heavily between them.

 

“Good.” Waverly says with a smile. “Especially since I took all of your money playing poker.”

 

“Oh, ha-ha.” Nicole says as she looks around, unwilling to meet Waverly’s gaze. “Hey, can I talk to you about something?”

 

“About when you want to give me more of your money?” Waverly asks playfully.

 

“I was just –“ Nicole starts to say, only to be interrupted as Waverly speaks again.

 

“Because I’m feeling kind of lucky tonight, so we can go inside and do that right now if you really want to.” Waverly continues on teasingly, not seeing how Nicole steadies her resolve and prepares herself to speak.

 

“Waverly, I’m in love with you.” Nicole breathes out.

 

“What?” Waverly says, her smile disappearing in an instant.

 

“Waves, I’m – I’m really sorry if that’s not what you wanted to hear, or if it makes you uncomfortable, but I just – I need you to hear it.” Nicole says, her heart feels like it’s shattering to pieces in her chest and she wants to take it back, because this isn’t what she does and this isn’t the kind of person she wants to be, but she had to say something. “And I know that I have the shittiest timing in the world, okay, I get that, but –“

 

“I just – what are you doing, Nicole?” Waverly asks, her voice sounding angry even as it cracks. “What do you expect me to say to something like that?”

 

“Waverly, I’m sorry, I just –“ Nicole reaches out a hand, retracting it immediately as she realizes that Waverly probably doesn’t want to be touched by her right now. “I needed you to know. I needed you to hear it. Just once.”

 

“Well, I, um – I – I can’t.” Waverly stutters out.

 

“Right.” Nicole says with a shaky nod.

 

“Nic, you have no idea how –“ Waverly starts to say.

 

“Come on. Don’t do that, Waves.”

 

“ – how much your friendship means to me.”

 

“Please, Waverly.” Nicole whispers. “I don’t want to do that. I want more than that and I know I can’t have that with you, okay? Seriously, I get it.”

 

“I’m so, so sorry if something I did or said made you misinterpret things.” Waverly says pleadingly as she reaches her hand out, only to drop it uselessly to her side as Nicole takes a step back. “It’s probably my fault.”

 

“It’s not your fault.” Nicole states with certainty in her eyes even as a tear rolls down her cheek. “It’s mine. I’m the one who misinterpreted our friendship and I’m sorry.” She blindly wipes at her cheek and walks away without another word.

 


 

Waverly is sitting on top of Nicole’s desk, using the phone there to talk to her mother because she didn’t know who else to turn to in that moment. “Yeah, it happened about ten minutes ago.”

 

“What did you say when she told you she had feelings for you?” Michelle asks, struggling between wanting to comfort her daughter when she’s obviously dealing with conflicting emotions and wanting her daughter to realize that Nicole’s feelings might not be as unrequited as Waverly seems to think they are.

 

“I didn’t know what to say, mama.” Waverly mutters into the receiver. “I started to say something about how important her friendship is to me – which it is – but she didn’t want to hear it.”

 

“I can’t say I blame her, sweetheart.” Michelle admits with a sigh. “You and Nicole have always had a special connection. Hell, you talked about her often enough as a child that I thought you had a crush on her. I was expecting you to tell me that you wanted to date her, until you showed up at the homestead with the rodeo clown, obviously.”

 

“Mama.” Waverly reprimands clearly exasperated with her mother’s evident dislike of her fiancé.

 

“Yeah, I know… I’m sorry.” Michelle says, not sounding very sorry at all. “Are you sure that Nicole’s feelings are one-sided?”

 

“I don’t know, mama.” Waverly admits quietly. “She’s my best friend. She always has been.”

 

“We all love Nicole, sweetheart.”

 

“Yeah, she’s great.”

 

“She’s the best.” Michelle agrees in an understanding tone. “Waverly, do you have feelings for Nicole?” Michelle asks as gently as she can muster to be in that moment.

 

“Yeah, I think I do.” Waverly answers, startling herself with how quickly she answers her mother’s question. She looks up, gasping audibly as she meets Nicole’s gaze, she hadn’t heard her walk into the office. “Mama, I’ve, uh – I’ve got to go.” Waverly says into the receiver, not really listening to what Michelle is saying on the other end of the line. She jumps off Nicole’s desk, turning her back on her as she tries to end the call with her mom. “I’ll call you back later. I promise.” Waverly reassures before hanging up the phone and turning back to Nicole. “Listen, Nic –“

 

Waverly doesn’t get the chance to say another word as Nicole reaches out and places her hands on Waverly’s waist. She tugs on her gently, walking her towards her as their gazes meet, and it’s like the world around them no longer exists. Nicole leans in close, never once breaking eye contact with Waverly, giving her every opportunity to step out of her grasp, to stop her, but Waverly doesn’t.

 

And they’re lips meet, hesitantly at first, then suddenly it’s like a dam has broken between them and everything comes flooding out. Nicole’s grip tightens on Waverly’s waist as Waverly’s hands grasp almost desperately onto Nicole’s neck, hidden easily by Nicole’s hair.

 

They’re kisses calm, neither one of them aware of how much time has passed between them as their kisses become less desperate, becoming more like a soothing dance between their souls that only they seem to know the steps to.

 

Nicole’s smile when they eventually break apart is unlike anything that Waverly has ever seen before.

 

“You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that.” Nicole whispers as she gazes into Waverly’s eyes. She’s unwilling to speak too loudly for fear of destroying the moment.

 

“Me too.” Waverly admits, and suddenly there’s a shift inside her, and her eyes seem to dull, because she feels like she’s being yanked out of a dream and forced to come back to a reality that she’s not sure she wants anymore. “I think we’re just drunk.” She says, looking for an out. And Waverly hates herself as she utters those words, hates how quickly Nicole’s smile seems to disappear as her words register in the redhead’s mind.

 

“No, I’m not drunk.” Nicole says with a shake of her head. “Are you drunk?” Searching Waverly’s eyes, silently willing the brunette’s answer to be what she wants to hear no matter how selfish wanting that might make her.

 

“No, I’m not.” Waverly says because she can’t bring herself to lie to her best friend, but she also can’t do this right now. “Nic.” She doesn’t know what else to say, so she just stares into Nicole’s eyes instead, knowing that Nicole will understand what she can’t bring herself to say, because if anybody understands her, it’s Nicole.

 

“You’re really going to marry him?” Nicole asks, and her heart is visibly shattering to pieces again, because she knows without Waverly having to say a word, she knows. And she understands as much as it pains her because she would never pressure Waverly into being something she’s not or being with someone who she doesn’t want to be with. “Okay.” Nicole says as she gives Waverly’s hands a gentle squeeze, not entirely sure when they’d started holding hands.

 

And it sucks, as she watches the brunette’s hands slide out of hers because this is goodbye, and Waverly has no idea yet.

Chapter Text

“Am I upset that Nicole transferred?” Wynonna asks the cameraman and boom operator, barely suppressing the resigned anger in her eyes as she stares them down. “I don’t know… what do you think? I mean, how would you feel if you had to walk into work every day and see someone who’s so-obviously-not your best friend sitting at their desk? Don’t get me wrong – I’m proud of her, so fucking proud of her for getting that promotion because Nicole Rayleigh Haught earned it – but did she really have to transfer to a different branch to get that promotion?” She asks rhetorically. “She’s less than a three-hour drive away, I know that because Doc, Dolls, and I spent the whole weekend helping her move into her new apartment a few weeks ago, but she’s not in Purgatory anymore, so it’s just not the same if I’m riding my motorcycle into the big city and Nicole’s not riding hers by my side.” Wynonna sighs. “Look, I know why she left. I know why she felt like she had to go, and I understand that, I do… I swear I do, but… that doesn’t mean that I don’t miss her like crazy.”

 


 

“Why did I transfer to the big city?” Nicole asks. “I thought that would’ve been obvious.” She says with a shrug of her shoulders, smiling sadly into the camera as her eyes seemed to dull slightly. “I got promoted.”

 


 

 

“Hey, Big Red…” Mercedes greets, smirking to herself when she sees the annoyed yet expectant look on Nicole’s face. “You’re single, aren’t you?”

 

“Uh, yeah, I am.” Nicole confirms.

 

“Do you think she’s hot?” She asks, completely unperturbed by Nicole’s rapidly reddening cheeks. “Oh, come on, there’s no need to be shy with me.”

 


 

“I was chewing gum when Mercedes Gardner introduced herself… Big Red, and I’ve also got red hair, so I kind of brought it on myself. She’s been calling me that for a few weeks now.” Nicole explains with a laugh. “Honestly, I don’t think any of them actually know my real name.”

 


 

 

“So, Nicole thinks I don’t know her name?” Mercedes asks the cameraman and boom operator, laughing lightly when they simply nod their heads. “I mean, I hadn’t actually met her until she started working here, but she dated my little sister for a few months, or weeks, or something like that. I don’t have any hard feelings towards her or anything – Beth can be a bit of a spoiled brat – and I wouldn’t mind being Big Red’s wing-woman, so we’ll see where things go.”

 


 

 

“Nicole seems sweet.” Shae tells the cameraman and boom operator. “I don’t – I don’t know how she’s fitting into this branch yet. I mean, she’s sweet, like I said, but she also seems kind of sad. Like something is weighing her down.” Shae admits, smiling somewhat sullenly.

 


 

 

Champ slowly walks up to the receptionist’s desk, pointedly avoiding eye contact with the salespeople near Wynonna. He clears his throat, waits until Waverly lifts her head up to meet his gaze, and smiles confidently at her. “Hey, Waverly, how – so, uh, are you having a good day?”

 

“Waverly smiles awkwardly. “Uh, yeah… I’m having a great day.”

 

“Oh, good. I’m glad to hear it.”

 

“Great.” Waverly says as she turns her attention back to her computer screen.

 

“Yeah, okay.” Champ says as he walks away.

 

The camera pans to Waverly’s left hand, zooming into her left hand and emphasizing the absence of an engagement and wedding ring.

 


 

 

“Yeah, I didn’t go through with the wedding because I got cold feet a few days before… I can’t – I can’t really explain what made me change my mind, but I knew that I couldn’t continue with that relationship, so I ended it.” Waverly explains as she plays with a loose thread at the bottom of her shirt. “We still had to pay for all of the food, so we separated them equally between Champ and myself. I gave all of the chicken and steak dishes to Wynonna, Mama, Daddy, Doc, and Dolls so that they could split them up amongst themselves and kept the vegan meals for myself.” Waverly shrugs nonchalantly. “I moved into the apartment above Shorty’s Saloon and I’ve started taking classes online. Things are good.”

 


 

“After Waverly broke up with me, I realized that I needed to start taking care of myself again, you know?” Champ asks the cameraman and boom operator, fully expecting them to understand. “Like, I didn’t have a sure thing waiting for me at home anymore, so I started making an effort again – started hitting the gym regularly and watching what I eat – and now when I’m at Shorty’s drinking with the boys, I’ve got women everywhere that want to give me a try.” Champ looks up with a smirk, shrinking back slightly when he sees the unimpressed looks on his audience’s faces. “But uh, honestly? I miss Waverly, and I know that if I gave her the chance to win me back, she wouldn’t take me for granted, but that’s up to her at the end of the day.”

 


 

“I didn’t buy a damn thing for that wedding.” Doc says into the camera, his eyes twinkling in amusement and his mustache twitching as he barely suppresses a smile. “We were hoping that Waverly would eventually come to her senses, and she did, even if she took her time getting there.”

Chapter Text

“Okay. What’s going on with Sanders County Schools?” Jeannie Lucado asks as she looks around the conference room with her hands on her hips and a stern look on her face. “Shae, did you get around to generating a price list yet?” She asks her employee when their gazes meet.

 

“No, not yet.” Shae answers sheepishly as she taps her pen against her legal pad.

 

“Okay, get to it.” Jeannie tells her sternly. “Nicole, can you make sure she does that, please?”

 

“Uh – y – yeah. Sure, I can.” Nicole stutters out. She looks up slowly and reluctantly meets Shae’s gaze. She barely contains a wince when she notices the annoyed look on Shae’s face, but she understands it, and she tries her best to convey that when she gives her a small nod and what she hopes is a reassuring smile.

 

“Great. That’ll be all.” Jeannie says as she gathers her things, gives her employees another stern look, and walks out of the conference room. “Thanks.”

 


 

Shae walks into the break room with her credit card in hand. She looks into the vending machine and her smile drops. “Damn it.” She sighs dejectedly. Her favorite chips are out of stock… again.

 

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Nicole asks as she walks up next to Shae, her sigh loud enough to have caught Nicole’s attention and the disappointed look on Shae’s face enough to keep it.

 

“Oh, it’s nothing…” Shae says, immediately straightening her stance and brushing off Nicole’s concern. “The vending machine is out of Herr’s chips.”

 

“Oh –“

 

“But you don’t have to worry about that.” Shae continues, not registering Nicole’s voice as her earlier annoyance about what Lucado had implied with her request during their morning meeting returns. “My snack preferences don’t fall under the umbrella of your authority.”

 

“Mm… see that’s where you’re wrong.” Nicole tells her with a mock-serious tone as she puts her hands on her hips. “I’m your project supervisor today. And I’ve just decided that we won’t be doing anything until you’ve gotten the chips that you require. So, I think we should start looking. Now, please.”

 

Shae stares at her for a moment. She’s still unsure of what to make of Nicole after a month of working together, but she can’t deny that she’s charmed by the other woman’s behavior, more so when Nicole’s façade starts to crack and a smile teases at her lips. Shae is pretty sure she’s smiling back at Nicole. Damn it.

 


 

 

“Okay…” Nicole sighs out in defeat as she hangs up the phone. “Unfortunately, that’s a ‘no’ on the West Side Market.” She tells Shae as she crosses another store name off her list.

 

“I think that’s enough.” Shae tells her. “Can I please get back to work now?”

 

“Wow.” Nicole says with a mock-disappointed look on her face. “I didn’t see you as a quitter.”

 

Shae scoffs. “I am not a quitter. We can do this all day, if that’s what you want.”

 

“Is that so?” Nicole prompts her, a teasing smirk on her lips.

 

“Yep. All. Day.”

 

“Hey.” Mercedes greets them as she sits down, putting an end to their playful back-and-forth. “What are you two up to? Whatever it is, can I join you?”

 

“Oh, uh –“ Nicole stutters out. She’s uncomfortable and he feels like she’s been caught doing something wrong, but she doesn’t understand why. “We’re uh – we’re just trying to find these chips that Shae wants.”

 

“Oh.” Mercedes says, immediately deflating. “That sounds boring. Did you check the vending machine already?”

 

“Oh, the vending machine!” Shae exclaims. “Why didn’t we think of that?” She asks Nicole with a teasing smile.

 

“I have no idea.” Nicole answers, a confused expression on her face as she furrows her brows. “I mean, we went right for the copier –“

 

“We did.”

 

“And then we checked the fax machine –“

 

“Yeah, there was nothing there.”

 

“Which makes me wonder why fax machines are still a thing at all in this day and age –“

 

“Oh, screw you both.” Mercedes says as she rolls her eyes, gets up, and walks away.

 


 

Perry walks up to the conference room and knocks on the door frame, disrupting the impromptu meeting that Robert had apparently called. “Excuse me, I’m sorry to interrupt this whole thing, but I kind of need to talk to Waverly about something.” He looks around, until he sees Waverly looking at him with a confused look on her face. “There seems to be something wrong with her tires, or the radiator, or something like that.” He finishes awkwardly.

 

“Oh, okay.” Robert says with an understanding smile. “Hurry back, Waverly.”

 

Waverly nods her head, grabs her things, and quickly makes her way out of the conference room.

 

“There’s nothing wrong with your jeep.” Perry admits as soon as they’re both out of earshot from the conference room. “I just thought you’d appreciate a break from whatever nonsense team-building activity Robert has you all doing this morning.”

 

“Oh.” Waverly exclaims, genuinely surprised by his thoughtfulness. They hadn’t spoken much since she’d broken her engagement to Champ, assuming that he wouldn’t want to pick sides since they’d all been friends since high school. She smiles to herself as she grabs her coat and follows after him. “Thanks, Perry. I’d love a break.” She says as she walks out, the door clicking shut behind them.

 


 

 

“How have you been doing since you broke up with Champ?” Perry asks as he pretends to shift some things around under the jeep’s hood. “I’ve been tempted to ask Chrissy about it, but I didn’t want to break any confidentiality rules between you two. I don’t really know where the line is drawn with stuff like that.” He admits with a laugh.

 

Waverly laughs lightly, appreciating his honesty. “I’ve been doing really well, actually.” She says with a smile.

 

“That’s great to hear, Waverly. Seriously.” Perry tells her as he squints at engine label. “I’m not actually going to touch anything because I know Nicole is the one that handles your jeep’s maintenance and I wouldn’t want to mess with her schedule. I’ve seen how she can get when she’s mad. It’s scary.” He admits.

 

Waverly tries to laugh along, but it falls flat. Perry doesn’t notice.

 

“I’ve been talking to Chrissy about us going to the big city to visit Nicole to grab dinner and celebrate her promotion.” Perry continues. “I miss her, so I can only imagine how you, Wynonna, and Doc must be feeling without her here.”

 


 

 Shae walks up to her desk, smiling to herself when she notices what’s sitting on it. “Where did you find them?” She asks.

 

“Where’d I find what?” Nicole asks back, keeping her eyes on her computer screen. She smiles to herself as she hears Shae open the bag of Herr’s chips that she’d left on her desk. She looks at the camera and she smiles again, her eyes lighting up in a way that they haven’t in a long time.

 


 

“I called the manufacturer, who referred me to the distributor, who referred me to the vending machine company which happens to be the same company that Lonnie works for, so I called Lonnie and asked him if he’d be willing to do something for me. He drove to the big city on his day off with an unopened box of Herr’s Salt & Vinegar chips. It wasn’t cheap, but I think it was worth it.”

Chapter Text

Shae sits down at her desk and leans back in her chair, stopping when she hears it squeak. “Hey.” She says, knowing that she already has Nicole’s attention.

 

“What?” Nicole asks without looking away from her computer screen.

 

“My chair is squeaking.”

 

“Is it?”

 

Shae scoffs, unable to hide her amusement. “You took my chair.”

 

“No, I didn’t.” Nicole says as she turns in her seat and meets Shae’s knowing gaze. “I took back the chair you took from me. But I didn’t take your chair.”

 

“I’m just going to take it back when you get up anyway, so…”

 

“So, what I’m hearing is that I can’t get up.”

 

Shae just shrugs with a smirk. Nicole nods once before she pretends to yawn and she pushes her chair out from under her desk, rolling it until she gets to the copier. She meets Shae’s gaze with a challenging one of her own as she puts the form in the scanner and waits for it to copy.

 

Shae tries and fails and hide her smile.

 


 

“Hey, Big Red.” Mercedes says as she walks up to Nicole’s desk. “Can I talk to you about something for a second?”

 

“Sure.” Nicole says as she looks up from the computer screen, giving Mercedes her full attention.

 

“Can you stand up and talk to me over there?” She asks as she awkwardly gestures towards the conference room a few feet away.

 

“Seriously, that’s it?” Shae asks incredulously. “That’s what you came up with?”

 

“Hey, I’m doing the best I can, okay?” Mercedes says, clearly offended. “Have a little bit more respect for my craft, Pressman.”

 

“Really?” Shae asks skeptically.

 

“Yeah, really.” Mercedes says, mocking Shae’s tone. “You’re the one that asked for my help, so I decided to be nice and help.” She walks back to her own desk, muttering angrily to herself.

 

Shae just rolls her eyes and goes back to working on the form on her desk while Nicole looks from the camera to her own computer screen, pressing her lips together tightly to keep herself from laughing.

 


 

 

Shae has decided that the only way to get her chair back is to get on Nicole’s nerves, so she starts moving back and forth, purposefully making her chair squeak rhythmically.

 

Sometimes I feel I’ve got to

 

Run away I’ve got to

 

Nicole starts singing and Shae immediately stops moving. She realizes that Nicole has already caught onto her game and has decided to retaliate in the worst way. “Stop.”

 

Get away from the pain that you drive into the heart of me

 

Shae is clearly agitated by how quickly her plan backfired. She sighs. “That’s not fair, Nicole. It’s going to get stuck in my head all day.”

 

The love we share

 

“This is not an appropriate response.”

 

Seems to go nowhere

 

Nicole doesn’t stop singing, smiling to herself as Shae groans. The camera pans out, showing that Mercedes is signing along with Nicole under her breath.

 

And I’ve lost my light

 

For I toss and turn I can’t sleep at night

 


 

The camera is already panned to Mercedes's chair and it catches to moment when she sits down, and it immediately squeaks under her. Nicole and Shae’s faces can be seen in the shot over their computer screens and they’ve both got their hands covering their mouths to keep their laughter to themselves.

 

Mercedes turns her head to look at them, hoping to catch them looking guilty, but they’re quicker and by the time she’s turned around they’re both pretending to work attentively while she glares at them.

 


 

 

Waverly is getting all of her things together so she can go home. She’s already put her coat on and is getting ready to log out of her computer when the phone rings. She considers letting it go through to the automated system but quickly decides against it. “Dunder Mifflin, this is –“

 

“Waverly, hey.”

 

Waverly feels her heart skip a beat as soon as she hears that voice. She’d recognize it anywhere. “Oh, my god… Nic.”

“Hi.”

 

“Hi.” Waverly breaths out.

 

“I, uh – I’m sorry, I forgot Doc’s extension number. I was talking to a customer today and I got the feeling that he’d have better luck at charming them into a sale than I have, so I wanted to make sure he didn’t miss out on the opportunity.” Nicole explains in a rush.

 

“Oh.”

 

“I was just going to go through the automated system because I assumed you – well, everyone – had gone home already… why are you still at work?” Nicole asks.

 

“Oh, I had to work late.” Waverly tells her. “Constance is making me keep a log of everything Robert does all day.”

 

“Seriously?” Nicole asks rhetorically. Wow. “Do you think you could email me a copy of that log?”

 

“For sure.” Waverly says with an uncomfortable sounding laugh that stabs at her heart because this isn’t them. Awkward conversations with pauses that lasted too long weren’t a thing between them in the past and she finds herself missing those days when she didn’t have to think about what she was going to say to Nicole next. “So –“

 

“So –“

 

“Do you –“

 

“I’m sorry, please go ahead –“

 

“Uh, no –“

 

“Everything is pretty much the same here.” Waverly says, deciding to take control of their conversation and steer it into familiar territory between them.

 

“Oh, that’s good.” Nicole says, clearly confused by the sudden subject change.

 

“Well, it’s a little different, actually. What time is it there?”

 

“What time is it here?” Nicole asks, amusement seeping into her voice. “We’re in the same time zone, Waverly.”

 

“Oh, yeah… right.” Waverly says, covering her face to hide her embarrassment.

 

“How far away did you think I was?”

 

“I don’t know… it feels far.”

 

“Yeah, I know what you’ve mean.” Nicole murmurs back, but she knows it’s dangerous to continue on this route, so she does the only thing she can. She changes the subject. “Hey, I’ve got a question.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

“How many words per minute does the average person type?” Nicole asks.

 

“I type a hundred.”

 

“Shut up.” Nicole exclaims disbelievingly. “No, you don’t.”

 

“Yes, I do.”

 

“Okay, whatever… I said ‘average’ though.”

 

“Seventy? Eighty?

 

“Forget it.”

 

How many do you type?” Waverly asks with an amused smile.

 

“I was going to brag but forget it.” Nicole sighs.

 

“Come on, tell me.”

 

“No.” Nicole pouts.

 

“You have to tell me now.”

 

“Seventy.”

 

Waverly’s laughs and Nicole feels warmth spread from her chest to the tips of her fingers and toes. “Okay, no need to laugh at me.”

 

“I’d never laugh at you, Nicole. It’s – that’s a respectable speed.”

 

“Respectable speed?”

 


 

“Okay, so I’m watching the movie by myself because I just wanted to enjoy a relaxing evening at home –“

 

“Reasonable.” Nicole says.

 

“And I’m freaking out!”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“That movie is so not my thing, but I’m weirdly hooked at and I can’t stop watching because I want to know who’s going around killing all these kids in this small town, right?”

 

“Makes sense.”

 

“Anyway, I watched the whole thing and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, so I ended up buying the boxset and watching the rest of them back to back. I had my own Scream-a-thon in the comfort of my own home.”

 

Wow. You’ve got an apartment to yourself and you’re going wild in it.” Nicole says with a laugh. “I’m happy for you, Waverly. It sounds like you’re doing really well.”

 

“Yeah, I am.” But I miss you so damn much. “It seems like you’re living your best life in the big city. Congratulations on your promotion, by the way.”

 

“Yeah, thanks, Waverly.” Nicole looks at the time on her computer screen. They’ve been talking on the phone for over an hour and as much as a part of her would love to continue their conversation and learn more about what the brunette has been up to in their time apart, she feels drained.

 

Nicole knows she’s made a lot of progress in the time she’s been in the big city, away from Purgatory – the town where she’d had her heart broken – and away from Waverly. She doesn’t want to risk losing what she’s gained by reading too much into anything, so she decides it’s time to end the call. “Hey, it’s getting pretty late and I don’t think either one of us should get home too late.”

 

“Oh… right.” Waverly says, unable to completely mask the disappointment in her voice.

 

“It was great to talk to you again.” Nicole tells her sincerely.

 

“Yeah, it was great to talk to you too.”

 

“Get home safely. Have a good night, Waverly.”

 

“You too, Nic.”