Nicole Haught had never written in books. Call it what you will-- habit, perfectionism, a deep-rooted fear of ruining things-- she had never been the kind of person who highlighted favorite passages or scrawled exclamation points in the corners of particularly evocative sentences. She only ever initialed them, three small letters in painstaking pen in the top left corner of the front cover so they could be properly returned to their owner.
Her soulmate, apparently, felt entirely differently on the matter.
From the age of twenty-one, she had found her arms coated with the neat, curvy writing of her soulmate in a blue so bright you might mistake it for the sky. She'd known her entire life that soulmates are connected with each other through something specific to them, but being that Nicole had never had any outlandish experiences before turning twenty-one, she had kind of figured hers just hadn't made itself known yet. She didn't really think she'd been interacting with the connection her entire life, slowly outlining NRH into corners for two decades. In fact, the only reason Nicole had figured out the book thing had been a bit of a fluke. One day, upon careful inspection of the blue lettering around the curve of her inner elbow, she'd found the words everytime i read this it gets better resting just above "mrs. darcy!!!" Nicole had only read Pride and Prejudice once, but she recognized the character name immediately. Honestly, it was still kind of a working theory. Did her soulmate just write constantly in one copy of Pride and Prejudice? Did she make careful notes in a notebook as she read? Was it actually typing on a computer (sometimes, this theory made more sense-- for instance, in June, Nicole had had the word lesbian with half a dozen question marks emblazoned across her shoulder)? There was something of a lack of data regarding soulmates, especially since no one pair was the same, and more often than not, Nicole felt a little left in the dark.
She rolled her fingertips thoughtfully over another set of words (peacemaker and note to self: library for seventy sev) at her desk and let her mind wander for half a second. That half a second was quickly cut short by the storm of the Earp sisters blazing through the front doors. Wynonna's gun was prominently displayed, hooked into her belt, and she walked a step faster than her sister, aiming for the doors to Black Badge. Waverly kept pace, angrily stomping behind (though whether the emotion was directed at Wynonna or not was unclear) and soon, the two disappeared into the BBD office. One day, Nicole thought to herself, I'll find out what the hell is going on in there. She'd already let herself be distracted for too long, though-- the paperwork on her desk was starting to look more and more intimidating the longer she put it off. She snagged a pen from her drawer and got back to business.
Not even ten minutes later, the door to the BBD office opened, a furious Waverly Earp looking like she was on a warpath behind it. Nicole, along with the rest of the bullpen, glanced up. Waverly had the good grace to look a little embarrassed at her display, but she was still shifting angrily in front of the door. Nicole put her pen down and made a beeline for her, nodding her head at the break room. Waverly looked like she might stay rooted in her place, but Nicole stood firm, gesturing again away from the prying eyes of other officers. Waverly took a deep breath and relented.
"So," Nicole began, closing the door behind the two of them, "what happened?"
Waverly collapsed into one of the plastic chairs at the table with a huff. "Nothing."
Nicole chuckled and poured Waverly a cup of station coffee, prefacing the hand-off with "Not Purgatory's best, obviously, but..." Waverly smiled as she accepted it and Nicole took the brief shift in mood to push on. "Doesn't look like nothing. You looked pretty pissed back there, Wynonna too."
"Thanks for your concern," Waverly started and then seemed to realize it sounded pretty sarcastic coming out, so she changed course to, "Really, Nicole, thank you for caring. It's just..." She trailed off.
Nicole leaned on the table, smiling down at the brunette. "Black Badge business, huh?"
Waverly nodded, half-deflated. Something like a pout came over her features and Nicole resisted the urge to press a finger against it. "I wish I could tell you about it, Nicole. It's--"
"-- Classified," Nicole intoned, a poor man's imitation of Xavier Dolls. It did the trick, though, surprising a laugh out of Waverly. Nicole grinned in return, dimples popping into view. "See," she said, reaching a teasing hand out to touch Waverly's shoulder, "I can help. You don't even have to break the rules to let me."
Waverly giggled and made to return the gesture with the body part of Nicole's she could reach-- her thigh. Nicole did her best not to stop breathing as Waverly squeezed gently. "I know. Thank you, honestly. It means a lot that you care. The station is, uh, not the ideal place to have a crisis, but you make it a little easier on a girl."
Nicole tilted her head questioningly. "Then how come you're here?"
"How come you're in the station if that's not gonna be any good, Waves?" The nickname slipped out of its own accord, an endearment she'd heard Wynonna call her sister a few times and hadn't meant to pick up on. Waverly blushed and Nicole did too, fighting to keep her eyes on Waverly's. Nicole was the first to recover. She had always been quick on her feet. "Take a break."
That had come out wrong, she knew, especially with the rush of one breath it had taken her to say it. Waverly furrowed her eyebrows and Nicole's eyes widened. "Shit, Waverly-- I mean... I mean take a break for now. Away from Black Badge. Take lunch, even. I can take mine and we can just get you out of this headspace, some room away from Dolls and Wynonna to breathe, to think..."
Waverly's frown melted into a smile. "Aren't I usually the rambler, officer?" She teased, and Nicole felt herself flush an even brighter red than before. Luckily, Waverly took pity on her. "Relax, Nicole. That sounds awesome. I'd love to."
"Great! Awesome." Nicole paused for a second and gathered their half-empty coffee mugs, setting them into the sink to soak. "Could I convince you to grab lunch with me at my place? I'd normally do Shorty's this time of day, but it seems like a waste to make you go somewhere you can't sit back and relax." She very carefully did not mention that it also seemed silly to go to Shorty's with her reason for taking her lunches there sitting right here already. When she turned to look at Waverly again, the brunette was considering her thoughtfully, a warmth in her eyes that shot straight up Nicole's spine.
"Yeah," Waverly said finally, "sounds good."
Nicole had never been more thankful that she lived around the corner. Not even five minutes of driving with Waverly Earp tailing her in her Jeep had her tapping her fingers against the wheel, ready to see the other woman again. Nicole knew she was a massive lesbian, but the feeling Waverly Earp gave her, like she was settling into a familiar blanket on her couch, was something she had never experienced before. She was more than happy to spend her lunch break today with her and relish in the feeling a little longer.
"So this is it, huh?" Waverly asked from behind her, once they'd pulled into the driveway. Nicole smiled and gestured widely with her arm, realizing belatedly it was the first time Waverly had even been to her apartment.
"Yup," she replied, "this is where the magic happens. Uh--"
Waverly only laughed. "It's fine, Nicole. I'm sure you have lots of magic happening here. I just don't think I want to have that discussion with you."
"It's... I haven't really had anyone round since I moved out here."
Waverly blinked. A slow, pleased smile tugged at the edges of her lips. "Oh."
Nicole filed that information away for later and slid her key into the lock. "Here we go." She said, just to move the conversation along. Waverly followed behind and slipped past her into her kitchen.
"Oh my goodness, aren't you the cutest!" Waverly said suddenly, and Nicole peered down to meet the unblinking green eyes of Calamity Jane, who seemed ever so pleased to be the subject of Waverly's attention. That Nicole could relate to.
"That's CJ," Nicole said, rolling up her sleeves and starting to pull out the ingredients to make them both grilled cheese, "Calamity Jane."
Waverly made a cooing sound and scratched the cat behind the ears. "Awww, and she's so cute! Yes, she is!" She broke away from her reverie to direct her next statement at Nicole. "I didn't know you had a cat!"
"Bit of a lesbian stereotype, huh?" Waverly made a gesture with her fingers to imply that, yes, it was, but only a bit, and Nicole swatted her with a dish towel. "Hey now! Do you want grilled cheese or not?"
"Ooh, yes please!" Nicole watched as the brunette stood from talking to CJ, washing her hands at the kitchen sink and then turning to face Nicole with a dazzling smile. "Care for a sous chef?"
Nicole grinned. "Sure. We respect proper health and safety in this kitchen, though, so if you're gonna work..." She held out her wrist, three hair ties resting in a stack. "Up." Briefly, she saw Waverly's eyes scan across her marks, but she said nothing and simply turned around.
"Will you do it? Just washed my hands."
Nicole had never been able to say no to a pretty girl. She gathered Waverly's hair between her fingers, running her hand across the edges to smooth it into a ponytail, and pulled it through one of the elastics on her wrist. Yup. She was sunk. Nicole hoped her soulmate wouldn't mind if she took some time to fall head over heels for Waverly Earp. "Alrightie," she said as she finished, squeezing Waverly's shoulder, "all set. Now grab me the butter from the fridge while I wash my hands."
Waverly complied and the pair found themselves falling into a companionable silence while they cooked, only broken by the occasional request from Nicole to hand her something or turn the burner down. Once they'd finished, Nicole served the sandwiches onto two separate plates and handed one off to Waverly. "The kitchen table good?" She asked.
Now, in the quiet closeness of eating their lunch, Nicole found Waverly's eyes glancing at her marks more often than not. Finally, in an attempt to satisfy Waverly's apparent curiosity, Nicole spoke up. "Since I was twenty-one," she said, and Waverly snapped out of her thoughts, eyes finding Nicole's again.
"The marks. I started getting them when I was twenty-one. Not the day I turned it, obviously, but--"
"--In September," Waverly interrupted, though the statement was phrased almost like a question. Nicole nodded.
"Early September," she added, trying not to get too focused on the possibilities arising from Waverly knowing the month she'd started getting her soul marks. Waverly's fingers came up to trace the lettering around Nicole's wrist gently, almost as if by accident. The hairs on Nicole's arm stood on end. "...Waves?"
"What does the R stand for?" Waverly asked in a small voice.
"Rayleigh," Nicole answered, wavering on the second syllable.
"Nicole Rayleigh Haught," Waverly said, fingers still aimlessly looping across Nicole's wrist.
"Waverly?" The pieces were sliding together now, but Nicole wasn't willing to make the final connections on her own. "Waverly, what's going on?" She put as much gentleness and warmth into her voice as she could and watched Waverly's shoulders relax, felt her hand flatten out across the plane of her wrist and press against her pulse point.
"Um, I... I'm your soulmate." Waverly said, looking like she'd just given Nicole the worst news of her life. Nicole eased her hand down into Waverly's, lacing their fingers together. She squeezed.
Waverly nodded, eyes miraculously finding every which way but Nicole to look. Nicole squeezed her hand again. "Waverly?" She refused to look up, so Nicole tried again. "Waves?" Waverly still kept her eyes away from Nicole's, but Nicole was undeterred. She hooked a finger under Waverly's chin with her free hand and eased her chin up until their gazes met. "Hey, pretty lady," she said gently, and Waverly smiled, but there was still an element of sadness to it. "Talk to me."
"I can't," Waverly replied, and the tears that thickened her voice sent a pang into Nicole's chest.
"Oh, Waves..." She adjusted their position to pull the other girl into a hug, whispering against the crown of Waverly's head as she cried into her uniform shirt. When Waverly had gathered herself again, Nicole heard her chuckle bitterly.
"Look at this, I can't even do this right."
"What do you mean? Nothing wrong with crying, Waves."
Waverly fisted a hand in Nicole's shirt like she was making sure she was still solid. "No, it's... I have to keep you safe. Wynonna and Dolls-- Doc... I can't-- I have to do this, I can't... my soulmate and..." The explanation, if you could even call it that, was unintelligible, but it still affected Nicole.
She tightened her hold on Waverly and then, softly, without knowing exactly what ground she was treading onto, murmured, "Your soulmate's a cop, Waves. We go where the danger is."
"God," Waverly said into her shoulder, still teary, "that's so hot." She felt Waverly chuckle, the noise vibrating against her.
"Tell me what's going on," Nicole said, and Waverly leaned back just far enough to look at her, keeping Nicole's grip secure against her back.
"I don't like lying to you," Waverly replied, and she stopped for half a second to take a deep, wavering breath between thoughts, "soulmate or not, so I won't. But it isn't all my story to tell. I just... knowing you were a hot rookie cop who I liked was fine, I could put distance there. It's... really hard to keep that distance when you're my soulmate."
"Then don't," Nicole said. "Just talk to me."
Waverly made a little hiccup of a laugh. "You make it sound so easy."
"It can be," Nicole replied, adjusting her grip on Waverly to let her hands rest on the small of her back, "promise."
Waverly looked at her for a moment, lost in thought. "I kept you safe before," she said, finally, "but now that you know, I can't. How's that easy?"
Nicole, who still had no idea what they were talking about, took a minute to consider this. "Well," she began, "I guess it's not easy in that regard. In some ways, I think having a soulmate is the hardest thing anyone ever has to do. But it means you have a safe place, a rock to come home to. Somebody to trust. Somebody who trusts you. I think I'm willing to put myself into some pretty sticky situations to keep you around."
Waverly regarded her again. "I can't lose you, Nic." It was the first time Waverly had ever used a nickname for Nicole and Nicole fought the feeling it brought up low in her belly. Instead, she ran a soothing hand up Waverly's spine.
"So you won't." Like it was as simple as that.
Waverly kissed her. It was something Nicole had spent a long time imagining, possibly since she'd first met the Earp, and now, sitting here in her kitchen with Waverly practically in her lap, Nicole thought maybe she had never done it justice in her imagination. When they separated for air, Nicole grinned. "So," she said, leaning her forehead against Waverly's, "are we alright?"
"Alright," Waverly replied, "is a strong word. But I'm feeling pretty thankful for you right about now."
It turns out that, after kissing Waverly once, Nicole hadn't really wanted to stop. She was lucky she had a timer set for her lunch break-- half an hour after leaving the station, it dinged on her phone, surprising her out of her latest press of lips to the other woman. "Shit."
Waverly laughed. "Guess that means the fun is over. C'mon. Let's get this over with."
Nicole followed Waverly this time, pulling in a few minutes after they probably should have (though they'd meant to leave right as the alarm went off, they'd gotten a little... sidetracked). Pushing the door open, they found Wynonna seated at Nicole's desk, feet propped up and eyes narrowed in their direction.
"Hey, weirdo," she directed at Waverly, "weirdos," she amended, nodding her head to Nicole.
"Wynonna. Why are you at my desk?"
"Waiting for Waves here to get back. No need to get your panties in a twist, Red." Wynonna smirked at the raised eyebrow that earned.
Waverly, who had been on a real roller coaster of emotions this afternoon, promptly remembered why she and Nicole had originally left the station, shooting a glare her sister's way. "Why, want to knock down a few more of my ideas?" She asked, bubbling over with anger again.
Wynonna held up her hands in surrender. "Hey, c'mon. Let's not do this here." She gestured at the bullpen around them and then, very pointedly, to Nicole, who stood right next to Waverly.
"You're right," Waverly said, grabbing Nicole by the shirtsleeve, "let's go do this with Dolls. I have some news to share and then a bone to pick with both of you. Or maybe the other way around, depending on how these next few seconds go."
"Hey, she can't come! No flatfeet allowed. I'm gonna make a sign."
"Oh, come off it, Wynonna. I trust Nicole and I'm not about to leave my soulmate out here while I chew yours and Dolls' heads off. I have to have somebody level-headed in that room."
"Your what now?"
Waverly shifted her grip to Nicole's actual arm, clutching it between both hands like a lifeline. "Uh..."
Nicole held up her other arm, bright blue writing stark as ever against her skin. "Soulmate," she repeated, and Wynonna advanced on her, grabbing her arm to examine it.
"Christ, Waverly, Haught looks like every book you've ever owned." Wynonna twisted Nicole's arm, not too nicely, and found a patch of skin above her elbow where Waverly's neat handwriting had written TELL DOLLS with three exclamation points. "... Is Haught every book you've ever owned?"
Waverly smacked her sister's hand away. "That's none of your business, Wynonna," she said, "plus, I haven't looked that carefully yet."
"Aw, hell," Wynonna said, looking Nicole up and down, "does that mean all those NRH's on her legs are yours? Boring, Haught. Live a little. Write in a book like, once, ever. Break a rule."
Waverly was wearing jeans at the moment, so Nicole had no way of confirming this fact, but she let her eyes drop to Waverly's thighs and watched the brunette blush hotly. Feeling bold, she replied, "I like to mark what's mine." She watched Waverly's blush flood across the rest of her face. Wynonna made a face.
"Gross, dude. Guess this means you're coming to the offices, huh?" Wynonna had seemingly already accepted the fact, but as she finally said it out loud, Nicole watched a fraction of the stress disappear from Waverly's shoulders. Evidently, she'd thought this was going to be more of a fight. Waverly nodded and tightened her grip on Nicole. "Well," Wynonna said, swinging open the door to Black Badge, "good luck with us. We're a real fuckshit crew."
"Dunno," Nicole replied, reaching down to squeeze Waverly's hands reassuringly where they were wrapped around her forearm, "I don't think you're too bad."