“Thank you. Yes, Ma’am. Yes, I understand. Thank you again… Fuck.” Nicole Haught groaned into her hands after she hung up her phone and tossed it down on the table beside her. “God damn, son of a- Waverly! Hi!” The string of profanities abruptly ended as the youngest Earp walked up to the deputy’s table.
“Hey, yourself.” Waverly beamed at her, switching out her empty cup of coffee for a fresh one. Nicole hadn’t asked for another cup, but she’d been nursing the empty one for twenty minutes now. Waverly had taken it upon herself to get her a refill.
"How’s the apartment hunting going?”
“Terribly.” Nicole sighed. Picking up her red pen, she scribbled out the fifth ad she’d circled in the local paper. “This town doesn’t have a lot of options when it comes to renting.”
“This town doesn’t have a whole load of anything.” Waverly pointed out. Pulling out the chair opposite Nicole’s, she sat down and picked up the paper, scrutinizing the adds that Nicole had yet to cross off. “Ooh, here’s a good one. One bedroom, luxury apartment, with on-site super.”
“Yeah, I already called. It’s a dude renting out a room in his house. A house he still shares with his mother; and seven cats.”“Well, you’re a cat person?” Waverly suggested, wearing her trademark optimistic grin.
Nicole rolled her eyes as she took the paper back from her. Scanning her eyes over the page, she picked up on a small add that she’d missed earlier. “This looks promising. One bedroom apartment in a duplex. Central location... Hell, it’s within spitting distance of the station. Rent isn’t too steep either.”
“Let me see.” Waverly leaned over the table to peer at the ad, her hair falling down around her face like a curtain. It smelled like honey and almonds, and a strand of it tickled against Nicole’s cheek. The young deputy tensed, holding her breath in a vain attempt not to inhale the other girl’s rich scent.
“Oh, you can forget about that one.” Waverly dismissed with a wave of her hand, finally pulling back to sit down again. “That’s old Mrs Thompson’s building. She only rents to couples.”
“What is this, the fifties?” Nicole cracked a smile, showing off two rows of pearly white teeth. “I’m going to give her a call.”
“I wouldn’t.” Advised Waverly, with a shake of her head. “Mrs Thompson doesn’t rent to single people. Everyone in town knows that.”
“But… I’m a cop!” Nicole spluttered. “I mean, that’s illegal! She can’t refuse to let to me because I’m single!”
“Well, you could go to Nedley about it… but seeing as she’s his aunt, it probably won’t get you anywhere.” The younger girl shrugged, deflating Nicole altogether.
“How long till your old landlord sells your place?”
“Gary already sold it. The new buyers move in next Thursday, and I have six days to find a new place to live. Which, you know, also illegal.”
“Gary’s Nedley’s cousin.” Waverly pointed out with a sympathetic note in her voice.
“I hate small towns.” Nicole took another heavy sigh, slumping forwards on the table.
“Hey now.” Waverly placed her hand on the deputy’s arm in an attempt to console her. “Purgatory has it fair share of problems, but isn’t all bad.” She squeezed Nicole’s arm lightly before heading off to serve a customer waiting over by the bar.
“No, no it's not.” Nicole agreed whimsically, trying not to stare as Waverly ducked under the bar to see to her thirsty patrons. “This place does have its attractions.”
“And that’s the end of the tour. It’s a little small, but I reckon it’s homely.” Margery Thompson did a little flourish with her hands, both of them almost touching walls at opposite ends of the kitchen. ‘Homely’, Nicole figured, was country for tiny. She could hardly grumble, though, not when the rent was fifty bucks cheaper than her current place, and a stone’s throw away from the station. Nicole wasn’t much of a cook anyhow. There was a fridge and a microwave and that would just about see her through.
“Yes ma’am, it’s charming.” Nicole laid the charm on thick, just like she had done when she’d called to arrange a viewing of the apartment. She was still dressed in her work uniform and standing at ease with her hands on her belt. “I’d love to take it off your hands, that is if you’ll have me.” Nicole flashed her a smile.
“Well, I’ve heard great things from Gary Telford. I called him after your call yesterday and he was singing your praises. It’s such a shame he had to sell up.”
“That it is.” Nicole agreed, finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. The way the old woman was talking, she had the apartment in the bag. “I have to be out in five days. I have money for a deposit, and I’m more than willing to pay a month or two in advance-”
“That’s just swell.” Margery fluffed at her permed hair. The blue rinse gave her skin a sallow look. “Other than some boring paperwork, there’s just one more formality to get through.”
“Oh? What’s that?”
“I just need to meet your partner, dear.”
“Partner?” Nicole frowned. “I don’t actually work with a partner, the station’s pretty small and-”
“No, no, dear. You’re partner.” Margery repeated with a small chuckle. “It’s okay, you don’t have to be coy. Nedley, my sweet nephew, told me you were a homosexual. I have no problem whatsoever with your kind. I do, however, make a habit of only renting to couples. It’s so much safer. Keeps out the riff-raff you know.”
“Right.” Nicole agreed, nodding dumbly. “So you need to meet my uh…”
“Wife? Or fiancee, or-”
“Girlfriend?” Nicole finished for her. Margery nodded, smiling kindly and waiting for her to elaborate on which it was. “Right. You need to meet my girlfriend. She couldn’t be here this afternoon, but I will absolutely bring her by tomorrow.”
“Wonderful!” The old lady clapped her hands together. “You bring her on by tomorrow and we’ll sort out the paperwork.”
“Great.” Nicole forced a smile, her cheeks aching from the effort as her heart sunk. Waverly had been right after all.
“Hey, Nicole! Usual?” Waverly greeted the other woman with a wide-eyed smile. Usually, the sight of Waverly Earp alone would be enough to cheer Nicole up, but even Waverly couldn’t lift her spirits.
“Actually, I’ll take a beer.” Nicole took her hat off and placed it down on the bar beside her. It was just before happy hour, and the place was practically deserted.
Waverly quirked a brow at the request but turned to get her a beer anyway. “Drinking on a school night, huh?” She smirked as she popped the bottle top off and slid the beer on over to her. “Must have been one hell of a day.”
“I went to see that apartment. The one Margery Thompson is letting.”
“Really? What was it like? Did you get it?” Waverly was like a five-year-old on a sugar trip as she leant eagerly across the bar.
“It was great. And, uh… yeah. She sort of offered it to me.” Nicole took a hefty swig of her beer.
“Yeah. The place is mine if I want it… Well, mine and my girlfriend’s.”
“You have a girlfriend?” Waverly demanded, brow knitting in confusion. Her cheeks coloured as she stood back up, trying not to show how much it bothered her.
"No. That’s the problem.” Nicole deadpanned, resting her chin in her hand. “You were right. Margery Thompson will only rent to couples. I told her I had a girlfriend, and that we’d stop by to sign the papers tomorrow. So I’m basically screwed, and in a few days I’ll be homeless.”
“You told her you were seeing someone? And you’re not, right?” Waverly clarified, trying to keep up with her. Nicole nodded in the affirmative. “Why don’t you just pretend to be dating someone? Take them along with you to sign the papers and be done with it?”
“That’s a great idea!” Nicole perked up. Why hadn’t she considered that? She just needed Margery to think she had a partner, that’s all. Nicole wore a coy smile as she trailed the tip of her finger around the rim of her beer bottle. “I’d just need a real good friend to do me a solid and-”
“Nicole Haught, are you asking me to be your pretend girlfriend?” Waverly teased, her eyes alight with
“Unless you’ve got a better offer?” Nicole decided to poke fun, just to see how far she could push it.
“Hmm, well I was thinking of washing my hair.” Waverly laughed, flicking out her hair with an exaggerated sigh. Nicole froze, her thoughts turning to the sweet scent of honey and almonds. Her smile wavered. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
“Uh, in that case, I could ask Wynonna instead-”
“Yeah, good luck with that. Mrs Thompson hates Wynonna. Unless Doc or Dolls are next on your list, it looks like you’re stuck with little ol’ me.”
“I suppose you’ll do.” Nicole smirked at the look of contempt she received from the younger girl.
“Small town, remember? Limited options.” Waverly smirked back at her as she snatched her beer bottle out of her hand and helped herself to a drink. “Better get used to it, Deputy.”
“You’re sure about this?” Nicole asked for the dozenth time as she glanced over at Waverly in the passenger seat beside her. “You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. I can turn back now. I’ll move back into the motel-”
“The motel is so bad that even the roaches stay away.” Waverly rolled her eyes at the sheriff’s deputy. “This is totally fine. It’s going to work. I am excellent girlfriend material.”
“You sure are.” Nicole muttered under her breath as she steered the car into an empty parking space out in front of Margery’s building. She killed the engine and took a deep breath, trying to summon the courage to step outside the car. Waverly beat her to it.
“Come on slow-coach!”
“That girl’s going to be the death of me.” Nicole shook her head, before pushing open the door of her cruiser and stepping out to follow her. “Waverly, I’m not so sure about this-”
“Officer Haught!” Margery Thompson appeared at the top of the small set of steps that led up to the building’s front door. She was wearing a garish yellow dress, which clashed terribly with her blue rinse. She waved at Nicole, but her attention was fixed on Waverly.
“Waverly Earp, as I live and breathe!” The old woman didn’t stand on ceremony as she hurried down the steps and flung her arms around the tiny girl. “How are you, my dear? Don’t tell me you’re the lucky girl dating this fine young officer?”
“Guilty as charged.” Waverly laughed. She was a natural with people and it showed in the way she wrapped the older woman around her little finger. “It is so good to see you, Mrs Thompson. I missed you at Shorty’s last Wednesday.” Wednesday was bingo night, and Margery Thompson rarely missed a session.
"Why thank you, Waverly. I couldn’t go on account of my hip playing up. These old bones ain’t what they used to be.”
“Oh, come on Mrs T. You’re barely a day over forty-five.”
“And the rest!” Margery chuckled, linking her arm into Waverly’s as she made her way back up the steps. “Come along, Nicole. We’ll go inside and fill out those forms.”
Less than an hour later, Nicole was sitting on the couch of her new - fully furnished - apartment. It had been so much easier than she was expecting. Waverly had charmed the pants off of her new landlord. Mrs Thompson had even given her a discount on the first month’s rent. “You are incredible.” Nicole beamed at her. “Seriously. You’re something else, Waverly Earp.”
“You’re not too shabby yourself.” Waverly laughed, throwing herself down onto the couch beside her. She propped her feet up on the coffee table, glancing around at Nicole’s new place. “You owe me big time for this.”
“How about coffee?” Nicole suggested, making Waverly’s face scrunch up.
“Nice try. I’m thinking at least dinner.”
“Hey, let me get that for you!” Nicole stepped forward to help her elderly landlady as she struggled with two overstuffed bags of groceries.
“Thank you, Deputy Haught.” Mrs Thompson eagerly handed the bags over, letting Nicole take them as they climbed the few steps up to the communal entrance of their building.
Nicole had been living in her new apartment for a little over a week. She’d bumped into Margery more times in the hall than she’d have liked, but the eccentric old woman wasn’t too bad. Margery lived on the first floor, while Nicole was up on the third. The deputy walked past the staircase, carrying the bags right up to her landlady’s door.
“Thank you, Dear.” Margery beamed at her like a kindly old grandma. There was a sharpness to her eyes, though. Like she was still sizing her newest resident up. “I haven’t seen much of Waverly.” Her tone was sugar sweet but laced with accusation.
“Uh…Um…” Nicole stammered, struggling to come up with a convincing reason why her supposed girlfriend - not to mention flatmate - hadn’t been around since the first day they’d moved in. “Waverly is…uh… Still packing.” She finished lamely, offering Margery a weak smile.
“She’s moving in this weekend.” Nicole elaborated, the lie quickly spinning out of her control. “We weren’t really expecting to move in together this soon, but things just kind of fell into place.”
“Hmm.” Margery made a clucking noise with her tongue and Nicole was sure she’d seen right through her lie as her eyes narrowed. She held her breath, waiting for the inevitable. “Waverly is a sweet child, and Lord knows she’s been through a lot in her short time on this earth. Just you remember that, Deputy. That Waverly Earp is an angel, and you best treat her as such!”
“Yes… Yeah. Of course.” Nicole was growing flustered as she set the bags of groceries down on the floor by her neighbour’s door. “Trust me, ma’am, I’m all too aware of just how special Waverly is.” Margery carried on staring her down until she suddenly seemed happy with the answer.
“Good.” She gave a stout nod, thanking Nicole once again for helping her inside. Nicole tipped her hat at the old woman before scrambling up the stairs to the third floor. She shrugged off her jacket and tossed her hat onto the side table by the front door. Her phone was in her hand before she knew it and her fingers were deftly dialing Waverly’s number.
“Pick up. Pick up…” Nicole paced impatiently back and forth in the living room, willing Waverly to answer her phone already. It was still early, so she probably hadn’t left for work yet. “Come on, come on…”
“Nicole? What’s up?” Waverly answered cheerfully on the other end. “We don’t have plans do we?” She sounded uncertain for a second. Waverly wasn’t the type to normally forget about social engagements.
“No, no. I uh, are you working tonight?”
“Nope. Got the night off.” Waverly answered rather quickly. “How about you?”
“Great. I just got off work. Would you… do you want to come by?”
“Give me half an hour.”
“Going somewhere?” Wynonna had been eavesdropping by her sister’s bedroom door. It was hardly the first time. She wore a smug grin as she propped herself against the wall. “Hot date?” Wynonna waggled her eyebrows suggestively at Waverly. She’d broken up with Champ weeks ago now. In her sister’s opinion, it was definitely time for Waverly to get back in the saddle.
“Uh… sort of.” Waverly blushed. She hadn’t told Wynonna about her and Nicole’s little arrangement yet. “Actually, I’m going over to Nicole’s new place.”
"Haught got a new place? Where’s she staying? Not a lot of options in this town. I half expected her to end up on our couch.”
“Oh. Well. She’s staying in that apartment complex a few blocks over from the station.” Waverly deliberately kept her answers vague.
“By the station?” Wynonna took a minute to mull it over. There wasn’t a whole lot of town, so it didn’t take her long to figure out which building Waverly was referring to. “That old windbag Mrs Thompson’s place?”
“Yeah. That one.”
“Huh. I didn’t know Haught-stuff was seeing anyone. Who’s the lucky fella?”
"Seriously?” Waverly gave her older sister a deadpan stare of disbelief. “Nicole is… Officer Haught is-”
“As bent as a three dollar bill?” Wynonna cracked a smile at her own joke, ignoring the glare Waverly sent her way. “Yeah, I’m not blind. Who’s she shacked up with anyway?”
Something about Wynonna’s smug grin set something off in the youngest Earp. Wanting to wipe that smile right off of her sister’s face, Waverly placed her hands on her hips and lifted her chin, before boldly answering with, “Me.”