"I didn't know Shorty's had wet T-shirt competitions!"
What the actual hell was that? The words were out before Nicole had a chance to properly vet them and now she had to try and dig her way back out of this arguably inappropriate way to have started a conversation.
The truth was that all her usually on-point assessment of the right thing to say in social situations had gone on pause since the moment she arrived in the bar.
There had been reports of a disturbance at Shorty's the night before, and Nicole had decided to drop by today before opening hours to see if there was any info she could get from Shorty himself. She'd been told already that if Shorty wasn't around, she'd likely end up talking to the girl who worked the bar most frequently, Waverly Earp.
Earp. She'd heard the name a lot since she first arrived in town, but hadn't paid it a whole lot of thought until now. Having stopped in her tracks as she laid eyes on the girl that could only be Waverly Earp herself, the name had come crashing to the forefront of her attention. It was like the world had stopped and for a moment Nicole had forgotten her own body existed. She was just floating in the doorway, gazing over at the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. Reality snapped back suddenly and she took a deep breath, composing herself.
The petite brunette was behind the bar and hadn't seen Nicole arrive, so she'd been considering options for ways to smoothly introduce herself. And then the bar taps had erupted and suddenly all the smooth was gone.
Waverly was clearly startled at the realisation that there was an audience to her technical issue with the tap.
Shit, thought Nicole. Not a good start.
She hurriedly followed up with, "You OK?" hoping it went some way towards minimising the creep-factor of watching in the doorway, jaw gaping as Waverly was doused with chilled beer. That wasn't the sort of first impression she was supposed to make as a Sheriff's Deputy.
Despite the questionable opening line, Waverly's face broke into a smile like a ray of sunshine. Nicole couldn't help but smile back as she approached the bar.
"Yeah," Waverly said, grabbing a towel to mop at her now soaked tank top. "Yeah. I, uh... Just a bit jumpy. Had a... a crazy night."
Crazy night huh? Nicole thought with a grin. "Sorry I wasn't here to see it." she said, placing her stetson down on the bar.
Wait, crazy night. The disturbance. I'm here to ask about the disturbance. Focus Haught, you're working. She has no idea why you're here or who you are even. How about we start with an introduction?
"I've been, uh... I've been meaning to introduce myself. I'm Nicole. Nicole Haught." she offered up a hand which the brunette shook.
"Hi," Waverly said, smiling with her entire face.
Nicole blinked and tried to remember what she'd been planning to say before she'd been distracted by Waverly's dazzling smile and soft handshake.
"And you are Waverly Earp."
Smooth, Haught. Not creepy at all that you already know her name.
Mercifully, Waverly didn't seem bothered by this. "Yes," she confirmed. Perhaps she was used to her reputation preceding her.
Maybe I should give it some context.
"Quite a popular girl around here." Nicole said matter-of-factly. There you go: a totally legit subject of common knowledge and not a creepy-Nicole thing. Good save.
Waverly smiled that smile again and Nicole's heart jumped a little. "Oh, you know, it's all in the smile and wave." The 'smile and wave' that Waverly then demonstrated was so adorable that Nicole could have just melted on the spot right there and then.
"Yeah… " she said vaguely. Damnit get a grip Haught. She had once again forgotten what she was there to ask, so she decided to fill the gap with: "Can I get a cappuccino to go?"
Nicole marvelled as Waverly looked genuinely apologetic as she said "Oh, I'm really sorry. Um, we're not actually open yet so…"
"Oh!" Nicole looked around at the empty bar and remembered that she had deliberately arrived when the place was closed. Smooth. "Right! My bad. It's just when I see something I like, I don't want to wait."
Once again the words were out of her mouth before she'd fully considered them, but she was starting not to care. Talking to Waverly was hypnotic and Nicole felt a pull to succumb to the spell like she'd never experienced before. She decided to pull things back a little though, and added: "And your door was open so…"
"Right," Waverly said somewhat distantly.
Their eyes were locked together and Nicole hardly dared to let herself wonder what might be going on in Waverly's mind. Were they having a moment? It kinda felt like it. A smile broke out on both their faces and suddenly Waverly was laughing nervously and mopping at her own chest with the towel again. "God... Oh, God, I'm sopping wet."
Nicole swallowed hard and tried to keep her breathing steady as her heart thudded heavily. She was absolutely not looking at Waverly's soaked front.
What was happening here? She never got like this around anyone.
"You know, I keep telling Shorty he needs to fix the darn taps," Waverly was still smiling so earnestly that Nicole was entranced. She fought the urge to bite her lip at the endearing way the brunette said the word 'darn'.
"Sorry, do you mind just, uh...?" Waverly did a charming little mime of covering her eyes and Nicole realised she was being asked for some privacy. Some privacy because she needed to do something to sort out the soggy tank top situation. Because she needed to remove the tank top.
Nicole's heart thudded away in her chest as she turned away, hoping that Waverly hadn't noticed her eyes widen as she'd caught on. She heard the rustling of clothing behind her and then the subtle ripping of stitches.
Had it gotten warm in here?
"Oh! Oh, crap! Um... Uh, uh, officer, I'm stuck…"
Nicole turned to see the brunette's head and arms tangled up in her half-off top.
"Oh!" for just a fleeting moment Nicole's eyes slipped down to Waverly's bare stomach. Gulp. "Yeah, let me help you." she sped around the bar, trying like hell to look anywhere else as she helped lift the tangled top over Waverly's head with a laugh. "I got you." she said, settling to look back into Waverly's eyes.
Waverly was chuckling, apparently unphased by the scenario up until this point. "Oh, God! Good job you're not some guy, right, or this would be really, really awkward.."
A cog seemed to have clicked into place in Waverly's mind as she finished her sentence and became aware of the now small space between them. She was looking at Nicole and it was clearly dawning on her that perhaps the reasons she thought might make this encounter awkward with a guy, also applied here. For a brief moment they locked eyes again and Nicole felt her heart actually flutter a little.
Waverly was beautiful.
She felt the proximity to the girl in front of her like some sort of electric field, sending tingles down her spine and goosebumps across her skin. She almost didn't dare want to hope, but from the look in her eyes it felt for just a second like maybe Waverly might have felt something too. The moment seemed to last forever until suddenly it was over and Waverly was making conversation again.
"Uh... Um... I-I owe you one."
The last remaining shred of cool left in Nicole immediately saw and seized the opportunity. The calm and confident version of herself she was usually able to maintain started to resume control.
Fortune favours the bold…
"Alright, well, how about you buy me that cup of coffee?" she said, How about tonight?"
She held her breath.
"Oh, I can't," Waverly replied so quickly and firmly that it was all Nicole could do to suppress the disappointed sigh that tried to break out.
But Waverly wasn't done.
"No. I mean, I'd love to, but... like, like to, uh... but I have plans. Yeah. I'm a planner. I like to know what I'm doing at least two or three days in advance." Nicole found herself smiling despite the rejection; it was impossible not to listen to this girl's awkward ramble and not be simply enchanted by her.
And then she got to the crux of it: "I'm... I'm in a relationship. With a boy. Man."
There it was.
"A boy-man." Nicole nodded knowingly.
Of course there was a boy-man. Nicole felt foolish for having thought that would ever not be a boy-man. This was her cue to leave, before she could no longer hide the dejected feeling from her face. Nicole steeled herself and took a slow amble back around to the other side of the bar to retrieve her stetson. "Yep, I've been there. It's the worst." She maintained her jovial tone though she certainly didn't feel it inside. Inside she felt…
Well OK, so she'd have to just deal with the fact that this beautiful, charming and mesmerising woman was straight and unavailable, but there was no reason they couldn't be friends. She knew already that she wanted to see Waverly again, no matter what capacity it was in. And something… Something about the way Waverly looked at her made her feel like maybe she wanted to see Nicole again too. She'd take what she could get.
"OK, well, some other time," Nicole said, putting her card down on the bar as she grabbed her hat and made for the door.
They could totally be friends, right?
"I mean it," she added, with what she hoped was a friendly smile as she looked back over her shoulder. She couldn't seem to stop herself throwing in a flirtatious smile as she placed her hat back on her head. Waverly watched her go, still clutching her soggy top with an expression that Nicole couldn't place.
As she turned to walk away she thought she saw a different kind of smile creep onto Waverly's face out of the corner of her eye. Was she… Checking her out? Too late - she'd turned away fully and couldn't very well perform a less than suave double-take to look back and check for sure.
It was an effort to keep walking out the door.
She stepped out into the street and was greeted by a cool, sobering breeze. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to shake the feeling that she'd just met someone very important. She couldn't physically contain the dopey smile that she knew was plastered all over her face and she mostly didn't care. The day seemed brighter than it had before, and she could feel the spring in her step ready to carry her away down the street.
Then her eyes pinged back open and she gave herself a mental kick.
Goddamn it Haught, you didn't ask a single question about the disturbance.
She prided herself on having never been one of those 'useless lesbians' before. Oh well. There was a first time for everything. It wouldn't be the last.