We're onto 1x07 now guys but earlier in the day than the main events of the episode. I've always felt like, based on the things said in the show, Waverly and Nicole must have had other meet ups and conversations, especially as Nicole knew there was a party going on that she wasn't invited to. Plus, there just hasn't been enough Waverly+Nicole time yet, so indulge me.
This chapter is all about fun but awkward conversations with a crush. Enjoy.
The trunk of Nicole's cruiser jarred and rattled as she attempted to close it. Further inspection revealed that a can of Cat food was the obstruction preventing the latch from sliding into place. Nicole sighed and looked at the bursting bags of groceries in front of her critically. She shuffled a few things around but it still didn't fit.
How do I have so much shopping when I live alone?
It was usually just a case of spotting extra things on the shelves that she'd forgotten she needed more of, or spotting things that she probably didn't need but that she stocked up on anyway. Either way she always came out of the supermarket laden with more shopping than was reasonable for a single person.
She shoved and pushed at the brown paper bags until something inside went 'pop' and the top layer deflated a little. She rolled her eyes, making a mental note that she'd be having potato chips for lunch, and rapidly brought the lid of the boot down, withdrawing her hand at the last moment to keep the groceries in place. The latch clicked shut. She smiled and gave the car a satisfied nod.
It had been an erranding-running morning. Nicole liked running errands. There was something incredibly satisfying about starting the day with a full list of to-do's and working her way through until everything was checked off. That morning's errands had included picking up flea drops for Calamity Jane at the vet, dropping by the post office to send a parcel to her great aunt, returning a couple of movies to the DVD rental place and stocking up on groceries and cat food. Added to this was the morning jog she started the day with, so she was starting to feel the familiar weight of heavy eyelids as her energy started to ebb.
She looked at her watch. Four hours until her shift started. That was just enough time to head home and cram in a cat nap before work.
Or I could cram in about three coffees and catch up on my research, she thought.
She was still conducting her own secret investigation into the cut throat murders in town, but her research time had been severely limited just recently. Nedley had been keeping her extra busy with patrols, paperwork and countless errands. These weren't the fun kinds of errands. These were the errands like aimlessly patrolling the local graveyard to disperse the teens smoking pot, or re cataloguing old juvie records, or cleaning out the staff fridge. And it didn't seem like anyone else was getting such a heavy to do list as her. It was like Nedley was deliberately trying to keep her busy. Perhaps until she'd forgotten about the cut throat murders. This was, in fact, Nicole's theory as to his motivations. For whatever reason he was trying to distract her until she let it go.
She was determined not to let that happen, even if it meant her research started to creep into non-working hours.
She looked up the street to where she could see the sign for Shorty's and hesitated. In an attempt to heed at least part of Justine's advice she had been trying to avoid Shorty's of late so as to minimise the chances of running into a certain Earp. She kept telling herself that putting some distance between herself and Waverly would start making her feel better soon enough, but she had yet see any positive results. All that happened so far was that she had developed an entirely new ache in her chest, and had started a new round of beating herself up over missing someone she barely even spoke to. It could be that these were necessary stages along the road of getting over a crush, but if there was a light at the end of the tunnel she couldn't see it yet.
She thought briefly about the coffee at the diner a few doors further down and pulled a face. It always tasted like someone had done something in it and left a burnt stain inside the cup it was served in, which always made Nicole wonder what it was doing to people's insides when they drank it. She thought of the cappuccino at Shorty's with its deep, rich taste and perfect volume of foam. Was it worth the risk of setting back her progress in trying to forget about Waverly?
Pfft. What progress, she thought gloomily.
She locked her car and started down the street to the bar.
It's just a cappuccino to go. Two minutes, in and out. Doesn't even matter if Waverly is working today I have to get going anyhow.
She still paused and took an extra deep breath before she walked in.
Her eyes locked in on Waverly the second she crossed the threshold.
The brunette was gliding across the room like she was skating on ice, tray of drinks in hand and one of the bar towels tucked into the high waist of her shorts. She was full of smiles and laughter, bantering with the lads around the pool table and serving drinks effortlessly.
It had been a while since Nicole had seen Waverly in this kind of setting, away from the darkness of murder and the constrained shadow of the BBD. The brief encounters she'd had with her in the precinct hallways had been fraught with the feeling that everything was classified, but that there was another conversation sitting just beneath the surface, waiting to be had. A real conversation.
This, here in the bar, was a performance. It was a dance she knew well and she didn't miss a step, grabbing glasses and pulling pints, fun and bubbly and carefree to everyone except those that were really looking.
And Nicole was really looking. So much so in fact that she almost startled herself at the realisation that she was standing in the doorway like a gormless idiot. Her heart caught up with her and started to beat heavily in her chest. Was it dizzy in here or was that just her?
This was a mistake. She gripped the edge of the door to steady herself, her fingernails sinking into the wood. She'd only been stood there for a moment - maybe she'd be able to slip back out without anyone noticing the crazy ginger cop lingering in the doorway. And then Waverly looked over.
Nicole propelled herself forwards and down the steps towards the bar, trying as best she could to hide her awkward entrance. The thought of it quickly faded from her mind as Waverly greeted her with a smile that lit up the whole room. Nicole couldn't help but smile back.
"Hey, how's Purgatory's finest?" Perhaps it was just because she hadn't seen her in a while, but to Nicole, Waverly's voice sounded like music. The young Earp continued. "Almost didn't recognise you in your 'civilian clothes'." She chuckled a little breathlessly as she air-quoted the last part.
God damn she's adorable. Nicole was totally disarmed. She felt like a deer in the headlights, and struggled to form any kind of coherent thing to say. What was wrong with her? She was behaving like she had done the day they met, her brain being wiped clean each time Waverly said something. It hadn't been like this at the precinct. Nicole had been able to take control and hadn't felt like a total gibbering idiot at all. Was it because she was out of uniform? She absent-mindedly reached to tuck her thumbs behind the buckle of her utility belt and then she remembered she wasn't wearing it. Because that was part of her uniform. That she wasn't wearing. Shit.
Coffee. You're here for coffee.
It had already been a slightly longer than comfortable pause since Waverly's greeting and Nicole still hadn't said anything. With moments to spare before she just gave up and ran from the building, her brain caught up.
"Oh, sorry I'm in a world of my own today! It's been a busy morning, my head's just…" She waved her hand around to mimic her mental chaos. It wasn't a total lie. "I actually came to grab a coffee. Caffeine injection and all that."
Waverly nodded knowingly. "Tell me about it. I've only made it through the day so far with the help of four espressos. I'm so hyped up on java I'm practically vibrating."
The last word tumbled out of Waverly's mouth as if she'd decided against it a split second too late. Nicole couldn't stop her eyebrows from lifting slightly. She quickly dipped her head as the pair laughed.
"Well, I uh, would love a cappuccino to go, please," Nicole said in as normal a voice as she could manage. "The coffees here are the best around town as far as I can say."
Waverly frowned disbelievingly. "Really? The coffee machine isn't that great, I'd have thought you'd prefer the diner or-"
Nicole shuddered. "Uh, no. I'm still not convinced I walked away entirely sober after the last one I had there."
Nicole's heart beat against her ribcage when she saw she'd made Waverly laugh again.
"Well, some people like it that way," the brunette said with a shrug. "Clearly there's no accounting for taste."
There was a pause and their eyes locked again. Nicole could feel her pulse rise on her neck, sure that it was visible from space and for a moment she felt like she could see through the performance of 'Waverly Earp, town sweetheart'. For just a moment it felt like the closed door had cracked open. Waverly opened her mouth and then hesitated. When she then did speak it seemed like the sentence that came out wasn't the one she'd originally planned to say, and the door was closed shut once again.
"Well listen, if I recall I still owe you a coffee, so this one's on me."
"Oh, hey you don't have to-"
"No, I insist. Waverly Earp is a woman of her word and always settles her debts," she chirped.
Nicole tried to ignore the minor sinking feeling. Was that what it was? A debt? That wasn't quite what she'd had in mind when she first suggested that Waverly buy her a coffee.
Her disappointment was fleeting however - Waverly wasn't done.
"And hey, if you're not doing anything right now I'm actually about to go on break if you wanna hang for ten minutes?"
Nicole's brain struggled to catch up again. Waverly was asking to have coffee with her. She thought momentarily of the groceries in the trunk of her car, and the frozen popsicles that were probably already on their way to being puddles.
"Sure, that'd be fun," she replied, aiming for as casual a tone as she could muster.
Waverly flashed her another dazzling smile and twirled around to the coffee machine, deftly preparing the drinks while calling out to the far side of the room.
"Gus, I'm on break!"
It was then that Nicole noticed Waverly's aunt, sat a few tables away, pouring over some paperwork. She looked up as her niece called and spotted the young deputy. Nicole felt suddenly like her throat was a little dry. She smiled and gave Gus a friendly wave, which was returned with narrowed, calculating eyes and the very slightest of nods.
She didn't get much longer to ponder what the older woman might have been thinking as Waverly slid back into her line of vision handing her the cappuccino. She'd put it in a ceramic cup with a saucer, and had poured a cute leaf pattern into the foam. Nicole smiled. Waverly had made a coffee for herself too and she took a sip with a sigh of relief. Clearly the break was well-needed.
"You wanna sit down?" she asked Nicole, nodding towards the nearest table.
"Sure." Nicole lifted the cup and nearly swore out loud as she heard it rattle with her shaking hands. She took a deep breath and tried to get the move over with quickly, dropping down onto the chair with a little jolt that caused a dribble of coffee to spill down the side of her cup.
She mentally cursed. Smooth, idiot. What the hell is the matter with you? Waverly sat down opposite, cradling her own coffee with both hands just below her chin. Nicole tried to relax. She wanted to be friends with Waverly. This was what friends did.
"Long shift today then?" Nicole asked, gesturing to Waverly's coffee.
Waverly sighed wearily, still smiling. "Yeah, it's been a long week really. I've got a few days off after this though so just a few more hours and I'm free as a bird for the weekend."
"Sounds nice. No such reprieve for Sheriff's Deputies unfortunately. You'll have to chill out for the both of us."
"Nedley does like to keep his officers on their toes, doesn't he?"
"Ah, he's not so bad," Nicole said generously, thinking of the hours she'd spent the day before scrubbing the grime off the refrigerator door in the breakroom. "And I like my job here so it's ok."
"Well I'm glad you do. It would have been a pretty poor show if we Purgatorians hadn't made you feel welcome," Waverly smiled sweetly, evidently filled with town pride. Then she looked uncertain. "I mean, I hope you feel welcome. You certainly are. Welcome, that is. I mean, I hope you're getting settled. That everyone's been welcoming."
Nicole chewed the inside of her cheek to contain the full force grin that Waverly's nervous rambling was inspiring. Wait, nervous? Why would she be nervous? Could she be nervous about talking to Nicole?
Stop it Haught, wishful thinking like that is only gonna lead to more heartache later.
She forced herself to make small talk. "Yeah I'm getting pretty settled in. Everyone's super friendly for the most part."
"The most part?"
"Well, some people don't like getting tickets." Nicole thought of her first meeting with Champ.
And some people are just jackasses. Then she thought of Dolls. And some people are jackasses and more. Then she thought of Wynonna. Actually, despite what everyone in town said, the older Earp didn't seem so bad. She was funny at least.
"Ah well, I can't help you there," Waverly smirked, leaning back in her chair and seeming to relax a little more. "Giving people tickets is no way to make friends."
"Well then, here's hoping I never catch you double parked," Nicole raised her cup like she was making a toast.
"I'll drink to that," Waverly agreed, chinking her cup against Nicole's. "I so cannot afford any tickets right now. I just spent a small fortune on decorative pillows."
"I see. Decorating at home?"
"Yeah, trying to make the Homestead a little homier for the engagement party."
Nicole's stomach bottomed out and the world felt like it ground to a halt. She went from naught to nauseous in a split second and gripped her cup so tight that she thought it might break.
She felt her breath catch in her throat and every ounce of concentration she had was diverted to keeping her expression calm. Was Waverly… No. No surely not. Champ was a buffoon. He was a child, who couldn't go five minutes without a cell phone to entertain him. He couldn't even commit to the speed limit, let alone a person. He wasn't the kind of guy that would willingly tie himself down, was he?
Nicole's eyes made a quick scan over Waverly's fingers. No ring on that particular finger. Not that that meant anything necessarily. Plenty of people got engaged without a ring. It would be just like Champ to propose without the actual jewellery too. To propose in the laziest way possible. Or maybe there was a ring and Waverly had just taken it off for work. Was it too big and bulky to leave on behind the bar? Nicole imagined a giant, obnoxious thing, designed to broadcast to the world that Waverly was taken. A token of ownership.
Nicole felt sick. Waverly was saying something about the department store having run out of a complete set of one particular style of pillow so she'd had to mix and match, but Nicole could barely hear her over the pounding of her own heartbeat in her ears. Her eyes were wide and unblinking and she started to feel a burn under her eyelids, realising in horror that tears were trying to force their way out.
Holy shit this is so much more than a little crush. And I'm too late.
"So you take party planning pretty seriously then, huh?" Nicole managed, her voice somewhat strangled by the lump in her throat.
"Oh for sure," Waverly nodded solemnly. "I aim to be the perfect host! Plus, none of my friends have actually been to visit the Homestead before so I wanna make sure everything is perfect for Steph."
A glimmer of hope. Nicole didn't dare breathe.
"Stephanie Jones," Waverly explained. "One of my fellow Purg-High survivors. We haven't hung out in a while so when her boyfriend finally popped the question I thought what better way to catch up than to throw her a celebratory bash!"
Nicole couldn't even hide the relieved sigh that escaped her lips. Her whole body went slack and she realised she'd been tensing every muscle that she had. Waverly's eyes narrowed as Nicole deflated in her seat.
"Sounds like you're a good friend," Nicole said a little too enthusiastically, aiming to distract from her obviously strange behaviour. "So when's the big do?"
"Tonight," Waverly replied. "Which is why I'm knocking back the coffees. I'm gonna need that boost!" She punched a fist into the air and Nicole found herself smiling again.
She's so goddamn adorable. I'm doomed.
All too soon it seemed, Waverly was glancing at the time on her watch and tipping back the last of her coffee.
"Oh shoot, I'm sorry, I've gotta get back to work," she put the cup down and looked up at Nicole, the nervous, uncertain look in her eyes returning. "This was… we should do it again some time."
"Yeah, definitely," Nicole nodded, finishing her drink too. What was this expression on Waverly's face? It was the same as the one she'd had the day they'd met, that intense thoughtful gaze she'd laid on Nicole just as she'd been leaving. "And uh, you're sure I don't owe you anything for the coffee?"
Waverly dismissed the question with a wave as she rose out of her seat, collecting both cups as she went. "No silly, then I'd still owe you one."
'Maybe I want you to', was on the tip of Nicole's tongue, but she managed to bite it back before the words escaped.
Nicole fake-looked at her own watch and got to her feet. "I uh, I should probably get moving too. Got work in a few hours. Late shift, so… the coffee was great, thank you."
"Any time," Waverly murmured, her gaze still lingering on Nicole as she stepped back slowly towards the bar.
Nicole smiled again and made to head out. "I'll see you around, Waverly."
Another smile crept out as Waverly used her name. Had she said it before? Nicole had never really thought about how her name sounded when spoken aloud, but on Waverly's lips it sounded magical.
And now she was thinking about Waverly's lips. In the split second before she turned away her eyes betrayed her and darted down to the lips in question, and she almost choked as she noticed that one of them was pinched very slightly between Waverly's teeth.
She felt her face start to burn rapidly and decided it was time to leave. With one final wave she skipped up the steps and out the door. The cool air outside was… refreshing. Somehow she didn't think she'd need any more coffee for the evening to stay awake.