Nicole tumbles out of the car, sack of lunch in hand. Her parents seem to linger in the front seat, little brother in the back still strapped in his car seat. She hesitates when she reaches the grass and glances at her parents over her shoulder. Her dad gives her a small smile and an encouraging nod.
She proceeds with caution. The park is relatively empty and extremely unfamiliar. She's never been here before. They are moving, again. She hates moving. She hates the way she has to make new friends and learn things she already knows in school. She hates the way the food tastes slightly different and none of the restaurants are the same. But, what she hates the most, is that they never stay long.
The world surrounding her is gray. Her shoes are black, pants are a lighter shade of black, but her shirt is white. The world is simple, but at least her clothes are soft.
She's nearly to the picnic table when she glances to her left and spots a little girl sitting on a bench. The girl's hair is long; a color she's never seen before. In fact, everything is suddenly a color she's never seen before. She doesn't know what any of it means, but she feels a tug inside of her that draws her to the girl. She's crying, silently, but Nicole can tell by the heave of her shoulders.
Nicole approaches her quietly, sack of lunch still clasped in her fingers. She looks down, notices that her shoes are no longer a black and her pants are no longer a lighter shade of black, and her shirt isn't really white. In fact, she is vibrant and saturated. She blinks rapidly, eyes drinking in the scenery. So many different colors and shades. She has no understanding for it.
She swallows thickly and sits on the bench beside the crying little girl. Her heart aches for the girl. The girl has a beautiful color dress on, long and flowing around her ankles where a pair of non-black shoes grace her feet.
"Are you okay?" She stutters.
She takes a quick look around the park, searching for anyone this girl may belong to, but she doesn't find anyone. She only sees her parents, leaning against the hood of their car as her little brother stretches his legs. She looks back at the crying girl, her lips tight together as she tries to find her voice once more.
"I'm sorry you're sad," she mutters, softly.
The little girl doesn't look up at her voice. She hears her parents call her name in the distance. She sighs heavily. She opens her paper sack, reaching deep into it and pulling her sandwich out. Peanut butter. She pulls the triangles apart and sets one half down on the bench atop the cellophane. Briefly, she reaches and touches the little girl's elbow in an attempt to comfort her.
Nicole offers the little girl a smile that she doesn't see before hopping off of the bench and running back to their car.
Nicole examines her uniform. An ugly pair of khaki pants and a blue button up. Whoever chose this uniform obviously can't see in color. Of course, the disdain for her uniform would be in vain seeing as it's standard issue for the entire department. To top it off, she has to wear a ridiculous hat that she really doesn't think she has the head for. Having to wake up an extra half hour just to put her hair into a French braid for work is almost enough of a reason to chop her hair off. At the moment, she's mildly attached to it since it's the only thing in her life that hasn't changed yet.
Deciding to move to a small town was a big one. She knows very little about small towns other than everybody knows everybody else, and that is can get quite complicated from there. She heard rumors while she was at the academy from other officers in training about their small towns. Being from a much larger city, Nicole hardly ran into any issues of familiar faces knowing everyone she sees. Well, that, and the fact that she moved a lot.
Taking the job in Purgatory was a commitment, a big one, even more so than that one drunken fling she had in Vegas that put a permanent stamp on her record. Accepting a position as deputy straight out of the academy has been huge. Her classmates hadn't understood how she managed to get an offer so quickly, especially one with such high ranking. When Sheriff Nedley had pitched her the offer, it had sounded...stable. She has always wanted a stable life, some place to permanently call home.
She packs on her atrocious uniform with hopes that one day she will grow to love it. Checking herself over in the mirror one last time before she heads out of the door, she makes sure to grab her Purgatory Police Department issued jacket to protect her from the chill outside. The north is so much colder than she's used to, and she can definitely feel the ache in her bones already.
She steps outside of her house and onto her front porch, the worn wood in dire need of a little t-l-c, and makes a note to spend a little time at the hardware store examining wood finishes. Owning a home is just another thing on her list of firsts, but learning to do a little renovation around a home was going to be a major headache. Most of her experience is more connected to hotel and apartments. She's hardly even done her own handy work before.
She makes sure the front door is locked before making her way out to her car. She should invest in a truck to do all of this hauling in it she really plans on learning how to renovate. She's had a lot of years with her Honda, but it certainly makes for a half assed partner at things like moving massive amounts of materials.
The drive into town is rather quick, painless. She had over prepared for her new routine and gave herself about a half hour of wiggle room to arrive at the station. She doesn't want to appear too eager, so she pulls her Honda into a parking spot in front of a small coffee shop just a few blocks from the station.
This town doesn't have very many restaurant chains. A McDonald's, yes, but a Starbucks, no. She leaves her issued hat in the car and makes her way into the coffee shop, pulling the collar of her jacket tighter around her neck. She pulls the door open and hears a bell signal from up above. She casts a glance upwards, just to be sure her senses aren't betraying her already, and edges further into the shop.
She takes a quick look around the shop. It's welcoming and warm, light and dark colors complimenting each other with such ease. The customary tables are scattered throughout the room but there's a clear path to the counter. There are a lot of coffee related decor hanging on the walls.
She hears muffled voices in the corner at a table where two older women sit. She can almost swear they say her name like she's a familiar figure in their town despite only being there for two weeks. She smiles politely when she looks eyes with the barista behind the counter, a cheery young man offering her a polite smile in return. She pushes her palms against the counter and lightly leans against it as she looks over the menu.
"What can I get for you, Officer Haught?" He asks. The use of her name takes her off guard, not sure how he knows who she is. She gives him a look, narrowed gaze and tightened jaw. His smile remains, but his eyes turn slightly apologetic. "Sorry, we just don't get a lot - any - female police around here. You're kind of a big deal in this small town."
"I am?" She hears herself say, but her voice sounds for away. She hears her name a little louder from the corner and she can't help looking directly at them, turning her entire body to face the two women.
"Don't worry," the man says, reassuringly, "It's only good things."
Waverly Earp has a strong name and a hell of a strong bloodline, but her family has the bad reputation. Not her. She is easily viewed as kind and thoughtful and enjoyable. A generous counterpart to the exterior that her sisters put off. Her sisters, both of them, can be very unforgiving forces of nature, and extremely difficult to compete with.
Willa had, to say the least, tortured her in a way that left more psychological damage than the physical kind. Of course, Willa's behavior had been, well, weakly offset by Wynonna's efforts to make sure Waverly had always felt mildly welcome. Wynonna could only do so much on her own.
It was when Waverly was 11 and Willa moved off to college that she realized she was going to lose her anchor very soon. Wynonna had been a bit of a whirlwind. She was hot headed, unabashed and braver than any person Waverly had ever met, but Wynonna was terrifying. Wynonna had been so displaced after their dad died, rebelled against everything she could.
It was no surprise to Waverly when Wynonna left at 18 and only returned when she needed, well, money. Wynonna had called often - more than Willa and probably more than was necessary - until Waverly got into high school. The calls dwindled down from every other day to once a week to once a month. Waverly had reasoned that it's because she was busy with various school activities. She had been partially right.
She hadn't heard from Wynonna in nearly a year, but here she is, staring her sister down with such a shock that Waverly feels like she's seeing a ghost. Wynonna, on the other hand, looks like she's already 3 sheets to the wind despite it not even being 11 in the morning. Despite her disappointment, Waverly steps forward and wraps her sister into a hug, holding her tightly with all of her might. She slowly feels Wynonna wrap her arms around her back and hug her in return.
"You look like you've seen a ghost, baby girl," Wynonna hums. Waverly notes the shaky tone to Wynonna's voice and thinks for just a brief moment that she feels a tear drop onto her shoulder and absorb into her shirt. Maybe she's only dreaming because the Wynonna she knows would never cry over such silly things.
"Maybe I did," Waverly whispers. Wynonna releases her first and steps back, out of Waverly's arms. Waverly still feels the shock course through her. Her hands stay on her older sister's arms as she gives her a once over. Suddenly, her shock is replaced with anger, annoyance, and she slaps Wynonna's upper arm. Hard. "Where the hell have you been?"
"Here and there," Wynonna replies with a flippant shrug. Waverly scowls then at how her sister can be so selfish. She had always known Wynonna had more to escape from than her. She remembers everything while Waverly hardly remembers anything. Willa hadn't made matters any easier in the long run, but it was Wynonna who really shouldered everything. "No worries, baby girl. I'm still in one piece."
"Surprisingly," Waverly says. She immediately covers her mouth, embarrassed by even uttering such a rude thing. Wynonna mouths a wide 'wow' that resonates in her core. "I'm sorry! I just haven't heard from you in so long. I don't think that what I'm seeing is real."
"In the flesh," Wynonna says, gesturing to herself with a thumb. Waverly's vision begins to blur and she realizes her eyes are filling with tears. She sighs and shakes her head, attempting to blink away her unshed tears. "Are you gonna cry, baby girl?"
"You're a jerk," Waverly says, "I missed you."
"Yeah, yeah," Wynonna muttered, "Are you gonna let me in or not?"
"Ugh, yes," Waverly replies, stepping back and allowing her sister in the front door. She doesn't mean to be so rude, especially to someone that she loves so much, she's just really taken aback. She's becoming even more agitated at the unexpected arrival because she's supposed to be at work in half an hour. "I have to work."
"Listen," Wynonna starts. Waverly shuts the door and follows Wynonna as she makes her way into Gus' house, taking a look around like she's an inspector. Wynonna stops suddenly just inside of the living room, and turns to face Waverly. "I met a guy-"
"Oh my god," Waverly interrupts her before she can say anything else, a squee almost falling out of her mouth. Thankfully, it catches in her throat, causing her words to strain. The thing about Wynonna is that she's never much cared about finding her soul mate, and Waverly has always wondered just how someone could be so resolute with never seeing the beauty in the world. "Like, the guy?"
"What?" Wynonna's face contorts almost into disgust, nose scrunching as her head slightly tilts. She sighs and Waverly can see her shoulders loosen as she relents just a tad. "Sort of. It's complicated."
"We're gonna make beer," Wynonna says, "Like, a line of beer out at the homestead. The barn just needs a few updates, but we have the land for it. You in?"
"Wynonna, that's insane," Waverly says. She nearly loses her train of thought, her sense of time, but the clock chimes to indicate the new hour upon them. She huffs out. "I'll think about it. I need to go. I have to get to work."
"Where you workin' now, baby girl?"
"Shorty's," Waverly answers. She would tell her to stop by, but she already knows she'll be seeing Wynonna there later. She steps back and reaches for her purse. "Try not to destroy anything of Gus', please. She'll kill us both."
Nicole has spent 3 days, 3 entirely full 10-hour work days, filling out paperwork and going over every case that has crossed into the department in the last 25 years. This was not her idea, but she can’t actually say that it isn’t a good idea. Especially in a small town like this. Her desk is littered with notes as she cross references arrest after arrest after arrest, usually regarding the same 9 or 10 names. One name is incredibly popular, although all of the paperwork suggests that the person has been on their best behavior for the last 3 years.
She doesn’t have a particularly familiar history with the town. Nor has she heard much gossip over the last few days. Ironically, given that nearly everyone in town seems to have her name coming out of their mouth.
She glances at the clock, having lost her watch somewhere in the move, and shifts in her uncomfortable uniform. The material is still stiff, not yet worn in, and she’s been daring herself to just let it tumble in the dryer for a few rounds before she has to wear it again. The hideous coloring is driving her crazy, something that perhaps not everyone has to deal with. She has an infinity for colors, always has. Even before she could actually differentiate the colors, could name them well enough that she got put into special classes because she could actually see in color, she had a way with them.
Nicole honestly feels sorry for anyone who has maybe spent their entire lives in this town without their soul mate existing here. She thinks the privilege of colors is the most magnificent gift that she could ever be given but, hell, if she doesn’t live every day terrified that at any given moment she could lose them. The truth is, she doesn’t know who her soul mate is. She met the girl when they were both so young that she didn’t understand what any of it meant. She didn’t even get the girl’s name.
So, she spends her breaks when she’s not reading over countless files getting to know the crimes of the town’s people, memorizing every color around her. She takes note of the color of the wood in the station, the pristine blues of the sky, the ugly stain of blood on the concrete outside of the famous bar where Wyatt Earp drank, and even appreciates the hideous mixtures of amazing colors of her police uniform.
She’s about to close another file, halfway through the year 2001, when she hears Sheriff Nedley clear his throat from the doorway of his office. She looks up from her desk, taking a swift look around the room only to notice that she’s the only one here. She looks over at him and smiles her most polite smile. His mustache wiggles, but his mouth doesn’t return the gesture.
“Can I speak to you for a few minutes?”
“Of course, Sheriff,” she replies. She immediately pushes herself to her feet and crosses the room into his office. He gestures to one of the chairs on the opposite side of his desk to which she immediately sits. “Is everything alright?”
“How are you getting settled in, Haught?” He asks, ignoring her question.
“Fine,” she says, a little hurriedly, “It’s good. Thank you, by the way, for getting me the number for that real estate agent.”
“Are you meeting anyone?” He replies. He nods slowly, politely, not quite telling her ‘you’re welcome’ but feeding her with the sentiment nonetheless. “Making any friends?”
“Not yet,” she admits. She settles her hands into her lap and leans forward in the chair. She doesn’t look directly at him this time, feeling a little too nervous to admit that the rest of the town seems to already have made their own judgments about her. “I’ve been busy unpacking.”
“Well, don’t hesitate to re-familiarize yourself with the people of this town beyond the crimes they’ve committed. A lot of these people are good people, Haught, and they deserve a chance.”
“Of course,” Nicole replies. She sits up straighter as his eyes hone in on her. She feels her blood roll through her veins like it’s looking for a place to hide. She feels really put on the spot, not quite able to miss his specific word choice. “It’s on my list of things to do.”
“Good,” he says with a small smile finally gracing his lips, “Swing by Shorty’s for a drink, introduce yourself to that bartender Waverly Earp. She’ll make sure you get the warm, Purgatory welcome that you deserve.”
“Noted, Sir,” Nicole says.
Waverly is used to the fast paced movement of being a bartender at nearly the only place in the entire town to grab a drink after work. She knows everyone. She had known everyone before she even started working the job. She's quite popular. It's exhausting at times, dealing with the pressures of being a model person. Sometimes, she just wants to take a moment to scream bloody murder at people being impolite.
There's one thing she believes wholeheartedly in: human decency is simple.
She's always had a bit more of a difficult time dealing with the whole soul mate thing. The people around her have mostly refused to talk about it. She doesn't really know the consequences of being with someone other than your soul mate. The closest she's ever gotten is one conversation with Gus right after Curtis' funeral. When he'd died in that car wreck no one had been prepared. Discussing soul mates had been hard for Gus after that. Waverly had only been 13.
She's been kept in the dark her own life about some of the basic facts of society regarding this ordeal. All she knows for sure is that some people never get the chance to see in color, that most people don't get to see in color for nearly their entire lives. She had been forced to do her own research, which hadn't been too terrible because she loves research, but she still has questions.
Her situation has been, unique. She doesn't understand the rules of her situation, of the fact that she's been seeing in color for as long as she can remember. And she's thought a lot about how complicated her family's history with their soul mates have been, how Wynonna had told her just a few days ago that it was complicated about the soul mate without having elaborated on it yet; she's come to the conclusion that it's some kind of curse.
She stares at the homestead, untouched and unlived in for too many years. She hasn't even been out to see it since Wynonna was last in town for her graduation 3 years ago. It's so far out of town, out of the way from the town life she actually enjoys. But Gus has been wanting to explore the world, which she could do easier without having to worry about Waverly.
She thinks that despite every fiber in her being telling her this is a bad idea, she's going to tell Wynonna that she'll do it. She has a few ideas about what to do with the homestead, with the barn, with this beer label Wynonna had proposed to her. She wonders where why're going to get the money, but she supposes that's a worry for another day. She's been saving long enough to get by for at least a few months, and if she keeps working at the bar until this beer thing gets off of the ground then they'll be fine.
Just then, her phone rings from the passenger seat, taking her thoughts away from this very important decision.
"Excuse me," Waverly calls into the police station, voice incredibly loud.
She takes a quick look around the room and leans against the counter, looking for an available officer to assist her in, well, retrieving her very, not surprisingly, drunk sister. Wynonna has been back in town for all of 2 minutes and is already finding herself in old, familiar places. Waverly sighs from lack of response and leans her elbows on the counter, quickly placing her forearms onto the wood and spreading her arms across to the other side to pull herself up and get a polite view further into the offices. Not that she hasn't seen this place more than enough, more than because her sister has found herself locked up for a minute or two more times than Waverly can count.
She clears her throat and says, "Is there anybody here?"
She's ready to step behind the counter and help herself to the keys. Chrissy had showed her years ago where the Sheriff kept his spare. They were seniors and the only ones not completely wasted after the homecoming dance. She moves to step around the counter when a tall, pretty, red headed woman in a department uniform rounds the corner. Surprise slowly registers on the woman's face as her eyes lock with Waverly's
"Hi," Waverly hums, her brightest smile tugging her lips widely across her face.
"Hi," the questionably astute police officer breathes; Waverly watches in awe as the woman collects herself, surely she had only been caught off guard by her presence, "Can I help you?"
"I'm Waverly Earp," she replies, "You called about my sister."
"Oh, right," the woman replies. Waverly watches with an intent gaze as the woman flails around at a desk a few feet away. The woman's sleeves are rolled up to her elbows and her hair is pulled back into a very prestige braid. This woman looks well put together, but has suddenly seemed to lose a grip on herself. The woman finally stands upright with a file in her hand, holding it up into the air. She says, "Got it!"
Waverly's breath catches in her throat for a millisecond as the woman smiles generously, cheeks dipping and dimples peeking out. She's never seen such a nice, warm smile before. Granted, she knows everyone in town. This woman, however, she does not know.
"I'm sorry," Waverly suddenly says as the woman gets much closer to the counter, "I don't mean to be rude, but who are you?"
"Oh, Nicole Haught," the woman replies, extending her hand before she's even to the counter, "I just moved here. Recruited by Sheriff Nedley himself."
"On behalf of the welcoming committee," Waverly replies, smile quickly covering up her confusion, "Greetings."
Nicole's laughs, softly, but genuinely. Waverly slips her hand into Nicole's and the warm hand wraps hers firmly. Her gaze flits to their hands, eyes searching for some kind of understanding of how in the hell she could be so...anxious. The handshake lasts for an extended amount of time, the grasp of the newcomer undoubtedly a comfort on her jittery nerves. She doesn't even know why she's so suddenly nervous at the sight of that bright, contagious smile.
"There's a welcoming committee?" Nicole suddenly asks. Nicole's grasp loosens but gently squeezes Waverly's fingertips, like she's reluctant to let go.
"Well," Waverly exaggerates, "No. I just made that up but, if we did have one, I would definitely volunteer to be on it."
"Waverly Earp," Nicole says suddenly, like she's testing Waverly's name out. It sounds like a song. Waverly shivers, but is brought back to the matter when Nicole sets the file down on the counter with a careless slap. "Welcoming committee leader. You know, that's good. I think we should institute that."
"We don't get a lot of new people around here," Waverly replies. She lifts her gaze back to Nicole who is still smiling, still attentive in whatever might fall out of her mouth next. It's an odd feeling, someone willing to listen to her. She realizes then that she has to choose her next words wisely. "It would be an ill-prepared for job. Everybody already knows everybody around here."
"I don't know anybody," Nicole corrects, "Well, other than the people around the station. And, full disclosure, they aren't the easiest to get to know."
"I know people," Waverly replies with a tad bit too much enthusiasm for her own liking, "I'll introduce you. You're in safe company with me. I'm well liked."
"You just might be the nicest person in Purgatory," Nicole says, face shifting into one of...awe, perhaps?
"I am," Waverly assures, "I have a sash to prove it."
"That's...something," Nicole says with a laugh. Finally, Nicole looks down and away. Her smile fades quickly as Waverly sees that Nicole's eyes have settled on the file on top of the counter. They look up at the same time. Nicole says, "So, I found your sister trying to straddle a mailbox outside of the McDonald's, was interrupting the drive thru and making a lot of people unhappy. She was passed out by the time we got back to the station and I had to carry her in. I'm supposed to write her a ticket, a big one, but I'm going to give her a warning this time."
"Where is she?"
"On the couch in the Sheriff’s office," Nicole answers. She smiles but this time Waverly doesn't see the smile touch her eyes. She watches as Nicole opens the file and pulls out the report, quickly ripping it in half. "I can help her to your vehicle, but you might want to get someone to help you when you get home. She's dead weight."
"Not my first rodeo," Waverly mutters. She hears herself, hears how rude it comes across, and widens her eyes in a panic. She shakes her hand quickly and adds, "I've just, I've carried her into the house and put her to bed more times than I can count. She's a bit of a rebel."
"Advise the rebel that I let her off this time, but that her sister might not be able to pull any favors for her the next time," Nicole says. Waverly blinks and thinks that she catches the tail end of a wink but she could be wrong. She definitely doesn't want to assume that the smile on Nicole's face is anything other than politeness. Nicole quietly clears her throat as she gives Waverly a rather serious look. She adds, maybe a bit nervous yet confident at the same time, "I don't mean to take advantage of your hospitality but, maybe we could get a coffee some time?"
The wind is knocked out of her for some abrupt reason at the suggestion. She would love, like, to make the newcomer feel welcome, but there's something so familiar about Nicole that makes her insides twist. Waverly taps absently at the counter, her face contorting with such ease that she almost doesn't even realize her face might betray her anxiety. She feels absolutely beside herself at the realization that all it has taken is one pretty girl to sway her equilibrium. She doesn't even know if she's still standing straight up anymore.
"Sure," she finally says, voice small. Nicole seems dissatisfied with her answer because her eyebrows furrow. Waverly jumps to maintain the moment. She says, "I just mean, I'm busy tonight. With Wynonna. And tomorrow night I'm working. At Shorty's. Where I work. And I need at least two to three days to prepare for-"
"Waverly," Nicole interjects. Waverly suddenly feels a gentle hand on her arm, fingers splayed easily across her forearm and the pads of Nicole's fingertips press into the crevice of her elbow. She looks down at Nicole's hand, nearly trembling as Nicole's thumb wraps around the muscle. Her touch is so confident and unwavering. She expels a breath and looks back at Nicole's brown eyes. They're so warm. Everything about this woman is warm. "It's just coffee between friends."
"Friends," Waverly echoes, "Right."
"Now, let's get your sister home," Nicole says.
She feels Nicole give her arm a squeeze before releasing her grasp. Nicole's fingertips slide down to her wrist then her touch is suddenly gone. Nicole gestures to follow her to Nedley's office. Her feet barely move when she tells them to, but finally she follows, heels of her boots echoing against the tiles.