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Dance Me to the End of Love

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The day had run exactly to plan. The guests had secretly arrived on time, the caterers hadn’t forgotten the hotdogs in Mac and Cheese and Wynonna had been as taken aback by the surprise in precisely the way Waverly had hoped. It had been perfect.

Almost.

Waverly had been sure that Wynonna’s best friend and her co-conspirator Nicole Haught would finally reach out to her, take her hand, and tell Waverly how she was feeling. That she was driven crazy by Waverly’s presence. That she couldn’t stop thinking about Waverly. That she might be hopelessly and wildly in love with Waverly.

She wasn’t sure on many things, but on this, Waverly was convinced.

Well, almost convinced.

Waverly had tried to take the lead. She had been more tactile than with any of their other friends. She’d made sure Nicole had food in her fridge when she got off shift. She’d driven Nicole home after she had drunk a couple of beers and was over the limit more times than Waverly could count. The last time had been a couple of weeks ago, where they’d sat outside Nicole’s house and chatted for over an hour.

Waverly couldn’t tell you what they’d spoken about.

The words were sort on inconsequential at that point, her brain had stopped taking in the conversation and had focussed solely on how good Nicole had smelled and how she was so close she could just reach out and lightly stroke the back of Nicole’s neck without having to stretch.

Waverly felt butterflies when she was with Nicole, and she refused to believe it was just her.

Waverly had decided there was nothing else for it and had taken matters into her own hands.

She’d stolen a hoodie of Nicole’s when they had been planning the party together recently and had been blatantly parading around in it as often as possible ever since.

That should do it, Waverly thought to herself as she pulled the sweater over her head for the fourth time that week.

It made no difference.

Everyone else had noticed Waverly’s borderline obsession with Nicole Haught, and Waverly had never been so relieved her friends didn’t tease her dreamy sighs and longing glances, and instead put their arms around her and encouraged her to make a move. But in Waverly’s head, she was constantly making a move. Every late-night chat at the bar, or phone call just to say hello on a Sunday afternoon. Every dinner made and drink offered was a move for Nicole to look up and notice that Waverly Earp was all in, and that she had actually been all in from the first minute Wynonna had brought the firefighter round after a particularly difficult shift.

“What you need” Rosita started as they began opening up the bar Waverly owned “is a party night”

“Rosie, we’ve literally just had a party” Waverly replied

“No, no, no, no, what we had was a house party… what you need is a ‘drinking and dancing at a bar’ kind of party night”

Waverly had to admit, Rosita could, on occasion, be very, very wise.

“That is not the worst idea you’ve ever had”

“That’s a funny way to say thank you” Rosita deadpanned.

“Okay, but we need a reason…”

“Can we not all just be young, free, single and in need of a dance?”

“You can be, I’m a business owner and Saturdays are our busiest night” Waverly retorted seriously.

Sometimes she thought about whether spending the inheritance she had been left by her uncle Curtis on a fading bar had been the right decision. But then she thinks about how the bar had become the heartbeat of the quiet rural town and she can’t remember a time she wasn’t right here at Shorty’s.

“Whose talking about Saturday…” Rosita began, before producing a flyer for a singles night in the city “ta daaaaa”

“A singles night. Really?”

“Look, just because you’ve met your wife doesn’t mean the rest of us are that lucky”

“She’s not my wife” Waverly protested “God, I’d love it if she were”

“She will be angel…” Rosita assured her softly.

Waverly folded herself into Rosita’s arms as soon as her friend had opened them up to her, sighing loudly and returning the fierce hug she had been pulled into.

“What if she doesn’t want to go? Or worse she DOES want to go and ends up with some random”

“She won’t”

“But she could” Waverly carried on “oh my God, what if she meets the woman of her dreams there? In front of me? Nope, I can’t risk it”

“Waverly… look at me” Rosita said “it’s time friend… it’s time to either go or get off the pot”

“But…”

“No buts” Rosita continued “you’re miserable and wouldn’t you rather know?”

“No” Waverly replied weakly, knowing full well Rosita was right.

It was time.

***

Turns out, it wasn’t time.

It had all been arranged. Taxis had been booked and outfits had been chosen.

And then there had been a fire in one of the fields that had got out of hand and had licked up the side of an old barn, which had, in turn, collapsed into rubble in the middle of the Thursday afternoon.

And Nicole and Wynonna’s station had been first on the scene.

They had battled with the blaze for a couple of hours and had eventually got it under control and extinguished with the help of a neighbouring unit.

Such blazes were rare in their provincial little town, so when Nicole and Wynonna appeared at Shorty’s exhausted, the humane thing to do was to cancel their plans and get them both some food.

Which Waverly did immediately.

She was just coming out of the kitchen with plates for the pair when she caught the tail end of the conversation. Waverly glanced at the clock in order to pinpoint the exact time her world fell apart.

It was seven twenty seven.

“All I’m saying is, she’s hot, you’re hot and she’s clearly into you, so stop stalling and ask her out” Wynonna was encouraging.

Waverly made a mental note to lock her sister out later.

“I don’t know man… I’m not sure…”

“What are you not sure on? Seeing a woman who actually likes you and wants to spend time with you?” Wynonna continued, unaware of the vex Waverly was muttering in her direction “everyone deserves a little loving, ain’t that right baby girl?”

This is what death feels like, Waverly thought as her eyes caught Nicole’s briefly

“Erm… sure… I mean if that’s what you want…” Waverly stuttered, relieved that at least she’d managed to sound halfway normal.

Or so she thought.

The confusing look her sister was throwing her gave her pause.

“All I mean is, you’ve got to do what suits you, and not anyone else… if you want to go out with this woman, well then, I guess you should-but you shouldn’t do it just because Wynonna tells you to” Waverly tried again, feeling pleased with her cover.

Nicole held her gaze for a moment and Waverly was utterly convinced Nicole knew she was lying through her teeth.

Like she knew Waverly was finding this conversation completely excruciating.

It was the thing Waverly liked most about Nicole, the ability to make Waverly feel understood without a word needing to be uttered. But as quick as the look was there, it was gone, and Nicole was taking a bite out of her burger and murmuring she would think about it.

Waverly managed to hold it together long enough to get into the kitchen before she let out a frustrated half sigh, half sob.

She stayed in there until she had got herself together, making sure her absence wasn’t too noticeable, and mercilessly, the pair at the bar had moved on to a different topic of conversation by the time she returned to clear their plates.

Nicole watched Waverly take their abandoned food and quietly replace their empty beers.

Waverly became aware of Nicole’s eyes on her roughly two months after they’d met. At first, she thought Nicole was just inquisitive, but quickly realised she just liked to watch Waverly do things. And Waverly did the same to Nicole too, arguably for very different reasons, but they always seemed to know where the other was.

It made Waverly feel safe.

Waverly worked at the bar full time, which inevitably led to men hitting on her occasionally, and whilst Waverly always politely declined and they would hold their hands up and say ‘worth a shot’, it was a comfort to know that Nicole was keeping one eye on her. Wynonna had explained that Nicole looked out for her people more than most, and Waverly took secret delight in knowing she was one of the aforementioned people.

“So sis, are you going all out for the fair again this year?” Wynonna asked as Waverly placed a third beer on the bar for her sister.

Waverly smiled at the thought of it. There were fewer things Waverly enjoyed more than the summer fair.

“I think so… Rosie and I are decorating tomorrow in time for festival on Saturday” Waverly explained, grateful for a distraction

“Gonna be a busy one again baby girl… you want me on the door?” Wynonna offered.

There was no way Waverly would take Wynonna up on the offer, and they both knew it, but Waverly appreciated it none the less.

“Nah, Chrissy has got a couple of off duty guys to work the door, thanks though. You’re coming right?”

“Abso-freaking-lutely” Wynonna replied “we got four days off, so Imma enjoy this year”

“What about you Nic?” Waverly asked

“Wouldn’t miss it” Nicole smiled

“Hey, why don’t you ask Eliza?” Wynonna suddenly piped up

“Oh… erm…” Nicole started, throwing a glance at Waverly before she continued “I’m not sure it’ll be the right thing to…”

“What’s not to like?!” Wynonna dived in “drinking, dancing, a romantic sunset… amirite baby girl?”

“Yep” Waverly agreed, popping the p in what she hoped was enthusiastic, but feared was more irritable

Nicole sighed and turned back to her drink “I’ll think about it”

Wynonna looked like she was about to say more, so Waverly smiled at them both and busied herself with collecting the various empty glasses scattered around the tables. It’s not that she begrudged Nicole happiness, it was quite the opposite. She just begrudged anyone other than her being the cause of that happiness.

The pair stayed until Waverly turned on the lights and said goodnight to the rest of the customers. She waved off the staff and poured herself a small beer as she began the usual routine of wiping down surfaces and upturning chairs onto the tables and bar area. As usual, she picked a couple of songs from the juke box to accompany her process, and as she carried out her monotonous tasks, she couldn’t help but think about the earlier conversation, this Eliza woman and her crush on Nicole.

Waverly sighed heavily as it dawned on her that Nicole had limited options when it came to dating in the small town, and that maybe she had read their situation wrong. As she swept the floor, Waverly made the decision to try and be happy for Nicole. After all, if this Eliza lady was as interested in Nicole as Wynonna seemed to think she was, then why would Waverly get in the way of that.

Waverly did a last look around the bar and switched the lights off, heading upstairs to her apartment and willing herself to try and forget her ridiculous and clearly one-sided crush.

 

***

 

“So tell me again what she said” Rosita asked as she ascended a ladder with some summer bunting.

“She said that Eliza was hot and that Nicole should go for it”

“How hot is hot?”

Waverly laughed as Rosita started to climb down the ladder

“I have no idea what my sister classes as hot… In fact, I don’t know what Nicole thinks is hot either for that matter… all I do know is what Nicole DOESN’T think is hot” Waverly replied, gesticulating to herself as she did so

“That’s nonsense, everyone thinks you’re hot” Rosita argued

“Well clearly not everyone… its irrelevant now anyway… good luck to her, that’s what I say”

“Waves…”

“No seriously Rosie, It’s fine… It’s just a stupid crush, I’ll get over it” Waverly dismissed “Now come on, we’ve got so much to do, and I honestly don’t have the energy to think about it anymore”

Rosita sighed, but continued to decorate, deciding Waverly would talk about it again only when she was ready.

The fair was arguably Waverly’s busiest weekend. The entire town and neighbouring communities all descended on Purgatory and there was always a carnival atmosphere that swept through the patrons. As the night went on, Waverly and her staff were run ragged with the demand for drink, which was being led almost exclusively by Wynonna Earp, who had been propping up the bar since mid-afternoon.

“Waves, I’m dry baby girl” Wynonna said as she wiggled her empty glass in front of Waverly

“Wait your turn” Waverly barked

“Hey now, that’s no way to speak to your best customer”

“My best customer is a paying one, and last time I checked you haven’t paid for a drink since summer of 2017” Waverly retorted.

“Why are you so mean? Is it because Haughty’s with a hottie?” Wynonna teased.

Waverly felt her world shift for three reasons.

Number one, Nicole was on a date.

Number two, her sister knew about her secret crush.

Number three, Nicole was on a date. Waverly acknowledged that was technically only two reasons, but she was so rocked by the news, she felt compelled to include it twice.

“Can it Wynonna” Rosita ordered from behind Waverly, sliding a whisky over to the eldest Earp and shooting her a glare “You know we don’t speak about Waverly’s secret crush unless she brings it up”

“Sorry baby girl” Wynonna mumbled

As Waverly was about to respond, the local band started to play, and Wynonna was whooping and cheering to the bassline of ‘7 nation army’

“Baby girl come and dance with me” Wynonna tried

“Nonna, we are slammed” Waverly replied

“You need to dance it out” Rosita suggested “Go and have a dance, I got this place”

Waverly looked over at Wynonna and smiled when she saw the pout Wynonna was throwing her way.

“Okay fine… ONE dance, then I have to get back to work”

“We’ll see baby girl” Wynonna countered with a wink.

Wynonna grabbed her hand and led her through the crowd onto the centre of the dance floor. Waverly had almost forgotten how fun Wynonna was to dance with. She was all knees and elbows, and Waverly delighted in the scowls thrown towards them, and then the slow sigh of recognition when they saw who it was that was jabbing them in the ribs.

Waverly lost herself to the music, jumping in time to the bass, her eyes closed, and her body relaxed, and it was only at the end of the song did she realise that they had been joined by Nicole.

Nicole, who was standing looking at Waverly with the widest smile she had ever seen.

The widest smile she had ever seen and a lipstick mark on her cheek.

Waverly felt like she might throw up.

“Hey, please don’t stop” Nicole said with smile

“Sorry, I... I should get back…” Waverly replied as she started to move back towards the bar

“Waverly wait” Nicole tried.

“Shouldn’t you get back to your date?” Waverly suggested

“I’m not on a date” Nicole frowned

“Huh… might wanna tell your cheek that” Waverly retorted before she could stop herself “Really, I should get back to help Rosita and the guys out… I hope you have a good night Nic”

Waverly didn’t wait for a reply. She moved quickly back behind the bar and started to pour a beer. She didn’t know who for yet, but figured she needed to keep herself from looking out across the dance floor and towards Nicole.

The rest of the night flew by, and before Waverly knew it, it was 1AM and last orders were being shouted. She hadn’t seen Nicole again. Usually she could sense where Nicole was, but with the crowd so full on, there was little way in seeking out an individual. Waverly assumed Nicole had returned to Eliza or had gone home. She didn’t know which, and a part of her was trying really hard not to care.

Rosita and the team had stayed to help close down, and it was only now, close to 3AM, that Waverly could finally send them all home, finish sweeping and go to bed.

Waverly picked a couple of songs from the jukebox and started to sweep the floor. The introduction of ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ began and Waverly was once again pleased with herself for loading a jazz album on to the jukebox. It was only ever played by her at the end of the night, but it helped her relax as she finished her chores.

She was so lost in the music, she didn’t hear the door to the bar re open, and only noticed she had company once she had turned back to face the bar

“Jesus” Waverly screeched as she caught sight of Nicole standing in the doorway

“I’m sorry” Nicole laughed with her hands up “I didn’t mean to startle you, I just… I didn’t want to interrupt”

“Interrupt me sweeping the floor?” Waverly replied with a raised eyebrow “I can see how that could be interpreted as a job I’d like privacy for”

“No, I just…” Nicole started, but stopped herself.

“You okay?” Waverly asked curiously

“Yeah, I just… I wanted to talk to you about earlier”

“Okay, well let me just turn the music down…” Waverly offered as the first song ended and her second choice, Etta James singing ‘At last’ started to play

“No leave it on… I love this song”

“Me too, it always makes me think of New York… I don’t know why, but it does” Waverly explained, for want of something better to say.

“Did you hear it whilst you were there?”

“No, that’s the funny thing, I’ve never been to New York” Waverly laughed

Nicole had joined her at the centre of the bar floor, and it was only then that Waverly realise how close they were

“I wasn’t on a date” Nicole said suddenly

“Okay”

“Really, I wasn’t… I mean, I did see Eliza, but not like that”

“Nicole really, there’s no need to explain”

“Well, I think there is… I don’t want you thinking… I guess, I just…”

“What’s going on Nic” Waverly offered kindly

“I wanted to come back here and… well it’s silly really…”

“It’s not silly Nicole”

“You don’t know what it is yet”

“I don’t need to know… you are many, many things Nicole Haught, but silly is not one of them”

“The thing is, I’ve been gearing myself up to ask you to dance with me. I’ve been wanting to ask you to dance with me since the first moment I saw you, but there was never really a good time, and so I thought tonight could be the night… but then you saw a lipstick mark from Mrs Overdale that she had just given me two minutes earlier for rescuing her cat last week, and you thought Eliza had… and I wanted to tell you, but your ran off”

“I didn’t run off” Waverly argued weakly.

Nicole tilted her head slightly and raised an eyebrow.

“So I thought to myself, instead of waiting for another opportunity, I’d come and interrupt your jazz hour and see if maybe I could ask you now…”

Waverly blinked, and then blinked again, unsure if she was imagining their entire conversation

“I don’t want to go out with Eliza. I haven’t been able to focus on anyone other than you Waverly, and I realise now quite how bad I am at showing you that”

Waverly huffed out some air lest she fall down

“I thought you weren’t interested”

“I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t” Nicole replied smoothly.

Waverly watched as Nicole held out her hand for Waverly to take. The music had changed once more, and the soft drums of Madeleine Peyroux’s ‘Dance Me to the End of Love’ started up. The slightly jovial beat accompanying Nicole Haught’s incredible smile.

“Dance with me” Nicole asked, offering her hand as she did so.

Waverly reached out her own hand and took a hold of Nicole’s, feeling immediately like they fitted together perfectly. Nicole pulled Waverly into her and started to slowly sway in time to the music. Waverly smiled as they made their way round the dance floor seamlessly, a direct contrast to how she and Wynonna had moved earlier.

The piano break started in the middle of the song, and Nicole twirled Waverly under her arm and then out towards the middle of the dance floor. Waverly laughed as Nicole pulled her back towards her and started to sing along to the music

“I didn’t know you liked Jazz” Waverly said as their dancing continued, but started to slow slightly

“I don’t, but I memorised this playlist so I could impress you”

“Is that true?”

“No Waverly, its not true” Nicole replied with a laugh “But look how impressed you were”

Waverly pinched Nicole’s arm playfully as the song ended and they came to a halt.

The music changed again, and as Louis Armstrong’s trumpet at the start of ‘Dream A Little Dream of Me’ began, Nicole brushed some of Waverly’s hair out of her face.

“I’m sorry this took me so long” Nicole offered with a slight smile “I wasn’t totally sure you felt the same, and I didn’t want to risk making you feel uncomfortable”

“Nicole, I wore your hoodie every day for the last three weeks, what more could I have done?” Waverly laughed “But its okay, I should have said something sooner”

“Well arguably, yes… but I’m glad you didn’t in a way… I’ve thought long and hard about how I wanted our first kiss to go, and dancing to jazz at three in the morning in a pile of rubbish was exactly how I’d imagined it”

Waverly laughed again but stopped soon after, staring into Nicole’s eyes and leaning forward to press their lips together.

Ella Fitzgerald sang her heart out as Waverly realised she had lost hers to the woman in front of her, kissing her softly and swaying once more to the music that played.