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Memories that Remain

Chapter Text

"I can still recall our last summer,
I still see it all
Walks along the Seine, Laughing in the rain
Our last summer
Memories that remain…"

 

 

On any normal day at the Earp homestead, the sun would be rising to the peaceful serenity of the vast snow-covered land, the sound of birds chiming in to sing the tale of the coming day. As of late, however, there were no normal days, and it wasn't rare that the brightening of the horizon was accompanied by the loud clatter of hammers and drills. The small army of men worked tirelessly, clearing away the snow that had fallen the night before to continue construction of the temporary shelter.

The sound of a generator firing up jarred a young woman from slumber, long brunette hair dishevelled from a full night's sleep. Blinking light brown eyes open, Whitney Earp sighed softly, curling under the thick comforter in her cocoon of warmth. The pillow beside her own on the queen sized bed was home to a blur of red and green, and she reached up to rub her eyes before she focused on the single rose. A smile spread across her face, dimples evident to the empty room as she picked up the bloom, breathing in the sweet scent.

"Sap." She chuckled, running her fingertip along the length of the dark green stem that had been shorn of all thorns. It made waking up alone a little more bearable as she pushed aside the blanket and slipped from her bed. She tucked the rose into the vase of mixed flowers on her way to the bathroom, pausing to look at her own reflection.

"Three more sleeps," she told herself, running her fingers through her unruly wavy hair and pulling it back into a loose bun. It was all that was on her mind as she got herself prepared for the day, brushing her teeth and washing her face. Looking a little closer, she wrinkled her nose at the sight of her natural hair color showing at the roots. She'd have to make sure to get the brown evened out, maybe some highlights?

"Three more sleeps," she repeated, slipping into an oversized knit sweater, careful to tuck her ring on the inside of her hand so she didn't snag it again. A knock on the door got her attention as she was slipping her boots on over her leggings. "Come in!"

"Hey Whitney," a familiar voice sounded before the door even opened. Recent revelations had opened another door to mistrust, but the way her mother smiled at her, she never had to question if it was genuine. "I'm about to head out to go pick up your aunt." Even into her 40s, Waverly Earp had an aura of honest affection for almost everyone she was around.

Whitney smiled the same smile, or at least she always thought it was the same smile. "I can't believe Aunt Wynonna is flying in. She hates flying." Standing up, she stretched her back out with a yawn.

"Well until they build that bridge from Europe…" Her mother laughed, stepping up to wrap her arms around her in a hug.

Whitney took a long breath, revelling in the comforting embrace. She savored the familiar scent of perfume, the one that hadn't changed since she could remember, and the way her mother would pull her down half a foot to rest her chin on her shoulder, no matter how many inches the years had added to her height. This was home. This was her mother, and her mother was going to be pissed at her soon, if everything went the way she planned.

"My baby girl… three more sleeps and I can finally turn your room into my crafting room."

"Mom!" Whitney laughed, pushing her away. "You know I'm going to be bugging you left and right, right? I mean I'm still going to be working at the bar."

"Bah." Her mother waved dismissively at her before heading out the door with Whitney in tow, moving down the stairs of the home. "I should fire you, just to force your tushie to get a real job."

"Go ahead. Then you can get someone like Dani or Trina to wait your tables for you. See how well that goes…" Whitney smirked. It was a common argument they had, her mother wanting her to go out and experience the world, but she knew her mother wasn't serious. There was no way Waverly would follow through with that threat. Her mother had spent the last 20 years of her life focusing solely on Whitney, and she was forever grateful for that.

No matter what she had read in some silly diary.

She hadn't meant to snoop around, but curiosity was in her genes. Well, she couldn't really say that anymore either. She wasn't sure. Growing up, Whitney had always wondered about her own conception. Her mother had always told her she was conceived with the ways of modern technology, through in vitro fertilization with a sperm donor. It had always seemed strange to her, considering her mother was one of the most beautiful women she'd ever seen, someone loved by everyone in town, unlike her wayward aunt who everyone had a complaint about.

So why would a beautiful woman in her 20s turn to science instead of companionship?

"That's a long story full of tears and heartbreak. I'll tell you when you're older." Her mother had always said. But as it turned out, she would never be old enough for that story...at least until she discovered the truth herself.

Okay so maybe she was a bit of a busy body, Whitney could admit, but she hadn't been looking to uncover ancient mysteries.


 

She had just been going through the attic, packing up her things in preparation for the big move when she found it, a dust-covered cardboard box shoved in a corner labeled: DO NOT OPEN EVER AGAIN.

Her mother may as well have set her in front of a big red button and told her not to touch it. To her surprise, it was just… stuff. There were no dangerous contents, no poisonous spiders or venomous snakes waiting to strike. Lifting out the white stetson and what looked like an older version of the uniform her fiancé wore, she set both aside and dug a little further. A coffee mug, a few knick knacks, and…

Lifting up the framed photo, her eyebrows furrowed. The glass was shattered, like someone had hastily thrown it in the box, but it did little to damage the memory it contained. She recognized her mother instantly, minus the streaks of gray and the wrinkles she had always called her laugh lines.

Who she didn't recognize was the redhead, sitting behind her mother, arms wrapped possessively around her shoulders, chin resting on a shoulder.

Now, her mother was always a cheerful person, never one to get upset quickly or get frustrated with her demonic spawn of a child that seemed to get into anything and everything she could reach, but Whitney had never in her life seen her mother smile like that. That smile on her face, and the smile of the woman behind her didn't simply display happiness, it was nauseating bliss.

So naturally, when she found the diary, wrapped in an old t-shirt, her curiosity was beyond piqued. Really, who on Earth would be able to resist reading a diary that was older than she was? What had her mother been like at her age? What did she do to pass the time when she wasn't burdened with raising a child alone at such an early age? Did she date? Was she as wild as her Aunt Wynonna?

She hadn't expected to uncover some huge secret.

Nicole Haught. She had a name to associate with the picture and there were definitely some things she was sorry she read as she flipped through the pages, her own cheeks inflamed with guilt and an inability to put the book down. It wasn't just some sad story, it was her mother's life in black and white on page but full of color in memory. She nearly cried as she read through her mother's hidden feelings when the first IVF procedure resulted in failure. When she reached the last page, simply mentioning some complications with the second IVF after a fight, she felt like everything began to make sense.

Why she was taller than her mother. Why she didn't share a single physical trait with anyone in the family. Why, without her trips to the salon, she would be the only one in the family with red hair. Looking at the picture, studying the familiar curve of a jawline and dimples matching her own, she finally understood.


 

"Hey."

Whitney shook her head. "What?"

"You're spazzing out." Her mother narrowed her eyes, holding the back of her hand to her forehead. "No fever… are you feeling dizzy?"

Swatting the hand away, Whitney laughed. "I'm fine. You should probably get going before Aunt Wynonna lands." She pulled the scarf off the hook near the door and wrapped it around her mother's neck. "Hey… you know I love you right?"

Her mother blinked, a smile crossing her face. "I love you too, Kiddo, but you better not be thinking about running off and eloping cause I'll hunt you down and kill you myself. I've got a small village being built out back 'cause you wanted an outdoor wedding in the middle of winter."

"No eloping," she reassured her mother. "I'm just… just really glad to have you as a mom." She saw it, that little falter in her mother's smile and she couldn't imagine how she'd never noticed it before.

"Well… I couldn't ask for a better daughter than you." Her mother looked like she wanted to say more, but she didn't. She just stood there with half a smile until they both jumped at the sound of skidding.

A loud series of honks accompanied loud music as a car pulled dangerously close to her mother's SUV. Her mother was quick to open the screen door, stepping out into the cold. "MARGARETTE SUSANNAH NEDLEY YOU BETTER NOT HAVE HIT MY CAR!"

Whitney cringed when her friends laughed, crawling out of the convertible that had its top down despite the weather.

"Sorry Miss Waverly." Both of her friends spoke at the same time, running up the stairs.

"Holy shit it's cold."

"Your mom is hilarious."

Whitney didn't respond. She waited for her mother to pull herself into the SUV, patience wearing thin as it took longer than it should for Waverly to pull away from the driveway. Finally she turned to her two friends, her maids of honor because she could never choose between the two. "Guys… I have a confession…"

"Oh my god, you're knocked up!" Margarette, or Anna as everyone knew her by, piped up.

"No! I did something really stupid yet super genius and my mother is going to kill me."

Anna grinned. "I love stupid genius."

"Oh no, Whit. What did you do?" The shortest of the group, Jen, gave her a worried look.

Whitney ran upstairs, taking them two at a time until she got to her room, quickly grabbing the diary from where she'd hid it before running back downstairs. "Ok so…" She poured herself a cup of coffee from the already brewed pot her mother had made. "I invited my mother to my wedding."

Both of her friends gave her a confused look. "Um… Dude I thought your mom gets to be there like by default…" Anna made her own cup of coffee, drowning it in sugar and cream until it was a beige color.

"Not her." Biting her bottom lip, Whitney took a deep breath before blurting out, "my real mother."

"Oh my God… are you adopted?" Anna jumped to the closest assumption. "Holy shit, Whit. I mean we always wondered why you were like the only ginger in the family."

"Especially with red hair being a passive gene." Jen gave her friend a worried look. "How did you find out?"

Whitney shook her head, holding up the diary. "I'm not adopted. My mother gave birth to me but, I found this diary in a hidden box in the attic. The egg my mother had implanted was not hers but… her girlfriend's."

Having been in the middle of a sip of coffee, Anna coughed in surprise, spraying the table with coffee.

"Ew. Anna." Jen quickly stood up to get a towel. "How did we not know your mom was gay?"

"Because she never dates." Whitney pointed out, wiping a bit of the splashed coffee from her arm. "And I don't think she's gay. I mean, she dated Jesse's dad for years."

"That's so creepy," Anna commented. "His dad is so creepy."

"Wait… you said you invited her to the wedding." Jen was always the brighter of her two friends, always trying to connect pieces of puzzles together. "Did you talk to her?"

"Well, no." Whitney felt a bit of guilt at that part. "She might have thought the invite was coming from my mother."

There was complete silence for a long moment before Anna finally spoke up. "Fuck. You're gonna have a wedding and a funeral on the same day."

"Your mother is going to kill you."

Whitney shook her head. "It's going to be fine. I'm going to meet my mother, and maybe find out what the hell happened between them." Pulling out the picture she'd liberated from the frame, she set it on the table for her friends to see. "Because I want to see my mother smile like this."

"Dude…" Jen looked closer at the picture, her eyes darting back and forth between the photo and Whitney. Now that the physical evidence was there, there was no way to deny the resemblance.

A smile spread across Anna's face. "What's the plan?"


 

"What the hell, Waves? Do you know how long I've been waiting?"

Waverly laughed as she shut the engine off, hopping out of the SUV. "Hey, Sis." She opened the back door for the luggage to be deposited before pulling her sibling into a much needed hug. It had been at least a year since she'd seen her. "I missed you."

Wynonna seemed to sense it as she let her sister hold on for longer than the norm, pressing a kiss to her forehead before pulling away. "Hey... I haven't been gone that long…"

"I know…" Waverly released a shuddering breath, trying not to let the strain show. "I'm just… exhausted." She smiled weakly before patting Wynonna on the shoulder, heading back to the driver's seat. "So," she cleared her throat when her sister hopped in, "no Dolls?" She was hesitant to ask, but curiosity was always one of her major weaknesses.

Wynonna shrugged, propping her feet up on the dash as Waverly pulled out into traffic. "We were in the middle of tracking some demon thing I couldn't even try to pronounce. He decided it was that much more important… some sort of worldwide epidemic or whatever…"

"Wynonna! You left him there?" It wasn't that unbelievable, Waverly decided as she pulled onto the highway. Her sister always had a nonchalance that bordered on dangerous, but she also knew that if Wynonna didn't think Dolls could handle it, she wouldn't have left. No doubt Dolls probably hadn't been surprised. 20 years with her sister made even her notoriously unpredictable nature predictable.

"Like I was going to miss the wedding of my favorite niece?"

Waverly rolled her eyes. "You mean your only niece."

"Hey that's not my fault." She leaned her chair back. "Maybe if you dated more…"

"No." Waverly cut her off. Dating was the last thing she wanted to partake in. 20 years and she could count the amount of dates she'd been on on one hand and none of them had come anywhere close to… She shook her head. That was the last thing she needed to think about. "I don't have the time or energy to deal that with… that." It wasn't a lie. Running a bar and taking care of a daughter, who seemed to have gained some of her sister's knack for trouble, wasn't the easiest thing to do alone.

"It's just a bar, Waves."

"And raising a daughter."

Wynonna snorted. "That girl is raised. You need to find a new excuse." She picked at the edge of her coat, a hesitant expression on her face. "So… any word from Doc?"

Waverly didn't want to mention it. She'd been willing to just let the whole subject die but since her sister asked. "I sent an invitation to his last address but I never heard back. You know he just… moves around a lot. It's hard to keep track of him."

"Oh well… fuck him. It's his loss."

While it was true she missed her sister, sometimes the Earp heir could be a pain in her ass. "God you're so full of it. You know you're lucky you're pretty… even for a 50 year old."

"Whoa! I've still got a year… or not… shit."

"Maybe you should try sticking around for a little bit. It'd be nice to have a friendly face other than the one that crawled out of me."

Wynonna sighed, tipping the chair back a bit. "Problem with Purgatory is, without revenants, it's boring as shit. Should have never broken that curse." She crossed her arms over her chest, trying to find the most comfortable position. "Probably why your kid is getting married at 20."

"Believe me I tried to talk her out of it." Waverly exhaled slowly, taking the next exit off the highway. "She's dead set on this wedding."

"I can't believe you're letting her marry into that family."

Waverly snorted. "At least she's not marrying into the Nedleys."

Wynonna chortled, a smile pulling at one side of her mouth. "Whit still friends with that girl? She's always been a looker, but man, no one's really home upstairs."

"Wynonna!" Waverly tried not to laugh. "That's horrible to say." It was fairly accurate. "She's actually gotten a lot better." No she hadn't. "She and Jen are Whit's maids of honor."

"Aren't they called bridesmaids?"

"Yeah well she didn't want to have to choose."

"Changing the rules due to her own conflict avoidance… Earps don't avoid conflict. We thrive in it." Wynonna pursed her lips, the silence speaking more words than she dared speak. She had never agreed with Waverly's decision as far as what to tell Whitney, but she supported her right to raise the girl how she wanted. So instead, she changed the subject. "Jen… Jen… shit is that Pete's kid?" She winced.

"Oh yeah. Thank god her mother's got a brain."

"Smallest fucking town ever." Wynonna sighed, pulling herself back into a sitting up position. "Why do you keep letting her associate with kids of people we've slept with?"

"Smallest… fucking… town." Waverly sighed softly as they passed old and familiar buildings that hadn't changed in more than two decades, as if time had stood still.


 

Nicole Haught took her time as she worked her way through throngs of travelers on her way to her departure gate. The airport thrummed with holiday excitement that was impossible to ignore, try as she might. She passed underneath arches of garland strung from the terminal's high tunneled ceiling, bright red bows and white fairy lights contrasting beautifully against deep green.

Nicole hitched her messenger bag higher on her shoulder and quietly hummed along with George Michael singing Last Christmas on the loudspeaker. She was early for her flight. Perhaps too early. She had been unable to sleep a wink the night before, nerves too wired with eagerness and trepidation. Eventually, she had given up with trying to catch elusive slumber and went straight to the airport.

She paused underneath a globe sculpture illuminated like a massive Christmas ornament, staring at one particular spot on the North American continent-a place Nicole had avoided for over 20 years. A place she would set foot in once again after four hours by plane and an additional hour by car.

She knew it might be a bad idea. Hell, who was she trying to fool? It was definitely a bad idea. Her logical side, the one now sharply honed by years of legal practice, screamed at her to turn around and go back home.

But she couldn't.

Not with the wedding invitation from Waverly Earp tucked snugly inside her bag. Not with the whisper in her heart telling her that getting on the plane meant that she would finally be going home for the first time in a long time.

Before she could dwell on it further, something collided with her legs. Something fast. Something small. Nicole glanced down at a little girl, about 3 or 4 years old, clinging to her leg and looking up at her with wide hazel eyes. She wore a bright red puffy coat and dark green mittens.

"Hey there," Nicole greeted with a gentle smile. "You okay?"

The girl nodded, but said nothing. Only stared at Nicole, curious and unafraid.

"Lily!" A voice shouted. It came from a harried-looking woman rushing up to them, dreadlocks swishing behind her, bangles jangling on her wrists. "I'm, like, so sorry. I swear I turned around for a nanosecond and she took off."

"It's not a problem," Nicole replied. "I think maybe she just wanted to admire the globe too." She winked at Lily, who smiled in return.

"I'm going to California!" Lily shouted suddenly, pointing to the western coast of the United States.

"California?" Nicole bent down and rested her hands on her knees. "I love California! Are you going wine tasting? That's my favorite."

Lily giggled. "No, that's silly. I'm going to Mickey's house with grandma!"

"Mickey's house!" Nicole exclaimed. "That's amazing!"

"She loves Disneyland," the mother supplied, pushing up her black, cateye frames higher on her nose.

"For my birthday," Lily added.

"It's your birthday?" Nicole asked. "Happy Birthday!"

"Not today," Lily corrected her with a shake of her head. "Christmas!"

Nicole felt a sharp pang in her heart even as she continued to voice excitement. "Wow!" She straightened up and smiled at Lily's mother. "A Christmas baby. That's pretty special."

"Yeah. Our little miracle." She ruffled her daughter's blonde curls then took her by the hand. "Okay, monkey, let's go find maman. Say goodbye to…"

"Nicole."

"Say goodbye to Miss Nicole."

"GOODBYE MISS NICOLE!" Lily waved a mittened hand.

"Bye Lily! Have a happy birthday and merry Christmas in California!"

"And thanks again," the mother said. "My wife totally would have killed me for not keeping track of her."

"No thanks needed." Nicole waved her off. "Have a safe trip and happy holidays."

"Ditto." She nodded with a toothy grin and lead Lily away.

Nicole watched them walk away, a bittersweet melancholy aching inside her chest, which squeezed even tighter when Lily ran into the arms of another woman who shared the little girl's blonde curls. The tall woman scooped up the toddler and kissed both of her cheeks, holding her with one arm while she laced the fingers of her free hand with the shorter woman's. They continued walking together as a family.

That could have been me, Nicole thought, ignoring the sting in her eyes. Me and Waverly.

Nicole took a deep breath and continued to her gate, unable to stop the memories from flooding back into her mind. Memories she successfully kept at bay most of the time, but couldn't resist at this time of year. Memories of going to her apartment after a grueling string of 12-hour days plus extra overtime with Black Badge. Nicole had been exhausted, all the energy sapped from her bones.


 

It was just after 7 on a Friday night in early February and Nicole was heading home to freshen up before going to pick up Waverly in about an hour. Even though they spent nearly every night together, she already missed Waverly. Missed the way her small frame slotted perfectly with her own, the smell of sweet wildflowers on her sheets. Missed the sound of her voice and the gentle smile she reserved for Nicole, and only Nicole.

They'd had a busy few months, discussing the possibility of marriage and starting a family, all on top of revenant hunting and the mundane grind of their day jobs. But despite her body's aching desire for rest, Nicole wanted nothing more than to be with Waverly, to have a quiet dinner together at a nice restaurant and not worry about anything else.

Nicole's keys jangled in the lock as she pushed the door to her apartment open, expecting to be welcomed by a purring ball of fluff. But Calamity was nowhere to be seen and, instead, Nicole was greeted by the heavenly aroma of baking bread.

Brow furrowing and mouth watering, Nicole cautiously shut the door and approached the kitchen, relaxing only when she heard Waverly's humming over the soft sounds of chopping. Nicole turned the corner and smiled in surprise, chest warming at the scene before her. Waverly stood at the counter, still in her Shorty's shirt, hips swaying slightly to the song she was singing as she scooped up carrots and placed them in a salad bowl. Calamity laid next to Waverly's feet, sprawled out on the laminate floor, the tip of her tail thumping contentedly.

"I didn't know Shorty's made house calls," Nicole drawled, a lazy grin spreading on her face as Waverly and Calamity both startled.

"Oh!" Waverly pressed a hand to her heart while Calamity glared at Nicole through slitted eyes. "I didn't hear you come in." She wiped her hands on a kitchen towel hanging from the dishwasher and stepped over Calamity to wrap her arms around Nicole's neck and kiss her. "Hi."

"Hi," Nicole repeated against Waverly's lips, hands resting in the dip of Waverly's waist.

"Welcome home."

Nicole loved the way that sounded, coming from Waverly. Would love to hear it for the rest of her life, if she was lucky enough.

"What's all this?" Nicole asked. "I thought we were going into the city tonight."

"I know." Waverly smoothed her hands down to Nicole's shoulders. "But after everything, I figured we could use a night in."

"To bake?"

"Yeah." Waverly bit the corner of her lip. "Is that okay?"

"Of course!" Nicole rubbed circles along the small of Waverly's back. "Just what are you making? It smells amazing."

"Go investigate for yourself, officer." Waverly winked and wiggled out from Nicole's grasp.

"Well all right then," Nicole drawled as she walked toward the oven.

She flipped the switch for the internal lights, bent down, and peered inside where a single tray of hot buns were turning a beautiful shade of golden brown.

"Buns." Nicole turned her head back toward Waverly, who watched her expectantly.

"Yes."

"Great." Nicole straightened out and clapped her hands together. "When do we eat? I'm starving."

Waverly visibly deflated. "That's it?"

"What?"

"That's all you have to say?"

Nicole wrinkled her nose. "Um… I'm sorry, honey, thank you? I appreciate all your hard work."

Waverly covered her face with her hands and chuckled. "Wynonna might have to take back what she said about me finally picking a smart one." She slid her eyes back down and looked at Nicole with warm exasperation. "Try again."

"O-kay," Nicole said, drawing out the first syllable.

"What am I making?"

"Buns."

"And where am I making them?"

"In the…" Nicole's eyes widened. "You've got…" Her heart stopped. "Holy shit, you're pregnant!?"

"No! Oh my god!" Waverly facepalmed. "Jesus, I'm not the Virgin Mary, Nicole."

"Then what…?" Nicole was so confused.

"I'm trying to tell you that I'm ready, you goofnut!" Waverly threw her hands up in the air.

"You're ready?"

"To start a family. With you," Waverly shook her head affectionately, "though I'm starting to think twice about it now."

Nicole let out a relieved laugh. "For a minute there I thought... nevermind what I thought." She took a tentative step forward. "But what about the revenants? The curse?"

"I don't care about any of that." Waverly stepped forward and cupped Nicole's face between her hands. A beautiful, but nervous smile broke out across Waverly's face, wide and bright. "We can do anything together. That is, if you want."

"If I want?" Nicole scooped Waverly into her arms. She twirled them both around, and Waverly laughed in delight. "I want nothing more."

"So we're doing this," Waverly said as she pulled back, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Really doing this?"

Nicole answered her with a kiss, elated beyond words, her own cheeks wet with happiness. She felt like she was floating straight up into the stratosphere.


 

But oh, how quickly one could fall back down to earth, Nicole thought as clouds streamed past her window. The flight had taken off on time and without a hitch-a small miracle for the holiday season. One of the attendants pushed her trolley past and stopped next to Nicole.

"Care for some refreshments?" The perky blonde asked. Her name tag read: Zoie.

"How 'bout a martini?" Pulling down her tray, Nicole smiled even though she already knew what the answer would be.

"We don't carry vermouth, unfortunately. Or olives. But I do have vodka and gin."

"A vodka tonic would be fine, thanks Zoie, on the rocks."

"Not into tradition, huh?"

Nicole's brows knitted. "I'm sorry?"

"I'm assuming you'd want vodka in your martini instead of gin, the more traditional choice."

Nicole chuckled. "I guess you could say I can be pretty unorthodox."

"Unorthodox huh?" Zoie licked her lips, "I like that in a woman." She scooped up some crushed ice into a small plastic cup, which she set in front of Nicole on top of a square napkin. She poured one small bottle of vodka into the cup. "Here ya go, gorgeous." She slipped one extra bottle into Nicole's palm with a wink, thumb skimming Nicole's fingers, before continuing down the aisle.

Nicole lifted her drink, the napkin shifting slightly to reveal a business card underneath. She took a sip to cover her flattered smile; she was only human after all, and it'd been so long since an attractive woman had flirted with her. So long since she reciprocated. Would it be so bad if she gave Zoie a call…?

The sharp taste of the alcohol snapped Nicole back to just where she was going and who she was about to see. In all honesty, she used to enjoy the taste of gin and its pungent pine cone flavor. But ever since she left Purgatory, the taste only reminded her of what she had lost.


 

The evergreens scattered around the Homestead were particularly fragrant in the early spring, before wildflowers and tree blossoms overpowered the fresh scent of pine. But Nicole hardly paid the joys of nature any mind as she tried to catch her breath, coming down from a blissful, heart-pounding high. Waverly, equally breathless, curled against her. A light breeze chilled their bare skin and Nicole gathered the extra blanket they brought on their picnic and tucked it around their naked bodies.

"We were supposed to eat you know," Waverly murmured into Nicole's shoulder.

"We will." Nicole pressed a kiss to Waverly's forehead. "Nothing wrong with workin' up an appetite."

Waverly hummed, content, the rays of the afternoon sun filtering through the branches overhead and flickering across her face. "It's finally getting warm again," she said, lazy and slow. "And when winter comes back, we might have a baby. Can you believe it?"

"No," she said truthfully.

"Me neither." Waverly peered up at her, a shadow of uncertainty passing over her features. "Sometimes… sometimes I think… what if something happens? What if…"

"Nothing's gonna happen," Nicole reassured her, even as a now familiar spike of anxiety cut through and tempered her excitement. "Everything's gonna work out. You'll see."

"You don't know that."

"No, I don't," Nicole admitted, tenderly brushing Wavelry's hair behind her ear. "But everything will work out the way it's supposed to."

"You really believe that, huh?"

"I do." Nicole nodded. She couldn't let on about just how worried she was. They both knew the chances of implantation were low, and the chances of making it to a live birth even lower. But there was no reason to upset Waverly and trouble her about things neither of them could control. All they could do was focus on the positive. "You, me, and Nicole Jr.? We're gonna live happily ever after."

Waverly giggled and swatted Nicole's chest. "For the last time, we are not naming our baby Nicole Jr."

Nicole opened her mouth to reply.

"Or Nicholas," Waverly beat her to it. "Can you imagine being born on Christmas with that name? He'd never hear the end of it."

Nicole chuckled. "Fine, fine. Then what names do you like?"

Waverly grew quiet for a few moments, eyes shining with thought and mirth. "Okay… Wendy, Wilma, Wanda, Wilson, Walter…"

"Good gravy. You Earps and your W names, I swear." Nicole shook her head.

"It's tradition."

"Tradition isn't always a good thing."

Waverly pushed herself up onto her elbow and leaned over Nicole. "It is to me."

Nicole could hardly ever say no to Waverly, and she was especially weak when Waverly looked so beautiful, hair mussed, lips swollen, and cheeks flushed from their lovemaking.

"Okay," she caved. "How 'bout…I don't know... Whitney?"

"Whitney," Waverly repeated, turning the name over in her mind. "I'll think about it."


 

Nicole stared at the wedding invitation, fingers tracing the laced edge, thumb brushing over black ink on pearl white cardstock. It read:

Ms. Waverly Earp
Solicits the Honor of Your Gracious Presence
At the Marriage of Her Daughter
Whitney Earp
To
Jesse James
Saturday, the Twenty-First of December,
Two Thousand and Forty
High Noon
At
The Earp Homestead
Reception to Follow

Nicole took a deep breath. Whitney. The name echoed in her mind as she wondered again if she was making a mistake. She probably was. But by now it was too late. The pilot came over the loudspeaker to announce that they were making their final descent into Calgary.