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i'll follow you into the light (if you say we'll be alright)

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In the morning it comes, heaven sent a hurricane…

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Chinook winds, people called them. Hurtling in from the west, bringing in a warm front from off the mountains, a much-needed reprieve after a harsh winter.

Yet they left one Waverly Earp, perched on the front steps, a quilt as old as the homestead itself draped over her shoulders, shivering with each gust.

She was exhausted. Numb. Dried tear tracks painted her cheeks. Stale adrenaline coursed through her veins like sludge.

Her sister.

Her newborn niece.

Any semblance of family identity.

Gone.

Wood creaked behind her, followed by the feeble slamming of a door. Tentative footsteps fell against the floorboards, the muffled creaks and groans of the aged wood nearly drowned out by the wind. The boards underneath her gave way with the weight of each footstep.

Waverly turned to see Nicole standing next to her, clutching two steaming mugs of tea. She offered one to Waverly.

"Hey."

But she still had Nicole. Her strong, steadfast Nicole.

For now.

"Hey," Waverly replied, taking the mug.

Nicole sat down on the steps next to Waverly, a good eighteen inches between them. Further than Waverly wanted. Needed. Even the relatively small distance between them felt vast. After everything that had happened, she wanted nothing more than to be as close to Nicole as possible, to feel her, to hang onto her because Nicole was her anchor through all the chaos…but the dust had finally settled. All was quiet. No more running. Eventually, she knew they had to talk.

About everything.

She'd rehearsed this conversation a million times in her head. She tried to take a sip of her tea to calm her nerves, but found it too hot to be palpable just yet. Instead, the burning just rubbed the emotional wounds rawer.

It would be easy, to just not tell her…But it wouldn't be fair….Something would happen later and it'd come to light anyway…No more secrets, right?

Nicole whole-heartedly believes in her more than any other person ever has. According to her, she's extraordinary…Except she still feels everything but. The more she thought, the more her stomach twisted itself into knots.

She prayed she wasn't about to lose Nicole, too.

They sat in silence, looking toward the horizon, soft gusts of winds swirling around them. A Chinook arch adorned the skyline, the brilliant orange of sunset shining beneath the clouds. The steam rose off their tea and intermingled with one another, filling the space between them.

"Sorry that took so long. Shae called me," Nicole's voice gently tugged Waverly form her thoughts. Her voice was so soft it was almost carried away with the breeze.

Shae. Right. "Oh," was all Waverly could manage as a reply.

"She's going to fax over the divorce papers tomorrow," Nicole continued. "She said all I need to do it is sign them and send them back. Should be finalized by the end of the week." She didn't sound happy as she delivered the news. She sounded timid, defeated. Ashamed. Everything that contradicted the confident Nicole Waverly knew.

"Sounds good," Waverly replied flatly. She cupped the mug between her hands, warmth finally spreading through her, but still didn't drink.

Behind them, the homestead groaned against the wind.

Waverly glanced at Nicole. She stared at the pathway leading up to the homestead, her eyes fixed on the pebbles sprinkled among the dried grass. Behind her creased brow and eyes now filled with worry instead of warmth, Waverly could see thoughts brewing.

Nicole had something she wanted to talk about, too.

So, she decided to wait. She pulled the blanket tighter around her.

"I promise I was going to tell you. About Shae." Nicole confessed, biting her bottom lip. "We've been meaning to divorce for a while. But I wanted to do it quietly. I didn't want to tell you until it was officially over. But then she got a new job in Chicago, and then everything with the Revenants happened, and you were trying to figure out your own stuff with your family and…I didn't think there was exactly a great time."

The tension Waverly held since Nicole sat beside her melted away. "Nicole, it's okay."

"No, it's not," said Nicole, an edge to her voice. "I lied to you, Waverly. Again. I've been married this entire time and I just…"

The old, rusty windchimes clinked together in the rafters above them. Nicole ran her thumb against the rim of her mug, peering into the steaming, swirling contents.

"There was never anything happening between us," Nicole assured. "It's been…a long time since we've even seen each other. Before I even came to Purgatory. I've been with you the whole time. It's been you, and only you. I hope you know that."

Yes, Waverly knew. She knew Nicole gave herself fully to her since the day she locked them in Nedley's office. There couldn't've possibly been any more room in that big heart of hers for someone else.

Waverly was Nicole's, and hers alone.

"She told me about how you guys met," Waverly said after a pause. "Rock-climbing. Vegas. Britney."

Nicole hung her head. "Do you want the whole story?"

"No, Nicole, you don't have to do this. You don't owe me any of that."

"Except maybe I do. You need to know about the part of me that existed before I came here," she said. "You deserve the whole story, if you want to hear it. I haven't…told a lot of people about Shae…it's not exactly something I'm proud of…So maybe I also need to do this for me…if that's okay."

Waverly nodded. "Of course it's okay."

Nicole gave a small smirk. "I promise it has a happy ending." She took a long pull from her mug, not minding how the liquid scorched the inside of her mouth. Her eyes were fixed to the horizon, oranges shifting to pinks and blues, considering how to confront this. Wind still gusted around them. Finally, she decided it would be best to start at the beginning.

"I was fresh out of university. Took a year to travel around since I never got the chance to while I was in school. At the time Shae was still a med student. She was on summer break with some of the people in her residency cohort. I was out climbing in La Madre and I slipped and fell into a ravine…she rescued me. Since I was traveling alone, she invited me back to her group's camping site. We hung out for a few days, slowly making our way toward the city…” Nicole paused, considering the contents of her mug again, as if they would tell her how to best proceed.

"It'll probably surprise you to hear that it was my idea to get married."

Waverly let herself smile, raising her eyebrows at Nicole. "You're, like, the last person I could ever imagine getting married in Vegas," she scoffed, sipping her tea, a smile tugging at her lips.

Even Nicole managed a small smile. "That's what I thought, too," she said quietly. "We got separated from the rest of the group the night we hit the strip. We hit the bars pretty hard that night. Saw a sign for stand-by tickets for Britney: Live! and grabbed 'em when we both discovered the other was a big fan. Rode out the rest of the night high on pop music and cheap alcohol. On our way back to our hotel we stopped by the slot machines, just to press our luck. Hit it big on our first go. We felt like we were on top of the world…"

"When in Vegas, right?" said Waverly wryly.

"Yeah…when in Vegas…," Nicole echoed, "But what happens there doesn't always stay there…" As Nicole trailed off, the air around them grew heavy. Nicole offered Waverly a weak, reluctant smile. It only lasted a moment before it disappeared. Waverly noticed; she turned her gaze away.

"I guess you know what happened after that," Nicole murmured. She took another long sip from her mug.

"The funny thing is…" Waverly heard traces of a smile in her voice as she continued. "We woke up the next morning and didn't even regret it. We spent the day by the pool, nursing our hangovers, talking…We…connected. We actually thought we stumbled on something special. We both had dreams of going out into the world and helping people. Shae's the one who encouraged me to enroll in the police academy once I got back to Canada."

"You two were quite the match, then."

"We sure thought so at the time. We were going to travel some more before Shae had to go back to school. Head down to Joshua Tree and the Grand Canyon and then up to Zion in Utah. But two days into our trip, we were climbing in Mojave, and I didn’t secure my line correctly and fell. Again. Tore my rotator cuff when I tried to catch myself on the way down, and cracked my shoulder blade when I hit the ground. Spent the next six days in the hospital. Of course, my parents wouldn't come, so…Shae stayed with me.

"She was going to school in Boston. She asked me to go back with her. I didn't have any ties, not much of a home to go back to. So I went. A new city, a new relationship, a new adventure. It was appealing. It was really great at first. Shae and I just…hung out for the last few weeks of summer. Not that there was a lot I could do otherwise…But that's what our marriage became. We enjoyed each other, for sure, but I felt guilty that she'd spent the first two months of our marriage basically taking care of me. But she was so kind and patient…"

The wind died down to barely a whisper.

Nicole set down her mug beside her. She rested her elbows on her knees, her hands clasped loosely. She let out a heavy sigh.

"Everything changed once Shae went back to school," she said, her voice low. "I finished physical therapy and got strength in my arm back around the same time. We realized we'd gotten married in a fever and suddenly it just…broke overnight. There were a lot of fights. I had a hard time getting a job because of my injury. Shae was either in school or working her residency, so we hardly ever saw each other. One of us had too much time on her hands while the other could barely fit twenty-four hours in a day. We kept…missing each other. Couldn't make time for the other. That's not how you make a marriage work. We lasted six months before we realized we wouldn't make it."

Waverly's chest tightened; tears prickled the edges of her vision. She lay a hand on top of Nicole's, her fingers wrapping around her hand.

"I'm sorry, Nicole."

The wind picked up again, drying the tears before they fell.

Nicole continued. "Anyway, one night, I just decided to leave. I wanted to give us some space. Packed up my car while Shae was working a night shift. Drove myself until I couldn't drive anymore. I called Shae when I finally got to a hotel. I told her that I was all in, I wanted to make it work, that maybe we just needed some time apart…She was the one who suggested we finally break it off. She told me we were kidding ourselves if we tried to make the marriage work. And I knew she was right."

She untangled a hand from Waverly's, hastily wiping away a tear that slid down her cheek. Waverly pulled her hand back under the quilt, already cold from its short venture into the wind.

Nicole held her head in her hands in shame. Waverly's heart ached.

"We didn't…hate each other. Not really. Just two people who crossed paths who were never meant to be together," said Nicole quietly. "I went back to Canada the next day. Crashed at a friend's house until I got my bearings again. Got a stable job. Started looking into finally enrolling at the police academy. We'd call each other, from time to time. Check in. The last time I saw her was about a week before I started the academy. I hadn't seen her in probably a year. In our time apart, though, we realized just how different we were to begin with."

Nicole sat up, sniffing, wiping her cheeks.

"And…that was it," she shrugged. "We parted ways."

Waverly furrowed her brow. "So were you two just going to live out the rest of your lives married, not really speaking to each other? That's not very fair, to either of you."

Nicole shrugged. "We could just ignore it. And we did, for a while. We had to wait at least six months to get it annulled anyway. It was an easy solution at the time. We kept the marriage for tax breaks, health insurance…nothing more. A cross-continental marriage was just easier than trying to divorce. Initially she just did it as a favor to me, while I was still looking for a job…I needed an emergency contact once I signed up for the police academy. And since my relationship with my parents is tense at best, I needed a next of kin in case anything happened to me…and then it just became our reason for keeping the marriage."

"Seems like a miserable way to live…" said Waverly.

Nicole nodded. "The last we talked, though, Shae offered me a deal. We agreed to just keep the marriage until either one of us found something--or someone--significant enough to actually take the divorce seriously. But I wasn't holding my breath for anything. I figured Shae was going to be the first one out."

She turned her head to look at Waverly.

"Shae and I were married for almost three years before I just decided it was finally time to put that part of my life behind me."

Waverly raised her eyebrows. "What happened?"

The warmth returned to Nicole's eyes as she answered, "I met you."

“Oh.” Waverly felt a tinge of heat rush to her cheeks.

"You're the first person to come along who I could imagine having a real future with," Nicole continued. She scooted toward Waverly, closing the distance between them. "Come the end of the week, it'll just be just you and me. For as long as you'll have me." She paused. "If you'll still have me. If you don't think I'm flawed or broken for being married and lying to you about it."

Waverly shook her head fervently, reaching over to squeeze Nicole's arm reassuringly. "No, no, baby. I could never think that. Not about you. You're perfect. You're human, and this is just a part of you…but it doesn't make me think less of you. Never."

Nicole smiled gratefully at Waverly. "Thanks, Waves." She laid her hand on top of Waverly's. Waverly couldn't help but smile, too.

"Told you the story has a happy ending." Nicole leaned in to kiss her, but Waverly just shifted back, her smile immediately vanishing.

Nicole didn't deserve this.

Waverly’s stomach churned. Nicole was being amazing and open and patient and willing to share this part of her life that she felt ashamed about…now Waverly knew she was about to break her heart even more. She couldn't lead her on too much. She turned away from Nicole, her gaze fixation on the horizon once more. This story wasn't over…and it wasn't going to have a happy ending.

Nicole noticed her suddenly distant demeanor. "Waves, what is it?"

Waverly shook her head. "You're being too nice to me," she said, her voice low.

Nicole frowned. "What are you talking about? Have you not been listening? You're the one who's being too nice to me. Here I am with this huge secret that I kept from you on top of the fact that I looked at your DNA results without your permission--"

"I need to tell you something." Waverly shifted back toward Nicole. She set her mug down on the porch.

Sensing her tone change, Nicole furrowed her eyebrows in concern. "What's wrong?"

Waverly buried her face in her hands. "I did something awful…and I don't know if you'll ever forgive me."

Nicole reached for Waverly's hands, gently pulling them away from her face. "Waverly, whatever it is, we can talk about--"

"I kissed Rosita."

And there it was.

The wind disappeared. All air around them disappeared.

Nicole's hands fell away. "Oh."

A lump formed in Waverly's throat. She swallowed. "After everything with the DNA test, I just wanted to forget everything. Rosita was just being a really good friend. We went to the Purgatory Spa and there was champagne and I was really mad at you and freaking out because I just sent you that awful text and so--"

"You kissed her."

Waverly's eyes stung as tears spilled over. "I'm so sorry Nicole," she said thickly. "I regretted it the second it happened. So did Rosita…" Her voice was tight, trying to hold in the sob caught in her chest. She didn't dare to look at Nicole, so she threw the blanket from her shoulders and stood up, leaving Nicole sitting on the porch. "I can't do this right now…"

"Waverly, wait--" she heard behind her, but couldn't possibly bear to hear the next thing to come out of Nicole's mouth.

She burst through the front door of the homestead, her legs fumbling as she sprinted up the stairs, stiff from sitting too long. She almost tripped on the top step. Getting her footing, she flew into her room, flinging herself facedown onto her bed. She let out a sob as her face hit the pillow.

Wynonna.

Alice.

And now Nicole.

She was alone.

And she was going to let herself cry until she couldn't cry anymore.

A few minutes passed, however, when she heard floorboards creak as someone else entered the room.

She felt the bottom corner of the mattress dip.

"Waverly…"

"Don't," Waverly murmured, her words muffled by her pillow. "Just leave. You don't have to stay here. Don't say you forgive me."

Nicole didn't budge.

"But I do forgive you," said Nicole in a voice so quiet Waverly almost didn't hear her.

Waverly pushed herself up, glancing over her shoulder at Nicole, noting the new tear stains streaked down her cheeks. "What did you say?"

"I said that I forgive you," said Nicole. She gave Waverly a weak shrug. She pursed her lips, looking down at her hands, fidgeting in her lap.

"No, you don't," Waverly retorted, shaking her head. "Or, you shouldn't. I don't deserve it."

"And I forgive you anyway. And you do deserve it."

Bewildered by her answer, Waverly sat up to face Nicole proper, pulling her knees to her chest. Nicole kicked off her shoes and drew her legs up onto the bed as well. They faced one another, still a good distance apart. Waverly eyed Nicole curiously, noticing the same stormy look behind her eyes she saw earlier. She still wasn't looking at Waverly, though; rather, he was transfixed by the patterns on the bedspread, tracing them with her fingers.

"What are you thinking about?"

"I'm wondering what the hell happened," said Nicole in a small voice, unlike any Waverly had ever heard from her.

"I don't know…" Waverly replied. "I mean, I do know what happened…I just don't know…why it happened…"

"Look, Waverly, if this was all because of the DNA results--"

"No. I mean, it was. Kind of. Not really. Not all of it," Waverly stammered.

Nicole looked up. "Will you tell me, then?"

It was now Waverly's turn to hang her head. She took a deep breath.

"I think I did it because I was just…feeling so many things that I couldn't feel anything anymore. I was mad. And upset. And confused. But I wasn't mad at you just for looking at my DNA results. I was mad because everything that's been going on made me feel kind of alone…And the one person who I knew would never made me feel that way was the one to break that trust in the first place."

"Waverly, I'm so sorry I ever made you feel that way," said Nicole, her voice breaking. “I thought, by looking at the DNA results… I knew it might reveal some things that you weren’t ready to see, and I could help you work through them. But now I know it was a huge mistake, and a huge breach of your trust.” She looked at Waverly, her eyes brimming with tears. "But if this is what had you so twisted up, why didn't you just tell me?"

"Aside from the poisoning, the cross-universe traveling, smuggling away my sister's newborn…"

Nicole pursed her lips. "Right…I guess there wasn't a great time. Until now." She sniffed, wiping her nose with her shirt sleep. "I am glad you told me, though."

“I am, too. Even though I was pretty sure that…if you knew…you might not want to be with me anymore…"

Nicole immediately looked worried. "I mean…if you think we should…I feel like I've been pushing you too far, too fast, and steered you toward things you weren't ready for…”

"No!" Waverly exclaimed, reaching across the bed to grab Nicole's hand. Except it didn’t quite reach; it landed on the bedspread, inches away from Nicole’s. Wanting, yearning, but not close enough to touch. "I mean…I don't want to. I just…didn't want to lose you." Waverly pulled her hand back.

"So what do we do now?" asked Nicole.

"I don’t know."

Neither of them moved.

"I just…want to move on," Waverly offered. "From Shae. From Rosita. The Goo. From everything." Waverly's chin quivered, a fresh set of tears brewing. "The kiss did make me realize something, though," she said quietly.

"What's that?" Nicole asked. Her face didn’t show it, but Waverly couldn't help but notice worry behind her eyes.

"It made me realize, in the grand scheme of things…" she trailed off. "Even before the Widow Mercedes attacked you, before…"

Before I thought I was going to lose you forever...

"I thought about a life without you in it. And it scared me. And broke my heart. Because you've been the only solid thing throughout all of this. You've been such a rock…for all of us. You're the only thing keeping me going. You're everything. Strong. Brave. Compassionate. Patient." Waverly chanced a glimpse at the woman sat across from her. "My life's better because you're in it. I love you, Nicole. And I'm sorry it took me so long to say that."

“Waverly, I—” Nicole began, but was immediately interrupted by Waverly.

"But I totally get it if you're furious with me,” Waverly pressed on, oblivious to Nicole’s response. “Hell, I'm furious with me."

"Waves…"

"It was a mistake. A shitty mistake I made that I regret every single day that it happened," Waverly rambled on. She leaped up off the bed. "I don't know why I did it. I don't feel anything for Rosita." She began to pace around the room. "I mean, I liked her as a friend--you know, up until she was about to give Alice up to the other Revenants as currency. But there's nothing there. I just wanted to feel something. After all the shit that's happened in the last few months…It just made me realize that I love you."

"Waverly…"

"And if I could just...go back in time--" Waverly stammered.

"Waverly!"

Nicole had risen from the bed as well, and caught Waverly by the shoulders. "Waverly, look at me."

Waverly chanced a look at Nicole. She was calm. Leveled. Not a trace of anger.

"It's okay."

Waverly blinked. "What?"

"I said it's okay. It was a mistake, you said it yourself."

"But how are you not furious with me? I…kissed someone else, Nicole. I kissed Rosita," Waverly argued.

"And I'm married," countered Nicole. "I'm not exactly in the clear here, either." Nicole gave Waverly's shoulders a squeeze. "And I know you regret it. I know that you don't feel anything for Rosita. You know how I know that?"

Waverly shook her head.

"It was tearing me up inside knowing I broke your trust by looking at your DNA results without your permission. I spent most of that day thinking I was going to lose you, too…When the Widow came for me, I was convinced I was going to die with you still mad at me." A tear rolled down Nicole's cheek. "But then, you were there. And you saved my life. I think that's more telling than any kiss."

Nicole considered Waverly for a moment, her eyes scanning her face. Then, she took Waverly's hands in her own. She led her back over to the bed. They sat side-by-side, hands held between them. Waverly still avoided eye contact with her.

"Maybe, in another lifetime, I would've stormed off, and it would've been over. And maybe there's a part of you that thinks I should." Nicole bent her head down to meet Waverly's concerned gaze. Her eyes were warm, forgiving, the storm beginning to clear. "But I'm not going to do that. I'm not going anywhere. And, I'll still be by your side. As long as you want me. I'm sorry I never told you about Shae. I'm sorry I looked at your DNA results without your permission. You deserve better from me. "

"And you deserve better from me, too," Waverly insisted. "I'm sorry about Rosita. And the text. And keeping you out of Black Badge--"

She was cut off by Nicole's lips crashing against hers.

One hand resting at the crook of her neck, the other making its way around her waist, Nicole pulled Waverly closer, their knees knocking together. Waverly threw her arms around Nicole's neck, deepening the kiss.

Nicole slid all the way onto Waverly's bed, her hand resting at the back of Waverly's neck, her fingers knotting themselves in her hair.

They parted, their foreheads resting against one another. They stayed there for a moment, breathing each other in. A calming of the storms raging in and around them.

"So you don't hate me for what I did?" Waverly asked, looking up at Nicole. Relief surged through her veins, almost making her dizzy.

Nicole's hand rested on the side of Waverly's face, her thumb gently stroking her cheek.

"I meant what I said to you that day in the hospital. I love you, Waverly. I have never loved anybody the way that I love you. In all my life, I have never met a person more worth loving than you. And I'm not about to let you go." Nicole slid her hands down to clasp Waverly's, their fingers intertwining. She brought her hands to her lips, and then brought them to rest against her chest. Against her strong, loving heart.

"And that means loving every part of you. Through all the good stuff. And the mistakes. Until, God forbid, I ever find a good enough reason to stop loving you." She brought Waverly's hands to her lips again, placing a gentle kiss against her knuckles. "And it means forgiveness. Because one mistaken kiss doesn't mean I'm gonna stop loving you."

Waverly's heart swelled with love for the woman before her.

"And I'm not saying that I don't care that it happened…" Nicole paused. Waverly's head drooped, but Nicole caught a finger under her chin, lifting it up so their eyes met.

"But I also know that some of this is my fault, too. I have my own secrets that I've been keeping. If I hadn't been such a control freak…"

Waverly grimaced as Nicole threw her words back at her.

Nicole shook her head and sighed. "If I hadn't tried to make your decisions for you, instead of just letting you live your life in your Waverly Earp way…we wouldn't be here."

Waverly smiled guiltily.

"And I also know that you still came over to apologize that day…and if you hadn't, Mercedes would have killed me."

Waverly winced at the memory. "Didn't matter. They still hurt you," Waverly retorted.

"Yeah, but a lot worse could've still happened…You still dropped everything and rallied everyone together to find a cure for me. And somewhere in that time you found out that I was still married to someone else. Even then you still thought I was worth saving."

"I saved you because I love you, Nicole. Because it scared the hell out of me having to imagine a life without you."

"I know. And I love you, too. That's why I forgive you. And you're right, some crazy shit's been happening. And something tells me it's not ever going to get any less crazy. Not while you Earp girls are still around." She tucked a stray piece of hair behind Waverly's ear. "But I think we deal with the crazy better when we do it together." Waverly nodded in agreement.

They locked eyes. Then Waverly leaned in, gently capturing Nicole's lips with her own, trying to convey everything that had yet to be said between them. As Nicole rested a hand against her cheek, Waverly found she still had things to say, too.

I'm sorry. For all of it.

I know. I'm sorry, too. For all of it.

I love you.

I love you.

"You know, whoever said 'love means never having to say you're sorry' is a damn liar," said Waverly when they parted. It earned a small smile from Nicole. "I'm sorry for dragging you into this, Nicole. I promise to never put you through anything like that ever again." She took Nicole's hands in her own. "But if we're going to do this…We have to trust each other. Let each other do what we need to do. Help each other when we can. Move on from the mistakes we've made. And it's probably gonna be hard. But they say love is worth it. And with you, I know it is. Okay?"

Nicole nodded. "Okay." She smiled again, pressing another soft kiss against Waverly's forehead, her cheeks, her lips. Every part she loved. She pulled Waverly down against the pillows, one hand cupping Waverly's cheek, the other brushing along the patch of exposed skin beneath the hemline of her shirt. Waverly shivered at her touch…

They jumped apart when a low, mechanic rumbling shook the house. Waverly's eyes flickered toward her window, hoping, perhaps, to see the black body of a motorcycle speeding along the horizon. Nothing. It was just a plane passing overhead. She let out a sigh, collapsing back against the headboard.

"Do you think she'll ever come back?"

Nicole didn't have to ask who Waverly was talking about. She propped herself up on her elbow, stroking Waverly's arm. "If I know anything about Wynonna, she's going to fight with everything's she's got to break the curse. So her daughter never has to." She wrapped her arms around Waverly again, resting her chin on the top of her head. "But she'll be back. She just needs some time." She planted a kiss on the crown of her head.

Waverly still looked out the window. Past the horizon, her eyes searching for something now long gone…

Nicole cast her gaze out the window, too, but couldn't see what had demanded Waverly's attention.

"What’s got you thinking so hard?" she asked.

At first, Waverly didn’t answer. "I hope she's okay…" Waverly mumbled.

"Wynonna's fine. She just needs--"

"I'm not talking about Wynonna," said Waverly.

Of course she wasn't talking about Wynonna.

Nicole sighed as realization dawned on her. She reached her other arm around Waverly, enveloping her in a tight embrace. Waverly nestled into Nicole's chest.

"I was really excited…to be 'auntie Waverly'," her voice trembled.

Nicole sighed sadly next to her. "I know, baby…" she murmured. She pressed a tender kiss to Waverly's temple.

Waverly looked up at Nicole, eyes shining. "You know Wynonna named her Alice? Alice Michelle."

"It's a beautiful name," said Nicole gently.

"Michelle was my mother's name," said Waverly, her voice thick. “I just…can't believe she's gone…”

"Hey, come here." Nicole leaned back to hold Waverly's face in her hands, wiping the tears away with her thumbs. "That little girl we sent off in a helicopter--"

"Quite the getaway vehicle, really," Waverly interjected.

"--is going to grow up away from all of this. She's going to have an amazing life. Nobody's going to find her. I made sure of it. She'll be okay. And when the curse is broken, we'll bring her back. Okay?"

Waverly nodded weakly. "Thanks for keeping her safe. We wouldn't've been able to pull it off without you."

Nicole shrugged. "Well, she's family. You do what you gotta do."

Nicole wrapped her arms around Waverly. Waverly buried her head into the crook of Nicole's neck, tears soaking into the shoulder of Nicole's jacket. Nicole just held her and rubbed her back. For a few moments, they sat there, holding each other.

"And for what it's worth," Nicole drew back from the embrace, wiping more of Waverly's tears away. "You would've been the best auntie Waverly." She pecked Waverly softly on the lips.

"How do you do that?" asked Waverly through a watery smile.

"Do what?"

"Manage to always make me feel better?"

Nicole smiled. "It's because I love you. That's what I'm supposed to do. And even when it's not okay…I’ll just be here."

Waverly felt tears form again, but this time it wasn't because she was heartbroken. She looked up at the woman she loved, meeting her chocolate brown eyes, all traces of the storm disappeared. She ran her fingers through her soft hair, tracing down to rest at the back of her neck.

"Hey."

"Hey."

"I missed you."

Missed this. Missed the calm. Missed the world only being her and Nicole. She drew Nicole to her and kissed her hard. Nicole leaned back, letting Waverly lay on top of her.

Waverly nipped at Nicole's bottom lip, earning a content sigh from Nicole. Her hands trailed the collar of her jacket, tugging it off her shoulders. She yanked it off and tossed it across the room. Then she moved to Nicole's top.

"Wait, Waverly, are you--?"

"Yes, I'm sure. Are--"

"Yeah. Me, too."

They were exhausted, yes; they needed sleep. But they also needed each other. Their strength. Their generosity. Their warmth. They would need each other more in the coming months more than they could ever imagine…Why not start now?

It didn't take long for their need for closeness—for reconnection—to finally come boiling to the surface.

It's slow at first, both cautious of the fragility of the bridges scorched in their revelations.

But a few minutes pass and they realize that the bridge between them was never harmed; in fact, it was stronger than ever.

For the first time, there's nothing holding them back.

No secrets. No fear. No worry.

Just Waverly and Nicole. Crashing together like waves eager to meet the shore. But they're also gentle with one another. Because there's something about this that still feels new. Still feels fragile. Like they have to fully take each other in because this could all disappear in the blink of an eye.

It almost did.

However, when the dust finally settles and the world is finally quiet, when Waverly wakes the next morning, tangled under the blankets--all four of them--with Nicole's arm draped over her bare abdomen, soft snores escaping her lips, one thing becomes overwhelmingly clear.

Nicole isn't going anywhere. Neither is she.

They were going to be okay.

.
.
.

And if you say we'll be alright
I'll follow you into the light