take me home (mommy, i'm coming home)
oh Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.
are you aware the shape I'm in?
my hands they shake, my head it spins.
oh Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.
- ‘I and Love and You’ by the Avett Brothers
One week before Christmas.
There’s a tree in the living room of the homestead, popcorn garland and multi-colored lights wrapped around and around and around again with little rhyme or reason, presents of all shapes and sizes scattered beneath it.
There’s a fire in the hearth throwing warmth and light across the room, orange and yellow hues dancing with shadows on the walls. The homestead smells like sugar cookies and cocoa. And there’s not a sound to be heard except for the crackling of the wood.
Wynonna stands at the front door, eyes staring out the window and into the dark of night. Nicole stands beside her, watchful like a sentry, solid and secure. Doc is at the window to their right with his hat in his hand and no less intense of focus on the road that leads onto the property. Dolls, Waverly, and Jeremy sit at the table, looks skittering from Doc to Wynonna and Nicole to each other.
You could cut the tension in the air with a knife.
(Nicole never thought much of the idiom until now. Has never been in a situation where that has been the most apt description for the atmosphere of a room. Even after all they have been through. Never has she felt so anxious, wound so tight.)
“They should be here by now,” Wynonna mutters, breaking the silence and some of the tension.
Nicole shakes her head. “The flight was late into Calgary. They’ll be here.”
She tries to exude a calming presence. For Wynonna. For Waverly. For everybody. Even though she wants to dig her phone from her pocket and dial the number that isn’t saved into her contacts and demand an update.
It wouldn’t do any good. They’ll get here when they get here.
But then they hear it. All of them hear it. The slow crunch of tires on the gravel and dirt road. They see the high beams of a car’s headlights crawling up the drive.
Doc and Waverly fly out the door, forgoing coats despite the chill of night and winter. Jeremy follows, stumbling as he tugs on his coat like a normal, sane person in Alberta in December.
Wynonna, though. Wynonna stands stock still in the place where she had retreated so as not to meet the door with her face. Nicole had moved with her, still standing at her side with love and understanding in her eyes. Dolls moves slowly to flank Wynonna’s other side and he shares a look with the deputy sheriff, knowing and sympathetic, too.
Because the car has stopped, and it isn’t something showy like a helicopter or an armored vehicle. It’s a nondescript, silver sedan and it’s delivering the most precious package that any of them have ever known.
Because Gus steps out from the driver’s side and pulls Waverly into a tight hug and then she moves toward the right side, rear door. Nicole can read the excitement in Waverly’s body language from here, watching through the open doorway as all the warmth escapes.
Nicole doesn’t shut the door. Instead, she reaches for Dolls’ coat that he takes with a small, grateful smile. She drapes Wynonna’s coat over her shoulders and then slips into her own duty jacket. They stay there, standing and watching and waiting as Gus pulls open the car door and lifts a little girl into her arms.
And then the girl is in Waverly’s arms and Waverly is walking back toward the house and Doc and Jeremy are helping Gus pull bags and suitcases from the trunk of the sedan. Waverly is walking back toward the house and there’s a little girl in her arms with dark brown hair and bright blue eyes and Wynonna doesn’t know what to do .
Because Waverly is on the porch and then in the house and somehow standing right in front of them.
“Alice,” Waverly says softly, “Do you know who this is?”
Nicole places a steadying hand on Wynonna’s back. She can see the shimmer of tears in her eyes, and so she stretches an arm across her shoulders and holds her firmly in a sideways embrace.
Because Wynonna is looking at Alice and Alice is looking at Wynonna.
“She’s my mama.”
The words break Nicole’s heart as much as they heal it. There are tears in her eyes, too.
And Wynonna pulls Alice into her arms and laughs and cries and presses a wet kiss to her little girl’s cheek. Because it’s been three years, nine months, and seventeen days since she said goodbye to the coolest thing she’s ever done. Since she had to do the hardest thing she’s ever had to do in her life.
“I’m your mama, baby girl.”
With a gentle nudge, Nicole leads them to the sofa in front of the fireplace. Wynonna sits with Alice on her lap and Waverly curled into her side. Dolls moves to help Gus and Doc and Jeremy with the luggage, finally shutting the door and allowing warmth to fill the home once more.
“I never stopped thinking about you, baby,” Wynonna murmurs to her daughter, and Doc joins them on the couch, wrapping his arms around his girls, whispering words of delicate and dainty in blue . “But I did it. I broke the curse and you’re here now.”
“Why do you cry, mama?” Alice asks and Wynonna cries harder because delicate and dainty toddler hands reach out to wipe away the tears that stain her mother’s cheeks. “Don’t cry.”
“I’m happy, Alice. I’m so happy you’re home.”
Because the curse is broken and Alice is here. Alice is here after everything.
Nicole smiles and laughs through her own tears, leaning over the back of the sofa to kiss the top of Waverly’s head. Because she was there the day that Wynonna sent the last revenant back to hell. She was there to hear Alice’s name on Wynonna’s lips. She was there to feel the promise of love and security and family shift to something closer to reality than fantasy.
Wynonna exhales. A puff of warm breath condensates in the cool, autumn air. She’s wearing the new motorcycle jacket that Waverly and Nicole bought her for her thirty-first birthday. A woolen scarf the shade of candy apple red is wrapped around her neck.
It’s a colder than average morning in October.
Her right hand hangs at her side, holding Peacemaker in a loose grip.
She exhales again. Her heart beats steadily in her chest. The woods beyond the homestead are quiet.
She doesn’t turn around, doesn’t spare a glance over her shoulder as she hears frozen twigs snap beneath the heavy tread of familiar Lowa Task Force boots running through the forest. She knows that footfall, the one that has been a constant at her side since the day they sent Alice away.
Nicole stops beside her, breathing heavily after her sprint to catch up.
“Are you okay?” she asks. The cop in her continues to scan the barren landscape for their target. The best friend in her looks over Wynonna’s calm and collected demeanor with a hint of concern in her warm, brown eyes.
Wynonna doesn’t answer. Not right away. She stands there and she breathes in the crisp air and allows her eyes to close. She holsters Peacemaker and turns to Nicole, who is waiting patiently with her hands shoved into the pockets of her duty jacket.
“I thought it would be more exciting,” she says. “Like baby angels playing trumpets or fireworks or something.”
Nicole’s brow wrinkles in confusion. “What are you talking about?” But even as the question leaves her lips, the pieces are falling into place in her mind. Her heart skips a beat and something catches in her throat.
It feels a lot like hope.
She needs to hear the words, though. Needs them to be said aloud, rendered tangible through the exhalation of nitrogen and oxygen and carbon dioxide into the air. Needs Wynonna to confirm what her brain is telling her but what her heart refuses to accept.
It is anticlimactic.
Not that Nicole even knows what she expected to happen.
Because of the seventy-seven outlaws that Wyatt Earp killed, William Bolinger was the last one that had not yet made his peace. William Bolinger, who had the balls to try to kill the heir from the woods with a sniper rifle. He missed by a mile and Wynonna was after him faster than Nicole could blink. And now… now.
Nicole exhales. A puff of warm breath condensates in the cool, autumn air. She breathes.
It takes them four years to break the curse.
Four years to succeed where previous generations of Earps had failed. Four years of fighting tooth and nail for a future without fear, without the weight of the curse bearing down on them, all the while wondering if they’ll come out of this alive.
(Unscathed is too much to ask for. Each of them wears their scars like motivational sayings inscribed onto skin and etched into the soul.)
But they do it.
Heroes always win.
The next word to leave Wynonna’s mouth sounds a lot like a promise. “Alice,” she says, and then she’s turning on her heel and running back to the homestead with Nicole at her side.
Wynonna texts Dolls and Doc and tells them to stop watching for Bolinger at the border. She tells them to come home. She calls Waverly and Jeremy at the Black Badge office and tells them the same thing. “Need you at the homestead, baby girl. Family meeting.”
Nicole disappears into Waverly’s room, her phone already pressed firmly to her ear. She paces the length of the room, boots clomping across the wooden floor as she waits to hear a familiar voice answer.
“Nicole?” she hears and it’s a woman’s voice that she has come to know well over the past three years.
“Chrissy, hi,” she says and the words that follow are quick and unreal to her own ears as she tells her that the curse is broken, that Wynonna has done it, that Alice is finally safe to come home.
“ Perry! ” Nicole hears Chrissy shout, and then the audio feeding into her ear takes on that tinny sound of being put on speakerphone.
And then she explains it again and everytime she says it aloud, it feels more and more like maybe they can do this. Maybe they can finally stop looking over their shoulders. Maybe they can finally breathe a little easier.
Together they make plans to bring Alice home. It will take time, Perry says, but he has the paperwork and a lawyer waiting in the wings to give Alice back her life, to return her to the mother and father and aunts and uncles that love her more than anything in the world. They make plans and set a date for the week before Christmas. Chrissy and Perry promise to contact Gus as soon as they can. They’ll be in touch, they say.
She’s coming home.
It’s an easier transition than any of them expected. Even Nicole, who passed along photos and letters and stories so that Alice would grow up knowing that she was loved, knowing about her crazy and brave mom and her gallant dad. So she would know of her brilliant Aunt Waverly and her stoic and silly uncles.
They thought there would be an adjustment period — for all of them. But Alice Michelle Holliday fits like a missing puzzle piece into their quaint and unconventional family. She settles into their lives as easily as she crawls into their laps, and each and every time she calls Wynonna ‘ mama ’ or Doc ‘ papa ’, their eyes still shine with euphoric tears.
The homestead smells like sugar cookies and cinnamon rolls and coffee and cocoa. It’s filled with the music of laughter and life and Bing Crosby crooning ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’. There’s wrapping paper and open boxes spread out across the floor, and sitting amongst all the chaos is a little girl with so much joy and love in her eyes.
“Do you ever think about kids?” Nicole asks, settled into the armchair with her girlfriend sitting sideways on her lap with her legs hanging over the side of the chair. She plays with the rings on Waverly’s fingers, wondering what an engagement ring might look like there.
(The thought alone makes her smile.)
Waverly bites at her lower lip and nods. “Sometimes,” she says. “Probably more this week than I ever have before.”
Nicole’s eyes turn to Alice, and she knows what Waverly means. It’s why she asked, honestly.
But Waverly keeps her eyes on Nicole and reaches forward to try to tame morning bedhead behind the redhead’s ear. She smiles when Nicole turns her head and places a kiss on her palm. The tenderness in the moment takes her breath away, and she knows she has never loved anybody as much as she loves this woman before her. It’s the reason she frowns when she sees doubt flicker in Nicole’s eyes. It makes her question the words she just said.
“Do you not want kids?” she’s quick to ask, and she can feel the uncertainty and disappointment trying to seep into her heart.
Nicole is just as quick to shake her head. “No,” she assures. “No, it’s not that.” She bites her lip like Waverly did a moment ago. She feels vulnerable around Waverly. It isn’t in a bad way; no, it’s that she feels safe enough to be vulnerable, to let down her guard. Waverly slips into all of the cracks that make her feel less than whole and helps her to feel like something more . She feels so much love and security with this woman and this hodgepodge family of theirs.
She wants to share that with somebody who needs it. A little boy or little girl (or little, wonderful, gender non-conforming child). Love, security, and family.
“Could we…” she begins to ask. “Do you think maybe we could look into fostering? I’m not… I’m still a cop and Nedley’s retiring soon. I’m not sure it would be a good idea for me to get pregnant and I would never ask that of you, if you don’t want it.”
Waverly smiles at her with that hundred-watt smile. “I would want that with you, Nicole. God, do I want to have a family with you,” she breathes. She looks at Alice, Doc, and Wynonna and she wants that for them. She wants to share that life with Nicole.
“Yeah?” And Nicole is beaming.
“If you haven’t noticed, I’m kind of crazy in love with you. I’d love to foster or adopt or whatever with you. I want that.” She cups Nicole’s cheek with the palm of her hand and stares into the beautiful eyes that make her breath catch and her heart skip a beat with something like hope and a lot like love. “Where you go, I go.”
“Where you go, I go,” Nicole repeats back to her.