Nicole stared at the mirror and the mirror stared back. A toothbrush clutched in one hand, she cleaned her teeth with a ferocity, her hands jittering, emotions running through her veins, her fingers gripping tightly onto the handle, the toothpaste long gone, just an empty brush against her teeth. She turned to the sound of a meow, her eyes falling on a big ginger cat, her head tilted to one side, as if she were judging her, her small eyes seeming to say come on, really?
“I know I’m being ridiculous,” she sighed, placing the toothbrush down, gripping the edges of the sink. She resisted the urge to run her hands through her hair one more time, to untuck and re-tuck her shirt, to pull at the sleeves of her blazer. It felt like there must be something else she could do, some other to way to prepare. But no, everything was done, and tilting her wrist to look at her watch, she still had thirty minutes until she was supposed to pick Waverly up. She’d stared at the address she had given her fifteen times, making sure it was real, making sure she hadn’t made it all up in some kind of fever dream. She stared long and hard in the mirror, taking a deep breath, an overwhelming sense that this was the start of something big, a tinge of magic in the air, sparkling around her, and not even a semi-judgemental ginger cat could bring her down. She was going on a date with Waverly Earp.
Dust settled in the air, the heat set warm and heavy across the land, everything still and quiet for as far as the eye could see. Nicole had rolled up in her van, Waverly fidgeting nervously in the passenger seat. Nicole’s hair was beginning to curl and stick to her forehead. It was a hot day. It definitely had nothing to do with the fact that this was their second date, that she knew what she wanted to come next.
They sat in silence for a moment before Nicole opened the van door, moving around the other side to open Waverly’s door for her too.
“Ever the gentleman,” Waverly said, but her voice cracked a little and Nicole could tell she was nervous too. Nicole walked her to the front porch,
“I had a really nice time today,” Nicole said softly, and when Waverly smiled back up at her she was melting in more than one way,
There was a beat of silence before Nicole leaned in, connecting their lips in a sweet kiss, her hands pressed against Waverly’s cheeks, a kiss that tasted of toothpaste and mint chewing gum, a magical kiss. Also, a kiss that was interrupted by Wynonna shouting ‘Oi, pda!’ from the upper floor window (so maybe not so still and quiet) but Nicole could never remove that image from her mind, of Waverly Earp lit by the light of the setting sun, giggling and smiling at her on her front porch.
The bathroom door was open just a crack. Nicole could see the light flooding from it, a small pool of light huddled in the otherwise dark corridor. Waverly was back. Months and months of waking up in the night to an empty shadow, her arms falling short, falling like she’d misunderstood the number of steps in a staircase, her feet falling just short, tripping at the very last moment. Months and months of finding Wynonna passed out in the living room, a bottle still clutched in her hand, months and months of carrying her back to bed, of tucking her in, their shared grief rubbing uncomfortably against each other, sparks of friction littered all over the homestead. Months and months of not knowing where Waverly was, and now she was here, stood in their bathroom, staring down at the sink, a tube of toothpaste clutched loosely in one hand.
Nicole wasn’t going to stay. The homestead was her home now, but Waverly didn’t know that, Waverly didn’t know a lot of things that had gone on in the last few months. She didn’t want to assume she could just stay in her bed, that she could just snap her fingers and go back to the time before. But when she’d made to leave, Waverly had caught her hand, had looked in her eyes and had said ever so softly; please stay. And that was all the convincing Nicole had ever needed. Which was how she wound up, in her unicorn pyjamas, staring at her girlfriend through the crack in the door, which felt all too much like spying.
Waverly hadn’t moved, and Nicole could see a small tear crawling down her cheek.
“Is everything okay?” she said softly, still standing in the doorway, not wanting to startle her. A tension strung between them like a rigid pole, ever keeping her at a distance, and Nicole just wanted to close the gap, wanted desperately to hold her in her arms, but there was this great mountain between them, and for all her climbing experience, Nicole just didn’t know how to scale it.
Waverly turned to her, her face pale, her hands shaking ever so slightly.
“I don’t –“ she said, her voice small, as if heard from a distance, “I don’t remember which one is mine,” she said, avoiding looking at Nicole directly and gesturing to the toothbrushes in the little glass on the edge of the sink. It was something so small, so miniscule, so insignificant. And yet, Nicole could tell that it had formed a crack, a crack in Waverly’s new reality that had brought a wide-open dawn. She was staring into the face of the rising sun. She couldn’t quite fit back into her old life, like they had found the missing puzzle piece, only to find it broken, a different shape to what it was before.
“It’s okay,” Nicole said softly, slowly, hesitantly, opening her arms, letting Waverly come to her, and secretly letting out a sigh of relief when she did, the pole pushed aside, Waverly’s face buried in her chest, her arms wrapping around her, stroking her hair softly. And maybe Waverly had come back a little different, but Nicole was a little different too, and they still fit together just the same.
“How on earth did you manage this one?” Wynonna said, raising her eyebrows, Nicole span around on her foot, a look of panic in her eyes. She was too flustered to notice Wynonna’s dress, the way the lace twisted around, a picture of a fairy tale, the black blazer thrown over the top giving it that classic Wynonna edge. Wynonna had been helping Waverly most of the day, which was fair enough, even though she was both of their maid of honour, Waverly dress certainly required more attention than Nicole’s suit. Well, until right now.
“I don’t know,” Nicole said, still trying to rub at the toothpaste stain down the front of her suit jacket, seemingly only making it worse.
“You should have cleaned your teeth before you put on the suit!” Wynonna said, exasperated. Sometimes, in moments like these, Nicole could see the mother in her, that was the polarity of her sister-in-law, half the day she’d been cracking jokes, the exact same as the first day Nicole had met her, but Nicole could tell she was trying to keep her emotions at bay, Alice had made her soft in all the right ways (as if she wasn’t soft before).
“I did!” Nicole exclaimed, “And then,” she trailed softly, “I wanted to do it again,”
Wynonna rolled her eyes, pulling out her phone, desperately googling how to remove the toothpaste stain.
“I don’t know I’m nervous, I clean my teeth when I’m nervous okay,”
“Not getting cold feet, are we?” Wynonna said, peering at her critically from over the top of her phone,
“God no,” Nicole said hurriedly, “I love her, Wynonna,”
“Ew,” Wynonna said, still scrolling, “but also, you better,”
“Here,” she said, looking up from her phone, “it says here, we need to mix stain remover into a cup of water,”
Nicole tilted her head, staring at Wynonna, “Oh, stain remover, I never could have thought of that!”
“Hey, don’t be sarcastic with me, I’m trying to help,”
“Don’t you think if I had stain remover I’d have used it,” she grinned, half laughing, watching Wynonna’s face crack up also, the pair of them bursting into laughter. Only she could get toothpaste down her suit ten minutes before the wedding started.
“At least you’re really an Earp now,” Wynonna grinned, “Earp life is chaotic, hope you know what you’ve gotten yourself in for,”
“Of course, I do, sister,” Nicole smiled, lightly pushing Wynonna’s shoulder,
Wynonna pretended to wretch, but Nicole didn’t miss the small smile on her face.
In truth, nothing had ever felt so right in Nicole’s life.
Wynonna had kept herself from crying for most of the ceremony. She was big, bad Wynonna Earp with the big, bad gun that sent demons back to hell goddammit, she had a reputation to uphold and she wasn’t going to tear up at her little sister’s goddamn wedding even if it was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen in her life. She eventually lost it when Alice came down the aisle, a little flower girl, dressed in one of Wynonna’s own dresses from when she was younger, all lace with a silk bow tied around her waist, and although she tried to hide behind Doc’s (apparently still wedding appropriate?) hat, Nicole still spotted her, sticking her tongue out at her from the front of the aisle.
Waverly looked a vision in her dress. Every bit the angel she was as she walked down the aisle, seeming to float just a little, her bouquet made up of flowers that they had picked themselves from the fields around the homestead, her hair falling in perfect waves around her face, small jewels glistened from her head piece, and as she looked up at Nicole with her signature big smile, and Nicole could have sworn she’d never been happier. Everybody else blurred into the background until there was nobody else there, just the pair of them, shrouded in magic.
Waverly leaned in close to her, “Is that toothpaste on your suit, Nicole Haught?” she grinned, and Nicole laughed just a little, nodding her head, “What am I supposed to do with you?” Waverly laughed, shaking her head,
“I don’t know you could marry me?” Nicole smirked, the pair of them laughing softly together.
“Where’s the toothpaste?” came the shout from the bathroom, Nicole rushing around the bedroom trying to find everything they needed. Her head was reeling, they should have done all of this weeks ago, but she wasn’t even due for another three weeks!
Nicole had thought she had everything down to a T, was at every appointment on time, had read all of the baby books, had bought everything down in the big city, but as Wynonna was always telling her, there’s no real way to prepare for a baby, they come in and rip your whole world apart, and build it again from the ground up. Still, a hospital bag was something she could have prepared, something they were going to do, next weekend, the weekend after that, but the baby wanted to come now, and even she couldn’t make it wait.
“Nicole, I need the toothpaste!” Waverly cried from the bathroom again, and Nicole shoved some clothes into the bag on the bed, making her way to the bathroom, where Waverly was frantically looking for the toothpaste, turning washbags inside out, rifling through cupboards.
“Ssh, calm down it’ll be okay, here I’ll look for it,” she said softly, placing her hand on Waverly’s shoulders as she leant down, looking through the cupboard and producing the toothpaste from its packet.
“There,” she said, smiling, “all sorted.”
Waverly bursted into tears, clutching onto the edge of the sink and Nicole could only watch as the pain rattled through her. Just watching Waverly cry made her want to cry, there was nothing she could do but watch her wife suffer.
“It’s too early,” Waverly said quietly, the contraction fading,
“No, no, it’ll all be just fine,” she said, pulling Waverly into hug her, the bump pressing against her stomach, but her head still resting on her chest just the same. She whispered it again, more to herself than anyone else. But there was nothing else they could do, it was time to go.
Nicole bounced the baby in her arms as she cried. Her face was scrunched up, her little lungs filling the room, the notes rising like small balloons. Nicole had learnt a lot in the last few months, Wynonna wasn’t lying when she said the only kind of parenting course you can get is a crash course, and a crash course it’d had been indeed. She knew seeing the baby, so small at first in Waverly’s arms had been difficult for Wynonna, had reminded her that she’d missed out on all the little moments, on all the little cries, the little yawns and the little snuggles. But now she was getting to do it all over again, was getting to love another little person, heart, mind and soul, and was getting to watch her little person do it too. Watching all the people she loved love her newest little love had been one of Nicole’s favourite parts so far, but this had been one of the hardest. Teething.
The little cries, the refusal to sleep, her gums red and rosy. Nicole felt so unprepared for this, especially as she held her, walking around the room, her legs feeling weak from no sleep. Oh god, she was going to need baby toothpaste, and a baby toothbrush and maybe one of those little stools so she could stand and brush her teeth. She shook her head, she couldn’t even sit up on her own yet, let alone stand, but oh god it was just going so fast. Seemingly two minutes ago she was seeing her for the first time, wriggling on Waverly’s chest, her little eyes firmly shut, and now here she was, getting heavy in Nicole’s arms, and with real teeth, a tiny little person.
She took a breath out as she slowly fell asleep, the rocking motion lulling her into a slumber, her tiny eyes closing as Nicole placed her back down in the crib by their bed.
Waverly was still fast asleep. She needed it. Nicole had had to stop her from getting up every time the baby so much as made a noise in the beginning, convincing her that she got this, she could do this too, but as the bags under her eyes had grown heavier she’d started letting Nicole do her share, a small nod when they heard her start to cry, a small kiss on the forehead as she went back to sleep.
And Nicole had always thought love was in the big moments, in proposals and weddings and births and deaths. Love was unspeakable, that trying to pin it down was like trying to catch a gust of wind with a giant fishing net, unreachable. But life stretched beyond weddings, beyond births, beyond immense happiness and intense tragedy, in between all of that was the everyday hum, the everyday stretching of elastic. And maybe love was more in the little moments, maybe it was more in these moments, in holding Waverly close to her, her hair tickling her face, the taste of toothpaste still on her lips as she sleepily pressed a light kiss to Nicole’s lips. Because after everything, the pair of them were still shrouded in the same magic Nicole felt on that very first day, she was just in love as the first time she’d kissed Waverly, the first time she’d tasted that same toothpaste on her lips.