They sit on the porch and watch the sunset in blessedly rare peace and quiet.
After all, Nedley has Rachel and Billy, Wynonna’s with Doc, and the caterer has left. And Jeremy’s finally calmed down enough to go home and rustle up some clothes for his date.
It’s just them and it’s glorious.
They haven’t told Jeremy that he really has Cupid glitter to thank for his date. He thinks they set him up. And he’s partially right – they did have him in mind when they chose their caterer, but he really owes Nedley for faux-casually mentioning that Bunny, once she sobered up, had spent about twenty minutes mumbling to herself and trying to figure out if her new-found acceptance of ‘four-breasted relationships’ translated to acceptance of her nephew’s ‘lack of interest in breasts of any kind.’
“I’m so proud of you,” Nicole whispers as the sun dips below the horizon. “I know it wasn’t easy. Sending her after Doc.”
“That’s the thing. It was,” Waverly murmurs back. “I mean, it hurts ‘cause I already miss her but…she’s sacrificed so much for me. I’m happy for her. For them. And they’ll be back. That’s what’s changed,” she adds, new conviction in her eyes. “I know they’ll be back.”
“She had such a hard time with the idea of letting you go, even a little. Even just to marry me. And look at you,” Nicole adds, admiration shining in her eyes. “Letting her go.”
Waverly sighs. “We said a lot of stuff…right before I…after the intervention. We both said it in hurtful ways, but we were both kind of right. And the thing is…the same thing happened with Jolene. She said some things that I didn’t want to hear…because they were true. The Curse has been gone for months and Wynonna was still…stuck.”
Nicole smiled. “Well, she’s free now. Thanks to you.”
She shakes her head and gently strokes the still-tender mark on the back of Nicole’s neck. “I might have let her go…but you’re the one who set her free.”
Nicole smiles again as Waverly sighs in contentment and rests her head on Nicole’s shoulder as they both look out at this space that, for now at least, is wholly theirs.
The weather has mostly cooperated, amazingly enough, but as the first stars start to glimmer in the sky, Waverly shivers despite already being wrapped in the jacket from Nicole’s suit. “Speaking of proud,” she says, smiling and accepting Nicole’s hand to help her up so they can go inside where Nedley stoked a fire in the fireplace for them before he left with the kids. “I’m so glad you finally psyched yourself up to ask him, baby. I knew he’d say yes.”
“Did you hear him talking to Billy?” Nicole asks, deflecting a little, but Waverly lets it pass.
“No, but I’m guessing it amounts to ‘no hanky panky in my tent’?”
Nicole laughs, twining their fingers together as they settle together in one armchair. “If this is a dream,” she whispers in a moment of unexpected, intense vulnerability as she lifts Waverly’s hand to her lips to kiss her wedding band, “please don’t ever wake me up.”
“Oh, sweetheart,” Waverly says, a wave of bittersweet affection crashing over her, “it’s not a dream. It’s so real.”
Nicole’s eyes soften and gentle, the shadows fading away again. “I love you. So much. And you’re my wife. I get to be your wife.” She pauses for a second. “Also, when did you tell Wynonna my middle name, and how did you get her to not come at me about it since whenever that was?”
Waverly smiles, reaching up to cup Nicole’s cheek with her hand. “When I was explaining about the frogs, before she brought you the apology beer. I told her to make up for you puking on her favorite boots.” She strokes Nicole’s cheek with her thumb. “As for why she didn’t tease you…honey, she loves you.”
“Or she was saving it to announce it in front of all of our family in the middle of her toast.”
Waverly can’t help but giggle. “Or maybe that.” The light in Nicole’s eyes changes, again, into a very familiar look. “Sure you locked the door? Wouldn’t want to scare Jeremy if he comes back for dating advice. We are the most stable and functional couple here.”
Nicole beams, biting her lower lip as her pupils begin to expand. She ducks her head and leans forward. Their lips are just about to touch when…
…Waverly’s phone chirps with a text alert.
“She didn’t,” Nicole huffs, more amazed than annoyed.
“How did she know?!”
“It’s her true superpower,” Waverly says, shaking her head as she unlocks her phone. Then her jaw drops and she looks to Nicole with wonder in her eyes.
She sees Nicole register the look, tilting her head in curiosity.
“They’re going to Miracles.”
Nicole’s own jaw drops, just slightly, matching Waverly’s previous expression, and her eyes widen. “Miracles…Montana?”
“You know of another town named Miracles?” Waverly snaps, then shakes her head. “Sorry. It’s just…. Nicole, she’s going to Miracles.”
“They’re gonna meet Alice,” Nicole whispers.
Her eyes fill with tears so suddenly she has to stop texting Wynonna back because she can’t see what she’s typing.
“They’re gonna meet Alice,” she whispers.
They have some leftover cupcakes before going upstairs.
That’s where Waverly’s control snaps, as she pushes a startled but hardly unwilling Nicole against their just-closed bedroom door. “This suit, Nicole Rayleigh Haught. You led me to believe you were getting a white dress even though we both know you hate dresses and that I love you in suits. And you went and got the perfect suit in the perfect color and then I had to spend all afternoon pretending I didn’t want to rip it off.”
Nicole laughs, throwing her head back in genuine, unrestrained, giddy joy. “Rachel said you’d say…basically that,” she says. “She’s the one who found it, actually…in this cool thrift store.”
Waverly mock scoffs. “I get fog amnesia and get chased by an evil semi-sentient jack o’ lantern while you buy the hottest suit I’ve ever seen. How is that fair?”
“Well, if you like it that much, I can leave it on if you want,” Nicole drawls playfully even as she starts undoing the fastenings on Waverly’s dress.
“Don’t you dare.” Nicole laughs again, starting to pull her top off when Waverly says, “That’s my job,” and bats her hands away with a playful glare. “I had no idea Rachel was such a good singer,” she comments as she tosses Nicole’s top to the side and starts working on the buttons on her pants. “Why didn’t you say something?”
She knows immediately that she’s stepped on a painful memory. Nicole’s face freezes before she takes a slightly shuddering breath and shakes her head reassuringly before Waverly can reassure her in turn that she doesn’t actually have to say anything. “She, um…sometimes…when one of us couldn’t sleep…she’d sit on the loveseat over there and sing. Until we…could. You should hear her sing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’”
Waverly smiles gently, catching a tear with her thumb just before it falls. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
Nicole shakes her head. “It’s okay. It’s…it makes today even better. Not to get all, you know, Purgatory-y or anything, but…I saw hell. I lived it for eighteen months. It just makes heaven sweeter.”
“Baby,” Waverly whispers.
“Now,” Nicole says. “Can I help you with your dress?”
“Did you ask her?” Waverly asks, a long while later, as they put on pajamas and remake the bed. “Or did you use up your brave quota for today on Nedley?”
Nicole chuckles, a little shyly. “Maybe option B?”
“You still want to?”
“Mm-hmm,” Nicole murmurs. “If you do.”
“The second they get back from fishing.”
“Nope,” Nicole says. “You’ve never been around post-fishing Nedley, have you?”
“You’re gonna hug her, right?”
Waverly frowns, confused and intrigued. “Well…probably?”
“Then you’re gonna want her to take a shower first. Trust me.”
They slip under the covers, Nicole carefully wrapping Waverly’s extra blankets around her. They should be tired – exhausted, even – but she doesn’t want the day to end.
“We can take a nap tomorrow. We have two more days to do anything we want,” Nicole says, as though she’s reading Waverly’s thoughts in her eyes. “Just…let me hold you?”
“Every single night for the rest of our lives,” Waverly promises.
“I like the sound of that.”
They settle, just breathing in the peace and quiet – though there is still (will always be) the possibility for Wynonna to interrupt them. And then Nicole says, gently teasing, “That was a lot of fucks today, Ms. Fudge Nuggets.”
“That’s Mrs. Fudge Nuggets, thank you.”
Nicole starts to laugh.
Waverly joins her.
They don’t stop for a long, long time.
They’re having a very late lunch when Nicole’s phone chimes, and then Waverly’s a half-second later.
It’s a picture of a very grossed-out-looking Billy recoiling as an ecstatic-looking Rachel waves a fish in his face.
It’s not lost on either of them that it’s the former Reaper who looks disgusted, and it’s not lost on Waverly that Rachel has sent the picture to both of them.
It means a lot.
Nicole replies with a laughing emoji.
Waverly thinks for a moment, debating with herself – she and Rachel have grown close, but she’s keenly aware that she has nowhere near the history with the girl that Nicole does.
But on the other hand, she’s equally aware that the only reason she came back to a battered, bruised, and scarred Nicole instead of a completely destroyed Nicole is that she had Rachel to take care of.
Showing off your Wynonna side, she replies, adding two heart emojis. Glad you’re having fun. Tell Nedley and Billy hi for us.
She watches out of the corner of her eye, and so she sees the moment Nicole reads her reply. They stare at each other for a second, and then before Waverly even registers Nicole’s movement at all, she’s in Nicole’s arms. “Thank you,” Nicole whispers.
Nicole doesn’t have to say the rest of it. She doesn’t have to say for not being jealous or for resenting that I let her into my life or even because I wish it was just us.
Waverly brushes all those worries away with a smile. “I love anybody who loves my wife. Platonically.”
It’s the next text from Wynonna that breaks their hearts, just a little.
Can you double check with your wife how old my kid is? Gotta bring her some kind of present.
It still happens to all three of them, occasionally. They all know, on an intellectual level, the date. After all, all they have to do is look at their phone to double check and know for sure.
But there are still moments when it just seems so wrong that they have to confirm with someone who actually lived all those months because their brains refuse to process it.
Waverly shows Nicole the text as she washes up their dinner dishes.
Nicole’s face softens into a look of profound compassion before she reaches for the phone, pauses for a second to think, and then begins to type.
She hands it back to Waverly, who glances down and sees that Nicole has done more than answer Wynonna’s question. She’s answered down to the day.
Waverly puts the phone down and wraps her arms around Nicole from behind. She can feel Nicole quickly drying her hands again before she turns in the circle of Waverly’s arms. “Not that I’m complaining, but what was that for?”
Waverly smiles up at Nicole, a smile which only grows wider when she sees Nicole react to the look of absolute adoration she knows must be showing in her eyes. “Just because you’re you.”
It will always amuse Waverly, a little, that a seventeen-year-old kid is far more cautious and sensible than Wynonna in one very important way.
“Hi, guys! We’re back! Can I come in?” she calls out from just inside the front door, her eyes firmly trained on the ceiling.
Nicole’s laughing as she pulls Rachel in for a welcoming hug.
“Wait! Nicole!” Rachel protests with a grin. “I smell like fish!”
“Better than skunks,” Nicole counters, and Waverly, watching, can almost feel the weight of the memories of all that sorrow lifting off Nicole’s shoulders, at least for a while. Now that this is real. Now that they’re married.
Now that they’re about to –
“Hey, Waverly,” Rachel says. “I know it’s, like, anti-vegan to hug someone who smells like – oh.” She cuts herself off with a little gasp as Waverly hugs her, fish smell and all.
Over Rachel’s shoulder, Waverly catches Nicole’s eye and raises her eyebrows in question. Nicole gulps, but nods.
“Why don’t you go take a shower, and we’ll get some dinner ready. Is Billy staying?”
“He’s, uh…actually, Nedley said he could stay in his spare room for a while. I mean…there’s no one else at his place, you know? They went to get some of his stuff from the ranch.”
Nicole shakes her head. “Nedley’s good at rescuing people who need it.”
She and Rachel share a look that tells Waverly that Rachel knows at least part of that story.
“Go on,” she says, gently shoving Rachel towards the bathroom. “We love you and all, but you do smell…pretty bad.”
Rachel rolls her eyes, but they can’t help but notice her smile as she heads to the bathroom.
“Nedley’s a grandpa now,” Waverly whispers, and Nicole can’t help but laugh.
The way Rachel devours her dinner tells Waverly everything she needs to know about how their camping trip really went, but at least the fish were apparently not supernatural.
The way Nicole decidedly does not devour her dinner tells Waverly everything she needs to know about the state of Nicole’s nerves.
They retire to the living room, where Nedley had finally replaced their burned couch as a wedding gift that made Waverly blush. She isn’t sure how or when he’d put two and two together, but obviously he had.
“Who’s knocking on our door at six thirty a.m. on the morning of our wedding?” Waverly grumbles as she staggers out of the kitchen to answer.
Nicole, who’s not much more awake than she is – they might have gotten a little carried away from pre-wedding excitement the night before – shrugs as she follows her to the door in case Waverly needs backup.
It’s still Purgatory, after all.
They open the door to a huge box and the top of Nedley’s head.
“Uh. Hi?” Waverly says, confused.
“Hi. Brought a tackle box for Rachel. And your wedding gift.”
“Figured you needed a new couch. After the fire. I know how much you like ‘em.”
Nicole’s face immediately turns a truly spectacular shade of red.
Nedley snorts, rolling his eyes at her embarrassment as he pushes the box past them towards the living room. “You knew I knew. You mentioned it at the engagement pre-party.”
“B-but – ”
Nedley shakes his head in mock despair. “I leave for happy hour one night and you’re sittin’ at the front desk looking like someone kicked your puppy and snarling at everyone like an angry bear. I come back an hour later and your braid’s half undone and you’re doodling hearts in your notebook.”
“But – ”
“And there was red hair all over one arm of my couch and light brown hair on the other one.”
“But – ”
“I’m a cop. I notice things. Also I passed Waverly in the hallway and she didn’t even notice me.”
Waverly blinks. “You did?”
Nicole opens her mouth to protest again, only for Waverly to gently cover her mouth with her hand. “Thank you, Randy,” she says quietly.
He starts cutting the box open while she and Nicole have a quick, silent, conversation with only their facial expressions:
He’ll say no. I tried to kill him for a year and a half.
He’ll say yes. He doesn’t blame you for that. He loves you.
Nicole shrugs defensively as they close the door behind Nedley, and Waverly just squeezes her arm in compassion.
“Hey, um, Rachel? Waverly and I…we wanted to…ask you something?”
“Oh,” Rachel says, her voice a little…flat. “It’s…it’s okay. I can move my stuff into the barn and – ”
“No! Wait,” Nicole says, panicked. “No, that’s the opposite of…it’s just….” She swallows hard. “It’s just…that we…. That I….” She takes a breath. “Rachel, if you hadn’t….” She trails off again, looking desperately to Waverly for help.
Waverly takes her hand, shushing her with a kiss. “Let me,” she says.
Rachel frowns, looking between both of them. “Last time you said that, you proposed,” she says suspiciously.
Waverly can’t help but smile, just a little.
It’s not that different, after all.
“It’s just…you’re part of the family now. She might have been alive, but I don’t think much of my Nicole would have been here when I got back if it weren’t for you.”
Rachel’s lips twitch at this recognition, but she tries to look unaffected.
“Rachel, you saw at our wedding that…most of our family isn’t blood. We all chose each other. That’s how family works around here. And we – Nicole and I – we’d like…to choose you. Officially. If you want us to.”
Rachel’s jaw drops as she begins to realize what Waverly is saying.
“And you can say no. You’re almost an adult and you can obviously take care of yourself. We know you don’t need this. But if you do want it, it’s yours. Or even if you just want Nicole for now because you have a year and a half of a life with her that we don’t have together yet, that’s okay too. But if you want to…we’d love to officially become your family.”
“Y-you mean…like…adopt me?”
“Only if you want us to,” Nicole says gently, having recovered her equilibrium. “We all know you don’t have to be official to be a family. Look at me and Nedley. Hell, look at Billy and Nedley. But Waverly’s right. You…kinda saved me. We’d like to do this for you, if you want it.” She reaches out and squeezes Rachel’s hand. “We could never replace your mom, and we don’t want to. But we would love to be family.”
Rachel stares at them, unmoving, for almost a full minute, before she begins to blink rapidly, fighting tears. Then she nods, just a little. “Okay,” she whispers shakily.
“Really?” Nicole asks, then reassures her one more time: “Remember…you don’t have to.”
Rachel laughs. It’s a little watery, but genuine. “Shut up, Li’l Mama.”
Waverly’s jaw drops. “Little?!”
Rachel and Nicole both laugh. “Inside joke,” Nicole manages to say.
When she’d first gotten back from the Garden to the jarring realization that Nicole had taken in a teenager, that comment might have stung, just a little.
Now it just makes her heart warm.
“I’m gonna…go call Billy,” Rachel says, fidgeting just like Wynonna does when she’s feeling something soft. “I’ll…see you in the morning.” Then she stops at the threshold with a slightly wicked smile that also reminds them both of Wynonna. “Um…I know now that I’m back the honeymoon is technically over but, uh, do I need headphones or anything?”
Waverly laughs. “I promise we’ll close the door.”
“It’s not the door,” Rachel mutters. “It’s the walls. They’re, like, paper thin.”
Waverly shows the text to Nicole with a grin before she sends it.
The response is almost immediate. What the hell? Did Haught Mama knock you up already?
“Think I should explain to her that – ”
“Don’t bother,” Nicole says, her eyes drifting away into memory for just a second. “I already tried.”
Nicole takes out her own phone and starts typing a longer message, explaining not only that they’d offered to formally make Rachel part of the family but to explain, again, that there was no humanly way for her to make Waverly –
“Uh. Waves?” she says, putting the phone down before she actually sends the text. “I can’t knock you up…but maybe we should be careful. You did bring someone back from the dead. Maybe you can create life.”
Waverly blinks at her for a long second, then shakes her head. “One kid at a time, baby.”
“I bet Rachel would be a great big sister.”
“Maybe Wynonna could bring Alice for a visit.”
Nicole relents with a gentle smile. “Maybe table it for…a year? Then we talk?”
“We don’t even know if I – ” A sigh, then a slightly giddy smile. “Okay. A year. And then we research.”
They giggle so much as they try to keep the noise down that Rachel finally yells up the stairs, “FYI, trying to stay quiet is just making you louder!”
That only serves to set off the giggles again, and it’s a good long while before they curl up together in bed, again, but this time as a little family of three in a town they’ve sworn to protect together.
“If you’re Li’l Mama, what does that make me?”
“Miniscule Mama?” Nicole yelps in surprise when Waverly lightly pinches her arm. “Okay, okay!” she laughs. “We’ll make you Big Mama just to mess with people.”
Waverly shakes her head. “I’m gonna have to call Wynonna tomorrow. There’s no way I can put all this in a text.” Then her eyes pop wide open. “Oh, my God! We never texted her back! She still thinks you got me pregnant!”
Nicole grins. “Let her stew till the morning. Can’t hurt to try one more time tonight, can it?”
“I like the way you think.”
“It’s why you married me.”
“Well,” Waverly breathes, stretching to capture Nicole’s lips. “That and a few other things.”