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"I think I want to start a family," Waverly says, sipping her steaming, spiked cider on the frigid porch.

Nicole's breath catches in her throat. She tries and fails not to choke on her coffee, but a bit of it dribbles onto her chin anyway as she struggles to compose herself.

Waverly just smiles and leans over to kiss her cheek. "Sorry, honey. Too sudden?"

Nicole sets her drink a safe distance away, and straightens the front of her parka. She starts to open her mouth, starts to respond with something benign and expected, something like, "of course not," or "no, that's fine," but nothing comes out. Her mouth hangs open dumbly for a moment or two, and then clicks shut, brows furrowed in thought, pink lips pursed. Waverly watches patiently from her own chair, chin in hand, cheeks rosy in the cold, knees pulled up against her chest.

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’, then,” Waverly murmurs, and Nicole nods absently, eyes fixed far away, somewhere out beyond the railing in the snowy yard.

Waverly reaches out to take her hand, Nicole wordlessly accepts, and they sit together quietly for a while, keeping to their own thoughts.

Nicole shivers once, and pulls her limbs in tighter. The night is damp and close. It's snowing hard just beyond the edge of the porch, muffling everything but the happy sounds from the house behind them. Nicole exhales and watches her breath freeze into a pale cloud of mist, hovering like smoke, in still, humid air, right before her face. The air is so heavy there’s virtually no breeze. It’s like sitting in a snow globe, the cloud cover overhead keeping the temperature up just enough to make the chill bearable, almost comfortable. Nicole rubs the pad of her thumb across Waverly’s knuckles, their pale skin glowing candy red under the colorful lights strung up in the eaves. Small fingers curl further into hers and Nicole reaches for her coffee, lost in the scenery, all the lights wrapped around the trees in the yard, glowing under the snow like tiny halos on all the branches.

Behind them, through the bright, four paned window, there comes a heavy, dull thump, and, presently, Wynonna can be heard, drunkenly cheering her triumph over a raucous game of cards. There follows the reedy drawl of Doc laughing, and then the sharp hiss of Dolls swearing.

Waverly hums contentedly under her breath, and Nicole squeezes her hand in agreement. It's shaping up to be the calmest December they've ever had the pleasure of spending together. If it’s all just a dream, and it might really be, she just doesn’t want it to end quite yet.

"Okay," Waverly concedes, when several minutes have passed, "so, maybe I could’ve eased into that topic a little more gently. I’m sorry."

Nicole shakes her head softly. “No, no, it’s okay.”

Waverly turns to face her, expression clear and anxious and earnest. “What do you think, though? Really?

Nicole sighs. "Well, um...we're getting closer. Can’t be too much longer now, right?" She glances at Waverly and then squints away out into the distance. "What does Wynonna think?"

Waverly huffs and follows her gaze. "That we'll send the last of the revs back by next fall, even though it’s never, ever , been that easy."

Nicole smiles and frowns. "How can she even be so optimistic? We still have like, 20 of those bastards left to hunt down, and the last 57 were harder than shit to catch."

Waverly polishes off the last of her cider. "Preaching to the choir, babe."

Nicole shakes her head lightly, because it’s truly baffling sometimes, the way Wynonna always seems to trip and fall onto good fortune, the way she so carelessly misjudges the severity of their situation. “Seriously, what is she smoking?

Waverly pretends to hold up a joint. "Pure, uncut optimism."

"Jeez, I think I need some."

“Same.” Waverly chuckles. “I don’t know how seriously she takes herself, though. I think Wynonna just does whatever she can to keep from getting overwhelmed, because when she gets overwhelmed...well..."

"Right. No, believe me, I remember. I’m pretty sure I’ll always remember."

“Aw, c’mon.” Waverly kisses her cheek. “It was just two bullets, ya wuss."

Nicole shudders. "And I never want to have either of those two experiences ever again."

"Well, you saved her life. It was very brave of you."

Nicole blushes and Waverly’s smile turns soft like warm butter, the way it does when Nicole holds her close in bed at night, just before they pull up the sheets and turn out the lights.

They’re still staring at each other a moment later when the front door swings open, creaking on its perpetually rusted hinges. They turn in unison to see who’s come to join them, but it's just Wynonna, of course, thoroughly drunk, dressed down in jeans and a flannel jacket stolen from Agent Dolls. She stumbles a bit over the doormat, and the jacket flaps open to reveal a skimpy blank tank top underneath, bunched up and twisted around her navel.

“Hey, kiddos!” Wynonna grapples for the banister, fumbling until she’s managed a firm grip, and slings herself around to face them. “Watcha doin’ out here all alone, huh? Makin’ out?”

Nicole’s eyes dart to Waverly, reading, assessing, but Waverly just smiles. “Hey, sis. Win at rummy again?”

Wynonna laughs and sighs, and leans back languidly against a wooden post. “You know it. Those boys got nothin’ on me.” She makes a little finger gun at Waverly who returns the motion with a wink.

Nicole can’t help herself. Her eyes dart back to Waverly’s face. She can still watch Waverly indefinitely. Years have passed, but nothing’s changed about that.

“Wynonna,” Nicole begins, licking her lips a bit. Waverly turns to look at her curiously and she barrels on. “What would you think about us maybe…” she trails off and Waverly’s eyes widen in understanding. “What would you think about us maybe trying to get pregnant?”

Wynonna’s easy smile practically slides off her face. She does a double take, gaping between them, neck whipping back and forth like it’s made of rubber.

“Preg-...wait, sorry,” Wynonna laughs, and appears to collapse back against the pillar with relief. “Wait, wait, no.” She waves a hand in front of her face. “I must be extremely drunk because I thought you just said pregnant.”

“She did say pregnant, Wy.” Waverly glances at Nicole and they share a tiny, almost imperceptible nod. “I wanna try and get pregnant.”

Wynonna blinks dumbly. “I… Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Wow. I didn’t see that coming.”

“Neither did I,” Nicole adds.

“Wait, but...but you guys aren’t like-” Wynonna points between them. “Shouldn’t you guys be like, married first?”

Waverly rolls her eyes, but Nicole gets a sudden idea. She reaches out to take both Waverly’s hands in hers and tugs until they’re facing each other awkwardly in the deck chairs.

“Waverly Earp,” she says, mouth twisting around a wry grin, “will you marry me?”

Wynonna’s jaw drops, Waverly’s eyes shimmer, and Nicole decides right then and there that Waverly’s watery smile is worth every single bullet she’s ever taken.

“Yes,” Waverly replies, breathless, delighted.

“Yes?”

“Yes! Duh!” She launches herself out of her chair and leaps into Nicole’s lap, squashing their faces together for a happy, sloppy kiss. “God, of course I’ll marry you! What took you so fricken long?”  

Nicole grins through her next kiss and shrugs. “Nerves?”

“You really thought I’d say no? Are you fricken serious?”

“I-I didn’t want to assume!”

“Well, you should’ve.” Waverly reaches out to tap her nose. “I made it fairly obvious when I left that jewelry catalogue out.”

“That was- You were- …” Nicole winces. “I thought that was just junk mail.”

“Junkmail? No!” Waverly giggles and presses their foreheads together. “You’re a terrible detective.”

“Technically I’m kinda just a deputy, so…”

“Well, Officer Haught still has a nice ring to it.”

“As long as you’re willing to settle.” Nicole winks.

Waverly leans in the rest of the way and kisses her, and when she pulls back again they’re both a little breathless. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Wynonna clears her throat behind them and they turn, beaming white smiles red-tinted under the Christmas lights.

“Um, this is real cute and all,” Wynonna makes a little gagging motion with her hand, “but won’t it be dangerous trying to raise a kid in this place?” Her eyes narrow. “Wait, you guys aren’t leaving Purgatory, right?”

Nicole tightens her hold on Waverly’s waist, and Waverly’s fingers smooth over her hands. Their coats rustle and creak where they chafe together, but otherwise it’s so, so quiet. The snow is picking up even more, falling so thick and so fast that they can’t see much beyond the barn. Wynonna’s eyes are fixed on Waverly, and Nicole’s eyes are fixed on Waverly’s beautiful profile, the pucker of her lips, glowing magenta and blue beneath the nearest bulbs, her dark, marble eyes, glassy with a bright sheen of color, like neon lights reflecting off wet city streets. Nicole waits, because this isn’t a question for her. It’s a question of loyalty from Wynonna to Waverly. It’s a testing of their oft-tested sisterly bond, and anyway, if Nicole is really honest with herself, she’ll do whatever Waverly wants. She’ll make her peace with it. She’ll be happy either way. So, she waits for Waverly to speak. They both wait for Waverly to speak.

This is Waverly’s call to make.

Wynonna shatters the silence with a plea. “Baby girl, please don’t go.”

Waverly stiffens in Nicole’s arms. “Wynonna-”  

“-I’ll move faster, I swear. I just need a little more time. The rest will be gone soon, if you can just wait a little bit longer, I can finish up. I just need a little more time to-.”

“-Wynonna.”

Wynonna stops, mouth flapping open and shut, and Nicole almost has to look away, feeling strongly that this is a conversation she isn’t meant to witness.

“Wynonna, I won’t leave.” Waverly slides off Nicole’s lap and thumps across the porch, old boards groaning softly under her boots. She comes to a stop directly in front of her sister and peers up steadily, head tipped back to meet Wynonna’s eyes, her tight expression. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m gonna stay here fight with you to the very end.”

Wynonna shakes her head, eyes dropping to her boots. “If you get pregnant you’ll be a target.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“It’s not safe- Waverly, listen to me! It’s a risk we can’t afford right now.”

“I’ll be fine .” Waverly tries for a smile. “We’ll work something out. Besides, I’m pretty handy with a shotgun, in case you haven’t noticed.”

“We’ve all gotten hurt multiple times, what if-”

“-I’ll stay out of sight and do the research. Wynonna…” Waverly sucks in a deep breath and reaches out for her sister’s arm. “I’m tired of putting my life on hold.”

Wynonna rolls her eyes. “Are you kidding me? You’re only 25. I’m 30, and I’m not getting any younger!”

“Exactly! Any one of us could die tomorrow. I don’t want to put my dreams on hold just because the world is dangerous. It doesn’t matter where we live. People have families in far more dangerous places. I could get hit by a bus in Toronto .” Waverly shakes her head. “I don’t wanna be afraid anymore. Every Earp before us has managed to have a family here, I mean, Dad had us , right?”

Wynonna stares balefully at Waverly’s hand as it slips down into hers. “That didn’t turn out so hot for us, sis.”

“It’ll be different this time.”

“You say that now.”

“I’m not alone like Dad was,” Waverly says, fiercely. “I have you. I have Nicole. I have Gus, and Dolls, and Doc, and- Well, I have friends. I have family. We can raise a child, Wynonna.”

“Jesus, if you start spouting off some ‘it takes a village’ crap i’m gonna puke.”

Waverly smiles. “You’ll get to be an auntie. Doesn’t that sound nice?”

Wynonna grunts. “Getting the hell out of Purgatory sounds nice.”

“We will, someday, but I think you and I both know that it’s going to be a long time before this fight is over, and I can’t wait forever. We have to live our lives. We’re not just soldiers! We’re allowed to live and love and...have families. I mean, what about you and Dolls?”

Wynonna jerks, glances around wildly, and clamps a hand over Waverly’s mouth. “Wave. We talked about this.”

“Mmmmph! Wrymomma-”

“-Sorry, just- Could we maybe not bring that up where he might hear you?”

“Blah!” Waverly tugs free and wipes her mouth on her sleeve. “Overkill, much?”

“We talked about this.” Wynonna shoots a dark look in Nicole’s direction. “You keep your mouth shut, too, hot pants.”

Nicole makes a zipping motion over her lips. “Totally sealed.”

“Anyway, just…” Wynonna shakes her head as she turns back to Waverly. “Do me a favor, and give me six months.”

“Wynonna-”

“-Six months, Wave.” Wynonna’s eyes flash. “That’s all I ask. Give me six months to try to get the rest of them, okay? I would never, ever get over it if something to you, or your baby. Okay? Do this for me. Pretty, pretty please?”

Nicole holds her her breath while Waverly chews her lip, expression scrunched up in thought.

“Alright,” she relents.

Wynonna sags against the banister. “Thank you.”

“But that’s it, okay? I’m sick of putting our lives on hold for this dumb curse.”

“So, you finally think it’s dumb, eh?”

Waverly rolls her eyes and pulls away.

“I think it’ll be good,” Nicole says, rising to her feet. She brushes off her coat and picks up her empty mug. “A little time to think about everything will be good.”

Waverly nods and drifts to Nicole’s side, curling up against her. “Okay.”

“We should take a honeymoon somewhere.”

Waverly closes her eyes and smiles softly. “Somewhere warm?”

Nicole kisses the top of her head. “Yeah.”

“I’d like that.”

. . . . .

 

“I think this is best mojito I’ve ever had,” Waverly says, sun drenched and bronzed.

Her legs are crossed at the ankle. Her flip flops are discarded in the sand.

Nicole lifts her head off the lounge chair and adjusts her sunglasses, lenses smudged a bit with sunscreen. Beside her, Waverly is sprawled out in a black bikini, fingers curled languidly around a cold highball glass that is beading with moisture in the warm, afternoon air.

“Really. Better than the other three?”

Waverly brings the glass to her lips and swallows a good portion of her cocktail in one go. “Yep.”

Nicole smiles and turns onto her side, eyes traveling up and down Waverly’s lightly glistening body. “I’m surprised you can even taste it anymore. Those things are pretty strong.”

“Um, I have a high tolerance, thanks.” Waverly’s braid, draped around her neck like a jungle vine, shudders as she pats her chest. “Shorty’s most popular bartender, here.”

“Hm,” Nicole’s smile is sly, “I don’t think your popularity had anything to do with your tolerance.”

Waverly snorts over the rim of her glass. “You would know, Officer Let-Me-Help-You-Outta-That-Wet-Shirt.”

“Hey,” Nicole holds out her hands in a show of innocence, “you asked, remember?”

“That was before I knew you were a shameless lesbian.”

“Would that have stopped you?”

Waverly considers this for a moment. “Maybe?”

“Maybe, huh?” Nicole draws her knees up a bit and curls up with her head on her elbow. “That sounds like a ‘no’ to me.”

“I’m sure it does.”

“Well, my methods are unconventional, but they have a high success rate.”

“Oh, ho ho! Have you been helping a lot of other damsels in distress out of their beer-stained shirts?” Waverly waggles her eyebrows under the rim of her sunglasses. “For your sake, the answer had better be ‘no’.”

“I’m one for one, in that category,” Nicole says wryly.

She reaches out to slap Waverly’s belly, but somewhere in the midst of the action her brain switches gears, and her fingers land softly against Waverly’s abdomen, sticky with sweat, suntan lotion, and salt water. They spread apart, almost unconsciously, curling into a loose, possessive grip over Waverly’s ribs.

“Babe,” Waverly lifts her sunglasses, and, in the shade of the umbrella, her brown eyes appear quite dark, “it’s only been three hours since we last had sex.”

Nicole digs in with the tips of her fingers and watches, mesmerized, as Waverly’s sun-kissed muscles twitch. “Your point?”

“Well,” Waverly inhales sharply, “I’m...I’m a lot drunker now.”

“Mmhm?”

“And I’m feeling…” her eyes flutter as Nicole traces a finger down along her side, swirling up and over the sharp curve of her hip. “I’m feeling…”

Nicole’s eyes follow her own fingers as they take a lazy path north between Waverly’s breasts and hover, lightly, over her sternum. “You’re feeling?”

“Very turned on. Again.”

Nicole’s heart skips, and her eyelids droop. “Maybe we should go back to the room?”

Waverly licks her lips. “Ugh, but that’s like, so far away.”

The muscles between Nicole’s legs clench in unison as her breath quickens. “Feeling a little impatient, baby?”

“God,” Waverly growls, “if you call me ‘baby’ again the old Dutch couple over there is gonna get a show.”

“Get your bag, we’re going back to the room.”

They grab their things and rush across the burning white sand together. To their left, the bright blue ocean spreads out endlessly toward a hazy horizon. To their right, wooden steps climb up through a whispering copse of palm trees into the hotel compound. Nicole helps Waverly, who is significantly less steady on her feet, up onto the boardwalk, and they make their way through the maze of cabanas toward the quiet honeymoon suite on the corner of the property. Their sandals scratch and slide over the sunbleached boards, gritty with sand and salt. Nicole fumbles with the door key in her impatience.

“For the record, I’m really glad we waited,” Waverly breathes once they’ve finally stumbled inside.

Her bare back is pressed back hard against the door, chest heaving, as Nicole slots a strong thigh between her legs. Waverly bucks forward and moans, mouth falling open. Nicole eagerly fills it with her tongue, and draws Waverly’s swollen, bottom lip out between her teeth. The body beneath her shudders.

“I’m glad we waited, too.” She peppers wet kisses along Waverly’s arched neck, tasting sour coconut lotion and the tang of salt. “I like having you all to myself.”

Their skin is sticky where it catches and rubs together, but the exertion, combined with the humidity, has already caused them to sweat in the dark cabana. A warm wind blows through the far window and ruffles Waverly’s hazelnut-brown hair, tugged out of her braid in moment of impatience. Her eyes are closed, her lips glistening. Nicole hovers inches above her mouth, taking a moment to look before she dives in again.

“I’m glad I got to make you my wife.”

Waverly whimpers and shifts, blinking slowly, peering up through her lashes. “I love being your wife.”

Nicole grins in spite of herself. “You didn’t have to take my name.”

“I know it’s old fashioned,” Waverly’s fingers slide under the knot on Nicole’s back, and, with a single, sharp tug, undo her bikini top, “but I wanted to.”

“Waverly Haught.” Nicole tugs the swimsuit bottoms down Waverly’s legs, and cups her firmly, fingers inadvertently slipping in deeper when Waverly’s knees buckle. “It has a nice ring to it.”

Waverly cries out and bows forward, burying her head against Nicole’s chest. “Shit!”

“I guess you agree.”

Waverly kicks out of her swimsuit bottoms and reaches back to unfasten her top. “Of course, I agree. It was my damn idea.” She kisses Nicole hard and flicks her tongue across the roof of her mouth.

Nicole whimpers, grabs the backs of Waverly’s thighs, and hoists her up, groaning when Waverly’s legs wrap around her lower back. They gasp in unison as Waverly’s back hits the door, and Nicole rocks her hips forward.

“God, I love you.”

“Say it again.”

“I love you.”

“God,” Waverly gasps, back arching forward with a ragged, keening cry as Nicole’s fingers spread her apart, pressing in deeper.

I love you,” Nicole chants, lips fluttering over Waverly’s flushed cheek. “I love you. I love you.”

A strong gust blows in from the window and cools their skin. Distant voices carry through palms from beach below. The first beams of afternoon sunlight strike the linen drapes over the bed as Waverly’s head thumps back against the door.

She winds her fingers into Nicole’s hair and begins to pump her hips.

. . . . .

 

“I think this was a mistake,” Waverly murmurs.

Her hospital gown is crumpled up around her swollen stomach by the heavy blankets thrown over her legs. It’s technically spring already, but the weather outside is dismal, and the nurses are having a tough time keeping the rooms warm.

“Which part?” Nicole murmurs, tucked in beside her on the bed.

The lights are low and the ward is quiet. The flowers on the bedside table cast eerie, jagged shadows on the far wall. Nicole’s coat, still damp, hangs over the back of the chair with her blanket and pillow, all forgotten.

Waverly sighs, eyes closed, leaning on Nicole’s shoulder for support. “Why did I decide to have a baby in a warzone?”

Nicole laces their fingers together. Hers are dry and warm. Waverly’s are clammy and cold. A flurry of raindrops splatter against the window, and Waverly curls in closer.

“We’re almost done,” Nicole soothes. “Only 10 more to go.”

“Yes, but why,” Waverly sniffs, eyes fluttering open only to well up, “did I ever think it was a good idea to bring a child into the middle of this?”

Nicole strokes Waverly’s knuckles. “Wynonna will be alright.”

“That’s not the point.” Waverly wipes her eyes on Nicole’s sweatshirt, leaving dark streaks on light green cotton. “That’s not the point…”

“I know, baby.”

“I put us all in danger. Why was I so selfish?”

“You weren’t selfish.”

“I was. I was selfish. I was only thinking about myself and what I wanted, and now my sister’s in the other room full of stitches and-”

“-Shhh, I know. I know, baby. It’s okay.”

Waverly shudders and breaks down into weak sobs. Nicole curls closer, pulling her in tight against her body, and Waverly comes without a fight, weak and depleted, hair still damp with sweat, plastered to her head. It was a tough labor, induced early by the doctor when Waverly’s distress over Wynonna’s safety reached a critical point, but now their son is sleeping peacefully in the nursery and everyone is safe, and all Nicole can feel is relief. Fear, anxiety, happiness, peace, joy, all these emotions and more have run through her in the past five hours, but now she’s only relieved. Everything has worked out for the better, and Waverly is such a beautiful mother, beautiful in tears, in a hospital gown, covered in sweat, covered in whatever. Waverly is beautiful, and Nicole is more in love than ever. She doesn’t have a heart big enough to contain it all. It spills out of her in odd moments, in smiles and furtive tears and wistful, misty-eyed gazes into the distance.

Maybe Wynonna’s right. Maybe she really is a human bumper sticker.

Waverly presses her face into the front of Nicole’s sweatshirt and breathes in deep between sobs, quieting, presently, the way an earthquake recedes, until there are only the aftershocks, quiet tremors that wrack her body for a second, and then still. Nicole brushes Wavelry’s hair away from her temple and kisses it tenderly. A nurse shuffles past in the hallway, glances in at them, and keeps going. Nicole is privately grateful.

“Am I just hormonal?” Waverly murmurs, at length. Her eyes have fluttered closed again and her muscles have begun to relax into sleep.

Nicole kisses her cheek, lingering a bit longer to disguise the uneven hitch in her breath. “I think you’re just exhausted.”

“Maybe…” Waverly sighs. “I just...feel guilty.”

“Wynonna’s injuries weren’t your fault.” Nicole cards her fingers through Waverly’s hair. “You didn’t attack her. You didn’t hurt her. ”

“But they used me to get to her.”

“They could’ve used any of us. There was nothing you could do, Wave. It wasn’t your fault.”

Waverly sighs out sleepily, brow furrowed. “I know, but I just...” She nuzzles closer into Nicole’s chest, words slurring together as the drugs begin take effect. “I just wish Wynonna could’ve met him before they took him away.”

“He’ll still be here when she wakes up.”

“...He’s so beautiful, isn’t he?”

Nicole’s eyes fill with tears. She tucks her face in close against Waverly’s hair.

“He is. He’s so, so beautiful.”

. . . . .

 

"I think Wickham is keeping something from us,” Waverly says, sipping a bit of hot cocoa at the stove.

Nicole removes her stetson as she enters the kitchen and drops it lightly on the countertop, boots thumping to a halt on the tile floor. Her work belt, laden with tools, keys, and cuffs, jingles lightly as she travels across the room. She steps in behind her wife, her hands sliding over narrow hips, tugging back gently until they're fitted together like puzzle pieces. Strong arms wrap around Waverly's stomach, still a bit distended from the second pregnancy, and squeeze. Nicole sighs as she presses a kiss into Waverly's neck, head dropping forward onto her wife’s shoulder.

"He's been fighting with some kids at school," she murmurs, and smiles when Wavelry huffs under her breath.

"Fighting? Seriously? He spends too much time with my sister."

"I'm actually kinda proud of him."

Waverly spins in her arms and presses their foreheads together, snaring Nicole in an intense, probing gaze. "Proud of him for fighting?"

"For sticking up for himself." Nicole leans down to kiss her lips, and lingers a bit. "That Burns kid is a known bully."

Waverly returns the kiss and closes her eyes. "Beating up the bad guys just like his auntie." Her brown eyes flick open again, this time shining jewel bright. "Oh jeez… I'm so proud of him."

"Me too, baby."

They kiss again, but this time Waverly's hands fly up to caress Nicole's cheeks and grip at her hair. They stumble away from the stove a bit, two or three steps to bump up against the countertop, breaking apart breathlessly when Nicole moans.

Waverly sucks in a steadying breath.

"You know, just because I'm too sore down there to play doesn't mean I'm not perfectly capable of offering you a little stress relief." Nicole frowns, and Waverly continues quickly. "If that's what you want, I mean. No pressure. I just know that you've had a long week at work."

"That wouldn’t be fair to you, though."

Waverly snorts. "Fair? Are you serious." She leans up on her tiptoes and whispers in Nicole's ear, "what isn't fair are those little noises you make under your breath when I lick y-"

"-Mommy?"

Nicole jolts and Waverly whips around like a thief caught red handed. "Yes! Hi, darlin'. What's wrong?"

Red-hair askew and green eyes bleary, Wickham clutches at the front of his Pokemon pajamas and glances between them suspiciously. "I can't sleep."

He’s barefoot and wirey, a little skinny for his clothes, and it’s too soon to tell yet whether he’ll be short and slight like Waverly, or tall and broad like Nicole, but it’s obviously already that he’ll be handsome. His complexion is clear and smooth, not blotchy like Nicole’s was at his age, and he’s got a thick head of hair. Tonight, his gaze is hooded, long lashes wearily blinking away the kitchen light. His dimples pop out as he sucks on his cheeks, hips wiggling slightly, impatiently.

Nicole clears her throat and folds her arms over her chest. "Nightmares again?"

"There's someone outside."

Waverly pales instantly, and Nicole goes very still. "Who is it?"  

"I dunno." Wickham rubs at his eyes. "I can't see 'em."

Nicoles pushes off the counter, and is already zipping up her jacket, and grabbing the rifle out of the front hall closet, before Waverly catches up. A small hand grasps her bicep and pulls her back.

"Babe, wait." Waverly's eyes are wide, but she's breathing deeply, trying to stay calm. "It's not a revenant, remember? They're all gone."

Nicole checks the chamber for bullets. "Revenants aren't the only things that go bump in the night."

"Yeah, but we don't know what he saw. He imagines things all the time, babe-" Waverly grabs the barrel of the gun, "-wait."

Nicole looks up. "What?"

"This isn't Purgatory. You can't just march out there with a rifle and start shooting."

Nicole scoffs and rolls her eyes. "Okay, that so wasn't my plan, Wave."

"So, what was your plan? Huh?"

"I dunnot, just poke around a little. Make sure we're safe, obviously."

"You're not the only one who can handle a gun around here, Officer Hot Pants. I've been known to wield a few shotguns in my time." Waverly jabs her finger at the door. "You don't see me marching head first out into the dark, do you?"

"Yeah, but you're-" Nicole gestures vaguely for a second, "you just gave birth!"

"And what's that supposed to mean, huh?" Waverly crosses her arms and glowers. "That was weeks ago. What am I? Helpless?"

"No, no, you're not helpless, I just-"

“-Listen to me. The last thing we need is the neighborhood association thinking we’re gun-toting lunatics!”

“Is this about Barbara? Because Barbara can kiss my-”

"-Momma, it's okay."

Both women jump. Nicole nearly drops the gun. Waverly's right hand flies over her heart, her left hand instinctively cradles her belly. Wickham stands in the living room unperturbed, staring impassively through the front window.

"What do you mean, darlin'?" Waverly winces a bit and steps away, stooping down to get eye level with him. "Did you see who it was is?"

Wickham nods and continues staring through the window. "It's Auntie Wy."

"Wynonna?"

Waverly's face gets all scrunched up and cute the way it does when she's confused. Wickham nods, eyes still glued to the glass. Nicole just sighs and shakes her head. So, they might have a little post-Purgatory PTSD to work out, but she can hardly blame herself for being jumpy. Several of her scars are still pink.

"D'ya think your sister will ever learn to call first before she shows up? It's the middle of the night."

Waverly checks her watch and snorts. "Boy are we domesticated. It's only nine."

Nicole frowns. "Seriously?"

Outside, two boots clomp on the front porch, followed swiftly by a steady knock. Wickham grins.

"Auntie," he chirps, almost to himself.

Waverly climbs back to her feet, and Nicole reaches out to grab the door knob, pulling it open to reveal Wynonna in Army boots and skin tight camo pants, her hand still suspended in mid air.

"Jeez," she mutters, eyes darting between the three of them, "that was fast." Her gaze falls on the rifle in Nicole's hand. "Feeling kinda jumpy tonight?"

Nicole rolls her eyes and moves to put the gun back in the closet. "Maybe call next time? Some of us have small children to worry about."

Wynonna salutes. "Yes sir, Officer Dimples."

"Auntie Wy!"

"Hey, sugar! What's happenin'?" Wynonna bends down and hoists him up like it's nothing. "You master the force yet?"

"We’re onto Pokemon now," Waverly corrects, smiling. "Hey, sis. How are ya?"

Wynonna smiles, reaches out to grab Waverly’s shoulder, and pecks her soundly on the forehead. "Hi. Good. Back in Canada for a minute and thought I'd drop by."

"Well, it's good to see you, but you seriously couldn't call?"

"Yeah, sorry. A demon ate my phone, and-" Wynonna blinks and peers around. "Wait, speaking of demons, where's Willa?"

"Sleeping, like usual."

“God, you guys have the chillest baby ever.” Wynonna glances slyly at Nicole. "She must've gotten the Haught disposition."

"I'll be sure to thank my brother," Nicole replies, drily.

"Can I go up and peek at her?"

"I swear to god, Wynonna, if you wake that baby up-"

"-Chill, killer. I just wanna look at her darling face."

"Well, you gotta put Wickham down, too, then, since technically you're the reason he's up."

"Fine with me. What do you think, Mister?" She bounces Wickham in her arms, and he lays his head on her shoulder. "’Kay, well that’s settled."

Waverly smiles and takes Nicole’s hand. “We’ll be in the kitchen.”

“Clothed, I hope.”

Waverly mouths something rude, and Wynonna smirks as she hauls Wickham toward the stairs.

Nicole wanders with Waverly back into the kitchen and eats an apple off the counter while Waverly putters about, adding some more milk and chocolate to the pan on the stove. The neighbor’s dog barks a few houses down and Nicole mutters something dark about it, drawing a little smile onto Waverly’s face. She pulls a couple mugs down out of the cabinet, then wanders over to lean against Nicole. The baby monitor crackles from the table, and they listen to the bedroom door creaking open, Wynonna’s careful footsteps on the hardwood floor, her soft whispers into the crib.

“She’d make a good mom, don’t you think?”

Waverly hums and snakes an arm around Nicole’s waist. “Yeah.”

They stay like that in comfortable silence for a few more minutes, until the sound of Wynonna’s footsteps echo in from the stairs.

“Poor kid,” Wynonna mumbles, as she enters the kitchen. “Kinda reminds me of myself.”

“Which one?” Nicole asks.

“Wick. I uh, kinda accidentally scared him half to death. He was talking about how he saw me standing outside in the road smoking a cigarette and…” Wynonna pauses and strides to the window, sweeping the curtain aside, and peering out into the gloom. “I guess I can see why. It’s pitch black outside.”

“Well, we have the porch light on,” Waverly offers, but Nicole’s brow is already furrowed like Wynonna’s, and she’s thinking hard.

“He remembers.” She turns to Waverly. “He must remember.”

Waverly considers this. “No way, he was too young. He’s just afraid of the dark.”

“But it’s kinda weird isn’t it? That he gets so spooked when he looks out his window at night?”

“Is it?”

“Yeah, it is. I think he think remembers.”

Nicole and Waverly blink at each for a second.

“Shit,” Waverly bites out, under her breath, and plops down in one of the kitchen chairs. “Shit.” She puts a hand to her forehead and shuts her eyes. “I feel so guilty.”

Wynonna pours herself a cup of hot chocolate at the stove and comes over to sit at the table. “Do you ever regret it?” she asks. “Not moving out of the Triangle sooner?”

Her eyes flick up to Waverly, and, for the first time since her arrival, Nicole notices that something’s off. Wynonna isn’t quite herself. There’s a tremor in her hand, clutched tight around the porcelain coffee cup. Her expression is drawn, and when she smiles it pulls tight at the skin around her ears, like drying parchment stretched too far. She looks exhausted, Nicole thinks, studying the forward slouch of her shoulders, the limp quality of her normally wild hair.

Waverly watches her sister across the table, seeming to take stock of the situation, then, slowly, reaches out to uncurl Wynonna’s white-knuckled fingers from the coffee cup. Their hands twine together, and Wynonna lowers her eyes.

“I mean,” Waverly starts, then pauses. “I do. Of course I do, but at the same time, everything worked out fine. We’re all safe. You’re safe. Maybe we would’ve been safer if we’d left, maybe not.” She shrugs. “I don’t dwell on the what-ifs. I don’t regret staying to fight the curse with you. I’ll never regret that.”

Wynonna nods and bites her lip, eyes far away. At length, she pulls her hand away.

“I actually came here to tell you that you were right.”

Waverly frowns. “What?”

“Do you remember the conversation we had on the porch at Christmas? Like, the night Nicole finally grew a pair and proposed.”

“Hey, I don’t need a pair, thanks.”

Wynonna snorts at Nicole’s offended expression. “Anyway, do you remember the conversation we had?”

Waverly nods. “Yeah. Of course.”

“Well… You were right.” Wynonna reaches into her jacket pocket and roots around for something. “We’re not just soldiers.”

She draws out a sparkly bit of metal and sets it in the center of the kitchen table. Waverly gasps. Nicole’s eyes widen. It’s a diamond ring with a gold band, simple and functional, designed to withstand significant wear and tear, perfect for Wynonna’s line of work.

Wynonna bites her lip and nods, stares down into her lap. “We were in some shithole in Siberia or somewhere. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. We were on assignment to take down this cell of demons involved in human trafficking, and it was awful. Blood and gore and the worst kind of evil you can imagine.” She pauses for a moment in thought, spinning a silver ring around her thumb. “And after we were done, like within the same fucking hour, they were handing us another briefing, and I just sat there realizing it was never gonna end.” She looks up and catches each of their gazes in turn. “There’s always another bad guy. There’s always another war to fight. The world is dangerous. So… You were right, Wave. I’m tired of putting my life on hold for this.”

“Wynonna...” Waverly’s eyes are wide.

Wynonna picks up the ring and slides it onto her ring finger, taking a moment to study it before laying her hands flat on the table and sighing heavily. “Xavier proposed.” She bites her lip, and a tiny quirk of a smile turns her lips. “I said ‘yes’.”

The sound of chair legs scraping across the floor fills the kitchen, and a moment later, Waverly is holding her sister’s head against her abdomen, lips pressed to Wynonna’s wild, dark hair, arms locked tight around her shoulders. Nicole laughs with surprise, and Waverly smiles, but there’s an edge of relief at the corners. Her eyes are squeezed shut a little too tightly and her brow is drawn in a little too close.

Nicole realizes that Waverly is trying to hold back tears at the same moment that Wynonna finally leans into the embrace. Her eyelids flutter shut and she breathes out a sigh, fingers coming up to clutch at the back of Waverly’s loose t-shirt. Once again, Nicole feels like the third wheel in a scene she should not be witness to.

Until Wynonna extends an arm.

“Get in on this, Haught,” she growls.

Nicole’s smile stretches into a grin. “Alright, Earp. You want me? You got me.”

“You’re family,” Wynonna declares, cracking an eye.

Nicole rises, wraps her arms around both of them, and squeezes tightly. And it’s goofy, and lovely, and so, so nice to be together again, to be included, to feel like maybe they’re moving the dial this time and not just going around in circles. Purgatory is behind them, but family is not. They’ve got the rest of their lives to live now.

It feels good.

“Oh, but, Wave, one more thing,” Wynonna adds, voice muffled against Waverly’s shirt.

Waverly shifts, happy smile still fixed on her face. “What’s up?”

“...I’m pregnant.”