If there is one thing Nicole can say for Randy Nedley, it is that he did not scrimp on the bubbly.
Admittedly, he has not sprung for champagne (well, except for a dribble for each person to toast the happy couple), but really, no one was going to complain about that.
In a while, no one will even remember whether the bubbles were champagne, cava, or something else entirely. People seemed to be drinking the stuff liberally, and it was going down well. Even Nicole could detect signs of a slight haze descending over her, feeling herself struggle to focus on the speeches.
It wasn’t that they were bad speeches - far from it. In fact, even as someone who has not had the opportunity to attend many weddings, Nicole can say that Chrissy Nedley’s family and friends were doing a very good job.
Well, technically, her friend might actually be Chrissy King now. The last Nicole knew of it, she was still deciding whether or not to legally change her name.
There has been far too many other things for her to focus on in past weeks, and Nicole would bet that it is a question especially far from Chrissy's mind today.
Today, she looks wonderful in a floor-length ivory gown with impossibly fine, delicate lace covering her arms from shoulder to wrist. She is so striking that her now-husband had visibly fought against tears when, in the church, he had seen her for the first time. The service that followed had been beautiful - it was simple and tasteful and just the right length to satisfy almost everyone.
And if Nicole had learned anything about weddings in the past months as Chrissy arranged her own, it was that everyone had an opinion on everything.
Already, Nicole knows she could not bear having to accommodate so many viewpoints on colour schemes and flower arrangements and seating plans. She is glad she didn’t have to do it the first time, and she will be glad not to have to do it again.
All the same, Chrissy’s hard work had not gone to waste, because the day had so far gone without a single hiccough.
After the service, the complimentary pre-dinner drinks had disappeared very quickly, and all of the official photographs ran smoothly. Nicole had even managed to speak to Waverly for a few moments as they passed each other by next to the photographer.
Following this, dinner was as enjoyable as mass catering could ever be, and as the sunlight finally began to dim behind the fancy hotel’s floor-to-ceiling windows, the time had come to turn all attention towards the top table.
In her life, Nicole has had few invitations to weddings (her own notwithstanding). Her parents’ crowd of friends were generally not the types for traditional weddings, and most of their distant relatives had been married off by the time Nicole even became a teenager. Since then, she had barely settled anywhere long enough to be considered for a spot on anyone’s wedding guest lists.
As such, Nicole had scarcely known what to expect from today, but there was not a single thing that felt out of place to her untrained eye, except perhaps for Chrissy’s tiny guilty look as Nicole took her seat for dinner. She seemed to harbour some odd sense of culpability that Nicole had not been given a spot at the top table.
“I tried to wrangle you the space next to Waves,” Chrissy had said apologetically a few weeks earlier, once she finalised the seating arrangement. “Since I know Dad’s basically mentally adopted you anyway.”
Here, she had broken off with a playful smile tugging at her mouth because Nicole had immediately rushed to brush off the comment about Nedley.
“Don’t even try to deny it,” Chrissy had protested, because the two of them had always had a good rapport, even before Nicole’s relationship with Waverly had formed another tie between them.
“You’re family,” Chrissy had concluded eventually in a no-nonsense sort of way. “And I wanted you to sit with us and Waves rather than alone. But Gloria has decided it’s a ‘no partners at the top table’ thing. Wouldn’t be fair to the groomsmen apparently.” At this, Chrissy had rolled her eyes and related some sort of family politics matter involving her fiancé’s brothers’ girlfriends. Afterwards, she had added, “but not like I should be able to decide. I genuinely don’t think anyone has told her it’s not her wedding and that’s she’s just mother of the groom.”
Although she had tried to make a joke of it at the time, it was obvious that Chrissy was far from impressed at her future mother-in-law’s behaviour.
Keen to show that she understood that wedding seating plans did not discriminate, Nicole had insisted it wasn’t a problem. At the wedding itself, she takes her seat and flashes Chrissy a look that she hopes conveys the same sentiment.
In Nicole’s job as Sheriff, she sort of had to know everyone in town anyway, so she would hardly be short of company. Better still, Robin - as one of the kids from Chrissy and Waverly’s school - had been invited to attend both the wedding ceremony and the dance. Naturally, he had brought Jeremy along too.
Even before the wedding was upon them, Nicole had been delighted at the prospect of a day tagging along with Robin and Jeremy. After all, there had been enough double dates by now that it would not feel strange or like she was a third wheel. Now, however, having briefly met Gloria King, Nicole could say that even as a cop she would not want to cross Chrissy’s mother-in-law.
She is a tiny lady, but what she lacked in stature she seemed to recoup in sheer force of will, and Nicole is absolutely certain that no one had ever told Mrs King ‘no’ and lived to tell the tale.
In fact, Nicole chances a sly glance at the lady now, just to see how the humour from the speeches was going down.
As it happens, the best man - Chrissy’s new brother-in-law - is telling enough tasteful jokes to endear the crowd, with a hint of the risqué weaved in well enough. Two speeches prior, Nedley had subtly shed a few tears he would likely deny later - especially when he mentioned Chrissy’s late mother.
Sandwiched in between, Ben King - the groom - had looked as proud a man as Nicole had ever seen when he thanked his guests, his family, and his bride. He goes rather misty-eyed when he speaks about how he met Chrissy, how he knew it was serious from the moment they went on their first date, how he proposed…
Indeed, Chrissy’s husband holds almost everyone transfixed, although by now Nicole feels her gaze starting to wander more and more frequently. This is nothing against the groom - he is lovely, in fact - it is just that there has been a magnetic force vying for Nicole’s attention from the moment the day had begun.
Then, soon enough, Ben King closes off by thanking Chrissy’s bridesmaids and suddenly everyone else is looking in the same direction as Nicole.
For her part, Nicole has scarcely been able to look away all day. Because sitting a few places down from Chrissy, and watching with a happy, proud smile on her face, is Waverly. She had shared the title of maid of honour with Chrissy’s cousin Estelle, and along with two other women (another school friend and a sister-in-law, Nicole thinks), they had all been wonderfully received and smartly presented.
But of course, Nicole is rather biased.
In her eyes, everyone in the wedding party looks wonderful - especially Chrissy - but Waverly is nothing short of utterly resplendent. Chrissy’s choice of colour scheme - a deep, velvety-looking green - suits Waverly so perfectly it might as well have been created for her at the beginning of time, and the gold accents in her makeup and jewellery make the natural highlights in her hair gleam. In fact, Waverly looks regal in a way that makes Nicole’s breath hitch.
Since the very first moment she set eyes on Waverly Earp, Nicole has always craved a second look. Today, however, had been something else. Today, Nicole had not been able to stop staring.
Their day had begun early, the two of them having arrived at the reception venue earlier than most; Waverly because she was integral to the getting ready process, and Nicole because they were both staying overnight and there did not seem to be much point in driving Waverly up first, only to return again later.
In truth, this meant that Nicole had been snatching glances at Waverly in various stages of dress since the late morning, and every new glimpse revealed more of her previously rather secret maid of honour regalia. Waverly had rather craftily kept her get-up under wraps from Nicole, almost as much as Chrissy must have kept her own dress out of her husband’s sights. Almost certainly, it was because Waverly knew exactly what it might do to Nicole, and had been preserving the big reveal in the most exquisite form of torture that must surely exist.
And, of course, Waverly had not been wrong. Every new sight of her had been enough to kindle another flame in Nicole’s heart.
(Admittedly, the fire had not been doused since the first time Waverly’s lips had sought Nicole, but it continually grew; sometimes a wildfire but most often an inferno contained - a candle in the night, or a lit hearth in the cold of winter.)
And while Nicole kept staring throughout the day, Waverly - so visibly happy for her oldest friend - had not once stopped smiling. It had only made the magnetic connection stronger, seeing her so happy and filled with joy.
A few times, Robin and Jeremy had even caught Nicole staring in silent, slack-jawed awe and had gently nudged her so that she could see the proud, happy expressions on their faces too.
Because, when it comes down to it, there are all sorts of things that Nicole could say about the institution of marriage (especially about being shut out of it for so long), but weddings are happy days when everyone can simply allow themselves a self-indulgent moment of reflection on what it means to truly love someone.
In fact, it is all Nicole can do not to think about what it will feel like - for there is absolutely no doubt in her mind that it is a question of when and not if - on the day she and Waverly finally get married.
Certainly, there are some things Nicole knows already. For one, it will not be as big and busy an affair as this. They have already discussed their wedding many times in the abstract sense, and they know that there are only a few people that they would wish to invite.
They have long since reached the stage where they speak about weddings easily and openly. There is no need to dance around something that feels like such a certainty. There is no official engagement yet - because Bulshar’s ring would not be their ring, Nicole was adamant of that, and after Waverly was returned to them it was obvious she had wanted more too. But whatever the wider circumstances, they had both long known that their futures are twined together forever.
That will be us one day, Nicole thinks, gazing across the room at the top table as the groom prepares to bring his speech to a close. Waverly will be smiling like she is now, dressed in white with wildflowers in her hair …
Indeed, as she had watched this day play out, Nicole had found herself empathising with the newlyweds at every turn. When Chrissy’s husband had turned to see his future wife, draped in lace and chiffon and pearls, gliding down the aisle, Nicole had understood easily how the wave of tears must have hit him because something similar was walloping her square in the chest too.
It was overwhelming enough to stand amongst the guests and watch from the pews as Waverly made her own way down the aisle just slightly apart from Chrissy, carrying a smaller bouquet and shadowed by a shorter trail of green silk and tulle behind her. Even as a bridesmaid, Waverly had looked so beautiful that Nicole had felt a flood of emotion beneath her ribs, strong like a mountain snowstorm.
Nicole had needed no confirmation that she would stand no chance of holding herself together on her own wedding day, but all the same this moment had been further proof.
Waverly had been the consummate professional, her eyes barely wandering towards the assembled guests until the very last minute, until she passed the pews at which she already knew Nicole would be stationed. Then, and only then, did she cast a sideways glance across the room.
Almost as a portent of faith or destiny or providence, their eyes had met immediately and Waverly’s smile had grown. For all she had been smiling since entering the church, this new expression was different. It was a smile she seemed to reserve only for Nicole, and it always looked to Nicole rather like someone was lighting a candle behind stained glass.
Even as she knows she has a secret smile of her own for Waverly too (has spotted it on her face in photographs when she had not known she was being caught on camera), Nicole’s heart had lurched to see Waverly in that bridal party. It lurches in much the same way every day; when she wakes in the morning to Waverly laying beside her; when she feels Waverly’s lips against her own; when hears Waverly’s laughter…
And of course Nicole is aware that this is Chrissy’s day - she is naturally hyper-focussed on that too. But she simply could not - would never again - find eyes for anyone in the world but Waverly Earp.
It is the same even as she keeps an ear on the groom’s speech. She is listening - she is focussed upon his words and his stories and his jokes - but she is watching Waverly too. She simply cannot help it.
And when Ben King concludes his speech and all of the guests are called upon to stand and toast the happy couple, Waverly catches Nicole looking for the umpteenth time.
Perhaps it is something in the weight of the moment, something in the joy evidently coursing through Waverly on the occasion of her best friend’s special day, but she chooses the moment before the toast to mouth I love you over at Nicole.
With everyone else transfixed by the smiles of the bride and groom, Nicole would wager that she was the only one to see Waverly’s lips moving, and she would not have had it any other way.
There follows a brief lull between the dinner ending and the dance beginning. Smartly dressed waiters begin offering tea and coffee to the revelers, but most of the crowd - the youthful ones, at least - already have their minds on something stronger.
“Are we ‘drink’ drinking tonight?” Jeremy asks, voice low to ensure that any older aunts or younger cousins around the table do not hear. It is probably expected that people will order more booze and start to party, but as none of them feel closely related - by blood or otherwise - to Chrissy and her husband, they are playing it safe.
Chrissy had been aware that Robin held very few of their old school peers in particularly high esteem and had possessed the forethought not to seat him with any of them. As a result, Robin, Jeremy, and Nicole had been placed at a large table with an assortment of guests who perhaps had no other obvious seat in the room. Sat on Robin’s other side - the one not occupied by Jeremy - is the boyfriend of one of the other bridesmaids and, beside him, the wife of one of the King family’s numerous sons.
Everyone is friendly enough, however, and Nicole had been largely content when Jeremy and Robin seemed ready to keep to themselves. It was always hard to know how to gauge the crowd at a wedding; difficult to say how outwardly affectionate they could be and still remain safe around a slew of elderly aunts, uncles, or grandparents.
(And, well, in these parts it was hard to say how some of the younger crowd would react, too.)
“Well, I want another proper drink,” Robin replies quietly, “if I’m going to have to mingle with kids from school all night.”
“Nah, we’re going to intervene if that happens,” Nicole says, referencing a prearranged plan. “But I still want a beer. Shall I get the first round in?”
They enter into a brief back and forth for the sake of propriety, after which Nicole is still the person who rises from her seat to go to the bar.
She finds herself a little less stable than she had anticipated, and makes a mental note to pace herself a little better after this drink. There are too many people she knows from the town here, and she cannot really afford to get too drunk.
(Plus, something tells her that it is going to be a night of heavy drinking for Chrissy, her husband, and their bridesmaids and groomsmen, so Nicole will probably need to make sure someone out of her and Waverly is in passable shape tomorrow morning.)
Still, Nicole buys three overpriced beers from the bar with little hesitation, and returns to the main hall in time to spot Waverly and one of the ushers - the husband’s best friend from school - setting something up for the imminent arrival of the evening guests.
Waverly had already mentioned something about it a few days prior, a traditional book for guests to record their well wishes, and a few disposable cameras for people to contribute photos towards an album the bridesmaids would put together at a later date.
Nicole pauses, fiddling with her change as she tries to carry three beer bottles, and catches the thread of Waverly’s conversation.
“It is a long day,” she says, the tone of her voice implying that she is agreeing with something the usher had said. With a laugh she adds, “but a lovely one. Plus, in an hour or so, I’m pretty sure no one will notice if we leave our stations for a tiny bit.”
“True. We could grab a drink afterwards, if you fancied.”
There is an obvious undertone to the usher’s voice, and it is clear from the way Waverly pauses in her task that she hears it too.
“Oh. That would be nice but…”
“It’s fine,” she usher says quickly, laughing and looking rather self-conscious. “Single at a wedding here - so I hope you can’t blame a guy for trying.”
He is good natured and affable - not remotely awkward about having been turned down - and Nicole hears the relief in Waverly’s voice as she chuckles and then replies.
“It’s fine. We can still get that drink if you want, so long as, you know…”
“I’m clear,” he says quickly, still laughing. “Very, very clear. Please at least leave my ego slightly intact.”
“Well, does it help your ego if I say I’m in a relationship?” Waverly asks, before adding, “happily obviously. Extremely happily - that wasn’t me saying that I only said no because - ”
Nicole, already scrambling to move on and ensure she does not deliberately eavesdrop, feels her heart twist in her chest.
God, I love her, she thinks to herself, deciding that she will never tire of hearing Waverly reference their relationship. Just as she is heading back into the main hall, Nicole hears the usher add,
“I got you, don’t sweat it. He’s a lucky guy.”
Nicole snorts to herself. If only they got a dollar for every time that happened, especially at formal events…
The usher got one thing right though. Nicole is lucky.
Nicole arrives back in time to see half the tables being moved or packed away to clear a dance floor and, surprisingly quickly, the lights are being dimmed and an announcement being made over the speakers for everyone to gather for the first dance.
This, Nicole thinks, might be one of the traditions that she herself would be happier to eschew. She knows Waverly wants it all - all the traditional, mushy cliches - and most of the time they are in agreement. Aware that she is no dancer, however, Nicole does not relish the idea of showcasing her spectacular lack of talent in front of others.
She already knows, however, that she will make the exception for Waverly when the time comes. She knows too that she will struggle to avoid doing so for others as well, when Nedley passes by just long enough to ominously say ‘no-one escapes the father-daughter dance Haught. No-one’. Nicole rolls her eyes, but knows a man on a mission when she sees one.
For now, however, she is happy to know that she can stand back and momentarily avoid all potential for embarrassment.
For their own parts, neither Chrissy nor her husband look at all confident or comfortable at being the centre of attention in this particular moment. They struggle to meet each other’s eye without laughing, especially as they stumble or move clumsily about with Chrissy’s long dress impeding them both to some degree.
Where the bridal party is assembled across the room, Nicole picks out Waverly and waits until their eyes meet.
“You see?” Nicole mouths, trying to prove her point that first dances are both unnecessary and horrible.
Waverly rolls her eyes in a way that is completely negated by the look of complete and utter endearment on her face.
“Don’t,” she mouthes back.
This particular back-and-forth is not an uncommon one, and they always reach a good-natured impasse on the matter.
Nicole lets the conversation drop, her timing impeccable as the wedding party is invited to dance too. Waverly is paired up briefly with the same usher from before, and if their conversation has left either of them feeling awkward then it does not show on their faces. For the final few bars of the song, Ben King looks rather relieved to cede his place to Nedley who, frankly, looks no less out of place in such a scenario. Still, the tenderness of the moment is what counts and no one is left to suffer for too long as the song is changed to something more upbeat and poppy.
More guests begin to dance, and the formalities are more or less entirely over. There will still be a cake to consider, by which point most of the younger guests will be too well-served to care about anything other than ensuring they are handed a slice of dessert.
Rather sweetly, Nedley and Chrissy make a beeline for Nicole, Jeremy, and Robin as soon as they can.
Immediately and by mutual consent, Nicole and Chrissy share a hug and, although she had offered her congratulations just before the photos, Nicole compliments Chrissy on everything - the day, her dress, the decorations - once again.
Once Chrissy has moved on to greet Robin and Jeremy, her father takes her place and sends Nicole a stern look.
“I saw your little step into the sidelines,” he pretends to gripe, speaking about Nicole's attempt to avoid dancing at that particular moment. She has no qualms about joining Waverly or their friends later, but just not while literally everyone was watching.
“Looks like the moment has passed,” Nicole says quickly, making reference to the current unsuitable song. “I’m really quite good at avoiding anything involves dancing.”
“Don’t make any assumptions,” Nedley says darkly, although it is clear he is joking. The sentiment alone is enough for Nicole and, she would bet, it is enough for Nedley too.
“You must be really proud,” Nicole says, because it is the kind of thing you say at weddings, but also because it is true.
“I am,” Nedley says, tone weighty and poignant, and it takes a moment before she realises that his gaze lingers first and longest on Chrissy, but then returns briefly but pointedly to Nicole too.
Eventually, after being dragged to a rather stereotypical (but no less fun for it) photobooth for countless photos with Chrissy and the other bridesmaids, Waverly breaks away long enough to make a pitstop at the table around which Nicole, Jeremy, and Robin have seated themselves.
Somehow still retaining a remarkable amount of grace and decorum, she flops into an empty seat next to Nicole, crossing her legs at the knee and rubbing absently at the ankle she has elevated in the process.
“I. Am. Beat ,” she announces grandly, laying her head on Nicole’s shoulder as if to prove the point. Almost immediately their bodies both sigh and settle, as if any kind of physical proximity brings with it a soft and soothing balm.
Nicole angles her head slightly, nose and mouth against Waverly’s soft hair. Nicole breathes in the familiar smell of it, mingled with the sharp scent of the professional hairdresser’s products (brands Waverly does not normally use) and chances a gentle kiss to Waverly’s crown, more or less invisible to anyone who might be looking.
In truth, however, the room is dark to accommodate the dance and anyone who has not already left the party is already a number of drinks down.
This definitely includes Waverly, who might be well able to pass off an air of almost complete sobriety to those who do not know her. Nicole, however, can spot all the little clues by now; the heaviness of her movements, the careful consideration of her words, the increased (but not unwelcome) physical clinginess which, for Waverly, was really saying something.
Nicole does not mind. If anything, she has rather a soft spot for drunk Waverly. Everything that is already endearing in Waverly is somehow amplified; her sweetness, her giggliness, her flirtatious streak - all of it is simply ramped up a notch or two.
In sympathy with Waverly’s current state of tiredness, both Jeremy and Robin nod.
“Weddings always seem exhausting,” Jeremy says noncommittally, as Robin commends Waverly on a job well done as bridesmaid.
At this, Nicole feels a little bubble of pride in her chest. Waverly had previously told her on more than one occasion that she was excited and nervous in equal measure. It seemed almost improbable for someone as well-liked as Waverly, but she had not been given such a role before.
“You were amazing, and you look beautiful,” Jeremy adds after Robin expresses much the same sentiment.
Nicole finds herself in complete and unreserved agreement, but there is still something more in hearing others say it too. Waverly is wonderful - a literal angel, after all - and perhaps a part of Nicole should feel protective over that, but it has never actually occurred to her to do so. In much the same way that she pictures Waverly on their own wedding day - beautiful in white and stealing everyone’s attention - Nicole is happy and satisfied when others acknowledge Waverly’s light.
Waverly sits up a little to give Jeremy and Robin her full attention as she thanks them quietly.
Waverly does not see it in herself sometimes, that wonderful glow.
Nicole knows that she will not rest until Waverly sees herself as Nicole sees her; like she is a waterfall - powerful and breathtaking and devastatingly beautiful.
“At least I know now why you didn’t want to confirm or deny what you were wearing today,” Waverly murmurs, cheek pressed to Nicole’s shoulder.
They have reached the critical point of the night; the post cake-cutting point where the DJ slows the songs and potential couples pair off to dance amongst those who have already established themselves. Chrissy and Ben have already been seen off for the night, and things are slowly starting to wind down.
Now that things are quieter and the numbers in the room are far sparser, Nicole is happy to settle with Waverly's body flush against her own, both of them swaying gently and moving slightly without direction.
Feigning innocence, Nicole whispers, “I don't know what you're talking about. You're the one who wouldn't show me your dress.”
“I knew you'd gone and bought a new suit and shirt,” Waverly responds, ignoring Nicole's point altogether. “I just knew it.”
Nicole chuckles to herself. “Looks like we're both as bad as each other then.”
If Waverly had known what it would do to Nicole to see her looking like divinity personified, then Nicole was equally aware that Waverly had tastes and preferences of her own.
She had stated on many occasions that she liked the purple get up from the poker spectacular, but Nicole was never half as sold on it. It was the only fancy dress she owned, bought specifically as a safeguard for the times she would inevitably be told she needed to attend a formal function. She had thought that wearing anything but a dress would go down badly, and had simply walked into a shop and bought the first one that looked like it ticked all the boxes she needed it to tick. Formal? Yes. Appropriate? Yes. Unremarkable enough as to be worn again and again? Yes. In her size? Also yes.
She had worn it when she graduated from the Academy, when the party dress code strictly stated suits for men and dresses for women. It had then travelled to Purgatory with her purely out of necessity, but had not seen the light of day since Bobo's party years prior.
She is Sheriff now, and had no one in town to report to. She could and would dress how she liked. And how she liked was currently the smart, navy blue suit she'd found online about a month after getting her official invitation to the wedding. She had a nice new shirt with an embroidered collar, and a trusty pair of faux-leather lace up brogue shoes that had never once seen her wrong.
She loved it for herself the first time she tried the whole outfit on, but she also knew that Waverly would love it too.
They had joked before about how the purple dress was relegated to the back of the closet, seen regularly only in a photo that Waverly kept on her nightstand.
“I thought you looked beautiful in it,” Waverly had protested once when Nicole raised the matter.
“You have to say that!”
At this, Waverly had squared her shoulders and grown haughty, although it was obvious they were both still joking around. “No I don't. I'm your girlfriend, if I can't be honest with you who can?“
“Fair point, if kind of harsh.”
“Anyway, I think you think you look beautiful in something other than a dress. And I like it when we can both see you the same way," Waverly had explained, in a remarkable mirror to how Nicole found herself feeling on Chrissy's big day.
“Are you basically just saying you dig it when I get cocky?”
Wearing the new suit now, Nicole silently decides that Waverly has a point. She feels confident, and it probably shows on her as much as it would show on anyone else.
“How dare we,” Waverly mumbles a moment later, and it would seem from her delayed reaction that the booze is catching up with her now. “Surprising each other like this.”
“You assume I'm surprised you look like something out of Greek legend?” Nicole teases gently.
“Well, I'm at least going to assume you're not trying to reference all the gory, messed up stuff.”
“I was trying to be romantic, actually.”
Waverly pulls back from their loose dance hold for long enough to press a chaste kiss to the corner of Nicole's mouth before resuming her position.
“And you succeeded.”
“I understand that I have competition now anyway,” Nicole murmurs in Waverly’s ear once they are on their way to sit down again for a moment or two. It had been nice to be folded together like that in a haze of surprisingly well-chosen love songs, but they were both tiring fast and Waverly's feet were starting to hurt in her high heels.
Plus, while Nicole had only detected one or two wary looks - mostly when Waverly had kissed her - this still made things only somewhat easier and still not entirely comfortable.
Waverly raises her brows in a look of genuine surprise.
“How do you know about that?” she asks, her smile playful and her expression saying of course you'd know somehow.
“I was on my way back from the bar.”
“Spy,” Waverly says, poking her tongue out. They both know she doesn't mean it. Even after some of the bigger spanners in the works of their relationship - Shae, Rosita - it had never been like that between them.
“It's great for my ego when you throw around things like being ‘extremely happy’ in your relationship, you know.”
“Oh I know,” Waverly replies mock-seriously. “I'm starting to worry you won't fit your head through the doorway to your own office soon.”
“I know you love me really, no matter how many malicious lies you tell.”
“Yes,” Waverly says without hesitation, a fond smile now resting easy on her face. “I do.”
After a moment of content silence she adds, “and you'll be happy to know I set him up with someone from school, and I saw them sneaking off together earlier so I'd say my work here is done.”
“A true angel of love.”
Waverly raises a stern eyebrow. “I’m not sure I believe you mean that.”
“You’re doubting my sincerity?” Nicole asks, taking great pains to look offended. “On this, a day of love?”
Waverly snorts and gives Nicole a playful shove, before changing tack entirely and loosely fisting one hand in the front of Nicole’s shirt. She pulls her in, her lips perhaps a little greedier than they’d be in public ordinarily, and Nicole has to once again assume this is attributable to all the bubbly she has spied tonight.
She loves Waverly like this, when she is loose - languorous - and soft and just a little bit silly. Of course, she is all of these things regularly, and Nicole appreciates them (as well as all the other little quirks and qualities that equate to Waverly Earp) daily, but the weight of the day has really done a number on her.
“Do you think we should call it a night?” she murmurs when they break apart, not only because there are certain obvious merits to the two of them being behind closed doors, but because Nicole is simply eager for it to be just the two of them together in any capacity they feel like.
She is, to a degree, keen now to have Waverly all to herself, to love and to cherish in a way that is not quite yet matrimonial in the conventional sense, but feels somewhat similar by now. They know each other so well now, they are so familiar and open when it is just the two of them, and Nicole sometimes seeks those moments unconsciously, until the wanting builds up and up and strains against a dam within her.
It is never normally like this between them. Of course they enjoy quality time, of course they still actively make space for date nights and outings and little trips to the city, but they are seldom guarded about the other. But Nicole has felt it all day today, that desire to happily meet the end of this day and retire with Waverly to a space that is, for one night, their own, where they can be themselves without anyone else present.
Nicole has spent hours projecting this wedding day onto herself and Waverly, because their own future marriage is already a forgone conclusion, but indeed no less thrilling or precious for its inevitability.
“Yeah,” Waverly whispers back after a moment of serious and somewhat adorable concentration. “Yeah I think I want to go to bed now.”
“Well I think that can be arranged,” Nicole says with a final kiss to Waverly’s forehead. She stands and offers her hand to help Waverly up, but once they are both standing Waverly does not let go. She carefully threads their fingers together one-by-one, slotting their palms in a very slow, deliberate sort of way.
On their way upstairs, they pass by Nedley and wish him goodnight, rather pointedly ignoring a lingering look from one of the groom’s party.
Nedley thanks them both for their involvement over recent weeks, and they brush it off as concisely as possible, before drifting to the elevators, and eventually down a fancy-looking carpeted corridor to the room they had been assigned.
Nicole suspects that either Chrissy or Nedley had got them an upgrade, because the bedroom was far grander than its nightly price tag warranted. It only feels a shame that they will not have much time to appreciate it.
As soon as the door is shut behind them, Waverly makes a point of over-exaggeratedly kicking her shoes off. They fly a short way across the room, landing rather well beside their overnight bags with a small clatter.
Nicole’s ears are ringing from the volume of the music (and compounded no doubt by all the beer she has drunk) and the silence in the room is jarring for a moment. She pops the top button on her dress pants for the comfort of it, and then watches as Waverly drifts serenely to the vanity table.
She sits on a rather grand-looking dressing chair, and immediately sets to work on the numerous effects holding her curls in place. She quickly defeats the ornate golden hairpiece, stylised somewhat like laurels, and sets it carefully down on the table. The bobby pins, however, give her a little more grief.
After several minutes doing battle, she pauses to bring her arms to her side and let the blood back into her fingers, and she catches Nicole watching in the mirror.
Waverly smiles, soft and affectionate, before reaching for something to start wiping off her makeup, momentarily giving it a rest on the bobby pins.
“This isn’t even the worst part. I have no idea how to get out of this dress. I think I’m gonna need help.”
“That’s something I can happily do,” Nicole murmurs, shrugging out of her jacket and laying it carefully down near their bags, alongside Waverly’s shoes.
Waverly chuckles. “Don’t get your hopes up too much, I’m worried I’ll be asleep as soon as my head hits that pillow.”
“What?” Nicole says with a pout, stepping closer to the dressing table, “not even your usual cuddling routine?”
Waverly rolls her eyes at Nicole’s teasing, but still replies, “always the cuddling part.”
“Good,” Nicole concludes decisively, before dropping into a crouch and reaching for Waverly’s hair. “Here, let me help you now. Save you some time.”
Together, they get all of the pins out of Waverly’s hair, and Nicole helps her to brush some of the hairspray out until morning so that Waverly can tie her hair back for the night. Neither of them can really be bothered with showering just now.
Gripping onto the chair Nicole leans in to nuzzle her nose against Waverly’s cheek.
“You’ve missed the tiniest bit of foundation,” she murmurs, before kissing the offending spot and then rubbing the make-up away with the pad of her thumb. “It’s somehow really cute.”
“You’re somehow really cute,” Waverly bats back, pretending to throw it back as a mock-insult, before letting Nicole kiss her silly for a moment or two.
They break apart when Waverly threatens, but ultimately manages to stifle, a yawn against Nicole’s mouth. She chuckles, before standing and indicating that Waverly should do the same.
With a gentle hand barely grazing Waverly’s skin, Nicole slips a wide tulle strap down off the peak of Waverly’s shoulder and stoops to kiss the bare flesh left in its wake. Her lips raise goosebumps and she feels Waverly’s body sigh at the simple touch.
Slowly but ever so deliberately, her hands drift to the back of the dress, searching for whatever clasps and catchings are keeping it pulled snug around Waverly’s body. As it happens, there are buttons - far too many buttons - and a long, long zipper.
Deft fingers working smoothly, Nicole makes purposefully steady work of each fixing. It is not lost on her, the weight of this moment as she slowly peels Waverly’s dress down and kisses a line from her shoulder to her back, settling between her shoulder blades and eventually tracing the elegant curve of Waverly’s spine with her lips.
She has spent all day considering her hopes and dreams for her own wedding, and now she is finally alone with Waverly, slowly undressing her, slowly exposing more and more skin and revering every inch of it she can reach. It seems to complete the circle, the weight of the thought that they will have their own wedding night too one day. Nicole will remove the white dress she can already picture in her mind's eye. By that time, Waverly will already be her wife.
At about the time the zipper slowly reaches the slope at the bottom of Waverly’s back, ready for the dress to drop and slither to the ground, Waverly grips at Nicole’s shoulders and brings her in for a firm, hungry kiss that could just as easily have sat between them on its own, but nonetheless grows and extends, and Nicole bites back a gentle, teasing comment about how Waverly seems to have beaten her tiredness now.
Finally, Nicole pushes the dress down over Waverly’s hips and it falls to the floor, tangled around Waverly’s bare feet. For her own part, Waverly starts on the buttons of Nicole’s shirt, pulling the hem all of the way out of Nicole’s pants but leaving the garment hanging open as Nicole’s hands occupy themselves by dancing over any part of Waverly’s bare skin they can find.
She feels Waverly smile against her lips and pulls away for a moment.
“What?” she asks, voice playful as she keeps their foreheads tilted together.
“The dress thing was pretty sensual and all but now I’ve got to somehow get out of my tights,” Waverly jokes, and Nicole can hear the way she is grinning. "Feel like that's going to be a bit less alluring."
She laughs in response. “I’m sure we can make it work.”
Waverly laughs too.
“Oh, I don’t doubt it”
“Asleep yet?” Nicole murmurs into the dark afterwards. She had crawled up the bed and slotted into Waverly’s side, watching as Waverly took a long, long while to open her eyes again after the fall. It was obvious she had initially intended to, but now though, her breathing was starting to even out and she was likely drifting somewhere in the space before sleep.
“Mm. Not quite,” Waverly mumbles. She shifts as if she might try and claw back some feeling of wakefulness, and Nicole stills her with a hand on her belly.
“No no, don’t,” she says quickly, pressing a kiss to Waverly’s cheek. “I was just wondering.”
Waverly wriggles about slightly, pushing their bodies closer, nuzzling her face into Nicole’s neck. They will not stay like this - much as she craves the contact, Nicole gets too hot to sleep this way - but they both love that soft, tender moment before Waverly sleeps. She is tactile anyway, but she loves to seek out Nicole’s body under the sheets and let the comforting heat of her skin soothe her into sleep.
“Love you,” Waverly whispers quietly, her voice full of such fierce conviction that it brings a lump to Nicole’s throat. Then sleepily, and in a way she perhaps might not have adopted if she were fully coherent, she adds sweetly, “can’t wait to marry you.”
The lump only intensifies and makes Nicole’s voice thick.
“Me neither baby. Me neither.”
She feels the moment Waverly’s body finally relaxes fully, but it takes Nicole a little moment longer to feel the sleep catch up with her.
She doesn’t think she has ever meant anything more, or felt more conviction in her intentions. She truly cannot wait to marry Waverly, for them to have a day like this of their own, only perhaps smaller and a little more their own.
She cannot wait for the ceremony, and the dance, and whatever vegan cake Waverly wants. She cannot wait for the wedding night, and for the rest of their lives spent together. There are still days when she pinches herself, unable to believe that this is all real and Waverly is really her girlfriend, let alone the heart-stopping thought that one day they will be wives.
Nicole knows it is all she wants, that it is up there with the things she has wanted the most in life.
Back in the outside world, things are still somewhat uncertain. There are still a few demons to hunt, still other curses to break. Gradually, they have all tired of it, all of them craving something closer to a normal, safer life for themselves and, especially, for little Alice. But tonight, with happiness for Chrissy still coursing through her, and with Waverly sleeping soundly beside her, Nicole can focus on all the good to come.
And really, there is still so, so much good out there waiting for them.