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The Sum Total of Living

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The day that Nicole dies, Waverly stays for hours at the hospital until Wynonna finally pulls her away, bundling her into her own coat, then Dolls's thick woolen coat over the top, and carrying Waverly, despite her own eight-and-a-half-month bump, to the Jeep. Dolls drives with Doc in the front seat, while Wynonna holds Waverly in the back seat, swaddling her like a child, unable to stop tugging and re-tugging the extra coat around her sister, as though the pull of a blanket might help the pain.

When they reach the homestead, Dolls silently nudges Wynonna aside, reaching in through the open door and gracefully lifting Waverly into his arms as though she weighs nothing. He walks her all the way up to Wynonna's bed without being asked, and stands with her in his arms for a minute, head bowed over Waverly's, before delicately putting her down. Doc hovers in the door, hat in his hands, eyes panicked, looking too full of hurt and living; and Wynonna touches both Dolls and Doc with a brush to their arms, releasing them. She lies down around Waverly's body, bending awkwardly with her bump to try to spoon Waverly as best she can.

Doc and Dolls retreat downstairs, where Wynonna will find them the next morning, red-eyed and ashen, silent, but there, ready for whatever she tells them to do.

Around midnight, Wynonna fetches water from the upstairs bathroom for Waverly, and pulls out her stash of Twizzlers from her bedside drawer, ripping a pack open and gently pushing one toward Waverly's mouth.

"Here, baby girl. Just suck on this for a bit, okay? You need to have something, and I know everything will taste like shit right now, but sugar will taste the least awful, I promise."

Waverly rubs her eyes before giving a tiny nod, and opens her mouth obediently. Wynonna strokes her hair while she sucks on the licorice, twisting her body back around to spoon Waverly again. She ignores the tugging in her belly and silently mutters a prayer to the baby to just hang the fuck on.

Waverly utters the first words she's spoken since being told that Nicole was gone, voice wretched and hoarse and without any of the lightness Wynonna knows. Her jaw clenches and she wills down the gulp of her throat.

"Can you sleep here with me tonight, please?"

Wynonna's heart breaks over and over at the very fact of the request and then again at the tiny please, and she swallows tears almost angrily.

"Nothing could make me leave you, baby girl."

 

 

Three days after Nicole dies, they have a small wake, because everything is going to hell and Wynonna is worried that if they don't have one now they might not ever get a chance. She and Dolls and Nedley organize everything, Dolls silent, Nedley looking wrecked, his stubbled beard further washing out his gray face. Her ankles and hips kill her while they trudge around town informing people, grief plain on her face, and, under it, an anger that scares everyone who opens their door.

They try to keep the wake small, but it's packed, a full town turnout, and Shorty's is bursting. Wynonna notices how Nedley stays ten feet away from Waverly the whole time, quietly following whenever she moves around, keeping an invisible perimeter around her.

Waverly has a dazed face, but her hair is brushed and loose, and she's wearing a black dress cut below her knees, snug and plain, with a pair of simple heels, and her outfit at least looks like Waverly. She sits at the bar, Wynonna her keeper all day, silently sipping water and making sure that Waverly gets exactly the right amount of alcohol for grief, but not so much that everything gets even worse. Doc watches them both from a corner of the bar, a curve to his body, as though it's being pulled away towards some other place. He drinks whiskey all day, seemingly impervious to the alcohol, eyes drifting around and only really settling on Waverly's face.

Wynonna sees Champ Hardy approaching on the other side of Waverly, and tenses.

"Hey, Waverly," Wynonna sees Champ's hand appear on Waverly's left arm. "I'm sorry about Nicole. How're you doing?" Wynonna almost laughs angrily at the question, and she twists to stare at Champ. She sees open desire on his face, and starts to push herself back from the bar to a wobbling standing position.

She's too late. Waverly, turning to look into Champ's face, too, frowns at his expression and his question, and is smoothly off her bar stool before Wynonna has had time to negotiate her bump past the edge of the bar. Waverly hops off her stool to the right, avoiding Wynonna by coming off the seat in the same direction, overtaking her sister and rounding the bar stool, tearing her left arm from Champ's grip and pulling it back in one liquid motion, the shift backwards strong and practiced, and Wynonna can't help the reflexive pride in her body as she watches Waverly Earp, her baby sister, throw one hell of a left hook into Champ Hardy's smug face.

Champ is flung into the bar, holding his bloody nose, startled eyes looking over his hand. Wynonna gloats, then realizes she should probably restrain Waverly from going any further.

Waverly, however, is standing completely still, cold and furious and hard, staring at Champ with an expression Wynonna has never seen. When she speaks, her voice is all steel and stone, and Wynonna almost shivers. "If you ever so much as mutter her name again in my presence, I will end you."

Wynonna hears the involuntary noise Champ makes as he rushes out of the bar, and it's as close to real joy she's come since Nicole died.

 

The second night after Nicole dies, Wynonna pulls Waverly into her bed again, and takes up her awkward big spoon position behind her, pulling up and over them the extra blankets she's brought to her bed, tucking them around Waverly and holding her until she's in fitful sleep.

The third night, the night of the wake, Wynonna notes that Waverly falls asleep a bit faster. She takes the small victory, still herself barely sleeping, the baby kicking furiously, gut churning, desperate for a drink.

The fourth and fifth nights, Wynonna manages to get Waverly to progress to a full candy bar and even a tangerine, and she has never felt so proud of an accomplishment in her entire life.

The sixth night, Wynonna brushes her teeth while Waverly settles in her bed, then comes to hover in the doorway. Nervously thumbing the peeling paint of the doorjamb, Wynonna clears her throat.

"Waves."

Waverly looks up from her fixed stare at the wall. "Yeah?"

"Please can you tell me about the first time you saw Nicole?"

Waverly swallows visibly, the pulse working in her throat, and she looks almost pleadingly at Wynonna.

"I know, I know." Wynonna walks to the bed and sits on it, facing Waverly, one knee bent with the leg tucked under her bump, other foot resting on the floor. "I think it'll help, Waves. Please. Can you try, for me?"

Waverly bites on her lower lip, and swipes away at her eyes.

"Nicole came to see me at Shorty's," she starts. Wynonna suddenly winces inside, sharply regretting never asking Waverly the same question when Nicole was alive. She puts a hand over Waverly's, stroking encouragingly.

"She came through the door just when one of the taps had broken and drenched me. I didn't understand what I was feeling when she looked at me. I'd never seen someone look at me that way before. It was so open," Waverly pauses, looking quickly to Wynonna before continuing, "you know? She was so beautiful and so sure, and I couldn't figure it out. She cracked a joke about wet t-shirt competitions." Wynonna snorts; she can't believe that Waverly gives a tiny smile in response. "She made me stutter. And then she said she'd been meaning to introduce herself, and the way she said it made me know that she'd seen me before and had deliberately come to the empty bar so she could meet me properly, but alone."

Waverly pauses, looking out of the window to where the last light has caught at the edges of the mountains and the sky is deep black above them. She looks for Orion and sees Nicole, coming through the bar. She traces the gentle swagger to Nicole's hips in her head, hears the unspoken words in her voice. Thinks of Nicole's eyes meeting hers and not looking away. There's a retrospective catch of Waverly's breath, knowing everything she knows now; her memory of the moment is tight with other moments, other seconds, all now lost.

Waverly drags her eyes from the darkness outside and back into the room; back to Wynonna's waiting face. She wipes at her eyes, inhales slowly. "Everything about her was so confident and smooth, and I just babbled on, nervous about her attention. I even asked her to turn around so I could take my wet shirt off, and she smiled before she did, but I got tangled in the tight bits of the shirt, and I ended up having to get her to help me."

Waverly smiles again at Wynonna's chuckle. "And then of course she saw me without anything but a bra on, anyway, and I know you can imagine." Waverly gives a tiny laugh. "I know you loved teasing her, but I also know that you get it. She tugged that shirt over my head, and she was inches away from me, and I would have kissed her right then if she'd got any closer."

Wynonna smiles. "I do get it." She rubs Waverly's hand absently, looking out of the window, biting gently on her lip. "Did she ever tell you about the time she complimented my ass?"

"What?"

The word makes Wynonna look quickly to Waverly's face, expecting to have said the wrong thing, but she just sees a cocked eyebrow and a small, curious smile.

"Do you remember Stephanie Jones's engagement party?"

"Murder party, more like." As soon as Waverly says the words, she looks regretful, a frown beginning around her eyes. Wynonna rushes on.

"Well, I was stuck at the station. Dolls had just gone AWOL, remember? And Nicole was stuck at work, too, on a Saturday night. So anyway, I may have... encouraged her to drink with me."

Waverly's eyebrows raise.

"Yeah, I know." Wynonna sits up a little straighter on the bed. "I got Officer Haught to drink on police property." Her grin fades a little. "She may have made me wait until she was off-duty, but still. I bet no one else has succeeded in that feat."

Waverly bites her lip.

"What; no?" Wynonna says the last word in a hiss, mock horror on her face. "Et tu, Brutus?" She mimes being stabbed; pretends to fall dead onto the coverlet.

"Get up, you big goober. Get to the bit where Nicole told you how awesome your ass is."

Wynonna lets herself be pulled upright. "Right, so, I ply Nicole with bourbon"—Waverly squeezes the hand she's holding when she hears Wynonna using Nicole's first name; she smiles gently, and thinks about the one time she saw Nicole drunk and in cahoots with Wynonna; remembers no annoyance, just the look on Nicole's face—"and we're both a bit pissy, right? Because we clearly are supposed to be the main women in your life, and we're not invited."

Waverly looks surprised. "Wait, Nicole was pissed that I didn't invite her to the party?"

"Wow, dude, way to railroad right over my feelings. What about the fact that your very own sister was pissed?"

Waverly just stares at her.

"Okay, yeah, fine, I hated Stephanie Jones's fake ass; she thought I was dumb as all hell; I get it."

"Answer my question, Wynonna. Please."

"Right, yeah. Duh, Nicole was annoyed. No, not that bad. Not pissed, just... disappointed."

"But, I'd only known her, like, a few weeks. I didn't think she'd want to go to something like that, with the Sheriff's daughter, and... Stephanie."

Wynonna rolls her eyes. "Waves, Nicole would have gone anywhere you asked her to. You were, like, the person she always wanted to be around."

Waverly smiles, uncertain. "But she was disappointed? I wish I'd known she wanted to be there."

Wynonna squeezes her hand, lowering her voice. "Waves. It's okay. She did know you liked her, I know it. Only in hindsight, because I am a big dummy who was all wrapped up in her own problems, but it was blindingly obvious at the time."

"How?"

"The way she talked about you—it was," Wynonna stops, and Waverly expects a familiar little barf noise, but instead she sees Wynonna's throat move in a swallow before she continues. "She was already in love with you, Waverly. She said something like she thought you'd spent your whole life trying to fit in with the people around you, but you were just then starting to figure out what you wanted. If I'd not been worried about Dolls and ninety percent made of liquor, I would have heard what she was saying properly. She was talking about herself, Waves. She knew you liked her, that you wanted her back, and she was just waiting for you to figure it out. Just like the gentlewoman she was."

Wynonna gently wipes the tears from Waverly's cheeks, then carries on. "But the real point, the main point, is that she thought my ass was fine." Wynonna smiles at Waverly's laugh.

"Yeah, tell me about that already."

"So, I told Nicole that Stephanie once told me I should get a butt lift."

Waverly gasps, gratifyingly, genuine shock on her face. "She did not."

"Oh, she did. So—I tell Nicole, and Nicole has the same look that's on your face right now, and then she says," Wynonna pauses dramatically, enjoying the look on Waverly's face, trying out the first and last impression she will ever do of Nicole Haught, face indignant and voice a gentle drawl, "What? Your ass is like,"—Wynonna makes the motion of grabbing a peach, forcefully, from underneath, squeezing air with relish—"top shelf, man,"—she grimaces slightly with the force of emotion as she delivers the last words, shaking her head minutely—"it's top shelf."

Waverly laughs. Wynonna smiles, satisfied.

"Your ass is top shelf."

"I know, right?" Wynonna grins, pulling Waverly down onto her back, into a hug, snuggling up next to her, bumping her with her belly at Waverly's hip. Waverly starts stroking Wynonna's hair, her other hand drifting over to the baby bump.

"The baby is kicking a lot."

"Yeah, kid is just as feisty as you'd expect. It's been non-stop the last few days."

Waverly twists her neck to the side and turns her head to peer down at Wynonna. "Are you in pain? Are you getting cramps or anything?"

"It's fine, Waves. Don't worry."

She hears Waverly's head softly hit the pillow again and puts a hand over Waverly's on her belly. She strokes gently until she can hear Waverly's breathing get shallow, then she shifts her head by a tiny increment to note the time, satisfied. She waits until Waverly is deeply asleep, then reaches behind her to turn off the lamp, trying not to take her weight from where she's pressed against Waverly. Once the soft light has gone out of the room, she quietly shifts as close to Waverly as she can, then lies awake in the dark. Thinking about every memory she has of Nicole that Waverly might not know about; collecting all the deep laughs and each wild joke and every brave thing that Wynonna saw Nicole give. Counting quietly on the fingers of her free hand, tapping against her own hip, adding up, doing it again when she loses count. Figuring how she can portion out every memory for Waverly; how she can make them last.

 

 

On the eighth day, Wynonna goes into labor.

Waverly stands behind Wynonna, watching, terrified, held tight by the remaining Widow, her sister-wife standing twenty meters away on Main Street, and Doc Holliday spouting such nonsense that she should know he's bluffing, but she's too scared, too desperate, to know, and he's too far away for her to read his eyes. She struggles against the Widow and watches in horror as Doc shoots his gun towards Wynonna, then hears Peacemaker fire a split second later, and feels, rather than sees, what happens—feels the rush of air turning past her cheek and sees the White Widow up ahead fall backwards and immediately senses weight crumpling behind her, pulling her body back a step. Doc has surprised pride on his face, and it takes Waverly several seconds to understand that he's split a bullet in two. She slaps him for her terror—a scared, loving snap across his cheek—and then Wynonna is grimacing, and there's barely time to bundle her into Shorty's, get her onto a pool table, and steel herself for what's about to happen.

Wynonna's face is contorted, pain underwritten by panic, and Waverly tries to help Rosita, glad they at least have someone who understands basic anatomy and medical principles to help with the labor.

Grateful right up until she is hearing the heavy slap of something on the back of her head, and then she's simply surprised; everything turns black.

When she comes around, it's to hear Rosita and Wynonna arguing, and she knows it's about Rosita being a revenant, about how she's tired of Wynonna treating her with suspicion. She's groggy as she hears Rosita talk about helping to deliver the baby, but then selling it to guarantee her own safe passage. Waverly fights back the disappointment that threatens to overwhelm her, instead focusing on the cold, desperate anger that cuts through her half-blackened vision. She stands up, grabbing Peacemaker from where it's been knocked to the floor, and aims it at Rosita.

Rosita looks terrified; surprised; Wynonna yells to the gun. We need you to get in the goddamn game. The gun flares hot in Waverly's hand, she feels a deep tugging, black comes to the edges of her vision again; she sees Nicole's face, then a small, older woman with white hair the same length as her own; then there's a sickening twist as she sees herself from the other side of the room; a flash of a gun goes off in her mind, and she pulls the trigger.

She aims too high, glancing Rosita's shoulder, and making her flee from the bar.

She delivers her own niece, feels the warm wriggle of the tiny baby, heart thundering in her breast, and feels everything inside her bottom out. She thinks of Nicole; looks at the baby's face, part of her sister, part of herself. Overwhelmed and desperate and in love and terrified.

She watches Wynonna speak to the baby, hearing reverence and quiet love and incredible fear all at once, and then she understands what Wynonna is going to do, understands why she looks so wretched; she understands why Wynonna made Doc leave, and she asks softly, hurt in every word, "Why didn't you tell me what the plan was?"

Wynonna looks up at her, and meets her eyes. "I wanted to wait as long as possible before breaking your heart." Wynonna pauses. "And we don't even know if you can leave the Ghost River perimeter."

Waverly startles. "How did you know?"

Wynonna tells her about her vision quest; seeing Bobo, believing he's Waverly's father. She hands the baby to Waverly, her hand widowed in the air, drifting after her daughter.

Waverly tries to keep eye contact. "I'm not your sister."

Waverly's arms around the baby ache, the little body too much and not enough. She wants, suddenly, to get up onto the pool table and lie down next to Wynonna. Rest with the baby between their bodies; not get up for days. She thinks of how it feels when Wynonna grabs at her upper arms and pulls her tight into her body. She thinks about her earliest memory—Wynonna pulling her onto her lap, being wrapped in the same tight, fierce hold. Years and years of that cocoon, now unravelling in front of her. The science—hard, cold science, which Waverly respects—stark on the piece of paper; the words written in ink, setting her tiny family on fire.

Wynonna pushes herself up. "Goddammit, Waverly." Her look fixes Waverly into place. The pool table is hard underneath her, the green fabric itchy at the back of her thighs and calves. Her legs are getting cold. She grimaces against the dull pain that stretches from her belly to her knees, up all of the notches of her spine. She stares at Waverly's face, and reaches out, returning a hand to its place on the baby's head. Her voice is gravelly and hoarse. "You are as much a part of me as this baby."

She keeps staring into Waverly's eyes, willing her to understand. Waverly's eyes are skittish, and she looks back down to the baby in her arms. She takes a step closer to Wynonna, then a tiny step back. Wynonna gives her permission to take the baby and go by gently pushing Waverly's hip, but then catches her when she's near the door.

"Listen to me, Waverly Earp. Look at me." Waverly turns back to look. Wynonna half-lying, half-up on the pool table. "There is so much in life that we get no fucking choice in, but this. This, we get to choose. And I have been choosing you every moment of your life. There is no way in hell that I am about to stop that now."

Waverly looks at Wynonna's face, sees the honesty written underneath the pain, listens to her words.

"You are my baby sister."

Waverly nods and leaves. Closes the door and shuts away every crevice of pain, thinking of the baby in her arms; Doc's face; Nicole.

 

 

Doc pulls up in her Jeep, driving terribly, gears crashing, lurching into a shaky stop ten meters away from Waverly so as not to get even one millimeter too close to where she stands. He stumbles out of the car, rushing to her side. "We have to go," Waverly puts the baby in Doc's arms, gently pushing the small of his back, "Now. Get in, Doc, I'll drive."

Waverly drives twenty miles over the limit, but careful, so careful; waiting until the straight road out of town before speeding up. When she dares to glance at Doc, he's silent in the front seat, tiny thing in his arms, whole body hunched over to protect it, like he's ready to curl his entire being around it if the Jeep so much as swerves in the road. He's scanning the baby's face, one finger creasing down the side of her face, in between her cheek and the denim-blue throw that's wrapped around her. Waverly flicks her eyes to the rearview mirror, to the road, then back to Doc, seeing his mustache working and the muscle pulse along his jaw, finger moving to delicately wipe the wet, gentle flick of tears from the baby's face.

Waverly decelerates along the final stretch out of Purgatory, pulls up gently ten paces before the sign. She touches Doc's shoulder, and he startles from his gaze, looking at Waverly like a lost child. He sees where they are, and gently passes the baby to Waverly's arms. She gives him everything she can manage in a look, and tries to sound calm. "If I scream, pull me back quick, yeah?"

Doc nods mutely with his hand on the open door, and pushes out of the Jeep, rushing around to open the door for Waverly and put a hand to her arm as she steps down. She looks at the horizon, takes a breath, and strides towards the Purgatory sign, fighting the urge to close her eyes. She knows where the dividing line must be, because she feels a desperate tug in her belly, and the baby fidgets, but she crosses over, and she's confused, then relieved, then rushing back to Doc, kissing the baby's head, and handing his daughter back. Doc pulls the baby snug to his chest, bowing over its body, one hand to the dark hair at the back of its head; looking at Waverly.

"She's mine?"

Waverly smiles, swallows painfully, and manages a whisper. "I think she would have been, no matter what." She nudges Doc towards the open door. "Come on. We have to move."

 

 

It makes Waverly nervous, having to turn the Jeep around and go back the way they've come—back inside the Ghost River triangle—but it's the fastest way to where they need to be, to skirt back into the territory and quickly out again along a smaller, dirt road.

When the final stretch of the road comes into sight, leading to the fork where it splits into the right-hand track they need to travel back out of the triangle, six figures are standing in a line. Evenly spaced, three across the road, three across the track. Waverly slows instinctively, but then she thinks better of it, pressing her foot to the accelerator, until Doc's hand is on her arm, and his voice, strained and deep, is saying Stop, Waverly, pull over, and she does a one-two-three glance to the rearview, back to the road, and finally to Doc's face.

He's swallowing hard, but his face is set, and when she shakes her head minutely, he repeats his words, adding, "I need you to do this for me, darlin'." So she eases off, pulls over, hard and fast. She keeps her eyes on the revenants, barely daring to look at Doc, until she feels the snap of her seatbelt being unfastened, and she looks over to see him bending down to the baby.

Doc adjusts the fabric around the little hand that's thrown itself out of the blanket. Breathes in a gentle stutter as he puts an index finger into the hand, body in a curlicue bending to the baby. He smiles down into her face and whispers, "Delicate and dainty in blue." Then kisses the baby's forehead. Waverly watches as the baby's face wrinkles, tickled under Doc's mustache, and then her eyes open, staring at his face.

Waverly looks away, trying to gauge the distance between the car and the revenants; trying to figure the speed and acceleration and all the angles she can see.

She hears Doc say Baby girl, and she thinks he's speaking to his daughter, but then she looks over; and she realizes he's talking to her, eyes wet, searching her face. Rubbing one hand over his mustache, speaking.

"It has been an honor."

Then Doc is carefully placing the baby against Waverly's chest, moving her hands to keep the baby in place, and reaching over her body to pull the seatbelt loose. He extends the belt fully out and grasps it higher than the plastic catch, twisting and then tying the two strands into a knot. Then with the belt unable to move through its loop, Doc lets some of the length out, gauging the right amount by eye, and locks the belt into its place. The strap is taut and snug against the baby, who starts to mewl. "Don't crash, now. The belt will not work." Doc leans back, looking at Waverly. Gray in the outlines of his blue irises; Waverly's face reflected back at her in his pupils. Flecks of light deep in the blue and in the black all the unspoken words of his 166 years of living.

He takes his hat in his hand, strokes the back of the baby's head, then strokes Waverly's cheek, leaning over to kiss her forehead. Waverly grabs his hands, holding them in place beside her face.

"Tell them both," Doc pauses, staring out of the front window, jaw clenching. Waverly lets go of his hands so he can compose himself, her hands following after his before she pulls them back to rest on the baby's back. One of Doc's hands immediately goes to the other, worrying the ring that's not there.

The air comes out of him in a stutter; a wet, pregnant breath, and he swallows. "Please tell them. They were—the very finest part of my life."

He pushes open the door, leaving his knife on the seat for Waverly, right hand already moving to his pistol, and Waverly waits for the slam of the door before letting out the cry that's urgently pushing against her throat. She soothes the baby, watching as Doc runs slightly to the left of the main road, gun out and down, not revealing where he's going to shoot. She presses the clutch down hard, puts the car into second gear, gently eases off the clutch and, at the same time, starts to depress the accelerator. The engine turns slowly and she thinks it's going to stall, but then it catches and she's able to start the Jeep rolling in second gear, waiting for Doc's first shot. When he raises his pistol and fires at the revenant that's furthest away, on the far right, she pushes the accelerator down hard and smooth, feeling the engine burn and watching the road ahead.

The engine screaming, she quickly pushes the clutch and skips straight into fourth, then switches her foot to push down hard on the accelerator. When Doc shoots the next revenant, and then the last one that's standing on the right-hand track, she gently swerves toward the right fork, neatly avoiding the bodies as she cuts onto the track. She pushes the accelerator all the way until she feels the click of the floor against the pedal, and checks the rearview mirror.

The last thing she sees before the road curves out of sight is John Henry Holliday, standing still. Coat billowed, face in the shadow of his hat. Raising his pistol.

 

 

Wynonna waits with her back to the door of Shorty's, sitting with legs splayed in a chair, arms wrapped around an empty blanket, pelvis and lower stomach and her legs on fire, chest tight, every muscle angry and terrified, one hand reaching for Peacemaker.

She hears the door open and she plays her one card, twisting and standing and drawing the gun in the same motion, revealing the baby is gone; she watches the revenant at the front of the crowd frown, and feels sour pleasure. She fires six times, cutting through the first wave of bodies, watching the ones behind pulse forwards. She fumbles to reload; hears the door of Shorty's slam; looks for Dolls.

The new frontline of revenants surges forward, cutting through the empty air, and with only one gun and one trigger finger, Wynonna chooses to shoot to the left, stepping to the right to avoid a revenant's uppercut, blocking her shin against his ankle and sweeping her foot forwards and away. The momentum of his empty punch and her leg pushing his leg out from under his body sends him flat to his face. She fires again twice and tries to move into the spaces she's making. She wills Dolls to get there, straining past the sound of her gun for the noise of his SUV.

Two revenants charge her at once, and she's forced to use her fists on them, cutting close punches to their bodies, grappling for a hold. She sends one to his knees, and pulls the back of his jacket collar forward, dragging him into where Peacemaker is holstered at her hip, burning his face on the gun while she swings an elbow up to the other revenant's jaw. She catches the flash of watery sunlight that slants into the bar for a second, then hears a body being slammed against the door, the light leaving. She brings a knee up under the kneeling revenant's chin, drawing the gun and shooting him, realizing she's in the middle, and looking for the nearest wall to turn her back to. She sees a cut of dark hair and then Rosita, swinging a fist into a revenant by the door, and she's being grabbed from behind by another one, gripping the arm across her throat with both hands, and then she's lunging forward onto one knee to send the revenant toppling awkwardly over her back. She stands up, finds Wynonna's eyes. Smiles, small.

A revenant cuts across her view, and she steps left but takes a punch to her shoulder; she spins Peacemaker and uses the butt of the gun to knock a revenant out cold behind her, then she rights the gun to fire into the one in front. There are still too many between her and the door. She uses the fall of the revenant's body across the space before her to reload, fast, and fires into two, three, revenants that are ringing her. There's one of them left in her line of sight, approaching with a broken bottle, and a noise by the door.

She hears a grunt; she looks to the front of the bar and sees Rosita, caught in a headlock by a revenant twice her size, body facing Wynonna, the revenant using her body as a shield.

Wynonna ducks the broken glass that sweeps past her face, steps around to the side. Hears Rosita's raised voice, sees her face looking towards Wynonna, her eyes red and dark. Fucking shoot. Do it, now.

Wynonna raises her gun, whispers her forgiveness and her apology in one breath, fires once, and watches Rosita fall. She looks away and continues the arc of her arm to shoot into the final revenant.

 

 

Waverly keeps checking the rearview, but the track is empty in both directions, and she makes it over the boundary line and back out of the Ghost River triangle. She parks the Jeep carefully, and unfastens the baby from her chest, stepping down, little aches rivering up her legs as she hits the ground. She bundles the baby to her chest again once she's out of the Jeep, taking careful strides that are as long as she can make them, picking through the clumps of uneven, scrubby grass until she reaches the top of the slope.

She stands there, a lone figure on a hill. Fully ready to die for the life in her arms and be done with everything. But no revenant comes. And then the helicopter is there, and then the baby is gone, and then she's alone in the wind, arms hugging her chest, holding back a scream.

 

 

Nicole lost, the baby gone, Doc and Rosita dead, and Waverly is sucked backwards, pulling Wynonna with her. They spend a week in Wynonna's bedroom, one or the other getting up only to shuffle towards the soft knock on the door and receive the tray of food and drinks. Then the door shuts softly, and they sit in bed, drinking juice and trying to eat, unable to swallow, throats harsh and burning.

Dolls is a ghost downstairs, only coming up to bring them the things they need and take away the things they don't want. He answers every call to the homestead, demurring to pass the phone to either Earp, gently replacing the phone in its cradle. He sweeps out each of the rooms downstairs; buys groceries; and washes Wynonna's clothes, which he finds strewn on the upstairs bathroom floor, and Waverly's, which he finds neatly balled into the laundry basket.

On the eighth day, Wynonna descends the stairs in sweatpants and one of Doc's thick woolen sweaters, finds two bottles of whiskey, touches Dolls's arm, then salutes to him from the stairs as she returns to the bedroom. Taking the two glasses from the nightstand, she pulls down a cuff of the sweater and rubs out the insides of them. Then she pours out three fingers for herself and three for Waverly, but pulls the bottle away from her sister after the first drink is finished, gently pulling her into her arms instead. Settling them both against the pillow, she gets as close to Waverly as possible. Swallows up the air between them until there's no space at all. She whispers something against Waverly's hair, so muffled that Waverly pulls away a little to ask her what she said.

"I said, please tell me again about the time you and Nicole and Doc played drinking poker, and Nicole got so drunk she mooned a horse."

Waverly breathes "Wynonna," the word shaky; part question, part warning. Wynonna tilts Waverly's chin up with a finger so that their faces are close, then gazes into her eyes.

"Please, Waves?"

Waverly looks away, but she gives a little cough and doesn't argue. She takes Wynonna's glass from her and steals a sip. "Hey—" Wynonna's voice fades, and she lets Waverly finish the rest of the whiskey.

"So, one night, Wynonna Earp, the one and only Earp heir," Wynonna looks at Waverly's face; realizes that Waverly needs to turn the story into bombast to be able to manage the delivery. She tries to comfort Waverly by stroking her hand; already sorry, but compelled anyway to hear the whole thing.

"The one and only heir," Waverly repeats, giving Wynonna a rueful smile, voice scratchy as she continues, "Was away in the big city with the inimitable Deputy Marshall Xavier Dolls, following some lead; very covert, very Black Badge." Waverly whispers the last words dramatically. "Doc Holliday," her voice catches, and she pauses before carrying on, "took pity on Waverly, poor girl whose big sister bailed on her,"—Wynonna grimaces inside—"to go chasing a source with Mr. Beautiful Butt." Wynonna gives a tiny smile, relieved that Waverly doesn't sound angry.

"Doc offered to Waverly his most special service: an evening of tutelage in the fine art of..." Waverly pauses dramatically, gives a flourish with one arm. "Drinking Poker."

She puts the arm back around Wynonna. "But the plot thickens. For Nicole Haught," Wynonna hears the struggle in Waverly's small voice as it falls to a near-whisper, "greatest cop that has ever lived, decided that she, too, must learn of this mysterious Drinking Poker."

Waverly clears her throat, abandoning the flourishes, and returns to her normal voice. "So, Nicole comes over to the homestead, and Doc is out in the barn preparing his 'tools'. By which he means: his lucky cards, and two bottles of his favorite bourbon, which he's bought special for all three of us to share. He's borrowed a horse from the McAllister property to ride into town to get the bourbon, and it's mild out, so he ties the horse up beside the barn for the evening. It's prancing about all over the place, stamping its front hoof, snorting all excitedly. It won't calm down for Doc, and eventually he just gives it space."

Waverly smiles. "Nicole loved that horse. It was the one so black that at night it looked like it wasn't there. So Nicole arrives, and she immediately goes to say hi to the horse, and of course it calms down right away. She stands there stroking one hand down its nose with the other hand on its neck for ten whole minutes. Doc sets up in the kitchen while I get the right music for the occasion. And then we start playing, and, oh man," Waverly laughs, "do they clean me out. I am drinking three shots to Nicole's one, and six to Doc's one."

Wynonna frowns. "So, right, I've drunk something like twelve shots, and Nicole has drunk four and Doc only gets two shots of his favorite bourbon. Which, you know, I then asked him about; because I do not think he has thought his game through—he's winning nearly every round, and then not getting to actually drink. He just gives this little smile, though, like he did think of it, but he just really wanted me and Nicole to have a good time." Waverly glances at Wynonna.

"Then Nicole fell off her chair."

Wynonna snorts. "That's my favorite part. No—my second favorite part."

Waverly smiles wide. "I know. So Nicole falls off her chair, beautiful lightweight that she is. And, you know," Waverly glances at Wynonna quickly, "I have the Earp genes—I'm twelve shots deep, but I have twice the senses of Nicole at this point, and she stumbles up, like there's an intruder in the house who pushed her off her chair. I swear she reaches for her gun holster, though it's not there."

"Tell me about the thing."

"Right, yeah, so she's up from the floor, and she spins around to face the dark living room, and she says into the dark, I've got a gun; because, I'm a cop—, and then she looks at Doc and me, all big-eyed, and we're trying so hard not to laugh at her; and she thinks we look grateful that she's protecting us from the intruder-that's-not-there, I guess, because she finally realizes her gun holster isn't there, and she whispers, Oh rats, I left it at home." Waverly's voice stresses the home, and she's laughing lightly, tearfully, and Wynonna remembers Nicole at the bar, proxy drinking two beers in Wynonna's place while she was pregnant: the same thing all over again; her drunk tic, reaching for a gun that wasn't there. And in the homestead, drunk on four shots of bourbon, stumbling towards the dark shape of the couch, drunk but still Nicole, trying to lay down cover against an imaginary threat.

"Don't stop, Waves. Tell me about the horse."

Waverly wipes her eyes with the back of her flannel pajama shirt.

"Okay, so, after that Doc and I try to end the game, because we're afraid Nicole might have alcohol poisoning, and I tell Doc he should sleep on the couch, so he goes out to the barn to bring in some extra blankets. And I distract Nicole from the poker that we're no longer playing by asking her to tell me what random police codes refer to. And it's totally working, but then she realizes what I'm doing, and she gets all indignant, like Why are you distracting me? Where's Doc? Why has he abandoned our poker game? And then she's banging out onto the porch, yelling Doctor Holliday, get your ass back in this house and finish what you started! but it's dark out, and she can't really see anything. Then she must think she sees Doc by the barn, his black coat rippling in the wind or something, and she calls out, I'm upping the ante! and turns and moons what she thinks is Doc."

Wynonna is holding her belly, hurting from the laughter; hurting from the joy of a memory that isn't her own but which might as well be.

Wynonna chokes out, "Finish it," and Waverly smiles, still sniffing.

"And then the horse nickers, and Doc comes out of the barn, just in time to see Nicole pulling her pants up with a gasp, horrified that she just offended her favorite horse. Doc comes into the light from the porch, looks over at Nicole, his eyebrow raised. She starts blushing super hard, and Doc says, Well, darlin', I think you have won, with that most royal flush."

 

 

Wynonna gives them one drink every night until two weeks have passed, and then she tells Waverly to sit on the couch. She fetches Waverly's phone and carefully queues up the music she's bought her as a gift. She brings an armful of blankets into the living room and places them beside Waverly, lifting the top one and snapping it out into the air then sweeping it back around and over Waverly's body. She tucks the edges around Waverly's legs.

Wynonna leaves the room again to return with the small stack of the books she's found on Waverly's bedside table, plus a notepad and a pen. Then she makes her pancakes drowning in syrup, and pours them each a glass of bourbon to the rim. She hands the glass and plate to Waverly, and sits down on the couch next to her, drinking her bourbon and stealing pieces of Waverly's pancakes with the extra fork she produces from the back pocket of her jeans. She fixes Waverly with the strongest look she can, and opens her mouth.

"I called Dolls. He's going to keep you company while I go out, okay?"

Waverly brow rumples, but she just nods. "Okay."

 

 

Wynonna stands facing the machine, slightly to the left, waiting for the sound of the first ball to hiss and pitch through the air. When the first ball has been caught by the netting behind her, Wynonna loosely extends her bat to the middle of the batting cage, letting the second ball thump roundly into the wood, all the force knocked from it. Wynonna kicks the second ball out of the way, taking up position where she now knows the machine is sending the balls.

She stands tensed, body turned to the side, hips pushing her weight down into the dirt, bat wrapped around and raised, upper body clenched, left elbow up, shoulders down. Whipping the bat through the ball in a clean hit. An even melody starts up; the staccato hits making a round beat within the batting cage.

The resonance of the bat against the heavy balls empties out the air, until Wynonna's just watching the balls, swinging, swinging, releasing the bat at the right second every time. After an hour, she realizes her mind has been turning over by itself, and she stands for a moment thinking before leaving the cage.

On her way back to the homestead, Wynonna stops at a 24-hour mart, wincing a little at the florescent lights after the womb of the batting cage. She strides to the clothing section, tilts her head to the side and mentally compares pants and tops to Waverly's small frame, grabbing several handfuls of clothes from the rails. She almost forgets to pay, walking through the exit alarms; starting an urgent beeping. She quickly backs up, arms up, Whoa, whoa! Not stealing! to the approaching employee, receding into the store to pay.

As she leaves, she makes a large bundle of the clothes in their paper bag, and realizes too late that she doesn't have a way to transport them. She straddles her bike and pauses for a few seconds. She grimaces at the awful beat of memory, and rustles the bag under her tight sweater, ignoring the false roundness; starting the engine.

 

 

Wynonna enters the homestead quietly, smiling at Dolls rising from the couch when she gets inside the door, and thanking him with a squeeze of his hand. She asks him what time Waverly fell asleep, knowing he would have noted it. Then she counts slowly backwards from five a.m. in her mind, satisfied. She puts a soft hand to Dolls's cheek and reaches up to kiss his other one; hoping he understands the bigger thing, letting her and Waverly grieve for Doc together, that she's thanking him for. Hoping she doesn't have to say it out loud.

With Dolls gone, she looks in on Waverly, the sleeping form under blankets satisfying her anxiety; then she pours herself one more glass of bourbon, kisses the bottle sadly, and tips the rest of the liquid down the sink. She watches the warm-looking fluid against the white of the porcelain, caught by the sight. When it's all gone she does the same for the bottle hidden at the back of the cereal cabinet, and the one that's under a loose floorboard near the fireplace. She runs water into the sink. She strokes the labels before throwing the empty bottles in the trash.

Sipping the bourbon in tiny lasting tastes, Wynonna takes the glass to Waverly's computer. She waits while it warms up, fingering the loose cards on the desk; re-reading the card from Nedley and then quickly pushing it to the bottom of a pile. She takes a bigger gulp and then, realizing the glass is nearly half empty, pushes it out of easy reach while she opens a browser window.

Typing slowly with two fingers, almost painfully, she writes endurance training into the search bar, then stops before she presses Enter to make a reflexive little barf noise. She instinctively grabs the glass back and downs the rest of the bourbon—regretting it for an instant, but then shrugging internally; shuddering a little and enjoying the warmth of the alcohol as it takes away the bad taste in her mouth. She presses Enter, and starts scrolling through the results.

 

 

Wynonna standing at the foot of Waverly's bed with a hushed Baby girl tugs Waverly out of a dream; long pale hair; a gun firing, some fake green material; Nicole. She sits up, hair messy, face crumpled. "What's wrong? What is it?"

It's dark outside the window, and Waverly tries not to be spooked by Wynonna's shape standing in the gloom, holding a bundle of something.

"Nothing's wrong, Waves, but we're getting up."

Waverly leans over to pull the cord of her bedside lamp, screwing up her eyes against the sudden warm light, and struggles into a sitting position. She draws the multiple blankets up under her chin, and squints defensively at Wynonna's face.

Wynonna's holding what looks like warm clothes, and she's wearing thick black leggings, trail running shoes, and what looks like two gray skin-tight technical thermal tops under a Black Sabbath t-shirt with the arms cut off. She's also got a fleece headband over her ears, hair tied up.

Waverly struggles against waking; against the sight of her sister's hair neatly tied into a ponytail. She tries to remember the last time she saw Wynonna with her hair up, and realizes she's thinking too slow; Wynonna is starting to tap nervously with one foot against the floor.

"You—we're," Waverly tries again, "You got up—", she checks her alarm clock, "—before five? In the morning?"

Wynonna's face is a plea. "Yeah."

"And—we're going... running?" Waverly guesses, brain moving two paces too slow.

"Yes. We are."

"But, you hate—"

Wynonna rolls her eyes, one hand coming up from under the bundled clothes. "I know, I know. But I need to do something differently, ok? And I think this will help us." Wynonna tries to explain with a look rather than words, then adds, "With everything." 

Waverly's body returns her to the dream she was woken from; she can feel a flat, hard surface where her bed should be, and she sees a flick of hair in wind. She nods minutely, and starts to pull herself from the bed, shivering against the cold air of the room. Wynonna comes around beside the bed and gently hands Waverly hot-pink thermal tights, a light long-sleeved thermal shirt and a hooded gray sweater. She produces a pair of pink gloves and then, from under her shirt, pale pink leg warmers. "Here. I was warming them for you."

Waverly pulls Wynonna into a hug, then watches her leave, neatly tearing through plastic tags with her teeth, then pulling down her sleeping shorts and stepping quickly into the tights. She rummages in a drawer for a sports bra, dancing from foot to foot in the cold, then pulls off her Purgatory Sheriff's Department t-shirt to put the rest of the clothes on. She's sitting on her bed and about to pull the leg warmers up her calves when Wynonna comes back through the door of her room, holding a bottle with a fancy label and green liquid inside. She holds it away from her body a little.

She thrusts it towards Waverly. "Here."

"What's this?"

"It's some kind of healthy"—Wynonna's nose wrinkles; she raises her hands to make air quotes—"'juice'. I promise it does not taste like juice. But you should drink some. Because I did."

Waverly raises an eyebrow. "I need us to be in this together, Waves. Please drink the slime juice so I am not alone."

Waverly downs half the bottle, leaving a little green mustache over her upper lip, and smiles at Wynonna. "Actually pretty nice."

"Oh, you would." Wynonna rolls her eyes, but she's smiling. She pulls a packet of Twizzlers from the front pouch of the top underneath her t-shirt, offering the open end to Waverly. "You don't want a licorice chaser, then?" Waverly laughs. "No? Fine. I'll get you a banana instead."

 

 

Waverly opens the front door to pre-dawn brume; weak light to the east, and Wynonna placing a heavy boom-box onto the porch, facing down the homestead's entrance track. She stands, hugging herself as Wynonna looks over her shoulder and grins; watches as her sister produces a battered cassette tape, lovingly rolling her eyes as AC/DC's 'Back in Black' roars out of the ancient stereo. Wynonna turns the volume up to full crank, guitars crashing out over the silent hills. Waverly says silent thanks for their lack of neighbors.

Wynonna tugs her down the porch steps, and pushes up her cuff to reveal a smart, brand-new GPS watch. "Ok, so,"—Waverly's eyebrows are halfway to her hairline—"what we have to do is run out super fast—"

"Sprint?" Waverly can't help herself.

"—Yeah, Einstein, sprint, out to the end of the homestead track, then turn around and jog back. Then do that a bunch of times. I measured out the distance," Waverly starts to speak, but Wynonna cuts her off, "yeah, this morning, yes, I woke up at four in the morning; no, I haven't ever seen four a.m. from this direction." Wynonna slaps Waverly's ass. "Come on, baby girl, we have to, like, warm up."

 

 

Dolls pulls onto the road that leads to the homestead's track as the light is starting to break over the mountains outside Purgatory, driving at a measured 65 kilometers per hour when he feels a dull beat through the truck's engine. Slowing, he depresses the driver's window, leaning slightly from the car. There's a deep thudding beat that he can't place, and he immediately accelerates. A hundred meters from the head of the homestead's entrance, he cuts his headlights and puts the SUV into neutral, coasting a quarter of the distance to the right-hand turn, and pulls into a cutting at the side of the road, killing the engine.

He quietly steps out of the car, pulling his night-vision binoculars from the backseat, muffling the close of his door with a short, quick bump, and scans up to where he can see the homestead. He can recognize music now, but that makes him even more nervous; he makes rapid, controlled sweeps with the binoculars, looking for revenants. He pulls the line of vision slowly down the parts of the entrance track that he can see, bypassing the parts obscured by trees, glancing past two figures and quickly moving back to focus on them.

He sees Wynonna running fast, arms pushing up and down, legs pumping, body held in a motion of desperation. Her sister a few yards in front, running more easily, small quick and slightly bouncing steps, hair streaming behind her. Dolls scans back up the track, trying to see what they're running from, and his hand is reaching for his gun; his body is starting to move towards the entrance of the track.

He has covered half the ground when he sees figures up ahead, and pulls the binoculars back up to his eyes. Waverly pulling to a slow jog, turning to let Wynonna catch her, and putting up her hand for a high five. He can see the grin in Wynonna's body even if he can't see her face; he watches the loud slap of Wynonna's hand meeting Waverly's, and then they're turning away, jogging back to the homestead.

 

 

When Dolls pulls up to the homestead a minute later, the music is off, and he sees Wynonna tottering, holding the eastern wall of the homestead. He pulls the door of the SUV open, shutting it with a bang, and Waverly turns with a Dolls! and a wave; then he hears "Whoooops, there she blows!" followed by the unmistakable sound of Wynonna throwing up beside a tree.

He watches Waverly rubbing her sister's back and producing a tissue from somewhere under her sweater. He stands silently beside the porch, hands on his hips, watching them walk towards him.

He opens his mouth, then shuts it. "You—"

Wynonna grins happily. "We're gonna get so fit."

Dolls thinks of the image of Wynonna running; reworks it from his shock; imagines it as a choice. He looks at Waverly's flushed face, feels the calm coming off them. He nods, still scared.

 

 

A month after Nicole dies, Wynonna tries again to get Peacemaker to fire for Waverly. She and Dolls abduct a revenant, knock him cold, and tie him up in a warehouse on the outskirts of the business district. They leave the revenant there and are repaid for sloppiness when they come back from the homestead to find the warehouse empty. Waverly is mad when she finds out that they tied up the revenant and left him unconscious, but not because of the recklessness. A long streaming monologue about cruelty and decency lock Dolls and Wynonna into place. Dolls tries to reason with her, telling her that's why they knocked the revenant out; Waverly looks at Wynonna with stubbornness etched on her face; Wynonna apologizes and reminds them both that there's a revenant on the loose, maybe they should stop talking and start searching?

The revenant breaks out noisily from an old school building across the street, brandishing an old school desk lid, broken in half.

"Hey!" Waverly shouts. "You better not have vandalized school property." She lowers her voice to a mutter. "I hate vandals."

Wynonna shoves Peacemaker into Waverly's hands, giving her a little nudge to the middle of her back. "Go, Waves."

Waverly takes a few paces forward, raises the gun, and thinks hard. Wynonna looks at the gun, then to Waverly's face. "Come on, dammit." She puts a hand out to touch Waverly's body; tries to remember what she felt when she was lying on the pool table, desperate and raw. She frowns, clenches everything, mutters a few swear words.

Waverly reaches out for the memory of knowing Peacemaker would fire, but she's not held a gun since she saw Doc disappearing in her rearview mirror, raising his pistol, and she gets stuck on the image. She thinks about Nicole's smooth, practiced draw, and then she can't see the revenant properly through tears. Peacemaker flares weakly with light, then turns cold again, and Waverly shoves the gun back into Wynonna's hand, saying I can't, and Wynonna shoots the revenant and takes Waverly into her arms as the body hits the ground with a solid thump and the earth opens up into hell.

 

 

Waverly drags herself from sleep the next morning, her body almost enacting its own physical pull to tear her back from dreaming and into the weak morning sun pushing through the bedroom. She immediately pulls the lampshade cord to send yellow light flooding to the corners, sitting up, trying to catch the dreams before they flee.

When she comes down the homestead stairs, her eyes are red and puffy, and the skin under them looks bruised. She pulls the blanket she's wearing over her shoulders closer around her pajamas, and takes little steps into the main room, where Wynonna looks up from the pieces of paper she's sifting through.

"Waves?"

Waverly bites her lip; remembers her dreams. She fixes Wynonna with full eyes. Thinks Nicole is in the wrong place. Says nothing; pulls herself to the couch, and tucks into her space; pushes her edges into her sister.