“That’s a dumb name.”
At five-years-old, Wynonna Earp is sure of herself, stubborn, and has never once been afraid to voice her opinion. In this moment her mama’s brow twitches, annoyance quickly followed by amusement flashing across her face, and for a split second Wynonna wonders if Willa’s right, she should really start thinking more carefully before she speaks. The next second the thought is gone as her mother groans, all but falling back onto the couch, the protruding sphere that has been her stomach for the last month or so making the move less than graceful. Not that Wynonna cares.
“Oh yeah? You got a better one, little girl?” Mama’s lips twitch up as she stares Wynonna down before tapping the spot next to her on the couch.
It’s all the invitation she needs. Wynonna scrambles up from her spot on the floor, quickly throwing herself at the couch, a mess of arms and legs that are careful in their wild movements at least not to bump her mama. When Wynonna finally settles beside her, Mama’s arm falls around the little girl’s shoulders and the five-year-old snuggles into her side.
At the kitchen table Wynonna can hear the scratching sound of Willa’s pencil against paper as she does her homework. She knows she should probably be doing her homework too, but she’d lied earlier when Mama asked if she had any. Homework is boring, definitely not as fun as the game she’d been playing a moment ago and not nearly as nice as burrowing into her mother’s side and laying a hand on her big belly. Beneath her palm Wynonna feels a shift and knows the baby thinks the name is stupid too. They’re on the same page with that then, at least.
“I dunno, but that name’s just dumb. Welcome. She’s a baby Mama, not a doormat,” she informs her, rolling her eyes at the name her mother has just suggested. Who names a baby Welcome anyway? This kid is already lucky she’s here, to save her from being stuck with that forever. Gross.
“I think it’s a pretty name,” Mama replies, tilting her head back. Her eyes close as her head rests against the back of the couch, and Wynonna looks up at her sharply. Her mother has been getting tired lately, even she can see that, and Wynonna has decided it’s her job to make sure she takes care of herself. The sun hasn’t even set yet, orange light still filtering through the windows behind them, and Wynonna knows Mama will need to start making dinner soon. Daddy will be home from work before too long and he always expects dinner on the table waiting for him when he gets there. The nights when it’s not there’s always shouting, sometimes worse, and Wynonna ends up huddled up against Willa in her big sister’s bed as she tries to pretend she can’t hear any of it. Tonight won’t be one of those nights, Wynonna’s gonna make sure of it.
“But it’s not a baby’s name, Mama,” she insists, pressing against her mother’s shoulder with a little more pressure while her other hand remains gentle against the bump of her belly. The added pressure gets Mama to open her eyes and look back at her, and Wynonna grins before turning towards the kitchen. “Right Willa?”
“Mm,” her big sister and best friend grunts, “You’re right, it’s not welcome.”
Wynonna turns back to her mother to give her a triumphant grin and misses the look her sister and mother share, Willa’s eyes boring into her and Mama’s lips pursed.
When she looks back down at Wynonna pressed against her still, Mama’s expression softens ever so slightly. “Alright then,” she says, “if you’re so smart what’ll we name her?” She reaches out, tucks a strand of darkening blonde hair back behind her youngest daughter’s ear as Wynonna’s eyes drop to her stomach.
It’s a big responsibility, what Mama’s asking her. Whatever she comes up with, this kid is going to have to live with. She’s still not even sure how she feels about her own name, she’s not sure she has any right to come up with someone else’s. Maybe this is a job for her big sister. After all, she’s always thought Willa has the prettier name of the two. Willa. Wynonna. Willa is easy to say, easy to spell, definitely the better name of the two, just like Willa is the better of the sisters. The older Earp daughter has a purpose, has had a purpose from the second she was born, has always been loved by everyone around her. Wynonna’s always been the more difficult of the two, starting with the spelling of her name and ending with her attitude. “A fiery personality” Mama has always called it and she’s always kind of liked that, but what Mama’s asking right now deserves something softer than fire.
But Willa’s still at the table, diligently working on her homework and very much not giving any suggestions for the crisis Wynonna suddenly finds herself facing, so she guesses it’s come down to her. She bites her bottom lip, chewing it lightly as she wracks her brain to come up with something that won’t make this baby hate her once its born and knows she’s the one who named it.
They sit in silence for a few minutes, only the scratching of Willa’s pencil and the ticking of the clock above the mantle breaking it as Mama watches her and Wynonna stares at the belly still beneath her palm. It’s warm and she feels movement again, as though her baby sister is trying to get her to hurry up and name her already, and Wynonna smiles softly as the name comes to her.
“Waverly,” she says softly, her voice barely more than a whisper. “Her name should be Waverly.”
As though the baby heard, there’s an especially hard kick beneath her palm and her mother chuckles before her own hand comes to rest on top of Wynonna’s.
“I think she likes it,” she admits, shaking her head. “Waverly it is then.”
Wynonna leans closer to her mother’s stomach, her other hand moving to rub lightly at the swell, her face now barely an inch away. “My baby sister. Waverly.”
It’s four days before Wynonna’s sixth birthday and for the first time ever Mama isn’t the one waiting for them after school. Instead she and Willa meet Curtis in the parking lot, their uncle shifting from one foot to the other next to his wife’s old Ford pickup, its red paint as rusted and rundown as usual. Mama often teases Gus about her truck, saying she loves it more than Curtis, and Gus always shrugs and reminds Mama Curtis has his tomatoes to keep him warm, what does he care? Wynonna doesn’t really understand any of it, but it’s always nice to see the truck - and her aunt and uncle. Though when she’s expecting to see her mother, she can’t help but be a little confused.
“Curtis,” Willa says for her as Wynonna glances around the parking lot, “where’s Mama?”
“She’s fine,” he tells them, stepping away from the truck as he opens the passenger-side door for them. “She called me. She went into labor, so sent me here to pick you up.”
“The baby’s coming?” Wynonna gasps, eyes going wide. Excitement causes her to start jumping up and down even as she pulls herself into the truck, Curtis’s hand catching her under her armpit to help haul her inside. It’s not her fault she’s still a little too short to easily get in, but the boost that would normally wound her pride is entirely ignored as she slides into the seat, still bouncing. “Are we going to see her in the hospital?”
“Calm down, Wynonna,” Willa grunts as she pulls herself up next to her little sister, not needing any help. She lightly shoves the other girl over to give herself more room, but Wynonna is too distracted waiting for her uncle’s answer to bother to push back.
“No, we’re gonna go wait for her at the homestead,” Curtis tells them, pushing the passenger door closed and then rounding the front of the truck. Wynonna frowns and watches him the whole way, too excited to see her mother and baby sister to wait. When her uncle climbs into the driver’s seat, he can clearly see her disappointment and gives her a little grin as he starts the car. “Don’t worry Wynonna, your mama will be home before you know it, and she’ll have the baby with her.”
Wynonna lets out a loud sigh and folds her arms across her front, leaning dejectedly back against the seat. Willa lets out a little snort, giving her a look and shaking her head, and Wynonna can’t understand why she isn’t disappointed too. This is their baby sister they’re talking about, how can she be so calm?
Curtis shifts the truck into reverse to pull out of the parking lot, and Wynonna’s foot bounces against her seat repeatedly, unable to hold still.
“Before you know it” turns out to be almost four hours and Wynonna really isn’t sure how much longer she can hold it together. Willa’s been patiently waiting, getting her homework done, helping Curtis with dinner, and is now calmly reading beside her on the couch, and Wynonna doesn’t understand any of it. She’s been glancing back and forth between the clock on the mantle and the door pretty much since they got home and although she can’t yet actually tell time, she knows it’s been forever because she keeps asking Curtis how long they’ve been waiting. He’s probably getting annoyed now, but she can’t really help herself. As her uncle moves around in the kitchen, cleaning up from dinner, her eyes flicker from the clock to the door for probably the zillionth time.
“Hold still, Nonna,” Willa grumbles suddenly, shooting a glare at her little sister without really looking up from the book in her lap. One foot bumps into her thigh in a light kick, and Wynonna frowns. She hadn’t noticed she’d been wiggling around impatiently and forces herself to stop, but looks over at her big sister.
“How come you’re so calm?” she asks, giving the older girl a look. “Aren’t you excited to meet our little sister?”
“I already have a little sister, remember?” she answers, eyes falling back to the pages of her book while a grin tugs at the corners of her mouth. Without looking, Willa leans over, nudging Wynonna lightly with her shoulder and the younger girl rolls her eyes as she fights back a smile.
“Yeah but I don’t.” Already distracted again, Wynonna glances back to the door, her heartbeat speeding up just a little in her chest.
She hasn’t admitted it out loud yet, but she’s a little nervous about being a big sister. What if she sucks at it? Willa’s already about the best big sister someone could have - even if she does bug Wynonna every now and then - how can she compete with that? It’s a question she’s asked herself a lot lately, and not one she has an answer to yet.
“You’re gonna wish you still didn’t,” Willa tells her, her grin growing. Again her eyes flick over to Wynonna, a teasing glint in them. “Little sisters are the worst.”
Wynonna shoves Willa, because really, how else is she supposed to respond to that? Willa laughs and shoves her back, her book slipping out of her lap and landing on the floor, and then the two fall into their usual shoving contest, both of them soon laughing. Curtis calls a warning from the kitchen, something about being careful and not getting hurt, but neither of them really listen to him. They wrestle all the time, and though Willa has always won, Wynonna is determined to someday beat her. This probably won’t be that day, but she sure is gonna try.
The shoving match only ends when the front door opens. Wynonna freezes, eyes going wide, and completely forgets about her big sister next to her. She watches as Daddy steps into the house, Mama following after him with a bundle of something in her arms. Wynonna’s pretty sure she knows what’s in that bundle and her eyes are suddenly glued to it, her heart starting to race in her chest.
Daddy’s eyes scan the room, passing over Curtis coming in from the kitchen and falling on the two girls now staring from the couch. He walks up behind it and lays a hand on Willa’s shoulder and Wynonna immediately gets a whiff of whiskey from him, something she’s pretty sure will always remind her of their daddy.
“Come on,” he says to Willa, gripping her shoulder, “We’re gonna go practice your shooting. Need to work on your aim.” He lets go and steps back, already moving back towards the door, probably heading to the barn to get the gun Willa always practices with when Daddy doesn’t want to give her Peacemaker. That’s strapped to his side as always, and for just a second Wynonna’s gaze falls to it. That gun holds a power over all of them, she can feel it, and it always makes her nervous. Not that she’s ever said anything because that would probably just make Daddy mad, but she’s always been glad Willa’s the one who’ll have to wear it someday and not her.
Willa slides off the couch, murmuring a quiet, “Yes Daddy,” and follows behind him, barely even glancing at their mother as she passes her, but Wynonna’s attention turns right back to the bundle in her arms the second she notices it again.
Willa and Daddy leave, the front door slamming shut behind them, and Wynonna stares at her mother. Mama looks tired, pale, her normally beautiful hair a little wild and sticking to her sweaty face, but a content smile curls her lips up. She flashes that smile at Curtis as he walks towards her, tipping his head at her politely and then taking a second to stare down at the bundle in her arms. Wynonna still can’t see anything more than blankets, but it is clear from the way Curtis’s face lights up, a look in his eyes she doesn’t think she’s ever seen before taking over, that there’s something about the new baby that is special. It makes her insides twist, nerves suddenly making her almost sick, and she can feel her palms start sweating. Her uncle looks down at the baby for another few seconds and then nods, smiles once to her mother before kissing her lightly on the cheek, and lets himself out.
Suddenly Wynonna is alone with just her Mama and the thing in her arms and the excitement she’d been feeling all afternoon shifts instantly into nerves bouncing around in her tummy. She doesn’t know if she wants to run and hide or bound over to her mother so she remains frozen on the couch, just staring.
Mama must see the sudden fear growing in her eyes because she smiles, a tired, worn smile, but a smile nonetheless. Slowly, moving as though she’s aged thirty years in the last few hours, she makes her way into the living room, her arms gently bouncing the bundle inside them. The closer she gets the more Wynonna can hear it, the little whimpers and coos emanating from the blankets in her arms, and without thinking about it Wynonna’s bottom lip is between her teeth, biting down on it harder than she means to. Mama stops just in front of her and now she can just make out the little tuft of light hair that sticks out over the edge of the blanket. The whole bundle shifts, the little thing inside moving, and Wynonna’s breath catches in her lungs.
“Wynonna, would you like to meet your little sister?” Mama asks, and panic begins to wash over her. This is it, there’s no turning back, the second she sees the baby it’s real and then what can she do? Who decided she was ready to be a big sister, because all at once it seems like the kind of responsibility she could never be worthy of. But the bundle is right there, Mama is already leaning down to place the baby in her lap, so all Wynonna can do is gulp and put her arms out, trying not to wince as the weight of this responsibility settles for the first time against her chest. She hesitates for just a second, looking up at her mother with what she’s sure is panic in her expression, and then she takes a deep breath and looks down.
The blanket Mama’s wrapped her in is dark gray and probably one of the softest things Wynonna’s ever felt, but she couldn’t pay any less attention to it in this moment if she tried. Wrapped inside the blanket is the pinkest thing she’s ever seen. The baby’s eyes are closed, her face is scrunched up and her head is moving a little as though she’s trying to get a sense of where she is without being able to see. The little tuft of hair she’d seen moments ago looks suddenly darker against the pink of her skin and Wynonna wonders if she’ll always be this pink. She’s always been pretty indifferent to the color but in this moment she knows she’ll never see anything as beautiful or soft again and without warning tears are burning at the corners of her eyes. She doesn’t know why and tries to blink them back, her vision getting a little blurry which is just unacceptable because it means she can’t see every detail of her baby sister so she bites her lip harder to help clear them away.
The cushion beside her dips as her mother sits down, and then a hand enters Wynonna’s periphery as it gently resettles the blanket from where it had begun to slide off of the baby. The little thing in Wynonna’s arms shifts again and she holds her tighter, terrified of the baby rolling off of her lap and falling. The thought of anything bad happening to her baby sister stops her heart, and Wynonna changes her grip, leaning further back into the couch and pulling the baby with her.
“Wynonna, this is our baby girl. This is our Waverly,” Mama murmurs, staring at the baby from beside her. If she looked over, Wynonna would see the love dancing across her face, etched into every crease and wrinkle, but beneath it she would also see the worry hidden just beneath the surface. She doesn’t look over though, couldn’t turn her attention away from her baby sister even if she wanted to, so just hears the seriousness in her mother’s tone as she says, “It’s our job to protect her. Yours and mine.”
“Waverly,” Wynonna whispers, so soft she isn’t even sure for a moment she said it out loud, but the second the word drops from her tongue her baby sister goes quiet. She hadn’t been crying, hadn’t even really been fussy, but the tiny coos she’d been making stop. As though it is the hardest task in the world, the baby’s eyelids flutter, starting to open and then close again, repeating a couple of times before they finally make it all the way up. Soft brown eyes stare up at her and something fierce slams into Wynonna’s chest, stealing all her breath away. In that moment, that one singular second, she suddenly understands why she was born. Willa is the Earp heir, the person who will free them from the curse that has plagued their family for generations, but Wynonna now knows that her purpose is just as important, maybe even more so.
Filled with something she won’t ever be able to describe, Wynonna Earp leans over her baby sister until her lips just barely brush against her forehead. One of her hands pulls the blanket back from the baby’s face, and her finger skims over a soft cheek.
“I’m gonna protect you, Waverly. Forever.”
It’s a whispered promise, and one she knows in her very soul she would die to keep. She can’t be sure but she thinks Waverly’s lips curl into a smile, and a tiny hand reaches out, her fist closing tightly around Wynonna’s finger. It’s a strong grip, and one she doesn’t think she’ll ever want to pull away from.
Maybe this big sister thing isn’t going to be so hard after all.