The first murder had never been Cain with his sheaf of grain. Original sin had never been the possession of knowledge.
The first murder was done long before knowledge came into existence. When a single primordial cell reached outward through the ooze to spill the life of a neighbour. Not for resources, and not for reproduction. For malice, and for joy in malice.
The young god was born into that moment. Born, and then bided. Accreting eons of the thing that became time, watching the cells become creatures of osmotic membranes and sparking electrical brains. Trembling sacks of water and electricity, pulled helplessly forward by their own natures. From flagellum to opposable digits to weapons of war. Growing and growing, until they collapsed all the way back to atoms that flared bright enough to kill cities.
The young god became old witnessing these things, and was well pleased. It lived mostly on pleasure, but even old gods have their own natures to follow. It pounced when it could. Reaching through sudden rents in the veil, seducing and cajoling some evanescing spark to embody the seed of a god. Sinking into the host’s skin and wicking across the interstitials between those once singular cells. Following the chosen one’s electrical heartbeat through muscle and through bone until it reached the furiously multiplying center of some wet body.
The chosen was a female this time, of the apex species. Young and fine and made of a billion shimmering cells. A daughter of the so-called Eve, but claimed now by the old god. Filled with the old god, and the seed of the old god, and the essence of the old god. Holy.
Things had gotten weird, even for Purgatory.
Willa had taken Peacemaker across the Ghost River Triangle demarcation line. The wards, or barrier, or whatever, which had been set in place by God, or Lucifer, or Whoever had cracked open. There had been darkness at noon, and a coiling monster called the Old One. Then Wynonna had brought Peacemaker back across the line, snapping the barrier back into place. Conveniently severing the rapidly invading head of the Old One.
The severed section had disapparated, which was very tidy, but it had still left behind little pools of black ichor on the ground inside the Triangle. Waverly stepped around the puddle, because duh. Never touch the goo.
Except she was actually on her knees and jerking her hand back from the goo. Rushing and buzzing and burning, with a tunnelling vision that almost buckled her over.
Except she had walked around the goo, and shot at the monster creeping behind Wynonna and Doc, and now she was running.
“Run!” She screamed. “Doc, quick!”
Half a stride behind her, Doc stumbled, huffing out breaths as ragged, panicked steam.
“Shit!” Waverly cried. It seemed like the thing to do.
Wynonna spent her morning getting her ass abruptly handed to her in Dolls' hotel room. By French lingerie. With a lamp.
Super outside Clue regulations.
Course, she’d spent the day before killing her lost and reclaimed-but-evil older sister. So, perspective. Still, the bruise kicked into her calf by the surprisingly flexible French lingerie hurt. And the fact that Dolls had never mentioned her to this Eliza person was just rude.
The rest of the day didn’t get any more polite. Dolls wasn’t human, which everyone seemed to know except her. A creepy institute took Waverly’s blood to seal some sort of indentured servitude. Eliza died, and despite making an actual plan, with contingencies thank you so very much, they hadn’t even truly rescued Dolls.
At least he would die free, and not locked in a cage. Probably there was a poem about how it was better to die free.
Probably that poem needed to be kicked in the ass by some French lingerie.
Wynonna lead her little ragtag group back to the homestead. Stalking past whatever brewing fight Nicole and Waverly were about to have, and past Doc with his good sense to reject her advances, and cried into a pink stuffed bunny.
Some heir. Not even a functional human being.
Nicole leaned on the quarter panel of her cruiser, listening to Waverly make explanatory statements about why Nicole was no longer an agent for Black Badge, and pondering the old nugget: Don’t go to bed angry.
Relationship advice for the ages. Top hit on internet sites, and tip of the tongue at diamond wedding anniversaries. Stay engaged, or at the very least awake, until the issue was resolved.
“I didn’t have a choice. He would have killed you,” Waverly insisted.
“Or made it official. Signed me up, too.”
“In your own blood,” Waverly said, like maybe Nicole was short a few fundamentals.
She looked exotic in those cat-eyed glasses and red lipstick, framed by the snow like something damn near ethereal. The weight of her presence should have felt like water pressing on a dam, but Nicole felt unmoved.
Waverly had made some decisions, and Nicole was going to need a little time. Otherwise she was going to use her words to point out how little Waverly had enjoyed growing up least of three, and to ask why she thought Nicole needed to be so far below least that she didn’t hardly count at all.
Or maybe flat out tell Waverly it was just like a straight girl to keep an inconveniently lesbian lover so compartmentalized. Brought out for fun, stored upright in the closet when social nicety needed to be obeyed.
Nicole had already paid her dues. She wasn’t about to be stored upright for anyone on earth. Not even Waverly Earp.
She breathed through her nose. Clenched a fist, and released it. A body didn’t have no choice but to feel its feelings. That didn’t mean feelings had much smarts, and it didn’t mean they had to be acted on. The seduction of cruelty never had to be obeyed.
Still, she declined the eye contact Waverly tried so hard to make. Letting her duck and twist for a few long seconds before she got the message. Stoic wasn’t robotic, and one of the perks of being an adult was choosing what hoary old bits of advice to take, and what to kick straight in the ass.
Goddamn right she was going to go to bed angry.
If she also knew enough to realize she’d lay in that same bed wide awake, listening to John Prine on repeat with her head buried in a pillow, well, it wasn’t like her cat was going to spread any rumours.
She made the homestead shrink in her rearview as fast as she’d ever taken a straight prairie road; then forced her foot to ease back. Nicole could get angry and drive too fast, but Deputy Haught had to stay up on that public pedestal.
Waverly hunted the homestead for Wynonna. It wasn’t hard. She’d been doing the same since she was three years old, and she liked to think she’d developed rare skill. Triangulating a stick-figure Wynonna out the back window, way off at the tree line and staring up at the bluff. Timing still piping hot chocolate on the porch when actual sized Wynonna rounded the corner of the house.
Those cups were probably frozen by now. Sitting where she and Wynonna had left them when they’d strode off to hunt whatever demons had slouched towards Purgatory to be born.
Waverly had started off stomping through the snow like a crusader following the flaming sword—well, a flaming long barrelled Colt Buntline Special—but now her knees hurt from the rough tread and her thumb throbbed under her glove, the tip wet from still-oozing blood. Probably she was slowly bleeding to death from some poison Lucado had conjured up.
“Hey.” Wynonna bumped a hip into her side. “You okay, baby girl?”
No. Willa was gone. Dolls was maybe dead or maybe just never coming back. Eliza, a person Waverly had only known for a few hours was definitely dead. Waverly had signed a contract in blood. The veracity of her lineage was in tatters. And Nicole.
Nicole, and Nicole, and Nicole.
The snow around them was a beautiful glitter, and Waverly didn’t necessarily read much fiction, but everyone knew about winters and their discontents. Just like everyone knew about Earps, and how they processed. The trick was; they didn’t.
“I think I’m supposed to be asking you that,” Waverly said instead of saying that Nicole still scared her, and that the world still moved too fast to understand. Just twenty-four hours ago she’d had two sisters, and a girlfriend who could look her in the face. “You need to eat, and then sleep, Wynonna. I’m serious.”
Wynonna shook her head, her grin diamond edged. “I’m serious, too, Waves. I forgot until just now, but I’m seriously telling you that Randy Nedley is going around town saying that my vagina broke Bobo. Did you know that?”
Bobo and his treehouse of horrors was another thing Waverly did not want to talk about, but…what?
Wynonna snapped double guns at the zipper of her pants. “Sweet crotch o’ mine! Nedley has convinced the fine folks of Purgatory that Bobo poisoned everyone as revenge over the loss of my vajazzle.”
“Ummm. I am woman, hear me roar?” Waverly tried. The hardest edge of Wynonna’s grin melted into something sweeter, and Waverly immediately wanted more. Wanted to help Wynonna find a place where she could be pulled into a hug without shattering, but the wet blood on her glove was making her hand ache with cold, and her chest rang with something that was maybe Nicole and maybe just exhaustion.
Perhaps this was just a new element to her life? The somatization of all the ways Nicole could try to stand for something noble, and all the ways Waverly could cut her down at the knees. Except the pain didn’t matter, because it had been the right thing to do. It had.
“Do you think maybe we’ve patrolled enough for today?” She asked hopefully. Wynonna stopped, and squinted sagely in several directions.
“Hmm. To tell you the truth, I didn’t have much of a plan, back when we walked off the porch.”
“Come on, rocket crotch.” Waverly threaded her arm through Wynonna’s, hoping the momentum would pull her onward, like a Christian soldier. “Let’s go home.”
“Wynonna.” She broke the plodding silence.
“Let’s don’t talk about your vagina again. For a little while. Kay?”
“No bet,” Wynonna promised.