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four parts gunpowder, two parts stardust

Chapter Text

Krypton roared as it died.

Wynonna can still feel the noise in her lungs, in her breath, in her pulse. It beats in time to her heart and rushes louder than any seashell in her ears. The grinding of tectonic plates scrapes over the occiputs of her skull. It's a din that's both deafening and unforgettable.

Krypton roared as it died.

At nights she can still hear the echo, even though she’s two-thousand light-years away on Earth—the resounding bang still brings her hands to her ears, still bloodies her tongue between her teeth. Her bed is no longer a shuttle pod, but she can hear the rattle and the boom of a dying planet creaking the bed frame. 

Krypton roared as it died.

Dolls tells her, years later, his hand on her shoulder as the last wail of her doomed planet rings in her ears: "There's no sound in space." He says it like a death sentence, like a pronouncement, like the verdict that befell a crazy girl who spoke of graveyards in stars and sisters lost between galaxies. He continues, "It's scientifically impossible." 

She wants to laugh at him, because of course he would remind her. She knows the principles he refers to, she knew them as nursery rhymes of a civilization far more advanced than his—but he still clings to the idea of scientific possibility like she never did, even while confronted with a girl who was a shooting star, who landed with strengths and fiery eyes and a heart in a million fragments. According to his science, her planet should have been held together by gravity far stronger than any environmental catastrophe. According to his science, her very spaceship should have opened a wormhole in the time continuum, because she rode across solar systems faster than the light of her dying sun could ever have hoped to catch. According to his science, the shattering end of her planet should have been suffocatingly silent, and her dreams shouldn't be deafening. 

Wynonna knows his science, but who cares? Her science is inbred, corrupted, half-hearted. On Krypton, children weren't born purposeless like they are on Earth. Scientists were constructed carefully as embryos, developed in the required mental acuities and rationalities. None of the three Ward-Ehrp daughters were designed to be scientists—Willa was born a ruler, the propagator of a future empire that never was; Waverly was born a historian, the recoverer of a past that no longer is; and Wynonna isn’t sure what she was supposed to be, but she knows that she’s failed at it. Regardless, there is no reason encoded in her genetics for her to value Dolls's science over the truth she knows, so she doesn’t. She knows her story.

Wynonna knows her story, and it begins like this: Krypton roared as it died.

 

-

  

The Last Day of Krypton must begin somehow, but she only remembers the way it ends. Wynonna only remembers the way her father rushes to the shuttle pods, drunk on his ammonia and as weak a ruler as Krypton ever had, desperate to shove Willa in one and away. Willa’s the continuance of his legacy, and should have brought the greatness of Krypton out among the stars—but that hadn’t happened. That doesn’t happen because the ground cracks beneath their feet; Wynonna sees it happen from where she’s huddled with her baby sister. The ground cracks, the molten core of their dying planet hungering for destruction, and she watches a pillar totter before falling.

Willa is beneath the pillar before Wynonna can do anything, before she can shout, before Waverly can cry into her shoulder. Wynonna feels herself splintering along with the supposedly unbreakable buildings as she watches her older sister disappear beneath the wreckage, her heart fracturing along with the monuments to Rao. She was never particularly religious, but she marks that down as the moment she loses any faith in a higher power.

That’s the day that her God abandons her.

That’s the moment that her older sister dies.

Her father, ever self-servient, ever selfish, leaps out of the way in time to save himself—but without his protégé, his only useful daughter, he breaks. His frenzied attempts to get to the shuttle bay become nearly mad, and Wynonna pulls Waverly onto her back as she goes to help him. He may be flawed, but he’s her father: she loves him with her entire ailing heart. She’ll always help him, even if his teeth are pulled into a snarl, even if his breath reeks of ethyl and ammonia. She needs him.

She brushes the flaking buildings aside, feeling the ground shift beneath her feet, and she discovers an unobstructed path. She pulls your father through it by the hand, though he pushes her off nearly immediately. Waverly’s forehead burrows into the white cloth of Wynonna’s dress at her shoulder—she’s so small, so young. Both of them are, against the immensity of a crumbling world.

The shuttle bay rounds into view and Wynonna sees a figure she never expected to see again, one she recognizes by the black dress with the Ehrp insignia burned off. It’s her mother, who’d forsaken them. Divorce doesn’t exist as a Kryptonian custom, not as Earth terms prescribe it, but she’d done the next closest thing. She’s Untouchable, now, a Traitor to her kin, because she left Wynonna’s sisters and their father. Wynonna hadn’t seen her since—but there she stands, amidst the ruins of an empire, beckoning her forward.

She has two pods ready, one larger and one smaller. She cries, “Here!” as if Wynonna isn’t running for her with all she has. There’s an instant where Wynonna has a spark of hope—the four of them can get away, they can live, they can survive this. She stumbles, slamming into something behind her, before she straightens and continues towards salvation.

That hope is ripped from her as she watches her mother’s face change, her eyes widening, her mouth dropping open. Her mother points behind her, where the heavy presence of her father had been, and Wynonna’s stomach plummets as she feels him drop away from her. She spins, and she sees him tumble into a crevice that opens beneath his feet.

She’d accidentally pushed him.

Wynonna dives, one hand on Waverly’s small leg that’s pressed to her thigh, the other reaching out for him. His fingers catch in hers, large and rough against her small child’s hand. 

He’s heavy and slipping, and she braces her leg against the rubble of a tower. But she’s not strong, she’s twelve, and her palm is slick with sweat. She stares into his eyes one last time—they’re her color, the only thing she got from him, so very, very blue. His face is pale, scared, his pupils pinpricks lost in his irises as his legs swing against the emptiness beneath him. She’s never seen her father scared before.

There’s a tear in her chest as her soul splits in two, and then her father’s weight starts to drag her to the edge of the lip. Waverly is still clinging to her back, her fingernails digging into her neck. If Wynonna don’t let go, then they’ll all die.

She opens her hand. Her father falls.

The world is burning all around her as she staggers to her feet, flames splashing into a sunforsaken sky. Heat sears against her cheeks, smoke pressing down on her lungs—she can’t tell what’s burning, but she can’t help but think that the only flammable thing on Krypton is the people. Everything is suddenly so noisy, as if muted until that second. Now she can hear the earth rending itself to pieces, the faint explosions of falling structures overshadowed by the deeper rumbling of a dying planet, but the sound that will stick with her forever is the screaming—Waverly’s, on her back, right in her ear.

The rock beneath her feet shudders, and Waverly’s screams turn to sobs. Reds and oranges flicker to black at the corners of Wynonna’s vision as her knees try to buckle, but she dropped her father to his death; she’s already become a murderer today. She won’t kill her baby sister as well. She tries to take one step forward—towards the shuttle bay, towards the mother that left her—

A weight is lifted from her shoulders. She turns and sees her mother pressing Waverly to her chest, stumbling against the weight she’s grown unused to in her absence. Her mother yells to her, “Wynonna!”

Wynonna’s voice is clogged and she can’t answer, but she manages to follow her mother as she sprints towards the shuttles. They’re miraculously intact, waiting, hatches open. Her mother places Waverly in the smaller one and coughs out instructions for Wynonna to get into the larger, and she hardly has space to breathe before she’s sealing Waverly’s shuttle and jettisoning her out into the black of space. 

Her mother runs back to Wynonna, soot streaked on her face, her curls spreading in a burning breeze. She’s beautiful, Wynonna reflects, though it’s neither the time nor the place. She’s beautiful, and the world is ending, and Wynonna just killed her father. She presses her hand to her cheek, and once again Wynonna sees eyes—her mother’s are hazel, like Willa’s, like Waverly’s. “Protect her,” she breathes, and there’s no need to specify. “You’re going to Earth.” 

Wynonna’s heard of Earth from her tutors, from her lessons. It’s unremarkable, one of nine planets in a yellow dwarf system, but there are humanoids there and none of them fear the perpetuators of the Kryptonian Empire. The yellow sun will strengthen her—but Wynonna would rather stay here, and die with her planet.

Her mother caresses one of her pigtail braids for the last time before she retracts her hand, pressing a button and sealing her in her little spaceworthy bubble. “Goodbye,” she mouths, and then Wynonna’s taking off.

Space is so black, so dark, after the sanguine light of her planet. She hears the roaring death of Krypton behind her, Rao’s last bellowing breath—because it did roar, and she did hear it. No matter what science says, no matter how morbidly still the void of space claims to be: Wynonna heard the death of a planet, and it was impossibly loud. 

They didn’t tell her that space travel is boring. They didn’t tell her that after the initial rattle of the concussive shockwave, she’d be left flying faster than the speed of light in complete and utter tranquility. Her neck cramps as her sleeping and waking stages merge, and she’s left haunted by nightmares that wink out from behind the red dwarves she passes. Her shuttle never bumps, never moves out of its course.

Where’s Waverly? Is she alright? If Wynonna had held onto her father for one moment longer, could her mother have arrived in time to save him? Should she beat herself to death on the control panel, just to escape the stillness that aches through her entire body?

Nothing is real. She’s Wynonna Ward-Ehrp, one of the two last daughters of Krypton, and nothing is real.

 

Chapter Text

Wynonna hurtles to Earth as a meteor and no one is there to catch her—her baby sister must have already landed, because she can no longer see the spot of her shuttle that she’d followed on the horizon. Re-entry into the atmosphere is refreshing, because at least the pressing g-forces are making her feel something. There’s a shudder, and suddenly she’s crashing down in the middle of a field. Her shuttle plows up dirt on either side, tossing small red flowers in the air, kicking up clods of mud thick with small invertebrates—she can somehow hear their small heartbeats. 

Dazed, she pops her hatch and emerges into the glare of a yellow sun. Heat fills her chest, waking her up, bringing her back to life; she spreads her arms and faces upwards, soaking up as much of the light as she can. This is the strength that Earth’s star gives her—she can feel it in her bones, in her muscles, in her eyes. A breeze ripples across the grass, and she lets it topple her. She falls to the ground, the beautiful ground, and lies spread-eagle with the wriggly invertebrate hearts pounding in her ears. She laughs, because this is what it is to be alive

The sky is blue above her, so blue. Wynonna’s never seen something so blue. Not on Krypton, not on the worlds that surrounded it, not on the bluest of blue giants. It seems so impossible for the sky to be as blue as it is. The last blue thing she saw was her father’s eyes as he—

Her laughter turns to sobs, deep and ugly and choking. Curling into a ball, she struggles to pull in breaths. She’s her planet, breaking from within, leaving only destruction in her wake. Her skin is coming undone, her ears are ringing, her eyes are burning…literally burning, she realizes after a moment. Beams of light are searing into the ground, setting the drier grass ablaze. For an instant, Wynonna wants to leave it, wants to let this world burn too. But then she hears the ghost of Waverly’s giggle in her ears, and she’s here somewhere

She pats down the flames as best she can, and by the time they’re out and the ground’s charred she’s laughing again. Not that she’s stopped crying—she’s just so overwhelmed that she can manage both. There’s so much of everything. She killed her father. She watched her older sister die. She witnessed the practical extinction of her species. She’s sobbing and laughing in a field on a foreign planet.

She’s sent to Earth as the executor of two wills: her mother's and her father's. Her father's last words for her revolved around hard eyes and stinking breath—she’s to carry on the Ehrp legacy, to maintain Krypton's status from behind the grave. Her mother's final testament is both easier and impossibly more difficult to fulfill; she’s to protect Waverly, her baby sister, till Earth meets the same fate as Krypton.

Everything is so much—Wynonna passes out.

They come at night as a search party, their flashlights on and dogs baying at their heels. They don’t know what to expect from her, just like Wynonna’s clueless about what to expect from them. A spaceship crashed onto their planet, and spat out an alien girl. Who wouldn’t be surprised?

A woman is at the front of the pack, her torch held high, training artificial light onto Wynonna’s blearily waking form. She calls out in a language Wynonna doesn’t know. The girl blinks, frightened—everything is so strange, with these people. There’s a decision to be made here: does she reach for a makeshift weapon, or does she submit to their kindness?

She’s twelve, and tired, and not a little bit traumatized. She aches for kindness. She gives in.

  

 

That’s her mistake, she decides later. That night determines her future—the men come with their trucks and their military at local behest, and they lock her in a laboratory. They test Wynonna’s strength and her story and her eyes until she gives up, until she surrenders. They barely listen to her when she screams, because to them she’s an extraterrestrial oddity in lieu of a child.

The scientists studying Wynonna give her new weapons, though they may not realize it. They show her the extent of her powers, the limitations of her alien body, but they also teach her subtler things. They teach her how to sharpen her tongue into a blade, how English dimples her cheeks and flicks off her teeth, how pain can’t reach her quite as well if she turns their needles into punchlines. How laughing about the death of her planet is the only way to stop from going crazy when she’s interrogated over and over. She learns that only masked men are the ones she should fear—the others have families, sympathies, loves, senses of humor. Those are things she could exploit, but also things she learns to value.

After a year, she’s had enough. Her fear and grief turned to anger when her wardens weren’t watching—it fuels her as she slams through the cell they’ve got her locked up in. They never expected Wynonna to escape, put only the barest physical limitations on her: they thought she wasn’t listening when they talked about psychological cages and preadolescent dependence.

Jokes on them; she’s always listening.

Jokes on them—Wynonna’s thirteen now, and she won’t be anyone’s toy. 

One of the nicer janitors had come to her often, discreetly, and he’d read her a story about a little boy who’d decided to run away to the circus. She thinks of that little boy, about his adventures with animals she’s never heard of, about his eventual decision to run back home, as she bends the bars to escape her prison.

Wynonna can’t run back to Krypton, but she can run back to freedom. Maybe that was what she’d found in her two-thousand light-year pilgrimage: her world can be stolen from her, but freedom is always waiting for her among the stars. Maybe outside her cage, she can find freedom on Earth as well.

More importantly, maybe she can find Waverly.

The guards rush at her when they spot her striding towards the elevator, their stun-batons raised high. All it takes is a fist there, a kick there, an icy blow there—their bones jar under her strikes, paper dolls folding in her wake. The underground lab has always been bright, sterile, but at night they dim the lights just the slightest bit—she never can wear yellow after that night, because that’s the color that glints off the blood she accidentally spills.

The scientists lock down the lift as she reaches it, but Wynonna can fly. She wrenches the doors open and presses against the ceiling and feels her little body shift it upwards. Earth’s gravity is too light for her stardust bones, its metals too insignificant against the strength of a girl born under a red sun—she could raise the sky if she wished, and she’s willing to in order to find her baby sister. There’s a rising sense of euphoria that burns through her chest. She can do this.

One doctor, the king of the horrors, is waiting for her at the other end of the shaft. He hasn’t taken his surgical mask off the entire year Wynonna’s been here—he hasn’t even deigned to tell her his name. The janitor who’d read her the stories had told her this man specialized in autopsies and necropsies, dissections of dead alien life; she believes it. He makes her skin crawl. 

“Wynonna,” he says cautiously, and the syllables sound all wrong in his mouth. Kryptonese flows differently, with a hiss between your teeth, with the O’s popping like bubbles at the roof of your mouth. English is cruder, broader, and it butchers her name like this doctor had attempted to butcher her skin. “Why don’t you get back inside? We can talk about this.”

A laugh catches in her throat, because for solar rotations on end, he’s wanted to do anything but talk. Not once has he looked at her like an equal, something worthy of his conversation, but now that she can see the tantalizing ghost of freedom ahead of her, he suddenly wants to have a nice chat?

“Sorry, doctor,” she spits. Her words aren’t quite free of her Kryptonese lilt, but they’re plenty clear. Wynonna’s glad; she wants him to hear her. “No can do. See, I’ve been thinking about our arrangement,” she sees his brow flicker—she stands at half his height, but she says ‘arrangement’ like she’s at a high council meeting, “and I think we have some pretty strong differences of opinion.”

He clears his throat, his lanky figure straightening. “And what would those be?”

“Well, for one,” she pauses, cherishing the words the janitor taught her, “you’re a massive dick. For two, fuck you. For three, I’m getting out of this hellhole, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”

“Oh?” She sees how it occurs to him that for all her meteoric origins, she’s still just an impudent, broken teenage girl. “Are you sure about that? We could achieve so much, Wynonna, you and I. We could shape the future. Build a new Krypton, here on Earth. Wouldn’t you like that?”

Wynonna’s feet lift off the ground, and she hovers a few feet in the air. “Krypton burned,” she says, with finality. The words taste charred on her lips, but they’re undeniably true. “It’s dead.”

“But we could resurrect it,” he counters. “All the miracles you’ve described, the healing and the towers, they’re unimaginable to us. But you could help us realize them. It would change the world.” 

He’s trying to manipulate her, because he knows he doesn’t have any physical edge. And for a moment, she’s tempted—she has basic knowledge of concepts humans haven’t dreamed of yet, she could save thousands of lives—but then she sees the cold glint in the doctor’s eyes. This man has only a cold greed for knowledge. If there’s a place for her to make the world better, it’s not in his torture dungeon.

In her later years, she’ll think up a thousand witty things she could have said in those parting moments. At the time, however, all she can manage is a barbed, firm, “No.”

She flies forward, batting him aside like a doll. Her stomach churns as his head cracks against the ground—she hates him, undoubtedly, but her abilities scare and sicken her. Wynonna’s never asked to become a god on a foreign world, and now that she is she wishes she could give it all up.

But she can’t. She has a baby sister to find.

 

-

 

Once she bursts out through the doors of the facility, she finds herself on a dingy road to nowhere. The unfiltered air spins her head in circles, but the brightness of the sun rejuvenates her, and soon enough she’s able to look around properly. Weeds spring out of cracks in faded asphalt, yellow-brown and sickly. Fields of some husky plant line the road as far as she can see, waving slightly in a light breeze. The sky is impossibly blue above her, dabbed with a few bare clouds. A sudden wave of homesickness pricks tears in her eyes—Earth is nothing like Krypton.

She kicks a stone with her road-blackened bare foot, feeling childish but justified. “Stupid planet,” she grumbles, reveling in the rebellion of Kryptonese rolling off her tongue. “I just want some normal orange sky. Is that too much to ask?” 

The planet, unsurprisingly, doesn’t answer her.

“Yeah, okay,” Wynonna continues. “Go ahead then, act like you’re not listening. Fuck you.” She starts walking down the road, her torn hospital gown fluttering around her ankles. “I can hear those lackeys behind me, you know. Not very subtle. Those big clunky flying machines—what are they called—helicopters? I’ve met Klarmarians with more style, and that’s saying something. Considering the yellow skin. And those noses, I mean, come on.”

The road stretches for as far as her normal vision can make out, but straining her heightened abilities lets her see a scattering of small buildings a fair way away, followed by a bustling city a few miles after that. There’s nothing between them, nothing to obstruct her journey—it’s just Wynonna, her feet, and a hundred miles of alien fields. She’d almost enjoy the freedom, after a year of captivity, if it weren’t for the pressing threat of men hounding her that keeps her eyes wild and her fingers pressed into fists.

There are some things she learnt from the janitor about Earth, secrets he whispered between the bars of her cell. She clings them to her chest, scraps of knowledge against a world of unknowns. As she walks, Wynonna goes over them in her head. Hours, minutes, days—these are the ways that humans count the time that stretches between each moment. Miles, feet, yards—the distance between Wynonna and Waverly. Seven—the number of continents she’s willing to scourge to find your sister. United States of America—the arbitrary country she’s now in, where people speak English and fight for the rights to keep weapons capable of killing, and also the most likely location of—guess what—her little sister. Iowa—the subset of the USA that she’s in, which the janitor had described as, “the buttfuck middle of nowhere.”

As strong as she is, even she can tire, and Wynonna’s been through a hell of a day. Her legs begin to ache a few hours out of the facility, her energy waning with the setting of the sun. She suddenly feels small and hopeless, a dot of a child lost in a larger landscape. El mayarah, she thinks, stronger together, and she realizes all that she’s lost.

She hears a distant rumble in the distance about twenty miles out from the city, the thrum of an inefficient engine whining at the task it's been given. This must be a car, then—the idea is quaint, but she doesn’t mind. Her brain is tired, the adrenalin of her escape long having faded; she would ride in a K’hund magma pusher, at this rate.

She misjudges the distance between herself and the car, and it screeches to a stop terrifyingly close to her. The noise of the outside is still too loud for Wynonna’s sensitive hearing, sending her to her knees with her hands over her ears and her eyes screwed shut. A door opens and slams.

"Hey, kid," a man’s voice calls. "Are you okay?"

Blinking back stars, Wynonna forces herself upright, vertebrae by vertebrae. "Yeah," she chokes out. "Sorry. I didn't see you."

She didn't think to look at the car before, but now that it's staring her down she can see that it's bigger than she anticipated. There's a cabin and a trailer: not a car, but a truck, she guesses. The man watching her is older, probably mid-thirties in Earth years, with close-cropped hair partially covered by a floppy cap. His eyes are crinkled in concern.

"You lost?" he asks. Wynonna wonders what kind of sight she makes to the guy, with her stained hospital gown and stringy curls. Can he smell Wynonna’s alienness, like she can smell the stink of the man’s humanity on him? "Girl your age shouldn't be out here all alone this late."

"My parents live in the city," Wynonna invents, still wincing in the glare of the headlights. "We were on a family trip, and there was an accident."

The man pauses, looking Wynonna over, then curses, fumbling with his jacket. Sliding it off his broad shoulders, he approaches the girl like he would a wounded animal, holding the coat out as an offering of peace. Wynonna hadn't thought about the cold, but she supposes a human child would be chilled to the bone—she accepts the coat with cautious hands. It's thick, and a comfortable pressure to have on her shoulders.

It makes her feel less like she’s about to float away.

"Where was the accident?" the truck driver asks. "I can go get help. Was anyone hurt?"

Wynonna shakes her head. "No. They, um, left. I got separated."

"Your parents left you?" 

"They're, uh, not the best parents." She looks down, shuffling her feet; she doesn’t even think this counts as a lie, really, not after everything, but it still feels wrong to speak ill of the dead.

The man’s expression tightens, his hands shoving into her pockets to try and stop her from seeing them curl into fists. "You want a ride into town?" he offers. "I've got a buddy who's a social worker. She could help you out."

Wynonna doesn’t have anything else to do, and maybe this social worker can help her. At least no one from the facility will expect to look for her in a grumbly old truck. "Um, yes. Please."

"Hop in, then," the man says, gesturing for the side of the car without the steering column. "I don't bite."

Wynonna smiles, just slightly, just at the edges—the driver’s worried Wynonna thinks he’ll hurt her. 

"Thank you," Wynonna says. She climbs in, settling herself among a clutter of brightly colored wrappers. The truck driver swings himself up on the other side.

"My name's Shorty," he says. "You got one?"

"What?"

"You got a name?"

Wynonna blushes. "Yeah. Wynonna."

"Like Winona Ryder?" Shorty doesn't wait for her to confirm. "Nice to meet you, Wynonna."

Wynonna manages another small smile. 

"You hungry? You want a bag of chips or something?" He rummages around in a compartment on his side, and tosses her a crinkly bag. "Barbecue. Hope that's okay." 

Carefully, Wynonna pulls open the top of the bag. Inside is a collection of, well, she’s not sure. Some type of food? 

"It's not poisoned," Shorty reassures her, flicking off the brake and stepping lightly on the accelerator. "Just a bit smashed up."

She tries one—it's good. She’s taken aback. She’d thought Earth food was a collection of bland mushes, because that was what they'd fed her at the facility. Not this crunchy...chip? She eats a couple more, because now that she’s realized it, she’s starving.

"Where're you from, kid? Originally, I mean." Shorty watches her eat the chips out of the corner of his eye with a weird sort of melancholy. "Don't they have chips there?" 

"They do," Wynonna lies. "I just...didn't get to eat any."

"Ah. Where's that, then?"

"The United States."

"Kid," Shorty says, “America’s a big place, and I’ve driven all over it. Never’ve run into an accent like that.”

She doesn’t know what to say to that, because she doesn’t know anything else about the world—Wynonna doesn’t know any countries to offer up as possibilities, any languages that could masquerade as her mother tongue. She shrugs, reaching for the last few chip crumbles stuck in the corner, and licks her fingers once she’s done. 

There’s a few more miles that go by in silence, and Wynonna’s about to nod off against the jarring window when Shorty speaks again. “How old are you, kid?”

“Thirteen,” she answers, glad there’s one thing she can be sure of. The Earth year is remarkably similar to the Kryptonian one. “I, um, just turned thirteen.” A teenager, the janitor had called her. Halfway grown, but with still so much left to learn. She splits her nervousness with a joke, “I’m practically ancient, huh?”

Shorty snorts. “Yeah, granny, let me help you across the road.” He glances over at her, sobering.

There’s a long, pregnant pause. Uncomfortable, Wynonna stares out at the passing fields, at the glittering lights in the distance, at the reflection of herself looking lost and scared in the mirror. She firms her lips and rolls her eyes up to try and banish the wetness in them. Shorty’s still watching her.

“There wasn’t an accident, was there?” he says.

Wynonna forces an incredulous smile, though it shakes at the edges. “There was. Why would I lie?”

Shorty takes one look at her, and pulls the car over. “You tell me,” he says. “Why are you lying? You a runaway?” He’s not accusing her, he’s just.... “I’m not gonna toss you on your ass, I just want things to be straight. You escape from a psych ward or some shit?” 

His English is so fast, and so full of words Wynonna only half knows—she blinks, startled, unable to form a response. When she does reply, she realizes that her words are in a jumbled mess of Kryptonese, chaotic and stumbling phrases spilling off her tongue, “I zhgehv dherive, khap nahn voi, i ukr chao ieiu nahn dhehraogh, rrip skilor i ie?” 

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Shorty says, running his hand awkwardly over the girl’s hair. Wynonna hates that she melts into the touch, but no one’s touched her kindly in over a year. “Calm down, kid. It’s alright.”

He could be her mother, or her nurse, or Willa, but they’re all dead and Wynonna should be strong, now. “Sorry,” she whispers, looking away. She lacks the word for what she’s feeling in English, so she just says, “I could explain it to you, but you might die.” 

Shorty snorts. He doesn’t know Wynonna’s only half joking.

"You an alien?" he asks, and Wynonna flinches. "You know, an undocumented immigrant?"

A twisted laugh bubbles up in her throat—if only she knew how undocumented. "Yeah," Wynonna admits. "I come from far away."

Two-thousand light-years is pretty far, in her humble opinion.

Shorty sighs, pulling back his hand and wiping his forehead. "That'll complicate things," he says. "But the social worker friend I told you about can still help. Her name's Jodye Lopez, she lives in Southside—that's where we're headed, okay?" 

"Okay."

"Did you run away from home?" he asks, laying his hand back to the steering wheel. Wynonna catches a flicker of self-consciousness dash across his features—Shorty seems just as unused to intimacy as Wynonna is. "From your parents?" 

"I'm trying to find my sister," she answers. "She's missing."

Shorty nods, like she’s explained everything. Maybe she has. "Lopez can help you with that, too." 

Wynonna can't think of anything to say to that, either, so she mutters an embarrassed thanks and leans her head back against the window. Shorty takes the hint and pulls onto the road again. Finally overcome with exhaustion, Wynonna’s eyes slip shut.

She’s woken abruptly by a jolt in the truck—a sudden braking, the squealing of tires, the hissing of pistons. It's overwhelming, for a moment, how loud everything is. The grinding of mechanics is in her ears, and she can see through her eyelids and the dashboard into the underside of the hood—she feels like she’s falling inside it until she manages to open your eyes and focus. She instinctively hugs herself, her fingers digging into the thick fabric of an unfamiliar jacket, then lets go. It doesn't do to look weak.

"What's going on?" she asks, voice hoarse with sleep. It's not till a moment later that she realizes her words were in Kryptonese, and reluctantly repeats herself in her English that sounds like it’s swallowed a whole egg.

"You being chased by the NSA, kid?" Shorty asks, his voice straining for a calm he doesn't quite manage. "Because those're helicopters outside, and I'm pretty sure those black vans ain't selling life insurance." 

Wynonna swears quietly in Kryptonese, fear flooding through her. Now that she’s paying attention—why wasn’t she paying attention, why was she sleeping—she sees the vehicles that Shorty’s talking about, with the government agents mounting rifles on car roofs. They were hunting her, and they'd found her, somehow—she’ll have to ask them about that, if they take her back to the facility.  

The facility.

Rao.

She’s got to get away from here.

"Get out of the car," she says urgently, casting Shorty what she hopes is a more reassuring than terrified plea. "They just want me, you could be shpahgh for all they care."

"Shpag?" Shorty mutters, his hand toying with the door handle.

"I'd love to talk about the differences in our cooking, but we're in a hurry," Wynonna quips back, but she’s only using the humor to mask the stench of her own fear. She can’t be timid traumatized little girl Wynonna anymore, not when she’s prey who’s been hunted. "Let's go. 4...2...1...." 

Shorty’s quiet "what happened to three" is drowned out by a megaphone blaring the moment she steps out of the car. 

"STEP OUT OF THE TRUCK WITH YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR. WE WILL SHOOT. REPEAT. STEP OUT OF THE TRUCK WITH YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR. WE WILL SHOOT." 

Wynonna puts her hands up, startled, and she moves to the front of the truck to see Shorty doing the same. Without thinking, Wynonna shifts in front of him, putting her small body between Shorty and the threat. Should she fight? Should she take care of this, like she took care of the doctor at the facility? Maybe she should show them that she’s made of more than their metal killing machines, more than their sweat and their terror.

She feels a heat burn behind her eyes, and double laser beams sear into the ground near the base of the cars. Wynonna intentionally misses the people—she doesn’t want to hurt anyone. She just wants to stay safe. She just wants to be left alone.

(She’s never wanted to be left alone before. She loves people so much, but they leave her. After two-thousand light-years, she’s so tired of being alone.) 

“Let us go!” she yells. “What am I going to do to you?” She spreads her arms wide, trembling with the power coursing through her veins. “Take over the world? Fall in love with your–your wives? You should know, I’m thirteen, I haven’t done a lot of loving. I probably wouldn’t be great at it! They’d probably still like you!”

Shorty makes a choked noise from behind her. “The hell are you?” 

“I like this man!” Wynonna continues, voice still raised, eyes still smoldering. “You can let him go, right?”

“STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING,” the speaker blares. “SURRENDER IMMEDIATELY. YOU ARE BREAKING INTERNATIONAL AND—“ the voice dips from professional to desperate—“HELL, INTERPLANETARY BOUNDARIES. STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING. SURRENDER.” 

Let us go,” she begs. 

She doesn’t realize she’s lifting off of the ground until there’s a single shot. 

Time stops.

Pop.

The blast of the gun—so far away, so loud—rings in her ears. A small projectile, a shard of metal, a bullet, glances off her hip. Wynonna barely feels it. There’s just a gentle nudge to the corner of her pelvis and it’s clipping away from her, behind her, towards— 

No.

She spins in midair and is about to swoop in to catch Shorty as the bullet enters his shoulder and tears through enough sinew to come out the other side, but she hesitates. Shorty’s staring at Wynonna, not at the man who shot him—he’s staring at her. He’s staring at her, and he’s scared. Scared of her. By the time Wynonna approaches he’s staring upwards, breathing heavily. He’s as terrified of her as Waverly was at the literal destruction of her planet.

Another bullet pings off Wynonna’s back, and there’s yelling, and then a hail more shower her torso. She lifts her hands into the air, spinning so the cool Iowa night wraps her body in a thin sheet of wind. The bullets stop. She can’t understand what the humans are saying; English isn’t processing.

Nothing’s processing.

She flies away before the humans can do anything. She flies into the air with men at her heels, baying like the dogs the first humans had brought with them to find her. Wynonna flies into the sky and up into the stars and she wonders how high she could get before she falls. There’s only one place she thinks to go—towards the city, towards the buildings and the lights and the dying shadow of Argo City that lingers at the edge of her vision. The wind rushes in her ears. Tears speed behind her, pushed off her face by pure velocity—she’s glad she doesn’t have to see them fall.

Wynonna flies for what feels like hours, until her muscles are cold and sore, and then she lands in the middle of a park. Grass shivers against her ankles, trees swaying in the yellow glow of some sort of lighting ornament. An older man shuffles under the weight of multiple coats, pushing a full cart in front of him. The stars glitter above her.

It hits her that Krypton—that Rao—is still up in the sky somewhere, still shining. Its missing light won’t arrive on Earth for another two-thousand years—only then will the proper hole in the universe open to swallow her old life whole. She’s almost cheated: she could see the Golden Age of her planet up above her if she wanted, only to know that it’s gone. 

Everything’s gone.

 Wynonna’s so tired of being alone, but maybe she was meant to be. Everything she touches dies, crushed beneath towers and fallen in crevices and eaten by a damaged magma core—even shot by a government agent. She’s alien poison, corroding any sense of peace she’d believe existed. She deserves everything terrible that happens to her. 

She can’t believe in Gods, not anymore. She’s a god now, after all, stumbling with power among human men. Rao no longer has any control over her, and she wonders if it was meant to be this way all along. Rao the God brought fire—well, nuclear fusion—to Rao the Sun; he lit Krypton, and brought forth her civilization. Wynonna brought the opposite. She heralded the extinguishing her planet, though Rao still spins dimly, and she was one of two sole survivors. Maybe she was the antithesis of Rao all along, Death walking in the skin of a child. 

She sees a bench twenty feet to her right. It’s as good a place to go as any, and she needs sleep—she’s pretty sure Death doesn’t need sleep, so she casts her stupid ideas out of her mind. Curling up on the smooth wood of the bench, Wynonna hugs her knees to her chest. Sleep claims her quickly.

 

Chapter Text

The morning brings with it the heat of the yellow sun, creeping under Wynonna’s eyelids and reminding her that she has strengths, here on Earth. Hello, it says cheerfully. You can now hear everything in a ten-mile radius. She personally wishes it would take its glowy ass back to bed, but then, that’s just her.

It’s not that her powers vanish with the sun, exactly—they just wane, become less prominent in both force and her awareness. She wonders if she’d been in full strength last night, she would have been able to fight. If she would have been able to save Shorty.

Shorty.

She swings her legs off the bench, shaking off the stiffness, and she opens her eyes. It’s a brisk, windy day, but the sun is unobscured by clouds. It’s a winter sun—distanced, forgetful, harsher—as if it were a golden coin pressed into the sky instead of a star. Wynonna appreciates it, though, because it sheds light on the grass and trees frankly. There’s no romance in the way it highlights the businessmen and women shuffling through the park, or the toddler crying in his stroller, or the dumb thoughts that linger in her mind from last night.

In the light of day, certain ideas that she’d visited wash away, banished with the shadows. The sickening thud of Shorty hitting the ground haunts her, but Wynonna realizes that he’s almost definitely still alive. He’s gotta be still alive. Humans are fragile, yeah, she’s learned that, but the bullet had missed all internal organs, gone straight through. He was impossibly close to medical help. Wynonna didn’t kill him.

She just hurt him, after Shorty tried to save her.

It was showing her powers that scared him, that drove the men to shoot; going forward, Wynonna needs to stop revealing herself so easily. If she does, the men will come and take her away for good this time. If she does, she’ll hurt everyone around her.

“Get moving, girl,” a well-dressed older man sneers, passing in front of her bench and pulling her out of her thoughts. “Don’t you have school to get to?”

School? The fuck is school? Really, you’d think Earth would come with a travel guide or something. No wonder they don’t have a larger tourism industry.

There’s only one place she can think to get to, and all she has is a name and a vague direction—Jodye Lopez, the social worker who lives southside of whatever fucking city this is. Wynonna doesn’t have a clue how to find her, doesn’t have a clue where to start; she lets her feet carry her down the street, figuring any movement is a step in the right direction.

She ends up walking most of the day, feeling the fumes of automobiles and the piss of petroleum settle onto her skin. The city bustles around her, loud and frantic in her ears. Each person she talks to has a new insight—she needs to find clothes, there’s a homeless shelter two blocks from here, she needs money to buy things, go to the police if there’s a missing person—but no one knows where Jodye Lopez is. They tell her this isn’t Chicago, there isn’t a “southside”, but when she asks where the literal southernmost part is everybody shrugs.

Humans are useless.

Wynonna ends up at the homeless shelter, eventually. It stinks of sweat and pressing bodies, but there’s some sort of food distributor next door, and she’s so hungry. For the last hour she’s been practically stumbling around in exhaustion, her fast metabolism desperately trying to keep running on no energy. At the facility, they’d never fed her enough, but at least they’d fed her.

Having no food sucks.

The other people at the homeless shelter peer at her with distrusting eyes, their hands on their meager possessions, ever alert, ever watching. She knows she can’t look that different from them, in her hospital gown that’s now fully black at the bottom, in her trucker jacket that falls down to her mid-thigh—but it’s still frightening, being seen so intently by humans. In their basest form, they’re still the people who put her under a microscope for an entire year. What could they do when driven to desperation?

She hardens her spine and lets determination grind her molars together, striding forward with her chin level. There is fire in her veins and sun in her heart and she can fucking do this. The woman at the desk looks up, disinterested.

“Name,” she says, and it takes Wynonna half a second to realize it’s a question.

“Wynonna,” she replies, and she’s not sure what idiocy drives her to it but she tacks on her last name at the end, “Ehrp.”

The woman scrawls down the name Earp, which is how they spelled it in the facility. “Age.”

Wynonna swallows. “Thirteen.”

“You can have the floor over by Barb,” the woman says. She scribbles down Wynonna’s name in a log book. Now that the woman’s paying more attention to her, Wynonna can see her face gentle slightly as she appraises her appearance. She’s—very kindly, with her eyes—letting Wynonna know she looks like shit. “I think we have some clothes from our last drive left over in the back. Don’t let anyone know I gave them to you.”

That’s how she ends up dressed in flared blue pants—jeans—with a short-sleeved blue shirt pulled on over a longer-sleeved white one. There’s no mirror, but she can imagine how she looks—human, undeniably so. She can’t stop herself from slipping Shorty's jacket back over her shoulders.

“That’s a nice jacket,” says Barb, the woman next to her. “Bit big on you, though.”

“Really?” Wynonna asks, tired and wry. “I got it—” the word she’s hunting for is tailored, but she doesn’t learn it for another couple of years—“specially done.”

“Ha, ha,” Barb quips, shifting her position from where she’s tucked against the wall. “No need to be a smartass.”

Smartass. Wynonna adds it to her growing vocabulary, because she has the sinking feeling it’s going to be a common descriptor.

“What kind of accent’s that, anyway?” Barb asks. “Never heard it before.”

She shrugs.

“Who’re you looking for, then?” she asks. “Eyes like yours, I know you’re looking for someone.”

Wynonna tells her, and she listens, and—miracle of miracles—she actually knows Jodye Lopez. It’s such a coincidence that she wants to cry at the words, “Oh, Jo-Jo? She was my nephew’s case worker for a bit. I can give you directions.”

“Come,” she adds, right as Wynonna’s about to bolt out the door to go find her mystery woman. “Soup kitchen hours start in five, so we should line up.”

Wynonna eats, and it’s not enough, but it’s something. She chats with people and learns that the language barrier isn’t something faced only by her, and that there are similar customs in all cultures, Kryptonian or otherwise. It’s comforting.

She finds Jodye Lopez in the morning. That goes well.

Not.


-


“So,” please-call-me-Jo starts, offering her a cup of a hot liquid. “Where are you from, Wynonna?”

“All over,” she lies. What else is she gonna say, a planet two-thousand light-years from here? “My family, we moved around a lot.”

“Got any papers?”

Wynonna shakes her head. “Nope.”

Jo winces. “I was afraid you’d say that. And you said Shorty sent you?”

“Kind of.” Her eyes dart around the room, landing on small things—the yellow painting, the brown sofa, the dead fireplace.

“How’s he doing?”

Better now that I’m not with him.

“He’s down a jacket, but I think he’s okay.” Wynonna tucks her chin towards the collar.

“Shorty’s a good egg,” Jo muses, taking a sip from her own mug. “And that jacket suits you. Nice leather, kid.”

Wynonna makes a disbelieving noise.

“Take a compliment. So you’ve got no family?”

“I have a baby sister. Waverly Earp. Can you help me find her?”

Jo frowns. “You got no idea where she is?”

“Uh-uh.” Wynonna takes a deep gulp of the drink, relishing how she can feel the heat burn down her throat. “We got separated. I need to find her.”

“I can do my best,” Jo offers. “But you’ve gotta go into the system, kid. I can’t take care of you.”

“The system?”

That’s the beginning, in a way.


-

 



The foster system, she learns, is a myriad of waypoints. No one wants her—she’s too old, too impudent, too off—but they’re all “happy” to have Wynonna stay in their house for a night or two, to let her eat where they eat and let her sleep near where they sleep. She wonders if it’s naïveté (she could kill them in her sleep by accident, activate her laser eyes and burn the whole house down), until she gets to her third placement.

They’re shitbags, and Wynonna gets sent away for letting them beat her bruiseless skin instead of that of their biological daughter’s.

The next family enrolls her in school, sticking her in a room with thirty kids that taunt her bad English reading and terrible writing. Her teachers patronize her, calling her out in front of the class—there was a time she was considered bright, but now nothing makes sense. Kryptonese characters scribble off her pencil tip when she tries to form English sentences, she calculates their math problems in her head and they yell at her when she’s right, they expect her to know how photosynthesis works when nothing on her planet was green; Wynonna gives up.

She can't win.

She was sent from the stars to be something great, to make her parents proud, to protect her little sister, but she’s failed on all counts. She’s trapped and no one would believe her if she told them what she was meant to be, and if she’s honest with herself she’s stopped believing it too.

Wynonna learns to fit in in class, to make jokes out of her failures. She builds the points of her D+s into spikes on her walls, shielding her from claims that she could possibly care that her life is plummeting faster than her shuttle did in Earth’s atmosphere. Talking to people becomes easier, simpler, and she turns her attention to collecting mannerisms that will make her less weird as she gets bumped from one school, then to the next.

Phrases slip into her vernacular—dude, cool, man, bro, shit, fuck, asshole—and her accent fades. Some days, that feels like a betrayal; she whispers Krytponese to herself until she falls asleep, to make sure she’s not losing it. Other days, none of the English fits together right. That’s okay, because it makes Wynonna seem cooler and more mysterious.

(That’s a lie. She’s not cool; she’s a target. People whisper behind her back, mock her lilt, jab at any vulnerability because she’s an other to them. She’s something that they can tease to make themselves feel better, a rumor to be spread rather than a person. But hey—she was born to a legacy of legends. Disappearing into words is her birthright, and if Wynonna can sharpen her edges enough to make the pages bleed, then that’s her birthright too.)

There’s one teacher, Ms. Chaplain, who sees through her. She gives Wynonna homework and tells her to do it, and not care if she’s wrong. She keeps her after class with a very human, “Wynonna,” and when she stays, she gives her tests that lets her demonstrate just how advanced her math understanding is.

She’s the only one to ask her what she wants to be—Wynonna’s fourteen, and fresh into high school, but people are always pressuring other kids to plan their whole lives out. She hears them complain, but she wants to tell them how lucky they are that people don’t write them off as a screw-up. Ms. Chaplain asks her what she wants to be, and it’s the first time she’s thought about it, really.

Wynonna asks her who gets to help people, and Ms. Chaplain’s brown eyes are so warm when she says the word “doctor”.

She could do that, Wynonna thinks, use her Kryptonian memory of technologies and machines to save lives. It’s not like she got a chance to help people in that life, but she could have. She could have.

“You’ll have to work for it,” Ms. Chaplain says. “But Wynonna—I believe in you.”

It’s the only time anyone’s actually said they believe in her.

She gets an A in that class; her heart swells with pride. But the rest of her report card hardly skips above a C. At the next school she resolves to do better, be better, but it only takes one scathing scolding and then she’s drowning again.

The dream of being doctor trickles out of reach, good medical schools bookmarked on the clunky library computers of towns that she moves away from.


-


Three months after her fifteenth birthday—or her estimation of her birthday, at least—a sweaty boy named Paul pulls Wynonna behind the bleachers and kisses her. He tells her she’s pretty when she’s not joking around, that he doesn’t care that she’s a fuck-up—he slips his hands under her shirt and she lets him. She kisses him till her lips tingle and pretends it’s what she wants, she gets him off quickly and accepts it when he hands her a brownie she knows he laced with pot.

She pretends to get high, wondering how much it would take to actually muddle her alien brain.

A month later, at another school, with another boy, she finds out. She won’t remember his name, but she’ll remember the wonderful burn of alcohol as she drinks his whole cabinet—he stares at her in awe, in fear, but she’s pretty sure she fucks him well enough for him not to care. Everything is fuzzier, easier, with alcohol, but it takes so much to get her drunk that she’s pretty sure it’s not worth it.

She doesn’t remember what town she’s even in anymore. The idea of finding Waverly is so hopeless that she only admits it to her pillow when she can't fall asleep.

The human world around her is in flux, rapidly developing—she landed in 2001, by human measurements, and by 2003 their technology is advancing fast. She feels plucked out of one of her history books: this must be what it’s like to live through a technological boom. Clothing styles are changing to reflect that, too. Everyone wants to be edgy, to dye their hair and wear mismatching clothes. That suits Wynonna just fine—she doesn’t own anything that fits properly anyway.

She has to be careful with her strength in this world. Door handles occasionally crumple beneath her fingers, but fuck that, you know? As long as she doesn’t hurt the people she’s screwing, it doesn’t matter.

Noise overwhelms her too, every once in a while, as does sight, but she numbs herself to it. And if she sometimes uses her laser vision to heat up her coffee or her freeze-breath to cool classrooms on hot days, well, who’s gonna notice?

There are times when she looks up into the sky and startles when she realizes it’s not orange—blue is a color that haunts her, hovering wherever she looks. She says prayers at night (not to Rao, he fucking abandoned her), but to Waverly—she hopes the yellow sun has treated her better.

(On Wynonna’s first day at new schools, she answers “where are you from?” with “outer space.”)


-


One foster sister in some house somewhere decides to show her Star Wars for her nearly forgotten sixteenth birthday, which turns out to be an absolutely terrible idea on all counts.

When the flames of Uncle Ben's body bite at Luke's ankles, all Wynonna can hear is Waverly screaming as Willa's hand twitches from beneath falling debris, crushed, bloodied. Ben Kenobi guides Luke onto the Millennium Falcon and Wynonna’s trapped in a pod two-thousand miles away and she can't breathe well enough to fog up the glass, her little sister supposedly somewhere ahead of her. Alderaan is destroyed and Wynonna’s alien body bleeds beneath her own fingernails. Her tears hardly have the chance to fall before they're evaporated by beams of red-hot light burning through the plasma of the television screen.

Her foster sister cowers in terror, whimpering, but Wynonna ignores her as she stumbles to the parents’ liquor cabinet. Two bottles of wine and a bottle of vodka leave her sitting in a puddle on the floor, tears drying on her face, hands leaving blood-slicks on the labels. It’s not enough to make her forget—nothing will ever be enough.


-


The parents send her away again, two days later. Jodye Lopez comes to collect her with a worn expression on her face.

“Wynonna,” she says, resignation teething off her words as she climbs into her car, "you broke the law seriously this time."

The foster sister, unable to process what had happened, claims that she went crazy and smashed up the TV with a baseball bat before attempting to set fire to the kitchen walls. No one seems that surprised—she’s a fuck-up ex-undocumented foster child, after all. This isn’t the first bad mark on her record.

“Yeah,” Wynonna finally says, settling into the backseat and staring at down at her lap. “I did. I guess I’m competing in the Olympics for most likely to fail, huh? Think I’ll win gold?”

Jo sighs, drumming her fingers on the steering wheel. “I’m taking you to a sentencing hearing,” she says. “Just…don’t speak, okay? That smart mouth gets you into too much trouble.”

Wynonna nods, biting her tongue. Jo starts the car with a rumble. Wynonna stares out as the grays and greens of suburbia blur past.

One little alien, the last of the last. The time when she was wanted is oh-so-fucking past.

The courthouse is a nondescript grey office building. Jo guides her in with her hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently through Shorty the trucker’s jacket. Before Wynonna goes in to see the judge, Jo squares her up, her forehead crinkling.

What does Jo see when she looks at her? The little kid who sat on her couch three years ago, sipping her tea and begging to find her sister?

All she whispers before Wynonna enters the courtroom is, “Nice leather, kid.”

Wynonna fights off the urge to cry.

The judge slaps her with property damage with malicious intent and underage drinking, which ends up tied to a six-month juvie sentence. He barely looks at her the whole time.


-


She doesn’t make a lot of friends in juvie. Mostly, Wynonna just sticks to herself. The six months seem to drag on and on. But then suddenly she looks up, and her time is nearly done; she’s not sure how that works. One of the other girls, Tara, kisses her on the day before she gets out, and wow—that feels good. Heat rushes in Wynonna’s chest, and it’s not the same as kissing boys, but it’s just as nice. She thinks she maybe wants to do it again sometime.

(Tara tries to beat Wynonna up two hours later, teammates with a couple other girls. She breaks fingers on her chest, on her cheekbones, on her neck, and Wynonna can’t help but wish she could have bruised her. She deserves it, after all.)

 

Chapter Text

The day she gets out of juvie is a cold, dreary Thursday in March. Jo is waiting for her, her lips tight and her jacket bundled close, leaning against her car. “Hey, kid,” she says. “I’ve got someone here to meet you.”

Wynonna hadn’t spotted the woman standing next to her, but she should have. The woman’s not tall, but she carries herself with a solid fortitude that seems too big for her slim frame. Her curly hair is close-cropped and going grey at the edges, her belt buckle is large enough to eat a meal off of—she’s wearing paisley shirt, but Wynonna could picture her in suspenders. The way she stares at her puts Wynonna immediately on guard. There’s iron in her piercing gaze that makes it clear she doesn’t like her much.

“Wynonna,” Jo says carefully, trying to break the tension. “This is Gus McCready. She, well, she has a daughter, and-”

Gus cuts her off. “My daughter’s name is Waverly. She’s your…” there’s a long pause, “sister.”

Wynonna’s heart stops. The ground tilts. Jo is saying something, probably explaining that she finally found her after years of work or some shit, but Wynonna’s ears are rushing so loud she can’t focus. Is that a pigeon two blocks away? Is that a flick of dust on the ground? Did she say Waverly? Waverly Waverly Waverly Waverly. Her sister. Did they find her? Her heart is pounding.

“What?” she chokes out. “W-Waverly?”

Gus’s eyes soften, and Jo has on a small smile.

“Yeah,” Gus says. “Mighty good girl. Eleven last month.”

There are tears in Wynonna’s eyes, and she makes a clumsy swipe to try and dash them away. “Can I see her?” she pleads, her voice cracking. “Please?”

She’d gotten so used to being alone, alone, the last one, that to be so close to her sister now feels incomprehensible. Wynonna’s bones ache to find her, to wrap her into her body like she did when Waverly was scared by their parents fighting—how big must she be now? Will she have cracks in her heart, tectonic splits left behind by the death of their planet? But then, Waverly was always the best of them—maybe she came out of it unscathed. God, she was only six: does she even remember Wynonna?

A cold ball of fear settles into her stomach, but it can’t match her tingling Krytponian nerves set alight by the thought of seeing her baby sister.

It’s more intoxicating than three bottles of whiskey.

“Sure,” allows Gus. “You can see her. You’re staying with us, after all.”

“What?”

“Gus and her husband are going to be your foster parents,” Jo explains. “Paperwork’s already gone through.”

“I don’t…” Wynonna can’t think of words to say.

“Car’s over here,” Gus tells her, shoving her thumb brusquely over her shoulder. “Let’s get your…bag loaded in.”

Wynonna feels self-conscious, clutching her small trash bag to her chest, but she doesn’t think Gus was trying to make her feel that way. Toughen up, Earp , she reminds herself.

Jo leaves them with a small pat on the back, and Wynonna piles herself into Gus’s pickup without any fuss. Gus stares at her for a second longer before she twists the keys in the ignition—Wynonna wonders what she’s trying to find in the edges of her cheekbones.

It sure as hell can’t be anything good, because that would be too easy for her life.

Gus clears her throat when they pull onto the highway. She says, “I know what you are.”

Wynonna frowns. “Huh?”

“Don’t play dumb with me, girl, I’ve been Waverly’s mother for five years. I know what a spaceship landing in my front yard looks like.” Gus glances at her. “You’re an alien. From Krypton. Your planet died and you were sent away.”

Wynonna’s not sure how to respond. Those are her lines, all the things she should have said but didn’t, couldn’t, through the years. Those are the things that still give her the screaming nightmares that nearly got her shanked in juvie. And here’s this woman, Gus, just spitting them out like the hard truth they are.

“Uh, yeah,” she stumbles over her words, but finds her snarky tempo again. “Have you auditioned for the X-Files? You’d be good at it.”

Gus gives her a look that lets her know to shut the fuck up. “You’ve also been to juvie, and have a track record a mile long. You traveled so damned far and this is what you chose to do?”

The scenery outside turns from city edges back into suburbs, until they’re just at the edge where suburban turns truly country. The world is still frosty at the edges, March sweating off February’s snow with unusual hurry. Wynonna welcomes the sun as it breaks through the clouds.

“It’s been tough,” she says quietly. “Fucking tough.”

Gus sighs. “Look, Wynonna, I’m sure you’ve been through a lot. But so has Waverly—I don’t need you ruining the life she’s built. She’s my daughter, and I won’t let you hurt her.”

“She’s not,” Wynonna whispers.

“What?” Gus asks. “She’s not what?”

A blush rises to her cheeks, but she makes herself say what she’s been itching to since Gus’s introduction. “She’s not your daughter.”

Gus’s jaw clenches. “Well I ain’t seen anybody else raising her, least of all you, so I wouldn’t make any judgments on that.” She pauses, takes a breath. “Look, it’s gonna be hard for you. I get that. But I’ve got a responsibility to Waverly first, okay? If you’re not good for her, you’re out.”

Wynonna runs her tongue over her teeth. To be honest, it hasn’t even sunk in yet that she gets to see Waverly again after so long.

What will she smell like now?

“Got it,” she says, her tone still faintly disbelieving. Anxiety is starting to build in her chest; for the first time in a while, she has to make a conscious effort not to tear through her seatbelt. “Is she—is she okay?”

“Yeah.” Gus seems to take some measure of pride in that, because her mouth tips up into a smile for the first time since she’s met her. “She’s more than okay. She’s a great kid. God, I love her to death.”

Wynonna lets herself smile too. “Yeah,” she says. “Everyone does. Did. I missed…” She breaks off, because her voice is clogging in her throat. She doesn’t have words to describe what she’s feeling, in English or otherwise.

Gus hums quietly.

After about another half hour of awkward silence, they pull up in front of this well-tended house at the very edge of what could be considered residential. It’s not like it’s ass-smack in the middle of cornfields or anything, but the houses on either side are definitely growing something in their front yards.

A small sign with ‘McCready’ rests crooked next to the doorbell, and a rusted bike leans against the side wall. Wynonna barely has time to climb out of the car before she spots a blur of brown hair barreling towards her. All she can do is brace herself for impact as ninety pounds of eleven-year-old collides with her stomach.

The blur—Waverly—hugs her, wrapping herself tightly around Wynonna’s torso. Waverly’s hair is in her face and it’s all she can breathe in. She takes her by surprise, stealing her breath from her lungs—Wynonna freezes, awkward, staring behind past her sister’s right shoulder for a second: she’s forgotten what to do with her hands. It hits her as she rests them gently on Waverly’s shoulders that the hug is incredibly light by her standards, but she pushes that thought aside as she stares down at her baby sister who’s alive holy fucking shit.

Waverly,” she breathes, the Kryptonese pronunciation curling over her tongue, ie. Rrip wai, Rao, vokai khap .”

Waverly laughs, and the sound rings in Wynonna’s ears like nothing she could have ever imagined. “Zha,” she disagrees. She doesn’t think she’s gotten big—she doesn’t understand how small she’d been, on Wynonna’s back, as their world died. “Chahvahv zhetol.

Her words are rusty, crinkled with English at the edges, but Wynonna holds her tighter to her because it’s the best she’s had in years. It’s the best ever. It’s Waverly.

Waverly,” she says again, just because she can, and Rao dammit all she’s crying, her tears leaking into Waverly’s hair. She struggles for air, breathing her in with all she can manage. Waverly smells like flowers and old paper, nothing like she used to, but there’s notes of something deeper, something inhuman, that still lingers in the background. She’s so small in Wynonna’s arms that she’s almost worried she might break her. “Ie, ta-rrip voi.”

Sis, you okay?

Waverly breathes out, settling her head into the nook of Wynonna’s chest. Wynonna feels her shirt grow damp over her left boob; Waverly’s crying too. “Wynonna,” she says—and there it is, the hiss between her teeth, the shape of the o on the roof of her mouth—she says Wynonna’s name like no human can. This is Wynonna’s baby sister and why can’t she stop fucking crying. “I’m okay.”

    

“Thank Rao,” Wynonna breathes, though she doesn’t think Rao has anything to do with it, not really. If anything, this would be a thanks to Earth and its yellow sun.

“I missed you so much,” Waverly whispers. “It’s been five years.”

Wynonna stares out at the rusty bike for a moment, fighting to compose herself. Stumbling backwards, she pushes her sister to arm’s length—she appraises every part of Waverly’s being, her beat up sneakers, her pastel pink and blue shirt with that goddamn monkey on it, her bedazzled jeans that leave a gap of skin between her pants and her shirt. She’s so human, but so very, very, very alive.

She reaches out, brushing away Wynonna’s tears, and Wynonna blinks hard to pretend they weren’t there at all.

“What happened to you?” Waverly asks, but her big sister hears the question under it: why didn’t you come find me?

How does Wynonna explain the kind of fuck-up that she is?

She’s saved by Gus, who’s been watching with her arms folded. “I’m sure Wynonna’s tired,” she says, but she doesn’t sound as harsh as she did in the car. “Let’s get her some dinner, huh?”

Waverly brightens, and Wynonna forces her lips up into a strained smile as her sister grabs her hand and pulls her inside. She doesn’t give her time to study the entryway, but as Wynonna kicks off her boots she catches fleeting impressions of warm hardwood floors and five years’ worth of family photos decorating the walls. It’s cute, in a nothing-like-juvie sort of way.

Some bitter jealousy burns at the back of her throat, but she pushes it down, because Waverly deserves this. Waverly deserves the world.

Waverly yanks her into the kitchen, her little ponytail bobbing behind her. Her socked feet slide over the white tile gracefully, and she uses her free hand to pull out a tablecloth from a drawer. With a jittery bounce in her step, she brings it back over to the table. Wynonna notices that Waverly’s avoiding her eyes—she’s unwilling to let go of her hand, but she won’t meet her gaze, either. Tugging on her arm, she still refuses to look up. Is Waverly…is she scared of her?

“Hey,” Wynonna says roughly, her gentle voice out of practice. She puts her hand on the top of the tablecloth, stopping Waverly from spreading it. “Slow down, dude.”

“Dude?” Waverly asks, her eyes skipping to the floor.

“Yeah,” says Wynonna, her mouth twisting up ironically. “Dude.”

After a slight hesitation (maybe she’s a bit scared, too), Wynonna reaches out and tips Waverly’s chin so she can see her. Waverly finally looks at her with a furrow in her brow, nervous but unflinching. Wynonna takes the moment to drink her in a little more, to see her rounded skin and Earth tan—Waverly’s eyes are hazel, still, though lighter than she’d remembered. She fits in with the earthy-toned kitchen, and Wynonna can see her growing up here so easily. It hits her that Waverly’s almost been on Earth for longer than she’d lived on Krypton. She’s still so young.

Waverly bites her lip, anxiety unhooking her hand from Wynonna’s and making her twist her fingers in her shirt. “I landed…” she admits, “and you weren’t there.”

Wynonna cracks a smile, because wow is this whole situation fucked. “Same here, ie. I got taken home by some government scientist that confused their d–” she trails off, because somehow she doesn’t think Gus would like it if she found out that Wynonna had been too explicit with her descriptions around Waverly. “I got taken home by Doctor Evil, how about you?”

Waverly frowns. “I landed in Gus and Curtis’s old yard. I was six, ‘Nonna. They found a little six-year-old in their yard and they took me in. Fudged the papers and everything, made it look like I was their real niece from Sweden. They’re basically my parents now.” She looks down. “They’re better than Daddy ever was, anyway.”

Wynonna’s blood runs cold. At first, she wants to defend their father—he was better than this Earth life, no matter how fucked up he might have been. (And if Waverly has her own family now, then what is Wynonna for?) Soldiering through, she plays it off. “Yeah, Gus seems real mama bear,” she quips. “I bet if I’d even thought about flying away she would have thrown me in the trunk.”

Waverly turns back to the tablecloth before she processes what she’d said. “Flying away?”

Wynonna frowns. “What, you can’t…” Spreading her arms above her head, she makes a whooshing noise to demonstrate.

“That’s a joke, right?”

“Uh, no. Alien here, talking to also alien sister. Very much not joking about the alien creepy powers thing.”

“Superpowers?”

Waverly’s face is screwed up in confusion, which, well. Um.

“I can fly,” Wynonna admits slowly. It’s the first time she’s ever said it aloud. “And I’m like…hella strong. And I have x-ray vision. And…I have freeze-breath. Oh, and laser eyes.”

Waverly lights up like a Christmas tree. “Laser eyes?”

“You’re telling me you don’t?”

Rolling her eyes, showing off some of her eleven-year-old sass, she complains, “Does this look like the face of someone who has laser eyes and knows about it?”

Wynonna shrugs, making a weird expression in return. Pointing at her own face, she replies, “Does this?”

Waverly seems to think critically about it for a second. “Nope.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“Just saying, ie.”

It’s her turn to roll her eyes.

Gus, from somewhere in another room, calls, “That doesn’t sound like a table getting set!”

Somehow, Wynonna didn’t imagine her reunion with her sister being consummated by setting out cutlery together. But hey, they both flew two-thousand light-years to get here—stranger things could happen.

By the time the two of them finish putting out the plates, a faint growl from down the street’s alerted her to an approaching car. For a second Wynonna tenses, but Waverly grins her adorable little grin and gestures for her to sit down. “Curtis is here,” she announces. “He brought Champ’s dad’s burgers.”

“Are those…good?”

“Totally.”

“’Totally’?” Wynonna teases.

“’Dude’?”

Wynonna can’t help but smile at the triumphant glint in her sister’s eye—she’s got her there, and she knows it. Waverly didn’t used to be so sharp-witted, but then, neither did she.

-

Curtis McCready turns out to be a solid, quiet man. Not a pretty one, not by a longshot, but carries himself with a soft pride. He introduces himself to Wynonna with a knowingness that makes her feel very, very young, but he doesn’t condescend.

“You’re the one we’ve heard so much about,” he says, smiling. His hand ruffles through her hair before landing gently between her shoulder blades, guiding her back down towards the seat she’d been sitting in. “Wynonna Earp, hero big sister.”

She flicks her gaze towards Waverly, whose cheeks are pink as she unwraps the many homemade burgers from brown paper lining and fits them on buns. Wynonna wonders what she even remembers about her, what she could possibly have told them.

“I don’t know about hero,” she says. “Big sister, though, yeah.”

Curtis sits to her right, “Didn’t think I’d ever get to meet you.”

Gus bustles in, oil smeared on one of her cheeks and her curls sticking up into spikes at the front—Wynonna doesn’t know what she could have been doing, but it looks like she got in a wrestling match with a tractor. She sits down across the table, in between Curtis and Waverly. Her lips are pursed as she considers the scene in front of her, regarding Wynonna like a problem she hasn’t quite figured out what to do with yet.

“Dig in,” she says, reaching for the tongs to put lettuce on her burger. “We wait too long and it’ll run away.”

They eat in silence for a bit, Wynonna taking big bites and relishing how the lettuce crunches and the juice of the meat trickles down her chin. The food here tastes real . She’s halfway through her burger by the time Waverly’s on her second bite, and Curtis mildly reminds her that there’s no rush for food here. They’ve got plenty.

Plenty is a stretch, because her Kryptonian metabolism’s been underfed for the past six months, but she manages to eat enough that she feels comfortably full for the first time in…years. Waverly, beside her, is on her fourth helping, but she still looks shocked when Wynonna downs seven hamburgers without hesitation.

“What…” she trails off. “What happened to you? You were gone for…forever.”

Gus levels a look at Wynonna from across the table that lets her know she’s not saving her this time.

So Wynonna doesn’t try to put it off—she tells them. She tells them about landing on Earth in the middle of that field, about the townspeople coming and the dogs barking. But then Waverly interrupts her and asks if she can know what happened before that, on Krypton. She looks up at her with those wide hazel eyes—Willa’s eyes, God, they’re Willa’s eyes—and tugs nervously at her human t-shirt.

“I don’t remember it that well,” she whispers. “Just fragments. But you were there—you saved me. But Willa and Daddy…” She pauses, her eyes glancing down. “You dropped Daddy.”

Wynonna can’t breathe.

She’s avoided thinking about it directly for years, hiding Willa’s bones behind jokes and defensive posturing. It haunts her dreams still, the great creaking moaning, the fire and the heat and the hopelessness. Those blue eyes, those blue, blue eyes—the eyes that stared at her as she killed the man they belonged to. She can’t breathe, she can’t blink, she can’t tear her gaze away from Waverly’s face; she wants to be sick. The way Waverly says the word Daddy, so human, so personal. Wynonna thinks she might puke.

Curtis clears his throat, but he doesn’t intervene.

All of a sudden, a flip switches in Wynonna’s brain—she can’t sit still, she can’t stay here, she’s trapped. She pushes the table back sharply from her chair, her feet thudding numbly as they try to support her weight. A plate falls, smashing against the hardwood floor. Waverly flinches, hard—her hands go over her ears and she lets out a small yelp. What is Wynonna doing?

Wynonna,” Gus says sharply, her words cutting into the resounding static still bouncing around Wynonna’s skull, the buzz that roars between her ears.

She freezes again, twisting slowly to look back at Waverly. Her little sister’s knees are up to her chest and she’s staring at her. Her eyes are wide, frightened. Her lower lip is trembling. Waverly.

Maybe Wynonna doesn’t run to the bathroom, maybe she flies, but either way it’s only moments before she props herself up next the sink, heaving into the toilet. She’s never felt like this, not even after six beer cans and two bottles of vodka; she doesn’t get sick, not ever. This is all in her head, and it hurts all the more for it.

A hand’s rubbing her back, murmuring something, and for a second she’s terrified it might be Waverly. She shouldn’t see her like this, she needs to be strong—but then she stops coughing for long enough to listen, and she’s surprised to hear that it’s Gus.

“Shhhhh,” Gus is saying, long and drawn out. “You’re okay.”

She doesn’t feel okay, she feels awful, but she straightens enough to push her back. “I’m fine,” she insists.

People aren’t supposed to see her; people aren’t supposed to be around her. She does better alone.

“You’re not.” Wynonna wishes Gus’s words were as harsh as they were earlier. “Jesus, girl, you don’t have to be fine.”

Her upper chest is buzzing enough for her breaths to come out shallow. She casts her eyes around for something to focus on, something that doesn’t flicker in her vision. She needs to focus on the basic details. Maybe she needs a drink or twenty. Maybe she should just start with the details.

The wallpaper in the bathroom is pale blue, transitioning to tile lining the walls beneath about her sternum height. The sink is behind her, to Gus’s right—she doesn’t want to turn around to wash out her mouth, because then she’ll have to face Gus and the mirror. A bar of soap lies half used on a ledge next to the bathtub. The shower curtain is patterned with a pastel alphabet. Three of the little aliens from Toy Story perch on the rim of the tub.

Wynonna presses her fingers to the porcelain of the toilet bowl, curling in on herself again and spitting the last of the bitterness out of her mouth.

“I don’t want to hurt her.” Her voice is croaky, not quite hers.

Gus sighs. “I know.”

“What happened on…on…on Krypton—” Rao, how long has it been since she’s said that name aloud—“That’ll hurt her. God, that’ll…I can’t…”

She’s dirtied by it, by all the things she’s left behind, all the things she wants to forget. Waverly isn’t, and that awareness consumes her. How could Wynonna possibly live under the same roof without staining her as well?

Gus sighs again, like she’s dealt with Wynonna her whole life. She unrolls some toilet paper and wets it, holding it out for her to dab against her mouth. After she’s done, Gus reaches across her back to flush the toilet.

“Did Waverly tell you how she got here?” she asks. “How we found her?”

Dimly, Wynonna shakes her head.

“Curtis was in his garden one day, tending his goddamn tomatoes, when all of a sudden I hear him shout. And I’m like, okay, he’s lost another plant to some pest,” her voice is fondly exasperated. “But he comes veerin’ in, his eyes wild, and he says, ‘Gus, there’s a fucking spaceship outside.’ I shit you not, that’s all he says. And then he runs back out, and, sure enough, right in the middle of the field—oh, we didn’t live here at the time, we lived farther in the country. Anyway, right in the middle of that field, there was this little pod. And I grab my shotgun, and I level it at the thing as it pops open. I dunno what the hell I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t a little girl to climb out, dressed in a regal-lookin’ white dress that’s burnt at the edges like it’s been in some sort of fire. God, I was scared outta my damn mind.”

“Of a six-year-old?”

“A six-year-old alien? You bet.”

Wynonna tries to imagine it. The field, the pod, Curtis, Gus, the shotgun—all of that is easy enough to envision. The details of the dress have blurred in her mind, even though she and each of her sisters wore them for most of their Kryptonian lives, but she can still picture baby Waverly clear as day. She was always so damn small.

“Anyhow, she comes stumbling out. Moment she steps outside, she starts crying. Hands over her ears, eyes squeezed shut, full-on meltdown. She was yelling in this language we didn’t know, but mostly she was just repeating two words—ie and Wynonna .”

Wynonna’s stomach flips.

“Took us ages to calm her down enough that she let us get near. Oh, she was wailing and carrying on. I was worried the neighbors would hear, and they were a good mile out.” Gus drums her fingers on the sink. “Eventually, we got her inside, gave her some food. She nearly ate us out of house and home in the span of half an hour. And I saw that little girl, sitting at my kitchen table, and…” She heaves a third sigh so bone-shakenly tired that it hurts to hear. “I’d never been able to have kids. And I saw that baby girl sitting there, her head asleep in her sixth bowl of pasta, and I just… I know what it looks like when someone loses everything.”

“Stop,” Wynonna rasps.

“What?”

“I don’t want to hear…”

“Hear what your baby sister’s been through? I don’t say it to make you feel guilty, Wynonna. I’m trying to get you to understand.”

“Trust me, I understand.”

Gus makes an irritated noise. “You don’t. That’s part of the problem. I know you’ve been through the mill of hardships, and I’m sorry for that, but you need to realize why your little sister might wanna know some things that you think of as not so pretty.”

Slumping back against the sink, Wynonna gives up and closes her eyes. Gus is going to continue no matter what she does.

“Curtis’s brother has a buddy who knows a guy who can forge papers, so, a month after we found her, we took her in. By then we’d taught her enough English and she’d taught us enough Kryptonese that we could get by in conversation, but it wasn’t anything deep. She didn’t have the vocabulary to explain where she came from for another two and a half weeks after we adopted her. And when she did…. God, this little girl rationalized it all to me. Wanna guess what she said?”

Wincing, Wynonna shakes her head. Why won’t she just stop?

“She told me she came from a planet far away, that they used to be the best planet. She scribbled crayon drawings of these towering buildings, of orange skies and mountains and not a tree in sight, and pointed to these little stick figures she’d drawn. Her momma, she said—she pointed to a woman with a black dress on. Her big sister—she’d given her red eyes; I don’t know why. Her daddy—a tall man. And then there was her favorite sister, and God, she’d put so much effort into that one. She’d mixed yellow and brown for the hair, little dots of blue for the eyes, a smile. And then there was a cape coming off her shoulders, over the white dress that all three of you sisters wore. And Curtis, he asked, ‘Why is she wearing a cape, Waves?’

“And she looked up at us and pointed to the comic books we’d given her as an adoption day present. She told us, ‘That’s ‘Nonna. She was my hero.’ So we say, ‘Oh, was?’ and she straightens her teeny little shoulders and says, ‘No. Is. But she dropped Daddy and Willa got crushed and our home blew up and I thought she’d be here and she isn’t.’ And then her little lip wobbled and she ran before she could see her crying. She wasn’t used to letting people in, not for a long time, but we realized then that she’d shared most of what she knew with us that time.”

Wynonna’s sigh comes out wet, choked. “Should you be telling me this?” she asks.

“Y’know, I’m not sure.” Gus’s shirt rustles as she shrugs. “But you just flipped out back there, and I wanna know you have the whole story before you say anything else that could hurt Waverly.”

A lump clogs the back of her throat.

“Anyway, we kept asking her things, little things, through the years. ‘Why did your world die?’ She didn’t know. ‘Why did your sister drop your father?’ She didn’t know. ‘What happened to your sister after her mother saved you?’ She didn’t know. She loves her culture, Wynonna, your culture, but there is so much that she simply doesn’t remember. And I know that cuts her up, bad. We raised her as human as we could, but she ain’t human. She wants that part of her life back, and hearing you were still alive gave her the hope that she could get it.”

“But she’s happy,” Wynonna stresses. “She’s so fucking happy here. Why would I want to change that?”

“If she wants to know, and she’s been aching for it, I think it’ll hurt more not to tell her.”

Wynonna turns to look at Gus for the first time. “How would you know?”

Gus’s eyes are firm, unpitying. She can see it in the lines tracing her mouth—she still hasn’t determined whether or not Wynonna’s a threat to her family. This is a test, and she’s never been good at tests, but if she does the wrong thing she’ll keep her away from Waverly for the rest of their lives.

Wynonna can’t lose her again. She can’t.

When Gus doesn’t answer, Wynonna asks an easier question. “Can I sleep now?”

“Sure. You’re set up in the guest room for now, but I’m pretty sure Waverly’ll want you to read her a bedtime story.”

“Isn’t she a little old for those?”

Gus cocks an eyebrow. “Tell her that.”

Wynonna, with some small tiny inch of self-preservation left in her, resolutely decides not to do that.

-

“Hey, dude,” Wynonna calls, leaning against the doorframe and peering into Waverly’s room.

“Hey.” The voice is quiet, tucked away between the bedframe and a bookshelf. Wynonna gives herself a moment to admire just how many bookshelves there are in this room, crowding each other between the closet and the dresser and the nightstand. In the little free space on the walls, there’re posters of thousands of starcharts, of sunsets, of a few male celebrities and one or two female ones. The doona is patterned with a few daisies, pink and cheerful. Family photos and childhood drawings peek from various picture frames.

Once again, a jealous ache rises in her chest. She kicks it to the curb.

“Y’know, I’m pretty sure you gotta tell both people before a game of hide n’ seek starts.” Moving into the room so she can see Waverly, she smiles to let her know she’s joking. “Otherwise it’s just cheating.”

Waverly pauses for a long moment, then shrugs, settling her head on her bony knees. Wynonna sits down diagonally from her and mirrors her position, knees tucked to her chest, hands clasped around her shins.

“Nice digs,” she comments, trying again to break the silence. “You paint that bird yourself?”

When Waverly doesn’t answer, Wynonna searches her mind for what she used to do five years ago. She comes up empty. Somehow, she doesn’t think tickling is the answer to this situation, as much as she wishes it was.

“Birds scared me,” she admits. “When I first got here. Small shrieking death flaps, who did they think they were? Nothing in Krypton flew except, like…spaceships—definitely nothing with a beak. I’m pretty sure beaks break like, a law of nature, or something.” She looks back up at the painting. “No offense, if you, uh, really like birds.”

Waverly makes a small sound, before looking down at the ground. “I’m sorry,” she whispers.

“What, you’re sorry for liking birds?”

“No, I…I’m sorry. For asking. At dinner.”

Wynonna bites her lip. “You don’t have to be sorry. It’s natural, I get it. You wanna know.”

“It upset you.” She sounds so goddamn small, but still so articulate. “You just got here, after almost five years and I…”

“Don’t worry about it, dude.” She twists her lips into a bittersweet smile. “That’s not your fault.”

“You sure?”

Wynonna nods, and the smile becomes more genuine. “Yeah, sis. I’m sure.”

Waverly hesitates, reading her eyes and her posture, then attempts a hesitant smile of her own. “So…are you gonna tell me? Eventually?”

Wynonna pauses, pursing her lips at her eagerness. She’s spent her whole life running, hiding from the memories she’s tried to bury; maybe it’s time for them cascade back into the holes she’s carved from herself. If even only for a minute, only to tell Waverly.

“D’you still wanna know?”

She brightens, propping her head farther upright. “Totes.”

“Tomorrow, then.” Before Waverly can look disappointed, Wynonna threatens, “But get into bed now, or else the scary dokhahsh are gonna get you. Ooooooooh.” Making her hands into claws, she tickles Waverly until she starts to giggle.

“Stop it,” she begs, laughing. “Stop, ‘Nonna, stop. Ie, stop!”

“Go to bed, then. You can still make me tell you…one thing, whatever you need to know right now. Nothing scary, though, or Gus’ll kill me.”

Scrambling to get to where her pyjamas are tossed on her pillow, she strips off her clothes with youthful abandon. It’s good to know she’s left behind her Kryptonian modesty as much as Wynonna has. She clambers under the covers, claiming to have already cleaned her teeth, and Wynonna lets it slide; who is she to enforce rules, anyway? As she settles next to Waverly, she can’t help but brush down the stray hairs that frame her cheeks. She’s her baby sister.

Waverly stares back up at her with searching, intelligent eyes and a fucking adorable smile, and Wynonna knows she’s utterly screwed.

“Tell me about…” She pauses, searching Wynonna’s face for the limit she can push to. Wynonna raises her eyebrows, a tired, goofy smile dimpling her cheeks. “Tell me a Kryptonian myth.”

“A myth?”

Waverly nods, determined.

She shouldn’t be surprised. Myths and legends were always Waverly’s purview, even as a child—while Wynonna was spending her days running wild in the city, or else clinging to Willa’s heels, Waverly was listening, learning, absorbing. Wynonna’s stuck, for a moment, trying to remember one. Then she remembers the one.

“Once,” she starts, “bajillions of years ago, the universe was empty.”

Waverly’s voice cuts in, small and pleading. “Can you tell it in Kryptonese? Please.”

“Um, sure, baby girl.” Wynonna lays back on her spare pillow, staring up at the ceiling. Waverly curls into her side. “Ahmzehtu-ahzh non zha ehl, zov tiv aorghuhs kehp-ahzh zha ehrosh. Zhune chavh eul nahv tiv dol, zov i threv non Rao

 

Chapter Text

‘Tomorrow’ comes too quickly, for Wynonna. She wakes in the McCready’s guestroom, the Midwestern light peeling off the walls, a small clock on the wall ticking towards nine. Her throat is still hoarse from where she’d screamed in the night—it had been an alternation of her nightmares and Waverly’s that’d kept Gus and Curtis up for hours on end. She’s pretty sure they’re sleeping, now, and God knows she owes them that.

Something smells good, frying in a pan; she follows her nose until she’s upright, blinking spots out of her eyes. Gus left some of her spare clothes on the nightstand for her to wear until Curtis can take her shopping. Slipping them on, she reflects that it’s probably the most like a farmer she’s ever looked in her life. She stumbles out into the kitchen, fighting back a yawn.

Waverly is there, her back to her, her attention fixed on something hissing from the stove. Wynonna has to blink hard to make sure she’s actually real—she’s still reeling from the last twenty-four hours.

“Morning,” she says finally, her voice raspy.

Waverly nearly jumps, but then she turns that megawatt smile on her sister. “Hi!”

“What’s cookin’, good lookin’?”

She grins, moving to show her the stacks of pancakes and bacon she’s already made. “You’re okay with pork, right?”

“Sister, I love pork,” Wynonna snickers.

She pauses a second, before wrinkling her nose. “That was dirty, wasn’t it?”

“Tell Gus and you die.”

“Right.” Waverly serves her up a plate piled high with breakfast foods and presses it to her chest with a cheerful little nod towards the table. “Make yourself comfy.”

“Aren’t you gonna eat?” Wynonna takes a bite off a piece of bacon and her eyes go wide. “This is—this is God’s food. I’m going to die. Foodgasms are real—mmm, God, I never knew.”

“Dirty!” Waverly says again.

“Mention and you die,” Wynonna reminds her. The moment she sits down, she stuffs her face until there are bacon crumbles ringing her lips and syrup sticking on her cheeks. And if her sound effects are a little less than PG friendly, well, someone can damn well sue her for the two dollars and dirty sock that she owns.

When she’s done, she sits back. Around her last bite, she mumbles, “This is real good, Waves.”

Waverly’s sitting across from her now, eating in a way more civilized way. She beams at the praise, lighting up in the sunlight cascading through the window—she’s almost haloed by it.

“Curtis taught me,” she says.

“He seems like a cool dude.”

“He is.” She pauses, building up to something. Her grin fades. “Wynonna, d’you think…”

“Can I tell you about That Day?” Wynonna sighs, picking up her fork.

Waverly’s mouth twists, and her eyes shift down. “Yeah.”

“Said I would, didn’t I?”

“You don’t have to if, if, you don’t want to but—I mean—”

“Kid, I’ll do it. Don’t worry.”

Wynonna’s not quite sure how to start—with the dawn of time, with the decision to pump energy from the planet’s core, with the war with Daxam that stole their people’s attention for valuable years that could have been spent investigating a solution. She’s not even sure if she knows enough about all that stuff to explain it. Waverly was built to be a historian, not her, so it’s generally unfair that she’s the one stuck in this situation. Then again, ‘generally unfair’ is pretty on par for Wynonna’s life.

“We had an orange sky,” she tries, glancing out the window at the blue one above them.

“I remember that.” Waverly does a little head shake. “I wasn’t a baby.”

You were, Wynonna wants to say. God, you were so small.

“Then you tell me, Waves. What do you want to know?”

She bites her lip. “Tell me about ieiu,” she says, and Wynonna bites back another sigh.

Her insides still feel shaky, anxiety humming in her chest, but there’s a dull resignation that Wynonna’s found since last night. It spills out of her with descriptions of their mother—she was on the shorter side, she had a broad face, hazel eyes, too much self-preservation to stay with their father and too little to save herself instead of them. How when Wynonna was younger she used to play with her, because Wynonna was hers, just like Willa was their father’s. How that changed when she had Waverly—how Waverly was almost a surprise child, built with a purpose but hidden from their father. Wynonna tells her sister of calm days and lullabies, of dresses and giggles and hugs.

Waverly’s too sharp, too astute, to let her slide with just that.

Wynonna also tells her of a black dress, the House of Ehrp crest burned off. She tells her of the bitterness that slipped through the cracks, the anger and the resentment that sparked to flame around their father. She tells Waverly about the day their mother left, the day she disappeared in nameless exile and left the three of them alone. She tells her all of this at the kitchen table, her elbows on the wood and her socks slipping along the tile, her voice wryly twisting words up at ends that shouldn’t be jokes and pauses that shouldn’t be long. Waverly stares at her, her eyes wide, and she stares down at her plate.

“But she saved us?”

“We’re sitting here, Waves.”

“And…what was I supposed to be?” she asks.

Wynonna chews on the question—her question, the question that’s haunted her forever—for a while. “Anything,” she decides. “The beauty of Earth is that you get to choose.”

“That’s actually…deep,” Waverly says, surprised.

“Gee, thanks,” Wynonna rolls her eyes, but she supposes she hasn’t exactly been excelling in the poetry of the storytelling. “Besides, you never know. I could tell you you’ve been destined to be a cheese picker your whole life, so maybe it’s better you don’t know.”

“A cheese picker? Cheese isn’t picked, Wynonna.”

“It isn’t?”

Waverly giggles again, and Wynonna’s heart gives a little thud of happiness. Maybe she’s actually doing this right.

The next few questions feel procedural, only piqued with the mildest of curiosities—did Argo City have a flag? How long were the seasons? What were the mountains to the East called again? She answers as best she can, but there’s a tension that she can feel building to a head inside of her sister. Finally, she says, “Just spit it out, kid, I’m not gonna flip again.”

Waverly doesn’t quite believe her, but she asks anyway. “A building fell on Willa, right?”

The breath is sucked out of Wynonna, and she’s choking. Waverly says it so abruptly, but her voice is two octaves higher and she flinches like she’s punched her.

“Yeah,” Wynonna wheezes.

“So Daddy just left her? And then he fell too? And then you—”

Dropped him, Wynonna finishes for her.

“There was nothing left for him to save of Willa; he was trying to save us.”

“Then why did you let him drop—”

“God, Wave, I didn’t mean to.”

She shrinks. “I know, I didn’t mean—”

“You’re right, though, I killed him.”

“What?” Her voice rises in confusion, in frustration. 

“I tripped, I pushed him,” Wynonna says, but her words are driving nails into her palms and thorns into her head. “Then I couldn’t hold on. If I’d hung on for just a few more seconds, maybe our mom… I killed him, Waves, I’m so sorry—”

“Why would you—?”

“It was an accident, I couldn’t hold him—” but the words bubble out like excuses and really, if she’d paid just a bit more attention to where he was—“I’m so sorry.”

“That’s not how I remember it,” Waverly insists, standing now, her eyes as damp as Wynonna’s. “I don’t remember it like that, I don’t remember—”

“You don’t remember anything! You were like two, Waverly!”

Fury sparks in her eyes—she looks like Willa again, or worse, their mother. She grabs Wynonna by the hand and tries to pull her up out of her chair, but somehow she doesn’t have Wynonna’s superstrength. Wynonna has to allow her little sister to wrench her down the hall. When Waverly slams into her room, she moves to the corner bookshelf, where tens of composition books are filed away. She takes one out and shoves it into Wynonna’s hands, desperate.

“Read it,” she commands.

Wynonna flips it open, and her heart clenches.

Dictionary of Kryptonese, Volume 2

By Waverly McCready Earp

11-04-02

: (ee-eh/ie) sister

: (ee-eh-ee-oo/ieiu) momma

: (uuu-ker/ukr) daddy

The page goes on and on, words grouped with little or no correlation, like she just wrote down what she remembered at any given time. It’s all scratched in childish, painstaking print—Waverly’s writing. Wynonna brushes her fingers over each letter; the indents push down hard into the page, marking an incredible juxtaposition. Kryptonese was an electronic language, but here it’s in pencil, next to English, in a paper notebook. She can’t believe what she’s looking at, not entirely. Waverly wrote a dictionary.

Tens of dictionaries. Books and books and books of pages all filled up.

A dictionary.

“I do remember,” she whispers, her arms wrapped around herself. “And…And I didn’t want to forget.”

God.

“You can’t show these to anybody,” Wynonna makes her promise. “I’m serious, Waverly, you can’t tell.”

She hesitates, then nods.

Wynonna gathers her in her arms and resolves to never let her go.

-

She learns the price she pays for her existence at Gus and Curtis’s fairly quickly: 1. she needs to always be on her best behavior, 2. she’s not allowed to hurt Waverly, and 3. using her powers is explicitly, absolutely, one-hundred percent forbidden.

That last one is a later addition, enforced about three months after the McCready’s guest room officially becomes Wynonna’s bedroom (Gus likes to call it her dumpster with walls, but screw her: it’s still hers). Everything is going fine (kind of, for some very generous definitions of fine), and she thinks maybe—maybe she can stay here. With Gus, and Curtis, and, most importantly, Waverly.

(She’s proud of herself—she’s being really fucking optimistic about the whole thing. Why hasn’t anyone given her a medal yet?)

Anyway, it’s three months into living with Gus and Curtis. She survived the half-semester she spent at their local high school with mostly B’s and a couple of C’s, which is a new high for her, and she’s trying really hard to be a good sister for Waverly. Really, really, really hard. So naturally, something has to happen.

Did that something have to be Gus finding out that Wynonna has the ability fly around with her little sister on her back? No, not necessarily. But because the universe is a bitch, yes, yes it did.

“How many of these ‘powers’ do you have, Wynonna?” Gus asks, her voice sharp. She’s standing over her while she slouches on the couch, her hands on her belt buckle and her eyes disapproving.

Wynonna pops a skittle into her mouth. “Not enough to get in bed with Channing Tatum, definitely enough to get some quality paparazzi shots of him while he works out.”

Gus bats her legs of the couch. “This is serious, Wynonna.”

“Yup, okay. Serious.” Seriously, though, how does she seriously answer the question ‘how many superpowers do you have?’. “Um. I can fly?”

“No shit. I think half the town knows by now, thanks to your little stunt.”

“It made Waverly laugh.”

“It put Waverly in goddamn danger, is what it did. If you were thinking of anybody other than yourself, you would’ve realized that.”

Wynonna grimaces. It was dumb; she can see that now. She can’t tell anyone how she’s different—it only ever ends in pain. The moment they find out, they’re in danger. She’s in danger. Waverly would be in danger.

“Honestly, what were you even thinking?”

Curtis comes in, quiet and solid as he is. He settles his hand on Gus’s shoulder. “I don’t think she was, Gus. She’s a kid.”

“An alien kid—”

“—who’s allowed to screw up like everyone else.” He offers Wynonna a small smile. “I doubt she meant to start small-town World War Three, at any rate. Give her a chance to explain herself without the interrogation.”

Thanks to Curtis, Gus calms down enough that Wynonna can give a list of her powers without the barrage of questions. She still doesn’t react well to interrogations, not after her first year on Earth, but that’s left Gus’s attempts to discipline her a little…charged. Curtis has filled the role of peacemaker quite nicely. With him present, both he and Gus listen passively as she describes the different aspects of her abilities. Flight, superstrength, hearing, x-ray vision… As she gets to laser eyes, Waverly pops her head in.

“You weren’t kidding about the laser eyes?”

“Nope.”

Amazeballs.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be in your room?” Gus asks, but gives up when Waverly plops down on the armchair.

Curtis’s brow is furrowed, and he’s looking between the girls thoughtfully. “If you can do all of that,” he says slowly, “why can’t Waverly?”

“I can hear really well,” Waverly insists. “And see. So I can do some of that, right?”

“But if you’re both Kryptonian, why…”

A thought occurs to Curtis, and Wynonna can see him flinch away from the idea. She has no clue what he was about to say—he chooses not to enlighten her. He changes the subject to ground rules for using her powers, which Gus leaps onto with gusto.

The main rule they decide on seems to be don’t.

-

There are good things, too, obviously. Wynonna doesn’t want to sound melodramatic or anything, but in the space between the death of her planet and finding Waverly, happiness had been a thing only glimpsed out of a passing car. At the McCready’s, she finds that it’s possible to hold on to it for entire afternoons, entire days. Waverly manages to make things fun.

At first, she’s disappointed that Wynonna isn’t allowed to fly with her anymore. Before Gus and Curtis found out, the two of them had soared over the town, making a game out of ducking and swerving and tumbling in the air. Waverly had giggled into Wynonna’s back, her spindly arms tight around her throat, as she’d tried to get as close to treetops as she could without impaling herself on the branches. She’d been terrified of dropping her, but Waverly had been assured of her safety.

“You’ll always be there to catch me, right?”

(The next instant, her eyes had slid to the floor—Wynonna’s half-sure that she was imagining the same thing she was, the screaming, the roaring, the ground cracking open.)

But once they’re forbidden from flying, Waverly decides it’s her mission to spend the summer teaching her sister new things. Typically, she explains, she’d go to summer camp; with Wynonna there, Gus and Curtis decide to keep everyone close. Wynonna feels guilty for a hot second, until Waverly assures her that she’d much rather make up for lost time. That’s something Wynonna can understand.

“Okay!” Waverly says, her little hands on her hips. It’s a Wednesday morning and they’re both already bored—the heat pressing on their scalps is inescapable and pervasive. “D’you wanna go to the pool?”

Antsy, Wynonna swings her legs back and forth over the edge of the table. “Why don’t we, uh, go climb a tree or something?”

“It’s too hot. Why don’t you want to go swimming?” Her eyes get wide. “Wait, you can swim, right?”

“Uh, duh. Dude, c’mon, of course I can.”

Wuz-shed,” she exclaims. Liar. “OMG, you can’t swim!”

“Please never say OMG out loud ever again.”

Waverly’s pigtails swish as she marches up to her. “We’re going to the pool, ‘Nonna. I can’t believe you can’t swim.”

Wynonna leans back. “Pfff, I can totally swim.”

“Really? Prove it.”

“No!”

“Ha! See? You can’t.”

With an eye-roll, Wynonna surrenders, “Fine, okay, I can’t. But I can’t swim, you can’t fly, so we’re even.”

Waverly’s lips firm in determination. Wynonna has half a second to consider maybe apologizing for the dig about the flying, but then Waverly’s yanking her arm out of her socket in her attempt to pull her off the kitchen table. “We’re going to the pool,” she declares.

So, sure, yeah, they’re going to the pool.

This is fine.

Wynonna doesn’t have a swimsuit, so she goes in a ratty pair of shorts and a sports bra. Waverly skips down the sidewalk beside her, already clad in her polka-dotted one-piece.

“I wanted a bikini,” she says, “but Gus said not yet.”

“Gotta have something to keep a bikini up with first,” Wynonna teases. She gestures at her own chest—fully boobed, thank you very much. “Wait till these puppies come in and you’ll be set.”

“Ew, ie!”

“What, Waves? They’re just boobs.”

Her nose scrunches up, and she pushes her sister towards the curb.

“You can’t stop them from growing in, baby girl,” Wynonna says, a cheeky grin on her face.

“I know, but it doesn’t have to be soon.”

“Don’t you want them? Wear bikinis, actual bras, get cute boys…cute girls…”

Waverly wrinkles her nose. “Girls?”

A small lump settles in Wynonna’s chest, but she casts it off in the next instant. She shrugs, “Cute boys?”

Waverly huffs. “You don’t have to define me by my relationship to guys, ‘Nonna. I’m my own person.”

“Oh yeah?”

Yeah,” she says. “And I don’t have to grow up yet, I’m only eleven. Gus says, ’Don’t wish your life away.’”

“Okay, okay,” Wynonna lets up. “No boobs.”

“No boobs. And wow, look, that’s the pool!” Waverly transitions, effectively putting an end to the subject. She points to a small grey arch, engraved with sea creatures along the flat and small glass tiles impressed in blues around the edges. “Let’s go teach you how to swim.”

Apparently “teach you how to swim” has different meanings in whatever town this is, because Wynonna doesn’t think that the educational process typically involves being goaded into tightrope walking along the very edge of the pool. The lifeguard even stares at her as she goes to begin, daring her to be just that flavor of stupid, his eyebrow cocked and his brow furrowed. But hey, she’s Wynonna-fucking-Earp—she’s not gonna just turn down a challenge. Especially not when her little sister pouts like that.

The ledge is slippery beneath her toes, and there are enough people in the pool already that the water sloshes up against the side every few seconds or so. She forces herself to be steely, banishing the irrational fear that crawls along her ankles, as she takes one step. And then another. And then another. Waverly cheers from in the pool, her eyes alight, but then Wynonna teeters and she sees a flash of doubt cross her sister’s face.

“Wy,” she calls. “Maybe you should—”

A boy, a blur that comes up to barely Wynonna’s waist, blitzes past her, knocking her off balance. The concrete edge rushes towards her, but she wheels backwards enough that she falls sideways instead—she chokes out a gasp and then there are bubbles bursting past her face, chlorine flooding into her lungs, water pressure dragging her down to the bottom. She flails, her eyes squeezed tight; if Wynonna was thinking right, she could have flown up to the surface, but her mind is a little busy at the moment.

Vaguely, she feels a small hand tugging at her elbow, pulling her to the surface. She bobs for a few seconds, facedown, disoriented. Then she rolls over, gasping for oxygen and actually finding it.

Air is fucking amazing, did you know that? Rad as fuck. God bless air.

Waverly is apologizing, still holding onto Wynonna’s elbow and guiding her hands over to where she can grasp the ledge. She’s babbling so fast Wynonna can’t quite make out everything she’s saying—there’s something about “shouldn’t have made you” and “I was just like” and “Willa,” but she can’t fit it all together in an order that makes sense.

Once Wynonna catches your breath, she starts to laugh. Waverly stops mid-apology, confused.

“What’s funny?”

Nothing, really. Except yes, everything, because:

“I—can’t—swim,” she explains between wheezes. “Rao , I can’t swim.

“Why is that funny? You nearly died, Wynonna, you’re not allowed to die!”

“Chill, baby girl,” she says, patting her sister’s hand clumsily. “I’m okay. But I’m on a planet that’s eighty percent water, and I never learned to swim.” Giggles push past what little calm she’d managed to grasp, and she dissolves again.

Waverly looks her up and down, taking in her alien body and her tatty shorts and her perfectly working lungs, and finally sees the absurdity in it all. She grins, letting go of Wynonna’s arm and beginning to tread water.

“Sorry I dared you,” she apologizes.

“Forgotten.”

“It happened like two seconds ago.”

Wynonna feigns confusion, wrinkling her brow. “What did?”

She sticks her tongue out, but her naturally cheerful nature has come back into play. Wynonna never sees shadows linger on her sister’s face for long.

(Later she’ll wonder if that’s her fault, for not looking hard enough. For not trying hard enough.)

After a pause, Waverly asks, “You ready?”

“For what?”

It’s her turn to giggle. “Swimming lessons!”

Wynonna groans, staring out at the mass of bodies bopping up and down in the warm blue water. Noodles flail in the air above kids’ heads, a splash fight erupts at one end, the lifeguard was distracted from her fall by a kid who bought three popsicles and started painting the ground with them. Sunlight glares off every edge. How can she possibly learn to swim here?

“Don’t worry, sis,” Waverly reassures her, reaching out and grabbing her hand. “It’s simple. First, let’s sink to the bottom.”

Wynonna pushes off the wall, much more in control with Waverly’s fingers tangled in hers. Her feet touch the bottom quickly. The swill above her head is easy to part when she has a specific direction to aim for. Bursting back above of the surface, tipping on her back in the warm day, she takes a deep breath. She’s above water.

“See?” says Waverly. “You just gotta float, ‘Nonna, that’s all it is. Just float.”

 

Chapter Text

The summer of 2006, however long Wynonna wishes it would last, is still only two and a half months. Target’s marketing campaign is quick to remind her that muggy days and swimming contests must always give way to school supplies and back-to-school plans, to which she’s quick to remind them that groan. It doesn’t help that Waverly seems to be looking forward to books and learning, or that she chatters about starting middle school with an enthusiasm that Wynonna finds exhausting.

How did Waverly end up such a nerd?

While Wynonna’s determined not to bum it out for her, there’s still a niggling fear that claws at her chest. Wynonna just isn’t good at school. She isn’t good at behaving. She isn’t good at sitting still in a classroom. She’s too fucked up for that, screwed up in the place that matters. And there’s so much pressure, going in—too much. Everyone seems to think she can be something she’s not, as if she hasn’t been kicked out of every home she’s ever known, as if there aren’t more than a couple of questionable incidents involving a lighter and a tenth grade classroom on her record. They see potential in her, potential that she’s pretty convinced would have shown itself by now if it existed. It’s nothing she’s ready for.

But despite Wynonna’s begging with the rules of space-time, school does start eventually. Junior year envelops her with open arms, sending her tumbling into the embrace so fast that she doesn’t realize the hands of academic achievement are actually choking her until she’s spiraled very deeply into the spheres of procrastination and remorse. Essays are made to trip her up and geometry is meant to mock her.

Despite that, she knows her workload is less stressful for her than it is for some of her peers, because Wynonna already has one, crucial thing figured out: she’s not going to college.

(College is for smart people. College is for people who don’t land on another planet and immediately start fucking up day after day, year after year. College is for people who can see a future for themselves in some relevant societal career. College is for people applying to med school. 

And let’s face it—she’s none of those people.)

So instead of channeling all of her energy into university search processes, she focuses on not disappointing her sister too badly. She helps Waverly with her math homework—if Waverly translates it into Kryptonese, Wynonna’s actually good at it, and then Waverly can translate it back—and she sneaks her too many donuts to be healthy and she tucks her into bed at night. When Gus decides both of them are old enough for a flip phone, Wynonna texts her terrible jokes too. It’s not much, but it’s all she can do.

Wynonna’s fall finals don’t go too terribly, either, which gives her a false sense of optimism heading towards second semester. Still—February is when everything starts going downhill, which no one saw coming except for maybe karma.

She’s not sure how it starts, not really. She’s doing alright in everything but English, Curtis is teaching her how to fix up motorcycles, and she has like…half a friend named Jeff. Sure, Wynonna’s guidance counselor and parole officer are both concerned that she’s not really making an effort to join any school activities, but what is she gonna do, go out for football? She’d crush their fat little heads with her pinkies. 

And there are always those rumors, those furtive whispers, that follow her wherever she goes. According to one girl, Wynonna killed someone at her last school. Another says she was locked up in a mental institution, and that’s why she’d only just started living with Waverly. A boy who has a little brother in Waverly’s grade says that Wynonna was deported back to Sweden for six years because she tried to bomb an airplane.

They’re stupid rumors, and no one really believes them.

But they do believe that she’s different, that they don’t want to talk to her. They ignore her or snicker at her, and she can handle it—it’s just getting exhausting. 

Gus has been on Wynonna’s ass for a few days about finding her in the backyard doing some things that aren’t exactly eleven-year-old friendly with Jeff, so she’s giving her extra chores and sidelong looks that generally make Wynonna want to claw her eyes out. Waverly is stressed about tests that really don’t matter in the long run, but she’s still been less bubbly than usual. Wynonna’s got midterms next week.

How much does it cost to hire an alien assassin to push her down the stairs hard enough to make it stick?

She starts spending longer days away from the house. Afternoons dusted with snow drive her into the back of the library, into rushed sloppy make-outs and quick hard-ons. Something claustrophobic is chewing on her lungs—she can’t let herself be a cookie cutter, last time she built herself out of gingerbread someone else came and ate the whole scene—and part of her knows that she’s only delaying the inevitable by playing the part of the good foster child. Wynonna’s just not good enough for this life. But she tries, she tries so goddamn hard, and maybe that’s what hurts the most in the end.

Things start to spiral when Jeff realizes that, in her quest for a rush, she’d fucked both his brother and the entirety of the chess club. That brings Wynonna down to a grand total of zero friends, as well as sparks a whole host of vindictive rumors about the explicitness of her sex life. It’s okay, she’s used to being unpopular. Their hatred fits her well—she slips into it like a hand does a worn glove.

(There's a fire drill in class and Wynonna hears police sirens instead of an alarm.)

 

-

 

It only starts to ache when Waverly brings it home too.

“’Nonna?” she asks, ducking her head into Wynonna’s room. “Can I ask you something?”

Wynonna sits up from where she’d been dozing, blinking hard to clear the dancing spots from her vision. “S’up?”

Waverly inches into the room, toeing at the carpet with her ratty Converse. “The kids at school…”

“Anybody bothering you?” Wynonna asks, sharp. “Cuz I’ll fix them up.”

“It’s, uh…” She pauses again, her eyes flicking down and to the side. “They’re talking shit about you.”

“What kinda shit?” Wynonna asks, though she knows, deep inside.

“About…” Waverly glances around, like Gus is hiding in the closet ready to pounce. She mumbles, “They say you’re a…a slut.” 

Wynonna swallows.

“And that you nearly beat Carl Miller’s head in.” She hesitates. “Is that true?”

“Yeah,” Wynonna says. “It is.”

She pretends not to see the way Waverly flinches away from that truth. Waverly’s trying to reconcile the version of Wynonna that she loves with the cruel, cheating monster she no doubt hears about in class, but Wynonna doesn’t have the heart to tell her that not even she knows the distinction anymore. Sure, Carl Miller had been a skeeze—he’d almost put his hands on a drunk girl, before Wynonna stepped in—but she’d still punched him harder than any human should have been punched. She’d still fucked over Jeff, and his brother, and the chess club. She’d still failed to be a good role model to Waverly.

She’s failed at a lot of things.

 

-

  

After Wynonna’s admission, Waverly starts retreating from her. Wynonna understands, really, she does; when she acts out more and more to try and justify the punishment she’s getting at school, she has to accept whatever treatment comes her way. It’s what she deserves, after all—she should have learned by now, she’s meant to be alone.

By the end of her junior year, she’s a verifiable social pariah. She’s angry, too angry for kindness, angry in a way that pounds against her ribcage.

(Maybe Wynonna should have just stayed in that laboratory, letting her mind get pricked by lasers and scalpels and needles all day. Maybe the world would have been better off with her cuffed to a surgical chair.

Finding Waverly has only hurt her.)

  

-

  

Wynonna lasts almost seven more months with Gus and Curtis. 

Curtis sees her spiral. He understands her motives, the reasons she’s started getting involved with dealers and gangs and things that fly way too high over her head. He sees how she handles Waverly like a precious figurine—how Wynonna worries that if she touches her fully, she’ll tarnish her beyond repair. Curtis sees how much Wynonna loves everything, and how the hatred she receives in return is slowly driving her to the brink. He loves her despite that, maybe even because of it. 

She loves him too. Wynonna loves him, but every time he touches her he reminds her of everything she’s losing, everything she’s already lost. He reminds her so much that she lashes out at him, that she rages at him, that she makes fun of every single thing he is or stands for until she feels like she’ll drown in her own cruelty. He stands through it, and she hates herself for that too.

August of 2007 is when it all becomes too much for Gus.

(Wynonna hates her, slightly. She hates the part of Gus that’s better than her, that knows Waverly better, the part that dictates what Wynonna should do and how she should do it. Without Gus, Wynonna could soar. Without Gus, she would have no limits, no boundaries.)

Waverly, though, is still Gus’s first priority. Wynonna’s always known that—Waverly’s hers too, hers to protect, so she understands Gus perfectly. Wynonna may have been sent down from the stars to protect Waverly with everything she has, but Gus had succeeded where she’d failed, and she needs to cede to that. She needs to accept that protecting Waverly doesn’t entail dragging her last name through the dirt in town, or pinning on her shoulders a laundry list of Wynonna mistakes.

Gus even tells her so.

No, Gus doesn’t tell her—she decides for her. Two weeks before the start of Wynonna’s senior year, she approaches where she’s sitting beneath one of their trees in the backyard. She says, “Wynonna, we need to talk.”

Wynonna’s wearing Shorty’s leather jacket over a red crop top, and she wraps it tighter around herself. She knows what’s coming: she’s been both terrified of it and anticipating it for weeks. Months. 

“You got the balls to do it,” she says, compressing her anger down on her tongue. “Finally.” 

Gus sighs. Her lip twists. She’s almost—no, she can’t be sad for her. Not after all Wynonna’s put her through. She must be angry. 

“Wynonna…”

“Just spit it out, Gus.”

“Fine.” Gus leans against the tree trunk, her arms crossed tightly on her chest. Her paisley is gone today, and she wears a plain dark blue button up. Wynonna can’t help but remember—god, why can’t she just forget—that navy was the Kryptonian color for mourning. “We’re moving, next week.”

Dusk is cloaking the world around them and orange slants on Gus’s face in ripples. Her eyes are gentle, and Wynonna hates her for that. What right does she have to stand there, the softest she’s been in months, and deliver that statement so goddamn calmly?

“You’re moving,” Wynonna repeats, her voice flat.

“Yeah. Just a couple of streets over, better AC, better water bill.” 

“And there’s no room for me, is there?”

“That’s up to you,” Gus shrugs. “You’ve been making it pretty fucking clear that you’re not happy with us.”

Wynonna snorts. “What? Sure, I screwed up a few times, did some stupid shit, but you think I want to, to just…blow this popsicle stand? Leave Waverly behind?”

“Don’t you?” 

She pauses, because her world is tilting. If she drank all the alcohol in the house, called up Gerald for some speed—would it be enough to numb this feeling?

Gus’s question is a good one, though, one that makes her irrationally angry for a reason she can’t quite name. Something burning bubbles up in Wynonna’s chest, thumping up against her lungs, thudding in her ears. She blinks hard, trying to think, trying to form a coherent thought, trying to stop her eyes from smoldering. 

Does she want to go? 

If Wynonna stays, what would happen? She would continue to spiral. She might move up the ranks of a biker gang, but she’d paint Waverly with that brush; she’d ruin her normal little sister, who’s basically human at this point. That wouldn’t be fair. But Wynonna could also get to stay with Waverly, get to stay with her sister—she’d get to not be the last, not anymore. She would get to pretend, to herself, that she could turn things around.

Turning that over in her mind, Wynonna doesn’t even need to consider the implications of the second option.

“I’m not eighteen,” she says. Her hands are balled into fists in the grass, mud scraping up against her knuckles.

“You are in a month. We could emancipate you early.”

“Fuck.” 

Gus bends and sits next to her, encroaching on her personal space more than Wynonna thinks she has since that very first night in the bathroom. When she tries to put her hand on Wynonna’s shoulder, Wynonna shoves her off. Gus is trying to be nice to her right now? 

“I’m not gonna tell you what to do,” she says. 

“That’d be a change.”

Gus sighs. “Can you stop being angry for one goddamned minute? Just looking at you makes me exhausted.”

“I hear there’s a pill for premature exhaustion. Oh wait, Curtis already takes that.”

Stop it.” Gus turns to face her, her knee propped on a root. “You think you’re being funny, but you’re just being mean. You think deflecting will protect you, but you’ve really just been fucking yourself over. Wynonna, I can’t help you, because you’d rather hurt us than help yourself.”

Wynonna bites her tongue, feeling a burn behind her eyes that has nothing to do with lasers. Stewing quietly, she mulls over her options. None of them seem like anything resembling actual choices.

“What do you want me to do?” she asks, her voice slightly croaky. She leans back so she’s lying down, staring up through the tanglings of leaves rustling above her. “You want me gone, right?”

“I don’t want you gone,” Gus says, and god—it sounds so much like a lie. “It’d kill Waverly to see you leave.”

“But.”

“But, you being here hasn’t been good for her either. Both ways it’s down to you.”

Angry tears blur Wynonna’s vision, but she chokes them down. She won’t let Gus see her cry, not when Gus is the one who’s been plotting her downfall since the beginning, not when this is probably everything she wants and more. Not when Gus’ll still be able to wake up to Waverly’s giggles and hug Waverly goodnight and listen to Waverly ramble for hours about the library of Alexandria. Not when Wynonna won’t, goddamn it—not when this feels like the end of everything.

Not when she’s finally accepting that she’s too sharp, too cruel, too fucked up, to survive in this world. That her edges are built out of alien steel, and that there’s no place in such a soft universe for her to not end up bludgeoning her way through everyone she loves. Rao built the universe; Wynonna didn’t end it.

She’s nothing, in the scheme of things.

She’s nothing, and, of all people, Waverly needs something. How could Wynonna stay and watch her poison blood corrode her? How could she stay trapped in a small corner of the world knowing her blast radius is much, much larger?

Krypton roared as it died; maybe Wynonna should too, now. Maybe she should scream, and burn down the house, and show Gus just how right she is. Maybe Wynonna should make Waverly understand that she’s not the big sister she wants her to be. It’s been so long since Wynonna’s tasted blood in her mouth, but she feels it now, swishing on her tongue, staining her teeth. Red, copper, iron—so human, but so utterly, utterly not.

God, she’s furious

“Leave,” she spits, and freckles of blood spray into the air and onto the summer breeze. “I’ll think about it. Just leave.”

“Wynonna…”

Wynonna flies to her feet, moving faster than Gus can register. “Leave me alone.”

“Girl—”

No,” she cries, and maybe this is her final farewell to the universe as it spins. Her hand slams into the tree trunk, leaving a deep indent, splitting bark and raining it onto the grass. She doesn’t even have a scratch to show for it. For some reason, that makes her chest hurt more. “I’m done.”

Wynonna pants for a second, caught in Gus’s expression of fear. She can see the whites of her eyes, the trembling of her throat—she can hear her heartbeat pound in her ears, the sharp gasps of her lungs.

Rao, she is a monster.

Do Wynonna’s legs carry her over the fence, into a neighboring field and down a cracked path? Or does she fly, brambles whipping harmlessly off her cheeks, her jacket catching on branches and leaves? Are there tears burning in her stomach, rising up in stifled sobs? If she does, if there are, then there’s nothing cathartic in them, nothing cathartic in the flight, or the cries, or the blood still trickling from her lips. They boil down to simple things: she bit her tongue. She broke her promise not to use her powers. She failed her little sister.

Waverly’s going to be so, so much better off without her.

 

-

 

Gus tells Waverly after dinner a week before they move. Wynonna’s in another room, packing, her earbuds in and blasting music from the iPod Curtis bought her as a final present, but she still hears Waverly’s reaction. She still hears the broken little “no” and the thumps of her footsteps as she retreats from Gus. She still hears the sobs, swallowed, as Waverly leaves the house to go tuck herself away in some cranny somewhere.

Wynonna wishes the sun could go dark, just for a minute, just so she would be able to drown out the sound by blasting her iPod volume as high as it goes.

After a little while, Curtis knocks on her door. Unlike Gus, he waits for her to let him in, which she does, grudgingly. He sits down on her bed, a notebook in his hands, and leans back against her headboard. His gaze is solemn. His eyes are understanding. 

“Here,” he says. He passes Wynonna the composition book, which she recognizes as one of Waverly’s dictionaries. “Flip to page five.”

The pages curl beneath her fingers, brittle and almost fading with time. The top of the fourth sheet calls her attention, smudged with dried tears. Two words sit on the first two lines. They’re the only things on the page.

: (ooh-key-em/ukiem) love

: (ah-woo-x-ah-z/awukhahzh) gone

Something heavy burns into Wynonna’s sternum.

“I’m not mad at you for leaving, Wynonna,” he says. “But you owe her an apology, more than anyone else.”

She thinks she whispers, “Thanks, Curtis,” and she thinks he smiles, but honestly she’s not sure. Everything is hazy, because this isn’t how she operates; she’d much rather slip away, with no goodbyes and no gushy feelings. Everything’s been so goddamn sentimental, lately, and she’s tired of it.

(Maybe that’s another sign she’s too sharp for this world—

 On Krypton, Wynonna doesn’t think so many people had feelings.)

Curtis gives her a shoulder squeeze and stands to leave. She follows him, reluctant, her feet clunking down on the hardwood like anvils. He keeps the door open, an invitation.

She finds Waverly in the shadow of a children’s playground, the streetlights flickering on around them. Droplets of water break the silence, the remnants of the most recent summer storm—some stay as condensation, hovering, while some slip from the metal poles onto the rubber floor. The night’s warm, thick on her back, but some sliver of chill is starting to pull away at the clouds. There’s a snuffling noise coming from a small tunnel structure bridging two play-towers.

Flying to the first platform, bypassing the tangling of slick metal ladders, Wynonna lands with a soft thump as her boots hit the plastic bottom. Quietly, she calls, “Ta-ie.”

There’s no answer. Ungracefully, she bends down to peer into the tunnel.

Waverly’s there, at the end—a small ball, knotted together by bright print clothes and a headband. Wynonna taps on the side of the tube, but her sister refuses to acknowledge her. With an exhale, Wynonna sits down, pressing her back against the bars.

“You used to hide on Krypton too,” she says, the words sticking in her throat. “I would find you under the council chambers, or in ieiu’s cabinets, or in the kitchens. You’d do the same thing, just bunch yourself up.” 

While Waverly doesn’t turn, Wynonna knows she has her attention.

“I never really understood why—I just figured you got bored, or that you liked being alone. But you didn’t like being alone, did you? You were just lonely. Really fucking lonely. But baby girl, you’re not alone. You’ve never been alone. You’ve got Gus, and Curtis, and that scrawny-ass kid you like—what’s his name? Chimp? Chump?”

Champ,” Waverly corrects, her voice clogged. She uncurls in the tunnel, scooting forward so she can sit upright. “And I don’t want them; I want you.”

Wynonna sighs, pressing back against the metal enough to hear it creak as it bends. “I’m leaving, Waverly.”

“You can’t. Not again. I can’t lose you again.”

It hits her, suddenly, that to Waverly she was dead. As dead as Willa. D-E-A-D—dead. Waverly didn’t know she was on that shuttle.

But still. “You don’t need me, dude.” 

“I do. You’re just too selfish to see it.” Waverly shakes her head, tears slipping down her cheeks—they look like the rain, glinting yellow in the dark. Her bottom lip trembles. “I want you to stay.”

Some emotion is tugging vertically through Wynonna’s chest down into her torso; there’s a right thing to say here, but she doesn’t for the life of her know what it is. She needs some distance. “I’m leaving,” she repeats, her voice low. “Waves, I love you. But you deserve so much more than me.”

“Let me decide—”

“It’s not your choice! And it’s already been decided. I’m going, Waves, come on. This isn’t a Clash song.”

She shrinks away from Wynonna’s raised voice, falling back into the shadows. “Oh.” 

“Waverly—”

Swallowing, Waverly draws herself in. There’s a long, tense pause, only broken by the steady tapping of the droplets under the playground. There are a few times where Wynonna opens her mouth, about to say something, but a moment later she thinks better of it.

She doesn’t know how much time passes, but eventually Curtis’s voice chips through the quiet. He must have come looking for them.

“It’s getting late, girls,” he calls. He’s back on the street, staring up at them with a tired, sad expression—he’s far enough away that if Wynonna and Waverly didn’t have heightened hearing, they wouldn’t have been able to hear him. With a solemn glance, he turns around so he can’t see them either. 

He’s giving them one last chance at a private moment.

Wynonna stands. Waverly wipes her sleeves along her cheeks, smearing the makeup she’s started wearing. Wynonna taught her how to do that eyeliner so she wouldn’t fall prey to the purple eyeshadow that was sweeping her grade—Waverly’s already better at it than her. They’re hyperaware of each other’s breathing all of a sudden, of how both of them seem to stutter on the inhale and trip on the exhale, of how when Wynonna extends her arms to offer Waverly a hand up, her heartbeat skids into a higher gear. Waverly doesn’t take her hand, numbly refusing to look at her. Her eyes stick somewhere down by her sister’s knees. A stone sinks into Wynonna's chest as she gets the message; Waverly won’t stand up. She’s not going to hug her. She doesn’t forgive her.

The next morning, Wynonna’s gone.

 

Chapter Text

The road is long, and America is large. Somehow Wynonna ends up running fulltime with the motorcycle gang, revving down highways, wind whipping through her hair and an engine thrumming beneath her thighs. Flats give way to towns give way to cities give way to towns—Earth is like stars that way, always motionless until she passes into the next frame. Thanks to the motorcycle between her legs and the outlaws at her sides, she has free reign of it. She appreciates the independence the Bandidos patch on her back gives her.

(It’s a twisted sort of freedom, its spine growing crooked under the pressure of guilt.

Wynonna whoops until her voice is hoarse.)

Bikers are crude, or at least the ones she runs with are. They spit and slap and sneer, drunk and disorderly at the best of times, but she can hold her own with them. She beats them at arm-wrestling contests, she pushes their drugs until they promote her, she can haze with creativity and doesn’t mind getting iffy about the law. After a few months, the guys accept her. It’s the biker chicks who are always glaring, always jealous, always suspicious. They bare their teeth when Wynonna gets too close to the hairy lumps of toecheese that they call boyfriends; they tear her down when she’s not there; they tack her bike tires and giggle when she gets left behind.

They taunt her into doing stupid shit, like daring her to have sex with as many guys as she can in a certain township and seeing how long it is until she’s diagnosed with chlamydia. Friendly tip: if given that bet, don’t take it.

Most irritatingly, the women seem immune to her flirting. Which is really unfortunate for Wynonna’s ego, because she’s goddamn gorgeous—it’s their loss if they’d rather stick with a fist-headed meatpacker than her willowy godliness. She figures guys must just be easier, in general. It doesn’t matter how many of them Wynonna screws over, there’s always a new one in line.

But she goes on, she keeps riding. The dust kicks up behind her motorbike; new jewelry gleams from between her fingers. Men slap her on the back and bruise their skin instead of hers, she feels able to laugh freely without fear of judgment. If it ever gets to be too much, Wynonna spends the spoils of her criminal behavior on an open tab for a bar, and drinks entire kegs dry before the night is full.

It’s a pastiche of moonshine and shitty deodorant, beer bottles breaking over her head in brawls, never staying too long anywhere, feeling like she’s running from somewhere instead of running to. It’s a betrayal of everything Wynonna was sent to Earth to do, of the legacy that was supposed to be Willa’s but now belongs to her, but it gets harder to care about that as she puts more and more distance between herself and who she used to be.

She sends postcards to Waverly, every once and a while, but she never adds a return address.

  

-

 

Weeks flicker into months, and months merge into longer. Her fingers feel permanently sticky with alcohol. Laughter pulls at her aching cheeks as she spins farther and farther from Midvale, her bike making lazy, spiraling loops outward until she has to switch to a different chapter of the Bandidos because she flies too far from her original one's nest. That next chapter lasts another couple of months; the one after lasts a bit longer. She finds herself swimming between versions of herself, wrapping fragments of dark humor around herself like a cloak. Fragments of trauma splinter until she wonders if skin can split from the inside out.

Look, it's only falling down if she hits rock bottom, and she hasn't gotten there yet.

It takes a year before she ends up in National City, but the place is a spray-tan version of Rome—all roads lead there, eventually. Her current group of bikers aren’t city-dwellers, but they aren’t bumpkins either; when they find out she hasn’t been, they decide it’s time for a night on the town. Wynonna’s heard so many stories that she agrees in an instant.

The city isn’t as sparkling as she’d imagined, but it still dazzles her. She’s become a country girl since her abandonment of Argo City, but the flashing lights and sprawling, messy traffic jams wouldn’t have fit in her definition of urban life even if she hadn’t been naturalized fifty miles from the closest professional sports team. It’s so easy to just…disappear. She falls in love with the anonymity of crowds.

Of course, there are bad things too.

“Hey, mama,” a guy jeers, leering with his buddies on a street corner. His crooked teeth wink at her behind his beer bottle, the streetlights oiling his skin. “Shake that ass a little bit, won’t you?”

“Smile for us!”

“You’d look so much better without that bulky jacket on. Come on, take it off!”

“Nah, man, I think it’s smokin’. Hardcore. Baby, you could pin me down any time.” 

The group makes her feel like an insect under a microscope, but Wynonna doesn’t hang around bikers for kicks. The urge to bow her head and rush by is quashed by her less intelligent instincts. Instead of going around them, she heads right through them.

“Ooh, love it. Feisty.” The first man steps forward, circling his hand around her wrist. “You want some of Tom, mama?”

She quirks her lips recklessly, looking him up and down. “D’you come with some cheesecake? Because something needs to get me moaning, and it’s sure as hell not gonna be you.” 

The other men ooh, busting Tom’s balls in smirks and murmurs. 

He pushes her forward. “Bitch, come here.”

Wynonna pretends to stumble into one man, and then another. They shove her back towards Tom, who advances. “Sorry, boys,” she mocks. “I guess tonight just isn’t your night.” 

“What?” 

Faster than they can blink, she has them on the ground. Her fist meets soft flesh and brittle bone, crunching. One’s bleeding, another’s grasping at his ribs—Tom has a cut down his cheek from one of her rings. Their valuables, their jewelry and wallets, end up in her hands.

“The hell are you?” Tom mutters, fear giving way to anger. “Fucking cu—” 

“You really wanna finish that, bud?”

He doesn’t say anything, looking back over his shoulder with a nervous glance.

“Thought so.” She smirks smugly, twisting on her heel. It’s the perfect end to a conversation—except Wynonna drops all the wallets into the gutter. Lickety-split, she reaches down and snatches them up. “Let’s ignore that,” she says, wrinkling her nose and shoving them into her pockets.

“Let’s not,” says a beat cop, staring down at her past his mustache. 

 

-

  

It’s not the first time she runs into Officer Nedley, and it’s certainly not the last—Wynonna and he end up building up a strong rapport of unnecessarily sexual jokes on her part and bumbling attempts at police work on his. She finds herself in the city more and more, going solo off from the Bandidos until she likes being away from bikers more than she likes being with them. They grow distrustful of her, wary. She discovers she doesn't give a fuck. But every time she comes within ten feet of neon lights and traffic, Nedley finds some reason to toss her in the drunk tank, despite the fact that National City is huge and really should have more officers on its payroll. Her luck shouldn’t be that bad. 

It is, apparently. 

“Wynonna. Good to see you.”

Wynonna raises her eyebrows. “Is it, though?”

“Not really. Just seemed rude not to say it. What’s it this time, petty theft?”

“…Another slap on the wrist?” She widens her eyes hopefully, pushing the envelope just past the point of sincerity. “C’mon, Nedley.”

“Why’d you keep doing it, Wynonna?” He looks tired, a bit like a rumpled walrus. He sits down in the chair behind his desk, pulling a manila folder open with a form inside. “Money?” 

She shrugs. “I don’t get enough of a rush from watching PSAs about condom failure, I guess. We can’t all be your mother.” 

He harrumphs. “I’ve got a daughter too, you know.”

Tipping her head back dramatically, she groans. “And her name’s Chrissy and she’s God’s gift to humanity and she’s thirteen and she’s perfect and she’s not going to turn out anything like me.”

“That’s not what I was going to say.”

“Hit me with it, then, Nedley.”

Officer.”

 She smirks. “No need to call me officer, Nedley. Thanks, though, I agree I have a lot of potential.” 

Another officer—Wynonna doesn’t know her, but she has cast-iron hair and button-down attitude—speaks up from two desks over. “Girl,” she says, “it’s not a great comeback if you had to steal it from Harry Potter.” 

Nedley looks surprised. “You read Harry Potter?” 

Caught out, Wynonna puffs her cheeks. “Nope. Waverly did.” 

“Who’s Waverly?”

That is a whole can of worms that Wynonna doesn’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole. “Your mom.”

He frowns. “Who is she really?” he asks.

She has to look down before she can grumble, “My little sister.”

(Waverly texts her, sometimes, little updates and stories and jokes. Wynonna has an iPhone, now—it’s 2009, she’s hip with the kids. It’s supposed to be easier to type, to talk.

When Waverly texts her, Wynonna doesn’t text back.)

Nedley starts filling out the form, his bagged eyes resting on her for a moment before he writes in her name and age. “What’re you trying to do, Wynonna? With your life?”

“What is this, an intervention?” she scoffs. “I just wanted some underage booze, man. I’m a little disappointed in your pursuit of justice. Where’re the sniffer dogs?” She pauses, nodding towards the other woman. “Don’t tell me you’re her Hooch.”

Running his fingers through his hair, Nedley sighs. “If you were smart, Wynonna, you’d never visit National City again. Your tough guy gang isn’t even from here—so why do you keep coming back?”

“Careful, there, Sherriff. You might sprain something.” She takes a mint off his desk and pops it into her mouth. “You know, thinking so hard. I’ve heard it’s pretty tiring.” 

“You’re not leaving because part of you likes getting caught.”

“Hard pass.” 

“Or you’re staying for this Waverly girl?”

“Neither of us went to college, Nedley, so why don’t you stop pretending that you passed a psych course and I stop pretending that I have a criminology degree.”

“Uh-huh.” Nedley looks her over, and she can see the rusty gears trying to spin in his brain. “Well, Wynonna, you didn’t actually get your hands on any drink, so I can’t really charge you.”

“Sweet.” 

He stands, moving to uncuff her. After she’s free, rubbing her wrists, he puts his hand on her shoulder. “You’re a fuck-up, Earp.” 

“You know, Nedley, you really inspire me.” She smiles, but it comes out more a grimace. “See you next time.”

“Wynonna,” he says. The O doesn’t pop on his mouth, there’s no whisper between his teeth. “If you’re going to run away, do it right, huh? Is National City really far enough for you?”

 

-

 

Wynonna meets Curtis in his backyard with a plane ticket in her pocket. The light is gray, just beginning to creep in after a night. He sighs, looking at her—Wynonna wishes she could have been something for him to be proud of.

“I knew it would end up like this,” he says, but there’s no judgment. “Waverly’s a meteor, Wynonna, but you’re a comet. You were never going to be happy pinned down.”

“How is she?” Wynonna asks.

“She’s a good kid. Torn up about you leaving.” 

“That was years ago, now.” 

He shrugs. “You’re still torn up about things that happened years ago, aren’t you?” 

He makes a good point.

“I fucked up, Curtis,” she says. “It’s never gonna get fixed.”

“Hmm,” he says. He pulls her down to the picnic table, still damp with morning dew, and has her sit down across from him. “That’s funny.”

“Nothing’s funny. I can’t do it.” Wynonna’s begging him to understand, pleading with her hands flat on the wet wood. She hates this vulnerable part of her, but it’s raw, and bleeding.

He nods. “I’ve only ever heard of one mistake that’s unfixable, Wynonna.”

 She pauses, waiting for him to elaborate, but he takes his sweet time.

“You’re not dead,” he says finally. “As long as you’re still alive, as long as Waverly’s still alive, nothing’s unfixable. Forgiveness is surprising that way.” 

Forgiveness? For her? The universe has proven that won’t hold. Wynonna sighs, collapsing in on herself. “She won’t ever forgive me,” she says. 

“I think Waverly can surprise us all, kiddo. Go try to heal yourself, as far away as you can, then come back and heal the two of you.”

“You’ll take care of her?”

He smiles. “We’ve been taking care of her since she crash-landed in our front yard—we ain’t gonna stop because you’ve decided to run away farther. Go be a comet, Wynonna. I’ll still be here when you come back.”

Wynonna cracks a smile, but her throat is tight. “You know,” she croaks, “for an ugly guy, you do say some pretty beautiful shit.”

“People’ve been saying stuff about my looks since forever. I figure if that’s the best they can come up with, I’ve done alright.” His smile is sad, lopsided. His hand is rough as it squeezes hers. “Go catch your flight.”

 

-

  

Wynonna’s twenty years old when she picks up a book that someone left on a bench in an airport. She hates books, she hates to read—English still taunts her, pulling words from under her, tearing life from words and pages. Ordinarily, she’d let it go. Wynonna would leave the book laying there, too thick for her liking, way too pretentious with its heavy spine and lowercase title. For some reason, she decides to take it to her terminal. 

Not to read, of course. Maybe, in ten years, she’ll give it to Waverly. Tell her: here. I’m a fuck-up, but I got you a book. Somehow, though, it’s not Waverly’s fingers that end up turning the cover. 

From the moment Wynonna reads the first page, she knows she’s gone.

“Here is a small fact: You are going to die.” 

The narrator is Death—how fitting, Rao, how fucking fitting. Maybe Wynonna’s narrator should be Death, too, if there was ever a book written about her. Maybe it would be. In the prologue, Death describes skies. He paints her imagination with them, daubing blue ribbons and yellow gashes along her mind’s eye. Every death comes with a sky, he explains—Wynonna understands.

What did Death think when he found Krypton, its orange sky bleeding scarlet as the magma plunged from the core? How could he look away in distraction? There was a whole planet burning, scorching, full of souls. How did he miss her? She was there, too, that was her sky, too—she shouldn’t have been given another one, it doesn't work that way.

Then the next line takes her breath away, “The survivors. They’re the ones I can’t stand to look at, although on many occasions I still fail. I deliberately seek out the colors to keep my mind off them, but now and then, I witness the ones who are left behind, crumbling along the jigsaw puzzle of realization, despair, and surprise. They have punctured hearts. They have beaten lungs.”

Her flight is boarding, Wynonna means to leave the book on the chair, but somehow the weight sticks to her fingers. It tags along to her aisle, to her row, to the window seat where she was meant to watch shitty comedies and terrible romcoms. It opens itself back up during the pre-flight announcements. The words pop at her, kernels in her mind; Germany and Krypton are as far away as they could possibly be, but World War II is familiar. 

All worlds end the same way, it seems.

The narrator describes a little girl, her brother coughing himself to Death on a train—Waverly screams on Wynonna’s back as Willa falls, as their father slips from between her fingers. The narrator describes an airfield with a fallen pilot and all she can think is pod, all she can hear is the baying of dogs. The narrator describes a man with accordion hands and Curtis springs into her mind, his rough palm tussling through her hair.

The plane is busy, but Wynonna just hears roaring.

She doesn’t make many friends on flight 234 to Athens. The bathroom stays occupied for the entire second half of the flight, as she clutches the book to her chest and struggles to breathe. 

A street falls apart in her hands, concrete blasted with English artillery, Allied bombs. In her lungs—her beaten lungs, her survivor’s lungs—a city throws itself to the ground in fragments, beaten by mistakes that punch up through the planet’s crust. In the airplane toilet, she gasps and cries more than she’s ever cried in her entire life. 

It’s not Star Wars: she doesn’t send the plane spiraling into the Atlantic. But it’s deeper than that, more core-striking. She bawls, feeling inimitably human in her tears, in her pain. Wynonna survived to live universes away from where she should be, but how is she different from a little German girl who died in Australia? How is she different from anyone, really?

She gets to the end, but she stays pulling out paper towel after paper towel trying to calm her tears. It’s messy, and ugly, and dull—but it’s cathartic, too, in a way she hasn’t felt in such a long time. It reminds her of one, very, very important thing: she still has people. They may hate her, now, but death could slip into their dreams at any moment, at any time. They’ll all disappear, soon enough. They’ll be swallowed whole by Earth’s oxygenated sky. Everyone she loves is united by the experience of living, which is really only the experience of outlasting. She’s not the only survivor with a punctured heart.

(The Book Thief never makes it to her sister. She leaves it on a bench in a Greek airport terminal, its pages stained with alien tears.

Wynonna wonders if Death will carry one of Waverly’s dictionaries, after the two of them are gone.)

 

 

Chapter Text

 Wynonna finds Athena in Athens. She’s stone, carved out of marble, ink leeched from her fingers. Wynonna asks a guide what the goddess was meant for—battle, he says, and wisdom. He sells her an overpriced pendant with Athena’s name on it in Greek, and Wynonna clips it around her neck.

Athena reminds her of a bookmarked tab on a library computer, of Kryptonian mathematics, of a teacher who asked her what she wanted to be.

Athena reminds her of who she still wants to become.

 

Chapter Text

She’s twenty-two in a club and heat is dripping down her spine. She sways ridiculously off-time with the music, pretending she’s drunker than she could ever hope to get—this is fun. This is freedom. A base is pounding into her veins, sating whatever need the alcohol can’t reach, people grind against her, she’s grinning from ear to ear. Wynonna feels so loose, so alive.

Nothing can touch her, not here. 

A guy next to her tries a dance move he’s way too drunk for, his arms waving wildly until he careens into a poor unsuspecting dude. Wynonna nearly falls over laughing at the dopey expression on the first guy’s face. He stares up, star-struck, like he’s been caught by Katy Perry instead of a scrawny kid who looks too young for even a bar in whatever small EU country this is. Another girl is laughing with her, and it takes Wynonna a moment to process; she’s incredibly beautiful, especially in that moment. 

The girl’s jeans are ripped, her shirt too small. The flashing of the purple lights casts an otherworldly glow on her face—and Wynonna knows an otherworldly glow when she sees one. Choppy hair fails to her shoulders, tucked behind her right ear to show off a row of cartilage piercings studded with gems that glitter in the strobes. Her eyes are bright and excited and her grin is slightly crooked, like that one painting that in Gus’s kitchen that she refused to straighten. 

(“Some things are meant to be crooked, Wy. Gives ‘em character.”)

Somehow they end up falling together, Wynonna’s hands on the girl’s waist and hers tucked up around Wynonna’s neck. The girl’s shorter than her, just barely, so Wynonna has to dip her head down to press their foreheads together. The two of them sway. It’s not a slow song that’s playing, either, nothing that would make this position make any sense; it’s a Flo Rida song that has the rest of the club popping up and down like pop rocks. But she and this girl, they just laugh with each other in the most ridiculous way, refusing to follow the beat at all. Then something stupid and wonderful comes over her, and Wynonna lifts her up from the waist and spins her around and around until she can hear the girl’s giggles over the music. 

Wynonna knows, in that instant, that she would do anything to make the girl smile like that again.

“Come to my place!” the girl yells, no lead-up necessary. Wynonna can’t place her accent, but she loves it. “Two blocks away.”

Wynonna nods like a clumsy puppy, following the girl as she grabs her hand and pulls Wynonna through the masses of people. The girl smiles up at her when they get out on the street, the street lights turning her dark skin warmer. She’s Indian, Wynonna thinks, or Pakistani, or Bangladeshi—or she doesn’t know, human ethnicities are hard. All Wynonna does know is how the girl’s sweaty hand in hers makes her heart stutter, how all she can imagine is her full lips on her own. Wynonna hopes she’s wearing matching underwear.

Maybe she’s drunker than she thought, because she’s got it bad.

The trip to the girl’s apartment is a blur. Before she knows it, the girl’s fiddling with her key, looking back and fucking smiling at Wynonna when it takes her two tries to unlock the deadbolt. It’s a mental challenge to wait until she gets inside to press their bodies together, to pull the girl’s lip between her teeth and run her hand through her thick hair. The girl gives as well as she gets—her hand is on Wynonna’s back, pressing her into the door, her hips up against hers. They kiss there for a while, making out like teenagers, until she gets bored and pulls Wynonna into the bedroom.

“I’m Jess,” she murmurs, letting Wynonna push her back onto her mattress. “You’re gorgeous.”

Wynonna lets out a ridiculously unromantic snort, because, “Really? That all you got?" 

She grins right back, the air charged with intensity. “Really.” 

“I’m Wy,” Wynonna admits, and then something occurs to her. “Are you drunk?” 

Jess shakes her head, mischievous smile quirking again. “One rum and coke won’t get me shitfaced. You’re pretty intoxicating, but.”

Wynonna can’t stop the grin from lingering on her face, even as she presses her lips to Jess’s jawline. “Good,” she breathes. “I wouldn’t want you to forget this." 

“Oh?”

With a wicked smile, Wynonna nips lightly at her neck. “You don’t have timid neighbors, do you?” 

Jess laughs again—God, her laugh. Her eyebrow arches into a challenge. “Guess we’ll find out.”

 

-

  

Wynonna wakes up aching, sweat-stiff sheets bunching around her waist. Mid-morning sunlight filters through the small window. There must be a bakery somewhere nearby, because the smell of it is making her stomach growl. She could probably eat them out of stock in an hour.

Speaking of eating things out…

 Jess is next to her, curled into herself like a little apostrophe. She’s smiling even in sleep, peaceful, her face wonderfully slack. In the daylight Wynonna spots details you’d missed last night—she has a constellation tattooed on the side of her neck, one of her piercings is a small J, there’s a ring around her finger in the shape of a cat. Her apartment is painted in creams, but the posters up in her room offer a bright spot of color. A garbage truck beeps outside.

Normally, this would be Wynonna’s cue to leave.

 Jess stirs, one of her hands flopping in between them. She tucks in on herself, yawning, before turning towards Wynonna and stretching. Her eyes blink open lazily. “Hey,” she rasps.

 Wynonna decides to stay.

 

-

 

Jess is wonderful. She clings to life like very few humans—or Kryptonians, for that matter—know how, with reckless abandon. She drags Wynonna around Brussels with endless energy, spilling enthusiasm for every statue and laughing at every single one of Wynonna’s innuendos. There’s so much heat, so much tension between them at every moment—the two of them might combust. 

Jess never shares anything about herself intentionally, but Wynonna learns details from offhand comments and stories, like that she’s from Wagga Wagga, Australia.

(“What the fuck kinda name is Wagga?”

“Fucked if I know, but your name is Wynonna. You don’t get to judge.”)

Wynonna also learns that Jess’s parents are from India. Her favorite color is blue. Her favorite Disney movie is Mulan, and when she finds out Wynonna’s never watched it she makes her stay up for twelve hours to marathon the entirety of Disney’s recent cinematic collection. She’s a college student in an exchange program, studying some political thing that flies way over Wynonna’s head, and she twists strands of her hair when she’s studying. She draws in her free time. When Wynonna puts herself down, she always tells her to “stop being a whingypoop and do something about it.” When she does something funny, Jess tells her, “you’re such a dag.” 

In a word, she’s great.

Wynonna is cagier than Jess, and she doesn't let much slip. It's hard to talk about shit that would just pull her back down. But she still startles herself when Jess asks, after two months, as if surprised, "You have a sister?"

The two of them take each other cliff-diving and bungee jumping, recklessly skipping from one road-trip to the next. Jess gives Wynonna some sense of a moral compass—stealing for fun really is fucked up, she gets that now. Jess helps her get a job as a barkeeper and then helps her find another one as a cashier after Wynonna accidentally knocks over ten bottles of expensive vodka. Jess dares her to drink absinthe (it actually gets Wynonna drunk reasonably quickly, holy shit), buys her fifty pounds of chicken wings, and still climbs into bed with her that night. She insults Wynonna and compliments her in the same breath, until she’s not really sure what’s what anymore, but she doesn’t cut with her gossip like the biker chicks did.

She’s even considerate of the way Wynonna lashes out—of the way she flinches away from Jess when she shouts, the way she refuses to go to the doctors, the way Wynonna yells whenever Jess does something too nice or better than she deserves. 

It terrifies her, because Wynonna’s pretty sure she’s falling in love. 

 

-

  

“What aren’t you telling me? You haven't told me...anything, since we've been together! But there's something big you're holding back, and I.... I can’t live like that. I’m all in, or all out.” 

“Jess—”

“What could you possibly say right now? And don’t try shitting me, or we’re done.”

Wynonna pauses, desperate. After a moment she thinks, fuck it. “I’m an alien.”

The words hang in the air for a minute, cold and hard and ugly. 

“Right,” Jess spits, gathering her stuff out of the apartment they’ve shared. “Fuck off, freak.” 

(A month later, Wynonna’s alone again.)

  

-

 

Waverly graduates high school in the class of 2013. Wynonna flies in from Rome the day before the ceremony without warning Gus or Curtis—she books a room in a crappy motel five miles out of town. 

The graduation is at ten, according to the shitty school district website. She wears a tank top and skinny jeans, praying to God that there’s no formal dress required; the dry heat’s descended on the town, and June is too warm to be wearing a jacket. The ceremony’s outdoors, on a temporary stage. All the parents and siblings sit in one bank of folding chairs, while the students are presumably going to sit on the other side of the aisle.

Wynonna slips into the back row. Curtis spots her—his eyes widening, his lips crinkling—but he gives her a small nod and doesn’t approach. She’s grateful, because just being here is sending her anxiety levels through the roof. God, what she’d do for some absinthe right about now. 

Sweat is beading on the neck of the man in front of her by the time the kids storm in, swishing their scarlet robes in the mid-western heat and hollering like the teenage idiots they are. She swears two boys are sneaking gulps out of flasks, which would probably have been her if she’d managed to make it to senior graduation. Caps are falling off left and right, and giggles break out as the principal trips coming up the stairs. He gives a lengthy boring speech, then introduces the valedictorian.

Wynonna’s heart stops. 

Waverly McCready Earp, her baby sister, bounces up the stairs with an adorable grin. Her robe suits her, somehow, the tassel dangling next to her rosy cheek. She looks scholarly, excited and educated—this is what schooling is supposed to do, Wynonna’s pretty sure. When she makes it to the mic, Waverly laughs at herself as she has to lower it by almost an entire foot.

“Hi, everybody!” she begins.

“Hi, Waverly,” the crowd choruses, chuckling. The people in front of Wynonna share smiles. Waverly must still be something of a town darling; Wynonna feels her heart spike with pride. 

“Wow, graduation, huh? I didn’t think we’d make it. But here we are!”

 The crowd cheers. Waverly beams down at her notecards. 

“I know it’s hot out here, and I don’t want everyone to get bored. But I do think it’s important to go over everything we’ve accomplished, as a class, so I hope you’ll give me a couple minutes. Seneca once said, ‘Non scholae, sed vitae discimus.’ Translated, that’s, ‘We learn not for school, but for life.’” Waverly turns her head to look at the row of teachers on the side. “That may mostly hold true, but sorry, Ms. B., I don’t see myself using imaginary numbers every day.” The teachers laugh good-naturedly. “But seriously, the things we’ve learned here will go on to help us in the real world. We’ve formed friendships, we’ve found passions, we’ve learned what classes put us to sleep and which wake us up. We’ve learned about not just ourselves, but about how people act when they’re united. I moved to Midvale when I was six, and though Champ Hardy might swear it was from Heaven, it was really just from Sweden.”

More laughs. 

“I was scared, and alone. But since then, I’ve known a lot of you. We scraped our knees together, we braided each other’s hair, we gave those underclassmen a run for their money in our pep rallies. You guys have helped me feel welcome, through the good and the bad. And now that we’re about to start the next chapter of our lives, I think it’s important that we remember that. Sure, school teaches us Algebra and the cultural effects of the antebellum period. Sure, we slog through hours of homework on each painstaking interpretation of The Great Gatsby. Sure, I’m standing up here because I like doing all that.” 

She gives a little shake of her head, making eye-contact with each member of the red sea of students. 

“But school also teaches us who has our backs. It teaches us how to band together, how to find comfort in each other. It teaches us how to cultivate our own voices, and how to say things worth listening to. We didn’t learn all of that for a grade; we learned all of that for the rest of our lives. For wherever our paths may lead us—”

Waverly’s eyes skip across the crowd, but they skid to a stop on Wynonna’s. Her face goes slack, her mouth falling into a small ‘o’. Wynonna’s heart pounds against her ribcage, because she’s spotted her. God, Waverly’s seeing her for the first time in years. Is it Wynonna’s imagination, or are her eyes shinier? 

With a cough, Waverly apologizes and continues with her speech, “I know we’re going to be alright, class of 2013. We can take on the world. And here’s another thing I can say in Latin: fortiores una. In my language–um, Swedish–that would be el mayarah. Stronger together. That’s what we are, Midvale High. Stronger together. Go Bulls!”

Everyone claps. Wynonna whistles as she bounds off the stage. Her baby sister the genius, huh? She’s not that surprised.

After the diplomas, Waverly comes up to her. Her foot scuffing against the ground, her hair messy without her cap to cover it, she refuses to get closer than three feet to her big sister. A phantom ache tugs at Wynonna’s ribcage, where Waverly had squeezed her tight after their reunion seven years ago. Nothing that cordial seems near possible now. 

“You came,” Waverly says, her voice fighting to be chipper. “I didn’t think you would.”

“Yeah, well.” Wynonna rubs her hand awkwardly at her neck. “It’s not every day your baby sister graduates.”

“Guess not.”

“I, uh, liked your speech.”

Waverly gives her a strained smile. “Thanks.”

“Look, I’m…I’m sorry for leaving.”

“Don’t worry about it.” She tries a little harder on her smile. “When are you checking out again?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Cool.” Waverly looks over her shoulder. “I should go find Gus and Curtis.”

“Waves, I got you something.”

She turns back, and Wynonna sees her lower lip trembling.

 Wynonna hands her an envelope—inside is a cheque for two thousand dollars. It’s all her surplus earnings from the past four years, not a cent of it stolen. She might have also added an autographed picture of Zac Efron, but that was just because she’d found him shirtless in CVS and needed bribery to keep quiet.

Khap kehp ukiem osh rrip,” Wynonna murmurs. I love you.

She takes the envelope in shaking fingers, a smile that’s a bit more genuine lapping over the anxious wrinkles dimpling the corners of her eyes. “What is it?”

“Not nearly enough.” Wynonna bites her lip, looking over the stomped grass as if she’ll find something to say hidden there. “You, um…you look good, dude.”

“I know.” Waverly pops a smug grin. “Someone has to have the looks in the family, right?”

Wynonna bumps her shoulder gently with her fist, pretending to be mad, but her frown slips away before she can hold it. “Come on, you already got the brains. Leave something for me, Ms. Valedictorian.”

“Says the sister who can fly.” 

“Don’t talk about that,” Wynonna snaps, harsher than she meant to. Gentling, she adds, “It just ends in pain, Waves.”

“Yeah, okay.” Waverly purses her lips, but something achingly sad sits at the back of her eyes. “I miss you, ‘Nonna.” 

“Miss you too, Waves.” 

“Will you come back, eventually? Not soon, but…”

Wynonna shrugs. She has no answer for that. Gus and Curtis are talking to Champ and his parents, so she knows her time is short. “You should go, baby girl. See you.” 

With a heavy heart, she turns away.

Hands catch around her middle, tugging her round, burrowing into her chest. Waverly clings to her, and Wynonna clings to Waverly; she can’t tell how long they spend like that, Waverly’s cheap red gown spun around her hands, but it seems like treachery that Wynonna’s eyes stay dry through the entire thing. She wishes she could cry, tremble like Waverly’s doing. Wynonna presses a kiss to her hairline, just to the left of a purple clip, and rubs small, awkward circles on her back. 

El mayarah,” Waverly sighs, and Wynonna presses another kiss to the top of her ruffled head.

“Not always,” she whispers, disentangling herself. 

Wynonna disappears before Waverly can look up, before Gus and Curtis have even seen her.

 

Chapter Text

“Why should I hire you, Ms. Earp?”

 Wynonna looks up at the beak-nosed McDonalds manager.

“I need this job,” she says. Her poor Swiss German trips over itself.

“It says here you’ve never kept a job for longer than two months.”

“I get…antsy.”

The woman frowns, assessing her with razor-sharp judgement. Wynonna self-consciously swings her legs back and forth, her eyes taking in the exits and the flooring of the ridiculously spotless Maccas.

(Maccas? Fuck. Jess still clings to her like a piece of gum at the bottom of her shoe.)

“No offense,” the manager drawls, “but I believe you’d be far more suited to my brother’s business than to mine.”

“What’s he do?”

“He…runs some banking for some less fortunate people.” The woman looks Wynonna up and down again. “You’ve got that look about you—you’re all angles, dark eyes, a grin that could take the skim off of fresh milk. Quick to fall in, faster to fall out, aren’t you? Never belonging to anybody? You’ve looked at the door four times since you’ve been here. I think I’d call you paranoid.”

Wynonna wrinkles her face up, squirming slightly. “Lady, I really just wanted to work at McDonalds. I’m a big chicken nuggets fan.”

“Ms. Earp, I’ve worked at McDonald’s for longer than any self-respecting Swiss person would ever want to admit. It’s an ungrateful job, and a cheap one.”

“So? I’m ungrateful and cheap. We match.”

“My brother’s business pays better, especially for the paranoid.”

“Why don’t you work for him, then?”

The woman’s mouth twitches. “I have certain…reservations when it comes to work. I’m not as fast on my feet as I was.”

Wynonna snorts. “I’m not gonna steal for you, lady.”

 “Oh, it’s not illegal!” A sardonic twist of the lips: “Well, your role definitely wouldn’t be. Luca is more careful than that.”

Wynonna’s brow is still furrowed, because…what? “I’m not interested,” she says. “Can I make Big Macs or not?”

 “You could,” the woman considers, tilting her head. She swipes a napkin across the table between them, darkening the paper with grease. Her other hand flips a couple of francs onto the formica. “But there’s a train you really should take, Ms. Earp.”

  

-

 

Sat, Oct 1, 2014

1 213-555-9435: I’m taking classes online now

 

-

 

Steam hisses around her boots, the puffs twenty degrees warmer than the rest of the platform. Sunlight filters through the glass roof. Warm patterns gather into shadows at her heels; a whistle squeals as a horn blows. A train two tracks over pulls out of the station, toting business men and little kids with their cheeks pressed to the glass. Wynonna flicks up her sunglasses to read the timetable posted on a wall.

12:04, departing in five minutes.

She spots her train a couple tracks away, gunmetal gray and worn. A conductor is standing beside it, extending a ramp for a passenger in a wheelchair. Two children with bantu knots play a handclapping game as they wait for their mother to buy a ticket. An elderly woman tucks her teenaged granddaughter under her arm; the two climb into a compartment near the caboose.

It’s a peaceful moment, and for a second Wynonna aches for it to last.

Then she slides her shades back down, making her way towards a more forward compartment. As she settles into a seat, a shitty magazine unfolding on her lap, an announcement reminds everyone that they should have their identification ready. The train is on an international line. 

A young man hovers awkwardly in the aisle, eying the seat diagonal from her. “Do you mind?” he asks in English. American.

She gives a little half shrug of acceptance and he sits.

 The horn blares, and the train rumbles into motion. As they pull away from the friendly brick, the window fogs with the chill winter damp. Wynonna sighs and thuds her head against the glass. The guy eyes her with a nervous sort of sympathy.

“Rough night?” he asks. After he says it, he looks down as if he can’t believe he actually opened his mouth. He’s a nerdy type, fiddling with some sort of game console in his hands. Poor thing probably doesn’t remember that English isn’t the national language of France.

Wynonna toys with the idea of speaking Kryptonese, just to make him contrite, but decides against it. “Nah,” she says, also in English. “Just getting a bit bored.”

 “You’re American!” He starts in his seat, his eyes dropping down. “Wait, not that you wouldn’t be. Um.” He blinks hard. “Why are you bored? We just left the station.”

 Wynonna humors him, though her eyes roll. “I’ve been on twenty trains in the past month. I’m pretty sure I’ve christened every toilet between here and Belarus.”

 “Wow.” The guy tilts his head. “Why?”

“Work. I deliver letters for paranoid people who don’t trust the ‘dangers of the modern postal establishment’.”

“Cool.”

 She shrugs. “Yeah. Has good benefits. I went skydiving last month.”

“Really?”

“The ride-along instructor had never had a student ask ‘what if I piss my pants?’ before.” Wynonna pulls out her phone so she doesn’t have to keep up the conversation. “He said it was a real experience.”                                                          

“Where are you gonna go in Germany? If I can ask.” 

Wynonna feels her words barbing themselves in her throat—some stinging iteration of ‘mind your own business’—but she bites her retort back. He’s just a skinny kid, a year or four younger than her. It’s not his fault that there’s been something weighing on the back of her neck since she woke up this morning. A something that had prickled uncomfortably at the station, keeping her too on edge to fall into the quiet rush of public transportation. A something that’s since dug into her spine, twisting into muscles and jutting through nerves. A something that feels distinctly, heavily, like suspicion.

That something’s not this kid’s fault, so Wynonna swallows her words and raises her eyebrows. “I hear Hamburg has a killer taco joint,” she says. “German-latino fusion. Beer and spice.”

The guy nods, pulling his lips back into a twitchy smile. “Sounds yummy.”

“Yup.”

“I’m Jeffrey.”

“Wynonna.”

Done with the conversation, she puts earbuds in. Hills press up along the window as her song begins to thrum. The hairs rise on the back of her neck.

 

 

(Jeffrey tries to take her bag halfway through the ride. He finds a vein in her wrist and attempts to jam a thin metal needle into her bloodstream—he couldn’t know that Wynonna’s skin is iron. Her head snaps up as his fingers loop around the strap of her satchel. The bone in his forearm is brittle as she wrenches it with a pop. Inside his bag, she finds a letter with her description, with her name and accent and likely sympathies. Another letter, dated three weeks before the first, shows a picture of a woman bound and gagged—his mother.

It’s blackmail. Tear tracks stain the letterhead, likely the same ones that now soak into the seat of the train. Jeffrey apologizes a thousand times, choking on sobs, before he manages to form a single other coherent statement.

Wynonna leaves the package she’s supposed to be transporting with him, and calls Luca the next day to hand in her resignation.)

(She'd said never again after she ran from the Bandidos. How did 'never again' turn into this?)

 

-

 

Tues, Mar 18, 2015

1 213-555-9435: Champ and I made rly good pizza last night – thinking of u

 

-

 

She’s on her ninth hard drink, swaying her head to the tune of the song but too lazy to stand. This barkeeper knows her by now. He keeps sliding Wynonna the shots without her needing to ask for them. She’s still in Germany, has been since she quit working with Luca, but next week she’s planning to train over to Austria. Transient, that’s what she is—that’s what she needs to be. It’s been two years since Waverly’s graduation.

“Not from here, yeah?” a man with a Berlin accent asks in English, tipping his drink towards her. The beer sloshes onto the bar, but he pretends it’s no big deal.

Wynonna shrugs, feeling something heavy slide over her shoulders. “Nope. Sweden." 

 

-

 

Sat, Nov 28, 2015

1 213-555-9435: We’re moving again! I convinced Gus and Curtis to come with me all the way to National City. Midvale got hit hard by the economy, so we were barely scraping by. They’re working on a community garden project, now (plant emoji sun emoji water emoji)

 

-

 

Wynonna tries to date another girl and ends up too terrified to show up to the restaurant at all.

She likes guys too, she figures, and she knows how to handle them. May as well just stick to that.

 

-

 

Wed, May 11, 2016 

1 213-555-9435: I got a job at the local bar. I think I’d make a better bartender than you ;) 

 

-

 

Four days before her twenty-seventh birthday, she gets a call in the middle of the night.

It takes her off guard, because it doesn’t just buzz. Wynonna wouldn’t wake up for just buzzing. No, it plays a few bars of a tune: we’re going on a trip in our favorite rocket ship, zooming through the sky, Little Einsteins. And why is she getting a call, anyway? The most contact anyone ever gives her is always through text.

(That’s when she should have known—but she doesn’t. Of course she doesn’t.)

She mumbles, half-asleep, swiping blindly at the motel nightstand. The song is so annoying; she must’ve set it after at least ten shots of absinthe. There’s a clatter as the cell falls to the floor. It’s still humming the stupid kid’s tune. With a lurch, she manages to scoop it up, but she accidentally cracks her screen when she tries to swipe to accept the call.

Fuck,” she yawns, squinting at the display. She’s missed the call, but she has one new voicemail. Blearily, she presses the phone to her ear.

“Wynonna?” the voice is small, tattered. A cold feeling rushes into her lungs. “It’s Waverly.” 

Boom, blindsided. Wynonna reels; this is why caller ID was invented, this is what they were trying to avoid. Blinking, hard, she struggles to form a coherent thought. 

There’s a long pause on the end of the line. She can’t stop herself from checking the exits and the windows for any ways that someone could creep in, even though logically she knows that’s ridiculous—paranoia still hovers that way, thick on the back of her neck. Why would Waverly be calling? Is there someone after her? Someone after Wynonna?

There’s a sniffle, then a small inhale. “Curtis died yesterday.”

Oh.

Oh. 

Oh.

“I thought I should, um,” she hitches a sob, “tell you. In case you…” She trails off again, the static dangling on the line echoing in Wynonna’s gut. “Well, he’s—he’s gone. We’re holding a funeral next week. Gus is trying so hard to be strong, but she cried, ‘Nonna, and I’m staying this time and. Rao. I’ve never done this. I mean, I’m used to being left behind, but—” She cuts herself off. “Sorry, I didn’t mean that. Not how it sounded. But everything hurts so bad?” Her voice cracks. “And after Willa and Daddy I guess I just…that was more numb, you know? It felt less real. And they said it was a heart attack, but…I don’t think so. Shit, I don’t even know why I’m telling you this, but you didn’t answer and the voicemail box is easy.”

Waverly’s breath rattles as she takes a shallow breath. “And all I can think of is that blessing? Kehgieru rrup w khahp rrup fis ehm zehtiahr-uju im rrup i ehrosh.

Wynonna’s room blurs, tears welling in her eyes. She hates that prayer, she’d forgotten it, she wants to forget it again—they’re the last words a dying man should say to his son. You will carry me inside you all the days of your life.

“We already carry an entire planet, Wynonna. I’m not sure how much more I can take.” 

There’s another breathless sob, cut off by the click as Waverly ends the voicemail.

Wynonna’s phone ends up lodged in the wall opposite her bed, splitting the cheap plaster with a less than satisfying crack. A keening ache paces around her sternum. Hot tears burn down her cheeks, harder and faster than she can stop them. Wynonna is furious, but below that—she’s just so, so tired. Her hand finds a bottle of absinthe, discarded on her nightstand, and she tries to drown away the phantom hand that settles on her shoulder.

 Nobody else was ever supposed to die.

 

-

 

To: wyearpbangbang@hotmail.com 

From: curtismccready2@gmail.com

Subject: Urgent

Date: Sept 8, 2016

 

Wynonna,

They found me.

You and Waverly aren’t safe.

They want revenge.

-Curtis

 

Sent from my iPhone.

 

 

Chapter Text

National City is much the same as it was when Wynonna was nineteen. It’s messy, it’s chaotic, it’s loud. Parts of it are glamorous, parts of it are nasty. But all of it has lost its ability to wow her—all of it feels empty, dull, disconnected, boring.

Maybe that’s just her.

Curtis’s funeral is going to be at the community garden where he and Gus worked. It’s probably illegal to have him buried there, but that’s what came up when she searched the obituary in the online paper. And it makes sense: Curtis always loved his gardens.

(Family and Friends Welcome, the paper said, and Wynonna vaguely wonders which she is. If she’s either of them, after so many years apart.)

She flies into National City at five in the morning, her flight touching down as the first strands of light blink over the horizon. Her wallet strains from the cost of the airfare, so much that she’d considered flying in under her own power, but she’s learned her lesson on revealing herself. Money she can get back—the safety and acceptance of those around her, she can’t.

The cab driver she hails stinks of cigarettes. It’s overwhelming, to the point where he’s gotta smoke at least three packs a day. She tries to stop herself from commenting on it, but seriously, someone should tell this dude to buy some nicotine patches and save the environment. She absorbs herself in her phone in a vain attempt to ignore the smell.

That turns out to be a very, very bad idea.

She doesn’t suspect anything when the car slows to a crawl, because National City is infamous for its atrocious traffic. She doesn’t suspect anything when they pull off the main highways into backstreets, because maybe it’s faster, you know? She doesn’t suspect anything when the car grounds to a halt, which is maybe when it becomes her fault.

She definitely starts to suspect something when her taxi driver hisses, his skin peeling off in waxy curls, his mouth opening to reveal a maw of shiny sharp teeth. Like, okay, now she’s noticed. Wynonna’s definitely, definitely noticed. 

“…Hey, man.”

The alien-taxi-driver-impostor-maybe hisses again, his head turning almost all the way around so he can stare her right in the face. His eyes bulge, stripped of irises and swirling bloodshot—boils of thick pus stretch tight on his cheeks. It could just be her human-passing privilege, but olive green isn’t really her favorite skin color.

“Kryptonian,” he wheezes, and the language isn’t English but she recognizes it all the same. “I thought you all were dead.”

A jolt of fear runs through her. Panic pounds at the base of her ribcage, twisting and gnarling into a ball of dread—someone found her someone found her, she’s not safe, it all caught up to her.

“Kryptowhatsit?” Wynonna plasters on a smile, but her fists are curling. “Sorry, pal, I don’t speak…is that Spanish? Catalan? Esperanto?”

“Do not play with me, Kryptonian. You reek of your dead world.”

As if he’s one to talk. She understands why he kept so many cigarettes—his breath is pungent, acidic. It fills the whole car, and if she were human she’d probably choking on it. As is, her eyes are watering. 

“Seriously, dude,” she says, subtly fitting her keys between her knuckles. “I don’t speak alien.”

“Cute,” he hisses. “But it was Kryptonians who put me away for three-hundred years. You might not be Wyatt Ehrp, but it will be you who pays for it.”

With a lurch, his joints popping wetly, he reaches out with his claws and swipes at Wynonna’s chest. She yelps, batting him away, sending him slamming into the car door hard enough for the aluminum to bend. He hisses again. She gulps. Her hand finds the door handle, and she tumbles out into the street. 

She hears a thump as he joins her out in the alley. 

“Scared, Kryptonian?”

Anger starts building in her chest. Wynonna’s hand finds a piece of cold metal on the ground, the corrugated edges fitting into her palm easily. As the alien approaches, his legs clattering on the asphalt, she takes a hard swing at his head. It connects with a thud, and he rears.

“Who are you?” she demands.

“Oh, Kryptonian,” he says. There’s a gurgling, choking sound; it takes her a moment to realize he’s laughing. “The real question is who are you.”

“What is this, occupational therapy?” she asks, but while she’s delivering her comeback he’s already lunging. She manages to knock him away again, but not before he sends her wheeling into the solid brick of the wall. Hairline fractures spread in the mortar from where her spine hits the graffiti. 

Sirens are wailing in the distance—whether they’re for them or not is a matter of opinion, because this doesn’t seem like the most Neighborhood Watch type of community—and the alien hisses and turns. He’s spooked, Wynonna can see, his back undulating with ripples and raising spines along his biceps. He spits at her, his saliva sizzling on the pavement below.

“I will find you,” he promises.

“Bring it,” she says, with bravado she doesn’t quite feel. “If that guy with the foot fetish from Florida still can’t find me, there’s no way you will.”

She doesn’t see the punch he gives her coming, but it drops her to the ground. Wynonna looks up, her cheek pressed to the concrete, in time to see him dashing to the end of the alleyway and leaping over the low chain-link fence. He leaves his taxi, and his smell, behind. The howl of sirens grows closer.

She scrambles to her feet and runs.

 

-

 

She’s half an hour late to Curtis’s funeral. Gus is giving the eulogy—what little Wynonna catches of it sounds perfect. Curtis the honest, Curtis the kind, Curtis the loyal, Curtis the only fucking decent man she’s ever had in her life.

Clouds spin together in the sky above them, darkening the day. A breeze picks up. The plants around them rustle. California so rarely gets water—she hopes for the sake of Curtis’s garden that it rains.

 His headstone is simple, as he would have wanted it. Wynonna doesn’t spot Waverly in the proceedings, but she’s probably paid her respects three times over by now. Waverly’s isn’t the type to be disrespectful to the dead. Staring at the memorial, Wynonna wonders if her sister’s ever been tempted to build any for Willa or their parents.

After the service wraps, Gus comes to confront her. “I didn’t think you’d come.”

“I’m here.”

“I see that.”

“Gus, Waverly said something in her voicemail—“

“Waverly talked to you?”

Wynonna presses her eyes closed for a second. “She left a voicemail. But she said they ruled it a heart attack. Gus, Curtis didn’t keel over from a fucking heart attack.”

“Not everything is some big thing, Wynonna, sometimes people just die. The rest of us have to get on with our lives.” Gus purses her lips, her jaw steely with pain and resolve. “Leave it.”

“Weird things are happening, there are aliens—" 

“For God’s sake,” Gus snaps, steering her away from the other guests like she’s a child. “I don’t have the energy to parent you, Wynonna, not when you made it damn clear you don’t want it. I love you, kid, but just because Curtis’s death is reminding you of your planet’s death doesn’t mean there’s some alien conspiracy.”

She can’t start a shouting match, not today. “He didn’t die of a heart attack,” Wynonna says lowly. “You know it and I know it. Just because you don’t want to acknowledge that your daughter has things from the past that may haunt her—”

“Jesus, Wynonna. Let sleeping dogs lie. Curtis is dead.”

“But he didn’t die of a heart attack, Gus.”

She looks away, like she’s hiding something. “Who would kill Curtis? Why would anyone kill Curtis?”

Earp, Wynonna wants to whisper. Curtis has a daughter named Ehrp.

“Leave town, Wynonna, before you drag your sister into your fantasies along with you,” Gus commands, blinking hard. After a long, bitter sigh, she walks back to the car, clearly on the way to a reception Wynonna wasn’t invited to. 

Her sister. Waverly. God, Wynonna needs to see Waverly. Fear tugs deep on her sternum, twisting itself into her lungs. She needs to know Waverly hasn’t been attacked by some alien cab driver, she needs to know someone hasn’t put all the pieces together. What were the two of them doing when they decided to keep their last names? Were they fucking high? Wynonna doesn’t know what Wyatt Earp, their great-grandfather, has to do with any of this, but shouldn’t it have been common sense to disguise themselves?

Hadn’t her year under needlepoint, microscope, and dissection lights taught her anything? Hadn’t all the years after that? Wynonna can’t trust safety, not ever.

She and Waverly aren’t safe. 

“I need to get to Waves,” she mumbles.

For the first time in her life, her finger hovers over the call button next to Waverly’s number. Wynonna feels like such a coward for not clicking it immediately. Or, rather, she feels sixteen again—a mess constantly on Gus’s bad side, disappointing Curtis no matter what she does. Well, at least Curtis isn’t here anymore to see how stupid she’s being on his behalf. Pushing her qualms aside, she presses her thumb down and brings the phone to her ear.

As the ringing tolls on, Wynonna lets her eyes linger on Curtis’s headstone. He didn’t deserve what he got. She’s still a bit fuzzy on what he got, exactly, but she knows from Gus’s caginess that it was extraterrestrially linked. The poor guy was the victim of a revenge attack that wasn’t aimed at him and god, all Wynonna can remember are the words to his last conversation with her.

“I’ll still be here when you come back.” 

She didn’t think she’d have to call Curtis McCready a liar.

 

-

  

She remembers this bar from her biker days, but it’s cleaned up a lot since. New management, she suspects. The wood paneling that used to be grimy with puke and sweat now gleams in the brighter lights, the rowdy crowd pushed out to accommodate a more college-aged sphere. The joint still isn’t the pinnacle of cleanliness—it’s not like it’s been totally gentrified; it doesn’t have vegan options or pretentious drinks—but it’s safer than it used to be. Back when she was nineteen and angry, she would have hated it. At this point, she’s such a tired mess that she’s just glad it serves alcohol. 

“Wynonna?” a high voice asks to her left, unsure. Waverly Earp materializes from behind the bar, apple-cheeked and grinning. “Holy shit, is that you?”

Wynonna spread her arms. “Hey, sis.”

Waverly’s grin broadens, but she doesn’t say anything as she soaks her big sister in. Wynonna does the same—Waverly’s grown up more since her graduation. She’s filled out, matured, and she has a self-assured way that she holds herself against the counter. Her eyes are still as bright as they used to be. And, well, she finally has gotten those boobs she was so scared of.

Wynonna’s about to point them out, “Nice…” but she changes tacks at the last second and substitutes, “hair,” instead.

The mischievous grin Waverly sends her lets Wynonna know she’s not fooling anyone.

“When you called from the garden, I didn’t think you were actually gonna come,” Waverly says. There’s a hard edge to that, under her surprise. It’s something still tied to that anger that she had at her graduation. “But what are you doing here?” 

Wynonna shrugs. “I’m trying to find out what happened to Curtis. You were right, Waves, he didn’t die of a heart attack. Also, why are you still working in a bar? You’re in National City, city of dreams and all that.”

“Service is a perfectly respectable industry, thank you! And I like working at this…this bar, this bar that I work at.”

Wynonna shrugs again. “You could do better, that’s all I’m saying.”

“You said that about Champ, too.”

“Pfft, Champ?” She frowns. “You’re still not seeing that loser, right?”

Waverly smirks. “No.”

“Good.”

Waverly’s eyes rest on her for a moment before something in her mind is made up. “Come here,” she says. She walks out from behind the bar and gathers Wynonna in a tight hug. “It’s been years.” 

Wynonna doesn’t know what to with her hands, so it’s a pretty quick embrace.

“Curtis emailed me, Waves,” she tells her. “Before he died.”

“What?” 

“He said somebody found him, that they wanted revenge. That we’re not safe.”

“You don’t think it’s ali—” 

Don’t,” Wynonna growls. “I told you, we shouldn’t talk about it. Especially not here.”

Waverly bites her lip, looking slightly guilty, but Wynonna doesn’t have time to dwell on that.

“We need to stick together, stay safe.”

“Yeah! I’ve been—” she exclaims, excited. Then she takes a second and loses some enthusiasm, composing herself. “Wynonna,” she says carefully. “I’m going out of town tomorrow.” 

“What?”

“Just for a couple days! Vacation with a…friend. To Metropolis. We made the plans ages ago, and Gus wants us to still go.”

“Right.” Wynonna’s not sure what to do with this information now that she has it. It had never occurred to her that Waverly might leave her, and not the other way around. “Um.” 

“And all this…I’m sure it’ll be fine, okay?” Waverly looks at her carefully, as if Wynonna's breaking in front of her eyes. As if she’s scared of hurting her, as ridiculous as that thought is. “If you want to wait for me, you can do some tourist stuff until Friday. We’ll catch up then, right? ‘Nonna? You won’t do anything stupid?”

Wynonna jerks her head, trying to put a weird mixture of affronted and fine on her face. “Duh. Yeah. What kind of bar is this, anyway? I need a drink.” 

“What do you even drink?”

“Absinthe. With whiskey. With vodka. I don’t care what it tastes like, just get me hammered, babe.”

Waverly squints her eyes, looking her up and down. Finally, she sighs. “Sure, sis.”

She slides a shot in front of her, but when Wynonna crooks her finger, she adds five more. One by one, Wynonna feels them burn down her throat. As Waverly goes to get another bottle, she whispers to herself: “Happy birthday, Ehrp.”

 

Chapter Text

The flight is going down.

That’s all Wynonna can process as the TV narrates, “Flight 229 to Metropolis has encountered engine trouble—” 

The flight is going down. She’s hardly aware of breaking the doorknob to her crappy hotel room, the metal wrenching under her fingers, as she sprints down the stairs and out into the rain-slicked streets. Streetlamps glint off of puddles, splashing yellow water into her boots. A red dot gleams above her, a falling asteroid, and she knows Waverly survived one meteoric impact but she’s not like Wynonna—her skin is fragile, soft, covering tender bones and vulnerable organs. She’s on that plane, defenseless, as it falls towards the city below.

The flight is going down. 

Wynonna sprints down the street, the tassels of her boots flapping against her ankles. One jump—and she falls. Another—and she falls. One more—and she’s up in the air, the wind whipping by, airborne for the first time since she was sixteen. 

She didn’t have time to slip on her leather jacket, and her skintight t-shirt is drenched within seconds. It should bug her, the cold, and likely would, if she were human, but for the first time in ages she revels in the fact that she’s not. Wynonna’s flying, blasting through the air fast enough to numb her fingers, and if it weren’t for the piercing groan of engine failure echoing in the night, she thinks she would laugh.

But the plane is falling.

Waverly is falling.

Her initial euphoria passes in an instant, slipping away like the skyscrapers and car honks below her. All she can focus on is the creaking of mechanics as the plane above her continues to nosedive. She propels herself forward, faster, she needs to be faster—her baby sister is on that plane, tumbling, probably shrieking her lungs out or else terribly, fearfully silent—she needs to catch her.

Seconds later, hundreds of tons of steel and luggage settle on Wynonna’s shoulders. She pushes up at it, angling the descent, using geometry that had hidden itself from prying English eyes to calculate just how far the plane will need to go to make a safe water landing. There’s a bridge up ahead—fuck—and she presses upwards just barely enough to get clearance. Her biceps ache from the weight. Rattling from the plane jitters through her jaw, clanking her teeth together as the roar of the engine blares through her ears. 

Her vision spots dark at the edges. Grinding her teeth together, firming her spine beneath the immense load, Wynonna lets out a shout. This is where she’ll make her stand, God willing, Rao willing, the whole fucking universe willing; she’s not losing her sister, not today, not any day. She flattens out the course of the airplane’s landing until it’s parallel to the bay, her boots submerged and spraying up a track of foam.

In a dipping moment, all she feels is cold. She can’t tell which way is up—she’s swirling in the water, kicking at nothing, feeling herself sink. Opening her eyes in the brackishness, she sees the light of the plane dwindling above her. Waverly is up there. Waverly needs her. Stroke by stroke, she pushes herself up.

As she gets to the top, she finds herself foundering again. Waverly’s voice rings in her ears, through a decade and half a country: You just gotta float, ‘Nonna, that’s all it is. Just float." 

Floating, Wynonna manages to grab onto the wing of the plane. She pulls herself up, sopping from every pore, leather boots ruined with salt and jeans heavy with water. She stands on the wing of the airplane, looking out at the flashing lights of the bay, and hears cheering.

 

-

  

“New reports are calling the mysterious savior Supergirl, a witty ode to the beloved comic book hero Superman. No doubt her deeds out on the bay tonight were heroic, John, but questions are surfacing about her identity. People are asking: can we really trust someone who appeared out of the blue like that? What is she? Genetically enhanced human? Alien? Cyborg? The public is already calling for her to identify herself, and sources within the government have expressed worry about the nationwide health risk of such an individual. So who is Supergirl, and how can we keep ourselves and our families—”

Wynonna switches off the TV, feeling slightly sick. She’s no hero. She’s not even a good person, most of the time. What are those people on CatCo doing, calling her a savior? What are the people on FOX doing, declaring her a menace? She just wanted to save her sister, not turn into a public figure. She didn’t—doesn’t—want any of this.

Panic starts to rise in her chest, painful and tight. Just like when she was seventeen, there are too many expectations closing in on her. What happened to coming into town for Curtis? What happened to navigating the freak stuff just enough to figure out the truth, to discover the danger of Wyatt Earp, and then retreating to some sunny-ass beach somewhere to live out the rest of her life in glorious escapism?

How did she suddenly become the poster girl of National City?

Dragging a flask of absinthe out from her travel bag, she takes a deep, long gulp. The bottle is gone as easily as water would be, though it tastes worse. Drunk! That’s the answer. Wynonna’s just gotta get as completely wasted as her body allows her to and then everything will be okay. Right?

Two minutes into the minibar and this new plan, she’s interrupted by a knocking at the door. “Wynonna!” Waverly calls. “I know you’re in there. Let me in!”

When Waverly gets going, Wynonna has to pick her battles. Shutting her sister out of her hotel room isn’t exactly the hill she’s picked to die on. “It’s open,” Wynonna answers. “Door’s busted.”

Waverly frowns at the door as she comes in, as if the broken handle personally offends her. When her gaze lands on Wynonna, sprawled on the bed with empty alcohol containers surrounding her, the adorable little line between her eyebrow deepens. She grabs a bottle out of her hand.

Wynonna groans. “Hey, I was drinking that.”

“Not right now you weren’t!” Waverly says, her voice half an octave too high. Wynonna can’t read the emotions flickering over her face, but there’s a lot of them. “God, Wynonna, you just—”

“Royally fucked up?”

“Saved my life. God.” Waverly pulls her up into a sitting hug, wrapping her arm around her shoulder. She’s shaking. 

“Oh,” Wynonna says, feeling like an asshole. She leans into her. “Duh.” 

Waverly musters a bittersweet smile. “You caught me.”

(Wynonna imagines the unspoken, like you didn’t catch Daddy, like you didn’t catch Willa, and something cold burns into her sternum. Whereas she’d just been starting to relax, now fight is flooding through her body, protectiveness or something darker.)

“Damn right." 

Taking a deep sigh, Waverly nestles her forehead into the crook of Wynonna’s neck. “I have to tell you something.”

“You killed a man and you want me to hide the body.”

She pops up again, frowning. “No! Why would you—“

“Kidding, dude. But I would. Hide the body.”

The way Waverly shifts, like she would find it funny if she weren’t about to tell her something bad, drops stones into Wynonna’s stomach. 

“So you know how I’m suspicious about the whole Curtis thing, right?” She fidgets in her seat. “Just like you are? And you know how you told me not to talk to people about—about…it? Well… After I graduated, I started to pursue this History and Ancient Languages degree online. But after I turned in this paper about archaic languages organized by chullach—you remember, the way we organized words?—I was approached by…some people. The government. Government-people.”

The words are spilling out of her, a babbling brook that’s been stemmed by a dam for too long, and the gushing won’t stop even if she wants it to. 

“They said they were from the DEO, department of extranormal operations, and they wanted to recruit me. God, Wynonna, it was so cool!” Her eyes spark. “They took me in and I became a consultant, because I had a lot of information that six-year-old me wrote down and even more that I just remember. I’ve met more aliens, Wynonna! More refugees, like us. And I’ve been allowed to do more research, so now I know why Krypton fell—”

A slow, painful anger has been rolling itself up through Wynonna’s chest. She pushes herself away from Waverly, up to her feet. “Stop it,” she demands.

“Huh?”

“You were supposed to be normal, Waverly!” Wynonna hits her on the arm, probably too hard. Everything she’s done was to keep Waverly out of this, to not infect her, to let her live a regular life away from faceless government men. Did they know she was an alien herself? They must do. Would they lock her up too if she stopped being useful? “You were supposed to be human, for fuck’s sake! Safe!" 

Waverly looks hurt until a subtle composure settles onto her face, shining up her eyes and firming her jaw. “I listened to you for a long time,” she says. “But you know what? Just because I can’t fly doesn’t mean I’m human. I’m just as alien as you! I’m just as Kryptonian as you! Trapping me between identities isn’t the way to keep me safe. I’m happy with the DEO, Wynonna.” 

Wynonna scoffs, but a knife is creeping between each of her ribs, marking slits into her lungs until every breath is painful. “But you didn’t tell me about this?”

“Yeah, because you would’ve listened?” Waverly’s voice twists high at the end, cracking. “You haven’t answered my texts in a decade, I saw you once three years ago, the last time you sent me a postcard was from France in twenty-fourteen—” 

“Alright!” Wynonna reaches for another swig of her alcohol, desperate to escape this touchy-feely conversation that boils down to her being a fuck-up. Wynonna left Waverly so she’d stop having to carry around her sister’s shadow, but now that Waverly’s basically throwing that away by being a fed—a fed, Jesus, is she working with the same people who locked Wynonna up?—Wynonna doesn’t know how to handle the guilt that buzzes through her brain. “Alright. So why’re you telling me now?”

Waverly stares at her, her eyes wide. “Um, you just became the front page of every news site on the West Coast. You’re basically a superhero now.”

When Wynonna doesn’t say anything, she spells it out a little more clearly.

“DEO stands for department of extranormal operations, ‘Nonna. A new alien superhero…” She shrugs, a small smile spreading back onto her cheeks. “Well! I’m here to take you in.”

 

 

The headquarters of the DEO is basically an underground lair. Huge stalactites drip down from the ceiling in dangerous-looking clumps, while equally large stalagmites punch their way up from around the border of what’s clearly the operations area. Platforms lead to control boards and planning tables, and white lights on the walls line the way into passages and tunnels. The hiss of sliding doors slips under the quiet chatter of work. Agents in black patrol every inch of the site, walking purposefully to and fro with guns strapped to their hips.

The whole place makes Wynonna feel like she’s in a giant mouth, about to be swallowed by a creature with fangs of fossilized dirt. She shudders. “This is a mistake,” she says, for about the fourth time, but Waverly shushes her.

Waverly tugs Wynonna over to a table, but her eyes are darting around—she’s looking for someone. She’d managed to get Wynonna past the guards at the entrance somehow, mainly by being charming and innocent and throwing the name ‘Dolls’ around a lot, but Wynonna’s still ninety percent sure that this is as classified as the first underground lair she was chucked into. And everyone knows how well that ended.

“Earp,” says a voice behind them. The formality is palpable. “Do I have to remind you what an NDA is?”

Waverly winces, her eyes squeezing closed for a second, before she turns and pulls Wynonna with her. “Agent Dolls,” she says brightly. “This is my sister.” 

The man who’s standing in front of her isn’t who Wynonna had imagined when she heard the name ‘Dolls’. He’s well-built, intimidating, with a face like a slab of granite and a leather jacket rounding out his shoulders. His eyes stare at her flatly, assessing her, challenging her. She hadn’t been expecting Ken Barbie, but she’d definitely been leaning towards a Men in Black type of secret agent more than…this.

He looks like someone who actually gets his hands dirty.

(Wynonna would be more than welcome to help him with that.)

(Shit, no.) 

“You’re suspended,” Dolls says to Waverly, but his eyes never leave Wynonna’s. “One week. No pay.”

“What?” 

“This is a government facility; you can’t just bring unauthorized potential threats in here.”

“You told me yesterday you wanted to recruit her yourself!”

“And I would have gone through proper channels.” His voice is almost quiet. “One week. No pay.”

“Hey!” Wynonna growls, feeling tension spark a flame in her chest. She steps closer to him. “You leave her alone.”

Behind her, Waverly makes an exasperated, indignant noise. “Stop–”

It’s too late. Wynonna’s already face to face with her boss, staring him down as best as she can. If he knows about her superstrength—which he must—he doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass that she could throw him across the room. He just stands there, frustratingly condescending and immovable. 

“Wynonna Earp,” he says.

“If my parole officer’s asking, then no.”

“Waverly, wait by your station.” Again, the command is given without him even glancing in her direction.

Wynonna feels Waverly’s shoes scuff away as she retreats. She’s left alone with Dolls.

“You saved a plane.”

“I saved my sister.” Wynonna raises her eyebrows sardonically. “You’d think a place like this would know enough about alien anatomy to know the difference.” 

“You don’t care that other people almost died,” he says, and it’s not a question—it’s a straight-up challenge, a tipped head and blank face. “You have the power to catch an airplane, but you don’t seem to care if people die. I think that makes you dangerous.” 

Her mouth drops open, and, agape, she spits, “Was that a threat?”

Dolls’s shoulder rises and falls. His eyes are still assessing her. “If we’d meant to keep you in a cage, we would have done it years ago. We never lost track of you, not from the minute you landed.”

“What, did you chip me or something?”

“The homeless shelter.”

She’s about to ask what he means, but then—oh. The homeless shelter in Des Moines, fourteen years ago. The small building hiding in the shadow of a skyscraper, with gum stuck to the walls and a soup kitchen pressing up against it. Wynonna had given her full name there, hadn’t she? Fuck. 

“So what’s your point, Dolls?”

“Agent Dolls.” 

“What do you want with me, Dolls?”

“Curtis McCready’s death. What do you know?”

“It was a heart attack,” she shrugs. 

“Right." 

“Did the paranoia come with the badge? Or did the badge come with the paranoia?”

Dolls sits down on a low desk. “Waverly said you got an email.”

“Nothing’s sacred,” Wynonna quips, but inside she feels a little stab of actual hurt. What else did Waverly tell this rando government jockey? “Fine. I don’t think he had a heart attack. Guy was as active as a twenty-five-year-old.”

“She also thinks we should bring you on as a consultant. Or an operative.”

“A hero!” Waverly chimes in from across the room, her voice loud enough to make several agents turn. Wynonna forgets, sometimes, that she has enhanced hearing. 

Wynonna shakes her head. “Like I told Waverly—you guys must be really desperate. I don’t do authority.”

“I’m not begging,” Dolls says.

“Good,” she replies.

“Yeah, part of me still thinks the city would be safer if you went back to running with the Bandidos.” He pauses, his eyes roving over her face with a critical observation. “But if you’ve ever wanted to help people, this is your chance. We could use you.” Before she can answer no way, see you in fucking hell, he hands her a necklace. It’s hers, the one you could have sworn she’d been wearing—her Athena inscription dangles by a chain, clipped to a pair of wings that settles on her palm. The mark of the goddess presses into her skin as he lets it go.

“Thought this was yours. We found it in an alley." 

Pushing on the engraving with her thumb, she looks up at him. After a second, she slips it over her neck. 

(Athena. Bookmarks on a library computer. Helping people.) 

“I’m not that person.” 

“We all have mistakes we want to make better, Earp.”

She hates the clipped way he talks, how she can hear how still his heartrate is. She hates how she can see her sister out of the corner of her eye, watching her on the balls of her feet with such hope plain on her cheeks. Wynonna hates how she’s not sure what sort of decision she wants to make. She hates how tears are pricking at the back of her throat, because mistakes are the one thing she’s never had in short supply. Dropping her father, after all, isn’t exactly a sin you’re just…absolved from. She’s not sure she’ll ever outgrow that, not as long as she lives.

And she still wants to know what happened to Curtis.

“Fine,” she mutters, straddling a rolling chair. “I’ll join your boy-band golf team. I’m only good with the wood, though.”

There’s a touch of smugness to Dolls’s expression. “I’ll requisition you formally tomorrow. For now: what do you know about Fort Rozz?”

  

-

  

Waverly is, as it turns out, not as suspended as Dolls would have wanted, because she’s the resident expert on the history of Krypton, so she’s the logical choice for who to explain the hijinks of sketchy alien prisons. She pulls down a board from the wall, one of those webs of information and files, and launches into an explanation. Looking at how engrossed she is, how utterly in her element, Wynonna wonders how she could have ever believed Waverly would be able to stay normal.

“Basically, our great-grandfather, Wyatt Earp, was a Judicator—a judge—in the height of the dissention days,” she begins, gesturing to some pictures. “Criminal aliens were skyrocketing, the strength of the Empire was being tested, protestors were kinda approaching terrorism in an attempt to stop the environmental destruction of our planet. Wyatt Earp hunted the worst of them down. He didn’t know where to put them, so he had a prison built—Fort Rozz. They put Fort Rozz in the Phantom Zone.”

Wynonna sits forward in her seat, her feet planting on the ground. “The Phantom Zone? But that’s dead space.”

Waverly grins. “You remember! Exactly. They purposefully put Fort Rozz in there because the time interruption makes it so hard to escape. At first, it worked. But now, something’s happened; Fort Rozz came crashing to Earth eighteen months ago.”

“We weren’t careful enough,” Dolls says, grimacing. “Our first tac team was outgunned. They went in, but they couldn’t contain the situation. The Fort Rozz prisoners escaped, and they took hostages for information. After almost a year of torture, Waverly’s file was compromised.”

“What?” Wynonna shoots an alarmed look at her little sister. “Why aren’t you in like, protective custody or something?” 

“Her name was redacted,” says Dolls. 

Waverly’s eyes drop downwards, and her smile falters. “Curtis’s wasn’t.” 

“You’re saying they killed Curtis?”

“That’s what we think.” 

“When I get my hands on these dickheads, they’re going to wish that their biology accommodated a twenty-foot pole up the ass. See if that gives them a heart attack.” Wynonna glares at the board. “What else, Waves?”

“Well somehow, the same less…law-abiding alien elements in NC managed to figure out who you were, even before you saved the plane. We heard some chatter a couple days ago from a source–”

“You have alien snitches?”

She bobs her head. “They said one guy was talking about a Kryptonian girl, but nobody believed him until you caught the flight.” 

“So what–”

Wynonna’s interrupted by a knock on the door of the operations room. A redheaded agent in black, smiling, is visible through the glass. 

“Nicole!” Waverly lights up. “Yeah, come in!”

“Nicole?” 

“Agent Haught,” Dolls corrects. “She’s one of our top field specialists. Ex-cop.”

“Agent Haught?” Wynonna snorts. “How do you say that with a straight face?”

“With basic dignity. Understandable that you have trouble.”

She rounds on him, but Agent frigging Mona Lisa just raises his eyebrows.

Wynonna returns her attention to the new agent. The woman is giving Waverly a hug, and she leaves her arm slung over Waverly’s shoulders as she takes in the rest of the room. When she spots Wynonna, she flips her hand up in a little wave.

“Hey,” she says. “I’m Agent Haught. Nicole. Are you Wynonna?”

“That’s what it says on the juvie file." 

She steps forward, unhooking her arm from Waverly and offering her hand. “It’s good to meet you. Waverly’s told me a lot about you.” Grinning, she adds, “Mostly good stuff.”

Shaking Nicole’s hand, Wynonna smirks. “Musta heard a lot of lies, then.”

Her grin stays put. “Nah. Well, maybe a couple. I thought you’d be taller. Possibly green.”

Wynonna doesn’t want to like her, but Nicole’s just too genuine; she can’t help it. Wynonna wonders about her connection to Waverly. Are they friends? Best friends? Something more? She can’t help but remember Waverly’s reaction to being asked if she liked girls, all those years ago—the wrinkle of the nose, the distaste. A lot can change in ten years, Wynonna knows, but still. Unlikely. Waverly’s a tactile person in general, so it’s probably just that.

“I wanted to thank you,” Nicole says. “I was on the flight.”

“Oh.”

“I owe you one.” She smiles a lopsided, easygoing smile. “Be rude not to pay back my own life.”

“Twenty shots of whiskey and we’re even.” 

Nicole raises her eyebrows. “Deal.” 

Dolls clears his throat. “Agent, we were in the middle of a meeting.”

Nicole straightens, falling into an at-ease stance. “Sorry, sir. There’ve been reports of a Valeronian rampaging down at a construction site on Beacon Ave. Figured you might want us to take a tac team down to take care of it.” 

“Affirmative,” says Dolls. “Get together your people and bring him in.” 

“A Valeronian?” The words are out of Wynonna’s mouth before she can register how high-pitched the end of the phrase has become. “They’re still around?”

Dolls nods.

“Let me go after him,” she says. She still doesn’t want to be a hero—she still isn’t some fucking hero—but she remembers the scars that had ridden over her uncle’s arm, the marks and gouges that he’d ascribed to a fight with a Valeronian criminal. Wynonna isn’t cut out for whatever greater duty bullshit Waverly wants her to slip into, but she can beat someone down. “I’m stronger than all of you combined. If this guy is the one who got to Curtis…." 

“No,” Dolls dismisses. “You need to be tested and trained before I’m even going to consider letting you out into the field.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, Earp. Seriously. You can ride the ops comms with your sister, but even that’s as far as I can push protocol.”

Her lips twist into a sneer, because wasn’t he the one supposed to want her? She hadn’t even wanted to come, but now that she’s volunteering for something, she’s getting benched. How is that fair?

“Fine,” she grumbles. Waverly shoots her a sympathetic look, but Wynonna turns away. 

“Agent Haught,” Dolls says, and Nicole nods.

“Sure, sir. On it.” She gives Wynonna one last parting smile—Wynonna wants to be angry at it but she can’t, how rude is that—and strides out of the room, speaking into her earpiece. 

“Stick around, Earp,” Dolls commands. “We’ll get him.”

 

-

  

“Standard bullets are not working, I repeat, bullets aren’t working!”

“Switch to enhanced,” Dolls murmurs.

“Switching to enhanced.” There’s a pause, a crackle of static, then four loud pops in quick succession. Nicole’s voice comes back on the line, panting and strained. “No effect. Enhanced bullets had no effect.”

Waverly’s bent over the control panel, her fingers twisting together as her teeth tease at her lips. Nervousness is riddling through every part of her. She taps the screen twice, bringing something up, then says, “The only recorded defeats of Valeronians have relied on brute force or really advanced weaponry. We’re a bit low on those. Has he said anything?”

“Um," Nicole pauses, clicking off the line, then comes back on. “Yep. He wants the Kryptonian.”

“Oh, great,” Waverly huffs.

“Fuller, get out of—Fuller! Fuller’s down, agent down!”

The situation is spiraling, and even Dolls, standing firmly to Wynonna’s right, seems to see it. “Pull out, Haught.”

“No can do, sir, we’ve got civilians. Two have already been hit.”

“Let me go,” Wynonna urges. “I can shut down that asshole faster than he can say Valeronian titworm.”

“That’s what he wants.” Dolls turns to her, his mouth set and tension leeching into the air around him. “You’re not ready.”

“Fuck ready, I’m needed.” 

“Haught, draw him away. Have agents evac the civilians.”

“Yes, sir!”

“That’s suicide,” Wynonna argues.

“Agent Haught’s trained. She can handle herself.”

“I’m going.” It’s reckless, sure, stupid, probably, but she can’t sit back and listen to a slaughter. “It’s my fault these bastards are here.”

“Earp—”

“Wynonna—”

Before they can finish their protests, she’s up the stairs and out the secret entrance. The ground falls away beneath her, windchill buffeting at her face, lingering thermals dancing beneath her toes. Flying in the breaking daylight is very different than flying in the dark the night before was—she can see the whole city in startling color, in bustling vibrance. Eggshell blue paints ceilings around her, curtains of pearly clouds dampening the tip of her nose and the apples of her cheeks. But again, Wynonna can’t take the time to just enjoy it—a deep paranoia hammers fear into her sternum, and she can hear Nicole’s voice yelling orders into a radio from all the way up here. 

(It’s the first time she’s pumped up her hearing in years, and Jesus is everything loud.)

With her x-ray vision she zeroes in on the construction site, on the chatter of useless gunfire and the screaming of workers. As she speeds down toward it, struggling to keep a controlled descent, she figures she should probably invest in more aerodynamic outfits than a leather jacket. 

She spots the Valeronian in the center of the chaos, his ridged cranium gleaming in the light, swinging his axe around with an almost bored ease.

Wynonna’s got him now, the fucker.

“Haught!” she yells as she tumbles to the ground. “Get your people out of here!”

“Wynonna? Don’t—”

The Valeronian grins, his sharpened teeth feral. “Shod,” he says, the Valeronian name for Kryptonian, his voice a gloat. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you." 

Stumbling to her feet, Wynonna tries to glare at him. Her hands ball behind her back, but she keeps her face a mask. “What do you want with me?”

Centuries in Fort Rozz. Wyatt Ehrp sentenced us there to serve out damnation, eternal punishment.” He takes a step. “Boredom becomes a knife, girlie. It’s your species that did this to us, to me; you’re my revenge.” 

“Uh-huh?” she says, and she means for it to come out bravado but it comes out half a squawk. And oh no, oh fuck, the dude is running full tilt at her, his fists glittering with metal—

“Wynonna!” Nicole shouts, which, really? Not helpful.

She rolls with the charge, crashing into the Valeronian like a freight train. It probably would have been more effective if his skin wasn’t as tough as hers, wasn’t as calloused and fibrous and hard—rather than bowling him over, the two of them meet with a piercing crack. Wynonna can imagine the bruises pressing down along her shoulder, even though they won’t probably won’t form at all. With another lunge, she tries to hit Mr. Potato Head with an uppercut.

He dodges, stamping his feet like a bull. “Your species used to rule,” he snorts. “It’s a good thing no one’s around to see this.”

She flies up to meet him again, her handiwork dirty and not at all near his military skill level. It’s like he can see Wynonna’s underhanded tricks before they cross her mind, can predict them and get in front of her. There’s a blow to her cheek; another; another. The ground keeps rushing up to meet her, the skidding momentum leaving streaks from the soles of her boots on the concrete. For the first time in her long life of fighting, Wynonna realizes she might not come out on top.

“I fucking hate this dude,” she mutters. His axe, which he’d discarded for the beginning, is now lethally sequestered between his fingers. With a twirl, he sends it slamming into her back. A gasp bites through her lungs. Black spots spark around her vision, reeling with the shadows of building husks.

Yeah, Wynonna really fucking hates this dude.

Gunfire clatters through the air, loud and obnoxious—Nicole is yelling something, likely advice, but her voice has blurred to white noise in Wynonna’s ears. Her fist meets the Valeronian’s face, her other hand wrenching his arm back, but his knee finds her stomach and she falls, coughing. The sun on Wynonna’s back tries to feed her strength, but all she can do is wheeze.

“My name is Red,” the alien growls, and it’s not in English this time. It’s something older, preserved, rotten. “And you’re one of two last Shod. After I kill you, I will hunt down the last, and I will kill them slowly.” He spits at her, his saliva harmlessly dribbling down her chest. “Say goodnight.” 

Channeling the fury of every bar fight, every biker brawl, every creeper beat-down she’s ever participated in, Wynonna rears. He stumbles back, only to stretch that dull grin again. “Killing used to be in your people’s blood,” he taunts. “What happened?”

The flat of his axe hits her in the solar plexus. She doesn’t get up this time.

“Wynonna!” There’s a heavy, repetitive thumping noise above her, like blades swishing through the air. The hum of an engine sits heavy on the breeze. There’s a swut, then another swut, and she puts two and two together—a helicopter is flying above, shooting some new ultra-enhanced bullets down at Vortax. 

He hisses, hitting her with one last kick to the side, but then she can hear his footsteps pound the gravel. He’s gone.

Nicole’s beside her in a second, checking over her limbs and head. Wynonna pushes her away, rolling onto her side. She’ll be fine. She is fine. She lost a fight, nothing to get mushy over. She tries to bite back a groan, but she fails.

“That was dumb,” Nicole says, sitting back on her heels. Her voice is almost conversational. “But I’m glad you’re okay.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“Really should stop meeting like this. Now I owe you two.”

“Forty shots.” It feels like Wynonna’s bones themselves creak as she sits up. “Top shelf.” 

“I’d say yes, but I’m on government payroll.” 

“I’m definitely more important than your rent,” Wynonna grouses. Nicole smiles, breathing out a laugh, and Wynonna feels one breaking out across her face too.

“Oh yeah, of course.”

“Just wanted to make sure.”

There’s a pause as Nicole looks up, which Wynonna can’t do yet because losing is exhausting, and then she says, “Look out, Earp. Incoming.”

Footsteps crunch, and Wynonna can tell just by the weight that it’s her little sister.

“’Nonna,” Waverly breathes. Wynonna finally drags her gaze up from the ground—there are tears in Waverly’s eyes but not in her voice, relief clawing at her lips and unfurrowing the knot between her eyebrows. She’s glowing, sweat beading on her forehead. Wynonna has a sudden, inexplicable urge to squish her cheeks. “That was so dumb.”

Wynonna wrinkles her forehead. “Seriously? Both of you?”

“It was cool,” Waverly says, “if you like watching someone get hurt.” At her sister’s injured noise, she grins, tucking her hand into one of Wynonna’s as Nicole grabs the other one. The two of them pull her to her feet. A black van pulls up, the door popping open.

“Let’s go listen to Agent Tight-ass read me the riot act,” Wynonna grumbles. 

(She’s pretty sure Waverly leans over to Nicole and whispers, “Told you so.”)

 

 

Chapter Text

“You were reckless yesterday.” 

“Yep.”

“And impulsive.”

Wynonna rolls her eyes. 

“You caused a public relations nightmare. Every level of the government is scrambling to pull together reasons that would suspend people’s newfound in extraterrestrial life. This is everything this department was built to prevent. And if you want to work with us ever again, you’ll never do anything like it.”

Mouth pulling into a silent whistle, she spins an office pen around in her fingers.

Dolls lets out an irritated sigh, settling down on the countertop with a slouch. “I’m serious, Earp.”

“Okay, sure. Sir yes sir.”

“You’re processed now. An official asset of the DEO. Which means you can’t be as careless as you were today, or it could go south for a lot more people than just you.”

“I’m in?”

“Yeah.” He sets down a new badge, shiny and spotless, on the softly glowing table. “You’re not an agent, but you have responsibilities.”

“Am I helping grandmas cross the road now or something?” she says it like a joke, but part of her is hoping he won’t fill his next sentence with what she knows he will.

“If you want.” He levels his steady, firm gaze on her, and fuck. “But we need to get the Fort Rozz escapees.”

“Like Red.”

“Starting with Red.” 

“And once I beat him, what then? We make daisy crowns with him? Send him to meet the man in the sky?” 

Dolls sighs. “Protocol says we lock him up. Put him downstairs with the other dangerous aliens.”

“Lock him up.” The pen falls from her hand with a light click, rolling beneath the rolling chair she’d been slumped in. She licks her suddenly dry lips. “You keep aliens in a government facility, chained up. I thought you said you were a different branch than the ones who took me.”

“We are. They were Cadmus, we’re the DEO.”

“And what’s the fucking difference?”

“They experiment, test. Shatter any hope of an intergalactic Geneva convention. We don’t.”

Wynonna takes a deep breath, trying to quiet the ants that have crawled up into her lungs. “But you want me—an alien—to capture other aliens. Lock them up. Dolls, we’re only in this mess because a Kryptonian locked them up.”

“What’s the alternative?” He stands, moving into her space. She must have stood up at some point—the two of them are nearly eye-to-eye.

The alternative sits heavy on her throat, on her lips. Dolls sees it, his forehead smooth and his mouth set—she hates him for the simple intensity he gives her, for the respect and the time. He’s not supposed to look at her with understanding; no one is.

“Don’t,” she says, and it’s low. “Don’t make me say it.” 

“If you can’t say it, you can’t do it.”

“Fine.” There’s a release of anger in her chest, and she rides the swell away from the cracks that had been running through her lungs. “We kill ‘em. Put ‘em down. Fort Rozz was basically a death sentence anyway, and now that they’re here—who would want to…Who would want to be locked away again, you know? I wouldn’t.” 

Wynonna tries to finish lightheartedly, like it’s a hypothetical.

(It’s not.)

Dolls keeps staring at her, but she drops her gaze to the side. The lights in the room are blurry, for some reason. Somebody should probably take a look at them.

There are a million things Dolls could say. She flicks through some of them in her mind, ones that have haunted her dreams since she lost the fight with Red—could you live with yourself; you’re already a murderer; how could you say something like that; are you ready to become executioner?

He doesn’t say anything at all. Maybe Wynonna’s grateful.

“Never mind,” she mutters, blinking hard, dropping back down onto the chair. “I’d have to actually beat something first. Which I can’t do. So.”

“Come on, Earp.” Wynonna thinks he’s about to give her a rousing pep talk, but he just walks away. When he realizes she’s not following, he turns back. Oh. ‘Come on’ as in ‘go with him’. Gotcha. 

Dragging her feet back under her—she just sat down, seriously—Wynonna pushes herself up off the table. Her muscles still ache where Red had made her strain, but there’s no outward bruising, no sign of what she lost. Part of her wishes there were dark purple stains on her skin, the sort that used to pop up when she and Willa would play Kryptonian and Daxamite and Willa would shove her to the ground, but this is Earth. Wynonna doesn’t bruise on Earth.

Dolls is still standing, waiting, watching her. His eyes are dark, thoughtful. Or Wynonna thinks it’s thoughtful—he’s fucking hard to read, and it’s getting annoying. When she reaches him, he slips his jacket off and hangs it on a chair.

Smirking, she asks, “Are we taking off clothing now? Because I’m not against it, but I’m pretty sure this bra is from 2009.”

He shakes his head. “Follow me.”

The DEO extends farther on this level than Wynonna thought it did, through tunnels of armories and elevator shafts. He takes her past them, to an unmarked door at the end of a hallway. Green light winks out from the crack at the bottom. Apprehension makes her smile nervous.

“You know we’re not living out Alien, right?”

“Have you ever seen Alien, Earp?”

She squints. “I don’t think so.”

“This doesn’t happen in Alien.” He pushes the door open, stepping through, and she strolls in after him. “This is where we’re going to be sparring.”

The walls of the room are round, the ceiling domed. They all glow with that same green light—something about it makes her feel sleepier, drained. A platform with a workout mat is elevated a few inches above the floor. Another door, also unmarked, stands opposite the one they came in through. 

“There’s a changing room through there,” Dolls says. “Shower and locker.”

Wynonna smiles. “So it was about getting me naked.”

Through the door she finds a maroon tank top and some leggings, along with a sports bra that happens to fit her just right. Logically, she knows Waverly probably guessed her dimensions. Somehow, though, a sliver of wicked pleasure draws out a smirk as she imagines Dolls wandering through the aisles at Marshalls, trying desperately to find her cup size. That should be weird, shouldn’t it? Ah, fuck it, he’s a—probably, hopefully—straight dude. He’d be having a conniption. It’s hilarious.

“You like?” Wynonna asks, stepping back into the sparring chamber. While she was changing, Dolls has switched his Henley for a black muscle tank and holy biceps batman. Wynonna’s suddenly very, very glad that she left the edge of her tank top riding up over her hip, rolling just enough to show her stomach. She bounces up and down on her toes, under guise of getting into some sort of mojo, feeling satisfaction peak as Dolls’s eyes dip down to her chest and then glance away.

Look, it’s not like she’s trying to get into her new boss’s pants. It’s just that she’s very good at getting men to do what she wants, and he’s hot, and between the city-wide icon thing and the family disappointment thing Wynonna hasn’t had fun in a really long time. Knowing she can still twist guys around her little finger is ridiculously gratifying, and let’s face it, she’s totally enough of an asshole to take advantage.

“Let’s get to work,” he says, waving her up to the platform. His fists come up just in front his face. His forehead gleams green under the lights.

“No offense, Dolls, but I think you’re a little out of your weight class.”

He rolls his eyes. “Let’s go, Earp.”

“I don’t wanna hurt you. Or your pride. Either one.” When he’d said ‘sparring’ she was thinking more along the lines of Wynonna Earp vs. twenty agents. Not her versus just her boss, who she could accidentally kill. 

“You won’t.”

“Alright,” Wynonna says, drawing it out. Her own hands ball up.

Pain explodes on her cheek as Dolls’s fist connects, sending her tumbling to the floor with a startled inhale. She hadn’t been expecting the punch, and she definitely hadn’t been expecting it to hurt—she doesn’t think anything’s hurt that vividly since her last day on Krypton. The mat stings when she lands, the room spinning above her. Energy swirls out of her. It’s harder to draw breath. 

“How the f—”

“The yellow sun’s made you lazy, Earp,” he says. “You take it for granted. If you want to hunt down these Fort Rozz escapees, you’re gonna need to get used to fighting people who’re just as strong as you.”

“Ow,” she whines. “Little warning, maybe?” 

“Did Red give you warning?”

“Well, he roared and stomped like a bull with an axe in his hand so I’d say, yeah, basically.”

“Others won’t.”

She rolls herself onto her stomach, propping herself on her forearms. Blood pounds in her ears. Her cheek aches to the bone. Something’s wrong.

“What’s up with this place?” she demands.

“The walls are lined with Kryptonite. It’s an element that attacks the cell receptors enhanced by the yellow sun—it weakens Kryptonians like poison. Probably one of the only things that can kill you while you’re here.”

“Does it affect Waverly?”

“We’ve intentionally kept her away from it, but she’s the one who suggested lining the room with the stuff. She was confident in her abilities to convince you to enlist.”

“Oh. Great.” With a heave, Wynonna manages to get to her feet. “Will I bruise in here? Because I’m told it’s disappointing that I don’t.”

“Only until you get back outside.” His mouth takes on a teasing slant. “Don’t worry about your look.”

She raises her eyebrows, a smile tripping onto her cheeks. She finds that when he’s acting like a person she actually kind of…likes him? She’d been so concerned with undermining his icy authority that she hadn’t stopped to wonder if there was anything underneath. It’s not…bad.

“Okay, Mulder,” she says, her hands folding again, “teach me how to kick some alien ass.”

“I’m Mulder.” His voice is flat, disbelieving. “You’ve never seen The X-Files either, have you.”

Wynonna rolls her eyes. “All those shows are kind of xenophobic, anyway. It’s discrimination. I should totally complain.” 

“Right.” A challenge gleaming in his eyes, he crooks his hand for her to come forward.

This time, when he hits her, Wynonna hits back. She gets into a rhythm—hit, fall, wipe her face, crack a joke—though she’s haunted by the definite possibility that he’s going easy on her. And the even more definite possibility that she finds being able to genuinely sweat and pant really, really hot.

If his eyes flash red the next time he pins her down, she’s definitely going to lie to herself and say it was her imagination.

 

-

 

There's a bodega two blocks from her hotel. It's open at two AM.

Wynonna’s inside, two bottles of alcohol in her hand (it’d been one of those nights when she’d considered buying ammonia, but that reeks of her father and then he’s falling and then—), but one other guy apparently had the same idea because he’s making her stand in line. There’s a stack of tabloids to her left. With nothing better to do, she scans the titles. 

When she reaches the fourth one down, her heart stops. The cover photo is of her.

It’s a grainy picture, taken from far away with the zoom on; the wing of the downed plane lies beneath Wynonna’s feet, her hair is plastered to one side of her face, water laps over her boots. Rescue helicopters silhouette her with floodlights. It’s the same blurry photo that’s been plastered on every major news outlet for the past week—the picture alone doesn’t bother her anymore.

But below it, in bold yellow italics: ALIEN?

Her breath catches in her throat, though it shouldn’t get to her—it shouldn’t. Wynonna’s always been an alien, she’s always known it, she’s always thrown the word around like it can’t affect her and never will. She’s always laughed in the face of it, patched it up under layers of broken glass and brittle smiles and raunchy slang, always buried it deep next to her heart. To be alien is to be something wholly and fully acquainted with what she is—she should be used it, she is used to it. 

But to see the word blazoned there, under a photo of her, for the whole fucking world to see? Wynonna feels like a rusty spoon is hollowing out her insides. Static crackles in her ears and her hands are shaking as she sets the bottles of Jack down on the counter. The cashier glances her up and down, but what he sees in her eyes must make him wary—will everyone be wary, now, of her inhumanity?

Jesus Christ, she thinks, as she stumbles back to the hotel room. No, not Jesus—Rao. Rao, she never realized how human she’d allowed herself to be until it’s being stripped away from her, until there are magazines attesting to her origins on every checkout aisle in the city. She’d told Waverly that she was supposed to be human, but maybe that was out of jealousy; Wynonna had worn the lie too, for as long as she could, but it had never fit as snugly on her as it had on her sister. Is Wynonna still thirteen, deep down? Does a meteor still flavor the accent of her tongue, is Shorty the trucker’s jacket still her only defense? If she lets go, will she accidentally set the world alight?

Has Earth swung into orbit around her heart where Krypton used to be?

The stairs seem to pass by in a second, but it takes so long for the key in her hand to find the lock. Her breath isn’t catching right, like it’s suddenly remembered that Earth has more oxygen in its atmosphere, like it’s finally remembering what it used to be. By the time Wynonna gets inside, she feels like a shell. Without her painted-on humanity, what the fuck even is she anymore?

The Wynonna Ehrp that died on Krypton was made up of scraped hips and daring feet. She laughed freely, fully enamored with the concept of her big sister and endearingly weak-willed when it came to her younger one. She was sassy and pert without any rawness behind it, without anything to project—her humor hadn’t yet learned how to be a shield. She had the freedom to be uncomplicatedly furious with her mother when she left her, and the naïveté to be jealous of Willa’s role as heir. She was headstrong and young and mulish.

That’s the alien that was sent to Earth—a kid.

If she’s not that, if that otherworldly child was shed when she was fucking dropkicked into an Iowan field with a dead planet at her heels, then how does Wynonna reconcile what’s left of her?

Too much thinking, Earp, she tells herself. She uncorks the bottles and drinks one in one gulp. Then the other. Then the world is sliding in and out of focus, and all she can imagine is wind biting into her skin. The adrenalin rushes from her daily spars with Dolls still linger at the back of her mind. Waverly wavers at the edges of her consciousness—her little baby sister. She’s the only one who could possibly understand the spiral that’s lapping at Wynonna’s brain.

But Waverly’s on the other side of the city, and Wynonna’s empty, and who the fuck gives a shit about feelings, anyway?

Maybe tomorrow she’ll have tacos for dinner, she thinks, staring at the counter. Maybe she’ll have tacos, and pretend to be human again. Maybe she’ll invite Dolls, and he can beat her up, and Waverly can tut like she did last time and shine a solar regenerator on her skin to heal the cuts. Maybe Nicole can come, smiling like a toothpaste ad, and she’ll settle her hand on Waverly’s shoulder and watch Wynonna with compassion. Maybe Dolls will stay after the other two leave, and maybe he’ll teach her how to shoot a flamethrower. Maybe if Wynonna has enough nights that aren’t spent alone then she can finally decide how she’s going to beat the Fort Rozz prisoners, or maybe she can forget about it all. 

Maybe her head’s spinning and she’s not making sense. Maybe she should sit down and feel her heart break under the weight of something she can’t name. Maybe darkness should wash over her eyes. 

When Wynonna dreams, she dreams about lab coats and scalpels.

 

-

 

(After Waverly drives over to pick her up in the morning, she finds Wynonna passed out in the kitchen with four bottles splayed around her. She wakes her with concern etched in her cheeks, shaking her until she opens her eyes. Wynonna doesn’t tell her what’s wrong, even though she asks four times. Looking over at her trashed armchair—did Wynonna break it like that?—Waverly makes an executive decision.

“You’re moving in with me.”)

 

Chapter Text

“I wish Waverly had actually been a bartender,” Wynonna grumbles, pushing open a door and hearing it jangle. “Free booze.”

No one answers, because she’s come alone.

There’s not going to be any free booze at this place. Enrik’s Water Hole is grimy, run-down, and coated with paint from the eighties and criminals from the same. It revels in its dim lighting, terrible service, and utter discretion. It’s another joint she knows from her less reputable biker days, which means it’s not completely legit, but it’s cheap. She’ll take cheap and possibly illegal over the hipster places that infest Waverly’s neighborhood. Crashing with her little sister has its perks, but the alcohol venues just aren’t one of them. So Wynonna had gotten on the bike that Curtis left her—he left her a bike, a gorgeous bike, and boy did it just purr between her legs—and she’d made her way into the less well-lit parts of the city. 

The bar isn’t deserted, but it’s not exactly full to the brim. Men in fifty shades of leather crowd around a pool table in the back, but they don’t look up as she comes in. A few skinny, rittering figures glare at her from under hoods, but when she stares them down they go back to nursing their drinks. The bar counter is sticky when she slides up to it.

“Wow,” the old bartender says from behind the counter. He looks her up and down. “If it isn’t lil’ Wynonna, the one who got away.”

Wynonna’s mouth drops open a little bit; she wasn’t expecting to be recognized. Recovering, she plasters on a smirk. “Not too far away, turns out. Hope there’s no hard feelings.”

“Can you still drink twenty men under the table?”

She leans in. “In a row.”

He guffaws. “Then I wouldn’t care, not even if you turned narc. Always a welcome customer.” He slides out five shot glasses and a bottle of his hardest liquor.

“Thanks, Enrik.”

“If I’m not mistaken,” he says, “that dude over there’s got his eye on you. Should I let him buy you a couple of these?”

“Free booze?” Wynonna tips up her chin. “Didn’t think I’d get any. Why not?" 

The dude turns out to be a man in his mid-thirties, a walrus mustache thick on his top lip and a cowboy hat settled on his head. He has a laid-back atmosphere to him, and he reminds her of some of the country folk she’d known back in Purgatory—there’s a taughtness to the lines of his muscles, like he’s aware of what’s happening around him, but his posture is relaxed, confident. He’s dressed up weird, old-fashioned even for some kind of country bumpkin. 

“Well, hey there,” he intones, tipping his hat. “Pleasure.”

Wynonna raises her eyebrows, tossing back a shot. 

“I guess you’d call me…Doc,” he continues, a dry smile pulling at his lips. “Might I have the privilege of knowin’ your name?” 

“Wynonna,” she says. “Wynonna Earp.” 

“Wynonna,” he says. The O pops at the roof of his mouth. “Interesting name.”

Wynonna shoots him a look that clearly says ‘really?’ “Like Winona Ryder.”

“And Earp. That’s a rare one, too, I’d s’pose.”

“It’s German.” There’s something about the way he’d said Earp—the space between the A and the R caught for a just half a second too long, hissing out a breath. It was almost like he was really saying Ehrp. Hairs rise on the back of her neck. “Funny way to greet a girl, Doc, by insulting her name.”

He shrugs, taking a sip of his own drink. “I meant no insult—I do apologize most sincerely if it came off that way.”

“What’re you doing in National City?”

He smiles. “Helpin’ out an old friend, in a way. And some less pleasant business, but a lovely woman like you don’t need to hear the worse details of that.”

“You’re a criminal?” Wynonna huffs out a laugh. “There’s enough of that around here. Trust me, pal, I’m no stranger.”

“You from around these parts?” 

“Noo,” she says, drawing it out. “I’m not. Really, really not.”

“Well, it appears to me that we’ve got that in common.” He tilts his head, rubbing the side of his mustache with an errant finger. His other hand lifts his drink. “To travelers.”

She clinks the glass she’s working on—her seventh, maybe? “What’s with the get-up?” 

“Pardon?”

She gestures to his chaps and his vest and his wool coat. “Not really your typical drinking wear.”

“Reminds me of where I’m from.”

“Where’s that, 1873?”

He seems to consider it. “South,” he decides.

She laughs, starting to feel a little sloppy around the edges. She’s been training with Dolls for three weeks now, and he amps her up no end. It’s nice to just cut loose. Her suspicions about Doc are beginning to fade—she’s decided he’s probably just an eccentric guy. “Specific.”

“Might I ask where you’re from?”

“North.” 

He chuckles. “Specific.” There’s a pause, and then he says, “Now, forgive me if I’m bein’ too forward, now. I just wanted to say you have fascinating eyes.” 

Wynonna snorts. “Wow.” 

“No,” he says carefully. “Not quite like that. What I mean to say, is those eyes are familiar—I’ve known a man with those eyes. He could see through anything you said to him, piercing. I’ve seen them set fire to a room with just a glare of his alone. A lot can get done with those eyes, Ms. Wynonna. Remember that.” 

And now she’s tense again. “Yep,” she says uneasily. “Flirting must be different in the south.”

“Oh, this ain’t flirting. This is…some advice, to fly by.”

Fuck.

“Right. I should, um,” Wynonna sets her drink down, “probably get going.”

He sits back. “I’m very sorry if I put you ill-at-ease,” he apologizes. “Don’t trouble yourself with the tab. Take care.” 

 

-

  

It’s another week before Red shows up on the DEO’s sensors, which means it’s a good halfway into October by the time Supergirl returns to the National City scene. The press has been getting itchy, fed up with the disappearance of their only alien icon—people are starting to write her off as a hoax, and that’s bad for business. At least the spew of police reports signal that someone’s going to have a nice day. 

“It’s him,” Dolls confirms on the phone. “We’ve got reports coming in from all over the highway. It’s like he wants to get caught.”

The microwave beeps—Wynonna’s popcorn is done. She takes it out and looks over at Waverly, who’s sitting nearly in Nicole’s lap on the couch. The two have been trying to decide what TV show to watch for an almost disgustingly long amount of time. 

“What took him so long?” she asks. “Why now?”

“Crime rates’ve been spiking all over the city in the past couple weeks. The tabloids pick up new stories about robbers with green skin every other day.”

“Dolls,” Wynonna smirks, “it is National City. It’s probably some celebrity with their cucumber mask still on.”

“Or, Red and his friends have been gathering an army.”

“Ugh, that too. Gimme a sec, I’ll get your top agents.” She looks over at where Waverly’s giggling and Nicole’s smiling like a dopey dork. Their remote cursor is hovering over some show called Kara Danvers—from the cover, it looks like it involves some blonde chick and a gun. “You interrupted their movie night.”

Earp.

“Yeah, yeah, imminent danger, blah.” She drops the phone to her side. “Waves! Haught! We’ve got an alien.”

Nicole frowns. “Red reappeared?" 

“Well it’s either him or some frat boy’s head had a really unfortunate incident with a giant pencil sharpener, so I’m gonna go out on a limb here.”

 Her mouth twitches. “You remember that these guys are all trying to kill you, right?”

“So I’m not allowed to make fun of their heads?”

Nicole’s face breaks out into a full smile. “Just wanted to make sure. I’ll go change into tac gear; tell the Man to send us a van.” 

Putting the phone back to your ear, Wynonna tells Dolls, “Nic says you should send us a van.”

“Tell Agent Haught that it’s already outside.”

“See, you just know us.”

“You’d better all be dressed to code.” 

“Worried about my outfit, Dolls?” 

“Only as far as you not getting outed to the whole city. We want to operate out of the view of the general public, remember? Not pull the stunts you did last time. Which means use your issued gun—"

“The gun that doesn’t work?”

“Take the cuffs and wear the mask—”

“Do you have a Batman and Robin kink? Because that’s what it looks like.”

“And, for the love of God, don’t fly.”

“Alright, alright, Mom. Nicole’s dressed, are we meeting you there?”

“No. I’ll be monitoring from here.”

“You’re not coming?”

“You’ll be fine. Draw him away, use what you’ve learned, cuff him and drag him back. But our number one priority is still keeping the public from knowing that aliens exist, so be discreet." 

 

-

 

“I’m gonna lose my job,” Nicole decides. “You know, if I’m gonna lose my job for you, can you at least do the dishes every once in a while?”

“You’re complaining about my housework now?” 

She shrugs, grinning. “I mean, now or never. Your plan’s shit.” 

“My plan isn’t that bad,” Wynonna complains. “It’s only like, 75% bad. On a ‘guys I’ve dated’ scale, that’s still like…a quarter of an orgasm.” 

With a dryness only Wynonna seems to bring out in her, Nicole says, “You have a plan as much as I want a boyfriend.”

“Not all of us can be gold-stars, you know.”

Nicole snorts, ducking her head as the whiz of friendly fire spits over them. “I’m not gold-star, I just realized quick that it wasn’t for me. You should try it sometime. 75% bad would still be at least one orgasm." 

Wincing, thinking of Belgian coffee and floating R’s, Wynonna says, “Nah.”

“Suit yourself. We should probably get back to the rogue alien criminal.”

“You think?” Waverly’s voice cuts through the easy repertoire, high and exasperated. “Wynonna, now would be, you know, a pretty good time?”

Wynonna huffs, but balls her fists and slips on the black mask that Dolls had given her. In the van, she’d changed into department blacks—not her style, but it does the trick. An enhanced gun presses on her thigh.

(Cuffs dangle from her belt clip.)

Moving faster than Nicole can follow, she blitzes out to where Red is standing in the middle of the highway. Civilian cars are piled up in two long rows heading back into the city—it’s good that NC natives are no strangers to traffic, because this isn’t the type of holdup that’ll clear in half an hour. Through every windshield, she can see the drivers filming her and Red on their phones.

So much for discreet.

Red stops whaling on some poor minivan, greeting Wynonna’s rushing appearance with a grin. His pointed teeth gleam yellow in the sunlight. His breath, which she can smell from four feet away, is putrid and rotting. “Shod,” he gloats, still calling her by her species’ Valeronian name. “Come to ruin my fun?" 

“Leave these people alone, Red,” she demands.

He laughs a couple stinking chuckles. “Trying not to use your powers, girlie? Don’t want all these nice people to think you’re more alien than they already do?”

Wynonna swings at him, trying to take him off guard, but his forearm comes up and catches the punch before she can connect. The two of them stay locked like that.

“Ooh, you’ve been training, haven’t you?”

“What do you want, Red?” she grits out. 

“Not yet,” he sneers. “Why don’t we give these people a nice show, huh?” 

With a powerful blow to Wynonna’s sternum, he sends her reeling to the ground. Her plan—to approach him directly and draw him away—seems less and less likely. By the time she staggers back to her feet, he’s picking his teeth with the blade of his axe. His eyes spark when he sees her hand going to the gun on her thigh.

She draws and fires in quick succession, but the shots ping harmlessly off his chest. “Fuck,” Wynonna says, throwing the gun away. “Talk about performance issues.”

Waverly, in her ear, says urgently, “Draw him away, ‘Nonna.”

“I’m trying.”

“Trying what?” Red smirks, throwing out another strike. This time, the punch is lazy—Wynonna steps inside and twists his arm around her body, sending him to the ground. Internally, she does a little celebration dance. He tries to get back up, but she silences him with a savage kick to the head.

There’s a screaming from inside the minivan he’d been wrecking: a child’s screaming, young and terrified and high-pitched. Before Red has a chance to recover, Wynonna runs to the backseat door, flinging it open to reveal two children huddled down on the floor of the car. Their parents are slumped in the front seats, both sans a heartbeat. “It’s okay,” Wynonna says, trying to channel the tone she used to use to calm down Waverly. It’s probably not that convincing—she can hear the cracks in her own voice—but the younger boy stops screaming. That’s progress. “Come here,” she prompts. She’s getting desperate; out of the corner of her eye she can see Red stumbling upright. “Kiddos, come on.”

The two crawl towards her, and it’s all she can do to sling them over her shoulders. They smell sweet, like lavender soap—it’s such a lighthearted scent, unlike the burning gasoline and Valeronian stench that flavors the rest of the evening. Tears and mucus are pressing down on her skin where the older boy is crying into her shoulder.

For a second, the setting flickers—the world is aflame, cathedrals are collapsing, her older sister is getting crushed. Instead of two random children, Waverly’s the one on Wynonna’s back. Krypton is dying. 

But then Wynonna is lurching back into a Californian evening, lifting the kids towards the closest car that has a mother and a child, and shoving them inside. The woman looks at her, terrified, but Wynonna doesn’t have time to reassure her. She slams the door closed, sprinting back out to the clearing where Red is waiting. 

Red’s face is painted with a savagery Wynonna recognizes from darkly lit alleys and leering men. When she gets close enough, his foot swipes her ankle with a wicked speed and tugs her down. Scrambling on the sun-warmed asphalt, she puts enough distance between them for her to make it back upright. The two of them share more blows. Long seconds pass, neither of them dealing enough damage to really hurt the other, before Wynonna makes an executive decision.

“Waverly, Haught, tell Dolls not to kill me, kay?”

“Wynonna—”

Barreling headlong at Red, catching him around his greasy abdomen, Wynonna soars off into the desert. His stench is inescapable, and his fingernails claw at her arms hard enough to leave deep pink indents. The two of them twist together, him fighting Wynonna and Wynonna fighting to stay in flight, his spit spattering her cheek and her mask. The handcuffs clink against her thigh, reminding her of the job she has to do.

They make it about a mile out of the sight of any witnesses before she finally drops like a stone. The dust scrapes along her knees as the ground catches her.

After the two of them get to their feet, both glaring at each other with a hatred that transcends personal feelings, Red talks. “I got a message to give you, Shod.”

The sun is dipping down the horizon, gilding his sloped forehead in gold. He actually looks otherworldly, despite the crude way his lips curl and the ragged coat that he wears. Wynonna doubts she looks as imposing, in her crooked black mask and dusty DEO uniform.

“What?” she pushes. “What’s the message?”

He grins. “Bobo dal Reh is coming.”

“Is that your stripper name? Because TMI, dude.” The moment the words are out of her mouth, she wishes she could swallow them—now’s not the time, and her lilt is too nervous for the words to carry the right bite anyway.

Thankfully, he doesn’t seem to care. “After the crash,” he continues, “we scattered. We looted, we killed, we stole. We were criminals, after all, and we’d been locked up for so long. But Bobo brought us back. He reminded us of who we owed our hatred to—you. Your kind. He had files on two Shod who had landed here, escaping the devastation of your rotten world.” The two of them are still circling each other. “Shod. Always thinking you’re better than us, aren’t you? Wyatt Ehrp did, when he tossed us in a cell and threw away the key.”

There’s a side to Red that Wynonna hadn’t pieced together until now, until his face is slanted in shadow and his eyes are swimming in allegiance. He’s not in command of anything—he’s an errand-boy sent to rattle and expose her. This Bobo guy is the real one to watch out for. He’s the one controlling the Fort Rozz escapees, the one pulling the strings.

Red, for all his posturing, is nothing.

“I’m supposed to tell you that you’re gonna meet him real soon,” Red growls. “I’m supposed to tell you that he’s waiting for you on the twenty-first, behind the Kars4Kids warehouse, and he wants you to bring the other Shod.”           

“But it’s just me,” Wynonna bluffs. 

He sneers. “He wants me to leave you alone, after roughing you up a bit.” His fists ball. “But I’m not going to do that.”

Another spike of adrenalin hits the backs of her hands.

“Do you know what it’s like, Shod, to be in a place without a concept of time? Aging stops. Life stops. Sanity stops.” His cheeks are pulled into a mask, his breath puffing into the cold desert air and making her want to gag. “Your kind thought we deserved it. You relished in it. I can’t do the same to you, but I can kill you.” 

He lunges forward with no warning, grappling with her until she’s pinned under him. He drives his fist into her cheek. The skin splits, blood spilling hot and wet down her neck, and she gasps. His hands find her throat. She writhes, trying to use every ounce of her strength to break free of his hold, but she can’t—he’s too big, too strong, and she feels so utterly, completely powerless.

She can’t breathe.

The desert stars start to blur above her when she hears a man’s voice, echoing just at the back of her mind.

Those eyes are familiar—I’ve known a man with those eyes. He could see through anything you said to him, piercing. I’ve seen them set fire to a room with just a glare of his alone. A lot can get done with those eyes, Ms. Wynonna. Remember that.

Holy fuck—what is she doing? She has laser eyes

Heat surges to Wynonna’s face, and she roars as twin beams of light blast through her. They catch Red in the stomach, searing his flesh, setting his coat alight. It fills the dusk with a burning reek. Red screams as he recoils from her, tearing away his clothing and baring his blackened chest. His eyes are wild, like an animal’s, as he tosses his head in pain.

Pressing her advantage, Wynonna throws herself on top of him. Her knees grind sand into his burn, and his shriek is so carnally devastating that it tears into the deepest parts of her mind. Now it’s her who’s staring down, watching her enemy flail uselessly against her. With a snarl, she wrenches his arms in front of him. The cuffs find their way onto his wrists—they light up red when they lock, and his struggling ceases.

He stares up at her, his eyes both bold and resigned. There are shards of viciousness left in his expression, but reflected in his gaze Wynonna sees someone she thought she’d erased from her memory—instead of seeing herself mirrored in his pupils, she sees the doctor who’d taken her at thirteen. She sees the medical mask and the man, the hospital cuffs strapping her to the bed. Can she really throw anyone to the same fate? Can she become that?

Red grins at her expression, his smile the bloody grimace of a man who’s met his ultimatum. “Do it,” he urges. “I won’t be locked away again. Do it.

She hesitates. 

His head rises up mere inches. “Do. It.” 

The air scorches, smoke spiraling up into the sky, and then the desert sighs. Red’s head thumps back to the ground.

 

-

 

Wynonna is still shaking by the time Nicole comes to collect her. Nicole’s lips part just slightly when she makes sense of the scene in front of her—Red is still face-up on the ground, blankly staring, but Wynonna’s several feet away, a rocky crag at her back, her knees to her chest. Nicole takes in the aching dryness of her cheeks. Wynonna doesn’t look up at her. She can’t.

In the glare of the SUV headlights, Nicole helps her friend to her feet. She doesn’t say anything, just gestures for the other agent to put Red in the boot. When that’s done, she loads Wynonna into the front seat. The night is quiet, now, still. Wynonna has a dull realization, from far away, that her earpiece must have fallen out at some point. It doesn’t matter.

She’s still shaking.

Nicole drives into the city without interrupting the blanket of silence that’s fallen over them. Wynonna’s grateful—Nicole doesn’t even make her speak to Waverly when she radios in that she found her. She just plots the GPS coordinates for home and lets Wynonna stare out the window.

They don’t end up back at headquarters; Nicole takes her straight to Waverly’s apartment. She guides her up the stairs, her eyes soft and her hand barely brushing the small of Wynonna’s back, and she helps her kick off her boots once inside. She unhooks the tactical gear from her uniform. Wynonna’s pliant beneath her fingers as Nicole tucks her into bed, numb and buzzing with static. 

Nicole switches off the light. Wynonna turns on her side, staring at the wall, but she can still hear her heartbeat thumping in the doorway. Nicole takes a long, rattling breath, then whispers, “Good night.”

Chapter Text

Wynonna goes into work the next day drunk. It feels more like she’s hungover—her hair’s a mess, large sunglasses perch on her nose, and she has a pounding headache. Nicole nudges Waverly when she walks in, who eyes her sister with concern. Wynonna had purposefully gotten up after Waverly had left the house, because she just can’t deal with that troubled gaze right now.

Dolls is waiting for her, his hands crossed in front of his chest as he scans a large screen. Hundreds of twitter and instagram notifications are blinking in and out of existence, all either showing shaky versions of last night’s highway fight or bearing the hashtag #supergirltakes101. Something angry settles into Wynonna’s throat as she takes off her sunnies to read them.

drunkonmemeries:

@NCPDHQ lmao so vigilante justice is okay if ET’s doing it? can i jump on the freeway and beat up some motherfucker now #supergirltakes101

NCPDHQ:

At this time, we have no official statement. We want to reassure you that we are here to keep you safe. Read more http://cnn.com/… #supergirltakes101

fukyeafeminism:

#supergirltakes101 ok maybe im dumb but..why we getting pissed at supergirl? she saved kids? did yall really not believe there were aliens smh

relishbfr:

@fukyeafeminism The foundation of your universe is changed by the appearance of aliens and you say “smh”?

fugfie98:

okay but who really cares abt aliens i’d fuck her #supergirltakes101  

fukyeafeminism:

@relishbfr if it were a discussion abt actual aliens instead of just shitting on/sexualizing a woman hero then maybe id care  

FindMeInTheFOrce:

#supergirltakes101 if there are aliens, whats to keep us safe? that dude was terrifying. how are we supposed to rely on gov if they wont tell us anything?

NASA:

In response to the numerous questions: we have no official statement on the existence of aliens at this time. #SupergirlTakes101

tractorfuckr93:

First illegals now this? More proof that the gov. is complicit in the degradation of the US. I’m ashamed of our country. #supergirltakes101

rockonheckyeah:

@tractorfuckr93 go back to fucking tractors, u racist xenophobic douchelamp

NumberOneMamacity:

#supergirltakes101 I don’t trust Supergirl. Submit her for screening.

RaymondJackson:

get the fuck out of america #supergirltakes101

cnnbrk:

#SupergirlTakes101 Panic is rising across the country as the authorities remain silent on what many are calling ‘The Alien Uprising’ http://cnn.com/…

olenotolay:

if this is the reaction to a white, human looking alien tryna help ppl, my heart goes out 2 the aliens of color out there bc this is gonna be a ride #supergirltakes101

 

“Well,” Wynonna says, her voice rough, “that could be worse.”

Dolls turns to her with steel in his eyes. “Could it? Really, Earp? Because I’ve got three agencies on the line, two of which would very much like to see my head on a pike, asking for an explanation of what exactly happened out there.” He steps closer. “And I have absolutely nothing to tell them.”

She steps back instinctively, and he pauses. She doesn’t fucking want him to think of her as fragile, she doesn’t, but part of her still feels like it’s coming apart at the seams. The way his eyes gentle makes her feel a little less out of control.

“What happened out there, Earp?” 

Wynonna looks down. “Red was just a goony. Once I took him out into the desert, he told me he needed to give me a message from this guy named Bobo—”

“Bobo dal Reh?”

Frowning, she nods. “Yeah. And he said Bobo wants to meet me down by the Kars4Kids warehouse next Wednesday, as if that doesn’t make him sound like a creepy stalker killer. Then Red said that he was deciding to be a bad alien Smee, and that he was gonna go against his orders and just kill me.”

“So it was self-defense.”

Wynonna looks up at his eyes, swallowing. “Not really,” she admits. “I had him cuffed. You gotta have seen that.”

He looks down for a moment, sighing. “You couldn’t lock him up, could you?”

“Nope.” 

“What am I supposed to tell the department? That you’ve decided our jurisdiction extends into murder?”

Anger rolls back through her stomach. “He asked me to kill him. He told me to. I gave him a choice.”

“Waverly just decoded the manifest of Fort Rozz, Earp—there are seventy-six other aliens out there, and one master jailer. Are you just going to hunt them down and kill them all yourself?” He’s close enough for her to feel his body heat, for his breath to graze against her jaw. 

“What do you want me to do, Dolls?” she demands. “They’re a danger to people, real people, and they—” 

“Aliens aren’t real people? Earp, you’re an alien. Your sister is an alien. I—” he breaks off.

She snorts, a little huff out her nose, because it’s all she can do to keep her voice from shaking. “I know, but these are criminals! It doesn’t fucking make it okay, but they’re done. They’ve had their life, and if they don’t wanna go back to jail, they won’t. I won’t let them become test subjects.” A deep, bone deep, exhaustion is settling into her bones. She’s suddenly furious and depleted, at Dolls and the world and everything. 

Seventy-six aliens to murder. It seems like an insurmountable number, suddenly, to take on by herself, and when the fuck did Wynonna sign up to be some sort of hero?

“We don’t test on them,” he says. 

“But you lock them up.”

“That’s not the same.”

“What’s the difference?” 

Dolls is quiet, taking her in, so fucking solid in his presence and form. His eyes are dark. She’d call him soulful, except that isn’t Dolls and also she kind of hates him right now. 

“I said, what’s the difference?”

Again, he says nothing. If he looks at her like that for one more second, she’s going to fracture, and there’s far too much anger pumped inside of her to do that right now.

“I’m done,” Wynonna spits. She untucks her badge from her jeans and tosses it on a nearby table. “I’m not doing this.”

She gives him one final chance to say something, to make it seem like she’s worth keeping, but he doesn’t. She storms away.

Nicole tries to intercept her, tries to calm her with a down-to-earth expression, but Wynonna can’t deal with that right now. She can’t deal with the way Waverly stands behind her, watching her with sadness and familiarity. She can’t deal with the way Nicole’s eyes harden when Wynonna snaps, “Leave me the fuck alone, gold-star.” 

Alone is good. Alone is what she needs to be.

 

 

Somehow, she ends up perched on the roof of a nearby building, her boots kicking over the ledge. The city hums beneath her. The smog is grey and cold. Wind brushes her hair back and forth across her back, changing directions in broad strokes. Anger pools out of her into her lap. It leaves behind a dull, painful grief, which isn’t much better.

She killed a man.

A terrible, terrible alien criminal, who had killed two parents for sport in front of their sons and god knows how many others—but nonetheless, a man. A person. A living, breathing, talking, walking person. Red can’t do any of that, any more. Not talk, not walk, not breathe. He’s downstairs, a hole burned out where his heart used to be. Wynonna put him there, Wynonna killed him, and somehow that fact wriggles into her chest and crushes her lungs like a tin can.

(Her father’s hand slips in hers, and she makes the conscious choice to drop him.)

Concrete chips crack off in all directions as Wynonna slams her fist down on the edge of the roof. She swallows the need to scream, because punching hadn’t helped; what she wants to do is erase herself, not expand. This empty roof isn’t the pod she’d hurtled to Earth in, but in a way it’s similar. Everything seems so compressed, isolated. She’s disconnected. 

But in the pod, at least she’d been contained—now everything she’s feeling is so messy, uncontrollable. There’s a part of Wynonna’s mind that’s begging to explode, just as another part begs to fade away. 

She really wants a drink. 

She’s not sure how long she sits there, her legs swinging out above the street, but the rising sun doesn’t bring any catharsis. Instead, pressure just continues to build in her chest. She wants to sob, to curl in on herself, but she can’t. She won’t. That’s weakness, that’s being beaten, and Wynonna’s not going to let Red win.

That competitive streak is going to kill her, one of these days.

 

-

 

After another couple of minutes, the door to the roof gives a heavy creak. Footsteps pad along the flat distance. Somehow, intrinsically, Wynonna already knows who it is.

“Leave me alone,” she rasps.

“It’s pretty from up here,” Waverly murmurs, ignoring her. She sits down next to Wynonna, their shoulders brushing, but she doesn’t look at her. “It reminds me of when you used to take me flying.”

“I shouldn’t’ve done that.” 

Waverly lets out a soft laugh. “Those are Gus’s words, Wy. I loved it. God, the air, the wind, the light—the people, all small and cute and important. It was the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”

“You traveled two-thousand lightyears to get to Earth, disguised yourself as a human for fifteen years, and now you work for a secret branch of the government that deals with other aliens.” Wynonna rolls her eyes.

Waverly grins, still staring out at the city. “Okay, like, fifth coolest.”

“Got a reason for bugging me?”

“I wanted to check in on you, grumpy-pants.” She sighs, her hand wrapping itself around Wynonna’s shoulder and her head dipping down to rest on the crook of her neck. Wynonna stays stiff, frozen. “I wanted to make sure you’re okay.”

“I’m fine.” The words taste like sawdust as they fall out of Wynonna’s mouth, sanding away at the truth before Waverly’s even begun to uncover it. “I’m just finished. Dolls can take Fort Rozz and shove it.”

“You’re allowed to not be fine, Wynonna.”

She raises her eyebrows, snorting despite herself.

“Seriously!” Waverly squeezes her a little harder. “You’re always thinking you’ve gotta be brave, tough Wynonna all the time, but you don’t.”

“I’m not brave.”

Waverly huffs. “Why are you quitting?” 

“Because I’m not some goddamn hero,” Wynonna says, voice raw. “All I’m good at is self-destructing, and all I’m good for is killing people.”

“That’s not true,” Waverly whispers.

“Right, I’m also good at fucking up—and also just plain fucking.”

“’Nonna.”

“What do you want me to say, Waves?” Wynonna turns to her, and Waverly untucks herself and they look each other eye-to-eye for the first time. Wynonna feels dull, drained, like every part of steel she has ever clung to is wringing out of her chest. “I can’t do this.”

“Yes, you can. You’re a hero.”

“I don’t want to be a hero, Waverly. I. Can’t. Do this.”

Please, don’t make me do this.

“Look at all those people, ‘Nonna!” Waverly bursts, pointing down at the city. “Supergirl is something, to them. Did you see the banner they put on the 101 for you? ‘Thank you, Supergirl.’ People are grateful. You’re something to these people, even if you won’t call yourself a hero, and you have the chance to become something special—why won’t you take that?”

“I don’t want that.”

“Why not?” Her voice is growing sharper. “You have more gifts than anybody would ever imagine, but the moment you could do something good, you’re passing it up?” 

“I killed Daddy,” Wynonna says, baring it, throwing Waverly’s name for him in her face. “I just killed Red. And now I want to kill every other single alien on that Fort Rozz manifest. That’s not what a hero does.”

“Stop,” Waverly says. There are tears glittering in her eyes, but she looks almost furious. “Our environmental catastrophe killed Daddy, not you. I blamed you for a while, but,” she tears her eyes away, taking a deep breath, “that’s not your fault.”

“I left you. You should hate me.”

“I’m over it!” she exclaims. “Stop hiding behind all these excuses, ie, because you’re—God.” Fumbling with her jacket, she reaches into one of the inner pockets. She extracts a folded piece of paper, brittle and slightly yellowed with age. “Look at that.”

Numbly, Wynonna takes the piece of paper. She flattens out the creases, pressing them down on her lap. It’s a crayon drawing. The colors are still bright, done in a little kid’s shaky scrawl—she recognizes the scene, even though she’s never seen the picture before. There are five stick figures, all standing on a strip of grey. An orange strip along the top represents the sky.

Two of the stick people are taller, standing at opposite ends of the page; one is a woman in a simple black dress, while the other is a man in blue. The man has an object Wynonna can’t make out in his hand. In between the adults, three girls stand next to each other. All of them have white triangles for bodies; the paper is waxier where the white crayon scribbled on it. One of the girls—the tallest one—has yellow hair and red eyes, one of the girls is a very small brunette, and the third stands in between them. Her hair is a mix of yellow and brown; her eyes are dots of blue. And behind her dress, she’s wearing a rectangle of rectangle of red—a cape.

Droplets of water dash on the drawing before Wynonna can stop them. Gus had described this to her when she’d first gotten to the McCready’s house, in that bathroom with the little Toy Story aliens: this is Waverly’s drawing of their old family.

“Look at me,” Waverly says, a simple challenge in her words. “Look at me and tell me that you didn’t like saving those boys yesterday.”

Wynonna’s eyes stay firmly clamped to the page.

“Being Supergirl doesn’t have to just be about avenging Curtis or getting rid of the Fort Rozz aliens. It can also be about protecting people. About saving people.” Waverly bleeds idealism. “We can make Ehrp mean something good again.”

Wynonna’s fingers brush over Willa in the picture. “I don’t think I can do this without her. This was supposed to be her shit, y’know? Heir to the empire, propagator of the throne. I’m not supposed to be,” her voice breaks, “alone for this crap.”

“You’re not.” Waverly’s hand is on Wynonna’s arm, her eyes pleading and wide. “Even for the hard shit, for every time you have to face a shit-eater like Red or this Bobo guy—you’re not alone. I’m still here, ‘Nonna. We have each other.” 

There’s a pause as Wynonna tries to swallow that, as her hand moves back and forth over the drawing.

El mayarah,” Waverly adds, and then something hot and brittle melts in Wynonna’s chest and she’s gone.

Waverly’s in her arms before she can think it through, and their chests are warm, pressed together. Waverly’s hair dampens with Wynonna’s tears, hands rubbing circles on Wynonna’s back. Wynonna’s not crying anymore. She’s just clinging to her baby sister with all she has, because she can’t lose her too—not when Waverly’s every good part of her, everything worth living for. 

She breathes her in and tries to pretend that she smells lavender instead of ozone; she tries to pretend that her sister is still eleven, instead of a grown woman who has fallen in love with chasing storms. 

“Wynonna,” Waverly squeaks. “Squashing me.” 

“Yeah, yeah,” Wynonna says, but she loosens her grip just slightly. Waverly slumps into her. The city continues to whir beneath them, muted and chaotic and beautiful.

“You should go back inside and apologize,” Waverly says eventually. “To Dolls and Nicole.”

“Your girlfriend’s a big girl, she’ll get over it.”

“My—my girlfriend?” Waverly lifts off her shoulder, her voice slightly strangled. 

Wynonna presses a hand to the back of Waverly’s head, pushing her back down into the hug. “Well, you weren’t exactly subtle about it. Or quiet.”

“Oh! I, um, guess you heard…”

“You two going at it like bonobos?” Wynonna snorts, which comes out grosser for the fact she’s been crying. “I’m fine with it, baby girl. More than fine. Your dirty talk could use a little work, though.”

“Stop.” 

“I’m the one who has to listen to it.”

Waverly giggles, just a bit. Then she says, “My speech was pretty inspiring, huh?” 

“Oh, fuck off. This didn’t happen. No one will believe you.”

“I’m gonna tell Dolls that you’re really a big softie.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“I’m pretty sure he likes me better than you.” 

“Everyone likes you better than me. I’m an asshole.”

Waverly stifles a laugh. “And I am amazeballs.”

“Oh, shut up.” Wynonna bumps her shoulder lightly.

The two of them lapse into silence for a long while, shifting to hold each other so they’re facing out at the city. The sun tips over to afternoon, and the day warms. It’s getting to the point where Wynonna’s about to suggest straightening, purely out of hunger. Waverly moves her head onto her shoulder one last time, squeezing with all her strength.

“I’ve always thought you were a hero, ie,” she whispers. “Even when you weren’t acting like one.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“Hey, Haught.” Wynonna catches the woman walking down one of the labyrinthine tunnels. It’s been a few days since the rooftop fiasco, and she feels like she owes something to Nicole, for the barbs and the disrespect. “Do you…”

“Have a sec?” Nicole fills in. She turns and smiles, though there’s something tight and fragmented lingering in her grin. “Yeah.”

“I, uh. Just wanted to ask… I mean—would you want to go grab a drink sometime?”

“A drink?” Nicole’s eyebrows skirt the tops of her forehead.

“Yeah, you know. You, me, absinthe, the very present knowledge that you’re dating my sister, shop talk, cop talk, um…”

Nicole nods. “Sure.”

“Or we can just go to like, a bodega, and bring stuff to the apartment and get shitfaced, or—wait, what?”

“Sure, I’ll come grab a drink or two. You’re buying, though.”

“Oh. Nice.”

Nicole’s grin gets a little more genuine. “I figure there was an s, an o, two r’s and a y somewhere in there.”

“Yeah, no, um,” Wynonna’s eyes flick to the side, her fingers rubbing over her studded belt, “totally. I sucked.”

Nicole’s eyes flash up to Wynonna’s face, studying her for a moment.  “Let’s just drink,” she decides, cuffing Wynonna on the shoulder. “The only things that suck are your apologies.”

Wynonna snorts and raises her eyebrows. “I’ll toast to that.” 

“Let me sign off with Dolls and I’ll be out in twenty.”

“Sounds good.”

They end up in a bar the next morning, red hair matted with beer and brown hair mixed in with bottle fragments. Light filters in through the shattered window. There was a fight, or maybe two—the men who fought them are gone now, just as Nicole’s better judgment returns. Wynonna, who never had any better judgment to start with, groans as she realizes her cheek is pressed into the sticky countertop.  

“This was a bad idea,” says Nicole. She’s flat on her back, her head under a stool.

Wynonna reaches her foot out and prods her. “I hope you know we’re officially friends now.” 

Nicole stares up at her, her face deadpan. “No.”

Neither of them have moved by the time Waverly shows up. She takes one look at them and frowns. “You guys got in a bar fight?” Nicole opens her mouth, about to say something, but then Waverly finishes, “Without me?”

 

-

 

“Movie night,” Wynonna says, skeptical. “Again.”

“Oh, c’mon,” Nicole says. “It’ll be fun. I’m pretty sure your whiskey bottle won’t mind spending the night alone for once.” 

“For the record, it’s absinthe.” 

“For the record, if it were whiskey I might actually drink with you again.”

Wynonna reaches her toe out across the couch to jab her in the thigh, and Nicole grins.

Waverly bobs back into the living room of their apartment—well, it’s not really their apartment, but between Wynonna and Nicole and the large amount of shared closet space it can’t really be called just Waverly’s anymore. Wynonna’s pretty sure Waverly lost that battle with her about the time that she got her own ice cream shelf in the freezer, and there probably wasn’t a battle to be fought with Nicole anyway. The two are so profoundly happy with each other that it’s disgusting.

“What’re we watching?” Waverly asks, settling down in between her girls with a bowl of popcorn on her lap.

“Is it movie night, or TV marathon night?”

Waverly tilts her head. “Totally up for a TV marathon.”

Wynonna groans. 

“Come on, Earp,” Nicole teases. “We’ll get you started on Kara Danvers. It’s gay. You’ll love it.”

Wynonna lifts up her—spiked—root beer, taking a sip. “Gay? Sweet.”

Waverly looks from her to Nicole and back, her brow scrunched. “Wait, ‘Nonna… Aren’t you…But, Dolls?” 

“Babe,” Nicole laughs, “your sister is the bi-est person on the face of the planet. More than you, even.”

“Ha!” Wynonna crows, taking another swig. “Suck it, losers. Bi-est sister, right here. Bi-nonna. Fuck yeah.” 

“How come I couldn’t tell?” Waverly looks a bit upset, her lip sticking out. Sometimes she’s just such a little sister.

Wynonna rolls her eyes. “My life’s a little busy for dating, sis. Seventy-six aliens? Secret government identity? A crotchety boss with a really nice ass?” 

Nicole raises her eyebrows as she takes a sip of her own float, but doesn’t comment. 

“You want to get in Dolls’s pants!” Waverly exclaims, eyes lighting up. “I mean, I knew you did, but now you do.”

“Not following.”

“Did you two get up to something in the sparring room? Me and Nicole have bets on that. Please tell me you earned me money.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“She didn’t,” Nicole surmises, astute. “And she still has to apologize to him for the whole temper-tantrum she threw the other day.”

Wynonna scoffs. “No? He has to apologize for…for stuff. It’s not just me.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I miss when you were nice." 

“I am nice.” It’s Nicole’s turn to bump Wynonna’s leg with her heel. “You’re great. And your sister’s better. But you should definitely take a page out of my book and be nice.” 

“Rude.”

“Okay,” Waverly says, crisscrossing her feet. “But here’s the important question: have you slept with him at all?” 

“I miss when you were grossed out by sex.”

Nicole grins. “I don’t.”

Wynonna wrinkles her nose. “The two of you are disgusting.”

“Yeah?” Waverly’s smile is devilish. “Remind me who gave two hand-jobs in a high school bathroom while the principal banged on the door.” 

“I then ran off with bikers and lived out the rest of my juvenile delinquent fantasies, so your material’s a little outdated.”

“Bikers?” Nicole asks. Her brow furrows, like she’s putting together pieces. “Did you run with the Bandidos down here in 2009?”

“Are you my parole officer?”

“You’d be in jail if I was.” 

“Fair enough. Yeah, I was down here in ‘09. I think. Maybe? I was kind of drunk.” 

Waverly snickers. “We’re surprised.” 

“Did you know a Chief Nedley? Probably Officer Nedley back then?”

“What the fuck?” Wynonna frowns. “You know that old bastard?”

“That old bastard trained me,” Nicole laughs. “Oh my god, you’re that Wynonna. How did I not see it? Holy shit.” 

“What did you do in ’09?” Waverly asks, her hand on her sister’s calf and her eyes curious. 

“I think the better question is what didn’t she do in ’09.” Nicole’s cheeks are dimpled in amusement, but she has this caution in her gaze—if Wynonna wants her to drop it, she will, without question.

Wynonna shrugs over Waverly’s head, letting Nicole know it’s fine, and then she looks down at her sister and pretends to be defensive. “Okay, there are only, like, ten ways a fuck-up alien can get into trouble in this city. I’m not a public menace because I tried all of them, Nedley’s just melodramatic.”

“So you didn’t routinely beat down guys for cash?”

“They were creeps. And I only robbed, you know, one bank.”

Waverly’s mouth is hanging open. “Please tell me you’re joking,” she says. “You didn’t rob a bank—”

“She’s joking,” Nicole cuts in, her dimples now out in full force. “But she did have a really unfortunate incident with a vending machine and a wedgie that I’m sure she’d love to tell you.”

Wynonna flips Nicole off with both hands. “Drunk and disorderly shouldn’t be held against me.”

Waverly’s smile is sneaky. “So it was an accident that you drank at least four bottles of alcohol? Because that’s how you get drunk.”

“I don’t—I don’t like you guys. You suck. Let’s just watch the damn show. No aliens, right?” 

“No aliens,” they chorus.

Halfway through the intro, Nicole says, “You know, if you’re gonna call it a secret government identity, you should probably have an alter-ego. Or at least a day job.”

“I don’t think she’s ever had a day job in her life,” Waverly giggles, at the same time as Wynonna says, “Can you imagine me as Clark Kent?”

Nicole shrugs. “No, but like…something to preserve some normal. Let you actually get income.”

Wynonna settles her head onto Waverly’s shoulder. “I’ll think on it,” she says.

  

-

 

“You’re still in town,” Gus observes, loading garden supplies onto a flatbed, her paisley shirt ducking in and out from behind spade handles and rakes. “Nice to see you can still cause a mighty commotion when you put your mind to it.”

“Gus…”

“Save it, girl. You don’t gotta explain yourself.”

“What?” 

Gus pulls herself out of the truck, wiping her hands on her pants before settling them on her hips. She’s shorter than Wynonna, but her eyes still blaze bright enough to assert her stature—her expression is frank, but not dismissive. “Saw what you did on the freeway the other night.”

“You knew it was me?”

“Do I know any other gangly flying aliens?” She snorts. “You hold your shoulders the same way, and that mane of yours ain’t discreet. And you caught Waverly’s plane last month, so I figured you were keepin’ busy.”

Wynonna shrugs, looking away.

“I thought I’d be angry,” Gus continues. “You ran away once, been avoiding responsibility ever since. Could be you’re back to your same old tricks, putting Waverly in danger all the while.”

Wynonna flinches.

“But I don’t think so, somehow. You’re trying to change, Wy, and I’m startin’ to believe it.”

“You are?” Somehow, this simple confidence is disarming. A deep part of her, a part that’s still angry at Gus from all their teenage feuds, is suspicious, but a larger part is relieved.

“Mm-hmm. Now put those muscles to use and help me load up these planter boxes.”

With ease, Wynonna lifts an entire one off the ground and slide it into the empty space. The next one settles on top, and then the next one—it’s grunt work, the likes of which normally bores her, but there’s something about the way that Gus is holding herself that tells her it may be important. Maybe it’s a test.

“Now what?” she asks. 

“Now you curb the attitude and let me gain respect for you again.” Gus looks her dead in the eyes. “Hop in the cab.” 

She hesitates, but eventually she walks around and slides into the front seat. Gus climbs in next to her, flicking off the parking brake and reversing onto the street. She’d come to the outskirts of town to help out another community garden—the dump is a few blocks over, and the only buildings around are warehouses and a couple crumbling apartment buildings. They flicker by as they drive in silence, until finally Gus speaks up again.

“Why’d you come to see me, Wynonna?” 

“Aren’t I allowed to—” 

Gus sighs. “Stop.”

She blows a breath out of her cheeks. “Yup. Okay.”

“You need money?”

“What? No.”

“You sure? Can’t imagine being a superhero pays much these days.”

“I’m not a—” She sighs, giving up. “Whatever. I was wondering if you could put me in contact with someone who could give me a,” she says the word like it’s bitter, “job.”

“A job?” Gus repeats, her eyebrows skyrocketing. “Wynonna Earp, as I live and breathe. A fucking job.”

Jittering her leg against the seat, her cheek scrunching, she fixedly doesn’t look at Gus’s incredulity. “Yeah, yeah.” 

“Why?” 

“Why? I like having toilet paper to wipe my crap on.” 

“Seems like you’re getting by on Waverly’s just fine.” 

Wynonna purses her lips. “This was a bad idea. Never mind.” Her fingers catch on the door handle.

“No, stop. What kinda thing were you thinking?”

“Something I can leave in the middle of to go save the city.” She glances sideways at her. “Fuck, I’m crazy, aren’t I?” 

Gus focuses on the road for a long moment before replying. “Y’know,” she says, “I’ve thought you were crazy a lot of times. Sure, mostly I wrote it off as trauma or hormones or something like that, but there was this voice at the back of my head always goin’ off like: this girl, she’s wrong. Nuts, damaged goods, off the rails, however you paint it. And maybe that little voice colored the way I talked to you, and I was probably wrong to do that. Maybe if I’d spent less time comparing your damage to Waverly’s, I woulda been a better parent. And now, you’re looking at me and talking about saving the world—which, by all counts, is certifiable. But darlin’,” she glances at her, “for some reason, you’ve never fit my definition of sane more than you do right now.” 

There’s a lump at the back of Wynonna’s throat that’s making it hard to breathe.

“You’ve got powers that have always scared my fucking pants off, but you’ve finally decided to do something with them other than bar brawls. That’s not just sane, Wy—that’s honorable.” Her lips twitch into a small smile. “I’m proud of you for it.”

Wynonna breath rattles. 

“I’ll get you that job, Wynonna. You protect our Waverly, okay?” Her right hand falls from the steering wheel and settles on her shoulder, but for once it doesn’t seem controlling. Our Waverly.

“Sure,” Wynonna manages. There’s a glint in Gus’s eyes that tells her she’s being honest—that tells her she really is proud of her. Gus loves her, she’s always known that. She loves her, but the grievances against her piled too high and the cost was too much. The divide between them was both of their faults, fed from their anger and misplaced frustration, but this moment tastes a lot like absolution.

The two of them drive a ways in silence, the truck rumbling closer in to the city. Waverly’s apartment approaches—Gus must have made a detour to get them closer to it—and Gus’s crow’s feet crinkle in a soft expression. She pulls over to a curb a block or two away from the building. Before Wynonna gets out, Gus takes one more breath. 

“If you’re going to be running around the city,” she says drily, “get a better outfit, would you?”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

When Wynonna gets into the agency, Dolls nods at her. She’s still not sure if the air is clear between the two of them, after the mess with Red, but she brought him a coffee and he hasn’t made good on his threat to send her to the agency shrink, so that has to count for something. Besides, now she’s got more important things to worry about. Ultra-important, saving the fucking city things. 

Like, oh, yeah, right, those seventy-six rogue aliens. 

“Here’s the manifest that Waverly reconstructed,” Dolls says. He’s wearing the same leather jacket today, except his undershirt is a faded red and just slightly too tight. It’s distracting, and the way he smiles at her after she looks back up to his face tells her he knows it. He clicks the panel on the table, bringing up a database of ugly alien mugs. Each face is labeled with a name, a species, and a crime. “We’ve reported the faces of the more human-passing ones to the local authorities, but the others….”

“Yeah,” Wynonna says. She’s quiet, today, more settled. There’s not much to say, not with the magnitude of her task set scrolling in front of her eyes.

“I thought we’d go through them,” Dolls says. “Before your meet with Bobo.” 

“Yep.” She finds a chair. Her legs tuck up onto it. 

He raises his eyebrows at her compliance. “There are over fifty species accounted for. It’s going to take a while.” 

“Yep.” Wynonna stares back at him—her pulse isn’t racing today; she can play his style. “Shouldn’t Waverly be here?”

“Both she and Agent Haught are running a few minutes late.” Dolls’s mouth quirks—the two of them share knowing looks. “I thought we should get started, until they’re…finished.”

“Fire away.”

“Every time you remember something about a species or an individual case, you’ll let me know. We’ll write it down and give it to our strategy guys, who’ll try to come up with some ways to beat each of them individually.”

He pauses, waiting for her to say something. She doesn’t. He clicks on the screen, bringing up the first alien. “This is Bobo dal Reh,” he says.

The man onscreen is pale, with facial hair befitting of a Disney villain and a long, fur-lined coat ruffled around his neck. Black hair quiffs backwards down his skull, buzzed at the sides. He’s ugly, by all counts, and the tilt of his head is mutinous. His lips pull tight with arrogance. Wynonna appraises him for a minute, before reaching a conclusion. “He looks like Macklemore fucked a skunk.” 

“Haven’t ruled it out,” Dolls replies, his lips twitching. “But best we can tell, he’s not human or weasel. He’s a member of a nearly extinct species—a Daxamite.” 

Wynonna groans, leaning her head back. “Worse.” 

“Something you’d like to share with the class?” 

“Daxamites are, like…terrible.” She rolls her eyes. “Daxam is another planet in our system, and its people were related to Kryptonians, I think? A lot of their customs are just backwards: slavery, blatant sexism, monarchy. The whole package, really, all twenty dollars off on Groupon with no returns or refunds. They were always less technologically advanced than us, too. Probably just bitter. We had that sports team rivalry going on, you know? I think we screwed them over more times than the Celtics have screwed over the Lakers, but they definitely handed us double bonus in fouls every game.”

“You know basketball, Earp?”

She frowns, bouncing her hand on her thigh. “Stop being surprised when I know stuff.”

“Keep going.” 

“Anyway, we were at war with them for a long time. It was always in the background. People would just….” She spreads her hands. “Poof, and everyone would know why. As kids, we even—” She smiles slightly as a sudden memory pops into her head. “It sounds morbid, but we used to play Kryptonian and Daxamite. Willa always had to be the Kryptonian.”

He doesn’t ask about Willa, and suddenly she wonders how much he knows—how much Waverly’s told him about their family. She almost hopes she’s told him everything, so there’ll be nothing left to explain. For once, the thought of someone knowing her doesn’t seem all that terrible. 

(She stores that thought away for a rainy day.)

“It says here,” he says, “that Bobo dal Reh was convicted of terrorism against the Kryptonian empire. Other charges included arms dealing, criminal enterprise, and…something untranslatable.” He magnifies the Kryptonese onscreen.

Dhruzh-ath.” Wynonna snorts. “He pissed himself.”

Dolls stares at her, which only makes it funnier.

“He…” She needs to look away for a second to stop from laughing. As is, her cheeks burn with a smile. “There was—there was this tradition. Or, like, not a tradition…” She looks him right in the eyes, gesturing: “Really nasty Daxamites convicted by the high council would pee in front of the Judicator who put them there. It was supposed to be some act of resistance, or something, but it was just…” 

“Funny.” 

“Motherfucking hilarious.” 

Dolls does a little headshake, turning back to the monitor. If she weren’t certain it was impossible, she’d say there was a genuine grin on his face. “Only you, Earp.” 

“Hey! Not me. Mr. Idiot dal Reh over there.”

“You know Spanish?”

“Why is it so surprising to you that I know things?” 

He sweeps his eyes over her. “Your shirt’s inside out.”

Glancing down at the bottom seam, she groans. “Ah, fuck.”

The corner of Dolls’ mouth twitches. “Okay,” he says, “do Daxamites have any weaknesses?” 

Wynonna frowns. “Not that I can remember. Without the yellow sun, both species were just like humans, but smarter. Now, on Earth, I couldn’t tell you.” 

After typing in a quick note, Dolls nods. He clicks the control panel. “Next.” 

A new face appears, all red skin and weird flaps and something that looks disturbingly close to blue raspberry jam. “Oh,” Wynonna says, “yeah, I got this.” 

They continue like that for a good fifteen minutes. Dolls brings up headshots, Wynonna tries to recognize the species, they discuss, and they move on.

Eventually, a voice interrupts their easy exchange of information. “Wynonna?” 

She glances over.

Nicole stands at the edge of the platform, her thumbs tucked into the belt loops of her DEO uniform. She has an uncertainty in her posture that sets Wynonna’s teeth on edge. Nicole’s not uncertain about many things, and around Wynonna, she tends to only be uncertain about one thing. 

“Wynonna,” she repeats, her voice a terrible cross between helpless and apologetic, “it’s Waverly.”

The words flatten Wynonna’s stomach into a pancake of fear, blood rushing past her ears. She hardly pauses before she leaps up from her seat. The chair teeters away from her on the smooth flooring of the platform, but she doesn’t stick around long enough to hear the crash. She’s sprinting before she knows where she’s sprinting to—only a carrying “the lab” from Nicole guides her through the right tunnels.

Wynonna, it’s Waverly. Wynonna, it’s Waverly. Wynonna, it’s—

  

 

She doesn’t see anyone when she enters the lab. Waverly’s not at one of the scientific monitors, nor perched with her laptop on one of the sterile tables. Her corkboard is conspicuously missing her lively explanations. Wynonna’s about to yell for her, because there’s a terrified part of her that can’t handle the thought of her little sister gone even for a second. She knows she’s overreacting, but….

Wynonna, it’s Waverly.

Then she takes a breath (even though her mind is still speeding at fifty miles a minute and she can’t focus) and she looks around again. She’s been in this situation before. She’s been in this situation hundreds of times, even when she was a child, back on Krypton. In her mind, she sees a young girl’s feet on inlaid stone, a white dress tucked together tightly, a small brown-haired head bent under an ornate metal table. She hears rain patter on a nighttime playground, feels the crinkle of notebook paper fold in her fingers.

When Waverly can’t deal, or is lonely, or is hurt, Waverly hides.

She takes another breath. 

Ie,” she calls. “It’s me.”

She doesn’t hear anything back, and panic claws at her chest until she remembers: she has super-hearing and x-ray vision.

(It’s funny how a lifetime of repression will make you forget core parts of who you are.)

(Oh wait—no it’s not.)

Straining her ears, Wynonna turns so she can see through the dim lighting and the surrounding walls. First, she hears the echoing THUD-thud-THUD-thud-THUD of her sister’s rabbit heart. She’s here— 

Then, devastatingly loud, blasting out Wynonna’s eardrums loud, bite her tongue and squeeze her eyes shut loud, she hears a gasp that tears at her chest, a choked sob that blocks up her throat and a sniffle that makes her teeth ache. She spots Waverly pushed up against a back wall, shoved between a monitor and one of the racks of equipment. Her back is rounded, her head bobbing with each ragged breath.

Dialing down her hearing as quickly as she can, Wynonna rushes forward. She pulls the monitor out of the way with a clumsy jerk, dropping to her knees in front of her sister. 

“Hey,” she whispers. 

Waverly doesn’t look up.

Wynonna pushes back her hair, taking a cheek into one hand and tipping up her chin. “Look at me.”

Waverly bats weakly at Wynonna’s hands. Her eyes spill over in beaded tears that glint in the lights of the various screens.

“Baby girl,” Wynonna says. She would take angry Waverly over this despondent one any day. “Who do I have to fucking kill?”

There’s a silence—Waverly’s mouth works a few times, but nothing comes out. With a clenched fist, she draws a thin packet of paper out from behind her back, crumpled in her grasp. She stuffs it into Wynonna’s hands. 

Wynonna flattens it out and stares at it, trying to make sense of the words and charts. Little black lines are arranged into rows and columns. Paragraphs describe inconsistencies and Kryptonian DNA and some second sample. None of it makes much sense. 

“Waves, I failed high school bio. Help me out here.”

Waverly’s head ducks. “I’m sorry,” she says.

Waverly.”

“It’s—” She half smiles, tear-stained and self-deprecating. “We’ve been…. We’ve been running the DNA we recovered from Fort Rozz against our database. Our database of aliens. And…there was a partial match. To—But…” She sets her thin shoulders and stares at Wynonna, her eyes hollowed. “I was the match.”

“Okay,” Wynonna says slowly. “So, there was a Kryptonian in Fort Rozz. Big whoop. We committed, like, multiple war crimes over the years—”

Waverly shakes her head, placing her hands flat on the ground. “No. It matched me…but it didn’t match you.”

“What?” 

“I never ran our DNA against each other. I didn’t think to, right? It’s us. Then Jeremy and Mattie, our lab and development people, well….”

“I don’t understand.” 

I’m not Kryptonian,” Waverly blurts, and then slams her hand over her mouth. “Well, like, not totally. I’m not totally Kryptonian. Still half.”

The floor falls out from under Wynonna’s knees. “No, Waves, you were on Krypton. That wasn’t like, a hallucination,” she laughs, incredulous, “you were there, dude! Can confirm. Planet tore itself to bits. Three-fifths of our family died. Real new age sauna day.”

Waverly stares at her. “I know. I was there. But…”

“But what? You’re Kryptonian. You’re an Ehrp. Waverly Ehrp, Third Heir to the Grand Empire. Once an Ehrp, always an Ehrp. Ehrpiest Ehrp to ever Ehrp.” She puts another hand on Waverly’s shoulder. “Yeah?”

“No.” Waverly bites her lip, looking up and to the side. “I’m not an Earp—not an Ehrp, ie. We have the same mom, but…I’m not.” 

Wynonna sits back, shaking her head. 

(She can’t be alone, she can’t be alone, she can’t be alone in this shit, this responsibility, this fuckhole of a family, of a species, of a life. This can’t be on just her. She can’t be the last full Kryptonian, she can’t be, she can’t be.)

She clings to the only thing she can think of. The only thing that makes sense. “You’re still my sister,” she states. “You’re still my sister.”

“Half-sister, technically.”

My sister.” 

Waverly nods, expelling breath in a long sigh. She hugs her knees to her chest. “Wanna know who I matched?” she asks. Her palms cup her patellas and her eyes skirt to the sides.

Wynonna doesn’t want to know. She doesn’t want to know at all. She’d only been doing this because the Fort Rozz escapees think there’s another Kryptonian—Red’s voice hisses Shod in her memory and her nostrils burn—and they’d been a threat to Waverly. If she isn’t an Ehrp, Wynonna can just give up and leave the Earth to be protected by someone else. She can go back to running and not give a shit about responsibility and drag her little sister away from this life and it’ll be easy. 

She can feel light again. She won’t have to fight again. 

She can sleep again.

But then, they don’t even know Wynonna’s an Ehrp—they’re just acting on pure species-ist driven revenge. They won’t care how much of Waverly is Kryptonian, just that she is. So Wynonna’s still roped into this mess, for her sister as much as for the rest of the city. 

Taking in a breath of air, she fiddles with the zip of her leather jacket. 

“Fine,” she murmurs. “What species did you match, baby girl?”

Waverly pushes herself up the wall, wiping at her face with a sleeve. She moves over to one of the screens and brings up a file. Still on the ground, Wynonna sits back on her heels and rubs beneath her eyes with her fingertips. 

God, she just feels so jittery.

“Here,” Waverly says. Her voice is still low, still slightly repentant. “The Master Jailer. He was like the warden of Fort Rozz.”

“Not a prisoner?”

“Nope. But I guess he kinda reached the same fate. Trapped, foreseeably forever, without anyone to help him out…”

Wynonna begins to stand. “So, what is he?” 

“He’s Trombusan.” She sets her shoulders. “I’m half Trombusan.” 

“I thought you played the clarinet.” 

“Ha, ha, ha.” Waverly rolls her eyes. “But look! This is him. It even says in his personal file that he was friends with great-grand-daddy Wyatt back when Fort Rozz was being made.”

“Some friend. Like, happy birthday! You get to be stuck in a timeless hellhole for all eternity.”

“Wynonna, you haven’t even looked at him yet.”

Wynonna hasn’t. She hasn’t, because she doesn’t want to. She doesn’t want to see any proof that her baby sister, her Waverly, is anything other than like her. What if she has, like, secret spines or something? Gills? What if he looks like a male Waverly clone, and there’s no refuting that they’re related?

“’Nonna.”

Her close-bitten nails dig into her palms. With a heavy heart—Waverly’s whole life is a lie, which means her place in Wynonna’s life is, too—she turns to look at the screen. She’s greeted by a hauntingly familiar face and an even more hauntingly familiar moustache.

“His name is Doc Holliday,” Waverly introduces, “and genetics say he’s my biological great-great-grandfather.”

Well, fuck.