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Kill Switch

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There was never a moment where war wasn’t constant on the planet; it was a painful reality that Angela Ziegler had come to expect in an almost nihilistic capacity.  Altruism was well and good in many respects, but a bleeding heart could only bleed for so long before there was nothing left. Luckily for her, she was a medical genius and there were plenty of ways to force blood back into a heart. Most of them were incredibly unethical and…well, maybe this metaphor was going a bit off the rails.

It wasn’t as if she regretted her choices, hated doing them or lacked purpose because of the ever-revolving cycle that she had put herself in. But every day was another crisis that she had seen the day before or the week before. Every single problem was another one she had seen somewhere else with a different ending or start.

But it was the moments like this, staring at the mountains of patients on the datapad that suffered from injuries, from malnourishment, and from every other problem under the sun that she wondered faintly if there was a moment she could take a mental break. The only time that happened was when she was in whatever office she had made for herself, where she could close her eyes and drown out the noise and whatever stress she had about her new place.

“Doctor Ziegler?” Came the soft, computerized voice of an Omnic.

The pitch was designed to be warming and comforting, and it did its job rather admirably. She pushed away the pointless desire of having a moment to breathe before turning to face the omnic in question. Slim and humanoid as most, with a singular slit in the center of his face that seemed to glow a soft yellow, Vivi had become a constant companion in her travels, and he was an excellent worker considering that omnics rarely needed to sleep or rest. It was a bold move of his to come along, but people didn’t often think much of it if they were sedated.  He had become indispensable to her as of late.

“Yes, Vivi?” Angela said, giving him a warm smile.  “What is it?”

“We have a bit of a situation, Doctor.” He admitted after a long pause.  “One of our patients seeking asylum has appeared to attract some trouble.”

Angela glanced at him with a furrowed brow, before slipping out of her chair and grabbing her Caduceus Staff from its place next to her desk. She hated to admit it: but she was always armed. She was a pacifist by nature, but she hadn’t stayed alive this long by being ignorant to the realities of her situation.

“It never ends, does it?” she sighed faintly, fingers running through her hair.  She did not look like Mercy, the great hero of Overwatch today. She looked like Doctor Angela Ziegler, overworked Medicine Sans Frontiers.  It wasn’t the first time that she had to diffuse a situation like this after all, and it wouldn’t be the last.

This one, however…was going to be a little more difficult when she noted just who was waiting for her and her expression hardened. She recognized those black uniforms, those glowing red eyes on the helmets.

Talon.

It wasn’t a surprise that they were here. More than likely they were the reason she was needed to help these people. Far and away in a little corner of Kyrgyzstan, a nation already plagued by endless issues even before the Omnic War had arrived, Talon had sunken their claws in and incited a civil war--to what end she didn't know.  But she had long since accepted that she could not be everywhere, but it never stopped her from trying to help somewhere every time she knew of trouble.

She wished she could say this was her first time seeing Talon or dealing with them in person. There were four soldiers armed with rifles and scanning the nervous population of the makeshift hospital as Angela approached them with a frown. While Angela dealt with them, Vivi calmly directed the patients to go back to their rooms for the time being. They all began to file out of the room, anxious but cooperative.

“Must you come here armed?” she asked, even if she already knew the answer. “You are scaring my patients; I must ask you to leave.”

“No can do, Doctor Zeigler. We’re here for a man named Jyrgal Usenov,” the leader said, showing her a picture through the holodisplay on his arm.

She recognized the man, although she knew better than to show it. A middle-aged man who had come in wearing a fine suit and covered in dirt and blood, he had suffered some manner of shrapnel wound from the civil infighting going on between local terrorist groups and government forces. Times like this, she sorely wished that Overwatch still existed…if only for the conflicting relief she had that their military power had prevented things like this from happening.

“That is none of my concern,” Angela stated passively. “Once he is here, he’s under my safety. I will not have you come in here and harass people! This is a place of safety and healing, not a pick-up spot for whatever you deem suitable!” she huffed. “So, you will leave the premises, immediately, or I will be forced to make you leave.”


“Really?” The lead man seemed almost amused. “And give up your non-combatant status, Doctor Ziegler?” 

Angela narrowed her eyes sharply in warning, her Caduceus Staff’s rotating wings snapping closed so quickly that it made their postures straighten. She was a pacifist, not an idiot. Violence was not her preferred solution, but at times there was nothing other than the harsh reality that would protect people who needed peace. She had served Overwatch for many years, and had been traveling war-torn countries and cities even longer. She had been part of every training regimen at Jack’s insistence. Though she loathed every moment of it, there wasn’t a day that passed by when she thought it was a waste of time. It was a sad truth that she was safer and more capable of spreading her word when she was confident enough to resolve most problems by any means possible.

“You and I both know that you follow those rules when it suits you,” she said flatly. “If you are so confident that you can take him from me, then I urge you to try…but I will only warn you once,” she stated confidently as Vivi settled behind her, hands behind his back. 

The leader glanced at his men and then tilted his head a moment, mumbling something or another. She waited for a time before the four soldiers' gazes burned into her. She knew the answer before they even said anything.

The leader moved to raise his rifle and his men spread out. Angela’s staff connected with the side of the weapon and almost jerked it out of his grip while Vivi moved behind her like a metal bullet train, his elbow slamming into the chest of one of the men. He let loose a cry of pain as he slid back a foot and hit the wall with a grunt.

“Doctor Zeigler?” Vivi asked, his voice calm as ever despite how tense the room had become. The clear indifference in his inhuman voice was disturbing.

“Get them out of here!” Angela insisted, bringing her staff around to crash it against the helmet of the leader before shoving him towards the door.

He stumbled almost incoherently as one of the men moved to assist his leader, shifting out of the way to raise his gun up and fire. Angela’s eyes widened as she extended the wings of her staff and hooked the barrel, tugging it down as bullets sunk into the dirty tile. The starburst-shaped blast had burned into her retinas, and she was suddenly so very glad that none of her patients were in this room. Something like this had been bound to happen and she had planned for every eventuality in that regard. As the sound of panicked screaming reached her ears, she hoped that the other staff members were calming them. They were still safe, after all.

Angela shifted forward, using the angle of her hooked staff to strike the man across the throat with the bottom half of her staff. As he let out a pained gag, she shoved him towards the door. Vivi caught him and hurled him out with a normal, almost casual push of his arms. At this point, the four Talon men were either on the pavement or stumbling out.

“This isn’t over, Doctor Zeigler,” the leader warned, but it was hard to be too threatened when he sounded like he was trying to compose himself as the four of them were collecting each other.

“It rarely is,” Angela stated softly, almost sadly as her staff pleasantly rotated and she glanced along the small lobby. It had already been a bit of a mess, but now it had a few more bullet holes. Her gaze shifted to Vivi who was standing there as attentive as ever. “Thank you for your assistance, Vivi.”

“My pleasure, Doctor Zeigler…well, at least in making sure that these people are safe.” He said cheerfully. “It is quite nice to have them view me with a normal amount of suspicion here, and not the violent kind like in most areas.”

“…I can imagine,” she sighed heavily, turning to head deeper into her makeshift clinic. “I suppose we will have to make some defensive preparations. In the meantime, could you retrieve Mister Usenov for me, please?”

“Of course,” He responded easily.

It was a waste of time, she soon realized. He had barely spoken when he had first gotten here, and now he was even more quiet. She had no real authority to remove him, and if she did so then it would look as if she was playing favorites and she simply could not. The only thing that kept her here was that she helped both terrorist and soldier without question; civilians were simply safer here because of it.

But Talon? Talon always tried to break the rules everyone else set, even though they were the ones responsible for the way this place was. She could tolerate so much in this world to keep her ideals together, but Talon was such an abrasive mockery of everything she stood for that it made her calm blood boil. The night sank into it’s usual routine: people wanting medicine the clinic barely had, and her speaking with rebels and government alike for whatever she could find, promising that she was only here to serve the people and nothing else. How true that was, she didn’t know…But her patients didn't seem to be any more stressed over it. Even worse was that it had happened in broad daylight and word would spread fast that this would be a safe haven from their men, which could possibly mean smugglers and worse would try to stay here for safety. Talon was probably going to make her life extremely difficult, she had no idea how she was even going to get the required medicines she needed and-

“Doctor Zeigler.” Yet again, Vivi’s calm voice broke through her thoughts and the reassuring smell of coffee filled the air as he set a mug of it down in front of her. It was strange, even though Vivi’s face had no real facial expressions it was easy for her to tell when he was smiling. “You seem troubled.”

“Aren’t I always?” Angela remarked dryly, taking a long sip of the scalding hot coffee without much pause and barely a clearance of her throat. Vivi’s head cocked to one side as she did it, but decided it was better to leave it alone. Humans were, at times…so very odd and inhuman. He was certain that the temperatures far exceeded the comfort levels of the throat…

“Vivi,” Angela murmured. “Do…you think we did the right thing?” she asked, glancing at him.

“Right is a subjective term determined on a case by case basis, Doctor Ziegler,” Vivi stated after a moment of pause.  “Had we not stopped them, they would have taken that Mister Usenov away and many of the people we house would have been afraid. And now they are afraid of Talon coming again…but yes, I believe that it was the right thing to do. We cannot claim safety and sanctuary for everyone if we do not defend that right.”

“But defending that right only brings more violence,” Angela sighed, cradling her cup close. “How am I to speak of peace when I must defend myself from people like Talon?”

“Peace is not merely the absence of war but the presence of justice, law and order, the saying goes, I believe?” Vivi recalled.  “You cannot wish for peace and have no way to defend it, Doctor Zeigler. That is unrealistic. You cannot protect peace with open arms--you protect it with your integrity…and an excellent usage of your staff. Where did you learn how to do that?”

Angela smiled a little at that. Vivi was always rather philosophical…but he was right regardless. She knew that already, but sometimes it was hard to remember it in the moment.  “Overwatch,” she admitted. “Ja--er, Commander Morrison insisted that I know more than just how to handle a pistol if I was to be on field missions.”

“Ah, Si vis pacem, para bellum?” He asked casually. If you want peace, prepare for war. Angela frowned at that, glancing down at her already half empty coffee cup.  She hated that phrase, it was like spitting in everything she believed in.

“Perhaps, but an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, Vivi,” she reminded, finishing off her up of coffee.

“Ah, that is true…thankfully I have no eyes.” Vivi remarked. “I will continue my rounds, Doctor Ziegler. Do contact me if you need anything?”

Angela wasn’t quite sure how to process that last statement, so she decided to leave it alone and smiled. “Yes, of course…thank you, Vivi.”

The omnic tilted his head and headed back off into the clinic. Vivi was constantly moving and offering aid to people who were wary of him no matter how much the rest of her aid crew were taking part and it never seemed to bother him. Angela sunk herself into her work as she usually did. When she was working, time became more of an idle thought than a hard rule to live by. Sleep was often a gift she gave to herself. Her "alone time" amounted to falling asleep at her desk or the cot in her office. There just wasn't room for much else.

What bothered her now was just how much Talon was hanging on her mind. They didn’t make idle threats; if they said it wasn’t over, then they would mean every single word it. Maybe it was just her paranoia kicking in. It was well into the night before Vivi insisted she retire to get some actual rest, and, at that point, she was too burnt out to disagree with him. Staff in hand, she headed toward her makeshift office with a yawn of relief and opened the door.

She stopped midway, her tired eyes widening a fraction at the absolute slab of a man sitting on her bed, clad in full black combat gear and glinting silver claws. His dark hood couldn’t hide the mask settled over a void black head. It was like he had sucked the light out of the entire room as he leaned forward, his wave almost casual.

“Doctor,” Reaper said, his voice low and carrying minor echo that seemed to travel and stay in place all at the same time. “Been a while.”

“…Gabriel,” Angela exhaled finally, blinking at him incredulously.  If she wasn’t so tired, her reaction might have been worthier of the fact that one of the most hated men on the planet was simply sitting on her cot like it didn’t matter and they were old friends. But as it stood, she was running on about twelve hours of naps and actually needed some sleep.

On the other hand, it seemed exactly like Gabriel to simply appear out of thin air like some ghost…or in this case, a wraith. 

“I heard some of my kids got beat up by a girl, so now I have to beat you up too,” he said dryly, rising to his full height as Angela stared at him. Gabriel and Jack had always been a rather imposing duo, but right now it seemed like he was dominating the room with his bulk.  His words almost didn’t register until she arched a brow at him.

“…That’s what you’re here for?” She was not privy to the inner workings of Talon, in the slightest bit. But she was privy to the inner workings of Gabriel Reyes to an extent, and she knew Gabriel was still in there somewhere…and she knew that this kind of work was beneath him. This was something he would send someone else to do.

“Well, not exactly,” he admitted with a shrug. “You’re holding someone we need, Angela…and I’m going to ask you nicely, just once.”

“And why would I help you?” Angela bristled in annoyance, fingers still tight on the doorknob as if the door would stop him from doing anything.  “Why should I? After all the things you’ve done? After all the murders you committed to Overwatch? To people you used to work with?”

“Look, Doc-" Gabriel growled out in irritation as he took a step forward, and before he knew it, Angela had taken a step back and drawn her pistol at a speed that impressed even him, her staff discarded. Her form was tight, her grip was one hand over the other and her finger was very decidedly on the trigger, those bleeding-heart eyes had been drained of all warmth and left only a cold husk staring back at him.

It seemed that even that the paragon of virtue and good that Angela Zeigler was, was tired like the rest of them. He had no doubt in his mind that if he took one more step, Angela would shoot him and that would be that.

“…I guess that’s the way it is then, huh?” Gabriel murmured. “Doesn’t have to be this way, Angela…you don’t know why we’re looking for him.”

“Why should I care, Gabriel?” Angela asked tightly. “Why should I care at all about anything Talon is doing?”

“Because this one might interest you, Doc…I wouldn’t be here if I thought I couldn’t convince you,” Gabriel said. That smugness was enough to make her finger press ever so faintly on the trigger. How desperately she wanted to shoot him, if only for all the pain he had caused so many people…but what would that do? That would just make her feel miserable that she was responsible for the loss of another friend she used to have.

Who was she kidding? It wasn’t as if Gabriel was a friend to anyone anymore, no matter how much she wished otherwise. Nothing Talon did was for anything other than their own ends. That’s what made her irritated by how curious she was.

“What possible thing could you have that would ever make me interested-“

“Someone turning your biotic research into a sick joke?” Reaper tried casually. “Using it to make a horrifying chemical weapon, maybe?”

Angela stared at him a moment longer, frowning deeper as she lowered her weapon but didn’t stop pointing it at him. “…And, why exactly is that Talon’s problem?”

“Because chemical weapons not under our control don’t really do us much good, Doc…and besides that, this isn’t exactly something we can actually control,” Reaper shrugged. “So, you’re going to help me or it’s going to get ugly.”

“Now you’re not suggesting, you’re threatening,” Angela said dryly. “Make up your mind, Gabriel…I’ve had very little sleep and the desire to shoot you is growing stronger by the minute. Helping you means I help Talon.”

“Helping me means you help everyone,” Reaper recalled. “Chemical weapon, Doc…little too highbrow for us--can’t exactly work with that like we can forcing civil wars and causing uprisings.”

Angela stared at him a moment longer, before letting out a long sigh and raising her hand up as her staff snapped to her grip.

“Neat trick,” he mused. Guess the Good Doctor had grown up like the rest of them, all bitter and hateful for the world.

“There’s also the one where I’m going to shoot you if you’re lying to me, Gabriel…and don’t think a Doctor isn’t a very good person to hold a weapon,”  Angela warned. “I know exactly where I need to hit, and you and Jack made me do drills enough to make sure I remembered.”

“Fair enough,” Reaper snorted. “Never thought I’d see the day that you of all people would be as grouchy as the rest of us, it’s kind of funny…and sort of attractive.”

“I am running on far too little sleep to deal with you, Gabriel,” Angela said in annoyance, bristling at his ‘compliment’. “If you want my help, you’ll keep those comments to yourself.”

“Duly noted,” he said, with false cheer. “Just like old times, mm? All we need is Jack and an exploding building to really bring back all the good feelings.” 

Angela could already feel a headache brewing, but now she was already too invested in this to quit as she headed inside her office and shut the door. “I hope you have more than someone making a chemical weapon, Gabriel,” she huffed as she sat down on her bed while Gabriel took the chair and settled back comfortably with a long, irritating creak.

“I do,” Reaper grunted. “Those men you dealt with earlier weren’t with me.”

“What?” Angela said, brows knitted together.  She should have known she wasn’t going to get an answer, but it still meant she wanted one.

“Just trust me on that,” he said, pulling out a thumb drive and tossing it to her. She caught it with a frown and glanced at him. Yes, trust him…of all people.  The person that had murdered countless members of Overwatch, the person that…ugh. Why was she even considering this?

“…Or don’t, either way…all you need to know is on that drive, up to you if you wanna look at it.” Gabriel said, rising. “I’m taking Jyrgal with me tonight.”

“And what makes you think I’ll allow that?” Angela frowned up at him.

“Because if you could stop me, you would have already,” Reaper said, amusement tinging in his voice. “I’m looking forward to our next date, Angela,” he said, before his form shifted into dark, cloudy smoke and simply sunk underneath the crack of the door and away from her. Angela stared at that in passing, then to the thumb drive in her hands still.  Between it, her lack of sleep and the fact that Gabriel had just done one of the most disturbing things she had seen in her long career, she simply reached for the light and dropped her face in her pillow.

It annoyed her how right he was about it. What could she do to stop him? She’d just have to…figure something out for tomorrow. Some odd, irritating part of her was somewhat happy that Gabriel still trusted her with this sort of thing. Her head was spinning with so many questions, but she had to trust him.

Trust in the man who was one of the reasons Overwatch plummeted into obscurity and political controversy.

How desperate for friends are you, Angela?

Chapter Text

Angela didn’t remember much about sleeping, years of being a doctor had turned it into a practical method of being alive and less about a relief. There was always a time where she was woken up or another time where a flat hour of rest felt like she was invincible. This time, she opened her eyes to another dirty ceiling and the feeling of something in her hand that she knew immediately was a thumb drive.

So, none of that was a dream. Gabriel had appeared in her room like some creepy ghost and told her that she would be interested in helping Talon. Talon! And she knew, she knew deep down in the pit of her gut that she would see what was on the thumb drive and agree with Gabriel that she’d want to help, and where would that put her?

She swallowed, pushing off the mattress as she stared at her well-worn laptop like it was Pandora’s Box. On one hand…she could have ignored it as some trick by Talon to…maybe get her out of the picture, maybe have Gabriel kill her. But there was a part of it that was right: If Gabriel really wanted to kill her, she would have been already dead. She was a competent woman and she had spent many years knowing how to defend herself, but Gabriel was different now and she didn’t know if she had the heart deep down to pull the trigger if she had to.

She stuck the thumb-drive into the side of her laptop as she turned it on with a long sigh, staring ruefully at her empty cup of coffee as she went through to open up the thumb drive and started on the first content. Her bleary expression was soon focusing, bit by bit as she tapped through the media and the sinking feeling in her gut was soon replaced with an abject feeling of horror.

She didn’t know what to think that Talon of all people thought this was a step too far, but it was beyond a step too far. It was inhuman and savage. She knew the moment that she watched it all that she had to do something, but that left her the problem of just who she was helping: Gabriel. Gabriel had never been a man of solid morals, he had been the shadow to Jack’s light. He was cunning when he needed to be, and she remembered the number of operations that he had slipped under Jack’s radar…for the good of the world.

She found her forehead hitting her desk before she could think about it, frustration burning deep in her chest. She had to trust Gabriel that this was a genuine offer for help, when Gabriel was an international terrorist and turned into something that she didn’t understand, something dark and twisted.

“…Doctor Zeigler?” Vivi really seemed to find her at her worst moments of being a human, didn’t he? It seemed like more often than not he was just waiting for the right time to embarrass her as Angela glanced up, her forehead sporting a bright red indent. “Is…everything okay?”

“No, Vivi.” Anglea mumbled. “Shut the door behind you, what I’m about to tell you is only for you and me to know about, understood?”

“Understood, Doctor.” He said, shutting it behind him to walk over. “Has something been troubling you?”

“Just a dark little ghost,” Angela grumbled, turning the laptop to him to the first picture. “What does this look like to you, Vivi?” The omnic examined the screen for a split second, then glanced back to Anglea. It was odd just how much she could read his body language. “…Is this a valid document, Doctor?”

“As far as I know, it is…what is your opinion?” She said, looking the screen with him. Just looking at it again made her stomach sink to the ground. This is what she had feared from her biotic research years ago, what she had tried so hard to avoid…but it was in humanity’s nature to poison everything that was good it seemed. The bigger question was why Gabriel of all people wanted this to be dealt with? Was there truly a moral ground for Talon?

She knew people would weaponize her biotic technology, but this? This was disgusting and horrifying on a level that maybe she could see Talon being against. The normal bright yellow that accompanied her technology had turned a dark purple, the bodies within the stills were dark and devoid of life. It was like a disease that tore away at you on a molecular level, it was a horrifying way to die.

And yet, it looked so familiar…and she couldn’t place her finger on it. It was by it’s nature a maliciously simple weapon: It was simply her biotic technology in reverse, but for someone to do that would require knowledge already of biotic technology and very advanced knowledge, which wasn’t exactly as far fetched of an assumption as it was years ago. Still, the pictures were jarring and uncomfortable to see. It was like seeing people waste away into nothing, their skin bruised and purple and their veins black as night.

“It is possibly the most horrifying thing I have ever seen witnessed on humans, Doctor Zeigler, I cannot imagine through my understanding of the biotic technology that these deaths would be fast, nor humane.” Vivi said as seriously as an omnic could. “Based on what I am seeing, the results would be reversible?”

“Yes,” Angela nodded. “The formula is simplistic in what it does, but to do this does require some advanced knowledge, I can’t imagine the healing processes would be any better than the outcome…this is absolutely terrible, what kind of monster would make something like this?”

“How did you acquire this, Doctor Ziegler?” That was the question, wasn’t it? Angela looked him over once or twice before looking back at the screen. She could have lied, but Vivi had never done anything to deserve it or be deceived.

“…An old friend, I suppose,” Angela said. It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t entirely a truth either. “He has asked me to help him, do you recall my contacts if something goes wrong?”

“Yes, Doctor…Si vis Pacem…”

“Para Bellum,” Angela sighed heavily. She wished it wasn’t like this, but she couldn’t just ignore this either. She had more questions than she had answers, and she wondered faintly if Gabriel would give her any closure with them.
Kyrgyzstan was a shithole, but it wasn’t really the fault of the place. Places like this that had barely their own muscle to keep their nation together were exercise fields for Talon to test new tactics, new psychological warfare. This was no place that Reaper really needed to be, as there was nothing notable here to keep someone like him in place for the most part.

Honestly, his entire talk with Angela was a gamble at best and a risk at most. Talon cells were not unified, it kept things safer and easier if one went down. It also kept things…loose, if he did it right nobody would know that he had any part in any of it. And…he supposed, that if anyone would be willing to help him at all, even if he had to play dirty to get it done, Angela would.

And so, he waited. Wondering faintly if he was waiting for Angela as Reaper, or as Gabriel Reyes in some stupid hope that…well, he was just thinking too much about it. Whatever the reasons for how things happened couldn’t change. He had left details on where to meet if Angela had really wanted to help him, no matter how much hope Angela had drained out of her eyes, he knew that she couldn’t turn this one away.

So here he waited, arms crossed and against the wall of an empty building a few blocks away from her clinic. He would be doing it regardless of her help, but he had to admit that it would make it much easier to deal with if she came along.

He supposed ‘building’ was a bit of a hopeful descriptor for it, it had four walls but the roof had caved in on a section of it, giving them enough space to talk if she entered and that was about it. That was all the space they needed, really. He didn’t have a lot of time to wait, but Angela was always punctual anyway, and sure enough the sour faced Doctor had arrived at the location, glancing around with an irritated frown.

“…Gabriel?” Angela mumbled warily. What a weird place to-

…Oh.

The shadow she was seeing in the space in front of her wasn’t a shadow, it was him. The faint, dark smoke that seemed to curl along the edges and hiss up like a heat wave. She had so many questions and she doubted any of them would get answers.

“Surprised you came,” Gabriel rumbled.

“Surprised I am talking to a wall,” Angela responded dryly in turn. “How did you find this out, Gabriel? Who is doing this?”

“It’s not important- “Gabriel started, before Angela’s insistent glare spoke otherwise. “What? It isn’t.”

“You do not show me a…a complete mockery of my life’s work and then expect me to accept that answer, do you?” Angela said. Here she was, in a third world country glaring at a wall. Was she getting enough sleep, or was this all really happening? “Do you want my help, or not?”

“Angela-“

“You don’t have the right to act like you’re above me now, Gabriel,” she insisted in irritation, fingers tightening around her staff. “You have become a criminal, after all the years you have done something good for the world! And now what? Now you’re…this! What happened to you? Why don’t you let me help you?”

“Because some things you can’t fix, Angela…as far as I know,” Reaper said, dipping his head out. “Your work is the reason I am like this, and the fastest way to deal with this is to have the person who made it to help.” He said, his clawed hand reaching for his mask and tugging it off.

Angela’s eyes widened slowly at first, before he stared at her. Her breath caught in her throat. As a Doctor, it was horrifying…as someone who saw Gabriel as a friend once, it was even worse. Much like she would assume Jack would look, age had barely hit him at all. But his skin…it was dark and bruised, his veins black and his eyes seemed to burn an unnatural red. The first thing that came to Angela’s mind was vampire, a walking corpse. It was fascinating from a medical perspective, he looked like he was seriously suffering from necrosis and decay but-

“I haven’t fed in a while.”

“You haven’t what?” Angela blinked as Gabriel shot her an easy grin. His lips curling back to show teeth that had lost none of their strength. Incredible, the worse he had was the scars along his face…and she didn’t want to think too deeply about the many nicks and tears that seemed to accompany his otherwise rugged features.

“Fed.” He stated easily. “Takes a lotta calories to get me going, Doc…I’m a growing boy, after all.” He said smugly, faintly caught off guard by the fact that Angela was touching his face. He noted absently that it wasn’t her bare hands, but a pair of…gloves? He paused to stare at her as her face creased with open, almost painfully honest concern. Concern he didn’t need, pity that he was probably getting as he jerked away from her hand and fit his mask back on. He didn’t know why he shown her anything, but he knew that Angela was always easy to twist with the right emotion.

“You helping, or not?” Gabriel muttered. “We don’t got a lot of time, Angela.” Still, he felt a minor pang of disgust settle in his stomach. Angela was as much of a neutral party as anyone could have been in Overwatch, his relationship with most of his co-workers was a guessing game on most days but you typically didn’t want to be on the bad side of your doctors.

Well, for the most part.

“…Fine, Gabriel,” Angela sighed after a moment. “I’m not going to get answers to that question, am I?”

“You went to college for something after all, huh?” Gabriel said with a casual shrug. “Alright, let’s get going.” He said, his head looking up and down her curiously. Angela felt vaguely uncomfortable, but she wasn’t quite sure why.

“…What?” she mumbled warily.

“You mind if I tag along?” Gabriel said with a casual wave of his hand as if that explained everything. Angela quirked a brow at him before nodding.

“Yes? Isn’t that what we’re doing?” Angela said curiously before Gabriel seemingly shifted into a cloud of smoke and moved forward. Angela took a step back out of reflex but instead felt like she had taken a breath of smokey air and something felt…odd, she wasn’t sure what the feeling was. But Gabriel was in front of her and now he…wasn’t.

Snug.

The voice hit her in her chest so hard that it made her entire face heat up as she glanced around before the realization dawned on her.

“Gabriel,” she huffed, face red as a tomato. ‘You didn’t- “

I’m on your clothes, Angela…not anywhere else. It explained that faint feeling she couldn’t describe, the strange, spicy scent of smoke and something else...Sulphur? It wasn’t unpleasant enough to be that, Gabriel’s natural scent? Why, do you want me to be?

“Don’t even,” Angela muttered. “Do you have any idea how scientifically impossible it is what you’re doing? What manner of research even allowed this to happen, Gabriel?”

Guess if you want to find out, you’ll help me, huh?  That made her pause, however sour faced it came off. She had made that guess already, that whatever had been causing this was something like Gabriel.

“You’re not going to give me a straight answer, are you?” Angela mumbled, nevertheless turning to leave as she cast a glance in either direction before heading down the street. “Where are we going?”

You say that like I even know what happened to me, Doc…I’m not the Doctor, you figure it out. We need to get information first, there’s a cell at the harbor…that’s where we’re looking first. You do realize that we can’t leave anyone alive for this, right?
That voice of his was vibrating from her chest like the rumblings of a lion and it was trailing down her body in ways that were deceptively pleasant. Angela wondered if that was on purpose, Gabriel was always the ‘funny’ one between him and Jack. She was glad she was wearing her Valkyrie underneath her clothes, otherwise this would have gotten much more awkward.

“I am aware,” Angela replied, with less enthusiasm. She had a feeling that it wouldn’t be her problem anyway. “Is this where you are going to…feed?”


Something like that. That response didn’t exactly make her feel better, because the scientist in her knew that there was finally a way to understand what had happened to Gabriel in some morbid fashion, but every other part of her was already abhorrent that she was excited to see in the first place.

She was silent as she walked, and so was Gabriel. It unnerved her just a little at how she almost forgot he was clinging underneath her clothes like a smoke trick from a magician until he spoke again:


You want me to do the dirty work, then? Oddly considerate and strangely heartwarming, but this wasn’t her first time facing the reality of the world against her views. She had not spent much of her life in Overwatch and even more scouring the globe to help people in need to not end problems before they became worse.

“I’ll be fine, Gabriel,” she grinned nonetheless. “I appreciate your concern, it’s almost as if you haven’t changed.”

I wish. He said, filled with more emotions than Angela could even process. She supposed she was asking for that, wasn’t she? He was Reaper, she was just being naïve and hoping that some part of him somewhere was still Gabriel. Regardless of her own foolish dreams, he wasn’t wrong in that this…biotic chemical weapon was a serious concern if it got out.

She ignored it however as they made their way to the harbor, the only one that kept moving in this war-torn city. Business was slow, but that was to be expected. She was somewhat glad that she was a semi-familiar face here, she wouldn’t stick out too much. Air was faster, but much more expensive and posed a much greater risk.

Keep walking. He instructed, and Angela did just that as she glanced around. Harbors were not exactly the cleanest place in countries like this, it was easy to bribe overworked and underpaid guards to look the other way. Her being here was hardly a blip on the radar of their concerns, so she kept walking until the mysterious voice in her chest seemed to direct her in every direction. She was beginning to lose track of just where she was going until they stopped at the far northern end of the dock where a series of warehouses rested. Places where shipping containers were awaiting approval or where Talon had managed to manipulate things into their favor, or maybe the local mafias or anyone else making it difficult for normal people to get what they needed.

Looks like you haven’t lost your edge for walking, Doc.

“I’m going to smack you when I can, Reyes,” Angela grumbled, glancing at the three identical warehouses, all of them open and crammed with containers. “Which one?”

Start on the right and see what we find, the cell here is supposed to monitor everything going in and out of this place. But they started getting a little cocky and started experimenting on the local population. Angela grimaced faintly, tongue brushing along her lips to quell her anxious nerves. If she were exposed to it, she knew how to solve it but it would be an incredibly unpleasant process and she was glad that she came prepared. She took a casual glance on either way before she moved closer to the container and shed her shirt and jacket to expose her armor, squirming out of her pants as Reaper formed next to her with a faint cock of his head, arms crossing.

“Why the secrecy?” he mused curiously.

“Because I don’t think being a some brightly dressed armor wearing doctor is good for my mission, Gabriel,” she frowned. “Unlike you, I actually enjoy color coordination and being a normal person.”

“Ouch,” Gabriel said with a smirk that she could hear, which infuriated her even more if that was possible. “Tell me how you really feel, Doc.”

“If only,” she huffed. “Now then, let us find what we are looking for…your data said that they have samples? How are we to find them?”

“We only need one of them,” he assured easily, flexing one of his clawed hands. “Leave that part to me, you need to figure out how to stop this thing from getting worse, got it?”

“Fine,” Angela sighed. “…Be careful at least, Gabriel?”

“…I’ll be fine,” he rumbled, moving past her. “You can’t kill what’s already dead, you know.”

“Right,” Angela muttered, following as she was used to…always behind the big heroes, wasn’t she? “Guess that means you won’t mind if I shoot you.”
---

Angela had wished that the operatives were wearing their normal gear, the impartial black combat uniform with the masks and the imposing assault rifles. She supposed that wouldn’t make any sense when you were trying to keep somewhat of a low profile, but she hated how they looked like people. It was easy to hate a faceless dark soldier, but it was harder to hate someone who joined Talon for any number of reasons. Some of them were probably bad, but what if they weren’t?

It didn’t matter, no matter how much she wished for it to matter. They were here for something far more important than the loss of terrorist lives, ironic considering she was helping a terrorist, but she wasn’t going to get herself in that logic circle. This weapon was a serious issue that needed quick resolution, if they were even remotely close to having this mockery of her life’s work ready to use then this would make her job far more difficult.
But still, the question still nagged at her why Gabriel even cared…and more so, cared enough to ask her of all people. She wouldn’t know how bad it truly was until she had more concrete proof. Angela was about to ask what the plan was, but Gabriel had no hesitation in walking out. They must have known, because they didn’t look happy to see him as their eyes widened and they scrambled for their weapons.

Angela’s staff snapped to life, and she made a minor prayer for what she was doing as she flicked on her damage amplifier. The beam connected just as Gabriel summoned a hellfire shotgun and moved it to his right and fired, blowing one of the men back in a spray of gore and hissing holes whose smoke curled upward and sunk into his body,

“Only one of you matters,” Reaper growled, his hand gripping the throat of someone who had just dropped his pistol and threw him back so hard that he dented the container. Angela assumed he was the one that mattered as she moved forward, disconnecting her staff as she went to check for the man with an inward sigh. Some things didn’t change, did they?
One down, one captured…that left six. Probably more, this was supposed to be a somewhat larger cell given what they were doing. They scattered like rats, but that was fine…he liked hunting rats. He didn’t know their language, they seemed to be speaking Kyrgyz or Russian. But he knew how he could find out. He’d give Talon credit: Even the people running these jobs locally had some training, but nobody was prepared to face someone like him. Like a wraith, he sunk into his incorporeal form and slid up a shipping container as he watched them speak and dart in every direction. They were making motions to where Angela was currently tending to the man he had cast aside.

Reaper’s lips curled back into a wicked grin behind his mask, watching them check corners and bark out commands as he settled his eyes on the man right below him. Well, the best way to learn a language is to pick the brain of someone who knew it, right?

He wouldn’t even begin to know why he could do what he could do, he had learned long ago that it was simply a muscle for him to flex at any given moment. He could become a wraith of smoke, connected and yet not…all together a giant middle finger to logic and scientific reason. He didn’t like the way Angela looked at him when he took off his mask, maybe he shouldn’t. He didn’t like seeing pity, it frustrated him and burned a hole in his chest.

But he had plenty of things to take his mind off it now, he let his body sink back into his wraith form and sunk down into the numerous shipping containers. He waited, a faint little tendril underneath the bottom of the container gave him all the sight he needed for the man to walk in front of him before he reached out his solidifying arm and curled around his neck. He opened his mouth to scream, but Reaper’s smoke filled his mouth and nostrils as his eyes rolled back in horrifying pain, gagging furiously as he hit the container and slumped down. Blood poured down his nose, his body twitching and convulsing before stopping.

So, that’s what they were planning, hm? Not a bad plan, circle around and surround Angela. He rose once again, but not as Reaper: He was now the Talon Operative Taalay. He grinned widely, cracking his neck faintly as he checked the chamber on his submachine gun.

Ah, so that’s how you spoke Kyrgyz…and a little Russian to boot. Never hurt to educate yourself through the brain of someone else. He took a casual glance around and then headed to where he was ‘supposed’ to go. He made sure to wipe his nose in passing, letting out a faint sniff before giving the corners quick check. They were going to round back and surround Angela, well…he was going to put a stop to that.

---
It was in her nature to worry, in her nature to treat people. Gabriel’s strength was immense: even after the serum and knowing his physicals front to back because he and Jack seemed to enjoy ignoring her for routine medical check-ups, this was different. This was almost a casual strength that he had complete control of, was he always this strong or was it simply…whatever he had been turned into?

Well, the man was fine at any rate, but he was going to be sore when he woke up. She cast her eyes across the room to the man that Gabriel had shot earlier. He had decayed at an alarming rate, there wasn’t even any blood to speak of other than the initial splatter, which had made her paranoid enough to check the man Gabriel had thrown for any kind of puncture wound.

She didn’t have much time to plan for anything else, because then men poured out of every corner screaming Kyrgyz and pointing their guns at her. Angela rose up without much hesitation, holding up her hands with staff in hand as they moved in. She was surrounded, where was Gabriel? She didn’t hear any gunfire, he didn’t…he didn’t trap her, did he? No, he needed her, right? This wasn’t just some ploy to capture her for Talon?

She didn’t understand a word they were talking about, but whatever it was sounded frantic. Ugh, she was stupid…why did she think Gabriel would be the same old person she knew? He was different now, he was a war criminal…he had committed more atrocities than she probably wanted to admit, and she just helped him without pause. Maybe she should have, maybe she should have just dismissed him off and been done with it, but she didn’t, and she needed to find a way to get out of here.

Angela had changed, Gabriel noticed. He wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not, but he still struggled to grasp just how different she acted. She still was altruistic to the point of insanity, she still had that same frown whenever she got into a dangerous situation, but her eyes were different. Her eyes spoke of threats and a refusal to bow down just so nobody got hurt.

If he was being honest, it was probably the most attractive thing he ever saw. More than that, he had a proper ally in this fight. His gun was already raised, ‘Taalay’ moved it to his right and opened fire in a spray of bullets that caught everyone off guard as he sunk to a knee and swung his weapon around to the other side to put down the man with four shots to the stomach. Angela didn’t hesitate, her staff came down on the first assailant’s head with a harsh crack before she pivoted him around to provide cover. She hated doing it, but self-preservation was more important.

Temporary, though it was. Because the furthest was gunned down by her mystery helper and gave her a chance to shove her concussed shield forward before the man in front of her could get off a shot. She took the moment of hesitation to draw her pistol and fire at the last man. Gabriel noted that Jack probably would have been proud to see it, even if Angela’s face didn’t look at all pleased about it: Even with her staff in her offhand, her draw was snappy and below her arm to fire off those two shots that hit in the chest with a painful sizzle and he crumpled to the ground.

‘Taalay’ moved forward, a pair of shots burrowing into the head of the last man as Angela glanced behind her to see the most disturbing thing she had ever seen, so much so that her reflex was to point her smoking pistol at him.

“What?” ‘Taalay’ said, his lips spreading into a grin that looked like it was straining the muscles, twitching and spreading as the skin started to darken and go grey. “You don’t like my new coat?” That voice, twisted and distorted like a radio off frequency chilled her to the bone.

Gabriel.

“Get out of him, Gabriel, now.” Angela warned. How was this even possible? What had happened to cause this? Was this really related to this chemical weapon? She couldn’t even believe what she was watching. The body was being decayed as it moved.

“Or what?” he said, moving closer as the body started to crack and snap under its own lack of energy. “You’re going to shoot me?”

“Yes.” Angela stated firmly, pistol still raised. “I’m not here for your games of being a villain, Gabriel…I am here to help people, this isn’t funny.”

He probably shouldn’t have tempted fate, but what was fate when death was a barely possible reality? There was a time when Angela Ziegler had the conviction to stand up for her beliefs but not the strength to see them to the end. When she would spend more time on hoping for peace instead of pointing a gun at someone, and yet here she had grown and made bitter.

So, he took that next step, and the gun went off on reflex. He vaguely felt the pain of the body he was in as the energy shot slammed hard into his skull and recoiled the head back. There wasn’t enough calcium in the bones to hold it together and so it simply jerked back with a sharp snap. As the body hit the ground and Gabriel appeared beside in a wreath of black smoke and formed.

She lowered her pistol, frowning deeply at him.

“…You’ve changed,” Gabriel said, head cocked. “I kind of like it.”

“I hope you get a staph infection, Gabriel.” Angela groused, holstering her pistol. “That was the most disturbing thing I have ever witnessed, and I will not be happy if I must see it again, are we clear?”

“Yes, mother, we’re clear,” Gabriel chuckled, arms crossing. “Anyway, good news is that I know what’s in here…but the weapon isn’t, they already moved it.” He said as Angela eyed him curiously, and he motioned to the husk that she put a bullet into and grimaced even deeper.

“And I am supposed to believe that?” Angela said warily. “From you?”

“You don’t really have a lot of choices, do you?” Gabriel shrugged easily. “We’re just stuck together, Doc…maybe you can give me a check-up to make sure you didn’t give me any boo-boos.” Angela’s unamused stare felt like he was a child being scolded for being bad, he let out a long sigh and then headed over to a shipping container.

“Fine, you want proof? Here, this one should have all the information about the weapon…they were moving it to a research point in China.” He said, summoning one of his shotguns to blow off the lock. Angela watched him warily, then headed over, hand settled on the door.

“…Why do you want me to help you, Gabriel?” Angela said honestly, looking up at him.


“Seemed better than doing it on my own, not like I know anything about this mess, Doc... besides, I knew you couldn’t resist it, why not get the best in the business to fix the problem?” Angela stared at him a moment longer before opening the door, her eyes widening a fraction. It was a mobile lab, complete with a computer, a server and some equipment designed to test biotic energy.

“…Is this something Talon wants, or something you want?” Angela asked, moving toward the laptop.

“Does it matter?” Gabriel asked. “It’s bad and it needs to be dealt with, so why are you asking me so many questions?”

“Because the mighty Reaper, famed mercenary of Talon is trying to do the right thing,” Angela said, looking at him. “Are you trying to tell me that there are limits to even what you can stand, Gabriel? I thought you had lost all that.”

“You don’t know enough about me to say anything, Angela,” Gabriel muttered.

“Maybe not, but you don’t know enough about me anymore to think that I blindly trust you because of our past, Gabriel.” Angela frowned in return. “I am doing this to help others, why you are wanting my help is what concerns me…for all I know I’m your next test subject for this…weapon.”

“You’re not.”


“Why?”

“Because I wouldn’t let you die like that.”

Angela paused at her keystrokes on the computer, glancing over to him in genuine surprise. Gabriel was as silent as ever as he took off his mask a moment. He wasn’t the same now, the brown skin tone had returned and he almost…almost looked like the old Gabriel. His eyes were different, constantly shifting and dancing like the swirls of smoke he could turn into, faint flecks of luminescent red appeared at random intervals and Angela found herself staring out of fascination and awe more than anything else.

“Whatever this is, Doc…it’s what I am.” Gabriel said. “A dead man walking, I’m not the same person I was, and I can’t be…but I don’t need more of what made me, running around.” He mumbled, fitting his mask back on. “Get what you need from the server, and let’s go.”

Angela broke her sight away a moment, as much as she wished they had the time to talk…they didn’t, but they would soon.

“Let’s take the server then,” Angela smiled. “Not many people know what you look like, right?”

“…Right,” he said warily. “What, you want to just walk out with the server?”

“Vivi can help,” Angela insisted with a smile. “Come on, you wanted my help, right? I don’t need Reaper right now, I need Gabriel…he’s still in there somewhere for some menial labor, right?”

Gabriel stared at her insistent gaze, ever the radiant smile as he grumbled in annoyance and headed over, snapping off the cables in his irritation before hefting it up and resting it against his shoulder. Thank god it was a small, personal server. Otherwise he’d have a strong desire to choke her for this, how did he end up being the labor?

“Fine,” Gabriel muttered. “Let’s go see what your tin can has to say about all this.”

“You’re the best,” Angela grinned easily. “And you’re getting a check-up when we get back, Gabriel Reyes, and I am not having an argument about it…if this weapon is related to you somehow, then your physiology will help me figure out a way to fight it.”

“…Fine,” Gabriel grumbled. Not unlike a sour faced puppy, he couldn’t believe he was agreeing to this bullshit. But he had no other options if he wanted this to be dealt with.

She guessed some things didn’t change, no matter how much the person did. Gabriel was still…Gabriel in some ways, but she didn’t know if she could forget about what he did to that poor man.

She hoped that she could finally help him, after all these years.

Chapter Text

In the years that Vivi had spent being Angela’s steadfast partner, he had learned to accept that he had chosen a strange human to work with. There was never a dull moment in her line of work, never a time where one humanitarian issue was the same as the other. Being an Omnic made that increasingly difficult, as people still harbored understandable but ignorant views that every Omnic wanted to continue genocide against humanity. He hoped that in some small way that he would implant a memory of an Omnic who helped those in need, and maybe someone would think twice before going to hatred.

All of that was well and good, but Vivi would have never expected Doctor Ziegler to arrive with a giant slab of a man in dark armor and carrying a server on his shoulder as he glanced around the clinic like he had the authority to judge it.

Doctor Ziegler’s strays were even worse than her adventures if he was being completely honest.

“…Doctor,” Vivi said faintly. “I wasn’t aware we required more assistance.”

“We don’t, Vivi,” Angela smiled. “This is my friend, Gabriel…he is a…private military contractor, he decided to lend me a hand as a favor.” Gabriel glanced at Angela but left it alone for the time being, it was an easy enough lie.

“Gabriel,” Vivi stated. “I’ve never heard you mention a Gabriel before, Doctor…let alone you friends with a mercenary.”

“Private military contractor,” Gabriel defended with a sniff. “There’s a difference, tin-man.”

“Much like the difference between your commentary and intelligence,” Vivi replied in turn, glancing to Angela who failed miserably to hide her grin. “Doctor Zeigler, what’s going on?”

“Trust me, Vivi,” Angela said easily as Gabriel muttered something in Spanish that didn’t entirely sound friendly, but she ignored that for now. Gabriel irritated was a usual mood for him anyway he’d be fine.  “Come along, Gabriel…I didn’t pay you to stand around to look handsome.”

Oh, she was loving this, wasn’t she? Gabriel followed as Vivi followed him in turn, hands behind his back. This was hardly the first time that Vivi had trusted Angela purely on her word

“Are you not a fan of Omnics, Gabriel?” he asked, head tilted. “There is little to fear of me, you know.”

“Don’t trust something I can’t read,”  Gabriel grumbled.

“Sounds like an educational issue, perhaps you should have studied more instead of becoming a private military contractor…I believe that college is still seen as an acceptable practice for an older human, Gabriel? I may have learned differently, but I assure you that most humans prefer seeing an Omnic apply their chosen trade practically instead of assuming we simply download the knowledge.” Gabriel felt his eyebrow twitch faintly as Angela looked innocently ignorant of the entire affair, which lead him to believe that this was a normal occurrence.

“How can something with no mouth be so mouthy?” Gabriel grumbled.  This is why he didn’t like omnics, the ones with personality were a giant headache.

“The same way a species that is so fragile seems to delight in killing one another, I suppose,”  Vivi responded without much pause.

“Okay, you two…enough,” Angela grinned. “I’m glad you both are getting along, but we have work to do…Vivi, can you look at this server and see what you can find out?” she asked, opening the door to her office for him.

“I can do my best, Doctor,” Vivi assured, taking the server from Gabriel without much effort. “Likely encrypted, I assume?”

“Yes,” Gabriel said, looking Vivi over. “…Aren’t you a Doctor-bot? What do you know about breaking encryption?”

“…Doctor-bot, charming.” Vivi said flatly. “Perhaps you should worry less about what I can do and more worry about your manners, or do you just kill people you don’t like?”

“I like to recycle, what can I say?” Gabriel grinned faintly. “Keep talking, tin-man…and you’ll get scrapped too.”

“That, I would be very interested in seeing,” Vivi said casually. “Doctor, next time you bring home strays, put a muzzle on them…they make too much noise.” He said, shutting the door as Gabriel arched a brow to glance at Anglea.  She always liked odd people, which is probably why she’s even bothering with her in the first place.

“…Duly noted,” Angela smirked as she motioned for Gabriel to follow, he grumbled lightly but did so regardless.

“Where’d you find him?” he asked. “Seems like an oddball.”

“Says the man who can turn into mist and possess bodies,” Angela remarked dryly, looking him over. “Who are you to judge anyone about being strange, Gabriel?”

“…I suppose that’s fair,” he rumbled in annoyance. “Where are we going?”

“To your check-up,” Angela said cheerfully. “Because if you want me to help you? I am exploring every single inch of you, Reyes…and you’re going to like it.”

“Am I?” Gabriel purred. “Well, I guess I should have visited you sooner, I didn’t know you felt that way about me, Angela…is this our first date then?” he asked, glancing around the examination room. “Whatever would Jack say?”

“Whatever Jack would say is not my problem,” Angela said, looking him over. “Strip.”

“…Seriously?” Gabriel said curiously. “Why?”

“Because your physiology is notably different, Gabriel…I’m going off absolutely nothing,”  Angela admitted. “I need to see it, touch it…take samples.” She smiled. “Besides, don’t tell me you’re shy in front of women now, Gabriel.”

“No,” Gabriel said, shucking his jacket with a grumble. “…I just don’t see the point, Angela…I’m working, right? Nothin ‘is wrong with me.” She had forgotten, as Gabriel shed out of his coat, vest and working on his jacket just how…filled that he was.  It was like staring at the body of an Olympian that never lost their edge, always at peak performance. That serum they gave him, and Jack was beyond revolutionary, but it was covered behind so many top-secret classifications that not even Overwatch could manage to get a hint of it.  Jack and Gabriel had no idea what it was, but it was artwork to watch unfold before her eyes as he stood before her shirtless.

“If you consider requiring the subsistence of human bodies to be ‘working’, then yes.” Angela reminded, brow arching in annoyance as her eyes trailed over him like a hungry woman at a butcher shop. She recognized new scars, almost without delay as she walked closer.

“…You’ve been busy,” Angela remarked, applying rubbing alcohol to his arm. Gabriel tried to ignore what it felt like to have the hot stare of an attractive woman on him, but Angela was a very attractive woman and it had been a very long time since he had even thought about it.

“Well, you die when you stop moving as some people say,” Gabriel said, glancing away from her. For a moment, it felt normal. A normal that he hadn’t had in a very long time, and it twisted his stomach into knots in ways that annoyed him.

“Uh huh,” Angela said quieter, sinking the needle into his arm. “…Do you bleed?”

“Sort of,” Gabriel mumbled, grimacing a bit at the needle as she pulled out blood. “You’ll see.”

She held up the syringe curiously before his blood started to darken and shifted into black smoke.  She huffed out a breath of surprise, eyes widening as she looked at it. “…This is biotic energy,” she murmured. It glimmered every so often, with flecks of purple and red…that explained so much. Gabriel had said that it was all connected but just…seeing it happen was beyond incredible and horrifying.

“Yup,” Gabriel said, glancing at her.

“But this is…” she frowned deeper. “You shouldn’t have this, Gabriel…this is incredibly unstable…you’re practically radiating it from every pore that…” Oh. Of course! It made sense now! Her eyes lit up in realization, staring at him.

“Uh huh,” Gabriel added with a faint little smirk. “Tell the rest of the class, Teacher.”

“You have extremely unstable biotic energy…laced down to your molecular structure,” she frowned. “This shouldn’t be possible, but I know who did this to you…why, Gabriel?”  she insisted. “Why would you allow this?”

“Because I liked it,” Gabriel stated. “But it doesn’t bother me, not really…what bothers me is other people getting it.” He said. “…Wish I knew why, too.” Some stubborn feeling of personal responsibility? The fact that people didn’t know the kind of shit they were getting into?

“Because Gabriel is still in there, even if you’re Reaper.” Angela reminded. “You haven’t changed a bit, have you?”

“You don’t know me well enough to say that,” He muttered, glancing at her. “Or are you just getting soft on me because I’m shirtless?” he said, grinning as he gave her a casual flex. “Bit wrong to get hot and bothered by your patients, Doc.”

“Bit wrong to try and seduce your Doctor, Gabriel,” Angela said in return, brow arched. “Do you really think that being some scared, rough sounding man is enough to get me all week in the knees?”

“Yes,” Gabriel grinned. “Because you always seemed to like when you had to do physicals for Jack and I.” Angela’s eyebrow twitched faintly, and Gabriel knew he had struck a nerve.
 
“That is completely beside the point,” Angela sniffed. “Approaching my job with enthusiasm is suddenly me panting like a dog? Grow up.” She said as Gabriel slid off the examination table to move closer. Angela’s brows rose up as Gabriel walked closer, and she suddenly found herself against the wall and holding a syringe-like it was going to protect her.

“What are you going to do, check my blood?” Gabriel smirked, his voice a low and hungry purr that made Angela’s body ripple out in goosebumps as she glared up at him. His eyes were so…hypnotic, swirling masses of black and flecks of red that seemed to dance along his iris. Were she a younger woman, less broken in by the harsh reality of the world…maybe she would have fallen for it.

“Stab you in the stomach.” She said flatly, her eyes locked with his. “I’ll scream, Gabriel.”

“I’d silence you first,” Gabriel hummed. “I bet you scream nicely, don’t you?”

“Your attempts to intimidate me aren’t working, you know,” Angela said. “Do you think this is the first time I’ve been in this situation?”

“No,” Gabriel said. “But this is probably the first time that you’re getting a little turned on by it.”

“Now who doesn’t know the other?” Anglea muttered, arms still close to her body as she glanced away. “I’m not interested, Gabriel…I don’t consort with murderers?”

“No?” Gabriel said, shifting away. “You don’t consort with honest people, then…you’re a philosophical person, Doc…you tellin’ me that people like Jack are suddenly saints? He’s got as much blood on his hands as me.”

“That’s different.” Angela huffed as he finally pulled away, and the breath she didn’t know she was holding was finally let go. “For starters, he doesn’t pin women to the wall like some…some…animal!”

“Ah, so that’s the real problem, mm? I came on too strong?” Gabriel smirked, moving to put his clothes back on. “Guess I didn’t read the room well enough, next time I’ll write you a note first.”

“Next time you do that without my permission, I’m going to shoot you,” Angela warned. “I’m not here for your fancy little games, Gabriel…I am here to help people.” Why was he like this? Why was she okay with it? She should have been more upset, angrier…more something. Was she so desperate for that kind of contact?

“Duly noted,” Gabriel said, tugging his hood up. “Let’s go see what your tin man found, then.”

--
What tin-man found was nothing good, in the slightest bit. He knew he had no face to make such worried expressions, but the way he was sitting was enough for Angela to know it wasn’t good: Reclined back, one foot on top of the other’s knee and settled into the chair like some sort of evil businessman.

“Vivi?” Angela said, moving into her makeshift office with a concerned frown. “What did you find?”

“Good news and bad news, Doctor,” Vivi said. “I imagine you and your little shadow will be interested to know that there is already a facility in place in Bishkek that is producing these contaminated biotic particles, Reaper cells…adorable name, if you ask me.”

“Nobody did, Vivi.” Angela frowned. “So, what was this server for?”

“Data collection, this server houses almost all of their past experimentation with the Reaper cells…I would assume that the hope would be to properly collect enough information to know why it keeps failing.” Vivi said, a thin finger tapping his chin that sounded akin to water hitting a sink. 

“It keeps…failing?” Gabriel muttered, expression darkening. “What do you mean?”

“The results they have gotten so far are a side effect of failures, not successes.” Vivi explained. “The project appears to be lead by a Felix Van Den Borre, although that name means nothing to me, he seems to be of some importance.” Angela glanced at Gabriel, whose expression was twitched into minor irritation. He knew him then, that didn’t bode well.

“What else does it say, Vivi?” Angela insisted.

“Nothing of particular importance, more knowledge of the process to make these ‘Reaper Cells’, but other than that it seems like that the facility in Bishkek has been running for some time, and they’ve been ramping up tests with kidnappings.”

“Tch,” Gabriel muttered. “Fucking figures, guess we’re going to Bishkek then.”

“I would like to come with you if it is at all possible, Doctor.” Vivi asked, rising from his seat to stare pointedly at Gabriel.  “I don’t trust you going alone.”

“She is going with me, you know,” Gabriel added in dryly as Vivi turned to face Angela.

“As I said, I don’t trust you going alone,” he said flatly. Gabriel should have felt insulted, but who was he to be insulted about it when he almost came on Angela earlier without her consent. He was just as bad as-

“I trust Gabriel, so you will too, Vivi.” Angela frowned. “If you wish to come with me, that is acceptable…but we must ensure the clinic is safe and well protected then, and you are helping with that, Gabriel.”

“Am I?” he rumbled. After all this, Angela still trusted him?  He didn’t know if she was the bigger fool or if he was at this point.  Maybe she was the one who hadn’t changed, despite his earlier experiences saying otherwise. Deep down, she just really hoped he was still there, huh? He wished he could say if he knew he’d feel bad for disappointing her.

“Yes, you are,” Angela said sharply. “I am not leaving my clinic to rot, this is still a place to help and we will do just that.”

“Uh huh,” Gabriel said faintly, glancing to Vivi. “And how is tin-man going to help, reading people their last rites?”

“All are one within the Iris, Gabriel.” Vivi said. “I simply wish to expedite their journey.” He said, hand extended as it burned with dark energy. Gabriel arched a brow at that, glancing at Angela.

“Shambali?” he muttered. “Seriously?”

“Would you prefer he gives last rites, instead?” Angela grinned. “Vivi wants to help and we need the help, so you two please be careful…and make sure that you make it clear that this clinic is not to be trifled with, Gabriel…you follow Vivi.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Gabriel groused. “Should I polish his shiny tin body too?”

“I would find that to be quite pleasant, but I am told that humans are disquieted by touching the unclothed form of an omnic.”  Vivi said, hands behind his back. “We will return unharmed with all due haste, Doctor.”

“Good,” Angela said, giving Gabriel a smile. “Behave, Gabriel.” She reminded sternly as he shrugged and followed Vivi out of the office. Once she was alone, Angela sighed heavily. Why was she doing this…? Why did she think that anything she did would ‘change’ him? More importantly, what would this accomplish? Why did Gabriel want her help to deal with this? Was it just his own opinion? Was she helping Talon too?  She needed coffee and she needed to make sure that her clinic would be prepared for her departure. As much as she knew what she had asked Vivi and Gabriel to do, she hoped that it didn’t come to that…but she knew better.

--

“Kind of surprising to see a Doctor-Bot throwing out that kind of mojo, you know,” Gabriel remarked as they left the clinic. “Isn’t Shambali about teaching for a higher purpose and meaning? All that religious praying and stupid crap?”

“Knowing a higher purpose does not remove me from understanding the reality of life, Gabriel.” Vivi pointed out. “There must be a balance in everything that you do, I had much in my thoughts that were in turmoil, and I found peace in understanding the Iris.”

“Uh huh,” Gabriel said, head cocked. “So, what exactly did you find in the Iris?”

“That violence is a satisfying conclusion to any conflict,” Vivi said easily. “That the crunch of bone and steel is a purpose that I can grasp must more readily with my hands than a hope that my existence has a higher meaning beyond my own actions…you are a man of violence, Gabriel…do you not agree that you understand what existence truly is when you take it from someone else?”

Gabriel stared at Vivi, who looked back at him. The hollow echo of his words only served to make what he said that much more disturbing to hear. Even so, he could relate and understand…to an uncomfortable degree.

“You’ve got a point,” Gabriel grinned. “So, what are you doing Ang-Doctor Ziegler then? Is this some weird way for you to balance out your karma?”

“Truly understanding life means that you understand those worthy of death,” Vivi said. “Doctor Ziegler showed me that not every life is worth removing, there are many more worth living…but right now, we are here to remove those who have no meaning.” He explained. “I trust you are capable of doing so, Mercenary.”

“You’re talking to an expert, Tin-Man.” He smirked eagerly. Well now, this got very interesting. “Come on, I know just where to go.” Wiping out the Talon cell would be a pain, but it’d be one that’d spare Angela some headaches for her clinic later. He’d give her a bill once this was all done, he was a Mercenary after all.

--
Talon cells were generally autonomous for safety reasons, although that wasn’t always a standard. When you got into these sorts of counties it could be easier to connect everything together, but it was often the opposite done.  Vivi didn’t seem to ask questions on how he knew where the heart of the Talon cell was, but now that he knew he was walking with a living example of homicide it explained things rather well.

On its own, the destination was innocuous. It was a bit off the beaten path in the city proper, down a winding alleyway that Vivi followed Gabriel on without a word. The dull and faint noises of his body simply moving was somewhat jarring to hear with an echo, but they stopped at an alleyway. The building looked like a large garage, or warehouse and was entirely unmarked.

“Am I to assume the reason you are aware of this location, Gabriel…is because that you are more than just a friend to Doctor Ziegler?” Vivi finally asked, and Gabriel contemplated lying. Honestly, there’d be no hiding it once the fun started, the similarities of what they were looking for versus what he could do.

“I used to work with her, in Overwatch.” He said.  Which wasn’t a lie. “I’m used to dealing with Talon, that good enough for you?”

“If Doctor Ziegler trusts you, then I will,” Vivi assured. “Unlike the good Doctor, however…I am not so quick to rely on past experiences to trust people, you hurt her, and you will find yourself within the realm of pain that only a spiritual man can properly understand, Gabriel.” He said, his hands still behind his back. Who the hell was this tin-man? Since when did Angela start hanging out with sociopaths? Heh, well…that was a burn against himself, wasn’t it? Sometimes he felt like he was one.

“…You’re creepy, has anyone ever told you that?” Gabriel said flatly.

“Routinely, shall we go deal with these Talon?” he said cheerfully. “I am interested in seeing these particular powers in use, perhaps then I can find a proper way to destroy them.”

“You knew then,” Gabriel said, rising to head toward the building. Lacking in morals, dangerous…insightful. Talon would have loved to have this tin man on their side, but maybe he just blew a lot of hot air.

“I assumed,” Vivi assured. “A practical hypothesis given the Doctor’s interest in you, I trust your disturbing mockery of physiology will allow us easy entrance?”

“Give me a moment,” he rumbled, glancing up at the building as the morbid smoke rolled off his body, and suddenly he was a collection of smoke and ash that trailed up the side of the building. Vivi watched for a time before he stood at the entrance of the building, glancing around casually as he waited.

Waited.

Until he heard footsteps, frantic and fast, talking. The snap of bone, the crunch of bodies hitting pavement, the wet slap of blood. Vivi unfurled his hands, dusting off his shoulders. He wasn’t very efficient, was he? Regardless, the security lock on the front door flashed green and Gabriel opened it.

“Ladies first,” Gabriel said with an artful wave of his hand.

“Explains why you’re in here, then,” Vivi said, stepping inside. “An underground base, I would assume?” My, he was violent, wasn’t he? Six bodies in various states of death, blood smeared in every direction. He wasn’t fast, but he was brutal…old habits die hard, didn’t they?

“Right,” Gabriel said. “With only one entrance and exit, that means they know we’re coming.”

“Excellent,” Vivi said. “It has been a long time since I fought proper, well-trained warriors…I hope I am not disappointed, their embrace to the Iris has no meaning if there is no struggle.”

“I’m starting to get the feeling that you aren’t a proponent of the same sort of feeling that Mondatta used to talk about,” Gabriel said dryly, pressing his bloodied thumbprint to the elevator access panel as the door snapped open.

“The Iris does not have but a single path, Gabriel.” He said, moving inside with his hands behind his back. “The path to understanding oneself is starting with knowing your flaws and strengths…my strength is that I am quite talented in martial arts, my flaw is that I savor the rush of combat.”

“…Right,” Gabriel murmured faintly. “So, you know that they know we’re coming.”

“I am looking forward to it,” he promised, dark omnic energy swirling around his body. “Worry little about me, Gabriel....this den of filth will be clean.”

“…If you say so,” Gabriel muttered, cracking his neck. “Just don’t slow me down, tin-man.”

“Likewise, Gabriel.” He said as the pleasant elevator music began as they rolled down the floors.  The first floor was quite a way down, but it finally stopped as Gabriel was nowhere to be seen when the doors open, what was seen was the curl of dark smoke spreading out along the doors and an omnic surrounded by a dark aura of energy.

Twelve muzzle flashes went off as Vivi rose his hand, automatic gunfire howled into the elevator as the shimmering barrier was assaulted with a fusillade of bullets. It seemed like it would never end as the faint smoke finally cleared as the operatives all reloaded their weapons, and there still stood Vivi with his hand outstretched.

“Excellent,” Vivi said. “Is it my turn?” he said casually, jerking his hand forward as the bullets shot back through the hallway. Many of them were not quick enough to duck as the returned rounds, burning with dark energy slammed into their bodies and sent them sprawling.  Vivi rushed in as the dark mist skirted along the feet of Talon members and formed behind them. Vivi was something else, huh?

Gabriel summoned his shotguns as Vivi connected with the first soldier, his fist slamming viciously into his helmet, spiderwebbing the hard material as dark energy filled in and lit up the cracks as the body hit the ground.  Gabriel fired into the back of one operative as he slumped over in pain while the other turned and fired, he shifted through his wraith form as the bullets sunk past his body and Gabriel pressed the shotgun to his chin and fired, blowing everything up through his brain as the helmet cracked and he slumped over.

Now, they were trapped. Gabriel’s shotguns howled their fury as Vivi sunk into the melee with a brutal precision. His fists were like small explosives: every blow was punctuated by the sharp snap of energy. It was hard to believe that he was the same wisecracking little shit hours ago, now he was working his way through a dozen men with the efficiency of a blade through flesh. He didn’t know a whole lot about Omnic energy, but he didn’t recall someone using it like a brutal stabbing like Vivi was.

His style was brutal and without compromise, there was barely a wasted movement in his actions, it was almost hypnotic watching him cut a swath through Talon soldiers.  Between the two of them, the men who were waiting for them were gone in a short minute or two as the alarms blared.

“Hope your tricks aren’t over, tin man,” Gabriel grunted.

“I am what you might consider a magician, Gabriel.” He said, flicking blood off his fingers. “What should we be expecting?” he said, as they walked down the hall.

“More men, more trouble…like a damn ant colony down here,” Gabriel grunted. “But they have hanger-“

“Then we must ensure that nobody leaves, can I assume you are capable of that task?” Vivi asked, glancing at him.

“Got it,” Gabriel smirked. “Try to keep enough space for your karma zone later to offset all this murder you’re doing, tin-man.”

“Murder implies that there is a worthy meaning to these people,” Vivi commented. “I do not murder people, I butcher animals.” He said, turning down the hall as Gabriel watched him go with an arch of his brow. And Talon was supposed to be the place for all the unmentionable people of society, of all the high criminal masterminds…and then there was this Omnic roaming around with Angela and she seemed blissfully ignorant to his true self.

…It’d be even more terrifying if she did know, now that he thought about it.

--
Angela knew what they were doing because Gabriel knew what she wanted to be done.  It didn’t endear her to think about what was going on when she asked. But what else could she do? It gave her time to think, at least. Time to process just what she had gotten herself into while she prepared her clinic for her trip to Bishkek

Well, Gabriel mostly. Gabriel who had told her of some horrible chemical weapon that was using her technology to poison and kill people and for who knew what else. All of it so far was true, which concerned her even more…Gabriel was never a liar, but this also wasn’t Gabriel entirely…this was Reaper.

The mercenary who always worked for Talon, the one who killed countless people all to sustain his physiology. But was there legitimate value in dealing with this for Talon? Or was this only Gabriel’s personal task? The fact that she didn’t know bothered her more than anything, that she could be walking int0 a trap.

But Gabriel had said it himself, didn’t he? That he wouldn’t let her get hurt. She just didn’t know what to think about how true that could be, if anything he should be trying to kill her like he was trying to kill every other Overwatch member. Maybe she was just a friendship of convenience for now and she’d have to deal with him later. The thought made her bitter coffee even more bitter, and she felt like she would be more comfortable with Vivi coming along after all…Gabriel or not, he was also still a member of Talon.

A very handsome member of Talon, who she had a lot of frustrating history with that never got settled. Never had any closure, asking Jack for closure was like asking a blind man to see. Gabriel? She didn’t know, she never tried. She didn’t want to think about all the stress she felt before everything came to a head. But what would her closure even mean to him, of all people?

What irritated her more than anything was just how much his lazy, smug flirting got to her. It had been years, maybe almost a decade that she had entertained anything other than her fingers for any kind of release. And just thinking about Gabriel’s shirtless, muscular body made her catch herself with a light sigh.

Even if he was ‘Reaper’, he was still smug, overly confident and strongly opinionated about everything. She had no doubt that in his head he was still doing some ‘right thing’, that didn’t make sense to anyone else. But she could respect that sort of conviction if it wasn’t tied to being a traveling mercenary that seemed set on destabilizing everything he touched.

Why did she want that in her life, again? Right, because she didn’t actually have anyone in her life to fill that void, everyone that could would never even try because of how respected she was. Logic versus Passion, was it? Was Gabriel interested or was he using his vampire-esque charisma to simply lull her into a false sense of security?  Ugh, was she really trying to justify all this to herself when she had work to do?

She needed more coffee.

--

The Talon cell never really knew what hit them, Gabriel was a shotgun-wielding wraith prowling through the halls to the hanger. Gunfire went right through him and his shotguns went right through them.  Playing the good person was an exhausting process of skimming the fat off people’s essences and all it did was keep him sated and not satisfied. This? This was satisfying. Feeling the rush of life fill his veins only made him move faster, react stronger.

He had linked up with Vivi to establish a connection, he guessed the tin-man had a radio in his head or some such thing. He didn’t know all the details about omnic bodies and he didn’t really care. He made his way to the hanger in a pattern of blood and bodies as they retreated in an even, well-organized line.

He had to give them credit, they certainly weren’t giving up. He pressed against the wall with a faint exhale, dropping his empty shotguns as a new pair formed in his hands. Now he was at the hanger entrance proper, and he could hear orders being barked. He peeked out just a fraction and was rewarded with a barrage of gunfire. Woo boy, they were angry huh?

Vivi was doing his part to make sure whatever happened here stayed a secret, but people getting out would complicate that quite a bit. Ugh, this was going to fucking hurt…but he didn’t have much of a choice, did he? He took a faint breath and shifted back into his wrath form to skirt up the ceiling. Getting to the hanger safely would have been an issue, any movement would have been met with gunfire.

There was no damn way he’d be able to get them all in one sweep, but he had to be quick about this anyway. Using his wraith form he moved across the much taller ceiling of the hanger bay as it was prepping the dropships for evac. They wouldn’t get that far, Gabriel plunged down from the tall roof, landing on the first dropship not with a thunderous landing, but like a heavy cloud of smoke that sunk inside. He formed up quickly, shotgun in hand as he moved to the cockpit and blew the back of the pilot’s head out through his face, splattering across the spiderwebbed glass as Gabriel phased through the cockpit hatch with a pair of shotguns in hand. What felt like a small army of gun barrels pointed on him as dark biotic energy swirled around his body and he pivoted as a bullet tore across his cheek.

He couldn’t help the laugh that rumbled out as he spun, his eyes burning for murder as his shotguns unleashed their fury in a tornado of gunfire that sent Talon soldiers scrambling back as their armor was punctured by toxic, biotic energy that sizzled their skin. It sustained him, it was good that it did…because he couldn’t reach everyone as the second line of soldiers unleashed automatic fire on his spinning form. He felt the bullets sink through his corporeal form with a growl of pain as he continued his spin and surged forward, halfway wraith as he gripped the first soldier that couldn’t scatter out of the way. The body twitched and convulsed as dark tendrils sunk into his body and he turned, shotgun in hand as gunfire rippled along the back of their former comrade.

He opened fire, the dull staccato of his shotgun drowning out the automatic return-fire as the body he held went limp and he tossed the corpse forward, summoning a second shotgun with a grit of his teeth. At the end of it, they were all dead and his armor had more than enough impacts and torn clothing that he knew he’d get an earful from Angela.

 

“I’m done here,” He said to Vivi. “How about you?” he said, rolling her shoulders with a faint grumble. He couldn’t believe he had done this entirely on Angela’s urging…but even if this wasn’t what she meant, this was what they had to do in the first place.

I sense no other forms of life within the base, Gabriel…excellently done. You are an impressive warrior indeed.

“Gee, thanks…” Gabriel said, pausing a moment with a faint grunt. Fuck. Pain tore into his side and radiated down his chest as his face went white a moment as he glanced down. Instantaneous healing, sure…but it was not an entirely precise art depending on the damage. It took time, while it was still an amazing process of medical science and yadda yadda yadda…it still hurt like a bitch sometimes when it hit something serious. Ugh. He had killed everyone already and there was nobody else to really help with that process.

Now Angela was really going to give him a mouthful.
--

The walk back was quiet, although Gabriel wasn’t sure why. Maybe he had finally proven himself to Vivi, or more likely…

“I know you’re looking at me,” Gabriel finally muttered. Oh, Vivi knew…anyone who knew Angela on any kind of personal level knew how seriously she took her work regardless of how much sense it’d make for her own mental health. He had a faint limp, some of his clothing had bullet holes in spots with aggressive scar tissue that was still gently pulsing with his heartbeat. Ugh, if Vivi wasn’t there he’d just grab some…orange peddler or something and that’d be that. But no, he had to do this the good guy way.

“You cannot even tell when I am talking, Gabriel, I have no movable facial expressions, let alone eyes,” Vivi remarked faintly.

“I’m not hearing a no,” Gabriel muttered. He knew, didn’t he? He fucking knew Angela would have a fit.

“Because you’re not incorrect.”

“Asshole.”

“Accurate.”

--
Angela was the best, worst doctor Overwatch had. Because she wouldn’t take the reality of the work as an excuse for being injured or hurt. Compounded by the fact that she knew that fate and reality were often the most fickle of bitches meant that Gabriel being in Blackwatch was a perpetual headache every time he tried to avoid physicals. She was never happy finding injuries that he simply just let heal that could have been healed better with her help.

So he was imagining that this was going to go over like a bear in a bathroom. If nobody was familiar with a bear being in a bathroom, it went over very, very poorly.

But maybe she’d surprise him: Maybe those years of being sour faced and bitter about life like everyone else had toned her down?

Maybe her wings came out of her ass, too.

“Gabriel!” Oh, this sounded familiar. The horrified shock, the almost motherly disappointment as she rushed towards him with concern and fury in her face in an artful balance as she grabbed his hand and tugged him forward. For some reason, he didn’t really resist.  He just felt the familiarity twist into his gut until it made him scowl in annoyance.

“I’m fine,” he rumbled in irritation. “It’s just healing slow-“ Oh, she was in a mood now, wasn’t she? They were already heading down the hall of her makeshift clinic. If he were a delusional man, he could remember a younger Angela doing the same thing at their Swiss Headquarters, Jack, Ana and Jesse looking at him like he was the boy who got in trouble. It was a painful, annoying reminder of everything that wasn’t there anymore.

“That is very aggravated scar tissue over your liver! You probably broke a few ribs too! This is why you come to me after missions, honestly!” she huffed even as Gabriel jerked his hand away from hers. Too many memories, too many good ones that were made bitter.

“I’m fine, Livers grow back anyway.” He smirked. “Besides, more importantly, your tin man and I dealt with Talon, your clinic is probably going to be fine.” Angela gave him a blue-eyed glare that could have frozen the entire article circle.

“Indeed,” Vivi added in. “Our clinic shall be in good hands now, Doctor.”

“Good,” she huffed. “You, with me…and so help me if you say one word otherwise, I will reverse everything that has ever happened in your body in the most painful way imaginable, Gabriel Reyes…are we clear?” she said, finger prodding his chest.

“…We’re clear,” Gabriel said, rolling his eyes. Ugh. Great.
--

A familiar scene, wasn’t it? Stuck in a room with a sour soldier, a doting doctor.  He knew that Angela worried, but why she worried so much about him now of all times was a completely different matter. He wasn’t really Gabriel anymore, was he? He was Reaper, he was a rough sounding broken mess of a violent man and that was that.

“You never change,” Angela huffed faintly, moving closer with a collection of instruments on a tray. “Your biotic makeup was always strange, but you and I both know that I know better methods for you to heal, Gabriel.”

He shrugged, and said nothing like the pouty teenager he was acting like. Why did he care what she thought? He could crush her like a bug if he really wanted to, and yet here he was…dealing with her crap like he always did.

“Cutting scar tissue open and putting your magic on it over mine is not really a big priority, Doc,” Gabriel muttered. “Besides, I ain’t some large scar tissue, am I?”

“Your voice says otherwise,” Angela said flatly. The healing process was imprecise but very effective. It sped up the healing rate regardless of how it went about it, which meant that particularly grievous wounds would rapidly scar over and set. Angela doubted he felt more than a slight twitch, but if you consider that he had those almost everywhere across his body…well, she couldn’t do anything about that. She applied rubbing alcohol to the pulsing scar and cut it open with a scalpel. Gabriel hissed, but said nothing as blood rolled down his shirt, only to faintly evaporate seconds later in dark mist.

Probably the most disturbing thing Angela had ever seen, but she ignored it as she procured a small little wand of biotic energy and activated it, the warm beam trailing over his wound. It was never that bad, but…maybe the injuries at the HQ had really taken their toll.

“…I’m sorry,” Angela mumbled. “I know I’m being silly, I just…I worry.”

“You shouldn’t,” Gabriel muttered. “Besides, once this is over you’ll never see me again anyway.”

“I figured,” Angela mumbled bitterly. “Are you ever going to tell me exactly why you came to me of all people? And don’t tell me because I know better than anyone about this mess, Gabriel.”

“No,” Gabriel said honestly, glancing at her. “…But I owe you one anyway, because you didn’t have to.”

“You threatened me…what was I supposed to do?” Angela said. “Fight back? You’re…you, Gabriel…I’m a Doctor.” She reminded with a huff, rising. “Because you’ve always been this way, impulsive and stubborn and you always think you’re right!”

Gabriel watched her in faint amusement, brows raised. He had seen Angela upset before, but it was like watching a kitten try to bite down. Now? He felt like he was bleeding in the water and she was the shark.

“You’ve always been the most prideful, stupid fool of a man I have ever had the misfortune of knowing, and I bet I would have had a much more peaceful job if you and Jack would have pulled your heads out of your own ass for two seconds and we could have resolved everything like mature adults instead of children with guns!” she growled, shoulders shaking as Gabriel leaned forward, elbows on his thighs.

“…You done?” Gabriel asked after a moment.

“…Yes, I am,” Angela muttered. “You don’t even care anymore, do you?”

“Not particularly…but it’s cute seeing you get so angry.” He smirked. “Didn’t know you cared so much about me, Doc.”

Angela bristled so violently at that he thought his neck was going to snap from the whiplash, her blue eyes growing frigid with fury as her face heated up and she turned on her heel as Gabriel cocked his head.

“We’re leaving tomorrow,” Angela snapped. Idiot. She should have known better, she should have never said anything. What did it matter? He was too stupid to figure anything out.

Gabriel grabbed her by the coat and she turned to face him. Did she have to continue to deal with his immature idiocy? Could she not have peace of mind for two seconds? His expression was different, neutral…thoughtful even. That made her somewhat wary.

“What are you, a child? Let go of me.” Angela insisted. “I have things to do.”

“Yes, you do,” Gabriel said, tugging her closer as Angela shifted back in surprise with a faint breath, and suddenly Gabriel’s arms slipped around her waist and she felt the bristles of his beard tickle her neck as she shivered, eyes fluttering closed.

“Gabriel,” Angela mumbled, frowning. “…Stop this.”

“Why?” Gabriel rumbled against her neck. “You didn’t miss me, Angela?”

“You know the answer to that,” she muttered, glancing away. Why did he always have to be like this?

“Yeah? Show me then.” Gabriel challenged with a faint smirk as Angela turned to look at him with fury in her eyes.

“Gladly,” Angela said, turning around to slip her arms around her neck. Gabriel’s defenses were weak, and that was his flaw. Because she slipped one of her arms off and smacked him right across the cheek.

Hard.

Hard enough that Gabriel felt his vision swim and the sting of her palm that jerked his head to the side as she stormed off in a huff. Gabriel rubbed his cheek faintly, a grin spreading across his lips.

“Pig,”  Angela muttered. “Grow up, Gabriel.” She said, cheeks flush in annoyance. The nerve! Honestly! “We leave for Bishkek in the morning, you keep that up and I will report you to every single authority I know, are we clear?”

“Yes Ma’am,” Gabriel purred. “I can’t wait for you to punish me for being a bad boy.” She bristled at that and promptly slammed the door when she left so hard that the wood splintered. Vivi was there, as he usually was and waiting patiently with his hands behind his back.

Ooh!  What an…ugh!

“Love is a battlefield when you fall for a Mercenary, Doctor.” Vivi supplied helpfully. “Might I suggest better standards?” She wished, in all honesty. But she had to fall for the difficult one.

“Love is stupid, Vivi,” Angela muttered.  “Because you never get any standards you want.”

For Gabriel’s sake, this trip had better be worth it.

Chapter Text

  Felix Van Den Borre was a man of circumstance. Really, he was a martyr if you wanted to be honest. You couldn’t do anything good if you were afraid of taking a bad step, some of the most incredible advancements of technology happened from the worst circumstances: War. War changed humanity for the better every single step, conflict bred adaptation and that bred culling the weak from the strong.

But sometimes, people just didn’t understand.  They didn’t understand what he was doing for the good of everyone! You started putting morals in the way of advancement and humanity would never go anywhere, people at Talon understood that. He knew he was on the right step with what he was working on, he just needed time that Talon was giving him.

Failure, after failure, after failure.

But from those failures bred more cells, more bodies and more time to study. He had to be careful, the civil war made it easier for him to operate but if he made things look too obvious there could be trouble, people would start to look…which would mean more bodies and more chances to study.

“Sir,” The crisp, focused voice of one of his operatives pulled his attention away from his data screens, only temporarily. Felix was not an imposing man by any means, really, he was a scientist first and foremost and one of the best in his field. He knew he was, he was just dealing with a rubix cube of his own design, he had to find the right way to connect everything together-

“Our shipment delivering the data was attacked, it never left port.”

“What?” Felix said, his green eyes widening as he glanced at the stern-faced woman. “How? Who? When?”

“A few days ago, the cell went dark.” She frowned deeper. “Initial reports seem to lean toward the bodies being…drained, sir, Like husks.”

“Drained?” Felix said, brows raised.  Well, there was only one person that could do that, Felix was deeply aware of that person for the obvious reasons. But why? Why would he even begin to be involved like this? No, this was perfect actually…his expression settled as he leaned back in his chair, glancing at the data.

His ‘Reaper’ cells were dated examples, not current and some of them replicated. Getting modern examples were outrageously difficult because the man could phase at any given time and make that impossible, so he was told. But the bodies…maybe they would have some clue.

“Sir?” she frowned deeper.  Why did he not seem upset about this? If it was anything like they were assuming, Reaper was attacking Talon cells!

“Have a team head down and collect the bodies,” Felix murmured, fingers steepled together in thought. “We cannot make such guesses lightly, Bao Wei…ensure that the bodies are recovered and brought here, I doubt the Council would be amused at me saying that Reaper is causing us problems.”

“…Of course sir,” Bao Wei frowned, turning on her heel to leave. Satisfied with that, Felix glanced at the mass of data on his screen with a deeper frown. Why would Reaper of all people be against this? A council member no less? Was it a test to see just how far he would go? That surely had to be it, but he was simply a cell leader, he had no greater pull other than Moira’s blessing for his research.

No matter, science continued regardless of setbacks. He just needed more time and more bodies.

--

Traveling during a Civil War was like pulling teeth, Angela’s presence would make that easier…but only just so much. They couldn’t take to the air because there were enough anti-air defenses in Kyrgyzstan to flatten its entire population if it sprouted wings, which meant they could take a train or they could drive. While Gabriel insisted up and down that driving would be the wiser choice, simply for the sake of being able to have the freedom of movement, Angela insisted on a train.

Vivi didn’t help him, even though he knew that stupid bot agreed.  Trains still had use, but they were also giant targets. The trick about making a civil war viable and perpetual was to ensure that there was a steady stream of supplies on either side, and a train was valuable enough to make that matter, it was an irritating risk however. People smuggled in and out of trains, so it was always important to keep them moving. Angela had insisted, and she had her clout to argue her way onto the train to spread her goodwill elsewhere as Gabriel and Vivi waited at the station. Wasn’t every day you saw some giant grouchy man next to an omnic. But it was starting to become somewhat more familiar, even in this part of the world.

Bishkek was not currently wrapped up in the war proper, but there was a lack of experienced people to handle hospitals and oversee medicine. If they were smart, they’d realize that Angela being in Bishkek was an immense help just in general, there wasn’t a corner of the world that didn’t know her.

“Of all the men I would have assumed she fell in love with, you would hardly be a consideration,” Vivi said, Gabriel supposed that was an insult in some way…but he didn’t really take it like that. Maybe he was learning to read the stupid tin-can better.

“That makes two of us,” Gabriel rumbled, fingers tapping impatiently on his bicep as he watched her talk with the military overseeing the trains. It was a lot of pointless formality and assurances, but nothing Angela hadn’t done before, even during Overwatch. He wasn’t quite sure how it had happened either, but it did…little by little.


Not that he had any say in the matter, but it was perhaps one of the few things that wasn’t laced with bitterness. He was sure whenever he met Jack again and they had time to talk, it’d come up. They were fun like that.

“May I ask what she sees in you?” Vivi added flatly. “Purely physical?”

“I would assume.” Gabriel didn’t know the answer to the question either, he knew he was still handsome and…rugged and whatever else women liked, if you could get over the whole ‘turn into an evil ghost’ thing.

“Are you caring?” Vivi probed in morbid interest.

“Not really.”

“Do you value your relationship with her?”

“That’s a dumb question I’m not answering.”

“When is the last time you talked to her?”

“About eleven years, give or take.” He shrugged.

“And you think she still holds any kind of interest for you?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Good question.”

“I’m glad you’re as confused as I am.”

“Knew we’d find something in common eventually.” Gabriel smirked. “Look, what do you want me to say? I visited her on a gamble, that’s all…I wasn’t expecting anything, but I figured I’d try.”  

“I see,” Vivi said, glancing back to Angela who offered them both a brilliant smile in success as the officer was speaking into his radio and nodded to the Doctor with a polite grin and shook her hand. “Do you intend to further your interest with her?”

“Probably.” Gabriel said, hoisting up one of her suitcases with a faint grunt.

“Why?” Vivi asked, head tilted.

“Good question.” Gabriel grumbled again, walking towards the train.

Vivi preferred humans who were sick and desperate for any kind of help to cue them of their wounds, this was growing increasingly obnoxious. Surely Angela had no desire to savor this when she had such better opportunities for partners?

--
Vivi was learning fast that Angela, for all her intellect and world wisdom had a blind spot in Gabriel. A naiveté that she either willingly kept up or simply ignored who he really was. Gabriel had the common decency to look mildly uncomfortable when they took their seats and Angela’s hand linked with his. Against his better judgement, he returned it with a faint squeeze.

You would have thought that the sun lit up on her face just then, and he had no idea how to handle that. She looked smug almost, but that smile…it was beautiful. Something he didn’t really feel like he deserved.

“What?” Gabriel muttered warily.

“I knew you hadn’t changed too much,” Angela beamed as Vivi shook his head. “After all this time, you’re still Gabriel.” She said happily.

“Please, do not make me wish I had the capacity to throw up.” Vivi mumbled.  “Doctor, I must ask what you see in this man.”

“A lot of things,” Angela hummed. “He’s loyal, very compassionate…and while we might not always agree on how we see the world, I have never doubted his intent behind it.”

“Really,” Gabriel said flatly. “Not even when Jack and I blew up the HQ?”

There, her hand tightened around his. He wasn’t expecting that, he was expecting…well, he didn’t actually know what he was expecting but some feeling of solidarity wasn’t it.

“That’s not fair, Gabriel,” Angela mumbled. “I never doubted you or Jack, and it’s not like I could have done anything to stop it…I know the both of you well enough that you’re too stubborn to budge when you think you’re right,” she grumbled. “So, what was I supposed to do, exactly?”

“I don’t know, Angela…you tell me,” Gabriel muttered. “You said it yourself, you never doubted my intent.”

“I don’t think you were planning to blow up the HQ, if that’s what you’re getting at…but maybe I’m wrong,” Angela admitted. “You took away a lot of good things in the world, Gabriel…but you’re still here trying to do something good again.”

“Tch,” Gabriel muttered. “And that just makes everything better?”

“If I had a clearer answer for you, I’d give it,” Angela said flatly. “Or would you prefer me to keep a gun on you always, are you going to take advantage of me? Twist me for some evil purpose? I am not happy with what happened, but it’s in the past now and you’re here now…trying to do something good, can’t I be happy about that?” she mumbled. “Just a little bit?”

“…Fine,” Gabriel said, but none of the teeth was in his snark as he stared out the window, squeezing her hand almost stubbornly and Angela squeezed it back as the train began to move. Gabriel had rarely seen Angela so…open and vulnerable and something in his miserable, thick heart felt like he had done something sorely wrong.

“I missed you, can’t I be happy about that…just for a little bit?” she said quieter. “Can’t I be happy about Gabriel being here, and not Reaper? Even if it’s until this is over?” She knew it was stupid and foolish of her to even hope this, or enjoy it…but since when did love make any sense whatsoever?

“…Fine,” Gabriel parroted, settling back in irritated silence to stare out the window.

“I question the health of this relationship,” Vivi added. “This seems remarkably harmful from an emotional level, might I suggest counseling?”

“Thank you for your commentary, Vivi…next time I want it, I’ll ask.” Gabriel grumbled. He was right, which only made Gabriel’s response all the sourer as Angela offered him a faint smile in return. She had missed him, as much as she was struggling to accept everything about him.

“I have a feeling you won’t, Gabriel…that is why I tell you anyway.” Vivi informed casually as Angela chuckled faintly and Gabriel sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“I can’t wait to spend this entire trip talking to you, Vivi.”

“Indeed, I have many questions for you, Gabriel.”

“Does sarcasm not work on him?” Gabriel asked an amused Angela, who scrunched up her nose with a faint smile.

“He’s just curious, that’s all…it’s not often some ghost from my past shows up.” She grinned, and Gabriel’s grimace was enough for her to know that the joke was not appreciated. Why did he agree to this again?

“Very funny,” Gabriel muttered. “Just because you’re asking questions doesn’t mean I’m going to answer them, you know enough about me already.”

“I feel that is fair to ask questions when you are asking us to help you,” Vivi said, head tilted. “Unlike Doctor Ziegler, I would sooner feel comfortable tossing you off the train than helping you, Gabriel.”

“Ouch,” Gabriel smirked as Angela squeezed his hand in a faint warning.  Playing favorites, huh? “Fine, but what I’ve told you both is what I know, and I can’t really give you more than that.”

“So I see,” Vivi said, glancing to Angela who would offer him no help. “Well, then if you will excuse me…I may as well see how long we will be on this train.” With that, Vivi was up and gone as Gabriel sunk back with an irritated grumble.

“The hell is his problem?” he groused.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Angela hummed. “Some dark, handsome man with a rough voice pulls me away from my clinical work and gives me data on a horrifying chemical weapon that is remarkably like said handsome man’s own unique talents and pushes me towards Bishkek with the belief that we’re not walking into a trap.”

“But we’re not,” Gabriel said. “Why would I go to all this trouble to drag you into it if I was going to kill you? I would have done that when we first met, Angela.”

“I know, Gabriel…but he doesn’t,” Angela reminded with a smile. “Not many people understand why I trust you, even if you’ve made it very…” she stopped, letting out a long sigh. “Very stressful to do so…I wish I could ask you questions that I know you’d never answer, but that won’t get us anywhere…I have to focus on the right now and hope you’re telling the truth.”

Gabriel didn’t know why it hurt so much to have Angela be so wary, really…what did he have to prove otherwise?  He butted his head against the back of his seat as Angela’s brows raised.

“Gabriel?” she said curiously. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothin’,” Gabriel grunted. “Nothing that can be fixed, anyway.”

“…I see,” she said, regarding him before shifting up to kiss his scarred cheek. “I missed you, didn’t you miss me?” she said hopefully. “Even just a little bit?”

“I did,” Gabriel sighed. “But you’re better off pining for something else, Angela.”

“True,” she smiled. “Which makes me a fool, but at least I’m a happy one.”

“You’re crazy.”

“Also true, I developed an entire technology that restructures and heals people on a molecular level that people have used and manipulated ever since I made it.” Angela murmured. “I have the power to bring life back in one moment as if it never happened…you tell me how sane that sounds.”

Gabriel regarded her, his expression almost blank as she just smiled at him warmly. There was always the rule of ‘never piss off the doctor’, but this had an entirely new context to it.  He relaxed, then grumbled before slipping his arm around her shoulders to pull her in and Angela was happy to nestle against his chest.

“…You scare me.” Gabriel said as his eyes closed, taking in her familiar scent that he had missed.

“Good,” Angela purred. “Because if you fuck with me, I will make your life a living hell that you can never escape from, Gabriel Reyes.”

…That shouldn’t have went right to his groin like it did, but he found himself swallowing and remembering just how long it had been since he had really done anything with a woman.

“Duly noted.” He said simply. This was going to be a long train ride…

--
Bao Wei didn’t sign up to be the errand girl for a wayward scientist in some ass end of the world, but that was the reality of her life right now.  There was no hiding who had done this from the docks to the Talon Cell within the city. It had been destroyed so methodically, whoever did this knew exactly what to go for…and then there were just bodies that had such extreme brute force on them that she couldn’t even guess what it came from.

Bao Wei, what is your status?  Felix, ugh…that self-important idiot piggybacking off far better people in Talon, and she had to be his bitch and do whatever she wanted. She hoped that this ended with a bullet in his head, but until then she was a loyal subordinate. 

“We secured the bodies, sir…and the cell here was completely wiped out, there’s no sign of any survivors- “

Perfect, gather all the bodies that have signs of decay…the more I have, the better my research will be. Dying in the line of duty was one thing, heartlessly tossing your comrades bodies into a giant grinder to be probed at was another that made her sick to her stomach. We’ve received word through our military contacts that Doctor Ziegler is heading to Bishkek by train, highly likely that Reaper is with her…I’d like you at the station to see for yourself.

“Yes sir,” The woman replied, brows knitted together. What possible reason could her being there change anything? She didn’t like this, but it didn’t matter. Orders were orders. She had always wanted to meet the Reaper, she just hoped he was in a good mood.



Chapter Text

The trip to Bishkek felt longer than it probably was, mostly because Gabriel wasn’t entirely sure how to process Angela’s behavior. She was true to her word that she wanted to forget that he was a war criminal for a little while, he supposed that’s why she was usually known as ‘Mercy’ and not as ‘Apathy’. Still, Gabriel didn’t mind as much as he wanted to act…he did miss Angela. Vivi seemed less than amused about it all, but Gabriel couldn’t blame him either. He obviously was a very close friend to Angela and he was the equivalent of a shitty ex-boyfriend that had come in and ruined their little dynamic. He didn’t honestly know why Angela had held a torch for him all these years, but…it was nice to know that he at least had left a good impression on someone, someone who thought he was still trustworthy.

“There is a high probability that they know we’re coming,” Vivi reminded the two of them as the train started to slow down as Gabriel’s eyes scanned along the station. Sure enough, there were more than a few black armored men and women running security…or maybe something else.

“I’d say they do know,” Gabriel said dryly. “Who knew wiping out an entire Talon cell would be a button not to press?” he grinned.

“So…what do we do?” Angela said warily, glancing at them both.

“Realistically, nothing,” Vivi mused, tapping his metal finger against his chin as he regarded the security layout of the Talon members. “Provided that they do nothing to cause a disturbance, which I am unsure that they want their organization highlighted in the region that Doctor Ziegler was attacked for humanitarian aid.”

“Not typically something they do,” Gabriel agreed. “…but I also don’t know what kind of freak is doing this…reaper cell nonsense.” He muttered. “What a stupid name.”

“A stupid name for a stupid being, it makes sense to me,” Vivi said with a shrug.

“I’m glad you have my back on this, Vivi.” Gabriel said dryly as Angela grinned in amusement. These two got along well, didn’t they?

“It is my eternal pleasure, Gabriel.” He said, tilting his head. “In any case, it would not do for myself or Doctor Ziegler to be seen doing anything unless it was in self-defense, since you are her ‘bodyguard’, you must follow the same protocol.”

“Yeah yeah…” Gabriel mumbled. “So, what’s the plan if they act up, then?”

“Then we make sure they don’t,” Angela said faintly. “If they choose to get in the way, they will be removed.”

“Didn’t know you were into surgery, Doc,” Gabriel smirked faintly.

“The symptom of the disease must be treated, and sometimes the illness must be removed,” Angela said, glancing at him. Those sharp eyes spoken with such harsh reality did more for Gabriel than any kind of foreplay would, but he kept that to himself. Part of him understood, the other part wished that Angela still had some of that naïveté that he grew to like when they were in Overwatch. But people change with the times, he knew that better than anyone.

“I would hope that we don’t have to do anything too drastic,” she admitted after a moment. “But I will defend myself if I must.”

“The fact that they’re here in broad daylight is pretty telling,” Gabriel mused. “So…we might have trouble on our hands.”

“Animals often need to be reminded who their betters are, after all.” Vivi agreed easily.

“I think you’re the first tin-man I know that needs to talk to a therapist,” Gabriel muttered warily.

“I am a therapist.” Vivi reminded flatly.

“Well, that’s just lovely,” Gabriel said, motioning to Vivi. “Angela, what’s the deal with you being friends with a psycho like this?”

“It seems to be a trend I have, Gabriel,” Angela said pointedly, face scrunched up in amusement.  “Besides, Vivi has never done anything that I disagree with…I just disagree with his reasoning behind what he says, that’s all…and I’ve talked to him about it, at great length.”

“Indeed,” Vivi agreed. “It has lead me to believe that most humans have worthwhile meaning, and the ones who don’t must be removed.”

“That’s not at all what I meant, Vivi…” Angela sighed. “Violence only makes everything worse, that is why the world is the way it is! That is why we are here in the first place! We should be trying to find other solutions!"

“In death, there is life…one man’s loss is another man’s gain…it is up to us to decide if those deaths are ones worth giving, and the people here do not deserve death, Doctor…but Talon does.” Vivi reminded. “They are wild dogs preying on weak people, which is unacceptable…strength cannot be earned if they are never given a chance to earn it.”

“Interesting theory,” Gabriel murmured. “So, you don’t think people should be given a chance once they start beating the weak around?”

“Life is its own educator, Gabriel.” He said easily. “You are here now because the lessons you have learned told you that Doctor Ziegler is foolish enough to trust you, because her heart is yours.”

“Vivi,” Angela mumbled. “That’s enough, we all know what’s at stake here…so please try to get along…and Gabriel, don’t do that thing you do.”

“The thing I do?” Gabriel said, brows arching. “What ‘thing’ is that?”

“The tough guy thing,” Angela frowned, poking his chest. “We’re here to lay low, not to cause trouble…so don’t get all alpha dog the moment someone stares you down.” It was a problem Gabriel had, in his own way. He’d always stare at people and then roll it off his shoulders and then be moody about it later. He and Jack always got at odds with it.

“Incognito is my name, you know,” Gabriel smirked with a casual shrug. “It’ll be fine, what’s the worst-”

“Don’t even,” Angela warned in annoyance. “Every time you say that, it gets way worse.”

“What?” Gabriel snorted, much like a dog who had been popped on the nose. “How?”

“We did clear out a Talon cell, you are a man of some notoriety, yes?” Vivi recalled. “It is very possible that they will attempt to detain us when we step out of the train, or I should say they will attempt to detain us.”

“Not while there are other people around, Vivi.” Angela huffed. “We’ll just have to be careful, that’s all.”

“Angela, if they know when it’s going to get a lot more complicated.” Gabriel reminded. “You know that, right?”

“You being here with me is complicated, Gabriel.” She reminded tartly. “You’re not even supposed to be around me, what exactly is complicated at this point?”

“He is not?” Vivi said curiously.

“Complicated,” Gabriel said, waving it off. “Don’t worry, Vivi...I’m not here for anything other than what I said.”

“I see,” The Omnic remarked lightly as the train finally stopped. “In any case, what exactly is the plan?”

“Discretion is the better part of valor, right?” Gabriel said, leering a little at Angela as she stared at him warily before sighing.

“...Doctor?” Vivi asked.

“Nothing,” Angela smiled. “Excuse us a moment, Vivi?”

Vivi paused but nodded as he stepped aside for people to start to file out. They were going the opposite way, however...maybe he should have been worried, but he felt an odd sense of calm when they returned...or she returned, looking slightly more irritated but otherwise fine.

“...Where is Gabriel?” Vivi asked.

“Testing his limits,” Angela grumbled. “Don’t worry, he’s still here...we just have a plan.” She so much as felt anything on her bare skin and he was going to get punched. It was completely beside the point that the rumble of his voice against her skin was decidedly pleasant. But letting Gabriel know that would be the same as giving him a victory, and she would sooner cut her tongue than give him that smug satisfaction.

Vivi wasn’t entirely sure what she meant, but he tilted his head all the same. He was detecting two lifeforms, but in all honesty that was a hazy guess. Still, he could sense Gabriel...in some capacity that he did not know, he merely could feel it through his Omnic energy. He trusted Doctor Ziegler even if he wished she would stop with this nonsense with him.

That being said, Gabriel not being present would make leaving the train much easier, as Doctor Ziegler was a woman of very high importance no matter where she went. They were greeted almost immediately as they left the train as Talon forces spread out across the crowd, Angela cast her eyes along the row faintly before settling on the woman, decidedly Asian...she would guess Chinese. She had a sharp-eyed expression to her and a form-fitting bodysuit that was settled over armor. She was less flashy than the Talon members with her, more sleek and honed.

Angela surmised immediately that she was likely the one to be the biggest threat.

“Doctor Ziegler, it is an honor to speak with you,” Bao Wei murmured, tilting her head. “Your humanitarian work is an inspiration to all of us.” Angela quirked a brow at that, her posture no less tight, but more diplomatic as she kept her fingers around her staff.

“I am...deeply surprised to hear a member of a terrorist organization say that to me, but thank you,” Angela said all the same. Bao Wei’s expression remained impassive, but the faint twitch of her lips said that she hit a sour note.

Takes all kinds to be in Talon, really. Gabriel added as Angela’s eyes went half-lidded. She supposed that was true, but admiration was not something she was expecting. Was she being sincere? Who knew anymore, but she’d try to take advantage of it.

“I’m not here to cause any issues, this entire nation is in need of my help,” Angela assured. “I cannot help the outside villages without having the support of the capital, the medical facilities here far outweigh anywhere else.”

“That is true,” Bao Wei agreed. “But humanitarian aid means you help everyone, regardless of whom...so, would you be here to aid Talon forces then?” There was a pause there as she studied the woman, her brows knitting together in a faint display of frustration. Gabriel was surprised at all at the pause: Every life was precious, wasn’t it? Or had Angela fallen so far down from grace that she had begun to find her limits?

“Assuming that your people came to me for aid instead of strong-arming any patients that I have, yes, I would,” she confirmed. “But if anyone causes trouble, they will be removed...no matter how injured they are, are we clear?”

“Perfectly, Doctor.” Bao Wei said, offering her a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Reports informed us that you had a third: May I ask where he is?”

“You may,” Angela replied dryly. It became clear after a moment that Bao Wei would have to do this less politely as she let out a faint breath of irritation.

“Doctor,” Bao Wei muttered. “You are in the capital, where Talon is strongest...it would be wise for you to reconsider how you answer my questions.” Angela smiled at that, but Bao Wei didn’t feel any more reassured.

“I have been to every corner of this planet and have dealt with cartels, Talon, war-mongering dictators, I have seen war crimes committed right in front of me because I was always a non-combatant, I have had to watch and wait until I could examine patients because of the atrocities committed in front of me,” she stated, head cocked faintly to the side. “Now tell me: what exactly can you do to frighten me? Do you think men with guns have ever stopped me before? Do you think a war-torn country is scary to me? Your words and your guns are what I deal with on a daily basis.” she said casually. “If you are done pretending as if you have any authority, please step aside...I have things to attend to...otherwise, draw your weapons and let’s get this over with.”

Bao Wei’s expression had shifted subtly as Angela spoke, she was a woman known for much forgiveness and caring. But what she got in return was a frigid reception and a fierce determination in her eyes that made her feel like she was staring up at a giant and that infuriated her like nothing else.

Still, she had a point. She was extremely well known, Talon directly engaging with her would have very poor reception with the populace and Bao Wei didn’t have the kind of forces or authority to completely lock down a city over one person. It wasn’t worth the risk, but her words sunk deep enough to burn as she felt her neck heat up.

“...My apologies, Doctor.” Bao Wei said after a moment, stepping aside. “Welcome to Bishkek, your aid will make the people here very happy.”

“That is my hope, thank you,” Angela said with a more earnest smile. “Come, Vivi.”

“Doctor,” The Omnic replied as he swept his view across them all and Bao Wei felt a minor chill down her spine when they finally left. That...did not go at all like she expected it to as she watched them leave with a deeper frown.

What the hell were those people? Wasn’t Doctor Ziegler supposed to be a force for good? She felt like she had just dealt with a warrior. She just hoped Doctor Van Den Borre was in a good mood, otherwise, her day was going to get much worse.

Starting to see why you and Vivi get along, Angela...you think more like him than you want to admit. Angela furrowed her brow, but left it alone. He wasn’t wrong, and that upset her almost as much as knowing how true it was.

“When you have your entire world crash around you and everyone you care about never around...you tend to grow bitter, Gabriel,” Angela mumbled quietly.

...Sorry.

That surprised her.

“You don’t make any sense, you know that?” Angela said in annoyance, letting out a long sigh that made Vivi rather confused. What in the world was going on with Doctor Ziegler?

I know. But I did miss you, Angela.

That helped, somewhat...enough for her to look less irritated for the time being.

“Missing me doesn’t change the fact that you left, but it’s nice to hear anyway.” Angela sighed. Now, they needed to find a secure location and figure out what the next plan was, they had a lot to do and Bishkek was a big place.

--

Felix was not mad, he was overjoyed. Which didn’t exactly make much sense to Bao Wei in the first place, before he was annoyed that Reaper was even coming..but now? Now it was completely different.

“Perfect,” Felix said, grinning widely as Bao Wei arched a faint brow, hands behind her back.

“Sir?” she said in confusion.

“I’ve finally found a proper way to stabilize the cells after looking at the bodies, it’s not absolutely perfect...but they’re holding their mutations instead of burning out, it’s absolutely fascinating what these cells can do, Bao Wei...they offer power like no other, but I need more data and time.”

“What do you propose, sir?” Well, at least he was actually making progress...perhaps her career here wouldn’t be for nothing yet. It had potential, talon super soldiers using Reaper’s physiology would make for a very dangerous opponent, if you could manufacture that then it would be easy.

“We’ve accumulated enough samples that it’s time for a field test.” Felix grinned widely.  “Prepare teams for biohazard protocols, would you like to see them?” Bao Wei knew that was a rhetorical question, as much as she wanted to say no.

“Yes, sir.” Bao Wei mumbled as Felix looked at her like a giddy schoolchild, which only served to deepen her feelings of wariness. Nevertheless, she followed him dutifully to the lower levels of the facility.

“I think Talon will appreciate these designs, even if they are somewhat unrefined.” Bao Wei had never heard such screams in her life. They were wracked with pain and filling the air like some disturbing opera as they moved along the top of the containment rooms. She knew Felix had been here since the beginning of the civil war, but she was not expecting how many were crammed into the cells. There had to be at least a thousand, maybe many more.

“Do you like them?” He said hopefully.

They were...disgusting looking, their veins were blackened like their eyes, their skin looked bruised or pale...there was no consistency in any of it. They all grimacing and snarling and trying to pound their way out of the glass, soldiers patrolled regularly and had multiple wall mounted turrets set up. It felt like a small relief when she just realized how furious and aggressive they looked.

What the hell had she gotten herself into?

“I realized that I was trying too fast to change my subjects with what I knew of reaper cells, the beauty of its’ work is that it constantly works on such a deep biological level that you can’t do that in the same way in such a short span of time...it requires a longer incubation process, if you will.” he grinned. “And what is the fastest way to do that? The heart and bloodstream.”

“Wait,” Bao Wei mumbled, her dark eyes sweeping toward Felix. “Are you saying that all these...subjects, they’re being changed...slowly?”

“On a very deep level,” Felix said, his smile never wavering. “Isn’t it fascinating? I have made something that could change the very course of human evolution! The very idea that these people are taking part in such a revolutionary research means that they are doing something for the good of humanity.” he assured as Bao Wei watched them. They were furious because everything hurt, and it hurt on levels that made them insane, this was really what she was doing? She...supposed science was never pretty.

“...I will alert the surface teams and prepare proper procedures, sir.”  Bao Wei promised. “But...what about Doctor Ziegler and Reaper?”

“They will be excellent data,” Felix said easily. “If you find Reaper, do your best to extract as much of his cells as possible.”

“...Duly noted, sir.” This man was insane, this plan was insane and she was insane for going along with it. But Reaper was a real threat to them, not that she understood why.  She knew that Talon was fairly autonomous, but she had never heard of members attacking each other, she didn’t know what Felix had planned, but she knew that Bishkek wasn’t going to be peaceful for much longer.



Chapter Text

Being alone in a hotel room with Gabriel felt like she was in high-school again, which she supposed was a bit unfair to him. Gabriel was never really great at the 'people' part of a relationship. Some days, it felt like he'd be fine with some sex and a little bit of cuddling and that was it...and others, well...it was him staring at a TV being spoken in Kyrgyz like he knew what was going on. To his credit, she was actually busy looking over her itinerary.  Whatever Gabriel needed her for, she still wanted to help the people here...and goodwill made people talk more than anything else. Still, her eyes skirted over to the man who had been for lack of a better term 'deathly silent'.

"I don't bite you know," Angela said after a moment, thumb slipping through her schedule on her phone. She was rewarded with a faint snort, but nothing else. She wasn't sure what that meant, but that meant that he was somewhat willing to socialize...maybe. 

"A doctor always bites," Gabriel sniffed. "That's why some people have a fear of needles." Angela rolled her eyes at that and set her phone down, moving over to sit next to him. Gabriel was never the most emotional of people, he wasn't the best at seriously expressing himself but it seemed to have gotten worse. She supposed that did make sense.  That was fine, she could wait.

"I am happy to see you, Gabriel...you know that, right?" Angela remarked, glancing at him. His sour expression got even worse at that as he settled his eyes on her. The gaze was unrelenting in its incredulity and she returned his frown with one of her own. 


"You shouldn't be happy to see me, Angela. We're not exactly a good fit anymore," Gabriel said. "You should find someone else, I don't-"

"If you say I don't deserve you, I am going to give you a rectal exam through your mouth," Angela replied tartly. "Gabriel, I know all of that, but I can't help how I feel and I can't help how it's still there!" she huffed. "Stop acting like a child, and just accept that I want this! I know it's complicated, and I know I shouldn't! But I do! What else do you want from me?"

"You really want it?" Gabriel asked dryly. "I'm a member of Talon now, Angela...you're dealing with so much complication."

"What a surprise," Angela added in turn, eyes half-lidded. "But you being here and wanting me to help you tells me that you're not as different as you think, you're just grumpier...so, do you want me to think about why I still love you or do you just want me to love you and accept that you're in a different place in your life right now?" she said, head tilted. 

"...And why don't you want to think about it?" Gabriel mumbled faintly. 

"Because I love you," Angela said flatly. "And I've never agreed with how you handled situations anyway, Gabriel. I've never liked Blackwatch even though I saw the logic for it and I wish things had been different...but they're not." she shrugged. "And you and I have always been happy together, haven't we? In our own way?"

"We have," Gabriel mumbled as Angela slid an arm around his waist with a smile. Not that anyone understood it. "So what happens when things change, then? What if I do something that you'll never forgive me for?" Angela regarded him a moment in thought before glancing back to the TV, smiling.

"Then I know where your priorities lie, that's all." Angela stated as Gabriel rose up, but not for her. Angela blinked as she glanced toward the window. Screaming...gunfire? Police sirens?


"Guess we'll have our heart to heart later," Gabriel muttered. 

--

 

 

Vivi didn't need to be around Dr. Zeigler and Gabriel any longer than was absolutely necessary,  admittedly this had plenty to do with the fact that he had no doubt that they would be doing some sort of romantic thing or another that he didn't want to hear, or be around.  How a woman of Angela's caliber found attraction in what was effectively a murderous ghost was simply beyond him. He decided that it would be a good time to do one of his hobbies: traversing the nightlife of cities.


Ever since he left Shambala, he struggled to understand humanity. He questioned why his brothers had such a strong love and adoration for unity when humanity was a brutal, violent species that seemed to thrive on fear and war. Angela had given him room to pause and made him consider that he was perhaps too harsh in his youth, this woman had thrown herself to the masses of human suffering at the cost of almost everything she had and still, she believed that humanity was worth saving. Even after they traveled to town after town, dealing with war and famine and poverty and appealing to the indifferent rich in hopes they could pad their reputation as being a caregiver and lover of progression. It was honestly the most sickening thing he had ever seen since he left his sacred home. But Doctor Ziegler continued on without pause, and it was commendable.

It was also the stupidest thing he had ever seen, which had made him curious: Who would willingly devote their entire life to people who seemed perfectly content in destroying everything around them? So Vivi had taken to watching people, cities...the way they moved and operated. It was somewhat fascinating how similar everyone functioned and yet nobody could come to terms with each other unless something else was trying to kill them first, like Omnics.

At night, things usually changed. Biskek likely would have been no different from any other place, but he had to admit that Talon seemed to know how to run a very tight security net. People who were out had proper reasons to be out, he noted...and if they didn't, well.

The best case scenario is they got a broken nose. Efficient, effective...morally repugnant, but morals seemed to be a loose concern for most humans anyway. There were plenty of Talon infantry around tonight, curious...seemed more than just routine patrols.  His particular little stretch of sidewalk was empty, which made him pause in thought before he glanced behind him and saw a trio of red, glowing eyeslits situated on black skull helmets. 

Lovely, he attracted attention.

"You're Doctor Ziegler's assistant, correct?" A feminine voice spoke up, and the only one who wasn't wearing a helmet appeared. Chinese, in a form-fitting bodysuit under tactical gear and carrying a submachine gun. He didn't pay much mind to her at the train station, but he noted that she appeared to be wearing some manner of unique gloves and shoes to go with her joint protection.  Interesting, probably unimportant. 

"Ah yes, you're the woman who tried to kiss Doctor Ziegler's feet and threaten her at the same time," Vivi recalled. "I don't believe I got your name."

"Bao Wei," She said, bristling in annoyance. "What are you doing out here, Omnic? This area is off-limits, I'm sure you're aware of the curfew we've established for Bishkek."

Omnic. Better than 'tin-man', although he supposed that was meant with some manner of affection. 

"Mm," Vivi said, head tilted forward in an apology that Bao Wei wasn't sure was entirely sincere, but how the hell could she tell? "My apologies, I was planning to head back before I was so politely introduced to you...Bishkek must have been quite the rowdy place, I could clearly see unrest everywhere I went."

"Is that supposed to be funny?" Bao Wei frowned.

"Yes, I am quite comedic, I believe." He remarked, raising his head back up. "Much like your attempts to threaten me, Bao Wei, violence without meaning is such a waste of time, wouldn't you agree? Besides, you seem like you have more important things to do than threaten a doctor's assistant."

She did, but that didn't change the fact that he was a security risk and everyone being here was one more problem to deal with. It seemed like it wouldn't be the only one, as her radio chatter started picking up and she pressed her finger against her ear as Vivi stood still.

Ma'am, we've got a problem!  Of course, they did. Why wouldn't anything go right on this job? She was requesting a transfer as soon as humanly possible.

"What is it?" Bao Wei said quickly, as the sound of gunfire filled the radio. 

Someone deactivated the locks early! They're coming! All of them!  Those were the last words she got before the comms went blank after a gurgle of screams.

All of them!? Bao Wei glanced to her men, motioning them to get into position as Vivi watched, his hands behind his back.  She knew who did this, who else could it be? That man had lost his mind, but she barely had the time to bark an order before the squeals of pain started to reverberate out into the capital. 

"Doctor, what the hell are you doing!?" Bao Wei snarled, motioning her men into position as Vivi stood, turning to face what appeared to be an alleyway, but a hiss of steam and the chatter of gunfire elsewhere made Vivi think otherwise. Well, this got interesting.

Apologies, Bao Wei...but my data is paramount, data against civilians and some ragtag police force? Nothing worthwhile to collect data on, but a trained military force? That shows promise to my work!  You'll be remembered as one of the key players in accumulating data for Talon's next great army!

"That motherfucker! Team! Up!" Bao Wei ordered sharply as her armor lit up faintly before she leaped up to the nearby building, Vivi watched as the four of them jumped up to the air and attached themselves to the side of the walls of the nearby buildings before turning to face the rising hatch.

Vivi had heard some horrifying things in his life outside of Shambali, but there was something inherently discomforting about the discordant wails of pain and fury. He did not fully process the concept of fear, but he understood it on a deeper level this night.

"Hey, Omnic! Can you fight?!" Bao Wei shouted.

They came out like a line of people, but not people. That was justifying their existence, they were broken souls that were desperate to join the Iris. Their bodies twitched and jerked with erratic muscle twitches, parts of their skin was bruised and purple and their eyes were insane with fury and pain.  They were begging for it, begging for release, he knew that look that was stuck in a haze of illness.  He would grant them the mercy they deserved. 

"Indeed," Vivi replied as the horde rushed at him, their speed was unnatural...and so was their jumping.  Vivi shot forward like a bolt of lightning, his fist slamming into the jaw of the first poor soul, his head jerking viciously to the side with a snap of his neck.  Gunfire rippled into the horde, but they were already leaping up to get Bao Wei's squad. Two of her men went down from a tackle that slammed them through a building in a spray of glass and concrete. Bao Wei darted across the side of a building in a string of curses, her weapon blazing as they tried to leap after her. Her squad was already gone, their strength was unnatural! The ones that landed next to her were shattering the concrete! 

 

She dropped down next to Vivi, who was unleashing precise strikes of dark omnic energy into the onrushing hoard that split them apart like a wave before Bao Wei landed behind him, weapon raised as she ejected the empty magazine. 

"Can we save the interrogation of how horrible this is when we're not about ready to die?" she asked, feeding in a fresh magazine into her smoking gun and smacking the bolt forward with her palm.  God, there were so many of them and more were still going to be spilling out in other drop-off points. 

"Agreed," Vivi said without hesitation. "Can you keep up with me?"

"We'll find out," Bao Wei smiled bitterly as the howls increased, which echoed across the entire city as the horde rushed forward. Vivi moved forward with a wide swing of his leg, catching a man by the neck and moving fluidly with his motion to slam his knee into the head in a spray of gore in a kneel. Bao Wei turned to cover him and raked her SMG across the rushing horde, her elbow crashing against a howling woman as Vivi swept wide to trip those in front of him and rose up.

"Quickly," Vivi said, fingers glowing with energy as he casually waved his finger across the throats of the fallen, splitting them open as they gurgled in pain and started to trash. Bao Wei didn't even have time to question or appreciate just how lethal this Omnic was. What the hell was he?

"You're a doctor's assistant?" The woman asked as they sprinted down the street, tapping his shoulder for him to follow. Fuck, he released all of them.

"Promising quick releases from pain is the very essence of medicine, isn't it?" Vivi supplied helpfully as they bolted through the alleyway. "This way, I would like to ensure that Doctor Zeigler is safe, if anyone knows how to fix this it would be her," she said, as they came across the main street and glanced around.

"Fucking hell," Bao Wei cursed.  It had turned into chaos, screaming and gunfire were the poor people caught up in Van Den Borre's insane plan. What kind of data was this?  It was just throwing a pack of rabid animals into a city and see what happened!  It was a riot, people were scrambling to get out of the way and others were already at the mercy of creatures that were unaware of their strength as they gripped people and shattered their bones and ripped limbs. Vivi had never seen anything like it. Every time they did something, they sobbed and thrashed and it made it worse. All of this violence, for absolutely nothing. There was no purpose to his violence.

"This is horrible," Vivi stated. "These people are looking for help, and they have no idea what they're doing." It was like watching children in superhuman bodies, the pain was so much that they were just slamming themselves against everything that was in the way. Cars were crumpled by their movements, sirens wailed. 

"I know," Bao Wei grimaced. "I knew it was crazy, but this...this is too much," she admitted. "The weak should become strong, but this is taking the control out of their hands...how is anyone supposed to grow stronger through this? This is just forcing slaughter."

"A terrorist with a conscience...interesting,"  Vivi murmured, their conversation catching the earshot of a trio of them before their howls of pain picked up, followed by so many others as they turned to face them.

"A doctor who has no problems murdering people isn't?" Bao Wei remarked as she shouldered her SMG in preparation.  Tch, she was going to run out of ammo way too fast at this rate...

"Doctor's assistant,"  Vivi corrected with a faint shift into his fighting stance, not that it mattered.  The strange crack of gunfire and the explosion of gore and black mist gave Vivi enough to relax his posture somewhat as whatever those poor people were hit the ground and started to dissolve. 

"Well, that's different," Gabriel grunted as he landed in a swirl of darkness, dropping his shotguns to summon more in a haze of black smoke. 

"What in the world is going on?" Angela said behind him, floating down on golden wings with a frown. 

"The reason you're here, I'd guess," Bao Wei muttered as the horde turned to face them, their eyes burning with pain and misery. Angela frowned deeper at that, her fingers tightening on her staff. Had Talon entirely lost their minds? Why was this a choice they had made?

"There has to be a way to fix this," Angela murmured. "Gabriel, Vivi...capture one of them."

"What?" Vivi murmured. "They have immense amounts of strength, Doctor...that puts us at considerable risk."

"What is medicine without risk?" Angela said quickly. "Gabriel, please!"

"We can't hold all of them off trying to corral one," Gabriel reminded, shotguns raised. "We get one, whatever happens to the others isn't our problem, Angela."

"Gabriel-" Angela insisted before the answer was chosen for her. The Horde was coming, and their speed was immense, Angela wasn't sure what she was expecting, but she had never seen anyone move that fast.  It was like a wave of water from a tsunami and the reflexes of the four of them saved them more than anything. Angela's staff was ignited blue as Gabriel felt the rush of power through his body.

Everything felt so much clearer, faster...better. You give a super soldier some juice, and he is unstoppable. His shotguns moved like a snap of fingers,  crumpling rushing corrupted citizens with precise blasts to the chests that sent them to the ground in dark mist. Gabriel had a wicked grin on his face as he unleashed hellfire on the horde.  Angela wished there was another way, but...that's where it came down to what it always settled to: She understood Gabriel's side, but she never liked doing it.

Vivi however, was using the freedom to get a suitable specimen for Doctor Ziegler while Gabriel acted like a shameless murderer and the terrorist woman helped him. 

"You really need to find better friends, Doctor," Vivi supplied, weaving through a wild swing of an angry, howling man and slamming his palm into her ribs in a burst of dark energy. There was an audible crack of bone as he hit the ground and sprawled in fury, hacking blood. 

"Not now, Vivi!" Anglea said, her staff in one hand and her pistol in the other as she fired into the crowd. "We need to fall back! We can't deal with all of them! There's so many!" she said, shifting her blue beam to Bao Wei, who immediately drew her knives when her gun ran dry and she slung it on her back.  What in the hell was this? She avoided a jumping man who slammed into the road so hard that the pavement cracked. She slammed one of her knives into the back of his skull and ripped it forward, cutting another in the throat.

"And where can we go?" Gabriel snarled, tossing one of his shotguns away when it snapped empty and he simply grabbed the head of a rushing woman and slammed it to the ground in a splatter of blood and summoned up a fresh pair as he rose up.

"I know a place," Bao Wei said quickly. "Come on!"

"Are we really going to trust her?" Vivi said flatly, lifting up the now unconscious man that he subdued earlier. 

"Do we have a choice?" Gabriel grunted, blowing out the chest of a rushing woman before smacking away another with one of his shotguns and putting a round into his head to scatter it across the pavement. 

"Not really! We need to get to the rooftops!" Bao Wei said, jumping to the side of the building as her boots activated and stuck to the wall. Vivi summoned omnic energy to his feet and leaped into the sky. 

"And I thought I was a show-off," Gabriel growled, grabbing Angela whose eyes widened in surprise.

"Hold tight," Gabriel grinned, dark biotic energy wrapping around them both. Oh, she was going to hate him for this...when they were safe. But he'd take that.

"Oh, no no no-" She cursed quickly as the horde landed on them...a second too late.  This was a moment where Angela loathed being such an intelligent person and being the creator of biotic energy and theory, she knew exactly what was happening to her body. She could feel her entire body sinking away into its constituent molecules and splitting and separating. 

She honestly had no idea how Gabriel did it,  but on some weird level, she was deeply impressed at the level of control he had on his own body. It was a strange thing to get a faint little pang of arousal from, but for all it took her to think about it, it was over and she was suddenly staring over the city of Bishkek that was quickly sinking into chaos.  And just like that, they were off.

"Come on," Gabriel grunted as Angela kept a pace behind him, she was no slouch in this department as she closed her staff and bounded after Gabriel, grateful for her Valkyrie suit. She knew Gabriel was going only fast enough to keep in front, but not fast enough to lose her completely. 

"You pick the best dates, you know that?" Angela said, swinging her staff to crack it against the head of a climbing...she didn't even know what to call them. They weren't human right now, they were sick. She just hoped she could cure them, the ones that they didn't need to kill in self defense. 

"I try," Gabriel said, grabbing her arm to pull her up. Fucking hell, it was like a tide! They needed to hurry. "This isn't going to work, on my back."

"What?" Anglea said in surprise. "I am not fiv-"

"Fine!" He snarled, tucking low and scooping her up by her legs to hoist her over his shoulder.  She barely even had time to utter a shriek of surprise as they shot off into a full sprint, leaping through the air as Angela gripped Gabriel's vest for dear life. 

"Gabriel! Stop it! Put me down!" she screamed. Ooh! She was so tired of him! He always had to do things his way!

"Quit yelling, you idiot!" Gabriel snarled, leaping across the rooftops as he kept his eyes on Bao Wei. They were both far ahead, but he knew where they were going...and Angela probably wasn't going to be any happier about it.  But it would be the safest place.

 

--
Like most Talon safehouses, they were stuck in the stranges places that nobody would expect. Some of them were retrofitted to be state of the art security stations, research points or armories for operatives.  Bao Wei landed in front of a meat market and swept the area with her SMG as Vivi landed behind her with a surprisingly soft thud.

"May I ask why you're with Talon if you question these actions?"  Vivi said as she pressed her thumb against the wall next to the door, and a keypad flipped out. 

"No," Bao Wei said, fingers running along the keypad quickly. "Unless you want to tell me your life story."

"Is this a courtship joke?" Vivi said as Bao Wei offered him a wry grin as the keypad flashed green and the door unlocked, shortly after Gabriel and Angela arrived and they all bolted inside as Bao Wei shut the door. The interior certainly looked like a butcher shop as Angela finally slid off his shoulders with his help and she glared furiously at him.

"I hate you," Angela huffed, adjusting her hair as Bao Wei went behind the counter.  Honestly! She could have kept up just fine!

"I wish that was true," Vivi remarked, adjusting the unconscious man on his shoulder.

"So do I sometimes," Gabriel smirked at Angela in amusement and glanced back toward the windows as the steel shutters snapped down and he let out a faint sigh. Okay, one problem down...

"This way," Bao Wei said. "There will be plenty for you to work with here, Doctor," she assured, turning to head into the back. Angela arched a brow at Gabriel, who silently motioned for her to go as she shifted past them. Well, she wasn't sure how she felt about that...but she wasn't wrong. It wasn't the most glamorous hideout, and it looked more like the basement from a grindhouse horror film, but it had incredibly advanced medical technology across the walls. 

"Let's get to work," Angela decided. "Gabriel, Vivi...put the patient in the chair, and hold him...you, you're going to help me." 

"...Sure," Bao Wei mumbled, settling the SMG against her shoulder to sling it against her back. Not even a thank you, huh? Guess she deserved that for being Talon. "Do you think you can fix it?"

"That's what I'm going to find out," Angela said, smirking. "Besides, Gabriel and Vivi can take a hit better than we can, right?" Bao Wei wasn't sure if that was an attempt at being friendly, but she returned it with a slightly awkward grin in return. 

"Wow," Gabriel snorted as Vivi laid the man down and held his wrists. "I feel so attacked right now."

"Perhaps throwing the most respected and intelligent doctor alive over your shoulder like a cheap tramp has something to do with it," Vivi remarked, hands on the man's ankles.

"Thank you, Vivi," she said cheerfully as Bao Wei rolled up a medical cart. "I assume the bracers wouldn't do much good?"

"Very doubtful," Vivi agreed. 

"You'll be fine," Gabriel promised Angela, which rewarded him with an easy smile.  Situations like this, she was glad to have Gabriel with her.   No matter what, she knew she could count on him on his word...at least, that's what she was starting to see again. She knew she had a million questions and none of them would ever be answered, so she'd stick with what she knew for now. 

"Swab his neck, Bao Wei," Angela said easily as the woman did as instructed. It was easy to see why: The man had a bulging vein that looked bruised and...terrible. She wished she had the opportunity to do this earlier, this wasn't anything she agreed with. Angela moved forward and pressed the needle in, the body shifted as Gabriel held him down tighter as she pulled back the plunger and it was rewarded with thick, dark blood that had a consistency that was...nothing like Gabriel's in the slightest bit.

"Interesting..." Angela mused faintly as the man's eyes snapped open and let out a long howl of fury before Gabriel pressed his weight down.  "Is it possible we can keep him alive and safely restrained?" Angela didn't seem bothered at all by the outburst as Vivi and Gabriel were both struggling to contain him, so much so that Bao Wei had to pitch in to stop him from thrashing.

"Oh, yeah, sure!" Gabriel growled. "Let's just find something that can hold him! Vivi! Knock the stupid bastard out!"

"Yes, yes..." he said, raising his fist up and slamming it down in a burst of dark energy. The examination chair shook faintly as the creature let out a loud groan of pain and a fant spray of spit and blood before going limp.  Angela watched with a faint frown before glancing at the two of them, smiling.

"...What?" Gabriel said warily, brows knitted together. 

"You called him Vivi." she pointed out happily. "You two are getting along!" she laughed.

"How happy I am that I have two new friends in this journey," added Vivi without pause. Bao Wei had noticed with increasing regularity that there was absolutely no tonal differences to the way Vivi spoke at all, which really just made his comment seem all the more condescending. 

"Well, this is going to be fun," Bao Wei said dryly. "I didn't think being a traitor would be so lively."

"You're not a traitor," Gabriel snorted. "He won't see it that way either, if you live and he doesn't then that was just the way of it...besides, the fact that you thought this was fucked up puts you in good company." Well, that wasn't wrong...and maybe that meant that Gab-...er, Reaper would vouch for her if it came to it.

"Well, I'm at your command, sir," Bao Wei said as Gabriel looked at her before shrugging faintly. 

"Sure," he said. "See what you can find out about what's going on, and what that idiot boss of yours actually did in detail, would you?" 

"Right away," Bao Wei said, heading to the far end of the room. Which, left him alone with Vivi.

Again.

"I am pleased to know that you consider me an ally, Gabriel," Vivi said, hands behind his back. "I believe the common terminology is that I will never let you live this down?"

"Something like that," The man snorted in return. "Besides, Angela likes you...so I guess there's something worthwhile about you, tin-man."

"Ah, the walls have come back up...I do wonder how Doctor Zeigler has the patience to deal with you," Vivi remarked, before turning to aid Angela. Ah, fuck...this was the worst time to to have that heart to heart. 

"I'm going to go kill things," he said to no one in particular as his body shifted to miss and sunk through the vents. Bao Wei watched him go, glancing to Angela and Vivi.

"...Is he always this strange?" The woman finally asked.

"Yes," Angela said without skipping a beat. "But he's my kind of strange, sometimes I wish I could strangle him...that's most of the time, actually." she mused.  It was just as well, she had a lot of work to do and Gabriel would be a distraction she desperately wanted right now.

Stopping a catastrophic attack first, relationship issues second. 

Chapter Text

In two weeks, Bishkek was a nightmare city.  Talon barely had control and the civil war had stopped because there was no real way to continue it.  There were breakdowns on nearly every single level of government and military. Getting out of Biskek meant that the countryside could potentially be filled with more infected than they wanted to admit. Other nations refused entry to anyone from Kyrgyzstan. The news was sparse and only hearsay, but Gabriel had a pretty solid idea what exactly was happening. 

Because they had little to do but survive and help Angela, they either had to get along or be quiet.  Bao Wei proved to be more resourceful and helpful than her position gave her credit for, something that Gabriel would have to remember when this was all over.  But in three weeks, Angela had sunk into a position that he had seen quite regularly.  Only this time, there was no real way to change what had happened.

Gabriel would be the first to admit he wasn't really a biologist or a doctor, or whatever it is you needed to be to understand the genetic mess his body was in.  But he understood it, intrinsically as he watched their captured subject.  He was growing more bruised and purple, the pain was starting to take over more than anything.  It was soon becoming a wild animal to wake up and restrain again. 

"Angela," Gabriel finally murmured to her, on the dawn of a new morning. Vivi and Bao Wei had left to see what they could learn, and whatever resources they could find. This place wasn't built for an extended stay, and it was a small mercy that Vivi didn't need anything other than an occasional check-up. Angela didn't know what rest was unless Gabriel wrenched her away.

But she didn't get it, she didn't understand how she couldn't fix this problem. The biotic energy was weaving into the very molecular level, in order to solve that she would have to stop the degeneration there, but that wouldn't fix what was already happening and she had no idea what the possible change would be if she just stopped constant molecular degeneration without supplying fresh cells, but how would she do that?

"Angela!" Gabriel said sharper, breaking her out of her thoughts as her eyes snapped to the frowning and surprisingly concerned looking Gabriel. "I think it's time you gave it up, Doc."

"What?" Angela growled. "Are you insane, Gabriel!? I can't give up on these people!" There had to be something! But his designs were so crude and rough that it was like running a thick marker over all the complexities of genetic research, what kind of idiot authorized this?

"The man we got is already dying, Angela,"  He reminded dryly. "It won't be much longer, his body can't keep up like mine can...because if Bao Wei has any kind of mark about him, he's not nearly as good of a scientist as he thinks he is."

"So what? I'm just supposed to doom an entire nation to suffer this problem because the man who made it is an idiot?" Angela snarled in anger, waving her hand. "Just ignore it all and set the entire nation in flames because it's easier?"

"I'm not saying that," Gabriel said with a sigh. "I'm saying that you're not going to solve the problem, I'm sorry...I'm not a scientist like you are, but I know what I'm seeing, I get the same way when I can't feed...we can't help these people, not like the way you want."

"That's not true," Angela replied in irritation, shoulders squaring up. "You always want the quick way out, Gabriel! There's a way! I've been cross-referencing your samples with the ones from our subject." Gabriel eyed her a moment, crossing his arms. He knew this mood, so he knew how to handle it.

"Okay," Gabriel said. "What'd you find out?" 

"Your genetic structure is intact, but constantly changing," Angela explained, relief sinking from her shoulders. "I can still identify everything about you, and it doesn't really change what it is, even though you can alter your physical state, your body still is put together like anyone else and it's an incredible achievement."

"Uh huh,"

"And whoever made this...whatever he wants to call it," Angela frowned. "Went about it like an amateur, like running a thick coat of paint over a wall without taking the time to see what requirements are needed for the muscle fibers, the nervous system or the organs," she said, taking a sip of a coffee cup with coffee that had long been lingering there, she didn't seem to notice. "So in order for any kind of cure to work, I would have to design a biotic wavelength that can recognize the differences, otherwise I would be doing much more harm than good."

"How much more harm?" Gabriel said, brows raised curiously. 

"I would be overloading something in the body and causing it to rupture, potentially violently," Angela frowned. "Be it the muscles, the nerves...or maybe a heart or a lung..." she sighed. 

"And how likely do you think it is for you to design this wavelength?" Gabriel added as Angela's expression softened, and she glanced down at her coffee cup. 

"...Next to impossible," she admitted, her shaking fingers tightening around the cup. "Everyone is likely responding differently to the brute force of biotic energy, someone could have an extreme reaction to one wavelength and I would need possibly hours to properly read their biology to cure them all...all of that is time we don't have," she mumbled. "...I can't save these people, Gabriel." she finally said, her voice catching in her throat. "This is all my fault...all of this research, if I hadn't just.."

"Angela, don't start regretting what you know has helped people," Gabriel finally rumbled, shifting his arms around her to hold her in a tight hug. Angela almost dropped the coffee cup in surprise, but instead, she buried her face into his chest and closed her eyes tightly. An entire nation was at risk, and the only thing she could say is to euthanize everyone who was infected because there was no other way. "You know how people are, they can't help being monsters."

He would know, more than anyone.

"It's not fair, Gabriel," Angela finally sniffed, the coffee cup settled on the desk to properly embrace him. Gabriel was left somewhat at odds with the situation but stayed put as he let his fingers brush through her hair. "How can I promise to help those in need when I can't do that now?" He hated seeing her like this, especially since this was his fault in the first place.

"You can, just...not in the way you want," he admitted. "I'm sorry, Angie...I am, if I had known it'd turn out this bad I would never have gotten you involved."

"Don't be an idiot, Gabriel," Angela sniffed, rubbing her face a moment. "I would have been here anyway, and you and I both know it, but whoever did this was a moron...it's like his first time dealing with any kind of biology."

"That sounds about right for Felix," Gabriel mumbled. He did know him, a little...enough to know that he wondered how he had gotten this chance in the first place? Did he catch the eye of someone? Did his research interest someone higher up? He had no idea if Moira would have ever been interested in his stupid ramblings, or maybe he was just a good salesman.

"...Are you familiar with him?" Angela asked curiously.

"In the same way you used to know most of the medical staff on Overwatch," Gabriel shrugged. "Sort of, mostly in reputation...kind of weird how someone like him managed to get the authority he did, which is why I came here...he had some crazy ideas that he apparently got approval on," he mumbled. "Maybe Bao Wei knows more about that, I don't know...it's kind of hard for me to guess how he managed to get control of a cell." 

"I still don't understand what you see in Talon, Gabriel...you used to fight them." Angela frowned. 

"What I do with Talon isn't much different than what I did in Blackwatch, Angela," he shrugged. "Means to an end, really."

"I don't believe that," she grumbled. "I cannot believe one second that Talon does what Blackwatch did."

"Then I guess you didn't pay much attention, did you?" Gabriel grinned faintly. "It's cute when you act smart."

"Don't you start that with me, Reyes," Angela huffed in warning.  "I'm serious!"

"So am I," he reminded dryly. "You don't have to believe me, but it's true either way...I do what nobody else likes doing, always have...always will, not like Overwatch is around to fix it anymore, people didn't respect us, Angela...they just knew we were the safe bet because we stopped a war." It wasn't like Blackwatch was doing it for the glory, it was doing it for the right thing. Talon was no different, humanity needed to change to stop this shit from happening. 

"So what, you're here with Talon because it's nothing new?" she frowned. "Do you honestly expect me to believe that, Gabriel?"

"No," Gabriel responded with that same irritating, handsome smirk as his thumb brushed along her cheek. "But since when did you ever listen to anyone when you had a thought in your head, Angela?" She responded, unsurprisingly by biting his thumb. He grimaced at that as she glared at him in annoyance. 

Ugh, he could never hide anything from her, could he?  

"Alright, fine, what do you want?" Gabriel grumbled. "The truth?"

"Yes," Angela finally mumbled, detaching from his thumb. "And stop acting like I can't handle it, Gabriel...it annoys me."

"Fine, I like killing, alright?" Gabriel said, a declaration less like an evil mastermind and more like an exasperated husband. "I like seeing people die, I like gripping them by their throats and feeling their life seep into my body, and I like knowing that I am the one that did it. I like the rush it brings me to how much better I am than they are, that they can't kill a ghost that should have died decades ago, it makes me feel alive when barely anything else does, alright? I like knowing that something I did change everything, it's a rush. Power is a rush." he said, his fist tightening with his dark misty energy.

Angela stared at him a moment, glancing away. For a second, Gabriel thought that he had done them both a favor.  Maybe now she could finally get it in her head that it wasn't worth the effort she was putting into it to see him 'different', or whatever she was thinking. 

"And you think I don't know that?" Angela replied flatly, finally glancing at him again. "That was your big secret, Gabriel?"

"What?" Gabriel growled in annoyance. "What the hell are you talking about, Angela? Why doesn't that shock you?"

"Why should it?" Angela growled back, waving her hand. "Do you seriously believe that I am that stupid to you, Gabriel?  You're an egotistical, stuck up, overbearing and the most stubborn man I have ever known since Jack Morrison! Both of you are like two stupid rocks that keep banging together and hope you crack! Honestly, do you think I was sitting here pining over my man and hoping that he'd change when nothing you have ever done has been out of your character? Ugh! I can't believe I'm in love with you! You're so stupid to everything that isn't about you that I just want to choke you until you stop breathing!" she finally screamed out in frustration,  tears finally bubbling along her eyes.

Gabriel stared at her for a long moment, blinking at her in surprise as she huffed and panted. Her face was flush red with anger as she stared at him, and her expression softened a moment before turning away to wipe at her eyes.

"...I know all of that, Gabriel," she mumbled. "I've always known all of that, how could I not? Who was the first one to see you when Blackwatch came back? I never liked what you did, but when you're in love with someone you have to accept everything about them, even the things you wish weren't true." she said, rubbing her face. "And now here I am, crying my stupid face out because you always think that I don't know you!"

 

 

"...Oh," Gabriel finally said, when his voice caught up with him and he was staring at a furious, tear-soaked Angela who was struggling to keep her breathing together.  He didn't get it if that hadn't been abundantly clear so far...nothing he did seemed to stop her from loving him, even if it would have been easier to just write it off. All this time, she still had feelings. No matter how much he heard it, he didn't get it.

He slid his hand through his hair absently with a long, drawn-out sigh. The depth and rasp of his voice made it sound worse than it actually was.  Well, what could he say?

"Sorry," Gabriel managed out, after a long moment. It was as sincere as he could manage. "I didn't want to hurt you, Angela...but I had to do what I had to do."

"It doesn't matter now, does it?" Angela sniffed, wiping at her face. "It's not like I can change it, but I wish you'd at least realize that I can't help that I love you, Gabriel."

"...Yeah, well...I guess I'll have to work on that," he mumbled, glancing back behind him as he heard the faint hiss of the hydraulics from the elevator. "I should probably get out there and see if we can clear a path, alright? There's really only one way to get to the bottom of this."

"...Right," Angela said, her smile slightly less radiant. "Be careful, okay?" 

It bothered him more than he wanted to admit that he was the reason she was looking like that, which had the side effect of him looking obnoxiously sour when Bao Wei and Vivi arrived.  Carrying their latest haul in Vivi's backpack.

"We have brought many canned goods and curated meats," Vivi said as if he was a proud hunter after his kill.

"You really ruined the majesty of it, you know that?" Bao Wei smirked in return as Gab-...Reaper sunk into mist and slid out the cracks of one of the windows in the basement. No matter how much she saw it, it was still strange and more than a little disturbing. 

"Is something the matter, Doctor?" Vivi asked instead as Angela blinked at him then hastily wiped away at her face before smiling. 

"No, just dealing with my idiot is all," she said with a sniff. "Can you do me a favor, Vivi?"

"Of course," he said, shifting the pack to set it down as Bao Wei examined their captured subject. He was getting worse and worse every day, what the hell was Felix even thinking?  How would this help Talon at all? He was starting to look like a giant purple bruise. 

"Kill him, humanely," Angela said, motioning to the captured man. "...I can't help him, Vivi...I can't help any of them."

Vivi glanced at her at that, as Bao Wei's eyes soon followed. Angela looked worn and tired, and her smile was never entirely there.  She wondered faintly just what 'dealing with her idiot' meant, but it wasn't any of her business she supposed. They knew where Felix was, potentially...Bao Wei doubted that he had moved since he unleashed hell on Bishkek.

"As you wish, Doctor," he said, moving towards the restrained man. "Where is Gabriel going?"

"I don't know, it doesn't matter right now anyway...we need to end this, soon," Angela said firmly as Vivi settled his metal hand over the man's forehead, his thumb and middle finger burning with energy on the temples. Bao Wei was watching intently, the more she was around Vivi the more interested she was in just how he...functioned. She had never seen an Omnic like him.


Then again, she really didn't interact with much Omnics anyway. 

"I see,"  Vivi said, his fingers sparkling with energy as the man's body jerked, and went limp. Bao Wei quirked a brow of surprise as blood ran down the man's nose, but other than that he seemed the same when he passed. What kind of horrifying technique was that?  "Perhaps he is looking for the clearest way to do that, then...he often goes off like this when you two argue."

 


Three weeks crammed into a small space meant they didn't really have a lot of room for 'privacy', but it was clear the two of them were getting on each other's nerves and Vivi had no idea what exactly the two of them were doing together, but Angela seemed nonplussed about it. Which really, just meant that this was a usual routine with him.  More questions Vivi had a feeling they wouldn't answer.

"Getting there without detection would be a problem for anyone but him," Bao Wei admitted. "But he should have at least said something if he was going to do that, but that is up to you, Doctor...maybe it would be best if we tried to find a way in, we're not exactly getting any younger sitting here hoping it blows over."

"Right," Angela sighed, rubbing her face faintly. "And it would be better if we could get rid of the problem, maybe Felix has documentation on this mess that he made and I could save them, how did someone like him get in charge of this anyway? Does Talon truly have such little care for the people?"

"I wouldn't word it like that," Bao Wei grumbled. "We care about survival, adaptation...this is not the right way to see that, we can't grow as a species if we condemn them to these half-hearted experiments, this was absolutely not what he should have been doing...I don't think everyone knows the depth of what he was trying, I know I didn't."

"Ah, such is the flaw of such autonomous ruling, I suppose...an iron fist is better controlled than loose fingers," Vivi mused. "At any rate, we do know where Felix is...but we don't know how difficult it would be to get inside." 

"With the extra infected, complicated,"  Bao Wei admitted. "But possible, the HQ is pretty well protected from entry...but getting in would be a problem anyway, I'm sure he's on lockdown by now." Bao Wei reminded, tongue brushing over her lips nervously in thought. "But we could do it, it'd just be noisy."

"We can make it quick," Vivi promised. "What do you think, Doctor?"

"We don't have a lot of options at the moment," Angela sighed. "So, I guess we'll do it..I'm sure Gabriel will follow after."

He had a weird knack of following her, anyway.

--
He had been Gabriel Reyes too much lately, it felt nice to be Reaper.  It was far too easy to shed away the vestiges of being a normal, stable person and sink into the darkness as he was more familiar with being a grouchy, violent and angry person that...Angela was apparently completely okay with. 

Ugh.

Bishkek was still thriving in its own way,  Reaper had no idea how long Felix had been kidnapping people but it was a guess that whatever he had done here was not particularly in his plans, or going the way he wanted. If that were true, Talon would have a tighter hold of Bishkek by now.  There were still smatterings of gunfire, and he could catch people trying to hide from what Angela had called 'infected'. It had turned into a bit of a crumpled warzone because everyone with uncontrollable super...everything couldn't keep things together unless the buildings were built for it. 

He supposed that was a bit of hyperbole, but he was more than a little upset that this entire mess was his fault, indirectly. His existence made it his fault, and that made Angela upset at him and...

Ugh.

He would fix this for her sake, and his own. He could tolerate a lot, but this was too far when he had no control over what was happening. Maybe Angela was rubbing off on him again, maybe maybe maybe. Maybe he just needed to shoot something, thankfully he was in the perfect place to do that as he was prowling across the rooftops like a wraith.  Of course, he knew that it'd never be that easy when Angela was around.

 He heard the pop of gunfire and the howl of the infected that carried into the night. Reaper immediately had shotguns in hand as the infected leaped into the air like human-sized fleas, only to hit the ground again in a spray of dark biotic energy when they were plucked out of the sky.  He supposed that was his good deed for the day, because he was the closest target to whatever had triggered the horde. He advanced along the rooftop, his shotguns jerking in every direction to blow away another one that popped up.

 

It was cathartic to the extreme to blow away his emotions into targets like he was accustomed to doing, but the feeling of their lifeforce was strange and oddly satisfying. He wondered if this is what it tasted like to have a vampire bite another one? He had attracted them by the hundreds...good. He needed something to do tonight.

He bounded along the rooftops, hellfire blaring from his shotguns as he summoned more and more as he ran, dropping them as he went. Maybe he had gotten a little arrogant, or maybe he was just having too much fun to really care when one of them finally got to his side and slammed into him in a tackle of fury. Reaper let out a growl of pain as he went flying down and slammed into the road so hard that the pavement sunk half an inch.

Ow. That actually hurt a little. His would be assaulter was standing over him in fury, his hands raising up before Reaper grabbed him by the throat, his claws sinking into his neck while he got up with a practiced ease as they all started to drop around him and in some cases, right on top of him. He threw the man away and stepped to the side, grabbing the head of the howling woman and twisting with a vicious snap before summoning a shotgun in his hand and blasting a trio of them as his other hand was now free to summon another.

But that's when the gunfire started in earnest and scores of them went down in a spray of smoking blue holes, Reaper glanced behind him for only a moment as he ducked and smacked away an infected with the side of one of his shotguns before leaving a watermelon-sized hole in the gut of his attacker. He knew that noise, that distinctive chatter that accompanied a heavy, reciprocating action.

"Well, this is just a wonderful little reunion I'm having, isn't it?" Reaper muttered in annoyance as his 'savior' moved forward, weapon still shouldered and smoking.  They didn't have much time to talk, was this Angela's doing? Did Angela even know Jack was still around in some gaudy jacket and stupid visor?

"Missed you too, Gabe," Jack growled out slowly. "What the hell is going on? What kind of crazy shit have you gotten into now?" Of course, that was the end of it because the horde wasn't one for talking. Ugh, as much as he hated seeing him here it would be a perfect cover for him: Maybe now he could blame someone else for this as long as he killed the right people. Namely Felix.

"No time," Reaper growled out, blowing away a pair of charging infected as Jack ducked and slammed the butt of his rifle in one before putting a round into the back of his head when he rushed him. He hoped and prayed that Jack died before they linked up with Angela because he would never, ever, ever hear the end of this otherwise.   "How did you get here, Jack?"

"Are you kidding?" Jack said as they backpedaled, his pulse rifle howling out death to the rushing horde. Gabriel was doing an excellent job of covering the sides as Jack kept them pressured with sharp taps of his pulse rifle, a slow and even measured retreat against a horde of enemies...really brought back memories that Jack didn't want to think about.  "Everybody's heard about it! What the hell happened!? Where is Angela?" Ah, right...hard for anything to happen under the nose when Angela was off being her good little humanitarian bit.

"She's fine, Dad," Gabriel grumbled. "She's got a psycho tin-man bodyguard with her; she can handle herself. Anyway, she paid better attention to the lessons than we thought." Well, this entire trip was just pissing him off and only getting worse by the minute. Not only did he have to feel like shit because Angela somehow still held a torch for him, now Jack was here of all people and they were working together again like old times. He was finding more and more reason to stab Felix in the kidney and watch him die a slow, miserable death.

 

"She always could," Jack grunted. "Wait, you've been with her?"

"I'm the reason she's here, Jack...look, shoot the ugly people and stop talking!"

It annoyed Gabriel how easy it was for him to go back into the old routines with Jack, but he'd be damned if he'd give up efficiency for the time being. He supposed he could have just shot him in the back and left him to die, but knowing his luck this past month or so he'd come back and Angela would put a lot of holes in him because she had a nose for whenever he did anything shady.

This was also perhaps the most awkward experience Gabriel would ever have and he surely hoped it was worth it because he knew in his gut that he was doing this for Angela. God, why couldn't she have just hated him like everyone else? Instead, he had to feel his feelings and he knew he'd never hear the end of it.  

"You know where we're going?" Jack mumbled, their boots echoing down the quiet streets as the horde seemed to alternate between being interested in them and not. They weren't like the others, they could run for hours and never get tired. It was a hell of a drug they had got pumped with.

"Not much farther," Gabriel muttered.  "Why are you here, Jack?"

'To fix the problem, Gabriel...why are you here?" He asked tartly in turn. "To make it worse?"

"I have no idea how I could even begin to make this worse, even if I wanted to," he grumbled. "I'm here to stop it."

"Come again?" Jack almost tripped over a pothole at his declaration. "Since when do you fix problems instead of starting them?"

"I don't know, Dad, since when do you have a right to question me about everything?" Gabriel muttered back in annoyance. 

"Maybe since Rialto, and that whole 'joining Talon' thing." Jack reminded in turn. 

Even if Angela had no idea who the man running next to Gabriel was, the bickering gave it away like nothing else. Bao Wei and Vivi were keeping a close eye on the streets as they stood in front of a warehouse a little outside of town. Judging by the way they looked, they had to deal with more than just infected: Looters, thieves and overall terrible people that met their end much to the annoyance of Angela. 

But this? This was a new one. Angela couldn't believe her eyes, let alone her heart. She had to be dreaming, or maybe she was suffering a concussion. 

"...Jack?" Angela said warily, leaning forward a little as the visor-clad man was stiff a moment before relaxing and letting out a long sigh, reaching up to detach the visor. He was still handsome, but his face had become littered with scars.  Much like Gabriel, there was little indication of his age outside of his hair. She couldn't believe it, she had heard of the vigilante running around and causing all sorts of problems for Helix Security and other locations.

"...Yeah," Jack mumbled, fitting his visor back on. "Sorry, Angela...long story, maybe we'll talk later?" he offered, and that seemed to relax Angela enough for the moment. Right, they had something more important to do...

"Don't spook him, he's shy," Gabriel smirked, looking up at the warehouse while Jack muttered something under his breath. Apparently, he was also sensitive too, well...Gabriel could at least agree that this would go a lot faster with an extra set of hands. 

"Who are they?" Jack motioned with his shoulder to Vivi and Bao Wei.

"I am Vivi, at your service," he said, tilting his head respectfully. "This complex paradox of feminity is Bao Wei, our lead into the heart of this problem."

"...Pleasure," Bao Wei muttered, quirking a brow at Vivi.  "This is where Felix is holed up, this is where most of his research was done too...he's probably still down there, 'collecting data'." She hoped that because Reaper was here instead of on the other side, she'd actually live through this.

"You'd think Talon would do something other than a warehouse," Jack mumbled, glancing up at it. "It's big, though..underground?"

"It's a thing we do," Gabriel shrugged casually. "You know since we actually like to accomplish something without a lot of red tape, much easier to do that if nobody knows we're here." Angela's expression sunk just a fraction, her eyes half-lidded as she stared at Gabriel.

He tried to ignore it, but even behind his mask, he could feel like she was seeing right through him. For a moment, it felt like he was back at the Overwatch HQ after he had bickered with Jack over something pointless and Angela always had to mediate. Eventually, there just wasn't a point...and that look of resignation had always bothered him in ways that he didn't like looking too deeply at. 

"Well, I guess we better see what's going on then," Jack said, shifting up his pulse rifle casually. "It's nice to see you again Angela."

"If the two of you start arguing down there, I'm shooting you both and letting you bleed,"  Angela sniffed, chin tilted up as she turned. "Vivi, make us an entrance," she said, moving to join the omnic who turned to face the large doors. Clearly, they were locked. Jack glanced at Gabriel, who shrugged. 

That wasn't his fault, Angela was always like that. That's what he told himself anyway.

Vivi put his hands along the large door curiously, his fingers running along the space in front of him as if that would give him some guess on whatever he was thinking. Bao Wei had seen enough of Vivi's might to know that she had no idea how he'd do this, but she'd find out soon enough.

"Ah, here we are," Vivi said as his fingers seemed to glow with dark energy. He pressed down where his fingers met the door and it quickly formed around his hands. Jack tilted his head as he watched this Omnic simply sizzle a hole through a thick door and inch it open.

"Suitable enough?"  Vivi said with a wave of his hand as Gabriel moved forward with Jack and they both gripped one of the thick steel doors to push. They dug their heels in, grunting all the while as the large doors began to creak open. Bao Wei was already raising up her SMG as Angela settled to the door next to Gabriel, pistol in preparation as Vivi stood next to Bao Wei, hands behind his back.

"I must admit, you are a more pleasant companion than Gabriel," he said. For once, it wasn't infected...but actual Talon security. Bao Wei doubted that she'd be able to order them to stand down...but she'd try at least.  They came barreling out in two lines of five, laser sights already on as they spread out and Bao Wei held her hand up. The hierarchy was pretty simple in Talon, if someone above you ordered something, it was done without hesitation. Given the way that they were running and taking a position, it was clear that she was not in the command chain anymore.

"Yeah, why is that?" Bao Wei said, raising up her weapon as Vivi took a step forward when the doors finally stopped moving. Gabriel and Jack were pressed against the side of the doorway, weapons ready in preparation. They'd really only have one shot at this before Felix really found out.

"Much quieter," Vivi said before he was wreathed in omnic energy and shot forward like a bullet with his fist outstretched. The soldier he collided with was met with a sickening crack of bone and armor plating sending him flying into the nearby crate so hard it crumpled around him. Jack and Gabriel swung out after that, weapons howling as Bao Wei moved into the warehouse with them. The silent alarm was likely already set off.

"Where we going?!" Jack called, darting into cover. Dammit, how much manpower did they have here? This was insane! He could already hear more footsteps! 

"There's a staircase that will take us down!" Bao Wei growled over the gunfire as she activated her gear and leaped high over the shipping containers, taking off to the side. "We need to hurry!" They wouldn't have a lot of time before the sound attracted attention! 

"Easier said than done," Gabriel growled. "Angela, stay with the idiot, I'll go with Vivi."

"Fine, don't die," Angela muttered. "Come on, Jack...let's follow Bao Wei." Jack glanced at Angela, then back to Gabriel.  He waved them off almost dismissively and Jack snorted, hand on Angela's shoulder. Guess that was that, wasn't it?  They took off the direction Bao Wei went. He supposed Reaper and some kind of crazy omnic would be a good distraction, wouldn't it?

"I feel like I have a lot of questions I'm not going to get answered, Angela," Jack admitted as they tore down the warehouse at full sprint. Angela's armor was helping her keep up, but she had forgotten just how bad they both were at forgetting not everyone was a super soldier.

"Then I guess you shouldn't ask them, should you?" Angela muttered, grateful that they stopped at a shipping container as Jack peered out the side. Bao Wei was striding along like a wild woman, taking pot-shots at patrols from her higher positions.  This warehouse was huge but had constant cover and unfortunately plenty of sight lights in almost every direction.

"I was fine before about you and Gabe, but now? Really?" Jack murmured. "Is love that blind?" he said, shouldering his pulse rifle to fire off a burst that caught moving pair off guard, another burst put the second one down as they advanced. 

"I can't help what I feel!  like you have any right to tell me anything after you disappear off the face of the planet!" Angela growled. "I swear, I don't even get the time to be shocked that you're still alive, Jack! You're already lecturing me!" She was going to kill both of them or put Gabriel in one of those boxes that didn't have the oxygen holes punched in.  Jack glanced at her in surprise, feeling that as if he was the one to open the dam. 

"Could I just please have a moment where I can think about things?!" Angela snapped in irritation. "Please!?" Day in and day out, everyone was deciding everything for her. Why couldn't she make a choice without someone questioning it?

"...Sure," Jack said after a long moment, motioning her to follow after. "Feel better?" Gabriel was back to his usual tricks with her, huh? Always the emotionally distant one until Angela exploded, and everything was fine again.

"Yes," Angela huffed, letting out a long sigh. "Thank you, there are just..more important things to worry about right now, right?" 

"Right," Jack agreed. Oddly cathartic for her, he supposed. "So, what's going on?"

"Someone named Felix Van Den Borre has taken some of Gabriel's personal cells for a project...as you can see, it's not going well," Angela mumbled, speaking of that...the howls they were hearing meant their fighting was attracting the infected. It was a good thing they had spotted the staircase that Bao Wei had landed nearby. 

"Reaper, Vivi...we're at the location," Bao Wei said, taking a quick sweep with her weapon. "Where are you?"

Go on without us, we've got more guests!  Gabriel's voice thundered through their shared communication line as Angela blinked.  She could hear those  'guests' a mile away, more gunfire and more howling. Gabriel's distinctive shotguns and the whine of Vivi's omnic energy carrying to their location.

"What? No! Gabriel, Vivi! You're coming with us!" Angela insisted, finger against her ear communicator. 

I must agree with Gabriel, as painful as that is to say out loud. We won't be able to ensure a safe position if we go with you, Doctor...we will be fine. This must end as soon as possible, let us keep the warehouse clear, we will join you later if we can. Vivi promised as Jack motioned for Bao Wei to lead on and she glanced at Angela, before nodding.

Angela, go. I'll be fine, get going...finish this mess up so you can get back to being a better person. Gabriel growled, his voice coated by the snap of his shotguns.  It wasn't as if she had a choice in the matter, which seemed like a running trend lately and it irritated her as much as it caused her to worry as she turned toward the stairs.

"Promise me you'll be here when I get back, Gabriel," Angela mumbled, moving swiftly down the stairs with Bao Wei and Jack. "Promise me!"

I promise I got this, good luck.

Angela didn't feel much better, but she left it at that as she hopped over the stairs railing and activated her wings, illuminating the staircase in a golden glow as Jack sprinted down the stairs and Bao Wei was bounding from railing to railing with expert precision. 

"Guess I should have asked for wings," Bao Wei grumbled, nevertheless giving her weapon a quick check as they all met at the bottom. Immediately, they were assaulted with the heavy stench of death. Angela frowned deeper as she opened up her staff, they could all hear the shuffling of footsteps as Bao Wei glanced back to them and Jack readied his pulse rifle. She turned the knob carefully and opened the door as Jack shifted closer and peeked his muzzle out as his eyes caught sight of the laboratory.

"Good fucking god..."  A laboratory was a guess at this point, everything was a mess, it was amazing that the power was on still. Consoles and containment centers were broken and shattered, corpses of Talon soldiers caught in the initial rush made Bao Wei's blood boil. They had no chance because they weren't expecting it.

"This wasn't supposed to happen like this, at all," she muttered. "We were supposed to let them out, groups at a time...and this fucking psycho just opened them up all at once." She was going to kill him slowly for doing this to her men and women. 

"Surprise surprise," Jack said humorlessly. "Talon being backstabbing and untrustworthy..." he said as they entered the hallway proper. It was only a moment before the intercom snapped on, and out came the irritating, cultured voice that made Bao Wei's teeth gnash. Of course, he was still alive. 

"Doctor Ziegler, it's an honor!" 

Chapter Text

Gabriel remembered a time when his body was pushed to exhaustion and the only thing he could do was react. It had been years beyond years since he felt noticeable fatigue in his body from everything that had happened, plus the Super Soldier program before he joined Overwatch had made him a paragon of inhuman fitness. It was sort of ironic that the last time he remembered feeling the twinges of exertion was also with Jack.

Old habits never died, did they? He had no real choice but to trust Jack, Angela and Bao Wei to do what they needed to be done. He preferred doing this kind of work anyway, he had been 'Gabriel' too much as of late, it was nice to be Reaper. It was a good thing that Angela wasn't here to see him like this, to see the smirk across his blood-splattered face and the burning red in his eyes from the life it gave him.

The crack of his shotguns was a constant symphony, followed by the hard whine of Vivi's energy. They never stopped coming, the noise just attracted more and more of them like a relentless tide of corpses, desperate to be set free. Their hands outstretched, their eyes wide with fear and terror before Reaper's guns blew away their heads like a watermelon to a hammer, scattering their blood across the warehouse as they bodies started to hiss away.

They never stopped, it felt like the entire city had started to sink in towards the warehouse at times. Their breaks were short and just enough for Reaper to roll his shoulders.

"You are a warrior who values violence far too much, Gabriel," Vivi remarked while flicking brain matter off his fingers while the rest sizzled from his dark omnic energy.

"Says the tin man who can shatter ribcages with a single punch," he added dryly. "So what?"

"You dislike it," Vivi guessed. "The reason you shy away from Angela is that you are not suitable for her." It was quite clear now, no matter how much that seemed to frustrate Angela.

"You're pretty observant for a robot that has no eyes, are you going to tell me my horoscope next?" Tch, every time they were alone he had to act like Angela's father. On the other hand, it was good that he got a sense of him not being good enough for Angela because that was probably the most accurate thing he had ever said to him. Angela was...good, truly a good woman in more ways than he knew how to process.

He was like a demon, sucking the life out of people so he could keep living a life full of violence and grief. Heaven and Hell, rather poetic when he thought of it that way.

"She doesn't care, you know," Vivi said, glancing at him as the warehouse grew eerily silent. "She values you around more than she values her intelligence, at times...because anyone as smart as her would know better than to keep pining for a man who is the anathema to everything she believes in."

"Spare me," Gabriel muttered, cracking his neck. "You don't see me running around these podunk countries, kidnapping people for this gross shit, do you? I fight on battlefields, I don't try to twist people to my beliefs, Talon is just doing what people won't do, that's all."

"That means that you condone this behavior, even if you don't agree with it....because many people certainly wouldn't do any of this, Gabriel," Vivi said. "But what do I know? I'm just a sentient robot who has spent his years working in war-torn battlefields that are generally caused by Talon attempting to make a power grab."

"Too subtle, I barely missed what you were getting at," He snorted. No wonder Angela liked this stupid tin-can. He had never met anyone who had so much lip for not even having a mouth.

"Do you have any other sterling relationship advice for me while we fight for our lives?" he said, as the heavy footfall of a stampeding horde came. Christ, where the hell were they all coming from?

"She enjoys Crocus flowers," Vivi added in faintly. "Perhaps you should get her some as a thank you when this is all over."

Heh, actual good advice...maybe he'd do that.

--
It had been only moments before that Felix had existed in a state of terror, the cold fury that filled his veins barely replaced the shaking he had felt at his hands.  He had done it, he thought...he had proven that his research was valid! His creations had decimated Bishkek and turned it into a state of anarchy that only Talon could control! 

But no, it had been taken away from him.

--

"Do you understand the insanity that you have caused?" The deep, booming voice of Akande Ogundimu filled his quiet office and made his once smug expression sink away into the floor. "Do you find this as your way of superiority? What does this teach us, Doctor? This teaches us that we want humanity to sink into creatures that are not even human?" he growled, lips pulled back in a furious scowl.

"It's not my fault!" Felix had sputtered back in defense. "I had everything planned until Reaper showed up and-"

"Oh?" Doomfist said with a delicate arch of a brow. "Reaper, you say? And what has he done to ruin what you have planned, Doctor?"

"He expedited my research!" He huffed. "He was uncooperative, I was using old material and I didn't have enough time to replicate it, so I-" Felix trailed off, but not because he didn't know what to say, but because the leader of Talon was laughing. He was laughing!

"Reaper has disagreed with you? How interesting, I suppose we shall see who wins, in the end, Doctor...if your path is truly the right one for Talon, then you will succeed after all." He grinned. "You stepped very heavily out of your boundaries, you have turned an entire city into chaos for your desire to prove your own research as the dominant choice...but here you stand fighting against the very people who should be helping you," Doomfist grinned in amusement.

Before Felix could say anything, he was gone. Leaving him in the cold room and the faint light of his computer screen. Did he not understand? In all of that man's insight into the way humanity works, did he not understand that this was the true path that they had to take? That they had to tear away what made a human, human and learn how to make it better? Wasn't Reaper proof of that? Wasn't their research across the world proof of that?

But now, now was not the time for such melodramatic thoughts. He had guests, and it wouldn't do to keep them waiting. Doctor Ziegler, some strange man in a multi-colored jacket...and Bao Wei? He wasn't sure he felt betrayed, but he certainly felt annoyed.

"Doctor Ziegler, it's an honor!" he chimed, his shaking finger pressed against the key as the group tensed in preparation. He would not let this end here, he would solve this problem and prove to Doomfist that his research had merit!

--

Angela's face tightened into a frown when she heard the whimsical voice of the would-be villain, fingers curling around her staff in preparation. None of this would go easy, but they still had to do it.

"And you must be Doctor Van Den Borre, why are you doing this? Do you not realize the lives you have lost?" Angela said. "Turning people into these howling animals! What is your goal? What could this possibly accomplish other than causing more suffering?"

Suffering? Oh, no Doctor, you have it all wrong...this is for the advancement of humanity! It's not every day that you get a chance to test the very limits of the human body! My research here today could cure a hundred disabilities and illnesses! All I need is time to prove it, these...animals as you put it are nothing more than a way for me to fund my research for the good of humanity.

"Told you, off his rocker," Bao Wei muttered, leading the way carefully with Angela in the middle. It was little more than a long connection of hallways, put together in a manner that reminded Angela of a prefabricated structure. It was likely easier to work with that underground.

Ah, Bao Wei...you were always my harshest critic. You never did like me, but to betray me like this? Betray Talon? Prices must be paid.

"Eat me, you freak," Bao Wei muttered, pausing at the hallway. "Come on, his office is straight ahead." She was not going to die to this bullshit, not after everyone she worked with and trusted to have her back had died to his stupid plans.

You really don't think it's going to be that easy, do you?

She didn't, but she wasn't expecting to hear the whine of the security system and Bao Wei stifled a curse of annoyance.

"What does that mean?" Jack grumbled in irritation, pulse rifle shouldered.

"It means we're fucked." Bao Wei said in return as Angela's staff snapped open with a frown. The interior walls separated and slid out racks of humanoid security bots. Judging by the state of them, they had already dealt with numerous threats already.

"Well, shit," Jack said, letting loose a helix rocket that blew out three of the security bots from the frame as the others lit to life and rose their arms, the energy weapons flaring to life as the three of them jerked to the corners while they returned fire.  The walls behind them were opening up with similar racks of security robots.

"We don't have much choice! We need to keep moving!" Angela insisted, pistol in hand as they all sprinted forward. Bao Wei's knife came out like a flash and sunk deep into the head of one of the bots as they pushed forward past the activating racks. More and more of them started to fill the hallways.

"Someone is paranoid!" Jack growled, turning mid-run to put a trio of them down with precise bursts of pulse fire. Bao Wei had no idea how he did that so smoothly, but she wasn't going to think too deeply about it. There was more than one way to do this. 

"This way!" She said, taking a sharp right at the split of the hallway. The office was right there, but she knew better. He would be waiting or planning something, and right now wasn't a good time to rush him with the security in this place going haywire. Jack sunk against the wall and leaned out a fraction to fire off a few shots as he jerked back in when the retaliatory fire came back in a fusillade of plasma that howled past.

"Tell me you have a plan?" Angela murmured to Bao Wei, her staff settled on Jack so he could dip out to put down the echoing horde of robots. That seemed to be a theme with this insane man, didn't it? Mindless hordes of dangerous things. 

"I do," Bao Wei said. "...But we need to get in touch with Reaper and Vivi first, there's a communication room down the hall...we should be able to get a frequency that will pick them up," she said, cursing when more of the racks began to slide out of the walls behind them. Fucking hell, did he save them for this!?

"Then we better hurry!" Angela said, turning to fire her pistol to disable ones coming off their racks. 

--
Holding the line was a double-edged sword, but both Gabriel and Vivi knew that and they kept doing it anyway. The alternative was dealing with two problems in a small space in the facility below.  Brought back memories of the Omnic War, which Gabriel wasn't sure he really wanted to think about right now anyway.

With the increase in noise came more of the corrupted people, the more they fought and the more they came. Vivi was holding up his side of the bargain rather well as his pristine body seemed to hold out on him. 

"Do I need to plug you in soon?" Gabriel remarked dryly, blasting away the head of a rushing woman as Vivi hurled a blast of energy from his palm to send another tumbling to the side to crash against a crate. He knew that Omnics were like anything else: They needed rest of some kind.

"Maybe," Vivi admitted, for once without his telltale sarcasm. "I am trying to be efficient without being a burden to your actions, Gabriel...surely you must feel tired." Going on a solid hour of intense, completely outnumbered fighting with maybe a minute of pause at random intervals?

"I could use a nap," It was friggin' endless, how in the hell were they supposed to keep this up?

Ga..iel, V...vi...do y...u co..y? 

The monotony of their rapid-fire body count was broken by the crackling voice of Bao Wei, which made Gabriel uneasy in the first place as he motioned for Vivi to follow him as they moved closer to the staircase they had been protecting.  Shit, the signal was garbage...but that was no surprise, Talon was good at that sort of thing and that crazy Doctor had probably put the place on lockdown.

"Barely," Gabriel said back. "Whatever you're trying to say, make it short."  he urged quickly as he did a quick sweep of the area. 

L...t th...m i..! 

Gabriel glanced at Vivi, who gave a faint shake of his head. What the fuck was that?  He felt like an idiot standing there, his face shifting through various emotions as he tried to solve the equation that was being presented to him as Bao Wei repeated herself, over and over again. Different letters and sounds coming through before it hit him. Fuck, what was going on down there?

Let them in!  What?  Did she have any fucking clue just how many of the damn things they had killed in the past hour? Well, he supposed there really only was one way to find out...which annoyed him.

"Come on," Gabriel said, turning towards the stairs.  He was doing no such fucking thing, but it was clear they needed help anyway. Besides that, they needed to get a better signal to understand what was going on as he put his finger to his ear to adjust his commlink. "Copy that, heading down." They were not going to open the goddamn door to let them in, that was stupid and he had a better plan. 

"This should be interesting," Vivi added as humorlessly as possible, which was extremely possible when he spoke in such a dull monotone.  It didn't matter if they let them in or not: they'd be coming in now that Gabriel and Vivi weren't guarding the entrance. 

 

--

When Overwatch was together, Angela had never felt such a conflicting feeling of happiness and frustration in equal measure. Dealing with Gabriel and Jack all the time was a migraine on worst days and a question of how grey her hair would get on the best ones.  She remembered when she had first met Gabriel, it was when he had six puncture wounds through his left shoulder from Omnic gunfire and he had barely done anything but cover it as if it would fix the infection.

Honestly, she should have seen the conflict coming a mile away...but that was her own fault when she was in love with one of the idiots and practically a sister to the other one. It was, admittedly a weird time to start thinking about the past when Jack and Bao Wei were currently doing everything in their power to mow down the tide of security bots in hope of getting some breathing room. But it had been a long time since they were together like this, and part of her wished that it could stay that way...but she knew better, and it was time to get some work done.

Angela peered out from her cover and opened fire with her pistol, sending a few of them down when the energy bolts slammed into the hardened armor.  On one hand, she manipulated the thumb on the buttons of her staff to produce a pair of thin blue beams to connect both Bao Wei and Jack to her energy beams, she'd have to be careful with the power setting: Sometimes the lack of friction from her biotic energy could wear out equipment faster.

"We got a plan?" Jack said absently between quick bursts of his pulse rife, Angela's biotic enhancements were helping speed the process up, but it felt like they'd run out of ammo at this rate.  How Jack ended up here, he barely knew...helping Gabriel of all people. He knew Angela would never hear it no matter what, but they would be talking about this later.

"Hope Reaper heard me fast enough to get down here?" Bao Wei responded sarcastically as she ejected another magazine and fed a fresh one in, smacking the bolt forward.  "We need to get to Felix, but these damn robots..." she grumbled as Angela glanced at the hallway.  She could hear the very distinctive crack of Gabriel's shotguns in the distance, but that didn't solve their problems right now.

--
Gabriel was sure he'd get an earful about this later, but honestly, they didn't have a lot of time to be debating about what the right way to do things would be. They were fighting mutated freak people against a crazy Talon scientist, he was pretty sure he had seen some cheesy movie about this.

"You sure you'll be fine by yourself?" Gabriel asked Vivi as they sunk into the Talon facility. There were already numerously broken and twitching security bots, and they could hear the gunfire in the hallways as they picked up their pace.  Talon security bots were easy to make, quick to arm...looks like they still weren't the greatest on tactics though.

"I have protected Doctor Ziegler without you for quite some time, Gabriel...I am fairly certain I still can," he replied. "But what is it that you are going to do?"

"Pay Felix a visit," Gabriel said. It was better that Angela didn't see him do it anyway. He knew that she'd give him an earful that'd never stop. "You just make sure Angela doesn't get hurt, got it?" Vivi tilted his head in faint agreement as they continued onward, finally meeting the backline of the security robots that had filed themselves into pinning them down. 

Hold your fire! Gabriel warned. It was a good thing he did: Vivi slammed his foot into the first bot in a crushing roundhouse that beheaded it before using the momentum to turn and punch another with an energy laced fist. Attention was properly diverted, so Vivi was already sheathing himself in omnic energy. Gabriel wanted to know and didn't want to know how he just...phased through the entire line of security bots to meet them. But then again, he also didn't exactly want to know how he could turn into mist and sink under doors either.

Felix knew he was coming. He knew Reaper enough to know that the man was pragmatic, simple...lacking in the dramatic flair, somewhat boring for a soldier who could suck the literal life out of people with a touch if he wanted.  He would be lying if he said that knowledge was something that emboldened him to the appearance of black mist rising up in his office to form the man himself, mask and all.

"What took you?" Came Felix's dry remark before Reaper's shotgun was staring him right in the face. He paused faintly at that as Reaper moved his arm smoothly to the right and fired. The pain was horrendous, it felt...unnatrual. The sound of his shotgun wasn't like a normal shotgun, the pain that slammed into his shoulder and sent him out of his chair in a bloody, pained wheeze made it hard to see straight. It burned, it burned like an unholy fire that he was desperately trying to put out that radiated across his body and he struggled to breathe.  The wound was hissing, crackling...the entry points already blackening.

"You know," Reaper said, his reverberant voice bouncing throughout the office. It did little to help Felix's incoming wave of panic as the man crawled away from his office desk with a miserable whimper. He wasn't bleeding, that was the horrifying part, it was just...muscle and bone, exposed. He tried not to think about what that meant, given his knowledge of Reaper's physiology.  "I don't quite like how all of this is because you couldn't put your creepy hands on me, you've got issues," he said, scooping the man up by his lab coat with one arm and promptly sliding him across the floor for him to painfully slam into the wall with a pained yelp.

 
"And I have to take time out of my busy day to deal with it!" He snarled, slamming his boot into Felix's stomach full force as the man curled around his boot with a gurgle of pain, fury burning in his eyes.  He was so close, and nobody understood that! There could have been thousands of Reapers, Doomfist would have had an army if he had given him more time and resources! 

"You...don't understand your gifts." he coughed, not even blood came out. He could feel it, he could feel that burning wound starting to sink in. It was fascinating, absolutely fascinating! He didn't even need to kill them, he could die slowly from a single shot! He had so much potential, but he wasted it! 

"I don't," he said, lowering his shotgun to his head. "I'm a lot of things, Doc...but I'm still human, sort of." he said, smirking underneath his mask as he leaned down to press his hand against his head as Felix grunted in confusion before he felt it.

That horrible, horrible burning sensation that crawled through his eyes and pressed into his brain. Felix felt his breath being taken as he clutched onto Reaper's arm. The grip turned into a desperate fist slamming against his arm as Gabriel's eyes burned behind his mask. 

"Let's pick your brain..." he purred eagerly, pressing his fingers into his skull as Felix's eyes rolled back into his head, gagging in terror. He could feel every memory he ever had, he could feel his studies and his lessons slipping away from him, the pain started to dull as his breath finally gave out. He felt numb, empty and all he could do was stare at Reaper's burning eyes before everything went dark. His body had gone rigid, his skin growing dark and leathery as Reaper casually dropped the husk on the ground. It didn't survive the landing as it landed in a pile of disconnected bones loosely connected to flesh. 

He felt less bad about making him die a slow and painful death when he knew what the inside of his head was.  He hoped he burned in the hottest fires of hell. But! It made it much easier to adjust the security bots when he knew all the codes for everything in the facility.  The irritating part was that it wasn't like he actually knew any of what he had in his head, he could just repeat it like a parrot. So much for cheating about being intelligent, although he did pick up some languages that way.

I did the hero thing, Angela. Crisis over. 

That was...anti-climatic when all the robots simply stopped moving.  Somehow, Gabriel's snark over the intercom didn't really soothe her, it only put a deep throb of irritation in Angela's chest as she frowned in annoyance while Bao Wei and Jack rose up, weapons carefully sweeping across the hallways before relaxing 

"Yeah?" Jack said dryly. "And what are we going to do about outside, Gabriel? You got a 'hero thing' for that, too?"

You know how I get scared in the dark, Jack. It's spooky out there.

"Unbelievable..." Angela muttered. "And how did you do the 'hero thing'?" She had a bad feeling about this, she had a really bad feeling about this. It wasn't that she didn't appreciate Gabriel's good samaritan effort, but she was wondering what he did.

It's not important, but the problem is solved. Come see me at the office.

You would have thought that winter came early with the way that Angela had moved into the office with Jack, Vivi and Bao Wei in tow. Her eyes widened at the curled up husk that could only be Felix Van Den Borre and Gabriel's smug expression as he tugged off his mask and reclined back, propping his boots up on the desk.

"You're welcome, by the way," he said easily. "No way to fix the problem about the freaks though, sorry Doc."

Angela's teeth grit together on reflex as she stared at him, her shoulders tightening in fury. She could not believe him!
"Das kann doch jetzt nicht dein verschissener Ernst sein, oder, Gabriel?" she snapped as Gabriel arched a brow in amusement.

"Come again?" he said casually as Bao Wei frowned in surprise, Jack could sense it without even looking.

"They do this all the time," Jack informed her lazily. "Better to let them work it out on their own." Now wasn't a good time to talk about the moralities of working with Gabriel and Talon, he decided. 

"Agreed," Vivi said. "Bao Wei, would you mind showing us around?" The omnic said, already turning on his heel. He was not helping Gabriel out of this one, not that he helped him out of any of his messes anyway. 

"Uh...sure," She said, more than happy to leave the now frigid atmosphere of the office. Anything to get away from that...she had no idea such a good humanitarian like Angela Zeigler could be so terrifying.  Angela, however...did not wait until the door was even closed to start.

"You killed him!" she snapped. "How are we supposed to know what to do now, Gabriel!?"

"There wasn't anything we could do, Angela," he shrugged. "He didn't know anything that could help, trust me."

"Trust you? You just turned him into a mummy!" she snapped, gesticulating wildly at the shriveled up husk on the floor. "Do you know how gross that is? Why didn't you tell us you were going to do that?!"

"Because when I suck the life out of people, I can...you know..." Gabriel started. "Suck their brains," he said with a casual wiggle of his fingers. 

"...Suck their brains," Angela stated plainly, her expression settling into a hard neutral as her eyes narrowed. "You...suck their brains," she repeated. Oh, it wasn't enough that he was some weird...ghost, vampire thing.  Now, it was sucking brains?

"Yeah, you know..." he grumbled faintly, feeling more like a child being chastised as Angela's withering stare wore down his defenses. "Like how people tell you things and you remember them? It's sort of like that, I don't really know what it was, but he had no idea what he was doing every step of the way."

"And how do you know that when you just said you don't really know the details, just what is told to you?"  She said skeptically.

"Because that's how it works! Look!" he huffed, rising up. "It's hard to explain, dammit! I just...I see it, what they do! When have I ever lied to you about anything?" he growled.

"Other than the fact that you turned into this," she said, motioning toward Gabriel. "And everything that happened at Overwatch HQ? Never, but those are some pretty big things to not tell the truth about." Angela muttered. "You just had to kill him, okay...fine. So why can't we fix it?"

"Because he had no idea what he was doing," Gabriel repeated in irritation. He wasn't sure why he was so insulted that Angela didn't trust him about this when he barely understood how it worked either, but that didn't change the fact that he was still annoyed with her.  "He was guessing, pulling on what Talon knew about the super soldier formula and my own guts," he said, waving it off. "Basically, he did all this stupid shit with little more than a guess that once he got it right he could figure out the problem...he was just smart enough to keep guessing."

Angela didn't know what to say, but the way that Gabriel was talking was either that he was an excellent liar or he was telling the truth. She relaxed somewhat, glancing to the shriveled up corpse in the corner. "So...what," Angela mumbled. "There is no cure to this? I just have to accept that there are...millions of these sad creatures roaming around just waiting to die?"

"Pretty much," Gabriel said after a moment. "That's why I wanted to stop this myself because people trying to fuck with my own genes to make...shit like this is sick," he muttered. "I'm a lot of things, but this isn't anything I'm okay with." He knew that wasn't going to be an answer that Angela was satisfied with, and if anything that seemed to make the fire in her eyes burn brighter.

"Then I guess I need to find out a way to solve this," Angela decided instead, turning on her heel to leave. Gabriel should have known that there would be no easy answer for her. She had to find out all by herself if he was telling the truth, for her sake...he honestly hoped that she did find something because he knew how burnt out she'd get trying to solve this mystery.

"If you want," Gabriel said instead, following after. He definitely knew she'd say that, he just wished she didn't. 

"And you're helping." She reminded tartly as the door snapped open. She needed to find a lab, and she needed to get started immediately.  There was no such thing as an incurable illness without actual proof, and she wouldn't take Gabriel's word for it either.

"Yes, dear,"  Gabriel said without delay. Even if it earned him a glare that put a chill in his spine. Woo, the woman never changed did she? 

"Vivi, Bao Wei!" Angela shouted down into the hallways. "Where are the labs, we have work to do!" 

You would have thought that the crisis had just started again as Jack poked his head out the room he was checking as Bao Wei was wise to arrive in a quick and timely manner. She had considered mentioning that this was Talon property and glanced to Gabriel for some kind of silent support, but his shrug offered nothing.

"This is Talon property, Doctor Zeigler...not that I'm unhappy that you're helping, but they will come back eventually."

"Then I will deal with them eventually, lab. Please." Angela replied in turn as she slowly nodded and lead her deeper into the complex. Jack watched them go before turning to face Gabriel and Vivi.

"The hell did you say to her?" Jack asked warily. She seemed...beyond upset, which was typically normal for Angela when Gabriel was around.

"Oh you know," Gabriel grinned. "Just used my usual charm on her, that's all."

"That explains why she seems extremely upset," Vivi remarked in turn. "Your charm is as useful as a blunt knife in a dark hallway, Gabriel."

"Eh," He shrugged. "Point is, she wants to try and fix it and there's not a fix for it...so I guess we're staying here for now."  He honestly had no idea when Talon would return, but there were still tons of those freaks around and he didn't want to be here when Angela found out the truth, but...maybe he was wrong. Angela was one of the smartest people on the planet, period. If anyone could figure it out it would be her. But the cards were stacked against her and he supposed the least he could do is make sure she had all she needed to succeed.


"That is her way," Vivi agreed. "She never gets up, even when it is more logical to do so...it is an endearing trait of hers."

"It is," Gabriel said faintly. "Guess that's why I kept letting her boss me around." Jack watched him go as Gabriel headed off to find out what Angela needed. This could only end badly, but every time Angela got that fire in her eyes he felt like he had to do everything he could to keep it going. Maybe he was wrong, maybe she'd find a way to fix it. For her sake, he hoped so.

Chapter Text

Bao Wei had never really been around Gabri-...Reaper very much. Bao Wei thought he was some ruthless murdering psychopath that got off on watching people die, and... well that seemed mostly true in her experience.  She felt out of her element, but Reaper provided her some sense of...normalcy, she supposed.

"Sir," Bao Wei said as she entered Felix's former office. Sucking all the knowledge out of his brain made it easy for Gabriel to access his computer, but he did write quite a bit down just in case. Gabriel regarded the woman with an arch of his brow before rising. He was a towering man, and Bao Wei tried not to feel intimidated. It wasn't just his size, it was how he carried himself. He was supremely confident, talented...and all of that showed in their little adventure here.

"What?" Gabriel asked faintly. "I'm busy, Bao Wei." He didn't look busy, but what did she know?

"Sir, is this...should we be allowing this? Shouldn't Talon be coming in to handle it?" she asked him warily. "Not that I don't trust Doctor Ziegler...but isn't that man with us a known problem to Talon?"

"All the time."

"And we're letting him into one of our facilities?"

"It's not the first one he's been in, you know."

"But willingly?"

"I know, the nerve of that guy, we didn't invite him...we were playing hero just fine before he showed up." Gabriel shrugged. "What do you want me to say, Bao Wei? You've noticed that we're a little on our own here, don't you? There's really no reason for us to still be here other than personal reasons, you could leave whenever you want." 

"That would be disrespectful to the people I have served with, sir," she frowned.  "Talon always talks about how the strongest will survive. If I can't survive this, then I don't deserve to be here, and they didn't deserve me being their leader."

"That's very noble," Gabriel chuckled. "All for one and all that, huh? Fine, do what you want...but until we get more help, if we ever do...you're just going to have to deal with it."

"...Sir," Bao Wei frowned but left it alone. "Does that mean that they will follow your orders?" 

"If you can get Angela to follow my orders, you’re in charge of Talon," he smirked. "That woman doesn't scare for anything. She's been in just about every combat situation you can think of...look, you think this is something that needs to be fixed, right? Then just trust me."

"...I guess I don't have much of a choice but to do that," she mumbled after a moment. "Then pardon my questions, sir...I'll just...be the gopher, I suppose."

"We're all the gophers," Gabriel reminded tartly. "Angela is just the one with the hammer."
--
The balls on Angela would put some of the most hardened mercenaries, killers and soldiers to shame.   She always wanted to talk about something, but this discussion came on the heels of the one with Bao Wei that he could just feel the smirk from it all.

She had called everyone together to make a proper assessment of what they could do, what their options were and what the most effective use of the space was. Naturally, Angela had the best solution of all, clearly.

"This space is underutilized, and right now it's safe...and it has supplies, weapons and everything this city needs to survive, so I think it should be a shelter." She said, staring at Gabriel as he crossed his arms and looked at her with the sourest expression he had: His normal face.

"You want me to let a bunch of civilians into a covert Talon facility for safety?" Gabriel grumbled.

"Yes, I do...because Talon is the reason this mess even started, and it's only fair that they're the ones who help fix it," Angela reminded, her expression sinking into a frown. "And we are, and that is final."

"Is it?" Gabriel rumbled. "Do you think that you're suddenly in charge now?" Ugh, she always got like this when she had a plan in mind. She always yelled at him for being bull-headed, but she was worse than he was!

"Are you going to fight me on this?" She asked faintly, staring at him. "It's two against three, Gabriel...like it or not, I am not letting those people suffer, and if you don't like it, you might as well try to kill me now." He thought about it, but the way Jack was standing meant that it'd be a pain to even draw, and Vivi would be on him before he could even twitch his hand. 

"Which will be vastly unsuccessful," Vivi reminded easily, hands behind his back. "Because you have no desire to harm Doctor Ziegler."

"Shut up," Gabriel muttered in annoyance. "You don't just have to say it like that, you know."  Despite the tense situation, Angela was smiling all the same.  Gabriel could act however he wanted, but she knew he would be fine with it. If not, he'd get over it...she wasn't budging on this and they both knew it.

"So, where do we start?" Jack added with newfound amusement as Gabriel shot both an irritated glance and turned away.  He shouldn't have been surprised, but what was he going to tell her? No? Everything she said was true, and he could have very well left at this point and told her to go to hell, but he knew that wasn't going to happen anytime soon. She was not only a doctor, but a doctor used to dealing with stubborn assholes like him.

"Thank you, Gabriel," Angela smiled. "It'll be worth it, you'll see...people need some safety."

"Whatever."  He muttered. "I'm going to go shoot something."

"Plenty of targets out there," Jack added whimsically. "Have fun, nice to see you on the good side, for now, Gabriel."

"Don't make me shoot you," Gabriel grumbled. He wanted to shoot something.  Jack would have made him feel better, Angela would have healed it anyway. So really, why was everyone so worried about him trying to kill someone? She'd fix it. Ugh. 

Assholes, all of them.

Bao Wei watched him go a moment, before looking to the others. She...honestly had no idea how they weren't intimidated by him, just his brooding aura made her extremely wary to step out of line. Maybe that's why she wasn't ex-Overwatch, or...something. All she knew was, she felt extremely awkward standing there as that all happened.

"So," Bao Wei mumbled, clearing her throat after a long moment of silence that seemed only awkward to her. "Where would you like me, Doctor?"

--
Angela knew that she was fighting tooth and nail just to do the right thing, but she didn't really know what else to do with her time. She knew Jack and Vivi would sort things out, and that gave her time to pour over everything in the lab. She was still furious with Gabriel, but part of her knew that someone like Felix probably never would have told her anything in the first place.  Still, she refused to believe that...whatever Gabriel had done to glean that information was true.

It couldn't be true because she didn't want it to be true, and the scientist in her wouldn't accept it until she explored every possible opportunity.  That meant tissue samples, cross-referencing, testing and confirming hypothesis and continuing until she hit a roadblock. She wasn't sure how long she was going at it, as she usually didn't have a timeline when she got like this.

She barely even registered the fact that someone had set down a plate of cooked food and a cup of coffee.  She knew the heavy boot steps anywhere, so she didn't have to look up from her work to confirm it as the telltale creak of a seat filled the silence in the lab.

"...Here to see if I'm wrong?" Angela finally said after a moment of scribbling on a notepad. 

"Here to make sure you don't die," Gabriel added dryly. "Eat."

"I just need to finish this-"

"Eat." He emphasized stronger, the dull echo filling his voice in his irritation. "Eat the damn food I brought you, Angela." 

She glanced back at him, and suddenly her vision blurred, and her body seemed to protest every little movement.  She had no idea what the food he had settled in front of her was, but the furious snarl of her stomach told her that maybe she should take a break.

"...How long have I been back here?" Angela finally mumbled, scanning the surroundings. She hadn't put a lot of thought into it, but the desk was a mess of her own notes and her laptop, and that wasn't even getting to the notes on the table near the console where she had been examining the tissue samples.

"Six hours," Gabriel said faintly as he watched her take a grateful sip of the pure black coffee and bite her lip in satisfaction. Gabriel knew how to brew the best coffee. Angela thought it had been the most endearing thing that he had tried so hard to get it right for her in the morning. Also, he hated getting physicals and it was his bargaining tool. "We've got our first little band of refugees in here, so good job."


"Still upset?" Angela asked, turning to the food. It wasn't anything incredibly impressive, mostly canned vegetables and a meat covered in some sauce that she could only assume was attempting to be gravy, but at this point, she was so hungry it didn't matter.

"Yes, but I'll get over it," he groused. He couldn't leave her alone, that much they both knew. He didn't like the thought of him not being here if something happened. He didn't know what that something could be, but he didn't like thinking about it.

"Good," Angela smiled happily, all the tiredness draining away from her face as she dug in. "Thank you for the food, Gabriel."

"Uh-huh," he mumbled.  It always irritated him just how easy it was for her to accept that. The trust she had in him even now made him feel both sick to his stomach and a pleasant twitch in his heart. But this was their normal after all. He was glad that hadn't changed; it was one of the reasons why Angela had been such a strong...everything to him. She didn't expect him to act any differently or want him to be 'less broody' or 'smile more'. She just liked him being Gabriel. 

Still, he waited in pleasant silence as Angela finally shifted the newly empty plate away with a pleased little exhale and took a sip of her coffee. 

"You should get some sleep," Gabriel reminded, moving closer. "It's four in the morning."

"Is it?" Angela said casually. "I can get some sleep late-" she yelped mid-word and huffed in surprise as she was suddenly draped over Gabriel’s shoulder.  "Gabriel!" she snapped in a hushed whisper because as soon as she was about to scream, she realized that people were finally trying to sleep. People who likely hadn't slept in safety for a long time. Ooh! This man was insufferable! "Put me down, immediately!"

"Nope," he said cheerfully as they headed down the hall. "You're getting rest, no arguments."

"I'm not tired!" Angela hissed in anger. "Gabriel, put me down!" she warned as they headed not to her room, but to his temporary room.

"No," he said easily, nudging the door open as Angela huffed in frustration, squirming against his iron grip. She wasn't a child! She didn't need to be forced to go to bed!  

"Gabriel! Put me down this instant, or else!" Angela huffed, slamming a fist into his back as Gabriel casually shrugged and gripped her by the waist. Before Angela knew it, she was on a breathless journey to the mattress as she hit the pillow with a faint little exhale--mostly because Gabriel had come down with her. 

And there he was, staring right at her, their noses barely an inch from touching.  His grin was somewhat infectious, which made Angela's face heat up and as she glanced away stubbornly. 

"...I'm not tired," she said, not unlike a petulant child as Gabriel cocked his head to one side. She knew that look--that mischievous, troublemaking look that made her squirm and made heat pool at the base of her spine. She was suddenly intimately aware of just how long it had been since anyone had really...done anything with her sexually. 

"Maybe not," Gabriel teased, his hand slipping up her pants almost casually--like he had been there a million times and knew all the spaces to stop and press on to get her body flared up in excitement. "But I remember the best way to get you to sleep."

"G...Gabriel," Angela whined softly. She wished she could say she was a strong enough woman to stave off those lazy advances, but who was she kidding? As if she was too good to have any kind of fun with her lover, or...she assumed they were still lovers. For all she knew, he had some crazy Talon girlfriend that liked all the things he did. But that didn't matter right now. What mattered was that he was still here, wanting to be with her and wanting to help.

"Mmm...?" He said absently, his hands roaming up her thighs to settle on her waist. "You don't want me to help you sleep, Angela?"  Angela's expression was somewhere between icy and lustful, all of it culminated in a gaze that Gabriel felt right between his legs.  

She knew what he was doing, and it was more irritating than his attempt at charm. That sounded a little disingenuous, but it was still true: Gabriel was charming when he wasn't trying to be...for better or worse. He had a smirk that could make everyone think he was a bad boy with a heart of gold, which wasn't quite accurate. He was more like a grouchy grandfather who always gave the best Christmas presents. It was certainly an odd metaphor given what was about to happen, but Angela couldn’t resist grinning about it as she stared at Gabriel.


"...What?" Gabriel asked, brows furrowed faintly in irritation as Angela slid his arms around his neck. 

"Nothing," she smiled. "Just thinking about you." It was strange, she would never deny that. She never thought when she first met the sour-faced second-in-command that she'd fall in love with him. Most of her days were spent being upset at him and Jack for getting hurt, but he had a strange charisma...and bold honesty that she appreciated, even if it made her feel like her grey hairs were his fault. 

"Uh-huh, did I do something funny?" he asked, his hands roaming along her hips before giving her butt a firm and lecherous squeeze that made Angela rise up on her tip-toes to savor that rough grip with a bite of her lip and a pleased little exhale.

"Mn...no," she huffed faintly, eyes half-lidded in satisfaction. "I'm just...happy you're here, Gabriel...like this,” she cooed, nuzzling up under his chin contentedly.  Gabriel couldn't help but chuckle at that as he let his hand slip up her back casually.  that Angela liked sex the way she did.  So, when he sunk his fingers into her hair and yanked her back by her ponytail, the faint little whimper she let out was entirely intentional...and it did all the right things to him.

"Been a while?" Gabriel said, the brush of his beard along her neck made her shiver, but his lips made her gasp in pleasure. It had been for him too; once you had someone like Angela it was a hard sell for anyone else.

"Yes..." Angela huffed, her eyes glittering with barely restrained need. "Nobody does it like you do, Gabriel...I don't trust anyone as I trust you...please, fuck me." Her voice was husky, laced with a deep, primal hunger that was starting to ripple up from the heat between her legs.

"Fine," Gabriel smirked hungrily, his dark eyes glittering with that strange power. It frightened her in a wonderfully arousing way. "You remember the safe word?"

"Yes, Rhabdomyomatous dysplasia cardiopathy genital anomalies," Angela said proudly, far too proudly for Gabriel to even figure out what to do with that. Yes, that was the safe word she suggested, and it wasn't suitable for a host of reasons that made him uncomfortable. But she had been very adamant about its choosing it. 

"I thought we agreed on Rhubarb?" Gabriel muttered faintly as he leaned back while Angela let her hands rest comfortably on his shoulders, smiling. It was a dangerous smile, the effect of which trailed right between his legs and made his pants far tighter than they needed to be.

"It doesn't matter what the word is when I've never had to use it," she purred in return. That response earned her a smoldering gaze. It was true. Even though he insisted on having it...she never used it because, for Angela, nothing was too much where he was concerned. They were too compatible--if that was such a thing--at least when it came to sex.

"Good point." Then he smashed his lips against hers again in a hungry kiss.  Angela sunk into it like she was drowning, and she didn't want to come back up. It had been far too long since they had been together like this. Gabriel was like a primal animal around her when the scent was in the air, so she shifted her body up against his and lifted her hips up like a bitch in heat, whimpering in need. She wanted it. She didn't care how she got it, but she wanted it, and she wanted it now.

Then something strange happened. There was an odd feeling of lukewarm air and a minor scent of smoke before Angela was nestled against a completely nude, and completely erect Gabriel Reyes. She stared up at him in surprise, then let her eyes wander down a body that had not lost any of his delicious muscle and his thick, seven inches pressed against her stomach.

"Wh...?" Angela murmured, pleasantly surprised. Her entire body lit up like a light and all she wanted was whatever Gabriel was going to give her. Gabriel's hand slid through her hair, and her body immediately relaxed as consent.  

"Neat trick, right?" Gabriel grinned as his fat cock mashed against her cheek and she stared up at him expectantly. 


That look in her eyes had always unsettled Gabriel just a little bit, the disconnection and the detachment to anything other than the hunger in her body to be released. But on the other hand, it made his cock twitch against her cheek and she still stared up at him waiting for an order, or anything for her to do.  It was a shameless look of abject arousal and trust, and it took everything Gabriel had not to lose control.

"Open," Gabriel ordered, and on cue, Angela opened her mouth wide and her tongue extended with an eager huff. She always tried to act so behaved before it got going, but he knew. He moved his hips forward to let his tip brush along her tongue and she lifted her chin up to let it drag before she gurgled when Gabriel's hips slammed against her teeth and she suddenly had seven inches down her throat. She gagged in surprise, eyes rolling back as his cock slid out with a sheen of spit.

"Little rusty," Gabriel teased with a smirk, his fingers tightening in her hair as a warning and she took another breath before opening her mouth wider for Gabriel's cock to plunge into her throat once more. Gabriel liked them loud and messy, so it was easy to gurgle around his shaft as she bobbed her head up and down greedily, drool running down her chin and staining her shirt. 

 Her tongue trailed along the underside of his cock in a familiar pattern that made Gabriel shudder in pleasure as he rocked his hips into her slowly. The grip on her ponytail was firm and he pressed her head down when she sunk back to the shaft and she opened her mouth for his cock once more. She couldn't breathe, and she squirmed contently at that thought as she stared up at him while her tongue danced along the bottom of his shaft before he pulled back again, and she let out a shaky breath.

Her tongue slid along her lips as she stared up at him, adoration and lust glittering in her eyes. It was too honest, it made Gabriel's heart ache just seeing her. She needed to find someone else, but that thought alone made him want to ram his cock down her throat, so she could remember who owned it. She didn't get a warning, but her mouth opened wide on reflex when she felt Gabriel's hips move and she gurgled in surprise, eyes widening at the forcefulness that radiated down her body and made her rub her thighs together with an impatient huff.

Right now it didn't matter, Gabriel's grip on her ponytail was so tight that it was tugging at her scalp as she gagged around his cock, her eyes fluttering in pleasure as the air started to come in choked breaths and her face started to grow red. It didn't matter, nothing mattered other than her throat being used like she was a cheap whore as her head sloppily bobbed up and down on his cock, drool running down her chin.

He always knew the exact time when she needed to breathe, and every time her lips pulled back she could suck in the tiniest breath for her to swallow him whole again, but no more than that. By the time Gabriel felt satisfied and pulled his glistening cock away from her lips, she was wonderfully light-headed and sitting there with her hands in her lap as she licked her lips slowly and lazily.

“You’re something else,” Gabriel complimented, fingers running through her hair.

“I want to be when you fuck me,” Angela said in return, her voice hoarse. “I don’t want to be Angela, I want to be fucked.”

Gabriel stared at her in surprise, head tilted as the hunger sunk deep into his expression as his thumb brushed against her cheek and she mewled in contentment. He tucked his fingers under her chin in a silent order and she rose smoothly, staring at him expectantly. It was such a strange contrast to how she usually acted.

“Get rid of the jacket,” he said, and Angela rolled her shoulders to let it slip off and discarded it on the floor. “And the rest of it.” Was it sexy? Probably not, but on the other hand…it was that feeling of power he got that Angela was already shedding her layers on a single sentence that excited him.

He stopped her hands midway from pulling off her shirt to kiss her again and she returned it vigorously while he fumbled with her pants. It had been too long, far too long for him to maintain that composure while Angela was eager and waiting. Her pants barely got down to her thighs as the thin line of arousal between her panties and her warm core separated. She offered almost no resistance as Gabriel gripped her perky butt and spread to show off her swollen lips, eager for attention.

“Gabriel…” Angela whined hungrily, her hips swaying to and fro impatiently as he slid his fingers around her throat in warning, and all she did was whimper and sway her hips like an eager pet who wanted her reward. Normally, he’d have the self-control to punish her. But right now, his fat tip teased her dripping entrance and he slowly sunk inside with a low growl as Angela’s eyes fluttered in pure bliss, rolling back a fraction as she let out a pleased little gasp. She rose on her tiptoes, legs spreading a little wider to feel every single inch of Gabriel’s dick.

“Tighter,” Angela pleaded, fingers curling around the hand on her neck as Gabriel started to move in a slow, steady pace. Oh, he had forgotten how good that felt…how that subtle gasp from Angela and that faint little squirm of her hips was enough to tell him how good he was making her feel.

“No,” Gabriel purred. “Good girls get to ask, you’re not being good.”

“Y…Yes I am!” Angela whined hungrily, huffing in pleasure as Gabriel’s hips moved in and out in a slow, languid pace that was sending fire up her spine.  

“Then say it like you are one, Angela,” he rumbled as he shifted closer, his hips starting to roll faster as Angela gasped in pleasure, hips arching up with another little whimper.

“P-Please…Please tighter…” She said, before she felt that telltale feeling of his fingers tightening on her windpipe as Gabriel’s hips started to smack roughly against her toned butt. There it was, that perfect feeling that Gabriel knew how to do better than anyone else.

Angela gasped lightly, fingers still on her neck as a guide for him as her eyes fluttered to the feeling of his cock driving in and out of her soaked pussy. The air was just enough to make it hard to breathe, but to want it. It was intoxicating to feel nothing, but the way Gabriel’s cock felt after so many years, to let the world slip away from her for seconds at a time. She let out a faint little rasp and he immediately relaxed his grip as the world came back to her and she let out a moan of pleasure.

“Th-Th-ank-ank you…” Angela whined in hunger as Gabriel shifted on top of her and pressed her down against the bed. She exhaled faintly as her fingers gripped the sheets of her bunk and held on for dear life when Gabriel started to fuck her like she wanted all this time: Hard and mindless. Her head buried against the covers to hide her faint whimpers and squeals of pleasure. It had been too long since Gabriel’s weight was on her, too long since he nuzzled against her cheek and adored her with kisses as her hips arched up for him like a good girl.


And it felt so good. So good, that she didn’t notice the door snap open until the familiar voice almost took her out of it, almost. Gabriel wasn’t stopping, which didn’t surprise her when she was clear enough to know who it was. He never felt much embarrassment in front of omnics, but she did.

…Usually.

“Oh, Doctor Ziegler. I didn’t notice you were making a poor life decision.” Vivi’s crisp response was as he was exposing them to the hallway as Gabriel was plowing into her raised backside like a man possessed. If Angela was a woman of composure and focus, she would have shoved Gabriel away to look embarrassed or flustered, but it was Vivi. He would understand even if he didn’t like it.

But she didn’t have the energy to have composure, all she wanted to do was sink into the bed and forget everything until the morning…whenever that would be. She barely wanted to look up at Vivi with her bored, irritated grimace…which was somewhat contrasted by the fact that her pig of a lover kept going. Honestly, did he have no shame at all!?

“Vivi…” Angela huffed. “Right now?”

“My apologies,” Vivi said, turning to leave. “Come see me when you are done, it is a matter that can be handled without your assistance.” That was somewhat of a lie, but Vivi had rarely seen the good doctor so relaxed.

The moment the door closed, Gabriel dipped lower and nuzzled against her neck that made her sink back down in relaxation…mostly, because the damnable pace of his hips was making her whimper in pleasure.

“Faster?”

“Shut up and fuck me,” Angela moaned against Gabriel’s nibbling lips on her neck as he started to roll his hips harder, faster. She felt her legs finally sink down in relief as Gabriel never slowed down, the soft smack of his groin against her was highlighted by her hot pants of pleasure. He wasn’t slowing down at all, he never did. He could keep going at the same wonderful, powerful pace that made her ass smack against his plunging hips until the very end.

He reared up, his hands slipping along her back as he moved with a satisfied growl. It had been a long time, far too long by the way it felt. He had the stamina to keep going, but he was already feeling the twinge of pleasure at the base of his spine.

“Fuck,” Gabriel snarled in warning, not that it mattered: Angela’s hips mashed down on his groin almost possessively when he came and she shivered happily, her back arching in pleasure as she stiffened.

“Gabriel…” Angela shivered happily, letting out a gasp as he kept moving, gritting his teeth as her toes curled.  “Wh…what are you doing?” Oh, oh…that felt beyond good. His cum was starting to make the smack of his hips…sticky, which was wonderfully uncomfortable. He always knew how to take it to another level that Angela didn’t know she wanted.


“Enjoying it,” Gabriel purred, slowly pulling his cock out as he kept his hand on her ass. “Savoring it, even…is that so wrong?” he said, admiring the way her pussy twitched at his exit, his seed lazily running out.

“You’re worse than you used to be,” Angela mumbled, face flush as she squirmed against his smoldering gaze before regarding him. “…You’re not done, right?” Gabriel never let her down, but sometimes he was such a tease.

“Naturally,” he said, shifting to lay next to her as she settled on her back with a content smile, while his hand glided between her legs to smoothly pet her well-fucked core.  Angela shivered contently, legs spread as he started slow and adored her with kisses along her cheek and shoulder, his beard made her squirm faintly against his attention.

“I missed you…” Angela huffed. “I wish you…I wish you could stay.” His fingers were driving her crazy

“I know,” Gabriel said, letting his fingers glide smoothly along her womanhood and continue to rub, brushing up along her clit and back down again. He wished he could too, but she deserved better than him. No matter how angry or jealous he got about wherever her life lead her, she needed better.

“Then stay,” Angela said, eyes half-lidded as his fingers slowly sunk in to tease and then back out to run along her sensitive folds with a pleased gasp, her head lolling back. “Please…!” She squealed as Gabriel pressed his fingers inside her, her body convulsing as she rocked against his hand with a long shiver. She had a tight grip down there, didn’t she?

He kept her in place, using his thumb to occasionally flick along her clit as she rode her orgasm and finally sunk back. He had some primal sense of arousal at his seed spilling out of her with the exit of his fingers as she panted for breath, her eyes closed. She looked beautiful, too beautiful. Like the angel to his devil, he eventually let go of her and stroked her thigh slowly as she drifted off to sleep.

Which he knew, because she immediately started snoring.  Which is what she always did when she was so worn out, she could barely sleep. Which was always.  He wanted to stay, but he knew as well as she did that it’d never work: He wasn’t Gabriel anymore to anyone but her, and maybe Jack. People would question, her credibility would plummet, and he would ruin the life of the one person he didn’t want to ruin at all. But he supposed being away from her for so long ruined her in its own way. He let out a heavy sigh as he shifted forward to join her in bed, arm wrapped around her as Angela leaned into it and curled up against his muscular form.

At the very least, he could stay with her for the night.