Chapter 1: Still Running
“Hide here sweety,” Papa talks in a whisper, “Papa will be back soon, I promise.” Mama yells outside the small crawl space. Sophia covers her ears, does as Papa told her.
Through the small crack in the door, Sophia can see everything. She sees Papa and Mama arguing over something. Mama keeps pointing to the crawl space, keeps saying something about giving them Sophia. But Papa disagrees. Papa always disagrees.
There's a bang on the door and suddenly the kitchen is filled with strange men. “Mr. Gretzky,” one of the men says, stepping forward, “did you really think we wouldn’t find out?”
Papa takes a deep breath and goes to speak, but is silenced by the bullet that pierces his skull. Mama is only able to let out a small gurgle of a scream before she's silenced to. “You don’t betray us. Ever.”
Everything else happens suddenly. Sophia bolts from the crawl space, screaming, shouting for Papa. A hand stops her as she enters the kitchen, covers her eyes. But through the cracks in his fingers she can see the still bodies of her parents. She sees the blood that pools around them, that seeps toward her feet. It’s so red .
“Mr. Gretzky was hiding a child?” The man covering her eyes chuckles. “I think she can be of great use to me.” He grabs Sophia by the shoulders and turns her. “Isn’t that right.”
November wakes in a cold sweat, liquid bubbling up from her throat. Her hand franticly moves over the nightstand until she finds the bottle of pills. She swallows down two and does her best to calm her breathing.
“This is getting worse,” Alice says, “you need to tell Angela.”
November shakes her head and turns her face into the pillow. “No.”
“The medicine doesn’t even help anymore Sophia!” Alice moves closer to her, puts a hand on her shoulder. “She’s still waiting for you to come back.”
November snorts and moves to sit up, using the back of her hand to wipe away the sweat on her brow. “It’s been seven years, she’s not waiting for me anymore.”
Alice sighs and sits at the edge of the bed. “Maybe if you actually returned some of her letters, instead you send her the typical, ‘I’m still alive, send more meds’ letter.”
A sudden gurgle escapes her lips and she runs for the bathroom. She barely makes it before the ooze of black blood falls from her mouth. All she can do is try and cough it up and wait for the pain to subside. She watches the two little pills go down the drain.
“I told you.” Alice leans against the bathroom door frame. “You need to tell Angela.” November waves a hand behind her, trying her damndest to get Alice to disappear. “Sophia.”
“I'm not Sophia anymore!” November's scream startles Alice. She takes a step toward November and than backs away with a frown. “She’s gone.” Alice sighs and recedes back into November’s mind, leaving her completely alone.
November doesn’t leave the bathroom for sometime. When she finally makes it back into her room, the sun has just started to come up. It seeps through the cracks in the window. November makes a mental note to board those up as well.
The old Blackwatch hideout was old, completely abandoned. When she got here, she was surprised that the A.I. still worked and let her inside. It had been completely cleaned out, nothing left but empty rooms. She was thankful the small kitchen still worked. Why the government was still powering these hideouts was beyond her, but she was thankful.
She’d furnished it with only a mattress and a stand to set her things on, nothing more. She had hoped, slightly, that something would still be here. Or a sign that maybe someone had been here.
She wanders over to the nightstand and picks up the recent letter from Angela. No matter where she is, Angela is always able to get a letter to her. November is sure Angela is keeping tabs on her, probably has someone following her around. It doesn’t bother her as much as it should.
I won’t ask how the pills are doing, because I know I will receive the same answer. I am not sure what has driven you to refuse treatment, it’s not too late. I can help you, but if you wish to not receive my help… well I can not force you.
I have been receiving letters from Genji and he wishes to make contact with you. I was not sure if this was something you were comfortable with, so I withheld your contact information. I think it would be good for you to talk to him. He’s changed, a lot over these years, and maybe he can help you.
You can’t keep running Sophia. Eventually you’re going to run out of energy and be left alone. I am here for you. Please come home.
November hasn’t cried since the Swiss HQ blew up, but this letter brings her to tears. Angela always has that effect on her, always brings her close to breaking down. But she can’t tell her yes. She can’t come home, because there is no home for her.
She left Sophia in some dingy hotel in New York after attempting to take her life. She left her there, lying on the bed, blood pouring from her veins. She isn’t the same person. There is no home for November and there never will be.
“Where are you going?” Alice appears in the doorway as November grabs her coat.
November peers back at her. “I have a job to do, you forget?”
Alice frowns. “In your condition?”
November just shrugs and closes the door behind her. Alice is in the car when she opens the driver side door. “Just can’t leave me alone can you?”
Alice scoffs, “You’d die without me.” November laughs and starts the car. Alice opens the holo tablet and scrolls through the Bounty details. “Our mark hangs out at the Two Rivers Bar on 6th Street.”
Two Rivers Bar is a beat down, wannabe bar. The neon sign only says Rvr as the rest of the words are lifeless. There’s at least five drunk guys laying in the alleyway, covered in their own waste. November sighs and leans back in her seat. “Was this one dead or alive?”
Alice scrolls through the info, “Dead.”
November watches her mark leave the bar. He’s a scrawny looking man, wearing far too much clothing. His coat hangs low, trails on the ground behind him. His hat is littered with holes and November can see the many scars across his face.
She rolls down the window and pulls out her pistol. She lines up the shot and fires. James Transion is down before he even reaches his car. She pulls up close to him, thankful his head landed sideways so she can get a clear picture of the bullet wound. Blood pools under him and she aches to get out and feel it under her fingers.
Alice makes her stay in the car.
The bar November turns her bounties into is across town. It takes exactly an hour and three minutes to get there. Fifteen of those minutes were sat parked alongside the road, throwing up more blood. Alice pats her back, tries to comfort it, but she can never feel her hand.
“November!” The bartender smiles as she approaches and already has a glass of Whiskey waiting for her.
“Got that bounty done,” she says as she pulls out her holo tablet and slides through the photos, “was a piece of cake.”
The bartender whistles, “Quick work, like always.”
A commotion at one of the many TV’s in the bar draws the bartender's attention and November follows the gaze.
“We’ve just received word that a train carrying an unknown parcel was attacked and held off by a single man locals are calling The Gunslinger. Police are asking anyone that sees this man please report his whereabouts. He is extremely dangerous and you are advised to not approach him.”
The picture they throw up on the screen is blurry. A single camera picked him up exiting the train before it stopped. He rolls off the top and makes a dash for the nearest exit. November doesn’t miss the Stetson on his head, or the red serape around his shoulders. She doesn’t miss the metal arm or the skull that’s etched into it.
“Bounty board just got updated,” the bartender says behind her.
She glances over at the holo board and sees a picture of The Gunslinger smack dab in the middle.
WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE
November smiles something fierce and accepts the bounty, along with a hundred other bounty hunters. She’s not worried about the others. They don’t know Gunslinger like she does. They don’t have a personal connection to him.
They haven’t wanted him dead for seven years.
Tracking Gunslinger isn’t easy, but November didn’t expect it would be. She hadn’t heard anything about him in seven years. It was by pure luck that he was on that train and had caused that kind of a commotion.
He’s listed as a Bounty Hunter, so he knows there is now a bounty on his head. November wonders briefly who he messed with to get a bounty that high. The police wouldn’t post one that high. It has to be whoever wanted the parcel he ended up kicking off the train. They were obviously not happy, especially since he managed to kill five of their men.
She scrolls through the details on Gunslingers bounty at least fifty times before she gives up. Whoever posted it, didn’t want to be known.
November scouts out numerous bars across New Mexico. Almost everyone has seen someone who fits Gunslingers details. But none of them know where he’s staying. To November, that’s easy, he’s not staying anywhere. More than likely on the run, never stopping. But why come to New Mexico?
The last article she was able to dig up about Gunslinger, places him in Hanamura, Japan. So why come to New Mexico now?
She chews on the end of her cigar and she scrolls through the details of the Hanamura case. It had just been a simple robbery and Gunslinger had been there to stop it. Unlucky, again. She scrolls through and finds a date. She narrows her eyes as she stares at it. Gunslinger had been in Hanamura two years ago.
How are you doing? It’s been sometime since I’ve heard from you. I hope the medicine is doing well. I’ve been hearing about you, even over here. The locals call you November, not sure where the name comes from, but I think it suits you. I wish you would go somewhere safer.
I have a contact in Hanamura that I would like you to meet up with. I know you probably will not go, but he’s there and he’s a friend. He can help you.
November scoffs as she remembers the letter. Was Gunslinger searching for her? Had Angela told him she was in New Mexico?
“This is a good thing!” Alice says as November sits at a card table in the hideout making more bullets. “He’s looking for you!”
November leers at her, “He’ll be dead the minute he walks in here.”
“Jesse had his reasons for leaving. You should talk to him.”
“He made up his mind the moment he left me in that hotel room. There is no talking to be done.”
Someone spots Gunslinger very close to the bar where November gets her bounties from. The bartender tells her of the gunfight that took place outside. How he heard three single shots go off and the three men were dead. Gunslinger was nowhere to be found.
She kicks the wall outside the bar and swears. The car ride back to the hideout is filled with screaming and her beating on the steering wheel. Alice tries to calm her, but it doesn’t work. By the time she walks through the hideouts doors, she’s fuming.
She notices all too late there’s a smell in the air. Something sweet and earthy. There’s a faint smoke coiling in the air, coming from the kitchen. It invades her senses, brings up sweet memories. She wants to cry, but instead grabs her pistol.
November isn’t sure what to expect when she rounds the corner. She had hoped it was all a trick of her mind, that when she rounded that corner, no one would be there. But fate had other plans. Standing there in the kitchen was a man she hadn’t seen in seven years.
“Jesse,” the words came out of her mouth in a rush.
He turned around in a hurry, his cigar almost falling from his lips. “Thought I told ya not to sneak up on me.” There was a smile on his lips.
Her hands shook where they held the gun. Every fiber of her being willed her not to shoot him. But she raised the gun anyway and fired. Jesse McCree stood completely still as the bullet pierced through the tip of his hat. “Fuck! What was that for?!”
November screamed, something sad, something close to a sob. “You piece of shit! After all this time and I can’t kill you!”
Jesse didn’t move. “I deserve that.”
November threw her gun. It slide across the card table with a thunk . She pulled out her second pistol, the one with regular live ammo and aimed it at him. “If it makes you feel better, than shoot me.”
The gun shook in her hands. “You don’t want to do this,” Alice said beside her, “you still love him.”
November cried as she threw the gun to the floor. Something tore through her, clawed at her chest. She wanted to rip it out. Jesse moved closer to her, tried to put a hand on her shoulder, but she smacked it way. “Don’t touch me.”
She moved away from him and toward her bedroom. “Do what you’re good at McCree and leave.”
McCree didn’t leave. She woke the next morning to find him in the kitchen, fixing breakfast. He was only wearing a dingy T shirt and sweats. Like this, November could see how he’d filled out over the years. He was bulkier, heavier, hairier. He’d grown out his hair, his beard. It suited him, it really did.
“Did Angela send you?” November asked as she took a seat at the table. She noticed both of her guns were set at the end of it, cleaned.
“Naw. Well, she told me you were here, but I was headin’ here anyway.”
November starred at the back of his head. “Why?”
“I’ve been bounty huntin’ since I left Blackwatch. I heard about the explosion, tried to get in contact with someone, anyone , but I was told everyone from Blackwatch died.” His shoulders relaxed as he let out a breath of air. “Five years ago, I heard about this new bounty hunter. Tough little thing that could kill a man with one bullet, no matter where it landed.”
November frowned. “I stopped using those bullets three years ago.”
McCree shrugged, “I still hoped it was you. Wasn’t really for sure until Angie got in contact with me. That was a surprise, wasn’t even sure how she knew where I was, but she did.”
“She told you I was here.”
McCree nodded. “First, she told me to meet you in Hanamura, but you never showed. I didn’t think ya would. You’ve been livin’ this entire time alone. Didn’t think ya’d want help.” He moves and adds another pancake to a stack November didn’t realize was there. “She kept updating me, said you were getting sick.”
“So you’re supposed to drag me to her, right?”
McCree turns and looks at her, something sad in his eyes. “That’s what Angie wants, yeah. But that’s not why I’m here.”
He goes to open his mouth but November abruptly stands. “Don’t you dare apologize. You don’t get to leave me for seven years and come back and expect an apology to fix it.”
McCree laughs, something sad, “I know an apology can’t make up for what I did. I am sorry, but that’s not why I’m here. I would have rather stayed away to save you from the pain.”
November slams her hands on the table. “Then why didn’t you!? Why are you here McCree!?”
“Reyes is alive.” November takes a step back away from McCree. “He’s working with Talon. Angela has an informant who’s been tailing him.” McCree pulls out his holo tablet and throws it on the table.
November looks at the pictures displayed there. A creature, covered in smoke, moving and devouring people in a heap of black tendrils. November opens her mouth to speak, but nothing comes out.
McCree speaks instead. “He’s looking for you.”
November sinks back into the chair, eyes staring at McCree. “For me?”
Jesse nods, “He’s been following your trail.”
November laughs, “I’m never going to be free, am I?”
McCree goes to her. He pulls her in with strong arms and holds her. Holds her like it will save her life. She doesn’t pull away, instead, she pulls him. She holds him with everything she has and cries. “Why did you leave me?” She sobs into his shoulder. “I needed you and you left me.”
Jesse holds her tighter, “I’m sorry.”
It’s not enough, it never will be, but November decides it has to be.
As always, all of my chapters are beta read by the lovely Denny.
Chapter 3: Like Old Times
McCree convinces her to flee New Mexico and she agrees. He comes with her, of course, he said he’d never leave her again. She wants to believe him, she really does.
Between the two of them, they have more than enough money from bounties to live on for years. But November doesn’t want to give it up, neither does McCree. They decide they’ll only take on small bounties so they don’t draw attention to each other.
“So what's with the outfit?” McCree asks as they move into a new hideout in Alabama.
November shrugs, “I spent a lot of time in the west, thought I should look the part.”
Jesse smiles at her, “It suits you.”
The first bounty they take is easy. They bring in the drug store robber two days after the bounty is issued. The next bounty they take on is for five men. Jesse suggests they take on another, November takes it anyway.
She gets sloppy while taking out the last guy and manages to take a bullet into the side. She doesn’t feel the pain as the bullet pierces through her skin. Her nanites are still, quiet, no alarm goes off. They’ve been failing for awhile, she knew that, but to not even register a bullet has penetrated her? It’s worse than she thought.
Jesse finishes him off and helps November back to the hideout. She keeps telling him she’s fine, but he knows otherwise. “Yer running on fumes,” he says as he strips her of her coat, “one of these days yer gonna run out.”
She stares at the ground as he pulls her shirt off and she hears the shaky breath he takes in. “Sophia.” He says in a whisper.
She knows what she looks like. The numerous scars, some from others, some caused by herself. “The nanites don’t heal me anymore.”
“Angela doesn’t know it’s this bad,” Jesse says. It’s not a question but November nods anyway. He runs his fingers over her shoulder, where Gabriel’s marks used to be. “What happened here?”
November looks up at him, “I was tired of seeing them.” Her shoulder is a mess of scars. Nasty, ugly cuts. She remembers that day in New York. Remembers trying to take her life. Remembers leaving Sophia on the bed as she went to the bathroom and cut away any evidence Gabriel had touched her.
“You went back to blue contacts.” Jesse says, maybe trying to change the subject.
She doesn’t say anything more and Jesse goes to clean her wound. She doesn’t feel when he takes the bullet out, doesn’t feel when he cleans it. Maybe she is running on fumes. Her body doesn’t warn her anymore.
She stares at herself in the bathroom mirror. See’s how much she’s changed. Her hair is longer, reaches the middle of her back even when it’s tied up. She’s hidden her green eye, Sophia’s eye, behind a blue contact. There’s a cut under her right eye where a knife got too close.
“Don’t you think it’s time to let her back in?” Alice says behind her.
She looks down at McCree. He’s crouched beside her, applying a bandage to her side. She reaches up and pulls the blue contacts away from her eyes. “Jesse.”
He looks up at her. She can see the bags under his eyes when he’s this close. Can smell the earth and spice that comes off his breath. She reaches a hand out and runs it along his cheek, feels the scruff there. “You grew it out.”
Jesse leans into the touch, a softness forming in his eyes. She pulls him close and presses her lips against his. It’s sweet at first, a soft press of lips. But then Jesse leans closer and takes whatever Sophia wants to give him. She gives him everything.
He reaches down, cups her ass and lifts her against the bathroom sink. She wraps her legs around his waist. Pain blooms across her side, but she ignores it. The nanites are too late and she needs this more than anything right now.
Sophia runs her hands through his hair, grips the back of his neck as he devours her mouth. She makes a hurt sound when he pulls away, gripping her shoulders hard. “We can’t do this right now,” he says in a whisper, “yer hurt.”
She laughs and pulls him in for a hug. He hasn’t changed. “Mood killer.”
Jesse snorts and helps her down off the sink. She stumbles, a dizziness suddenly overcoming her. “Looks like yer nanites finally realized how fucked up you are right now.”
He helps her to her bed and goes to make something to eat. She’s asleep before he comes back.
“Again.” Grey waves his hand and the guard approaches Alice again.
She’s tired, one eye completely swollen shut, but she stands anyway. She squares her shoulders and stands up tall. She does her best to dodge the punch that comes her way, but she falls short. The guards fist smashes into her face and she lands flat on the mat.
Blood pools in her mouth and she spits it out. She’s tired, doesn’t want to move. How many years has it been? How long has she been here?
She stares at Grey, prays he gives her some mercy. He takes a long puff from his cigarette before he speaks. “Again.”
Alice gets up on shaky arms and legs. The guard looks at her with pity in his eyes. She steels herself and charges at him. Another punch lands in her side and sends her flying across the mat.
Alice always gets back up.
Sophia wakes with a scream in her throat she manages to swallow down. She reaches over to the nightstand and grabs the small pill bottle. She downs two and collapses back against the sheets.
“You’re running out of energy,” Alice says from where she sits at the end of the bed, “I can feel it.”
Alice didn’t start appearing this frequently until after the nanites stopped working. Maybe it was something her brain created to keep her safe. Sometimes she just wanted it to go away.
Alice looks back at her with a sad smile, “But you’ve chosen to die so I don’t know why I keep telling you these things.”
“This is what I deserve,” Sophia says in a whisper, “I deserve to die for what I did.” She thinks of Gabriel, of his touch against her skin. She thinks of the first time he took her to bed, of how he held her. She misses it, she really does.
She pulls out her holo tablet and scrolls through the pictures McCree sent her. Talon calls him “Reaper” but Sophia knows better. She watches a video someone took of him devouring someone. He lets out a howl, a scream. She realizes now that he’s been without her blood for so long. He’s hurting, he’s in anguish.
Sophia doesn’t know if she can run from that.
It takes her one week to heal. They’ve spent too much time in Alabama and Jesse suggests they move out, but Sophia convinces him to stay. Say’s she’s still hurt, needs just a few more days. Jesse believes her.
Sophia slowly approaches the shower Jesse is in. She strips off her clothes and steps inside. “Sophia, what-.”
She runs her hands up his chest, wraps them around his shoulders and pulls him in. Jesse doesn’t refuse her. He grabs her ass and lifts her up against him, backs her up until she’s against the wall. He captures her lips, steals all the words she’ll never say.
Sophia thinks, that if she could, she would stop time here. Her heart aches so badly for Jesse. She wants this, wants to stay here with him forever. She wants to feel his touch against her skin, wants to hear his voice against her ear. She never wants any of it to end.
She wraps her legs around his waist and feels his cock press against her. She bites her lip as he slides in, her hands moving to fist in his hair. He takes her slowly, rocks into her. His lips are everywhere he can reach. He peppers kisses down her cheek, across her neck, over her shoulder.
He loves her like she needs to be loved.
“I love you,” she says against his neck as he thrusts in her.
Jesse pulls back for just an instant to look at her. He opens his mouth, closes it and opens it again. “I love you too.”
She wonder’s only briefly what he wanted to say, her thoughts soon consumed as he picks up the pace. He thrusts into her harder, sets a brutal pace as he presses her against the shower wall. She feels the tile dig into her shoulder, wonders if it’ll bleed.
Sophia comes first, her orgasm tearing through her in a full body shudder. Jesse is soon after, pulling out just before. He leans against her, places his head against her shoulder and just holds her in the shower. He holds her like he never plans to let her go.
She wants to believe he never will. Wants to believe Gabriel will never find her. She wants to think she’s allowed to have this, to be happy, at last.
But fate never works that way.
Chapter 4: Shackles
It takes Gabriel five days after the scene in the shower to find her. She’d actually held out some hope he’d lost their trail, that he really wasn’t coming. But that was foolish thinking.
It’s dark, the alleyway isn’t lit. She shuffles the bag in her hand as she reaches in her pocket for a cigar. Jesse showed her how to roll them like his, showed her what to look for. She takes a long drag before releasing the smoke into the air.
The smoke smells like Jesse, like earth and spices and brings a smile to her face. She stares down at the bag of eggs in her hand and laughs. Jesse just had to have pancakes in the morning.
Black tendrils of smoke don’t start to wrap around her until she’s almost made it to the end of the street. She’s approximately one block away from the safehouse when she notices them out of the corner of her eye. She turns, see’s the figure that’s looming toward her.
She makes a run for it, doesn’t feel them wrap around her legs until it’s too late. She falls, her face smacking against the pavement. Pain blooms across her skull and she feels blood drip down the side of her face.
The creature moves closer, makes a humming sound as it gets closer. She tries to run, but her legs are completely consumed in the black smoke. “Sophia,” the creature speaks. It doesn’t sound like Gabriel, not in the slightest. It’s garbled, a mess of voice chords trying to produce sound. “Why are you running?”
Sophia swallows and slowly moves her hand toward her gun. “I’m not running.”
The creature hums, “I’ve spent an awfully long time searching for you.” She pulls her pistol out in a quick motion, almost inhuman, but it’s knocked from her hand with such force she’s sure her fingers are broken.
She screams out, but is silenced by a clawed hand covering her mouth. “Shush now my dear. I’m here now. We can be together again.”
He backs up and lets the tendrils lift her to her feet. He grabs her hard, tosses her against the alley wall. She tries to run, but the tendrils hold her there as he moves to cover her. He replaces his hand over her mouth and uses his other to rip at her shirt.
She shakes her head, tries to tell him to stop, but he doesn’t listen. She sees the massive row of sharp teeth as he smiles at her. “Finally.” She lets out a garbled scream as he digs his teeth into her skin.
Sophia feels the blood pool over her shoulder and into her clothes. Feels it mat into her hair and drip onto the alley floor. She struggles, does her best to push at him, but it’s useless. He takes what he wants, drinks his fill.
She faintly thinks she hears a sorry before she passes out.
When Sophia wakes, it’s to a white room. Pain blooms across her skull and she moves to reach for it, but is stopped by the restraints. She blinks away the grogginess in her eyes and does her best to sit up.
She’s in an all white room, hooked to an all white table. There’s a table with tools next to her and she starts to panic. “Oh, you’re awake?” She freezes as she hears a familiar voice behind her. “Splendid.”
“Moira,” she says through clenched teeth as Moira comes into view. She doesn’t look any older.
“Oh good, you remember me!” Moira clasps her hands together and smiles. “That hate you have in your eyes dear, you’ll need it to get through what I’m about to do.”
Moira grabs a large bladed saw. “W-what-.” She’s cut off by the sound of the intercom cutting into the room.
“You need to be taught a lesson,” it’s Gabriel, or at least the thing that sounds like him. Her blood must have restored some his more human functions. “You can’t leave me again.”
“I didn’t leave!” Sophia screams and struggles against her bonds. “You all left me there!”
The intercom goes dead and Sophia screams as Moira approaches her. “Hold still dear or I’ll cut more than necessary.”
Sophia watches with wide eyes as Moira hovers the saw above her right leg. “Y-you’re not really going to cut off my leg.”
Moira tilts her head to the side and smiles something wicked.
Sophia watches as the saw cuts into her leg and she screams even though she can’t feel it. Her nanites aren’t working, aren’t alerting her to the fact that her skin is being hacked away at. Blood splatters against her body, against her face.
She screams, struggles against her bounds as she watches Moira cut away her leg. Sophia see’s the blood, the tissue, the bone as it’s all cut through. “Stop!” She screams, “stop, stop, stop.” Tears stream down her face as Moira continues on. The blood that pools on the table is black, dead, poisoned. She wants so desperately to pass out. To wake up back in the safe house.
The saw suddenly halts and Sophia watches in horror as Moira grabs her leg and lifts it away. That’s when the pain shoots through her, when her nanites finally realize something is wrong. They tear through her, cause her body to go completely limp.
She lays like that, in pain, lifeless, helpless, for all of five minutes before darkness consumes her.
She doesn’t know how long she’s been asleep when she finally wakes again. She’s no longer in the white room anymore. Instead, she’s in a dark room in a large bed. She runs a hand down her body until she gets to the stump.
Moira cut it off right at the knee.
“You’re awake.” She turns and sees Gabriel sitting in a chair on the far side of the room. He doesn’t make any sign of moving.
Sophia pulls the sheets off and stares at her leg. Her mind runs through all of the possible things she could say. “I won’t run anymore,” is what ends up coming out. “Please don’t take anything else.”
Gabriel stands and moves toward the bed. He reaches a hand out and caresses her cheek, runs his fingers along her jaw. “Just be a good girl and nothing else will happen to you.”
He leans toward her, places a hand on one side of her. The press of his lips against hers brings her to tears, but she returns it. She wraps her arms around his shoulder and pulls him in. Right now, he’s a semblance of her Gabriel, of the Gabriel from before.
“You’re only doing this because of guilt,” Alice says next to her, “What about Jesse?”
She pushes all of those thoughts away. She locks them in a box inside her heart and throws away the key.
“Papa, papa, what is this?” Sophia bounces up and down as Papa sits her in a seat that’s bigger than herself.
They’re in an auditorium. Rows of seats cover the floor and Sophia smiles at the fact she’s in front. “Just sit still and watch.”
The lights dim and the curtain rises. A single lone girl stands in the middle of the stage. She’s wearing white, looks like a bird. She moves her hands when the music starts, becomes one with it. She sways and dances, flows with it like she was born to do it.
Sophia leans forward her in her seat, watches as more dancers join the girl on stage. The dance around her, praise her. She’s lifted into the air, carried around, twirled. The smile that’s across Sophia’s face is so wide it hurts.
She watches as another dancer enters the stage. All of the others shy away from her, retreat somewhere off stage. Now it’s just this lonely girl. Her outfit is all black, her hair done up in braids. The song that plays for her is sad, makes Sophia want to cry.
Sophia thinks this dancer is beautiful. She moves gracefully across the stage. She dances to the music like her life depends on it. Sophia dreams of being her, of dancing as passionately as she does.
She twirls in the new ballerina shoes Papa buys her and giggles. It’s the best feeling in the world.
Moira fits her with a prosthetic two days after she wakes. It’s cutting edge, forms to her leg. It’s like the real thing. Like . Moira warns there is a fail safe in it. That if she tries to leave or run away, it can be remote activated to explode. The idea flashes through her mind for all of one second before she buries it away.
There is no more running, no more hiding.
Sophia gets her rooms A.I. to play a classical song. It ends up picking one of her Papa’s favorites. She moves to the middle of the room and raises up on her tiptoes. She tries exactly twenty times to dance like she used to, but falls everytime.
She lays on the floor and stares at the ceiling. Classical music floats around her, along with a thin fog of smoke. It smells earthy and of spice. She thinks of Jesse.
Chapter 5: The Darkness
There’s a quiet humming in her ear that eases her mind. She’s not sure where it’s coming from, maybe it’s Alice. Alice hasn’t appeared in weeks, maybe months. Time is an illusion when you’re locked in a cage with no windows. She’s not sure how long she’s been here.
“Are you almost finished?” Gabriel’s, or rather Reaper’s, voice cuts into the humming. His voice is a static interference in her ear and she resists the urge to rip the communicator out.
She swallows down the bile that’s rising in her throat, “Yes.”
The man below her lets out a shallow breath. She notices the discoloration of his skin, the way her blood is eating him alive from the inside out. She moves her hands up his chest and holds his head. Sophia can feel the pulse under her fingers, feels how faint it is. He gurgles below her and she moves her hands, applies the slightest amount of pressure until his neck snaps.
A small amount of air escapes his lips and Sophia stares at him. She looks at his eyes, at the tears that stain his cheeks. He was innocent, a security guard who got caught up in Talon’s mess. She can remember his voice, the scream he let out when she shot him. She runs her fingers over his eyes, closing them.
She glances at his desk, at the woman who sits there. Her fingers type away, getting whatever information Talon wants. “You going to be okay if I use the bathroom?”
Sombra looks back her, her eyes focusing on the man on the floor and then on Sophia. “Si.”
The cold water against her face does little to help the bile that wants to rise out of her throat. She stares at herself in the mirror, looks at her eyes. The bags under them are heavy, dark circles of too many nights without sleep. She wonders briefly, the last time she got a good night's rest.
The last night with McCree.
“You uh, ready?” She turns and sees Sombra leaning against the door, twirling a USB flash drive in her hand.
Sophia nods and wipes her face with the back of her hand. “Yeah.”
The shuttle ride back to HQ is quiet, which Sophia finds rather odd. The few time’s she passed by the Canteen, she’s seen Sombra; laughing, talking, joking with the other agents. But this entire mission she’s been quiet, eyes peering at Sophia. Maybe she thinks Sophia can’t see her.
Reaper greets them as soon as they land. Sophia thought she’d grow used to the skull mask Gabriel chooses to wear, but she hasn’t. It startles her every time, puts a pit in her stomach.
Sombra walks over to him and drops the flash drive into his waiting hand. “Piece of cake.” Sophia notices for only a moment that it’s not the flash drive she was twirling in her fingers. Sombra eyes her as she walks past Reaper, as if she’s daring her to say something. But Sophia doesn’t say anything.
Sophia turns a blind eye to the fake flash drive Sombra has just given Reaper and makes a mental note to forget she ever saw the exchange happen. She wants no part in whatever Sombra is planning. She just wants to follow orders and be left alone. Is that so much to ask for?
The sight of Moira waiting by her door sends an ache down her leg she can’t get rid of. “Hello dear.” Moira’s voice is sweet, all honeyed sugar.
“What do you want?” Sophia says on an exhale. She’s tired, wants to go into her windowless cage and lay in her bed until the darkness takes her.
Moira frowns and pulls out her holo tablet. “I wanted to talk to you about your nanites.”
Sophia stills her hand on the doorknob, but doesn’t look at Moira. “What about them?”
“Do you think I’m unaware they’re killing you?”
She glances up at Moira, expressionless. “Do you think I am unaware they’re killing me?”
There’s a brief pause of silence between them. Moira stares at her, looks her over a number of times. She glances back at the data on her holo tablet and then back at Sophia. She goes to open her mouth, but her eyes suddenly widen at something behind Sophia. She turns, see’s Reaper standing there, arms crossed over his chest.
Sophia takes this moment as an advantage and slips into her room. Voices filter in through the cracks in the door but soon a soft humming sounds in her ears. She makes her way to the shower, strips herself of her clothing and just stands under the warm water.
She wants it to wash away all the sins she’s committed, but she know’s that’s impossible. So she just waits until her skin hurts, waits until the warm water is too much, before she steps out of it. The moment her feet hit the tile she’s all too aware that she’s being watched.
A sigh leaves her lips as she peers into her bedroom and see’s Reaper sitting on her bed. He’s scrolling through files on his tablet, doesn’t even look in her direction. “Do you need something?”
Reaper glances at her, a sag in his shoulder as he looks upon her. She wonders if he’s looking at her leg, at what he did to her. She wants to see his face, wants to see if there is any pain under that mask. If Gabriel is under there, if he’s still human .
He looks away from her and back at his tablet. “I will wait until your dressed.” A sadness is present in his voice and it takes all the fight out of her. Whatever witty remark she had thought up, dies in her throat, doesn’t even make it to her tongue. She dresses slowly.
He doesn’t move to look at her as she walks back into the room and into her closet. She slips on a t-shirt and shorts before moving to the added kitchenette inside her room. Reaper has put everything in this room but windows. It’s cruel , she thinks to herself.
She makes a pot of coffee, pours two cups before she can stop herself. Sophia stares down at the black liquid in Reaper’s cup, wonder’s if he can even drink. “Do you want a cup?”
Reaper makes a small noise behind her, something sad. “No.”
She leaves his cup on the counter as she moves towards the bed. She chooses to stand in front of him, rather than sit next to him. “What did you want?”
Her cup is halfway gone before he answers her. “Moira has informed me of your condition and a treatment plan.” She grips the cup in her hands tightly, feels the heat scold her fingers. “But I told her no.”
Sophia feels her knees go weak as Reaper looks up at her. She stares into the hollows of the mask, into the darkness. “Why?” Her voice is a whisper.
He reaches a hand toward her, his gloved fingers running across her knee. He touches where her prosthetic meets her skin, a huff of breath leaving him. “I’ve done enough already.
Reaper brushes by her in a hurry of smoke. Everything she wants to say dies as she watches the door close and hears the familiar beep of the lock engaging.
Sophia wakes to a white light above her. The table under her is cold, burns her skin. She tries to pull away from it, but the cuffs around her hands and ankles hold her still.
“Be still dear,” Moira says beside her, looking over a table of various medical equipment, “you don’t want me to cut off more than necessary do you?”
Sophia opens her mouth to speak, but all that comes out is black sludge. It coats her chin, runs down onto her neck. It’s hot, smells like blood. She tries to scream, but a hand clamps over her mouth.
“Just be still,” Gabriel stands behind her. No mask, no cloak, just Gabriel. His eyes are dark circles, no pupils.
She hears the sound of the saw start up and looks back at Moira. The saw in her hand moves toward Sophia’s right arm, hovers above it. She struggles, tries to speak as more sludge fills her mouth. She chokes on it.
The saw comes down slowly, tears into her flesh. Black blood splatters across her face, across Moira’s white coat. She struggles as the saw cuts into her arm, cuts it away from her body.
She’s jolted awake by an unfamiliar touch against her temple. Sophia instantly looks to her right, a sob escaping her to find it was all a dream. “Shh,” a voice calls into her ear. She turns her head and expects to see Alice standing there, but it’s not.
“Sombra?” Her voice is horse, sounds like she’s been screaming.
Sombra nods and places a small bottle in her hand. “Take these.”
Sophia looks at the bottle, turns it in her hands. Her eyes take longer than usual to focus on the small print. Her eyes goes wide when she reads what it is. “How did you-.”
“Don’t worry about it, okay? Just take them.” Sophia doesn’t press her any further and takes two of the pills. Instant relief washes over her as the pain subsides. “I am supposed to tell you that these aren’t going to last much longer,” Sombra says and crosses her arms over her chest, “but I think you already know that.”
Sophia stares down at the bottle, “Did she tell you how long?”
A frown crosses over Sombra’s face, “Six months.”
Sophia leans back against the headboard and stares over at Sombra. “What’s the price for this?” She waves the bottle in the air and Sombra’s shoulders slump.
“I want you to help me take down Talon.”
Sophia stares at her for a long moment. A strange wave of dejavu sets upon her and she laughs. It’s very similar to when she took down Grey. Now she has to take down Gabriel and she only has six months to do it.
Chapter 6: Waves Crashing
Sombra keeps her in the dark as much as possible. Sophia doesn’t want the details. She wants to keep everything simple. Tell her where to go, what information to get and who to give it to.
The first contact she has with Overwatch is an unexpected call while she’s in the training room. Sombra has hacked into her, all incoming and outgoing calls and messages never reach Talon’s A.I.
Her communicator flashes, Unknown Caller , but she answers it anyway. “Hello,” escapes her in a rush as she takes in a breath.
“Sophia.” She stills as she reaches for a towel.
“It’s taken you long enough to contact me.”
A familiar metallic chuckle filters through the phone, “I know. I messed up.”
Sophia reaches for her towel, wipes away the sweat on her brow. “Are you my contact?” She glances up at the camera, sees the purple tint that’s across them. Sombra must have hacked the camera’s the moment she took the call.
“No, I am not. This was a personal call.”
She hears waves crashing against rocks in the background. Is Genji on the beach? Is the new base somewhere close to the sea? Another wave crashes into the communicator and she swears she can almost smell the sea salt. “Isn’t it a little late for a personal call?”
A sigh, “I had a feeling you would be mad.”
Sophia snorts, “Mad is an understatement.” There’s a long silence. “You were my best friend and you left me.”
“I had my own family matter’s to take care of Sophia. When I came back, they forced me into Overwatch and I wasn’t allowed to contact any of my old team.” Genji sighs and she imagines him pacing back and forth. “When the Swiss HQ blew up, I messaged Angela right away. She was the only person I was allowed to keep contact with. She said you up and disappeared.”
Sophia slumps against a bench and throws the towel over her shoulders. “There was nothing left for me there.”
The anger that comes out of Genji’s voice is a surprise, “That’s bullshit and you know it Sophia. Jesse and I, we ran from bad situations. Angela gave you a home, offered to be your family and you left her standing there.”
Sophia leans her head against the wall and stares the ceiling. It’s quiet for a long moment. All she hears is the waves crashing against the rocks. She closes her eyes and tries to imagine it. Imagine the large expanse of ocean and the rocky cliff side. Tries to feel the wind against her skin and the warmth from the sun. Would it be cold?
“I fucked up.” She can feel the tears burn her eyes. “I fucked up Genji and now I’m stuck here.”
“No you’re not. We can get you out.”
There’s another long pause before Sophia says, “Tell Jesse I said I’m sorry.” She ends the call in a hurry and tosses her communicator on the floor.
Sombra never asks about the phone call. She sets her up a meeting location with her Overwatch contact the next day. The meeting is a few hours away from the base and Sombra assures her that she’s disconnected the detonator in her leg.
It doesn’t ease her mind.
The car ride is long and lonely. Alice hums to her, tunes to music she’s long since forgotten. It keeps her at ease, eases the anxiety that’s coiling inside her chest. She wonder’s who Overwatch sent as her contact. Would it be Genji? Maybe it’s just a grunt, not someone as expendable. Sophia could be a liability, Sombra could be a liability. They have no reason to trust her.
When she walks into the small shack that’s to be there meeting location, the person sitting at the table is unexpected. He looks up at her through the darkness, only the light from his cigar visible. Sophia doesn’t move, doesn’t speak. Just stands in the doorway, lets the moonlight silhouette her.
“Y’know, they never told me you were the Talon contact.”
“What did you think happened to me?”
Jesse shrugs, leans forward and places his hands on the table. “Thought you ran.”
“I’m done running Jesse.” Sophia runs a hand through her hair and focuses on his face. “Give me the debrief on the mission.”
The sudden sound of the metal table crashing into the wall beside her startles her. She opens her mouth, only for Jesse to devour her words. He’s on her in seconds, hands coming up to cup her face as he kisses her. It’s sweet and desperate.
She melts against him, tears sting her eyes, run down her cheeks. She wants nothing more than to stay here with him, to pull him in and never let go. “Please,” she says with a sob, “don’t make this hard on me.”
Jesse stills against her, his hand moving down her side to rest against her knee. “What the-.” Sophia shoves him then. He stumbles back and stares at her.
“Please Jesse, just give me the details.”
He stands there for a long moment. Sophia swears hours go by before he moves his hand into his pocket and pulls out his holo tablet. “Here’s the info I’m supposed to give you.”
Sophia pulls out her holo tablet and accepts the file transfer. It’s a list of locations, specs, details on missions they need. Locations of bases, hideouts, member lists. All things Sombra can help her acquire.
“Tell me something,” Jesse says, pulling out another cigar, “when this is all over, will you come home to me?”
“What home will that be Jesse?”
Jesse looks up at her and smiles. “That place back in Alabama. I’ll make ya pancakes.”
Sophia smiles and turns to leave, “I’ll hold you to that.”
Sombra meets her back at base and they go over the data together. Sombra makes plans to retrieve the information Overwatch wants.
Sophia sits in a chair next to her, eyes focused on a single chip in the tile on the floor. Sombra’s talking to her, lips forming words faster than Sophia wants to process them.
“You think there’s a place for me after this?” Sophia asks out of nowhere.
Sombra looks at her, body slumping against her computer chair. “I think there’s a place for all of us.”
Sophia stares at that same chip in the floor, “How come I haven’t found mine yet?” Sombra goes to speak but a familiar ping draws both their attention to Sophia’s communicator.
Sophia doesn’t say anything as she gets up to leave. The air in the hallway is cool, sends a chill across her skin.
Reaper waits for her in her room. By now this is routine. She strips away her shirt and settles into his lap. She bares her neck for him, the side that’s not torn apart by scars.
The first brush of his teeth against her skin hurt. It always startles her, how her nanites always respond to Gabriel and Gabriel alone. He takes what he wants, drinks from her until she’s lax against his body. She feels heavy, like she could sleep for eternity.
Wouldn’t that be something?
He cleans off her shoulder and tucks her in to her bed like always. Reaper lingers for only a moment, to make sure she’s okay, before he makes his exit.
Sophia lays there, sleep fast approaching. She stares at the ceiling and thinks of Jesse, thinks of home.
With Sombra’s help, Sophia is able to collect half the data Overwatch needs in five months.
It’s a long five months, everyday putting her closer to death. Angela’s pills only do so much, only cure the pain for so long. Her body feels like it’s constantly on fire, like she’ll erupt at any second.
The last mission she takes is an undercover one Sombra helps her organize. She hacks the camera’s back at base, makes it seem as if Sophia is in her room doing various things.
It’s midnight when she enters the Talon base. Sombra had helped her fly out here under the cover of night. She could probably walk right in, probably had credentials to do so. But then people would ask questions. Why is Reaper’s pet here?
She checks her watch and waits for the guards to rotate shifts. This is the only moment where she can sneak inside. It’s easy enough, she’s been trained for this. But her body lags, it’s sluggish. She feels like she's running on fumes, and in truth, she is.
“Your vitals are not looking good,” Sombra says in her ear, “maybe you should back out.”
Sombra had been ordered to monitor her vitals by Angela. “I can’t back out now, I don’t-.” I don’t know if I’ll last much longer. “I have to do this.”
Sophia presses on and sneaks into the nearest control room. She plugs in the small USB device Sombra had given her before the trip and watches as Sombra remotely hacks into the systems. “This is great,” she says and Sophia can almost feel the smile on her face, “we got blueprints for weapons and everything right here.”
A noise behind her startles her just in time to place a bullet into an agents head. He falls forward, his face smashing into the tiled floor. “I’ve been compromised.”
She reaches for the USB drive and yanks it from the computer. All too sudden is the building flooded with an alarm. Red lights flash around as she makes her way to the exit. Sombra speaks into her ear the entire time, tells her which way to go, what hallway to take next.
Sophia makes it back to the transport ship without running into anyone else. It’s not until she leans back in her seat that the pain starts to spread across her chest. She lifts her hand to her side, feels the warm gush of blood that floods over her fingers.
“Sombra,” her voice is shallow, “I got hit.”
Sombra curses into her ear. There is no way for her to get medical attention without someone asking questions. “Sombra,” she says again.
“Olivia,” Sombra calls back, “call me Olivia.”
Sophia takes in a shaky breath, “Olivia, I-I’m scared.” Sophia laughs, something sad. “I don’t want to die. Not when we’re this close. Not when I can-.” Finally be free. A cough cuts her off and blood coats the inside of her mouth.
“It’s going to be okay, I’m going to figure out what to do. Just stay awake Sophia, stay with me.”
A hand on her shoulder pulls her away from Olivia’s rambling. “Alice,” Sophia says.
Alice takes a seat next to her. “You can’t die here.”
Sophia reaches out and takes Alice’s hand in her own. “What do I do? What can I do.”
There’s a long pause of silence as Alice looks her over. “Go to Gabriel. End this right now.”
Sophia looks at her, eyes wide. “I-I can’t. I’m not ready for that.”
Alice moves beside her, wraps her arms around Sophia and pulls her in close. “You’ve always been ready for this. He’s ready too. He needs to be set free just as much as you do.”
Sophia doesn’t say anything, just wraps her arms tightly around Alice. The pain in her side pulses, reminds her every second that she’s dying. But she’s been dying. This entire time she’s been drowning and now it’s finally time to take her away.
She nods against Alice’s shoulder, “Okay.”
Reaper is in his office when she finally manages to make it there. Olivia has closed off access to certain parts of the base, keeps the hallways clear as she moves through them. Her blood drips on the floor, her hand smears against the wall.
She wonders’ briefly what she must look like. Wonders if Olivia is watching her or is letting her do this on her own. She hopes she isn’t. She wants to do this alone. Just her and Alice.
He doesn’t even look up when she enters his room. Her blood smears over the keypad and she’s surprised it actually registers her hand print. “Sophia,” he says, not looking up from his work, “Did you need something.”
She moves across the room and moves around his desk. He looks at her then. She reaches forward and pulls away the mask that covers his face. Beneath it he’s scared, eyes red and tears in the skin. Smoke bellows out of his face, rises up from his neck.
“Sophia,” worry and panic cross over his face and he reaches for her, “Sophia what happened.”
She stares into his eyes, see’s the sadness that’s laced in them. She reaches a hand up and cups his cheek, feels the blood that smears against his skin. “It’s time.”
Gabriel looks confused for only a moment before he slumps back in his chair. He pulls her against him and she goes easily. She fits perfectly in his lap, just like that first time.
His lips are cold when they brush against hers, but she doesn’t mind it. She presses against him and wraps one arm around his shoulders. His lips pull away and he just holds her, buries his face in the crook of her neck.
There’s a long moment of silence before the sound of a shot going off cuts through it. Gabriel goes lax against her, slumps into her body. She holds him for what feels like forever, crying silently for the man she’s just lost.
She rests him against his chair as she puts Olivia’s USB drive in his computer. She leaves it there as she hauls Gabriel up and over her shoulder. It’s hard, especially with her wound, to carry him all the way to the small plane Olivia has prepared for her.
It takes two days for her to get back to the states and two hours for the planes A.I. to find a safe place to land in L.A.
“If I ever die before you, do something for me.” Gabriel strokes a hand through her hair, gathers the strands against his fingers. “I have a gravestone back in L.A. Don’t let them bury me here.”
The gravestone sits next to another, Maria Reyes . She assumes it’s his mother. By the time she finds a shovel and is able to dig a hole, the nanites inside her body have started to try and repair her. The bullet pushes out on it’s own and the wound closes, but they can’t repair the internal damage.
It takes her three hours to dig the hole and bury Gabriel next to his mother. She thinks about staying here, about dying right here on his grave. It would be nice, it would be easy. His gravestone is right next to a tree, the shade feels nice.
But she has somewhere to be.
She needs to go home.
Today's update was a double update because the previous chapter was so short and I'd like to end this tomorrow.
So stay tuned for another double update tomorrow and the end of November.
Chapter 8: Goodbye
Jesse McCree had a bad smoking habit. He knew it, the base knew it, the world probably knew it. Since his meeting with Sophia five months ago, his habit had doubled.
He found himself running out of cigars he’d just rolled the day before. Angela had told him to quit, that he’d develop lung cancer before this was all over. Maybe she was right. That would be just his luck. To get the news that it’s all over, that he can go pick up Sophia and take her home. Just to find out he’s terminally ill.
Jesse laughs at that and takes another puff. His cigar’s remind him of her. Each inhale reminds him of her smile. He can almost hear her laugh against his ears. He’d fallen too hard for her, he knew that much back in Blackwatch.
Should have done more.
McCree would never stop beating himself up over that day in the hotel. He hadn’t lied to her, he really did love her. To this day, he’d never known why he just left. Maybe it was the fear he felt towards Reyes. Maybe it was because Sophia felt untouchable.
In truth, it was probably because he knew she would have said no. Sophia wanted to help Reyes, wanted to help the whole goddamn world and Jesse had let her down. He wasn’t about to do it again.
So he waited and smoked away his lungs in the process. He waited for the all clear, for Morrison to tell him he could go get her. He waited for the day when he and Genji could go and pick her up. For the day when he took her back to Alabama and made her pancakes.
What Jesse McCree isn’t waiting for is the day Angela comes to him with a frown on her face.
“Jesse,” she says as he stares out at the waves, “we need to talk.”
When he looks back at her, her face tells him everything he needs to know. “Where is she?”
Angela looks at him with a sadness in her eyes. “Sombra contacted us yesterday and said Sophia had left.”
Jesse lands a punch into the balcony with his metal hand. It dents under the force.
“Where did she go?”
“Sombra said the last time she made contact, Sophia was heading to L.A.”
Jesse chews on the end of his cigar and thinks. Why would Sophia go to L.A.? What’s in L.A.?
“McCree,” Reyes takes another long drink from the whiskey bottle, “promise me something kid.”
Jesse knocks back another drink, a light buzz settling in his body. “Sure thing.”
“If I die before you, bury me in L.A.” Reyes hands the bottle back over to Jesse and he pours himself another glass.
Reyes stares at the liquid in his cup, “That’s where my mom is buried. I got a plot next to hers with a gravestone and everything. Don’t let them bury me here kid.”
Jesse finds the grave two days later. It’s fresh, the hole just dug days ago. Sophia killed him. She’d really killed Gabriel Reyes.
Blood streaks the grass and he wonders if it’s Gabriel's. He notices the black splotches in it and realizes it’s Sophia’s. There’s a bullet laying in the grass, covered in black blood. Did Gabriel shoot her? Naw, someone else must have.
He stays in L.A. overnight, checks back at the grave in the morning. Sophia isn’t here anymore. Jesse just hopes she’s gone home and he’s not too late.
The Alabama safehouse is in a small run down part of town. The houses in the neighborhood are empty, boarded up. The building is nestled in between a white worn out picket fence and honestly just looks like an old home. Boards cover the windows and the grass hasn’t been trimmed in years.
When Jesse approaches the building, he notices the front door is ajar, a dried bloody handprint on the handle. He opens the door with his metal hand and shuts it quietly behind him.
At first, it doesn’t seem like anyone is here. It’s quiet, not a single light is on and he can’t hear the generator. The only sign he has that someone has been here is the muddy footprints that lead to the kitchen.
Sophia is sitting at the table, slouching back in the chair. She smiles when she sees him. “Welcome home.” She says with a laugh and Jesse watches as she coughs up blood.
“You’re late.” Is all Jesse says as he takes a seat across from her.
“I’m good at that,” she says with another smile.
She’s pale, dangerously so. There’s a fresh sheen of sweat that’s running across her brow and dried blood covers the corners of her mouth. “How long ya been here?”
Sophia shakes her head and shrugs, “A day maybe.”
Jesse pulls out a cigar and offers Sophia one. She takes it with a shaky hand and Jesse notices how cold her fingers are when they brush against him. He lights it for her and watches her inhale. She coughs up the first pull of the smoke and blood coats her hand when she goes to cover it.
“You’re not going to make it back.” It’s not a question, but Sophia nods anyway.
Jesse doesn’t light his cigar.
“Will you do me a favor Jesse?” Sophia looks at him, her eyes lidded as she struggles to keep them open. “Will you shoot me?”
“Sophia you can’t-.”
Sophia coughs up more blood and small laugh leaves her. “The nanites, they won’t let me die. I’m sure I died on the way here and they just started my heart back up.” She glances around the safehouse. “This would have been a nice home Jesse.”
Jesse doesn’t look at her, he can’t. His Peacekeeper suddenly feels all to heavy where it sits against his thigh. He’s all too aware of its presence, of the bullets in the chamber.
“I killed Gabriel.” Sophia suddenly says. “Did you see his grave?” Jesse looks at her, sees the tears in her eyes and he nods. “I’m ready Jesse.”
Jesse takes in a shaky inhale of breath. He sees the pain on her face. The blood that’s splattered across her chin, the specks on her shirt and neck. “Are you sure?”
Sophia takes another pull from the cigar and Jesse watches the embers as they light up. She blows the smoke into the air, the smell coils around him. “I am.”
She puts the cigar out in the ashtray in the middle of the table and looks at him with a smile. “I never lied to you Jesse. I always loved you.”
Jesse feels tears sting the backs of his eyes and does his best to hold them in. He brings Peacekeeper up and levels it with her head. “I loved you too.”
The last thing Jesse McCree sees before a bang sounds through the room is Sophia’s smile.
She wakes to the sound of waves crashing against rocks. With the smell of sea salt and smoke in the air. “Yer late,” a familiar voice comes up behind her, “I’ve been waitin’.”
Jesse McCree smiles at her when she turns around. He’s wearing a blue button down shirt and jeans. She reaches out for him, feels the fabric of his shirt beneath her fingers. A wave of water brushes against her ankles, wet sand dances under her feet.
“I’m home,” she says with tears in her eyes, “I’ve finally made it.”
Chapter 9: November
Before you read this chapter, I want to thank everyone who made it this far and stuck with me. This story started out as writing practice to branch out into different themes and it just became so much more. I hope you all enjoyed Sophia's story.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jesse stares out at the water as it crashes against the cliff below. His lips itch to have a cigar between them, but he pushes the urge away. Six months without one and he wasn’t about to ruin that.
A faint beeping behind him keeps him grounded in the real world. He’s thought about turning it off a number of times, but has never brought himself to do it. A cold breeze against his skin urges him to shut the window, but he doesn’t. The sound could help. He laughs at the thought.
He stares up at the clouds and watches as the first snow of winter falls upon the Watchpoint.
“Jesse,” Angela calls behind him and he turns to look at her, “you ready?”
Jesse takes in a shaky breath and takes a seat in a nearby chair. Angela brings out a small table with vials on it and quickly gets to work filling them with his blood. “How long has it been?” He asks to break the silence.
“Six months.” Angela doesn’t look at him, her eyes focused on the syringe.
There’s a long moment of silence as Angela continues to drain him of blood. It’s not enough to hurt him, Angela would never do that. His arm is sore from the multiple times he’s done this and he wonders if it’s doing any good.
His blood was probably toxic, laced with drugs from his younger years. Coated in whiskey and smoke. He’d never imagined anyone ever needing it.
“Okay, that’s the last of it.”
“The last of it?” Jesse repeats as a question.
Angela smiles and nods at him, “Yes Jesse, that’s the last of it.”
Jesse grabs her arm as she goes to move away, “Is… is it really going to work?”
Angela smiles at him with a hint of sadness. “That all depends on her.”
Jesse waits for what feels like days outside the operating room. He’s waited Six months and eight days for this moment. He’d asked Angela, but he’d been counting the days. How could he not?
The Operation In Progress sign above his head is a constant reminder of a promise he broke. Of a favor that was asked of him that he couldn’t follow through with. His body aches for a cigar, for the familiar coil of smoke around his body but he shakes the feeling away.
Angela steps out of the operating room Twelve hours later. Her face is a mixture of sadness and happiness all at once. “It was a success,” she says and then adds, “but I don't know if she’ll wake up.”
Jesse McCree walks into the room where Sophia Gretzky is sound asleep. She looks peaceful, her breathing even and a content look on her face. He wonders if he should have killed her. He looks upon the many scars that cover her arms and face. Glances at the metal of her foot.
Would it have been better to have killed her?
Sophia stares out at the waves as they splash against her ankles. The sand beneath her feet is wet, squishes between her toes. “Ya like it here?”
Jesse comes up behind her, hands sitting in his pockets. “Of course I do.”
He moves to stand beside her and stares out at the water. “You don’t belong here.”
Sophia looks at him suddenly, “What do you mean?
In Jesse’s place stands Alice. She’s wearing a white sundress and an overly large white sun hat. “This isn’t the end for you.”
Sophia takes a step back, “I don’t understand.”
Alice smiles at her, “He’s waiting for you.”
Sophia’s chest suddenly tightens and the waves crash hard against her. “When you wake up, I’ll be gone.” Alice says as the water rises. “You don’t need me anymore.”
“Wait!” Sophia calls out and reaches for her, but a wave pulls her way. “Alice!”
“Go be free Sophia,” Alice smiles at her, “Go home.”
Her eyes open to darkness and a faint beeping sound. Her chest feels heavy and something tickles her nose. She tries to move, but her whole body aches, like she hasn’t moved in months.
She opens her mouth to speak, but only a garble of gibberish comes out. She raises her hand and moves it to her chest. It lands in a pile of soft, shaggy hair. The owner of the hair lets out a grumble, but doesn’t make any motion of waking up.
Sophia lifts her head as much as she’s able and catches the attention of someone across the room. “Sophia!” Angela whispers as she comes up to her.
“A-Angela?” Sophia chokes out.
Angela nods and takes a hold of her free hand. “It’s okay, you’re okay. Everything is okay.”
“W-what happened?” She glances around the room, looks at the various machines hooked up to her.
“Before Jesse went to meet you, I gave him tranq-darts. I knew you’d be in pain and I wanted to help. You deserve so much Sophia, I wanted you to live to enjoy it.”
Sophia moves to sit up and Angela helps her. She props her up on pillows and Sophia gets the full view of Jesse asleep in her lap. “How am I alive?”
“It’s thanks to Jesse.” Angela pulls up a chair and takes a seat next to the bed. “When we got you back here, I was struggling to find a suitable blood match.”
“You did the blood transfusion?”
Angela nods and looks over at Jesse. “For six months I gradually took blood from Jesse until I had enough to do a complete transfusion. All of the toxic blood is gone Sophia.”
Sophia stares down at herself. “It’s all gone?”
“All of it.”
Tears sting her eyes and spill over onto her cheeks. “All of it.” Angela repeats and pulls Sophia close.
Jesse stirs awake and blinks a few times before he realizes what's happening. “Sophia.” Sophia turns and Jesse goes for a hug, but is greeted with a swift slap to the face. “What's that for!” He says and is suddenly pulled into a tight embrace.
Jesse sighs and holds her. He holds her like he’s not going to lose her, because this time he isn’t.
“This place is a dump,” Sophia says with a sigh and sets her bags down on the concret sidewalk.
Jesse snorts, “You weren’t sayin’ that a year ago.”
Sophia rolls her eyes, “I was dying a year ago. This place probably looked like a mansion.”
“You wanna look elsewhere?”
Sophia picks up her bags. “Nope. You promised me pancakes.”
Jesse watches her walk into the safehouse with a smile on his lips and shakes his head. He pulls out his pack of cigars from his pocket and places one between his lip. He lights it and the first inhale has him coughing. “Been too damn long.”
The smoke doesn’t remind him of home anymore. He doesn’t hear his Ma or Pa. Doesn’t hear Sophia’s laugh when he lights it.
“Come on!” Sophia pokes her head out of the door. “I’m hungry!”
Jesse laughs and takes another inhale, this one going in smoothly. “Comin’ darlin’.”
You guys didn't think I'd kill her did you? :D
In truth, Goodbye was originally the last chapter to this story. I didn't want it to have a happy ending, but at the same, I'd felt I'd put these characters through so much that they deserved a happy ending.
Thank you for sticking around and to my very dedicated fans who commented when ever I updated. You guys are the best.