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Love Like Ghosts

Chapter Text

A tired groan was usually the way she started and ended her day. It was habitual, recurrent, and the continual cycle of getting up early nearly every day was the realization which promptly hit her at the crack of dawn each morning.

“Ms. Amari, it is now 5:00 am,” the computerized voice dictated, and Fareeha groaned again, this time more loudly than before. She rolled over once, covering her head with the pillow. Amidst the few thoughts floating lazily through her sleepy mind, she contemplated debating against getting out of bed with her home’s security system before settling against it. Athena would just keep bothering her until she finally left the comfy covers, since no amount of sympathy was bestowed to the AI. She was simply just doing her job.

With eyes closed she sat up, gave her body a good stretch, and swept her legs over the side of the bed. A greeting sounded from the walls around her, Athena’s omniscient motion sensors acknowledging that their master had finally decided to ditch the confines of her warm bed.

“Good morning, Ms. Amari.”

Fareeha waved a hand and yawned as she made her way to the restroom down the hall. “Same to you, Athena.”

She entered the bathroom and immediately the lights turned on, illuminating the sleek, modern silver cabinets and tiled floor. Aside from the light on in the restroom, things were dark throughout her apartment. It made sense, considering that it was still quite early and most individuals were tucked away in their beds for at least another hour or two (three, if they were lucky), and that the days were getting increasingly shorter and colder this time of year. This lonesome spotlight of illumination here was helpful visually, yes, but each and every morning it caused the same thing to stir within the woman who had entered the room only seconds ago.

This was the need to stop and scrutinize herself. It was something she found she had begun to do more often, and although she recognized that it was inappropriate for anyone to be so judgmental upon themself, she could not stop. It was impossible.

It was also Fareeha Amari’s weakness. In particular one which she made no comment about to anyone other than herself, if she could possibly help it. So far she had kept true to her promise.

Deep brown eyes were drawn for the upteenth time to the right, where they landed on the dark, metallic blue of the cybernetic prosthetic attached to her shoulder. Her gaze stayed there, studying every dip, every curve. Memorizing. Criticising. She lifted the cybernetic arm, opened and closed her upturned palm, and then balled the metal fingers into a steely fist. There she held it for a few moments, a subtle frustration seething through her entire weary being, until sense began to win her over again.

Her fist dropped back down to her side, and she mindfully decided it was best she continued getting ready for work. Reinhardt would not be pleased if she was late, and neither would Brigitte be anything less than amused if her superior happened to accidentally forget that time was an eternal, ongoing event. According to Rein, Fareeha was supposed to be a good (perhaps even outstanding) example in the realm of the city’s police department, since the older man had entrusted her with watching over his goddaughter Brigitte and modeling the correct way to work under the law.

Fareeha rolled her eyes thinking about the two, who often seemed more like fraternal twins (who were more than forty years apart and not related, if that was even possible) than anything else, and shoved her toothbrush back into its stand. She rinsed, spit, and stood up to wipe her mouth when her eyes caught yet again the metal prosthetic protruding from out underneath her old t-shirt.

“...Whatever,” she mumbled through tight lips, and exited.

The lights behind her in the restroom made note of the lack of a human body’s presence in the room, and quickly shut themselves off.

Fareeha walked down the hall back to her bedroom, darkness draped behind like an oversized shadow.


 

Upon stepping out of the apartment complex’s lobby door, Fareeha felt a few miniscule droplets of water hit her cheek. She looked up, and sure enough the gray sky had decided that today was a perfect opportunity to share with the rest of the city it’s lonely sorrow.

The woman squinted, looking back down at the floor to see small pinpricks of water dotting the dark ground beneath her like a painter creating a pointillism masterpiece. It appeared as though the rain would be coming down a little heavier than she expected.

She reached behind her head to grab the back of the hoodie she had so conveniently decided to wear underneath her overcoat, pulling it over her head. Fareeha had never been too fond of the cold, and out here in the gloomy, damp city, even the body heat from the countless sea of people forever trudging through was not enough to make a difference in temperature.

Gently easing her way into the crowd, she began her daily journey to the city’s local police department. People here always traveled by foot for the most part, since the roads and alleys were too narrow for any cars to maneuver through. Police and emergency response vehicles were the only exceptions, usually. The reason for this was that throngs of people made the attempt at transportation all the more difficult.

Thin puddles split under her feet upon impact, but Fareeha did not take notice. She passed a few cuisine shops, which were dismissively open despite the rain, and a few rundown alleyways littered between buildings. As she walked past what looked to be a somewhat vacant tempura shop, she was alarmed when an omnic fell flat on his face in front of her, skidding violently through a dirty puddle.

Fareeha stepped back in alarm and looked toward the source of the mighty throw, not surprised to see a large, hefty man with a greasy apron and one of the meanest scowls on his face advancing toward her and the omnic.

She stepped between the two, giving time for the robot behind her to struggle to his feet.

“For the last time, we don’t hire fucking omnics, you nasty piece of scrap metal! Now get lost!” the man shouted, lurching past Fareeha to sneer at the omnic behind her.

A panicked hand grasped Fareeha’s arm for what she thought was a wordless plea for protection, and she stiffened up then as a soft, robotic voice sounded from behind her. It wafted past her ears like a light breeze, and if it was not for the lack of distance between her and the omnic she would most likely have not understood the whisper escaping his mouth.

“B-But….my family. My father used to work for you….We need money an-”

The man’s sneer (Fareeha figured he was the shop owner) did not lessen, and he stomped forward, causing the omnic to stumble back a few feet in fright, but Fareeha herself refused to let up. The woman’s bravery was somewhat stunning when it came to helping others, and at this particular time it disturbed the man who was so adamantly trying to rid himself and his restaurant of the persistent omnic.

“Move outta the way, girlie,” he growled, and Fareeha could smell his fetid breath hot on her skin. She suddenly wanted to take another shower.

“Sorry, not going to happen.” Reaching into her coat she pulled out her ID badge, and her profile, name, and profession, along with the government seal, flashed across the screen. “Detective Fareeha Amari from the city’s police department. I will not allow any violence to ensue here in order to protect the general public, and I think this would be a good time for you to cool off before things get out of hand.”

Fareeha watched the large man clench and unclench his fists a few times, and he shook his head before spitting on the ground near her. His saliva melded with the rain, and his annoyance drew a sense of disgust from Fareeha.

“You coppers are always going around helping those fucking omnics….Don’t you remember what they did to people like us, just a few years ago?” He glared daggers at the omnic again. “You assholes are protecting them. They turned against us! They’re not safe. Never were to begin with.”

She didn’t say anything, just watched the giant man waddle his way back into his restaurant.

When the owner was a good distance away Fareeha turned around, and was met with the immobile face of the young omnic, who wore nothing except a simple thin coat and baggy pants splotched by muddy water. If his family needed money, his appearance surely reflected that - he must have been extremely desperate about asking for a job, especially from such a restaurant owner as the one she had just encountered.

Tucking her badge back into her coat pocket she gave the omnic a small smile. “You okay, kid?”

He patted down a patch of damp water on his jacket, most likely in hopes of getting some of the dampness out, and shuffled back. “Y-Yeah….I’m fine.”

Fareeha doubted that. But then again, her question was a bit irrelevant to begin with. The omnic was clearly unharmed, but that didn’t mean that he was still alright .

She shrugged a shoulder and quickly took a peek at her wrist tag under her coat sleeve, making sure that she still had enough time to get to work. So far it looked like she was good. “Do you live around here?”

The omnic hesitated before answering. “Kind of….My family and I….We’re street creepers. But that’s only because we don’t have any place to stay right now. That’s why I’m trying to get a job, to help out.”

Fareeha nodded. This was exactly something any young, responsible individual - human or omnic - would do, would they not? So then why was it so hard for many to see that omnics and humans should be treated as equals?

“Listen....I’m sorry that guy kicked you out. And I’m sorry to hear about the situation of your family.” The rain pelted down harder, and the omnic in front of her continued to get drenched. She took a step closer to him, escaping the shelter of the overhanging metal sheets of the restaurant behind that blocked the rain, and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Hang in there, alright? One day things will be set right. I promise.”

She was unsure if what she had just said was a promise she could keep….Or rather if it was an outcome she had control over, but spoke the words nonetheless. All she wished was to deliver some hope. It was all she could offer.

The omnic nodded slowly, silently. He stepped out of grasp of her gingerly placed hand, and it slowly fell back to Fareeha’s side, where she stuck it into the coat pocket at her hip. “Thank you.”

And then he left. Slipped off once again back into the crowd, leaving no trace of ever having been there talking to the detective.

Fareeha stood there for a few seconds, mulling over what just happened. It truthfully was not unusual to see an omnic and human get into a fight on the way to work, or on the way back. It was also not unusual to witness an rapidly gathering protest or riot in the close quarters of the already too skinny streets - those she was habitual to witnessing every few days or so.

She sighed, the breath escaping her mouth quickly condensing into a miniature cloud, and continued monotonously back on her way.

There was only so much she could do.


 

Almost immediately following her entrance through the sliding glass doors that led to the countless office desks, Fareeha’s shadow reappeared ritually, as it did almost every single day of the week. As she weaved her way through the copious amounts of other police staff, donut crumbs began to magically appear on her shoulder, and a currently-too-excited voice found her ear.

“Yo, Fareeha! How are you?” Brigitte wrapped an arm around Fareeha’s shoulder and pulled her in close for a second, the latter feeling like she was getting all of the air in her lungs squished out forcefully. She shoved a half-eaten donut into Fareeha’s face. “You want a donut?”

Fareeha grimaced slightly, perturbed by the fact that there were likely no more whole donuts for Brigitte to offer to her, and so was helpless in resorting to giving her whatever piece she had left. It was a generous offer, but it was an offer that Fareeha would not take. She’d rather not bring herself that low.

“Uh, no thank you, I’m good.” She continued on her pilgrimage through the chaos of the early morning in this specific area of the police department, which consisted of over-caffeinated (or under-caffeinated) coworkers and grumpy criminals being pulled in for interrogations and whatnot after a night in the slammer.

But Brigitte was relentless. “You sure?” She waved the half-eaten chocolate donut with rainbow sprinkles one more time in front of Fareeha as if it were instead a priceless treasure she were dangling before her eyes.

Fareeha stopped in front of her holodesk and faced Brigitte with a serious countenance. “I am 100 percent positive. Thank you for offering though.” She slipped off her heavy, slightly damped overcoat, and set it over the back of her chair. After straightening the collar on her black button-up shirt she tapped out her password on the desk’s top, and watched files begin to pop up on the terminal in front, one after the other, like daisies springing up after the last of winter’s snow.

All the cases were the same. A death here. A death there. Another one here. They were all triggered by one similar factor - the NNv, or neuro-nano virus, abridged to NNv for short.

Fareeha scanned over the synopsis of each rather quickly, gathering only one piece of evidence from each that she was ultimately searching for, other than the affirmation of the fact that they were all caused by the NNv. She knitted together what evidence she had been solely seeking after by going through each synopsis, just to confirm what she already had concluded a few weeks ago after being assigned the cases.

A few more crumbs fell, this time onto her desk. “They’re basically all deaths. Street creeper deaths.”

Fareeha looked up from the screen and met Brigitte’s unwavering studious eyes, which were intently focused on the cases at hand. Although Brigitte was fairly new to the whole police thing, having just graduated the academy a little less than a year ago and been thrown into this hellhole of a reality, she was sharp of wit and caught on quickly to almost anything taught to her. Fareeha was thankful that she had been assigned to Brigitte and not some other foolish, haughty young individual who had just left the academy. A lot of the ones who did thought they new everything, and that usually led them into getting into more trouble than their superiors had hoped.

Perhaps this maturity belonging to Brigitte was one of the results of being friends with your boss for as long as you could remember? As far as Fareeha was concerned, Reinhardt was the father she never had. Maybe the same could be said for Brigitte, who often spent more time with Reinhardt than she did with her own father due to certain circumstances. The two women had more in common than they initially thought, which was rather interesting and created a unique bond between the two of them.

“Exactly,” Fareeha commented after a few seconds, turning her face back to the screen and swiping her fingers across it to view more case files. “But the question is why ? Why are street creepers the ones who are infected by the virus more often, as compared to other members of society?”

“There have been a few cases that aren’t street creepers,” Brigitte pointed out, voice muffled by the chewing of her donut.

“I know…. But it isn’t many.” Fareeha dropped into her seat and leaned back tiredly, running a metallic hand through her hair. “This is stupid. Why can’t I fucking figure this out? It should be easy.”

Brigitte bit at her lip apprehensively, unsure if there was anything she could do to lift her friend’s spirits. Fareeha thought long and hard about these cases every single day, and she was beginning to think the ever-present look of exhaustion on Fareeha’s face was due to the fact that she pondered this kind of stuff way too much.

At that exact moment probationary officer, particularly one whom seemed fairly new to the department, scurried by with a large box of donuts in hand. The container of desserts caught Brigitte’s eye and she grabbed him by the collar to tug him back, the incredibly shrimpy man shriveling under her gaze as she motioned for him to hand over the box. She plucked one from its depths before shooing him away again. The young woman grinned devilishly and hoisted one leg onto Fareeha’s desk, resting her elbow on her thigh and beginning to munch on her new pastry.

“How about we don’t dwell so much on these cases, huh?” Brigitte shook her head, seemingly in disagreement with what she just said. “Wait wait wait, that came out wrong - I don’t mean forget about the cases. What I’m trying to say is how about we stop fretting over the fact that we haven’t solved this stuff yet? These kinds of things take time and lots of investigation, especially if they’re tough to crack.” She took another bite and shrugged. “You know what I mean? We’re doing our best. Let’s just keep doing that and supporting each other. We’ll solve them eventually,” Brigitte smiled, and Fareeha couldn’t help but return the gesture and nod in agreement.

“You know I want to solve these cases too,” she continued. “It’d be amazing to be able to help the city in such a way….And I’m sure it’ll make Papa proud too.”

Fareeha frowned. “You’re still trying to get your father’s attention?” she asked, putting a heavy amount of stress on the word ‘still’. Brigitte wasn't about to give up the dream she kept dear to her heart so easily. The detective had heard that dream numerous times, and it consisted of getting promoted to the next tier and advancing out of being just a regular probationary officer (although she was definitely one of the best ones the department had, which made Fareeha very lucky to have her).

“Yeah….I mean, wouldn’t you like to make your parents proud too?”

Fareeha was silent for a moment. She didn’t care - her mother wasn’t around anymore. “No, not really,” she finally answered, swiping away at a few more cases on the screen and giving her partner a negligent shrug.

Brigitte looked at the ground for a moment, thoughtfully mulling over what she was about to say. “Well, I know you’ve probably heard me mention it before. But it’s just that - you know - ever since growing up, there’s been so many of us. It was hard to stand out and make my Papa see that I wanted him to notice me and be proud of me….Hopefully now, having joined the police, I’ll be able to do that if I get promoted to a legitimate officer instead of a probationary.” The smile she gave was sad, yet hopeful. It was a strange combination that Fareeha felt was all too true.

“Yeah yeah kid, this is probably the twentieth time you’ve told me your sob story,” Fareeha chuckled after her sarcastic comment, and subsequently earned herself a swat from a whining Brigitte.

“It’s true! He was always gone doing official city work, and he still is! Plus I have, like, a bajillion brothers and sisters - I’m not lying, Fareeha!”

The detective got up from her chair, still having herself a good laugh as she did her best to dodge her friend’s fist. She thought it was hilarious when the younger girl got all pouty, and sometimes she made a point of actually teasing her just to see her comedic reactions. “Okayyyy okay - alright Brigitte,” Fareeha snickered, arms held in a protective manner over her head to shield herself from Brigitte’s dramatic flailing. “You know I’m just joking with you.”

Full downturned lips gave Fareeha a negative answer. “....Sometimes it feels like you’re not taking me seriously though.”

“And why would you ever think that?” Fareeha slung an arm over the other girl’s shoulder, which was a bit of a ways up, but was successful in performing the act even so. “I laugh and tease you sometimes because you’re funny to get a reaction out of - but don’t let that ever cause you to think that I don’t take you seriously. I care about what you think and how you feel. You’re my friend.” Fareeha offered Brigitte a sincere smile, and just like she had hoped, the younger girl took it.

“....Okay.” Brigitte cracked into a grin, having put aside her doubt with Fareeha’s honest reassurance.

That’s what I’m talking about.” Upon seeing the blossoming grin, Fareeha pulled her subordinate’s head down and began giving her auburn head a noogie. The taller girl protested half-heartedly and allowed herself to laugh along as she submitted to the jesting form of affection, which was something of a rarity. She didn’t exactly like noogies (to be truthful - who really does?), but decided she wouldn’t break the nose of those who gave her one unless they were someone she was close to or greatly admired. That list currently consisted of two individuals right now, those of who worked here in this exact city police department: Reinhardt Wilhelm and Fareeha Amari. Her father didn’t count because he was too short to give her one anyways.

Reinhardt, as a matter of fact, was exactly the individual that Fareeha was hoping to see this morning. There was something that had been sitting on her mind for a while now that she had been wanting to bring to his attention.

“Ouch.” Brigitte moved a hand up to her head and began rubbing her noggin with the utmost care. “Your noogies hurt, Fareeha.”

That was actually something Fareeha frequently forgot to consider. Utilizing her cybernetic prosthetic was often something she still had trouble with. It would make sense that sometimes she could hurt others slightly, considering that she had not yet grown fully accustomed to the fake limb. There was likely also some extra force she was exerting in the faux-drilling motion she initiated when performing the act on her friend’s head, and coupled with the hard, metal exterior of the cybernetic arm, it was bound to be slightly painful.

Letting Brigitte go, Fareeha cleared her throat, thus reintroducing her transition back to the professional within the situation. “Sorry,” she apologized, wincing slightly as her friend continued rubbing her head. She took a few steps forward and thrust a thumb in the direction of the conglomeration of offices’ entryway. “Say, I was hoping I’d get to chat with Rein for a bit this morning; there was something I’ve been meaning to tell him. But after that we can go ahead and do our routine shooting range practice, before diving into some more investigating of those cases?”

“Sounds like a plan.” Brigitte smirked, giving a little salute. “I can stay here and try and focus on them some until you get back, see if I figure out anything with the clues we already have.”

“Wonderful,” came Fareeha’s satisfied reply, which signaled that she would be taking this opportunity to exit. With a curt wave she was off, hands shoved deep into her pockets as she strode down the main walkway through the jungle of desks, officers, and delinquents, leaving Brigitte behind.

The walk to Reindhardt’s office was one she knew by heart, since she had walked this path thousands of times before. Because the layout of the city’s infrastructure in relation to the creation of buildings was incorporating minimization, the police department had utilized as much vertical space as it could. Floors of any tall building were stacked conveniently like a tight pack of cards, and this was no exception for the local police department. As a matter of fact, it constituted of a first main floor for public interface, a second floor as the department’s shooting range, and then the third and fourth were neverending seas of offices. An underground level, which was situated below the first, was a singular storage unit for everything weapon related.

Reinhardt’s office was just one floor above the one Fareeha and Brigitte worked on. It was….a place she was familiar with to say the least, and the journey of getting there was just as similar. Down a few halls, into the elevator, go up, out the elevator, then down another hall, and voila. The reason why Fareeha was so acquainted with this process, just as she was naturally with the highest floor, was because she used to work there.

The highest floor was reserved for the highest ranking officers, those of whom had various placements based on their service and experience. For Fareeha, walking up there was always something special - and always somewhat nostalgic, although she did what she could most of the time to make herself seem undisturbed by what used to be.

….Perhaps dwelling on what had been and chasing ghosts of the past by her lone self had been her downfall.

For today, that was precisely the issue she was going to share with Reinhardt.

Halls, doors, elevators, faces - they had all passed by slowly, a blurred mess of something Fareeha did not care for and took no notice of until she stepped into the menagerie of holodesks on a particular sector of offices this fourth floor, her vision zoning in on one particular office shrouded by translucent glass walls.

This was Reinhardt’s office, allowed the privacy of some seclusion, away from the rest of the other officers. He was, after all, the resident chief of police.

“Reinhardt?” Fareeha knocked on the glass wall beside the doorway, and it slid aside to reveal the man she was looking for a second later.

The ginormous, incredibly muscular man (“100 percent German power!”, he would always say) was seated comfortably at his desk with a small ceramic mug of coffee in one hand, the cup looking strangely out of place next to his large body. He had a few images pulled up on his desk, which he swiped away with one swift movement of his monstrous hand so that they did not block his view of Fareeha.

“Ah, Fareeha my dear, come in!” Reinhardt’s booming voice called, beckoning the woman in as he set aside his mug and leaned forward. A large grin danced upon his face, creating a honest, pleasant gesture of his authentic delight in seeing her.

“Good morning, Reinhardt,” she smiled likewise, taking a seat at one of the chairs set in front of his desk. “How’s the chief doing today?”

“Quite well, quite well,” Reinhardt chuckled. “As I hope you are doing too.” A relaxed, lengthy sip of coffee halted his greeting, and then he placed the mug back down, folding his meaty hands together. “What brings you here this fine morning?”

The detective before him pursed her lips as she steadied herself for the flow of conversation she would soon be initiating with her boss. She knew Reinhardt wouldn’t be mad, but still….the disclosure of what she was going to say was eating at her, and it most certainly was not in a good way. She felt guilty, but there was also a strange pressure that encouraged her to just spill what had been on her mind for almost two whole years.

“There was something I have been meaning to talk to you about….for a while.”

“Ah?” Rein raised a brow, the one above his bad eye. The chief had refused to get a cybernetic implant because he said that the damaged eye was a constant reminder to remain humble, as well as diligent in protecting the people around him. How he got it was a story he shared with a young Fareeha in front of a rustic fireplace many winters ago, and was the same one he would sometimes belt out at a bar with a gigantic mug of beer in hand. Overall, it was a tale Fareeha had heard countless times.

“I….” Fareeha twiddled her thumbs in her lap, somewhat glad that her hands were hidden from view and thus keeping her physical discomfort a secret for the time being. “I don’t think being a detective is a good fit for me. I - Things were different when I was out in the field. I could actually help people, you know? Actually save them.” Her initial reservation was weakening. “I wasn’t the crippled officer I am now who has to solve problems from behind a desk. And even when I’m doing that I still have trouble!” She raised her hands in exasperation and watched Reinhardt’s face morph from confusion to something more sympathetic.  

The mountainous man stood up, and slowly made his way to the door of his office. Looking back at her he stretched out his hand, and with the smallest flick of his large fingers, gestured for her to come. “Follow me. I have something to show you.”

As asked, Fareeha followed Reinhardt. They walked wordlessly through the coming and going police officers, and Reinhardt sent a friendly wave to those who greeted him good morning, but didn’t pass any conversation between the two of them.

They stepped into the elevator finally and when the doors closed, they found themselves alone. Fareeha watched him plant a thumb over the underground level button and crossed her arms. It was easy to figure out what he was going to do, and she found herself already connecting the dots to what the older man was going to show her. Why this detective intuition didn’t kick in when she was solving cases, she could only ponder hopelessly.

Amidst the thoughts swirling through her mind, she remained quiet.

When the elevator doors parted, things were strangely silent. It was almost as if they had suddenly been transported to another building that wasn’t the police department - such contrast could be made when switching from any of the top floors and then coming down to the final, last section of infrastructure.

Neon lighting tracing the edges of the corridor guided the two, leaving a hazy glow in it's wake which made the titanium walls turn an exotic shade of aquamarine. It was a walk that lasted a minute or so, and a thin row of LEDs overhead helped guide the way as well.

Reinhardt finally stopped at a large door at the end of the hall, the thick, black fortress guarded by an omnic who quickly saluted the two incoming personnel.

“Good morning!” the omnic greeted, hastily moving out of the way of a nodding Reinhardt so the man could step in front of the ret-scan. Fareeha also nodded at the omnic in acknowledgement, and when the beep signaling that acceptance to entry had been granted, the doors before them parted vertically, like an extra large pair of ebony jaws.

“We’ll be but a moment,” Reinhardt reassured the omnic, and as he motioned again for Fareeha to follow she huffed and folded her arms over her chest again. Although she couldn’t deny the absurd fact that she was probably pouting like a spoiled child, she couldn’t shake the thought of where he was taking her. It made her somewhat upset and she’d known their destination since she watched him press the lowest button inside the elevator on the control panel.

“Reinhardt….” she began, but was shushed by an upheld hand from the older man.

“We’re almost there.”

Paths of neon blue lit up their way as they traversed through the maze of weaponry, and when they came to a large, black titanium vault with a digiscreen Reinhardt erupted into hearty laughter. “Aha! Here she is!” he chuckled, and placed a hand over the screen while Fareeha waited back with furrowed brows. She was wondering if she regretted talking to him about her predicament, but it was too late to get him out of whatever it was he was going to mention to her once he showed her this.

The hiss of compressed, sterilized air echoed around them as the door to the container opened, and inside, graced by the shine of some small fluorescent lining was a winged, steely blue suit.

Something Fareeha was entirely too familiar with.

Reinhardt turned around and gave Fareeha the largest grin she had seen from him that entire morning. “Remember this old thing?”

Fareeha sighed, dropping her arms down to her side and marching over unenthusiastically to reach out and skim her fingers over the surface of the suit’s chest plating. “Of course I do. How could I not?”

Reinhardt nodded, his one and only good, blue eye filled with mild excitement. “I was hoping you would.”

“I....really missed this suit,” Fareeha admitted, whether it be to herself or Reinhardt she was unsure of, in a hushed, longing tone. “I missed being the hero I was with it.” The cool metal plating of the Raptora suit felt good against her fingers, and she extended the feeling to her entire left hand as she relaxed, the stifling frustration she had when coming down here drifting away like a leaf on a steady creek. “I wish I could still pilot it.”

Reinhardt was quiet for a moment as he watched the younger woman silently recall memories of the past, and it pained him to see her eyes soften in what he knew was nostalgic reminiscing. He did the same thing himself oftentimes.

“Fareeha….Things change. You know this.”

“....I know.”

“Then you must also know that this - this suit, the life you had back then - is part of the past. And the past is something that we must learn from and move on from. It’s not good to dwell on what cannot be anymore.”

“....You don’t know that.”

Reinhardt’s lips curled into an amused yet melancholic smile. Fareeha was wrong. So very wrong. “I do. I know it for a fact very well.”

“...”

“Your mother. You’ve known me since you were a wee little one, you remember - your mother and I were partners. When Ana….” He stopped short, hesitant. “When Ana disappeared, I realized I had to move on too. Even if I didn’t want to.”

Fareeha pulled her hand away slowly from the Raptora suit to witness Reinhardt glancing at the floor with downcast eyes. His grin was long gone.

“Sometimes things happen in life that you wish never had taken place,” he started again softly. “Things that can steal away happiness, family, friends….It happens to everyone. What matters is if we can pick ourselves up after the fall, and keep moving forward.”

Fareeha reached out, carefully placing a hand on the man’s shoulder. She wasn’t sure what to say. All she knew what that she had been wrong in the conclusion that Reinhardt did not know what he was talking about. The man understood loss well - perhaps just as much as she did.


 

The two of them stood side by side under the cover of the police department overhang, pointlessly staring out into the dreary, mist-ridden layout of the parking lot.

The sky had already started to darken into a deep, ominous blue, which in turn would soon surrender itself completely to the beckoning black of night. What Fareeha admired about the city was that as the sky may continue to hue deeper, the brighter the city lights would appear. They sprung up here and there, minute, glowing greeters of the late hours that displayed their enthusiasm with their flashy appearances. With the forgotten puddles of the afternoon rain having found residence on every street, the city at this time of the day was even more ethereal - the glowing of almost every color imaginable was quite literally everywhere one turned, and it made walking home somewhat entertaining, to a degree.

Brigitte turned to the woman beside her after their moment of comfortable silence. “So….Didja want to go pick up something for dinner?”

Fareeha nodded, dragging her eyes away from the speckled sky. She wasn’t completely sure why she was so concentrated on the heavens above; one could barely see the stars. “Yeah, that sounds good.”

They began walking, and the stretch of the parking lot littered by various models of police cars was their last bit of feigned peace before they entered the fray of the city streets. The night was when the city truly came alive.

“You’ve been kind of quiet today after that chat you said you wanted to have with Rein,” Brigitte noted, picking up her pace so that she could match Fareeha’s confident stride as the detective turned the corner and seamlessly meshed into the flow of ongoing people. “Did everything go alright?”

“Everything went fine,” Fareeha responded curtly, and perhaps too tersely for Brigitte’s liking, because the younger girl stayed solemn for a while.

The reply wasn’t brutish enough though to keep the girl down for long, because as soon as they began walking down a street known infamously for it's selection of restaurants and bars that lined each side, an excited sparkle reappeared in her amber eyes.

“Oooh, oooh!” she waved her arm rather enthusiastically, pointing at a noodle shop down a little ways of the current street. In her large waterproof coat while waving her arm around sporadically, Fareeha thought her partner looked quite childish, yet she found herself smiling warmly and gave her eyes a sarcastic roll. “Let’s eat here, let’s eat here!”

Fareeha followed the skipping Brigitte, pretending to be slightly annoyed with her liveliness. “Sounds good - but tell me, Brigitte - is this another one of those restaurants you look up during the time we spend looking at cases? Because I’ve seen you have a restaurant tab pulled up on your desk more than a couple of times,” she grinned wryly, watching with pleasure as Brigitte wilted in embarrassment under her gaze.

Brigitte stood at the foot of the noodle shop’s entrance, a party of red and yellow lights whirling over her skin, and rocked back and forth nervously on the heels of her boots. “Uhhhh, maybe it is…?” The unconvinced look Fareeha gave her made her break. “Ugh, I can’t help it though! I get hungry and think about what I want to have for dinner and then I go searching up stuff that I probably shouldn’t be looking at during work hours-”

A playful punch on her shoulder shut her up. “Hey, I’m just messing with you,” Fareeha smiled. “Just don’t let Rein or another boss catch you doing that, okay? They might give you a worse scolding. Maybe they’ll think you’re hiding porn.”

“Okie do- Hey!!” Brigitte whined, and her grumbles were soon interrupted by blooming laughter kicked off by Fareeha’s joke.

Following Fareeha inside the shop and out of the frigid, biting air that nipped at her ears and kissed her cheeks, she let the warmth of her new surroundings put her at ease. Good thing it wasn’t raining anymore; the windchill was already worse enough, and topping it off with some more rain would make things even colder.

Brigitte looked around the small place with a pleased smile on her face, taking notice of the number of individuals gathered. An assortment of both omnics and humans sat at the bar, located near the back of the cozy restaurant where steam filtered through the continuously opening and closing back doors. Through the doors a disheveled looking omnic waiter filed through hastily to deliver dishes, and behind the bar, delivering sake and unique, oriental versions of spiked tea to the guests was a short, stocky woman with a tight bun. She was entirely enveloped in her job of bartending, and cleaned glasses with a defined purpose, ears closed to any conversations floating around unless they were specifically addressed to her. She also looked like a lady who Brigitte figured didn’t take shit from anyone.

“Is this place good?” Fareeha asked, pulling out a chair from a small table stationed next to a larger one where a family of four sat.

“Yep, it’s fine with me.” Brigitte shrugged and smiled over at the family near them, attempting a gentle wave in particular at a girl who looked up from her noodle soup. The young girl had lifted her head to laugh at a joke someone had said, her chopsticks effortlessly contained within the fold of her small hand. Upon closer inspection, the family didn’t seem too well off: the state of the attire belonging to the children was a bit ragged, and a stylized cyber tat peekly shyly out from under the father’s sleeve. The mother was also decorated by a few designs on her skin, thus revealing the fact that they were most likely street creepers. Even so, in Brigitte’s eyes they were just another family enjoying a meal together, and the thought warmed her heart.

She sat down, stretching her arms out for a moment to remove herself from her coat when she saw Fareeha discarding her own, and afterwards sighed pleasantly. “Ah….I love places like this,” she commented, earning a raised eyebrow from the woman across from her.

“What do you mean?”

Brigitte gestured to the entirety of the restaurant. “You know, pretty friendly, comfy kind of ambience, a family here, a couple out on a date there….some sappy drunks at the front who are too busy watching the wrestling match on the holovision to cause any harm ‘cause they’re too into it….” she drawled, then sighed again. “It’s just nice. Reminds me of home.”

Ah, so that’s what it is , Fareeha thought to herself, picking up one of the menus in the center of the table and sifting through the weathered pages. Being in this kind of enclosure surrounded by people who are having a good time together is the type of environment she was raised in, my guess. Would make sense - Torb is a good man, he’s just grown increasingly busy with his work.

“And what can I help you two with today?” It was the omnic waiter. His white button-up was somewhat lopsided as a small towel resided on his left shoulder, and the deep red apron tied around his waist was emblazoned with a golden insignia of the restaurant’s dragon mascot. There were some suspicious looking flecks of a darker substance dotting the waiter’s apron, which Fareeha guessed by the power of deduction were either soy sauce or oyster sauce.

“Oh!” Brigitte gave a small, surprised laugh, startled by his sudden but not ill-intended appearance. She had barely opened the menu, ironically enough. “I’m sorry, I haven’t spent enough time deciding on what I want yet,” she winced, and the omnic gave a little chuckle.

“No worries, take all the time you need. May I start you off with some drinks?”

The two of them ordered some tea, and tucking his notepad back into the pocket at the front of his apron the waiter scurried off again to go prepare their beverages.

Fareeha leaned back against her chair, folding her hands together before her. “It is a nice place, I’ll have to admit - very welcoming.”

Right?? ” Brigitte confirmed as she crossed her arms over her chest and nodded. She looked over at the family beside the two one more time. “Everything about this place just screams friendly,” she laughed, causing Fareeha to crack another smile in the process.

Fareeha followed Brigitte’s wide eyes, which were traveling around the restaurant a mile a minute, landing here one moment and there another. She was astounded by everything, and her happiness flourished in the curated, cordial environment the restaurant offered to the guests. It was the feel from an environment that Fareeha had not experienced in quite some time.

She was used to being alone. Perhaps this was what mediated her into being this tight, awkward person who had trouble opening up. There was one exception to that: being around Brigitte made her come out of her shell, which she liked. Brigitte was never the kind who forced another to act or behave a certain way, she just naturally stirred up a friendly comradery with the older woman, and Fareeha enjoyed the relationship they shared. It was good to have a friend.

“Listen,” Fareeha began, staring at the conjoinment of her fingers extended before her on the table top. “I’m sorry if I’ve been acting a bit off today. My talk with Reinhardt went well, it’s just that….What I heard from him wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, if you catch my drift.”

Brigitte leaned forward, a confused expression exposed on her face. “Well….not exactly. If - If you wouldn’t mind sharing more I think I’d be able to understand, but if you’d rather not then that’s fine.”

“Well….” Fareeha was nervous. She didn’t want to tell Brigitte that she felt displaced with her position as a detective for the past few years. Of course it had been something that was eating at her this entire time, until she had decided to reveal to Reinhardt what had been going through her mind for so long. She was afraid she’d hurt Brigitte’s feelings, in the event that she’d stumble over this potential confession like the letdown she was and make it seem as though Brigitte was the problem. She didn’t want to reveal her feelings of inadequacy, but perhaps she should.

Hiding her feelings was one thing, but hiding them in order to protect her friend’s feelings was another. Was it right? Fareeha was mature enough to realize that keeping things to herself wasn’t healthy, especially if someone who cared about her wanted to understand the struggle she was going through. Maybe it was only a realization that dawned upon her with the information she had decided to share with Reinhardt that morning, but it was a piece of valuable wisdom anyhow, no matter how new it may be.

So she took a deep inhale, closed her eyes, and did the best she could to ease (the irregular thumping of her heart was what she translated go be as nervous palpitations; it happened sometimes) her closed, troubled heart.

“....I don’t like be-”

Heavy, violent coughing sounded from beside them, interrupting the thought Fareeha had finally gathered up enough courage to deliver.

The detective turned to the side in time to see the little girl that Brigitte had waved to earlier hacking in the most peculiar manner, and it appeared as though she had perhaps gotten a remnant of food lodged in her throat.

What caught her off guard and mandated her to discard this assumption was the blood that had found its way onto the girl’s shirt, and the liquid was now mingling with the soup before her and splattered morbidly across her tiny hands.

There shouldn’t be blood.

She rushed out of her seat, bumping the table in the process, and rushed over to the family’s side, Brigitte right behind her.

“Ava?! Honey, are you okay? Ava?!” the mother shrieked worriedly, her hand on the girl’s shoulder as the child tried to produce any kind of response she could, and ultimately failing in the process. The mother stood up from her seat brusquely alongside with the father, and the two looked around in hopes of possibly finding someone or something that could help their daughter.

“What’s happening to her??” Brigitte exclaimed, clearly panicking. Fareeha doubted she had seen this happen before, considering how relatively new she was in the field.

Strangely enough, Fareeha had never witnessed this scene either.

“I-I don’t know-” Fareeha croaked, the tone of her voice incredibly tense.

Without warning the girl fell out of her chair and onto the restaurant floor, alarming the family, as well as Brigitte and Fareeha, who were scrambling through all the police academy and field experiences in their brains to find any source of information that could help them at this precise moment.

“Can you help her?? She must have swallowed something!” the father pleaded, his eyes begging with Fareeha as he kneeled hastily onto the floor beside his spasming daughter. Fareeha quickly followed suit, carefully hauling the hacking girl up to rest her against her chest in fear of the child accidentally hurting herself upon any restaurant furniture.

A crowd had started to gather behind the family and the two police officers, creating unwanted pressure on the panicking detective who had seen nothing like this her entire life.

“I-I don’t think she’s choking on anything - there wouldn’t be any blood coming out of her mouth if she was!” Fareeha shook her head in response to the father, who nodded his head in understanding and fear. “Someone call the paramedics!” she ordered, and a young man bystanding, having long ago rushed over when the commotion started, darted off to tap the emergency code on his wrist tag and usher some form of emergency reinforcement.

Useless thoughts crashed haphazardly through Fareeha’s mind with no utter goal as she knew that she had no correct, singular idea that would possibly help prolong or save this young girl’s life.

Seconds that seemed like hours passed, and Fareeha had done enough studying of the girl to see that her breathing was becoming more sporadic, her eyelids were fluttering, and strange black lines as thin as the film of a spider’s web had begun etching their way across her temples. It was utterly horrific watching the child thrash and toss herself around, and Fareeha’s strong arms almost felt like letting go of the girl every second that passed, but she told herself that holding on would help. That careful, physical contact could maybe help this young individual she protected in her arms to feel like she had support, hope. That help was coming.

She was lying to herself, and she knew it.

“Ava!” the mother voiced again, her voice wrecked by heavy sobs.

Fareeha could swear her ears were playing tricks on her when she heard the iconic sound of a wailing paramedic alarm echo in the distance, because by now things didn’t seem real anymore. Her arms were covered in blood that was not her own, and the murmurs and shouts of the crowd that had gathered behind her, Brigitte, and the young girl’s family were deafening.

The girl opened her eyes one last time to meet Fareeha’s. They were a startling blue that seemed to pierce into her very soul, and then she heaved her final breath.

She was gone.

Fareeha backed away, loosening her arms as the girl’s own fell limp against her, and allowed her mother to pull the child into what would most likely be the last embrace she would ever give to her daughter.

Brigitte’s hand on her shoulder and concerned voice in her ear didn’t register. Fareeha simply raised up her hand, glimpsing the deep crimson that had stained her prosthetic. It haunted her, frightened her out of her mind that she had not been able to save that child. How on such a normal day she had found herself holding a dying girl in her arms.

This - this - was a fall.

And she would pick herself back up.