Moonlight shone through the broken window, throwing patterns across the floor, the walls, and the room’s single, unmoving occupant. She sat with her back against a crate, gazing out into the night with all of the serenity of a stone. Occasionally a gust of wind would whistle through and shift a bit of fabric or a lock of hair. Her silent vigil was broken, however, by footsteps thudding up the stairs. She tensed, her hand slipping to her rifle as the door creaked open…
Ana relaxed, smiling up at her companion. “Good evening, Jack. I was starting to get worried.”
Jack just shrugged, tossing aside his hat and setting a bag at her feet. “Stores were nuts. It’s almost Christmas. You know how it is.”
“I really don’t, thank you,” she teased. She pulled the bag closer and grinned at the contents. “Ah, you’re spoiling this old lady. Takeout and a cake? You shouldn’t have.”
“It was a two-for-one deal. Turns out those happen if you say you’re taking it back to your mom,” Jack said. He chuckled and sidestepped out of her reach when she tried to slap him. “Nah, I’m kidding. I wouldn’t do that to you.”
“Not if you know what’s good for you,” Ana said with a huff, but she grinned at him anyway as she cracked open her curry.
“See anything interesting?” he asked. He grunted as he settled on the ground.
She shook her head. “Nothing. I think you spotted the only event of the day.”
They’d been in Ireland watching the seemingly abandoned warehouse from the old factory across and down the road for nearly two weeks. Based on the information they’d gathered on their other hits so far, Ana was certain it was a Talon holding facility. It was medical records they wanted – the more hints about Gabriel’s condition the better – but so far there had been no good time to push in. Just that morning, however, a single transport had flown out, no escorts in sight. On Jack’s suggestion, they laid in wait until either its return or the next night. Whichever came first.
“Maybe they’re waiting for nightfall as well,” Ana said around a mouthful of food. “Military-style transports aren’t all that common in this region.” Jack hummed, but said nothing.
The silence between them was comfortable. Nothing had really changed, after all. It was still them against the world, though it seemed Gabriel’s ghost haunted their every step. Sometimes Ana would pick up an extra orange when she went to the store, only to put it back when she realized her friend wasn’t there to eat it. Other times Jack would make a joke and look over his left shoulder to seek the approval of the man who wasn’t there to offer it. He had never told her what really happened that day in Switzerland, and she’d never asked, but occasionally when she had the night watch she could hear his nightmares. She knew he could hear hers as well.
“I’ve lost track of Fareeha,” she said suddenly.
Jack choked. “What?”
“You know I’ve been keeping an eye on her ever since I started as Shrike.” She waited for his nod before continuing. “I noticed a decrease in her military activity about six months ago. At first, I thought it was just partial leave or an injury, but a few days before we left Austria, her file closed.”
“…She left the security forces?” Jack asked, frowning.
“So it seems,” Ana said, “but it doesn’t make any sense! She had just finished a successful chain of missions. Something happened to cause her to leave, but I don’t know what. It isn’t like her at all.”
Her old friend, as always, read her like a book. “She’s not dead, Ana,” he said. “She’s got far too much of your stubbornness in her to die.”
“You said Sam and I were suited due to our stubbornness, and where are we now, hmm? I’m legally dead, heaven only knows where my husband is, and now my daughter is gone.” she said harshly. She sighed at his wince. “I’m sorry. I just-”
“Worry, I know.” He reached over and squeezed her shoulder. “But you just have to trust her. She’s a clever girl. If she gets herself into trouble, she sure as shit can get herself back out of it.” Suddenly he tensed, cocking his head to one side as he listened. “Get down!”
The two threw themselves flat on the floor as a transport rattled right past their hideout. Ana craned her neck up once it was a safe distance away, watching its descent to the warehouse. “Well, it looks like we’ll have to save the cake for later. Pity.”
“At least it’s not an ice cream cake.”
The transport set down on their side of the warehouse; visible to them from their high vantage point, but unnoticeable to any civilians hanging around where they shouldn’t be. After a moment, a small squad of Talon operatives climbed out, but that wasn’t what caught Ana’s eye. Instead, she focused on the people with cuffs on their wrists and sacks over their heads. Two were led in on foot, while a third was slung over a Talon op’s shoulder. In the darkness, she couldn’t make out any distinguishing features, but those didn’t matter at the moment. She turned to Jack as the group disappeared inside.
They needed a plan.
Angela grimaced as she was shoved into the cell after Lena, her eyes struggling to readjust to the light. The Brit wiggled out of the way just in time to catch the still worryingly unconscious Fareeha as she was unceremoniously dropped in the cell.
“Oi! Rude!” Lena snapped, catching the woman and setting her down as gently as possible, but the guard just sneered at her, slammed the cell door, and strolled out without a glance behind him.
Talon activity has spiked suddenly in London which prompted Winston to send a small team to investigate. By the time they figured out it was an ambush it was too late. By some stroke of luck, everyone had managed to make it out except for the three of them, but now they were in Talon hands in a holding cell heaven only knows how far away from anyone who could come to their rescue. It was not an ideal situation.
The doctor dropped to her knees next to Fareeha, checking her over for signs of serious injury apart from her half-gone prosthetic legs. “Lena,” she said, “help me turn her over, please.” They’d barely moved her when Angela spotted the bloody mat on the side of the woman’s head. “Dammit!” she hissed, settling Fareeha’s head in her lap and carefully examining the area.
“D’ya need a scrap, luv? I think my jacket’s a loss anyway,” Lena said.
“If you wouldn’t mind.”
Lena lifted off her chronal accelerator – mercifully left by their captors – and removed the remnants of her bomber jacket. Without much ceremony, she ripped the lining out and handed it over. “More where that came from.”
Angela wrapped the cloth around Fareeha’s head tricky as the spot was. With a few more contributions from Lena’s jacket, she made a half-decent job of it. After a last glance-over she sat back, satisfied. “There. We’ll have to see how she is when she wakes.”
As if on cue, Fareeha groaned into Angela’s legs.
“Hey, take it easy,” Lena soothed, flopping down to be eye-level with her. “You took a few hits.”
“A few hits my ass.”
Angela snorted. “She’s fine.”
“Fucking know it. In more ways than one.” Fareeha turned herself over slowly at first, testing the waters, before sitting up and leaning against the Swiss woman. “Hi.”
“Hi yourself. How are you feeling?” Angela asked, tucking a lock of silky black hair behind her wife’s ear.
“Like I got run over by a tank,” she answered.
Lena giggled weakly. “Not…too far from what actually happened, honestly.”
Angela ran through the usual concussion check questions. Pleased with Fareeha’s answers, she settled back against the wall and held her close, watching Lena pace back and forth across the tiny cell with the pent-up energy of a panther.
“Sit down, al’abalah,” Fareeha finally grumbled. “Being restless and annoying isn’t going to make Overwatch come any faster.”
“But they are coming!” Lena said confidently. She hesitated, her smile faltering. “…right?”
As much as Angela hated to break the Brit’s spirit, she had to be realistic. “We just suffered a crushing defeat,” she said. “This will set us back weeks at best. On top of that, we’re in one of Talon’s bases, but have no way of knowing which. It might not even be one we know about. In this case…I think we’re going to have to find a way out on our own.”
The moment the words left her mouth, the door exploded.
Jack stood with his back pressed against the wall, one arm covering Ana and the other holding his gun at the ready. It had been shockingly easy to slip into the building. Though, he supposed, that may have been due more to the chaotic state of the base, let alone its level of disrepair. It was clear that very little effort had gone into renovating it, likely in case the military rolled in.
“Do you have visual on the door?” Ana asked. She had her Shrike mask firmly in place, vocal regulator he’d given her activated just in case. Not even a small wisp of her white hair could be seen peeking out of her hood.
“It’s got a thumbpad lock, but no obvious alarm systems and definitely no cameras. I don’t think the lock even works,” he said. “Wanna give it a go?”
“Is that a rhetorical question?” She slipped over to the door and prodded at the pad for a moment before making a clucking noise. “It’s fake. It takes a key.”
“In that case, let’s just make a grand entrance,” he said. He tossed her a small sticky bomb, which she placed and activated before darting back behind cover. Once the sound faded, Jack turned on his visor and scanned for company before thumbing back over his shoulder. “Let’s go.”
As one they walked through the doorway, her in the lead and him watching her back. Ana was a healer at heart, and she already had a biotic injection in hand. “Good evening,” she said, “this is a…” her stiffening was imperceptible to anyone but him. “Rabiy,” she cursed softly. Jack turned, his own breath catching as he registered what had so shocked his companion.
Standing at guard was none other than Lena Oxton, just as bold – both attitude and color-wise – as the last time he’d laid eyes on her. Crouched on the floor behind her was Angela Ziegler in full Valkyrie armor, her arms wrapped protectively around someone who, based on the beads in her hair and the tattoo under her eye, could only be Fareeha. The girl (no, not a girl anymore) was missing the lower half of her legs, though judging from the wires sticking out of the stumps it had happened before. He blinked to clear his suddenly blurry vision.
“I promise that we’re here to help,” he said. “Name’s Frank, and this is Shrike. We’ve got a way out and contacts that can get you back wherever you need to be.”
Ana seemed to snap back to herself, breaking open the cell door without too much trouble and offering Angela the biotics. “Here, try this for her head.”
Angela frowned. “Where did you get this?”
“I found it.” Jack snorted at the blatant lie, scanning the room for anything useful.
“They tossed our weapons in that locker over there,” Lena piped up. “Mind lending me one of them poppers?”
“Go for it, kid.” He tossed her one, absentmindedly adding, “Remember, hinges singes.”
Lena froze. “…What did you say?”
“Nothing.” Giving him an odd look, the Brit trotted over to fetch her supplies.
Back in her rookie days, she’d gone with Jack and Mirembe on a short mission to investigate an illegal omnic weapons trade. She’d blown the door too close to the hinges, resulting in all of the little parts flying at them at high velocity. For the rest of the mission and any time the three of them were near each other, the two older agents would remind Lena of that little rhyme.
Jack’s stomach squeezed. It had been so long ago.
He refocused his attentions on the computer terminal. After a quick once-over, he slapped an external drive to the surface and activated it, pulling as much data as he the drive could hold. It didn’t take long for the chime to sound, and he tucked it back in his pocket just as Lena returned with her arms full of weapons.
“Angie, luv, I think your staff’s seen better days,” she said apologetically. Sure enough, the beautifully crafted caduceus staff was cracked and bent nearly in two. The doctor let out a small noise of dismay at the sight of it.
“I have more healing darts should we need them,” Ana said. She exited the cell and grabbed Jack’s arm, tapping a question to him in their silent code.
Later, he tapped back, promise.
She pulled him back towards her daughter and shrugged off her coat. “We can tie up a sling on his back for your friend,” she said. “It might not be too comfortable, but it’ll get you out of here.”
“That’s all I need,” Fareeha said. She watched, eyes sharp, as Ana rigged the sling, tying the tails of her coat around Jack’s waist and one sleeve around his harness.
“Crouch,” Ana ordered, and he obeyed, allowing Fareeha to situate herself into the sling – with a little aid from Angela – before tying the loose sleeve in place himself. The young soldier hissed in discomfort as she wrapped her arms around his neck. Rather than saying anything, he simply patted her forearm in sympathy.
“From what we can tell, everyone in the base is hanging around the command center,” he said, falling easily back into the pattern of the mission briefing. “Something tells me you folks had something to do with that.”
“Us? Never.” Lena looked innocent enough to prove him right.
“There’s a maintenance corridor out this door and to the left,” he continued. “We have a vehicle waiting in the next alley over, so don’t worry about that part. Souped the thing up myself.”
Ana made a motion with her head that meant she was rolling her eyes. “We can get you three anywhere you need to go,” she said reassuringly, “no questions asked.”
Lena and Angela exchanged a look before the doctor nodded. “Very well. Car first, instructions after, if you don’t mind.”
Their marching order formed itself. Angela found herself following close behind Frank and Fareeha, with Lena behind her and Shrike bringing up the rear, rifle at the ready. It wasn’t until she saw their new companions’ shoulders relax a fraction that she judged it safe to speak again.
“Frank?” The man grunted. “Interesting name, but fake. Why did you choose it?”
He actually chuckled. “It’s my middle name,” he said, “kinda. Shrike hates it. She thinks I should use something else.”
“You could at least try to sound dignified,” Shrike said, the tone of her voice through the mask proving it to be a well-worn argument. “’Frank’ makes you sound like you work in a garage.”
Fareeha glanced back at Angela, and she could almost hear the cogs turning in her brain. It was the same look she got every time she saw someone with that spark, Ang, they could be a great asset-
She suppressed a sigh and nodded. Go for it.
“You’ll be rewarded for helping us, I’ll see to it,” she said. “Just name what you wish and we will do our best to get it for you.”
Much to Angela’s surprise, Shrike scoffed. “Reward? Unnecessary. We just help when and where we can.”
“Dunno,” Frank said thoughtfully, “some cake would be nice.”
“We have cake in the car!”
“You have cake?” Lena whispered reverently. Angela tried not to laugh as her wife let her head drop back in exasperation. “I bloody love cake.”
“Looks like we’ll get along fine, then,” Frank said, but there was something in his voice that made the statement sound bittersweet. Before she could comment further, Fareeha spoke up again, not one to be deterred.
“We’ll reward you either way,” she said. “However, I would actually like to invite you to join us. The three of us are with a lovely little organization called Overwatch.”
Frank and Shrike flinched.
“Overwatch is gone,” Frank said firmly, “it was ripped apart years ago. Any activity of the sort is illegal.”
Fareeha raised an eyebrow. “And what you are doing isn’t?”
“The world still needs us,” Lena said, “whether they like it or not. When lives are at risk, the law doesn’t matter anymore. Saving people is the best and only route to take.”
“Our numbers have grown,” Fareeha continued. “Our soldiers are more diverse and highly qualified for whatever may be thrown at them. Many from the old guard who are able are back as well, and together we aim to make the recalled Overwatch strong and capable to fulfill what it was meant to do from the very beginning. We could use people with your expertise. What do you say?”
Shrike’s posture shifted into something almost like pride for the briefest of seconds before the sound of distant shouting drew everyone’s attention.
Frank cursed. “I think your absence has been noticed.”
“How much further till we reach the outside?” Lena asked.
“Only a few meters,” he said, “it’s just around the bend here.”
An explosion shook the corridor.
They sprinted out into the cool night air, following Frank as he made a beeline for the alleyway. Angela stuck close behind, clutching Fareeha’s rocket launcher as she scanned their surroundings for enemies. A glance back found Lena and Shrike doing the same.
“Down here, go-go-go-” Frank directed them towards a grey car tucked away behind a beaten-up dumpster. Angela almost ripped the back door open before running back and getting to work on removing her wife from the makeshift sling. Shrike joined her, and together the two tossed Fareeha into the car.
“We’ve got company!” Lena yelled, diving for cover as the first volley of bullets flew past.
“Mahbub, give me the launcher, it’s no good here,” Fareeha said. “Use your pistol.”
“Get in the car,” Frank yelled at her before she could make the switch.
Angela frowned. “But I can-”
“Get in the goddamn car, Ziegler! That’s an order!” he snapped.
Her mind raced as she instinctively dove into the vehicle, climbing over Fareeha to get a better view. It can’t be, he’s dead, it’s just my mind playing tricks, it can’t possibly be him-
Lena slid into the passenger seat, looking ruffled but otherwise unharmed. “There aren’t a ton, we should be fine getting away.”
“They’re in!” Frank (“It’s my middle name, kinda-”) backed towards the car. “Let’s go!” He laid down covering fire as Shrike ran towards the car, but she turned around again and shot at something Angela couldn’t see.
“Taking out the snipers, get that car started!” she said, and Frank didn’t argue. Angela watched nervously as the woman slowly moved backwards towards them, firing shot after shot at the top of the buildings. She was nearly there, just feet away from the door, when there was a sharp crack and she dropped to the ground, hands covering her mask.
“No!” Frank screamed, but before anyone could do more than jerk in her direction, she pushed herself into a crouch and ripped off the shattered mask, letting it fall and break completely.
“That was my favorite mask!” Ana Amari yelled, firing three successive shots at the roof. “Do you have no sense of decency?”
“Mom?” Fareeha whispered. She shook herself, then threw the car door open. “Mom! Get in!”
Ana turned and ran, ducking in and shutting the door just as Frank – no, Jack, it had to be Jack – slammed the accelerator and took off into the night.
Ana could feel the shock rolling off the three women in waves. With a sigh, she sat back and undid some of the fastenings on her vest. “You have questions,” she said. “Go ahead and ask them.”
“Where the bloody hell have you two been?” Lena sputtered. “We thought you – both of you – were dead! There are graves with your names on them!”
“There would be eventually anyway,” Jack said blandly. Angela reached forward and punched him hard in the shoulder. “Ow! The fuck, Angela?”
“Get that stupid visor off your face or so help me God I will end you where you sit,” she said.
He did as he was bid, meeting Ana’s eyes in the rearview mirror. Okay?
She nodded. You first.
“I don’t know who blew up the base in Switzerland,” he said, “but it wasn’t me or Gabriel, so stop shitting on him for it. After it happened, I hid away until most of the storm had blown over before…reinventing myself. Started calling myself Soldier 76.”
“Soldier – mein Gott, of course!” Angela said, slapping her forehead. “Your designated number. I should’ve known.”
“Is that why you said your name was Frank?” Lena asked. “You thought we’d recognize you?”
“Yeah, Angela especially. Happens when someone once had constant access to your medical records.” He smirked a little. “I didn’t lie about it being my middle name. It’s Francis.”
“It should have been ‘asshole’,” Fareeha said, though her eyes never left Ana. The young woman paused, looking suddenly vulnerable. “…Mom, why didn’t you come back from that mission?” The unspoken why did you leave me hung in the air between them.
Ana paused, carefully evaluating her answer. She could feel deep it deep in her bones; this moment would make or break her relationship with her daughter. “Because I didn’t think I deserved to come back,” she said finally. “I not only failed to protect my team – to protect my family – I learned that I had failed many others before.” She swallowed, trying to focus on Fareeha’s face instead of the memories surging through her mind. “I had an eye on the enemy sniper, Widowmaker. She was still very new then, a mystery to all of us. I shot away her visor and it was…someone I had known, once.”
As always, Jack picked up on her struggle and took over the story. “She hesitated and got shot in the eye. We compared timelines when we met back up a year or so back, and figured out that by the time she woke up in the hospital, she’d already been ‘dead and buried’ for three months.”
“I was ashamed, so I decided it was better to stay dead,” Ana said, “until I realized one day that there was still so much more to protect. So…I became Shrike.”
Fareeha frowned, clearly trying to remember something. “I…I’d met you before!”
She nodded. “I never left you completely, my dear. In your time of need I was always by your side.” Slowly, to give her a chance to pull back, Ana reached out and settled a hand on her daughter’s cheek. “You got a tattoo,” she said, running her thumb over it. Fareeha smiled, leaning into her touch, and the tension between them melted.
“The day after your funeral,” she said. “Angela took me.”
“Very interesting first date,” the doctor joked.
“Date?” Ana asked, her interest piqued. A glance down at Angela’s hand offered up a hint. “Engaged?”
Angela grinned. “Married.”
“Three months ago, right before I pulled out of Helix to join Overwatch full-time,” Fareeha said, pulling off her left glove to reveal a matching wedding band.
“Why did you leave Helix?” Ana jumped on the lead. “Your records just disappeared. Nothing there.”
Her daughter raised an eyebrow. “I’m going to ignore the implication that you were hacking Helix’s database,” she said. “The recall went out…a year ago now? So I left. It helped that I’d just had to get my legs replaced again – I was inconvenient to keep.”
“This was the fourth pair,” Angela said, mild irritation creeping into her voice. “They are legs, not a battering ram.”
“Sometimes they have to do!” Fareeha argued.
Jack snorted. “She sounds like you,” he said, grinning at Ana through the mirror. He pitched his voice higher and put on a surprisingly good accent. “‘I can look into the sun, it’s fine, the eye’s not real!’”
“I thought we agreed not to bring that up again.”
“I’m dead. All contracts are void.”
“John Francis Morrison, I will turn this car around-”
“But I’m driving.”
“Don’t test me!”
Lena giggled. “Just like old times!”
“Jack,” Angela said, tapping his shoulder to regain his attention, “we’re based at Watchpoint Gibraltar. I’ll call the others from our team to let them know we’re coming, if you have a comm I can use.”
“Here, I’ve still got my old one,” Ana said, tossing the piece over. “It should still work, but it won’t show that it’s mine.”
“That will do just fine,” she said with a smile, “thank you.” Still barely able to take her eyes off of her friends – her safe, living friends – she entered her personal access codes and waited for the connection. It came almost immediately.
“Angela!” Genji’s voice broke through. “Are you alright? Are the others with you?”
“I’m just fine, thank you,” she said, “and so is Lena. Fareeha’s missing legs again, but other than that she’s okay.”
“Tell her it was my turn to lose a body part!” he said, relief palpable. “Also, Hanzo owes me like twenty euro. I knew you’d get out before midnight.”
“I do not!” another voice said. “You made that bet with no input from me!”
“I can hear you, Genji,” Fareeha said, rolling her eyes. “Did everyone else get back alright?”
“Other than Jesse’s hat, yes,” he said. “Rest in peace, it will not be missed.”
“I miss it already!” Jesse yelled into the comm, clearly faking tears.
“Good to know. Too bad Hanzo’s already probably bought him another.”
“He wouldn’t – brother?” Silence. “Holy fuck, he did.”
“Anyway,” Angela broke in, trying to retake control as her wife and Lena dissolved into laughter, “we got out with the help of some friends and are on our way back to Gibraltar.”
“Where are you?” Genji asked.
“We’re…” she paused.
“County Kerry, Ireland,” Ana whispered.
“We’re in southwestern Ireland and are coming by car, so we’ll see you in…two or three days,” she said.
“Actually,” he said, “we’re still in England. Winston set the rendezvous in Swansea to try and throw Talon off, so just meet us there. I’ll call him to update the situation, don’t worry about it. I’m pretty sure he’s sending a boat.”
“That sounds excellent, thank you,” Angela said. “Tell Hanzo to drive carefully.”
“Of course,” the other man said. “See you soon.” The line cut off.
“Thank fucking Christ,” Jack grumbled. “I was not looking forward to driving to fucking Gibraltar.”
“I could drive-”
“Liebe, you have no legs-”
“Either way, now Jack an Ana ’ave got…” Lena poked at the car’s GPS, “about nine hours to figure out how to tell Jesse and Genji you aren’t dead.”
Ana blinked, then dropped her face onto her daughter’s shoulder. “Rabiy.”
Jack was pretty damn proud of himself. It was a whole twenty minutes before Lena grumbled about his driving and demanded they switch places.
“I swear, Americans just drive their cars like bleedin’ tanks,” the Brit snapped, readjusting the seat to her tiny frame as Jack folded his own massive one into the passenger seat. “No finesse at all.”
“To be fair,” Jack said, “with what I’ve done to this car it probably could be considered a tank.”
“Hush, you. I don’t take advice from dead men.”
Her sharp tone hung in the empty air between them. The only other sounds in the car were Angela’s soft snores, snatches of whispered Arabic, and the fiddle music playing over the car’s radio. Lena’s shoulders were tense, and she kept her eyes firmly forward. If someone was going to cross that new bridge, it had to be Jack.
“Tracer – Lena,” he said. “I’m sorry. I really am. I’m sorry for the problems that were happening in Overwatch under my leadership, I’m sorry for not listening to Gabe about Talon, and I’m sorry that everything went up in flames because I was too damn stubborn to see what was going on right under my nose. None of you deserved to have everything ripped away from you like that.”
It took several thundering heartbeats for Lena to look back at him. “You think I’m pissed about that?”
“Look mate, we all knew Overwatch was falling apart. It was only a matter o’ time, y’know?” Lena sighed, her shoulders slumping. “I joined up because…I dunno. Guess I thought I could help. Get some fresh blood in there, mix things up a bit – didn’t work, obviously, but eh.” She shrugged. “There was no way it could’ve survived. Like beatin’ a dead omnic, really.”
“That doesn’t tell me what you’re mad about,” Jack said, resisting the urge to rub the bridge of his nose. All that would do was make his scars ache.
“You left,” she said simply. “You left us, didn’t leave us any clue you were still kickin’, and let us think you were dead for years. I think Ana’s reason’s pretty fair, and if anybody gets to pick a bone with her it’s ‘Reeha, maybe Reinhardt and Sam. But you said you laid low till it all blew over. Y’know who it blew over on?”
Dammit. “All of you guys,” he muttered, dropping his face into his hands. “God, I was so damn stupid, of course it would come down on you kids.”
“Angela got the least of it of the old crew since she’d already resigned when…y’know. Reinhardt and Torby, too. The rest of us weren’t so lucky. Until Winston put out the recall, he was the only other Overwatch fella I’d seen since the funerals. How could we stay connected when our entire command was dead? More than command,” she corrected. She turned and looked him dead in the eyes. “Family. You were our family.”
Jack was speechless. Distantly, he was aware that the other conversation in the car had stopped, as well as the snores, but either Lena didn’t notice or didn’t care.
“I had a shit family,” Lena continued, her voice getting ragged as she seemed to let loose a rant she’d been holding onto for ages. “I didn’t want to join the army at all, see, but they kicked me out the first time I brought a girl home. Sixteen, all alone in the middle of London with nowhere to go. Wasn’t like they were stars before that, mind. I wanted to go to uni and run track or, study aerodynamics or sommat.” She blew a lock of hair out of her face. “So I joined the army.”
“I joined the damn army, and then I got transferred to the RAF, and before I know it, they’re tellin’ me I’m the best they got and Overwatch called and wants me to test out their fancy-pants new jet. So on my girlfriend’s birthday I kiss her goodbye and get in the goddamn Slipstream-”
“Shut up and let me talk!” she shouts, her voice ringing with authority that hadn’t been there when he’d left. “Because y’know what? In the end it turned out fine. All of a sudden, I had these people who liked me and cared about me and thought I was cool and encouraged me to bring Emily to base. It felt good. I knew you guys were the family I’d always wanted but didn’t think I deserved. You all were my parents, my siblings, my uncles and aunts…” She swallowed, and as they passed under a streetlight Jack could see the tears glittering in her eyes. “Two months later Ana was dead, and then Lacroix, and then it was all over. It was just me ‘n Emily again, and sometimes Winston. We didn’t have a family anymore.”
Jack let out a rough breath. “Pull over, kid.” The moment she did, he grabbed her by the shoulders and clutched her tight against his chest. She stiffened for in surprise for just a fraction of a second before going completely boneless in his arms.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” he whispered into her hair. “I thought me being gone would save you, cutting the head off the snake, but clearly I was wrong. Please know that if I’d known that, I never, ever, would have done what I did. I promise that from now on I will always come back for you if I can. Let tonight be the first time. I’m sorry, kiddo. I’m so, so sorry.”
He sagged in relief as Lena’s hands, so small and thin, fisted in his jacket as she sniffed a “you’d better, you old goat, or I’ll kill you myself” into the dampening fabric of his t-shirt.
Lena collected herself fairly quickly and continued their impromptu road trip. The rant had been extremely therapeutic, and before long, the broken bridges had been braced and the car’s occupants were bantering and exchanging stories like none of them had ever been gone. It wasn’t until hour four of the drive (as well as several bathroom breaks and a reluctant switch back to Jack’s control) during Fareeha’s retelling of their first post-recall mission that they hit a snag.
“Hanzo – he was on the comm earlier, yes?” Ana commented. “He’s a new face.”
The three younger women exchanged a look.
“Kind of…?” Fareeha said carefully. “You probably heard about him before, just not as kindly. His last name is Shimada. He’s Genji’s older brother.”
Jack swiveled around in shock. “You let him into Overwatch after what he did to Genji?” he said. “Angela, you saw what the kid looked like when Gabe brought him in! He was barely more than a meat pile!”
“First of all,” Angela said, her voice stern, “we’ve determined that Hanzo acted as he did under duress, not that you need to know the details of the attack. Second, Genji is an adult, and if you were at all listening to the call you could tell he was perfectly comfortable in Hanzo’s presence. Third, Genji brought Hanzo along in the first place. You cannot get more trustworthy than that. You will leave him be, do you two understand?”
“Of course,” Ana said, Jack nodding along. “We will accept whatever they do or do not tell us.”
“You’d better,” Lena said, “’cause Hanzo and Jesse are dating.”
“Now that is a story I am interested in,” Ana said, settling back in her seat. “But first, what happened to everyone after Overwatch ended?”
“I’d like to know that, too,” Jack chimed in. “Since we’re heading back there and all.”
“Fair, fair,” Lena said. “Well, you’ve caught up on the lovebirds there. I’ve mostly been chilling in London with Emily.”
“They’re getting married next month!” Fareeha added gleefully. “It’s about time. What, ten years?”
“Eleven,” she corrected. “Em was me first!”
“Congratulations!” Ana said delightedly.
“Genji fucked off to Nepal and received spiritual guidance at an omnic monastery,” Fareeha said, counting off on her fingers, “and he brought one of the monks back with him – Tekhartha Zenyatta. They’re married, actually! Reinhardt was living with Torbjörn for a while in Sweden, but then he took on one of Torb’s daughters as a squire and started traveling. All three of them joined up.”
“It’s Brigitte, isn’t it?” Jack asked. “She always had Reinhardt wrapped around her little finger.”
“You guessed it. No one really knows what Jesse was doing,” she continued, “but he’s got a sixty million-odd bounty on his head, so take what you will from that. One of the Antarctica climatologists, Dr. Mei-Ling Zhou, turned up two months in. All the rest from that station are dead. There were a few that went unanswered or were turned down. Mirembe and…somebody else are finishing out contract work before they come. I can’t remember right now. There are a lot more new people as well.”
“You mentioned that during your sales pitch, habibti,” Ana teased.
“It is not a sales pitch!” Fareeha protested as her wife dissolved into near-hysterical laughter beside her.
“That’s exactly what it is, luv,” Lena said, the words ringing with the sound of a long-worn argument. “I have yet to meet somebody who doesn’t call it that.” She let out a jaw-popping yawn. “’Xcuse me!”
Jack looked at the dashboard clock and sighed. “We’ve still got a few hours’ drive ahead of us and you kids’ve had a long day. Take a snooze while you still can. Ana ‘n I’ll take care of you.”
“We’re not kids anymore, Jack,” Angela said, “and we can last until-” She cut herself off with a yawn of her own. “Dammit, Lena! Those are contagious!”
“Sleep, hibibti,” Ana said, and she hesitated for half a second before combing a gentle hand through first Fareeha’s hair, then Angela’s. “Jack and I will still be here when you wake up.”
Lena bit her lip. “…Promise?”
Feeling his heart thud painfully in his chest, Jack reached over and ruffled the pilot’s spiky hair, a familiar gesture from happier times. “Cross my heart and hope to – shit.”
She let out her trademark giggle and scrunched down in her seat. “I gotcha, Pops.” Without further ado, she was out like a light.
“Gott, how does she even do that?” Angela said, a note of longing in her voice.
“Witchcraft, probably,” Ana said. “Enough chatter. Sleep.”
“You are not trying if you are still talking. I know this trick. I raised Fareeha.”
“I have tranquilizers right here-”
Ana made it five minutes without saying anything.
“What are we going to say to the boys?”
“Yeah, we should probably go over that,” Jack said, turning down the radio. “Jesse especially is gonna be pissed.”
“He may surprise you,” Ana said. She stroked her daughter’s hair. “Children have a way of doing that.”
He dragged in a slow breath, then let it out in a harsh sigh. “Fareeha and Jesse were always very different. Just because your daughter reacted well to you doesn’t mean my son will react well to me. I don’t even wanna think about telling him that Gabe’s-”
“That conversation can happen later,” she interrupted. “Focus on the one at the end of the road for now. Take it one step at a time.”
“You always were the more level-headed one,” he said, grinning ruefully at her through the rear-view mirror.
“And don’t you forget it.”
They were silent for a moment.
“What about Genji?” Jack asked. “He sounded…happier, but it could’ve just been relief. His temper was always horrible.”
“Didn’t Fareeha say he married an omnic monk and forgave his brother? That does not at all sound like the angry young man we left behind.” Ana said.
“It doesn’t,” he agreed, “but the angry young man still may be there somewhere. Tempers don’t just evaporate.” He paused. “He…was in a lot of pain at first. Physically, emotionally, psychologically…”
“I do not believe that he feels those things as heavily any longer,” she said. “Time heals all wounds, though some may take more time that others. Perhaps our lost boy has finally been found.”
“You’re unusually optimistic today,” Jack said. “It’s nice.”
Ana just shrugged. “The universe has seen fit to reward me with the children I thought I had lost,” she said simply. “I will not take this gift for granted.”
Try as he might, Jack couldn’t help but let slip one final insecurity. “Do you think we’re doing the right thing?”
Neither said anything, stewing in their own thoughts. Do we go back to the people we failed? Should we give up what we’ve worked for? Do we truly deserve the hand fate has dealt us, or is claiming it a fool’s bargain? The answer came, not from either of them, but from the irritated grumbles of their Swiss doctor.
“You are fine,” Angela groaned, shifting around to cuddle closer to her wife. “Stop being dramatic and let. Me. Sleep.”
And that was that.
The rest of the drive was entirely too short. Angela, long having taken over the driver’s seat, pulled into the loading lot of the small port. She climbed out and scanned the waterfront, looking for any familiar faces. “They should have beaten us here,” she said, “I just don’t quite know where-”
She spun around, grinning as Jesse McCree strolled over towards the car, Genji and Hanzo in tow. “Jesse! Your directions weren’t the most helpful, I’ll have you know.”
“Gee, sorry Doc,” he said, wrapping her in a hug the moment he got close enough. “I’ll make ‘em worse next time.” She snorted and gave him a light whack up the back of the head. “Lay off, I’m just pullin’ your wing!”
“How did you get out?” Hanzo asked. “Your escape was remarkably quick.”
“We had a bit of help.” She bit her lip. “They’re…still here actually. In the car.”
“Great!” Jesse said, but Genji picked up on her hesitance.
“Angela?” he said, mild concern in his voice. “Is everything alright?”
The back door opened and Lena popped out, immediately darting to Jesse for a hug. “Hiya, luvs! Glad to see you all in one piece!”
“Easy there, firecracker,” he chuckled as the Brit let go and tackled a reluctant Hanzo. “We’ve had a rough night, too.”
“You’re all big boys, you can handle it.” Lena’s eyes flicked over to Angela, and she got the feeling the words were more about their rescuers.
Jesse whistled long and low, finally taking a moment to examine their ride. “Real pretty piece o’ work y’all got here! She looks like she’s had a few additions. Who hooked you folks up with this?”
“That would be me.”
The cowboy froze as Jack eased himself up and out of the car.
“Hello, Jesse,” he said. “I…don’t know what to say.”
“A ‘hello Genji’ would be a good start,” Genji said, never one for awkward conversations.
“Of course. Hey Gen-” Jack’s eyebrows shot up. “New armor!” he said, taking in the green and silver covering Genji’s frame. “I like it.”
“Thank you. My husband thinks it is very sexy.”
Lena made a face. “Eww! TMI, mate.”
“I can’t let you have all the fun,” Ana said, climbing out of the car to stand beside the old soldier. “Good morning, boys.”
“Good morning, Ana,” Genji said. “This was not how I was expecting today to go.”
“Me either, if it helps,” Lena said. She looked nervously between Jesse and the newly-not-dead pair on the other side of the car. “…Jesse, luv, you gonna say something?”
His mouth thinned out and he shifted to stand at attention. “Commander. Captain.”
Ouch, Angela thought, wincing as the pair flinched, that hurt.
“Jesse, we are so sorry, please-” Jack tried.
Jesse took a deep breath, then slowly, slowly, rounded the car. “I thought you were dead.”
“We know, Jesse,” Ana said, but he didn’t seem to notice.
“I mourned you, every fucking day. Prayed to anythin’ that was listenin’ that you’d come back.” He paused, angrily wiping tears off his cheeks. “And now y’all’re just standin’ here like it’s nothin’?”
“Jesse-” Jack started, but he was cut off by the cowboy practically throwing himself into his arms.
“I am so fuckin’ mad at you right now,” he sniffed. “You suck.”
Jack blinked, smiled, and wrapped his arms around his son. “I know, buddy. I am so, so sorry for pulling that shit on you.”
“You’d better be, Pops, ‘cause I ain’t lettin’ you outta my sight again, you hear me?” He pulled away, then gave Ana a similar treatment, although he actually picked her up. “You suck too, Ma.”
“Jesse dear, my back-”
“Shit! Sorry, sorry!” He set her back down carefully, then looked between them again as if he couldn’t believe they were there. “You know I’m not forgivin’ you that easy.”
“I’d be worried if you did,” Ana said. She reached up and brushed his hair out of his face. “We will explain everything, I promise.”
“Do I get hugs now?” Genji asked.
Jack opened his arms. “Come and get ‘em, buddy.” He let out an oof when Genji slammed his entire body into his. “Fucking hell, kid, you trying to kill me for real?”
Genji shrugged, giving Ana a much gentler hug. “You know I was always a mama’s boy.”
“Of course, habibi,” she said, cupping the side of his faceplate. “You look very nice. You are also taking this a lot better than we thought you would.”
“I was fake dead for a long time,” he said. “Being angry with you for doing the same would be hypocritical.”
“He also doesn’t wanna piss off Zenyatta by ‘acting in revenge’ or whatever,” Jesse said. “Kid just wants to get laid.”
“Fuck off, McCree!”
“Aaaand there are the boys we knew.” Ana rolled her eyes as the two fell back into their bickering, coming around to the other side of the car. “Marhabaan!” she said, reaching out a hand for Hanzo to shake. “You must be Genji’s brother. It is nice to meet you.”
“Y-yes,” he replied, clearly confused by the situation. “I’m Hanzo. I, ah, did not manage to catch your name.”
“Ana Amari, Fareeha’s mother,” she said. “You can call me Ana or Mom. Everyone does.”
“Winston doesn’t,” Lena said.
“Winston has always been too polite for his own good,” Ana said, “a trait you should consider picking up.”
Hanzo broke into a rare grin. “I believe we will get along quite well, Ana.”
“And I as well, dear. Now help me get my battering ram of a child out of the car.”
Fareeha groaned, already having pushed herself to the door. “Mother, I swear to God…”
The boat, to Jack’s delight, was large enough for the car.
“She’s a speedy thing, despite her size,” Jesse said, giving the wall a pat as he stepped on board. “Wonder who brought her.”
“It’s me!” Brigitte Lindholm hung out of the doorway, a wide grin on her face and a pirate’s hat sitting jauntily on her head. “We didn’t have anyone else to spare on base, sorry.”
“No apologies needed!” Jesse assured her. “You’re a sight for sore eyes, missy.”
She raised an eyebrow. “What did you break?”
“Me?” He pretended to look offended. “Well I never!”
“It was me, Brigitte,” Fareeha called, hanging halfway out of the car’s passenger window. “I busted my legs off.”
“Off?” Fareeha ducked back into the car and stuck out the remnant of her left leg. “‘Reeha, holy fuck!”
“Yeah…can you at least stop the wires from sparking? It’s…uncomfortable.”
“I can totally do that. Jesse,” Brigitte started, “could you-”
“Sure thing, kid. I got this,” he said. He patted her shoulder. “We picked up a couple more people, by the way. Go say hello.” With that, he ducked into the cockpit.
It’d been a rough mission. The Talon presence on London’s north side had been larger than expected and the team had been separated. Since it was only supposed to be recon with potential data-napping, none of them had been as armed or armored as normal – which really, really sucked when the ambush came. He’d barely managed to grab Hanzo and Genji before Talon had bombed their previous position and Athena reported that the other three had been captured. As much as it hurt to leave them behind, they had to get out before they didn’t have the option to.
Imagine his surprise when Genji received an all-clear call less than four hours later.
It wasn’t that he didn’t think the three women to be capable fighters – hell, he’d watched Fareeha grow up and he knew she was good – but the odds had been stacked so high against them-
“Jesse James Morrison-Reyes McCree!” Brigitte skidded into the doorway. “Is this legit? You guys aren’t messing with me?”
“No ma’am,” he said, putting his feet up on the instrument panel as the navigation system chugged along. “You’re lookin’ at the real deal.”
“Oh my God!” she yelled and ran back out, presumably to tackle her honorary aunt and uncle.
And there was the real shock. If he’d been asked to place a bet on who would step out of that car, he would’ve been more likely to go for Bob the Butler than one of his adoptive parents and the woman who’d mothered the fear out of him. But there they stood…older and scarred, sure, with heavier shoulders than he’d ever seen on them in the old days, but still alive and (mostly) whole. He had been ready, so, so ready to just let ‘em have it, give them the piece of his mind that had been saved specifically for them for the past half a decade. The rant would be glorious, they would be ashamed, and he would feel amazing…until Jack looked at him with those big, sad eyes and Ana’s mouth had pinched in the way that meant she was about to cry and he just. Couldn’t. Do it.
I should start listening to Zenyatta more, he mused, he’s managed the Shimada Angst, maybe he can tackle mine.
“Mind if I join you?”
Not turning around, Jesse waved a hand at the seat next to him before pulling out a cigar and lighting it. “Be my guest.”
Jack took the invite and sat, letting out a small grunt.
“You’re gettin’ old,” Jesse commented, not sparing the man a glance as he checked the nav-com’s progress. “Ever think about retirement?”
“I’m a soldier,” Jack replied. “Soldiers don’t retire.”
“Whatever you say.” Silence reigned in the cockpit as Jesse righted himself, carefully maneuvering the boat out of the harbor. Once they were far enough into the bay, he set the autopilot and leaned back, watching his cigar smoke rise into the air and out the window. “I thought Brigitte would keep you occupied a bit longer’n that,” he said finally, stubbing out the cigar and tossing it in the bin.
“She’s quite the professional,” Jack said. “Once she got past the initial shock, she got straight to work on Fareeha.”
“She’s a good kid,” Jesse said fondly. “It’s nice havin’ her around.”
Jack paused, and Jesse could feel the man’s eyes as he looked him up and down then, predictably, settled on his left arm. “Jesse,” he breathed, reaching over and taking the prosthetic in gentle hands, “what happened?”
“I ate Hanzo’s leftovers.”
“Nah, boss, you don’t wanna hear about that mess.” He turned his arm over to grip Jack’s wrist. “You wanna tell me about your face?”
The older man grimaced, reaching up and rubbing at the scar that stretched across his nose. “Not particularly.” A heartbeat, two, three, passed before he spoke again. “I’m sorry.”
“So you said.”
“If you don’t want me around, I understand. After what I did to you, I really don’t deserve-”
“Woah, hold on a sec there,” Jesse said, brow furrowed as he turned to face Jack fully. “When did I say that? Don’t you go puttin’ words in my mouth.”
Jack blinked. “What?”
“Did you honestly think,” Jesse said, “that I would look a gift horse in the mouth and kick you back out on your ass because I was pissed you were gone in the first place? Seems a little counterintuitive to me.”
“You’re supposed to be mad at me,” Jack said.
“Oh, I’m mad, don’t get me wrong,” he said, moving both his hands to hold one of Jack’s, “but I’m madder that the circumstances made you feel like you had no other choice. Family ain’t s’posed to work like that. Family’s s’posed to carry you through the rough spots. If you were thinkin’ you had to leave, that’s pointin’ straight at somethin’ we should’ve been there to help you with.”
“I’m dangerous, Jesse. I’ve got so much baggage, it isn’t fair for me to pass it onto you,” Jack tried.
Jesse gave him a look. “Pops,” he said dryly, “I’ve got a sixty-million-dollar bounty on my head. I should be askin’ if you wanna be tied up with me.”
“Of course I do,” Jack replied without hesitation. His eyes softened – those sweet baby blues, Gabe used to say – and he squeezed Jesse’s hands. “You’re my son.”
“Fuck.” Jesse crumpled, letting his head drop as Jack scooted forward, took him by the shoulders, and pulled him into an embrace. “I never thought I’d get to hear that again.”
“I’ll say it every damn day if you want me to,” Jack said, combing one hand through the cowboy’s shaggy hair. “Just know that I love you so much, and I’m sorry you had to wait so long for me to come and tell you that.”
He wasn’t sure how long they sat like that, but they pulled apart at a soft knock on the doorframe. Wiping his eyes on his sarape, Jesse turned to see the intruder. “Ah, hey there, honeybee.”
Hanzo allowed a small smile at the endearment. “Am I interrupting anything?”
“Yeah, but I’m not gonna hold it against you,” he joked. He reached out a hand and his boyfriend took it, allowing himself to be pulled closer. “Hanzo, this is my pops, Jack Morrison. Was dead, now not. Pops, Hanzo Shimada, my partner and the proud owner of some really weird dogs.”
“Pleased to meet you, sir,” Hanzo said, inclining his head in greeting, “and for the millionth time, Jesse, they’re ancient spirit dragons, not dogs.”
Jack laughed, the sound rusty from disuse. “Just call me Jack. Nice to see somebody can tie the kid down.”
“Literally, if I’m lucky.”
“And I’m sorry, dragons?” Jack asked.
Hanzo unzipped his jacket and shrugged it off, revealing the intricate tattoo sleeve faintly glowing in the morning light. “Surely you didn’t think my brother was the only one in the world with a dragon.”
“I…can’t say I thought too hard about it.” Jack watched curiously as the tattoo began to pulse. “Is Soba still addicted to ramen?”
“You bet she is!” Jesse cackled. “Little bugger has no shame.” His cackles only got louder when Udon and Somen materialized on Hanzo’s shoulders, prompting a surprised yelp from Jack. “And these two are drama queens.”
“He says that from a place of love,” Hanzo told Udon as she let out a small hiss. “I have to admit, he is correct.”
“Did you always have ‘em,” Jack asked, cautiously offering a hand to smell as if the dragons were, in fact, really weird dogs, “or did they just…show up?”
“I remember them always being there,” Hanzo said after a pause, “but they did not physically manifest until I was thirteen.”
The old soldier scratched Somen under the chin and received an odd, not-quite-purring sound in return. “They’re adorable.”
“Your son thinks the same.” Hanzo whispered something in his mother tongue and the dragons disappeared. “However, they are extremely dangerous when provoked.”
“I’d imagine you are as well,” Jack said.
Jesse swelled up with pride. “My man here is the best sniper in Overwatch,” he said, settling his arm around Hanzo’s waist and giving it a squeeze. “Well,” he added, “that depends on if the esteemed Captain Amari claims the title again. A wonder, she is.”
“Hush, anata,” Hanzo gave Jesse a swat, “I am only a sniper out of necessity and would be more than happy to return the honor to Ana.”
“I would always welcome another sniper, so long as that other sniper doesn’t take out my other eye,” Ana said, leaning against the door frame. She smiled at Jesse. “So you two talked it out, then?”
“Yup,” Jesse said, “too bad somebody was choppin’ onions in here before we started.”
“Real men cry, son,” Jack said. “In fact, I cried yesterday.”
“He did,” Ana confirmed. “He saw a schnauzer wearing a turtleneck at the supermarket.”
“It was just so cute!” he exclaimed, tossing his hands up. “What did you expect me to do?”
“God, I missed you two,” Jesse said with a long sigh. Then he paused frowning. “Shit.”
“What is it, habibi?”
“Who’s gonna call Winston and tell him ‘bout you folks? ‘Cause it sure as hell ain’t me.”
“Chicken. I will call,” Hanzo said calmly. “In fact, I will call right now.” Smoothly as you please, he sat down in Jesse’s lap and swung his legs across to face the instrument panel. He tapped in a code, re-angled the mic, and waited. The connection didn’t take long.
“Good morning, Agent Shimada!” Athena’s cool voice rung through the cockpit. “Can I assume you met up with Agents Tracer, Mercy, and Pharah?”
“You can indeed, Athena,” he replied. “Is Winston available?”
“Of course,” Athena said. “Please wait a moment, he will be with you shortly.”
“So Winston’s in charge now?” Jack asked, intrigued.
“He issued the damn recall,” Jesse chuckled. “Fella ended up as leader by default. Don’t think he’s too pleased about it, though.”
They were interrupted by the speakers crackling to life again. “Hanzo!” Winston said, sounding delighted. “I’m glad the rendezvous worked. We got a little nervous there.”
“Everything is fine, my friend,” Hanzo reassured him. “It was quite fortunate that you sent Brigitte along – Fareeha is going to need new legs. Again.”
“Dammit, I owe your brother-in-law ten euro,” the gorilla said. “I thought it’d be Genji for sure.” Jesse started laughing, though it turned into a cough when his boyfriend elbowed him in the chest. “Was that McCree?”
“Unfortunately,” Hanzo said dryly. “Circumstances required that I use him as a seat.”
“You could’a stood, doll.”
“Hush, chairs don’t speak.”
“Is this just a social call, or is something the matter?” Winston asked, his voice painted with amusement.
“We will be bringing two more people back with us,” Hanzo said, “the vigilantes who aided Angela, Lena, and Fareeha in their escape.”
“Oh! Excellent! Do you know any details on them?” Hanzo’s eyes darted to Ana, then Jack. The silence lasted just a beat too long. “Hanzo?”
“…One is a medic and sniper, the other a-”
Ana entered the room fully and set a hand on Hanzo’s shoulder. “We can dig ourselves out of this,” she whispered, then took the mic from him. “Good morning, Winston.”
“This isn’t a prank, if that’s what you’re wondering.” She took a deep breath. “I’ve very sorry, dear, and so is Jack.”
“Oh! Uh, yeah. Hi Winston. Sorry,” he said lamely. Jesse buried his face in Hanzo’s back and let out a wheezing laugh.
“…Ana?” Winston asked, sounding suddenly small – quite a feat for an extremely large, genetically-engineered gorilla. “Is that really you?”
“It is really me, Winston, and really Jack, before you ask.”
A sniffle came over the speakers, and Jesse could see the former officers flinch.
“Winston, it’s okay,” Jack said soothingly, joining Ana at the mic. “It’s okay, let it out.”
Winston laughed wetly. “How long until you get to base?”
“About twenty hours, give or take,” Jesse called after a glance at the nav-com. “We’ll see y’all around seven in the morning tomorrow, ‘kay?”
“That sounds wonderful. Shall I fill the others in so you don’t have to answer the same questions thirty times?”
“Oh, please do,” Ana sighed. “If they want proof before we get there, call one of the others and we’ll do memory matches.”
“Excellent. Have a safe trip home, agents, and get some sleep. You’ve all done very well,” Winston praised, “even the battering ram. Winston out.”
Hanzo leaned over and turned off the mic, silence filling the cockpit for a breath before-
“Fuckin’ battering ram,” Jesse giggled, and the tension shattered.
“Hey, wake up.” A hand shook her gently, and she sleepily batted it away, instead curling into the warmth at her side. Her pillow began to shake. “Come on, just for a little bit. Wake up, ‘Umi.”
The previous day came back to her in a rush and she was up like a shot. “Fareeha!”
Fareeha frowned. “Is everything alright?”
“Yes, darling, I just…” she reached up and ran a trembling hand across her daughter’s cheek, “…forgot.”
“You’re back now, Mom,” Fareeha said, leaning over and kissing her on the forehead. “It’s all going to be okay. Neither of us are going anywhere.”
Ana sighed and let the tension seep from her shoulders. “What time is it?” she asked, rubbing the sleep from her eye.
“Almost three in the afternoon,” Fareeha answered. “You had a nice two-hour nap. I hated to wake you, but Gibraltar is calling.”
“I figured.” She reached up to fix her eyepatch, but her hand met only skin.
“Oh! I took it off, I thought you’d be more comfortable,” Fareeha said. She reached back and scooped it up from somewhere Ana couldn’t see. “Here it is.”
It took all of her restraint not to snatch it from her. “…Did you look?”
Fareeha offered her a small, guilty smile. “I did.”
“Ugly, isn’t it?” Ana said with a forced laugh. “It ruined my good looks.”
“The best of us have scars, ‘Umi,” Fareeha said, her voice gentle. She pulled up one sleeve to reveal a nasty knot of scarring just below her elbow. “These ones almost cost me the arm. Same accident as my legs, and those are really hideous when I take my prosthetics off. Like now.” Ana glanced down, noticing for the first time that her daughter’s legs ended at mid-thigh. “Brig needed to take a better look at them,” she explained.
“You and Jesse both,” Ana whispered. “What are we to do with you?”
“Wrap us in bubble wrap, probably.” Fareeha shrugged. “It wouldn’t be the first time.” Gently, she took the eyepatch back from her mother and tied it on, making sure the knot was firm before sweeping her smooth white hair over it. “Let me help you now, Mama.”
Ana let out a shuddering breath. “It may take some time, habibti,” she said, “but I will try.”
“With both of us trying, surely at least one will succeed!”
“That sounds like something your father would say,” Ana said.
“Guilty. Come on, let’s see what Gibraltar wants.” Fareeha maneuvered herself off of the cot and into the waiting wheelchair with ease. “Push me? I’m lazy.”
“You sound just like your father,” Ana said with a snort, but she did as requested nonetheless.
When they rejoined the others, they found Angela, Lena, and Jesse chatting casually with someone over video chat on the large monitor. Hanzo was sitting on the floor with his back against the wall with his brother sprawled across his lap, DS in hand, and Jack sat just out of camera range on the small sofa next to Brigitte, who was excitedly showing him photos on her phone of a girl holding far too many cats.
“Torbjörn and Reinhardt demanded proof of identity,” Fareeha whispered as they joined the latter pair. “They want to do the memory match you mentioned to Winston earlier.”
“That doesn’t surprise me, especially with Torbjörn,” Ana said with a huff of laughter. “He always was crotchety and paranoid, even as a much younger man.”
“I can assure you he’s only gotten worse with age, Auntie.” Brigitte slipped her phone away as their presence was noticed. “Looks like it’s time to face the music.”
“When I die again, please have cats at the funeral, for therapy reasons,” Ana said, completely deadpan.
Fareeha snorted. “You say that like we didn’t do it the first time.”
Everyone turned their attention to the screen, and Ana realized she had accidentally chosen the spot that was dead center on the camera. So much for that sniper awareness. She stood and got closer, offering a tentative smile to the hulk of a man staring open-mouthed at her. “Hello, old friend.”
Reinhardt blinked rapidly. “What happened to your eye?”
“My luck ran out,” she said simply. “We match now. Twinsies.”
“Ana Amari!” Torbjörn somehow managed to push Reinhardt out of the way. “I have several bones to pick with you!”
“I’m sorry, I should have asked before copying your eyepatch look. It is the one fashionable thing about you.” Jesse choked next to her, hiding his smile in the crook of his arm.
“That’s not – you-” the engineer sputtered, “-you were dead! And Jack, that jäkel, where is he?”
“I’m right here, guys,” Jack said, finally stepping forwards. He rested a trembling hand on Ana’s shoulder. “We…we’re sorry.”
“Just come back home,” Reinhardt said, his head poking in from the side, “that’s all we want.”
“That,” Torbjörn growled, “and proof you two aren’t just some trick!”
“It is them, my friend!” Reinhardt argued. “Just look at them!”
“No, it’s alright,” Ana said. “I’ve got the perfect memory picked out.” Jack looked at her in mild surprise, but she continued on, biting her cheek lightly to keep from smiling. “Today is December third, yes?” He nodded. “Excellent. Sit down, you two, I want to be able to see the entire room.”
“Is it story time?” Genji asked, visibly perking up as the two old soldiers on the monitor did as instructed.
“It’s story time,” she said. Then she blinked. “How many of you are there?”
“A lot!” a girl near the center of the dogpile of people chirped. “We’ll introduce everyone later, Captain Amari. Go ahead!”
Ana mentally shrugged. “Very well. Anyway. Nine years ago as of two days from now, my husband and I went out for a much-belated anniversary dinner. While we were there, we got a very interesting phone call.” Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Jesse and Genji abruptly straighten, with the ninja letting out a soft “you wouldn’t” as he removed his faceplate. “It was Jesse, of course-”
“Ma, please, don’t-” Jesse tried, but she shooed him away.
“Hush, dear, ‘umi is talking. A small group of agents had gone out drinking with Torbjörn, but four had indulged a little too much. Jesse, Genji, Reinhardt, and Gabriel had split off from the group-” Jack abruptly turned and walked away, shoulders shaking as he tried to get his laughter under control, “-and made a stop at a cheap tattoo parlor to get matching-”
“-nipple piercings,” she finished, grinning as Jesse moaned and dropped his bright red face into his hands. “Sam and I left our date early to pick them up, since they missed the carpool back, and returned them to base. I would not be surprised if he still has photos of it.”
There was complete silence on both ends of the call for a beat. Then, an omnic at the edge of the group spoke up, his voice completely calm. “She is correct. Genji wears his frequently.”
“Zenyatta!” Genji cried. Next to him, Hanzo dissolved into a fit of snorting laughter at the expense of both his brother and his boyfriend. “You didn’t need to tell them that part!”
“You still wear it?” Jesse asked, his eyebrows shooting up.
“Yeah! I paid money for it!” Genji said. “Don’t you?”
“Well, yeah, but-” The cowboy pulled his serape up over his head as Hanzo crumpled to the side in mounting hysterics. “Hey! Stop that, sugar, you know you like ‘em!”
“Reinhardt still wears his!” Brigitte said. “He has light-up ones!”
“Jesus Christ, mate!” Lena gasped, wiping tears from her eyes. “One hell of a story, Mum, thanks for that!”
“It’s definitely her,” Reinhardt grumbled.
“Changed your mind about me coming back?” Ana said teasingly.
“Not for the world, meine Freundin,” he said, his booming voice unusually gentle. “You can embarrass us every day, as long as you two come home.”
She smiled as Jack returned to her side. “We will be there soon, we promise,” she said. “Now, who are all these scoundrels with you?”