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Love (Can Be Frightening)

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In the first few months, Angela struggles to find her place among the Recall.  Or, rather, she knows where her place is, what her duties are, all that she ought to be doing, but that does not mean that she feels comfortable among her comrades, that she feels that she belongs.  Her colleagues are heroes and she is—she is not certain, what she is, but she often feels that she is not one of them.

(This feeling is not a new one, it followed her throughout her days in the original Overwatch, but they were family, then, in a way that the Recall has yet to become, and even if she never felt she quite fit in, she was close enough that it did not matter, at the end of the day, and in any case, the original Overwatch was far less unified than its Recalled form, and so not fitting in was not such a terrible thing.  They were fractured, then, different teams, different watchpoints, different organizations entirely, and standing out was not, perhaps, comfortable, but it was hardly unusual.)

Few people would be foolish enough to suggest that the Recall is homogenous, in any way; each of the heroes holds different values, has different strengths, comes from a unique background.  Mei, Jesse, Torbjörn—they are none of them alike.  Yet, despite this, they, and all of the Recall, work well as a team, find some measure of synergy and manage, even if only barely, to agree with one another often enough to function as an organization as well as—if not better than—the original Overwatch ever did, after it grew beyond the first strike team, and Angela can see all the little ways in which they fit together, even if she cannot fully grasp why. 

It helps, of course, that they are not so different as they might seem; for all that their origins and backgrounds are disparate, there are certain traits which predispose one to be the sort of person who might answer the Recall, and those same traits make it possible to form a cohesive vision for their organization, to set goals for themselves and create a plan of action to achieve them.

One of the traits is this: a certain self-assuredness.  One must be cocky, to believe that one knows better than an international tribunal what is and is not right and an appropriate use of force and appropriate to the needs of today’s global landscape, all of which the original Overwatch was, ultimately, deemed not to be by the United Nations Security Council, and those who joined them in the passing of the PETRAS Act.  Far be it from Angela to deny that she is, herself, self-assured—she is, after all, a surgeon, a leader in a field of people who are known for being obnoxiously certain that their way is best.  Indeed, she carries that surety with her outside of the operating room, with it showing in the way that she asserts and reasserts that her own moral code is the right one, and that her colleagues ought to consider her perspective far more than they do.  No, she does not lack the self-assuredness of her colleagues, but unlike any of them, she lacks faith in the Recall itself, returned only so that the people she cared about would not get themselves killed, and not because she believes that Overwatch has any reason—any right—to return.  So her conviction helps her to fit in and sets her apart, both.

One of the traits is this: a degree of optimism.  Far be it from Angela to suggest that all of her colleagues always look for the best in people, always believe that the outcome of their efforts will be positive, always assume that they are doing what is right and just, but they are optimistic nonetheless. One has to be, to join an organization predicated upon the idea that 1) humanity can be saved, or redeemed, can cease inflicting violence upon themselves and build a peaceful future, 2) humanity is worth saving, or redeeming, given the horrors that people and omnics routinely invite upon themselves and one another, and 3) they are the right people to do such a thing, particularly given the track record of their predecessing organization.  Certainly, Angela herself is an optimist—one would have to be, to make one’s life’s work an attempt to do the impossible, and raise the dead—and certainly, she believes that, no matter what has been done to her in her life, it is not for her to decide that anyone is not worth such an effort.  Both of these attitudes are terribly optimistic, some might say naïvely so, and yet Angela herself is one of the few holdouts amongst the Recall who is not optimistic about their chances of success.  Yes, she believes that peace is possible, that there can be a better future, but she will never be fully persuaded that a paramilitary organization is the best means of bringing about said peace, even if, these days, it seems to be a far more likely candidate than any other organization than any in operation.

One of the traits is this: a measure of trust.  In all military operations, it is necessary to one’s survival to trust, at least to a degree, one’s comrades, trust that they will defend one in a firefight and not make an error which betrays the team’s position, resulting in the untimely demise of the unit, both.  Overwatch always required this, but the Recall demands it even more so, with the additional consideration that, given the highly illegal nature of the Recall itself, one must trust that one’s comrades will not betray everyone, and turn the entire operation in to the proper authorities.  Which authorities those are, Angela is not entirely certain, as the nuances of extradition and international law have never been something she is particularly interested in, but she is certain that this is an arena in which she is lacking, trust.  With the other traits common amongst those in Recall, she can at least reassure herself that she possesses them, even if she expresses them differently from her colleagues, but she cannot claim to be a trusting person, would not be believed if she did. 

Trust is always something that has eluded Angela, and confounded her.  As a scientist, she likes for things to be quantifiable, observable, able to be broken down into their composite parts, and trust is not so.  Even when she thinks about what it is to be trusting, what other qualities predispose one towards such a trait, she is frustrated, for she possesses all of them—she simply cannot make the leap to trust itself, is missing some variable she has yet to identify.

Faith—that she has, both in the religious sense and in humanity as a whole.  Faith that, someday, things will be better, faith that if humanity only tried harder, they are all capable of doing better, of being good and moreover, good to one another, faith that what she is doing, at any given moment, is the right thing, and that she can, will, make a difference in the world—but trust?  It eludes her. 

As it is, her problem is less that she believes that other people are fundamentally untrustworthy, the usual failing of those who cannot trust, but something else entirely, although she is not certain what.  For whatever reason, she has all her life avoided becoming close enough to others for the question of whether or not she trusts them to even be relevant.  Yes, on the field, she will put her life in their hands, she is trusting in that sense, but enough to ever fully let her guard down, to allow herself to be vulnerable in front of another person, to relax around them?  No, never.  And, at thirty-sever, having lived this way for the entirety of her adult life, Angela has little enough reason to believe that such a thing will change.

Little enough reason, save for the fact that Fareeha Amari makes wanting to trust so damn easy.

Looking back, Angela cannot be certain when it was she began to trust Fareeha, knows only that it has happened, somehow, that somewhere along the way in the nearly two years that they have known one another, trusting Fareeha went from a distant possibility to something that she does without thinking.  Now, she cannot imagine a world wherein she does not trust Fareeha, but it has to have begun at some point.

Perhaps it begins like this, with the two of them being assigned to work as a team, and fly together on missions, Angela deeply skeptical of the arrangement and Fareeha far more optimistic.  The two of them are quite different; both seek to serve the innocent, but Fareeha does so by killing in order to protect, and Angela by healing.  Their approaches to combat are fundamentally different, and their underlying philosophies at odds.  Therefore, Angela’s skepticism at their ability to work together is only natural—but Fareeha proves it is an unfounded concern, is far more willing to listen to Angela’s suggestions, to not dismiss her pacifistic approach out of hand, than so many other soldiers have been.  That willingness, that understanding that her way is not the only way, that recognition that Angela’s perspective, too, has merit, it is not enough to make Angela trust her in and of itself, but it is, perhaps, a start.

(In turn, she does her best to remain open to Fareeha’s point of view.  It is not easy for her, often, but Fareeha has earned that much, she thinks.)

Perhaps it begins like this, with Fareeha clapping one hand on Angela’s back in encouragement after a successful drill, and Angela freezing up in response to the motion.  Such a thing, a violation of her usual boundaries, ought not to engender trust, ought to do the opposite, if anything, but the way Fareeha responds—not drawing attention to the reaction, but immediately removing her hand, and lowering her volume—is the way Angela prefers, and what is more, she never repeats the motion in the coming months, even as she does so to other people, having clearly taken Angela’s discomfort into account without the need to pry, to interrogate her as to why she responds the way she does to certain situations.  If only everyone else they knew did the same, Angela thinks she might be a far happier person. 

(She, too, is careful from then on, files away what things she says that make Fareeha’s smile go tight, and never mentions them again.)

Perhaps it begins like this, watching Fareeha interact with the rest of the team.  Rather quickly, it becomes apparent that although Fareeha treats all of them with care, although she goes out of her way to ensure that she has a good relationship with all who serve alongside her, and to be conscious of their unique preferences, there are certain things she reserves just for Angela.  If it were anyone else, such a thing might make Angela uncomfortable—she rarely wants to be the subject of others’ attention, in truth, would much rather people take notice of her work and not herself—but Fareeha taking in an interest in Angela is never an uncomfortable thing, is only a fact of her life.  By that point, she is likely already beginning to trust Fareeha, given such a reaction, but certainly she is not aware of such a feeling.

(Of course, she is already paying special attention to Fareeha as well, going out of her way to sit beside one another in meetings, and to spend time with each other outside of working hours.  And why not?  They are friends.)

Perhaps it begins like this, Fareeha dying during a mission for the first time.  The moment itself is nothing particularly special, for Angela at least, in fact she does not notice for a minute or two after it occurs, but after debrief, when she has Fareeha stay in the medbay for observation—that has a far more profound effect on her.  It is, of course, standard procedure that members of the team stay with her for the 24 hours after their first resurrection, is a necessary precaution, giving how jarring such a thing is, psychologically, but Fareeha’s reaction, while not unusual, affects Angela far more profoundly than many of the others.  As Fareeha sits white-knuckled on the exam table, breath going uneven and eyes distant, and admits, quietly, that she is terrified, Angela realizes that this is the first time Fareeha has allowed herself to be vulnerable in front of her, has been anything short of stalwart and undaunted.  To remark upon such would be unprofessional, and not beneficial besides, but Angela wishes, for the first time in many years, that she were more eloquent, so she might say what it is she is feeling in that moment, and let Fareeha know she is not alone.

(Later, when Angela finds herself panicking in front of Fareeha for the first time, freezing up suddenly for reasons that are beyond even her, she does her best to be open about what she is feeling—not for her own sake, but for Fareeha’s, because her friend extended the same courtesy to her.)

Perhaps it begins like this, the two of them out on one of the Watchpoint’s many balconies after a stressful mission, passing a joint back and forth.  Normally, Angela would never admit to doing this, to needing something to help her calm down, to being still anxious post-mission, even when she knows that she has brought everyone home safely—this time—but something about the way she and Fareeha sit close to one another makes it easy, in that moment, to open up, to admit aloud that yes, she is as haunted by what she has seen by the rest of them, that at nights when she closes her eyes she can still see each and every one of her team members beneath her, bodies torn open by bullets and shrapnel.

(And, for once, she lets the fact that she has caught Fareeha smoking cigarettes slide.  They are both of them trying to numb in their own ways, and far be it from her to judge Fareeha’s methods now.)

Perhaps it begins like this, late at night, the two of them taking dinner alone and swapping stories.  Without meaning to, Angela finds herself drawn into conversations she would not normally allow herself to have: about her fears, her family, her faith.  It is easier to talk about such things late at night, the room lit only by the single light above the sink in the communal kitchen, not making eye contact because they are looking instead at the meals before them, and she doubts very much that she would have broached any of those topics in the light of day, but it is enough to be able to talk about them at all.  If she were asked, only a year before, she would have thought that she would never speak of these things with anyone.

(In turn, Fareeha confides in Angela, tells her about growing up as a part of the Amari legacy, of the conflict between herself and her mother before Ana’s death, of the loss of her arm.  None of these are things Angela would have dared to ask about, but she is grateful that Fareeha is willing to share them.)

Perhaps it begins like this, Fareeha holding her after she lights the Yahrzeit for her parents, and knowing that although their experiences with mourning have been very different, on some level Fareeha understands.  Few other people can claim to know what it is to be so shaped by the loss of a parent as the two of them have been, and Angela feels, for once, not like she is failing by having grief that is still so raw.  It may be normal, to lose one’s parents, may be something that most people are able, in time, to move past, and are not defined by, but Angela feeling more affected by such a loss than most, and for far longer, does not make her weak, does not make her strange, does not make her in any way lesser in Fareeha’s eyes.   After all, Fareeha knows what it is to have a life shaped by a parent, knows the totality of that loss, knows what it is to tie one’s identity in with grief, and the ways in which that complicates the mourning process, prevents one from ever fully moving on.

(On the anniversary of Ana’s death, it is not easy for Angela to face Fareeha, guilty as she feels for her own role in having not been present to save Ana, but she makes herself available, if Fareeha needs her, makes it clear that although she will not impose herself, she can be there if needed, or even simply wanted.)

Perhaps it begins like this, the two of them sitting together in the sun, enjoying the sunny afternoon after a long training session, hoping to avoid their other responsibilities on base for just a few minutes longer.  Something about Fareeha that day catches Angela’s eye in a way that never has before, and she finds herself suddenly admitting, if only privately, that she might be attracted to women—to Fareeha specifically.  She does not yet voice it aloud, but even allowing herself the thought is far more than she has done previously.

(When she catches Fareeha staring back, she does not comment upon it.)

Perhaps it begins like this, with the admission that she has fallen in love with Fareeha Amari.  It is not a quiet, measured admission, is torn from her throat, words tripping over one another in the rush to escape, as if there were a need to hurry, for had she paused think for a minute longer, she would have stifled them.  The statement hangs in the air between them for a handful of heartbeats before Fareeha laughs and says, I know.  From someone else, such a reaction might seem dismissive, but from Fareeha it could never be so—Fareeha is laughing because she is happy, because she is surprised that Angela has finally admitted it, not because she finds the situation to be funny—and Angela knows Fareeha well enough that the laughter does not bother her, even for a moment.

(Later, Fareeha will say that she, too, loves Angela, but that takes longer, does not come until they have been officially a couple for some time.  Angela waits patiently, and never once presses Fareeha to do so before she is ready.)

Perhaps it begins like this, Angela’s trepidation about falling asleep in front of Fareeha explained for the first time.  Their relationship is not sexual, yet, the first time Fareeha invites Angela to stay the night, it is simply more convenient than Angela trekking all the way back to her quarters at half-two and half asleep.  When Angela explains that she does not like sharing a bed with other people, that she is prone to nightmares and being around someone new only make the problem worse, Fareeha does not press, even if she points out that—as Angela knows from her medical forms—she suffers the same problem.  Even when Angela explains, red-faced, that the problem is more than simply nightmares, that, although it does not happen often, and at that point has not occurred in several years, on the worst nights she has sometimes wet the bed, Fareeha does not react negatively.  Instead, she simply offers to put down an extra sheet, and promises that she will not tell anyone, should such a thing come to pass.

(As it turns out, it is Fareeha who has the worse night, who admits, after a rather rude awakening for the both of them, that she cannot stand to be grabbed from behind.  Angela ensures that the bruise caused by Fareeha’s errant elbow is healed before anyone else can see her, and they move positions such that they can be certain Fareeha will not be made uncomfortable.  She does not ask why it bothers Fareeha, for she knows that, in time, she will be told.)

Perhaps it begins like this, Angela shaking in Fareeha’s arms as adrenaline leaves her body.  By this point she knew, logically, that Fareeha would not react badly to the discovery that she is trans, but the fear followed her nonetheless, and the release of tension after having confessed such to Fareeha is such that she has never felt before.  They stand in her bedroom for a time, no words passing between them, until Angela has calmed enough to move again.  What she expected, she does not know, but she feels so safe in Fareeha’s arms, so loved, that she supposes it does not matter.

(There is no reciprocal confession from Fareeha, but Angela is not worried about that, knows that if their positions were reversed she, too, would do whatever was necessary to best support Fareeha.)

Perhaps it does not matter, in fact, at what point Angela could be said to have fully trusted Fareeha.  What matters, instead, is that somehow Fareeha found her way into Angela’s life, such that Angela now no longer thinks twice about relying upon her, is not at all hesitant to confide in her, no longer worries that she is incapable of trust, fundamentally, even if she can admit that she is far slower to trust than many others, is far slower to trust than Fareeha herself.

Perhaps it does not matter because, these days, they are both open and honest with one another in a way that Angela has never been with anyone else in her life.  There have been people she has confided in, over the years, but never fully; always, she has held something of herself back for fear of rejection, for fear that if anyone truly knew her they would no longer wish to have her around.  She knows for certain that with Fareeha, she will not be found wonting, will always be very much wanted.

Perhaps it does not matter, for Angela now understands her lack of trust far better.  It is not other people whom Angela does not trust, never has been; rather, she does not trust herself.  What she fears is not that she will be betrayed, or that the people whom she cares about will leave her, what she fears is that when, inevitably, something comes to pass, and they die or are taken from her by some other means—for, in her life, such has always happened, first with the deaths of her parents in the Omnic Crisis, then with the fall of Overwatch, and now there is the threat of those about whom she cares falling in battle—she will not be able to cope with the loss, this time, will not be able to survive once again finding herself suddenly alone.  So she struggles, yes, to trust people, because she struggles with her own self-doubt, struggles with the fear of what will happen to her, should something happen to them.

This is a revelation simultaneously reliving and deeply trouble.

Because she knows, now, that she is capable of trust, she feels relief.  Whatever she might have thought, might have worried was true of her character, she is not so cynical that she is incapable of having faith in others.  To doubt oneself, one’s own abilities, that is one thing, but to be so dismissive of other people?  It stands at odds with all else she believes about humanity, and at odds, too, with all that she has done, all that she has sought to accomplish.  If she had truly ever thought other people to be unworthy of her trust, then it would have been difficult to defend her work, would have been hypocritical.

Fortunately, such was not the case.

(Worrying about her own capacity to survive another great loss is not, of course, terribly much better, but at least she does not think herself a bad person, for feeling so.)

Unfortunately, this does not solve the problem of trusting Fareeha.  After all, is she not just as likely to lose her girlfriend as anyone else?  Fareeha is not reckless, exactly, but not careful as she should be, sometimes, in battle.  It does not help that her suit makes her a rather obvious target for snipers. 

Yet, despite the risks and, perhaps, despite herself, Angela has come to trust Fareeha.  This is not because she holds any illusions about the likelihood of Fareeha being killed, arrested for violation of the PETRAS Act, or otherwise lost to her; Angela may be many things, but she is not stupid, and is not capable of living quite so deeply in denial, even if it might make her happier.  No, there is another reason why, although she knows that it is possible, if not likely, that she will lose Fareeha, will have come to love her, and to trust again, only to be left more alone than before.

Simply put, being with Fareeha is worth the risk.

Never did Angela think that she would fall within the camp of people who believe that it is better to have loved and lost, but Fareeha has changed her opinion on the matter.  Even if something were to happen to Fareeha, Angela is a better person for having known her, for having loved her, for having grown to trust her, and that, she will never lose.

(She only hopes that Fareeha is able to say the same of her.)

So, she trusts Fareeha, and she trusts that doing so is worth it.

Every day, she trusts Fareeha, in her way.  Telling Fareeha she loves her is an act of trust.  Falling asleep beside her is an act of trust.  Knowing that she can be honest about her conflicting feelings regarding the morality of the Recall is an act of trust.  She trusts Fareeha in so many things that she does, and she knows Fareeha is aware that she is doing so.  She trusts Fareeha enough to say yes to her, and enough to say no, too, without fear of repercussion or misinterpretation, and she trusts that her girlfriend, her partner feels equally able to do the same.

(Just to be certain, Angela reiterates to Fareeha that she will accept Fareeha saying no when she asks something of her, and will not press as to why such is the answer, both inside the bedroom and in their relationship as a whole.)

She trusts Fareeha and that is why, months after having answered a proposition with no, Angela feels comfortable changing her answer to yes, and telling Fareeha as much.

Of course, trusting Fareeha enough to do such a thing, and trusting her enough to bring it up again, are not the same as being able to broach the topic tactfully, and to not feel awkward while so doing.  Still, Angela knows that it will have to be she who broaches the subject first, for Fareeha respects her having said no far too much to bring it up again.

And Angela does want for it to be brought up again.  When Fareeha mentioned it, she dismissed it out of hand, thought it was the sort of thing in which she had no interest and, even if she did, was perhaps not ready for.  But the more she has thought about it, the more she has come to realize that she does want to try it, not because the idea itself is something which she finds particularly fascinating, but because the more she thinks about it, the more she has come to see the trust that the act implies, and symbolically—well, she wants to try it, at least the once, for even if she does not like it, she wants Fareeha to know that she trusts her enough to attempt it, and she does find herself admitting, privately, that it might, perhaps, be fun, be freeing, to give up all control to another person, even if she rather doubts it will ever be a regular occurrence.

She knows, already, that they will never try this the other way around; Fareeha mentioned that when first she suggested they try it, was upfront about her own comfort with doing this with anyone, not because she does not trust Angela, but because she does not trust her own reactions.  So if she wants to try it—and she does, now, has had images of doing this appear, unbidden, in her fantasies in the months since—then it will have to be her who volunteers to do it.

(In her own way, Fareeha has demonstrated countless times her trust in Angela, both in the bedroom and on the battlefield.  There is no need to ask that she do this, too.  Of course, Angela does not need to do it, either, but she wants to.)

So, far less suavely than she might wish, Angela eventually brings herself to mention it. 

They have just eaten dinner—in their own quarters, because it is a Thursday evening, and they try to have at least one somewhat romantic meal together a week—and Fareeha is placing the plate Angela finished rinsing on the drying rack when Angela, glad that their focus on the washing up has given her an excuse to avoid making eye contact when saying this, breaks the silence.

“I’d like you to tie me up,” says she, trying—and failing—to sound nonchalant.

Although they finished eating some ten minutes before, the sound Fareeha makes is decidedly choked, “Come again?”

(If Angela had Fareeha’s sense of humor, she might say that she intends to, but she refrains from so doing because that would only encourage her girlfriend to make further puns, and Fareeha is incorrigible enough already.)

“You mentioned a few months ago that you thought I’d look—that it might be fun to try it, just the once,” repeating exactly what Fareeha said about how she would look is a bit much, for now.  Even mentioning that she wants to try this is embarrassing enough already.  “I’ve thought about it since, and I might have been a bit hasty, in saying no.”

“You’re certain?” Fareeha asks her, because she knows Angela well enough to know that sometimes, it can be tempting for her to offer to do things simply because she thinks she ought to want to.  That impulse has lessened over the course of their relationship, but she appreciates that Fareeha is conscientious enough to double check.

“Mm-hmm,” and then she adds, “I bought ties already.  Obviously if you don’t want to, anymore, I can return them or find some other use but—”

“No,” Fareeha cuts her off, “No I’m definitely still, uh, interested.  More than!  But we should probably talk about this more before doing it.”

“Naturally,” Angela agrees, passing the final clean dish to Fareeha with a flourish, “But perhaps we can save that for another night?”

“Have something else planned?” Fareeha asks her, and it is clear from her tone that she knows exactly what it is she is hoping Angela is thinking about.

“Why yes,” Angela agrees, leaning up to whisper in Fareeha’s ear, “And it involves far less talking.”

Ultimately, it is more than a week before they find the time to sit down and discuss, thoroughly, how they plan to go about this—what, specifically, both of their expectations are in terms of ties, of duration, of other sex acts performed—and another several days before the agreed upon date arrives. 

Despite all this, despite the fact that it was she who brought it up, and despite the fact that Angela was, on the day prior, feeling rather impatient, when she finds herself lying on her back, nude, Fareeha kneeling above her to tie her hands—loosely—to the headboard, Angela finds herself feeling suddenly nervous.

Fareeha must sense as much for she reminds Angela, then, “If you want to stop at any point—”

“I know,” Angela tells her, for she does know, and she wants to lean upwards to kiss Fareeha, but tied like this she cannot, “Don’t worry.”

“I’m just saying I won’t be disappointed,” Fareeha says, and Angela does not doubt the statement.  Outside of her role as Captain, Fareeha is the sort of person who seems almost impossible to disappoint.

Such is one of the many reasons they fit so well together.  With Fareeha, Angela need not worry about her slowness to trust, her trepidation about attempting new things, or the areas in which she finds herself inexperienced, out of her depth.  None of these things disappoint Fareeha, and it seems unlikely that they ever will.

“Don’t worry,” says Angela, and then, “I’m not,” and saying such makes it so.  By the time Fareeha bends to kiss her lips, a good deal of the tension has left her body.

(She is looking forward, and very much so, to building another sort of tension over the course of the next half hour.)

From her mouth, Fareeha trails her kisses progressively lower and lower, nipping lightly at the sensitive skin under Angela’s jaw, and again at her clavicle.  Angela shivers in response to the latter, just for a moment, and there is the slightest tug at her wrists when she does so—a reminder of what it is they are doing, tonight.

At her breasts, Fareeha pauses, as she is want to do, takes a moment to admire them, and to fondle them with her empty hand, before her mouth again meets Angela’s flesh, kissing and licking in a spiral before she finally, finally, reaches the center, and Angela’s nipple.  She repeats this once, twice, three times on each breast, and Angela is increasingly glad that, although her hands are tied to the headboard, the motion of arching her back is in no way restricted, and she can replace insistently pushing Fareeha’s head towards where she wants it with jutting her chest out no less insistently.

There is nothing, however, to be done when Fareeha decides, at that point, that her breasts have gotten enough attention, and moves on.  As she does so, she blows gently on each of Angela’s nipples, and the parts which have her saliva on them are suddenly quite cold. 

All Angela can muster in response is a whine, wanting now more than ever to be able to reach down and to touch them herself, to soothe the sudden ache of the loss of contact after Fareeha tired of sucking on them.  Of course, she cannot do so.

(She is, as she explicitly banned Fareeha from saying tonight for fear that the pun would be run into the ground, at Fareeha’s mercy.)

Indeed, there is nothing she can do besides watch as Fareeha continues to kiss her lower and lower, past the bottom of her ribs and down towards her navel.  From there, Angela thinks her next destination will be the obvious, but instead she veers off towards Angela’s left side, kisses down over the mole on Angela’s hip, and further, further, down her thigh and to the knee.  Angela whines in response—as if the teasing had not been her request.

Left to her own devices, Fareeha is not the sort of woman who wastes much time on foreplay, preferring instead to bring her partner more direct pleasure, immediately and repeatedly, but Angela has always required a bit more attention before she is ready.  So, Fareeha teases, builds slowly towards her end goal, giving Angela more than enough time to adjust.

(Just in case, they have a bottle of lubricant at the ready in a side drawer.  They rarely use it, and Angela has always found doing so to be vaguely embarrassing, but it is reassuring to know that, if they need it, it will be there.)

Even so, it is one thing to ask Fareeha to take her time, to draw this out such that Angela wants nothing more than to demand they continue, and it is quite another to experience such in a situation where she is quite powerless to do anything about it.  She is not quite sure, yet, how that makes her feel—it is not bad certainly, and she has no desire to stop, but, as Fareeha’s kisses continue to trail down her calf, Angela tries and fails to put a name to her emotions in the moment.

Complicated, she decides, they are complicated.

Fareeha binds each of her ankles separately, the left and then the right, leaving her firmly affixed to the bed, legs open and unable to move.  The position feels vulnerable—because it is—and the feeling hits Angela all at once, overwhelming.

“Wait,” says she, before Fareeha can resume touching her.

Instantly, Fareeha freezes, “Do you need me to untie you?”  Although she does not move to do so, still listening to Angela’s request that she wait, it is clear from her tone that she is ready to do so, if need be.

“No,” says Angela.  “No I just—I need a moment.”  When she closes her eyes, it is easier, because she cannot see herself, cannot see how vulnerable she is in the moment, cannot imagine what it would be to look down upon herself and to see that she is helpless, like this.  What she wanted was to give over control, yes, to demonstrate her trust in Fareeha, but she did not want her lover to think her helpless, to see her like this, and she does not, she cannot—

“Close your eyes, please,” she says, because if Fareeha cannot see her, then perhaps it will give her the chance to adjust, to feel less out of place and more in control of herself.  That is what she truly does not want Fareeha to see, her being so worked up by something she herself suggested.

Fareeha does.  Angela knows because when, after a minute of allowing herself to adjust, to truly take stock of how she is feeling and consider whether or not she is able to proceed, she opens her eyes, Fareeha is still kneeling in precisely the same position she was when Angela told her to wait, eyes closed.

Seeing that helps more than anything else.  Yes, she is giving over control, but Fareeha will not do anything that she does not want, will let her make decisions if she feels she needs to.

“Alright,” says she, “I’m ready.”

Fareeha cracks an eye open, “You sure?” she asks, still not moving, “Because we can stop here.  We can work our way up to doing a whole scene.”

“I’m certain,” she means that, because she is certain that she wants this, even if she is still confused by her own response.  Now that the moment has passed, her reaction seems irrational, feels almost as if it happened to someone else.  She is fine, now, to continue, and what is more she wants to.

(Surely, things will be fine, surely wanting is enough.)

“Okay,” says Fareeha, and then, moving between Angela’s legs and trailing kisses up her other thigh, “You’re beautiful.”

From her tone, Angela believes her—and it makes her moment of worry feel even farther away, now, than it did before, because Fareeha does not see the helplessness she felt, in that instant, sees the beauty, the trust that so appealed to Angela when she fantasized about this.

(Like many people, Angela is not above vanity, wants to feel beautiful, but that is not the part of Fareeha’s statement which matters to her.  What Fareeha finds beautiful is not helplessness, but strength, and so by Fareeha’s assertion she is reminded that it has been difficult, for her to trust anyone enough to do this, and that that is what Fareeha finds so appealing, that which Angela has struggled for and, ultimately, achieved.)

Well placed kisses to the sensitive skin on the inside of Angela’s thigh help her return to her earlier point of arousal, to remind her of what they are, at least ostensibly, here for, and before long she is wishing, again, that Fareeha would just hurry up.

When she makes the mistake of saying as much, Fareeha draws out her teasing further, kisses back up Angela’s stomach, blows air against it that makes Angela want to shove her off or squirm away, neither of which is a possibility in this moment.  Eventually, she has had enough of this sort of teasing, and moves her mouth further upwards, bringing her lips to Angela’s own, to her breasts, to her throat.  This is the sort of teasing that Angela has no objections to, none whatsoever, but it is not the only thing which Fareeha is doing.

All the while, one of her fingers has been tracing teasing patterns on the inside of Angela’s thigh, drawing shivers from her, and goosebumps from her skin, whilst moving ever closer to her center before, suddenly, she is there.

(The abruptness, Angela suspects is intentional, is meant to throw Angela off balance, slightly, to remind her that even when Fareeha was doing exactly as she might have wanted, Angela is not at all the one in control, has no means of deciding the pace of this, or doing so little as predicting it.)

Even then, however, Fareeha’s touch is maddeningly light, does far more to tease than to provide any actual stimulation, and once Fareeha makes to shift back, Angela tries to communicate this, doing her best to move her hips closer to the touch.

In this position, there is not much she can do, and she does not want to beg—yet—wants to save that until she is truly desperate, but fortunately Fareeha decides that she has had enough of teasing, sits back so that Angela can see her clearly, and holds her damp finger up as if to inspect it.

“Well,” says she, “You certainly seem ready enough.”

It is not only a statement, is her way of asking for confirmation, for permission, before she proceeds.  Angela agrees with her assessment, says as much, wishes that Fareeha would just hurry up and hopes she does not sound too over eager, lest Fareeha decide that doing this now would be, somehow, too easy.

(Angela asked for this—for things to be drawn out, so that she would truly experience what it was to want to be able to act herself, and be unable to—and if pressed, she might admit that it is still what she desires, even now, but she also wants for Fareeha to touch her, already, is growing increasingly disenchanted with the idea of helplessness and surrender.  This was far sexier in her fantasies.)

Even when giving Angela what she wants, Fareeha does not seem to be able to resist teasing, draws things out by slowly inserting one finger, then the second, and not moving.  Normally, Angela might appreciate the time to adjust, but it is somehow far harder to wait when she cannot, for herself, decide to proceed, seems as if the amount of time spent in waiting is far longer than it ought to be.

A heartbeat.

Two.

Ten.

Twenty. 

(This ought to be easier; of the two of them, it is Fareeha who is less patient.  Apparently, the particulars of this situation, Fareeha holding all the power, are enough to reverse the usual dynamic.  It is all well and good for Angela to wait when she can, ultimately, break at any moment, because then she is still in control, but this is different.  She wanted this, and she tells herself she wants it still, but it is harder for her than she expected to surrender herself, to give control over to another person, because it makes her realize how much of the person who she is, in any other scenario, relies upon having that power for her own.)

Just as Angela is opening her mouth to speak, to break down and plead with her girlfriend to continue, Fareeha decides, at last, that she has made Angela wait long enough. 

“Thank you,” the words tumble out of Angela’s mouth unbidden, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

In response, Fareeha merely smirks, but for all that she plays at being unaffected, Angela has seen Fareeha preen at the praise she receives when their positions are reversed, knows just how much Fareeha enjoys being told that she is good, that she is talented, that she is beautiful and doing things just right, please. 

For a moment, from the look on Fareeha’s face, Angela wonders if she is touching herself, too, darts her eyes down to check before she remembers that Fareeha could not be.  Or, rather, she is perfectly capable, but for whatever reason Angela has never known her girlfriend to use her prosthetic hand for such, and her other hand is otherwise occupied with Angela at the moment.

(She has theories as to why this is—a lack of sensation, or worry about the smell lingering if they got bodily fluid in the metal joints—but she has never asked, simply trusts that if Fareeha ever thinks she needs to know that it will be addressed, and respects what boundaries she has observed.  There is no need to push, to risk bringing up something which may be uncomfortable or otherwise awkward for her girlfriend.  Maybe it is nothing after all, and Fareeha just prefers to use her right hand.) 

Normally, Angela would think about pulling Fareeha down beside her, or moving a thigh between her girlfriend’s legs, or any number of things which might make it easier for the both of them to enjoy this, but this time—this time she has not the option to do so.

That bothers her.

When they discussed this, she anticipated wanting to touch herself, wanting to take her pleasure into her own hands or at least compel Fareeha to do more, to move faster.  What she did not anticipate was how beautiful her girlfriend would look, like this, her expression both unmistakably aroused but also tender.  What she did not anticipate was wanting to act and being unable to do so, and not feeling that it was surrender, that it was her willingly giving of herself, but instead feeling constrained.  What she did not anticipate was that she is not pleased by this turn of events.

Her fingers itch to touch Fareeha—her face, her body, any part of her that she can reach—and the inability to do so, to simply reach out and connect… Angela does not know the words for it.  At once the feeling is heady and lonely; even like this, so intimately connected, the space between them is vast.  No matter how much she gives of herself, and takes of Fareeha, they will never be one, will never truly be able to make one another whole, to collapse the distance between one another.

She wants—no, needs—to touch Fareeha, just for a moment.  There is a disconnect between her mind and body, heightening by the moment, the arousal she feels in response to the stimulation growing but her mind becoming ever more distant from the present.

This is not bringing them closer together, is not the symbolic handing over of control that Angela thought it would be, is instead another barrier they are constructing between themselves, and maybe it could have been more, if they were other people, if Angela were more trusting, but she is not, and is not ready, besides, and this sounded lovely, in her head, the idea that this might have been a bonding experience, that she might have dismissed all of her anxieties and once and for all made a show of trusting Fareeha in some more tangible way but—she cannot.  She cannot and she cannot do this. 

Whatever she intended, this is not working, and if she could only touch Fareeha she might quell the anxiety rising within her but she cannot, she cannot and she—

—She can safeword.  She never has before, but she can and before she even has time to think about it further, the word is falling from her mouth, and it is too late to take it back.

(A part of her wishes she could, but the rest of her, that is wiser and has a sense of self-preservation outweighing eagerness to please and fear of abandonment does not allow her to do so.)

While she knew, already, what she ought to expect to happen, knew that Fareeha would stop, immediately, she did not know how she would feel after saying such.  She ought to be relieved, ought to feel better about what is happening because she is getting out of a situation she did not want to be in.  Instead she feels ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed in herself, worried that she has let Fareeha down because she thought she could do this, could let herself trust Fareeha and—

“Can you tell me what you need?” Fareeha interrupts her thoughts, does not sound at all angry or disappointed—in fact, she does not even sound concerned, is using the sort of tone Angela has only heard from her before on the battlefield, when she is nearly entirely emotionally detached from a situation in order to be able to take charge.

Angela wants to cry; she is not sure if it is because Fareeha is taking her needs so seriously, and that is a relief to her, or because she feels poorly for their evening ending this way.  Perhaps a bit of both.  She does not cry though, does not let herself, knows that if she does it will be a messy affair—she has never been a pretty crier, has always been the sort to fall to pieces privately, face a mess of tears and snot and decidedly indelicate sobbing—and that will only make things more difficult.

“Angela,” Fareeha repeats, taps her once sharply on the knee to draw her attention.

Right, she needs to answer.  Perhaps if she can match Fareeha’s tone—

“Untie my hands?” she asks, and her voice is decidedly shakier than she wanted, is almost dangerously watery, but Fareeha does not comment upon it, does not say anything at all, only moves to do what is asked, as quickly as possible. 

The untying is a quick affair, but it feels far longer, and throughout it Fareeha says nothing, and Angela is left to contemplate how, in so many other circumstances, the view would be lovely, Fareeha’s nude for leaning over her, but now it is not at all scintillating, is only a reminder of how very much separate from one another they are.

(Strange, how quickly unfortunate circumstances make grotesque that which is familiar.)

As soon as Angela’s hands are freed, she moves to bury her face into the soft skin of Fareeha’s stomach, as if by so doing she could remove all traces of the gap between them, could make amends for her inability to trust by becoming one with Fareeha more literally.  Her movement is somewhat hindered by the fact that her feet are still restrained, and she knows, of course, that what she wants in the moment is unobtainable and knows, too, that oneness is not something to aspire to, and is not something she wants under normal circumstances, but right now—just for now, she wants to feel close, wants to believe that when she inhales and smells only Fareeha it is because her girlfriend can truly surround her, can protect her, can take for herself that which Angela was unable to give.

When she takes a breath in, the deep, shuddering sort that usually precedes a sob, she feels Fareeha stiffen in response, and worries for a moment, but then Fareeha takes a breath of her won, body pressing into Angela’s face as she inhales, before releasing her tension on a breath out.

“Can I touch you?” Fareeha asks, voice gentler, now, but still far closer to the tone that Angela associates with Pharah than her girlfriend.

(Pharah and Fareeha are almost two separate people; one is strong, is resolute, is unwaveringly confident, and the other gentle, vulnerable, sometimes even scared.  In most situations, Angela much prefers Fareeha, but in times like this—it is good to know that if Angela needs her to be, she can be decisive enough for the both of them.)

Not wanting to risk crying if she speaks, Angela nods into Fareeha’s stomach, and is immediately gratified by the gentle threading of Fareeha’s fingers through her hair, running her hand through the strands over and over as Angela calms.

How much time they pass like that, Angela is not certain; it cannot have been too terribly long, because the angle she is bent at is an awkward one and she would be very sore upon sitting up if she had spent any amount of time in that position, but it certainly felt like its own little eternity.

 “You okay?” Fareeha asks her, once Angela is seated facing her, one hand coming to cup her cheek.

“Mostly,” answers Angela honestly as she is able.

“Mostly?” Fareeha is never the type to be satisfied with half measures.  “Is there anything else I can do?  Are you thirsty, hungry?”

“Could you help with my ankles?”

“Shit,” Fareeha is already moving towards the foot of the bed as she says it, “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Angela tells her, pointedly not looking as Fareeha unties her ankles and massages the joints, “I didn’t really give you much of a chance to do anything about them.”

“No,” says Fareeha, “Still…”

Neither one of them particularly feels the need to argue about the matter, especially not now, and they let silence overtake them for another few moments before Angela blurts out an “I’m sorry.”

From where she was rising to stow away the bindings, Fareeha freezes, “You don’t have anything to apologize for,” says she.

“I was the one who brought it back up,” Angela points out.

Dropping the ties, Fareeha crawls back up to where Angela is sitting on the bed, rests an hand on her shoulder, “It’s really okay,” she insists, “You couldn’t know you were going to react like that.”

“I could’ve,” when she had a moment of panic at her ankles being tied, she could have called off the whole thing then, could have scaled back.  “I just—I wanted to do this.  For you and for me.  And I didn’t want to disappoint you.”

(That is one of Angela’s greatest fears, disappointing people.  After so many years before the Recall spent isolating herself, it is hard to shake the feeling that she is only ever one wrong step away from revealing herself as somehow unworthy of love, and being once again alone.)

“Look at me,” Fareeha says, tilts Angela’s chin up to make eye contact, “Do I look disappointed?”  She does not.  “If you really want to try this again later we can, but we don’t have to, and there are plenty of ways we can modify things to be easier for you, once we figure out what went wrong, okay?”

“I don’t want things to be easier,” Angela insists, “I want to do this right, I just—I don’t know if I can.”

She means, of course, trusting Fareeha, finding some way of concretely demonstrating said trust by giving herself over to the care of her lover, surrendering all free will just for half an hour and just being

(It sounds blissful.  It seems impossible.  She is stuck still between wanting and not wanting.)

“Okay,” Fareeha tells her, “But easing into things isn’t doing them wrong, and I’d really…”

When Fareeha is trying to phrase something delicately, or is worrying about whatever it is she is going to say, she chews on the inside of her right cheek.  The fact that Angela can see her doing so now is not at all reassuring, but she knows, also, that nothing good will come of interrupting, from pressing.  She need not say anything, for she knows Fareeha trusts her enough to eventually talk about whatever it is that is bothering her, even if it is often difficult for Fareeha to give up her veneer of self-confidence and say something which makes her feel vulnerable.

(That is why Angela wanted so badly to do the same.)

“It’s just that,” Fareeha says, after what felt like a good deal of time but was more likely only a minute at most, “I think I’d be more comfortable if we took things slower, next time.  If we dove straight back in I’d probably spend the whole time worrying about whether or not you were ready for it and that’s—it’s not exactly arousing.  Kinda the opposite, in fact.”

“I’m sorry,” Angela starts, “I shouldn’t have sa—”

“No,” Fareeha cuts her off, “No, no, no, no, no.  It’s good that you spoke up when you did, okay?  You could still tell me what you needed from me at that point.  If things had gone further—if I didn’t feel like I could trust you to tell me when things get to be too much, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now, okay?  There wouldn’t be another try at this.”

For the first time, Angela really considers how rattled Fareeha must be, too, how worrying it must have been to see Angela go from fine to safewording in a few seconds, with no outward indication of what had happened.  She had not had time to consider it yet but—if it were her, she does not know if she would have been able to stay as calm as Fareeha has.

“Can I hug you?” she asks.  Fareeha agrees, and then it is she who is rubbing comforting circles on Fareeha’s back.  “I’m fine now,” says she, “I promise.  I’m sorry that I worried you and that I—that I keep saying the wrong things.  I just wanted to show you I trusted you.”

“Oh Angela,” Fareeha tells her, voice tender against her ear, “I know you trust me.  You were scared that I was gonna be disappointed, or that it would be embarrassing, or that it’d seem like you didn’t trust me, but you used our safeword anyway.  That is trust.”

All this time, Angela was afraid she did not trust Fareeha enough—was afraid that all the small ways in which she showed it were insufficient, was afraid that she was unable to give the whole of herself—but the truth is this: she has trusted Fareeha all along.  She began to trust Fareeha the day they met, and that trust has only grown with time.

The person Angela has not trusted is herself, her own judgement, her circumstances, her potential inability to cope with the grief of losing someone, if she lets them in.  She did not trust her ability to trust other people, and is struggling now to trust that she can show what trust she has developed.

(She did not need to make some show of attempting to give herself over to trusting Fareeha—her fear of losing control is not distrust, is not her doubting Fareeha’s intentions or ability to care for her, to make decisions for the both of them, it is just that, a fear, and not one she must conquer for the two of them to be happy, together.  Perhaps she could work on it for herself, in her own time, but it was never a matter of trust at all.)

“You’re sure?” she asks, for confirmation, not because she does not trust in her own conclusions.

“Positive,” Fareeha tells her, and Angela believes it, believes Fareeha.

It will be a longer journey, trusting in herself, in her ability to love other people wholly, to be happy, to have a good future, in which she changes and grows, but with Fareeha by her side, she need no longer worry, at least, about finding her place.

It is here.