Chapter 1: I will keep pure and holy both my life and my art
The shower had been amazing, but the bed--the bed was something else entirely. A real bed. A real hotel. Room service even. It’s easy to forget these things exist when you’ve spent the last few months sleeping in tents and bathing with wet naps.
But she deserved this cascade of little luxuries. Another mission complete. Hundreds more lives saved. Her legacy preserved, yet again. She had promised and she had delivered.
And you wouldn’t know it, but Angela Ziegler could power through a hotel minibar like no one’s business. She was clean and comfy. She was an exhausted angel on a cloud of soft hotel linens making a champagne toast to herself, straight from the tiny bottle she found in the mini fridge. So what was she to do, to celebrate her first free moment in months? To settle into the relief of a moment between gushing war wounds and the screams of the dying?
Turn on the trashiest of holovid channels, of course. She’d seen so much technological advancement in her life, but damn if it wasn’t hard to find out what channels were what in a hotel. So she flipped through them, like a caveman.
Sports. Action movies. More sports. How many sports channels could there be? News. More news. Sports. News again?
“--the assassin Amélie Lacroix, also known as Widowmaker, has been extradited to the United Kingdom and will soon face trial for the murder of Omnic spiritual leader Tekhartha Mondatta.”
She stopped cold. She suffered from some sort of momentary paralysis which she knew had no medical terminology, no diagnosis she could give. She hadn’t heard that name in years. Widowmaker, of course, she knew, but she didn’t want to believe that was really Amélie. Not the Amélie she had known, anyway.
But the holovid didn’t care. The news anchor continued, “British authorities have detained Miss Lacroix in an undisclosed psychiatric hospital, stating that her legal team intends to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.”
“You’ve got it wrong,” Angela argued with the anchor. “It’s the rest of us that were insane. We believed her and she betrayed us.”
Despite her protests, she sat up, leaning forward, listening harder. But the anchor didn’t get a chance to make it past his next breath. The holo display crackled and fuzzed out of focus. The sound cut out. Then it surged into white noise at full volume. Angela scrambled back onto the bed, as if that would save her from the flood of light and sound.
By the time she reached the pillows, a masked figure greeted her, “Relax, chica. I can’t get you through the holo.”
Most of the picture was black, but the hot pink claws that reached for her didn’t help her to believe she was entirely safe. The only other part of the figure she could see was a skull mask in the same hot pink. It glowed faintly.
Los Muertos? She remembered their glowing skull symbols from a few missions down in Mexico back in her Overwatch days. Beyond the name, she didn’t remember much else. Nothing that would give any reason from them to hack into her holovid binge.
But Angela had seen horrors. Unbelievable horrors. This wasn’t one of them. She was not afraid. “What do you want?”
The claws folded into a gloved hand, disappearing from the display entirely, as if they were swallowed up by darkness itself. The mask shook with a brief laugh. “You’re feisty, Dr. Ziegler. They didn’t warn me. How did you know I’d have a mic planted in there anyway?”
“I didn’t,” Angela replied.
The mask snorted. “The bug is in the lamp on the nightstand. There’s a camera in the picture on the far wall, so I can see that robe of yours. Looks nice and fluffy, but doesn’t leave much to the imagination, does it? Oh and if you decide you’d rather not chat, there’s backups of both the camera and the mic that I won’t be telling you about.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Angela asked the hacker and tried to subtly pull the hotel robe so it covered more of her frame.
“Because no one appreciates the art of it. They think it’s all spooky magic. I’d like to think that you might understand some of the work that goes into this.”
She let the hacker stew in silence for a few moments. “But I still don’t know what you want.”
The mask heaved with a sigh. “Fine then. Down to business. I see you caught a glimpse of the news, yes? Things aren’t going well for your old friend Amélie, huh?”
“What friend?” Angela found herself spitting in response. “I don’t make a habit of keeping up with traitors and murderers.”
A low chuckle was her response. “I wouldn’t be so quick to judge. It might do you good to catch up with her. You’ll change your tune. But you’ll have plenty of time for that.”
“Oh you didn’t know?” the mask asked. “You volunteered to serve as an expert witness for her defense. You’re going to be flying to London next week to examine her. You’ll then happily tell the court she’s been brainwashed and doesn’t understand the nature of her crimes and is not fit to stand trial--”
“Check your messages, chica.”
And just like that, an envelope icon appeared on the holo. The holo she’d signed into when she checked in. Of course.
“You seem to be having difficulty. Let me get that for you.” The claws came out again and swiped the message out into the center of the display.
Overlaying the glow of the skull mask was a very official letter. The hacker gave her plenty of time to read it. It very officially thanked Angela for her interest in the case. It very officially questioned if this was maybe a bit too close to home for her to handle objectively, but it also very officially told her that her judgement was trusted. It very officially included flight reservations, a hotel booking, and black car service.
It was very official, and to her eyes, very real.
“I’m not going,” Angela told the hacker flatly.
“I just knew you’d say that. Otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered with the mic. But you see, we need to have a conversation Dr. Ziegler. My employer very much needs to have Widowmaker exonerated, as quickly and as quietly as possible.”
“I don’t care what your employer needs. I’m not going,” Angela told her again. She picked up the remote as if the threaten to shut the holo off. Of course, she knew that wouldn’t work, but it made her feel better.
The claws swiped the message away and retreated back into darkness. “I’m afraid you don’t really have a choice. You see, I am a collector of information. It’s why I’ve got this job, and I’m very good at it. So good that I can dredge up secrets people think they’ve buried so long ago and so deep that no one can find them. But I find them, and you, Angela Ziegler, are a gold mine for this kind of shit.”
Angela let go the remote, resigned that this conversation was going to continue, whether she wanted it to or not. “So you’ll blackmail me into it? Go ahead, but since you know my name I think it’s only fair I know yours.”
“You think I’m that stupid? Come on now. I’ll give you the name Overwatch used to know me by. Maybe that will jog your memory as to how serious I am. Did Jack ever tell you about Sombra?”
If he did, she probably wasn’t paying attention. Jack Morrison liked to ramble about this gang and that terror cell. She really only glanced over the mission briefings now and then. For her, Overwatch was never about which bad guy they were chasing today. It was a platform for her research. It was funding and exposure. It was helping people on the grandest of scales.
Sombra didn’t seem pleased. “Well then we’ll just have to put that much more effort into getting to know one another. I mean, it doesn’t really seem fair. I know so much about you. I know you like to go play doctor in crisis zones to feel needed. I know you ordered nothing but desserts from room service tonight. Really, doctor? That’s not healthy.”
“I know that you’re stalling,” Angela told her.
Sombra snorted. “I’m building up for a dramatic reveal. You really don’t appreciate this at all, do you? What a waste.”
“Then get on with it,” Angela prodded. “I have a tiny bottle of champagne to finish.”
“Fine, since you’re in such a hurry. I could name a number of things that you wouldn’t want to get out, but the timing and the reason for this one are just too good. The gentleman in that letter is right, this case is far too close to home for you, isn’t it? Too close. Too close to be between friends, right?”
The claws swiped across the screen again, dragging with them a grainy image. A time and date stamped on the top. Security cam footage. The date was years back--before, well, everything. In the center, two figures were locked in an embrace against an alley wall--lips touching, eyes closed, hands roaming. A woman with messy blonde hair and another woman with a long black ponytail.
If a mask could smile, Sombra’s did. “I bet you’re going to say I can’t prove it’s you, right?”
The claws pinched at a section of the photo, enlarging it. A badge on her lab coat that read “A. Ziegler” under the Overwatch logo. She’d come straight from HQ that night.
“And her? You’ll say I can’t prove it’s her, right?”
The claws dragged through the image again. A gym bag slung across the other woman’s shoulder, smashed between her and the brick wall, but not smashed enough. Not enough to hide the letters that spelled out “Lacroix”.
Sombra zoomed out to the whole photo again. “Really, it doesn’t get any better than this. Like I said, chica, you’re a gold mine. A date and names and kissing! What a pretty picture of you and Mrs. Lacroix. She was a Mrs. back then, wasn’t she?”
She had been. They hadn’t cared too much at the time. It was complicated. It was so complicated and so good and so brief. When something is that good, one tends to forget about unimportant things like who is married to someone else and who isn’t.
“It would be a real shame of your Overwatch friends saw this. And look at that date--just weeks before she killed Gérard too. That would look pretty bad, huh?”
A thousand emotions hit her at once. Memories of Amélie--the way she smelled, the lilt of her laugh, the way she ordered her tea, the way she made fun of Angela for drinking coffee instead, her dancer’s grace, her dancer’s body, and guilt. Oh god, the guilt. She’d spent years burying that, shoving it down into the pits of her stomach, so deep inside that she never thought she’d ever feel it crawling across her skin again. It was certainly crawling now, weaving through every goosebump.
“So you see, you’re going. You and Amélie can catch up. You can exonerate her and we’ll all be happy here. This photo will stay in my nice little encrypted collection and never see the light of day again. And this one too,” Sombra said with another swipe of her claws. A picture of her and Amélie flew by, laughing together, their heads bowed too close together over a small cafe table. “And this one,” Sombra said, swiping into a photo of the backstage of a theater. Two figures rushed together past the tangle of curtains and rigging, too close together. “And this one,” Sombra said, swiping into another picture. Angela’s office in the old Swiss HQ. Her mouth on Amélie’s neck. Amélie’s arms pulling her down to lay with her on the couch.
“I’ve got more too, enough to fill up a dirty website or two,” Sombra said reverently as she swiped the last image away. “And if I were you, I’d start checking for cameras when I walk into a room, especially if I’m committing adultery. So, you’ll be ready to head to London next week then?”
Angela was frozen again. This, of all the things she had done, might have been the worst. She had known Gérard for years. She loved him a way, much different than the way she had loved his wife. Everyone in Overwatch loved him. Yet she’d done this. And Amélie had killed him, but Angela was still alive. Well, as alive as she could be.
“I need an answer, Dr. Ziegler,” Sombra reminded her.
She forced the words from her throat. They burned like pure bile. “I will go.”
“I knew you’d come around,” Sombra purred. “Everything you need is in that message from before. Don’t be late, or I might be tempted to start showing off my collection.”
“I will go,” Angela said again, mostly to herself.
“Good girl. Oh and chica, sorry to say, but you’ve spilled that champagne all over the bed. You’ll probably want to hit the hard stuff after this anyway. We only just met and I’ve ruined your whole night. Too bad, huh?”
Sure enough, her legs were beginning to feel a little cold and sticky. “I will go,” Angela repeated all the same.
“Good. I’ll check in with you when you get there. We’ll make sure this is over soon. Quick and easy, right? Goodnight, Mercy.”
Sombra’s pink claws flashed in a brief wave, and then the display went dark.
Amélie came into her life like a whirlwind, just like everything else did in those days. She swept by quickly, wrecked any sense of stability Angela could carve out for herself, and then left. It was just how things were.
They met without meeting several times. She would ask who that woman was at some function or another. The one on Gérard’s arm. Jack would remind her, “For the last time, Angela, that’s his wife. They just got married last summer. You were invited to the wedding and you didn’t go. When I asked you why you kept spouting off medical jargon I didn’t understand, so I left. We all had a lovely time, by the way. Gabe got plastered at the reception and danced on top of the buffet table. You really missed out.”
And every time, she’d just hum in response and move on.
She didn’t know Gérard all that well even. It wasn’t until he got hurt that they really had a chance to say more than two words to one another. Even as she spent the better part of an evening pulling shrapnel out of his leg, she came to understand that Gérard was a good man. He was a good man and he loved his wife. She was professional ballet dancer and didn’t mind his insane schedule, as hers was equally insane. They saw each other only a few times a month, but Gérard told her it was worth it. It was so worth it.
“You’ll be laid up for a few days. Are you sure you don’t want someone to call her? We can fly her out here,” Angela had offered.
“No, no that’s okay. I don’t want to worry her. Better she thinks this was just a scratch,” he had pleaded.
It wasn’t really. His leg was a bloody mess, but it could look like a scratch when she was done with him. She could make it happen, because Gérard was a good man and didn’t want to worry his wife.
The first time they did meet was hardly formal. She was in a hallway in HQ, just trying to get from one place to the next. She was navigating solely from the gaps in between the text on her tablet, trying to read the results of her latest round of testing. A familiar voice forced her to look up.
“Dr. Ziegler!” Gérard shouted from down the hall. He waved with one arm and ushered a tall brunette along with the other.
Angela waved in response, not wanting to be too rude, but mostly wanting to not have to stop.
“Dr. Ziegler is Swiss,” Gérard told the woman on his other arm.
“And that means...?” she asked him.
“She speaks French,” he answered with the grin.
“Oh thank god,” the woman sighed, slipping immediately into her native tongue. “Someone that doesn’t have to tolerate my awful English.”
Gérard laughed and responded in French, “Better yet, someone who can help you improve your English so I don’t have to hear that excuse anymore!”
And yes, being Swiss, of course Angela spoke decent French, but she was no match for a native speaker. She could get by. She was about to make that excuse and keep walking, but instead, she made the mistake of stopping. She made the mistake of looking up into those soft brown eyes. This woman--whoever she was--was so desperate. It oozed out of her very pupils. She absolutely needed to speak French to someone right this moment. The need was dire.
It was just like Angela to have to fulfill that need. She tried, in her best, albeit very rusty French, “It’s rude to advertise me to someone I haven’t met, Gérard.” Only she wasn’t looking at Gérard. She was still held by those brown eyes, now lighting up with relief.
Gérard laughed again. “I keep forgetting you’ve never met. This is my wife Amélie. Amélie, this is Dr. Angela Ziegler, head of medical research here at Overwatch. She’s patched me and my boys up many times.”
So this was her then. The wife. The dancer. The best thing that had ever happened to him. Every other word out of Gérard’s mouth was an advertisement for this woman’s greatness. It didn’t seem possible for her to be an actual human being. Yet there she was, standing in front of Angela, grinning.
So, even though there was far too much work to be done and not enough time in the day to do it, she could say hello, like any human would do to another human. “Gérard has told me so much about you,” Angela said as she extended her hand and summoned up a smile. “It’s good to finally meet you.”
Amélie grabbed her hand, but didn’t shake it. She used it to reel her in. Predictably French, she kissed the air next to Angela’s cheek in greeting instead. “I could say the same for you. Gérard tells me you are a miracle worker.”
Angela cleared her throat as she was released. This was starting to become a conversation. Conversations took time. She couldn’t help but look down at the clock on her holo pad. Too much time. “I wouldn’t say that. I actually have to run, but--”
Gérard’s phone chimed loudly, cutting her off. He pulled it deftly out his pocket and groaned. “Shit. I’m late for my briefing with Gabe. Can you do me a favor, Dr. Ziegler? I was bringing Amélie to the Tactics division longue. We’re having lunch with my team after this meeting and she just needs somewhere to hang out for an hour so. Could you show her the way?”
A terrible diagram drew itself into her mind. A happy blue arrow pointed its way down the hall they were standing in, where her latest batches of nanomachines would be ready for testing no more than a hundred meters away. An angry red arrow wove its way behind her, tangling through several more corridors. On and on it went, halfway across the massive facility, to the Tactics division.
“I don’t know if I really have--” Angela started to protest, but the words died on their way out, sloshing against her teeth as only mumbled bad French could.
But those honest brown eyes of Amélie’s were screaming at her again. Why was she still looking at them? They were pleading, speaking volumes that no language that she knew could convey. Help me, they said. He’s brought me to this place where I don’t know anyone and I don’t know where the hell I’m going. I’m totally lost.
Angela was terrible at saying no--just fucking terrible. “I mean, I suppose I could,” she relented.
Amélie’s shoulders visibly sagged with relief.
Gérard grabbed Angela’s shoulder and gave it a friendly squeeze. “Dr. Ziegler saves the day yet again! I owe you one.”
He briefly kissed his wife and muttered some reassurance to her before running off down the hall.
Angela watched Amélie throw a pained stare after him. “Gabe is a bit of a…” Did French have a word for hardass? She couldn’t think of one, “...tough...customer. He won’t be happy if Gérard really is late.”
“I see,” Amélie replied, still staring after the jogging spec that was her husband. “Thank you again for this. He didn’t really give you much of a choice, did he?”
Angela felt a laugh escape her. With it, the bubble of her annoyance popped. Her nanomachines could wait. They wouldn’t know if she was distracted for a few minutes. She needed a break anyway. “It’s all right. I’m sure we’d be breaking some international laws by just letting you wander the facility anyway. Tactics isn’t that far away.”
Amélie turned back to her, grinning again. “Liar. I can see it on your face, but I appreciate it all the same.”
Angela shrugged and gestured behind her. They started walking.
“It’s massive in here,” Amélie noted as they twisted through the corridors.
“First time at HQ?”
Amélie nodded. “Gérard wants me to move to Switzerland full time. This is his idea of showing me the sights and enticing me to live here. I thought we’d go to the Alps or see some castles. No, just a big scary military facility and lunch at the pub with his guys.”
“To be fair,” Angela replied, “If it’s the pub I’m thinking of, they do have great food.”
“At least there’s that.”
They moved into less-used hallways. The glaring overhead lights and the sounds of their own footsteps were their only company.
Angela tried to think of something to say--something about Gérard being a military man and that’s just how he was, or how he was probably just excited for her to meet the people he spent most of his time with. But she didn’t know this woman at all. She knew the goddess he described, but not this graceful, but frustrated human walking next to her. She didn’t want to offend her, so silence was the best course.
“Is it true then?” Amélie asked while they waited for Angela to key in an access code for an elevator up to the third floor.
“I’m sorry, what?” Angela asked.
The door opened and they stepped in.
Amélie wouldn’t look at her. “I saw the scars and I eventually got the story out of him. Gérard told me he should have lost his leg.”
And just like they always did, another one of the many favors Angela had granted had come back to haunt her. “A few years ago, I would have agreed with that. Medicine has come a long way in a short time. We can do a lot more than just fix a bad case of shrapnel to the calf. Gérard was never in danger of losing his leg, but it wasn’t pretty, no.”
“Why didn’t he call me then?”
She knew she shouldn’t answer. Even she highly doubted Gérard remembered that conversation, what with all the meds in his system at the time, she still had to honor the whole doctor-patient confidentiality thing. But Amélie was not happy. She was not happy to be in this place, under these sterile white lights, alone but not alone. Angela could say something to make her happy. So she did, “He didn’t want to worry you. I offered to call you for him. He wouldn’t let me.”
Amélie let out a long sigh. The elevator dinged. “That bastard,” she cursed as they stepped off. “That’s just like him. I believe you, doctor. Sorry, but that was the first thing on my mind when I heard your name. I had to get it out.”
They stepped off and began walking down yet another featureless hallway. Angela waved her hand. “It’s fine.”
“I do worry about him, but knowing that he has an entire army of geniuses and top tier people supporting him lets me sleep at night. Even if it was easy, thank you for taking good care of him,” Amélie told her. She was smiling again.
“All in a day’s work,” Angela tried to defer again. “He was walking the next day. The osteoprinters took care of his shattered fibula in only a few hours. The rest was all just easy work for the dermaprinters to close everything else. Hardest part was the debris extraction. I don’t have anything that can do that for me yet.”
Amélie was staring at her. “You started speaking English there, I think. There were a lot of words that sounded like they belonged to an alien language too.”
Angela flushed and tried to hide behind her holo pad. Damn. Who’s idea was it to make all of this technology transparent? “Sorry. People usually don’t let me go on that long. I tend to babble about my work.”
“So those made up words were...?”
“Um,” usually people also didn’t bother to ask her questions either, “different types of nanomachines I work on. They repair bones and flesh like a tiny 3D printer, going cell by cell and--I’m sorry. I’ll stop myself this time.”
“Actually, that kind of sounds fascinating. You can keep going, provided you keep it in French,” Amélie said with another one of her warm, genuine smiles.
Angela beamed, but her eyes skirted past the other woman’s and found the sign behind her. The sign for the Tactics longue. “I would love to, but we’re here.”
Amélie turned around. Sure enough, she found a mostly-empty break room behind her, encased in walls of thick glass. The other side was all windows, overlooking the rich forest greens and mountain greys of the wilderness around HQ. Only a few soldiers were relaxing there amidst its many couches and tables.
It looked pretty nice, actually.
“Or,” Angela offered, or a part of her did. She had no idea where this part came from, but she liked its ideas. “I could wait with you?”
Amélie turned back to her and nodded vigorously. “Please. You can make up as many words as you want. I’ll listen. Do you think they have tea?”
Gérard found them two hours later. He could barely get in a word to apologize for being so late. Amélie was on her second cup of tea. Angela was on her third cup of coffee. Both of them had snatched far too many chocolate croissants from breakfast bar, but would later claim to have just split one between them. Angela had devolved from sketching out diagrams on her holopad to explain things to Amélie and was busy showing her pictures from last year’s holiday party. You know, the one where Torbjörn kept photobombing everyone’s pictures with his bare gnome ass.
“Chérie,” Gérard protested. “We should get going.”
Angela took one more look into those eyes that day. They were too honest. They told her that Amélie would much rather have stayed with her than go with him.
“You know I hate when you call me that,” she heard Amélie mutter as she walked away, on his arm yet again.
They didn’t tell her that Amélie would move to Switzerland as soon as her paperwork cleared.
“Ah, Dr. Ziegler. Right this way, please.”
The whole trip to London had been strange. The flight was private. She met a VTOL at a small airport. The co-pilot took her bags and didn’t say anything. The black car was much the same. At least the people at the hotel had to speak to her in order to check her in. Angela was normally the type to make idle conversation in these situations too, just to break some of the awkwardness of having someone else ferry her to and fro, but even she kept her mouth shut. The silence of these people seemed to demand the same in return. No questions asked all around.
And at the hospital, there was a physician waiting for her in the lobby that knew her on sight, and didn’t bother to offer his own name.
So she offered a handshake in hopes of receiving it. “And you are?”
The man stared at her hand for a moment before reciprocating. “Dr. Bellworth. Miss Lacroix has been put under my charge.”
“I see. Regarding that--”
“Everything in due time,” he interrupted. “We have an office for you to use, and you’re to be granted access to the second floor lab for any testing. Please, right this way.”
She followed, for the same reasons she boarded that silent flight and endured the equally silent rides. She knew what this was. She knew that Sombra’s “employer” could be none other than Talon itself. That much was painfully obvious. She still didn’t know what she was doing here, other than, well, the whole blackmail thing.
This place was awfully quiet for a psychiatric facility. And clean.
He showed her the lab first, which was also oddly stocked for a psychiatric facility. She’d be lucky to get most of that equipment in the world’s best research hospitals. She was pretty sure that the staff wouldn’t need an ultracentrifuge or an electrophoresis apparatus to shrink heads, but what did she know. Psychiatry was not her speciality.
That thought made her dare to ask a question, “If I may, Dr. Bellworth. Why me, exactly? I’m a research scientist who used to moonlight as a glorified field medic. I haven’t looked at a DSM since med school.”
The other doctor stopped in front of a door. He opened it for and waited for her to go in. When she didn’t he gave her a response to entice her. “You specialize in nanobiology. When Miss Lacroix was initially captured, the doctors that examined her found her to be heavily modified with technology very similar to what you invented. Similar, but different. You’ll find their reports on your desk...in your office.”
“Really?” she asked.
“Really, Dr. Ziegler,” he replied flatly.
So of course, she had to go in.
Chapter 2: Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick
The words began to blur on the pages before her. Actual printed pages, a rarity anymore. They were just initial findings. Ramblings of people who knew the words, but didn’t know what they truly meant. “Augmented” was used a lot. How could anyone ever willingly ask for this to be done to them?
Extreme bradycardia. Hypothermia to the point where a normal human should be long dead. All kinds of changes made the rest of the body on a cellular level to be able to live with the low temperature and extremely low blood pressure. If one could call it living, even. Talon’s Widowmaker was a cold walking corpse.
And this was her Amélie, supposedly. This was the real Amélie. A literal cold-blooded killer.
Angela couldn’t read anymore. She slid her glasses down her nose and let them fall into her palm.
“Why are you even here?” she asked herself.
Explaining her sordid affair to the remaining ex-Overwatch members was looking like the better option with every moment. It had been years. They would understand, right?
But her mind strayed back to the very place she’d been trying to rip it from since she first stepped into this strange little office. It strayed back to Amélie as she remembered her--warm skin, soft black hair that was always got in the way, graceful and powerful in an entirely different way. Oh, she wasn’t perfect. She definitely wasn’t the goddess Gérard thought she was. Amélie was selfish as hell and took some sick joy in being mysterious. She never quite told anyone the full truth. She had a particular little smile when she was hiding something good, but was otherwise a practiced liar. Nothing kept her from getting what she wanted.
That was part of what made it so easy to believe that she’d betrayed them all. Talon had been trying to kill Gérard for years, after all. What better way to do so than to make him fall in love with one of their best operatives? No one knew. No one could have known.
Angela caught herself starting to crush her glasses in her clenched fist. She let out a shaking breath and plucked them from impending destruction. “You’re here because you never knew where you fit in,” she whispered to herself. “You never knew if you were part of the plan or if you were a distraction. And it nearly killed you to not know. So you’re going to find out.”
The knock on her office door nearly made her jump out of her skin. She dropped her glasses.
“Come in,” Angela blurted out as she ducked under the desk to retrieve them.
Dr. Bellworth appeared in the crack in the door. His long face read an expression of mild annoyance, though she wasn’t entirely sure if that was just how he always looked. “You’re still here,” he noted.
Angela found her glasses wrapped around the leg of the desk. She snatched them up and stood. “Was I supposed to run away screaming at some point?” she asked him.
“I should hope not,” he replied dryly, “but it is quite late. You are welcome to use the facilities as you wish, but I had assumed you would retire by now.”
“You don’t know me very well then,” Angela said as she wiped her glasses off on her sweater. Turtleneck, of course. She grabbed a handful of the reports from the desk. “Have you reviewed these?”
The other doctor answered curtly, “I have.”
He reminded her of a villainous butler character from the black and white movie era. His face was long and mostly expressionless, and the English accent didn’t help.
“Then you’ll understand when I say that I’m skeptical about all of this. The amount of work that would go into creating such results is staggering, to say the least, and for what purpose?” she asked him.
“They tell me it was to improve her aim. Talon wanted to create a perfect sniper, capable of dispatching her targets without feeling, and without so much as a heartbeat getting in the way,” he told her.
Angela had already heard as much. Whispers of the assassin had traveled this way and that and always seemed to find their way to her. Lena had called her once to ask about Amélie after encountering her as Widowmaker. She had asked if Amélie was always like that--cold and calculating. No, no she wasn’t. She was...a lot of things. That’s why Angela didn’t flinch. She’d already flinched at this description a hundred times before.
She noticed there was still spot on her glasses and took them off again to rub it away on her sleeve. “A bit over-dramatic, don’t you think?”
“It’s Talon,” Dr. Bellworth replied. “The Widowmaker would not be the first of their operatives we’ve held. That organization is known for creating horrors simply because it can.”
She managed to remove the offending spot and put her glasses back on. “Don’t I know it,” she muttered.
“As I said before, Dr. Ziegler, it’s late. I can have the front desk call for your ride if you’d like to retire.”
She glanced at the clock above the desk. Only 9pm. “This is when I do my best work, so I’d rather not. I would actually love to have the opportunity to see Miss Lacroix tonight, if it could be allowed.”
The muscles in that long face were indeed capable of movement. They pulled one eyebrow up into an expression of confusion. “It is late, Dr. Ziegler. The patient needs her rest.”
She pointed toward the reports again, “It says here that she doesn’t really sleep. I doubt we will be disturbing her.”
“This is highly irregular--”
“I’m afraid I have to insist.”
It started again with a shout, “Dr. Ziegler!”
Gérard was alone this time, but still caught her in one of the many twisting corridors leading to her lab.
She waved at him.
He, unfortunately, ran toward her and began speaking in hurried French, “I’m so glad I found you! I’ve been meaning to invite you out to dinner. Amélie is insisting I do.”
Her mind had kept walking down that hallway and was several thoughts ahead of her, planning changes to her next round of candidate machines, working on the problem with muscle fibers generating too brittle, wondering how to even approach the issues surrounding nerve cell generation. That name stopped it, though. It lassoed her wandering brain right back into her skull. “Amélie? She’s in town again?”
“She’s moved into my flat, Angela. Not just for a weekend. Not just between tours. Permanently. It’s like we’re actually married now,” he replied, grinning from ear to ear.
“Congratulations,” she offered and gave him a friendly punch to the shoulder. “I’m sure you’re both driving each other crazy already.”
He chuckled. “I know the other guys love to complain about their wives, but I have nothing bad to say. It’s been great. But she is demanding I invite you out to dinner. My treat, of course. As a thank you for keeping her company when I brought her here.”
Angela had tried to forget all about that too expressive mouth, those warm eyes, those skin tight jeans. She had pretty much forgotten at this point, but Gérard had to go and ruin it all. “Oh, I couldn’t--” she began to protest.
“Please. You two had a good time together before. It would do me a world of good to have her see Overwatch as something other than the thing that keeps me away from her all the time. You could help,” he pleaded.
And no, she hadn’t gotten any better at saying no in the last few months. Not at all. “Well, I suppose I could find some time.”
Somehow, she agreed to meet them that weekend at an official nice restaurant. She filed it away and kept working, but come Saturday, she realized her mistake. She hadn’t been out anywhere since the last time Jack insisted she go to the pub for team bonding reasons. She’d shown up in her labcoat, of course, with her sleeves still stained and singed from a day spent re-working the nanomachine applicators on her staff. She’d sipped the beer Reinhardt bought her and then slipped back to the lab as soon as she could.
But this--this was a nice restaurant. And she would be the third wheel to a very attractive and fashionable French couple. And she owned nothing but comfortable sweaters, sweatshirts, scrubs, jeans, and the under armor for her Valkyrie suit. And labcoats--so many damn labcoats. At least that’s what her closet made it look like. But wait, what was that, peaking through the pile? Black? Silky? Perhaps a little too short?
It would do.
Amélie seemed to agree when they met an hour or so later. “You clean up well, Dr. Ziegler. Gérard isn’t with you?”
Angela tried to escape the French greeting that was waiting for her by acting surprised. “He was supposed to be?”
Amélie wasn’t having it and dragged her in to kiss the air next to her cheek anyway. “He told me he was stuck at HQ. I thought you would come from there.”
“I was busy cleaning up at my place,” Angela admitted. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d bothered to actually do something with her hair. She had forgotten how long it took.
But Amélie, well, she looked like she could just roll out of bed and still be stunning. She was also wearing a little black dress. It hugged her hips perfectly. Her hair was down, shining like the black silk of her dress in the low light of the restaurant’s bar. Needless to say, it wasn’t only her eyes that Angela found herself looking at this time. She tried her best not be obvious about it, and she was nearly as bad at that as she was at saying no.
Amélie’s phone beeped from inside her perfectly matched clutch. She pulled it out and frowned. “Ah, well that answers that question. His team is going to be deployed in an hour. He can’t say where they’re going or for how long. It’s all classified. Typical,” she sighed.
Disappointment read from every pore of her skin. Amélie visibly slumped into the bar where she had been waiting. Her fingers wrapped around the stem of a half full wine glass there. She quickly tossed the rest of it back with a grace that only comes from experience. “I’m sorry you came all the way out here for this. I know you’re busy,” she apologized with the burn of wine on her voice.
And Angela couldn’t stand it. She had to help. That was her problem. She couldn’t stop helping. Even with the warning signs going off in her head, sirens blaring “STOP IT NOW. SHE IS MARRIED”, she couldn’t. “Well,” she offered. “I heard it was you that insisted we have dinner. Not Gérard. We could still have dinner.”
Those nimble fingers danced over the now empty wineglass. Amélie’s eyebrows shot up. “We could,” she echoed.
“You could tell me what you think of my country, or how frustrated you are with the organization I work for and how it ruined our plans this evening. We could have more of that wine. We could have...whatever sort of food they serve here.”
“It’s French, Angela. Did you see the sign? The place is called Provence.”
“Of course it’s French.”
Amélie had this way about her. She seemed to have the ability to manipulate time. Her throaty laugh made a three hour dinner seem like no more than 20 minutes. Her smile made ordering a second bottle of wine seem like a great idea. Of course, Angela needed no convincing on dessert. That was a given. Dessert was happening no matter what.
Their forks collided over the last bite of profiterole. Amélie let her have it. She pushed the last bit of pastry and cream toward her. When Angela looked up to ask if she was sure, there was a new smile on Amélie’s face. Her lips curled just a little differently between her wine-flushed cheeks.
“We should do this again,” Amélie said.
“We should,” Angela agreed while trying to stuff the last bit of cream puff into her mouth. That resulted in a massive amount of whipped cream finding its way onto her cheek, which they laughed over for what seemed like days.
It became clear that they were the only ones left in the restaurant when the maître d’ offered to call them a cab.
Gérard spent three weeks deployed in Oasis, fighting a terrorist cell there. He apologized profusely when he returned, but Angela hardly let him. She immediately suggested a make up dinner. Where? Well, the only other fancy restaurant that she knew was the fondue place. That was suitably Swiss enough, right?
This time, Angela managed to fish a red dress out of her closet. She was convinced there was a black hole in there that swallowed up all of the clothes from when she used to care. It would generously spit them out as needed.
Sadly, the red only seemed to highlight the little look of disappointment that flashed across her face when both Gérard and Amélie met her there. They still had a lovely time, and were well into their first pot of cheese when his phone rang.
“Gérard,” Amélie begged him as he stood and reached for it. Her hand shot for his wrist and latched on.
“It’s HQ. I have to,” he explained. He shrugged out of her grip and stalked off to a quieter part of the restaurant.
Angela checked her phone briefly, just to make sure they weren’t asking for field medics to volunteer as well. She caught a glare from Amélie as she put it down.
“How can you stand it?” Amélie asked, her voice suddenly shaking and her eyes gone hard. “You’re constantly at their beck and call. You can’t even really live, can you?”
Angela wanted to explain. She wanted to spill out the entire story of her life. For some reason, it hurt to see Amélie like this--her fingernails denting the wood as she gripped the table, her once soft features alight with a cold fire. She had to defend herself. She had to make her understand. “I...it’s...someone has to--”
“Go on, tell me that you feel a sense of duty. You grew up in the war and saw what it did to people. You have to help, right? That’s exactly what he says,” Amélie spat back.
How many times had Angela said that exact thing? How many times had she heard it from the others? Countless times. It was everyone’s excuse, but it was her excuse. She felt the bile rise from her throat. She wanted to begin a tirade about her parents--about how there was no way Amélie could know and how awful she was to assume.
But then Amélie started crying. And apologizing. “I’m sorry,” she said as she reached for Angela’s hand and covered it with her own. “God, I’m sorry. It’s just that, every time we try to do anything, it’s this shit again. Not just with you. Last night at the cinema, I watched most of a movie by myself while he was on the phone with Gabe out in the lobby. We still don’t have a couch in the flat because he’s had to leave every time we’ve gone shopping for one. Me living here full time--it was supposed to mean that I could actually be with him. I’ve left my friends, my apartment, my ballet company...for what? To be alone and wait for him?”
What could she even say? Amélie had heard the usual lines already. That much was apparent. Getting angry with her would do no good. So Angela wrapped their hands together and squeezed. She was a great hand squeezer, very experienced. Only a doctor could offer such skill. Whether it was to test motor reflexes or to offer comfort to the dying, she had squeezed a fucking lot of hands in her day.
And she said something very stupid, “He has to answer to them, Amélie, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. I know that he does.”
It killed her to watch Amélie’s eyes soften again.
Gérard came back to kiss his wife goodbye and tell her that he had to go. He also apologized to Angela three times in the space of ten seconds before walking out the door.
Amélie didn’t let go of Angela’s hand until they ordered the chocolate course. “Why didn’t you scream at me before?” she asked as she went straight for the best strawberry. “You looked like you were about to, and frankly, you should have. I was being childish.”
Angela had had her eye on that strawberry. She settled for a chunk of pound cake instead. “You were right,” she admitted as she dunked it into the molten chocolate. “I would have said the same things that he does and I doubt that would have helped. We all have our reasons for joining Overwatch and they all end up being pretty similar. They tried to recruit me for years, you know. I kept saying no. Overwatch kept insisting. Their reasons sounded better and better every time, so I gave in.”
Amélie kept that perfect strawberry hovering just over the pot. “Why?”
“It seemed like the right thing to do,” was all Angela could say.
They stopped inviting Gérard. They exchanged numbers over a glass of brandy that night and it was unofficially decided. Angela’s schedule was far more her own to manage. She only went on missions on a volunteer basis.
It started innocently enough. Amélie would demand that she come to meet her for lunch. Angela would do it. They found a cafe in town and it became a weekly ritual. Angela would get coffee. Amélie would get tea. They’d order food that would grow cold as they talked. Amélie would fill her in on the latest drama in her new ballet company. She’d let Angela talk way too long about her projects and would do her best to feign interest.
Amélie made her go couch shopping. She decided that enough was enough. They picked out a crazy purple leather thing that Amélie said her husband was bound to hate. Oh well, that’s what he got for not being around. Strange style aside, it was incredibly comfy.
They sank into it together and Angela felt herself sliding toward the other woman. “This will be great for you two to watch movies together,” she offered as she tried to subtly scoot back to her side.
“How domestic and boring would that be?” Amélie replied. That smile was back again. The one from before. Why was it different?
A week later, Jack found the old “Conversational French” book on her desk from back in her college days. That too had been spit up by the black hole in her closet. “Brushing up?” he asked her as he nudged the book.
Angela’s mouth should not have gone dry. Her tongue should not have felt like it weighed a metric ton. There was nothing wrong with what she was doing, right? They were just friends. “Yes,” she eventually answered. “For a friend.”
He shouldn’t have given her the look that he did.
But that didn’t stop her from going to the cafe every week.
“I met Captain Amari the other day,” Amélie told her. Autumn was upon them, but she still insisted on sitting outside. Steam rose from their mugs as they waited for their lunch to arrive.
“You did? She’s, uh, intense,” Angela replied.
“Gérard looks up to her, says she’s a legend among the other Overwatch snipers. I don’t know if I’d call her intense. She was very...hmm...business-like, I guess? Didn’t want to chitchat much with me. We shook hands and she asked me a question and that was it. Then she and Gérard went on and on about this Talon organization he’s been fighting. They were at it for so long, I had to pinch myself to keep from falling asleep standing up,” Amélie explained.
“Sounds about right,” Angela snickered.
“I wanted to make a joke about how Gérard seemed to be more married to the idea of taking down Talon than he was to me, but I doubt she would have gotten it. I also doubt that I would have been able to deliver it in English.”
Angela stirred her coffee. “Nonsense. I keep telling you. Your English is great. You’re just a brat and don’t like speaking it.”
Amélie chuckled. “I suppose I am.”
They watched the breeze stir up the leaves sitting in the curbs of the street.
“She did answer a question for me too, at the end,” Amélie said.
Angela hadn’t been paying much attention to the leaves. She’d rather watch Amélie’s hair float in the wind and wonder how that black could hide so many colors in itself. Blues and purples and browns. Even in the weak autumn sunlight, it was quite the spectrum. She had to quickly stare straight ahead as she replied, “Oh? What was that?”
“I’ve been wondering something about a certain doctor I know,” Amélie told her with a sidelong smirk.
Oh god. She’d known Ana for years. Ana was intense, yes, and very business-like, but that woman knew everything. She was an unexpected gossip gold mine. How she found out her information was a mystery. Who hooked up at the holiday party? Ana knew. What unit was about to get disbanded or re-located? Ana already knew.
Amélie laughed. “You’re blushing.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Angela said as she tried to hide in her mug.
“You don’t tell me anything about yourself. You just talk about your work, so I had to ask. You realize that this is your fault, right?” Amélie chided, still laughing.
Angela sank deeper into her chair. Was this about her scandalous witch costume from last Halloween? Or something more severe? How would she explain what she had to do to Genji Shimada? She had to save him. It was the only way. “I--”
“I knew it, but I had to ask,” Amélie went on. “Captain Amari even told me that her daughter still has a crush on you. How cute is that?”
Oh. Just that? Everyone knew she was as gay as a unicorn shitting rainbows. Well, apparently not Amélie. “Fareeha is just a child,” she replied, finally daring to look over at her friend.
Amélie gave her a knowing grin. “She’s only a year younger than me, you know.”
“Well shit,” Angela replied. “I guess I’m officially old now. I should have known the moment I turned 30.”
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, you know,” Amélie offered. “Both being 30 and preferring women.”
Angela felt the tension leave her. Of all the things Ana could have said, this was the least incriminating. She had thought it was obvious. “I’m not ashamed. It’s just never been a topic of conversation. Shall we start again then? Hi there, I’m Dr. Angela Ziegler, a friend of your husband’s and also a raging lesbian.” She even extended her hand to be shaken.
Amélie swatted it away and laughed. “Oh stop. It makes no difference to me. I just wondered why a pretty thing like you didn’t seem to have anyone. That was the question I asked, by the way. It was Ana who kept going on about how you should date her daughter.”
“Really?” Angela replied. “I’d be afraid of a laser sight constantly aimed at my forehead if I did.”
Their food came as they laughed over that picture. It got cold yet again as they talked and talked. Nothing had changed. Amélie ended up taking most of her lunch to go. As the waiter arrived with the check, Angela’s phone beeped.
She checked it, but was keenly aware of Amélie’s eyes on her as she did. There was an attack in Belgium. Many wounded civilians. She was needed. “I have to--”
“Go,” Amélie finished for her and waved her off. “I know. You do it to me less often than he does. It’s easier to forgive.”
“I’m sorry. At least we were almost finished,” Angela replied as she fished through her wallet for a few notes to pay for lunch.
Amélie snatched her wrist as she went to put the money down. Her grip was strong. Too strong, even. “Be safe, please,” she commanded.
“I will try my best,” Angela offered.
There was nothing she could have done to prepare herself for what happened next. All of those secret glances, all of her far-off admiring had not made her ready to know exactly how Amélie’s full lips felt against hers. Warm and soft and desperate. But it was happening, regardless of whether she was ready for it. And Amélie wouldn’t let her go. The hand on her wrist was like iron. The one that had made its way to her cheek was like silk. Everything about the kiss was a mixture of hard and soft. It was perfectly Amélie.
For just a moment, she let herself enjoy it. She kissed back, just a little. For a moment, she forgot about everything else and told herself that she’d earned this. For all the lunches and couch shopping, she could be allowed a very nice goodbye kiss before leaving for a dangerous mission. And god, was it nice.
But then her mind strayed to the first time she saw the lips she was kissing. To the face they were attached to, to the arms that face was attached to, and how they wrapped around a man she called a friend.
This had to stop. She pulled out of that iron grip. “Amélie,” she warned. “Gérard…”
The look on Amélie’s face was enough. She was horrified. “I--Let’s...let’s forget this ever happened. Please.”
Angela drew in the longest breath she’d ever taken. It cooled her, steadying her with the crisp mountain air. Yes, it was for the best. She could forget. “Forget what? I don’t even know what you’re talking about” she replied with a smile.
Only she couldn’t forget, but she made a very good show of trying to.
She found out why the place was so silent. It wasn’t because it was empty. It was because the lower floors were quite well insulated. They walked through a corridor of cell doors. Everything was a dull grey. The doors themselves were solid steel, with only two openings that were both covered. One slat for delivering food near the bottom, another at eye level.
The patients within the cells made an unholy racket. Should could hear one giant slamming themselves against the steel. Another cursed in five different languages. Up ahead, a woman was screaming about what she’d do to their corpses after she’d killed them.
Dr. Bellworth cut her off, “The high security ward, Dr. Ziegler. As you can see, the doors are a necessary precaution. Please, it’s not much further.”
She didn’t stop to wonder how he could see where she was staring when she was walking behind him.
It was the last place in the world she could imagine the Amélie she’d once known. Amélie, with her perfectly coordinated outfits and her delicate perfume. Amélie, who would walk around puddles rather than risk her shoes. Amélie, who made Gérard shower at HQ before coming home so that he wouldn’t stink up the flat.
Yet she was here, somewhere amidst this lot of crazies that were smearing their own shit on the walls.
They took one turn and then another. The din didn’t lessen. Instead the noise followed them like a wave, with the violent patients beginning their tantrums as soon as they heard the doctor’s footsteps and ending them when they knew their prey was out of earshot.
And then they stopped, even though the noise did not.
“Here we are,” Dr. Bellworth announced. “I’ll see if she’s awake.”
Angela watched him as he slid the cover on the eye-level slat aside.
He turned back to her. “You’re in luck,” he said. Dr. Bellworth then keyed in a long combination on the keypad next to the door. Angela could hear the maglocks release.
“Normally,” he told her, “I would have a crew of guards and orderlies standing by, but Miss Lacroix is actually very cooperative. We’re required to hold her here initially due to the nature of her crimes, but I’m hoping to move her into more comfortable accommodations soon. Please, feel free to conduct your examination. I will wait here.”
She felt numb as she reached for the door handle. She’d waited years for this. She once had an entire speech memorized for this day. She had planned to ask so many things, but above all of them was why? Why any of this? But she couldn’t remember the speech. She couldn’t remember how to say anything, any word in French, English, or even German. All she knew was that the steel of the handle felt so cold in her hand and that the door was heavy, but she opened it.
Blue skin. Gold eyes. God, it was like something out of horror film, wasn’t it? To see her up close was entirely different than looking at her in recon photos and news reports. It was terrible, because despite the change in colors, there was no denying that she knew that face. It was Amélie. It was her Amélie.
Chapter 3: I will never divulge, holding such things to be holy secrets
Here we go with the smut! This one is NSFW!
AKA the one where I spend way too much time on the sex and probably not enough on the plot. Oh well.
She had forgotten how to form words just moments before, but now so many of them cluttered her throat that she couldn’t breathe. They formed a knot of unformed sounds in her trachea, twisting and writhing, but going nowhere.
Angela had thought she could be clinical about this. She thought she could separate herself from those old feelings. They had been intense, but it had been seven years. It had been seven years in which she had felt so many other things, but there they were again. Her body betrayed her. It was only natural. The human mind was built to recognize faces and associate them with feelings, after all. Seeing that face made her warm at first--it made her feel at home. She had long ago debated if that was love, but before she could start that argument with herself again, that same automatic reaction stabbed right through the feeling with the cold knife of betrayal.
Yes, that was much easier to understand.
Finally, one word escaped the tangle in her throat, “Amélie.”
Amélie was curled up on the bunk. There were no blankets to speak of, only a thin mattress sheathed in plastic. She was all blue skin and long limbs wrapped around one another, poking out of an orange prison jumpsuit. She had not stirred when Angela entered. She only turned her head.
She stared up at Angela with eyes of cold gold. Her blue lips were a flat line. “Ah, so you knew her,” the creature that wore Amélie’s face finally replied, in accented, but confident English. Yes, English.
Knew her? Angela gaped. She felt the cold air of the prison cell hitting her teeth. “What?”
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” the creature said. “You must have known her. Amélie, that is.”
Angela forced herself to suck in a breath. “Who are you then?”
“I believe you are supposed to find that out for the courts.”
She waited for it. She waited for that smile, that ever-present little tell that Amélie had when she felt like being confusing for the sake of amusement. One corner of her mouth would curl before the other, slowly too.
But this woman, this thing, it just stared at her. It waited with her.
Around them, the other patients kept screaming. Their silence was constantly bombarded by shrill curses and the thumping of lunatics literally bouncing off the walls.
“You don't remember me?” Angela finally asked.
The creature curled into itself more, as if the effort of remembering was physically straining. “Call sign Mercy. You are a doctor. Ex-Overwatch. You fly around healing strike teams.”
“What's my name?”
“All of it.”
She had forbidden Amélie from pet names. Angela hated them. Amélie wasn't particularly fond of them either, but she liked to tease. It had been established early on in their friendship that it was not Angie, not Angel, not mon ange, but just Angela.
Of course, the discussion about what name could be rasped against her ear and sighed into the crook of her neck came later. Still, it was usually just Angela.
“Am I supposed to know?”
Those eyes were like gold bars. Nothing lay behind them expect the solid hardness of metal. There was no hint of playfulness, no gleeful revelry. There was no satisfaction in the pain their owner was causing her. There was no malice, no ire, just solid gold.
No. She had to be in there. She had to answer for this. She had to tell Angela why. Why Gérard ? Why her? Why any of it?
“You really don't know?” Angela demanded. She wanted to say more, but judged it best to bite her lip to keep from screaming.
The blue lips finally twitched. A deep laugh bounced off of the concrete walls around them. “You definitely knew her well.”
Angela bolted forward and took a rough hold of the other woman’s sleeve, forcing her to turn and look at her fully. “Stop this!” she commanded. “Just stop!”
The creature shook her head. “This is what you have to work with, chérie. Did the Amélie you remember look like this, hmm? Could she put a bullet between a man's eyes from half a kilometer away? No, right?”
Amélie had cheeks that easily turned pink in the cool Swiss mountain air. Amélie did everything with the light grace of a professional ballerina. Amélie liked soft fabrics and bold designs. Amélie could talk forever about something as simple as a holo commercial she couldn’t stand or as complex as Shambali philosophy. Amélie was beautiful and selfish and so very real. Amélie didn't have time to be anyone but herself.
The creature continued, “She couldn't. She's gone. I am here instead.”
Angela found her grip on the woman's sleeve tightening. Part of her wanted to let go and shove this abomination away in disgust, but another part of her clung to the way that face had made her feel. “Then who are you?”
“Widowmaker, for now.”
Gérard was way too excited. At this rate, he was bound to spoil the surprise, but it was too adorable. Angela couldn't bring herself to tell him to tone it down.
“You told her you'll be away at that medical conference in Munich?” he asked her for the third time that day.
“I did,” Angela replied with a grin. “I hope this is worth it. She’s very annoyed with me.”
Gérard laughed. “You think you’ve got it bad? I almost slept on the couch last night when I told her I would have to stay late for a mandatory training exercise.”
She busied herself clattering things around her desk and pretended not to feel the tiniest stirrings of jealousy.
Gérard was leaning in her doorway and beaming. “We need to get crazy. I’m talking tons of bright red roses. Insane amounts,” he continued to ramble.
“I’ll let you take care of that one,” she said. “I’ve already made the reservations at the wine bar.”
Gérard reached into his pocket. “Oh, before I forget,” he said as he handed her a paper ticket. The theater was very old-fashioned that way.
She took it and examined it briefly. Admit one. Swan Lake as presented by the Geneva Ballet Company. Row 1, Seat N. Front and center. “Thank you,” she said as she stuffed it in her own pocket.
Gérard waved his own ticket at her.
“Odette is going to be jealous. She’s the star of the show and we’re going to give the black swan the royal treatment instead,” Anglea noted as she shoved the ticket in her own pocket for safekeeping.
Gérard shrugged. “Maybe she should get better friends than Odile then.”
She’d seen it happen so many times before that she thought nothing of it. Gérard ’s hand went up to his ear, pressing his earpiece in. “Copy,” he said simply. His face fell. The grin disappeared slowly, replaced by a scowl.
“Gérard,” Angela found herself muttering. Not today. Not today of all days.
“I’ll be there. Tell Jenkins to hang in there,” he said into the comm. He took his finger off of the ear piece and held his head in his hands. “Fuck me.”
“What’s happening?” Angela asked.
“One my men is being held hostage by Talon. I’ve got to go. Jenkins has a family, Angela. I have to make sure he makes it home to them,” he moaned through his fingers.
She sucked in a deep breath. Gérard had been planning to surprise Amélie at the premiere of her first performance with the new ballet company for weeks now. He had told Angela all about it, of course, and invited her along. It was great opportunity for him to prove his devotion, especially when Amélie was expecting the exact opposite. Angela let the air out of her lungs in one languid sigh. “At least she isn’t expecting you to be there?”
“Fuck,” he repeated. “You have to go without me.”
“Gérard--” she started to warn.
“No, you have to,” Gérard demanded. “She will be beyond pissed if no one shows up. Even if we give her excuses, she’ll still expect someone to be there. That’s just how she is.”
And didn’t she know it. Angela had heard Amélie complain endlessly about this production. From the moment she was cast as the evil black swan instead of the white swan, “Pfft, the director said he wanted Odette to have an innocent look. I’m too sultry he says. I’ve danced Odette a dozen times in my life, all of them better than she ever could. I will show him sultry.” To when they’d had lunch the day before, “And now you’re not coming? Gérard promised me roses and a parade and he’s not coming either. The other girls will think I really I am some sort of evil spinster now, with no one to congratulate me.”
“I will go,” Angela told Gérard. “Should I tell her you were planning to come with?”
He shook his head and took his own ticket out of his pocket and handed it to her. “Better she doesn’t know. Find a friend to go with you or something. Thank you, Angela. For everything you do for her, and for me.”
She could only offer a shrug. “That's what friends are for.”
“Roses,” he said to remind her, and then slipped out into the hall and into a sprint.
Only she couldn’t find a friend. She could barely find a dress. She settled for the little black one she’d found for her first dinner with Amélie. She ran to the florist near her flat, remembering Gérard’s request.
Angela was running severely late. She gripped the edge of the counter frantically. “I need roses,” she demanded of the florist.
“What color, miss?” he asked.
She hesitated, looking for some clue from him, but then thought better of it. “Whatever color means friendship.”
“Yellow,” he told her, “but we’re out.”
“Red then. Red is fine.”
By the time she took her seat, the lights were already dimming. Everyone around her seemed so composed and well-dressed, but there she was, with her skirt askew and her hair a mess from the wind, and a seat next to her that was empty save the too large bouquet of roses she set down there. Angela believed in being honest with herself. To be perfectly honest, she didn’t really care for ballet, and she felt terribly out of place there, but she would sit through it for Amélie.
While the company had done a good job of keeping the visuals up to date, with their set made up of hard-light projections and their modern costumes, Swan Lake was, well, Swan Lake. The prince and his friends went to hunt the swans. The prince fell in love with the enchanted Odette. Angela didn’t know much of anything about ballet, but she thought the girl did a fine job. She certainly did have a more innocent look than Amélie ever could. The evil sorcerer threatened the lovers. Angela was trying her best to keep awake through it all. Just as she was beginning to regret her latest overly-long night spent in the lab, the production finally reached Act Three.
And then there she was. The whole production had a bit of a cyberpunk feel to it, so Amélie was dressed in almost more glowing green than she was in black.
While Angela didn’t know enough about dance to really understand everything that was happening, she could appreciate the art of it. The athleticism too. Amélie could move. While the white swan had done a fine job, the black swan had an incredible power to her that could not be matched. Amélie showed up the six princesses with ease, as she was supposed to, but Angela could tell it was more than that. The passion that Amélie had for everything from the most inconsequential detail and up showed. She wanted everyone to know who was the real star here. It was her.
Just as she came to spin into the prince’s arms, Amélie’s eyes scanned the audience. They found Angela, and the empty seat next to her.
Angela expected a smile, maybe a frown, but she didn’t get much of anything. Amélie’s eyes narrowed as they picked her face out from the glare of the stage lights. And then she danced. She stole the prince’s heart, and the audience’s. She seduced them all. Every eye followed her graceful curves, the soft sinew of her well-trained muscles as they worked and worked. At least, that’s how Angela justified it to herself. Everyone had to be as enraptured as she was, right?
Regrettably, Act Four came all too soon. Odette was back and grieving the prince’s betrayal. From Amélie, she knew that the ending of the story was something each company had their own interpretation of. This one required Odette and Odile be played by two different ballerinas, instead of the same one. Beyond that, Amélie didn’t reveal anything else. Angela was expecting her to return for a final tableau or something, but then Amélie was back on stage again, dancing the prince over to see his failure and face his betrayal.
He dipped her for one last mime of a kiss before she spun him to face Odette, just as the white swan killed herself on the shore of the hard-light lake. The evil sorcerer came in and laughed with her as the prince grieved over his love. Amélie then grabbed him and threw him into the lake. The prince got one last shot off from his crossbow as he was being sucked into the waters. It hit her right in the heart, leaving Amélie to collapse into the sorcerer’s arms as the curtain fell.
Definitely an unconventional ending, but the crowd roared.
It was only during her bow that Amélie finally met Angela’s eyes. Beyond that makeup, the black and the green, feathers and silk, there was that smile again. The one that Amélie would give her when it got too late. The same one she would give her when they had a bit too much to drink.
Angela was beginning to hate that smile and everything that it couldn’t promise her.
When she left her seat, Angela followed the gaggle of boyfriends and relatives carrying flowers. She figured they would lead her to a good place to meet Amélie.
Soon enough, she mingled with a sea of white tutus, each swan twirling past her as if she were part of the dance. They went this way and that, finding their significant others and embracing them, but there was no black feathers in sight.
Until she nearly ran right into them. Amélie was a little less graceful off stage. The white powder that covered most of her skin was beginning to flake off and the mask of black paint across her eyes was starting to run. She was tired, that much was obvious, but she was still beautiful. Amélie wouldn’t let herself be anything else.
“You are a terrible liar,” she told Angela. “I didn’t believe you for one minute about Munich. I knew you’d be here.”
She wrapped Angela in a too tight embrace, leaving the doctor even more keenly aware of just how strong she really was. The bundle of roses crunched between them.
“You were wonderful,” Angela said as she tried to ignore how her words echoed off of Amélie’s neck.
Amélie laughed and released her. “Oh shut up. You hate ballet, but you showed up anyway.”
“Hate is a strong word,” Angela cautioned. “At least your company made the ending interesting. You didn’t tell me you would be such a villain.”
“And ruin the surprise? Pfft, that would be no fun,” Amélie replied with a grin. She gestured to the roses. “How many greenhouses did you have to raid for those?”
“Oh,” Angela was suddenly all too aware of the ridiculous amount of flowers she had in comparison to all the other well-wishers. She quickly thrust them at Amélie. “Just one florist who didn’t have anything else left but this.”
Amélie took the bouquet and made a show of smelling the flowers. She laughed again. There was an incredible lightness to her in that moment, so unlike the dark way she’d danced the prince to his death. It was hard to imagine she was the same woman that had been on stage only a few minutes before.
“Gérard--” Angela began.
“Isn’t here right now,” Amélie cut her off. “Yes, I know he was planning on coming. It was painfully obvious, but he’s not here now and you are. Let me enjoy that for a moment before I worry about him.”
Angela could only watch mutely as slender fingers intertwined with her own. Amélie was no doctor, but was also quite an accomplished hand squeezer. She balanced the massive bouquet against her tutu-clad hip with one hand and captured Angela’s hand with another. She scanned over the room of other women in white for a moment before leaning in to say, “Let’s get away from all this chatter. Follow me.”
The fisheye lens of the security camera would watch them fight their way through rigging and curtains as Amélie dragged Angela backstage, tripping over ropes and props in the dark. They ran, for some reason, enough that both were a little out of breath by the time they reached their destination. A simple wooden door. Not adorned by any stars or name tags. Amélie opened it and pulled Angela in after her before shutting it tight again.
The lights flickered on, too bright and too loud in their mechanical hum. It was like staring into the sun for a moment. They lined the outside of a mirrored vanity, illuminating a small dressing room,.
Amélie sighed into the silence. “Much better.”
She let go of Angela’s hand.
The room looked lived in. Bits of Amélie were strewn about it. Her coat and handbag hung from hooks near the door. An old chair in the corner held her duffle bag and some stray street clothes. Beside it were a pair of tall leather boots. Those were new.
Amélie wasted no time. She was already leaning on the vanity and removing the many feathered pins from her hair. She must have caught Angela looking at her in the mirror’s reflection and excused herself, “These things have been stabbing into my skull for the last three hours.”
Angela nodded and tried to busy herself by looking around some more, but there was nothing to see. It was just brick walls and pieces of Amélie. She couldn’t very well stare at bricks all night, so she went back to looking toward her friend, trying her best to look past her.
That didn’t stop her from seeing the smile creep back onto Amélie’s face when she removed the last of the pins. That dangerous smile.
“So you think I make a good villain then?” Amélie asked.
Angela saw those eyes watching her from the charcoal streak across the other woman’s face. She had to respond. “It was surprising, that’s all. Usually there’s some bullshit ending where the white swan and the prince go to heaven together or something.”
“Well, I’ve had enough of the usual bullshit. I’ve danced it enough too. I thought this take was refreshing,” Amélie said.
She walked over to the chair and took her things off of it, flinging them onto the vanity instead. Amélie sat and began to undo the extensive laces on her slippers. Angela’s eyes definitely had to meet the bricks as Amélie began to uncurl the long satin ribbons from her thighs.
“The audience sort of expects a happy ending, though,” Angela retorted as she found a corner to lean in. “They want a fairy tale.”
“Fairy tales are too easy. Life--real life--now that is harder to make into a performance. Real life is full of disappointments and unhappy endings,” Amélie replied. She winced as she unwound the final ribbon from her ankle. “Oh, right. Don’t scold me, doctor.”
The slipper came away bloody. Not very, but enough. It took all of Angela’s willpower not to rush over and begin triage. Her eyes darted back to the bricks again before she asked, “This is...normal then?”
Amélie chuckled and rubbed some life into her injured foot. “For an opening night, yes. I’m a bit rough on myself, I’m afraid. Nothing that a few bandaids won’t fix. No need for your nanomachines.”
Angela gave her a nervous chuckle in response.
Amélie removed the other slipper and seemed to be able to finally relax after that. Her whole body sank into the relief, pouring out like liquid silk into the chair. “So now what? The wine bar, right?”
“How did you know?” Angela demanded.
“Gérard kept asking me about it,” Amélie told her. “He’s never been there, you know. I’ve only ever gone with you.”
“He’s the worst at keeping secrets,” Angela sighed.
Amélie hummed in response to that. She got back up and went to the vanity again. She made a show of looking at her makeup, but not taking it off before she said, “I wouldn’t say that.” She then began to shrug out of her tights.
This was getting to be a bit much. “I’ll wait outside while you change,” Angela offered.
Amélie spun to face her. She charged the few steps between her and Angela. Amélie’s hand was suddenly snaking around her neck, tangling itself in the wisps of blonde hair that had escaped her updo. Her breath was hot and close when she said, “I don’t know how to tell you. I thought I could be subtle, but you’re not getting it.”
Angela found herself staring into brown eyes alight with some sort of fire that made them shine an almost golden color. “I...I don’t know what you mean.”
“I’m glad you’re here tonight. Just you, and not Gérard,” Amélie breathed against her cheek.
Lips crashed into hers. This was not the soft and sad kiss they had shared before. This was something made of heat and need and teeth. As much as Angela wanted to return it, as much as she had been thinking about something like this the entire night, she couldn’t. She pushed away, backing further into the corner. “Gérard--” she began.
Amélie followed, relentless. “He’s cheating on me, Angela,” she muttered into the crook of Angela’s neck. “On of his men told me. Half of these missions of his are really an excuse to go back to Paris and sleep with his ex.”
Angela didn’t believe it. She knew it couldn’t be true, and even if it was, this still wasn’t right, but in that moment, she just stopped caring. Amélie’s lips were like fire licking at her skin on a cold night. They worked their way expertly up her carotid artery, sucking at her very heartbeat.
“You can tell me no, if you want,” Amélie exhaled against her earlobe. “We can forget again, or we could keep going. It doesn’t matter either way.”
Angela had thought such things would be reserved only in the deepest and darkest corners of her mind. Each stirring of jealousy she felt came with a pang of guilt--a reminder that the way that Amélie’s skin would feel against hers was a thing that would only ever exist in her imagination, only manifesting close to reality when she lay awake at night and used it to bring herself into a heady, satisfied sleep. But this--this was real. Too real and too good.
So she kissed back. She found Amélie’s lips and gave her reply against them. Soft at first, testing. Then harder, then with tongue and teeth. It was better than her imagination. It was so real and so Amélie. Soft, but hard. Beautiful, but dangerous.
Angela found he way down Amélie’s graceful neck, nipping her way down to the choker that adorned it and back up to her jawline. She could feel an odd combination of a laugh and a sigh fill the other woman’s throat.
“I knew it,” Amélie whispered into her hair. “I knew you wanted this.”
Angela believed firmly in being honest with herself, true, but she also believed that actions spoke louder than words. She bit out her response, perhaps just a little too hard, just underneath Amélie’s ear. That shut her up well enough. It made Amélie bite her lip instead of talking, at least. A low hum crawled through her throat as Angela traveled down it, past the choker, to write out more of her response against her clavicles.
As much as Amélie seemed to be enjoying this treatment, she eventually took Angela’s face into her hands and brought their mouths together without letting go. “Tell me if I should stop,” she husked against Angela’s lips before making her own journey down her neck.
Angela hissed as Amélie’s lips met a sensitive bit of flesh where her neck met her shoulder. She was infinitely thankful for the little black dress and how much of the skin of her shoulders it exposed. “I don’t think I remember how to say that in French,” she said as Amélie’s hands came to rest on her hips and pulled her closer.
“Well then,” Amélie noted. The words vibrated against Angela’s own voice box.
The hands on her hips moved to hike her skirt up, only a little bit. Nails found their way onto the smooth skin of her thighs, raking up and down and dangerously up again.
Angela had a thousand things to say. She wanted to utter something to the effect of how she couldn’t believe Amélie wanted this too. She wanted to thank whatever deity was out there that she had decided to give up on wearing nylons that night. She wanted to fend Amélie off and say it was wrong. She wanted to invite her back into the warmth swelling between them and say nevermind, this was fine. She wanted so much, but was already getting too much.
Where her nails had been hard, Amélie’s fingertips were so soft. They ghosted reverently over the red trails she had left behind moments before, then dared to touch the inside of Angela’s thighs, and led themselves slowly, higher and higher.
“Last chance to stop me,” Amélie whispered into her ear.
“Don’t you dare,” Angela warned as she grabbed onto Amélie’s costume and held on for dear life.
One hand left to hike her skirt up higher. Another stayed to follow it as it went up and up. Slowly, too slowly, but Angela could hardly complain. He mouth was only capable of breathing out a needy sigh against Amélie’s cheek just then.
That sigh hitched as Amélie’s feather-light touch found the waistband of her panties and toyed with it a bit before slipping beneath it.
This was infinitely better than her imagination. Imagination Amélie liked to tease in the bedroom, just as she did in conversation. Real Amélie seemed to be intent on melting her into a puddle of blissed out goo as fast as possible. Either that, or Angela was way too turned on by this. It was probably a little bit of both.
She felt Amélie’s smile against her lips when the other woman discovered just how wet she was.
Angela had been watching those lithe fingers for the better part of a year, admiring the skillful way they wrapped around a paper to-go cup or the handle of a purse. Worshiping the way they opened doors and checked messages and hailed taxis. She had imagined how they would feel against her, but yet again, her imagination proved to be a poor comparison to the glorious reality she was living in.
The bricks were pressing into her shoulders, leaving little bits of mortar against her spine, but Angela couldn’t care less. Amélie steadied her against the corner, her touch soft, but relentless. Angela went from breathy silence to broken moans all too quickly. Curses in three different languages followed, but most were in French. Amélie seemed to appreciate that and understood. Her touch became harder. Her kisses turned to licks and nips.
And it was all over too fast and too good. Angela buried her face into jet black hair to muffle that final cry and clawed at Amélie’s bare shoulders, her fingernails taking plenty of white powder with them.
She held on tight for a little too long. Amélie’s forehead rested against hers and she was warm, so warm. Their breathing slowed and synced up. Angela didn’t want to open her eyes. She worried at what kind of face would greet her. Would this be like the first time they kissed, when Amélie looked back at her with abject horror at what she’d done? Angela didn’t know if she could live through that look again. Not after this.
But when she finally looked, a wry smile was waiting for her.
Amélie looked very pleased with herself indeed. “You must really like me,” she hummed.
Angela felt every bit of tension leave her. She was incredibly satisfied and incredibly relieved, but she did want for just one more thing. “Will you let me show you how much I do?” she asked.
Amélie nodded before going in to kiss her again.
Angela didn’t waste any time. She had a year-long friendship worth of longing to get through. First, that hair. While her teeth kept Amélie’s lips busy, she removed the green silk ribbon that was the last thing holding it back into a bun. Those loose raven locks fell gloriously over both of their shoulders and Angela was finally able to run her fingers through them. Even her hair was better than she could have imagined.
But this position wouldn’t do. Angela wasn’t normally the type to be backed against a wall anyway. This was an exception, not the norm.
She walked Amélie over to the vanity, hands roaming against her amazing hips and taut stomach. The tutu was terribly in the way, but Angela had no idea how to get it off. She would just have to work around it.
Amélie didn’t gasp or feign any sound of surprise when she bumped into the counter of the vanity. She simply slipped up onto it and slid right back where Angela wanted her.
Angela took just a small moment for herself to step back and look at this beautiful picture, then she dove right back in. “What do you like?” she rasped against Amélie’s neck.
“Whatever you’re best at,” Amélie groaned.
Now that sounded like a challenge. Angela Ziegler had thirty years of experience being gay as fuck. Granted, she’d only realized it when she was halfway through med school, but that was the same age that most normal people were when they attended high school. Despite the angelic themes she surrounded herself with, she was no innocent in this regard. She knew a great deal of dirty things to do and was plenty skilled at executing them.
So she kissed her way past the black feathers under Amélie’s collar bones. She kissed her way down the satin and lace of her costume. She paid only very brief attention to her breasts, because she had better places to be. She kissed her way to Amélie’s bare thighs and pulled off the one leg of her tights that still hadn’t quite made it to the ground. Then she kissed her way back up those glorious thighs.
Amélie sucked in a sharp breath.
“Last chance to stop me,” Angela repeated her own words back to her as she hovered her lips above one jutting hip bone.
“Don’t you dare,” Amélie echoed as her hands tangled themselves in Angela’s severely ruined updo.
There was a leotard in the way, but not for long. Angela wouldn’t let something as simple as a garment stop her. She pulled it aside.
And yes, the real Amélie definitely tasted better than the one in her imagination too.
Amélie was loud. Probably too loud, but it couldn’t be helped. Angela had a point to prove. She did like her. She was down right infatuated with her from the moment they met. Amélie was beautiful. Amélie was perfect on the outside, but definitely not on the inside. She was just real. She was here, and she was hers--at least for tonight.
More French curses bounced off of the bricks. Angela could see the roses next to Amélie’s thigh. She only got glimpses of the other woman through the sheer fabric of her tutu, but what she did get to see was just gorgeous. She knew it was almost over when one hand began reaching out for her desperately. It couldn’t find her. Instead, it grasped the bundle of flowers, far too large and far too red to be a gift for a friend. It held on tight, regardless of the thorns.
When Amélie’s moans died down into whimpers, Angela kissed her way back up again.
Amélie collapsed bonelessly against her. She pushed their foreheads together again and laughed. “We should definitely do this again,” she said.
Angela knew they shouldn’t. It was wrong. Gérard was a good man and he loved his wife. But his wife was lonely. His wife craved attention and a gentle touch that was sometimes not so gentle. Angela had more than enough of both to give, so she replied, “We should.”
“Are you going to stare at me all night?” Widowmaker asked her.
Angela had been staring. She had been fighting with herself. She had been wrestling with the fact that this thing with Amélie’s face was not her. She had been extremely annoyed that none of the reports she’d read earlier that evening prepared her for this, but that couldn’t be helped.
Widowmaker scoffed. “They said you would help me. Are you just like all the rest then? Come to stare at the spider?”
Angela finally let go of her sleeve. “Help you,” she echoed.
“You’re a doctor. Isn’t that what you do?” Widowmaker asked as she curled back into herself.
Right, she was a doctor. She could do this. She could be clinical and cold. She repeated it to herself like a mantra. It worked enough to clear her head. Right, logically, freaking out over this did nothing for either of them. She was here to help. What she was helping--well, she could sort that out later.
So she observed. Limbs wrapping around the core? Hunched posture? Signs of pain, definitely. Possibly protecting an injury? Cyanosis to the most massive degree she’d ever seen. That scowl. Was it a sign of displeasure and an annoyance, or did it mask a grimace of discomfort?
“Right,” Angela said again, out loud this time. She sat down next to the patient and held out a hand. “May I have your wrist please?”
Widowmaker quirked an eyebrow, but offered it anyway.
Angela took it and felt for a pulse. Nothing. Hmm. “Excuse me,” she said as she hiked up the sleeve of Widowmaker’s jumpsuit and went for the crook of her elbow. She tried not to cringe at the tattoo she passed on her way. It was black and harsh and very not Amélie. There was no pulse there either, though, and no veins to speak of. It would be a nightmare to inject her with anything.
Angela hummed in the non-committal way that only a doctor could. “Excuse me again,” she begged again and reached for Widowmaker’s neck and set two fingers against the pulse point there. Ah, there it was. Weak and slow. Very slow. Angela counted. Maybe twenty beats per minute.
Widowmaker seemed to be very annoyed, but did not pull away. “Your hands are actually cold,” she said. “How strange.”
Angela coughed and snatched her hand away. “Enough of that then. The other doctors had plenty to say about your bradycardia. Let’s see how it affects your respiratory system.” She dove into her pockets and retrieved a stethoscope.
Widowmaker sighed and turned a bit to face her back toward Angela. Obviously, the other doctors had recorded plenty of findings regarding the assassin’s lungs and how they worked, but Angela needed to do something, anything.
She attached the earpieces to herself and deftly slipped the other end past the collar of Widowmaker’s jumpsuit and down her back. “Breathe normally for me,” she requested.
Her lungs were fine. Her breaths were also slow, but not as drastically slow as her heart. Interesting. But Angela’s hands were curious creatures. Even if the skin beneath them was cold, she couldn’t help but remember the last time they had been there, the last time that skin had been hot and slick with sweat. The last time her nails had run down that back when it belonged to Amélie, when its muscles were used for dancing and not for hanging from a grappling hook to line up the perfect killshot.
She couldn’t do this. Not now. “That...that’s great,” she stammered as she all but ripped the stethoscope off and pulled her hands away. Angela stood, desperate for some distance again.
She couldn’t shove the thing back in her pocket fast enough. Widowmaker was looking up at her again. “Anything else?”
“Not for today,” Angela muttered as she finally got the device to disappear into the recesses of her coat.
For a moment, she waited for some snide line, some glib remark or questioning of her abilities, but there was nothing. Widowmaker curled away again and looked at the concrete walls that held her.
“Just one question, actually,” Angela corrected as she backed away. “In your opinion, how exactly am I helping you?”
Widowmaker didn’t respond right away. She didn’t shift or stir. Angela thought she was getting the silent treatment for a moment. Understandable. She’d pretty much just made a fool of herself.
But then, “You will bring her back--this Amélie everyone seems to love so much. You will get rid of me.”
Angela had to turn back around to respond. She was nearly out the door and was already preparing a tirade to deliver to Dr. Bellworth to ask why there had been no psych reports in the ones she received earlier. “And that’s what you want?” she asked.
Widowmaker kept her eyes on the wall. “Yes.”
Chapter 4: I will carry out, according to my ability and judgment, this oath
Another NSFW section in here! This is why we have an M rating here, people!
Angela was pretty certain that she and Dr. Bellworth were no longer on speaking terms. The rant she had delivered to him after leaving the high security unit was one for the ages. His reason for not including the psych reports? He thought they couldn't possibly be important to her. She was there to prove the influence of nano technology was used, nothing more.
But still, it would have been nice to know that this Widowmaker knew next to nothing about her previous life. It would have been extremely nice to know that she was dealing with a patient that was supposedly brainwashed and reprogrammed to be a perfect killer. It would have been very, very nice to know that lead weight betrayal that she'd carried at the bottom of her heart all these years was completely unjustified.
She read the reports. Dr. Bellworth emailed them with a curt note, which was what had made her realize they were probably not going to have any sort of pleasant chat ever again. She stayed up reading them and didn't call for a car back to the hotel until the sun was well on its way back over the horizon.
Brainwashing. Reprogramming. Acute amnesia. Long story short, Widowmaker knew that she had once been Amélie Lacroix. She knew that she had once been married to Gérard Lacroix, but didn't remember anything about him other than the fact that he was her husband and was once an Overwatch agent. She knew that she had killed him, but she didn't know why or how. She knew that she served Talon, but not when she started or why she sided with them. She knew how to kill and that it was the only thing that made her feel anything, so she just kept doing it.
“A sleeper agent,” Angela muttered to herself when she dropped onto the bed in her hotel room.
It all made so much more sense. She couldn't help but feel a weight lift off her shoulders. Years of anger and hurt rose from her, leaving her feeling lightheaded, but her eyes still felt heavy. Or that might have been due to the fact that she hadn't eaten or slept in over 24 hours. It was hard to tell.
“They made her a fucking sleeper agent,” she groaned.
Angela was just too tired to cry. When she woke up several hours later, still in her clothes and in the exact same position she'd landed in, she was too empty to cry. One room service sandwich later, she was too busy to cry.
She did what she knew best and worked away her feelings. She furiously tracked down every physician that had signed off on these reports. She emailed them unending strings of questions. When she didn't get a response, she called. She called their assistants, their hospitals, their husbands and wives--whatever it took to get her answers.
By 3pm, Angela's hotel room was pretty much a mobile command center dedicated to Amélie’s case. If he could have seen the mess of papers and holo displays spread out over the bed, Jack would have either been very proud of her for reverting back to her Overwatch days, or he would have called her insane.
It made her feel better, sure, but all of this effort created very little in the way of real answers. There were plenty of gaps, tons of unexplored possibilities, and those that had already been declared dead ends. She still had very little idea how Amélie had been reconditioned and how the changes to her body had been made. The why, of course, was also unsatisfactory. The real question was could any of this be safely reversed? No one seemed to want to even approach that subject.
By the time Angela arrived back at the hospital in the early evening, tears were no longer an option. She had a job to do.
Dr. Bellworth was unsurprisingly absent when she arrived. Instead, the front desk paged a nurse for her and made her wait. By the time the woman arrived, she felt like she had worn a hole in the tile of the lobby floor with her pacing.
“Dr. Ziegler. Thank you for your patience. My name is--”
“There will be plenty of time for introductions later. Right now, I need you to escort me to the lab, as the lovely people up front here tell me I’m not allowed to attempt to find it myself,” Angela demanded.
On their way, the poor thing tried to introduce herself three more times. Angela didn’t catch her name, as she was too busy rattling off tests and samples she needed. By the time they reached the door to the lab, the nurse’s eyes were wide.
“...and make sure to draw from the hand. You’re not going to get anything out of the usual points with that circulation.”
“Right, right,” the nurse said, nodding as she opened the door. “There’s one thing i need to tell you, Dr. Ziegler, before I go get...all of this.”
Angela was already halfway through the door. “And that is?”
The woman almost seemed like she couldn’t believe Angela was allowing get a word in. “The patient has been moved into a normal room. I can give you the room number and access code, if you need to conduct another examination. Dr. Bellworth seemed to think that you might.”
“I don’t think…have it sent to my holo, please.”
While she waited for the requested samples, Angela took some time to review the equipment without prying eyes watching her. Again, everything was top-tier and new or nearly new. There were plenty of devices she wasn’t even familiar with. Plenty more that she hadn’t used herself in years. The electron microscope made a very satisfying hum when she turned it on. Yes, this would do.
Her holopad chimed a notification. A message: Room 537 West. Low security ward. Patient is still in lockdown. Entry code is 47994.
Another message. No sender? It displayed before Angela could even swipe it away to delete it.
Just a picture of a pink skull.
The display crackled into video. The pink skull transformed from 2D into 3D, wrapping around a hooded head. “Hola,” it greeted.
“I was wondering when we’d speak again,” Angela noted to the tiny projection of Sombra’s upper body that stood out from the display.
“Wonder no more, pretty doctor. I was nice enough to stay out of your hotel room this time. Did you check for cameras?” the projection asked.
“Your employer might be receiving a higher bill than they anticipated because of how thoroughly I checked. Thank you for my new phobia,” Angela told her.
Sombra chuckled. “Consider it a public service announcement. You needed a wake up call. But enough chat. I’m here to check on your progress.”
Angela scoffed, “What progress? I just got here last night.” She decided that this hologram didn’t need her full attention and went back to continue tuning the microscope.
“Is that why you’ve been blowing up everyone who’s been involved with the case so far? I’d say you’re working pretty hard,” Sombra said.
“That doesn’t mean I’ve found anything for you,” Angela replied. She focused the device in on a sample slide of a virus. How fitting.
“I’d say it means you’re motivated. I heard you had a brief chat with our mutual friend. Did you find Ms. Lacroix to your liking?”
No. No she did not. All of the feeling she had been trying to push out of her mind returned to prey upon it then. They clung to her like tiny bits of sticky tar, seeping into her pores, making her stomach twist as they dripped down her throat.
But Sombra didn’t need to know that. Angela kept her eyes on the microscope’s screen. “I hear she prefers Widowmaker these days.”
A throaty laugh sounded behind her. “And I hear you didn’t seem to know that, huh? Overwatch thought she was a double agent this whole time, huh? Overwatch, the elite international group of geniuses, thought that Talon would play the long game like that? It’s too funny. I might die from laughing, chica. Can you do anything for a diaphragm ruptured from laughing too hard?”
“The question is would I want to,” Angela snapped.
“Oh please, let me have my fun,” Sombra sighed, laughter still hanging on the edge of her voice. “This is so fun, really. I can’t believe you didn’t realize it. I mean, you of all people. You knew her. Back then, she was so fussy and prissy. A real girly girl--all designer clothes and fancy nails and ballet. Did you really think Amélie could be a killer?”
“Anyone can be,” Angela retorted.
“Fair enough. Even pretty doctors like you, sure.”
Silence stretched across the lab. Not even the hum of the equipment could mask it. It hung heavy, like steel beams weighing across Angela’s shoulders.
“I have one question, before you grill me,” Angela finally said to break it. “If Talon did this to her, then why do they want me to reveal all of it? Because that’s what I’ll have to do.”
Sombra laughed even harder this time. For a good minute, there was nothing but crackling laughter coming from the pink projection. “Oh, Mercy. You’re going to kill me too. What makes you so certain this is Talon?”
The projection flickered out of existence before Angela could even turn around to demand an answer from it.
The day after, she was fine. Giddy even. She was almost disappointed when no one noticed. No one gave her the old sitcom line about looking like she just got laid. Still, Angela hummed old songs over her latest batch of nanomachines and waved at strangers in the hall. It was nice.
The next day, she was a bit worried, but tried to ignore it. Nothing from Amélie. Not a text or a call or anything. It was fine.
The third day, she was a wreck. She was convinced she'd ruined everything. There was no turning back. There'd be no more cafe lunches, no more laughing over completely unimportant shit, no more admiring from afar.
Day four she didn't sleep. She spent all night in the lab, yet somehow got nothing accomplished. She just stared at the same reports for hours, watching the numbers focus and unfocus.
Day five she decided it would be a great idea to do field testing with Torbjörn on the new Valkyrie suit wing design he had cooked up. That would take her mind off things, surely. He sent her home after the third time she crashed into the side of the test range. There was nothing wrong with the wings, but pilot error was mentioned a lot.
Day six she told herself she’d call Amélie. She didn’t.
Day seven she got paged to the ICU at the base hospital. That was never a good sign. The attending asked her if she was alright when he handed the patient’s chart over. That was also not a good sign.
“Jenkins,” Angela muttered as she read the patient’s name. “Where do I know that from?”
Jenkins was a mess of burns, though most were covered with bandages as this point. Beyond that, he was mostly comprised of tubes and machinery. The burns were only second degree, though, and they had put her nanomachines on him. Skin, now that was a relatively easy thing to fix. He didn’t look fine, but with time, this Jenkins would be okay--if quite a bit scarred.
Just as Angela was handing his chart back to the attending and assuring him that they’d done the best they could for the man, two dark shapes swept into the corner of her eye.
The Lacroixs were accosting the nurse that tried to stop them from entering the ward. Well, Gérard was accosting the nurse. Amélie was trying to look indignant while carrying a “Get Well” flower arrangement, but was obviously bored out of her mind and wanting to be anywhere else.
That’s where she knew the name from. He was Gérard’s man. Apparently that hostage situation had not gone so well.
Angela’s immediate reaction was to look for an escape route before she could be noticed. The problem was that the only escape route that wouldn’t trip a fire alarm was the one that Gérard and Amélie were blocking.
And then, of course, Amélie saw her. Her mouth twitched briefly upward, but then flat again. Not good. So not good. She then tilted her head toward Gérard to ask for assistance.
One of these days, Angela would learn to say no. She would learn to stop helping. It would not be this day. She took a breath and walked over to the nurse. She laid a gentle hand on the woman’s shoulder and offered, “Please, if you need authorization to allow Lieutenant Lacroix a brief visit here, you can have mine.”
“Dr. Ziegler--” the nurse objected as she turned around.
“Please, I take full responsibility. I’d be happy to speak with your supervisor and let them know that as well.”
The nurse relented and headed back to her post with a sigh.
Before she could even say hello, Gérard was wrapping her in a fierce hug. “Angela saves the day yet again!” he said as he just about lifted her bodily off the ground.
Angela had no idea she could become so stiff so quickly. It must have felt like he was picking up a two by four. Thankfully, Gérard didn’t seem to notice. She swallowed hard when her feet were steadily on the ground again.
“It’s nothing,” Angela croaked. She was doing her best to look right at him and nowhere near Amélie.
“Were you here to see Jenkins too?” Gérard asked.
Angela nodded. “They paged me to check on the progress of the nanotherapy. He’s doing very well so far. It will be a long road to recovery, but he’ll get there.”
He went to squeeze her shoulder. Angela became wooden again. It took everything she had not to twist away as he said, “Thank you. I really mean it, Angela. I know I say it a lot, but you’ve done so much for me and mine--”
“I would do the same for anyone,” she replied way too loudly.
Just on the edge of her vision, Amélie’s smile betrayed itself from behind the bouquet of daisies and lilies. That smile. The dangerous one.
Gérard released her shoulder. “And that’s why you’re amazing. We’d better go visit Jenkins before that nurse changes her mind. I’ll see you around, eh?”
Angela sighed. She could see the light at the end of the tunnel. This awkward exchange was nearly over. She was soon to be free from examining every pore on Gérard’s face, every bit of stubble on his chin. She was running out of things to look at that weren’t Amélie. “Of course,” she said and started to walk away.
“Gérard,” Amélie said from behind the flowers as she hefted them toward her husband. “Why don’t you take some time with your man here? I can catch up with Angela.”
He took the bouquet and smiled at her. “You two--always talking and talking. I’ll never understand how women have so much to talk about with each other. That’s fine, chérie. I know how much you hate hospitals.” He then turned his attention to Angela, “Do you have a minute to entertain my wife and take her somewhere less depressing?”
Angela was a tree. This was her life now. She was made of wood, stiff as a board. No, that wasn’t good enough. Perhaps she was a statue, made of stone, carved forever into an expression of mild terror, badly hidden with a lopsided smile.
Since a statue couldn’t speak, Amélie answered for her, “It’s fine. I’m sure the good doctor can spare a few minutes for me. Just give me a call when you’re ready to go home and we’ll find you.”
Gérard nodded and gave her a kiss before heading to Jenkins’ bed.
When Angela’s flesh broke free of its petrifying curse, Amélie was leading her out of the ward and into the hall.
She couldn’t see Amélie’s face. The other woman’s hand was wrapped in the sleeve of her lab coat, holding on tight.
Angela had to say something. Anything. She had ruined it after all. “Amélie...I--”
“Shush. Where’s your office?” Amélie asked, briefly turning back to her with a smile. A smile? More like a cheshire cat grin.
Angela was so confused. “My what? Oh. In the research wing,” she stammered.
Ameile’s hand made for her wrist instead. “Which is where now?”
“Let me,” Angela said as she finally regained full control of her motor reflexes. She let Amélie keep her wrist, but surged ahead of her at a brisk walk.
Yes, Amélie was definitely grinning. The look on her face was unmistakable. She wasn’t mad. Everything had not been ruined. She was happy. Too happy.
“Can I ask--”
“No. Office first,” Amélie put one finger to her own lips as she interrupted Angela.
Angela obeyed, if only to find out what the hell was going through this woman’s mind.
Soon enough, she was entering the keycode to unlock her door and apologizing, “Sorry. It’s a mess in here.”
Amélie’s voice was dripping with sarcasm when she responded, “Really? I couldn’t imagine that.”
The lights flickered on as the door closed behind them, revealing that it was indeed a mess in there. Angela had a pretty decent-sized office, with a desk, a credenza, and a little informal sitting area that was dominated by a sleek black couch and a large coffee table. Of course, very little of this furniture was actually visible. Most of it was covered in books, discarded medical equipment, bits of Valkyrie under armor, other random Overwatch uniform pieces, and a few pieces of actual garbage.
Why had she agreed to bring Amélie into this den of filth?
Before Angela’s face could finish heating up in shame, Amélie’s hands were pulling it toward her own.
“Whoa, whoa,” Angela said just inches from the other woman’s lips. “Hold on a minute.”
The grin disappeared and was instead replaced by a quirked eyebrow. “Having second thoughts?” Amélie inquired.
“You haven’t said a word to me for a week,” Angela protested as she shook herself from Amélie’s grip. “I’ve had second, third, fourth and fifth thoughts by now!”
“Phones work two ways, Angela,” Amélie countered, but her grin was returning. One side of her mouth went up first, then the other.
Angela was a child prodigy. She’d earned a medical degree at age 22, when most people were just finishing their bachelor's. She had patented hundreds of life-saving technologies. She had seen the horrors of war first hand and gone back to see them again and again. But all she could do right then was just force a frustrated grunt through her teeth. She had nothing else.
“To be fair, I’ve been busy with the show and babysitting Gérard,” Amélie told her. “He’s been a mess over this Jenkins guy. He’s been so fucking pissed off at himself for letting him get hurt. I say he shouldn’t have gotten himself kidnapped, but I’ve been very busy not saying that for a week.”
“He’s been worried sick over an injured squadmate,” Angela paraphrased.
“And I’ve been worried you would freak out when I didn’t call,” Amélie sighed and rolled her eyes. “I can see I was right to be so concerned.”
“Fuck,” was all Angela could say. She had to give herself some space, so she found a bare patch of couch and sat on it.
Amélie laughed. “Yes, we already did. Did you need to talk about it?”
Angela buried her face in her hands. “I don’t know.”
“Do you want to do it again?”
“I don’t know,” Angela groaned, but quickly peeked back up at Amélie and corrected herself, “I mean, of course I do, but we shouldn’t.”
“Too late for that,” Amélie said. She began wandering around the office picking her way through the clutter. “Do you know what I want?”
“A chance to do everything to you that I’ve been thinking about this whole week,” Amélie breathed.
Angela couldn’t deny the warmth that flooded her core after hearing those words. Damn this body. Damn its automatic reactions. Damn Amélie for knowing exactly how to manipulate them.
A gasp came from a dark corner of the office, away from the windows and the lights. A little patch of shadow, where Amélie was standing in front of a prototype Valkyrie suit on a mannequin--the one that was waiting for Angela’s comments and suggestions before going into production.
A peal of laughter followed. Amélie stood, arms crossed, considering the armor. “You are so over dramatic,” she finally said.
“Why?” Angela asked.
“An angel. An actual angel. With wings and a golden halo. Oh my god, Angela! It’s borderline ridiculous! You seriously wear this?” Amélie laughed again.
“It’s inspiring!” Angela stood up, feeling the need to defend herself. “You’ve seen other Overwatch uniforms and mechs and--everything! The idea is to have people think we’re super heroes. Real super heroes. They don’t need to know I’m a mess of a human being under that suit. They just need to know someone is there to help. The more obvious the better.”
“It doesn’t get anymore obvious than that,” Amélie told her, still considering the armor. “I have got to see a picture of you in this.”
“Why are you here, Amélie?” Angela finally demanded and stalked over to her. She reached for the other woman’s shoulder to turn her around. “Tell me.”
Amélie turned and actually had a serious look on her face. Her brows were knit in concern. She reached up to Angela’s hand on her shoulder and confessed, “I thought you would be happier to see me, to be honest.”
Angela sighed. She was happy. Sort of. She was frustrated and confused, but just the light brush of Amélie’s fingers on her own made most of that vanish. “I am happy to see you. It’s just been a fucking week. I’m sorry.”
The smile was back. “An angel of forgiveness, hmm?”
“I told you, no nicknames--”
Angela’s protest was cut off when Amélie’s lips crashed into hers--hard and fast. It was more teeth than lips, really.
“Can you forgive my sins?” Amélie asked between bites. “Because I feel like I might sin again in a minute.”
One more bite, then a gentle kiss. Two more bites, then just a ghost of lips against hers and hot breath against her cheek. It was driving Angela crazy.
If Amélie wanted this thing to continue--whatever it was--she was going to have to learn how Angela really asked for forgiveness. Angela took hold of the hands that were wandering from her stomach and into her open lab coat. “It depends,” she said as she snaked her fingers down past the soft palms and around Amélie’s slender wrists. “If you must sin again, then perhaps you’d better do it under my direction.” Angela backed her against the wall and pinned those wrists to it.
The little broken moan that left Amélie’s throat told her that she was perfectly fine with it. She was more than ready to learn.
And just like that, Angela’s worries and fears vanished. Sleepless nights and mouthfuls of bile were completely forgotten. She could forget, because there was a gorgeous woman in her office that wanted her. She could forget because, somehow--fucking somehow--that gorgeous woman was Amélie.
So she slipped a thigh between Amélie’s legs and kissed her way across Amélie’s perfect jawline. It was the logical thing to do.
Amélie was melting against the wall, legs already shaking with the effort of keeping herself standing and still taking in everything that was being done to her. “You’re a strong little thing when you want to be, aren’t you?” she said when Angela let her up for air. She proved herself right as she tried to shake out of Angela’s grip and failed.
“As ridiculous as you think my armor might be, even you would be impressed by the amount of core strength it takes to stay balanced in flight,” Angela husked against her ear.
“Oh trust me, I’m already too impressed,” Amélie groaned in reply.
“Are we having sex or having a conversation?” Angela asked as she let Amélie’s left wrist go so that she could run her hand along the buttons of the other woman’s blouse.
“Fine. I’ll be good,” Amélie relented. “We probably don’t have enough time to do either properly.”
Angela hummed her consideration of that point. She was right. This would have to be fast. “Get on the couch,” she commanded and released Amélie’s other arm.
Amélie had the goofiest grin on her face as she sauntered over to the couch and shoved enough debris off of it to make space for the two of them. Angela was far too tuned in on the way her mouth moved. It was a terrible weakness of hers, but it was Amélie’s fault for having such amazing lips. Needless to say, she could live on that grin alone. If she was a to be a tree, that grin was going to be her sunlight and rain.
Amélie had to beckon her over to stop her from staring. Angela followed her down as she sprawled backward. Amélie’s breath hitched as Angela’s full weight pressed against her, but she kept her composure enough to lay a finger to Angela’s lips before they could kiss hers again. “This is okay, right?” she asked.
No. No it wasn’t. Gérard was a good man and he loved his wife. Angela was a good person and did right by her friends. She should stop this. She should have never started it in the first place.
But Amélie was beautiful. Amélie’s dark eyes stared up at her, waiting. Amélie’s skin was soft and warm beneath her, also waiting. “It’s okay,” Angela told her.
She slid a hand up Amélie’s thigh, past the hem of her pencil skirt. She expected something to get in the way of her goal, but there was nothing there. Angela couldn’t help the snort of a laugh that escaped her, “Oh my god. Did you plan this?”
Amélie flushed a very pretty pink. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Angela decided a demonstration was in order and showed her exactly what she was talking about. Amélie eyes fluttered closed and she bit her lip. The demonstration was indeed very successful.
“That’s filthy,” Angela purred.
“I thought you wanted to stop talking,” Amélie protested.
“I never said that,” Angela retorted, but she sped up her attentions all the same.
Amélie writhing beneath her was probably the best thing ever. It was tied with Amélie’s hands desperately clutching at her hair. That was tied with Amélie muttering nonsense French against her chest and neck. She couldn’t pick. It was all so good.
But then Amélie pulled her in for a hard kiss. When she let Angela go, she held her by the back of her neck and looked her right in the eyes and demanded, “Just fuck me already.”
That. That right there was the best thing ever. No contest.
So Angela had to oblige. It didn’t take long for Amélie to come undone around two of her fingers. Angela had to cover her mouth. The walls of her office were steel and concrete, sure, but Amélie was loud. Too loud.
A languid “Fuck” fell from her lips when Angela finally pulled her hand away.
“Next time, I would advise against waiting so long,” Angela warned.
“I suppose I should take that advice. You are a doctor, after all,” Amélie sighed. The lithe arms that wrapped around Angela felt oddly heavy, but they were warm. So warm.
She could have stayed there for hours. Amélie always smelled so good. Angela could spend eternity buried in the crook of her neck, wondering what mysterious French perfume it was that perfectly accented the other woman’s own clean scent. The heat between her own thighs could wait. She had time to admire this moment, to breathe it in.
But those heavy arms gained their strength back all too quickly, becoming hard and light again. Amélie pushed Angela off of her, but she was grinning.
“My turn,” she said when Angela moved to protest.
Those warm eyes scanned the room again before landing in the distance. Then her grin grew wider. Too wide.
But Amélie said nothing, she just grabbed Angela’s hand and pulled her off of the couch. With her dancer’s grace, she twirled Angela and wrapped her arms around her waist instead.
Angela didn’t know her heart was capable of beating so fast. She didn’t know until that moment that she was a complete fucking sucker for being lead in a dance, but that was what this was. It was a gorgeous dance. A dance that her body--as clumsy as it was when not in flight--did not deserve to participate in.
She could have counted a perfect one two three four as Amélie waltzed her back to her own desk. She pushed Angela up against it and kept pushing until Angela got the idea and hopped up onto it. “I wanted to return the favor. I need to know how you taste,” Amélie whispered as she took hold of the waistband of Angela’s jeans.
Oh. Oh fuck.
While Angela’s brain was busy registering what was about to happen, Amélie had managed to unbutton her pants and was sliding them down her legs. A sharp rasp of her nails brought Angela back to earth and made her lift up to help with the process.
Amélie shook her head when she saw the results of her work. Angela was nowhere near as prepared as she had been. “Really? Overwatch has branded underwear?”
“Would you be surprised if I told you they come in three other styles too?” Angela asked, feeling a flush creep onto her own cheeks. “Perhaps if you’d called I could have worn something more flattering for you.”
“Enough of that,” Amélie countered. She yanked the offending panties down and out of sight. “I’ve learned my lesson.”
Then Amélie was kneeling. It was happening. She was kissing her way up Angela’s bare thighs with delicate lips, going so painfully slow. Angela could die. She could just die right there and be fine with it. Nothing in life could be better than this.
Except when Amélie’s mouth actually found her.
Amélie had definitely done this before. So much for those old thoughts Angela once had about how much of a shame it was that she was straight. Amélie was not straight. She knew what she was doing. She knew exactly how to coax Angela to the point where her hips rocked desperately, moving completely on their own accord. Amélie’s fingernails were leaving pink half moons in the pale skin of her thighs as they tried to hold her still. Tried being the key word here.
Angela, ever conscious of the fact that everyone in the Research wing probably already had their suspicions about what was going on in her office, bit her lip hard enough to taste the coppery tinge of blood. Just a little. She had to be quiet, but Amélie was good. She was so good.
When Amélie finally brought her over the edge, her hips slammed into the desk one last time, dislodging a stack of empty petri dishes and something that made a loud crash when it reached the floor.
“What was that?” Angela asked, eyes still squeezed shut, her voice breathy and severely lacking in proper oxygen--on account of not being able to breathe properly for the last few minutes.
Against her thigh, between the soft kisses she was planting on it, Amélie said, “A mug.”
“Does it say ‘World’s Okayest Doctor’ on it?” Angela asked.
Amélie moved to give her other thigh some attention. She kissed over the angry marks her nails had left behind. “Well, it might have. Hard to tell. It’s in about a thousand pieces.”
“Fuck,” Angela cursed as she finally forced her eyes open and and faced the grim reality. Amélie was right. Her floor was covered in day-old coffee and a multitude of tiny pieces of white ceramic. “I loved that mug.”
Amélie rose languidly, falling into Angela’s open arms. She kissed her cheek and laughed. “I’ll get you a new one.”
And then her phone beeped and ruined everything.
Amélie left her comfortable resting place and fished for the device in the purse she’d discarded on the coffee table when she first walked in. “Shit,” she said when she read the display.
Angela had been too busy admiring her graceful movements in the stupid hangover of her afterglow to think about why that word would be leaving Amélie’s amazing lips. “What?”
“Gérard’s coming. Someone told him we were headed to your office,” Amélie told her.
Oh right. The man she was married to. You know, the one that everyone loved who was as sweet as a bucket of kittens, but was also an elite soldier who was capable of killing a man in a hundred different ways? Yeah, that one.
“Shit,” Angela repeated and scrambled off the desk to find her discarded clothing.
When Gérard found them, they were fully clothed and picking bits of mug off the floor.
“What happened?” he asked as he knelt down to help.
Angela and Amélie locked eyes for a moment. Both watched as the other opened her mouth to say something, then snapped it closed again.
Finally, Angela piped up and said, “Oh, you know me. I’m a mess.”
Amélie called her that night. And the night after. And the night after that. They came up with a multitude of excuses. Angela was giving her physiotherapy tips for dealing with dancing-related stresses and injuries. Amélie was recommending her a fine wine to bring to as a gift for a visiting dignitary.
The next time they met, they talked. Angela’s moral conscious was put slightly more at ease, just slightly. Amélie laid out the rules.
1. They would tell no one about this.
That was an obvious one.
2. Shower within the last 24 hours or nothing is happening until you do.
That would be a little more difficult for Angela to follow, as she regularly forgot to even feed herself, but she could try.
3. No leaving marks.
Concealer was expensive and those would be hard to excuse away. Understandable, but it would definitely put a damper on the fun.
4. This was just a friendship with very secret benefits, nothing more.
That one was also obvious. Completely and totally obvious. So obvious.
The problem became where they could go. Amélie being at HQ without Gérard was definitely going to get noticed. Angela being backstage regularly at the ballet company’s theater would also get noticed. And ballerinas talked. According to Amélie, they were already talking.
But Angela was more afraid of Ana’s wandering eyes landing on them one day. Forget the ballerinas. That woman was terrifying if you had a secret to keep.
Angela’s flat was the obvious go-to place, but Amélie was always disgusted by how disorganized it was.
“You have nothing on your walls. No art, no photos, nothing. There’s no personality here, except for the piles of shit on the floor,” she said once as she tripped over a stack of medical journals.
“It’s a place to sleep and a place to put things,” Angela told her as she caught her. “I’ve never been the homey type.”
Angela’s place was unofficially banned when they came in one day to the smell of her not having taken her garbage out for two weeks straight. Amélie made her haul it to the dumpster while she cracked the windows. When Angela got back, Amélie was waiting for her by the front door. She demanded Angela’s keys and locked it. “No. Just no,” she said.
Booking hotel rooms was out of the question. Public places were not so great either. The dilemma put things on hold for a few days until Amélie called one night.
“Gérard went to Russia for a mission. I’m all by myself on this hideous couch you made me buy.”
Angela had been to the Lacroix flat plenty of times. She had waited patiently for Amélie to finish getting ready for a night on the town in the living room. She had enjoyed a cocktail or two while leaning on the kitchen counter. Amélie could mix a killer sidecar.
But she’d never been in the bedroom.
“Just come in. I know it’s you, Angela,” Amélie yelled from within it’s confines.
Amélie’s flat was not like hers. There were plenty of things on the walls. Paintings. Photos. Shadowboxed bits of memories. Curtains. Soft throws perfectly overlaying rich leather chairs and that damn purple sofa. Jackets hung on hooks with matching scarves. Books on shelves, probably alphabetized. Surfaces that were not covered by clutter or dust, but shone with polished wood instead. Matching lamps that glowed with soft light. Fresh cut flowers in a vase. More light creeping in from the open bedroom door.
Angela could stand there staring at it and feel like a stranger, or she could do what she was told. Why did walking into the bedroom feel like it was on the edge of too much?
“Unless that’s not you. If you’re not Angela, then I don’t have any money and I don’t speak German. Suck it,” Amélie went on, but still didn’t come out of the bedroom.
Angela shook the shivers from herself. She swallowed that wrong feeling down yet again. She was pretty certain those wrong feelings she kept gulping down were forming into a black ball in her stomach that she’d end up vomitting one day. But not today.
“Kein Geld? Ich werde Sie stattdessen haben,” Angela called back as she shrugged out of her jacket and hung it from an empty hook.
She wandered into Amélie’s waiting arms, into the yellow light of the bedroom. More things on the walls. More neatly folded blankets. More flowers and knick knacks and nice furniture.
“German always sounds so harsh. What did you even say?” Amélie asked her a few kisses later.
“Let me show you,” Angela offered.
When Amélie was begging her not to stop, it was pretty easy to forget that this was the bed she shared with Gérard. When Amélie was smiling sleepily at her and playing with her hair while ranting about her day, it was very easy to forget that. It was easy to follow her into sleep after watching her breathing slow. It was easy to wake up with Amélie’s head on her chest and think nothing of it.
It was very hard to hear her Amélie’s phone ring and watch her bolt up to answer it.
“Morning to you too,” Amélie said into the device while mouthing Gérard’s name and waving Angela away. “Isn’t it afternoon there already?”
It was hard to look for her clothes. It was hard to see them strewn about the otherwise spotless room--disorder and chaos in this otherwise perfectly put-together slice of the world.
“No, I just stayed in last night. Fell asleep watching movies.”
It was hard to feel suddenly cold and alone and out of place.
“She was busy. I don’t know, doing doctor things? I’m perfectly fine on my own for a few days, Gérard. I don’t need to have a friend babysit me.”
It was hard to realize that it was definitely wrong to come here. To lie in that bed. To pretend like she belonged there.
“Be safe then. Call me when you’re on your way.”
The hardest thing was not giving in when Amélie asked her to stay. Amélie made promises of crepes and a long day spent in bed. It sounded very nice, but she couldn’t do it. Not now.
“It’s Sunday. What could you possibly have to do?” Amélie asked as Angela was digging for an excuse to leave.
“Doctor things,” she huffed as she took her jacket from the hook.
It was late again and she was still in the lab, of course. The nurse had been back three times. Angela had just about everything she asked for. The latest EKG. Xrays. An MRI that was run just three days ago. A nice catalog of all of the cybernetic enhancements present within the patient and their suspected purposes. Even the visor that these hooked into, still in its evidence bag.
There was still one thing missing.
“Having trouble with the blood sample still?” Angela asked when she noticed there was no vial waiting for her in the last batch of requested materials.
The nurse cringed. “I tried, Dr. Ziegler. You said it yourself. The circulation is so bad. There’s pretty much no veins to speak of. I’ve had three other nurses try too. None of them can get more than a drop or two. The patient is getting...annoyed.”
One side-eyed look told her that the nurse had far more choice words to say than annoyed. She was trembling a little. Widowmaker had obviously scared her shitless. Understandable.
Angela wasn’t quite ready to visit room 537 West. She wanted to take a day to be on the analytic side of things. Time spent with numbers and figures and certainties. That was easier than trying to find out how much of Amélie was left, if there was any left at all.
But Angela needed that blood. “Leave her be then. I’ll get the sample.”
Room 537 West was not far away. A short elevator ride, a mantrap, a set of double doors with an orderly guarding them, then down and to the left. Past the day room. Past the cafeteria.
White walls with seafoam green and beige accents. Polished tile in muted colors. Art of calm things hanging in cheap plastic frames on the walls. Ships on pale blue seas. Spring flowers. A still life of half-finished knitting on a table. All pastel. All sort of serene and dreamlike.
The perfect picture of a mental hospital. This was what she had been expecting all along. Around her, patients wandered around in grey pajamas, all appearing heavily medicated. It was blissfully quiet.
So unlike the rich colors and character that Amélie had surrounded herself with. No. There was no place for thoughts like that. She had work to do.
537 West. The door was closed. Her hand betrayed her, going to immediately type the entry code in on the keypad next to it. She wasn’t ready, but she had to be.
The door unlocked with a soft click. She opened it and went in, listening to it latch again behind her. Like the rest of the ward, the room was mostly white with accents of pastel. Hideous curtains with a weird geometric baby blue pattern on them. A bedspread in that same seafoam green on from the wallpaper border.
The only real colors there were blue, black, and gold. Gold staring up at her.
“Ah, so they send you to stab me now,” Widowmaker said.
She was curled on the bed again, out of her prison jumpsuit and now in the same grey sweats that the other patients were wearing. Amélie would never be seen in such things. Even her pajamas and workout clothes were on point, always.
“I hope not to be stabbing you too much,” Angela said. Cold. Calm. Clinical. She repeated it in her head. This isn’t Amélie. It’s not her. It’s someone else. No, don’t look into her eyes and hope to find her there. She’s not there. She pulled the blood draw kit from her pocket and waved it at the patient. “I’d like to just give it one more try if you don’t mind.”
“If you must,” Widowmaker said. Apathy leaked from every bit of her. She remained curled into herself, but offered up an arm.
Angela put the kit back into her pocket. “We actually have more work to do before we get to that part. I’m not just going to blindly jab you and hope for the best. There are things that can be done to make this easier for patients with bad veins.”
Angela stalked over to the nightstand, where she found the beige plastic pitcher and its cups. The pitcher was full of water, of course. None of the nurses had even tried. Angela poured a glass of water, all the while feeling those gold eyes drilling into her back.
She then turned and offered it to Widowmaker. “Drink. Staying hydrated will help. I don’t really know how much good it will do for you, considering your physiology, but it can’t hurt to try.”
Widowmaker stared at the cup as if it were full of boiling acid instead.
“Or I could just stab you all night until you finally bleed. Your choice,” Angela prodded.
Long blue fingers, an even darker purple-blue than the rest of her, eventually wrapped around the beige plastic. Widowmaker downed the water in one solid gulp and then held the cup back out.
When Angela stared back at her, she countered with, “What? I assume it will take more than just one cup to make a difference.”
“Right,” Angela said and turned to get the pitcher.
Widowmaker sipped at the second cup instead of chugging it. “Can’t you just stick a line in my neck and get it over with?”
“If you’d like to bleed out all over this room, then we could, but I’d advise exhausting all of the less risky methods first,” Angela told her.
“What do you need my blood for anyway?”
“I need to understand what’s been done to you and explain it to the courts,” Angela said. “If your nanomachines are anything like the ones I’ve designed, then they use your bloodstream as a highway to get to the parts of your body they need to modify. So you can always find them there, even if you don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing. I need a good sample of them to find out what exactly they’re doing and what they’ve already done.”
One sip. Two sips. Three. “Am I just drinking water then?”
Right. Stop staring, Angela. Get to work. “We can also try getting your warmer, but that, again, might have very little effect considering your normal temperature is already so low. Do you feel cold? You always look like you’re--”
“I don’t feel anything,” Widowmaker interrupted her.
“It’s just that your posture--”
“I told you. I don’t feel anything,” Widowmaker snapped. A little bit of water sloshed out of her cup, staining the ugly bedspread an even worse color.
Angela didn’t believe that. She knew the assassin was in some sort of pain. It was likely an injury, one she received in prison or even when she was captured. With a metabolism this slow, so little blood flow, it would take a long time to heal even the slightest bruise. A punch to the gut that knocked her down would be felt for weeks. A constant dull ache. What a horrible way to exist.
“Scratch that then,” Angela relented. “Finish up that cup and we’ll try something.”
Widowmaker chugged the rest of the water and stared up at her with hard eyes.
Angela reached for the cup and took it from her. “Shake your hands,” she commanded.
Widowmaker gave her an incredulous look, but complied.
“Keep that up for a few minutes,” Angela told her. She wandered off and made a show of looking at Widowmaker’s chart. No meds. Alprazolam had been recommended by her psychiatrist, but not administered due to concerns about what her body’s reaction to it would be like. Interesting.
“What is this even doing?” Widowmaker asked.
90 seconds. That was longer than Angela would have ever done something without demanding an explanation. Very interesting. “Forcing circulation into your hands.”
She walked back over to the bed and pulled the blood draw kit out again. She began unpacking it on the nightstand. She watched as those gold eyes landed critically on the needle of the kit.
“Not a fan of needles, I take it?” Angela asked.
Widowmaker didn’t answer, but kept on shaking her hands.
Angela actually had to stop her to put on the tourniquet.
Then she took those hands, those long graceful fingers--the ones she had once known all too well. She flipped Widowmaker’s hands over, checking the backs of them for veins. “Aha,” she said as she noticed one that stood out just slightly from her cold skin. “I think we have a winner.”
With a speed practiced on wounded veterans, screaming children that didn’t have any language in common with her, and tribal peoples who thought she was some sort of evil witch, Angela whipped the needle around and stuck it in the vein. She watched the line. Sure enough, there it was. Dark red, severely anoxic blood. Almost black.
Even though she’d read the reports. Even though she knew as much as there was to know at this point, it was amazing to see this come out of a living person. How could she even function?
“You did it,” Widowmaker said as she watched the liquid flow out of her and into the collection vial.
“I’m pretty good at this, but your cooperation is appreciated,” Angela noted. “One vial should be fine, so we’re nearly done already.”
Widowmaker’s golden eyes flew from her to the needle, then back again. “You’re Swiss,” she said.
“Yes,” Angela answered. She removed the needle and replaced it with a cotton ball. She then reached for the alcohol swab.
“Alors vous parlez français,” Widowmaker replied.
When she spoke French, there was so much more of Amélie in her that it was almost painful to hear. The grace of it. The ease. It was like watching her dance. Angela froze. The alcohol swab hovered just over the little dot of blood on Widowmaker’s skin.
“Yes, I do,” Angela answered in French.
“I remember that. You spoke French for me,” Widowmaker told her.
“I did,” Angela said. “Yes. I did.”
Chapter 5: I will not use the knife
The lawyers were already blowing up her phone. She ignored them until morning. She was too busy falling asleep and then waking up to the image of hard gold eyes burned into her retinas. Over and over again.
It was a fun night, that’s for sure.
She answered after a cup of coffee, as was the decent thing to do. The lawyers explained. Things were moving very quickly. The trial would be scheduled soon. She needed to meet the judge for some sort of pre-trial hearing. The sooner the better.
“Today then,” Angela told them. “So you’ll stop calling me and let me work.”
The black car took her to the courthouse instead of the hospital that morning.
Angela had to surrender a stray stethoscope to the guards working the metal detector, but otherwise nothing else was amiss. A standard courthouse--ancient and full of dark wood paneling. Lots of waiting and shaking the hands of the defense’s legal team. Lots of lawyers telling her what to do and say and her not really listening. She was used to this.
It wouldn’t be her first trial and probably not her last. When one was an expert in one’s field, one also tended to be called as an expert witness on occasion.
She sat in the hall on a hard bench outside of the judge’s chambers, her holopad on her lap, a lawyer on either side of her. She was organizing her findings to be presented, trying her best to be responsible about it. She could hear the mumblings of another discussion going on inside, but nothing more than that. The door to the chambers opened when she was still dragging data into her report.
She looked up. Oh. Not good.
“Good morning, Lena,” she cautiously greeted her fellow ex-Overwatch agent. Lena Oxton was standing in front of her, accompanied by the constant low whirring noise of her chronal accelerator. The device glowed faintly through the dress shirt she wore over it.
“Dr. Ziegler, I would advise against--” one of the lawyers next to her started.
Lena ignored him and asked, “What brings you here?”
“I’ve been asked to serve as a witness,” Angela answered simply.
Lena smiled. “For the same trial as me? Get out of town!”
“Dr. Ziegler, I really would--” the lawyer went on as he stood up and moved to physically block her from Lena.
“I’d rather you let me explain,” she asked him and gestured for him to sit back down.
“Wait,” Lena’s face fell. “I just met the other witnesses for the prosecution. You’re…”
Angela looked up and let her finish.
“You’re on the other side.”
“Listen, Lena--” she began.
“Listen? No you listen! She killed Mondatta! She killed Gérard! She betrayed all of us! You thought you were her friend back then, Angela. You should know exactly how twisted she is! Why? How could you--”
Both of Angela’s lawyers were on their feet now. One had his hand on Lena’s shoulder and was starting to push her back.
“There’s more to it than that,” Angela snapped back. “I don’t know exactly what it is yet, but it wasn’t her. The Amélie we knew didn’t do this.”
It was then that the prosecution team noticed their star witness was about to punch out a doctor, so they intervened and grabbed her. Two men were hauling Lena away. She could have easily blinked out of their grip. She didn’t.
“I can’t believe this! What happened to you, Angela? You were one of us!” she screamed down the hall.
Angela sighed. This was not good. This was so not good. This was so not what she needed right now.
“The judge will see you now, Dr. Ziegler.”
Definitely not what she needed.
It took her a moment to steady herself, but she presented her meager findings all the same. She listened to so many introductions and so many people she didn’t know questioning her credibility. Through it all, she nodded and smiled and stated the facts. It was all she could do.
“So,” the judge asked at the end of her presentation, “do you believe Miss Lacroix can be cured and brought back to her former self?”
Angela switched off her holopad. “I can’t be certain of that right now. I’ll need more time to find out exactly how much of the conditioning performed on her was psychological, and how much is related to these nanomachines. I’ve only just isolated them from her blood sample, but I can’t give you a hard and fast conclusion without being able to study them further.”
The judge jotted down a note and hummed. “The defense’s position is that Miss Lacroix cannot be responsible for her crimes because it was not Miss Lacroix that committed them, but this Widowmaker personality instead. It seems as though we’re still putting Widowmaker on trial here. If I were on the defense, I’d be scrambling to make sure that it was Miss Lacroix who showed up to court and not her.”
The lawyers began to whisper over her head.
“I’ll see you gentlemen and the good doctor on the third for the trial,” the judge continued.
A lawyer objected, as lawyers do, “Your honor, today’s the fourth. A month from now? But Dr. Ziegler just said--”
“The third, counsel.”
The next time Amélie called, Angela didn't pick up. She watched the phone light up and buzz it's way around her desk, but she didn't answer.
It made her feel vindicated and strong. She deserved better. She deserved to be first in the mind of the person she was sleeping with, not a distant second. Angela rode that high for a moment.
Then it rang again.
Dread seeped through her very bones, replacing all of the quickly burned endorphins from moments before. She answered frantically, shoving the device between her shoulder and cheek as she kept typing up the report she had been working on.
“I knew you were there,” Amélie said. “Did you drop your phone in a bucket of nanomachines?”
“We use the term bin. Bucket isn't classy enough for research,” Angela replied. She hoped the witty response would hide some of the chill in her voice.
Amélie was not laughing, so that obviously didn't work. “Listen. I'm sorry about before. That had to have been really uncomfortable for you.”
Angela couldn't think of any time she’d ever heard Amélie say those words, or give any sort of direct apology, really. Why did it feel so empty then?
“Say something,” Amélie demanded.
So much for being strong. She could care less about that. She could be second best. “Ice cream.”
“You can buy my forgiveness with that. Specifically a scoop from the little gelato stand on König Straße. Their chocolate walnut will make me forget just about any minor transgression.”
There it was. That deep and throaty laugh. That was what really made her feel better. Forget vindication, she just wanted Amélie.
“Noted,” Amélie said. “So when am I meeting you there?”
“I was actually just leaving, if you are interested.”
“I'm always interested.”
Nevermind that König Straße was a block from her apartment. The gelato was good, of course, but taking Amélie back to her place was better. The best part was that Amélie didn't utter one complaint about the disorganized sty Angela lived in. Her silence was her real apology.
That, and the fact that she let Angela do whatever she wanted that night.
She was almost thankful to see Gérard back at HQ a week later. She was surprisingly sick of gelato and was definitely feeling the sleep deprivation.
But just like ice cream, Amélie was becoming a bit of an addiction. She could feel too full of it sometimes, but the second she couldn’t have it anymore, it was all she wanted. Instead of being quiet and restful, her bed proved to be cold and empty that night. She tossed and turned, wrapping herself in sheets that still smelled a little of that mysteriously perfect French perfume, worrying if Gérard could smell the faint antiseptic scent of her own skin on his sheets.
Three nights of this later, she was in the break room of the Research wing. A massive hand came to rest on her shoulder and shook her with surprising gentleness.
“Angela,” Winston said, still shaking her. “You’re spilling coffee everywhere.”
She sure was. She had neglected to put her mug under the one cup coffee maker, which was now making coffee for the counter instead. Her new mug. The one she’d stolen from Jack’s office out of desperation because Amélie still hadn’t bought her the promised replacement for hers. Instead of addressing the giant gorilla standing behind her, Angela just kept reading the text on the mug over and over. #1 DAD. What? Morrison didn’t have any kids. Why the hell had she taken this one?
Winston sighed and turned off the machine for her. “You need some rest. You’ve been working too hard again,” he said as he knuckled his way over to the paper towels.
“Yeah,” she agreed. “Working too hard.”
“I know where they keep the hypnotics,” he threatened as he thrust the roll into her hands. “Don’t make me spike your next cup with zolpidem.”
“At least give me a benzo if you’re going to do that,” she complained.
Winston smiled. “There’s our Angela. Clean that up and then take a real break. Fellow scientist’s orders.”
She ended up sleeping through the afternoon on her office couch. At least that didn’t smell like Amélie anymore. It just smelled like all the stuff she’d piled back onto it so she wouldn’t have to look at the dent they’d made in it.
One shuttle down to town later and she was still not really awake. She was dreading going back to the same pattern of her last three nights, but too tired to brainstorm ways to break it. She was ready to order takeout that she would barely eat and fail to get to sleep again.
The second she cracked the door to her place, she knew something was wrong. Light seeped out from it, instead of a cold black void. Warm, yellow light.
“Oh, come in already. You’re not being robbed,” Amélie’s voice assured her from inside.
“How did you get--”
Amélie cut her off, “I promise I will answer all of your questions when I can see your face.”
She did want to know how Amélie got in, as well as what the fuck she was doing in there. Angela opened the door.
This was not her apartment. She must have walked into someone else’s. She must have imagined Amélie, leaning on the kitchen counter with a smug smile. There weren’t old takeout containers piled up next to the garbage can. The pile of junk mail she threw in the corner was gone. Where were all of her shoes? Where was that light coming from?
“I promise it gets better as you go,” Amélie said, still leaning, still watching her and smiling.
Angela was too tired to object. She walked past the foyer and saw the living room. The couch was clear of debris and clean. The coffee table that she forgot she had was also empty, save for a few tastefully placed candles and a little potted white orchid. And coasters. Amélie was militant about coasters. An end table had been uncovered too. On it sat a simple lamp, which was emitting that warm light.
The bookshelf was new. The books and medical journals and other things in it were not, but some attempt had been made to organize them as best as possible without knowing what they were. The top of it was adorned with framed photos clustered around some sort of succulent collection in another pot. Some she recognized. A photo of her parents she used to keep on her nightstand. A photo of her and her med school friends. Others were new. A photo of her and Torbjorn from last year’s costume party. There’d be time to freak out over Amélie seeing that witch costume later. A bunch more of other Overwatch group photos from various events and outings.
“Amélie,” she finally said as she picked up a little frame that was hiding on the edge. A picture of the two of them that Gérard had taken on one of the rare occasions he’d joined them for dinner out. Amélie was her usual effortlessly beautiful self. Her bangle-clad arm was draped around Angela’s shoulders.
“There’s more,” Amélie chuckle warmly behind her.
Angela looked back at her, searching her face for some clue.
“Bedroom,” Amélie offered.
Angela wandered wordlessly over to the bedroom. Her bed was made. New sheets, a new bedspread, all soft and white. No clothes on the floor. In fact, there was a hamper in the corner for that now. And the closet. Holy shit the closet. Things were hanging in it. Things were folded and stacked on its shelves. More little plants on the night stand. A painting was hanging on the wall. Some sort of art nouveau woman, possibly an angel.
She turned around to find that Amélie had followed her in.
“Well?” Amélie asked.
“You cleaned,” was all Angela could say.
Amélie laughed. “I spent all damn day cleaning, but now it looks like a human might live here, instead of a pack of wild dogs or a small bear.”
“I’m going to kill all of these plants, you realize,” Angela said as she went over to examine the lily on her nightstand.
“That’s a peace lily,” Amélie explained. “If you kill that, then you are not fit to even care for yourself. The rest are the same--all very hard to kill. Water them occasionally and they will be fine.”
It was too much. She never cared about the places she lived. They were just a space to rest her head. Her life had always been more about school or work than it ever was about home. But just these little touches made warmth pool in her chest. Another coaster and an empty glass for water. A little carved wooden bird. An alarm clock. This nightstand was like a picture from a magazine--something that other people had that she could only want. But now it was hers. Now this place might have been deserving of being called a home.
And Amélie had made it that way. For her.
“I didn’t want to presume what kind of colors and style you’d like, so I just kept everything clean and white,” Amélie told her.
Angela’s eyes darted to the bed and back up at Amélie. “Gérard--”
“Is at the Gibraltar base,” Amélie answered before Angela could finish her question. “Supposedly only for two days. It’ll probably be longer.”
Good enough. A last shred of resistance broke within her. Angela felt her cheeks grow hot as the corners of her eyes prickled, threatening tears. “No one’s ever done anything like this for me before.”
Amélie smiled. She knelt down to join Angela where she was couching in front of the nightstand. “Now that is a real surprise. You deserve so much more than this,” she said as she wrapped her arms around Angela.
“I missed you,” Angela told her as she buried herself in that embrace.
“I’m here now,” Amélie said.
It had to be good enough.
When Angela asked if they could just sleep that night, there were no objections. Amélie was equally exhausted. They collapsed into the new white sheets together after one more tour of the apartment--dinner be damned. As they laid down, Amélie gave her a very short explanation about how she stole her keys one day and got a copy made while Angela was in the shower. Angela was too busy burying her face in Amélie’s lovely black hair to really listen. They fell asleep almost immediately, antiseptic mixing with perfume.
Gérard was gone for four nights. Amélie spent all four of them at Angela’s flat. On the fifth night, the only clutter Angela allowed herself were the two coasters still sitting out on the coffee table and a scarf Amélie had forgotten on the kitchen counter.
More of Amélie’s things began migrating to her place. When Gérard was in Egypt for a week, Amélie left an extensive collection of shampoo and conditioner in her shower. When Gérard was conducting training exercises in the countryside during a particularly cold and rainy weekend, Amélie left an umbrella by the door and a cardigan on the couch. When Gérard went to the United States for a month to work with the FBI and pursue Talon agents that were working with the Deadlock gang, Amélie came bearing a suitcase and a load of groceries.
“What? I refuse to live on takeout and pastries. Some of us have more sophisticated tastes than whatever the base cafeteria is serving,” Amélie defended when Angela asked her.
They stood in Angela’s small galley kitchen. Amélie was unpacking the groceries, revealing a hoard of wine bottles, fresh veggies, and plenty of other delicious-looking things that were foreign to Angela’s kitchen.
“Oh, can you open my suitcase and get the pots?” Amélie asked her as she cradled a carton of eggs on their way to Angela’s nearly empty refrigerator.
“Pots?” Angela asked.
“Pots. You don’t have any that are big enough,” Amélie scolded. “So I brought them.”
Angela didn’t believe her. She went over to the suitcase and unzipped it. Sure enough, there was a spaghetti pot sitting front and center with clothes packed neatly around it. Inside of it was another smaller pot. A nice one with a clean copper bottom.
“Pots,” she repeated as she retrieved them.
“I am very serious about this. You are a grown woman and a doctor, Angela, but you eat like a toddler. I can’t allow that to continue, at least not while I’m staying here,” Amélie continued as she took a bundle of spinach over the sink and began washing it.
Angela couldn’t help but laugh as she hefted the massive spaghetti pot over to the kitchen. It was true. So true that Amélie didn’t need to know she’d eaten nothing that day but an apple strudel she’d picked up on her way into work. She set the pot on the counter and just watched Amélie work for a while.
“What?” Amélie asked as she noticed Angela looking at her while she went to dice some tomatoes.
Angela realized she was grinning something ridiculous, but couldn’t stop herself. “What are you making me?”
“You’ll just have to wait and see,” Amélie said, smirking down at the tomatoes.
It was pasta, of course. Some sort of amazing pasta that Angela ate way too much of. Amélie demanded that Angela do the dishes, since she had done the cooking, but she didn’t want to get up. Leaning on her, head on Amélie’s shoulder. Glass of wine in her hand, belly full and warm, and a month to play pretend. It was too nice to get up.
“You take good care of me, you know,” Angela mumbled into the sleeve of Amélie’s shirt.
“I make you dinner once and you are putty in my hands. I’m not that good of a cook, Angela,” Amélie laughed.
Angela wrapped her unoccupied arm around Amélie and buried her face in the crook of her neck. “But you do. No one ever takes care of me. I’m always taking care of them,” she protested.
“Like I’ve said before, you deserve it,” Amélie said. One graceful hand dipped across Angela’s back and began rubbing slow circles into it.
Angela hummed her appreciation. “I lo--”
The hand seized and gripped at her shirt, pulling her away. “Don’t. You say that word and I will have to go. This will have to end.”
She hadn’t even realized what she was saying. It was French, after all. She still always spoke French with Amélie. For all of it’s mumbling, everything she said in French seemed to wander dangerously close to je t'aime. Perhaps that had more to do with who she was speaking it to than the language she was speaking, but Angela needed something to blame.
She pulled away slowly. She set her wineglass down on the coaster. She excused herself to the bathroom and sat on the toilet for a good five minutes, trying to think of an explanation--trying to justify to herself that she didn’t mean it. She couldn’t think of anything to say. Any time she tried to form a sentence, it just felt empty and wrong.
“Should I go?” Amélie called from outside the door.
Angela looked around the bathroom in a panic. She didn’t recognize it. It was full of plants and matching towels and dozens of little bottles in her shower that she wasn’t allowed it touch. There were two toothbrushes in the cup next to the sink. There was a large makeup pouch on the edge of the vanity.
This wasn’t for her. She didn’t want plants. She didn’t need matching towels. She didn’t use all of these products or wear that much makeup. She was fine with eating garbage every day, despite being keenly aware of how it affected her health. She still couldn’t find her favorite pair of slippers since Amélie organized the place. She hated washing dishes and doing laundry and keeping up with it all to keep things as Amélie liked them.
It was for Amélie. It was all for her. She’d said as much. She couldn’t stand Angela’s place, so she’d made it into a little den for them to play pretend in. It was her place now, but just when Gérard was gone. Only when Gérard was gone.
None of it was for Angela.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Amélie called again after a while.
None it was for her, but she still couldn’t let Amélie go.
The look on Amélie’s face when Angela emerged told her that she was not expecting her to. She was definitely not expecting Angela to pull her away from the suitcase she was packing back up. She was certainly not expecting to be kissed hard. She absolutely wasn’t expecting Angela’s hand to dip beneath her waistband.
“It’s fine. I’m fine. Just stop playing house and get what you came here for,” Angela breathed against her ear.
The apartment might have been clean, but she was still a mess.
It didn’t stop either of them, but Angela could stop herself from saying those words. She didn’t have to say anything at all.
Amélie’s things began to trickle out of her apartment. Angela’s clothes began to pile up on the closet floor and eventually spilled out into an entire corner of the bedroom. Amélie was still there every time Gérard was away, but she didn’t always stay the night. They still met for lunch every week. They didn’t make excuses to “get gelato” every other day. It was okay. It was fine.
It was enough.
Gérard and his team were away more often than not. Word was that they were getting close to finally taking down Talon once and for all. Amélie refused to talk about it. There were two topics entirely banned from conversation between them: anything to do with Gérard, and Angela’s feelings. As long as those were avoided, everything was fine.
Until Angela’s phone buzzed again one day.
Amélie’s contact flashed with the message, “Can you pick me up?”
She typed out a reply. “You realize I don’t have a car, right?”
“Just walk with me. I’m at the theater still.”
This was a very un-Amélie request. “Are you okay?”
“Just come here, please.”
No, she didn’t request a private shuttle down to town. That would have been silly and a waste of Overwatch resources.
Of course she did.
“I’m outside,” Angela texted.
The theater looked intimidating at night. The buildings all around were already dark, but the theater was still aglow with spotlights and flashing marquees. “The Sleeping Beauty, as presented by the Geneva Ballet Company,” was advertised by the flashing lights, with the opening dates listed as that coming weekend. Angela had hardly seen Amélie lately because of it. She had somehow convinced the director to cast her as Princess Aurora and had been busy preparing for the role.
The reply came, “Go to the back alley.”
Angela passed out of the light of the front and into the darkness of the sleeping city. She wandered into a maze of age-old brick walls and pretended to herself that she didn’t know the way--that she hadn’t met Amélie here enough times to know to just go to the back.
Away from the flashing marquees and posters depicting elegant dancers in abstract, there was the alley filled with the real dancers’ cigarette butts and the vague smell of their sweat. Amélie was alone there, leaning next to an exit door. Her eyes were glued to the phone in her hand, waiting for a reply. She was still in her leotard, but had pulled a pair of loose pants and a light jacket on over it. Her dance bag was slung over one shoulder, resting between her and the wall.
“Hey,” Angela greeted her.
“Hi,” Amélie grunted back as she stuffed her phone in her jacket pocket.
Something about Amélie was always begging her--always asking for something. Angela couldn’t resist it, but she wasn’t very good at understanding what it wanted lately. Amélie looked cold and alone out there. She looked like she really needed her for something.
There was only one thing she was allowed to give, so Angela went right up to her and wrapped her arms skillfully around Amélie’s neck. She leaned up and kissed her. Amélie kissed back. Amélie sighed into her mouth. Angela’s hands wandered into her open jacket and stroked across the silky fabric of her leotard.
Amélie went to reciprocate. Her hands landed on Angela’s hips and she shifted to get a better grip on her. And then she cried out in pain.
“Fuck,” Amélie swore as she caught herself on Angela’s shoulder.
And then she was crying. She was sobbing. It was all Angela could do to hold her up.
“Fuck. I fucked up, Angela. I fucked it all up,” she muttered as she wept.
“What happened?” Angela asked. “Are you okay?”
“Something’s wrong. We were running through the grand jeté in the wedding scene and I fell. I fall all the time, Angela, but this time was different. My knee is fucked. I can’t put weight on it and we’re opening in three days.”
Right. She didn’t need kisses. She wasn’t lonely. She didn’t just want Angela. She needed a doctor.
Who better to call than the one you’re sleeping with on the side?
But it was hard to be the bitter healer when Amélie was coming apart in her arms. Those feelings could wait until she was alone again, just like they always did. Angela swallowed them down, adding them to the black ball in her stomach that she was sure was about the size of a cantaloupe by now.
“I’ve got you,” she told Amélie.
She helped her out of the alley. She called a cab. She helped her up the stairs to her apartment. She helped her around the new pile of junk mail the foyer. She laid her down on the couch and went to find her medical bag.
“You don’t need to--” Amélie protested as she searched.
“Oh, shut up,” Angela scolded. “You wouldn’t have called me if this wasn’t serious. I’m no orthopedic surgeon, but I’d be a shit doctor if I couldn’t diagnose a bad sprain.”
Amélie was mute for a moment. She fell back against the couch. “Can you fix it?” she finally asked of the ceiling.
“You always ask me about my work. Now you get to see it,” Angela told her as she finally found the bag. She unzipped it and confirmed that there were a few nanomachine cartridges and their applicators kicking around at the bottom of it. She always kept them handy.
When she plucked them out of the bag, she heard Amélie rustle on the couch and try to sit up.
“Angela. That looks way more serious than--”
“On the contrary,” Angela interrupted her as she stalked back over the couch, spinning in applicator causally in her fingers, “it’s not. I patented these last year. Don’t worry, they are internationally approved. They’re actually most commonly used on babies with heart defects.”
But yes, the applicators were a bit intimidating-looking. These nanomachines still had to be injected, though she was working on a batch that would be capable of topical application. It was a big needle. Not as bad as a cortizone shot, but still pretty large.
Angela loaded the cartridge in. It gave off a satisfying click and the applicator hummed as it powered up the nanomachines and got them ready to work. She took a seat on the edge of the couch, in the little space that wasn’t taken up by Amélie’s prone form. She handed Amélie the applicator and let her look it over.
Amélie was leaning on her elbows. She took the device and peered at it with wide eyes. “What does this do?” she asked.
“Repairs muscle and connective tissue. A sprain,” Angela said as she moved her hand gently over Amélie’s left knee, “happens when you’ve torn ligaments in a joint, usually by bending it the wrong way or too far the right way. I’m guessing you landed badly when you fell, yes?”
Amélie nodded. Her gaze was still captured by the humming device in her hand.
“And, as is a normal human reflex, you tried to catch yourself and land correctly, even though your position did not allow you too, right?”
Amélie nodded again.
“So you twisted your knee badly, and then after that were not able to bear weight on the joint or bend it to its normal range of motion, correct?”
Amélie finally looked up at her. “It’s like you’re a doctor or something.”
Angela laughed. “If you were anyone else, or if I knew you wouldn’t flip out on me, I’d tell you to rest and ice your knee for three days, then take it easy for a week. But no, before you stop me, I know that’s not an option.”
Amélie’s mouth was a flat line. “It’s not. I’m the fucking principal. Remember the girl who took Odette from me? She’s my understudy. There’s no way she’s going to dance my role in the premier. No way.”
“Then you’re lucky you know someone who has a shortcut,” Angela said as she tapped the applicator in Amélie’s hand.
Amélie held it out for her to take. “It will fix this then? Tonight?”
Angela nodded. “Within a few hours. The nanos identify and repair the injured tissue. It wouldn’t be able to do much if you cells were destroyed, but that’s what I’m still working on.”
Amélie pushed the device into her hands. “Then do it.”
“You trust me?” Angela asked, grinning.
“Why would you lie to me?” Amélie asked back.
“Good question,” Angela countered. “Pants off then.”
“A bit forward,” Amélie noted, but still couldn’t seem to bring herself to smile or stop staring at the applicator.
“As much as you know I would always like to, now isn’t them time,” Angela said.
She helped Amélie shrug out of her pants in a more innocent way than she’d ever imagined. Thankfully, there were not tights underneath to worry about, just the smooth and hard legs of well-trained dancer, and one very swollen knee.
“You probably still won’t be able to dance tomorrow,” Angela warned as she armed the applicator. It hummed louder.
“But the day after?” Amélie asked.
“Hmm, I think so,” Angela said.
“That will have to be good enough.”
Angela slammed the applicator down into Amélie’s knee before she could object. Amélie screamed, but only for a moment.
“Holy fuck,” Amélie said when Angela slid the needle out of her. “You didn’t say anything about the pain.”
“Life is painful,” Angela noted calmly as she turned off the applicator. “And I’m sure it hurt a whole hell of a lot less than your fall.”
Amélie muttered a few curses and gripped at her knee.
Angela went off the return the applicator to her medical bag.
“It’s warm,” Amélie told her.
“Good,” Angela noted. “That means the nanomachines are working. It will hurt a little and stay warm as they continue. Do you want pain meds?”
Amélie waved her free hand vigorously. “No. This is manageable.”
Angela hummed her way through to the kitchen. She turned on the electric kettle. She stuck her head into the freezer and returned with a handful of ice. She put said ice into a plastic baggy. The electric kettle clicked off. She readied a mug with a bag of Earl Grey tea and a lemon wedge and poured the hot water over it.
She sat down next to Amélie. She put the ice on her knee and pushed the mug into her hands.
Amélie took it and smiled appreciatively. “You take good care of me too, you know.”
“I try to take good care of everyone,” Angela replied as she adjusted the ice bag.
“Not like you take care of me, no,” Amélie noted. “Gérard doesn’t even know what tea I drink.”
“Well,” Angela said. “You should tell him.”
“It’s not that simple,” Amélie told her.
After a moment, a warm hand slipped into hers. Amélie pulled her closer and scooted over to allow Angela to lay next to her on the couch. “I feel better already,” she sighed as Angela obliged and laid next to her.
“Good,” Angela said into her hair.
They laid there in silence for a while. Amélie sipped her tea. Angela relaxed next to her, trying her best not to revel in the incredible warm feeling that spread through her chest when they could just be like this for a moment. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t forever. But damn was it nice.
Amélie’s mug was long empty and set to cool on a coaster when she said, “In another life, maybe,”
Angela was nearly asleep. She lifted her head to catch the corner of the other woman’s eyes. “Hmm?”
“In another life, I’d be able to say what I really wanted to right now.”
“No. Shh. Forget I said anything at all. Thank you, Angela. Thank you for everything,” Amélie said as she pulled her closer.
It was the sixth of the month. She was still analyzing the microstructures of Amélie’s nanomachines. There were three types she’d isolated so far. One she had her guesses on. She couldn’t even begin to conclude what the other two did.
No sign of her old dose of Angela’s myoprinters. That was good. They were supposed to decay.
As much as she thought she would want to avoid it, Angela found an excuse to visit room 537 West every day. She would think of some test or another to be run that she didn’t trust the nurses with. As much as Widowmaker’s apathetic stare haunted her, it was strangely motivating to see it come from Amélie’s body. Angela needed all the motivation she could get. She only had 27 days left to fix it all.
Today her excuse was a second blood draw. She need to compare the nanomachine detection rates between two different days.
But before that, coffee. Coffee always came first.
And this hospital was equipped with a coffee shop. A world class lab she didn’t have to share with anyone and competent baristas. If it weren’t for the situation that brought her here, Angela would be absolutely thrilled with this whole place.
“A double shot mocha,” she ordered for herself. “And an Earl Grey with lemon, please.”
What the fuck did she just say?
Angela was stupefied. The words had flowed so naturally from her mouth. She was so used to saying them, even if it had been years. Something in her brain had just clicked. Some fucked up neurons had decided to fire at the same time, making her think of Amélie’s face and automatically order her a drink.
By the time she tried to correct herself, the barista was already passing her two cups.
Angela sat in the shop for a while, watching the hospital staff bustle to and fro in the corridors beyond her table. She stared at the tea, willing it to disappear. She could throw it out, sure. That would be simple enough.
But she didn’t. For some reason, she carted the mostly cold tea with her, even as she dumped the dregs of her own coffee into a rubbish bin on her way. She waved to the orderly guarding the door, past the man trap, but before the day room. The tea was still in her hand when she got to room 537 West.
“Here for more poking?” Widowmaker asked when she unlocked the door.
“It’s what they’re paying me to do,” Angela replied.
Widowmaker was uncurled this time, finally lounging on the bed instead of huddling into herself. Angela was able to confirm her suspicions the day before. A nurse told her about the massive black bruise on the patient’s stomach, and how it was only a dark purple now. Was that good? Did it mean it was getting better?
Angela really couldn't be sure, but Widowmaker’s posture seemed to indicate as much.
“I’ve at least managed to sneak you in something more interesting to drink than water,” Angela told her and offered her the cup of tea.
Widowmaker studied it for a moment before taking it. She did everything with a deliberate slowness and caution. Amélie would not have done that. She would have snatched the cup and sniffed at it, not even bothering to ask what it was.
Angela had a thought before she let go of the cup. “Actually, how are you with caffeine? It’s a stimulant and all. Might not play well with your system.”
“You’re the doctor. You tell me,” Widowmaker said with a shrug. “But I haven’t had a problem with it before.”
“I guess we’ll find out. There’s not enough in there to make that much of a difference,” Angela said as she relinquished the cup.
Widowmaker took it and sat up a little more. The book she had been reading slipped down onto her lap. English. Shakespeare. The Winter’s Tale. Angela didn’t know that one.
“What is it?” Widowmaker asked.
“Tea,” Angela replied simply. She took the blood draw kit from her pocket and began to unpack it on the nightstand again.
Widowmaker regarded the cup with her agonizing slowness again, then took a sip. Then another.
“Où est votre café, Angela?”
It was like an echo of years ago. It was Amélie. The tone, the inflection, not to mention the language again. Where’s your coffee, Angela?
The collection vial fell from her limp fingers and rolled across the floor.
“What...what did you just say?” Angela demanded.
“I don’t know,” Widowmaker told her. Those gold eyes weren’t hard anymore. They were confused and liquid.
“Say it again.”
“I don’t know what I said,” Widowmaker spat. “How did you know?”
Widowmaker stared at her with something close to fear. “How did you know how I take my tea?”
Chapter 6: But I will give place to such as are craftsmen therein
By day nine, everyone in the hospital hated her, except the coffee shop baristas. Good. Great. Grand.
Angela worked long hours and asked lots of questions. Normal people, who worked eight hours a day and liked to mind their own business, found her grating at best. Even the odd characters at this hospital were already sick of her shit.
“All I’m saying is that you haven’t pursued every possible avenue,” Angela argued with one of the psychiatrists.
“And I’m telling you that studying an fMRI would be pointless. This Widowmaker is the product of torture. Long term, heavy psychological torture,” the other doctor stated.
“You’d have to cut off a lot of my fingers to make me kill my loved ones,” Angela noted. “And she still has all ten. I’m just saying there’s no signs of the trauma that’s indicative of torture. Plus, look how cooperative she’s being.”
The other doctor shook her head. “It’s not like that. Torture isn’t all waterboarding and cutting of bits. You’d be surprised what you’d do if I put you in a concrete room for weeks and blasted awful music at you while you were left to lie in your own filth. You’d do just about anything to get out of there.”
“But the physical changes, the nanomachines--”
The psychiatrist sighed. “You don’t ever give up, do you Dr. Ziegler?”
“I find that I usually don’t have the option to,” Angela answered with a shrug. “So, can I get my fMRI?”
The psychiatrist was already signing the consent form. “If it gets you out of my office, then you can have your damn fMRI.”
A few hours later, after gaining even more hatred from the staff by pushing their procedures aside to clear up access the fMRI machine, she was escorting Widowmaker through the halls with a particularly well-muscled orderly. Despite the patient’s cooperative nature, they required her to be accompanied by one any time she was outside of her room. As a precaution, of course.
The restraints were another such precaution. Widowmaker’s long legs were hobbled by a chain. Her arms were bound in front of her by another.
Angela was trying to focus on the data she was reviewing on her holopad instead of those chains. “Your implants. It says here that the topical components were removed when you were first imprisoned. The remaining parts don’t contain any metal, right?”
“No,” came the cold response, along with the clinking of chains.
While Angela kept finding excuses for her daily visits, Widowmaker was beginning to regard her with an air of distrust. It was the same attitude she had toward all of the other doctors, so Angela really couldn’t be too offended, but she couldn’t help but feel that the extra degree of confusion she added to the mix was not welcome. The second time she’d decided to bring Widowmaker tea, it had gone untouched.
Fair enough. She would just have to try harder.
“We’re going to do a functional MRI. It’ll measure brain activity when you’re asked to do certain things or see certain images. It might help me to understand if the nanomachines we’ve isolated from your blood samples are responsible for any mental conditioning you’ve undergone, or if they’ve made to changes to the way your brain works,” Angela explained as they neared the exam room.
Widowmaker didn’t offer a response to that. She just kept walking, chains clinking.
When they reached the room, the orderly removed the cuffs, but kept his meaty hands on her while a nurse scanned her for any remaining metals. He didn’t let go of her until she was lying down on the bed and ready to be inserted into the machine.
Angela regarded the giant magnet with an educated fear and was already in the safety of the control room’s faraday cage when it began to power on.
“Can you hear me, Widowmaker?” she asked over the mic. “It’s about to get loud in there.”
“I can hear you,” she responded.
Soon enough, the mechanical whir of the machine dominated the other end of the line. An MRI reminded Angela of the older cousin of an insane Bastion unit, what with all the beeping and blooping and grinding. She hated the noise, but as it was with much of the equipment she regularly used, she found the functionality of the machine that produced it to be worth listening to it's horrible sounds.
“This is going to be an odd one. Her blood oxygen levels are already terribly low. I don’t know how well the machine will pick up activity for her,” Angela commented to the operator as images of the patient’s brain began appearing on his screen. Splotches of warm and cool colors were already alighting across them. Red and orange indicated high activity. Blue and purple were low activity.
“It still seems to pick up enough to give a reading. You’re good to start your experiment, Dr. Ziegler. I’m recording now,” the tech assured her.
“Can you hear me now?” Angela asked back into the mic.
More whirring. More beeping and clanking. And breathing, heavy breathing.
“Widowmaker?” she asked again.
“It’s loud,” she finally replied.
“We told you it would be,” Angela noted. “Are you ready to begin the test?”
More breathing. “I…”
The images of the brain flickered in and out on the screen next to Angela. Widowmaker was moving too much.
“I need you to be still.”
“I don’t want this. I don’t want any of this,” Widowmaker’s voice came over the comlink, but still kept its even and cold tone. Angela could see her legs squirming. “Let me out.”
She could only watch as fists clenched and unclenched from the side of the bed. Angela wanted desperately to go in and hold those hands, to plead with her and tell her this was going to help, but she couldn’t.
All she had was her voice. “Did Talon put you in a machine like this?” she asked.
“I don’t know. I didn’t want any of it. Please let me go.” Widowmaker’s voice began to break a little, fear shaking into her normally emotionless drone.
“We’re not going to hurt you like they did,” Angela told her.
“Je te l'ai dit. Ils ne m'ont pas fait de mal,” Widowmaker replied.
I told you. They didn’t hurt me. Angela lost the capability to breathe for a few moments.
“Whoa,” the tech next to her said. “Get her to be still, Dr. Ziegler. There’s some really interesting stuff going on here and I’m not going to be able to capture it unless she calms down.”
Angela nodded. This was what she was hoping for. She was also hoping to get these results in a less traumatic way, but it was too late now.
“Amélie. Ça va. Je vous promets que vous serez bien. Soyez tranquille,” Angela said into the mic.
It’s okay. I promise you will be okay. Please be still.
The thrashing stopped. Purple-blue fists unclenched and let go of the side of the bed.
“Begin your test,” Widowmaker commanded, her voice back to its steady, dry tone.
Angela cleared her throat. “I’m going to ask you a series of questions. I want you to respond honestly to me. That’s it.”
“What is your name?” Angela began.
“Agent 39. Call sign Widowmaker.”
“What does the name Amélie Lacroix mean to you?” Angela continued.
“It is what others call me, people who knew me before. It is someone I once was.”
Angela glanced over at the screen to see the reading. Nothing unusual. A clustering of red in the frontal cortex. She’d likely get the same response if she asked what two plus two was.
“Gérard Lacroix then?”
Red briefly flashed over several areas of the screen, then only in the frontal lobe again.
“He was my husband. I killed him seven years ago.”
“Why did you kill him?”
Red lit up everywhere. The temporal lobe was like a patch of fire. Then nothing. Then just blue.
“I don’t know.”
The MRI tech hummed next to Angela. “That’s really strange. Normally the transition from high activity to low activity in an area goes down a lot slower. Did you see the temporal lobe? That’s memory right there. Usually if we ask a patient to recall something, it’ll go high into the red for a bit, then gradually come down. That was just a total cutoff.”
“Then let’s make it happen again,” Angela told him with a new glint in her smile.
Angela would have dreams about that night, that morning, but she didn’t dream then. She drifted off to a black and heavy sleep, curled against Amélie in the tiny space next to her on the couch. They didn’t say anything. Their silence was like a third companion, cuddling with them, keeping them warm and safe. For once, it really was enough.
She woke up before Amélie that morning, just long enough to admire the way lines of the gray morning light that filtered through her blinds played against Amélie’s skin. They traced over hard angles and soft curves, over youthful smoothness and over the firm lines of exhaustion that sleep had not yet managed to banish from her skin.
It was her phone’s turn to ruin everything. The device screamed out an alert from where it sat on the coffee table. This one Lena had jokingly programmed for her as an ambulance siren. It went off only when the base hospital paging her for an emergency.
Amélie was startling awake next to her from the noise. Angela rolled over to pick up the phone.
“This is Dr. Ziegler,” she answered.
“Oh good, you’re awake. We just had a medevac come in with several wounded Blackwatch members. Code red stuff. Two head injuries. Severe internal bleeding on the third,” the medic on the other end of the line told her.
“Send a shuttle for me,” Angela requested.
“Already on it’s way to your apartment. ETA is 10 minutes. Internal bleeding is being prepped for surgery. That’s where they want you.”
“It’ll be an excellent opportunity to put my nanomachines to work, I’m sure,” Angela said as she rolled the rest of the way off the couch and went to stand.
“One thing I should tell you before you get here, doc. Internal bleeding is--”
And then Amélie’s phone was ringing.
Angela’s eyes were wide as she watched the other phone light up on the coffee table. The contact name caught her eye. Commander Gabriel Reyes.
The medic continued on, “Well, there’s no easy way to say it. It’s your friend, Gérard Lacroix. He’s in bad shape, otherwise I know they wouldn’t ask for you.”
Amélie was already crying by the time Angela could hang up with the medic. She could hear Gabe speaking softly to her over the phone, telling her that Gérard would be okay, that they had their top people on it already. Their best doctors would save him. He would be fine.
Angela was ready to offer her best hug or hand squeeze, but Amélie didn’t want either.
“You’re going to fix him, right?” she demanded when she hung up her call.
Angela nodded. “There’s a shuttle on its way to pick me up now.”
“Then I’m going with,” Amélie told her. The tears had already stopped.
Nevermind that the shuttle turned out to be a military VTOL. Amélie had never been within spitting distance of one, but that didn’t stop her from boarding all the same. Angela got only one strange look from the co-pilot as he helped strap them in.
“She’s Gérard’s wife. She needed a ride too,” Angela said over the roar of the engines. No more looks came their way after that.
Amélie followed her through it all. Hands not reaching out, but stiff at her sides. Eyes past tears, instead always focused on something far ahead. Past the airfield. Into the base. Into the hospital. Into the trauma unit.
“Amélie,” Angela said in the waiting room. She stopped the other woman with a hand to her shoulder, as she had kept on walking. Obviously the nanos had worked on her knee. At least there was that. “I have to go scrub in.”
Amélie blinked at her, then looked around. “Right. So I wait?”
Amélie shook out of her grip before she could try to give her shoulder a squeeze.
Angela only gave one glance back at her. Amélie had found a chair and was staring a hole through the wall while sitting in it. She would be fine. It was the other Lacroix she needed to worry about now.
Six hours of surgery. Not a drop of coffee before or during. There wasn’t time for it. She learned what happened as she worked, assisting the other surgeons and applying doses of her nanomachines to the bloody mess that was Gérard’s internal organs.
The other doctors talked as they worked. They shared the reports on what had happened and gossiped over Gérard’s abdomen. Talon had set a trap for him. They had been watching his team work, seeking to understand their patterns.
“Jenkins told me they were in a high rise. Lacroix normally gets in position and covers them from a distance, but they were so deep in this building that he couldn’t do much, so he went in with them,” the anesthesiologist went on. “So they keep hearing a baby crying or a little kid or something. They’re trying to follow the sound, figuring Talon’s got hostages in there. So they find the room the crying is coming from and go in to secure it. Only there’s no kid. No Talon. Just a baby doll with a pipe bomb strapped to it and a speaker playing the noise.”
“That’s fucked up,” the cardiothoracic surgeon noted over the drone of the suction tube going into Gérard’s belly. “They knew Lacroix would tell the team to go after a baby instead of using his head. He’s just that kind of guy.”
“Yup,” the anesthesiologist agreed. Apparently everyone in the room knew just how kind Gérard was. “Shitty bomb, though. It’s almost like the just wanted to hurt them and not killed them. Only these three got injured. The rest of the guys are fine. They said the actual casing of the bomb hit Lacroix in the stomach. Messed him up pretty good, didn’t it?”
“Eh, he’ll live, right Ziegler?” the cardiothoracic surgeon asked. Typical military doctor.
Angela was busy injecting another dose of nanomachines to repair Gérard’s liver. “He will,” she agreed.
Gérard was stable. The bleeding had stopped. They’d piped several pints of transfusions into him. They’d sew him back together and Angela’s nanomachines were taking care of regenerating the rest of his insides. He would be okay.
Angela nominated herself to make sure his wife would be okay too. This was all way too personal, so there was no point in trying to pull back now. After cleaning the last of the blood of the man whose wife she was sleeping with off of herself, she went to meet her and give her the good news.
Amélie was in the same chair that she’d left her in, staring at the same wall. She stirred just before Angela was about to reach out and shake her.
“Is he…?” Amélie asked.
“He’s alive, yes,” Angela assured her. “And he’s doing quite well. Several major arteries were severed and his liver was torn. Most of the other abdominal organs were severely bruised. We’ll have to keep a careful eye on him for the next week or so, but he should recover and be no worse for the wear, minus a scar from the incision we had to make.”
Finally, a hand reached out for her. Angela seized it.
“Take me to him, please,” Amélie begged her.
To her credit, Angela didn’t let go.
She led Amélie into the recovery room and ushered the nurse out. Gérard was still full of tubes, but was already looking better.
“He’s still sleeping,” Amélie noted as she let go of Angela and went over to the bed.
“They’re keeping him in a medically induced coma for a few more hours. His abdominal organs are all pretty fragile right now, so we can’t have him moving around,” Angela told her.
Amélie nodded and pulled a chair next to the bed. She sat in it and took Gérard’s hand in both of hers.
“I take it you’re going to wait until he’s up?” Angela asked.
Amélie nodded again.
Angela was beginning to feel like a stranger in the room. “Should I go then?”
Amélie didn’t answer right away. She was too busy examining the tubes and machines that were hooked into her husband’s body. The heart rate monitor made several assuring beeps before Amélie spoke, and her eyes were still on Gérard. “I can’t do this to him anymore,” she said.
“Do what?” Angela wondered.
“He’s a good man, Angela. He really is,” Amélie told her.
Amélie’s thumb was rubbing small circles into his fingers. “That’s why I can’t do this to him anymore. He doesn’t deserve it. He deserves the woman he thinks I can be. Someone kind and caring, like him. I don’t know if I could ever be her, but I’ve sort of already promised to try, haven’t I?”
Angela watched her. Amélie’s eyes were soft, a relieved smile was playing on her lips.
“I still love him,” Amélie told her. “So this has to stop.”
This. Right. Her. Their affair. The amazing sex. The tender touches. The coffee dates. The bad jokes over good food. The moments where they teetered on the edge of something more. Everything.
Angela felt her throat close. The black ball of swallowed feelings in her stomach was threatening to erupt right out of her mouth. She held it back in with everything she could, but she could feel it, bulging against her windpipe, making it hard to breathe.
She didn’t know it until then. She could guess and wonder. She could lie to herself. But she felt it then, in that gasping moment. She loved her. She loved Amélie. She loved her for her selfishness and her militant coaster usage and her petty grudges. She didn’t want her to be anyone else.
Angela tried to swallow that feeling down, but it was one too many. The black ball surged the rest of the way up her throat and exploded. “Fuck you,” she spat. It felt good, like ridding herself of a parasite.
Amélie turned to her, eyes wide.
“That’s right. Fuck you,” Angela said again. “It takes a bomb going off in his face to make you realize that?”
“No, you listen for minute. It’s too fucking late for you to pull the high and mighty act on me and get away with it. If you wanted to do the right thing, you would never have started this in the first place,” Angela told her.
“Never started it?” Amélie spat back. “You’re the one who--”
Angela interrupted her again, “Who what? Go ahead, say it. Mock me for having a bit of a gay crush on you. Because I did. Of course I did. You’re beautiful. It’s impossible not to fall for you. And you fucking know it. You can wrap just about anyone around your finger and you fucking know it.”
“Don’t shout. I--”
“No. You’re listening, remember? For once, you’re going to listen. If you want things to stop, then fine. We’ll stop, but you’re going to hear how pissed off I am about it first,” Angela demanded.
Amélie let go of Gérard’s hand and stood. Her hands balled into fists at her side.
Angela started again before she could talk back. “Don’t blame me for this. You wanted it just as much as I did. I know it. I know it very well. I know all about how you don’t get what you need from him, or what you want. You told me that much yourself. You can pretend to be noble, but I know what you’re about. Everything you do, you do it because it’s what you want. No other reason. And I don’t care. I don’t judge you for it, but I will judge you for trying to be something that you’re not. You’re just a selfish bitch, Amélie Lacroix. You always will be.”
“You think you know everything,” Amélie growled as she stalked over to Angela. “Just because you’re some sort of genius doctor, you think that means you can’t be wrong. You don’t know shit!”
She reached out and pushed slightly at Angela’s shoulder.
“You don’t know shit!” Amélie repeated. Tears were beginning to streak their way through her already ruined makeup. “You don’t really know anything about me. Neither does he. Neither does anyone. But you were close. You were too close. I can’t do this to him anymore because I need you too much. Because I depend on you. Because I--”
The door to the room creaked open. The recovery nurse poked her head in and asked, “Is everything alright in here? I heard shouting.”
Both women froze. A brief moment of logic comforted Angela and told her that this woman probably did not speak French. She wouldn’t have understood the conversation they were having.
“Mrs. Lacroix is just very stressed,” Angela assured the nurse. “She wants some quiet time with her husband. I was just leaving to give them some privacy.”
“That’s right,” Amélie corroborated in her heavily-accented English. “She was just leaving.”
She was going to make herself go blind. Even with her glasses, the images of the fMRI were getting blurry. She had been looking at them for hours. Red, then blue. Something, then suddenly nothing.
“What’s stopping you?” Angela asked the screen for at least the third time that night.
A 3D diagram of the Talon nanomachine was rotating around on another holo display. Angela had dutifully labeled the parts she understood. The self-replication engine. The propulsion arms. The attachment vectors. Still, there was so many pieces she hadn’t figured out yet.
She went back over to the diagram and used her fingers to turn the model. So many connectors. It looked sort of like her all-in-one nanos in a way. It was definitely meant to manipulate multiple types of cells. There was an area for producing CRISPR/Cas 9 assemblies. Those had obviously altered the circulatory and respiratory system’s cells, as they were able to find evidence of genetic manipulation there already.
But there wasn’t anything there that screamed “BRAIN” to her. Certainly nothing that could produce the unnatural reaction they saw on the fMRI.
Angela had been hoping that Widowmaker might crack a little and let some of Amélie out while in the machine, but that hadn’t happened. It was only that first bit, where the images were unreadable because she was moving. At least that proved one thing.
Talon had done something to her head. Whether it was to insert the visor implants or had something to do with the conditioning, it was pretty obvious that being in the MRI had triggered an unpleasant memory, to say the least.
Angela spun the model again. “I’m half tempted to put you in my head just to see what you do,” she told it. “But I’d also rather not turn into a cold-blooded killer. That would ruin my reputation as a stone cold pacifist.”
The model twirled recklessly on the screen. The words of her careful labeling and the lines that they were drawn on spun with it. When the projection finally stopped, it was face up on an unknown feature.
“Looks like a circuit,” a voice noted from the holo.
A skull mask and claw hands joined the model, pointing at the feature. “A broken circuit, but if these thingies come together, it could close,” Sombra said.
“Electricity?” Angela asked, mostly to herself.
“Maybe. There’s so much to it. How small is this thing?” Sombra wondered. Her claws walked the model, spinning it again.
“Small, but just too big to pass through the skin. Had to have been injected,” Angela told her.
“So I’m guessing you don’t have anything new for me tonight,” Sombra said.
Angela shook her head and then walked over to the monitor with the fMRI scan results. “I feel like I’m on the edge of something, but I don’t know. Her mind is being manipulated, and I don’t think these are results that just psychological conditioning or torture could produce.”
Visits from the hacker had also become a daily thing. Sombra was as much a part of her lab as the constant hum of the electron microscope. Sombra always asked questions and never answered them, but Angela found herself looking forward to her intrusions. If anything, they were a good time to vent. Sometimes, having to give a report on her findings made her understand them better. Just the act of forming ideas into words made them more real, somehow.
“Electricity,” Angela found herself repeating.
She watched the fMRI scans flash red and blue.
“You said it looks like a circuit?” Angela asked Sombra, who was busy spinning the model with her claws again.
Sombra stopped, then adjusted it to show the area they were discussing before. “This one. If this little box was a power source, then this sort of wire thing is looping around from one end and almost goes to the other end of it, but stops. But if this section squeezed together, it could close the circuit. Like a light switch, no?”
Angela walked over and examined the feature again. “Hang on. We’re going to test your theory,” she said.
“Ooh! Are we doing science, pretty doctor? I love science!” Sombra squealed.
Angela went over to the electron microscope and refocused it in on one of the sample nanos that was near a little manipulation tool on the slide. She was able to position it nicely, aimed right at the feature. “Just bring the end of that filament thing into the square, right?”
“You’re the scientist here, not me,” Sombra noted from behind her.
Angela shrugged a little and moved the tool to squeeze the feature together. It made a tiny spark, causing the display to flash a brilliant white. “Shit!” she cried as she turned away to preserve what was left of her eyesight for that evening.
Sombra was already laughing. “Holy fuck! I was right! Who needs you anyway, doctor? I did it. I figured out...something?”
“Electricity,” Angela repeated yet again.
“Yes, that’s generally what it does. Get on with it.”
Angela ran over to the fMRI monitor again. “It’s shocking her. Fuck me. It’s shocking her every time she accesses long term memory.” She flipped frantically through the images. She should have been grinning at her victory, but this was horrible. Every part of Amélie’s body was riddled with millions of these nanomachines. Thousands upon thousands of those little sparks were going off in her brain every time she tried to get back something of who she once was. It was an awful way for Talon to get what they wanted, but obviously quite effective.
All that could fit in her mind just then were long strings of text from papers she’d read on electroshock therapy. All of them damning. All of them ending up hurting more than helping. And this was designed specifically to hurt. How much of Amélie was there going to be left to recover?
But she had seen little bits of Amélie. She had witnessed them. She’d seen one that very day. There had to be something left of her.
“So the nanos are stopping her from remembering anything about herself?” Sombra asked.
“Not really, or else she wouldn’t be functional. She’d forget how to shoot that massive gun and then what good would she be to them? Look, here’s a slide where I asked her what city she was born in. She told me Paris, which is correct. Red in the temporal lobe, then sliding away gently, as it should,” Angela said as she flipped to the sample. Then she changed the slide. “But here. Here’s a slide where I asked her what date she married Gérard on. She said she didn’t know. Red in the temporal lobe, then straight to blue.”
“So they only let her remember what they like,” Sombra concluded.
“That’s incredibly complex,” Angela said.
“Well, let’s also remember that she’s an emotionless husk. What if it’s when memories are tied to emotion?” Sombra asked. “Like, I don’t give a shit when you ask me certain facts, but if you ask me who makes the best tacos in Dorado, you’re going to get an emotionally-charged response, whether you like it or not.”
Angela went to another sample that had a cross section portion on it, one that could look at the brain’s interior structures. “Amygdala.”
“Bless you,” Sombra joked.
“It’s a part of the brain responsible for strong emotions. Fear and love and whatnot,” Angela told her. “If you’re right, we should see the same behavior there.”
Angela played the sample. Sure enough, the Amygdala flashed red too and then straight to blue.
“What did you ask her that time?” Sombra asked.
“What kind of flowers I brought her when I came to watch her dance in Swan Lake.”
Sombra cackled again. “I’m so good at this. I should be a scientist.”
Angela groaned. She leaned on the counter next to the monitor and put her face in her hands.
“Why the long face, pretty doctor? You know what it is now, so you can figure out how to stop it,” Sombra reasoned. “And you better get to work, because you’ve only got twenty days left to do it.”
“I need more time,” Angela found herself sighing through her fingers.
“Not up to me, chica,” Sombra told her. “But at least you know she wants you to fix her. That has to help with the motivation, right?”
Angela unburied herself from her hands. She stalked back over to the holopad and addressed the skull projection directly, “That’s what I really don’t understand. Why does she want that? Why is she being cooperative if she’s been programmed to be a tool for Talon? Shouldn’t she be trying to escape and go back to killing for them?”
Sombra’s skull shook with laughter again. “You don’t know how she was captured, do you?”
Angela shook her head. “It’s not detailed in any of the reports.”
Sombra’s claws made themselves into a little finger gun and pointed at Angela. “Talon made her into the perfect killer, right? One that wouldn’t get emotional, one that would never hesitate. Well, she hesitated. She had her target lined up and she didn’t shoot for some reason. She stopped. She thought about it. She thought just long enough for the authorities to catch her.”
“So you’re saying…?” Angela asked.
“I’m saying that this Amélie of yours has a lot more willpower than Talon thinks she does. Work hard for her sake, pretty doctor, and work fast,” Sombra said. She shot her finger gun at Angela. Her image disappeared from the display as she was blowing the smoke from her claw barrel.
Chapter 7: Neither will I administer a poison to anybody
Sorry for another late night post!
It was the logical thing to do. More nanomachines. Nanomachines to stop other nanomachines. She didn’t have time for anything else. If there was one thing Angela knew she could do quickly, it was design a goddamn nanomachine.
It was simple enough. All it had to do was self-replicate, correctly identify the shock module of the Talon nanos and bind to it, blocking the circuit. She could deal with the rest of the complex Talon nanomachine later. For now, all of her efforts had to concentrate on disabling the part that was blocking Widowmaker from remembering who she used to be. As much as it killed her to waste the time on it, Angela had even been careful enough to build in a deactivation frequency on her nanos, just in case something went wrong.
Ten days until the trial. Just ten days.
Angela stepped back from the electron microscope. This batch was beginning to self-replicate nicely. She’d have enough for another test in about an hour.
That was time enough.
“The usual, Dr. Ziegler?” the coffee shop barista would ask her a few minutes later.
Angela nodded. “Is it bad I have a usual already?” she asked.
The girl shrugged and started packing the espresso for her mocha. “You’re a doctor. It’s expected.”
One double shot mocha and one Earl Grey with lemon that would likely be rejected later, she was off for her usual evening visit. She’d run out of excuses, but hadn’t stopped going to see Widowmaker. She justified it as keeping her patient in the loop and informed, but really, it was for those little moments where her eyes weren’t so cold, or where the monotone of her voice broke to a different note--moments where Angela could see Amélie trying to crawl out of that blue skin.
Sometimes, it was enough to keep her going. When it wasn’t, well, that was what the coffee was for.
It was still early that evening. The pink light of sunset was still streaming through the few windows of the low security ward. A nurse caught her on her way to room 537 West.
“Ms. Lacroix is in the music room. Her therapist wanted her to have a bit more time out and about,” the nurse explained.
The music room was smaller than she expected and oddly silent. A worn old piano dominated one corner. Shelves of hand drums consumed another. Otherwise it was a patchwork of mismatched chairs and rugs. The ever-present orderly had decided to wait outside. He nodded to Angela as she walked in.
Widowmaker was staring out the window, watching the last rays of sunlight escape into the trees.
“Enjoying the change of scenery?” Angela asked her.
She didn’t turn around, but hummed a single note of a response, then added, “A different room, but the view from the windows is almost the same.”
Angela walked over to the old piano and set the drinks down on its bench. “Did you pick the room?”
Widowmaker’s delicate fingers traced the window frame. “No. It was just empty. The head doctor thinks it best for me to keep away from the other patients when possible. I am inclined to agree with her.”
Angela found herself smiling as she sat on the piano bench next to the paper cups. Widowmaker might be cold, but she certainly wasn’t completely absent of all emotion. She could be pretty sassy, actually. Angela was coming to learn this as the assassin opened up to her. Well, if you could call it opening up. She had stopped regarding her with suspicion and had settled on mild confusion instead, or just the same neutral stare she gave most everyone else.
“Is that so?”
“I’ve had enough of crazies,” Widowmaker retorted. She then turned around--slowly as always--and cocked her head at Angela. “You keep bringing me tea.”
“It’s an old habit,” Angela confessed. “Hard to break.”
Widowmaker walked over, still graceful in her grey sweats and hospital slippers and gestured to the drink. Angela handed it to her. She considered it for a moment and then took a sip. “I have to say. I’m almost eager for you to make more progress so I can find out why that is exactly.”
“I could tell you if you like,” Angela offered.
Widowmaker shook her head. “As I’ve said, I’d much rather figure it out myself. I would much rather just be the woman whose tea order you remembered for this long.”
Angela picked up her coffee and just held it without taking a sip. “I’ve been meaning to ask you about that. I might have something ready for you in the next day or so. Are you really sure that you want this? If I’m right, you’ll no longer be shocked when accessing emotionally charged memories. If your memory hasn’t been damaged from all of this, then you’ll actually be able to use it normally, and properly experience the emotions themselves again.”
Widowmaker stopped sipping her tea to scoff. “Chérie, I have seen and done enough things that I can remember now to fill a lifetime. I know exactly what it looks like when a man’s skull explodes. Do you think I can’t handle it?”
“That’s not really a question for you, is it?” Angela posed.
“I’d like to think Amélie could,” Widowmaker replied. “But I suppose the only way to find out is to try.”
“But why?” Angela asked. “Why do you want to be her again?”
Widowmaker took a long sip of her tea, studying Angela intently with her gold eyes as she did. “To put it simply, I realized that I didn’t want to do what Talon told me to. I didn’t really want anything. I killed because they told me it was pleasurable, not because I really got anything from it. One day it clicked. Reaper, Sombra, the other agents--they weren’t like me. They still felt things.”
Angela finally took a sip of her coffee. It ran down her throat, sweet and warm. “Is that what you want most then? To feel again?”
“To want, actually,” Widowmaker corrected her. “To want something, anything,”
She set her tea down on the back of the piano and wandered over to the window again. The light coming from it was nearly the same purple-blue as her skin already. It gave her an unearthly glow. “Was she a good person, this Amélie?” she asked.
Angela set her coffee down on the bench. This wasn’t an easy one to answer. “She certainly didn’t go around kissing babies and feeding the homeless or anything. She wasn’t good or bad, really. She was just herself and nothing else.”
A rare smirk twinged at Widowmaker’s jaw. “I can live with that.”
She was fine, really. At least that’s what she kept saying. If she said it enough, it would become true, right?
Angela had hardly slept in the last week. When she did sleep, it was in short bursts, slumped in her desk or against the fridge in the break room.
A warm hand on her shoulder woke her from one such brief flirtation with oblivion. Angela looked down to find the source of the gentle shaking.
“Gérard,” she said to the worried face looking up at her.
“I think you dozed off there,” he told her.
Yup. She definitely had fallen asleep while standing over him. They were in an exam room in the hospital. Gérard was lying on the table, his shirt pulled up to reveal the pink flesh of a fresh scar on his abdomen.
“I guess I did,” Angela admitted to him. She looked down at her notes on the holopad she was still cradling in her arms. He was fine. He would be fine.
“I know you’re worried sick,” he told her as he slid his shirt back down. “We all are. Hell, you know I’d rather be out there looking for her myself but--”
“Doctor’s orders, I know,” Angela cut him off. Not even her orders. The surgeon’s.
Talon had taken Gérard’s wife and he wasn’t even allowed to do anything about it. That made two of them.
As he told it, Amélie had been out buying groceries. She’d been with him in their flat all week, tending to him, expertly changing his bandages and bringing him back to the base hospital for check ups. Masterfully avoiding Angela, of course. But she had been out getting her fresh vegetables and bakery bread and wine, gathering ingredients for one of the few ways she knew how to nurture and care. Goddamn, Amélie had really been trying.
And Talon took her.
No note. No ransom. No demands. They only knew it was Talon because of a phone call Gérard got a few hours later. A single voice told him, “We have your wife. Don’t try to find her. Stand by for instructions.”
Stand by. As if anyone in Overwatch was really capable of doing that.
Yet there they were, at base while the rest of Gérard’s Blackwatch strike team searched for her, while Jack assembled a squad of Overwatch’s best intelligence agents to track down the source of the call and try to locate it. Top people from every sector were on it, yet she was staring at a wound she knew would heal just fine. There was nothing else for her to do.
Angela shook her head to clear it of those thoughts. She could only think them so many times without going insane. She was near her limit already for that day. “You’re recovering well,” she went on.
“I wish I could say that I feel like I am, doc,” Gérard said as he gingerly sat up.
“I shouldn’t be the one telling you to have faith in your team, Gérard,” Angela replied. “But I will all the same. I know you trust those men with your life. We have to trust that they will find Amélie and bring her home safe.”
She marveled at how steady the words came out of her mouth--how strong they sounded. The carried none of the weight of her grief. None of her sleepless nights. None of her crying fits. None of the fear that crept across her skin, crawling like so many tiny spiders.
Angela knew enough about war and conflict to know that if someone was missing for a week, they were as good as dead. That was a bit of logic she was still refusing to listen to, though. For Amélie’s sake, for the sake of their secret, she kept her despair to herself.
Still, Gérard’s warm hand reached out for hers. “Hearing you say it actually makes me believe it a little bit more,” he told her.
She stared at him, suddenly wanting to confess everything, wanting to latch onto him and share their strength in hopes that somehow, it would bring Amélie back. But no, stop it. Stop it now. That was the lack of sleep talking. Nothing more.
But she could see through the tough exterior he had been trying to put up the entire week. She could see the bags under his eyes--the raw red where his eyelids met. His stubble spoke volumes, at least for a man who was normally as clean and fastidious as his wife. In his private time, away from prying eyes and stranger’s condolences, she knew Gérard was as much as a mess as she was.
Suddenly, the short nails of his rough hand were digging into her skin. He gripped her too hard. “Why her, Angela? Why did I do this to her?” he asked. Tears threatened to spill anew down the tracks in his cheeks that everyone pretended not to see.
“It’s not your fault,” she tried to console, but could feel her own eyes welling up to mirror his.
“It is!” he protested. “If she wasn’t mine...if she was with anyone else--”
The door to the exam room burst open. A burly man with burn scars on his face barged in. “Lieutenant Lacroix. Doctor. Sorry for the interruption,” he said as he saluted quickly.
Gérard sprang to his feet with far more gusto than a man whose internal organs were recently crushed should, much less could. “What is it, Jenkins?”
“They found Amélie. She’s fine. She’s okay, Gérard.”
It was like an explosion had gone off next to her. The world around Angela suddenly became too bright and too loud. She could feel Gérard let go of her hand and could watch him run over to Jenkins, but their images were washed out in her vision. The sound of their voices was strong, but she couldn’t understand their words.
She only understood the last thing Gérard said, “Take me to her.”
And she knew she could not follow. At least, not without revealing the extent of her affections--the depth of her relief.
As the men bolted from the exam room door, Angela fell to her knees. Tears flowed freely. A mixture of emotions swirled in her like a hurricane. Relief, joy, jealousy, grief, mortified embarrassment, even a little bit of that anger that she unleashed the last time she spoke to Amélie--before all of this. Kneeling on the cold tile, Angela knew she was still in far too deep. She was so deep she couldn’t even see a light glimmering on the surface.
She didn’t get up until another doctor found her. Only then did she let herself go to find out the details.
It didn’t take long. She wandered to the emergency ward of the hospital and found a crowd of Blackwatch soldiers in the waiting room. A bunch of big men in dark covert ops clothing stood out against the white walls and pale grey plastic chairs.
Darkest of all of these was Gabriel Reyes, mostly because of his expression. He always looked like he was about to blow up at someone. Angela knew he was much softer on the inside, but she also knew that he took Amélie’s kidnapping quite personally. Gérard was one of his top officers. This was obviously a ploy by Talon to shake Blackwatch, and it was working. They were so close to ending the terrorist organization, but that little bit of it that remained was still enough to strike them close to home.
“Angie,” Gabe greeted her. He was not a believer in the no nicknames policy.
Angela nodded to him and approached the circle of Blackwatch personnel.
“You’re here about Amélie, I’m guessing?” Gabe asked.
Angela nodded again finding her mouth still a bit too dry to speak comfortably.
“Police found her wandering the streets, just in town. She’s confused, but unharmed. She confirmed it was Talon agents and that they had told her as much. They knocked her out and took her somewhere. Kept her in a room in what she thinks was an abandoned industrial building. She said they didn’t do a thing to her except give her food and water occasionally. Just two guys handled her, always wearing ski masks. She didn’t have a window or anything, had no idea what day it was and obviously can’t really provide any clues as to the location of the building,” Gabe reported gruffly.
Angela’s tongue was like a small sandbag in her mouth, but she made it move. “They didn’t do anything?”
Gabe nodded. “That’s what she says. We’re having the docs here check her just in case. Make sure there’s nothing going on she might not have noticed--tracking microchip, bioweapon injection, that kind of thing.”
“If I can help--”
“Stop right there,” Gabe warned her. He stood and broke from the circle of soldiers to come to her. He began leading her away to a more private corner of the waiting room. “You’re not gonna help. I know you two are friends. I know you’re used to stitching up friends and busting past any and all ethics codes to do so, but you don’t know Talon like I do. They had to have done something to her. I don’t know what it is yet, but it’s bad enough that Gérard is in there fawning over her right now. I need you to stay out of it, you hear me?”
Angela had to protest, “Gabe, I’m a professional. I know what I’m--”
“I’m telling you that you don’t know!” he nearly shouted. “You have no idea what they’re capable of. I see it every goddamn day. I listen to people tell me that it’s not that serious every goddamn day. Wasn’t it enough for you to put Gérard’s guts back together after that baby doll bomb? That’s what Talon is about Angela--head games. This is another head game. I’m telling you to stay back until it’s over, for your own sake.”
“I just want to--”
“No. Don’t make me make it an order. I know you’re not on my team, but this is a military organization and I still outrank you. I can do it,” Gabe threatened.
“This is my field and I don't appreciate--”
Gabe’s voice dipped into a quiet growl. “Do you think I'm fucking blind, Angie? Gérard might be, but I'm not. You’re just lucky that I don't have the heart to tell him.”
That shut her up. Angela couldn't protest when her mouth was hanging open.
Gabe continued. “You’re fucking her. There. I said it. All the more reason for you to stay the hell out of this.”
Her brief flirtation with sublime levels of anxiety came to an end. It was replaced with outrage. How dare he? Gabe of all fucking people. How dare he assume to know what she felt about Amélie. How important she was to her?
“I just so happens that I know someone who outranks you,” Angela spat. “Someone who you might be fucking, or so I hear. I could tell Jack to come down here and get me in--”
Gabe shoved a shoulder to hers. He glared down at her, his scarred face inches from her own. “Shut your goddamn mouth. Go ahead and cry to Jack if you want. I think you might be surprised whose side he’ll be on. Don't make this turn ugly, Angie, because it's about to.”
The thought of Amélie, lying on a table while the rookies in the emergency ward prodded her, confused and scared, was too much to bear. Angela could ease that. She could get answers quickly. She could do something, anything.
But if she kept pushing, she would lose that option. She had to back down. It nearly killed her. “Fine,” she spat. “I’ll stay away, but you better keep me updated.”
“Of course,” Gabe assented.
And yes, he was serious. So serious he sent one of his men to escort her out of the emergency ward, not trusting her to leave on her own.
So Angela did what she could. She fumed. She went home and showered and changed clothes and kept fuming. She came back and went to the lab and fumed there. She anxiously checked her holo and phone for messages every minute. Gérard sent her one before Gabe did. It summed up the same story she’d heard earlier and told her that the doctors had decided to keep Amélie for observation for a night or two. She could have guessed that much would happen.
She was being so good about fuming that she thought she might actually be able to keep her promise. The night passed. She actually barely felt nervous about the fact that Gabe was aware of her and Amélie’s affair. The trial run she did for skeletal reconstruction in the lab went amazingly well. There were a few moments where she almost lost herself as she used to in her numbers and figures. She almost gushed about the success of her project, but then she remembered that Gabe had basically told her Amélie was a ticking time bomb. She couldn’t find a shred of joy in the success after that.
Come morning there was another message from Gérard. “Can I ask one more favor of you? Things seem to be stalling here and I just want to get Amélie home so she can rest properly. Can you pull some strings?”
Angela was shit at dealing with temptation. That much was painfully obvious to everyone. She couldn’t even say no to someone offering her an extra doughnut when she’d already had breakfast.
Needless to say, she was on her way back to the emergency ward just after reading it.
Gabe and his Blackwatch guys had given up their post in the waiting room. The only thing stopping her from going in was her promise. Her word. Her sense of morals. But Amélie had taught her just how fragile that was.
She found Gérard leaning in a hallway by the nurses’ station. He looked annoyed, but brightened up when he saw her. “Here to save us yet again?” he asked.
“If I can,” Angela assured him. “What’s up? I thought you were with her?”
Gérard shook his head. “They won’t let me back in. Gabe’s getting really squirrely about all this. She’s absolutely fine Angela. All she wants to do is go home and forget about all this. She’s been begging for that all night. It will be the best thing for her, trust me. I don’t know why no one agrees with us.”
“They’re just being cautious,” Angela told him. “Gabe told me that he’s concerned about what might have been done to her while she was unconscious.”
“And so far they’ve proven that nothing was,” Gérard sighed. “They’ve run every test imaginable and everything has come back clean so far. She’s sick of it. I’m sick of it. Hell, the nurses here have to be sick of it by now.”
“Let me talk to the attending. I’ll see what their plans are,” Angela offered.
“You really are an angel,” Gérard told her as she started to walk away.
Angela bit her lip hard enough to taste copper. “Please don't say that,” she muttered. She couldn't turn to face him again to correct him properly.
Finding the attending was easy enough. He was standing in a cluster of doctors that had convened outside of Amélie’s room. Angela knew him, but not well enough to remember his name.
“Dr. Ziegler,” he greeted her. “I didn’t know you were asked to check on the patient. We already ran your nano detectors and didn’t find anything.”
Well, there went her cover then. Best to be honest. Well, mostly honest. “I was just checking in with Lieutenant Lacroix and was curious as to how things were going,” she said.
The attending shrugged. “Right now we’re just waiting. Commander Reyes wants her observed for another day, even with all these negative tests.”
“Was a psych eval done?” Angela questioned.
“Yup, came back fine. Said that the patient was confused and tired, but otherwise okay. I didn’t need a psychiatrist to haul ass up here and tell me that,” he replied.
“So you’re just holding her here under Reyes’ orders then?”
“Pretty much,” the attending said.
“As her physician, you have the authority to discharge her if you think that’s unnecessary, you know,” Angela reminded him.
“And piss off Reyes? No thanks.”
“And if someone else pissed him off?” Angela offered.
The other doctor gave her a critical look. “Well, here, you tell me. You know her, or I so I’ve been told. Go in and assess her, as a friend. If you feel she’s fine, then you can sign the discharge and get screamed at for it.”
“Works for me,” Angela said, trying to disguise a triumphant grin that was daring to appear on her face. Nevermind that she was just about to violate every ethics law in the book. Luckily for her, military doctors cared a lot less about silly things like that.
“Your funeral then,” the attending said with a shrug.
After that, it was just as easy as opening a door. Why did she hesitate then? Why did something about this feel not right? She guessed it was because she was sure Amélie didn’t really want to see her, especially when she was in this state, but what else could Angela do? She was trying to help.
That’s all she’d ever wanted to do. That’s how this all started. She just wanted to help.
So she opened the door.
Amélie was lying on the bed, looking pale and worn, but otherwise fine. She was looking out the window and not facing the door. The room was filled with too-colorful flowers. Even a few stray balloons were tied to a chair. So gaudy--so very not Amélie.
“What is it now?” Amélie asked in her heavily-accented English without turning away, her voice laden with exhaustion, but little else in the way of emotion. “Another test?”
“Hopefully the last one,” Angela replied in French.
Amélie whipped her head around. “You.”
“I’m glad you’re safe,” Angela told her. She kept by the door, almost afraid to intrude. “I'm just here to make sure you’re healthy.”
“I will tell you the same thing I’ve told everyone else,” Amélie sighed. “They didn’t hurt me. They didn’t do anything to me. They just kept me in a dirty room for what you’re all telling me was a week.”
“You have to understand that everyone is just very worried,” Angela tried to say soothingly.
“Not as worried as I was. But it’s over. I just want to go home,” Amélie moaned. She leaned forward, elbows on her knees, and held her face in her hands. “I’m so tired and I just want to lay in Gérard’s arms and sleep in my own bed.”
“Listen, if there’s anything we should be worried about, you can tell me. I can check it out and won’t tell anyone unless it’s really serious,” Angela offered as she finally started walking forward.
“I don’t want anything from you,” Amélie replied coldly, her face still in her hands.
Angela stopped short.
“I think you made it clear how you feel,” Amélie continued, barely lifting her head enough to peer up at Angela. Her eyes were deeply set in dark circles. “I had plenty of time to think about what you said while I was sitting in that room. It’s better this way.”
“Amélie--” Angela started to plead.
“I know what I want now,” Amélie told her. “If anything, I can thank Talon for that. I just want to be with Gérard. It’s the right thing to do. He was the one I was missing in there. He was all I could think about.”
Angela had heard the phrase “makes your blood run cold” before, but didn’t know that it was really a sensation she could experience. She felt it then, though. It was like ice shot through her veins, crystallizing in them, making her circulation stop entirely. Of course, that wasn’t really happening, but there was no other way to describe the sensation.
“He makes me feel safe,” Amélie went on. “You can't do that for me. I just want Gérard. He will make everything better.”
All of her tears. All of her grief. All of the worry that ate at her literally from the inside out. This was what it came to. She had fucked it all up. She had ruined everything, and that was what Amélie would remember her for.
“I…” Angela couldn’t think of any words to salvage this. Not in French, English, Swiss German, her very rusty Italian, or even the little bit of Arabic Ana had taught her.
“I love my husband. I just want to be with him. Can you please tell the other doctors they’re being ridiculous so I can just go home with Gérard?” Amélie pleaded.
Angela’s mind couldn’t find words, but some desperate and primal part of her thought that she could maybe communicate her despair through touch. She reached out desperately for Amélie’s hand. She just brushed the skin of her fingers. They were like ice.
And Amélie snatched her hand away.
“Stop,” Amélie warned. She was sitting straight up now. “I told you. They didn’t hurt me. I just want Gérard. Not you.”
Angela found the attending at the nurses’ station. She asked him for the release form and proceeded to sign it faster than she thought humanly possible.
“That was quick,” he commented as she handed it over. “You think she’s fine then?”
“She hasn’t changed a bit,” Angela told him flatly.
When she did sleep that night, finally, it wasn’t the sound sleep she hoped for--the glorious rest of relief. No, her body finally gave out some time around 3am. It could only take so many nights of weeping, and that night had been particularly rough. She’d ruined it and Amélie had made her choice. Amélie had thought of Gérard in those dark moments and not of her. He had kept her sane and whole, and not memories of Angela’s ridiculous babbling about her work and love of sweets and how she moaned when she came undone.
She should have known. She did know, really. This was a mistake. This was all an awful mistake. She fell into darkness in the white sheets that Amélie brought into that room, staring at the things Amélie had hung on her walls. All for herself. Not for Angela.
Never for Angela.
Somehow, she got out of bed the next morning. She made coffee. She found a muffin she had forgotten about in the cupboard. She went back to base. She went back to the lab. She ran another test batch, this time for nerve regeneration. It also went very well.
But she still felt hollow inside.
And it didn’t go away until a phone call shook her from another black sleep two weeks later. It was early, just light enough for the sky to be purple instead of black or blue.
Gabe’s voice on the other end of the line was gritty and raw. “Gérard’s dead. Throat cut in his sleep. Amélie’s gone. No ransom note. No call. No nothing. I'll let you know if anything changes.”
That was the day Angela discovered that you can’t feel hollow when you can’t feel anything at all.
They questioned her, of course. There were no signs of forced entry. The neighbors didn’t hear a thing. So there were plenty of questions.
“I’m just asking if you think it’s possible, based on what you know about them,” Gabe went on.
“No,” Angela told him in a voice that barely sounded like her own. “She loved him. She wouldn’t kill him. Besides, Amélie would never do something that involved getting her hands dirty. Literally and figuratively.”
“You’re sure then?”
“More than you can know.”
Eventually, she went back to feeling hollow. That was good. It took a month or so, but that was progress. From hollow, she went to grief again for a while. Then rage. Then something like normal came back after the third month of no news. After six months, it became easier to smile again. After nine, she could finally start to appreciate the fact that she was so close to perfecting her all-in-one nanos. They were almost ready.
Twelve months after Amélie disappeared, Angela was back in the emergency ward. She still avoided the room that was too full of flowers and balloons and rejection, but she was on a mission. She needed human test cases now, and since traumatic wounds were where her nanomachines were meant to be applied, she started making a habit of being in the best place to find them.
Nevermind that it was also a good place to find bad news.
A familiar face nearly crashed into hers as she made her rounds for the patients that were already receiving her nano-therapy. Jack Morrison was still in his battle gear. His long blue coat nearly tangled around both their legs.
“Angie,” he said as he grabbed her by the upper arm. “They told me you were here. You gotta come look at a couple of guys from my team.”
“What happened?” Angela asked.
Jack beckoned her to follow. “We were rescuing hostages. Talon’s new sniper had us pinned down good. I think she might have gotten Ana. The rescue team is still trying to find her.”
“Fuck,” Angela muttered as she jogged behind him.
“The old girl is probably fine. I ordered her to stand down, but she wouldn’t do it. She’s probably still picking off Talon agents, but…”
“Yeah,” Angela finished for him. “I get it. She’s like a cockroach. Unkillable. I’m sure she’s fine.”
“Craziest shit, though,” he panted as they rounded a corner. “We got recon photos back from the last sighting of Ana. Got the Talon sniper’s face in them. You won’t believe this.”
“Try me,” Angela said as she dodged his coattails.
“It’s Amélie Lacroix.”
She had to give her applicators off to another doctor and explain how to use them. She made some piss poor excuse to Jack, but his people would be fine. They would be okay.
Angela was not going to be okay.
She made it all the way to her apartment without breaking down, somehow. It was a sty again. The couch and coffee table were covered. Something was definitely starting to stink up the fridge. She couldn’t remember the last time she had bothered to organize anything, or hang anything up, or put anything away. She just threw it wherever there was space left to throw something. There was nothing left on the walls. All the plants were dead. There wasn’t a coaster in sight.
She waded through the mess with a clear destination in mind. Hot tears streaked down her face, but she wouldn’t let the sobs that were collecting in her throat out until this was done. On the bookshelf, just behind the pot of dead succulents was one last reminder that needed to be destroyed. Its frame was black wood. It was covered in dust.
Amélie stared back at her from the photo, looking beautiful as always, her arm draped over Angela’s shoulders.
Angela picked up the frame and flung it against the wall. The glass shattered, as did the wood of the frame.
It didn’t make her feel any less betrayed. It didn’t make her feel any less naive. It didn’t make her any less heartbroken. In fact, she was back to feeling nothing at all.
Nine days. Already half of this one wasted in meetings and reviews. Her counter-nanos were working in every test. She could have administered them that morning. She could have been talking to Amélie again by now. Instead she had to listen to people who knew nothing about her field debate the merit of her work. All the while she argued that it would be enough, when even she couldn’t be sure that it was.
It had to be.
Finally, the other doctors agreed. She busied herself by arming an applicator while Widowmaker was transferred to a hospital room and prepped, but that didn’t take near long enough. Angela could have sworn she wore down a path in the tiles of the lab from all her pacing by the time they paged her.
“So soon?” Widowmaker asked her when she reached the room.
No color there. No seafoam green of the low security ward. No out of place balloons. No too-red roses. Just white tile. White walls. White curtains. White bed. White hospital gown.
Only blue and gold.
“You sounded so eager yesterday,” Angela joked nervously as she shut the door behind her.
“I still am eager, I suppose,” Widowmaker told her. She was hunched over herself again, bare blue legs curled into her chest. Her usually ever-present orderly was nowhere to be found.
Angela had hoped to beat the doctors and nurses that were probably minutes away from converging on them. If she got Amélie back, if this worked, then she wanted to be the first to see her. She wanted to talk to her. She wanted to apologize. God, she had so much to apologize for. Their fight. The little stupid bickerings they always had before that even. How she somehow didn’t recognize what had happened to Amélie when she was kidnapped. So much.
“But really, this is your last chance to stop me. This,” Angela said as she approached Widowmaker with the applicator in the palm of her hand, “is the first step to a cure. It will be very hard for you. Very, very hard.”
Widowmaker’s eyes widened at size of the applicator’s massive needle. A hint of fear creeped into that solid gold. A hint that spoke of this not being the first time that she was hunched over in a hospital bed and about to be stabbed with a needle. Angela still had a hard time imagining the process that must have gone into creating her, yet here she was, about to start the even longer road of reversing it.
“It’s not all happy memories,” Angela went on.
Widowmaker looked up at her. “It wouldn’t be real if it was.”
“May I?” Angela asked and gestured to the side of the bed.
Angela sat down next to her, still holding out the applicator. “I’ll be injecting it into your neck. We know there’s no extra bleeding risk now so I can do that and have them absorbed quicker. The injection itself will be very quick and it will hurt a little. The nanomachines will get to work immediately and start counteracting the shocking mechanism on yours. That’s all this will do. I still don’t know enough about the other changes that have been made to you to attempt to reverse them, or even see if they’re really reversible.”
“What are you waiting for then?” Widowmaker asked her.
“Your consent,” Angela replied. “You said you wanted to want something. Do you want this?”
Widowmaker covered the device in Angela’s hand with her own. “I do.”
“That works for me,” Angela said, trying to force a smile. She stood and gestured for Widowmaker to turn around. “Please sit up straight.”
Widowmaker’s face was puzzled for a moment, but she complied. “Your hands are always cold. Everyone else feels like they’re burning up to me.”
Angela’s mouth went dry. “Uh, all doctors are supposed to have cold hands,” she joked again.
Widowmaker didn’t acknowledge that. Instead, she lifted her hair away from her neck. “Get it over with.”
Angela located the carotid artery quickly enough. Even with Widowmaker’s slow pulse, it throbbed occasionally beneath her cyanotic skin. She readied the gauze she snatched from the table, as there would be a little bit of bleeding, but nothing spectacular. She held the applicator just above it, but she hesitated.
“S'il vous plaît, Angela.”
She plunged the needle in and administered the dose.
To Widowmaker’s credit, she didn’t scream. She gave a soft grunt, but she didn’t scream.
Angela removed the needle and quickly replaced it with a heavy padding of gauze and pressure from her hand. Her too cold hand. Shit. There would be time to worry about that later.
She sat back down next to Widowmaker, hand still firmly pressing the gauze. “How do you feel?” Angela asked.
“The same,” Widowmaker answered.
“It will take a few minutes for them to disperse to your brain and start counteracting the other nanomachines. Just breathe deeply and try to stay calm,” Angela advised.
That wasn’t really a problem. Widowmaker’s breaths were always slow and deep, probably to make up for her low blood-oxygen levels. Calm was her natural state, or well, nothingness was. That was as close to calm as anything really could be.
After a few minutes of listening to those steady breaths and checking the gauze to make sure her patient wasn’t bleeding too much, Angela asked, “Do you want to try to remember something?”
Widowmaker’s gold eyes fell on her face. “Angela.”
“That’s your name,” Widowmaker told her. “You asked me before, when you came into my cell in max. I didn’t know then.”
Angela smiled. She really smiled. She smiled in a way that she felt it on the inside. Not just in the muscles in her cheeks, not in how the action pulled at dry, chapped lips or how it creased the skin of her face. She felt warm. She felt.
“I know now,” Widowmaker said. Or was it Amélie? Probably not quite yet.
Those gold eyes swam with a new warmth. It made them liquid. She could almost watch Amélie come into them. It was like seeing old coins and jewelry melted down into a soft molten material, then cast anew into new shapes. Better shapes.
And then they rolled back into her head. Widowmaker, Amélie, whoever this woman was now began seizing. Her body went rigid and shook, collapsing into the bed.
Angela screamed as she stood up. The monitors the prep team had hooked her patient up to were already going off, but she jammed the nurse call button anyway and frantically searched her pockets for the deactivation switch.
“Please,” she nearly screamed again as she found it. “Please no. Please.”
She pressed the button. It sent out a sonic pulse that disabled her machines and sent them into a self-destruct pattern. They would immediately cease functioning and harmlessly dissolve into Amélie’s bloodstream. Hopefully. God. Hopefully.
The blue body next to her stopped shaking. It was covered in a fine sheen of sweat. Angela reached for the neck that was still covered with sticky, dark red gauze. She searched for a pulse.
She counted. One. Two. Three. A gentle bump formed under her fingers. The heart rate monitor stopped blaring its alarm and let forth a soft beep. One. Two. Three. Another beep. Slow, but there. She’d never heard a more beautiful sound.
But it would take days to figure out what other damage she just might have done. It would take precious days to figure out if that little glimpse of Amélie was the last one she would ever see.
When the nurse finally ran in, Angela was sobbing.
Chapter 8: I will use treatment to help the sick
Graphic descriptions of injuries and blood ahead. Proceed with caution if that is something that you are not comfortable reading!
Angela was not used to failure. She was not used to being wrong. She was not used to not having all the answers.
In fact, she was pretty shit at it.
But the brain scans came back normal. According to them, no lasting damage had been done. As for the cognitive side of things, well, she’d been overruled there. The other doctors wanted to leave Widowmaker in a medically induced coma until they were beyond certain that things were fine. Angela knew, though, that the only way to know the extent of the damage was to wake her up and ask her. The other doctors told her it wasn’t worth the risk.
Was it worth driving her insane from not knowing? Probably not. Or, at least in her opinion, definitely not.
So she punished herself. No coffee. No food. No rest. Just solutions. Solutions that weren’t working.
“Fuck you,” Angela grumbled at the latest failed attempt to disarm the protective protocol on the Talon nanos. This would be failure number five.
It was ingenious, really. The tiny machines were smart enough to recognize when they weren’t functioning properly due to some sort of intentional interference. That would then trigger them to go into overdrive, basically, assaulting the carrier with all of their functions at once. This would chain from machine to machine, so if one of them started this protocol, it would immediately start sparking the others into the same reaction, moving throughout the body. The idea, obviously, was to kill the carrier, and therefore stop the attempt to shut down the system.
Seriously, ingenious. Awful, but ingenious.
The problem was that any attempt to shut down any part of the machine triggered this reaction. As to why she hadn’t seen it before, well, she hadn’t been testing machines that were actively working. She’d been testing ones that were completely isolated from the blood samples they came out of. Now, after she’d fed them some blood cells to mingle in again, they started to exhibit the reaction. And she could test it.
And fail to get past it for two days.
Meanwhile, Amélie or Widowmaker or whoever she was now, was sleeping the days away in a hospital bed--in a room that Angela was no longer allowed to enter unsupervised, thanks to her last stunt. She hadn’t really been able to say the reason that she wanted to try her nanos before the other doctors entered the room. They wouldn’t ever let her back in if she had told them she wanted to be the first to find out if she had saved the woman she once loved.
But she didn’t, and two days later, she was no closer to saving her.
Sombra’s laughing in the background didn’t help either. “Didn’t work, huh?” she asked between cackles.
“No, it did not,” Angela sighed. She turned around to face the projection of the hacker that surged up from her holopad.
“Come on now,” Sombra teased, her claws punching at the schematics of Angela’s latest failed attempt to get around the anti-tampering mechanisms. “You’re supposed to be the smart one here. Smart and motivated, right pretty doctor?”
“If you’re trying to threaten me again to speed things along, I’m afraid that’s not going to be helpful at all right now,” Angela told her. She snatched the schematics projection from Sombra with one angry finger and dragged it into a folder called “Rejected”.
Sombra chuckled, but this time it was low and short. “Relax. You think I don’t know that by now? If you knew the answer, you’d just go ahead and fix it. I’m feeling bad for you, you know? You were so close. I thought you had it. But things get complicated. I get it.”
“So you’re not threatening me then?” Angela asked.
The skull tilted to the side as Sombra shrugged. “I have no reason to. In fact, I thought I could try to help again,” she offered. “Maybe you just need a bit of my infinite wisdom to nudge you along.”
Angela regarded the small projection with a quirked eyebrow. “So you’re saying you know the answer?”
Sombra shook her head. “If I did, why would I be putting you up in a luxury hotel? For fun? Please. You’re the only one who can solve this. Of that, I’m certain.”
Angela hummed and walked over to the electron microscope again. She was tired. She was so tired. She could have slumped against it and fallen asleep right there. But she couldn’t. She wouldn’t. Not until she fixed this. “Why is it that you want to help anyway?”
Angela cut her off. “Oh cut the crap. We know each other well enough by now for me to say that I don’t think you really care what your employer wants. You’ve got some stake in this of your own.”
A faint “pfft” noise came from behind her. It might have been an audio glitch in the stream or perhaps Sombra acknowledging that she was right. It was hard to tell.
“Funny you say that. Your patient and I used to share an employer. I worked for Talon for a few years,” Sombra eventually said.
“Funny,” Angela repeated back at her, feeling a little punchy in her fatigue. “You don’t strike me as the Talon type. You aren’t that fucked up.”
“I will take that as a compliment,” Sombra huffed. “But since you asked, I have the pleasure of working with Widowmaker quite often. It wasn’t until later that I found out what she was, and all that she wasn’t. It’s not right what they did, stealing an innocent woman’s life away like that. Needless to say, I didn’t like what I found. It contributed to my, uh, parting of ways with Talon.”
“And an internationally known criminal like yourself cares about such things?” Angela asked.
“You’d be surprised,” Sombra countered. “The technology they developed was amazing. Even more incredible when you consider it was made by an underground terror organization. I love technology, but I hate seeing it abused. We can learn from this, from what they did to her. At least, that’s another reason for me.”
Angela shook her head and went to find another active Talon nano in the scope. When she found one, she focused on it.
“Show me what it does,” Sombra commanded.
“Can you see from over there?” Angela asked.
“I have cameras all over the room, chica.” Sombra told her. “Don’t limit your searches to hotel rooms. I’ve got a nice view of your ass from one, and I can see that you left half of a muffin behind the spinny machine with another. Yo, that muffin is growing mold. How long has it been there?”
“Not sure. Blueberry or banana nut?”
“I can’t tell. It’s all green now. You have problems, pretty doctor,” Sombra said.
Angela shrugged and continued focusing the scope. Once she got the picture she was looking for, she complied with Sombra’s request. “It works like this. I’ll put one of my nanomachines in here. See how it goes to cover the shock circuit we found? Then watch. The Talon machine detects that--still not sure how. That little arm comes out and tries to dislodge the blockage. I’m thinking that is just to be certain it’s not a cell bumping into it. If it can’t dislodge it, then the machine starts going crazy, like that. And now it’s going to spread to all the others.”
Sombra was silent for a few moments, drinking in the demonstration. “You’re like a shitty virus,” she eventually said.
“How so?” Angela asked as she turned back to the holo display, even though she now knew that action was meaningless.
“Like something a 12-year-old script kiddy would make,” Sombra chuckled. “You didn’t account for being caught by antivirus. You just hoped it wasn’t there.”
“I guess,” Angela said. “I honestly didn’t even think about a defense mechanism, but with how complex this thing is, that makes sense.”
“I think you’re focusing too much on first trigger,” Sombra offered. With expert speed that should have alarmed Angela, the projection’s claws dug through her files on the holo until they pulled up the diagram of the Talon nano again. Sombra spun the 3D model until she landed on the area that Angela had labeled “reactive arm”. “It’s this thing that you can trick. You have to think like a good virus. Who cares if the antivirus detects you when you’ve already disabled its ability to shut you down? What happens if you stop this arm thing from ever trying to dislodge your machine?”
Angela’s mouth was hanging open more than she cared to admit. “I don’t know. I’ve been trying to figure out what triggers the initial detection.”
“Yeah? Well stop,” Sombra advised.
Angela could only respond by rushing over to another monitor that held the schematics for her machines. She took up the stylus there and began to draw an addition to her machine that would block the reactive arm from ever coming out.
“You’d better be right,” she said as she scratched out her idea.
Sombra laughed. “Or what? Are you going to experiment on me or something?”
“You laugh now, but--”
“Oh, I’m dead serious,” Sombra assured her. “I mean, have you seen you? I told you that you’re a gold mine, Dr. Ziegler. You think I don’t know all about why you, a doctor, refuses to see any doctors herself? Why you’re always wearing turtlenecks? Why you make a point of avoiding places with biometric security scanners? Why you don’t look a day over hmm, thirty one? Women age like crap in their late thirties, but not you. Lucky.”
Angela chose not to acknowledge any of that, though she did find a hand straying to touch her neck. She was relieved to find only the rough texture of her sweater there, instead of too-smooth skin. Sombra obviously already knew what there was to be known about her. There was no need for her to try to defend it. She could carry on as she always did, trying to pretend it didn’t happen--trying to pretend she didn’t have hundreds of files on it that Sombra was probably already very familiar with.
Sombra scoffed at her silence. “Your problem, pretty doctor, is that you just don’t know when to stop. You keep going at things over and over again, hoping something will change, hoping things will be better this time. Like Amélie. What did you think would happen, even if none of this shit with Talon did? That she’d leave Gerard for you?”
“I wasn’t thinking,” Angela admitted. “Around her, I didn’t have to think. I didn’t want to.”
Sombra’s skull had long disappeared from her holo’s display by the time she got a prototype up and running, but that didn’t stop her idea from working. With the arm blocked, the Talon nano didn’t seem to know what to do. It just sat there and let Angela’s machine block the shock circuit.
Angela finally allowed herself a much needed coffee while she waited for the prototypes of replicate and form enough of themselves for a proper dose. She would need the energy to debate with the other doctors, again. Her head hurt and her heart was still recovering. Her eyes felt like they weighed ten pounds each, like they were huge lead balls sitting in her skull. But she could do this, she could finish this. She could fix Amélie.
Work. It had always been work. It would always be work. This fling? This affair? This lie? It had been a brief interruption. An anomaly. It would not happen again.
At least that’s what Angela kept telling herself. She worked. She always worked. She’d been working since the day she found out her parents were dead. She was alway moving on, making things better, striving. It was all she knew how to do. So that’s what she did. She worked. For a month straight.
“This shit,” Jack started as he turned off the holo display she had been using to present to him. “Angie, people are going to come after you for this shit.”
“Why?” she asked as she snatched up her device.
“I mean, it’s amazing. Don’t get me wrong. You are making miracles happen. It’s just that…”
Angela found an edge of anger on her voice that she didn’t normally let out. It was slipping through more often than not lately. “What, you think people would somehow have a problem with the millions of lives this would save?”
“Not a lot of people. Religious nuts, though? Absolutely. You’re talking about bringing people back from the dead,” he warned.
“Near dead at best,” she corrected. “If they’re actually dead, then the system is supposed to shut itself off. It does that as soon as it recognizes decay. Otherwise I’d be creating a vegetable. Perhaps it might be useful for putting them in a suspended state so that their organs could be effectively harvested, but that’s an ethical battle for another time.”
“All the same, people will flip,” Jack countered.
“Let them,” Angela said. She turned to leave.
Jack caught the sleeve of her lab coat on her way out. “I don’t want you thinking I disapprove. It’s just--”
“It’s fine, Jack. I’ll deal with the fallout. Put it on me, not on Overwatch. I know times are hard enough with all the criticism you’re getting from the UN and the threat of that Petras act,” Angela assured him.
“That’s not what I was going to say,” he told her. Jack’s grip on her sleeve pulled a little harder, twisting the fabric around his fingers. “I wanted to ask if you didn’t think you needed a break. You, uh, you seem tired. Real tired.”
“I’m fine,” she told him as she shrugged out of his hold.
“You just haven’t been yourself since the Lacroixs--”
“I said I’m fine,” she almost shouted back at him.
She was not fine. Normal people cried. Normal people were angry. Normal people maybe considered therapy or counseling. Normal people drank. Normal people smoked. Normal people ate too much ice cream. Normal people talked to someone about going on an antidepressant for a bit.
But Angela worked.
Her all in one nano system was almost ready. The dream she had been pouring herself into. The hope she had always promised. One topical application that could heal any injury, or at least patch it up enough to stabilize the patient for transport. One little flash of light that could transmit nanomachines as smart as any stem cell, able to replicate any other cell in the human body and repair it. It was real. It was happening. She could make it happen. Then, maybe then, she would feel good about it, or feel anything.
Angela went back to the lab. She ran a replication on her latest batch with the new tweaks and slept on the cot she’d dragged into the corner there. She woke up when it was done. She packaged and tagged the batch. She transferred the tubes into their applicators. Smaller versions of the one on her staff. She counted them. One. Two. Three.
Everything around her went white, then black as the lights all flickered out at once. The sound was like nothing she’d ever heard before. It was so loud and then suddenly silent. Then the ground shook. She shook. Everything shook. Vibrations rang through every part of her. She fell and felt something heavy on her. She couldn’t see what knocked her down, but she felt a brief moment of white hot pain.
Then nothing. Blackness, blacker even than before.
Angela woke up feeling cold, but sweating. She couldn’t move. And god did she hurt. Every part of her hurt. She found that one arm was free. A little light was seeping in from above, but it was weak. She could just barely see her hand. She reached for her neck and chest, where she hurt the most. She could see her hand come away shining with blood. Still warm too.
She was going into shock. No. None of this. She would not have it. “Explosion,” she choked out to herself, trying to ignore the copper tinge of blood on her tongue and the way it felt heavy in the back of her throat.
Her hand found the source of her pain. Rebar impaled her. One piece just above her heart. Another where her neck met her shoulder. They stuck out from a broken slab of concrete above her. She was bleeding out. That’s why she was cold.
“No,” she gurgled. “Not like this.”
But why not? A part of her brain welcomed this state. Cold and dark. It seemed so inviting. Just giving in, just stopping. No more suffering, no more work, no more agonizing over Amélie. Just nothingness and relief.
Afterall, what awaited her if she did struggle to survive this? A lonely bed she couldn’t even bring herself to sleep in anymore. A heart so broken that it couldn’t feel anything except the occasional icy seep of betrayal coating it. A success close at hand, yes, but all for what? So that people could criticize her for trying to play god?
But next to the rebar, sitting on her breastbone, nearly floating away on a river of her own blood. An applicator. Her nanos buzzing within it, waiting. A chance. A test, even.
“Fuck that,” Angela told the part of her that wanted to just lay down and let this be her last sleep. She wasn’t sure why. Perhaps it was because she was just too damn stubborn. Her words didn’t even come out, just blood, but it made her feel better, even though she was pretty sure it was just forcing the blood out faster.
Angela armed the applicator and released its contents onto herself. The nanos glowed gold briefly and clustered around her injuries. Part one done. Now…
With shaking arms, she shoved the concrete off of herself, ripping the rebar from her skin. She screamed. She howled. Guttural, inhuman sounds spilled from her lips as she strained. She could feel her skin tear even more as the rods came out. She could feel blood rush out after them.
And then she went back to the blackness again.
She woke up again. The light had changed direction slightly. For a moment, she wondered if this was the afterlife. Was that the light people always claimed to see? Why did it just look like a set of emergency LEDs shining through a crack in the ceiling. Oh right. That’s because that’s what it was.
She was still cold. The blood she was lying in was no longer warm. It was also cold. It was sticky too. She reached an aching arm to her chest and neck. Nope. No rebar. No holes either. Just cold, wet skin.
Angela laughed. Her throat was dry and noticeably absent of blood, but she laughed anyway. She was alive. Her nanos had worked. They had saved her. Holy shit. Holy shit.
She took inventory of herself. She was sore all over. Her clothes were in tatters, but still intact enough to keep her decent. Dried blood was flaking off of her as she sat up. She could sit up. That was a plus. It made her head light and made her feel like her brain was swimming in syrup, but she could stay up. But she was still so cold. Shivers racked her.
She could stand. She was definitely shaky, but she could stand.
The light was just enough to illuminate the piece of ceiling that had impaled her. A chunk of a concrete support column, riddled with rebar--more than just the two pieces that were stuck in her. She was lucky to have only been stuck twice. Or at least twice that she knew about.
She had to get out of there, though, for any of this to matter. The ceiling was cracked. The building was groaning around her, straining to stay intact. It would not last long.
But first, before anything else, her work. Angela found both of the other applicators. They were scattered not far from the too large pool of blood she left behind. They were intact. Her holopad wasn’t. That she found smashed by another chunk of ceiling. Oh well, that’s what cloud backup was for.
Time to move, or try to. The door wasn’t blocked, but there was only one way to see what kind of destruction lay on the other side of it. Angela knew she had to have been out for quite a while for the wounds to have completely healed. If no one had come to rescue her in that time, then this was bad. Very bad.
The hallway was a mess. It was dark. She had to feel her way around the rubble. She focused on that, trying to ignore the questions that were running through her sluggish mind. Had she imagined that? Was this real? Was she alive?
No. No. Keep moving, Angela. Keep moving.
An echo. A moan. Ragged breathing over broken concrete and steel. She followed the sounds. Gasping. Wheezing. A light.
A weak ray of sunlight streaming in from a nearly covered window illuminated him. Gabe. Well, half of Gabe. From the hips down, he was buried under a massive chunk of ceiling. His eyes were bloodshot. His skin was too dark. His hands, reaching for her, were swollen. Crush syndrome. He’d been trapped there for hours.
“Kill me,” he pleaded. “I know I’m dying. If you have a gun, soldier. Please.”
Angela moved into his little patch of sunlight. It nearly blinded her.
Gabe’s overly dilated eyes looked up at her in abject horror. She must have been a sight, covered in blood and torn clothing. Her skin was probably deathly pale.
But Angela could help. She could fix this. She had saved herself. She could save him.
“No,” Gabe wheezed as she knelt down beside his trapped torso. “No. Let me die.”
“I can’t,” she told him as she fumbled with one of the applicators. Her hands were numb, but they remembered how to use it well enough to arm it. “You don’t have to die, so I won’t let you.”
“Angela, no. You can’t save me. Please,” he begged. Gabe’s swollen hands grabbed uselessly at the remains of her labcoat. They couldn’t even grip it.
She shook her head. “No. Let me help you,” she said. “I can help you.”
She released the nanomachines. They glowed brilliantly around Gabe’s body as they activated and searched for his injuries. Satisfied that they were working, Angela busied herself with trying to move the slab of concrete off of his legs. She couldn’t hoist it up, but found that she could jam other bits of rubble underneath one side and use that to lever it up. She kept going, piling stone after stone until the pressure on Gabe’s legs was released.
Crush syndrome be damned. Her carotid artery was probably punctured by the rebar and she lived. Her nanos worked. They could fix anything. They really could work miracles.
Only Gabe wasn’t breathing when she went back to check on him. The golden glow of the nanomachines was long gone. His skin wasn’t going back to its normal color. The swelling in his limbs wasn’t going down.
She checked for a pulse. No. He was gone.
“No,” she said and she frantically shoved her fingers onto his other pulse points. “I don’t understand. It saved me. It should save you too.”
Fuck. Gabe. She never really liked Gabe. He always wanted to find the most violent path to any resolution, so they disagreed often. And he never backed down. He would usually huff away, still angry, still refusing to listen.
But she’d known him for so long. Back before this. Before Blackwatch. Before she even joined Overwatch. She had a poster of him on her wall, just like every other kid did. He saved the fucking world. He was one of the people she looked up to, one of the people that made her keep working, keep trying, keep doing better, keep striving to be good.
He sucked in a deep breath. Angela’s fingers were still on his neck. Still no pulse. Why?
She watched him decay into a black mist, then form back into a man again. It started with his still crushed legs, but then moved up his body. Gold, shining silver, then turning black. It kept happening.
Angela was sure now that she was in some kind of afterlife. The one that punished her for her sins, certainly.
Black mist swirled around her. Then Gabe was standing over her, staring at her like she was satan himself. “I told you to let me die!” he screamed. “Now look! Look at what you’ve done!”
Even when he was himself, he was still almost incorporeal. Gabe’s skin was still too dark, but that might have been because of the trails of black mist that seeped from it.
“I don’t understand. It fixed me,” she told him. “I should have died, but I’m here.”
He pointed at her and let out an inhuman shriek. Then he was mist again, swirling off into the darkness.
Angela wasn’t sure when she stood up. She kept going, climbing over debris in the dark. She had to know what was at the end. Would she see the others? What would Amélie say to her in this hell?
There was nothing to do but find out.
But it wasn’t hell. After what felt like hours of picking her way through the rubble, she heard people. She heard search dogs barking. She saw glimpses of lights. She heard sirens. She smelled smoke and water.
Angela realized she was in shock again when she finally got to see the outside. A gaping hole in the side of HQ served to give her a view of the scene. Water cascaded from it. They had just put out a fire. Outside, the normally serene parade grounds were covered with emergency vehicles and hastily erected tents. People were rushing in and out of the ruins, some carrying stretchers, others just hauling wounded on their backs or in a bridal carry.
She went to take her own pulse reflexively. She couldn’t find it.
The child in her told her she was a ghost. There were worse things to be.
The sun was going down. Flood lights were being erected to light up the wreckage and help rescuers. Angela found a patch of their light and stood in it. She looked down at herself, finally. Covered in blood and dust. Skin pale. Clothes torn.
But, something wasn’t right. She was still so cold. She tried to find where the rebar pierced her, just above her heart. There it was, a long, jagged slash, covering half of her chest. The skin there was odd in the light. It shone a silvery gold.
Her nanos. They would repair what they could, but if the cells were beyond repair, they would try to replace them. Angela dared to reach out and touch that patch of skin. It still felt like skin, but it was too smooth, too perfect. She followed it, down to the deepest part of the slash, which was right over her heart. There. She felt a beat.
One. Two. Three. Beat.
Too slow. Too weak. Not normal, but somehow enough.
The nanos replaced what they couldn’t fix. They had replaced her heart, or at least enough to get it beating again, albeit irregularly. She was dead. She had died.
But now she was alive.
“Dr. Ziegler!” a rescuer cried. He was scaling his way up the rubble to her.
Angela pulled her torn coat over herself, frantically covering the metallic sheen of her chest and neck. The third applicator was in her pocket still. She took it out and smashed it on the ground. The world did not need another dose of whatever it was she made.
“I’m okay!” she shouted back.
But she wasn’t really.
Angela was hoarse. She’d been talking for hours. It felt like days. If she thought convincing the doctors that using her first attempt at a fix was hard, then convincing them to allow her to use this second attempt was torturous by comparison. And to think, she was supposed to the expert here. Yet all of these idiots were debating on whether or not she was right. What did they know?
They didn’t know shit about nanotechnology. They didn’t know shit about Amélie.
But she fought. She clawed at them verbally. She clung, tooth and nail, to her theories and her evidence. She knew she was right. This would work. It had to.
But for real this time.
Finally, they relented. Angela felt herself melting into a puddle of exhaustion. They agreed. They saw the light.
Soon enough, she was leaning on the wall outside of the room where they were keeping Amélie, waiting. Every part of her was heavy. Heaviest of all was the applicator in her hand, full of the new nanos.
A nurse poked her head out from the room. “We’re ready for you,” she said.
Gone was her chance of doing this alone. Oh well. The nurse held open the door, revealing a room packed full of medical professionals. They were all white coats and holo pads and judging eyes.
And there was Amélie, or Widowmaker, or the just the patient to most of the others in the room.
Her blue skin was pale, but still decisively blue. The coma drugs were wearing off. She was stirring, but still not quite aware. Fingers twitched. Eyes rolled beneath their lids. Beneath the sheet that covered her, her legs squirmed once or twice, just slightly. Now would be the best time.
Each step Angela took toward her felt like it was being taken through a pool of tar. She pushed through anyway. The nurse already had gauze in hand and was standing next to her.
Angela found Amélie’s pulse on her neck. One. Two. Three. Beat. Slow and steady, but barely there. A whisper of life, not very different from the way Angela’s own unnatural heart beat. But, of course, that was a secret.
“Ready?” she asked the room, but moreso the not quite aware woman beneath her fingers.
The other doctors nodded and grumbled their consent. Amélie’s hand clutched tighter on the sheets of the bed. That was enough.
Angela gently inserted the needle of the applicator and injected her nanomachines. She pulled it out and let the nurse apply pressure with the gauze. She stood and waited. And waited.
Amélie’s eyes fluttered rapidly before they opened. Gold still. Unfocused and hazy. They took in the room around her. The white walls. The white-coated doctors typing on their holo pads. The white sheets. Even the machines that were monitoring her vitals were covered with white plastic.
Then they landed on Angela. They studied her for a long moment. Those eyes were neither hard nor soft. Neither cold nor warm. Something in-between. Something new. Something confused.
A spark of recognition darted in them. The pupils dilated. She blinked. Her corneas grew shiny with moisture. A tear pooled in the corner of each eye.
“Angela,” she said. “Je me souviens. Comment pourrais-je t'oublier?”
I remember. How could I forget you?
Angela found herself laughing even as her own eyes pricked with tears. She felt light, like she could float away at any moment. She switched to French for Amélie, finding it far too easy to fall into. Her heart surged with the rise and fall of the flowing language. “How do you feel?” Angela asked.
“Like shit,” Amélie replied. She reached up and held her hand in front of her face, still squinting through lazy tears that were beginning to leave wet tracks on her cheeks. She looked through it, not at it, like she couldn’t believe it was there. “I don’t know how to describe it. I’m...I’m still her, but I’m me, but I can remember now. Fuck…”
Angela scooped up that hand with speed her exhausted body should not have been capable of. She squeezed it tight. “It’s okay. It will take time for you to figure things out. For the doctors as well. I’m here for you.”
Amélie turned her head away, but didn’t force Angela to let go. “I still don’t know why…why I did any of it…but I remember all of it. Most of it. I...I don’t know.”
Angela just squeezed harder. “I’m just glad you’re here...Amélie?”
“Yes. Amélie. That was me.” A shiver wracked her body--so hard that it shook Angela too.
“Dr. Ziegler,” one of the other doctors said as he approached the bed. He spoke quickly, an excited air lilting into his British accent. “Were you successful? She’s speaking French. That’s a good sign. Can we start our cognitive tests?”
“Can you give her a fucking minute?” Angela roared back at him.
Chapter 9: I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm
Angela thought about putting up a fight when the other doctors shooed her out of the room, but she instead decided that wouldn’t get her anywhere positive. She would be gracious in her success. She could be.
Besides, Amélie was a bit too out of it to want to talk to her much. She spent a lot of time staring at her hands and offering brief answers to the long questions she was being asked.
So when a parade of more doctors came in, followed by a team of lawyers, Angela was content to leave the crowded room. She allowed herself one little glance back, and could swear she saw those golden eyes lift from examining cyanotic skin to follow her to the door.
Angela could hold on to that a while. She could wait. She could.
She took up residence on a chair in the hallway outside of the room. She stole it from the nurses station when no one was looking. She found some gullible staffer that was willing to bring her coffee. One of the psychiatrists came out of the room and regarded her for a moment. He came back with a sandwich. He gave her a thankful nod as he deposited it onto the arm of the chair before heading back into the room.
The coffee was gone. The tiny bit left at the bottom of the cup was cold and beginning to stain the paper with a barely visible ring of light brown. The sandwich was soon reduced to crumbs in its bundled cellophane wrapper shoved into said coffee cup. Night was falling, making the ward around her quiet, but not too quiet. Medical staff, patients, and visitors alike still occasionally brushed past her, though by the fourth hour of waiting, they no longer gave her odd looks. Angela busied herself with writing up reports on her holopad, detailing the statements she knew she’d have to get ready for the legal team.
Through the text on the display, past the ever-blinking cursor, she watched the other doctors filter out of the room. The lawyers were gone before her sandwich even was. The psychiatrists stayed the longest, obviously being the most interested in the changes the patient had undergone. Of course. Of course they were.
The last one out was the man who had handed Angela the sandwich all those hours ago. Angela tried to play dumb and pretend she didn’t notice him leaving, but he caught the corner of her eye and smiled.
“You know,” the psychiatrist told her. “I’m pretty sure no one would stop you from going in, if you were waiting for that.”
Angela kept her eyes fixed on the text in front of her and her hands on the keyboard. “I said I would give your teams space to do what they needed. My part here is mostly finished.”
“I don’t know if I’d say that,” he muttered as he walked away.
The man did her the courtesy of not looking back, but she waited for him to leave the corridor all the same.
She only noticed that he’d left the door open a crack when she dared to look up at it. Faint light invited her in. Warm, but white, light spilled out and mixed with the cold fluorescents of the hallway. Angela suddenly found herself nervous. Amélie would always do something to her that made her like this. Even when they’d been sleeping with each other for months, Angela still got nervous meeting her for a date.
A ghost of that old feeling returned, causing her mostly-nanomachine heart to give just the slightest of flutters. It could still do that. That was encouraging.
Angela slipped into the room and followed that warm light.
Amélie was sleeping. She was curled tightly about herself beneath a thin white sheet. The bedside lamp illuminated her with its soft white light--casting shadows over her blue skin and highlighting the shine of her otherwise inky black hair. Exhaustion read from every part of her that wasn’t covered by that sheet. Her eyes were still rimmed with a purple that bordered on red--probably from crying. Beneath them, bags of royal blue were forming.
Her face was screwed up in a sleepy expression of worry. Not pain, not suffering, not even guilt, but maybe a little guilt. It looked like Amélie was worried in her dream.
Angela had to wonder if Widowmaker even dreamed. Probably not. She’d leave that up to the other doctors to investigate. In that moment, she was too busy watching the rise and fall of Amélie’s incredibly slow and deep breaths.
As she watched her, Angela felt guilty about the lines on Amélie’s face, about the tear tracks just barely noticeable on her cheeks. This was so much, probably too much for her. Would she really have wanted this? To be something not wholly herself or what Talon made her, but in-between? To live with the guilt of what she’d done, but knowing that she hadn’t done it willingly?
Angela heard the whispers of the lawyers when they were making their exit. This was going to be a landmark case. They seemed to have little doubt that they’d win and prove her innocent.
But did Amélie feel innocent? From that face, no. Probably not.
Still, the alternative was to live on as a shell, a body that belonged once to someone else, a brain that was capable only of moving forward, not backward into the life full of color and sound that Amélie had once lived.
Angela didn’t want to think about what she would choose, if faced with the same choice. She could only be glad it wasn’t her, and even more sorry that it was Amélie.
“You were no angel, but you didn’t deserve any of this,” she found herself saying aloud.
She almost went to grab Amélie’s hand, but thought better of herself. She found a chair in the corner of the room and resumed her vigil there. She would wait. She could wait. Amélie would need her to wait. That was fine. It was all fine. Well, it would be fine. Maybe.
Angela fell asleep herself about five minutes after her holopad’s battery finally died. The hospital chair was none too comfortable, but that didn’t matter. She was exhausted too.
She didn’t dream. She would have loved to watch a happy memory of her and Amélie play in her head, or maybe some fantasy where none of this terrible shit had happened to them, but as usual, her sleep was only fatigue-induced blackness.
When she woke, grey morning light was streaming in from the room’s window. Gold eyes were trained on her.
Angela startled herself the rest of the way awake, meeting that stare, then looking around the room. They were alone still. An untouched breakfast tray was waiting on Amélie’s bedside table, so someone had come in recently to deliver it. But that was it.
Angela’s eyes found Amélie’s again. Not quite Amélie’s. They didn’t magically become soft and brown. Those eyes were still hard and gold. They reminded her more of a hawk or some other bird of prey than they did a spider. They had the same sort of predatory intensity--the same harsh focus.
Amélie was curled over her knees, like Widowmaker often was. Hiding pain. Huddling into herself. Making herself small. Her white hospital gown hung off of her, too large and too flimsy to fully cover the wiry muscles that tensed beneath her cyanotic skin.
“Tu es revenu,” Amélie finally said to her.
You came back.
“Of course. I was waiting just outside before,” Angela told her through the sleep grog in her voice. Her French, while much better practiced thanks to her time working for Doctors Without Borders, still sounded far too rusty.
“Waiting for what?” Amélie asked.
“I--” Angela found that she didn’t have a good answer for that. “You, I guess.”
“I don’t want to talk now. I had to talk far too much for the doctors and lawyers yesterday,” Amélie told her.
“That’s fine,” Angela replied. “I will wait.”
And she did.
She waited for Amélie’s eyes to leave her. She watched them find the window. She watched them ghost over to the breakfast tray, but Amélie didn’t touch it still. She watched the nurse come in to assess her, and interestingly enough, perform a neural functionality test, just like they would do if Amélie had a possible concussion. Did the other doctors still not trust her results? They’d seen far more of them than Angela got to.
For the first time in this whole process, she found herself jealous. She wished for a moment that she would have stuck around and not left them room, but that would just have needlessly complicated things. It was better this way.
The nurse came in with a lunch tray before Amélie would look at her again.
“Can you bring something for the doctor too?” Amélie asked the nurse in English as she turned to leave.
She nodded and came back with another cellophane wrapped sandwich for Angela, and one of those awful little containers of orange juice.
When the nurse left, Angela lifted her hospital food prizes and nodded her thanks.
“I know a lot more English now,” Amélie said. “That’s pretty strange.”
“Your English was never really that bad,” Angela commented as she took a look at the label on the sandwich. Ham and cheese. Eh, it would do.
“I’m comfortable speaking it now,” Amélie admitted. “I guess that’s what seven years of practice does.” She looked down at her plate. It wasn’t much better than what Angela had. The same orange juice in a pudding cup. Another sandwich. A bowl of steaming soup. A sorry-looking apple.
Angela didn’t offer a response. Amélie was still not ready to talk. She could see that.
But at least she was ready to eat. She took a few spoonfuls of soup while Angela housed her bland sandwich off in her own corner. Not exactly the most elegant or delicious lunch they’d ever shared, that’s for sure. Angela found herself missing their little cafe in Geneva. She missed their coffees and teas and the way the wind was always blowing too hard down that street, rustling Amélie’s hair from its otherwise perfect placement down her shoulders and back.
It was hard. It was so hard to accept that she could never have that again. She might have gotten some of Amélie back, but her easy smile was gone forever. The light in her eyes, the soft lilt of her laugh--all of that was never going to come back, and there was nothing Angela could do about it.
“I can remember being her,” Amélie blurted out as she examine the apple. “I think Widowmaker thought it would be like flipping a switch--I’d be there and she would be gone. But I know now. I know that I always was her. She was just me without...me, I guess.”
Angela regarded her from over the brim of her orange juice cup. Amélie moved differently than Widowmaker. Both moved with strength and grace, but Amélie was faster and more deliberate in even her smallest actions. Angela doubted that Widowmaker would check an apple for bruises before eating it, yet she watched Amélie twirl the fruit around for a good ten seconds before deciding she didn’t want it anyway. Angela cracked a little smile and had to hide it behind her drink. That, right there, was a very Amélie thing to do.
Amélie spoke to the discarded fruit as she went on, not bothering to look up. “They lawyers say they think it will go well. That I will be freed. Yet I remember what Widowmaker did. I can’t even say I was watching from behind her eyes. I just...I wasn’t there, because I was her.”
“No one’s asking you to have it all sorted out now,” Angela told her as she put her juice down. “It will take time.”
“I want it sorted out now,” Amélie said, finally looking up at her again. She pushed the tray of barely touched food away from her. “I want to know if I can just snap and start murdering everyone around me. Or if Talon can just radio in some signal and then I’m gone again. Or how I am supposed to live with myself, even if the lawyers tell me I’m innocent.”
Angela stood, noticing that Amélie was threatening to do the same. WIth all the stress she had been put under, and how little she’d eaten, that was not going to end well if she tried. “And we’ll get you those answers. I don’t know all of them yet. Some of them will be for you to find, but you will have help. I promise.”
“What can you really promise?” Amélie demanded. She swung her legs out of the sheets and sat on the edge of the bed. Her fingers gripped the bed rails tightly. “And do you really want to promise anything to me? Look what happened to Gérard when I chose him over you--when I tried to do the right thing. Have you spent the last seven years thinking about what would have been different if you’d been the one sleeping beside me that night?”
Angela had wondered. She had wondered often and, really, just far too often. What would she have done if she woke up to Amélie standing over her, about to slit her throat? What could she have done?
“I killed him. I was already killing him. If he knew what I’d done. What we did…” Tears were welling in the corner of her eyes. Amélie gripped the sheets so hard Angela thought her nails might puncture them.
“I don’t think he ever knew,” Angela tried to assure her as she dared to step a little closer.
“That doesn’t make it any better,” Amélie told her. A few of those tears found themselves following the well-worn paths down her cheeks that had been started with yesterday’s questions. “You were right, back then, before all this, in his hospital room. I’m selfish. I’m greedy. I wanted to have both of you. I thought I could have both of you.”
Angela stopped in her tracks.
“And you’re still here for some reason,” Amélie went on. “Seven years on different sides. We were enemies. The last time we spoke, this thing they put in me had me telling you awful things. I realize now it was programming me to be with Gérard so I could kill him. It made me push you away even more. Yet you’re here. You saved me.”
Angela was as much a mess as she was seven years before, but was a little better at not showing it. While her breath caught in her throat, she could manage to push words through it. “Well, I’m sort of the medical nanomachine expert. Who else were they going to call?”
Amélie’s fists unclenched, dropping the sheets they once held. The fabric kept its deep wrinkles all the same. “That’s not what I meant,” she said. “And that’s not why you’re here.”
“That is a story for another day. Would you believe Sombra is involved?” Angela dodged.
Amélie shook her head. She wasn’t falling for it. Her tears were dry now. “All these years. All of this insanity. You loved me still. Why, Angela?”
Caught. Oh well. “I don’t know,” Angela answered her truthfully. “You were just...you were just not like anyone else. I don’t think you’d be offended if I told you I tried to forget you. I tried to replace you. It never really worked. You used to nag me about my bad habits and eccentricities, but you always tolerated them. No one else seems to be able to. I drive them away pretty quickly.”
“To be fair, it was the same for me,” Amélie told her. “You cared. You didn’t judge. You were always there.”
Angela found a smile working its way onto her lips. Memories of their good times flooded her, as they had been through this whole process, but it was so satisfying to watch Amélie share that experience with her. The shine of her eyes was enough. She too was going far away, into a past of windy days and cafes and how well they fit against one another--silent and just breathing together.
“So you see, I had to save you,” Angela told her. “Not only is it my duty as a physician, but I also couldn’t lose the one person in this world that put up with my bullshit.”
Amélie almost smiled along with her, but then her fists clenched in the sheets again. “And you’ll do your best to keep her here, right?”
Angela rushed the rest of the way over to the bed and caught one of those clenched hands. “I told you. I promise I will do everything I can.”
Amélie pulled her in, embracing her. Gone was that perfect hint of perfume. She smelled like water and whatever detergent the hospital sheets were laundered with. But that didn’t matter. Her head still fit nicely into the space beneath Angela’s chin. Her black hair was still soft. And to Angela, her skin wasn’t all that cold.
So of course, that’s what Amélie noticed. “You are almost as cold as me. Is it that chilly in here? I can’t tell,” she asked against Angela’s clavicle, still not letting go.
“You’re not the only person who’s changed a bit in seven years,” Angela muttered into her hair.
“Angela…” Amélie almost warned.
“I’ll explain later,” Angela offered as she pulled away. She would try to be professional. Well, just a little bit. Just now. It wasn’t the right time. This conversation needed months to come to its conclusion. She could wait. Amélie could wait too. “Let’s just say you and I have more in common now than a great deal of bullshit tolerance.”
Amélie still wouldn’t let go of her hand. “You’re staying with me, right? For the trial?”
“Of course,” Angela told her, adding a hand squeeze for emphasis.
“Thank you,” Amélie said. Her lips finally dared to dart upward into something like a smile. It didn’t look at home on the blue skin of her face, and was definitely not sure of itself, but it was promising nonetheless. “I just...just watch me. Keep me here. It might hurt, but let me be myself. All of myself.”
Angela nodded. “A promise is a promise, Amélie.”
It was the same as always. The dropship landed on a rooftop in the wee hours of the morning. They didn’t tell her where. That would come later with her target and a mission dossier that was sent straight to her visor. The crewmen didn’t say a word to her, save to tell her to get off.
Same as always.
Except Widowmaker was now more aware of the fact that the pilot and co-pilot were laughing in the cockpit of the craft. Rock music played beyond its door.
That was a thing normal people did, even if they were terrorists. They laughed. They listened to music. They left empty water bottles all over the floor that would roll around and hit her feet during the more turbulent parts of her flight. They were rude. They excluded her.
It wasn’t so much that she felt offended. It was more that she knew she should be. And that she wasn’t. Or was she?
It wasn’t worth trying to think about. If she kept at it, the fleeting feeling would slip away, sometimes replaced with a very real headache. That, she could always feel. If there was one thing she in common with the people around her, it was the capacity of pain. That alone assured her that there was still something human to her. Something real.
Wind whipped her ponytail long after the dropship left. The night threatened rain.
“Widowmaker. Seek cover in this area until eleven hundred hours. Ensure you are not seen. You will receive your information before then,” a voice relayed on her comms.
“Understood,” she replied.
On another roof, she found the door to the stairwell access open. She waited just inside and watched as the rain came on the back of the wind. She watched it soak the tar paper lining the roof, making it shine where it caught the glow of the streetlights below. She did not sleep, but dozed. Years of practice had taught her to pass the hours this way, just existing. Not thinking, not feeling, just waiting. Waiting from one mission to the next.
Dawn came and banished the rain. The morning smelled clean and wet--washed away and new. Sounds of people started to build below as thousands of morning routines began beneath her. Still, Widowmaker waited.
Conversations in Germanic-sounding language bubbled up from the streets. Snow-capped mountains rose in the morning sky from her view out of the doorway. Pleasant smells from a bakery drifted on the breeze. Austria, maybe? Switzerland? It felt vaguely familiar, this place, this morning. She didn’t delve into it, though. She needed her head to be clear and not aching. The mission. Yes, the mission. That was what mattered.
A message flashed in the corner of her eye. She closed her visor to read it on the display. “Target: Torbjörn Lindholm. Once a founding member of Overwatch, now known for providing schematics and weapons engineering to anti-terrorist organizations. Meeting a friend for lunch on König Straße, a few blocks from her current hideout. To be eliminated publicly. To serve as an example.”
An example of what? The instructions did not say. They included a picture. A small Swedish man that Widowmaker imagined she probably had met a time or two when she was still called Amélie. Her targets were becoming more and more familiar in that way, more famous too. Talon was getting bolder.
More information flashed across her visor. Maps. Coordinates. It was Switzerland.
“Geneva,” Widowmaker found herself mouthing.
She knew she lived here once. She couldn’t help but reach back into the natural pattern of recall, but found almost nothing. A brief memory of laughter echoing down an ancient alley. Waiting for a taxi with her arms weighed down by a garment bag full of a ballet costumes. The smell of tea and coffee mingling together on a street corner. Two apartments. One messy and disused, another tastefully decorated and well-organized.
Too much. It was all gone and then replaced by a jolt of pain. That would linger and throb for hours now. It was not worth it. She kept telling herself it was not worth it, but her brain always seemed to want to try to remember. It always kept on trying.
What a strange little life she must have had, there in Geneva. It was over now. It was all over. None of it mattered anymore.
“Widowmaker, confirm receipt of instructions,” a voice commanded over the comm again.
“Receipt confirmed. I am en route to intercept the target,” she replied.
She immediately crawled out of the stairwell and grappled her way to the next roof, and the next, and the next--swinging above oblivious pedestrians. Silent and quick. Even in the morning light, she was too fast for anyone to really notice. If they did, they would probably assume it was an especially daring cat that had cast a shadow on them while making that leap--certainly not a well-armed assassin.
As she flew silently from building to building, another voice joined the usual drone of the one that gave her instructions.
“Hola amigos,” Sombra chuckled her way into the comm. “New information here, from your truly, the information queen. I got info on the friend the target is meeting. It’s Dr. Ziegler, another former Overwatch agent. What do you say, boys? Two for one?”
“You’re certain?” the usual voice asked.
“You know it,” Sombra cooed. “I’m looking at the little man’s texts right now. The good doctor is already waiting for him at the cafe. He’s running late. There’s such charming cafes here in Geneva, don’t you think, Widowmaker?”
“You’re broadcasting to her? Sombra, this is a secure channel--”
“Relax. She’s almost there. You don’t want her to miss this opportunity, right? Two shots, two kills. A little different than the usual fare, but I think she can do it,” Sombra offered.
Silence followed. Widowmaker kept swinging. She was nearly there now.
Then the usual voice came back, “Widowmaker, change of instructions. You are to eliminate both the original target and Dr. Ziegler. Sending additional target information to you now.”
“Roger,” she said as she swung into place, just across the street from the cafe.
Her visor flashed with a picture. A blonde woman with tired eyes. She must have known her. A twinge of familiarity threatened to drag her back down again, but she ignored it. When it tugged harder at her thoughts, she cut it off and shoved into the back of her mind. The mission. She was here to complete her mission.
She darted across the roof, keeping low and eventually falling into prone position. She extended her rifle and perched the barrel on the edge of the roof. She snapped her visor fully closed and allowed it to connect in with her rifle’s scope.
She spotted the original target first. Torbjorn was walking down the street, approaching the cafe. He waved.
Widowmaker’s scope follow that gesture to a woman sitting at a table, bent over a large to-go cup of coffee and two untouched menus. She was playing with her phone, but looked up and returned the short man’s gesture all the same. She waved. She smiled. Her blue eyes were tired, but hid beneath them a wealth of warmth.
She wasn’t perfect. She wasn’t the angel everyone thought she was. She was sloppy. She was rude. She was impatient. She could be extremely condescending sometimes. She would too often remind everyone around her that she was a doctor and she knew better than them. She didn’t mean it, but she still did it.
But she was warm, as was her skin. It was soft too. She was a practiced kisser, with lips that knew both how to give teasing pecks and rude bites. She was just as good with those surgeon’s hands too. But she wore her heart right on her sleeve. Her infatuation was as clear as day. It spoke volumes in the little things she did. How she would remember certain things, how she would try to do other things that it was clear she absolutely hated doing--all for her. How she would smile. How she would laugh. And Amélie did nothing about it, because she liked it. She loved it. She loved her, despite it all.
Sharp pain shot through Widowmaker’s skull. She couldn’t be still for it. She rolled away from her rifle, biting her lip to stifle a cry.
“Arrête ça, arrête ça, arrête ça,” she pleaded with herself.
But this time, it did not stop. The memory did not fade completely. Her brain seemed to have found a hole it could stay in and it enjoyed it. It reveled in flashes of blonde hair across her pillows, in quiet touches no one would see.
“Widowmaker, are you in position?” the voice asked.
“Widowmaker? Do you copy?”
She went to reach for her comm, but was interrupted by another wave of memories and the pain they brought. She smelled like coffee and hospitals. Occasionally, her breath would stink of cigarettes, but she would never admit to smoking. It only happened when she was particularly stressed. By the end, Amélie could taste that tobacco more often than not.
“Bad news,” Sombra chimed in on the comm. “Looks like Interpol’s been tipped off on this hit. They’re looking for her.”
“What? Sombra! What did I say about this channel?” the voice demanded.
“So sorry.” Even through the blinding pain in her skull, Widomaker could tell Sombra was not really sorry. “I’ll stay away. Just get her out of there, will you?”
“Widowmaker, report,” the voice commanded.
Soft fingers trailing down her spine.
“Widowmaker, come in.”
Hot breath against her neck, smelling of coffee and chocolate--maybe just a hint of menthol.
Sombra got the last laugh, “A bit too late now, comandante. She’s as good as gone.”
A look that said the words she would not allow her to say. Blue eyes swimming with affection. Then pain. Blinding white light and sharp pain.
Even over the roar of the voice in her comm and the ringing in her ears from the pain in her head could not stop her from hearing the boots of the Interpol officers on the roof. They took her. They grabbed her. They rushed her down the stairs.
She couldn’t fight. She could only writhe and remember. She was already being stuffed into a van by the time it all went white, then black.
Widowmaker came to her senses when an Interpol officer kicked her awake. The images that had flooded her mind before were gone, replaced by the usual calm blackness in the back of her skull. There was no pain, and with it, no memory. She waited. She didn’t think. She didn’t feel. She just waited. Only then did they read her her rights.
In days that followed, Amélie didn’t often feel like talking. When she did, she spoke mostly to her legal team and, due to Angela’s continued encouragement, a psychiatrist she decided she didn’t hate.
And that was fine. It was all fine. Angela took up a permanent residence in her room, only daring to visit the lab to confirm more findings about Amélie’s nanomachines when the other woman was sleeping, or when she wanted to respect the privacy of her meetings with the therapist. Even then, she made those trips brief, lest Amélie be left alone. That was not tolerable. She couldn’t allow it.
Leading up to the trial, the chair in the corner began to feel more like home than any tent, or bunker, or hotel room in these last seven years had. Not since her cluttered little apartment in Geneva had she felt so settled. If it weren’t for the fact that the chair was very uncomfortable, and, you know, the hospital food, Angela would not have minded living there forever.
Because really, it was going to take years for her to untangle the mess that had been made of Amélie’s body and mind. It wasn’t going to be fun, but a promise was a promise. And if there was anyone she actually intended on keeping a promise to, it would be Amélie.
So Angela intended on staying near her. Yes. That was the reason. Of course.
She kept by her side for the trial, or at least as close as she could while in the courtroom. When Angela was on the stand explaining her findings, Amélie watched with wide eyes. When Amélie was on the stand explaining the vague memories of the torture she endured, the conditioning before Talon injected her with their nanomachines, the fear in her voice of how little control she had over those demons shook Angela, but she tried not to show it. She tried to give her a soft and encouraging smile.
Amélie needed to do this to be free. She needed to show them who she was. She wasn’t some emotionless shell--some husk stuffed into catsuit and handed a gun. She was an entire person, with memories and quirks and bad hair days. Though with Amélie, the latter were few and far between.
Angela stayed with her and helped to cover her face when paparazzi cameras stalked her back to the police van at the end of the day. Angela was right behind her when Lena took the stand and gave a damning account of Widowmaker’s murder of Mondatta. Angela was there when Lena’s eyes softened as she realized the woman in front of her was not quite the same person as the one she was describing.
And the trial went on forever. Amélie went back to room 537 West. Angela technically still had a hotel room, but was only there to occasionally shower and pick up a fresh set of clothes. Otherwise, she found herself in a chair in the corner.
Amélie was quiet more often than not, which was strange for her. Some days she would ask Angela if this memory or that was true. Sometimes her recollection was not perfect. There were holes. There were weeks she didn’t recall. Dumb facts that she should have known that she did not. She remembered Angela’s birthday, but not Gérard’s. She remembered their wedding anniversary, but not where they honeymooned. She remembered Angela’s coffee order, but not the chocolate croissants they’d always share.
Her time was Widowmaker was even more vague. She remembered a lot of the killing and would not talk abou it. She remembered getting the spider tattoo on her back, but had no idea where the forearm one came from. Amélie did not like either of them, but could learn to live with them.
And then the verdict was due. They waited for the jury. Angela went for a shower at the hotel and came back with a shopping bag on her arm. She set it beside Amélie before heading back to her chair.
Amélie’s question came in the form of a raised eyebrow.
“Clothes. I think I got the size right. You’ll probably hate them, but I tried. I figured anything was better than grey sweats and those awful suits they’re giving you to wear in court,” Angela answered.
She had tried. She had wracked her brain for memories of Amélie and what she wore seven years ago, then tried desperately to accommodate that to today’s fashions, or at least something classic and timeless. Angela wasn’t really sure what timeless fashion was, but she tried.
Amélie picked through the clothes, not really making any sort of displeased or especially excited face. She got up off the bed and took the entire bag into the bathroom with her. When she emerged, she was wearing a soft white boatneck sweater and a pair of black jeans.
And she almost looked like herself again.
Amélie sat down, looking like she felt heavy all of the sudden. Too heavy to stand. The sleeves of the sweater covered her forearm tattoo. She sighed and looked at herself. She rubbed her hands on her thighs. He nails made a small ripping sound as they dragged across the denim.
Angela watched and waited. It was the best thing she could do right now.
“Thank you,” Amélie finally said. “I just...thank you. I needed these.”
Angela finally allowed herself to smile.
When the jury reached a verdict, Amélie went to court wearing a blouse and a pencil skirt that were also in Angela’s shopping bag. The shoes she’d picked to go with it were not exactly perfect. They were a bit blocky and didn’t quite match. Amélie wore them anyway.
Angela wished she could be there next to her that day. She settled for being just behind Amélie and a little to the left. The others on her defense team had long learned to reserve that spot for her.
As soon as the words “Not Guilty” echoed throughout the courtroom, it wasn’t to her lawyers that Amélie turned, but back around to Angela. She smiled, but there was worry in her eyes.
Around them, the others celebrated, but Amélie mouthed, “What do I do now?”
And honestly, Angela was asking herself the same question.
Luckily for her, the lawyers swept Amélie up in a series of handshakes before she had a chance to try to come up with a bullshit answer. Thank god.
A plucky little paralegal that had been helping with the case elbowed Angela, stirring her from her thoughts. “I have to say, I would blackmail you again any day, pretty doctor.”
Angela whipped around to face the woman. She knew that accented voice. “Som--”
“Somebody still needs to learn a little discretion? Yes, I know,” Sombra interrupted her. Come to think of it, this particular paralegal always seemed to be on a holopad. She didn’t look comfortable in her suit. And wait, was that a wig?
“You’ve been here this whole time?” Angela demanded.
Sombra shook a finger at her, oddly bereft of any claws, though her nails were painted a near-fluorescent hot pink. “Use your eyes, chica. Just since the trial started.”
“I still don’t get it,” Angela told her, knowing that this meeting would be very brief and she would need to try to get her questions answered now or never. “I know you didn’t do this for Talon now. If anything, you did it to fuck with Talon. But who are you working for? Who would want Amélie to go free?”
Sombra laughed. That laugh made sure there was no mistaking it. This was her. Angela had heard that laugh far too often to think otherwise. “You ever here of a little thing called self-employment? I’m an entrepreneur. Always have been. As for the why? Well, consider it a research grant for you, and maybe a little personal favor for my old friend Widwomaker, though she was honestly a shit friend, what with all the brainwashing. And as for me? Well, I get to be a good samaritan for once. It feels nice.”
“Bullshit,” Angela said through her teeth.
“I may have also copied all of your files from your findings on the mind control nanomachines,” Sombra admitted.
“If you--” Angela started to warn.
“If I what, use them for evil? You’ll come and get me? Ooh, very scary,” Sombra commented as she made a monster face at Angela. “I don’t think so, pretty doctor. And you can relax, because I might actually be using them for more good. Widowmaker wasn’t the only one Talon did this to. I can trade this info to others who want to get their loved ones back in return for more favors.”
“So my research is--”
“Currency. Heaps of it, actually. Well worth paying for a hotel room that you barely stayed in. Well worth a very generous anonymous donation that someone made to that hospital in order to get them the equipment necessary to do top of the line nanotechnology research. So, yes, thank you for that,” Sombra nodded.
Angela was only slightly fuming. It had all ended well, at least. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Amélie still going through the line of her legal team and receiving their congratulations.
“I see you agree,” Sombra noted as she followed Angela’s eyes and smirked. “As for your pictures, they’re safe with me. Though at this rate, you’re going to have a hard time avoiding recreating them.”
“I don’t know about that. She’s been through so much,” Angela said.
“We all have, chica. That doesn’t stop us from continuing to be idiots, does it?” Sombra asked.
Sombra reached into the lapel pocket of her suit and pulled out a card. She handed it to Angela, who took it with some degree of confusion.
“Stay in touch, pretty doctor. I have a feeling we could work well together, even moreso now that you’re off the hook on our little bargain,” Sombra said.
Angela looked at the card. It was some sort of code. The entire card was just filled with groupings of letters and numbers that meant nothing to her. “Is this a joke or…”
She went to look up to finish her question, but Sombra was already gone.
Her eyes never found the hacker, but they did land on Amélie, standing alone finally. Angela nearly ran up to her. She shoved Sombra’s card into her pocket as she went.
Amélie was the one that pulled her in for a hug. Cold skin met similarly cold skin. Slow hearts beat almost in time. She still needed to explain that to Amélie. Oh well. That would come in time.
“I’m serious. What do I do now? Where do I even go? No one will want anything to do with me. They say I’m innocent, but the world knows me as a heartless killer,” Amélie whispered into her ear. She was starting to shake, and Angela could feel the tears dampening her cheeks.
Angela held her closer. “With me. You can go with me.”
“Yes, but where? And how could I do that to you? You’re innocent. You really want to tie yourself to an exonerated terrorist?” Amélie asked.
“I wouldn’t exactly call myself innocent,” Angela told her. Her eyes were just above the taller woman’s shoulder. She watched as Lena approached them, looking extremely guilty with her little puppy dog eyes. She’d been giving Angela the saddest of looks ever since her testimony.
And then Angela saw it. The little Overwatch insignia pin on the collar of Lena’s suit. The recall. Right, that message she’d been ignoring for months.
“I think I might know some place we could go,” Angela told Amélie as she smiled at Lena and beckoned her over.
It felt good to be flying again. As much as flying meant responsibility, Angela hadn’t realized how much she truly missed it. She wore her Valkyrie armor more often than not now. It was good. This was a good thing.
Still, she would have rather not been dodging enemy fire while doing it. That was not so great.
The strike team had been deployed to Morocco to assist with a hostage situation the local authorities were ignoring. An extremist group was holding three scientists in a compound. A stealth mission had already failed, so the recalled Overwatch agents were trying their best to brute force their way in.
Angela couldn’t help but feel both at home, yet foreign on this battlefield. She’d been on plenty of missions with a team like this, back in the day, but they wore matching uniforms back then. Everyone was younger and clad in deep Overwatch blues. She had a cute little hat back then that she pretended to hate. She loved that damn hat, though.
A bullet ricocheted off of her halo, making her suddenly glad she didn’t have that hat. “Can I get some cover here? I can’t get to Reinhardt,” Angela pleaded over the commlink.
Lena’s voice was the first to answer. “I’d help, love, but I’m in a bit of pickle here myself.” The
Jesse McCree’s southern drawl was next, “What’s your position, darlin’? I can’t see you from here.”
Angela floated down to the cover of an abandoned building and took shelter behind one of its crumbling walls. “In the building now,” she replied.
“Honey, this is urban warfare. There’s lots of buildings,” Jesse told her.
“Ach,” Reinhardt called over the comms. “Just get her over here. I am going to be pulling bullets out of my armor for days if this keeps up.”
“Hang in there big guy,” Angela said. She peeked around the wall and was greeted by a spray of machine gun fire. Thankfully, very inaccurate machine gun fire. She ducked back behind the wall. “They have me pinned down. Why do they always pick on the healer.”
“I’ve got sights on Reinhardt,” Ana’s voice answered. “I can take care of him. Stay out of the line of fire for a bit, Angela. Let them get bored.”
“Roger,” Angela replied. She was more than happy not to get shot at. Just so long as someone else was there to heal Reinhardt.
Angela leaned back against the ancient brick and sighed. She closed her eyes and listened to the sound of her teammates radio chatter. It felt good to be here. It felt right. She still wasn’t all about the violence required to complete the mission, but she was here to see that the people she cared for made it through all right. And she had help. It was so nice to have help.
“Turret deployed,” Torbjörn reported. “That should take care of the fuckers camping the door.”
“Bang!” Jesse cried. “There goes the one in the watchtower.”
“Whee! I got out of there just in time!” Lena said as an explosion rocked the background of her transmission.
“Reinhardt,” Ana’s voice intoned a warning. “Did you charge in there? I’ve lost you now.”
The line fuzzed for a moment before Reinhardt could be heard bashing someone with his hammer and panting heavily. “I saw an opening! But I could still use a little pick me up,” he replied.
Angela opened her eyes and stood, ready to try to pick her way through the firefight again. She activated her wings and went press her comms button.
But then a new voice said, “I’ve got you.” Or at least Angela could have sworn it did. It might have been the sound of more bullets hitting her wall, though, as the remaining enemies were firing on her position again.
The snap of a nano rifle firing sounded just before the transmission cut off.
“Ah, much better! Thank you, Ana!” Reinhardt said.
Ana laughed over the comms. “It wasn’t me.”
“Then whose dart is in my neck?” Reinhardt asked.
Silence prevailed. It lasted long enough for Angela to worry that the dart might not have been friendly. Then who was that voice.
Wait a minute.
“Someone decided to join us on this one. She was with me, but luckily for you, she moves a lot faster than I do with that grappling hook of hers,” Ana finally explained.
“Amélie?” everyone cried at once over the comms.
Nervous laughter followed. “Yes. I’m just glad I didn’t miss,” Amélie admitted.
Angela found a grin working its way onto her face that was far too wide and too goofy to be worn by someone who was cowering behind a wall to avoid gunfire, but she didn’t really care. She was just happy. She was so happy for Amélie. This was everything. She was finally here with the team and they were loving it.
Angela had been a bit apprehensive about answering the Recall and bringing one of Overwatch’s former enemies with her. But none of the agents actually seemed to mind. Even when Ana rejoined them, she wasn’t bitter about what Widowmaker had done to her eye. In fact, she had been the one to suggest that Amélie could use her sniper training in a way that did not involve killing anyone.
Everyone was still shouting their congratulations to her, even as they progressed into the compound and began searching for the hostages.
A private channel beep stirred Angela from her grinning. “Cover your nose and mouth. I will give you smoke,” Amélie told her.
“Oh, right,” Angela said as she stirred back to the present. She took a deep breath before replying, “Ready!”
A mine shot down and latched on to the other side of her wall before triggering and sending up a cloud of purple smoke. Though it was no longer laced with toxic venom, the thick smoke provided excellent cover. Angela quickly activated her wings and shot up out of the cloud.
Then she saw her. A solemn figure in tactical armor. Gone was her old catsuit, replaced with lightweight panels of black and grey carbon fiber. While the rest of the agents had formed their own sort of style and created their own costumes accordingly, Amélie’s was the most reminiscent of the past. It looked like old Blackwatch armor--very similar to what a former Blackwatch sniper once wore. Even down to the tight-fitting turtleneck underneath it all, but thankfully minus the stupid pencil mustache Gérard used to sport.
Angela was so proud of her. After months of begging her to go to therapy. After many sleepless nights spent next to her, just listening when she wanted talk, or just being there when she didn’t. After plenty of days where Amélie just wandered around the Watchpoint, unsure of what to do. After days where she did find some purpose for herself, like cooking dinner for the team, and started dedicating herself to it, only to end up staring at the single carrot she managed to chop for hours.
It had been hard. It had been so hard. Angela was certain Amélie wouldn’t want to have anything to do with combat again. Honestly, even Ana was surprised when she took up her offer. But Amélie had made one request clear. No more killing. She only wanted to help, not to hurt.
So gone was her high caliber rifle, now replaced by the same biotic rifle whose design Angela had objected to so long ago. She was grateful for it now. Amélie had kept her grappling hook, but traded in her venom mines for non-lethal smoke bombs. Her heavy visor was replaced with lightweight tactical goggles, just enough to help her aim and locate both friendly targets to heal, and enemies to avoid.
Angela zipped through the sky toward her. She landed lightly on the rooftop beside Amélie, far above the smoke and gunfire.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Angela told her once her heels finally clicked down fully on the roof tiles.
“I think I am glad to be here too,” Amélie told her.
They shared a little smile. Angela reached out a hand and Amélie took it, squeezing it expertly.
“She needs a call sign,” Tracer began to insist over the comms. “Something super French like...I dunno. Baguette? No. Frog? We got one of those already, though. Um…”
“Nonsense,” Ana cut in. “A good sniper doesn’t need a call sign.”
Amélie’s hand went up to her comm. “Just Amélie is fine for now.”
Angela’s stupid grin returned. Just Amélie was always fine. Moments like this--times where she stood tall, but relaxed--that was the Amélie she needed. The Amélie that accepted that part of her would always be Widowmaker, but that she was worth living beyond the assassin’s name as herself again. That Amélie. Her Amélie.
This was still sort of new. Angela was definitely still nervous. Why? She wasn’t really sure. Amélie had hung around her apartment before. She’d made fun of her mess. Hell, she’d been sleeping in her bed enough lately, among other things.
So why was it weird for her to just be there? Being there with no intention of fooling around, or being there without waiting to go out somewhere?
It was weird. It was so weird. But Angela tried to keep working on her report and ignore that. Said report was due in to Jack tomorrow morning. She could blow it off, sure, but would rather not. Amélie was understanding enough. She was, after all, a guest.
That was a normal thing, sort of. Amélie had come over for the weekend while Gerard was away. It was the first time she’d spent more than just a night. She’d brought a bag and a toothbrush and everything.
It was weird. But Angela sort of liked it.
They sat on opposite sides of Angela’s couch. Amélie had made a point of shoving the clutter off of it so they could have some place to relax that wasn’t the bedroom. Takeout containers lined the coffee table in front of them. Amélie had the holo on to some sort of dancing reality show Angela knew nothing about. She was considerate enough to keep it muted as Angela worked.
It was really kind of nice, actually, this companionable silence. Amélie was still, only occasionally reaching for a water bottle on the table. Angela typed furious at her report, just trying to get it done and over with, not sure why she was rushing.
Finally, she was just starting to get over all of this. She was just starting to forget that someone else was beside her and not going anywhere else right this second, and how strange that was.
Until Amélie got up. The dancing show was over. Credits were rolling across the display. Amélie quietly took the takeout containers away, so as not to add them to the already massive piles of clutter, and tossed them in the trash in the kitchen. She refilled her water bottle and maybe, just maybe, could be heard humming a little as she did it.
And then she sat back down next to Angela. Another show began to play, but Amélie seemed uninterested in it. She scooted over closer and scooped up Angela’s ankles. Before Angela could protest, her legs were lying across Amélie’s lap. Amélie was already lazily trailing a few fingers over the exposed skin of Angela’s calves.
Thank god she’d worn shorts. Even better. Thank god she had remembered to shave.
Angela didn’t object. She just hoped the light from her holo display hid the flush that was definitely showing on her cheeks. Because this was nice. This was so nice. This was like, girlfriend nice.
Weird, wrong, but nice.
Amélie’s fingers began tracing circles, then her nails etched little triangles down the length of Angela’s tibia. All the while, Angela kept on typing, afraid to stop her, afraid to ruin this moment.
Amélie rolled forward a little and rested her head on Angela’s knee. Only then did she turn to her and smile. “Almost done?” she asked.
Angela wasn’t almost done. She had been very distracted by all of this affection in the last fifteen minutes. “I’m...I’m sorry. It’s going to be another little while at least.”
“That’s all right,” Amélie told her. “I’ll be here.”
She wrapped her arms around Angela's legs and hugged them to her chest for a moment.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Angela blurted out.
Fuck. Was that too far? All of it fucking was, honestly. Every little bit of what she and Amélie had was too much. But it was so good. It was so nice. It was perfect in its own moments. Outside of those, well, yeah, it was wrong.
“Me too,” Amélie replied. She smiled and ducked slightly behind Angela’s bent knees, hiding her face.
Was that a blush?
Christ. Angela was going to die. This would kill her. Cause of death, her affair with Amélie turning into a schoolgirl crush.
But she wanted to live. She wanted to continue like this for as long as she could. She wanted to get to know more of Amélie’s gentle touches. Her playful smiles. Her adorable and apparently rare blushes. Angela knew then she would take as much as Amélie was willing to give her. That was dangerous. So dangerous, but so good.
Watchpoint Gibraltar wasn’t exactly the lap of luxury. It was, well, it was an abandoned military outpost that had been home to no one but a talking gorilla for years, and had just about as much charm as that description implied. They’d since made an effort to fix up parts of it, but much of the base was still slowly decaying.
Still, it was home. More importantly, it was a home that no one cared enough to intrude on. A home that local officials had been paid to ignore and international ones were only just starting to become aware of. It wasn’t so much that their rag-tag team needed a place to hide. It was that they needed a place of understanding. Afterall, half of them were supposed to have been dead at one point or another. It was only fitting.
While most of them had homes outside of this one that they would occasionally come back to, the agents of the latest iteration of Overwatch found themselves continuing to spend more time in Gibraltar, just because it was easier to exist there.
Angela resembled that statement so much that she had just settled in. She had no apartment to pack up, having lived out of her suitcase ever since the Petras act was passed. And Amélie, well, she owned nothing but her newfound freedom and the clothes that Angela bought for her during her trial. Answering the Recall seemed like the only thing Angela had left to do. So it was an obvious decision for both of them.
What they hadn’t expected was this little family that came along with it.
Angela never expected to have old Reinhardt thrust a bottle of German beer into her hands again and demand that she drink it with him, but this was now a weekly occurrence. She never expected to be re-evaluating tweaks to Lena’s chronal accelerator with Winston again, but they were due to meet about the latest one that Friday. Angela never expected to see Ana pouring a cup of tea for Amélie every morning, but she did.
Angela certainly never expected the party that awaited them when they returned from Amélie’s first mission. She didn’t expect Lucio to be DJing a set in the common room, or for Mei to be passing out homemade cookies at the door.
She never thought that these people would be smiling at the face that had once been Widowmaker to them, though now it was a whole lot less blue. The tip of Amélie’s nose was still a bit purple, as were her extremities, but they were working on that. She would probably never be quite normal again, but the idea was to get it to the point where she could just put on a bit of very pale concealer and go out again without anyone noticing her. They were just about there.
But even so, everyone was smiling at her and congratulating her--offering the same terrible jokes and patting her on the back. Not even Lena avoided her anymore. Tracer herself was guiding the newest member of the new Overwatch around and introducing her to some of the visitors whose names Angela didn’t quite know yet.
She could only watch from afar and sip the beer that Reinhardt had forced on her. It was dark and a bit too strong for her taste, but she couldn’t say no to him.
Eventually, Amélie broke free and circled back to her without drawing too much attention. She smiled as she approached, a special smile Angela knew was reserved only for her.
“Did you know they were going to do this?” Amélie asked as she gestured to the party going on around them.
Angela shook her head. “I had no idea. I think it’s sweet.”
Amélie laughed. “It is, but I’m tired. I don’t know if I have much more party in me.”
Angela laughed with her. “That’s fine. If there’s one thing you need to know about an Overwatch party, it’s that it will keep going without you until the booze stops flowing. We can slip out any time you like.”
It wasn’t long before Amélie took her hand and lead her out of the common room. Past the music. Past the lights. Past the people. Into dim halls lined with flaking orange paint and lockers. Into familiar corridors, still in need of a paint job, but much cleaner and with working lights. Down to the barracks. To the officer’s quarters. To their room.
It was Angela’s room before. Amélie had the one next door. Amélie spent so much time in Angela’s room that they decided it was pointless to keep them separate. She spent so much time in Angela’s bed that keeping those apart was silly too. And for the record, it was just sleeping. Well, it started off as just sleeping. It stayed as just sleeping for quite a while. They slept better together, and on nights when they couldn’t sleep, they had company.
Of course, it didn’t stay just sleeping, but only when Amélie was ready. Angela let her have the first kiss again. The first bite. The first touch. She didn’t dictate anything or ask for it, but was simply there to accept and cherish anything Amélie wanted to give her.
It was a little different before, whatever you might want to call what it was that they had, but it was not in any way better or worse. Maybe it was a bit more tender, a bit slower, but it was what they both needed. So much so that Angela didn’t worry about being caught holding Amélie’s hand or snaking an arm around her waist. It was so natural, it felt so normal. And from the nonchalant reactions of the others at the Watchpoint, she knew they saw it the same way.
So it wasn’t strange to walk in beside her and just start unwinding from the day. It didn’t feel weird for Angela to strip off her underarmor and bare herself in just a tank top and shorts. Even the silvery scars across her neck and chest were visible and it didn’t bother her. She’d explained those to Amélie long ago. While it had never been said, she knew that Amélie took comfort in their strange kinship. Both of them were now made of too much machine and sometimes too little human. But that was all right. It was the reason they were able to be there for one another right then, so they could accept it.
Amélie rid herself of her tactical armor and the sleek black clothes she wore beneath it was well. She was left in just a tight white tank and a pair of Overwatch branded panties. Angela wanted to make a joke about how Amélie had once been abhorred to see Angela wearing those, but refrained, mostly because she found herself suddenly exhausted.
They crawled into bed together, wordlessly. Amélie curled herself against Angela’s side. Her cool fingers lightly traced the too-smooth skin of Angela’s nanomachine scars. Their hearts beat together, slowly and artificial. Broken, yet on their way to being whole again--a little more each day.
“Do you think you’ll go on another mission?” Angela asked her quietly.
“Mmm, I think so,” Amélie answered against her shoulder. “It was nice, being able to help.”
“You’re a healer now. Helping is what you do,” Angela told her. She swung her arm around behind Amélie and tangled her fingers in the other woman’s hair.
“I can see why you like it. It’s fulfilling. I feel useful now. Like I can actually do something worthwhile,” Amélie replied as she nuzzled a little deeper into Angela’s shoulder.
“You don’t need to prove yourself. I don’t think I have to tell you that everyone here loves you, regardless of whether you join the fight with us. If you’re doing it just for that reason, then don’t,” Angela said.
Amélie shook her head. “No, it's not that. It’s...I don’t know...fitting? This life of mine, it’s been used to do so much harm. But I’ve taken it back. I can do good with it now. I should do good with it. So I will.”
Angela hummed a response, twirling her way through the silky strands of Amélie’s hair up to her scalp, then running her fingers through it there.
Finally, she said, “I guess you’re right. It’s an ancient principle for doctors, to do no harm. But that’s hard to stay true to--nearly impossible, even. I thought I could live my life by that code, but I don’t think anyone truly can. We just have to try to do the best we can.”
Amélie sighed into her touch. Angela could feel sleep beginning to relax her muscles, making her into a pool of pale skin and black hair. “I think I’d like to keep trying,” Amélie yawned.
“And I’ll be there with you while you do,” Angela told her as she kissed her forehead.
Amélie let out another contented sigh. Angela thought she had fallen asleep until she said, “And that’s why I love you, Angela.”
Oh my god it's over...
Thank you all so much for reading. This has been an incredible journey! The Mercymaker ship has proven to be an awesome and super supportive community and I really could not have asked for a better place to write in. You are all great and I love you all. I look forward to planning another fic or two for this pairing. Stay tuned!