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Biological Imperative

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“I think I can handle a bit more than this, you know,” Angela sulked. Yes, she could admit that as she neared her eighth month of pregnancy one could not describe it as just “a bit” of a waddle, and no, she probably shouldn’t carry one of Moira’s heavy, hard-shelled suitcases, but as she made her way across the parking lot in the cool darkness of the very early morning she felt the pillows under each arm were solely to humor her.

When Moira simply answered with a placating hum, breezing past with a suitcase in each hand, Angela was certain she was being humored.

As Angela arrived at the open hatchback of the borrowed SUV she found Moira had already pushed her two cases into place in the growing pile of luggage. It seemed like a lot, all gathered together here, but it was going to be a whole week away. Plus, with all the space they gained by borrowing Reinhardt’s car instead of taking one of Overwatch’s little electric cars, it would be a shame to leave behind anything they might want or need.

“Of course you can,” Moira was saying as she turned with a smile of apology that didn’t seem apologetic in the slightest, “Unfortunately that’s the last of it,” She held her hands up to Angela, who hugged her two pillows tightly.

I can do it, you won’t take this from me too,” Angela pouted with a modicum of sincerity, but Moira only laughed and cupped Angela’s face in both hands, clad in smooth, soft leather gloves.

“Of course not,” Moira smiled, delivering a brief kiss that rid Angela of what bit of exasperation she had.

Angela pursed her lips to fight back the inevitable smile as she stepped past Moira to deposit one of the pillows on the mountain of luggage, explaining as she turned to Moira again, “I’m keeping one up front, for the trip.”

“Come on, then,” Moira’s hand at Angela’s back steered her to the passenger side and Moira held the door and steadied her with one hand as Angela climbed in. It wasn’t until Angela was settled into the passenger seat with the pillow on her lap that Moira said wryly, “You can run the heat and get comfortable while I get the rest of the bags.”

“You said there weren’t any—“ Was all Angela got out before the door was closed again, and she narrowed her eyes through the glass, and Moira simply winked before making her way back toward the buildings for whatever remained.

Angela huffed, but she couldn’t be that upset. Even reaching over the massive center console of the large vehicle in order to turn on the heat was a bit difficult with how much she’d grown, and Nora had warned her to leave physical labors to others. Moira wasn’t wrong, Moira was doing exactly as Angela would hope, and she loved her for it. It was simply frustrating to feel incapable of doing something as simple as loading a car.

“Relax. It’s your vacation. You’re supposed to be taking it easy,” Angela whispered a reminder to herself as she did her best to clumsily wriggle out of her long, heavy coat. Spring was slowly showing itself, and most days were warm, but in these small hours of morning before the sun rose the cold still bit, and it would only get colder the higher they climbed.

By the time she’d extracted herself from her coat and tossed it into the backseat she caught sight of a tall, thin silhouette in the side-view mirror, a small case in either hand. The bags quickly deposited and the luggage secured, Moira finally climbed into the driver’s seat.

“That is the last of it,” Moira said breathlessly, and her cheeks were rosy from the cold. As she shucked her soft gloves and held her hands against the heat vents she fixed Angela with an apologetic smile, “It was just two small things, really, there was no reason for us both to go back for them.”

Angela busied herself fluffing the pillow before settling back against it and fastening her safety belt, and she said with a wistful sigh, “If you would have just moved the car up to the curb I could have handled just as much as you, you know.”

“This car is the size of a small ship,” Moira explained, gesturing around the interior, “I don’t know if it could even fit under the drive cover if we pulled it closer, and I didn’t want to wreck Wilhelm’s car before we even got off the campus.” She wasn’t wrong. If Reinhardt hadn’t had the car custom-made for himself, he at least had to special-order the behemoth from overseas. It was wide enough that Angela wasn’t even sure she could touch Moira from where she sat, particularly with the center console between them, and with the height it was one of the few times she had probably needed Moira’s assistance to get into a vehicle. Even Moira looked fairly small in a seat normally filled with Reinhardt’s massive frame. As Moira pulled slowly out of the car park, cautious as can be in the darkness as she got a feel for the new vehicle, she asked curiously, “What did you tell him, by the way?”

“Hmm?”

“Wilhelm, when you asked to borrow his car,” She drummed her fingers lightly over the steering wheel as she turned in the opposite direction as they’d usually gone, further from Zurich.

“Oh, he heard me talking to Ana about the cabin and said I should take this since he’ll be away on assignment and he still has his snow tires on,” Angela explained, plugging their destination into her comm and downloading the maps for when she lost signal. The last time she’d been up to the retreat cabins she had been a passenger in a caravan of Overwatch officers, and she didn’t want to spend half of their trip lost in the snowy mountains.

“And he didn’t think anything of you going up into the mountains by yourself in your state?” Moira asked with bemusement.

Angela shrugged, “I imagine he thought that Ana would have said something if something needed to be said? Besides, I think with all the ‘we’s’ and ‘you two’s’ being thrown around he probably knew I wasn’t coming up alone.”

“And he didn’t ask?”

Angela shook her head, though with Moira’s attention on the road it likely went unnoticed, “He’s not the type. Besides,” she grinned teasingly, but realized that too would go unnoticed, and simply fell silent. If Moira didn’t realize she was joking it could open up an unfortunate can of worms to begin their trip.

“Besides what?”

“Ah, I just . . .” Angela hesitated a moment, “I think he’s trying to keep his nose out of the baby situation.”

Moira scoffed, but Angela was relieved to hear she sounded amused rather than upset, “Well what did you think was going to happen?” She held up her fingers as she counted off the factors Angela had somehow failed to consider, “You were six months pregnant,” One finger. “Dressed to the nines,” Two fingers. “You knew people were wondering who the baby’s, uh, father was,” Three fingers. “You knew there would be reporters and photographers everywhere at the gala.” Four fingers. “And the two of you show up arm in arm?” With five fingers held up she turned only briefly away from the road to raise an eyebrow toward Angela, “What did you think was going to happen?”

Angela reached across the console to catch Moira’s raised hand and pull it down between them, intertwining their fingers as she asked quietly, “So you saw that then?” The humor in Moira’s voice didn’t chase away the bit of discomfort the whole thing still left in Angela.

“I was made aware,” Moira drawled, resituating to drive single-handedly as she stroked a long, cool thumb across Angela’s.

“It was stupid, I just ignored it.”

Everyone did. Even if Angela hadn’t been caught up in the busy wake of the recruitment event intertwined with her deepening relationship with Moira she still wouldn’t have even noticed but a small murmur among Overwatch personnel about the salacious rumors regarding Mercy and Reinhardt. For a time she’d wondered if she and Ana had overreacted about Sevan’s photographs, perhaps rumors about Moira and Angela too would have flown mostly under the radar. But Angela knew that wasn’t the case; the only reason people discounted these rumors so readily was that they’d been played out in tabloids for years. Mercy and Reinhardt was tired, old gossip and probably didn’t even cause a sales spike. But a newcomer to the rumor mill? Moira likely would not have been so lucky.

A thoughtful hum was all the response Moira gave.

“It didn’t bother you, did it?”

Moira shook her head at the road, grasping briefly at Angela’s hand, “Anyone with half a brain can see that’s not the case, that man would split you in half.”

Moira!” Angela squealed, pulling her hand from Moira’s to land a stiff punch to her upper arm, “He’s like a father to me, you ass.”

Moira hissed and flinched away, but quickly she was laughing as she swapped her driving hands to rub at her arm with only a hint of a grimace, “Watch it, I was just stabbed there, you know?”

“Aw,” Angela murmured, pushing Moira’s hand aside to rub at her heavy coat with her own, “It still hurts?”

“It feels like I just got punched,” Moira groused.

Angela laughed, rubbing a bit firmer, and her voice took on a more soothing tone, “Intramuscular injections can sometimes hurt most the day after, it will be fine by tomorrow I’m sure.”

“Mmmmm,” Moira hummed, thoughtful for a moment before asking, “Are you going to have everyone get one?”

“A pertussis vaccine?” Angela thought for a moment, “As much as I’d like to, I can’t really mandate it for all of Overwatch. But like Nora said, anyone who is going to be around the baby should get one, so I can mandate it for my staff since they will be around more children moving forward. And I’ll probably issue a site-wide recommendation and offer a few walk-in clinics,” She settled back into her seat, finding the pillow added the perfect amount of comfort, and she ran her hands over her belly affectionately, “The last thing we need is for Vesta to open in time for a whooping cough epidemic while I’m out on leave.”

They settled into a comfortable silence between the two of them, though Angela did turn on the dash radio. An AM/FM unit, Reinhardt must have found this in a museum. Soft, instrumental music, for a calm climb into the mountains. She enjoyed watching the first light of dawn creep up into the sky, turning the darkness into a beautiful shade of pink before the sun finally crested the treetops fully. The roads were clear, but to either side stretched snowy trees, and only the occasional fuel station or shop broke the forest wall. Angela made a mental note that they would need to consider fuel; she hadn’t been in a car with a combustion engine in years.

The stops would become further apart, and would eventually disappear altogether. By direct line the cabin they’d secured wasn’t more than 200 kilometers from Overwatch, but with the winding mountain roads and the steep climb, not to mention the snow they would inevitably hit to slow their progress, it would be all morning and some of the afternoon driving. That was the main reason they’d told one another for their early start, but Angela was also antsy to get out of signal range before the promotion went live at 1100. She wouldn’t be able to resist seeing the response, she knew. Her hopes were high, but she had doubts, and she wouldn’t stand to have this week ruined. Better to remove the temptation.

Despite it being the goal, Moira had looked uncertain about completely leaving civilization behind. Angela had assured her that not only was there an old-fashioned, wired landline dialed into the satellite comm unit system in case of emergency, but that Overwatch’s smaller tactical flight units could transport them back in under an hour if a medical emergency arose. “Besides,” Angela had said, “There will be a doctor on site.” Moira had rolled her eyes, but it seemed to be enough to convince her to hide away in the woods with Angela for a week.

Not that they were going to be roughing it; far from it. While Angela hadn’t been to this particular cabin before, the rental company owned several of varying sizes and Overwatch had used them now and then for team-building retreats. When the desire to “get away from it all” struck, Angela had immediately thought of how much everyone in the massive, shared cabin (more of a rustic mansion, really) had griped that their comms didn’t work and there wasn’t even an old-fashioned television set. It would be perfect, especially if it were as comfortable and well-equipped as the larger unit.

“Do you like camping?” Angela asked curiously as she lowered the radio’s volume to make it quite clear they were about to have a conversation.

Moira hmmm’d for a moment before shrugging, “I guess I’ve never been camping, with tents and everything in the middle of nowhere.” She turned from the road for a moment, “You said this place wasn’t that, ah, rugged, though?”

She shook her head, “No, no, this week is not camping.” She laughed, shifting a bit against her now-flattened pillow, doing her best to fluff the sides, “I’d sooner die than sleep on the ground right now.”

Moira shot her a commiserating half-smile, half-grimace.

“But it’s fun,” Angela continued, “When you’ve not swallowed a bowling ball that kicks at your organs every five minutes, of course. We’d do a week-long camping trip every spring growing up, backpacking around a lake or mountain or wherever we were sent that year.”

“With the boarding school?”

Angela nodded, “It was supposed to be educational and team-building. Hm, not that different than the officer retreat, now that I think about it,” Angela chuckled, trying to remember who was more distraught over being in the middle of nowhere without their comm units, the Overwatch officer team or the preteen girls she’d gone to school with. Then again, most of her peers hadn’t been orphans, they had people outside of the school, people in their lives to care about and who cared about them.

“Something wrong?” Angela hadn’t realized she’d begun to frown until she caught Moira’s glance of concern.

“No,” Angela responded, turning a warm smile to Moira, whose eyes were once again too fixed on the road to take notice. Angela reached across the large console to tug Moira’s hand from the wheel to take it in her own again. She settled back against the pillow once more, closing her eyes against the bright morning light as she passed her other hand over her stomach, “Not anymore.”

 


 

 

“I’m hungry,” Angela whispered by way of good-morning as she opened her eyes once more, and Moira only started a bit.

“Mmmm, the same for me,” Moira agreed, but glanced at the map on Angela’s comm between them, “We’ll be there in two hours. There’s food at the cabin, isn’t there?”

“Yes, there is,” Angela let out a strained groan as she sat forward what little she could and attempted to stretch, finding only a small range of motion despite the spacious interior, “But I’m hungry now. Also, I need to use the restroom.”

“Alright, we should probably get petrol soon as it is,” She fished the comm unit out of the cup holder and handed it to Angela, “We haven’t passed anything in a while, there must be something soon.”

Before bothering to look for a stop, Angela checked her alerts. None. They’d made it out of range in time. Good. Though there were downsides, and without the little blinking dot of their vehicle moving along the road she had to wait until she spied a road marker to know exactly where along the route they were. Her brief fear that they may have already left civilization behind was squashed quickly, there were still a few more businesses between themselves and their destination, but they definitely were becoming fewer and further between. “There’s a little restaurant in about four kilometers, and a fuel station in ten. It says it has the old-fashioned petrol pumps and not just electric charge ports.”

“Alright, you can hold it for ten kilometers?”

“The restaurant’s closer, it’s only four.”

Moira shifted, “The fuel station will have food, won’t they?”

“First, I’m not a food snob but I’m not going to eat fuel station food when there’s a perfectly good restaurant on the way,” Angela explained, before breaking into a bit of a whine, “And second, I really have to go.” She tapped the comm, “They do breakfast through dinner, so they will be open. It’ll be good to get out of the car for a while.”

Moira sighed, but with the trees broken by a little roadside restaurant ahead she was already signaling their exit from the highway.  The lot was empty but the paper sign on the door was flipped to inform travelers they were open. Moira, too, seemed to be regarding the restaurant and empty lot for a moment before she undid her safety belt and pulled on her gloves, “Hold on, it looks like there’s ice,” she cautioned.

Angela nodded, fishing her own coat from the back seat as Moira made the long journey around the massive vehicle. With how far off the ground the car was lifted she was more thankful than ever for Moira’s insistence on helping her. 

Moira didn’t seem so pleased, however, and when she opened the passenger door she was still regarding the restaurant as she held a hand out to Angela.

“Is there something wrong?” Angela frowned, and Moira finally turned her attention to her, “I know you want to get there, but we’ve got all week, you know . . .”

“Ah, I know,” Moira’s expression was a mix of apology and trepidation, “It’s not that, I just . . . wonder if the promo stuff is out.” She held her other arm to Angela, who braced herself on Moira’s shoulders and let her loop her arms around her. It was probably more support than she required, even with the large drop to the icy ground, but she certainly wouldn’t complain.

After she found herself standing steady on the ground she pulled on her own coat against the chill, “Don’t worry,” she reasoned, “Everyone’s going to know when we get back down next week, this would be good practice,” Angela grinned up at Moira, who was watching her intently, her hands still cautiously half raised toward Angela, “Besides, I doubt such a rural area gets breaking Overwatch news, I don’t even get comm service anymore.”

Moira pursed her lips, but nodded as she shut the passenger door, explaining half-heartedly, “In my experience ‘this area is rural’ is not very encouraging.”

Angela pursed her lips as well, wrapping her arm tightly around Moira’s bicep in a gesture as much for comfort and reassurance as for stability, “You shouldn’t worry so much, Moira.” She grinned widely then, turning her face upward, “Switzerland is known for cheese holes, not assholes.”

Moira stopped in her tracks, causing Angela to stop too, and fixed her with a death glare. After a moment of silence in which Angela refused to drop her smile, and if anything she smiled wider, Moira rolled her eyes, “How long were you holding on to that one?”

Angela snickered and pressed against Moira as they began a cautious, slow climb up the steps to the door, “A minute, alright?”

“We’re breaking up,” Moira grumbled quietly, a concerned and watchful eye kept on Angela at her side as they completed their short but steep climb.

“Mmm, too cheesy?” Angela whispered back, and only got a “Stop it” and forced frown poorly hiding an amused grin from Moira as she pulled the door open for the two of them.

It was quiet and dim inside the small restaurant, and the ceiling was almost low enough for Moira to brush her head. Certainly she could have reached up a hand to touch it. Behind a bar, much longer than the small collection of liquors on the shelf behind warranted, an older, heavy-set man looked up from the TV mounted behind the bar. It was tuned to football, Angela was happy to see, and not the local news.

The man breathed deep and bellowed a loud “Wilkomme und bondzo!” at them in a fairly practiced manner, “Deutsch oder francais?

“Ah,” Angela looked to Moira, who looked taken aback more by the booming voice in such a quiet restaurant than by the question she probably grasped, “Könne sie Englisch reede?

Yo, not very gut,” He was making his way through the open hatch of the bar, and already making a wide gesture to the entire room. It was small, and there were only four tables separate from the bar, “Sit everywhere.”

Angela elbowed Moira’s side lightly at the sound of a small, stifled snort and nodded thankfully to the man, “Thank you, do you have a bathroom I can use?” He motioned toward a side hall with a cheery smile and Angela turned to Moira, who had shucked her gloves and coat, “I’ll probably be a while, order for me if you want.”

“Is everything alright?” Moira gave a concerned frown, helping Angela out of her coat as well, but Angela just waved her hand.

“Fine, everything’s fine,” Angela assured her, not wanting to explain in front of the man that whether or not she could easily get on and off a toilet quickly would depend on if they had installed handrails. She prayed they did, but if things went south, well, she could just shout and have a very embarrassing start to her vacation.

They had no handrails, but similar to her quarters the sink was close enough to the toilet that she could steady herself on it and manage well enough. Still, despite her eschewing liquids all morning to avoid frequent bathroom stops, she spent more than a few minutes in the restroom, and she imagined Moira may be half done with a meal by the time she emerged.

Quite the opposite, she found Moira had not even picked a table and was leaning on the bar with both elbows, half on a stool and half standing. If she noticed Angela’s return she didn’t indicate it, as both the proprietor and Moira’s eyes were glued to the old-fashioned TV-set.

“Football?” Angela ventured as she sidled up beside Moira, who finally took note of her.

“Ah, yeah,” Moira looked somewhat admonished, and quickly threw back a finger of whisky from a glass she’d had in front of her.  She motioned toward the screen, “Ireland’s playing.”

“Mmmm,” And they were losing, but Angela had something else on her mind as she poked at the empty glass Moira had set back down, “How much did you drink?”

“Just that,” Moira indicated, and gave a small shrug, “Not much, and we’ll be here for a while.”

“Yes, yes, stay,” the man said in a loud, cheerful voice, once again gesturing throughout the room, “Eat, I’m very late tonight.”

Moira pursed her lips to hide a grin, and Angela just shot her a chiding look before tugging at Moira’s arm, “Come on, I don’t think I can manage a high stool right now.”

“Mmm, right, sorry,” Moira left her empty glass behind and with one step she was pulling a chair out for Angela.

“Do you like sports, then? I’ve never heard you mention them,” Angela asked curiously as Moira found her own seat across the table from her, and Moira seemed surprised by the question.

“Not much, but Dylan is rabid for it, always has been,” She laughed a bit, “He wanted to play league but never was quite good enough. I watch a bit, but not like my brothers.” She motioned toward the TV and finished with some derision, “And when we play like this, what’s there to follow?”

Angela gave a consoling smile as she took a menu handed to her by the man, who took the time to introduce himself as Ueli. Moira took one as well, but as Ueli made his way back behind the bar she simply sighed, grumbling quietly, “I suppose I should start learning German.”

“You shouldn’t have to,” Angela was distracted by the menu, particularly as she now was on the lookout for something she thought Moira might enjoy, “We can have groceries and everything delivered, and I’m sure the grocery stores nearby will start staffing English speakers once all the new recruits flood in.” Her eyes ticked upward, and Moira had abandoned her unreadable menu to idly watch the TV once more, “I’m surprised you’re only thinking to learn German now, though.”

“Well I didn’t think I would be in Switzerland very long,” Moira admitted, causing Angela to pull her eyes from her own menu once more.

“Were you trying to be reassigned? Gibraltar and Grand Mesa’s laboratories are nothing compared to Zurich.”

Moira laughed, but she looked somewhat unsure as she continued, “No, I . . . I honestly thought I’d have been fired by now.”

“What? Why would you be fired?” Angela furrowed her brow, lowering her menu to watch Moira shift in her seat.

Moira sighed, “I’ve been here a year and the only—“ she paused, gesturing to Angela, or more toward Angela’s stomach, “The only results I’ve, ah, produced aren’t even . . . attributed to me.”

“If you want to publish, Moira, it doesn’t bother me, really,” Angela assured her, “Honestly if there’s anything all this tabloid and promo mess has taught me it’s that we’ll never be able to stop people whispering and making up their own ideas. We might as well at least do what’s best for us.” She smiled softly, “Truly, if it will help you, publish.”

Moira was shaking her head, “I don’t think— Maybe someday. For now I think there’s more than enough being published about us.”

Angela nodded. She couldn’t really disagree.

“Besides, I wasn’t hired to be, what, a fertility specialist?” Moira leaned heavily back into her chair, and Angela felt Moira’s long legs brush the outside of her own, but neither bothered to move away, “Even if I did publish, it’s not what I’m supposed to be doing here.”

Ueli made his way around the bar again, looking to both of them expectantly, and Angela quickly ordered älpermagronen and water for herself, and Moira simply waved her hand “Another of whatever that is.”

After he had deposited two glasses of water on the table and disappeared into what was ostensibly a back kitchen, Angela turned again to Moira. “Surely anything beneficial is acceptable, even if it’s not what you were hired to do. You’re not in a grant-funded position.”

Moira scoffed, “Hmph, that’s what I thought too,” She frowned, then sighed loudly with defeat, “But apparently working on your own projects gets you a non-stop ticket to Canada in the middle of winter.”

“I thought they wanted you because of your niche expertise?” Angela ventured, her brow furrowed.

Moira leaned her elbows on the table as she hunched across it, her tone fairly nonchalant about it all, “That’s why they requested me but, well, it was made quite clear to me that as far as Overwatch was concerned it wasn’t really optional if I expected to stay on with Overwatch after.”

Angela was full-on frowning, “You should have told me, Winston would have—“

Moira held up her hand, shaking her head, “It’s fine, really, we got through it, I put my head down and did my little grunt work assignment for the good of Overwatch, as requested,” Her frown turned to a soft smile as she lifted her face to Angela’s and snagged Angela’s fingers lightly with her own, “And now, barring any fiascos and as long as I can come up with something of merit, I should be fairly secure here.” She squeezed Angela’s fingers, “Besides,” she added with a grin, “If I get fired I’ll just stay on as your plus one once the complex is done. I’ll be a stay-at-home parent.”

Moira’s clearly joking tone earned a small chuckle from Angela, but she was still somewhat discomforted by the idea that she had been so close to losing her without even realizing, “I think you’d be bored being at home all day.”

“Mmmmm,” Moira settled back into her seat again, but with their hands in the center of the small table they were not so far apart as to need to pull back. “Vesta will need a science teacher,” she mused.

Angela laughed more fully at that, and she ran her thumbs across Moira’s fingers, “I’d rather you do what you want to do. The project you’ve talked about, the rapid healing,” Angela inquired curiously, “What came of that? Surely if you can make progress there it would be outstanding. Winston will see the value of that, and if he doesn’t, I do.”

Nothing’s come of it so far.” Her voice was suddenly nothing but frustration, and she pulled her hands back to run her palms across her face. After a moment she admitted quietly, “Well, that’s not true.I’ve completed a proof of concept, but I keep running into mechanistic dead ends. What I’ve been doing is feasible in theory, but not practice, so . . .” She trailed off before giving a final sigh, “I don’t know . . . I have some ideas, but every solution has its own problems.”

“Well, we all know that breakthroughs don’t come fast or easy,” Angela leaned forward with a small grunt of discomfort to catch Moira’s hands once mor, “My old suit’s wings alone took over a year to perfect, and don’t even ask about the staff.”

Moira nodded quietly.

 “If you tell me what you’re doing, I can help?” Angela offered, “Honestly I’d be happy to be involved in some research, personnel management has become quite tedious.”

Moira regarded her thoughtfully for a long minute before giving a nod of acquiescence, “It’s still the same problem as before, that the rapid cytogenesis requires a massive supply of nucleotides which can be accessed efficiently.”

Angela nodded her understanding, “And the ideas you have?”

“Well, first I’d considered simply faster delivery mechanisms of what we already have. Ingestion is out of the question, it’s far too slow. I tried a few different solutions via injection, and that solved the reaction rate problem pretty much immediately; but of course if it’s injected it has to be soluble.”

Angela shrugged, “Urea and glucose, simple enough.”

Moira held up one long finger, “Ah, but there’s the problem. The urea necessary to deliver the amount of nucleobases I’m working with would be astronomical compared to what the urea cycle can actually handle, and that’s in a healthy subject.”

“So even if you could patch their wounds you’d do it at the cost of their kidneys.”

“Or brain damage. Or it could kill them outright,” Moira nodded solemnly, frowning as she freed one hand to take in some water.

“You’ve got your work cut out for you. I’ll think on it.” She grinned then, “But on that cheery note, time to eat.”

Ueli emerged with a plate in each hand but one eye on the TV, and Angela caught his grimace. Ireland was up a point since he’d disappeared into the back, apparently Ueli favored France. He received a thanks from each of the women as he slid them the plain dishes of meat, potatoes, and macaroni, and promptly returned to his stool behind the counter to take in the remainder of the match.

Moira was picking at her dish with a fork, “So it’s just macaroni and cheese with other things added in?”

“Yes, is that not alright?” Moira hadn’t struck Angela as a picky eater thus far, and she confirmed it with a shake of her head and a smile.

“No, just learning German one word at a time.” She speared some macaroni, “Applemacaroni.”

Älpermagronen,” Angela insisted with pursed lips, and Moira just smirked.

“That’s what I said.”

“A noble effort from the woman who snickered at Ueli’s English,” Angela whispered with a smirk of her own, confident that Ueli was too caught up in the football match to listen.

Moira shrugged, “I wasn’t making fun of him, I only thought it was amusing. I’m impressed he speaks three languages.”

“Do you only speak the one then? Until you perfect your Zürichdeutsch, of course,” Angela asked before digging into her own lunch, which she found she thoroughly enjoyed.

“English and Irish,” Moira held up two fingers, and hummed pensively, “And the smallest bit of Navajo possible, I suppose, though I’ve forgotten most of that even.”

Angela tried to hide the hint of a frown she felt tug at her lips, and instead focused on something else, “Irish? Doesn’t everyone just speak English?”

“Mmmm,” Moira nodded an affirmative as she finished a forkful of food before adding, “We do, but it’s like the Swedes. We have our own language, but we all learn English as well. To be honest most people don’t even learn Irish anymore beyond basic conversation, it’s just not useful enough.”

“But you did?”

Dúirt mo mháthair go gcaithfimid a fhoghlaim.” Moira responded, and she looked quite pleased with herself as she looked at Angela, who felt she must have appeared rather dumbfounded. She wasn’t surprised Moira spoke another language, of course, she just was processing how rich and smooth absolute gibberish could sound pouring from Moira’s lips.

“I, ah, sorry, I didn’t quite catch that?” Angela laughed.

Moira smiled, “My mother insisted we all learn it.” She took another bite of her dwindling meal as she thought, before adding with some bemusement, “It doesn’t matter how out-dated or useless something is, tradition is reason enough for her.”

Angela wondered again when she might meet Moira’s family. After the baby was born, that’s what Moira had said, she would tell her family then. She smiled. It wasn’t too far off now, and growing closer every day.

“Should I be learning Irish?” Angela raised her brows inquisitively.

Moira shook her head with a laugh, “Don’t bother, like I said, it’s really not even used in Ireland except in a few out of the way places or when people want to sound official or nationalistic, and it’s a pain in the ass to learn the words, let alone the pronunciations and sentence structure,” She laughed again, and added with a smile, tilting her water glass slightly toward Angela, “Besides, you’ll be too busy teaching me German.”

“Zürich German,” Angela corrected her with a grin, “If you want to learn standard German you should go to Reinhardt.”

“Noted.”

“Still,” Angela continued softly, loading her fork up with macaroni and potatoes, “If there are maybe a few words you could teach me? To say hello when I meet your family?”

“Of course,” Moira said after a brief look of surprise, “What do you want to say?”

Angela regained her dumbfounded look, and thought for a while before responding sheepishly, “I don’t know what to say to them.”

“Don’t worry,” Moira’s smile and soft voice was as comforting as the light press of her legs against Angela’s, “You have time to figure it out. Let me know when you decide.”

Smiling and returning her attention to her meal, Angela made a mental note to determine just how best to introduce oneself to in-laws. Well, not quite in-laws. But maybe someday. Hopefully. She’d met parents of exes before, but this was somehow completely different. Saying a quick hello on the way out the door with someone you were seeing for your fourth date was nothing. Moira, how does one say ‘Hello, my name is Angela. Oh, how did Moira and I first meet? Well, I walked on down and asked her to inseminate me.’ in Irish?

Hell, even without factoring in the unusual circumstances of the initial partnership, it was still new to Angela. A family, a family that would to some degree be her family, at least through the baby even if never through union. How do you meet your family for the first time? Angela found she was more relieved than she had previously been that Moira was putting off the introductions, and she felt she better understood why.

Finishing her meal before Moira, Angela excused herself for another visit to the restroom before they left, fearful the frequent urination would rear its head as soon as they’d passed the last stop. The last thing she wanted to do while eight months pregnant was try to squat in a snow bank at the side of a highway. On her way out she passed Moira, apparently with a similar thought on her mind. She handed Angela the keys, “I’ve paid, if you want to go out and start the heat I’ll only be a minute.”

Moira may have forgotten the treacherous stairs, but Angela hadn’t, and she stood idly at the bar watching the end of the football match and waited. France had pulled ahead, and Ueli was more interested in that than in Angela. She considered putting her coat on, but it wasn’t such a long trip to the car.

Unhindered by pregnancy, Moira was in and out of the bathroom in a flash by comparison, and when she returned she looked quizzically toward Angela, who returned the keys. “Surely,” Angela fought to keep a laugh out of her feigned shock, “You don’t expect me to open a car door all by myself.” She grinned as Moira rolled her eyes and wrapped an arm around Angela’s waist, “I don’t even know if I remember how . . .”

“Oh shush,” Moira whispered, and each of them gave a sound of appreciative farewell to match Ueli’s as they pushed back out into the cold.

“See, that wasn’t bad at all, was it?” Angela coaxed as they made their way gingerly down the worn, icy steps, “You worry too much, Moira.”

“You don’t worry enough,” was all Moira grumbled in response, but her seriousness seemed more to do with their navigation than with any actual dismay over the lack of worry Angela tended to exhibit.

“Good,” Angela said with a smile, “Then together we worry just the right amount.” She’d have liked to push onto her toes and press a kiss to Moira’s cheek, but that was difficult enough on solid, dry ground, and she didn’t risk it, instead just enjoying Moira’s small chuckle of response before adding, “Much better than fuel station food. I love going to restaurants when I travel, eating out is the best part of a vacation.”

“Oh?” Moira ventured wistfully as they rounded the car to the passenger side first.

“You don’t think so?” Angela was just as curious as Moira pulled the door open and helped her climb carefully back up into the mountainous SUV.

Moira gave an exaggerated shrug, tossing her arms out after Angela was firmly in place, and she grinned cheekily, “It’s just news to me that you’re such a fan of eating out, that’s all.”

Angela forced what would have been a smile and laugh to form into a look of cool annoyance, “Do you want to get punched again?”

“So violent,” Moira just laughed, and even she had to lift to her toes a bit to press her cheek to Angela’s, her lips brushing against Angela’s ear lightly, the “I love you” barely even a whisper. Angela hummed her agreement before Moira shut her door carefully and made her way back to the driver’s side.

Angela twisted with slight difficulty to deposit her coat into the backseat once more, and she fished out her handbag from the floorboards. Moira had already driven them halfway to the fuel station by the time Angela finally managed to fish out the pocketbook from the unorganized abyss of her purse.

“How much was the meal?” Angela asked, paging through the bills she carried.

Moira shot a look of displeasure toward the pocketbook and sighed, “They were running a special, everything 100% off.”

“Mmm, this again?” Angela fought the urge to roll her eyes at the whole thing. Honestly Moira’s idiosyncrasies were endearing, she didn’t hate it at all, but Angela had not yet become accustomed. And for that matter, they’d never discussed it, had they? Angela had simply asked Moira to drop it, hadn’t she? But then it was a more complicated thing, what they had between them. It was no wonder neither had pushed the issue.

Moira seemed to agree that skirting the issue would not work forever, “Well then how much was this cabin rental?”

“I told you, Ana booked it under Overwatch as an entity so our names aren’t attached to the reservation in case some reporters came sniffing around after the promos went out.”

“Ah, but you didn’t answer my question,” Moira pointed out as she guided the car carefully alongside an old petrol pump in startling disrepair. She left her door wide-open, and Angela wasn’t fond of the cool air rushing in, but it let them continue speaking after Moira disappeared only momentarily to start the pump. She returned then to lean against the open door, speaking with some noticeable exasperation, “You should have let me pay for it.”

“She’s taking it out of my pay, I don’t even know how much it cost,” Angela explained, and it was partially true. Angela had seen the booking website; she knew the full price but not how much their “returning corporation” discount had reduced it. But either way, it would be a lot. Oh well, time to bite the bullet, “And even still, it makes sense that I pay. I make more than you do, Moira.”

Moira grunted with annoyance and ran a gloved hand through her hair, her breath coming in white puffs now that she was away from the warm lick of the heating vents, “So? We don’t pay for food or housing or medical care or basically anything. I may not make as much as you do, but I make enough to pay for us, Angela.” She situated her arms crossed over her chest, “You should let me.”

“Why?” Angela worried she might have come off argumentative, defensive even, and added immediately, “Just so I can understand. Why does this mean so much to you?”

Moira looked away, ostensibly toward the pump which was clicking away as the tank filled. Angela could see the muscles in her neck move as she clenched and unclenched her jaw, and as she turned back she kept her eyes cast downward and shrugged. When she finally sighed and forced the words out she sounded both defeated and embarrassed, “Listen, I know it’s not . . . I don’t know, right, or the way things are . . .”

Moira trailed off and only the flow of petrol and the clicking of the pump broke the silence as Angela regarded her thoughtfully. Moira still had her head turned down, and the cold was turning her cheeks rosy once more.

“You’re trying to find a way to say you want to take the man’s role without putting it that way, aren’t you?” Angela ventured gently, as delicate as she could given Moira’s previous concerns.

Moira scowled and finally raised her eyes to Angela, and her voice was pure frustration, “Don’t say it like that.”

“Of course, I apologize,” Angela said softly, and she cursed the massive center console keeping her from sliding over to the driver’s side to wrap her arms around Moira’s neck. She wondered at how to proceed without upsetting Moira, but Moira had already continued.

“I just,” Moira shifted uncomfortably, her eyes once again moving away toward the gas pump, and the annoyance in her tone seemed general and not so much aimed at Angela or even the questions she was asking so much as at the situation, “I shouldn’t need to be the man to want to, I don’t know, take care of you and protect you and look after you . . . Both of you. The three of us.” She ran a gloved hand once more through her hair before she leaned her head against the window of the car, her eyes once again finding Angela’s. She looked tired.

“I agree,” Angela smiled warmly, “If that’s what you want, that’s fine with me. I just wanted to hear you say it,” Angela explained, “To know how you felt.” With an afterthought, equally amused and sheepish, she added, “I think guessing at one another’s feelings has gotten us into enough trouble already.”

Moira’s expression was a smile and a grimace at once, and she nodded, “It has, hasn’t it? Alright then. Thank you. For letting me.”

The silence was much more comfortable with the words spoken, and Angela tried to pretend she didn’t feel Moira watching her as she busied herself re-fluffing her pillow for the ride ahead. After the pump had clicked completion and they were making their way back onto the highway, however, Angela continued where they’d left off. Now that she could reach her, she wrapped a hand around Moira’s bicep, free of the heavy coat, “You can pay going forward, but truly, Moira, let me handle the cabin. Think of it as a gift, the Christmas gift I missed.”

Moira contemplated this for a moment before nodding at the road, “Then thank you.”

Settling back against the fluffed pillow, Angela turned her eyes once more to the wall of trees lining the road, and the rest of the trip was spent in silence as Angela mulled over just what words she would learn to say for when the day finally came to meet Moira’s family.