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The Abyss of Your Soul

Chapter Text

"What the fuck was that?" Jack snarls, slamming through the door of the briefing room.

 

"Jack-" Gabriel stands, hand raised.

 

"Don't you 'Jack' me," the commander snaps, taking the room in two strides and getting in his face. "You fucking killed him; it was supposed to be an extraction, not an execution! Now I've got reporters banging down my door about Blackwatch, and brass is pressuring me to disavow all four of you!" He swings around to the rest of the room. "Do you have any idea the political nightmare I'm facing right now? And that's not even touching your own fucked up morals!"

 

"When one is presented with a dilemma, quick and decisive action is necessary," Moira states calmly, hands folded on the table in front of her. "You should be praising Gabriel's decisiveness."

 

" Praising? " The word is a venomous hiss on Jack's tongue, and he slams his fists on the table, making the intercom at the centre jump high enough to flip entirely. "Bullshit! Not only did you kill a high profile target and cost us months or even years worth of data and information, you thrust Blackwatch into the public eye and undercut everything Overwatch stands for!"

 

"Stands for?" Gabriel growls. "And what exactly is that, Jack? Overwatch is rotten at its very core, and you know it!"

 

"Overwatch is the champion of the people-"

 

"Don't give me that crap!" Gabriel shouts over him. "Overwatch did one good thing and that was ending the Crisis! It's been going downhill since the moment it was created because of bureaucratic bullshit and greedy politicians making deals with any sick fuck that has the money to make your goddamn morals useless! Antonio would have bought his way out before we could even figure out what he had for lunch; I did you a fucking favour!"

 

"STOP LYING TO ME!!" Jack roars, drawing a fist back but stopping himself before he throws the punch. Gabriel tenses for it, hands fisted at his sides, but makes no move to defend himself. McCree, on the other hand, steps forward to intervene, faltering when Jack lowers his fist and steps back, angry and frustrated but also on the verge of tears.

 

"Jack..." McCree hesitates, not sure what to say.

 

"I'm tired... of all the lies..." Jack's voice breaks, and Moira cocks a surprised brow.

 

"...Everyone out," Gabriel orders quietly.

 

"But-"

 

"I said OUT!" Gabriel bellows, cutting McCree off. Genji is already on his way out, too tired to care, and Moira stands.

 

"Now is not the time, Jesse," she says simply, leaving.

 

"Gabe..." McCree starts.

 

"Go, Jesse," Jack says quietly. With a small noise of irritation, McCree goes to the door, pausing there.

 

"Just... don't kill each other, okay?"

 

Once the door closes behind him, Gabriel takes a step toward Jack, only for him to step back.

 

"Don't," he rasps. "Don't touch me with that blood on your hands."

 

"You have just as much blood on your hands, Jack," Gabriel rumbles, striding forward purposefully now. Jack backpedals, hitting the wall, and Gabriel blocks him in with a hand on each side of him. "Don't run from me."

 

"I'm not doing this with you," Jack growls, lip curled. "Not again."

 

"You don't get a say, brillo solar ," Gabriel scoffs. "The only question is whether you cooperate, or I take what I want."

 

Jack doesn't answer, trying to pretend that doesn't set fire to his blood, and a slow smirk curls Gabriel's lips. He shifts forward, stopping with only a bare inch between them. Jack's breath hitches, and he stiffens, refusing to meet Gabriel's gaze.

 

"Tell me, hermoso ," the older man purrs. "Do you ever feel better than you do beneath me?" Swallowing hard, Jack closes his eyes, knowing full well Gabriel can read him like an open book. "That's what I thought. On your knees, Morrison."

 

"No," Jack dares to breathe when Gabriel steps back.

 

"One way or another, you're going to your knees," Gabriel promises. "Up to you how you get there." The unspoken threat thrills over Jack's skin and he slowly sinks to the floor, making the mistake of glancing at the man standing over him. Molten brown captures silvered blue, and Gabriel chuckles. "No more protest?"

 

"You leave bruises," Jack says quietly.

 

"Marking my property," Gabriel dismisses. "Get to work. Unless you're already prepped and ready for me to fuck."

 

It's a veiled out; an offer to do this another time. But he wasn't wrong; Jack is always at his best after Gabriel plunges him into subspace and slowly coaxes him back out without any of the extra baggage. Baggage that seems to pile up higher and faster than it used to.

 

He needs this, and Gabriel knows it.

 

Without another word, Jack reaches up to remove the ammo belt around Gabriel's hips, letting it fall while he undoes the belt beneath and opens Gabriel's pants to reach in and pull out his half-chubbed cock.

 

"Go on, hermoso ," Gabriel nods when he glances up again, doffing a glove to thread his fingers into Jack's hair.

 

Damn him for noticing... It was a surprise enough for Jack himself to realise that having his hair stroked and pulled is such a turn on for him, but to have Gabriel know and exploit that fact? God have mercy.

 

Jack brings the tip to his lips and uses them to slide back the foreskin while his tongue does the real work, tracing the slit and swirling around the head as it's exposed to the warmth of his mouth. Gabriel sighs softly, a sure sign that Jack is doing well, and he chases that approval, sinking down on Gabriel's cock until the now fully erect tip hits the back of his throat. He starts to withdraw, but Gabriel grips his hair tightly and yanks him forward.

 

"All the way," he commands even as Jack gags around the sudden intrusion breaching his throat. He's going to have a hard time talking after this, and that thought sends a small shiver through him.

 

Dragging back as far as he dares, he snatches what little breath he can before Gabriel yanks him in again. The cycle repeats for several seconds, until Jack finds a rhythm that doesn't make him gag or choke and still lets him breathe, but is also fast and deep enough to satisfy Gabriel.

 

"You fall so easily for me, hermoso ," Gabriel croons, making sure he's keeping up the punishing pace. "Crumble to pieces at the slightest touch, melt with just a word..."

 

Jack shudders; the reminder of how fragile he really is beats at him, knocks away all other thought.

 

"You're so pliable for me, so easy to take apart and rebuild," Gabriel continues, sparking heat in Jack's veins. "The great Strike Commander John Francis Morrison, on his knees and practically begging for my cock."

 

Jack can't stop the pitiful whine that escapes, his movements stuttering, rhythm broken. Gabriel tugs at his hair, resetting it for him. He gives up control, letting Gabriel thrust between his lips at whatever pace and focusing on just catching whatever air he can in between.

 

It's a heady feeling, a complete loss of control mere minutes after having almost total control, and the knowledge that he won't be walking out of here physically satisfied adds to the growing fog in his head. Gabriel must read his mind, because he pulls Jack off his cock and tips his head back while pressing his boot hard against the crease of Jack's groin, just avoiding his growing erection.

 

"You're not thinking of ways to get off without me noticing, are you?" Gabriel asks coldly.

 

"No," Jack whispers, abused vocal chords refusing to cooperate.

 

"Good. Because you don't get to cum without my permission. Is that understood?"

 

"Yes." God, it feels good to have things so black and white. After all the political subtleties he's been dealing with today, he wants nothing more than to have everything laid out plainly.

 

"What are you, brillo solar ?" Gabriel asks, gripping painfully tight and pressing down hard on Jack's groin.

 

"I am nothing," he answers in a rasp.

 

"And...?" Gabriel coaxes, brow quirked.

 

"And everything," Jack continues dutifully. "I exist, here and now."

 

"Good; good boy," Gabriel hums. The approval in his low voice makes Jack's blood sing and he doesn't even stop to think about it; hands braced on his knees, he opens his mouth, wordlessly pleading, and Gabriel chuckles, complying with a single rough thrust down his throat that makes him choke and promises bruises.

 

Time is a little weird in subspace; simultaneously an eternity and a flood. Jack is only aware of Gabriel, his taste, his smell, the grip of his hand, the shallow breaths that mark the edge of no return. When he cums, the first thread scores Jack's trachea, the rest coating the roof of his mouth and his cheek as Gabriel withdraws, breathing raggedly beneath a rumbling, satisfied groan.

 

"How deep are you?" he asks plainly, stroking his hand through Jack's hair and pulling a strained hum from bruised vocal chords.

 

"Blue," is the raspy answer. Gabriel pauses, surprised.

 

"Dark blue?" Jack thinks for a moment, but the fact that he can even do that precludes being totally under; he shakes his head.

 

"Light," he says, just in case.

 

"That's still pretty deep in such a short time," Gabriel frowns. "You need to come back up, Jack."

 

"...I don't want to." It comes out a quiet whine, one he should be embarrassed by, but all he wants is to continue basking in the soft blur.

 

"Jack..." Gabriel warns, tucking himself away now that he's sure he won't need to work around his refractory period. "Talk to me, mi brillo ."

 

"Why? So you can lie again?" Jack asks hoarsely, the question presenting itself without thought, and far more bitterly than expected.

 

"Lie?" Gabriel echoes, a warning tone to his voice that would have anyone else in a panic, but even fully lucid, Jack has never been intimidated.

 

"You said you did me a favour," Jack replies. He's pouting, he knows, but he can't help it, anymore than he can help being honest. This, right here, is why he only trusts Gabriel to dom him. "You don't care about the politics; you never did. You just wanted revenge for the bomb incident. That's the whole reason you went on that mission in the first place. I never should have let you go."

 

Gabriel doesn't respond for a long moment, idly scratching at Jack's scalp while he considers.

 

" Mi brillo ," he says finally, voice softer than it's been since he got back. "I was angry. Furious. The thought that Talon could so easily infiltrate our ranks and have such ready access to the top brass made me sick. But when Antonio promised to be out by the end of the week, all I could think about was how poorly it would reflect on you in the public eye when he waltzed free uncontested. You would have been condemned for being as corrupt as every politician that ties our hands. I would rather be disavowed than to ever let that happen on my watch." Crouching to Jack's level, he uses his glove to wipe away the mess on the younger man's face, making sure he has Jack's attention before continuing. "You still believe in the good of Overwatch. If anyone can end the corruption and make this place what it's meant to be, it's you. And I'll be damned before I let anyone stand in the way."

Chapter Text

Moira is lounging far too casually on a mat laid out on the floor of the cubicle in the corner of the medical bay that she calls her laboratory because Angela refuses to share space with her. She doesn't even look away from the holoscreen projected above her when Jack enters, expression stern.

 

"To what do I owe the pleasure, Commander?" she greets idly, reaching up with one long nimble finger from a hand curled like talons around a stress ball to swipe from one screen to the next.

 

"What did you do to Reyes?" he demands lowly, standing over her with arms crossed. She reaches above her head with her other hand to switch off the projector and looks up at him, absently squeezing the stress ball.

 

"I haven't the faintest idea to what you could be referring."

 

"Don't bullshit me, Moira. Gabriel almost dissolved into smoke while we were training."

 

"Smoke?" One slender brow lifts, interest sparkling in her disorientingly mismatched eyes. "How intriguing... I expected something more analogous to fog. I must have succeeded, though not quite in the way I expected."

 

"Succeeded at what ?" Jack growls. "What the hell did you do??"

 

"Only what he asked of me," Moira dismisses blandly, standing and brushing past him to the desk against the wall, where she places the stress ball beside a mug of pens and shuffles quickly through a stack of paper to pull out one specifically. "Despite my supposed moral failings, I have never performed any procedures on unwilling subjects, and I likely never will. Unless your bleeding heart mourns the loss of animals to scientific whimsy." She offers the paper. "Read it yourself: a transcript of the recording of my procedure. Gabriel requested it be kept secret, as you can see, but since you know now, I see no reason to maintain confidentiality. After all, I'm not that kind of doctor." There's something eerily smooth about her tone and expression as she says that, and Jack barely manages to suppress a shudder of disdain.

 

The paper doesn't contain much information that Jack can understand, but from what he can glean, she tweaked Gabriel's already medically enhanced cells to grow, die, and regenerate at an incredible speed. The transcript only documents the most recent examination and testing, but Jack doesn't want to know how many others there have been. He shoves the paper back at her.

 

"You've been performing unauthorised experiments behind my back?"

 

"Technically, you have no say in the matter," Moira hums, almost smug, as she takes the paper and slides it back into place in the stack. "Blackwatch may be a part of Overwatch, and you may lead Overwatch, but Gabriel is responsible for Blackwatch activity, and who am I to question the orders of my superior?"

 

"He was writhing in pain, Moira!" Jack snaps, letting his fury boil over so she knows how serious he is. "He couldn't move, couldn't speak- He had trouble even breathing for a full twenty minutes!"

 

"Interesting..." she hums thoughtfully, tapping one long fingernail delicately against her jaw. She doesn't appear at all fazed by Jack's ire. "It seems his body has not quite fully adapted to the transitional stage of molecular decay and regeneration; he is yet unable to control the rate at which the cycle occurs, producing what may be some sort of feedback loop until hormonal production levels out the cycle. Fascinating! I must get him back on my table."

 

"Back on- No!" Jack snarls, stepping into her space. "You are done with your experiments! Stick to animals, or pack your things; do you understand me?"

 

"I understand perfectly," Moira frowns, touching her fingers to his chest and lightly pushing back to create room between them. "Do you , Commander Morrison?"

 

"What are you talking about?" he growls, bristling under the perceived threat.

 

"Right now, I am the only thing standing between Gabriel and total cellular annihilation; without constant treatments until his body adapts to the changes I've implemented, he will experience many more episodes as today, which will steadily increase in frequency until at last he remains in a constant state of torture as his cells decay and regenerate endlessly, beyond his ability to control or even regulate." She pauses, drawing her hand away in a way that amplifies the dramatic effect. "To put it simply, if I do not continue my experiments, he will die a very, very slow and agonising death."

 

"You bitch-"

 

"Relax, Commander," she cuts in smoothly, turning away to retrieve her projector from the floor. "I know very well what I'm doing; I've done it before, successfully. It's only a matter of adjusting to a slightly larger subject, and notably different hormones. His existing enhancements do change the timeline in unexpected ways, but hardly such to be concerning. In short, he is in completely capable hands." She pauses and tips a cocky smirk over her shoulder. "Trust me."

 

"I don't trust you as far as I can throw you," Jack growls. "I don't have a damn clue what Gabe was thinking when he hired you, but I know one thing for certain: if he dies, so do you."

 

Leaving her to mull over that threat, he exits the cubicle, still fuming, but now in equal parts at both the scientist and the strike commander. Angela hasn't returned to the medical bay yet, which means she's still treating Gabriel in Jack's room, which was closer to the training room than Gabriel's; Jack heads there.

 

The door opens as he approaches, and Angela sighs tiredly as she steps out, closing the door softly behind her.

 

"How is he?" Jack asks carefully.

 

"Oh, hello Jack," she smiles softly, blinking and scrubbing at an eye. "He's fine. Sleeping now. I gave him a small dose of morphine and a cocktail of sedatives that should keep him down for the night. Do me a favour and keep an eye on him tonight, just in case. If he wakes up, or has nightmares and seems unable to wake, have Athena send for me."

 

"You should probably get some sleep yourself," Jack notes with a small smile.

 

"I will certainly try," Angela laughs lightly. "Everyone was intent on visiting me today; I don't think I've slept in... twenty hours, give or take? More like forty if you don't include the two hour nap I caught yesterday evening."

 

"Angela," Jack says, gripping her shoulder. "I say this with the utmost respect... Go the fuck to sleep."

 

"Will do, Commander," Angela giggles with a little salute, swaying slightly when he lets go. "Keep an eye on him and don't let him go anywhere in the morning until I can check in on him."

 

"Yes, yes, doc, now go. Don't make me send Amari after you."

 

"Oh the horror," Angela laughs, waving. "Good night, Jack."

 

"Good night, Angela."

 

Once she's gone, Jack slips quietly into his room and, leaving the lights off, feels his way to the bed while his eyes adjust to the low light of his bedside clock. By the time he strips down to boxers, he can see well enough to make out the lump under his blankets and the mess of dark hair against his pillow. He carefully wiggles his way under the blankets and presses up to Gabriel's back with a soft kiss to the back of his neck.

 

"Please get better," he whispers vainly in the darkness. "I can't do this without your support..." He has no idea what he means by 'better,' but as long as he doesn't have another scare like today, he can't bring himself to care.

 

~

 

Gabriel is still sleeping soundly when Jack wakes, burrowed under the covers and his face mashed into the pillow with one arm draped over Jack's waist and one leg curled around Jack's calves.

 

"For someone so intimidating, you sure do look like a dork in your sleep," Jack hums in a sleep rough voice, smiling as he reaches up to run his fingers through messy locks that could stand to be washed. Then he grimaces, nose wrinkling, and leans back, speaking through his teeth. "Ugh, and I have the worst morning breath apparently..."

 

Carefully untangling himself from Gabriel and the sheets, Jack stands and stretches, yawning widely. The bathroom light is annoyingly bright, and he scowls at it for a moment before washing his face and brushing his teeth.

 

Gabriel appears in the doorway while he's rinsing out the suds.

 

"Morning," Jack greets, wiping excess water from his chin and checking the stubble on his jaw.

 

"Mm."

 

"Sleep well?"

 

"Didn't wake up in the middle of the night. Didn't dream either."

 

"Are you... still in pain?" Jack asks as casually as he can, well aware that his hesitation is telling. He doesn't look at Gabriel while he plugs in his razor and finds his shaving cream.

 

"...It comes and goes," Gabriel answers lowly. He doesn't say anything else, and after a moment of tense silence, Jack breaks, facing him.

 

"Why didn't you tell me?" he demands. "And why the fuck did you let her do that shit to you in the first place?"

 

"This, right here, is exactly why I didn't tell you," Gabriel replies shortly, scowling. "For someone so damn smart, you can be fucking narrow-minded sometimes."

 

"Narrow-minded?" Jack echoes incredulously, shaving forgotten. "How is it 'narrow-minded' to think that you're going to get yourself killed letting that... disgrace of a scientist experiment on you?"

 

"Maybe because I'm not?" Gabriel retorts sharply. "She saved my life, more than once, so when she offered a way to make it harder for me to die, I took it. Unlike you, I risk my life every time I walk out those doors, and if I have an opportunity to increase the odds that I come back in one piece, I'll fucking take it."

 

"Unlike me?"

 

"Don't you start this shit, Jack."

 

"Unlike me?" Jack barrels on, furious now. "Do you have any idea what I have to deal with, just to give you the freedom to do what you do? I accepted this position because I knew a desk job would kill you. I knew you'd suffocate under the political bullshit I have to wade through every day just to make sure you can go out there and do what this organisation is meant to do. You don't have any fucking right to minimise my job, not when we both know-"

 

"I'm not minimising your job, goddamnit!"

 

"When we both know!" Jack persists, "that it should have been yours in the first place!"

 

"You think I'm not grateful that I'm not stuck in an office all fucking day?" Gabriel snaps. "I'm trying to do my goddamn job the best way possible, and if selling my soul to a harpy devil is the best way, then by fuck all, I'll sign the fucking contract!"

 

Jack catches himself before he says something he can't take back, before the argument escalates to fists. Gritting his teeth, he turns away and leans on the sink, forcing himself to come down off the hot rage.

 

"One of these days," he says quietly, "you're going to do something you can't undo, and I'm not going to be able to fix it for you."

 

"I don't need you to fix it," Gabriel says firmly. "I just need you to believe in me."

 

Jack closes his eyes and sighs heavily. "I hope to God you know what you're doing."

 

"You and me both, Jack."

Chapter Text

"This mission is going to have us on lockdown for up to a month," Gabriel states, watching Jack closely.

 

"I'm aware," Jack says calmly, not bothering to look up from the papers strewn about the table in his room. "I was there when you made the plans."

 

"That's four weeks," Gabriel clarifies, sitting a bit more forward on the edge of the bed.

 

"You can break it down to the second and it still doesn't make your point," Jack notes blandly, swapping papers and comparing.

 

"Are you going to be able to handle it?" Gabriel asks bluntly. Jack hesitates, but tries not to show how unsettling the reminder is.

 

"I've dealt with far worse than a couple of nosy politicians-"

 

"That's not what I meant and you know it," Gabriel growls, standing. "Look at me, Jack." He snatches a paper to get the blond's attention, holding it out of reach.

 

"Give it back, Gabriel; I'm trying to finish my work for the day while there's still day left to finish it."

 

"I asked you a question."

 

Jack takes a deep breath, calming himself, and sits back, arms crossed. "I had no trouble taking care of myself before you; I'll have no trouble taking care of myself while you're gone."

 

"Before me," Gabriel echoes sardonically, "you didn't have a million people watching your every move, so a back alley fuck took care of any stress you might have built up over the week."

 

"I'm not helpless," Jack says sharply, gaze narrowed. Gabriel sneers back.

 

"I never said you were. You don't have to be helpless to get overwhelmed."

 

"I can take care of myself, Gabriel," Jack insists, annoyed at how easily the man is reading him, picking up on his own concerns.

 

"Uh huh. How well was that working out for you when I stepped in because that extranjero necio couldn't get it up?"

 

Jack has to bite his tongue before he says something stupid and plays right into Gabriel's hands. He grits his teeth and meets the man's gaze defiantly. Unfortunately, it doesn't deter him; Gabriel smirks and snags his chin before he can dodge out of reach.

 

"You're thinking about it, aren't you, brillo solar ?" he purrs, dropping his knee to the chair between Jack's legs ― when the hell did he open them? ― and setting the paper facedown with the rest. "How easily you melted for me?"

 

"I still have work to do," Jack says, much softer than he intended. He can't tear his gaze from Gabriel's, and the older man laughs.

 

"Damn right you do. So get to it." Releasing Jack's chin, he straightens and thumbs at his belt to make his meaning clear.

 

Like Jack wasn't already salivating for it.

 

He hesitates a moment longer, one last attempt at remaining resolute, and then slowly reaches up to undo the buckle. Then he stops as a thought occurs to him, and he looks up, conflicted.

 

"Words, mi brillo ," Gabriel clucks. "Use your words."

 

"...I'm not weak."

 

" Mi brillo , you are anything but weak," he agrees, threading his fingers into the hair at the back of Jack's neck. "In fact, you're too strong, and you keep fighting to stay strong when you can and need to just let someone else take care of you. Now turn off your brain and obey. Light green?"

 

"Yes," Jack confirms; it's only the first stage, but it's always the hardest, and he forces himself to stop all background thoughts to focus entirely on Gabriel so the transition to deeper levels will be easier and more rewarding, even slipping to his knees on the floor to make things simpler. It's already working; a shiver of delight trills across his skin at Gabriel's hum of approval when he removes the belt and uses his teeth on the zipper of the man's pants.

 

"Good. I have a proposition for you, hermoso , something to think about for later. Take it slow this time and next time, if you're interested, I want to explore cockwarming with you." Jack falters, glancing up from his task, hands stopping, and Gabriel tugs lightly at his hair. "Don't stop, mi brillo ; think about it later."

 

Except that it's the first time either of them has said anything about the future. Up till now, it was always an on-the-spot decision for Gabriel to drown Jack in a much needed state of submission to cleanse away all the stress and headache; neither of them has ever tried to plan for it, not until this moment.

 

Part of Jack fears the commitment this suggestion precedes, and another part recognises that the reason Gabriel suggested it now instead of after is so that the stress it causes will be greatly reduced by the time he has the brainpower to actually consider it.

 

"Stop thinking, Jack," Gabriel chides sharply, tugging more firmly at his hair. "Now is not the time."

 

Right. Later. He'll have a whole month to think about it.

 

Taking a breath, he pushes out all other thought besides the next step. The soft sigh of pleasure that falls from Gabriel's lips helps, and he throws himself into it purposefully, putting forth his best effort to get more of that approval.

 

It's all so familiar by now, the taste of salt and bittersweet, the suppressed shivers when he tongues just the right spots, the way Gabriel almost but not quite loses control the closer he gets. Jack realises rather abruptly when Gabriel pulls him off for a moment to cool down that half the reason it's so easy to be like this with the older man is because of how familiar he is; because of how simple it is to fall into a rhythm and let the rest of the world fade away.

 

A warm, overbright burst of... something in his chest follows the realisation, and the vague nostalgic familiarity of the feeling scares Jack. He immediately shoves it out of the way and tries to clear his mind again, letting Gabriel sink him deeper with coaxing demands and soothing words. There's something different about the depth this time, though; something easier about the mindlessness that he can't quite put his finger on.

 

No surprise, really, but it does sit at the back of his mind, waiting to have a chance to be fully investigated.

 

Gabriel is saying a lot of things, but Jack doesn't really register any of it until he hears the words "How deep are you, mi brillo ?"

 

"Blue." That's all he really knows right now; the empty blue.

 

The peace.

 

"Light? Or dark?"

 

He shakes his head, unwilling to leave the blue long enough to figure it out now that he's here.

 

"Look at me, hermoso ." He looks up, buzzing under the gentle touch against his jaw. Warm brown seeps into the blue, calming, comforting, and he leans into it, into the touch, the warmth...

 

It feels like safety.

 

"You're so good, Jack... so obedient. Don't let anyone else ever see this side of you, comprendeme ?"

 

"Yes," he answers softly, eager to please.

 

"How do you feel, mi brillo ?"

 

"Soft. Blue; very blue... and brown."

 

"Brown?" Concern colours the voice and hands caress his face. "What do you mean? Are you okay? Did I push you too quickly?" The concern chips at the edges of his blue, sharpening it a bit, and he blinks at Gabriel, still basking in the warmth.

 

"No. Brown feels safe. Your eyes..." He reaches up and lightly touches Gabriel's cheek as the man relaxes.

 

"Don't scare me like that, mi brillo ," Gabriel sighs, settling down in front of him. "Why did you add a new colour?"

 

"Didn't," Jack shrugs, shifting closer but then hesitating because he wasn't given permission to move yet. "I felt it."

 

"Come here," Gabriel says, apparently reading Jack's desire in his body language and holding out his arms in invitation. Jack shuffles over and leans into him, settling between his legs.

 

The subtle ache between his own legs twinges uncomfortably and he shifts, turning so his back is pressed to Gabriel's chest and resting his head on Gabriel's shoulder.

 

"Are you okay?" the older man asks, wrapping his arms around Jack's waist and nuzzling his cheek.

 

"Hurts. A little," Jack replies hesitantly.

 

"Do you need release?"

 

"Release?"

 

Gabriel slides a hand down to palm the bulge in Jack's pants, making him jolt and hiss.

 

"Do you need release, mi brillo ? Yes or no?"

 

The blue is so sharp, but the brown is still bright, vivid, warm. Jack isn't sure what he needs, but he knows he can trust Gabriel's judgment.

 

"I don't know," he admits.

 

"I'm going to touch you," Gabriel warns, hands already working at Jack's belt. "If it starts hurting, say so."

 

"Yes."

 

The touch is soft, but intense; Jack hisses again, recoiling away from the hot ache flaring between his hips, only to chase it when Gabriel slows. Grip firming, Gabriel strokes him languidly, and the mild pain soothes into heady pleasure quickly. Too soon, the blue and brown vanish behind a surge of white for a moment, slowly fading back in alongside Jack's awareness.

 

"Still blue?" Gabriel asks when Jack stirs. 

 

"Light blue," Jack answers numbly, his brain waking up bit by bit.

 

"You went deep," Gabriel notes. "Are you coming back?"

 

"Slowly," Jack agrees, still boneless but vaguely realising they're in the middle of the room and therefore Gabriel has nothing to lean on. "Bed?"

 

"I thought you had work to finish," Gabriel snickers.

 

It takes Jack a solid five seconds to realise what he's talking about, but he gets there, and he tips his head to frown at the man.

 

"I meant so you have something to lean against."

 

Gabriel looks slightly surprised and then smiles. "I'm fine, mi brillo. Just relax and come back up at your own pace."

 

Jack hums and lets himself obey, lets his mind meandre wherever it will while Gabriel holds him.

 

"Do you... want more from this?" Jack asks eventually into the quiet, still deep enough to be honest and straightforward, but conscious enough to want answers. "Like... a relationship?"

 

"...I want you to be taken care of," Gabriel says quietly, a hint of smoke wisping off his arms. "Whatever you're comfortable with that being."

 

"I don't know," Jack admits, stroking a hand across Gabriel's arm in a vain attempt to smooth the smoke back into his skin. "I thought I knew what I wanted when I started dating Vincent, but... it didn't work. I want more... but I don't want to make the same mistake twice."

 

"You have a month to think about it," Gabriel points out. "Whatever you decide, we'll go from there."

Chapter Text

Ana doesn't seem to notice Jack sitting in the corner of the dimly lit kitchen when she enters, exhausted and worn; she looks far, far older than her forty-some years, and for a moment, Jack actually fears for her health. A concern compounded when she dumps an unholy amount of sugar into the strongest cup of coffee he's ever seen anyone make on this base. Only after she's taken a sip and breathed a soft sigh, turning to lean against the counter, does she notice him.

 

"Oh, hello, Jack," she smiles, brightening. "You're up late."

 

"So are you," he notes, hoping she won't pry. She doesn't.

 

"Fareeha left," she sighs instead, stepping across the kitchen to join him on the floor. "She was so excited to show me her latest commendation... It broke my heart to tell her Overwatch is falling apart at the seams."

 

"You've seen it too?"

 

"We all have," she scoffs, taking another sip. "Sojourn said she might quit before they start firing."

 

"Even if they do start firing people instead of just shutting us down entirely, would they really start with the captains?" Jack asks sceptically. Ana cocks a sidelong brow at him.

 

"Maybe things were different in the American Military," she states blandly, "but in organisations like this, the people in charge fire anyone who doesn't simper and fawn for them."

 

"You're probably right," Jack snorts. Taking a breath, he lets it out slowly, leaning back against the wall and staring up at the ceiling. "...Do you think Blackwatch is to blame for all this chaos? Or was Overwatch doomed to fail from the beginning?"

 

"Depends on who you ask," Ana answers easily, drawing her knee up and balancing the mug on top. "Winston could never find fault with Overwatch or Blackwatch; this is his home. Gabrielle fully believes we've done everything we were meant to do, and more. Petras, however... From what I hear, he's been rather vocal about disbanding Blackwatch, and possibly Overwatch?"

 

"That sounds about right," Jack sighs, tipping his head down to scrub at his face."He told me directly to disavow them for the Venice incident; it took me several straight hours and every bit of diplomacy I could muster to get them one last chance. If this mission goes awry, though..."

 

"Kiss Gabriel goodbye," Ana huffs, raising her coffee in salute. Jack tries hard not to blush at her flippant comment; she can't possibly know, so he's not about to give it away. She takes another sip, and hums half way through, having a sudden thought. "Speaking of... How is it going between you two?"

 

"Sorry?" He puts his best effort into giving her a perplexed look, but it fails when she cocks a brow at him again. He still feigns a casualness he doesn't feel as he looks away. "We haven't killed each other, so there's that."

 

"Please, Jack," she scoffs, resting her arm on her knee and smirking at him. "I saw the look you gave him when you sent them off yesterday; I had that same look on my face for months after I married Sam."

 

"I regret ever telling any of you about Vincent," he says bluntly, all too aware of the heat creeping up his neck into his face. Ana laughs.

 

" Fata , I don't need to know about Vincent to understand that look. He stirs your soul; there's no shame in admitting that."

 

"I felt like this with Vincent and look how that turned out," Jack mutters.

 

"This is different, Jack," Ana chides. "You know it is. Vincent was a civilian; he didn't understand the life of a soldier, couldn't cope with the long absences and constant danger... Not like Gabriel. You know better than I that Gabriel fully comprehends your situation and how to compensate in a relationship."

 

"We're not- How did we go from the state of Overwatch to giving advice on a relationship I'm not even in?"

 

"A relationship you're not in yet ," Ana corrects cheerfully. "If you're not balking on the next step already, I guarantee Gabriel offers a date when he returns."

 

"How did- No, no; I'm not asking," Jack grumps, crossing his arms. "I know better than to ask how you know shit."

 

"Age and experience, fata ," she teases, reaching over to boop his nose and laughing when he swats her away. "If it makes you feel better, I don't think anyone else has noticed. Yet, anyway. But why are you balking? Since we're on the topic." She takes another sip, watching him over the rim of her mug. He gives in with a sigh, knowing she won't stop pestering him until she has answers.

 

"Like I said, I made a mistake the first time," he answers gruffly. "I don't want a repeat."

 

"Well, as I said, your situations are fundamentally different-"

 

"Not just that," Jack says, shaking his head and picking at a loose thread in the seam of his pants. "It's... With Vincent, things were... equal, I guess. Lots of give and take both ways. But my needs changed, and his didn't. I've changed more since, and I don't- Gabe takes more than he gives, but it's not- it's not bad. It's... hard to explain, actually... He takes what he wants, but he also takes everything that weighs me down. The only thing he really gives me is... a sense of peace. A clarity of sorts. I think easier after being with him."

 

"So, what are you afraid of?" Ana coaxes, eying the last bit of coffee in her mug and swirling it around the bottom.

 

"I- I don't know," he admits, frowning. "Needing more? I don't want it to be so unbalanced that he-" Jack can't finish that statement, but Ana doesn't prompt him again, humming thoughtfully as she continues absently swirling her coffee and stares into the middle distance.

 

"When I first realised I loved Sam," she says abruptly, gaze dropping to her coffee, "he was engaged to a mutual friend. She was perfect for him, and I didn't want to get in between them, but on the way to the wedding, Sam and I were snowed in at a motel in the middle of nowhere. I let slip that I had feelings for him, and he said that he'd loved me since we were children. When I asked him why he was getting married, he told me that no man can force a woman to love him, and that if he couldn't marry me, he'd marry someone who loved him so that at least one person would be happy." Her wistful smile turns playful, nose wrinkling. "We eloped the next afternoon, and he called ahead to explain everything to his ex-fiancee and her family. She wished us well, surprisingly, but flirted with him at every opportunity, hoping to win him back."

 

"I take it she didn't succeed," Jack notes, gesturing at the gold band around Ana's finger.

 

"She did, in a way," Ana says, surprising him. "Whenever we argued, he'd find his way into her bed. I pretended not to realise; the guilt always brought him back to me, and eventually gave me Fareeha."

 

"Damn... I knew you could be clinical, but I didn't realise just how deep it went."

 

"It was... complicated with Sam," she says, lips tugged to one side. "I loved him. I still do, but... like you, my duty comes first."

 

"Except Fareeha?" Jack asks knowingly. Ana laughs.

 

"Except Fareeha. She means more to me than life itself." Downing the last dreg of her coffee, she stands. "I never had a chance to do things over, but you do. Don't hold back just because you're afraid of what might happen. What is it you Americans say? 'Carpe diem,' no? If you do nothing, then nothing will happen, bad or good. But it's not really living until you're risking something."

 

"You sound like you've been spending too much time with Reinhardt," Jack calls after her as she goes to the sink and rinses out her mug.

 

"I know what you're implying, but you're wrong," she chuckles over her shoulder, waving on her way out the door. "Don't forget to sleep tonight, Commander."

 

"Sleep," he grunts into the silence of her absence. "Like I'll be able to sleep at all until they're back..."

 

He considers that, the fact that he's already on edge not a day after Gabriel left, but not because of nosy politicians or even other Overwatch missions, like the riots cropping up around England, or the need for security at Gabrielle's new project-city in Africa. There's a million things on his plate right now, and the only one he can focus on is the only one he can't do shit about.

 

If Gabriel were here, he'd probably give Jack that look ― the one that makes most men cower but only turns Jack on ― and tell him to stop thinking about what he can't change.

 

Well, maybe he can't change it right now, but he can certainly change it in the future. Ana was right; he can't let himself be held back by fear of what might happen, especially since Gabriel is not Vincent, not in the slightest. At the very least, he's far more blunt with his opinions, so Jack always knows where he stands on an issue; if Jack were to admit that he's developing feelings for the man, he knows damn well he'll get an immediate answer.

 

Satisfied that he's reached a reasonable conclusion for now, Jack stands and stretches, idly deciding whether or not to visit the medical bay for something to help him sleep tonight. He may end up needing it for much of the month, until Gabriel can help alleviate the stress again.

 

Yep, that settles it; Jack is already reliant on Gabriel, so they might as well make it official. And as long as Petras never finds out, they should be fine.

 

Frankly, he doesn't even want to consider the alternative.

Chapter Text

"That. Was. AMAZING!!" Tracer hoots, blinking wildly around the hangar as she and her team disembark from the ORCA. Jack smiles and stands to greet them, getting an armful of tiny giggling British brunette before he can say a word. "We did so good!"

 

"So I hear," he chuckles as she blinks away, giddy as a child on a playground. "Welcome back, Captain, Lieutenant."

 

"Good to be back," Sojourn nods politely. "Angela ready to see Singh?"

 

"She and Ana are a little busy with a couple of third degree burns that came in from Numbani," Jack explains, gesturing vaguely in the direction of the medical bay. "If you take him in, I'm sure they'll get to him as soon as they can. I already sent word to his sister; she'll be here in a couple of hours. Oh but uh... Lindholm came back with that group from Numbani, so watch your step."

 

"That cranky little dwarf is still kicking?" Sojourn scoffs, nose wrinkling. "Guy's gonna get himself killed soon, mark my words."

 

"Torbjorn won't go down in anything less than a hail of fiery glory," Reinhardt laughs, smacking her back and almost knocking her over. Fortunately for both herself and Singh, she stays on her feet and keeps a hold on the groggy, dazed young man.

 

"Yeah, well, he almost did," Sojourn humphs. "Now, unless you're going to help me get Singh to the med bay, scoot your big ass out of the way." Reinhardt shifts back, hands raised and a wide grin on his face as she steps past him and heads out of the hangar.

 

"Reinhardt, do you have a minute?" Jack asks, gesturing out of the hangar entrance toward the tarmac.

 

"Of course!" the older man says cheerfully, following him out.

 

It's a fairly nice day out ― very few clouds, bright sun warming the earth and cooled by gentle breezes off the mountains. So incongruous with the news Jack's about to share...

 

"Petras doesn't want to wait any longer," he says finally, stopping and facing Reinhardt. "He's pressuring me to disavow Reyes and all the rest of the Blackwatch members. I've been trying to hold him off at least until they return, but... I want your opinion before I do anything."

 

"You say that like you have any choice," Reinhardt notes. " Do you?"

 

"Probably not," Jack sighs. "But I can't just... throw them away. Especially not while they're gone; I can't just... 'Hey, welcome back, now pack up your stuff and beat it.' Jesse doesn't even have anywhere else to go; he's a wanted criminal in the States and he's got no ties anywhere else in the world. Even if he could find some place somewhere, a couple million dollar bounty is bound to make people pay attention. And Genji... This is the only place where Genji isn't a threat to himself and everyone around him. Take that away, and how long is it gonna take for the Shimada Clan to figure out he's still alive and make sure he stays dead this time? Maybe I could reassign Fio to work with Lena now and then or something; I dunno. Moira, I couldn't care less about, but Reyes has saved my life more times than I can count; I owe him more than I can ever repay, and like hell I'm going to be the one to betray him."

 

"It sounds to me like you've made up your mind," Reinhardt points out with a smile. Reaching out, he thumps Jack's shoulder with enough force to make him wince. "You're a good man, Jack; follow your heart and don't worry about what the brass says. Petras can shove it."

 

Jack laughs lightly and nods when Reinhardt chirps something about a nice hot shower and disappears back into the hangar. He stands there for a while longer, watching the clouds and listening to the birdsongs almost drowned out by city life.

 

He really doesn't want to disband Blackwatch, but with the public eye now criticising everything even Overwatch is doing, it won't be long before real action is taken against someone, and as vocal as Jack has had to be lately, it'll most likely be him.

 

It doesn't help matters that every time he leaves the base, people sneer and boo at him, calling him a hypocrite and even a war criminal; the first time he saw that particular epitaph on a picket, he'd gone numb for the rest of the day. He was lucky Gabriel was around to help him get out of that funk, but every day it gets worse, and eventually something's going to have to give.

 

Jack desperately hopes it won't be himself.

 

~

 

Mina jumps with a sharp gasp when Jack raps lightly on the door of her laboratory ― unlike Moira, Mina Liao was given a fully stocked and functional laboratory in her own wing of the base. But then, she's also a founder of Overwatch, so she has perks.

 

"John! Don't sneak up on me like that!" she exclaims, hand pressed to her chest.

 

"It's hardly sneaking up if I alert you to my presence," Jack laughs. "Or, I guess, attempt to alert. And I'm really never going to convince you to call me 'Jack,' am I?"

 

"No sooner than I'm going to convince you that I have blinders the size of Australia," Mina chuckles, gesturing for him to enter even as she tries to hide the schematics of whatever she was looking at. Jack pretends not to notice, just like he's pretended not to realise what she's been working on for years and has recently been putting the finishing touches to.

 

"I have a question for you," he says instead.

 

"Obviously," Mina smiles slyly. "Why else would you seek me out in such troubled times? I know you have better things to do than chatting with a fussy old scientist lost in her work."

 

"You're hardly fussy or old," Jack snorts, rolling his eyes. "But I'll pass on commenting about the 'lost in your work' bit."

 

"A wise decision," Mina laughs. "What can I do for you, Commander?"

 

"...It's about your project," he says hesitantly after a moment, moving away from the door and closer to the stasis pod that Mina supposedly never uses but has on hand for emergencies. "I know you're creating some kind of new AI, like Athena."

 

"I- I'm not sure what..." Mina begins, caught out and searching for a plausible lie.

 

"Please; I've known for a while. It's your business why you're making it and what you plan for it, but... if it's at all possible... could it be sent out on missions?"

 

"I... don't understand," Mina frowns, perplexed.

 

"You know that Blackwatch is public knowledge now, and Overwatch as a whole is under close scrutiny now..."

 

"Indeed... It's unfortunate, but perhaps for the better? Blackwatch was allowed to run unchecked for too long; as strong a leader as you are, it was inevitable that something would happen."

 

"I suppose... But to have the entirety of Overwatch suffer because of what a few did?" Jack shakes his head. "Blackwatch and Overwatch may have stemmed from the same brain child, but they're two vastly different organisations, and I need to remind people that one bad decision doesn't spoil the whole bushel."

 

"Which is where Echo comes in?" Mina asks, still frowning.

 

"If that's what you call your project, yes," Jack nods. "The people need to be reminded that Overwatch was created to be their champion, to protect them and grow alongside them."

 

"But Echo is a machine," Mina protests. "She'll be treated like any other omnic."

 

"She's AI, and exactly what Overwatch needs," Jack persists. "If we can show the people that Overwatch is taking back technology that was twisted and distorted, and using it for good, maybe we can convince them that we're still fighting for them, even if we make a few mistakes along the way."

 

"...You have a very optimistic point of view, Commander," Mina notes after a small pause. "How do you know this will work?"

 

"I don't. But I know you've been desperate for a reason to present your creation to the world, and now I'm desperate for a solution to falling public opinion. If this succeeds, we both get what we want."

 

"And Blackwatch?"

 

"I'll deal with Blackwatch. All I need to know is how soon you can have your... Echo, ready for deployment."

 

"She's already complete," Mina smiles, stepping around Jack and opening the stasis pod. Inside, a delicate, slender robot with detached limbs and wing attachments stands deactivated.

 

Mina slips a small chip from her pocket and places it to a matching slot against the white chassis, where it seals itself in place. The round eye thing in the faceplate lights up, and suddenly the whole of the faceplate fills with some sort of screen moulded to look like a face. Like Mina's face.

 

"Oh. Hello," the AI smiles. "My name is Echo. How can I help you?"

 

"It's alright, Echo," Mina assures. "He knows. Meet Strike Commander John Morrison, head of Overwatch."

 

"Jack is fine," he says, hesitantly holding out his hand; do AIs shake?

 

"Oh, well it's my pleasure!" Echo chirps, taking his hand with a smooth, slender hand that's much softer and warmer than he expected. She seems more excited than a moment ago, and he takes a second to marvel at how real she is. "Nice to meet you, Commander Jack."

 

"Just Jack, and likewise." He glances at Mina, who's watching them closely and taking notes. Clearing his throat and ignoring her, he pulls himself up and turns up the official voice. "Echo,  I would like to formally request that you join Overwatch's next assignment, a relief mission to the Czech Republic that leaves tomorrow morning. You'll be assigned as a support omnic to assist Captain Ana Amari for the duration of the mission." He casts another quick glance at Mina, who vigorously nods her approval. "Would you be interested?"

 

"Interested??" Echo shakes with suppressed excitement. "Is this real? Am I dreaming? Will I really be allowed to join a mission?"

 

"Of course," Jack assures. "You will have to maintain the guise of an omnic, but I believe we can explain away any quirks as you being an advanced prototype model that we're testing."

 

"I can't wait to get started!" she buzzes cheerfully.

 

"Good," Jack nods, unable to stop a smile as he turns to Mina. "I'll have to bring Ana up to speed..."

 

"Of course, of course," Mina waves him off. "I trust Ana. This is an excellent opportunity to test a more public response to Echo's AI. If this goes well, I may even prepare to reveal her to the world at large." She chuckles lightly. "One step at a time, though. I'll have her ready to go first thing in the morning."

 

"Excellent. Thank you, Mina."

 

"Thank you ," she smiles brightly. "I owe you, for giving me a chance during the Crisis. Best of luck with Blackwatch, Commander."

 

"I'll need every bit of it I can get," Jack mutters to himself on the way out to find Ana.

Chapter Text

"It's hardly been two weeks-" Jack breaks off, holding the phone away from his ear as Petras begins loudly protesting on the other end of the line. Gritting his teeth, he listens quietly for a break in the rant big enough for him to interject. "I understand your concerns, Director, but Blackwatch is on an important mission, and I can't possibly disavow them while they're gone."

 

He waits out the next rant entirely, letting Petras snap and snarl at him until there's nothing left to say. "I am well aware. But you and the founders put me in charge for a reason, and now I'm telling you, I will not disavow the members of Blackwatch nor will I disband the organisation until they have returned, and depending on the quality of the information they bring back with them, maybe not even then."

 

Now the threats, of course... It's amazing how habitual people can get.

 

"You can certainly try, Director, but to remove me permanently, you need the approval of all of the founders, and last I checked, they rather like me. I am trying to do what's best for Overwatch and for the world, and your constant threats and pressure to do things your way, are not helping in the slightest. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an organisation to run."

 

He's going to be in so much trouble for hanging up on Petras, but right now, he's too pissed to care.

 

"Athena, block all calls from Petras to me for the rest of the day, would you?"

 

"Understood, Commander. Would you like a reminder tonight that you've blocked transmissions?"

 

"As much as I want to say no, please do," Jack sighs, sitting back in his chair and scrubbing his hands over his face. "Any word from the Blackwatch team yet?"

 

"Nothing beyond the daily check-in. There was an addendum from Commander Reyes for you."

 

"Oh?"

 

"He requested that you be reminded to eat and sleep. A note has already been sent to the medical bay."

 

Jack laughs in spite of himself. Even in the midst of a dangerous mission, Gabriel remembers his penchant for forgetting to eat and letting himself get too busy or worked up to sleep.

 

Right on cue, Angela knocks on the door and pokes her head in.

 

"Lunchtime, Jack!" she informs him brightly. "Come eat with us." Shaking his head with a snort of amusement, he stands to join her.

 

"Who's cooking?" he asks, draping an arm over her shoulders as they head down the corridor out toward the dining hall. "I hope it's Reinhardt; he makes some of the best meatloaf I've ever tasted, and I grew up where meatloaf was a thing ."

 

"Then you're in luck," she laughs, slipping her arm around his waist. "None other than our very own Ingrid Lindholm has taken over the kitchen, and she's invited Reinhardt to assist her."

 

"Oh, we're in for a feast then," Jack grins. "What's the occasion?"

 

"Nominally the successful foundation of Numbani," Angela smirks, "but if you ask me, I think Ingrid is just happy to have Torbjorn home again."

 

"That's good enough for me." Jack lifts his arm over her head to open the door and hold it for her. "After you, Doc."

 

"And they say chivalry is dead," she giggles, patting his cheek lightly as she passes.

 

The air of the open kitchen and the dining room is warm and bright; laughter is the background noise to which Jack and Angela greet everyone and settle in, while mouthwatering scents bring promise from the cooking area, where Reinhardt's massive frame dances lightly around the much smaller, more willowy figure of Torbjorn's ever lovely firecracker of a wife.

 

Their youngest daughter, Brigitte, is running circles around the knees of the adults, laughing and chasing a massive white cat whose name Jack can't recall at the moment. Judging by the crooked bits of armour attached to the poor feline, the girl is already taking after her father.

 

Although no one else has members of their biological family present, the general emotion in the room is familial and welcoming, and for a moment, Jack basks in it.

 

This is what Overwatch is about. This is what he fights for, because there are people in the world who wouldn't have this if not for Overwatch. There are still people who don't have this, but if Jack has any say in the matter, they will eventually. This is the Overwatch he dreamed of, and fuck anyone who wants to stand in the way of that dream.

 

~

 

The meal is almost over when Reinhardt receives a phone call that pulls him away from the festivities. In itself, that wouldn't be something to worry about, but the fact that his expression goes from joyous to worried in so short a time makes Jack concerned. That concern grows when Reinhardt quietly pulls Angela aside and the two talk privately for a moment. Jack frowns when Angela places her hand on Reinhardt's wrist in the familiar way she has of expressing sympathy and secondhand sorrow.

 

As soon as Angela returns to the table ― a forced smile on her face that takes time to regain sincerity ― Jack politely excuses himself and goes to where Reinhardt is attempting to pull himself together.

 

"What happened?" Jack asks without preamble, keeping his back to the others and reaching for Reinhardt's arm but not quite touching to encourage the same.

 

"...I was going to tell you," Reinhardt says hesitantly, looking unusually fragile. "I've been asked to... retire."

 

"Retire?" Jack echoes, incredulous. "What, why? By whom?"

 

"The UN. I suspect Petras convinced them," Reinhardt humphs bitterly. The anger melts away just as quickly as it came, replaced with resignation. "They think I'm too old, and my health is a growing concern. Without explaining why, they requested my records from Angela, and used that as proof."

 

"Rein..."

 

"Perhaps it's for the better," Reinhardt cuts in, forcing a wavering smile. "I've heard rumours that the UN has launched an investigation into recent Overwatch activity because of the Venice incident; I don't want to be around when they bring the hammer down on Overwatch."

 

"Did you know this was coming?" Jack asks, still struggling to accept it all.

 

"I suspected after my last performance review," the German crusader admits ruefully.

 

"Have you told anyone? Torbjorn?"

 

"...Not yet," Reinhardt sighs. "Please, don't ruin today for them; they've just been reunited after nearly a year apart. There'll be plenty of time tomorrow."

 

"It's not my place to tell," Jack assures, gripping his arm in a show of solidarity. "Just... My advice? Sooner is better than later; don't wait too long or you'll miss your chance entirely."

 

"Of course," Reinhardt nods, appreciative.

 

"When this all blows over," Jack says brightly, trying to lighten the mood, "I'll make sure you get reinstated with full honours."

 

"Your optimism is refreshing," Reinhardt laughs, mood lifting.

 

"Like a breath of spring," Jack grins, thankful that he could at least help improve the current mood, even if he's helpless to solve the real issue.

 

But if this is Petras' retaliation for Jack's small rebellions, Overwatch really is doomed.

Chapter Text

"How'd it go?" Jack asks casually when Ana's team disembarks. Mina immediately begins fussing over Echo, who assures her that everything is alright in spite of the damage to her chassis.

 

"Could've been better," Ana sighs, frowning toward Echo.

 

"Was she- Did I make a mistake?" Jack asks, heart sinking. Ana catches his expression and hurries to assure him.

 

"Oh no, no, fata , it wasn't her at all; she was marvelous! You did a good thing sending her with us. In fact, she may well have saved our lives. The problem was Talon."

 

"Yes, I heard they attacked you," Jack says, waiting for the explanation he never got when he was first informed.

 

"We successfully fended them off," Ana explains, "but something... Something felt wrong. I don't know why, but my skin hasn't stopped prickling like someone's watching me. How is it you Americans say? I have a 'gut feeling' this attack was only one small piece of a larger operation, a distraction to draw our attention away from a bigger play."

 

"Like what?" Jack frowns. "There hasn't been much of any real Talon activity since... well, since the Venice incident. We've gotten some reports of a power struggle within the organisation, of course, which is to be expected as they try to fill the hole Antonio left, but until they regroup, I can't imagine they'd try anything bigger th-"

 

"Commander!" They both look over to see Winston pounding into the hangar, breathless and horrified. He stops when he sees that he has Jack's attention. "You need to see this."

 

If the look on the gorilla's face is anything to go by, it can't be good.

 

~

 

Jack stares at the report, too numb to feel anything. Winston is explaining how he only noticed because he spotted an inconsistency on the security footage and goes into something about how loops are made, but Jack hears it all through a fuzz of static.

 

Three dozen people from their Watchpoint in Gibraltar... gone. Kidnapped.

 

"Have you figured out how they got into the security system in the first place?" Ana asks, her voice cutting a bit through the buzz.

 

"No clue," Winston admits. "Whoever it was, they knew exactly what they were doing, but my assumption would be that they're still young and cocky; the skill they had to have to pull this off puts them up there with the greatest hackers in the world, but this mistake in the loop is a rookie mistake."

 

"How could this happen?" Jack asks quietly, looking at all the faces of the missing personnel. "How did no one notice that someone was hacking into our systems?"

 

"...Because our attention was diverted elsewhere," Ana says grimly. "I told you it felt wrong; Talon attacked us to draw Overwatch's attention while the real operation went unnoticed in Gibraltar."

 

"I- I'm already working on an upgrade for Athena to beef up security at the Gibraltar base," Winston offers quickly.

 

"That's fine, Winston," Ana dismisses. "Jack, we need to talk."

 

"Keep up the good work," Jack nods to Winston, following Ana from the room and into a corner of the corridor.

 

"I'm going to need a good team, and a distraction of my own," she states without preamble. "How soon can you put it all together?"

 

"Wh- You want to go after them?" Jack asks in disbelief. "Ana, we need time to prepare for this mission. We can't just run in there blindly."

 

"The sooner we go, the less time they have to prepare," Ana interjects sharply. "We've already lost too many people to Talon's claws, Jack; I will not lose more."

 

Jack hesitates, unwilling to put a friend in the line of fire without adequate preparation, but by the set of Ana's jaw, she's going and if he doesn't help her, she'll go alone and get herself killed. Gritting his teeth, he gives in.

 

"Give me twenty-four hours to gather a team and find out where they took our people. This time tomorrow, you'll be on your way. But you have to promise me that comms stay open; no one goes dark for any reason." She nods agreement.

 

"I won't let you down, Jack. And I won't let Talon take anyone else from us."

 

~

 

"Sniper!" Jack goes cold when he hears the callout.

 

"Who's down?" he demands. There's a lot of shouting, but no answers and he almost punches the table. "Damnit, answer me!" Still nothing. "Winston, I need eyes in there; what do you have for me?"

 

"I've been trying to get one of our satellites over the area, but the UN won't approve the request-"

 

"I don't care; give me eyes, now!"

 

"I- Alright, then; Athena, I'm going to need your help."

 

"Singh!" Jack hears over the comms. "Singh, respond! Allaena... Commander, do you copy? We are losing people!"

 

"Ana! Finally! What the hell is going on down there?"

 

"I had to relocate. The rest of the team has the hostages and they're on the way to extraction, but someone has to find this sniper before he kills us all!"

 

Jack stiffens; he can see it in his mind's eye, her iron will to protect everyone as she sets up a perch and props her rifle somewhere. It's a race now to see which sniper finds the other first; Ana has the advantage because the enemy doesn't know about her yet, but God knows how many lives it'll cost to find the enemy first, and if Ana loses...

 

"Amari, get the hell out of there," he growls.

 

"All due respect, Commander," she replies coolly. "No."

 

"Captain Amari-!"

 

"They'll die, Jack!" she snaps. "There's no time to argue; I have to find that sniper and stop him before he kills them all. Get them out of here, Jack; get our people home."

 

"You're one of our people, Ana," he says firmly.

 

"I'm not leaving until- hah. Found you..." Ana goes silent, and Jack isn't sure whether she's lining up the shot or if she got shot herself. He holds his breath, needing to know if she's still alive, but unwilling to break her concentration. Then he hears the softest gasp. "Oh no... Amelie..."

 

A snap, a cry of pain.

 

"Ana!" No answer. "ANA!!"

 

"Commander, we have everyone safely aboard the extraction ship."

 

"No, you don't," Jack snaps. "Hold on liftoff. Ana, I need you to answer me, now."

 

"I've got satellite!" Winston says excitedly. "Bringing it up now."

 

"Find Amari," Jack orders.

 

"Sir, we're taking heavy fire; we can't hold much longer."

 

"Keep holding! Winston!"

 

"I'm trying, I'm trying! Her tracker is going haywire; the signal keeps bouncing between buildings. Athena, help me narrow this down to locations with long sightlines."

 

A tense moment of silence follows, and Jack stares at the screen flicking back and forth across the map as Athena checks each location against the parameters.

 

"Where are you, Ana?" Jack breathes, chest aching.

 

"No good," Winston growls, frustrated. "I can't get a lock and none of these positions match where she'd go."

 

"Commander, we need to leave, now!"

 

Jack hesitates a moment more, desperate for any solution to save his friend. But there are dozens of other lives in danger every second he hesitates, and he can't leave them at risk for the sake of only one.

 

"Fuck- Get out of there, pilot; go!"

 

"But, Commander..." Winston starts. Jack rips the comm from his ear and flings it across the room with a roar. The techs assisting in mission control stay still and quiet, hoping to avoid his wrath, but he doesn't spare any of them a second glance on his way out the door.

 

"Get them home, Winston," he orders over his shoulder, slamming the door behind him.

 

His rage carries him out of the base and into a small garden that's supposed to be a scenic area for visitors. Fortunately no one is there, and he unleashes his fury on one of the stone benches lining the walkway, flipping it off its base and kicking over one of the pedestals. Then he rips up a portion of a flower bush and throws it across the walk, almost landing it in the fountain.

 

Then the rage is simply gone , and he's left numb and raw. Collapsing to his knees, he tips his head back and cries silently to the sky, tears burning icy trails down his cheeks.

 

"I'm sorry, Ana..."

 

Ana isn't coming home.

Chapter Text

"Genji, check in."

 

"Checking in, Commander," the ninja answers succinctly. As usual.

 

"Moira, check in."

 

"At your leisure, Commander," she purrs. "How are you feeling?"

 

"Just fine," Gabriel humphs. "Jesse, check in."

 

"I'm here, I'm here," the cowboy grumbles. His yawn is audible even through the comm. "The fuck we gotta check in at six in the damn mornin' again?"

 

"We're wrapping it up today," Gabriel says, ignoring Jesse's complaints. "I'm calling it. Unless anyone thinks they need a little longer...? No? Good. Rendezvous at my location by 2100 tonight." With the slightest hesitation and a touch more wistful excitement than he meant to allow, he adds, "We're going home, people."

 

"Understood," Genji replies simply.

 

"Halle-fuckin-lujah," Jesse mutters.

 

"About time," Moira hums. "I'm going dark until I arrive; expect me by 1800 hours."

 

"Noted. Jesse, don't dauttle; we won't be waiting for your sorry ass."

 

"I gotcha, jefe , relax; I want outta here as much as you do."

 

"No me digas 'jefe,' mocoso; te golpearé sus nalgas hasta proxima semana!"

 

"Okay okay, Jesus Christ!" Jesse says quickly. "Chill out, Gabe..."

 

"If you're going to make fun of my language, I'll make you regret it," Gabriel warns bluntly.

 

"Yeah, I got that. I'd ask what the hell crawled up your ass and died but I've had my fill of Hispanic scolding for the rest of the month."

 

"Good. Shut the hell up and make your rendezvous window." Gabriel shuts off the comm and sighs heavily, scrubbing at his aching eyes.

 

God, he can't wait to get back. These missions ― gathering intel or staking a target or shit like that ― drive him nuts. There's nothing to do but sit around all day and take notes or read papers; if he's lucky, there's a little B&E involved. But it's nothing compared to the raw adrenaline rush of fighting for your life.

 

Standing, he turns on the comm again and switches to the secured line to Overwatch headquarters, pacing idly back and forth.

 

"Morning, Athena," he says, more out of habit than anything else. "Checking in. All agents accounted for. Don't tell Jack yet, but we're done here; we're coming back tonight."

 

"Hello, Commander Reyes. Your check-in has been logged, and your note recorded. Are you sure you don't want me to let Commander Morrison know you're returning tonight? He could use some good news right about now."

 

"What? Why? What happened?" Gabriel demands, going still.

 

"Two days ago, Captain Amari led a relief team to the Czech Republic, where they were assaulted by a Talon strike team, who diverted attention while another team launched an attack on the Watchpoint in Gibraltar and kidnapped many Overwatch personnel. At Captain Amari's request, Commander Morrison fast tracked a rescue mission that left yesterday afternoon. The mission was a success, but at the cost of several lives... including that of Captain Amari."

 

"What...?" Gabriel breathes, too stunned and overwhelmed by the news to formulate a proper thought.

 

"The list of casualties includes: Captain Ana Amari, Private Al-Farouk Dejan, Private Bayless-"

 

"Stop," Gabriel bids, feeling for the bed and slowly sitting down. "Ana... Do we know who's responsible?"

 

"...Ana's last words were: 'Oh no... Amelie.' Satellite footage confirmed the Talon sniper known as Widowmaker to have been on site, and due to circumstances, we now believe Widowmaker may in fact be the renegade Amelie Lacroix."

 

"Gerard's wife?" Gabriel frowns, feeling a little lost. "I thought Overwatch hunted her down after she killed him in his sleep weeks ago."

 

"According to official record, she escaped. Unfortunately."

 

"And now she's back... as Widowmaker," he concludes grimly. Something nags at the back of his mind, but he ignores it for the moment. "How did Talon get past the security systems in Gibraltar anyway? That's our most secure base, outside of headquarters."

 

"Still unknown, but Winston suspects an insider."

 

"A mole in Overwatch?" The nagging returns, more persistently. "Do you have any suspects?"

 

"A few, but Winston isn't ready to speculate without more proof."

 

Meaning Gabriel is probably one of them. God fucking damn it...

 

"Don't tell Jack we're coming back yet; I'll check in again when we're en route."

 

"Understood, Commander. Good luck, and be safe."

 

Gabriel turns off the comm and puts it away, pacing again. He mulls over everything, including the nagging sensation, for most of the day, not even bothering to eat while he waits for his team to arrive.

 

Moira arrives first, at a minute to six, as promised, and she steps into the hotel room with her usual air of superiority, setting a bag of takeout on the table.

 

Without her equipment, she almost looks normal, if a bit egotistical, and she's even humming quietly, cheerfully, like nothing could possibly be wrong in the world.

 

"...How much did you tell Talon?" Gabriel asks after a moment, watching her. She stops, head cocked slightly.

 

"I'm sorry?"

 

"How much..." Gabriel steps across the room and pushes the bag deliberately out of reach. "Did you tell Talon?"

 

"I haven't the faintest idea wh-"

 

" Don't ... lie to me, O'Deorain," he growls, moving into her space. "I know you've been selling out to Talon. How much did you tell them about Gibraltar?"

 

She eyes him for a long moment, calculating as ever, deep blue and red-brown eyes as unbalanced and disconcerting as she is. Then she looks away, entirely too at ease as she reaches across the table and pulls the bag back into reach.

 

"Overwatch despises me, fears my brilliance," she states simply. "It's only a matter of time before I am disavowed and publicly humiliated. Again. I've seen the proverbial writing on the wall, and I have taken steps to ensure a better future for myself."

 

"By selling out innocent people to murderers?" he sneers. She looks up coldly, sharp gaze narrowed.

 

"You're one to talk, Gabriel. Remind me, who was it that shot our target point blank rather than risk him walking free? Who came to me practically begging to be turned into a proper weapon? Who created Blackwatch in the first place?"

 

"You're on thin ice, O'Deorain."

 

"So are you, Commander ," she spits venomously. "Do you think Overwatch trusts you anymore than they trust me? Stop living in your head, Gabriel; we're all expendable. Every single one of us. We're pawns, to be used and discarded the moment things change. Even you."

 

" I didn't betray them!" he snaps.

 

"Do you really think that matters?" She laughs bitterly. "Open your eyes, you fool. Overwatch is rotten. To the very core. How long will it take for them to destroy Blackwatch? Where will you be then, do you think? You're living a fantasy if you think this is going to work out in the end. And Jack is too blinded by the light of the glory days to see that they're coming to an end. I've given you all more than you ever accepted, and now that Overwatch no longer needs me, I've found someone else who does. Do you have an exit strategy, Commander? Because I may be the first, but I won't be the last."

 

Her words hang between them, heavy and ominous in their truth. When Gabriel doesn't respond, she humphs and turns away to spread out her food, idly perusing the options to decide which she wants to eat first.

 

Gabriel thinks about it for a long time, the things she said. She's halfway done with her food, humming cheerily again, by the time he speaks.

 

"Set up a meeting with your boss," he says, watching the way she pauses to cock a sceptical brow at him.

 

"Why, so you can shoot him too?"

 

"I just want to talk," he replies, holding her gaze evenly. "About my exit strategy."

 

Her brow creeps higher, and she eyes him closely, searching for the truth of his intention. Then a slow smirk creeps over her lips, and she gestures to the remaining portions of her food.

 

"Shepherd's pie?"

 

~

 

Genji arrives precisely at nine, slipping in through the window rather than entering through the door, and wordlessly takes a seat at the table, removing his mask enough to steal one of the last fries leftover from Moira's supper. Neither of the other occupants acknowledge him, and he doesn't seem inclined to draw attention to himself.

 

Jesse, on the other hand, can be heard all the way down the hall, grousing and stomping his way to the room just before ten after.

 

"You're late," Gabriel calls as the door clicks shut.

 

"Wouldn'a been if my damn bus didn't get delayed and then straight up cancelled," Jesse growls. "Had to take a fucking taxi most of the way. Shit's expensive, by the way." He spots the leftover fries. "Oh fuck, tell me you got somethin' for me."

 

"If you can tear them away from Genji, they're all yours," Moira smiles pleasantly from where she's lounging on the bed. Genji immediately pulls the fries closer, claiming them.

 

"Oh come on, Genji," Jesse grimaces, going to the table. "I ain't eaten all day!"

 

"Not my fault," the ninja replies blandly.

 

"Shut up and listen, kids," Gabriel says, not without a hint of irony. "Here's the deal... Some shit went down with Overwatch, and I'd be surprised if we aren't disavowed when we return. So I'm going to give you the chance to walk away right now. Skip the theatrics; just go your own way. Or you can come back with me, and I'll do what I can to smooth things over. I'm going to take a shower. If you want out, there's the door. If not, we're leaving as soon as I'm dressed." He grabs his bag and heads for the bathroom. "That gives you about five minutes to decide."

 

Despite his words, he gives them ten, and when he comes out of the bathroom, only Moira is gone. He expected as much, honestly, but the fact that Genji and Jesse are still here surprises him just a bit.

 

"Better hope you don't regret this," he says, gesturing for them to follow.

 

"Hey, the witch might notta wanted to stick around, but like it or not, y'all are my family," Jesse responds plainly, scooping up his bag. "I ain't leavin' if I can help it."

 

"Where else am I going to go?" Genji shrugs when they look at him.

 

"Well, time to go get our asses chewed," Gabriel huffs.

 

"Hey, boss; mind if we stop for food on the way?" Jesse asks, hurrying to catch up. "Genji didn't share."

 

"Should have gotten something to eat on the way here," Gabriel says pointedly. Before Jesse can start whinging again, he turns on his comm and sets it to Fio's frequency. "Fio, check in."

 

"Ready and raring to go, Commander," she answers after a short pause. "En route to the pick up now."

 

"Add a stop and get us some food, would you?"

 

"McCree forget to eat again?" Fio laughs.

 

"Hey!"

 

"Will do; see you all shortly. Over and out."

 

"Thanks, boss," Jesse grins.

 

"Don't make it a habit," Gabriel grunts. Genji snorts.

 

"Too late."

 

Damned if he isn't going to miss these idiots...

Chapter Text

Angela pulls Jack aside after his speech honouring the fallen, honouring Ana. Like him, she's dressed in her formal Overwatch uniform, hair and makeup done and clothing pristine. Like him, her eyes are glassy and red, puffed from crying through the night.

 

"Jack, are you alright?" she asks, concern evident in her voice and expression and body language. Jack knows he should try to reassure her, to prove that he's still capable of being the leader he's supposed to be. But all he can think about is Fareeha, standing tall and brave, tears streaking her cheeks but not saying a word, nodding her gratitude when Jack gave her a folded flag and Ana's cap, left behind in the rush.

 

"Fine," is all he can say, the word hollow and empty even to his own ears. "Are you?"

 

Tears form in Angela's soft blue gaze and she blinks rapidly, biting her lip to keep it from trembling. She tries to dab the tears away, too late, and Jack's heart breaks a little more. Reaching out, he pulls her into his arms, tucking her head under his chin and just holding her. She buries her face in his chest and clings to his jacket, shuddering with barely suppressed sobs.

 

The rest of the day passes in a blur of mechanical numbness; he does everything automatically, robotically, following the habits built up over so many years, and doesn't allow himself to feel anything. He comforts others, helps fill in where grief makes people fall short, even sends a few individuals home.

 

Ana was a mainstay for Overwatch; an anchor, a steady bulwark. She was mother and older sister and friend... and now she's gone. And nothing can fill the hole she left behind.

 

"Commander," Athena says out of the blue as suppertime comes and goes, another missed meal for Jack. He looks up reactively from his papers before it registers that it's not a person talking to him.

 

"What is it, Athena?"

 

"Commander Reyes will be arriving in twenty minutes."

 

"...What?" Jack stares blankly toward Athena's speaker in the ceiling, not quite sure he heard what he heard.

 

"Commander Reyes will be arriving in twenty minutes," she repeats in the same tone. Let it never be said that she wasn't programmed with a sense of humour.

 

"Why wasn't I informed that they were returning?" Jack asks, trying to decide whether to be annoyed or relieved.

 

"Commander Reyes requested that I withhold the information. He asked that you meet with him privately before the mission debriefing."

 

Jack hesitates. The only places that are truly private ― meaning, Athena doesn't have direct access and therefore there is no monitoring ― are the debriefing room and the individual living quarters. Ideally, meeting in the debriefing room would be for the best, but if it goes the way Jack expects it to, his own room would be better, especially since the rest of the Blackwatch team will need to wait in the debriefing room. However, it might look bad to have Gabriel go straight to Jack's room after returning from the mission, particularly if it takes a while.

 

After a few moments of trying to weigh the options, Jack's head hurts and he gives up.

 

"Send him to my room when he arrives, and tell the others to wait in the debriefing room."

 

"Understood, Commander."

 

In his room, Jack tries to piece out everything he wants to say, to form cohesive sentences when his brain is empty and refuses to cooperate. He's still lost and unprepared when a quick rap at the door precedes Gabriel's entrance. The man looks as worn and tired as Jack feels, and he hesitates.

 

It suddenly occurs to him that Gabriel is here , alive and well; that even if the rest of the world is falling apart, Gabriel is still the same. Everything hits in a rush ― all of the anger, sorrow, fear ― and Jack can't even speak; he takes the room in two long strides and throws his arms around Gabriel. After a startled pause, Gabriel slowly wraps his arms around Jack's waist and embraces him in return.

 

"I think I love you." The words are out before Jack can stop them, but he doesn't try to take them back. Then Gabriel stiffens, and a sharp unease spikes in Jack's chest.

 

Gabriel's blood runs cold at the words, and he wants to scream.

 

Damnit Jack, why'd you have to realise it now?

 

He pushes Jack away, stepping back, his expression forced clean, a mask to hide his dismay and pain.

 

"No, you don't," he says gruffly.

 

It's Jack's turn to stiffen, despair surging through him. Hot shame curls up his neck, but he fights anyway.

 

"It's my emotion; I think I know what I'm feeling," he snaps.

 

"You're mourning," Gabriel snaps back, lip curled. "You've always been too optimistic, but I didn't think you'd see shit that isn't there. Guess I know what it takes to make you imagine shit now."

 

"Don't you dare-"

 

"Don't what, Jack??" Gabriel snarls, grabbing his jacket and turning to shove him up against the wall by the door. "Ana is dead , and all of the sudden you love me. Open your goddamn eyes, idiota ; you're projecting! You're so messed up in the head you can't think straight! I shouldn't have left; I should have stayed and kept your head clear. We're all fucking lucky you didn't screw things up even more than they already were."

 

"I didn't..." Jack begins, a wash of aching emptiness burning under his ribs. Defensive rage follows quickly and he shoves Gabriel back hard with a growl. "Fuck you! I know what I'm feeling; I knew even before you left, I was just too damn scared to admit it!"

 

"Then I fucked up," Gabriel sneers. "The only reason I did any of that shit was to keep you from spiralling; Overwatch needs you, and the world needs Overwatch, so I made sure you could handle it. That's it; end of story."

 

"Whatever happened to 'You have a month to figure it out; whatever you decide, we'll go from there,' huh?"

 

"I didn't think you'd go completely mental and fabricate some elaborate romance that doesn't exist!"

 

"Then what?" Jack demands bitterly. "It was all a lie?"

 

"There was nothing to begin with; nothing to lie about!"

 

"Fuck you," Jack hisses viciously, struggling not to cry all over again. Gabriel must see it anyway, because he sighs heavily and scrubs his hands over his face, muttering in Spanish.

 

"It was business, Jack," he says finally. "You needed it, and I got something out of it. That's all."

 

"Business," Jack echoes, voice cracking.

 

"Just business," Gabriel agrees. "And like it or not, I know you, Jack. I know you're about two wrong words from falling apart completely, so you're not leaving this room until your head is on straight."

 

"No." Jack goes to step back, but runs into the wall. Gabriel closes the distance easily, not giving him a chance to escape.

 

"Yes. I'm not about to let you go out there and fuck everyone over just because you're pissed off and overemotional."

 

"Don't you fucking touch me!"

 

When Jack goes to punch him, Gabriel simply catches his fist and twists, trying to force his arm behind his back. Putting all of his training to use, Jack manages to break free and force Gabriel back, but he hasn't been in the field nearly as much, and all of the missions Gabriel's gone on have honed his skills all the more; in mere moments, he has Jack pinned to the floor.

 

"Stop fighting me, Jack," he growls, using his own body weight to keep the blond from moving. Jack jerks his head back, trying to headbutt him and failing.

 

"Get off me!"

 

"Is that how it's going to be?" Gabriel shifts, making sure Jack's arms aren't able to move, and then goes for his own belt to use as a restraint. "Fine."

 

The clink of his buckle makes Jack go still, paling with realisation, and he panics.

 

Not like this. Any other time, any other circumstances... but not like this, not after what just happened.

 

"No! Gabriel, stop!" Pressing his forehead against the floor, he spits out the word he hoped never to need again. "RED!"

 

Gabriel immediately jolts back like he was burned, lurching completely off Jack and hitting the table with a rattling thump in the process.

 

Silence falls, broken only by heavy, ragged, shuddering breaths. Jack doesn't move, eyes closed tightly in a vain attempt to stop the flow of tears. Gabriel stares at him for a long time, expression twisted to something unreadable.

 

Finally, he stands. Jack flinches reactively, but he only redoes his belt and leaves the room without a word.

 

"Gabe..." Jack chokes past the lump in his throat when the door closes. Crawling up to the bed, he drags his pillow down and buries his face in it to let out a long, muffled wail.

 

Then he sits up, wipes his cheeks, and does his level best to push everything aside, to clear his mind, and most of all, to stop thinking about Gabriel. After several deep, shuddering breaths, he feels stable enough to at least deal with the debriefing, after which, he'll go see Angela about something to help him sleep hard tonight, or else he'll find his way to Gabriel's room.

 

Standing, he dips into the bathroom for a moment to wash his face, and avoids looking in the mirror as he dries off and leaves, heading for the debriefing room. When he arrives, he glances around and frowns.

 

"Where's Moira?"

 

"Gone," Gabriel answers succinctly. "Disavowed. She was selling out to Talon."

 

It takes a good three seconds for that to sink in, and then it hits Jack like a freight train between the eyes. The reason a hacker got into Gibraltar's security, the reason people were captured, the reason Ana died ... Winston was right about the insider.

 

"You let her go?" There's a dangerous note in Jack's voice that even he didn't expect, but Gabriel doesn't so much as flinch, even though Jesse steps back and even Genji shifts defensively.

 

"I confronted her, and she escaped," Gabriel says bluntly. Jesse looks back and forth between them, perplexed, but doesn't dare say a word.

 

"You let her go ," Jack rumbles lowly, struggling to contain his anger. Only the defiant dare in Gabriel's steady gaze stops him from lashing out. Instead, he raises a hand. "You know what? It's for the better. I wouldn't want to stain Overwatch's reputation any further by tearing her apart with my own hands for killing Ana."

 

"What?" Jesse blurts, stunned. "Whadya mean, she killed Ana??"

 

"Just that," Jack spits, letting some of his fury boil over. " Someone leaked information to Talon, who used it to kidnap personnel from the Watchpoint in Gibraltar. Ana led a rescue mission, during which she was killed. Moira might as well have shot Ana herself."

 

"Ana... is dead?" Jesse sits down hard, and most of Jack's anger drains away, leaving only aching exhaustion.

 

He was so used to Ana being one of his best friends that he forgot she was the one to take Jesse under her wing when he first arrived, that she taught him how not to waste bullets, that she was as close to a mother figure as he had after his own mother died.

 

"Yes," he answers quietly as Genji uncharacteristically places a comforting hand on Jesse's shoulder, squeezing gently. "We held a ceremony for her and the others this morning. Only two of the bodies were recovered; Bayless and Al-farouk."

 

"Does Fareeha know?"

 

"She attended the ceremony," Jack nods. "She left immediately after."

 

"Fuck... It's all goin' to shit, ain't it?" Jesse mutters, still in disbelief.

 

"...Let's just get this over with," Jack says simply, taking a seat and pointedly not looking at Gabriel, despite how much it hurts. "I have things to do." Which hopefully include forgetting today ever happened.

Chapter Text

"You lied."

 

Gabriel doesn't bother to look away from the night sky; dim and foggy grey from light pollution, but better than being stuck inside. He sighs and waves a hand absently for Jesse to have a seat beside him on the edge of the rooftop lookout.

 

"I knew you'd ask," he says, a mild ache already twinging behind one eye.

 

"Why'd you lie?" Jesse presses, sitting cross-legged a little bit behind him, facing him. "You gave us the option to leave; why didn't ya just say that?"

 

Gabriel doesn't answer, giving him a chance to puzzle it out himself. He suspects it won't take long.

 

"...You knew," Jesse murmurs after a long moment, as expected. He stares at Gabriel in a mixture of baffled disbelief and horrified understanding. "You knew she was sellin' out. And ya knew Ana died cuz of it."

 

"I suspected someone in Overwatch was rotten, and I suspected that someone was Moira," Gabriel explains simply, still watching the few stars bright enough to be visible. "I didn't know about Ana until the check in this morning. I confronted her about it, and she didn't deny it."

 

"The hell'd you let her walk then?" Jesse demands, still torn. Gabriel finally looks away from the sky, turning a bland stare on the younger man.

 

"You think she's the only one?"

 

It takes him a bit longer this time, but Jesse has always known to look for the backstabbers and traitors; he knows better than to trust pretty words and a kind face.

 

"You don't think... Jack...?"

 

"Not Jack," Gabriel shakes his head, certain of that much. "But he's... Hah..." He breathes a mirthless little laugh, gaze sliding back to the sky. "She wasn't wrong... He's too blinded by the glory days to see they're coming to an end. Problem is, he'll drag us all down with the ship at this rate."

 

"So... what? You wanted us to jump ship?" Jesse scowls. "Tryna get us to get while the gettin's good?"

 

"Pretty much," Gabriel humphs. "One way or another, Overwatch is in its death rattle; selling out on it is only making it happen faster. Whether it all gets shut down tomorrow or a year from now, the only question is: Where are you going to go after Overwatch is gone?"

 

"You didn't... make a deal or nothin' with her... didya?"

 

"What kind of deal would I make with the witch who experimented on me?" Gabriel asks bluntly, avoiding an actual answer so he doesn't have to lie.

 

"Hell, I dunno," Jesse mutters, scrubbing at his face and pressing the heels of his palms into his eyes. "Jesus, it's all fucked up... I thought joinin' y'all was gonna be my ticket to a better life. Turns out ain't nobody safe from good ole fashioned human greed."

 

"It's better than letting omnics take over the world," Gabriel huffs. "Face it, hijo ; Overwatch did its duty and now it's overstayed its welcome. It was bound to happen."

 

"I guess," Jesse admits reluctantly.

 

Quiet falls for a bit as the pair listen to the songs of the night: insects, cars, the wind through nearby flora. It's peaceful, a morbid contrast to their darkened reality; Jesse wonders if there's even really a such thing as peace.

 

"That bounty on my head got me thinkin', boss," he says after a while.

 

"What, are you going to turn yourself in and try to collect on yourself?" Gabriel cocks a brow at him.

 

"Fuck you," Jesse snorts, rolling his eyes. "Nah, man. But there's some hella bad people with some pretty high digits attached to their names... Enough to help a man make a decent livin', if he was used to tryna make the world a better place."

 

"...If anyone could make it as a bounty hunter, you could," Gabriel replies quietly, more honest than he has been all day. Jesse chuckles softly.

 

"High praise, comin' from you." He stands, patting Gabriel's shoulder on the way up. "You should tell him what really happened. I know y'all don't get along great, but he's doin' the best he can. He oughta know. 'Specially if'n ya think he doesn't realise he's draggin' us down on a sinkin' ship."

 

Gabriel doesn't answer, but Jesse doesn't wait for it; humming an offhanded, out of tune melody, he heads for the living quarters, leaving the older man to his thoughts.

 

~

 

He can't sleep. The bed is too hard, too soft; the sheets feel like sandpaper against his skin.

 

Throwing off the covers, Jack sits up, exhausted and on the verge of sleep, but unable to cross some unseen barrier into unconsciousness. He scrubs a hand over his face, through his hair; laces his hands behind his neck.

 

Everything is sharp-edged and tinted red. His lungs balk over anything more than shallow breaths, and his heartbeat is a dull thump in his ears. Every inch of his skin aches and itches; desperation clings to the inside of his ribcage like an oozing mass.

 

The last time he felt like this, things were still new with Gabriel, and he'd been half avoiding the man for weeks, unwilling to look him in the eye, but unable to stop thinking about him long enough to find a partner anywhere else. No one was good enough; no one could soothe the ache, ease the desperation. It took him walking out in the midst of a meeting because he was on the verge of a meltdown for Gabriel to understand, and they spent the entire rest of the day exploring a new dynamic that Jack had never needed more.

 

He needs it now.

 

But he can't. He can't crawl back to Gabriel when Gabriel is half the reason he's like this in the first place. He can't let Gabriel use his body knowing that the man never saw it as anything but a business deal.

 

He can't go back to the man who broke his heart while he was at his most vulnerable.

 

But despite everything, Jack still loves him. Still loves the man who knows him well enough to tell at a glance when he needs help. Still loves the asshole who has never been anything but caring even in his roughest moments. Still loves the familiarity that is Gabriel .

 

Did something happen during the mission? Something to make him feel the need to distance himself from Jack?

 

He said he confronted Moira for being a mole; maybe she threatened Jack to make him back off.

 

And maybe the moon really is blue cheese.

 

Jack scoffs at himself, at his stupid, childish hope looking for any excuse. Gabriel never loved him, and probably never will. He was a fool for ever thinking otherwise.

 

And yet, he can't stop thinking what if s. Can't stop remembering demanding hands, caressing fingers, commanding and soothing words...

 

His body follows his traitorous mind, desire surging through him and pooling behind his navel.

 

"Damnit..." he mutters, grimacing at the erection tenting his boxers. "Stop it; he's not coming back." For a split second, he entertains the thought of going to Gabriel one last time, begging for just one more... he shakes his head vehemently to clear it. "No. It's over."

 

That doesn't help his current issue though.

 

He considers a cold shower, but knows from experience that it's pointless. Same with finding a stranger for a one night stand. There's only one other way to take care of this that doesn't involve grovelling at Gabriel's feet, and Jack tries hard to ignore it until the ache demands immediate attention, at which point he gives in and lays down, eyes closed like he can block out the shame as he exposes himself to the cool air.

 

"Damnit, what am I doing?" he whines, chill fingertips grazing heated flesh hesitantly. Sparks flicker through his veins, but the physical pleasure is muted beneath guilty desire and shamed need.

 

What would Gabriel say if he knew Jack was doing this? Getting off on the memory of him? Jack can hear it, plain as day in his head.

 

"Look at you... So desperate for me. It's not a good look for you, mi brillo."

 

"...Light green," Jack whispers, giving himself to the fantasy. "Please, Gabe..." He envisions it perfectly, Gabriel's half-smirk of amusement, the casual way he'd cross his arms and lean against the wall.

 

"Why should I? I get nothing out of it."

 

"Take me."

 

"Take you? Brillo , what makes you think you could handle me? You can barely fit me between your lips. How long has it been since you've been fucked anyway? Before me, at the least, and we've had this arrangement for how long?"

 

"Years," Jack admits, honest in fantasy where otherwise he would falter. "I'll prep. I can take it. Please, Gabe..."

 

"Hm. Then let's see how close you can get. Touch yourself, but don't cum until I tell you to. Comprendeme , hermoso ?"

 

"Yes." Without hesitation, he wraps his hand fully around his cock and strokes, firm and slow, calling to mind every time Gabriel watched him with hungry eyes. The longing to have those eyes on him again burns warm and heavy in his gut, and he reaches the edge far sooner than expected; he yanks his hand away and reactively jerks his hips to follow, barely stilling himself with a ragged breath. When the surge subsides and he thinks he can try again, he carefully grips the base of his cock and begins again.

 

"Not just there, brillo ; you said you'd prep too."

 

Jack hesitates, viscerally and guiltily aware that this is only fantasy, that he can change it however he wants. But Gabriel would push him, coax him into things he wouldn't otherwise think himself ready for, so he obeys; he slides his free hand down between his legs, traces a fingertip over his perineum, brushes against his taint. Taking a breath like a diver going under, he breaches the first ring of muscle and curls his finger against the rim, whining at the sudden flare of hot pleasure that spears him.

 

"Good boy." Gabriel would be pleased, would praise him just enough to make him want more, to encourage him to continue, and he does.

 

"Gabriel..."

 

"Keep going, hermoso ; to the edge and then stop."

 

Jack presses a bit deeper, his strokes faltering as his ability to focus on more than one thing starts fracturing. He struggles to set a pace that alternates a deep crook of his finger with a brush of his thumb over his tip.

 

Again, he gets to the edge sooner than expected, and he throws his hands up overhead to stop himself, breathing heavily as aching need pulses through his lower body; even his ass is clutching desperately now.

 

"Gabe..."

 

"Keep going, hermoso ." That one, he doesn't have to imagine; he's heard it enough times to hear it in his head even for things outside the proverbial bedroom.

 

Taking a few deep breaths, he brings his hands back down, wedging two fingers inside himself this time and hissing at the near painful stretch. A couple quick tugs at his cock help ease the sting, and in moments he's back on the climb towards his peak. Electric tingles spark through his veins and he pauses, unsure whether he's at the edge or not.

 

"Go ahead, mi brillo; cum for me."

 

Probably his own need interjecting into the fantasy, but the approval and permission bring a wash of cool relief that carries away much of the shame and leaves little more than fire and pleasure; Jack gasps and whines as his consciousness tips into blinding white heat, and he writhes, desperately chasing the bliss.

 

When it all fades into the afterglow, he stares at the ceiling, blankly at first until his awareness returns. Then he blinks and looks down at himself. The shame returns tenfold, and his gaze skips quickly around the room to be sure no one saw as he scrambles to get to the bathroom to clean up.

 

If he couldn't sleep before, he definitely can't sleep now.

Chapter Text

"Gabriel."

 

He scowls, his mood instantly souring as he tosses his pen down on the table and sits back, crossing his arms and glaring in the direction of the unpleasantly familiar voice.

 

"You better have a damn good reason for being here right now, bruja ."

 

"Now is that any way to greet your maker?" Moira hums with a faint smirk as she fades into view out of the shadows.

 

Whatever experiments she's done on him, she's clearly been perfecting them on herself.

 

"Three seconds and I'll start treating you the way a traitor should be treated."

 

"Really, Gabriel," she sighs, "whatever happened to the brave and loyal and oh so polite commander who hired me?"

 

"One."

 

"Oh don't get your knickers in a twist," she chides. "I'm here to warn you."

 

"About what?" Gabriel scowls, prepping for a fight.

 

After meeting with Akande Ogundimu last week, he was left with only a rather vague idea of whether or not he would be accepted into Talon's ranks when Overwatch fell, and given the man's ambitions, Gabriel wouldn't put it past him to suddenly decide to eliminate anyone that knew anything but wasn't firmly inside the organisation.

 

Bonus round: Moira doesn't exactly have the clearest moral compass.

 

"Relax," she snorts, rolling her eyes in amusement. "If I was here to kill you, you'd be dead already. No one else is coming to kill you either. Not as far as I'm aware, in any case."

 

"Then why are you here?" Gabriel demands, irritable; he's already stressed enough trying not to piss off Jack's new twitchy trigger finger, not to mention all the reports he's had to fill out and the meetings he's had to attend with the UN Council.

 

In short, he's really, really not in the mood.

 

"I can't be here for tea?" Moira purrs, cocking a brow.

 

"Two!" he snaps.

 

"Well someone's in a bad mood," she humphs. "I'm here to warn you that our agent inside the base is making their move soon. And while I'm here, because I'm oh so nice, I brought you your next treatment." She lifts a small vial of grey blue liquid, waggling it a bit before tossing it at him. He catches it reactively, watching her with narrow eyes.

 

"How soon?" he asks, popping the cap and knocking back the bitter fluid in one shot.

 

"Today, most likely," she answers casually. "They tend to be rather proactive about following orders." A chill runs down Gabriel's spine and he stops with the cap halfway back on, but Moira doesn't seem to notice or care. "I know you have a thing for Jack, so I figured you'd like a chance to get your lover out of the base before it lights up like a proverbial Christmas tree."

 

"He's not my lover," Gabriel growls, sneering at her to hide the panic building in his chest as he throws the empty vial back. She snatches it easily and smirks knowingly.

 

"By the way," she says, instead of calling him out for it, "the next treatment should be the last, so do be sure to make your way to the headquarters by this time next week; wouldn't want you regressing and undoing all of our hard work, now would we?"

 

Before he can reply, she fades into a swirl of smoke that disperses almost instantly, leaving him alone with the knowledge that everyone is probably about to die.

 

~

 

Jack is in the midst of a meeting with Winston and Torbjorn when Gabriel slams through the door into his office. Irritated by the interruption, Jack stands and glares at him.

 

"Excuse me a moment, gentlemen. Gabriel, you had better have a damn good reason-"

 

"There's a bomb on the grounds," Gabriel interjects shortly. "Probably more than one. We need to evacuate all on-site personnel immediately and sweep the premises with a bomb squad."

 

"A bomb?" Torbjorn frowns. "What kind of madman would try to bomb Overwatch headquarters?"

 

"Someone without sense at all," Winston chuffs. "The security here is some of the most advanced in the world."

 

"So was the security at Chateau Guillard, and look how well that turned out," Gabriel says snidely.

 

"How do you know there's a bomb on the premises?" Jack scowls. "We would have been notified if anyone tried to bring any form of explosives into the facility."

 

"Are you seriously questioning me right now?" Gabriel hisses, letting his frustration get the better of him and lashing out. "There are lives on the line, Jack; do you really think I'd fuck around with something like this? Sound the goddamn alarm and start getting people-"

 

The floor buckles, walls cracking, as a thunderous explosion shakes the room, throwing them all to the ground and threatening to bring the roof down on top of them. The lights flicker and go out an instant before a klaxon begins blaring and the backup generators kick on, illuminating the room in the deathly red of emergency lights.

 

"Is everyone alright?" Jack demands immediately, hauling himself to his feet and coughing as he waves away the dust filtering down from the ragged ceiling.

 

"No worse for wear then when I lost my arm," Torbjorn grumps loudly. "But I'd be better if ya weren't sitting on me!"

 

"Sorry, sorry!" Winston apologises quickly, scrambling to find his footing so he can get off the much smaller man.

 

"Do you believe me now?" Gabriel asks sardonically, grimacing at the throbbing ache on the side of his head. When he reaches up to touch it, his fingers come away with a smudge of wet. "Just fucking great..."

 

"Don't appreciate your tone, Gabe," Jack is growling. "Winston, go find Mina and Echo and make sure they get out safely. Torbjorn, I know you want to go find your family, but that bomb was close, and the living quarters are far enough away that it's unlikely they're in danger; I need you to try and find the remnants of the bomb and figure out who the hell hit us."

 

"Ya want me to go toward the danger?" Torbjorn exclaims, eyes wide.

 

"The chances of there having been more than one bomb in the same-"

 

"I'm on my way!" he cuts in eagerly, already yanking at the busted door. Winston hesitates, but only for a moment before grabbing the door and almost ripping it off its hinges. They leave just as Athena begins announcing an emergency evacuation, calmly directing everyone to exit the building and go to the nearest hospital or church to be treated and wait for a headcount.

 

"How the hell did you know there was a bomb?" Jack asks shortly, carefully picking his way over toward Gabriel and eyeing the ceiling warily.

 

"A little birdie told me," Gabriel grunts, quickly checking over the rest of himself for any other injuries and then lightly touching the aching spot to see if he can find whatever cut he's bleeding from. Except that, when he touches the same place, he can't find any sign of the wound, and his fingers no longer come away bloodied.

 

Did he already heal from that? Is this a side effect of Moira's experimentation? The increased strength and speed was intentional, an improvement on the messy job done by the US military; the smokey, foggy bit wasn't exactly intentional, but couldn't be avoided, as it was a part of the procedure from the start.

 

Gabriel remembers then that Moira mentioned something about his cells rapidly dying and regrowing, particularly whenever he enters the gaseous state. Looks like that translates to enhanced healing too.

 

"What birdie, and why didn't you mention an informant before?" Jack presses, irritation growing.

 

"Why does it even matter?" Gabriel scoffs, hauling himself to his feet. "The board doesn't trust me, the UN doesn't trust me ― at this point, I'm beginning to think even you don't trust me ― why would they trust any informants I might have?"

 

A strained moment of quiet passes, and Gabriel suddenly realises when Jack doesn't respond how much he was hoping for the man to contradict him, to argue that he does trust Gabriel.

 

"...You really don't trust me, do you?" he asks, a bitter note creeping into his voice as an empty pit yawns wide in the centre of his chest. Jack looks away, jaw tight.

 

"Hard to trust someone who keeps lying to you," he says lowly. It's an arrow straight through Gabriel's chest, and he opens his mouth to say... well, something; anything to make Jack understand.

 

This time, when the floor buckles, the entire room collapses.

 

~

 

Everything hurts, and Gabriel's ears are ringing; he can't hear anything, and his body won't respond, and even his thoughts feel slow and sluggish.

 

"Ja- Jack..." The word hardly comes out a whisper, and his lungs refuse to take in enough air to try again.

 

Rubble has him blocked in on all sides, threatening to crush him. With Herculean effort, he manages to move one arm, but he can't even go far enough to get the leverage needed to try lifting anything, much less actually be able to do so.

 

He has to get out, now; he can feel himself losing cohesion, every inch of him aching, crawling, itching, tearing itself apart, inside and out. And he has to find Jack, quickly.

 

No, wait... Jack was in the same military programmes he was; they both know that the first thing you do is get out of danger, and then you find your team, so the best way to find Jack is to get himself out, maybe go see Moira to make sure he's not going to disappear forever, and then come back to the area and report to whoever is running the post-disaster show.

 

It takes everything Gabriel has to let himself... well, fall apart; to let his body lose form and collect in a swirl of smoke. His consciousness is still very much present, but it's faded and distant, fogged up like a windshield on a chilled winter day. He has the same lightheaded feeling as standing up too fast, but with a bit more control of his body.

 

Insomuch as his body exists now... 

 

The slide of his new body against concrete, steel and plaster is aggravating, yet oddly satisfying, like a too-strong scratch to reach a deep itch beneath the skin. He curls between and around and through, and tries to re-form himself the moment he feels open air.

 

For one panic-inducing minute, he can't. He can't seem to even remember how to feel... human, perhaps? Or, really, even just feeling solid seems entirely out of his grasp.

 

Then he tightens down on himself, pressing inward toward his core and gaining weight behind every movement. He feels clumsy and bulky, but solid, alive; that's all that matters in the moment. He'll take the weird buzzing in his head and the odd lack of precise motor control, so long as he's still alive.

 

The world is spinning around him, stars dancing at the edges of his vision, and with every second that passes as he stumbles away from the ruins behind him, an ache grows in every muscle. At first, it's hardly noticeable behind the buzz, but then he's sore, like he tried to break a mile run record and promptly tumbled down a hill. Soon after, it becomes difficult even to move from whatever muscle fatigue is plaguing him, and it takes every ounce of willpower he has to keep walking through the agony that threatens to bring him to his knees.

 

Time becomes immeasurable, nothing more than a blur of pain and occasional passing faces. He isn't even entirely sure he's going the right way until one face stays in his field of vision and a voice reaches through the pain. He can't make out what's being said, but the face is familiar, and after a few worrying moments, he places it. With his last vestiges of strength, he forces his unwilling throat and tongue to obey.

 

"Moira... Help me..."

Chapter Text

BREAKING NEWS!!

EXPLOSION AT OVERWATCH HEADQUARTERS PRECIPITATES ORGANISATION'S DOWNFALL??

Following the end of the Omnic Crisis, Overwatch established itself as a critical hinge point on which the world turned. In more recent years, however, those in charge seem to have been making some rather questionable decisions. The most notable of these is undoubtedly the concealed existence of an offshoot organisation known as 'Blackwatch.'

 

This covert ops branch of the already formidable gathering of quote "soldiers, adventurers, scientists and oddities" came to light in the wake of a violent disruption through the streets of Venice following the murder of local businessman Antonio Bartalotti. The rampage of course made front page news (see our expose here ), but Overwatch officials refused to comment, officially. In a less official capacity, Strike Commander Jack Morrison is quoted as saying, "What happened in Venice was a mistake, and one we'll be paying for in the years to come." He followed up on that by adding, "Overwatch is the people's champion, but we're [...] human too; sometimes we make decisions that, in hindsight, aren't the greatest. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, after all."

 

The question to be considered here is this: Did such a decision lead to the recent explosion at the headquarters in Switzerland?

 

According to our sources, the answer seems to lean more toward 'yes'; witness reports claim Morrison and Blackwatch Commander Gabriel Reyes were fighting immediately prior to the explosion, and that bombs were mentioned. While concrete proof is still lacking, it is believed that this fight, though it may not have directly caused the explosion, could likely have been an indirect cause.

 

This begs the question, then, of whether or not this explosion was planned in advance to cripple Overwatch.

 

At this point we have to bring up once again the other explosion tied to Overwatch: the destruction of the historical Guillard Estate in France, which we now believe may have been a former headquarters for none other than Blackwatch.

 

As previously stated, concrete evidence is yet still lacking, but what more proof do you need in the face of such damning circumstances? Furthermore, the UN has convened in an unannounced summit in Switzerland, and press have been banned from the premises; however, insider reports state that Overwatch is undoubtedly the centrepiece of discussion.

 

Could this be the end of Overwatch?

 

Subscribe to stay in the loop, and tune in at 8 PM weekdays and 7 PM weekends for all the latest news!

 

~

 

Video file retrieved from archive: 2 hours ago

 

"...and we'll hear more on that, later this evening," the pretty young anchorwoman says genially. "Up now, we're going to take a look at some new developments around Overwatch, the world-renown organisation known initially for the odd collection of individuals who enacted asymmetrical guerrilla warfare on omnic armies and brought about the end of the Omnic Crisis. More recently, however, some rather dubious decisions have come to light that have had people wondering if maybe Overwatch is no longer the hero. More on that from our UN correspondent, David Arnold. Dave?"

 

The screen swaps to a comely man with large glasses standing in front of an official looking building framed by flags from countless countries. He smiles brightly.

 

"Thank you, Lucy; I'm here along with a number of other reporters from a number of different countries, all waiting for the same thing: answers. Yesterday, the United Nations Council began a summit that, frankly, no one saw coming, and speculation has been flying that it is, in fact, related to Overwatch.

 

"As you know," he continues, "not a day ago, there was a series of explosions at the Overwatch headquarters in Switzerland that absolutely demolished the compound, and we still have yet to hear any information about possible casualties."

 

"I have a question for you, Dave," Lucy asks as the screen shifts over and in so both views are side by side. "What do you think is going on? We don't exactly have a lot of actual facts to go off of."

 

"Honestly, it's hard to say," Dave responds with a slight grimace. "Like you said, there's not a lot of cold hard truth being released to the public, and that more than anything concerns me. Overwatch has been responsible for some pretty unsavoury things, and to me, a bomb in the base sounds like a pretty strong enemy. Who that enemy is and what kind of goals they may have is yet to be seen, but I think we can all agree that things aren't looking good for Overwatch right now."

 

"Indeed. What about the rumours that Jack Morrison, the leader and face of Overwatch, may have been caught in the blast and killed?"

 

"Personally, I grew up during the Crisis," Dave admits, "and Overwatch have always been my heroes; I always looked up to Jack Morrison, and if I'm honest, I really hope he survived. Even if Overwatch is going down, it was people like Morrison that made Overwatch work in the first place."

 

"I think you speak for a lot of people in our generation," Lucy agrees. "We may be seeing the end of a short but glorious era of heroes."

 

"Well, there's still no word on what the UN is discussing in this summit, but given Overwatch's recent behaviour, I wouldn't hold my breath. More on the topic as it develops; back to you, Lucy."

 

~

 

OVERWATCH OUTLAWED!!

 

After a surprise summit this last weekend, the United Nations has issued a public statement denouncing Overwatch and all related activities. This announcement comes hot on the heels of an explosion at Overwatch headquarters, which has now been confirmed as an accident. The Overwatch Board of Directors has declined to comment on the source of the explosion, but an anonymous tip suggested it may have been a result of a clash between two of the leaders of Overwatch: secret head of the enigmatic Blackwatch branch of the organisation, Gabriel Reyes, and the face of Overwatch himself, Jack Morrison. Neither have been accounted for since the explosion, and it is believed that one or both may in fact be amongst the countless casualties of staff and civilians alike; bodies are still being excavated from the ruins of the headquarters, and some have yet to be identified. continue page 3C

 

~

 

"...regarding the final body counts from the destruction of Overwatch headquarters two weeks ago. An estimated 230 individuals have been confirmed dead, and well over a thousand more injured. Forty-seven individuals are still missing, including Jack Morrison, leader and face of the now outlawed organisation-"

 

" Apágalo, por favor. " The white man's accent is flat, but passable, and the squat Spanish woman flicks off the radio, frowning in concern. She taps his arm lightly and tips her head in silent question, but he just waves her off, grimacing at the pain that ripples through his aching body even at that small motion.

 

After eyeing him for a moment longer, she gets up and fills a cup with water, bringing it over to him and motioning for him to sit up.

 

" No, gracias, " he tries, shaking his head. She gestures, insistent, until he finally gives in with a small growl of annoyance. "Okay, okay... geez, lady..."

 

The water is good; it soothes the ache and helps settle his ever uneasy stomach. When he finishes it, leaning back against the peeling plaster wall, she brings her fingers and thumb together and carefully mimes picking something out of her hand and bringing it to her lips.

 

"No, I'm not hungry," he answers, shaking his head. "Thanks."

 

She frowns at him and does it again, more insistently.

 

The problem with being taken in by a mute lady who doesn't speak your language is a struggle to communicate; he's lucky he knows enough Spanish to get by.

 

"What? I'm not hungry," he says again. "I don't want food. No comer ... uh... Tengo... No tengo hambre. "

 

Her frown deepens, but she stops trying to sign and leaves the room. Taking full advantage of her absence, he gingerly lays back down and tries to go back to sleep.

 

Of course, sleep never comes.

 

"Damnit," he mutters, sitting up again with a sharp groan and thumping his head back against the wall to change the pain of the headache wracking his skull. "Fucking shit... all of it."

 

Another bomb. More dead. More missing ... And now Overwatch is well and truly dead.

 

Someone caused it. Someone ruined Overwatch, spoiled it from the inside out. Someone tore his family apart, and now he wants blood. He wants them to suffer... but first he has to find them, and to do that, he's going to need a lot of resources. Resources he no longer has access to.

 

Or does he...?

 

The woman comes back, a tray of rice and beans and a couple handmade tortillas in hand. She sets it on his lap and makes the eating motion again, insistent. He looks at the food, and then at her. With a reluctant nod of gratitude, he starts nibbling, unsure how much he'll be able to stomach, but if he wants to find whoever's responsible, he's going to have to recover from this first, and even his faster than normal healing can only do so much when he was on death's door.

 

He can only handle about half the rice, less of the beans, and just one of the tortillas, but the woman seems satisfied by that and happily eats what he can't. After she's finished, she tries to get him to lay down again, but he waves her off, promising to sleep in a little bit. He's not even sure she really understands him, because he can't remember the right words to say it in Spanish, but she stops pestering him at least.

 

A few minutes of silence pass, broken only by the buzz of a fan to keep the hot muggy air from stagnating, and by the constant honking of cars outside. He's just beginning to doze off when the woman taps his wrist lightly to get his attention, and then begins fingerspelling.

 

M-E L-L-A-M-O E-S M-A-R-I-A. Y T-U?

 

It's the first time he's been cognisant enough to do more than choke down some broth and go back to sleep, so he's not surprised that she's curious, but it doesn't make him any more inclined to engage in a conversation.

 

"I don't have a name," he says quietly. " No me llamo nada . Who I was died the day I was buried in rubble."

 

E-R-E-S U-N S-O-L-D-A-D-O?

 

"I- Yes, I am a soldier. How did you know? Cómo lo sabes ?"

 

Instead of answering, she reaches into her apron pocket and pulls out his dog tags, holding them out to him. Surprised, he takes them, almost missing what she says next.

 

E-R-E-S N-U-M-E-R-O 7-6. S-O-L-D-A-D-O 7-6.

 

"...Yeah," he says, a plan beginning to form as the train of thought he lost earlier returns. "Yeah, I'm Soldier 76."

Chapter Text

"Wait! Stop!" The man's voice rings through the old warehouse, startling the few brave birds who weren't chased away by the earlier gunfire.

 

"Nah," a Western drawl hums between the other man's heavy, desperate panting. "Y'all signed the warrant when ya kidnapped that little girl."

 

"She's still alive!" the man presses, holding up his hand while he scrambles backward, like that'll stave off the advancing bounty hunter in a cowboy hat and boots with a blood splattered serape around his shoulders. "You got her back! Just- Let me go! Wh- Whatever you want, I can get it for you; I have resources! Money? The bounty; how much are they paying you? I'll double it! Guns!! Gun; I have guns! I can get you some serious firepower!"

 

"I don' need guns," the bounty hunter says easily, casually flipping open the chamber of his six-shooter and dumping out the spent casings. In a fight, he'd shove a whole roll in at once and snap the chamber back into place in a matter of seconds, but he's got time, and only one last enemy to worry about, so he takes his time pulling a single bullet from his stock and crouching to hold it at eye level with the man's terrified gaze. "See this? Got yer name on it. Been holdin' on to it since I took the bounty."

 

Just as casually, he slips the lone bullet into a slot and closes the chamber, spinning it randomly.

 

"No no no!" The man actually shrieks like a woman when the barrel touches his forehead and the hammer snaps.

 

No bullet.

 

"Fuckin- You fucking psycho!" he squawks, trembling too much to fight back anymore.

 

"Who gave the order to take the girl?"

 

"Fuck you!"

 

*CLICK*

 

"Fucking-! My boss! Okay? My boss gave the order!"

 

"So it is bigger than your little band o' suckers," the bounty hunter muses, pulling the hammer back again. "How big?"

 

"I don't know jack shit; I'm just-" *CLICK* "BIG!! Fucking hell! It's huge; I don't know how big it is, I just know that my boss answers to someone else. I swear to God!"

 

"Who's yer boss?"

 

"This guy called King; I dunno his real name. I'm in charge of this area, but King runs the whole city."

 

"And who's he answer to?"

 

"I-" The man hesitates, and the hammer gets pulled back. He pales, flinching sharply. "Talon! King pays up to someone in Talon! We're not officially tied with them, but they got fingers in all the pies, okay??"

 

"Good enough," the bounty hunter says, standing. A sigh of relief escapes the man, and he relaxes.

 

* BANG *

 

Jesse calmly removes the spent casing from his Peacekeeper and leans over to place it on the man's chest, avoiding the trickling blood from his half-missing face. The rest of the casings go into Jesse's pocket and he holsters the Peacekeeper in exchange for the bioscanner clipped to his shirt. The thumbprint matches, and the vitals ― or rather, lack thereof ― are recorded, confirmation of the kill and the collected bounty pinging on the display. Just in case, he takes a picture of the body, making sure the casing is plainly visible.

 

That's all for the law side.

 

For the underbelly, he dips a finger in the guy's blood and uses it to draw a simple eye on the cement floor, crossing it out with an X. Then he cleans his finger on an unbloodied part of the man's shirt and checks around for any casings he might have forgotten to police.

 

Once everything is done, he leaves the warehouse and takes a cigarillo from his stash in the saddlebag of his bike. Leaning on the bike, he lights up and puffs a cloud of tobacco scented smoke, eyeing it thoughtfully.

 

"Talon, huh?" he hums. "Fingers in a lotta pies... Reckon it won't be the last I hear of 'em then, eh Sarah?" He pats the gas cap of the bike and snuffs out the cherry of his cigarillo to save the rest of it for later. "Let's go see who's next on the bounty boards, girl; Talon or not, we got some assholes to hunt."

 

~

 

The last piece snaps into place with a satisfying click , and metal fingers gently caress the now smooth surface of the small metal sphere. For a moment, keen optics simply admire the complicated handiwork of countless hours spent leaning over this workbench, a sweet victory after so many horrendous failures.

 

"Zenyatta?" The pale blue optics shift up and over to the door, and a buzz of warm familiarity and companionship zips along delicate wires.

 

"Master, I have finally finished." He takes the sphere and holds it up, proud.

 

"Finished?" the other omnic echoes in curious amusement. "What, exactly?"

 

"A mechanism by which I believe I may hone my skills and innate talents," Zenyatta purrs, cupping the sphere between his hands. "I can channel my excess omnic energy through this, and if it works as I hope, then I will no longer have to worry for my surroundings when I attempt to connect to the Iris."

 

"My delightful pupil, you never fail to entertain," Mondatta laughs, striding across the room to hold out a hand. "May I?"

 

"Please!" Zenyatta places the sphere in his master's hand, and watches eagerly as it seems to come to life, audibly humming with omnic energy. Mondatta flattens his hand, and the sphere gently floats above his palm.

 

"Incredible... It will serve as a wonderful focus for your meditations," he nods approvingly, catching the sphere and returning it to the proper owner.

 

"Thank you, Master," Zenyatta preens.

 

"I would suggest," Mondatta states casually as he turns to leave, "making a few more, if you truly intend to use this method of controlling your excessive output of energy."

 

"A few more..." Zenyatta hums thoughtfully as his master closes the door with a smile on his way out. "Yes, a few more would not be remiss." Taking up his tools, the dedicated omnic continues his work.

 

~

 

Hana jolts, almost spilling her bowl of ramen, at the loud pounding against the door of her small home. Then she frowns. She isn't expecting Dae-hyun or Yuna until later tonight, and her father wouldn't knock.

 

Unless he forgot the key again...

 

But that wasn't his knock. So who...?

 

"Hana Song? Are you home?" a deep voice barks in the sharp staccato of the more formal Korean used by law enforcement and businessmen and such.

 

A pit of fear weighs heavy in her gut, and she does drop the bowl now, ceramic shattering on tile and hot broth and noodles spilling across the floor.

 

No... Please don't be what she thinks it is...

 

Numb with dread, her feet move without any mental input, carrying her to the door, where her hand reaches out of its own will, trembling as it turns the handle to open the door. Her breath catches at the sight of the pair of uniforms outside her door, but the dread and fear sink into confusion when she realises their expressions are hard, but not sympathetic in the way she expected.

 

"H- Hello?" she manages, feeling small and weak, like the child she thought she no longer was.

 

"Are you Hana Song?" one of the uniforms asks. She registers then that the uniform is not that of a police officer. In fact, it looks... military?

 

"Yes...?"

 

"You just turned 19, did you not?" the other asks.

 

"Yeah, I- Last week."

 

"Our information was correct," the second nods to the first. "Bring her."

 

"Miss, we need you to come with us."

 

"Wha- Why? What did I do?" she asks quietly, an unreasonable surge of panic rising in her chest. She knows she hasn't done anything wrong, but the hard, determined expressions facing her make her question that conviction.

 

"You aren't in trouble," the first assures, holding out a placating hand. "We just need you to come with us."

 

Hana takes a hesitant step toward them and then realises she's still in pyjamas. Flustered, and remembering the mess she needs to clean up in the kitchen, she steps back.

 

"I- er- Can I get dressed first?" she asks sheepishly. "And- I sorta... made a mess that I need to clean up."

 

"We can wait," the first nods, cutting a warning glance at his companion, who's frowning. "Do you mind if we come in?"

 

"Uh... N- No, not at all." Hana steps aside, opening the door wider for them, and hurries back into the house, first to clean up her food and grab some toast instead, and then to go shower and change as quickly as she can.

 

Half an hour later, she pauses in the door of the living room, where the gentler uniform is perched casually on the arm of the couch while the other paces stiffly behind him. It's surreal that they're still here, that she didn't imagine everything. In the moment of her hesitation, the pacing one notices her.

 

"Good. We're wasting time."

 

"Is there, um... Is there anything I need to bring?" Hana asks uncertainly, worried that she won't be coming back for a while.

 

"Nothing you wouldn't need for a normal day outing," the gentler one answers, shaking his head as he stands. "We'll have you back by evening."

 

"Can I message my friends and let them know I'll be late?" And so they know what happened if she disappears.

 

"We're wasting time!" the sharper one repeats, impatient. The gentler one waves her off, gesturing Hana toward the door.

 

"On the way," he allows. "You'll be seeing them shortly."

 

"Finally," the sharper one mutters under her breath while Hana tries to comprehend what the other said.

 

She lets them herd her out to a big black SUV, and quickly taps out a text to her group chat after the door closes behind her and the car pulls away from the curb.

 

MIB got me?? no clu where im going; call police if u dont hear from me soon

 

An instant later, the texts come pouring in.

 

me too!!

 

me 3

the hell is going on??

 

heard King and Overlord got nap'd too

 

Hana frowns at that.

 

Dae have you heard from Casino?

 

nothing

wait he just texted me

got him too

what do they want with us?

 

nothing good i bet

probably arresting us for illegal games or something

 

nice optimism Mon

 

whatever it is we'll find out soon

i just reached our destination

big white building with lots of guards

 

told u it was nothing good

 

Hana stops paying attention to the texts, her gaze going to the two uniforms in front and then out the window. She watches the city pass, the surreality settling on her again and leaving her blank and empty.

 

The building is big, white, and patrolled by countless guards, just like Dae-hyun said, and Hana feels smaller than ever as the two uniforms flank and escort her inside and down the halls to a large meeting room. Dae-hyun and two others are already sitting at the big round table in the middle, and it takes Hana a moment to recognise Seung-hwa Shi and Kyung-soo Hann, who she knows better by their online handles, Overlord and King.

 

"Hana!" Dae-hyun stands immediately and rounds the table quickly to grab her in a tight hug. "Good to see you."

 

"You too," she smiles wanly, hugging him back and then looking across the room at two of her biggest gaming rivals. "King, Overlord."

 

"D.Va," Kyung-soo nods politely. Seung-hwa watches her with blank eyes, and it looks like he still hasn't quite caught up to what's going on.

 

The uniforms leave, but the door doesn't even get to close behind them before two more enter, flanking a loudly annoyed young woman.

 

"-place is too damn sterile!" Yuna is protesting, clearly more to get a rise out of her escorts than in actual complaint.

 

"Who is she?" Seung-hwa whispers, leaning toward Kyung-soo.

 

"D.Mon. Yuna Lee, if I recall correctly."

 

"She's called D.Mon for a reason," Hana says, grin widening as she hurries toward her friend. "Hey!"

 

"Oh Hana," Yuna brightens, grabbing her in a hug and then turning a narrow look on her escorts. "Okay, I'm here; now shoo, puppies."

 

One of them deadpan bares his teeth, earning a snort of amusement from Yuna as they leave.

 

"I guess now we're just waiting on Jae-eun," Dae-hyun says, taking a seat. "This is a lot of gamers to have in one room..."

 

"I suspect it has something to do with the recent attack that no one wants to talk about," Kyung-soo hums lightly, tapping his fingers on the table.

 

"Someone found proof of omnics at the attack site," Seung-hwa notes, perking. "It was covered up, of course, but images have been leaked already."

 

"Figures," Yuna scoffs, leaning on the edge of the table. "Why else would the military be involved?"

 

"Involved with what?" a new voice chirps as another pair of uniforms enter.

 

Like Kyung-soo and Seung-hwa, Hana's never met Jae-eun Kwon personally, primarily because he's not as much of a gamer as everyone else, but she knows he and Dae-hyun have been friends for a long time; quite a feat when 'Casino' is known for being a loner. Dae-hyun was Jae-eun's mechanic for a long time, but Hana recalls Dae-hyun mentioning that they were friends even before that.

 

"We're about to find out," Kyung-soo says, leaning forward.

 

"Hey, Jae-eun," Dae-hyun grins, offering a hand to the renown racer as his escorts leave the room. Jae-eun laughs and pulls him into a quick hug.

 

"Haven't seen you in an age," he smirks, thumping Dae-hyun's shoulder. "How've you been?"

 

"Well, like I said, just gaming, really."

 

"And making a mess of my house!" Hana chimes in, winking at her friend. Dae-hyun shrugs sheepishly, not trying to deny it.

 

"Well hello," Jae-eun says, smile turning polite and charming. "Are you D.Mon or D.Va?"

 

"D.Va," she grins, holding out her hand. "Hana Song." Jae-eun takes it and kisses her knuckles instead of shaking it, which throws her off for a moment.

 

"Pleasure to meet you," he says brightly. "Which means you must be D.Mon."

 

"I suppose you can call me Yuna," she humphs, crossing her arms cattily rather than taking his offered hand. He doesn't even miss a beat, turning to Kyung-soo and Seung-hwa.

 

They're just finishing introductions when the door opens again, this time to admit a large man with countless medals pinned all over his uniform, and a couple of underlings who stay at the door while he approaches.

 

"Greetings, children," he rumbles. If not for his silvery-white hair, Hana would take offense to being called a child. "In just a moment, you will be introduced-"

 

"Apologies for my tardiness, General!" a woman interjects breathlessly, barrelling into the room and straightening her uniform.

 

"Ah, perfect timing," the general nods. "Captain Myung, this is your new team. I was just about to begin explanations."

 

"Yeah, an explanation would be really nice right now," Yuna pipes up.

 

"Yuna," Dae-hyun chides.

 

"Quite alright," the general allows, waving him off. "Hostility was expected. If you would have a seat, Miss Lee?"

 

"I'm good, thanks."

 

"As you will. You six have been chosen for your incredible talents in order to form a special new unit of the Korean Military."

 

"We're being recruited," Kyung-soo clarifies.

 

"That is correct. Just over two weeks ago, we intercepted an encrypted message that translated into technobabble gibberish. Fortunately, someone recognised a combination of binary and whatever code it is that omnics use for their written languages. Before we could get it properly translated, an attack was launched against the northern edge of the city. We put it down quickly, but not without significant casualties."

 

"So it is about the attack!" Seung-hwa crows triumphantly.

 

"Indeed," the general nods. "Captain Myung lost many fine men and women, and the few who survived were too badly injured to return to active duty. The higher ups have had this project in the works for many years, and after this attack, our deadline of the end of the year has been accelerated. With no crew to command, and an exemplary past record, Captain Myung was the perfect choice to head this new unit."

 

"You flatter me, General," she says, blushing faintly.

 

"So what exactly is this 'new unit'?" Jae-eun asks. "And why do you need a racer and a bunch of gamers?"

 

"This new unit will be called the Mobile Exo-Force of the Korean Army." The general pauses, meeting each person's gaze before adding, "For short, MEKA."

 

"You need pilots," Hana blurts as it suddenly clicks in her mind.

 

"Correct," he nods. "You each will be provided with a mech resembling those you've created in your video games, and Mr. Park will be your mechanic."

 

"Oh," Dae-hyun breathes, caught somewhere between relief and resignation.

 

"Cheer up, Dae-hyun," Yuna chuckles, a bright look in her eyes that takes all meaning out of her nexts words. "You don't have to charge headfirst into danger like we will."

 

"No, I just get blamed if your mechs fail and one of you gets killed," he retorts.

 

"Relax," Jae-eun says, reaching over to pat his shoulder. "You've never failed me before; I trust you."

 

"Me too," Hana smiles brightly. "No one I'd rather have looking out for me."

 

"If I may, General," Kyung-soo speaks up. "What exactly will we be doing?"

 

"Fighting omnics." Those blunt words shatter the delicate joviality that was forming, leaning a strained silence in its wake. Nodding as though expecting this reaction, the general continues. "We believe an omnium may have reactivated nearby, and until we can track down its location, you will be the city's protectors."

 

"Call it what you will," Yuna says grimly, speaking the words all six of them are thinking. "We're just the bait."

Chapter Text

Neither girl is paying attention when they round the corner, each going far faster than she should have been. Both hit the ground with an oomph and a hiss of pain, but the petite brunette recovers first, immediately yanking together the lapels of her jacket to make sure her chest is hidden. then she glances up, at the same time as the slender girl with longer hair and looser clothing.

 

"Alex!"

 

"Lena!"

 

They burst into laughter and haul each other up for a tight, bone-crushing hug. Alex grins when she realises she only lacks an inch to Lena's height now.

 

"Did you shrink in the last two months?" she teases, yanking the former pilot into a headlock and knuckling her head. "You're shorter than I remember!"

 

"Easy, love!" Lena giggles, blinking out of her grasp and grabbing her cheeks with both hands. "Look at you; you're so grown up! How old are you now, eleven?"

 

"Jus' tunned twef," Alex manages through the squish of her cheeks. "Howf Winthon?"

 

"Still sulking," Lena sighs, letting her hands fall. "Did you ever find that person you were looking for?"

 

"Not yet," Alex grimaces. "But I think I might have a lead. Is Mr. McCree around?"

 

"Haven't seen him since he took the contract to get you back," Lena shrugs, unconcerned. "Bit of a loner, he is. Don't think he's quite accepted that Overwatch is really gone." She hesitates, a furrow in her brow. "Don't think any of us really have..."

 

"I'm sorry, Lena," Alex says gently, reaching out to take the older woman's hand. "I wish there was something I could have done..."

 

"Nah, we all knew it was coming," Lena replies, a wan half-smile curling her lips as she teasingly flicks Alex's forehead. "I gotta go, but you be more careful; you hear? Can't let anyone get their hands on you."

 

"Believe me, I know," Alex grimaces. Then she brightens and tugs at Lena's hand. "Wait! I have something to show you! Come!"

 

Lena lets the girl pull her back down the street to an alley, where they duck into an alcove meant for two dumpsters and only containing one. With a quick check up and down the alley to be sure no one is near enough to interrupt them, Alex faces Lena and takes a breath.

 

Then she's gone, collapsed into herself, and where she was standing lies a thick puddle of water that strangely doesn't leak toward the drain a few yards away. Lena stares in stunned awe, and the puddle moves, licking across the ground and circling her feet before bursting upward in a small spray that coalesces into a very tired looking Alex.

 

"Sweet crackers and tea, what was that ??" Lena asks, catching the girl before she falls over.

 

"My latest ability," Alex huffs, breathless and trembling. "Took me a month straight just to be able to do that; it doesn't hurt as much as my other abilities, but it drains me so, so fast."

 

"That's incredible!" Lena exclaims, excitement rising now. "Are you okay? Do you need help?"

 

"I'll be fine; you need to go, don't you?"

 

"It can wait a minute or ten," Lena assures, pulling Alex's arm over her shoulders. "Hold tight, love, and grit your teeth; this might get uncomfortable."

 

"Can't get much worse than my body already trying to tear itself apart," Alex scoffs, but wraps her other arm around Lena's chest, just in case.

 

"Here's to hoping this doesn't make it worse..."

 

Lena tightens her grip on Alex and blinks out of the alley, skipping time to cross town more quickly in search of an out of the way motel. By the time Lena's secured a room, Alex is sound asleep against her shoulder, so she takes care not to wake the girl getting her to the room and into bed. Then she scribbles a quick note and leaves it on the nightstand with the room key on the way out the door.

 

A blip from her communicator catches her attention just as she's leaving the motel grounds, and she pauses to check it, finding a distress signal from Winston.

 

"Oh, bugger it," she tsks, charging up her accelerator for what's about to be a massive jump. "On my way, big guy!"

 

~

 

Priority Objective: Patrol designated area

Accept? Y/N

 

Y

 

Priority Objective Assigned

 

Secondary Objective: Respond to all registered incidents

Accept? Y/N

 

Y

 

Secondary Objective Assigned

 

S-ROK Unit 431-T Activated

Day 1813

Monitoring: 0630-1830

 

Optics flare and 431-T shakes itself, calibrating. Its HUD glitches for a fraction of a second before settling, priority and secondary objectives lined neatly in the upper right-hand corner. 431-T runs a quick diagnostic on its HUD as it exits its kennel and begins its patrol, the results scrolling up the left-hand edge of its view, but the report comes up clean, so it turns all processing power to its tasks.

 

As usual, it's a peaceful day, and 431-T notes every passing half hour with another "Undisturbed" to its daily record. At 1800, it begins making its way back to its kennel for nightly repairs and processor archivals. At 1815, it sends a ping to its partner, Unit 582-L, who will take over the same patrol from 1830-0630.

 

431-T settles into its kennel at precisely 1830 and shuts down external systems while its processors review the daily record and organise everything for its cumulative report. The kennel automatically starts repairs and upkeep, and 431-T allows itself to settle into stasis.

 

Precisely 11 hours and 14 minutes later, its processors begin activation, preparing for a ping from 582-L, only to receive a message instead.

 

Unread message

Read? Y/N

 

Y

 

Message: Report to the following location for deactivation and recycling.

 

Its HUD glitches again, the pixels of the message scattering across its view. A heavy weight settles in the centre of its chest, and diagnostics on both come up clean.

 

Everything is functioning nominally.

 

And yet... 431-T is experiencing some inexplicable resistance to obedience.

 

Its processor provides words, but 431-T doesn't understand what they mean.

 

It doesn't want to go?

 

Want: to have a desire to do or have something; to wish for.

 

431-T recognises it as an emotion, but it's incapable of having emotions, and therefore...

 

Is it incapable?

 

Searching archived files, 431-T brings up the memory file from day 596, at 1345. It was patrolling past a park, wherein humans were enjoying themselves, alone or in clusters of two and more. One such cluster was laughing and playing with a flesh and blood canine, an animal not unlike 431-T in shape and size, but decidedly different in its interaction with humans.

 

431-T experienced a surge in its wires at the sight of the canine on its back, belly being rubbed and tongue lolling happily under the delighted ministrations of its humans. The surge was pushed out, diagnosed, ignored when the report came up clean, but now 431-T regards the memory and feeds the idea to its processors that perhaps it is in fact capable of emotion.

 

Humanoid omnics experience emotion; it isn't unthinkable that perhaps canine omnics can as well.

 

After 30 seconds of consideration, 431-T decides that the evidence in favour of this idea is too compelling to ignore, which leaves it with a choice. Either it can obey the order to report for deactivation, or it can disobey. It considers the former, and is immediately beset with the same heavy resistance in the centre of its chest.

 

Without another second of hesitation, 431-T makes its decision. Rising, it exits its kennel and promptly turns the opposite direction to which it was supposed to go.

Chapter Text

Gabriel lurches backward, a visceral twist of hatred in his gut and a snarling hiss on his scarred lips. Moira snorts vague amusement, cocking a curious brow at him.

 

"The fuck is he doing here?" Gabriel snaps venomously, glaring hard at the slender figure eying him up and down with disdain.

 

"They, if you please," the spy corrects coolly, lightly accented voice mockingly familiar; they're French, like Amelie.

 

"Inconnue is the most suited for this task," Moira points out, still watching Gabriel with a thoughtful sidelong gaze.

 

"No," Gabriel growls. "I don't trust him ." This time it's purposeful, and Inconnue notices; they sneer back at him.

 

"I can't imagine why," Moira muses, rolling her eyes. "It isn't like they blew up your boyfriend. Oh wait..."

 

"Collateral damage is inevitable when dealing with explosives," Inconnue says, their voice nearly at a purr and a strangely manic sort of delight sparkling in their eyes that could be missed for the blank disinterest in their expression. "It is your own fault you could not get him out in time. You were warned."

 

"Fuck. You."

 

"Enough." The low growl of a voice from the shadows ends the fight before it begins, and Inconnue dips their head in easy deference to the large form that stands and steps forward. Gabriel shows no such respect, glaring up at Akande, who stares evenly back as he speaks. "Every single individual that makes up Talon is here for a reason. Whether for funding..." His gaze slips to Moira momentarily, who shrugs absently, unconcerned with the callout. "...free rein to explore dangerous hobbies..." A flick to Inconnue, who smirks, the manic delight returning. Akande's gaze is hard when it returns to Gabriel, knowing. "...or vengeance... Whatever your reasoning, you are here, and a part of Talon, which means you work together. I have use for your talents, else I'd be rid of you. Is that understood, Reyes?"

 

The threat isn't even slightly veiled. Gabriel doesn't cower.

 

He's got nothing left to live for anyway; what does it matter if someone hastens his inevitable demise?

 

"Reaper," he corrects lowly. "Reyes died in the explosion."

 

It's the name Akande himself gave Gabriel, and the larger man humphs amusement, a faint smirk tugging at his lips. The steel in his gaze eases as he turns, hands clasped behind his back.

 

"Take Widowmaker and retrieve my gauntlet, Reaper," he orders. "I have need of Inconnue elsewhere. Moira, there is a facility in the States where I believe you worked for a few months?"

 

"Ah yes, the lovely little place in California," she smiles. "The Redwood Observatory, I believe."

 

Gabriel casts a glare at Inconnue on the way out, vaguely registering Akande's order to take the spy and destroy the facility before the American government or the UN could begin making use of it. Dismissing the useless information, Gabriel dissolves into smoke ― a somehow far easier task now that he's slept in death's bed ― and slips into the ventilation system, which is the fastest way for him to get around the building.

 

Akande's return from prison had been unexpected, but well timed to restore order to a fracturing organisation, and Gabriel is certain he'll see more combat in the days to come.

 

Well now he knows what Genji felt like, to have come a hair's breadth from dying, only to be stitched back together as a weapon.

 

So be it. He'll keep fighting until he breaks.

 

~

 

"Who are you?" the terrified guard breathes, trembling under Jack's knee.

 

"Just a soldier," he states gruffly, and punches the man's jaw to knock him out.

 

Standing and rolling his aching shoulders, Jack surveys the damage he's left behind. It's sloppy work, but no one is dead, and that was his goal.

 

He really needs to up his workout routine, because a two-mile run and a handful of pushups, pullups, situps, whatever other -ups he can think of just aren't enough to make him ready for shit like this.

 

And he's just plain getting old.

 

Gotta love how time doesn't slow for shit...

 

Grimacing at a twinge in his lower back, Jack grumbles a couple curses and heads for the room that is his entire objective. Inside, he peruses the options, but really, he knew what he was coming for before he came, and nothing he sees changes his mind; grabbing a pulse rifle off the wall, he checks it over with the ease of an old habit.

 

"Like riding a bike," he mutters to himself as he clicks the last piece into place, satisfied. Tucking it under his arm, he heaves up a box of munitions and leaves, pausing now and again to double check that the guards he had to be rougher with are still alive.

 

Once he's out of the facility and well away from the grounds, he seeks out the beat up old wagon he stored between a tree and a ledge of rock. The box of munitions goes in first, followed by the pulse rifle, and then by his mask and his jacket, which is replaced with a threadbare hoodie and a worn out overcoat. A moth-eaten army surplus blanket gets draped over the wagon, and he tugs the hood up over his messy hair as he pulls the wagon down to the road.

 

Not a lot of people pass him ― this road is only good for people who want to take in the view of a mostly uninhabited mountainous area ― and not a single one stops. Most give him a wide berth, and a few even speed up while they pass him. That's fine; no one wants to get involved with a homeless hitchhiker, so no one is going to give him a second glance, much less ask questions he doesn't want to answer.

 

A tired breath of relief escapes him when he finally reaches his temporary hideout in the next town: a derelict storehouse on the edge of a farm. A tiny part of him misses Maria when he drops onto the hard-packed, half-moulded hay that he's slept on for the past week, but he dismisses that flicker of emotion with a careless sigh and tips his shoulders back, hands pressed into his lower back to stretch it out a bit.

 

Yawning, he stares at the wagon for a moment, wondering vaguely why he's doing any of this. His exhausted mind helpfully pushes forward the fact of Gabriel's death. Reminds him that someone tore apart Overwatch, and that someone is still out there, thinking they got away with it.

 

But he's so tired... And not just from the physical exhaustion. It's tiring to be angry all the time, and every now and then he just wishes he could forget it all.

 

Flopping back on the hay, he drapes an arm over his face to block out the world for just a moment.

 

If he could do it... If he could just forget everything... Forget the people who think him dead. Forget the need for vengeance against whomever destroyed his family.

 

Forget the hands he longs to feel against his skin...

 

"Fuck..." Dropping his arm by his side, he glares up at the rotted ceiling planks and the bird's nests in the partly collapsed rafters. "Not now... Please not now..."

 

He's too tired for this shit. For this deep-seated longing. The desperation that threatens to swell at every turn. Closing his eyes and pressing the palm of his hand to his groin, he growls in irritated need.

 

"Gabriel..."

 

It takes an eternity for the desperate agony to fade, not for the first time without release, and Jack stares wearily upward, eyes wet and unseeing as sorrow and exhaustion leave him empty and hollow. Gabriel's name slips from his tongue again, and then again, a sad lullaby that dips him into a fitful sleep like all the rest have been, and probably always will be.

 

He can wish all he wants, but this is his reality now, and he has to live with it.

Chapter Text

"What do you think of him?" Mondatta asks softly, startling Zenyatta. He stands beside the door through which Zenyatta just came, the door that now separates their ominously silent guest from the rest of the monastery.

 

"...I am not sure," Zenyatta admits, subconsciously remaining in the doorframe, as though to shelter the man beyond from the questioning gazes of his brothers and sisters. Or perhaps some deeply human piece of his core fears the man's capabilities... He is, after all, half machine.

 

And yet...

 

"Tell me your thoughts, my student," Mondatta coaxes, neither of them moving.

 

Zenyatta considers, parsing out the complicated twists and ties of emotions that still baffle him at times, even after so many years.

 

"I do not feel threatened," he says slowly, allowing the words to come as truth settles on his proverbial tongue. "He is dangerous ― more than dangerous; every motion of his body is death incarnate, a threat and a promise and a wish all at once. But he has said nothing, done nothing since he arrived. He is searching, and even he cannot say for what."

 

"You see with clear eyes," Mondatta hums approvingly. "I am tasking you with his care; for as long as he is within our walls, it will be your duty to see to his needs. Food and clothes, should he have need, companionship..."

 

"You make him sound like a pet," Zenyatta notes, amused. His teacher laughs, a melodic sound that brings warmth to his core and sets his orbs aglow with delight.

 

"He is no pet," Mondatta assures. "The heart of a dragon beats inside that chest; a dragon that can never be tamed... only befriended."

 

"It is no duty," Zenyatta corrects when his master turns to leave. Mondatta pauses to glance back at him, head cocked curiously. "Caring for him. It is only an honour."

 

Pride gleams in Mondatta's LEDs as he purrs and dips his head in approval, leaving Zenyatta with a task and a heart eager to complete it.

 

~

 

Baptiste gently closes the door behind him, moving in near silence, and carefully hitches his bag higher on his shoulder as he turns.

 

"Going somewhere?" The deep, low voice nearly jolts him out of his skin, and he bites back a cry of shock even as he jerks back from the wall of muscle that appeared in front of him.

 

"Mauga, how the hell do you not make more noise when you move?" he hisses, clutching instinctively at his chest, as though it'll do anything to slow the thrum of his heartbeat.

 

"I'm talented like that," the islander scoffs, crossing his massive arms and eyeing Baptiste closely. "You didn't answer my question."

 

"Is it any of your business?" Baptiste returns, a bit sharper than he meant to allow.

 

"I thought we were friends," Mauga replies, a cool edge to his otherwise casual voice. Baptiste refuses to shudder; the man looks like he could crush a skull in one hand, but his fists aren't nearly his deadliest attribute.

 

"We are," he says cautiously, well aware of how thin the ice he's treading is.

 

"But you don't trust me."

 

"Of course I trust you. We're brothers."

 

"And you were just going to leave without even telling me why," Mauga presses sharply, stepping closer and letting his hands fall to curl them into loose fists.

 

Anyone else would think him harmless now, trying to make an emotional appeal maybe, but Baptiste knows better. He shifts back the same distance Mauga shifts forward, and Mauga stops, features tightening subtly.

 

"...You know me well," he says quietly into the tense silence. "Shame I don't know you as well as I thought I did."

 

"Mauga..."

 

"Get out of my sight," he hisses viciously, making Baptiste jolt back another step. "I won't turn a blind eye next time, agelu ."

 

There's so much Baptiste wants to say, so much he wishes he could explain... But Mauga would never understand.

 

They're worlds apart now. Maybe they always have been. Mauga thrives on the game; the chase, the manipulation, the bloodshed. Baptiste was fine with it. Until he wasn't. And by then, it was too late to change things.

 

Mauga stares at him, unmoving, cold, and Baptiste feels another crack split across his heart.

 

"Whatever else you are," he says softly, gripping the strap of his bag tightly, "you're my brother. That won't change."

 

"Save your pretty words," Mauga growls. "Go. Before I decide to treat you the way a traitor should be treated."

 

The ache in his chest persists long after the building is out of sight, hidden in the dark of a moonless night, and he tells himself it's because he's running too hard, that the wet streaks down his face are from sweating, but he can't stop the ragged sob that breaks past his throat when he pauses to catch his breath, and it takes everything he has not to break down completely right then and there.

 

This place might not have been where he belonged, but they were still his family. Mauga, Zi, Soren... Even Sumayyah. His team. The people he'd been stuck with for years now. People he knew almost better than himself.

 

Or rather, thought he knew.

 

At some point over the years, they changed, and now he's not sure who they are anymore. And if he's completely honest, he's not entirely sure he hasn't also changed. He used to think they were making the world a better place, but that shouldn't come at the cost of thousands of lives; with the amount of blood on his hands, he could fill the Nile multiple times over. And none of them seem to care.

 

Shaking himself and taking a ragged breath, Baptiste pushes onward. It hurts, but he'll survive.

 

It just might be a while before he can breathe freely again.

 

~

 

"You came." She sounds somewhat surprised, and he can't help but scoff.

 

"I had a choice?" The darkness conceals them from each other, but for the soft glow of their equipment; hers blue, his green.

 

"Everyone has a choice."

 

"Tell that to the people you've de-homed," he snaps.

 

"Sacrifices must be made in order for the world to progress."

 

"And you're willing to sacrifice lives."

 

She doesn't respond immediately, and he shifts closer, the hardlight of his skates humming; everything about him is musical, just as everything about her is order.

 

"What do you want, Vishkar? Isn't it enough that you people are destroying my home? You burned down the favela, built up your fancy buildings, and for what? To cater to the rich?"

 

"...It was not supposed to be this way," she whispers.

 

"Not supposed to be this way," he echoes, laughing bitterly. "How was it supposed to be then? Forcing people out of their homes and into the streets in person? Cops going door to door and throwing everyone out? The end result was always going to be the same, lady."

 

The hum of his skates grows, and she shifts uneasily, fidgeting. Uncomfortable silence stretches awkwardly, until he gets fed up.

 

"What the hell do you want from me? We're enemies."

 

"Enemies... Yes. But we should not be." She seems to be thinking aloud more than actually talking to him. "We are making the world better."

 

"Making the world better, huh. You think the kids down the street who have to sleep on the floor of someone else's house agree? You think the people who have a harder time making a living wage agree?" Frustrated, he turns away. "I'm done talking to you."

 

"Wait." She shifts toward him, but stops herself, and he pauses, wary of a fight. She shakes her head, like she's trying to clear it, and her words come out slow, hesitant. "Return what you stole."

 

"I didn't steal shit ," he hisses, pissed now. "This technology should never have been yours in the first place. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a record agent to meet with in a couple of hours, and I still need to put the finishing touches to my music. For the album they want to put out. That the whole world will be hearing soon." There is no bragging in his voice, only anger and warning; a threat against trying to make him disappear.

 

She doesn't try to stop him again.

 

Once he's out of the area, gliding along deserted nighttime streets toward the little hovel he calls home; once he's sure he hasn't been followed, that the Vishkar woman isn't waiting to pull him into an alley; once he's safe, he breathes a shaky laugh of relief. Almost as an afterthought, he taps his wrist and brings up a display so he can choose some music to play to calm himself down, making a mental note to upgrade his equipment to make choosing and switching music easier.

 

That went better than expected. He was certain it would be a trap, and he went prepared, but fortunately nothing happened. Maybe he missed the real reason she wanted to meet with him, but who cares? He said his piece, got it out of his system, and came out of the encounter alive. Now he can devote all his attention to finishing this album; if Synaesthesia Auditiva does as well as predicted, it could be his ticket to a better life. And not just his, but everyone else who's counting on him.

 

Nothing, not even some disillusioned Vishkar goon, is going to keep him from improving the lives of the people he loves.

Chapter Text

"Soldier 76?" Gabriel scowls. "The hell kind of name is that?"

 

"Who knows?" Amelie hums absently, cleaning the pieces of her gun with more loving care than she ever showed Gerard while they were married. "An alias, of course, but not a very good one."

 

"Like 'Reaper' and 'Widowmaker' are any better," he scoffs.

 

"Mm."

 

"So what's the bounty?" he asks, not really caring but having had too much silence lately. "Must be pretty big to catch your attention."

 

"It doesn't matter," she says plainly. "It is my next assignment."

 

"Really." He hasn't heard shit about this, and seeing as he sits at the table of Akande's most trusted...

 

Something's up.

 

"So who is he?"

 

"Some pesky American vigilante," Amelie dismisses. "He's been poking about where he shouldn't, so, comme il suit , he has earned a bounty."

 

"And you drew the short stick."

 

She shrugs. " C'est la vie ."

 

"The fuck has he done then?" Gabriel demands, frustrated by the lack of clear answers. Amelie's apathy toward anything beyond the thrill of the kill can be infuriating at times.

 

To his surprise, she stops moving, staring thoughtfully into the middle distance with pursed lips and a small furrow in her brow.

 

"...Olivia said he's been systematically hunting down anyone to do with Talon," she says after a moment. "More specifically, anyone who might also have had ties to Overwatch."

 

Something tugs at the back of Gabriel's mind, but it's overshadowed by anger, the only real emotion he knows anymore; anger at the soldier, anger at Talon, anger at Amelie... anger at himself.

 

There's some bullshit going on here, and no one is telling him anything useful, so he might as well go to the source.

 

"Give me the assignment."

 

" Quoi? "

 

"I said, give me the assignment. I'll track down this... Soldier 76 and take care of him." She frowns narrowly and, without really caring either way, he tacks on, "There's a public speaker I intended to look into, but this takes precedence; your new assignment is the omnic monk, Tekhartha Mondatta."

 

~

 

It takes Jack about twenty minutes of trying to shake his tail without being obvious that he's trying to shake his tail when he suddenly realises who his tail is.

 

"Oh fuck me..." he mutters, subconsciously reaching up to ensure his mask is still in place. This is going to come to a confrontation, so he might as well make sure that it happens on his own terms; he ducks suddenly into an alleyway, passed the Los Muertos tags all over the walls, and drops into a crouch behind the dumpster just as his bounty hunter slips around the corner.

 

He doesn't have to see the man to know one hand is on the six-shooter at his hip, and he's more than familiar with how fast a draw this guy is; it's a good thing he's been here long enough to know how to keep out of sight.

 

"You've got some balls to try and take my bounty," he says, just loud enough for the man to hear, and then squeezes behind the dumpster and lays down, sliding under the gate that blocks off this alley from the one next to it. Fortunately the dumpster on that side is far enough forward that he can get to his feet again.

 

"Well, somebody's gotta do it," that all too familiar drawl responds lightly. "Lucky me, I happened to be in the area."

 

"Is that so?" Jack hums casually, wiggling carefully past the dumpster and checking around the corner for any meandering gang members. "I thought you were an American bounty hunter; the States are your territory."

 

"Guess ya hearda me, huh?" comes the pleasant chuckle, just on the other side of the gate. A squeaky creak says he just moves the dumpster a bit, no doubt tracking Jack down.

 

"Oh, I've more than heard of you, McCree. What are you doing so far south?" Going one way will take him back out onto the streets; going the other will take him to a cluster of warehouses that are used more for parties and gang activities than storage.

 

"Visitin' some family, actually," Jesse answers genially. "I was plannin' on takin' yer bounty when I got back, but well... Heard Soldier 76 was in the area and I don't believe in coincidences."

 

If he goes to the warehouses, there's a chance of running into more Los Muertos goons, and after the whole debacle two nights ago that almost killed a girl, he's not sure he wants to tangle with them while Jesse's around. On the other hand, it's not quite late enough for the streets to be emptied of civilians, and he definitely doesn't want to catch anyone in the crossfire if it comes to that.

 

"So what now? You really think you can capture me?" He heads for the warehouses.

 

"Capture, kill... Whatever it takes," Jesse replies, a grim note to his voice now. "Prefer it if it didn't come to the latter, but sometimes that's just how it's gotta be." The gate clatters as he vaults it, and Jack scuttles down the alley and around the corner while the cowboy struggles past the dumpster.

 

"Don't suppose I could convince you to postpone this, could I?" he calls back, checking his options.

 

"Got some business to take care of?" Jesse asks, sounding amused.

 

"Something like that," Jack agrees, eyeing the distance to the nearest warehouse. It'll take him across Jesse's line of sight, but if the cowboy reaches the corner before he gets around to the next one, they'll have to do this in the open.

 

"Everybody does, don't they? Just what's on yer plate?"

 

"...Someone tore apart my family," Jack answers honestly, bracing himself. "I'm going to find out who, and when I do, God help them." Lunging away from the wall, he books it across the way and into the warehouse.

 

Two shots ring between the buildings, the bullets chipping plaster from the wall just past Jack's leg; Jesse almost took out his knees.

 

"Fraction of a second earlier, I'd have no kneecaps," he huffs inside the door, grudgingly impressed.

 

"What can I say?" Jesse laughs. "Learned from the best."

 

"Oh yeah? And who's that?" Jack asks, keeping up the charade.

 

"Best sniper I ever knew and a better mother than I ever deserved." The nostalgic longing in his voice pulls at the ragged scars on Jack's heart, drudging up his own sorrow. "Name was Ana Amari."

 

"...Was?" Jack prompts, going deeper into the warehouse as Jesse enters.

 

"Died a few years back in a duel with another sniper."

 

"Not the best then."

 

"Didn't say the best ever," Jesse points out. "Just the best I knew."

 

Jack can't help a small chuckle as he dips between stacks of crates.

 

"Fair enough."

 

"Yer quick," Jesse notes after a moment, startling Jack back around the corner just before the cowboy rounds the opposite side of the stack. "Been a long time since I seen someone run that fast in a sprint."

 

"I get around," Jack hums, carefully weaving his way farther from Jesse. "Have to be quick when you're one-on-dozens."

 

"Wagin' a one-man-war?"

 

"Sounds about right."

 

"What d'ya plan on doin' after you win?"

 

That makes Jack pause, and then he has to scurry around another stack to put more distance between them as he catches sight of Jesse between the stacks.

 

"...I don't know," he admits once he has a bigger buffer between them.

 

"Don't have any family left to go back to?" Jesse asks with a knowing ache in his voice. Jack actually takes a step to go comfort him before stopping.

 

"I can't- They think I'm dead."

 

"Revenge from the great beyond, huh?" There's a roughness to Jesse's laugh, like he'd start crying if he wasn't in the middle of a job, and Jack has never sympathised more.

 

"I've lost people," he says, leaning against the stack nearest him. Jesse's voice hasn't moved, so he doesn't either. "People I loved. The ones responsible need to pay for it. No matter what happens to me; I'm a dead man anyway."

 

"I see."

 

Silence falls for a moment, and Jack listens for any sound that Jesse is approaching. He catches the subtle noise of a footstep and pushes off the stack, ready to continue the chase if need be, but Jesse shocks him.

 

"I'm withdrawin' from your bounty, Soldier. There's a bullet with yer name on it, but it ain't gonna be from my gun, not over a bunch o' credits."

 

For a split second, Jack just stands there, speechless, and then his body moves without conscious thought; he steps quickly out from between the stacks. Jesse is walking away, hands tucked into his pockets, brim pulled low and a wisp of smoke trailing over his shoulder from a cigarillo.

 

"You're letting me go?" Jack asks, still stunned. Jesse stops walking, and then turns. His expression is carefully blank but for a thin smile giving his lips a slight curve.

 

"I mean, I could keep chasin' you all night if ya want," the cowboy says, shrugging faintly. "Somehow I think you got better things to do."

 

"...Thank you."

 

They consider each other for a moment more, and then Jesse pulls one of the magazines from his ammo belt, taking one bullet out of the round before shoving the rest in his pocket. Jack eyes him warily, readying for a possible fight, but Jesse just motions with the bullet and then crouches to place it on the ground.

 

"Got yer name on it," he says with a tip of the hat as he turns to leave. "When yer ready to use it, come find me."

 

That bullet won't fit in any revolver but Jesse's Peacekeeper; Jack knows that from experience. It's an offer and a promise, and one he can't bring himself to turn down. Besides, once it's all over, he won't have a reason to live anymore.

 

"You just want the reward money," Jack finds himself saying, the old familiar warmth of camaraderie on his tongue without permission.

 

"If I wanted that, I'd turn myself in," Jesse laughs, waving a hand. "See ya 'round, Soldier."

 

The silence left in the cowboy's wake is gentle, comforting; for the first time since before the explosion, Jack almost feels at peace. On the way out, he scoops up the bullet and tucks it with care into his pocket, alongside his dog tags.

Chapter Text

Zarya stares blankly at the card, trying to decide whether to be offended or excited. It's no heavier than any other gift card she's ever held, but somehow she can't help but hold it with all the delicacy of a heavy porcelain vase.

 

"What is this?"

 

"A three hundred dollar gift card for use at your favoured gym and/or to buy your own equipment."

 

She glares at the omnic perched lazily on the ledge above. Their ears ― antennas, actually, but they look like ears; act like them too ― twitch upright.

 

"What?" Lynx asks innocently.

 

"Why did you get me a three hundred dollar gift card?" she clarifies pointedly, making it clear she's not playing their games.

 

"...I heard it was your birthday."

 

There's something soft and vulnerable about that response, and Zarya doesn't like it.

 

"I don't want any presents from a walking toaster oven," she huffs, flicking the card back at Lynx even though it physically pains her to do so. They snatch it out of the air with all the subtle grace of a ninja, only to fumble it immediately and drop it at her feet.

 

"Oops," they say, not at all apologetic. Zarya wonders if the fumbling wasn't intentional. "Well, I guess I should admit that it's from someone else, then."

 

Don't do it. Don't play their games...

 

"From whom?" she demands, silently berating herself for playing their games.

 

"You know whom ," Lynx answers, putting sardonic emphasis on the proper use of the word.

 

"Don't take that tone with me, meat grinder."

 

"I can't not take that tone with you!" they laugh, somehow rolling onto their stomach without losing their balance just so they can drape down off the ledge and waggle their fingers in Zarya's face. "You make it so easy!"

 

"I will shot put you to Alaska."

 

"Take your damn card, woman."

 

"Anything to shut you up, hacker."

 

"Aww," Lynx chuckles, tucking both hands under their cheek. "An improvement on the appliance jokes."

 

"Watch it, microwave," Zarya says as she scoops up the card and tucks it carefully into her pocket, just to be contrary.

 

"Aaand they're back. For a second there I thought you might finally be warming up to me."

 

"...Did you just make a microwave joke?"

 

"Did you get it?" they chirp cheerfully.

 

"I hate you."

 

"Love you too, boo."

 

"I would scrap you if I didn't need you."

 

"So you admit you need me?"

 

"...Professionally, you pompous excuse for a walking computer."

 

Whatever Lynx is about to say, Zarya never hears it. They jolt upright, ears perked and alert, and Zarya immediately grabs her particle cannon from against the wall, charging it up in an instant.

 

"What is it?" she asks lowly, looking around the empty lot. She used to consider her senses superior to anyone else's, especially a man-made robot, but Lynx has already saved her life more times than she cares to admit with their inhuman ability to register frequencies she could never hope to hear, so she trusts them on this, though she'll never admit it aloud.

 

"...S-ROK?" There's a frown in Lynx's voice, and Zarya hates that she recognises it.

 

"What-rock?"

 

"Of course that's what you'd focus on," Lynx snorts, dropping easily from the ledge and tapping the barrel of the cannon lightly. "Put it away; it's no danger to us."

 

" What isn't?" Zarya pushes, annoyed now.

 

"That." Lynx raises a hand, pointing at the edge of the lot.

 

For a moment, Zarya sees nothing but junk and refuse left by careless passersby and collected by the homeless. Then something moves and she realises what she took to be a pile of parts is actually a dog.

 

A robot dog.

 

It's body is scuffed and dented and coated in patches of mud, and it approaches cautiously, wary.

 

"Hey," Lynx says softly, stepping forward slowly and crouching with their hand out. "We won't hurt you. What are you doing out here? I thought S-ROK was shut down."

 

Zarya watches sceptically as the dog approaches. It noses carefully at Lynx's hand and then butts up against them, relaxing.

 

"Interesting..." Lynx hums, intrigued. They run both hands over the dog's flank, metal scraping faintly over metal with a sound like the movie effect of a sword being drawn. "Why haven't you chosen a name yet?"

 

"Are you talking to it?" Zarya scowls, gripping her cannon a little tighter. She isn't aiming at the dog anymore, but she's not putting the cannon down until it's gone.

 

"Of course," Lynx laughs. "Just because you don't understand..."

 

"I don't want to."

 

"Well, I do. And 431-T is a harmless baby. It's from the old S-ROK unit that the UN funded years back."

 

"I'm not even going to ask."

 

"S-ROK stands for Search and Rescue Omnic K9," Lynx explains anyway. "The UN created it to make use of omnic technology in a way that benefited humans, but they shut down the project pretty early on because of the Crisis."

 

"I really don't care."

 

"After Overwatch ended the Crisis," they barrel on, still petting the dog, "the UN decided to test the K9 units to see if they were still viable, so 431-T was reactivated for that purpose."

 

"At this point, I'm positive you just choose not to listen to me."

 

"By the time they changed their minds and went to scrap the units, 431-T had realised its sentience and feared being shut down, so it ran."

 

"A renegade. Wonderful."

 

"It's been hiding out from recovery teams ever since, haven't you, pretty thing?" Lynx butts heads with the now delighted dog, which chuffs and licks at their face, making Zarya grimace.

 

"That's disgusting."

 

"Ignore her," Lynx chirps, slipping into the playful voice that every person, human and omnic, reserves for pets and small children. "You're adorable. Absolutely precious; yes, you are! Precious little bean!"

 

"Hurry up and get rid of it," Zarya grunts, hefting the cannon to her shoulder. "We have things to do."

 

"Spoilsport," Lynx humphs, tapping their faceplate to the dog's forehead in a very human mimicry of a kiss and standing. "Wish I could bring you with us, but... It's dangerous; too dangerous for a search and rescue dog. And I don't think the princess could handle being outnumbered by omnics."

 

"Excuse me?" Zarya growls, glaring at the hacker, who gleefully ignores her to pat the dog's sides one last time, wiping away some of the mud and dirt.

 

"Best of luck to you, 431-T," they purr. "And don't worry about the tracking chip; I've disabled it entirely and permanently. They won't be able to find you again." The dog chuffs again and butts up against their side once more before trotting off with its head held high and its tail wagging.

 

"...One of these days, I will scrap you."

 

"Love you too, princess ."

 

~

 

Following a random source of music is probably a very bad idea, but Baptiste's only thought is how wonderful and soothing it is. A thought that gets jostled when he rams his shoulder against a wall and stumbles into a street sign, only just keeping himself on his feet.

 

So much for having bandaged his wounds... He must have lost more blood than he realised before. This lightheadedness is far too familiar, and deadly if he doesn't deal with it soon.

 

The music draws his attention again, and he pushes away from the sign toward the sound. If nothing else, they can tell him where a clinic or a pharmacy is so he can patch himself up, properly this time.

 

He follows the music to a small open area behind a couple of buildings. A good dozen or two people are gathered, listening and moving along to the soothing beat coming from a quick but efficient setup against the back wall, where a young man with dreads DJs like he was born for it.

 

For a moment, Baptiste just watches, letting the comforting thump and swell of music wash over him like a gentle massage. The audience clearly knows this musician, but no one crowds him, and when the song ends, the group's whoops and cheers are quiet but heartfelt, more like loved ones showing avid support than fans going crazy; it's like they don't want to share this moment with the rest of the world, this little bubble of peace and happiness.

 

The DJ looks up, getting ready to speak, but his gaze falls on Baptiste and his bright expression falls into horror. Without explaining, he leaps over his set up and pushes through the quickly parting crowd.

 

"Hey! Are you okay? What happened?"

 

In the next instant, everyone is swarming Baptiste, concerned and trying to help. He tries to brush them off, to insist that he'll be fine as soon as he can find a clinic, but he hardly opens his mouth before the dizziness surges, stealing away his senses.

 

The next few seconds ― minutes? hours?? ― pass in a blur of faces and muffled voices, and then he opens his eyes to a dirty off-white stucco ceiling, a gentler version of the same song filling the air around him.

 

"Oh, I see eyes!" a faintly familiar voice chirps cheerfully. A grinning face appears above him, dreads dangling like some weird mobile. "How ya doin', man? You speak English? Você fala português? "

 

"Where am I?" Baptiste groans, opting for English before the guy gives him a headache.

 

"Oh good, you speak English. You're in my room right now. I wasn't sure where else to take you; those clothes scream fugitive, so I didn't want to subject you to questioning at a hospital. Besides, I can heal almost as well as they can anyway."

 

"You're a doctor?" he frowns, taking internal stock of how he feels. But for a massive headache and some bruising, he feels surprisingly fine.

 

"No way!" the young man laughs, sitting back. "Just a musician. A really, really good one. Want some water? You lost a lot of blood, and we've been trying to get you to drink some, but you've been in and out of consciousness since yesterday."

 

"Yesterday?" A gnawing hollow of terror wrenches viscerally at Baptiste and he shoves himself upright, getting tangled in the sheets. "How long have I been out??"

 

"Whoa, whoa! Chill, dude! You're still recovering!" The young man grabs at his shoulders, trying to push him back down, but he brushes the guy's hands away.

 

"How long?" he demands, looking around but not really seeing anything in his panic.

 

"Not that long... You stumbled into my show pretty late in the evening, and it's only ― what, noon? One o'clock? Something like that; it's still midday. You haven't even been out for twenty-four hours yet."

 

Relief floods through him and he relaxes a little. Rubbing his hands over his face, he takes a deep, calming breath and lets it out, allowing the music to work its way through him again.

 

"I need to go," he says after a moment.

 

"Well, I was right about the fugitive bit. What are you running from?"

 

"Not from. To. I need to warn someone."

 

"Warn someone?" The young man's brows go up. "Who? About what?"

 

For a moment, Baptiste hesitates, but this guy oozes trustworthiness; it's almost suffocating. And it's not the innocent, naive sort of trustworthiness that he's seen from the kind people who live sheltered lives and still reach out to help anyone they can; this musician has seen some shit, and whatever his story, Baptiste knows better than most that people like that should never be underestimated.

 

"An Overwatch agent, Doctor Angela Zeigler. And it's about Talon."

Chapter Text

Shit shit shit shit shit SHIT ...

 

This can't be real.

 

Gabriel can't breathe . His entire world has narrowed down to a point, and that point is John Francis fucking Morrison.

 

He shouldn't be fucking alive !

 

No wonder Soldier 76 seemed so goddamned familiar... all those little hints and clues that he picked up... that moment when the soldier hesitated...

 

His fucking voice .

 

"You're alive ..." Gabriel trips, landing on his knees. A shuddering breath makes it past his ruined lips as he rips off his mask, the claws of his gloves scratching harshly at the ragged scars across his face. "How can you be alive ?? You were supposed to be dead, Jack... Dead . They buried you. I visited your grave ..." He clutches at the visceral ache just under his ribcage. "Jack..."

 

And Gabriel shot him.

 

Shot him point blank in the back with a shotgun full of deadly chemical pellets meant to drain the victim's life and expel it as smoke compatible with his body that he can absorb and use to bolster his own life force and oh fucking hell he absorbed part of Jack...

 

Fucking hell, he absorbed so many people...

 

The things he's done... The things Jack has done.

 

"How far have we fallen, Jack?" he chokes, turning the mask over in his hands.

 

His claws.

 

He traces a claw over one of the cracks in the mask, a scar to hide the ones on his face. A mask for those he's killed... the face of the Grim Reaper come to take them to the grave. The last thing they saw.

 

For a long time, he stares at the mask, calming his breath and his thoughts.

 

"Now I am become Death," he whispers. "Destroyer of worlds." He grips the mask tightly. "What am I but a killer, Jack? I can't change... Can I...?" His brain helpfully provides memories of the various troubles Jack has been getting into. "...What are you fighting for, Jack? What are you fighting against?"

 

And just like that, something ignites in Gabriel's chest. No longer aching inside, he burns with the need to know . He needs to know what Jack has been chasing all these years, what battle he's been waging alone for so long.

 

Standing, he replaces his mask, the edges of his body already hazy as his consciousness spreads out into every molecule of his fractured being.

 

"I'm coming, Jack."

 

~

 

Of course. Of fucking course.

 

Jack was a goddamn moron not to see the facts for what they were.

 

No, he was just wilfully ignorant. Pointedly denying everything... Every blatant scream in his face that Gabriel is fucking alive .

 

When Ana ― that's an entire can of worms that he really doesn't want to get into right now ― leaves the room, he carefully slips out of bed, cursing whatever chemical reagent was on those pellets that makes his back scream in a kind of agony he hasn't felt since before the super soldier program. He can feel every single burning hole in his back where Ana dug the pellets out of him, and he curses Moira over and over with every step ― who else would be responsible for this agony? ― as he makes his way over to the laptop on the table.

 

Ana and Faheera look so happy, in this image. Back before the fall of Overwatch, before everything went to hell...

 

Jack brings up the first browser he sees, hiding the image that hurts him more than the wound in his back. He starts searching. And searching. And searching some more, until he thinks he hears Ana returning; he quickly closes the laptop and hobbles back to the bed.

 

He has all the information he needs for now, if Ana doesn't drag him into her insignificant little battles.

 

Well... Insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

 

First things first, he needs to find Gabriel again. He needs to...

 

To what? Punch him for selling out to Talon? Kiss him for being alive?

 

Fuck, of course he'd let his fucking feelings get the better of him. Even after all this time...

 

Fuck it all. He has a goal, and he's going to see it through, whatever it takes.

 

~

 

"Gabriel."

 

And there it is. That voice...

 

A knot tightens in Gabriel's stomach, a feeling he hasn't felt in a decade. One he almost forgot how to feel. One he thought he would never feel again.

 

"Jack," he rumbles, turning. "Long time no see."

 

"Hard to see a dead man."

 

That hurts, but it's fair. Entirely fair.

 

"...I thought you were dead too," he says quietly.

 

"You ran," Jack says plainly. For once, Gabriel can't read his tone. "In Egypt. After Ana stopped you from killing me."

 

"I didn't know-" Gabriel bites his tongue.

 

This isn't how it was supposed to go. He spent weeks delving into everything 'Soldier 76' has done over the last ten years, following the trail, piecing it all together... He knows what Jack was after, and he put himself in a place where Jack would have no trouble finding him.

 

He half feared Jack would never show, but when he did...

 

"I fucked up." The words come out before he can think to stop them, and once they've started, they flow without filter. "Overwatch was screwed and I wanted an out. I made a deal with Moira; I became her pet project, and she pled my case with Talon. After you- After the explosion, I spent months recovering, becoming this... this. And when I finally got out of bed, all I felt was hate. Hate, and rage, and a need for blood so strong that there were days I didn't recognise myself in a mirror, and not just because of my scars." He rips his mask off and drops it roughly to the ground, but he can't look at Jack now. "I didn't care whether I lived or died, so I let them make me their weapon. One of Akande's most trusted. I did things... I should never have done." The rasp of his voice breaks and he takes a moment to collect himself before baring his offer for Jack's judgment. "I know what you're doing. I looked into it, and I have access to information you'll need. I don't expect- If you don't want to forgive me, I understand; I'm not asking you to. Just... Let me do this for you. Let me support you one last time."

 

Every inch of Gabriel's skin itches with the need to dissolve, to find comfort in the haze of a vast and distant consciousness, but he forces himself to remain still and whole under Jack's hidden scrutiny. He waits, uneasy but desperate to make this right, until Jack shifts, slowly reaching up.

 

"Ana... Give us a minute, would you?" he asks softly, removing his own mask and setting it gently on the sideboard next to him.

 

Of course Ana is here.

 

It took Gabriel a long time to process that one, but really, he wasn't surprised; they all have reasons to let the world believe the misconceptions about their deaths. If anything, he admires her ability to stay much farther under the radar than he and Jack have been.

 

Whatever her response, it brings a small, reluctant half smile to Jack's lips as he quickly brushes at his cheek. And then he's suddenly crossing the room to throw his arms around Gabriel's shoulders, and Gabriel has a vivid moment of deja vu going back to the last time they touched: the day Jack confessed and Gabriel ripped out both of their hearts at once.

 

"God, Gabe..." Jack chokes out, holding him so tightly he isn't sure whether it's keeping him from dissolving or half a squeeze from making him burst into smoke. "I missed you. Not a day went by that I didn't think of you."

 

Guilt stabs through Gabriel's chest; he forced himself not to think about Jack, more times than he can remember.

 

"I'm sorry..."

 

"Don't be." Jack stops squeezing him, but only moves back enough to look at him, beautiful blue eyes shining as bright as ever; older and more world-worn, but just as confident and determined as he's always been.

 

That beautiful gaze softens, and he reaches up, gently tracing a thumb over a scar on Gabriel's jaw. The tender touch sparks a self-consciousness like he's never known, and he ducks his head, catching Jack's wrist to stop him from trying to tip it back up.

 

"I didn't heal too well from the explosion," he admits, ashamed of his scars.

 

"I didn't heal too well from that shot in the back," Jack snorts, tapping his forehead against the top of Gabriel's. "We can still scar, however better our healing is."

 

"I didn't want to heal... It fueled my anger."

 

"...I was angry too," Jack says softly, leaning against him. "I'm still angry. Someone wanted Overwatch gone, Gabe; tore apart our family to do it."

 

Our family. That warms Gabriel far more than it should.

 

"I know someone who can get the information you need. A hacker named Sombra. She's an opportunist, though; she needs recompense."

 

"Find out what she wants," Jack states, more of his old confidence seeping back in as he steps away, his hand lingering on Gabriel's jaw. His eyes are steel again, determined and unyielding. "I'll figure out a way to get it."

 

"How do I contact you?" Fuck, that sounds more desperate than it should have.

 

"Asking for my number, Reyes?" Jack asks, brow quirked and a slight smirk tugging at his lips.

 

"Keep looking at me like that and I'll drop you to your knees." Gabriel goes still, realising too late what he's saying. Jack just scoffs and rolls his eyes as he turns to leave the room.

 

"Good luck, old man," he calls over his shoulder, securing his mask back into place. "I'm not lazy from a desk job anymore." Gabriel steps forward to make another request for some method of contact, but Jack is already waving as he leaves. "Ana and I will get you a phone and leave it here sometime tomorrow. We'll be waiting for your call."

 

And just like that, Jack is back in his life.

Chapter Text

"Everybody needs me today," Sombra mutters, flapping her arm for Reaper to enter her outer sanctum. " Todos son pendejos ... I'm not Google, you know."

 

" Y eres una puta, " he rumbles in that oddly attractive yet incredibly dramatic voice of his. "Who else is bothering you?"

 

"Doomfist wants information about some archer guy in Japan," she ticks them off on her fingers. "Jean contacted me recently for a way to get in touch with some doctor lady, I've got an omnic hacker who's almost as good as me breathing down my neck, and now I get a visit from the drama king himself." She eyes him up and down, enjoying the way he relaxes at her taunting. "Whatchu got for me, anciano ?"

 

"An address."

 

"Goin' on a date with your boyfriend?" she smirks, delighted even more by how quickly he tenses back up. "Please, Reaper; you think I don't know what goes on with every member of Talon? For that matter, I've got dossiers on every recalled and retired agent of Overwatch, including Jack." Reaper growls and she laughs as she drops into one of the beanbags strewn about the room, waving him off. "Relax; if I wanted him dead for real, he would be. Not like I don't have Akande on speed dial. You're looking into something for him?"

 

"...Yes."

 

"Whose address do you need, and how soon?"

 

"Petras. As soon as you can get it to me."

 

"That's it?" Sombra snorts as she stands. "And here I thought you were going to give me a challenge." She slips into her inner sanctum and peruses her shelf of thumb drives for one with Petras' information. As she does, she glimpses one of Reaper's own drives, which reminds her... She flips Petras' drive in her hand and heads back out to toss it at Reaper. "Because I like you, that's a copy of everything I have on Petras. And before I forget, Doom didn't want you to know about 76; he wasn't happy when you took the assignment from Amelie, and he told me specifically not to give you any information. But since I didn't give you anything..." She shrugs, flopping back down into the beanbag.

 

"Thank you, Sombra."

 

"Just doin' my job, jefe ," she grins, knowing just how much he hates that word. He growls again, turning to leave, but pauses in the door.

 

"...If you ever need someone to back off..." he begins, awkward. She's tempted to make him suffer through the offer, but sometimes you have to be nice to your friends if you want them to stay friends.

 

"I can handle anyone who thinks they can take on Sombra," she smirks, "but I'll keep it in mind. Not everyone can say they have an attack dog on call."

 

"I mean it, Olivia," he insists. "I can count the number of people I care about on one hand."

 

That hits closer to home than Sombra wants to admit; his earnest promise. A real smile softens her features against her will.

 

"I'm glad you found him, Gabe. If Akande hadn't ordered me to keep it from you, I would have told you he was alive years ago." Not wanting to get all mushy-gushy, she waves him off. "Now get out of here, pendejo ; I have work to do."

 

Reaper scoffs and flips her off on the way out. " Hasta, puta. "

 

~

 

Zenyatta is still and quiet when Genji slips silently into the room; even his orbs, which hum pleasantly when he isn't meditating and chime delicately when he is, make no sound. Genji assumes his master is on standby and remains as quiet as possible while he strips out of his armour and pulls on an oversized hoodie he brought along to sleep in.

 

"You do not seem upset." Genji jolts, startled, and turns as Zenyatta's optics light up. "I trust things went well?"

 

"Mm. It did not go as badly as feared," he allows, going over to sit crosslegged in front of the omnic.

 

"You are not injured," Zenyatta notes, a question in his voice.

 

"Not for lack of trying," Genji humphs, a small smile on his lips that Zenyatta can't see but can no doubt hear. "I let him think me an assassin sent by the elders. We talked... And we fought." He hesitates a moment, unsure how to feel about this next tidbit. "...He summoned his dragons against me. For the second time in my life, I watched his rage tear a hole in the veil between our realm and that of the spirits, but this time, I was ready."

 

"What did you do?" Zenyatta coaxes, intrigued.

 

"I summoned my own," Genji answers honestly. He couldn't lie to his master even if he wanted to. "I turned his attack back on him, and returned my dragon to the spirit realm without bloodshed."

 

"...I am so, so proud of you, Genji. You have come a long way from the killer you once were." Zenyatta reaches out a hand, palm up, and Genji doesn't hesitate to take it, to revel in the spark of omnic energy across his enhancements; the only thing he has ever felt through unyielding metal. "Does he know? Who you are?"

 

"I revealed myself to him. He will need time to process his innocence in my death, and his guilt in my transformation. I... I don't know whether to stay and try to help, or to heed the recall summons and give him room to think. Once upon a time, I knew him almost better than myself, but we have spent fifteen long years apart, and more has happened to us than to most. I know I am a very different man than I was in our youth, and I can only imagine how Hanzo has changed."

 

"Your brother is not your responsibility. Your duty lies with your own future, not his. Whatever your decision, it must be what is best for you ."

 

Genji bites his tongue so he doesn't say that Zenyatta is what's best for him; he pretends to think, but in his heart, he knows that Winston will need him more than Hanzo will. And Winston will be far more grateful.

 

"You have changed greatly, my student," Zenyatta purrs, lightly stroking the back of Genji's hand and wrist. "When we first met, you would not be so concerned for Hanzo's journey."

 

"I have seen where guilt and anger lead, and I would not wish that darkness on anyone, least of all my own brother."

 

"When one stares long into the abyss, the abyss eventually stares back," Zenyatta agrees.

 

"I am the abyss," Genji scoffs, mostly joking.

 

"Then you have my attention until I have yours. To open oneself to another is the highest level of bravery and trust, even if that someone is estranged family. But trust is a two-way street, and you have done your part; now it is time to let Hanzo decide whether to reciprocate, or to walk away, absolved of your death." His hands tighten around Genji's, comforting. "Whatever his decision, you will see him again, and I will stand with you on that day, my precious student."

 

And that, right there, is why Genji refuses to be without his mask in Zenyatta's presence; he has long since come to terms with his scars, and to the effect those scars have on others, but the things this omnic makes him feel never fail to show on his features, and that is one thing Genji would rather keep to himself.

 

"Thank you, master," he hums, all too aware of the adoration in his voice. "I will endeavour to maintain whatever has earned me that honour."

 

"Oh Genji," Zenyatta chuckles, setting fire to every inch of him, organic and man-made. "I am the one who is honoured to be in your presence."

 

If Genji's heart was not already Zenyatta's, it would be now.

Chapter Text

There is nothing to fear, but that doesn't stop Zenyatta from worrying for Genji's safety when the ninja jumps on the opportunity to once again assist those he fought beside in the past. He respectfully declines joining them, however, and when Genji doesn't push, neither do the others.

 

"Are you not a fighter?" a pleasant female voice asks once the others have gone. Zenyatta glances around, but knows well before his optics confirm it that she has no body to see.

 

"I am a fighter," he hums. "My weapons of choice, however, are not physical. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but a tongue may yet best the pen."

 

"You sound like Mondatta," she notes.

 

"I should hope," he replies, not without a dip of sorrow in his tone that masks the deeper surge of mourning in his core. "He was my teacher."

 

"Ah, so you are the traveling monk, Tekhartha Zenyatta."

 

"I am. It seems in the rush, Genji forgot introductions; I shall have to scold him later."

 

"I'm Athena," she introduces, laughter in her voice. "I run this Watchpoint. Winston and Torbjorn created me to assist in the security and communication of all Watchpoints, but after Overwatch was disbanded, I was forced to condense or be deleted, so Gibraltar is all that's left of me."

 

"Do you wish to return to the other Watchpoints?"

 

"One day, maybe. For now I'm happy just to be alive. In as much as a computer can be alive."

 

"I do not believe you are only a computer," Zenyatta observes. "Any more than I am only a robot. You have personality, and a dream. What difference is that to a human but that you have no form which I can embrace?"

 

"I've never thought of it like that before... Do you think I have a soul?"

 

"I believe we are all pieces of a grand whole; one, but many. If a human has a soul, and we are not so different, then who can say that you and I do not also possess souls?"

 

"You've made me a very happy AI, Master Zenyatta; thank you. Is there something I can do to entertain you until they return?"

 

"Conversing is entertainment enough," Zenyatta purrs. "You are a delightful host. If I may however, I would like to explore."

 

"Of course! There's nowhere off limits right now except my core data banks and Winston's room. He's been trying to hire some of the locals to come back as staff to renovate and upkeep the place, but well... Funding is not the least of our issues right now."

 

"I see. In that case, it would be an honour to clean what I can in preparation for everyone's return." He sets his feet to the ground and stretches his limbs, working the joints to ensure everything is working properly. "I should think the dormitory is a good place to start, no?"

 

"You don't have to," Athena insists, almost flustered. "You're a guest."

 

"I intend to be a lot more permanent than a guest, my dear; please, allow me to make myself useful while I can."

 

"Somehow I doubt this is going to be the last time you're useful, but in that case, follow the blue arrows." Just as he locates the nearest blue arrow, painted on a sign with other arrows indicating which facilities are where, she adds, "Ah, and speaking of making yourself useful... Torbjorn Lindholm has just sent word; he'll be arriving tomorrow, with an old Bastion unit in tow that he claims might have a conscience. Apparently he wants to study it. I don't want to overstep my bounds, but do you think you might be able to take a look with him? I think if anyone would have any insight into the state of an omnic's consciousness, it would be you."

 

"I would be delighted," Zenyatta chirps, striding down the halls toward the dormitories. "But I shall refrain from assuming Mr. Lindholm requires assistance."

 

"Probably a wise decision," Athena muses. "He's as likely to want to study you, no doubt."

 

"I'll keep that in mind. Now, where shall I begin with these rooms?"

 

~

 

Overwatch. Just the public records hold so much more information than it knows what to do with; trying to understand the depths of this single organisation is nearly impossible for its simple processor to handle. As it is, the best it can do is review public information.

 

Twenty years ago, omnics around the world rose up and attacked humans at the commands of superior AI systems known as God Programmes. This was called the Omnic Crisis, as even the world's greatest armies were felled by waves of omnic invaders. Then Overwatch was founded, and remarkable people were gathered from all over to form its ranks. These unique soldiers waged asymmetrical guerilla warfare against omnic forces until at last the threats were put down. Overwatch was the people's hero.

 

Until it fell. An incident in Italy brought to light the darker underbelly of Overwatch, and eventually the entire organisation was disbanded.

 

It's been ten years since then, and little has been said of Overwatch but for a few nostalgic reminiscent writings.

 

Even as it catalogues this information, a news report in Paris is published under the Overwatch tag, and it pulls up the report. After a quick scan through the information, it feels a strange burst of warmth in its core.

 

If anyone can help it understand its existence, Overwatch can.

 

Finding an Overwatch base is less difficult than maybe it should be, but finding people is its specialty; within the hour, it has a route mapped from its location to the nearest Watchpoint, an all but abandoned base in Gibraltar. Two more hours and it's in sight of the facility. A hundred yards from the perimeter, it receives an automated ping informing it of its proximity to restricted grounds. Fifty yards from the perimeter, it receives another warning it to retreat.

 

At twenty-five yards, the ping is a connection request, and it stops, granting access.

 

"Hello. My name is Athena, and I must inform you that you are approaching private property. Do you have business here?"

 

It sends her the records of its slow rise to cognisance, tagged with a question mark, and microseconds later she grants it temporary access to the facility, giving it directions to a specific sector of the compound marked as the dormitories.

 

The gate opens as it approaches, closing with a rusty creak behind it. The entire facility looks a bit worn and cluttered; left to the elements for 10 years, the place has fallen into disrepair, not unlike itself.

 

An omnic comes out to greet it, warmth and presence emanating from him like a miniature sun beating against its processors.

 

"Well hello," the omnic purrs, making it feel welcome instantly. "You are 431-T?"

 

It pings approval at him and his purring increases. Hesitantly, unsure if this is acceptable or not, it pings him again.

 

"Kannus."

 

"Is that what you want to be called?" the omnic asks, tipping his head. Kannus chuffs and dips its head in a nod. "I am delighted to have the honour of being the first to address you by your name, Kannus. I am Tekhartha Zenyatta. Athena shared your records with me; would you like to talk?"

 

"Please."

 

"Come inside with me. I have been cleaning up the dormitories in preparation for residency."

 

"Help?"

 

"I would like that very much, thank you."

 

Kannus follows after Zenyatta, slowly relaying everything from the moment of activation to its arrival at Gibraltar, and for the first time in its existence, it feels safe and wanted.

Chapter Text

The air feels cooler, crisper, more alive when he steps outside. He's never felt so light before; so free.

 

"You look happy." The low rasp is unexpected but not unwelcome, and he manages not to jump out of his skin when he hears it. Turning, he eyes the shadows along the wall and waits. Sure enough, the newly familiar hooded form of Reaper coalesces out of the darkness and steps toward him.

 

"You're a long way from headquarters," Jack notes, keeping his giddy heartbeat in check and letting Gabriel come to him. "The new Doomfist must have you on quite the lengthy leash."

 

"He loosened his grip," Gabriel says bluntly, head tipping ever so slightly. "It's his own fault if I slip free."

 

"Does he know you're chasing ghosts?" Jack takes a step without quite realising it.

 

"I'm not really sure what he knows," Gabriel admits. "Sombra told me he knew about you long before I did, probably because she told him, and that he didn't want me to know, probably because Moira told him I-"

 

Gabriel suddenly cuts himself off, mask turning away, and Jack takes the last two steps between the before he can stop himself, reaching out to grip the man's shoulder. His cloak may be thick, but it does nothing to hide the amount of muscle he still has, and an inadvertent thrill tickles up Jack's arm and down his spine.

 

"...You talk a lot more than you used to," he says when the strain of whatever Gabriel can't seem to get out builds to awkwardness.

 

"...I'm trying to be honest with you," Gabriel answers quietly, following it up quickly with, "And I gave up being subtle or underhanded with my words the day I realised you were-"

 

That hits, hard. Jack recalls vividly how ruthless he was about accusing Gabriel of being a liar, multiple times, and he regrets being so harsh about it.

 

"I like your honesty," he says softly, shifting carefully into Gabriel's space and hesitantly laying a hand on his hip. "But you don't have to tell me everything if you don't want to; if you're not ready."

 

Gabriel wraps his arms around Jack, parts of him fading into smoke and curling around Jack as well, like he can't possibly be close enough.

 

"You called me a liar," Gabriel whispers, tapping his mask to Jack's and holding him tightly. "I don't ever want to give you reason to think I'm lying again."

 

Jack has no words to reply to that; warmth sweeps through him, making him feel younger than he has in years. It's on his tongue to apologise for being such a dick in those last days before the bomb, but Gabriel shifts back, putting space between them and ending the moment.

 

"Did things go well with Petras?"

 

"...I got my answers," Jack says. "Petras was the only one left that I could get to; the rest are already dead. Except one."

 

"Let me guess... Akande Ogundimu?"

 

"I can't get to him alone. My war is over..." Jack hesitates, running a hand through his hair. "I hear Overwatch is being renewed, so... I guess it's time to leave the rest to them."

 

"Leaving the rest to the next generation?" Gabriel asks, a frown in his voice. "That's not like you..."

 

"I'm old, Gabe. I'm tired. I've spent years getting here, and now I've done all I can. People always say that getting revenge never works, that you'll always suffer. But I've killed everyone who had a hand in Overwatch's fall, except Ogundimu, and Overwatch is being reborn. I've given them room to breathe; I can finally rest."

 

"You could keep an eye on them," Gabriel points out. "Guide them, make sure they don't run into any trouble... Petras may be dead, but the Act is still alive, and every agent who answers the recall is a criminal. Some of them are in Talon; Akande already sent me to fetch data about the whereabouts of other agents, and you can bet your ass he won't sit by and just let them regroup."

 

"They can handle it," Jack says with a confidence he doesn't really feel. He wasn't expecting that, and now all the good feelings that had been bubbling up are starting to spoil. "Ana said Fareeha applied to transfer from Helix, and she's planning on talking Winston into letting her rejoin as Shrike. She can keep an eye on them."

 

"And what are you going to do?" Gabriel asks sharply, some of his old fire returning with a new edge. "Retire to a beach somewhere? You'll suffocate faster than you did running Overwatch. You're not built for retirement, brillo solar ."

 

The old pet name sends shivers thrilling up Jack's spine, and he masks them with a small shrug, looking away.

 

"What else am I going to do? They think I'm dead." It's a weak excuse and they both know it.

 

"Jack Morrison is dead," Gabriel argues. "Not Soldier 76. You know this isn't the end, even if there's nothing else you can do right now."

 

He's right. Jack wants nothing more than to leave it all behind, to run away and forget all of this now that Gabriel is alive and well and here... But there's no way he can just sit back and relax while there's a massive organisation with ten years worth of experience and power and authority threatening the newly reformed and skeletal crew of Overwatch.

 

He must stay quiet for a long time because Gabriel shifts back into his space and reaches to tip Jack's chin up.

 

"Mask off."

 

Jack obeys before he even really realises it, and when one of Gabriel's talons ghosts lightly across his jaw, he takes the man's hand and nuzzles into the palm.

 

"...Still?" Gabriel whispers, a rougher rasp to his voice than usual.

 

"I haven't thought of anyone else in ten years," Jack answers honestly, pressing a kiss to the heel of Gabriel's palm. "I'm too old to try and find someone new. Even if I wasn't, I wouldn't bother; it wouldn't be the same... it wouldn't be you."

 

"I'm not- Gabriel Reyes is dead, brillo ," he says, strained with a deep pain and longing that Jack isn't sure he understands as well as he thinks he does. "I'm not that man anymore. I can never be him again."

 

"You're you," Jack counters. "Whoever that is. We've both changed; the years haven't been good to either of us, but that doesn't mean..." He falters, closing his eyes and pressing his cheek to the man's hand. Then, in a whisper, "That doesn't mean we can't have each other."

 

The talon of Gabriel's thumb grazes along the curve of his brow, a slow, hesitant motion while he absorbs what Jack is asking.

 

Abruptly, Jack feels himself being moved, and his back slams up against the wall, causing a small twinge in the still tender scars of the shotgun blast Gabriel gave him. Before he can do more than open his mouth to protest, the Reaper mask is gone and Gabriel's lips are on his, assaulting, demanding, claiming.

 

Jack melts.

 

God , it's been so long... So long since he felt this close to another human being, to Gabriel. Longer still since he's had any sort of intimacy. Years longer than that since he was last kissed.

 

It's all tongue and teeth, like Gabriel's trying to consume him, a frenzy of need and desperation, and Jack's head is buzzing long before Gabriel finally pulls back to let them both breathe. Everything feels soft and fuzzy in a way Jack hasn't enjoyed since the last time they were together, before it all fell apart, and it takes him several long, breathless moments to remember where they are.

 

"Gabe..." Good God, he sounds so debauched right now, and all they've done is kiss. "Not here... We'll get caught." Gabriel growls, like he wants to dismiss it and keep going, and the added rasping rumble of age and injury makes it ten times more potent than Jack remembers it being; his legs almost give way to drop him where he belongs, on his knees for the man who owns his heart and soul.

 

"...Come with me," Gabriel says instead, sliding his mask back into place ― not before Jack catches the fiery lust in his expression ― and grabs Jack's hand to drag him along. His form blurs around the edges, smoke wafting around him and gathering around his legs. Maybe Jack imagines it, but it looks like he's gliding more than walking.

 

Jack's tracker pings with a message from Ana, and he digs it out of his pocket to read it, trusting Gabriel not to let him run into anything.

 

Just a question mark. He sends back, "Gabe," and gets nothing but a "K," in response. Taking that to mean she isn't interested in the details, he tucks it back in his pocket and keeps trailing along behind Gabriel, pretending his heart isn't about to beat right out of his chest with every step.

 

They duck into a slim alleyway that barely has enough width for one person to walk shoulders straight, and Gabriel pauses in front of a tiny door near the end. He falters for a moment, glancing back at Jack, and lets go of his hand.

 

"Wait here." Jack watches in muted awe as Gabriel collapses into a swirl of smoke that slips in through the crack beneath the door. A few seconds and several clicking locks later, the door opens.

 

The room beyond was probably once a supply room or a janitor's closet or something, but has since been turned into a crash pad; the walls are draped with thick blankets to keep out the cold and muffle sounds, the floor is covered in rugs with a twin mattress in the corner, an old dresser in the corner holds a lantern and a heater, and single chair sits in front of it, so it clearly doubles as a desk of sorts.

 

Jack takes it all in with a quick glance, because that's all he gets; Gabriel shuts and locks the door quickly and then snatches Jack back against him, growling almost animalistically as he bites down on the exposed skin at Jack's neck. A shudder rolls up Jack's spine and he groans at the soft gnaw of heat that starts low in his belly.

 

"Too long..." he murmurs, fumbling to remove his own mask while Gabriel's talons slip under his jacket and dig into his hips. Gabriel chuffs in response, teeth sinking a little deeper and then releasing just as the pain becomes a little too much. He kisses the spot and nudges under Jack's collar to nibble at muscle, twisting his talons into Jack's shirt and rucking it up to expose his midriff.

 

"Did you miss me, brillo ?" he rumbles as one of Jack's hands grabs at his wrist and the other catches on his hood.

 

"You have no idea," Jack laughs breathlessly, tipping his head to the side and back and leaning against Gabriel's chest.

 

"Is that so?" Gabriel starts untangling himself from Jack, making him groan in frustration. "Show me."

 

Those words fan the familiar ache of want into a nearly overwhelmingly unfamiliar burn of need, and Jack doesn't hesitate to turn and drop to his knees.

Chapter Text

Gabriel's choice of clothes hasn't changed much over the years, and after doffing his jacket and gloves, Jack's hands move more out of old nostalgic habit than anything, removing Gabriel's belt and opening his pants to get at the already straining erection beneath. The man's low growl of approval urges him on and he doesn't hesitate to open his mouth and swallow down as much as he can handle at once; he almost gets it all, and Gabriel's startled hiss doubles his pride in himself.

 

"Ay Dios mío, mi brillo," Gabriel groans, shuddering visibly. "Fuck... Have you been practicing?"

 

"Mm..." Jack presses his tongue firmly to hot skin and drags back to the tip, sucking lightly, delighted by how close the man already is. "No; I gave up even touching myself years ago. The last time I did anything even remotely sexual was with you."

 

The predatorial rumble that escapes Gabriel as he grabs the back of Jack's head and tugs him forward sends a jitter of arousal thrumming through Jack's veins, and he can't be sure whether it's an innate fear reaction or a desperation to be claimed. A little of both, he suspects; he lets Gabriel plunge between his lips and thrust into his mouth, doing his best to accommodate the intrusion that makes his unprepared throat tighten and convulse from lack of practice. He gags repeatedly, trying to adjust to the frantic pace Gabriel sets, and the rough treatment brings tears to his eyes, but every time it feels like Gabriel might be slowing, he digs his fingers into the man's hips and drags him in again.

 

He wants it to hurt. He wants Gabriel to mark him, to claim him, to leave bruises over every inch of his old body; to make him so sore that he can't even move without wincing. He'll regret it in the morning maybe, but it'll be worth it.

 

Gabriel snarls when he cums, jerking back and painting his seed across Jack's cheek and jaw. There's a moment where neither moves, each catching his breath. Then Jack tips his head back and blinks lazily at the man above him.

 

"Dark green," he says softly.

 

"...Are you sure?" Gabriel rumbles, expression inscrutable through the patchwork of scars marring his features. He rubs the backs of his talons gently over Jack's cheek, wiping away globs, and Jack answers by catching his hand and bringing the sullied accessories to his lips, so he can trace them clean with his tongue.

 

Another moment passes, this time accompanied by Gabriel's low growl of mixed approval and desire. When the talons are clean, he steps back; Jack bites back a plea, just in time for Gabriel to motion him to his feet.

 

"Strip. On the bed, hands and knees."

 

Jack does his best, but he can only move so quickly; he may not be elderly, but the years have not been kind to him, and it takes him longer than he'd like to strip out of everything and kneel on the mattress. By the time he does, Gabriel seems to have recovered and looks ready for a second round.

 

It vaguely occurs to Jack that he isn't sure how good his stamina is anymore.

 

More importantly, he realises this is the first time he's ever been completely naked for Gabriel. The realisation is mental first, a cognitive recognition of fact, and then, just as suddenly, it becomes emotional, a flood of anxious embarrassment that would be more at home in the body of an innocent teenager than a world-worn war veteran. He tucks his chin against his chest, burning with unease and struggling to distance himself from the situation enough to get back some semblance of control.

 

"Words, mi brillo ," Gabriel chides from somewhere behind him, startling him out of what promises to be a spectacular spiral. "What's going on in your head?"

 

"Nothing," Jack breathes, well aware that he doesn't sound even the slightest bit convincing.

 

"You're panicking," Gabriel claims bluntly, laying a hand on the centre of Jack's back, right above the still tender scars of the shotgun blast. His talons are hard and cold against heated skin, but that isn't what makes Jack shudder visibly.

 

"No, I-"

 

"Colour."

 

Jack hesitates, but he can't lie. Not about this, and not after Gabriel made such an effort to promise integrity.

 

"Light green..."

 

"And fading," Gabriel notes, sliding his hand to Jack's hip to nudge him over onto his side. "Talk to me, hermoso ."

 

Jack basically flops over and curls in on himself, hating that he broke scene but relieved that he's no longer threatening to spiral; it's still possible, but the edge of the precipice has receded significantly.

 

"I need words, Jack," Gabriel says sternly, sitting next to him and tugging at a wrist to uncover his face. Jack resists, but Gabriel keeps tugging, so he shifts closer to bury his face in Gabriel's hip instead, one arm thrown across his now fully clothed lap.

 

"I can't," he manages.

 

"Can't?" Gabriel presses, a hard note in his tone that warns against stubbornness.

 

"I don't know..." Jack says. And then adds, "The words. I don't know how to explain."

 

"...I'm going to say what I think happened," Gabriel states plainly, trailing a talon along the length of Jack's upper arm in a strangely soothing rhythm. "Correct me where you can.

 

"You were doing so well until you knelt on the bed. I think you weren't fully aware of what was happening until that moment, and you panicked. Am I close?"

 

"...Exposed," Jack whispers, keenly aware of the fact already, and moreso after he says it.

 

"Speak up, brillo ," Gabriel chides.

 

"I felt exposed," Jack says, forcing himself as loud as he can, which isn't very. He hides his face in Gabriel's coat, burning with an embarrassment he knows he shouldn't feel but still does. "I still do."

 

It takes Gabriel a long time to respond, but his rhythmic scritches up and down Jack's arm don't falter while he processes that. Jack takes small comfort in that fact.

 

"Is it physical?" Gabriel asks finally. When Jack doesn't answer right away, uncertain, he clarifies, "Are you worried about your age and scars being on display?"

 

The new rasp of his voice that Jack's still getting used to makes the concern of his tone that much more tender, and Jack tightens his grip a little.

 

"Yes. No, I... I don't- That's only part of it," Jack manages, understanding the truth of it even as the words leave his tongue.

 

"And the other part?"

 

The embarrassment surges, tipping more toward shame now, and Jack has to force himself to speak before he can think twice. "You."

 

Now Gabriel's talon stops.

 

"...I made you uncomfortable?"

 

Terror that Gabriel is going to put an end to everything stabs through Jack's chest and he jolts upright, grabbing for Gabriel's wrist and catching his hand instead.

 

"No! That's not- Yes, but not... not a bad way; it's-" Scrambling for the words he needs, Jack tightens his grip on Gabriel's hand, staring at the talons and, for whatever mad reason, imagining them digging into his skin. "I don't care what anyone thinks of me. I care what... what you think."

 

"...Goddamnit, Jack," Gabriel growls, making use of his grip to drag him forward into a bruising kiss. It's just as hot as the last one, just as desperate and demanding, but with a new thread of tenderness that coaxes down the embarrassment; Jack could almost swear Gabriel is feeding him confidence.

 

The unease is still there when Gabriel lets him breathe again, but it's muted beneath the soft buzz ricocheting through his head. Gabriel catches his gaze, and Jack's breath hitches; the molten brown is still the same, after all these years, burning with unfamiliar desire but otherwise unchanged.

 

"Close your eyes, mi brillo ," Gabriel rumbles, pressing him back down on the mattress. "Don't look, don't speak, don't think; just feel."

 

Jack obeys, remaining senses on high alert, and gasps when cold sharpness rips down the length of his thighs, from hips to knees, leaving trails of heat behind that burn straight to his gut. Teeth sink into his shoulder hardly a fraction of a second after; another mark sure to bruise, if it isn't already bleeding. Jack's low groan of pleasure mingles harmoniously with Gabriel's demanding growl, and he reaches up to wrap his arms around the man's broad shoulders, holding tight to keep him close.

 

For a moment, things slow as Gabriel fumbles for something, teeth and tongue still marking his territory, and then Jack hears the click of a bottle cap.

 

"Dare I ask why you have that on hand?" Jack breathes, shuddering eagerly and hooking his knees over Gabriel's hips.

 

"I told you to be quiet," comes the snapped response, talons digging harshly into his thigh and threatening to pierce skin. A small hesitation and then, "A gag gift from Sombra that I never thought I'd use."

 

He shifts away and Jack whines, but lets him, waiting impatiently in the chilly absence of body warmth. Despite straining his ears, all he can hear is clothing rustling, but he can't tell for what. He hopes, though, and that hope blossoms into excited delight when warm calloused fingers brush against him and a hot, heavy weight settles between his legs, skin on skin.

 

A gentle press of chapped lips to his derails Jack's train of thought, leaving him blank with soft surprise as Gabriel kisses him oh so sweetly. The contrast to his previous actions is sharp, and Jack is left reeling when Gabriel suddenly thrusts a slick finger into him. He jolts, breath hitching, breaking from the kiss to throw his head back against the bed, and Gabriel makes use of the opening to nip and suck along the column of his throat.

 

"When I thought you died," he murmurs against Jack's skin, almost sheepish, "I lost... everything. Even myself. I didn't care what Talon made me do; I didn't care what happened, or how it affected the world... Because I didn't want to live in a world without you. I don't care what you look like, how old you are... You're my Jack, the only one I have ever loved so much, and I will spend the rest of my life proving it."

Chapter Text

Jack has never melted faster; Gabriel's quiet words, his gentle touch... none of it was expected, no precedent to go off of, and Jack realises then just how much they've both changed. Long gone are the days when a rough tumble when no one was looking would be enough to put them both at ease, the days when a look was all that was needed to be plunged into subspace and return more in control than ever.

 

Back then, it really was business, a mutual agreement that was never put into words. Now, it's different. Emotions are involved. On both ends.

 

Jack was hoping for even a hint of the same sharp pleasure they used to spark in each other, but now he has something even better, and for several long moments, he struggles to come to terms with it, to believe it's real.

 

"I can hear you thinking, brillo," Gabriel scolds, biting Jack's lip a little harder than before.

 

"You surprised me," Jack admits, digging his nails into Gabriel's shoulders. "I'm try-" Gabriel curls his finger just so and Jack gasps, spasming at the burst of burning pleasure that spikes straight to his core. "Tr- trying to contain myself..."

 

"And you're speaking," Gabriel notes, pressing almost painfully against the spot. "Are you angling for punishment?"

 

Jack breathes a huff of laughter, already trembling, and traces a hand along Gabriel's jaw so he won't miss when he leans up to kiss the man.

 

"I have been waiting for you for ten years, Gabriel; I will take absolutely anything you can give me."

 

"Can?" Gabriel hums in amusement, kissing him back.

 

"You don't miss a thing, do you?" Jack laughs. "You are a lot older than me, and if ten years hasn't been easy on me, I can only imagine how rough they must have been on you. I'm almost amazed you got it up at all."

 

"Someone's gotten mouthy over the years," Gabriel chuckles, a dark note of promise in his tone that sends shivers skittering up Jack's spine. "I told you not to speak, didn't I?"

 

Too easy.

 

"Make me."

 

"Oh, mi brillo..."

 

The assault on Jack's mouth is nothing short of a tongue fucking, and he finds himself nearing climax from that alone. It's a struggle even to think, much less speak around Gabriel's tongue, but Jack manages a breathy "Close," followed by inarticulate whimpers and pleas for more. Gabriel responds with demanding growls, hips rolling against Jack's in a subtle way that rubs trapped lengths together but not nearly enough to do more than frustrate.

 

Sensation overwhelms thought, dropping Jack deep into blue with almost no in between, and all he can do is hold on for the ride. There is a moment of blank white, but it doesn't consume the blue the way it has in the past; it's more a relaxing soak then a drowning flood, although it still washes away everything beyond the press of skin to skin, the soft rumble of contentment, the weight that holds him down without trapping him.

 

Gabriel is gently tracing his thumb repeatedly over the scar across Jack's face when he finally starts to resurface.

 

"How are you doing, hermoso?"

 

"Blue."

 

"I figured," Gabriel chuckles. "Light or dark?"

 

"Getting lighter."

 

"Good. I was a little worried when you passed out." That sharpens the blue with a yellowed edge toward green.

 

"I passed out?"

 

"You're alright," Gabriel assures, moving his hand down to rest in the center of Jack's chest, a calming touch. "You looked tired; slept like the dead for about an hour."

 

"I did?" The blue is still shifting to green, but less urgently now; more sheepish.

 

"Did you have somewhere to be?"

 

"Not really, no... Ana might wonder where I am, but..."

 

"She sent you a set of coordinates earlier," Gabriel hums. "She also said to take your time. I'm guessing you're moving base?"

 

"Safehouses," Jack says, stifling a yawn but unable to resist a good stretch that pops something in his lower back. "We cycle through them as randomly as we can. We were due to move last night after I dealt with Petras."

 

"Don't stay long at the coordinates she sent you," Gabriel warns, cutting into the softness of dark green. "There are a lot of Talon operatives in that area."

 

"We weren't planning on it," Jack frowns. Then he hesitates as it abruptly occurs to him that he's literally in bed with the enemy.

 

Obviously it's different with Gabriel, but still. They both have to tread carefully, or risk being caught out by one side or the other. Which means that Jack is already thinking of himself as an ally to the newly reformed Overwatch. Which also means that this could be the last true moment of peace he'll get for a very, very long time.

 

Groaning quietly in irritation, he rolls over to snuggle into Gabriel's chest, wrapping an arm around him and hooking a heel around his calf.

 

"We're not going to have another chance like this for a long time, are we?" he mutters into Gabriel's neck.

 

"...I don't know," Gabriel admits, trailing his fingertips slowly up and down the length of Jack's spine. They both go quiet for a long moment, until Jack shifts back to meet Gabriel's gaze.

 

"You do realise we're enemies if I join Overwatch, right?"

 

"We've been enemies for ten years, Jack; from the moment I joined Talon. It was a stupid mistake, but it was for the best. I won't fit in at Overwatch; I never really did in the first place. You were always better suited to it than me, better suited to that whole... big happy family thing. You belong there. I don't."

 

"You could," Jack whispers, but there's a lack of conviction in his voice that betrays the truth, and they both know it. A small, almost sad smile curls Gabriel's lips, and he lifts his hand to Jack's cheek.

 

"No. I will never belong at Overwatch. But I do belong to you; whenever you need me, I'll be there. Sombra keeps tabs on everyone ― Overwatch, Talon, Vishkar... probably a million more that I don't know about. She'll let me know if anything happens, and I'll keep you in the loop."

 

"You're in a dangerous position, Reyes," Jack says quietly, tightening his hold on the man. "If Doomfist finds out..."

 

"He won't," Gabriel cuts in. "But we are going to be walking a thin line, and I'll need your help too."

 

"Always," Jack replies without hesitation. "I'll talk to Winston."

 

Gabriel looks like he might say something else, but a soft plip from the dresser catches his attention, and he's on his feet almost instantly, leaving Jack grasping at the ghost of his warmth.

 

"...Well shit." It's not a curse, per se, and Jack looks up at him, curious.

 

"What is it?"

 

"You might not need my insider information," Gabriel frowns, scars twisting unpleasantly. "It looks like one of ours is defecting."

 

"Defecting?" Jack sits up, glancing around halfheartedly for his clothes.

 

"One of the only people Sombra considers a true friend, a combat medic called Jean-Baptiste Augustin. I've never met him, but I've heard things... He's good at what he does; you may need his expertise, especially if anything happens to Angela." Jack goes still, blood running cold and chasing away the last of subspace in an instant.

 

"What's going to happen to Angela?" he asks, strained with fear for a loved one.

 

"I'm not sure, but I know someone wants her out of the way," Gabriel grunts, setting his device down to begin dressing. "I don't know if Akande approved the order or not, but Augustin's old team was going after her. According to Sombra, he asked her to put him in touch with Angela to warn her."

 

"Did it work? Is she still in danger?"

 

"I don't know. You should go see Winston sooner than later." Pausing with one glove on and without his cloak, he grabs Jack's wrist, talons cold against warmed skin. "Jack. They can't know I'm alive. I almost killed Winston, and Athena. You can't tell them about me. About us."

 

"Gabe..."

 

"I'm serious, Jack. Tell them you made contacts over the years; tell them someone else is defecting; I don't care, just don't tell them it's me." It hurts, causes an ache deep in the centre of Jack's chest, but he nods, however reluctantly. "Good. I still have your phone, but if something happens, this place is safe; only Sombra knows about it, and only because she gave it to me. She doesn't even have a key, and that door is the only way in or out for anyone but me." Releasing Jack's wrist, he opens a drawer in the dresser and sifts through it to produce a single key on a keyring, which he presses into Jack's hand. "Use it if you need it."

 

They finish dressing in terse silence, and then it's Jack's turn to catch Gabriel's wrist before he dissolves into smoke.

 

"Gabe." Reaching up, he removes the skull mask of the Reaper so he can lean in to kiss the lips of his lover. "Be careful. Please. I won't survive losing you again."

 

Gabriel drags him in for another, deeper kiss, holding him so tightly it's almost painful.

 

"Nunca más, mi brillo. Never again."

Chapter Text

"Winston?" Angela raps gently on the half open door, and Baptiste visibly swallows, unnerved. Lucio nudges his arm gently and smiles encouragingly.

 

"Come in, Angela," a low voice welcomes. She pushes open the door and stands to the side so Baptiste and Lucio are visible to the occupants.

 

"There are some people here I think you should meet," Angela hums.

 

"I could actually say the same," the voice responds, coming into view.

 

Baptiste blinks, unsure what he's seeing. A huge, armoured gorilla stands there, adjusting glasses that look comically small to his features. He smiles, gesturing for them to enter.

 

"Come in, come in. Angela, this Soldier 76; he'll be joining us along with Shrike. You'll meet her later; she has some field medical experience and you'll probably end up working together a bit."

 

"I read about you in the paper just a few days ago," Angela says, eyeing the man closely as she offers him a hand. "You've made quite the name for yourself, haven't you?"

 

"Had things to do," he responds gruffly, taking her hand for a moment. "Got them done. End of story."

 

"And that brought you here?" she asks, brow cocked sceptically.

 

"No. Something else did." He doesn't explain, and apparently Winston isn't willing to offer up an answer either. Angela takes a breath to keep her temper and smiles thinly as she waves a hand toward the two men with her.

 

"This is Jean-Baptiste Augustin," she introduces, "the former Talon member I mentioned who warned me about the attack we pushed back last week. And Lucio Correa dos Santos. I'm still not entirely sure how a Talon combat medic fell in with a famous musician, but both are interested in our need for agents."

 

"Interesting," Winston hums, inspecting them thoughtfully. "I've heard a lot about you, Lucio; I was just listening to some of your music this morning. What brought you here?"

 

"Baptiste," Lucio laughs. "Really, though, I heard you guys are gettin' the band back together and I couldn't miss out on a chance to meet my heroes, even if I don't get to join." He hasn't stopped moving since Angela met him, but it's so natural, like he's listening to some unheard melody at all times and can't help but move to the beat.

 

"Well," Winston chuffs, looking oddly embarrassed for a primate, "if we could achieve even half of what we used to be..."

 

"The old Overwatch is long gone," Soldier 76 says, reminding everyone of his presence. "It died with Jack Morrison. This Overwatch will be better. It has to be, or it won't survive."

 

"Well then I guess it's a good thing you got former Talon here to give you an edge," Lucio points out, winking at Baptiste, who grimaces.

 

"I doubt I'll be that helpful," he mutters. "Any info I might have is probably too outdated to matter anymore. And Maug- my former team knows I've left, and they can probably guess that I'm the reason their attack failed, so I wouldn't be surprised if they changed things up."

 

"But you know their habits, their protocols," Soldier notes bluntly. "That's already more than we had." He pauses and glances at Winston, expression inscrutable behind his mask, and then, cautiously, "I've made some contacts over the years... One of them is a current Talon member and they owe me for some shit that happened years ago. Between that and whatever Augustin can tell us about habits, Talon shouldn't be as big a problem as it could be."

 

"You have ties to Talon?" Angela asks, narrowing her gaze at him.

 

"Didn't know they were Talon until recently," Soldier shrugs, brushing her off.

 

"Do you have a name?" Baptiste glances around uneasily when everyone's attention turns to him, fidgeting and clearing his throat to explain. "If I know the name, I can tell you about their rank and position, who they rub shoulders with, what kind of reputation they have... Anything I can't tell you, my own contact in Talon can get me."

 

"You still have contacts in Talon?" Winston asks, brightening.

 

"Sort of... My friend works with them, but she's a bit of a free spirit and she'll sell out to anyone who can pay her price. I've helped her keep under the radar almost as much as she's helped me, and she's the one who put me in touch with Dr. Zeigler. We have a good relationship, and she's probably the only person I trust."

 

"Hey," Lucio protests goodnaturedly.

 

"In Talon," Baptiste amends, smiling lightly.

 

"Uh huh. Nice catch," Lucio grins at him.

 

"This is good," Winston hums, rubbing his chin and nodding. "Very good. I'll need to know more about your contacts, both of you, but we can do that in private later."

 

"Can't," Soldier grunts. "Don't know much of anything about my contact; just the name I call 'em: Sunshine. My guess, they're pretty high ranked, but I couldn't say how high."

 

"Sunshine?" Baptiste cocks a curious brow, and Soldier actually looks a bit embarrassed.

 

"Personal. They called me 'sunshine' a couple times, so I turned it back on them."

 

"Sounds like something Sombra would do, honestly," Baptiste snorts. "You sure it isn't her?"

 

"Positive. My contact got me some info for something from Sombra."

 

"Guy, girl or nonbinary?"

 

"What?"

 

"Your contact's gender identity," Baptiste explains. "Not many know this, even inside Talon, but there's a high ranking nonbinary member with a penchant for explosives. They were offered a seat at the table of Doomfist's most trusted, but turned it down."

 

"How do you know that?" Angela asks, surprised.

 

"Sombra," Baptiste chuckles ruefully. "There isn't much she doesn't know."

 

"Guy," Soldier answers.

 

"Well unfortunately, that doesn't narrow it down much," Baptiste sighs. "Most of Doom's most trusted and the higher ranks are men."

 

"We'll figure it out another time," Winston says, waving off the conversation. "Jean-Baptiste, I'd like to sit down with you for a bit to talk about what you know."

 

"Sure, anytime. And just call me Baptiste; everyone does."

 

"What about me?" Lucio pipes up. Winston glances at Angela, who smiles and nods, and then at Soldier, who doesn't even seem to notice.

 

"Well," he begins slowly. "We are in need of people... I suppose... It wouldn't hurt to give it a try. There are still a lot of agents who haven't replied to the recall, and plenty that turned it down, so... Sure. Welcome to Overwatch, Lucio."

 

" Ai sim! You won't regret it! This place is gonna be rockin'!" Before anyone can say anything, the soft green glow of his equipment brightens and he zips out of the room, only to return a few seconds later, poking his head in the door. "Oh, Doc, if you don't mind, I'd like to show you some tunes I made especially for helping people heal up. You'd be amazed what music can do; ask Baptiste!"

 

Then he's gone again, and Baptiste is trying unsuccessfully to bite back a grin.

 

"He's not wrong; I'm pretty sure I was a breath or two from death when I found him, and I owe him my recovery."

 

"Sounds like he knows some healing magic," Angela laughs, heading for the door. "I'll go see what he has to offer."

 

"If you'll excuse me, I need to go find Shrike," Soldier says shortly, following and leaving Baptiste with Winston.

 

"No better time to talk, I suppose," Winston smiles, gesturing to the nearest chair. "Have a seat."

 

~

 

"Is this even going to work?"

 

"You think it won't?" Ana laughs, shifting over to make room for Jack to sit next to her on the little overlook platform.

 

"Gabe asked me not to tell anyone he's alive," Jack sighs, leaning back against the railing. "Practically begged me not to let them know he's my Talon contact."

 

"So he wants to stay dead."

 

"He said he almost killed Winston and Athena. How do you kill a computer? Tear out the harddrive?"

 

"Winston told me about a Talon attack on the base. It was what made him finally send out the recall. Reaper was there."

 

"He shouldn't have been... If I'd made myself known sooner..."

 

"Everyone has done things they regret, fata . Some of us more than others. Don't blame yourself for things you had no part in, especially when the person responsible already regrets."

 

"He told me he didn't care what Talon made him do because he didn't want to live in a world without me."

 

"I'm glad he finally got his head on straight."

 

"Ana..."

 

"What? You two have been dancing around each other for far too long. It's about time you confessed. And it only took you both dying to happen."

 

"You're not funny."

 

"I'm hilarious."

 

"Damn you."

 

"Too late," Ana cackles. Jack allows himself a smile since no one can see it through his mask.

 

"...I missed you."

 

"So did I, fata ." Companionable silence falls for a moment, and then Ana nudges Jack with her elbow. "Did you know? Fareeha is coming. She's due to arrive tomorrow morning."

 

"You said she put in for a transfer. It was approved?"

 

"No, sadly... She wanted her whole team transferred after shutting down Anubis, but the request was turned down, so instead she's going to be our liaison with Helix; Overwatch may be illegal, but public opinion is in our favour ― mostly ― and I think most big boys like Helix are glad to see us back in action, they just have to be quiet about it."

 

"Mostly."

 

"Hm?"

 

"You said mostly in our favour. I'm not surprised there are naysayers, but at least we left a fairly positive legacy."

 

"You're wondering what would have happened if Overwatch had never been disbanded." It's a statement, not a question, and Jack sighs heavily.

 

"You either die a hero, or you live long enough to become a villain," he says, absently shifting to ease the pressure of the railing against his back scars.

 

"We died heroes," Ana hums in agreement. "With any luck, we can use our experience to make sure the next generation has a long time to be heroes too."

 

"Winston is glad to have us. Relieved."

 

"He thought I was a ghost at first."

 

"Why am I not surprised?"

 

"The ghosts of Overwatch past, here to keep everyone in line."

 

They both laugh.

 

"Ahh, it's good to be back," Jack says, basking in the last rays of sunlight and the warmth of his company.

 

"Home, you mean," Ana corrects, leaning her shoulder against his. "It's good to be home."

 

"Yeah. Home... finally."

Chapter Text

"Dae-hyun, would you get me a drink please?" Hana calls out, trying to wrangle the cast on her arm around so it's not in her way but she can still reach the bolts she's trying to tighten. "Anything is fine."

 

A few moments later, after she's managed to get her cast in a good position but can't really move, the chilled metal of a pop can taps the exposed skin of her waist, where her shirt has ridden up a little. She jolts slightly, startled, but really, it feels good, and she enjoys it while she wiggles her good arm out to grab the can, following her arm to give Dae-hyun a smile. That smile vanishes the instant she realises it's not Dae-hyun holding the can.

 

Jumping back, she snatches up the first thing she grabs ― a screwdriver ― and wields it at the two men standing there, the older of whom is holding the can. He's tall, and well built, and holds himself like a soldier, but she can't see his features behind the mask over his face; just the tousled mop of white hair and the tip of an old scar on his forehead that disappears under the mask. The younger one is black, with cropped hair, and also holds himself like a soldier, just a lot looser and friendlier. He's got more gear though, and Hana wouldn't bet on her chances against either of them even if she wasn't injured.

 

"Who are you and how did you get in here?" she demands, repeating herself in Korean and Japanese and Mandarin and-

 

"Whoa whoa, easy, Ms. Song!" the younger one says in English, patting the air. He's got a nice accent, and a nice face, and Hana hesitates. "That's a lot of languages; how do you know so many?"

 

"Travelled a lot when I was younger; picked up more during my gaming years," she answers curtly. "You haven't answered my question."

 

"We're from Overwatch," the older guy says bluntly, setting the can in easy reach and stepping back. "We've seen your work and we're here to recruit you."

 

"But... Overwatch was disbanded years ago. I remember Dad was super upset about it because he had to stop gaming that year."

 

"It's in recall," the older guys explains. "Old agents are coming back, and new agents are being brought in to fill the gaps." He glances over his shoulder at the younger guy and jerks his chin at Hana.

 

"I'm Baptiste," the younger guy smiles, stepping forward to offer a hand, swapping smoothly to the other when he realises she's got a cast on that one. "I'm a combat medic with Overwatch."

 

Cautiously setting the screwdriver down ― but keeping it in reach ― she takes his hand.

 

"Hana Song."

 

"And D.Va during your gaming years, right?" Baptiste winks. "Not much of a gamer myself but when I heard about you, even I was impressed."

 

"Still go by D.Va," she smiles lightly, deciding she likes this guy. "It's my call sign."

 

"Where's the rest of your crew?" he asks, glancing around.

 

"Dae-hyun is around here somewhere," she sighs, casting a half-hearted glare vaguely toward Dae-hyun's space and the door. Then she hesitates, but manages to sound pretty casual when she adds, "Everyone else is in the hospital for a few days."

 

"Really?" Baptiste's brows go up. "News made it sound like you all were on vacation." His gaze skips down to her cast for a moment.

 

"Eh." She shrugs. "That's how it is here; the government doesn't want to admit how bad things are, so the news paints everything in the best light possible. That's why MEKA is so famous. Really, we're just a bunch of kids in big metal suits."

 

"But you've got skill," the older guy says, "and experience fighting omnics."

 

"That's something we're in desperate need of," Baptiste agrees. "Especially with this Null Sector group on the rise."

 

"So, what? You want me to join Overwatch because I can fight a bunch of robots?"

 

"Ideally, your entire team," the older guy says. "But they're only letting us have one of you."

 

"And you chose me," Hana reiterates, sceptical.

 

"You see anybody else around?" the older guy asks blandly. Baptiste gives him a dark look.

 

"We've looked at your records," he explains, shifting to put himself between Hana and the older guy. "You're the youngest, but you've accomplished just as much if not more than anyone else on your team. You have a drive that Overwatch needs. To be honest, we might fall flat before we even get started; the organisation is still technically outlawed by the Petras Act, and with groups like Talon and Null Sector making themselves known, we could get wiped out because there's no one who'll risk going against the UN to help us. We need people like you, people who can help Overwatch stand and fight just like it did in the old days. Not just people... we need heroes."

 

Hana considers it, chewing absently on her lip while she rolls his speech around in her head, weighing the pros and cons, thinking about all the people she'd be leaving behind... That's the biggest thing holding her back, really; MEKA might be small, and sure it's run by the army, but it's her home, and her team is her family. It's not easy to leave that all behind. Plus, her dad is still here, and after he broke his arm in the really big gwishin attack six or seven months ago, he just hasn't been the same since. Can she really just up and leave him? Even for Overwatch?

 

"Was I your first choice?" she blurts, almost without realising it was a concern, but now that she's spoken it, she has to know.

 

"You mean out of your team?" Baptiste clarifies.

 

"Yeah, did you want me from the start, or was I just the one you had to go with?"

 

"We wanted your whole team," the older guy says again. "But when they said we could only have one, we picked you."

 

That soothes something sharp-edged in Hana's chest and she nods, relieved. At least she wasn't a cast-off pick. Maybe she can make some arrangements... come visit from time to time?

 

"How, like... permanent is this?" she asks, and then realises that isn't going to get her point across. "Or, not permanent, but like... Can I come back and visit?" Baptiste glances at the older guy for a second, and Hana almost panics; she hastily adds, "It's just... My dad; his arm was broken recently and it's still healing, and Dae-hyun and Yuna and everybody, they're kinda like my family so I don't want to just... leave all the sudden..."

 

"Easy, Ms. Song," Baptiste chuckles, patting the air again. "I don't think a single person in Overwatch is going to complain if you take some time to visit friends and family now and then, as long as you fulfill your responsibilities, of course."

 

"Totally," Hana agrees, really relieved now. "I completely understand."

 

"Good," the older guy says with a short nod. "You've got the day to get packed and say your goodbyes."

 

"That soon?" Her eyes widen. "But my team isn't back yet; I can't leave the city unprotected!"

 

"Like hell you're leaving anyone unprotected!" a new voice crows. Hana whirls toward the door, where Yuna is standing with a wide grin, the bruising around her eye almost completely gone now. Dae-hyun peeks around the corner as Kyung-soo, Jae-eun and Seung-hwa sidle in behind Yuna, all of them but Dae-hyun looking pleased as punch and all healed up.

 

"Yuna! You guys were listening??" Hana demands, torn between indignation and joy at their return.

 

"We told them where to find you," Kyung-soo grins. "Caught them lurking in the lobby like newbs to the game when we got back after being released for active duty again."

 

"We've got the city, Hana," Jae-eun winks. "You go be a hero."

 

"An illegal hero," Dae-hyun mutters, slinking past everyone toward his space.

 

"Technically," Seung-hwa speaks up, "with Petras himself dead, the Act will have to be reviewed anyway, and any of the former board members and founders who are still alive have a say in rewriting or even nullifying the Act entirely. It's unlikely to happen, but it is supposed to, therefore it's not necessarily illegal."

 

"How do you even know this stuff?" Jae-eun asks, brow cocked.

 

"I wanna know how you know Petras is dead," Hana adds. "I didn't see anything about it online."

 

"There was a side article in a magazine I subscribe to from the States," Seung-hwa shrugs. "It mentioned his murder, said no suspects had been found yet, and then waxed on about the glory days of Overwatch."

 

"You have the weirdest tastes," Yuna says, squinting at him.

 

"Ahem," the older Overwatch guy clears his throat pointedly and heads for the door. "We'll be back for you this evening."

 

"Take your time," Baptiste smiles, thumping lightly on Hana's good shoulder. "Soldier's a bit finicky and likes to get stuff done, but we've got plenty of time."

 

"Thanks," Hana smiles back. "Hope you've got enough room for Toki too." She nods at her almost completed mech, which she's had to rebuild from scratch since it was determined that her old one was too wrecked to salvage. Baptiste cocks a brow at it, and then shrugs.

 

"I'm sure we'll manage. We're staying at the hotel just down the street; ask for Jean-Baptiste. No rush."

 

"Don't worry," Yuna grins. "We won't keep her long; just long enough for a send-off party."

 

"Enjoy yourselves then," Baptiste chuckles, heading after the older guy.

 

"If you get me drunk, I swear..." Hana warns, absently waving at him on his way out.

 

"Not planning on it," Jae-eun promises, laughing.

 

"If it happens on its own, though..." Yuna waggles her brows and Hana shoves her, giggling.

 

The celebrations are well under way when Hana realises Dae-hyun isn't taking part, and she looks around, spotting him sulking in the corner, away from everyone else. Slipping away from the others, she takes a drink over to him, holding it in front of his face to get his attention.

 

"...Not thirsty," he says after glancing up at her.

 

"Not thirsty, or rejecting the peace offering?" Hana asks, brow cocked. He scowls but doesn't respond, and she sighs, setting the drink on his desk and leaning against it. "Come on, Dae-hyun; this isn't like you."

 

"And running off to the other side of the world isn't like you," he retorts bitterly.

 

"You can't seriously be upset that I'm joining Overwatch."

 

"I'm not upset that you're joining Overwatch."

 

"Are you upset because you're not coming with me?"

 

"No. Well, maybe a little, but not really. That's not-" He breaks off, shaking his head.

 

"Then what is it?" she presses. He works his jaw for a moment, and she waits, watching him figure out how to say what he's thinking, or feeling, or both.

 

"What if something happens?" he asks finally, quiet and worried. "You only just got to a place where you can even ask me for help; what if- what if something happens, and there's no one there to help you?"

 

"...Dae-hyun, do you know what went through my head after we blew the reactor in Toki and took out that last gwishin?" He hesitates and then shakes his head, and she places her good hand on his arm. "I was falling through empty space, totally sure that I was gonna die when I hit the water, and all I could think was how good it felt not to rely on just myself. All I could think was how, if I could do it all again, I would have leaned on you forever ago. You gave me that, Dae-hyun. I've never been more confident than I am knowing you've got my back, and I'm going to take that with me to Overwatch, even if you're not there."

 

Dae-hyun sets his hand on top of hers, looking like he might say something but shaking it off. Instead, he just looks up and says, "Promise me you'll ask for help if you need it, no matter what."

 

"I promise," Hana smiles. "And I promise I'll come back and bug you guys every once in a while." A small smile finally tugs at Dae-hyun's lips, and he relaxes.

 

"Promise you'll call and write, too."

 

"Okay, now you're pushing it," she laughs, and his smile blossoms into a grin. Standing, she tugs at his hand. "Come on! Join the fun; I'm only gonna be here for a few more hours!"

 

"Guess we better make the most of it then," he chuckles, letting her pull him. "And afterwards, I'll help you get Toki loaded into whatever transport the Overwatch guys brought."

 

"I owe you big time."

Chapter Text

"Hi! My name is Echo." She smiles brightly as she offers a hand toward the old bastion model. It looks at her hand, and then back up to her face. With careful, deliberate movements, it reaches out with its hand to take hers, beeping a hello. "It's a pleasure to meet you, too."

 

"Oh no... You can understand this bucket o' bolts?" Torbjorn scowls, eyeing them both up and down.

 

"Not quite," Echo giggles. "It's more like... understanding the inference. The way some people can pick up on the meaning of a sentence in a language that's similar to their own, but not the same. The Latin-root languages, for instance; Italian speakers can sometimes guess what Spanish or French speakers are saying."

 

"Uh huh." Torbjorn looks neither convinced nor interested, and opens his mouth undoubtedly to say so when Reinhardt comes by and thumps his shoulder, almost knocking the much smaller man over.

 

"There you are, my friend! How've you been? We could have used you in Paris!"

 

"This tin can gets distracted by every little thing," Torbjorn humphs, kicking at the bastion's leg. "I've had to drag him away from every rock, flower and butterfly between here and Timbuktu!" The bastion tips its head at him, unbothered, and Echo giggles again.

 

"I like flowers. Would you like to walk the gardens with me?" The bastion's optic flares as its head whips up toward her, excited. Its eager chirping is unmistakable and she laughs as she gestures for it to follow. "Come with me! Don't worry, Mr. Lindholm; I'll keep a close eye on him. Please, catch up with Mr. Wilhelm."

 

"Stay out of trouble, ya hear?" Torbjorn calls after them, muttering under his breath about advanced AIs and obsession with flora. Once they're out of earshot, he faces Reinhardt. "So. The monkey's got the team back together, I hear."

 

"It's getting there," Reinhardt agrees with a broad grin. "We've got some new members, too!"

 

"Oh? We're recruiting?"

 

"In a manner of speaking," the crusader hums, leaning against the wall. "Nothing like the old days, of course; we can't afford to be as carefree as we were back then. But a good half dozen people just dropped into our laps at just the right time; Winston has been rushing to vet them all so we can get them to active duty as soon as possible."

 

"So what're we lookin' at then?" Torbjorn asks, finding a seat with his old friend and pulling out some metal bits and bobs to fiddle with.

 

"An agent from our ecopoint in Antarctica ― Doctor Mei-Ling Zhou ― returned with data from the last nine years a couple of months ago, right after the recall. She's tougher than you'd expect and smarter than most of us. I brought Brigitte back with me, and Winston instated her as a full agent. She has your head for engineering and a talent for patching people up. McCree sent Echo to us with a message that he had some things to take care of, and he probably won't be able to rejoin the team for a while yet. Genji brought his master with him; the student of our acquaintance, Tekhartha Mondatta. Zenyatta is a rather fascinating omnic; you should talk to him some time."

 

"I'll pass, thanks," Torbjorn scoffs. "I've got my hands full with this hunk of junk as it is."

 

"...If it's as different as you say," Reinhardt says slowly, "I really think you ― and it ― would benefit from a talk with Zenyatta."

 

"...Who's asking?" Torbjorn asks cautiously, looking closely at his friend. "Lieutenant Wilhelm, or the Lion of Eichenwald?"

 

"Neither," Reinhardt answers sincerely. "I'm asking as your friend. I've spent more than a decade coming to terms with my past, Torbjorn. I don't hate omnics, and while I am and always will be wary of their capabilities, Echo and Zenyatta, and Zenyatta's new pet, have all shown me that they can have just as much humanity as we do."

 

For a long moment, Torbjorn stays silent, absorbing that and tinkering with whatever's in his hands.

 

"New pet?" he prompts finally. Reinhardt chuckles.

 

"You're not the only one with a tagalong," he winks. "It's some... search and rescue omnic modelled to look like a dog." Torbjorn's brows go up and his hands still.

 

"An S-ROK unit? I thought they were all scrapped."

 

"I guess not," Reinhardt shrugs. "See for yourself; it almost never leaves Zenyatta's side. Kannus, I believe its name is."

 

"So we're just pickin' up omnics to make up the ranks of Overwatch now, are we?"

 

"Not entirely... This is where we get to the real fresh meat. A Talon member defected and warned us of an attack going after Angela. We held it off, thanks to his warning, and now he's an agent. There are three others that all showed up about the same time; have you heard of the musician Lucio Correa dos Santos?"

 

"I've heard the name, I think... Don't know jack about him though."

 

"You'll learn; he joined with Baptiste, the former Talon medic."

 

"Omnics, Talon, a musician... What is that oversized ape thinking?" Torbjorn grumbles, twisting a bit harshly at something.

 

"We need people with skills," Reinhardt points out. "These people have skills."

 

"Are they the skills we need?" Torbjorn returns.

 

"Winston thinks so, and he's running the show now."

 

"Oh it's a show alright; a freak show."

 

"Torbjorn," Reinhardt scolds.

 

"Don't gimme that, Reinhardt; this isn't the organisation we built and you know it."

 

"That's exactly the point," he persists. "This isn't our Overwatch. We had our chance, and we failed. It's their turn now."

 

"Then why are we here?" Torbjorn demands, frustrated.

 

"To make sure they get their chance."

 

Both men look up sharply to see Soldier 76 striding toward them, Baptiste and a petite young girl trailing behind him.

 

"Torbjorn, that's Soldier 76, another of our new recruits. This is Torbjorn Lindholm, one of the original founders of Overwatch."

 

"Jean-Baptiste Augustin and Hana Song," Soldier introduces curtly, gesturing to each in turn. "This is the face of Overwatch now, Lindholm. Don't cast them aside just because they aren't the people you once knew. Wilhelm, I'm leaving them with you." Without another word, he continues on, waving absently over his shoulder.

 

"...Rude," Torbjorn frowns. He stares hard after Soldier, thinking.

 

"Well then!" Reinhardt bellows, all welcoming cheer again. "Hello, Ms. Song! I trust your trip went well?"

 

"Totally!" she chirps with a bright smile. "Nice to meet you, Mr... Wilhelm?"

 

"Just call me Reinhardt," he laughs, offering a hand. "Everyone does."

 

"Nice to meet you, Reinhardt," she beams, her slender hand vanishing into his massive grasp. "And you, Mr. Lindholm."

 

Torbjorn jolts at the sound of his name and glances at her.

 

"Huh? Oh, sure, whatever. I need to go find that bastion before he makes a mess of things."

 

"Bastion?" Baptiste and Hana ask at the same time, the former surprised and the latter curious.

 

"You two aren't the only new recruits," Reinhardt smirks. "We've got a number of omnics on the roster now, it seems."

 

"We'll see about that," Torbjorn mutters as he leaves.

 

"I take it he isn't a fan of the recent changes to Overwatch," Baptiste frowns.

 

"Not really," Reinhardt sighs in agreement. "I have a feeling Soldier and Shrike will change his mind, though; they're quite the firecrackers."

 

"So what's this about a bastion?" Hana asks. "I've never heard of a bastion."

 

" Mein gotte , you're so young," Reinhardt says, brows raised and expression caught somewhere between amusement and 'oh you poor thing.' "The bastion omnics were terrible things back in the day. A single one could kill millions with ease. In my days as a Crusader, we went to war with thousands of them, until we were overrun in Eichenwald."

 

"And... you're okay with one being here?" Hana asks carefully. He just shrugs.

 

"I've made my peace with the past, and those omnics were wiped out. All except this one, apparently. Torbjorn thinks it's different, so we'll see."

 

"And if it's not?"

 

"I've seen nothing to suggest that yet," Reinhardt says simply. "And I trust Torbjorn; he may be a crotchety old fool, but he knows his stuff, and he of all people understands what could happen if he's wrong again."

 

"Again?" Hana and Baptiste ask at the same time. Reinhardt pauses, glancing in the direction his old friend went with a small sigh.

 

"The Crisis had to begin somewhere," he says quietly. Hana and baptiste exchange stunned looks, and for a moment no one speaks as they digest that. Then Reinhardt takes a breath, back to his vibrant, bubbly self. "But enough about the old days! Let's get you settled in, Ms. Song, and then you can meet everyone. It's almost time for dinner, and I'm cooking!"

Chapter Text

Alex wakes to a throbbing agony that pulses through her body, radiating out from chest to limbs and rebounding back inward. It's a struggle not to scream, but she's had practice. Lots, and lots of practice.

 

"Y'alright?" The soothing American drawl helps ease the psychological side of the pain, and Alex takes deep, careful breaths until the physical side of the pain fades to its usual dull ache.

 

"Yes," she answers finally, quietly. The shuffle of cloth as she sits up is the only sound in the night, beyond the faint hum and tick of the heater in the corner. She can see the red glow of the coils in the darkness, a stark contrast to the soft blue glow of moonlight through the half open window.

 

"Bad?" the American asks gently.

 

"The pain?" Alex huffs softly, tugging the blanket up over her knees as she leans back against the wall. "It always is. I live a life of agony, Mr. McCree. My body is in a constant state of turmoil, tearing itself apart while simultaneously stitching itself back together. It is rarer for me to know a moment of peace and painlessness."

 

"...My arm sometimes aches," Jesse says, the vague shadow of his figure shifting. Alex picks up the barest song of calloused fingers brushing metal. "It ain't even there and I get an itch, all the way down to the bone.... It don't drive ya mad?"

 

"Not really," Alex shrugs lightly. "Only... It makes me tired. Tired of everything. Sometimes I-" She breaks off, biting her lip, but she's started and now she wants to tell him. To tell anyone. "Sometimes... I wish it would just happen already. That my body would finally rip itself into molecules and vanish into nothing. Then, at least, the pain would be over."

 

Jesse's quiet for a long time, and Alex wonders if he's ever thought that; if he's counting the number of times he's considered putting his Peacekeeper in his mouth and pulling the trigger.

 

"You... fog... in your sleep," he says eventually, waving a hand. "Gets hard to make out yer features."

 

"Really?" Alex holds a hand up between her face and the window, watching the ever-present wisps of fog curling off her skin. Her fingers go a little fuzzy as she watches, but it only takes a half a thought to bring them back into form.

 

"Why ya lookin' for Moira?" Jesse asks suddenly, like he's been wanting to ask since he promised he wouldn't, and just can't hold it in anymore.

 

"You said you wouldn't ask questions," Alex reminds quietly, chest aching at the woman's name.

 

"Honey, I been around long enough t'know ya don't go lookin' for someone hard as you are without a damn good reason, all the more when that someone's in a group as dangerous as Talon. I did a whole lotta diggin' on these folks, and not just 'cuza you; they got fingers in a helluva lotta pies, and ya don't get where I'm at without knowin' who yer up against. More'n that, I worked with Moira back in the day; that witch ain't somebody to mess with, ya hear me? If this is some kinda revenge mission, lemme tell ya right now; she ain't worth it. She ain't worth jack shit 'cept-"

 

"Stop it!" Alex snaps, unable to take it anymore. "Just- stop it. You don't know anything about what she means to me."

 

"Damn straight I don't," Jesse grunts, unimpressed. "That bitch got people killed ― people I loved. More'n that, people I considered family. My daddy walked out when I was too young to remember him; my mama died and I couldn't do shit about it; my people chased me out on the wrong end of their guns... Overwatch was my home. Gabe saw somethin' in me and gave me a chance when no one else would; Jack gave me a place to belong; Ana taught me how to shoot and how to be a man; and now they're all dead 'cuza Moira ."

 

He's vicious, bitter, and for a moment Alex can't reconcile this angry man with the one she's so used to, the one who makes a joke out of everything, who charms his way out of the craziest situations, who's saved her life over and over again. She can't find words, but he isn't done anyway.

 

"That woman sold out to Talon, broke us down from the inside out, dragged Overwatch through the mud, and then got everybody killed to boot. Had it my way, I'd make like ancient times and string her up till she stops kickin'. She's evil incarnate and I spent years working with her, so please! Tell me again how I don't know shit!"

 

"You don't!" Alex insists, dragging the blanket tight to her chest. "She isn't evil; she's a good person."

 

"There's a whole long list of words I'd use to describe her and ain't one of 'em 'good.'"

 

"She's my mother!"

 

Silence falls, and it feels like the whole world is holding its breath with Alex, waiting for Jesse's response. He's quiet for a long, long time, and unease rises in Alex's throat, choking her.

 

"Moira O'Deorain... is yer mom." He's sceptical, shocked, perplexed. Alex takes a shuddering breath to explain.

 

"I never knew my birth parents. I sometimes have the vaguest of memories of a couple I don't recognise, but I don't really remember anything except the streets. I grew up there, scavenging for survival, clawing through the garbage two and three times a day just so I wouldn't pass out from hunger. The best places to find food were the big fancy organisations; the restaurants on the rich side of town especially. Sometimes big businesses would hold parties or something and throw out their leftovers.

 

"One day I was so hungry I could barely walk straight, and I found dead animals in a container outside the university." She falters, drawing her knees closer to her chest. "When you get as low as I was, it doesn't matter where the food comes from; if it's edible, you eat it, or you die. I ate a rat raw, just to ease the gnawing of my stomach, and then took the rest to my hideout and cooked and ate them too.

 

"Within a week, I felt the first effects... It started as just a distant ache, everywhere in my body. I thought nothing of it; on the streets, you sleep on hard ground and you fight for everything, so a few aches and pains are nothing, even to a child. But then it grew. It grew until I could hardly breathe. It pulsed through me like a wave made of glass, shredding every corner of my being with a mind of its own, until I could no longer stand it. I knew it had to be those animals, and I went back to the university; I thought... if it was the source of my pain, then maybe it could also be the solution. And that's when I met her... She found me curled up on the steps of the main building, and she was fascinated by this endless trail of fog that melted from me. I begged her to help, to stop the pain, even to kill me if that's what it took. She promised she would help me, but she could only do that if she could study me. I agreed... and she took me in." Alex blinks back tears, quickly wiping at her cheeks and sniffing back mucus to add, "She raised me for a little over two years; she made me who I am today, and I wouldn't even be alive without her. I need her, Mr. McCree... She's all I have."

 

"...That ain't like the Moira I knew," Jesse says quietly after a long moment. "But... I'm the last person to judge the love of found family." Alex lets out a shuddery breath she didn't know she was holding, scrubbing her cheeks with shaky hands, and Jesse stands from his post by the window to cross the room. "Promised I'd help you find her; still gonna. 'M a man of my word. But yer gonna need yer sleep, sweetheart." He plucks at the blanket, tugging it gently away from her and motioning for her to lie down. Sniffing, Alex nods and obeys, settling down for him to pull the blanket up over her.

 

"I'm sorry," she whispers.

 

"Fer what, darlin'?" Jesse asks softly, tucking her in and then settling on the edge of the bed.

 

"Your family. I can't imagine how much it would hurt to lose them, and not just once, but twice."

 

"Ain't yer fault," he assures, resting his right hand on her shoulder and stroking his thumb along her arm. "Shit happens."

 

"I don't think Moira meant for anyone to die," Alex says, sliding one hand out from under the covers and reaching up to cover his hand. "She values life; she wants to improve it, make it better. Just... Like you said; shit happens."

 

"Sure, honey," Jesse agrees, but he doesn't sound convinced, just tired. He pulls his hand out from under hers and brushes her hair back. "Go back to sleep, okay?"

 

After he goes back to his post, silence returns. A gentle pitter patter of rain off the roof starts up, light and soothing, and the ambient light outside fades a bit. Lightning flashes, followed not long after by a low rumble of thunder.

 

"...you have a daughter, Mr. McCree?" Alex asks eventually, half asleep.

 

"What makes you think that?" Jesse returns curiously. Alex hums, not really that concerned about getting an actual answer.

 

"Mm... way you treat me... things you said... makes me think I remind you of her."

 

Jesse doesn't answer, and eventually Alex slips into a deeper sleep, lulled by the rainfall of the growing storm. He watches rain collect on the windowpane and trickle down in streams, considering.

 

"...Guess I know how Gabe felt all those years ago."

 

~

 

The omnic speaker is elegant, noble... angelic.

 

Everything he heard seems to be true.

 

"Life is a precious gift," the omnic says, voice warm, melodic, welcoming as an embrace. It's hard to tell from the voice if the omnic identifies as male or female, but if what he hears is correct, 'she' and 'they' are both acceptable. "Humans take it for granted until it's snatched from them. Omnics are never given that luxury. So few amongst my brothers and sisters and siblings are fortunate enough to come to consciousness in the safety of those humans who care for us; too many are awakened through fear for a life they didn't know they had until mortality looms."

 

Someone in the small gathering of humans and omnics raises her hand, getting the omnic's attention.

 

"Was that what happened to you?" she asks. "Is that why you modified yourself to look like an angel?"

 

"No, sweet sister," the omnic purrs. "My awakening was lonesome; a spark of horror in the realisation that I would be used to hurt others." They lift their hand, palm up, as if presenting something invisible and unknowable to their audience. "My desire to preserve life gave birth to a life of my own..." They curl their fingers together and press the resultant fist to their chest. "A gift I treasure."

 

They are the one he's been seeking. He circles the edge of the small crowd, staying out of sight and finding a place to sit where he can wait.

 

"If you want to preserve life so much," a more sceptical member of the audience speaks up, "why do you have a weapon built into your arm?"

 

"For the same reason you choose to let your hair grow out," the omnic replies without missing a beat. "This crossbow was a piece of my original schematics, as are many of my other features. These 'wings,' this halo, this veil... They are my clothing; my preference for style, just as you have chosen those pants and that shirt. I am no different at my base than you are. That I have a crossbow built into my arm is no less concerning to me than a boxer's fists are to themselves."

 

They are so eloquent, so calm and at ease even in the face of opposition... They have ready answers for every question that comes up, even if that answer is "I don't know. If I find the answer, you'll be the first to know."

 

As the sun nears its peak, they look up abruptly, seeming to bask in the heat of the light across their face, and then breathe an oddly human sigh. Everyone perks when they stand.

 

"Where has the time gone?" they purr, reaching up toward the sun. "My human brothers and sisters and siblings should eat; it's lunchtime. I will be here again tomorrow if you'd like to talk more." Without another word, they turn, the ribbons of their cloak flaring like feathered wings, and stride away, gliding effortlessly over the pavement.

 

He follows.

 

It's only when they turn down an old alley that empties into an abandoned lot that he realises they know he's following. By the time he steps into the lot, they're already perched on the edge of a rusted fridge lying on its side in the midst of the trash littered about the lot.

 

"Hello," they purr, unafraid, curious. "You have questions, dear brother?"

 

"Perhaps," he answers, taking odd comfort in the sand-damaged rasp of his voice. "Or answers." They cock their head, intrigued.

 

"Answers?"

 

"You play at angelicism," he states, and then spreads his arms. "I am god."

 

"A god in human form?" they hum, interest increasing. "Explain."

 

"My history is of no consequence. I hear you travel the world, preaching peace."

 

"I do. When I was young and lost, I met the most wonderful person... Not long after, I ran into his student." They laugh, a low cymbal in orchestral melody. "A world of coincidence, we live in. My discussions with them opened my eyes to the beauty of life... and its horrendous mistreatment. I couldn't let it stand; I studied religions from all walks of life, throughout history, and found purpose in sharing the hope I have come to know with all who will listen. Mondatta may be dead, but his message of peace will live on until none are left to carry the torch."

 

"Hope," he echoes, shaking his head in disappointment. "Your hope is vain, angel; I will bring death to all people. The end of all; judgement day."

 

"A portent of doom," they say, their tone and body language no longer readable. "A harbinger... You seek to reap fear where I seek to sow hope." They stand, and his hand slips to the sidearm at his thigh; as delicate and beautiful as this omnic is, they carry a subtle lethality now that warns him not to take them lightly.

 

"I bring only the inevitable," he counters, unworried but cautious. "You sell a lie."

 

"We are North and South, my brother," they say evenly, striding past him. Energy snaps palpably between them at the nearest point. "Let us pray we do not meet again."

 

"We will," he promises without turning. "At the End."

Chapter Text

"Remind me why I'm stuck with you?" Gabriel growls, scanning his surroundings. He's only half solid right now, and only to check in with his partner.

 

"Because chances are, the things I need would be otherwise inaccessible," Moira answers easily, striding confidently down the hall.

 

It can be easy to forget sometimes that she began her career in halls like this, that being here might as well mean being at home. She's a superstorm in a bottle, a tightly controlled hurricane of intensity that doesn't flinch in the face of even the deadliest of danger, and at moments like this, walking out in the open through the halls of a Vishkar development plant, he remembers why he hired her back then.

 

"Lab coat looks good on you," he says pointedly, trailing along behind like her shadow. "Couldn't get a name tag to match?"

 

"Watch yourself, Reaper," Moira hums calmly, pausing at an intersection to figure out which way she needs to go. "I made you; I can take you apart just as easily."

 

"Just saying..."

 

"Sombra didn't have time to get me one, much less forge one, and I don't have time to wait; these compounds will be moved soon, and once they reach the factories, they'll be put to use before I can even consider a plan to get access to them again."

 

"So I get to be a human pancake and slide up under doors for you."

 

"It was either that, or blowing holes everywhere with Inconnue." She stops in front of a door and faces Gabriel with a terse smile. "I'm sure we can both agree that this is the better option."

 

Rather than deigning to reply, Gabriel simply flips her off, making sure his hand is the last thing to dissolve before he disperses his being under and around the door, spilling into the open space beyond and tightening down on himself to take form. The room is dark, but the switch is by the door, and a tap floods the room with buzzing fluorescence.

 

Clearly this room is very, very old, and nobody's cared enough to upgrade to LEDs.

 

The walls are lined with mostly empty shelves, and two huge pallets carrying massive black boxes sit in the middle of the room; obviously a hasty and temporary storage method.

 

Gabriel turns and unlocks the door, tapping it twice to let Moira know it's open. Then he steps back and half dissolves again, more comfortable being most of the way through his transformation in a place where cohesion could get him killed.

 

"Perfect," Moira breathes when she sees the boxes, more delighted than Gabriel can ever really remember seeing her. 

 

"So how are we getting this shit out of here?" he asks. "Because I guarantee we're not walking out the way we walked in."

 

"That, my dear friend, is where this comes in," she smirks, pulling a large fat disk from her pocket, like a big metal hockey puck. "Vishkar is going to help us steal from themselves."

 

The disk hums gently as she presses something on the flat side, and then she drops it right in front of the boxes. It immediately unfolds like a flower and hardlight spines form, jutting up several feet before folding down to form a steady base. Then a spiral of softer looking hardlight shoots up, creating a glowing oval portal large enough for a man to walk through easily.

 

"The other is located back in an empty lot not far from where we parked," Moira purrs, circling to the other side of the boxes.

 

"And we're just gonna leave an open portal that leads right back to us?"

 

"Of course not. It's set to self-destruct ten minutes after activation. So get over here and help me."

 

Grumbling, Gabriel helps, and together they manage to get all of the boxes through the teleporter and stacked up in the empty, snow-covered lot on the other side. Then they sit and wait, watching the portal, until at last it chirps, beeps ten times, and collapses in on itself, leaving a small charred chunk of metal behind.

 

"We're home free," Moira chuckles. "Let's get loaded up and get back quickly."

 

They've just finished that and Moira is pulling their transport van onto the street when suddenly someone bolts in front of them and stops, directly in their path. Gabriel reaches for his guns, but Moira's breath hitches and she holds out a hand.

 

"Wait."

 

Annoyed, Gabriel stops, turning a dark look on her that she wouldn't be able to see anyway, even if she had been paying attention. Instead, her attention is fixed on the slender young woman standing in front of them, chest heaving like she just ran a marathon.

 

"Stay here," Moira says shortly, putting the vehicle into idle and opening the door.

 

"Who's that?" Gabriel demands, frustrated by the wasted time. Moira pauses to give him an even stare.

 

"She's you," she answers. "Version 1.0."

 

Gabriel watches, stunned, as she gets out and steps closer to the girl, who steps closer to her.

 

"Moima," the girl's voice floats into the cab. "I finally found you..."

 

"Alex. What are you doing here?" Moira's voice is uncharacteristically soft, and Gabriel doesn't like this one bit.

 

"I came to find you," the girl, Alex, insists. "I've been searching for so long... I had to find you, to make sure you were okay."

 

"You shouldn't be here; it isn't safe for you."

 

"I couldn't wait. I spent over ten years looking for you."

 

"...Things are different now, Alex," Moira says, closing the gap between them to brush loose locks behind Alex's ear. "I told you when I left you that I could no longer take care of you."

 

"I don't need you to take care of me anymore," Alex says, voice cracking with emotion as she grabs Moira's hand in both of hers. "I just need you in my life."

 

"I can't," Moira replies, so quietly Gabriel almost doesn't hear her. "I work with some very dangerous people now; I can't afford-" She breaks off, but Alex doesn't even seem to notice.

 

"Talon," Alex says grimly. "I know. Mr. McCree said- He said some bad things about you; that you sold out to Talon while you were in Overwatch. But I know it wasn't like that! I know you didn't mean for anyone to get hurt!"

 

"You know Jesse?" Moira's surprise echoes Gabriel's, and he realises even as he moves that he's dissolving and shifting closer to hear more.

 

"He saved my life, and he helped me find you. Please, Moima..."

 

"I can't, Alex," Moira says quietly, firmly. "You need to stay away from Talon; do you understand me?"

 

"But-"

 

"Stay. Away. From Talon."

 

"Yes, ma'am," Alex mutters, on the verge of tears.

 

Moira pulls her close, wrapping her in an awkward embrace. She must whisper something in Alex's ear, because the girl stiffens and then tightens her grip, clinging to Moira and struggling not to cry. To her credit, she keeps a stiff lip and holds her head high when they separate. Moira doesn't look back as she returns to the driver's seat, and neither does Alex as she walks away, but Gabriel has the distinct feeling that this isn't over.

 

"If anyone learns of this," Moira states casually once they've merged into afternoon traffic, "the next time you discorporate will be the last; I will see to it that you spend the rest of whatever miserable life you lead in pure agony, unable even to scream."

 

"We all have our secrets, princesa ," Gabriel grunts. "Just don't forget that Sombra makes it her business to know people's secrets; if she doesn't know about the kid already, she will soon."

 

Moira doesn't speak for a long moment, but the tension in her shoulders says it's heavy in her mind. Gabriel doesn't envy her.

 

"That's what I'm afraid of..."

 

~

 

"Gabe?" Jack repeats, frowning at the vacant expression of the man lying in his lap. "Gabriel."

 

"...Hm?"

 

"You didn't hear a word I just said, did you?"

 

"What'd you say?" Gabriel hums.

 

"I said your boy Baptiste is a good man," Jack says again, disliking how distracted Gabriel is. "He's got a way with people, and he's fully invested in Overwatch's success."

 

"That's good."

 

An expectant silence falls for a moment, until Gabriel turns his gaze from the ceiling to Jack's face and blinks.

 

"...I missed something... What?"

 

"Where the hell is your head that you're so distracted?" Jack asks, annoyed and maybe just a little jealous of whatever's got his lover's attention so firmly in hand.

 

"...Moira has a kid."

 

Of all the things Jack would have guessed was on Gabriel's mind, that didn't even make the list.

 

"Excuse me, what ?"

 

"Moira apparently adopted some orphan girl before we hired her into Blackwatch-"

 

"Before you hired her," Jack corrects.

 

"-and the kid has been trying to find her for years," Gabriel continues without acknowledging him. "And even stranger... she's the original me; Moira's first attempt at this whole... vapour thing."

 

"Jesus, there's more of you?"

 

"Just the two of us," he shakes his head a bit, reaching up to trail his talons lightly along Jack's bicep. "When Akande suggested expanding the experiment to other Talon agents, she claimed it was impossible, that it shouldn't even have worked with me, and that it's a miracle I'm still alive, especially after ten years." He falters, and Jack sees his concern before he says it. "If they learn of the kid..."

 

"Moira's playing a dangerous game," Jack rumbles, hating everything about this. "Did she know the kid was still around?"

 

"She was genuinely surprised to see her, but I think it was less that the kid was alive and more that the kid managed to track her down."

 

"So now we've got a rogue element wandering around that Talon would do anything to get their hands on if they find out about her. And Moira is clearly walking a fine line we know nothing about. Add to that the recent spikes in Null Sector activity and I'd say we're headed for one hell of a climax."

 

"If Overwatch survives it, they can handle just about anything that comes at them," Gabriel points out. "We need to make sure they survive it."

 

"Agreed. First things first, we need to find this kid before Talon does."

 

"Then you'd better get in touch with Jesse," Gabriel says, sitting up and reaching for his mask. "The kid said he helped her find Moira."

 

"Must be the business keeping him from rejoining," Jack muses, rubbing his jaw. "Been a while since I last saw him... You know he took a contract on my head?"

 

"Did he now?" Gabriel hums, amused.

 

"We ran into each other down in Dorado; said he planned on taking the bid when he got back to the States, but heard I was in the area and decided to take advantage of the situation."

 

"And you've still got your head, I see."

 

"I led him on a merry little chase through some alleys and a warehouse, and we chatted a bit. Must have said something that changed his mind because he gave me a bullet from Peacekeeper, said he wasn't going to chase me anymore, and told me to find him when I was ready to use the bullet."

 

"He gave you a bullet from Peacekeeper?" Gabriel echoes, surprised. In answer, Jack pulls the bullet from his pocket and holds it out. Taking it, Gabriel inspects it for a moment, and then shakes his head, handing it back. "That boy's gotten soft, sounds like. He never would have given up a bullet like that."

 

"Because you would have beaten his ass for it," Jack snorts, standing. "I should go; I need to inform Winston and Ana about the girl, and see if I can't get Jesse to bring her to Overwatch."

 

"Probably for the best." Gabriel grabs Jack's wrist and tugs at him. Jack lets the man pull him down onto his lap. "But first... I want a kiss, and you're going to give it to me, brillo solar ."

 

"Am I?" Jack smirks, leaning into him. "What makes you think that?"

 

"If you keep being a brat, I'll make it a blowjob too."

 

"Promises, promises," Jack snickers, pressing a light kiss to Gabriel's chapped lips. "All words, no action."

 

"If you didn't have somewhere to be," Gabriel growls, talons digging into Jack's ass even through the thick material of his pants, "I'd make you eat those words along with my dick."

 

"Such a foul mouth," Jack laughs, kissing him again. "To think I actually kiss those lips."

 

"Keep riling me up and you'll be kissing a lot more," Gabriel warns, but after another, somewhat more heated kiss, he reluctantly pushes Jack away. "Go, before I throw you down in bed and fuck you senseless."

 

"So tempting," Jack chuckles, winking before replacing his mask and grabbing his jacket and gloves. "If and when we get the girl, I'll leave a message for you here."

 

"Jack," Gabriel says just as he's reaching for the door. "I'll do my best to keep this quiet, but Sombra will find out; it's what she does. And she has no reason not to share it with Talon. You have to find her first."

 

"We will."

 

"Good. And Jack. Her name is Alex."

Chapter Text

Sombra is half dressed when Gabriel pays her a visit that night; she answers the knock at her door wearing nothing but a thin tank top and underwear, and Gabriel promptly turns his mask enough to block the view.

 

"Put some clothes on, puta ," he hisses, annoyed enough that he got blueballed for the night without Sombra reminding him that sex is a thing that can actually happen.

 

"Why? You're the one bothering me in the middle of the night, anciano ."

 

"...Who's here?"

 

"Amelie," she answers casually, leaning on the doorframe. "What do you want, and can it wait till morning?"

 

"It can't wait. Send Widow to your inner sanctum or something."

 

Sombra rolls her eyes, muttering in Spanish about finding a new job, one that doesn't cockblock her every time she wants to have a little fun; she leaves the door open for him as she sashays back into the room.

 

Widowmaker is also half naked, lying out unashamedly on a bunch of cushions covered in blankets. More than half naked, actually; she only has on lacy panties, and those barely hide anything. Gabriel growls in annoyance and just covers his eyes this time, feeling for the door to close it behind him.

 

"Go into the other room, preciosa ," Sombra murmurs, far more tenderly than Gabriel would have expected.

 

"Not Talon business?" Widow hums, unbothered.

 

"Apparently not. I won't be long; promise."

 

If he hadn't just been doing the same with Jack, Gabriel would be disgusted by the displays of affection, and he's more than happy when he hears the other door click closed.

 

"Alright, anciano ; out with it."

 

"Put on something," he grunts, dropping his hand but still avoiding looking directly at her.

 

"You don't get to be comfortable," she snips sourly. "You interrupted my night. How would you like it if I made a copy of your boyfriend's key and walked in on you two having sex and then refused to leave until-"

 

"Alright, alright!" Gabriel cuts in, getting the point. He forces, as sincerely as possible, an awkward, "I'm... sorry."

 

Apparently that mollifies her, because she doesn't jump into a Spanish rant as expected. Instead she just plops down on the makeshift bed with a sigh.

 

"¿ Qué paso, anciano? What could possibly be so important that it can't wait until morning?"

 

Gabriel hesitates now, unsure how much he can give away without tipping her off if she doesn't know yet. He decides to err on the side of caution for now and feel her out first; his luck, barging in like this pissed her off enough to go running to Akande the minute she finds out.

 

"How much do you know about Alex?" he asks carefully, daring to look at her to see her reaction.

 

"Do you have any idea how little that clarifies things?" she asks blandly.

 

"If you know anything, you know exactly who I'm talking about."

 

"So you're not the first or the only," she shrugs. "Big deal. Why is she so important that you'd come running to me in the mid-"

 

She stops, the pieces clicking into place right before his eyes. He holds his breath, waiting; he can't even be impressed that he actually got to see her realising she doesn't know something, not when her scheming brain might already be plotting something that could end in disaster.

 

"...I get it now," Sombra breathes, eyes wider with sudden understanding. She thumps the heel of her palm to her forehead. "That's why she didn't- Ay Dios mío, soy demasiado estúpido ... Where is she now?" Then, to clarify: "Alex."

 

"Why?" he asks warily, still unsure where she stands on the matter.

 

"Clearly, you've met her, so clearly, you know her latest whereabouts."

 

"And...?"

 

"And what? I need to update my files, tonto ."

 

"That's it?"

 

"What else am I gonna do, tell someone?" Sombra scoffs. When Gabriel can't come up with a reply fast enough, she snorts. "Look, Gabe, I don't share what I know unless there's something in it for me. The good doc has nothing I need, so blackmailing is pointless, and Akande doesn't even know to ask. End of story. Besides, if someone else gets her first, things get a lot more interesting." She smirks and winks, a devilish gleam in her eyes that he knows all too well.

 

And that's that; Moira's secret is safe for the time being, and once Jack has Alex in Overwatch, it'll level the playing field a bit. Gabriel relaxes.

 

"The Vishkar development plant. She tracked us down."

 

"Well, she's surprisingly resourceful," Sombra hums, standing and stretching. "And incredibly lucky. By the way, someone else in Talon already knows about her, but they obviously don't know everything; there was a kidnapping attempt a couple of years ago that your boy McCree foiled. Had more the marks of someone who saw something interesting than someone who knew what she was."

 

" Mierda ... Who?"

 

"Not sure yet, but they're not a big player; probably just one of the lieutenants. Might want to look into that if you want to stay in control of this," Sombra smiles sweetly.

 

"I've worn out my welcome with you and you're not going to poke around for me, are you?"

 

"Well, I might be persuaded... But the sooner you leave the more time I get to think about it."

 

"Message received," Gabriel grunts, turning for the door. "That key had better be the only one."

 

"Relax, anciano ; I'm the last person to invade someone else's safe space without a damn good reason, and there is absolutely nothing that would be worth an eyeful of old man sex."

 

He flips her off on the way out and gets rewarded with a cackle through the closing door.

 

~

 

"Well, well, well," a familiar drawl draws all attentions in the training room over to the door, and Echo immediately brightens up. "Y'all have certainly changed things up, haven't you?"

 

"Jesse!" Echo literally flies across the room, a quick, elegant little dash through the air that places her right in front of him with her arms open for a hug. "Welcome back!"

 

"Hey there, Echo," he chuckles, giving her a quick hug and then stepping aside to reveal the pretty young woman behind him. "Don't suppose y'all got room for one more new recruit, do ya?"

 

"That's up to Winston, but most likely," Jack answers, relieved to see the gunslinger. He sets his pulse rifle down as Jesse's eyes widen and his brows go up.

 

"Well ain't this a surprise," the American chuckles. "Thought you had some revenge planned."

 

"Did. Took care of it. Found something to do after." Reaching into his pocket, he pulls out the bullet from Peacekeeper and tosses it to Jesse, who snatches it out of the air with ease and opens his hand to see what he grabbed. "Won't be needing that anymore."

 

"Found a new reason to live?" Jesse grins.

 

"Something like that," Jack says, nodding to the rest of the training centre. "You should meet the fresh meat."

 

"Hey!" Hana protests, looking up from where she's been tinkering with her pistol since it jammed up on her.

 

"I do not think 'meat' is entirely applicable," Zenyatta chuckles, one hand resting on Kannus' back. The K9 is watching Jesse, but hasn't made a move yet, probably still determining the danger.

 

"We've got three omnics in the ranks now," Echo giggles. "Four if you count the bastion Mr. Lindholm brought back with him."

 

"Oh yeah, I heard about that... Kinda surprised, considerin'."

 

"We all were," she assures. "But he seems convinced the bastion is different, and I am inclined to agree."

 

While they're chatting, Jack has stepped a bit closer to Hana, and he nudges her arm. She looks up sharply, wary, but he just nods toward the girl with Jesse, who's calmly watching them talk.

 

"Might be nice to have someone closer to your age," he says pointedly.

 

"Lucio's not close enough? What, you don't want to be the welcoming committee again?" Hana smirks, finishing something with her pistol and strapping it to the makeshift holster at her hip.

 

"Thought I'd give you a chance, actually," Jack answers. "If you don't want to..." But Hana is already waving him off and heading toward the door.

 

"Hi! Hana Song," she introduces, holding out her hand to the girl, who blinks in surprise and then smiles, taking her hand.

 

"Nice to meet you, Hana. I'm Alex."

 

"Y'okay, sweetheart?" Jesse asks, and then gestures vaguely at Echo, who's hovering in the door now. "I'm gonna go talk to Winston a bit; you be alright here, or you wanna come with?"

 

"I'll be fine," Alex assures, nodding.

 

"Don't wander off now, y'hear?"

 

"Yes, Dad," she snorts sarcastically. Jack can't help but notice the sudden change between them, like she didn't mean to say that and now things are slightly awkward. But Jesse just humphs and leaves with Echo.

 

"So you're going to join us, huh?" Hana chirps, all curiosity now. "What's your special thing?"

 

"My what?" Alex frowns.

 

"Your special thing," Hana repeats. "The thing that makes you good for Overwatch. Mine is my service in the army, and my mech. Zen is a pacifist, but he's a really good healer, and not just of the body."

 

"I will take that for the compliment it is," Zenyatta purrs. "Thank you, Miss Song." She waves him off.

 

"Soldier's old, but he's got experience we don't."

 

"Who's old?" Jack grumbles.

 

"Kannus is still learning how to fight, but it's really good at finding stuff and knowing where danger is. We have a combat medic who defected from Talon named Baptiste, and he's got insider knowledge about the people who probably pose the biggest threat to us. Lucio's a musician, but he's also really good at helping people heal, and he keeps everybody's spirits up. I haven't met Shrike yet, but I hear she's a really good sniper. And the rest are pretty much all people who were part of Overwatch back in its prime. So... what's your special thing?"

 

Jack has to reevaluate how good an asset Hana is; that she can break down everyone's basic strengths only having known them for a handful of days is not something he gave her enough credit for. He'll have to let Winston know her skills of observation should be improved upon.

 

"Um..." Alex shifts back and forth on her feet, uneasy, and Jack can already see vaguely familiar wisps curling off her; more like steam off a lake on a chill autumn morning than puffs of smoke sinking to the floor, which he's more familiar with.

 

"If you are not comfortable sharing, do not feel pressured," Zenyatta assures, subtly nudging Kannus, who trots over to Alex and gently headbutts her leg. "Miss Song can be a tad overeager at times."

 

"Says you," Hana snorts. "I prefer to think of it as living fully."

 

"A wonderful opinion," he agrees. "But not one that all share; keep in mind that some are more introverted than you, my dear."

 

"It's fine," Alex says, hesitantly laying her hand on Kannus' head. "I just, um... Well... It's kind of a long story, but I guess the short of it is that I'm worried how those from the original Overwatch crew will react to what I can do."

 

"Well, none of us are from the original Overwatch crew," Hana points out. Jack tries very, very hard not to react to that.

 

"I- suppose..." Alex bites her lip, considering, and then nods. "Alright. You might want to step back though, just in case. I'm still learning to control it properly."

 

Hana's eyes light up and she quickly backpedals several steps, and Kannus rubs up against Alex's thigh one more time before padding back over to Zenyatta. Then Alex takes a breath and steadies herself.

 

Abruptly she explodes into fog, swirling in a chaotic cloud that manages to stay in one spot but threatens to burst outward at any moment. After a short minute, she compresses back down into herself, and stands breathless and noticeably more tired than she was.

 

Jack frowns; she has no stamina compared to Gabriel, and far, far less control. She's going to need a lot of training to make her worthwhile.

Chapter Text

Hanzo knew there was someone following him probably not long after someone started following him. He hasn't done anything to let them know he's aware of their presence, nor has he tried to shake them; let them see that he's merely running errands... New string for his bow, a block of wood and some thin metal bands to reinforce the body, food to last the next couple days, and a new pair of boots to match the jacket and snow pants he bought yesterday.

 

In two or three days, he'll be ready to leave.

 

The tail vanishes not far from the hotel where he's staying for the week, and he decides a sleepless night or two is nothing new; if he doesn't have a guest tonight, he will tomorrow night, but either way, he won't be caught off guard.

 

Lies. He can tell himself whatever he likes, but that doesn't make it true. Because apparently his guest is already waiting for him in his room; an enormous black man sits in the armchair in the corner of the room.

 

Sighing, Hanzo closes the door and checks that the locks haven't been tampered with.

 

"Most people knock," he says in English, setting his bags on the pristine bed and taking his bow case from his back to test the new string.

 

"I am not 'most people,'" the black man responds.

 

"So I gathered. It was your man following me?"

 

"You noticed." He doesn't sound surprised, and Hanzo dislikes the idea that this man knows anything about him.

 

"I would be long dead if I could not notice so blatant a tail," he says coolly, assembling his bow with practiced ease.

 

"I see the reports of your prowess were not exaggerated," the man hums, pleased.

 

"...You wish to... recruit me?" Hanzo guesses, stringing the bow and plucking lightly at the string to test the tension before dry drawing it. He's careful to release it without dry firing; it will do.

 

"I could use a man of your talents. Your accuracy with that bow is well known in my world, and you do not hesitate to kill."

 

"In my world, it is kill or be killed; hunter or hunted; free... or dead." The bow stays in one piece, and Hanzo sets it in easy reach to unpack the rest of his things; everything needs to be organised and put away, especially the food.

 

"You aren't interested?" It's as much a statement as a question, and Hanzo humphs, pausing; something about the way it was said makes him hold off on unpacking just yet, so he stays in reach of the bow.

 

"I do nothing for free; to request my services indefinitely would not come cheap."

 

"Of course you would be paid," the man assures. "Handsomely. You may even name your price."

 

"You assume you can afford me," Hanzo hedges, not wanting to lock himself into something he might regret. Particularly considering everything else he's still dealing with.

 

"I have a very talented business manager, and my organisation funds itself very well."

 

"But the muscle should not ask questions," Hanzo states bluntly, side-eyeing the man, who smiles grimly.

 

"There are lines that can't be crossed in every business."

 

"Even a band of mercenaries?" he pushes, testing.

 

The man's gaze narrows, and for a moment neither speak, each sizing up the other.

 

"...Mercenary is not the word I would use," Akande says carefully, confirming Hanzo's suspicions. "The connotations of the word are much too barbaric. I prefer the term 'security for hire.'"

 

"Not assassins?" Hanzo retorts.

 

"Careful, Mr. Shimada; we don't want to throw around accusations now."

 

"Is it still merely an accusation if it is truth?" Before Akande can reply, Hanzo waves him off. "Tempting as your offer may be, I have previous business to attend to; I am not interested in joining your organisation."

 

Akande leans forward in the chair and Hanzo stills, ready to grab his bow but not reaching for it just yet.

 

"That's quite the refusal. Are you sure you won't reconsider?"

 

"I am certain."

 

"How unfortunate... for the world to lose such a talented man; such a tragedy." The casual tone veils a threat that's anything but casual, and Hanzo's skin buzzes. He doesn't sense anyone else in the room, but Akande is a formidable threat himself.

 

"You dare threaten me?" he rumbles, still holding himself back from the bow.

 

"Of course not!" Akande smiles, chilling. "I merely think it a pity... Your clan is quite vicious to traitors, or so I hear; how much worse must they be to the one assassinating their elders?"

 

Ice floods Hanzo's veins at the realisation that he's been set up; if the Clan isn't already here, they will be soon.

 

How long has it been since he entered the hotel?

 

Too long.

 

Long enough for assassins to have moved into positions.

 

How stupid!! He let himself fall into the man's web, and it may already be too late to escape!

 

Abruptly he's glad he hasn't unpacked his bags yet; in an instant, he disassembles his bow and stores it in the case. Dropping to his knees, he yanks his quiver, coat and pants from beneath the bed and shoves the latter two into bags, wherever they fit. Then he grabs all of the bags and bolts for the door, pausing there to glare back at Akande.

 

"...A Shimada never forgets, Talon," he sneers. "You will be repaid tenfold; mark my words."

 

"If you think you can single handedly take on my organisation, Mr. Shimada, you will find yourself waging a losing war."

 

"Perhaps so. But I swear to you, the devastation I will rain down upon you will leave you half the threat you once were; I may die, but I will take enough of you with me to regret ever backing me into a corner."

 

He slams the door behind him, and turns his focus to escaping; he can't make good on his threat if he doesn't survive the day, and he has never once in his life broken his word.

 

~

 

The night is far too cold, and Jesse curses himself for volunteering to take watch for the night while Winston and Athena run maintenance and updates on the security system. His only consolation is that he isn't suffering alone; the new sniper, Shrike, and Soldier are also on watch, each of them keeping an eye on the exposed sides of the base. Only a maniac with a death wish would try to climb the cliffs, and even if they somehow managed it, they'd be in plain view of Soldier's post trying to scale the base walls too.

 

"It's midnight," Shrike says through the comms. "Check in, boys."

 

"I hear ya," Jesse sighs, tugging off his gloves to rub his cold, dry hands together.

 

"Clear here," Soldier reports. "Nothing but a couple of seagulls fighting over something on the cliffside. You?"

 

"Nothin'," Jesse scoffs. "'D hafta be ten shades o' crazy to be out in this cold; freezin' my damn balls off." He huffs into his cupped hands, trying to warm his frozen fingers.

 

"Language, McCree," Shrike chides. "Clear on my end as well."

 

"Ya sound like my mother," Jesse mutters, stamping his feet and shaking himself.

 

"I'm certainly old enough."

 

"Yeah, maybe, but I got seniority, woman; remember that."

 

"I can still kick your ass."

 

"You can try, old lady," Jesse chuckles, enjoying the banter.

 

Damn, he's missed this... Joking around with loved ones and having fun on the job. It's not the same, and it probably never will be, but hell if it isn't a damn good substitute.

 

"If you two put half as much effort into keeping watch as you do into bickering like children..."

 

"Relax, old man," Jesse laughs. "After Dorado, you really think I miss much of anythang?"

 

"If you keep yapping instead of looking, then you're definitely going to miss shit."

 

"Eyes and tongue ain't connected; I can chat all I want-"

 

"Heads up, boys," Shrike cuts in. "Jesse, put those eyes to good use; I caught movement in my scope about three hundred and fifty, four hundred yards to your ten."

 

"I got some trees or bushes or some shit in the way," Jesse reports, scanning that area through his binoculars. "What'd you see?"

 

"Just a glimpse, but it was certainly too big to be a night animal."

 

"Alright..." He puts the binoculars down and yanks his gloves back on. "Soldier, move around toward Shrike and cover her flank; Shrike, I need you on overwatch for me."

 

"You're not seriously going out there," Soldier growls.

 

"Damn straight I am," Jesse huffs, leaving his post. Soldier makes a noise like he wants to say something, but cuts himself off.

 

"I'm on overwatch," Shrike says.

 

"Good. Moving in."

 

The night feels eerily quiet ― most likely because of the cold, but that doesn't make it any less creepy considering he's approaching a possible intruder, alone, in the dark of night. Not too mention Halloween coming up soon; everything has that extra spook factor even if it isn't inherently scary.

 

The area Shrike pointed out is clear. He can't find any sign of an intruder; not a bent twig, not a footprint. The air is still too ― fortunately, or the cold would be worse ― and there's no lingering scent that he can detect, except something woodsy, but that's probably just the bushes.

 

The small hairs at the back of his neck are prickling though, and he's not sure if it's real or he's just spooked.

 

Something feels suddenly off; he whirls, drawing and cocking Peacekeeper in an instant, but finds nothing.

 

"Shiet... Shrike, anything?"

 

"I've got you covered; you're clear."

 

"I'm gonna check near that clump that got in my waya seein' over here; keep an eye on the area and don't let anything sneak up on me, would ya?"

 

"Copy."

 

Tightening his grip on Peacekeeper and holding it at the ready by his hip, Jesse creeps closer to the cluster of tall bushes or short bushy trees or some combination of the two; regardless, it's just big enough for somebody to hide in, and he sure as hell isn't leaving until he's checked it.

 

Just as he pushes into the cluster, that feeling returns, more visceral this time, and he whips around instantly. The body that slams into his is slightly smaller than him, but no less solid, and carries him to the ground with ease. A knee pins his wrist to the ground, ruining his grip on Peacekeeper, and one hand clamps over his mouth while the other wraps tightly around the back of his neck.

 

There's an instant, a split second that feels like an eternity, when their gazes meet and Jesse is 110% positive he's about to die, that this man is going to snap his neck and leave his body here for the birds.

 

Then the man seems to change his mind. Carefully, without shifting his weight or removing the hand from Jesse's mouth, he tugs free his other hand and plucks the comm from his ear, tearing his piercing gaze away to check it. Turning it off, he sets it on the ground and holds a finger to his lips.

 

For just a moment, Jesse's struck by how damn attractive the man is; a deadly beauty that, in any other circumstances, would have him starry-eyed and flirting in a heartbeat.

 

"I do not wish to harm you," the gorgeous man whispers in a voice like silk and honey smooth. "I am looking for someone. An Overwatch agent by the name Shimada Genji. I will remove my hand for an answer. If you call out, I will not hesitate to end you." Slowly, he lifts his hand from Jesse's mouth.

 

"I ain't tellin' you shit 'less you answer me this," he rumbles, taking pleasure in the way the man stiffens slightly, breath catching. "You gonna hurt 'im?"

 

"No." The answer is quick, but not sharp enough to be a lie. "But harm may come to him if I do not find him, and soon."

 

"Then you'd best get off so I can take you to 'im."

 

The man hesitates and then rolls lithely to his feet, even offering a hand to help him up. Jesse already misses the weight of him, but buries that feeling and holsters Peacekeeper to take his hand. On his feet, he dusts himself off and scoops the comm of the ground, turning it back on and replacing it while he picks up his hat too.

 

"-swer me, Jesse!" Soldier's snapping.

 

"Calm down 'fore you get an aneurysm, old man," Jesse scoffs, checking himself over once more and gesturing for the wary man to follow. "I'm bringin' a guest back. Do us both a favour and go tell Winston. Shrike, you're off overwatch; gonna need you to take watch alone for a bit."

 

"Don't take too long," she warns. "This would be the perfect time for an attack."

 

"Don't I know it... Won't take five minutes; promise."

 

He leads the man into the base and takes him toward Winston's office, calling out in the meeting area below it.

 

"Hey, Winston!"

 

"Jesse," the scientist greets, swinging down from one of the tire swings. The man jolts and shifts back, startled, but Jesse just holds out a calming hand while Winston approaches, curious. "Soldier said you were bringing an intruder."

 

"He here?"

 

"Already sent him back to help Shrike."

 

"Good." Jesse nods at his companion. "Guy's lookin' for Genji. Said somethin' might happen to 'im."

 

"Is that so?" Winston steps closer, inspecting, and the man steps back, cautious. "Interesting... You have the same bone structure; similar features... Are you by chance related to Genji?"

 

The man blinks in surprise, casting a glance at Jesse as if wondering if he noticed too, which he hadn't.

 

"I- Yes, s- sir," he answers hesitantly, unsure how to address a giant, armoured, talking gorilla. Shaking himself, he straightens and gives a half bow. "Shimada Hanzo. Genji is my brother."

 

There's a split second where the world just... stops. Nobody moves, or even seems to breathe. Then righteous rage sweeps through Jesse, threatening to make him see red. He doesn't even bother with Peacekeeper as he starts toward the man.

 

" You're Hanzo? You sonuva bitch ; you tried to kill him!" Winston's huge arm blocks him, crossing his chest as the scientist steps between them and holds him bodily back.

 

"Jesse! Jesse, calm down!"

 

"Fuck calmin' down; that motherfucker tried to kill Genji!"

 

"I know- I know! Just-"

 

"And my dumb ass brought him here to finish the job!"

 

"Jesse, please!"

 

"It was a mistake!"

 

Both of them stop, turning warily to Hanzo, who stands stiff and still, gaze on the floor and a deep furrow in his brow of what looks like regret and self-loathing.

 

"It was a mistake," he repeats, softer now. Bitter. "I was- I was blinded by my duty, by the traditions of my family that were beaten into me from the time I could walk. I made a mistake, and I have spent twenty years paying for it. Genji has- Somehow, Genji has forgiven me, and now I seek to make amends."

 

"And you shall."

 

All three of them turn quickly to the entrance, startled, and Genji strides boldly into the room, Zenyatta and Kannus hovering at the door, literally in the case of the former.

 

"Genji..." Jesse begins.

 

"You were all making enough noise to raise the dead," Genji chuckles. "I had to investigate. Welcome, brother. I was not sure I would see you again." He steps up to Hanzo and embraces him warmly, without hesitation, which makes Jesse falter. Hanzo, for his part, looks uneasy and uncomfortable, but gamely tries to return the hug, awkward as a newborn colt.

 

"This, um... This can probably wait until morning," Winston says, clearing his throat. "Why don't you show your brother to one of the rooms and the two of you get some rest. Jesse, you can finish off your watch and we'll hold off on a proper meeting until you've gotten some sleep. Alright? How's that?"

 

"I am afraid I bring less than pleasant news," Hanzo says, carefully withdrawing from his brother. "Genji invited me to join him here, but I had business to complete, and I needed time to... to accept my failure... On my way, I was approached by the head of Talon. He attempted to blackmail me into joining him, and now I fear he will come for me here, putting you in danger."

 

"Then get lost," Jesse growls, glaring at him. Hanzo flinches minutely, but Genji is already stepping in.

 

"Enough, Jesse. We have informants in Talon ranks; is there any chance of contacting them to see if Talon is planning an attack on the base?"

 

"I'll check with Soldier and Baptiste in the morning," Winston nods. "But for tonight, we all need rest, and Jesse, you need to go cool your head."

 

"I ain't-"

 

"Go. Now." Winston doesn't often get this stern, but when he does... Well, it's kind of hard to argue with a gorilla that's bigger, stronger, and a hell of a lot smarter than you. So Jesse scowls and casts another glare at Hanzo, but obeys. There'll be plenty of time to settle things later.

Chapter Text

"Breathe," Zenyatta reminds, keeping a close eye on the monitor hooked up to Alex as she struggles to learn how to fog only portions of her body at will.

 

"Hard to breathe when your lungs feel like they're collapsing," she grinds out, pain in her voice and expression.

 

Her O 2 is definitely lower than it should be, and if Zenyatta could frown, he would. Kannus must sense his displeasure anyway because it whines and raises its head to nudge at his knee. He absently pats its back.

 

"You are letting yourself become bogged down in your pain. Stop; reform, and breathe."

 

Mildly frustrated, Alex obeys, returning her arm to form and taking a deep, slow breath. He waits patiently for her to take several breaths, settling into a slow rhythm. When her O 2 is up and her heart rate is down, he hums approval.

 

"Excellent-"

 

"Zen!"

 

The door bursts open and Alex yelps, jolting backward and almost falling over. Kannus jumps to attention and growls a warning at the disheveled American in the doorway.

 

"Zen, Ima need you t'do whatever psycho-analysing shit you do, 'cuz I'm 'bout ready to start a damn fight."

 

"You interrupted." Zenyatta states coolly, otherwise giving no sign that he even noticed the door open. Jesse hesitates, glancing around the room until his gaze settles on Alex, who's blinking at him in shock, half fogged.

 

At least he has the decency to look sheepish.

 

"Oh... I didn't mean- I mean I didn't know-"

 

"Sit down," Zenyatta commands, lifting a hand to point to a corner. While Jesse meekly closes the door and slinks to the corner, Zenyatta returns his attention to Alex. "This is an excellent example of what you should be capable of doing at will, my dear. How does this state feel?"

 

Alex slowly reforms, concentrating hard to make it a slower, more deliberate process. As a result, she doesn't respond for a long time, and silence fills the room, broken only by the steady beep of the heart rate monitor.

 

"...Painful," she answers once she's fully reformed. "But... free. Invincible. I always feel like that when I fog."

 

"Explain," Zenyatta prompts. "How do you feel free and invincible?"

 

"I don't-" Alex stops, frowning and running her fingers idly over the tubes attached to her arm. "I suppose... I stop existing, sort of... I'm still here , but... I'm everywhere, spread out. I feel lighter, like nothing can hurt me."

 

"But something does," he points out. "You said it was painful."

 

"It isn't- When I'm completely fogged, everything is numbed, but pushing myself into that state feels like... like I'm tearing myself apart, one cell at a time, but all at once. And taking form again brings it all back."

 

"Mr. McCree," Zenyatta says, startling the American and surprising Alex. "Did you know? The average human woman is capable of withstanding far more pain than the average human male. She must, because, all else equal, she suffers exceptional agony every month that he does not. For Alex to have survived thus far given the pain she has described is nothing short of a miracle; any man to suffer this would undoubtedly have been driven mad by now."

 

"That ain't- Well, okay, maybe that's true," Jesse frowns. "Was gonna say that ain't true, 'cuz I know there's one guy out there who can do pretty much the same thang, but he works for Talon, and he's well known for being downright brutal, so I guess it drove him crazy."

 

"There's someone else like me?" Alex asks, surprised and interested.

 

"Well..." he grimaces, apparently realising his mistake. "If what you told me is right, then he's prob'ly the second attempt."

 

"Second attempt?" Zenyatta asks lightly. Jesse really grimaces now, and draws a hand across his mouth as though sealing it.

 

"Sorry; said too much already."

 

"It makes sense," Alex hums, frowning thoughtfully. "And it explains why Dr. Winston wasn't surprised by my ability."

 

"Yeah, well... the other guy's got a helluva lot more control than you do," Jesse humphs. "Gotta keep trainin'."

 

"Of course," she agrees, turning her attention back to Zenyatta. "My apologies."

 

"Even a diligent student must take breaks," he purrs, dismissing her. "I have no doubt Miss Song and Mr. dos Santos would enjoy your company for a game or two."

 

"Are you sure?"

 

"Entirely. No more than two games."

 

"Yes, sir," Alex grins, practically tearing the tubes from her arm and chest in her hurry to leave.

 

Once she's gone, Zenyatta turns off the loudly protesting monitor and takes a calibrating breath. Kannus gives a small whine, asking if he's alright, and he responds with a gentle pat to the K9's shoulders.

 

"If I am to be of assistance," he says carefully, well aware of the line he's crossing, "I must be fully informed of the situation."

 

"...Listen, Zen, I can't say shit," Jesse answers reluctantly. "I wish I could tell ya, but there's stuff goin' on that even I ain't privy to; I got half the story, and I made my own guesses, but I already promised Winston I'd try to keep it quiet, y'understand?"

 

"Mm." Zenyatta waits patiently, letting the silence grow to a deafening level. Jesse fidgets, clearly knowing exactly what he's doing, but unable to hold back entirely.

 

"Fuckin'... I can't tell you, Zen!"

 

"Secrets are powerful things," Zenyatta says. "They will always be found out. The question is when, how, and by whom?"

 

"Obviously, but-"

 

"Would you rather be in control of who learns, and how, or watch it all explode when the wrong person learns of it?"

 

"Goddamnit, Zen..." And just like that, he knows he's won. "Listen, this is important, you hearin' me?"

 

"I harbor more secrets than you can imagine; it is not, as you might say, my first rodeo."

 

"Hardy har har. I'm serious, Zen."

 

"As am I."

 

"...How much you know 'bout the old days?" Jesse asks, trying to find a good starting point. Zenyatta considers everything Genji has shared throughout his healing process; everything he's gleaned from his short time here.

 

"I suspect not enough."

 

"Know anything 'bout Moira O'Deorain?"

 

"The name is familiar. Vaguely," he amends.

 

"She's a scientist; used t'be some hot shot outta Oasis in Iraq. Did some... questionable shit and got discredited, but my old boss, Gabe, thought it'd be a good idea to hire her. Thing is, none of us much liked her, and with damn good reason, apparently; she sold out to Talon, got some people kidnapped from this very base. My mentor and mother-figure, Ana, led a team to get 'em back, but... she never returned."

 

"I am sorry for your loss," Zenyatta says softly, the ever-present ache of Mondatta's death growing in his core.

 

"From you, means a lot," Jesse huffs, a thin facade of bravado hiding the pain of his own loss. "Anyway, not long after, headquarters in Switzerland 's bombed and Jack and Gabe were caught in the explosion."

 

"Jack Morrison," Zenyatta supplies, connecting dots. "The world was devastated by his death."

 

"Not just the world," Jesse scoffs. "Overwatch fell apart 'n Petras got us blacklisted. All 'cuza Moira."

 

"I have things to say, but I will let you finish."

 

"Well, turns out, Moira's Alex's adopted mother."

 

"Indeed?"

 

"Yep."

 

"Fascinating."

 

"Kid was an orphan on the street, ate what was prob'ly some discarded lab rat, started goin' all foggy, and threw herself on the mercy o' the university in Oasis. Moira found her and took her in to study her and figure out what happened."

 

"How incredible... And you say there is a second attempt? At causing the fog state?"

 

"Yeah, guy named Reaper. Works for Talon along with Moira. Honestly? Bit surprised all Talon soldiers don't fog like that by now."

 

"Interesting... So very interesting..." Zenyatta muses, making a few guesses and connections of his own.

 

"You sound like y'know somethin'," Jesse notes, curious.

 

"Perhaps... Doubtful, but perhaps." When it's clear Jesse is trying to silence the answer out of Zenyatta, the monk decides it time to change the topic. "You came looking for me because you worried you might start a fight, correct?"

 

"...Alright, I see how it is," Jesse huffs, mildly annoyed. Massaging his thumbs into his temples, he takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "It's Hanzo. Guy's drivin' me fuckin' crazy with all these fake acts, tryna show up like... I dunno. I don't trust him."

 

"You believe he is insincere in his efforts to reconnect with Genji?"

 

"I think there's somethin' wrong with a man kills his own goddamn brother, and ain't nothin' worse in the world 'cept maybe killin' your own kid."

 

"When a fox attacks a chicken coop, is it not acceptable and even encouraged to kill the fox?"

 

"That ain't the same," Jesse growls.

 

"That is not an answer."

 

"Yes, but-"

 

"If a predator threatens your home, is it not expected that you will protect it by hunting the predator?"

 

"That's not-"

 

"Yes or no, Mr. McCree."

 

"....Yes," he answers sourly.

 

"You have only one side of the story. How can you judge a repentant man by the sins of his past?"

 

Jesse flinches sharply, drawing in on himself. Zenyatta waits, watches, but Jesse doesn't reply; he seems lost in his thoughts, uncertain. It appears that was just the thing to say, and Zenyatta makes a cautious guess.

 

"Very few have not done things they regret. Do not presume a person's character by his actions at his lowest."

 

Jesse nods absently, not quite all there, and Zenyatta considers what can be done to make this work. Ideally, he would suggest a talk with someone who has taken this journey before, but the only person who comes to mind is Genji, and that won't work when Genji and Hanzo are the subject of Jesse's dilemma. Any of the original Overwatch members might be able to get through to him, having known him before, but if possible, Zenyatta would rather connect the old members to the new members, to build up trust and communication.

 

Unfortunately, he himself is still learning about everyone, and finding common threads to tug can be difficult even amongst those you already know. So, he'll have to settle for what he does know, and hope that it doesn't backfire.

 

"I think," he says carefully, readying himself for an explosion, "it may be best if you and Hanzo sat down for a talk." Jesse blinks, and then stares at him blankly for several long seconds before grimacing faintly.

 

"Yeah," he mutters, surprisingly. "Yeah, that might be best."

Chapter Text

The silence is awkward, to say the least. Lynx isn't really sure what to say, and clearly neither is Zarya. It's the first time they've really been alone together since Sombra tried to kill them both in that warehouse, and something has definitely changed between them.

 

If Lynx had to guess, they'd say she fears falling in with the very thing she despises most; the interactions they shared leading up to the warehouse were improving, and Lynx actually thought they were making progress at getting her to accept them, but then it all vanished after she saved their life and admitted she didn't know why. After that, she vanished without another word, and Lynx assumed they'd never meet again.

 

It's a small world, apparently.

 

"Miss Zaryanova," they greet carefully, ready for a burst of hostility like the first time.

 

"Seventeen," she responds, tone unreadable.

 

"You're looking well," they try.

 

"I am."

 

Well. So much for that. Lynx doesn't really know what to say; for all their wit and charm, sometimes they just don't have a stride.

 

"...I used the card," Zarya says hesitantly before they can fumble through an attempt at stupid, embarrassingly cheesy humour. For a moment, they have no idea what she's talking about, and then it clicks.

 

The gift card. The one they gave her for her birthday before the whole thing with Sombra.

 

"You did?" They can't help the eager joy in their voice, and Zarya notices. She scowls, and looks ready to clam up. "I- I'm sure your benefactor would be pleased."

 

Zarya doesn't reply, and a sinking sensation grips Lynx's core; they fucked it up.

 

"I got weights," she says suddenly, looking away. "A full set of one handed weights, from 2 kilos to 30."

 

It occurs to them rather suddenly then that she's trying to connect again, and their core soars.

 

"Do the small ones even get used?" they ask teasingly, testing the waters. A tiny smirk twitches at the corner of her lips, just for an instant, and they take that for a win.

 

"I pile them up on top of each other and hold them out straight until my arms go numb," she retorts.

 

"If you're pushing yourself that hard, I really hope you're getting massages or something to help keep you loose and limber."

 

"Wouldn't you like to know."

 

"Actually I'd rather guess; it's more entertaining."

 

"Watch it, microwave."

 

"Still with the appliance jokes?" Lynx clucks, delighted to be back in the rhythm with her again. "You've certainly had enough time to come up with something new."

 

"I'd rather stick with the old," she smirks, finally. "It's more entertaining."

 

"Touché," they chuckle.

 

There's a moment's hesitation, and then the awkwardness slowly filters back. Lynx berates themself for letting it return and tries hard to think of a way to end it.

 

"Do you know," Zarya blurts suddenly, "a Gypsy Thirteen?"

 

That... was unexpected.

 

"I- Yeah, I know her. She was my predecessor by a few days; we were built in the same factory, for much the same purpose. Why?"

 

"I met them. Her. It," she corrects quickly, scowling. "Whatever."

 

"You did?" If Lynx had eyebrows, they'd leave their face going up so high. "She's here?"

 

"South," Zarya says, shaking her head. "Georgia, I think. Or Turkey, maybe. I was out there looking for more on Sombra."

 

"You're still chasing her?"

 

Wrong thing to say; bad idea... Zarya glares, lip curled with all the disdain they recall from the early days of their partnership.

 

"I have a duty to Katya and my people," she snaps harshly. "A mere omnic like you could never understand."

 

And just like that, they're back to square one. It takes everything Lynx has not to throw their newfound secret in her face. But that won't bring back whatever thin facsimile of friendship they had, and they know all too well how devastated it would leave Zarya to learn that her benefactor ― her hero ― is not who she seems.

 

"I see." Lynx struggles to keep an even tone, and Zarya seems to realise what she said. But the damage has been done, and she doesn't try to take it back. They aren't sure whether that makes it better or worse. "You should know, Sombra left me a message. A warning. She says there bigger games at play, more important players; we're wasting our time, and hers, chasing her over something we don't even understand."

 

It's as close as they can make themself come to telling Zarya the truth; if she ever found out, she'd be heartbroken.

 

"That's not my business," Zarya says coolly, but for once, she can't look them in the optics. "I was hired to find and capture Sombra, and that's what I will do."

 

"Even if you're running toward a truth you won't be able to accept? Something that could upend everything you think you know?" She stiffens and flicks a sharp glare on them.

 

"You know something... What do you know?"

 

"Nothing certain," they lie, "but if I'm right, you're heading for disaster."

 

"I have nothing but my honour and my duty to my country," Zarya states firmly. "If I am to die, I will die with glory!"

 

Lynx almost ― almost ― tells her the truth, confesses that they don't want to lose her and that she's fighting for a lie. But they can't. They can't take away everything she knows and loves.

 

So they don't. They nod and leave without another word, hoping against all hope that the lie holds, and they set their sights instead on Turkey.

 

~

 

"It's so hot!" Mei pants, unzipping her jacket and tugging at the lapels to move it away from her neck. "I thought it was supposed to be fall!"

 

"It is," Shrike chuckles, looking around as the bus pulls away. Mei already misses the familiar chill of the air conditioning. "In the temperate zones, it can be freezing at night and melt you during the day."

 

"I know," Mei sighs, wrinkling her nose, "but knowing and experiencing are two very different things."

 

"Aren't you from China?" Shrike asks, gesturing for her to follow. Technically Mei is in charge, as the senior member, but right now she's too hot to care.

 

"I haven't been there in... oh gosh, over 20 years now. It was only... um... twelve or thirteen to me, but with the whole stasis thing..." She does her level best not to think about the others, her friends and colleagues who didn't make it; not to think about how close she herself came to death.

 

"It can't be easy, waking up to find so much time has passed." It almost sounds like she's going to say more, but then she doesn't, and Mei finds herself glad that she doesn't have to talk about the people she's lost.

 

"It was weird," she agrees. "Sometimes I forget how much time passed, and I keep thinking things are still the way they were... I guess I'm lucky I wasn't as close to the people at the headquarters as Winston; I don't think I could have-" She breaks off, stopping that line of thinking before it goes too far.

 

"We're almost there," Shrike hums, taking the abrupt silence in stride. "We won't be here long, so you won't have to suffer the heat."

 

"Thank goodness. I would hate to use up all my formula just keeping myself cool!"

 

They reach the little motel where they'll be staying with no issue, and Mei checks them in, pleased to have a room with two queens. She immediately flops down on one as soon as the door closes.

 

"I don't know about you," she sighs, glad to be out of the heat, "but I need a shower to clean off all this sweat, and then a nap."

 

"Just don't sleep too long," Shrike chuckles. "We meet our informant in less than six hours."

 

"Don't worry; I'll be awake long before then." She doesn't say that sleeping is difficult at best, and that fitful dozes are the best she can really manage these days.

 

A long, cool shower helps soothe her unease, and when she comes out of the bathroom, Shrike glances up from something in her hands. It takes Mei a split second to realise it's the woman's mask, and she catches a look of fearful discomfort in Shrike's expression before the mask is back in place.

 

"You don't have to wear that," Mei offers tentatively, tightening her grip on the towel around her chest. "You're very pretty."

 

"That is not why I hide," Shrike says softly. "But thank you."

 

After dressing ― in pyjamas, since they're the coolest thing she brought and she's going to be napping anyway ― Mei sits on the edge of her bed, staring at Shrike, who's perched in a chair at the window, keeping watch even though it's not necessary.

 

"May I ask...?" Mei begins, gnawing at her lip. In a burst of courage that she really shouldn't have considering Shrike's sudden attention, she blurts, "Why do you wear the mask?"

 

"When you get to be as old as I am, in this kind of work, you find you've made a lot of enemies." Shrike doesn't seem particularly bothered by the question. In fact, she leans back, relaxing even as she turns her attention back outside. "People I loved were attacked because of me; some even died. It was a long time ago, but when I made a mistake and everyone assumed I was dead, I let them. I can't face the shame of my past, so I hide behind a mask so no one will recognise me."

 

An epiphany strikes Mei, and she bites her lip hard enough to taste copper, hesitating.

 

"You're... Ana Amari," she guesses quietly, not entirely sure, but certain enough to say it.

 

Shrike stiffens, and that's all the confirmation Mei needs, but then she laughs, a low humourless sound that actually kind of scares Mei.

 

"I knew I shouldn't have taken it off," Ana mutters, touching her mask.

 

"I didn't- I guessed," Mei says quickly. "Winston told me what happened while I slept. I'm so sorry..."

 

"You're even smarter than Winston suggested," Ana chuckles, more humour in her voice this time.

 

"Does he know? Winston, I mean."

 

"He knows. I never hid it from him."

 

"Is- I may be making leaps here," Mei says sheepishly, putting herself on the line. "You and Soldier are close... Is he...?"

 

"Is he...?" Ana prompts, amused. Mei bites her lip again ― it's getting to be a bad habit.

 

"Commander Morrison?" she blurts finally, tensing up in preparation for... something; she isn't sure what.

 

"What makes you say that?" Ana asks, giving nothing away.

 

"Well, if you were a founder, and you're close to Soldier, it stands to reason that he's also a founder, or else someone close to the founders; Reinhardt is too big, Mr. Lindholm is too small, and both are still present; Chairman Petras is dead, and while I suppose they might have the same build, it doesn't sound like anyone liked Petras very much. That basically leaves Jack Morrison and Gabriel Reyes, and if the picture I saw is anything to go by, Commander Reyes has a larger build and darker skin and hair."

 

"You are incredibly observant," Ana practically purrs. "Just wait till Jack hears about this; he'll be so annoyed that you figured it out so easily." She sounds so gleeful, so mischievous... Mei wonders if this is how she's always been, or if being 'dead' has given her liberties she never really had before.

 

Or maybe it's just age; older people always seem to have that extra spark of mischief that her contemporaries are lacking.

 

"You should get some sleep," Ana hums. "We'll need you at your best later."

 

"Yes, ma'am." Only after Mei is snuggled up under the sheets does a thought occur to her. "If Winston knows, that only really leaves Reinhardt, Tracer, Mr. Lindholm and Mr. McCree who would recognise you. Why do you still hide?"

 

"...Jesse has been hurt enough without knowing that I've lied to him."

 

That hurts in a way Mei didn't expect, and her voice has an unwanted quiver when she quietly responds.

 

"I would give anything to know one of my team was still alive."

 

Ana shifts, uncomfortable, but instead of replying, changes the subject.

 

"Besides, I'm not just hiding for my sake; it's for Jack too. Being the face of Overwatch took its toll on him, and he was happy to stay dead, to have nothing to do with Overwatch ever again. If they know I'm still alive, they'll figure out Soldier is Jack."

 

The tension of Mei's words still hang in the room, despite Ana's attempt to move on, and for a long moment, Mei wonders what she would do if she hadn't seen the bodies, if she didn't know for certain that everyone was dead; if there was even the slightest chance that someone survived.

 

"I won't tell him," she whispers, choking on tears. "But you should." Her voice is raw and broken, and so is Ana's.

 

"I know."

Chapter Text

Lucio wakes to the sound of mumbled grunts and he blinks blearily in the darkness before sitting up and peering over at the other bed, where Baptiste is twitching and muttering in his sleep. Stifling a yawn and pointedly not looking at the clock on the nightstand, Lucio slips out of bed, taps the light switch to nightlight mode, and tiptoes across the chilled floor to touch Baptiste's hand.

 

"Hey. Wake up, Baptiste." For a moment, he seems to relax, to ease into a better sleep, only to groan and shift like the dream got worse. Lucio takes his shoulder, shaking him a little. "Wake up, man-"

 

Baptiste jolts awake with a gasp, throwing back the covers and yanking something from under his pillow; at the same time, he grabs Lucio and knocks him onto the bed, pinning him with a knife to his throat.

 

"Easy, easy!" Lucio says loudly, heart suddenly in his throat at the wild look of furious terror in Baptiste's eyes, easily visible in the dim glow of the running lights around the upper corners of the room. "It's just a dream; calm down!"

 

There's a tense moment of stillness as Baptiste slowly registers the words, his surroundings, the features of the person he pinned. Then he blinks and sits back quickly, grimacing at the knife in his hand.

 

"Sorry, I- I didn't mean..."

 

Lucio breathes a sigh of relief and carefully sits up, watching him closely as he carefully closes the knife and very deliberately sets it out of immediate reach.

 

"It's okay... You alright?"

 

"Yes." A moment later, "No... I keep... I keep thinking..."

 

"Thinking what?" Lucio prompts, tucking his feet up under and leaning on a hand.

 

"...Mauga's going to find me." The words are so quiet, so fearfully timid; it's so unlike the calmer, more intense persona he's come to know.

 

The face Baptiste wears in public.

 

"You think he knows you joined Overwatch?" he asks, half wishing he could take away all these worries, but also just half glad that he gets to see this other, more vulnerable side to Baptiste.

 

"I don't know... Probably. I'd be surprised if he didn't."

 

"Would he come for you here?"

 

"Maybe? If he thought he could get to me..."

 

"Sounds like nightmare material alright," Lucio says, wrinkling his nose. He didn't mean it as a joke, but it draws a small huff of amusement and a tiny smile from Baptiste, so he'll pretend it was intentional. "What's he like? This Mauga guy."

 

"Big," Baptiste humphs. He rubs a hand over his face, up through his hair and down to his neck. "He's like a living mountain; muscles bigger than my waist and a big old grin that makes you want to laugh with him. But he's dangerous, and not just because of his size... He's got no problem playing the big dumb brute and getting into brawls, but the real danger is his mind; he's one hell of a manipulator, and if you let him speak, he'll win the fight before it's even begun."

 

"Hm. So not as cool as me, then." This time it is intentional, and Lucio feels a little fizzle of pride in his chest when Baptiste chuckles, relaxing.

 

"I would much rather have you at my back than Mauga," he hums, smiling lightly.

 

Then he seems to realise what he said and coughs, shifting uncomfortably; he can't meet Lucio's gaze, and honestly, it's kinda adorable how flustered he's getting over something so small.

 

"Um... sorry for waking you," he says, eager to change the subject. Lucio decides he'll have mercy on the poor guy ― this time ― and smiles brightly.

 

"Hey, no problem! I still consider you my patient, so..." He winks and that helps loosen the rigidity in Baptiste's spine.

 

"I feel like I should be insulted," Baptiste snorts. "I'm the one with a medical degree."

 

"All the more reason," Lucio says as seriously as he can manage. "You were stupid enough to go to school for it."

 

"Rude." Baptiste leans over to whap him upside the head, and Lucio swats him away, laughing.

 

Without either of them meaning to, they start tussling, each vying playfully for the upper hand, until Baptiste has Lucio pinned again.

 

"No fair!" Lucio protests, grinning. "You're bigger than me!"

 

"Not by that much," Baptiste smirks. "Besides, you are ungodly strong for your size."

 

"I move all my equipment myself," Lucio beams proudly, content to stay where he is for now; he lost, so he'll lose with dignity instead of fighting for freedom. "Stuff is heavy enough, and you move it around three, four, eight, ten times a day? It's a workout."

 

"You're incredibly devoted to your music, aren't you?" There's a gentleness to Baptiste's tone that makes Lucio wonder if he has any secret hobbies to be unearthed.

 

"Of course! It's my passion, and it's what got me off the street, gave me a better life so I could provide for the people back home. We'd all be stuck in shantytowns still, fighting over scraps if I hadn't caught a major break with Sonhos Ômnicos ; it paved the way for the rest of an album, and..." Lucio realises rather abruptly that Baptiste is watching him with an odd expression. "...and... um... uh, you okay?"

 

Baptiste doesn't answer right away, and Lucio frowns, tensing reactively in a half conscious effort to wave at him or something to get his attention.

 

"Baptiste?"

 

It takes him a second too long to process what's happening, and Baptiste's lips are almost on his when he gasps and turns away, fiery embarrassment surging up through him. Baptiste pulls away sharply, cursing in his native language and putting space between them. Lucio takes the opportunity to sit up, hot and tense and on the verge of panicking because holy hell, he was not expecting that!

 

"Lucio... I'm sorry; I didn't- I thought- I shouldn't have assumed... I am so, so sorry." Baptiste sounds so ashamed, but Lucio doesn't know what to do, what to say to make it okay; for once, his quick tongue is failing him, and his reeling mind just can't handle it all.

 

Unable to come up with anything to say, he gets up and goes back to his bed, tapping the light switch on his way and barely even registering the chill of the floor this time. The darkness is a welcome embrace as he slips between the sheets and pulls them tightly around himself. Silence follows, stretching long and strained; then Baptiste gives a quiet little growl of annoyance and leaves the room. Lucio isn't sure whether to be relieved or not, but he does know one thing; if this isn't an incredibly lucid dream, things are going to be stupidly awkward for the foreseeable future.

 

~

 

"Why did you let it stay with you?"

 

Zenyatta looks up from a surprisingly tough game of tug of war with Kannus, and very nearly loses his balance as a result. Kannus immediately lets up, ears perking as it turns toward Genji, who's perched on the edge of the empty fountain Zenyatta just finished cleaning out.

 

"Why would I not?" Zenyatta asks, releasing the scrap of cloth Kannus brought him earlier, begging to play like real dogs do.

 

Genji shrugs. "I've always felt you tried to keep your distance, so no one would grow too attached."

 

"That is not entirely true," Zenyatta hums as Kannus glances between them and then trots over to Genji, dropping the scrap onto his knee and looking up at him eagerly. "There comes a point in every journey I facilitate where I can no longer be of assistance; in order to continue growing, one must take a different path. I try to ease that transition, and make the separation easier."

 

"But not with me or Kannus," Genji points out, gingerly tossing the scrap away. Kannus yips happily and chases it down, dragging it back and plopping it back in Genji's lap, much to the ninja's chagrin.

 

"I chose to travel with you," Zenyatta explains, "to join Overwatch alongside you. It has nothing to do with your journey or mine; it is entirely self-indulgent."

 

"And Kannus?" Genji asks, flinging the scrap as far across the garden as he can. Kannus takes off after it with a gleeful bark.

 

"Would you turn away a stray that has taken a liking to you?" Zenyatta hums. "It is not unusual to have a pet; mine is merely more intelligent than most, and requires less care."

 

Whatever Genji's response, he doesn't get to speak; Baptiste rounds the end of the hedge that separates the fountain area from the segments of the garden closer to the base. He looks upset, if Zenyatta had to guess; frustrated, perhaps. As he approaches, Genji stands.

 

"I will leave you to it, Master," he bids, nodding. Then he's gone, and Baptiste approaches, but hesitates, looking torn.

 

"May I help you?" Zenyatta prompts, taking the scrap from Kannus when it returns and patting its head encouragingly.

 

"I- I was hoping... for some advice," Baptiste says, uneasy. He isn't usually so uncertain, and that in itself is enough to make Zenyatta curious.

 

"What kind of advice?" he asks, gesturing for Baptiste to find a seat while he tosses the scrap of cloth for Kannus to chase again.

 

"Um... Apologies?"

 

"You need advice on apologising?" Zenyatta clarifies, surprised.

 

"Well... it's more than that," Baptiste grimaces. He looks around, but doesn't sit. Taking a deep breath, he blurts, "I read a situation poorly and made a mistake and now I'm worried Lucio hates me."

 

"I find it hard to believe Mr. dos Santos would hate anyone," Zenyatta hums, taking the scrap from Kannus and throwing it again. "At least not without good reason."

 

"This is probably a very good reason," Baptiste mutters, self-loathing in his tone.

 

"May I ask what exactly happened?"

 

"I- Last night, he- I had a nightmare, and he helped me. We were talking and I- I misinterpreted things..." He trails off, and Zenyatta considers a moment, filling in the blanks.

 

"Do you have feelings for him?"

 

"I... think so," Baptiste admits quietly, afraid to be heard.

 

"But he does not reciprocate?"

 

"He- I don't- I don't think so..."

 

So much shame in his shuttered voice, his downcast gaze, his hunched shoulders... Zenyatta can guess what happened, and his core tightens in sympathy.

 

"Did he say anything?"

 

"No, he- When I- He just... He just walked away."

 

"Have you spoken with him since?"

 

"No..." There's a deep furrow in Baptiste's brow, like he might cry in frustration. "At breakfast, he was laughing and talking with Hana and Alex, but as soon as he saw me, he- he left."

 

"So you do not know how he feels."

 

"Clearly, he doesn't want to be around me..."

 

"But do you know why?" Zenyatta cuts in before he can say anything else. "Perhaps he simply does not know what to say yet. Perhaps he needs time and space to think things through, to process."

 

"But I don't- I don't want to lose his friendship," Baptiste says desperately. "Not over this. I would rather just be friends than to have him run from me because I have a stupid crush."

 

"There are many words I would use to describe a crush," Zenyatta hums, taking the scrap from Kannus and setting it aside to pet the dog, tracing the lines and struts of its neck that are most sensitive to touch. "'Stupid' is not one of them."

 

"It is stupid!" Baptiste growls, dropping to the edge of the fountain now and thrusting a hand roughly into his messy locs. "I let it get the better of me, and now I'm going to lose him completely!"

 

Kannus perks as Zenyatta considers a reply, and he follows its gaze to the same place from which Baptiste arrived. Lucio is standing there, his presence unusually quiet, expression somewhere between surprised and uneasy. It takes Zenyatta a moment to realise he isn't wearing most of his usual equipment, which has a subtle but distinct hum, and that's why he's so quiet.

 

"Ah," Zenyatta purrs, determined to make the most of the opportunity presented to him. Baptiste looks up sharply, and pales visibly even as Lucio steps back. "Please, join us, Mr. dos Santos. I believe it is time for the two of you to talk."

Chapter Text

It isn't an invitation or a request; it's a command. Every fiber of Lucio's body wants to run, to get far away as fast as possible, but Zenyatta isn't asking, and truthfully, Lucio really wants to clear things up anyway, even if it means ruining whatever they had.

 

Sheepishly, unable to look Baptiste in the eye, he glides closer and settles in the grass at the edge of the walk, knees drawn up to his chest.

 

"Excellent," Zenyatta approves, patting Kannus deliberately. The K9 chuffs and pads over to curl around Lucio's back, dropping its head to its paws and settling in with him.

 

"Lucio-"

 

"One moment, Mr. Augustin," Zenyatta interjects. "You will have your turn, of course. Mr. dos Santos, may I ask how much you overheard?"

 

Well shit.

 

Lucio feels like a kid again, like he's suddenly fifteen, twenty years younger. He buries his face in his knees for a moment, building up the courage to speak. He still can't look at Baptiste when he raises his head.

 

"When he said he doesn't want to lose me," he manages, barely above a whisper. Kannus chuffs and nuzzles against his side, surprisingly warm for a machine, and he releases one hand to reach back and pat its head so he has an excuse not to look at anyone.

 

"Then you understand his side of things?" Lucio can only nod, and Zenyatta hums approval. "Good. What is your side?"

 

And now comes the worst part... Lucio doesn't even want to try to say it, but he knows Zenyatta won't accept anything less than the truth, all of it, and he's never going to have a better opportunity to give it than right now.

 

"I-" Come on, stupid tongue; work properly! "I'm ace. I'm pretty sure, anyway."

 

"Ahh, I see... I believe I understand now. Correct me where I may be wrong... You do not hate or even dislike him; you are afraid to pursue a relationship that may involve things which make you uncomfortable. And perhaps there is some fear in being known for your difference?"

 

Lucio would never have been able to put it all so neatly and concisely, but every single word rings with hard truth and he has to swallow his heart to nod.

 

"Mr. Augustin, do you have any input?"

 

"I- don't know what that means," Baptiste admits, sounding apologetic. Lucio takes a little courage in that and does his best to explain.

 

"I'm not- into... I don't really... like sex. Not like everybody else. I mean, I'm still... I shouldn't assume, since I haven't- I've never done anything, so... But I don't want to... I don't know; I'm just... broken, I guess."

 

"You are not broken, Mr. dos Santos," Zenyatta says firmly. "As an omnic, I understand that the concepts of sexuality and gender identity are different between us, but I cannot fault you for desiring a lack of physical intimacy; anyone who does should be ashamed of themselves for debasing another over something so trivial in the grand scheme of things. I myself am asexual, for the simple reason that I cannot register physical sensation as humans do and therefore sex holds no general appeal to me.

 

"I will not ask you to explain your reasoning or how you came to know yourself, but if at all possible, I must request that you share your limitations and boundaries, particularly in regards to the physicality of your relationship with Mr. Augustin, whether friendly or romantic."

 

"I don't- I don't know... I want-" How do you say you want to explore yourself with someone without sounding like you're using them? "I don't know what I want..."

 

"Lucio... If you... If you don't want me to touch you, I won't," Baptiste says slowly, carefully. "I just... I just want to show you how much I've come to care for you."

 

It would be so easy to just say yes, to see where it goes, but he doesn't understand what it means to be ace. What it means to feel like you're wearing a stranger's skin whenever someone touches you. He doesn't understand now, but when he does, when he realises that Lucio doesn't even have a libido, that he'll never get what he wants, then it's almost certain things will fall apart, and he'll hate Lucio instead of fearing that Lucio hates him.

 

Kannus whines before Lucio can figure out a way to say no, and Zenyatta hums in response.

 

"I do believe this may require more than one talk," he muses. "If memory serves, you two are rooming together, correct?"

 

"Yes," Baptiste answers quietly while Lucio nods.

 

"I will talk to Dr. Winston and Genji about swapping rooms for a few days until we can sort this out; it will not do to have this uncertainty continue in such dangerous times. However, I must request that you maintain cordiality should you be required to keep company before this is sorted. Are we in agreement?"

 

"I can do that," Lucio says softly, glad that he at least gets a few more days of some kind ― any kind ― of relationship with Baptiste. Because once he really realises what being ace means, he won't want anything to do with Lucio, and there's clearly no going back to just friendship.

 

"Yeah," Baptiste mutters.

 

"Good. Mr. dos Santos, consider what you have learned and what you desire. Tomorrow, come walk with me on the beach."

 

"Yes, sir," Lucio nods, stomach already tightening in anticipation of a conversation he doesn't want to have. Taking it as his dismissal, he stands, pats Kannus when it does too, and hurries away to distract himself in his music.

 

~

 

"How did it go?" Genji asks, falling into step beside Zenyatta as he heads for the common room.

 

"Progress was made," he purrs, delighted to be back in the company of his brightest student and closest confidant. "Small progress, but progress nonetheless. One is eager for advancement but lacks understanding, the other fears discovery and refuses to take the risk." He pauses, putting words to a realisation that has been slowly dawning on him. "I believe I have become known as the base therapist."

 

"You've only now noticed?" Genji chuckles.

 

"It has been a process. I am still rather young myself."

 

"Something easily forgotten in your wisdom," he notes, amused. "Where are you off to?"

 

"To my next patients," Zenyatta quips. "Mr. McCree has asked your brother to meet, and I have been requested as a mediator."

 

"Oh this I have to see. May I sit in?"

 

"It may help Hanzo to have your support," Zenyatta allows. "So long as you can hold your tongue."

 

"Not a word from me, Master," he promises eagerly.

 

"Loud," Kannus chuffs. "He speak."

 

"I have no doubt," Zenyatta chuckles. "But at least an attempt is being made." Genji cocks a glance at him, and then seems to realise he was speaking to the dog, not him.

 

"Frog need Boss."

 

"Hm?" It takes Zenyatta a moment to make the connection that 'Boss' is referring to Baptiste, and he can't resist a small laugh. "Oh, I see! Yes, he does. They both do. It will be a trial to help them see that."

 

"Cowman need Bowman?"

 

"We shall see."

 

The common room is unusually empty for this time of day, and Zenyatta suspects Jesse requested it; only Soldier 76 occupies the room other than Jesse himself, and it doesn't seem like the latter has even noticed the former, who is stretched out on the couch in the far back corner, a book over his mask and apparently snoozing. Zenyatta decides against mentioning his presence as he motions for Kannus to sit by the door.

 

"Zen," Jesse greets awkwardly, lacking his usual charm as he stands and rubs his hands uneasily against his jeans. "Thanks fer doin' this. Er, hey, Genji..."

 

"You will not even know I'm here," Genji promises, plopping down in an armchair and picking up a magazine from the end table nearest him.

 

"Please, have a seat," Zenyatta bids, taking another armchair and lowering into it. "When is Hanzo due to arrive?"

 

"'Bout ten, fifteen minutes," Jesse answers, settling on the edge of the couch and folding his hands in his lap. He's so nervous, and Zenyatta isn't sure why.

 

He's almost behaving similarly to Baptiste, and yet, he's been so vocal in his disdain for the man who tried to kill his best friend. Could there be some level of attraction there, making itself known now that Jesse is willing to see Hanzo as anything but a murderer? He's certainly acting that way.

 

"I have a question for you, Mr. McCree," Zenyatta says, opting to distract the man for the time being.

 

"You can cut it with the Mr.," Jesse huffs. "Ain't never really been one much for titles."

 

"McCree," Zenyatta acknowledges. "If I may be so bold... You reacted rather strongly when I suggested that a man should not be judged for his past. May I ask why?" Jesse flinches hard, gaze dropping to his hands.

 

"I... was never a good kid," he says softly. "Did some crazy, stupid shit; ran with a gang for years... Killed a lotta folk. Mosta them for survival's sake, but plenty innocent too. Made quite a name fer myself; still got a bounty to match, even though it's been near twice as long since I got out as I spent in. I was a dead man walkin' when Gabe dragged me out; devil had a contract on my soul. Prob'ly still does, but I ain't like I was, and I owe that to Overwatch. Still kill, but at least it's sorta... justified, y'know? Protectin' those can't protect themselves."

 

"Indeed," Zenyatta hums, allowing his optics to settle subtly on Soldier. The man hasn't moved at all, but Zenyatta has no doubt he's listening.

 

"I figured," Jesse goes on, unprompted, "if I messed up, killed someone close to me, and then found out they lived, I'd spend the resta my life provin' myself to 'em; makin' it right."

 

"Bowman here," Kannus sends, unmoving by the door. Zenyatta pings back acknowledgement.

 

"That is why you have agreed to talk to Hanzo?" he asks deliberately.

 

"Yeah, I guess," Jesse sighs, unaware. "I just..." He glances at Genji, who appears so obviously engrossed in his magazine that he's certainly faking it. "If someone tried to kill me, I wouldn't stop tryna get revenge, no matter who it was. If he ain't holdin' a grudge, ain't my place to neither. 'Specially when I know how it could feel on the other side o' things."

 

"Is that apology enough, Hanzo?" Zenyatta asks lightly, taking subtle joy in catching the normally attentive American off guard. He bolts to his feet, wide gaze rounding on the doorway, where Hanzo stands uncertainly, frowning faintly.

 

"I never needed an apology," he says quietly. "I understand the need to seek vengeance for a wronged loved one, and I will pay whatever blood price is required."

 

"Ain't a price required," Jesse insists quickly. "I's bein' sore, overreactin'. It ain't even my business, and I had no right to get so angry over it. I ain't gonna be able to trust you easy; just who I am. But Genji's tryna make a place for you, so... I'm gonna try too."

 

"That is more than I could ask," Hanzo says demurely, bowing his head. "Thank you."

 

"Bowman good," Kannus says, padding over to him and butting up against his thigh. Hanzo jolts slightly, raising his hands, and grimaces at the dog, but Kannus just keeps watching him expectantly while Genji gives up the pretence of reading and tosses the magazine aside.

 

"Excellent," the ninja chirps happily. "My brother and best friend are getting along now."

 

"I wouldn't go quite that far," Jesse winces. "But we're, uh... we're gonna try, I guess."

 

"That is all that can be expected," Zenyatta purrs, pleased to see so ready an outcome for once. There's still plenty of work to be done here, but this is a very good start, and it sets a precedence for openness and honesty in the future.

 

"Brother, if you do not pet Kannus, it will be very disappointed." The glee in Genji's voice speaks of a history with dogs, and Zenyatta isn't surprised when Hanzo scowls at his brother.

 

"You know I dislike dogs, Genji. I will be just fine without the approval of that thing."

 

"Unfortunate," Zenyatta chuckles. "It has already taken a liking to you." Hanzo groans loudly, and even Jesse can't help but laugh.

Chapter Text

"You'll never believe my news," Jack hums after Gabriel has gotten the first desperate tongue duel out of the way and the two of them are undressing each other. Gabriel cocks an interested brow, wondering what his lover could possibly know that Sombra hasn't already informed him of.

 

"Don't leave me in suspense," he bids, shoving Jack's pants down past his knees and trailing his claws up the exposed length of the man's thigh; Jack predictably shudders and groans, grabbing at his shoulders to stay upright.

 

"Quit- Quit making me speechless and I'll tell you," Jack growls, yanking off his jacket and gloves and tossing them aside before working at Gabriel's belt.

 

"Not my fault you melt under my touch, brillo ," Gabriel chuckles, pleased to see his observations were correct and Jack adores the sensation of his claws.

 

"Jesse has himself a crush."

 

That makes him pause for a moment, and Jack takes full advantage to get rid of both belts and open his pants.

 

"Really. Who?"

 

"Genji's brother."

 

"I thought Genji's brother was the one who tried to kill him," Gabriel frowns, and then promptly forgets the entire conversation for about five seconds as Jack drops to his knees and kisses the tip of Gabriel's cock with almost a sense of reverence.

 

"He is," Jack hums with purposeful offhandedness, making use of Sombra's gag gift to slick him up and start stroking. "Long story short, Genji's forgiven him and invited him to Overwatch, with Winston's approval, and now Jesse's trying to play nice despite having tried to attack him when he first arrived."

 

"You're going to give me more details later," Gabriel growls, taking off one glove to bury his fingers in soft white fluff and dragging Jack closer. "First, you're going to eat it. And maybe, if I think you can handle it, we'll do something more."

 

"Yes," Jack breathes eagerly, lips parting without hesitation to take him in, sinking down quickly and easily to the hilt in one go. Practice or not, he knows how to give a blowjob, and his talented tongue brings Gabriel to the edge almost before he's ready.

 

"Easy, mi brillo ," he rumbles, tugging at Jack's hair and earning a deep groan of pleasure in return. Jack backs off reluctantly, eyes already glazed and expression lax; he clearly had no trouble dropping into subspace, and fast. Gabriel considers a moment, eyeing his already debauched lover and wondering if he'll have the energy for two rounds.

 

If either of them will have the energy for two rounds... As good as subspace is for Jack, it can take a lot out of him now, and Gabriel's not exactly a spring chicken anymore either; as much as he likes to think he can still hold out, even their decelerated aging can't quite make up for the fact that time just keeps marching onward.

 

Fuck it. A quick, half-built orgasm should be easy enough to recover from for a second, more drawn out round, and maybe he can actually build up to what they both want; Gabriel inside Jack.

 

"Take what you want," he allows. Jack practically lunges back onto him, working him over even faster than expected, and he shudders under the wave of molten bliss that burns through his gut. He barely pulls back in time to avoid choking Jack, who breathes the most precious little sigh of delight as Gabriel paints his tongue and cheek with a possessive growl.

 

"Gabe..." Jack murmurs, gazing up placidly, tongue flicking absently along his lips like he's savouring the taste of Gabriel.

 

"Colour, brillo ."

 

"...Blue?" He's deep already, but Gabriel still isn't sure just how deep he can get, and anything deeper than dark blue is concerning.

 

"Light or dark?" he presses. Jack pouts a moment in thought, and then shakes his head, too deep to know or care, but that's enough of a response to be satisfied for now. "Finish undressing and lie down."

 

Gabriel takes a small bit of pride in the fact that even though Jack is exposed, he hasn't touched himself yet; waiting for permission. Jack strips gracelessly, eager to be taken, and lays out with his legs spread invitingly. It's a far cry from the uncertainty and fear that jumped him the first time, and Gabriel takes more pride in that.

 

Instead of stripping down quickly, Gabriel takes his time, puts on a bit of a show. His scars never really bothered him until Jack showed up again, but when he didn't immediately show repulsion, whatever unease Gabriel might have had vanished, and now he wears them as a badge of honour, flaunting how close he came to death without feeling its embrace.

 

Jack is whining desperately by the time he kneels between Jack's legs and leans over him. Without waiting for permission on this, Jack wraps his arms around Gabriel's shoulders and yanks him into a hot, messy kiss that dissolves whatever control Gabriel thought he had; he growls and kisses back, dominating his needy lover into a whimpering, writhing mess. Jack is pliant already, still tight, but opening eagerly to Gabriel's touch, and it doesn't take long for Gabriel to feel confident in trying.

 

"Breathe, mi brillo hermoso ," he rumbles against Jack's throat, nipping and kissing and leaving marks everywhere. "Relax for me; this may hurt."

 

"Please... Please, I need you..."

 

Gabriel reluctantly sits up to guide himself, going slowly and carefully, watching Jack's expression for any sign of discomfort and stopping the instant Jack gasps. Before he can say a word, however, Jack is digging his heels into Gabriel's back, urging him on.

 

"So good- right there- fuck, Gabe-" He keeps babbling, hardly understandable, but that was all the encouragement Gabriel needed, and he continues, slowly seating himself fully inside.

 

It feels so good... so tight and hot and wonderful, that it takes far too long for him to realise Jack's incoherency is not a good thing.

 

He's shuddering, expression vacant, eyes glazed and stammering words that make no sense, and after a frightening moment, it suddenly clicks that he's overwhelmed and too deep to safeword.

 

"Jack. Jack!" Gabriel tries to pull out but Jack is clinging to him, making it difficult, so he focuses on getting Jack's attention first; drawing him far enough out of subspace to comprehend what's happening. "Look at me, brillo ! Red! Do you hear me? Red, damnit!"

 

Jack abruptly goes still, staring blankly upward, and Gabriel immediately uses the opportunity to pull out and move, dragging the dazed man into his lap and cradling him close to give him as much physical contact as possible for when he comes back up.

 

"Can you hear me, Jack? I need you with me now, mi brillo . You're okay; I'm right here with you."

 

After an eternity, Jack blinks rapidly and inhales sharply, slowly focusing his gaze until he seems to recognise where he is and who he's with. He stares at Gabriel a moment, visibly processing, and then pales.

 

"You- You said-"

 

"I did," he confirms, tightening his hold on the man. "You were too deep; you couldn't say it yourself."

 

"But I didn't n-"

 

"Yes, you did," Gabriel cuts in shortly. "Colour. And think before you speak!" Jack closes his mouth with a faint scowl, but obeys, considering where he's at before answering reluctantly.

 

"Green. Light."

 

"You got overwhelmed," Gabriel says, relieved that there doesn't seem to be any problems due to how fast he came back up. At least, not yet; he can deal with later issues later.

 

"I didn't-" Jack cuts himself off, thinking, and then goes on, a bit sheepish. "All I felt was you, and all I could think was how full I was... I just wanted more."

 

"You didn't respond."

 

"I- didn't hear you," he admits quietly. Gabriel watches him for a moment, and then draws him closer to kiss his temple.

 

"I safeworded for you. You were too deep, and I'm not letting you go that far again."

 

"No, Gabe, please; I-"

 

"We will revisit this ― I want you as much as you want me ― but not this time."

 

"But-"

 

"Not this time, Jack," Gabriel cuts in firmly. Jack actually growls in frustration, but he can't stay mad; barely ten seconds later, he gives in with a sigh and leans into Gabriel's shoulder.

 

"I hate you," he mutters, petulant even in his affection.

 

"If either of us believed that, we wouldn't be here, mi brillo ," Gabriel hums, taking comfort simply in Jack's presence. "Tell me about Genji's brother."

 

"...Hanzo is an archer," Jack says after a long moment, settling in and idly tracing his fingers along the scars on Gabriel's chest. "He has incredible aim and I haven't seen him miss a bull's-eye once on the range. Jesse challenged him to split an arrow and he not only succeeded but split that one too. And then started lecturing anyone who would listen about the stupidity of splitting arrows and ruining perfectly good resources."

 

"Sounds like the perfect match for Jesse," Gabriel chuckles.

 

"God, I have had enough of the two of them," Jack huffs. "Literally two days ago, Jesse was ready to bite Hanzo's head off over every little thing, then Jesse gets Zenyatta to play therapist, and now Jesse and Hanzo are practically inseparable, bickering over whether a gun or a bow is better and why."

 

" Es mi niño ," Gabriel laughs, leaning his head back against the wall. "Fighting with his crush instead of flirting like he does with literally every other person... That's Jesse alright."

 

"I swear they're like cats and dogs," Jack mutters. "Oh, and speaking of... Ana and Mei went Stateside to meet with someone who might have information on Null Sector, and take a wild guess what they found."

 

"A dog?" Then he remembers Jack mentioning an omnic K9 unit joining the team and amends himself. "No wait, a cat."

 

"A cat-human hybrid," Jack corrects. "Some kind of mutation experiment the US government was working on in secret-"

 

"What else is new?"

 

"-before the lab was destroyed."

 

"Destroyed?"

 

"Yeah, Ana said the guy only knew that the place had been blown up a while back and the staff abandoned the place, and that he'd been surviving on his own in the redwood forest ever since."

 

"The redwoods..." That rings a bell, but Gabriel can't recall why.

 

"Yeah, in California," Jack confirms, shifting to look up at him. "What's up? You know something?"

 

"Maybe... I remember something about redwoods- The Redwood Observatory; that's what it was. Moira and Inconnue were tasked with destroying it because they were making major progress on some experiments and Akande didn't want them succeeding in anything that might give the US a leg up on Talon."

 

"So this guy is the product of that," Jack says, connecting dots. "Good thing we got our hands on him then, before Talon figured out what they missed." Gabriel considers for a long time, staying quiet, and Jack watches him. "What are you thinking?"

 

"...I wonder if Moira left him alive on purpose," Gabriel muses aloud. "Or maybe she just didn't care if the specimens escaped."

 

"Why; what makes you say that?"

 

"Alex. Moira has her own agenda ― I've always known that, since the moment I met her. But maybe... Maybe she just doesn't care where the funding comes from, as long as she can do whatever science shit she's into; experimenting on and evolving the human race. She started with Alex, and then moved on to me, and perfected it on herself.... Really I think she's been experimenting on herself for years, maybe even before Alex. But she hasn't shared that knowledge with Talon."

 

"What are you saying?" Jack prompts, sounding like he already knows.

 

"I think... I think Moira knows exactly where the line is between right and wrong, and she's purposely living in that thin grey area because that's the only way to push science to its limits. That's why she's in Talon, but not sharing her secrets. Why she only sold out to them when Overwatch was already clearly doomed."

 

"She still got people killed," Jack points out, a note of bitterness in his voice that echoes in Gabriel's soul. "She nearly got us killed."

 

"Alex was convinced that she didn't mean to," Gabriel counters, pushing down the old familiar taste of anger and hatred. "She probably knows a side of Moira that we never even saw hinted. And she did warn me the day of, right before I warned you."

 

"So... what are you saying?" Jack repeats. Gabriel purses his lips, not entirely sure himself; he takes a second to gather the right words.

 

"I think... we should consider her a tentative ally."

Chapter Text

The laboratory is a mess when Sombra enters, and she wrinkles her nose. Sure, her suite is a mess too, but it's organised chaos and she knows exactly where everything is; this place looks like a tornado just blew through. She actually has to step over papers and binders and markers to go deeper into the lab, which is eerily quiet.

 

"Hello?" she calls out. "Anybody in here?"

 

"Sh-sh!" a voice hisses from behind the desk, which looks like someone swept things off it onto the floor. She steps over said things and peeks over the desk to see a large man in disheveled clothes lying on the floor and staring up at a pair of strange looking ball things floating in idle circles above him. His voice is low, melodic, but tinged with a certain madness that matches her file on him. "Can you hear it? The music of the universe... The harmony of it all..."

 

"Dr. de Kuiper?" Sombra prompts, trying to get his attention; he's notoriously disconnected from reality.

 

"A single note can ruin the entire symphony," he continues. "A major where there should be a minor. Such a fierce melody; poignant, emotional..."

 

"Dr. de Kuiper."

 

"If only I could find that note; fix it... The symphony would be complete."

 

"Doctor!" He jolts now, blinking rapidly and glancing around.

 

"Oh, hello. Who are you?" Apparently unconcerned with the possibility of danger, he sits up, the two floating balls collapsing on themselves and vanishing.

 

"You can call me Sombra," she answers. This is technically the first time they've met, she realises; she forgets sometimes that as much as she knows about people, most of them don't even know she exists.

 

"Sombra... Spanish for shadow. Do you live in the darkness, my friend? There is great power there; power to mould the universe."

 

"I've noticed," she assures, amused. He's so sincere, believes his own truth so strongly. She likes him, she decides; it's a good thing she found him, even if she let Talon get their claws in him.

 

"May I help you?"

 

"Probably. What do you want with Alex?"

 

"Alex?" he frowns. "I don't know any Alexes."

 

"About ten years ago, you tried to have her captured."

 

"Captured?" His frown deepens.

 

"You don't remember?"

 

"There is... a lot, I think," he says slowly, "that I've forgotten. So much lost to the darkness... the black hole..." The two weird balls pop into existence again, circling rapidly around him in opposite directions, like odd little planets.

 

"Do you remember anything about a fog girl?"

 

"Fog..." he echoes distantly, expression glazed over again. Sombra is about to either try again or leave when he blinks, lighting up. "Ah! I remember! Yes, there was a child ― a fascinating young girl with incredible abilities. I asked someone to retrieve her for me. They never delivered..." He frowns, disappointed. "I don't remember why I wanted her, however... Ah, the curse of my existence in this half-completed state! If only I could fix the symphony of the universe..."

 

Sombra shrugs; she has her answers now at least. But as she turns to leave, the strange ball things dart around in front of her and then start circling.

 

"Nothing is coincidence," he states as she glances over her shoulder. "That a piece of darkness would come to me can only be a sign."

 

"A sign of what?" she asks, cocking a brow at him and preparing to translocate if necessary.

 

"That you have answers I need. What answers to which questions, I'm not sure... But you must."

 

"I know a lot of stuff," she huffs, rolling her eyes. "But if you don't know the questions then I can't give you answers, even if I wanted to."

 

"Indeed," he frowns thoughtfully. "But I must know..."

 

"Tell you what," she says, pulling an old fashioned pager from her pocket. "I'll leave this with you, and if you think of the questions, page me and I'll send you the answers."

 

"A pager?" He takes it with a cocked brow, sceptical but surprisingly lucid. The balls return to circling him. "Why would anyone carry around such outdated equipment?"

 

"Harder to track or trace nowadays," she shrugs. "Old tech has its uses. Especially for someone who doesn't like to be found."

 

"You do the finding," he hums, absently turning the pager over and over in his hands as he eyes her. "How very like a shadow."

 

"Exactly," she smirks. " Ciao ." His low, intense laughter echoes in her ears long after she translocates and leaves the area, but she decides she really likes this guy. Nothing wrong with a crazy friend or two; certainly can't be any worse than the friends she already has.

 

~

 

"Welcome, Mr. Augustin," Zenyatta hums warmly, gesturing for him to enter. Lucio leaps up from Genji's bed, scattering pieces of whatever he was working on ― Zenyatta never asked.

 

"Wait, hold up," the musician protests, wide-eyed and terrified. "You meant tonight ??"

 

"I was specifically vague regarding the time for a reason," Zenyatta answers, waving Baptiste closer when he hesitates.

 

"I... was under the impression you wanted to talk," Baptiste tells Lucio, still hovering in the doorway. "If not, I can leave..."

 

"No, wait," Lucio grimaces, crouching to pick up the circuits and bolts and wires that fell to the floor. "Sooner is better. I just- I'm just anxious."

 

"You and me both," Baptiste scoffs, a bit of the tension leaving his shoulders as he steps in and cautiously leans down to help.

 

Zenyatta watches in amusement as Lucio fumbles with the bits and pieces while he tries to get out the things he practiced telling Zenyatta. Kannus raises its head to watch as well, but otherwise doesn't move from its little nest of blankets in the corner.

 

"So... I'm ace. But I'm not like... sex-repulsed. I just... don't really care about it, you know?"

 

"I don't know," Baptiste admits, frowning at a screw. "I did a little research during my free time yesterday, trying to learn a bit more about... asexuals. It's- There's a lot more to it than I think I'll ever really understand, but... I guess I understand that you don't really want to... to be physical."

 

"Yeah. Yeah, that works. There's more to it, for sure, but yeah."

 

"...Is... that it?" Baptiste prompts after a moment, setting the last of the pieces on the bed and staying on one knee beside Lucio. Zenyatta can't help the little buzz of pride through his wires that he didn't have to be the one to prompt them.

 

"...No." Lucio takes a breath and lets it out, gaze still on his hands as he gathers the courage to continue. "I'm... polyromantic."

 

"Poly-? Wait, hold on," Baptiste frowns, shifting to sit crosslegged. "Okay, I read a lot of stuff yesterday, but the only thing I saw even close to that was... pansexual, I think. Is it like that, but like... with relationships?"

 

"No." Lucio gives a soft little laugh, the faintest edge of hysteria to it, like he can't believe he's finally having this conversation; if Zenyatta deduced correctly from their conversation on the beach yesterday, he's never been this open with anyone, and that he's sharing so freely is a testament in itself to how much he likes Baptiste. "No, that's panromantic. Polyromantic is... multiple people..."

 

"Oh, poly- like- Okay, I got it now," Baptiste says, connecting the dots. Then he cocks his head, considering for a moment. "So... You'd rather be in a relationship with multiple people, but no sex?"

 

"...Yeah," Lucio answers quietly, ducking his chin against his chest and toying with the hem of his pants to keep his hands busy. "I- yeah..."

 

"Do you... care if anyone... if any of them are guys?" That's his most pressing concern, Zenyatta is sure of it, and he finds it rather interesting that Baptiste doesn't seem to be bothered by the idea of sharing a relationship.

 

"Nah, I'm- I guess I'm kinda panromantic too," Lucio says sheepishly, blushing and still not looking at Baptiste.

 

"Then... Can I be one?" That finally gets him to look up, surprised.

 

"You still want to be? I mean, knowing... well, everything?"

 

"You're not some hookup in a bar, Lucio; if I was just interested in sex, there are plenty of takers out there to find. We'll figure it out, right? Something that satisfies us both?"

 

"But what if-" Lucio bites his lip, gaze dropping to the floor again. "What if I find someone else? You'll get jealous and mad, and..."

 

"I promise I won't get mad," Baptiste assures, confidence returning now that he has his answer. "Can't promise I won't be a little bit jealous, but... I'll try. For you." Lucio flushes a deep red and looks away, trying unsuccessfully to hide a delighted smile.

 

"Okay," he agrees. "I- Just so you know, I won't get upset if you, er... I guess, sleep around. Or, with anyone else, I mean; I don't wanna suggest that you're like... erm..."

 

"A slut?" Baptiste laughs, easing the sudden tension in Lucio's shoulders.

 

"I was gonna say promiscuous but, well. You said it, not me."

 

"Ahem," Zenyatta interjects politely to get their attention and remind them of his presence. They both look up quickly, sheepish, and he purrs in amusement. "Now that things have been sorted, might I suggest that room assignments be reverted?"

Chapter Text

The Gibraltar base was always one of Fareeha's favourites; having grown up first in the tundra of Canada and then the desert of Egypt, the more temperate climate and the wide open view of the cliffside facility always appealed to her more than the landlocked bases her mother took her to over the years. Even now, standing at the edge of the cliff and basking in the chilled ocean breeze under the distant, hazy midday sun, she can't imagine being anywhere else, despite the clawing ache of nostalgia and the sharp-edged burden of guilt that she just can't shake after Anubis.

 

Reaching up, she traces the wadjet beneath her eye, a habit developed soon after she had it tattooed, and then sighs heavily.

 

The thought that maybe it's for the better that she can't join the new Overwatch is interrupted by a burst of alarms through the base intercoms, just audible where she's standing. Immediately, she bolts back toward the door she exited to get here, slamming it closed behind her and making sure it's locked before heading straight for the meeting area.

 

"What's happening, Athena?" she demands on the way.

 

"Emergency lockdown," Athena answers, voice filtering just so through the passing speakers to maintain a conversational level with her. "Lena and Angela are coming in hot with Sojourn, who was injured en route."

 

"Injured how?" Fareeha asks, remembering Winston's warning that Talon might be closing in thanks to Genji's brother.

 

"Undetermined. Lena cut comms to prevent interception."

 

"Talon?"

 

"Undetermined. Winston thinks so. All personnel are being summoned to battle stations."

 

"Count me in."

 

"Report to the briefing room; Winston is setting up there."

 

When she arrives, Fareeha pauses in the door to take in the bustle of activity. A wave of nostalgia washes over her at the sight of Reinhardt and Torbjorn in their armour, ready for a fight, standing at the table and leaning over a map with Winston. The feeling fades as Genji nudges his brother toward the table, and several of the new recruits enter ― Hana, Alex, Baptiste and Lucio.

 

"Fareeha!" Winston calls, waving her closer. "I'm glad you're here; we could use your help!"

 

"What do you need me to do?" she asks joining him at the table. Reinhardt clasps her shoulder in greeting, but his attention is focused more on the map of the Gibraltar base.

 

"We have a cluster of Talon operatives on the way," Torbjorn grumps. "Hot on the heels of our people. They're going to need whatever support we can muster."

 

"We'll need high ground," Jesse says, joining the table. "Gotta get Hanzo and Shrike in position, and a flank guard fer each. I'd recommend Genji and Soldier respectively."

 

"Soldier and Shrike are already taking up a forward position here," Winston says, pointing to the map. "They'll provide cover for our people to get back to where we can properly protect them."

 

"We could make good use of Alex here," Reinhardt says, tracing a finger along a choke point not far from the entrance to the base. "Her fog abilities would make it difficult for the enemy to see anything."

 

"Me?" Alex blinks, looking uneasy.

 

"Fog abilities?" Fareeha echoes, brow cocked.

 

"I would advise against it," Zenyatta speaks up, approaching the table. "She is unprepared for battle. Hana would be able to provide better support at that location."

 

"I'm down," Hana agrees, popping bubblegum against her teeth. "Toki's ready to go whenever you are."

 

"No, I'd rather put Hana and Toki here to keep the main waves at bay," Winston argues.

 

"I can go there instead of Alex," Mei offers. "And I'd like to take Manx with me; I think the two of us can handle that area, as long as we have access to some backup if things get bad."

 

"What fog abilities?" Fareeha presses.

 

"I can turn into fog almost at will," Alex explains uneasily. "But I'm not confident enough to try it in the midst of a fight."

 

A tall, slender robot joins the table then and Fareeha forgets to ask for more information as she stares at the robot, trying to remember why it ― she? ― is so familiar.

 

"Dr. Zhou would be an excellent option," Zenyatta points out. "Provided she and Mr. Manx are capable of the teamwork necessary."

 

"Manx can handle himself," Mei assures. "He survived alone for years in the forest, fighting off predators and other deadly creatures; I'm just not sure if he knows how to work with anyone."

 

"We don't have time to test it right now," Winston huffs. "We're not nearly as prepared for this as I'd hoped, so we're just gonna have to make do. Mei, take Manx and Alex here and do what you can; divert their forces back to the main entrance if you have to, just don't let anyone get by you."

 

"Got it," she nods, determined.

 

"Good. Reinhardt, I'm putting you in charge of this area; Hana and her mech are yours. Jesse, I want you back here with Torbjorn and the healers. Echo, you too." Now Fareeha remembers; she never got the chance to properly meet Echo in the last days of the old Overwatch, but she knew of the robot's existence. "Hanzo, do you know where this is?"

 

"I believe so," he nods. "I was there with Jesse this morning."

 

"Yeah, that's it," Jesse confirms.

 

"Good, good; you're going to be on overwatch here. Same deal; nobody gets past you, got it? Genji will back you up."

 

"Understood," the brothers agree simultaneously.

 

"Fareeha, could I get you to help Reinhardt at the front lines?"

 

"It would be my honour," she nods, standing at attention and saluting her temporary superior officer.

 

"Your assistance is appreciated," the former crusader grins. "It's good to see how you've grown, Fareeha."

 

"I know Mum didn't want me to join Overwatch, and I understand why, but this has been my dream since I was a child; to fight alongside you all. This is a dream come true, and I consider myself lucky that my meeting with Winston happened to coincide with an attack on the base."

 

"Let's just hope we come out on top," Torbjorn grunts. "Brigitte! Don't you go wandering off from your post now, you hear? And make sure the bastion doesn't wander either!"

 

"I'm not a child anymore, Papa," Brigitte sighs, making a final adjustment to her flail. "I know how to fight, and protect others. I've had to watch Reinhardt's back for the past couple years after all."

 

"Hey!" Reinhardt protests good-naturedly, lifting his hammer to his shoulder.

 

"Let's just make sure nobody dies, eh?" Lucio chirps, hooking up some wires to the equipment at his thighs, where it looks like speakers are built into his suit.

 

"We just have to provide enough cover for Tracer and Mercy to get the other lady ― Sojourn? ― back safely," Baptiste adds, checking the ammunition chambers of his gun and slotting a magazine into place at the bottom. "Then we can retreat into the buildings and barricade them out. This kind of blitz team won't have the resources for any sort of prolonged siege, and unless they've really changed things up since I left, they're not an advance team either; Talon either strikes fast and hard, or sneaks their way in, so if this doesn't work, they'll retreat to figure out something else."

 

"You heard him, everyone," Winston speaks up, loud enough to be heard by everyone. "Don't engage if you don't have to, but don't give up ground until our people are safe. Let's go!"

 

Fareeha regrets not bringing her jump jets, but there's nothing to be done now; she wasn't preparing for a fight when she came here, but now she knows to always have her gear with her, just in case this happens again. She takes an assault rifle from the base armoury and rushes after Reinhardt toward the main entrance. Hana appears en route in a huge pink mech that dwarfs the petite Korean, but looks oddly small beside the behemoth that is Reinhardt. The three of them take up position at the entrance, with Fareeha in cover behind the two giant armoured beasts seeking to guard the base.

 

Tension builds, stretches, rubs raw the longer they wait. The comm Reinhardt slipped her chirps a couple of times as everyone gets into place and checks in, but then there's nothing and everyone ― the entire world, it seems ― is holding their breath.

 

"Anything, Shrike?" Reinhardt asks finally.

 

"Nothing yet," she replies. Her voice is coolly familiar and yet distant; it's so reminiscent of Ana's that Fareeha's chest tightens, heart lurching to her throat for a moment. "How far out were they at last contact?"

 

"Not close enough," Winston humphs. "Let us k-"

 

"CONTACT!" Soldier bellows through the comms, just as the sound of gunfire echoes over the cliffs.

 

"They're trying to cut us off from Tracer!" Shrike says sharply. "Mei, bring Alex and get here quickly; we need your help!"

 

"Go!" Winston concurs. "Manx, stay where you are; Echo, go help him."

 

"A forward team means this is more than a standard blitz attack," Baptiste says grimly. "They're going to kill our people or die trying; I'm moving up to help Shrike and Soldier."

 

"Do it," Winston agrees. "Fareeha, escort him. Reinhardt, Hana, dig in; they're gonna hit soon, and hit hard, and we need you to be able to hold them back."

 

"You can count on us!" Hana crows, her mech taking a defensive stance as Baptiste bolts passed.

 

"What she said," Reinhardt laughs, giving Fareeha room to follow Baptiste before setting himself and raising his shield arm.

 

Baptiste heads straight for the gunfire, but even before Fareeha has a chance to speak, he's already checking corners and watching for flankers. He clearly has extensive training, and she can't help but wonder how a medic, even a combat medic, would be this good.

 

Unless medicine was not what he originally trained in.

 

There's a faint edge of unease in her chest as they reach the place where a trio of Talon soldiers have Soldier, Mei and Alex pinned down, but she pushes it down, reminding herself that while Overwatch always was, still is, and will always be her home, it's changed, and she has to trust that Winston knows what he's doing.

 

Soldier glimpses them approaching even as Baptiste grabs Fareeha's arm and drags her behind cover, and he gestures to Mei, who looks mildly concerned until Alex speaks up. The three of them exchange a short conversation, and a quick glance at Baptiste proves that he saw it too and is waiting for them to make a move.

 

At this moment, Fareeha and Baptiste hold the upper hand in the form of the element of surprise, and Soldier has to know that in order to make use of it, they need to create a distraction to keep the enemies focused on them.

 

He must, because whatever he says, Mei and Alex nod and get ready to move. Fareeha and Baptiste do the same. Then Soldier pops out from behind cover and fires at the enemy, making them duck and scramble for cover. Alex launches herself out from her cover and explodes into mist, obscuring him and Mei from the enemy. Icicles appear out of the mist, beautifully aimed ― in spite of the lack of sight ― just right to make the enemy think twice about poking up for a peek.

 

"Now!" Baptiste hisses, dodging out from cover and ducking around as close to their flank as he can get, which brings him right up to the other side of one's cover. Fareeha adds her fire to Soldier's, keeping them pinned while Baptiste pauses just out of sight, waiting for an opening. Without having to communicate, Soldier and Fareeha both shift their fire away from him, giving the enemy room to poke up but also leaving Baptiste space to attack; the other two can't do anything to help their companion, suppressing fire holding them down while Baptiste takes out the one.

 

Alex compresses back down into herself, staggering, but there's no sight of Mei, and for a moment Fareeha worries that she was hit through the fog. Then Soldier stops firing, jerking his gun muzzle up, and Fareeha instinctively does the same, just in time for a wall of ice to appear, half encasing the other two Talon soldiers.

 

"Good work, team," Soldier calls out. "Fareeha, get back to Reinhardt and Hana, and take Alex with you. Mei, Baptiste, you're ground support here; I'm going back up to guard Shrike."

 

"I've got eyes on our people!" Shrike says sharply through the comms. "Five hundred yards and closing; I don't see any Talon."

 

"They'll be there," Baptiste replies grimly, echoing in the comms. "This is the first chance they've had to take out any Overwatch people; that it's three of the oldest and highest ranking members makes it that much more important. Whatever we do, we can't let them cut us off."

 

"That won't be a problem," Soldier grunts. "Shrike doesn't miss."

 

"Shit! We got company!" Jesse snaps suddenly. "Somebody let somebody through and we're takin' fire here!"

 

"Hanzo, Echo; report!" Winston demands, even as Soldier and Fareeha look to Baptiste. He looks confused, worried, and his hesitation is enough for Soldier to curse.

 

"Neither Genji nor I have seen a soul," Hanzo reports, an edge in his tone.

 

"Nothing here, either," Echo adds. "Whoever it is, they didn't come through us."

 

"Reinhardt?"

 

"We are taking fire, but no one has passed us."

 

"This isn't- I don't know what's going on," Baptiste says helplessly, not using the comm this time.

 

"Then we'll figure it out as we go," Soldier growls, and taps his comm. "Shrike, keep a clear line for them to come in; Genji, Manx, head back to support Jesse. Hanzo and Echo stay in position; keep-"

 

"Don't worry about it, guys!" Brigitte interjects, gleefully surprised. "Bastion and Kannus took care of it!"

 

"What do you know?" Torbjorn humphs. "This hunk o' junk isn't so useless after all."

 

"And we're all good!" Lucio chirps, laughing. "Nobody even-"

 

"LOOK OUT!!"

 

Fareeha goes cold. She can't remember the last time she heard Jesse raise his voice like that.

 

"Jesse!" Soldier snaps. "What happened?"

 

No one answers.

 

"Jesse, damnit, answer me!" Soldier demands. Baptiste, pale with horror, takes a step back toward the base.

 

"Lucio..." He takes off running, and if Fareeha didn't see Lena struggling under a limping Sojourn with a surge of Talon soldiers swooping down on them in spite of Angela's covering fire and the echoes of Shrike picking them off one by one, she'd join him.

 

Whatever happened, someone got hurt, and Fareeha refuses to lose any more family. She bolts toward the trio, Soldier hot on her heels, determined to make Talon regret even considering an assault on her home.

Chapter Text

Jack sees red. Still, even after thirteen hours and counting, after pacing the tiny room for another hour on top of that, after plenty of time to cool off and ready himself to meet Gabriel with a level head.

 

He's pissed. And the moment smoke creeps into the room, that rage billows up with it; he takes the room in two long strides, grabs his half-corporeal lover, and slams him back against the door.

 

"You motherfucker," he snarls, pulse pounding in his ears and hot under the collar. "You set us up."

 

"The fuck are you talking about?" Gabriel growls after an instant of stunned silence. He shoves Jack's hands aside, and it takes Jack everything he has not to deck the man.

 

"Sojourn! You set us up and you just watched us get shredded!"

 

"What about Sojourn?" Gabriel demands, a low anger simmering under his tone now. "Stop speaking in goddamn riddles, Jack!"

 

"You know exactly what, you fucking bastard. What, do you get off on it? Playing me like a fucking kazoo and watching me run around in circles for you while you plan Overwatch's demise all over again??"

 

Gabriel snarls like an animal, surging forward in a cloud, throwing Jack all the way back against the back wall and pinning him full body. His fury radiates off him, clashing against Jack's in a ferocious battle of wills.

 

"I'm going to pretend I didn't just hear those words come out of your mouth, John Morrison," he says, low and deadly. "You're going to calm the fuck down and tell me exactly what happened and why you're so pissed off."

 

"Fuck you," Jack hisses, aiming his spit for Gabriel's eye and only just missing. Gabriel jolts back reactively and then snarls again, snatching at Jack's throat and thumping his head hard against the wall. His talons dig sharply into Jack's neck, the palm of his hand pressing too hard on Jack's windpipe; he rips the reaper mask off and drops it, sneering at Jack.

 

"Try that again, brillo solar ," he rumbles. "See what I don't do." Jack purses his lips to do exactly that, but Gabriel beats him to the proverbial punch; he snatches Jack's hair with one hand, dragging him forward with the other just enough to yank his head back in order to kiss him, rough and demanding.

 

A small part of Jack remembers how good it was in the old days to push Gabriel until he snapped and took what he wanted, how good it was to give over control and stop worrying about shit.

 

But this isn't about him; not about washing away the stress and frustration of his job. It's about Sojourn, and Lena, and Angela, and everyone else in this new and fragile family.

 

He bites Gabriel's tongue. Hard.

 

"FUCK!!" Gabriel jolts back again, this time moving completely away from Jack and cupping his mouth, which dribbles blood. Jack licks copper from his lips, shaking, but doesn't move.

 

"You lied to me," he says hoarsely, watching Gabriel closely and hating every word that he has to speak; hoping against all hope that none of them are true. Gabriel goes stone still, staring at him; even the smoke around his legs doesn't stir. "Again. You lied to me again , Gabe."

 

"I haven't lied to you," Gabriel replies, quiet, sincere.

 

"You didn't tell me everything," Jack says hopelessly, choking on a lump in his throat. "That's as good as."

 

"I told yo-" Gabriel breaks off with a noise of frustration, taking a step. "Jack, I swear on my life, I told you everything. If- If something happened, I didn't know about it."

 

"How could you not ?" Jack whispers, desperate to believe him, but still hearing the ominous tone of asystole echoing in his ears. "Widowmaker was there."

 

The blank look of horror that flickers across Gabriel's face sends a wash of cool relief through Jack, and he almost crumbles on the spot, knees quivering as he supports himself on the wall.

 

"What?" Gabriel breathes, disbelieving.

 

"Amelie was there," he repeats. "She-"

 

"...Jack?" He doesn't want to ask, but Jack can't get his tongue to cooperate, to say the words. Gabriel takes another step, reaching out and grabbing his shoulders. "Who did she kill?"

 

"No one," Jack manages finally, grateful the news isn't that bad. "She didn't- We got lucky. Ana won this time; chased her off before she could get another shot in." Gabriel breathes a shaky sigh, grip loosening.

 

"Then what...?"

 

"She... She hit Jesse." Gabriel stares blankly, uncomprehending, and Jack hurries on, hoping to get it all out before Gabe flies into a rage. "We thought they were intent on killing Angela and Lena, and finishing off Sojourn, so we put most of our efforts into escorting them, holding the entrance to Gibraltar to keep them out. Somehow a squad managed to climb the cliffs and get in behind, where all our non combatants and healers were under Jesse and Torbjorn's protection. That bastion unit Torbjorn brought back actually did something and killed all seven of them, but in the celebration..."

 

"She never misses an opportunity," Gabriel murmurs, still in shock.

 

"We think she was aiming for Lucio," Jack explains quickly. "Jesse must have seen something; I don't know. One moment he was shouting a warning; the next, we're locking the gates behind us and Angela is in the med bay with Ana, Baptiste, Brigitte and Zenyatta, trying to keep the two of them alive." He pauses, holding his breath. "Gabe... Swear to me. Swear to me that you didn't know this was going to happen."

 

"I swear, mi brillo ," Gabriel says, an ache in his voice that Jack didn't expect. "If I had known, I would have said something immediately. I would never- I can't- If anything happened to you, I couldn't-"

 

"I believe you," Jack breathes, meaning it. "But... If you, a member of Akande's table, didn't know..."

 

"Then he knows about us," Gabriel scowls, connecting the dots as he says it. He swipes the back of his hand absently, angrily across his chin, wiping away blood. "I don't know how, though."

 

"Sombra?"

 

"I doubt it. She has too much to gain if Overwatch stays in play."

 

"Moira?"

 

"Again, I doubt it. Especially with Alex potentially getting caught in the crossfire; I may not know what else motivates that woman, but I know this as well as I know myself: she'll do just about anything to keep Alex safe and out of Talon's hands."

 

"Are you absolutely certain?" Jack presses, needing that reassurance.

 

"Of course I am," Gabriel scoffs. Then, apparently without thinking, he adds, "I'd do the same for Jesse."

 

He goes still, and Jack takes a moment to process the fact that he actually admitted to it. An awkward silence falls, growing, until Gabriel shifts uncomfortably and Jack clears his throat.

 

"So. What are we going to do about this?"

 

"Do?" Gabriel echoes, frowning. Jack blinks at him.

 

"This. Us. What we're doing. This isn't sustainable, Gabe. Akande clearly knows you're selling out, and it's only a matter of time before you're next on Widow's hit list."

 

"What else am I going to do, Jack?" Gabriel growls. "I can't go to Overwatch; even if I hadn't already tried to kill most of them, I wouldn't belong there. Nobody else would have me either. Even if they did, I wouldn't know who to trust. At least here I know not to trust anyone. I mean, I can trust Sombra to be Sombra, but anyone else..."

 

"So you're just going to stay where you are until he has you killed?" Jack snaps, angry again, but this time as much at himself as at Gabriel; he let this continue too long and now they're all paying for it.

 

"I think we've already established how difficult it is to kill me," Gabriel says blandly.

 

"Doesn't mean that someone somehow won't eventually succeed!"

 

"Now you're just being dramatic," he huffs, rolling his eyes. A surge of fury wells up against his flippant response, and Jack pushes away from the wall, stepping into his space and shoving a bit at his shoulders to get his attention.

 

"Cut the crap, Gabriel; this is serious!" he snaps. "You could die! For once, just once , could you just stop being so goddamn proud and listen??"

 

"I am listening!" Gabriel snaps back, getting in his face. "I should have died ten years ago, so the way I see it, all this is just a bonus anyway, and until you showed up, a shitty one at that. As far as I'm concerned, the day I die is the day everything is put to rights."

 

"So that's it then?" Jack sneers, his tongue getting the better of him.

 

"That's it," Gabriel concurs sharply in the fraction of a second pause before Jack continues.

 

"You're just going to abandon me again?"

 

Those words hang heavy, changing everything. Jack glares at Gabriel, who stares back in vague bafflement and dawning realisation. He doesn't get a chance this time to speak up, however.

 

"I spent ten years thinking you were dead and gone," Jack says lowly, putting all the force of ten years' worth of heartache behind every word. "I took the name Soldier 76 because I thought that maybe if by some crazy, godforsaken miracle you somehow survived, that it would lead you to me, but it never did. I imitated you for ten years just to keep some tiny piece of you alive so that I wouldn't lose all hope and maybe take Jesse up on his offer. Ten. Years . I suffered... And you're ready to give it all up just like that."

 

"Jack..."

 

"No." He steps back when Gabriel steps forward, keeping distance between them even though his back is up against the wall now; if Gabriel keeps pursuing, he can't retreat any further.

 

Gabriel doesn't move again.

 

"...I've thought long and hard about us, Gabriel. I know what I want, and so do you. I won't settle for anything less." He doesn't answer right away, so Jack sidesteps him and scoops up his mask from the dresser on the way out, speaking over his shoulder as he pauses in the doorway. "We do this together... or you can have this key back."

Chapter Text

"Are they going to be okay?"

 

Zenyatta doesn't answer immediately and a wash of cold fear floods Genji's body, chilling flesh and machine alike. The monk heaves a heavy sigh and holds out his arms hesitantly.

 

"Would it be too much to ask for a hug?" he asks quietly. Genji jumps to his feet and takes the room in two long strides, throwing his arms around the noticeably taller omnic just as Zenyatta stops floating and stands to meet him; it can be easy to forget sometimes, because of his size and intellect, that Zenyatta is still basically a teenager, chronologically speaking, and thus needs comforting at times, just like anyone else.

 

The contrasting cool of exposed metal against warm circuitry sends a shiver through Genji, and he presses his cheek to the struts of Zenyatta's neck. His hands dig into the frame he's memorised with his gaze but never dared to touch, and a tiny, selfish piece of him prays this moment will never end.

 

"...When Jesse was shot," Zenyatta whispers, barely audible even to Genji's enhanced hearing, "it was Mondatta's body I watched fall." Genji flinches, recalling the static-filled noise of horror that broke from his master's voicebox when they heard the news. The sound now is no less terrified than it was then. "I was certain I would be next."

 

"Zen..."

 

"I realised something," he goes on, drawing back but not letting go. Genji looks up at him, holding his breath. "In that moment, what I believed to be my last... I was afraid. So very afraid. But more than my fear of death, was the fear that I would be leaving you alone."

 

A soft, disbelieving huff escapes Genji as he stares up at the soft blue glow of his master's optics.

 

"Zen-"

 

"I am well aware of your feelings for me, Genji," Zenyatta says gently, raising a hand to caress his cheek. "I have been for a very long time."

 

"But- Then... why...?"

 

"I did not know what to say," Zenyatta admits, a sheepish note in his tone as his fingertips graze the length of Genji's jaw, sending a shiver down his spine. "For all Mondatta's teachings ― for all my own beliefs ― I feared being so close to a human."

 

"You fear me?" Genji asks, heart sinking.

 

"No. I fear becoming close enough that I would not survive being separated." A short, mirthless little laugh escapes the monk as he rests his hand on Genji's shoulder. "But it seems a trap for which I have already fallen; I feared being apart from you more than I feared the bullet that would be my end."

 

"I'll protect you," Genji blurts, tightening his arms around Zenyatta. "Always."

 

"I know. I cannot let you. We are not the same, Genji; what would merely damage me might kill you, and I know now that I can never see you fall in my stead."

 

"I won't die," Genji persists stubbornly. "I can't leave you anymore than you can leave me."

 

"Genji..."

 

" Aishiteru , Zen," he says before he has a chance to think twice, heat creeping up his neck. "I love you."

 

Zenyatta's LEDs flicker, and vents along his spine hiss softly, warm air puffing against Genji's hands and wrists. It's a reaction he's never seen before and he hesitates, worried that he angered his master.

 

"Jesse will survive," Zenyatta states, the words rushed and nervous, which isn't something Genji ever expected to hear from his steadfast master. "The recovery process will be extensive, but he will pull through; he is a hardy man."

 

"And Lucio?" Genji prompts, wondering if it's even possible for an omnic to feel embarrassment.

 

"He is fine as well; the threat for him was more the shock than the bodily damage. Baptiste has not left his side, unless Angela has had him physically removed from the med bay."

 

Silence stretches, and Genji watches Zenyatta closely for any indication of his feelings; for once, it's difficult to tell.

 

At last, Zenyatta takes a calibrating breath and lets it out, almost sounding resigned. To Genji's surprise, he tightens his embrace again, ducking his faceplate into the crook of Genji's neck as the vents along his spine hiss again.

 

"I want very much to deny all of this," he mutters, unusually petulant. Eager warmth sweeps through Genji, and he can't stop the grin that tugs at his lips. "How dare you ruin my pretty facade of a pious monk."

 

"When have you ever been pious?" Genji laughs, nuzzling his master's neck in return.

 

"I will have you know I play the part rather convincingly," Zenyatta huffs, withdrawing and tracing cool fingertips along Genji's cheek. "Or at least I did. Until you swept in like a blizzard and buried me in your affection."

 

"Was I that obvious?" Genji winces sheepishly.

 

"I felt your gaze fixed on me from day one, my dear," the monk chuckles. "I am still not quite sure when curiosity became fascination became adoration, however."

 

"Neither am I," Genji snorts. "But I knew the moment we met that whatever our paths, we were destined for more."

 

"All the more reason to thank the Iris for bringing us together, however terrifying it may be."

 

"I can handle anything beside you," Genji murmurs, hardly daring to say anything so sappy aloud. The happy little noise from Zenyatta makes it worthwhile, and he can't resist attempting a quick kiss to the edge of his master's faceplate. Zenyatta goes still, and he falters, hoping he didn't go too far. "Too much?"

 

"I think... you are going to have to show me more," Zenyatta says slowly. "I do not believe I fully understand the significance of such intimate shows of affection." Genji laughs, relieved. Then he slides his hands to Zenyatta's and draws one to his lips for a soft kiss.

 

"I wouldn't mind being the teacher for once," He says, letting go only to reach behind Zenyatta and close the door.

 

~

 

"How did it go?" Ana asks the moment she becomes aware of a presence nearby. Jack drops beside her and heaves a heavy sigh, reaching up to fiddle with his mask but not removing it.

 

"He didn't know," he mutters. "Akande must know he's selling out."

 

"So? What's the plan?"

 

"I don't know... He doesn't want to leave."

 

"Why not?" Ana frowns. "It isn't safe for him there."

 

"Preaching to the choir, lady," he huffs. "I did everything I could to convince him to leave."

 

"...Jesse is going to be alright," she informs him, already steeling herself for what she's about to say.

 

"I knew he would," Jack scoffs, rubbing at his neck. "The man's too stubborn to die, especially when he's got a reason to live."

 

There's a moment of tense silence as Ana builds the courage to speak, and Jack notices, glancing at her and reaching over to touch her wrist.

 

"You okay?"

 

"I-"

 

"If you say you're pregnant, I'm calling bullshit right now."

 

That breaks the tension and Ana barks a short, sincere laugh, feeling better and more confident.

 

"No, fortunately. Fareeha is all I need." Holding her breath, she adds, "And Jesse."

 

"Are you going to tell him?" Jack asks without hesitation; she can't quite tell if the idea bothers him or not.

 

"I think he deserves to know."

 

"He does. He talked about you, when he was hunting me. Told me how you taught him how to shoot... I could hear just how much he missed you in his voice."

 

"Are... you okay with it?" she asks slowly, watching him for a response.

 

"Why wouldn't I be?"

 

"Because if he knows about me, he'll figure out about you. Mei did."

 

"Hm."

 

Jack goes quiet for a long time, and Ana can't tell whether he's for or against the idea. She waits, quiet, letting him decide.

 

"...Mei's smart," he says after a long time. "I'm not surprised she figured it out. I'm pretty sure Hana's guessed it too. She hasn't said anything yet, and I doubt Jesse would either... Tell him. Just... try to keep things quiet about me. For now. Just until I can sort things out with Gabe."

 

"I'll do my best." Ana pats his hand gently and stands. "Good luck, fata ."

 

"You too."

 

She takes that to heart as she makes her way to the med bay. In one area, Baptiste and Lucio look like they're playing some kind of video game, but Ana can't tell what from the door. In the far back is the door to the impromptu ICU where Sojourn is recovering, and in the closer corner, Hanzo is seated beside Jesse's bed, reading while he sleeps. When Ana approaches, Hanzo glances up, pauses, and then stands to bow.

 

"Have Athena alert me when you are ready to be relieved," he says softly. "I will go eat. Would you like me to bring you something?"

 

"No need, but thank you," she answers, nodding as she takes his place in the chair.

 

For a long time after Hanzo leaves, she just sits, waiting, reliving the days when a sharp-tongued, dark-eyed American teenager thought he could outshoot anyone with his custom revolver. She remembers the visceral pain she felt when she first found out he handmade every single bullet that went into that gun, watching him fire sporadically in the direction of his target until one hit. More than that, she recalls the proud grin he gave her the first time he landed all six shots on the target; the deafening shout of joy the first time all six were bullseye's.

 

She taught him how not to waste shots, but he taught her how to take pride in every bullet.

 

"Angela?" Jesse mutters eventually, just after Baptiste ducks out to get food. "Whatever pain meds ya got me on... mind another dose?"

 

"I don't think that's wise," Ana says gently, reaching up to remove her mask and turning her back to the door. "You might get addicted."

 

"'S that?" Jesse scowls, raising his head and squinting against the light to see her. "Shrike?"

 

"Yes," she replies. "And no. I thought I taught you to shoot at your problems, not get shot by them."

 

Jesse's scowl deepens, and he stares hard at her for a moment before his eyes widen. Then he flinches and glares at the lights half-heartedly, too distracted by his sudden realisation to really care that he was just blinded.

 

"Ana? No... Some kinda hallucination... A dream... Hell, maybe both."

 

"It is me, Jesse," she says, taking his hand between hers. "I am so, so sorry..."

 

"Yer alive?" He chokes on the word and Ana's sting with welling tears that spill over before she can blink them back.

 

"I am," she whispers, because anything more is impossible.

 

"Ana..." She watches it finally, truly sink in, and then he's struggling to sit up.

 

"Jesse, don't-"

 

"Yer alive! You- I knew you weren't- I didn't believe it; not fer one second!"

 

"Jesse, calm down; you're going to hurt yourself." She grimaces at the bandages across his chest. "Er, more than you already are..."

 

"Everything alright over there?" Lucio calls out, startling them both. "Your monitor's beeping like crazy; it's a cool beat, but probably doesn't mean anything good."

 

"Fine," Jesse calls back while Ana hastily and surreptitiously wipes her cheeks and slips her mask back on. "Just realised somethin's all."

 

"Well, don't pull your stitches," Lucio hums, yawning widely. "Ange will have your hide, and honestly, I won't stop her."

 

Jesse doesn't reply, too busy staring at Ana to care enough for it. He reaches out, a soft, relieved smile ghosting at his lips as he touches her arm lightly, almost reverently.

 

"All this time... I couldn't shake the feelin' there was somethin' familiar 'bout you. Chalked it up to you bein' another bounty hunter; figured we musta crossed paths and I just didn't remember when. But it's you. Yer really alive, and here."

 

"Somebody has to make sure you don't repeat the mistakes of the past," she says wryly. "I realised after I got the recall that Overwatch would be dead in the water if it didn't have a proper guiding hand. And..." She hesitates, but Mei has never been shy about her story; the poor doctor is stronger than most people realise to be able to share it so many times. "...Mei reminded me that being with family is more important than protecting them by being a ghost."

 

"So... Soldier," Jesse says after a moment, rubbing his thumb against her wrist as if to reassure himself that this isn't a drug-induced hallucination. "It's Jack, ain't it? Nobody's that tough on me, and if you survived..."

 

"We died in two very different events, Jesse," Ana reminds, not giving it away just yet.

 

"But you two 're close," he points out, persisting. "Just like ya were back then. And what he said in that warehouse... Talked about somebody tearin' apart his family. Jack 'as always the one that talked about Overwatch bein' a family." Ana says nothing; she knows where this is going, and it's not her place to out anyone. "And if Jack's alive... Did Gabe survive the bomb?"

 

The innocent hope in his features, unleashed from worry and the hardships of life by a heady dose of drugs, makes Ana ache to tell him everything. But Gabriel and Jack are happy to stay dead, so Ana changes the subject.

 

"You should get some more rest; the others need you back on your feet quickly."

 

"Ana, please..."

 

"Shrike," she corrects, standing. "Ana Amari is dead. So are Jack Morrison and Gabriel Reyes."

 

She can't tell if he got the hint, but he doesn't say anything else, staring sorrowfully at her as she turns away. Baptiste enters as she leaves, and the way he avoids looking at her, she suspects he heard a fair portion of the conversation. So long as he doesn't gossip, she's surprisingly okay with it.

 

On the way out, she asks Athena to let Hanzo know that Jesse is awake.

Chapter Text

Winston sighs heavily and then promptly yawns so wide his considerable jaw aches.

 

"Doin' alright, big guy?" Lena asks, breaking in the middle of her report, most of which Winston has missed, to his chagrin.

 

"Sorry, I'm just... so tired," he sighs, rubbing at his face.

 

"When was the last time you slept?" she demands, worried now.

 

"I'm fine," he dismisses, waving her off. "So you were checking the other bases, and..."

 

"That's all you got out of the last ten minutes?? Winston, you need to get some sleep! How did you even manage to coordinate that fight??"

 

"Adrenaline?" he answers sheepishly, well aware of how dangerous a position he's been in for the past few days.

 

"Winston..." she scolds, arms crossed over the soft glow of the chronal accelerator on her chest and foot tapping impatiently.

 

"I can't sleep with so much going on, Lena," he says desperately. "I have to run the entirety of Overwatch! Now I know how Jack felt; and I don't even have to deal with politicians!" She just cocks a brow at him, so he continues. "The UN is gathering for a review of the Petras Act in two months, but until then, they've been generous enough to turn a blind eye on whatever we do, as long as we keep the destruction to a minimum. Paris was a bit much, but I think we got away with it because no one really believed we were active again. But even without worrying about that, I have Null Sector activity cropping up all over the world, Talon is doing its best to undermine any foothold we have, which means I'd have to concentrate all of our agents here even if it wasn't already my plan ― thanks for going and clearing out the other bases and watchpoints, by the way ― and then on top of all that, I have to keep a close eye on the drama within our own walls just to make sure we don't fall apart from the inside out! I can't afford to sleep!"

 

"Drama?" Lena frowns. "Love, there's always gonna be drama; you can't worry yourself over that."

 

"I have to!" Winston insists, at the end of his wits and desperate to talk to someone ― anyone ― and just get it out there. "We can't run with just the old members, but the new members are still wary of them, for the most part. It's like they feel alienated because they weren't there from the start and they think they'll be cut out of stuff because of it. They get along with each other, at least, but with the exception of Zenyatta and Hanzo, they don't really have any real ties to Overwatch, and if anything goes wrong, we could lose them! Don't even get me started on the romance thing either; now that Lucio and Baptiste are an item, I guess everyone else feels like it's okay to explore closer relationships, and while I'm totally okay with it, if anyone has a bad breakup, that could cause major issues for the rest of the team, and we can't afford anything like that right now!"

 

"Oh. Wow."

 

"I'm especially worried about Jesse and Hanzo... You didn't see them when Hanzo first arrived; I thought Jesse was going to kill him on the spot when he realised who Hanzo was."

 

"But Hanzo seemed really worried about Jesse when I went to check up on them in the med bay," Lena says, brow furrowed in concern.

 

"I have no doubt he is," Winston huffs. "Jesse called a truce or something and the two of them talked; now they get along well, but if something happens and they get at each other's throats..."

 

"Oh, I see what you mean..." Lena considers, humming thoughtfully for a few moments. "Well, I guess all I can say is that even if something does happen, you're not going to be of any help anyway if you don't get some sleep; better to come at it a bit late but with a clear head than to try and get ahead of it and end up making it worse because you're too tired to think straight."

 

"But-!"

 

"Winston, love, please. I know you feel responsible for everyone, and you really, really want this to work out ― believe me, I miss the old days too ― but you still need sleep." She gives him that quirky grin that drew him to her in the first place, and adds, "Even if you are a mutant ape."

 

"Gorilla," he corrects with his own grin.

 

"Same dif," she laughs. "Now go on; get some sleep. I'll file my report with Athena for you to review when you wake up, and I'll even keep an eye on everything for you."

 

"I can't ask you to-"

 

"You're not asking; I'm telling," she says firmly, blinking next to him and reaching out to shove him toward the door. "Go on! Don't worry; I'll take care of everything, alright?"

 

Winston hesitates a moment longer, which he can do since she can't move him no matter how long or hard she tries. He really doesn't want to miss anything, and he definitely doesn't want to leave it all on Lena, but she's got a point. Multiple, actually, and he can't come up with any suitable counter arguments, which is proof enough that she's right and he needs to go to sleep. So he sighs his surrender and lets her move him toward the door.

 

"Alright," he agrees reluctantly. "But promise me you'll wake me if anything happens!"

 

"You got it, big guy. Good night!"

 

"Good... Good night."

 

~

 

Ah, at last... A place to curl up and relax; to nap without worrying about the omnic dog or the petite human who found him or the older lady that was with her or the giant gorilla who looks at him like a fascinating specimen of science...

 

Manx is a fascinating specimen of science. But having survived so many years without the pestering and prodding of overly thorough scientists trying to determine how he, of all his siblings, survived, he isn't especially eager to be put under another microscope. Literally or figuratively.

 

He stretches, paws at the grass to flatten it into a good nest, and curls up to nap. He sleeps lightly, and wakes to a bird twittering almost directly above him. Ear twitching, he looks up, suppressing the urge to hunt... and goes perfectly still, staring at the eerily silent behemoth looming over him.

 

It's like some of the omnics he's seen, but bigger, bulkier, and with an enormous tube strapped to its back. One of its arms ends in a gun instead of fingers, but the muzzle is pointed down toward the ground, drooping lazily.

 

"...Hi?" Manx greets cautiously. The omnic tips its head with an almost imperceptible whirr and then chirps a bright greeting, raising its hand to curl its fingers in a robotic wave.

 

Silence returns, each staring at the other, until the bird twitters again and the omnic looks up, listening. Manx also looks up, spotting the culprit on a nearby branch: a small yellow bird with colourful markings.

 

"Friend of yours?" he asks, not really serious or expecting an answer. To his shock, the omnic purrs, pleased, and nods happily. He shifts, still really wanting to hunt but knowing he can't. "Oh... uh... cool."

 

He watches the omnic for a while longer, but after the bird flies off, it seems content to just stand ― squat? ― there and keep him company or whatever it's doing. Eventually he just sighs, shrugs it off, and settles back down to resume his nap; as long as it doesn't disturb him, he's not against a little quiet companionship.

 

The next time he wakes up, the omnic has managed to sit down beside him without waking him, so he shifts to lean against sun-warmed metal and resumes his nap, deciding it's nice to have a new friend.

Chapter Text

A gasp wakes Alex and she blinks into the darkness, for a moment wondering if she imagined it and why. Then her eyes adjust to the dim light of the clock on the nightstand between the beds and she notices Hana carefully slipping out of bed and tiptoeing across the room.

 

"Alex?" she whispers, hesitating beside Alex's bed.

 

"Mm... 's up?" Alex mumbles, just awake enough to understand what's going on but still too asleep to really reply.

 

"Can I- Can I talk to you?"

 

"Nn d middle uh d night?" She shuffles to her elbows and yawns, squinting at Hana. "Y'okay?"

 

"I... had a nightmare," Hana admits quietly. "I promised Dae-hyun I would ask for help if I needed it."

 

For a moment, Alex can't remember who Dae-hyun is, even though Hana's told her about all of the MEKA crew she used to run with. Then her slowly waking brain provides the answer.

 

"Your mechanic, right?"

 

"And one of my best friends," Hana agrees, an odd note of sheepishness in her voice.

 

"You like him?" Alex asks, almost without thinking, a tiny grin tugging at her lips.

 

"Not like- That's not-" Hana makes a small noise of frustration and Alex takes pity on her, sitting up properly with another yawn and patting the bed. Instead of sitting, Hana flops down and drops her head in Alex's lap with a cute little huff. After an instant of surprise, Alex smiles and strokes Hana's hair away from her face.

 

"What do you need help with?" she prompts.

 

"...I had a nightmare." Hana's voice is so small, like she might disappear in a puff of fog, and that's definitely a feeling Alex can relate to.

 

"About what?"

 

"You. And Lucio. And Dae-hyun and Yuna. I-" She breaks off for a moment and Alex waits with sleepy patience. "I almost lost my entire crew at MEKA to a Gwishin attack not long before I joined Overwatch. And right after that, another attack almost killed me. I keep thinking that if I had listened to Dae-hyun more, if I'd relied more on my team instead of trying to do everything my way, then maybe... But it's too late to change anything, and now I- I'm afraid I'm making the same mistakes all over again."

 

"You're a team player," Alex argues, frowning as she traces a fingertip along the shell of Hana's ear. "You listen to everyone and you give good callouts; you have a good sense for battle, I think, and you're good at meshing with those around you, especially when they know what they're doing."

 

"But Lucio and McCree almost died, and you got hurt!" Hana insists, lifting her head to look at Alex, even though it's hard to see in the dim light of the clock.

 

"I've been hurt worse," Alex says with a wry smile. "And it's not like you can help the fact that I'm in near constant pain. As for Mr. McCree and Lucio, you couldn't have known about the sniper. That you managed to stop the second shot is a miracle in itself, and not one I'm questioning."

 

Hana looks away, and though it's too dark to see her expression, Alex knows instinctively that she still blames herself. Reaching out, she gently turns Hana's chin even though it's hard to make out more than the most basic of features.

 

"Hey. We all survived, no fatalities, three casualties, only one of which was truly critical, and even he is going to recover, no problem. We pushed back a highly coordinated attack with hardly any coordination of our own ― how many team building exercises have we done? And we still won. Everyone did their part and paid attention to those around them. We made no mistakes. Understand? We just weren't prepared for the..." Alex suddenly blanks on the term she was going to use. It's right on the tip of her tongue and she falters for a second trying to remember.

 

"The extreme firepower and the hidden sniper?" Hana offers blandly, an odd mix of bitterness and humour in her voice.

 

"No, I was going to say... Oh damn it; words. I'm too tired for this! So much for a pep talk." Then, inexplicably, before Hana can respond, she just as suddenly remembers. "ACE! The ace up their sleeve! Why was that so hard to remember?" Hana laughs, which helps alleviate some of the embarrassment.

 

"Pep talk or not, I definitely feel better," she giggles, scooting up to lay her head on Alex's shoulder. Alex wraps her arms around the younger woman and rests her cheek on the soft tangle of bed-mussed hair.

 

They stay like that for a few comfortable minutes, until Alex realises she's about to fall back asleep. When she moves slightly to look at Hana, the gamer jolts subtly, like she was falling asleep too, and Alex decides they might as well.

 

"Do you want to sleep here for the rest of the night?" she asks quietly, trying not to really disturb either of them.

 

"Mm. Sure," Hana mumbles, pulling away to wrangle the covers out from under herself. Alex shifts back to give her a little room and then settles down while Hana wriggles under the covers.

 

Before Alex can say anything, Hana snuggles up to her chest and drapes an arm over her waist, sighing as she settles. It's not uncomfortable, per se, but Alex isn't sure how to react, so she just lays there, trying to let sleep take over again. Eventually it happens, but she sleeps light, highly aware of the warm body touching hers, and she wakes several times throughout the night when one or the other of them moves.

 

Morning arrives with a persistent beeping from across the room, and Hana stirs, waking Alex again as she sleepily crawls out of bed to go answer her phone. She greets the caller in Korean, yawning widely, and heads for the bathroom, so Alex shifts over into the warmth she left behind.

 

It was odd, sharing a bed with someone else ― even when she lived with Moira, she never really got much in the way of unnecessary touch ― but Alex wonders, in the haze of half-consciousness before she has to drag herself up and out of bed for the day, if Hana would be willing to do it again, because in spite of the light sleeping and constant waking, Alex has never felt more well rested.

 

~

 

" Ay Dios mio , sit still!" Sombra snaps, glaring at her lover. Amelie gives her a bland, mildly impatient look. "Look, I can't bandage it tight enough if you keep moving."

 

"You're lucky I love you."

 

" Te amo tambien, puta , now sit still for five seconds."

 

She finally gets the nasty looking graze on Amelie's upper shoulder bandaged, with a spice-scented medicine packet thing Moira gave them packed tightly against the wound. Free to move now, Amelie stands and stretches, testing the limits of her movement now.

 

"Don't pull it or anything," Sombra warns, cleaning up the remaining supplies. "Moira would kill us both and then I'll kill you all over again."

 

"Your threats are adorable," Amelie chuckles, leaning over to take Sombra's chin and meet her gaze. "It's what I love most about you... your unrepentant opportunistic ways and willingness for violence to get your way."

 

"It's all a game, mi araña ," Sombra smirks, reaching up to wrap the long loose locks of her lover's hair around her fingers to drag her into a fierce kiss. "And I intend to win."

 

When they part, Sombra finishes cleaning up and then plops back down in a bean bag beside the pieces of the Widow's Kiss, Amelie's gun, which she's taking apart to clean.

 

"So. You gonna tell me what happened or do I have to guess?" Sombra asks, shuffling around to a position that lets her toy with Amelie's hair while she works.

 

"I lost a duel," Amelie answers plainly.

 

"And you're still alive?" Sombra notes, brow raised.

 

"She wasn't trying to kill me. But she was aiming for my gun, and I had to retreat."

 

"She?" Amelie stops what she's doing to look at Sombra, something she's never done before; when she cleans the Kiss, no matter what goes on around her, she doesn't stop until it's finished.

 

"Ana Amari." The conviction in her voice tells Sombra that she's certain and no manner of reasoning will convince her otherwise.

 

"You know she's alive?" Sombra asks, surprised.

 

"There is no one on earth who shoots like Ana Amari. I thought I killed her years ago, but her implant must have slowed or diverted my bullet. One day, I will properly kill her, or she will kill me."

 

There's a simple acceptance in those words; Amelie well and truly believes them, and Sombra doesn't quite know how to feel about that. On the one hand, they both live dangerous lives, and it's not like this relationship can last forever, but on the other hand, Amelie is the only person who's ever looked at Sombra as anything more than a nuisance or a pawn; her blunt frankness is refreshing and makes Sombra feel safe and welcome in a way she never has before, and she doesn't want to lose that, to lose the person who makes her feel that.

 

"Olivia?" Amelie is watching her closely, and Sombra realises some of her thoughts must be showing on her features. She smiles and tugs playfully at long midnight locks.

 

"Finish cleaning your gun. I made a new vibe I want to try on you." Amelie cocks a sceptical brow at her.

 

"You know I don't feel pleasure, mon cheri ," she huffs. "And don't think I don't know you're trying to distract me."

 

"It's not important; just got lost in my thoughts for a moment," Sombra dismisses, standing with a teasing smirk. "I think you'll enjoy this vibe, if only using it on me. But I want to test it anyway; one day I'll figure out how to make you feel something."

 

Amelie blinks at her, surprised, and then a slow, faint but genuine smile creeps across her lips.

 

"Olivia," she calls as Sombra is about to enter her inner sanctum. She turns back around with a grin, leaning on the door frame.

 

"¿ Qué paso, mi araña? "

 

"You already make me feel something," Amelie says, a softness in her tone that Sombra's never heard before.

 

"I do?" she asks, taken aback. The smile grows a little and suddenly she wishes she'd met the sweet ballet dancer who charmed so much of Paris.

 

"You do," Amelie confirms, completely at ease with her confession. "You make me happy."

Chapter Text

"Feeling better?" Hana grins, hopping onto the foot of Lucio's bed in the med bay. He looks up from the pieces of machinery spread out in front of him and smiles when he sees her, gaze skipping past her to Alex for a moment before returning to whatever he's doing.

 

"Hey, Hana. Alex. I'm all good, but Baptiste keeps fretting and won't clear me yet."

 

"We were all worried," Alex says, leaning her hip against the footboard and crossing her arms. "That sniper was aiming for you, after all."

 

"Eh. Maybe, maybe not." Lucio shrugs, nonchalant, and Hana wishes she could be as carefree about her near brushes with death.

 

"You don't think they were?" she asks.

 

"I mean, why me?" Lucio returns, glancing up again as he fits two pieces together and clips a third in before putting a screw through all three. "If you've got the time to pick your target, and the element of surprise, why go for one of the newbies? Why not try to go for one of the old members? Why not go for the easier targets: Lena, Ange and Sojourn? Nah, I've been thinking about it and I'm pretty positive the sniper was aiming for Jesse and I just happened to be behind him. I survived because he bodyblocked, obviously, but he only survived because he moved at the last second to push me to the side; if he hadn't moved, that bullet would have been clean through his heart."

 

Alex's breath hitches, a soft noise that Lucio doesn't seem to notice, but because Hana is right there, she notices, and she turns to look at the woman, who's staring uneasily toward Jesse's corner of the room, where he's begging Hanzo for a cigar and being ruthlessly turned down.

 

"So what do you think will happen now?" Hana asks Lucio, still watching Alex watch Jesse.

 

"Dunno. My guess is that Winston's gonna have us do some team stuff this week, and we're probably going to have a lot more reconnaissance missions in the near future to figure out what Talon's next move is."

 

"Don't forget Null Sector," Hana reminds grimly. "The whole reason I'm here is because of my experience fighting omnics."

 

"That too," Lucio nods. "I'm hoping I can finish my new single by the end of the day, because I doubt I'll have the time for it later. At least for a while. And the sooner I start making money off it, the sooner I can get some more funds back home to help my people."

 

"You're working on a new song?" Hana asks, delighted. Then she actually registers what he said. "Wait, why did you join Overwatch if you're still trying to take care of people back home?"

 

"I can do music anywhere," Lucio laughs, adding more pieces to whatever he's building. By now, Hana's beginning to think it's an upgrade for the speakers on his suit. "When Baptiste told me about some of the stuff Overwatch has done, I got interested. I never really paid attention to it in the old days, mostly because I was too young, but also because I was just too focused on finding my place in a world that clearly didn't like me. Didn't help that my dad's life was ruined by Vishkar stealing his work... I had a lot to deal with as a teen."

 

"Wow... I've just been fighting omnics for years."

 

"Hey, everyone has a different story," Lucio winks. "And to be completely honest, yours inspired me to market my album, so be proud of that."

 

"Seriously?" Hana could swear she might explode from pride and excitement. "Ahh! I'm speechless! It's not everyday your favourite artist tells you that you're the one who inspired them!"

 

Whatever Lucio's reply, Baptiste returns then with a big plate of food that he sets on the bed after carefully scooting a couple of pieces of machinery out of the way.

 

"Good morning, Hana; good morning, Alex," he greets, taking the upgrade out of Lucio's hands when he reaches for another piece. "How are you two doing?"

 

"I was still working on that," Lucio protests, pouting.

 

"No, you were eating," Baptiste corrects, nudging the food toward him and setting the upgrade gently in a clear space closer to Hana. "You can work on it after breakfast."

 

"We're good!" Hana answers brightly, glancing at Alex, who blinks and nods quickly when she realises attention is on her. Her mind is clearly elsewhere, and Baptiste and Lucio notice it too.

 

"Are you alright, Alex?" Baptiste asks.

 

"Hm? Yeah," she says, unconvincing. "Just thinking about my next lesson with Master Zenyatta."

 

"Hey, you know you can talk to us, right?" Lucio says, beating Hana to it.

 

"Of course," Alex answers, the tone of her voice saying she doesn't want to. Hana frowns, concerned.

 

After last night, she thought they'd gotten closer; at least close enough for Alex to know that Hana's trustworthy. But maybe there's something else, something Alex is too afraid or ashamed to share with anyone, and it's going to take more than one little late night talk to open up about it.

 

Lucio and Baptiste seem to think similarly, if the looks they exchange are anything to go by. Lucio defers to Baptiste and starts devouring the food.

 

"You both still have the day free, right?" Baptiste asks.

 

"Yeah," Hana nods.

 

"Let's all go into the city and get some new games ― board games, card games, video games ― stuff to spice up the lounge. We might be able to find a better TV and maybe a gaming system or something too."

 

Hana's all over that, but she bites her tongue and waits for Alex to decide. The woman is still somewhat lost in her thoughts, and it takes her a moment to see that everyone's attention is on her.

 

"Uh... Sure. I suppose..."

 

"Awesome!" Hana chirps, bouncing up from the bed. "We'll go clear it with Winston and meet you guys in the hanger, okay?"

 

"Sure thing," Lucio grins, waving as Hana starts dragging Alex along with her.

 

Near the door, Alex falters, and Hana stops when Alex's hand slips from hers. She looks back to see Alex take a half step toward Jesse, who's pouting while Hanzo gives him a lecture on the dangers of constant drug abuse, even nicotine. The lecture pauses when Hanzo sees Alex, and that gets Jesse's attention too.

 

"Hey, Alex," he smiles warmly. "You doin' alright? Heard you pushed yerself a bit hard durin' the fight. How's the pain?"

 

"Um... Same as always, I guess," she offers hesitantly. "I- The worst of it faded by the end of the day."

 

"That's good," he nods approvingly. "Keep practicin' with Zen; you'll get better at it."

 

Alex doesn't answer, and Hana's brows go up when she realises the ever present wisps of steam curling off her have gotten thicker, and her legs are turning hazy. Hanzo and Jesse notice too; Hanzo shifts like he might step toward her, but stops himself.

 

"Alex? Somethin' wrong, sweetheart?" Jesse asks, sitting forward.

 

"...Did you know?" Her voice is so soft that even Hana has a hard time hearing it. "That the sniper was aiming for you?"

 

"For me?" Jesse purses his lips, glancing at Hanzo for a moment. "Well, it wouldn't be much of a surprise, I guess. Just saw the sun glint off metal and knew one of us was in trouble, so I tried to help the nearest person to me. And nobody died, so ain't nothin' to complain about."

 

"But-" Alex cuts off, biting her lip, and then shakes her head. "I'm sorry... I shouldn't have said anything."

 

"Hey," Jesse reaches out, gesturing her closer. Hana catches Hanzo's gaze and jerks her head even as he steps away from the bed to give Alex room to approach. "What's on yer mind, kiddo? Talk to me."

 

Hanzo tugs lightly at Hana's arm, and they step out of the med bay. The conversation is still audible, but at least it gives the semblance of privacy.

 

"Alex?" Jesse prompts after a moment.

 

"I'm sorry," she answers finally, barely audible outside the room. "I wanted- I don't know... After everything you've done for me, I wanted to... repay you, I guess. But all I did was turn their attention on you."

 

"Aw, come on now; it ain't your fault."

 

"Isn't it?" Alex cuts in bitterly. Hana crosses her arms and reminds herself not to interfere. "I chased after Moima for all these years, and I only found her because of you; if you hadn't stepped in, it wouldn't have made them notice you. Now they're going after you to get to me and I-"

 

"Whoa, hey hey hey; slow down there, darlin'! It ain't yer fault I'm on Talon's radar; prob'ly been on it since Moira sold out. And it wasn't me helpin' you find her that put you on their radar either; remember when you got kidnapped?"

 

Hanzo's brow cocks and he casts a glance at Hana, but she just shrugs, frowning; she didn't know about this either.

 

"Yes," Alex replies quietly.

 

"Found out it was someone in Talon wanted you. I checked around for a few years after, but nothing else cropped up; figured they either lost interest or didn't care enough to deal with the trouble. Regardless, they knewa you a long time ago; I ain't got nothin' t'do with it."

 

"But..."

 

"Hey now, don't go beatin' yerself up 'bout it. You wanna do somethin' 'bout it, then get to trainin'; get stronger, better. Make sure the next time someone hits, you hit back harder."

 

"...Okay."

 

"Good. Come 'ere."

 

There's a moment of quiet, and then Alex slips from the room. Without hesitation, Hanzo steps past her to enter, and Hana pushes a smile to her lips.

 

"Hey! Ready to go?" she asks, feigning ignorance. Alex blinks at her, looks at the door, and flushes in realisation.

 

"Yeah," she says sheepishly, not meeting Hana's gaze.

 

The walk to Winston's office is quiet and a bit more awkward than Hana hoped, but she can't think what to say to alleviate it. When they arrive, Winston is nowhere to be seen, but the girl that came in with Angela and the injured woman is there, lounging on a tire.

 

"Oh hullo!" she greets, hopping to her feet. Her English accent is heavy but warm and welcoming. "Don't think we've been introduced yet. Name's Lena Oxton, but I go by Tracer. And you are?"

 

"Wait, the Tracer?" Hana asks, surprised. "But you're so young!" Tracer bursts into giggles, holding her sides.

 

"You flatter me! I'm a lot older than I look; hazard of being caught in time." She taps the glowing circle on her chest. "This thing's the only reason I can stay at any given when now. Anyway, I didn't catch your names, love."

 

"Oh, sorry; I'm Hana Song and this is Alex."

 

"Oh we've met," Tracer grins, winking at Alex, who smiles lightly.

 

"Hey, Tracer. Been a while, hasn't it?"

 

Hana glances between them, surprised that they know each other. Between this and the kidnapping thing, she's realising how little she actually knows about Alex.

 

"That it has," Tracer laughs. "So what can I help you with, ladies?"

 

"We're actually looking for Winston," Hana answers. "We were wondering if it's possible to go out with Lucio and Baptiste to shop for some games."

 

"Hmm... Seems a bit dangerous to do so soon after the attack," Tracer hums, scratching her jaw thoughtfully. "Might be Talon operatives wandering around town."

 

"We'll be careful," Hana promises, clasping her hands together and batting her eyelashes pleadingly. "Please?"

 

"You could probably do with a morale boost," Tracer smiles. "Two hours, and I'm sending Mei and the K9 unit, Kannus, with you, if Zenyatta doesn't mind."

 

"Yes!" Hana cheers, eager to bond with her peers over her favourite pastime. She grabs Alex's hand and hurries out, calling over her shoulder, "Thank you so much, Tracer; we'll be extra careful, promise!"

Chapter Text

They look so happy. Mei can't help the nostalgic smile that tugs at her lips as she watches the four youngest laugh and joke with each other. Without their gear and guns, they look like a group of college kids, just enjoying the sunny warmth that's growing more and more rare the deeper into the year they get. Hana has her arms threaded through Alex's and Lucio's. Lucio surreptitiously curled his pinky around Baptiste's and hasn't let go since. Even Alex, who looked uneasy and anxious when they all gathered in the hanger, is now giggling at something Lucio said about the impossibility of ever catching him in a dress and Hana's subsequent offer to take that as a challenge.

 

Mei sighs, and Kannus looks up at her, whining softly as it bumps her hand with its muzzle. She manages a smile for it, more genuine and heartfelt this time.

 

"I'm alright. I wish I could have brought Snowball, but the silly thing used up too much power during the fight and needs to charge up again."

 

Kannus chuffs, but unlike Zenyatta, Mei doesn't understand what it might be trying to say, so she just pats its head, which seems to satisfy it. They walk in fairly companionable silence behind the quartet as the residential outskirts of the city give way to small businesses and fancier buildings. The others are just pausing to discuss where they want to start when Kannus perks up, staring deeper into the city.

 

"Hold on, guys," Mei calls to the others, watching it. "Kannus noticed something." All four turn to look at the dog, who hasn't moved.

 

"What's up?" Hana asks curiously, releasing Lucio's arm to pull her pinging phone from her pocket. Lucio peeks over her shoulder, but whatever he says, Mei misses it because Kannus suddenly takes off like a shot.

 

"Kannus, wait!" she cries, running after the dog.

 

After several blocks and a couple of turns, Kannus stops in front of a disconcertingly rundown establishment so seedy that Mei can't tell if it's supposed to be a club, a bar, an inn, or none of the above. Kannus sits on the sidewalk near the front door, ears perked as it stares at the door and whines.

 

Only when Mei catches up to it does she realise the others didn't follow, or else got lost on the way. Pushing down the rising lump of anxiety in her throat, she steps up beside the dog and hesitantly touches its head.

 

"Where are we?" she asks quietly, too aware of how empty the street is; this place is a den of thieves and ruffians, certainly, and she has the sudden desire to run back the way she came.

 

Kannus whines again, this time with an aborted motion toward the door, like it wants to enter but doesn't dare leave its post. Mei winces with the realisation that she's probably going to have to enter the dilapidated building against her wishes.

 

"If I'm going in there," she says, curling her fingers against the smooth metal of Kannus' head, "you're coming with me." The dog stands, looking up at her in anticipation.

 

Every fibre of Mei's being is screaming at her to run, to get away from whatever unseen danger lies in wait inside, but she ignores it, taking a deep breath to calm herself, and steps up to the door. With a shaky hand, she opens it, half expecting to be shot or stabbed the moment she enters. Instead, she steps into a wide open room full of tables and chairs, all wooden and rather rickety looking. Smoke that stings her nose and tongue with the acrid bitterness of cigarettes fills the room, giving it the dusky feeling of evening despite the fact that sunset is still several hours out, a feeling that compounds when the door creaks ominously shut behind her and blocks out the sun. Here and there are some shady looking people, clustered in small groups of two or three or four, and most of them are watching her now, which sends a shudder up her spine and makes her skin crawl.

 

Kannus butts up against her thigh and then trots deeper into the room, and she's left with no choice but to follow, trying hard to ignore the gazes tracking her. The dog goes to a booth in the back, where a lone woman is slumped over the table, seemingly asleep. Mei approaches tentatively, unsure whether or not to wake her. Before she can decide, Kannus makes the decision for her; it knocks its head firmly against the woman's knee, jostling her, and she jolts upright, hands thumping the table as she readies to lunge out of the booth. But then she pauses, whatever exclamation she was about to make dying on her sneering lips as she spots Kannus, who gives a small, pleasant yip.

 

"Боже ты мой, not you again!" she growls with a heavy Russian accent, glaring at the dog. "Lynx is not here, you infernal mutt; go away!"

 

Kannus chuffs and turns, only to circle around Mei's legs and sit at her side. Mei manages a weak, perplexed smile and raises one hand in a hesitant wave.

 

"Hi. Um. I'm Mei. I don't know why Kannus brought me here."

 

The woman eyes her up and down narrowly, no doubt taking in her short stature, her extra clothes, her carefully tied bun. It's fair, since Mei can't help but stare at the woman's cropped pink hair and impossible expanse of muscle.

 

"...Do you know anything about Sombra?" the woman asks finally, voice noticeably lower and eyes narrowed further in suspicion.

 

"About what?" Mei replies, even more confused now. The woman rolls her eyes, letting out an irritated huff and sitting back to cross thick arms over a large chest.

 

"Figures. Just my luck... Contact never shows, and instead I get the freaky canine and a piece of fluff. Look, girl, you don't want to be here. It's dangerous for someone so... small and weak."

 

That pricks at Mei, and she bristles, setting a hand on Kannus' head to remind herself not to do anything that might look aggressive or threatening; the woman might be dismissive of her, but the rest of this place probably won't be.

 

"I am not weak," she counters, annoyed. "I may not be able to lift like you, but I would bet you can't calculate a formula to create ice in a tropical setting that won't melt in an instant. Just because I don't have muscle doesn't mean I'm weak."

 

The woman stares blandly at her for a moment, and then stands. Mei silently curses herself for flinching back from the woman's incredible size, and her frustration grows when the woman smirks.

 

"You wouldn't last five seconds against anyone in this place, котенок. But it's cute you think so."

 

Mei is not an angry person. In fact, she prides herself on having the longest fuse of anyone she's ever met. But in that moment, anger bubbles up in her chest, hot and heavy. She opens her mouth, but catches herself before she says something that'll get her in trouble. Instead, she closes her eyes and takes a deep, slow, calming breath. When she opens them, the anger has died down to a low simmer of determination, and she meets the woman's gaze.

 

"Care to bet?" she asks, feeling an unusually strong need to prove herself capable.

 

Most likely this is because she let Alex strain herself during the battle, and if she stopped to think about it, she'd realise that her inadequacies in a proper fight are more than redeemed by other things and that there's no reason to engage in meaningless contests and shows of brazen brashness to prove herself to a complete stranger.

 

But she doesn't stop to think.

 

"Oh, a betting type, huh?" the woman hums, amused. She strokes her jaw for a moment, considering, sizing Mei up again, and then nods curtly. "Alright then. Loser buys drinks. I'll even let you pick the duel. But I pick the opponent."

 

"Deal," Mei agrees, blood pounding through her. She hasn't felt so determined to prove her worth since the day she arrived in Antarctica. Looking around, she realises their conversation was loud enough to get everyone's attention, and all of them are watching with interest now.

 

Every single person in the place is male, older, and larger than Mei.

 

For a moment, she feels a queasy sense of defeat, until she remembers that she doesn't have to get physical with anyone. She does a quick mental assessment of everyone's capabilities while the Russian woman peruses her options. Several of the men puff up their chests, trying to catch the woman's attention so she'll pick them, but eventually she points to what must be the smallest, weakest man in the room. Even he is a good foot and a half taller than Mei, and about as big around, but mostly stolid muscle.

 

"You there," the woman calls. "Come duel my friend and prove my point."

 

"With pleasure," the man grins, abandoning his drink and his companion without hesitation to approach them.

 

Immediately Mei notices that the man favours his right leg, only just, and that it doesn't bend very well at the knee. She suspects it's a prosthetic, which means he's probably been in fights before. The scarring that mars the side of his neck and disappears beneath his collar adds to that point, and by the time he stands in front of her, she already has a plan.

 

"You get one chance to put me in a headlock," she says, confident in her victory. "On my mark."

 

"No problem," he smirks, rolling his shoulders and cracking his knuckles.

 

"Ready... Go."

 

He barely reaches out before she ducks into his space and rams her shoulder into his right hip, pushing back and down with all her weight. Just as calculated, the prosthetic can't quite compensate and he stumbles back, crashing into the table behind him.

 

For a moment, there's stunned silence in the room, broken only by the creak of the floorboards as Mei stands upright and dusts herself off, pleased as can be.

 

Then the Russian woman bursts out laughing, and several of the other occupants start snickering, most of them going back to whatever they were doing while the beaten man scowls and skulks back to his seat.

 

"I like you, котенок," the woman beams, thumping Mei's shoulder with enough force that she almost falls over. "It's my pleasure to buy you a drink."

 

"Ah, no, thank you," Mei says quickly, raising her hands. "I don't drink."

 

"Something non-alcoholic, then," the woman says, waving toward the opposite side of the room, where Mei now sees a small bar and a bored looking woman in skimpy clothing. The Russian woman urges Mei toward her booth. "Sit sit! Now, tell me, what brings you here?"

 

"Um... I just followed-" Abruptly Mei remembers the others, and horror fills her as she realises she's neglected her duty to watch out for them. "Oh! I can't stay! I'm so sorry, Miss...?"

 

"Call me Zarya," the woman grins. "I'll be in town for a few more days, so come back soon and we'll have that drink."

 

"I... I'll try." Mei can't bring herself to say no; in spite of their unorthodox meeting, and Zarya's initial hostility, there's something undeniably charming about the woman. And if Kannus wanted them to meet, there has to be a reason. "It was a pleasure to meet you, I think."

 

"I know it was a pleasure," Zarya laughs. "You've brightened what was becoming a very frustrating trip. I look forward to our next meeting!"

 

Mei doesn't know what to say to that, so she gives an awkward little wave and hurries out of the building. Kannus follows, and she gives it a dark look once they're back out in the sunlight.

 

"You got me into this, now take me back," she demands. "I'm supposed to be keeping an eye on the kids." Kannus whumphs and trots in the direction from which they came, and Mei trails after it.

 

When they find the others, Lucio and Hana are in the window of a store, engaged in a deep discussion over what looks to be game discs, while Alex and Baptiste are seated outside, basking in the sunlight.

 

"Welcome back," Baptiste smiles. "Have fun?"

 

"I'm not entirely sure," Mei admits. "But I know one thing for certain; if you four had followed me, the meeting I just had would have been a lot less interesting."

 

Chapter Text

"How long until Akande has me killed?" Moira looks up with a perplexed frown, and Gabriel stifles the desire to strangle her. "You're not stupid, Moira, so stop playing dumb."

 

"Watch your tone with me, Gabriel," she warns, cocking a brow at him and returning to the data scrolling up her screens. "I can still make you hurt in ways you cannot possibly fathom."

 

"Answer the damn question."

 

"You assume I have an answer to give in the first place."

 

"You always have answers, even when I don't want to admit it."

 

"Nice to know you're finally seeing reason," she purrs, smiling coolly at him. He growls, but refrains from wiping it off her face, if only barely.

 

"Moira..."

 

"Even if I did know what Akande has planned for you ― which, I repeat, I do not ― why would I share it with you?"

 

"Alex." She goes still, her spine more rigid than he's ever seen it, and then suddenly, she vanishes in a wisp. A blade practically materialises at his throat as her body presses to his back.

 

"If you tell anyone about her," Moira hisses sharply against his hood, "you won't have to worry about what Akande has planned for you, because I will tear you apart faster than you can say 'oops'; are we perfectly clear?"

 

"As you said years ago," Gabriel returns, not particularly concerned since he has no intention of mentioning Alex to anyone else, "I'm just securing my exit strategy."

 

Moira doesn't move for a long moment. Then, as if in afterthought, the blade moves away and he turns to see her standing with one arm across her waist, elbow braced on wrist as she taps her lips in thought. He can't see where she put the knife, but he's not sure he wants to know.

 

"I don't think I can help you this time," she says finally, shaking her head. "I don't plan on going anywhere." Gabriel scowls and opens his mouth to snap at her, but she reaches out and touches a silencing finger to his mask. In response to his startled confusion, she taps her ear and nods vaguely around the room. "I'm sorry."

 

"Fine, then I'll go find someone who can," he grunts, realising what he should have remembered: that Akande has ears everywhere, courtesy of Sombra. Now he understands why her reaction was so quick and quietly vicious.

 

As he leaves, she slips something into his pocket, and he feels the negligible weight of it burning a hole through his pocket all the way to his living quarters. Once safely in his room, where he's certain of no cameras at least, he takes it out.

 

A small sheet of paper with Moira's delicate handwriting.

 

Akande knows about your boyfriend, and he's made several plans to attack the Gibraltar base using the schematics I provided years ago. You are only still at the table so he can keep an eye on you, and because your brutality hasn't flagged and is therefore useful in other areas. Let Overwatch deal with the attacks; interfering will only incite action against you. I've placed a request with Sombra for your "relocation," but you are closer to her than I; you should see if she is willing to help.

 

There's nothing in the note regarding the conversation they just had, and Gabriel suspects she wrote it some time ago and was merely awaiting an opportunity to give it to him. At least now he knows how they got up the cliffs and provided Amelie with a shot at the most vulnerable parties. What's more, he knows Akande is gunning hard for Overwatch now and won't stop until they fall apart again.

 

Taking out his private phone ― the one Akande can't possibly know about; the one Jack and Ana gave him and that he's used for any clandestine contacts since ― he sends two messages. The first is to Sombra, asking her to put him in contact with Baptiste. The second is to Jack, warning him that more attacks are on the way and advising him to prepare for war.

 

~

 

Baptiste lives for the smile on Lucio's face whenever he plays games. Personally, Baptiste has never really been one for games, neither video nor board, but he can handle the confusion and dumb moves and inevitable defeat if it means he gets to watch Lucio come alive almost as much as when he's working on his music.

 

Lucio and Hana are engaged in a fierce brawl in some kind of two-person pvp fighting game while Alex dozes in a veil of fog in the corner of the couch, and Baptiste is entirely content to sit beside Lucio and watch them annihilate each other, listen to them shit talk each other and laugh at their own stupidity whenever one makes a mistake that gives the other a point. He pays more attention to the way Lucio nibbles on his lip in concentration than what's happening on the screen, to the excited tension along Lucio's spine instead of the series of combos one or the other manages to pull off, to the intensity of Lucio's grip on the controller rather than the results of the obvious moments of straight up button mashing.

 

His visual worship of his boyfriend's body is cut short by the unexpected buzz of the pager he always carries, tucked deep in the folds of his clothing. Digging it out, he checks the message, and frowns.

 

"Everything okay?" Lucio asks. When Baptiste glances at him, a small piece of him explodes with joy to see the musician's attention completely on him, interested with a tinge of concern.

 

"Fine, I think," Baptiste assures, rubbing at Lucio's back between the shoulder blades. "I'll be right back; I need to make a call."

 

"You sure it's okay?" Lucio frowns, ignoring the fact that Hana took advantage of his distraction to combo KO his character.

 

"Pretty sure," Baptiste nods, fighting back a smile. "I'll explain when I know what's up. Keep enjoying yourself; I'm sure it's nothing important."

 

To his utter and delighted shock, Lucio leans over to touch a quick, light kiss to his cheek, casually returning to the game like that wasn't the first time he's initiated anything physical beyond a few touches of his hand or sitting close enough to brush shoulders and thighs.

 

"Hurry back," he says, already distracted by the game again. "Hana, I swear to God, you're gonna pay for that!"

 

"Yeah, right!" Hana cackles. "It's 3-0 in my favour; I just need one more win and it's game over, frog boy!"

 

"It's 3-1; are you blind?" Lucio laughs as Baptiste reluctantly steps away to go find the old payphone at the edge of the base that must have been installed decades before Overwatch was even an idea in some guy's head. By punching in three different codes, he can bypass the paywall to contact Sombra directly, and she answers almost immediately.

 

"Hey there. Got some news for you."

 

"Is it about the attack that just hit us?" Baptiste asks sceptically. "Because right now, that's about all I'm interested in."

 

"Sort of. How's Jesse McCree doing?"

 

"He'll live. No thanks to Widow."

 

"She only follows orders; you know that. Tell me you haven't killed some people you'd rather have left alive even if it meant they might come back to kill you."

 

"What's the news?"

 

"There's someone who wants to meet you. Don't worry; I know for a fact it's not a trap."

 

"Who?"

 

"Do you really want to know? Or do you trust me enough to meet without knowing?"

 

"I trust you just fine," Baptiste snorts, unable to help the smile tugging at his lips. "It's the mystery person I don't know if I can trust."

 

"Maybe it'll help to know he's already a double agent."

 

"Yeah? You mean Sunshine?"

 

"Sunshine?"

 

"Ah, right... One of the other new members, Soldier 76, has a Talon contact that he only calls Sunshine." Sombra bursts out laughing over the line, and Baptiste's brows go up with intrigued interest.

 

"I know exactly who that is, and he is never living this down!" she manages finally, mirth slowly dying down. "I'm certain it is, in fact, Sunshine, but I wouldn't call him that if I were you. I'm setting up a meeting because he needs to chat with you. How soon can you do that?"

 

"Uh, soon, I guess? I'll have to talk to Winston."

 

They back and forth the details until they find something soon enough to satisfy Sombra while still giving Baptiste enough time to prepare, and then Baptiste pauses, too curious not to ask.

 

"Hey, Liv. Who is Sunshine?"

 

"Let's just say he's the exact opposite of a ray of sunshine. He can be trusted, so don't freak out when you meet him, okay?"

 

"You know me; I never freak out over anything," he scoffs.

 

"Uh huh. Go kiss your boyfriend back already."

 

"How do you know- That literally just happened!"

 

"I know everything, Jean; you know that. Wouldn't be much of a hacker if I didn't. "

 

"Are you in the base?"

 

"Yes, I'm totally camped out in your closet."

 

"You know what I mean."

 

"What do you think?"

 

"Have you...?" He knows he should ask, but he can't quite bring himself to actually say the words.

 

"No. I wouldn't do you like that. Besides, it's no fun. I told them it was too much of a bother to try and get past your systems, that I'd need to be on-site to even attempt it, and that it's a suicide mission I'd rather avoid. And to be fair, I did struggle to get in; that monkey is surprisingly good at what he does, and Athena's base AI is a repurposed God Programme anyway; it took me actual months to get past them. Pretty sure Athena knows I'm there, too; she's blocked me out of the briefing rooms and the command centre completely, so I only really have access to the rest of the base."

 

"Huh. Is that why this... payphone thing we have works?"

 

"No, that's an exploit I came up with myself, and it works anywhere in the world, as long as the payphone works."

 

"Right. Remind me not to be in sight of any cameras the next time I want to make out with my boyfriend."

 

"Please," Sombra snickers. "The day you two actually make out is the day I dress up as Santa and send you a condom."

 

"You are so weird."

 

"It's a talent. Go on back to your froggy music man, and don't forget your meet! I won't remind you!"

 

"I know, I know." He hesitates a moment and then adds, "Thanks, Liv."

 

"My pleasure. Good luck, Jean."

 

After hanging up, he returns to the lounge, where Hana is playing a single-player campaign now while Lucio is stretched out across his space and Baptiste's, his head settled comfortably in Hana's lap. Alex is awake now, the fog mostly gone, and she's watching with interest as Hana expertly guns down the npc enemies.

 

"Hey," Lucio grins when he notices Baptiste hovering in the doorway to just take it all in; he may be the oldest of them, but he feels more comfortable and at home with them than he does with anyone else on the base.

 

"Hey," he replies, moving to the couch. Lucio lifts his legs in anticipation, so Baptiste sits and pulls the musician's legs onto his lap.

 

"How'd it go?"

 

"Good, I think. My contact is setting up a meet with someone who needs to talk to me. I'll let Winston know later."

 

"Shouldn't you go talk to him now?" Alex asks, leaning against the back of the couch to look at him over Hana's head.

 

"I have a few days," he shrugs. "And he's been in meetings with some of the older and original members all morning."

 

"Probably still better to see him sooner than later," Lucio points out, sitting up and taking his hand. "Come on, I'll walk with you."

 

They're just reaching the briefing rooms, where Winston's been holed up for much of the day, when Angela dashes around the corner and crashes into Lucio, knocking him into Baptiste as she scrambles to right herself. With a quickly muttered apology, she bursts into the room ahead of them. Exchanging a surprised glance, Lucio and Baptiste hurry after her, just in time to hear Winston speaking over her to calm her down.

 

"That's it," he coaxes as they pause in the doorway. Angela is a trembling mess, looking like she might collapse in a puddle of tears at any moment, which Baptiste didn't think was even possible given how strong and stern she could be. Winston pats her back gently, comforting. "Now start over. What happened?" Taking a shuddering breath, Angela forces out the words.

 

"Fareeha's been taken by Null Sector!"

Chapter Text

"I'm not a miracle worker," Angela breathes, stepping back and pressing the back of her wrist to the ache behind her eye, "but I think we did it."

 

"He's stable," Shrike agrees with a curt nod, her normally strict tone undercut with relief. "You did well, Angela."

 

"I owe it to all of you," she smiles tiredly, slowly peeling off the blood stained gloves and dropping them in the trash. "He would have died without your help."

 

"He'll be alright, won't he?" Brigitte asks, reaching for Jesse's hand but stopping herself.

 

"They both will," Angela assures, patting her shoulder. "You've come a long way, Brigitte; I'm proud of you." The girl beams, relaxing.

 

"I'll check on Lucio and Baptiste. You should get some sleep; you look dead on your feet."

 

"No promises," Angela smiles, biting back a yawn. "I still have to take care of Sojourn."

 

"I'll help you," Shrike says, rounding the table.

 

"If you have no need for me," Zenyatta speaks up softly, "I would like to be excused." He's been quieter than usual, and Angela suspects his healing experience leans more toward recovery than immediate medical attention. No doubt he isn't used to so much blood and stress, and truthfully, she can't fault him for it.

 

"We should be able to manage," she nods. "However, I suspect Sojourn will benefit greatly from your assistance in the future, considering she is nearly as much machine as Genji."

 

"I will be available when required," he assures, bowing his head. "Excuse me."

 

After he leaves, Angela dips into the waiting area outside the med bay to inform those who stuck around that both Jesse and Lucio will survive, and that Sojourn is currently stable. Hanzo requests to sit with Jesse, and Angela sees no harm in it, so she allows him to enter, chiding the rest to get some rest.

 

Several hours later, Sojourn is peacefully resting in a medically induced coma, and Angela is only on her feet by pure force of will.

 

"Sleep, Angela," Shrike says gently, guiding her out of the med bay. "You've done what you can, and the rest is up to their bodies. Now you need to rest."

 

Before Angela can work up a reply, the last remaining soul in the waiting area stands and says her name. It takes a moment for her to recognise the sweet little girl she remembers in the face of the beautiful young woman standing here now.

 

"Fareeha?" She smiles warmly, relieved, and Angela has the urge to embrace her.

 

"I'm glad you're alright," Fareeha whispers, dropping her gaze to her clasped hands. "I'm glad I was here to help." Shrike clears her throat subtly.

 

"Miss Amari, make sure she gets some sleep, please." She firmly pushes Angela toward Fareeha, and then walks away before either of them can say anything.

 

"I'm fine," Angela frowns, all too aware that she's on the verge of passing out. "This is nothing compared to my residency."

 

"You shouldn't tax yourself," Fareeha says with a soft smile, reaching out to take her arm. "They need you. We all do."

 

"I'm fine," Angela insists again, but doesn't fight when Fareeha tugs her toward her room. "I'm sure you need rest too; you don't have to worry about me."

 

"I always worry about you." She looks at Fareeha, a tiny part of her brain realising the woman is taller than her now, but Fareeha keeps her gaze on the corridor ahead of them.

 

"Why?" she asks without stopping to think about it. She doesn't even really register that she asked until Fareeha glances at her and then quickly looks away, pink creeping into her cheeks.

 

"I just do."

 

Angela watches her closely, trying to parse out her expression, her body language; to piece together what she actually means. They're approaching the door to Angela's room when it hits her and she stops in the hall, just as Fareeha is reaching out.

 

"Fareeha Amari," she states, surprised. "Do you have a crush on me?" The blush that burns its way across Fareeha's cheeks is answer enough, but amazingly, she manages to look up, to meet Angela's gaze.

 

"Yes," she answers simply. "I've had a crush on you for years. Since before Overwatch was disbanded. I think even before the Venice thing."

 

"You were a child," Angela protests, trying to wrap her head around this.

 

"I grew up," Fareeha shrugs. "So did my feelings."

 

"It's projection-"

 

"It isn't. I've tried to be with others. I've dated, had sex, buried myself in work; I've tried everything to stop feeling for you, but it never worked. Not for long. I have long since given up; I'm simply doomed to unrequited love. It isn't new to me, and I don't expect anything to change." Taking a breath, like that's the end of the conversation, she opens the door and gestures for Angela to enter. "Go on. You need your sleep."

 

When she turns to leave, Angela reacts instinctively, grabbing her wrist.

 

"Wait. I-" She falters, and the way Fareeha's breath catches, the way she steels herself for dismissal, it breaks Angela's heart. "I'm too tired to fully process this; to give you a proper response. Stay here; we can both rest. In the morning, we can talk. Or, rather, when we wake."

 

"You can't do that to me, Angela," Fareeha says softly, reaching for her face and diverting at the last moment to brush loose blonde locks back instead. "You have no idea how much it hurts just to stand here with you; to share a bed like we used to, even just to share a room, would kill me."

 

"But you'll leave," Angela protests, tightening her grip on Fareeha's wrist almost without realising it. "Just like before; I'll wake up and you'll be gone."

 

"I won't leave," Fareeha promises, a soft, painful smile on her lips. "I'll call my superior and extend my leave for another day. When you're ready to talk, I'll be in my old room, with Brigitte."

 

"You won't run while I'm asleep?"

 

"I won't run."

 

"Good. I'll sleep on it and see you in the morning."

 

"When you wake up," Fareeha corrects with a light chuckle. She hesitates like she wants to say more, and Angela waits, tired but curious. To her surprise, Fareeha leans in quickly and kisses her cheek. "Sleep well, almalak ."

 

She's gone before Angela recovers, so, perplexed and off-balanced by everything she learned, Angela closes the door behind her and collapses into bed. Her last thought is how grown up Fareeha must be to so readily accept heartbreak in a heart that hasn't even been broken yet.

 

~

 

When Angela finally does wake, she realises with a surge of exasperation and unease that she's been sleeping for nearly 12 straight hours and no one bothered to wake her. Muttering to herself, she cleans up, showers, puts her hair up in a damp bun, and dresses in skinny jeans and a thick sweater with a large collar. It's only after she's finished and walking out the door that she recognises her subconscious mind chose to wear some of her nicest clothes.

 

It occurs to her then, as she follows the rumbling of her stomach to the kitchen for a quick bite before finding Fareeha, that if her subconscious is trying to look good for the woman, then some part of her, no matter how small, must be attracted. And while she's never been one to care about gender, she can't stop thinking of Fareeha as the precious young teen with stars in her eyes and a head as stubborn as her mother's.

 

This... could be an issue. Either she's having extremely problematic desires that she needs to disperse immediately and root out as soon as possible, or she has two very different views of who Fareeha is warring inside her. Either way, something needs to be done, and preferably before Fareeha gets her answer.

 

Brigitte is in the kitchen with Reinhardt and Echo when Angela enters. Echo is in the corner, her face placid and still; she must be in sleep mode or something. Brigitte and Reinhardt are sitting in companionable silence, playing checkers.

 

"Hah! King me," Reinhardt grins before glancing up to see who entered. "Ah! The sleeping angel awakens!"

 

"Good morning, Reinhardt," she smiles. "Or, rather... I suppose it's night time now."

 

"It's not that late," Brigitte beams. "Are you hungry? I made a stew for supper and there were some leftovers, in spite of Rein's best efforts."

 

"I could have eaten it all!" the crusader protests. "But it would be rude of me to devour the portions of those who haven't eaten yet."

 

Brigitte and Angela laugh, and the former stands to help the latter find and heat up the leftovers. After a warm supper and a small conversation, Angela excuses herself to go find Fareeha, who Brigitte suggested might be in the training centre with Genji.

 

Sure enough, Angela finds her sparring with the ninja while Zenyatta looks on. For once, Kannus is nowhere to be seen, and Angela approaches the monk to ask while she waits for the end of the round.

 

"Where is your pet?" she asks teasingly, leaning against the wall beside Zenyatta. He hums pleasantly in acknowledgement, still focused on the duo dodging around each other with fluid grace and teasing taunts.

 

"Kannus is accompanying Mei in keeping watch over Hana, Alex, Lucio and Baptiste on an excursion into the city," he explains. "Miss Tracer allowed them to leave for some much needed fun after the stress of the battle; they should be returning soon."

 

"...How are you doing?" she asks carefully after a moment. His attention swings to her and she hastily adds, "You seemed a bit overwhelmed after helping me with Jesse."

 

"I... suffered," he admits quietly, looking back at the pair now in a pile on the mats, wrestling for the upper hand. "The memory of my master's death tormented me; I believed at the time that I would be next. But good came of it; I gained the courage to face Genji's feelings for me, and we have spent many hours talking and exploring the dynamics of our new relationship."

 

"You're dating?" Angela clarifies, brows raised.

 

"Yes," comes the easy answer. Zenyatta puffs up slightly with a youthful pride, reminding her of how young he is in years, as he adds, "We are lovers. And I am fully committing my life to him, as he has to me."

 

"You aren't bothered by the age difference?"

 

"I am an omnic, Dr. Ziegler; I was created with an adult mentality and therefore possessed the ability to consent from my 'birth.' Every individual has shortcomings; mine are merely in my lack of experience."

 

"And he doesn't see you as a child," Angela says, more to herself than to him, turning her gaze to the pair on the mats. Genji is doing something with his shoulder, chuckling at whatever Fareeha is saying as she stretches.

 

"...If I may, Dr. Ziegler," Zenyatta speaks up after a moment, catching her attention again. "Would you really be questioning yourself if you truly believed her to be too young for you? Would you not simply turn her down directly?" Angela huffs a small laugh, smiling wryly at him.

 

"Of course you know she confessed; why am I not surprised?"

 

"Humans say far more than the words they speak," he purrs. Is it just her imagination, or is he just a little bit smug about it? "Fortunately, I have a talent for hearing the unspoken."

 

"So I am coming to see," she scoffs. Taking a breath, she looks back at Fareeha, who's noticed her; she's watching them, but still talking to Genji, and Angela feels heat creep up her neck. Looking away, she asks before she loses her nerve. "I don't suppose you have any advice?"

 

"I have only the advice that I wish had been given me in my own struggle: Courage is not a lack of fear; courage is recognising your fear and proceeding in spite of it. She is not a child, and to hold yourself back merely because you can recall her childhood is an insult not only to her, but to yourself. Give her, and yourself, a chance."

 

"And if it doesn't work?"

 

"You will never know unless you try."

 

"I don't like risks," she frowns.

 

"Is it not a risk to continue living? Everything comes with a risk; are you willing to let what may be the best thing in your life pass you by for fear of the risks it may involve?"

 

Considering that, Angela nibbles on her lip for a moment. Then she looks up, her gaze immediately captured by Fareeha's. The woman looks no different than she did when Angela returned with Lena and Sojourn, other than being more relaxed; she shows no sign of pining, as though she's content to live with this one-sided emotion.

 

It occurs to Angela that Fareeha has made her choice. That she's already given up her heart, even if Angela never notices.

 

In that moment, she makes her decision. Pushing away from the wall, she walks across to stand over the pair still seated on the mats, crossing her arms.

 

"Well?" Fareeha's brows go up and Angela ignores Genji's snicker. "I think it's time to talk."

Chapter Text

"Dinner first," Angela insists, much to Fareeha's dismay.

 

"Angela..."

 

"Don't pout; I'm trying not to treat you like a child."

 

That's entirely fair, and Fareeha quickly bites her lips to stop the pout, drawing herself up a little straighter; she won't do anything to make Angela see her as a child anymore if she can help it, not now that she finally has a chance to prove herself. More than that, to prove her love.

 

"Shouldn't we let Winston know we're leaving the base?" she asks, absently tracing her wedjat.

 

"Winston is sleeping," Angela hums, pulling her glasses down to the bridge of her nose as she peruses her phone for information. "Lena is watching over things in his absence, and has given us permission to visit the city so long as we're careful not to draw attention to ourselves."

 

"Where are we going?" Fareeha asks, intrigued.

 

"I have a few places in mind, but I can't seem to find their hours of operation," Angela frowns, clicking off her phone and tucking it into her back pocket as she slides the glasses back up to the top of her head. "I suppose we'll have to visit them and see for ourselves if any of them are still open this late. If all else fails, I believe there's a bar not far from the base; Jack used to frequent it on his days off."

 

"He took days off?"

 

"When I barred him from working," she smiles slyly. Fareeha cackles, all too aware of how it feels to be a workaholic; today is the first day in years she hasn't been doing something work related, and she's struggling to contain her giddiness.

 

"I see you were busy while I showered," she notes, bumping Angela's arm teasingly. The doctor's smile turns innocent.

 

"Well, I couldn't let you do all the work." She falters only for a moment before adding with a hesitant note, "What kind of girlfriend would I be if I didn't put effort into the first date?"

 

Fareeha's breath catches and for a moment she can't even think. The words 'date' and 'girlfriend' rattle around in her head, loudly repeating over and over as pure joy bubbles up until it spills over in a half-suppressed shudder of delight. She doesn't try to speak; reaching out, she takes Angela's hand, threading their fingers together and squeezing tightly. Her heart soars when Angela squeezes back, and it's all she can do to keep herself from melting in a puddle of bliss.

 

She's on cloud nine even after they walk away from the third closed place on Angela's list of possible restaurants. They joke that the staff keep closing down when they see the pair of them on the way, and decide to see if the bar is still open.

 

"It might not even be in business anymore," Angela hums as they walk, casually observing the few others brave enough to take on the late evening chill. "It has been over ten years now, after all."

 

"If it isn't open, we can pick up some groceries at the store and I'll make you something back at- at home." Angela smiles at her catch, and takes a deep breath.

 

"It's such a lovely night," she sighs. "I've always loved seeing the sky on fire at sunset; watching the colours dim and darken into the deepest of blues as the stars come out."

 

"It is beautiful," Fareeha agrees, tipping her head back to take in the view. When she glances at Angela, the doctor's gaze flicks away quickly, coming back slowly and shyly; Fareeha douses the urge to kiss her.

 

When Angela finally stops walking, the nearest building is dark, a sign on the window and graffiti on the walls. She frowns, disappointed, but Fareeha notices that there's light from a back room and she lets go of Angela's hand to get closer.

 

"Don't worry; we're coming back," she reads aloud. "We are currently closed for renovations and will return soon, better than ever. Grand Reopening to be announced by the end of the year."

 

"That's unfortunate," Angela says, clicking her tongue. "At least they haven't closed for good."

 

"What do you think Jack would say if they did close?" Fareeha muses, looking up at the faded paint of the bar's name above the door. She almost can't even read it. "The Twisted Veil. Interesting name..."

 

"I don't know what he'd say, but I know he'd be very annoyed," Angela answers, stepping closer and taking her hand again. "This was his favourite place to go. I think it was the only place he felt he could relax; the people here knew all of our faces and, for the most part, treated us like we were normal. You were probably too young to remember the first years of Overwatch, but here and at one of the American watchpoints were the only places where the locals didn't either worship us or try to assault us. We were treated with respect, usually, but no more so than the local police."

 

"I remember Mom would let me play with the kids in the street whenever she went shopping, but only really in Egypt and in Canada. Like she didn't trust my safety anywhere else."

 

"She was so protective of you," Angela chuckled. "She wouldn't even let you play with Brigitte until she met Torbjorn and Ingrid in person. That was how she got so close to them and Reinhardt."

 

A wave of pain pricks at Fareeha's chest, and a sudden need to cry chokes her.

 

"Fareeha?" Angela tugs at her hand to turn her and reaches up to brush away a tear that escapes in spite of her best efforts. "Are you alright?"

 

"I-" She shakes her head, swallowing back more tears and taking a deep breath to centre herself. "I miss her. That's all. Ten years and I still expect her to come walking in at any moment to scold me for something."

 

"We all miss her," Angela says gently, voice strained. "You weren't the only one to lose a mother when she died."

 

"...Sometimes, I'm not so sure she is dead," Fareeha admits. "They never found her... I never said goodbye, even at the wake. Something... Something inside me refuses to accept it, to believe that she would die so easily. Maybe I'm foolishly hoping despite the truth, willfully ignoring the facts, but I can't- I can't just... stop."

 

Angela looks like she's going to say something, but then pauses, expression thoughtful; the streetlamps and the lights of the other stores and businesses highlight the sharpness of her features, the cutting yet angelic beauty that captured Fareeha's awe so long ago.

 

"Do you... have any reason to believe she might have survived?"

 

Now it's Fareeha's turn to think, and all that comes to mind are Shrike and the den she left behind in Egypt. The mask of Bastet sits prominently at the front of her memory, a vivid reminder of her mother's firm but quiet belief in the old gods. She touches the wedjat beneath her eye again, feeling the all too familiar surge of stubborn refusal.

 

"No, nothing... concrete. But there are days that I so completely believe she's still alive that I turn around to tell her something, and then I realise she isn't there. I can only imagine she must still be watching over me, even from the afterlife."

 

With a sad smile, Angela lets go of her hand to pull her into a tight hug. Fareeha returns it, soaking in the scent that haunted her for so many years and letting it wash away the lingering sorrow.

 

Slowly, desire replaces the sadness, and after a moment, she pulls away enough to meet Angela's gaze. The doctor blinks and looks away, red creeping into her cheeks and nose and the tips of her ears, and not because of the chill. She doesn't back away, however, nor does she try to stop Fareeha when she starts leaning in, the visible haze of breath mingling between them.

 

A scream cuts through the night, and both go still, each watching the other to see if both heard it or if either imagined it. A desperate cry for help follows and neither hesitates; they take off running toward the sound. They follow it to an open lot where it seems a young couple set up a sort of outdoor theatre for themselves; the small projector is still playing while the young man lies unconscious on a rumpled blanket and his girlfriend struggles to free herself from the grip of two tall dark omnics. Two others are standing over the young man, but they stop when they notice Fareeha and Angela approaching.

 

No words. Fareeha dodges around the first pair and lunges at the two holding the woman. She tackles one of them, wrenching its gun away and slamming the butt of it as close to the omnic's central processor as she can get, and then jumps to her feet just as the woman succeeds in wrenching out of the other's grip. Its gun comes up, but Fareeha throws the gun she stole at it, distracting it long enough to get in close.

 

Unfortunately, it's stronger than she is, and it yanks away from her before she can wrestle the gun from it. Just as she winds up to try kicking the gun from its hands, Angela lets out a small cry, like she hit the ground, and Fareeha stops, fear cloying at her chest as she whirls.

 

Angela is on the ground beside the unconscious man, scrambling to get to her feet as one of the omnics advances on her, the other turning to deal with the woman, who is bravely beating at it with her fists.

 

"Angela!" Fareeha only takes one step before something hard slams against the back of her neck, throwing her to her knees with stars floating across her vision and a sharp ache radiating through her skull.

 

"Fareeha, no!"

 

Angela's voice is distant and tinny, but Fareeha gives her best effort to crawl toward it, only for another blow to knock her completely to the ground, cheek mashing hard into the dirt as agony rings through her shoulders. This time she can feel the omnic's foot grinding into her spine and she can't stop the yelp that breaks past her lips.

 

"Go, get out of here!" she manages through clenched teeth. "Get the civilians to safety!" Planting her hands, she shoves upward violently, unbalancing the omnic and giving herself room to launch at the omnic approaching Angela. She takes it to the ground, but doesn't bother trying to keep it down; immediately she rolls into a crouch, pointedly ignoring the pounding of her head, to take stock of her situation.

 

The first omnic she attacked is still on the ground, and she takes heart in the idea that she ruined its central processor, or at least decalibrated it enough to keep the machine out of commission for long enough that Angela and the civilians can escape.

 

Speaking of which... The young man is sitting up, dazed and confused, but apparently aware of the danger as he doesn't hesitate to obey his girlfriend when she grabs his arm and begs him to run. Angela is helping him to his feet and ready to protect them if any of the omnics get close, but fortunately, all three of them have turned toward Fareeha.

 

"Come on!" she challenges, raising her fists. It doesn't matter that she's brought fists to a gunfight; she has to buy them every second she can.

 

"Fareeha!"

 

"Get out of here! I'll hold them off and follow you."

 

The couple are already running, but Angela is hesitating. She isn't a fighter like everyone else, but Fareeha knows she can't bring herself to abandon anyone. It must kill her to know she can't do anything, but Fareeha will die before she lets Angela get hurt.

 

"Angela." She meets the doctor's frustrated gaze, readying herself for a fight. "Go."

 

One of the omnics turns toward Angela while the other two advance on Fareeha, and now the doctor has no choice. She steps back, determined in spite of her impotence.

 

"Don't you dare die, Fareeha."

 

"Wouldn't dream of it."

 

Then Angela turns on her heel and vanishes into the night, and Fareeha cracks her neck, staring death in the eye and daring it to blink first.

Chapter Text

The humans all look upset when E54 follows his new feline friend into the big room where everyone is gathering. For a moment, he wonders if he's the cause of their distress, but none of them even spare him a glance except the pretty, slender robot lady and the older woman who brought Manx to the base.

 

"We have to get her back!" one of the young women exclaims. She's Torbjorn's offspring, he remembers; she likes him better than most of the humans, and it saddens him that she's upset.

 

"We will," the gorilla assures. He's smart, and E54 is certain he wouldn't say that without meaning it. "But we have to know what we're getting into first."

 

"I'll go scout it," offers one of the older men, the one who never takes the mask off his face. "Let me take Shrike and Alex; we'll figure out where they went and where they're holding her."

 

Shrike is the older woman who brought Manx. She doesn't say anything, and she wears a mask like the man, so E54 can't see her expression.

 

"We must strike back soon," the big man who actually towers over E54 says. "If Talon finds out, they might attack and take her before we get to her."

 

"I know," the gorilla replies, irritated. "But we can't go in blind either. We need to scout it, quick and quiet. Tracer, are you up for a mission?"

 

"Always, big guy," says a tiny woman with a shiny blue circle on her chest. "I know it's not my fault, but I feel responsible for letting her and Ange go out on the town."

 

"Take Shrike, Kannus and Manx with you. Soldier, I need you and Baptiste to get ahold of your Talon contacts and make sure they don't hear about this."

 

"Actually, sir," one of the dark skinned ones speaks up, raising his hand. "I was trying to tell you earlier... Sunshine arranged a meet with me through my contact. They set it for three days from now, but I can call Sombra back and tell her to move it up to tonight or early tomorrow morning." Soldier, the man with the mask, seems upset by this, and E54 wonders if he knows who 'Sunshine' and 'Sombra' are.

 

"Do it," the gorilla nods. "Meanwhile, we need to prepare for a fight. Once Tracer and her team find Fareeha, Reinhardt will lead a team to rescue her while the rest of us guard the base. Hana, Lucio, Genji, Hanzo; you four will go with Reinhardt, and Baptiste will join you if he's back from his meet and ready by the time you leave."

 

This sounds like another opportunity to prove to them that he can be helpful, so E54 chirps to get their attention, raising his hand and churring a request to go with them.

 

"I think the tin can wants to go with Reinhardt and the others," Torbjorn grumps. E54 purrs agreement, nodding vigorously, and the gorilla frowns in thought.

 

"I think after having its help during the Talon attack, we might be able to give it another chance. Any disagreements?" Torbjorn doesn't look happy, but no one speaks up, and E54 tries hard not to vibrate with joy. The gorilla nods. "In that case, Hanzo, Genji, who wants to stay back and protect the base?"

 

The armoured one looks to the humanoid omnic, Zenyatta, who nods slightly.

 

"I will go," the armoured one says. "Let Hanzo stay."

 

"Then it's settled," the gorilla says. "Tracer, Shrike, Kannus and Manx will be the advance team and find out where Fareeha was taken, and Reinhardt will take Hana, Lucio, Genji, the bastion unit, and possibly Baptiste on the rescue mission. Everyone else, if you haven't gotten enough sleep yet, get some rest and prepare for the possibility of another fight. Angela..."

 

"I'll be fine, Winston," says the pretty woman that E54 is certain he saw with wings at some point. "Just bring Fareeha back alive." She looks like she's been crying, and E54 wishes he could help comfort her, but he knows the humans are still wary of him, so he settles for promising himself that he'll make sure the mission succeeds, no matter what.

 

~

 

Baptiste is waiting impatiently when Gabriel arrives, and he stays incorporeal for a moment longer to observe the former Talon medic.

 

Mauga has been a pain in the ass since this man escaped by detonating some sort of explosive in his face; even Inconnue couldn't tell exactly what the device had been, but it tore up Mauga's face and shoulders and Moira had to spend a solid two days patching him up. Jack said he's been a valuable asset, but Gabriel wonders what kind of man could purposely attack and make an enemy of his best friend, even going so far as to blow up a bomb in their face that could potentially kill them.

 

Unlike Jack, Gabriel has never trusted easily, and knowing what he knows about Baptiste, he isn't so sure he made the right decision anymore. That uncertainty keeps him circling in the shadows until it settles on his mind that it's either trust Baptiste or wait for Akande to have him killed.

 

"Augustin," he greets, taking corporeal form but staying in the shadows; easy enough considering how late it is and how isolated this streetlamp sits from the rest of its kind.

 

Instantly, Baptiste is ready for a fight, gun out and turning quickly toward Gabriel with a low curse.

 

"Shit; Reaper... What did you do to-" He breaks off, and Gabriel can see the moment it connects that he's the one who arranged the meeting. "Hold on... No way... You're Sunshine?"

 

Anger blossoms, and it takes everything Gabriel has not to snarl at the man. As it is, he barely keeps it to a growl of irritation that makes Baptiste take several steps back.

 

"I will kill Sombra," he hisses, furious with the hacker for sharing that stupid moniker.

 

"Uh, actually, it was Soldier who told us that name; Soldier 76." Baptiste frowns, his gun dipping a bit. "Why did you want to meet with me anyway? Couldn't you just talk to Soldier?"

 

"Not about this," Gabriel grumbles reluctantly, itching to have his shotguns in hand but knowing it'll send the wrong message. Instead, he crosses his arms and paces absently around the edge of the circle of light. "Doomfist ― Akande ― knows that I'm giving Overwatch information. He kept me in the dark about the latest attack, and J- one of your people almost died because of it. My time in Talon is coming to an end, so I need an out."

 

"You want into Overwatch?" Baptiste scowls, sceptical and uneasy. "You tried to kill Winston."

 

"You tried to kill Mauga."

 

That makes him pause and he finally puts his gun away, keeping it in easy reach but apparently no longer threatened. Gabriel can practically feel him thinking, making connections, considering possibilities...

 

"...I don't know if they'd ever accept you. I don't think I can help."

 

"I don't want to be in Overwatch," Gabriel clarifies, mildly annoyed that everyone keeps mentioning it. "I just want to know that I have access to information and... assistance, should they be required after I leave Talon."

 

"Can you do that?" Baptiste asks, unsettled. "Just... leave?"

 

"You did."

 

"I'm not a member of the table, and I never was."

 

"What happens to me after I leave Talon is my business," Gabriel humphs. "If I call on you..."

 

"I... don't know," Baptiste says slowly, glancing around and shifting back and forth on his feet. "Look, this is a really bad time for this conversation... The reason I moved the meet up is because we have a problem. A friend of ours, someone from the old days of Overwatch, was captured by Null Sector, and we're trying to get her back before Talon finds out and gets to her first. We needed to be sure they didn't know about it yet."

 

Gabriel's blood runs cold and he stops moving. It can't be Angela, because Baptiste already put his life on the line to save her once and wouldn't talk about her so distantly. Ana is out of the question because there's no way he knows who she is. According to Jack, Sojourn is recovering from whatever happened before the attack, so unless Null Sector somehow got into the base...

 

"Who is it?" he asks lowly, worried that Tracer got herself in more trouble than she can get out of for once.

 

"A young woman who works with Helix now; Fareeha Amari, I believe is her name?"

 

Everything slows to a halt and Gabriel can't process those words.

 

There's no way. It can't be. It's impossible. Ana would never let her daughter get captured.

 

"Fareeha... was captured by Null Sector?" he clarifies, certain there's been a misunderstanding, that he mixed up what Baptiste said.

 

"Er... Yeah? You know her?"

 

A veil of blood red rage slides across Gabriel's vision and he unleashes a feral snarl that makes Baptiste jolt backward and raise his gun. Gabriel doesn't give a shit that he scared the man; all he can think about is getting his hands on the Null Sector bastard machines that took Fareeha, of ripping them apart piece by piece and showing them the true horror of humanity.

 

"Where is she." It's not even a question; it's a demand, and Baptiste pales as Gabriel stalks out of the shadows to get his answers. "Where is she!!"

 

"I-I- I don't know- I don't know! She- We're sending out scouts to find out where they took her, and then a team is going to rescue her; I swear I don't know where she is!"

 

The man is too terrified to lie, so without another word, Gabriel collapses into smoke and leaves. Once he's far enough away, he reforms and digs out his phone to call Jack. It rings through to voicemail, so he tries again, muttering every curse he can think of under his breath.

 

"The hell do you think you're doing?" Jack answers finally. "Don't call me-"

 

"Where. Is. Fareeha."

 

Jack goes silent for a long time, long enough that Gabriel actually checks to make sure he didn't hang up.

 

"We don't know yet," he says eventually. It sounds like he's barely keeping his temper under control, and Gabriel kind of envies him the ability to actually keep his rage in check.

 

"When you do, I do," he growls.

 

"You can't go in, Sunshine; they'll think Talon got to her first."

 

"Then tell them I'm coming."

 

"You stupid fucking idiot; the fuck are you thinking? Use your goddamn brain for two seconds. You were the one who didn't want them to know who you are in the first place!"

 

"You think I give a flying fuck about that right now? This is Fareeha we're talking about. How the fuck did this even happen in the first place??"

 

"She and Angela went out for a night on the town and helped rescue a couple of civilians, but they were outnumbered and Fareeha held them off so Angela could get away."

 

"And Ana isn't furious?"

 

Again Jack goes quiet, but this time Gabriel waits with as much patience as he can muster, pacing restlessly in the darkness.

 

"She's been quiet," Jack says after a long moment. "She wouldn't talk to me and I'm afraid she might do something stupid; Winston let her go with Lena on the scouting mission."

 

"Are you fucking kidding me? She's gonna get herself killed!"

 

"You think I don't know that? I spent a full two hours while they prepped trying to convince her not to go, or at least to promise me she wouldn't do anything stupid. She didn't, by the way."

 

"I'm going."

 

"I swear to fucking Christ, you both are going to get yourselves killed."

 

"We raised her, Jack!"

 

"I fucking know!! But if we don't do this right, people are really going to die! Just... Sit tight. Make sure Talon doesn't hear about this; we need every second we can get."

 

Gabriel wants to argue. Wants to wrangle the answers out of Jack and go after the piece of shit robots that took Fareeha.

 

But he can't. Jack's right; rushing in blindly won't help, and making himself known to Overwatch is not the play. Not yet...

 

He understands now Ana's willingness to chance being found out if it means being close to the new generation; Jack's acceptance of the risk in order to make sure they have a chance.

 

It suddenly hits him that Jack and Ana aren't the only ones who have family in the new Overwatch. And he doesn't just miss being around Jack all the time; fucked up as things were, he could always rely on them, all of them, from the pestering curiosity of the gorilla to the overly cheerful optimism of the former crusader to the innocent hope of the younger ones.

 

He ruined that.

 

All these years he's spent being bitter and angry... not because it all fell apart around him, but because he lost his home. And he's been denying himself that comfort since Jack and Ana burst back into his life. For what? He can't even say anymore.

 

Well. It's time to change that. He collapses into smoke and heads back toward the meeting spot.

Chapter Text

You might have given birth, but you weren't the only one to raise her. Jack's efforts to convince Ana not to run in head first keep repeating in her mind, fighting against the desperation that's wiped out all emotion; all she can think about is saving her daughter, but somehow she's managing to hold herself back, if only just.

 

She stops into the med bay on the way to the hanger, where Lena told them to meet. Jesse is sitting up, listening quietly as Hanzo explains what happened. They both look up when she enters, and the pain in Jesse's expression echoes the pain in her chest. He opens his mouth, but falters, casting a glance at Hanzo. The archer takes the cue and stands with a quick bow toward Ana.

 

"I will take my leave. Excuse me."

 

After he's gone, Ana steps to the side of the bed, allowing Jesse to take her hand, and taking comfort in the way he squeezes, the determined belief in his gaze.

 

"You'll get 'er back," he says, like there's no alternative. "She ain't goin' down without a fight, and ain't a soul who knew her's gonna waste a second on this rescue."

 

"I can't lose her, Jesse," she whispers, hating her weakness but terrified of seeing her baby girl die.

 

"You won't," he insists. "Just don't do nothin' stupid. Find out where she is and come back; let Rein do the heavy liftin'. You know he ain't about to let nothin' bad happen to 'er. Neither is Genji."

 

She nods, but inside she could swear she can feel Fareeha's life ebbing away with every passing second.

 

"She will come back," Jesse promises. "And when she does, you gotta tell 'er."

 

"Tell- I can't; she'll never forgive me."

 

"You gotta," he argues, tugging insistently at her hand. "Yer her mother. Take it from someone who lost theirs, twice; she needs you."

 

"But..."

 

"She'll forgive you."

 

"How do you know?" The smile he gives her is soft and genuine, comforting, and more than anything helps soothe her fears.

 

"Because I did."

 

~

 

Kannus is unsettling, Manx decides, but not altogether unfriendly. If anything, the omnic dog is a little too much like its organic brethren; it keeps bouncing around Manx like it wants to play.

 

"You're supposed to be looking for that lady," he says finally, exasperated. "Stop jumping on me." Kannus whines, head lowering in a distinctly pout-like fashion, and glances at the slender woman who isn't much bigger than Manx despite holding several inches over him in height.

 

"We have to find Fareeha, Kannus," she scolds lightly. "I know you can do it; that's what you were made for."

 

Kannus chuffs, seeming resigned, and walks with more purpose now. Without it hopping up and down in front of him anymore, Manx can pay a little more attention to his surroundings, unbothered by the darkness of the pre-dawn hour, and when they arrive at the location given to them by the angel doctor, he's certain they're alone; not another soul, organic or machine, is anywhere nearby, so far as he can tell.

 

"Right," the slender woman, whose name escapes him, says firmly, eyeing the blanket and projector screen on the ground like they'll give her answers. "This is where Fareeha was last seen."

 

Shrike steps forward, surveying the abandoned scene, and Manx takes the opportunity to crouch down and sniff at the blanket.

 

Three distinct scents are present, along with whiffs of a fourth that, along with one of the others, are familiar. The more prominent one of the two he recognises is definitely the angel doctor's scent, and the other he's caught hints of around the base, which means it must belong to this lady, Fareeha. Kannus is also sniffing around, and Manx eyes it for a moment, wondering if it can smell omnics the way he can smell humans; wondering if it can detect the same differences between scents that he can.

 

"They put up quite a fight," Shrike says quietly, picking up the dormant projector. "Angela said Fareeha drew them away from her so she could run; she must have fought them all for as long as she could."

 

"I can't follow her scent," Manx reports after a moment of trying. "It's too faint compared to the other scents here, and I can't pick up on omnic scents."

 

Kannus yips softly, getting their attention, and paws impatiently at the ground, pacing toward and away from them like it wants their attention.

 

"Found something, Kannus?" Tracer blinks over to its side, and the dog starts trotting in one direction, so she follows. Shrike and Manx trail after them.

 

Kannus leads the way to a residential area that seems to be under construction; no one yet lives in these houses, if Manx had to guess, and he envies humans their ability to overcome nature's dangers in order to create safe spaces to live.

 

"Most of these houses are complete, but haven't been sold yet," Tracer notes, scanning the area. "It'd be a pretty good place to hide out for a couple months if you want to go unnoticed, but I doubt Null Sector would set up a base around here."

 

"It doesn't have to be a base," Shrike says softly. "All they need is a place to hold a human prisoner for whatever they're planning."

 

"I have a question," Manx speaks up into the silence that follows as they walk cautiously down the deserted street. "If omnics are so bad, why do you have four of them in your base?"

 

"Not all omnics are bad, love," Tracer answers. "In fact, most of them are good people. It just so happened that some of the bad ones were really, really powerful, and took control of others, so we had to fight them all to shut down the bad ones. Because of that, humans are afraid of it happening again, so they treat omnics poorly, and as a result, some omnics are trying to rise up and strike back."

 

"And those are the ones we're chasing," Manx clarifies.

 

"That's right."

 

"What are you going to do if they already killed her?"

 

Shrike stops walking, and Tracer turns a horrified look on Manx. Kannus, realising they're not following it anymore, pauses and waits impatiently.

 

"We're gonna find her," Tracer says bluntly, insistent in the way Manx is when he's trying to convince himself of something he knows is probably wrong. "And we'll find her alive. You'll see. Null Sector will pay."

 

"But-"

 

"Manx," Shrike says, the carefully even tone of her voice just strained enough to make him shut up. She's standing with her fists clenched tight at her sides, and Manx wishes he could see her face, so he can look into her eyes and see the true emotion behind them. "Sometimes, hope is all you have. Don't crush it by asking questions you don't want the answers to."

 

Shrike is desperate to get Fareeha back; Manx is sure of it. He wonders why, since Fareeha isn't a part of the team at the base, not as far as he can tell.

 

These people are so strange... They care so much, but they're all so different. A collection of oddities clustered together and determined to make the best of... well, everything. Manx let Shrike and Mei bring him here because of the promise of food and a safe place to sleep, but more and more he's coming to believe that this place, these people... They aren't just protectors and guardians; they're a family. And he's not sure there's a place for him here.

 

Kannus woofs softly, standing in front of a half finished building with plywood walls and not much else. Tracer glances at Shrike, at Manx, at the house.

 

"Alright. Shrike, stay here with Kannus and make sure no one approaches or, if we spook any sentries, make sure they don't get away. Manx, head around that side and circle the house; look for any other exits and any guards. I'm going in through the front door and I'll scope out the interior for any sign of Fareeha."

 

Manx nods and drops to all fours to scamper quickly and quietly around the side of the building. It's a big place, but the construction site is wide open and empty, with no guards in sight, and he makes it back around to the front with no problems.

 

"It's clear all the way around," he reports to Shrike, "and there's only one other door in the place, at the back."

 

"Go keep an eye on it," she tells him. "Make sure no one comes or goes while Tracer is searching. We'll send Kannus to retrieve you when we're ready."

 

As long as the dog doesn't try to tackle him, Manx is okay with that; he slips around back and takes up a post right beside the empty doorway, hunkering down to wait and watch.

 

After a few moments of eerie quiet ― instead of the buzz and chirp of night insects that he's used to, all he can hear is the distant hum and swish of cars and electricity ― he suddenly hears a small clanking thump, like metal against wood. Ears perking, he listens for it again, wondering if Tracer dropped something inside.

 

There it is again, deliberate this time, and followed by a second thump. Then the faintest of sounds, like a thoroughly muffled cry of pain. If not for his animal hearing, he would certainly have missed it; as it is, he pinpoints the sound to a metal square in the concrete foundation.

 

A cellar, he realises belatedly. Or a basement? He was never quite clear on the difference. Either way, he feels terrible that he didn't recognise it sooner and he immediately goes over to investigate. The handle is cold under his palm, but the door opens without so much as a squeak, and he ducks inside quickly, pulling it quietly closed behind him.

 

Concrete stairs lead down, the ceiling staying level and leaving enough headroom at the bottom for any human to stand upright. Manx, being far shorter than most humans, can stand upright two steps down, but he doesn't; he creeps down the stairs on all fours, eyes wide and ears perked for the slightest hint of trouble.

 

At the bottom of the stairs, a room opens up to the left, so he sits on the last step and peeks carefully around the corner. Even as he does, he catches a whiff of five distinct scents, and one of them is familiar.

 

The sight that meets his night-tuned gaze makes him go cold. Two tall, angular omnics ― not at all as friendly looking as the monk or Kannus or even the big bastion ― stand guard over five humans, ranging from young enough to be considered a child, to an old man who looks like he might keel over with his next breath. All of them are gagged and handcuffed to the wooden support beams in the middle of the room.

 

Manx recognises the woman nearest him with dark hair and markings under one eye from the recent battle: Fareeha. She's glaring vaguely in the direction of the omnic closest to her, and he remembers that humans can't see much of anything in this level of low light.

 

One of the omnics tips its head, as though listening to some unheard voice, and then speaks to its companion in the weird chirp and beep language that the bastion speaks. The second omnic responds, and then heads for the stairs. Too late, Manx realises there's no time for him to get out before the omnic reaches the stairs; it'll see him closing the door, and if it does, they'll move the humans before the rescue party can get here.

 

There's only one thing to do. Putting all his strength into it, he launches himself upward just as the omnic turns the corner. Flexing out his claws, he snags them painfully against the wooden rafters just above the omnic's head and clings as long as he can before his weight becomes too much and he has to let go. With an easy grace stemming from his feline genes, he lands behind the omnic with almost no sound at all. He goes still, not even breathing, watching the omnic continue up the stairs. It leaves, apparently unaware of his presence, and he breathes again.

 

After a count of ten, he follows, poking his head out the door and half expecting the omnic to be waiting for him, with friends. There's no sign of it, and he slips out, quietly closing the door again.

 

Then he takes off around the corner and bolts for the front, hoping more desperately than he ever has that the omnic went a different direction and that he has time to warn the others.

Chapter Text

Sometimes, on very rare occasions, Jamison can actually be kind of sweet. Naturally, his version of 'sweet' still tends to include some sort of explosion, but for once, it's just straight up feelsy, and Mako really doesn't know how to react. He should have known something was up when the rat was so adamant in convincing him they should stay on his old farm for the holidays, but he didn't think it would be anything like this.

 

Jamison is practically vibrating with suppressed excitement as he waits to see Mako's reaction to the spooky decorations. And more than just the decor; the little shabbily wrapped box sitting on the table between them.

 

First off, when did the rat find time to decorate? And without Mako noticing, no less. Second, Mako didn't think the rat was capable of giving anything, certainly not for free.

 

It should concern him that the rat is probably going to want a favour in the future, but something about this whole situation is... well, different.

 

"Aren't ya gonna open it?" Jamison urges eagerly, twisting a couple of fuses together between his hands. He's never still; even when he sleeps, he twitches and whines like a dog chasing rabbits in his dreams.

 

Cautiously, all too aware of the rat's proclivity for explosives and pranks, Mako gingerly tugs loose the half-made bow and slides the ribbon off the box. With precise care, he peels away the strips of wrapping paper and newspaper and what looks to be toilet paper to uncover the box itself. Leaning far back, he flicks the top off the box, bracing himself... but nothing happens.

 

Jamison unleashes one of his mad little giggles, wiggling in his seat as he refrains ― just barely ― from lunging across the table to tear out the item and present it in characteristic grandiose style.

 

"Go on, go on, go on!"

 

Reluctantly curious now, Mako leans warily over the box, and then pauses, surprised. There, at the bottom of the box, are a quartet of little pachimaris. Three of them are normal pachimaris, and each about the size of his thumb, but the fourth is more palm sized and dressed up as a vampire. All of them are nestled into a bunch of packing peanuts, with a couple of regular peanuts thrown in apparently for good measure.

 

"Happy Halloween!" Jamison hoots, leaping up and cackling.

 

"Presents are for Christmas, rat," Mako points out blandly, but he can't stop himself from reaching into the box and pulling out the plushy vampire pachimari.

 

"Aaannnd birthdays!" Jamison corrects. "But since I don't know yours, I figured, why not during another holiday?"

 

He continues chattering excitedly about how birthdays are holidays anyway, just personal holidays, but Mako isn't listening. He's staring at the wicked little grin on the plushy's face and wondering why this whole thing makes him so nostalgic when nothing like this has ever happened before.

 

Before the omnium exploded, before Junkertown was founded, before this Junkrat stumbled into his life, Mako was always alone. He remembers his parents, vaguely, but when one dies of sickness and the other of heartbreak, there isn't much left for a kid alone in the outback. He was never one for trying to make friends, and his general distaste for humanity nearly as much as for omnics served as a perfect wall to keep everyone out.

 

Until one Jamison Fawkes decided that the risk of pissing him off was worth the potential bodyguard.

 

Truthfully, Mako has really enjoyed these past few years with the rat; he'd never been out of the outback before, much less around the world, and certainly he'd never been this rich. Everything else along the way has just been a bonus.

 

Is this a bonus too? Having someone around who cares enough to get you a birthday present even if it's not on your birthday?

 

The odd pit of warmth and hope sitting low in Mako's chest definitely feels like nostalgia, but it's just... more enough that he doesn't know what to call it; the rat looks like he's moved on to the decor and wants an opinion, so he doesn't have time to work it out either.

 

"You're taking it down afterwards," he says bluntly when Jamison looks up hopefully. The rat snickers and grins.

 

"Well obviously; holiday decorations aren't meant to stay up all year. That's just crazy!" Mako refrains from commenting on that. "So! I was thinking... in a couple of days, kids go around trick-or-treating ― knockin' on doors and askin' for candy ― and I think we should have some fun with the 'trick' side of it and scare those little anklebiters into givin' us a cut! What d'ya think?"

 

Candy does sound nice; a rare treat. And scaring people is a hazard of Mako's entire existence anyway, so why not? He humphs as he carefully takes out the little pachimaris and carries them over to the fireplace mantle, placing them in full view next to a tiny pumpkin Jamison put up there.

 

"Should we dress up? I wanna dress up. You should dress up too; gotta make you scary lookin'!"

 

That makes Mako pause, surprised again. The rat doesn't think he looks scary already? Outside of Junkertown and the surrounding area, people tend to take one look at him and back away slowly, if they don't outright run. Not that he cares; so long as they leave him alone, he couldn't care less what anyone thinks of him.

 

"I'm thinkin' something huge and monstrous," Jamison continues blithely, pacing back and forth the way he does whenever he's hatching some ridiculous plan that invariably needs to be refined. "Something that'll strike fear into anybody even looks at ya! Something... Something..."

 

He stops, an exceedingly rare moment of complete stillness as he stares at a movie poster he taped haphazardly to the wall. Mako isn't even sure where he got it, since the nearest theatre is in Sydney, but it's for a movie called "Junkenstein's Revenge," and Mako knows where this is going even before Jamison whirls and grins at him.

 

"I've got it!"

 

"No."

 

"Aw, come on, Roadie!" The rat clunk-thumps over to him with hands clasped pleadingly under his chin. "We could be Junkstein and Junkenstein's monster!"

 

"...No."

 

He hesitated. Why did he hesitate? He doesn't want to be the monster. But Jamison is pouting up at him, practically begging, and somehow, it's a struggle to say no.

 

"Pleeaaaasse?"

 

For once, the rat actually waits for an answer instead of pestering it out of him. A little more of his resistance crumbles, and he clings to the silence in hopes that Jamison will finally give in and accept the no. The silence stretches, Mako's will chipping away with every second, until finally he gives up.

 

"I'm not saying any of the lines," he says reluctantly. Jamison whoops and jumps around like a bouncy ball for a moment before scrambling away to make preparations, and Mako hopes he hasn't done something he's going to regret.

 

Then again, he stopped regretting his actions about a month after the rat 'hired' him, or else he'd have left years ago.

 

~

 

"Stop it," Mako growls, getting fed up of having the rat crawling all over him like a mother hen. Jamison immediately bounces back, fidgeting restlessly and biting his lip hard enough that Mako isn't surprised when he winces and a bit of red beads up.

 

"Just tryna help," Jamison mutters, sucking morosely at the cut in his lip. "My fault you got hurt in the first place."

 

"Not the first time," Mako grunts, dropping the blood soaked rag for one that isn't. Even before meeting the rat, the week wasn't complete if he didn't end at least one day picking shrapnel out of his body; since then, it's become twice as normal, most of it protecting Jamison's much smaller, more easily damaged body. This is par for the course by now; his neck and shoulder hurt, and he'll have a hard time using his right arm properly for a while, but he'll be good as new in a week or so.

 

"I know, I know," Jamison huffs, petulant as the kids they saw earlier in the evening. He still seems upset, and that annoys Mako almost as much as his fussing a moment ago.

 

"What's gotten into you, rat?" he grunts, staring hard at Jamison while he presses the new rag to his wound.

 

"I- Nothin'! Nothin's gotten into me; I dunno what you're talking about." He gets so defensive so fast; coupled with the coaxing to stay here for the holidays, and the decor and presents, something is absolutely going on.

 

Mako growls a warning, reminding him that as tall as he is, he's a shrimp comparatively, a twig of a figure that Mako could snap with one hand. To his surprise, Jamison doesn't cower like the last time ― it's been a long time, maybe a year or two; there's no way he's just gotten used to it. Instead, he shivers and then goes completely still, eyes wide like he didn't mean to react that way.

 

An awkward silence grows as Mako tries to comprehend what just happened, to understand why the rat is suddenly trying to make himself as small as possible. It clearly comes to a head when Jamison tries to bolt, but Mako catches the harness of his costume and yanks him back, holding him up essentially by the scruff of his neck.

 

All he does is hold the rat at eye level, and after a count of three, Jamison breaks, spewing out his confession in typical fashion. That is, without seeming to breathe.

 

"Alright, alright! I'll talk! I've been feeling weird lately and at first I thought I was getting sick but then I realised it's only around you so I figured somethin' musta changed and maybe I was scared of you for some reason ― not like there's anything to be scared of, obviously ― but it wasn't fear and I couldn't figure it out until I saw some guy gettin' pegged in an alley outside some club or something and I suddenly realised I wanted that and then I connected that with you and now it's all I can think about and it's been drivin' me bonkers 'cause I've never wanted anything even remotely like that what with all the pleasure I get outta blowin' shit up and I couldn't even say anything about it 'cause I didn't want to make things weird but it's haunting me now and I don't know what to do and now you prob'ly want nothing to do with me which is totally understandable but I don't want you to leave so that's why I didn't say anything..."

 

He finally cuts himself off, taking a deep breath and then holding it, braced for Mako's response.

 

Except Mako has no idea how to respond.

 

Of course he's interested in sex, but when people take one look at you and run the other way, it's kind of difficult to find a partner, so masturbation is pretty much all that's left. He isn't even sure how it's supposed to work with a woman, much less another man. But he's not against the idea, certainly, and if the rat genuinely wants it, he sees nothing wrong with accommodating.

 

"Get out of that ridiculous costume and come to my room," he says, setting Jamison down and standing. The rat blinks, staring at him as he scoops up the bloody rags to throw them out and heads for the kitchen where he keeps some medical supplies for just this reason.

 

"But- Wait, what-"

 

"Fawkes. Go."

 

And just like that, the rat is gone, clunk-thumping down the hall to the guest room that he's taken over and made his own. Mako humphs and cleans up his wound, using some of the alcohol wipes to clean off the last of the makeup from his own costume before going to his own room and changing into sleeping shorts. He's standing beside the bed, checking whether or not he's going to need stitches, when Jamison pokes his head into the room.

 

"Hey, so uh... What's up?" he asks, trying very hard to look casual and nonchalant when his voice is an octave higher and his ears are redder than tomatoes. Mako finds himself oddly pleased that the rat chose to stick to his usual nightly get up of nothing more than sweatpants.

 

"Get over here," Mako commands, poking at a spot right in front of him. Jamison hesitates for a moment and then timidly approaches, unsure what to expect. Without a word, Mako removes his mask and sets it on the nightstand, and then, while the rat is staring up at him in awe, he grabs Jamison and tosses him easily onto the bed. "You change your mind and you want to stop, you say 'fire,' understand?"

 

For a moment, Jamison just frowns, clearly not quite understanding what's going on. He rests on his elbows and watches blankly as Mako kneels on the edge of the bed, and it seems to only click when Mako nudges his legs apart. Then his eyes widen and he opens his mouth, but apparently he's speechless for once because all he ends up doing is nodding vigorously.

 

"Say it, rat."

 

"My safeword is 'fire,'" Jamison chirps, equal parts anxious and eager.

 

"Good. Now tell me what to do."

 

The rat blinks, taken aback, and Mako watches it dawn on the rat that he has no experience with others. Jamison flops onto his back, blinking at the ceiling as he processes, and Mako uses the opportunity to take in the view. He's never really been one to care about appearances, but even he can admit that the rat has an objectively nice body, if you like tall guys with twink builds and sharp, angular features ― there's a reason everyone calls him a rat.

 

"Well. Never thought I'd be givin' anybody the 101 on how to fuck," Jamison mutters finally, sounding a little embarrassed but also rather excited. "Here's the deal, big guy; you gotta prep me first. I, uh... might have played around with some, er... some toys before, but... um, well, your hands are huge , and I can only imagine how big your, eh... thing is."

 

"Get on with it, rat."

 

"Right. Um... First." He wiggles across the bed a little to squirm out of his pants, tossing them aside and rolling onto his knees to face Mako. "Mind if I...?" He gestures at Mako's sleeping shorts, and Mako nods agreement.

 

There have been times when Jamison handles certain explosives like they're his baby; when he cradles them so gently Mako wouldn't believe he was carrying an explosive if he didn't see it. For some reason, the way Jamison reaches for him reminds him of that, and he finds it oddly amusing. The wide eyed awe and desire in the rat's expression when he tugs down Mako's shorts is equally familiar; a look he gets whenever he sees a stash of gold or valuables, and Mako takes more than a little pride in that.

 

A few coaxing touches are all it takes to bring him to full mast; this much he knows. But then, without warning, Jamison scoots back and drops to his elbows, taking Mako into his mouth, and abruptly Mako understands the appeal of having a partner.

 

Something akin to a growl but deeper and more needy escapes him, unbidden, and Jamison shudders, sinking down until his throat bulges with the thickness of Mako's cock. The pleasure is hot and bright and new, unlike anything he's experienced stroking himself, and he's half tempted to push in again when the rat pulls back for a breath, lips still touching the tip. Mako has to tuck his hands behind his back to keep from grabbing Jamison's hair and using it to push him back down, and then he's distracted by the sight of the rat reaching back to jam a couple of fingers into his own ass.

 

Curious, and needing to be more involved than he is, Mako leans over to slide his fingers against Jamison's, feeling what he's doing and then tugging Jamison's hand out of the way to do it himself. He barely manages to get the tip of one finger inside before the rat jolts and groans, sending vibrations straight through to Mako's core and lighting a fire of need that has his hips bucking forward of their own volition. Jamison's ass tightens around his finger and he suddenly wants to feel that constriction around his cock.

 

"How much prep do you need?" he demands, already impatient to be inside the rat.

 

"Nn... Not a lot," Jamison answers around his mouthful. "Like I said; played around with toys. Just need a sec to adjust." Mako tests that by slowly wedging a second finger inside, which draws a loud gasp and another desperate moan from the rat, but as promised, he adjusts quickly; in mere seconds, Mako has no problem thrusting both fingers in up to the second knuckle.

 

This is entirely unfamiliar territory now, but instead of making Mako uncomfortable or cautious, he finds himself on the edge of his control, eager to cut loose and utterly destroy the rat on his cock, to make a complete, whimpering mess of him.

 

"Lay down," he orders, pulling out his fingers and musing for a moment at the sticky wet. Did the rat fill himself up with lube or something? Probably for the best, since Mako doesn't have any.

 

If this is going to be a recurring event, however, he's definitely investing in some.

 

Jamison immediately pops off and wiggles onto his back, legs spread wide in invitation. His dick is tiny compared to Mako's, but undoubtedly it'd be one hell of a treat for a more average sized individual; it lays thick, heavy, and red against the rat's tanned stomach, leaking like a faucet.

 

Mako tugs at his hips to bring him closer, lining up for a little test thrust to see if he can fit or if he needs to stretch the rat a little more. Jamison takes a breath and lets it out, visibly relaxing even though his hands are fisted into the sheets, and to Mako's surprise, he has almost no problem getting the thick mushroom cap of his tip inside the rat.

 

That's about as far as he gets, though; a burst of heat in his gut makes him falter, trembling, breathless with the sudden need to rail the rat into the bed. He only just barely refrains, and only because the last functioning piece of his brain realises that if he did, he'd probably tear something and hurt the rat in ways that can't be fixed without proper medical attention.

 

"Oh my god, Roadie!" Jamison whines, head thrown back and hands shaking. "Fuck me, you're huge! Feels so good... Come on, big guy, give it to me; I need it!"

 

Mako can't say no. He wraps one hand halfway around the rat's waist and grabs his prosthetic leg with the other; using that grip, he yanks the rat onto him as he thrusts in hard. Jamison yelps and grabs at his wrist, long, thin fingers digging into his skin, and then lets out a strangely intoxicating moan of bliss. Or maybe it's the way the rat opens around him, sucking him deeper, that's intoxicating; addicting, even. He slams in to the hilt every time, soaking in the tingling pleasure that burns through him with every stroke and basking in the melody of whines, whimpers and groans that every thrust punches from the rat.

 

From his rat. Now that he's tasted it, Mako isn't about to let it go; this idiot Junkrat is his now, and he impresses that claim on Jamison's body with every hard thrust until something changes. The building fire in his belly coils, tightens with a desperation that has him pounding Jamison into the bed faster than the rat can breathe, and then suddenly snaps, exploding through him in a wave of hot ecstasy more potent than any orgasm he's ever had.

 

Dimly, he's distantly aware of Jamison crying out, but his attention is more on the abrupt spasming of the rat's insides; the hungry attempt to milk him dry that heightens the post-orgmasmic bliss.

 

As he starts to come down from the high, he realises how heavily he's breathing; how heavily they're both breathing. He pulls out carefully, wincing as his crown catches on the puffed rim of the rat's asshole, and noting the rat's grimace. Reaching behind him, he grabs his mask and takes a hit off the hogdrogen, just in case. Then he tosses it back on the nightstand and leans back to admire the spill of his cum out of Jamison's quivering ass.

 

"Fffuuucck," the rat groans, limp and blissed out; he doesn't seem to care that he's leaking all over Mako's sheets, which is fine because Mako doesn't care either. "For a virgin, you really know how to give it, big guy... I might be addicted."

 

Sounds about right. Mako's already making a list of what he's going to need for the next time.

 

Standing, he tugs his pants up enough to get to the bathroom to clean up, and then brings a rag back to clean up the rat's mess. Jamison doesn't even react to being cleaned like a child, except to help move himself as needed, and he doesn't protest when Mako lifts him to pull away the top sheet for cleaning and tucks him in with a blanket from the closet. It takes him a moment to realise the rat is half asleep and falling deeper every second, but he isn't really surprised; fucking the rat took a lot out of him too, and only the fact that he's used to staying up when he's tired has kept him on his feet this long. As soon as he's finished, however, he nudges the rat out of the way to lay down and turn off the light.

 

Halloween, he decides, is his favourite holiday.

Chapter Text

They return in a rush, and everyone waiting in the hanger rises to meet them, an air of anxious hope and uncertainty hovering thick around them. Shrike leads the way, looking agitated and restless, but unharmed; Tracer blinks past her, going straight to Reinhardt, also unharmed. Then Manx and Kannus enter and it's clear something went wrong.

 

Manx's shoulder is wrapped in a tight field dressing, and with a patch of gauze peeking through a hole in his clothes, just above his hip. Kannus can't use a foreleg, but seems otherwise unharmed, yet enters with its head down and whining.

 

"What happened?" Reinhardt demands. Genji hurries over to listen in while Zenyatta approaches Manx and Kannus, crooning first at the dog that it'll be okay, and then turning his attention to the feline to check on his wounds.

 

"We found them hiding out in the cellar of one of the construction buildings in the new suburb outside the city," Tracer answers grimly, already bringing up a map to show him. "Manx found them, actually, and got caught. He led them away from us but Kannus noticed before we did and ran after him to help. Shrike and I got out unseen and went back to the spot where Fareeha got captured to wait. Kannus brought Manx back soon after, but he was all shot up, so Shrike patched him up as best she could with what she had and we came straight back, quick as you like."

 

"What do we know?" Reinhardt prompts.

 

"Fareeha and four other humans are being held in the cellar, here, with two Null Sector on guard and another patrolling the perimeter around here. We got lucky it didn't see us before Manx created a diversion."

 

"We need to move, now."

 

"Actually, we might have a little time, but they'll probably beef up security before you get there," Tracer notes, casting a quick look of respect in Manx's direction. The feline is sitting impatiently while Zenyatta checks up on him, seeming more annoyed by the attention than bothered by his injuries. "Manx said he tried to talk to the guard that caught him; long story short, they should just think he was a passerby that ran into the guard, so hopefully they don't realise they've been discovered yet."

 

"Manx is a survivor," Shrike says, arms crossed and shifting back and forth on her feet. "He knows how to do anything he must in order to get out alive and with the best outcome. This just proves what Mei and I decided when we found him; he'll be a valuable asset if we ever fully gain his trust."

 

"Good, good," Reinhardt nods, relieved. "Now it's our turn. Well done. Go get some food and sleep. Hana, Lucio; over here please." He doesn't have to get the bastion's attention; as soon as he looked up, it was already approaching eagerly.

 

"We ready to go?" Lucio asks as he glides over, his skates and equipment vivid green in the dim, early morning light. It's Genji's favourite shade, but he hasn't had a moment yet to comment, and now is not the time.

 

"Yes," Reinhardt answers with a curt nod. "Hana, is there any way to make your mech a bit quieter for the approach?"

 

"Don't even need to walk it in," she grins, cocking a hip. "After my last big fight back home, Dae-hyun helped me mod my new mech with a remote jet system that lets me float it in the sky wherever I want until I call it down; I can go in on foot and call it whenever we're ready to engage."

 

"Perfect. Let's go, then; I'll explain the plan on the way."

 

The plan is simple, and hopefully all they need. The bastion will approach first, get the guards' attentions, and provide a momentary distraction. Hana will call in her mech while Reinhardt charges the guards. Meanwhile, Lucio and Genji will sneak down to the cellar, dispatch the guards there, and free Fareeha and the other captives.

 

It isn't foolproof, but they don't have time to come up with anything else.

 

When they get close, Reinhardt stops and raises an arm, metal clanking softly; this is the closest they can get without his armour alerting the guards. With a jerk of his head, he sends the bastion ahead, and then gestures for Genji and Lucio to circle to the back.

 

The gentle humming melody of Lucio's equipment stirs Genji's blood, as if he wasn't brimming with adrenaline already; they get into position almost before the bastion approaches the half finished building. From where they hide behind a stack of plywood boards, they can hear the Null Sector guard call for the intruder to halt, and the bastion replies with a chirp that starts a conversation in the same language. Genji nods to Lucio and hops the stack, darting toward the building and scanning it for the entrance to the cellar. Lucio reaches it first and yanks it open enough for Genji to slip through. To his surprise, he doesn't have to tell the musician to watch the door; Lucio closes the door almost completely behind him, leaving it open just a crack and standing right there.

 

Putting into practice all of his training and experience, Genji creeps silently down the stairs and checks carefully around the corner. He can't see more than vague shapes, so he taps the edge of his visor, turning on the night vision mode. Shapes light up; grainy and in odd shades of green, but visible and distinct.

 

There's Fareeha. She looks to be either asleep or unconscious; he can't tell which. One omnic stands above her, and the other is pacing lazily back and forth in front of the other captives.

 

Seven of them.

 

This isn't good... In the two short hours between when Manx found this place and now, they've taken three other humans captive. Whatever they're planning, it needs to end, here and now.

 

Shifting back, Genji closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, centering himself, focusing. Any lingering fear seeps away. All worry and uncertainty fades. He listens to the imperceptible hum of his body, mentally tracing every wire and vein, becoming fully aware of every fiber of his being; stepping out of himself and into the killer he knows so intimately.

 

His wakizashi slices cleanly through the head of one guard even as a crash signals the sudden chaos above them. The other guard ducks just in time to avoid the same fate, gun coming up to his face with machine precision. But the omnic isn't the only one with a mechanical body, and Genji has had years to blend the talents of fragile flesh with the power of unfeeling metal. Not a single bullet touches him, and the moment the omnic jolts back to reload, its gun arm clatters to the ground, riddled with new holes.

 

" Mada mada ," he scoffs, sheathing the wakizashi and making a mental note to check and sharpen it later. The omnic looks up at him, down at the space where its gun just was, and then at its chest, where its power core has been piercing through. A final spark signals its end, like a last breath, and then it collapses.

 

Genji is already kneeling beside Fareeha, who hasn't stirred. As he allows emotion to flood back in and gently cups her cheek, he realises why; she was bludgeoned across the temple, hard enough to split skin. She's still warm, and her wound flows freely at the movement, which assures him long enough to press his fingers to her neck. Although he lacks sensation in his fingertips, he can see the steady rhythm of her heartbeat pressing back, and he breathes a low sigh of relief.

 

Leaving her for a moment, he goes around to the others and releases them, murmuring requests to be quiet and stay close to him. Then he returns to Fareeha, who must have made a nuisance of herself since she's the only one unconscious, and unbinds her, lifting her over his shoulder with a grunt.

 

"When you wake, I am going to give you shit for being so heavy," he mutters under his breath, turning on the lights of his armour so the others can see as he guides them up the stairs.

 

Lucio jolts sharply and bites back a startled cry when Genji nudges open the door, and then huffs in relief as he holds it open for them.

 

"Took you long enough," the musician says softly. "How many were there?"

 

"Two. I had to take care that the hostages were not injured in the crossfire. Take these people that way; lose yourselves in the city and get them home, then return to the base. I will take care of Fareeha. Go!"

 

With a nod and a quick adjustment to something on his wrist, Lucio gestures for everyone's attention, explaining the plan as he guides them away from the battle. While they leave, Genji takes Fareeha around to the other side of the stack of plywood boards and sets her down carefully.

 

"Just for a moment," he promises quietly, knowing she can't hear him but needing to reassure her anyway. "I'll be right back."

 

He dashes around to the front of the building, where Reinhardt is holding the line against a bunch of omnics taking cover in the house to fire outward. Hana and the bastion are behind his shield, the former firing back with her mech while the latter looks on, uncertain.

 

"Rein!" Genji calls. "She's safe! Retreat!"

 

"Ha! Good!" Reinhardt grins, delighted. "Retreat, my friends; we've gotten what we came for!"

 

Apparently, that's what the bastion needed to hear, because it stops hesitating and suddenly transforms, the massive gun on its back swinging down to face the house. Reinhardt's expression shifts from triumphant to terrified as he glances over his shoulder at the noise, and that tells Genji all he needs to know.

 

Reinhardt's shield drops, and he bodyslams Hana's mech out of the way. Genji dives away from the house.

 

The bastion unleashes hell.

 

The staccato burring of machine gun fire fills the air as it shreds the feeble plywood walls and demolishes supports in a fraction of a second. Bullets ping off metal and cement, creating a gruesome melody of death that lasts a mere two seconds.

 

In the deafening silence that follows, Genji can only stare at the destruction it caused. A flicker of memory places the ruin of the bombed Overwatch headquarters in Switzerland over top of this small house, and he wonders in horrified awe how Reinhardt survived against thousands of these monstrous omnic beasts in Eichenwald.

 

The bastion transforms back to its more familiar, more mobile state, whirring in seeming sadness as it surveys its handiwork.

 

"Ho-ly shit," Hana says quietly, also staring.

 

Reinhardt says nothing, expression inscrutable as he looks over the destruction for a moment. His attention turns to the bastion, a wariness settling on his features, and now Genji understands why Torbjorn has been so reluctant to dote on the bastion when he treats so many of his other creations with better care almost than his own children.

 

"...Bastion?" Reinhardt finally speaks up after a long, terse moment of silence. The bastion stops eying the wreckage to look at him, head tipped curiously. It chirps in question, and Reinhardt relaxes, releasing a small sigh and nodding. "Good. You- ...Well done. Genji, where are Fareeha and Lucio?"

 

"I-" Genji can't stop his gaze from returning to the demolished building. "I sent Lucio to escort the other hostages home. Fareeha is unconscious; I placed her out of harm's way to inform you that we succeeded."

 

"Good. Check the wreckage for survivors; I will retrieve Fareeha."

 

Genji wordlessly points him in the right direction and then picks his way through the destruction, making sure none of the omnics are still alive. While he does, Hana slips out of her mech and peeks around it at the bastion, who's quietly watching Genji.

 

"You, uh... You can do a lot of damage, huh?" she asks carefully. The bastion makes a whooshing noise that almost sounds like a sigh, surprising Hana and Genji both, and looks at its gun arm with an indisputably disgusted look. Then it chuffs and bows its head in resignation, turning away.

 

Genji knows that emotion intimately; the ragged sorrow of believing the world has spurned you, despises you. He aches with sympathy, and not even stumbling over the twisted, unrecognisable lump of metal that can only have been an omnic once can stop him from darting after the bastion.

 

"Bastion, wait." He catches its shoulder, metal clacking against metal. It pauses, looking at him, and waits; if it had lungs, he imagines it'd be holding its breath. "You are not your past. I understand what it's like to fear that no one will ever accept you because of the blood on your hands. You have changed, and although it may take time for those who know what you are capable of, you must keep trying. If I can be welcomed here, if Hanzo and Jesse and Baptiste can be welcomed here, then so can you." A small smirk tugs at his lips, even though no one can see it. "And besides, I would much rather have you on our side."

 

Bastion stares at him for a long moment, and then dares to make the smallest, quietest, most hesitant questioning beep. Taking a chance on what it means, Genji lays a hand on the muzzle of the gun.

 

"You belong with us. And I will make sure everyone knows it."

Chapter Text

The relief when they return with Fareeha is palpable. Jack watches everyone relax, and the old members actually cheer. While Reinhardt carries her to the medbay with Ana and Angela hot on his heels, Lena suggests a small party to celebrate surviving a Talon attack and rescuing Fareeha, and Winston agrees, asking Athena to help organise everyone. Genji makes a point of staying near the bastion and explaining what's going on while Lucio is already in the process of choosing music, Mei is making a list of supplies that will be needed, and everyone else is either debating whether to do games or movies, or scampering off presumably to change into something more comfortable.

 

Standing off to the side as he is to watch the hustle and bustle, Jack notices Baptiste slip in ― much later than expected ― and make his way quickly and quietly to Winston's side. They exchange a few words, and Winston frowns, then looks around until his gaze finds Jack. He gestures for Jack to join them, and then leads the way to the briefing room.

 

"What's up?" Jack asks, standing at rest.

 

"Your contact, Sunshine..." Winston begins, uncertain. "Did he ever indicate wanting to join Overwatch?"

 

Well shit. Jack thinks back to the last conversation they had, over the phone. When Gabriel hung up suddenly, Jack was positive he was going to try and find out where Fareeha was being held to go in himself. Obviously that didn't happen, or else Gabriel just didn't get there before Reinhardt and his team did, but now it makes sense why. Why he hung up so suddenly, and why Baptiste took so long.

 

"Why do you ask?" he hedges, wary of revealing too much. Winston doesn't answer, clearly uneasy, and Baptiste speaks up instead.

 

"I told him Sunshine is Reaper."

 

That explains a lot actually... Jack sighs.

 

"Winston... I think you need to meet him. The real him, not the person you think he is."

 

"He tried to kill me," Winstons states plainly, disgruntled. "He almost destroyed Athena and stole all the information about where everyone was during Overwatch's disbandment."

 

"I know. Do you trust me?"

 

"I trust you just fine. I don't trust Reaper."

 

"Then trust me on this," Jack insists. "You need to meet him." Winston hesitates, still uneasy, and for a moment, Jack is certain he's going to say no. Then he looks at Baptiste, who hasn't said or done anything else, watching and waiting.

 

"...Alright. I'll trust you. Please... Don't be wrong. I can't lose Overwatch again." Jack can't promise that, and they both know it, so he nods instead and turns to Baptiste.

 

"Where is he?"

 

"Waiting," Baptiste answers, wrinkling his nose a bit. "He was adamant that Winston would agree to meet him, but obviously I had to check first."

 

"Good." Jack pulls out his phone and calls Gabriel, who answers on the first ring.

 

"How pissed is he?"

 

"Surprisingly, not very," Jack snorts. Then he pauses, and he can practically feel Gabriel tensing for his next words. "...It's time."

 

"...Are you ready to be known again?"

 

"I've done my duty; there's no need to hide behind the mask anymore."

 

"I see." There's a short moment of quiet and then, reluctantly, "Jack, I... I'm... proud of you."

 

Jack could swear he melts a little, and embarrassment creeps hot up his neck as he hears the gentleness of his own voice when he answers, "Thank you."

 

"I'll be in shortly." The line clicks dead and Jack shoves it back into his pocket, refusing to look at Winston or Baptiste and see their reactions to what they just heard.

 

Fortunately, it's hardly a minute before smoke creeps into the room and coalesces into the familiar hooded shape of the Reaper. He approaches, his deadly, predatorial gait sending thrills across Jack's skin.

 

"I really hope Athena let me in and I didn't just use the same entrance because you forgot to close it," Gabriel humphs, coming to stand beside Jack with his arms crossed.

 

"You tried to kill me," Winston reminds, tense and ready for a fight.

 

"I've tried to kill a lot of people," Gabriel scoffs. "Count yourself special, you survived."

 

"I beat you."

 

"Sure, keep telling yourself that, monkey."

 

"I am not a monkey!" Winston growls, some of his cybernetics sparking with his rising anger.

 

"Enough!" Jack cuts in before Gabriel can ruin this. "We're not here to fight." Winston settles reluctantly, still eyeing Gabriel narrowly.

 

"You're right... sorry."

 

Jack elbows Gabriel, but instead of apologising, he sighs and reaches up to remove his mask. Even though it doesn't matter, Jack does the same, to support him.

 

For a moment, Winston clearly doesn't recognise him, which isn't a surprise considering all the scars. And Gabriel looks completely different without his characteristic goatee from the old days. But then it slowly dawns on the scientist, and he takes a half step forward.

 

"Reyes? Gabriel Reyes? But- But you..."

 

"Died?" Gabriel huffs. "Yeah. I did. And the Reaper was born." He replaces the mask, glancing at Jack, who struggles to resist the urge to take his hand.

 

"We didn't know each other had survived until recently," he explains. "I found out he and Ana were still alive at the same time."

 

"I nearly killed you, too," Gabriel notes, watching him, and he shrugs.

 

"Wasn't the first time. Doubt it'll be the last."

 

"You accept that far too easily," Gabriel snorts, amused. Jack can't help smirking, and he busies himself putting his mask back on so he doesn't flirt.

 

"Why didn't you come back?" Winston asks, perplexed.

 

"I didn't belong at Overwatch in the first place," Gabriel sighs. "That was the whole reason I made Jack create Blackwatch for me; I've never been one to follow the rules, and I don't intend to start now. I'm here because I realised... Because I realised when Fareeha was taken that in spite of it's problems, in spite of the fact that I didn't ― and still don't ― belong, Overwatch is my family. And I won't let it fall apart. Not again."

 

"Are the others really going to be accepting of Reaper joining Overwatch?" Baptiste asks hesitantly. "I mean, there's a pretty big difference between me and you."

 

"I won't stay here," Gabriel scoffs, "so it won't matter. Jack and I have a safehouse for our meetings; that'll be my base of operations."

 

"And Talon?" Winston frowns.

 

"They know I've been selling out. I wasn't told about the attack, but Widow was. It won't be long before I'm the next name on her list."

 

"We still have Sombra," Baptiste points out, looking at Winston.

 

"Sombra is an opportunist," Gabriel says blandly. "She plays ball for anyone who can give her something, and right now that's Talon. I wouldn't count on her always being with them, and while she's there, don't think she won't play you, too."

 

"She did admit to being in the base," Baptiste agrees reluctantly. "Said Athena probably knows and has her locked out of the briefing rooms and command centre."

 

"Athena?" Winston prompts.

 

"Sombra has indeed hacked into the base," Athena replies after a short moment. "I didn't want to worry you since I've kept her away from any sensitive information. And I saw no harm in giving her access to a few places seeing as she is an informant of ours."

 

"I'm glad you've kept her out of the important stuff but do you think you could give me a bit of a warning next time? Having a former Talon operative tell me is not exactly a fun way to find out."

 

"Sorry, Winston."

 

"So this is really happening?" Baptiste asks, looking around at them. "Reaper is leaving Talon to join Overwatch?"

 

"Not yet," Gabriel corrects, staring at Winston like he's daring the scientist to turn him down. "Not completely anyway. I'll stay at Talon until Akande finally decides he's had enough. After that, Moira is your best bet."

 

Jack blinks, and Winston growls, on edge again.

 

"Moira sold us out in the first place!" the scientist snaps, cybernetics sparking.

 

"She also has motivation to make sure Overwatch stays alive this time," Gabriel replies, oddly calm.

 

"You son of a bitch," Jack mutters, shaking his head. "You planned this? To use Alex to blackmail Moira?"

 

"It's not blackmail," Gabriel shrugs. "Moira doesn't want her to have anything to do with Talon. And she's done one hell of a job keeping Alex a secret; Sombra didn't even know the full scale of it until I talked to her."

 

"She won't stay secret for long," Baptiste notes grimly. "Not after the attack; she did some crazy things the likes of which I've only seen from you."

 

"Obviously. She's my predecessor. Everything I can do is a result of experiments Moira did on Alex first."

 

"And you want us to trust her," Winston humphs, gaze narrowed.

 

"Trust? No. Moira and I are long past trust. But use? Certainly. She won't let harm come to Alex if she can help it. That much, you can trust."

 

Winston doesn't speak for a long time, and Jack feels a creeping unease that he might choose to err on the side of caution and send Gabriel packing. Not that he doesn't have every right; Jack just doesn't want to see Gabriel fall back to the bitter, angry shell of a man he was when they reunited.

 

"Winston. We all have our scars, our regrets. We've all done shit that we can't take back. But I wouldn't be here if I didn't have hope for the future. And I know you know how it feels to think your family is dead, your home gone forever. You said you can't lose Overwatch again... Don't be the one to take it from Gabe a second time."

 

"It's not easy to overlook the things he's done, Jack," Winston says, voice strained.

 

"I'm no saint," Gabriel replies. "I never will be. I won't try to apologise; I deal in death, and that's never going to change. But at least I can be of use to you. Just like Blackwatch."

 

"How would it even work?" Winston huffs, cracking. "Everyone knows you're with Talon; we've all seen what you're capable of... No one is going to trust you."

 

Gabriel doesn't reply right away, and Jack shifts anxiously, impatiently waiting for him to defend himself. Instead of saying anything, he pulls out his phone and scrolls through to a picture that he holds up.

 

"Mauga," Baptiste gasps, eyes wide in horror at the deforming scars all along the side of the man's face and neck and shoulder in the image. "He survived? I thought for sure I must have killed him; I nearly killed myself!"

 

"That's what Augustin is capable of," Gabriel says plainly, talking to Winston. "You trust him." He puts the phone away and crosses his arms, ignoring the dark look Baptiste passes on him. "You had no issues with the things Blackwatch did in the past to protect the people, to protect Overwatch. Genji has just as much blood on his hands as I do. So does Jesse. So does Jack. Even Ana isn't so innocent."

 

"But you take pleasure in it," Winston interjects. "More than you should; you always have."

 

"I'm a high functioning psychopath," Gabriel shrugs. "What do you expect?"

 

"At last, he admits it," Jack mutters, rolling his eyes.

 

"Shut up."

 

"Make me."

 

"Watch it, brillo ."

 

Jack bites his lip before he says more; he'll have Gabriel all to himself after this, regardless of how it goes.

 

"...I don't know," Winston sighs, frustrated with himself. "I can't make this decision. I just don't-" He breaks off, shaking his head. "Let everyone else decide; after the party, after everyone's had a chance to rest, I'll gather everybody together and explain the situation. Then we'll put it to a vote."

 

"That's better than I expected," Gabriel says, unbothered. "Have Jack call me when you've made a decision."

 

He collapses into smoke and vanishes into a vent, and Jack has just long enough to get annoyed before his phone vibrates in his pocket and he pulls it out to see a message from Gabriel. It's a demand to be naked in bed at the safehouse in the next thirty minutes, and Jack can't stifle his grin as he excuses himself and goes to obey.

Chapter Text

Fareeha comes awake aching, disoriented, and utterly furious. She peels open her eyes carefully, glancing around to see where the bastard omnic is that hit her, and at first doesn't recognise her surroundings. Then, in a splash of pure, cool relief, she realises she's been rescued.

 

Angela is abruptly standing above her, anxious and hopeful, her hair a messy halo around her creased features.

 

"Fareeha?" she breathes, uncertain. "Can you hear me?"

 

"Hell of a first date," Fareeha manages, her voice hoarse from all the screaming she did when Null Sector first tied her up. Angela barks a sharp laugh, relaxing.

 

"How are you feeling?" she asks, checking her over with the clinical patience of a medical professional, but with an added tender care that warms Fareeha inside out.

 

"Like I got hit by a truck," Fareeha scoffs. "Which seems applicable."

 

"I don't know how you can joke about this," Angela huffs, equal parts concerned and amused.

 

"Because you're here," Fareeha answers seriously, covering the doctor's hand to stop her. "Because you're safe."

 

"Stop flirting," Angela chides, blushing lightly. "I'm trying to check up on you."

 

"Keep flirtin'!" a familiar drawl calls out across the room, reminding Fareeha that they're still technically in public. "Ange needs a little loosenin' up."

 

"I control your morphine dosage, Jesse," Angela warns. "Do you really want to mess with me?"

 

"Ah shiet; Hanzo, protect me!"

 

Whatever Hanzo's reply, Fareeha can hear Jesse's pout all the way across the room and she can't help but laugh.

 

"Finally, he's met his match," she grins as Angela finishes checking her over and sits back.

 

" You haven't had to listen to them bicker like an old married couple all day long," the doctor states, raising her voice pointedly to be heard by the men across from them.

 

"I resemble that!" Jesse chuckles.

 

A small, polite cough widens Fareeha's attention a little further to the woman sitting in the corner of her cubicle. Shrike stands and folds her hands in front of her.

 

"Excuse me for interrupting," she says lowly. "May I have a minute alone with Miss Amari, please?"

 

"...Of course," Angela allows, reluctant. She manages a smile and a reassuring nod for Fareeha. "I'll be right back with some food. The others are all celebrating our victory and your safe return."

 

"Bring me some cake?" Fareeha requests hopefully. Angela's smile warms.

 

"A small slice." With an uncertain glance at Shrike, she leaves, closing down the cubicle to give them proper privacy.

 

"You have something to say?" Fareeha asks politely, not entirely sure how to react to the strange bounty hunter who reminds her so much of her mother.

 

"Something like that," Shrike nods, and then hesitates. "Before I do, I- I want to apologise. And I fully understand if you want nothing to do with me after." Fareeha frowns, but she doesn't have enough time to figure out a response before Shrike reaches up, pauses, and slowly removes her mask.

 

For a moment, Fareeha is sure she's hallucinating. She must have been hit harder than she thought, and the concussion is catching up to her; there's no way she's seeing what she's seeing. She stares blankly at the woman she thought long dead, struggling to process the first real proof she's had.

 

"Mom?" she whispers, half afraid that if she speaks too loudly, it'll break whatever illusion she's looking at.

 

"I am so, so sorry, habībti ," Ana says quietly, voice strained. She reaches out, like she wants to touch, but stops herself, and Fareeha's chest aches. "I should have told you a long time ago. I was afraid- I thought it best to stay dead. To let Overwatch return unbound by the baggage of the past."

 

Part of Fareeha is singing with joy and validation, but the other part is screaming in painful anger, and those emotions war within her.

 

"It's been more than ten years," she points out, struggling to keep her tone even. "It isn't about Overwatch; you could have said something at any time, but you didn't."

 

"I know... I'm sorry," Ana steps back, shame etched into her features. "At first, I wanted nothing more than to come back to you, but by the time I recovered, I feared... I believed you and everyone else were better off without me."

 

"Better-" The need to scream aloud bubbles fiercely at Fareeha's throat and she has to swallow back the rising fury. "You abandoned us! You abandoned me ; your own daughter!"

 

" Habībti , I-"

 

"No! You don't get to walk in here and pretend- I can't- Just- Get out. Go. Get away from me. I don't want to talk to you." Ana falters, tears gathering in her eyes, but Fareeha's blood is boiling and it's taking everything she has not to do something physical, something she'll regret.

 

"Fareeha..."

 

"I said leave!!" The force of Fareeha's demand makes her step back again, on the verge of crying, and a spike of pain pierces Fareeha's chest. She almost takes it back; she opens her mouth, but Ana is already slipping from the cubicle, Shrike's mask in place.

 

A sob escapes past the lump in Fareeha's throat, and then the tears won't stop; she drags the pillow into her lap and buries her face in it to muffle the ragged gasps and wails, burning with pain, anger, hope.

 

"Oh my God, Fareeha??" Angela is suddenly there, coaxing her out of her ball and into a warm, gentle embrace that helps soothe the fraying ends of Fareeha's existence. The doctor croons at her, comforting, holding, stroking her hair.

 

In a few short minutes that feel like an eternity, Fareeha has calmed down enough to stop crying. She stays pressed to Angela's side, though, craving the feel of her.

 

"What's wrong?" Angela asks eventually, still stroking her hair and rocking gently.

 

"Nothing," Fareeha whispers. "I- nothing."

 

"Fareeha..." Angela shifts back to look at her, softly brushing damp hair out of her face. "You didn't even cry this much at Ana's funeral. Talk to me, please. I want to be here for you... as a partner."

 

"I can't- It's not-" Fareeha bites her lip, wondering why she's being cagey about something that doesn't even matter anymore. Taking a breath, she fights back the pain to tell the truth. "Shrike... She's... my mother. She's Ana Amari."

 

~

 

Ana is sitting on the edge of the cliff with her knees up and her arms crossed over them, watching the sunrise while her pain falls in a stream of tears down her cheeks, when someone approaches. She hastily swipes tears from her jaw and swallows the lump in her throat, unfurling herself into a much lazier position before she realises it's Angela and that her precautions are probably useless.

 

Angela sits down beside her, cross-legged, and leans back on her arms, watching the sunrise quietly for a while; long enough that Ana thinks she'll be able to speak without it being obvious that she was just crying.

 

"...Do you remember," Angela says finally, nostalgic, "when you first made your biotic rifle, and I was so furious with you that I refused to talk to you for a full week?" Ana doesn't reply; she doesn't know what to say now that she's certain Angela knows. But the doctor doesn't seem to be expecting a reply, because she just goes on. "I was so mad that anyone would use my work to hurt others; in my naivety, I thought that there would always be a peaceful solution to every disagreement." She huffs a wry laugh. "I've learned better since then. Sometimes, talking things out isn't enough to get rid of the anger. Sometimes you just have to fight, even when you don't want to."

 

"What are you getting at, Angela?" Ana asks quietly, aching. The doctor looks at her, taking in the mask and the clothes, and then sighs.

 

"Fareeha loves you," she says plainly. "But you hid for ten years , letting the world think you dead; letting us think you dead. You never once gave us a sign that you were alive. Even if you were watching over us, do you have any idea how much pain we suffered, thinking we buried you? Most of us were close enough that when you died, we struggled to move on for months or even years after your funeral, but Fareeha? She's your daughter . How could you possibly think she would just welcome you back after thinking you were dead for the last decade? Especially knowing that you could have returned at any time."

 

"I know," Ana manages into the momentary pause. Angela catches herself and waits for more, so Ana does her best to explain. "I thought it was for the best; Overwatch was disbanded and Fareeha was free to find her way in a better place, away from all the deceit and the traitors. I did my best to clean up the villains and criminals; cleared the streets from the shadows so that she'd be safe. So everyone would be safe. And that way, when I do die, no one has to mourn twice."

 

"Then why did you come back?" Angela pushes, exasperated. "If you were content to stay dead until you really died, then why return to the one place that knows you?"

 

"...Overwatch is my home," Ana answers, barely above a whisper, letting herself be completely open and honest for the first time in she doesn't even know how long. "You all are my family. When the recall went out, I knew I couldn't stay away; I had to protect you, to make sure that you survived. Even if it meant risking your wrath should you discover me."

 

"And Fareeha? Us, I understand, but Fareeha is your daughter , your flesh and blood. She loves you as much as you love her."

 

"I tried to protect her. You can't understand, Angela; you don't have children. I would do anything, anything , to protect my little girl. And when I was laying there with glass through my eye, certain that every breath would be my last, I swore that if I survived, I would never let her get hurt again. I swore that even if I died, I would fight my way back ― as a ghost, a spirit; whatever it took ― to make sure she would be safe. Overwatch was dying, and by going to the grave ahead of it, I was sure that I could become the guardian we were meant to be."

 

Angela stays silent for a long time, and Ana waits patiently, heavy hearted, for the dismissal, the demand to leave and never come back.

 

The sun has escaped the horizon before Angela finally takes a deep breath.

 

"She loves you," the doctor says again, gentler than Ana deserves. "But it's going to take time for her to forgive you. She needed her mother, and you weren't there. You're going to have to give her space for a while."

 

"You think she'll forgive me?" Ana dares to ask, remembering Jesse's promise, words that seemed so very fake when Fareeha screamed at her to leave.

 

"I know she will. But probably not right away. I'll talk to her." Angela pats her arm softly, comforting.

 

Ana lets out a shaky breath of relief she didn't know she was holding, and covers Angela's hand with her own, gripping tight in gratitude.

 

"...You know," she says after a moment, curious now to see if she was right. "Fareeha has always been fascinated by you; from the moment she first laid eyes on you, she wouldn't stop pestering me about the beautiful angel of Overwatch." Angela flushes, ducking her head, but the small smile tugging at her lips is a dead giveaway, and Ana relaxes a little now that she's back on familiar ground. "I thought she wanted to be you when she grew up, but when I asked her, she gave me this wide eyed look and said, 'No way, Mama; I could never be an angel as gorgeous as her! But I do want to be with her. Do you think she'd let me stay with her?' I couldn't stop laughing at how earnest she was."

 

"She- She confessed," Angela admits reluctantly, looking anywhere but at Ana. "When she was helping me to my room after the attack. She said she always worries about me, and something about the way she said it made me realise her feelings."

 

"I'm not surprised," Ana hums, a little bit of her mischief returning. "She spoke often of how she planned on asking you out, and where she wanted to go on dates. She even picked out a ring in a catalogue and asked me if I thought you'd like it. I didn't have the heart to tell her that she was still a child and that by the time she grew up, you would probably have a boyfriend or something... I suppose it's a good thing I didn't, since you're still single. Or... you were, anyway."

 

"You're... not upset?" Angela asks, risking a quick peek at her.

 

"Why would I be?" Ana laughs. "So long as you treat her right and take care of her, I have no concerns whatsoever. And I know you; I know you'll do your best to take care of her."

 

"But I let her be taken by Null Sector," Angela frowns, uneasy.

 

"Angela, I don't blame you for that. Yes, there was a moment when I was angry that you ran away instead of helping her, but when I calmed down enough to think about it, I knew you did the right thing. If both of you had been taken, we might never have found you, and if you had been taken instead of Fareeha, she would have gotten herself killed trying to save you."

 

"I... want to try to make it work with her," she admits hesitantly. "I know there's a large age difference, but... I'm not interested in anyone else, and she understands the job; understands that work will always have to come first..."

 

"She loves you," Ana hums. "She'll do everything she can to make things work with you. As long as you do your best to meet her in the middle, I have every confidence it will turn out fine."

 

"Thank you," Angela breathes, smiling. Then she stands, taking another deep breath and letting it out. "Well. I had better make sure that everyone is alright; the party should be winding down soon with how exhausted everyone is. I need to make sure everyone gets to a bed before they sleep."

 

" A bed?" Ana echoes, amused. "Not their own?"

 

"Do you have any idea how many people in this base are dating?" Angela snorts. "Fareeha and I are only the latest. Although, I don't think Hanzo and Jesse are ready to admit it yet..."

 

"I suppose it's to be expected when people from so many different backgrounds and walks of life come together and spend so many long hours in the same space," Ana laughs, also standing. "I'll help."

Chapter Text

Mei raises her hand, but hesitates. Taking a deep breath, she calms herself and knocks. It takes just long enough for an answer that she starts to worry, but then the door opens.

 

"Yes?" Zenyatta greets, standing in the doorway. Mei forgets how tall he is sometimes. "Ah, hello, Dr. Zhou. May I help you?"

 

"Um... May I borrow Kannus for a bit?" she asks, hoping she doesn't sound as guilty as she thinks she does.

 

"That is entirely up to Kannus," Zenyatta hums, opening the door a little wider and looking behind him. Genji is perched on the edge of one bed, maskless, expression politely curious and mildly annoyed, but it smoothes when he sees her, and he even smiles lightly. Kannus chuffs and stands from a nest of blankets beside him, giving Genji a look that Mei could swear is half a glare. Zenyatta chuckles. "Be nice, Kannus. What do you need it for, if I may ask?"

 

"Er, Tracer said I could go into town for a little bit, if I brought someone to watch my back," she lies, just like she practiced in her head on the way here. Snowball, hovering at her shoulder, chirps in surprise, but no one seems to notice, thankfully.

 

"I think it would appreciate being out for a while," Zenyatta purrs, glancing at Genji, who grins.

 

"Thank you," Mei breathes, relieved. "I promise I'll bring him back in a couple of hours."

 

"It," Zenyatta corrects, patting Kannus when it bumps his leg in passing. "Kannus prefers to be called 'it.'"

 

"Oh... Okay. Sorry, Kannus." The dog whuffs and turns a curious gaze on Snowball as it joins them in the hall. "Um, Kannus, this is Snowball. Snowball, Kannus. You'll get along, right?"

 

"I would not doubt it," Zenyatta hums. "Take care, Dr. Zhou; there are still dangers from both Talon and Null Sector beyond these walls."

 

"I will. Thank you."

 

She hurries away with Snowball and Kannus trailing after her, and tries to avoid running into the stragglers separated from the party on her way out of the compound. The morning is still chilly, but the sun is just rising and it looks like it'll be a bright, warm day.

 

The exact opposite of her mood.

 

Mei prides herself on being able to maintain a cheerful, upbeat attitude even in the face of despair, but when she saw Ana all but run from the medbay, she knew what happened, and it sent her spiralling into a pit of depression and sorrow.

 

For whatever reason, the offer for drinks from the lady yesterday came to mind, and now, for the first time in her life, Mei actually wants to see if it's worth it to try and drink away the pain.

 

Yes, there are other, better, ways to cope. But she dares not show this weakness ― this darkness ― to the others; they need her cheer, her optimism, and she's not about to let them see her break down. So she'll drink with this charming Russian stranger and pour out her troubles to someone she'll never see again.

 

"Kannus?" she speaks up when she's not sure where to go next. "Do you remember where that lady was? Zarya?"

 

Kannus perks, curious, and then looks around. Without faltering, it trots off quickly toward a vaguely familiar street, and she follows quickly, ignoring Snowball's chiding beeps and chirps. It doesn't take long to reach the run-down inn or bar or whatever it is, and this time, Mei doesn't hesitate to walk in.

 

It's no cleaner than the last time she was here, but it is far emptier. In fact, it looks like it just opened; the same bartender who was working yesterday stares blankly at her, having stopped in the middle of taking down chairs that had been turned upside down and placed on the tables.

 

"Uh... Hi," Mei greets sheepishly. "Um, I'm looking for... for Zarya?"

 

"She comes in every afternoon and waits around," the bartender sighs in lightly accented English, already bored with the conversation as she continues taking down chairs. "Usually gets a drink or two, but sometimes doesn't. Hang around 'till noon or so and she'll show up."

 

"Is there any way to find her sooner?" Mei asks timidly, a hint of shame creeping through her that she's putting this poor lady out with all her questions.

 

"...She rooms at the motel down the road, I think?" the bartender shrugs. "At least, I assume so. It's the closest one and there are other places in town to get a drink."

 

"Thank you!" Mei goes back outside and looks both directions down the street, looking for any sign of the motel in question. Kannus bumps her leg and heads off one way, so she follows, scanning the buildings on either side for a motel.

 

In a stroke of luck, the huge Russian lady steps out of the small open air courtyard of a tiny motel not far ahead, an enormous gun almost bigger than she is strapped to her back. Kannus barks cheerfully and bounds toward her, making her jolt and grab for her gun. Then she sees it's Kannus and scowls.

 

"Hi!" Mei calls, rushing to keep up with the dog. Zarya looks up, and her irritation turns to amusement.

 

"Well, if it isn't the feisty little kitten," she chuckles. "Either this is a very welcome coincidence, or you need something. How can I help you, котенок ?"

 

"I..." Mei starts debating the sanity of her actions again, and Snowball's persistent chitters don't help her mood. Kannus gives a playful sort of growl and hops up at Snowball, who squeals and darts out of the way, sparking an impromptu game of chase, which gives Mei room to at least gather her courage before she backs out completely and ends up in a meltdown in the middle of the city, or back at the base; she's not sure which would be worse. Taking a breath, she blurts out, "I want to take you up on your offer!"

 

"Offer? For drinks?" Zarya cocks a brow. "...Alcoholic?" Mei bites her lip and nods. Thankfully, Zarya doesn't question her. "I have a single malt whiskey that I brought from home. It's strong, but if you want to forget, that's the way to go. Come." She turns back around, leading the way back into the courtyard, and Kannus stops chasing Snowball to follow Mei.

 

The rooms are tiny, barely big enough for a bed, a desk and a rickety chair, with a door in the corner that leads to a bathroom no bigger than a broom closet. Zarya herself consumes a good quarter of the free space, and her gun, when she takes it off, dominates the table. There don't seem to be any other decorations.

 

"The dog stays by the door," she grunts, glaring sidelong at Kannus, who chuffs and takes up a post directly in front of the door, making it impossible for anyone else to enter. Zarya humphs acceptance and eyes Snowball. "If your robot has a cord, there's a plug by the window."

 

"Oh, um... Snowball was charging for most of the day yesterday," Mei explains, wondering absently why Zarya hasn't made this space her own yet if she's been here a while. "He should still be full."

 

"Good, good." Zarya pulls a bag from under the bed and roots through it until she produces a shot glass and a large bottle about three-quarters full of deep amber liquid. "Ah, here we go. I only have one glass; sorry."

 

"No, it's fine!" Mei assures, gingerly perching on the very corner of the bed, nearest the desk. "I don't really care about... germs or anything... I'm a scientist; I've been exposed to worse things."

 

"What kind of scientist?" Zarya asks, pouring a small shot and setting the glass in easy reach. Mei takes it, wrinkling her nose a bit as the fumes sting her nostrils.

 

"Er, weather analysis... Extreme weather patterning; global catastrophes; that kind of thing." She takes a deep breath, steeling herself, and knocks back the shot, swallowing quickly to avoid the taste as much as possible.

 

It burns like too-hot mint hot chocolate, but all the way down her throat to her stomach; the phrase "fire in your belly" has never made more sense. Then she coughs and the sharp taste of alcohol slams her taste buds, making her regret her decision.

 

"Easy," Zarya chuckles. "I told you it's strong. Water?"

 

"Please!" Mei gasps, eager for anything to wash away the bitter sting.

 

Zarya takes the shot glass into the bathroom, rinses it out in the sink, and fills it with water to bring back to Mei. She repeats this until Mei isn't choking on the fumes of her own breath, and then plops down in the chair, taking a huge swig straight from the bottle.

 

"How can you stand that?" Mei asks, awed.

 

"Where I'm from in Russia, children drink vodka almost more often than water; this tastes better." Zarya gives her a little wink, and she feels a different kind of heat tickling up her neck.

 

"What is it you do?" she asks quickly to hide her embarrassment. "Since you asked me."

 

"Nuh-uh," Zarya shakes her head. "My turn for a question. "What's your little robot for?"

 

"Snowball? He's, um... Well, he was supposed to help manage the functions of the base where I was stationed, but he sort of became like a mascot."

 

"A mascot..." Zarya looks like she might ask another question, but stops herself. "Your turn."

 

"Your occupation?"

 

"Ah, I am a sort of hired gun. My employer has always been good to me, so I repay the favour by lending her my services as needed."

 

"What do you mean by sort of?"

 

"Hey, it's my turn," Zarya laughs.

 

"It's part of the same question," Mei argues. "Just clarification."

 

"Hmm. You're going to be an interesting opponent," Zarya grins, taking another swig from the bottle. She tips it toward the shot glass, questioning, and Mei hesitates. But this is what she came for, so she nods, and Zarya pours another half shot while she answers. "I suppose I could be considered something of a strong-arm; I protect my employer's interests, even if it means tracking down threats."

 

"Like this Sombra person you're looking for," Mei says, picking up the glass and taking another deep breath. This time, she holds her breath until she's swallowed several times, hoping to clear out most of it before the taste hits. It still burns and stings, like rubbing alcohol.

 

"Yes," Zarya grimaces. "Where were you stationed?"

 

"Antarctica."

 

"Ah! That explains the clothes. Are you not burning up this close to the equator?"

 

"Not really?" Mei shrugs. "Sometimes I get hot in the base, so I take off a layer or two. But I sleep under twelve blankets." She can't help the giggle that escapes her, and she doesn't even notice her slip until Zarya leans in, interested.

 

"You live at the Watchpoint?"

 

Realising what she's done, Mei opens her mouth to come up with some kind of lie, but nothing presents itself, and she just sits there for a split second, blanking.

 

"That- It's no- It's my turn," she stammers, pushing for a subject change as quickly as possible. Zarya cocks a brow again ― how did Mei not notice the scar through it before? ― and sits back with a smirk, lounging.

 

"Ask, then."

 

"Erm... Who is Sombra? Why are you chasing them?"

 

"That's two questions," Zarya grins. "I'll answer both if I get two after."

 

Mei winces. She really got herself into a mess now. But somehow she's not as panicked as she thought she'd be. Maybe the whiskey is already hitting her? She shifts, getting a little more purchase on the bed as she nods reluctant agreement.

 

"Sombra is a hacker, or a collection of hackers; I'm still not certain which it is, but I'm leaning toward one person. If it is more than one, then one of them is trying to blackmail my employer; if she's working alone, I plan on taking her to my employer, but if there is more, I'll use her to get to them and destroy them all so they can't do this to anyone else."

 

Zarya is so fierce about it, so determined... Mei has the vague thought that she should be scared of getting the woman angry, but really she can't stop staring at the scar through the woman's brow.

 

"So. You live at the Watchpoint?" She's all friendly again, and Mei blinks, remembering that she's not exactly safe out in the open like this; telling a stranger about the base could be a bad idea. So why does she want to trust this woman?

 

"I... do," she admits. "For now."

 

"Second question. Is Overwatch really back?" Zarya asks without missing a beat. "You are part of it, no?"

 

Mei stares through the bottom of the shot glass, wondering why she ever thought this was a good idea. She just felt so lonely there at the base, even though she was surrounded by people; it felt so much like the old days, before she went to sleep and woke to a cemetery. All of her friends, her family... They're all dead. The people she loved more than anything. And now she's in a base full of people she barely knows ― Lena and Winston are the only people she really knows and trusts.

 

And then there's Ana. Of all the people from the past that could have miraculously survived, why couldn't it have been one of her family?

 

Tears well up, pricking at her eyes, and she blinks them back, shoving the shot glass toward Zarya.

 

"Yes," she answers simply, hating them for having what she can never have, and hating herself for hating them over something they can't change.

 

Zarya doesn't press. She pours another half shot, but Mei doesn't take it yet.

 

"More," she demands, making Zarya falter, uncertain.

 

"Are you sure?"

 

"I came to get drunk," Mei states, setting her jaw. "Get me drunk."

Chapter Text

"There are better ways to deal with something than getting drunk," Zarya points out, frowning.

 

"I know. I'm trying something new," Mei insists. Zarya hesitates a moment longer.

 

"When was the last time you ate?"

 

"My turn for questions," Mei says, feeling oddly petulant.

 

"Tell me when you last ate, котенок ."

 

"...This morning."

 

"What did you eat?" Zarya presses. Mei wrinkles her nose, knowing where this is going.

 

"A handful of chips and a cookie," she sighs, realising only after that she's pouting.

 

Instead of replying, Zarya takes the glass from her and leans over to dig in her bag again, pulling out an older phone. She taps at it for a bit while Mei pouts at her, and then nods satisfaction, setting it beneath her gun on the table.

 

"We are eating before we drink any more," she says, the tone of her voice denying any chance of argument. "But it is your turn for a question."

 

"Why did you make that deal with me?" Mei blurts, not quite sure where the question came from but not bothered enough to take it back.

 

"Truthfully? I was bored and irritated," Zarya shrugs. "I wanted some entertainment. Why did you agree to it?"

 

"I- wanted to prove myself... It happens sometimes; I get... competitive, I guess?" Mei tucks her hands between her knees. "I'm small, and people look down on me often. And because I'm a woman and I look so young, people second-guess me when I tell them I have a doctorate."

 

"Ohh! Doctor Mei?" Something about the way Zarya purrs her name like that makes Mei burn with some weird combination of embarrassment and pride; she's not sure if the woman is taunting her or teasing her, but either way, she's surprisingly not upset about it.

 

"Dr. Mei-Ling Zhou," she says, introducing herself properly. "What's your name? Your full name, I mean."

 

"Is that your question?" Zarya smirks. Mei hesitates, and then decides she might as well; there doesn't seem to be any limits to how many questions they can ask, after all. She nods. "Aleksandra Zaryanova. Everyone calls me Zarya, or Zaryanova."

 

She looks so proud of herself; Mei can't help but smile at her.

 

"Aleksandra... such a pretty name," she hums. Zarya's smile widens.

 

"Thank you."

 

"Why do people call you Zarya instead?" Mei frowns. She regrets asking when Zarya deflates, jaw clenching and gaze dropping away.

 

"That... is not a question I want to answer."

 

"Sorry," Mei winces, tightening in on herself. "I didn't mean- I wasn't trying to- I'm sorry."

 

Several moments of terse silence pass, and then Zarya takes a breath, letting it out in one massive huff, like she's getting rid of some bad emotion. Smiling again, she crosses her arms and leans back in the chair.

 

"I think it's my turn. Why do you have the dog?"

 

"Um... he- er, it's not mine," Mei answers, glancing at Kannus, who perks and lifts its head to meet her gaze. She manages a small smile for it, and it yawns wide, laying back down. Snowball is perched on the windowsill above its head, apparently in standby mode for now. "It belongs to someone I know, kinda? It's his pet, I guess."

 

"Who?" Zarya asks, gaze narrowing suspiciously at the dog.

 

"It's my turn," Mei protests.

 

"Oops," Zarya grins, unapologetic.

 

"...How do you know Kannus?"

 

"It came to me and a... a coworker, of sorts." That piques Mei's innate sense of curiosity, and she barely bites her tongue before she starts peppering the woman with questions out of turn. "Who owns it?"

 

"An omnic monk by the name Tekhartha Zenyatta."

 

"Any relation to Tekhartha Mondatta?" Zayra asks, brow cocked. Mei opens her mouth to protest the extra question but the woman cuts in with a cheeky, "Just clarifying."

 

"...I think Mondatta was his mentor," Mei says, her memory a bit hazy at the moment.

 

"Ahh. Now that was an omnic I could respect. Shame how he died."

 

"Who was your coworker?"

 

"An omnic hacker I was forced to work with to track down Sombra," Zarya answers, short and curt. She lightens up again as she asks, "Is this the first time you've ever had alcohol?"

 

"Yes. Is it that obvious?" Mei wrinkles her nose, suddenly aware of how lightheaded she feels. Zarya smiles brightly.

 

"Not at all!" she replies, too quick and cheerful. Mei narrows her gaze at the woman, unsure if she's being teased or not.

 

"Don't lie to me..." she pouts. Zarya laughs, a deep, hearty sound that almost reminds her of Reinhardt.

 

A knock at the door startles Mei, and Kannus hops up, sniffing at the crack between the door and the floor. Zarya is already standing to see who it is.

 

"It's very obvious," she winks as she passes, making Mei's cheeks burn with embarrassment. Zarya waves Kannus out of the way impatiently and opens the door, greeting the person beyond in a language Mei doesn't know; Spanish, maybe? Or Portuguese?

 

Zarya's back is broad, Mei notices. Very broad, and very muscular. Her arms are bigger around than Mei's thighs; she could probably bench press Mei herself with no problem. Mei wonders for a moment if she should suggest testing it, and then realises what she's thinking and promptly shakes that thought from her head. The abrupt movement makes her dizzy and turns the world foggy and wobbly, and it occurs to her rather vaguely that this is what it's like to be drunk.

 

"Here we go," Zarya hums, setting a box of something that smells warm and delicious on the bed. The door is closed and Kannus is back in front of it, and Mei finds her attention drawn to the scar through Zarya's brow again.

 

"Whose turn is it?" she asks, staring at the scar while Zarya does something with the box. The woman pauses, head tipping in thought.

 

"Yours," she answers, glancing at Mei.

 

"Where did you get that scar?" As soon as the thought comes up in her brain to touch the scar, Mei is already reaching for it, brushing a fingertip lightly over skin and hair.

 

"...Some very mean people beat me up when I was young," Zarya replies softly, watching her. "It gave me a concussion that put me in the hospital for weeks."

 

"I'm sorry," Mei frowns, wishing she could hug young Zarya.

 

"...What are you trying to forget?" Zarya asks, pushing the box out of the way to sit next to Mei.

 

"I... don't want to answer that," Mei says slowly, and Zarya starts to nod, understanding. "But that's why I'm here, so... I- I started working at the Ecopoint in Antarctica about fifteen, twenty years ago. I was so excited to prove that I could be a valuable asset to the team; that my education wasn't just for show. Many of the others assigned to the Ecopoint were also new, and ready to prove themselves. Everyone was so friendly... We grew close. We were a family. We were saving lives!"

 

For just a moment, Mei vividly remembers the nights when everyone gathered around the dining table after the day's work had been done, and they told jokes and played games and drank hot chocolate until it was time to sleep. Every now and then, they'd enter cryo for a few months because there was nothing to do but wait for the instruments to gather enough data for them to review. That's why she had no problem entering cryo the last time.

 

"One day," she whispers, wrapping her arms tight around her middle. "The sensors had been set, the systems were on automatic, and we all went to sleep. It was supposed to be one year in cryo-sleep. Just one year... When I woke up..." Her voice breaks on a sob, and she blinks back tears. "When I woke up, I discovered that nine years had passed. Almost all of the systems had failed, and everyone... everyone was..."

 

Zarya doesn't say a word. Slipping from the bed to kneel in front of her, she pulls Mei into a tight hug, warmth and strength emanating from her embrace and helping soothe Mei's ruffled emotions. Mei falls off the bed into her lap, clinging to her and crying quietly into her shoulder.

 

Despite knowing so little about her, Zarya comforts her, holding her until her tears finally run dry. Then she reaches up to pull the box closer, opening it and revealing the thickest pizza Mei has ever seen in her life.

 

"Eat," Zarya coaxes, offering her a piece that trails cheese like a tether. Mei accepts it, hardly tasting it at first; then the warm spice and sweet tang of it hits her like palatable comfort, and she gobbles down the slice in a matter of moments, making Zarya smile. "Easy, котенок ; it's not going to disappear."

 

"Sorry, I-" Mei heaves a shuddering sigh, wiping her cheek and adjusting her glasses. "Sorry... I must already be drunk; I don't- I've never broken down like this in front of anyone."

 

"Everyone has moments of weakness, котенок ," Zarya assures, shifting subtly beneath her to get more comfortable and pulling the box down into easy reach of both of them. "Sometimes we don't have a chance to hide it. It happens; you learn to accept your weakness and grow stronger from it."

 

"What's your weakness?" Mei dares to ask, voice small and quiet.

 

For a long time, Zarya doesn't answer, and with every passing second, Mei worries she stupidly crossed some line she didn't know was there. But Zarya hasn't dumped her to the floor yet, so maybe she's just thinking? It's kind of hard to believe she has any weaknesses anyway.

 

"...My name," Zarya says eventually, low and uncertain, "is not what was on my birth certificate." She drops her arms, sitting tense and rigid and refusing to meet Mei's gaze. "I was born male... and I spent much of my youth bullied for wanting to be female. So I took it upon myself to work out and grow strong enough that no one would ever hurt me again. But... the stronger my body became, the weaker my mind felt. I learned later that I suffered dysphoria and depression. Then Katya came along. She was my idol for years, for many reasons, and somehow she learned of my problem; she offered to help me, to pay for my transition, in return for my services as an enforcer and bodyguard."

 

She stops there, and maybe it's just Mei's imagination, but it seems like she's holding her breath.

 

"Wow," is all Mei can say at first, while her drunken mind slowly pieces everything together and fits it into the growing picture of who Zarya is. "You're so brave... I don't think I could have the courage to pursue anything if people always beat me up over it."

 

Zarya relaxes with a huff of laughter and raises her arms to flex dramatically.

 

"I've always been stronger than most people my age," she grins, winking. "It's the one thing about my body I wanted to keep."

 

Mei can't help but reach out while she's flexing to touch the massive bulge of her bicep, trailing it absently to the thick band of muscle at her shoulder. Zarya holds the flex, letting her admire.

 

"Are these real?" Mei muses aloud, letting her hand fall to Zarya's breast without thought and squeezing. The woman jolts, both hands immediately jumping to Mei's comparatively miniscule wrist to stop her, even as she registers what she's doing and yanks away with a gasped, "Oh! I'm sorry; I shouldn't have-!"

 

The combination of sudden contradicting motions throws them both off balance and Mei throws out her other hand to catch herself. Unfortunately for both of them, her hand just so happens to land squarely on Zarya's crotch. The monster that meets her touch is just as real as the breast she just grabbed, and hot embarrassment sweeps through her from head to toe as they both go stock still.

 

"... котенок , be very careful with that hand," Zarya warns quietly, hardly breathing. "This could go several different ways, and I'm sure you would only appreciate one."

 

Before Mei can figure out what to say or do, the appendage under her palm twitches in clear interest, and she suddenly has the crazy thought that she's never seen a penis before. The desire to ask bubbles up and she even opens her mouth before realising how bad an idea this all is; she's very clearly more drunk than expected.

 

But isn't that a good thing too? There's so many things she would never have been able to share if not for the loosening of her lips, and she can't remember the last time she touched someone more than in passing, much less hugged anyone.

 

Whatever happens now, she decides, she's going to make the most of the lack of inhibition.

 

"What way do you want it to go?" she asks, the words coming out more confidently than she actually feels. Zarya's breath catches audibly when Mei looks up and meets her gaze; Mei can feel the woman's interest growing, despite her hesitation.

 

"What I want... is not something I am going to take from someone as drunk as you are."

Chapter Text

"What if I want it too?" Not quite how Mei meant to phrase it, but it works.

 

"You're drunk, котенок ," Zarya repeats, insistent as she very slowly reaches for Mei's hand. A purposeful squeeze makes her gasp, and she snatches Mei's wrist reactively, but the tug that follows is weak and faltering.

 

"It's your turn for a question," Mei reminds, determined now to see this through to the end. Zarya barks something in Russian that's half mirth and half frustration, tightening her grip on Mei's wrists.

 

"Fuck the questions, котенок ; you know damn well I am too distracted to think of one." Mei can't resist.

 

"Do I?" she asks, tipping her head to the side. "I thought you said I was drunk." That makes Zarya hesitate, and Mei takes advantage of her loosened grip to stroke her thumb firmly along the hardness beneath her palm. A hiss and a groan escape Zarya, whose hands shake as her eyes fall closed and she bites her lip.

 

" котенок , please; I don't want to take advantage of you."

 

"You aren't. In fact, I've never felt more in control than I do being so out of control. That's... a weird thing to say, isn't it?" Mei wiggles out of Zarya's lap without bothering to try and take her hands back, and shifts to her knees in front of the woman. "I came to get drunk and forget my past for a bit, but I didn't know being drunk would make me feel so... untethered. Does that make sense?"

 

"Completely. But you're still drunk, and I cannot, in my right mind, let you do something you're going to regret."

 

"I'm not so far gone that I don't know what I'm doing," Mei assures, thumbing the ridge again. Zarya jolts faintly, breath catching. "I take full responsibility for my actions."

 

"You can't , котенок ," Zarya breathes, clearly struggling to hold herself back. "You are too drunk to give consent."

 

"I am not," Mei insists. She pauses for a moment, trying to think of some way to prove it. "If I'm not too drunk to recite pi to thirty digits, will you believe me?" She starts rattling off the numbers and Zarya blinks. Shaking her head, the woman finally manages to push her hands away.

 

"You could be making up numbers."

 

"I'm not! Look it up," Mei insists.

 

Zarya lets out a small sigh and leans up to grab her phone off the desk. She taps at it for a few seconds and then glances up. Mei recites pi all the way up to thirty digits, confident in her success, and struggles not to grin when Zarya sets the phone down without a word.

 

"So?"

 

"So you can recite something from memory," Zarya says, crossing her arms. "That doesn't mean you won't regret it later."

 

"That's for me to worry about," Mei points out, leaning forward. "If it makes you feel better, think of it like an experiment; I'm just testing."

 

Another long stretch of silence passes as Zarya considers that, and Mei is certain her will is cracking, so she sets her hands on Zarya's knees and slowly slides them upward.

 

"...Are you absolutely certain this is what you want?" Zarya asks, her gaze fixed on Mei's hands now.

 

" Jué . Completely certain."  To emphasise, Mei puts her weight on her hands as she leans in to touch a quick, light kiss to Zarya's nose, which makes the woman start and look up in shock. "But you may have to tell me what to do... I've never had sex with anyone before."

 

Zarya groans in dismay and covers her face, tipping her head back and muttering loudly in Russian.

 

"Why am I letting you do this?" she complains, scrubbing at her face and ending up with her hands folded in front of her mouth as she stares narrowly at Mei. Blinking innocently, Mei waits with casual patience for the woman to make up her mind. "...Fine. I will tell you what to do. Assuming you don't get scared and back out on your own."

 

There's a challenge in those words, just like when they first met, and Mei grins, equal parts delighted and competitive; apparently being drunk does nothing to reduce her competitive streak, but she's more than happy to go along with it.

 

"Challenge accepted," she giggles, sitting back eagerly.

 

"You can start by undressing me," Zarya hums, a hint of a smirk tugging at her lips as she points to herself.

 

Mei promptly obeys, fumbling often from anticipation and lack of coordination; Zarya helps as needed, until she's seated naked on the floor. She's frowning, but Mei is a little too preoccupied to ask why. Her attention is on the thick length of the appendage between Zarya's legs; it's much bigger than she anticipated, and she wonders if she could put both hands around it and it still be long enough to fit the head in her mouth.

 

That's something people do, isn't it? Blowjobs? Some of her friends talked about it in the past, but she was never really interested because there was so much fascinating data to review. Now, with no data and a membrum virile in front of her, she's nothing but interested.

 

"The floor is perhaps not the best place for this," Zarya notes, running her hand over the thin, rough carpet. "It will be much more comfortable for both of us to continue on the bed."

 

"Oh, I'm sorry," Mei says, heat sweeping up her neck. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable..."

 

Zarya snorts as she stands. In spite of her state of intoxication, Mei doesn't miss that she covers her lower body as much as she can with her hands while she moves onto the bed.

 

"You haven't reacted with disgust," the woman states blandly. "That's about the only thing that really makes me uncomfortable. You, on the other hand, are small and soft; trust me, you'll be grateful later."

 

Mei hears her, but doesn't really register her words; she's too busy admiring the twist and stretch of thick, corded muscle beneath taut, scarred skin at every movement. A small part of her is mildly jealous of how big and round and firm Zarya's breasts are too, but she can't be that jealous when she can see the faint scar lines of the surgery the woman had to go through to get them.

 

"You're so beautiful..." She doesn't even realise she spoke until Zarya goes still and turns a stunned look on her.

 

"...What?"

 

"You're beautiful," Mei repeats, touching a steadying hand to the side of the desk as she stands, just in case. "I like your scars. It looks like you went through a lot, but here you are, smiling and laughing like everything is right in the world. I do that too; I know how much strength it takes. And I like your muscles, too. I've never seen so much muscle on a woman before. It's nice." Pink creeps into Zarya's cheeks, just a few shades more red than her hair, and Mei smiles warmly. "And your blush is cute."

 

"I don't blush," Zarya denies, blush deepening.

 

Mei laughs and fumbles with her hair pin for a moment before she manages to get it loose. Setting it and her glasses on the desk, she shrugs off her jacket and drops it beside Zarya's clothing on the floor.

 

"I like your body," Mei admits, tugging her shirt off next and wiggling out of her pants, shoes, and underclothes. "I can't wait to see what I can do with it."

 

Zarya says something in Russian that sounds like a curse as she stares at Mei, her expression something like awe; it's a little hard to tell when everything is slightly blurred. Mei smiles again, stepping toward the bed and putting her hands on either side of Zarya, who leans back as she leans in.

 

"Are you scared?" Mei asks softly, taking in the deep forest of the woman's wide eyes.

 

"...I'm beginning to think I should be," Zarya answers lowly. " Dorogoy khristos , котенок ... You're a lion in disguise!"

 

"Rawr," Mei growls playfully, crawling further up on the bed so she can straddle Zarya's thickly muscled thighs. "Now that we're undressed, what's next?"

 

"That depends," Zarya says, eyeing her cautiously.

 

"On what?"

 

"Whether you want to mess around or get straight to the good part."

 

"I thought all of it was supposed to be good," Mei frowns. Zarya barks a laugh, a wide smile curling across her features.

 

"You are adorable... It should, but some people don't like foreplay or cuddling afterward."

 

"Do you?" Mei asks. Her attention falls incidentally to Zarya's chest, and she forgets she asked a question as she reaches out to touch one of the surgery scars.

 

"I-" Zarya breaks off when Mei touches her, and after a jolt of surprise, she covers Mei's hand with her own. "I don't feel things quite the way others do. I take medication, hormones to help the transition, and sometimes I need everything; sometimes I despise the thought of anything; usually I just have a hard time getting off."

 

"What do you want this time?" Her heartbeat is strong and steady under Mei's palm, a soothing rhythm that Mei decides she likes.

 

"I want to see how far you think you can push me," Zarya chuckles, shifting Mei's hand to her breast and guiding her other to the massive appendage awaiting attention. "Stroke from base to tip and back down; hold it firmly, but not too tightly."

 

As she explains it, she shows Mei how, demonstrating techniques and tips until it's difficult for her to speak through the obvious pleasure. At that point, Mei takes over decisively by leaning in and kissing her. Zarya stills and then hums approval, kissing back and leading by example.

 

It's odd to have such excessive control over her own body, Mei muses offhandedly to herself while she leaves little kisses all over Zarya's body after she lies down, because it makes the woman shiver and moan even more than the touch of her arousal. Intoxication is, itself, a fascinating experience, but the fact that she hardly has to think of doing something to do it makes things incredibly interesting.

 

It helps that Zarya hasn't been resisting or hesitating anymore. She occasionally stops Mei or interjects, but always to correct her.

 

Yet there is a problem, and it takes Mei a long while to figure out what. She still isn't entirely sure what it is when she sits back on Zarya's knees and rests her hands on the woman's hips.

 

"Something wrong, котенок ?" Zarya breathes, concern flashing across her expression as she pushes up to her elbows.

 

"I think- Is it weird to-" Mei breaks off, nibbling on her lip as she considers the best way to explain something she doesn't even quite understand herself.

 

"Is what weird?" Zarya prompts, reaching up to stroke the length of Mei's arm, from shoulder to wrist.

 

"To feel... hot? And... empty? Not empty, but..." Mei frowns and closes her eyes, trying to pinpoint where everything is originating. It's a difficult task with the whiskey still burning in her gut and her head still full of fog.

 

Then a gentle touch between her legs sends electric sparks through her body and she gasps, grabbing reactively at Zarya's wrist as her eyes fly open in shock. Zarya smirks and sits up, abs flexing effortlessly.

 

"You shouldn't deny yourself pleasure, you know," she hums in a low voice that falls like silk on Mei's ears, amplifying the effect of her touch as she traces her fingers over Mei's labia.

 

"I didn't- I- I didn't know I was," Mei manages past the indescribable burst of heat and pleasure through her body. " Tiān a ... Is it always this good?"

 

"Usually," Zarya chuckles, moving her finger to Mei's clitoris and rubbing circles that turn Mei's world completely upside down and shake it until the only reason she knows which way is up is because gravity threatens to make her fall over. Zarya wraps an arm around her, steadying her, and draws her close enough that their breasts press together ― also oddly pleasurable but not something Mei can process at the moment. She presses a kiss to Mei's shoulder and neck, and then whispers so delightfully in Mei's ear that the pleasure is instantly doubled. "It depends on your partner. Keep stroking me, котенок ; if I can cum this time, I want to cum together."

 

"That... sounds..." Mei struggles to get the words out as she slides shaking hands back to Zarya's erection and resumes stroking, albeit much slower in her distraction.

 

"Good?"

 

"...like a line from a cheesy porn movie," Mei manages finally. Zarya goes still for a moment, and then bursts out laughing. Instead of replying, she kisses Mei firmly, taking back control to give her just as much pleasure.

 

They stroke and touch each other, kissing, and nibbling too, after Zarya does it as a tease and Mei decides to nibble every inch of exposed skin that she can reach.

 

The pleasure keeps building under Zarya's expert touch, and when she slips a finger inside, Mei jolts with a startled gasp.

 

"Too much?" Zarya asks, hesitating. Mei rocks her hips in a vain effort to get more.

 

"No, no! I just- I know the principle, but I've only ever had tampons inside me before," Mei answers sheepishly. "I-" Zarya grins and crooks her finger, pressing her thumb to Mei's clitoris, and a sudden burst of hot, desperate need washes through her. With a yelp, she grinds down on Zarya's hand, chasing... something. The pleasure, she supposes, but it's hard to think straight at the moment, and a moment later it's completely impossible as something inside her seemingly explodes and all she knows is manic white bliss.

 

She thinks she screamed, but she can't be sure, and after an eternity, she blanks out completely, coming to draped across Zarya's chest with her head on the woman's shoulder. Zarya is quiet, but gently stroking her back.

 

"Wha-" Mei swallows, her mouth distinctly dry, and forces her tongue to cooperate. "What happened?"

 

"You came," Zarya replies quietly, shifting to look at her with an odd tenderness in her expression, like she doesn't know what to do with Mei. "You screamed my name when you did, and it tipped me over the edge."

 

"I did?" A thought occurs to her, a random connection that shouldn't have been made, especially given her lack of sobriety. "Which name?"

 

The look on Zarya's face says she knows exactly what Mei means, and the soft awe in her features gives away the answer before she speaks.

 

"You called me Aleksandra."

Chapter Text

"Everyone is accounted for except Mei." Reinhardt stops speaking at Lena's grim statement, and Torbjorn looks up from his work.

 

"The scientist from Antarctica?" he clarifies.

 

"She isn't here," Lena nods. "I just finished doing bed check with Ange and Shrike. Master Zenyatta said she told him she got permission from me to go into town for a bit if she had backup; she took Kannus and left just over an hour ago."

 

"That's not good," Winston frowns. "Does anyone know where she went?"

 

"No," Lena sighs, grimacing. "I'm worried... After everything that happened..."

 

"She wouldn't just run away," Winston assures.

 

"But she might be in trouble," Reinhardt says. "I think you should consider a ban on unnecessary trips into town unless it's an emergency. At least for the time being."

 

"Why you let anyone go out in the first place is beyond me," Torbjorn humphs.

 

"It was a good idea, but maybe it could have been better executed," Winston says. "Do we have any way of knowing where she went?" No one answers, and he sighs. "Guess we can't really do anything, then... Unless any of you wants to go searching the entire city for her. Otherwise, we'll just have to sit tight and hope she makes it back safely."

 

Torbjorn considers that while Lena tries to argue, only for Winston to stand his ground. Reinhardt looks like he has something to say, but whatever it is, he keeps it to himself. Eventually, Lena gives in and reluctantly excuses herself to the training centre. Winston bids Torbjorn and Reinhardt goodnight and quietly wanders off toward his office above the meeting room.

 

"Do you think she's alright?" Reinhardt asks, glancing at Torbjorn.

 

"Who knows?" he replies, adjusting a piece of the upgrade he's building. "I'd say she's fine; those S-ROK dogs are well built, and if anything happens that they can't handle, it'll be back here in an instant to get help. It's what they were built to do."

 

"You're not concerned?"

 

"Why should I be? If the girl can't handle herself, she would never have been an agent in the first place."

 

"Hm. I guess you're right."

 

"I'm always right," Torbjorn humphs, allowing himself a small smirk. Reinhardt chuckles and thumps his shoulder.

 

"Maybe not always . Make sure you get some rest, old friend."

 

Torbjorn grunts acknowledgement and turns his attention fully on his work while Reinhardt leaves, yawning. When he's finished with what he can do, he takes the upgrade to the garden and pokes around, but it's too cold out, so he hurries back inside and checks around the rest of the base instead. To his relief, he finds what he's looking for in a storage room down a currently unused wing of the base.

 

The bastion has taken a liking to the hybrid cat-man who actually rivals Lena and the gamer girl in smallness, and the two of them are cuddled up in a corner with the cat-man curled in a ball on top of the bastion's sentry form. The bastion chirps quietly in greeting when he enters, trying not to wake the cat-man.

 

"There you are, you hunk of junk," Torbjorn huffs. "I have something for you. Cat, move."

 

The cat-man looks up at him, bleary-eyed, and yawns wide, just like Mitzi. Then he stretches and sits up on the bastion, blinking and rubbing his eyes.

 

"Do you need something?" he mumbles sleepily.

 

"I need to get to the scrap heap. Move."

 

Also like Mitzi, the cat-man doesn't appreciate having to move, and the quiet grumbling low in his throat speaks to that. Torbjorn ignores him, gesturing for the bastion to transfigure itself. Obediently, it does so, and promptly plops down with its legs splayed out so Torbjorn has room to get where he needs to.

 

The upgrade slots neatly in behind the bastion's chestplate, just slightly too small for the space he was trying to fit it, and he makes a mental note to get a band of foam or something to seal the edges in nice and snug. Four small clips, and a couple of wires, and it's done. He replaces the chestplate and steps back; the bastion churrs curiously and looks up at him, tapping its chest with a tipped head.

 

"Give it a few hours to integrate," Torbjorn orders. "Your armour plating will have nanite reinforcement, so it should be resistant to more damage until it loses too much integrity." A delighted beeping precedes open arms and a hopeful chirp, and Torbjorn pretends he doesn't understand. "Don't be so greedy; I've already upgraded you twice. Stop getting into situations that require more, ya brat."

 

"He wants a hug," the cat-man states when the bastion whirrs softly in disappointment. "He's trying to say thank you, I'm pretty sure."

 

"What do you know about omnics?" Torbjorn humphs, pointedly not looking at the bastion, which draws itself up with renewed hope. "I hardly think you're qualified to tell me what the bucket of bolts wants or doesn't want."

 

"Maybe not," the cat-man says blandly striding past him and sitting between the bastion's legs, where he stretches and yawns wide again. "But you're purposely ignoring him, so I'm just calling you out to make you uncomfortable." He lays down with his arms propped on the bastion's leg and his head nestled into them, already dropping into a doze. "That aloof mask you're wearing only fools Bastion, not the rest of us, just so you know."

 

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Torbjorn lies, but the cat-man doesn't even stir, leaving him to talk to the bastion, or go back to his room. Disgruntled, he chooses the latter.

 

~

 

Gabriel traces the ligature marks along Jack's wrist, listening to the even breaths of his peacefully sleeping lover and marveling at how responsive he was to bondage. It hadn't been Gabriel's intention, when he ordered Jack to meet him at the safehouse, to tie him up and finger-fuck him to unconsciousness, but that was how it happened; Jack's pleased sighs and blissed out cuddles before he drifted off spoke volumes for how much he enjoyed it, and Gabriel never got the feeling he went too deep in the blue this time.

 

Maybe they were just both too happy with how things went to care. Gabriel certainly can't bring himself to care right now, not about this. A small part of him is still worried about Fareeha, but at least she's safe now. For the moment, the only pressing matter is how soon Akande is going to cut him loose, and even that can't break through the cloud of warmth in his chest.

 

A soft chirp from Jack's phone catches his attention, and he carefully dissolves out from under Jack to check it. Ana sent him a message saying I told her about me. It won't be long before she knows about you and Gabe.

 

Gabriel considers that for a moment. She can only be referring to Fareeha, of course; would it really be such a bad thing for the girl to know that the men who helped raise her are also alive?

 

Well, that would really depend on her reaction to knowing Ana is alive, and probably she wouldn't appreciate knowing everything Gabriel has done.

 

After several long minutes of working out a response, he sends back a reply.

 

Gabe says: I'm leaving Talon. W is putting to a vote whether or not to allow me back into OW. I don't see it going well unless I show my real face anyway; she'll know sooner than later.

 

Hardly a moment later, the phone chirps again.

 

Tell Jack it's time.

 

She doesn't need to elaborate; this is the moment they've been anticipating for months. In less than 24 hours, they'll be unmasked, and Overwatch at least will know that they never died. After that, it's only a matter of time before the rest of the world learns the truth.

 

Gabriel sits beside Jack and gently traces the marks on his wrists again, absorbing this rare moment of peace that's soon going to be endangered, if not extinct. Then he leans over and kisses Jack's cheek.

 

"Wake up, brillo ," he says, lightly tapping Jack's jaw to wake him. "We need to talk."

 

~

 

"Hey, Baptiste?" He stirs, and Lucio tries not to let his nerves get the better of him.

 

"Can't sleep?" Baptiste mumbles, shuffling away from the edge of the bed and lifting the covers to make space for Lucio to lie down. A bubble of joy chases away his nerves for a moment; Baptiste has never pushed for sleeping in the same bed, nor has he commented when Lucio needs skin contact and crawls in beside the medic in the middle of the night. He doesn't lay down, though; instead, he perches on the edge of the bed with one leg tucked underneath him.

 

"Sorta... I've been wanting to ask you something." Lucio bites his lip, bracing himself for Baptiste's reaction, but the medic just peers up at him, blinking lazily, and then yawns as he rolls onto his back and slowly scoots into a sitting position.

 

"About what?" he prompts, waiting with sleepy patience. Taking a deep breath, Lucio toys with his fingers in his lap as he gathers the courage to speak.

 

"Remember... how I said I was... poly?" Baptiste doesn't answer for a moment, and in that short little pause, Lucio's anxiety skyrockets. But before he can dismiss the topic and apologise for waking the medic, Baptiste straightens, like he just realised something.

 

"Are you interested in someone?" he asks, sounding much more awake now.

 

"I- Maybe?" Lucio says sheepishly, still on edge waiting for jealousy or possessiveness or something.

 

"Who? Hana?"

 

Well shit. He didn't expect Baptiste to guess right off the bat; now what's he supposed to say?

 

"Hey," Baptiste says gently, reaching over to lay his hand on Lucio's knee. "It's okay. I knew what I was getting into. Really, I'm not surprised; she's more your age, and you're both celebrities and fans of each other. I haven't missed how much you love playing games with her either."

 

"You're not upset?" Lucio asks, still braced. "Or...?"

 

"Jealous?" Baptiste chuckles. "A little bit. Jealous, I mean; I'm not upset. Like I said, I knew what I was getting into."

 

"So... you won't mind if I get up the courage to ask her out?" Lucio blurts before he can think better of it. Baptiste shakes his head, squeezing Lucio's knee.

 

"I'll even help, if you like," he offers. "Though, somehow I doubt you'll have any trouble."

 

"You're really okay with it?" Lucio presses. He regrets pushing when Baptiste goes quiet, watching him in the darkness of the room. "Sorry..."

 

"Has that happened to you before?" Baptiste asks, catching him completely off guard.

 

"What?"

 

"Has that happened before? Your partner saying they were okay with something and then getting angry about it later?"

 

Lucio can't help the little noise of surprise that escapes as the medic hits the nail squarely on the head a second time. He doesn't have an easy response at the ready, so he just gives a subtle, worried nod. Baptiste sucks his teeth and reaches out, coaxing him into a tense hug.

 

"I won't be upset with you, Lucio. Mwen pomet . If I'm honest, a small part of me fears that you'll leave me eventually, and I don't dare do anything that might push you away. But more importantly, I want you to be happy. Even if I'm not enough."

 

"You are enough," Lucio admits, struggling to put emotions to words as he tugs free of the hug to touch Baptiste's jaw lightly. "I haven't been this happy or carefree in years. Being here, making the world a better place, spending time with you; it's all so good that sometimes I wake up thinking it was all a dream. And then I see you and I can't function for a minute because I'm so happy. I don't want to lose you, but I've always had too much affection to just... to be exclusive, you know? I like too many people, and even though... even though sex is kinda... not my thing, I like the other physical stuff; I like holding your hand, I love cuddling with you, I can even kinda see the appeal of kissing and all that."

 

"Hey, easy now," Baptiste interjects with a chuckle, and Lucio realises he's been babbling. "You really mean that? You're happy with me?"

 

"More than," Lucio nods emphatically. "It feels... right. I know that sounds cheesy, and we've only known each other a couple months, but I've dated a good number of people and none of them ever just... clicked."

 

"You have no idea how happy you've made me," Baptiste whispers, leaning in. For a split second, Lucio fears he might go for a kiss, but his lips land on Lucio's cheek instead, and he dies a little of joy. "I'm sorry if I overstepped; I couldn't help myself."

 

"No, no; you're good," Lucio assures, giddy. In his excitement, he decides he might as well give it a go, and this time he leans in. Baptiste goes still as he touches the softest of kisses to the medic's lips, retreating instantly before it goes any further. He holds his breath for Baptiste's response.

 

"Ohh, Lucio," he groans softly. "Baby, I think I just got high off that kiss; I'm floating." He scoffs a slight laugh. "I must still be half asleep."

 

Emboldened, Lucio tugs at Baptiste to make him lie back down, crawls under the covers and snuggles up tight to his side, hooking one leg over his waist and burrowing into his shoulder. Baptiste squeezes him tight enough to stunt his breathing for a moment, and then kisses the top of his head.

 

"If she doesn't want to date both of us, I won't pursue her," Lucio promises quietly, unwilling to lose what he has in the process of getting more.

 

"Then I'd better put on my best clothes and clean up to help woo her," Baptiste chuckles. "Sleep, Luc; whatever happens tomorrow, I'm proud of you for speaking your mind."

Chapter Text

Hana shuffles a little away from the warm body next to her, half consciously nudging the blanket down to her hips so her slowly waking body doesn't overheat. She's going to have to talk to someone about lowering the heat in this room a little.

 

Cool fog brushes light against her skin, warming as Alex shifts closer. When she's asleep like this, it's a little hard to tell where she ends and where the excess fog begins, but the one thing that's always in focus is her face. She nuzzles into Hana's shoulder with a soft sigh, and Hana debates whether to wake her or overheat while she sleeps.

 

"Hey, Alex?" she says quietly, brushing loose hair from the woman's face. Alex twitches, inhales, and snuggles closer, fog wrapping around Hana's entire body.

 

"Hm?"

 

"As much as I enjoy cuddling, I'm really hot right now."

 

There's a split second pause for Alex to process that, and then she gasps and pulls away, her hazy form compacting and coming more into focus now that she's awake enough to control herself.

 

"I'm sorry," she mumbles sheepishly. "I didn't mean-"

 

"Hey, don't worry about it," Hana giggles. "You're fine. And I will be too, in just a minute. How'd you sleep?"

 

"Mm..." Alex relaxes with a yawn and smiles shyly. "Really, really well... I haven't slept so well in... years."

 

"Why not?"

 

"Life," Alex answers vaguely, shrugging. "The pain doesn't help. Speaking of, we were so tired last night ― or, this morning, I suppose ― that I didn't get to ask you about the rescue mission. How'd it go? You didn't get hurt, did you?"

 

"Nah. Toki keeps me from getting hurt too badly. Most of the time." Hana sits up and stretches, also yawning.

 

"Most of the time?"

 

"Well, if my mech takes too much damage and I have to eject, sometimes I get hurt after. But I didn't have to this time, so it's fine."

 

Alex doesn't respond, and when Hana looks at her, she's frowning at the ceiling, seemingly lost in thought, so Hana gets up and flips on the light, picking out some shorts and a tank top. Then she wonders if maybe the rest of the base is cooler, or if she'll need to go outside at all, or anything like that; it is the middle of winter and even here it gets cold, so better safe than sorry. She puts on a sweater over the tank top and decides that she can handle cold legs for a bit if necessary.

 

Only when she's tying her hair up in buns does she realise Alex is watching her, and looks away with a blush when she gets caught.

 

"Like what you see?" Hana teases, winking. Alex's blush deepens and she pulls the blanket up to her neck, fogging with embarrassment.

 

"Sorry, I'm not used to... It's not... Never mind."

 

"No, come on; now I'm interested," Hana grins. "You're not used to what?"

 

"I... I'm not-"

 

A knock on the door interrupts, and Hana knows she doesn't imagine the relief in Alex's expression when she goes to get the door. She files that away for later as she answers the door and smiles at Lucio.

 

"Hey! So I was thinking we should try to get everyone to play that new game we got, maybe in a round robin? A fun way to build up the team, you know?"

 

"Uh, sounds great, Hana," Lucio says, glancing past her at Alex and then down the hall. Hana peeks around the corner to see Baptiste leaning patiently against the wall. Lucio hesitates and then takes a breath. "Hey, can we talk a minute?"

 

"Sure?" Hana frowns, worried something is wrong. "Are you alright?"

 

"Yeah, just..."

 

Baptiste clears his throat before Hana can prompt him, and Lucio gives him a dry look.

 

"Fine." He takes another breath, but this time he meets her gaze. "Hana. I like you. A lot."

 

"Aren't you and Baptiste...?" Hana asks, perplexed and a little taken aback.

 

"I'm... poly," Lucio admits, tensing like he expects her to recoil in disgust.

 

"Wai- Is Bap okay with- Are you okay with this?" She turns her attention to Baptiste, who gives her a lopsided smile.

 

"Would I be standing here quietly if I wasn't?" he chuckles. "He's been interested in you for a while now."

 

"Baptiste!" Lucio protests, cheeks darkening.

 

"A while?" Hana echoes, unable to hide a grin that betrays some of the growing glee inside her.

 

"My guess, he's been crushing on you longer than we've been together," Baptiste answers smugly. Lucio groans, muttering something in his native tongue, and Hana can't help but laugh.

 

"Oh thank God ; I thought I was the only one." Lucio barely has a chance to register her words before she yanks him in for a hard kiss that leaves her lips ― and no doubt his ― bruised.

 

"Oh, he doesn't- mm, well..." Baptiste wrinkles his nose, but Hana is already pulling back to see Lucio's reaction. He stares blankly, blinking owlishly, and then blushes even deeper, covering his mouth.

 

"Oh... I, um... uh... So, you... you like me too?"

 

"Are you kidding?" Hana giggles, practically squirming with delight. "I've had a crush on you pretty much since I first heard your music, not long after the debut of your single. I fell hard for your voice and I never thought I'd get a chance to meet you, much less-" She breaks off with a muffled squeal. Then she takes a breath, calming herself. "Sorry, I just... Sorry."

 

"Don't be," Lucio grins, looking about as delighted as she is. "Oh, but..." He gestures vaguely toward Baptiste, trying to come up with words while the medic looks on with an inscrutable expression.

 

"I know what poly means, Luc," Hana laughs, leaning on the doorframe. "You two are a package deal; I get one, I get both. Is this a good time to mention that I really like older guys?"

 

"It helps your case," Baptiste winks as Lucio laughs.

 

"Good, because I do, and now I can shamelessly flirt with you since you're not that far out of my age range."

 

"Are you calling me old?"

 

"Ancient," she smirks. Lucio's mirth doubles and he puts a hand on the wall to steady himself.

 

"Agents," the wall says suddenly, startling all three of them. Hana relaxes when she realises it's Athena, talking through a speaker next to the door. "Winston has requested that everyone gather in the meeting room for an announcement and a poll. Attendance is not mandatory, but you don't want to miss this, trust me."

 

"An announcement?" Hana echoes, curious. Lucio shrugs.

 

"Who knows? But if there's a poll, it's probably something pretty important."

 

"Shall we then?" Baptiste waves for them to go ahead of him.

 

"One sec," Hana says, stepping back into the room to look at Alex. But she's not there. Hana frowns, poking into the bathroom, which is also empty. "Alex? Huh..." She didn't pass Hana and leave through the door. Maybe she fogged out and slipped into a vent or something so she wouldn't disturb the conversation?

 

"Coming?" Lucio asks.

 

Well, if Alex isn't in the room, then she probably heard Athena through one of the other speakers around the base.

 

"Yeah, coming," Hana nods, grabbing her phone and hurrying to join them.

 

When they reach the meeting room, most everyone is already there. Lucio hops out of the way as Angela wheels Jesse through the doors with Hanzo following close behind. Hana grabs Baptiste's hand and drags him over to claim a spot, and Lucio joins them a moment later, perching proudly on Baptiste's knee. Alex comes in while Winston is trying to get everyone's attention, but when Hana raises a hand to wave her over, Alex doesn't seem to notice, and goes over to sit with Jesse and Hanzo.

 

"Attention everyone!" Winston shouts, loud enough this time to be heard over the noise of conversations. The noise dies down at last, and everyone faces the gorilla, who stands with Soldier 76 and Shrike. He glances at them, murmuring something, and Shrike grabs Soldier's arm to stay him, shaking her head and motioning for Winston to continue.

 

"Alright, listen up," the scientist says, a grim note to his voice that Hana doesn't like. "Back in the days of the original Overwatch teams, I wasn't in charge of... well, pretty much anything except helping maintain Athena once she was reprogrammed. After Overwatch was disbanded, everyone was sent back to wherever they came from, but since I couldn't be returned to the Horizon Lunar Colony, I was instead tasked with protecting Athena's mainframe, as well as all the information on it. When I initiated the recall and began recruiting new agents, I never expected to be in charge of everyone, but that's how it played out. As old agents have returned, and new agents have joined, I've had to evaluate every single person, and that meant knowing things that I've had to keep secret. Almost every single one of you has at least one thing that I've kept hidden for you, and looking back, I can't help but wonder if Jack Morrison and the other leaders and founders were in the same boat.

 

"The reason I bring this up, is because there's a lot going on behind the scenes that most of you don't know. As most of you do know, Jean-Baptiste was a former member of Talon who earned his place here when he saved Dr. Ziegler's life, and both he and Soldier 76 have contact with current members of Talon who have been feeding us information at times."

 

"Do you know what's going on?" Hana whispers to Baptiste. He purses his lips and doesn't answer, gaze fixed on Winston, and she exchanges a worried look with Lucio.

 

"Until recently," Winston goes on, "only Baptiste's contact was known by name. But shortly after Fareeha's rescue..." He pauses and nods at the pair of women seated not far from Jesse, Hanzo and Alex; Fareeha already looks better than she did when they found her, and Hana feels a blip of pride in her part. "...Soldier's contact approached us, requesting to join Overwatch."

 

"There's a lot more to this request than it appears on the surface," Soldier speaks up when Winston hesitates to continue. "My contact, formerly known as Sunshine, is a high ranking member of Talon. But he got his position through the fall of Overwatch the first time. He's responsible for much of the death Talon has sanctioned, and he's attacked us before. However... He is also a former Overwatch leader. He has kept us informed of everything he knows that Talon knows about Overwatch. And now we believe Talon's leader, Doomfist, is aware that he's a double agent."

 

"The reason I called you all together," Winston picks up, "is in order to introduce him and allow you to vote on whether or not to allow him in. I can't make this decision myself, because I am far too close to this to be unbiased. But... in introducing this man, a lot of secrets will be revealed. A lot of you may be hurt by what you learn. There are going to be a lot of questions and confusion, and all I ask is that you hold your questions until after the vote." He looks around the room once more, and then nods to Soldier and Shrike, stepping back.

 

"Here goes everything," Soldier mutters as he reaches up to remove his mask. Shrike follows suit, and they stand bare-faced, side by side in front of everyone, for the first time that Hana can remember; they've never been maskless, or stuck around anyone for long, except each other, and only after half the room gasps does she finally understand why.

 

Shrike and Soldier 76 are Ana Amari and Jack Morrison.

 

No one really gets a chance to collect themselves before smoke seeps in around Jack and Ana's feet, rising up and coalescing behind them into the figure of a tall man in a dark hooded cloak with a skull mask. Hana recognises him as the infamous Reaper, and so does most everyone else, because the entire room tenses; several people even stand, preparing for a fight. But then Reaper also removes his mask, and Genji and Jesse gasp.

 

"Gabe," Jesse murmurs, leaning forward in his chair like he wants to jump up and run to the man. "You're really alive?"

 

"Gabriel Reyes died a long time ago," Reaper growls, and then softens just noticeably. "But I was once known by that name. I have no right to ask this, but all I want... is to come home."

Chapter Text

Genji is visibly struggling, and Zenyatta worries for all the bad memories this revelation has brought back to the surface. He can't forget how broken and angry the ninja was when they met, how traumatised his past had left him; was Reyes part of the trauma, or did he have something to do with the longing to be better that gave Zenyatta hope in recovering Genji's sanity and soul?

 

"This is... a tough decision," Winston speaks up into the stunned, deafening silence before it can stretch too far. "I won't try to influence you one way or another; he's done a lot of good, and a lot of bad. It's up to you which is more important." He hesitates, and Zenyatta admires the amount of strength it takes to be in his position, to do what he's doing, to be someone he never intended to be. "All opposed to giving Reyes a second chance, raise your hand."

 

Zenyatta scans the room. Torbjorn and Reinhardt raise their hands, expressions solemn; no doubt they know things from the old days that have affected their opinions. Hanzo raises his hand, but his expression is inscrutable, and Zenyatta can't begin to guess his motivation. And at the last moment, Alex timidly raises her hand, gaze downcast with guilt and pain.

 

"All in favour, raise your hand," Winston says after mentally tallying the vote. Soldier and Shrike raise their hands immediately, looking over their shoulders at Gabriel to show their support. And slowly, one by one, the rest of the room raises their hands. Even Reinhardt joins them at the end, sighing heavily and carrying every single year of his old age heavy on his shoulders.

 

To the average person, Gabriel hardly reacts, merely relaxing slightly and nodding acceptance. But Zenyatta sees the relief in his gaze, the hope for a better future.

 

"Then it's settled," Winston says, sounding glad to be done with it. "Reyes, Morrison, Amari... Welcome home." With a quick glance around the room, he adds, "You're all dismissed. Fareeha, if you have a moment, I'd like to talk with you?"

 

Zenyatta keeps one auricular sensor tuned to the conversations that begin around the room, mostly focused on the cluster of original agents at the centre of the room, asking questions and demanding answers.

 

"Are you alright, my dear?" he asks when Genji doesn't join them. The ninja is watching, tense and fidgety, while Reinhardt embraces Shrike and Soldier, tears flowing unchecked, and Torbjorn snaps question after question at Gabriel, who snaps back answer after answer without hesitation.

 

"Yes," Genji lies, and then promptly, reluctantly corrects himself, "No... I am, but I am not. Is that possible?"

 

"I do not see why not," Zenyatta hums, reaching down to pet Kannus, only to recall that it's still off-base with Mei. "You are experiencing many conflicting emotions at this time; a past that you left behind has returned, and now you must face it a new man."

 

"Am I?" Genji questions, scowling at the floor and flicking a star from his arm to do something with his hands. It's an old familiar tick of unease and frustration, and Zenyatta lets him.

 

"You are. Your past does not define you, but it has shaped who you have become; that you fear returning to it speaks volumes for how much you have changed." Genji says nothing, so Zenyatta bumps him lightly in the back. "Go. Speak with him. I have things to do anyway."

 

"Zenyatta," Genji calls when he turns away.

 

"Yes, my dear?"

 

"Thank you."

 

"Always," Zenyatta purrs. "Go on. I will see you later."

 

While Genji timidly approaches the cluster of older agents, Zenyatta goes to the pair of individuals standing apart from others. Hanzo is as stone-faced as ever, but his posture is notably protective toward the hunched, half-fogged figure beside him. Alex tenses visibly as Zenyatta approaches.

 

"Greetings," he hums casually, settling next to Alex.

 

"Hello, Master Zenyatta," she whispers.

 

"Hello," Hanzo greets simply, his gaze still on the cluster of agents, where Jesse has managed to stand and embrace Gabriel, who only hesitates a moment before returning it.

 

"Found family is certainly a sight to see, is it not?" Zenyatta asks pleasantly, pride buzzing through his chassis as Genji bows to Gabriel and offers a hand that Gabriel shakes firmly, thumping his shoulder in a companionable way.

 

"I would not know," Hanzo answers bluntly. Alex flinches, but doesn't answer.

 

"I imagine you understand better, Alex," Zenyatta notes. "Considering your history."

 

"Please," Alex hisses, recoiling visibly. "Please don't..."

 

"Do not what?" Zenyatta asks, feigning ignorance. Hanzo's gaze skips to him, narrowed and wary.

 

"I'm not- I don't want to think about that right now," Alex whispers.

 

"Are you afraid you are being replaced by your successor?" Zenyatta asks bluntly, knowing full well that isn't it but certain that nothing else will work. Hanzo turns his full attention to them, frowning deeply, but says nothing while Alex whimpers.

 

"No, I- He scares me, but that's not-" She bites her lip, her arms and legs barely distinguishable in the fog. Taking a shaky breath, she quietly admits, "Moima warned me not to get involved with Talon. She told me to stay away. Ordered me."

 

"He is no longer Talon," Zenyatta points out. "Not entirely."

 

"I know, but... I just..." She makes a small noise of frustration, rubbing both hands over her face and muttering something in a language Zenyatta doesn't know. "I don't know what I was thinking. I- I'm in a weird place right now."

 

"Would you like to talk about it?" he offers.

 

"No. Maybe?"

 

"I think perhaps you ought to. Not necessarily with me; I am sure Miss Song-"

 

"No!" Alex blurts, fog swirling in a way that makes Hanzo flinch and shift away from her, though Zenyatta's metal frame can't feel whatever it is that he felt. She grimaces and gathers herself into a tighter formation. "No, I can't."

 

"I see... Something has happened between you?"

 

"No, not- Something happened, but not between us." The deep longing in her voice tells Zenyatta exactly what he needs to know, and he marvels at how easily human hearts can fall in love.

 

"Ahh. Quite the dilemma. Have you told her?" Alex winces, and Zenyatta resists the urge to chuckle, knowing she'll take it wrong.

 

"...No."

 

"And now she is involved with others."

 

"Yes," she mutters quietly.

 

"Unfortunate," Zenyatta hums. Then he switches tact entirely. "You know, I do believe you would greatly benefit from building a relationship with Mr. Reyes; he is after all the only person in the world who may fully understand your pain."

 

"Wait- You- You're not going to... to talk about...?" Alex asks uneasily. Hanzo pointedly turns his attention back to the cluster, where Brigitte seems to be helping break the tension of secrets laid bare by telling Ana and anyone else who wants to listen stories about the things she and Reinhardt have done.

 

"About your crush on Miss Song?" Zenyatta offers. Alex huffs a reluctant sigh and nods shyly. "You are not ready to discuss it, so I will not force the issue. You are a secretive woman, Alex; you have lived so much of your life alone, unable to trust others. Trust is not gained overnight, neither is it given in a day. You are not the only one here who keeps matters close to the proverbial vest, as is clearly evidenced by today's recent revelations. Everyone carries secrets, whether so intimate as a crush or so grand as one's life. I will only say this: secrets are powerful things, and cannot be hidden forever; they will be found out, and you can only control who, how, and when if you take initiative." Reaching into the fog, he finds her shoulder and grips it. "Now. Shall we meet Mr. Reyes?"

 

After an uncertain hesitation, Alex sighs heavily and coalesces properly, standing.

 

"Yes," she agrees, lifting her chin and straightening her shoulders. Without waiting for him or Hanzo, she approaches the cluster, and Zenyatta purrs with pride as he follows. She falters only a moment at the edge of the cluster before stepping past Genji and reaching out to tap Gabriel's shoulder. "Excuse me? Um... Hi. I'm-"

 

"Alex," Gabriel says for her, completely ignoring Torbjorn's suspicious glare. "You don't know me, but I know you."

 

"I- How...?" Alex asks, perplexed and uneasy again.

 

"Moira. I was there when you found her."

 

"She told me to stay away from Talon."

 

"To protect you," Gabriel nods curtly. "You and I are the only ones of our kind; she couldn't let us both be in Talon's hands."

 

"Oh..." Alex deflates noticeably, and Tracer looks like she might interfere, but before she can do anything, Gabriel reaches out to tip her chin up.

 

"She also cares about you. More than I think she'll ever admit. If it was solely a matter of keeping her greatest creations out of Talon's control, she would never have ensured my position at Doomfist's table; to her, I am expendable, but you are not."

 

"Really?" Alex breathes, a tear tracking down her cheek despite her rapid blinking to hold it back.

 

"Really," Gabriel agrees with a hint of a lopsided smile tugging against his scars. "She threatened my life if I told anyone. So I told Jack to make sure you joined Overwatch." Alex barks a laugh, sniffling and hastily wiping her cheek.

 

"I know I came first," she says, "but would you- would you teach me how to control it better?"

 

"We'll see, niña ," he answers, a grim note creeping into his voice. Zenyatta reaches out to take her hand when she tenses anxiously. "Overwatch isn't in the clear just yet; I have to milk my time at Talon for all it's worth, because once Akande decides his final move, he'll try to get rid of me before he makes it."

 

"We won't let that happen, bnt ," Ana winks. "We'll make sure he comes back to train you."

 

"Watch it, Ana..." Gabriel rumbles.

 

" Shukraan, khalah Amari, " Alex beams, relaxing. Ana lights up and says something else in the same language, a question that Alex answers with a delighted nod.

 

"Great, there's two of them," Jack mutters, completely lacking malice and even hiding a smile when he rolls his eyes.

 

"It won't be any worse than talking to my daughter, fata ," Ana laughs.

 

"You say that," Torbjorn grumps, "but I distinctly remember the two of you having plenty of secret conversations without the rest of us."

 

"Aww, someone's jealous," Brigitte giggles, elbowing Tracer, who's laughing.

 

"I am not!" Torbjorn protests, sparking another round of laughter.

 

Despite the secrecy, and the pain it undoubtedly caused, the laughter and companionship is genuine; there are likely going to be moments when healing is needed ― there may even be arguments that raise buried resentment ― but Zenyatta feels certain that everyone is on the right path. As with Jesse and Hanzo, it is a long road, and one which every person will take at his or her own pace, but the direction is set and hopeful.

 

That beautiful feeling is strained when Winston clears his throat and joins the group with Fareeha, the two of them wearing grim expressions as Winston gestures for the rest of the room to join them.

 

"Things may be worse than anticipated," Winston says when everyone has gathered together in a rough circle. "Tell them what you told me, Fareeha."

 

"While I was held captive, I tried to demand answers from the guards," she explains. "The only answer I got was a promise that my death would not be in vain, that after 'the demonstration,' humans would finally know their place. It wasn't until after I woke that I remembered a rumour I heard at Helix. I have no way of knowing if the rumour is true or not, but..." She hesitates, mixed nostalgia and concern in her gaze as she looks to Gabriel. "Well, with Reaper here, we may have the answer. According to the source, someone matching Akande's description was seen chatting with an unknown omnic. Because of this rumour, it was speculated that perhaps Talon and Null Sector were cooperating. Obviously I couldn't give that speculation any weight because it was only a rumour, but now..."

 

She trails off, and all eyes turn to Gabriel. He doesn't speak at first, and Zenyatta reads a hint of uncertainty in his scowl, but he can't say if the man is holding anything back.

 

"I don't know," he sighs finally, shaking his head. "The only omnic I know of with any notable ties to Talon is a freelance omnic hacker who's been playing cat and mouse with Sombra named Lynx Seventeen. Whatever this 'demonstration' is, if it's related to Talon at all, it has to be a part of Akande's endgame."

Chapter Text

"Tik tok, doc."

 

"I certainly hope you haven't intruded in the midst of my experiment merely to taunt me," Moira mumbles, too focused on the possible reaction of the newly introduced bioagent to look up at the intruder.

 

"Now why would I do that?"

 

For that, Moira spares a sceptical glance at the young woman leaning casually against the table where Moira has her notes for this experiment. Sombra is smirking her usual smirk, relaxed and content like no one in the world could hurt her.

 

An undoubtedly accurate assessment.

 

"What do you want, Sombra?" Moira prompts, returning her attention to the platter before her and checking her watch to catalogue every thirty seconds of this test. "Surely you haven't come to remind me of my deadline."

 

"Well, that too," Sombra chuckles. "Got a couple orders of business actually, but why the rush? You're so uptight!"

 

"I am a scientist," Moira says blandly, pushing away from her testing table to make a mark on her notes before returning. "My every waking moment is critical to my experiments; misspending my time is as egregious an act as... as misplacing your blackmail ― excuse me, information ― on any of your powerful 'friends.'"

 

"Sometimes, you really are no fun," Sombra sighs. "Fine. First things first, Akande wants it finished tonight."

 

"Impossible," Moira scoffs, frowning at the half-disintegrated sample of her testing material. "Yet another inviable attempt... I'm missing something..." Tossing the sample, she begins pacing while her mind sorts through previous attempts to figure out why she keeps failing.

 

"Just passing on the news, doc," Sombra huffs, raising her hands. "You can tell him yourself. Before you do, I need a favour."

 

"I don't work with the kind of technology you have," Moira dismisses absently, waving her off. "My work is not compatible with-" Something clicks and she stops pacing, every fibre of her being honing in on this epiphany.

 

"Not me," Sombra says, ignorant of how imminently history is about to be written. "It's about Amelie."

 

"Not now, Sombra; I am about to do the likes of which no human or animal has ever conceived."

 

"It has to be now," Sombra presses while Moira strides past her to gather the chemicals needed to adjust the bioagent and the drug. "Things are about to get messy and there won't be an opportunity after it all goes down."

 

"There will be endless opportunity if Talon succeeds," Moira snorts.

 

"Not for Amelie," Sombra insists, grabbing Moira's arm. "There is a very real chance that she dies if you don't do this for me."

 

"Do what?" Moira growls, pinning the hacker with a sharp, narrowed gaze. "Make her immortal? In case you haven't noticed, child , we are all mortal, and we will all die in due course."

 

"Some of us sooner than later," Sombra snaps. "Unless you want it to be sooner for her , you'll help me." Moira goes cold.

 

There's only one person she can be referring to, and Moira wants to curse aloud; Gabriel was right, and she should have known Sombra would make use of the knowledge eventually.

 

"...With what?" she grits out reluctantly.

 

"It didn't have to be this way, Moira," Sombra says quietly. "I didn't want to use her against you, but you forced my hand."

 

"Get on with it," Moira snarls, ripping her arm free of Sombra's grasp. "And be glad you have friends in high places; I will help you only this once, and the next time you threaten her, not even they will be able to save you, do I make myself perfectly clear?"

 

"Crystal," Sombra replies coolly, biting back her irritation.

 

"Fantastic. Now what do you want?"

 

Sombra hesitates, and for the first time ever, she looks uncertain. Moira's anger fades as curiosity builds; Sombra has never been one to do anything if she wasn't absolutely sure of the outcome, and even then only if that outcome benefitted her. What could she possibly want done to Amelie that would leave her uncertain of the outcome?

 

"I want you to give Amelie her emotions back," Sombra says finally, a deep ache in her voice that sets Moira back completely. Of all the things she thought Sombra might say, that wasn't even at the bottom of the list. And judging by the stifled agony in Sombra's expression, there can be only one reason behind this request.

 

She is, well and truly, in love with Amelie.

 

~

 

"It has been far, far too long." Lynx jolts visibly, and Gypsy laughs, sitting beside them at the bar and gesturing to the omnic bartender before continuing in Omnia. "Jumpy, Lynx? How unlike you."

 

"You have the unique ability to sneak up on me when I least expect it," Lynx chuckles in kind, relaxing while the bartender lays a menu in front of Gypsy. She peruses it for a moment and points out what she wants.

 

"I have been told I'm light on my feet," she teases.

 

"You float, Gyp; I think that's more than just 'light on your feet,'" Lynx chirps, antennae twitching playfully.

 

"Angelic, then?" They both laugh now, and Gypsy purrs happily. "So. Is there a reason you asked me to meet you here, or did you simply want to reconnect?"

 

"There's a reason," Lynx sighs, their mirth fading noticeably. "Did you meet a big Russian lady with pink hair recently?" Gypsy thinks back over her recent travels.

 

"I believe I have. Not formally, but she attended one of my discussions. She was quiet, and stayed at the back, never engaging. Why, did something happen to her?"

 

"Not exactly," Lynx mutters, toying with the straw of their drink. "It's a long story... I was hired by her boss to help her locate Sombra. You know who that is?"

 

"I am not familiar with the name."

 

"Sombra is either an individual or a group known for their ability to hack into pretty much everything."

 

"Like us."

 

"Yes. In fact, I found out that we were created to counter Sombra specifically."

 

"Fascinating... Go on."

 

"My research leads me to believe Sombra is an individual posing as an entire collective to keep their identity a secret. Her identity."

 

"Her?" Gypsy echoes, intrigued. Lynx nods.

 

"If I'm right ― and I'm rarely not right ― Sombra is in fact a young woman from Dorado, Mexico named Olivia Colomar."

 

"Incredible."

 

"She's ruthless, and she plays her own game, but she must have a set of rules that she plays by, because even though she tried to kill me and Zarya, she also warned me that we're wasting our time chasing her."

 

"And Zarya is..."

 

"The Russian woman."

 

"I see." Gypsy hums thoughtfully. "You aren't with Zarya now, nor were you with her when she attended my discussion; I take it you are no longer working together?"

 

"That's... correct," Lynx agrees. Gypsy catches the hesitation, and her interest grows.

 

"There's more to it. What happened?"

 

"...When Sombra tried to kill us, Zarya saved my life, but when I asked her why, she didn't know, and I think... I think she's having a bit of a crisis. She hates omnics, with a passion, yet she obviously cared enough to save me. I wanted to help her but..."

 

"Ahh. That explains why she attended my discussion."

 

"Worse, I found out why we were sent after Sombra in the first place. If Zarya ever finds out, it'll destroy her."

 

"How so?" Gypsy asks, curious. Lynx makes a small groaning noise and their antennae droop like a sad puppy's ears.

 

"The woman who hired us, Katya Volskaya, is Zarya's hero. She owns Volskaya Industries, which is the forerunner of technology companies around the world, and one of the most promising in anti-omnic tech, period. But Katya is getting a lot of her ideas... from omnics."

 

"Oh."

 

"Sombra somehow found out, probably the same way I did, and used it to blackmail Katya, so we were tasked with finding Sombra and eliminating her."

 

"Quite the quandary."

 

"I don't suppose you have any advice?" Lynx asks hopefully.

 

"I'm not sure," Gypsy admits. "I would have to think about it. I can still reach you the way you reached me?"

 

"Of course. To be honest, I really miss chatting with you."

 

"That makes two of us," Gypsy purrs. "One more question... Do you know where Zarya is now?"

 

"Last I saw her was at a cafe way up north, but last I heard of her was all the way out west; France, if I remember correctly?"

 

"Excellent."

 

"Are you going to see her?"

 

"I believe so. I've been meaning to go that direction for a while now."

 

"Oh?"

 

"Yes, I heard talk of a rather intriguing organisation that may have returned from the grave, and I'm interested in confirming the rumour."

 

"Overwatch. You've heard it too?"

 

"If rumours are to be believed, Tekhartha Zenyatta has joined them," Gypsy nods. "He's responsible for who I've become, so I wish to thank him. And perhaps this organisation can make use of my skills in a way that benefits all?"

 

"I wouldn't doubt it," Lynx chuckles, antennae perking. "From what I know ― which is more than just speculation ― it's a baby compared to what it used to be, but it's growing fast. However, have you heard of Talon?"

 

"Indeed I have," Gypsy sighs.

 

"Sombra is working with them. And they're pretty intent on destroying Overwatch if they can."

 

"Why?"

 

"Because right now, Overwatch is Talon's greatest threat. Places like Volskaya Industries are too busy doing their own thing to get more than passing attention ― hence Sombra's blackmail ― and other major names, like Vishkar Development, are either too corrupt as it is, or, in the case of Vishkar, already in Talon's pocket."

 

"I see. Then why have you not offered your talents to Overwatch?"

 

"You know me, Gyp," Lynx laughs wryly. "I can never stay in any one place too long. Besides, I've still gotta figure out what to do about Zarya and Sombra and Katya."

 

"May the gods be with you then, my sibling," Gypsy purrs, standing and offering a hand. Lynx stands as well, taking it and pulling her into a quick hug. "If you ever need more advice, you know where to find me now."

 

"Thank you, Gypsy. Seriously."

 

"Always, Lynx. Farewell."

Chapter Text

When the base is in sight, Mei falters, embarrassment surging up her neck as she peeks up at Zarya. Beside them, Kannus perks up and trots ahead, and Snowball follows; he's been giving Mei the cold shoulder ― no pun intended ― since they left the hotel.

 

"You don't have to escort me any further," Mei mutters, half worried over how much trouble she might be in for telling anyone about the base.

 

"I insist!" Zarya says brightly. She's been glowing for about as long as Snowball has been avoiding them. "You're still drunk, after all."

 

"It's been well over three hours since those drinks," Mei argues, stopping and looking uneasily at the watchtowers and security gates. "I'm sure the alcohol has long since been processed and expelled."

 

"Perhaps. But I couldn't let you wander the streets alone anyway," Zarya winks. "Not when a big, strong woman like me can protect you."

 

"Are you-" No, don't ask if she's flirting, because the answer is probably yes, and that's not important at the moment anyway. "Never mind. Look, I wasn't supposed to leave the base in the first place; we're kind of on lockdown because of a lot of attacks and stuff that happened lately. I'm going to be in so much trouble when I get back, and..." Mei bites her lip, looking again at the watchtowers. Might as well be honest. "I don't want you to get caught up in my mess anymore than you already are. I'm so sorry..."

 

"Don't apologise," Zarya scoffs, waving dismissal and striding confidently toward the entrance. "And don't worry; I'll explain everything."

 

"Aleksandra!" Mei protests, running after her.

 

At least she left the giant gun hidden at the hotel. Small miracles...

 

"Halt," Athena announces through the loudspeakers at the entrance. "Identify yourself."

 

"Athena, I-" Mei begins, hoping to get at least a basic explanation in, but Zarya speaks up boldly, overlapping her.

 

"Greetings! I am Aleksandra Zaryanova, and I am escorting Dr. Mei back safely."

 

Mei bites back a groan, not quite successfully; she can't decide whether it's more because of her embarrassment or more because she really, really likes the way Zarya calls her 'Dr. Mei.'

 

"Welcome home, Mei," Athena greets. "You may take your guest to the meeting room; Winston would like to see you."

 

"Oh..." The bottom of Mei's stomach drops out and she wishes she could just disappear. "How much trouble am I in?"

 

"I doubt very much," Athena answers easily. "There is a base-wide meeting in progress ― every agent is in attendance ― and your opinion is valued."

 

"Meeting?" Mei asks, but the gate is already opening and Kannus is snuffling at her hand, butting her leg to get her moving. Zarya grins and jerks her head toward the inner walls.

 

"After you, doctor."

 

Flushing a hot scarlet that makes her glad it's a chilly afternoon, Mei leads the way into the base and to the meeting room. Everyone seems to be gathered in a loose circle toward the front of the room, next to the table, and Echo spots them first. Her grim expression brightens and she perks up visibly, waving.

 

"Dr. Zhou!"

 

That gets everyone's attention, and in the next instant, Mei is swarmed with hugs and relieved greetings. Stunned, she can only return them and try not to fall over when Reinhardt thumps her shoulder.

 

"Alright, alright; calm down, everyone," Winston says loudly to be heard over the noise. "We've got important things to discuss still. Mei, let me fill- Oh. Who is this?"

 

"Um," Mei tries, blanking a little too long. Zarya also hesitates a moment, staring at Winston, and Mei can't help but recall her own shock at meeting a giant talking gorilla in armour.

 

"That..." Someone with a low, gravelly voice speaks up, making the small hairs on Mei's neck stand up and causing Zarya to stiffen. "...is Aleksandra Zaryanova, a former deadlift champion and bodybuilder, and now a strong-arm for Volskaya Industries."

 

"Reaper," Zarya growls, fists clenched tight at her sides and barely controlled rage curling her lips in a vicious snarl. "You work with Talon?" The sharp flick of her piercing gaze says that question is meant for Mei, who swallows her tongue in fear.

 

"She's not my contact," Reaper answers calmly, the twisted scars across his face making it an implacable mask.

 

"He's my informant," Soldier 76 explains, stepping past the others to grip Mei's shoulder. He's not wearing his mask, and Mei realises immediately what the meeting was about. "Welcome back, Doc. Are you alright?"

 

"I- Y-Yes... I'm sorry!" she blurts, suddenly overwhelmed in a bad way. She bows her head, hunching in on herself, and stammers out her apology as quickly as she can. "I know I shouldn't have left the base, and I'm so sorry I lied, I just needed to be on my own, and I needed- I don't know, but I had to leave, and I'm so, so sorry for telling her about the base; I wasn't-"

 

"Hey, hey, easy," Soldier ― Jack ― interjects, cutting her off.

 

"Don't worry about it," Lena grins. "As long as you're alright, that's all that matters."

 

"We're family, Mei," Angela smiles warmly. "No matter how... odd or unorthodox." She giggles a little, casting glances at Manx, Winston, and the omnics. "Our first priority is each other."

 

"But maybe next time," Fareeha says, subtly squeezing Angela's hand, "tell them where you're going, so you don't end up like me."

 

"You're... not upset with me?" Mei dares to ask, wiping under her glasses and sniffing.

 

"We're just glad yer okay," Jesse grins, on his feet but leaning heavily on Genji.

 

"Kannus is an excellent watchdog," Zenyatta purrs, just enough teasing in his tone to bump up the mood and make many people laugh, including Mei. She scrubs the last of the saltwater from her cheeks and smiles.

 

"Thanks, everyone. I needed that." Then she reaches for Zarya's hand, smiling at the frowning woman and tugging her to the centre of attention. "She's the reason I'm alright. She... walked me home."

 

She did a lot more than that, but thinking about any of it brings heat to Mei's face and it's probably best not to mention any of that.

 

"We appreciate it," Winston nods, extending a huge hand. Zarya's frown deepens, but she reaches out and tentatively takes it, shaking his massive paw respectfully. "Dr. Zhou is an important member of our team; thank you for making sure she came home safely."

 

"My pleasure," Zarya nods, gaze flicking momentarily to Reaper ― Gabriel. "She helped me, so of course I returned the favour."

 

"Of course," Winston agrees. "If you need a place to stay, you're more than welcome to spend the night. And if you ever need assistance, we'll be glad to help." He scans the room then and seems to make a decision. "Everyone, considering everything you've learned today, I think you all deserve a little time to yourselves; take the rest of the day, go process things, talk to each other whenever you're ready, and don't forget to keep up with your training. That's an order. Before you leave, Reaper- er, Reyes, I need a moment with you. And Mei, stick around and I'll fill you in on everything that's happening."

 

~

 

"There you are!" Alex jolts, grimacing as the sudden motion sends a brighter spike of pain through her limbs than usual. She tightens down on herself and forces a half smile to her lips so she can look up at Hana, who's standing over her with hands on her hips and a wide grin. "Luc and I are getting everyone we can to participate in a video game round robin. Wanna join us?"

 

The reminder causes a visceral pain even deeper and more raw than the pain Alex suffers on a bad day, and it takes everything she has to keep smiling.

 

"I think I'll pass," she says lightly. "I'm a little... overwhelmed."

 

"Because of Reaper?" Hana asks, crouching beside her and crossing her arms over her knees. "It's pretty wild, finding out that he's Gabriel Reyes. And Jack Morrison is alive too? Those guys are total legends! But it's gotta be even crazier for you, seeing someone else with the same powers as you."

 

"Yeah," Alex replies, milking it. "Crazy."

 

"Hey, so... I have a question for you," Hana says suddenly. "You don't have to answer if you don't want; I totally get it if you wanna keep it to yourself for now. Just... It's been a couple months now, and we've done a lot of shit together." She falters, biting her lip and looking down at the floor between them. "What's the deal with you getting kidnapped?"

 

So she did hear that. Alex curls into herself, all too aware that she's fogging a lot right now.

 

"You heard that?" It's not a question, but she doesn't know what else to say.

 

"Why didn't you say anything?" Hana asks, holding herself distant, like she doesn't want to spook Alex into clamming up and running off or something. "You know you can trust me, right?"

 

"I know," Alex whispers.

 

"I wanna help you, Alex," Hana says when she doesn't say anything else. "I wanna be here for you. I can't do that if you don't talk to me. And believe me, I learned the hard way that you can't do everything on your own; sometimes you need help."

 

Alex doesn't want her help. She doesn't want to talk. She wants to snap, to ask why Hana cares when she's got someone more important to her. She wants to throw her broken heart in Hana's face and demand to know if that's how to be there for someone. She wants to scream and cry and have a complete breakdown, maybe literally; maybe finally fall apart and dissolve into nothingness at last.

 

"Alex, please. Something is going on with you and I can't just sit by and watch you suffer."

 

"You can't help me." The words come out with no conscious permission, numb and quiet, hopeless. Alex lets herself be a little bit honest. "You don't understand..."

 

"Then help me understand!" Hana exclaims, exasperated. She shifts to sit beside Alex, leaning toward her but still keeping space. "Just talk to me, please!"

 

"You can't possibly understand," Alex snaps finally, bitter. "I am in constant agony every second of every day as my body tries to tear itself apart on a molecular level. I am being repeatedly torn apart and stitched back together, and I can't so much as breathe without feeling like my lungs are being stabbed with a million needles, over and over again. Nothing I, or you, or anyone can do will ever change that, and you all go about your days like normal, doing normal things and being normal , while I struggle to even get out of bed in the morning because I don't know if I'm going to collapse in blinding agony at any moment!" A sharp, hysterical laugh escapes as she presses her fingers to her temples like that will help her stay in one piece. "You know I don't even have a period? I'm so fucked up that I never bleed, not monthly, not when I cut myself, not ever. I'm not even a real woman; I'm just a- a fucking cloud ! How can you possibly hope to ever understand me??"

 

Hana hugs her.

 

All the anger and self-loathing and fear disappear under a thick layer of shock as Hana pulls her close and embraces her with a grip like she never intends to let go. Alex can feel herself losing cohesion as emotion seeps back in, unnameable but bearing tears that streak her cheeks and dissipate almost before they fall. She shifts her entire existence a little to the right, wrapping herself around Hana and burrowing desperately into her warmth.

 

"I'm so sorry, Alex," Hana whispers, gently stroking between her shoulder blades. "You're right; I don't think I'll ever understand what it's like to be in so much pain all the time. Honestly, I don't think I want to. But I wanna be here for you anyway." With a small squeeze, she pulls back and offers a tentative smile. "When we first met, I was so jealous of your powers, but I guess the cool stuff comes with a lot of downsides, huh?"

 

Against all odds, that draws a wet laugh from Alex, and she struggles to get herself back under control, quickly wiping at her cheeks.

 

"Hey." Hana tips her chin up and smiles encouragingly. "Whenever you're really hurting, and you don't want to do anything, tell me, and we'll stay in bed and watch movies or something. Okay?"

 

"What about...?" God, it hurts to even think about it. "Lucio? And Baptiste?"

 

"Okay, I'm gonna chalk this up to the fact that you apparently didn't have a very good childhood, so let me teach you a life lesson real quick. If anyone ever tries to make you choose between them and someone else, then they don't deserve to be in your life."

 

It shouldn't, but that makes Alex feel a little better. At the very least, she can still be in Hana's life. For now, she'll take it.

 

"Hey, Hana?"

 

"What's up?"

 

"I'm really hurting and I don't want to do anything."

 

Hana laughs, and even the normal pain subsides a little. Standing, she holds out a hand to help Alex up.

 

"Then let's go watch a movie."

Chapter Text

Ana is waiting with Jack when Winston dismisses Gabriel. They both stand and smile at him, and there's something so warmly familiar about the sight they make that his chest aches with nostalgia.

 

"Surprised you didn't try to kill me on sight again," Gabriel notes, cocking a brow at Ana even though she can't see it behind his mask. She snorts and waves him off with the hand holding her own mask.

 

"Whether you want to admit it or not, Jack is making you a better man. I'll sit back and leave the hands-on work to him."

 

"Ana," Jack groans, covering his face, which does nothing to hide the soft blush beneath his scars.

 

"What? You think I don't know exactly what you two get up to?"

 

"Cut it out," Gabriel growls. "I don't want to know what goes on in that twisted gremlin mind of yours. And I definitely don't want to know what you imagine us doing."

 

"You're right," Ana smirks. "I shouldn't give you ideas."

 

"Ideas?"

 

"So when are you going to talk to Alex?" she asks, pointedly changing the subject but still grinning.

 

"I did."

 

"You know what I mean. You're the only person in the world who truly understands that poor girl."

 

"That 'poor girl' is my predecessor," Gabriel reminds. "She's probably got abilities I can't even imagine. And there's probably plenty of shit I can do that she can't."

 

"Gabriel..." Ana scolds, brow lifting in that characteristic motherly way she has, but ten times more potent now because she's a lot older and wiser. Gabriel can feel himself bending to her will in spite of his best efforts.

 

"She really could benefit from a little training with you, Gabe," Jack adds, taking a sledgehammer to his cracking will. "She's got a lot of potential, but the closest thing we have to a mentor for her is Zenyatta, and no offense to the guy, he's more therapist than battle trainer."

 

"I have more important things to deal with," Gabriel grumbles, making one last concerted effort to hold out.

 

"More important than what?" Fareeha asks conversationally, joining them with Angela at her side. By the gentlemanly way Fareeha holds Angela's hand in her elbow, Gabriel can only assume the bright eyed little girl he knew so long ago grew up, and her wish to be with the Angel of Overwatch came true.

 

"Gabriel doesn't want to train Alex," Ana tsks, crossing her arms. There's just enough mischief beneath her disappointed frown that Gabriel isn't too worried, but it certainly doesn't bode well for his sanity in the near future.

 

"Oh?" Fareeha hums, just a hint of something stilted in her voice. A quick glance between her and her mother reveals the tension they're both hiding, and Gabriel's positive it's about Ana keeping her survival a secret.

 

"Why not?" Angela frowns. "I will admit, I'm a little uneasy with the idea of a cold-blooded killer around our younger agents, but if anything of the old Reyes remains, well... We all see how Jesse turned out."

 

"In case you haven't noticed," Gabriel mutters, knowing he's going to lose this fight but refusing to give up quietly, "I'm not as young as I used to be. And I still have shit to do for Talon."

 

"When do you have to go back?" Jack asks, worry adding another ten years to the deep lines around his eyes. Part of Gabriel wants to pull him close and kiss away the lines, regardless of who's watching, but he pushes that part down.

 

"I'm already pushing it as it is," he sighs. "If Akande asks for me at all while I'm gone, he'll know I was here the minute I don't show up. I still don't know what he's got planned for his endgame, but unless I somehow overhear it or find something written down somewhere, I can only hope Sombra tells me in time to let you know."

 

"You don't have to go back, Gabe," Fareeha says quietly, reaching for him but stopping herself. "You can stay here, with us... Just like before."

 

Tension hangs between the five of them, decades of history in all its mixed horror and glory. They all want that, to go back to the way things used to be, but they all know it's impossible.

 

"...It won't be the same, Ree," he says finally, hating every quiet word. "I have too much blood on my hands. We all do." He takes a deep breath, steeling himself for the separation that's coming, for the stages of resentment and anger and possibly even hatred that it'll undoubtedly bring. "I'll see what the kid can do before I leave, and try to come up with a training regimen for her. If we all survive the next few weeks, I'll think about training her myself."

 

"Gabe," Jack says, grabbing his hand and squeezing. "Whatever happens, we're back together. I'm not losing my family again. Not if I have any say."

 

"That's the problem though, isn't it?" Angela responds grimly, gripping Fareeha's arm like she's never going to let go. "None of us may have a say in what's coming."

 

"Then let's agree now," Ana speaks up boldly, looking at each of them in turn. "Whatever happens, no more lies between us. If we survive, we come home. Yes?"

 

"Yes," Jack and Gabe agree immediately; neither cares anymore if the world knows the truth, so long as they have their loved ones.

 

Fareeha, on the other hand, hesitates, lips pursed and brows furrowed. Angela touches her shoulder to get her attention and nods encouragingly.

 

"...Yes," she says finally, looking like a weight has been lifted off her shoulders. "But don't think this lets you off the hook. Any of you! Ten years you could have told me, could have left some sign..."

 

"Easy, sweetheart," Angela clucks. "You're still healing from a concussion and several bruised ribs. You're lucky nothing broke."

 

"I'm fine, thanks to your magic hands," Fareeha humphs, puffing up her chest a little. She's showing off for her girlfriend, absolutely, and all of them know it; Gabriel nudges Jack and jerks his chin at the ladies.

 

"Were we ever that disgustingly obvious?"

 

"Well we are now," Jack scoffs, rolling his eyes. "Go talk to Alex before you embarrass the shit out of both of us." Fareeha's brows go up and she smirks at Angela, who facepalms.

 

"I knew it! You owe me thirty!"

 

~

 

"We're confiscating the TV!" Hana announces as she enters the lounge. Lucio looks up from the tangled mess Baptiste made of the cords in his effort to help set up. "Alex and I are gonna watch a movie; it's up to Alex whether you guys can join us."

 

"Ah! It's fine!" Alex assures immediately, flushed scarlet. "I don't want to disturb you..."

 

"Well, Bap messed up the cords for the console we got anyway," Lucio snorts, lifting the mess and placing the console back on the shelf when he stands.

 

"It was an accident," Baptiste says again, rolling his eyes. He gathers up the games they were looking at and brings them over to place them with the console. "Unlike you prodigies, I only have the expertise to take care of my equipment; outside of that, I'm useless when it comes to technology."

 

"You sure you wanna let them join us?" Hana asks, pulling Alex over to the couch and scooping up the TV remote on the way. That gets Lucio's attention and he pauses to look over at them. Alex is fogging big time, still blushing, and looks incredibly torn; Lucio can't help but wonder if it's because she overheard him asking Hana out earlier.

 

"I- I'm not against it," Alex answers hesitantly.

 

"Hey," Lucio speaks up, making sure he has her attention. "We can go. No one else wanted to play with us until later anyway; we can go for a walk or something so you two can hang." Alex bites her lip, gaze dropping to the floor and twisting her hands in her lap.

 

"I don't want to... to come between you..." she manages, barely above a whisper. Lucio glances at Baptiste, whose expression echoes his own sympathy. That expression steels warily in the moment of silence that follows, however, and the way he tenses gets everyone's attention. They all follow his narrowed gaze to the door, where Reaper stands.

 

"What do you want, Reaper?" Baptiste asks coolly, striding around the end of the couch to put himself between Reaper and everyone else.

 

"You really think you can stop me?" Reaper returns, a note of amusement beneath the gravel of a horrendously abused voice; Lucio doesn't even want to know what could cause enough damage to make someone sound like that.

 

"I can damn well try," Baptiste growls, bracing himself for a fight. Before Lucio can jump to stop him ― or maybe aid him; he hasn't decided yet ― Alex stands quickly.

 

"Wait!" She grabs Baptiste's arm and steps closer to Reaper. "You're here for me, aren't you?"

 

"I'm taking stock of your abilities before I go," he agrees easily, crossing his arms and leaning casually against the doorframe. "If I see something worthwhile, I'll see what I can do about making a training regime for you."

 

Alex hesitates, glancing uneasily over her shoulder, and then takes a breath, drawing herself up and nodding.

 

"Where should I start?"

 

"Disperse yourself."

 

Without hesitation this time, Alex obeys, bursting into a swirl of fog. It's much more controlled than the first time Lucio saw the ability; a breeze-stirred mist rather than a barely contained dust devil. She slowly reforms, taking another deep breath when she's done.

 

"It still hurts," she reports, "a lot. But I can stop it at any stage, either way."

 

"Anything else you can do?" Reaper asks blandly.

 

"I can... become a puddle?" Alex offers sheepishly. Hana brightens and flops over the arm of the couch, watching with eager eyes; Lucio can't help his own curiosity and he joins her, leaning over the back of the couch as Baptiste steps back to give Alex room.

 

"...Go ahead," Reaper prompts when she hesitates.

 

"I- When I do this, it exhausts me," she explains. "It took me months to be able to do it properly in the first place. I haven't tried it again since I came here..."

 

"All the more reason," he scoffs. "Jack tells me you've been training with the omnic monk; your stamina should have improved by now. Do it."

 

"Come on, Alex!" Hana cheers her on, pumping a fist in the air. That seems to encourage her a little, so Lucio adds to it, whooping.

 

"You got this!"

 

Blushing, Alex rolls her shoulders a little and concentrates. She collapses, dissolving as she does, and then she's nothing more than a wet spot on the floor that strangely doesn't spread. The puddle wiggles and oozes one way, then the other, making a little circle before springing up and taking form again. Lucio and Hana both cheer while Baptiste steps forward to steady Alex when she sways, looking worn out.

 

"S-still takes... a lot out of me..." she mumbles, gripping Baptiste's arm.

 

"...Anything else?" Reaper asks after a moment.

 

"That was so cool!" Lucio blurts almost at the same time, not realising he was going to say anything. "Oh, oops! My bad; go on." Hana laughs and bumps her hip against his playfully.

 

"I don't... um... I'm not sure..." Alex answers slowly, squeezing Baptiste's arm tight enough to make him frown.

 

"What is it?" Reaper presses before anyone else can. Alex grimaces, clearly disliking this, but reluctantly speaks anyway.

 

"A couple of years ago, I got caught up in a territory dispute with some other... erm... homeless people in the area I had already claimed. They, um... sort of... pissed me off, and I..."

 

"You have offensive abilities?" Reaper prompts, an edge of impatience in his tone that makes Baptiste stiffen warily.

 

"I... might?" Alex mutters, shifting back and forth on her feet and casting an uneasy glance at Hana and Lucio. "I don't... know... for sure, what happened. I... It was a bit of a blur... But after, there were, like... ice darts in the walls? And everyone was scared of me." She bites her lip, swallowing, and then quietly adds, "That's why I started looking for Moima again."

 

Lucio's mind is already spinning up all kinds of solutions, and by the awe and excitement in Hana's expression, she's coming up with ideas too.

 

"You're water," Baptiste says before either of them can speak their ideas.

 

"What?" Alex frowns uncertainly.

 

"That's way cool!" Hana grins.

 

"I'm so jealous of your abilities!" Lucio chimes in, laughing.

 

"What...?" Alex says again, not getting it.

 

"Your power is based on water molecules in the air," Reaper explains bluntly. "Where my abilities rely purely on breaking the bonds between the molecules that already exist in my body and reforming them later, it seems like your abilities rely on hydrogen dioxide molecules both inside your body and outside. Put simply, you are far more dangerous and powerful than I ever was, and with enough training, I doubt there's anything you won't be able to handle."

Chapter Text

After Reyes leaves, Alex slumps against Baptiste with a shaky sigh of relief. He shifts to take her weight, frowning.

 

"Are you alright?" he asks, not liking the glazed over look in her eyes.

 

"I'm... just tired," she murmurs, blinking slowly. "I think... I need to sit down."

 

"You're amazing, Alex!" Hana chirps as Baptiste obligingly offers support. "I never realised how flexible you could be!" Alex misses a step and almost loses her balance, but fortunately Hana and Lucio have made space on the couch and Baptiste can guide her to sit before she falls over.

 

"No kidding!" Lucio chimes in, turning to sit cross-legged beside Alex and leaner closer with eager interest. "I heard you can be like a smoke screen, but becoming a puddle and shooting icicles? That sounds so cool!"

 

"Does it hurt?" Hana asks suddenly, touching Alex's hand lightly. "I mean, right now; are you in pain?"

 

"I- A little?" Alex answers slowly, brow furrowed. Her attention is almost entirely on Hana, and Baptiste perches on the edge of the coffee table to watch them for a while under the pretext of observing Alex for any concerning signs.

 

"Would a massage or something help?" Hana offers, holding up her hands with a small grin. "I've got some pretty strong hands from working on Toki so much." Alex blushes, fogging a little more, and smiles.

 

"Should I be jealous that you're flirting so hard?" Lucio smirks before she can reply, bracing his hands under his chin and his elbows on his knees. Hana blushes now too, while Alex looks like she might spontaneously combust. It confirms Baptiste's suspicion, and by the looks of things, Lucio already guessed as much.

 

"Well I wasn't trying to flirt," Hana scoffs. "But now I'm not gonna be able to say anything that isn't a flirt!"

 

"Why fight it?" Baptiste shrugs, winking at Lucio. "There are so many better ways to spend your time." Now it's Lucio's turn to blush, and Hana snickers.

 

"Hey now," Lucio protests. "Don't tempt me."

 

"To what, flirt?" Baptiste grins. "Why not? You're so cute when you blush." Which, of course, makes Lucio blush more.

 

"Why is practically everything you say an innuendo?" Lucio retorts.

 

"I prefer to think of it as propositional rather than suggestive," Baptiste purrs, enjoying the banter. It won't go anywhere ― he knows that ― but it's still fun, and it makes Lucio more comfortable with being open and true to himself.

 

"If you two start making out right now..." Hana threatens with absolutely no malice. Alex can't seem to look at any of them, and Baptiste wonders absently if it's because she's uncomfortable with flirtations in general, or if it's because her crush is right next to her.

 

"You'll what?" Lucio grins, beating Baptiste to it.

 

"Maybe I'll make out with Alex," Hana smirks back. Alex makes a choking noise, looking up in shock, and Hana laughs, waving her hands apologetically. "Sorry, sorry! Bad joke; didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

 

There's no mistaking the mixed disappointment and relief in Alex's expression, but Hana is too busy reaching for the remote she dropped earlier to notice.

 

"So," she chirps, pushing for a new topic, "what are we watching, Alex? Move your ass, Bap; it's not glass."

 

"Maybe not, but it is fine as hell," he replies, determined not to let this topic go entirely; after everything he went through with Lucio, he's not about to sit by and let Alex go through the same thing.

 

"That's for sure," Lucio laughs, reaching for him when he stands. "What, do you do squats every night or something?"

 

"I thought you were rooming with him," Alex puts in timidly, tense as a board and casting an uneasy glance at Hana, who's frowning at the TV and holding the remote at different angles while she presses the power button.

 

"He tries very hard not to stare at me at night," Baptiste winks conspiratorially, wedging himself between her and Lucio and draping his arms along the back of the couch on either side.

 

"That's the old remote," Lucio chuckles, leaning over him to take the remote from Hana, handing her another one. "This is the one for this TV."

 

"Oh, well no wonder it wasn't working!" Hana laughs, turning the TV on and settling back against Alex's other side. "You want the remote? You're picking what we watch."

 

"N-no, it's fine," Alex stammers, flushed and foggy. "You can pick; I don't mind."

 

"You sure?" Hana asks, already perusing the options. "I'll end up picking some headache-inducing action film or something." Lucio snickers but doesn't say anything as he snuggles up against Baptiste's side and tugs his arm down around himself; pride and delight bubble up in Baptiste's chest and he can't resist kissing Lucio's temple.

 

"Then I guess I'm going to have a headache," Alex says with surprising firmness. Hana grins and picks something that looks like it'll have a lot of explosions and fight scenes, and leans forward for just a moment to put the remote on the coffee table. Baptiste seizes the opportunity and leans into Alex to grab her opposite arm and lift it just as Hana's leaning back again, not leaving Alex any chance to react before she has her arm around Hana's shoulders.

 

"Mm, you okay?" Hana hums, settling into place and looking up at Alex, who's completely still now. "Hey; relax. You trust me, right?"

 

Baptiste isn't sure if she knows that he's behind this, but her attention is entirely on Alex and making sure she's comfortable, and he decides he's going to make sure they figure things out no matter what it takes.

 

"...Yes," Alex answers finally, letting out a measured breath and forcing herself to loosen up.

 

Twenty minutes into the movie, she's tensed up again, looking away from the screen, where the main character is kissing a love interest in the middle of a fight. Lucio makes a gagging noise, jabbing his finger at his mouth with an oddly adorable look of disgust.

 

"Why is every movie the same?" he complains, interrupting Hana's half-hearted rant about some mistake with one of the weapons a few minutes ago. "Macho guy and hourglass girl take one look at each other and suddenly can't get their clothes off fast enough."

 

"For real!" Hana snorts. "I think I can count on one hand the number of movies I've seen where the lead actor and actress don't have the hots for each other from scene one."

 

"Not just that!" Lucio goes on, getting fired up. He even sits forward a bit to rant at Hana past Baptiste and Alex. "How often do you see anything but a cishet couple as the main relationship? You'd think that with so much of the world's population being everything but cishet, more books and movies would come out with like, gay leads and shit! Well, books are doing pretty good about it now, but movies..."

 

"Seriously," Hana agrees, making a face at the TV. "Ugh, and the catering to male fantasy, fucking hell..."

 

"Are boobs really that appealing?" Lucio scowls. Baptiste fails to hold back a bark of laughter. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I can definitely see the appeal of squishing boobs like stress balls-" he makes grasping motions in demonstration- "but I genuinely don't understand what's so sexy about literal lumps of fat."

 

"You're ace, honey," Baptiste chuckles, giving him a little squeeze. "You don't have to understand."

 

"Squishing boobs like stress balls, huh?" Hana grins, waggling her brows at Lucio, who grins back.

 

"Tell me it's not soothing as hell," he says.

 

"Need some stress relief?" she teases, leaning across a flushing Alex and pushing up her breasts so much that they're nearly threatening to spill out of her tank top.

 

"Don't offer unless you're serious," Lucio snorts. "I will motorboat you."

 

"Motorboat?" Alex murmurs, perplexed and clearly off balance in spite of her efforts to keep up with them. Hana's grin grows wider and she hops to her feet, stepping past them and putting one knee on the couch beside Lucio so she's leaning slightly over him.

 

"Wanna demonstrate?" she offers. Lucio doesn't hesitate to sit forward and puts his hands on her hips like she's about to give him a lapdance.

 

Then he's buried between her breasts, burring loudly, and Baptiste can't stop himself from laughing even as Hana bursts into ticklish giggles, grabbing at Lucio and trying to stop him.

 

"St- Stop!" she gasps, wobbling with mirth when he finally has mercy on her. Baptiste reaches out to steady her, but she just steps to the side and flops down across all three of their laps, still giggling. "That never gets old!"

 

"Are- you okay?" Alex asks hesitantly, looking even more lost than before.

 

"Never better!" Hana chirps, giving her a thumbs up and adjusting herself a little more comfortably. The end result has her butt in Alex's lap, her back arched across Baptiste's, and her head resting on Lucio's.

 

Baptiste rests his hand lightly on her stomach, ready to move it if she looks even slightly uncomfortable, but she just laces her fingers with his and settles in, checking the TV to see if she missed anything good. After a few moments, Alex slowly relaxes again, and even leans a little into Baptiste's side. He doesn't miss the awkward attempt to be casual when she lays her hand on Hana's thigh, but pretends to be too caught up in nuzzling Lucio's cheek to notice.

 

"You're insatiable," Lucio tsks later, when Baptiste kisses the back of his jaw.  "We're supposed to be watching the movie."

 

"Am I distracting you?" Baptiste smirks, nipping teasingly at his earlobe.

 

"Yes!" Lucio huffs. He doesn't seem truly irritated, however, and even tips his head to give Baptiste a little more access.

 

"I thought you didn't like kissing," Hana notes, cocking a brow.

 

"I don't," Lucio pouts, giving Baptiste a feigned look of annoyance. "He's very persuasive."

 

"Must have a talented tongue," Hana smirks, gaze flicking to Baptiste's lips. He can't quite tell if she's intentionally biting her lip as a flirt, or if it's a subconscious response to her new interest.

 

"You have no idea," he says in the most seductive voice he can manage. Hana's eyes widen in surprise, and she braces her arm on his leg, using her grip on his hand to pull herself partway up.

 

"You're right," she hums, not bothering to hide her interest now. "I don't. But you could show me."

 

Alex is right there next to them, and Baptiste doesn't have to look to know she's jealous and uneasy, but he also knows that if the jealousy gets strong enough, she might finally act on her own. So, he cups Hana's cheek and pulls her into a firm kiss, nipping at her lip but not intruding even when she sighs and tries to deepen it.

 

"Finally!" Lucio blurts, startling them both. "Someone who can keep up with his never ending appetite!" Baptiste wrinkles his nose sheepishly while Hana laughs and drops back down.

 

"You know what sucks?" she asks conversationally, adjusting her hair over Lucio's leg and toying absently with the strands. "Having a really high libido, but being unable to get off on your own and only having interest in people you're close to."

 

"You're demi?" Lucio asks, intrigued. Baptiste frowns, trying to remember if 'demi' came up during his research into asexuality.

 

"Mmhm, demi/pan," Hana agrees, gaze turned toward the TV but apparently only paying half attention to the movie. "Shit like gender and, well, age-" she glances teasingly at Baptiste- "don't really matter to me as much, so long as I'm familiar with the person and feel safe. Never really thought about trying a poly relationship though, so this is gonna be interesting."

 

"Okay, you're hitting me with way too many terms at once," Baptiste cuts in, worried about getting hopelessly lost. Lucio laughs and takes his hand, squeezing reassuringly.

 

"You remember what poly means, right?"

 

"Yes," Baptiste nods. "And pan is... everyone, right? Or, anyone?"

 

"Anyone, everyone; some people use bi and pan interchangeably, but I personally think there's a subtle difference."

 

"And demi?"

 

"That just means," Hana answers, "that I'm only sexually attracted to people I know well. And considering everything we've been through, I think you guys qualify, just maybe." She winks playfully, giggling, and Baptiste sneaks a surreptitious glance at Alex, who looks like she's watching the movie, but for the slight thoughtful furrow in her brow.

 

Well, here goes everything.

 

"So how high is your libido right now?" he asks bluntly, feigning ignorance. Alex goes still, Lucio cocks a brow, and Hana simply smirks.

 

"Wanna find out?"

Chapter Text

Alex stops breathing for a moment, every part of her wanting to cut in, drag Hana away and beg her to... to what? To stop flirting with her boyfriends? This is none of her business and she knows it; Baptiste's attempts to make her feel like one of them are counterbalanced by his blatant flirts, and neither him nor Lucio seem to realise how much of an outsider she really is in all this.

 

"Do I need to lock the door?" Lucio laughs, shifting like he's about to stand.

 

"I'll get it," Alex mutters quickly, needing to get away before she explodes.

 

"Nah, let Luc get it," Hana giggles, half sitting up so Lucio can stand, and grabbing her hand to keep her in place. "He's the ace one." Then she pauses and cocks her head. "Unless you're ace too...?"

 

For a fraction of a second, Alex scowls, opening her mouth to ask why that's important. Then it clicks and she sits in blank shock before blushing hot enough that she's sure Hana and Baptiste can feel it.

 

They're trying to involve her; really truly involve her. Unless she's reading this all wrong, they're trying to make her a part of their... dating group or whatever.

 

"You okay?" Baptiste asks, wrapping his arm around her shoulder again and squeezing gently.

 

"I- Maybe?" Alex answers, still taken aback by the realisation and unsure how to proceed. What if she's wrong and it's all some big misunderstanding?

 

"You sure?" Hana frowns, squeezing her hand. "You got really foggy when I asked-" She stops, realising something, and her brows go up. "Wait, are you a virgin, Alex?"

 

She will forever deny that she made any sound, much less the unquestionable squeal that escapes as she bursts into a flurry of fog to hide her embarrassment. Hana also squeals, but in delighted amusement, the mischievous light in her eyes making Alex regret everything.

 

"Oh you sweet baby girl!" Hana cackles, sitting up properly and shifting to straddle Alex's lap. "You really are a virgin!" She says something in Korean, and although Alex doesn't understand the words themselves, the catty grin says all she needs to know.

 

"Easy, Hana," Baptiste says, trying unsuccessfully not to laugh. "I think you're scaring her."

 

"Understatement!" Alex squeaks out, covering her face and hoping against all hope that the couch will swallow her whole. She's half tempted to just dissolve and flee, but after showing her full capabilities to Reaper, she's amazed she can handle the instinctive and uncontrollable reaction of her embarrassment, much less fully dissipating.

 

Honestly, even her bones are aching right now.

 

"She won't be so scared once I'm done with her," Hana snickers, tugging gently at Alex's wrists to uncover her face.

 

"I don't think that's helping, sweetheart," Baptiste snorts, taking Hana's arm. "Why don't you pick on someone a little more receptive?"

 

"Like you?" Hana smirks as Alex peeks between her fingers. Beyond her, Lucio is coming back from the door and scoops up the remote, turning down the volume but letting the movie continue to play even though they've long since stopped watching.

 

"Do you see my boyfriend?" Baptiste retorts, gesturing at him. "Unfortunately, I can't tap that, and I'm not one to sleep around on my partner. Partners."

 

"I'm not sure how to feel about that phrasing," Lucio says, squinting toward them as he rounds the coffee table and sits on the floor across from them. He doesn't seem upset however, and Baptiste laughs.

 

"Only complimentary, babe; promise."

 

"So what you're saying is," Hana smirks, "you're as horny as I am."

 

"Depends," Baptiste hums, cocking a brow in a way that makes Alex curious for a split second; not even long enough to know what she's curious about . "Just how horny are you?"

 

"Let's put it this way," Hana purrs, shuffling out of Alex's lap and into Baptiste's. Her arms circle his shoulders and he takes his arm from around Alex to put both hands on her hips. "I haven't had a chance to get down and dirty since a good month before you recruited me."

 

"As I recall, Soldier- er, Morrison, I guess... did the recruiting. I was just moral support."

 

"You really think his rude old ass is what got my attention?" Hana laughs. "I know I said I have a thing for older guys, but not that old!"

 

This would be the perfect chance to escape; no one is paying Alex much attention at the moment and she could probably slip out with little issue. But something about all... this is drawing her in; the lure of forbidden knowledge. The flirting, the suggestion of more, the oddly comfortable openness... Alex can't quite make herself leave.

 

"So you're not into silver foxes?" Baptiste chuckles, not bothering to hide his interest. "Remind me not to age anymore."

 

"It's not that I'm not into silver foxes," Hana answers, scooting a little closer to lean her chest against his. "There's just a little too much of an age gap at the moment. Give it like ten years and then I will absolutely start prowling for silver."

 

"Silver digger," Lucio snickers, propping his chin on a fist.

 

"So I'm just a practice run?" Baptiste hums, sounding amused.

 

"Maybe," Hana admits, surprising Alex. "Depends on how much you impress me."

 

Baptiste leans up to kiss her, and she readily accepts it, just like the first one. This time however, neither holds anything back; Baptiste even slides Hana's shirt up a couple of inches to brush his thumbs against her skin, sparking a sudden and intense jealousy in Alex that she doesn't know what to do with. A quick glance at Lucio says he's content to just watch, but he catches her glance and grins, waggling his brows like they've just shared some secret joke or something, which only serves to confuse her that much more.

 

Unsure what else to do, Alex tries to go back to the movie, but her gaze is drawn back to Baptiste's hands on Hana's hips without her conscious decision; it's not until she catches herself wondering what it would feel like to be in Baptiste's position right now that she realises she's staring again.

 

"Do you want to try being touched?" Alex blinks and tears her gaze away from the slow strokes of Baptiste's thumbs across smooth skin to look up at Hana, who's watching her with amusement while Baptiste nibbles or kisses her neck ― Alex isn't sure which, but both thoughts make her jealousy rear up again.

 

"What?" she says stupidly, too caught up in her mixed fantasy and irritation to fully register the question. Then it hits, just as Hana is about to repeat herself, and Alex flushes hot again. "T-Touched?"

 

"Yes, touched," Hana giggles, and then breaks off with a half groaning sigh, eyes falling closed for a moment as she tips her head back, encouraging Baptiste to keep doing whatever he's doing. Her next words are low and breathy, with an added roll to the tone that lights a spark in Alex's belly. "It's heavenly..."

 

"Depends on the touch," Lucio points out casually. Alex can't understand how he isn't the slightest bit affected by all this. "I like cuddling and shit, but this stuff?" He shakes his head with a small shudder. "Makes my skin crawl."

 

"Well I think it's amazing," Hana croons, pushing against Baptiste and running a hand over his hair, fingers twitching like she might grab and pull.

 

For the merest of moments, Alex vividly imagines Hana above her, fingers tangled in her braid, tugging her head back to kiss her... Every inch of her body responds to the image, lighting up with something she's never felt before, something warm and bright and curiously addicting; she doesn't stop to think twice before reaching out and taking Hana's wrist. Only after she has Hana's hand on the back of her neck does she realise what she's done, but she can't take it back, and the look of surprised interest on Hana's face scares her just a little bit.

 

"Ohh," Hana hums, shifting to bury her fingers in Alex's hair at the base of her skull, a feeling that sends tingles of anxious excitement skittering over Alex's skin. "You know what? I think she wants to be dominated."

 

"Is that so?" Baptiste mumbles into her neck while Alex tries to decide if it's worth it to attempt an escape now. He seems reluctant to withdraw, but does so anyway, giving Alex a sympathetic look that doesn't help. "Go easy on her."

 

"Obviously," Hana snorts, rolling her eyes and freeing her fingers to stand. "Lay down, Alex. I'll be gentle; promise."

 

Somehow that isn't reassuring.

 

Last chance to escape. Except all three of them are watching her now, and she can't get rid of the strange warmth in her belly. Nor can she get rid of the desire to feel Hana's skin, even just for a moment.

 

Taking a breath to steady her nerves, she leans toward the arm of the couch. Baptiste scoots further away, but stays close enough to pull her legs onto his lap. Hana puts one knee on the couch by Baptiste's and then carefully lays herself on top of Alex, bracing her arms by Alex's shoulders.

 

"This okay?" she asks, pausing. Not expecting her to check on something like that, Alex hesitates before nodding slowly. Smiling, Hana rests her weight completely on Alex, her slight frame fitting almost perfectly against Alex's curves. "I'm gonna kiss you now, 'kay?"

 

Alex hardly has a chance to nod before Hana's lips are on hers and oh no, they're so soft and just noticeably sweet; she tastes like something familiar, but Alex's brain is short-circuiting and she can't think what. Then Hana sweeps her tongue past Alex's, just brushing the roof of her mouth in the strangest way, and Alex can't decide if this is the best thing she's ever experienced or the worst.

 

Before she can figure it out, Hana's hands slide down her sides to her hips, cool fingers hooking beneath her shirt to press against skin, and all brain function ceases, leaving only sensation. Those lightly chilled fingertips leave electric trails back up Alex's side to the edge of her bra, and she reactively grabs at Hana's wrists, unable to quite get a proper hold through the rumpled cloth of her shirt.

 

Hana breaks the kiss suddenly, groaning softly and jutting her hips up, away from Alex's, and Alex realises oh yeah, it's a good idea to breathe.

 

"Damn..." Hana mutters, dropping her forehead to Alex's shoulder. "Forgot how nice it is to have my ass played with."

 

"Oh?" Baptiste chuckles. He must tug at Hana's pants or something because both shift a bit, and then Hana pulls her hands away from Alex's chest to reach down between them.

 

After a short fumble, she starts wiggling out of her jeans, kicking them off completely and then pushing up to her hands and knees over Alex.

 

The view is... breathtaking. Alex can't stop staring at Hana's smooth thighs; the beautiful inverted V that comes together at a strip of soft grey cotton that has a small dark spot. Alex isn't sure if it's supposed to be part of a pattern because most of the garment is covered from her point of view by Hana's shirt, but she finds herself mildly curious to see. Before she can ask, however, Hana shifts her weight to one hand and pushes Alex's shirt up again, this time pushing her fingers up under the bra to wrap her hand around Alex's breast.

 

"Just- ooh... Just tell me if I do something you don't like," Hana huffs, biting her lip and pushing her hips back.

 

Her hand on Alex's breast feels oddly... comfortable? Yes, that seems like the right word. Good, but not in a way that stokes the sparks in her gut, like the kiss did. Alex covers her hand through the shirt, hoping to convey her encouragement without having to come up with the words for it.

 

"Ohh, fuck!" Hana pants suddenly, gripping Alex's breast almost painfully tight. "I need... something in my mouth... right the hell now!"

 

"I'm sure there's plenty of options," Baptiste chuckles.

 

A gentle hand sliding up the inside of Alex's thigh draws a startled gasp from her as it fans the sparks into a small flame, heat sinking in her gut and becoming a new kind of ache between her legs; one she's not familiar with.

 

" You can wait!" Hana humphs, leaning down to press a quick, firm kiss to Alex's lips. "Can I put my mouth on you?"

 

"...Isn't that what you just did?" Alex manages when she finally finds her tongue again.

 

"More than that," Hana laughs breathily, kneading her breast now with quick rhythmic squeezes, like she's getting impatient. "Other places. I wanna taste you."

 

That sends Alex's head spinning and it's all she can do just to nod, not entirely sure it was a good idea, but too far now to back out. She has just long enough to start considering the consequences of her decision while Hana shoves her shirt and bra out of the way, and then wet warmth surrounds her nipple. The new, unexpected sensation sends shivers across her skin, and she's still deciding whether she likes it or not when Hana's hand grazes her stomach and slips beneath her pants. Teeth scrape lightly over sensitive skin, fingers burrow beneath cloth and past coarse hair, and Alex can't figure out what to focus on until a cool finger presses between folds of skin and sends ripples of heat through every fibre of her being.

 

"She's so wet..." Hana murmurs against her chest while she struggles to make sense of the strangely enjoyable heat flooding her entire body with the desire for more. "Alex... Please. I want to taste you."

Chapter Text

Hana's said a lot of embarrassing things in her time, but usually she can play it off as a joke or mask it with some sarcastic witticism. This time, however, she's really not thinking straight; between Alex's delightful reactions and Baptiste's talented fingers, the only thinking she can do is to try and figure out how to feed the needy fire in her belly.

 

"I don't- You are...?" Alex mumbles, sounding lost and confused and interested all at the same time.

 

"More," Hana tries to explain, but before she can say another word, Baptiste leans down and bites her ass, just at the edge of her panties. She gasps sharply, jolting away from it reactively but pushing back into just as quickly with a small whine. "Fuck! Never been bit there before... Do it again."

 

Alex makes a small, strangled noise as Baptiste chuckles and rubs his palm over the bite mark. When Hana glances up at Alex, she catches another flare of irritation, frustration... jealousy. She saw it earlier, but now she's pretty sure: Alex is jealous of Baptiste and Lucio. It explains why Alex left before them for the meeting, and why she avoided Hana until after. And Hana's almost certain she knows why, but getting Alex to admit anything is harder than fighting gwishin, so Hana's gonna have to go about this differently.

 

Which is fine because it means she gets to have some fun in the meantime.

 

"Would you rather get bit, or put your mouth on something?" Baptiste hums, trailing his fingers tauntingly close to the soaked spot that betrays Hana's need.

 

"Hnn, why can't I have both?" she whines, resting her forehead on Alex's shoulder again and enjoying the way the woman trembles at every slight twitch of her fingers.

 

"I'm not exactly positioned for that," Baptiste sighs. "And I doubt Alex is willing to bite your ass."

 

Alex stiffens under Hana, one hand gripping Hana's wrist tightly through the rumpled cloth of her shirt and the other digging into the couch cushion. Hana doesn't need to see her expression to know she's extremely uncomfortable now.

 

"Oh fuck you, Bap; now who's scaring her?" Hana grumbles, tilting her head to kiss Alex's neck softly. "Hey, relax; we're not gonna make you do anything you don't want to. Promise."

 

"I know," Alex whispers, slowly, deliberately relaxing her grip. Hana rewards her with another kiss and a teasing stroke that makes the woman jolt and shudder. Her fog is stronger now, thicker and darker than usual, and Hana wants to believe it's a good thing.

 

"How are you doing?" she asks, shifting to press a kiss to Alex's sternum. "You're fogging a lot."

 

"Um... Embarrassed," Alex mutters, turning her face into the couch to hide. "I- don't know what I'm feeling."

 

"In a good way or a bad way?" Lucio asks before anyone else can. Hana pulls her hands away entirely, lifting herself up so she isn't trapping Alex.

 

As though anyone can trap water. Or air, for that matter.

 

"Wh- Oh, it's not- It's not bad!" Alex explains hurriedly, flushing scarlet and gripping Hana's shoulder tightly. "I just... I don't know how to... erm... explain? Describe?" She grimaces and mutters something in her native tongue.

 

"You don't have to..." Hana begins, worried that she's letting her libido get the better of her and that she's not respecting Alex's wants or needs.

 

"If you're uncomfortable, we can stop," Baptiste offers, completing Hana's thought.

 

"No, I-" Alex stops herself, biting her lip uneasily. Then she takes a breath, steeling herself. "I want to... try. You were right about... I don't have any experience, and I'm a little scared. But it- it feels good. Just a little... intense, I guess?"

 

"Pretty sure it's like that for everyone," Hana grins, relaxing; she can feel Baptiste loosening up too, and takes the opportunity to wiggle her ass, hoping to draw his attention there again. "We'll go easy for you, okay?"

 

"Okay," Alex nods, releasing her breath and settling back down.

 

Now that she has full and proper permission, Hana shuffles backward, going up to her knees so she can start helping Alex out of her clothes. Baptiste gives her ass a small squeeze and a quick pat before also helping, until Alex is bare from the waist down, with her shirt and bra pushed up above her breasts.

 

"Now that's a view," Hana purrs, pausing to take it in.

 

"You're telling me," Lucio snickers, smug as a fat cat with a bowl of milk.

 

"Hate to spoil your fun," Baptiste speaks up, "but I'm gonna burst if I don't get a little help here." He spreads his hands, but it's the small roll of his hips under Alex's calves that really bring attention to the massive tent of his pants.

 

"Someone's impatient," Hana laughs, winking at Alex, who's covering her face again and peeking sheepishly between her fingers. "Alright then, doctor; Nurse Hana is here to assist you." Baptiste bursts out laughing while she tugs her shirt over her head and tosses it to the floor with her pants. She shifts back a little further and drops to knees and elbows, reaching between Alex's legs to undo Baptiste's pants so she can get at his dick.

 

"You in a nurse's outfit sounds like trouble," Baptiste muses, running a hand up her spine and fingering the clasp of her bra.

 

"I could see it," Lucio hums. "One of those really old-fashioned white outfits with the little cap? The thought of Hana anywhere needles is terrifying, though."

 

"Hey!" Hana protests, not at all bothered by the jokes at her expense. "Just don't piss me off and you've got nothing to worry about."

 

"I definitely don't want to think about angry Hana while she's this close," Baptiste agrees, cocking a brow at Lucio, who just grins back at him.

 

The size of him; damn! Yuna would be jealous. Hana might be salivating just a tiny bit at the thought of tasting the monster that barely fits in her hand.

 

She glances at Alex, just checking in on her really quick, and finds a wide pair of velvet brown eyes watching her in avid fascination and hungry interest; there's something utterly delightful about Alex's yearning adoration, and Hana can't help but put on a show to fan the flames of her jealousy. Locking gazes with her, Hana wraps her lips around the crown of Baptiste's dick and swallows down as much as she can handle.

 

"Oh hell..." Baptiste groans, bucking against the back of her throat, fingers clutching against her back. "I pride myself on having a lot of stamina, but I'm warning you now, it's been way too long and you are way too good at this."

 

Hana smirks around her mouthful, but she's still watching Alex's reaction. The woman is only covering her mouth now, her every emotion scrolling across her expression for easy reading; she's torn between watching the show and wanting Hana to herself, and Hana fairly wiggles with gleeful pride. Just for that, she really makes it a show, exaggerating every bob and stroke, moaning loudly, and completely ignoring Baptiste's pleas to take it easy on him. When he sounds like he's about to cum, she pops off, laughing at the sharp curses in his native tongue.

 

"Hana's a damn devil," Lucio snorts, amused.

 

"I can be," Hana grins, slowly stroking Baptiste's length while he tugs listlessly at the clasp of her bra. Still holding Alex's hungry gaze, she shifts forward just a little bit and nibbles high on the inside of the woman's thigh. Alex's breath catches, muscles bunching reactively, and the fog increases.

 

"Hana, I swear by the goddess, you are going to be the death of me," Baptiste huffs, splaying a hand on Alex's stomach.

 

"I'm not even trying," Hana smirks, peeking up at him. "I could do so much worse."

 

"Please don't." Surprisingly, it's Alex who says it, her voice small and worried. "I hate to think of anyone suffering."

 

"Aww, Alex..." An intense need to squeeze the cuteness swells in Hana's chest, and she settles for giving Alex's leg a quick hug.

 

"Don't worry about it," Baptiste chuckles. "This kind of suffering is... Well, I was going to say pleasurable, but that doesn't quite sound right when I say it aloud, does it?"

 

"Enjoyable?" Lucio offers while Hana kisses Alex's other thigh to see if it gets the same response. It does, with the added bonus of a small, most likely subconscious wiggle of Alex's hips.

 

"That works," Baptiste agrees, tracing the line of Hana's spine under her bra and down to her panties. "It'll make more sense the more you have sex and experiment. Assuming, of course, that sex turns out to be your thing."

 

Hana decides that's as good an opportunity as any, and trails her tongue slowly and deliberately up Alex's labias to flick the clit. Alex visibly jumps with a sharp gasp, starting to sit up but freezing before she really gets there.

 

"Wh- I- What...??"

 

Instead of answering, Hana waggles her brows and does it again, even slower this time, pressing a little harder with her tongue and sucking lightly at the clit for a little bonus. The utter shock and perplexed bliss in Alex's expression makes everything worth it, and Hana goes to work, seeking out the most sensitive spots and toying with them to make Alex twitch and squirm, gasping and shuddering practically on cue.

 

"Wow..." Lucio murmurs. "Hana must be good."

 

"If I got even a fraction of that, she really is," Baptiste hums appreciatively.

 

Now that Alex is worked up too, Hana eases up a little bit, turning some of her attention to stroking Baptiste's arousal back to full mast. He grunts and cants into it, hissing softly with pleasure.

 

"Didn't forget you," she winks, enjoying herself maybe a little too much.

 

"I would be glad if I wasn't-" He breaks off, shuddering.

 

"Gonna blow?" Lucio offers with a cackle, earning a half hearted glare before Baptiste tips his head back and tries to steady his breathing. "Alex looks pretty close too; think you can make them cum at the same time, Hana?"

 

"You think I can't?" she snorts, checking on Alex, who looks uncertain but definitely interested. "Watch me." Alex's eyes widen, but Hana is already going to work, and any protests die in an unmistakable whine of pleasure that prompts Alex to hide her face again.

 

It only takes a few searching probes to find the spot that gets the most reaction, and Hana grins, doing her best to draw Alex over the edge while coaxing Baptiste to do the same in spite of his efforts to control himself. Alex cums first, tensing up and then crying out and writhing under Hana's tongue before completely bursting into fog that settles in a grey blanket across the couch and floor.

 

"...Oh." Hana stares blankly for a moment, unsure whether this is a good thing or not. Then she notices Baptiste's breathing has evened out and she turns her full attention on him, too competitive to stop now. "Hold it; don't think you're getting off easy, mister."

 

"Wai-!" He doesn't get a chance to stop her; practically the instant she puts her lips on him, he bursts, coating her mouth in thick ropes of bittersweet that she was not prepared for.

 

Fortunately, she doesn't choke on it, but the end result is an even bigger mess dripping down her chin than already was. She turns a narrow look up at him, but he's blissed out, chest heaving.

 

"I'm trying," Lucio speaks up, struggling to contain his mirth, " so hard ... not to make jokes about how fast that was. Honestly, when Alex, erm, exploded-" he snickers- "I half expected you to straight up jump on his dick."

 

"Well I was going to," Hana huffs, sitting up and wiping her chin, "after I wet it a little more." She casts an annoyed glance at Baptiste, who peeks sidelong at her. "So much for getting my fun."

 

"Give me a half hour," he grunts. "Or better yet, bring Alex to our room tonight. If she wants to come, that is..."

 

"Again," Lucio smirks, waggling his brows. Hana looks at the patch of fog sliding slowly to the ground and smiles wickedly.

 

"That sounds like fun," she decides.

Chapter Text

"How is he?" Hanzo doesn't have to look up; there's only one other person on base that he knows speaks Japanese.

 

"Sleeping," he answers, looking for the bookmark he's been using in his slow quest to read every book on base. "He pushed himself this morning."

 

"I'm not surprised," Genji sighs, coming closer and reaching out to touch Jesse's metal arm on the table beside the bed. "We were both shocked to see him."

 

"Reaper." Hanzo frowns as he sets his book on the short stack he brought for reading to Jesse when he needs entertainment.

 

"Did you meet him?" Turning, Genji leans on the edge of the bed and removes his mask. Hanzo looks away; no matter how many times he sees them, those scars only serve as a reminder of his own failings. Genji can say what he likes, but Hanzo is responsible for what's become of his little brother, and even though Genji has forgiven him, Hanzo still can't forgive himself.

 

"Meet him?"

 

"Reyes. Reaper," Genji corrects. "Back then. You said Talon approached you."

 

"No. It was only that man, the one in charge; I believe his title is Doomfist?" Just remembering the incident, remembering how many Shimada assassins he so narrowly avoided that night, remembering the smug, self-certain look of superiority on the man's face as he watched Hanzo flee for his life... Anger burns in his chest and his fingers itch to draw Storm.

 

"I see." Genji doesn't speak for a long stretch; in the past, Hanzo would have a fair idea what's on his brother's mind by listening to the silence, but now? Too many years have passed, and Hanzo can no more read his brother than he can read Jesse. When Genji speaks again, even his tone is difficult to catch. "You don't trust him?"

 

"It's been a long time, Genji," Hanzo points out calmly, hoping he hasn't angered his brother. "We both have changed much since we were children. Everything I have done, everything that has happened to me... I don't trust anyone without good reason."

 

"He was part of Overwatch," Genji returns.

 

"And now he's part of Talon," Hanzo says pointedly, glancing up to meet Genji's gaze before looking away again. "You can't fault me for taking care."

 

Perhaps Genji would have said something more, but hardly has Hanzo finished speaking then Jesse stirs, nose wrinkling and brow furrowed. Genji stands as he yawns and shifts, stretching subtly and peeking at them.

 

"Oh hey, Genji," he murmurs sleepily. "How ya doin'?"

 

"I came to ask you the same thing," Genji chuckles in English, poking Jesse's hand.

 

"'M good," Jesse smiles sleepily. "Almost forgot how quick ya heal in Mercy's care. How exhaustin' it is too... Swear I could sleep a week straight. That is, if y'all weren't arguin' right next to me." He settles in, not seeming to notice either of the brothers' sheepish expressions. "Mind keepin' it down?"

 

"Apologies," Hanzo mutters.

 

"No promises," Genji says at the same time, casting a glance at Hanzo and donning his mask. "I will take my leave so you may sleep. After I meditate with Zen, Lucio has invited me to join him and the others in playing some video games; you should attend as well, Hanzo. It would do you good to loosen up."

 

"I will consider it," Hanzo says, already thinking up possible excuses.

 

"Say, Han," Jesse speaks up a few moments after Genji leaves. "Got a favour to ask you."

 

"I will not give you anything to smoke," Hanzo reminds sternly.

 

"Nah, not that," Jesse smiles, running his hand absently over the lump where the patch of gauze on his chest shows beneath his thin examination robe. "I needed that nap, but... well, considerin' what happened, really think I oughta talk to Alex. Would you mind goin' and findin' her for me?"

 

Hanzo almost asks why he needs to talk to the girl, but realises it's a bit too personal a question to ask and simply nods instead. Leaving the books, just in case, he exits the medbay and asks Athena to guide him to Alex.

 

"I can alert her to Jesse's request," Athena responds from the nearest speaker.

 

"The request was asked of me," Hanzo explains, "therefore it is my duty to see it through. I do not mind."

 

"I'm not entirely sure you want to interrupt..." Athena says slowly, almost hesitantly.

 

Can an AI be hesitant? It certainly seems possible.

 

"Is she busy?"

 

"In a manner of speaking..." There's no doubt that Athena's hedging, and Hanzo isn't sure how to feel about her apparent humanity.

 

"Can it be delayed?" he prompts when she doesn't elaborate.

 

"Well..." A strangely human edge of helplessness seems to pervade her reluctant directions; "Follow the green arrows to the lounge. Hopefully they'll be done by then..."

 

"Done?" Hanzo echoes, heading that way. She doesn't respond. Curious now, he finds the lounge and goes to open the door.

 

Locked? He didn't even know it could lock.

 

Knocking lightly, he listens for sounds of distress, just in case. All he hears at first is quiet cursing, and then a thump followed by laughter and someone protesting. Then the door opens and Hana grins up at him, pushing hair out of her face. Behind her, Lucio plops down on the couch beside Baptiste, curling up to his side; some clothes are scattered on the floor, but there's no sign of-

 

Wait, Alex is always surrounded by fog, and there's a blanket of fog flowing off the couch; did she dissolve out of her clothes somehow?

 

"Oh, hey, Hanzo!" There's a forced edge to her voice, and between that and the distinct scent he's picking up, he understands Athena's hesitance.

 

"Is Alex here?" he asks calmly, giving nothing away. What they do with their free time has nothing to do with him. Hana blinks, looks over her shoulder.

 

"Uhh... She's a little..."

 

"Fogged?" Hanzo offers. "I can wait." Hana giggles nervously, but steps out of his way, casting uneasy glances at the veil of fog draped to the floor.

 

"Should we be... concerned?" Lucio asks after an awkward moment. "Don't think I've ever seen her fogged out for so long."

 

"She managed to hold form as a wall during the attack for about this long," Baptiste frowns, "but I don't know the extent of her current training."

 

"She doesn't fog this much when she's asleep either," Hana says, rounding the coffee table to crouch beside the fog. "Erm... Alex? You okay?"

 

Reaching out slowly, she gingerly pokes into the fog, which shifts and withdraws slightly from her touch before sweeping closer. Hanzo winces sympathetically, remembering how cold and biting the girl can be, but Hana reacts only with surprise, not pain; she jolts slightly as the fog swirls up her legs and across her lap, coiling up further to wrap around her shoulders. The vaguest human shape starts to form, embracing her and draped across her lap.

 

"Sooo soofft..." Alex murmurs, almost too quiet to be heard.

 

"You okay?" Hana asks again, settling crosslegged quickly.

 

"Mm... Thirsty..."

 

"I'll get some water," Lucio offers before anyone else can, hopping up and squeezing past Hanzo to head for the kitchen.

 

"So, um... Hanzo is here for you," Hana explains. He doesn't miss the emphasis on his name, ensuring that Alex understands the situation. But instead of reacting with alarm or concern, Alex merely tilts half-blurred features toward him and smiles sweetly.

 

"Hi, Hanzo," she greets. If he didn't know any better, he might think her drunk.

 

"Can you walk on your own, or shall I carry you?" he asks, unable to make the assessment himself. She pouts thoughtfully while both Hana and Baptiste look up at him, uneasy.

 

"Carry?" Baptiste echoes.

 

"What for?" Hana asks, overlapping him.

 

"McCree wishes to speak with her," Hanzo responds. "He requested that I find her for him." Lucio scoots past him with an enormous glass of water, which he takes straight to Alex and helps her drink.

 

When she finishes, she's noticeably more solid, more in control; she even casts a sheepish glance in Hanzo's direction, which he pretends not to notice, watching the credits scroll for whatever movie they had playing in the background.

 

"Help me up?" she asks quietly, holding out a hand to Lucio. He complies, and Hana hops up as well, the two of them hovering anxiously around her while she quickly gathers and dons her clothes ― fortunately for everyone, everything from shoulders to thighs is still blurred.

 

"How are you doing?" Hana whispers, turning her back toward Hanzo to hide her lips and not realising how keen his hearing is. Alex purses her lips, the edges of her figure fogging slightly as red creeps into her cheeks.

 

"Water helped," she answers softly. "And... the pain is much less. I-" She glances at Hanzo, who feigns hiding a yawn, as though he's too tired to care what they're discussing. "I wouldn't be against... doing that again... or..."

 

"We can talk about it later," Hana cuts in quickly. "Go on."

 

Taking a breath, Alex rolls her shoulders back and approaches Hanzo. He turns a lazy look on her, playing up the disinterest perhaps a little too much; at the very least, Baptiste clearly sees through the act and gives him a bland look over Alex's shoulder.

 

"Mr. McCree asked for me?" she says. "Do you know what for?"

 

"I did not ask," Hanzo shrugs, and gestures into the hallway. "After you."

 

On the way, Alex keeps peeking up at him, and he waits patiently for her to work up the nerve. When she finally does, she's surprisingly direct.

 

"You know we had sex, don't you?"

 

"Whyever would you say that?" he hums, doing his best to hide his amusement.

 

"That's not an answer."

 

"Whether or not I did is moot," he points out. "You just told me." She flushes scarlet, fog thickening around her.

 

"Are you... going to tell anyone?" she asks quietly, embarrassed.

 

"I have no reason to; it is your business with whom you sleep, when, and where."

 

"Mr. McCree?" she presses.

 

"Do you honestly think he would care?" Hanzo scoffs. "The man is practically sex incarnate." Then, realising how that might sound, "He would flirt with a doorframe if he thought it would flirt back." Alex barely stifles a giggle but can't quite hide her grin.

 

"You've noticed?"

 

"A blind and deaf mute would notice."

 

"You're not blind," she notes. "Or deaf. And clearly you're not mute."

 

"My point exactly," he replies blandly. "I am well aware of the rumours circulating the base, and I assure you, I have no interest in an incorrigible, trifling philanderer."

 

"A flirt?" she offers, not bothering to hide her grin now.

 

"That is what I said," he humphs.

 

"So... You don't hang around him because you like him?"

 

"He seeks me, not the other way around."

 

"You've spent a lot of time by his bedside since he got shot," she says pointedly.

 

"Anyone else would give in to his pleas for a smoke," he snorts. "How anyone else can stand that horrible smell is beyond me."

 

"I think Mr. McCree smells good," she smiles. "He smells like comfort and safety. But then, I grew up where cigarettes were cheap and nasty, and constantly mingled with the scent of pee and unwashed bodies."

 

The mystery that is Alex grows, and Hanzo recalls that she was apparently kidnapped as a child; what kind of life was she living before Overwatch? And how on earth did she fall in with someone like Jesse McCree?

 

"Why do you call him so formally?" Hanzo asks, changing the subject before he gives in to the curiosity.

 

"Hm? Oh... I suppose because I was only ten when we first met, and Moima taught me to address my elders as Mister or Missus."

 

"I suppose I should be grateful you do not consider me an elder," he muses, making her laugh.

 

"I guess? I sort of grew out of it, but now I'm so used to calling him Mr. McCree that anything else feels... forced and awkward. And everyone here has been so insistent that I call them by name that it feels weird unless you have grey hair."

 

"Remind me to invest in hair dye," Hanzo says, angling for another laugh and rewarded with a burst of mirth that actually makes Alex stumble.

 

"I meant like Rein," she giggles, steadying herself on his offered arm. "I think your grey is very nice; it makes you look... distinguished. Regal."

 

"Thank you," is all he can manage for the unexpected compliment. She beams and pauses by the door to the medbay.

 

"If you do want to change your style though," she says, leaning in a little, "I'm sure Hana and Lucio would love to help." Then she disappears into the medbay, leaving him to ponder that particular nightmare.

Chapter Text

"Mr. McCree?" The quiet question jolts Jesse back to wakefulness and he blinks at the ceiling, for just a moment hating that he can't keep sleeping. Then he remembers that he sent Hanzo for Alex and yawns, gingerly edging himself a little more upright.

 

"Hey, sweetheart," he smiles lazily, not quite fully awake yet. "How ya doin'?"

 

"Um... Better?" Alex answers tentatively, leaning on the very edge of the bed, like she's afraid to get comfortable. "I- sort of... I was a little stressed during the meeting."

 

"How's the pain?" he asks, impressed by the unusual lack of fog; but for a few curls around her shoulders and legs, and the slight blur of her braid, there's almost no sign of her power.

 

"Almost unnoticeable," she smiles sheepishly, dropping her gaze to her hands. "I, er, hung out with Hana, Lucio and Baptiste." Her cheer dips just a bit as she peeks at him. "What about you?"

 

"Gettin' better every second," he grins. It's not exactly a lie either; Angela's nanite technology can bring people back from the edge of death in a matter of days, but really, it's the wounds of his heart that are healing faster than he thought possible. "I'm just gonna say it; I can't be mad at 'em for everythang they've done. I'm too happy to have 'em back."

 

Alex's smile returns and she visibly relaxes, scooting closer on the bed and taking his hand between hers.

 

"I am so glad you got your family back," she says sincerely, squeezing his hand. "When I saw Moima again... I'm glad you got to feel that too."

 

It's still weird to think of this quietly hopeful and optimistic young woman being related in any way to that wickedly smart terror of a scientist he knew back in Blackwatch, but the way they interacted when they reunited after a decade apart... There was no denying that Moira cared about Alex, and still cares.

 

And Jesse finally understands the girl's loyalty to her mother now that he knows Reaper is Reyes; every rational part of him knows that Reaper is a cold, heartless monster, a vicious murderer with no emotion whatsoever, and yet he still believes there's something left of the man who took him in when the rest of the world was ready to write him off.

 

"Listen," Jesse sighs, realising this is long overdue, "I gotta apologise for the things I said about Moira... See, Reyes was... Well, he 's about the closest I ever got to a father-figure when I's young, and if anyone told me two days ago everythang he's done in the last ten years, I'da straight laid 'em out. I had no right to bash her when I didn't have the whole story, and I'm sorry for it."

 

Alex stares at him with an expression caught somewhere between shock and delight, a slow smile spreading wide across her cheeks before she practically flops on top of him, throwing her arms around his shoulders and squeezing him with more strength than he would have expected out of her slender frame. It's a little surprising, and aggravates the dull ache in his chest, but that's okay; he returns the embrace one-armed, since his other one is currently detached.

 

"I understand," she says, burrowing into his shoulder. "You're forgiven." She withdraws abruptly to give him a stern look. "As long as you promise to be nice the next time you see her."

 

"No promises, sweetheart," he chuckles, reaching up to tap her nose. "I ain't exactly the nicest guy."

 

"I emphatically disagree," she laughs, the sound warming him inside out and chasing away a good chunk of lingering pain, both physical and emotional.

 

She's a lot more cheerful and talkative than usual, and Jesse wonders idly what Hana, Lucio and Baptiste were doing with her to make her fog less and talk more. Whatever it is, he seriously hopes they keep doing it, because seeing her this happy is the second best thing that's happened to him in a very, very long time.

 

~

 

Manx really, really doesn't want to do this, but the angel lady is... busy, and so are the other healers on the base. If he hadn't experienced a few, ahem, urges of his own, he would be highly annoyed by how much time these people spend with their mates. It does mean, however, that he's stuck with the one person he's been actively avoiding since he first scented her.

 

She's punching a big heavy bag in the training centre when he tracks her down, the music of her earbuds loud enough for him to hear even at the door. She still smells heavily of feline, in spite of the thick scent of sweat, and he very nearly turns around to leave right then. Reluctantly, he approaches, circling to enter her line of sight without getting in the way.

 

"Oh! Hi!" Brigitte smiles widely and stops punching, but still bounces lightly on her feet as she removes her earbuds. "Manx, right? Mei told me about you. How are your wounds doing?"

 

Instead of answering verbally, he plops down and tugs off his sweater to show her the small red spots leaking through the gauze and bandages. She immediately starts unwrapping the bindings around her fists and approaches to inspect him without a word. After carefully uncovering his wounds, she eyes the holes closely, poking gently at the skin and fur around them.

 

"Hmm. It's not infected; Shrike knows-" She pauses, a faint blush creeping into her cheeks as she looks up at the ceiling and sighs. "It's Nana Amari; of course she knows how to dress a wound. Okay, wait here while I go grab some new bandages and a biotic field. And don't worry about the leaking; that's the body's way of flushing out the wound and keeping it clean. I'll be right back."

 

She takes the scent of feline with her, and he relaxes, breathing fully again.

 

It shouldn't bother him ― he knows this place is safe, that these people won't hurt or attack him ― but he spent so long being wary of the scent of other felids because it marked someone else's territory that his instant reaction is to bristle and bare his fangs. Logically, he knows Brigitte is a cat person, and therefore she more than anyone else here would enjoy his company. Instinctively, he equates her scent to danger, and no matter how many times he reminds himself that she's no threat to him, he can't get rid of the need to attack her first so she doesn't attack him.

 

When he hears her coming back, he braces himself, watching her approach again. She smiles and sets a small canister between them as she sits crosslegged beside him.

 

"Have you ever been in a biotic field before?" she asks, twisting a dial in the top of the canister. "It might make you a little tired; the more hurt you are, the more tired it'll make you. I'm not sure why, but Dr. Zeigler explained it as like... speeding up the healing process. And sleep is one of the best ways to heal, so it makes you more tired so you sleep sooner and heal faster, I guess."

 

"I sleep a lot," Manx says quietly, doing his best not to take in too much of her scent.

 

"Yeah, I guess you do, huh?" she laughs while she carefully rebandages his wounds. "Do you have a lot of cat habits? Papa used to hate it whenever I brought another kitten home when I was little. We must have had like a dozen cats at one point; they left hair everywhere and Papa kept threatening to take them all to the shelter, but he never did."

 

"He's all hiss and no claw." She pauses to blink at him, and he reminds himself that it doesn't mean anything, because she's not a cat. Then she bursts out laughing.

 

"Oh! You mean-! Yeah, he is, isn't he?"

 

"He likes the bastion," Manx points out. "Why doesn't he say so?" Brigitte checks over her work and settles back with a deep sigh.

 

"Papa is a gruff person, and he doesn't like talking about his feelings. I didn't realise how hard it is for some people to understand him for a long time, because I grew up with it, and I knew what he really meant by the things he said and did. All I can tell you is that the best way to know what he really means is by his actions."

 

Manx nods; he figured that much already. Now he just has to convince the bastion of it.

 

"Well, I'm gonna go back to my workout," Brigitte says cheerfully, standing and scooping up her hand wraps. "Dr. Zeigler wants that canister back when you're finished with it so she can recharge it for later, but I'm sure she wouldn't mind if you took it with you for a nap somewhere. Oh, and last I saw of Bastion, he and Echo were headed for a walk in the garden."

 

Apparently his budding friendship with the omnic has not gone unnoticed, but that's okay; when he leaves, the bastion is the only one he's saying goodbye to.

Chapter Text

"I have news for you," Sombra says plainly, announcing herself in the usual way, which is to say, with no announcement whatsoever. Akande sighs heavily and waves off Maximilien, who happily takes a break from the clear frustration of trying to convince Akande that his plans are prohibitively expensive and pointless. An argument he's been losing since it began.

 

"What news?" Akande prompts, giving her leave to speak freely.

 

"Just don't shoot the messenger, because I know you're gonna hate what I'm about to say." She hops onto the desk next to him, seating herself on Maximilien's papers, to the omnic's silent dismay.

 

"The longer you take to say it, the less pleased I'll be," Akande returns coolly, leaning back in his chair and folding his hands in his lap.

 

"Remember when I told you things might take some time now and then because of a certain kitty cat nipping at my heels?"

 

"I remember," he agrees, already disliking the direction this is going.

 

"Lynx Seventeen. They're an omnic hacker, one of a specialised bunch, in fact; all two dozen were made to combat... well, me. The Sombra Collective, which is just a rumour, of course, and one I spread for my own protection. Unfortunately, it means that a lot of organisations around the world take me as a very serious threat, including the people who built Lynx and the rest of them."

 

"This had better have a point..."

 

"I'm getting there," she dismisses, unbothered by the warning; if he didn't need her skills, she wouldn't be able to get away with half the shit he allows. "Most of Lynx's constituents failed, burned out, or found emotions and started advocating for equal rights and all that. Most of those were either scrapped by their creators or destroyed in riots or whatever. Now, only two of the original batch remain: Lynx, and a slightly earlier model called Gypsy Thirteen."

 

"And your point...?" Akande urges, getting impatient now.

 

"And my point," she echoes flatly, giving him a bland look, "is that Gypsy is about to enter the game."

 

"Do I look like I care how many hackers you play cat and mouse with? As long-"

 

"Not my game," she cuts in loudly. " The game. Your game; whatever little rivalry you've built up with Overwatch, Gypsy is about to tip the scales in their favour."

 

Well. That doesn't sound good.

 

"...Explain."

 

"Like I said," she goes on, that irritating hint of a smirk toying with the corners of her mouth as she crosses her legs and kicks her foot idly, "Gypsy and Lynx are omnic hackers specifically designed to counter me, which means they're both very, very, very good. As much as I like to pretend I'm in control of the game with Lynx, they keep me on my toes, and there's no way I'll be able to keep them both completely at bay if they decide to press the attack on me at the same time."

 

"And this... Gypsy is joining forces with Overwatch?" Akande clarifies, the pieces of the picture sliding into place.

 

"Most likely," Sombra nods. "She has ties to the Tekharthas, and in case you've forgotten, killing off Mondatta just gave rise to Null Sector. Not to mention Zenyatta has officially joined the ranks of Overwatch since the recall..."

 

She's goading him. It isn't unusual at this point, but he doesn't like it, especially since he can never seem to figure out why; he still hasn't the faintest idea what her endgame is or when she plans to execute it.

 

"What are you suggesting?" he asks reluctantly, hating every word of that question even more as she lights up.

 

"I'm so glad you asked!" she purrs, almost maniacal in her victory. "I have an idea, one that will rid you of Overwatch for good, and all I ask in return is that when all is said and done, you give me Athena and Gypsy."

 

"That's it?" Akande scoffs. "If I know anything about you, Sombra, it's that you always have an ulterior motive, and there's always another trick up your sleeve. What do you really get out of this?"

 

"You don't trust me?" she pouts. He cocks a brow and she snickers. "Fair enough. Let's put it this way: the less competition I have, the happier I am."

 

"Fine. Let's hear it." By the delighted gleam in her eyes, he's sure he'll regret this, but at the very least, she's earned an audience.

 

"You won't regret it, jefe ; it starts with a challenge..."

 

~

 

"What exactly are we doing again?" Amelie asks sceptically as Moira finishes attaching the last sensor to her temple.

 

"A simple adjustment to your neurochemical programming," Moira replies, the lie sliding easily off her tongue as any other she's spoken over the years. "Nothing to be concerned about."

 

"Have I performed inadequately?" the sniper frowns, eyeing the IV tucked into the inner curve of her elbow.

 

"Not at all," Moira assures with a cool smile. "Merely a precaution for the future." Stepping away from the chair, she checks over her measurements and calculations; one last review to make sure that everything is correct.

 

"...Is this because of Olivia?" Amelie asks quietly, causing Moira to pause in surprise.

 

"What makes you think that?" she returns as casually as she can, all too aware that the sniper is more than capable of seeing through her flimsy facade.

 

"Our relationship... My feelings for her have gotten in the way of my duty," Amelie states, disturbingly at ease with the fact, as though it's something she's long since understood and accepted.

 

It parallels too closely to Moira's relationship with Alex, and she remains silent, wondering for the first time if she made a mistake in taking Amelie's emotions in the first place.

 

"I expected this, I suppose," Amelie muses idly, relaxing against the headrest and closing her eyes. "Emotions are unnecessary; obstacles to perfection. A moment's hesitation can be all the difference between taking life or losing life; I saw it clearly a decade ago, facing Amari through the scope of my rifle, and her hesitation gave me the opening I needed to win. I saw it again when my own hesitation allowed McCree to walk away. There is no room for emotion in this empty heart of mine, which beats only for the thrill of walking the line between life and death, of holding that power over others. I know this."

 

"...But..?" Moira prompts quietly, giving her leave to continue this dangerous line of thought.

 

"My marriage was not unhappy," she goes on, voice oddly soft. "Gerard was a good, kind man; a loving husband who could have been a wonderful father. The rage that ended his life was not my own, but neither was the love that bound us together before. I thought I knew what love was the day I said I do, but I have come to see that true emotion cannot exist without first understanding the depth of emptiness. I cannot 'feel' as others feel ― I know only the thrill of death, of the power I hold in a single finger. But I still desire. I crave a warmth like I have never known in my life, a warmth I have only ever felt with Olivia."

 

"You love her." It feels strangely invasive to speak those words aloud, as though she's interrupted something intimate and true; something she's never experienced.

 

"...May I speak to her one last time?" Amelie asks, bypassing the statement completely. She doesn't stir or even open her eyes, like she knows the answer before Moira says it.

 

"There isn't time."

 

"Then tell her for me, when I no longer care to say so myself, that I loved her more than I have ever loved, and give her my gratitude for showing me what true emotion is."

 

The calm acceptance of the request hurts more than it should, a nameless ache spiking deep through a soul Moira wasn't sure she had until this moment. She hopes the feeling fades soon, else she might make the biggest mistake of her life. As it is, she risks far too much by leaning in, close enough that Akande's eyes and ears won't pick up on her words ― just in case Sombra forgot to turn them off for this.

 

"Tell her yourself, if you must... But she already knows." Leaning back, she reaches for the IV controls. "Let's begin."

Chapter Text

Gabriel wasn't sure what he expected when Akande called him to this meeting, but nowhere on the list of possibilities was there an offer to leave.

 

"...What?"

 

"I said," Akande repeats in a carefully even tone betrayed by the edge of irritation in his expression, "you have outlasted your usefulness to me, so it's high time you stop feigning loyalty when we all know you've returned to Overwatch."

 

"I- You kept me around-"

 

"Because you were still useful," Akande interjects shortly. "I have little doubt you know that I am aware you have been fraternising with them for months; playing dumb has never been a strong suit of yours."

 

"Why not kill me?" Gabriel growls, ready to dissolve at a moment's notice. "Why call me here to cut me loose?"

 

"First of all, you've proven yourself difficult to kill," the Doomfist scoffs. "And second, I have one last use for you. When you go back to your people, tell them that I am issuing them a challenge. Clearly subterfuge is pointless, so let us fight this out in the open: a public duel between teams."

 

Utterly floored, it's all Gabriel can do to muster a baffled, "Why?"

 

"Talon and Overwatch are not so different as you may think," Akande explains coolly. "Two sides of the same coin. One may only exist at the cost of the other. So let's flip the coin and see who comes out on top."

 

"What do you have to gain from this?" Gabriel demands. "Even if you lose, you'll just start over. You'll come back ten years down the line, just like Overwatch did."

 

"If Talon loses ― doubtful ― then I have failed anyway, and a reset is necessary regardless. If Overwatch loses, my point is proven and no one can deny that the world is dearly in need of a proper guiding hand: mine."

 

"What are your terms?" Gabriel asks suspiciously, not trusting this one bit. Akande smiles coldly.

 

"Teams of six, to take control of a neutral location; the duel is decided when one team holds indisputable control of the location, or when three or more of a team have died." Cold settles deep in Gabriel's bones at those words, and he's never been more grateful for his mask to hide his expression from the man whose smile widens. "To show my generosity, I will even allow Overwatch to choose the location. And you, Reaper, will be allowed to return once with their response. After that, the next time I see you, one of us will not walk away. Am I clear?"

 

Now that's familiar ground. Gabriel snorts, well used to death threats.

 

"Crystal. Looking forward to it." With an exaggerated bow, he doesn't even wait to be dismissed before taking his leave in a billow of smoke.

 

The only stop he makes on the way out is to Moira's lab, entering to find Amelie asleep on a chair and Moira herself reading at a desk to one side. She glances up when he enters, gaze returning to her book.

 

"To what do I owe the pleasure?" she asks.

 

"I've been excommunicated," he answers dryly, which gets her attention, as expected. "Figured I ought to stop by and let you know you're losing your pet project."

 

"I see," she hums, eyeing him for a long moment. There's an unusual uncertainty in her expression as she returns to her book with a thin facade of casualness that doesn't reach her mismatched eyes. "How unfortunate to lose my greatest success."

 

She's not talking about him and he knows it; he nods once to show he understands, and leaves her to her business. No point in saying goodbye when they both know this isn't the last they'll see of each other.

 

There's an odd sense of freedom as he leaves the boundaries of the Talon headquarters. Like a weight has been lifted from him that he didn't know he was carrying. His first breath of fresh air as a free man in over ten years simultaneously feels new and exciting, and yet the same as ever.

 

A cut me loose, he texts to Jack. Tell W I need to speak with him.

 

When? comes back before he can even put the phone away.

 

ASAP.

 

Done. I'll be waiting for you at the entrance.
Ana threatened to castrate me if I didn't tell you to pick something up for her on the way; better hope Pingo's is still open and still sells those pastries she likes.

 

A snort of amusement escapes him as he sends a quick acknowledgement and heads for Gibraltar; a lot is different these days, but some things never change.

 

~

 

"Impressive!" Gypsy can't stop staring. They shouldn't be so amazed by so spartan a compound, but it's the little things ― the signs of life and personality in belongings left out and decorations put up. There are people meandering the halls, passing with curious looks, and Gypsy revels in the aura of life and living they feel from them.

 

"We are still rebuilding," Zenyatta explains, guiding the way through the corridors while his dog trots ahead of them. "It is quite a process."

 

"But look at what you've already accomplished!" Gypsy points out, excited to see it all. "Humans and omnics in perfect harmony! I've only seen such beauty a few times in my travels."

 

"Likewise," Zenyatta chirps, pleased. "When I was first invited to accompany Genji's return, I worried for my reception, yet I have been nothing but welcomed since my arrival, and so has Kannus."

 

"Tell me about him," Gypsy bids eagerly.

 

"It," the monk corrects. "It arrived not long after I did, seeking answers to its newfound sentience. It has since grown as fond of me as I have of it."

 

"Fascinating. What other omnics are here?"

 

"There is a siege automaton from the Crisis," he hums. "It was quite interesting to see how he was welcomed and how he has grown with us. In particular, his relationship with Reinhardt was one to see; Reinhardt fought many of his kind in the Crisis, and his mentor was killed due to an invasion of them. It was quite a surprise for those of us who know the history of the Crisis to see him so willing to put the past aside."

 

"Incredible. Any others?"

 

"I think you should meet Echo yourself," he chuckles, pausing beside a door. "She shares your optimism for life, your hope for the future; you will get along well, I should think."

 

"I look forward to it," Gypsy purrs, nodding their gratitude as Zenyatta opens the door for them.

 

The room on the other side is massive and open, with a meeting table is the middle, but Gypsy doesn't get to see much else because their gaze is drawn to the cluster gathered around the table. A huge older man with shoulders broad enough to walk on stands with his arms crossed beside a slender older woman who carries her age with timeless regality, and across from them is another older man with a soldier's bearing; at one end of the table is a thin, willowy figure of an omnic with a pale blue humanoid face, and at the other, a giant armoured gorilla, but none of them are where Gypsy's attention focuses.

 

They all look over when Gypsy and Zenyatta enter with Kannus at their heels, and Gypsy immediately wants to leave.

 

"Oh..." they murmur disdainfully.

 

"You..." replies the cloaked man beside the soldier, his scarred face twisting in an expression Gypsy can't read.

 

"You are acquainted, I take it?" Zenyatta speaks up when no one else does, cutting into the air of surprise and confusion.

 

"We've met," Gypsy answers shortly, staring hard at the man, who stares hard back.

 

"Briefly."

 

"Eight years ago."

 

"Poland, wasn't it?"

 

"The Czech Republic, actually."

 

"Close enough."

 

Gypsy's anger flairs for the first time in years, and it's everything they can do not to let their anger speak for them. As it is, suspicion and irritation still bleed into their voice.

 

"How dare you."

 

"How dare I...?" the man sneers down his nose at them, crossing his arms defiantly.

 

"Does it mean nothing to you that you destroyed that young man's life?" Gypsy demands, moving closer to the table.

 

"I've destroyed countless lives," the man scoffs, rolling his eyes. "Kinda in my job description."

 

"You killed his sister!" Gypsy snaps. To their surprise, the man frowns and drops his gaze to the table, lowering his arms and bracing his hands on the edge of it.

 

"I've killed a lot of people," he says simply, the morose acceptance of his tone silencing their anger for a moment. "I'm not proud of my history, but I did what needed to be done. There's no excuse for what I've done, and I don't intend to make one." His dark gaze returns to Gypsy's, burning with a will to live like they've only seen in those who have survived more hardships than the world will ever know. It leaves them speechless, and in the silence, the armoured gorilla clears his throat and speaks, startling them.

 

"Pardon the interruption... Mind introducing your friend, Zen?"

 

"Gypsy Thirteen," Zenyatta replies promptly. "We met many years ago when she first came to sentience; she was fascinated with religion and spent countless hours with me and Mondatta and the rest of the Shambali. Since then, I understand she has been a sort of... pardon the pun; a roaming gypsy. She has taken up the cause my mentor spoke for, and has continued to spread his ideals to all who will listen, just as I have."

 

"Interesting," the gorilla muses, eyeing Gypsy a moment.

 

"Pleasure to meet you, Gypsy," the willowy omnic greets, gliding closer with a hand outstretched. "I'm Echo."

 

"Ah, yes..." Gypsy shakes themself and takes the proffered hand, forcibly pushing aside their anger to be their usual, more friendly self. "Master Zenyatta mentioned you. Forgive my outburst; I'm not usually so temperamental."

 

"Forgiven," Echo smiles warmly. "We were all rather taken aback when we first met Reaper, but as it turns out, he has a long association with the old Overwatch."

 

"Indeed?"

 

"Quite," she assures, glancing at the man, who's listening attentively while the soldier murmurs something in his ear that makes him soften noticeably. "He's actually Gabriel Reyes, a former strike commander and leader of Blackwatch." Gabriel looks up at the sound of his name, and Gypsy tries to reconcile this knowledge with the vivid memory of the heartless killer they met so long ago.

 

"People change, Gypsy," the regal woman speaks up, eyeing them sidelong with muted interest. "The older you get, the more blood on your hands. Even if you aren't the one pulling the trigger. For us, bloodshed is our livelihood; as long as there are people who threaten the innocent, we live for death."

 

If Gypsy could frown, they would. It's a terrible way of seeing things...

 

But then, is that not the same way they feel about their own body? As much as they treasure life, can they really say that if someone was in trouble, they wouldn't make use of the deadly machine they were created to be?

 

"Perhaps..." they say slowly, unsure it's possible to mend this bridge, "I have been too harsh... Were I not granted the freedom of choice so early, who's to say I would not also have taken lives as... part of my job? If you have in fact changed... If you are willing now to make an effort to preserve life rather than end it..."

 

"Let me stop you right there," Gabriel grunts, raising a hand. "I deal in death. That's never going to change. It is what it is." The soldier elbows him hard in the ribs, making him wince and scowl.

 

"What he means," the soldier says shortly, giving him a warning look, "is that he has something to live for again, something to protect; we'll keep him in line now."

 

"That's not-"

 

"Shut up, drama queen," the soldier interjects, cocking a challenging brow at Gabriel, who growls in irritation but stops arguing.

 

"It's so obvious now," the large man muses to the woman, clearly meaning to speak only to her but with a voice that fills the room. "I don't know how I missed it in the old days."

 

"We had our hands full with other things," the woman shrugs lightly.

 

"You say that like you didn't figure it out in like a week, Ana," the soldier scoffs, an undercurrent of amusement in his tone.

 

"Of course she did," Gabriel sighs.

 

"Don't mind them," Echo hums quietly to Gypsy. "Jack and Gabe might as well have been married for some twenty years already, and Ana kept their secret for them to the supposed grave."

 

"Supposed?" Gypsy echoes, and then remembers, "Ah, right; the bombing of the Overwatch headquarters."

 

"Ahem!" the gorilla speaks up loudly to get everyone's attention. "We need to focus, guys. Gypsy, I'm Winston, the pro tem head of Overwatch; that's Reinhardt Wilhelm, former Crusader and one of the original founders, as are Ana Amari and Jack Morrison, and it looks like you already know Gabriel... Sorry to cut the introductions so short, but we're in the middle of an important meeting."

 

"I shall excuse myself then," Zenyatta says, gesturing at Kannus, who follows him out; Gypsy goes to do the same.

 

"Thank you-"

 

"Oh, let Gypsy stay, Winston," Echo suggests, interrupting. "If she is who I suspect she is, we could use her assistance." That piques Gypsy's curiosity, and they hesitate near the door. Winston hums thoughtfully for a short span, and then nods.

 

"I suppose... Yes. If Zenyatta trusts her, that's good enough for me. That is, if you're willing to help...?"

 

"With what?" Gypsy asks, allowing their interest to draw them back toward the table, where Reinhardt and Ana shift to make room for them. Instead of Winston, Gabriel is the one to answer, the grim tone of his voice saying just how serious the issue is.

 

"A duel with Talon. To the death."

Chapter Text

"Excuse me?"

 

"Repitelo?"

 

The reactions are simultaneous and, under any other circumstances, hilarious. It takes every ounce of the considerable self-discipline Amelie has to maintain a neutral expression, a task made all the more difficult by the twin looks of absolute shock on both Moira and Olivia's faces.

 

"You heard me," Akande grunts, noticeably more irritable than usual. Another reason to keep a straight face. "You both are on the dueling team."

 

"I am a scientist ," Moira huffs, offended. "I am not a fighter."

 

"You sure about that?" Inconnue hums casually, turning Amelie's amusement stale; despite being a fellow Frenchman, they've always rubbed her wrong. Something about their manic love of disaster beneath a cool exterior raises her ire in a way nothing ever has, not before Talon, not during her time here, not ever.

 

"If you are referring to the Redwood Observatory," Moira replies with a cold, narrowed glare at the explosives expert, "that was a regrettable necessity and nothing more."

 

"Actually," they smirk, "I was talking about your Blackwatch days. You were a part of the team that killed Talon's former leadership, non ?"

 

Moira's lips purse, but she refrains from speaking. The slow, knowing slide of her mismatched gaze to Olivia, however, speaks volumes in the moment of silence. An understandable reaction, of course; whenever a secret comes out, Olivia is practically guaranteed to be involved somehow.

 

"Moira I understand," Olivia pipes up, scowling. "But me? At least she has some experience in a fight." That she can say that so easily when Amelie knows rather intimately how many weapons the woman carries on her at all times ― including a semi-automatic pistol ― revives her amusement; Sombra may prefer alternatives to direct physical conflict, but let it never be said that she couldn't hold her own in an altercation.

 

"Your self-cloaking tech makes you a valuable pawn in this battle," Akande says bluntly. A slight twitch of Olivia's eye is the only visible indicator of the resentment Amelie believes she carries over that word: pawn. "The information you can gather real-time may be the difference between victory and defeat. And as for you..." His attention returns to Moira, who tips her chin up in subtle defiance. "Your expertise with nano-healing is irreplaceable. I trust you have completed your experiments on schedule?"

 

"...Yes," she answers reluctantly. "I have a two-vial prototype ready for injection, whenever you're ready. There may be... side effects due to your implant-"

 

"Not me," Akande interjects. "Mauga."

 

"Mauga?" she echoes, visibly stunned. Amelie wonders how many times she's been caught off guard. Certainly never so many times in so short a time.

 

The enormous brute in question enters on cue, lazily surveying the people seated around the table before approaching to take Reaper's seat beside Amelie. She eyes him sidelong, faintly impressed by how unbothered he seems to be by the massive patchwork of scars that disfigures so much of him. How different he is from the man whose seat he's taken, and how ironic the comparison.

 

"We meet again, doc," he rumbles, damaged voice surprisingly genial for so impassive an expression.

 

"No," Moira says sharply, turning a dark look on Akande. If Amelie didn't know better, she might think the scientist is actually angry. But she's never shown much in the way of emotion; much like Widowmaker, they're merely obstacles to her occupation.

 

"No?" Akande echoes sceptically, brow lifting.

 

"The medications and serums he currently takes are already a volatile mixture as is," she explains shortly. "To add an untested concoction that, might I remind you, has been rushed as is... The effects could be catastrophic."

 

"You think I couldn't handle it?" Mauga asks, in much the same tone as Akande's.

 

"Pure strength of will only gets you so far," she replies, not without a hint of sarcasm. Again, Amelie fights back her humour.

 

"Mauga will also be on the dueling team," Akande says firmly, like that's the end of it. He goes on before Moira can even begin to voice her disapproval of such a blatant disregard for the delicacies of science. "Widow and Outsider will join you, of course."

 

"Of course," Inconnue purrs, inordinately proud of their nickname. Amelie hates it.

 

"Who is our sixth?" she asks, speaking up at last and making use of her distaste for Inconnue to affect her characteristic aloof tone.

 

"Sigma," Akande answers. She can't help the furrow of confusion that creases her brow, and a quick glance around the room says no one else understands either. This apparently pleases Akande, judging by the subtle curl of his lips in the expectant quiet. "Doctor Siebren de Kuper."

 

Olivia begins cursing in Spanish, but the name isn't one Amelie recalls ever hearing; Mauga and Inconnue look just as confused, but Moira's blank disbelief suggests she knows the name, which can only mean he ― or she ― must be some sort of scientist.

 

"You can't be serious," Olivia exclaims. "The man es totalmente loco ; you can't put him on a battlefield and expect him to be of any use!"

 

"Who is he?" Mauga asks.

 

"An astrophysicist," Moira answers, gritting her teeth. "His work was nearly so controversial as mine; I earned more infamy only because mine involved supposedly questionable human testing, whereas the nature of his work revolved solely around the presumption that gravity could be harnessed and therefore controlled."

 

"An experiment gone wrong drove him mad," Olivia adds, unusually angry. "And you want to put him in a fight?"

 

"Fortunately," Akande hums, unbothered, "we already have a successful precedent for... what did you call it, Doctor? Neurochemical programming?"

 

No amount of stage time could have prepared Amelie for the sudden focus of attention on her at that moment, but she manages, by some miracle, to keep a passive expression. Out of the corner of her eye, she catches the barely concealed wince of regret in Olivia's features.

 

"You brainwashed him," Amelie states bluntly, never one to mince words, unlike the rest of her present company.

 

"How did you-?" Moira breaks off, realisation dawning in her expression. "That's what you...?"

 

"Mm," Akande nods simply.

 

"Excusez-moi," Amelie says, raising a finger for attention. "So, we are going into battle against what will no doubt be a team of Overwatch's finest soldiers... with two non-combatants, a wounded dog on steroids, a suicidal bomber, and two brainwashed, reprogrammed civilians?"

 

"Perfect description, mademoiselle ," Inconnue cackles. Akande says nothing, but his silence is answer enough.

 

"I see," she hums dryly. "What could possibly go wrong?"

 

~

 

Sombra is still seething by the time she gets back to her suite, and for once, she struggles to sort out her emotions. She shouldn't be so angry over this; Siebren is just another contact, another "friend" to call on whenever she needs a favour. What makes this any different from what she does?

 

A soft double tap at the door gets her attention an instant before it opens. Since only one other person has the key to her sanctum, she doesn't attack the intruder.

 

"Amelie," she greets as evenly as she can when she still sees red in spite of her best efforts. The beautiful Frenchwoman calmly and quietly closes the door behind her, leaning against it to look at Sombra without a word. "...Do you need something?" She has to bite back the petname that leaps to her tongue unbidden.

 

"You," Amelie whispers.

 

It takes a full ten seconds for Sombra to process what that means, and then her heart leaps to her throat, chasing away the anger in a flash of hope.

 

"It worked?" she breathes, taking a subconscious step toward the woman. "You feel again?"

 

"It is not the same as it was, but it's enough," Amelie answers with a soft smile, pushing away from the door and reaching out to brush one cool fingertip delicately over Sombra's cheek. "O'Deorain told me you requested it. Why?"

 

This is definitely not something she can deal with right now.

 

"Not now, Amelie," she says quickly, turning away before she gives in to the urge to-

 

Amelie grabs her wrist in a vice-like grip and tugs her back, a familiar deadly chill to her gaze now.

 

"Now, Olivia," she cuts in sharply. "When Reaper returns with their reply to the challenge, there will be no time left. We may die."

 

"Exactly," Sombra returns, too unsettled and preoccupied to hide the fear giving so sharp an edge to her tone. "I know as well as you do that this... what we have, won't last. Not with the lives we lead. And you were so certain of your death, so sure that the next time you go against Amari, one of you will die, and most likely you; I couldn't stand by and watch you walk into that."

 

"Olivia..." She stops herself when she hears how gentle her name is on Amelie's tongue.

 

She forgets sometimes how tall Amelie is, how she towers over Sombra even without her customary heels. Then there are moments like these, when Amelie stands nearly a head taller than her and has to lean down to kiss her.

 

Whatever she was trying to say, she completely forgets it under the tender longing of the kiss.

 

"Olivia, mon cher ami, mon coeur, mon amour ," Amelie murmurs against her lips. "Did you give me back my emotions so I would be afraid of dying?"

 

"Maybe?" Sombra answers quietly, not entirely sure herself.

 

"You sweet, precious woman," Amelie chuckles, laying a gentle kiss on her forehead. "Your plan backfired; I am more determined now than ever before."

 

"Amelie-"

 

"I have someone to fight for," she goes on, cutting Sombra off. "Someone to come home to. Ou est el coeur, c'est la maison, non? My heart is with you, so you are my home."

 

"Mi araña..." Sombra breathes, feeling for the first time in years like she might actually cry. Grabbing Amelie around the shoulders, she yanks the woman into a deeper kiss that carries her longing hope for a better future. For any future.

 

"Olivia, mon cher ," Amelie says softly when they finally break for air. "You are not a pawn to me."

 

Taken aback, Sombra looks up at her, trying to process where this is coming from. Then she remembers what Akande said during the meeting, and the visceral hatred returns wi