Her eyes traced over the words, unable to move past the heading of the letter.
“My beloved Fareeha,”
The written Arabic was as straight-edged and neatly printed as ever, rigid in every since. She stayed locked on her own name for quite some time, trying to decipher if the smudge beside the last character was from spilled ink or spilled tears.
“Fareeha?” A voice behind her cautiously called. It was unsurprising that Angela had come.
Deciding that the mark was ink, Fareeha scanned through the letter again. Every word lead into the other, a poetic message with a just cause and reason.
But as her eyes rested upon the last line, there was nothing but searing rage growing deep inside her chest.
“One day, I hope you'll understand.”
The paper crumbled in her fist.
“Fareeha? Are you alright?”
Her jaw clenched and her teeth ground together until the point of pain, her nostrils flaring as heat rose to her face.
“Your mother, Ana.”
A hand touched her arm and she reflexively jerked away. Only when the hand returned and she snapped her arm out to whack it away did she feel remorse.
Her wrath contained for the moment, Fareeha loosened her grip on the letter and held it out for the doctor to take. She stared off into the setting sun, her lips set in a thin line and her brow pinched in thought.
The wind tossed her hair in every which way and made whatever question Angela had asked sound like garbled nonsense. Fareeha rested her forearms on the railing and hunched over, staring down at the ocean waves beneath them and studying the orange light they reflected.
“I can't read Arabic, Fareeha.” Angela said over the wind. She took a step closer and mirrored the soldier's stance, now leaning against the railing as well.
“'S from her.” She glanced over at Angela once before returning her hardened gaze to stare at the blonde.
The light from the setting sun cast a glow upon the doctor's skin and hair, the orange hues of the sky painting her white lab coat a dappled peach. Through the off-colour look, her eyes remained as piercing as ever and made Fareeha feel both safe and insecure at the same time.
Realizing that Angela was waiting for her to elaborate further, the dark haired woman faced forward and said, “She's alive. She's been alive this whole time.”
The startled gasp was expected, as was the numerous failed attempts to find something to say. Under any other circumstances, Fareeha would have found Angela's stuttering and fumbling endearing. But the weight in her chest only brought about more anger.
It made her think cruel things, of the many ways she would retort and snap at the things Angela would most likely say in response. It would be no different than the first time.
When Fareeha had arrived at the funeral she had been swarmed.
Government officials, military officers of the various nations, random civilians she had never seen in her life. And so many members of Overwatch.
The only person who seemed to heed her silent wish to be left alone was Gabriel, who stood behind the rest of them in his dress blues. He kept his head down, the brim of his hat pulled low enough to hide his eyes.
Fareeha stood firmly on her own as the empty casket was lowered into the ground. She had refused the flag when it was presented to her.
When it was all said and done, she turned on her heel and marched past everyone who tried to stop and give her their condolences. Some had asked if she wanted a moment alone at the grave and they found themselves ignored.
A hand caught her own and tugged at the glove encasing it, pulling her to a halt. Fareeha stared down her nose at the Swiss woman and waited for her to say something.
Angela's eyes were watery and the tissue in her other hand unmistakable. Her dress uniform, with it's pressed lines and decorated breast, looked like it didn't belong to her at all.
“I'm so sorry, Fareeha.”
The soldier's lips twitched at this. She scoffed back, “What the hell do you have to be sorry for?”
It caught the doctor off guard and she floundered while trying to recover from it. The whole act made Fareeha want to bark at her to either spit it out or shut her mouth.
She said nothing at all instead. She only stared back.
“Are you alright?”
The response was dry, coarse and cold.
Clearly unimpressed with the reply, Angela squeezed her hand tighter and took a step closer to whisper, “No you're not; don't lie to me, Fareeha. You need to mourn. If you bottle all of this up--”
“Good-bye, Doctor Ziegler.”
“--it's just going to get worse! Fareeha, please. I'm worried about yo--”
Her hand was wrenched from the blonde's grip. Fareeha couldn't hide her sneer as she said, “Worry about someone else. Isn't that your job as a member of Overwatch? To be more concerned with the world's problems than anyone else's?”
The expression Angela wore looked akin to being slapped in the face. The hurt was as clear as the tears in her eyes but Fareeha ignored it and pushed past her.
“I have a flight to catch. Good-bye, Doctor Ziegler. Again.”
The memory of it alone made Fareeha cringe and reconsider her anger now. She watched the waves while mentally berating herself, 'I can't take it out on her. It's not her fault. She's just trying to help.'
A few more minutes of silence past while the blonde processed the information. Fareeha waited for the hand to reach for her own, to try and pull her from her withdrawn state and offer words of useless comfort.
Instead, the letter was returned to her. The dark haired woman was stunned to be staring at the crinkled paper but more shocked at how the doctor refused to look at her. Her eyes stayed trained on the horizon, bleary from sadness but tightly focused.
“I'll...I'll leave you alone. I'm sorry for bothering you.”
Fareeha gaped at the shorter woman as she pushed herself off the railing and brought her hands into the deep pockets of her lab coat. For a moment, it seemed as though Angela was about to turn around again, but she straightened her spine and stepped away.
'No.' The soldier wanted to say, stuck watching Angela walk away.
It was obvious what she was doing – it was because of how Fareeha had reacted before, how she had acted before that empty grave. Then she had refused to mourn, refused to accept that her relationship with her mother was anything but black and white.
This was different. This confused her much more. So many thoughts and feels that she had compartmentalized were coming back to her and had begun turning her into a mess of contradictions.
Try as she may, she found herself unable to voice her confusion. She merely stood rooted to the spot and watched the doctor leave, her eyes wide with a sudden and unexpected fear.
Alone was the last thing Fareeha wanted to be.
Her fist clenched again and the letter crumbled further, ripping in some places.
But alone is all she's ever known. So why should now be any different than before?
The silence was better. Infinitely so. It removed the ability to break down and scream at all of the thoughts filling her head, to do nothing but cry from frustration and indescribable pain.
Maybe it was better to be alone...
The office lights hadn't even been flicked on when he had entered. His computer hadn't been started when he went to sit numbly in his chair. He had been sitting in the darkness the night had brought, a cigarette in one hand and the letter in the other, for at least an hour.
He couldn't bring himself to even read the words more than once, all of it too surreal – too much to try and process for a second time.
He only stared at the opening line, written in that tightly swooping cursive he had always admired.
“My dearest Sam,”
His eyes started to move to the next line but he squeezed them shut to stop it from happening. Sam shook his head as he wrestled with the hollow sensation filling his chest.
If there was one thing he refused to do more than reread her letter, it was cry.
The tears he had for Ana had already been shed.
It felt like a lifetime ago when he first met her, when they could actually say the words 'I love you' back to one another.
He could never forget the way she shied away from publicly expressing affection, and he had adored the captain's uncharacteristic shyness to the point of teasing her. A voice, soft and annoying, would fill his head with worries that perhaps it was because she didn't love him, that she wasn't ready for something like love.
But Sam pushed it aside, pushed all of his fears aside for her. He would pluck the stars from the sky for Ana and risk it all to give her a better life, a life where she didn't have to be a soldier anymore.
It wasn't until she had come to him in a panic with a positive pregnancy test that the voice returned. There was no happiness to be had from it by Ana, to her it was as good as a death sentence.
Sam prided himself in being a supportive partner. He had assured her that he would be right beside her through it all, that he would make everything alright. She trusted him with so much already, so he was. Through all nine months he stood by her side and endured everything she threw his way.
The first time he held his daughter in his arms, tears sliding down his face and Ana watching him with a tender smile, he realized he had found the key to life.
In her hospital gown and with her tousled, sweaty hair, Ana was the most beautiful, perfect woman in the universe. The tiny girl squirming in his arms proved it.
“Marry me.” Sam choked out through his tears.
The family life had always been for him. He had dreamed of becoming a father, of leaving his small apartment for a house out in the country. A place to leave his mark, to let his children run and enjoy life, maybe a nice pond to stock with fish, a porch with a swing where that they could retire to when they grew old.
And so he worked harder, threw everything on the line to build a home for them, to make a long distance relationship between them work.
The family life was never really part of Ana's plan.
Their daughter brought her closer, but also further and further away. Her bags never stayed unpacked for long. Sam had always admired her tenacity and will to see a better future be made for their child. But creating the better tomorrow came at the cost of not watching their child grow.
He could never forget the nights they spent yelling as quietly as possible as to not wake the baby, how they could go weeks without speaking only to fall into bed together with as much passion as if they had been together for months.
When Ana would come home, it was a celebration. She made sure to spend all of her time with Fareeha, to shower her with affection and lessons of both life and survival. She was an unconventional mother at best, which Sam found both amusing and worrisome.
There were times when that nagging voice in his head wondered if she was raising a soldier instead of a child.
Their spats grew worse, but he refused to acknowledge them. Things were getting rough for her and Overwatch, she was stressed out and just wanted to relax. So he left his fiancée alone, choosing to take Fareeha out fishing or camping or to dance practice instead.
It wasn't until one day when Sam had cornered Ana in their room that he truly realized just how different their ideas of a family were.
Preparing Fareeha for a future to be afraid of because of all that was wrong with the world versus trying to let her be a child for as long as possible collided forcefully. Sam couldn't even bear to listen to Ana explain herself, couldn't fathom the thought of worrying such a young girl about the future when all she should be worrying about was what to wear to school in the morning.
Ana stormed out and glanced back at the door, a mix of confusion and guilt on her face. Nevertheless, she shook her head and walked away. He rushed out after her to find Fareeha standing beside the door with her head down.
The only silver lining was that she was too young to understand what they were arguing about, but it didn't take away from the fact that they were arguing in the first place.
Seeing her standing their with a confused look on her face broke something within Sam. But looking back, maybe it wasn't breaking so much as fixing.
Captain Amari's things were gone within the week. The house he had poured his heart and soul into, the home he built for her – for them, had gone silent.
When he received the news of her death, Sam hadn't seen her in decades. He surprised himself by attending the service, choosing to stand off to the side and watch quietly.
The casket passed right beside him, and as it did he found himself sobbing into his hands.
It was irrational to consider, but the romantic in him realized that he had broken his promise to stay by her side. And now she was gone, never again to laugh at his jokes or hold him close late at night or tear her voice from yelling at him.
And looking back on it now, taking a long drag of his cigarette, Sam couldn't figure out why he had cried.
He did everything he could to give her a good life, to give her the world. And in return she threw it all away. To be a soldier. Not a wife or partner, not a mother, a soldier.
There was nothing left to say of it. To now know that she was alive was a slap in the face and made the tears he cried as useless now as they were before.
It changed nothing.
The edge of the letter came to rest against the glowing end of his cigarette and Sam let a few embers stick to the paper before pulling it away. He took another drag and exhaled onto the paper, fanning the tiny embers into a flame and letting it eat away at the words.
He spun light in his chair as he watched the letter burn, holding on to it for as long as he could before dropping it into the trash bin beside his desk.
Sam faced the wall to ceiling window behind his desk and looked past his reflection and to the lake right outside, reflecting the moonlight. His eyes traced along the deck and came to find his fishing pole.
He'd have to schedule a day off sometime this week and take a boat out on the lake. Bass season was starting soon, after all.
Crickets chirped a cacophonous choir that had somehow become beautiful to the ear. The sounds of the forest were nearly drowned by the loud voices and music coming from the abandoned pub beneath Reinhardt's feet, but he didn't mind.
The team below him were celebrating a successful mission completed in the Black Forest, heeding his advice to take shelter in the outskirts of Eichenwalde and flocking to the old pub.
Reinhardt was celebrating as well, with a full stein in one hand and an elegantly written letter in the other.
He couldn't get enough of the words written on the paper, enthralled to see such beautifully messy mix of English print and cursive.
“My darling Reinhardt,”
The grin spread across his lips and went from ear to ear and he was unable to move past those words for a few moments. Giddy like he hadn't been in years, Reinhardt reread the letter and felt like he had regressed in age.
It reminded him of a time when colour had stayed in his hair, when he shielded his comrades from all danger, when he had been a lieutenant of Overwatch, and when he had the privilege of spending the nights with Ana Amari in his arms.
The two had become close on and off of the battlefield. Reinhardt had always considered himself a gentleman but didn't realize just how charming he was until he managed to snag the affections of the revered captain.
He could remember the long nights they would spend together, sometimes so enamored with the other that no sleep was to be had and sometimes so lost in the other's eyes that neither spoke a word at all.
Ana was both a breath of fresh air and a raging fire he hoped to never lose.
There was something hauntingly beautiful in how easily she could change, in how strong she could seem in one moment and how weak in the next. It made him feel drunk on emotion, knowing that he and only he could cause such a shift in her.
One moment she was Captain Amari, founder of Overwatch and decorated war hero. And the next she was just Ana, a woman who grew cranky due to a smarting back and a connoisseur of the finest teas.
The Ana no one ever saw behind closed doors was the one Reinhardt was the most familiar with. The tired eyes and dopey grins, the sweet kisses and lingering touches felt like home. Hell, they were his home.
Even when apart for months on end, they shared words of sweetness and love through lengthy letters. Detailing both work and emotion, Reinhardt kept every single letter Ana wrote. It was like he could hear her whispering in his ear each word, hear every syllable and every breath, hear every laugh and see every smile.
It was the first time Reinhardt Wilhelm had ever felt love, not infatuation or meaningless passion, but love in it's purest form. It gave him strength to stand tall on even the darkest of days.
The only thing that ever effected him was his exact status in her eyes. It was never clear where they really stood when coupled: were they close friends, just comrades, or perhaps something more? Did she too feel such a strong emotion such as love towards him or was he only a quick fling and easy fuck?
Reinhardt had made it clear time and time again, through both his actions and his words, that he would fight through heaven and hell for Ana Amari. He would trade his life for hers solely for the fact that he loved her more than the world itself.
But when the time came, when he could have made good on that promise, he failed.
Her death rocked the very foundation of Overwatch – she was the foundation of Overwatch. They both were, but that didn't matter to Reinhardt in the slightest.
He had failed to fulfill his duty, and to say it cost him dearly was an understatement.
Heartbreak was an emotion well known to Reinhardt, but the pain of losing Ana was indescribable. Upon learning of her death, he had locked himself away with his collection of letters and ruined their pristine paper with his uncontrollable sobbing.
It felt as though his world had gone dark. It didn't feel real, like it was some cruel joke or that she'd open his door and fall into his arms complaining about how inept her squad were.
The truth and gravity of her death smashed him into the ground when he arrived at the funeral. The sky had never been bluer to him, nor had the sun ever shined brighter. The day was beautiful, serenely perfect.
The casket, despite being empty, weighed heavily upon his shoulder.
He couldn't stop the tears from flowing down his face even if he tried, silently weeping as he carried his beloved to her grave.
Nor could he quell his sadness throughout the service, standing tall in his uniform and hoping his hat could hide the agony frozen on his face. After it was all said and done and the crowds dispersed, Reinhardt remained rooted to the spot and stared at the freshly covered grave.
He wasn't sure who exactly had approached him and he frankly didn't care. The world around him could have been crumbling into dust and he wouldn't have noticed because his world was already gone.
Collapsing before the grave onto his knees and burying his face in his hands, Reinhardt could do nothing more than weep and gasp out apology over apology.
But that didn't matter now, none of the pain mattered anymore.
She was here, alive, real, and the letter in his hand ignited a long lost happiness in his heart.
Reinhardt raced through the letter again, his face heating and a childish chortle bubbling from his lips as thick tears blurred his vision.
He could hear her voice again, every word. He could see her face again, feel her hand on his arm and imagine her leaning over to point out a flowery adjective. He could feel her with him, could feel the love she felt for him within the words and knew they were true.
This letter proved it. It proved more than just her status as living, it proved that she felt the same way he did: it proved that she too loved him.
The tears he shed were of happiness. There was no need to be sad anymore now that he knew she was still here.
He wiped his face and reached for his stein again, scanning over the letter for what was surely the hundredth time and laughing triumphantly into the night air.
The stein of beer was raised into the air, Reinhardt's eyes staring up into the night sky. He imagined that somewhere in the world, Ana was raising her own glass and looking at the same stars.
Reinhardt hoped she could feel his love all the way across the world.
...but alone wasn't what Fareeha wanted to be. Not now, not again, not ever.
She spun on her heel and forced sound to leave her throat, the noise coming out as a choked cry. Angela turned her head in concern and gasped audibly when Fareeha dropped to her knees.
Trying to shrink herself and hide away her shame, the dark haired woman wrapped her arms around herself and lowered her head to avoid eye contact, to try and stop the tears springing to her eyes.
Only when hands came to gently rest upon her shoulders did she allow herself to break.
She wanted to speak, to confess her confusion and frustration at the confusion, to admit that she didn't know what it was she was feeling but that it terrified her. But Fareeha could do nothing but sob, clutching the letter to her chest and resisting the impulse to shred it to pieces.
The only clear thought, rational and blisteringly cold, was why.
Why was she only crying over this now? Why did it hurt so much? Why couldn't she comprehend this emotion? Why was she like this?
Fareeha had felt loss before, sadness, pain, all of it. But this was like an amalgamation of every negative thought and feeling she ever had. And it was infuriating that she couldn't understand it.
Even having Angela here with her, offering soothing words and gentle touches, failed to cease her blind rage.
Trying to think through it only hurt more, and hurting more lead to more irritation. So Fareeha stopped thinking.
She dug her fingers into Angela's lab coat and buried her face in the woman's shoulder, losing her breath after each sob and practically yelling each cry.
It felt childish. She was a grown woman, not a child, she shouldn't be acting like this. But the confusion had regressed her seemingly into that of a baby, unable to explain what was wrong but knowledgeable to know that nothing was right.
The hands rubbing her back felt so wonderfully nice, the whispers in her ear so calming and loving. It wasn't like anything Fareeha had ever felt before – to have someone treat her as though she were made of glass.
For far too long had she pretended to be made of stone, that her eyes would remain dry for forever. And so it have someone hold her like so was foreign entirely but welcomed immensely.
“You're okay.” Angela whispered in her ear, fingers moving up to carefully brush through her hair in long strokes.
“I'm not.” Fareeha managed to choke out, trying to reel away in her embarrassment.
When she found herself stopped by a strong hand gripping her arm followed by a scoff, Fareeha was forced to meet Angela's piercing gaze and squirm at that strange feeling it caused.
The grip loosened and the doctor's hand trailed down her arm to hold Fareeha's hand, giving it a light squeeze as she said mournfully, “It's okay to hurt.”
Angela's eyes distorted, her face and body following soon after as more tears formed. They were hot as they crested down her cheeks, more shame swirling high in her chest at them.
Despite it all, the confusion and the shame and the hurt and the uncertainty, Fareeha allowed herself to collapse into Angela's arms and wept freely.
It was odd to describe, but she could somehow now accept the fact that she even though the emotions coursing through her brain didn't come to a clear conclusion and settle on the fact that she was hurting nevertheless. Like somehow with Angela's words she had permission to ignore her twisting thoughts and just grieve.
And that too clicked in her head. This was grieving. This is what she should have done long ago. This is what Angela meant when she said it would only get worse.
This was worse.
But this was also better.
Better than silently shouldering a dark cloud of pain, better than refusing to even think about such feelings or thoughts, better than staving it all off with a bottle of alcohol, better than being alone.
Being alone was the last thing she needed. And she wasn't.
Thankful, that was something she could discern from the mess of things she felt right now.
When it all waned away, when she could control her racing thoughts and torn emotions again, Fareeha met Angela's gaze and pressed the letter into her hands.
“Please.” She whispered, her voice cracking as she added, “I can't.”
Angela reluctantly took the letter, folding it neatly and slipping it into her coat pocket. Her hands immediately returned to Fareeha, running through her hair again and caressing her cheek lovingly.
“Things will be alright now.” The doctor promised, “You don't have to be alone. And you don't have to say anything. If you want me to leave you be, I will. If you want me to stay right here, I will. I won't force you to overextend yourself. But I won't let you burn either – not alone, at least.”
She paused for a moment to judge Fareeha's reaction before opening her mouth to continue.
The words never left her lips, instead replaced by a surprised gasp when Fareeha closed the distance between them and kissed her quick.
The blonde sat stunned as Fareeha cupped her face and pressed their foreheads together, closing her eyes and saying softly with a smile, “Angela, thank you.”
She could practically feel the doctor's brain shorting out as she tried to find her words, stuttering out an unsure, “Oh...uh...y-you're welcome.”
At this, Fareeha laughed, leaning away and throwing her head back. Angela watched her in concern and asked slowly, “Are you sure you're okay?”
“Yeah,” She said while rising to her feet and pulling Angela along with her, “you cheered me up, that's all.”
They stood and gazed back out to sea, watching the last few shreds of sunlight vanish behind the horizon. Fareeha, realizing that they still held hands and slightly sheepish now, tightened her hold and asked quietly, “Would you stay with me? Just for tonight...I don't want to think anymore.”
“Of course, Fareeha. I'm here for you.” Angela's blush spread up into her hairline as she added, “Now and always.”
As they walked back into base, Fareeha couldn't stop herself from glancing down at the pocket of Angela's lab coat.
There was only so much distraction before she had to face the truth, before she had to admit to herself that unthinkable thought.
True, there would always be love for the woman who brought her into the world.
True, there were good memories she had with her mother.
True, all of those good memories were only from when she was too young to understand.
True, the mother she lost had been dead to her long before it was made official.
She didn't miss her at all.