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The Bodyguard

Chapter Text

 

I

When I was threatened

 

The faint distant light of the moon sifting through the window illuminated her naked milky frame on the bed, the sheets were in disarray as she lied tiredly on top of them. Her body was covered by a thin layer of cold sweat and her breathing was calm and passive. Physical exhaustion could no longer distract her from the mental one, and her life was somehow falling into a tailspin even though her public success exceeded that of millions.

Angela Ziegler had it all: an unparalleled mind harnessed from the tender age of six. She became a doctor at a Swiss hospital at the age of seventeen. Two Nobel’s of medicine at twenty-six. Owner and majoritarian shareholder of a medical empire that only seemed to grow both in economic expansion and in altruistic attributions, creating a better world for those who need it. She was living in a massive residence in the suburbs with all the amenities dreamed by any normal person. She married a multi-millionaire young man with a surname worthy of respect, heir to a real estate empire. It seemed she had it all. But at her current twenty-eight years old, the truth seemed that the more achievements she had the more miserable she managed to feel. And it was getting her as of lately.

Hastily, she got up the bed, stretching her back to release some stress from her aching muscles. Her legs were mostly numb when she walked to the bathroom and filled the bathtub with warm water. She introduced herself little by little, getting used to the temperature of the water and submerged her body, then her shoulders, and finally her head and face. She could see the golden strands of golden hair sway on top of her face as she lost focus, her mind racing with previous events and barely holding her on the ground. Once the sounds muffled, once she closed her eyes, once the world stopped, she could finally see: blood, screaming, beating, more blood, crying, guilt, shame, more tears. Red drops falling on the white tiles along with salty water. The smell of metal and the sound of panic. The whisper of a promise and the breaking of it.

The telephone rang and she sprung from the bathtub, gasping for air and panting all the while. Her eyes were red and her ears were ringing, and she could swear her body was about to break apart as well, but she had to continue with her life. Taking a white bathrobe, she wrapped herself in the cotton cloth, walking toward the bedroom again and barely caring that her body was dripping on the floor. Another stain on the carpet nonetheless. She raised the handheld of the noisy device and took a deep breath before answering the call.

“Hello?”

“Hey Angela, it’s Mei.” Dr. Mei-Ling Zhou. A work colleague, doctor of the night shift and close friend of Angela from her days of residence. “Sorry I had to call you on your day off and all, but you didn’t answer your phone and I needed to contact you urgently. Are you busy?”

“Don’t worry. I was just taking a bath. Something happened?”

“We have a patient in the E.R. with bullet wounds in forty percent of his body. A perforated lung, two damaged arteries, abnormal cardiac function-“

“So, he’s dying.” The silence lingered for a beat on the other line.

“Yes…”

“What about the surgeon on duty? He should be more than capable of performing a-”

“…He was presumable shot and killed by this patient.”

Angela was trying to process the latest wave of violence that was re-emerging in the city. It was horrifying, but even more so the fact that she was getting used to seeing the outcome of the altercations on her operating table and the dozens of medical notes and statistics scattered on her desk. What was more worrying was that she knew who was responsible in part of that.

“We are trying to stabilize him, but we need more than a few hands, and without a pair we are tied. We need your help.”

“…I’m on my way. Give me twenty minutes.”

“Thank you, Angela.”

She hung up the phone slowly and sat on the bed, bringing her hands to her face and pressing her fists against her skin in the hope that maybe that might ease the headache a little. It didn’t. Tiredly and with no will to continue for the day, she got up and walked to her enormous walk-in closet. The woman stopped in front of the doors, and once opening them, she frowned. She still couldn’t believe a single piece of cloth in her wardrobe could feed more than ten starving children for months. Those were her husband’s many presents, and she had to accept them nonetheless. Angela closed the door and went to another set of doors, taking a pair of simple black pants and a rather light white blouse with black kitten heels. Also, the clothes under the lab coat she wore were hardly noticed. That was comfortable enough for her to work. She grabbed her purse from her nightstand and clutched it below her armpit while trying to fix her hair in a messy ponytail.

A final look on the mirror and she agreed with her outfit. Her residence was big enough with three stories, and having the master bedroom on top was sometimes bothersome because she had to go down them, even more in painful heels. When she arrived at the first flour and was about to open the main door, a voice called her and she stopped in her tracks.

“Where are you going?”

There it was, her husband calling her from the living room with a scotch in his hands. The young man was wearing just a pair of rather expensive silk pajama pants. He stood leaning on the frame of the living room and swirled his cold beverage while arching an eyebrow and waiting for Angela's response.

“To the hospital.” Angela said without looking at him, clutching the doorknob.

“Why? It's your day off.”

“I was called; a qualified surgeon is needed now. They need me.” Genji rolled his eyes and took a quick chug of his scotch while returning to the living room to keep watching that awful action movie he enjoyed so much.

“Fine. Don't take long.”

The doctor opened the door quickly and closed it in the same manner, almost sprinting to the garage and pulling her white car out of it. She drove past the gates at a rather fast speed. The sooner she could get out of that place, the better. Gripping the steering wheel worked somewhat to release some stress. The suburbs streets were mostly empty by that hour of the night, and she was glad she could push the pedal a little further. The hospital was about twenty minutes from home, but that night she only needed ten.

Angela parked the car on a parking space with a sign with her name on it, and almost sprinted to the inside of the building. She was young, she was beautiful, she had the smartest mind in the whole country, but even more so, she was respected inside those white walls, and Angela relished on it. Her real home was this very hospital filled with sickness and death, and she loved her job. Of course, her discoveries granted her an insurmountable amount of money; she could retire any day and live a full life with all the royalties from her discoveries. But she became a doctor to help people, not to become rich rapidly.

Her feet guided her to the E.R. and there was a team already waiting for her. They put her scrubs on, washed her hands, put her gloves, cap and surgical mask on, and she went to the operation table. Mei was inside already suturing and cleaning the blood of a few wounds while trying to patch the patient’s lung. The Chinese girl swore she could almost cry upon seeing the most skilled doctor enter with a team of two nurses.

“Thank goodness, Angela… I tried to fix an artery, but I'm not that skilled in such delicate parts. I patched the lung somehow.” Angela nodded and quickly took her place. Mei was sweating like crazy and her breath was labored, a little break was needed to subdue the adrenaline.

“Thanks, Mei. I'll take it from here.” Mei nodded back and she sat on a far chair on the corner. Angela took a quick look at the open wound and hummed in approval. “You did a good job.”

And that seemed to lift the girl’s spirit. Three more hours were needed of simultaneous work and sutures to be able to stabilize the man. Mei helped clean the minor wounds while Angela kept suturing and closing the openings, finally finishing with a relieved sigh. Angela sat in the chair Mei was previously sitting and leaned her body on the cold wall. It was months since she did her last surgery and somehow she felt liberated again. Being the head of medical research barely left her with time to practice the real field medicine, and she missed it sometimes.

After a few minutes changing back to her casual clothes and washing her hand and face, she left the E.R. up to her office. The lab of medical research was luckily next to it and she made a beeline to her safe place. Unfortunately for her, a coworker was working inside. Dr. Moira O'Deorain was smart, too smart, but also too ambitious. She had so much, but it never seemed enough for the woman. The tall redhead lifted her head from the microscope and grinned a cocky smile while reclining in the chair.

“I did not expect you at all, Angela.” The blonde sighed and massaged her temples.

“It's not the time and I don't have the energy to deal with you.”

“And when do you have exactly?”

Moira had a point. Since the last year, the woman just seemed to put more pressure on Angela. Her ambition only seemed to push her to do crazier lately. And that was frightening. Fortunately, and on certain occasions, Angela put a stop to such unmoral ideas and proposals. To test on a living subject with an experimental serum was too much, and Moira somehow didn't seem to have that barrier that told her it was wrong. That's what really terrified Angela.

“When I'm rested, certainly I can have a decent conversation with you.” Angela went to an incubator. She pressed several buttons on the machine and it was opened to reveal several test tubes with cultures. “How are the samples behaving as of lately?”

“Barely reacting to the serum number 032. I'm currently developing number 033. I was hoping to get started with you but, oh well; you are having fun in your precious residence living the luxury life and getting high like all the Shimadas.” Moira chuckled and Angela rolled her eyes.

“I was doing no such thing, and stop saying those horrifying suspicious.”

“It’s common knowledge, Ziegler.”

Angela shook her head and took one of the test tubes and examined it with her eyes carefully to see if it changed her coloration in the elapsed day, and as Moira said, there was indeed no significant change. She sighed a little annoyed and returned to put the sample back in the incubator, closing the equipment and walking to a desk to write some notes in a thick folder.

“You know we would move much faster if we did the human tests.”

“Out of question, Moira.” Angela scoffed, and that seemed to spark an annoyance in Moira.

“You are being selfish, Angela.”

“And look what you did on the last patient. Your last slip up killed a test subject!”

“And look where it got us!”

“…Are you even suggesting or implying that we should continue testing in humans even though they may die trying? Are you that insane?!”

“Ambitious.”

“And it equals stupid with you.” There was a deafening silence for a minute. Both eyes met in a challenging battle for power. The only person who kept Moira in her place was Angela herself. “It was a miracle that the relatives didn’t sue us for your stupidity.”

“Do as you wish. The delay of the investigation is entirely on your shoulders, I hope you know that.”

“If that is morally correct, then I will accept the charge.”

Moira huffed and went back to work with the microscope, ending the exchange of words here and there. Angela was grateful in part. Moira was a person with an ingenious mind and similar to hers, but the woman seemed to have no filter. Making the last notes on the sheets, she closed the folder and opened a drawer to retrieve a small metal box, putting it in the pocket of her lab coat. She didn’t even bother to say goodbye to Moira when she closed the lab door and went to the rooftop. The air was a bit cold, but that seemed to calm her anxiety and cool her body both from the operation and the last altercation with Moira. Reaching her hand in the pocket of her coat, she took out the metal box she grabbed from the desk and opened it, taking a cigarette and lighting it before returning the box to its original place.

The first drag seemed to calm her even more. It was a horrendous habit, and she hated it, but it worked. There were regularly other doctors, nurses and other medical staff on the roof, but fortunately today seemed to be a quiet night, except for the patient who arrived in an emergency. It was a difficult case, and Angela was grateful that Mei at least knew the basics in surgery, but the most disturbing issue was the murder of the surgeon on duty. Angela finished her cigarette, throwing the butt on the floor and extinguishing it with her foot to returned inside and retire to her home again.

On her way she greeted some nurses and said goodbye to Mei, the Chinese apologized a thousand times before saying goodbye properly to Angela and thanking her for her support. Angela finally got into her car, starting the engine and taking it out of the parking lot to drive more calmly to her residence. The streets were even emptier than before, but the view was always mesmerizing: to reach the suburbs she had to cross a somewhat lonely wooded area with no buildings or structures that bothered the natural view. The clock read more than two in the morning; it was no surprise that she was dead tired by the end of her unexpected shift. She took another box of cigarettes from the glove compartment and was about to lit yet another one, but her phone rang suddenly. She pressed a button on the steering wheel and answered hastily.

“Hello?”

“Angela! Oh God…” Mei seemed disturbed and nervous, and even when she was a worry girl, that didn’t seem normal, not even for her.

“Is everything alright?”

“Someone entered the recovery area a-and just… Stabbed a-a patient, the one we performed surgery on… We don’t know who it was! T-the guards are still checking the cameras but they don’t seem to find anything and…!”

What in the world was going on?

“Calm down, calm down… Did we have a name of the patient? Relatives? Anything to identify him?”

“No, nothing. He just came in injured and unconscious.”

“Okay. Call the police, and if you didn’t see anything, then go home. The less you are involved, the better. Let security take care of that. Got it?”

“…Yes. Angela? Take care; I don’t like how things are looking so far.”

“Of course. I’m almost home, I’ll call you once I arriv-” A heavy blow behind shook her car, causing her to lose balance for a moment and quickly stabilize the steering wheel back. Another car hit her in the back corner and backed up a bit to hit her again and take her out of the street. “W-what the hell…?!”

“A-Angela?! Are you okay?!”

A third and stronger blow managed to pull her out of her lane causing her to almost collide head-on with another car. Her neck whipped back and forth with each hit, and she could swear that her body was going to suffer once the adrenaline subdued, but she was close to home, so very close. The final blow finally caused her to completely lose control and the car crashed into a lamppost, her head hit the steering wheel, bleeding immediately and the air bags finally opened. She felt a twinge in her head, but she was alive. Little by little the sounds returned to her; Mei screaming from the car speakers, the sound of several guns firing and the grinding of the tires on the pavement. A man in a black suit –a security agent from the Shimada family- forcibly opened the driver's door and released her from the seatbelt, taking her gently in her arms and checking her health status.

“Dr. Ziegler? Dr. Ziegler! Are you okay?!” Angela managed to nod, but that was all she could do. Her home was just a block away luckily, and the guard took her in his arms, carrying her all the way to her bedroom in what she felt the longest blackout.

Angela woke up the next day with an incredible migraine, several scrapes on her body and bruises alike. As expected, her neck hurt considerably after the impact. She looked around and was alone, something strange. She took her cell phone from the bedside table and called Genji. No response. Her second choice was Mei and fortunately, as worrisome the Chinese was, her friend responded quickly.

“Angela! How are you feeling? Is everything okay? I was terrified! What happened?” Mei kept talking and questioning her, and she wasn’t in the right mood to do so.

“I’m alright, just a headache and a few bruises.”

“Thank goodness! I was mortified!”

“Yes, yes… Mei, what happened at the hospital?”

“The police arrived quickly thereafter, I stayed however. I couldn’t go knowing something happened and I could help somehow, fortunately I was useful. They asked me a few questions about the man and I answered with no major problem. The police wanted to ask you a couple questions as well, but I told them you already left when the incident happened and they dismissed it. Forensics took the body already.”

“I see…”

“But enough of that. Are you really okay? We’re all worried about you here at the hospital.”

“Yes, of course. However, I think I will take a couple of days off before going back to work.”

“Absolutely! You need to recover a little bit at least. And after the incident with Dr. Korpal… You must be excessively careful. That was no random attack for sure... Take care, Angela.”

“Thank you. I will, Mei.”

Angela hung up and left the phone on the table again. She sighed and massaging her temples she got up from the bed, grabbing a silk robe to wrap on her slender frame and walk down the stairs to look for Genji. He was nowhere to be seen, and upon asking a few guards and housekeepers, no one seemed to answer her concern and she was getting frustrated by the minute. She opted to have breakfast at least, and it seemed to help somewhat, but it wasn’t enough. She could only wait.


“It’s a pleasure to have you here, Mr. Shimada.”

“It's always wonderful to see you again, Reyes.”

Genji has always been a charming young man, breaking many a young girls’ hearts. His tall, slender but well-built frame was attractive to so many, and even when he married Angela, he seemed to attract even more audience. Being somewhat untouchable had its perks. Genji and Reyes were both sitting in a closed office facing the same desk. Gabriel Reyes was leaning forward, his arms crossed while expecting Genji’s demands.

“I’m sorry about what happened to your wife. How is she doing?”

“She’s doing well for now. That’s part of the main reason why I am here.” Gabriel sighed and chuckled afterwards.

“Let me guess: You are dissatisfied with your security team.” Genji rolled his eyes and ran a hand through his spiky black hair.

“Such incompetents. Not even the two undercover bodyguards who watched her could protect her properly.”

“I hope you fired them.”

“Already done.”

“But just… Fired, you know.”

“Heh you know I can’t take other measures if I’m a public figure.” Gabriel sighed and ran a hand to his face and laughed. “Anyway, back to business. I need someone competent and trustworthy who can keep an eye on Angela every time she leaves home.”

“I suppose you're looking for something with characteristics similar to your father's expectations. Loyal, committed, but above all reliable and with the ability to jump in front of a car if Angela was about to be run over.”

“You know the Shimada’s too well.”

“Working with Sojiro for twenty years helped. Let me see what I have for you.”

Gabriel got up and walked to an archive and took out several folders from a special drawer, he put them back on the desk and, sitting abruptly, began to look through them one by one, scanning the information of several agents and discarding some folders while separating a few more interesting ones. He was fast, that was for sure, because in less than a minute he had five folders with the information of five agents that fulfilled all of Genji's expectations.

“Here I have a few agents that may interest you.” Reyes handed one of the folders to Genji for analysis. “This is Mako. Forty-three years old, Australian, over twenty years of experience. He knows how to-“

“No.” Genji frowned and immediately returned the folder back to Reyes. “I'll ask you for something else and I hope you can please me: No men, I'm looking for a woman.”

“You had to ask me for something special, didn’t you…?”

“I'm cautious. I don’t want another man near her that it’s not me.”

“Jealous?”

Cautious.”

Gabriel sighed and took four of the folders, stuffing them hastily in the drawer of his desk. He slid the last folder to Genji and, without taking his hand off the document, stared at him intently. “This is the only woman that meets your expectations. And let me tell you not to underestimate her.” He removed his hand from the folder and Genji opened the document, looking through the paper and frowned again with some information discovered.

“Twenty-three years old?”

“Fareeha Amari is our best woman in the whole company. She has been with us for over two years but has only climbed the ladder as time goes by. She’s exceptional, let me tell you.”

“She’s too young.”

“The first thing I told you was not to underestimate her.”

Genji closed the folder and handed it back to Reyes. “Very well. I would like to see her.”

“It's a good time, in fact. She has shooting practice at this very moment and you can see her skills in action.”

Genji nodded and stood up when Gabriel did. The older man led him through several corridors and security doors until he reached a metal door in the basement. The security, expected of a company focused one hundred percent on it, was air tight. They did not skimp on the equipment of their agents and the facilities, which was visible to the naked eye, and the shooting range was incredible. Genji seemed already satisfied, but he had to check on this “impressive” girl.

A wall with a long glass window divided the viewers from the practitioners, and that facilitated their inspection. Reyes pointed to a specific girl in the middle of the various practice lanes, and claimed to be the woman they sought. The score of her shots surpassed that of many. Her concentration was absolute, and the handling of the weapon was perfect; soft, fast and firm at the same time. Reyes was right, he should not have underestimate her. But even so, Genji had his doubts.

“That’s Pharah: She spent three years in the Egyptian army and almost three with us. She has an incredible lineage, the Amari of Egypt are recognized worldwide and her mother… Well, she’s impressive as well. She is very dedicated, let me tell you, she seeks to follow in her family's footsteps. She knows how to handle firearms, as you can see, but she is also exceptional in hand-to-hand combat.”

Shot after shot, Genji seemed even more convinced. “I think I'd like to talk with her a bit as a last requirement. But it seems that everything is in order. You seem to satisfy me as always.”

“She is that spectacular, yes. However, for the time and intensity that you require, she is going to become quite... Expensive.”

“Money has never been a problem for me, Reyes. You know that. And if she can do the wonders you acclaim, then it's worth every cent.”


Angela was sitting in the living room for a couple of hours perhaps, looking out of the window at the beautiful garden that was kept very carefully by the best gardeners in the city. A half cup of tea was cold and forgotten on the coffee table. A nurse hired by Genji checked her every half hour, but Angela immediately dispatched her, claiming that she could take care of herself like the skilled doctor she was.

As usual, Angela's mind worked at full speed. She was not a policewoman or a private investigator, she still could not discover why she was attacked, and she could not link the death of her partner to her attempted murder. That frustrated her too much, the lack of answers made her enter an infinite loop of madness. She didn’t spend a day outside her work area and was already going crazy.

The front door opened and Genji entered through the magnificent wooden frame. The young man wore a simple suit consisting of black pants and gray shirt, a pair of buttons were unbuttoned, revealing a portion of his chest. Genji walked to a table in the living room and, taking a bottle of caramel-colored liquid, filled a glass of whiskey and sat on the couch in front of Angela.

“How are you doing?” Genji asked while taking a sip of his beverage.

“Fine.”

The man analyzed his wife from head to toe. Angela was wearing a long, loose yellow dress, her neck was adorned with a neck brace and her right forearm had a bandage wrapped tightly. A few scrapes and bruises painted her pale skin on her face, arms, legs and shoulders alike, but the woman showed no signs of pain.

“Where you were?” Angela dared to ask, and something inside her made her regret it.

“I went to Helix and visited an old friend of the family. This incident is not normal, and our security failed. I'm not willing to take the risk again.”

“…What do you mean by security?”

“You have been watched by two bodyguards for two years.” He took another sip of her alcoholic beverage and that seemed to spark Angela’s anger.

“I have never needed a bodyguard, let alone two.”

“Clearly.”

“Oh. So that much you trust me.” Angela frowned, she was agitated. It was a low blow to her pride. How did she not notice before? Of course, Genji would never leave her so freely.

“Whatever. I fired those two incompetents last night.”

“I’m glad.”

“And you will not leave this house again without someone to watch over you. Ever again. I hired a new bodyguard that will follow you wherever you go when leave this house.”

Angela opened her eyes in surprise and shock. She quickly regained her composure and focused on facing Genji. “What?” Her Swiss accent was more prominent when she was angry or upset, and at this time, it was very noticeable. “No, please. Do not take my freedom for a simple fear. I don’t need a bodyguard-”

“It’s either that or not leaving this house at all. Your choice, Angela.”

Genji finished his whiskey and put the empty glass on the coffee table, retreating to his bedroom. Angela was speechless, she could almost swear she started to hyperventilate. A few months since she married Genji she knew her life was not becoming as she was expecting from the sweet, caring man she met before being betrothed. And now with her freedom compromised, things only seemed to go from bad to worse.

And this was just the beginning.

Chapter Text

 

II

And I was hired

 

One punch.

Sweat was dripping down her body as she methodically hit the punching bag. Her muscles tensed with each successful movement, her body screaming for a break after an hour of intense exercise, but she was not ready to give up. Another punch. The bag shook and swayed every time Fareeha's fist made contact with the heavy object. It hurt, and she was not going to admit it. She was just so young, barely a woman, a minority amongst the sea of monsters in the competitive world of strength. Her position was more than judged, and she was not willing to give less than one hundred percent to prove that she deserved to be among the best.

One, two.

One, two, three.

Keep your position, be constant, keep hitting, you almost make it. The bandages under her gloves were beginning to hurt her knuckles with every touch. It was going to bleed, that was for sure, but she had to continue, she had to keep showing that she was the very best. A quick succession of blows and kicks were enough until the sack left its chain and fell coarsely to the ground. Fareeha's breathing was agitated, and as she saw the immobile object on the concrete floor, she wiped the sweat from her forehead with her forearm.

Too young to think clearly, her mother said. But what was the use of being young, having the skills and motivation to do something with her life if she was not going to take advantage of them? A waste. Age seemed to be a pretext at this point. Fareeha took off her gloves and walked to the gym bag forgotten on a bench, stuffing the pair of accessories and taking out a towel to wipe off the sweat before taking a big mouthful from her water bottle.

She took the bag and hung it over her shoulder to go to the showers and end her training session. She stood in front of the gym's mirror, watching herself closely, looking into that determined woman's eyes. Her sports outfit, which consisted of a navy top and shorts, were soaked, as was her hair, which clung uncomfortably to her flushed face. Her abdomen was marked by the daily hours of exercise, her arms and legs alike. She always wanted to look and feel strong, intimidating, but at the same time, she missed feeling like a girl. Sometimes she thought her mother was right, but it was a passing thought that she quickly dismissed.

Once a cold, cleansing and quick shower was taken, she put on some stressed jeans, a white tank top and a black hoodie. And upon gathering all her belongings, she left the private gym in one of the most neutral areas of the city. Her body was exhausted and taking the bus to return home would not alleviate her tiredness, but it was a routine to which she was used to. She threw her hood over her head and got quickly on the bus. To her bad luck, there seemed never to be an unoccupied seat, and when it was, she regularly gave it to someone else who actually needed it. Listening to music always helped her and made the path less tedious and shorter.

The melody of soft hip hop and rock resonated in her ears, and she moved her foot to the rhythm of the song. She wasn’t that good singing, her mother made her notice quite a few times, but playing the guitar seemed to help her vent that musical frustration inside her. The bus stopped and she got off with a couple of people who lived in the same area. Fareeha lived in a building in a decent neighborhood along with her mother: the retired living legend from which she only looked like a shadow of the Amari surname.

She entered the building and climbed the stairs to the third floor, she hated taking the elevator and fortunately their apartment was not on such a high level. As soon as she took out the keys and opened the door to her home, the smell of coffee immediately filled the room, and that could only mean one thing: her mother had visitors. Fareeha rarely had visits herself, the few friends she had met in a bar or in the house of other independent friends. Having her mother to embarrass her was definitely a resounding no. For her good luck that morning, the visit her mother had was more than welcome.

“Good morning, Fareeha.”

“Hello, Ingrid.” Ingrid Lindholm is the mother of her best childhood friend; Brigitte. Her father Torbjörn worked for a long time with Ana and that’s how they met. Their similarities of both family and personality fit perfectly, which created an unparalleled bond of friendship between her and Brigitte. Fareeha adored Ingrid, she was a second mother to her. “How are you?”

“Very well, thanks. I brought apple pie for you and your mother, it’s in the counter if you’d like a slice.”

“Goodness, yes.” Fareeha left her bag on the floor and walked to the kitchen, cutting a piece of the dessert and almost jamming it in her mouth.

“Ahem!” Fareeha stopped and turned to see the source of the sound: she forgot for a moment that her mother was sitting watching her closely. “Manners, Fareeha.”

“Oh, sorry.” The older woman sighed and Ingrid chuckled. She saw Brigitte in the young woman in front of her, and even when she didn’t mind a single thing of Fareeha acting that way, she knew Ana was somewhat uncomfortable. “I'm going to change to go to work, excuse me.” Fareeha took the gym bag from the floor and went to her bedroom, closing the door a little abruptly.

Ana sighed and took a sip of her coffee, holding the hot cup in her hands and leaning back deeper into the sofa. Ingrid saw her with a knowing smile and took a sip of her drink as well.

“What is so funny, Ingrid?”

“You believing that you are a saint and you repress your daughter so that she does not follow your same steps.”

“It's not the life I wanted for her.”

“But it's the one she chose, and you should feel proud. At this times there are no children who support the traditions of their parents, even some see it as embarrassing. Brigitte's work in the workshop is not exactly a safe job, but since she was little she admired her father and wanted to follow his steps, and look at her now."

“Well, Torbjörn's work does not exactly involve risking your life and killing to protect the life of a stranger.”

“That you might be right. Nonetheless…” She took another sip of her almost finished coffee. “…What did Gabriel say about her?” Ana sighed and left her cup on the coffee table, looking out the window and seeing how life was still a few blocks away.

“Only compliments, I must admit… And coming from Gabriel, it's a lot to say.”

“So, she’s not only good, she’s great. Fareeha has talent. She is extremely dedicated to her work, disciplined and intelligent. She just needs her mother's support to move forward.”

“I'm proud, do not take it the wrong way. But as a mother, and you understand, it's worrying that tomorrow I may lose my daughter at the hands of a stranger for protecting a soul that doesn’t give a damn for her.”

The door to Fareeha's bedroom opened again, and the young woman was already in her black uniforms with combat boots ready to go. She carried a heavy backpack on her back, but she barely seemed to feel it because of her strength. Ingrid smiled broadly and Ana got up when Fareeha took the keys from the small table next to the door.

“I hope you have done what I asked you to do.”

“Yes. I left the package in the counter.”

“Bills?”

“All paid.”

“Good.” The older woman approached her daughter and cupped her cheek with a calloused hand, the result of several years of hard work. She traced the tattoo under Fareeha’s eye, similar to the one she bears and looked intently in her eyes. “May the Gods protect you and guide you to protect those who need it. Return home safe and sound, my child.” Fareeha smiled and nodded, accepting the blessing of her mother as she did every day.

“Always, mother. Thanks for the pie, Ingrid!”

Fareeha disappeared down the hall waving her hand and Ana closed the door slowly, sighing and shaking her head while returning to the couch. Ingrid smiled sadly, she would be a hypocrite to deny that she didn’t feel a hint of the same worry as Ana. Her friend was right, and noticing the concern in that last gesture towards her daughter, only created a bond of more intense empathy among the mothers.

“She’s going to be fine.” Ingrid felt it appropriate to point out.

“I just hope you are right.”

“If she's as stubborn as you, and I know she is, one more bullet wound will not stop her at all.”

“Oh, Ingrid. You just need to aim that bullet in the right place.”

Ana made a gesture of holding a rifle and pointed fictitiously at the woman in front of her, fake-firing and making a sound of a gunshot. Both laughed, and that seemed to lighten the tense atmosphere for a moment.


Helix was definitely a big place. Working in a globally recognized company had its advantages and disadvantages. First of all the pay was incredible, they didn’t skimp on the equipment and the development of their agents, not to mention that there were definitely interesting jobs with even more interesting people. The bad: you could die at any moment. Her mother reminded her daily, but that didn’t stop Fareeha at all, it only seemed to motivate her even more. But after a week without an assigned mission was already getting to her head, and the sense of uselessness returned with each passing day. The sound of a gun firing was enough to keep her on the ground. Her concentration increased each time she pulled the trigger of her gun on the company’s shooting range.

One, two, three bullets. Jugular, heart, clavicle. ‘If you don’t want to make a mess, aim for the right places.’ Her mother's words helped. Although Ana showed displeasure at her decision more than a couple of times, she still showed her support by teaching her a few things that she has gained from years of experience. Two more bullets to the head in perfect synchrony; steady and focused. Another round of shots and her time was over. She huffed and took off her safety glasses and ear muffles, and by hanging them in the specified place, she left her lane to go grab some lunch. She was tired of doing nothing, she felt useless. When she was about to leave the firing range, Gabriel waved his hand at her discreetly, calling the young woman to go over. Fareeha nodded and walked towards him.

“Not bad, kid. Look at that score.” Gabriel patted her back with a strong hand and Fareeha chuckled. Gabriel Reyes was like her uncle: he worked with her mother and Jack Morrison, a retired commander of the US Army, and they practically raised her while her mother went on missions to who knows what parts of the world. “You should feel proud, it will not be long before you surpass Ana.”

“Heh I doubt it. I must admit that mom has the best skill with a weapon and nobody will be able to catch up with her. But thanks.”

“At least you have your feet on the ground. No, nobody can come close to your mother, right?” They both laughed as they walked side by side down the hall. Fareeha was curious as to why Gabriel called her. It wasn’t uncommon for them to eat together, but something told her that this was not normal. And finally Reyes cleared her doubts. “I have something for you.”

“Something…?”

“A job came for you.” Fareeha sighed and ran a hand through her short hair, combing her black hair back.

“I'm so desperate that I'll grab whatever you offer. I know I'm going to regret it, but it's okay.”

“You don’t know what you say, kid.” They continued walking until they stood in front of the door of Gabriel's office. “Remember that you have the right to deny a job if you don’t feel comfortable. But-”

“What?”

“I think you will not deny it, because it's something you like.”

“Just tell me I will not watch another store because it was the worst job you ever put me to. I was sitting for hours watching a boring monitor, not to mention that this man tried to grope me more than a couple of times. If he was handsome I wouldn’t mind that much, but he was like eighty…” Gabriel laughed softly.

“And how about protecting a doctor somebody tried to kill yesterday? Well, they succeeded to kill another one but nonetheless.”

“So bodyguard job then.”

“Yep.”

“Wow… I’m in.” The silence lingered for a moment, but Gabriel had to ask again.

“Are you sure? You’ll be risking your life.”

“I have a week without work, I am desperate. I will take anything at this point, and this seems to be a golden opportunity. Yes, I will do it.”

“Well, this man wants to see you first before hiring you... God, your mother is going to kill me…” Gabriel mumbled the last part and he opened the door, revealing a young man sitting in front of the desk. Both walked and stood in front of the closed door, waiting for the young man to get up in the same way. His eyes were dark, like hers, his black hair was spiky, and his clothes, despite looking somewhat casual, seemed to worth thousands of dollars. He was attractive, Fareeha couldn’t deny it, he seemed well built as well, tall, not like her, but he definitely wasn’t Fareeha’s cup of tea. “This is Fareeha Amari.” Gabriel introduced her with a wave of his hand, and Fareeha nodded once to acknowledge her presence.

This mysterious young man looked at her from head to foot in an arrogant way, and Fareeha felt an immediate sense of discomfort, but her training in the army and the several years in Helix taught her not to flinch from any form of disdain or even affection. She was a pillar: immovable, with no feelings, and with a fixed purpose, and she would not let this man see anything else about her. The man walked around her like a hunter to its prey, but Fareeha still did not move a single finger; her arms were behind her back and her eyes were fixed straight ahead.

She felt the man make a gesture with his mouth and immediately sensed the change of mood when he made a movement that was about to hit her straight in the cheek. Fareeha stopped him with one hand without even moving her body, and looked into the eyes of this strange man who dared to even try to punch her face. His blow was strong, but Fareeha was stronger. Their gazes defied for a moment until the man smiled cockily and relaxed his fist, nodding at Gabriel and walking towards the door.

“She works.”

It was all he said before closing the door and retreating. Fareeha followed him with her eyes, and then Gabriel, who sat in his chair and invited her to sit in front of him. Gabriel took a few papers and slid them to Fareeha, looking at her while resting his chin in his hands, slightly covering his mouth.

“What’s with that asshole?”

“That’s Genji Shimada.”

And there, Fareeha understood. She didn’t know who Genji was, but definitely knew the Shimada surname, and who would not? It was a powerful mafia family, involved in real estate and other businesses a little more suspicious.

“There’s your contract. Everything you have to do is detailed in there: when you should do it and how you should do it. You must act as a bodyguard for this doctor, you must escort her from the moment you leave her house until she arrives back, obviously she works in a hospital and you must accompany her at every moment, except when she is treating patients and that, but you must always be close. It's a job of five days a week, you'll rest on Wednesdays and Sundays, but let me tell you that’s a fat paycheck right there.”

Fareeha thumbed through the contract until she read the payment amount. Her eyes widened in surprise when she saw a sum of three zeros to the right. “So… This is weekly.”

“Daily, tax free and everything else. That’s your income per day.”

“Holy shit…”

“He spared no expense, a Shimada never does. And take into account that you can take care of the doctor for ten minutes and even then you will be paid that daily amount. But knowing her, she can stay up to fifteen hours in that hospital. So forget about all your plans, because it's an indefinite contract and who knows when it's going to be over. You start on Monday, so enjoy this weekend because your social life is over.”

“Two days… That’s enough.”

“I warned you, Fareeha.”

“Mom is definitely going to kill you.”

“You will help me dig my grave, because we're both guilty here.”


That night she didn’t mention anything to her mother, and she hoped Gabriel would not either. Knowing him, he would respect that pact of the company’s policy, obviously, without the meddling of her mother. Saturday night was a day she regularly used to hang out with her friends and meet at Eichenwalde, a small but picturesque downtown bar owned by Reinhardt Wilhelm, a massive man with a happy personality. The bar had a German theme, just like its owner, and the atmosphere was always welcoming. Reinhardt's laughter echoed throughout the bar as if it were an earthquake, but it could only add a bit more of comfort to the place.

Sitting in their usual booth were Fareeha, Brigitte -Ingrid's daughter-, Jesse McCree and Lena Oxton, two coworkers of Helix and best gay friends. Lena was in a completely formal relationship with her lifelong girlfriend Emily. However, Jesse was a womanizer despite being gay. The man was a mystery, but the girls thought maybe he did it to pretend something he was not and maintain a "low profile," which was useless. Lena was younger than Fareeha for three years and worked in the vehicular department, the girl was an excellent pilot. Jesse on the other hand did the same as Fareeha: he was an agent. Five years older than her, and Fareeha considered him an older brother since he guided and helped her when she joined Helix. Although he is an idiot, she loves him so much.

“I heard from Gabe you got a new job.” Jesse said while taking a chug of his beer.

“Yeah. I’m starting Monday.”

“Cool.” Lena said this time. “What will you do now? I still remember the work of the store with the old pervert. Like, when I went to pick her up that night he even said that he liked "exotic" girls!”

“Don’t remind me, it seems I'm going from bad to worse… Anyway, I'll be bodyguarding now, a change for the better now.”

“Wow, a bodyguard- what was that face?” Jesse pointed out the awkward grin from Fareeha.

“It’s for the Shimada family…”

Brigitte almost spit out her beer while Jesse and Lena looked worried before returning her gaze to her friend. Brigitte was trying to regain her composure, coughing and trying to pass the liquid down her throat while moving her arms in front of her.

“No no no no no… Your mother knows?!”

“No, and don’t you dare tell her or your mom, Brigitte!”

“Ana is going to lose her shit, Reeha! You know how your mother is…!” Her friend was clearly freaking out.

“Wait…” Jesse stopped them, something finally snapped on him. “Which Shimada? Don’t you tell me it’s Genji…”

“Yes, that’s him… Wait, you know him?”

“Kind of, he’s a womanizer and abusive asshole.”

“He seems to be that, I met him before hiring me. He even threw a punch at me.”

“And you dared to stop him because you’re that stupid.”

“Why wouldn’t I? Nobody dares to hit me without giving me a decent fight first.”

“You’re intimidating, that helps.” Brigitte pointed out, followed by Jesse.

“And a giant dork.”

“Hey, it’s called ‘balance’, you piece of shit. Your scale is too tilted to one side.”

“Guilty as charge.”

“Well… What can we say?” Lena raised her pint of beer to the air. “Cheers for your new deadly job. Don’t die.” Everyone clanked their glasses and chugged the remaining beer in one sitting. “Reinhardt, love! Another one of this, please!”

The German arrived quickly with four more beer-filled jars, handing one each. “What are we celebrating now?!” His voice boomed like a horn, but it was always welcomed.

“Reeha got a new job!”

“Good!”

“As a Shimada bodyguard.”

“Uh-uh, though one. Well, don’t die!” He patted Fareeha’s back a couple of times, always trying to break her spine with such strong form of affection and he left to attend the bar once more.

“Thanks, Rein!”

“Even the big guy knows.”

“Yeah… Don’t make me regret it. I've already signed and it's an indefinite contract with a fat check. Maybe I can finally buy a bike or rent my own apartment. That would be nice.” Jesse patted her back, and taking a sip of her pint, he spoke.

“You know you can always be my roommate. I already asked you a few times, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, but I imagine you must be fucking with your boyfriend every night, and I’m not willing to hear or see that.”

“He doesn’t live with me.”

“Like that could stop you.”

“You might develop a new kink, who knows?”

“No, please. Stop.”

There was a round of laughter for a moment. A girl with a small complexion and purple-dyed hair came running to the booth next to them, trying to catch her breath as she leaned on the table. She wore a black T-shirt with the Helix logo and tight jeans. She worked in the I.T. department, and lately her days have been a living hell because there has been a breach in the security of the company and they demanded almost their full time to remedy such a disaster. Fortunately, Olivia was one of the best in the country, if not in the world.

“I’m finally here… Scoot, baby.” She nudged Lena with her hip and sat in the space made for her. “Rein, can I have one of this, please?!”

“You fucking made it, Olivia. What the hell happened?”

“Someone tried to hack the system. Our team of useless bitches couldn’t do anything to stop them and I had to stay to remedy their ineptitude. Assholes...” Olivia took a long drink of the drink Reinhardt had left for her. “So, the Shimada’s, huh?”

“…How did you know?”

“I know everything, Reeha. There is no information in the company that I don’t know already.”

“Anyway, what is all about this kind of job?” Brigitte dared to ask once again. “Are you bodyguarding for Genji?”

“No. A doctor, apparently. That’s why I’m not so worried. It must be another old lady who can barely walk and needs help to go to the bathroom and take her pills.” Fareeha shrugged and took a drink of her beer. She stopped half-drunk and saw her friends watching her back with complicit eyes. “What?”

“…Sometimes your ignorance surprises me.” Olivia said while laughing nervously.

“Why?”

“Guys, let’s not tell her. She will find out.”

“No, come on. Tell me. What’s with this doctor?”

“You’ll find out on Monday.”

“And one more thing, Reeha. Remember the code of the agents: don’t get attached to the objective.”


After that outing, Fareeha wanted to pry more. Her curiosity increased exponentially. What was so special about this doctor? If the Shimada wanted to protect a doctor in the best way, choosing to hire a third company, it must have meant that she worked for them, right? Or maybe she operates clandestinely for the Shimada. Of course, that must be. Fareeha rolled on her bed several times. The mixture of alcohol and bad thoughts was a terrible combination, and it didn’t help in letting her catch some sleep.

What she was most afraid of, despite working for the Japanese mafia that were the Shimada and the possible deadly consequences that entailed, was to tell her mother about this new job. Tomorrow, if she didn’t wake up with a huge hangover, she would tell Ana early in the morning and she would brace for any physical or mental blow that her mother could throw at her. Physical she could take easily, but emotionally…

Another roll on the bed and she was face down. She buried her face in the pillow and growled with the hope that it would help dissipate her frustrations. It didn’t. Maybe suffocating until fainting could be an option. Stop. Fareeha got up and went to the bathroom, washing her face with cold water to get rid of those absurd thoughts. She was never a person with suicidal thoughts, and she did not plan to start now.

She decided to go to the living room balcony and take a cigarette from her underwear drawer, her mother hated that she smoked at home, but she needed the cold autumn air of the city and the warmth of the tobacco could help her clear her mind. The first drag of her cigarette seemed to appease her in some way. She watched the small object rolled in her hand, turning it several times and exhaling the smoke from her lungs, when a yell from her mother's room caused her to throw the object to the floor and turn it off with her bare foot, cursing the skies for going out without wearing sandals.

“I hope you are not smoking in my apartment, Fareeha!”


“May the Gods protect you and guide you to protect those who need it. Return home safe and sound, my child.”

Ana stroked the tattoo under Fareeha's right eye as she always did each time her daughter left the house. This time, Fareeha put her hand on her mother's and let herself be carried away by the gentle caress full of affection, leaning on the hand cupping her cheek. Fareeha smiled at her mother before giving her a hug. Ana was strong, but at times like these, even she could be weak.

“And don’t do anything stupid.”

“I promise I won’t.”

Fareeha was not very affected by the company's bodyguard uniform: black pants, shoes and a white shirt was the usual thing, but it was cold and she decided to change the shirt for a black turtle neck. A black jacket was the final piece of cloth to hide the gun holster and her favorite glock, and preferred to wear boots to hide a knife inside. Anyone could run out of bullets, and she was not willing to risk that.

Upon leaving the building a car was waiting to escort her to the residence where the doctor lived. The driver then informed her that the car would be loaned to take the doctor when she needed it, and Fareeha was honestly a little excited. She liked to drive, it didn’t bother her at all, and the suburbs definitely had one of the best panoramic views of the city and nature.

The Shimada family had money, that everyone knew, but this residence was huge, even to be in the suburbs. It was built in a beautiful red brick, the walls were mostly covered by a leafy vine and the architecture had a European vibe with the various wooden compositions of the house. Surprisingly for Fareeha, Genji was leaving the house, looking at his cell phone and greeting Fareeha once the girl got out of the car a little confused.

“Pharah, good to see you. Angela is coming right now. I trust you protect my wife with your life.”

Fareeha knew he was married, but... Her wife?

A young woman with a tall slender body and skin like snow stepped out through the huge wooden doors of the residence, gracefully descending the stairs. She wore a white coat over her red dress, black stockings and kitten heels of the same color. Her neck and ears were adorned with a set of expensive pearls, and her beautiful blonde hair was fixed in a disheveled ponytail. Her clear aquamarine eyes fixed on her onyx ones in a silent exchange of words.

The pieces of Saturday night finally fit into this deranged puzzle.

She was the doctor. She was Genji's wife. She had to protect her. And fuck, she was beautiful.

Chapter Text

 

III

When I lost my freedom

 

Angela decided to take Genji's threat in the best way. It was stupid to deny that it wasn’t a threat, because in reality it was. The concussion, bruises and scrapes from three days ago were nothing compared to what Genji had done to her. She didn’t despise the work of a bodyguard, no, she even admired it, but for her it felt like having a babysitter. Angela loved her days outside this house, she felt free, unattached. And with a bodyguard watching every step she takes, that freedom is soon to be over. And Angela was sure that the little sanity she had remaining would be extinguished as well.

She sighed in front of the mirror, staring at her naked body covered in faint marks. It was sad to think that most were because of the accident. A furtive tear escaped her eye and was cleaned immediately to avoid ruining her makeup. She lifted her chin, trying to be proud of herself, but in a vain attempt to feel better with herself and gain some confidence back, she took a red dress from the closet, and after putting on underwear, black stockings and black shoes, she slipped the garment over her head. It was a simple but beautiful dress, and Genji liked it. He used to like it.

“Angela!”

Genji shouted from the bottom of the stairs to rush her, and without waiting any longer, she took a white coat, putting it on and fastening the front buttons so as not to waste any more time. She looked at Genji one last time from the top of the stairs before the man went out the front door, looking at God knows what on his phone and closing the door abruptly. She hated that attitude, but at this point the only thing left was to just getting used to it. Shameful.

She was determined to show whoever dared to face her that she was a powerful and capable woman who could take care of herself, that she did not need a gorilla behind her at any time. Her pride was the last thing she had left, and she was willing to wear it as a protective layer. Angela opened the door gently, gracefully descending the stairs, but when her eyes fixed on her new bodyguard’s, her body froze for a moment. It was definitely not what she expected.

A woman. And a very young one. She dressed completely in black, casual and professional at the same time. Her black hair was short to the shoulders, and her face was framed by two braids with golden beads on the ends. Angela felt a current of electricity travel through her body, and it was frightening. The woman was taller than Genji, serious, foreign, exotic, probably middle-eastern? The Udjat tattooed under her right eye seemed to confirm it somehow. But where exactly did Genji get this girl? Enough. Angela took a deep breath and kept moving forward.

‘Chin up, stare at the car and walk as powerful as you are’.

She stopped at the gate one last time to say goodbye to her husband. The young man was going to kiss her in the mouth, but Angela turned her head a little and kissed his cheek instead. She was not in the mood for one of those. The tall girl opened the back door of the car and Angela went inside immediately, sitting elegantly with her ankles crossed and her hands resting in her lap, always looking straight ahead. Her new bodyguard sat in front of the steering wheel and both left the suburbs quietly.

Angela was very uncomfortable. Previously she had a driver, but when she began to feel watched, she stopped using that service and started driving her own car. It felt nice for quite a year, until it was ruined and she was somewhat forced to have a bodyguard every time she left home. The car was rocking gently and that seemed to complement her thoughts. She wanted to cry, she wanted to scream, she wanted to curse every idiot who made this possible. She wanted to curse herself. Angela ordered the driving girl to stop for a coffee before arriving at the hospital. She needed that vital fluid to survive the day. Alcohol in the morning was not an option just because it was of bad taste, otherwise...

The doctor pointed to her parking space and they stopped, again the door was opened and Angela descended elegantly, walking a little faster than normal, but was immediately reached by this girl. She huffed and went up the elevator to the fourth floor to get to her office. This shadow was beginning to become annoying and it was just starting. As soon as the doors opened, fortunately she saw a familiar face, and Mei came running to her to engulf her in an embrace so kind it almost hurt.

“Angela! I’m very happy that you are here. How do you feel? Are you sure you're good to work?” Angela smiled despite her misery.

“I'm feeling better, Mei. Thank you. Can we go to my office? There are several things that I would like to know about.”

“Of course!” A shadow was cast on Mei, and the quirky girl turned to see this tall frightening woman looking everywhere. “Uhm… Is she with you?”

Angela looked in the same direction, and then at Mei, shaking her head. "She is just a momentary companion." Both doctors walked to Angela's office, but her new bodyguard, as expected, followed them, and that bothered Angela even though she knew it was not her fault. She turned around and looked at the stranger in the eyes, pleading silently, but when the woman raised an eyebrow, she decided to be more direct. “Could you give us some privacy, please?”

The bodyguard looked at the open door and without waiting to be invited, she came in, looking around probably to make sure there were no windows or doors through which the doctor could suffer an altercation. Satisfied, she nodded and left the office, leaning immediately next to the door with her arms crossed. Angela rolled her eyes and invited Mei to her office, closing the door and sitting in her chair while massaging her temples.

“Okay… Who is she?”

“…A bodyguard.”

“A bodyguard? Are you still in danger? Oh God… Have you been threatened again?” Mei seemed to worry by the second, and Angela had to speak quickly before the poor girl freaked out completely.

“No, Mei. Genji hired her for me. I consider it unnecessary, but it was this or not leaving the house at all…”

“So, Genji was-“

“Let’s leave it at that, okay?” Angela smiled sadly, and Mei seemed to get the message, so she just nodded and decided to change the subject.

“She seems… Nice?”

“I don’t know her, this is her first day.”

“Oh. Well, at least you should know her name. It’s not bad that you have a bodyguard, after what happened with Dr. Korpal, the patient and your assassination attempt... I don’t think it’s that crazy after all.”

“Neither do I. I'm not worried about having a bodyguard, I'm worried about who hired her.”

“Ah…” There was an uncomfortable silence for a few seconds as Angela took a sip of her coffee and looked at the cup with little interest, as if reading the ingredients could clear it a little. “I’m worried, Angela… All of this is very suspicious. The police don’t say anything, the media seems to have been blinded, and we, the remaining doctors are afraid of our own safety. It’s not unusual for us to see the results of the outcomes with the mafia in our emergency rooms. But a doctor? Never. They never messed with the medical staff…”

Mei despite being worried all the time, she was an intelligent woman. Her suspicions were regularly based on facts, and that made her worry even more. It was her nature. Angela nodded, she totally agreed with her. Her position as the wife of a mafia son put her in constant danger, but she was always respected for her contributions in the medical field. It was honor among thieves, she could say, and Angela silently thanked the support. What didn’t fit was why they attacked her and a fellow surgeon. Dr. Sanjay Korpal had no relationship with any mafia whatsoever, he was an exceptional doctor with a family that loved him dearly; a wife and two children, from whom they took their father and husband in one night. What a pity.

“Right… I must take back the reins of my life. I cannot let fear keep me tied in my hands and feet.”

“Of course. I'll let you start working then. That girl looks very young... But she doesn’t look bad person. Maybe you should give it a try.”

For a moment Angela forgot about the strange girl standing outside the door of her office. “Oh, that’s right. Would you be so kind to let her in?"

“Sure, Angela. See you at lunchtime.”

The Chinese doctor said goodbye with a cheerful smile and a wave of her hand. The door closed for a few seconds only to reopen and give way to her bodyguard. The word still made her frown, but she had to take into account her friend's suggestion. Angela invited the girl to sit down in front of her with a gesture of her hand, and she promptly obeyed. She was so serious, so strange, but at the same time, so… Interesting. Angela just wanted to unlock her for a strange reason. But it was more important to regain control of her freedom.

“I'll pay you twice the amount of whatever Genji offered you to stop following me.” This girl frowned by the bribe, and that seemed even more interesting. Definitely should be thinking. Angela had money, a lot of money, and whatever Genji was willing to pay for something, she could also pay for it. But when this mysterious girl raised an eyebrow again and shook her head, Angela was really surprised. “So what can I offer you? You must want something, everyone wants something.” And yet, another shook of her head. Not a word, not a falter, no sign of surrender.

Honestly, who was this girl?

Angela huffed and frowned, she was not in the right mood that morning. “Fine. At least give me your name.”

“Pharah.” There, finally a word.

“Pharah… A real name perhaps?”

“That’s all you need to know about me.” She was blunt and sure of herself, she had to admit it.

“If you are going to work for me, I should know more about you. You will know much more than what many expect to see from me in their life, and I think it’s only fair.” Pharah pondered for a moment, but she gave in eventually. So, she wasn’t that unbreakable.

“I don’t work for Genji.”

“Pardon?”

“I work for Helix, and Helix works for Genji. So what you or him offer me must be through my intermediary. I want it to be clear: I work under contract and under the Helix guidelines, not those of your husband or his family. If you feel in danger in any case, I'm here to protect you. That’s my duty, and that’s all you need to know.”

Angela was wrong, she is unbreakable after all. But somehow, that seemed to ease her worry a little. So this girl didn’t work for the Shimada family, but for the Helix Security International agency. The company was globally recognized for its effectiveness, and its honor was almost impeccable. Genji mentioned having gone to Helix, but the doctor still didn’t create the link between that visit and this girl. Now everything made sense. She had to make some calls before making another decision, but for the moment, she was satisfied.

“Very well. If you'll excuse me, I'll continue working. Shall I need you, I'll call you, Pharah.”

Pharah nodded and left the office without further ado. It would definitely be a long day and she was not exactly in the mood to continue with a normal working day. Not today, maybe not tomorrow, nor the next week. But at least she should try.


Three weeks had elapsed since her return to the hospital, and even though Pharah was following her wherever she went, silent as a tomb and immovable as a rock, Angela began to feel a little comfortable around her bodyguard. She appreciated the silence and the distant company made her feel watched in a good way. Genji regularly made very bad decisions, but for the first time it seemed that he had done the right thing.

Angela was standing in front of the mirror in her room trying to put on some pink quartz earrings. She wore an elegant long pale pink dress with several lace details that fit perfectly to her body. Her hair was elegantly adorned with a flower brooch, a few strands fell over her face, framing her delicate features, and her make-up consisted of golds, roses and neutral colors. Today was Sojiro Shimada’s birthday, her father-in-law, and as expected, a banquet would be held at the Shimada residence. She should dress in the best she had in her wardrobe or she would not fit at all. Genji simply wore a black suit with a tie of the same color, his hair as disheveled and spiky as ever, and he never looked away from his cell phone. Angela sighed, she didn’t know if she was dealing with a teenager at this point.

For her good -or bad- luck, Pharah wouldn’t escort her this time. Genji would be with her all the time and the girl's service was unnecessary. The Shimada mansion was huge, traditional and beautiful: it looked more like a Japanese castle than a traditional oriental house. Angela knew that if everything went according to Genji's plan that would be their home in the future. The doctor frowned at the thought of that, she preferred a decent apartment in the city center or a small three-bedroom house in a quiet neighborhood. Not that.

Both were greeted cheerfully by the patriarch of the family, and Angela soon congratulated Sojiro with a bow and two kisses on the cheek. The older man accepted it gratefully and invited the couple to the main dining room where the banquet would take place. Once everyone was seated, with Sojiro in the middle, Genji on his right and Hanzo, the older brother, on the left, started the feast. An innumerable amount of food was brought to the table among the dozens of guests, and everyone began to taste the exquisite menu prepared meticulously with the best quality ingredients by the best hands that the city could offer.

After a spectacular dinner, all were invited to the main hall where they would have a dance with live music. The sound of the violins, piano, saxophone and the sweet voice of an elegant woman invited their guests to the dance floor for a decadent dance. Angela definitely didn’t want to dance, and not because she wasn’t good, but because she didn’t have the strength after smiling for hours and pretending her perfect relationship with the heir of the Shimada family. However, Genji took her out to dance and she only had to endure the ballad.

Fortunately Genji got bored quickly, and took his phone to make a call and retire to who knows where. Angela did not care, and went to the terrace, taking her big white coat and covering from the chill wind of that cold autumn night. The mansion had one of the best views of the city, building it on a hill definitely had its advantages. The doctor leaned on the railing, watching the lights of the city shine under the stars, when a person joined her loneliness.

“That miserable, angel?”

Hanzo was Genji’s older and only brother he had, and although he looked a thousand times more serious and intimidating, he was an absolute darling with Angela. His features were similar to those of Genji, except that Hanzo was a little taller, had long hair shaved from the sides and held in a ponytail, he had a pronounced beard to match as well. She had to admit she even felt more connected to him than to Genji, she would even have chosen to marry the firstborn of the Shimada if she had to balance the scale, but because Hanzo was gay she immediately tossed the idea.

He didn’t seem gay at all, he acted like every other straight man, except that it was just another man who stole his heart. He left his preferences aside from the world, and it was sad, because when Sojiro learned of his sexual preference, he stripped him of any inheritance, and Genji became the first on the list. In spite of everything that both Angela and Hanzo have had to endure with the Shimada family, that seemed to unite them, and Angela found a brother and a confidant in him, and Hanzo seemed to demonstrate the same.

“That miserable, yes…”

“So, a bodyguard.”

“Oh yes… Your brother really takes care of his girls.” Angela pointed the pluralism. She had the suspicion- No. She knew that Genji was having an affair, but even when having proof she was anyone.

“Let him be. How are you? Better?”

“Apparently. Your brother hired this girl-”

“A girl?”

“Yes. She must be in her early twenties. She is an excellent bodyguard, I must admit, however I still don’t trust her. She works for Helix, that's why I called you days ago.”

“Ah.” Hanzo returned his sight to the panoramic view of the city before speaking again. “So you want me to ask him for his opinion.”

“Yes, if you don’t mind, of course.” Hanzo hummed, seeming to think about it, but what he asked after was something that Angela definitely didn’t expect.

“Let me guess… Is she the Egyptian girl?”

“…How did you know?”

“I’ve heard about her. She has only been praised by the directors of Helix. She has an impressive lineage and her skills surpass those of many, not to mention that she is extremely dedicated, loyal and with a great sense of justice.”

“Oh…” Hanzo placed a hand on Angela's shoulder, and the doctor saw him in his deep black eyes staring back.

“But let me tell you something, Angela: Genji was a fool to choose her.” Angela flinched for a moment before asking Hanzo what was all that about.

“Pardon? Why?”

“Because that girl would beat up Genji if he even dared to put a finger on you. He’s stupid, she’s loyal, and I think that’s all you need to know.”

“I-I see…”

The sound of heels distracted them from their conversation, and when they looked to the right they saw this impressive woman. Beautiful, thin, tall, a whole specimen in the food chain that was this life of luxury and status. Her slim figure was wrapped in a classic purple dress with diamond throughout the fabric, her long black hair was in a high ponytail and fell gracefully on her bare back. She held a long cigarette holder which she occasionally gave a drag, blowing the smoke into the sky. Her look was seductive and arrogant, and that made her even the more attractive. A performer, a ballerina, a first class artist with impressive skills. Amelie -Gerard Lacroix's wife- was definitely a woman to fear.

“What are you doing here alone? I get bored inside without company.” Her French accent was thick, but that seemed to add even more sexuality to her person.

“Having a talk with this angel. Where’s Gerard?”

“Talking to some business “friends”. The man cannot let pass up an opportunity to every event that we attend. What about you, where’s your boytoy?”

“For that comment I will stop going to your performances.”

“I know you will not, you go every week and I'll keep waiting for you every Thursday in the front row, darling.” There was a round of laughter shared between the two serious and intimidating people, something weird to see. Angela felt a little out of place, to be honest, but it seemed that Amelie quickly caught the change of mood in Angela. “How are you feeling, Angela? Better since the car incident?”

“Oh, yes. Definitely better, thank you.”

“You are lost in the clouds, Dr. Ziegler.”

“I wish I was up there, to be honest.”

“It’s not good to wish for it, because one day it can be fulfilled, and that day you can regret it.” Amelie was curious, at first glance it didn’t show, but as she unfolded more in front of her and Hanzo, Angela felt a little more comfortable. “Look at us, for example. We are no longer in power, we are the trash and the shadow of those who are at the top. We are trophies, except for this fool.”

“Impressive how you look like a bitch, but you’re an adoration.” Hanzo smirked when he spoke.

“Oh, stop it, you. You’ll make me feel something.”

There was another round of laughter and this time Angela joined her. She definitely adored Amelie as well, and she was a close friend as of lately. Refined, elegant, dangerous, but above all, Hanzo and she trusted her. At this point, what she needed the most was friends. Hanzo was direct and honest, and with Angela he had no filters. The eldest of the Shimada brothers instilled respect, and for her it was more than that, it was security. And this woman looked identical to him in matters of personality, a little contrasting to Angela’s overly sensitive one.

“Anyway.” Hanzo was the first to speak again. “This angel right here and I were talking about her new recruited bodyguard. I know you're addicted to them, Amelie, is something you want to tell her?” The French woman put a finger to her cheek and looked thoughtful before speaking and looking into Angela's eyes with a raised eyebrow.

“Who’s your bodyguard?”

“The Egyptian girl from Helix.” Hanzo clarified.

“Oh! Ana’s daughter then!”

“Ana’s daughter…?”

“Ana worked with Gerard for years. The woman was incredible, I even had the honor to see her in action. She was reliable, dedicated, very, very agile and strong, and let me tell you that she handles a weapon like any other person I have ever seen in my life. Sometimes she took her daughter to the company, and the girl seemed just as interesting as her. If it's a hint of how Ana was, then you're in good hands, darling.”

“Oh…”

“I think it’s settled. Still, do you want me to find out more about her?”

“No, I think that’s all I need to know.”

Angela shook her head and smiled sideways, accepting Hanzo's words of encouragement. Suddenly, someone called her name, and Angela turned to see the source of the voice. It was Genji who was fast approaching her. Both Amelie and Hanzo frowned slightly, and their intimidating public persona returned. Amelie cleared her throat enough for her and Hanzo to listen, and Angela turned around. Amelie barely whispered, but that was enough.

“If he ever does something to you… Don’t hesitate in giving me or Hanzo a call.”

Angela considered that there were already too many red flags, but for some reason she decided to continue ignoring them. The most obvious reason was that she feared for her safety, and it was a valid reason. Genji came to her side and took her roughly by the hand, almost dragging her across the ballroom until she got to the side of Sojiro, who was talking to two other people allegedly of the Shimada family as well. The attitude of her husband would be seen as aggressive and territorial if it wasn’t because he was smiling, and Angela out of fear, she did too. Genji bowed to his father and Angela imitated him. Sojiro quickly received them before dismissing the two companions.

“Did you want to see us, father?” At least that was salvageable from Genji, the incredible and infinite respect he had for his father. Fictitious or not, it looked incomparable.

“Yes, of course. Sit down." Sojiro sat on a sofa and Genji and Angela sat together in another, waiting patiently for the patriarch to speak again. “Genji, you know you're the first heir in line since Hanzo's shameful decision. You have done an excellent job, you make me proud. You have maintained a good reputation, you are still involved in business, and you married a beautiful woman, not to mention that she is a world-renowned and talented doctor, independent and strong.” Angela smiled at the compliment, Genji in the same way. “I think there's only one thing left before you can inherit the Shimada Empire.”

“Yes, father?”

“I want the lineage to continue growing, it is necessary, and fortunately, you chose an excellent woman to do so. We need more heirs. I think after two years of marriage it's time for you to have children, don’t you think?”

There was a short silence in which Angela felt they were like years. Her blood froze and an incredible chill ran through her from head to toe. No, she didn’t want that. She didn’t want children now. Not with Genji. And she was almost certain that she couldn’t even-

“Of course, father. It seems like a good time to start. Don’t you think, honey?”

Angela wanted to say no, but she didn’t move. Her eyes, her mouth, her throat, her body, did not respond, and she stared at a blank spot for a long time. When she finally regained a little of her consciousness, Sojiro had already left and only Genji remained. Angela blinked the sudden mental numbness and looked at Genji about to leave with a hint of panic.

“W-what happened?”

“We'd better start working at once.” Angela rose abruptly from the sofa.

“No, Genji. I don’t want children. I’m not ready yet, it’s not the time-!”

“-It’s not your choice anymore, Angela.”

And without further ado, Genji left, leaving a terrified Angela in the ball room. The doctor sat back slowly on the couch, her legs trembling and her arms the same. She could swear she was hyperventilating a little, and her eyes quickly filled with tears. She couldn’t believe that this was happening. In reality, the red flags continued and kept appearing in her life, and the worst thing is that they didn’t seem to stop.

Flag after flag, they kept appearing.


One week later and Pharah waited for her outside of her residence as every day of work. They stopped in the same coffee shop to pick up some black coffee and go to the hospital. It was a rather common routine and a bit boring, but Pharah didn’t seem bored at all, she continued with her usual calm and intimidating attitude at the same time. After that conversation with Hanzo, Angela relaxed visibly in the presence of the girl, and it seemed that each day she learned something new from her. For example, she moved her foot when listening to music. Or she ate her lunch while standing up, maybe to avoid losing less time.

She also found that Pharah had an excellent etiquette for being a bodyguard: she was respectful toward others, understood other cultures, knew her manners at the table, addressed herself appropriately to those superior and inferior to her, dressed correctly, and the most curious thing was that she knew how to speak despite being so quiet. Extremely respectful was this young woman. With Genji, however, she only nodded once in a while when he spoke to her, and that was weird.

However, that sense of deprivation of liberty returned to Angela when Pharah refused to leave her office. The girl knew something she didn’t and was not willing to tell her what it was. She decided to leave it as such and worked on her computer for hours, but that pair of black eyes never stopped settling on her, and she was beginning to feel harassed to a certain extent. Angela challenged her with her gaze several times, but Pharah remained immovable. She was so done. A knock on her door startled both women, and Angela felt relief.

“Come in.”

Only for a moment.

“What's taking you too long to- oh. This is still here? I thought you would have fired her eons ago.” Moira arrogantly entered the office, and Angela saw how Pharah flinched a millimeter.

That is a she, and she has a name.”

“I couldn’t care less.”

“Moira-”

“The samples are reacting to serum 037 and you are here playing secretary. Bravo.”

“I’m analyzing the 038 serum equations, not "playing secretary". Also, I have to perform surgery in half an hour. If you cannot see that, you better get out of here.”

“Do as you wish, but that serum has my name on it.” Moira scoffed and closed the door hastily.

Silence filled the room once more. It lingered uncomfortably in the air for a few minutes, until Angela couldn’t take it anymore. Her breath hitched and her fists clenched tightly, her nails left crescent marks on the palm of her hands forcibly, her knuckles were white from the pressure, and Angela really couldn’t take it anymore. Her shoulders trembled as she began to sob, and for a moment she saw the panic in Pharah’s eyes, but she didn’t care anymore. The damage was done and she was more than fed up with everyone. She rose abruptly from her chair, wiping the endless tears from her face with her arms, suppressing the desire to scream and throw everything to the floor. She walked from side to side like a caged lion while pressing her head with both hands to subdue the strong migraine.

“Why can’t I have a sense of peace for a moment?!” Angela looked fiercely at Pharah, her eyes were red and the tears kept streaming down her flushed face. “First Genji, then Moira, and now you! I don’t care who you work for, you all are depriving me from my independence, my freedom, my privacy! You all! God, just…! Why won’t you leave me alone?!”

“Because you are in danger.” Pharah said simply, and even when her voice was calm, that seemed to spark the anger in Angela even more.

“I am not in danger! Stop saying that! I’ve been more than fine this past weeks-!”

“You have been threatened more than a couple of times in the last week. There have been two vehicles following us every morning and afternoon. You are in danger, stop pretending that you are not.”

“Can I at least have my office so I can v-vent out properly?! Just… Just go. Please, leave me alone for a moment, I’m begging you…”

Those last broken words seemed to change something in Pharah’s attitude, and the girl quickly analyzed her possibilities. At the end, she nodded wearily and left to leave the doctor for a while with her thoughts. As soon as the door closed, Angela dropped to the floor on her knees, hugging her legs and crying silently in her lap. All this was horrible, it was unbelievable, and it just seemed like this was just the beginning.

Chapter Text

IV

And I took a step forward

 

The last week was a living hell.

Fareeha never believed that this work was going to exhaust her mentally. Physically perhaps, but never on a psychological level. It was exhausting. The doctor had more erratic emotional moments and they seem to increase as time goes by. Some days she was a sweet caring woman, others she wanted to kill half the world, and others simply didn’t speak a single word at all. It was hard to read her, but Fareeha attributed it to the fact that living within the Shimada family had a lot to do with it. And after seeing a bit of Genji occasionally, it only confirmed her suspicions more. He was a first-class imbecile, and with money and time, it only encouraged him even more.

Her work demanded discretion, remain silent and to do her job without more. Don’t assume, don’t act unkindly, simply be a bulletproof vest: immovable and emotionless but useful altogether. That was her purpose in Helix and in this mission. The pay was amazing at least. After a month she was able to gather enough to buy a motorcycle and modify it with the help of Brigitte in the Lindholm workshop. Fareeha helped her mother to pay some debts and even thanked her with a tea set imported from Egypt for her birthday. Her mother deserved the world at this point. The hardest thing, however, would be to tell Ana that she accepted Jesse's proposal to move into his apartment and be his roommate.

She would definitely miss her mother's blessing every morning before leaving home.

Her tattoo, however, was in honor of the powerful Ana Amari, and wherever she was, her mother would always accompany her and protect her. That was for sure. Her mother lives in her.

It seemed that Angela had other plans this day, because the doctor wanted to have brunch in a dainty restaurant near the hospital where she was accompanied by two other people: a tall and beautiful woman and a so serious Asian man. Maybe they were very good friends with the doctor, because Angela didn’t smile like that since... Fareeha doesn’t even remember having seen her that cheerful. But for the better, maybe that would help her to clear her mind a little from the incredible wave of violence that has been present lately towards other doctors in the world. Another surgeon was murdered two days ago: his throat was sliced and was left bleeding in front of the doors of a restaurant.

Fareeha didn’t want to be negative, but her position demanded to be anticipated for the worst, and she wondered when the second blow to Angela would be. Several times returning in the evening -and even going to the hospital in the morning- a car followed them, and Fareeha had to take more crowded streets in order to mix better in the traffic. She hated it, and Angela also seemed to get upset, but it didn’t matter. It worked. Sometimes she felt that the doctor had a certain hatred towards her, and it was a bit sad honestly, because she never had a similar job, but she tried to be empathetic. That afternoon in an outburst of anger the doctor told her to go somewhere else, yelling at her, crying and complaining why they didn't leave her alone. Fareeha felt her heart sink for a moment before regaining her composure and try to calm her down without losing her firmness. If Angela wanted some space, Fareeha would discreetly give it to her when she could.

And here she was, sitting four booths away from her, enough to see her perfectly and also give her the necessary privacy not to hear her so she could had a pleasant conversation with these two strange people. Fareeha was dressed a little more casual this time. Jeans and a black turtleneck worked, but not without her usual black jacket which had the function of hiding her holster and weapon. The coffee cup she ordered was finally brought, and she thanked the waitress with a unique smile. She took a sip of the warm drink and hummed in delight when the warmth reached her throat. It was freaking cold outside and she hated it.

An hour passed by and, for the first time in ages, Angela didn’t seem upset or disturbed. She kept smiling and laughing, she was happy, and that made Fareeha swell with joy for some reason too. It was stupid to deny that there was an invisible link that connected her to the doctor, perhaps because Fareeha saw her in a moment of weakness and felt empathy with her, or maybe something else, but there was definitely something here. Angela stood up as did her other two companions, and they all said their goodbyes with a kiss on the cheek. Fareeha got up in the same way, leaving aside the newspaper she was flipping through for half an hour and nodded when Angela walked towards her, putting on her coat again before leaving the restaurant.

“Thanks for waiting for me.”

Angela smiled at her before entering the car, and that gesture was enough for Fareeha's heart to skip a beat. That’s a new one. Even stranger, this time Angela asked her to drive her back home. It was weird at some point, it was barely one o'clock in the afternoon, but the almost day off was well appreciated. Fortunately it was Saturday, and that meant tomorrow's day free. But even better, Monday was her birthday and her friends wanted to celebrate at Reinhardt’s tomorrow. That gesture from the doctor, however, counted as an indirect birthday gift to her, and Fareeha tried to stifle the stupid smile all the way to the doctor's residence.


“I’m home!” Fareeha shouted from the front door waiting for her mother's response. She took off her jacket, unfastened the holster and left the gun on the small table next to the door.

“So soon?” Ana appeared by the kitchen door, wiping her hands with a rag while looking curiously at her daughter. “You’ve been out for three hours at most. Something happened?”

“The doctor only thought of going to a restaurant to eat with two friends. It seemed strange to me at first, but it doesn’t matter because I get paid per day. Even better for me.”

“Oh. Well, I guess that's good.”

Her mother looked a little strange, indecisive, something strange in the always confident Ana Amari, but what Fareeha had to confess to her mother surpassed all doubt. Hastily she sat on the sofa, putting her feet up on the coffee table and pulling her cell phone out of her jeans to check the last messages her friends sent. Plans for tomorrow, a stupid video that Jesse sent, work, work, spam, and more work whatsoever. Her mother came into the living room and put a cup of tea in front of her as she slapped hard her legs so Fareeha would take them off the table, and the girl obeyed. Ana sat on the couch in front of her and took a sip of her beverage.

“How’s work?” Ana finally asked, something weird in the way she did it.

“Mostly fine. Why do you ask?

“I’m worrisome.”

“Ah.” Fareeha took a sip of her tea a swell. Maybe that would give her enough courage to tell her mother. “Mom, there's something I’ve meaning to tell you…” Ana set the cup on the table and stared at Fareeha with a frown.

“For the Gods, Fareeha… Don’t you tell me you are pregnant.”

“What?! No! O-of course not!” Fareeha panicked. Her mother sometimes made the cruelest of comments when least expected. “N-nothing of that, mom…”

“Then what is it?” She swallowed thick, that was it.

“Well, Jesse offered me months ago to move with him and become independent, you know, and I thought about accepting his offer at the end...”

“So… You are moving out.”

“Y-yes…” Fareeha stuttered, she couldn’t find the easy way to tell her mother. But when Ana sighed, taking a sip of her tea and looked calmly into her eyes, there she knew that something was out of the ordinary, and her suspicions came true when she spoke.

“Well, that leaves me more easy then.”

“…What do you mean?” Ana sighed, and that was it.

“I received an invitation from the Egyptian Army. They require me for training new recruits... And I accepted.”

“What?”

“I'm not going to lie to you, Fareeha. These years that I have been retired I have felt useless. I have nothing to do when I still have a lot to give. I don’t intend to return to the battlefield however, but this opportunity to pass my knowledge to new generations is an excellent form to do something positive with my life. And you moving in with Jesse just leaves me satisfied, someone will take care of you and watch when I cannot. It’s perfect.”

Fareeha sank on the couch processing her mother's words. She was sad, sure, of course, it was normal. But she was happier for her mother. Fareeha got up, set the cup of tea on the table and sat down next to her mother, wrapping her in a hug that was almost terrifying.

“Are you upset?” Ana asked while stroking her dark strands of hair.

“No, no. Far from it, I’m very happy for you. It only saddens me that I will not see you for so long… But I’m happy, mom.”

“I’m glad…” Ana’s eyes filled with unshed tears, and she slapped Fareeha's arm fiercely only to make the girl laugh. “How troublesome you are to make this woman cry.”

“Don’t blame me, you raised me.”

“Fair enough.”

“When are you leaving?”

“Sadly, tomorrow morning. I’m going to miss your birthday.”

“Ah… Well, what can you do? It's just another birthday, right?” Fareeha smiled. She didn’t really care much, she was beginning to enter that stage when birthdays were just another date where she drank like a Viking and ate like a pig. Just like another Friday night but more focused on her. But Ana once again slapped her arm.

“For me it is as if you were turning one year old with each birthday. So no, it’s not “just another birthday”, Fareeha. However, I have an early present for you.”

“Really, now?”

“Here. Happy birthday, baby.”

Ana reached her arm down the couch and pulled out a somewhat large box wrapped in a beautiful yellow paper with a blue ribbon. She extended the gift to Fareeha with a knowing glance and the girl almost jumped in her seat while tearing the paper apart. Inside the box was a small suitcase, and when she opened it, her eyes lit up and she almost stopped breathing for a moment. A new gun -a Walther P99 with silencer- tucked tightly in the firm foam of the suitcase along a couple more accesories.

“Many parents would see this as an insane gift for their barely-adult daughter, but for the Amari it is an honor.”

“Oh fuck…”

“Language.”

“Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck…!” Now Fareeha was really jumping on the couch, grabbing the gun in her hands and pressing it firmly to her chest as she kept screaming obscenities. “No shit! Is this seriously mine!?”

“Yours and only yours. Do you think I would let you walk with that crap of a glock Gabriel gave you? Such idiot to let my daughter that insult of a weapon.”

“Thank you, mom! Thank you so, so much!” Fareeha hugged her so hard she almost took the air out of her mother. Ana patted her on the back to let her go. It worked.

“You’re welcome. And stop jumping on my couch, you're going to break it.”

“Sorry.”

“So, when are you moving out?”

“Ah, right... Well, I was thinking about next week, but since you’re leaving tomorrow I think the best thing would be to start today and finish tomorrow.”

“That seems ideal.”

“I’ll call Jesse then. And mom…”

“Yes?”

Fareeha hugged her again with great force, both falling to the floor in a round of laughter while Ana fought with her on teasing body combat. She was not that old to give a proper fight to her daughter, and she showed it when she had Fareeha face pinned down on the floor with both her arms crossed behind her back and her mother straddling her body with a victorious grin. She was Ana Amari after all, a living legend and her mother, who she was going to miss so much.


Saturday afternoon was fruitful after having had the day off. Fareeha moved a few belongings from her mother's house to Jesse's apartment, her new home. The building was not as elegant as her mother's, nor was it in an extravagant neighborhood, but it was definitely good. It was near downtown on a busy street. Cars and more vehicles passed by constantly, it wasn’t secluded and on the ground floor of the building were a flower shop and a dry cleaner, both quiet places. The place had a small corridor with a door which Fareeha used to store her new motorcycle. It seemed perfect so far.

Maybe making the exception that her roommate would be Jesse McCree.

The next morning she went to leave her mother at the airport. Despite the suffocating embrace, none wanted to let the other go. She’ll return in a few months, Ana assured her, and after leaving Fareeha the instructions of caring for her house, her plants and checking the mail, she gave her one last hug to disappear by the boarding gates. Fareeha smiled sadly, but on the other hand she felt that a new stage of independence would finally begin. She had never been so far away from her mother, and that was frightening and exciting at the same time.

Fortunately the day passed quickly and the night fell with a dark blanket covering the sky. Fareeha was at Eichenwalde's with her friends. Jesse, Brigitte, Olivia, Lena and even her girlfriend Emily were sitting at a large round table. The bottles of alcohol seemed to never end, and Fareeha tried not to overreach her consumption for she had to work tomorrow morning. However, seeing her friends on the verge of embarrassment was a delight she was not willing to miss.

“Reeha! Reeha! We got you a present!” Lena yelled in her unique British accent as she handed her a wrinkly wrapped box with newspaper, most likely by her, but the intention was what counted.

“Aw, how thoughtful of you!”

“Open it! Open it!”

“Fine!” Lena tried to contain the laughter, but it was in vain. Emily just scolded her with a smile, also amused by whatever it was that contained the box. When Fareeha opened it she knew why, and joined in the laughter. “Who the fuck dares to give me a dildo?! Jesse’s going to steal it from me!”

“Hey, that offends me! I don’t use those cheap craps, thank you very much!”

“Go suck a dick!”

“Well, definitely not that one!”

The table was filled with laughter in a comfortable drunk conversation about sex and so on. The live band contributed to the pleasant atmosphere and Reinhardt's laughter filled the bar with a warm familiar feeling. Reinhardt was like everyone's favorite uncle, and he definitely saw all the visitors as his nephews, giving them alcohol behind their parents' backs. They all went out to dance immediately after the band played a catchy hit song, and only Fareeha and Brigitte remained on the table. Both were too tomboyish to go dancing.

“Mom baked you some apple pie, I'll leave it in your apartment tomorrow after you leave work.”

“Oh that’s great, I love Ingrid’s baking. How is she? I mean, with the news that my mother went to Egypt.”

“Don’t worry, she'll be fine. My mother is very positive tho.”

“That is true.”

Both took a sip of their drink before Brigitte spoke again. “How are you doing with the doctor?”

“She’s… This has definitely been the hardest job I have ever had in my life. Not even the army can take that away from me.”

“Wow harsh. That difficult?”

“I mean, I'm not supposed to talk about my work or my clients, it's confidential. But I can only say that I feel very sorry for the doctor...” Fareeha stared intently at the half-drunk glass of beer, watching the bubbles emerge from the bottom of the glass. It wasn’t normal for her to feel sorry or pity for a client, it wasn’t her style to get attached. Wait, was she really getting attached to her? No, of course not. Brigitte called her waving her hand in front of Fareeha’s face, and the girl laughed nervously. “Sorry, I'm rambling.”

“Don’t worry, but you do have a lot in your head. I understand somewhat, she’s the wife of that asshole of Genji Shimada, and I suppose it is "normal" for her to live a miserable life? I don’t know, I think it would be in your same position if I saw what you did.”

“Right…” Every time she thought about it the most, she felt an incredible emptiness inside her. Angela should have everything, she should be happy, she deserved the world for her accomplishments and her work. She was a self-sufficient, independent, strong, kind, disinterested, beautiful person. God, oh so beautiful. How could that idiot waste that specimen of a woman? Her slender body, her golden hair, hers piercing blue eyes, her plump lips... What the hell was in this beer?

“Fareeha?”

“Shit, sorry…”

“You are daydreaming…”

“No, I’m drunk…”

“We’re all drunk here.”

Brigitte approached her on the table, staring into her deep black eyes. For the first time in a long time, she frowned and looked away. What was happening to her?

“I’m sorry, I gotta go…”

Fareeha took her belongings and left a couple bills on the table before escaping from the bar. Fortunately, she didn’t need to drive, the new apartment was only a couple blocks away. Fareeha put on her leather jacket as soon as she left the noisy place. It was very windy outside and it was as cold as a freezer. She only managed to cross the street when her stomach turned upside down and she retched on the sidewalk behind a trashcan. So that was it. After walking awkwardly for a few minutes and trying to insert the key into the lock, she finally went to the bathroom and threw up some more, gripping tightly the edge of the toilet like her life depended on it.

She saw herself in the mirror once she finished throwing up. Her eyes were red, her face flushed and there was drool coming out of the corner of her mouth. She didn’t need to see that image now, it was shameful. Fareeha brushed her teeth as best she could manage and finally threw herself on her bed face down. Her head was stinging incredibly, and it just seemed to be the beginning. What was worse was that it was midnight and tomorrow she had to take Angela early to the hospital, which meant getting up at five in the morning. Her birthday would start in the worst way.

‘Gods, have mercy on me…’


"Wake up, sunshine!” Jesse shouted from the door frame of her new bedroom. The man was in boxers and a T-shirt, at least he dressed decently to wake her up. Fareeha grunted and sat down regretfully on her bed, rubbing her face with her hand as she frowned at Jesse. “Happy birthday, Reeha!”

“Thanks…”

“Why don’t you take a shower while I make you birthday pancakes?” Jesse pointed at her up and down, signaling her clothes. “You look like shit. You are wearing the same clothes as last night, shoes and all.”

“Right…”

Fareeha had to agree with Jesse this time. She was grossly disheveled. Her matted hair and smeared makeup didn’t help. She made a beeline to the bathroom, turning on the shower at the coldest temperature there was. She undressed awkwardly and once she went inside the shower, she screamed so loud that she almost scared herself, but that worked to wake her up and lower her headache a little. Trying to remember last night was a nightmare, her head seemed to warn her not to do it. She wrapped herself in a towel once she finished the shower and put on her usual black suit and white shirt she had to wear as a bodyguard for Helix. She didn’t remember when she sat on one of the four chairs of the dining room table, but she remembers the smell of coffee and bacon wake up her stomach.

“I can’t make pancakes, so I just made eggs and bacon. Look, I even made you a happy face.”

On the plate were a couple of eggs and a long strip of bacon forming a deformed face. Fareeha laughed appreciatively of her friend's gesture, and took a mouthful of breakfast and a sip from the black coffee. At least Jesse knew how to cook decently. Suddenly, something pierced her neck.

“...Jesse, what time is it?”

“Uh… Five thirty.”

“Shit, it’s late!”

Fareeha got up from the table and jammed the rest of the breakfast savagely in her mouth, trying to pass it down with a drink of coffee. She took her new gun, holster, jacket and backpack and disappeared through the door of the apartment. Jesse sighed, maybe it would be a daily situation. Fortunately she had her bike and driving to the suburbs would be faster than taking the bus. She hated using her bike to go to work, she didn’t like to be associated with something, but at this point it was too late.

It seemed that the traffic was getting worse by the minute. The streets were crowded with cars, possibly those who like her were late. It didn’t matter. She drove between the cars, climbing even to some sidewalks and taking advantage of each traffic light to hurry even more to reach the doctor's residence. If she was late, maybe she would be beheaded. Fareeha swallowed heavily, it wasn’t an option to die of such ridiculous way. She arrived at the house in record time, and Angela's car was already on the street ready to be taken. However, the doctor was also outside watching her insistently and moving her foot. Too late. Fareeha clumsily parked the bike and gave the keys to the guard who was waiting next to the doctor. Angela frowned and looked at her deeply. It was definitely a bad sign.

“You are forthy minutes late, which means I am forthy minutes late.”

“I apologize, it’s completely my fault-”

“Of course it is.” Angela got in the car and closed the door without waiting for Fareeha. The girl sighed in surrender. Yes, it was going to be an eternal day.


 

The day passed quietly, but unfortunately Angela seemed to be more irritated than usual. Fareeha attributed it to her unpunctuality, she was unprofessional and had no excuse for such a slip. Not even the fact that it was her birthday. Angela was absent most of the time, she had to perform two surgeries and then she was locked in the laboratory with that horrendous rat named Moira O'Deorain. Such a bitch.

It was already night, maybe after seven and Fareeha was still waiting outside the lab doors. She was bored, she was tired, and it has been approximately twelve hours of standing without doing anything. The television with little interesting news only seemed to help her to sleep, the hangover still didn’t disappear altogether, but something woke her up, and she turned her head towards the colored monitor. Several hospital staff also stopped to watch the news, and it was increasingly intriguing and horrifying.

‘Dr. Gabrielle Adawe, neurosurgeon and founder of the Adawe Foundation, has been shot dead this night in her personal vehicle while leaving the National University's Northern Campus. The attacker has escaped and there are no leads as to who the perpetrator might be. This is the third fatal assault to a doctor in the past month and two more are currently threatened to death-’

The aerial video of the street showed several patrols surrounding the car. The pilot's glass was splattered with blood and gush and another one was completely useless. Smoke came out of the hood for having crashed with another car after losing control. It was horrible. Some nurses covered their mouths, others looked at each other, and then they saw Fareeha. All she could do was turn to the floor and close her eyes in the hope that the next one wasn’t Angela. Mei came running down the hall with a worried face as she most likely heard about the murder of Dr. Adawe recently. It wasn’t the time or the place to tell Angela, not yet. Fareeha put a hand on the doctor's shoulder, trying to calm her down. Mei became a good friend inside the hospital. The Chinese woman really was a very worrisome person.

“Calm down, she’s going to be fine.” Fareeha tried to reassure Mei, but the doctor kept panicking.

“I-it’s not fine, Pharah. She might be the next…!”

“I’m here to not let that happen. I’m here to protect her. Believe me, if she dies, it’s because I did as well.”

“Oh, don’t you say that…! You know you easily are part of that equation. Please, take care you two...” Fareeha crouched down to reach Mei's ear, the woman was significantly smaller than many others, and the fact that Fareeha was very tall did not help.

“Mei, can you please not tell Dr. Ziegler yet? I don’t want her to freak out. She had two surgeries now and has been in the lab for over six more.”

“But-!”

“Please, I’m begging you…” That was weird. Even more for Mei, who seemed to relax and nod eventually.

“Okay… But you take care, the week has just begun and yet we are without another excellent doctor in the medical field.”

“Thank you. I promise you to bring you apple pie tomorrow.”

“Ooh yummy! I would like that very much!”

The lab door opened and Angela came out tiredly rubbing her temples while Moira shouted who knows what in Irish. Mei said goodbye to both of them, waving her hand and disappearing down the hall she came in. Fareeha nodded in a goodbye and Angela just stared at her, silently begging the bodyguard to follow her which Fareeha complied immediately. Both walked to Angela's office, the doctor took her purse and hung her lab coat on the rack next to the door.

“Please, just… Let’s go home.”

Fareeha nodded again and escorted the doctor carefully to the car. Angela was still ignorant of the situation with Dr. Adawe, and that at least would make her day less miserable. Fareeha climbed into the car and started the engine when she felt satisfied with her surroundings. The bodyguard was alert all the time, and fortunately Angela was too tired to even notice her change of posture. The doctor leaned even more on the seat and closed her eyes, the tiring day seemed to finally catch her up. When they were close to reaching the wooded part before entering the suburbs limits, Fareeha saw the same car that previously followed them. She felt goosebumps starting from her neck down her spine, and something told her that wasn’t right at all.

“Dr. Ziegler.” Fareeha called her almost in a whisper. She didn’t want to wake her up but it was absolutely necessary.

“Hm?” Angela rubbed her eyes tiredly.

“Get down…”

“…What?”

“Get down!”

Her eyes fluttered, and a heavy crash caused her to fall into the back seat. Fareeha regained control of the wheel quickly as the car behind her hit her repeatedly. She wasn’t a fool, she wouldn’t follow the same path. Fareeha suddenly turned back, she hitting the car this time and causing the other to lose control for a moment. Fareeha stepped on the gas with every will she had, taking Angela out of there was the best option. Fareeha didn’t know if there was an ambush upfront, and she was not willing to risk that. She quickly turned to see Angela lying in the backseat, holding for dear life the edge of the front seat. Their eyes met briefly and that was enough for Fareeha.

The hospital.

A bullet went through the back glass and out the front. Glass shards fell on Angela, some successfully creating small cuts on the skin of her pale arms. Then another bullet brushed Fareeha’s cheek. She ducked a little to avoid being hit by another bullet. Her torso was protected, but not her head. Another bullet and three more went in and out the car. Fareeha began to count the bullets in her head, if everything was as she thought, that glock would have capacity for fifteen bullets like any other. Through the rearview mirror she saw Angela once more, and swore she would never forget the panic in that face. There she knew that she should act better, smarter, braver. She took the gun of her holster and, taking her arm out the window, started firing at the car that was chasing them.

The enemy car began to zigzag, which meant it was working. The hospital was nearby, incredibly close. Only a few more blocks. This person wouldn’t be stupid enough to enter a hospital with strong security and shoot inside. She hoped not. It seemed like an eternity, but finally they arrived at the hospital. Fareeha surrounded the building and went through the emergency entrance, the tires screeching as she almost parked in front of the emergency doors for Angela to go inside. However the other car followed close enough and a man got out, firing three more rounds to the car. He was definitely a stupid man. Fareeha got out of the car as well and yelled at Angela to stay crouched there. Another bullet from the enemy, and those were all. Fifteen rounds. Fareeha smiled and charged at the man, knocking him to the ground and hitting him fiercely.

Fareeha was a woman, yes, but she had the complexion of a man. She was tall, she was strong, she was unbelievable brave. Her years of training and dedication made those features increase. The man was on the ground bleeding from the mouth and nose while Fareeha kept hitting him unconscious. Her knuckles were red and cut making her bleed a little, a bullet grazed her arm as well at some point, but they were minor injuries compared to what she was doing to him. Angela got out of the car and stood there watching everything with shocked eyes.

“Dr. Ziegler, get back inside! Don’t leave until I say so-!”

The sound of the gun firing distracted her. Apparently she didn’t count well, a beginner's mistake. She turned to hit the man in the head, his face was deforming at this point. It was full of blood, swollen and red. She quickly took the gun of his hands and slid it under the car. One more punch and the man was totally unconscious this time. Fareeha turned him face down and held his wrists with both of her hands. Soon enough a couple of guards from the hospital arrived at the scene and handcuffed the man while they called the police as well. Fareeha sighed quietly, the adrenaline seemed to dissipate, until she remembered the sound of the last bullet.

She quickly looked at the car, Angela was inside. She was fine. However, a known heat was spreading down her abdomen, and Fareeha put her hand to her stomach only to lift it and see it completely soaked in blood. ‘Shit’. Angela didn’t wait for Fareeha's order once she felt safe, and quickly ran towards her bodyguard. Their eyes met for a moment, and Fareeha felt that electricity again. The drunken memories of last night hit her, and she could only curse in her mind. Definitely not the time to think about it.

But least she did her job like an Amari, and Angela was safe.

Chapter Text

V

When I had another patient

 

“Get her inside! Now !”

Two nurses helped Pharah to stand up while Angela walked beside them worriedly. Angela still wondered why this young girl decided to take such a risky job. It wasn’t fair, she was still very tender in age. Angela wasn’t exactly an old woman, their age was barely five years apart, but five years made an astronomical difference. The most surprising thing was the tranquility with which the bodyguard was taking the situation. She showed no signs of pain, her breathing was calm. Inhaling and exhaling methodically and rhythmical. Obviously she was very well trained for the job, and Angela silently thanked the girl's ability to contain the panic. A wheelchair was quickly facilitated, and as soon as Pharah sat down, the woman collapsed and fell unconscious. She was losing a lot of blood even when she didn’t show that.

Angela cleared the operation theater, Mei was fortunately unoccupied that night, and although it wasn’t the woman's area of expertise, Angela relied more on the girl to assist her than any other person at this time of panic. Pharah was already lying on the operating table, Mei was preparing the surgical instruments while Angela examined her patient and tried to open her bodyguards shirt. Her blue gloves were stained red as soon as they touched the fabric, maneuvering her fingers to unbutton it and the soaked cloth didn’t help at all, but fortunately her approach was more than enough to keep going. She finally opened her shirt to reveal a dark sports bra and a bronze toned abdomen.

So very toned. That demonstrated the dedication she put to her work and her health. Angela gently stroked the curves in her bodyguard's toned core with the tips of her fingers... Why did she find it fascinating? Angela shook her head. What was happening? She proceeded to keep undressing her, her eyes fixed on the sports bra of the girl with a bit of cleavage. Not as fascinating as her abs, but still. She shook off all those strange thoughts from her head once and for all and finally stripped Pharah from the waist up. All that remained was to take off her pants. Easy job.

“Mei.”

“Yes?”

“…Can you help me undress her? I need to prepare a few things.”

“Oh, sure!”

No, she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t even think about it. Mei was quick to undress her, because in the blink of an eye Pharah was in her underwear and was being cleaned with gauze.

“Angela? Focus.”

Right. Angela went to the table and lowered the lamp to better illuminate the patient. There was a bullet wound in her abdomen where she was bleeding profusely. The bullet would probably still be logged inside, and the doctor took some tweezers to further open the wound and investigate thoroughly. Sure enough, the piece of metal was embedded superficially. Fortunately the bulletproof vest worked well enough. What Angela still could not explain was why she was bleeding so much. With the tweezers she removed the object and placed it on the metal tray next to her.

“Here’s the bullet. Let me have a look inside…”

‘Please, just be something stupid… ’ Upon closer inspection, Angela sighed.

“Vascular trauma: The injured vessel is a vein. Good. No punctured, torn or severed organs… Even better. With her age, it can be ligated with no further effects. She’s going to be fine…”

Satisfied, she closed the bullet wound with a couple of stitches and inspected the other superficial wounds she had. Two bullets grazed her body on the cheek and the arm that she took to shoot the attacking car. But they were just that, minor injuries. Mei finished cleaning her before being taken to an isolated room by Angela's orders. The girl suffered a lot, she probably didn’t show it, but that kind of wound hurts quite a lot. But above all, this girl, this selfless young soul, saved her life, and Angela owed her so much.

Angela took her cell phone once she finished the surgery and called Genji. Probably her husband would wonder why she hadn’t come home at the same time. Angela dialed once and there was no answer. The second time she almost missed the call, but finally the man answered a little annoyed. That wasn’t a good sign already.

“Genji? Hello.”

‘Where are you?’

“Still at the hospital. I finished an emergency surgery just now. Listen… I was attacked again while I was on my way home.” There was a deafening silence on the other line.

‘The girl did her job?'

"Yes, she saved me, but-"

'Good, because I don't like wasting my money.’ He hung up.

He didn’t even ask what had happened, when it had happened, much less how she was. Angela was holding the phone in her ear for what seemed like a shocking eternity. The doctor gripped the phone in her hand in the hope that it would contain her anger and tears. It didn’t. She threw the phone to the floor with great force, the screen broke immediately as soon as it touched the ground. Angela took her face furiously in her hands and let go a muffled scream. The hall was alone and she could do whatever she wanted. Once recovered a little, she went to the isolated room where they put Pharah in. She needed distraction.

Pharah was dressed in a hospital gown lying peacefully on the bed while Angela was doing a blood transfusion. Once properly channeled, she dragged a chair into the room and sat down next to her. Her chest moved slowly, rhythmically and passively, it was a good sign. However, she was a little pale from the loss of blood, but would soon regain her natural tan color. Angela found herself staring at Pharah for too long. For the first time she saw her calm face without that serious mask, and it was captivating. The bodyguard blinked for a moment and finally opened her eyes. She tried to get used to the light, even when it was dimmed for her comfort. Angela smiled, and for the first time her smile was sincere.

“How are you feeling?” Angela asked when Pharah looked back at her. The girl cocked her head and frowned, as she was trying to recollect everything that happened. It was cute somehow.

“I’m… I’m thirsty…”

“Allow me.” Angela gave her a glass of water that was on the table. Its contents were quickly drained. “On a scale of one to then, how is your pain?”

“Three.”

“Only three?”

“…Yes. I just feel dizzy and hungry, that’s all.”

“Food will be provided in about an hour. You need to get used to your surroundings before eating or else you will retch it.”

“I know, this is not my first…”

“My, honestly? A second perhaps?”

“Third, actually… But enough of that. How are you , doctor?” Angela flinched, she didn’t expect that question towards her. Genji certainly didn't ask her, how was this stranger worrying about her safety? “Your arms.” Ah, the shattered glass from the car’s back window.

“Minor cuts already dealt with. I’m fine, thanks for asking.”

“Oh, good.”

There was a long and uncomfortable silence. The atmosphere tensed for a moment, so Angela decided to do something about it. She got up and took a clipboard with some forms. She sat back in the chair and took a pen from her lab coat, helping Pharah with the annoying paperwork.

“We need to fill out this hospital form. No patient enters or leaves without filling it, this is confidential as well. I'll ask you the questions and you answer me to make it faster and less tedious for you, okay?” Pharah saw her a little strange, and even the girl looked meek somehow, but in the end she nodded. “Well, I know your nickname is Pharah, but that’s it. What's your name?” Pharah sighed, and Angela now knew why she was so reluctant to say her last name.

“…Fareeha Amari.”

An Amari. Even Angela knew about them because of the Shimada’s. A powerful family in the Middle East with fearsome, dedicated, strong and incomparable members just likes Pharah. A surname which was eradicated little by little by another family that sought the power and absolute dominion of their territories. The Amari took care of the towers of Egypt for centuries until the mafia and the government forced them to disperse, leaving only a vague memory of the untouchable name. Nobody knew what happened with the family after that. Hanzo and Amelie were not joking when they said that this girl had an impressive lineage.

“Alright…” Angela cleared her throat before continuing, the least she sought was to make her patient uncomfortable. Her patient. Pharah wasn’t her bodyguard this time, the roles reversed; she was going to take care of her now. “Date of birth?”

Pharah perked a little before she sunk back in the bed. And it was strange, because she covered her eyes with one hand and began to laugh softly. Angela never saw her smile even. It was fascinating yet frightening.

“Well, today proved to be one of the worst birthday ever…” There was another uncomfortable silence.

“…Today is your birthday?”

“It is.”

Angela felt like a fool. She treated her badly all day, she was conscious about it. Since she arrived twenty minutes late to pick her up at her house until she got on the car again before being attacked. The girl was young and maybe had many friends. That age was still great to go out with friends, and she made her birthday as miserable as possible. The girl was injured, beaten, shot and had surgery on the night of her birthday, that wasn’t normal. The worst part is that Pharah didn’t seem to care at all.

“I’m sorry…” Angela muttered and Pharah raised an eyebrow before lowering it back.

“No need to apologize. You are safe, that’s what matters.” Selfless to the end.

“I’m… I’m going to grab some coffee, I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Angela got up ready to leave, but the movement of the sheets caused her to immediately turn to see Pharah. The girl was lifting her body heavily, her arms tensed as she tried to carry the weight of her body in order to move. “No, Pharah. Go back to bed, you can’t move still…!”

“You will not leave this room without me accompanying you.” For anyone it would be tender, but not for Angela.

“What are you saying?”

“I’m your bodyguard, I must protect you at all costs.”

“And I’m your doctor right now and I order you to rest.” Pharah shook her head, and as she tried to get off the bed she felt a twinge in her abdomen. Her hand quickly settled on the wound and raised her hand to find it stained with blood. Angela clicked her tongue when the bandages stained in red and quickly approached her. “And now you reopened your wound… Do you seriously want to come with me so you can watch me while I grab some coffee? Is it worth reopening your wounds to feel satisfied with that? You cannot continue being my bodyguard with that attitude. Do you think you can do it all? Well no, you can’t. Eventually I'll have to leave this hospital tonight and I will not be escorted by you. That’s a fact, you are not dismissed until I say so.”

Angela's voice was cold and a little high. Maybe that way it would reach Pharah. Or maybe not. The girl frowned and her eyes began to fill with a sense of hurt.. “Well, I can’t let you leave either. I made a vow to protect you until I die and that's what I intend to do. Do you think I want this? Do you think I like to be hurt and feel useless? Well, no, but it’s the reality of my job and I must fulfill it. If you leave this room then so will I, even if I bleed out on my way out.”

Pharah was torn. Her crystalline eyes spoke mountains. If she was the way they said about the Amaris, then her words were true. She was obviously weighing her options, the scale tilted too much to one side, and that frustrated her greatly. She wanted to cry, her eyes were damp but she refused to let the tears fall. Even strong when in matters of her mind. Angela already felt terrible with the whole situation. It was Pharah’s birthday, she was injured and now she felt frustrated –probably useless- for not fulfilling properly her functions. She saved her life, she owed her only so much. Angela sighed and went back to Pharah, sitting in the same chair she was before.

“I won’t leave then.” She spoke softly, looking intently at her with a serene face.

“…Excuse me?”

“I won’t leave.” Angela felt appropriate to repeat. “I could never leave a patient to suffer alone. And that’s the reality of my job.”

“But you must rest as well, you must return home-“

“Honestly? This hospital feels more like home than that house. Just allow me to make you some company until you feel better, alright?” Angela smiled sadly and Pharah didn’t pry, she was thankful for it. Eventually, the Egyptian nodded. “Okay, why don’t we continue filling this form?” Pharah nodded once more as Angela kept firing question after question.

It was simple, but she got to know her bodyguard a little more. Pharah requested her cell phone so she could call her roommate. Her friends were waiting for her in her apartment and she never arrived. This poor soul, what a nightmare this day might be for her. She didn’t want to be intrusive, it wasn’t her style, but the pleasant conversation she had with whoever was on the other side of the line seemed to show a new facet of this mysterious girl. She seemed happy, apologetic, and even worried. She hung up and returned the cell phone to Angela for some mysterious reason.

“Why are you returning this to me? You can keep it.” Pharah shook her head once.

“It’s unprofessional to use it when I’m on duty. You can leave it with my belongings.” However, Angela handed the device back to Pharah.

“I’m allowing you to have it. You don’t need to be this formal with me. I don’t like it that way, it makes me feel even worse with this whole situation.”

Angela for a change was honest. Pharah grimmaced, but accepted her phone back in the end. She placed it in the table next to the bed and lied back down staring at the ceiling like it was the most interesting thing in the world. Angela sat back on the chair and continued to fill the form for her. Fortunately Helix could provide her with her insurance information and such, and it was no wonder this girl was protected with the best any insurance could offer. The door opened after many more minutes and Mei came in holding a tray with food. Angela raised an eyebrow when she saw that wasn’t the normal food provided by the hospital kitchen.

“Hi, Pharah! How are you feeling now?”

“Better, thank you.”

“I’m glad. I brought you a sandwich and some orange juice. Tonight’s dinner was oatmeal and that’s unforgivable. Who can eat such disgusting mush, right?!”

And there was the most wonderful thing in the world. Pharah smiled broadly, and it was such a beautiful sight. How could a woman look so handsome? Wait…

“Thanks. I could eat a whole cow right now, I’m starving.”

“Yes, yes, I believe you.” Mei giggled while placing the tray in Pharah’s lap. “And don’t you think you’re off from bringing me apple pie from your birthday, huh?!”

“Of course not. I always keep my word, don’t worry.” Even more curious, Mei gave her a hug and Pharah accepted it gratefully before the doctor said goodbye and disappeared through the same door she entered. For some reason, Angela felt sad when Pharah became her serious and stoic person again. So she just had that attitude with her?

“My roommate is coming as soon as he leaves work. I’m going to ask him to drive you back home. He’s another agent from Helix, you should be safe.” Angela was taken out of her thoughts and returned to reality.

“No. I told you I would stay with you. It's the least I can do for you, you saved my life.”

“I did my job.”

“And I’m doing mine.” Pharah seemed to understand this time, and sighed.

“Alright… You win, Dr. Ziegler.”

“And as I birthday present, I should take two days off so you can recover properly.”

“But-!”

“No. Please. Don’t make me feel worse. I want you to recover properly. …Do you want to know the truth?” Pharah saw her with pleading eyes, but at the same time with a touch of pity and shame. It seemed that at this point she already knew what the doctor was going to say, but Angela wanted to continue anyway. She owed the girl honesty at least. “I feel comfortable with you, I feel safe... Even if Genji hired you, what you told me the first time we met made me feel sure… A-and for the first time in so long, I feel safe…” Angela looked down with embarrassment, she didn’t want to admit all of this, but she had been carrying the burden for so long and she needed to vent, open up to someone and get rid of at least a little of the weight it was holding her down. The tears were threatening to come out. How weak on her part, to cry in front of a patient was something unforgivable.

“…Genji has hurt you as of lately?” Angela quickly raised her face and with watery surprised eyes saw the contracted face of Pharah.

“W-what?”

“I told you: I don’t work for him , I work for Helix, and your protection and security is my concern, not his needs. So I repeat, has he hurt you?”

“Even if he does… What does it matter?” Angela smirked sadly. She was over the edge, walking on thin ice.

“You have been honest with me; it’s only fair that I also be with you. I feel comfortable with you as well, and I have an idea of what living with a Shimada is. I have dealt with some in my life and they are not exactly the best people... Anyway. What I want to say is that all of this makes me want to do my job the best I can. I don’t just have to protect you, I want to. So… If he ever hurts you, don’t hesitate in telling me. Ever.”

“That seems ideal… Yes. I’ll try to rely more on you. Thanks, Pharah.”

“Please call me Fareeha, Dr. Ziegler.”

The girl smiled so attractively again and that was enough to make Angela create a partial relationship with Fareeha. She was swooning for some reason, and she smiled back. “Then you call me Angela.”

It was almost two in the morning and they both stayed up talking for a long time, it was nice. It was like talking to Hanzo, but a little more personal, rawer, realer. It was like talking to a best friend. Angela obviously thought that was ridiculous, she barely knew Fareeha for a month and the contact was limited primarily to monosyllables by the Egyptian. However, she couldn’t deny that there was a spark between them. Indeed, everything she said to Fareeha was true: Angela felt safer by her side, and it was comforting to some extent. Angela fell asleep in a nearby couch after staying up for so long, sleep was needed. Suddenly, the door opened abruptly and a man in black uniform, similar to the one Fareeha wore, crashes the room loudly.

“Look at my poor Reeha!”

The man apparently had the same age as Angela, he seemed nice at least. Fareeha slowly opened her eyes and smiled when looking at her friend.

“Hey, Jesse.”

“How’ya doing, sugar?”

“Meh. Another scar.” Fareeha shrugged the question.

“Another stripe to the tiger. Nice. Ready to go home?”

“She’s not leaving yet.” Angela interrupted both of them. Her body was aching for falling asleep about an hour in the too-soft furniture until this man interrupted her sleep so abruptly. He seemed to notice, for he immediately straightened and changed his tone of voice.

“Oh. I apologize… Excuse me, Dr. Ziegler.” It was no surprise everyone knew her. She was somewhat recognized by this point.

“There’s nothing to apologize. However, she needs two more days of rest.” The man stroked his beard thoughtfully, looked at the doctor and then at Fareeha.

“Well, let me guess: You are giving my girl two days of incapacity, and you will not let the doctor go home alone because you are stubborn and company policy and all that.” Fareeha frowned and stared dead cold to her roommate. “I have a solution that can satisfy both of your high expectations. What if I drive you both, leave the doctor at home first and then return to the apartment so you can rest outside this hospital?” Fareeha looked silently at Angela and shrugged, as if giving her friend the reason. Angela nodded; it seemed like a perfect plan actually.

“That sounds ideal. Let’s go then.”


This man was very nice. Jesse, she heard the name from Fareeha. He had a rather peculiar southern accent, perhaps very marked but that made him more charming. He looked like a womanizer, but Angela didn’t believe it at all, maybe it was her imagination. The trip was too pleasant. Jesse and Fareeha talked as if Angela wasn’t inside the car. However, she didn’t feel ignored. On the contrary, she felt part of this rare equation. Even Jesse asked her a few things here and there or her opinion on some stupid matter, but it was enough to pull a smile from her tired face.

Both were so gentlemanly -or cautious- as to wait for her to enter her house and close the door behind her. Angela sighed wearily, taking off her heels and climbing the huge stairs to her bedroom with her shoes and purse in her hand. She tried to make the slightest noise so as not to wake Genji up, carefully opening the bedroom door and walking tiptoe to the bed, but the light turned on and Genji was looking at her from the bathroom door with a defiant look. He walked predatorily towards her, and Angela looked everywhere meekly.

“It took you a long time to arrive after you called me.”

“Pharah was shot and I had to perform surgery and give her postoperative care, that’s why I am so late.”

“Where is she?”

“Going back home. Still, hurt and everything, she brought me here. She did her job.” The less she hesitated, the better it was for Angela. Don’t falter.

“Hm…” He hummed.

“I’m going to the bathroom…”

She walked slowly, depositing her purse in a table and leaving her heels next to the wall. A strong hand pinned her from the back of her head, her right side was pressing fiercely to the cold tiles of the bathroom wall. Angela gasped in surprise and mild pain, but mostly of fear and annoyance.

“Don’t you think of cheating on me, Angela. If I ever find out-”

“What the hell? I’m not cheating on you! What is your problem?!” He released her abruptly, huffing and fuming. Angela could swear she saw death in his eyes. Angela regained a bit of composure and for her safety she tried to reassure Genji that she had absolutely no one else in this world. That he had her trapped. That he took away her freedom and made her his own as if she were a social slave. “Remember that I am married to you, that I chose you !”

“We had an agreement, Angela.”

“Marriage is more than an agreement! And I think I’ve been more than committed than just that. My life consists of going from the house to the hospital and the hospital back to the house. After this incident I decided to stay two more days here. I reduced my number of friendships and not because of my own choice, but because they preferred to stay in line. And the only two people I've had contact with lately have been Amelie Lacroix and your brother.”

“Don’t you dare to talk about that disgrace of a Shimada!”

“What? Just because he’s gay?! He's your brother!”

“Because of that and because he is unable to maintain the lineage of the family! What a fucking idiot, he ruined his chance just for “love”.”

“It's so reassuring to know you have such affection to that word.”

“What he did was the worst a man could do.”

“Well, he definitely has been a better man than you as of lately.”

No . Angela realized what she said was a huge mistake.

Genji took her by the neck this time and pressed her so hard on the cold wall that her head pounded as she collided with the tiles. Her body was lifted from the ground, sliding upward as Genji continued to press and squeeze her throat. Angela had never seen such eyes on him, it was a death threat, and she hoped she would never repeat the stupidity she had just done. In an attempt to break free from her husband's force, Angela took him by the wrists trying to pull them away from her neck, but it was impossible, he was stronger than her.

She was losing her breath, her eyes widening in horror before beginning to close little by little. Angela knew that she was losing consciousness, and then only God would know what would happen next. Genji kept screaming, yelling obscenities and other things Angela couldn’t make a word of. The sounds were muffled by a long screech piercing her head on both ends. The world darkened for an eternity, and it seemed like she would just die there. Not in hands of a murderer, but in those of her husband.

Keep breathing…

Just keep breathing…

You are stronger than this, you are braver than this…

Keep breathing…

Just keep breathing for me…

Are you there…?

Yes, you are…

Keep breathing, Angela…

Wake up.

She fell on the floor. She woke up gasping for air and holding her throat in an attempt to recover. Her clouded eyes could barely focus on the tile floor, her body trembled and the piercing shriek in her head didn’t go away. She felt a thick liquid slide from her head to the back of her neck. Her wrists burned for a reason and the left side of her body began to numb in soreness. At last she was able to focus, listen, see, smell, feel, and Genji shouting at her was the first thing that she got to see once fully conscious.

“-don’t forget you chose to stay in this family no matter what, Angela!”

The door closed with great force. She was lying on the floor still grabbing her throat. With her free hand she touched her head and felt the red liquid stain her fingers. Slowly she got up, grabbing the sink and looking at herself in the mirror with only so much pity. Her eyes were red, a few veins burst around them, and five red and violet marks remained on her neck. She was pale, she was horrendous. Angela opened the tap and washed her face with cold water to numb the pain, but the technique didn’t want to work whatsoever. She saw herself in the mirror once again and saw the weakest physically, mentally and emotionally woman staring back. It was impossible for Angela to avoid crying, to avoid feeling and vent in her loneliness in the bathroom of her bedroom.

Angela thought about that moment of unconsciousness. That voice that called and encouraged her. That voice was definitely not hers and she couldn’t make her mind. No, but it instilled security. Serene, confident, imposing, everything that she wasn’t at that moment. More cold water on her face and she closed the tap. She wiped her face with a clean towel and returned to bed with her husband; her attacker. After all, what could she do? It was her against the world. The only thing she could do was to remember that voice and endure the blows life gave her and just keep breathing.

Chapter Text

 

VI

And I had to clear my mind

 

Something was definitely not right.

Fareeha returned to work as usual after taking those two –unpaid for her good luck, of course- days of rest that Angela granted her. However, when she met the doctor once again at the doors of her residence, she looked like a whole different person. Another woman even worse than she remembered even meeting a month ago. Insecure, fearful, elusive. Her clothes, which were normally elegant and only emphasized her natural beauty, now jealously covered most of the skin of her neck and even wrists, as if she was constantly cold and tried to gain a bit of heat with so many turtlenecks, scarves or long dresses. Perhaps all this was the cause of past events, that last attempt of murder. Yes, it must be because of that. Fareeha wanted to believe blindly that that was the reason.

Things got darker every passing hour. Angela didn’t speak to her, didn’t talk to anyone, and when it was strictly necessary she communicated with monosyllables. The few surgeries she had scheduled to perform were postponed for a few more days or other doctors had to fill out for her. Her office was becoming her cave, because once she entered the room, she seemed to be hibernating and would not leave if it wasn’t an emergency. Even eating didn’t seem a priority to her, and it was worrisome by the second.

A full week passed and Angela remained the same. Even Fareeha could tell that the doctor was a little thinner, the ridges on her cheekbones were beginning to show, and the usual -though dim- brightness in her eyes had gone out. In those last days, Fareeha chose to give her the privacy she needed for whatever reason and waited patiently outside the office door. If Angela required her, she was more than sure that she would let her know. And as if trying to read her mind, Angela came out tired through the door with her purse in hand, and for the first time in eight days she looked at Fareeha in the eyes.

“Can I-” Angela cleared her throat before proceeding, speaking meekly and her words above a whisper. “Can I ask you for something?”

“Anything.” She felt proper to say that, to never deny a request from Angela.

“Could you please take me to the fertility clinic in the northern city border?”

“Absolutely.” Angela smiled sideways for the first time and she proceeded to go to her car.

The clinic was quite far away, just over forty-five minutes counting traffic, but if Angela wanted her to drive to Antarctica, Fareeha would do it without thinking twice. The doctor was completely silent in the back seat watching the buildings pass in front of the window. Fareeha didn’t know why, how and when she developed that strong feeling of protecting her at all costs. She didn’t like to believe it was pity, it wasn’t her style. There was definitely something there that she tried to ignore. If she were to say anything to Jesse, she was sure he would scold her for "getting attached to the objective”, one of Helix’s golden rules. Wait, was she getting attached to Angela…? No. No, no. Absolutely not.

Those were the forty most uncomfortable minutes she has had in her work so far, not to mention that she has gone through even worse things, like the doctor seeing her in her underwear on the operation table. The worst case scenario would be seeing her fully naked. Fareeha didn’t know how they got to the clinic with her mind so distracted, she was grateful for the automatic mode built into her brain. She opened the door for Angela and escorted the doctor into the clinic once she was sure the coast was clear. Angela walked swiftly to the reception and soon enough stated who she was.

“Good morning, my name is Angela Ziegler. I have an appointment.”

“Of course, miss Ziegler. We’ve been waiting for you. Please, follow me this way.”

Angela nodded and turned her face to look Fareeha one last time in the eyes before disappearing down the wide corridor of the clinic. It felt more like a plea than a silent request, but Fareeha knew that she should stay on the sidelines in these situations. What she didn’t know exactly was why Angela made an appointment at this clinic. Of course, it was the fertility clinic, but she was too young to have problems like that. There was something more hidden inside the bottom of all this, but again, Fareeha shouldn’t pry and simply do her job.

An hour passed and Angela finally appeared through the corridor once again. The doctor who accompanied her told her some things that Fareeha couldn’t hear and finally said goodbye to a quick hug from her. Angela walked to Fareeha and nodded, Fareeha quickly got the message and escorted the doctor back to the car. Again, Angela said nothing, and it was beginning to be frustrating, almost impossible to complete her function normally, Fareeha knew why. After asking herself several times while sitting in the reception, she admitted that she was worried about the doctor, but not as her bodyguard. In the end, she decided to break the ice in the vehicle.

“Are we going back to the hospital?”

“No. Back home, if you would be so kind…”

“Of course.”

It was just eleven o'clock in the morning and her work shift was over? When she normally would celebrate a day of little to no work, this time it wasn’t like that at all, it simply added more bitterness to this whole disturbing situation. An hour later they finally arrived at the doctor's residence, and Fareeha did the same as always until she made sure Angela was safe inside. Maybe one day soon things would return to normal, but for the moment, going back home was the answer.


Fareeha opened the door of the apartment she shared with Jesse for a few weeks and leaned on it sighing. The place was of moderate size with a bachelor kind-of vibe, the boy had a great taste and Fareeha had to admit it. A large living room, a decent dining room and a useful kitchenette, plus a large bathroom and two separate bedrooms made up the eclectic apartment. On the wall at the back of the living room were a pair of large windows overlooking the main street. The sound of traffic was common, and perhaps for her bad luck, Jesse preferred to leave her the bedroom next to the main street’s window. But it was a nice night view and she could open the window to finally smoke in her own bedroom.

Jesse was working that morning, so at least she could rest until her roommate returned and he began being as loud as ever, ending all sense of peace in the apartment. Fareeha took off her jacket and hung it on the rack next to the door. She placed her keys in a bowl on a small table and stretched her arms over her head, a few joints on her back popped satisfactorily and she proceeded to unbuckle her holster.

However, a sound in Jesse's room made her alert. Something fell on the floor, she could hear clearly and the sound of footsteps. Jesse worked that day, it was impossible that anyone else was there. Fareeha took her gun from her holster and walked slowly trying to make as little noise as possible. She was holding her gun with both hands, pointing forward as her gaze focused like a predator. Her heart began to pound fast as she approached the door of Jesse's bedroom. More noises were heard inside, definitely something was wrong. Fareeha turned the knob slowly, readying her pistol, and with a strong kick opened the door and pointed at the source of the noise.

“Get on the groun-! Oh fucking God, no no!”

She tossed the gun to the ground and covered her eyes with both hands. She would have preferred a thousand times a thief, even a murderer or a satanic sect but this. Jesse was in underwear and he was with another man naked from the waist up in the bed. Fortunately they were cuddling. They were cuddling, right…?

“What the fuck are you doing here, Fareeha?!” Jesse yelled as he put on his shirt back.

“No! What the fuck are you doing here?! I was working! For fucks sake, Jesse, my virgin eyes!”

“Nothing in your body is virgin!”

“Don’t project yourself in me, you piece of shit!”

She blindly took her pistol still covering her eyes, and closed the door fiercely. She went to her bedroom and left her gun and other personal belongings on the bed while switching quickly to a pair of jeans and a black tank top. She needed a drink urgently or bleach for her eyes, whatever worked fast. Lucky for her, there was more alcohol in the kitchenette than chemicals under the sink. If it wasn’t so early, Fareeha would already be with Reinhardt in Eichenwalde drowning her sorrows in the bar. She left the bedroom and poured herself two fingers of Scotch neat. The purer, the better.

Even taking the bottle, she sat on the sofa and took a big gulp, grimacing when the liquor burned her throat slightly. Then another one. She was about to pour herself a third one when the door of Jesse’s bedroom opened and the man walked slowly to her, sitting in front of Fareeha and taking the bottle of Scotch from her hands, giving it a big gulp as well. He then laughed before explaining himself as Fareeha furrowed her brow.

“Okay, fine. I was supposed to work today, but they cancelled me three days ago and I didn’t told you so I could have the place for myself.”

“And fuck guys in your room.”

“No, no. Fuck my boyfriend, sugar.” Fareeha rolled her eyes and swallowed the rest of the drink, placing the empty glass on the coffee table.

“You should not speak of me like that.”

Fareeha heard another deep voice behind her and turned to see the source of the sound. An Asian tall man -very serious and handsome, to be honest- was elegantly standing in a blue silk kimono robe. His long hair was tied in a high ponytail and his long beard was well groomed. The man walked towards them and sat down next to Jesse, silently scolding him with his eyes. He was intimidating, definitely. Fareeha still wondered how this poise man was interested in someone as coarse as Jesse. Fareeha stared at this figure, there was something in it. Something familiar. Maybe she stayed looking for a long time, because the man asked her a question.

“You still don’t recognize me, don’t you?”

“A-ah sorry… No. You seem familiar… Have we met before?”

“Hm we have, but not in the way you think.”

“Oh…” Not in the way she thinks, but perhaps…! “You were eating with Dr. Ziegler and the other lady in that restaurant.” He smiled and nodded.

“Good job. Your memory retention is good, that's efficient.”

“Heh thanks?” He stood up and extended a hand to Fareeha. She took it back and stood up as well, giving it a shake. “I apologize for interrupting and being so rude. I’m-”

“Fareeha Amari, daughter of the legendary sniper Ana Amari of the Amari’s of Egypt. I know about you, girl. And before you scold him, even if he deserves it most of the time, no. Jesse didn’t told me anything about you, just the fact that you work for Dr. Angela Ziegler.”

“Ah…” That was extremely surprising. Who was this man?

“My name is Hanzo.”

“Nice to meet you, Hanzo.” Wait… “Hanzo…? A-as in Hanzo Shimada…?!”

“The very same.”

“You’re Genji’s older brother… You are dating Genji's older brother...”

"Heh, guilty as charged." Jesse shrugged and smiled.

“A pity people relate me to him.” Fareeha sat back on the couch with one hand on her forehead while Hanzo sat next to Jesse again. “I must thank you for properly taking care of our angel, by the way. She needs a friend more than anything at this time.”

“A-ah… Thanks, but that’s my job. Also, I don’t think Dr. Ziegler sees me as nothing more than her bodyguard.”

“No, she definitely sees you as a friend. She trusts you, and that’s very difficult for her. She trusts me, Amelie, and lately she trusts you the most. Don’t you think of her as a friend as well?”

“Hanzo, stop.” Jesse spoke and put a hand on his chest. “We can’t get attached with our clients, less our objectives.”

“That’s a horrible thing to say.”

“No, Hanzo, he’s right… It’s kind of a golden rule in Helix and amongst all bodyguards. Me getting attached to Angela means that-“

“Angela?”

“N-no, Dr. Ziegler-”

“You first named her. That’s the first step to attaching to someone, Reeha.”

“But I’m not ‘attaching’ to her. Stop implying baseless shit, Jesse.” Fareeha got up from the sofa annoyed, glaring at Jesse while the man pointed his finger at her and let go of all his fury for the impertinence of his friend.

“Baseless?”

“Yes, baseless.”

“You shouldn’t say that my comments have no basis. Even worse because of the fact that you are denying this unacceptable relationship that you are creating with your work!”

“I am not denying anything because nothing is happening, okay?!”

“You keep hiding shit, Fareeha. You keep denying things since I know you! Will you also deny the fact that you hate your current job? That you sneak up to smoke in the balcony? That you are gay as well? What else will you deny?!”

“What the fuck, Jesse?! I’m not gay!”

“Keep denying it, I don’t give a damn anymore! You said baseless? Fine! Do whatever you want, but stop attaching to something you can’t handle.” Fareeha grabbed the empty glass she was drinking and threw it at Jesse, successfully hitting him in the arm.

“You don’t know shit about me! You don’t have the right to talk about me like that! What gives you the right to say fucking lies about me?! What do you gain telling me all of this crap, Jesse?!”

“So you could be honest with you for once in your life! So my friend is finally free of whatever has been lately happening in her head! That’s why! This mission has been affecting you so much we barely see you or heard from you! You coming out would be a great step up for once!”

The girl was fuming, she was furious. She didn’t just want to throw Jesse an object; she wanted to hit him so hard until her knuckles bleed. Fareeha clenched her fists, her body began to tremble and her eyes started to fill with water as she furrowed her brow. She was done. Fareeha walked to the door, put on her jacket back and grabbed her helmet and keys.

“Fuck you.”

She opened and closed the door with a thud. Jesse could almost swear the walls and windows trembled by the force of the door closing. He sighed wearily and put his hands to his face. Hanzo just hummed and took a sip of the drink Jesse was having. Eventually, he put a hand in the man’s shoulder, reinforcing his presence.

“I screwed up, huh?”

“Clearly.” Another sip and he placed the drink back in the table. “It was insensitive of you to board such delicate topic with her.”

“She’s so distant lately.”

“I know how it feels. Don’t think I haven’t noticed the way she sees Angela when she is distracted. A normal person would think she's watching her, it's her job. But we have that sixth sense, it’s easy to see.”

“Yeah, I should’ve let her be. She must see me as an awful friend now... Reeha’s right, I shouldn’t be prying, maybe I am projecting myself?” Hanzo held him close and squeezed his arm with affection, and before he let go he took a deep breath and sighed.

“You’re not… Did you saw that spark in her eyes when she mentioned the doctor?”

“I did. I thought it was only me.”

“No…” Hanzo sighed. “And what scares me the most… Is that I’ve seen that look on Angela as well…”


The cold wind of the city almost burned her body when it hit her as she drove her motorcycle at full speed through the busy streets of the city. It didn’t help that the weather was against her, the clouds only made the environment colder, but the sooner she could get away from that building, the better for her mental and emotional state. Regularly when she was stressed or needed to clear her mind, she hit the gym for hours, one of the reason of her well-built frame, but this time not even the exercise and strain of her muscles could subdue the excessive tension she felt.

Jesse acted like an asshole. How dare he say that? Fareeha has only been attracted to men since she was a teenager, she knows it, she even had one or two boyfriends at the time, and she has had sexual intercourse several times with several flings as well. It was obvious, it was more than said. Of course, she was not blind to not see that her body and attitude were somewhat masculine, androgynous to some extent, but she never stopped considering herself a woman, she was just different and some guys enjoyed her unique traits.

She could always tell when a woman was beautiful as well. It was stupid to deny someone else’s appealing features. Some men were gallant and handsome, some women were beautiful and poise, but to the extent of calling her gay? No, never. And still, there was one of her best friends calling her something she definitely didn’t see as such just because she wanted to do her job as best as possible. Just so she couldn’t live under the shadow of her mother, so she could live up to her surname, so she could be recognized as the best, so she could protect those who need it. Protect the innocent, bring justice and serve with dignity; those were the Amari values and she lived for them.

Fareeha didn’t know when she found herself against the corner of Dr. Ziegler's residence. The first time she saw that gorgeous European mansion with a spectacular garden she felt like she was going to work for someone as royal as a princess, but now it looked like a glamorous prison. Jesse’s words echoed in her mind constantly. We can’t get attached with our clients, less our objectives. Yes, she was attaching to Angela, but who wouldn’t? She’s affectionate, beautiful, dedicated, and selfless. She’s the perfect woman. But that wasn’t the main reason for her attachment, no, far from it. Angela was suffering and Fareeha could easily see it.

The doctor barely had friends, barely had any time to do what she liked and be selfish once in a while, she just kept working and working every single week, but the worst part of the case is that she saw her as a friend. Obviously there was nothing wrong with that, even Fareeha could see her as a friend too at some extent, but she shouldn’t. Still, it didn’t explain why the first place she sought was that house. Perhaps the shared feelings appealed to another being equally disturbed, but it wasn’t ideal. She started her bike once again and quickly left the suburbs, going further and further south until she reached the highway. The houses changed for fields of green grass and later to beautiful vineyards. If there was one thing she had to admit is that the nature here was indescribable, nothing like Egypt.

The vineyard stretched for kilometers and almost at the end was a large estate which was used mostly for social events held by only the richest people of the city, mostly the Shimada of course, since they owned the lands. Fareeha looked a little at the immense farm admiring the mixture of selfishness and humility in a single panoramic image. However, when she was passing the vineyard, something caught her eye. A couple exited a luxurious vehicle, a man and a woman, and she recognized perfectly that man and how he shamelessly grabbed the woman's ass and kissed her mercilessly while escorting her inside. Fareeha thought that things couldn’t get any more unpleasant in relation to the younger of Sojiro Shimada's sons, but it seemed he could always surprise her.

She needed to get out of there fast, she needed to cool off the blood that was rising to her head from the rage she felt when she saw Genji being unfaithful to the most impressive woman in the world, and Fareeha knew that maybe that girl wasn’t the only one and that added more fuel to the fire. She drove again in the city, this time to the east, and knocked on the door of a quaint brick and wooden house in an old and tranquil neighborhood. The sound of banging metal was heard in the background, the laughter of children and the call of a woman until the door opened.

“Fareeha?” The blonde woman saw her back with a confused yet gentle look.

“Hi, Ingrid… Can I come in?”

“Of course, sweetheart. Come in.” Fareeha smiled and nodded, walking a beeline straight to the couch in the living room. Ingrid looked at her with even more curiosity and concern, taking a little boy in her arms so he could stop nagging her. “Long day?”

“Something like that, yes. Is Brigitte here?”

“She’s on the workshop with her dad. I’m going to call them, it’s time for lunch anyway.”

“Thanks.”

Ingrid disappeared through the kitchen door and Fareeha slid further into the sofa, processing all the events of her day. The over seriousness of Angela, the almost sexual encounter with Jesse and Hanzo, her best friend questioning her sexual orientation, and the vision of Genji cheating on his wife. And it was barely two in the afternoon. She rubbed her face over and over again, trying to clear her mind a bit from only so much shit in the day, and she stayed that way with her face hidden in her hands and her elbows propped on her thighs.

A small hand slightly pulled at the fabric of her jeans and she looked to the source of her interruption: a toddler stretched his tiny arms to be lifted and cuddled. Fareeha smiled and took one of Brigitte's many nephews in her arms and rocked him from side to side until he fell asleep. Fareeha didn’t know why this child was so fond of her, but a show of innocence was always appreciated. After a few minutes and seeing that Brigitte would probably take a little longer, she lay down on the sofa and put the sleeping child on top of her, but Fareeha quickly succumbed to sleep along with him. After all, the mental fatigue was worse than the physical one for her.

“She’s that bad, huh?” Brigitte whispered to her mother as they both came into the room and found Fareeha asleep with the child sleeping on her chest.

“I don’t know what happened to her this day, but I'm worried.” Ingrid responded in a voice above a whisper.

“She has been very distant lately, she says that work has her that way. I mean, she was shot not so long ago, maybe that has encouraged it.” Ingrid hummed one last time before disappearing back at the kitchen.

“I don’t think it’s the bullet, Brigitte.”


Driving Angela to the hospital the next day was even more uncomfortable than days before. Jesse's words echoed occasionally in her head, even though once arriving at their apartment the man didn’t touch the subject except to apologize for his childlike attitude, which Fareeha had to answer by accepting the apology and going to sleep so early. Brigitte helped too. Fareeha didn’t vent as she wanted, she wasn’t direct, but helping her friend in the workshop made her mind take on something else by focusing one hundred percent on the tasks she was given. And of course, Fareeha loved the workshop, she even has an engineering degree she studied in Canada, that's where she bonded with Brigitte and they created that unique sisterly bond. The fact their mothers would get along so well in the city only helped to strengthen that bond.

The hospital was fuller than usual, the flu season was coming and the waiting room was filled with sick patients. Fortunately, it wasn’t Angela's area of work per se, for Fareeha knew that if she stayed with the patients for a long time she would probably get infected and hinder her work. The night fell quickly despite the uncomfortable environment. Angela tiredly left the laboratory doors rubbing her temples while Moira shouted hundreds of things in Irish. Angela rolled her eyes and begged Fareeha with her gaze to quickly flee from the place. The doctor was on the verge of tears, her eyes were crystalline and her face flushed, it was enough. Fareeha handed Angela her coat and purse and they quickly climbed into the car, turning it on satisfactorily to take the usual route to the doctor's residence.

“Fareeha?” The girl looked at Angela through the rearview mirror. Apprehension was the first thing she found, then shyness and finally courage. That was a good sign at least.

“Tell me?”

“I can’t go home yet, I don’t want to... Can we go somewhere else? It hasn’t been a good day and... It hasn’t been a good day." Honesty. Even better.

“Of course. Do you have any place in mind?”

“Heh I just want a drink… Any strong liquor that’s capable of making a Russian tipsy.” Fareeha chuckled, she didn’t know if Angela’s comment was intended in that way, but it was adorable.

“Can I take you anywhere then?”

“Sure. Only nothing very far away from home.”

“Acknowledge.”

Her favorite place to vent her sorrows and get drunk until she forgets her very own name? Obviously it was Eichenwalde. Initially she didn’t know if the place was up to Angela's refined taste and high social status, but as soon as they parked the car and the doctor got off without further ado, she knew it was fine. The doors opened wide and Reinhardt's booming voice sounded all over the place. The jazz and funk filled the bar warmly with fast and melodious musical notes while the sound of clashing glasses complemented the atmosphere. Fareeha smiled when she saw Lena and Olivia in a booth talking heartily, greeting Fareeha discreetly, but when Reinhardt took her in a welcoming embrace she laughed nervously as she returned the friendly gesture to the enormous man. Angela simply raised an eyebrow, and Fareeha tried to regain her composure.

“If this place is too scandalous, we can go somewhere else.” Fareeha wanted to apologize for choosing such a place. It was her favorite, but perhaps for Angela it was too lousy.

“No, no. It looks great, I even love the music. I’m just… Surprised.”

“Surprised?” They both sat in the bar stools waiting for Reinhardt to stop chatting with another client.

“Honestly I didn’t think you liked places like this.” Angela giggled, and it was such a blessing.

“I don’t like to mix work with pleasure.”

“It seems to be a golden rule among all jobs, right?”

“True, true…”

“Hello, ladies!” Reinhardt almost clashed in the bar while giving Fareeha a tall glass of beer. Angela giggled once again, and Fareeha swore her heart skip a beat. “It’s always nice to see you, Fareeha! Even better when you bring a new friend!” Fareeha almost chokes on her beer by the comment.

“Oh no, she’s-” A pale hand rested on top of hers, shutting her immediately.

“I’m Angela.” Angela smiled sweetly while introducing to Reinhardt. Now her face and ears were hot as hell. Fareeha tried to blink away the moment of incredulity, she rarely faltered, but now? Angela just seemed… Normal.

“Any friend of Fareeha is a friend of mine! What can I get you, beautiful lady?”

“I was looking for vodka or some sort of liquor, but I think this is a German bar and it’s been ages since I last had decent beer, so… Do you happen to have Feldschlösschen?”

“Gods above! You have an excellent taste, let me tell you! I have in my special reserve because these bums don’t know about good beer. I’ll bring you a cold one!”

“My thanks.” Reinhardt disappeared through the door behind the bar, quickly reappearing with a dark bottle and a cold glass for Angela. The doctor sipped her glass and hummed in delight. “This is great. It's been more than three years since my last one.”

“You know about good beer, can I ask where you are from?” Reinhardt dared to ask the doctor, and Fareeha could swear he asked more questions to Angela in five minutes than her in a month.

“Zurich, Switzerland. I have been living for almost three years here.”

“Oh, no wonder! You still have that hint of a Swiss accent there!”

“But not as strong as your Stuttgart German one.”

They both laughed together and Angela's laugh was a symphony. The two were immediately congenial to have similar tastes and cultures, even though the man was extremely scandalous and the doctor was very prim. The conversation turned from English to German quickly, and Fareeha lost track of her surroundings. Sure, she felt left out, but the fact that Angela was relaxing even a little helped significantly to raise her mood, and that was the best thing that had happened in a whole week of ice treatment. After three beers Angela decided to retire so she wouldn’t be home so late.

Reinhardt dismissed her with his booming voice and Fareeha thanked her great friend with a fist bump. Fareeha opened the back door for Angela, but the doctor closed it and opened the passenger door instead, sitting herself and buckling up while smiling all the while. Fareeha could only raise an eyebrow and allow the woman to do whatever she wanted without exposing her to danger too much. Fareeha sat in front of the wheel and started the car, driving once again to the doctor’s residence. The most magical thing happened in the way there: Angela was smiling, and she kept smiling. Perhaps she was tipsy, that could be the most logical explanation. It didn’t matter, she wasn’t that depressed woman Fareeha saw that morning. Angela cleared her throat and stirred in her seat while almost reaching the suburbs.

“Fareeha?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you.”

“Thank… You?” That was confusing. Fareeha even looked at her briefly.

“For taking a little of your time and taking me to that place. I enjoyed it, to be honest.”

“O-oh… It’s nothing, really. It's my job to unsure your protection and comfort.”

“And you took me to that little bar in the center of the city in a not-so-lit area?”

“Believe it or not, that’s the bar I feel the most safe in the entire city. I thought it appropriate to take you there.”

“You certainly hit the jackpot. I loved the place. Reinhardt is definitely such a character.”

“He is. He’s always been like that. So homey and happy, yet so brave and protective.”

“And goodness, he’s so big…” Fareeha had to laugh this time.

“He really is, isn’t he?” Angela laughed once more. Fareeha was over the edge with such an adorable sound. But there was something else there. “I don’t think that was all… Thanking me, I mean.”

“Very perceptive. That’s good. And no, that wasn’t the only thing I wanted to ask you…”

“Go ahead, I’m listening.” Angela sunk on the seat and crossed her arms while leaning her head on the headrest, taking air with the nose and releasing it slowly.

“I was wondering if you could… Teach me…”

“Teach you?”

“H-how to use a gun…”

A deafening silence. Fareeha had to ask.

“Did something happened while I wasn’t working?”

“N-no, not at all, it’s just that… I want to know how to defend myself. I can take self-defense classes, yes, but that could only take so much time. I would pay you for your time and knowledge, of course.” She was right. Fareeha wasn’t against teaching Angela the basics of self-defense, but having a gun was faster. She weighted both options, it seemed Angela thought about it for quite some time. At the end, Fareeha had to agree.

“Very well.”

“Really?”

“Yes, with only one condition: instead of paying me, you will also take self-defense classes, but I’m the one who’s going to teach you. Is that fair?” Angela furrowed, and the way her nose wrinkled was absolutely adorable.

“It’s unfair of me not gratifying you for your extra effort, I feel like I’m taking advantage of your position.”

“I’m the one that’s stating these conditions. Also, as I told you before, my concern is your well-being, and if I train you I will feel easier with everything.” Angela pouted but then smiled, looking through the car window the city skyline.

“Fine… I’ll take that offer.”

“Great. When do you want to start?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow it is then. We will make a few purchases in the morning before we start. Are we clear?”

“Crystal.”

Angela turned to see her and smiled so warmly that Fareeha felt her heart was going to explode. That warm sensation returned, that cozy feeling enveloped her and she had never wanted to stretch the time of driving back to the house so it could last forever. Again, the conversation she had yesterday with Jesse went back to her head. Stop acclaiming things that I am not. Stop thinking impossible things. Sure, Jesse was only partly right, she was getting attached to Angela, she was becoming fond of that smile, of that angelical addictive laughter. And then it hit her hard like cold ice on hot skin. Perhaps, maybe for a fragment of her, Jesse was right. Maybe she was getting too fond of Angela, more than attached perhaps, and that was frightening. But nevermind, that smile was worth every assumption. Every single one of them.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter VII

When I found a friend

 

Angela really hated herself for sometimes even asking for that kind of thing. To ask Fareeha for a favor wasn’t the problem, it was the kind of favor itself. To take a gun and shoot properly. Her dream since she was a child was to become a doctor, to heal her patients, to make a positive change in the world, and her intellect helped only in a big way, harnessing her skills to become one of the best in her field. And now there she was, feeling the weight of a strange pocket-sized object so lethal that the mere thought of having a weapon in her hands made her skin prickle.

Fareeha was so kind to accompany her that morning to buy the basic equipment for training, helping her choose what best suited her needs and comforts. The girl knew her field very well, in that store she proved it more than several times. Even the shooting range was reserved only for them, and it was the perfect time to practice without having lurking eyes pointing hypocritically at her. She put the gun back on the counter in front of her, the gray-walled isolated room in front of her seemed to grow larger as Fareeha pressed a few buttons on a column next to her, but it was only her imagination and the nervousness of it all. Fareeha was by her side once more, making sure everything was in perfect control, she surely was that dedicated to her job.

“Are you ready to begin?” Fareeha finally asked after checking the time on her watch a final time.

“Y-yes.”

“Okay, step one: be positive and sure of yourself. That what you just did? Wrong. You hesitated, and that's the difference between life and death.”

“I did not hesitate.” Angela furrowed her brow for a small fraction, but she knew Fareeha was right. She hated the whole idea of using a gun. If things were fortunate enough, she wouldn’t use it ever, but she better be prepared for anything.

“You did, so I’m going to ask you once more. Are you ready?” Angela took a deep breath. She wasn’t ready, but she needed to, and thus, her mind focused in the task.

“I am.” No hesitation despite her nerves telling her otherwise.

“Good. Now pay attention and watch me. And please, ear mufflers and shooting glasses, safety’s first.”

Angela obeyed and Fareeha did the same as she pressed a button in the column on her side. At the end of her lane appeared a target that stayed static afterwards, it was the upper silhouette of a person with several marks and numbers. Fareeha took her own gun in front of her, what appeared a cartridge as well and moved some trinkets in it, clicking satisfactorily before gripping the loaded gun with both hands and pointing forward. It was only a second of aiming before she fired more than ten bullets towards the target. It was too fast and the sound stunned Angela a bit, scaring her for a second and making her heart jump. Fareeha finally removed the cartridge and left the gun in front of the counter one more time. Pressing the previous button, the target moved in front of her and Fareeha counted the holes in the paper with her finger.

“Okay. What did you saw?”

“You firing?” Fareeha smirked and rolled her eyes. The way she smiled was contagious.

“No hesitation, doctor. You are more intelligent than that. Now, what could you catch of all of this?” It was true, she was able to capture a couple of other things. Fareeha seemed to be getting to know her a little more as the days passed, and although at the beginning it was frightening, now she only added comfort to this strange employment relationship.

“You took the gun, the cartridge, you moved some things in the gun, you aimed, you fired and you put the gun back on the counter. I think it was everything, it was very fast to be honest.”

“It’s alright. Your gun it’s different, it’s a compact handgun unlike mine, so there’s a few things we must go first. We’ll go slowly.” Angela nodded and looked at her own gun resting on the cold marble. Fareeha pressed the button now on Angela’s column and a target alike appeared at the end. “Step two: shooting stance. You didn’t catch that up, I imagine. But that’s a beginner’s mistake, it’s pretty common. The stance is important because you have to manage recoil, so tilt a little forward. It’s important to be stable and feel comfortable while firing a gun.”

“Okay.” Fareeha pointed at the gun and Angela held the firearm once again. She didn’t want to, but again, she knew someday she could use it for real.

“Step three.” Fareeha grabbed her own unloaded gun and pointed forward. “Handgun grip. Now, you’re small, I recommend you to use both hands to grip the weapon, just like this.”

Fareeha gripped the frame with one hand and cupped from underneath with the other, resting both thumbs on the same side as her index finger stayed close to the trigger. Angela imitated her slowly, trying to adjust her delicate hands to the hard metal. Satisfied, she looked at her hands and then at Fareeha with inquisitive eyes as she turned her body and made the mistake of pointing the gun at her bodyguard.

“Like this?”

“N-no! Wait! Never point the muzzle to where people are!” Angela retreated quickly and pointed to the target once again. “Goodness… But yes, that grip is more than fine.”

“O-oh, good… And sorry…”

“You’re learning, it’s okay. The good thing is that the weapon is unloaded.”

Fareeha had an indescribable patience. Angela stopped pretending control to a certain extent when she felt intimidated by so many security steps, the bodyguard weighing both the good and the bad outcomes of every step only encouraged such hesitation. Finally, Fareeha seemed to understand her concern and decided to be a little more physical with her, adjusting Angela’s body here and there until she felt comfortable before finally firing the gun.

“Are you ready, Angela?”

“I suppose.”

“Hesitation.”

“I know!” Angela shouted shyly almost in a pout and Fareeha laughed, stepping aside with both hands raised.

“You know, you know. Now comes the good part: Aim and shoot.”

That was the easiest part, anyone could do it. Angela pointed, breathing deeply and exhaling through her mouth as she concentrated her shot on the target in front of her. Her finger finally moved and she pulled the trigger. How wrong she was, it was definitely not the easiest part of shooting. The recoil was unexpected, and momentarily destabilized her while her hands felt a little numb. Fareeha quickly positioned herself behind her and began adjusting her body once more. Head, shoulders, arms, back, hips, legs, feet. It seemed that every part of her body was wrong, that what was taught to her was in vain, Angela bit her lip hopeless, but Fareeha was again by her side supporting her, and that made this whole situation a little less uncomfortable at least.

“Try again.” Fareeha encouraged, and this time Angela could manage the recoil, but the bullet barely grazed the target. At least she was close this time. “Better. Try to concentrate in the aim now.”

Angela did it, and it didn’t hit any part of the target this time. She clicked her tongue and almost left the gun in the counter, defeated, but Fareeha moved behind her and surrounded her with her long arms, steading the doctor’s arms as her body pressed Angela’s back. Her skin prickled by the contact and her face flushed. Her dark hair caressed her pale cheek as she placed her head above her shoulder and aligned her arm straight to the target. The smell of her was intoxicating for some reason, and the softness of her touch was incredible for being such a strong person. What was happening?

“Shoot.” Angela blindly did it, still numb by the contact, and the bullet successfully hit the target. It took a while to recover from the cloudiness of her mind, until she focused once again and saw a mark on the target in front of her.

“You did it!”

“…I did it?”

“Yes, you did. Now try by yourself.”

“Ah, yes…” Angela cleared her mind once again and stabilized her body as Fareeha indicated. That feeling of numbness didn’t leave her body, but it only seemed to make her hands tremble. No, it’s no time for thinking about it, leave that aside. She aimed again by shaking her head and fired one, two, three times, all hitting the target successfully.

“That’s great, Angela. Look.” Fareeha pointed at the target, the three more bullets making a hole in the torso. “See? You already know the basics at the moment, now you just have to practice everything until you feel one hundred percent comfortable.”

“I think we made quite a progress at least, right?”

“Yes, a lot actually. You already know the basics at the moment, now you just have to practice everything and you'll be ready to go. You won’t even need my protection at some point.” That last comment was deafening. Two months ago she felt so helpless at the mercy of everything evil of the world, even to those closest to her, but this girl came and changed her world, opened her eyes, made her feel secure, and that feeling of affection only seemed to grow. Being without her now seemed impossible, and that was frightening.

“R-right… I must pay you for all the equipment and the classes as well.”

“No need. Also, we made a deal not to pay me for the classes and instead take self-defense classes.”

“No… Need? This is worth thousands, the gun alone is worth that I believe.” Fareeha shrugged, dismissing the comment.

“They owed me a favor, so there’s no problem about this.”

“Even so, I feel bad about not being able to make up for your time. There must be some form of paying you back.” Fareeha chuckled and it was… So heartwarming. There was something about this girl, about this undeniable protective woman. She was too attentive.

“Seriously, there’s no need to do such thing. The fact of feeling a little more secure with your protection and well-being is enough for me.” She was too considerate. “We’re still missing the self-defense classes, but not now, you should rest, and you must feel exhausted, the recoil of the gun is tiring for a beginner.” She was too concerned. “I can take you for lunch to that little café in downtown and then drive you home. What do you think?” She was too…

“Perfect.”

Angela smiled only so sweetly, and Fareeha responded in the same was, taking both their bags and escorting the doctor back to the car. When the girl smiled at her, that earlier sensation came back doubled. Her heart was beating fast, and a chill ran down her spine constantly, ruffling her skin and warming her face occasionally. She felt that before, a few years ago, but it was impossible, wasn’t it? Not entirely. Fareeha was just different, but still, that gorgeous soul made her even more irresistible. And Angela knew she was getting more than attached with this amazing girl.


The downtown café had a Parisian touch, delicate but with a rustic touch at the same time. Angela missed sitting for a coffee on the terrace by the side of the street while reading several medical articles or working on her laptop occasionally, but since the first attack it was impossible to do that. Fareeha even instructed her not to sit next to the windows or close to the doors, the farther she was from the crowd, the better. Maybe one day she could sit there again without worrying for her well-being.

At least the coffee was still as good as ever. Fareeha regularly sat two or three tables away from her to give her privacy, but this time Angela invited her to sit with her, telling her that she was not her nanny nor was she a sassy little princess. Of course, she could be called that of the royalty in terms of modern medicine, but it still didn’t justify treating Fareeha like a peasant. At first she could tell that the girl was a bit uncomfortable, maybe it was the first time they invited her to the same table as her protégés, and that was a bit sad.

The way she was behaving however contrasted greatly to how she had behaved the first time she met her. There was a source of kindness, empathy, and security in her that Angela had never seen in anyone else. Since the waiter took their orders until he brought their food to the table, and even then, Fareeha was reluctant to even order for herself. Angela didn’t know the reason for that attitude entirely. The girl had manners, she didn’t attract that much of attention, and basically they looked like two friends having a simple meal together, not like a bodyguard not doing her job. And it was cute the way she took a bite of her sandwich and looked to the window, a somewhat distracted girl.

“What are you thinking?” Fareeha turned to see her with surprised eyes, still with a mouthful of her food in her mouth, and swallowed almost forcefully.

“I’m sorry. I am keeping an eye on our surroundings. I'm not paying attention to you?”

“Absolutely not. You never stop doing your job, huh?”

“Never. That’s why I’m here with you.” It was somewhat painful.

“Ah… So, you wouldn’t do it if I ever asked you to accompany me as a friend?”

“A-a friend?”

“What? Is it that unusual?”

“In my job? Not so much. But for us it is…”

“Us?” Angela was getting somewhat confused, and she cocked her head to the side.

“In Helix ranks B and below have a little more freedom when it comes to their work.”

“I suppose you’re an A then?”

“I’m an S.”

“Oh…” So she was the best of the best Helix had to offer then, and it was no surprise. “It must be boring to be stuck with me then.”

“Not at all, I’m enjoying this so far- eh I shouldn’t say that… I’m sorry.” Angela had to laugh; she was even more interesting by now.

“Goodness, no. Don’t apologize. To be honest I’m enjoying your company so far.”

“Really? People say I’m blunt while doing my job…”

“And you are, but the truth is that I would like you to open a little more with me. If we are going to be together for who knows how long, it will be better to get to know each other a bit better, don’t you think? To make this tedious work a little more pleasant.”

“Like… A friend?”

“Only if you wouldn’t be opposed at such title. I-” Angela had to be honest once again, this was eating her alive. “I do consider you a valuable one. You’re reliable, loyal, you’re kind, and I don’t have many of those friendships as of lately, as you can see…” Angela sighed and leaned her face into the palm of her hand, looking nostalgically towards the street. “I shouldn’t even say this to you, it must be quite uncomfortable…” However, Fareeha’s soft laugh caught her attention, and she looked at that considerable lady in front of her.

“Not at all. I can do friends, I would like that. But just have in mind that my job comes first, and thus, your safety. I don’t mean to be blunt with you, but most of the time it’s easier to work that way and look intimidating to other so they won’t attempt any funny business with you.” Fareeha kept smiling, and Angela’s heart leaped. She had the most amazing smile, and the fact she barely displayed such gesture was even more impressive.

“Well…” Angela smiled back and raised her glass of wine for a toast. “For friendship then.”

“For friendship… And your safety.” Fareeha raised her own as well and they clanked their glasses in a soft toast, each one taking a sip of their drink. Angela smiled to Fareeha from the rim of her glass. She could see a faint blush in the other woman’s face, and it was overly adorable. Angela’s phone rang softly, and she reached for her purse to take the small hand device and verify the number. It was Amelie.

“Would you mind if I take this call?” Fareeha made a gesture with her hand, encouraging the doctor to continue.

“Not at all.” A nod and she answered happily.

“Hello?”

Good afternoon, Angela. How are you? Are you busy?

“Oh, not at all. I’m doing rather well just now, how are you?”

Hm, you do sound in a good mood. Your companion must be doing such a great job then.

“Indeed.” She smiled, Amelie was not wrong.

That’s great, darling. I hope you are having fun. Anyway, the reason why I called you is because I wanted to invite you to a new play starring only the best dancer in the west side of Europe.

“And that could only be you.” Angela giggled; her new elegant yet dangerous friend was so charming and had an incredible self-confidence. After all, she really was one of the finest dancers the world had to offer.

Of course, darling. It will be at Teatro Bel Canto tonight at eight. I hope to see you there.

“I will be there, count me in.”

Goodbye then. Take care, Angela.

Angela hung up and tapped a few icons on her smartphone, checking her agenda and postponing a few appointments she had. Fortunately, there were not that many, and her schedule for that night was empty. Regularly she would be accompanied; Hanzo was always included in that equation. When Amelie performed, Hanzo dragged the doctor to the front row and had the best seats to see her friend dance. He had great taste in matters of performing arts and musical orchestration. Amelie’s grace and elegance was incomparable, something that Angela had never seen, and the French successfully managed to manifest raw emotions through her dancing, and it was beyond beautiful. However, this time, Angela didn’t want to go alone, she never was as a matter of fact.

Fareeha regularly stayed outside the doors waiting for her wherever she was, standing in the hall while having her earphones on looked disinterestedly at her phone, but that was it. However, Angela didn’t want Fareeha to be away this time, and this seemed like a great opportunity to bond further with her new called friend. She stowed her phone back in the purse and faced Fareeha, the girl taking slow sips at her drink while looking outside. Did she have any idea of how handsome she looked sometimes? She had this alluring exotic badass vibe, she was tall, well-built without losing her womanly features, her deep gaze was powerful and intimidating yet gentle and soft when needed. She looked back, and that seemed to confirm it.

“Hi.” Angela said and Fareeha blushed slightly. The doctor didn’t know the reason why, perhaps she wasn’t used to one of her jobs to treat her so differently. It was cute overall. “I have a proposal for you.”

“Okay?”

“Amelie Lacroix invited me to one of her performances tonight at eight. I want to attend, of course, but this time I want you to join me.” Fareeha seemed confused, and she blinked a couple of times.

“Sure, no problem. But you know that I'm always there wherever you go. It’s kind of my job.” Angela giggled, Fareeha was so clueless sometimes.

“No, Fareeha. I want you to join me as a guest, not as my bodyguard.”

“A-ah…” That sound was adorable. “I would very much like that, yes. Still, I have to do my job dressed in a better outfit.”

“Hahah certainly!”

“I just have one question.”

“Yes?”

“Why me? I mean, you have your husband, your friend, even no company at all seems to suit you better.”

“My husband is on a business trip; he parted with my friend together this morning. Something about family business, it seems. And about the lonely company, yes, usually I’d go that way, but I must admit that I enjoy your company as of lately.”

“I see… Then I will gladly make you company tonight.”

“We should finish this delicious meal and then retire to our homes.”

“Good. How about I pick you up at seven?”

“That sounds perfect.”


Angela stood in front of the mirror trying on different dresses again and again. She admitted that she loved to wear only the most beautiful outfits that complemented her already outstanding beauty. She was vain to a certain extent, but she would never sacrifice functionality in her work to look pretty, never. However, now, the five dresses stretched out on her bed seemed not to satisfy her. One showed too much cleavage, another looked like a tent, but what they all had in common was that they showed the skin of the places that least wanted to show. Arms, wrists, neck, collarbone, painted with dark bruises and red scratches.

She huffed with only a lot of frustration; she hated the way one of her favorite dresses only made her look like an abused woman. It was far from being a lie, but displaying it only made the situation even more awful. Angela went to the walk-in closet once more even though she knew she wouldn’t find something decent that could satisfy her taste and at the same time cover every mark of violence on her pale body that makeup couldn’t hide. She went through the several expensive pieces of clothing in pale and pastel hues, she didn’t like very bright or dark colors, and a champagne colored dress caught her attention, something usual. She took the long piece from the hook and extended it with her arms, feeling the fabric along her skin and looking at every intrinsic detail of the fabric. She stood in front of the mirror again, holding the dress in front of her, and it didn’t look as bad as she thought. In the end she decided to try it, and the result could not be more encouraging.

The dress had details in lace and Swarovski crystals, the long sleeves did an excellent job in covering her arms, the skirt reached to her ankles and fell elegantly, highlighting her hips and her narrow waist. The bare back added an excellent touch of sensuality without looking very improper, and the color highlighted the pale of her skin and the gold of her hair. There was only the detail of the neck and the five marks that almost vanished but still remained in a pale red. A scarf would be enough, the cold weather served as a pretext. A pair of heels, a set of diamonds earrings and her hair in an elegant messy updo complemented the outfit satisfactorily, and the makeup with gold and pale pink hues ended up making her look like a princess.

Angela felt like one. It’s been almost a year since she took her time to get ready and think about the perfect outfit to go out, it almost felt like a date. No, it was not a date, it definitely wasn’t. Stop it. Her phone chimed, it was seven o'clock. Angela smiled as she took the device in her hands and pressed a button on the screen to read the simple message received. ‘Good night. I’m outside waiting for you’. Fareeha was very punctual, that showed her dedication and commitment.

Prior leaving, Angela took a fluffy faux fur white coat and put a scarf of the same color around her neck, finally carrying her purse before opening the large wooden doors of the residence. When she finally came out, her eyes fixed on that stoic woman waiting for her disinterestedly leaning on the car. Angela walked slowly towards her, and she felt she was under a spell. Fareeha was dressed in a dark gray suit, paired with a light gray vest and a white button up shirt and black tie. Her hair was in a somewhat messy ponytail, letting her features show up more prominently. The slightly more detailed form in which she put on a somewhat grunge makeup only accentuated her feminine characteristics, and that made her look like a sensual and intimidating woman without even showing a single piece of skin.

“You look so… Handsome.” Angela finally said, Fareeha blushed and that complimented the whole outfit.

“I doubt it, but thank you so much. It’s just another suit slightly more elegant. You however… You look gorgeous. You must be used to people calling you beautiful all the time, I think my comment has no impact whatsoever.” Fareeha shrugged a little embarrassed, it was obvious that she didn’t feel up to Angela's attire.

“Hardly, the compliment is well appreciated when it comes from the right kind of people. Fortunately, you enter that category.”

Angela smiled without thinking and sat on the passenger’s seat, waiting for Fareeha to take the wheel. This time, the drive wasn’t uncomfortable. Not at all, just the opposite. Angela was becoming more and more interested in this woman, and it seemed that Fareeha felt the same curiosity. To get to know each other better and to strengthen this new bond that Angela proposed, the doctor decided to ask her something a little more personal and Fareeha could ask her one as well. Angela was able to meet a hidden interesting side, a new facet of her bodyguard, such as the fact that she recently bought a motorcycle –even when Angela hated them-, that she was born in Giza, the fact that her mother taught her martial arts since she was four and how she was in the Egyptian army for three years then to finish an engineering degree in Canada. Despite the short time she had living, it was impressive how she could keep a rather difficult balance. But more surprising and painful is how this young woman had to grow up fast. Sure, because she did it. Fareeha was still a girl, she still had tastes and needs perhaps of a teenager, but her current personal and working life demanded that she behave and act like a woman of thirty years or more.

Angela felt empathy, she also had to grow up fast. Her intelligence was surprising at such a young age, and many wanted to take advantage of that genius while few sought to encourage her to achieve more, to do better things with her gift, to help. In the end, that last part was what made her decide, and as if it were destiny, her fast skills seemed to respond efficiently to the medical field, and that was where she succeeded at the tender age of seventeen to become a successful "woman" with a degree in medicine and a doctorate in Nano and biotechnology. Saying a woman was a lot, she was still a child-minded girl, just like Fareeha. Maybe that's why Angela felt this invisible bond that linked them. Despite being so different, they were so equal at the same time. Maybe it really was empathy. Angela hoped it was.

She kept thinking about the same thing while Fareeha drove them to the theater. It had been so long since Angela had felt such a sense of comfort and security that she had no choice but to rejoice in the warm feeling that came from her company. In a matter of minutes, both reached the huge theater and Fareeha, as attentive as ever, opened the passenger door to Angela and extending her hand helped the doctor out of the car. Fareeha checked her surroundings one last time before proceeding and escort Angela to the large building in front of them. Both sat in one of the seats near the stage, Angela personally didn’t love being in the front row, but Hanzo could never miss the act of his friend from the best seats available. For that reason, and this time, she enjoyed being a little apart and having a better view of the act without sacrificing her neck.

After several minutes and the sound of people settling into their seats and muttering, the lights went out and the stage was lit in a set of soft lights and the music of the first act sounded through the speakers. Finally, her friend made an appearance on stage, wearing an elegant white dress that made her look like a fairy. The second act was beginning when Angela, absorbed and smiling, looked away from the stage to look at her companion. The doctor really expected a boring reaction from her bodyguard, but the girl was staring fixedly at the stage with bright eyes, in a trance of amazement and blissfulness. Angela laughed lightly and returned her attention to Amelie’s performance. The Giselle ballet was one of her favorites, and Amelie did an outstanding job while dancing through such steps and pirouettes, not for nothing she was one of the best in the world, but this time it seemed that another smile overshadowed the act. Angela shook her head and tried to focus on the dance. She didn’t know why, but suddenly she felt warm, from the inside out, and the same feeling of numbness returned.

“Did you liked it?”

Angela was walking with Fareeha side by side, leaving the theater and walking quietly to the parking lot. The weather was cold and inviting, and Fareeha seemed smaller in her jacket trying to retain her body heat. Her height didn’t help much, and by whatever reason she wasn’t that much covered like Angela, whose coat was quite fuzzy and warm. Fareeha blinked a couple of times before answering between a side smile.

“I actually enjoyed it far from what I expected.”

“Have you never attended a ballet?”

“Never, this is my first. Definitely not my last, but I still prefer a regular band playing in the bar.”

“Heh I don’t doubt it.” Angela giggled, followed by Fareeha’s addictive one.

“I’m too predictable?”

“A bit.”

“Too much of a tomboy, drinks too much beer, prefers rock before anything else, and has a non-ordinary job. I’m a cliché then.”

“Now that’s the word.”

There was a round of laughter, and they made it to the car. However, Fareeha stopped and looked strangely at their ride. Angela quickly followed her bodyguard’s gaze and she felt how Fareeha put an arm in front of her, backing her up as she saw the burst tires of the vehicle in which they arrived. The Egyptian reached her hand inside her jacket and touched the holster, taking her gun with both hands and walking slowly to examine the car by surrounding it. All four tires burst, it was impossible to move in it. Whoever did the damage, knew how to reach them.

“Stay behind.”

Angela obeyed, clutching her coat and covering further with the soft fabric. She backed up one slow step at the time, but then a pair of arms surrounded her, clasping her mouth shut and lifting her by the waist. Angela kicked in the air and squirmed, trying to free herself from whoever was dragging her in the parking lot. She knew she was panicking; her purse was lying on the floor with her brand new pocket handgun inside, and she lacked the strength Fareeha had in one arm. Angela had to think fast, and she focused on the hand clasping her mouth. She moved her head to the sides, and with a small opening of freedom, she bit hard. A man grunted and he pulled his hand away from the doctor's mouth for a moment. That was enough.

“Fareeha!”

The girl quickly turned to the doctor and ran towards her, pointing the gun towards the two with the intention of scaring the man to release her. However, the man took out a knife and placed it on the neck of the doctor after ripping the white scarf from her. Fareeha seemed to analyze her options, weighting the possibilities of every outcome, and she decided to be a pacifist amongst everything.

“Release her. There’s no need to spill blood here.” She steadied her gun, never faltering and always aiming. “Don’t harm her.”

“Relax, I’m not going to kill her, she’s too valuable. But I can do some harm to her body, so step back, girl.” The man growled in Angela’s ear, enough for Fareeha to listen clearly.

“What?” Angela gasped. “Then what do you want from me? If you want money-”

“Money? No, oh no. The boss has plenty of it, except for your work, your brain, your body. The boss seems eager to have the three of them.”

“Your boss? Who do you work for?!” Fareeha yelled, clutching her weapon harder and adjusting her body forward, willing to shoot first.

“Talon.”

Fareeha’s eyes opened wide, both in surprise and horror. She seemed to know about Talon, and Angela knew as well. They were ruthless, a horrifying organization that only created chaos. Unlike the Shimada’s or other mafia-kind family, Talon didn’t pursue a single objective, they worked for those who had money and power enough to do a dirty job and have their hands clean. However, no one knew who this boss was, and it seemed to be about two or three more, as rumors spread. And in that moment, Fareeha knew she had to act fast, faster than before or the life of Angela was in significant danger with every second passing.

“You think you are in control, huh? Well, guess what? You’re not!” The man began to ramble blind of power, almost digging his fingers into Angela's cheeks and dangerously moving the knife in front of the doctor’s throat. “Do you think you can always protect her?”

“Well, at least I'll do it until I die.”

A chance, and Fareeha did not hesitate. In an almost imperceptible movement, she quickly adjusted her body and pulled the trigger, the bullet successfully piercing the shoulder of the individual holding Angela hostage. Blood splattered on her paler than usual face, and the doctor froze in place as the grunting body fell behind her. She forgot to breathe for a few seconds, until Fareeha reached her side, hitting the fallen man with her elbow on his temple and leaving him unconscious instantly, enough to give them time to run and escape. Honestly Angela couldn’t speak, she was so perplexed and terrified, paralyzed in the dark parking lot as she watched Fareeha's lips move but they made no sound. Or she couldn’t listen.

Two more men came running into the parking lot, one of them pointing a gun at both girls while the other ran toward the frozen doctor instead. Fareeha didn’t hesitate for a second on what to do, and in her arms she picked up Angela and carried her in a shoulder, running out of the place until she could be safe. Angela finally blinked, and the horror was no less. Fareeha kept shooting at her back, running with her in her arms and her legs barely gave enough. They were close, very close, and Fareeha clicked her tongue when the ammo ran out. Instead, she eyed her surroundings, looking for a possible escape route, but the street was wide and stretched for several blocks in front of the lake bridge and there seemed to be no other way.

“Can you swim?!” Fareeha asked panting, running didn’t help anymore, and they almost reached them. Angela had to blink several times to make sure she heard the question correctly.

“What?!”

“Can you swim?!” Fareeha repeated, this time more accentuated.

“Y-yes!”

Angela didn’t know what was happening, didn’t know why the question, but overall, what this whole wicked situation meant. The sound of detonated guns sounded through the street, skidding tires and screams joined at the end. It wasn’t two people now, and it seemed that Fareeha was not willing to find out how many more were following her, for she went to the edge of the bridge and took Angela in a bridal carry, pressing her hard to her chest before whispering something perhaps in Arabic, and jumping with her to the icy water of the river that led to the lake. And everything went dark.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter VIII

And I accepted who I am

 

Dark, frozen, suffocating. When she opened her eyes she only saw silhouettes in the icy water of the lake. Lights and shadows danced among the liquid that had trapped her, but an object stood out impressively. A woman, a delicate female figure with golden hair trying to reach the surface, moving her arms and legs in slow movements that seemed to be caresses, and piercing blue eyes that looked back turned her back to reality. That woman had preference among all things, including her own life, and she should help her. She needed to do so.

Fareeha swam quickly to Angela, the doctor struggled to reach the surface with her thick coat and the length of her dress kept her almost immovable underwater. Her bodyguard finally reached her, and she pulled her by her slender pale arm to bring her to the surface. It was so cold, so cold. Fareeha was no longer feeling her body, the adrenaline seemed to be the only thing that kept moving her, and finally the oxygen reached to their lungs once again. Both gasped desperately, Fareeha making the biggest of efforts to swim them both under the bridge and hold on to a pillar to prevent the current from taking them to a part farther from the shore.

She looked at Angela, the woman was paler than usual, and she helped her take off her coat with one hand. They weren’t out of danger yet, the yelling were still heard above them, and for the moment, they needed distraction, to get away as soon as possible from the danger zone and resort to a safe area. The coat was heavy because it had soaked and absorbed so much water, and Fareeha made the decision to let the current take it away to draw attention to the object and not to them. The cold Fareeha was feeling at that moment was unparalleled with any other else, and she knew she was at the point of hypothermia. Her body barely tolerated the cold, and this was hell reversed.

Slowly they moved, swimming as calmly as possible to avoid splashing and making attention-grabbing noises. Fareeha's mind was working more than usual, they needed to get out of the water and escape as soon as possible, and their energies were running out, but fortunately Angela seemed to remain conscious enough. With that in mind, Fareeha swam further into the canal, until she reached a concrete surface with stairs leading to the street. Fareeha went up the surface first and pulled Angela with both arms to the concrete catwalk, helping her to stand and remain silent for a while. The doctor was trembling, something she had never seen before, her jaw was trembling slightly and she hugged herself in the hope of bringing some warmth to her body, but it was useless.

Fareeha climbed slowly up the stairs, followed by Angela, and stopped at the last step to look at the street and make sure the coast was clear. She looked at the bridge, and a car with about four people outside saw below it and they were moving towards the lake, to the direction where Angela's coat was being carried by the current. Perfect, an opening. Fareeha went out to the street and quickly helped Angela, pulling her by the wrist so they could start running until they turned on a street and out of sight of those men chasing them. Once a little more secure, Fareeha weighed her options. They didn’t have a car, she was sure that their phones didn’t work either, and the doctor's house was very far from the neighborhood in which they were.

The neighborhood. Fareeha recognized the street. Her mother's apartment was about five blocks away. That was the closest and safest place in all the options at hand. But she had to stop for a moment to see Angela in the eyes before running away. The doctor was in panic, barely sobbing due to the cold numbness of her body. Crystal blue eyes saw her back, and she knew there was no going back. They had to run and they had to do it now. Those were the five longest blocks that Fareeha had run in her life. She didn’t know how far her legs could keep responding, but she would never leave Angela behind. Not now, not ever. Finally they reached the building, climbing the stairs with heaviness until they were standing in front of the door of Ana's apartment.

Fareeha took off her dripping jacket and from a small bag of her shoulder holster, the accessory crossing her back like backpack, she extracted a set of three keys she had in case of emergency. Her and Jesse’s apartment, her bike, and her mother's apartment. She took the only key that worked and opened the door with heaviness and relief, inviting Angela to enter and closing the door behind her, putting each safe before breathing easily once again. She threw the wet jacket to the floor and ran to close the curtains, then gestured Angela to sit on the couch while she went to find a couple of towels and anything warm that could cover them. Angela frowned, she was not sure, and decided to clear her mind.

“I'm going to wet it and ruin it.” The doctor spoke, shivering in her place.

“Don’t worry about that. Here.” She handed Angela a towel, and the blonde wrapped tightly in the soft fabric.

“My thanks…”

“Feel at home. The bathroom is over there in the first door, the phone is on the side table of the living room if you need to make a call, and I'll bring you some clothes so you can change into something dry at least.”

Fareeha took her gun from the holster and put it on the kitchen counter to dry, then she walked quickly to a bookshelf in the living room and pulled out a row of books to show a hidden drawer full of weapons and ammunition. Her mother was not stupid, she was cautious, she knew that maybe one day somebody would have a revenge outbreak against them or any Amari, and it was better to be armed to the teeth. That alone was one of the many hidden drawers in the apartment. She took two ammunition cartridges, a jack knife and one of her mother’s many sniper rifles and left them next to her gun on the counter. When she was going to her old bedroom, she looked at Angela one more time, who was still standing between the door and the living room, watching every step Fareeha took. The Egyptian cocked her head in confusion.

“Is there something wrong?” There was silence, like Angela was taking everything step by step.

“Is this your place?”

“My mother’s. She traveled back to Egypt, she’ll come back in a month or so.”

“She sure is armed…”

“More than anyone I know.”

Fareeha disappeared in her bedroom, fortunately she left a few clothes in case something happened. She didn’t expect this situation however, but she appreciated the precaution that her mother taught her. Unfortunately her clothes were too big for Angela. The doctor, despite being tall as well, was way shorter than her. She took out of the drawer a shirt and black leggings and put them on her bed, then went to her mother's bedroom and took a new pajama set she bought for her birthday but wasn’t opened and left it in the bathroom for Angela, just over the toilet lid. She returned to the living room and Angela remained in the same place, shy and fearful. And with good reason, she was in the house of a stranger and somewhat helpless after someone tried to kidnap her.

“Angela?” She called her softly, trying not to startle her. “You can take a shower while I do some calls and figure things out. I left you some clothes, a pajama and a gown, whichever you prefer. Don’t worry, they’re my mother’s and she never used them.”

“Ah, yes… Thank you.”

She finally moved, and made a beeline to the bathroom, closing the door softly and successfully turning on the hot water of the shower. Fareeha was finally able to breathe calmly, and the gathering of the events made her finally put her feet on the ground. She was soaked, frozen, with a slight bullet wound in her left leg, but at least they were safe for the moment. She unfastened her holster and put it next to the gathering of weapons in the kitchen counter, then proceeded to unbutton her white shirt and the bulletproof T-shirt vest underneath it, examining herself in front of the living room mirror to make sure she had no more wounds her cold body refused to let her feel. Nothing. Good. She was still numb however, and needed to heat her body both inside and outside, and thus, she put a teapot with water to boil and make tea before calling Gabriel and let him know the situation they lived to alert the police.

Angela came out in minutes with the two-piece nightgown. After tremendous fright, she already looked more relaxed, and more beautiful than usual. Her blue eyes eyed Fareeha up and down, and the bodyguard realized she was bare from the waist up, except by her sports bra, and covered herself with the towel and take a hot shower as well, but not before darting to her bedroom and snitch the outfit she pulled from her drawers. By whatever reason, she now needed to cool down. What was happening? A cold shower wasn’t helping, and she let the hottest stream of water fall on her, burning her skin pleasantly as she tried to dismiss such unthinkable thoughts. Angela was beautiful, yes, but that was it. There was nothing more. No. Then why was she so eager to protect that woman? Work? Obviously, she took it very seriously, but there was something different, something about this wonderful woman that dragged her blindly to a place she barely knew. And her heart skip a beat.

Fareeha came out of the shower after clearing her thoughts for a moment, looking at herself in the mirror and telling herself ‘no’ repeatedly. The medicine cabinet was nearby, and she applied a little antiseptic and a gauze to protect the superficial and barely noticeable wound on her leg. When she left the bathroom, Angela was already sitting more comfortably on the sofa, looking curiously at her surroundings. Her natural color had returned to her skin, and she seemed to be at ease. Fareeha sighed, leaving the towel on a chair after drying her hair and went to the kitchen to fix some tea for her and Angela. Once the drinks were ready, she sat on the sofa in front of her and handed the hot drink to the doctor, who smiled shyly and took a sip of the warm liquid.

“Chamomile. Thank you.” Angela smiled sweetly at the rim of her cup, and Fareeha had to hold her breath for whatever reason.

“I don’t know your tastes regarding tea, so I decided to play safe.”

“Good choice.” There was a pleasant silence before Fareeha had to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

“I’m sorry about everything, but we have to spend the night here. It’s most likely the way back to your house is patrolled by those grunts. We will leave tomorrow morning, I have already informed Helix and a car will be here at nine in the morning to escort you back to your home when things are calmer.” Angela nodded this time and the corner of her lips turned upwards only slightly.

“My thanks… For everything.”

“You’re welcome.” Fareeha smiled back, and she remembered the wound in her leg. She had to ask. “By the way, how are you? Do you have any wounds? I mean, a bullet grazed my leg. But it’s alright, it feels like a scratch. However, I have to make sure you’re safe and sound as well. If you do have some minor injuries, I can help you.”

“D-don’t worry, I’m fine.”

There was too much apprehension in her words, a lot of hesitation, and the doctor hid more in the borrowed nightgown, closing it tighter with one hand, looking down with a hint of shame while she placed the half-drank cup of tea on the coffee table. It wasn’t normal, there was something else she was hiding. Fareeha tried to let her be, but her gaze fell on every piece of Angela's skin that was in sight. Her hands, her bare feet, her face. The face that man took so aggressively to silence her. Fareeha set her cup down on the table as well and got up, standing in front of Angela and lifted her chin with two fingers, making the doctor look at her face-to-face, but her eyes were focused on examining the doctor’s pretty one. Only a small scratch on her right cheek was left. That was it, fortunately. However, when she was about to go back to her seat, a more pronounced red mark on her neck caught her attention, and she knelt in front of her to find out what it was.

“Stop it…” Angela pleaded, but Fareeha was willing to know more, and she moved her head to the side. “Please, stop it…” She shook her head, trying to hide her neck, but when Fareeha looked back hard, she stopped fighting.

The doctor begged, her voice broke and her eyes started to fill with tears. Four more bruises were painted on the other side of her neck, and Fareeha knew that it wasn’t from tonight's events. Fareeha knew that those marks were recent, but even worse, she knew they were the marks of a hand, fingerprints to be more exact. Someone had tried to suffocate her and pierce her neck with its digits, and she wasn’t there to protect her. She breathed shakily, feeling like a failure before touching Angela’s face once again. Those flushed cheeks were damp with tears, silently begging Fareeha to step away and forget everything she just saw, but Fareeha could never turn away from her. Not now, not when she needed her the most.

“Who did this to you?” Angela shook her head.

“I-It’s nothing… Just… I’m going to sleep…”

She got up, and Fareeha understood why weeks ago she acted so differently. Fareeha grabbed her wrist before she could escape and turned her over, Angela looked at her with surprised eyes as Fareeha frowned in frustration and defeat. Now she understood why Angela stopped being that confident person with her body, so sure of her elegance and beauty, and hid in long-sleeved clothes and turtle necks. She peeled the robe from her, from her shoulders to her wrists until the piece fell and only the light nightgown remained, and she had a perfect view of her shoulders, arms, collarbone, even her cleavage, and when she saw more marks, more dark and red bruises all over her body, something deep inside her crawled in the form of rage and desperation. Her right side was mostly bruised, even when only small red marks remained almost healing completely, the damage was sill reflected in her pale skin.

“Angela, who did this to you?”

“It’s none of your business.” She was frustrated now.

“Your well-being is my job, so it is very much my business.” Fareeha knew who did that, she implied it by looking at Angela’s eyes. And the doctor seemed to know as well.

“And what will you do about it if I tell you who it was? Are you going to hit him? Threat him? Kill him?! You cannot do anything to him, and even less knowing that he hired you.”

“I don’t work for him, I told you that so many times is tiring.”

“And what about that? He’s untouchable! I’m nothing to him and you’re nothing as well!”

“Then why the fuck are you still married to that asshole?! He’s cheating on you with who knows how many women and now he’s hurting you physically? Are you waiting for him to kill you?!”

Both snapped, Fareeha never raised her voice, never swore while doing her job, and even less to her protégé. But she was raging, she was desperate, she wanted to pull Angela from the hands of that man, get her out of that prison that she called home, and get her away from everything bad, because she was the purest being she had ever met and she did not deserve anything that was happening to her at all.

“And why do you care so much? Do your work, escort me from my house to my work and end your day like any other person!”

“Because I can’t anymore! You wanted a friend? Fine! Now here’s a friend concerned for you. And that’s why we’re not supposed to attach to our job, to our objectives, here’s exactly why, doctor! Do you think this is easy for me as well? Well, it’s not! And every passing day is harder!”

“Do not come to me with that. You have had every opportunity to resign and you haven’t done it! Do you think I don’t know how Helix works? Do you think I didn’t investigate the first time I saw you?! From the first day I took a look at you I knew that this wasn’t going to be easy, that maybe over time things would calm down and I would get used to it, but no! Every day has been worse, you changed so much in my life in so little time, and today more than ever I regret having spoken to you!”

“And I regret having taken this job but here I am!”

She did not, she absolutely did not meant to say that. Fareeha could only be grateful of meeting this magnificent woman. And perhaps her yelling was a little intimidating, because Angela walked heavily to the couch, sitting slowly in it and she began to sob, covering her face with both hands and hiding from the world once again. There was a small detail Fareeha missed while examining the doctor. Angela’s wrists however were decorated by a couple of red slits. Was she trying to…? Fareeha sat next to her and she took her hands away from her face, painfully examined her arms and looking pleadingly to her.

“Sometimes I wish I hadn’t been such a coward and finished everything… It would be easier, it would be over-”

“Don’t say that. Don’t you ever say or think that again.”

“What gives, I’m dead anyway…”

“What do you mean?”

“Someone’s trying to kidnap me, my house is a prison, there’s a stranger I used to love in that residence that only causes me pain, I’m forced to do things I don’t ever want to think on doing again, and the only person who seemed genuinely concerned hates being by my side-”

“No, Angela… Forget I ever said that. I regret every single word I yelled at you. I’m so sorry.” She smiled painfully, and it seemed to increase her guilt.

“You meant everything you said.” She did. She was right. Fareeha did have her regrets, and now even more, because she really was attaching to Angela, too much, and it was dangerous for both of them.

“I do, sometimes… But I'll never leave you, not while you're in danger, not until I know you're safe.”

“Why are you so eager to protect me then?”

“I… I don’t know…”

She didn’t know and knew at the same time, she wanted not to know, she wanted to deny it, but with the passing of days, of the hours, of the minutes she was at Angela's side, her heart was leaping, her breathing was accelerating, and her cheeks blushed as an incomprehensible heat coursed through her from head to toe. Fareeha knew that day she felt that that Jesse was right.

“So whatever it is that’s guiding you, I hope it continues. I-I feel safe with you, so safe… It’s frightening.”

“Well, I’m glad I’m helping at least one of us.”

Angela leaned her head on Fareeha's shoulder, and that didn’t help to calm the bodyguard's anxiety. However, she decided to give comfort to the doctor, and she put her arm around her slender shoulders, giving her warmth and comfort as she moved her hand up and down on Angela's pale and pained arm. There was silence for some minutes, welcoming and warm, heating up with every passing second. Angela breathed deeply, slowly, and she nuzzled further in Fareeha’s shoulder. Her golden hair was cascading down her cheek, it still was damp, and the coldness of it paired with her warm body made her skin prickle.

“I don’t want to return to that house…” She spoke above a whisper.

“Then don’t.” Fareeha replied in the same manner.

“I have to, I have no choice.” Fareeha swallowed, she knew why Angela had to return. She was probably threatened by her own husband. Fareeha knew that because Genji asked for a weekly report of where the doctor was going, what she did, how she did it and when she did it, but Fareeha had to lie some other time to protect Angela, even when she did nothing wrong.

“Can I ask you something…? You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.” A nod.

“I'll answer whatever you want to ask me.”

“…Why did you marry him?”

More silence. And air taken deep through the nose later to be released. Angela shifted slightly, and looked briefly at Fareeha before scooting closer to her, her body so close Fareeha could easily smell her, feel and hear her breathing. Angela placed her head back on Fareeha’s shoulder, closer to her face, and she took her other arm, hugging herself and silently pleading Fareeha to hug her before she could answer that question. Fareeha understood quickly, and hugged her softly, bringing her closer to her and placing her cheek on the top Angela’s head. Her heart was racing, but she didn’t mind anymore. She had to admit to herself, she was getting more than attached to Angela, she was having a crush, and a hard one. Since the first time she saw her, going down the stairs wearing that gorgeous dress and those gentle yet dangerous eyes looked back at her, she knew there was something hypnotizing about this perfect woman.

“That’s… Kind of a difficult question to answer now.”

“I understand if you don’t want to answer ever-”

“No, I want to. It’s fair. You have been honest with me, so kind, such a good friend, it’s only fair.” Fareeha smiled while tightening the embrace. “I was twenty-four years old when I met him at a charity at the hospital where I worked in Switzerland. His family made a glorious donation to the public hospital through such an event, and I wanted to thank him because we urgently needed that money. So I went to him, and he seemed to fall in love with me at that moment, because he didn’t let me go for the whole night, and even the following days he tried to contact me and invite me to a date. He even made more donations to the hospital to catch my attention, such man.” A soft giggle erupted from her rosy lips. “Eventually I accepted to grant him one outing, and he was such a charming and handsome man that I fell as well.”

“That sounds like a soap opera.”

“Heh it does, doesn’t it? Well, we started dating after that night. Her family seemed to accept me perfectly knowing that at that age I was already a recognized doctor and had only so much potential, you know that in powerful families status is everything, and I seemed to fit in that mold of them. Two years later he proposed to me and I accepted blindly, I thought he was the love of my life and we belonged together for eternity… How stupid I was... I refused to see the red flags, again and again there were negative signals, such as the sudden change in his attitude days before he proposed, when we married, the women's clothes in his apartment that weren’t mine, stacks of bills and guns pilled on the kitchen table, among other things that I refuse to believe and want to forget.”

“And here you are…”

“And here I am… It’s funny and interesting how the only person who I have felt at peace as of lately has been a woman the person I distrust the most hired to watch over me. The only thing he has done right after almost three years of marriage.”

“I’m glad I can help.”

“They weren’t lying when they said you are very dedicated, let me tell you.”

“I am guided by the values of my family above anything else.”

“And what are those values?” Fareeha lifted her head and turned in her seat, facing Angela as she pointed at her tattoo with a finger.

“The Eye of Horus, so the Gods protect me and guide me to protect those who need it. The Amari’s are protectors, we bring justice and serve the innocent. And that’s why I won’t rest until I know you’re safe.” Angela cupped Fareeha’s cheek with a warm hand and stroked her tattoo with her thumb, lingering more than a few seconds while her eyes pierced those dark ones. She was leaning forward, she was closer to her face, so close. Just a few moments more… No! Fareeha got up and walked to where she left Angela’s robe, handing it back to the doctor and helping her to stand on her feet. “We should rest… You can sleep in my bedroom. Well, what used to be my bedroom.”

“A-ah okay…? Where are you sleeping?”

“In the couch. I’m not risking someone coming through the door and trying to kidnap you again.” They were in a huff in Fareeha’s old bedroom, and she placed on the bed a couple of blankets she extracted from a closet. “Okay. Here’s some blankets, you know where the bathroom is, if you need to call someone there’s the phone on the nightstand, and if you need me, I’ll be in the living room.” She was saying everything so fast, Angela barely registered anything when Fareeha closed the door to the bedroom and sprinted to the bathroom to wash her face with cold water.


It was so late, she was so tired, it was after one o'clock in the morning, and Fareeha was still awake writhing on the sofa and trying to catch some sleep. And she was cold, so cold. It started snowing three hours ago and not even the three blankets on top of her could warm her. The clock ticking in the kitchen was about to drive her crazy, and now more than ever she needed a cigarette, but her mother had zero tolerance for tobacco in her house, and therefore there was not a single cigarette available, Ana even had the delicacy to clean her stashes in the house.

She grunted as she buried her face in the pillow, turning for the third time in five minutes. It was impossible to sleep, her work tomorrow would be worse than after her birthday, she foresaw it. Suddenly the bedroom door opened, and Angela's soft footsteps stomped slightly through the wooden floor. Fareeha thought that perhaps she got up to the bathroom, as she did twice that night, but the sound of footsteps intensified, until the figure of Angela covered by a blanket stood in front of her, staring into her eyes. She extended a pale, icy hand, and Fareeha sighed, accepting it and getting up with the same blanket that was wrapped around her so as not to lose the heat.

Angela led Fareeha to the bedroom, then laid her on the bed and she sat next to her, watching her intently. The intensity of her gaze was impressive, and the fact that she had piercing blue eyes like aquamarine didn’t help to keep her eyes away from them.

“Stay with me.” Angela begged in a whisper. “Stay with me for the night.” She asked again, and Fareeha couldn’t do anything else but nod. She was too uncomfortably cold, she was willing to pour boiling water to her body, but this was better. Way better.

Angela lied down once again, burying herself in the soft comforter and raised the edge to invite Fareeha to lie down beside her. The girl sighed, and accepted the invitation, taking her own blanket and rolling up on it. It was still warm inside, too inviting in this frigid, merciless weather. How could Angela get out of such comfort? The doctor came closer to her and placed her face in the crook of Fareeha’s neck. Her hot breath against her cold skin made her shiver, and the fact that it was Angela the one she was sharing the bed with, only encouraged such sensation.

“So much better…” Angela whispered in her ear.

“Yeah…”

There was silence again, and she was comfortable this time. Warm, cozy, sleepy above all, but she still couldn’t sleep. It seemed Angela couldn’t as well.

“Fareeha?”

“Hm?” The doctor turned a little, leaning on her elbow and looking down as her hair fell slightly on her cheek. She was flushed and when Angela crouched lower and lower, and pressed her lips gently to hers, Fareeha knew that she had lost all dignity.

That kiss was more than she imagined.

Fareeha could refuse, could push her away and run, almost like she did in the living room, but once those lips touched her own, she forgot everything she was. Fareeha slowly returned the show of affection, her lips parted slowly and Angela brushed the tip of her tongue in Fareeha’s lower lip. It was so sweet and tender and she needed more. She opened her mouth and the doctor swiftly explored inside her with her tongue. Fareeha didn’t want to be left behind and did the same, her tongues fighting in a battle of possession, and Angela was winning. Fareeha let herself be taken and placed a hand in Angela’s hair, pushing her closer to her face as their kiss intensified. It was full of affection and understanding at first, and it quickly escalated to that of pure lust and desire. She knew, Angela knew as well, they both desired it so bad, and during the last week the sexual tension between the two of them seemed to finally be unloaded at that moment. But it wasn’t right.

“This is wrong…” Fareeha whispered between a heated kiss. Angela nodding and acknowledging wasn’t helping matters.

“I know…” But she kept kissing her regardless, her soft hand slipping inside her shirt and feeling her closer than ever. “I know.” The sound of kissed, bitten and sucked lips filled the room. And it wasn’t cold anymore. “I know, and I don’t care… Just touch me.”

And Fareeha did just that before proceeding and twisted her body to pin the doctor to the bed and continue with the already long and tiring night.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter IX

When I felt something again

 

It was wrong, it was so wrong. The fact that she’s taking her lips interlocked between hers and pressing them desperately to look for that feeling of comfort and protection, of affection, of belonging. How she desperately seeks to bring her closer to her by grabbing her hair while digging her fingers through her golden hair and pulling her waist with a distinctive squeeze of her skin. But it wasn’t right; she was older, she was married, she was her boss, she was a woman.

But it felt so good.

It was frightening how much she wanted for that moment only for so long, she didn’t even think it was possible to desire something so hard. It was unthinkable. She wasn’t even drunk, not on a drop of alcohol at least. She was drunk of lust and need, and the fact Fareeha responded in the same way only encouraged such sensations. How much time had passed since she had felt this? Years. And whoever made her feel something slightly similar in the past only caused her pain and anguish now. The closest -and terrifying- was when Genji touched her for the last time, days before leaving. Except it didn’t feel like him, it didn’t look like him, that man had another face and it was that of the woman in front of her.

She knew something was wrong when she imagined Fareeha's body on top of hers and she didn’t put absolute opposition. On the contrary, she welcomed it. And for the first time in so long, she didn’t felt disgusted, she felt something completely different. Something akin of a warm feeling when the body is cold and numb, a sweet sensation that begged to stay. She didn’t feel his body on hers, rather her bodyguard’s ones. It wasn’t his touch; instead she felt and imagined Fareeha. Not his hands caressing, but hers. Not his lips kissing, but hers. Not him inside, but she making her moan and scream. Not him making her reach her climax, but her. It was always her. And after staying naked and alone in the bed after such activity, she was able to process everything that happened and felt grossed out and confused for too long. It was so wrong, but it felt so incredibly great.

Angela was blind, she was in a haze, and she wanted to feel that touch for real, to not be a disappointing illusion that left her empty like last time. And Fareeha was willing to give it to her right here in this merciless cold December night. Angela, in her foggy mind, started to play with the hem of her shirt, touching and really feeling her toned abs this time, introducing her hands between the cold fabric and the warm skin of the girl on top of her. She ran her abdomen lightly with her nails, and that elicited a gasp between kisses. Fareeha was enjoying herself as much as Angela was. Or at least the doctor thought. Suddenly Fareeha’s mood shifted, and she tried to move away from the doctor by grabbing her by her shoulders when Angela wasn’t willing to let go.

“No, stop…. Angela, stop.”

Fareeha closed her eyes tightly and sighed with disappointment. Angela’s eyelashes fluttered afterwards, and she opened her eyes, her flushed face didn’t help matters to calm down her bodyguard’s regret. She didn’t want to ask, she knew the answer already on to why Fareeha stopped. It still was wrong and she had much more self–control than her, she always did. Dark eyes stared back painfully as the woman sat back apologetically. Angela closed her eyes and sat down as well, facing Fareeha and trying to contain the upcoming tears. She felt embarrassment above all. Of course, the girl in front of her was too proud, too committed and professional to be engaged in this kind of act. She was just merely doing her job.

“I’m sorry…” Angela managed to whisper, and blinked the tears away, sobbing and wiping her face with the back of her hand. “I’m so sorry, I…” She couldn’t continue, there was a knot in her throat and she felt dizzy all of a sudden. Angela shook her head softly, over and over again while hugging herself. She expected Fareeha to get out of bed and return to the couch in the living room, but she didn’t. Instead, she came closer and hugged her tenderly, rubbing her back and pressing her head on top of hers.

“It’s okay.” That’s all she said. Angela felt something close to comfort.

“It’s not…”

“You’re right.” She acknowledged, she was right, it wasn’t. “Look at you.” But what did she meant exactly?

Fareeha took a deep breath, separating from her and taking her hands in her own, twisting them and showing the faint red marks in her wrists. She furrows her brow while looking at them and then to Angela. The doctor smirks sadly. A shaky breath leaving her bodyguard.

“It all comes to your job, right?”

“I feel like a failure looking at you hurt.”

“I’m alive at least.”

“But for how long?”

She had a point. She wanted to cover herself and hide, it was painful for Angela to see the bruises and scars in her body, and even more embarrassing for Fareeha to look at her and feel awful about the situation. However, Fareeha kissed her wrists were the scars were, then her arm where some bruises were painted, and she kept kissing her way up to every single wound. To her arm, her shoulder, and stopped for a moment, looking back at aquamarine eyes.

“And to be honest, I don’t remember when I stopped doing this for work… I just want to protect you until I can no longer do so and I don’t know why…”

Angela smiled, and Fareeha kissed her neck, every single one of the five red marks. It sent shivers down Angela’s spine, her skin prickled, and she dissociate for a fraction of a second with every kiss. She began to cry again whatsoever, it was painful emotionally. This woman was so kind. No one was ever like that to her, no one so much effort into making sure she was alright, both physically and emotionally. It almost made her regret a thousand things before she met her. A hand brushed her hair away from her face, revealing another bruise hidden in her temple, and again Fareeha's lips fell on her skin. Angela moved her face towards her again, and Fareeha wanted to pull again once more, but the doctor shook her face and forced her to kiss her.

“No, Angela…” She was responding to the kiss however, but her mind and body seemed to be somewhere else in different directions.

“Shut up, shut up for a minute.”

“It’s wrong.”

“You said you would protect me, you swore you’ll get me away from all danger… And being away from you now makes me feel helpless. I need you.”

“I don’t want to take advantage of you, of the situation-”

“Please.” She whimpered between the now desperate kiss, and that seemed to ease all doubt in Fareeha, for she eased her on her back again and began to stroke her arm affectionately.

Angela tangled her fingers on dark hair, slightly tugging and pulling the hair like before. She adored her silky smooth hair, she had tresses to either side of her head, and they were adorned with golden beads that complimented her skin so well. For some reason she wanted to touch them and play with them, but never got the chance until now. How funny it would be to tug them and use them to pull her face closer to hers. Their mouths were battling each other, and Angela didn’t want to moan, to gasp, to make a sound she could be embarrassed of, but when Fareeha’s hand reached her leg and began to lift the end of the nightgown as she stroked her thigh, she couldn’t avoid moaning between kisses.

“…Is this alright?” Fareeha had to ask, even in the heat of the moment she was concerned for her well-being.

“M-more than that, yes…”

She proceeded to go down and kiss her chin, then her neck again and sucked on her pulse joint, eliciting a moan from the doctor. With her hand, Fareeha moved the thin strap of the gown and slightly bit her collarbone, not too strong to leave marks, just enough to make her feel her. And perhaps Angela enjoyed it a bit too much, for she wrapped a leg around Fareeha’s waist while her strong hand caressed the other. Angela felt too trapped for a moment, and she sat back again, grabbing her face and kissing her desperately while sitting in Fareeha’s lap, straddling her waist to the bed. She played with the hem of her shirt once again, feeling and scrapping her abs, her fit body was becoming somewhat addictive to the doctor. She needed to hear that sweet sound from her lips once more.

Angela played with the flesh below her naked breasts, and that seemed to be it. She moaned when the doctor kept teasing the soft skin underneath and started to suck her neck and lick a trail to her chin, ending back on her lips. She was handsome, she was gorgeous, she was an exotic just and benevolent goddess, and Angela needed to venerate every piece of her. She barely could keep her hands still, touching wasn’t enough, and she went back to grab her shirt and silently asking Fareeha for permission by looking at her. Both were panting and their faces were flushed, but Fareeha nodded and Angela saw how her eyes shone for a moment. She lifted the shirt above Fareeha’s face, discarding it somewhere on the floor, and she looked at her up and down.

She still remembers when she saw her half naked for the first time on the operating table. That didn’t do justice to what was before her eyes now. Fareeha was well built, that was obvious, but seeing her completely naked from the waist up was something completely different. Her abs were amazing, but not too marked, her waist still remained narrow and feminine, and her breasts were firm and adorned with slightly darker nipples that complimented her well enough. A pale hand went straight to massage one, and she confirmed that indeed they were firm yet soft. Fareeha gasped and moaned, welcoming the touch and encouraging to keep going, but Angela couldn’t settle for just that. Her lips closed on her right nipple, sucking and nibbling the hardened button while Fareeha tugged her hair and her breath hitched while trying to muffle her moans. Angela looked up at the woman’s face. Her eyes were closed, her hair fell covering half her flushed face, and her mouth was slightly hung open. Was she enjoying it as much as she was?

Angela bit slightly and licked the pain next, Fareeha throwing her head back and fingers digging in her scalp. It was pleasant, it made her keep going, and she released her hardened bud with a lewd pop and continued with the other in the same manner, this time feeling what she liked and going in that direction. This was a curious soul. Angela let her tempting mounds of flesh and continued to kiss her as well. She didn’t remember the last time she was that wet, and the fact that she was wearing no underwear didn’t help her at all, she could feel her arousal drip between her legs. Fareeha wanted to ask for permission once again, but Angela already let her gown fall from her shoulders to her waist, freeing herself to be allowed to be taken by this wonderful woman. Fareeha did the same, and she latched on a pink nipple, sending sparks all over her body and moaning perhaps a little too intense, but she couldn’t hide what she felt, and she enjoyed it far too much.

How could this be possible? How could a woman make her feel that way? She could picture how two women made love, but she never imagined she would ever do it, even less enjoy it far too much. Angela fumbled with the thin fabric of the nightgown and undressed completely, allowing Fareeha to see her completely naked, both physically and emotionally, and she did feel her gaze looking too deeply at her while she sat on her knees.

“Oh my God…” Fareeha gasped.

Angela smiled sweetly just like she could. Fareeha’s shocked face could only encourage her desire to be taken by this woman and let her take her as well. Angela eased Fareeha on her back once more when she sat after seeing her, and Angela tugged her leggings down, feeling the edge of her underwear as well, but decided to leave the thin material. She saw her legs before, except this time there was a small piece of gauze covering a small patch of her skin, and just like Fareeha did, she leaned down, kissing it over and looking at her affectionately. Angela could feel how her skin was prickling upon grazing it with her lips, it was encouraging. She made her way up, sucking a bruise every now and then, until she stopped at the hem of her black panties. Even in the darkness she could see Fareeha was drenched as well, she was into that moment along with Angela, so the doctor continued.

Surgical hands tugged the underwear down, revealing perhaps the most beautiful and arousing human part she has ever seen. Fareeha’s shuddering breath was enough, Angela beginning to kiss her inner thighs, going up and further, teasing the flesh around her folds and kissing her navel to leave a trail with her tongue further down. One final look at Fareeha, and she burrowed her face between Fareeha’s legs. She heard Fareeha almost yell an intense moan when the doctor kissed her and lapped on her dripping folds, sucking and nibbling at her clit occasionally. It was too intense for the poor girl, Angela could feel it in the way her hands pushed her head further. When she slipped her tongue inside and her thumb flicked a couple of times in her clit, she felt her breathing fast and hitched, her body tense, her legs almost trapping her head, and the way she arched her back and screamed to the heavens so deliciously could make anyone think she was killing her.

Fareeha fell abruptly back on the bed, she was breathing so fast and her face was so red it looked like she ran a mile in ten seconds. Angela kept kissing her, helping her come down from her high and making her twitch occasionally every time her finger grazed the sensitive nub. Once satisfied, she got up and crawled back to Fareeha, kissing her on the lips again and making the bodyguard taste herself on her tongue. Fareeha barely opened her eyes after the strong sensation subdued, and with a fast movement of her body she flipped the doctor of positions so she could be on top of her now, attacking her lips like at the beginning of such exchange of caresses. Fareeha finally took the rim of the nightgown, and slide it down her legs until the doctor was completely naked, but not before Fareeha threw the garment to the floor along with her own. And Angela had never seen such a hungry and affectionate look at the same time. Desire, physical and emotional mixed in beautiful black eyes.

Angela was dripping at that point of arousal, and the fact she was the one who started the intimacy act made her even wetter than before. She was ready, oh so ready to be taken, to be filled with want and need, to finally be respected in bed once again. And Fareeha proved to be an amazing lover all the while. The bodyguard kept kissing her, and her mouth lowered to a pert nipple, sucking and licking the hardened flesh in her breast. Angela let herself a free moan, it was overwhelming and she didn’t need to hold herself anymore, her thighs rubbed to seek that comfort and help her ease her need, but Fareeha acted quickly, and her hand traveled lower to her navel, prior to slide a finger between her sodden lips, gathering some of her wetness to ease the following act. When Angela felt her thumb flick on her clit, she gasped and lifted her hips to seek more contact. Fareeha quickly understood, and slipped a finger inside her, but then another when she felt it wasn’t enough. Two fingers began to pump inside her, in and out in a maddening pace. Those long and strong fingers curl and tease Angela’s front wall, making her squirm by just a few minutes of the contact.

Eventually Angela lifted her torso, Fareeha propping herself with one arm while the other kept doing the job the doctor longed for so many months. Angela wrapped both her arms around Fareeha’s neck, hanging there as her upper hovered in the air and her legs were apart and bent to allow her lover to pump her fingers with so much ease and tease the spongy front wall inside her that was leaving her breathless. Fareeha’s lips crashed with hers once again when she felt her fingers constrict inside, making a final effort to speed up and flick her thumb on Angela’s clit. A messy kiss from the blonde returned in response, brows furrowed in adorable concentration and chest heaving as her body shone from the light layer of sweat that covered on her skin.

Suddenly, Angela moaned, screamed, cried and begged both in English and Swiss, her voice mingling with the wet sounds of the flesh under her when she felt the heat concentrate in her navel. Fareeha was very skillful, there was no doubt in that. She pleasured her beyond imagination, unlike a man, unlike her husband, who only seemed to put their manhood inside her and pleasure themselves while leaving the woman hanging and wanting something more. It was never enough. But right now? She never reached this level of climax. Her bodyguard made a more than outstanding job to pleasure her, and with much right, she was a woman, she knew the perfect spots that made a girl squirm, and she seemed to use her knowledge to accomplish Angela’s need. Soon enough, Angela’s body tensed as her core contracted around the intruding fingers, and her orgasm approached quickly and furiously, making her gasp and yell.

She was tired, so tired of everything. Of the way her life was always in danger, of how her achievements seemed to become a threat lately, of her husband, of the friends who left her behind, of the never-ending work in the hospital, and finally, of this last sexual activity that left her exhausted. Fareeha climbed back next to her, and kissed her bruises once again. Her neck, her collarbone, her arms, and back to her neck once again before placing a final one on her temple. Angela smiled finally after having what she needed to ease her mind, and her eyes began to close slowly, barely feeling the comforter being pulled over her to keep her warm.


She woke up shivering. It was still dark, and the clock on the bedside table read barely past two in the morning. She felt another shiver, and she looked to her side, noticing that she was alone in the bed once again. Fareeha probably returned back to the couch, and who could blame her. After performing such an act, anyone would want to flee. However, Angela knew that Fareeha would never be able to do so, and she has shown it constantly with the passing of days, even the months with which she has been with her.

She lay there for a moment, trying to adjust her eyes to the darkness and carefully observe her surroundings with no success. She turned on the lamp on the bedside table and sat down, covering herself with the blanket and trying to keep the little heat it offered on that frigid winter night. Her eyes fixed on a dresser, above it were a portrait, a plant and a couple of books, but it was all that was offered apart from the bed. Curiously, she got up and took the borrowed garments from the floor, putting on the nightgown and robe and walking slowly to observe that small part of Fareeha on top of the furniture.

Angela carefully observed the self-defense books above, not surprised that these volumes dealt with something related to her work. The plant was a small succulent with a bow wrapped around the pot, perhaps a gift from one of Fareeha’s friends. What most caught her attention was a photograph, and she carefully took it into her hands to analyze it with more dedication. A younger Fareeha, perhaps about five years ago, was standing side by side with another older woman very similar to her, presumably her mother, who wore a tattoo similar to that of her bodyguard. Both smiled as they embraced in front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. A typical tourist photograph that had a great meaning to them.

The doctor smiled with melancholy, fascinated by the relationship Fareeha had with her mother despite being always serious and focused on her job. Seeing her smile was like actually seeing a shooting star. She didn’t know what it was, what it was having a relationship with a parent, and she would never know. Being an orphan was not the best thing in the world, despite having excellent mentors who supported her to develop her skills and knowledge, but that never filled the void within her. She never knew the familiarity, but she was hopeful that maybe one day she would get know to it.

A voice almost like a murmur coming from the living room took her out of her thoughts. She put the photograph back on top of the dresser and adjusted her robe, walking towards the door and opening it slowly, walking down the small corridor almost in a tip toe until she reached the frame of the living room. Fareeha was sitting on the couch, her back to her and her phone pressed to her ear. She was a slightly leaning to the front and was already wearing the same clothes prior what happened hours before. Angela didn’t want to intrude, it wasn’t her style, but the girl looked shattered, and she waited.

".....Yes, I've watered them. They look good..... Well, a lot of snow, actually…… Me? Yeah, I'm doing fine, mostly..... A-ah yes. Don't worry. How are you doing?...... What do you mean? Can't I talk to my mother for no reason?...... Heh right... N-no, I'm fine, seriously. You don't need to return only for me.... A couple more months? That’s unexpected….. Well, I'm glad you're having fun teaching teenagers how to kill.... Heh yeah, yeah. Bad joke. Comes from you..... T-Tariq? N-no, mom. You know we broke up years ago, let it be....... Perhaps someday.... Well, take care. I'll be waiting for you happily.... Love you too, mom."

She hung up, leaving her phone on the coffee table and leaning further forward, hiding her face in her hands while propping her elbows on her thighs. She seemed awful, heartbroken for some reason, and the fact there was a bottle of whiskey and a glass in front of her didn't help matters. The glass was empty and clean, Angela knew why when Fareeha took a sip straight from the bottle. She didn't want to bother her, to make things worse for this brave girl who's already putting only so much of her on this task. Angela really wanted to give her solitude, but instead she took a step forward and walked to where Fareeha was, standing next to her hopping she will be noticed. Fareeha lifted her face and saw her straight in her eyes. She almost jumped, there was shame and regret in those deep onyx eyes that widened in something akin of terror. She was going to stand up, but Angela placed a hand on her shoulder and sat her down again.

"Don't stand up, it's alright."

"I-I... Okay..." Never before Angela saw her so insecure, so shy. However, she was fast to recover from such slip. "I apologize."

"You don't have any reason to do so."

"I do, actually..." She took another sip of the liquor, leaving the bottle on the table. Angela sighed and sat next to her.

"Do you mind if I...?" She signaled the bottle, and Fareeha nodded, extending her the glass and filling it with liquor. "My thanks. I’ll make sure to pay for this." Fareeha shook her face while taking another sip.

“What we give at home is given from the heart, so no, you won’t pay me back for a drink.”

“Well, thank you for being so generous.” She felt a small draft of cold air, and adjusted her robe closer to her body.

"It's cold out here, you should go back to bed."

"Alcohol helps to heat the body. I'm merely helping myself to stay warm." She smirked, but Fareeha hid her head once again. "What's wrong?" Angela dared to ask, even when she knew the reason.

"...This. All of this. What we did, it's not..." She swallowed thickly, filling her lungs with cold new air as well. "It's not right. We shouldn't have. It's unprofessional from my part, and for what I know I should resign before this gets worse."

"Fareeha-" Angela was about to panic. Being without her by her side now seemed unthinkable. She was alone and in constant danger in her own home, and the thought of being completely defenseless in the exterior made sent goosebumps all over her body.

"However, I don't want to..."

"Fareeha, I know... I'm aware that what we did was wrong. You're still on duty, I'm married, and it’s not the best of scenarios to play such a role. Nonetheless, I won't deny I regret it."

"How so?"

"Tell me, did I force you to do it? It didn't seem like it." There was a defying silence until Fareeha spoke once again.

"No..."

"We both consented on doing it then. I'm just as responsible as you are. But we are adults, and we should take this as such."

"You mean... Hide it?" That elicited a laugh from Angela, followed by Fareeha. It seemed the alcohol was helping to ease the tension somehow.

"Actually, that's not a bad idea. Outside this door nobody must know.”

“Obviously. I think my head will literally roll if someone finds out.”

“Both our heads.”

“Yeah…”

“Anyway. I just found it odd to not find you back in the bed.” Fareeha chuckled and took another sip of the liquor. Angela knew exactly why she wasn’t there, but still she wanted to explore this girl grounds.

“Well, I shouldn’t be there.” Angela sighed for herself, exhaling through the nose and feeling how, just like Fareeha said, the common room was colder than the bedroom. “Seriously, return to the bedroom. Here’s too cold.”

“I know that you hate the cold even more than anyone else I know. Who wears sweaters in autumn when it only starts to cool?” There was silence for a moment before Angela spoke again. “Come with me.”

“What? No.” She shook her head.

“I’m cold as well. Care to join me? No funny business this time, I promise. Just two women sharing the heat in a bed in this frigid night... And to be honest, I don’t want to be alone. Not now, at least.” Fareeha was going to open her mouth to refuse, but closed it afterwards. Growling in her hand, she finally nodded and got up, taking Angela by the hand and disappearing through the bedroom door.

“Outside the doors of this apartment, nothing happened and nothing will happen ever again.” Angela grinned, her face hidden from Fareeha.

“Very well.”


The morning arrived quickly, and as Fareeha had said, a Helix car was waiting for them promptly at nine in the morning in front of the building of her mother's apartment. Fareeha this time lent the doctor more comfortable clothes, obviously from her mother too, and it was some simple black leggings and a shirt that would be enough to take her comfortably home. Her bodyguard was so generous to give her one of her sweaters to cover those parts with which she felt visibly uncomfortable to show, and Angela thanked her with a smile before heading to the door. However, Fareeha stopped once Angela came out, and muttered something to herself before closing the door.

Fareeha visibly changed her attitude once they left the corridor, she was that serious person again, rough, focused on her work, as expected of her. Angela was not going to lie, she was a little sad about that change of attitude despite knowing what she had to do, but the girl she came to know last night was a hundred times more charming, and she was beginning to feel more emotionally attracted than physically or sexually for her. Not that Fareeha wasn’t attractive in her own androgynous way, but Angela needed something more than just a pretty body to hold on.

They quickly arrived at her residence, and she stared at her for a good couple of minutes inside the car. Fareeha looked at her a couple of times as well, and knew what to do immediately. Fareeha got out of the car and opened the door to the doctor, taking her by the hand and guiding her towards the door of the entrance, but not before giving a little squeeze to her hand before leaving and whispering in her ear.

“Never hesitate to call me. I'll be there by your side when you need me.”

Angela smiled sadly and nodded, turning the knob on the entrance door and looking back to see Fareeha walking back to the car on the path walk. It seemed that the girl felt a pair of eyes behind her and turned around. Her side smile captivated Angela once more, and she said goodbye with a nod before leaving again for her apartment. Angela sighed once she closed the door of her house, and quickly went up to the room to take a hot bath and change into her own clothes. Not that she didn’t appreciated the kind gesture, but she didn’t feel comfortable in something that wasn’t hers, except for the oversized gray hoodie that brought her a different kind of warmth.

She went to the bathroom and undressed slowly, tossing the clothes to the floor. Not wearing underwear helped to finish the task quickly while the tub was filled with hot water, and slowly introduced one foot, then the other, and was carried away by the pleasant feeling that surrounded her little by little. She thought it was the warm liquid around her, and her eyes fell on the sweater on the floor. Angela reached with one hand for the pile of clothes on the cold tiles of the floor, and took the gray hoodie in her hands, smelling the intoxicating perfume emanating from the fabric and reminding her of Fareeha. She smiled foolishly as she sank deeper and deeper into the tub while hugging the garment. And for a moment nothing became more important than that. Neither her work, nor her husband yelling at her outside of the bathroom, nor the heavy thud on the door opening, nor a strong hand tugging at her arm. Only she and that familiar scent remained, that that reminded her of tranquility, of peace, of home.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter X

And I had to fight with myself

 

After a week since the incident at the ballet, things somehow seemed to become easier for Fareeha. From the moment she got up in the morning with more energy than usual until the day she arrived at her apartment at night and played video games for a while until she got bored and had to sleep once again. Despite things, there were several issues that bothered her, such as knowing why Angela covered herself so much now, or what -or who- caused those injuries, and that made her mad. That feeling of uselessness returned whenever she could see a hint of pale skin displayed in her abused body.

She constantly thought of that night where they were alone after they tried to kidnap Angela, from the moment she went to pick her up at her house to go to work, to the last gasp and moan in her bed. It wasn’t a date, but it proved to be the best she had had so far. And so, she smiled foolishly from time to time. It was wrong, everything that happened was absolutely inconceivable, but for some reason she didn’t regret it at all, and the fact that it made Angela feel more comfortable and open around her, it was worth to have broken the rules for one night. For a decadent and delicious night of shared heat, caresses and kisses.

And being loyal to her word, what Fareeha wanted the most was to protect her, to ensure her safety and future, and even seeing her frustrated, tired, flushed and sweaty in front of her was a relief, because her basic self-defense training began only three days ago and at least they already made quite the necessary improvement. Both were alone in a private classroom at Fareeha's usual gym. The bodyguard was dressed in a pair of black leggings and a sport bra with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, while Angela wore an outfit not dissimilar to her, except for a baggy white sweater covering her upper body.

“Harder.” Fareeha said as Angela punched one of the punching mitts with barely any strength. The blonde grunted when her fist landed in the cushioned accessory. “Harder.” Then another punch. “Harder, Angela!”

“I can’t!” Angela's face was red and dripped sweat, she was breathing hard and she was visibly more than tired. Her ponytail was barely held in place, and a few strands of golden hair were clinging to her damp face. The blonde shook her head in surrender. “I give up, I’m tired.”

“Yes, you can. Just one more.” Fareeha encouraged her, but the doctor turned her head slowly to saw her with an annoyed defiant face. Fareeha however chuckled at her expression, it was hilarious to see her in such a state. “Come on, don’t look at me like that. Seriously, just one more and I’ll let you free, deal?”

“No.”

“Dr. Ziegler, please. I promise.” The blonde stayed silent for a moment when she heard Fareeha’s pleading voice, and then grunted once again before nodding, surrendering to that adorable pout on her pretty exotic face. “Good. Now, a tip.” Fareeha put herself in defense position once again, bracing her legs and arms for the blow and punching the mitts against one another. “Focus on the mitt like it’s something you hate, something you want to destroy, either be your past, your present or your future.” Angela looked Fareeha for a moment into the eyes and then into the mitt. “…Or someone special.” The doctor took a deep breath and her brow furrowed for a moment before giving the hardest blow she had ever given, causing Fareeha's arm to move easily from its firm position. It wasn’t even close to being as strong as she had felt one while training with her partners, but to the doctor it was more than enough, and it was a significant improvement. “Good job.” Fareeha smiled and started to remove the mitts and place them in their designated spot.

“That’s quite the inspiration, isn’t it?”

“That always helps. Well, as I promised you, we are done.”

“Really? Are we done?”

“We are.”

“Good…”

Angela sat down wearily on the floor and took her water bottle, almost emptying its contents in a few seconds. She wiped her forehead with a towel and stayed a moment like that, trying to recover her natural color and level her breathing. She was flushed, exhausted, but only twenty minutes had passed and for Fareeha that was barely nothing. She knew that the doctor couldn’t go on much longer, however she decided to have fun with that information.

“Ready for the next one?”

“W-what?”

“Come on, that’s the warm-up. We have to continue.”

“Are you crazy?! I’m dying here!” Fareeha laughed, but adjusted her ponytail once again. She wasn’t kidding.

“Come here, stand up and face me.” Angela grunted and implored in her hands, but eventually she stood up tiredly in front of Fareeha, her body almost limp. “We have three days training and I haven’t taught you any self-defense movement whatsoever because you have no physical condition to endure it. What’s the use if you can get away from an attacker but you can’t run a block without getting tired? They will keep catching you until you can’t run anymore.” Angela was frowning, but eventually she softened her gaze when realizing what Fareeha was saying was true.

“Okay…”

“Now, we need at least two weeks for you to get fit, I don’t expect you to be a martial arts or anything like that, but I do expect you to not get tired so quickly, okay?” Angela nodded. “Good. Now…”

Fareeha moved with impressive speed and in a matter of seconds she was positioned behind Angela. With her two strong arms hooked hers from below, making the doctor’s arms to be fixed to the sides without being able to get away easily. The doctor yelped, but then remained paralyzed, and if before she was blushing, now she was even more. Fareeha just laughed inside, she was enjoying the contact more than she thought.

“Look at yourself in the mirror.” Fareeha encouraged the blonde to look at the mirror across the room. “You can see my position, you can see yourself and how I’m immobilizing you.” Fareeha's forearms were in a vertical position, her fists pointed upwards while Angela's arms were immovable and limp to the sides. “This is a common attack, now try to break free.” Angela nodded and tried to move her arms, wiggling her limbs here and there, but Fareeha had her hooked and could barely move. In the end, she surrendered when only a minute passed.

“Goodness… I can’t.”

“Yet. But it’s very easy to escape from this grip. Just raise your arms straight and slide your body down. I will put little pressure on the grip so you can do it easily, okay?” A nod. “Good, now do it.” Angela raised her arms as told, her hands pointed to the ceiling and slid her back into Fareeha's abdomen, a little slow for her liking but gave her time to analyze what she was doing. Eventually the doctor was on the floor, free and with opportunity to escape. “Good job.”

“Really? Is that easy?”

“Heh it is. Now let’s try again with more pressure, and eventually I’ll try to drag you across the room and I want you to break free.”

Angela's spirits seemed to lift once she knew that it was an easy training to do, but above all it was very useful. Ten minutes after practicing, Fareeha ended the training, and both were sitting on the ground trying to catch their breath. Both were sharing a comfortable silence, drying their sweat -Angela more than anyone- and drinking water while checking their phones, Fareeha catching up with Helix for not reporting to the company in more than three days, and Angela in her own personal matters.

“Thank you.” Angela finally broke the silence, and Fareeha saw her with a tad of disbelief, eventually smiling and getting up, helping the doctor to do the same.

“You’re welcome. Now, let’s go.”

“You will not stay to exercise? I guess only half an hour is not enough for you. I can wait for another half hour, I have no problem.” It was Fareeha’s turn to laugh, it was incredible how they relationship blossomed in just a week. She started to count with her fingers as they started walking towards the showers.

“One, this is no exercise for me. Two, an hour of exercise is not even close to what I need, I have to train at least one and a half or two hours. And three and most important, I won’t leave you alone.”

“No wonder you barely sweated… This is so tiring.”

“Well, you have a bad physical condition, awful performance and endurance as well.”

“Geez, thanks.” Fareeha laughed once again but Angela smiled, and it was sweet. Even more when she joined her amusement. “I know, I’m so weak. I’m the perfect target.”

“What you have in intelligence is lacking in physical strength. I just hope is not the same way around with me.”

“Well~”

“Oh, come on. I’m not that stupid.”

There was another round of shared laughs, and they finally hit the showers. Both began to undress, for Fareeha it was common to walk naked in the gym showers, but not for Angela, so she had enough tact to let the doctor do it first. She couldn’t help but look at her out of the corner of her eye, hoping that the marks she saw that night a week ago have disappeared. And mostly they did, but others in her back and arms appeared, more furious and noticeable, and that made her wince. It was a topic she would deal with Angela later. The doctor was right, how much could she do? Her job was limited anywhere but that house, and she could only hope that Angela could defend herself within her own home. Hence her insistence on teaching her the basics.


Angela had two surgeries scheduled that same day, which would give Fareeha a little more time to do personal things around the hospital without putting her protégé at risk. The hours passed a little slow for her bad luck, and as always, she was beginning to get bored, just the music her phone provided through her earphones seemed to entertain her only a tad. But just a few more minutes and Angela would come out of the last surgery. Fareeha had already had a nice meal, and she knew that the doctor hadn’t eaten since the morning before training. Fortunately the doors of the room opened and Angela left the operating theater with another team of doctors and nurses.

The blonde looked for her bodyguard everywhere, and found her leaning against a wall. She smiled tiredly and walked towards her, rubbing her eyes and putting on her lab coat while Fareeha waited patiently for the doctor to reach her side. They both walked to the office once again, and Angela collapsed fatigued in the leather chair while Fareeha closed the door behind her. She was visibly exhausted, anyone could see. Having a strong exercise in the morning and then perform two complicated surgeries would drain anyone’s energy. Fareeha walked over to the doctor and placed a brown paper bag on the desk in front of her. The doctor looked at the slightly suspicious bag, then at Fareeha, and raised an eyebrow.

“I’m sorry, what is this?”

“A chicken sandwich, fruit and pudding.” Angela sighed and softly pushed the bag to the side.

“Fareeha, I don’t want-”

“What? Do you prefer a steak?”

“I’m not hungry.” She somehow shrunk in her seat, and Fareeha wasn’t having any of that.

“You need to eat. I’m not so sure you even had breakfast this morning.” Then silence. “You didn’t.”

“I ate a croissant.”

“Oh, you must be stuffed then.” Fareeha rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “Come on, I’m disappointed. You’re a doctor and you know the importance of a balanced diet.”

“Fareeha, I’m fine, I just want to rest.”

Fareeha was tired as well, but mostly from Angela's constant denials. She let out a sigh and walked next to the doctor, rotating the chair so she could face her and knelt in front of her as if trying to talk to a little girl.

“Look, I know you’re not fine. You’re thinner, you barely have any appetite since the moment I met you, and I know you have other bruises on your body too. Don’t lie to me. Help me so I can help you. I can’t protect you if you don’t do the same for you, that’s why I was so eager to teach you at least the most basic of self-defense techniques. Please… Just take care of yourself as well, okay? Eat properly, have a good rest, don’t push yourself too much, talk to me whenever you want. And always call me when you need me, I’ll be right there in a second even if it’s in the middle of the night, okay?”

Fareeha expected the doctor to shut herself as usual, to run away or even throw her the paper bag in her face. Anything but to hug her. An embrace so strong that she believed that the few energies that were in her thin body would drain in that show of affection. Fareeha returned the hug as well, feeling how her shoulder began to soak, and simply stroked the doctor's golden hair with soft lingering touches. Fareeha was tired too, tired of not being able to do more, to make something to avoid the marks to appear all over again in her gorgeous and perfect body. There was mumbling in the crook of her neck, and the heat of her breath made her shiver. The same shiver she felt that specific frigid night.

They both pulled apart after spending a few minutes like this, in silence, only the doctor's slight sobs interrupted momentarily, and Fareeha took her face in her hands, wiped the trail of tears with her thumbs and softened the doctor's flushed features. Blue eyes stared her back, deep and perfect aquamarine orbs she could stare for hours and get lost in them, and the desire of that night returned instantly. Just a little more. It seemed that Angela felt the same, because she rested her forehead on hers and breathed shuddered and deeply with her nose. It was extremely captivating, and Fareeha wanted to take her worries away right then and there with just a simple kiss. But once again, it was wrong. Instead, Angela kissed softly her cheek, as if understanding her turmoil.

“Thank you…” She murmured, hiding her face once again in her neck. Fareeha did the same, and kissed her shoulder over her clothes in a show of affection and support. “I’m sorry, I’m not used to… Thanks…”

“Anytime…”

They parted once again, and this time Angela was smiling slightly, opening the bag and pulling out the sandwich to bite on her meal. And right there Fareeha knew that not even the many hours of training she had with Angela that week were as important and progressive as the moment she took a bite of a simple chicken sandwich.


Jesse really was a great cooker, even if he wasn’t able to make pancakes or anything that involved batter. The delicious smell of coffee and French toast filled the apartment with an indulgent scent, enough to make any stomach growl. That morning, like a couple of others too, Hanzo was making company with them at breakfast. Fareeha had already become accustomed to the presence of the eldest of the Shimada brothers, and had to accept that he was the very opposite of Genji. Hanzo was serious, focused, but an extremely loyal and sensitive person, and the girl appreciated the pleasant company. Of course, only not in the nights when she had to wear her earphones and put loud music or when Jesse got overly affectionate and even Hanzo was visibly uncomfortable in front of Fareeha's presence.

Fareeha and Hanzo were sitting at the dining table, the man taking a sip of his coffee and watching the news on the TV in the living room while Fareeha read a few social media messages on her phone. The atmosphere really felt nice, familiar, even when no one said a word, but Fareeha knew that she could trust this man whose surname had a bad reputation and chased him wherever he went. In a few minutes Jesse appeared with a plate of French toast for each one and another cup of coffee for him, sitting in one of the empty chairs but not before giving Hanzo a soft kiss on the cheek.

“There you go, darling.” It was adorable the way Hanzo sometimes flinched when given a show of affection by Jesse.

“You have my thanks.”

“Aw, so cute.” Fareeha remarked, making him take a sip of his mug to cover his slight blush.

“Leave my man alone, Reeha. And eat your damn goopy French toasts before they’re- forget what I said.” He stopped when Fareeha poured even more syrup to the already dripping breakfast. “Tell the doctor to treat you for diabetes later.”

“Shut up.”

The three of them had breakfast in pleasant and enjoyable conversation, talking a bit about work and personal anecdotes. Fareeha looked mainly interested in the new member of her circle of friends, and soon asked him discreet questions that the man could answer without any problem. Hanzo was very cooperative in that sense, because he seemed to be attracted in the same way to Fareeha, especially because she was the person who took care of one of his best friends and, sadly, the slave of his brother.

“Did you considered what I told you?” Hanzo asked Fareeha, leaving his boyfriend to munch on the remaining toast with a confused look.

“Yeah.”

“How did it turn out?”

Hanzo made the proposal to consider being Angela's friend, even if it was discreet. The doctor needed that. No, she needed more than a friend. Maybe just what Fareeha had given her a few nights ago, but nobody should know about that, it was just a night of explosive desire and things happened in the heat of the moment. Nothing else. However, a part of Fareeha wished it hadn’t been something of just one night, a part of her wanted to do it again. But above all, she wanted to be able to provide her comfort once more in any way possible. She smiled to herself, the improvement seemed great in relation to the doctor.

“Pretty great, actually. Do you see a difference?”

“Immeasurable.” Hanzo smiled and so did Fareeha, only leaving Jesse with an even more confused face.

“What’cha talking about you two, huh?”

“Nothing.” Fareeha’s phone rang, and she answered quickly upon reading the doctor’s name on the screen. “Hello?”

“Fareeha? Hello.”

“Good morning.”

“I'm sorry to call you so early and on your day off.”

“There’s nothing to apologize for. Is everything okay?”

“Something came up in the hospital and I need to go urgently. Do you know someone trustworthy who’s available and can take me there?” Fareeha took the last bite of toast, downing it with a swig of coffee, leaving the empty plate smeared with syrup and getting up with a snarl to go to the door, but not before fastening her holster and taking her biker jacket and aviator sunglasses with her.

“I’m on my way.”

“N-no, don’t worry. You don’t have to come personally, seriously. You should rest, it’s your day off.”

“I’ll be there in twenty minutes top.” A sigh on the other side of the line.

“Hah… You really are stubborn, aren’t you?” Fareeha smiled and opened the door, taking the keys and patting her pockets to check if everything was in place.

“Yes, I am. I’ll be on my way.”

“Now where do you think you are going now?” Jesse asked, crossing his arms and leaning in his seat.

“Just doing what Hanzo said before.”

“It’s your day off!”

“Bye, guys!” She closed the door, and Jesse threw his head back with a grunt. Fareeha was acting peculiar as of lately, but he didn’t know whether to worry or rejoice at the girl's new emotional and free attitude.


She loved her motorcycle, it was definitely something that was worth every penny spent and worked on. And for living in the city it was the most comfortable transport, faster, perhaps not the most efficient in terms of load capacity, but in the role of taking you from one place to another quickly and at a low cost, it did. She just needed her backpack and that’s it. The bad side? The wind, the cold, merciless winter gale. The helmet did its part, but she forgot she was wearing just a pair of jeans and a tank top under her jacket, Angela seemed more important at the moment than to dress in her usual uniform or something slightly warmer.

Fareeha made record time to get to Angela's residence, and the doctor was waiting impatiently at the door, properly wrapped in a large white coat with warm, soft gloves of the same color. Once Fareeha stood in front of the entrance and took off her helmet, the doctor ran quickly towards her, looking her up and down and frowning. She halted Fareeha with her hand to wait and ran back to the house, disappearing through the entrance door she was waiting her in.

Fareeha stood for a moment without knowing what to do, but parked her motorcycle right next to Angela's leased car and waited impatiently for the doctor. The cold was getting to her now that the adrenaline of driving in a hurry vanished, and only her body was left out in the open. Angela reappeared once more, this time with a bundle of fabric in her arms. Fareeha opened the car door as she normally did, trying to ignore the cold and act as she should, but Angela stopped her once more and wrapped a soft woolen scarf around her neck.

“There. You’re almost naked, at least this will help you with the cold. I don’t want you to get sick.”

She wasn’t going to deny that she was a little perplexed by the act of the doctor, and the door of the car closed with Angela inside already seated, taking her of her thoughts and hurrying to sit down in front of the steering wheel. She started the car and she really tried to drive a little hasty to where the hospital was, but Angela didn’t seem rushed at all, and Fareeha decided to voice her doubts when the doctor kept tapping at her phone.

“Is everything okay at the hospital?”

“It seems to be now.” That simple? Something was off. Fareeha stopped at a red light and looked at her.

“Are you sure everything is alright? And I don’t talk about to the hospital this time, I mean with you.” Silence for a few deafening seconds. Fareeha was afraid something happened back at the doctor’s residence. That house was becoming a dungeon every day, and she hated the idea of leaving her unprotected with such a disgusting man. And there it was again, the apprehension, the doubt, the hesitation of whether or not to voice her thoughts.

“The hospital called me for an emergency surgery right now but it seems that they already got another surgeon to fill for me.” She sighed irritably. “I apologize for everything, you can turn around. I hate when people do this to me, I would very much prefer to perform that surgery right now… I know it’s your day off and it’s so early that-” and it was Fareeha’s turn to laugh.

“Angela, it’s alright. You know that if you want to be somewhere even if it’s the middle of the night, you just have to ask me and I will be there.”

“It’s not fair…”

“It’s my job, I’m paid to do so. And they are gratifying me quite well, let me tell you.” A wryly sigh this time from the doctor that made Fareeha flinch.

“It always comes down to money, isn’t it?”

“Not quite.” She touched Angela’s hand briefly, the contact electrifying, and squeezed the gloved fingers before releasing. “I… Didn’t lie when I said I stopped doing this for you… The money is just a great plus.” More silence, more painful and uncomfortable silence. Fareeha wanted to shut her mouth and ran as fast as possible away from that situation. However, the same warm hand she touched before, reached for her thigh and stayed there, giving her heat through her cold jeans.

“I don’t want to force you to do so either… Heh even when I just did it… But what I mean is that eh- God, I don’t know anymore…” She was sinking in her seat, bringing more heat to her body and to probably cover her flushed cheeks. “I think it's more than said that I enjoy your company as much as you enjoy mine.”

“Yeah... And thanks for the scarf, by the way.”

“Anytime. Just have in mind not to dress so light next time. And you can keep it.”

“Thank you. But you still owe me a hoodie.” They both smiled, and Angela giggled in her hand.

“Oh, don’t expect me to return it back to you so soon. It is very comfortable, especially to be around the house.”

“Okay, okay. Fair enough. Now, where do you want to go now? Do you really want me to turn around?” A beat, and Angela touched her cheek with two gloved fingers.

“Anywhere.” Fareeha kept driving downtown, she was going near the hospital but she passed the building several minutes ago.

“Did you had breakfast?”

“Yes, thank you.”

Fareeha didn’t believe her, she could heard the hesitation in her voice, and turned right into a nearby street, very close to her shared apartment with Jesse. If there was something that pleased Fareeha about living so centrally, it was that any day before taking the bus and going to Angela's house was to know the good places to eat and have a quick breakfast or to grab some lunch as well. There was a special place that was her favorite as of lately, and she parked in front of the restaurant, taking her phone and tapping a quick message prior sending it.

“What are we doing here?” Angela asked, rubbing her hands against each other to gain more heat with the friction.

“You’ll see, doctor.”

In a matter of minutes, a man shorter than them with dreads appeared at the door with a bag in his hands and a paper tray with two coffee cups, he turned his head a few seconds on both sides and Fareeha rolled the window down, waving a hand to signal him to which the boy smiled and ran towards her, extending the bag and the two coffees as well.

“Morning, Reeha! Here you go!”

“Thanks, Lucio. I owe you.”

“No problem, girl!”

“Hey, you don’t happen to have those crispy doughy things?”

“Cinnamon sugar biscuits? Yeah, we just did a fresh batch. I knew you would ask me for some so there’s a few on the house right there in the bag.”

“Thank you!” Fareeha was beaming, she loved those sweet sugar treats and the way his now friend was so attentive with her. “I’ll see you tomorrow then!”

“’Till tomorrow, Reeha!” And he left, leaving the girls alone once more. Fareeha extended one of the coffee cups to Angela and the paper bag as well, leaving the doctor with eyes wide open in surprise.

“What is this?”

“Breakfast.” She said simply, turning the engine and driving the car once more towards a route further east. Angela’s confused look made Fareeha smile amusedly, but she handled it quite quickly by how the doctor was about to open the mouth. “Your breakfast.” Angela’s brow furrowed for a minute, like she already was expecting that.

“I told you I already had breakfast.” Fareeha shrugged, still not believing her but trying to play safe.

“Honestly I'm not sure, because of the way you've neglected your health as of lately, I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t. If you are hungry and haven’t really had breakfast, you are more than free to eat, but if you don’t want to, I will not oppose it either. Just take care, and remember what I told you before.”

That seemed to lower Angela's bad mood, for her face relaxed and she rested her head on the seat's headrest. Fareeha could see from the corner of her eye that the doctor nodded to herself as she sipped the hot coffee, feeling her cheeks heat as well. In a drive of a few more minutes, both were parked at the edge of a street that overlooked one of the most mountain-side parts of the city, showing an incredible view of the eastern and northern side of the city. It seemed that the doctor took into account Fareeha’s words, as she ended up eating half the breakfast that was in the bag. Both were eating the sweet, sugary dessert that Lucio left them in a small paper bag, and Angela hummed in delight every time the sweet treat touched her tongue.

“This is really good.” She said covering her mouth while munching a piece of the dough. “And you really know some good places.”

“When you have a job like mine you have to learn to live fast. Eat what you can and when you can, do the things you like whenever is possible, enjoy the little places that bring you peace, things like that. You don’t know if that may be your last day.”

And it was the truth, Fareeha barely knew if she was going to live past her thirties with how dangerous her job was becoming and how even her last name was being pursued. Angela grimaced while her gaze was fixed forward, to the city in front of her and the tall buildings filled with hustle and bustle the people created. Without thinking, her pale hand slipped inside the paper bag of the sweets dough balls they were eating, and brought one to her mouth, humming and moaning again and interrupting the tense silence that was formed before. Fareeha had no other choice than to laugh, and was quickly followed by Angela, filling the car with a pleasant symphony.

Fareeha stood still for a moment, shuddering and feeling a warm sensation course through her, a warmth like never before. She thought it was the heat inside the car, but when she turned her head and saw the smiling face of Angela snuggling in her coat and looking back at her, she knew it was her, and the fact that her scarf emanated an intoxicating scent only raised the sensations exponentially. Fareeha wanted more, much more, but no. Her eyes rested momentarily on those rosy lips, peppered with sugar crystals from the biscuits. With a finger, she pointed to her own lips, and Angela stuck out her tongue, touching the corner of her lip and savoring that, in fact, she had traces of sugar in them.

She laughed softly, and brought her face close to Fareeha's slowly. Both were blushing, and Fareeha momentarily appreciated the doctor's initiative, so she decided to act too and put her hand on the back of her neck, bringing their faces closer until both foreheads touched, resting with each other. So close to her lips yet so far away. They both stared into each other's eyes for what seemed like a long time, and Fareeha broke down. She couldn’t, she shouldn’t. But Angela shook her head slightly and reached her hand to her mouth, wiping the rest of the sugar on her lips with a finger and put it on Fareeha's, who looked at her, then her eyes, and parted her lips slightly, letting herself be carried away by the disturbing but pleasant feeling of licking and sucking Angela’s digit.

So close, so close. And then, Angela’s phone chimed.

Both closed their eyes abruptly, cursing whoever had interrupted that moment, but at the same time Fareeha was grateful. Angela smiled, however, and looked at her again with pleading eyes. Without separating her forehead from the doctor's, Fareeha dared to speak and break the silence that was eating her alive.

“Tomorrow morning we’ll train in the shooting range once more. Be ready…”

“Okay…” She said in a whisper. “We have to go home now, there’s someone waiting for me.”

A nod, and they parted, driving once more towards the city and taking the fastest route to get to Angela's residence. Fareeha needed to quickly return home and take a shower of ice water or make use of her birthday present to relieve the pain that was concentrating on her crotch. Whichever was closest to her before she went crazy with such unholy thoughts.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter XI

When I found some honesty

 

The gardens of her house were one of the few things she loved of the mansion. The roses of all colors predominated among the green bushes around, painting the backyard in a beautiful range of shades. Despite being a cold winter afternoon, she preferred to wait for her visit sitting on one of the several chairs that the garden had. Angela reached for a small leather case inside the pocket of her coat and took a cigarette from it, lighting it carefully before taking the first drag and releasing the smoke in front of her, mixing with her own warm breath in a cloud of steam.

She couldn’t wait for spring to arrive and give her the most sensational view in her ever delicate garden which would be filled with more small flowers and the grass would turn a bright green instead of the opaque mixture of snow and dirt that now covered the ground. Another drag, another thought. A silly girl and an authoritative woman at the same time, a harmonious combination paired with her own exotic beauty. Why should she be so perfect? Why should she be stuck with her in such a dangerous job? She didn’t deserve it, she definitely deserved a better life.

But on the other hand, Angela hated just thinking about letting her go. She had become selfish and wanted her by her side no matter what. And it hurt her just even in the slightest to have lied to her, to have told her that she had an emergency at the hospital just to be able to see her for a few minutes, which quickly turned into a couple of hours. And yet when she thought she would be angry for bothering her on her day off and so early in the morning, she just proved the opposite. She only showed her concern and dedication to the doctor.

Angela knew that if she called her, even when she asked for someone else, Fareeha would quickly offer herself, but what she didn’t expect was for her to start reading her so easily. Indeed, she hadn’t eaten that morning, and the breakfast she provided was more than she expected, not only because it was delicious, but because it showed that she rightfully cared about her well-being. And never before Angela felt such tremendous desire to take her face in her hands and kiss her, kiss her softly, loudly, tender, wildly, kiss her until she forgot her own name. But all she could achieve was perhaps an indirect kiss, but well received by her, and it was notorious that Fareeha wanted the same as her, but her professionalism seemed to keep her on foot, unlike her.

“What is wrong with me…?”

She said to herself, taking another drag of her almost finished cigarette and leaving the remains in the ashtray over the table next to her, watching how the fire consumed the last of it. And finally, her mind focused on that day, on that night they both swore never to mention, never to remember and always to forget. But Angela couldn’t, in fact she didn’t want to. No one had ever made her feel that way, that after finished taking her body they stayed in body, mind and soul. She wasn’t a fool, Angela knew she was a desired woman, her beauty rarely comparable, and that kept her out of the way most of the time, but not with this girl. No. She worried first, she asked for permission, she asked for forgiveness. She didn’t touched her, she caressed her while telling her never to worry.

But that only made her feel worse, because no man cared as much as that woman.

She wiped the only tear that streamed down her cheek with her thumb and sighed. Sinking into the chair and snuggling into her coat, sticking her hand inside the white coat and feeling the fabric of the hoodie that Fareeha lent her the next morning before leaving the apartment. The sound of high heels alerted her, and she straightened a bit knowing that the other chair was now occupied, leaving only the table between them.

“Hello, stranger.” Amelie spoke while lighting a cigarette of her own, crossing her legs while her trench coat shifted slightly as well as she looked at the tiny rolled object between her fingers being consumed. “You seem distant, even more than before. Something bothering you?”

“Work has been quite heavy at this time of the year. Several cases of pneumonia, flu season. Is somewhat common as well. And plastic surgeries.”

“Plastic surgeries?” Amelie asked amusedly.

“It is the best time to have them. It’s not my sector, but I have assisted in some when they are short staffed.” Amelie chuckled slightly while taking another drag, even her laugh had a sensual tone.

“Plastic surgery…” She repeated, this time with shame as she shook her head. “Anyway, I came because I wanted to discuss a few things with you.”

“Very well. Shall we take this inside and have some tea instead?”

“Seems ideal.”

They both got up, entering the house and heading to a small common room Angela called it her tea room which consisted basically of a small room, bookshelves, a china cabinet and a warm fireplace, all in white and gold trim colors that harmoniously fit with the elegance of the mansion. The room had a pair of double crystal sliding doors which also worked as windows and they let see the beautiful view of the garden. Once warmer and with the tea served in front of them, Amelie was the one who took the first sip and put the cup back on the tiny plate that rested in her hand over her knee.

“Very odd. Chamomile?” Amelie was no stranger to the prim tastes of the doctor, who preferred stronger or more exotic flavors, but she never expected that from her. Angela smiled as she took a sip as well, sniffing the subtle aroma.

“It reminds me of a time of comfort.”

“Things get more interesting, I see.”

“There was something you wanted to discuss, isn’t it?”

“And now you’re avoiding the topic.”

“Which clearly was never touched and which I'm not aware of.” Another laugh from her friend.

“Very well, chamomile it is. Do you know what you will do in the next few weeks? The gala is so close.”

The annual hospital gala was held every January and it’s a primordial event that no doctor who isn’t on duty should miss for anything in the world. It was one of the main reasons that kept the hospital running, which made it work, because that was where they got several beneficiaries and investors. Angela was a majority shareholder of the hospital, and she never thought of stopping attending that event. Never. Until several months ago she was threatened, tried to murder and kidnap, and the promise was still standing for her and possibly for several more doctors both in her hospital and those in her city.

Many people were scared, it was like putting all the mice in a single deadly trap ready to be slaughtered. However, Angela stopped feeling scared as of lately, she stopped feeling that her freedom was torn from her life somehow and she was shown a new kind of freedom, giving her liberty from inside out and preparing her for whatever the world could offer. She would never stop fighting, at least not in the present. And there was fire in her eyes now, the same shine she lost along her self-confidence.

“I’ll be there.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.” Silence. And a sigh.

“I was afraid you were going to say that. Hanzo and I are worried for you, even when you have the Amari’s daughter by your side.” Angela winced when Amelie didn't addressed Fareeha by her name, but rather than her mother's daughter.

“Pharah has proven to be more than efficient lately. And I can say with complete certainty that I entrust her my life and that of those around me.”

“That’s something else I wanted to ask you, actually… Do you happen to know her mother?”

“No, she has never mentioned anything about her personal life, except her name.”

“And you still call her by her alias.”

“That’s the way she addresses herself in public, that’s the way I should do it as well.” Angela took a sip of her tea, not bothering to look at her friend in front of her. Amelie smiled, remembering past memories and giving her cup another sip as well.

“Ana made us call her Horus, which was her nickname. As time passed, she asked us to call her Ana, her real name. Obviously with discretion and only when we were both alone, and never in front of a stranger. Gerard and Ana had an excellent relationship for years, even before we even met and married. I was still a stranger and it took time for me to call her by her name.”

“And you’re revealing her name to me.”

“Believe me, Angela, if it wasn’t me who revealed it to you, it was going to be her daughter.” Another sip, and a predatory gaze. “…Or even Ana herself.” Angela coughed on her hand, clearing her throat before seeing her back.

“What did you wanted to ask me regardless Pharah’s mother?”

“We need her.”

This time, Amelie's face turned serious. More serious and dark than normal. Her friend regularly had a cold, elegant and sensual facet at the same time, a woman with an enviable body and an incomparable self-confidence and security. But now there was something in her eyes, a crack that only Angela could see. The fact of admitting that they needed the legendary Ana Amari said a lot, something was happening and Angela was ignorant of the fact, and therefore, she should investigate more about the matter.

“What happened?”

“You know that Gerard is a very altruistic person, one of the many traits for which I love him, and he has been involved in charity, some of them hospitals, including yours.”

“Of course, and I will be eternally grateful for that.”

“Yes, thank you… Lately it hasn’t been only doctors who have been threatened, but all those involved in one way or another to encourage their researches... And Gerard is amongst them.”

A disturbing silence filled the room. Amelie stared at the cup for too long, her face contracted. Angela couldn’t believe that things were escalating to such levels, the situation was getting worse by the minutes, and everything in front of her eyes. She was a victim, and now her best friend's husband, who was a good friend of Angela as well.

“That’s why I’m trying to contact Ana. Gerard believes he can walk freely wherever he pleases, but that's not the case anymore. First my best friend is banished from her own family, then threatened and tried to murder and kidnap several times, and now my husband? I can’t, Angela...”

She was broken, she was utterly shattered from inside out, and it was easy to see. Angela got up and sat down next to her, taking her in a warm hug and letting Amelie vent on her shoulder. Angela closed her eyes, waiting for everything to disappear, for everything to be a nightmare and wake up soon. She could deal with her own burden, it didn’t really bother her to die, she had already done a lot and she was suffering too much, maybe it was better... No. A very warm and familiar voice brought her back from such disturbing thoughts, and she hugged Amelie harder, rejoicing in comfort too.

“Let me give her a call.” Angela finally muttered.

“Pardon?”

“Fare- Pharah. I’ll call her and ask her about her mother.”

“Thank you, Angela.”

She got up, not without first giving a gentle squeeze to her friend's arms and went out the door into the hall, taking her cell phone and looking at the contact number over and over again. She would be a fool to deny that she hadn’t thought of calling her several times, that she hadn’t kept looking at the phone number for minutes before leaving it forgotten in her bed. But this time, despite the hesitation, she pressed the button and waited for the call. After only one ring, Fareeha's soothing and concerned voice reached her ears in a comforting way.

“Angela? Is everything okay?” That’s how Fareeha is, mainly concern towards her, and that put a smile on Angela's face.

“Yes, yes it is. Well, sort of.”

“What happened? Do you want me to go back?” More worry, and that only made her the more adorable and appealing.

“Don’t worry, everything is fine here. I just had to ask you something.”

“Tell me?”

“I want to know about your mother.” A beat.

“Excuse me?”

“Amelie Lacroix wants to talk to her, but they have not been able to contact her and she asked me the favor of calling you to see if you could help them.”

“Gerard Lacroix’s wife?”

“Yes. I promise to update you about this tomorrow morning.”

It seemed Fareeha pondered for a moment, weighing her options and thinking what was the correct way to address such delicate topic about her family. She did never spoke to Angela about her mother or any other relative, she was mysterious, she was an enigma, and sometimes that made her even the more appealing, but Angela knew there was something more deeply and darker related to the Amari family. She heard about them, she even read about the family some other time, but that was a topic to discuss later with Fareeha, if she ever wanted to do so.

“My mother is currently working with the Egyptian Army in Cairo and she won’t be back for another couple of months. I’m sorry but I can’t provide you with any form of contact with her, that’s a general rule between us. However, I can contact her and tell her to communicate with Gerard as soon as possible.”

“I think that will be more than enough. Thank you so much, Fareeha.” That put a silly smile on his face, but not because of the way she spoke with her or even worried about her mother's old friend. No, other than that, her voice was so calm and soothing, and that made her heart beat faster.

“And how are you?”

“Heh we just saw each other an hour ago.”

“Well, still. I’m worried about you. Everything okay back home?”

“It is. He’s not here, so… You know, I’m alone with Amelie. She’s a good company.”

“I’m glad. I’ll leave you to enjoy your friend’s company then. Take care.”

“You too. See you tomorrow.”

She hung up, and went back to the tea room with Amelie. Her friend looked at her with pleading eyes, and Angela just nodded and sat down in front of her once more, picking up the almost cold tea she was drinking. Once Amelie was informed of the situation with Ana, Angela dismissed her with a hug at the door and Amelie got into her expensive luxury car to return to the apartment she shared with Gerard in the center of the city.

Tiredly, Angela entered the house and climbed the stairs to the third floor, heading to her bedroom and locking herself up to lie down on the bed. Her limbs were stretched to either sides of her body while her gaze was fixed towards the ceiling. If there was something she hated was waking up early, but that morning for some reason her biological clock didn’t let her sleep, and she got bored quickly, thinking about how lonely her bed was and how alone she was.

Still lying down she fumbled and tugged at her clothes, undressing herself until she was naked prior getting under the warm covers in the bed, hoping that the warmth that the bedding offered was enough. She closed her eyes to open them again. It wasn’t. Not the kind of warmth her body desired. Her legs rubbed against each other, looking for a different heat that she tried to put out while trying to talk to Amelie. But nothing was enough anymore. She groaned on her pillow, and a hand slid between her legs, caressing her soaked folds with a finger and probing at her entrance. Finally, she slipped two fingers inside her, and her back arched as she let herself release all the tension of the morning, thinking of her.

Remembering her.

Imagining her hands touching her again, her lips resting on her neck, on her lips, on her breasts, on every sensitive part of her body that implored to be touched, kissed, licked, sucked, anything. Her fingers moved faster as she let her imagination run. How would it feel that she kissed her between her thighs? That her nails scratched her back without mercy? That her hands squeeze her legs, her rear, her breasts. A slender hand cupped one of her forgotten breasts, pinching and rolling her nipple while her other hand continued to go in and out with no abandon, filling the room with shuddering breath, wet sounds and moans. Her release so similar to one she experienced before at the hands of her protector.

She lied down tired once again, feeling her body spasm and waiting for her heaving chest to return to a normal pace. It definitely wasn’t what she expected, and she wanted more. It wasn’t enough, she wasn’t enough to make her feel good. This was the closest thing to feeling what it was like to experience a drug, which was an addiction that seemed to be satiated with nothing until she tried it again. She sighed once more and covered herself with the comforter up to the head, this time closing her eyes and giving in to the exhaustion. Maybe that's just the only good thing about doing that.


“Okay, now focus.”

Fareeha told Angela as she readied the weapon before pointing it at the target. The doctor rolled her shoulders, feeling how, indeed as Fareeha had said, she should feel the grip of her weapon. Her legs were firm in place, one foot more in front of the other and her body leaned slightly to the front. She steadied her body, testing the grip of the gun in her hands and positioning the fingers in the right places. She nodded firmly and Fareeha pressed a button, starting a countdown before the target moved from left to right unlike the first time she practiced in the shooting range.

She took a deep breath, and her finger pulled the trigger. Twelve bullets, nine successfully hitting the target. It was a much better improvement than last week when she only hit five. Angela took a deep breath and returned to her initial position, easing her body and feeling how this time her muscles weren’t even bothered by the recoil anymore. Fareeha was right, she needed to be in at least a minimum fit condition before engaging in any defensive activity. The doctor smiled, and looked back at Fareeha, who was grinning wide at her.

“Better. So much better.”

“We are improving, aren’t we?”

“You're really doing it, your numbers grow. I'm proud.” Fareeha kept smiling and approached the doctor, standing only a few steps in front of her. “Now wrap it up.” Angela did as she was told, and removed the empty cartridge from the gun, leaving it on the counter and then moving some parts of the gun, putting the lock on and leaving it on the counter as well. “Great. You are ready now.”

“Do you think so?”

“Nine out of twelve is good enough. However, I still want us to come here and practice once in a while. I'm more worried about your self-defense classes, we haven’t had much of an advance in that aspect, and you keep getting tired very quickly.”

“Oh no. You expect me to be at your level. It's impossible for me, Fareeha, you have years of training for such a matter. Look at you, you are... Ugh!” Angela poked at her abs, eliciting a laugh from Fareeha, who quickly slapped slightly the hand out of her core.

Me waiting for you to become like me? Never, I'm not my mother. But tell me, can you run ten blocks without getting tired? Or can you jump a fence without falling? How about climbing a building?”

“Oh Fareeha-”

“What could happen if I’m not there and you have to escape when you’re out of ammo? They will not give you time to run and hide. They will kill you at sight if they have the chance. Please, don’t give them that chance.”

That made Angela stop talking. She hated to think that one day Fareeha would stop being by her side, and somehow, it was meant to happen eventually. A pair of strong arms enveloped her thin frame, and she leaned into the embrace, feeling Fareeha’s warm body against her, giving her a sense of protection, of peace, of a place she no longer remembered. Angela nodded, and hid her face in the crook of Fareeha’s neck, inhaling the intoxicating scent of her. Her bodyguard rested her head on top of hers and sighed, visibly relaxing into the embrace.

“Please, let me help you. I know you are tired of that, but you must understand that I’m doing this for your own good. I want to protect you until I can no more.”

“I know… I know.” The truth is Angela wanted to stay just there, hidden and cozy in the arms of the only being who was capable of infusing such sensation. But eventually she had to leave her comfort zone and face reality, but not before placing a kiss on the cheek of her bodyguard and silently thanking her. “Now, shall we go and grab some lunch? I’m hungry.” Fareeha somehow smiled, and let her go, but not before giving her a slight squeeze.

“Of course, anything.”

At Angela's request, Fareeha took her to the small restaurant downtown where she previously ordered the fried sugar and cinnamon rolls that she fell in love with. Definitely The Panorama Diner turned to be one of her favorite places in the city now. It wasn’t the most elegant place that the city could provide, but definitely the good vibes of the place made it undoubtedly one of the best. The same homey warmth offered by Reinhardt's bar could also be felt in this very same restaurant with its eighty style vibe and jazz and funk music booming over the speakers.

Angela looked over the menu over and over again, looking how everything seemed appealing but at the same time couldn’t decide on something specific. Fareeha hadn’t even looked at the menu in front of her, and simply stared at her phone for a while, occasionally sliding her thumb and smiling once in a while. Angela didn’t know whether to look at the menu or the girl in front of her, how her hair covered part of her face only partially, how her chest expanded with each breath, how her tattoo accentuated the features of her face. Angela really wanted to grab her, take her in her arms and do what she liked to do with her, but a boy on skates came to her side, clutching a small notebook and pencil and moving his mouth and bobbing his head to the rhythm of the background music, pulling her out of her thoughts.

“Hey, gals! Ready to order?”

“I want the same, Lucio.”

“Got it, Reeha! I don’t even know why I gave you the menu. And for you?” Angela eyed the menu once again, and she cocked her head to the side. “Need another minute, girl?”

“Actually… What are you suggesting? Everything looks delicious, I can’t decide on anything.”

“Oh sure! I'll ask our best taster. Reeha?” Lucio turned back to Fareeha, who chuckled and pointed at a single item on the laminated paper.

“Try the Monte Cristo and some homemade ice tea.” Angela however giggled, and nodded an affirmation.

“Of course. I want that, please.” Lucio scribbled the order in his notebook, still moving his head and lips to the rhythm of the music.

“Uh-huh, got it. I’ll be back with your orders in a few minutes!”

He disappeared between the booths and tables and into the kitchen door. It was impressive how he handled those skates inside the restaurant, but it seemed that he was the only one who used them. However, he was fast and efficient doing his job, dancing between tables and taking orders with incredible speed. But the most impressive thing was when he brought the trays with food to the tables, how could he balance all that?

“Jesse says the coffee here tastes like boiled dirt. But I don’t trust his tastes, he takes his coffee with too much milk and sugar. He should better drink chocolate milk instead.” That elicited a giggle from the blonde, which Fareeha simply smirked and continued explaining a little bit of her life to Angela. “Lucio also plays every weekend at Eichenwalde. That’s where I first met him actually, and that led me to know this place, which conveniently was close to my apartment.” Angela leaned forward, resting her head on her hands and listening intently to the Egyptian.

“You seem to know lot of people around here.”

“Well, when you don’t have a very large family, you start doing yours. Jesse’s like my older brother, I have many other sisters as well, and the family goes on and on. You just add up.”

“I see.” Lucio eventually arrived with their drinks, putting them in front of them and reminding that the food would arrive in a few more moments before moving quickly to another table. Angela took a sip of her iced tea, and Fareeha wasn’t wrong when she suggested it. It was bittersweet with a hint of lemon, and it was delicious. She smirked over the rim of the glass, and looked back at Fareeha, who was taking a sip of her own tea. “So you extended your family at your own will. How about a boyfriend?” Fareeha choked with her drink, coughing and cleaning her mouth with the back of her hand. And she chuckled, then laughed fully while looking back at Angela.

“You know damn well I don’t do boyfriends right now.”

“Now? And you did before?” There was a peak of curiosity in Angela, enough to stir something in Fareeha.

“I had a couple boyfriends before, I was with one in a long relationship and… Uhm… Well, you’re the first… Eh…” She was red, her face and ears were of a darker shade and she preferred to hide her face with her hair, looking at the window and avoiding Angela’s curious gaze.

“Well, I didn’t do women either, but here I am.”

“Stop it. We agreed to never speak of that again.”

“We did.” There was a smug smile on the doctor’s lips, too dangerous to be avoided.

“Angela-”

The doctor raised her glass and drank her tea slowly, her gaze predatory towards Fareeha, who hid behind her hand once again. Angela was having too much fun making the girl nervous, and she slowly lifted her foot, stroking the legs of her bodyguard with her shoe, lifting it higher and higher until it reached her thigh. Fareeha yelped, slapping the foot back and mouthing a ‘stop’ while looking at the doctor’s eyes. Angela laughed, and all Fareeha could do was to join her and give her a warning glare. Luckily for her, Lucio arrived with their meals, and he placed the Monte Cristo in front of Angela and a rather meaty burger in front of Fareeha.

“Goodness, this looks delicious. But they don’t sell food that isn’t fried?”

“I can ask Lucio to throw you in the fryer as well. And you suggested here in the first place.”

Both ate pleasantly, Angela moaning each time a little of the rather complex sandwich touched her tongue and tasted the delicious mixture of cheese, ham and butter. It had been so long since she had eaten so relaxed, so disinterestedly without worrying about a bit of the world, even though her life was in constant danger and Fareeha was there to ensure her safety. It didn’t matter, there were many things to discuss now and she didn’t have time to worry. After that she wouldn’t have time at all. Once they finished their meals, Lucio arrived with a plate of fresh biscuits and two cups of coffee for each one. Clearly Jesse was wrong, the coffee was good, but it was certainly overshadowed by the sweet and delicious taste of the decadent dessert in front of them.

“You seem to have a good relationship with your mother.” Angela finally said, remembering the picture in her previous bedroom and the way she spoke with her on the telephone. Fareeha nodded, and proceeded to pull her phone from her pocket, unlocking it and showing Angela a picture on the screen.

“Yeah, we do. This is her, I was talking with her a few minutes ago. She sent me some pictures of her in the Army, and some places we used to visit together. I look like her, but she’s definitely way prettier than me. I have a lot of my father’s features, height included.” Her mother definitely looked a lot like Fareeha, wore a tattoo similar to hers in her other eye and her hair was as dark as hers, with the difference that Ana's skin tone was of a darker shade. But of course, the resemblance was uncanny. Angela smiled and looked at her.

“I don’t know her personally, but to me you’re prettier.” She sighed and leaned on her hand, slightly tilting her body and looking at the window, watching the cars pass by and the world move on. She didn’t know how to address what was weighing in her mind. But Fareeha was as perceptive as ever, and she didn’t even flinch to speak her thoughts, even above a whisper. "So much prettier..."

“What’s wrong?” Angela pulled an envelope from her purse and placed it in front of Fareeha on the table. She didn’t move, she just looked at her. And again, Fareeha deserved honesty and so much more.

“This is not exactly the best place to talk about this, but it's now or never... You must have an idea what is like to be part of the Shimada family. Do you know why Hanzo was disinherited?”

“He’s… gay.” A nod.

“He failed to continue with the lineage of the Shimada’s. He rebelled himself to his father and the committee in order to continue with his life. He chose love before money and power, but he was smart enough to take what belonged to him and work it, now living well enough on his own. The only thing left of a Shimada in him is his last name. And that's when Genji was called…”

There was an awkward silence, Angela turning sideways in the hope that no one would hear her. Fortunately, they were sitting in a somewhat secluded booth, giving them the privacy they needed without putting themselves at risk of someone hearing their conversation. Angela took a deep breath before continuing with the explanation of her life into the Shimada family, but not before taking a bite of one of the sugary biscuits in front of her.

“He didn’t intend to become the head of the family, at least that’s what he told me when we were dating. But when Hanzo was revoked as the heir, Sojiro forced Genji to fill his brother's place, and because he already had a relatively stable relationship with a woman who fit the profiles of perfection that a Shimada imposed, things were rushed, and we got married, despite knowing the consequences, but I never thought that this would go so far, that things would get worse…”

“…Why are you telling me this?” Fareeha was visibly heartbroken. She hated when Angela spoke about her useless and miserable life. She knew, but still wanted to avoid the topic.

“Months ago Sojiro told us that it was time to… Expand the family. I don’t want children, not now, not ever, they’re not in my agenda, and much less with him. The simple thought of doing so disgusts me. However… We are forced to have children, or our future is uncertain, especially mine. Genji of course accepted without hesitation, but I... Where am I? They want to use me as a breeding machine, but I can’t, Fareeha…” A dark hand reached over her, and squeezed tightly, giving her the strength she needed to continue. “Months ago when you took me to the fertility clinic I went for a more thorough checkup, and to my bad luck, my initial suspicions were correct.”

The silence that followed was deafening. Fareeha just stared at her hand, and only the sound of plates clashing with silverware, the background music and muffled talk was the only thing that remained. Angela pointed at the envelope with one finger, and looked back at Fareeha with glistening eyes, tears threatening to escape from her piercing blue eyes.

“I got pregnant despite everything I did to avoid it… But I had to abort it as soon as I found out and I had to do something in order to prevent it from happening ever again. A salpingectomy was the less invasive option I had, and thus, I can’t get pregnant ever again, it is an irreversible procedure after all.” She clenched her fists, the tears streaming freely while she looked at Fareeha’s eyes. “I refuse to bring to this world a child that I will never be able to love and will always hate. I refuse to bear him a child that will become a monster just like him, and if I had to rip my womb to do so at the expense of my life, then so be it. This…?” She pressed a finger at the white envelope in front of her. “This piece of paper contains the results of the clinic's evaluation. This either my ticket to freedom… Or my ticket to hell… A-and I'm afraid to find out which of the two will be even thought I already know…”

Angela was so heartbroken that she couldn’t contain herself, her voice strangled mid sentence while she cried, not minding it was in front of Fareeha anymore. She didn’t even intend to cover her face, what’s the point to mask it anyway? Most likely, the result was discouraging than nothing. Fareeha quickly got up and sat down next to her, hugging her tightly, pressing her blonde head in her chest. The falling tears immediately soaking the fabric of her white shirt.

“I am dead, am I…?”

“No, you’re not.” Fareeha muttered, pressing harder her body against hers.

“I prefer to do so, Fareeha. B-but I'm afraid still... I wasn’t kidding when I said I was already-”

“Angela, shut up.” Angela opened her eyes at her commanding yet constricted voice, and slowly looked up at her between her soaked eyelashes. Fareeha’s face reflected a different kind of pain she never saw before. She snapped, it was enough, she couldn’t take it and a new Fareeha was born in front of Angela’s eyes. Purer, clearer, more honest, more of her. “You don’t know what you do to me, do you? How much it hurts me to see you like this? To know that behind those doors I’m helpless, I’m no one, and I’m failing you? Every day, Angela... Do you know how much you mean to me? You don’t even have the sightless idea of how much I just want to-”

Angela didn’t let her continue, and sealed her words with a kiss. A kiss that escalated quickly, from comfort to despair, from need to longing, and Fareeha responded in the same way, taking her face with both hands and pressing her lips further with hers. Angela hugged her waist, her hands exploring every corner of her back, scratching and grabbing the fabric in an attempt to never let go. And she didn’t plan on doing it, not now that she found honesty in her and in Fareeha. Not now that she found someone willing to fight for her until she couldn’t anymore, and Angela promised to do the same. To keep fighting, to stand by her beliefs. Not now that someone was openly willing to give everything to her. Not now.

“Please, don’t let me die…” Was the last whimper before sunking once again in the only source of comfort she had.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter XII

And I was worried about her well-being

 

Each day that passed seemed worse. If it wasn’t because Angela, it was because of her. Days ago the doctor invited her to a ball that the hospital held each year and would celebrate in just a few weeks, and honestly she wasn’t very excited about it. It seemed like a trap, and Fareeha didn’t want to stay to find out if she was right or not. However, she knew that Angela must be there, and, as was her duty, she must also be present. And as promised, she would protect her until she could no longer do so. But Helix and Genji had another plans for her regarding the event.

‘So if you’re lonely you know I’m here waiting for you…’

And there she was once again in front of the doors of Angela's office, who had a meeting with other fellow doctors from other hospitals. It was normal at this point that Angela was quite busy, even as to retire late into the night, but it didn’t matter, the more erratic the work hours were, the most difficult for someone to track her down. After almost an hour, everyone left and only Angela remained in the office. However, Fareeha never came in until the doctor invited her inside, and it lasted just over twenty minutes more of waiting.

‘…I know I won't be leaving here with you…’

To pass the time she took her earphones and played some music on her smartphone, moving her foot to the rhythm of the song and singing to herself in a low voice or humming along the lyrics. She couldn’t wait for it to be Sunday, Olivia's birthday was close and they decided to celebrate it together with Reinhardt that same night. She had to think of something to give to her friend, but her tastes were a bit eccentric, maybe she would go to an electronics store to find something that suited her friend’s personality.

‘…I say don't you know, you say you don't know, I say… Take me-’

A pale hand crept up to her ear, taking one of the earphones and whispering in it. The hot breath clashing with her skin.

“What are you listening to?”

“-out! Shit…!” Fareeha clasped her mouth shut with both hands, and Angela giggled when she took her bodyguard by surprise. Luckily no one was around to hear her curse, “God fuc- ! Doctor, don’t you ever do that again…!”

“Aw, come on. I was curious to know what you’re listening!” She was laughing, and even when it wasn’t funny when Fareeha was scared, listening to Angela laugh and seeing her smile was worth having a heart attack. “What are you listening to?”

“Uhm… It’s Franz Ferdinand...”

“Really, now? You enjoy that kind of heavy rock?” Another round of addictive giggles Fareeha was willing to enjoy.

“Is not that heavy, though…”

“Come on in. I’m grabbing a few things before we can go home. Finally, this people can’t shut their mouths.”

“Of course.”

Fareeha did as she was told and went carefully into the office, removing her earphones and putting them in the inner bag of her jacket. She heard the door close behind her, and the lock clicking satisfactorily. Surprised, she turned toward the door, and Angela's knowing smile said it all. The doctor approached her predatorily, causing her to recoil until Fareeha's legs hit the edge of the desk. Angela laughed, before taking the lapels of her two-button jacked and bringing Fareeha closer to melt into a passionate kiss. That was the best part of every day.

Fareeha responded in the same way, taking Angela by the thighs, lifting her up and twisting her body gently until she sat her on the broad wooden desk. Both knew that what they were doing was more than forbidden, both on Fareeha's side and Angela's. But still, taking her in her arms, caressing every part of her body, kissing her tempting lips, was the most addictive thing in the world. Angela seemed to feel the very same way, and Fareeha wasn’t willing to miss it.

“Okay… Let’s go…” Fareeha managed to say between kisses, her mind working to remain sane and professional, but Angela just focused on smile and brought her closer, hugging her from the nape of her neck and tugging a handful of black hair. “We really need to go…”

“It would be too much to ask you… To take me right here?” They both laughed, their lips still pressed against each other. But as tempting as it sounds, Fareeha wasn’t willing to risk their positions.

“Yes, Angela. It would be too much.” The doctor huffed and nodded, releasing Fareeha from her grip, but not before placing a slight peck in her lips. “And we agreed not to do anything eh… worse than this.”

“Hm very well, Pharah. At least take me to dinner after going with Hanzo.”

“That I can do.”

Angela promised Hanzo to visit him tonight. The doctor was ignorant of the fact that Fareeha already knew him, a little more intimately even, because seeing him half naked with Jesse not once, but several times, counted more as intimacy than anything else, no matter how much she hated and envied the two sometimes. The only one who perhaps had a remote idea of what Fareeha felt about her protégé was Hanzo, and not entirely because she told him, never would she say something about those ragged feelings, but because he knew both of them mutually, and that gave him an indisputable power in their already complicated relationship.

Driving with Angela and spending every hour with her became her favorite part of the day as of lately. Angela lately took her job more calmly, Moira rarely seemed to bother her now, and the blonde was even able to recover some of the weight lost from so many neglected weeks in relation to her health. Fareeha not only became her bodyguard, but also her caretaker, coach, friend and something else along the way, something that made her feel immensely useful.

And still, Fareeha knew that what they were doing was more than forbidden.

But Angela didn’t care as much. After what she said in the restaurant, many doubts were clarified, and although her honesty had to make things better, everything only worsened. Never Fareeha had been so concerned about a person, less for a job, and much less for a woman who was actually driving her crazy beyond everything she believed in, for she had to admit, Angela became her priority both inside and outside the job, and the only thing she could think about was her, to take her in her arms and make her feel as good as possible, to kiss her gently until her lips blended with hers, to whisper words of encouragement, of hope, those that said everything would be okay by just being by her side.

Angela took her hand the whole ride to Hanzo's apartment, their fingers intertwined as it was something she did lately and it brought her comfort, and Fareeha always took it back, occasionally laying hers on top of her pale thigh as she stroked the back of her hand with her thumb in soft circles, welcoming enough to silently tell her she was there, not to worry, that everything would be fine. Once outside the luxurious building in the northern part of the city, Fareeha opened the car door and extended a hand to Angela to be taken and ease her out of the vehicle, which the doctor happily took back. The ride in the elevator was mostly smuggling smirks and teasing touches that stirred different sensations in Fareeha, but soon enough they were in front of Hanzo’s apartment door, and Angela rang the bell while Fareeha adjusted again to her imposing position as bodyguard, the one Hanzo had to see to convince himself that she was doing her job and nothing else.

“Welcome, ladies.”

“Good evening, Hanzo.”

The doctor hugged her friend in a warm embrace, and the man extended his hand to Fareeha in a simple shake, who took it kindly and gave it a gentle squeeze back before going inside the apartment. As Fareeha expected from someone as poise and regal as Hanzo, his home was big. Pretty big to be an apartment. The common area was huge, the dining room with ten chairs had an exquisite decoration, the kitchen was enormous too, and she was sure that the bedroom and bathroom would be of the same dimensions. Jesse was a very lucky man. Fareeha still wondered why she lived in that apartment with her, but she got an idea of why by thinking what the Shimada family could do if they found out.

Hanzo closed the door once inside and the three of them sat in the living room, the ever serious man had already prepared and served a set of hot tea in the coffee table. A familiar sound alerted Fareeha, perhaps nails scrapping on the floor were heard closer, and she narrowed her eyes, hoping that this would somehow enhance her hearing capability. Instead, she saw a hairy tail, and then another. Two Akita dogs in a beautiful mixed color of white chest and black back approached Hanzo, who stroked them with both hands. However, one smelled the air, and looked at Fareeha with black penetrating eyes. The girl was surprised for a moment when both dogs approached her and kept sniffing. Suddenly their tails wagged slightly, then quickly, making them rest their forepaws on her lap, licking her hands and moving her arms with their muzzles to be stroked somewhere.

“Hi, guys!” Fareeha was beyond joyful, she loved dogs, even more large and happy furry pups, but her mother always refused to have pets. “I didn’t know you had dogs!”

“They like you.”

“You’re so cute, you guys!”

Her voice a squeak enough to stir even more excitement in the dogs, one of them jumping in her lap and making her grunt by the heavy weight of the pet. Angela giggled at the image of her bodyguard being somewhat open to the joy of the animals. Fareeha was no fool, she knew the dogs were picking Jesse’s scent through her clothes. But if that granted her the love of such lovely pups, she will be more than glad to wear her roommate’s shirts. Angela saw her with endearment and amusement, she rarely saw Fareeha that way.

“Aren’t you pretty, boys?” One of them was licking Fareeha’s face, he was a little too excited, far more than his brother. Hanzo clapped his hands twice, earning the dogs attention.

“Alright, back off, you two.” The dogs retreated and sat beside Hanzo in the couch, eventually lying down and resting a head in his lap. “Good, now back to business.” Hanzo spoke as he poured some tea in the three teacups in front of him, placing each one in front of his guests, the gentleness of his manners in full display. “You wanted to talk to me, Angel?” Angela took a small envelope from her purse and handed it to Hanzo.

“That’s the invitation for the gala in a couple of weeks.”

“…You really are attending such event despise all the red flags?”

“I have to, it’s my gala, my hospital, and I will not retract for a simple threat.”

“The hospital you don’t own entirely.”

“But that I am a majority shareholder of a seventy-six percent, which makes it more than half mine.”

“You are in danger along with all those doctors who will attend. It doesn’t give you a hint of fear? Don’t you worry about your well-being?”

“I survived being with your brother.” There was a death glare in her eyes, and Hanzo flinched. “A dance is nothing compared to that.”

“Angela-”

“And I think everybody is pretty aware.” Fareeha was sitting back in her starting position, legs crossed and hands resting in her lap. Her gaze was focused on the door mostly, trying to avoid prying to whatever Angela and Hanzo were talking about, but it was impossible, and when the doctor mentioned Genji she couldn’t help but wince in disgust. “Even Pharah.”

“Angela Ziegler, you know how dangerous it is for you to carry on with the gala. It’s a death trap. What would you do if something happen?”

“I’m going to protect her.” Fareeha spoke coldly, making both of them look at her perplexed. “Nothing is going to happen to her as long as I’m there.” Hanzo seemed tempted to speak once again, and he faced the bodyguard with the same intensity. But when he saw Angela’s face turning to her and bringing her a smile, something changed. Eventually, his face softened and he nodded to her, Fareeha nodding back in a hidden agreement.

“Very well. I’ll see you there then.” Angela smiled back to him, thanking him for his understanding and support. Hanzo moved a hand and motioned the tea set in front of them. “Now, will you drink my tea or will you refuse my hospitality?”

“I will gladly drink whatever you offer me in your home.”


The Eichenwalde bar was as full and cheerful as ever. The live band played enthusiastically on the stage at the corner of the complex, the pleasant conversations and clashing glasses complemented the atmosphere, paired only with the glorious laughter of Reinhardt, clapping to the rhythm of Lucio's music from time to time. Fareeha could hear all this while standing outside the front doors of the bar, and when she opened the door the sounds were magnified by perhaps three times. A smile was painted on her lips when at a large table were all her friends. Alcoholic beverages, metallic balloons attached to the chairs and a couple of gifts adorned their special designated area.

With her own gift box in hand, Fareeha walked to where all her friends were, Lena raising a hand and waving her to get closer. Once at the table, everyone greeted her, and approached Olivia to give her an effusive hug, lifting her from her own chair and spinning her in the air. It helped she was so much smaller than her. Fareeha swore she almost crushed her poor friend’s ribs with such an embrace, but she couldn’t care less, she deserved all her mighty love. That was home away from home. And she knew she couldn’t live without them.

“Happy birthday, Olivia!”

“My lungs!” Fareeha finally released her, she was way taller than Olivia, and she adored to pat her head like a little girl. “Thank you, girl!”

“Got you a present.”

“Ay, really? You shouldn’t! Well, as you are the one who earns more from us, yes, you should. And thanks!” She took the neatly wrapped box and carefully opened it. Olivia’s eyes lit up immediately. The box was filled with candy, all of them too weird and different than regular with a dangerous reddish color that probably looked spicy. However, while looking at all that candy, Olivia smiled wide and started jumping in her place. “You fucking didn’t! I got a new stash!” She took a foul-looking lollipop and tore the wrapping paper, sticking it directly in her mouth, and Fareeha could swear her friend melted when the spicy lollipop touched her tongue. “Oh my… You don’t know how much I love you.”

“Is that good?” Fareeha laughed. However, Olivia took another candy and handed it to Fareeha, then took a handful to hand to each one of her friends.

“This is crack cocaine. Try it.” Everyone saw Olivia with an inquisitive and scared look on their faces. “Aash… Try them! It’s my birthday!” Her Mexican accent became more notorious and prominent when she was excited or angry about something, but everyone decided to obey her in the end. Once they tried the candy for a few seconds, they couldn’t help but cough, spit and grimace at the taste of the spicy flavor. And she laughed, a full whole heartily laugh, almost rolling on the floor by the amusing faces everyone did. “Oh my God!” Fareeha instead of leaving the candy along the already licked and discarded ones on the table, she left it in her mouth, savoring it a little longer.

“It’s… It’s not that bad…” Fareeha, along with Olivia and Jesse were one of the few who could stand spicy food. “This is actually good. But what were they thinking when they put chili on candy?”

“See?! It’s tasty! You guys can’t stand my drug!” Fareeha laughed along with her. “Thank you, baby! I love them!”

“You’re welcome, but that’s not the gift. Dig in.” Olivia looked at her with curious eyes and dug through the tomb of candy to the bottom, taking out three tickets for a concert. Her friend's eyes lit up once again with a different shine, and she slowly left the box on the table and took the tickets in her hands as if they were sheets of gold.

“Fareeha, you did not…! Are you serious?! I have months trying to get the tickets and these were sold out! How could you get not just one, but three VIP tickets to the concert?!”

“The perks of working with the doctor, who has a friend who works in the theater, who has contacts in the place and all that. I can’t go, I'll be working that night, but take whoever you want.” Olivia put a hand on her chest, a guilty look displayed to Fareeha.

“Ay, baby… I can’t thank you enough, seriously. I was joking when I said you should get me a present. The candy was enough, you know how much I love that stuff. But this? I think it’s too much… And I know they cost a fortune.”

“Don’t worry about that, okay? Enjoy your birthday and your present.” Olivia hugged her tightly, Fareeha returning the embrace and patting her head once more.

“Stop patting me, I’m not a dog.”

“You’re a Chihuahua.”

“Because I’m Mexican? That’s racist.” Olivia smirked, teasing in her voice.

“Because you’re small, noisy, you yell at everyone who annoys you or doesn’t obey you…”

“And because I’m Mexican.”

“Yes.” It was Fareeha’s turn to laugh, but soon enough Olivia joined her, parting from the embrace and looking at her with an accomplice look.

“Alright, fine. Says Miss Cliché with that egyptian tattoo under the eye.” Fareeha shrugged, she wasn’t wrong. “How’s life with the doctor treating you, by the way? Everything fine?” Fareeha reached to the inside of her jacket, pulling a single cigarette from the box and her lighter, lighting the small rolled piece in her mouth and taking the first drag to release the smoke to the side.

“Yeah, mostly.”

“Mostly? Weird. Something happened?”

“Well, a lot of things I can’t say. But don’t worry.”

“You know I will find out eventually when you fill the report back to Helix and I have to process it, you know?” Another drag, and she looked at Olivia from the corner of her eye.

“And who says I write down everything in the report?”

“Fareeha-”

“I know what you think, but I’m not doing it anyway.” Olivia clicked her tongue, it wasn’t normal for Fareeha to go against any kind of policies. The girl was too honest to be fooling with something like that.

“You know that’s against Helix policies, baby. You must report everything, even when it’s not nice things to say about her or anyone else.”

“There are things in her personal life that I have seen, heard and even felt and I’m not willing to put that in a report that her husband can use against her.” Olivia in the end sighed in surrender. Once Fareeha went into her ever protective mode, nothing and no one could get her out of there. It was a quality inherited from Ana, and everyone knew of Ana's unique personality: never mess with her when she’s focused in something, it was like taking a piece of meat from a hungry wolf.

“Okay, let's leave the subject there. I won’t pry again. Now…” She took the lollipop out of her mouth and pointed at Fareeha’s face with the piece of candy. “There’s something else I really am curious about. You’ve been different, girl.”

“…Different?”

“Yeah, different!” Brigitte hugged her from behind, her broad arms squishing her neck. “You’re not the same Fareeha we knew months ago, you’re uhm… What’s the word?”

“I’m not poor now?”

“Psht no! Well, yeah, but that’s not the exact jumpy word I’m looking for uhm… Cheery! That’s the word! Like Lena! Well, not Lena Lena, no one beat her, but you know, you know?”

“…Are you already drunk, Brigitte? It’s barely ten.”

“No! I mean, no. Right, Olivia?”

“So drunk.” Olivia agreed with Fareeha. Brigitte knew how to drink, and she drank a lot, as if the beer was water. But at least she could control herself, and she maintained her spirited state for a long time without becoming aggressive. But there was a very dangerous side effect: Brigitte's discretion and modesty vanished in thin air.

“You got laid, didn’t you?”

“Brigitte!”

“You got laid! Guys, she got laid!” Brigitte yelled back at the table, everyone raising their glasses and chanting kudos before returning to mind their own business.

“I didn’t got laid, shut up!”

“Oh… Guys, she didn’t got laid!” There was another round of laughter in the table once again, and Fareeha pushed Brigitte towards her chair.

“Fuck off! I don’t know what’s worst…”

“So, you did got laid.” Olivia crossed her arms in front of her and smirked.

“Perhaps.”

“Fucking finally, girl. Someone we know? Or just a fling?” Fareeha shrugged, she wanted to seem the least bothered by the topic, even when it was eating her alive like a parasite.

“Neither one nor the other. It was just a one night thing that will not be repeated, so it doesn’t matter.”

“Well, too bad. Shall we return then? You need a drink, girl.”

“I need that barrel instead of a glass.”

That night passed like a blur. Between so much beer and loud music, her mind was responsible for erasing most of her self-respect and her body to get loose. Lucio's music was an addiction, and even Fareeha ended up dancing with everyone on the dance floor, lifting Olivia on her shoulders and doing the worst she could do: saying bad jokes and puns all night, even if she was the only one laughing at her own comments. That’s what she needed, that type of distraction. She needed to forget a rosy pair of lips on her neck, a set of hands coursing her body, tugging at her shirt and grasping her hair, a pair of long, creamy legs surrounding her waist and bringing her closer. Not tonight.

At the end of the celebration she ended up walking down the streets of the city with Jesse leaning on her. It was just beer, but Jesse seemed to have drunk everything that contained alcohol in the bar, including the rat poison that Reinhardt kept under the sink. Those were the two most unstable blocks she had walked, and Jesse singing in her ear like a dying cat just made the street wobble even more. She didn’t know how they got to the apartment, but she was more than grateful to have arrived in one piece and with Jesse alive.

Working tomorrow seemed impossible, and as had happened the last time on her birthday, she only had maybe a couple of hours to sleep and put herself together before meeting with Angela. She threw herself on the couch, lying on her back and covering her eyes with an arm, she couldn’t reach her room in that drunk state. It seemed that Jesse couldn’t either, for she heard a thump on the floor and when she turned to look at him she saw her roommate asleep in the hallway. The only thing she could do as a friend was to throw him a cushion, waiting for him to somehow catch it and use it as a pillow.

Her phone vibrated and chimed in her jeans, and growling, she fumbled awkwardly to take it out of her pocket. The brightness of the screen immediately annoying her, and she squinted to see the reason for the unwanted interruption. A small ray of hope, or maybe a very large and wide one.

‘Good night, Fareeha. I hope I am not bothering you, but can you arrive at ten instead of six? Hanzo just called and wants to have breakfast tomorrow morning with me for some reason. I hope you have fun. Take care.’

Hanzo seemed to understand the situation in which both Jesse and she would be after Olivia's celebration. He acted as a good friend, and Fareeha appreciated it as he had no idea. “I fucking love you… And I love you for fucking him.” Fareeha said under her breath before throwing the phone to the floor, exhausted and surrendered to sleep and fatigue. But then, another sound, and her phone ringed this time. With a growl, she reached it and fumbled with the screen, managing to answer the call. “Hm?”

“Are you sleep or are you drunk?”

“Both. What is it, mom?”

“I have some news for you regarding a situation here.”

“…What?”


“Harder!”

Fareeha yelled as she felt the blow in her punching mitts. Angela, in addition to having gained an adorable amount of weight, she had gained some muscle mass as well, which although it didn’t make her punches stronger, they did made them more stable, faster and methodical. She was steady, punching over and over, sometimes ducking and avoiding Fareeha’s own blows.

“One, two, three, block!”

Angela blocked the blow with her forearm, then ducked once again and punched the mitts in a constant succession. She was sweating, her perspiring face made her hair stick to her forehead. Her clothes were soaked, and they were uncomfortably clinging to her body, the shirt and sport shorts she opted to wear that time didn’t seem to refresh her, even when the weather was cold. The doctor was visibly irritated, and Fareeha knew because she barely flinched.

“Harder!”

Angela was progressing in evading every blow that Fareeha gave her, and she had improved so much since the first class. Fareeha encouraged her to use the gym in her house, to exercise at least half an hour every day to increase her resistance, and it seemed to work. There was only one thing that changed since their first training, and that was that Fareeha enjoyed teasing the doctor, as that seemed to bring the best of her when pushed to the edge.

“Harder! What are you thinking?!”

“I’m trying!” She punched the mitt, tired and sweaty. Her face was flushed, and she was sweating like never before.

“Then try harder, Angela! You have legs as well!” The doctor muttered something to herself in German, and she wiped the sweat in her brow with her forearm. She proceeded to release a barrage of punches and kicks to the punching mitts, steady and in perfect rhythm. However, she made a sweep kick to Fareeha’s legs when she felt she wasn’t making any harm to her and threw the bodyguard out of balance, her back and head hitting on the floor. “Ah, fuck!” She hissed, closing her eyes in mild pain and covering them with her forearm. Angela yelped and covered her mouth with her hands, approaching Fareeha quickly in horror and kneeling next to her.

“Oh my God! Are you okay?! I’m so sorry!” She was, she absolutely was. But that was nothing to Fareeha, even the hardwood floor below the thin foam mat was softer than the concrete of the streets. But that gave her time to teach Angela a lesson.

“What’s the next step after throwing your opponent to the floor?” Fareeha grinned, her eyes still hidden behind her arm, and she moved it to look at Angela with one lurking eye. The blonde’s eyes widened, a smile slowly appearing and she laughed before sprinting back. “Run!”

Angela turned to the opposite side and ran to the exit, laughing madly and disappearing into the hallway that led to the showers. A dead end nonetheless. Fareeha quickly stood up and followed her, smiling and running as well, taking their bags with one hand before leaving the private training room she rented for themselves. Before reaching the door to the hallway, she was able to reach Angela, and she lifted her with her free arm, carrying her over her shoulder and disappearing behind the shower’s doors with a giggling blonde.

The hot water fell pleasantly on their almost naked frames, washing away all the dirt and sweat that clung to their bodies even when wearing just their underwear. The sweet taste of Angela's lips mixed with the water was something worth trying over and over again, and the way Angela took a fistful of her hair enough to pull and press her face closer to hers, just made the act more unbearable. The doctor’s body, soul and mind were perfect, and it was almost impossible to turn her eyes and her hands away from her. She could only bring Angela closer by gently holding her hips and softly tease her body with hers in a swaying movement, but Angela always had other plans, Angela always wanted more. A milky hand wandered, traveling lower to her back and further down, to the curve of her backside, to her hips, and ended touching the inside of a thigh. Fareeha gasped, and pushed the hand to the side, shaking her head between the heated kiss.

“No, Angela… You have to go to work now. A-and I’m working now, I shouldn’t be doing this.”

“Shh, you’re always working when you’re with me. It’s not fair.”

“And you’re making it harder. At least let me try to do my job.” Angela released her with a giggle.

“Fine. You’re boring.”

“I’m a professional.”

“I’ll say you’re beyond dedicated… And a boring professional.” It was Fareeha’s turn to laugh.

“Thank you, but it won’t work.”

Angela huffed and rolled her eyes, pushing her playfully to the shower door while she took a decent shower herself after a full hour of practice. Fareeha was more than delighted that Angela had recovered her energy, and even her mood seemed to improve, probably because of the endorphins produced by the exercise they did in an almost daily basis, both training self-defense and in the shooting range. Fareeha improved her resistance too, and she was grateful for it, as it was killing two birds with one stone. The showers were empty that morning, fortunately, it was rare who was at such an early hour in the private gym classrooms.

Fareeha went into her own shower and closed the small door behind her, turning the knob and feeling the hot water stream and relax her muscles as it covered her body. She had to admit, Angela was close, very close of tempting her to do improper things over and over again. And it's not that kissing her was that bad, but getting over that was unthinkable and irresponsible. Fareeha knew that Angela needed her, her life was miserable and she had to vent to someone in some way, that sometimes made Fareeha feel used, and in the same way she felt that she used Angela to satisfy her own pleasure needs, but once the doctor hugged her and stayed static with her for minutes, just feeling her heat and her heart beating, she knew it was far from becoming true.

Both needed the company of the other as human beings.

A true companion, as simple as that. The thing is that Angela was perfect in Fareeha's eyes, and probably others' as well. She was kind, affectionate, very intelligent, very skilled, her work contributed to improving the quality of human life, and what made it better was that she was undeniably beautiful. So beautiful, her eyes burned when the sunlight touched her hair and illuminated her eyes and skin. She radiated a unique envious beauty, an incredible sense of peace, and an unparalleled and generous benign personality.

Fareeha got out of the shower before Angela did and dressed quickly, changing to her usual bodyguard uniform. Black pants, shoes of the same color and a white shirt buttoned with a bulletproof shirt underneath, only her holster and jacket were missing. She took her towel and began to dry her thick dark hair, looking down the floor and letting the water drip on the white tiles. She was worried, more than that. One of the days that Hanzo visited Jesse -which were three days a week- told her about this famous charity gala held by the hospital every year, and how dangerous the event would become knowing that a few doctors in Talon’s sights will attend.

She didn’t notice when Angela came out of the shower nor when she changed to her work attire in front of her. Although she only had to put on underwear and slip a pale pink dress over her shoulders, she still didn’t notice, her mind was somewhere else and she was still with her body stuck in the ground. A soft tap on her shoulder brought her out of her thoughts, Angela sat down next to her on the bench and leaned forward to see Fareeha in the face, catching a glimpse of her eyes. The bodyguard quickly regained her composure and sat up straight, leaving the towel aside prior brushing her hair with her fingers. It was obvious that she was distracted, Angela could easily sense it.

“What’s wrong?” That sweet, concerned voice of Angela that could melt her in any second reached her ears. Fareeha sighed, releasing the air through her nose and she looked back at her.

“The gala is tomorrow.”

“It is. Are you ready?”

“…Are you?”

“You're worried about what might happen.” A nod. “Believe me, nothing is worse than what could happen to me at home. I won’t cowardice in front of the other medical guests that are willing to attend the event. If I die in the dance, then so be it.”

“Stop saying that.” Fareeha whipped her head back at Angela, and she wasn’t prepared for the darkness in her eyes. “Nothing is going to happen to you.”

“Then why are you worried? Because you’re not going to be there?”

“I will be there.”

“But not by my side, and for me it doesn’t count. Why should I trade you for Genji? It’s unfair.”

“Well, you’re trading him for me. That’s unfair.” Fareeha smirked sadly, she was saying the truth at some extent. Angela scooted closer to her and rested her blushed cheek in her shoulder. “But don’t worry, my eyes will be watching over you.”

“…Can you promise me that?”

“It won’t be difficult. I promise you. But still, it doesn’t take away the fact that I'm worried about something bad happening there.”

“I know, I’m worried as well… However, I feel safe knowing you’ll be with me. I never hesitated to attend such event because I know you’ll be there to protect me.”

“Then we both have nothing to worry about.”

That seemed to lessen the concern of both of them. Angela was more afraid with each day approaching closer to the gala, and Fareeha could feel her negativity some times, but her years of training made her strong, and she rarely let that affect her. Fareeha laid her cheek on Angela's blonde and damp head, and they both stayed that way for several minutes in the shower room, enjoying each other's company before the storm. Definitely, hell would break loose tomorrow.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter XIII

When I dressed in red

 

Deep breaths.

All Angela could do was take deep breaths. She was furious, sitting in the living room of that frigid morning while Genji ranted about her supposed uselessness and lack of cooperation with the family. It wasn’t enough that he snuck into the house twenty minutes ago, but he still had to shout at her, to complain about everything he had done for her and how ungrateful she had become. How wrong he was. Silly, ignorant, stupid, ungrateful, useless, selfish, workaholic, naïve, senseless, among other things that she preferred to leave out of the many insults Genji hurled at her.

She closed her eyes, frowning and trying to muffle the sounds that came out of his mouth. How could he still be so miserable with her? Angela knew where he was before, his wrinkled clothes and the smell of alcohol and women's perfume that wasn’t hers betrayed him, and he still had the nerve to pour himself another glass of Scotch. It was enough, more than enough. Dying here or on the street didn’t matter anymore, but the faster she did it, the better. Her ticket to paradise was hidden in her office, and perhaps it was time to show him that.

Angela felt a slap on her cheek, the force with which she was hit left her skin stinging, coloring it of a soft red. And the yelling didn’t stop whatsoever, it only increased. She thought several times about divorce, even just a month after she got married. Genji knew it, and when he found out it only provoked an even worse reaction. Her body suffered, that didn’t matter, but her mind and spirit weakened, she continued to suffer slowly until she became the insecure mess of a person she was now. The sound of an object breaking on a wall drove her crazy, and she stopped her wandering abruptly, facing her husband with the same hate he was hurling at her.

“-when are you going to fucking listen, Angela?! You still think it's your choice to stay here as is mine!” Deep breaths, and count to three.

One.

“You got yourself into this bullshit. If you would think some more and stop being so stupid-!”

Two.

“You will act as I tell you, you will do what I say, you will leave all that crap of having a divorce and act like the petty doll you are!”

Three.

You got me in this bullshit, Genji! You lied to me! Do you think I want to get stuck with you for the rest of my life?!”

“Well, you certainly did. And my brother? Really?! Why the fuck are you a friend of that faggot?!”

“Don’t you dare to talk shit about Hanzo! He’s the only Shimada that’s worth in that fucking family of murderers!” Another slap, this time harder, fierce, bursting her lip and making her bleed from the corner of her mouth.

“You fucking talk about him and despise the Shimada family again and that will be the softest thing you will get in this house!”

“So what? Are you going to kill me?! Then do it if you have the balls, you fucking coward! I can’t wait to see from Hell your father’s reaction!” She took her purse and hung it on her shoulder, walking to the door where Fareeha was already waiting for her outside in the car. Genji kept yelling, but she didn’t care, what she said couldn’t mean anything now. She stood in front of the doors, placing her hand on the knob, and before turning it she turned to see Genji one last time. “And that cheap perfume? Next time get a decent hooker at least.”

She opened the door, and the glass of Scotch that Genji had in his hands crashed right next to her, hitting the door and shattering into several pieces as the glass exploded and made a loud noise. Before something worse happened, Angela felt an arm wrap around her, safely retrieving her from danger. It seemed Fareeha had other plans, for she was in front of the door waiting for her, luckily. Genji was walking at a rapid pace towards her, ready to hurt her, but Fareeha stood between the two of them, looking at Genji with her so serious, stoic gaze.

“Back off.” Genji hissed, but Fareeha’s brow furrowed, shaking her head in denial.

“No.”

“I’m paying you, you should obey me.”

“I obey Helix’s guidelines, not your own made-up rules.”

“What the fuck does that mean? You’re just a tool-”

“That you hired to protect your wife, which is what I’m doing. If you want to hurt her, it has to be over my dead body.”

There was an uncomfortable silence, both Fareeha and Genji sharing a sharp, deathly glare, waiting for the other to surrender. Eventually, he was the one that decided to leave it at that, huffing and muttering something inaudible, returning inside the house. Even he knew better than to not mess with Fareeha, someone military trained that could easily refute everything he did. When the door closed, Fareeha put a hand on Angela’s back to guide her back to the car, but she merely refused the touch and got to the car, opening the door and sitting down quickly on the passenger seat. Fareeha seemed to catch her intentions and sat in front of the wheel, turning the engine and driving away from the house.

Fareeha didn’t say anything, she only heard Angela's soft sobs, for the doctor hid in her arm as she looked out the window. She didn’t want Fareeha to see her like that, she knew that the girl could react either very furiously or very quietly, and she was not sure to find out which of the two would happen. As usual, they arrived at the same café for their daily dose of morning caffeine, but Fareeha parked in the parking lot instead of going to the drive-thru.

“Let me see you.” Angela felt a hand in her arm, but she retreated quickly. “Angela.” Her voice was soft, and still she never rushed her, even when Fareeha really needed to ensure her safety. That was her job. “Please?” That melted her, which was enough. Angela slowly sat straight, looking at her lap. The left side of her face hurt, and even then, Fareeha was so delicate, so soft in her touch when she reached for her chin and slowly turned her face towards her own. And she saw an indescribable amount of pain in Fareeha’s eyes.

“What?”

There was poison in Angela’s voice, even when she didn’t meant to. But something inside her was protecting her, coating her with a hard shell to make her look thought, unbreakable, strong and focused, even when it wasn’t true but that she had to resort when she was with Genji. Fareeha reached inside her jacket and pulled out a white handkerchief, and dabbing Angela's lips she wiped away the few remnants of blood on her pale skin. Her touch was delicate even when doing that, incredibly surprising for the strength and brutality the woman had, but all Angela could do was sit still, breathe shakily and try to relax.

“You don’t have to say anything.”

“Thank you…” Angela said when Fareeha finished cleaning her, and her lips touched her stinging cheek, then the corner of her lips briefly, even when Angela wanted them there for so much longer.

“Come here.” Fareeha pushed her seat back a little and took Angela in her arms, lifting her and seating her on her lap. A blush was spreading on her cheeks, and all she could do was succumb to the embrace of her bodyguard. If there was something that surprised her, it was the calm with which she was taking things.

“You seem… Fine with all of this.”

“Good. Then it’s working.”

“Pardon?” Fareeha showed her her hand, or rather her fist. She opened her hand in front of her, revealing small red crescent marks where her nails were digging, even traces of skin about to break. “Stop it. Why are you doing that?”

“Self-inflicted pain helps keep me at bay and is not as aggressive as other ways. Mother hates it, me too, but that's what works for me. Don’t you ever think about doing this.”

“Well, I hate it too.”

“I’m more than pissed. I’m furious. You cannot imagine how much I want to hit him and leave him more than unconscious on the floor.”

“Fareeha-”

“For fucks sake, look at you. Who dares to even touch you, and even worse, hit you? You’re so perfect, so intelligent, so beautiful, and that cunt is wasting the woman I hold in my arms. Fucking asshole, he deserves the worst.” Fareeha hit the door with her other fist, and Angela giggled while hiding her face on her neck. Her smell was always intoxicating, but the way she was somewhat defending her was even more endearing. “What’s so funny?”

“You. This. Everything. But mostly you, it’s so rare when you swear.”

“You clearly haven’t met me when I’m not working then.” She smiled only that attractive smile that was enough to melt Angela. The doctor shifted a little in her lap, making herself comfortable and taking a deep breath, easing her pain only for a moment and humming at the overwhelming relaxation her bodyguard was capable of providing.

“Tell me something you like from me.” She needed to hear more, to feel wanted, and to feel acknowledged. “Please?”

“That’s easy. You’re intelligent, the world knows it, and the prizes on your office show that.”

“Go on.”

“You’re educated, wise, grateful, so valuable, selfless, so dedicated to your work, the hospital and your patients. You’re sophisticated, you’re a princess. And so fucking beautiful, my eyes hurt every time I see you.” Fareeha punctuated on her swearing, making Angela laugh once again, but that giggle turned to a cry, and she kept sobbing in Fareeha’s neck, damping the black fabric of her uniform.

“Thank you…”

Exactly everything Genji had shouted at her had been refuted by her in a matter of seconds. It was all she needed to slightly recover her self-confidence back and get going with that hard day that was probing to be exhausting already. She spent several minutes on Fareeha’s lap, feeling the embrace doze her for more minutes. Angela barely remembers the last time she actually rested like that, how a quick nap of barely ten minutes was enough. Once she woke up, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee reached her nose, and there was already two cups resting on the car’s cup holder. She shifted back to her seat and took one of the cups, taking a small sip and humming in delight.

“How are you feeling?”

“So much better, thank you.”

“…Are you ready?”

“Yes, we can go to the hospital, even if we’re a little late.”

“I mean… Are you ready for tonight?” A brief silence. Another deep breath.

“I am now. As long as I know you’re there for me, then I have nothing to worry about.”


The sun began to hide on the horizon, letting a soft orange light pass through the curtains of the bedroom. Silence reigned only momentarily, the low music through a speaker accompanying her tender solitude as she sat in front of the vanity, carefully applying each layer of makeup to her already almost perfect skin. Angela mouthed the lyrics of the song while applying the eyeliner smoothly and methodically, leaving the cosmetic aside once she was satisfied with the result. Only a white nightgown covered her naked body, she didn’t need her dress to get stained. This was an important night, and everything needed to be perfect, but specifically, Dr. Angela Ziegler needed to be perfect.

She stood up and peeled her gown to remain fully naked, applying a generous amount of makeup to some bruises left in her body, and even when they were faint and barely noticeable, they still made her wince and feel uncomfortable. She put dedicated attention to disguising the small cut on her lip, applying a red lipstick that only complemented her makeup perfectly. Once with the makeup ready and her hairstyle arranged in a high messy bun, she took the dress from the coat rack still in the garment bag after leaving it in the dry cleaner a day ago. Leaving it in bed, she lowered the zipper and pulled out the dress, extending it with her arms and smiling pleasantly to see how gorgeous and suitable it was.

But when she wore it and saw herself in front of the mirror, she knew it was more than perfect for her. The off shoulder long dress was of a vibrant red color, the pale of her skin contrasting vividly with that of the fabric. It fitted perfectly to her narrow waist and accentuated her rear, letting the length fall gently down to her feet. Her shoulders were fully exposed and she could see a fair amount of cleavage as well. But what attracted her the most of that fine piece was the big slit starting from her thigh, showing almost the entirety of her leg. If there was something that lately made her feel proud and confident, it was her legs, because once she started exercising she saw a significant change in them. But there was something else, of course. Fareeha loved them.

Only a couple accessories were missing, and from her jewelry box she took out a diamond necklace, as well as some earrings, rings and a thick bracelet that matched the dress perfectly. The music was still playing while she was putting on her nude high heels, if there was something that would make her legs stand out even more, it would be that specific pair of stilettos. She stood in front of the large full-length mirror on the side of the bathroom, putting on her earrings. “But baby now, take me into your loving arms…” She continued humming the song as she saw herself in the mirror, taking her small glittery clutch bag and twisted her body more than a couple of times, making sure everything was in place.

“Angela! Come down already! We’re late!”

Even he wasn’t able to take away her self-confidence, not now. She smiled to herself, and took one of the coats on the rack, opting that the best would be a white faux fur, since the one she had was lost it in the river trying to escape. It was a bittersweet memory, but it always reminded her of the best, and how she managed to overcome an obstacle. Faux fur white coat it is. She hugged herself into the warm fur, and not even the yelling from the floor below hurried her, it was a time for herself that she could finally appreciate. But this time she didn’t want drama, and she listened to her more than irritating husband, leaving the bedroom and going down to the main entrance. This time they were escorted by two of Genji’s bodyguards, two thugs of the Shimada family to whom Angela obviously did not have a shred of trust, they were nothing compared to Fareeha.

“You better behave. I don’t want any girl’s drama while I'm present.” Genji was fixing his cuffs, he was in a simple gray suit and tie in the back seat of the car while they were in the way to the event. Angela smirked at the comment, perhaps she could take advantage of that.

“I know, I'm the one who should tell you that. Don’t go fuck any whore you find while I give my speeches.” Genji grunted and looked at her with a killer gaze. His gaze could actually kill sometimes, but Angela was wearing a protective shield now.

“Don’t you fucking dare-”

“What? Are you going to start this already? Hit me now if you're so brave.” Instead, Genji punched the seat in front of him and yelled at their driver.

“Hurry the fuck up!”

“I thought so.” Angela smiled victoriously, crossing her arms and looking out the window.

She still remembers those same streets, those blocks that she ran so frightened with Fareeha after having escaped. Teatro Bel Canto was the most exclusive place to held such events, and Amelie regularly had its schedule booked, no wonder, the place was beautiful, and her performances made the place even the more spectacular. However, tonight Angela was the star, and she was to give the best performance of the night. The driver left them in front of the entrance, four Helix's bodyguards were guarding the entrance cautiously while a receptionist was right in front of the doors to escort them inside.

It was a little weird to see other guards who were not Fareeha, and even her attire was slightly different. They had black pants and turtlenecks, as well as a black jacket to protect them from the cold weather, with the difference that they wore the company logo on the front. All unlike Fareeha’s sleek black formal suit. That outfit that makes her look strong, imposing, immovable, elegant and extremely attractive, because even when she exuded a masculine vibe, the clothes fit her curves only so pleasantly, and it was gorgeous.

They were taken to a huge event hall inside the theater with large tables, chairs, and a very well lit dance floor, in addition to an extensive buffet and bar where she regularly got drunk, but not tonight, she needed to be more than alert. The tables were mostly full already. Genji was right that time, for they had arrived a little late, but the delay was worth it. Her husband immediately went to greet some friends on a nearby table. Among that small group she recognized a few, but not enough to approach them. With her eyes she searched for the only person worthwhile in that building, and looked from side to side, clenching her small clutch bag with anxiety. Until she found her.

Leaning on a wall next to a big framed door was Fareeha, dressed in her usual black suit uniform, which unlike the rest of the bodyguards inside, she wasn’t wearing a black tie. Two fingers were pressing on her ear as she spoke to a small device clipped on the collar of her jacket. Angela smiled to herself, and didn’t hesitate to go and greet her, but Mei quickly intercepted her and hugged her. She was in a pale blue dress, her curves adorably displayed. Mei took her hand with the intention of taking her to a small group of doctors who were waiting for her already. Finally, for a moment, her eyes met Fareeha’s dark ones, and the girl exchanged a subtle smile with the doctor.

And how much she wanted the owner of that smile on her lips.

A lady approached her, one of the several hostess that was in the event, and offered to take her coat. Angela smiled mischievously at Fareeha, and removed the heavy garment from her shoulders, sliding it delicately to expose her shoulders, arms and neckline magnificently. She smiled victoriously when she could see a beautiful reddish tone on her bodyguard's face, how her eyes widened and partially covered her mouth. She coughed to one side, and that made her reaction even lovelier. A little later, Amelie and Hanzo approached her, both greeting her with a kiss on the cheek.

“You look exquisite, sweetheart.” Amelie said with a grin and a lifted eyebrow, speaking the last word in French.

“More than exquisite.” Hanzo agreed.

“I wanted the evening to be perfect, starting with me. Isn’t it too much?”

“Absolutely no, the dress is more than fabulous. But keep in mind that you are facing an intellectual community, and I’m not saying this to... Stereotype, but not many have your enviable Swiss beauty. Believe me, here wouldn’t be the first place where I would look for a handsome husband.” Amelie kept talking, slightly swirling the glass of wine in her hand before taking a sip.

“Oh, come one. My coworkers aren’t that bad looking.” Angela chuckled, covering her mouth with a pale hand.

“Compared to you? You’re a goddess. Such a pity my brother is wasting you. Where is he, by the way?” Amelie pointed to a group in the back.

“I saw him with Gerard and Akande over there.”

Akande Ogundimu, she recognized him. He's a famous boxer, he calls himself Doomfist, and the man is such a talented and frivolous celebrity in the industry. He was even seen in many high-class charity events, just like this one from the hospital. There was another woman standing next to him, and that was her lab coworker. Moira had a somewhat strange friendship with the man, claiming they met several years ago while working together. Even so, Angela didn’t know what her job was, nor did she care in the slightest what Moira thought.

A member of the staff approached Angela, mentioning that it was almost time to start the event and that she should go up to give the usual welcome speech. She nodded, and excusing herself with her friends, she went to the stage, standing in front of the podium and clearing her throat once the lights dimmed and only the reflector illuminated the platform where she was standing. This was the part she hated, the part where she had to be a fake perfect little angel in the eyes of everyone who wanted to eat her alive, who had an inconceivable envy, who wanted her intellect and her beauty. Angela wasn’t stupid, she knew she was an ethereal woman in the eyes of the public. If only they knew what was hidden deep inside that angelic persona.

“Good evening, my fellow coworkers, friends and all those assistants who make this night possible year after year. I thank you all for attending the 13th Charity Gala on behalf of the city's hospitals. I couldn’t be more pleased to be your vocal tonight once again. I think we are all curious to see what new discoveries and medical advances our colleagues have made.”

Angela kept mentioning several teams of doctors, biologists and those related with the medical field in any way working to improve the lives of millions around the world. Angela herself was one of them, and she was one of the best. Eventually, she mentioned Moira and hers advancement, the incredible outbreak they just made. How they successfully treated and eradicated cancer cells from a invaded lung with a new, less invasive, less expensive and more body-friendly method. How close they were to give a green light to the discovery once a few more exhaustive tests were ran and gave the same positive result.

This time she decided to give the place to Moira, her partner was an excellent speaker and, although she hated to admit it, she gave the best speeches that she had heard in any other person. Her confidence and high self-esteem were hypnotizing, and Angela knew that Moira was the only person capable of leveling her intellectual capacity, and she was the only one capable of really challenging her. Angela had a brief time to rest and maybe have a glass of wine after standing for almost an hour on the podium, listening to colleagues talk about their projects and making occasional comments. The good thing was that there were still more projects to introduce and present and even an auction that she was not part of. She wasn't staying for that, and her shoes killed her enough to last another hour of standing up. One of Helix's bodyguards discreetly called her, setting her aside in the crowd and leading her to a back door.

“All assigned doctors must be instructed with security processes during the night. It's your turn, Dr. Ziegler. There's already a guard waiting inside that will explain everything and continue said procedure.”

She had to admit that she was a little afraid, but he trusted the man and went through the door. The door led to a long corridor, one of those that Amelie told her that the theaters used to transport personnel discreetly without compromising the smoothness of the event. Still with her bag in hand, she walked slowly, the sound of her heels echoing deafeningly. And even though the corridor was very well lit, it still made her shiver. The further she went, the more she heard the sound of music, probably from the other hall where there was a dance contest or something alike.

Several girls ran in an uproar, wearing very bright dresses and laughing loudly, disappearing behind a door that was possibly a dressing room. Finally, another Helix guard was standing in front of one of the many doors. The man nodded to her, and Angela walked towards him a little more cautiously. Once she reached him, the guard opened the door for her and she entered the dressing room slowly, all to finally find her bodyguard waiting for her. Angela's body relaxed visibly, and Fareeha signaled the guard with both fingers, dismissing him completely. Once the hall was clear, Fareeha closed the door and put the lock on. Angela giggled when she saw her bodyguard standing still, covering her mouth with a clenched fist and eyeing her up and down.

“What?” Angela smirked, she knew exactly what.

“Uhm… First, I didn’t know you actually succeeded with your investigation. That’s amazing news.” Angela nodded, she was incredible proud of her work.

“Moira and I agreed not to say a single word about that until tonight. It worked apparently, everyone was quite shocked. Even Mei was ignorant of such information.”

“I see. Well, congratulations.”

“Thank you.” Angela really appreciated her compliments, but it wasn’t exactly what she expected. She approached her predatorily, her walk seductive and the corner of her mouth upwards in a mischievous smirk. “Anything else to say?”

“N-nothing… Anyway, let’s get back to work.” Angela was more than certain that Fareeha had much more to say, her blush and the way she moved her foot betrayed her, but something anchored her to do her duty as always, and the doctor knew it was important, so she let her continue without more. Not before showing fake disappointment at such an answer.

“Well, that’s discouraging, but I understand. And what is all of this ‘security processes’ Helix is talking about?”

Fareeha walked to a trunk on the floor, opening it and pulling out a briefcase, leaving it on top of one of the vanities. She turned to see Angela and pointed a finger at the briefcase, touching the hard shell. Her face hardened briefly. “Tell me you brought your handgun.” It was a strange question but not at all unknown to Angela. The doctor nodded and touched her handbag. Surprisingly, a small weapon could fit into that tiny purse, along with her cell phone and a compact powder.

“I do.”

“Good, because I don’t want to give you a glock that you’re unfamiliar with.” Fareeha opened the briefcase, extracting a couple of gadgets from it and placing them on the vanity table.

“What’s going on?”

“Helix instructed us to provide basic protection care to medical staff who were at high risk. Categorizing them into three branches was the simplest: ‘A’ are those who are at constant risk, have been threatened and have had some dangerous contact with someone. ‘B’ those that have not been threatened but that are in red focus, and ‘C’ those that don’t have any problems but of which we want to make sure they get home safely. Obviously you are an A, Mei is a C, more or less.”

“And what’s the procedure to follow?”

“In your case, they are escorted, but not without arming them or giving them a self-defense escape instructions. Have you mentioned to anyone that I've been teaching you both?” She shook her head.

“No. I didn’t think it necessary to divulge that information. Mei was the only one to ask me why I was a little late for work a few days, but I just told her I was going to the gym.”

“Excellent, and you shouldn’t say anything else. The less they know about their enemies, the less weapons they will have against you. It is a great point in favor. And if you’ll excuse me, your handgun, please.”

Fareeha extended her hand waiting for Angela to give her the gun, which the doctor did without thinking twice. Fareeha carefully examined the weapon, unloading it and fumbling with the safety and other parts of the gun until she was sure nothing was wrong. Once satisfied, she returned the locked and loaded pocket handgun back to Angela, who hid it back in her purse. Fareeha then eyed her up and down, as if analyzing what she was wearing. Then a sigh, and she turned to the briefcase once again.

“You really are doing things harder for me…” Angela lifted an eyebrow, curious about why she was acting that way.

“And why exactly?”

“Wearing that doesn’t help me at all to do my job.” Fareeha huffed a laugh as she extracted a discreet thigh holster, showing it to Angela as it dangled from her tan finger. “And this isn’t going to work either, nor the bulletproof tops I brought for you.” Angela’s laugh was contagious after that.

“What a shame, really. At least I have a purse.”

“I guess you’ll have to do with only that. I'm supposed to give you a basic self-defense lesson and things like that, but you're more than capable now. First I had to arm you and dress you up with whatever was useful, but nothing works if you're wearing that dress so...” Silence, and Fareeha eyed her once again, blushing slightly and biting her fist.

“So?” Angela walked slowly to her once again, her eyes penetrating Fareeha’s dark ones, she cocked her head slightly while fixing her dress, smoothing the fabric from the sides.

“Stop distracting me, you seriously are making things harder over here.”

“Ah, so you don’t like the way I look? I do wanted to look perfect tonight.” She kept walking, closer and closer, and Fareeha took a step back each time Angela approached her. She was sure she never saw such hunger in her eyes.

“Believe me, you look more than perfect. If we weren’t here, I’m sure I’ll-” Fareeha felt the wall on her back, stopping immediately while Angela kept creeping up to her, sultry and dangerous.

“What?”

“No. Stop doing that.” Thanks to the high heels, Angela could easily reach her face, her head hoovering until her lips lightly touched her earlobe, her hot breath touching her cold ear and immediately sending goosebumps all over her skin. Fareeha released a shaky breath, almost groaning and whining. But Angela was far from ending it.

“And what exactly am I doing, Fareeha?” She whispered in her ear, accentuating her name.

Something snapped in her bodyguard. She took Angela by the waist and turned around, this time pinning the doctor to the wall. “Fuck it.” A pair of tanned lips kissed her hungrily, savoring each part of her mouth as one hand caressed the exposed part of her leg, moving the fabric a little desperately and squeezing the skin of her thigh. Angela released a gasp, it was incredible how little effort it took from Fareeha so she was already melting by her touch. “I wanted to rip off this dress the moment I saw you.”

“And how inconvenient that would be a-ah… since it took me a lot of time to choose it.” Angela blindly began to play with the buttons of her shirt once she took off her jacket in a fit of desperation and began to undo each one from top to bottom, exposing her bulletproof shirt, which ended up on the floor along with her jacket and holster. Angela kissed her exposed neck while Fareeha lifted her by the thighs, supporting her body on her own leg. “Why don’t you wear a tie like the others? You look very good and I could strangle you and drag you to bed.” Fareeha chuckled, moving her head and giving Angela more of her exposed shoulder.

“That’s exactly why I don’t wear ties. Too dangerous.”

Angela lowered her hands, kissing Fareeha again on the lips, and reached for her belt, unfastening it quickly and letting her pants fall to her knees, reaching in and touching the edge of her underwear, feeling her belly tighten by the simple scrapping of her nails on her bare skin. Fareeha wasn’t far behind, and thanked the Gods for the fact that the doctor had no bra when she lowered the sleeves and the top of her dress, exposing her white breasts and pert rosy nipples by the mix of arousal and cold air. Her head tilted forward and her mouth perched on a hardened bud, circling the sensitive skin around it with her tongue while swiftly sucking and grazing it with her teeth, eliciting decadent moans from the blonde.

The hand that stopped in Fareeha's belly continued to move, going down her navel, until a finger teased between her folds, seeking the wetness inside her, and when she finally reached it, Fareeha whimpered and moaned in her chest. Her bodyguards hand on her thigh went further up, when it touched the thin string of her red lacy thong, she almost yanked it down to her ankles, the underwear dangling in her foot so dangerously. If Angela was wet before, now she was dripping. She needed her, she needed her touch, her lips, her words, every ounce of her inside and outside her body. Fareeha moved the dress until it was bunched in Angela’s waist, the tail of red fabric falling gracefully behind her as she grinded her exposed sex on Fareeha’s bare thigh.

The movement of her hips was addictive, every time she needed more and more, and she teased Fareeha as well with her leg between hers, encouraging the touch when the younger girl grabbed her exposed rear and rocked her as well. It was incredible how fast their breaths mingled in the air, noses touching and lips hovering over the others. Angela left red lipstick marks all over Fareeha’s chest, neck, collarbone and shoulder, even her chin, and it was obviously smeared on her lips as well. Angela knew her own lips were more than ruined, and her eyeliner was smudged only so little. Fareeha’s desperate need of grasping her hair and bringing her closer also messed with her updo, and all the effort she put on looking perfect that night was quickly worn out in a matter of seconds. And each of them was totally worth it.

They stayed grinding on each other, feeling the heat of their sexes and the wetness of their arousal. Their chests heaved, and Angela kept shuddering in a smoldering kiss. She was close, so close, and deep inside she knew that wasn’t enough, but it felt amazing and she didn’t want to stop. She thanked for the loudness of the other hall, otherwise her moans could draw attention to the room. Fareeha seemed to sense Angela’s ecstasy, and she probed it when she grazed her thumb on the doctor’s clit, making her gasp and dig her nails on Fareeha’s back. She kept teasing her, and it was delicious, but it wasn’t enough, just a little more was needed, just a little more was wanted.

As if understanding her demands, Fareeha suddenly fell to the floor on her knees, and pushed Angela’s legs apart, burying her head between her thighs and licking her dripping sex. Even closer, even more of that adictive motion Angela craved. And when Fareeha pushed her tongue deep inside her, her orgasm exploded in her like she never had one before. A pale hand steadied in black hair, grasping strands of the raven threads while the other was desperately scratching the wall behind her. It was too much a sensation, she was sure that her body weight was temporarily resting on her bodyguard's face. Her legs gave up eventually and she slid slowly down the wall while Fareeha helped her down from her high, keeping her ministrations steady now with a hand as the other eased the doctor to sit on the floor.

A shuddered breath escaped her smudged red lips, and those of Fareeha rested again on hers, making her taste herself when a tongue pushed inside her mouth. She was drained, all the tension from that day died on those lips in matter of minutes. Angela smiled between the kiss, sensing how the younger girl crouched next to her and took her in her arms, the doctor resting her tired head on her shoulder. Angela was sure Fareeha needed the same kind of treatment, but Fareeha stood up, fixed her pants and buttoned her white shirt, cleaning her neck and any lipstick stain on her skin with a handkerchief.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Angela asked, her eyes still in a blur and her body abuzz, trembling slightly. “I’m not done with you.” Fareeha smiled whatsoever, grabbing her jacket and fixing her holster once again.

“But I am with you.”

“That’s… Kind of unfair to you.”

“Well, you can pay me back some other time.” Angela giggled by the comment and the hidden promise, Fareeha kissed her cheek tenderly while she helped her with her dress as Angela fixed her hair and the smudged makeup on her face.

“And why can’t I pay you right no-?” Two knocks on the door. And Angela recognized Jesse’s voice sipping through the hard wood.

“Pharah, are you done? There’s a situation outside, and we need you as soon as possible. It’s a Code 18.”

“That’s why.” It was Fareeha’s turn to chuckle, some apprehension in her voice. She cleared her throat, and called her roommate. “Be right there as soon as I finish! I have a Code 74 right here!”

“East back door when you’re done!” The sound of footsteps decreased, indicating that Jesse left the hall.

“What’s the ‘Code 74’?”

“Naked/semi-naked person. He has to yell that word every time Ha-iiis boyfriend is in the apartment.” Angela raised an eyebrow. That was definitely not what Fareeha meant to say. “Anyway, that’s not the point.”

“What about 18?” Fareeha didn’t answer. She made sure to take a last look at Angela and herself, satisfied with the way they looked, she nodded and took Angela's bag, as well as introduced a small object that looked like a lipstick, but heavier and sturdier. She took a deep breath and gave her an apprehensive look, handing her the shiny purse back as if it were her ticket to life. “Fareeha? What’s wrong?”

“Something you don’t want to know and something I don’t want to happen to you…. Take care of this with your life, don’t let anyone take it away from you. The only thing I can do for you is give you a discreet pepper spray, use it if you’re out of bullets. Run to the main hall where your friends are, and stay with them all night until the event is over. Don’t you dare leave there without anyone else to escort you, ask anyone to call me to be absolutely necessary. Do you understand?”

Angela was already scared beyond imagination when Fareeha's desperate voice reached her ears; she rarely heard that dubious tone in her bodyguard. There was something definitely wrong, Fareeha wasn’t expecting to tell her and honestly, Angela wasn’t willing to find out, not now, not when her body still ached the longing of grasping her body against hers. But Angela knew better than to not tease the moment, and thus, she let her dart out the hall, disappearing through the wide corridor. Angela took a deep breath and was about to open the door once more to return to the main hall, but the door opened and Fareeha appeared once more, taking her face in her hands to give her a rather desperate, meaningful kiss.

“Stay safe, please. I don’t want to lose you. Okay?”

Fareeha whispered, her lips still touching hers briefly before she disappeared once again, leaving Angela totally alone this time. The doctor was left dumbfound, her cheeks pink in a spreading blush while a hand touched her lips with endearment.  Fareeha’s words reached her so deep into her heart, for she never heard, felt such desperation in someone actually desiring her beyond the human she was. And thus, she decided to comply, making her way back to the main hall and continue with the long, exhausting night.

Chapter Text

Chapter XIV

And I experienced hell

 

How many times was it necessary for something bad to happen so that they could leave her alone? Apparently more than necessary. Her day didn’t start in the best possible way. Going to the gym, showering, getting ready and leaving to pick up Angela wasn’t the problem. Far from it, she enjoyed dressing up for her. But when she arrived at the residence and heard yelling, thuds and objects crashing on the floor and walls she knew she had to act quickly. But at what extent? Fareeha couldn’t get inside the house, she couldn’t even knock the door, everything regardless the Shimada/Ziegler residence was forbidden, but her job was to protect her. Fortunately Angela came out the door, just a slit on her lip and a slapped cheek was the only thing she got from such an outcome. "Fortunately". But that wasn’t everything. No. the day was over and the night darkened the little hope that remained lingering in the air.

And yet, a call she wasn’t expecting. Fareeha wasn’t definitely looking for that specific signal that night or any other. What Fareeha did expect was to be interrupted in the dressing room with Angela; her work was paramount and more than important that night with such a promising event. But she never expected Jesse to be the one to call her, let alone to warn her of such an alerting code. A murder. And not any murder, one in a cruel and grotesque way that she still hated to witness. Her work forced her to watch over a specific part of the event, but the plans changed.

Angela was always her priority, as selfish and irresponsible it might sound. Therefore, she didn’t hesitate to give directions as if she were the most precious treasure to escort. Watching her disappear down the hall to the doors of the main hall made her feel a considerable relief, staying with the crowd was an advantage, and she knew that Hanzo would take good care of her. Jesse had probably already given him a heads-up of the situation anyway  Fareeha stood for a moment in front of the double metal doors leading to an alley next to the theater. Still, when she opened them, she absolutely didn’t expect that.

Jesse was standing along with two other agents of Helix. Mako Rutledge was a large man, very large, his enormity comparable to that of Reinhardt. He was the most serious and quiet man they knew in the company, usually speaking in monosyllables when asked his opinion. He always wore dark glasses, no matter if it was at night, because he liked to hide his identity. The other person was a blond man, tall and well-built by his years in the Army. Jack Morrison was the leader of the current team of agents who patrolled the event. Just like Gabriel, he was another great friend of her mother and one of the few SS ranks that Helix could manage to hire.

The four found themselves standing around four black garbage bags. Fareeha could imagine what they contained, and she took one of her cigarettes from her jacket, lighting one while waiting for an answer from her superior. She exhaled the smoke in front of her, mingling with her hot breath in a cloud of steam. Jesse did the same, it was really weird when he wasn't smoking. Mako remained immovable, static as always, you could only see a little steam coming out of his nose when he breathed out. Jack shook his head and pointed his finger at each one of the bags before speaking.

“Here’s the legs, there the arms, torso, and I can imagine that bag over here it’s a head.”

“Is it a guest?” Jesse asked, he wasn’t there when Jack saw the mutilated corpse. Mako grunted, affirming the suspicions of her roommate.

“I'm afraid so. Another doctor, a man.”

“Do we know the name?” Jesse asked once more, making a disgusted face while he touched a bag with his foot.

“Not yet. We were waiting for Miss Nothing-gross-me-out Amari here to open it.”

Fareeha rolled her eyes, tossing the butt of her mid-consumed cigarette to the floor prior carefreely approach the tied bag with a mixture of annoyance and disgust, more of the first than anything. Indeed nothing seemed enough to make her puke, but she still felt a mixture of disbelief and delirium at the thought that since her teenage years she was used to witness death in any way. The first dead body she saw she was merely twelve years old. A neighbor. A terrible but necessary death. She crouched down the bag, already smelling the metallic scent of blood, and unknotted the bag with one hand, opening it and clicking her tongue when she saw a familiar face. A pale head with brown hair, the eyes with no shine, the throat cut roughly with something that obviously had no clean edge. Such a savage way to be dealing with a body.

“So you know him.” She did, and he actually threated her a few times when injured in combat.

“Dr. Harold Winston. He was an occupational therapist; Dr. Ziegler worked with him a couple times as well.”

“Isn’t he the one that spoke about those low cost printed prosthetic or some shit like that?” Jesse asked, taking a drag of his cigar and looking at Jack, who affirmed his question.

“Yeah…” Fareeha grimaced, but then saw something at the bottom of the bag. A stained business card with no name. She took it in her hand, her bare fingers stained by the grossly butchered meat of the head's neck “Guys, look at this.” She handed it to Jesse, who immediately refused to even touch it.

“Fuck no, I’m not touching that.”

“Pussy.”

“Dyke.”

“Faggot.”

“Hey, hey! This is not a contest.” Jack interrupted, taking the note in his hand and rolling his eyes. He read it slowly, taking his time, his brow furrowed when he ended reading the note, and he took a small clear bag from his jacket, saving the note as evidence from the murder. “One out of four, and there’s more to come… Get inside; I’ll call Reyes to deal with this discreetly.”

Jack took her phone out and immediately dialed Gabriel. Mako remained by his side, always watching him silently. The man even for being big and broad, he sure was buff, and they left them alone knowing they had more than enough ways to defend themselves. Jesse went to his team on the front door and the main floor to ask all his guards to stay alert, a threat wasn’t taken so easily, less with such a note and a slaughtered body on the alley.

Fareeha returned to the main stage, the scheduled auction was over and the room was lit by a soft and dimmed light, inviting and comfortable for those who decided to have a nice time at their tables or at the bar while the dance floor filled with life, the strobe lights made an amazing presence and the music only encouraged such sensation. It was Fareeha's first event of that caliber, and although she was accustomed to a workload similar to that, this time she didn’t feel comfortable at all. Too many familiar faces, too much danger concentrated in a room filled with brilliant minds and rich and powerful personalities. Those two regularly didn’t mix well.

Her eyesight diverted on focusing on a special person, a woman with a killer red dress that fell seductively revealing her perfect and inviting leg. Fareeha sighed when she found her on the dance floor dancing with Hanzo to the waltz the live orchestra played, Gerard dancing along with her wife very close to them. Satisfied with the safety of her protégé, she went with each guard in her charge to give them special instructions, partially informing about the event in the alley with Jack and the others.

And then again, that damn dress.

Angela seemed to have found her weak point. She went stealthily to the bathroom as soon as she finished her work, standing in front of the mirror and cupping her hands under the faucet, letting the stream of water gather in her palms to splash it on her face. The warmth of her face wasn’t getting off, and she swore that her legs trembled after doing that wrong act in one of the dressing rooms while she was working. Fareeha had never hesitated, and never thought she would ever. Not even with her previous boyfriend did she have the nerve to steal a kiss during her working hours. But this? This was another level, a sinful unbelievable level.

“What am I doing?” She whispered to herself, mouthing every word with a hint of shame.

But she was far from regretting it. The guilt was eating her inside out, and now definitely considered drinking only a glass of whiskey to warm and relax her body. Another mistake she was about to do while working. She came out of the bathroom and went battered to the bar, mentally exhausted. The loud music didn’t help at all, and along with the sporadic static conversations through the radio in her ear, it was simply a mix of disturbing sounds for her sanity and her sudden headache. Her phone vibrated in her pants pocket just as she was about to take that deserved alcoholic elixir, and rolled her eyes wearily, but answered when she saw the caller's name.

“Mom?”

“Fareeha?” Her voice was that of desperation, fear was slipping through the telephone speaker. “Where are you?!”

“Working in a Gala at Teatro Bel Canto. What happened?”

“Get out of there. Now!”

“What’s going on?”

“Maximilien has you surrounded. You must escape from there, I'm sure he left you a not so pleasant warning.” Something wasn’t right in that call, why had her mother mentioned that name? But above all, how did she know it was him specifically? Unless...

“You aren’t in the Army... You seriously lied to your own daughter and returned to your old habits? You promised me we wouldn’t go back there when we ran away from Giza!”

“I know, there’s time for that later, and I promise you I’ll explain everything. But trust me this time and get away from there. Something bad will happen at eleven o'clock, and run away now. Gather everyone, I called Jack and Gabriel about this and they’re working close with the police now.” Fareeha frowned, a mix of betrayal and anger rising inside her.

“I can’t believe you…”

“I can’t stay longer here, but listen to me and run, Fareeha. I'm not willing to lose you this way. Get away as soon as possib-”

The call was cut suddenly, leaving Fareeha with a dead tone in her ear. She gripped the phone hard with her hand, almost shattering it with the strength that her fury could unleash. But if something was her mother, she was a cautious person, and regularly her explanations had many backgrounds and reasons enough to do the right thing, so she decided to follow her instinct and her mother. After all, Ana was guided by the values of the Amari family, but one stood out above all: protection. Eleven o’clock, that was barely fifteen minutes away from now. Fareeha took the glass with the drink and downed it in one single tilt, leaving the empty container once more on the bar before darting towards the corridor hidden behind the main hall.

Fortunately, the dressing room where the weapons and protective equipment were kept was close to her. Jack, Jesse and Mako were already inside, stripping from their usual bodyguard outfits and putting on tactical black uniforms and military boots, paired with a special bulletproof vest capable of holding more weapons and other kind of gadgets in its many pockets. Jack and the others took each one an AR-15, a type of assault rifle to keep things at bay if such an encounter was to happen. Fareeha however disliked that kind of weaponry, and opted to take her own glock and many cartridges full of bullets.

She was used to using smaller but equally powerful pistols, her mother taught her not to depend solely on a weapon. ‘They could fail you, but you can’t fail.’ And since her puberty she learned to use her fists, her legs, to develop agility and dexterity, and to take her first dagger, her first weapon, and her first death. The bittersweet sensation returned, she recognized Antonin Dvorak’s Serenade of Strings being played by the orchestra louder when she exited the dressing room and went closer to the main hall. The four stopped in front of one of the doors that led to the dance floor, Jack pointed with two fingers at each one of them, redirecting to different doors, all in order to cover more ground in case of an altercation.

That's what Fareeha liked about Morrison, the man trusted her mother with sole will. The girl hated being in charge of someone, she knew she could do her job without being babysitted, but Jack was different, and the chemistry between the team was indispensable and elastic. Without saying a word or holding his hand violently, Jack could command a whole fleet with his passive tranquility and military experience. Fareeha did not hesitate for a second to do what was due, and ran with the weapon drawn toward the west door of the establishment. But Fareeha stopped.

A thunderous sound, and  the lights went out.

The theater was dark, only the murmurs and the partial scream could be heard echoing through the walls of each corner of the teather. Fareeha took a flashlight from one of the pockets of her vest and placed it on top of the gun, pointing in front with both hands and stealthily walking in order not to attract more attention than the light alone did. She opened the door carefully, taking a first look at the hundreds of shadows that made up the crowd of attendees and guests, only the moonlight coming through the skylight in the ceiling lightly illuminated each person.

But there she was, Angela was still there in one piece. She was close with Hanzo, and Genji, as chivalrous as he was, was nowhere to be seen. Such a coward. There was a hint of panic in a few, but only Angela was trembling in Amelie's arms. That broke Fareeha's heart, she never wanted to see her in such a state, but she had to act quickly and do her duty nonetheless. Fareeha circled the perimeter with her team, looking for any source of threat while the other guards and technicians were in charge of figuring out the reason for the blackout.

Angela's blue eyes rested on hers, and the moonlight had never illuminated such perfect irises. But there was terror in them, and Angela remained static for a moment, as if sensing something bad was about to happen. A member of the staff took a megaphone and began to give somewhat absurd, but functional indications. Keep calm, stay together and wait for the electricity to come back. Angela's face rose, and her gaze fell on the glass ceiling above her. She took two steps back, and Fareeha looked to where the doctor had her eyes fixed.

The roof exploded, thousands of glass shards raining down on the attendants, all of them covering themselves with their arms and screaming helplessly. Fareeha ran to Angela, but stopped when she saw five people falling from the broken skylight with ropes and guns. Everything happened so fast and violent. The hooded men took one of the assistants, a biologist, and sliced her neck with a knife, letting her bleed to death on the floor while the guests shouted desperately in horror. Then a gunshot, and another one.

Two more doctors dead on the floor, and two of them being abducted and lifted by the same rope by which they descended from the ceiling. And Fareeha could see Dr. Moira O’Deorain among those two. Fareeha ran back to Angela, the doctor recognizing her immediately and hugging her with incredible panic, her voice unlike any other she heard before. The sound of detonations exploded in her ears, rumbling through the walls and making her heart beat frantically. Crying, screaming, rasping voices all over her. Helix was already dealing with the threat, but there was something essential for Fareeha.

“We have to get out of here!”

Fareeha yelled, dragging Angela to the familiar back corridor and isolating her from the danger zone. Fareeha knew it was dangerous to get her out of there, but it was worse to stay inside, and guided her to the east door of the theater where they found the corpse. She could easily deal with one or two enemies, which she was almost certain would be watching that exit. Fareeha kept running, dragging Angela by the hand. She cautiously opened the back door again, looking outside and analyzing her options before acting. Nothing, no one. Even Helix had already dealt with the corpse, only a trace of blood remained painted on the pavement. She stepped outside alone, her gun loaded and still clutched to her side, ready for anything.

Angela remained hidden behind the door, peeking through the thin opening of the door with fear in her eyes. Fareeha was about to signal her to come out when she felt the butt of a gun hit her temple, knocking her to the ground instantly. She was still conscious, only the daze seemed to remain. Fareeha got up as fast as she could and felt a punch on cheek, then another on her forearm, and her glock fell to the floor, sliding away from her. She was dissarmed now and only this man with a rifle was what was left. He walked prepotently, knowing that he had the advantage in that situation.

“Where is she?” Fareeha was out of her mind if she did a move that could reveal the doctor's whereabouts. But this man was no stupid, and he walked to the door, kicking it with great force to reveal a scared Angela about to make a run. “Now where do you think you’re going?!” He grabbed her roughly by the hair, pulling her and making her fall to the ground with a thud.

“Leave her!”

Fareeha yelled, running towards the man and giving him a heavy blow on the back of his neck with her elbow, releasing his grip and thus, the doctor's pretty golden locks. Fareeha took advantage of that window of opportunity, and kicked the rifle sharply out of reach, both weapons being on opposite sides and at a considerable distance. He cracked his neck and stretched his shoulders.

“I hope you like pain, bitch.” He grunted, an unpleasant smirk plastered on his face.

“Angela, run.” He lunged at Fareeha, throwing messy punches and kicks into the air, most of them something she could manage to stop. But Angela was still lying on the floor, gripping her hands and looking with terror at the encounter. “Angela, run!”

He was stronger than her, every blow hurt, and each of them weakened her body every time. The man rushed to her again and hit her hard in the stomach, taking the air out and kneading her in the face. Fareeha fell to the floor in pain, but she wasn’t willing to give up. Again another blow, this time a kick on her arm, another on her leg, and another on her forehead. He picked her up by the waistcoat, Fareeha still didn’t catch her breath, there was a lack of oxygen in her lungs, and he grabbed her in a neck crank, squeezing the soft flesh under her chin and lifting her from the ground by the grip. Fareeha kicked as hard as she could, trying to hit him by any means to free her, but it was useless. Her vision blurred, her eyes rolled back and her face was turning of a shade of purple and red, only a cloud of steam escaping her lips.

But then, a gunshot.

A very familiar sound, and the grip on her neck softened, releasing her completely as she fell to the ground barely holding up on her trembling legs. Her eyes focused again after a few eternal seconds, and they saw Angela in front of her with her gun in her hand, both hands on the pistol and her gaze lost beneath Fareeha. Her little handgun fell to the ground with her, and she almost crawled to the man who had previously attacked her. Angela's eyes were full of tears, her throat was about to break through the battle between screaming and the cold making compression, until she could do it, and she cried a gutural scream.

A doctor did what she swore to never do: kill. Fareeha saw the body of her attacker, a grotesque hole right in his forehead dripping blood to one side and his eyes were lost in the night sky. The first death is never forgotten and never forgiven, Fareeha never did it. She approached Angela slowly, her heart shattered when she saw how the doctor in one way or another tried to revive him in vain, her trembling cry tearing at her throat while shouting something in German, and her hands were stained with blood like his red dress, damping spots of a darker color.

“Angela…”

Fareeha called her, but Angela was lost, her mind locked and her heart somewhere dark. That was the first, and hopefully the last kill of her. Fareeha's strong hands rested on her bare, pale arms, trying to pull her away with no success. Angela was clinging to the body in an effort to solve what she had just done. Fareeha repeated her name, and this time she forced her up.

“No! No! Leave me!” She struggled, her arms trying to break free of her bodyguard's grip, but Fareeha wouldn’t let her back down there. “Let me go! No!”

“I won’t. Never… You can’t do anything anymore, come on…” She said above a whisper, really there was nothing neither of them could do but retreat.

Angela was almost dangling in her arms towards the dead man, eventually giving up and crying to herself when she couldn’t cry for him anymore. Fareeha returned her slumped body towards her own and hugged her tightly. Neither her first kill nor any of the others she did had hurt like this. Witness how one of the purest souls on earth took the life of another without even knowing why, simply by impulse, was humanly unthinkable. Anyone but her. She kept crying, bawling, shrieking and lamenting with every single tear spilled down her flushed cheeks. All Fareeha could do was to keep tightening the embrace while a hand stroked golden strands of hair. Fareeha felt miserable, but they needed to keep going, danger was around the corner. Quite literally this time.

It seemed that other grunts heard the shot and caught their attention, two more of them appearing, but this time they seemed disarmed. One of them screamed in a foreign language after seeing his partner dead on the floor, and he immediately pointed at them, both to the doctor who was their objective and to Fareeha who appeared to be the one who did such a mess. She was more than willing to take the blame this or any time. Angela recovered once she heard strange voices, and quickly clung to her bodyguard. Fareeha felt she could fight against the world when she felt the doctor's hands on her back.

One of the men rushed towards them, Fareeha prudently releasing herself from the doctor's grip to respond in the same way against the other man. They had a clash of fists, jabs, hooks and kicks, exchanging tactics of violence in order to hurt the other. The other man ran to Angela, and Fareeha couldn’t do much more but trust her. But the doctor remained static, and if she didn’t act soon she would be kidnapped along with the other doctors who were affected inside the teather. Fareeha gritted her teeth, her arms immobilizing the subject with a strong grip.

“Angela!” The doctor looked at her briefly. “Dodge!”

Something snapped on her, and she did it, ducking as the fist of the man avoided hitting her head. Angela kept doing that, Fareeha instructing her as always until the doctor could keep her own pace. It didn’t take long, the bodyguard was on the floor wrestling with this slightly weaker man while Angela kept dodging every punch and kick, blocking successfully each blow with both her arms and legs, but it was time for her to respond in the same way. There was a moment when the blonde took of her shoes and surrounded him. Positioning herself in a defensive stance and waiting for that opening to get rid of him. Angela was willing to fight back, but Fareeha didn’t want the doctor to be on that situation. She wasn’t ready, not yet.

“Angela! The showers!”

The gym showers where Angela escaped once she had Fareeha on the floor. That was the only plan, and Angela seemed to grasp the whole idea. The man kept trying to hit her, touching her only a few times but neither of them enough to hurt her considerably. Fareeha caught a weak point, an open door. Another man came running down the other side of the alley, Fareeha knew that Angela couldn’t handle another and she should quickly get rid of the one she was dealing with. She pinned him to the floor, and started hitting him with her elbow on the head. After a few blows, he was unconscious, but the other man rushed towards her, hitting her repeatedly on the floor when she tried to cover with her arms.

Fareeha only saw one solution, her mind working overtime, and with her two legs she threw the man over her, falling a couple of meters away. The bodyguard quickly opened one of the bulletproof vest bags and took a set of emergency keys, tossing them to where Angela was. The keys fell a little farther where she was, but Angela regained her composure, and with a clean swoop of her leg she made the man fall, just like Fareeha did that training session.

“Angela! Run!” Angela was left to analyze things for a moment, thinking whether to help Fareeha or do what she said. Fareeha shook her head, the man was once again pinning her to the ground. “Run! Now!” And she did that, scooping the keys from the floor ready to run away. The alley led to the main street, she knew Angela could recognize the way, she hoped she did. The man who was attacking the doctor got on his feet once again, and he threw himself towards her, taking her by the ankle and making her fall along with him, but Angela had so much more agility now, just like a feather, and she quickly ran away from the grip by kicking him and started running again. There was still doubt in her steps, and Fareeha didn’t have time for that when she heard voices from across the alley again. “Run, Angela! Don’t hesitate! I’ll meet you there!” Angela nodded, and ran away just like Fareeha told her, holding the skirt of her dress with both hands to give her more freedom while running when the man followed her.

Fareeha could only pray she could get away. There was another body above her, hitting her face when the other pinned her by the waist and her wrists. Her lip was burst, one eye was shut by the blood that dripped from a deep wound on her forehead. But it didn’t matter. As long as Angela was safe, there was absolutely no problem. The alley doors opened, Jesse appearing as he withdrew his pistol and shot the man who was hitting Fareeha, falling dead to the ground as the other grabbed her face. She swore she heard Jesse yell something, but eventually everything went dark, and she couldn’t remember anymore when she felt another kick in the head.


She woke up an hour later. The cold floor beneath her so little inviting to touch her sore and battered body. Ambulance and police sirens sounding on each corner along with cries and screams, a total mess. A massacre. What was happening? Fareeha could barely open her eyes, her pupils contracting as she felt the light of a flashlight above her eyes. A paramedic examined her carefully while another ten of them took care of several attendees of the gala. The policemen did their job lifting reports and what not, Jack talking with the captain to inform him of the events with detail.

Fareeha moved the flashlight in front of her, grunting and frowning at the annoying sensation of her numb and aching body, leaning on her elbows when she couldn't sit down properly.

“Miss? You must remain down on your back, you have to rest.”

The young man asked, standing up from his crouched position and eyeing Fareeha up and down. She was wearing only pants and the tank top she had under the bulletproof vest, rather light on clothing with such cold weather. She didn’t answer, she didn’t know how she truly felt. Jack seemed to sense that she had woken up, and apologized to the police chief to get to her side, kneeling beside her and putting a war-hardened hand on her naked shoulder. She had scrapes and blood all over her body, bruises and open wounds as well. They weren’t treated yet, maybe Angela would soon... Angela. Angela?

“How are you feeling, kiddo?” Jack spoke softly, trying not to startle the girl.

Fareeha remembered the doctor. She looked everywhere searching for her in the crowd. Women crying, men shouting, injured people being lifted by a stretcher, a dozen of bloody bodies covered by a white sheet. She saw it all, recollecting everything again at a maddening pace, but Angela's figure was nowhere to be seen. She blinked a few times and recalled the scene of the alley, coming back in a painful flash of memory. Her chest heaved, the panic rising when she closed her eyes and saw Angela running down the street and being followed close. She opened her eyes, looking desperately at Jack.

“W-where is she?” She asked in a hushed but desperate voice. “Where is Angela? I-is she here?!”

“Angela?” Jack had to ask, they never addressed their protégés by their name, always by surname or title. A golden rule, but that passed through the moment so horrendous that everyone was living right now. “Dr. Ziegler is missing along with three other doctors. The police are trying to find their whereabouts-” Fareeha stood up immediately, ignoring the pain in her legs and her entire body in general. “Fareeha, sit down.”

“I have to find her. She’s waiting for me…” She began to walk, wobbling to the wide open doors of the theater.

“We lost her along the other medical staff.” Jack rose as well, but he stood still, looking how one of the members of his team was losing her mind. Fareeha shook her head, and she sprinted through the doors. “Fareeha!”

She ignored the shouting of her superior, something for which it would have cost her head. It didn’t matter, nothing mattered more than finding Angela. She even forgot that she only was wearing black cargo pants and a matching tank top as she ran down the street with bare feet and towards her mother’s apartment. Five more blocks in which the wind of a cloudy night delayed her. The frigid gale almost cutting painfully her skin like knives. She hated the cold so much and longed the warmth of that woman so badly.

She crossed the bridge running, sprinting, the light of the street lights illuminating her again and again, only the darkness and the occasional police siren interrupted her forced and agitated breathing by running at such a low temperature. Eventually she arrived in front of the building where her mother lived, stopping for a moment and finding traces of blood on the stairs. Her eyes widened in horror, and she ran inside, almost jumping every step until she reached the third floor where the apartment that was her old home was.

‘No, no, no, no…!’

The door was still the same. Intact, with no sign of struggle whatsoever. Fareeha was panting, her breath once warm was cold, and she was shaking. She knocked, but there was no answer. She had no extra set of keys and her mother was so careful as to not leave a hidden key to her extra secure apartment so anyone could find it. She knocked again, this time harder.

“Angela?!”

But not a sound. She was growing desperate, and she turned the knob several times, begging for any faults so it could give her a quick access. But that was something very difficult to happen. She breathed deeply, and without thinking twice, she took three steps back and rammed her shoulder to the door. The pain on her arm was astronomical, taking a toll on her body, and the door didn’t seem to give up. Tears were gathering in her eyes, falling relentlessly while she kept hitting the door. But finally, an opening, and two more hits and the lock snapped, falling to the ground with a thud. Fareeha ran inside, and once again, there was no signs of anyone home. Not her mother, not her, not Angela.

“Angela?!”

She yelled, her voice broken by the recollection of events and the expense of her body. She was more than done. Fareeha looked all over the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom. She went to her previous bedroom and even to her mother’s chamber. But there was no one. She leaned defeated against a wall, desperate and biting her fist to stifle the crying. She lost her. She failed herself, her mother, but most importantly, she failed Angela. The doctor could be isolated, gagged, tortured, or even dead by now. Fareeha gritted her teeth, clenching her jaw and sobbing loudly, sliding down the wall and hiding her face in her knees.

But a sound in the bathroom made her lift her head one more time. And she got up, her damp eyes wide as she walked slowly, as stealthy as a cat. She turned the knob slowly, opening the door to find nothing again. However, a shadow behind the shower curtain caught her attention, and for a moment she hesitated to even touch the plasticized cloth with a polka dot pattern. Taking the edge of the curtain, she slid it quickly, revealing a trembling blonde kneeling holding a kitchen knife in her perfect pretty hands. Her hair was down and matted, her gorgeous dress tore from the skirt, and Fareeha swore she never felt so much relief in her life.

Angela looked up at her, her eyes telling her she is terrified, the numbness and paleness of her body above it all. When blue watery eyes met dark in the same way, she released her grip and the knife fell to the cold shower tiles. Fareeha fell to her knees and hugged her like she was slipping from her hands, like she was the most precious thing she ever had and could never let go again. She felt Angela’s nails almost piercing her skin through the fabric of her tank top when returning the embrace. Fareeha took her face with both hands, and she kissed her desperately over and over again, her lips crashing with hers in an attempt to recover some strength lost in the fight.

“Oh my God, thank you…” She cried, Angela imitating her, but never parting the kiss. “Good girl, you did great…” Fareeha acknowledged Angela’s escape, the doctor wearily smiling. “I’m so proud of you… Good girl.” She repeated over and over again until Angela could believe that she was both a good girl and she was proud of her. Eventually, Angela nodded, and she seemed to believe it for the first time in so long.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter XV

When I heard that word again

 

That night Angela couldn’t sleep. She could do anything but that. The mere thought of even closing her eyes was frightening. Recalling that night events seemed like the only thing in her mind, and even when her body ached, her head seemed even more hurt. She could still hear the screams and cries, her feet torn for running barefoot on the cold, raspy pavement and her body sore for dealing with many blows while defending herself. But Fareeha seemed to take a bigger toll on body damage.

Once they parted that overwhelming embrace, Angela took a serious and desperate look to her. Fareeha looked defeated, the many wounds, bruises and scrapes in her body telling her so, but she felt victorious nonetheless, that tearing side smile affecting her beyond reason. They won this time. She touched her body, cold against her mild warm fingertips, and once the panic subdued, Fareeha was herself again, and regained control of the situation, carrying Angela to her former bedroom to go to the main entrance and lock the door that was left damaged. The doctor could hear some fumbling items and dragging furniture in the living room, Fareeha probably making a barricade of some sort and gathering some weapons, as she was stripped from that form of protection.

One of the many good things of her bodyguard was that she was strong. But she was exhausted now; Angela saw that in her aching muscles once she got in the bedroom again carrying what looked like a rifle and a pistol, leaving them on the nightstand. Angela knelt in the bed, signaling Fareeha to do the same, and she examined every wound her body had. Indeed, many scratches and bruises, several puncture wounds, open wounds on her head, legs and arms. Her torso was well covered in the fight, thanks to the bulletproof vest, and her organs didn’t take any damage whatsoever.

Angela stood up and went to the bathroom, remembering she saw a first aid kit lying somewhere in the floor. There was enough material to treat the more superficial wounds, but Fareeha had other ones that needed stitches, and she lacked the equipment to do so. But a little tape had gauze can do the job meanwhile. They stayed there on the bed for a while, Angela treating both their injured bodies between hisses and tears spilled, dabbing a cotton ball with alcohol here, applying antiseptic there, placing a band aid and gauze somewhere else and everything was done in about forty minutes.

She was tired, her body was almost giving up by the time the clock hit two in the morning. The recollection of events forced her to stay awake, even under the covers in the warm embrace of Fareeha. The girl this time lent her some of her own clothes, and now Angela knew why she gave her her mother's clothes before. Her shirt rather large to her thin body, her shorts nevertheless fit well enough. But overall she felt close to her, the intoxicating smell like a drug. Angela still had the borrowed hoodie hidden in her nightstand drawer, wearing it in moments of loneliness.

The room was in complete darkness, she could barely make a few silhouettes. But the most predominant thing was Fareeha's calm breathing. She was probably asleep, her chest rising and falling at a moderate pace. Angela would have thought that if she didn’t know that her breathing was too fast to be asleep. Fareeha seemed to notice, and pulled the blonde closer to her body, which already had one leg over hers and her arm around her waist, bodies entangled beneath the thick comforter due to the doctor’s request. Angela really doesn’t remember the last time she felt like that, at peace next to a person who she shared intimacy and a working relationship as of lately, but nothing more. Even when she did wanted more. A head dark nuzzled her own, humming as a soothing demeanor, talking barely above a tired whisper.

“Go to sleep.”

“I can’t…”

“You’re a doctor, you know better than to have a good night sleep… I need to return to the couch and stand guard-”

“No, no, don’t go. Please, stay… I don’t want to be alone, not now. It’s just that…” She sighed, hiding in the neck of her bodyguard for a source of comfort prior continuing. “I just can’t sleep, Fareeha… I’m not able to do it simply because my mind refuses to shut down for a minute without-…” There was an abrupt silence once again, only their breathing mingling in the cold air.

“I’ll stay with you.”

Angela shook her head only a bit. “Now you should go back to sleep, I’ll be fine.”

“I won’t knowing you can’t. Besides, I’ve really never been asleep.”

“Aren’t you tired?”

“Standing watch has never been my strength, unlike my mother who has the patience of the world. But someone must do it. I'm not willing to let someone take us by surprise. Even with the gun next to me and the apartment's infrared alarm, I can’t close my eyes.”

Angela let her be, she had a point in her favor. Even she knew what it felt like, because after that night she didn’t know if she could go back to sleep as she did. Days before, weeks, months, and even years, her true rests were limited to her office desk, where she could feel a little at peace in her solitude. But tonight she felt more tired than ever, her eyes weighed, her head throbbed, and she really wanted to sleep to lessen the strong sensations. She only asked for five minutes, but her head was spinning madly.

And every time she closed her eyes she remembered an unconscious man on the floor, dead, killed by her. And her heart cringed. Everything she swore to protect collapsed with a bullet. Despite knowing that she did it in self-defense, she still couldn’t forgive herself. Her shoulders trembled at the memory, dead eyes staring back at her. ‘It was not your fault, it was not your fault’. She repeated over and over in her head, even knowing when indeed, it was her fault. She started sobbing in Fareeha’s neck, damping the fabric of her gray shirt.

“I-I’m so sorry…”

“Shh… You don’t have to say anything.” Fareeha cooed. She seemed to understand her pain somehow. “Or you can say it all. Either way, I’ll be here.”

“I didn’t want to do it- I just want this to be over… I can’t… D-does it always feel this way?”

Fareeha sat down, crossing her legs and sitting Angela with her, positioning the blonde between her legs as she leaned on the back of the headrest and her arms hugging the doctor from behind, letting her vent and releasing the burden she was carrying. Her moans tore at her throat, everything still seemed like a nightmare to her. A nightmare she could never overcome, one of which the parents she never had made them disappear. But still, there she was embraced with that girl who was willing to give everything to protect her, even from her most absurd nightmares. Unfortunately this wasn’t one of them; it was as real as it could be.

“It will never be easy, Angela... You will never forget it, and you’ll have to live with it. Believe me…” Fareeha hugged her tightly, she trying to contain some of her own tears in the process. “But I can promise you something… You’ll overcome it, and you’ll learn from this because you are strong. One of the strongest women I know, both body and mind. And I cannot thank you enough for saving my life this time, and I can’t wait to return you the favor.”

It was sad to think how Fareeha knew all that. She was only twenty-four years old and already knew death first-hand. Both remained silent for a few more minutes, only an occasional sniff breaking the silence. Angela leaned her head on her bodyguard's collarbone, listening and feeling her heart beating. The rhythm was reassuring, reminding her that she was alive. Fareeha was right, she was alive possibly thanks to her. The arms around her waist moved closer to her body, a head resting on top of hers as she took a deep breath, her chest expanding successfully and releasing the warm air in the dark bedroom.

“But please, sleep.”

“I can’t…” A beat. “…Unless you join me. That’s my only condition.” She felt how Fareeha smiled atop her head, moving her head to the sides in surrender.

“We both deserve it after tonight, hm? …Very well, I’ll inform Helix tomorrow that you’re safe and we’re here.”

“Thank you.” There was a deafening silence for a moment, only interrupted by a sound similar to a whimper, making Angela smile only slightly.

“For a moment I thought I lost you tonight…”

“But I’m here thanks to you.”

Fareeha began to play with her hair when she saw that she couldn’t stop thinking about the same thing, recalling the same topic over and over again. Angela looked up, the girl had her eyes closed again, a barely visible frown displayed almost like a pout, which made her look adorable despite her tough appearance. Fareeha started to move side to side, rocking her body and Angela along with her, her fingertips still running through her blonde hair. The warmth of Fareeha, her caresses and cooing, her murmurs falling softly to her ears and the mixture of exhaustion and pain helped ease her, relaxation in a new form of affection, one she used to say and feel, but that she was frightened to say now, and a specific word lingered in her head for too long. But for the first time on many nights, Angela was able to sleep somewhat at peace.


‘In a rampage described as among the deadliest against the medical community overall, the events of last Saturday night have left the city and the world baffled. A toll of nineteen dead people among civilians and perpetrators, more than twenty injured and seven more kidnapped was the toll after such a terrible night in Teatro Bel Canto on the Annual Charity Gala in favor of the hospitals of the city and medical advances overall. The local and national police is already investigating the case since last night with the assist of Helix Security International, who was present at the event as a precautionary measure, but apparently the support wasn’t enough, despite having done an outstanding job protecting as much attendees as they could.’

Angela was sitting in the living room of her house, the television was the only thing that made some sort of noise, and she didn’t even think she heard or felt her breathing because of the tension of the news displayed on the giant flat screen in front of her. Genji was standing next to the mini bar in the living room with a drink in his hand as always, Amelie and Hanzo sitting with her in the middle, grateful that she was alive and not another victim of the news. It was rare to see Genji and Hanzo in the same room without fighting, it seemed that they somehow had reached a silent agreement. But someone more important wasn’t there, and Angela knew why.

‘One of the doctors reported as missing last night appeared the morning of today along with one of Helix's agents who secured her from the attack. The acclaimed twice Nobel Prize winner Dr. Angela Ziegler was escorted from the central police station to her residence in the southern suburban sector, the name of her companion -who is also her personal hired bodyguard- wasn’t revealed for company policy reasons.’

She still remembers when Jesse escorted her from Fareeha mother’s apartment, the man again doing her the favor of being discreet and quick regarding the situation. Fareeha was quickly taken by another Helix agent in a separate car, her roommate frowned all the way to her residence. Was he always like that or was a Helix thing regarding their bodyguards? Angela knew there was something he was hiding, but she trusted Fareeha and her team to not pry around the topic. Still, it wasn’t her, and she didn’t feel at all comfortable with a stranger escorting her back home. Once she got out of the car, Jesse's phone rang, and he took the call hastily, his face contracting and his fists clenched in anger as he climbed back into the car and quickly drove away from the street. He was definitely different from the man she met weeks ago.

‘Seven people have been arrested so far for having links related to the attacks of last night. Two more are agents of Helix, who caused two unintentional deaths on grounds of self-defense are being legally prosecuted at the security company's premises until the necessary measures are taken to-’

Angela’s eyes opened wide, her face reflecting that of surprise and distress. Two Helix agents actually killing others? That was an extremely rare case, they never used brute force, at least not in the public eye. It wasn’t Jesse, right? He escorted her back to the house a few hours ago. Maybe it was some of the guards or Fareeha’s team members and the other agents. Or perhaps-

She picked up her phone, battling with a quick tapping of the keys on the screen while trying to dial Fareeha back. Hanzo placed a hand on her, but Angela quickly pushed it away, expecting a quick response from the phone. A ring, then two, then four, and nothing. She dialed again, her chest heaving by this kind of hyperventilating sensation when she didn’t answer for a second time. Fareeha had never missed a call in the months that Angela had called her. Never. Genji's phone rang this time, and his impassive facet transformed into anguish and fury. Both Angela and Hanzo recognized that face, it meant that Sojiro was calling and asking for a "special favor”. And how many of those he already had as of lately.

“I’m off.” Genji stated, downing his drink and going to the front door.

“You must be kidding. Are you seriously going to leave your wife alone when she has been almost kidnapped and killed? Are you that selfish and petty when trying to please Father?” Hanzo hissed at his brother, standing from the couch and walking slowly to him.

“You don’t have a say in this house nor the Shimada family, so shut your fucking mouth.”

“That doesn’t take away the fact that you're an imbecile and-”

“For how long?” Angela interrupted, never looking at him. Her face straight at the television, and Amelie was in silence sitting on the couch while moving her eyes from the group to her friend. She didn’t spoke, she knew better to not interrupt.

“What?”

“For how long are you leaving?” Genji looked at Angela, then Amelie and Hanzo, landing his eyes on his wife at the end again. His voice as emotionless and lacking of affection as always.

“Two weeks.”

Angela said nothing again, she didn’t even move an inch, and her piercing blue eyes reflected no emotion whatsoever, just like him. It was better for her not to show any sign of weakness that could betray her. An awkward minute passed where everybody stayed silent, until Angela turned her head in a somewhat predatory look at Genji.

“Lend me one of your bodyguards. I’m going out too.”

“You are going nowhere. The condition to leave this house was with that bodyguard or not leaving at all. And since she’s in jail for murdering a fucking Talon member, good luck then.” He opened the door, and before he closed it, he spoke coldly back to Angela. “I’ll hear if you leave this place. Don’t worry, you can replace her when I return.” And a thud of the wooden door echoed through the house.

Only the faint sound of the car leaving the garage and disappearing down the street was the only thing heard. Amelie looked at Hanzo intrigued and scared at the same time, because as she had mentioned before, she was a pawn like Angela, the prize that the winners -the powerful leaders- liked to show, and Angela wasn’t used to being someone else's prize. The doctor took a deep breath, huffing through her nose before getting up. She poured herself a drink of the same beverage her husband had taken and downed it in only one take, then picked up her coat on the rack, grabbed her purse from a table and opened the front door before being stopped by Hanzo.

“Now, where do you think you are going?”

“Helix.” She simply said, but Hanzo took her by the shoulder and closed the door once again.

“You heard my brother.”

“He doesn’t own me.”

“In a lethal sense, he does. He has power over you just for the fact that he can kill you with the simple snap of his fingers. Do not provoke him, Angela.” She clicked her tongue, knowing her best friend was right. “Also, you're hurt. And I don’t think you want to go out wearing a light nightgown in this cold.”

Once again, he was the voice of reason despite her being the smartest of the three of them, and arguably the city as well. But only a couple of those things would she take into consideration, and it was her health and her attire. She climbed the stairs to the bedroom almost in a sprint, changing into a tight pencil white dress, stilettos, and fixed her hair in her signature messy ponytail. She was not going to allow Fareeha to see her defeated. She owed her only so much and Angela needed to show her gratitude. Being confident was the first step to recovery.

“You shouldn’t wear that, Angela.” Amelie spoke when she saw Angela’s choice of garments. And certainly, the sleeveless dress with a modest neckline showed a few signs of abuse earned during the escape. And other more caused inside this very same house.

“I can wear whatever I want. And if you’ll excuse me, I’m on my way.” She went to the door again, and this time she wasn’t stopped. Only Hanzo sighed when he saw Amelie back and understood that Angela wouldn’t give up on her decision.

“We’ll go with you.”


In a matter of a few minutes the three of them arrived at the Helix Security International headquarters. Angela had months in which she didn’t take the wheel of a car, and she felt the adrenaline rush all of a sudden. A mixture of excitement, despair and yearning to be with Fareeha again made them arrive in record time to Helix, navigating rapidly through the traffic while Amelie fitted her nails into the front seat and Hanzo clung to the safety belt. Not even the heels stopped her from handling the vehicle with dexterity.

“Thank you for coming with me. You can leave now.”

“We are not leaving you alone. It’s dangerous enough that you’re here without the proper protection.” Amelie commented, but Angela quickly dismissed her.

“Trust me. I will not leave this building alone.” She left her friends outside her car, just a faint smile, giving them the choice to leave or wait for her. For Angela’s comfort, Hanzo encouraged Amelie to leave and trust her.

The automatic doors slid open, closing behind Angela and leaving Hanzo and Amelie confused and worried in front of the huge security facility that was Helix. Her footsteps echoed on the bright floor of the reception, adjusting a bit her nude-colored coat came to the counter, waiting to be noticed by the receptionist. The place was quite crowded, many people in different types of uniforms, all probably representing a rank and position in Helix. Only a few civilians or administrative personnel could be observed inside. The receptionist noticed Angela, and with a kind smile she addressed her. The doctor, however, didn’t respond in the same way.

“Good morning and welcome to Helix Security International, miss. How can I assist you?” She addressed her kindly, but Angela wasn’t there to play a fair game whatsoever.

“Good morning. I’m here to see Fareeha Amari.” The girl's eyes widened in surprise. Something was happening, and it was more than obvious.

“I-I uhm… I apologize but Miss Amari isn’t available today.” Obviously, she was restrained in the confines of her own organization.

“I believe she has more than enough time to see me. I’m her doctor.”

“I’m sorry, but she cannot receive visitors until further notice-” A pale, tired hand took the girl from the tie, pulling her dangerously close to her face across the counter, almost lifting her up and making her shut her mouth.

“My name is Dr. Angela Ziegler Shimada, and if you don’t let me see her, you and your organization will pay dearly, so I suggest you go for your superior, tell him that I am here and let me see her.”

Angela never used the surname Shimada, it wasn’t even her legitimate name and she was glad she never took it, but this time she deserved the use of it to be truly taken into account. If there was something in its favor, it was the fear the name instilled, fear that she needed to use immediately to be recognized. And it worked. The girl picked up the phone and made a call. A minute later, a tall man with blond hair and blue eyes in a black uniform not dissimilar to Fareeha’s one approached her, Angela facing him impassively with an impenetrable facet. That wasn’t her, but it was who she needed to be.

“Good morning, Dr. Ziegler. I’m Captain Jack Morrison, Amari’s superior. Why don’t you come with me?”

“Gladly.”

Passing a few security doors and wide aisles inside the Helix facility, they came to a secluded door. Inside was what looked like some kind of surveillance booth: a room with several monitors, a console with hundreds of buttons, and speakers and microphones all over the counter. Inside was a police officer and another allegedly of a higher charge, presumably a sheriff. Jack invited her to sit down, and she accepted without further challenge. Jack did the same in front of the console, and turned the chair to face her.

“I’m glad you’re here, Dr. Ziegler, welcome to Helix once again. You can already imagine the situation with all of the Helix agents involved in the gala last night. It’s difficult.” He said, running a hand through his blond hair. “But who got into a bigger trouble was Amari and me. I apologize, but right now she’s being... interviewed.”

“Prosecuted.” Angela corrected. “And yet, you’re here and she’s not. I demand that you let me see my bodyguard or at least inform me of her situation.”

The blond covered his mouth with his fist, thinking of the right words to answer the doctor. When he opened his mouth, he closed it again, and sighed, turning in his chair and pressing a button on the console. One of the monitors turned on, revealing the image of Fareeha and a man in a sleek suit sitting face to face. She was handcuffed, her hands resting on the table in front of her, her gaze was wearily pinned to the wall to her right, her torso was half naked, covered in bandages, her sports bra and an unbuttoned white shirt. She was visibly defeated, her eyes reflecting weariness as she had to endure listening to the person in front of her trying to convince her, only the lawyer's lips moved as he pressed a finger to the table in front of them.

Angela doesn’t remember the last time she had seen Fareeha like that. Not even last night she looked so downcast. Now looking her into the white light of the room, she could see that her head had a considerable wound on her eyebrow as well as larger bruises. Even parts of her face still had dried blood. How couldn’t she notice that before? Fareeha was concerned first with attending to Angela’s injuries and she put herself last, attending only to the most basic scratches that the dark bedroom showed. The doctor felt like a big flaw, and could understand her bodyguard a little more in relation to her health. Jack pressed another button, this time turning on the sound of the monitor in front of them.

“-there’s no evidence that you did that in self-defense, Amari. Tell me again, did someone see you do it?” A shake of her head. “There must be a witness. The security camera was shut down that night on the alley.” Another shake from her and a sigh from the lawyer. “We have more than an hour with this. We really are trying to help you, but you’re not cooperating. Amari, we covered Morrison’s one because McCree and you helped us as witnesses, but with this death one no one else was but you.” Nothing, not a word. The man was more than irritated, and he grunted in his hand. “Amari, please, be honest. Who did it?”

“I did it.”

“You are not helping us and yourself, we know you didn’t. If you keep repeating that you’re not going to have a chance in court.”

“How many times do I have to repeat myself?”

He grunted, rubbing a hand on his tired face. “One last chance, Amari. Did you kill that man?”

“Yes, I did it.”

Angela's eyes widened in horror. Fareeha had absolutely nothing to do with that death, she killed him effectively in self-defense, and her bodyguard was taking the blame for it. She was willing to be arrested as long as it didn’t affect her. How far could this go? There was something Angela could definitely do, and she had something in mind for quite a few minutes, even when she hated to resort to such actions.

“You are a witness.” Jack stated, slowly looking at her, but Angela said nothing. “Or you aren’t.” But she was. She was the cause. However, Angela wasn’t going to let Fareeha’s effort go to waste, so she opted to use another way to retrieve her safely.

“All I’m going to say is that if you don’t release her now there’s going to be serious consequences. And I’m talking to all of you.”

“Is that a threat, Dr. Ziegler? We don’t take those lightly.” The sheriff spoke indignant and angry, but Angela quickly shut him down pointing her finger at him.

“I don’t think you’re stupid enough to make me and the Shimada family angry. If you don’t release my bodyguard right now, you'll know what I'm talking about. A simple death of a Talon grunt by self-defense in her name against a relation of thousands of unjustified deaths at the hands of the local police? It would be a pity if several names were leaked to the public media, don’t you think?”

“Dr. Ziegler, I don’t know what you’re talki-”

“I can safely say that the Shimada have an uninterrupted list of associations with the police to cover certain... inconveniences. You decide which hand to play, I already played mine. And stop wasting my time, I need to go to work and it’s getting late.”

There was an exchange of killer looks. Angela was furious on the outside, but she was shaking inside. She had never behaved in such a way or taken advantage of her position, it was something she denied for many years to do, but now, with Fareeha doing the unimaginable thing for her, the doctor wanted to do more than return the favor, and thought simply with this. Give her the freedom she deserved. The sheriff growled, finally approaching the console and pressing a button on it.

“Release her.”

“Sheriff?” The lawyer who was with Fareeha asked incredulously, the bodyguard didn’t flinch whatsoever. “Are you serious?”

“More than serious. Release her. Now.” He growled angry this time. He got up and so did the other police officer, taking their belongings and going out the door. “…Have a good day, Dr. Ziegler.”

Fareeha was released from her handcuffs, but she remained seated where she was. Jack got up and gave Angela a signal to wait for her. Not a minute passed when the blond entered the same room as the Fareeha and helped her to stand. She smiled tiredly, circling his broad shoulders with one arm. She was limping, and her body was leaning a little to the front as she touched the right side of her torso with her free hand.

“Took you long enough, Jack.” Angela heard her talk from the speakers.

“It wasn’t me this time.”

“Huh? Who was it then? Don’t tell me it was mother…”

“Heh you’ll see. She’s waiting for you.”

Angela stood still, looking at the door as her heart pounded faster when the adrenaline was fading. For some strange reason, her hands began to shake when she heard voices outside, both from Fareeha and Morrison. The door opened and closed quickly, revealing a tired Fareeha ready to give a speech.

“Mom, look. I know what you think but- …Angela?”

“Hi…” The doctor said above a whisper. Even when Fareeha looked rather disheveled, she had never seen her more beautiful and perfect than that moment.

“What are you doing here? Who brought you? You came alone? Are you alright?”

She was talking too much, but only concern was displayed for her in that moment of weakness. Angela reached her and embraced her beaten body tightly, hiding her face on the crook of her neck. Feeling her warmth was the best shelter in a situation of despair. And Angela needed just that. Fareeha’s arms eventually surrounded her slender frame, bringing her closer despite the pain she felt, hissing slightly but caring less. Fareeha hummed when she put her cheek on the blonde's head.

“I should scold you for leaving home without protection... But I'm glad you're here.”

“You must know I still owe you for so much, and for protecting me last night, and for helping me fix my dress in the dressing room-” Both giggled when Fareeha shushed her.

“We shouldn’t keep talking here, there are cameras and mics everywhere.”

“Then let’s leave this place. I’m hungry and I’m sure you haven’t eaten as well. My treat. But first, we’re making a quick stop at the hospital first. Now I need to ensure your well-being.”


As Angela thought, Fareeha was worse than she looked. Two broken ribs, a mild concussion, a sprained wrist and ankle, two broken fingers of her left hand, not counting an admirable amount of scrapes, bruises and wounds still open on most of her body. Medically she was in trouble, but for some reason Fareeha's body barely registered the pain, even her wounds seemed to heal faster than normal. Angela attributed it to her excellent physical condition, and perhaps with only one week of full rest she could recover almost completely, only the broken bones would take more time to heal.

Fareeha was resting on a familiar bed in an isolated room, the same one where she stayed the first night with Angela treating a bullet wound. The doctor kept monitoring her the whole day, never leaving her side except for going to the bathroom or making an occasional call, but she always stayed there. Angela wasn’t going to leave her alone, not at that moment, and not ever. Not now when she needed her the most.

She helped by giving her several pain medications, and it was amusing to see how even some drugs made her react differently. While some could make her sleep, others let her filter disappear and speak the first thing that came to her mind. And so, Fareeha was laying on the hospital bed as Angela sat down next to her, covering her mouth and laughing fully at the nonsense and anecdotes her bodyguard was talking. It was similar to being drunk, and although it wasn’t the way she wanted to experience Fareeha's loose attitude, it worked indirectly. How amusing and liberating it was.

“-and then Lena made me lock him in the record’s room for a whole day. I felt so bad later, but a hundred’s a hundred. Don’t worry, I slipped him a sandwich under the door.”

“You must be kidding me. But he is so serious!”

“Oh come on, Jesse is everything but serious. Imagine a Clint Eastwood wannabe but ugly, gay and stupid.” Angela was cackling, and Fareeha was barely displaying a playful smile. The medication was making her sleepy, but she kept talking to Angela once she knew she was having more than a good time with her stories.

“You are full of surprises, Fareeha Amari. And your friends seem so fun. I wish I can meet them someday.”

“And I wish we had met in better circumstances.”

“Me too.”

“You look amazing in that dress, by the way… Have I told you how good you look when you show your legs?” Angela pretended not to know that, placing a finger on her cheek playfully.

“Hm… I don’t recall you ever saying that to me.”

“Well, you do… Damn, you look so hot. I could never look like that, I don’t think I’m feminine.” Her eyes were closed now, but she was still talking and smiling slightly. The wonders that anesthesia could do. Fareeha was being extremely honest with Angela, her words were just what her mind was thinking, no filter, and no dishonesty or shyness. “If only I met you before and you wouldn’t have married that asshole.” Angela giggled, encouraging her to continue.

“What would you do if that was the case?” She bit her bottom lip, restraining the giggle threatening to erupt from her rosy lips.

“You know, take you for a nice meal, a walk in the park, treat you for a drink and then when you fell for me, make love to you all night.”

If I fell for you. Such confidence.”

“No, no, come on, we both know it would happen.” She couldn’t avoid it, she laughed wholeheartedly while covering her mouth.

“Oh, you might be right. But who knows.”

“I know.”

“And then? That’s it?”

“I don’t know, I’m boring. But how much I would like this very moment to stay with you all night talking and hugging in the bed under the blanket, and tell you how much I love you because you’re so perfect, it’s like you were made especially for me.” Angela stopped laughing. Her narrowed eyes due to her fit of giggles opened wide, her mouth was agape in some sort of trance. And her heart was leaping, sprinting, running a marathon in a second.

“…What?”

“I love you. Have I told you that before?”

Angela was speechless. She had her doubts in relation to her own feelings, she knew that those of her husband were a farce all along, and there was only hate and disgust in that forced relationship. With Fareeha however, it was different, and last night more than ever she could realize that what she felt for her was more than affection, it was a feeling that she did felt before and that she didn’t think she could ever feel again. The fear that somebody didn’t correspond those feelings to her again lasted too long and she preferred to bury that word in a very dark place deep inside her heart.

But now, after hearing those words coming from her bodyguard, she could fully confirm that her feelings matched hers all along. The tears gathering in her beautiful blue eyes clouded her sight only a bit and her hand covered her mouth to muffle the sob threatening to come out. She was about to find a way respond to her bodyguard, but when she turned around, she was already asleep. Her face was relaxed, reflecting absolutely no pain, no suffering, just a peaceful, gorgeous, honest and perfect woman willing to give everything for her.

And Angela’s heart never pounded so fast, so hard, and so real.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter XVI

And I said I loved her

 

The waves and chill winds of winter seemed to finally push back a bit after a month since the incident in Teatro Bel Canto. The physical wounds recovered in Fareeha's body, but the psychological remained. Nightmares were fairly common, and she woke up several times a few nights with her heart pounding frantically. For someone her age and her job position, it shouldn’t be usual, but she kept waking up in the early hours of the morning like a five-year-old girl afraid of the monsters under the bed. However, this time it wasn’t the usual deformed and spooky monsters that awakened her.

She dreamed of Egypt. With Cairo, the city that saw her born. With Giza, the city that took her in for many years. Both cities that taught her how cruel the world and the human being could be once it tasted the sweet nectar of power and money, blinding them immediately and making them ignorant of the real problems in the country. She dreamed when her mother taught her her first lesson in self-defense and martial arts. She dreamed when she took her first weapon in her hands; a rifle. She dreamed when she killed her first victim. She dreamed when she ran away with her mother after their family was murdered.

The nightmares intensified, and many nights were spent without sleep. However, she was grateful in part that Angela stayed at home to let Fareeha fully recover from her wounds and broken bones, but that didn’t make things any better. There was something that urged her to continue, and she was sure that the doctor too. Each day was a new experience being far away from her, Angela promised that they would speak daily, and the doctor always kept her promise, even after Fareeha went back to work with her. Something changed in Angela after the incident. She knew it when once being alone, Angela asked her to drive to that vantage point she took her once, and having every the opportunity to do more than improper things, she preferred to sit in her lap, snuggle and fall asleep for a couple of hours.

Angela was becoming clingier with her, and Fareeha appreciated that pleasantly.

There were many reasons to attribute that kind of behavior, but Fareeha felt there was something else there. Maybe with time Angela would tell her. For now, there was only silence when she was waiting for her to finish her workload, and so, Fareeha was sitting in the couch of the doctor's office reading an electrical engineering book that Brigitte lent her a while ago while Angela worked on her computer and scribbled on several folders in front of her. It was impressive how much work the doctor could take, and even more the speed with which she did it. Her eyes moved quickly behind those reading glasses, her left hand typing on the keyboard and her right hand writing on paper. Only the coffee cup was the only object unrelated to her work on the desk.

Fareeha looked up from her book occasionally, silently monitoring Angela as she worked her brains out, and smiled to herself when she saw her little nose wrinkle and make an adorable pout from time to time, her concentration bringing out a new side of her that Fareeha hadn’t seen before, because Angela rarely let a guest in her office when she worked. The bodyguard's stomach growled, Angela was so focused on her work that she didn’t notice it. Fareeha looked at her wristwatch, indicating that it was already lunchtime. She put the book aside and stood up, walking towards Angela until she was positioned right next to her.

She cleared her throat, but the blonde was still focused on her activities. Fareeha sometimes wondered if she really noticed that she was there even if she spoke to her. She didn’t like being intrusive, it wasn’t her style, even when her work demanded that it be. But this time she would make an exception. Fareeha reminded the doctor several times to eat, drink water, or just take a break. Neglecting her body wasn’t an option anymore, not even when Fareeha was off-duty. She clicked her tongue and walked behind Angela, stealthily hugging her from behind. The blonde made a sharp cry when she felt the familiar warmth of Fareeha's breath on her neck.

“F-Fareeha!”

“Hey, it’s time for lunch. Let’s go.”

“I’m not hungry.” Fareeha knew that she should use another tactic when Angela became stubborn about her diet and intake of nutritious food. Her lips sealed on the doctor’s neck, giving it a lick and a kiss to the soft and pale flesh, immediately making the doctor shiver.

“Aren’t you?”

“T-that’s not going to work… A-ah!” But it did. She groaned in discomfort when Fareeha parted from her neck, this time walking to the door and retrieving Angela’s coat and purse. When she was about to turn around, a pair of hands pinned her to the wall and then lips sealed on her neck. “That’s not fair… You are playing dirty.” Angela growled in the crook of her neck, biting slightly at her pulse joint.

“If that’s what it takes me to take you away from your desk, then so be it.”

Fareeha was sometimes surprised at how easily she could get turned on by the doctor, from an unconscious caress to a penetrating gaze. She still remembers the last time she made her squirm in that very same couch where she was sitting before, except that Angela was the one sitting on her face while she dug her nails and teeth into the backrest of the sofa, muffling the moans and screams while Fareeha’s tongue was pushing deep inside her. The Egyptian realized that she felt an incomparable pleasure in servicing her and only her. Of course her body appreciated the caresses as well, but emotionally and sentimentally, Angela was her paramount mission, and she enjoyed teasing, touching, tasting that indulgent body.

Fareeha laughed softly when she felt Angela still fight her inner demons, but this time she offered her an option convincing enough to make her decide. “I’ll take you to the Panorama Diner, we’ll have a nice meal together and then we can eat some biscuits for desert. Sounds good?” Angela stood still for a moment, and then she met her dark eyes with blue sparkling orbs, shinning at the thought of the desert she found oddly addictive.

“…I hate you sometimes. Let’s go.” Fareeha laughed, handing her coat to cover her from the cold winds of the streets. Angela lately began to wear only dresses, and it’s not that Fareeha was affected negatively by that, but it was something that she found odd considering the cold winter weather.

“Angela… Why do you keep wearing dresses? Aren’t you cold?” The doctor stopped putting on her coat, and still walking straight, she turned her head slightly, looking at her out of the corner of her eye and, blushing slightly, she answered her.

“Since you're forcing me to eat and threatening me with desserts, my pants and jeans don’t fit anymore and now my ass is so big that I can only wear skirts and dresses. Are you happy?” Fareeha cocked her head, looking at Angela’s backside which was previously modest, but now was more than prominent, and with the proper exercise they did regularly, it was a treasure.

“Very…” Fareeha breathed, and Angela scolded her with her eyes, walking away with a teasing sway of her hips.

“You will suffer with me.” That’s all Angela could say before hearing Fareeha groan in her hand and bite it.


The Panorama Diner was busy as always at lunchtime. Lucio walked the tables with unparalleled speed when using his skates, taking and delivering orders to each table. The boy didn’t even have to go to take the order once he saw them and greeted them, because Angela began to like the place and ended up frequenting it. The food, the good atmosphere and the kindness of the staff were reason enough to attend often to the peculiar diner. Angela even ended forming a friendship with the cook and her daughter.

Orisa was a captivating woman, always kind and with a smile on her face, but she really stood her ground when the situation warranted it. Her daughter Efi was a genius to be only eleven years old. When Orisa gave her her first robotic kit, she became obsessed with putting together little drones, and she started to get good at it. She tried to build robots to do her chores and help around the house, and it obviously didn’t work, but she never gave up. The girls can still see her one or another day alone at a far table building amorphous figures in total concentration.

Both were already eating their food in peace, Angela opting for a pesto chicken sandwich while Fareeha preferred a classic burger. The blonde often would have preferred monte cristo as always, but this time saw Angela eat the sandwich with heaviness, even something similar to disgust, but she knew it wasn’t that. She left the burger back on the plate, and leaned over to see the doctor better.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m fat.” She mumbled, taking a bite of her sandwich and drinking her glass of water with nothing but annoyance.

“Wow, trying to make me feel bad for eating a burger? Goodness, Angela… No, you were skinny. There’s an astronomical difference there.”

“Still…” She was upset, and it was ridiculous. Fareeha never saw her more appealing that now.

“Look I have a lower fat percentage in my body and yet, I weight more than you. Are you calling me fat?”

“Well, no-”

“Then stop it. You look amazing the way you are now. God, you’re perfect…” She whispered the last, taking a sip of her iced tea.

“Pardon?”

“You’re perfect… There, I said it. Happy? You’re thin, you have a pretty narrow waist, amazing breasts and your legs and ass… Fuck, Angela.” She groaned. “Stop it, seriously. You’re driving me crazy.” Fareeha never cursed in front of Angela, and although with her friends she cursed like a sailor, she wouldn’t do it in front of her. Of course, a few times she made a mistake, but she preferred to avoid doing it at all while working. Even when Angela thought it was funny and captivating.

“You sure know how to make a woman feel wanted.”

“Don’t tease me…”

“I am not.” Angela laughed one last time, the blush on her face quite visible. But for the comfort of both, she decided to leave the subject there, this time opting for something that seemed to wander her mind constantly. “Fareeha, can I ask you something?”

“Sure, anything.”

“What drove you to do such thing?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Taking the blame for me.”

Fareeha stared for a moment, wondering why Angela was asking such an obvious question, but she decided to answer her anyway. “I didn’t want you to be affected more than you already were. It’s very difficult to deal with that kind of problems.” She simply said, but Angela frowned, as she seemed unsatisfied with her answer.

“You were close to being arrested.”

“I trusted my lawyer-”

“You said nothing to him. You were fully taking the blame, ready to be arrested for a damage you did not cause. Why did you do that?” Was she listening while being at Helix? Angela was getting angry, her Swiss accent more prominent when she was upset. “And yes, I heard it all. So don’t lie to me in that regard.” So, she did. Fareeha sighed.

“It’s true what I said; I didn’t want you to be affected. You have an impeccable reputation and you have a bright future that doesn’t need to be tainted by that. Me on the contrary? I don’t have the best of the records. I want your life to be normal again at some point, so I’m more than willing to take the blame if you got to do something incorrect, because I know you didn’t do it and you will not do it out of self-awareness. You are a very pure person, don’t waste your life when I can do it for you.” Fareeha shrugged, trying to leave the topic at that, but she earned a scolding sigh from Angela.

“You might see me as an angel outside, but you don’t know what kind of demon I’m hiding under my flesh.” There was a different kind of smile plastered on her face, something that made Fareeha shiver.

“What does that mean?”

“How are you feeling?” Fareeha flinched, Angela changed the topic far too quick to find out more about that statement. “In relation to your wounds, I mean. I know they have doctors in Helix, but I’m still wondering.” Fareeha knew better than not to pry and shrugged, taking a bite of her burger.

“I’ve been worse. But I’m feeling good overall. Just a few more scars to add to the collection. Lena says that they make me look more “badass”, her words. And why not, she doesn’t have to endure pain like me, all she does is play with her planes and jets back at the company…” She rolled her eyes, taking a sip of her cold beverage. Lena indeed is a great friend, but the girl liked to risk a lot without even knowing what she was getting into. Piloting a plane was a walk in the park compared to what Fareeha or Jesse did.

“She sounds like a handful.”

“But she’s an amazing friend. That overrides it all.” And of course, she was always there for her, even in the worst case scenarios. Lena was the most reliable of her friends, and her hyperactive persona made her the first in the line to volunteer to do any activity. “Once when we were in a nightclub a guy wanted to fight with me because he thought I stole his beer. Obviously I didn’t, but I never turn my back on a fight when they provoke me while tipsy. Lena was the first to jump and defend me, even though she’s very small and thin, she never doubted she could protect me. God, I love that girl and her spirit.”

For a moment, Angela bit her bottom lip, the way she did it was always appealing. “…Can we humor that word?”

“Which one?”

“Love.” Fareeha recoiled, but she straightened in her seat.

“Uhm… Sure. What about it?” Thing became suspicious when Angela played with the straw of her drink while she looked out the window, a slight blush on her cheeks.

“Do you remember you told me something a month ago when you were in the hospital with me? Before you slept after I put a sedative on you…” Fareeha really didn’t remember anything after she lied down in bed, the medicine was doing its job and her mouth was moving but her mind was not registering anything. She frowned, trying to remember something, but nothing came into her mind whatsoever.

“I’m sorry, I don’t remember anything… Did I said something mean to you? If that’s the case, I apologize-”

“No, not at all, don’t worry. On the contrary, you were very open to me, you made me laugh a lot that afternoon, let me tell you.” She giggled a little, taking her lower lip between her teeth once again. That was a small gesture that made her desire her so much, it was arousing, even.

“So… I think I was drunk on drugs, to say the least. My friends say that I make them laugh a lot when I am. Still, what does the word ‘love’ have to do with that?” Fareeha took another sip of her iced tea, looking at Angela. There was something in her eyes, and the doctor smiled a different smile. Fareeha opened her eyes wide, her mind processing and linking both situations. It wasn’t possible, she couldn’t have told Angela that she loved her... Or did she? “D-did I…?”

“You did.” She didn’t look upset, her expression didn’t even change. Was she waiting for an answer instead?

“I-I eh… Angela I-” How was it possible? Her tongue and mouth were stuck and numb, barely able to make a sound, and she stuttered quite a lot, trying to say something, anything.

“It’s been ages since I’ve been to a nightclub.” She interrupted her. “You know, dance all night, have all kind of drinks, flirt with someone, take pictures in the bathroom showing off your pretty dress. All those things…”

One of the many things that Angela was good at was to know how to change the subject abruptly without even flinching. Fareeha on one hand was grateful, but on the other she really wanted to say that to Angela. Because it was the truth. She loved her. She loved her so much that getting away from her was a nightmare, her body caught on fire from the lack of contact, and all she wanted was to snuggle with her all night long to stay warm, their bodies intertwined like one of the few nights they spent together, and she wanted her eyes on hers every time. She was lost, Fareeha admitted to herself, but her happiness didn’t compare to Angela's, and she knew that if she said those words her life would be over: her career, her personal life, her relationship with the doctor, and consequently everything related to her. And for perhaps more than a month, she preferred to bury those feelings and never unearth them, but somehow they ended up on the surface, unburied by Angela with her bare hands.

“Three years, can you believe it?” Angela blurted, now looking at her almost finished meal. “Three years since I haven’t attended such a place. No wonder they call me uptight sometimes.” She giggled, but even Fareeha could see she was sad and tried to mask such feeling. An opening. Another chance to make her happy, even for a few hours.

“Come with me then.”

“Pardon?”

“A nightclub. Tonight. What do you say?” Even if it was a small gesture, that seemed to illuminate the doctor's eyes.

“Are you absolutely positive? I mean, it’s Friday and the place must be crowded and perhaps dangerous enough for me.”

“I think you will gather enough attention because you’ll be the most beautiful girl in the whole place, but I will not let anyone touch you or even see you.”

“Aren’t you charming, miss Amari?!” She howled, an adorable sheepish blush all over her face. Fareeha grinned that distinctive smile of hers when she got the expected reaction.

“Don’t worry, I know the place very well and the owners. And I’m not leaving your side, I’ll protect you no matter what. So, do you want to?” Angela’s wide smile and sparkly eyes said it all.


Fareeha doesn’t remember the last time she wore an outfit so revealing and not so masculine. She stood in front of the full-length mirror next to the wardrobe, looking up and down as she tilted her head. Definitely the pumps weren’t for her, so ankle boots with a decent heel would be. Her attire consisted mainly of high waist leather pants and a tight crop-top that showed part of her notorious abs, not enough to attract too much attention but enough to show her bronze skin and fit body. A pair of golden accessories complemented the black attire, and she looked at herself one more time at the mirror. Satisfied with her grunge makeup and slightly disheveled loose hair, she smiled sideways and grabbed her biker jacket.

Jesse was in the living room drinking coffee, his feet propped on the coffee table as he watched an action movie in the flat screen above a fake fireplace. It was dark outside, but the man wasn’t affected by the caffeine for some reason. He had a date with Hanzo like every Saturday and he was waiting for him, so when Fareeha took her keys and her helmet, the boy dismissed her fervently, wishing her luck in her "mysterious outing". Fareeha wasn’t so stupid as to tell him she would go out to a nightclub with Angela, but she just needed to go out and get distracted somewhere other than the bar. The good thing is that Jesse was naive and believed her.

Fareeha drove dexterously among the cars through the streets of the city, the wind wasn’t as cold as before that night and her jacket did the work to keep her warm. Within minutes she was parked in front of the doctor's residence, that huge three-story mansion that she was always envious of. As time passed, Fareeha was grateful to live in a small apartment with Jesse. Angela ran almost through the door, adjusting her coat and squeezing her small handbag tightly. He smiled foolishly walking down the stairs while trying not to stumble, Genji was away from home all week luckily. Fareeha was going to park the motorcycle to take the car, but Angela stopped her in her tracks.

“Can we go on your bike?” Fareeha raised an eyebrow.

“You hate it.”

“I know.” She smiled nonetheless.

Fareeha clicked her tongue but decided to follow the game. She handed the blonde her helmet and helped her sit on the back seat of the bike, Fareeha sitting in front of her and starting the engine one more time. She looked back at her, and once Angela had her helmet on and her arms were wrapped around her waist, Fareeha drove back into the street. The lights of the city looked different that night, something inside her indicating that it would be a positive experience. Angela tightened the grip on her waist and yelped when Fareeha made an unusual maneuver to reach her destination, but that was only for her own amusement.

The west part of the city was totally different. Bright lights everywhere, neon signs lit until dawn and music from different genres played in every corner. Casinos, nightclubs, hotels and restaurants swarmed the area. It wasn’t Fareeha's favorite place, but when she wanted to try something different than usual, that was definitely the place. Angela seemed to recognize many places, as she occasionally pointed to some points of interest and shouted through the helmet some anecdote she had on the place.

They arrived to a building a little away from the place and it looked quite simple on the outside, only a small neon sign indicated that it was indeed a nightclub. The waiting line to go inside was long, something unusual for a place of such appearance, but Fareeha approached selflessly to the bouncer, who greeted her fervently with a clasp of their hands and a shake, giving them access to the building. Angela looked at her somewhat suspicious, but Fareeha shook her shoulders and motioned her to follow her inside.

“I told you I know the owners!” Fareeha shouted, the electronic music inside too loud to have a regular conversation.

“You know more people than you seem to know!”

“Well, yeah! I worked here!”

Fareeha led her to the bar, ordering a drink for each one and inviting her to sit with her. It started with a glass of wine, then a beer, and three shots of tequila. Angela was laughing like a maniac with every anecdote and funny story of her life. The doctor’s face was slightly red by the amount of alcohol she drank, but Fareeha was just a little tipsy and she didn’t want to indulge in the drinks. That laugh was special, addictive, and she needed more of that smile and how those lips tasted with a drop of wine in them. Perhaps like a chocolate fountain complimenting the sweet flavor of her honey lips.

A new song began, sounding loudly on the roof speakers of the dance floor, and Angela got up quickly, motioning Fareeha to accompany her. The girl smiled, and took off her jacket, leaving her for a moment in the chair to join Angela. After several drinks the temperature began to rise in her body. And it seemed that in Angela too, for he saw her up and down and bit her lip, immediately smiling. That smile that would kill of a heart attack to have only a minute, but that Fareeha knew she could have for longer.

Angela imitated her, taking off her trench coat slowly with her back to Fareeha. She did not know why initially, but when the garment was in her hands, she knew that the doctor put more effort than usual in her appearance. And Fareeha's eyes widened. Angela was wearing a rose gold short dress that sparkled like a thousand stars under the stroboscopic lights of the nightclub. It had a moderated cleavage, the thin straps displaying her shoulders, neck and collarbone almost completely, and being backless only highlighted her rear so deliciously. Angela laughed when Fareeha froze for a moment, and took her hand, dragging her to the dance floor.

“Fuck, you look so sexy…” Fareeha muttered enough for Angela to hear her.

“It worked then.”

They were together the whole time, almost glued to each other while the music played loudly around them. Angela was getting dangerously close to her, her bottom gently nudging Fareeha's abdomen, who occasionally hugged her from the waist down her back, bringing her closer to the rhythm of the music. Angela didn’t stop laughing, jumping, dancing and drinking as soon as a waiter approached, she definitely had a lot of time that she didn’t have fun in such a way. She was a star among the crowd, the most delicious dessert in sight of which Fareeha had to watch jealously. Even when one or two other men approached she had to embrace her possessively, giving them a warning glare that sent them off immediately.

The clock kept moving on at a maddening pace, the hours passed quickly and the drinks kept coming with no end, but Fareeha knew that she had to stop before things got out of control. Angela was completely wasted, Fareeha even had to adjust the skirt of her dress several times to avoid a tragedy. At one o'clock in the morning they left the club drunk and tired, and Angela was too hungry, so they came to an ice cream stand, Fareeha didn’t know how she could eat ice cream in the cold weather of the early morning, but that made her happy nonetheless. Even when they were driving nowhere.

Fareeha had to lend her her jacket, the doctor left her coat forgotten somewhere in the nightclub –the bathroom most likely- and she would never leave her lady unprotected. The colorful lights continued to shine through the city with a peculiar glow, and Angela took off her helmet, placing it in front of her and extending her arms out to the sides, feeling the air hit her warm face as her golden hair fluttered in the air, smiling and laughing foolishly. That moment felt like freedom, and nothing mattered after that. Except for the moment when Angela nibbled on her neck and licked her jawline. Fareeha didn’t need any more words or actions to know what to do.


The apartment door opened abruptly, closing in the same way behind two bodies in the darkness of the room. The sound of fumbling items, gasps and kisses filled the apartment, an occasional thud of something hitting to the floor. A shoe fell, then her jacket and the helmet of her bike. Fareeha had Angela practically hanging from her waist, the blonde encircling her with her legs while she kept kissing her and fumbling with her clothes in an attempt to undress her. And Fareeha did helped her, taking her bralette top and tossing it to the floor, revealing her well-formed breasts that Angela was so willing to take in her hands.

Fareeha tried to maneuver the doctor over her to get to her bedroom, the blonde eagerly massaging her breasts while nibbling at her neck. The Egyptian managed to reach the door of her bedroom, but not before eyeing a bottle of rum on the kitchen countertop and retrieving it to continue what she couldn’t back at the club. Once the door closed, she left Angela on the bed, and Fareeha was fast to unbutton her pants and toss her boots somewhere in the corner of the bedroom. She crawled back to bed, predatorily positioning herself above the doctor and kissing her with a hunger she never felt before.

The dress was discarded eventually, only a thin lace thong remained, the underwear barely covering her most private parts. Angela bit her lip again when Fareeha’s eyes roamed her body, kissing the sensitive skin here and there, glad that this time her creamy body had no sign of violence, not a single bruise, nothing. She kept smiling, muffling a playful giggle every time, even when a moan escaped her lips. Angela was absolutely wasted, but even when the alcohol fogged her senses, she was conscious enough to respond any question.

Fareeha took the bottle of rum from the floor, taking a sip of it and pouring some on Angela’s stomach and up between her breasts, licking the liquor and savoring each drop on hot skin underneath. She licked her breasts, her stomach, sucked on her bellybutton to gather the rum pooled there, and went further down her navel, teasing the thin fabric and the prize underneath. She kissed her drenched lips –both from the alcohol and her arousal- over the underwear, eventually moving the thong to the side and lapping at her dripping folds. Fareeha felt hands tugging at her hair, a loud moan filling in to the bedroom’s silence. Her hips moved at a decadent pace, seeking more contact than that and the sweet release.

But it was far from what Fareeha wanted. She took off her pants and underwear, getting naked and proceeding to do the same with Angela, her eyes clouded in a mixture of lust and confusion, but at the same time needing to fill the desire that exploded in her body. Fareeha did not take long to tease her cunt, feeling how Angela’s body twitched when her thumb flicked on her clit. The doctor’s hands pulled her head closer to hers, and placed sloppy kisses on her mouth and jaw. She took the bottle of alcohol as well and took a sip between Fareeha’s caresses in her sex, downing the rest of the alcohol and throwing the empty bottle to the floor. Fareeha had to smirk at that, and continued kissing her, tasting the sweet flavor of the rum on her mouth.

“Fareeha.” Angela moaned her name, her hands grabbing her head when she felt two fingers inside her and hot lips on her neck. “I love you too…” Fareeha stopped, even her fingers retracting, the little consciousness she had returning violently, her brain processing the words that came out of Angela's mouth. “I know you can’t say it, you don’t want to... And you don’t have to say it again but… Show me, make me believe you feel the same. Kiss me, touch me, make me yours, and show me you do love me…”

It took Fareeha some time to process what Angela said. Then that weird dream she had was real. She really told Angela that she loved her, and maybe something more that she claimed with her words. It was amazing how the blonde understood her perfectly, how she knew that she was conflicted, but still wanted to give everything to her; her body, mind and soul. She looked into her eyes, blue eyes soaking wet staring back, her gaze clouded by desire didn’t help to confirm that her words were indeed real, but again that smile that could illuminate the darkest room cleared up all doubt. What could Fareeha do more than please that magnificent woman’s wishes? Just that.

Right there she stopped being her protégé; she became her lady, her queen, her goddess, her world. And for the first time, she wasn’t having sex with someone, she was making love to her. No lust, just the need of feeling closer to her.

Fareeha had to claim those lips, nodding between the kiss and taking her face in her hands. It seemed that somehow the alcohol evaporated from their bodies, and only pure feelings remained in their place. Fareeha crawled on top of her again, this time taking one of her legs as she settled between them, her legs intertwined and her womanhood interconnected. She leaned forward one more time, kissing her, and she started moving her hips to a rhythmical pace.

Angela’s moans and gasps filled the room one more time, this time louder, faster, chanting affirmations and encouragements every time she felt her sex easily rubbing against Fareeha’s one. A thin layer of sweat formed on Fareeha’s body, somehow growing tired but attributed to the amount of alcohol she consumed. Her muscles tensed with each movement, aching considerably but the desire was stronger. Angela seemed to sense her fatigue, and she flipped their bodies, this time it was her on top. Fareeha was never so grateful to her, she didn’t want to stop, she wanted to continue all night until the sun came up, but she couldn’t do it alone.

Her always tempting hips moved more aggressively, Angela's hands resting on her own breasts, taking her nipples between her fingers and pinching them as the moans kept coming out. It was amazing what the sight and touch were causing in Fareeha, as she was quickly reaching the edge, caring less when she heard a door closing far away. Fareeha took the hips of the blonde with both hands and helped her rock on top of her, intensifying the sensations and making her moan even more. Screams, broken breaths, the bed creaking violently and the headrest banging against the wall was all she could hear during the last minutes as Angela bounced and swayed her body on top of her, her breasts moving at the rhythm of her dancing, sending sparks all over her body as her orgasm approached.

Angela was the first to come, releasing a high-pitched scream and more of her sweet nectar between them, making their contact sleeker as she screamed a guttural cry afterwards. Fareeha never heard her like that, her body was twitching strongly on top of her. She was crying, she was flushed with her hair sticking to her perspiring face, her mouth agape and even her tongue slipped slightly, leaving a small trail of saliva in the corner of her mouth. And her lust-blown eyes… Fareeha reached her own orgasm after seeing her, a release equally strong that let her screaming obscenities to the air while she tried to sit and hug Angela back by digging her nails in her ample ass. Fareeha was never loud, but this time override all self-control she could have. She stayed there, embracing the blonde and easing her from her high, even when Fareeha was the last one to reach her climax.

“I’m not done with you.” That’s all Angela managed to say before she placed a hand on her firm chest and threw her back to the bed once more. Fareeha grinned, even when she was tired, she needed that, she need Angela to drain her from every drop of energy that remained in her body.

“Good girl.”


The headache alone was the beginning. Her body ached as if she had trained for hours with no rest or breaks, her throat was drier than ever, her hair was a matted mess, and her eyes burned as if they poured acid in her eye sockets, she was sure that she would wake up with dark circles under her eyes. The half-open blinds let in the sunlight of dawn, which although it was faint, was still annoying. Even the light of the clock in her bedside table was bothersome, so she kept her eyes narrow at all times. But there was something worth making such a hangover, and that was the naked blonde sleeping peacefully on top of her.

The soft snoring was even adorable, a sign that she was resting and not suffering anywhere in the world. Now more than ever Fareeha wanted to protect her with her life. Her blonde hair was just as disheveled as hers, but even the touch was soft and silky, just like her. Fareeha stared at her for a long time, enjoying watching her breathe snuggled into her chest and surrounded by her arm, her legs intertwined with hers, making them a tangled bundle under the covers. Angela snuggled closer and took a deep breath through her nose, making Fareeha smile and move a blonde lock from her face.

“I’m sorry I can’t say those words to you, not until we’re free… But I want you to know that I want the best for you so badly, I would do anything to make you happy, even if it’s at my expense…” She whispered, never being so honest in her life.

“Me too…” Was all the blonde could mutter in her dreams.

Fareeha smiled to herself, but there was something that was pressuring her to get out of bed, her bladder mostly. With extremely care, she pushed the doctor away from her body, leaving her asleep on her bed so she could go to the bathroom, but not before taking a shirt and a pair of shorts from one of her drawers. As soon as she opened the door of her bedroom, the smell of coffee filled her nostrils. She didn’t take any notice to that and kept walking to the bathroom, until before she opened the door a clearing throat caught her attention.

“Ahem… That’s a nice trail of clothes you left in the hall.” It was Jesse, a hint of mockery in his voice. Fareeha took a deep breath, furrowing her brow and she turned to look at him, her eyes were still narrowed, the light was too bothersome for her irritated eyes.

“I’ll pick them up later-” She stopped once her eyes focused on the living room. Hanzo was there as well. It took her a minute to process that he was indeed here, and Angela as well. Hanzo didn’t know anything about the doctor and her, and Angela was ignorant of the fact that Jesse was Hanzo’s boyfriend. ‘Oh, shit.’

“Oh no, I want to hear everything. Heck, I didn’t think you'd pick up a girl at the club last night! I owe my man a hundred now.” Fareeha had told Jesse a couple of months ago that his "suspicions" were indeed true, and that while she wasn’t entirely playing for only one team, she considered herself a bisexual amongst all things.

“I didn’t brought a girl…” Fareeha tried to deny it, although it was more than obvious.

“Yeah, right. And you wear size five Louboutin heels.” He said as he lifted the shoe in question, dangling it on his index finger while he smiled mischievously. “And control yourself, Reeha! You were killing the poor girl! You deserve a medal for that-”

“Jesse, stop.” Hanzo blurted this time when he saw Fareeha’s blush, taking a sip of his coffee. “But he’s right, you two were loud enough to hear you from the hallway... Or the common room. We had to play a movie loudly to sleep without problems.”

“I’m sorry to both of you. As soon as she wakes up, I'll take her home-”

“Oh, nonsense! She has to stay for breakfast.” Jesse’s grin was wide, even Hanzo was hiding his amusement to no avail behind the coffee cup.

“No, thank you. She won’t stay.”

“What? Why the secret? It's just a girl you flirted with, right? There’s nothing wrong with a one-night affair. At least have the decency to feed her after you almost killed her last night.”

Fareeha pleadingly saw Hanzo in the eyes, waiting for him to stop Jesse once more, but he just shrugged. Support was what she needed the most after her legs could give her almost nothing. She was going to refute anything that Jesse said, but they heard the door of Fareeha’s room open abruptly, the sound of quick footsteps thumping on the wooden floor getting closer down the hallway until a blonde passed by in a blur and locked herself in the bathroom, the sound of retching the only thing that was heard when she released all the alcohol that she consumed excessively last night.

“Fareeha.” Hanzo stood up, a reprimanding glare on his eyes and the coffee forgotten on the coffee table. “Tell me it’s not her…”

Fareeha didn’t know what to say or do, but it was more than obvious that Hanzo knew the truth now or at least he had a picture of what happened, and she couldn’t do anything to mask the truth. She could only face the situation along with Angela, her angel, the most perfect woman she had the pleasure to meet, to kiss, to love. And she wasn’t embarrassed anymore. But the same thought crossed her mind: it was wrong.

“I’m sorry…”

Chapter Text

 

Chapter XVII

When I gave him the envelope

 

“I’m sorry I can’t say those words to you, not until we’re free…”

Angela was awake, even when her body didn’t respond and her mind floated, she was slightly aware of her surroundings. The coziness under the blanket and the body of her lover provided a source of heat and comfort so hooking that she didn’t want to move, she wanted to increase that feeling of affection, peace and tranquility in her rather chaotic world. But when she heard words falling from Fareeha's lips, she didn’t think those feelings could increase even more. And one more time, while feeling a hand running through her hair and Fareeha's hot breath on the top of her head, the sensations made her squirm. Angela didn’t need to hear the word love from her, she wanted to feel it, to embrace it like she thought she could never do again.

“But I want you to know that I want the best for you so badly, I would do anything to make you happy, even if it’s at my expense…”

And how bad she wanted to take those lips on her own, to feel the tinge of her breath on her neck, but her body barely responded to any instruction her brain tried to command, she could only mutter a simple ‘me too’ with barely any strength, enough to show her she felt the same than her. Because she did, and she did more than that. No words were enough for her, no gesture, no touch, not anything. She could only trust, trust on the woman who saved her countless times from the external evil, and even from herself.

She felt Fareeha's warm body move away from her, the lack of that specific source of heat creating a disturbing emptiness at once, but it was partially replaced by the pillow that smelled so much like her, embracing it and still feeling the fatigue on top of her. It didn’t compare, but the scent of her was penetrated in that fluffy cushion. She could smell everything about her: the smell of her perfume, of alcohol and tobacco, even a hint of gunpowder. That made her smile, both in her dreams and in real life, snuggling deeper into the pillow. Eventually she heard voices, presumably those of Fareeha and her roommate, the voice could be heard distorted as if they were two voices, but both were familiar. She didn’t care and tried to sleep again.

However, the dream quickly vanished when the pangs in her head intensified, her stomach turning upside down and her mouth began to salivate uncomfortably, she even felt her vision blur for a moment. Angela got up with great heaviness, taking the shirt of Fareeha's uniform that was forgotten on a chair and dressed quickly with her, likewise looking for any other piece of underwear that could work. She walked awkwardly to the dresser, opening the drawers until she found a pair of black boxers that, even though Fareeha was bigger than her in height, her underwear barely managed to cover a little more than necessary, her cheeks peeking out on both sides.

Okay, pants. Pants... Fuck.’

Her stomach couldn’t take it any longer, and she felt her innards rapidly rise from her stomach to her throat and mouth. Angela didn’t have time to think about what to wear on and make a mess in the room of her host, so she ran to the bathroom, darting quickly down the hall without flinching to see who was in the common room. Getting to the toilet was paramount. She let go all the alcohol that she irresponsibly consumed, lamenting to do such stupidity and vowing not to do it again, although it was a vain promise. It was the best night she had had in years, perhaps the best she had at all, because Angela couldn’t remember another day when she felt so liberated, so free of problems, so her. Not a doctor, not a wife, not a friend, just Angela.

After retching a little more and her stomach settled, there was a knock on the door before it opened and closed behind her. Fareeha came in worried, her face extremely tired, but not as much as hers. There was a hint of something else, but she couldn’t make it. Her bodyguard knelt next to her, pulling her hair and holding it in a ponytail with her hand, tucking a stray lock behind her ear.

“Hey.” Fareeha said uselessly, as if she didn’t try to startle her and do it at the same time. What was the point of doing so? “How are you feeling?” And Angela wasn’t having it, not when she was feeling so helpless and had an extreme hangover.

“Like shit…” Fareeha’s eyes widened a little as she tried to mask her amusement. She never heard Angela curse, and she didn’t expected such a lady to do so. “Oh, fuck off. Like you never heard a woman curse.”

“Not the ‘all mighty and perfect’ Dr. Angela Ziegler.” She laughed, covering her mouth and she closed the distance between the blonde and her.

“This is the least romantic place to hug me. What do you want?”

“Wow, aren’t we grumpy in the morning?”

There was only a muffled growl in response, making Fareeha to roll her eyes at such childish attitude despise feeling slightly the same. She helped the blonde stand up, leading her to the sink and handing her a mouthwash and a glass of tap water which Angela took them gladly, using them to clean both her mouth and throat. The disgusting taste of vomit not so appealing at all. She looked herself in the mirror: her hair was a total mess, there were faint bruises and bite marks all over her neck, her eyes were red and her mascara and eyeliner were runny. ‘Great’.

“Come on, I have to take you home.”

“Can you at least let me sleep a little longer?”

“No, can’t do. Do you want me to dress you as well? I mean, it's very helpful if you're already half naked-”

“I can do it myself… And I hate you.”

“Debatable.”

Angela took a deep breath, hands clutching to the sink edges and eyes shut to regain the only composure she was lacking of. Everything was spinning, the light was very bright, the sounds very annoying, even the air felt cold and hot at the same time and for some obvious reason her crotch felt on fire. It was horrible, taking a look at her wristwatch she could confirm that she slept for perhaps three hours at most, just for the fact that she forgot what time they finished their intense love-making last night. The doctor was sure Fareeha felt the same, but still the bodyguard did her best to assist and care for her in everything she needed.

“I need water and an aspirin… And a cigarette.”

“You will have them as soon as you’re ready… And I still think you're a hypocrite for wanting a cigarette.”

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever... Is there anyone else here? Perhaps your roommate?”

“Jesse is here… And his boyfriend. By the way, Jesse wants you to stay for breakfast. He says is the least I can do after I eh…” her eyes finally opened and she saw Fareeha in hers, a touch of horror and shame going through aquamarine jewels.

“He knows I’m here?”

“He doesn’t know it’s you, but they heard everything last night and-”

“Oh my God. Was I too loud…?”

We were too loud, I think… I honestly don’t remember if we yelled or something, I was so drunk and so into- sorry…” Fareeha corrected chuckling at the same time as she ran her hand through her raven disheveled locks.

“I get you, but still. How embarrassing this must be…”

“What is done is done, so come on. It’s your choice, you don’t have to stay, but we have to be quick.”

“Okay… I prefer that, honestly. I don’t want to get you in trouble anyway.”

“Believe me, I already am.”

Angela nodded, turning her body to hug her firm and aesthetic body through the shirt, hiding her face in her chest and her fists clinging to the fabric. It was a silent request which implored to not leave her alone, not now and never. Fareeha understood, and put an arm around her shoulders, bringing her closer if it was possible. Angela took a last peek at them at the mirror, watching for the first time how she looked next to Fareeha, how good the fitted together, and the immense tranquility in Fareeha’s face. Even through their tired faces and the overpowering smell of alcohol, she could see peace in both of them. As if they were made for each other.

She tried to wipe some of the makeup stains on her face and neck with the back of her hand, and satisfied, Fareeha encouraged her to follow her out the door. It was all the motivation Angela needed, but when she opened the door her body froze. It took her time for her eyes to adjust to the disturbing sunlight seeping through the window blinds, until she focused on a pair of silhouettes. Two familiar bodies and faces. The consequences of her actions passed in a flash of assumptions. She knew them, and one of them well enough. The recollection of events filling her mind and taunting her soul. What if she didn’t see Fareeha again?

Jesse, the man who escorted her a couple times before. And Hanzo Shimada, her best friend, her husband’s older brother. The pieces of the puzzle fit together, Angela understanding why her friend was so secretive of his relationship. Fareeha simply guided Angela to the couch, sitting next to her and turning her head back to Angela to give her a crooked smile. She felt the grip on Fareeha’s shirt tighten, her eyelids half-open and her hair covering half her face as the other half was hiding in Fareeha’s shoulder, just like a shy little girl clinging to her mother. What could really happen?

“No fucking shit… Fareeha, what did you do?!”

“Not the time, Jesse.”

“So when’s the time?!” He was angry, fuming, and he had all the right to do so. “You broke all the rules with your protégé, what the hell are you thinking?!”

“Will you fucking stop?! It hurts when you yell!”

“Well, it hope it hurts more than what I can imagine you deserve! How long has this been going on?!”

“Stop scolding me, okay?! I'm not fifteen!”

“Well, you surely are behaving like one!”

Angela felt her knuckles turn white, her eyes quickly filling with tears and wetting her beloved's shirt as she heard the two roommates arguing. What had caused her naivete? Of course it would affect more than her own personal life, this girl's was also at stake and she was ruining it. She wanted to run, get away from all the problems and avoid Fareeha more trouble than she had already gotten. Fareeha ended up kneeling in front of her when she heard a shuddered breath and cupped her cheek with a strong hand, wiping the tears with her thumb as she looked at her with paramount affection.

“Don’t even think that you are causing problems here. And if you are, you're more than worth every one of them.” Angela tried to smile; even then Fareeha was kind, attentive, loving towards her. It was all she was looking for. “Let’s go.”

“You two are going nowhere.” Hanzo finally spoke, his arms crossed and a frown on his face.

“…Hanzo.”

“Hello, Angela.” But suddenly Angela realized that the presence of her friend wasn’t unusual in the apartment, with Fareeha complaining some days ago that her roommate and his boyfriend wouldn’t let her sleep or that they would invite her to breakfast before going to pick her up. And that name was never mentioned to her despite having spent so much time with her.

“You knew all this time…” Angela looked back at Fareeha, the girl with an apologetic smile.

“I did, I’m sorry. But if he didn’t told you before, I don’t have the right to do so and meddle in their private life.”

“And I appreciate it as always. Now, stay.” Hanzo motioned to the couch in front of him, he was calmer than Jesse regardless the whole situation. Fareeha sat next to Angela once again, so close their thighs were touching. Jesse was still fuming next to the kitchen, somehow managing his anger by making breakfast for the four of them. “Have breakfast with us, I know Jesse will stop his rant and listen to whatever you two have to say. Right?”

“Right…” He mumbled as he kept scrambling the eggs on the hot pan.

“We are all adults here, let’s talk like such. How long has this been going on?” Angela was almost shocked, frozen in place and still clinging to Fareeha's body.

“Personally, I think that what Angela and I have done should not concern you, especially since we're not in working hours.”

“Excuse me but you are.”

“And it's not my place to tell you anything.”

“Since when has this been a frequent fling?”

“Fling? Do you think this is-”

“Enough!” Angela yelled, interrupting and glaring at both of them.

“Angela? Do you have something to say?” Hanzo inquired, waiting for something sensible from the doctor.

“What’s there about to talk? Isn't it obvious?” Angela frowned, defying her friend when he looked at her with a death glare. “We went out, we got drunk, we had –apparently- loud sex. I’m honestly too hangover to deal with this and I want to sleep.”

“Okay, stop that. You have the worst of moods when you're freshly awake.”

“Then speak quickly and get over with this.” Angela’s death glare never left her face, even Fareeha flinched when she saw the doctor’s threatening eyes. However, when it should cause Fareeha a hint of fear, it was only amusing.

“I’m disappointed in both of you. You have a work relationship with her; she’s a bodyguard, not an escort, and you are married-”

“To a mafia monster that enjoys beating me sometimes while he goes out to get drunk and fucks God knows how many sluts.” Angela interrupted. “It's a miracle I don't have a fucking STD.”

“...You are married to the only heir of the Shimada family in a legal agreement nonetheless.” He sighed, shaking his head as Jesse sat down next to him, crossing his arms and glaring at Fareeha. “You know better than to not tempt their limits of forgiveness.”

There was a silence interrupted by the sizzling pan on the kitchen and the coffee maker brewing the last grinds. Angela really needed any of the three things she asked Fareeha, and the girl feeling her irritability reached a table, taking a pack of cigarettes and offering one to the doctor, who took it quietly and rested it in her mouth, Fareeha lighting it carefully and standing up to give her the glass of water and aspirin she asked for. Hanzo frowned, he could tolerate that his boyfriend smoked, but not his best friend, who after all was a world-renowned doctor and had to maintain an impeccable image of herself. Prim, poise, proper, regal, perfect.

“You and I are not dissimilar, Angela. It’s sad that my family is causing both of us such agony-”

“That’s where you are wrong.” Angela interrupted quickly once again, taking a drag of her cigarette and watching the cloud of smoke dissipates next to her. “Part of the same family, different branches. I belong only by title, a marriage I have to withstand in order to survive. But you? You are blood, you are lineage, even if they dislike what you are. They spared your life because you are Sojiro's son, you are irreplaceable despite being useless to their plans. Me, however? I’m as disposable as a tissue.” Fareeha sat down once again, handing her the glass of water and the pill she asked for. That simple gesture put a slight smile on Angela. “And sometimes I think is for the best.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know what’s worst: if living with your brother, or be threatened with death for a lifetime. Although both are similar. Hanzo, I accepted my death such a long time ago, exactly the time when I married your brother, but Fareeha is the only one who rescued me from limbo and brought me back with a purpose, proving me there's a reason to stay. You’re in debt with your family, Amelie’s sticking with Gerard and his business, but only this girl remains loyal to my side.”

“No offense, Angela, but she’s only doing the job my brother paid for-” Angela stood up with a huff, her body tilting forward and her head raised with deadly eyes, her voice filled with anger and something nobody has seen before, not even Fareeha.

“Don’t. You. Dare. She has shown me that her contract is barely a promise because she has done things beyond what that piece of paper asks for. She took a bullet for me, she fought for me, she took me out of that living death trap of a theater by risking her life countless times. She motivated me, she encouraged me, she rescued me from myself.” Her voice was cracking, and even then she never stopped looking at them with her menacing eyes. “I gave her nothing in return and she still wants to stay by my side. She has been the only one who had enough balls to stop Genji in order not to hurt me. So never dare to insult her again. You can call me many things but don’t you dare to even put a finger on her.” Hanzo sighed and shook his face, only infuriating Angela even more.

“No wonder you were so eager to free her when the incident of the gala happened.”

“Olivia told me that she threatened the police back at Helix in order to get what she wanted.” Jesse commented when everything clicked in his head. But Angela was fuming, she had more than enough of both of them judging her for something she did from the bottom of her heart, for defending the only person who has given everything to protect her and ensure her future and happiness. She was more than sure, and Angela was willing to protect her as well.

“How could you do that, Angela?! You have never even thought of doing so!”

“And I will do it all over again and threaten whoever dares to be on my way until I can return the favor for everything she has done for me!” Angela walked predatorily, surrounding the couch to position herself behind Fareeha, her bodyguards gaze still fixed to the front, unable to move or say a word. Angela leaned forward, her arm propped on the back of the couch as she pressed her cheek to that of Fareeha, gripping her chin with her hand. “She’s mine, and don’t you dare to question that.” Fareeha didn’t dare to move, she simple let the doctor take what was hers. Because truly Fareeha belonged to her so many months ago, both body and heart. She met this Angela before, and she knew better than to test her patience. “So I ask you, both of you. Are you going to be on my way?”

Hanzo’s face was that of hurt and betrayal. “Despise having so much power in your hands, you never used it to inflict fear on anyone…Who are you?”

“Someone who’s extremely hangover and is standing this whole nonsense, who just recently woke up after sleeping perhaps for only three hours and who’s tired of taking so much shit to please everyone but me for once. And I am done.” She stood straight back once again, looking at the Egyptian. “Fareeha, let's go.”

“Sure.”

“And I want another of this.” She motioned the almost finished cigarette in her hand.

Fareeha also stood up, walking to her bedroom to find some clothes on what Angela could change to take her home. The doctor didn’t even flinch from saying goodbye to her friend, she simply took her belongings and left the apartment disinterestedly followed closely by Fareeha. Angela could only see her bodyguard as she gave her roommate a cold glare from the corner of her eye before closing the door. A look that silently affirmed that everything Angela said was indeed true and Fareeha was more than willing to support her no matter what. And that was a warning that made Angela's heart leap.


Even though the cold in the morning was intolerable when being seated on the motorcycle at a rather fast driving speed, the icy wind was well received by Angela who felt that it was numbing her headache and keeping her awake at the same time. After the aspirin and an ibuprofen pill that she took out of her purse, her body responded with improvement to the general discomforts of the hangover. The recollection of events however seemed the only thing that made her feel bad now, counteracted only by the sweetness of Fareeha's caresses.

A bittersweet thought ran through her mind, piercing her heart and tearing her soul briefly. If Fareeha had only done her job like Hanzo said, Angela would already be dead, not by those who tried to kill her, but by herself. She was more than done with her life before, living to suffer didn’t look appealing, and without having a reason that anchored Angela to the ground was simply to lengthen her miserable existence. Many called her an angel, and sometimes she just wanted to be that. But even heaven’s not enough.

The motorcycle stopped in front of her house, only the sound of nature and the slow traffic of the suburbs filled her ears. Fareeha remained still and silent, Angela as well, both sharing the fear of separation and the disturbing discomfort of the interior of the residence, even when they were both outside. Angela took off her helmet, her hair fluttering freely as the wind ran through her locks. Fareeha was the first to speak after remaining static for several minutes trying to enjoy the little peace and quiet from the outside.

“How are you feeling?”

“Awful.”

“I've never seen you so angry.”

“I’m a bad friend…” Angela thought that for the whole ride, she never yelled like that, less to a friend, even less to Hanzo.

“No, not at all. Actually I’m proud of you for standing up for yourself. You’re stronger than you think, Angela, and I don’t mean physically. Your mind holds too much power for it to be trapped in a box of doubt and self-disrespect. I think you needed that sooner rather than-”

“Rather than never.”

“Stop thinking that for the last time, Angela Ziegler.”

“Oh! Using my full name now with no title whatsoever, aren’t we bold?”

“There’s no point in teasing me now.” Angela laughed when she saw Fareeha smile, leaning forward and hugging her bodyguard from behind, her arms surrounding her thin and firm waist while she indulged in the peculiar smell of her shirt.

“There isn't, right? We're past that, it seems.”

“Mhm… Although I will never stop hearing Jesse scold me and complain for weeks... He means well, he's just acting like the big brother he is for me.”

“Your overextended family.”

“Ah, yes… My crazy made-up family.” Angela pondered for a moment to say the following, perhaps afraid of the answer.

“…And what am I?”

“…What?”

“Am I part of your family? Or more specifically, what are we? What do you consider me?” Fareeha stood there for a moment in silence, not even looking at her. That made the doctor's heart skip a beat.

“It’s… complicated. You're nothing in my family… And yet you are everything. I think I need a whole new category just for you heh…” The last statement made Angela feel something akin of a mix of excitement and contentment. Her smile in full display and her happiness no longer hidden, because she truly was.

“You might have a family, even a made-up one, but I have no one… Except you, and I thank you for everything you've done for me. Family or not.” A beat. “Do you regret last night?” Angela asked with enough caution, this girl was risking her future by fulfilling a teenage desire that wasn’t even hers. The doctor honestly thought that it would be, however Fareeha got off the motorcycle with a mischievous smile on her face, standing in front of her and extending a hand to help her down.

“This must be the most unprofessional thing I’ve ever done and yet I don’t have any regrets. Not at all, I had so much fun. Even now I feel…”

“Satisfied.” Angela filled the gap, looking at her and taking the offered hand. A simple, sincere smile that didn’t need any effort to manifest. “Free, full, in peace…”

“Yeah…”

Angela got off the motorcycle, handing the helmet back to Fareeha before pulling away from her. "Thank you so very much for everything, I had the best night in a long time... Well, honestly, maybe it was the best night of my life. I'm very sorry that it caused you enough trouble." Fareeha was quick to dismiss that with a chuckle, enough to make Angela smile even wider.

“I’m glad you had fun. And believe me, if that made you happy even for a few hours, then it’s worth it.”

“Well, thank you once again. Let’s take this day free as well and have some well-deserved rest. Shall we?”

“Of course.” A brief shared silence only broken by Fareeha. “Then I’ll see you in two days?”

How much Angela wanted it to be so. After thinking about it for several days and having the courage to decide, telling Genji about her fertile situation was the best. The sooner she took that weight off, the better for her sanity. At least she had lived a little longer, felt, touched, experienced, loved once more. And whatever happened, she could part from this world with a little more sense of fulfillment. Angela could think of only one thing to tell Fareeha knowing her future was dubious and uncertain.

“Take care, Fareeha. And always remember my words.”

Fareeha didn’t notice it fortunately, and she started her motorcycle again, but not before giving Angela her signature smile and disappearing around the corner of the block. Angela's smile disappeared quickly, replaced by a frown and fear in her walk, approaching the door of her house to open and close quickly behind her. She closed her eyes for a moment, and thought fast. Faster. She should act as quickly as possible.

Angela climbed the stairs almost in a sprint, running to her small personal studio in which she had data, information, postponed investigations and studies from years and years ago, the result of her hard work in the medical field since she got her doctorate. She turned on the computer and laptop, waiting for the devices to star while looking in her drawers for a pendrive, also leaving in the chair a portfolio with designs and other patented procedures that still had to be developed. She sat in the desk chair once both electronic devices started satisfactorily, introducing the pendrive in their respective socket and downloading as much confidential information and data that could be rescued in that small device.

Her foot was moving up and down desperately as she saw the transfer bar advance at a maddening pace. Time was gold, so she went up another floor to the bedroom. Her footsteps resounded throughout the wooden floor of the empty mansion, the unwavering echo and the sound of her agitated breathing clashing against each other. She went inside the huge walk-in closet and took out a simple black gym bag, tossing it to the bed while she fumbled with the drawers, grabbing the most necessary and basic clothing items to survive for perhaps three days. Shirts, jeans, underwear, socks, a rather basic first-aid kit and nothing else. Only a familiar gray hoodie and her wallet were the last missing pieces.

She was sprinting from one room to another, eventually carrying dozens of guns and weapons in her hands, tossing them in the backyard she adored so much every spring morning. Angela took a shovel from the shed and started digging behind her rose bushes, a hole deep enough to fit all the lethal weapons she found. Her muscles contracted painfully after several minutes of repeated exertion, her hands were splintered and sweat seeped through the flannel shirt Fareeha lent her. Satisfied with her work, she returned to the studio with the shovel in hand, the tool dragged and the metal scraping lightly the surface of the hardwood floor.

Angela stood for a moment in front of the computer, seeing how successfully her data was transferred to that small pendrive. Once taking it and saving it inside her bra, she took the shovel with both hands and swung the tool in front of her, hitting the monitor until it was unusable, then the CPU and later the laptop. Pieces and pieces of metal, plastic and glass flew while the devices were struck repeatedly with a force full of fury and purpose. Even the security camera couldn’t be saved from her rant. She took her cellphone, looking at the thin device rest in her hand and letting it fall in the floor with a thud, the shovel shattering it to pieces. It wasn’t enough for Angela, and she took each document inside the study and tossed them back to the backyard. How sad it was to see all her work disappear in a flash.

She lit up a cigarette, taking a drag and letting the smoke settle in her lungs and mouth for a moment, thinking over and over again if she was doing the right thing. It was. She wasn’t going to allow her work to be used for malevolent purposes, much less by Genji or any member of the Shimada family. If she was going to die, her work and her years of research would also die with her. The only person able to continue with their investigation was Moira, who was kidnapped and they still didn’t know of her whereabouts along a few other doctors. Either way, the Irish would use that information for unethical purposes. It was for the best it stayed that way.

She took the lit cigarette and threw it on the stack of paper in front of her already soaked in the gasoline of the lawnmower, creating a bonfire with all her years of research written in black ink. The SIM card of her phone was all she could save, but decided to toss it into the fire as well. Her eyes reflected the glow of the flames consuming her life's work, her past life, wondering what would have become of her if she had continued for one last time, for only one final push.


The next day was the day when everything would be solved. What else did Angela want more than that afternoon to end? Living or dying, an arrangement to which she accepted to reach with Genji, always expecting the first of course. She had come up with a plan attractive enough so that the youngest of the Shimada brothers would not be affected, in a sense. She just hoped that it would work. That's why now she was sitting in the living room couch with Genji sitting across in front of her, a glass of bourbon in his hand while watching her impatiently.

Angela had never felt such a desire to run and escape before, flee as far as possible and never return. Some sense of survival in a way. Everything would be decided at sunset, which already threatened to hide on the horizon. 'First rule: No hesitation'. She took the envelope she was hiding in the drawer of an end table next to her and slipped it in the coffee table in front of them, signaling Genji with a nod to take it. He growled slightly, taking a sip of his drink and leaning to grab the envelope with much disinterest, looking at her with enthusiasm whatsoever.

“What is this?”

“The clinical results and health assessment of a fertility clinic.”

He didn’t need more words to know something was wrong. He frowned and tore the envelope, even when it wasn’t sealed. Never a few seconds had seemed like hours for Angela, and Genji only took exactly ten to know the results of those studies. He got up and walked to the fireplace, throwing the sheet towards the fire so that it was completely consumed by the flames. Another sip and a final look at Angela.

“You failed.” He said simply without looking at her, rather at the most interesting fireplace in the world.

“I tried.” She lied. “But I couldn’t do more. There’s not a sufficiently advanced treatment that can reverse the damage I suffer nor the disease.” More silence, more indifference. “I know I am useless to you now and to the offspring of the Shimada family, and I regret that I haven’t been able to do more for you and me. But now more than ever, divorce seems like the best option, Genji. You can go on with your life, get someone that you really love and let me go. It’s useless to continue this way.” He stood there for so long, taking a final sip of his drink and leaving the empty glass on the shelf above the fireplace along a portrait of the two of them in their wedding day.

“I loved you, Angela, and it was real, but you started to get arrogant. Your job became your only priority.”

“Healing the injured, mending the wounded, making a positive change in this world was my priority, and it still is.”

“That’s when I knew you were worthless to me, but it was too late to step back.”

“No, there’s a world apart there. You had every chance to ditch me, and so did I. You changed weeks before proposing to me, exactly when Hanzo’s sexual preferences came to light.”

“Because I had to take his place even when I never wanted to! Fucking asshole, he could’ve waited but no, he decided to leave the entire burden to me.”

“You must stop blaming your brother and do what your father is expecting of you. Maturing is one thing.” He laughed, turning his body towards her and looking into her deep blue eyes.

“And what exactly do you think is what can we do now?”

“A divorce is the most viable option, Genji. I will accept the total blame, I can publicly say that indeed my work blinded me and I paid little attention to our relationship. I don’t want to affect you, I just want this to end in the best way. I will do what is necessary for you and the Shimada family to be the ones who looks the best in this situation.” Angela expected some understanding from him; however Genji shook his head and looked straight at Angela, walking close to her and standing up right in front of the doctor, his height overpowering hers.

My sweet angel.” Poison in his voice while mentioning the pet name she used to call her. “You know there’s only one way to escape the Shimada’s. Even my brother was lucky, but you can’t expect the same fate as my brother, and disobeying my father will cause me the same result.”

“Genji-”

“In spite of everything, you were a good match. It's a pity you're not useful anymore. I hope you have done what you had to do before you were ‘successfully kidnapped and killed by Talon’.”

Angela saw how Genji's hand came dangerously close to his belt, moving his shirt and revealing a pistol that she hadn’t taken into account. Her eyes widened, realizing the weak position she was in. For a moment, just for a second, she thought that was all. Her last memories happening in a flash in front of her, but especially a girl in particular stood out among all those memories. Her manners, her bravery, her ever supportive character. The way she defended her, she encouraged, she saved her, she loved her.

‘I don’t want to die...’

Her eyes, her face, her hands, her lips. Everything about her was worth it. Her touch, the scent of her, her voice. Her oh so sweet voice when she said she loved her.

‘I’m not going to die.’

That was enough drive to push forward and survive. She kicked fiercely at Genji's hand, making the gun to fall to the floor and slide under a sofa. The man growled as he felt the pain in his hand, and Angela took that distraction as an opportunity to jump behind the couch and come with an escape plan. Never before she saw Genji that mad, and he rushed towards her, throwing a punch that Angela could barely dodge, but the doctor was quickly taken by the hair and tossed to the ground.

“Do you think you will escape from this so easily?!”

Genji hurried to her side, Angela spinning quickly on the floor until she could stand up, but a kick in her stomach left her aching for a few more seconds. She closed her eyes tightly to mitigate the pain, until she heard the sound of a bottle breaking. Angela looked up and Genji was with the bottle of bourbon half broken, the shattered glass sticking out dangerously enough to pierce her skin and make a considerable cut in the flesh with barely any effort.

With some strength she got up again, running and taking refuge behind the sofa, taking one of the tables at the end and then throwing it at her husband. He could stop it with his arm, the crash merely cutting him lightly. Angela again took the opportunity to escape, looking towards the front door and thinking very quickly. She was about to run to the entrance, but Genji threw the bottle at her to prevent Angela from continuing, creating a deep cut in her leg. She yelled in pain, but kept going. It was now or never.

Genji opened one of the several drawers of the living room furniture looking for a gun, but growled when he didn’t find any thanks to Angela’s quick thinking ability, his eyes eventually stopping above the fireplace. Angela looked in that direction, and opened her eyes with fear. A sword, a katana, which Genji took and ran towards her with the weapon in his hands. Angela barely stood up with her leg bleeding and trying to make a run towards the main door when she felt a piercing pain in her back, Genji successfully pinning her to the wall of the living room as the sword went through her flesh and muscles.

“You are not leaving this house alive.” He growled, putting more pressure on the hilt and making Angela scream helpessly.

Angela felt pain and heat in her abdomen, blood running down her skin with a detestable rhythm. Genji took her by the nape of her neck and pressed her even more against the wall, her face crushed by his hand making the action even more painful. She could feel the edge of the sword tearing her flesh and making a mess inside, panic and adrenaline quickly rising on her. The tears didn’t wait long enough and Angela made a sharp cry enough to be heard from the outside when Genji retracted the blade, the weapon was covered in shiny blood as Angela fell to the ground, touching her back and stomach and trembling with no remorse.

“You can’t do much. Just accept your destiny and retreat with a little dignity of this world.”

Angela was sure that this was her end, it was obvious from the beginning that it wouldn’t last long no matter how much she planned it. So incredulous. She closed her eyes ready to accept her death right there, until she heard that voice again. The same voice that brought her back when she was on the bathroom floor after one of the many times that Genji hit her, threatened her, insulted and humiliated her. That voice so warm and familiar, that voice so peaceful and unique.

Just keep breathing…

You are stronger than this, you are braver than this…

Keep breathing…

Just keep breathing for me…

That voice that belonged to Fareeha. She opened her eyes and saw a pot plant where she hid a small beer bottle with rather dangerous contents; a Molotov cocktail she managed to make with gasoline from her car, motor oil she found on the shed and some bleach under the kitchen sink. Angela took the bottle in her hand and threw it to the fireplace successfully landing inside, the clash of both items creating a loud explosion. The fire started to adhere to nearby surfaces, and Genji and her were trapped inside the living room, giving Angela enough time to take the hidden gym bag behind the pot plant and running towards the huge glass windows, crashing the glass with her shoulder and breaking it in a million pieces.

“Angela-!”

Genji didn’t stop screaming her name again and again, each time with more anger and desire to kill her. She knew that this small explosion wouldn’t be enough to give her time to hide forever, and as she had foreseen, a shot was heard in her direction. Angela kept running through the garden until she reached the patio wall, taking more momentum to jump as her bodyguard had taught her to achieve a successful escape, never stopping despite the sharp pain in the side of her stomach. Her hand was dyed red by touching the affected side, hissing but still running. The bag seemed heavier by now, even when it contained just the most basic of items. She heard another shot, making her take into account evasive actions. Jumping the fence from one house to another, then a little shop on the corner, and so on until arriving at another street where she could hide in the wooded sector of the suburbs.

The sound of two cars at full speed made her stop breathing for a moment, the tires screeching on the pavement almost in a desperate way, but for the moment she had succeeded, she had escaped. Her breathing was heavier by the minute, her heart was beating like never before and her body was screaming to stop. The pain in her abdomen and leg increased gradually, her vision began to cloud and she felt chills all over her body, weakening when the adrenaline vanished.

She escaped, but nevertheless, she didn’t had a place to stay, and she couldn’t go any other known place. Angela couldn’t stay with Hanzo or Amelie, neither Fareeha’s apartment nor her mothers. She wasn’t going to risk the life of the only person she loved in order to save herself. That wasn’t an option. The truth hit her like cold water, she had no place to go, and she was helpless. And after so much time of being watched closely, she was completely alone and hopeless. She hissed when she felt a sharp pain in her stomach, touching her wound as she took a deep breath. Angela looked at her hand tinted by a dark red, and nevertheless, she smiled wryly. How much she could last alive?

Chapter Text

Chapter XVIII

And I tried to do something

 

A full day of rest was just what she needed, soothing the headache and recovering the ability to think and reason was paramount. Although the rest stop had to be her bedroom, the one inside the apartment she shared with Jesse -her brother from another mother- who didn’t stop scolding her for a full hour. But just as she had told Angela, it had been worth it. She was swooning, the fact that the doctor stood up for herself and at some point stated that she was hers. Hers . And to a certain extent it was true, because the blonde was owner of her body, her mind, her heart and everything she could grasp from her. Fareeha didn’t care. On the contrary, she felt that someone genuinely wanted her persona rather than needing her services.

Heavy rock boomed in her bedroom, the rhythm of the drums and electric guitar making her foot to bounce up and down while sitting in front of her rather small work desk. A main circuit board in front of her, a soldering iron and a bottle of beer were her working tools that morning, and it had been a long time since she took up an electronic task as simple as repairing a flimsy loose fuse, which escalated to more work until she ended modifying and repairing rare damaged pieces for her motorcycle that she bought online at a low cost to save a considerable amount of money. It was amazing how people could toss such precious items.

While humming the background song and fusing more components, her phone rang on the desk table. Fareeha took a sip of her beer and answered the phone call on speaker while she continued working and modifying the "new" parts of her motorcycle.

“Good morning, my child.”

“Morning, mom. How are you?”

Every day Fareeha talked to her mother, and she promised to call her mainly on weekends in the morning and midweek in the evening. It was a habit and something that Ana wanted to preserve to feel close to her daughter, and Fareeha didn’t oppose such idea and demand, because she felt the same inside. Even the scolding voice of her mother was soothing. After all, she was her mother, and she loved and missed her very much, and Fareeha was still a child missing her mom.

“I’m doing great, the weather in the city is nice and all, but I was wondering if you could pick me up at the airport right now.”

“…Really? Are you here?”

“Mhm. I was waiting for Gabriel to pick me up, but something came up in Helix and he had to cancel. I wanted to surprise you, but you know, it seems like things aren’t working for me now.” That put a smile on Fareeha.

“Not at all, mom. I am surprised, to be honest! It’s so great you’re here, I have many things to tell you.” ‘And some I’m definitely not going to.’ She thought the last for herself.

“So am I, Fareeha. I’m waiting for my luggage now, so, can I count on you?”

“Always. I’m on my way.”

She hung up, the excitement of seeing her mother once again after months of her departure sparked some joy enough to bring out her inner child. She jumped, leaving the electronic components she was working on aside and put some jeans and a fresh shirt prior leaving and taking Jesse’s car keys. Her bike could only transport two people, but not carry any kind of heavy luggage. Luckily her roommate didn’t work that Sunday as well, so he lent her his silver Acura.

The traffic was fortunately quiet, the city was generally calm and peaceful on Sunday mornings, but Fareeha wasn’t going to be confident and trust it wouldn’t be like that. She arrived quickly at the airport, her mother was already standing on the sidewalk with a suitcase and a handbag in tow. Fareeha parked in front of her and got out quickly to welcome her mother, hugging her with all mighty strength and lifting her off the ground while twisting her in the air. Ana could feel her back cracking and her breath taken away by her daughter’s over-exciting embrace.

“Fare-! C-careful!”

“I missed you!” Fareeha released her apologetically, her mother tried to recover her breath.

“Goodness, child! I’m not made of rubber! You almost kill me!” Ana was quick to scold her, but her face softened when she saw Fareeha in the face, her motherly features shining at the sight of her only daughter. “I missed you too, so much. Look how big are you.”

“I’m still the same.” Ana looked at her up and down, cupping her chin and eventually smiling at her.

“I doubt it.” Then she cupped her daughter’s cheek, tracing her tattoo with her thumb. “I am grateful the Gods have protected you.”

“And guided me to protect those who need it.” Fareeha smiled, finishing her mother’s sentence as she leaned her face on the hand stroking her face.

“I’m glad you are still in one piece.”

“Heh so am I. Well…” Fareeha grunted, taking the big suitcase her mother was toting to put it in the trunk of the car. “…Shall we?”

The ride was mostly pleasantries, her mother talking about how Egypt has changed in recent years, most of it for the better. That put a smile on Fareeha, the last time she was in Giza it wasn’t at all pleasant and their lives were in danger, the main reason for which they had to flee the country several years ago. That was something her mother and she decided to forget, starting a new life seemed the best option. At least that’s what Fareeha believed, until her mother mentioned a certain person when she was working in the theater. That would be a conversation she would have later with her mother.

For the moment she would enjoy having a cup of tea with her mom and catching up with their lives. Definitely the tea that her mother fixed was so much better, and the new bag of dried spices that brought fresh from Egypt was even better. Both were sitting in the living room, drinking the indulgent hot beverage while Fareeha kept talking about the many things that her friends and she have done in the last days, weeks and months. Her mother did somewhat the same, talking about how the Army was becoming softer in terms of its members. The lack of discipline was something that Ana despised, and it seemed that the Egyptian army was full of it now. Hence the reason why Fareeha grew up the way she is.

“-and one of the boys addressed me by my first name and immediately despised me for being a woman. Such imbecile. That earned him a broken leg with the butt of a rifle.” Ana chuckled, taking a sip of her tea. “After that incident nobody even dared to mention my name. Those idiots have no respect, and more for the fact that I'm an ‘older’ woman. Don’t you dare to call me old, Fareeha.”

“I won’t, and I believe you.”

“But I missed that. I missed going back to the war camp, if not directly but in a way that I can create a positive impact on these soldiers, especially discipline and respect, something they lacked when I arrived.”

“And your discipline and respect hurts a lot, mom.” Both smirked, Ana eventually laughing whole heartily.

“But if they obeyed since the beginning they wouldn’t be in that predicament. You were excellent in that sense, and I'm proud of it. Such an amazing girl to raise.” Fareeha almost chokes on her tea, liquid seeping through one side of her mouth as she covered it with one hand trying to muffle the laughter.

“My mother appraising me? Now, where did you left her? Did you broke her leg too and left her somewhere in the desert?”

“Oh, hush. She’ll survive.” Ana joined her, straightening in her seat. “I talked to Gabriel and Jack every week, mostly Jack. I wanted to know how you were doing inside Helix and how well you were doing overall. Let me tell you that they only had good things to say about you. Your work with the doctor has been very good, that will give you great opportunities and open many doors.”

The mention of Angela pinched at her heart. The last time she saw her she could see a bit of apprehension in her blue aquamarine eyes, as if something was bothering her. It was reasonable, the poor girl felt guilty about many things, especially how it had affected Jesse's relationship with her, but nothing really happened. Jesse just tried to scold her and tell her not to repeat what they did because it was forbidden and written in paper, he was merely acting like an older responsible brother. But it was impossible to forget her and not want to repeat that night like that, especially to feel her naked body on top of hers and her mouth screaming sweet nothing into the air in the middle of ecstasy.

“Fareeha.”

“Hm?” She didn’t noticed her mother calling her name. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“Goodness, child…” Ana shook her head and ran a hand on her tired face. “You're pretty distracted lately. If you aren’t working, you are drinking or sleeping. Don’t you do anything else?”

“Sorry.”

“As long as everything is alright, you don’t have to worry.” She smiled sweetly at her, making her daughter shy for a moment. “How are you doing with the doctor? What Helix says is completely different from what really happens. The relationship I had with the Lacroix’s was alike.”

“Uhm…” She hesitated for a moment, to what extent could she be honest with her mother? “Well, she’s doing mostly fine now, I think. She gets scared easily since the incident in the theater, so I have to be more aware of our surroundings and everything related to her. But in general, Angela and I have got along well now-”

“Angela.” Her mother interrupted, Fareeha realizing her mistake. “You first-named her.” It was too late anyway.

“Uhm yes… We became good friends in general, and we have the confidence to call us by our first name in private of course.” Fareeha expected her mother to scold her like Jesse, but that reprimand never came.

“That’s good. It’s very important that you have a good relationship with your protégé, something that Helix doesn’t seem to care about and encourages to remain as a mere employer-worker relationship. Of course, this relationship must be hidden from the public to protect both the protector and the protégé. The same happened with Gerard and I, you saw that before and you know our friendship is something we hold dearly. You're doing more than fine, baby girl, but I'm mostly glad you have another friend.”

“Thanks…” Fareeha was honestly thankful, she needed to hear those words, someone to tell her that a friendship wasn’t bad at all and that they could be closer without risking each other’s lives. At least that’s all she could tell her mother. Fareeha finished her tea, placing the empty tea cup on the coffee table prior straighten up in her seat. She had too many doubts that needed to be cleared. “I have to ask you something.”

“Yes?”

“The phone call in the theater. How did you know that it was Maximilien’s work?” Ana took a sip of her tea, looking at the now empty mug in her hands.

“I had no plans to return. The army welcomed me as one of their own, just like in the old days. But you cannot imagine everything that has happened in Egypt, Fareeha. And I'm sure you remember Hakim.”

“Of course.” And of course she does. Abdul Hakim was the man who ordered the entire Amari clan killed, causing their last members to flee from Egypt. Ana and Fareeha being the last ones alive.

“I stayed in the army trying to do exactly what they asked me to do; help. And I did, but the more I related to the old members of the army, the more I learned about the deranged situation in which they have Cairo and Giza. Egypt has become a disaster since Maximilien put Hakim to govern that part.” Fareeha cocked her head in confusion.

“And exactly what does Talon want from Egypt?” Ana left the teacup in the coffee table, leaning forward and looking intently at her daughter’s black eyes.

“The Anubis Project.” Fareeha’s eyes widened. “They want you, Fareeha. They keep looking for you by sky, sea and land. Egypt is not our territory anymore, and the best thing is that you belong here. I went to investigate exactly why they wanted my daughter, and although I didn’t know exactly what, I found worse things. A killing spree here and there, medical care is almost impossible to get, food supplies aren't being distributed to people who need them. The police and government either turned a blind eye or they're being paid off by Hakim.”

“Mom, you know we can’t-”

“Look me in the eyes and tell me you can leave without doing anything, Fareeha!” Fareeha sighed, and stood up, crouching in front of her mother and bringing her into a tight hug that was immediately returned.

“Mother, I will always understand you and support you. I just don’t like you lying to me. Of course, I could never ignore people who need me. I’m still an Amari, and I will always be.” She stood up and stretched her arms up her head, a satisfying pop of her shoulders made her relax. “Well, I'll leave you alone. I have some things I have to finish back home anyway. This is a conversation that we’ll have with more detail one of these days, ‘kay? Oh! And you should call Ingrid, she misses you so much and she always ask me about you when I visit them.”

“That I will do. And thank you for picking me up back at the airport.” Fareeha smiled, taking her jacked and the car keys, but never leaving without her mother giving her her signature farewell. A thumb tracing the tattoo of her daughter not dissimilar to hers. “May the Gods protect you and guide you to protect those who need it. Return home safe and sound, my child.”

“Always, mother.”

She kissed her mother’s forehead, and turned her back to head to the front door. But her mother calling her name made her turn back. Suddenly she was tackled, gently hitting the ground with her mother on top of her, smiling evilly as she tried to subdue her forcefully. A game to which both mother and daughter were used to since Fareeha had memory and which was simply fun, in addition to reinforcing their family bond that both had. Never in front of the public, always in private. It was Ana's playful personality that she could rarely get out of, and of which Fareeha was more than happy to continue encouraging. Laughter and grunts filled the apartment, Ana eventually placing a foot on her daughter’s back while fake-grabbing an air rifle and shooting at her daughter's head, imitating the sound of a bullet as she pulled the imaginary trigger of her weapon.


Fareeha took the day more quietly once she left her mother's apartment, driving through the neighborhood that hosted her for years until arriving at a small convenience store to buy groceries and snacks to survive the day. Chips, soda, some chocolates and a few cans of beer filled the basket, leaving it on the counter and the cashier processing her purchase satisfactorily. She left the shopping bags in the passenger seat, ready to start the engine and return to the apartment, but her hand stopped before turning the key.

It was strange, but she had a full day in which Angela didn’t communicate with her at all. The doctor mentioned that she had to take care of some matters related to her work yesterday, and that could be a reason why she hadn’t get back at her. Fareeha knew that when Angela was working on her medical projects and researches, it was rare that somebody could distract her. For this reason, she attributed her absence to her dedicated work. However, Fareeha wanted to know how she was doing because she was truly concerned.

She pulled the phone out of her pants, navigating through the contacts until she found Angela's among her favorites. She tapped the call button and waited for it to enter, but the call was automatically intercepted, an annoying recorded voice saying that ‘ the number you have reached is not in service, or temporarily disconnected .’ Bullshit. She dialed once again, the same record playing three more times. Maybe her phone ran out of battery and Angela was so absorbed in her work that she forgot to charge it. Or she simply turned it off to avoid being interrupted.

“She’s fine, Fareeha. Let her have a moment of peace and quiet without you for once…” She muttered to herself, starting the engine and driving back to her apartment.

That Sunday was one of the most boring days she had had in a long time. The fact that her mother returned from Egypt was very good news, but it wasn’t enough to make her day one of the best. Even finishing the repair of the part of the motorcycle she was working on didn’t give her enough satisfaction to make her day a good one. Listening to music, playing video games, watching movies, nothing seemed to satiate her, and Angela still didn’t answer.

Eventually she ended up lying on the living room couch, her attire consisting of just a shirt and baggy shorts that made her look more disheveled than usual. A bag of pretzels and a can of beer rested at the foot of the couch while she had the guitar in her stomach, strumming in a somewhat uncomfortable position. The door to Jesse's bedroom was heard opening, the man going to the kitchen and taking something from the counter before standing behind the couch and spraying Fareeha with a spray bottle filled with water.

“What the fuck?!” She wiped her face with a hand, sitting up and leaving the guitar on the sofa.

“You look like a hobo.”

“I’m bored.”

“I can see that. We’re going to Eichenwalde’s. All the crew is meeting here in half hour, you wanna come?” Jesse was already dressed up. He looked at Fareeha up and down, raising an eyebrow. “I see you started already.”

“Yeah, yeah… I’ll go. Give me fifteen minutes.” She got up and went to her bedroom.

“And take a shower!” Jesse yelled at her, his muffled voice through the wooden door.

And Fareeha did just that. A shower was what she needed to cool off and recover the energy she had lost from doing nothing, if that was possible. She changed to a simple pair of jeans, a navy blue shirt and combat boots, but not before putting her signature black biker jacket on. Before leaving she looked at her phone once more, calling Angela one last time and getting the same result as always. She clicked her tongue, the concern was escalating and already reaching her, but she tried to ignore it, maybe Angela just didn’t want to communicate with anyone and wanted privacy. Yes, that was it.

At least her friends proved to be a magnificent distraction. Olivia, Brigitte, Lena and even her girlfriend Emily were the perfect company. The group of six walked quietly through the downtown streets, Jesse and Fareeha's apartment was quite close to the bar so all decided to meet there. The cool night air brought her a satisfying sensation of relaxation between laughs and conversations wherever she went, Fareeha really needed that. She definitely wouldn’t change them for anything in the world. Eventually she found out that it was Jesse who gathered everyone for a good night at the bar when he saw that Fareeha was in a bad mood all day, perhaps attributed to the fact that it was partly his fault, but Fareeha never cared about that. Her phone chimed midway, a message from Gabe.

Hey, kiddo. We need to meet early tomorrow, kinda urgent. Don’t worry, everything’s already covered. ’ Fareeha cocked her head, but she shrugged it off and put the phone back into her jeans pocket as everybody kept walking. The bar music was already reaching her ears.

“So, Gabe reached you?” Olivia asked her, surprising Fareeha.

“Yeah, he did. How do you know?”

“I know everything, remember?”

“Don’t open your mouth, Olivia.” Jesse growled, earning a questionable gaze from Fareeha.

“What are you hiding from me this time?”

“Gabe’s the one who’s going to tell you, not us.”

“Look, I don’t have all the info so I don’t wanna screw up, okay? It seems somebody likes to do the same shit you do.” Olivia teased, reminding Fareeha the fact she doesn’t write everything on the report sheet. But she huffed, ignoring her friends.

“Whatever.”

Brigitte opened the doors of the place, the music and the pleasant conversations filling her ears with pleasure. Reinhardt's laughter surpassed everything, even more so when he greeted them once they entered through the front door. Everyone sat at the bar this time, each ordering their own favorite alcoholic beverage, Fareeha opting for a simple beer. The music complemented the atmosphere perfectly, the tension of the day dissipating as she took a drink of her beer. Reinhardt stood in front of her on the other side of the bar, offering her another beer when her glass emptied.

“Everything’s okay here, Fareeha?” Reinhardt asked her, his voice booming as always.

“Yeah. I was bored back home so we decided to join you.”

“I can see that!” He laughed, making Fareeha’s ears numb. “I’m always happy to have you here!”

“And we are happy to come here, uncle Rein!” Lena yelled, her voice a squeak compared to his.

“Ah, my cheerful little squirrel as cute as ever! Oh! I forgot to tell you!” Fareeha raised an eyebrow while drinking the glass of beer.

“Hm?”

“Your Swiss friend was here!”

“You have a Swiss friend, Reeha?” Brigitte asked her through the couple of stools separating them.

“What? No, I don’t.”

“How can’t you remember?!” Reinhardt interrupted. “You even shared a beer here! Ah, we spoke German for quite a while. She knows about good quality beer!”

“Well, I don’t remember knowing any Swiss-” She opened her eyes wide and choked on her drink, horror in her face as she saw Reinhardt back and stood up abruptly. “W-where is she…?!”

“Uh, I lost her trail an hour ago. But she was wearing a hood, perhaps she was cold. I don’t think she left... Ah! There! Well, I think the alcohol got her!"

He pointed with his massive finger at a lone table in a rather dark corner. Fareeha knew then that this Swiss friend was Angela, the only one she knew and the only one who had brought that bar aside from her friends. Turning her head, she could see a thin hooded figure leaning her arms and head on the table. Anyone might think she was drunk, the beer bottle in front of her was a clue, but Fareeha knew that Angela could stand more than a single glass of wine. She ran to the corner, dodging tables and chairs until she reached the woman's side, confirming that it was Angela she bent down and moved the fabric covering her blonde head, revealing her more than tired face.

“Angela? …Angela, please.” She shook her shoulder softly trying to get her attention, but only a growl escaped her lips. She definitely didn’t smell like alcohol and maybe that was the only beer she took. “Angela, come on.”

Her eyes opened slowly but only partly, looking at her with something beyond the pain, a look Fareeha had never seen in her. She was paler than usual, her eyes lost their usual brightness, and she was sweating considerably, her blonde hair sticking grotesquely to her face. Fareeha could see how her lips moved, mouthing her name but no sound came out of it. She brushed a few strands of blonde hair away from her face, feeling her skin was burning in a fever. She had a scrape on one side of her forehead and another on her cheek, a gym bag rested on her feet under the table and Fareeha could only imagine the worst.

“What are you doing here alone? You have a fever.” A mouthed sorry, and she closed her eyes once again. “No, no. Stay with me, Ange-…. Shit.”

The only option that came into her mind was to deal with the situation in a more private place. Fareeha took the gym bag with one hand, resting it in the crook of her elbow and lifted Angela with both arms in a bridal carry, dodging tables and customers again and making sure to cover her face or any part of her body that could reveal who she was. Fareeha reached the bar with her dumbfounded friends, but she ignored them, asking Reinhardt for permission to go inside the back room that served as a warehouse. He didn’t object and opened the door for her to enter, eventually lying the doctor on the floor and using her biker jacket as a pillow.

“Angela, come on.” She uncovered her face, the doctor was breathing rapidly, her chest heaved and she kept sweating, her flushed face was a mess. She went to the sink, taking a clothe napkin in her hand and soaked it in cold water to clean her perspiring face and lower her fever. Jesse and Olivia came through the door a few seconds later, quickly closing it behind them.

“What’s going on?” Jesse asked, but he shut up quickly after seeing who it was. “Oh, shit…”

“Shut up, Jesse. Not the time.”

“So, it was true…” Olivia muttered, enough for Fareeha to hear.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Fareeha said angrily, removing the doctor's hoodie -that turned out to be hers all along- to help lower her temperature. The dim light of the bar didn't let Fareeha see something very important in Angela's body: her right side was completely soaked in blood. Fareeha began to tremble, lifting the blonde's torn blouse to discover a rather grotesque hole punctured from her abdomen to her back. “No, no, no…!”

“Genji ended your contract this morning…”

“And you dared to hide that information to me of all people?!”

“I didn’t want to tell you until I was sure!”

“And what a fucking magnificent job you do by gossiping about it!” Fareeha was beyond angry, she was furious. “She’s in constant danger, Olivia! She must have walked wounded for hours until she got here. Do you know how far apart her house from downtown is?! A Twenty-two fucking minutes drive! If you had told me before I could have done something to avoid this!”

Jesse tried to do something to appease her, but nothing worked. “Fareeha, you couldn’t have done something to keep the Shimada from chasing her-”

“Do you know how shitty I will feel if I ever lose her?! Of all people, you do, Jesse!”

“Fareeha, you can't hide her. Helix is going to fire you if you dissobey-”

“Then tell Gabriel I quit!” An uncomfortable silence arose, Fareeha tried to return the tears to her place to no avail. However, she felt a weak hand rest on hers. She turned her face, and Angela saw her back with weary eyes.

“Don’t fight...”

“Shh no, no, it’s okay. They’re leaving, anyway.” Fareeha looked at them, but none moved an inch, they just saw the two girls on the floor. “What happened? Who did this to you?”

“I… I gave him the envelope…”

“…Why did you do that without me being there?” Angela opened her mouth, but her eyes focused on Jesse and Olivia, eventually closing her mouth and looking at the side. Fareeha understood immediately. “Can you give us some privacy? And bring Emily, she’s the only one allowed to come inside.”

“Sure.” Olivia said apologetically, dismissing themselves so the girls could be alone.

“The wound is infected, that's the reason why I have a fever. I tried to heal myself, but without the necessary tools I cannot do anything…” She hissed, throwing her head back when she felt a pull of her wound. “The alcohol worked but… It’s not enough… I-It hurts so much, Fareeha…”

“It’s okay, you're strong. We are going to help you-”

“No. Genji wants to kill me, but I managed to escape. A-ah… That bag contains the most basic and necessary things I could bring, I destroyed everything that belonged to me, every traceable device.”

“…When did you told him?” There was a brief silence. “Angela.”

“Last night…” That pulled Fareeha’s heart. Angela was wandering the dangerous streets for a whole day, wounded and hopeless. So that’s why she never answered her phone. The door opened, a dumbfound redhead closing the door behind her and approaching both of them.

“Hey, Emily. Can you help me out? I think there’s a first aid kit somewhere in Reinhardt's office. Behind that door. Bring anything that can help us too.” Emily obeyed Fareeha blindly, disappearing through the door. The sound of fumbling items was faint, satisfying Fareeha by how reliable Lena’s girlfriend always is. “Tell me, did someone followed you?”

“Yes, but they don’t know where I am, as far as I know… I’m sorry, I didn't wanted to draw you into this mess...”

“It’s not your fault. I’m proud of you, you managed to escape and survive, and still you could reach me with no form of contact whatsoever. I couldn’t be happier now.” She smiled tiredly, Angela’s face reflecting the pain and fatigue.

“Well... I couldn’t die without seeing you one last time.”

“Angela, shut up for once. You are not going to die…” Fareeha frowned, but Angela just managed a restrained giggle.

“My apologies. But I did needed to hear that… After all, you’re the reason I decided to survive. That bag? It’s all you, the strength you gave me to keep moving forward…” She was drifting, her eyes partially closing by the struggle of staying awake. The fever, pain and blood loss taking its toll.

“No, no. Stay with me.”

“Kiss me...” That made her flinch. Fareeha didn’t expected Angela to be so direct. Of course, she demanded, but only when they were alone, like in her office. And Fareeha did just that, she crouched, leaning forward and giving her a soft kiss on the lips. Angela hummed when she parted, relishing in the touch of her lover. “Hm… I missed that.”

“Then stay with me so I can give you more.” Fareeha’s boldness and sincerity brought a big smile to Angela, sharing it with her and Fareeha doing the same, resting her forehead on the blonde’s one. “I'll get you out of here, but don’t leave me, okay? Stay.”

“I’m tired…”

“Don’t leave me, stay with me.”

Angela looked worse by the minute, her weariness was noticeable even from afar, but Fareeha knew that if she closed her eyes there was a possibility that she could never open them again. The wound was as deep as it looked, and it was infected after a full day of not being treated properly, it definitely needed something more than alcohol and a bandage. Suddenly she remembered what Olivia told her. She was no longer on contract, Helix was dismissing her from that specific job, and perhaps that’s why Gabriel was requiring her tomorrow morning. For anyone, it would be bad news, but for her... She smiled, and Angela opened her eyes wide when she heard the following words.

“I love you.”

“Y-you said it…”

“You’re no longer my protégé, but that doesn’t mean I will stop protecting you. It’s just you and me this time, no contract between us.”

“Heh, I like that… And I love you too.” She closed her eyes once again. “I won’t leave.” Angela assured her that she would stay fighting, so she could do her magic and reach a safer place. Fareeha simply nodded and stood up to help Emily with whatever she could find, but the redhead was already standing on the doorway, a hand covering her mouth as her brow furrowed, her eyes slightly watering.

“That’s why… That’s why you’ve been acting so different and you didn’t say anything…” Emily perhaps was the only one that could understand. After all, that’s how she met Lena. “And you couldn’t say anything because those idiots outside don’t understand anything beyond their company’s policies and loyalty.”

“I knew you would understand. It’s sad but I can’t trust them with this now. I hope you understand that this must remain between us.”

“Of course, Fareeha. Of course.” She wiped the single tear running down her cheek and approached Angela, kneeling next to her and opening the first-aid kit. Indeed, the most basic items were there, but Fareeha knew that wasn’t enough when Emily clicked her tongue. After all, she was a current nurse student. “All I can do is disinfect the woundd and dress them, but she needs antibiotic and some pain medication that obviously we lack as of right now. I can go and buy some-” Fareeha’s hand stopped her.

“No. She’s being followed, we’re at risk. Stay with her. I'll make sure the coast is clear. And you stay with her until I say otherwise.”


“Huh?” Lena cocked her head when she started reading a message Emily sent her. “Em says that we should expect visitors or something.... So, the doctor is being followed then?”

“No wonder.” Jesse replied, taking a drag of his cigar. “It’s very likely that some Shimada grunts are following her. If she’s here alone, it means that she escaped.” Olivia huffed, visibly irritated.

“Why is she still protecting her then? That’s something the police should deal with.”

“Agree.”

“She knows better than to not mess with things beyond her control. Unless she bonded with her, which makes it even worse.”

“Hey!” Lena jumped immediately, offended by the comment.

“I mean no offense, but your job is way easier than Fareeha’s.”

“Will you stop fighting?” Brigitte voiced her concerns. “We still don’t know what’s happening and Fareeha is counting on our support, which we should do because we’re her friends. I think that’s enough, don’t you think so?!”

They all fell silent, Brigitte's words finally reaching her ears, powerful enough to settle on their heads. The back door opened and Fareeha sat back on the stool where she was previously seated. Everyone looked at her, and Fareeha simply turned her head back.

Suddenly, the front door opened abruptly, two men dressed all in black with dark glasses entered the establishment, making all the customers look at them with curiosity and fear at the same time. Both strangers approached the bar, specifically to Reinhardt, who hardened his features and looked more intimidating than ever. One of the men took his phone, showing him a picture of the doctor.

“We’re looking for her. She could have been here a few hours ago.”

“I don’t recall seeing her here. So hit the road, you’re not welcome.” Reinhardt said with a strenuous voice, strong like a lion roaring.

“We know she was here.” The other man spoke. “She’s been traced and someone told us she came inside.”

If she was here, I wouldn’t hesitate to hand her to you because I don’t want problems. But as you can see there’s no one that looks alike among my customers. Also, you said a few hours ago, that gives her plenty of time to run, don’t you think?” One of them was about to pull his gun, but the clicking sound of Fareeha's glock, followed by several others –those of Jesse, Olivia, Lena and a few customers on the tables- stopped him in his tracks, all muzzles pointed at them. Fareeha managed a death glare enough to make the two grunts shiver.

“Ah-ah. Remember this is a safe zone. Here there are no sides. No gang or mafia can mess with this place, so you better leave unless you want problems.” Fareeha spoke coldly. “And you don't know how much I enjoy cracking necks and slit throats.” The message was delivered.

“Fine. We’ll leave. But if you find her, call us. You’ll earn our protection with your cooperation.” He handed Reinhardt a rather simple business card before parting. The sound of several firearms safeties clicking satisfactorily. Reinhardt simply shook his face when they disappeared through the front door, taking a lighter and burning the card on the floor.

“Those idiots think I need their protection…”

“Are you alright, Rein?” Brigitte asked him with so much worry. After all, he is her godfather, her father’s best friend.

“Of course, kiddo!” It was impressive how quick his personality changed from an angry lion to a playful kitty. “No one can mess with us, huh?!”

“I’m telling Em the coast is clear for now.” Lena said as she pulled her phone once more, writing a message to her girlfriend. Fareeha just stayed seated there, her leg bounced and she bit her fist, something she did while she was desperate.

There was the most uncomfortable silence in a long time. Olivia was still somewhat angry at Fareeha for breaking the rules, Jesse was worried in general for safety of his boyfriend’s best friend. Brigitte was concerned for her friend, she rarely did things so impulsive, and Lena was uncertain about everything that was happening in general.

After fifteen minutes, Fareeha finally stood up and went inside the back room, and a minute afterwards the three of them came out the back door, Fareeha carrying an unconscious doctor in her arms, covering her head with the same hoodie she was wearing while Emily carried the gym bag in her arms. The sprinted, Fareeha grunting when Angela hissed or gasped by the pain she was enduring.

“Don’t follow us!”

Was all Fareeha could yell at them before disappearing behind the front doors.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter XIX

When I decided who I am

 

Voices. All she could hear were voices. Unknown dulled voices through the bedroom door she was resting at. The room was familiar however, recognizing one or another distinctive object of someone who appreciated with all her soul, someone who occupied her mind most of the time. Her scent permeated through her skin, and even though the sheets didn’t smell the best way - Angela attributing it to her own lack of personal hygiene - her scent could be felt. She just wanted to keep her eyes closed as much as possible.

A twinge in her abdomen woke her up again, making her groan in pain and discomfort, but holding back from screaming or making a noise louder than a gasp. Angela opened her eyes slowly, her vision blurry by so many hours of drifting away. Her gaze roamed the bedroom once again, eventually focusing on a dresser at the far wall. She was grateful the blinds were closed, only the faint light of a nightstand lamp barely illuminated the room. It was all familiar, a blur, but still she couldn’t make a thing about the place where she was. A silhouette approached her, a redhead girl holding a pill bottle in her hand. Her honey eyes met her aquamarine ones in an exchange of amazement.

“O-oh! You’re awake! Thank goodness. How are you feeling, Dr. Ziegler?”

“Horribly…”

“You have been partially unconscious for almost two days, that’s normal. Do you remember something?”

“No, nothing at all…” So indeed, she was in fact out for a couple of days, hence the horrible headache, her numb body and the growl of her stomach. “…Excuse me, who are you?”

“My name is Emily, I’m Lena’s girlfriend… Uhm Fareeha’s coworker?”

“Ah. The pilot.” The redhead hummed in agreement.

“Heh yes, the pilot. I’m a nursing student and I’m assisting you in anything I can. I hope I can be useful.” ‘Better than nothing’, Angela thought. Still, she was grateful at least someone had even the basic training to take care of a wound. “We took you to a small clinic to the north where they had the right equipment to check your health. The wound it’s not that infected and there are no damaged organs either, fortunately, and your leg seems pretty fine. There’s no sepsis nor necrotized flesh, so I just helped and drained it. I gave you ibuprofen, amoxicillin-”

“Just one thing before you continue.” That made Emily flinch, her eyelashes fluttering by the commanding voice of the doctor.

“Yes?”

“What did you used to close the wound?”

“Uhm… Fareeha found surgical glue in your bag for some reason and I used it because I remember that in one of the lectures you gave at the university, you advised not to use stitches if it was not necessary. Although I think the stitches were the best option for your wound.”

“Indeed, they are. But to be honest, I’m somewhat vain and I don’t want my body with an ugly scar.” She giggled, wincing when she felt the pain pierce her side when her abdomen clenched by the effort of laughing. “I do not advise you to do it in other patients, however. Given the current circumstances, this is the only thing we can do for now.”

“I’ll have that in mind. Thanks.” Angela smiled, grateful that there was someone honestly concerned for her and willing to use her knowledge to help her.

“No, thanks to you. Although I need to run some blood tests to discard septicemia, I doubt there’s osteomyelitis here but you can never be sure. Let’s give it another day to see if I have any improvement. You did a good job overall, my thanks.”

“Thank you.” Emily blushed slightly, picking up the warm damp towel on Angela’s forehead and soaking it once again in cold water. “It's a pretty significant compliment when it comes from someone like you, Dr. Ziegler.”

“Appraises will get you nowhere with me, that’s something I don’t lack. I don’t want to be so conceited, but you can imagine.” A nod, and the towel was back on her forehead. “Do tell me, Emily; do you have a hospital where to make your residency?” Angela said abruptly, earning Emily’s attention.

“Well, I have applied to a few hospitals, but I’m still waiting for a response.”

“If you like, I’ll be more than willing to offer you a position in the nurse residency program of my hospital and offer you a permanent position when you finish your postgraduate training.”

“A-are you serious?”

“I’ll be happy to. You have talent and a calling for that, something the world lack as of lately. You will be an excellent addition to the hospital, I am sure of that.”

“I-I’ll be more than honored!”

“Good. Once all this is over I will make sure to support you in that regard.”

“Thank you so much…! Oh! I forgot, this is the next pill. There’s water on the nightstand, okay? I’ll get Fareeha.”

Emily excused herself before disappearing behind the door. For a moment Angela was relieved, she needed space and time to make her mind, realizing where she was eventually. The bed sheets too familiar, the pillow as well. Hence the familiarity of the place. She was in the bed that hosted her last week, the one where she felt limitless caresses and loving touches until the sun was perching up in the horizon. She looked up, and her already flushed face by the fever became even redder at seeing the faint nail scrapes on the headrest. She did remember carving those.

A different embarrassment crossed her soul. She wasn’t sorry for what happened, but for what it had caused. Angela barely acknowledged the position she was in, only in underwear in a bed that wasn’t hers and where perhaps more than two people had already seen her. Angela took the thin sheet and covered herself timidly up to her chin, no minding it wouldn’t help with her fever. She took the pill that Emily left her in the nightstand and the glass of water as well, downing the medicine rapidly when the door opened.

There she was, the girl that was giving everything to protect her, her beautiful savior wearing a charming grin only for her, dressed in just a pair of black leggings and a gray tank top, her hair held up in a lose ponytail and her bare feet barely making any noise. She approached her slowly, an apologetic smile all across her face, her so precious and perfect face. The one she could kiss forever and only forever. Fareeha sat next to her in the bed, lifting the damp towel on her forehead and brushing some strands of hair sticking to her skin before leaning down and kissing it with unparalleled affection.

“How are you feeling?”

“Like a million dollars.” Angela said with sarcasm, earning a smirk from Fareeha.

“It’s funny because you literally are worth way more than that.”

“The perks of having a great intelligence.”

“Show off.” They both laughed, Angela still trying to avoid it as it hurt her. “But seriously. How are you? Emily says the wound is getting a little better, and your fever is not as strong like two days ago.”

“I’m glad. I do feel bad, but definitely not as bad as last Sunday. I wish I can examine the wound myself, but due to my position…” She couldn’t, twisting her body seemed almost impossible, the pain immediately piercing her.

“I can help you.” Fareeha was about to uncover the side of the sheet, but Angela slapped her hand away.

“No!” She winced when she made a rather rough movement. “Please, no.”

“Oh. So you’re allowed to see me fully naked on an operation table and I can’t even look at a wound in your belly?”

“No.”

“Can I check your leg at least?”

“Absolutely not.”

“That’s unfair.”

“I’m a doctor.”

“Then you have less of a reason to deny my assistance.”

“I-” She cleared her throat. How was she supposed to tell Fareeha she was embarrassed even when she already has seen her naked more than a couple times in an even more intimate event? The answer was easy in her mind. She wanted to take a shower, to brush her teeth, to change into fresh, clean clothes and even dab a few drops of perfume on her body. But now she lacked that, even the antiseptic and alcohol smell making her look ill, hopeless, undesired. “I-I’m uncomfortable… I’m not looking my best now, and-”

“What the hell are you saying, Angela?” The doctor opened her eyes, looking past her fear and into Fareeha’s eyes. “You’re beyond perfect, always. And right now I haven’t seen you even more gorgeous. Don’t hide from me, not now that I can finally hold you with no remorse, not now when I can finally kiss you without worrying about the contract between us. Please.” And she smiled. She was right, there was nothing that bounded her.

“Okay… But can I ask you a favor first?”

“Anything your heart desires.”

“Can you assist me at taking a shower? I can’t move enough due to the wound. I really, really need it, and it would help me lower my temperature.”

“Of course. I see you brought clothes in your bag, but I’ll lend you some of my looser shirts so the fabric doesn’t touch your wounds. Is that okay?” The lingering smell of Fareeha on any piece of fabric she could wear was more than appealing.

“Yes, that seems even better. Thank you.”

“Now, let me help you.” Angela expected Fareeha to extend her a hand so she could stand up, but nothing like strong tanned arms sweeping her from the bed, the sheet still covering her body. She released a yelp, her hands reaching her former bodyguard’s neck for leverage. Former bodyguard. That made her brows furrow, but the idea of perhaps calling her her current partner was overpowering. “See? You’re improving.” Even with Angela's opposition, Fareeha placed a kiss on her lips, no matter how disheveled she was. “And you’re beautiful.”

“Goodness… Are you always this charming?”

“It's not very encouraging when you do it with guys, don’t you think?” She chuckled slightly as she carried her, taking a couple of items from the first-aid kit as well. “But you just make me feel this way. It’s easy to do it with you. I didn’t thought I'd bring you back to my bedroom like this, but I hope is the last time… To bring you injured, that is, not the other way around where eh… Forget it, I screwed it up.”

“So is this the real Fareeha Amari?” She laughed back with embarrassment, giving her another kiss, this time on the cheek, and it was adorable.

“Nice to meet you, Angela Ziegler.”

It had been a long time since she had blushed with sincerity, a sensation that numbed her whole body and made her burn at the same time. How was it possible that this girl was so honest, so perfect? She could only cling more to her neck, looking out of the corner of her eye at her passive face while being carried to the bathroom. She really didn’t know if there were more people staying in the apartment, nothing mattered at that time. Fareeha ended up helping her to get rid of her clothes, and as she expected of her, she was completely professional in doing so, always asking Angela if she could do this or that, if it hurt, if she felt uncomfortable, if it was okay.

Fareeha was very, very tender. Even the mere act of helping her wash her hair brought an excessive amount of pleasure. She could feel her eyes rolling back with each touch of her fingers massaging her scalp and untangling her matted hair. She hummed, even when she didn’t want to, eliciting a small chuckle from Fareeha, but she didn’t say more. No, she could tease her for that, but she just kept helping her. If there was something that Angela hated about doctors was their hypocrisy, she never thought that she would experience it first hand, but now everything made sense. Of course, smoking was a vice, but something related to her modesty was a situation that wasn’t entirely in her hands. With Fareeha however, it was a whole different world.

“You have my thanks.” Angela said while Fareeha helped her put on the last piece of clothes. Sure enough, it was a blue shirt that was loose, enough so that the fabric didn’t touch her wound but not so big to look like she was inside a circus tent. And its smell was captivating, it was so her, it was perfect. “I’m not returning this shirt to you either.”

“You owe me a hoodie.” They both shared a shy smile for a moment, Fareeha hesitating on her words, deciding what the next step would be. Fortunately, she asked. “Do you want me to uhm… Carry you again?”

“I am more than capable of walking on my own now. I needed to refresh myself, I can even feel the fever has decreased. However, I am famished.”

“That’s good news.” She took a deep breath. “Well, shall we? I can bring you something to eat back to bed.”

“I would honestly feel better if I walked away from that bed for a while longer. I also don’t want to cripple myself to that bed.”

“As you wish. That gives me a chance to clean the sheets anyway.”

“Thank you.” Something tinged at her head after realizing something. “Fareeha… Where have you been sleeping?”

“The couch.” Was her simple response. Angela was about to say something, but Emily’s voice interrupted her.

“Fareeha! I’m leaving!”

“Take care and thank you for everything!”

Fareeha yelled back, the thud of the door closing meaning that she already left and they were alone. Fareeha came forward and left the bathroom first, apologizing and disappearing in her bedroom to reappear with a bundle of linen to wash, as she had said. Angela let her work, the least she wanted to do was to hinder her more than what she was already doing. She walked slowly to the couch, a little untidy with a blanket and pillow on top, which Angela took in her arms and buried her face, letting the smell of her beloved penetrate her nose. It was intoxicating, maybe silly, but it didn’t stop making it less addictive.

“Emily has been helping me these two days with your injury, it's the good thing about having a nursing student friend. Jesse has also been on the lookout, but he’s not exactly helpful in these situations, so he left to work as usual.” Fareeha kept talking even as she moved, suddenly from the bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen or the living room, always with something in her arms, from clothes to empty food dishes.

“You have not left my side since then?”

“As much as I hate it, I had to do it. I am a very... Routine person. You can call me monotonous, but I'm very easy to track when I don’t have a job. If someone from the Shimada has followed me with the goal of finding you, I don’t intend to give them the opportunity to see that something has changed in me and to give them an indication that I might be hiding you.”

“So, none of your friends have questioned this?”

“They do, constantly. I asked Olivia for an untraceable cell phone. If you want to make a call, you can do it without worrying about being tracked.” If Fareeha knew the only person she wanted to talk with was already doing it to her. “Still, they won’t stop asking about you and such things. I only allowed Emily to visit since she’s the one I know who can help you. Well, besides my mom.”

“Your mother is a medic?”

“Not exactly. She’s military trained in first aid, so she’s not the gentlest in matters of medical assistance.” Eventually, Fareeha stopped on the kitchen, looking for ingredients in the cabinets. “So, care to join me for lunch?” Angela smiled and nodded. Of course she was.

They stayed mostly in silence in the dining room. Fareeha fixed her something somewhat light to eat, enough to satisfy her appetite so she wouldn’t throw up after staying a couple of days mostly unconscious with only so little nourishment on her stomach. And Angela was never that grateful. Whatever she was eating, it was sufficient, and even more, it was delicious. Fareeha later telling her it was ful medames, claiming that it was the fastest and most nutritious thing she had on hand to cook. For Angela, as sustaining that meal could be, it filled her wholeheartedly.

Fareeha proved to be a magnificent nurse. She assisted Angela as much as possible, from supplying her with medication, taking care of her wounds and keeping a pretty accurate schedule with a not-so-strict diet until she was well fed, helping her to take shower and entertain her until she could go back to sleep. It was an incredible void that began to fill as time passed, and even when wounded, Angela finally seemed to recover what little of her remained. Small things like reading some novels or watching television that she no longer did due to her work habits and her husband watching her like a hawk were becoming natural now. A relative ordinary life.

Still, even when she enjoyed those simple times, she missed the action. Angela felt useless, she still had so much to give and the hospital suffered for the lack of her presence, it was obvious, the news channel drove her crazy sometimes, thus, she avoided watching those. However, spending time with the real Fareeha? That was beyond words. No contract, no duty, no legal promise, just her will and desire to help her, to remain at her side, to make her feel human once again. To feel she was loved once again. Truly loved: body, mind and soul. No doctor Ziegler, not the wife of Genji Shimada. For once, just Angela.


Almost a month and a half later elapsed, and every day Fareeha proved her just how much she meant to her and more.

Fareeha rented a small, basic apartment in the northern area of the city, near where Hanzo lived and so far away from Genji: an area in which the Shimada’s had barely any control. Fareeha excused the move with the proximity of her new job, a modest position as security supervisor in a casino that, while it didn’t give her as much income as being employed by Genji, it was definitely calmer and safer, but above all, she could take care of Angela most of the time thanks to the flexible working hours. Angela wasn’t exactly happy about the job she had to take, it was something that Fareeha didn’t enjoy at all -she hated administrative positions- but she had to admit that living alone with Fareeha was an unforgettable experience.

Of course, the best part of all that was sleeping and waking up in her arms. Fareeha always woke her up every morning with a kiss on the forehead, with breakfast in bed, with a clean set of clothing, something Angela herself never asked to be provided with, but she always showed up with her paramount affection. It was even cuter when Fareeha asked her for a kiss. Always asking, never demanding. And Angela always granted her wish. The worst part of her day was when Fareeha had to leave the apartment, she needed to stay moving or else she could become suspicious of hiding her. Angela understood, she always did, but she couldn’t deny how empty she felt when she was left alone, how badly she needed her company.

Angela was lying on their shared bed like every day, a pair of short shorts and an oversized shirt was everything she was wearing as the bedroom was warm that afternoon. She was reading a novel Fareeha bought her at her request, but it proved to be boring, and she was reading just by the mere fact of distraction. The doctor eyed a guitar on a corner several times, intrigued and curious. Setting the book aside on the nightstand, she stood up with a grunt, and walked to where the musical instrument was, taking it back to the bed and sitting in the middle with her legs crossed. A finger ran through the strings, a soft melody released by the touch. Angela smiled, and positioned herself better to hold the guitar more comfortably.

She didn’t hear the faint clink of keys outside, nor the door of the apartment opening and closing. Angela kept pulling and running her fingers to each string, self-absorbed and hypnotized by each unique tone that each string gave her. When was the last time she experienced something new that way? Something that didn’t relate to her work or her security, but with her own selfishness and pleasure? Oh, so long. She giggled, happy and innocent, like a reborn child. Angela heard a chuckle, and her eyes looked at the source of such gorgeous sound.

“Aren’t you precious?” Fareeha was standing on the door, leaning on the frame with crossed arms while she looked at Angela. The doctor blushed and gripped at the neck of the guitar. She smiled nonetheless, what evil could that cause?

“I apologize. I was bored when I saw the guitar and… Well, you might get the whole picture-” She stopped, eyeing Fareeha up and down. For more than a week, she was finally wearing her uniform, this time slightly different. “Oh! You are finally wearing a tie, I see!” Fareeha laughed, approaching her and sitting beside the doctor.

“Yeah, I hate it. It’s just for today’s meeting, fortunately.” She took of her jacket and unfastened the holster that crossed both her shoulders. Her hand went to the knot of the tie willing to undo it, but Angela was quick to stop her, gripping at the tie and pulling her closer to her face, a mere inch apart.

“Ah-ah. Don’t you dare take it off.” Their breaths mingled for a moment, teasing her bodyguard was one of her favorite pastimes as of lately. Fareeha chuckled and closed her eyes; she was already familiar with that teasing side of the doctor.

“Yes, ma’am.” There it was, that word that made her feel powerful, that she was in control and that, curiously, urged her deepest desires to make her hers right there and then. Angela released her hold, straightening the fabric of the tie with the palm of her hand. Fareeha sat behind her, positioning the blonde between her legs and holding the guitar in front of her. Angela felt how the guitar rested in her lap, and broad arms surrounded her thin frame. “Here.” She began playing a soft, slow tune, as if savoring every note. Even when every stroke was somewhat apart, Angela enjoyed it beyond words, closing her eyes and listening intently, feeling the tune that started to become more melodious in pace and the music made presence.

“Fareeha…” And the concern returned.

“Hm?”

“What did you felt when you found out that… You liked women too?”

The music stopped, and so did Fareeha. Angela of course expected that silence, but not that Fareeha would get up from behind her, putting the guitar in its respective place in the corner of the room to go to the dresser where the first-aid kit was located. She sat back on the bed once she retrieved the small box and lifted Angela's shirt right under her breasts to examine the wound. Fortunately she was healing very well, the fever was gone so many weeks ago just like the pain and there was only a small, narrow pinch on her pale skin. It would leave just a tiny mark just like the one in her leg healed, something she hated as she was vain. It was to be expected, but the lack of answers hurt more.

“I don’t think that’s exactly what you want to ask me.” Fareeha finally spoke, and she was never so right. Of course it wasn’t what Angela wanted to ask her, but how to answer several awkward questions without invading the privacy of the girl? “What are you thinking?”

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t intrude in matters of your personal-“

“You know you are more than welcome to ask me anything.” Fareeha interrupted her before she started rambling, applying some antiseptic to the now smaller wound. “I will be a hundred percent honest with you. But don’t hide, not from me.” She lowered the shirt once again, and softly kissed the spot where she was hurt, her lips barely touching the fabric. It was one of the things why Angela was so attracted by her. Such a sweet, tender soul in a strong, imposing body. She decided to give her that, to be honest with her and only to her.

“Many people still see it as unacceptable. Many suffer from finding love in a different being, and I believe that when you experience it first hand is when you understand it in its entirety. Sometimes I have wondered how this would affect my reputation. Would it be the same as with Hanzo? The medical college would veto me? Or would my income decrease just for the sake of being... That? What if a patient refuses to receive treatment from me because I-I’m…?” Angela felt a pair of arms surrounding her from her side, easing her back into the bed so both would lie down, Angela snuggled in Fareeha’s arms, her head resting on her chest. “Did you ever thought it would affect you?”

“You’re overthinking, but I’ll be a liar if I said I never thought the same. But it helps that some of your coworkers are already gay. I think what hurt me the most was that they knew before me. It hurt me when I realized, honestly.”

“When did you realize?” Fareeha took a deep breath, her hand stroking blonde silky threads.

“Some time ago while doing a job I saw this girl, and I could not believe she was so beautiful. I remember that she saw me with this penetrating hatred directly right in my eyes, as if she wanted me to go away and never come back. I must admit that I was scared at first, but I forgot when I saw her with that red dress almost painted to her body walking down the stairs.” Fareeha took another long, deep breath, releasing it from the nose and whispering in her ear. “Since then, you drove me crazy…”

“What a coincidence…” Angela whispered as well, feeling how her body shifted so Fareeha was on top of her, her lips hovering over hers as they held each other’s gazes. “I always saw you fascinating, such a fine specimen I craved to investigate further with. Even when I wanted you to get out of my life.”

“You still want the same?” Angela took her by the tie, pulling her into a smoldering kiss enough to answer her.

“I want nothing but to remain by your side.” Fareeha looked at her for a few eternal seconds, until she responded by kissing her back. Angela closed her eyes, unbuttoning her shirt one by one to reveal a black lacy bra. God bless administrative jobs and its lack of useful, tactical combat clothing.

“What are you doing? You can’t do that.” Fareeha giggled, their kiss never interrupted whatsoever. “You’re still in a healing process.”

“It’s worth the risk.” Angela was about to unfasten the smoldering piece of underwear when the doorbell rang. She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. “You’ve got to be kidding me…”

Fareeha gave her one last kiss and got up from her, buttoning her shirt again and walking towards the front door. Only a few knew her whereabouts, Fareeha stating she wasn’t willing to risk Angela's life because of such a common mistake. Hanzo and Amelie knew where they were, but it was a mistake for them to visit Angela. However, Jesse, Brigitte and Emily, Fareeha's friends, could enter with total freedom. They weren’t a problem, not even Jesse, but her mother, the famous Ana Amari, was a dilemma. The woman is a wonderful person, of course, but nevertheless she hides something. How could she act in front of her- …Wait. What is Ana to her? No. What is Fareeha to her?

She wasn’t her boss, nor her protégé anymore. She wasn’t her doctor. She is her friend, but she isn’t her girlfriend neither, isn’t she? Even when they said they loved each other and even when they made love several times, the many stolen and allowed kisses telling so. But still, they never talked about that, it seemed time didn’t forgot and wasn’t willing to allow them. But when exactly? Angela knew already. Her plan was more than dangerous to risk a relationship to which she was barely taking enough care and dedication. Above all, Angela wasn’t going to risk this wonderful girl's future just for the sake of it.

“Jesse’s here!”

Fareeha called her from the common room, the apartment was so basic and small that it only consisted of a small living room and a kitchenette, plus a bedroom of a modest size and a sufficiently functional bathroom. For Fareeha it wasn’t bad, she was used to living in places more deplorable than that, but for Angela, who had lately lived in and with the best of the best, it wasn’t the most appropriate. However, if that visit brought something special for her, everything would change, she would change.

Angela left the room where she was hiding, greeting Jesse who was sitting in front of Fareeha getting acquainted with the many adventures of their friends at Helix and outside the company. That was something that Fareeha sadly had to sacrifice to take care of her, but how much was it worth it? So many questions, and just a few answers. Angela walked to the stove, putting the teapot to boil to make some tea for them and their guest, until Jesse called her.

“That reminds me, doc. Hanzo sends you this suitcase. He says it's something you asked him for?”

“Oh, that’s right! Don’t worry, it's just more clothes and personal hygiene products.” She wasn’t lying, but wasn’t telling the whole truth either. Indeed, she asked Hanzo and Amelie to gather some personal belongings and other things, makeup and perfume amongst them. “You have my thanks. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll take the suitcase back to the bedroom.” They both nodded when Angela took the big suitcase and totted it to the bed, closing the bedroom door with the lock on. She had a plan, and she was willing to act quickly. Staying with Fareeha probed to be a wonderful experience, but at what cost? Angela wasn’t still free, and Fareeha was taking the toll as well. The doctor wouldn’t forgive herself if she affected the life of the one she loved even more than now. That was unthinkable. She opened the suitcase to effectively see now functional, powerful pieces of clothing, shoes, makeup, accessories and even a special attire only for Fareeha. And how bad she wanted to wear it.

Angela stripped naked, changing her underwear to the one the suitcase contained. A pair of black lace intricate undergarments made her look extremely feminine and sexy, desirable yet still holding that power she had to recover. She only wore black in her underwear, never the fabric the people could look at, but this time she needed a change, she was about to change, and she needed something that stated that she was a new woman. Angela pulled a black hooded cape coat and skin tight white dress, and she smiled when she saw both of them. Obviously, it was Amelie’s deed, just like the case of makeup. Angela wasn’t a woman who enjoyed to eavesdrop, but listening to Fareeha talking to Jesse proved to be worth it.

“-so yeah, mostly that. But everyone has been mostly fine, they ask a lot about you, Reeha. After what happened at the bar they’ve barely seen you.”

“I know, I miss them too.”

“Are you coming to drink with us sometime again?”

“I’m not entirely sure.”

“Well, can we come?”

“That… That doesn’t seem ideal, I don’t think so… I can’t do much if I want to protect her.”

“On one hand I'm glad you finally accepted your feelings. And at least it was with someone who seems to respond in the same way.”

“It is wonderful, isn’t it?”

“Not as with your ex-boyfriend.”

“Jesse!”

“What?!”

“Don’t you ever mention him. Mother has been talking about him like… I don’t know, way before she went back to Egypt. The worst part? She met him there again.”

“No shit, really?”

“So it seems he wants to visit us or something and I don’t even want to hear his name.”

“And you still haven’t told your mother you’re gay.”

“Isn’t it obvious?”

“It is, you’re a hopeless romantic futch.”

“…The fuck?”

“Anyway! So, it’s that bad, huh?”

“Well, he isn’t bad, but we were like in two different worlds. I wanted more, I needed to keep improving and be the best version of me I could be. He on the other hand was content, satisfied with what he had achieved, and that was not at all attractive. Angela, however…”

“She’s a smart girl that craves knowledge.”

“Intelligent like no one and so fucking gorgeous, I… Ugh! Jesse, I don’t deserve her. She doesn’t deserve this life. Not with me, I can’t give her what she wants. Why is she willing to stick with me? I mean-”

“Girl, stop. You don’t know that, she’s the only one that can decide if you’re worth it or not. At least she has some guts, let me tell ya.”

“I know, I’m happy about that.”

“I still remember when she defended you when we found out what you did. Heh you almost gave us a heart attack.”

“And how supportive you two were, thank you.”

“Hey, I was worried the same thing that happened to Lena was going to happen to you too. And I had to defend my man, she’s still a married woman. Married, to a Shimada.”

“I know…”

“Genji Shimada, Reeha.”

“…You know? I wasn’t happy because she defended me with you nor the fact that she said I was hers, although that made me feel truly wanted… I’m sorry, I’m drifting… I was happy because she stood her ground. She fought back, and I’m so proud of her. You don’t have an idea of how much I’m proud of who she’s becoming, I wanted that for so long. She’s so pure, so perfect, she deserves to believe that she is that and more. If it takes me a lifetime of non-stopping efforts and trials for her to know that, then so be it.”

Why did Fareeha have to be so damn perfect at all times? It is unfair. It hurt her that Fareeha thought she didn’t deserved her when it was the other way. Angela just didn’t wanted her by her side. No, she needed her and loved her beyond reason. She was crazy about her and she was willing to prove her that, just like she did. But there was something else, and Fareeha was damn right. She was willing to keep fighting back. That’s the reason why of that suitcase. It hurts to listen to her, every word it’s self-explanatory, and everything leads to sacrifice. However, she kept completing her look, applying the makeup methodically to her face and fixing her hair with dedication. Everything needed to be perfect if she was going to portray that. She put her heels on, the black hooded cape and a pair of earrings and a bracelet and smiled, satisfied in front of the mirror in only so long.

“Besides, I came to ask you something as well. Gabe says someone hired you as a bodyguard, huh? Why didn’t you told me?”

“Excuse me, what? Someone hired me? As a bodyguard?”

“Yeah, didn’t you know?”

“Hell, no! I can’t do it! Why would he chose for me?!”

“Dunno.”

“But who hired me?”

The bedroom door opened, the heels clicking on the floor making its presence. When both turned to see the doctor they were silent, their eyes wide open, but especially Fareeha, who didn’t believe what was in front of her. An overpowering woman, a new figure stronger than before. Not even death could take that away from her. Angela smiled, lifting her chin in confidence and power to see them, and crossing her arms decided to clear their dubious thoughts.

“I did.”

Chapter Text

 

Chapter XX

And I decided to stay

 

High heels, fitted dress, hair and face fixed up, and a powerful and possessive look of herself was what Fareeha saw now in the woman standing in front of her. Confidence, purpose, power, beauty, she had everything now, and it was obvious that the doctor wanted to let everyone know. She had returned. Not Dr. Ziegler, not Genji Shimada's wife. No, Angela Ziegler resurfaced, that woman she used to be, but this time stronger, smarter, and more prepared. It was amazing how attractive she was, her confidence and self-esteem beyond her usual limits when usually depressing and anxious. And she was now her boss, her commanding voice, her owner in some sense.

Angela didn’t take long to give her orders, and she even had a special uniform ready for her. Although it was much more expensive than what Fareeha regularly used to work, it was more elegant and beautiful, fitting perfectly and enhancing her feminine figure. The bad side? The damn tie. Of course Angela would force her to use it, so she simply shrugged and tried to get used to the uncomfortable, useless accessory. The only thing she couldn’t do was to tie it properly, but it was a relief that Angela knew more than perfectly how to knot it, adjusting it and giving her a soft bite in the neck while fixing the last details, eliciting a shuddered breath from Fareeha. From a small box engraved with Givenchy silver letters, she handed Fareeha a pair of silver cufflinks in the shape of a wing, kind of her signature.

‘You are mine now, Fareeha Amari.’

The sultriness and possessiveness in her voice was enough to send shivers down her spine when she began to put them and took her earlobe between her teeth. But she was right, she belonged to her so many, many weeks ago. Mind, body and soul. With the exception that there was someone and something in the middle of them before. But now? Angela possessed her completely, and although Fareeha hated the term when referring to a person, she was more than happy and willing to be her slave. And oh God, Angela had a lot of tasks pending in her head to do with her.

The first one was to get a car. Angela refused to ride the motorcycle in that new outfit and any borrowed car wasn’t up to her standards and likings, so the first stop was the car dealership. Fareeha took pity on the poor soul of the salesman with the demanding needs of the doctor. 'I want it white and pretty. Comfortable. Fast. Faster. I don’t give a damn if it costs a million dollars, I want it now.' And there were many cars that could please her, but she had to buy one of the most expensive ones, even though Fareeha told her not to spend her money unnecessarily in things where she could invest in something better. But she didn’t listened to her. And a fucking Aston Martin it is, just because it was the only white car available for purchase they could hand her immediately.

Fareeha wasn’t going to lie, driving that car out of that dealership was an unforgettable experience, and who knows for how many more days she would be using that baby. The second step was to get a new apartment, bigger and with better amenities. Fortunately, they didn’t have to go hunting, for Angela was calling countless times to countless realtors, eventually getting convinced of a place and buying an apartment to the north and near the center of the city, not far from where Amelie and Hanzo lived and closer to the hospital. They only had to go and verify that everything was in order, because she bought the place completely furnished and everything needed to be perfect. The less pending things she had in her head, the better for her.

Fareeha eventually parked in front of a huge building, which even had valet parking but for the safety of Angela she chose not to use the service. The doctor's heels clicked powerfully with each step, going to the receptionist who, once showing her identification gave her a couple of keys and both ridded the elevator, stopping on a high floor and facing a short corridor that faced two huge wooden doors. Obviously Fareeha knew that Angela had more than enough money, but she did not expect anything of that dimension. Only the living room of the apartment was maybe the same size as the apartment she shared with Jesse.

Angela walked calmly from one place to another, analyzing and reviewing every detail of her new home. From the structure of the building and placement of spaces to the furniture and decoration items. She hummed every time she found something she liked, like a huge abstract painting with gold and silver foils or a fake chimney on the living room. Fareeha went to the back of the common room, the wall lined with huge clear windows as well as sliding glass doors. The terrace was also large, and it already had a patio furniture and enough space for Angela to have a modest garden as she said she would have one day. A pair of slender arms surrounded her waist, bringing her closer to the figure behind her. The cool wind waved gently her hair, her golden beads clinking against each other.

“I like this place very much.” Angela hummed in agreement, her cheek resting in Fareeha’s shoulder, peeking to the front and far away.

“It is gorgeous, isn’t it?” The doctor nodded and hummed, and pointed her finger forward to a specific building. “And look, you can see the hospital from here.”

“Oh, that’s right.”

“Come inside with me.” Angela demanded, taking Fareeha’s hand and pulling her inside, escorting her to the master bedroom she didn’t saw yet. And as expected, it was beautiful. A full king size bed rested on the middle of the back wall, there was even a small sitting area with loveseats and a coffee table. Now that was so much bigger than the space she was currently renting to hide Angela. The doctor sat on one of the sofas, inviting Fareeha to do the same while offering a hand. “Sit down, please.”

“Of course.” Angela was a little nervous, Fareeha could easily see that. She didn’t know how to address such a topic. Fareeha knew Angela wanted to live again, to resume her previous life of successes before getting married and chained, but her hesitation told her something else was missing, aquamarine eyes penetrating her dark ones.

“Now, what do you think of this place? I love it, to be honest.”

“It’s great, it suits you.” It was true. There’s elegance and sultriness all over the place, just like Angela right now.

“But does you?” What did she exactly meant? Fareeha cocked her head, Angela continuing with the question. “Do you see yourself living here?”

“Uh? What do you…O-oh!” It made sense now. “D-do you want me to live here…? Like, living here with you…?” Angela smiled sheepishly, tucking a blonde strand of hair behind her ear.

“Only if you want. I might be your boss now, but I’m not going to force you to do anything you don’t want to. Never.” She was right, and it was so soon. And now with a new contract? How could things affect their relationship? Fortunately Angela seemed to sense her dubious thoughts, and she spoke once again. “Still, I believe it’s too soon to answer that, right? There’s something I have to finish before taking such decisions. It all depends on that. Now, it must be exasperating to be hired without any kind of notice, right? I apologize for not having said it, I've been thinking about it for months, but your previous contract stopped you. And how could I force you out of such legal agreement?”

“I suppose. Still, why didn’t you told me? I could have resigned and await your hiring.”

“Curious soul, aren’t you?” Angela giggled, crossing her legs and resting her elbow on her thigh while leaning forward to have a better look at Fareeha, who was sitting with a smirk on her face. “You’re so beautiful.”

“Says the queen talking to the peasant.” That made Angela laugh, a blush all over her face, and she got up to a small table on the corner where there was a few bottles of wine and wine glasses as well, filling two of them.

“Stop being so charming, Amari. But there are many reasons why I didn’t tell you before. However that was in the past, this is the present and you and I have to establish certain limits for our future, right?” Obviously. She walked to where Fareeha was, handing her a filled glass and taking the seat where she was previously sitting. “First of all, don’t call me a doctor or mention my name.” She smirked, her lips touching the rim of the glass but not taking a drink. “You shall address me as ma’am, both while you’re working and when I’m sodomizing you.”

It was Fareeha’s turn to laugh, Angela joining her and both taking a sip of their wine. “Oh, sodomizing me? And when exactly will I know which is which?”

“Oh, believe me. You will know.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Angela stood up, walking towards the large windows of the master bedroom, eyeing the city below them.

“The rest of the reasons? I'm not interested in the minimum, to be honest. As long as you’re by my side, you even have permission to kill if you feel it is necessary. And if there’s something you need to do your job and Helix isn’t willing to provide it to you, I’ll be more than happy to do it.” Fareeha got up and walked towards her, hugging her from behind to kiss her neck, which the doctor gave her more than room to do so. Fareeha didn’t want anything, she just wanted the person in front of her.

“I don’t need anything else. I’m fine.”

“Now, everyone wants something. You can be greedy with me. What do you want? Clothes, electronic devices, cars, weapons? Regardless of the price, whatever you want name it, is yours.”

“Nothing. Just this.” She kept kissing her neck, Angela started to moan while feeling her warm lips and hot breath against her skin. Fareeha stopped, and the doctor sighed, laying her pale hands on Fareeha's resting on her belly.

“I wanted to feel this way for so long, in peace, in tranquility. I used to feel that way, even with my never-ending work and my myriad of responsibilities. I owed nothing to anyone but myself. Until the insecurity came crashing back at me...” Fareeha tightened the embrace, bringing her even closer if it was possible. “Genji did this to me. He cheated on me and restricted me from what it was to be me, and I can’t reason with him anymore to return to what I was, to who I was. However, there’s still someone above him that can actually comprehend such situation and help me put an end to my restraining life.”

“Sojiro Shimada.” Was Fareeha’s simple response. Angela smiled, actually happy at how synchronized was her bodyguard to her.

“Precisely. And we’re paying him a quick visit tonight. But first…” Angela turned her body around, looking straight at Fareeha and pulling at her tie to bring her lips to hers in a smoldering, sultry kiss. Her fingers already fumbled with the buttons of her shirt, trying to release the prize inside the white shirt and gray vest. “Be a good girl and lie down on the bed for me.”

“Yes, ma’am.”


The hours passed by, and both were already driving inside the huge territory of the Shimada manor. Fareeha heard about it and its enormity, but this was absurd. Extensive gardens, a carport that easily fitted more than twenty cars, and the mansion was ridiculously huge. If Angela was still married to Genji, she would end up living in that place. That thought made her shiver. They parked in front of the main entrance, a guard was already waiting for them, and just because Angela gave notice of her visit that morning with no one else but the head of the Shimada family. As was usual with Fareeha, she opened the door for the doctor and extended a hand to help her out, who gratefully took it.

Both were escorted to the main living room, the place immediately recognized by Angela. The corridor before reaching the room was lined with paintings and pictures of powerful men and women, Fareeha attributed to each one of them becoming the head of the Shimada family at some point. The mood tensed when Angela sat down, Fareeha standing behind her on the long couch with her arms back in an immovable position. It was what Angela needed and expected, and it was what she would give her. Who wasn’t expected however was Genji sitting in front of them, his gaze fixed on Angela with an incomparable hatred, and the doctor didn’t even bother to return the look with such intensity.

“You are going to regret many things, Angela.”

“I'm here to talk to your father, the real head of the family. I value my life more than enough than to waste it talking to someone like you.” Genji smiled, making Fareeha’s blood boil when he looked at her.

“It's funny that you brought her here. Do you not know another person who isn’t a complete murderer?” Fareeha winced a little, because he wasn’t far from the truth.

“Unlike you, she’s not a murderer.” Angela squinted her eyes, looking at Genji smirk.

“Oh, didn’t she tell you then? Now that's funny. How is it possible that you don’t know that this woman has a history of impressive deaths on her hands? Why do you think she and her mother fled from Egypt? Tell me, girl, at what age did they teach you to kill? At ten?”

“Enough!” Angela pulled her handgun from the holster of her thigh and pointed at him, he was dumbfound and frozen in his seat. The two guards behind Genji took their pistols as well, and Fareeha held her own to the front. All four muzzles pointed at the center. “Another word you say about her and it’s the end of your ridiculous life. She has taught me more than just being a pretty little victim and I think you are more than aware of my abilities now.” The doctor slid the weapon back to the holster when she heard the door opened, everyone imitating her. Sojiro entered with two other guards, and the leader of the clan immediately turned to Angela. The doctor smiled and greeted him with a bow and a kiss on the cheek when he reached her side.

“It’s so nice to have you here, Angela.”

“I wish I had visited you under better circumstances. But it's a pleasure to see you again nonetheless.”

“Please, take a seat back.” Sojiro motioned Angela, who gladly took the invitation. A couple staff members of the family fixed the table in front of them, placing an expensive porcelain set of tea for them to have a drink. Sojiro took a cup filled by the butler, Angela imitating him. “I think we should get to the point to avoid wasting our time, which we know is as valuable as life itself.”

“Yours more valuable than mine, I’m sure of that.” There was a shared laughter, so uncomfortable for Fareeha and Genji. “I imagine that your son made you aware of the situation we are going through?”

“He did, although I don’t entirely believe him.”

“Father-”

“And if you can retire to your chambers and leave us alone, it will be better for everyone.” Genji clenched his fists, but he paid attention to his father. He bowed and went silently through the door through which her father entered. Sojiro relaxed somehow by the lack of presence of his youngest son. “As much as I love my sons, they both are idiots. This one more than the other. And you know both of them very well.” Angela smiled, taking a sip of her tea. Bittersweet, just like the situation she’s going through with Sojiro.

“I do. But first let me tell you that I absolutely understand your position, and I’m not going to judge your decisions regarding your sons. You are doing what its absolute necessary to protect the Shimada legacy and I respect that.” He smiled, taking a calm sip. “Your position as leader warrants that you take extreme measures in certain cases.”

“That’s something I always liked about you, Angela. You understand and you acknowledge. You are smart and intuitive, something that many beautiful women have a lack of. You were the perfect match for my son, but I can imagine what happened. Now, I want you to tell me what exactly is the problem for which you cannot remain married to my youngest son, the future heir of the Shimada clan.”

“I can’t have children. I’m infertile.”

There was an uncomfortable silence filling the living room, and spreading around more than usual. Fareeha saw the guards behind Sojiro, and then he looked at Angela. Only the sound of the porcelain cup touching the plate of the same material and the sip of the hot beverage broke the silence. Sojiro left the cup again on the table, looking at Angela and waiting for another and more reasonable explanation than that. Fareeha could feel a cold drop of sweat in the nape of her neck.

“When I told him, he had no intelligent response and he decided to attack me with a sword, successfully incapacitating me and leaving me on the verge of death for quite some painful days. He wanted to kill me for being, I quote him, such a useless woman. I tried to reason with Genji, but it was in vain. I had to hide until my wounds healed, as you can imagine, to protect myself and the others around me.” Sojiro hummed, somehow agreeing with her.

“I apologize for my son’s behavior, Angela. But you must understand that this is not something that is taken lightly in the family. What non-scandalous solution do you have to this problem?”

“I suggest to fill for a divorce. I’ll be more than willing to take the blame for such a split, of course, as I’m the one who has the problem. I’ll stipulate that my work and my lack of attention to the relationship wasn’t healthy and worthy for him, so we decided to break and be on 'good terms'. The point is that neither he nor your family are affected in this, but to divert all that negativity towards me. I wanted to speak directly with you, since your son didn’t behave in the best way with me when I tried to reason with him. Besides, it’ll be stupid to kill me, I’m sure you don’t want to lose such a powerful ally in the medical business. We have enough advantages in common in which we will both benefit. I only ask for my life and freedom in return and nothing more. No properties, no money, nothing.”

Sojiro got up and walked to where the huge window framed with expensive curtains was, the Japanese garden blooming and full of life with the hundreds of nightlights decorating every bush and every tree. He seemed to ponder his answer, but he eventually spoke.

“For some reason you always surprise me. Sometimes I wish you were my daughter instead of these two fools I have for sons. You know how to sacrifice and you're smart, and you are right as always. I will always respect our alliance, Dr. Ziegler, have that in mind forevermore... Return over in a month and we'll settle the divorce paperwork with a lawyer. You may bring your own if you like.” Angela’s lips tugged in a smile, victory painted in her face, and Fareeha swore she never felt so free and happy for another human being other than herself or her mother. Angela stood up when Sojiro turned and walked to her.

“Thank you so much for being as understanding as always, Sojiro. I know our alliance is still fruitful and we have many projects ahead, I can assure you that.”

“Indeed. Have a good night, Dr. Ziegler.” Angela was about to say goodbye, when Sojiro looked at Fareeha. “And it’s a pleasure to see you again, Fareeha Amari.” It was the last thing she needed, for him to recognize her. There was nothing else she could do but return the greeting.

“The pleasure is mine, Mr. Shimada.”

“Who would say that my fool of a son would hire you to protect his wife without knowing who you are? I had to give him an entire lecture of the Amaris so that he understood the importance of respect between clans.” Angela eyed her, and Fareeha wanted to hide, to run, to avoid that talk, but she was trapped.

“My mother will always respect her word, just as we respect your territory. However, you must understand that our family is guided by hard and strict guidelines. If I did something that would offend your family, I sincerely apologize, I only fulfill my contract.” Sojiro smiled, and bowed at her, Fareeha doing the same when he spoke.

“There is nothing to apologize for. Continue to fulfill your duty, which is what you were raised for.”

Fareeha wouldn’t admit it, but those last words hurt. And a lot. Her past crashing all over her head, and Angela could obviously see that Fareeha was hiding something from her, but decided to leave the matter untouched, and Fareeha opted to escort her back to the car. Fareeha could see how Angela's legs were shaking a little when she walked back to the car, but she didn’t say anything. Neither the two of them. The drive to Angela's new apartment was silent, mostly by Fareeha, until she felt the seat next to her and heard the doctor's sobs, finally releasing years and years of pent-up frustration, many months of threats from her husband, all finally subduing into peace and a more than certain future. She was free, finally free.

Fareeha said nothing, letting her cry to her heart’s content, her sobs escalating in volume and her tears almost making a puddle in her lap. Fareeha took her hand, intertwining her fingers and squeezing gently to let her know she was there for her, that she didn’t have to suffer that burden alone anymore. Minutes later, Fareeha was opening the front door of the apartment, Angela holding her at all times while she continued crying and trembling in her arms, her makeup already a mess, but she always looked gorgeous in Fareeha’s eyes. She carried the blonde to the sofa, seating Angela on her lap and she kept hugging her, rocking her gently, hushing her and placing her head on her shoulder.

That seemed to be it, but her fucked up life was still far from over. There was still that latent threat against several doctors and against her. Angela wasn’t safe yet. After about twenty more minutes, the crying ceased, and Angela began to embrace Fareeha back, inhaling the unique essence of her skin, which seemed to intoxicate her. Fareeha kissed her cheek, earning the attention of the doctor back at her. Her glistening blue eyes were never as pure and with so much shine, despise being red of her being crying for about an hour and so on.

“Thank you…” Angela whispered, and she kissed Fareeha slowly, just a peck on her lips that quickly escalated to that of savoring the honey of her rosy lips. “Thank you…” She repeated, her lip slightly pulled by Fareeha’s teeth, taking it between her lips to ease her pain. She felt how a tongue wanted to explore inside her, and Fareeha let her, doing the same with her as she cupped her cheek, bringing her closer. However, something pierced in her mind, and she pulled apart. “Fareeha?”

“Sorry… I just… I’m sorry, I have a lot to process. I think you’ll feel better if you take a bath, don’t you think?” Obviously Angela didn’t believed her, but decided to play along.

“That sounds amazing. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Angela got up, not without giving her a simple kiss on the cheek, and disappeared through the bedroom door. Fareeha hid her face in her hands, her arms and legs trembled, and breathed deeply to mitigate the urge to cry. She got up and went to the terrace, taking a cigarette from her jacket and lighting it. The city lights shone magnificently, and yet she was far from feeling like those little twinkling lights beneath. She had no shine inside anymore, the last thing that remained of her childhood vanished a little over a month ago. How much did it have to keep hurting? For how long did her past have to keep following her? How much did she have to keep suffering?

She didn’t notice when she started crying, her cigarette almost finished between her fingers and just a couple of seconds to burn her. What's more, she threw the butt to the ground and lit another one. She didn’t want to admit it and although she didn’t show any reaction, what Genji said hurt, what Sojiro acknowledged hurt even more, it hurt very deep in her soul because it was true. And yet what hurt most, is that her past kept haunting her. Therefore, even thinking about having a tranquil life with Angela at her side was impossible. If danger followed her, Angela would be the other victim, and the doctor was already in sufficient danger to risk another source of evil. Even when that was over, Fareeha knew she should run.

Leaning on the terrace railing, she kept smoking, taking a drag and releasing the smoke in front of her as she kept watching the city skyline in the horizon. Her face was cold with the wind touching her soaked face, the tears kept falling freely. Fareeha was in some frozen state of mind, blocked from the outside and only her feelings messing with her head. How many deaths more she had to carry for the nightmares to stop? For her to feel sorrow while looking at a dead body? Or to even feel a little disgust while doing her job and hurting others? She lost that many years ago. She lost that when she was only fourteen. She felt a warm touch wiping her tears, and she finally blinked, looking at the source of warmth and comfort.

“Hey, you… Are you okay?” Angela asked her softly, trying not to startle her. Her hair was damp and down and she was only wearing a light pink nightgown. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing…” She wiped her other cheek with the sleeve of her jacket, sniffing the tears back. “I’m just happy you have your life back. You have plenty of things to do now, right?” Fareeha tried to smile, but Angela wasn’t believing it.

“Many, many things, yes. But that’s not why you are crying.” Angela got to know her so well in the past months, even she was vulnerable to her concern. “Talk to me.”

“It’s- nevermind…”

“It’s about what Genji said? …No. You are hiding something more.” Fareeha stopped, realizing Angela knew about her mood all the time. In fact what Genji said pierced her heart because he was saying the truth. “Come with me.”

Fareeha let herself be led into the bedroom, sitting down on the cushioned mattress, and Angela sitting beside her. The doctor shifted to look at her, eyeing Fareeha up and down, taking her jacket off and beginning to undo the buttons of her shirt once again. Except there was no lust this time, just a woman wanting to bring comfort to another. And even something incredible for Fareeha, she even untied the tie, despise loving it so much. Angela touched her chest, just above her heart, and she placed Fareeha’s hand in the same spot above her milky breast.

“Feel me, just like I feel you.” Her heart was beating strong and steady, faster when her gaze fell on Fareeha’s dark eyes. “I’m alive, and it’s all thanks to you. You saved me, Fareeha. And despite being alive, without you, I wouldn’t be really living. I’ll be a shell of a woman. This heart that I feel beating makes me continue, it gives me a purpose, it a sign of hope.” Fareeha’s heart was beating faster, she couldn’t believe Angela’s words. “You are the reason I keep fighting. What’s the point of living if you have no one to love, not even yourself?”

“I’m sorry…” A couple tears rolled off her eyes, still looking at Angela speak her heart out.

“Talk to me, be honest to me. And I don’t care what you did in your past, as long as what you do with your future holds hope.”

“You don’t understand…”

“Then make me understand. Seeing you suffer makes me suffer too. Do you think I would have fought for a divorce if I wasn’t threatened by Talon? No, Fareeha. I tried to kill myself several times because I had no reason to stay alive. But here I am, my heart beating stronger and with more purpose than ever to keep going, and that’s all because of you. Because I love you, Fareeha. I don’t care if you killed dozens in your twenties. Stay with me.”

“Two hundred and twenty eight…”

“Pardon?” Fareeha released Angela’s grip and got up, sobbing uncontrollably. Her shoulders trembled, her chest quivered by the effort of restraining more tears to fall, even when she was pouring salty rivers down her cheeks.

“I killed two hundred and twenty eight… Since I was twelve…”

“Fareeha-”

“Do you know what the Amari’s do? We are renegades, a legacy of hired assassins in order to provide justice to the people. All the Amari have been trained since the age of ten to defend themselves, to fight, to kill, to flee and hide from those with corruption and power. The government has tried to kill us several times over decades, and they succeeded in the end. Only my mother and I stayed alive because we fled Egypt a year before that happened, and they’re still looking for us, for Bastet and her daughter.” Fareeha’s voice was broken while explaining all of that. She didn’t felt the mattress on her back, nor Angela’s arms embracing her.

“I’m listening, darling... I’m here.”

“That's the only thing I'm good at, at fighting, and everyone knew it, that's why I was always assigned to every mission the Amari’s had, and I was always the one that ended up killing more, just behind my mother as if it were a deer hunt. She hated it, me too… The Amari’s didn’t want me at all, they said I wasn’t pure of blood because my father is Canadian, but since I was very good at doing the dirty job, they decided to stick up with me. Two hundred and twenty eight deaths so far... And when I was eighteen, we fled to Canada with my father.”

“…Where they forcing you to kill since such a young age?”

“All the Amari’s are forced to… And every time it was the same with me, even my previous boyfriends. Some fucked up family… ‘You’re too serious, you breathe too heavily, you don’t move at all, you’re too cold, you’re too emotionless, you’re so uptight, you will breed with your cousin when you’re older. Do this, do that, move like this, kill that guy over there.’ It’s always the same! When am I going to stop taking orders and be myself for once?! It’s embarrassing even other people know about my family past!” Now she was referring to Genji. Of course, the man investigated her past to get at Angela, but still, it hurts.

Angela hushed her, taking her tighter in her arms and stroking her jet black hair, sometimes taking a golden bead in the way. She was crying as well, except there was a sad smile on her face and no sobs. How could she act trying to look though when she was breaking up with her? That was something Fareeha was so willing to protect, her smile. Her happiness. Even if it meant not staying with her, because the truth was if she stayed with Angela, she would only bring chaos to her fractured world. When her mother returned she had to make a decision. Perhaps it was time now.

‘I’m still an Amari, and I will always be.’

“I can’t stay with you. I can’t do anything else but being a murderer, Angela. As soon as I know you’re safe, I’m leaving back to Canada with my dad… I’m afraid you are attached to me because I’m the last person who treated you well. And I can’t keep going, not knowing I can’t offer you what you need, not like this.” She felt a fierce slap on her cheek. Her eyes wide for the first time Angela hit her, her pale face was flushed and tears threatened to keep falling as well.

“You are so stupid and yet…! My goodness… Look how pure and perfect you are for me. Don’t you realize? I’m not attached, I’m in love with you, and not because you’re the last person who treated me with respect like a human being, but because you were the only one.” She took her hand and placed it above her heart once again. “Feel it, feel how fast it beats, how strong because of you. If you’re gone, so am I. Please.” She begged, her lips quivering. Angela stood up and took a few steps back, letting her robe fall to the floor to reveal her naked figure under the light of the bedside lamps. “Please, stay with me.”

Fareeha looked at her intently for perhaps too long, the hand that previously touched Angela suddenly burned. Her frowning, shocked face relaxed, and turned into a smirk, amused by the way the doctor acted at such desperate situation. “Are you... Bribing me with your body?” Angela smiled to her as well.

“Don’t say you don’t enjoy it. Your pupils dilated, that means you've seen something that you like. Yes, I’m bribing you. Now, please, stay with me.” Fareeha got up, walking to where Angela was standing, her hands resting on her pale shoulders. “Feel me, touch me. Outside in your uniform you’re mine, but here, inside this walls, I’m all yours. My soul and body belongs to you, Fareeha Amari.” She was barely listening to her, she could only make a few words from the blonde. She was hypnotized, not just because of her body, but her intentions as well. She just wasn’t a schoolgirl having a crush on her, Angela was a powerful, intelligent and beautiful woman in love with her. Fareeha cupped both of Angela’s cheeks and brought her closer, kissing her like never before. Angela gasped and moaned, the sultriness of her voice arousing enough.

“You are cheating.”

“Did it work?” Fareeha laughed and kissed her again, this time smiling. There was no space for doubt now. She wanted her, she needed her, and she loved her.

“Yes, ma’am.” Angela giggled, enjoying how Fareeha started to become her own self again.

“You silly, little woman. I love you so much.”

“I love you too, ma’am.”

And she kissed her once again. Slowly, deep, savoring each part of her mouth. This is what she craved, this type of affection so honest and pure towards her it was a drug, addictive and dangerous. Fareeha took Angela in her arms, easing her on the bed as she straddled her hips. Their lips never parted, and Fareeha started to shrug her unbuttoned shirt, then unhooked her bra and tossed it somewhere on the floor. Angela smiled, and unbuckled her belt, then her pants which Fareeha kicked down, only her panties remained. Fareeha's phone rang in her pants, and a little jaded swept the device to take it, answering the call to see it was Jesse interrupting her.

“Hey, Reeha. Everyone’s going to Eichenwalde’s. Lena crashed a plane while landing and we’re celebrating her successful unsuccess. You wanna come?”

“I can’t, I’m kinda busy at the moment.” She kept kissing Angela, even when answering.

“Well, that sucks but I get you, hope everything went well. Oh, by the way, are you moving back now that the doc got her own apartment tho?” Fareeha smiled, kissing Angela in her exposed neck. She moved her phone slightly so Angela could listen as well. Brown eyes looked at the blonde in her deep cerulean ones, asking one more time if she was sure of her decision, if she truly wanted Fareeha to remain by her side. And there was no doubt in Angela’s smile, an unfaltering node coming from her flushed face. Fareeha knew she was making the right decision there.

“I’m not. I’m still assisting her here with a few things.”

“Uhm. So? How long are you staying?”

“Until Angela kicks me out of here.”

“…Does that mean what I think it is?”

“I’m staying with her.” Angela smiled, her brows furrowed while she tried to contain the tears.

“Fareeha?” She cut the call, tossing the phone on the mattress as it bounced somewhere off the bed. Fareeha brought Angela back to her lips, but the doctor was still dumbfound by her answer. She needed to make sure she heard right.

“Are you really staying?”

“As long as you want me here.”

“You’re not teasing me?”

“No.”

She smiled again, a pair of tan lips perched on her neck made sure she understood. Fareeha could see how the doctor was trembling beneath her, but she didn’t care, she could see Angela was actually happy. Honest and sincere joy. How long was it taking for her to actually embrace her feelings? A little too much for Fareeha. But finally she made a decision, the answer to her mother, everything was clear and there was nothing else to do. She would stay, and stay for a very long time caring for this magnificent woman, ensuring her safety and happiness, and simply loving her until her last breath. As simple as that.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter XXI

When I felt a sense of normalcy

 

For the first time in many years, for the first time in so much time, and for the first time in her life, waking up was an unforgettable experience. One of tranquility, of peace, of comfort, where she felt protected, present and absent at the same time, and loved above all. Angela opened her eyes slowly, her eyelashes fluttering a bit while adjusting her sight to her surroundings. Fortunately the blinds on the windows covered a large portion of the morning light. She moved gently, feeling a weight in her chest, when regularly she felt it due to discomfort, that morning it was a black-haired head occupied that place.

Despite her bad mood in the mornings, that day there was absolutely nothing like that. No, not at all. She woke up relaxed, conscious, with an incredible uplifting spirit and a great desire to tackle the world on that spring morning. She smiled, a hand stroking dark strands of hair of her lover sleeping peacefully under the thin blanket, nuzzling above her breasts. The truth is, Angela never saw her in such a state, not even when she was hospitalized and sedated. This was her, the real Fareeha showing herself to her. And it was marvelous.

Angela didn’t want to move, she just wanted to feel the girl above her heart, to linger on such a wonderful sensation all morning, day and night. Fareeha shifted in her sleep when she felt a hand stroking perhaps too rough, and released the weight on Angela’s chest, flipping the positions and pulling the blonde closer with her arm. The doctor took a deep breath, taking in her unique scent, the mixture of her own mixed with hers after last night’s events. She felt a heat rising inside her, and a playful husky thought crossed her mind while she remembered a tan body pinning her to the bed.

A pale hand resting on Fareeha’s stomach wandered lower, traveling to where her prize rested beneath the sheets. The lack of garments on both of them was making the act even easier for her. Angela giggled when she felt her bodyguard stir and moan slightly when a finger was probing between her folds, teasing her clit with the palm of her hand. It was working, for Fareeha was shifting and moaning in her sleep, her brow furrowing only so slightly, it was adorable. With two fingers, she gathered enough of her wetness, making the teasing even easier to perform.

But there was something lacking, it wasn’t enough for Angela. She moved the sheet carefully trying not to wake her protector, her naked body exposed to the cool air of the bedroom. Angela crawled to her feet, positioning herself between her tanned legs by lying down on her stomach, her face just mere inches from Fareeha’s navel. She smiled for herself when the woman in front of her still wasn’t waking up, and softly pulled her legs apart, revealing her prize slick and wet for her. Without thinking twice, she closed the space between her and her lips, and kissed tenderly around her clit, making Fareeha wince and stir more than ever by the contact.

Her tongue lapped from bottom to top, tasting her and remembering why she was so eager to do it again. It wasn’t only the way it stirred things inside her, but on Fareeha’s as well. She continued licking for a little longer, eliciting delicious sounds from her bodyguard, her strong hands clenching occasionally and her face in some sort of distress she could see it was just pleasure in disguise. Finally, a pair of fluttering eyes saw her back, and she tried to sit down unconsciously, barely lifting her torso while propped in her elbows.

“Hm… A-Angela-?” What are you do- A-ah!”

“Shh.” She eased the girl down by putting a hand on her stomach and pushing her gently back to bed. “Lay down for me, darling.”

Fareeha was about to refute, until she felt her thighs being stilled by two slender arms and how a tongue pushed deep inside her, making her throw her head back and moan with no remorse. A hand grasped blonde strands of hair, urging her to push further, but Fareeha retracted her hand as fast as she placed it on her head. Angela knew more than well she did that because she didn't want to hurt her. Meekness wasn't allowed there, not in the bed, and definitely not in her true home.

Angela took Fareeha's hand back, entangling it in her hair once again as she tugged her own golden threads, encouraging Fareeha to do the same to find that sweet pace that could take her over the edge. The truth is Angela barely understood what it was to make love to another woman, and even worse, what Fareeha really enjoyed during those times of shared pleasure. What did she exactly like? Was she enjoying it? She wanted to make feel good, great, beyond the unimaginable; to show her that she indeed wanted her with every fiber of her body and soul. How good could she be in relation to her pleasure? Fareeha certainly knew how to please her, but Angela had her doubts regarding her bodyguard’s needs.

Fareeha seemed to understand somehow, and urged the doctor push her tongue deeper by tugging her hair, which Angela gladly did with a side smile, her tongue teasing inside as much as she could while tasting more of her sweet arousal. She didn't know if such a pleasing taste was due to her healthy lifestyle or something entirely different. Nevertheless, it was addictive. When Fareeha moved the doctor's head a little more, she knew it wasn't enough, she craved for more stimulation. Angela teased her clit with her thumb, flicking the sensitive bud above her mouth in soft, slow circles. That was her heads up to continue, Fareeha releasing a high-pitched noise, her hips rising from the mattress trying to seek more of that indulgent contact.

So was that how a woman looked like when enjoying a good time in bed? Her face was flushed, a thin layer of sweat covered her tan body, and her eyes were partly closed while her abs were more noticeable by the effort of lifting her body off the bed. Angela wanted more of that, the sigh alone was overpowering, but paired with the touch of her tugging her hair, the pressure she felt in her tongue inside, the different kind of scent and the sounds of her moaning uncontrollably while reaching her climax was even more encouraging. It couldn’t get better, it really couldn’t.

“Ah yes… Fuck, yes, yes! A-Angela, please…!”

Oh, it very much could get better. That marvelous song was enough motivation to take a step further. Without letting her come down from her euphoric state, Angela retracted her tongue, only to be replaced by two slender fingers pumping at a rapid space inside her while a pair of lips closed on her engorged and overly stimulated bud, sending her to a mad state of pleasure, making her a squirming, moaning mess over the bed. Angela felt her fingers being constricted between velvet walls while trying to tease her front wall with every stroke of her fingers. She clicked her tongue unsatisfied, Fareeha could do better, and she inserted another finger to her dripping cunt, earning a satisfying reaction of her almost sitting up by the contact while her hands tried to steady her to anything, whether it’s the sheets under her or the headrest behind her.

Angela kept lapping, sucking and grazing her teeth to her clit, the gasps increasing in volume as her fingers pumped faster. She was close to the edge again in record time. Her lips stopped teasing the sensitive flesh, replaced by a thumb gracing her clit with every stroke. Fareeha’s mouth was agape, even a barely noticeable trail of saliva dripping from the corner of her mouth when Angela took one of her nipples in her mouth, sucking and licking the hardened bud. Her bodyguard’s body was lifted only by her elbows, her hips still slightly hovering over the mattress, and her chest heaved the more Angela’s adept fingers kept teasing her.

“Come for me again.”

It seemed to be enough encouragement for Fareeha, as she released a drowned scream, her eyes shut and her head hanging back. That gorgeous body could barely hold itself, trembling and twitching while her body recovered from the ecstasy of her release. Fareeha fell back to the bed, her arm covering her eyes as she panted tiredly, yelping when she felt a tongue trail between her sodden folds once again. Fareeha chuckled tiredly when Angela placed a soft kiss on her navel, crawling with a tease and lying on her side next to her, her head resting on her hand as she watched her with immeasurable affection, smiling at the sight of her lover rested and satisfied as she recovered from her bliss.

“Good morning.” Angela simply said, giving her a kiss so she could taste herself.

“…What was that?” Fareeha asked, moving her arm slightly and uncovering only one eye.

“Nothing, I just wanted you to start the day with your right foot. Did you enjoyed it?”

“Very much. Am I expecting more of this every morning?”

“I don't know. Are you being a good girl?”

“You tell me.” Angela laughed, and managed to lie on top of Fareeha, peppering her with soft, lingering kisses on her neck, shoulders and collarbone.

“That depends, how was I compared to your previous sexual experiences?” Fareeha chuckled, the doctor's hot breath still in her neck.

“Why are you asking me that? Isn’t that a little private?”

“Please, I’m a doctor, I'm used to processing confidential information. And it's easy: I want to be the best you've ever had.” The bodyguard stood still thinking, as if wondering if what she was going to say wasn’t going to tangle a mess between them.

“Well… You already are since the first time I was with you, you just seem to overcome yourself.”

“Truly?” Angela’s eyes sparkled, her heart leaping.

“It's uhm… Kind of embarrassing to admit but… Yeah.”

The doctor hid her face in the crook of Fareeha’s neck, a soft blush on her cheeks indicated she was truly happy and embarrassed, even if she was indeed a doctor and was used to hear that kind of honesty, just the fact it was Fareeha was enough to send a spark of excitement to her body. Nonetheless, she needed to hear that, her heart and mind deserved so. “Don’t hide from me. I think we are past the embarrassing stage, dear. So it really helps that as a woman I know how to please another one because we know our bodies, hm?”

“That might help… Shall I return the favor, then?” Fareeha was about to twist the doctor’s body, but she felt a soft bite on her shoulder enough to make her hiss. The weight of Angela was no longer on top of her, just a chuckling blonde walking away from the bed.

“Oh, don't worry, that was satisfying enough for me. Such a way to release endorphins perhaps will make me get rid of my morning dose of caffeine.”

“Really?”                                             

“I’m just teasing you, I really need coffee.” They both shared a comfortable laughter, something no longer forgotten. “We must take a shower and go to the hospital, there's so much more I have to prepare before I go to work as I should again. Now without a partner, the entire burden of the investigation falls on me, and believe me that time is what I need the most now: time.” Fareeha grunted, getting out of bed and following Angela to the bathroom. What the doctor didn’t expect was for a pair of arms scooping her and grabbing her ass with no remorse. Angela yelped, but laughed after the initial scare faded away. “W-what are you doing, Fareeha…?!” She asked in an amusing tone, giggling all the while as a child, and Fareeha’s side smile said it all.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but I never leave a job unfinished.”


Angela used to be more than grateful for the monotony and daily routine she used to have before she left the Shimada-Ziegler residence. Of course, always starting with the fact that leaving home until returning to it was the only good part, never what happened inside the residence. However, this time was different. Awakening was the wondrous experience now, not filled with fear and a sense of emptiness anymore, and coming back to lie down in her bed after such trying day was an indescribable reward. Still, the most fulfilling thing was the woman with whom she now shared the apartment and which at last, after so many years; the space was truly feeling like a home.

Home. The word made her shudder. Only scarce days passed and she could use it properly, how little time it took when the right person was at her side. Her childhood was a misery, to move from family to another wasn’t a happy experience at all, living with Genji was the worst of her nightmares, and only living alone resembled more that word. However, there was still that space that could only be filled by Fareeha. Angela initially believed that her achievements and scientific discoveries were the only things that could fill that gap. How wrong she was.

And still. How amusing it was going to be another woman the one that could change her perspective of life.

As a woman of science, life was basically based on being born, reproducing and dying. And she was born alone, growing up to understand that reproducing was not essential and her life was more than just following the standards of society, and definitely now more than ever, she was not willing to die. Not when she finally found someone who, although intellectually she didn’t compare to her, was more than she asked for in terms of spiritual reward. It was company, support, and understanding. And Fareeha gave it all and was willing to give more. What else did Angela need?

The coffee she had in her hands was enough to clear her mind, the bitter taste and the pungent aroma of her drink were similar to an addiction from her teenage years in college, but lately Fareeha proved to be more than unnerving. And Angela was having fun with everything she could do with her. From the simple commands she used previously, to making her wear the uniform that the girl disliked only for a simple tie that made her "an easy target". She was five years younger than her and her childish attitude still lingered when she wasn’t on full work-mode, making Angela remember she had lost on so much of her own childhood.

The sliding glass doors of the hospital opened wide, the doctor's heels sounding loudly on the bright tiles of the floor. It was a scenario that many were accustomed to, but after disappearing for so long, Angela was more than ready to make a victorious, purposeful and permanent return, and the astonished looks of the hospital staff said it all. Even Mei who was ready to leave the building from her night shift and who ran to greet fervently her friend given even for dead, embracing her in an almost tearing hug.

“-Angela! My goodness! We thought you were…!”

“It will take more than a few simple threats to kill me. I’m glad you’re safe and fine.” Mei was crying, almost bawling, she has always been a soft soul. There was quite a crowd of doctors and nurses surrounding them, and Angela began to get a little uncomfortable, but they needed answers and encouragements, and the doctor was willing to provide them. “I’m very happy to see you safe and sound, and I hope to continue seeing you all here. Today more than ever we must be united, and my return proves that we’ll stand our ground as family. I will never leave my profession, not even for a threat. I will live and die for my patients, and I hope that you don’t think about leaving the path you took either.”

There was silence for a minute, then a lone clap from Mei, and a round of applauses. Angela easily admitted that she felt embarrassed, she was not used to being treated that way by her own staff, and all she could do was smile uncomfortably and dismiss them. In the end, Mei was the only one left. “We need to catch up, Angela. There’s so much we need to discuss.”

“Shall we go to my office then?” Mei nodded, and they parted.

It seemed that the hospital wasn’t getting used to her presence again, several eyes perched astonishingly on her as she walked. Her heels clicking sounding loudly on the floor, followed very closely by Fareeha. Her heart fluttered when she remembered that she was there again, by her side and for a long time in the future. There was only one thorn that didn’t let her be happy, and it was the constant threat from which she still had no idea who was causing so much chaos in the medical circle.

They arrived in front of her office door, and Angela held her breath for a moment, taking the keys from her purse and hoping to maybe find a mess inside due to her absence, but she breathed easily when everything was impeccable, just as she had left it. Angela sat at her desk once the three entered and Fareeha locked the door behind them, positioning herself right next to Angela while Mei sat across the desk. The blonde laughed a little when she saw Fareeha not leaving her usual guard, and put her hand on her arm to get her attention.

“You can relax, Fareeha. It’s just Mei.” Dark eyes saw her back, and her face softened in a smirk.

“Just me? What do you- oh! You called her by her first name!”

“Last time I recalled that was her name, am I wrong?”

“It is.” Mei giggled, covering her mouth with a hand. “I’m glad she’s still with you. You’re such a loyal friend, aren’t you?” This time Mei addressed Fareeha.

“I am loyal, yes.” Fareeha smiled, and slightly bowed her head, dismissing herself. “I’m going to get us something to eat. Do you want something, Mei?”

“I’m fine, thank you. I won’t stay for long after all, I need some rest.” Mei said apologetically, muffling a yawn with the back of her hand. Her night shift barely ended and she must’ve been exhausted.

“Very well, I will not be long. Can I ask you a favor and wait until I come back?”

“Oh! Of course! Take your time. I need more than thirty minutes to catch up with Angela after all!”

“Thank you so much. If you need me, don’t hesitate in giving me a call. Both of you.”

Angela nodded, and the last thing she saw was Fareeha disappearing behind the door. Her unique and incomparable smile was the light that she had to follow. For how long would she be able to maintain that smile and that happiness beating? Was she doing the right thing? Everyone can go to Hell if they disagree, it was fine and it was worth it. Angela didn’t know when she put her cheek in her hand and smiled foolishly, never taking her eyes off her even when the door closed. Mei saw her and the door, and smiled to herself to see that Angela was still in a trance.

“Ahem.”

“Hm?” Angela perched up, finally looking at her friend in front of her.

“You are distracted, Angela... But you are happy. Something happened?” A lot happened indeed, starting with that girl so selfless it hurts. But it wasn’t the time to announce that, especially when there was a job that had yet to end in relation to their duty.

“I am happy. And I’m happy to announce that I’m getting a divorce.” She smiled a sincere smile, almost beaming and her blue eyes shining like Mei used to see before the marriage itself.

“Oh my goodness…! Even when I should normally worry and grieve over a divorce, this time I am very happy for you! It's great news, Angela! That’s why you disappeared?”

“Partly. But I can finally be free... I waited so long for that, it’s strange now.”

“It shouldn’t be. I mean, a marriage should not be about being tied to a toxic and harmful relationship. Divorce is the best thing that can happen to you now, and with Fareeha by your side nothing will happen to you.” Mei shook her head and put her hand on top of Angela’s, giving it a little squeeze as a sign of support and understanding. “By the way, is Genji still paying her?” Angela giggled and looked at the door once again, then back at Mei with an honest smile.

“Oh no. She’s mine now.”

“…Yours?”

“She’s… Living with me in a new apartment I just bought, as I no longer live in the southern suburbs. Her new contract states that she must stay with me twenty four-seven, and that includes living with me until I no longer require her services.”

“Which is…?”

“I don’t know, perhaps never or when she gets bored of me.” Angela said it without thinking, so disinterestedly to keep thinking about Fareeha that she didn’t notice her words, but when she saw Mei she knew it was too late. “I-I mean, when she’s-”

“Are you interested in her?” Mei knew that there was something else, the mischievous smile betraying her. Angela couldn’t do much more than surrender and tell her the truth, but only part of it.

“We’ve been… Well, it’s so complicated, I don’t know… We do have strong feelings for each other, but you must understand neither of us can’t say anything until all of this is over. I’m referring to my divorce, the whole situation with the doctors, her job, my job… It’s a lot, and even when I love her, we must remain silent and face everything with total discretion.” Mei blinked a couple of times, her mouth agape, and she cleared her throat.

“…Wait, did I hear right? You… You love her?” Angela sighed, and looked at the door once more, expecting the girl of her dreams enter with a bag of lunch for both of them, just like she cared for several days, weeks, months.

“I-I do, very much… The very thought of being away from her is frightening… I’m sorry.”

“Why are you apologizing? Angela, this is the first time in so long I can finally see you happy, like honestly happy, not that fake woman I’ve seeing for years.”

“Does it matter if it’s a woman? How will everybody react when they know that I’m-?”

“Screw them, Angela! Be selfish for once! Man, woman, both or any, love who you love, it doesn’t matter what it is for you to be truly happy. Look, I just have a cat and I don’t think I need somebody right now to feel better with myself, that person will appear at the right time and I know that. You on the other hand, you're so used to being betrayed that you don’t know where to go, and it's a good thing that Fareeha showed up because, let me tell you, since she came into your life, you improved and you became a different person. You're a stronger woman both inside and outside, Angela. Self-love is the most important thing to start being happy, and it's something that it seems she gave you back. I don’t think I can express my gratitude to Fareeha for bringing you back, she deserves more than a juicy remuneration.” Angela giggled, wiping a couple of tears running down her cheeks.

“What makes all this even more amusing is that I’m not paying her anything. She refused to take a single cent from me. I offered double her previous income plus everything her heart desired, and all she asked was food, water, a place next to me where to sleep... And nothing else.”

“She’s that committed heh. I spoke with her several times ago and she has always been worried about you. Not just work, honest concern, like a friend. How did your friends take it? Do they know?” Angela sighed, how much she wanted both their friends to support their complicated relationship.

“Only a couple of our friends know, but… They haven’t been very supportive. I understand them, we both have a very serious employment relationship and I'm still married, but at the same time it makes me angry that they don’t understand that I deserve it after suffering so much... I guess that's why I'm being so honest with you, because you truly support me.”

“And I’ll always support you and follow you no matter what choice you make.” Both smiled, sharing that moment of comfort and honesty Angela needed for so long.

How much time had it taken her to trust someone at last when she had her closer than she thought? Mei was always an excellent girl, and she was someone with whom she could share her intellect and they had tastes and occupations in common. Of course, Hanzo and Amelie were a completely different world than the Chinese woman, but they were the complement to the other part of Angela, and honestly it hurt when they couldn’t understand how important it was to piece together their happiness. And Fareeha was the last and most important, that piece of the center that was very noticeable when missing.

“You’re daydreaming again.”

“My apologies.” Mei giggled once again, standing up and giving a little hug to Angela, who took it gladly.

“I like this new you. So honest.” The door opened and, as Angela expected, Fareeha came in with a paper bag in her hands, plus another cup of coffee. However, Mei turned away from Angela and smiled at her with an accomplice look. “Well, I'll leave you to settle once again.” The Asian girl yawned and walked to where Fareeha was, now giving her a tight squeeze, almost taking the air out of the bodyguard. “And I can’t thank you enough, Fareeha. Take good care of her.” That’s all she said before disappearing behind the closing door.

“Oh uhm… O-of course…?”

“Lock the door and sit down.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Fareeha obeyed, and sat down in front of the doctor just where Mei was before. She handed Angela the cup of coffee and put the bag on the desk, taking out some breakfast containers for both of them. The two ate mostly in silence, enjoying the company of each other. Angela occasionally stole glances from the girl in front of her, seeing her mannerisms and the disinterested and relaxed way in which she ate. How was it possible that even such a common gesture was so attractively performed by her? Perhaps that’s part of the mysteries of being in love again.

“Six months.” Fareeha blurted, making Angela flinch and pop the bubble of fantasies she was in.

“Pardon?”

“Six months. Half a year with you and I hadn’t realized until now that you skip breakfast.” It felt more like a scolding than an observation. Angela simply shrugged as she continued to eat her breakfast.

“I'm not hungry in the mornings, and honestly making breakfast takes a lot of time, so it's a nuisance I don’t intend to take.”

“Goodness… Are you kidding me? You should know better, you’re a doctor. Your health is not a nuisance.”

“I don’t need someone to chide me out. I’m a big girl.”

“Clearly not. I guess I’ll start to make you breakfast.” Angela laughed, taking a sip of her newly-brewed coffee.

“I hired you as a bodyguard, not as a maid, Fareeha.”

“Meh, it’s kind of the same thing: I have to take care of you, make sure everything’s in order, and now ensuring you’re healthy and alive, so yep, pretty much the same. I'll change my gun for a spatula and my knife... Well, I'll keep using it.” Angela laughed, setting her container aside so Fareeha could grab it and toss it in the bin.

“Have you always been this dorky?”

“Dorky?” Fareeha faked a hurt tone, only to laugh afterwards when she couldn’t contain her amusement. “Come on, I’m beyond that. I ask you again, are you sure you still want this in your house?”

“If that’s not there, then it’s becomes a house rather than a home. So yes, I do want you there, dork and all.”

“I warned you.”

“Mhm, you did.”

The doctor simply muttered when Fareeha went to the couch and took out her phone, probably to look at some messages or play a game she was getting quite addicted to as of lately. Angela sometimes looked up from her notes, the fact that Fareeha was there brought her an immense tranquility, enough to work with total sense of peace and quiet. She felt that sometimes Fareeha felt like a child rather than her bodyguard, and the most adorable time was when she just sat there and rested, her eyes closed and her face relaxed when her chest rose and fell slowly, steady, at ease. How amazing was to see her alive.

Angela took a pendrive she protected with her own life, the small device containing data and information worth a lifetime of researches, procedures, experiments and other sort of investigations Angela did in order to improve the quality of mankind. Some showed successful results, others simply needed to be developed more carefully, with more time and resources, and others -like Moira's- simply ended in disaster or with immoral consequences. No, never again. When introducing the pendrive in the computer her information was loaded and she sighed calmly, seeing how she could save the majority of her work. After so much, her life was beginning to regularize. Fortunately Fareeha didn’t notice the tear of happiness that escaped her pure blue eyes.

“Finally…”


Each day was definitely something new, something exciting, something that Angela clung to daily to continue living, but this time truly, honestly living. It had only been a week since Fareeha decided to move in with her, and every moment became her favorite. What a waste of time she had with her husband, however, she had to admit that she had so much to thank him, because without him she wouldn’t be where she was, and until now she has enjoyed every single minute of her new life.

Waking up was the best part, mostly because Fareeha was next to her hugging or cuddling with her, the girl's warmth something incomparable and that despite being about to turn twenty-nine in a couple of months, she was just beginning to truly enjoy. Each sound, each smell, each touch, everything was different and made her feel alive and loved. And that morning wasn’t different. From the sound of Fareeha's phone when the alarm woke her up, to her silent footsteps to the bathroom before taking a quick shower. Angela always pretended to be asleep when the alarm went off, and she went back to sleep when she heard the water running in the bathroom.

Angela opened her eyes again to feel the mattress sink gently; Fareeha was sitting just in her underwear hunching forward while drying her hair with a towel, a routine that Angela hadn’t yet tired of looking at. And it was strange, because she never sacrificed her sleep in that way, and seeing Fareeha so tempting was definitely a sight worthy of remaining coherent and alert. The bodyguard seemed to notice her, and smiled to see how the doctor saw her with half-lidded eyes and the sheet covering her mouth.

“Morning.”

“Hm…” Was all Angela could mutter, the sleep still heavy on her. Fareeha left the towel on the bed and crawled back to Angela. The blonde giggled slightly, feeling her lover’s body on top of her and her lips on her cheek, jaw and neck. “A-ah so irritating, you’re turning me on…”

“I’ll go make breakfast then.”

“No, keep going.” It turned out more than a whine than a request.

“We can’t keep doing this every morning. I’m your bodyguard, not your sex slave.”

“Grab a hundred from my purse and come here.” Fareeha laughed, standing up and taking her black uniform pants to leave the bedroom and go to the kitchen.

“Sorry, the first time was okay to be late, but I can’t let you keep doing it. So get dressed while I make breakfast and put the coffee on.”

“Take my credit card then.”

“Nope.”

Fareeha closed the door with only so much amusement, Angela’s arousal was even more difficult to manage every day, and the fact they stayed so close for the whole day only made her want her so much more. But that was only the beginning of her days, and Angela had never appreciated the routine so much. Waking up, working, returning home, and this time with someone who really appreciated her for the woman she was, not only because of her physical appearance or intellectual capacity, just for the simple fact of being her.

Walking next to Fareeha was a wonder, to feel such a powerful woman taking care of her and watching her closely, always so protective and intimidating, but gentle and kind at the same time. There was nothing that Angela didn’t love about Fareeha, and for a small part inside she loved to show off to the girl wherever she went, and treating her like a doll had its advantages. Her uniform, her manners, the way she spoke, the way she walked, the way she acted, all under Angela's command, and a simple glance was enough to have Fareeha at her feet. And quite literally sometimes.

“I forgot my phone in the office. I will return fast.” Fareeha said while patting her pants and walking towards the doctor’s office. They were standing in front of Angela’s lab, the one she shared with Moira, and she put her finger on a fingerprint reader, unlocking the ever private laboratory.

The routine began again when that door was opened, and while the passage was forbidden to all staff, Fareeha was the only exception. This time, the routine wasn’t waiting for her inside, and Angela's blue eyes widened in horror at seeing her laboratory. Shredded computers, broken lab glassware, flipped tables and chairs, medical equipment lying on the floor, and all under the broken lights flickering on the ceiling. Angela ran quickly to the incubator and opened it desperately. Empty. Just like the refrigerators, centrifuges, analyzers of all kinds, and most importantly, the microbiological systems. The system that she and Moira had developed and which had worked to successfully eradicate the cancer cells of a lung, all gone.

“No… No, no, no, no… No!”

Angela screamed loudly and threw herself to the floor, trying to hold onto something while her body trembled violently. One of the most important jobs of her life had been stolen, her laboratory violated, and part of her life taken from it. Fareeha came running back quickly, her head spinning from side to side as she saw the laboratory in complete dismantling. She knelt in front of Angela and took her in her arms while the doctor kept screaming and crying.

“I-It’s gone…! My work, my research, a-all gone. What am I going to do?!” She was shaking, her hands taking pieces of broken glass and trying to grasp what was left of her work worth years of sleepless nights.

“Hey easy, we are going to find who’s responsible for this and we will take it before the law. We will recover your research, don’t worry.” Fareeha’s efforts to ease her weren’t helping at all, and Angela parted from the embrace, looking at her with hurt and tears in her eyes.

“Do you know what this means? Do you have an idea of how bad this is?” Fareeha simply stared at her bewildered, she seemed to grasp a little of what could happen. “This research is not patented yet, and whoever has it may be smart enough to continue with the tests and the authorities could give a green light to the treatment. But do you think that is dangerous? No, the most worrying thing is what they can do with it, Fareeha. They can stain my work, years and years of research in the hands of a bastard who decided to steal it and-”

She couldn’t continue, Fareeha’s embrace even stronger than before. So strong, that she lifted her off the floor and took her to the office again, giving her a bottle of water to drink so that she could recover and make up her mind. Fareeha could barely understand her with her thick Swiss accent when she was under a lot of stress, and that wasn’t good for either the doctor or her. After a few minutes security arrived at the laboratory, reviewing the recorded videos of the security cameras again and again, and confirming that no one entered through the only access door. Angela simply got more irritated knowing that, and things fell into a tailspin.

Fareeha only thought of one way to help her in which the police tried to solve the case inside the hospital, and in less than an hour there was a whole team of Helix investigating the stolen research with the best hacker she knew. Fareeha sat next to Olivia looking at the recordings of the camera since yesterday when they left the laboratory completely tidy until now when they opened the doors and found the facilities in complete disarray. Olivia frowned again and again as she sat in front of the computer in that small hospital’s security cabin, checking each frame and expecting to see something strange, but she didn’t succeed.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t see anything weird here. You don’t have cameras inside the lab?” Angela shook her head.

“No. My researches are so secret that I refuse to have any object that can betray my work. Cameras, cell phones, computers with internet access, people, nothing goes in there without my consent, and I haven’t given it to anyone except Fareeha.”

“And you say there’s no other way to go inside.”

“That’s the only door.”

“How about a hatch? Or air ducts of a heating or cooling system? A sewer manhole? Believe me, I’ve seen very sneaky thieves crawl between air ducts.” Angela was about to refute that, until she remembered something, and her eyes went wide open.

“The biohazard waste hatch… There is a special waste system that leads directly into the basement to an isolated area for biochemical waste.” Olivia twisted in the chair and looked at both of them.

“Well, there’s our lead. That's where we should investigate. I'll check the cameras in that sector to see if I see anything strange. Meanwhile, you should investigate below, Fareeha. Morrison and Jesse are in the lab with the police, you should call them to join you too.”

“Yes, I’ll call them-”

“I’ll go with you.” Angela interrupted. “It’s my research and I must ensure it is safe.”

“Absolutely not. Anywhere with not enough security is an unthinkable place for you to go. Stay here or with the police and wait for me.” Fareeha adjusted her jacket, ensuring her holster and gun where at hand and ready to leave, but Angela stopped her by grasping her tie and pulling her dangerously close to her, her eyes reflecting annoyance and dominance.

“Fareeha, I will go with you. I refuse to wait when I have the chance to do something. So come on and don’t you dare refuse me again and stand above me. We’ll talk later.” Fareeha almost clicked her tongue, but huffed and opened the door for Angela. She wasn’t very happy, but the doctor was beyond furious with her stolen research.

“…Yes, ma’am.”

The footsteps of both sounded loudly on the ground, Fareeha's footsteps with more anger than anything, and Angela understood perfectly, how couldn’t she? Her bodyguard obviously didn’t want to risk her life and take her to a potentially dangerous place when she could be safe in the comfort of her own office surrounded by private agents and police officers. Fareeha huffed again and again, visibly annoyed by Angela's decision, but when she felt the doctor's hand take hers, she relaxed and looked at her with concern. The only thing Angela could do was smile and with a squeeze of her hand, let her know that everything would be fine.

The basement was partly made up of staff parking and a special waste area, and that's where they went first. Angela had a master key to the entire hospital, only a few places were out of her reach, and she opened the warehouse where the biological waste was storage until disposed. Just as Olivia had a hunch, the place was tainted with violence. A broken handle, scrapped ducts and torn grills. Fareeha could see there were no cameras inside, and she took her phone to call her partners to arrive at the scene. Angela kept investigating inside, even peeking inside the duct.

Suddenly, she heard a thud on the ground.

The doctor turned her head and saw Fareeha on the floor; her eyes opened as she pressed her leg hard and screamed in pain, her hands began to turn red as she felt the blood drain profusely from her thigh by a bullet wound. Two armed men with black bodysuits and masks of a singular design began to hit her on the ground with the butt of their assault rifles, and Fareeha barely managed to cover herself with her arms and legs. Angela saw the scene horrified, reacting quickly and taking her own gun from the thigh holster, aiming at both.

“Leave her alone!”

“Finally, there you are. It took us too long find you after the theater.” The voice was distorted by some sort of voice modulator. He turned his head to his companion and nodded at Fareeha on the floor. “Kill her.”

“No!” Angela yelled, and in a fit of desperation, she put the muzzle of her own gun against her head, the metal touching her temple rather aggressively.

“No! Angela, don’t…!”

“You kill her, you even put a finger on her, and I’m pulling the trigger!” The men laughed at each other, probably amused by the fact that a woman so frail and helpless was capable of even handling the precarious situation in which she found herself. Fareeha was yelling on the floor, one of the men pinning her to the floor with his booth and the assault rifle pointing to her head. “I’m not bluffing.”

“You won’t do it-”

A loud bang, and blood dripped down and grotesquely splashed the concrete floor, making a puddle of thick burgundy liquid. Angela screamed loudly, leaving her momentarily useless of an arm as she shot herself intelligently at a soft spot on her forearm without traversing an important artery, just soft flesh. However, the pain was unbearable, and the heat she felt was akin to boiling water on an open wound. Angela gritted her teeth hard and returned the gun to her head with a trembling hand while trying to endure the pain. The message was delivered, she wasn’t bluffing.

“Angela, stop!”

“I don’t think I’m of any use to you with an unusable arm, and I'm sure whoever your boss is doesn’t want me dead either. Leave her alone, I'm not kidding. This time the bullet goes to the head if you make a stupid move.”

“What you are doing is stupid enough, Dr. Ziegler.”

“Leave her alone… I’m going with you, but leave her. Let her live in exchange for my life.”

“No! Stop!”

Both assailants looked at each other, a silent exchange of glances that ended in one of them nodding when he heard the tires of a car screeching in the concrete of the parking lot. A black car with tinted windows stood in front of them and the back door opened quickly. “Get inside.” Angela nodded, and she obeyed, taking a few steps back with the gun still pointed to her head to make sure that Fareeha wasn’t hurt in the process. Fortunately the man who had her immobilized on the floor released her and he got into the car, and the blonde for a second could release the air she was holding so dearly.

Angela felt the cushioned seat beneath her, and she turned her head to the back glass of the car, watching and listening as Fareeha stood up in pain from her injured leg and ran with difficulty towards the moving car. The basement doors opened and more of Helix's agents came out, grabbing her by the arms while Fareeha tried to escape from the grip and shouted repeatedly as she tried to break free. Angela's heart broke apart when she saw the woman she loved the most suffer because of their separation, and the tears didn’t took long enough to gather in her eyes.

“I love you so much… A-and I’m sorry.”

Angela whispered to herself, hoping the words would somehow reach the person she loved so much, and she pulled the trigger one last time.

Chapter Text

 

 

Chapter XXII

And I lost her and myself

 

“No! No! No! No!”

Her limbs were immobilized by a pair of arms each, her waist as well, and even then she was able to move slightly on the sole impulse to save the woman who was being abducted in that car by members of Talon. She could still make out the blonde head of the doctor a few meters from disappearing from the underground parking lot, until she heard a thundering bang and the back glass of the car was dyed red, the blood covering most of the rear window. Fareeha felt her legs give up, tremble strongly and yet, that only contributed to strengthen her body and her will.

She felt her throat tear apart as she cried louder, more with every passing second, her voice surpassing every sound in the basement. Jesse and Jack each held their arms while Olivia tried to stop her from the waist, but Fareeha's strength as she went in a rush of adrenaline was impossible to control, and her small friend barely managed to hold her in place when she felt the violent movement of Fareeha's body trying to push her away.

“Fareeha! Stop!”

“It’s no use, Olivia! Let’s drag her inside!” Jesse groaned, trying to pull her up the elevator by the arm, but Fareeha turned her face to him and took momentum, her forehead hitting her former roommate's angrily and causing him to retract his grip. “Fuck-! Fareeha!” Jesse yelled as he touched his forehead, Fareeha making a small bleeding cut above his eyebrow with her force.

“Let me go!”

“You will not achieve anything like that!”

Olivia was the next to face her wrath, as Fareeha swept-kicked her leg and made the girl fall to the concrete floor with a thud. Fareeha finally broke free of Jack's grip and ran off in the direction the car disappeared. She didn't hear when the elevator opened again and three police officers came to her aid. Or rather to help Jack and company. “Stop her!” Jack yelled, and two of the policemen along with Jesse ran towards her, causing her to fall to the ground while they were immobilizing her and the other policeman was handcuffing her from the wrists behind her back.

“No! Get the fuck out of me!”

“Fareeha, stop screaming!”

Her superior arrived at her side, stopping right in front of her to look reproachfully in her deep amber eyes. Fareeha however didn’t respond in the same way, and kept screaming, almost in a dangerous growl. She was angry, furious, she felt a tremendous impotence and a desire to kill unequaled. And something inside her shattered. Sadness, grief, melancholy, a mix of everything that made her feel useless, miserable, and a total failure. Her screams turned into a cry, a bawl and whimpering that left her in tears and her body limp against the ground. She couldn’t take it anymore. Being heartbroken was to say just so little, because her whole body ached.

She was dragged back inside the hospital to the emergency room, her leg had to be treated immediately by the bullet wound she received only a few minutes ago and that, although she shouldn’t even be able to walk comfortably -let alone run- the pain in her thigh was hardly comparable to the pain of losing Angela. She was literally dragged to the ER by Jesse and a police officer since she refused to move. Her feet dragged on the shiny floor tiles and a trail of blood and tears was all she left in the hospital corridor. Her hair fell in front of her face while her head hung low and she continued to cry. And it had been so long since she had felt that way. It was frightening, because she knew what was coming next.

Jack stayed a little behind talking on the phone, if she remained silent she could easily hear what he was talking about, but her sobs were very piercing and even other medical members stopped their work to find out what was happening. Definitely seeing the bodyguard of the renowned Dr. Angela Ziegler being dragged with a leg bleeding profusely was not a good sign. Fareeha was already in the operation bed and a medical team was ready to remove the bullet. Her black pants were ripped, revealing the section of flesh were she was hit.

“Keep calm, we are going to supply anesthesia and take the bul- don’t get up!” Fareeha didn’t let the doctor continue, and with her own hand she put her fingers inside the wound, removing the bullet from her muscle and throwing it to the ground with a scream. The metal clanked on the tile with every bounce, leaving a blood stain for every place it touched. Not even the fact of being handcuffed bothered her to perform that maneuver. “O-okay…? Let’s clean the wound and suture…”

Regardless of the doctor's instructions, Fareeha got up and walked quickly to the double doors of the operation theater, only to be stopped by Jack and Jesse again, who were waiting for the girl's reckless attitude. “Stand back.” Fareeha hissed, venom in her voice. Jesse didn't back down, and Jack took a small device like a pistol from his waist, quickly aiming at Fareeha's back. The taser shock her with one of the strongest electrical currents she ever felt and she fell to the floor with a thud, shaking violently by the electricity coursing through her body and screaming through clenched teeth.

“I can’t believe not even with handcuffs you’re cooperating, Fareeha… Why do I let your mother convince me to use this thing on you?” Jack sighed and shook his face, retracting the taser back into his place. Fareeha screamed one last time before falling unconscious from a hit on her nape and being carried by both her coworkers into a dreamless but distressful sleep.


Pain was the only thing she could feel. The pain in her leg, the pain of her bruised body, the pain of her shattered ego. The pain of losing her. Dull sounds, dull thuds, dull voices. The light coming from the nightstand lamp was the only source of illumination, but it was faint nonetheless. She felt the restrain in her hands, legs and even waist and neck. Her wrists and ankles were bound and tied to the back of a wooden chair in the middle of her former bedroom in her mother’s apartment. She recognized several items in the bed: sedatives, bandages, cotton balls, gauze, alcohol, tweezers, a first aid book open at a specific page, duct tape, the remnants of a cut rope. Her mouth was covered by a piece of tape, her hair fell down freely in front of her, she immediately recognized the scenario.

The worst thing is that Fareeha remembers being in that position more than once, and in each of them managed to escape successfully. Just a chance, and that will be it, this was no different. The voices outside the bedroom intensified, the sound of footsteps becoming more present until the door opened, giving way to her mother who carried a small container with water and a towel. She sighed when she saw her daughter awake and that, although she was not fully recovered by the sedative effect, she was still conscious and alert. Ana stood in front of Fareeha, taking the rag and soaking it with water prior cleaning her daughter’s perspiring and dirty face.

“In one way or another, you always manage to give me a heart attack…” She shook her head, dabbing the cloth into her face, wiping away the dirt, blood and sweat. “You worry me beyond reason, and you don’t know how much it hurts me to see you like this. To do this to you…” She kept cleaning her, and knelt to take a look at the bandaged leg where Fareeha was shot. “I didn’t know what to do when Jack called me. Well, I knew exactly what to do but... I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t think you would come back... Not like this.”

Fareeha knew exactly who she was referring to. The fact of remaining immobilized and gagged didn’t held the fact that she radiated a negative, murderous energy. The girl who promised to bury in a very dark place within herself, the girl who from her younger years learned to kill, to torture, to avenge, the girl that the Amari clan respected, admired and obeyed blindly, the girl they called Anubis's daughter was displaying deep inside those dark eyes. And a group of imbeciles have taken the meat from the hungry wolf. Rightfully, Fareeha was going to kill everyone that stood up in her way to recover that valuable woman from the grasp of whoever dared to take her away from her.

Her head still hung low, but her eyes looked at her mother amidst black strands of hair. Through the light of the lamp, Ana could see how her daughter's pupils were drawn back into deep amber eyes, a look that she feared would return but still came back strong. And Fareeha made no movement, no noise, not even a sign of disdain or resistance. She just sat there all tied up from as many joints and movable parts as possible. Ana knew her daughter well and knew that wouldn’t last long. But she needed to know more about her actions.

Ana took a peek at the wound, satisfied that the three stitches were clean and healing satisfactorily. She sprayed antiseptic and bandaged once again, taking a syringe and injecting her daughter’s thigh with some sort of quick-acting pain reliever that, thanks to Fareeha’s tapped mouth, was impossible to give her a pill. Ana dragged a chair and sat in front of her daughter with the container in her lap, dipping the cloth in the water once again as she left the container on the floor. And she stayed there, cleaning her daughter’s face, arms, shoulders, neck. And she sighed again.

“You cannot imagine how it hurts to see you like this... It's not the way I wanted to see my daughter after weeks of being apart from her. Since you moved in with the doctor, we hardly heard about you. I don’t know if you do it for work, for being distracted, or for something else but... Still. I miss my daughter… I miss my Fareeha.”

She knew there was something pinching in her mother’s heart, her hurt eyes telling her so. And Ana took a deep breath ready to ask her, ready to face Fareeha in an almost one-sided conversation. Ana didn't expected her daughter to answer verbally, although Fareeha did answered in her head after each pause that lasted too many seconds, her mother trying to decipher her expressions into answers. And she was good at doing so. In fact, she was the best at reading people, even from afar. That was part of her job after all, and she knew her daughter better than most.

“Why her?”

‘Why her?’

“She is your friend. That’s why?”

‘She means more than that to me.’

“You respect her.”

‘More than that.’

“You appreciate her.”

‘More.’

“You like her?”

‘More.’

“What is she to you in reality?”

‘Everything.’

“…You love her?”

‘…I do.’

“You love her…”

‘Beyond reason, and more than life itself…’

“Oh, Fareeha…”

‘Stop.’

“Does she love you back?”

‘Stop…’

“Of course she does. Who wouldn’t be able to fall in love with you?”

‘She shouldn’t… Nobody should…’

“You put your heart and soul in protecting this woman… Because you love her.”

‘Because I wouldn’t hesitate to give my life in exchange for hers… Because I love her... And she loves me back… And I wasn’t able to protect her…’

Ana leaned forward and hugged her when her daughter started crying, the warm liquid damping her cheeks and making a trail down to her chin and into her lap. She was trembling. The fact of remembering how she failed Angela made her see that not only had she failed in her job, but also in herself. But remembering how she was taken was the worst, seeing how the car moved away without her being able to do something, and seeing how the rear glass was stained red. Fareeha prayed it wasn’t Angela’s. No, anyone but her. That blood shouldn’t be hers. It should not.

“Oh, my child… You should never suffer alone. She’s fine, she’s going to be fine. Knowing you, I know you left her more than prepared.” Ana cleaned her tears with her thumb and stood up, gathering the utensils left in the bed to take them with her. “And one last thing…” She said before parting for the door. “I'm happy for you... Happy that you're finally honest with yourself. No matter who you choose to love, a mother couldn't be prouder of her child realizing she found love.” Ana left, closing the door behind her as the bedroom was engulfed in a deafening silence once again.

And Fareeha was left alone one more time, unable to move, to speak, but able enough to think. Her eyes roamed looking for something –anything- that could help her escape and tear the ropes, break free the handcuffs, and ungag her. Although the latter was the simplest. Fareeha simply bit the piece of duct tape, working avidly with her tongue, lips and teeth and spat it aside. She moved subtly with the chair, trying to make as little noise as possible as she approached the bed. Her leg ached, but not enough to stop her. With her foot she searched under the bed and up the wood until she felt something firm and hard, fumbling it to make it fall.

A simple kitchen knife she hid from everyone on the first days she moved in. It was time to think fast and act efficiently. Fareeha threw herself to the floor, a booming sound echoed through the room, almost betting that her mother and whoever was out in the common room could hear it. She took the knife in her hands and pulled it in front of her to take it with her mouth and cut the piece of rope that stopped her neck. More voices.

“Did you hear something?”

With her neck released and more freedom to move in her torso, Fareeha threw the knife near her feet, twisting enough for her hands to touch her feet behind the chair. The knife desperately cut the rope, and Fareeha did not care that part of her skin was also being damaged in the process, making small bleeding cuts where she was bound. She managed to move her body and stood up with the chair hanging from her wrists, painfully pulling her skin. She ran to the trash bin where her mother tossed the syringe and took the needle, bending it enough to play with the lock of the handcuffs. And she succeeded. Big mistake from her mother.

“I think it’s the bedroom.”

Fareeha took the same chair she was bount in and locked the door by putting it between the floor and the knob. The sound of the knob turning unsatisfactorily made the voices outside irritate. That was it. Fareeha ran to the dresser and looked for a loaded gun in between the many forgotten layers of clothes. She stood up on the dresser and took impulse enough to jump, positioning herself in the corner of the room just above the door, her arms and legs splayed to both of her sides holding her in the triangle that made that specific ninety-degree corner as she almost touched the ceiling. After several stomps, the door opened abruptly, and not only her mother, but also Jack, Jesse and Brigitte ran inside looking for her.

“She’s not here. Where could she be? The room has no windows!” Jesse yelled. Fareeha jumped down and kicked Jesse in the back –he being the one who was closest to the door- and made him fall, an opening wide enough to run to the exit, Fareeha evading furniture and the muffled words of her mother, her superior, and her friends.

“Fareeha, come back! Don’t do it!” Her mother yelled, her voice almost tearing her throat. “Fareeha!” But she did not listened anymore.


The sun went down for several minutes ago now and only Fareeha was left alone in the darkness of the streets of the city. The southwest was her target, the predominant territory of Talon. The streets she was on were indicative of a dangerous neighborhood. The building walls were painted with graffiti, there was garbage accumulated in the streets, groups of adults and teenagers smoking weed in the alleys, prostitutes in every corner. The police rarely approached that neighborhood or that sector, despite being the most concerned with their help. And of course, being Talon's territory, the police became ignorant of the problems there.

Fareeha kept walking. She didn’t know how many kilometers she walked, but she did know it was more than an hour worth of a stroll. She was dressed relatively casually; ripped jeans, combat boots, a black T-shirt and a hoodie of the same color that covered her head. And the only thing that was on her was her gun and a kitchen knife. No wallet, no phone, only the firearm between her pants and belt and the knife in her boot. She walked past a small convenience store, two prostitutes chatting avidly while enjoying a cigarette each, and both stopped when they saw Fareeha walking, whispering to each other until one of them spoke.

“Hey, sweetheart. Want a good time?”

Fareeha smiled amused. It was common to be mistaken for a man, her height and complexion were not those of a delicate woman, and the fact of dressing not so feminine didn't help at all. She turned her head and saw them both, raising an eyebrow as she continued walking. She smiled to herself to see how both made a face of displeasure and continued chatting between them. If Fareeha were desperate, maybe, and just maybe, she would think about even giving them a look. But she had someone much better than them, and that very morning was snatched from her side.

She could feel how the more she entered the industrial sector of that area the air tensed, the sewers released steam and the sound of an occasional shot made her heart beat harder. Fareeha approached a bar with the intention of looking for clues, but it seems that the source of information reached her first. Three men left the bar somewhat intoxicated, and Fareeha would normally have ignored them if she had not heard the following.

“-and you know? That fucking doctor’s crazy! She almost chomped his ear off!”

“Really with that bitch?! Goddamit!”

“Yeah! But they locked her with the others, I don’t know what the boss wants to do with them tho.”

“Maybe he’s kinky for smart people?”

The group laughed in unison, making Fareeha's blood boil. Of course they were talking about Angela, her Angela, and they were playing with her body, with her mind, bringing her to the edge to obey whatever orders Talon was giving her. But most importantly, she was alive, and she was strong and kept fighting. Given Fareeha’s experience in those cases, if they had wanted to kill her they would have done so from the moment they found her in the basement of the hospital. They had thought to use her genius and those of the other doctors for malevolent plans, Fareeha could almost bet on it.

Stealthily, Fareeha followed them down the street, adjusting her hood and staying far away enough to not be noticed but close enough to see where they were going. The three of them turned into an alley perhaps to take a shortcut, but it was perfect. Fareeha ran to the source of laughter and rudeness, pulling the knife out of her boot and from behind took one of them, burying the knife in his throat and killing him instantly. The two remaining men turned around and, horrified, saw their lifeless companion on the floor in a puddle of blood.

“W-what?!”

“-What the fuck?!”

One of the men pulled out a pistol ready to shoot Fareeha, but she was much faster, more agile, and smarter to draw attention to her surroundings by a detonation. She took it in her arms and pulled the knife dangerously close to his neck, the edge touching his throat without piercing the skin. With her free hand she took his pistol and nimbly threw it towards the ground, sliding away from them. The last man was almost trembling at Fareeha's murderous gaze, and he felt a chill when Fareeha smiled.

“Ah... It had been so long since my last kill. Maybe four years perhaps? I don’t know, but it does feel good, don’t you think?”

“Release him!” Fareeha cocked her head and raised an eyebrow.

“Are you unarmed? Really? Well, that makes all this funnier, don’t you think?” His eyes wandered to his partner, then the gun on the floor, to his dead friend on the floor and back to Fareeha. “Ah-ah, don’t try to do anything, man. I don’t like that, and I’m sure your buddy here doesn’t like it either.” She put pressure in the knife, enough to make a small cut on his neck. He hissed and was about to scream, but Fareeha put even more pressure in her grip. “You scream, and the knife goes deeper.” And he stopped.

“W-what do you want?!”

“Well, I heard you three talking about a doctor. Does she happen to be kinda in her twenties, blonde, slightly tall, and fucking gorgeous?” He averted his eyes, nervousness in his look. “Oh, so she is then. Well, I’m looking for her, and I know you know where Talon is hiding her. By the way, you three call yourselves part of Talon? Pathetic. Who in their right mind dares to shout such valuable information in a public space?” And she laughed, softly, but an amusing laugh nonetheless. “So? Where is she?”

“Don’t tell her!” The man she had in her arms shouted, and Fareeha put more pressure in the blade once again.

“Shut up, for God’s sake. Look, I don’t have enough time, I’m tired and hungry, so tell me: where does Talon keep her and the remaining doctors? You have five seconds.”

He opened his eyes wide.

“One.”

He looked at Fareeha straight into her deep brown eyes.

“Two.”

He shivered, deciding whether to save his job…

“Three.”

…Or the life of his partner.

“Four.”

And he didn’t spoke out of fear.

“Five.”

Fareeha released the pressure on his throat, only to be sliced aggressively afterwards. He gripped at his own neck, the blood dripping freely all over his clothes, and he fell to the ground almost unconscious, his body still twitching and the blood making another pool of velvet liquid on the dirty concrete. Fareeha kicked him, rolling the body out of her way and approached the last man with a predatory walk, the knife still dripping blood on her hand while she played with it between her fingers.

“You’re next. One last chance. Where is she?”

“T-they’re in the industrial sector at the factory.” Fareeha rolled her eyes.

“Of course they are, you stupid meerkat. But where?”

“…The scrapyard.”

"I need more specifications."

"-Down in the basement! They're in the basement of the scrapyard!" Fareeha smiled when she was face to face with him, patting his cheek twice.

“Good boy. See? Was it so hard to say?”

“J-just let me go and-!”

“Oh no, I’m sorry. But I can’t have witnesses, right? What kind of assassin would I be if I left traces?”

She lunged forward, grabbing the man by the collar and digging the knife in his throat like his previous partner. Fareeha pinned him to the brick wall, with the heel of her hand she pushed the hilt even deeper until he was no longer alive. She chuckled softly, and took the knife back to her, cleaning the edge with the shirt of one of the two dead men on the floor and left the alley. She looked at a motorcycle parked in front of a small liquor store that was about to be ridded by its owner. He started the engine and before he could took off, Fareeha ran to him and threw him to the ground, riding on the motorcycle to escape from there and go to the northern sector of the city. North to the home she shared with Angela.


As if it were a normal day, Fareeha arrived at the building that had become her home for more than a week. She left the motorcycle parked two blocks away behind a restaurant and walked quietly at night. Despite being spring, it was still chill, especially in the early hours of the morning. She sighed as she entered the lobby to go to the elevator, but not before asking the receptionist for a copy of her keys that she "lost" somewhere. What she didn't definitely expect when entering the apartment was to see her mother, Jack, Jesse, Lena, Olivia and even Gabriel and Hanzo. All of Helix's team -her friends- waiting quietly in the living room. Fareeha frowned and clenched her fists.

“What are you doing here?! No, stupid question. How did you get inside?!”

“The doctor’s purse.” Jack stated simply.

“You should be looking after her, not after me!” Gabriel was the first to stand up and closed the gap between her and the living room.

“That’s the police territory, Fareeha. Stand down. It's their jurisdiction, not ours.”

“And they're being paid by Talon to turn a blind eye on the matter! Fucking useless assholes all of you!” Lena stood up, shaking her head and going to Fareeha’s side.

“Stop it! You’re mad, you want to recover her, it’s natural! We all want this to go well but we cannot be affected so foolishly either. We’re just trying to help, honestly!"

“You are in my way. Get out.”

“We won’t.” Hanzo was the one who spoke now. “I also want my best friend back. I am going to help you. It is obvious that Helix for its policies will do nothing, and that's a very common thing as of lately. Don’t you think, Jesse?” He looked at his boyfriend, but he did nor said nothing, just a simple click of his tongue. “We need to know where they are hiding her and the rest of the doctors.”

“I already know where they are.”

“You… You know already? How did you-?”

“I did what all of you should have done a long time ago. I went to the source for information and I managed to obtain it. Now get out of here, you’re in my way. And don’t touch anything.”

She ignored her friends and went to the bedroom, expecting them to leave her alone with her thoughts so she could prepare for the next step. While she hadn’t taken most of her belongings from Jesse's apartment, she took the most important thing she had. A steamer trunk. She reached inside the enormous walk-in closet and took an old and huge box made of leather and metal with several simple locks. She claimed it was an old, ancient family trinket, but it was more than that. Fareeha crouched in front of it after dragging the trunk to the bedroom floor and opened the latches, revealing a weird kind of firearm no one has seen before because she made it.

The weapon in question was a bit large, and Fareeha still remembers having modified it with various parts of other weapons: some sort of assault rifle combined with a rocket launcher. And Gods, she loved that weapon. The weapon that helped her kill a hundred men, but this time was better. Next to it rested another one, smaller, discreet. A hand gun she made specifically for Angela that she worked for a whole month in it. She was finally putting her engineering degree at work and her experience and soul into that source of protection. Her mother entered the bedroom and stopped in her tracks, looking with horror at her daughter kneeling in front of the steamer trunk.

“Fareeha, you said you would stop tempering with firearms!”

“And you said you would stop returning to old habits as to be an Amari but here we are, Bastet!” Ana closed the door and reached her daughter’s side.

“Don’t you dare, Anubis…” For a long time, her mother didn’t call her by the name that the Amari family gave her, which brought a painful past. “Think with your head and act with your heart, not with what you were taught to do since childhood... Remember that we have another life, we are different, and we should think as such. It’s not our territory, don’t kill in vain. Do you think she would like it? A recognized doctor. Do you think she would be happy to see you kill at the expense of her safety without thinking about it carefully and intelligently?”

“You're walking on tightrope, mother.”

“Well, I’m worried for my child and her stupid decisions! She’s going to get herself killed and the woman she’s trying to save so willingly!”

“Don’t underestimate her. She has months of training both in body combat and firearms. All at her own request.”

“And I don’t doubt it.” Ana put a hand on top of Fareeha’s one, lowering it to make her leave the weapon back in the box, only to earn a glare from her daughter. “We have to take things slow if we want as less casualties as we can.”

“Patience is your virtue, not mine. The land is my territory while yours are high grounds, hidden spots. And I’m not hiding. They took her away from me and I’m having her back. Retreat with the others.”

“Think with your head! Act with your heart! You are not a murderer anymore!”

“I can’t step back!” Her mother huffed, and crossed her arms.

“And I will not retreat, Fareeha.” Fareeha stood up to face her mother. If there was something else in which Ana was strong, it was in her personality, her spirit, her way of standing her ground and listening to reason. “You have done such terrible things in the past. We both have. But don’t go back to be that person… Not when we worked so hard to escape that life.” She was sure her mother would probably hit her by the time she almost growled at her, but instead she found an embrace. And it was frightening. Ana’s fingers almost dug at her back, obvious that she was scared to let her go. “You love her...” And that’s when Fareeha cracked.

“Help me…” She returned the embrace, her face hidden in her mother’s always welcoming shoulder. “Help me save her, mother… And I’ll do whatever you wish after this…” She felt her mother’s hand combing her hair, her calloused hand stroking softly strands of black hair away from her face as she let her daughter cry on her shoulder. How much time had passed since she felt something similar? Impotence, weakness, lack of control and other wide range of adjectives.

“Does it hurt?”

“Yes…”

“You know if you do this the way only you are capable of performing such feat, there’s no turning back. You’re losing everything we’ve built here. Our homes, our new life, our friends… Even her. In spite of that, are you willing to continue? Are you that focused on saving her and risking everything you have? Everything we have built while hiding?”

“Y-yes…”

“It will hurt you even more.”

“I know…”

“There’s no turning back.”

“I know…”

“You will never be able to see her again.” Silence, deafening silence.

“…I know.”

“We’ll flee with your father back to Canada after this.”

“You don’t have to come with me.”

“But I do, and I want. Wherever you are, I will go with you. You’re my daughter, the most precious asset I possess, and if you get into trouble, I’ll bail you out, like always… I will protect you, Fareeha, I will follow you, and I will take the burden with you if it’s necessary. You’re not alone, and will never be. Remember that.” A nod. “I ask you once again: are you absolutely sure this is the path you are choosing?”

“Y-yes…”

“First rule: don’t hesitate.” It hurts, and it hurts a lot, especially the fact that once she rescues her she should let her go. And it would hurt every day, but it was the only option. Deep breaths, heavy air released. And just some sense of tranquility returned.

“Yes.”

“…Pack your things. Let’s go.”


The night was heavier as time passed, and in a few hours the sun would set on the horizon. Fareeha was tired, since the only rest she had since leaving her apartment was when she was knocked unconscious. It was a few hours but it definitely was not a break. After making Helix aware of the situation, they decided to act in the same way in favor of their partner, their friend, and with the help of Jack and Gabriel they were able to contact superior police forces that would help them with the raid.

It was a suicide mission, but Fareeha was more than willing to risk her life.

Her mother and her were on a hill cliff, looking down at the scrapyard in front of them. That part of the industrial sector was part of an old factory that had closed many years ago, many more even since Fareeha was born. The hooded figure of her mother reminded her of the old days in the dunes of Egypt and the archaeological sites that were her home for many years. And she had to admit something: she felt protected, she felt at peace.

“Are you ready?” Her mother asked, lying on her stomach and propping her rifle on flat ground.

“I am.”

“How many do you have?” She knew what her mother was referring to.

“Three.”

Fareeha took her weapons, all methodically arranged in her tactical vest. Her weapon was the only thing she couldn’t carry there, and only a strap secured it to her body. She took the modified firearm in her hands and aimed down, very close to the main entrance, and taking one of the modified rockets in her bullet belt, she felt the power course through her. Load. Aim. Shoot. An explosion big and loud enough to send two scrap cars flying all over the place. There was fire and it was distracting enough to make several guards scramble to the front so she could sneak back. The sound of her mother's rifle being loaded was an indication that it was time.

“Fareeha, the rope…!” She didn’t have time to tie the rope to her body and jump, she simply descended by holding on rock after rock on the cliff, the practice and physical condition helped her to maintain a steady pace to descend stealthily and cautious. “…Why did I gave birth to a mountain goat instead of a normal girl?”

Fareeha kept descending, touching the ground after a few endless seconds in which she heard screams, followed by very specific shots which she was one hundred percent certain that they were from her mother's rifle. The yelling lessened when the gunshots increased in quantity, until there was silence again. Fareeha climbed the back of the scrapyard up to a catwalk, looking for an entrance amongst the many windows until she found an opening. She secured her weapon ready to go inside, and ready to unleash hell in that place.

She made her way through shattered cars, old and unusable machinery, and guards. Many guards. Regularly a mission of that type should be stealthy, but not this time, not when they stole the most precious thing she had. She took her gun and shot each one without remorse. A bullet in the head, another kill to her list. The screams were irrepressible, the sound of bullets was deafening, and thanks to Fareeha's agility no one could stop her. She had a purpose enough to push her.

“Where is she?” She grabbed a Talon member by the neck, pinning him against the wall.

“I don’t know!” Fareeha took a dagger from her boot, and stuck it in the man’s arm, eliciting a painful scream.

“Where is she?! The next one goes in your crotch if you don’t speak!”

“S-she’s downstairs with the rest of the doctors!”

“Downstairs where?!”

“Next to the boiler! Next to the boiler behind that door!” He pointed to a far metal door, but he didn’t have enough time to breathe more indications when Fareeha shot him in the forehead, the muzzle pointing aggressively at his brow, making a mess of blood, flesh and meat all over the wall.

She cracked her neck and adjusted her shoulders, ready to retrieve Angela and kill anyone who dared to cross her path, ready to leave a trail of blood and dead bodies on the floor. Damned be her sanity, and damned be those who took her away from her. As it was, next to the door there were stairs that went down, down towards the darkness, and Fareeha didn’t think more than twice about entering such a place. The corridor was narrow and the place felt damp and with a feeling of illness. It was the right path.

The further she went inside, the more darkness prevailed. And she kept walking stealthily, a simple glock on her left hand and her modified weapon on the right. After two minutes of walking she heard footsteps, then voices and the sound of machinery, soft, but there it was. A lead and a way to find her. Fareeha needed to hide, and thanks to the neglected structure of the building, she only had to jump, hang herself from a pipe and hide in the ceiling, avoiding wires and other  metal parts. Two men in an obvious Talon uniform, two more victims to her seemingly endless list.

‘Think with your head, act with your heart.’

And her mother was right. If she killed those immediately with a bullet, it was most likely she’ll attract the attention of the whole facility.

‘Think with your head.’

But she did that several times and look where she is now.

‘Think with your head, Fareeha. Your head.’

Screw that. She was fast, she was stealthy, and she was a perfect killer. ‘The only thing I’m good at, heh.’ Fareeha fell on top of one of the two men walking with assault rifles and shot him in the neck, the other immediately shouted and aimed his assault rifle, but Fareeha was faster, and with her glock ended his life with a bullet in the forehead. “Sorry, guys, but mama told me to always aim in the right place. And I can’t say no to her, hm? Now, I wonder how long will it take for the alarm to-” The lights turned red, and the sound of several sirens rumbled loudly all over the basement, as well as footsteps and yelled commands. “Aaand there it is.”

As expected, from two corridors came a group of men, five on each side ready to attack Fareeha. She shrugged, and loaded another rocket in her tempered weapon, aiming and shooting at one of the group. She was used to the fire, to the screams and cries, but still. She fumbled with a few levers and shot her gun as an assault rifle, aiming mostly at the head and torso. And another rush of carnage, like a slaughter house. How much time had really passed? She forgot, that was a thing to think later perhaps. There was something more important to think about, and her sixth sense told her where to go, something akin to a compass indicating the correct direction, facing her north, her Angela.

She ran like a mad woman, her boots making a loud sound due to the force she was sprinting, jumping, dodging and throwing punches and kicks all over the place. The building was swarmed with Talon agents, but she faced every single one of them with efficiency. She could’ve run, hide, avoid them, but Fareeha chose her path, and she swore to her mother. Fareeha closed her eyes, and hummed a random song she had stuck in her head for quite a time that put her at ease and concentrated while doing a task. This was no ordinary task, but nonetheless.

Open the eyes. Another kick, another bullet in the brow, bullet on the chest, bullet on the temple, bullet under the chin, another jab, another sliced throat, another death. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

She regularly counted every death she made, something her mother told her she never stopped doing and would never stop doing it at all, it was a burden Ana always carried. Every life she took away affected more, the collateral damage was always immeasurable, and Fareeha really stopped counting them when the toll was more than three hundred. And that was when she was almost a young adult. Almost. That didn’t matter anymore.

Keep running, keep looking. She was close, she could sense, and the direction where the guards were leaving was indicative of Angela's whereabouts and possibly the other doctors. Because that was the reality of that mission: to end the source of the kidnappings, to rescue the doctors, and that way, Fareeha could leave Angela at ease, protected, out of danger and with only a tiny sense of peace. If she was going to leave her, she had to do it in such a way that she no longer needed her. Although now it seemed to be more the opposite case.

Finally, she arrived at a metal gate which was being secured by two more guards, who were quickly dealt with barely any effort from her gun.

“W-what’s going on?!” Fareeha heard from inside. The voice almost recognizable, but not entirely. She took a radio from her shoulder pocket of her vest and called Jack.

“I’m inside. Backup in five- no, three minutes at the front door. Get ready.”

She aimed her gun, loading the last rocket and taking a few steps back. And in three, two, one, the loud explosion sent the metal door flying inside. For a moment, for a beat, her heart stopped, and she saw the woman of her dreams, the love of her life, all damped in red, blue eyes parted and tired, golden hair sticking to her face, and her body pinned by another on the floor.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter XXIII

When I found out about everything

 

Calling that pain was very imprecise, insufficient, light and a minimal fragment of what it really felt like. It was nothing compared to what she truly felt inside but a mere fraction of the suffering Angela was going through at that moment. Turning back in the car and watching how Fareeha was running only to be stopped and thrown to the ground by her comrades was the worst she had seen as of lately, but nothing compared to the heartrending scream ripping at her throat that was heard even from the entrance of the parking lot, something alike Angela heard from a child crying for her dead mother. Nothing compared. But it was the right decision nonetheless, to sacrifice her life for hers, because after all, how many times was she about to end it herself? Many, indeed. And maybe this was the only one that would really be worth it because she was saving someone she honestly loves instead of escaping from someone she used to love.

How funny it was how the roles reversed, but it’s just that the advantages were there, almost written in stone. Fareeha was still young, had a good future, many friends, even family, but she? Of course, Angela had too many academic achievements, many discoveries and breakthroughs, many trophies, awards, certificates hanging on the wall of her office, of her hospital, but only that. She had no family to care about her, her friends even seemed to distance themselves from her when they learned that she was threatened with kidnapping and possibly death as well, and her husband was simply an imbecile, a drunken wolf disguised as a sheep in a suit.

So what could she do to help the only person who stayed with her by her side for so many months? Of course, Fareeha did her job, but even so, her bodyguard never hesitated for a second to interpose her work to her protection. No contract, no regulations, no policies, only love and understanding with a few clauses which ensured the security of both, and only for that reason. There was nothing else to do, she was determined, and surrendering was the best choice. And yet… A gunshot.

“What the fuck! What did you do?!” The driver yelled when he looked at the rearview mirror and saw the doctor with the gun pointing at his partner, the man dead on the backseat as the wall was splattered with gushes of blood and flesh.

“That’s for her: for making me leave her that way. And this-” Another shot to the passenger seat. “Because you don’t need that many companions to escort me, do you?” And the gun went back to her head.

“You have some balls to shot dead two guys even for being a doctor.”

“Sadly this is not my first, and I’m sure they are neither my last. Here.” She tossed the gun to the front seat when they were out of sight from the hospital. “I had to make sure none of you returned to hurt her. But now I know you won’t do it, so keep driving. You have me already, you win.”

Except that in that war nobody won and everyone died. Angela would end up being another victim, another number to add to the count of victims, and in a few days the world would forget about her, except for her vaccines and breakthroughs that might fancy her name in a medical book. It was unreal how nobody noticed that they were carrying two dead bodies in the car during the whole journey, but thanks to the tinted glass, it was barely possible to see outside to the sides and the back. Always forward, and Angela decided to take that as a sign.

After several minutes where the drive wasn’t as smooth and slow as she preferred, they arrived to a very dangerous neighborhood. Angela acknowledged that the crime rate and statistics of the area were catastrophic; the majority of her patients were direct or indirect victims of this sector. Of course they would take her there. The oblivion happened here and it was natural: no one wanted to take care of the vandals and the scum of the city, not even the police. So why should they care if the beehive was in the industrial sector?

She heard stories of that place, fantasies and nightmares, mere tales of terror, but she never believed they were true. It was unbelievable what was going on the further she went, and the sun was still high in the sky. People with all kinds of problems: drugs, prostitution, firearms, vandalism, all in a range going from mere children to even seniors. Bodies under the effects of alcohol and narcotics, bodies even unconscious and two more lifeless near a parking lot, drowned in a pool of their own blood. And God, those stories were true.

“Get out.” She was commanded at gunpoint, doing exactly what was asked from the man. Angela opened the door and stood outside for a moment, covering her mouth by the exposure of chemical fumes and heavy machinery smoke.

In front of her was what looked like an abandoned factory, but not quite, only a portion of the place was active, and the sound was somewhat deafening and the contamination felt latent in that place, always constant. Angela felt the gun on her back, and instinctively raised her hands in surrender, walking straight ahead and being guided to the main entrance of a warehouse full of ramshackle cars and other metal scraps. Between rubble and more cars was guided down some stairs, and she hesitated for a moment, it was just too dark.

“Keep walking.”

Darkness, more darkness, and a few steps later, she could see light at the end of the hall. Faint, but it was light nonetheless. A sense of recovery came to her, and after more alternating corridors between light and dark, she was in front of a pair of huge sliding metal doors, the palm print scanner on the side indicating that whatever was in front of her was definitely more modern that the outside, and definitely more valuable that the dozens of cars upstairs. And she was right. But she didn’t expect the following.

A lab too familiar and complete for her liking, the equipment was worth millions alone; no one could just make itself of such an expensive medical apparatuses out of thin air. But the faces were even more so familiar: A chemist, a nurse, an epidemiologist, a neurologist and a surgeon. Humans she all knew too well. The worst thing wasn’t seeing them in there, but the way they were being held hostage: chains, shackles, whips, tasers, clubs, guards armed with masks and assault rifles. This wasn’t a laboratory, it was a torture chamber.

“…Angela?” One of the doctors called her, the chemist, and she was horrified by the sight. He was tired, he was sick, he was bleeding from several cuts and was a total mess of clothes, flesh and bones.

“Emre?” Angela recognized the man, almost her age and much of the world ahead for him. He was another genius in his own field, and yet, he was trapped here with everyone. “Oh my goodness, what did they do to you…?!”

“D-don’t talk.” He said quietly, scared. “Don’t talk or else-” A thunderous whiplash on his back, enough to make him scream. Angela now knew why his clothes were covered in blood along with that of the other doctors.

“Emre!”

“Quiet!”

And the room fell cold silent. Angela recognized that voice, that person -if it could be called that- who had just entered. That female figure with strong features, long face, outstanding height, heterochromatic eyes, short red hair, and that smile of superiority and self-centeredness. How could she be so blind to not see it? Being in front of her all the time, pushing her to do the wrong things every time. Everything was spread before her eyes and still she didn’t think in the most logical answer. And it had to be Dr. Moira O’Deorain all along.

“Y-you…!”

“Ah yes, me. Missed me? I think that the trick of being kidnapped so as not to raise suspicions was quite good, don’t you think?”

“Of course it had to be your fucking work, Moira! You are the one who stole my research from the lab and- don’t touch me!” She whipped her head when a guard grabbed her arms from the back, Angela’s teeth latched on anything she could bite. Unlucky for him, it was his ear, and the blonde bit so hard that she was able to rip off quite the big part of it. “Don’t you dare to touch me again or I’ll rip you off limb by limb, you piece of shit!” He screamed and let her go, Angela huffing and straightening at the astonished gaze of all.

“Oh, my! This is not the Dr. Angela Ziegler I remember!” Moira smirked, and then laughed. A revolting laugh enough to stir her stomach. “This is even better than I thought, to be honest.”

“And you’re next, you vile snake…!” Angela grunted in pain when the same guard stroke her with a stun baton, making her fall to the floor in visible discomfort.

“This time you’re not the owner of this lab, Dr. Ziegler. So you better behave, unless I missed something else and you became a sadist as well?” Moira chuckled, and walked to reach Angela, crouching in front of her. “This is what happens when you don’t listen to your elders.”

“Why are you doing this?!”

“Money.” Was her simple response. “Although I also like recognition, I must admit. It’s just that you were a pebble on the road and at the same time you are the bridge. Curious, isn’t it?”

“I prefer to be beaten to death than to let you create a disaster in innocent people for your own greed.” She hissed between gritted teeth, and Moira laughed evilly again.

“You’re so used to be beaten it no longer hurts you, hm? No, no. It’s not only my greed, but of several other… Shareholders.” She stood up, walking to one of the doctors who was working on the microscope. She was tired, coughing and covering her mouth. “You know how the pharmaceutical industry works, Angela, and it happened that working with you led us to develop a cure for one of the strongest -if not the worst- diseases, but then you and your stupid values made us miss this opportunity. My opportunity.” Angela stood up as well with difficulty, feeling her legs tremble over her shocked weight.

“There is no cure yet, the serum failed in its experimental and testing phase and you know it. The side effects are very high and erratic. The chances of having a cardiac arrest are-”

“Yes, yes, extremely high. Deadly, even.”

“If you develop this serum, this antidote, you will kill your patients faster.”

“Or I can prolong their lives.”

“Their suffering.” Angela corrected.

“Same thing.” The blonde shook her head with anger. “Can you imagine what they would pay once they know there is a cure? A single drop, Ziegler, just a single drop can be worth thousands if we sell it that way, and anyone will be willing to pay for it, even if it causes… Mild side effects. Sick and desperate people are very naive at times, and that’s when you have to take advantage of them, don’t you think?”

“I became a doctor to save patients, to make a positive change in this world, to help those who need it most! Not to make money out of my career!”

“Oh! How interesting! So your wealth is just a negative side effect to your always humanitarian aid? How awful it must be!” Moira retorted amused. “Stop being such a hypocrite. Even I know those clothes you are wearing are worth hundreds, if not thousands.”

“It’s a product of the effort I’ve made and I’m proud of it, it’s different.” Perhaps Moira was right in that matter, but nonetheless.

“Whatever, Ziegler.” The redhead walked menacingly towards her, her gaze fixed on her blue eyes as a hand took her chin rather aggressively. “What will happen now is that you will help me finish developing the new serum to launch it on the market. Provide serum, sell the drug, get the money. It’s that simple, so get to work.”

“What makes you think I’ll be so willing to even think on helping you?!”

“It’s curious that you ask, but even more curious what I found out about you and that thing you always had behind your back.” Angela’s eyes opened wide, a slight hint of horror in her gaze. “Our guard told us that you were quite cooperative as long as they left her alone. You even managed to put a gun on your head and kill another two guards for them to protect her? So riveting. I expected the roles to be reversed, to be quite honest.” Moira turned her body, ready to part. “You do what I tell you, and nothing will happen to her.” Her head snapped to one of the guards in the lab. “Shackle her and keep an eagle eye on Dr. Ziegler. Three hours, Angela, that’s all you have to give me a response until I return. And bandage that bleeding arm of yours that you know damn well it’s a soft spot with more muscle than nerves.”

The door through which Moira came closed with her behind her, and although the atmosphere remained tense, it lightened only for a moment. Two guards secured her, placing shackles on her ankles and wrists, chaining her uncomfortably to the floor. Angela didn’t resist, and even though she knew Fareeha would be fine to be cared for by Helix and her friends, she didn’t intend to risk her life or make her sacrifice a vain act. She simply obeyed, and protecting and ensuring the safety of her fellow friends and colleagues between those four concrete walls, she went to work in what would be the worst creation of her life.


One hour. Two hours. Several other hours that she stopped counting and there was nothing. No movement, no variation, no change. Nothing. Her eyesight was tired, the lack of her reading glasses began to irritate her eyes, the headache increased, and the lack of water and food only intensified her irritability and lack of concentration. She regularly appreciated the silence when she worked, but this time it was different, she needed to stay focused and sane at the same time, not lose her temper with any negative result or she would earn herself another punishment.

Don’t talk, don’t breathe, don’t get distracted, just work. Work, keep working. But there was still nothing. However, she wasn’t alone now, her colleagues excelled in their own medical branches, Angela recognized them, and she was sure that with their help she could achieve many things. But not this. The work was too corrupt, it was far from the initial concept she had, all thanks to Moira. The chemical composition of the serum was so erratic on the cancer cells that any modification caused an implacable result.

“It’s no use…” Angela clicked her tongue in front of the microscope. She stood up straight and pinched the bridge of her nose. Emre approached her with a rather crumpled notebook, the pages almost torn by the constant use of the pen and the dozens of scribbles and corrections due to the rushed commands of Moira and his superiors.

“The presence of metals lingering is alarming, although there’s the need to filter certain biological components. Still, we tried to find out which one was the metal-”

“It’s iridium.” Angela interrupted. Emre opened his eyes wide, like everything was finally fitting. “Moira and I were observing this method for quite some time, but we needed more time, more resources and, although our ego didn’t allow it, we needed more help.”

“Are you suggesting something like… Photodynamic therapy?” The other doctors perked from whatever they were doing, looking straight at Angela with dumbfounded eyes.

“Photochemotherapy, indeed. There were some run tests but… One of our volunteers died, unfortunately. We- no, I refused to continue until we had a more stable serum developed. We couldn’t risk another dead. However, it seems that Moira cared little about our code of ethics and the patient’s well-being for her own greed.”

The doors opened again, and the light was somehow blindfolding. Angela squinted her eyes and saw the snake-like form of Moira enter once again. She had a tablet device in her hands, reviewing the charts Angela analyzed previously. Everyone stood quiet, the air felt thick all of a sudden when Moira smirked and looked straight at the blonde’s aquamarine eyes. Realization and discovery in her sight.

“You know something, Dr. Ziegler. Perhaps we are on the same page this time. I’m curious to know what you found.” Moira said, and Angela pondered for a moment to tell her about the next step.

“…We need iridium, a considerable amount of the metal. It’s quite expensive and rare to get, but you know that already.”

“So we are on the same page after all. Luckily, we have a provider here who can help us. Quite helpful, isn’t it?” Moira chuckled, and then her face went serious. “Bring him.” The doors opened once more, and two guards entered accompanied by a fairly familiar man. Tall, dark hair, eyes of the same color, and a somewhat thick mustache. Angela knew very well who he was.

“…Gerard?”

“Angela!” He opened his eyes in wide surprise. One of the guards struggled to straighten him out, and Gerard growled, moving him back. “Let me go, you scumbags!” But he only earned a hit with a baton on his side.

“You stay calm unless you want your precious ballerina of a wife to be affected by your incorrigible behavior.” Moira growled back. “I don’t have time to play games. Your company provides rare metals and gemstones, and we happen to need two kilograms of iridium, at least.”

“Are you crazy? That’s over a hundred thousand worth of metal! At least!”

“Well, you’d better take out your credit card and start buying.” Moira said simply, inspecting her nails with boredom.

“And what makes you think I’ll buy you the iridium out of my own wallet?!”

“This.”

Moira smiled, and tapped at her tablet. One of the few monitors inside the lab turned on, several photographs of Amelie displayed one by one. One at the mall, another near the Lacroix residence, and another at a café where Angela had a meal with her and Hanzo more than once. And so she continued with several photographs. Gerard watched in horror as his wife was being followed, and how Moira was actually telling the truth. Gerard sighed, and looked back at the redhead. Angela knew Moira won, and even when she wanted to cry, she wasn't going to be seen as a meek prey until her final breath. Not now when her friends needed her.

“Fine… I’ll do it… But leave Amelie alone.”

“Excellent. Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Lacroix.” Moira handed him the tablet, the browser open in a metal dealer industry’s main page. He was about to tap on the login button when they all heard a grumble. Moira stopped, as if trying to listen better. “What was that?” She asked, clicking her tongue when none of the guards even flinched. “Don’t stand there doing nothing! And you, Lacroix, back to work. My shareholders won't be happy if we don't finish this drug.”

“Who are they?” Angela dared to ask, but Moira wasn't having it, not at all at least.

“You know a couple of them. You even danced with them. Quite ironic, don't you think?” One of the guards that went to investigate came running back within a few minutes later. His chest heaved, and he clutched his rifle with fear, trying to recover her breath. “What now?” Moira sighed, covering her face hastily with a clawed hand.

“Someone has infiltrated, there are eight dead guards at the entrance gate.”

“What in the goddamn world are you saying?! Kill whoever infiltrated, that’s your fucking job!” Moira hissed. “If I hear another excuse, I will maim you personally. Go!”

And he went again, leaving a distressed Moira, her fingers fidgeting and drumming against her thigh. What was going on? Could it be that the police found them? No. That wasn’t police territory, not even the Shimada could get into that place that easily, and Angela knew it perfectly. That district was completely Talon’s property, to say in some form. Then who? A guard pushed her, urging her to keep working and the same with her coworkers. Angela felt a pain on the back of her leg when she refused to move, Gerard feeling the same on his lower back, grunting when the baton tore his skin faintly, the white shirt he was wearing started to paint on a dark red streak.

For a moment, Angela held her breath when she heard yells, screams, and gunshots. Several gunshots. And then the alarm went off. The lights started to flicker in red, the buzz alarming and numbing her ears. Moira sighed, and pressed a button near the door where she came from, mumbling something at the intercom. More yelling upstairs and an explosion. A rumble enough to shake the earth below them and the rustle the ceiling above, dust and dirt falling like snowflakes. More gunshots. More screams. And a thud so hollow it made Angela shiver. What was going on?

‘Where is she?!’

A question asked in a roar. Angela knew that voice and she knew it very well, but never before she heard such anger in Fareeha. Never, and it was frightening. Angela recognized she was partly safe, the woman of her life looked for her and was more than ready to save her, risking her own life in the process and probably other’s as well. The footsteps above them were furious, resounding with a chilling, strong, purposeful force. Angela looked at her workmates, then at Moira, and finally at Gerard, and there was will in his eyes. No. She knew that look, and knew something bad was coming when he clenched his fists.

“Don’t, Gerard… Don’t do it.” Angela almost whispered him, her voice barely a breath.

The four remaining guards inside the lab took their weapons, one of them pointing to his prisoners just for safety, the other three to the door. A knock was heard on the door, then more shots and the sound of something heavy falling to the ground. Gerard knew what it was, Angela as well, and apparently Moira knew the same way. The redhead went to the door opposite the entrance, trying to open it.

“Get rid of the evidence… And kill them. We’re evacuating the place.” Moira said, and the only guard aimed at Angela, ready to shoot her. And he shot. Angela closed her eyes, ready to feel the pain and her life to drift away, but she found nothing. She opened her eyes, and instead of seeing the gun, the guard or Moira, she saw Gerard’s back.

“Gerard…!” Angela felt the body leaning on her. “No, no, no!”

“Your life’s far more important than mine-”

“Don’t say that. No life is more important than any other.”

“Heh, you have always been like this…” Angela knew he was drifting away. His chest had a piercing hole near her heart, and he was breathing heavily, coughing and almost drowning. A pierced lung. There was nothing she could do there. “Take care of her, Angela. Please. Please, take care of Amelie, that’s all I’m asking…”

Angela was about to shake her head, when an explosion erupted. So near, right in front of the entrance, and the double metal doors fell with a thud to the ground. Everybody felt to the ground by the force of the detonation, Gerard’s body falling on top of the blonde, and there was nothing to do to honor her friend but to clutch to his now lifeless body, gripping at the shirt and hopping everything would be over. There was a cloud of dust and smoke around them, then more shots. Four more precise, experienced gunshots, and four more lifeless bodies on the floor. The smoke was clearing, and Angela’s heartbeat stopped for a second, for a minute, for a lifetime.

Fareeha was crouching with a bigger gun than usual, different and seemed even more powerful, nothing Angela has seen before. The Egyptian slowly rose, her gaze a predatory one, and her eyes roamed the lab. Moira was about to take a run, when Fareeha rushed towards her, grabbing her by the neck and pressing her to the wall, lifting her up while dragging her as Moira grasped at her wrists, trying to free herself. Her feet dangled, her nails scratched tan skin, and eventually all force left her body, falling limp to the ground. Angela could think Fareeha killed her, but her chest still rose and fell with every successful breath.

“You stay there until the police come for you.” Fareeha said as she handcuffed her to a stationary table.

Angela moved Gerard’s body on top of her, grunting and trying in vain. She wanted to move him away and at the same time not. The doctor literally owed this man her life, and she knew that Amelie had won over a good man, unfortunately only to lose him. Finally all the pain, the stress, the despair and panic fell like a waterfall towards the rocks, breaking her inside out in a silent sob. Angela felt how the body shifted limply, releasing her from her trap yet homely sensation. She was damped in blood, slightly covered in dust when Fareeha knelt in front of her with panic in her movements.

“Hey, gorgeous, are you okay?” She tried to be calm, and yet, her question came out more desperate than nothing. “Angela?”

“L-let’s get out of here, please… Please.” She begged, and Fareeha engulfed her in a frightening embrace, breathing with some sense of peace knowing Angela was alive and ivetall rather well. Her mind however was another different story.

“Let’s go. I’m sure there’s more of Talon agents coming up, so let’s move.” Fareeha stood up, offering Angela a hand. “You too as well.” Everyone nodded, ready to leave that lab that was their cage for several weeks of flameless hell. “Run, go down the left corridor and take the stairs, follow the road to the right and continue straight, it will take you to the exit.” Fareeha commanded them with relative calm, and then she looked back at the blonde. “…Angela.”

“Yes?”

“You go behind. I’ll cover you from the front, and you’ll cover us back from the back. I trust you, you are ready. You always have.” Fareeha handed her another handgun. It was a little bigger than the one she owned; white, black and with golden accents. If she had the time to admire it more closely, Angela would be marvelled, but it wasn’t time to do that. She took the glock as accepting her fate and responsibility, feeling how wonderfully it fitted her hand and how light the material was. Angela made sure it was loaded, and nodded. “Ready?”

“One moment.” Angela turned back, and walked to where Gerard lay quietly, peacefully, his clothes covered in blood but it didn’t matter anymore. She knelt in front of him, and she kissed his cheek, his skin still warm despite having no life, and that made all this even worse. The doctor sniffed the tears back before whispering. “I’ll watch over her, always, and I’ll care for her as the sister she has always been to me. I promise you. And thank you.” And she stood up. “I’m ready.” Fareeha looked at her, then at the businessman’s body, and released her holding breath from the nose, nodding equally.

Everyone ran in a straight line, Fareeha leading with her weapon well positioned with both hands and her eyes always in front, always attentive, making sure that the path was clear so that the laboratory captives could reach the surface safely. Fareeha spoke over the shoulder radio, Angela could barely hear her words between the annoying sound of the alarm and the thump of footsteps, but she was sure she was talking to Helix, someone superior to her. So Helix was involved in this, not the police itself. But how was it possible that she hadn't seen another agent inside the place? Was Fareeha the only one assigned to get them out of there?

Angela would have been obviously frightened in a situation alike if the adrenaline didn’t pump so hard in her veins when she saw so many corpses on the ground. One, two, ten, twenty, more than thirty, and she stopped counting. Who killed all of them? Another specialized team dedicated to eliminate threats? Two more shots to the front, two more bodies to the list. Fareeha was definitely helping. The floor and walls were stained with blood and other things that Angela preferred to ignore, she had a mission and she should continue. The footsteps and sobs echoed through the halls, painfully rising panic in Angela’s coworkers’ tired bodies. She felt it as well, but Fareeha trusted her, and she should trust her as well.

The last stairs were finally visible at the end of the corridor. At last. Everyone felt relief, even a little, and they moved away from the darkness of the corridor towards the artificial lights of the scrapyard, the huge metal doors wide open, giving way to the red and blue flashing lights and the sound of sirens of several patrols and a couple of ambulances. Angela could heard a helicopter near, the light of such vehicle lightning a path to the outside like a beacon.

With the last strength left to them, the other doctors and chemists ran out, feeling the relief of being safe when they left through the doors. The police immediately stopped them, making sure they were the hostages and directing them to the ambulances to treat wounds and ensure their health. Angela wanted to take a sprint as well, leap and embrace freedom, gripping at Fareeha’s hand, but she felt a pull just before going out the doors. Her blonde head turned quickly, only to discover Fareeha standing still, her dark eyes watering and just a faint smile tugged at her lips.

“Fareeha?”

Her bodyguard approached, slowly, taking her hand in the shadow behind the door, and brought her gently against her body, her forehead touching hers before kissing her. Kissing her in such a way that her lips just brushed, lingering in the warmth. Kissing her softly, slowly, desperately, and slowly again. Angela opened her eyes, finding herself with a weak and piercing look and a painful smile, her tears creating a path between her dusty cheeks.

“You don’t need me anymore.” Fareeha said sadly.

“...What are you saying?”

“You’re stronger than you think. You will be safe from now on.” Angela held her breath for a moment, knowing what was coming. "Be a good girl."

“Fareeha, you are not-!”

“Just remember how much I love you…”

And Fareeha pushed her out, behind the doors and under the outdoor lights. She almost tripped by force, but a pair of strong arms stopped her. Trying to recover the balance, she turned her face and saw that it was Jesse, his face contracted like he tried to overcome something. Angela’s heart stopped, and everything moved in slow motion. She turned her head back to the doors of the scrapyard, only to find darkness. Nothing but darkness and ramshackle cars, and not a sign of Fareeha. A hollow sound sounded inside, getting closer, and the radio that Fareeha had on her shoulder bounced at her feet.

“Clear!” Jesse shouted, and an armed group of Helix agents and international police entered the scene.

“Wait, no. Fareeha’s still inside, Jesse. She’s-” She understood. “Let me go…” She moved her arms, wiggling and trying to free herself. “Let me go.” But Jesse held her tightly, unable to let go of the grip. “She’s still inside! Let me go!”

“This was her choice, your life over hers!”

“Damned be her choice! Let me go! I need to go to her!”

Everything became slow, slower. The sounds were deafened, her body was numb, her eyes were clouded by tears, and her throat screamed from the deepest part but no sound came out. She hanged limply to Jesse’s arms, feeling how every part of her soul shattered. Angela wanted answers, she needed answers, and she looked over her shoulder at Jesse, who was frowning. Even his always tender heart was past breaking point.

“W-what happened...?” Angela barely managed to whisper. Jesse released her, and she almost fell, stumbling on her own tangled feet.

“Does anyone know who is responsible for the deaths below?” A special agent asked, and Fareeha’s superior –the one she knew as agent Morrison- stepped forward. He was tired, and he definitely didn’t seem to enjoy what he was going to say.

“Agent Fareeha Amari from Helix." Jack approached them. "Helix Security International disclaims any act that she has committed whatsoever.”

“…What?” All the blood, all the gunshots, all the shouting. All the dead bodies on the floor. It was all Fareeha’s doing? “No, she couldn’t…” Angela’s eyes opened wide. Were they really betraying their own employee? She was shaking in anger, Jesse feeling it beneath his hands.

“I still don’t know exactly what happened inside but, whatever you've seen or heard, it was all Fareeha’s doing… Your life and freedom over hers, that’s what she said... She risked everything to save you, she wanted to make sure you’ll never be followed or threatened again. I don’t know how far that has led her, but… Ah, shit, I guess we’ll find out soon enough…”

And soon enough was soon enough. A group of agents who entered the raid came out with several people arrested, Moira included in them. Now Moira was awake, barely walking, but conscious. Then other Talon agents, and two people that Angela could barely recognize, both members of a large pharmaceutical industry which mainly made its business selling patented drugs at very high costs. A couple of police agents approached, gathering all the hostages in front of an ambulance.

“We know you feel broken and tired.” The agent started to speak. “But we need you to testify against her. She’s guilty of first degree murder-”

“I’m saying nothing to you.” Angela blurted, all her coworkers in shock by the statement.

“Miss-”

Doctor.” Angela corrected.

“Dr. Ziegler, it’s obvious that none of you did that but her. Inside that scrapyard we have more than thirty dead men downstairs, and the count goes on.” She said nothing. Instead, she looked at the other doctors, a blank stare in their faces. “You know she did it.”

“And I'm not going to testify against that person, the one who saved our lives. Unlike the local police who remained asleep for several weeks. The only thing I’m going to testify is Dr. O’Deorain’s order to kill Gerard Lacroix. I’m not saying anything else until I have my lawyer.”

“Then I guess I'll have to ask the other witnesses-”

“We saw nothing.” Emre stepped forward. “And we’ll say nothing.” Angela felt relief in her aching body, silently thanking her friend and the rest of the crew. “We owe our lives to that person, and we’ll remain silent until our dying breath.” Angela mouthed a thank you between a tired smile, Emre nodding back in agreement. “We just want to go back to our families and rest. We can deal with this tomorrow, not now.” Their families. If only Angela kept that last piece she felt most familiar with. If only she was back at their apartment. That was her last hope.


Hours after administrative procedures, hours at the hospital, more hours at the police station, she was finally able to enter her apartment, only to find it empty. All hope she had of finding Fareeha in the place they came to share, even for a week, vanished like dust in the air. Angela took off her shoes tiredly, leaving them in front of the bed, and sat on the mattress, her elbows resting on her thighs while pressing her face into the palms of her hands.

And she cried. She cried for minutes. She cried a lot. She cried for her, she cried for Fareeha, she cried for the life she had with her and the one she could have by her side. She cried for her coworkers, for her friends. She cried for Amelie and Gerard. She cried for the havoc that was her life over the news, repeated like an alarm clock in the morning. She cried for the emptiness that was about to hit her. And finally, she cried simply because she was tired, but the tears didn’t come no more.

She filled the bathtub with warm water, sinking naked and getting rid of all the dust, dirty and blood, and remained there for too long, her fingers already pruning, but she didn’t care anymore. Once done cleaning herself and relaxing slightly, she took the phone out of her purse, her gaze lingering a little too much on Fareeha’s contact. She dialed. No answer. She dialed again, once, twice. No answer. And she left the phone forgotten on a table.

‘Just remember how much I love you…’

“…And why don’t you remember how much I love you and need you?”

And she cried again. For a moment she felt her strength vanish as well, her eyes clouded again by tears and irritation. Everything hurt. Her body, her head, her heart, and the deepest and most tender part of her soul. It wasn’t possible. Fareeha couldn’t leave her like that. She said she would stay until Angela didn’t want her no more in that house, and she wanted her there for the rest of her life. It just wasn’t fair. Why did it had to be like that? She took the phone again, and dialed the only person who know could give her the answers.

Hello? Angela?” Hanzo responded from the other side of the line. He sounded tired, just like everyone else.

“Hello…”

Is everything okay?” Of course it wasn’t, but he had to ask just to be polite.

“Do you know where she is?” There was silence for too long. “Please.”

I've barely talked to Jesse, I don’t know where they've hidden her-

“Hanzo, I’m begging you… Ask him, a-and I swear I’ll never ask anything from you ever again. I will do anything you want afterwards but please…” Angela broke, trying to muffle her own sobs as she covered the lower half of the phone. “Please.”

…I’ll call Jesse. I will send you the coordinates as soon as he answers me. But I can’t go with you, I’m still with Amelie and- you know...” She knows, her friend became a widow all of a sudden, and she needed a friendly shoulder where to cry.

“Thank you... Thank you so much...”

And as fast as a message came to her phone with the exact location of Fareeha, something snapped in Angela, and she ran to the closet to change to the first thing she found. Jeans and a buttoned blouse, plus ballet flats she used to wear when going shopping. She was about to take the keys to her car, when she stopped to see another set of keys on a table. Fareeha’s keys. Angela shook her head and took that pair as well, stuffing them back in her purse and she went down to the parking lot, taking her car willing to push the pedal as hard as she could to reach her destination: the far north highway.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter XXIV

And I had to say goodbye

 

“Are you ready?”

Her mother asked her, as if she really was expecting a mature response to such question. It was obvious, and yet, it was painful to acknowledge her weakness. Standing atop the cliff was Ana and her. Her mother no longer in sniping position, rather crouching as the dark hood covered her features, her face barely illuminated by the distant artificial lights beneath. What hurts even more was looking down, further down, and between the crowds amongst ambulances, fire trucks and police cars. Fareeha recognized some figures, most of them being of her team. Correction, her previous Helix team and coworkers. Jack, Lena, Olivia, and Jesse, holding a stressed blonde trying to escape from his grasps. Fareeha was so far away, but she could feel her screams and distress even from afar. That’s what really hurt.

“No…”

Fareeha simply said, being honest once again, and opening to her mother for leverage, for support and looking for compassion in the middle of guilt. Ana stood up and faced her, even when Fareeha didn’t stop looking down. Her cheeks were damp, her eyes were red, and her heart was beating faster like never before. Trembling legs, shaking hands, numb senses, feeling it all. Ana side hugged her, bringing her closer to the familiar comfort of a motherly embrace, and Fareeha released a shuddered breath she was holding for so long. She wiped her tears with the back of her thumbs as her mother gave a soft squeeze to her arm.

“She will be fine now. She’s strong.”

“She is smarter, prettier, and stronger than me… She’s ready to take the world and make it her own now.”

“What about you?” Fareeha stood silent, and she pointed down to where all the havoc was.

“That’s my fate.”

“Fate is nothing but an excuse to the weak minded.”

“And I am weak, mother…” Fareeha heard a chuckle, and looked at her mother slightly smiling at her.

“That which is down there, that which you call destiny, you caused that. Down there I see no weakness, there I see strength, not physical, but spiritual. You pushed and surpassed your limits like never before, Fareeha. But more importantly, you did something that only a few dare to do: you sacrificed yourself. Your life and freedom over hers.”

“And I had to drag you in this.”

“No.” Ana let her go, and took her rifle, ready to part. “I chose to do it. That’s not fate, that’s a decision. Fate would be to let you to face that slaughterhouse alone and trust that the Gods would somehow perform a miracle for you. But that’s what differentiates us from the rest of the Amari’s and made us the strongest, Fareeha. We don’t put our faith in the God’s above, because we are the God’s ourselves.”

If there was one thing that stands out in Ana Amari among all things, it was her wisdom. Since Fareeha was a little girl her mother was always the center of attention. Big and small came to her for advice, words of encouragement and comfort, and that way she earned her name easily. Bastet, the embodiment of protection, of maternal love and harmony. But that was way after Horus. It was funny that she paid less attention to her own daughter, the one everyone called Anubis at some point, which earned her name out of hatred and fear, and how easily she inflicted death with just a snap of a commanding finger.

Her mother moved, and so did Fareeha, burying those memories deep inside her heart again. The only thing left to do was follow her, trust her and obey her mother. That was the only condition, and if Fareeha knows how to do something, it is to keep her word, even though she didn’t know what would follow next. Proper and smart loyalty was the phrase. A black van was waiting for them at the foot of the hill right off the street, the engine roared tiredly like Fareeha. In front of the pilot's door was Gabriel Reyes with his arms crossed, completely dressed in black and wearing a beanie to cover his head.

“Get inside. We’re getting out of here before they find you.”

And they left, driving up near downtown, eventually arriving at her mother’s apartment.


The leaves of the trees outside swayed gently in the spring wind, the birds sang happily that afternoon, and the occasional sound of a car in the distance was the only thing she heard at that moment. Everything was so quiet in that rented cabin on the outskirts of the city, and yet, despite her mother's suggestion that she should rest, Fareeha couldn’t even close her eyes, much less sleep. The fan spun on top of her, her limbs were stretched freely on each side of the bed, and although she should’ve been dizzy several minutes ago to keep seeing the ceiling fan spin, her mind was traveling far, far away, farther and farther away from her body.

There was a soft knock on the door, and Fareeha's eyelashes flickered, finally snapping from that daydream. She breathed deeply and with a soft growl she got up stealthily, the bed creaked and she mentally cursed for the quality of the frame. On tiptoe she walked and leaned on the door, crouching a little to look through the peephole and release the breath she didn’t know she was holding when she saw Jesse on the other side.

“Hey, Reeha.” He said when Fareeha opened the door.

“Hey…” It came out more hoarse than usual. Her throat was dry, she needed more than water. Jesse looked at Fareeha’s eyes, the redness and lack of sleep so evident.

“Did you even slept at all?”

“Barely… Perhaps an hour. I couldn’t do it as much as I tried, pills and all...” Jesse went inside and sat in the small couch next to the bed, Fareeha closed the door behind her. Her mother was away, still gathering certain things and belongings from her apartment in a rather rushed moving day. She sat on the bed, tiredly looking at Jesse. “How are things outside?”

“Surprisingly everything is... Quiet. The news are like vultures around the victims and anyone who was present, they even wanted to interview me but you know that's not my cup of tea. The police aren’t looking for you, at least not yet, but things will get complicated in a few hours.”

“What do you mean they aren’t looking for me? I’m more than sure Jack followed the steps of the plan. He had to give me away. He said my name, right?”

“He did. Your plan was foolproof, but you didn’t take into account the most variable factor of all, huh?” He chuckled, and crossed his arms behind his head. “She refused to speak.”

“What?”

“She’s refusing to say your name, to acknowledge you did that massacre down there. Nobody wants to talk, nobody knew who you were more than her, and because you saved their lives, the other doctors followed her and are refusing to recognize your face amongst several other potential culprits.” The heavy load on top of her eased just a little, but Jesse made sure to bring her back to reality again. “…That doesn’t mean you are safe here. I’m pretty darn sure the few of the Talon crew who remained and managed to escape will look for revenge, and if you stay close to Angela, they will look for her too.”

“I know…”

“But as I told you, we still have a little time. So-” He got up, grunting and stretching his arms above his head. “Do you have something in mind to do? Some pending issue maybe?”

There was nothing else to do, really. Maybe saying goodbye to her friends, that was a very high possibility. How could she leave without bid them adieu to her temporary parents? Ingrid and Torbjörn, and her younger sister Brigitte. Of her brothers, sisters and teammates of Helix. Of Reinhardt, the funny uncle of her family. Of Orisa, Efi and Lucio back in the restaurant. That was the most important thing, to thank each one of them for all they have done for her. A fugitive smile was reflected in Fareeha, more filled of sadness and melancholy than anything. But the migraine returned with a purpose, and now she smiled malevolently. Of course there was someone else to say goodbye to.

“Actually, I do.”

Fareeha didn’t have to say anything more for Jesse to understand, and both were on top of the Acura driving through the city again, evading the main avenues down the freeway to the center, then south, and further south to the suburbs. The woodland always was of her liking, but it constantly brought back bad memories, and it had been so long when she hadn’t returned to that residence. Today was a good time to say goodbye and leave her mark.

She left the car and jumped the fence of the mansion, bothering little to evade the security cameras and guards. One of two things: either the guards were extremely stupid and careless, or Fareeha had become very stealthy and skilled. She preferred to opt for both. She climbed the brick walls until she reached a window that led onto a corridor, opened it carefully and she was inside. It was easy to know where the heir of the Shimada family was, for the sound of laughing women and clinking glasses was heard behind huge wooden doors.

Of course’, she thought, and she kicked them open. A brunette and a redhead in their expensive lingerie yelped as they lied on the bed with Genji. He sat up quickly horrified, and then stopped enraged, walking towards her.

“What the fuck?! What are you doing here?!” Fareeha shrugged nonchalantly.

“Paying you a visit, isn’t that obvious?”

“Get out before I kill you!” How amusing. Fareeha approached him as well and dodged easily the weak punch he threw at her. She responded with another but accurate blow, hitting him in the face and making him to fall to the ground.

“That’s for insulting me before.” She walked next to him, and she raised him from the neck, her eyes as sharp as a knife. “And this is for Angela.” Then she tossed him to a table near, breaking the glass on top. “For even daring to put a finger on her.” And she kicked him on the side. “For hurting her.” And another on his head. “For disrespecting her. For cheating on her. For messing with her life!” A punch in his stomach. “For almost killing her!” And quite the strong kick between his legs followed, making him howl as he gripped his crotch. “And that’s for even looking at her when you’re so unworthy of her attention.” The girls screamed horrified when they saw Genji yelling and bleeding on the floor. “And you girls? You can do better than this piece of shit.”

“I-I will fucking kill you, Amari…!”

“Your daddy doesn’t think so, he knows better than to mess with our name. But the challenge is always welcome! Just try harder next time, bitch.”

Fareeha saluted him amusedly with two fingers at her forehead and left quickly, jumping off the window where she came from and going inside the car only for Jesse to speed up like a mad men as the door didn’t even closed. Fareeha never relished on the pain of others, but oh God, how amazing and fulfilling did that felt. Jesse was grinning from ear to ear next to her, and even when he didn’t knew exactly what Fareeha did, he knew it was perhaps a good thing, because the girl was laughing and crying at the same time, the pent-up sense of revenge finally subduing but only slightly. That was just a ‘see you later’.

“Now I definitely need a beer." She said with a smile on her face while looking at Jesse.

“That I can handle.”

Minutes later they were in front of Eichenwalde. The doors opened wide when they entered and Fareeha definitely didn’t expected the scenario in front of her. They were all inside. Olivia, Brigitte, Lena, Emily and Reinhardt obviously. The place was grim even for being so early. Everyone stood silent, as if waiting for Fareeha to say anything, but nothing came out of her mouth. Eventually, it was Lena’s quirky voice the one that broke the silence.

“Aw, come on. You didn’t think you were going to leave without saying goodbye, right?”

Fareeha nodded slowly, and approached the group when Jesse jabbed at her ribs. She walked slowly, feeling she was walking on a cloud, and soon enough Fareeha was surrounded by everyone in a suffocating embrace. The words of encouragement, of good wishes, of thanks, didn’t go unnoticed by her between sobs, even Reinhardt was the most sensitive of all. She was going to miss that warmth, that source of good vibes, of laughter, of uncomfortable anecdotes, of stupid challenges and drunken nights. She was definitely going to miss her family very much.


Fareeha closed her eyes after leaving the bar. The car rocking was a lullaby to her body, and thanks to the dark sunglasses she was wearing and the three pints of beer now in her stomach, she was able to relax momentarily, enough to be able to rest her eyes and mind, but not enough to sleep. And so, she rested for the entire trip until she got back to the cabin. Drifting in and out of a dream filled with hopes, with new beginnings, and so on. There was only one person she wanted to see for the last time, but given the circumstances and the fact that Angela was being questioned, it took away all hope of seeing her for the last time.

She got out of the car, almost staggering with exhaustion. The beer was a simple placebo. What surprised her however, was the fact that her mother was waiting for her outside. She had her purse in one hand and there was a cab waiting for her. It wouldn’t be that strange normally, but due to their current status, that was weird enough. Fareeha approached her, and Ana smiled sweetly at her daughter.

“I’ll be back in three hours. I’m saying goodbye to Ingrid and Torbjörn over tea at their house.” Fareeha blinked a couple of times.

“And that will take you that much time?”

“No.” She cupped Fareeha’s cheek, and she switched to Arabic. “Just make the best out of those three hours inside there.”

Ana got into the cab and drove down the road where Jesse and she had come. And speaking of his former roommate, he smiled as did her mother while holding a small bag with more private belongings of Fareeha that she left forgotten in the apartment before moving with the doctor, and opened the door to her friend. Fareeha's eyes widened despite the weariness. There she was: Angela Ziegler, standing in the middle of the cabin with a face as tired as hers. Fareeha turned to see Jesse, and he simply managed an apologetic smile.

“I’m sorry, Reeha. I couldn’t keep quiet.” He closed the door, leaving both the girls alone.

Fareeha no longer heard the birds chirping outside nor the song of the wind blowing the green leaves of the trees. She felt how her heart was beating in her ears, everything going slower than usual as she tried unsuccessfully to breath normally. Tried. Blue eyes stared back at her, and she recognized that face. Fareeha went back to the first time she saw her in front of the doors of the mansion she shared with Genji, wearing a red dress and a white coat as she went down the stairs. That look that said that she was a powerful woman, that she didn’t need the presence or the cares of her to succeed. Only this time she changed the dress for a pair of jeans, the coat for her Helix sweatshirt and her high heels for flats.

One of the other things that Fareeha didn’t noticed was when Angela came up to her and slapped her so fiercely that she took her off balance. The sound of her pale palm smacking her cheek filled her ears and the entire room of the cabin. Angela wasn’t as strong as any enemy she has faced, but that’s definitely the one that has hurt the most. Fareeha turned to look at her slowly, and the woman she met before disappeared, this time replacing her a little blonde girl crying over the doll she was about to lose. Angela scoffed, blinking the tears with no success, and with trembling lips, she finally dared to speak her mind.

“You did not just thought of leaving me…”

“Angela…”

“You did not just thought of leaving me!” She repeated, this time yelling even when her voice was broken. “Fareeha, you are not thinking on doing this to me!”

“There’s no other way-”

“There is always another way! You taught me that! You call me hypocrite sometimes but look who’s the hypocrite now!” She was about to slap her again, but Fareeha stopped her easily while grabbing her wrist, next grabbing an ankle when Angela tried to kick her on the side.

“Angela-”

“Don’t ‘Angela’ me and let me go!” Despite everything her mind said to her, her hands loosened their grip and released Angela, only to be greeted with another slap.

She deserved that, and perhaps more. Angela was agitated, her body trembled visibly, her face was flushed and her eyes were red, maybe from crying, maybe from fatigue, or maybe a mixture of both. The doctor took impulse again, and this time Fareeha decided to stop her once and for all, not because it hurt, but because Angela could hurt herself by throwing punches and kicks to her stiff body, and that wasn’t an option. Fareeha lifted her in a grip that left her immobilized in her arms and carried her to the bed, sitting her down but not letting go.

Fareeha thought the blow hurt more, but it was not true. This hurt more. Hearing her cry, bawl, shriek so loudly in her arms, that’s what hurt the most. Not the years of her strained abusive childhood, nor the years running away, nor the years in the army or the ones she worked for Helix, but that was the most painful situation she has ever endured, or at least tried to overcome and look strong.

“Y-You…” Fareeha felt how Angela swallowed amidst an embrace, and how her pale and slender hands clenched harder her shirt. “You protected me, you helped me in ways no one else could help me before, and you made me a better version of me… Just to throw me to the wolves, thinking on leaving me and breaking my heart? So what you said of loving me was a lie all the time?!”

“I have never lied to you. And I love you, beyond reason, and I’ll always will. That’s why I’m doing this.”

“Then don’t, please! You have a choice-”

“Angela, this is not my choice-”

“It is, Fareeha! It’s your choice not to leave me! You are not being prosecuted and the police is willing to drop every single accusation towards you, and even if they manage to catch you I’ll pay whatever the bail is worth, so it is your choice to stay and-” Angela stopped talking when Fareeha laughed, even when a small frown was set on her face. “Why are you laughing?”

“Don’t waste your money on me.”

“You’re worth every cent I own.”

“And you’re worth every single drop of blood running through my veins.” Angela huffed and finally, even when faint, there was a smile, and it was beautiful.

“…You expect me to let you go while you’re being ever the sweet talker?”

“You started.”

“I was being honest.”

“So am I.” She felt the silence again, her heart beating strong in her head as Angela looked at her. Dark brown eyes looked back, and then down on her lap where Angela was beginning to sit on by being indicated by Fareeha. “I’m not worried about the police, Angela… You cannot imagine how many times I've escaped the law, more than I would like… I’m not allowed to set foot on Albania, Morocco and Algeria anymore. Long story.” Fareeha took a deep breath. “I’m worried about you… What I did there? Talon will never forgive me. They are already looking for me now and… No, I’m not willing to stay because they will eventually know my weakness… And that’s you.”

“Don’t do this to me…”

“So no, it’s not my choice-” Angela perked up from her place, standing up and gripping at Fareeha’s shoulder.

“Then take me with you. We can-”

“Angela, don’t…” Fareeha was trying strongly to suppress the urge to cry, but Angela was past the breaking point. The little makeup she had put on was no longer there, her shirt and hoodie were damp by the tears, and her eyes were red due to the fatigue. She was a mess, and she was desperate. “Wherever I go, Talon is going to follow me.”

“D-don’t leave me…”

“…Stop begging m- don’t cry. Don’t cry.”

“Fareeha… Don’t leave me, please?”

That was it, Fareeha broke as well. She hid her face on Angela’s shoulder and silently cried there, just resting her head as the urge to release her pent-up heartache finally bloomed. Angela rested her cheek on Fareeha’s hair and joined her, sobs and shaky breathing filling the room. Fareeha wasn’t as strong inside as she looked on the outside, far from it, she was weak. She was still a child trying to grow up when her innocent childhood was stolen since the age of five. When the doctor stroked her hair like she used to do, she brought her hands to her slim waist, hugging her and bringing her closer to her body, trying to secure her for as long as it was permitted.

Without noticing, they stayed for so long embracing one another, feeling their warmth and longing for the presence of each other, and just like that, an hour passed. The tears barely stopped minutes ago, their eyes redder with time and their faces even more flushed than ever. Fareeha turned her face away from Angela, only to have the blonde take her in her hands and press her forehead with hers. She was calmer, the anger was gone for good and there was remorse. Aquamarine eyes stared back, shining more than usual due to the wetness of her eyelashes, and Fareeha couldn’t take her eyes off her, not even when Angela looked quickly at her lips and closed the space between the both, kissing her softly.

Ever so softly, so tender, just with the right amount of lust, but the predominance was definitely love. The love Angela swore to her many times in the past week, the one Fareeha felt so vividly, so raw and exposed uncountable times while working with her, taking care of her, belonged to her both body and heart. Fareeha parted sooner than she wanted, for she needed to stop whatever was going to happen if she wasn’t able to control herself.

“Angela… This hurts me as much as it hurts you. I just ask you to think about it and put yourself in my place: what would you do if there was a threat constantly following you with the goal of hurting you and I wanted to follow you too? Would you put me at risk? If something happened to me, would you feel no remorse?” Angela opened her eyes slightly, the gears in her head finally worked, and she slowly shook her head after some excruciating silent seconds.

“…No.”

“Then understand why I’m doing this.”

“I-I do, but I still… I don’t want this to happen.”

“Neither do I.”

“Will you return to me someday?”

Now it was Fareeha's turn to be surprised. She obviously expected this question at some point in the conversation, but not in the quiet, relaxed way that Angela did it. She blinked a couple of times and pulled away from Angela, her gaze fixed on the wall behind her for a few seconds. The answer was simple: no, she wasn’t going to return. Fareeha could have tricked her, given her false hopes of a quiet and perfect life full of endless love the day she came back, but Fareeha couldn’t do that to her. She could never lie to her like that, not when Angela opened up to her in unimaginable ways and gave her an honest and pure self in return.

“…No, I won’t. I’m sorry…” Angela breathed shakily, ready for asking another question.

“What would you do if I escaped from your side?” Fareeha blinked again. What was she doing? “Do you believe in destiny?”

“…I don’t know.”

“Your mother says otherwise.” Ah, that thing. No wonder. “Heh charming woman.”

“I’m sorry you crossed paths with her, she can be quite…”

“Persuasive?”

“Very.” Fareeha took a deep breath, standing up and rubbing her face. She needed something to appease the nerves. “Do you want tea?” Angela shook her head at the offer.

“No, thank you. I haven’t slept properly, so if I drink a drop of tea I’ll fall asleep as soon as it reaches my tongue.” Fareeha was already putting the teapot to boil when she remembered something.

“What is ‘slept properly’?” Angela said nothing. “Ah. So you haven’t slept at all.”

“How could I? The only thing I have done this day has been to worry, to be interviewed, escorted from here to there and to fill up an endless number of documents. My lawyer barely had the patience to let me go and rest, tomorrow things will continue, and I don’t know how longer this will keep going on…” Fareeha was standing in front of the stove and lost in thought, waiting for the water to boil and looking intently at the fire under the metal case. She perked up when a pair of slender arms surrounded her waist, the body of the blonde almost melting with her back.

“You need rest.”

“So do you. It will do us no good if we stay like this.”

“But?” Of course there was a but, Fareeha knew it already, but she still had to ask.

“I’m afraid that if I close my eyes, you will no longer be here by my side…” She felt the grip on her shirt tighten, all Fareeha could do was to place her hands atop Angela’s shaky ones. “I don’t want you to go. Please, how much do I have to beg you? Why when my life was finally becoming perfect?”

“It has nothing to do with me. You are perfect, Angela. You don’t need me.”

“I need you more than you imagine.” Angela nuzzled her face in Fareeha’s back. “You have offered me something that nobody has been able to give me, not even Genji, and I don’t mean-” Angela stopped talking when Fareeha started to laugh. “What’s so funny?” She cleared her throat, how was she supposed to tell Angela what she did?

“I uhm… Paid him a visit a few hours ago.” Angela pulled away from her a little, just enough to be able to look her in the face.

“Fareeha… What did you do?” She shook her head, still chuckling. “Honestly.”

“I snuck inside and eh… Kicked him in the balls…?”

“You did not…” Angela was dumbstruck, and then got into a fit of giggles herself. “Oh my goodness. I would have loved to see it, I could even pay if someone recorded that. Although I think you were gentle with him.”

“Yes, I had no other choice.” Fareeha turned around to look at her, tucking a strand blonde hair behind her ear.

“Thank you, I couldn’t have done it myself.”

“You can kick anyone in the balls. I trained you to do so.”

“Hm, that’s true…” The doctor’s soft smile could illuminate the darkest room, and definitely Fareeha’s obscure heart. “You did taught me that.” Fareeha was particularly attracted to her eyes now more than ever, shining faintly from the light filtering through the window. It was impossible to stop watching her, and her hand remained on her cheek for longer than allowed. Angela seemed to feel the same, and closed the space between the two, approaching until her lips touched gently, slowly and lingering for a moment longer. “You taught me more than you can imagine.”

“Hardly.” Angela smiled once again, and the way she looked at her with paramount affection made Fareeha shiver.

“Leave the tea, come with me.” Fareeha simply obeyed, and Angela stood in the middle of the cabin, still looking at her. She took her hands in her own and held them there for a moment. “You know? Since the theater, even a few days ago after that, I wanted to dance with you.” Fareeha chuckled.

“How cute. But I don’t dance.”

“Then with whom I danced in the nightclub?”

“Touché… The point is I can’t dance a simple waltz, I’m awkward.”

“Then that’s something I can teach you in return for everything you’ve done for me.”

“You don’t have to-”

“But I am. So come on.”

“There’s no music.”

“Pretexts. Then hum along.”

Angela took a step forward and placed Fareeha’s hand in her hip, then her own pale on her lover’s shoulder, and she started to move slightly, side to side in a simple pace. Even though Fareeha was screaming inside, she decided to offer her that last silent piece. Truth is, she couldn’t deny her anything, except something that interfered with her well-being. That seemed to be always the rule, and it stopped to be quite a rule a few months ago, instead becoming her duty and desire. Angela hid her face in the crook of her neck, simply staying there and taking a shaky breath.

It didn’t take long for Fareeha to know what she was doing, and she rested her head on top of the blonde, following the rhythm that the woman had chosen for her, and for maybe twenty minutes Fareeha helped her by humming a familiar tune. It seemed to appease Angela, for she became clingier and slightly less upset overall.

“I understand.” Angela finally said, and Fareeha stopped her tune. “If you can’t come back to me, then I will look for you all over the world.”

“Angela-”

“And I will find you.”

“…That’s a threat?”

“No, it’s a promise to recover what belongs to me.”

Angela kept swaying while there was a hint of a smile on Fareeha’s face. If there was something, Angela wasn’t entirely wrong, was the fact that she could actually go looking for her. But the truth was, Fareeha would be selfish if she denied her every advance she had made, beginning with her life and all the open doors that lay before her, and she couldn’t offer her that but simple company. Fareeha stopped her mind rambling when she felt a hand tugging at the rim of her shirt, fumbling with the fabric and lifting the hem.

“What are you doing?”

“I want to feel you closer.”

Fareeha was going to refute her explanation, but the caress of her hand on her abdomen silenced every doubt in her head. She allowed her to keep peeling her clothes; she didn’t know why it felt easy at all, but still the restrain of doing something with her lingered, longer than she thought. The shirt lied stiff on the floor, followed by her pants, and she stood there in her underwear. Angela followed suit, with the exception she was sans bra, and Fareeha feeling her pressing her bare chest to hers felt the heat rising, even when she didn’t wanted to.

It was expected that Angela would continue to remove layer after layer of clothing, but only just hugged and continue with the soft and rhythmic dance that had been involved. Indeed, feeling her warmth –feeling she was alive- gave her an immeasurable amount of relief. Fareeha kept repeating that it was the best thing, that she was still making the right choice, even when her heart told her the contrary. Her mother’s words echoed inside her head like a whistle in the wind. No, it wasn’t fair, but it was the right thing nonetheless.

Fareeha closed her eyes, and amidst the embrace, she lightly teased the blonde’s back with her nails, feeling and scratching the tender skin under her palm, making her shiver and send goosebumps all over her body. That brought a smile to Fareeha, and she kept doing that, sometimes to her shoulders, lower back, and even arms and thighs, it was satisfying on its own. It was easy to tease on Angela, Fareeha found out later than sooner, and the provocative hip movements the doctor made with every tease encouraged such actions.

It took only a couple of seconds for Angela to be on top of her, kissing every part of her upper body in a fit of hunger and desperation. Fareeha laughed to herself, it was still amazing how sometimes the simplest things could be enough to turn on the doctor. Normally she would deny many things, all for having a contract in between, among other things, but now that she was about to deny her something bigger? This was nothing, and it even brought a mutual benefit. Maybe only for the last time.

Fareeha took her in her arms and carried her to the bed, laying her gently on the soft mattress. Something deep inside her told her not to do what her mother told her, not to run away like a coward and face the consequences: to learn to be a responsible adult. But she couldn’t, that was taken away long ago. Now? It only remained to be responsible for the woman under her willing to give everything to feel her once again, a final and perfect afternoon to remember.

She undressed of the last clothes she was wearing, being totally naked before the pleading and erotic look of Angela. Fareeha climbed the bed and while kneeling in front tugged slowly the doctor’s lace panties already damped with her arousal, watching the skin of her womanhood show little by little, until the underwear was lying on the floor next to Fareeha’s ones. Crawling atop her, she kissed the blonde slowly, just savoring her lips and exploring the inside of her mouth with her tongue in a battle for domination that Angela seemed to win. Nevermind, she could win that war.

The best part of all that was the slowness, taking the time that was necessary despite having so little of it, but that made it the more special in the end. Little by little, it started to make sense. Her nails scraping slightly her pale skin made faint red streaks on her sides and down to her hips and rear, softly squeezing the flesh below her palms. Angela shuddered by the contact, sending shivers down her spine and the same reaction was expected when Fareeha kissed her hipbone softly, peppering the skin with tender kisses, up to her ribcage and down to her navel. A pair of slender hands entangled on her dark hair, but only tenderly, as if she didn’t want to hurt her but still wanted her there for as long as she could.

Her goal was easy, Fareeha knew exactly where to reach to make the blonde squirm under her touch. It took her a few attempts to know her soft and ticklish spots, just like she got to know and count every mole and spot in her body, drawing her attention to every single one of them. A couple on her back, a few more perfectly situated on her cleavage, and a few small freckles peppering her shoulders. Fareeha leaned down and kissed the visible ones, knowing already that Angela was more than willing to give her permission to do so. And she did just that, softly sucking every spot on her body, trailing down to arrive at the apex of her navel and then lower, lower every time.

Just when she was about to touch her most sensitive spot, Fareeha stopped, and looked up at the blonde, always silently asking for her approval. A flushed face with permeating blue eyes stared her back, and the doctor mouthed a simple ‘please’, enough to acknowledge Fareeha’s ownership of her body. Angela was willing to give her everything that was left of her, and that made it more special and exciting despite the fatigue. Without more, Fareeha kissed between her thighs, slowly lapping at her dripping folds with paramount affection, relishing in the taste of her lover. A shuddered moan escaped the blonde’s lips, and the grasp of her hair tightened ever softly.

No matter how many times Fareeha tasted her, it was always amazing, as if her body had been made to her liking. Surprisingly sweet, just like Angela’s caring soul. She kept teasing inside, sometimes squeezing a thigh while steading and performing her ministrations, and Angela’s impressive begging filled the cabin with ease. Her breath was labored, her moans were hitching and there was already a thin sheen of sweat covering her body. How amazing it could be. Without furthermore, Fareeha pushed her tongue deep inside her, making Angela a squirming mess.

The thought of bringing her to the edge with barely any effort was encouragement enough, but it still gave her room to play a little more with her. And thus, she put her creamy thighs on her shoulders, and taking her hips with both hands, she lifted her gently from the bed, only her nape touching the mattress beneath Angela. And Fareeha pushed deeper. She could see how the abs of the blonde were slightly rippling with each ragged breath. Fareeha looked down and smiled between her caresses when she looked at her perfect woman with eyes shut and her lower lip bitten: she was close, so close.

Just one more push, one lick, one suck, and Angela was screaming to the heavens for her release. The sheets crumpled in her pale clenched fists, her back arched and her body somehow began to tremble ever so slightly, one of the cute things Fareeha saw the doctor did while showing herself to her. The tremor stopped, and the blonde fell back to the bed, breathing hard and closing her eyes not so strong this time. Fareeha lowered her legs again, and crawled towards Angela, positioning herself on top of her until she was face to face, and gave her a soft kiss on the lips, soft enough to get her attention. And it worked.

Blue eyes stared back, and a soft smile enough to make her keep going. Fareeha lied down next to her, trying to catch her breath and let sleep elude her for perhaps a few minutes, but Angela moved, and straddled her hips, each of her legs on either side of Fareeha, and the girl below her blinked a couple times. “Not yet.” That’s all Angela said before leaning down and kissing her back with more hunger than ever. And not yet it was. Of course, it was never enough for Angela, one of the many things Fareeha was drawn to her; her thirst and desire for more, whatever it was.

Angela shifted slightly and placed one of Fareeha’s shin on top of her shoulder, moving herself between her legs so their sexes touched. Angela tossed her head back and let go a shaky breath by the contact due to her overstimulated womanhood, and it was quite a sight for Fareeha below her. Leaning back with her hands behind her, Angela started to move her hips, swaying and slowly dancing atop Fareeha. The former bodyguard hissed but not for the pain she didn’t felt at all, but for the overstimulation and effect it had on her. That position made her feel closer to her, as if that truly meant sex between the two of them.

And she kept moving, softly swaying and increasing the speed gradually by the minute, and the minutes turned into seconds that send them both to a state of pure bliss and ecstasy. Fareeha took Angela’s hips with both her hands and helped her move along, making the contact even the more invigorant and closer than ever. To Fareeha it was quite a sight, watching the doctor’s breasts bounce with every movement of her hip, mouth agape, and her head back, facing at the ceiling when her eyes rolled back and she became stiff atop her. Angela released a silent scream, and Fareeha followed closely, bringing her to her body so Angela lied on top of her as her orgasm hit her harder that afternoon.

Between heavy breathing, Fareeha kissed her back with all the energies remaining in her body, and Angela responded in the same way, giving way to sloppy, messy kisses, but shows of affection nonetheless. Angela was tired, Fareeha could easily see that –she was too- and decided to stay there with her for more than a few minutes, rolling over and lying next to her as she stroked her hair in soft motions, sometimes scratching her scalp in the process and earning hums in response. Fareeha tried to blink the sleep away several times when she looked at Angela do the same, and decided to encourage her to rest at least. She deserved that and more, and for the things she has done, she deserved the world.

“You weren’t as vocal as before.” Angela said between muffled giggles, earning a chuckle from her lover.

“Are you going to tease me now?”

“Always.”

“You should sleep.” Angela shook her head.

“No... I’m afraid that if I close my eyes, you will no longer be here...” It hurt because it was true, that was her cue to leave. “Am I wrong?”

“…Not entirely. But your energy’s drained, you need to rest.”

“I need to stay awake. Please, talk to me… Humor me until I can no longer st…” Fareeha giggled, Angela was already falling asleep and her voice was a ramble, but her eyes opened quickly while realizing that. “Is there any way that when I open my eyes, you’ll still be here?” Fareeha shook her head, and kissed her slowly, combing stray blonde hair away at the same time.

“I’m sorry.”

“Talk to me, tell me about you.” That Fareeha could do.

“What do you want to know?”

“Anything, your voice soothes me.”

“Well…” She cleared her throat, and adjusted her body so she would hug Angela without compromising her position too much. “I can’t say much things about me, at least not nice ones… What I can tell and I know you like, is the things I love about you.”

“Hm, that vain am I?”

“Just enough, you should embrace it because you are amazing.”

“Charming.”

“I’m honest.”

“Before you proceed… I wasn’t kidding when I said I’m going to look for you, and I will find you, just as I found you here. You are not forgetting me, are you?” Fareeha took a deep breath.

“Never. You’re the best thing that has happened to me.”

“Then promise me… Promise me you’ll meet me again.”

“I’ll meet you halfway.” For a moment, Fareeha imagined everything that could’ve happened, or more importantly, something that she truly wanted to enjoy. “And when that happens, I’ll take you to Canada to a real cabin, not like this one.” Angela smiled and hummed, closing her eyes.

“I like that… What would we do together?”

“My father has this beautiful cabin near a lake. In winter it freezes and in summer it is full of life. Winter is not my favorite time of the year, but it just happens that spending the season with my father in that cabin has always been one of the best things in the world. That would be the first place I would take you.”

“Do you promise me? To take me there?” Fareeha felt how Angela started to doze off, but she kept going nonetheless.

“…I promise you.” And it was an honest promise this time. Her mother told her that she could never see her again, but she was already an adult. Besides, who would stand between her and the woman she loved the most? “I promise you we’ll see each other again, and I’ll take you to the cabin. We will go ice skating in winter and fishing in summer, we will have picnics in spring and strolls in autumn. We will spend a nice vacation you and I alone, together, in front of the fireplace, under a blanket on the sofa, you drinking coffee because you cannot stop that vice of yours, and I’ll have a cup of tea in my hands. Just there the two of us, letting time pass by, and me falling more in love with you if that’s even possible…”

Fareeha turned to see her, and finally, after so many hours in which she was probably exhausted, anguished, worried, Angela was sleeping peacefully. The blonde in front of her was breathing quietly, and despite the damped eyelashes on her closed eyes, she could see no pain, and she was alive and well. What else could Fareeha ask for? Nothing but that, nothing but her safety and happiness, although the late would come later.

Carefully, she managed to untangle herself and pull away from Angela, trying to make the slightest movement to wake her up, and once she got it and got out of bed, she covered her back with the blanket and sat down next to her, tucking a few strands of blonde hair behind her ear. Fareeha released a shuddered breathe and stroked her cheek tenderly, feeling the soft perfect skin of the doctor in her fingers, and how amazing it was to look at her like this.

After several painful minutes of watching over her, Fareeha stood up and got dressed back, taking both her and her mother’s suitcases from a corner and leaving them next to the door. From her suitcase she looked for something between several bags, until she found an envelope. She looked at it longer than she wanted, and hitting the paper on her fingers doubted if she really should leave that to Angela. She didn’t want to think about it anymore, and left the envelope on the bedside table next to the doctor.

Her eyes adverted on something on her own hand when she left the envelope, and she smiled, taking her iron ring –her engineering ring- from her pinky finger and put it on top of the envelope next with her name. Angela will know what to do with it. Fareeha kept looking at her for quite some more time, until a soft knock on the door told her that it was time. She got up from her seat and leaned forward to kiss Angela one last time on the cheek, the blonde stirred slightly and just the softest of smile was drawn to her face.


“Are you okay?”

Ana asked once everything was settled. The suitcases were loaded in the train and they were sitting comfortably on their seats, feeling the train move and dance on the tracks below them. Fareeha chuckled and faced her mother.

“…No?”

“Come here.” Ana stretched her arm and motioned with one hand for Fareeha to nestle between her arms, and hugged her once she did that. “It’s just until everything’s settled down.”

“I know.”

“And they will take care of her.” Fareeha broke the embrace and looked at her gratefully, returning to her seat.

“Don’t worry, I don’t need them to. What she needs most now is for things to return back to normal. She’s strong, she can take care of herself now. Angela’s a powerful woman, she can have the world in the palm of her hand if she wants to.”

Angela no longer needed someone to protect her, Fareeha knew it perfectly. She made sure everything was in order, that she would never need her again, but the truth is that whoever needed her the most was Fareeha herself. She turned to the window, watching how the city that had welcomed her for so many years was moving away little by little. She could never come back, but what she was carrying was more than she had ever hoped to have. There she found responsibilities, a new life, a new family. There she found herself. But most importantly, there she found the perfect person that was willing to see past everything she had done and looking beyond at a better future.

There she found love.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter XXV

When we never stopped loving each other

 

'Angela…

 

 

The sun occasionally filtered through the clouds of that mournful morning of spring. The hills were partially illuminated by the sporadic sunrays and the wind carried the sounds eastward, away from it all. She never used black because she felt that the color was already dark and gloomy enough to follow her life in such a way. However, this day and for this occasion, she had to wear a black dress. Angela didn’t frequent the cemetery, as she didn’t have relatives or friends buried there. But now, she had to make company to her friend and stick to the promise she made to her husband.

And so, Angela was standing next to Amelie silently supporting her while the Frenchwoman tried in vain to stop crying with a handkerchief pressed to her mouth. Hanzo was also there, and between the two they surrounded Amelie as they watched how the coffin was lowered into that dark hole under the ground to never be lifted up again. Amelie took a few steps forward, and took a rose from the various flower arrangements, letting it fall with him.

“He was a good man.” Angela managed to say once Amelie returned to her side, and side hugged her, stroking her arm in a show of affection and understanding. “I owe him my life. That’s something I’ll be ever grateful.”

“He was a perfect man.”

“And just as he wanted and I do as well, I will always stick to my promise.”

“Thank you...”

Amelie hugged her softly, then strongly, and started crying once again in her shoulder. Hanzo hugged her as well, and the three of them mingled in a mourning embrace for several minutes. After the burial and quite the handshakes later, most of the guests gathered at the Lacroix home for a drink and a small bite of food. It was a weird act at first for Angela, but fortunately Hanzo was kind enough to explain that it was a way for those in mourning not to be left alone at the end of the funeral, a French tradition that Amelie wanted to stick with and to keep honoring their love.

For quite a couple hours, Angela still stayed with Amelie, Hanzo as well, and she opted to have cigarette in the balcony, still trying to process everything that happened in that week. The smoke proved to help her, at least to ease her nerves in some sort of fake form. But it worked nonetheless. She looked back at the glass windows, satisfied that her friend was smiling, even if only for a moment. That brought her a huge sense of peace momentarily.

“How are you?” Angela didn't hear the door open and close, nor the steps of Hanzo. He leaned on the railing, watching his friend do the same and take another drag of her cigarette. “Standing Jesse smoking is one thing, but doing it with you is still annoying. Hypocrite.” Angela smirked, releasing the smoke in front of her friend.

“You're not the first or the last to call me a hypocrite, so keep it to yourself.”

“You haven’t answered me yet.”

“We’re here for Amelie, not for me.”

“But you’re mourning as well.”

She looked down and past the city, Feeling the wind moving her hair and refreshing her face. A tender, personal part of her was snatched from her and it was far too early to say how she truly felt. Sad and happy at the same time, but not entirely, it was an incredible mixture of emotions and feelings, sensations and memories. She was grateful, but also heartbroken. And thus, Angela decided to stick for one answer for several days.

“I’ll be fine.”

Again, she didn’t hear when the door opened, and this time it was Amelie who came out, taking her friend's hand and squeezing gently in support. Angela looked back at her, and squeezed back, smiling softly and letting herself be hugged tenderly. Although she told herself a considerable amount times, Angela wouldn’t be alone. She had great friends by her side who would support her above all things, and she in the same way.

“We’ll be fine.”

 

 

…I don’t know how to start this letter, I’ve never been particularly good at doing so, less goodbyes and such. But I got an idea on how to start. First, I want to tell you that I never knew sacrifice this way, and I am someone who knows about sacrifice well enough. When I arrived in this city I sacrificed a life in Egypt, another in Canada and some others somewhere else in the world. I came to sacrifice my body in order to become stronger. I sacrificed who I was in order to become more disciplined, but nothing prepared me as much as the sacrifice I have done on leaving you…

 

 

Three years of a nightmare inside a mansion, and finally what previously saw as a distant dream, now became a reality. Who would say that from the moment she got married she would regret such a nuptial agreement? For now, after so much time and something that she believed would end in her own death, she was about to break that empty promise of eternal love. After all, he wasn’t the one who deserved her, but thanks to him, she found true love and the one who belonged to.

Angela was sitting in front of a large table next to her lawyer, on the other side were Sojiro, Genji, another lawyer and three members of the Shimada council that Angela immediately recognized. In the middle of the table were several papers and contracts, some already signed and others pending to review. The majority blamed Angela and many others delegated their responsibilities towards the family and the disposition of goods. As long as they let her live her life, Angela signed each and every one of them.

“Once you sign the financial disclosure form, you’ll be legally divorced. The judge will have to review the final forms, but it’s a hundred percent positive that the request will be approved.”

Satisfied, Angela signed after reading the paper twice, as well as her lawyer, and handed the form back to Genji, who signed hastily. Never before she was as happy inside when Genji signed something, often doing it to buy some unnecessary goods or pay one of his thousands of getaways. But now, if she even needed to sign it with blood, Angela was more than willing to cut her hand and do so.

After the paperwork was done and Angela said goodbye to Sojiro with an effusive hug and a killer look at Genji, she and her lawyer left the building, walking side by side while Angela sent a text message to Hanzo and Amelie telling them that she was done, that it was over, that she was finally a free woman. Until her lawyer spoke.

“Dr. Ziegler, we still have to discuss the scrapyard issue with the doctors and-”

“What do we have to discuss exactly? I've already said everything I had to say.” Angela commented as she continued walking without taking her eyes off the phone in her hands.

“The police don’t want to leave the case, they ask me fervently to make you speak and testify. They cannot proceed to look for the killer of the sixty-four bodies in the scrapyard because none of the witnesses wants to talk, especially since you are the one who has them tied up and-” Angela stopped in her tracks, her gaze no longer on the electronic device in her hands. She turned and looked at her lawyer with a superior look. If she had to be respected, she had to do it in any way.

“And they will not speak. And do you know why? Because that person saved our lives. It is ungrateful to give a name. Besides, I’m the only one who really knows that person, I am the only one who can testify one hundred percent who it truly was, and I mean the name and how everything happened. But listen to me well-” Angela walked to him, closing the gap between the man in navy suit and her until they were face to face and the doctor’s breath almost reached him. “I will not speak. I’d rather give my own life before saying her name.”

“…Wait. Her? It was a woman?”

“The woman I owe more than my life, indeed. And she’s no longer here, not even in this country, so drop it. You say a word, and I will make sure that you don’t return to practice your profession. Understand?”

"But doctor-"

"Do you understand?"

“…Yes, Dr. Ziegler.”

“Very well.”

The way back to her apartment was silent, after dealing with the Shimada, lawyers and more annoying paperwork, all she wanted was a drink, easily provided in her home. Twenty minutes later, she was already opening the door of the apartment, taking off her high heels and leaving her purse on one of the sofas while she went to the minibar near the kitchen, taking a bottle of wine and pouring a glass to sit on a couch near the fake fireplace.

A sip, and how much she wanted company right now. Angela sighed and kept emptying her wine glass, occasionally glancing at her left hand where there was an iron finger on her index. She developed a habit of turning the ring with her thumb or taking it between two digits, turning it in order to relieve a little of the anxiety building in tense moments. And she kept doing that just now. Taking her phone, she started to type a message to Fareeha, even though she did that every day and got no response whatsoever. Perhaps all her days would be like that. Nonetheless, writing proved to help her.

“Good news, today I finally signed the divorce papers; I'm not Miss Ziegler-Shimada anymore. Honestly, after this, I don’t think I'm going to get married again. I mean, divorced at twenty-eight? It's a bit pathetic, don’t you think? I guess it's less bad than being a widow at that same age. Poor Amelie. I have hope, she is strong, I just hope I will be the same.”

Angela sent the text message after lingering on the button for a few seconds, at the end pressing it with no more hesitation. The doorbell rang, drawing her out of her thoughts, and she got up with a sigh, opening the door still barefoot and with the glass in her hand, and smiled to see who it was.

“Howdy, sugar.”

“Hello, Jesse. What do you have there?” Angela asked when she saw Hanzo’s boyfriend carry a seemingly heavy cardboard box.

“Well, someone left me the instructions to leave this to you, so I’m doing that.”

“Oh… Come on in, you can leave it in the dining table.” Angela stepped aside, letting Jesse go inside and leave the box on top of the table, grunting when the box successfully touched the wood beneath. “Thank you.” Jesse turned around and walked towards the front door ready to go. Angela hesitated for a moment until she called him. “Jesse, wait.”

“Yes?”

“Would you… Would you mind staying for a spell?” He pondered for a few seconds, and smiled, shrugging disinterestedly when Angela motioned the bottle of wine.

“A drink doesn’t sound bad at all, actually. I can stay for a bit.”

“Thank you.” Angela smiled back, and motioned him to sit in one of the sofas. She walked to the bar once again, except this time she took the whole bottle and an empty glass, handing it to him and pouring more of the red wine in both the glasses.

“What’s the occasion?” Jesse asked, swirling his glass of wine.

“Just a silly thing… Today I got divorced, officially.”

“Now ain’t that great stuff?! Congratulations, honey!” He stood up and sat down next to Angela, giving her an effusive hug of congratulation. “That explains this cute smile, huh?” Jesse poked one of Angela’s cheeks, making the doctor giggle.

“Oh, stop it. Aren’t you a charmer?”

“Guilty.”

“No wonder Hanzo fell for you, he has a sweet spot for charming, silly guys.”

“Hey, I would say the same about you.” Angela’s smile faded only a little, enough to take another sip of her glass. Jesse put an arm around her, bringing her closer in a friendly manner. “Y’know, I'm grateful– We are grateful to you, you've made our girl very happy. In spite of everything that has happened, you were the missing piece in her life.”

“Do you think so?” Angela's eyes sparkled at the comment.

“It took that damn girl years to realize she’s gay as a purse full of glitter and rainbows.” That made the blonde laugh loudly, giving him a slap on the arm. “What? It’s true! For years she was like ‘hey, I don’t like girls like that! They’re gross’ and suddenly, boom! You appear and you flip her gay switch. She drooled and lost her mind every time we mentioned you. And who wouldn’t? You’re beautiful and sweet. The whole package.”

“Oh my, thanks.” Angela leaned her head on his shoulder, enjoying the company after a long time of feeling completely alone. “Honestly, thank you. For having a glass with me and staying. I needed that, I needed… I need to know I’ll be fine.” Jesse stood up again, leaving the empty glass in the coffee table.

“All of us are. And believe me; Reeha would never have left if she didn’t know you would be fine. And you’re not alone.” He reached down and gave her a soft kiss on the forehead before retreating. “You will be fine.”

The door closed, and Angela was left alone once more in the emptiness of her apartment. She took the last of her wine glass and filled it once more, walking to the dining table and looking at the box carefully. It was a simple, somewhat large cardboard box with a few black and yellow letters. She shrugged and took it into the bedroom, leaving it on the bed while she sat on the side. Angela hesitated for a moment to open it and with a shake of her head, steeled herself and opened it.

Angela’s hand went straight to her mouth and her eyes started to water when she saw the contents.

 

 

…Maybe I will not see you in quite a time as I promised. Damn, I may never see you again to be honest, but I still have hope. Mother says that we create our own destiny, not the other way, so I pass that piece of wisdom to you. Maybe it will be useful for both of us.

There are many things that I am leaving as well. Too many, and each of them hurts a world. But I don't leave them alone. I could never do that. I leave absolutely everything I had to you, because I couldn't think of anyone else who's perfect enough to take care of every single one of them.

I leave you my achievements.

My certificates, my medals, my recognitions. My engineering ring, the simplest yet precious possession I owned. I leave you my bike. Hell, I loved that baby so much, it took me long enough to finally be able to have a motorcycle of my own. Years and years of pain, hard work, saving and smart thinking materialized in metal parts and motor oil, and I know it has never been of your liking, but I hope you take care rightfully of my baby. I know you will, you’re responsible, unlike me.…

 

 

Three weeks later, Angela was in her apartment, resting after a hard day's work in the hospital. She always repeated the process while arriving. Take off shoes. Throw purse in the couch. Pour a glass of wine. Walk in the studio. One of the things that the apartment had and could never take advantage of in its entirety was the studio. The small office that she managed to accommodate after requiring another more personal and intimate space outside the hospital where she could free her imagination and put her ideas on the computer, blackboard or the various notebooks and folders in the file drawers.

That was only a pretext. Actually, that study was more of a sanctuary than an office, a place of peace where Angela could relax in its entirety. After Jesse appeared in his apartment with a mysterious box, Angela the next day took each of her awards, certificates and other samples of her hard work in the medical and scientific field she had in the office at the hospital, leaving the place more like an office, cold and without personality.

This time, it took a couple of hours to place each one of them in her new office, which, although it was smaller, was definitely more welcoming and personal. When she finished, still with a hammer in her hand and sweat on her brow, she smiled to herself, satisfied with her work, which easily filled one wall and covered half of the other. That wall was not as surprising as the other one behind it, totally plagued with Fareeha's essence.

The box that Jesse left her contained a lot of memories, photographs, diplomas, certificates, medals, recognitions, each one admiring the hard work that Fareeha Amari has done at her young age, from her time in the army, her work in Helix, and even memories of her childhood. Only a note with very simple instructions was the latest in the box, instructing Angela that absolutely every record of her had been erased from the city, and what the box contained was the only evidence that said she used to exist there.

“I’m home.”

Angela called more to herself than anyone once she entered the studio, taking a sip of her wine glass and sitting down on the office chair, turning on the computer and playing some music on an audio streaming platform, opting for some acoustic love songs to ease her long hard day. Once everything was settled, she started to write, there was an idea in her mind that she didn’t want to let it pass, it was far too important to ignore an outbreak. However, the idea quickly vanished, and her head filled with the tension of the day.

As much as she tried to ignore the pain, she kept crying alone in her home, missing the woman that changed her life in just half a year. The woman who came from nowhere and transformed her back into the woman she thought she had lost years ago, in which the mental and emotional weakness kept pushing her towards oblivion. That was until Fareeha reached out with a hand, and Angela finally could hold on tightly to her, only to stand alone facing the world again with the treasured memory of having her in her arms.

“What am I doing…?” She said again to the nothing, hoping the answer would come sooner, but it never came.

Angela looked at a particular photograph on her desk, a rare treasure that she could save. A photograph where the two appeared before entering the theater where Amelie was performing in the Giselle ballet, one of the most chilling nights of her life, but definitely the scare was worth it, because it was the night she started everything, the one who made love to her for the first time, even though her head told her no, but her heart kept pushing her towards her. She pulled her phone again, not minding her tears were perhaps ruining the screen.

“You told me I’m strong but… Am I? Am I strong enough, Fareeha?” She typed while taking the frame with her other hand. The tears ran freely, leaving the photograph in its place and rubbing her face wearily. “I don’t know… I’m trying to be normal again but I can’t. I try to wake up without thinking of you when the bed is empty on the other side, also when I'm in the hospital and some other colleague asks me about you... Do you know how much it hurts? Even going for a coffee hurts…” Angela stood up, still cleaning the tears running down her cheeks. “I-I need to get out…”

Angela changed into a more comfortable attire unlike the dress, opting for jeans, sneakers, a simple shirt and one of the several hoodies that Fareeha left in the apartment, still intoxicated by her scent. Once satisfied with her choice of clothes, she went to the door to take the keys to her car, but stopped for a moment to see another set of keys right away. For a moment she hesitated, and finally left the keys of her car, taking the keys to the motorcycle but not before grabbing the helmet and heading out to the garage.

‘I’m crazy…’

It was the only thing Angela thought before starting the engine and leaving the building. She really didn't have a specific destination, she just wanted to ease the tension and relax, think of anything else other than her mental weakness. After fifteen minutes of traveling south, she parked in front of The Panorama Diner, asking Lucio for a bag of cinnamon sugar biscuits to go. The boy greeted her happily and after several minutes he handed her a brown paper bag.

In the end, she ended up sitting on the ground on a fairly familiar hill at the edge of a street that overlooked one of the most mountain-side parts of the city. The lights flickered as tiny speckles of hope as she ate the biscuits one by one. It was definitely one of the best lookouts and she had dear memories of the place, like Fareeha introducing her to the pastry itself and sometimes taking a break from her saturated lifestyle.

After finishing the last of the bread, she crumpled the paper bag, only to stop when she found something scribbled in a permanent marker on the bottom of the bag. As she flipped and stretched the paper back, she started crying and giggling at the same time. It was messily scribbled, but she could easily read ‘You’ll be fine, and keep eating well, ma’am’ in black ink. How right she was.

“If you keep leaving me these silly little notes, I might be fine.”

And for the first time after a few weeks, Angela felt like life was finally smiling at her, and definitely, she would be fine and still be strong until the day she saw her again.

 

 

…I leave you my family.

They will always watch over you, and they will never deceive you, that’s something I learned first-hand. They know very well that they must take care of you with all their soul, or else they know that I will send someone to unleash hell if I find out that they have left you alone or make you cry.

I’m just kidding, I’m not that mean. But jokes aside, I entrust them to you and you to them, because want it or not, you are also family. You asked me once what part you played in my family, and well, we never discussed or put more thought on that, right? I imagined thought we would perhaps become girlfriends something later? Gods, why I’m so shy even if I’m writing this? I mean, it’s just paper. Anyway, what I want to say is that you are the other half of me, you’re my lady, my angel, my queen, my goddess and whatever position you want in my family, you’re above it, because you are everything

 

 

The rest of the spring passed in the blink of an eye, giving way to summer and the soft warm breezes it brought with it. With the suggestion of Hanzo and Amelie, Angela finally decided to take a deserved vacation after all the disaster of a few months ago, when she normally took a trip back to Zurich or Geneva to rest, this time she decided to stay near the hospital. It wasn’t exactly what her friends expected, but it was a progress nonetheless.

On the terrace everything felt different, the air was fresh, the sound of the traffic below worked like white noise, and the sun warmed her body pleasantly, even being in the lounge chaise chair and under an umbrella, Angela enjoyed the warmth that emanated. Mimosa in hand, she devoted herself to continue observing, looking towards the horizon to the vineyards and perhaps beyond, imagining what would have happened to these fields.

A soft chime echoed inside the apartment, signaling Angela that someone arrived. She already expected visitors, her friends obviously, and with a press of a button on her phone, she gave them access. A minute later and Hanzo and Amelie were inside, leaving something on a table and walking outside in the terrace as well. In a swift movement, the cold flute of champagne was removed from her hands, leaving her with a perplexed look and amusement.

“Isn’t it a bit early to be drinking?” Hanzo said, smirking and taking a sip of the mimosa.

“Oh? I didn't notice it. I think some champagne fell on my orange juice.”

“You’re at full tease today, birthday girl. Who taught you that?” He leaned and gave her a peck on the cheek. “Happy birthday, angel.” Amelie sat next to her in the same lounge chaise, scooting the blonde slightly and giving her another soft kiss in the other cheek.

“Happy birthday, beautiful.”

“Thank you, both of you.”

“Hey, stop that.” Hanzo scolded Amelie when the girl started to light a cigarette, also offering one to Angela. “Are you kidding me? I have to stand Jesse and now you two?”

“It was your choice to stand your ever smoking boyfriend.”

“And don’t call me hypocrite, I’ve heard it far enough to actually believe it.” Hanzo huffed and sat down on another chair next to the one where Amelie and Angela were. “Still, I think we have the right to die in a way that we choose. If tobacco kills me, then so be it. As long as it doesn’t affect others, I think it's the destiny that I decide, don’t you think? My own poison.”

“Rather poetic for such an afternoon. But I respect that as long as you don’t stench my clothes.” The three of them laughed, Hanzo finishing the mimosa and the girls dragging the last of their cigarettes. “So, ready for lunch?”

“…Is it still called lunch? It’s past five.”

“If the sun isn’t set, then we’ll call it lunch.”

The three eventually got up, opting to have a short lunch in their usual restaurant, quite dainty and filled with a French vibe all over the place. Actually, in addition to being one of Angela's favorite places, it was also an ode to Amelie and the Lacroix family, one of the many expensive gifts that Gerard gave to his wife. Visiting the place now had a different meaning, but no less valuable. Neither Angela nor Hanzo still have an explanation of why the ever curious name of Les Deux Escargot, and when asked to Amelie she just laughed and dismissed the topic saying it was just a thing between Gerard and her.

An hour later and the three of them were still in the restaurant, with the exception that Angela seemed to be somewhere else, staring out the window at the stone street, wondering if she really should be there. It was her birthday, but she felt miserable, and despite the company, she felt lonely. And it was the truth, inside, it still felt empty, the space that Fareeha left was such a void, and even though he tried to fill it little by little, she knew that it would never be complete in its entirety without that woman by her side.

For a moment, Amelie and Hanzo looked at themselves, watching the doctor sigh and distract her mind in whatever happened outside with an empty, lost look. Hanzo took her phone and made a call, which Angela did not care and did not hear in the least, but was taken out of her thoughts when both of her friends got up and almost obligatorily, got her into the car after leaving a generous amount of money on the table.

In the end, she was almost dragged to a place she no longer wanted to visit, at least not so soon. Eichenwalde: the place where Fareeha began to show her a part of herself, to cope with it, and to introduce her slowly to her family. The three of them were outside the establishment and in front of the door, and Angela in the middle of the two, hesitated to enter. She wasn’t ready, she didn’t know when, but it wasn’t time yet. She tried to step forward, but her eyes widened in horror, even more when both Hanzo and Amelie wanted to pull her inside.

“No, no, no, no, no. I’m not ready. Please, no.” Angela said quickly, her Swiss German accent more flagrant than usual, taking a step forward only to manage to crouch slightly to avoid being pulled.

“Come on, angel. You’re acting like a child. Remember, baby steps.”

“Y-yes, baby steps! These are dinosaur steps! I’m not ready, I can’t…!”

“You can, Angela.” Amelie encouraged her this time. “If I did it, you can do it too.”

There was a difference in mourning between the two: on the one hand, Amelie definitely lost her husband, the love of her life, her best friend, and she was sure she would never see him again. That way, she could move on, because there was nothing else to do. In the case of Angela, she still had hope, but the uncertainty of knowing if she was okay, if she had not got into more trouble, and even the uncertainty of knowing if she was still alive, ate her inside, and her duel was very far from being overcome until at least knowing something about her.

Dead or alive, she should know about her. Every day Angela kept trying to call her, to leave a message. And every day, there was no response. True to her words, Fareeha tried to remain as isolated as possible from the city and the near whereabouts, from her friends with the hope of protecting those she loved and cared the most. And even knowing that, it didn’t make Angela stop worrying any less. Maybe she needed to move on just like Amelie, just maybe this time. She relaxed her body, stood up again and nodded.

The doors opened, and the pleasant atmosphere inside filled her ears. For a nice Wednesday night, the place was livid, full of energy and music everywhere. Reinhardt's voice as always was a beacon of pleasantries. Hanzo took her hand, encouraging the blonde to follow him, Amelie walking next to them. He chuckled, amused by the scared looks of his friends, who clutched at him like two toddlers to its parent. And like a scared cat, Angela jumped when Reinhardt called her name.

“Angela! What a nice surprise to see you!”

“H-Hello, Reinhardt. Nice to see you too.”

“You don’t have to shy yourself, dear. Everyone is here to cheer up, and you should too!” Then, he switched to German, only for Angela to understand. “She would have liked you to be happy here.” That seemed to be enough to take a smile from the doctor, finally lighting the room with her presence.

“Hey!” The three turned when they heard a familiar voice calling them from one of the many tables. Hanzo smiled fondly at seeing his boyfriend with all the Helix team, plus Brigitte and Emily. “We were waiting for you!” Angela in surprise turned to Hanzo.

“They were expecting us…?”

“They were expecting you.”

“And we all did!” Lena jumped from her seat, hugging the doctor tightly, only to be followed for the rest of the table and Reinhardt as well in a group hug.

“Happy birthday, Angie!”

“Happy almost thirty!”

“Hey! It’s rude to mention the age!”

“What?! She should be proud! At least she’s doing something important and you’re here playing cowboy!”

“Shall we all calm ourselves and let the birthday girl breathe?”

“Oh! Sorry!”

“I’ll bring the good beers! You don’t have good tastes, I must say!”

“I’ll go for some plates on the back! Can you light the candles?”

“Okay, fam! Let her breathe, let’s eat cake and get drunk until Jesse starts stripping on the bar!”

“…Not again.”

“Y’know I can’t resist puttin’ a show for you, babe!”

Amidst the suffocating but welcoming embrace, she could peek on the table a few beer bottles already opened, a couple presents as well and a cute little birthday cake. And how right was Fareeha about her family, how right she was about how they would never disappoint her. How right she was about almost everything, it was frightening. And among the several bodies, the crying of Angela stood out, but not one of sadness, but one of relaxation, of permanence, of acceptance. Between the Helix team that protected her, between her two best friends who always stuck with her, and between Reinhardt, Brigitte, Lucio and Emily –the rest of the stuck-up crew-, she was there again, she felt it. She was home.

“Thank you… Thank you so much…”

 


… I leave you everything I am.

Everything I've become thanks to you. How I became stronger, still hardheaded like mom, how I became braver and learned to face the impossible by just thinking of you, of feeling your hand on my back and feeling I could take over the world with just that simple gesture, because you truly gave me everything I needed. No one has been able to encourage me like that, and I mean no one. You are unique in every way, and to me, you have been are untouchable, ethereal, a true angel, my angel and you have never stopped fighting for what is right…

 

 

The seasons passed slowly, the first ones more painfully, and the last ones were only a blurry memory of the initials. Three years later, and Angela was still one of the most recognized doctors and scientists in the world, winning more awards as she discovered or developed another procedure, treatment, vaccine and medication that only her intellectual capacity was capable of achieving. Her achievements only seemed to accumulate, and her name was listed in more medical books than anywhere else.

“Prognosis… Favorable. Remove the tumor, encase it and deliver it to the laboratory for analysis and further experimentation. And suture, if you may.”

The white lights in the room were blinding for perhaps anyone, but not for Angela and her incredible medical team. True to her word, Emily became a successful nurse, the best of her generation thanks to Angela’s constant support and mentorship and who, now, had become her ever faithful assistant, and Emily was more than happy and willing to participate in every surgery, procedure or consultation that the acclaimed Dr. Angela Ziegler had to do.

After removing the mask, gloves, coif and scrubs, Angela sighed wearily, rubbing her eyes after a complicated three-hour surgery to remove a tumor hardly placed in a tiny part of the cerebral cortex. Emily followed after, reaching her in the hallway that led to her office. Her red hair tied in a ponytail fluttered with each trot, until she breathed stiffly when she reached the blonde's side. Angela giggled when she saw her assistant and friend fanning herself with one hand.

“I recall you're not supposed to run in the halls.”

“I know, I know, but you never make it easy for me. Do you have to always leave in a hurry?”

“Time is gold. There’s always something that I should be working on.”

“And there is always time for a vacation too! You have not rested in... What? Three years? You've worked without stopping, don’t you think it's time to take a break?” Angela shook her head, amused but just a little sad because it was true. From her lab coat she took the keys to the office once they reached it.

"I could never, Emily.” She opened the door, motioning the nurse to go inside and sit in front of her as she always did, taking a notebook with several scribbles and notes to still work on. “Close the door, please-? Thank you.” Once she settled on the desk and chair, she played some music on the computer, a habit she always had after performing surgery. “Now, I simply don’t see myself taking… Vacations…” Even the word fell weird from her lips. “When I return to my apartment at night I feel empty. Now imagine the same thing but somewhere else. I think I prefer the comfort of my own home to do that. At least you have someone who is waiting for you at home, I only have bottles of wine.”

“It does help that Lena and I are living together, but…” She stopped, thinking carefully the words she was about to say, and she fidgeted with the bright engagement ring on her finger. “We are all concerned about your mental health. Until when will it be enough?”

“What does that mean exactly?”

“Angela, I’m your assistant, your colleague, your pupil, but I’m also your friend, and as a friend, I’m telling you to stop distracting yourself with more work you'll eventually won't be able to manage.” Angela huffed, laughing almost in disbelief.

“Do you think all the work I’ve done in the past years is a waste?”

“Of course not! It has been an amazing way to vent but you are not stopping!”

“Why should I? It’s working. I owe the world so much, it's my responsibility to provide a betterment for human mankind. It’s my duty to use the knowledge and harnessed skills that was given to me, and it would be a waste to distract myself in less important things.”

“In expense of your own sanity?” Angela got up in a huff, pacing the perimeter of the desk like a caged tiger.

“Why do you all want me to forget her? You tell me to get over it, but how do you want me to do it? Sometimes I think it’s for the best since I hadn’t had a single response from her and-”

“No. Angela, no. We don’t want you to forget her, we could never ask you that. We met her longer than you, but nevertheless who stayed with most of her was you. We have not forgotten her, but we know that she has another life and we have to come to terms with that. How are you coping with that?”

“I…” And her?

“Angela, love…” The tone of her voice made her skin prickle and something inside her puncture with a touch of pity. “Three years, and you’re still mourning… When is it going to be enough for you to realize?” The doctor finally snapped, returning to reality and contemplating the words that came out of her mouth. What was she saying? So much had forgotten who she really was? “Oh? What a coincidence, isn’t it?” Emily made the comment when the previous song was over and started a very familiar and soothing one for Angela, one whose lyrics Fareeha sang and remembered with affection, sometimes joking that the song talked of her.

“I-I’m…” Angela hid her face in her hands, trying to suppress the urge to cry right there and then. After one deep breath, two, three, she composed herself, and faced Emily once again. “I need coffee.” The redhead sighed, doing the same again after two whole years of bringing the topic to the doctor, always with the same result. The phone rang, distracting them immediately. Angela sighed, and pressed the flashing red button on the device. “Yes?”

Ms. Vaswani from the Vishkar Corporation is waiting for you in the briefing room.” With a tired hand, she slightly rubbed her face and adjusted her ponytail.

“Thank you, I’ll be on my way.” Emily stood up, and raising her finger up to fictitiously point to the music for Angela to pay attention.

“Slow down, you crazy child, and take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while.” She hummed a part of the song one last time before retreating. “Your song speaks mountains, you know? Listen to Fareeha, Angie. Listen to her.”

The office door closed, and Angela was left alone with her thoughts once more. Emily, just like Mei, had become fabulous friends who were certainly confident in the workplace and even outside of it. Angela knew that her friends were just trying to help, and maybe they were right. That was something to think about later, for the moment, Vishkar was waiting for her. Turn off the music, get out of there. Minutes later, and the briefing room was occupied by her, Emily, a couple more of the hospital research team, and a few members of the Vishkar Corporation.

The one that stood out most among white, purple and blue uniforms was Satya Vaswani, a woman prodigy among Vishkar's lines. She was rather cold, intelligent, direct and clever, everything that was expected of a good negotiator and smart orator, but she was another of the corporation’s pawn nonetheless. The woman was waiting anxiously, sitting nonchalantly and expecting her presence for quite several minutes, the tapping of her finger on the back of her other hand indicating such, and until Angela arrived, she seemed to calm somehow.

“Good afternoon, Ms. Vaswani.” Angela sat in one of the seats across the table along her team. “I apologize for the delay.”

“You shall not worry. It’s a pleasure to meet you again, Dr. Ziegler.” Satya stood up and shook hands with the doctor, a hint of discomfort was displayed and even when it was only faint, Angela could easily pick up the spasm on her face due to her years of expertise.

“We shall leave the pleasantries aside. You are not here to have tea and ask me how my day has gone.”

“Indeed, an observer as always. Although that is due to my reputation and previous meetings with you.” They both sat down again, expecting the conversation to proceed. “If we may, we want to invite you once again to work temporarily with Vishkar to continue with the project of the Hard light therapy."

“And once again, I refuse your proposal.”

“Why?” That was one of the things that made Satya who she is; the woman was always straight forward.

“It’s unethical. What you Vishkar will never understand is that people should be free.”

“What you call freedom, I call anarchy.” Angela sighed and shook her head. “Vishkar is building a better future for humanity.”

“By experimenting in humans.”

“By correcting them.” Satya added, still as unmovable and unattainable as always. “Guillermo Portero and Lumerico have given us their support in terms of resources and patented technology to proceed. However, we still need experienced scientists who can follow up on the experiment.”

"Ms. Vaswani-"

“Before you add anything else, in addition to my state, we are not experimenting on humans; we simply seek to create the medication that leads us to correct the behavior in... Certain patients.”

“And my team is not participating in such atrocity-” Satya interrupted her, earning quite a glare from the doctor.

“Let me add that if you cooperate with our investigation, we will fully fund the photochemotherapy research that you had pending with Dr. O'Deorain, in addition to providing you with better equipment, resources and a full-worthy team to continue your work.”

It made Angela stop in her tracks, weighing the offer and analyzing the outcome of accepting such proposal. In the future, making the decision to help could bring benefits, and perhaps if she helped Vishkar achieve its goal, she could likewise avoid the company create the same fate Moira and those of Talon wanted to achieve by using human testing. It was an opportunity, but not now, not when there could be

“…How much will it take to develop a test drug?” Satya smirked, knowing she won already.

“Two years at most.” A beat, before Angela proceeded.

“Call me in two years before you begin testing, and I’ll give you an answer.”

“Very well. I will return in seven hundred and thirty days at twelve hundred hours.” Very specific, but expected from Satya Vaswani. The entourage that Vaswani brought with her rose at the same time as her, making a slight bow and leaving the place without further ado. The door was closed, and the concerns of Angela’s medical and research team weren’t long in coming, several of them questioning her sanity.

“Remember something very well: I don’t do things without thinking. Whatever Vishkar is proposing with that, I am able to stop them if things get out of hand. But first, we must see what they are plotting, so I ask you to trust me.” And for a second, for a moment, everyone trusted her, and Angela regained the purpose of doing something new this time. It was time to move forward. “Just trust me. Everything will be fine.”

 

 

…And I take everything you showed me. Every trace of your body, every piece of your heart, and every sensation of your soul entangled with mine. The everlasting memories, the never-ending feelings carved on my skin. I take it all, because there’s no way I would ever leave them aside. I want you to remember who you are: you are a beacon of peace and the embodiment of everything that is good and pure. But most importantly, and above all, I want you to remember something and never forget how much...

 

 

Routine.

Get home. Take off heels. Throw purse on the couch. Hang lab coat on the rack. Untie ponytail. Massage scalp and temples. Play soft jazz on the Bluetooth speakers. Grab a glass of wine… Forget it, grab the whole bottle of Cheval Blanc.

Routine was what Angela longed for most, to return to her normal life before getting married, before her freedom was taken away, that life that promised fame, fortune, discoveries and recognition among the medical and scientific circle. Years of studies at an early age and others more of constant improvement. But now the routine was becoming little by little an empty life, despite having continued with her work so acclaimed in the hospital setting.

Angela tried to get used to the routine, except that she had to modify and adapt to certain obvious changes. Faithful to Fareeha's prayer, the doctor continued training, one hour a day at the gym to improve her physical condition, and two days a week at the shooting range. Proud of herself, she improved considerably. But now, on this summer evening and like others, it seemed that their efforts were in vain, and there was only the vague memory of the woman with whom she shared a very important part of her life.

Three years, a couple of months, and no response from her. Not a sign of life, not a single news, not a sigh. Nothing. Angela lost hope with each passing month, and even the messages she once sent to her phone number every day with the double purpose of Fareeha receiving them and the other with therapeutic reasons, decreased considerably; from being daily, they became weekly, then occasional, and other days like today, maybe one or two a month. Given the visit of Satya Vaswani and Vishkar in the hospital, she decided to vent a little when writing a message.

Today I had an expected but not welcomed visit in the hospital. My colleagues questioned me about some decisions I made, but you know? I'm totally satisfied. No, I'm sure of myself, and I'm sure I did the right thing… But I think I still need something to tell me everything’s going to be alright. Just a signal, perhaps, and then I’ll know I will actually be alright.

Angela knew very well that the message would never reach her, and yet she hit 'send' like she always did. After changing into a more comfortable outfit of shorts and an oversized Helix T-shirt that belonged to Fareeha, she slowly dragged her body and bottle of wine to the terrace, leaving the slide door open to keep listening to the tunes that sounded inside her home. Lying in the lounge chaise, her leg swayed while in the other she leaned her cheek on her knee. The blonde’s gaze stopped for a moment on the ring in her left hand, and as was habit, played a while with it by a stroke of her thumb.

A sigh, and the doctor took a sip of the wine, tipping the bottle and leaving it back in the table near her. The sun was hiding in the distance, and after many days, she recalled again when both were in the lookout she used to frequent when she needed to get away from everything, wondering if somewhere in the world, Fareeha was still thinking about her. Maybe not, maybe that's why she did not answer, maybe after several years she completely forgot about her. Maybe it was for the best.

Little by little, the lights of the city began to light up, small bright spots in the darkness of the city. The orange sunset painted the scenery beautifully, and with the change in temperature, a gentle gust of wind accompanied it. Angela closed her eyes, reveling in the warm wind, almost feeling it like a hug. It was a beautiful sunset and it deserved a photograph. Once the shot was taken, she went back to the studio, looking to find the answers to her previous plea. Angela stood in front of the thin and long wooden bookcase on the wall, settling on one of Fareeha’s engineering books, only to open it and find the letter she left her as a last memory.

With earnest love, she took it in her hands. The paper was already worn from the uncountable amount of times Angela unfolded and folded back the letter. Still, the message was very clear, and as she smiled with unparalleled love, she traced every word with her fingertips. A soft chime from her phone got her out of her past fantasy love, and sighing, she took the device only to find a new message.

A message enough to make her tremble and fall to the floor as her legs gave up, enough to make her cry right then and there, enough to send shivers down her spine, to prickle her skin, to make her heart pound franticly. A message of an almost forgotten number, of a very well-known name, and that only contained three words matching the lasts of the letter she read just now. And hope, once again, settled in her soul. The hope of knowing she was alive, of seeing her again, of the promise she kept her of never give up.

 

 

…I love you.'