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The Arc of Conflict, Edda 14c: Questions of Balance

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"Aw, luvs - that was fun." Oilliphéist threw her armour off, almost still in once piece, into its hook and shoved it into its cleaning chamber, and shivered from happiness, not the cold. "Honestly, I don't think we've had that much fun together in ages."

Tracer beamed at her counterpart and younger lover. "Really? More fun than Siberia?" Her kit didn't come off all at once, not even the stealth version - even the newest, smallest accelerator used separate attachment points and straps. Weapons on cleaning cycle, jacket over here, turtleneck armour over here...

"Oh, absolutely! Didn't have time to enjoy Russia - not even to mention being so angry at them."

"Fair cop," Tracer replied, nodding. "It was a bit of an all-at-once, wasn't it."

"They were just lining up for us! No challenge at all to it, really, and that's the best part!" She pulled off her bra, and looked at it. Clean. It had been a cool night, after all. "This... particularly Chernikov... reminded me of São Paulo."

Tracer gasped, a little bit, the memory rushing back, and the smiled. "It did, a bit, didn't it?"

"Our first date, arguably," Widowmaker added, with a bit of a smile. "As a triad."

Emily turned to Widowmaker, who had just finished stripping off her black underlayer of armour, the bit with the collar a match for Tracer's. "And that shot of yours, on the last target, from the air - so beautiful."

Widowmaker just smiled, before pulling Emily tightly against her, before kissing her roughly, hard and hungry. "I know."

Tracer giggled, tossing the last of her kit into cleaning. "Time for that later, luvs. We've got to get debrie..."

Her voice swung into a moan as Emily's arm whipped over, grabbing her by her short, spiky hair, and pulling her into the embrace. "We are. De. Briefing. You."

Oh, Tracer thought, oh, I guess we are.

Widowmaker took advantage of her newly exposed throat, and Tracer really didn’t need to think much from there - just react.

An hour later or so, Lena lolled lazily along her side of the bed, legs tangled with Emily's, Emily's arms tangled in Danielle's hair, Danielle dozing, but not truly asleep, the three of them in much the same, tranquil state.

"I'm glad," Lena murmured, "that... they're all older people."

"Hm?" Danielle wondered, aloud, after a moment.

"I'm glad they're all older. Full birds or better. Generals. That sort."

"Why, luv?" Emily asked, voice soft.

"No kids. Well, none that aren't all grown."

"Mm. Well, that's the risk y'run, in the military. They know that. So do their families."

"Yeh," Lena agreed, nodding. "Still... I'd hate to be makin' orphans. Usual sorts we go after don't have families, but some of these just might." She shifted, a little, on the bed, getting even more comfortable. "I mean, if we have to, we have to, but..."

"I... agree," Danielle found herself saying, a little surprised at herself.

"I dunno," Emily replied, considering the point. "You and I did all right, didn't we?"

"Yeh," Lena smiled. "But... it weren't exactly easy. 'Til we both got picked up, at least."

"You thinking we should... pick some up?"

Lena giggled. Her, as a mom? No. "Not ourselves, silly. But... make sure. Later, but as soon as we can. Pick up anybody who's fallen down, y'know?"

Danielle, eyes half closed, nodded, slowly. "That is much what we are doing for the world, is it not?"

"Yeh, I know," Lena said. "Just wish... well. Guess the other alternative's back to the old way of doin' things. And that wasn't so great either."

"Much worse," whispered the Widowmaker.

Emily craned her neck, and put her forehead against Lena's. "We kill, Lena. We're Weapons. It's what we do. It's what we are."

"Yeh, 'course, Em. I'm fine with that." She laughed, a little. "I'm proud of what I am, luv. Don't get me wrong. But I guess... I just worry a bit... about the people we leave behind."

"The Goddess of Compassion, at it again?" Emily quipped, rolling back, and Danielle laughed at how much, at that moment, she sounded like her aunt.

"At it always!" Lena insisted. "Can't help it. It's also what I am."

Across the bed, unseen by other of her loves, Danielle smiled, and whispered, "I know."

-----

Zarya walked.

Oasis was... dry. And hot, always hot, outdoors, in the day.

She did not like the heat, so much - she was, she felt, far better suited towards the cold. But her skin did not sunburn, as it did in the past, and so she found the sun far more bearable now, and the motion, the moving, was good for the nerve damage, and for the burns - even as both healed so quickly, these days.

All that would settle, in time. Her mind, though... of that, she was not so sure.

On some level, she thought, the Goddess of Strength, striding through a quieter section of the small city, I still trusted her. Even after Mexico... I still trusted her.

She didn't know what to think about that. But she knew it was true.

And on some level... she continued, passing by a surprisingly green and lush park, ...I understand what she did, and why. They are... we are... a danger. Not just Koschei. Us.

She kept walking.

She walked past the beltway and through the market and around in a long, large circle, until she reached the river again, and started walking along it, back towards the university and the ministry, past the artificial beach where the Weapons liked to sunbathe, past the little musalla at the river's bend, and stopped, and looked at the domed outdoor structure, shaded, with small benches, in circles, around it, and stopped.

It is not a chapel, she thought. But... I do not think they will mind.

She hadn't prayed in a long time. Her mother, once, had been a believer, and had become more devout after the first Omnic War, in ways she did not entirely like. But she had never renounced her inherited faith, and at this point, well.

What harm could it do?

And so she sat, and tried to gather her childhood memories of prayer, and did, and went through the motions, hoping it would make her feel better, asking God, what, what should I do?

And the rituals carried no weight, and her prayer felt empty, and her childhood God was silent.

I've never really... believed, she thought. But I've always... just... assumed... if you are there, please... anything...

She felt, and felt, a hand on her shoulder, and suddenly, nothing felt empty at all, and it frightened her, as nothing else had.

"Hello, Aleksandra," said Fareeha, beside her.

The Russian teared up, a bit, involuntarily, and turned, and looked to her friend, the goddess, not even knowing what to say.

"Angela told me you'd gone out. You are still troubled. I think I would be, too, in your shoes." Fareeha smiled. "May I sit with you?"

Zarya nodded, collecting herself, and motioned to the spot on the bench beside her.

"I've been thinking about where you must be. It’s... a difficult place."

Garnet eyes flashed, as the strongest woman - the strongest person - in the world looked over, at the woman she knew beyond doubt was her friend.

"You've lost everything, haven't you?"

"No. Yes. I..." She grasped for the right words. "I don't know who I am, now. We saved Russia, but now... we must go to war with it? Lena and her wives are, right now..." She shuddered. "How... how can this have happened?"

"I don't know." The Huntress sighed. "No, that is a lie, I merely wish I didn't. I do know. Fear. Of change."

She leaned against the back of the bench, arms across its back.

"Fear of us. Of what we've become."

Zayra nodded. That much, she knew, and understood, deeply.

"I've seen it before, you know."

The Sergeant thought, a moment, and remembered. "Your mother. And Overwatch."

"Yes."

"It is not the same. They did not... betray you." The word stung. Even now, she did not want to admit what had happened, no matter how well she knew.

"I suppose not - though mother did take a shot at me, with intent. But my wife, and her wife, arguably... they very much did. At the beginning of all things, of all we have become."

"But... you forgave them," she said, having heard the story - all of it. The gods, if nothing else, believed in that honesty amongst themselves.

"I did. And I do not regret it, because they admitted... they confessed what they did, and let it become my choice, as it should have been all along." Opal eyes met garnet. "Like it was for you. As it still is."

"How did you..." the Sergeant struggled with her thoughts. "How did you... decide? How did you..." She flexed her hands, holding them in front of her, looking at them. "How did you keep going, until you did?"

"I forgave," she replied, thoughtfully, "because I decided that I would. Because... for the same reason I have not given up on my mother, either, even now. Because I refuse to give up hope that someday, she and I will see... similarly, again." She snorted. "Or similarly enough. Because I love all of them."

All of them? the Russian thought before the rocketeer continued.

Fareeha gave a slight nod, as if she’d overheard her somehow. "I love them just as you love Russia, even if the current leadership... no longer loves you."

"I know." Zarya's face contorted, for a moment, in grief, and hints of tears. "Hana wants me to... say what happened. To tell the world, as she did. She does not ask me to lie, or even to exaggerate, just to say what... I know."

"And you don't want to do that."

"...I don't know. I will not hurt Russia! But..."

"We can fix this, Zarya," Fareeha said, cupping the Russian's face in her left hand, smiling as her sister goddess nuzzled, a little, reflexively, soothed. "We always could. We still can."

"I believe you," Zarya sighed, taking the other woman's hand in her own. "But I do not think you can do it without... breaking everything else."

"I don't think so. Not everything. Not even necessarily all that much." She pulled Zarya down, into her lap, brushing her hair with her hands, and the larger woman let her. "It's true - some things may need to be broken, before all is said and done. Impasses. Stalemates. Bad habits." She paused. "Old ways of doing things. Certain... mindsets... that go along with those."

Zarya rolled, on the bench, and looked up, at the sky, still unsolved, still conflicted, still wrestling with herself.

"And then, what?" she whispered.

“Then,” Fareeha said with perfect confidence, “we put it back together. Because that’s the right thing to do. Because it’s our responsibility to do it.”

Fareeha smiled, brightly, so warmly, like the sun itself.

"And when we do, we will make it all... so much better."

-----

beep

beep

beep

The sound felt like drills slowly boring into her head.

The sound hurt.

Trying to turn her head away from the sound hurt.

Thinking hurt.

The only things that didn’t hurt were the things that she couldn’t feel at all, and somehow she knew that was even worse.

“Sombra?”

A voice. A man’s voice. That name…

“Sombra, can you hear me?”

Was that her name?

Yes, Sombra realized. Yes, it was.

The voice was trying to talk to her.

Why did everything feel so slow?

“Nnfh.”

The voice seemed pleased. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

She felt something cool and sweet on her lips. Mist. Water. Delicious.

Concepts began to put themselves together again. Still slow, but gradually taking proper shapes again.

Her mouth worked a bit, taking in more moisture, and she tried to speak again.

“Wh’t...h’ppend?”

“The Russians,” the voice explained sadly. “But I don’t want to go into that right now, if that is all right with you. Can you try to open your eyes?”

Some part of her knew it shouldn’t have taken so much effort, but finally she was looking up at a brown, white, and green blur that eventually resolved into Michael’s concerned face, the doctor wearing a rumpled set of scrubs.

“Good! That’s very good!” Michael’s shoulders relaxed with relief, his expression turning to a professionally bland smile. “Can you tell me if you have numbness or tingling?”

“Hands... feet... feel weird… not numb. Buzzy.”

“Try to make a fist?”

She could.

"Excellent. Very good. Now, your feet," he said, moving down to the bottom of the bed. He squeezed one, through the hospital sock. "Which foot am I holding?"

"Left," she said, a little nervous. Everything feels... so distant. He shifted. "Still left." He shifted again. "Right."

"Flex your toes?"

She tried, and could, though it was hard, somehow, so hard.

“Even better." He moved back, closer, beside her. "Your hands, again. Open them as wide as you can?”

Her fingers slowly opened wide, and Michael met them with his own, pressing their palms together, and nothing happened, and her breath caught, a spark of fear in the back of her mind.

That’s... that’s not right.

“I’m going to push,” Michael continued. “I want you to push back.”

Sombra grunted with effort as she tried to keep her hands in place, but Michael was able to eventually push until her elbows were digging into the bed.

“That’s okay,” Michael assured her as he let go. “The fact you’re responding at all is very good news. Everything else can be fixed, or will recover in time.”

"I can't... I can't feel you, doc," she said, alarm spiking in her voice.

"I know. I can't feel you either - yet. But..."

"I can't feel you."

"You will, again,” Michael said, his eyes filled with resolve. “I swear to you, we will fix this.”

"No,” she gasped, unable to hear his determination through the crashing wave of panic. “No, no, no. No, no, no nonononononono!” Sombra gasped like someone drowning, searching for the woman who had become her refuge. “Satya. Satya? SATYA?!"

Michael waved, urgently, and the Architech all but flew into view.

"Satya, Satya, Satya, I can't, I can't, help, me, help..."

Satya took her hand, and she again felt nothing except skin, and her eyes opened wider, and she drew breath as if to scream, but before she could, Satya swept in, and kissed her, hard, fierce, pressing tightly to her...

...and it was faint, but it was there, it was there, and she was there, and Sombra sobbed with relief.

"I, I, I," she managed, between touches, between kisses, "I..."

"I know,” Satya murmured between heartbeats, between breaths. “I am here. I love you. I love you. I am here. Beloved wife... my beloved Sombra..."

"I feel you," she huffed, between breaths. "But only..."

"You are hurt,” Satya asserted, “and so, it is faint. But it is enough,” she declared, and it was so. “It is proof," her wife breathed, as if life itself, into her. "You will recover."

Sombra heaved a great breath, sobbed again, and then smiled, a little, blinking water away from her eyes. "Stay. Please. Stay."

"I will,” Satya drew her in again with the comforting strength of her prosthetic arm. “Always."

Sombra let herself steep in the presence of her beloved for a few minutes before continuing.

"Th'... Russians, huh?"

Satya nodded. "Yes. I will not forgive them."

That... the hacker thought, doesn't sound good.

Sombra glanced, for the slightest moment, over to Michael, before looking back to Satya, clinging to her, desperately, everything feeling so broken.

"So... Slate... how bad'sit?"

"You will recover," he repeated, firmly. "In time. Completely."

She relaxed back against the pillow, too tired to stay propped up, weakly grasping for Satya, bringing her closer.

"'S not... what I mean.” The words were getting harder, her meagre reserves flagging. “N’t... an’ you know it...."

"I do,” Michael inclined his head, then checked her vitals again with a thoughtful frown. "For now, through - for the sake of your recovery - you must go back to sleep." He tabbed a sedative into her IV. "It will wait."

"Nnnooo..." she groaned as Satya pressed against her, feeling her, still, as her consciousness faded. She tried to cling to her consciousness enough to speak, mustering everything she could, breathing, all together, “...don'think it will." And her eyes closed.

She heard a beep that seemed louder and more urgent, and then it faded, as everything but the faint whisper of Satya’s presence fell far, far away into the dark.