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A Hint of Hesitation

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Distance: 123 meters.

Elevation: 18 meters.

Slight easterly crosswind; 1.4 kilometers per hour.

Target: Lena Oxton.

A lesser agent might have fiddled with the rifle in their target’s absence; tried to line up a better angle, triple-checked the scope. Become restless with waiting. Widowmaker just watches. Breathes slow and deep.

She has her shot. The target will move into it on her own.

She can’t see the door to the tiny café open, but she recognizes the play of light so well she can almost hear the jingle. Not a moment later, a hint of garish yellow tinged with blue light, just to the right of her sights. She smiles.

OxtonTracer, whatever that nonsense callsign had once meantis relaxed, leaning languidly on the counter, grinning and winking at the pretty barista. Her order is simple, short, and she pushes herself back onto her feet to pay. A bloodless finger starts to tighten on a trigger…

The sudden flash of lightning blue is, for a moment, cause for alarm. Widowmaker blinks rapidly, looking up for a moment as if she expects to find her target on the rooftop with her before cursing herself for the foolish impulse. Oxton is back just to the side of her shot when she lowers her head to the sights again, laughing and giving the barista a joking snap-to-attention salute as she hands something overa mug, it looks like. Something that had been about to fall and break. How chivalrous.

Now, finally, the girl makes that essential step to her left to pay for her coffee. Perfect. The back of Oxton’s head is pinned in the crosshairs like a moth on a card.

The thrill of a perfect execution is already shivering through her veins. Her handlers will be glad to be rid of this particular pest. Certainly Tracer has been a thorn in Widowmaker’s side for long enough. So many of her recent failures are due entirely to this girl’s irritating intervention, the laughter, the constant jokesand here, now, quick and simple and cold, she will put an end to this ridiculous game for good. It makes her heart nearly thunder.

She pulls the trigger, and almost imagines she can hear windows shatter.

Golden eyes drift closed as she takes a long, deep breath. Part of her is unhappy, unsatisfied. For such a slippery target, this was too easy. The kill rings hollow.

Distantly curious to see the outcome, she brings down her visor and transfers the adjustment calculations from her scopes.

The first thing she sees is a blue glow.

It takes a moment to sink in. The glow is not unanticipated; the schematics she’s studied for the purpose of this assignment suggest the chronal accelerator has an independent power source. It would remain operational after the girl’s deathperhaps that, she thinks coolly, might offer some consolation to her friends. They will have a body to bury.

The only problem is that there doesn’t appear to be a body. The telltale pulse of electric blue is not coming from a chest harness, but rather the hint of a pistol poking out from behind the counter. Under the visor, Widowmaker stiffens, frowns, zooms in further as her heart rate starts to steadily climb.

Lena Oxton peers around the counter, eyes wide, gesturing “stay down” to someone that Widowmaker can’t see.

That’s not possible.

That’s not possible.

She does not miss.

She fumbles with nerveless fingers to reload the rifle, but it’s too late. Before she can touch the weapon her target disappears in a streak of light. Widowmaker has arranged her kill too perfectly; from here, there is no chance of finding another location for an ambush, and Tracer is an unrealistic target for assassination by means of direct confrontation. The moment she realizes she is the target rather than an innocent bystander, all she has to do is run. And she is very good at running.

Checking in with her handler is done on autopilot; her voice would shake if she let herself think about reporting that she’s failed. For a moment, there is silence on the other end of the comm. Then, tight with fury: “What happened.”

Her mind is racing. Could she have misaligned her shot? No, she had put too much time and attention into those calculations. The killshot should have been perfect. The target hadn’t moved. It makes no sense…


Buta moment of hesitation, a slight tension, breath catching, the mere hint of a flinch just before taking the shotit might be sufficient, just barely, to have sent her aim off by just enough…

That’s not possible. That didn’t happen. She does not miss.

Belatedly, Talon’s prize assassin realizes she is kneeling on a rooftop, staring at the rifle in her hands like a foreign object. Like she’s never seen it before. Her hands barely know where to rest.

“I…” She blinks. “I don’t know.”

Approaching objective. ETA: Two point five minutes.

Winston rolls his shoulders and glances at the ceiling in acknowledgement. “Thanks, Athena.”

Tracer tosses a casual salute at one of the sensors as well, bouncing on the soles of her feet. Not that she doesn’t trust Athena, mind, but she likes to fly her own birds. Always used to get the chance to fly, before Petras. With just a handful of Winston’s friends available since the recall, though, they can’t afford to not have her ready to mobilize the second they’re in range.

Talon has so much to answer for. This, and the whole terrorism thing.

A pack of bubblegum hits her in the face.

“Ow! Hey!”

Hana, lounging on top of her mech and in danger of hitting her head on the ceiling of the crowded dropship, bats her eyelashes with cherubic innocence. Tracer flips her off, and Winston heaves the kind of long, heavy sigh only a genetically-modified space gorilla is truly capable of.

“Kids,” he says warningly.

“She started it!”

Hana laughs. “Just seeing if you were awake,” she says brightly. “Testing for server lag.”

“I’ll lag your servers,” Tracer mutters under her breath. Hana puts on her most aggrieved look, and she can’t pretend to be mad anymorenot in the face of that exaggerated heartbreak. “Quit it!” she laughs. “All right, you’re forgiven!”

Estimated time to objective: T-minus sixty seconds.

“Tracer,” Winston rumbles as everyone does last-minute checks on their equipment. “You’re on recon.”

Didn’t exactly need the reminder, but, time and a place for ribbing. “Aye-aye, Winston.”

Hana slides down and holds out a fist. “For luck?”

Tracer’s lips twitch as she taps her fist against the kid’s. She’s a sweet girl, end of the day; little spitfire, with her heart in the right place. It’s possible Lena’s a tiny bit protective.

Hana accepts the fistbump, and then the five moves after it; up, down, crossed wrists, clasped hands, and a snap with their free hands before shooting twin finger guns with identical cocky winks.

Nah. She doesn’t see anyone familiar in this kid at all.

Objective located. T-minus ten...Five. Four. Three…”

For once, they’ve gotten to the objective before Talon. Makes a nice change, not stepping off the dropship and into a hail of bullets. Call her crazy, Tracer’s always considered the absence of a hail of bullets preferable to the alternative, in most cases.

She waits a few moments, just to be sure they didn’t spring some trap by arriving, then blinks across an open area and gets moving. Always has to suppress the instinct to make sure the others are all right setting up defenses on their own, these days, it’s not like before when they usually had backup available.

Winston, buddy, she thinks as she takes a flight of stairs two at a time. We’ve gotta get some more people.

But the fact that there’s so few of them these days makes it even more essential that she doesn’t do anything stupid. She spots the glint of metal on a rooftop in time to drop to cover, too slow not to berate herself furiously while doing it. Anything stupid like that. Think, Tracer!

Luckily, the stone pillar is situated perfectly; she’s careful as she stands, pressing her back against it, keeping it between her and the threat. While she’s got a secure position, she double-checks the charge on her harness, flips her pistols in and out of their holster. Sniper position’s probably too far to actually hit anything accurately, but close enough that her fire will at least connect . Cause some annoyance, harry the enemy agent. That’s what she’s here for, after all!

Right. Three, and two, and here we

The shot, she’ll learn later, doesn’t come from the rooftop decoy.

 Metal clicks on metal as she nudges the splintered chronal accelerator with her foot. The web was spun well.

No headshot this timeno need to bother, when the girl wears her true vulnerability so boldly on her chest. This way even has a certain poetry to it. A bullet at the right stress point, and that little reckless light goes out. In all likelihood, she didn’t even have time to be afraid.

Didn’t have time. That would be irony, no?

Widowmaker drops to one knee, picks up a fallen gauntlet and gives it a clinical examination. An efficient system. Ingenious, if somewhat lacking in elegance. The ape knows his trade. And...ah. There you are.

I read you. ” Perfect. It’s Winston who answers immediately when she presses the comm button. “Something to report? Tracer? What’s your position?

Widowmaker smiles. “Such a pity,” she purrs, glancing at the empty harness. “I’m told she was your favorite.”

She doesn’t wait for the moment of shocked silence on the other end to pass; the channel is unceremoniously closed. She pauses for a moment, then activates a homing beacon she remembers from the schematics and tosses the gauntlet into the tangle of harness straps. It would be cruel, after all, to leave them with nothing.

 Zarya, bless her soft heart, had protested.

Too soon, she’d said, squaring up to Winston like she was ready to fight the poor thing. It’s too soon, she’s barely been home six hours. Look at the child, she’s still shaking. It’s not right and it’s not safe for us either. The others would’ve backed her up, too, if Tracer and her brand-new accelerator hadn’t insisted she wanted to come.

Not like Zarya was wrong, is the thing. She does still feel a little jittery, but...look, that’s not about to go away any time soon. It’s hard to explain, the way it feels to stop existing but not be dead. Like being sucked out an airlock. Or, well. That’s about what she figures. Can’t exactly speak from experience, there. But the breath being sucked from her lungs, the jerk as the world’s sucked away, the total absence of anything, even empty air, to touch. The shock, the blindness, the cold

If she had to choose between the slipstream and hard vacuum, she’d probably still pick the former. But only because she knows Winston would be there to bring her back.

She’s got nothing to fear from the slipstream, Tracer’s always said with a grin; look how much it likes her, tryin’ to call her back all the time! As good as old friends, it and me. But it’s harder than she’d ever admit even to the people who’re basically family, blinking for the first time after four real-world months in limbo. (She never lets herself so much as think the obvious question of how long it had been for her, because that gets real existential real fast, and there’s some things the friendly neighborhood flygirl isn’t built to handle.) It’s hard, stepping back into the void when she’s spent so long desperate to breach it.

Like drowning. Trapped under ice but without even that much of something solid to cling to.

An explosion way too close for comfort knocks her off her feet. She’s only spared the worst of it by a shield she hadn’t even noticed Zarya throwing up around her.

Okay. Okay. Maybe she’d had a point. Waiting longer than a few hours before being dropped into combat might have been a good idea. But the only way to bleed off the fear is to dive right back in, use the harness like she always has until she remembers that she actually loves this. That she’s safe, and she’ll always come back. Like riding a bike! If riding a bike required breaking the laws of physics, or at least bending ‘em a bit. And Tracer’s a right tough little thing, she’s always had that going for her.

Her pistols spring to her hands without her even having to think about it, and a little of the lingering vertigo finally settles down. Tracer controls the slipstream, not the other way around. She grins. All right. Talon’s overdue for a reminder of that as well. Third time’s the charm.

Bit of a pun there. Gallows humor, yeah?

Mercy over the comm, urgent but not panicked: “Pinned down. I need backup!

One-two-three up a staircase, and she vaults over the side guns blazing, and oh, yes. She’d forgot how much different this felt from a real desync. She drops a charge and hits the rewind back up to the balcony, just in time to see Unlucky Group Of Mercs #57 flying through the air. Home sweet home.

“You’re clear, love!”

Thank you, Trac—ah!

Tracer’d already been zipping around back to ground level, but she stumbles to a halt at the cry of pain. “Mercy, whatwhoa!

Forgot the heavily-armed mercs for a second, there, and she pays for it as they open fire. It only takes a heartbeat to blink out of the way, but one of them still manages to wing her in the side. Bleeding, not badly, Mercy’ll stitch her up after

Mercy!” She fires as she bolts between scraps of cover. “You all right? Did anyone see what happened to ‘er?”

Pharah’s voice, hard, answers on the heels of a distant explosion. “Sniper fire. I have her. Widowmaker disabled her wing in the air; I think this arm is broken, but nothing more.

Mercy on the line, then, thank god. “I’ll live. Focus on the mission.

A Talon mook sticks his head around the corner. Tracer lets off a rapid-fire couple rounds with one hand without taking the other away from her mouth. “Don’t suppose you got that sniper, Pharah?”

She got clear too quickly. I’m about to change that.

Winston gives a distant roar of pain and anger; if Tracer hadn’t been about to argue already, that’d have decided it. “Don’t even!” This time she gets the rushing merc full in the chest; he drops, and she flips her pistols back, cracking her knuckles as she pictures her route onto the rooftops. “Help the big guy. This one’s on me.”

It’s been four months, and in the middle of combat Widowmaker still catches herself waiting sometimes.

That first skirmish had been the biggest shock. Of course she’d been irritated with herself for it, for the child’s foolishness of being surprised when the object of a recent assassination didn’t turn up on the windowsill with a quip. She tried to tell herself the moment of disorientation upon remembering brought her pleasure. No need to deal with that nuisance anymore.

She just misses the challenge. That is all.

Of course she’d eventually won their little game, that had been inevitable, and it’s only natural that she be dissatisfied with how simple her job seems now by comparison. If she’s given an assignment that truly tests her abilities, this strange unbalanced feeling will disappear.

Briefly, it occurs to her that she could just as easily have shot the pretty doctor through the eye. She dismisses the thought as she tests her grapple, swings herself around the corner of a building and onto the next where she can set up again. Battlefield medics are replaceable. It will do more damage to Overwatch having their doctor out of commission. The demoralizing fallen-angel imagery is a side effect, but not an unwelcome one.

Some part of her that is not quite Widowmaker whispers that she hadn’t thought of any of this when she took the shot. It’s uncomfortable. She crushes it and picks out that damned human rocket launcher.

One shot, one kill. Armor that thick would just be wasting her opportunity, surely, but there must be weak points...she takes shallow breaths, calming her heartbeat to steady her aim as her tactical visor feeds her schematics, and alters the trajectory to take out the woman’s jump jets. Cripple their air support. A better use of the shot.

Killing Overwatch agents is not the objective, the objective is to prevent theft of the payload. Widowmaker never loses sight of her mission. This is what she was created to do. Talon cannot fault her for that!

A blur of blue-white lightning streaks across the battlefield.

Before she fully realizes it, Widowmaker breaks into a smile.

Hello again.

For the first time in four months, she feels her sluggish heart rate increase, just barely. The kill loses its warmth without any challenge. So, Overwatch does still have the resources to scrape together a replacement chronal accelerator. She’d begun to think the universe had finally collected on Lena Oxton’s borrowed time.

Her soft sigh is predatory. The thrill of the chase. Not relief.

The moment of distraction costs her; Pharah is gone, and she has no clear line on anyone else. The payload is moving. Widowmaker deactivates her visor and stands, preparing to grapple to a better location.


The shout gives her just enough time to dive out of the way as pulse fire peppers the wall behind her. She rolls and comes up on one knee, gun raised and smiling; automatic fire strafes the rooftop before she even completes the maneuver, but it’s already too late. Tracer has vanished in a streak, and returns fire from a ninety-degree angle, forcing Widowmaker to throw herself out of the way once more.

“Miss me, love?” That familiar, taunting grin is sharper than she remembers.

Yes. Oh, yes.

The rifle extends in her hand as she answers with a smirk. “I never miss.”

This is the dance she remembers, but her body won’t respond. She shies away from that first snap head shot, finds herself aiming at shoulders and gauntlets and sending rapid bullet spray around her enemy’s legs to force her to move, rather than going for center mass. It’s likebeing afraid

She hears the crack of her nose breaking before she registers either the pain or the flash of blue, and for a moment she’s actually hurt by Tracer’s peal of mocking laughter as time warps around her, depositing her safely back around the rooftop shed.

“Oh, you got slow while I was gone, didn’t ya?”

Gritting her teeth, Widowmaker raises the rifle and steps forward. One shot in the chest, eliminate the target again. Of course, by then, the target is gone. This time Tracer doesn’t bother striking her in the face with a gauntlet; the girl blinks behind her and as she’s turning blinks again, using the momentum to throw herself at Widowmaker’s knees and bringing them both down in a confused tangle of latex and body armor.

Tracer disappears before she can get her bearings, let alone push herself onto her feet; there are footsteps from the spot she was in three seconds ago, and Widowmaker’s eyes widen as a heavy, high-powered shot throws up concrete powder near her head, rather than the light hail of pulse rounds.

Tracer, thankfully, doesn’t bother firing again; by the time Widowmaker’s grapple connects with the wall behind the young woman she’s already tossed the stolen rifle over the edge of the roof, and her cry as she’s grabbed by the throat and slammed too late against the concrete turns into a rough laugh.

“Keep up, love, this is too easy!”

She’s not wrong, she’s not wrong, and Widowmaker could strangle her for it. If she had a weapon now she would shoot out that damned accelerator just to make Tracer stop talking, stop running, stop ruining what had once been the only hunt worth her time.

There’s no real amusement behind her smile. “I may shoot you in the head next time.”

Laughing eyes darken with a true anger that almost surprises her. “Shoulda done it when you ‘ad the chance.”

The whir of pistols charging is all the warning she receives, and it’s just barely enough. She manages to grab one wrist, slam it against the concrete with enough force that the pistol is dropped and flips back into its holster; the other, Widowmaker doesn’t have time to control. She has to release her grip on the girl’s windpipe (one she hadn’t exploited, why, in the heat of battle, hadn’t she clamped down, silenced her, eliminated her for good?) in favor of clumsily knocking her gun to the side. A quick tattoo of white-blue fire scatters over the roof.

Tracer gives an uncharacteristic snarl, raises her hand again to fire, and just for a moment Widowmaker’s frustration disappears. Familiar, welcome coolness snaps down in its place.

Her grappling hook is still firmly anchored in the wall. She releases her hold on the girl in the same moment she extends the cord, catching it on her fingertips and throwing a loop around Tracer’s wrist; a flick of her own gauntlet is enough to tighten the wire, and in the same moment that she takes up all slack and catches Tracer’s right wrist in midair like a fly in a web her own hand comes up to meet the pistol just being released to find its owner’s hand.

She doesn’t have time to stop it, and settles for adding to its momentum. The shot goes wild, Tracer’s free arm forced awkwardly across her own body, pinned between them.

Widowmaker smiles. This time, as she tugs the pulse pistol from her captive’s fingers, she means it.

She knows how this ends. How victory feels, when her prey is trapped and helpless. She will press a kiss to the barrel of the pistol humming under her touch, she will force it under Lena Oxton’s lovely jaw, and she will smile and feel dizzy with the rush as she wishes the girl pleasant dreams and pulls the trigger.

In the ringing stillness while she stands frozen with the weapon in her hand, Tracer stops breathing. Then, quickly, she recovers. Her frame blurs, blazing as she tries to blink, and Widowmaker alone might have been pulled off her feet; but the grappling cord around her wrist is buried firmly in cement, and she succeeds in nothing but yanking it tighter. She gives a cry of pain that is nearly a scream as she’s jerked back into place, the wire cutting viciously into her.

Widowmaker would have expected defiance, maybe more of that unexpected fury. But Tracer’s attention darts back and forth, looking for a way out; the tactical filters of her visor are unnecessary to tell how quickly the girl’s heart is beating.

That same faint, disturbing hint of a thing that is not Widowmaker falters at the level of fear in her eyes.

Talon chatter in her ear. She never keeps her comm on in the field; the last thing she needs is that kind of distraction. Emergency transmissions, however, override everything. Their forces are in retreat. Of course they are. Fools.

Finish off the Overwatch agent, leave her on the roof for her teammates to find. Simple, quick, impersonal. Everything Widowmaker knows. Everything she is.

Au revoir,” she says, and empties the pistol into Tracer’s leg.

Angela Ziegler frowns suspiciously at a bruise over her patient’s ribs.


Fareeha sighs. “I’m fine, Mercy.”

Angela raises a wry eyebrow as she glances up. “The last time you told me you were fine,” she says crisply, “You had a concussion and a piece of shrapnel lodged in your shoulder. You have been banned from self-diagnosis. Now, on a scale of one to ten...”

She’s briefly distracted as Zarya finally shoulders open the door to the medbay of this week’s HQ, one hand carefully protecting Tracer’s head as she carries the poor girl inside.

“How are you feeling, Lena?” She gets a thumbs-up in reply and turns back to Fareeha’s ribs, which are probably fine. “All right. This seems to be superficial.”

“I told you that.”

“Don’t argue with the doctor, Pharah,” Zarya warns her, setting Lena down carefully on an open bed nearby. “We need you at full strength. Do as you’re told. And you,” she adds, firm but softer, as she pokes Tracer’s collarbone to make her lie down. “Be still for once. It won’t kill you.”

“Might just,” comes the retort, but she doesn’t protest the kiss Zarya places on her head, and Angela’s heart melts a bit. “Fine. I’ll be good.”

Angela has to laugh. “That will be the day.” She takes a moment to check the position of her slingyes, yes, modern medical technology, it’s a miracle, she should know, but a transverse fracture doesn’t heal in two hours for all the nanobiology in the world. “Who’s next? Winston?”

The stubborn gorilla shifts. “I’m...fine, Mercy. Take care of Tracer.”

Her eyes narrow.

Hana, curled up in an empty bed and uncharacteristically quiet up until now, gives a high, short laugh. “Bad idea, Winston,” she chirps. “Don’t argue with a lady who carries a big metal stick around all the time.”

Angela sends her a warning look. “The caduceus,” she says sternly, “is an ancient symbol of medicine. Of healing, and hope. Compassion for all. It is not something to be used for causing harm, and it is certainly not a weapon.”

Winston gives an awkward cough. “We should let you work. Come on, Han

Sit down,” Angela snaps. “Or I hit you with the stick.”

Winston sits meekly.

Across the room, Lena laughs. That’s reassuring. She’s stable, for now, and the damage should heal; but Angela won’t pretend not to worry. Of course, it would take more than being shot multiple times at point-blank range to keep Tracer subdued for long. If we could only bottle that resilience.

“Listen to the kid, love,” she says with a lopsided grin, waving her fingers at Winston from across the room. “Girl knows her strategy, yeah?”

Hana shoots a finger gun in her direction. “You can say that again.”

“Queen’a the zerg rush,” Lena says fondly. Hana gives a horrified, deeply wounded gasp.

You take that back!

“It was a compliment!

“Cheap noob tactic!”

No one is declaring blood feuds in my medbay! ” Angela pinches the bridge of her nose. “Anyone who is not injured, please leave. Not you, Winston!

Fareeha leaps to her feet without complaint; Hana looks like she wants to stay and argue until Zarya casually cracks her knuckles, at which point their youngest recruit hastily decides that being elsewhere sounds great.

Angela gives a sigh of relief. “You too, I’m afraid, Liebling.”

Zarya smirks. “Da. Someone has to keep order.” She ducks her head to kiss Angela’s jaw, giving her shoulder a gentle squeeze. “Get rest,” she orders. “And eat something.”


With one last firm look Zarya nods and leaves, taking a detour only to cover Lena’s face with her hand and shove her back onto her pillow as she opens her mouth to make a smart remark.

“You asked for that,” Angela informs the girl over her shoulder. Lena, apparently under the impression she still possesses dignity, blows a chunk of hair out of her face and refuses to respond.

Winston chuckles, then hisses as she starts to loosen his exosuit. “I’m fine, Mercy, really.”

Him and his codenames. He and TracerLena, they have Angela doing it now too. No wonder they get on so well.

There, finally. The section of body armor is heavier than it looks, and Angela tries to lower it with one hand and nearly drops it on her foot.

She hears Lena sit up behind her, concerned. “You all right, love?” She nods, waves off the concern.

“You,” she informs Winston, “Have been shot.”

He makes a face. “It’s notaugh!

The first time she’d triggered that low, animal snarl from Winston, it had nearly given Angela a heart attack. By now she just lifts a pointed eyebrow and holds the medicated pressure pad against his arm so it can begin disinfecting the wound.

At least he has the grace to look sheepish. “Just a little shot.”

If both of her hands weren’t out of commission, Angela would have thrown them in the air.

Field agents,” she complains, checking the exit wound. “It’s not a competition! You are not going to impress me with your pain tolerance. All of you!” She clucks her tongue, jabbing Winston with a biotic stimulant slightly harder than she otherwise might have. “All the same. Last week I told Fareeha to rest for twenty-four hours and found her and Zarya three hours later having a push-up contest!”

Lena gives an evil laugh.

“Oh, Mercy,” she says slyly. “Would you look at that blush.”

Angela hefts the caduceus menacingly, and Tracer shuts up.

For safety’s sake, Lena is staying here tonight.

She doesn’t really need to be under observation, Angela’s fairly certain of that; but she’s certainly in no shape to be walking on that leg, and if left to her own devices Lena will try. The best-case scenario is that she will genuinely forget that she nearly had her leg shredded not six hours ago.

Some days Angela wonders if the young woman’s relationship with the timestream might affect her memory for lived events. Most days, she’s positive that this is just Lena being Lena. A reckless, impulsive flygirl to the end. Until she’s had a chance to heal at least to the point of Angela feeling comfortable putting her on crutches, she is staying in a medical facility where Athena can keep an eye on her vitals.

Angela glances at the clock and winces. It’s much later than she thought, and she suspects Zarya for one will be unimpressed by the two granola bars she’s eaten since returning from the mission. She’ll live. Angela will make up her rest when fewer people are bleeding on the floor of her medbay.

She’d switched most of the lights off hours ago, to let Lena sleep; now, stifling a yawn, she’s about to switch off her muted desk lamp and go find her own bed when there’s a light tap on the door.

Angela sighs faintly, and is surprised to find Winstonarm freshly bandagedwaving to her from outside the double doors, and not a worried Russian bodybuilder. She presses the control to buzz him in, belatedly cringing as she realizes she’s forgotten to check whether the buzzer itself is deactivated. It isn’t, but there’s no noise; a brief popup text from Athena informs her that she’s switched off all audio except emergency alerts, and hopes this is acceptable.

Winston moves deceptively quietly, for a creature of his bulk.

“How is she?” he asks in an undertone, sitting down next to Mercy’s desk. She places a hand on his good arm and squeezes reassuringly.

“Stable,” she assures him. “Likely to make a full recovery.” She’s very luckythose pulse rounds have a tendency to partially self-cauterize, especially at that range, and Widowmaker failed to hit any important arteries. But it was a close thing. By the time Fareeha had gotten to her, she had already lost a lot of blood and was going into shock. Lena has the spirit of a lion; but she is very small, built thin and light, and her body has few enough reserves to fall back on.

Winston rubs his face and gives a long sigh.

“She should never have been alone up there,” he says. “We need more agents. This is my fault.”

Only one of those statements is truebut it’s painfully true.

“The others are coming,” Angela reminds him. “Did I tell you I finally heard back from Mei? She says she wants to help.”

“No.” Winston looks relieved. “I must have been busy. That’s good.”

It won’t be enough, not even with the rest on their way; Torbjörn had been one of the first to respond to the recall, is eager to join them, but he has commitments of at least equal importance to theirs. Satya has agreed to be on call whenever they're in the same area, and even Lucio is finally en route; he would have come earlier if they hadn't desperately needed a clean PR ally. Even Reinhardt, who had jumped at the call, is out of commission; with the difficulty they’ve had in contacting Genji they need someone to do it in person, and Winston had judged the delay to be worth gaining both of them in the long run.

Now, though…

“At least the Widowmaker was feeling merciful today.” Angela hates having to say it. The idea of any of them, especially Hana, or Lenagod, she still thinks of her as a childsurviving not due to a rescue, their own skill, or progressive medical care or even dumb luck, but at the whim of that murderer

Winston stiffens like she’s touched an exposed nerve. Angela frowns.

She doesn’t have to ask him to explain what’s wrong. With a wary look at the sleeping Lena, he takes out a handheld drive and plugs it into Angela’s computer.

“Athena,” he rumbles softly. “Run that analysis again.”

Working, says the chat box that pops up on screen in lieu of the familiar voice. Then, Results are consistent, Winston. The data indicates a statistically significant decrease in fatal or attempted-fatal attacks by the Talon agent known as Widowmaker, beginning this date. The timestamp is achingly familiar to any of the team who had been involved in creating Lena’s second accelerator, racing against time in a desperate attempt to get her back before they lost her forever.

It takes almost a full minute for Angela to realize what Winston is thinking.

“Absolutely not,” she says, only remembering at the last moment to pitch her voice low enough not to disturb her patient. “This is a coincidence. We’ve gotten better at avoiding her.”

Winston scratches the back of his head. “Maybe. But ever since Tracer…”

“She’s missing, that’s all there is to it.”

An irritable huff. “There are three options. Either it’s a coincidence, or Widowmaker has started taking nonlethal shots against Overwatch agents, which means her conditioning may be breaking down.”

“Or? Try again.” Angela doesn’t want to be the harsh one. If there were even a chance of believing this… What has been done to Amélie Lacroix is a crime, cruelty of a sort that defies words; but it has been done . False hope will kill them all.

“Or,” rumbles Winston, “ever since Tracer, Widowmaker has started missing accidentally, specifically when facing Overwatch agents, without realizing it. Which means her conditioning is breaking down.”

Is it even possible…?

No. Amélie is long dead, and mourned, and for her sake as much as anyone else’s Widowmaker must be put out of her misery. It gives Angela no pleasure to think it. She wants to believe in the possibility Winston has presented, she does, she wants it desperately. Of course those who remember her want Amélie back. But...believing in second chances is one thing, the odds of this are another, and Angela is a scientist. 

“We can’t know the truth,” she says finally. “Not without more proof. We can’t afford to assume.”

Another long pause. They’re both watching Lena, the main power unit of her harness set aside on a table but still surrounded by a faint blue glow. Subdued, Winston finally taps a control and takes his data stick back.

“No,” he says. “We can’t. But we can all use some hope right now.”