She’d be lying if she said she hadn’t planned to do it, which was probably one of the reasons she was avoiding asking herself that question. But the thought was still there in the back of her mind, vague and nebulous and, worst of all, revealing in a way that made her feel some undefined mixture of vulnerable and irritated. So, what? Maybe she had planned to. But it was something that needed to be fixed and understood, and meticulous planning was what she did regardless of the subject; the question she had hoped to answer wasn’t any more significant than any other question she had ever had.
At any rate, there was no denying one thing: of all people, she’d kissed Junkrat.
It wasn’t the first time the team had woven their way through the streets of King’s Row, not even the first time they’d done so under the dim glow of lamplight and the knowledge that somewhere out there between the suffocating closeness of the brick structures Talon forces might be waiting.
With the rest of the team pressing ahead towards the square and clearing the streets as they went Symmetra had followed behind, weaving delicate turrets to lace the narrow streets should any opposing force approach from the rear, and the seemingly inseparable junkers had taken to the side streets to assess the need for protection at their flanks. They were an effective pair, she could admit that; despite their mercenary status it seemed they had no trouble going above and beyond what had been expected of them, although considering ‘above and beyond’ often included the need for yet more explosions and recklessness perhaps that would be giving them too much credit.
As they moved along the cobblestone streets they were never too far from each other lest they become truly separated, always within shouting distance. The quiet of the place made it easier, and although it was mildly disconcerting they’d been thorough with their sweep so far and their information had suggested the chaos, if any, would be near the square at the front where Winston, Tracer, and Mercy would be waiting. Which did make the junkers’ decision to hang back in the rear a bit odd. Regardless, she definitely wasn’t worried. Not about an attack, anyway. Other things, though…
If she had to she likely wouldn’t even be able to explain the strange appeal of him. Junkrat seemed to represent everything she felt was wrong with the world—dirty, disordered, occasionally violent. A mercenary. When considered as a whole he was an absolute disaster. Or at least, that was how it had seemed when they met, and granted, for a month or so after. But piece by piece small things had shifted her perspective to small degrees and suggested there was at least something more there. The clearly deep connection between himself and Roadhog. His admittedly skillful and absolute love of his work and his constant effort to improve it. The way he enjoyed entertaining the rest of the team, particularly Reinhardt, who for whatever reason seemed delighted by Junkrat’s juggling abilities.
And more recently, instances of what seemed like genuine teamwork while out on missions. There were times, more than once, when he’d put his life at great risk for the team, even just for her, and regardless of the motive she supposed it was laudable. There was an ambition there and a capacity for cohesion that she hadn’t expected, and she’d wondered if maybe he just hadn’t had the opportunity before.
The fact that she’d spent any time wondering at all was disconcerting, but moreso, if she were being perfectly honest, the shock of seeing him clean a month or so ago—not covered in soot, partially on fire, or reeking of explosive powder for the first time—had thrown her so off guard that she may still have not fully recovered. It was a strange thing to see, that kind of transformation. Once he’d taken a bath he could actually be called attractive. And true, if she were forced to say it, when he was made to stand up straight his form wasn’t unappealing.
He seemed to like her well enough as well, and if one ignored the constant teasing it would be easier to focus on his apparent fascination with and appreciation for her skills as an architect. It was odd, but he seemed impressed by her constructs. In fact, from the first day they’d met he had shown an interest and even amazement in her abilities. It was, perhaps, one of the few things that had spared him from being written off from the start.
At some point despite being no less obnoxious he had somehow become likeable to much of the team, even somewhat endearing in his boundless enthusiasm. It would just be nicer if his enthusiasm was focused on things other than bombs.
Still, it was terrible and embarrassing and it made no sense, but it had been well over a month and she hadn’t been able to shake the feeling in her chest when he fixed his strange amber eyes on her and threw her that lopsided grin that made it seem like he knew something she didn’t. Even his manic giggle as he blasted from one rooftop to another was sometimes a distraction. It was infuriating, but it made her heart rise in her chest and her pulse beat harder, and it was a feeling she still wasn’t sure if she liked, she didn’t want to, but she knew something had to be done about it.
More than anything she wanted to understand, and it seemed like doing something was her best—or possibly only—option. It might be madness, but in a way her plan seemed like the only possible way to dispel it. She was going to approach him. She wasn’t sure how, initially, but it would have to be something decisive. This was not a plan that called for half measures. And it needed to happen soon or she thought she might go mad.
There was never enough time to properly prepare for such a thing, nor would there be. There could only be following through. She just hoped something would give her the strength to do it.
As she worked to place a turret in the security of an alcove she heard the sound that she had been dreading on every mission they’d been on together for the past two weeks. The clack of each uneven step of Junkrat’s prosthetic leg echoed across the cobblestones of King’s Row with a strange familiarity and it sank into her with a feeling of finality… the distinctive jangling of Roadhog’s chain hook was not present. And as he came into full view under the lamplight, his lanky form bent forward under the weight of a large, spiked tire and his grenade launcher held loosely in his prosthetic arm she glanced away from the turret she had been constructing just enough to note the crooked grin curving his lips and the way he stood upright, arms swept out to the side like an invitation.
“Did’ja miss me?”
It had been approximately seven minutes, and furthermore, no, she hadn’t. She would tell herself as much as often as necessary until it the answer stopped being ambiguous. With a delicate turn of her fingers she finished constructing the turret and, despite the way his question hung in the air, deliberately took a quiet moment to assess her craft. Once satisfied, she took a slow breath to give her a moment to admire the final product; the sight of it was grounding and familiar and sorely needed.
He’d barely even paused after the question before slinging the grenade launcher over his shoulder, allowed his shoulders to slump forward, and huffed a breath as he hooked his thumb in the direction behind himself.
“Roadie’s decided to ‘ave a look up one ‘a them alleys, said I might as well just go ahead. Don’t know why. Think he might’ve just wanted to give me the flick. Probably got tired of my yabberin’. Can you believe that?”
“Yes, I can.” She was pleased to feel her voice calm and steady and even a bit wry as she glanced towards him, offering a faint and inoffensive smile, neither wanting to agree or disagree too much. She continued down the street at a slow pace, investigating for the next suitable spot for a defense. He stared at her for a moment, eyes reflecting the lamplight under wild blonde hair singed at the ends and marred through with soot before abruptly offering a quiet grunt and rolling a shrug along his shoulders. He followed after her with a bit of a bounce in his uneven gait.
“Yeah, well. Guess I can’t blame ‘im then, can I?” The words fell lightheartedly from his lips and he hooked his hands together to stretch his arms above his head. She noted with interest (and some relief) that aside from his hair he looked relatively clean. She caught her eyes following the curve of his body—the harness slung tight across the muscles of his chest, the smooth plane of his stomach, and worst, the way it dipped inward at the sides in an appealing ‘v’ shape that curved gently under the hem of his cargo shorts—before catching herself with a twinge of irritation, both her gaze and the emotion gone thankfully unnoticed. Someone really did need to teach him how to properly use a belt.
Loud cracks followed as he brought his hand to his chin and wrenched it, his spine emitting a series of pops that rang in her ears as he muttered appreciatively. “Ouf… that’s the stuff.” Satisfied, he turned his attention to the turrets, noting their locations.
“Well, you’ve been busy stitchin’ up the place. I’d like to see ‘em try to sneak up behind us now.” He grinned and—after she gave a small and somewhat distracted nod in response—looked down the street towards their front, where the quiet continued to linger.
“Heard anything from the rest of the team? Sounds like nothin’s happening up there. Must just be waitin’ for me and Roadie to show up to start the fun, right? Can’t wait to see what sort of surprise these Talon blokes have got cooked up.” A high-pitched giggle welled up from somewhere within him, more subdued than usual in the quiet night air but still irritatingly enthusiastic at the prospect, and she raised her hands to press thin fingers against her temples, forcing herself to take a measured breath with eyes briefly closed. When she had calmed herself she fixed him with a firm gaze, lips pressed thin with impatience.
“This is not a game, Junkrat. We could all be in danger here, and while I know you find it exciting there should be no ‘fun’ involved. It would be preferable if there were not any fighting at all.” She paused, thinking for a moment before pointing at him, expression severe. “Or explosions.”
His face fell in an exaggerated pout, though she had suspicions the emotion behind it was sincere. “Not even a small one? Otherwise I’ve packed all my kit for no good reason.” But when her expression failed to change he raised his hands to either side with fingers spread in appeasement. “I know, I know, just havin’ a bit of fun.”
“At my expense.”
“Well, yeah. I mean… ‘s hard not to when you’re all law and order and whatnot. Saving humanity and such. Makes you an easy target.”
She found herself suddenly bothered by the prospect for reasons she couldn’t name and she turned the idea over in her head uneasily. “… an easy target?”
“Yeah, y’know. You’re easy to rile up with ideas like that.”
It was enough. Perhaps it was just the stress of the situation, but something about his choice of taunts and his description of her as an easy mark caused something in her to light. Nothing was as she had planned for it to be, but perhaps it was better this way; irritation lent her the willpower she’d been lacking and while anger seemed like a strange bedfellow for what she intended to do it would do the job. She forced herself to take another slow breath before staring into his yellow eyes intently and firmly.
Something in her voice had enough gravity to throw him off guard. “Oi… I say somethin’?” He sounded more confused than he had any right to be, but also seemed unnerved by the command, straightening his back defensively. “I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Come. Here.” Under normal circumstances it likely would have appeased her, but she had no intention of letting it go now, not when it had a purpose to serve. Her voice sounded harsher to her own ears than she would like, but the thought of it gave her strength and made her feel in control, a feeling only boosted by the fact that he acquiesced. He’d never seen her like this, and not many had. She made a point of it. But he seemed to know he was in some kind of trouble and at the very least seemed interested in trying to smooth it over.
There was a distinct slowness to his step as he closed the remaining space between them, drawing himself up to his full height to create some distance. His lips pressed together in a nervous look, downturned at their corners with an indignant curve despite his puzzlement, and it tinged his voice with a unique sort of stubbornness as he bounced a bit on the tip of his toes, uneasy but standing his ground. “I dunno what the problem is, it was just a bit of fun. Nothin’ worse than what’s been said before.”
Not allowing time for explanation, she laced her fingers under the leather strap of his harness, taking care to place her hand as far away from the explosives framing his chest as possible. She could feel the steady beat of his heart at the back of her fist. A strange but satisfying expression bloomed in his widened eyes as she pulled him closer to her own height—surprise with the faintest bit of fear lurking in their corners. He stared back into her own eyes for only a moment before his gaze darted away as he shifted his weight uneasily on his foot to adjust to a new equilibrium.
“A’right, ya got me. I’ll leave it. For the rest of the mission.”
She tugged the harness to force him closer towards her with a look of pure steel, eyes narrowed and jaw taut. There was a fierceness inherent in the motion that she didn’t quite feel but it made her hold her chin higher nonetheless. It was hard to tell what, exactly, she was irritated about, but she had suspicions it wasn’t necessarily anything he’d said.
His look of surprise was blatant… he tried a laugh, another high pitched thing, but found it sounding slightly too nervous and instead tried a grin. It fit better, but it still seemed a bit wan and somewhat forced. “Careful love, those’re live ordinance.”
And that’s when she pushed upward on her toes and pressed her lips abruptly against his.
He was stiff and he smelled like a mixture of explosive materials and smoke and it wasn’t good but it wasn’t as bad as she had thought it would be. Somewhere under the acrid smell she noted a pleasant, mellow scent but the adrenaline running through her veins served as too much of a distraction for her to identify it.
She could feel his pulse skyrocket behind her fingers but she held firm on the harness, actually grateful for the support, and chanced a look upwards at him from under her lashes only to find that he was still staring at her, his eyes the largest she had ever seen and pulling in the dim lamplight in wide, amber pools. It was unnerving enough that she took in a small breath as she pulled back, brow furrowing.
She no doubt looked more unforgiving than intended, but she gave her head the slightest of shakes and let her eyes gaze from his own down to his lips, which were still slightly parted in disbelief. Her gaze darted back up to his as she mentally chided herself for the indulgence… such things were not part of the plan. The important part was that he was clearly doing it wrong; while she may not have been particularly well versed in these things, the thought that he failed to comply with what seemed to be a basic expectation in a kiss would strike her as amusing and have to be fully appreciated later.
“Close your eyes, Junkrat.” Jamison, her mind corrected her insistently, but she wouldn’t allow herself to say it.
His voice came out breathless and lower than she had ever heard it as he offered a murmured, “Right, sorry.” Clearly still in a state of shock, the tone was interesting—fascinating even—but she had little time to mull it over; as he complied she pulled him delicately back towards herself to try again. This time was softer… better. Dangerously so, though the observation was lost on her in the moment. His jaw was still somewhat slack and she took the opportunity to run her tongue across his upper lip, triggering a sudden inward breath from him and a low sound from somewhere in his chest.
She’d missed it somehow, but the metal of his prosthetic hand had at some point found itself at her side, the cool metal curled loosely and hesitantly against her hip, and she felt warmth at her cheek as a rough, gloved hand brushed her skin, trailing along the curve of her jaw. He pressed in closer with a caution she didn’t know he possessed, as if approaching a wild animal, and her other hand was pressed flush against his chest which was very warm and the world was very suddenly feeling too overwhelming.
The warning thud of her heart in her chest finally caught her attention and she took in a sharp breath as reality came abruptly snapping back into focus. It was easy to disentangle herself; a simple step backwards and his hands fell away, or rather were left stationary as she removed herself from the equation.
Somehow she pulled together her composure from fragmented scraps and gazed at him in absolute silence for a moment. She wouldn’t run, not after everything else. Her own features managed to maintain that blessed calm as his hands dropped to his sides in one motion, as though the life had been torn out of them, and he simply stared at her in complete disbelief as she turned on her heel.
She briskly walked away up the street towards the square, her shoes tapping against the cobblestones as she retreated. Once certain he would be out of sight she slipped into an alcove and leaned against the cool brick, insensate to the fact that it might further dirty her clothing to do so. But the temperature and solidity was a godsend and she kept it at her back as she drew in slow, deep breaths, focusing on the pace of her heart and willing it to calm. The process was slow but in the quiet it came easily; she was well practiced and despite the unique circumstances she was grateful to know the techniques still worked.
A part of her felt terrible... he had looked so utterly confused when she turned away, and he’d… well. His reaction was unexpected. His reaction was disconcerting in its hesitant but seemingly earnest gentleness. But she quieted her mind by necessity; there would be a time to deal with those thoughts and make whatever amends she needed to, but now was for regrouping, both metaphorically and literally.
She had just calmed her breathing when the sound of scuffing boots reached her ears. Not quite trusting herself in this new form of flustered state, she raised a hand to gently cover her mouth as another sound abruptly joined it… a very familiar one.
Junkrat and Roadhog had finally caught up to one-another. Still some way down the street from the alcove she had ducked into, they were nonetheless in earshot and so far as she could tell headed in her direction, toward the square. Their pace was slow and meandering, the clunk of Junkrat’s prosthetic leg mingling with the heavy, scuffing steps of Roadhog and in the quiet she realized she could hear their voices echoing up the cobblestones, just audible over their footsteps. Roadhog’s deep, rough vocalizations—already so muffled by the mask—were indistinguishable except from the tone of them, and the occasional low rumble from him was matched in turns by Junkrat’s voice.
She found herself wishing she couldn’t hear them and pressed back against the wall, clinging to whatever surface would help ground her. She caught Roadhog’s voice rumbling in an insistent tone and took a deep breath, listening to the uneven conversation nonetheless; she didn’t have much choice, after all.
“Yeah, mate.” Junkrat’s voice rang across the street, indignant. A harder, questioning grunt echoed from Roadhog’s mask and was followed by an irritated, “Come off it mate, I’m fine.”
She heard a deep grunt that sounded as though the speaker was unconvinced, and after a long pause both sets of footsteps came to a slow stop. Junkrat’s voice pierced through the silence, low and muttered as if worried someone might hear. “… she kissed me, Roadie.”
There was a moment of silence before a questioning rumble emanated from Roadhog and she thought she could nearly make out the words, but the muffling nature of the mask still kept them from being clear. Hushed as he was, Junkrat was still perfectly audible, and his tone lilted with a dreamlike shock that left him sounding genuinely bewildered and a bit lost. Something about it, though—perhaps the way the uncertainty threaded through his voice—gave it a sense of something else. She shoved away the idea that it might be hopeful.
“Yeah. What d’you think that’s all about?”
A long pause followed. For a moment she thought she’d lost track of them entirely before Roadhog abruptly spoke, bursting forth with a muffled laugh, and Junkrat returned the sound with a high-pitched laugh of his own.
“C’mon mate, a gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell.” Roadhog grumbled something accusatory and Junkrat returned, “Well I could be one.” His voice pitched in a giggle once again, but it sounded a bit doubtful of itself. Still, the rapport between them seemed to have broken some of the tension and Junkrat added belatedly in a lowered voice, “… she did let me kiss her back, though.”
She heard Roadhog’s distinctive voice, the chains of his weapon jingling as the sound of skin colliding and metal scraping on stone cracked in the air, followed by another high pitched laugh. She could only guess they were roughhousing, but soon enough the noise died down leaving the both of them sounding a little breathless.
“Alright, I s’pose we’d better get moving.”
Her heart froze in her chest and the hand covering her mouth clamped down over her lips. She could not be caught here, not after everything else. She was certain she wouldn’t survive it. A scan of the area for a valid exit left her with no options except scaling a wall, and they were just as likely to see her if she stayed where she was. Not to mention the noise her shoes might make… they weren’t made for stealth. She was beginning to resolve herself to the mortification of stepping into the open when Roadhog’s voice cut through her racing thoughts, followed quickly by that of a very confused Junkrat.
“You sure, mate? I thought it was this way.” The low tone of the large man’s voice suggested a ‘no’ and Junkrat responded with a “well, alright then” before the shuffling footsteps started off in a different direction, one that was very distinctly away.
And suddenly she could breathe again. Her chest felt tight and she allowed herself some time to calm herself as their footsteps faded into the distance. By the time she stepped out into the open and began a brisk walk toward the square she felt grounded once again, save for the fact that her mind was now free and insistent on answering her original question. She shoved the thought away resolutely and pulled her focus back to the mission at hand, not the taste of smoke on her lips, not the way her cheek still burned, and not the soot on the hip of her uniform. She was not going to let it haunt her thoughts, and she was not going to look at him any differently when he rejoined the team. She had decided. Everything would be as it normally was.
But there was no denying one thing: things had not gone to plan. She’d kissed Junkrat, and she’d liked it.