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The golden orbs were shipped directly from Nepal.

 

They are a gift from a distant uncle - allegedly blessed by the the monks of the Shambali monastery. Genji has no opinion one way or another regarding Omnic religion, but the orbs themselves have their appeal. Hanzo stakes no claim on them, so Genji squirrels them away in his room. For the most part, Genji leaves them in their velvet box for decoration, pleasing to his eye.

 

He takes, on occasion, to walking the grounds with one or two in hand. Genji can’t juggle with skill no matter how he tries, so he just sticks to the one.

 

Most of the time.

 

Sometimes though, when he knows Hanzo’s around to look on from afar with that disapproving gaze, he’ll take a couple handfuls out by the koi pond for a little impromptu juggling practice.

 

He’s worse than awful, but Hanzo can’t stand it - says arcade games and carousing about the village is a more useful waste of time - so Genji is sure to do it where he can see. He can almost feel that gaze now, a little tingling sensation at the back of his neck as he strolls over to the pond. He makes sure to appear especially nonchalant, throwing one of the orbs into the air while he walks and catching it with the same hand.

 

He imagines Hanzo bunched and bristling like a cat and it’s enough to put a spring in his step.

 

There’s a little wooden bridge arching over the pond and the planks are warm from the sun when he steps on them with bare feet. There’s movement in the water down below. Koi as long as his forearm have noticed his presence, hurrying to follow his shadow. He’s never fed them himself, but he’s seen the groundskeeper do it. It frightened him as a child, the mess of white and red and gold as they fought for the scraps.

 

But they’re not fighting now and they’ll settle soon enough when they realize Genji wasn’t about feed them. He stops in the middle of the bridge, knowing well that Hanzo can see him perfectly from his rooms like this.

 

He only took three orbs with him but that’s still too much for his current juggling skills, or… lack thereof.

 

In spite of his ineptitude at the task at hand, Genji’s reflexes are unmatched. Well - unmatched outside of the Shimada compound. He has no problem catching the orbs - it’s the entire organized affair of juggling that stumps him. The act requires both precise focus and natural reflexive motion that can't be achieved with too much focus, and honestly, if it didn’t vex Hanzo so, Genji wouldn’t bother with it.

 

He snickers at his own ineptitude, tossing each ball higher and higher if only to amuse himself with diving after them down the other side of the bridge and back onto the path. One leap brings him perilously close to the edge of the pond, barely catching himself on a slab of rock.

 

Always one to flirt with chance, he plants his weight there, inches from the water’s edge, and tosses up the next ball to try again.

 

In a feat that impresses even himself, Genji successfully manages three passes of the orbs with minimal awkwardness. He shifts his weight, his marginal success drawing him away from disaster; ironically, this becomes the hubris that destroys his flow of focus.

 

One orb falls from his hand and lands in the grass mid-toss. The one in the air sails over Genji’s head, and though he reaches for it, his body knows better than to follow beyond the rocks. The orb lands among the lily pads with a deep ploop and a splash.

 

The koi scatter before Genji can utter a curse.

 

He reels for just a second before he regains his balance and really hopes Hanzo has lost interest in watching before this little… mishap.

 

By the time he falls to his knees by the rocks, the koi have already calmed themselves enough to swim back to the lily pads. They seem curious, still holding out hope for something edible, but they keep their distance from the spot where Genji saw the orb vanish.

 

It’s a darker part of the pond, the trees above throwing shadows over the water. Lily pads cover most of the surface, the heavy white blossoms rocking on the disturbed water.

 

Genji kneels at the edge of the pond, trying to peer through the gaps between the green to see the golden gleam of the orb, but all he sees is darkness. He doesn’t see any koi either, but the thought of sticking his hand into the water still makes him shudder.

 

But then again, he can’t just leave the orb at the bottom of the pond. With a little sigh, he rolls up his sleeves.

 

“Are you in need of assistance?”

 

Genji doesn’t know who to thank for the stroke of luck that keeps him from slipping headfirst into the pond. He suppresses the jump and the curse that have long been trained out of his body, though he does freeze in their stead.

 

His eyes scan the immediate area for the source of the noise that sounds to have come from... the pond.

 

“Who asks?” he says.

 

All is still but for sudden movement in his periphery. A large frog crosses several lily pads in his direction, but nothing else out of the ordinary -

 

“I do,” says the frog.

 

Genji squints.

 

“I think,” he says, resting the back of one hand to his forehead, “I have fallen ill.”

 

“That is unfortunate,” the frog tells him, hopping closer still. There’s something about it that seems off, but if Genji is delusional, that’s par for the course. He considers for a moment that he might have dropped one of the weighty orbs on his head and slides his hand to the crown of his head, almost expecting to find some grave injury.

 

“You do not appear unwell,” the frog says and Genji stops mid-motion.

 

“You’re still talking. So I must be.”

 

He doesn’t know if frogs can laugh but then again, until just a few seconds ago he didn’t think they could speak. In any case, the frog makes a noise and takes a sudden leap to one of the lily pads closest to the edge of the pond. It sinks precariously deep into the water under the frog’s weight.

 

Out of the shade, the frog looks even stranger. Instead of the green or brown Genji expected, its skin gleams silvery in the sunlight. Metallic.

 

“You’re not a frog,” Genji says because even stating the obvious is better than just staring at it open-mouthed.

 

“That would be a matter of debate.” It stares back up at Genji, despite its slow but sure descent. “I will find what you have lost,” it says, and before the lily pad can fully sink, it dives into the water.

 

Genji pinches the bridge of his nose and runs through a mental list of all the things he’s eaten in the past 24 hours. Would the plum wine last night have been the easiest for someone to have slipped him a hallucinogen? This morning’s tea?

 

Perhaps moreso than the robotic talking frog itself, Genji is dumbstruck when he sees the golden orb surfacing, inch by inch below the water. Hastily, he grabs at it when it’s near, and though the frog releases it easily, Genji reaches out and plucks it from the water too.

 

He brings it closer for observation, despite the water dripping down his bare arm.

 

“Hello,” it says. Genji blinks. He can’t help the slow, amused grin creeping over his face.

 

“Hello,” he responds with a snicker. “Thank you for retrieving my orb, honorable frog.”

 

“I am happy to be of service,” it responds. It seems comfortable enough to hang docile in Genji’s grip. Genji sits back on his haunches.

 

“I’m talking to a metal frog. This is honestly bizarre,” he confesses. In the center of its forehead are three pinpricks of blue light.

 

“Perhaps not as strange as it might have been were I an organic frog.”

 

At this Genji laughs fully, wiping a hand over his face.

 

Bizarre.”

 

The frog moves its legs, causing drops of water to hit the ground and Genji’s pants. “Would you be so kind as to set me down?”

 

“Oh, of course.” Genji takes a look over his shoulder to make sure no one is watching him and then carefully sets the frog down on the ground in front of him. The frog looks up at him from the rocks.

 

“Thank you.”

 

Genji can’t stop staring, some part of him still not convinced that this isn’t just some strange hallucination. “I’ve never seen anything like you.”

 

The frog looks up at him and pauses for a second. “That is not surprising.”

 

Genji laughs again, the absurdity of the whole thing hitting him anew. “So if you may or may not be a frog, then what are you?”

 

“True self is without form,” it tells him in its tinny little voice. Genji blinks twice.

 

“I don’t know which is stranger - that you’re a talking frog, or a philosopher.“

 

“Hasn’t each blade of grass its own philosophy?”

 

“I will take you at your word, honorable master frog.” Genji taps on his chin, pensive. “I have not seen you here before. Where did you come from?”

 

“From much farther up,” it says, with a trace of humor. Genji supposes it was a stretch to hope for much sense from a frog. Even a robotic one.

 

“I see,” he lies. He taps his chin again and purses his lips. “How long have you lived in our pond?”

 

“A mere fleck upon a canvas where time has been painted with broad strokes.” It folds itself more compactly inward. “Or perhaps a week.”

 

Genji nods. “How do you keep charged, honorable frog?”

 

“I do not,” it responds cheerfully. “My power reserves have nearly been depleted.”

 

“Mm. That won’t do, I think,” Genji says and extends a hand. “I owe you for your generosity. Please, allow me to recharge you.”

 

The frog makes a noise, almost like a quiet hum, and Genji can’t quite decide if it sounds more amused or contemplative. In any case, the frog hops onto his hand. It folds its legs underneath its body so it fits snugly in Genji’s palm.

 

“Thank you,” the frog says and Genji can feel it splay its little toes as he stands up. “I have not asked for your name.”

 

Genji laughs and steps out onto the bridge. “I haven’t asked you for yours either, honorable frog.”

 

“Do you often ask frogs for their names?”

 

“Only the ones I offer to recharge.”

 

There’s the humming sound again and now Genji can feel it softly vibrating in his hand. Definitely, probably amusement. “My name is Zenyatta.”

 

“Genji. Shimada Genji.” He hardly thinks a frog, even a robotic one, would recognize the name. If Zenyatta does, he doesn’t show it, only hums once more.

 

Though they pass Hanzo in the hall, he has nothing but a cool glare for Genji as he passes. It does crack for the briefest moment when the small voice from Genji‘s palm remarks on the austerity of the hall. Genji‘s agreement rings thick with sarcasm, and Hanzo doesn’t follow when he disappears into his room.

 

Genji drops the orbs back into their velvet case and allows Zenyatta a seat on his shoulder as he digs around various drawers for plugs as small as Zenyatta’s port. He‘s accumulated dozens over the years; one of them must fit. Isn't that the law of chance?

 

Zenyatta isn’t particularly helpful, far more interested in looking around the room, his little feet tapping on Genji’s shoulder as he turns around and around.

 

“This is not like the hall,” he remarks after a moment.

 

“I would hope not,” Genji says and pulls another box with cables and adapter from the top of the shelf. A thick flock of dust falls on his head and shoulders like snow and he sneezes, leading Zenyatta to jump a bit as well.

 

“You don’t have much use for these,” Zenyatta observes when Genjis wipes the dust off the top of the box before opening it. The small tinny voice makes it difficult to discern Zenyatta’s tone but Genji feels a grin creeping onto his face anyway.

 

“I don’t usually have to find frog-sized plugs.”

 

Zenyatta hums and Genji is glad when he finally finds a few plugs that looks small enough. He carefully plucks Zenyatta from his shoulder and sets him down on his desk.

 

After a few attempts, he’s surprised to find his search successful. With a triumphant noise, he plugs Zenyatta into the wall.

 

The frog sighs . “Thank you, Genji,” Zenyatta says, and the blue lights on its head glow brighter. Genji leans back. He can’t remember the last time a gadget thanked him for a bit of power.

 

“It’s no trouble.” He grins. “I’m happy to be of service.”




 

 

 

 

After a thorough sanitizing, a buff, and a shine, Genji pops Zenyatta back on his shoulder for a walk into town. He flirts with the auntie at the ramen shop, who treats Zenyatta far more kindly than her paying customer. At the arcade, Zenyatta offers encouraging words for every one of Genji’s games, and endless praise for his victories.

 

They quickly draw a small crowd of children who all want to get a look at the talking frog. There’s a pit of nervousness in Genji’s chest when Zenyatta leaps from his shoulder, but Zenyatta is happy enough to be passed from hand to hand. He has something nice and uplifting to say to each child that engages him and when the last finally hands him back, Genji can’t help but smile.

 

“They think you are a toy,” he says as he lets Zenyatta climb back onto his shoulder.

 

“Surely there are worse things to be?” Zenyatta scoots a little closer to his neck when Genji starts walking as not to slip from his shoulder.

 

Genji thinks on that for a moment. “There are,” he agrees and opens the door of the arcade, stepping out into the street. “But it’s not the truth, is it?”

 

He feels Zenyatta humming against the skin of his neck. “Three things cannot be long hidden, Genji,” he says. "The sun, the moon, and the truth."

 

Genji laughs and runs one hand through his hair. “You are very mysterious for a frog.”

 

“Without mystery, what cause would we have to wonder?”

 

They had lost more time in the arcade than Genji realized - the sun has begun to set, the village warm with early summer heat. He’s going to be late for dinner. Genji sighs and takes Zenyatta from his shoulder.

 

“Forgive me, Zenyatta; I’m going to have to run.”

 

Zenyatta obligingly tucks his compact limbs nearer to his body, and Genji is mindful not to hold him too tightly as he takes off at a sprint.

 

Despite the heat, by the time they arrive at the main house he hasn’t begun to sweat, so Genji slows his sock-slide to a casual stroll as he enters the dining hall. More than Hanzo’s disapproving stare, Genji has rushed to quell his father’s disappointment. The elder Shimada brightens at the sight of him, and beckons him closer.

 

“You are late,” Hanzo notes. Genji salutes him as he drops to his place by their father.

 

“You know how it is,” he says, releasing Zenyatta from the prison of his fingers. Just as he predicted, their father leans closer, curious.

 

“What is this?” he asks, blinking at the sight of Zenyatta. Genji’s smile widens.

 

“I dropped a Tibetan orb in the pond today when I was practicing.” Hanzo scoffs. “Zenyatta helped me retrieve it.”

 

“What a charming mechanism,” his father says, full of wonder. He leans closer.

 

“Good evening,” Zenyatta says.

 

“Nothing but a toy, father,” Hanzo says dismissively.

 

Their father shakes his head. “I’m not convinced. May I?” He holds out his hand to Zenyatta who hesitates only a moment before hopping on it. Genji holds his breath as his father lifts Zenyatta up to his face to get a better look at him. “No, it seems to me this isn’t a toy at all.”

 

Zenyatta inclines his head. “Your son has shown me every kindness.”

 

His father’s eyes flick to Genji and then back to the frog in his hand. “Is that so?” There’s a little smile on his lips.

 

Genji feels warmth spread in his chest despite the glare Hanzo shoots him across the table.

 

Dinner passes and Zenyatta's presence radiates the most pleasant atmosphere Genji's felt in the dining hall in a very long time. He even has some kind words for Hanzo, who ignores him and continues to eat in silence.

 

It isn’t until Genji is on his way back to his room that Hanzo corners him in the hallway, irritation plain on his face. Genji shields Zenyatta with one hand against his chest, more out of instinct than any true fear.

 

“What is this, Genji?” Hanzo asks and steps closer. “Another silly distraction?”

 

Genji tsks and waves him off with his free hand. “Keep your nose to your own business, brother.”

 

“You were absent during an important meeting this morning,” Hanzo tells him. Genji feels the tiniest jolt in his gut - he’d truly forgotten.

 

“My deepest apologies,” he says, and before he goes, bows, “honored older brother.”

 

Hanzo narrows his eyes. “This sarcasm befits your buffoonery.”

 

“Then it suits me,” he says, and winks. “Like all things!”

 

And before Hanzo can retort, he makes his escape down the hall.

 

Zenyatta peers up at him from his chest, but doesn’t comment until they are safely within Genji’s room. “You are at odds with your brother.”

 

“Not too obviously I hope,” Genji laughs, flopping down on his futon. Zenyatta elects not to move from his chest, nor to unfold his limbs.

 

“Only to people with eyes and ears. Or…” Zenyatta cocks his head and pauses. “Other means.”

 

Genji grins. “I’m afraid he does not care for me much at all.”

 

Zenyatta hums, a deep sound that resonates through Genji’s chest. “There is anger in him.” It’s not quite agreement but Genji’s glad he’s not telling him that this is just how his brother shows how much he cares or any of the nonsense he’s had to listen to for years.

 

“Among other things.”

 

They’re silent for a while and Genji starts absentmindedly stroking Zenyatta’s back with one finger. He feels a little silly for it when he becomes aware of it but Zenyatta doesn't protest, so Genji doesn't stop.

 

The weight of the frog is comfortable on his chest and the occasional hum feels quite nice. He can’t remember the last time he’s felt this calm, without the urge to leave the house again right after dinner. Just sitting still has never been his strong suit.

 

“Ah,” he says, tapping on Zenyatta’s back. “Should I charge you overnight?”

 

“That isn’t necessary,” Zenyatta assures him. Genji cranes his neck and pats the pillow beside his head.

 

“I’m going to bathe,” he says, lifting Zenyatta off of his chest and setting him on the pillow. “Make yourself comfortable. My bed is yours.”

 

“You are very gracious, Genji,” Zenyatta tells him.

 

It’s a little pathetic that a machine the size of his palm could say something so simple and make him feel so… Genji waves the thought away.


Still, he leaves the room with a smile and the gentle click of the door.