Chapter 1: the Wind
They were either idiots or assumed she was - she'd spent far too long watching them save the world to be thrown off by a few masks and a new jacket. Angela had known Ana by her walk, hunched under the weight of her rifle even when it was propped up by the door. Jack had given himself away with his world-weary bravado. Her third revelation came when the thing that called itself Reaper shot her in the chest.
She'd loosed off a few bullets his way but the assassin had vanished like a wraith. Every breath burned and in the moment, there wasn't time to do anything but turn her staff's golden beam on herself then, but later, digging shot out of her armor, she'd realized he could have blown off her face.
Not telling the others was beyond stupid, but she had no evidence. Besides, Jack and Ana would have said something if she was right; he was their friend. Their betrayer. She had just been the fresh-faced medic. It wasn't her place.
Angela picked out the shrouded shape again amongst Talon operatives a month later in King's Row. She half hoped the mask would be knocked aside to reveal an unfamiliar face, but he moved like Gabriel; every swoop and shot. How had it taken her this long to see? She almost flew to heal him when Jesse's bullets thudded into his leg. That would have been fun to explain.
They made Talon pay for every step in blood, but still, the truck-sized EMP advanced on the glowing red heart of the omnic industrial quarter. She had had her beam trained on Wilhelm when a sniff of smoke and the clack of reloading shotguns behind her made her dive aside - right off the steel walkway. She grabbed at Gabriel's cloak and felt a hand crush closed around her wrist, but he couldn't stop them tumbling from the walkway. Only her furiously-beating wings saved them, tilting the path of their fall into an old maintenance tunnel instead of the furnace flames. Jack shouted for her above and she heard the patter of Genji's feet, but Gabriel snarled a command up to his new team and the tunnel entrance broke into rubble in a flash and a blast of heat.
Angela scrambled free of the tangle they'd landed in, ears ringing. It was her, Gabriel and the gloom, trapped in the tunnel by the wall of debris. The back of the space was packed with neon-yellow barrels of waste that didn't move when she tried to heave them over. A tacky, dark liquid oozed out around her feet. She wrinkled her nose.
"Enjoy the peace and quiet," Reaper's smug voice sounded like Gabriel's confidence buried under a ton of gravel. His outline began to blur.
"I hope that you got a good look at where you need to land. Or that you are fireproof."
She jutted out her chin at his mask's empty eye sockets and prayed that she was right in guessing that he was planning to teleport out blind. Then again, for all she knew, this Gabriel could see through walls. Would her bullets even hit if he tried to escape the cave-in as a ghost? She had to try. The longer he stayed here with her, the less he could wreak havoc on her unsupported team.
Smoke curled around him and he swooped past her, through the barrels. Her shots were deafening in the small space, but only punched holes in the barrels' plastic shells. For a moment, she despaired, but he reappeared in the growing puddle of industrial ooze and stomped back to the square meter of dry ground beside her.
"Looks like you're trapped in a tunnel with death."
She didn't holster her pistol, "I've beaten death before."
"Proud of that, are you, Dr. Ziegler?"
His bone-white mask swiveled to her and she felt his anger burn. It wasn't fear that welled up inside her, making her look down, it was guilt; an old friend that looked like Genji staining her operating table red and Gabriel's cracked lips warning her not to turn him into a monster. She couldn't look at him.
"Gabriel," the name came out as more breath than word, but he locked up at the sound, "What happened to you?"
"You tell me, Doc. I think it's an improvement."
"I'm stronger, faster," his arm snapped and the muzzle of a shotgun was in her face, "I can steal life and phase through any damage your team can think to put out."
"That's not what I meant," she looked over the gun at the shadows where his eyes should be, "You died on my table. I held your hand. I felt your pulse stop."
She could see the white cross of his grave in her mind, with its too-neat, too-small lettering proclaiming the final resting place of Lieutenant Gabriel M. Reyes, 2015-2065. How many times had she begged forgiveness from an empty coffin?
"It's a recent development," he twirled his shotgun and slammed it home in his holster, "Just call me a miracle of modern medicine."
"And you're wasting it on Talon?"
"I'm not about to bite the hand that feeds me. Besides, Talon has always been better at making the hard choices."
Not even the furnace's heat could stop the chill that sank into her stomach at that, "You make it sound like you were always Talon."
"I haven't always trusted them as much as I should have. Making up for that now."
"But you did so much for Overwatch! The Omnic Crisis, the Dead Eye Gang… if you were working for Talon - "
"Who do you think set Overwatch up?"
She snorted, "Why would Talon create their own enemy? Even if they did, Jack would have found out."
"That you assume he wasn't in on it."
Jack, a part of Talon? She would have laughed if not for the sudden fear that rebirth had driven Gabriel insane. He was enjoying torturing her too. This new, venomous version of Gabriel's familiar stone-faced teasing made her ache with loss. Mad thoughts dashed through her mind of grabbing him, pleading with him - whatever it took to pull Gabriel out of Reaper. Angela shook her head so hard her ponytail whipped against her neck, "I think I would prefer for us to wait in silence."
The chemical stench grew stronger by the minute. She covered her nose and tiptoed around him to stand by the rubble, farthest from the barrels. He stood like a statue as she passed but his façade broke into disgust when the off-color pool swallowed his ankles. They glanced at the ceiling, inches above his head, at the same time. Her eyes watered with the fumes.
"What a great idea it was to shoot up the industrial waste barrels."
"I am not the one who ordered their soldiers to blow up a storage tunnel with us inside."
"Maybe I don't need to breathe anymore."
He gave an irritated sigh, "As if your cowboy would ever abandon his angel."
She rolled her eyes, but the thought did let her breathe easier. They would find her. Gabriel watched her with his head tilted.
"Don't tell me my pathetic protégé still hasn't worked up the guts to tell you?"
Angela shrugged and let her gaze slide away like she always did when questions about her close brush with marriage came up, "We didn't work out."
He must have realized how surreal their conversation had become because the next few moments passed with only the muffled sounds of fighting overhead and the ooze creeping up their calves. Angela perched as high as she could go on the rubble heap and still, she was only eye-level with the assassin. She tried not to think about what hid behind his mask and armor, but scars and savaged skin filled her mind. She busied herself rolling up the cloth that hung down from her waist so it wouldn't get contaminated. Thank God her armor left little skin open.
"What gave me away?" Gabriel asked at last, failing to keep the interest out of his voice.
"You spared me."
"A mistake I won't repeat."
He laughed, and she tried not to show how it jarred her. Gabriel's laugh used to make her smile no matter what he'd said before it, but this one was ground glass.
"You expect me to believe you missed my head at point-blank range?" She asked, "If Overwatch is so bad, why didn't you kill me?"
"Why didn't you let me die?"
Ouch. As much as she'd like to lie, Angela knew she was too much at fault to give him anything but the truth. Thankfully she'd had ten years to dig it out of herself. She sighed the kind of sighs only medical professionals can, though there had been nothing professional about her motivation.
"I couldn't let you go."
Judging from the way his head snapped around, it wasn't the answer he'd been expecting. He seemed to struggle with something for a heartbeat, but it was lost in the rage that radiated off him. Sludge splashed up his thighs as he closed the gap between them a single stride. His outline blurred again and she smelled smoke. Mixed images came to mind: the wreck of their Swiss HQ; toasting marshmallows with her parents when she was young. Would she smell it stronger if he phased right through her? Would she feel him? The clawed fingers of his glove scraped his mask when he took the bottom edge of it but panic shot through her and she grabbed his arm to keep him from removing it.
"Don't you want to see your good work?"
She looked at her knees and dug her fingers harder into his leather armguard. What could she say? That she couldn't bear to see how she'd hurt him? The fear was beyond selfish, but it kept her hand in place.
Gabriel drew in a breath, ready to growl the curses she deserved, but a crumpling, rupturing noise behind them interrupted. A wave of waste hit Gabriel square in the back, crushing him against her into the rubble. She gasped and immediately feared she'd inhale a mouthful of poison goop, but her head banged into the rocky ceiling instead, clearing the tide. She flinched away as the mixture splashed up against her neck and found herself face to face with the yellow and black stripes of an exit sign half-hidden by the debris. The wave of slime retreated in a second, evening out at elbow height. Her eyes teared up with the sting and the back of her head throbbed.
Only when one of Gabriel's clawed hands rose from the muck toward her did she register the other at her waist. Had he lifted her clear on purpose, or tried to shove her out of his way?
"Thank you," she said, just in case.
He snatched his hands back, "The barrels might have fallen enough for me to - just stay here."
"Wait," her hand was still wrapped around his wrist and she used it to tug him closer so he could see what she'd seen, "We only need to shift a few rocks, and we can - "
Smoke stung her eyes and her hand closed on goop as he phased through the rubble and the door. She heard his boots clank down on the other side and grow faint. The waste seeped up her shoulders.
"Gabriel!" Angela slammed her slick fist on the yellow and black sign, afraid for the first time, "If you're going to kill me, shoot me!"
Silence. Her heart raced in her ears. Faces flickered through her mind - Jack, Ana, Wilhelm, Torbjorn, Genji, Fareeha, Winston, Lena, Jesse. She wasn't ready to see her parents again yet. Think, Angela, think. The ooze lapped at her suit's neckline, stinging like poison ivy. Boosting herself with her staff was asking for an electrical fire, and even then, could she lift the rocks herself?
Angela had just slid her thumb over the switch on her staff when a snap of smoke filled her nose.
"No promises," Gabriel growled, suddenly taking up all the space in front of her.
He squeezed past her to wrap his arms around outermost rock and strained.
"Sure," he grunted, "Just enjoy the show."
She rolled her eyes and raised the head of her staff above the waste, crackling with blue.
Only the edge of panic in his voice stayed her hand, "Why not?"
"It - you'd need to calibrate it to my DNA, wouldn't you?"
"It's ready to go."
"You still have me programmed as a friendly?!"
Angela's gaze flitted away. She readjusted the collar of her suit to lessen the slime's sting, "Do you want to discuss it, or do you want to lift the rock?"
"Fine," he ground the word out through gritted teeth.
Gabriel tensed like she'd shocked him when the blue arc leaped across to hit the space between his shoulders. Aside from anything else, his reluctance piqued her medical curiosity. Her staff's beams could give few notable side-effects - supercharging the body had its price - but Gabriel had never displayed any. Come to think of it, she couldn't remember boosting him more than a few times though, since it tended to draw attention that didn't suit his style of attack.
The big rock shifted sure enough, and his breath hitched as she moved the beam to his chest for more direct access to the bloodstream.
"Am I hurting you?"
He let the rock plop into the goop and moved onto the next silently. It followed the first. Angela didn't waste time wriggling through the gap. The clear air was a balm to her neck. She'd expected to see Gabriel tapping his foot on the other side, if at all, but he appeared behind her once she was through and jerked his head for her to lead. She flicked a healing stream onto him automatically, then wondered if she she shouldn't have.
"That doesn't hurt too, does it?"
"Neither hurt," he muttered.
The red glow up ahead grew in intensity until they stood beneath a steaming grate. She hesitated when he motioned for her to climb the ladder first.
"If I was going to kill you, I wouldn't have done the weightlifting."
Angela was two steps from the top when the back of Wilhelm's helmet came into view. Her halo visor, remarkably unscathed, dropped a familiar cyan target over it.
It was pure habit to zoom to him, but she felt herself dragged back to the floor by her wings with cold steel at her temple. Wilhelm whipped around, hammer raised, but Gabriel held her securely in front of him. Of course he'd only come back for her to have a hostage. She was overanalyzing like the infatuated recruit she'd been fifteen years ago. Angela dropped her head. Idiot.
"Stay back, Lancelot." Gabriel's voice was grit in her ear. She didn't feel any hint of breath on her neck - maybe he hadn't been joking earlier. She jabbed an elbow into his leather gut but he barely moved. Ahead, Wilhelm shouted threats and banged on the open manhole at his feet. Genji leapt out in a flash of green, and she heard the clank of the rest of her team's footstep beneath them. So they had been searching for her.
"I'm fine," she promised, "Where's the EMP?"
"In pieces," Genji said with anger coloring his robotic tone, "Like this Reaper soon will be."
"He saved - "
A yank on her wings jerked her head back so that her teeth clacked shut. This time she jabbed him with her staff. The grunt next to her ear was a satisfying response.
"Here's how this will go," Gabriel growled, "I'm going to leave -"
"Like hell you - " Jesse's head bobbed out of the manhole only to duck with a loud curse when shot peppered the air above it, and most of his hat.
"I'm going to leave, and if I hear any dainty little footsteps behind me or feel so much as a pinprick, I'm going to teleport back just enough to make sure our angelic friend never flies again. All you have to do is count to ten."
Angela held her hand up slowly with a warning in her eyes to her team. Wilhelm's hammer creaked in his grip but he nodded and Genji sheathed his sword. Jesse's curses floated up through the manhole until Jack's voice cut in telling him to stow it.
"Next time, I'll finish the job."
That was said low, just for her, and then he was gone in the now-familiar wash of smoke.
Her team didn't wait until ten to rush in.
"Are you hurt, Dr. Ziegler?"
"I'm fine, Genji. Really."
"I am happy you did not burn!" Wilhelm stopped just short of sweeping her into a hug, "McCree, give her your cape, she is covered in this - this -"
"Toxic waste of some kind, I believe. He trapped me in a tunnel full of it."
"It ain't a cape," Jesse's relief was palpable as he strode up, but the corners of his mouth were turned into a sad frown. She didn't get it until she looked down at the shredded hat in his hands. She shook her head when he reached for the knot of his serape.
"I would not want to ruin your entire costume."
"Good to see you're well enough to make fun of me."
She smiled a tired smile, "My armor has kept the worst of the waste out, but I would love a shower."
Wilhelm sent her staggering with a clap on the back before hauling the EMP's core onto his shoulders and leading the way back to the ship. Angela let them go on ahead at a glance from Jack.
"What did he say to you?" the old soldier asked.
She looked up sharply but couldn't read anything past his visor. Her throat felt dry.
"Almost entirely threats and ego."
It wasn't a lie, but it was hardly the truth. Jack's gaze remained impenetrable as he nodded, and she let herself drift up ahead to walk with Genji and Jesse. She cheered and gasped appropriately through the story of their triumphant final push, but she was running on autopilot. The smell of smoke lingered on her skin.
Chapter 2: the Sun
Angela laughed when Jesse tried to lean on the air next to her doorway.
"Sure you don't want to go another round against the kids?" His grin was as sloppy as his balance and his cheeks held that endearing, ruddy tinge, "Not like you need your beauty sleep."
Once she would have happily drowned the sensible little voice in her head with cheap drinks to spend more time with Overwatch's resident cowboy. Tonight, she just told him they'd die of alcohol poisoning before they beat Hana and Lucio in the arcade. Her hand shot to steady his elbow as he swayed.
"Are you certain you don't need me to wake you up tomorrow?"
"Nah, Lena won't take off without me."
"Sleep well, Jesse."
He reached to tip his hat and let out a soul-weary sigh when his hand hit hair instead. Gabriel had torn it up pretty well. Angela closed the door with a laugh as he ambled down the corridor grumbling about shadows and shotguns. Tiredness washed through the hazy feeling she'd earned at the bar. He was wrong about her needing that sleep.
A heavy hand clamped around her mouth and pulled her back against a hard body. Points of cold pain at the end of the fingers pricked her cheek. Mercy stamped on a boot and groped behind for eyes to poke. Her nails scratched over a pointed mask and she yanked her hand back. The pinpricks on her cheek made sense now.
"Get your claws off me," she said into his leather palm.
"Are you going to scream?"
Angela twisted just enough to glare at the white mask leaning down beside her face. Gabriel shoved her toward her bed with the muzzle of one gun, then levelled it at her as he crossed to listen by the door. His suit was scorched and dirty, and his tattered cloak draped awkwardly over his left side.
"How long do you think it will take Jesse to sober up when he hears a shotgun blast in my room?"
He chuckled, "He couldn’t save the hat?"
"Maybe you should be in his room."
Gabriel's head swung back to her, "He can't heal me."
He hesitated, then brushed his cloak off in a quick jerk. Angela ran a critical eye over the way he held his left arm apart from the rest of body. Whether it was broken or dislocated was impossible to tell through the armor but it explained why he hadn't pinned her more effectively.
She could dive for the window, or throw her industrial-grade alarm clock at him, or even just scream. He wouldn't shoot her point-blank. From the tension in his shoulders, he knew it too, but that was half the reason she didn't. The other half was that no matter what agent or soldier or politician she had become, Angela Ziegler was a doctor first.
Gabriel jammed his gun back into its holster and perched on the edge of the bed beside her like a statue.
"This whole… thing needs to come off."
Stony fingers released hidden clasps at his neck and back and the hood dropped to her sheets. He had hair now, short and ruffled. Looking at that kept her eyes off the burns that crawled up his neck in a patchy line. His arm guards came off like two halves of a shell, revealing an inkblot bruise covering most of his shoulder, and she noted dark red smudges along the armor of his abdomen too. Her eyes flickered back to the place where his scarred face disappeared behind his mask, grateful, yet disappointed that he'd kept it on.
"See something you like?" He made it sound like a sneer.
"We'll get that shoulder realigned first," she relaxed into her doctor voice, glad to do something she didn't have to think about, "Then see about the rest."
Angela made a noncommittal humming noise as she felt out the damage at the top of his arm. She hadn't expected him to be warm, let alone feverishly hot. His neck muscles tensed and she almost asked if that hurt before remembering how he'd handled those types of questions in the tunnel. She nodded to herself and started to rise but he grabbed her arm, then hissed with pain.
"I'm getting anesthetic," she said coolly.
Gabriel shook his head. She rolled her eyes and sat back down, "As you wish. I'm going to count to three, and each time I count, I will move your arm. This will work better if your muscles are relaxed."
She was interested to see him take a breath. His shoulders loosened a fraction. She took his arm with firm, gentle hands, one in the crease of his elbow, one turning his hand palm up.
Gabriel swallowed as she lowered his forearm to lie in her lap. The irregular bump in his shoulder didn't sink down.
She swung his hand out to the side, keeping his elbow tucked in so his arm made an L at his side. A sheen of sweat broke out on his neck.
"You're doing wonderfully," Angela soothed, lifting a hand to his shoulder where she rubbed small circles into the joint to loosen the muscles. He twitched under her hands, "Three," the joint clicked back into place as she pressed his elbow closer to his torso and the doctor leaned back with a sigh, "Perfect."
Gabriel muttered something sulky and gave his arm an experimental shake.
"I have a brace for that shoulder in my cupboard; you mustn't stress it for the next fortnight. We'll rinse those cuts and get some iodine on them too."
"I have what I came for."
"You are not leaving this room without a brace."
"Can't you just use your staff?"
"My staff uses a mixture of adrenaline and rapid tissue recovery steroids; hardly appropriate for long-term healing."
"I don't need anything long-term from you. If I could still go to hospitals, I wouldn't be wasting time talking to…"
Gabriel tilled. His demeanor shifted and he scanned the room like an owl, outline blurring.
"I’m not stalling you," she interrupted testily, "I am healing you. I have no particular wish to explain to the others why I am helping you either."
"Right," he tilted his head, soaking in her discomfort, "Now that they know who I am, two close calls looks suspicious."
Angela stood up, but not fast enough. He laughed his broken-glass laugh in full now, incredulous.
"You didn't tell them?"
"Will you sit still, or should I correct that mistake right now?"
The assassin's awe melted into a sulk, "Get the brace."
The brace wasn't the only thing in her cupboard. There were scalpels, needles, sleeping gas masks, and on the shelf below, her old pistol and reserve ammo. Angela felt his eyes on her back. He was as weak as she'd seen him since he'd lain on her operating table ten years ago, and she was only a little tipsy. She had a fighting chance. He was a killer. Her hand drifted to the bottom shelf.
"Did you ask Morrison about Talon?" He asked.
"No, I did not ask my commander if he was a terrorist organization’s sleeper agent."
"Overwatch rebelled against Talon like a stupid kid," he said, as if he was talking about the weather, "Only we didn't know how to clean up the messes on our own."
"Just because we didn't eliminate everyone at the first sign of dissent does not mean we were ineffective."
The tips of her fingers brushed the pistol's handle while she stretched up on tiptoe to reach the wipes down with her other. She could probably put a bullet in his leg at least. He wouldn't expect it. Gabriel's gaze jumped up to her face guiltily when she swung around, then fell to the medical materials in her hands with an irritated sigh.
"We had a deal."
He crossed his arms, only to rub his hurt shoulder. She was glad she hadn't taken the pistol.
"I don't make deals with patients," she said, gesturing for him to lose the chestplate, "Did you forget who you came to?"
Angela busied herself separating cotton swabs for the iodine so she didn't have to unpack whatever that meant. She didn't even bother demanding they rinse his wounds first - doubtless, he would feel too exposed with both hands in the sink - but she could do her best to prevent infection. Could he even get an infection? He must - why else linger?
She turned to him with the bottle and froze. The mask was still there, but without the layers of black underarmor, the surgical Y incision down his chest stood out, pale and accusing. He hadn’t aged any more than she had. It felt only yesterday that she been readying her scalpel over his unconscious form, trying to calm her breath. Angela’s face tightened as she rolled the bottle in her hand to remind herself it wasn’t a blade.
Gabriel grabbed his shirt, "Forget it."
Guilt crushed her. Angela pulled the shirt from his hands, grateful that he let her, and threw herself into cleaning a weeping plasma burn that had eaten through his suit. The muscles in his neck stood out again.
"Why would Talon create Overwatch?" She asked, casting about for anything to lessen the weight of the air in her room.
He shrugged, "Ego? International expansion? Maybe they just wanted to be the heroes for once."
"And what could they offer you that we couldn’t?"
"Aside from keeping me more or less alive - competency. Look at the mess we made with the Shimadas - not to mention the Outback. Talon never fucked up on that scale."
She had no answer to that. There was a raggedness to his voice that told her he felt the weight of each of Overwatch’s mistakes as if they were all his own. For the first time, the man under her hands felt real. Maybe it was seeing that he still bled, or the way he clenched his fists when she pressed iodine into the wound. She wanted to fix more than a couple plasma burns.
"Gabriel, we saved the world. You helped save the world. Of course we weren’t perfect - we were young and naïve and utterly without precedent, but we ended the Omnic Crisis."
"Tell that to Russia."
"You cannot save everyone. You will ruin yourself."
He didn't have to say anything for her to see his old face raise an eyebrow in her mind’s eye. Hypocritical much, doc? She moved behind him to take a look at the damage and was pleased that he didn't whip around suspiciously, though his back tensed.
"I've learned from what I did to you and Genji," it came out more forcefully than intended, "I don't play God anymore."
"Maybe you just haven't lost any more tools as good as us."
"Tools?" Her hands stilled on his shoulder blade but he ignored it and spoke to the cupboard.
"You didn't go all Frankenstein with Jack, or Ana, or Liao. I’ve always wondered how you decided who got to keep their dignity and who got sliced up and stitched into a weapon. We both know Overwatch needed the Shimada kid to ruin his brother, but I never did understand what you were planning for me."
"Use ? Gabriel, I told you in the tunnel - "
"Don't," he twisted to face her now, inches away, and she felt hate radiate off him like heat. She hated her heart for speeding up - as if she was still one year out of med school and pining. He bore down closer and one too-warm hand slid up to squeeze her wrist until she dropped the cotton swab, "At least Talon was honest about the terms of my resurrection when they finished your work. You would have paraded about as my saviour while you built Overwatch my leash." His grip hurt now and she bit down on her lip to keep from squirming, "If you wanted a pet -"
"Hey Ange," Jesse's voice and sloppy knocks had Gabriel leaping back, raising his shotgun to her face in an instant, "D'you pick up my serape? Can't find the damn thing…"
"This fucking ingrate. Out of all my regrets - " Gabriel sucked in a breath and gestured for her to answer, "One wrong word, and I'll shoot him. Make my day."
Angela didn't think he had it in him but she wasn't willing to bet with the cowboy's life. She wiped the blood on her leggings and half opened the door.
"Hana won it from you. I'm sure she will return it once she’s had her fun."
Silver glinted in the corner of her eye on the inner side of the door and she raised a hand to push Gabriel's gun aside, tired of having it in her face, but her hand ended up on his wrist again instead.
"Did she now? Think she's still at the bar? I forgot which room was - "
"Go to bed, Jesse. Doctor's orders."
He grinned and stepped forward. Gabriel tensed under her palm. Angela pushed Jesse back with two fingers on his chest, “ Your bed."
The cowboy laughed and went to tip his hat again but came away empty with a scowl.
"She win my hat too?"
"Ga - the Reaper shot it, remember?"
Storm clouds came down over Jesse's face as he backed out into the hallway again, "Fucking Halloween-freak chickenshit. I'm gonna get him for that. And for you. Puttin' goop all over you. Asshole."
Angela struggled to turn her laughter into a cough and risked a glance at Gabriel, "Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of him. You may get your opportunity."
She let out a little sigh as she latched the door, and turned, only to be shoved up against the door with Gabriel’s good arm across her chest.
"Sounds to me like you'd like to encounter this ‘Reaper’ again."
She drew in a tight breath, "You did not used to be a brute, Gabriel."
"Funny how death changes you. Helps you see clearer too."
He was close enough to hear her rabbit-beating heart. The door’s latch bit into her lower back as she strained away from him, but he only crowded in more. Angela glared at the shadows where his eyes should be.
"And what do you see?"
"That you're just as bad as the rest of us."
She looked away with a hollow laugh, "That may be generous."
Gabriel was silent. Had he expected her to protest? In her attempts to stop him flat-lining on her after HQ burned, she'd pumped him full of nanobots that recycled energy generated at the point of death. He'd gasped out his final breath twelve times on that table before she lost him. A little less came back each time. And that was after her promise not to turn him into a monster.
Pressure on the toxic waste burn that ringed her neck made her swallow a hiss of pain. His thumb tilted her chin up, free of the clawed gloves now. She had grown accustomed to being chilled - a side-effect of her longevity pills - but the touch still felt too warm. Angela pressed her eyelids shut to steady her breath. How many times had she imagined something like this? Only she’s never thought she wouldn’t be able to look him in the eye. She hadn’t pictured a mask between them either. If only he would vanish already so she could stop focusing on the weight of his fingers curled around the back of her neck.
Pain and surprise made her gasp when lips pressed against the burn on her neck. She clenched her hands. He was mocking her, testing her, torturing her - confirming her old fear that he knew how hopelessly she stared after the commander of Blackwatch. Embarrassment washed through her but it wasn’t enough to quench the heat rolling up from her stomach. Her cheeks burned even as one traitorous hand slipped up his chest. Idiot, idiot. He grinned against the pulse-point under her jaw and her eyes flew open with the realization that he'd removed his mask. Teeth nipped the thin skin there, sending a bolt through her but she pushed him back.
"I don't want this."
"You've always wanted this."
He laughed at her blush, but there was a bitter edge to it that she didn't want to hear. She trained her gaze on the closet, terrified of catching a glimpse of a face that wasn’t Gabriel at all.
"Not like this."
His fingers bit into her waist, "This is all that's left. You made sure of that."
"That's not what I meant."
"Then why won’t you look at me?"
"Gabriel, please - "
She bit her lip as he pushed back like it was her touch that burned.
"You're right. You are worse."
Angela stayed locked into place as the clicks and snaps of armor being fastened filled the room. He cursed and fumbled with his bad arm, and she knew she should offer help, but she couldn't take his scathing voice again. Only when a whiff of smoke filled the room did she look. He wore the mask again, facing her, and hesitated.
"Be sick for the next mission. You can't beat Talon."
He was gone before she could open her mouth.
Chapter 3: the Rain
Angela almost wished she'd taken Gabriel's advice. She tried not think about how he'd known their next mission would be infiltrating Talon's base, hidden in the ruins of the Outback’s nuclear core - how it meant one of her friends at Overwatch was not a friend. Luckily, the Talon operatives pinning her and Jesse in place in an empty hangar provided distraction enough.
She grabbed a handful of Jesse's serape - recovered intact from Hana - to yank him back under cover.
"I was lining up a shot!"
"And walking like a snail. Just because I'm healing you doesn't make you invincible."
He grinned as he spun the chamber on his six-shooter, "You sure make a man feel invincible."
She rolled her eyes and pulled out her pistol. His grin grew.
"I'll cover you across the hallway, then fly to you. Alright?"
"See you on the other side, sweetheart."
The cowboy dove through the metal hatch while she fired a string of shots down the hall. His roll took him through the door on the other side and he leaned out to toss a flashbang before beckoning for her. Angela locked onto his DNA signature and kicked off the ground only to hear a bullet hit the hatch's control panel beside her. The hatch slammed shut in her face and a second bullet slammed into her calf. She crumpled against the transparent hatch panel.
"No!" Jesse shouted through their short-range comms. A hail of bullets pinged down the corridor between them, "Hold on, Ange, I’m gonna get you out."
Her hand was steady despite the hissing breaths she took to calm the pain as she swept her pistol around the hangar. Another shot knocked the pistol clean out of her hand and she yelped, scrambling behind a crate. The sniper was toying with her.
"I see you, do you see me?" The smooth, accented voice that floated down froze Angela with her finger on the heal switch of her staff.
" Amelie ?"
"How many are in there with you?" Jesse demanded in her ear.
"Sniper," she gasped, "One? Maybe more. Jesse, I think it's Amelie."
"What ? "
"I have another name now," the sniper called down with a smile in her voice, "Why not come out for a little tête-à-tête , Angela? You must invite Jesse too, naturellement."
Jesse swore in her ear. Angela activated the heal stream on her own leg and took a step backward, only to hear a soft click beneath her heel. Purple fog filled the air. Her throat constricted and she choked out Jesse's name. A flurry of furious gunshots peppered the corridor behind her but the hatch stayed shut. After a split second's hesitation, she threw herself away from the trap and swept up her pistol; rather a sniper round to the forehead that a slow death throwing up her lungs. However, the noise that echoed off the high ceilings was not the clean pop of a sniper rifle, but a messy spray. Arms hooked under hers, pulling her further from the poisonous cloud, and she almost thanked Jesse until the arms vanished into smoke.
"Gabriel?" she rasped.
"Reyes too?!” Jesse was breathing hard through the comms, “Fuck it, I gotta get something to pry this hatch open. You just buy me a couple seconds, ok?"
“I can do that.”
Her vision blurred from pain but she heaved herself upright with the corner of a crate and cast about for where Gabriel had teleported to. Motion on a catwalk above drew her eye in time to see a slender figure in a purple tumble a few feet to a stack of crates below. She didn't get up. On the catwalk, Gabriel's peered around a metal support column. He didn't see the second black-helmeted figure raising a handgun behind him.
There wasn't time to think.
Angela's suit crackled and her comms fried when she turned the blue boosting beam on herself but it dragged her toward Gabriel faster than she'd ever flown before. She took the shot as she dropped out of the air to the catwalk, and it hit; it hit the base of the second operative’s skull, point-blank. This one didn't catch the stack of crates when they fell. Something warm had sprayed up her face and her fingertips came back red when she put a hand to her cheek. Angela had gotten liters of her patients' blood on her over her career but she'd never worried about it washing off before. Gabriel was watching her like a wild animal.
"Did you kill her?" Angela's voice was as steady as Zenyatta's. She ran a doctor's eye over Amelie's limp form and saw no fatal injuries.
"Of course I didn’t kill her, didn’t you recognise - "
An arc of sparks shot out the place where Angela's wings connected to the back of her suit, bringing her to her knees with a cry. Her body didn’t obey her command to wriggle free. Maybe this was right. Maybe this was the price for putting a bullet in the back of someone's head.
Gabriel didn't agree. He ripped her wings off with a grunt and hauled her up, swearing at the sight of her half-healed leg. She tried to push him away.
"I didn’t get rid of Widow so I could hurt you."
She barely heard him, "I killed them in cold blood, Gabriel. From behind. No warning."
"It was efficient."
"I'm not supposed to be efficient ! I'm supposed to be Mercy."
"Yeah, well you saved my life. Again." He looped one of her arms over his shoulders and glanced down at the door that buckled inward under whatever Jesse was doing to it, "Which is probably more mercy than I deserve. You can make confession to your cowboy."
"Don't disappear again."
Gabriel hesitated, then shook his head with a snap, "I don’t have time for this. Widow isn’t going to keep my little intervention quiet, which means I’ve got until she wakes up to steal as many meds as I can and get out. You’re a big girl; you can take care - "
"Talon are lying to you," she grabbed his arm, digging her fingers into the seams, "The modifications I made to you were designed to be self-sufficient. No more Genjis; no-one holding a leash. Let me show you."
The assassin stilled, "What about Overwatch?"
She glanced down at the hatch and found herself glad Jesse hadn’t broken through yet, "I'm not a healer anymore."
He muttered something she missed, then growled out a sigh as another bang on the hatch rang through the room, "McCree isn't going to give up."
She dropped to the fizzling pile of parts that had been her wings and dragged a finger through the soot to spell out OK . The body on the floor below caught her eye as she stood, freezing her in place until Gabriel's hand closed around her arm like a vice.
"Will you heal yourself already?"
"I can do it while we move."
Her new companion glanced over his shoulder every thirty seconds as he led her through metal corridors built into red-dirt caves. On one of the many times she huddled in a corner while he teleported ahead to check the coast was clear, or make it clear, she heard soft bellowing sounds above. It took her a minute to realize she was listening to cattle on one of omnic-tended farms that had crept back into the Outback’s wasteland in recent years. Angela smiled for the first time in hours.
"Have to find another route," Gabriel growled, rematerializing in front of her.
Sunlight streamed through the hatch doors across the storage hall he'd come from and she recognized the area as one her team had cleared on the way in. She turned narrowed eyes on him.
"Because I know this base, and I know it's not safe there."
"I said I would help you and I will, but if our payload is in there, I am pushing it. I know you hate Talon as much as we do for what they did to Amelie; you don’t have to protect them anymore.”
He still blocked the doorway. Her hand fell to her pistol out of habit.
"You going to shoot me too?"
She blanched and all but threw it down but Gabriel curled her fingers around the grip with his own, "Forget I said that. Just… I'm telling you, you don't want to go out there today."
"If I am able to help, I have to."
He swore and let her nudge him aside. Mercy leapt down to the payload and whisked off the tarp over it. Her brow creased in confusion. She glanced up to the ceiling of the cave where she could still hear the muted farm noises. A cowbell clanged in the distance.
"This is the EMP we stopped you delivering at King's Row," she pushed a button and the console lit up, displaying a timer that ran down from half an hour, "Genji said it was broken."
"Did he see it break? Did you?” Gabriel scoffed as he landed beside her, “Talon knew they'd never get it here themselves. Why not have Overwatch do the heavy lifting?"
"But the new omnic farms - they're right over the Talon base, in range. If we set this off..."
"I don’t have time to waste here," Gabriel said, making no move to leave.
Angela didn't budge.
"You can piece it together and see how right I was later when you're not all shook up,” he gave her arm a sharp yank, “We need to go ."
"I'm perfectly able to piece it together now, thank you," her tone made him drop his hand. A good thing too, since he needed it to shield his face when she jammed her staff into the payload’s control panel and supercharged it until it vomitted sparks. Before he could move she had pulled her pistol and plugged a round into the first tire, "Enjoying the show?"
She wished she could see his expression. Heavy-booted footsteps echoed along the metal catwalk as he sprayed shot into the other tires but they had already fled.
Chapter 4: we can be like they are
"The EMP hasn't gone off yet. That's a good sign, isn't it?"
Dusk had fallen by the time they emerged into the wide open Outback. Sneaking through the pastures had been much easier, and now they sat in a shallow cave in the side of a stack of red-brown rocks that overlooked the burgeoning farmland. Angela shivered as an errant breeze tickled the bare skin at her back where the fire in her wings had scorched through her suit and threw a handful of dried leaves onto their careful fire. Gabriel shrugged at her question.
"Do you honestly not care?"
"I didn't get you out of there to debate ethics."
"I don't believe everyone in Overwatch is corrupt,” she pressed on, mouth set, “Genji would be killing himself pushing that payload, and Wilhelm and Jesse are good men. The new recruits too - they want to be heroes, not murderers."
"I know," she looked at him, feeling as sick as she did certain, "I would do it again though."
"I'm sure the omnics thank you. At least you're not as blind as you were ten years - "
"I'm talking about that agent in the hangar. I would do it again if they were going to kill you."
His silence lasted a couple heartbeats before he pulled off his arm guard and stuck out a track-marked forearm, "If you're so interested in saving me, tell me how to get by without the meds."
"And then you disappear?"
"And then I disappear."
Angela took his pulse with light fingers, thinking back to the tests she’d run on the bloodied cotton swabs he'd left in her room.
"Your 'meds' are a virus that weakens you periodically. When you come back, they cure it and restart it. There's nothing wrong with you, Gabriel."
He laughed at that, and tapped his mask pointedly, sending a wave of guilt through her. At least he wasn't furious.
"I hope you have a plan for curing the virus my last 'meds' injected?"
"I believe it is controlled by a corruption of my nanobots. I can boost the site of the infection to draw them out, then heal you entirely."
There was no laughter in the set of his shoulders now, "Can't you go straight to healing?"
"Will you explain your objection to being boosted?"
Gabriel's sigh turned into a growl and turned his head away even as he raised his arm. His fist clenched when she sent the beam of blue into the injection site at the crease of his elbow, steadying his arm with her other hand. His pulse sped beneath her fingers and when she pressed down in the crease of his elbow, his breathing strained. She tilted her head, considering removing his hood so she could better gauge what was going on.
"You will tell me if it hurts, won't you?"
"Doesn't hurt," he grunted, "Just feels… I don't know, more. "
Angela focused back on his arm at once, feeling her cheeks heat up. She was reading too much into that again, surely. His skin heated up under the pads of her fingers, dampening like a fever. It was working.
"I'd almost forgotten how it felt to have you fly to me," he tapped his heart with two clawed fingers.
"Yes, I'm told there is a certain - flutter? - when I lock on."
He nodded and she saw the fingers of his free hand dig into his knee, "Why didn't you delete my DNA profile?"
"Profiles don't take up much space," she shrugged, watching his arm instead of his face, "It seemed unnecessary."
"Even when you realized I was a Talon operative?"
"It's a good thing I did, or you wouldn't have been able to move those rocks."
"That's not what I asked," he caught her hand in his and her breath stuck in her throat.
"What do you want me to say, Gabriel? You made it very clear in my room that you've always known - "
A hundred pinpoints of light under his skin around her fingers glow soft red. She upped the charge a final time, leaning in with anticipation, and he choked back a sound that made her cheeks warm. She tucked her hair behind her ear so it didn’t brush his arm and wondered if he’d forgotten he was still holding her hand.
"Could your response be linked to your death?” She murmured out loud, “If it had no effect before - "
He shook his head, two quick motions from side to side.
That explained why she couldn’t remember boosting him much before. She tried not to think of the noise he’d almost let slip.
"Switching to healing beam."
The man let out a sigh of relief that made her stifle a laugh. The whole situation was surreal.
Minutes ticked by in the soft yellow glow and she felt the heat under his skin recede until it was a pleasant warmth under her cool hands. If the EMP hadn't gone off by now, the omnic farms were safe. For now. Gabriel flexed his hand when she finally clicked the yellow beam off and proclaimed him cured. He seemed to be struggling with something so she stood to stretch her legs and give him space.
"Thanks, Angela." he muttered at last.
He sounded like Gabriel.
She took a deep breath, staring at the tiny lights that lined the farmhouse below, then knelt beside him, ignoring how he leaned back. He was Gabriel, not something she need to pull Gabriel out of. He had been right in front of her in the tunnel as much as he was now. He flinched when she pushed his hood back and reached for his mask but his breath was still uneven. Hers was too.
"Maybe it is better if you just remember the old me."
"But then what about you ?"
He was looking at the ground when she pushed the owl-skull mask up into his hair, but his eyes were the same honey-brown. One was misshapen by a heavy scar running up his cheek and the other side of his face was patched and ridged with burns. One twisted the side of his mouth down even further than his frown. She bit her lip as she traced a pale, hairline scar down the edge of his jaw - that one, she remembered making. He shifted, jaw clenched, but when he glared at her, his pupils were wide and dark.
"Had a good look?"
She pressed her lips to the scar and felt him lock up beneath her. His face was full of distrust when he turned to her, but it was the sliver of hope hidden among all that that made her close her eyes and lean in again. This time his mouth met hers with a vengeance. In a second, her back hit the rocky cave wall. He pushed up against her so hard the ammo cartridges slung along his belt dug into her hips. She gasped against his mouth and he took the opportunity to push in harder still. Her heart sped and her mind buzzed at the lack of air - did he really not need to breathe?
Gabriel pulled back and laughed at the dazed look on her face. His hands slid up her thighs to grip her hips and she felt her core constrict.
“I shouldn’t,” she swallowed at how his eyes darkened, “Shouldn’t take advantage of you. The boosting’s effect - “
He ground his hips into hers and her words melted into a stifled moan to feel him hard through the fabric of her leggings.
“Does this feel like taking advantage?”
Angela shook her head, teeth digging into her bottom lip again to keep the sounds in. He ripped off a glove with his teeth and dragged her lip free so that her shaky breaths filled the cave.
“You always were mine, weren’t you?” he pushed a leg between her thighs and laughed when she pitched into him.
The thought of him watching her right back all those years ago made her thighs clench around him. His eyes closed for a second.
Gabriel laughed one more, and the sound vibrated through her as he caught the thin skin of her throat below the fading burn between his teeth. She pushed up into his mouth while one hand slipped up through the short hairs on the back of his neck, making him bite down. Her other hand traced down the planes of his chest to snap open his belt. She wanted his skin under her hands, wanted it to warm her like his mouth was, but his hand closed around her wrist and pinned it above her head. Her eyes flew open.
Angela’s free fingers slipped up to hook her leggings down so fast he didn’t realize they were gone until she was pushing his hand down. He choked back a groan at the heat between her legs.
“You have wanted this, haven’t you?”
He hauled her higher up the wall so that she hitched a leg around his waist. She grabbed his arm to steady herself.
“ Haven’t you?”
“Yes,” she gasped.
“To think I wasted all that time trying to be responsible,” his voice in her ear sent shudders rolling through her that made his grip around her wrist tighten, “When I could have been fucking you.”
The heat pooling in her stomach flushed through her face and chest, making her regular chill no more than a memory. She hooked her other leg around him to crush them together and rolled her hips at the same time. He exhaled sharply. His hand slipped down between them and a relieved grin spread across her face at the zipper sound that filled the shallow cave. She hoped they were tucked away enough that their silhouettes weren’t providing any wandering omnics a show.
His fingers slid into her, stripping all thought from her mind. They were good, and she pressed her lips to his to let him know, but they weren’t what she really wanted. The hand not pinned above her head scratched down his chest to grip the base of his cock, hot as a brand. She could practically feel the blood rushing through it. His fingers picked up in response, crooking forward in a way that made her ruin the kiss with a series of little gasps until she was ready. They were slick when he pulled her hand up from his cock to join the one held high against the wall. She bucked forward with a whimper at the sudden emptiness.
“Ssh,” his shining index finger moved to her lips and she took it in without thinking, making him choke on his words for a second as he hesitated, “Before. In your room. You said not like this ...“
The second his grip loosened, Angela arched her hips forward, dragging her slit up his length.
“This is good.”
His control snapped when she started to circle her hips. The fingers jumped to lock back around her hip, yanking her forward at the same time he drove into her. Her cry bounced off the cave walls. He buried his face in the crook of her neck and she felt his groan all the way to her toes when he drew out and plunged back in slowly, pushing her higher up the wall. A string of German that would have made Wilhelm blush spilled from her lips. The rocks scraped the bare skin of her back with every thrust but the pain made it all sharper. He said something too, muffled by her collarbones, and it took her a good minute of battling the way her mind shattered a little bit every time they crashed together to realize it was her name.
Affection flooded her; a different, liquid kind of heat and she twisted her hands out of his hold. They moved to his chest, his neck, his jaw, urging him up to meet her gaze. There was a question under the heat in his eyes that she wanted to answer, but couldn’t understand. She pulled him up to her with a hand at the back of his head and kissed him like it was ten years ago and they hadn’t ruined anything.
The angle tilted him inside her, hitting a spot that sent her gasping into bliss and all it took was the clench of her orgasm around him to bring him tumbling after her.
Angela was sore and full and wanted nothing more than to tuck herself against his side and close her eyes, but Gabriel didn’t look at her as he refastened his belt. A chill washed through her when he glanced out of the cave for a little too long, leaving her feeling sticky and used.
“And now you disappear.”
He reached for his mask. Cold fury gripped her as she snapped her leggings back up.
“I’ll find you. Even if you get yourself killed again, I’ll bring you back.”
“You belong with Overwatch.”
“Like you belong with Talon?”
“I learn from my mistakes,” he spun around with a snarl, clutching his mask too tight, “But you’re still ready to play God, even seeing what’s left of me? Or is that what turns you on?”
The sting of his words was negated by the desperation that rolled off him in waves. She’d felt it in the kiss and heard it in his voice but she still didn’t know how to fix him.
“Tell me you’re ready to die, and I’ll never touch you again. I swear it.”
He raised the mask to his face, then put it down and tugged his hood up instead. She reached for him, afraid that he could find a way to vanish despite her claim, but he stopped in front of her just long enough to thread their fingers together. He was still so warm. Her grip tightened.
Smoke curled through the air when he disappeared. It smelled like trying to hold onto a match for too long.