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The Armourer and the Living Weapon, Chapter 17: morning, midday, afternoon, night

I have changed the tags on AO3.

Previously, this story had the "hurt no comfort" tag attached, but that was always a bit of a caution, because I didn't want anyone going in without warnings that this is in many ways not a happy story. But having written the ending, and the coda, I have been told: while it is not a happy story, there is too much comfort - important comfort - in amongst the hurt, and so, I have removed the tag.

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]


Oilliphéist rolled over in her bed, alone. She could sleep, if she really pushed herself into it, and it would be adequate sleep - but that's all it would be, and she wanted better.

She missed Widowmaker's presence. She missed her counterpart, her companion, her other self, and having been apart for so long, to have to split time like this... she didn't like it.

She wasn't even mad at Tracer. Who wouldn't want to be next to her? How could anyone not want that? Lena just had the good sense to go for it, that's all. Emily smiled a little as she thought about that, and rolled over again.

She's already become everything I'd hoped she'd be, the assassin mused, the boat dual a few nights before flashing across her mind, and well on her way to who she could be, without even any real remaking. She took a long breath. I can't wait 'till we really all get to fight together properly, it makes me want to...

She shivered and then laughed to herself, softly, thinking of the night after São Paulo, when she and Lena both decided to entertain their common lover, suddenly falling on each other as well, ravenously, not love, just need, just lust, but none the less so satisfying for it...

I know what I want, she realised. I didn't mind... so... maybe she won't, either.

All but silently she rose out of bed, crossed the hall, and entered Tracer's bedroom in the temporary apartment that already felt so very much like home. Lena had left the door open, as she was wont to do, and Emily knew already that somehow, none of them set of each other's defences, not as long as they were calm and quiet, and she was rewarded with the view of her spider holding her pet, big spoon and little spoon, calm, at peace - a small hold of serenity in the middle of a mad world.

Ever so carefully, she stepped over and onto the bed, under the covers, nuzzling against the back of Widowmaker's neck, and her lover rolled, still mostly asleep, onto her back, nuzzling into Oilliphéist's hair, breathing in reflexively, and stilled again, at peace.

And Emily slept deep, and well.

Some hours later, Lena woke, slowly, eyes still mostly closed, sun not yet risen, but the first hints of morning light just peeking their way past the blinds. She opened her eyes the slightest bit more, then blinked, seeing Emily across from her, on Danielle's right, asleep.

Her eyebrows furrowed for a second as she wordlessly took the sight in, unalarmed but briefly wondering if maybe this is why she was awake before either of the others, for once. She bit her lower lip and nodded, just the tiniest bit, an unvoiced assent, a silent yes, before closing her eyes again and going back to sleep.

An hour later, Lena woke again, the room a little brighter, Emily stirring, her eyelashes fluttering open, as Lena's eyes opened as well, copper meeting silver, halfway.

"Hiya," Lena said, softly - not a challenge, not even a question, just a greeting, with a a small but genuine smile.

"Hey," whispered Emily, smiling in return. "G'morning."

"G'morning." Lena reached over, gently and without active thought, and ran her hand through Oilliphéist's hair. Emily's eyes closed again and she breathed out, a long, slow exhalation of pleasure. She nuzzled gently into Tracer's hand, the cool touch of her lips soothing against the teleporter's palm, and together, they waited for their beloved to awaken, before - again, together - they would face the day.

-----

Hana Song frowned across visual comms, having read Tracer's mission report overnight. "This is not 'protecting Widowmaker,' Lena. This isn't being 'backup.'"

"I seem t'recall sayin' from the start it wouldn't be just that," Lena retorted, irritation in her voice.

Morrison nodded his agreement with the MEKA pilot. "You weren't supposed to take the lead."

Song scowled, encouraged to hold her ground. "You're supposed to be an observer and maybe support, not DPS."

"I think it sounds pretty durn good," McCree interjected. "Nice improvisation, good use of the landscape..."

"Thanks, luv," Tracer said, with a little grin and salute.

"That's exactly what I don't like about it," Morrison snapped, as Lena leaned back, frowning, across the table, with one of her two counterparts, the other, outside, in the next room, waiting. "You seem awfully happy about having killed this man."

"Kinda the point, wannit? I'm RAF. You see a way to complete a mission safely, with no risk to civilian life - you take it."

"Yeah. You do. But..."

"I didn't hear you complaining about those Omnic troopers."

"Hardly the same thing."

"Exactly the same thing."

"They were in violation of treaty - and they attacked you," Song pointed out.

Lena's mouth twisted a little bit between sadness and defiance. "Just as dead either way."

Jack nodded, "That's the first hint of regret I've seen out of you for any of this."

"Don't regret it, luv. None of it. Unless Mei's data's changed..."

The climate scientist looked up. "It has not," she said, wishing very much that it had.

Lena nodded, gratefully. "...then we don't have much choice, do we?"

"Lena, I'm..." Soldier: 76 rubbed the bridge of his nose, high, between his eyes, "I'm not angry. I'm worried about you."

"Worried I don't know what I'm doin'? Worried I'm too good at it? Worried I'm taking that Blackwatch patch too serious?"

Morrison put his hands together, and his elbows on the conference table, and leaned forward, eyes closed. "I've killed a lot of people, Lena. A whole lot of people. Too many."

Tracer paused, and frowned a little, but not angrily.

"I've been glad I did it. I've been convinced it was the right thing - the necessary thing - and for the most part, my conscience is pretty clear." He leaned back, eyes open again, looking at Tracer's copper eyes. "But I've never enjoyed doing it. It's never been... fun."

Oxton nodded, chewing for a moment on her upper lip, as Danielle smirked dismissively beside her. Your emotions make you vulnerable, echoed the remnants of her conditioning, as she mentally batted it aside.

"Don't cross that line, Lena. Reyes did. Ogundimu did. I came... closer than I want to admit."

"I remind you," said the Widowmaker, "that I am the one who took that particular shot."

"And enjoyed it, I bet," Hana said.

"It was exquisite," replied the assassin, her voice warm. "Perfect."

The small smile Lena flashed her lover made Winston flinch just a little, and he reached across the table and took Tracer's hand. "I... Lena... don't lose yourself, okay? That's all we're talking about. We are working with some..." she hesitated a moment, looking at the Widowmaker, who arched an eyebrow amusedly, "...pretty frightening people, and doing some pretty questionable things. Just don't forget who you really are."

Widowmaker chortled at the softened word choice, but Tracer smiled. "Aw, luv - you know better than that." She squeezed Winston's hand, a wistful expression on her face. "There'll be time to sort all that out soon. Get this stashed away, then afterwards... anybody know a good therapist?" she joked.

"Yes," nodded the Ecopoint survivor. "I do."

Ouch, Lena thought. "Sorry, Mei, didn't think about that..."

"Oh, it's okay. I'm sure she will accept you as a referral. And she follows very strict medical privacy rules."

Tracer snorted a short laugh. "Also didn't mean it literally, luv, but - if it'll make you feel better, I'll give her a call once all's said and done."

"You could even do it before that. I will call her today, to let her know," she replied.

Winston nodded. "I think that would be a very good idea."

Lena rolled her eyes. "Really?"

"Yes," said Winston, firmly.

Lena smirked a little. "All right, big guy. Fine. I'll give her a ring tomorrow. Happy?"

"Not really," he said, "But it's a start. Thank you."

"When's the next mission?" Morrison asked, a hint of reluctance in his voice.

"A few days. Don't know the details yet. But now we've reached the board, everything's gonna move quickly."

"Good," nodded the former Strike Commander.

"Yeah," echoed Hana Song. "This sooner this is over, the better."

[An hour later]

"I know they mean well, but cor blimey, that was grating," Tracer complained, over lunch - curry on chips, of course, courtesy the only English takeaway in the city, picked up and taken home. She leaned back, into the sunbeam shining through the western window.

"They didn't appreciate your work?" Oilliphéist said, poking at a reasonably convincing Cornish pasty, from the same location. "Philistines. I thought it was bloody marvellous. You looked brilliant out there."

"Aw." She smiled, a little, sipping from her water. "Thanks."

"So - y'gonna do it?"

"Do wot?"

"Call that therapist," Emily reminded.

"Right, that." Lena shrugged. "I suppose. No harm in it, yeh?"

"Not the most fun people in the world, therapists," Emily replied. "But it's up to you."

"I wasn't going to bring this up," the Widowmaker added, amused, spreading cheese across another piece of baguette. "But I must say, their reactions... I still enjoy being - how should I put it... I enjoy being..." she waved her knife around, a pointless motion, "...a little bit feared? Perhaps you should consider the value in it."

Tracer laughed, despite herself. "Mei did jump a bit every time you said something, didn't she? Kinda funny. But... you're gonna have t'let that go, love, leastways within Overwatch. S'bad for teamwork." She picked up another chip, and threw it into her mouth.

"But not in public!" Oilliphéist insisted, with a grin. "You're a legend, sweet - you've got a reputation to maintain! And, of course, scared people don't aim so well."

"I know," the spider replied, smiling wickedly. "Believe me - I know."

-----

Angela Ziegler rubbed her eyes, or, at least, around them - being a doctor, she knew better than to rub them directly. This is brilliant work. But so complex.

She cycled through sets of responses, tracking Lena's enhanced nerves through her body. So much interconnection, and yet, still so fast. I can't imagine how much faster it'd be if all this wasn't...

She blinked - Oh! - as the pieces fell together, the realisation tingling down her spine. Oh, this is brilliant, why do you have to be on the wrong side of everything, Moira? This is... it makes a self-stabilising cycle! Of course! And every perturbation is felt almost instantly across the whole system, because each one upsets the entire cycle, so reflex actions and analysis are also distributed, shared...

"Ahhhhh," she breathed, leaning back in her chair. "Moira... you are a genius."

"You found something?" asked Dr. Ngcobo, her lab's peripheral nervous system specialist.

Ziegler nodded. "I've figured out the basic operating structure. It's... oh, it is very good. This is... so clever. It is breathtaking."

Knowing, now, how it worked, she could filter data to show the system in action, and did, both in physicality and abstraction. "Do you see, do you see, the stimulus response? How it's shared, spread across the entire structure?"

"That is astounding," he replied, in all seriousness. "There's... not even really a periphery anymore, it's so integrated - at least, on this level. All of this is unlike anything I've ever studied."

"Well," she said, cheerfully, smiling. "I think I know where to start, then - right here."

"Good a place as any."

Angela leaned over in her chair, pulling up the armrest, watching the abstracted system move in time with the physical system, replaying the session from the beginning, through the new view, seeing reactions spread, so quickly, so cleanly, cycles building upon cycles, forming curves, settling back down, stabilising themselves.

It's beautiful, she thought, as they watched the cycles form and dissipate. Genuinely, just... beautiful.

"May I add another layer of abstraction?" Dr. Ngcobo asked. "There's a differentiation function that's useful, sometimes, when studying self-stabilising feedback systems like this. It was developed for studying vertigo problems, but I think it might..."

"Please - do!" replied Dr. Ziegler, and he did, on the station next to hers, and they brought the three displays together. The third display formed a ring that rotated in three dimensions as Lena's nervous system reacted to stimulus. She started the replay over, watching the ring vibrate, shimmer, moving slowly around its axes.

"It's memorising," she said, aloud, as they watched the abstractions play out.

Huh, she thought, as the ring reacted sharply to one particular stimulus, throwing itself sharply along one axis, before drifting back, and a little past, where it had been before. "...I don't know this particular filter... what was that?"

Dr. Ngcobo leaned in, confused, and replayed that segment of data, watching more closely. It only showed up in the second abstraction layer - at least, as an obvious phenomenon. He stood up, and scratched the back of his head. "That is very strange. My first guess would be that the filter was not designed for this sort of application, and it is just noise. But if it is not that... then..." He put his left hand to his mouth, playing with his lower lip, "...I have absolutely no idea. What's the stimulus?"

"Already bringing it up." She played the short audio track - a snippet of traditional song in Irish Gaelic - in synchronisation with the collected data, watching the ring react when the singer hit her low notes, and she frowned.

"I'm not getting it," said the specialist. "It's just singing. What is that language?"

"Gaelic. And I'm not sure I get it either," replied the head research scientist, "but I have some ideas that I do not like. Not one little bit."

-----

"The police have ruled Korpal's death an accident, and Deshmukh's, a murder. They're looking for a mugger, but..."

"You've got to be kidding me," Reyes growled in his deepest hiss.

"I'm just relaying the police reports," the Talon field operative replied. "Don't kill the messenger."

"They don't know who was piloting the Brazilian boat and there's no second body and they're still calling it an accident?"

Across comms, the agent shrugged. "Everybody knows Sanjay had a lot of enemies in São Paulo, but nobody wants an assassination on record at the Grand Prix, so..."

"So everyone involved has reasons to keep this quiet. I just didn't expect they'd be so blatant about it." He covered his eyes with his right hand, and rubbing his temples for a moment, before speaking again.

"Get me every piece of video and every still image with a face that you can find from that party. Particularly of the boat launch, but cover the whole area. Also, throw in whatever you can find from outside, nearby, starting about an hour before."

"Yes, sir."

"And get me anything and everything you can from inside the Paddock Club the previous two days. Whoever did this probably cased them in advance, and we'll start there."

"Sir. I'll forward material to the facial recognition database as I get it."

"Copies also to me directly."

"Acknowledged."

"Reaper out," he said, cutting the channel.

Photographs began arriving in under a minute, and the former head of Blackwatch sat down in his chair and began flipping through them, one at a time, sorting the known from the unknown in his head, looking for faces, for body shapes, or any part of anyone he might possibly know.

You're in here somewhere, pilot, he thought, leaning back as pictures flickered by. And I will find you.

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

Tags: also on ao3, angela ziegler, emily "oilliphéist" gardner, gabriel "reaper" reyes, gingerspider, hana song, jack morrison, jesse mccree, lena "tracer" oxton, mei-ling zhou, michael ngcobo (oc), oilliphéist, talon!emily, tracemaker, tracer, tracermaker, widowmaker, winston
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