Well, it's been a while for a new chapter of this story, and to be honest, I'm as surprised as you are and am making no promises about an update schedule, but... for what it's worth, I have some idea where this is going, and I've never considered it abandoned, so... here we go!
And Just Like That, She Was Down
Chapter 7: what a good girl
"Oh, nicely done. What a good girl!"
Widowmaker smiled, her head tilted, just a little, as she looked down the sight of her very, very long, very, very large rifle, at the blood splatter she'd made against the far floor, the body fallen beneath it, before being cleared away, by silent, jumpsuit-clad workers.
The tall woman behind her patted her head, and she smiled again.
"Are you ready for the next one?"
The young Widowmaker - only weeks old, at this point - nodded eagerly, golden eyes bright, reloading her rifle, and then, another figure ran, darting, across the wide, open floor below. She tracked, quickly, excitedly, firing, and missing, but close, just behind; she fired again, and missed as the figure jerked and she reacted, but too much, the bullet flying ahead.
"A little too much, dear. You've almost got it. Keep tracking."
"I'm so slow," she said, sadly, firing again, and just missing.
"No, no, no, dear. You're learning. And - well, we are going to speed you up again, soon. I know it's frustrating, but you're faster than you think. Try again."
The baby spider nodded, shooting the new figure down, and then, as another was thrown onto the floor, she instantly snapped over and shot them, a single round to the back of the head. Blood flew from both bodies.
"Very nice, young lady. Particularly the second shot. Note the artistry of the spray. Beautiful."
She shivered, happily, feeling, deeply, something she wasn't allowed to do, often, but which she was allowed, occasionally. When she was good. Particularly when she was very good.
They released three prisoners onto the field at once. The first fell to the ground, holding their head in their arms, shaking, and she silenced them with a single shot to the top of the skull, whispering, "Pathetic." The other two she tracked, as they ran, missing one with one shot, growling a little in frustration...
"Stay with it, you can do it," she heard, from behind.
...until they ran together, for just a moment, and she took them both, with a single shot, as they crossed her sights, and she smiled again, allowed to feel.
"Exquisite," the voice behind her said, filled with pride. "What a good girl! I knew you could do it, damhán alla."
"Are there more?" she asked, excited, but then calmed, as she felt her emotions being shut down, again.
"No, not right now. I need to analyse these readings. Stand down."
The pale woman tinged in blue nodded, emotions again disabled, unloaded her rifle and set to its holder at her side, as she'd been trained to do. It disappeared, and for just a moment, she felt enough to feel sad, before she again felt nothing at all.
The red-haired woman lowered the force field surrounding the two of them and stepped forward, removing the sensors, one at a time, from her body, as she watched, disinterested. "We'll be introducing the next round of therapy once I've studied these results."
The blue-haired baby spider nodded, but said nothing, until a thought occurred, surprising her, and so, she voiced it. "Why do they take my rifle away?"
Dr. O'Deorain looked up, a little surprised at the initiative herself. "To analyse it, dear. The perfect spider should have a perfect weapon. Eventually, it will be tailored to you, exactly." She pulled the last of the sensors off the woman's body.
"Now, Lacroix - it's time to get you back on the treadmill. Get changed, and meet me there in ten minutes."
"Miss? I know it's none of my business, but..."
Widowmaker - non, she thought, Danielle Guillard, here - raised a single eyebrow at the older woman behind the counter. "Quoi? No, wait, I can guess."
"I really am sorry, I guess you must get it a lot... colloidal silver?"
Mon dieu, she thought. Lena avait raison. "How did you know? My parents, my father, particularly - he was a, how do you say, 'big believer?' in all of that nonsense." She shook her head. "It was not my idea."
"I knew it," said the white-haired woman, tapping the countertop with her hand. "I had a great-uncle, out in Montana, went blue just about the same way. Argyria, they called it."
Je doute que c'était la même chose, she thought. "Yes - I believe that is correct."
"Does it hurt?" asked the store's owner. "I never got to ask him, I only saw pictures."
"No," she smirked. "Though... the treatments to make it a deeper, more solid, even blue... those did."
"Well, they did a good job at least. It looks a lot better on you than it did on ol' Uncle Stan." She put the last of the items into the large cloth bag. "Thanks for stopping in again - you with Lena and Emily? Are we gonna be seeing you on the regular?"
"I am, in fact, working for them," she said, with a small and particularly enigmatic smile.
"How nice! I heard they were back in business."
"They never left the business. They simply had a long-term contract elsewhere, and it is over."
"Oh, I see! I know it's all very hush-hush, some kind of military consulting, isn't it? So I won't ask. But is that where you met?"
The blue assassin considered the question, and found it amusing. "Yes. I was with a rival company, but they made a very good offer, and I accepted. The work is different, but I am... glad... I did."
"Well then," she said, putting the receipt atop the groceries. "Hope t'see you back again soon," she looked back at the register, "Dani?"
"I prefer Danielle. But - thank you," said the blue woman. "And it is likely you will." With that, and a small smile, as she picked up her bags and left the Shaniko general store, putting on her sunglasses, and stepping out into the late August heat.
Mary picked up her phone, and placed a call. As it rang, she smiled, and when it picked up - "Hello?" - she smiled to herself. "Sylvia, it's Mary, over at the store. I was right - it was colloidal silver, just like great-uncle Stan. Her parents' fault. And you owe me ten dollars."
"It's worth it," came the voice on the other end of the line - and just across town, at the ice cream parlour - "if you'll come over here and dish the whole story."
"I'll be right over."
Lena smiled at the first payment made to The Oxton Group since the Overwatch recall, from one of her old regulars, putting her back on retainer. Paperwork from four other former clients were en route. She'd explained the "non-compete agreement" that some members of her group had with those in the reformed Overwatch; it hadn't caused a moment of hesitation. I don't like how it happened, she thought, leaning back in her chair, but it's nice to have money coming back in, regardless.
She saw the proximity alert fire, and the IFF with it identifying "Danielle Guillard"'s vehicle. Emily popped her head into the office, hair finally dry. "Is that Widowmaker, love?"
Lena nodded. "Yep! Just home. And walking into the elevator right now."
"Brilliant," she said, popping 'outside' to wait by the elevator, beating the doors by only a few seconds. "Hey, love - welcome home. Hoo, that's a lot of bags. How'd it go?"
Widowmaker nodded, and her eyes widened, and she jumped forward, wrapping Emily in a tight, tight hug, nuzzling into her neck, before shaking herself, and making herself let go. "I... I apologise. I have..."
Emily smiled, gently, and took Widowmaker's hand. "Love, it's fine, honestly. You can hug me like that whenever you want." The assassin had not discontinued her conditioning medications, but she'd lowered the dose back, just a bit, feeling her way forward as the enhancer in her bloodstream ebbed down, just the slightest, after the latest injection. "I did ... not have this problem, outside."
Kestrel nodded. The strongest emotions... "It went well, then?"
"It did," Widowmaker said, picking up most of the bags. "It felt very strange to be doing such... ordinary things... as myself," she said, a little bit uncertain, almost a little bit confused. "Talon had staff for such tasks, and Amélie remembers the same for Overwatch, except at home, where they had..." She searched the previous woman's memories. "A person would deliver such things, I think."
"We're a bit far out for grocery delivery," Emily nodded. "But nothing upsetting?"
"No," Danielle said, with certainty.
"Hey, luv!" said Lena, appearing at the door. "Ooh, that's a lot, lemmie help." She jogged forward and picked up a few more of the bags. "We got paid!"
The blue assassin tilted her head, a puzzled expression across her face. "The clerk - Mary, is it? - asked about colloidal silver, just as you expected. How did you know?"
Emily laughed, and Lena rolled her eyes, grinning. "She's got about six repeating stories about her family, and her great-uncle or whatever is one of 'em. I'd've been surprised if she didn't talk about it."
The three of them made their way back 'inside,' and Lena tore into bags, putting things away, until, "Ice cream! Brilliant." And she dove for a bowl and spoon.
"Will the payment you mentioned be followed up with an assignment?" inquired the assassin, one eyebrow raised, as she watched Lena eat.
"One of my Chinese clients wants me to fly out, look at a security system up close after I audit the plans," she said, between bites of ice cream. "But that won't be for a few months. It's retainer work, but it adds up."
"Don't worry too much about it," Emily said. "I've still got the BAE gig, that money's coming in just fine."
"I do not worry about it," snorted the spider. "It has only been a few weeks, but I feel..." she said the word, with a hint of distaste, "idle, in ways I do not like."
"Does that mean you're wantin' to sign on?" Lena asked.
"I think it does."
"We'll need to keep it on the down low, y'realise."
Emily nodded. "Tight NDA wrappers, top-level clients only. Would that work for you?"
Widowmaker thought about it carefully. Her aim had not suffered, at least, not yet, from the reduced conditioning drug dose. Better training - better use - would serve her well. "Yes," she said, eventually. "I am conditioned to working in total secrecy - this would be more open than in my past. But I think it would work."
"Brilliant. I'll send some discreet notices out tonight."
Emily poked at her wife. "You gonna share that, or just eat the entire two litres yourself?"
"Oh!" She said, surprised. "Y'want some?" She teleported across to the kitchen, and grabbed two more bowls. "Wids, can you eat ice cream?"
"Yes," she said, pulling out the baguette she'd made that morning, herself, a bit of strong cheese, and the blackberry preserves, from the store. "But I prefer this."
"Y'sure? Have y'tried it?" she asked, scooping some out for Kestrel, topping it with a dusting of chocolate shavings.
"Have you tried this?" the Frenchwoman asked, archly.
She tilted her head to one side, considering. The question hadn't crossed her mind, at least, not in any sort of conscious way. "I... think I am. Doesn't it.. mean something, to share food? I think it does."
"Yeah," Lena grinned, and put the rest of the ice cream away. "It does. I'd love to. Thanks!"
Emily smiled. "Is there enough?"
"Then yeh, love. I would."
"It is best just cooled from oven, I think, but it has only been a couple of hours..." She tore off a pair of pieces, spread a little of the French-made raspberry preserves over the exposed white interior, and placed a piece of the strong Belgian goat cheese on each.
"You make something so simple seem so posh, did y'know that?" Emily said, and Lena laughed, just a little, agreeing.
The blue assassin shrugged in response. "It is how I do this." She handed each of the pieces off, one to each of her...
...que sont-ils? she thought, to herself. "Partenaires d'affaires" n'est pas la bonne réponse...
The attachment she'd felt to Emily hadn't dimmed in the least, over the last few weeks. The trust she felt in Lena hadn't, either.
"Oh, this is nice, Blue," Emily said, eyes half-closed. "Sharp, and sweet..."
Tracer nodded. "Really good. Didn't imagine you'd be a baker, luv."
"I am not sure I imagined..." She thought, for a moment, looking down at her own portion, then looking over at Lena's and Emily's ice cream, waiting, still cold on the table. Her hand darted out, grabbed the spoon sitting in the bowl, took an outsized amount, and ate it, almost before she knew what she was doing.
Emily blinked, surprised, as Lena looked back and forth between the two of them. "Well," she said, a little nervously, "we did offer..."
"...I don't know why I did that," Widowmaker said, sounding a little confused, a little lost, but feeling... satisfied, somehow, that she'd done it. "I do not even like ice cream. Amélie did not, either. And I have never had ice cream, not since..."
...depuis mon enfance? Je n'ai jamais été un enfant., she thought. Pourquoi ai-je pensé ça?
"Bits of your conditioning flaking off, like the hug, maybe?" Emily suggested.
Bien sûr, she thought, as she nodded her agreement, and drank some of her water, and returned to her bread, and preserves, and cheese, which were familiar, which tasted...
...so much better.
She looked at her two rescuers, and nodded again. "I think so. I also think I should be very careful in how I manage this... adjustment."
"PTSD survivor, luv," Lena said, offering a hand, across the table. "I know from mood swings. We'll take it slow."
The spider smiled, her head tilted, just a little, as she looked down at Lena's hand, which was joined by Emily's, and then, to her surprise, her own. "We will."