Satya dreams of Junkrat's mouth upon her wrists.

He's hunched over top of her, nestled between her legs, prosthetic hand clamped into the bedsheets by her ribs. The warmth of his body pools down onto her skin; it soaks down her belly and into shivering nerves, encouraging a deep thrum of want through every fiber. The calluses on his fingers are coarse over her knuckles and across the valley of her palm, but the softness of his mouth against the inside of her wrist is more than satisfying compensation, and she finds her body trembling in reply. His teeth are gentle and teasing, his tongue blindingly hot, and a molten path is left in his wake as he trails light kisses down the length of her arm. When he reaches the crook of her elbow, he gives one last peck placed at the juncture, and he then lets her hand go.

It drops beside her like brick upon pavement, the aftermath a line of faint cinders. The weight of him shifts sweetly against her as he coaxes her other hand into his metal fingers. The familiar white sheen and black grips cover the entirety of her arm, and even though she knows there should be a layer of resistance between the gauntlet itself and her flesh beneath, it seems to have somehow stopped existing. He says something above her, something low and husky and drowned in the muffled atmosphere of the dream, and he brings his mouth against the watery blue crystal embedded in her palm. Welcoming heat carves through cut sapphire and churning mechanics and the curved lines down her hand. Each breath sketches tender echoes of frisson beneath her skin, and as he moves from her lifelines to the heel of her palm and down to the underside of her wrist, he traces delicate intricacies and sharp joint lines and glinting metal and textured mesh. The sensations bleed through her gauntlet and web down her arm in spun wreaths; each kiss is a plume of flickering fire.

Try as she might, Satya cannot move. Paralysis clings to her limbs in numbing static. She wants to lift her right hand, to touch his face and comb her nails through the wildness of his hair, but it has been encased in layers of heavy stone. Her legs share a similar state, cemented into a trembling stasis; bent at the knee and bowed outward, they allow him to sidle his thighs by just below her hips and press against her with slow and tantalizing pressures, peeling apart her composure and ushering out the ragged, primal thing that lies beneath. His mouth might be kissing patterns down her arm, but a very distinct hardness is flush with the juncture of her leg and groin, and her entirety crows for closer contact: please, please, she needs this.

"Satya." It's exhaled against her, a cherished note clutched between his teeth, the sounds branded against his tongue as he sinks a kiss into her neck. He rocks his hips against her, his erection constrained by the fabric of his shorts, and no matter how much she tries to will him closer, nearer, please, he lets her thoughts sluice down his back without a care and sucks at a tender place by her collarbone.

The compulsion to say his name in return mashes back behind her teeth—no, not Junkrat, not the mantle Junkertown bestowed; she wants his real name, his true name, the thing he seems to dislike so much and keeps squirreled away in odd pouches and volatile vials—but her jaws remain clenched together and locked tight, and so Jamison remains trapped by a dead mouth that cannot whisper, sigh, or moan.

And she wishes she could moan. Everything seems to burn as she lies beneath him; he is so close, his body pressed to her in shivering fire, and yet he is not close enough. Want coils tight into living coals and ignites beneath the firm touch of fingerpads and the flat of his tongue and the teasing grind of his hips. Each passing moment is almost unbearable, like the flames harnessed in the hollows of his bones are not satisfied with one body alone, like they can't be sated with only the vessel of their disastrous host, and so in their avarice they vie to drop down her tongue and devour her from the inside out—and yet, in spite of everything, she continues to exist, still, wet and aching and enmeshed with the desire to take him by the jaws and kiss him but she can't.

Jamison whispers something else into the nape of her neck. There is no mistaking his voice, but the words are decidedly nonsense; he murmurs on in scattered splices of accented Telugu and English, thick and laden with shaking lust. A distant part of her understands, or somehow translates their meaning ("—I want you so bloody bad—c'mon, lemme have you—need you, need, need, need—"), and she is left with unfettered desire jolting through her at every press of his mouth upon her throat. If she could somehow muster the will to pry the words out from behind her teeth, she would gladly give permission to his gravelly chants, but her voice has been locked away, caged down in the space between her lungs by something she can't control.

Slowly, his left hand slopes from her shoulder to the smooth plane of her belly. It slides in tender lines by the curve of her ribcage and the dip in her navel, gliding down to the ache pooling between her hips. Whatever clothes she might have been wearing appear to have made themselves scarce; the warmth of his palm cups flush against her without hindrance. His skin sings electricity into the soles of her feet, crackling up in taut muscles and curled toes, and his touch acts as shards of flint to awaiting tinder.

Sparks coalesce in her lungs as two fingers slip down. Feathery light and painfully slow, they test and tease and still deny her what she would rather have. Need incites a ruthless, crawling ferocity, and the lead in her arms sloughs away beneath its whim. Enthralled and furious and wanting so much more than he seems intent to give, she snaps whatever invisible bonds have kept her paralyzed. Satya reaches up, frames her hands along his cheekbones—his skin is warm, so incredibly warm; the sun must surely seek refuge in his body—and she guides him down to meet her. His mouth is far hotter than it had been upon her wrists, like he'd somehow swallowed a splitting star that had thrust its inferno through his veins, his bones, his heart, and she drinks in laving fire as he grins against her and leaves scorch marks on her tongue.

"Satya," he breathes, "this ain't gonna last forever, y'know."

She bites his lip in reply. It can. I can make it.

His laugh sounds too far away, as if resounding off the surface of invisible walls. The warmth of his touch retreats from between her legs, and instead she finds his hands lining her jaws with a strange gentleness. The birthmarks and freckles flecked across his cheeks draw her gaze—and somehow, his eyes seem different. They are the vivid color she remembers, but brighter. The world around her is washed out and wrung away to yield a monochrome expanse, and his eyes seem to blister among the whorls of white and grey.

"Satya," he says, but it isn't like before. His accent has shifted, like he's trying to mimic her mother tongue—Saa-tee-yaa—and it sounds divine.

All of her pines to reply in kind, but her throat hurts from the inability and her lips remain sewn shut. Squeezing her eyes closed, she leans her forehead against his, the hot pull of the flames curling back through her hair, and she breathes everything in. A part of her expects the harshness of smoke and ash and chemicals, but there is nothing but disheveled earth and the warmth of him against her mouth.

"Satya," he says once more, and it pours into her like syrup filling a mold—it swells back behind her chest and drips down her fingers and pools down below her stomach and sinks around her toes, heady and pleasant and greedy—

And it's then that she jolts into consciousness, her name a murmured echo.

The chrome ceiling of the barracks greets Satya with the bright sheen of midmorning. Her room is just as it was left the night before: her purse hung on the back of the chair by her desk, her swimsuit and beach clothes deposited in a small hamper toward the back corner beside her wardrobe, her sandals at the chest by the foot of her bed, the translucent white cover-up draped on the wardrobe's handle. Everything sits in gentle quiet, backed only by the distant churn of the watchpoint's electricity and other mechanisms threaded behind the walls, and the reality of the situation begins to set in.

There is no one on top of her. There is no one whispering her name. There is no one kissing her wrists, her neck, her collarbone. There is no one grinding against her and guiding his fingers with the promise of further fulfillment. There is no Junkrat and there is no Jamison Fawkes. There never was.

And yet her body trembles. It's as if his fingers still climbed at the ladder of her ribs, as if his mouth still pressed hot starbursts against her skin, as if dream and reality were indiscernible and she were somehow suspended between both worlds. Lingering shocks trickle down her lifelines and splay across her sheets as her mind steeps in the dazed and heady blur of what felt all too real. The sensation of him being so close sticks to her nerves, painting down her arms, her legs, her stomach, and it provides a heavy dose of adrenaline that brims hotly through her veins. A throbbing heartthrum pulses in her ears, drumming and drumming, always drumming, and she releases a hot exhale in disbelief.

Well, then.

That… happened.

A smiling thief came to her in her dreamscapes, kissed her, stole her name, and left her a horribly flustered mess. And not only that, he left her wanting more.

Yes. Yes, that describes it well enough, she supposes.

And she doesn't quite know how to feel about it.

While Satya has had her own fair share of dreams (those of this nature included), she does not ever remember having them about someone she knows so little about. She's dreamt of coworkers, of those she once held feelings for, of her family, of the friends she once had as a young girl, of all of these people who at one time posed as important fixtures in her life, and she fully expects them to appear in her dreams. But a madman she's known for barely two months? And in this context?

Satya pulls down the covers and relishes the feel of the cool air. A damp film of sweat clings down her back and between her breasts, and unlike the fiery man who had paid her a visit, she comes to realize that the demanding ache coiled down in her lower belly is not another ephemeral figment. It is very real—inconveniently real, she must admit—and no matter how she tries to shift her primary focus to the light cast across the ceiling, the lamp set upon her desk, the complete inventory of her wardrobe, it does little to dispel her physical discomfort. She is quite aware of what will, but she refuses to use the plethora of Junkrat-centric imagery etched into her thoughts as fodder for self-pleasure.

… Not that she isn't tempted.

Perhaps the stunned silence from her conscience should bother her.

Drowsy, bewildered, and not exactly in the mood to parse the deep meaning behind Junkrat fingering her or kissing patterns against her neck or breathing her name, she wrenches back the blankets and slides out of bed. Groggy and rattled as she is, the day is new and there are other things that require her immediate attention. Winston had scheduled a heavy mission debriefing at eleven o'clock before everyone had retired yesterday evening, and getting to the conference room early to ready herself and stake a place far, far from Junkrat's preferred spot would behoove her immensely.

As Satya rubs the sleep from her eyes with the heel of her hand, she tucks the sheets back up and under her pillow and smooths over the thin summer quilt to flatten out the wrinkles. She then rounds to the foot of her bed to pluck the small shower tote she had placed on the floor by the empty chest, and crosses the length of her room with it hooked in the crook of her arm to comb through the wardrobe in the far corner for fresh a blouse, undergarments, and pair of slacks. Her desk harbors the case to her hard-light gauntlet, and although a part of her craves its presence, she knows it would be less work to return to the barracks and apply it after her morning routine.

With shower supplies, toothbrush, and a change of clothes in tow, she shuffles into her slippers and takes her leave. She passes the pristine surface of her desk, the kempt blankets of her bed, and the small nightstand settled at its side. Beside the curve of an empty water glass, the pair of grenade shells watch her with knowing smiles, the one she'd taken the day prior poised back in its original position. The pleasure written into Junkrat's expression as he'd cradled the dropped casing in his palm and swept away the sand from its textured paint surfaces to the forefront of her thoughts, and she again wishes that she had not gone against her better judgment and had instead left the grenade shell behind.

Her fingers burrow into the folds of her clothes as the familiar burn of embarrassment returns. Not only had she admitted to holding onto the two shells he'd given her, Ana had peered out the back of the jeep and remarked on his smile. A grin from Junkrat is not an uncommon thing, of course, as he is invested in his own brand of humor and enjoys inflicting it upon others, both for his own amusement and for the amusement of his audience, but she is not so naïve as to think this one in particular was not without influence.

There can be no question: learning she'd kept his creations had made him happy. He was glad she'd kept them. Satya had been so sure that he'd given them to her as a part of some sort of joke, especially with how she had first viewed his unorthodox work habits and the absolute mess he had managed of the workshop in such a short amount of time, but time has disproven that. Whatever his motive had been for the empty casings, whether it was a simple joke or an attempt at camaraderie, it's clear he was more than pleased with her choice. The warmth in his smile when he'd held the shell had been proof enough.

And it seems strange, she thinks, that something so insignificant should make him happy. She is so used to seeing him sculpted with self-satisfaction or the pleasure of sowing destruction with his work, like his ridiculous handstand or how he'd looked crawling through the smoke in the warehouse wall in Dorado, but how he'd looked at her was… different. It was something genuine, something scarce. While she can't recall anything of its exact likeness, the closest comparison she can make is how he'd grinned down at her from Lijiang's skyline, clasping onto her gauntlet and asking her if she was all right as she hung from the roof. Something else had worked its way through him, something besides complacency and amusement; relief, perhaps, or pleasure that his creations had provided her with some sort of odd companionship to occupy her idle compulsions.

Perhaps, she thinks, it was not such a bad thing to take the shell.

When Satya reaches the washroom, she hooks a turn to the right half of the facilities and paths over toward the line of showers. Aside from the faint sound of running water from the other side of the wall, echoing against the tile and along the metal of the stalls—one of the others brushing their teeth, she assumes—there is no sign of anyone else. And, to be honest, it's a relief. Her mind is not in the right place to entertain small talk in close quarters with her colleagues, and she isn't sure what she would do if Tracer or McCree were feeling chatty at the sinks.

The rest of Satya's movements are guided by muscle memory and the repetition of embedded routine. She places her change of clothes across the final stretch of wooden bench, folding them over each other to create a neat pile, and then sets down her tote in the third to last stall. After twisting on the water to allow it to rise to a more favorable temperature, she slides out of her slippers and tucks them beneath the bench where the rest of her garments have been settled, followed shortly by her nightshirt and pyjama pants. The pervading chill of the washroom ripples gooseflesh down her legs, and as she steps out of her panties, she becomes painfully aware of just how wet she'd become in the aftermath of her dream. Jaws tensed, she lifts them from the floor and buries them among her bedclothes with a delicate burn in the height of her cheeks.

By the time she dips past the white curtain and drapes it closed, the water is pleasantly hot. She angles the showerhead toward the stall's bench, and with an open bottle of shampoo in hand, she sits down and squeezes a small amount into her palm. The warmth of the water pours over her head and down her shoulders, and she works the lather into her hair as she massages it against her scalp. Eyes squeezed shut, she bites the inside of her cheek and narrows her concentration on the sound of the water striking the cold tilework by her toes and streaming a path toward the grated drain. Prickles rise on her arms from the disparate temperatures, and she maneuvers herself further beneath the pressured waterfall to let it roll down her shoulders, heat stippling in and knotting down the curve of her back.

It shouldn't, but the afternoon Junkrat had crawled into the shower next to hers resurfaces from the back of her mind. He had stripped down just outside her stall, removed his prosthetics one by one, and let the water carve down his body to wash away the char and sweat from their flight over Gibraltar's rooftops and through the sweltering streets below. While had not been able to see him, her initial meeting with him in the washroom had supplied more than enough imagery to provide an estimated guess at how he might have looked laid back upon the shower bench.

Satya inclines her head beneath the stream of water, combing away the suds as she wrestles with her internal conscience. As much as she would like to deny it, her attraction to Junkrat has sharpened within the past few weeks. Her thoughts have become more focused on him, his body, his presence, his behaviors, which has resulted in a far more active imagination than she would care to admit. While she supposes that imagination in itself does not affect her directly, it doesn't stop her from lingering on choice moments where he'd been flush against her body or when he had reached out to touch her in some way, whether it had been out of necessity or casual contact—which appears to have manifested quite sharply in her dream.

She sighs into the steam as the thought spins a coil of heat in her lower belly. Everything had felt so real—too real, startlingly real, achingly real—and even though it had very much been a dream, it does not negate the fact that she had been willing to let him touch her. More than touch, in truth; she'd wanted more than his mouth on her wrists, her throat, her stomach; she'd wanted more than him over top of her, rubbing and grinding and pressing close; she'd wanted more than his fingers pathing down her belly and ghosting across her skin with feathery light teasing. None of it had been real, none of his closeness or his touches or the pressure of his body over her, nothing but fictional stimulation dreamt up by her subconscious mind, but a shiver still dips down the curve of her spine. The kiss she'd stolen from his dreamlike doppelganger had been gripping, overwhelming, lustful; its phantom seems to burn on her lips, a soft and stinging ache in the aftermath, and she brings a hand against her mouth as if water alone could not snuff out the fire.

Would… would he really kiss that way? she wonders, shifting beneath the running water. Would he pin her against the sheets and work his mouth down her wrists, her breasts, her belly? Would he have such a raw ravenousness in him that he'd be whispering those things into her ear? Would he trace his fingers down the length of her body and tease her until she was wet and aching and desperate for his touch? Would he—

No, her conscience presses, shutting out the thought. No, he wouldn't do any of those things, and she should know better. Ever since his and Roadhog's arrival, his focus has always been fixated upon his work, spread across piles of scattered components and containers of volatile compounds and coiled up in twists of wires, and as Tracer had pointed out at the beachside, any romantic pursuits of his are clearly directed elsewhere. If speculation is anything to be believed, someone has proved a greater distraction than the bombs he's devoted his downtime to creating, and has captured his attention in a way her presence never would. His lingering stare in the hangar and on the beach implies nothing but passing interest in a physical sense, as is common with almost anyone, or so it seems, and she finds the possibility of capturing further attention embarrassingly low. Junkrat is always immersed in his own world with his explosives and drawings and whatever wealth he has hoarded away in whatever corners of the earth; why would he bother with someone who is fundamentally different from him in almost every sense?

She supposes the same question could be asked of her as well.

The continuous rhythm of her heart accompanies the soothing patterns of the water pouring down around her, and with a frustrated sigh hitched in the back of her mouth, she reaches for the cloth and bodywash. Soap foams around her neck, across her collarbone, between her breasts, along her legs, and down her belly. Warmth sluices everything to the cold tile floor and trickles down squared grout lines to the drain two stalls over. The pressure from the showerhead and her own touch beneath the textured surface of the cloth eases the anxious knot winding at the back of her throat, and the longer she scrubs even patterns across her skin, the better she feels. Remnants of the dream still stick to the pads of her fingers and to the curve of her lips, and no matter how hard she tries to route her focus elsewhere, it always returns to Jamison Fawkes and the wonderful heat of his mouth kissing down her wrists.

As she drops the cloth back into her tote, it becomes more apparent that the desire from her dream had never quite dissipated. She still feels the tight ache that she felt while lying on her bed (beneath him, his weight, the warmth of his skin, the molten trails of his tongue), and it seems to sharpen when she moves to wash off lingering soap beneath the running water. If she is so distracted now, alone and in private with nothing important to direct her attention toward, how does she expect the briefing to go with tactics to review and new information to absorb and with his presence so unbearably close? Would she be able to narrow her concentration to Winston and his usual talks? Would she be able to parse her colleagues' comments, suggestions, answers, and offer viable input of her own? Or would she find herself often sidetracked, preoccupied with daydreams she should not have?

Biting her lower lip, Satya guides her right hand down between her legs. The water cascades down her shoulders and pours through her hair, warm and pressured and comforting, and although its touch feels nothing like his skin, his palms, his mouth, it provides a sense of closeness nonetheless. She leans back, allowing herself to use the tile wall for support, and she lets everything return in a vivid, heady rush: the hard muscle of his belly upon the rooftop, the prominent tan streaked down his shoulders, the hastened drumbeat of his heart, the way he'd felt poised over top of her in her dreamscape, the fire of his body pressed against her, the pleasurable patterns he'd pathed with his tongue down her collarbone and over her breasts, the husky sound of his accent whispering against her ear. The movements of her fingers mirror how he'd teased her, how he'd made her ache, and she sucks in a deep breath as she circles across sensitive nerves and parts soft folds aside to dip further in. Her own wetness surprises her; it ignites a burning sort of spark through her skin, sent to feed the ravenous coil drawing taut inside of her, and the thought of how things might have continued had there been no interruption causes her toes to curl.

With the water pouring down her body and two fingers gliding in and out at a slow, slow, shallow pace, she cages a moan back behind her teeth. The increasing need to be filled strings through the ends of every nerve, and a distant part of her wishes he were present—he would feel good, wouldn't he? Even just his mouth, his hands, his fingers; he must—because hers alone are not long enough, not thick enough, and leave her with such a stark, insatiable want that draws through sweat and skin and pores.

Her thoughts shift toward how he might have looked in the enclosure beside her: legs bowed, his body naked and dripping with one hand combing through damp tangles of hair as water trickles down sculpted muscles and a southward stretch of blond. She slides both fingers upward in anticipation and electricity seems to shock through her legs under her circling touch. She needs this feeling, she does, she really does, she needs it like nothing else, and the carnal part of her is relentless in its imagination: she wonders how good he is, what he enjoys, what makes him moan, what renders him silent, what he sounds like when he's close, what he'd say against her with his mouth on her shoulder and two fingers pumping inside of her, how he'd shudder when he'd finally let himself thrust in—oh, and he's got stamina; fuck, he'd even said so himself, and with a too satisfied laugh in his voice—wait, but hadn't that been a joke? Or was he serious? Does that mean he'd keep going? Oh, she doesn't know if she can handle that—just keep his mouth between her legs with his hands on her hips and glide his tongue against her and make her come over and over and over

Satya presses her back against the wall as hot, burning pleasure begins to sharpen through her. It sears down her hips, her legs, into the soles of her feet; it coils up tighter and tighter and threatens to split her at the seams. The heat of the water soaks down her body and runs hot valleys down her collarbone and between her breasts. She is close, so incredibly close, brought just near the edge and yet just out of reach. Everything around her is reduced to plumes of steam and dripping rainfall and sets of sparking nerves twisting in delight at her every move. She bites into her lower lip, her fingers increase their pace, and his voice becomes a low, rough murmur in her ear: I want you so bloody bad.

At last, the pressure detonates. A paroxysm claims her in shaking waves as aching release seizes her in its grip and sends her over the edge. Eyes squeezed shut and hips rocking into her hand, a soft moan that might have been his name if she weren't biting on her tongue pulls out of her and wells up over the pouring water and the damp tiles. Her back arches off the wall, fiery wreaths working down the length of her body, and as the consuming peak devolves into a series of lessening aftershocks, she sucks in a mouthful of steam and slows her fingers to a satisfied stop. Everything trembles with a deep strum of fulfillment, and it is all she can do to keep herself from sighing in pleasure.

That was too good. Far, far too good.

The water continues to drum against her stomach, her shoulders, the sides of her face. A palpable exhaustion sprouts roots from her bones and snakes into the grout among the tiles. All that was wound so tightly inside of her has been plied apart, smoothed out, and reshaped into something less vicious, less vying. Her muscles relax as she leans herself against the wall, and she gathers the strength to guide her hand beneath the showerhead to rinse it clean. To Satya's relief (and chagrin, she supposes), release has proven to be a potent and much needed salve. Perhaps it is because she had almost forgotten how it feels to lust after another person, but she does not remember ever feeling so spent. Then again, she does not remember ever falling victim to such inordinate amounts of tension, either. Moderate amounts, yes, as can be expected of an adolescent or of a person in a newly entered relationship, but nothing to this unbearable degree—and she doesn't know how that should make her feel.

Should she be annoyed by this? she wonders, tucking a lock of wet hair behind her ear. Should she be ashamed that someone she has known for such a short amount of time can reduce her to a shivering mess in the sanctuary of a shower stall? Or should she be intrigued for that very reason? There is a definite degree of embarrassment, that much is certain. After all, she'd thought of him fingering her and how good he'd be with his mouth, even after she'd told herself she would never use fantasies of him in this context—really, fantasies, that's how bad this has become—and without the haze of lust clouding her judgment, the thought of him behaving in a sexual manner (and with her, no less) makes her too nervous to entertain it for too long.

After another once over with a soap-covered washcloth, Satya rinses off and collects her things. The heat of the water is sorely missed in the chilled area outside her stall, but she makes do with a lukewarm towel and fresh clothes and dries with haste. She takes a brief pause in the other half of the washroom to brush her teeth and give her face a gentle yet thorough scrub in front of the mirrors. As she pats her cheeks dry with a towel, she notices that the polish on her nails is starting to chip, and she wonders if she will have enough time to remove the old coat and apply another color before the meeting. There are other things to be done before she can join the others, and with how she'd dawdled in the shower, she concedes that it will have to wait until later.

When she returns to her space in the barracks, Satya discards her dried tote on the floor beyond the foot of her bed. She wastes no time in plucking out the trim black case from within her desk and flicking its clasps open. Fingers poised at the edges, she lifts the lid and lets it set back on its hinges, allowing her most cherished possession stares up at her in its segmented pieces. Everything is beautiful, perfect, and pristine. The crystal embedded into the palm, a nod by Vishkar's engineers to alta dyes at her request, lies cool and dormant among the midnight velvet.

With gentle precision, she takes out each segment: the primary hand piece is first, followed shortly by the forearm, the bicep, and then the shoulder. The short sleeves on her plain violet blouse discard the need for special action concerning her clothes, and so the work is seamless routine. Everything clicks into place, just as it should, and once the final segment has been set and locked, a wave of her arm breathes life into the sapphire cradled against her heartlines. She shifts her hands through a set of mudras to see the thin wires weave between her fingers, and she guides them into a circular frame over the dip of her palm. The glowing azure edges of the frame smooth from a crude structure to something sleeker, something refined, and once she curves her other hand over its entirety to smooth out the final pieces, the image of a brilliantly blue grenade shell stares back at her as it twists in lazy circles between her fingers.

Slowly, her gaze drifts over to the two crimson casings on her nightstand. Their painted faces point toward the desk, looking at her with wide and expectant smiles. It would be easy to conjure two similar constructs and mimic the little trinkets he's given her with her own unique flair; she could leave them at his cluttered workspace, stashed among various components, laid upon stacks of crinkled papers, set near half-finished pieces like miniature replicas—places he'd surely search in the midst of his routines.

A part of her considers pursuing the idea, but cold logic brushes it aside: what purpose would there be in the exchange? Their use would be as ornamental as the ones he'd given her, so he wouldn't be able to use them in his work. At most, they would be sleek paperweights, or would serve as faithful decorations as the two on her nightstand. It would be something to satiate the desire for an interaction, and nothing more.

Sternness shaping her frown, Satya clenches her left hand and breaks the wireframe into a burst of hexagonal light. She then closes the black case with care and stows it back in its designated spot within the desk. The wardrobe holds four separate sets of shoes across its floor, and she grabs the pair matched with her Vishkar uniform to hide halfway beneath the long legs of her black slacks and slips them on.

Before closing the door, her eyes pause over the sizable V-marked suitcase tucked against the leftmost corner. Her polishes are in one of its compartments, along with a handful of personal mementos she'd taken from her quarters in employee housing—a set of delicate golden bangles, a small half saree that was once a part of a Bharatanatyam costume, the kunjalam from performances she'd danced as a child—as well as a personal tablet Sanjay had gifted to her a year ago. His reasoning was to help her keep on top of company correspondence and to better regulate her personal schedule between corporate gatherings and appointments coordinated with clientele. She'd turned it off during her journey to Gibraltar, and although she had switched it on occasionally during the first few weeks of her stay to check what she had missed back at headquarters, Satya had resolved to bury it in her wardrobe. In order to better integrate with the members of Overwatch, she assumed it would be best to extricate herself from Vishkar's environment—at least for a while.

Curiosity guiding her movements, Satya unzips the top of the suitcase. She bypasses the compartment with her small collection of nail polish, nudges aside the plastic container holding cloth-swathed jewelry, and withdraws the slim case that protects the tablet. It is pristine white, just like the suitcase, with Vishkar's signature 'V' emblazoned upon its leather-like surface. Shutting the wardrobe, she brings the case over to her desk and flips it open, and with her thumb pressed against the side button, she powers it on. The sleek screen flickers to life in a surge of light, and after a brief and colorful display of the operating system, its plain white lock screen materializes into view. She taps in the access code, and once it registers on Athena's network, a generous slew of notifications begins.

Emails, mostly, she finds. Messages from her circle in the company. There are some corporate-wide memos amongst the influx of mail, but the majority are from fellow architechs concerning the status of ongoing projects and the progress of particularly noteworthy clients. Nothing out of the ordinary. There is a message from Sanjay here and there, consisting of firm yet friendly pleasantries and inquiring as to how she's doing, and always yet with a brief acknowledgment at the end stating that he knows she must be busy doing all sorts of things out of the country while on sabbatical but if she could find the time, perhaps let him know? She has never felt any sort of disdain or contempt from Sanjay before, but skimming over the text of his messages starts a rather sour feeling in the pit of her stomach. It must be the medium, she thinks. She must be misinterpreting. It's happened in the past, so it's not unusual. Of course he'd be interested in her wellbeing after being absent for the past few months, and with her lack of response, it's obvious that she has been occupied with other things, especially with the nature of the organization she has chosen to pursue.

Half of her itches to tap the reply button and draft something in response, but the other half stills her hand. She had chosen only to talk about her placement in Overwatch with a handful of higher executives, and Sanjay had not been one of them. She doesn't know how much he might know about her situation, and even her superiors hadn't been notified of the name the two freelance recruiters who had sought her talent had chosen for their outfit. Until further notice, the Petras Act is still a real threat to Overwatch's continued existence, and any information she might share with Sanjay would have to be limited in accommodation. She is not entirely unused to the concept, as Vishkar has its own collection of company secrets, but it seems strange to purposefully keep something from Sanjay after all these years.

Ignoring the unease settling lopsided in her belly, she composes a brief yet cordial reply:


It's good to hear from you. I apologize for the belated response. I have been preoccupied with several interesting projects that have left me without much free time. Overall, I'm doing well. I have made many acquaintances here and a friend or two. The atmosphere is very different, but I'm getting used to it. I haven't had time to read over the rest of my emails, but it seems like everything is progressing as usual, and I hope you and the others are faring just as well. I will try to be in touch soon.

— Satya

She gives the text a once over and reassesses her sentence structures for clarity and potential typos. It is rather impersonal and bare bones compared to other messages she's sent in the past, and while half of her expects some sort of arch comment stating as such in reply, she supposes it should be sufficient to keep him posted. After another swift reread for any last-minute changes, Satya taps the send button. The application's animation is smooth and takes her back to her inbox as the message glides out of the way in a drawer-like fashion.

Satisfied, she takes to skimming among the bold-faced labels indicating unread mail, sifting through names of various coworkers and superiors to see if there is anything else of interest she might have missed. There is a few months' worth of mail stocked up over the blue-patterned pages, primarily projects she has never been involved with followed by reminders about certain company policies, things she deems unimportant enough to ignore, but her curiosity drives her fingertips and she continues to scroll through the list. Despite the bright screen and the small lines of squished text, something catches her eye: the name José Constantine Vicente.

Without a second thought, Satya taps on the message. It is rather short, and in Spanish, she finds, and it takes a moment for her mind to switch gears for proper parsing:


It's been too long! How are you? Good I hope! I'm sorry for the lack of contact. I've been pulled all over the world and barely have time to breathe between work and meals. They brought me to Iran for a very big project and then I was shipped down to Egypt to show some of my new designs to the architechs working in Alexandria. There are fantastic libraries there, I think you'd like them! Currently I'm having a short rest because they decided to put me up in Italy for a weekend, so I am enjoying Florence for the next two days and then it will be back to Egypt to finalize a few last things. I will be back in Utopaea next month, and although I don't know exactly when it will be, I'd like some time to catch up if that's all right with you? I have some very important news and I'd like you to be the first to hear it.



As she glances over his initials, she finds a faint smile at the side of her mouth. It has probably been the better part of a year since she has seen José in person; their last meeting was impossibly short because he had been in a rush to leave the country on yet another long project. His messages had become few and far between for a while, reflecting his tendencies to get absorbed into his work, and although they always picked up during stretches of downtime, they would drop off again shortly afterward. In spite of such sparse contact, it truly is nice to hear from him again. If things cooperate and everything continues to move so smoothly, she might be able to plan a short trip to Utopaea to visit him and hear his news before Vishkar ushers him to another part of the world. Perhaps some of the others would be interested in seeing India's finest city?

Satya considers the idea, but the thought of Junkrat climbing up Utopaea's glittering towers makes her dismiss it with a curt shake of her head.

With eleven o'clock ticking closer, she taps the app closed and leaves the tablet locked upon her desk. She will respond to José when she has more time to compose an appropriate reply, preferably tonight before bed and after her nails have had a chance to dry. If Sanjay sends a response by then, she supposes she will answer that as well, although the thought of continually omitting important pieces of her ongoing life still doesn't sit quite well.

By the time she reaches the conference room, it is twenty minutes before Winston's chosen time, and to Satya's surprise, she is not the first to arrive. Mercy has already taken her place toward the far right of the room, sitting patiently in one of the rolling desk chairs with one leg crossed. Her hair has been tied up into a blond tail, her glasses close against her nose as she studies a set of paperwork strapped to the clipboard in her lap. Her lab coat seems to have been left behind in the infirmary; instead, she wears a loose set of slacks, a vibrant sunshine blouse, and a black knit cardigan draped over her slim shoulders. A pen in hand, she appears to be occupied with writing down the length of the first page—additional medical records, Satya assumes, although she can't be sure—and pauses every now and then to tap at the head of the clipboard in thought before continuing.

Satya heads toward her and sits down two seats to Mercy's left, the farthest she might situate herself from Junkrat's preferred corner. She folds one leg over the other and turns her attention to the tactics table in the center of the room. While everything is lit by a floating map of Gibraltar, the rest of the keys and pads on the table's surface remain dark and dormant.

"Is your shoulder feeling better?" Mercy looks up from her clipboard, her pen poised between her hands.

"It is," says Satya. "I haven't felt any pain since yesterday afternoon. Sometimes there is a tired feeling, but that is all."

"Good! That's great news. The tiredness is not an unusual side effect, especially with the exertion your shoulder was under. I wouldn't worry about it. It should clear up on its own soon enough. If it doesn't, do be sure to let me know. Biotic technology is superb these days, but it isn't foolproof." She laughs, and then adds, "Well, not yet, anyway."

"Well, it is still very impressive nonetheless," says Satya. "I imagine I would have had to suffer through an injured shoulder for the better part of a week without it."

Mercy nods, directing her attention back to her paperwork. "It is my hope that modern medicines will start to include an even wider usage of nanobiotic technologies over the next five years. There is still a lot of research being conducted, of course, but I believe there is great potential in using them in everyday medical scenarios rather than only high-risk surgeries or more debilitating illnesses. Making it accessible for everyone would make an enormous impact. After all, humanity's mortality rate is much less than what it was a decade ago thanks to those kinds of developments. If we could perfect everything for widespread use…" Lips thinned, she pauses and stares at the writing scribbled across her clipboard. "It isn't without risk. There are still many things that need to be addressed, of course. But if we're able to save more lives, I think it would be worth it. It has done wonders already."

"Did you work with those kinds of technologies outside of Overwatch, then?" asks Satya. "I will admit I haven't seen much in the medical field, but Miss Amari's rifle seems to employ something similar."

"I most certainly have," says Mercy. "In fact, it was my team of scientists who made one of the most crucial breakthroughs. Nanotechnology has been on the rise since the early twenties, but using it treat injuries was a sort of fantasy. Something you'd read about in sci-fi books, you know? Robots in the patient's bloodstream, able to attack cancers at the cellular level—that sort of thing. But we discovered something that allowed us to apply it in a completely different setting. It was the concept of the universal constructor that truly helped nanobiotics become a reality."

Satya frowns in thought, trying to pluck out specifics amongst the plethora of courses she'd once taken under the academy's prestigious instructors. Interspersed between language programs and architectural studies and lessons concerning the refinement of hard-light, there was a great amount of content covering world histories, Indian histories, varying levels of mathematics, and an overview of the development of technologies. One or two discussions centered on futurology and what horizons new tech would open for both Vishkar and for humanity, and she swears she recalls something similar in the vein of nanotech.

"The universal constructor," Satya repeats, her gaze falling to the crystal embedded in her palm. "That sounds so familiar. Is that what I think it is?"

"That depends entirely on what you think it is," says Mercy, entertaining an amused smile.

Satya taps the bright sapphire with the black grips of her fingers. "Machines that build machines," she says. "They act like a virus in the way that they have the ability to copy themselves. But the constructor is more than that, isn't it? It must be. Well, at least in the way that would serve you best. Your constructors aren't just machines. You built machines that could replicate human cells."

"Very impressive." A knowing glint flickers in the blue of Mercy's eyes. "You are impeccably sharp, Symmetra."

"Replication. So that is why the healing process is so quick. That's why it took such a short amount of time to treat my injury." Satya brings her right hand across the knob of her shoulder, the white metal warm to the touch. She gives it a testing rotate. There is no resistance and no pain: a perfect recovery. "How remarkable."

"Remarkable, indeed," says Mercy. "Not only can cancerous or malformed cells be destroyed, healthy cells can be copied and replicated at an accelerated rate. Patients can be healed in less than half the time, and that is on the long side of things. Optimal timeframes were recorded in mere seconds. A miraculous breakthrough." Mercy unfolds her leg, providing the holographic map of Gibraltar with a drawn frown. "Unfortunately, that is also why Ana Amari has similar technology in her weapon. Some of Overwatch's superiors wanted to weaponize nanobiotics. Her rifle was Torbjörn's work. I fought very hard to restrict it to medical purposes only, but when war comes to pass, there isn't much you can do. I was not happy about the fate of Overwatch, but in a way, I'm glad the organization was shut down before more harm could be done with it."

Satya glances to the empty chair that heads the right side of the tactician table, Winston's assumed seat. "If the idea of weaponizing it was proposed, is there a chance it might be tried again? I realize this group is bare bones compared to the numbers Overwatch kept in its prime, but would Winston or any of the others push for nanobiotic weaponry?"

"No, they wouldn't." Mercy pauses for a moment, her brow creasing, and then adds, "Well, at least I hope they wouldn't. I doubt Winston would ever approve of it if the situation should somehow arise."

"What about Reinhardt?" As Satya says his name, it occurs to her that the probability of him going against Mercy's will would be very low. Reinhardt may be a battle-scarred veteran with an unquenchable fire for combat, but if anything, he would find nanobiotic tech a cowardly alternative to a face-to-face firefight. "Or Torbjörn," she amends, nodding toward his usual seat in the center of the room. "You mentioned it was his work, after all. It wouldn't surprise me if he wanted to develop more arms like Ana Amari's."

A touch of worry shapes Mercy's frown. "It was his, yes. He's the one who designed it. But it wasn't his idea. The design for a long-range weapon utilizing nanobiotics was requested by Jack and Gabriel. It came up in some of our meetings across the organization during the war. There were so many people injured in the Crisis that our medics couldn't keep up. Between both our agents and local military troops, our medical attention was spread very thin. We barely had the resources to keep ourselves patched up, no less civilians and their first responders in dangerous combat zones. Ana's rifle was the original prototype to be deployed to medics out in the field. Its potential was great and it solved some of the problems at the time, but allowing users the option of 'shoot to heal' or 'shoot to kill' is a very dangerous route. Still, we sorely needed something to help the wounded. That couldn't be ignored. I had my misgivings, but sometimes you must risk more than you are willing in order to keep people safe. So, I allowed them to use what we made."

Despite the stoicism sculpting Mercy's expression, the stern stare she gives the tactician table is telling. It reminds Satya of how Sanjay would look if an important client deal fell through: cut fists, a straight back, face shaped as a block of hard marble, and two dark eyes like drops of cold resin. And yet, even when discussing an unsavory topic, there is still a degree of softness in her countenance that Sanjay never had. Concern, perhaps? Regret? Guilt?

There must be old wounds there, she realizes. The dissent within Overwatch remained under wraps until later in its life, and Satya wonders just how many sacrifices Mercy and her colleagues made to stop the war.

"If Jack does decide he wants to pursue similar weaponry," she says, turning her gaze back to her lap, "I will do everything in my power to stop him. The only clout he has with us now is only as an equal. Even if some of the others still call him Commander, he is not a commander anymore. The Overwatch he headed perished not long after he did. He is another old soldier now, just like the rest of us. There are no world leaders looking in on us and no council of superiors we must obey. I can tell him no, I will not allow it, and there is nothing he can do. And as silly as it seems… I think it would be nice to tell him no and see him mope every once in a while. Stubborn man."

A faint smile follows, cracking through the mask of rigid marble and sharpened stone, and Mercy reverts to the jovial demeanor she'd held upon Satya's arrival. Amusement, she thinks, or some sort of old fondness dusted from the depths of the attic and shined with a spot of polish. Even if there are old wounds scarred down beneath, there is no doubt that the old soldiers of Overwatch meant a great deal to her—both as associates and as friends.

Before long, other members of the team start to trickle into the conference room. Mei is the first, followed shortly by Tracer and McCree, and then by Winston who takes his seat at the head of the tactician table with a small laptop in hand. As Winston sets up and connects to the hologram projector, Genji arrives—without Zenyatta, Satya notes—and gravitates to one of the chairs behind Mercy in silence. By the time Morrison appears and takes his place at the opposite end of the table, quiet chatter has begun over the hum of the machinery corded through the walls, and Satya finds herself growing strangely impatient.

She supposes it isn't unusual for others to dawdle, especially with how extensive the Gibraltar grounds are, but the rigid punctuality in her is appalled at their tardiness. The sooner everyone arrives, the sooner everyone leaves, and she would be lying if she said she were not looking forward to leaving. The prospect of spending the better part of an hour or two in a cramped room with her colleagues—Junkrat, specifically, if she must be truthful—is not something she wants to endure, especially in light of the dream she'd had. While this is sure to be a typical yet tedious briefing, just like all their previous gettogethers pre- and post-mission, the reality is that she will have to sit in his presence and keep her thoughts focused on the past events in Lijiang as well as new topics both Morrison and Winston will present, and with how distracted she's been the last few weeks, she finds it less and less likely that she'll be able to keep them from wandering.

Eager to turn her attention elsewhere, Satya sneaks a furtive glance at the clipboard in Mercy's lap. It's difficult to see in the dimness of the room, but the light from the holograms shine a soft glow over the papers tucked under the metal clamp. It isn't a set of medical records or anything that might contain sensitive information or threaten any confidentiality laws. Instead, it appears to be an ongoing collection of personal notes, detailing bits and pieces of the team's past missions between paragraphs of neat, slanted handwriting. She catches familiar names tucked amongst the blocks of words, mentions of Winston, Reinhardt, Junkrat, Tracer, and McCree, and even a glimpse of her own moniker shuffled between them. None of it is surprising, especially if Mercy has been keeping an ongoing record of events for her own purposes as it seems she has, and yet it feels somehow strange to see written praise from someone so far removed from Vishkar's domain.

Perhaps this is a good thing, Satya thinks. If her colleagues do truly find her skills acceptable and noteworthy, she might be able to further establish proper rapport with them. Her role in Vishkar's hierarchy has taught her many things over the years, and one of the foremost is that it is always a smart thing to develop good relationships with those you meet, as networking and knowledgeable contacts are some of the most valuable assets in the corporate world. In the light of her future departure, she finds the thought of having others she might call friends somewhat comforting, even if there would be an entire continent's distance between them.

Pensive, Satya steals yet another glance at the clipboard. Below the initial text she'd seen, there are scattered pieces written toward the bottom of the page, seeming to be miscellaneous comments or Mercy's notes to herself. As she skims through more of Mercy's elegant script, there is one name that catches her interest: Gabriel Reyes.

Satya frowns in thought, letting her fingers drift over the back of the white metal that encases her knuckles. It's familiar, she thinks. Very familiar. While Satya has not yet heard the surname, Mercy had mentioned a Gabriel concerning her nanobiotics, and she remembers Reinhardt and Torbjörn mentioning a Gabriel as well. But didn't they say he'd perished in Switzerland? And with Jack Morrison, no less? Reinhardt had stated their deaths weren't an accident, whatever sort of catastrophe had caused them. But despite whatever happened, against all odds, it seems, Morrison had emerged alive. A bit scarred, perhaps, and a little worse for wear, but he'd come back from the dead just the same, and is now as healthy as any man his age—even more so, if she's perfectly honest. Ana Amari was also thought to be dead, according to Mercy and some of the others, but she'd managed to slip from death's grasp and return several years later, albeit minus one eye.

Is this a particularly common thing for Overwatch agents? she wonders, glancing up at the floating Gibraltar map. She is under no illusions about the real danger involved with the trade, especially with the state of the world as it is, but she must admit that she finds two faked deaths a very, very strange coincidence. Perhaps Gabriel Reyes suffered a similar fate.

Soon enough, the remaining stragglers find their way into the conference room. Reinhardt and Torbjörn arrive together in oil stained shirts and trousers with mussed hair and greased beards, rumbling about the state of the Crusader and sets of new enhancements planned for the outpost's defenses. Ana follows not a minute afterward with a small pink teacup held in both dexterous hands, a navy blue hijab draped over her head to conceal her white hair. Zenyatta accompanies her, a calm and solemn presence, the sleek golden silk of his Shambali robes whispering across the metal flooring as he mirrors her swift footsteps. Each of them take their respective seats among the rest of the group, slotting into the soft upholstery and adjusting themselves to the darkened setting of the conference room.

The pair of junkers are the last to stumble in. To her relief, neither of them spare her a glance as they make their way over to the rightmost side of the room, the farthest away from Genji and his omnic mentor. The black eyes of Roadhog's mask an imposing glint under the hologram's azure glow. He plods between the chairs, parting a path for himself and his wiry charge with nonchalant shoves before folding his massive arms and leaning against the far wall. Junkrat, seeming none too pleased about having to be present for yet another tedious gathering, hijacks one of the desk chairs and plops down, folding his good leg so his ankle rests over the plate of his metal knee. His left hand combs through his wild mess of blond hair while the other taps an even cadence on the armrest, and while he is too far away to discern exact details among the shadows cast from the tactician table, a part of her senses the prickling weight of being watched.

Unbidden, the unwelcome burn of embarrassment crawls up the back of Satya's neck and flushes through her face. Adjusting the position of her legs, she directs her stare away from him and concentrates on the curve of her shoe instead. The sleek white material patterned with streaks of violet and the prominent heel serves its purpose as an object of focus, but despite her best efforts, it does little to deter her thoughts. Junkrat's grinning doppelganger commands her imagination with vigor: teasing at the inside of her wrists, the nape of her neck, the dip of her navel, the sweet pressure of him sidling in between her thighs. The reminder of how she'd woken up this morning causes a slight shiver to pull through her lower back, and she must fight to still the slow and anxious sway of her foot. She knows she would be lying if she said she didn't crave the contact, but if the idea of him tapping her shoulder or holding her waist feels entirely strange, she isn't sure how she would expect herself to react to needy kisses and soft bites and wandering hands.

And still, as her conscience will not let her forget, all of what happened in the hazy incorporeality of her dreamscape can only pale in comparison to how she'd thought of him while in the privacy of the shower. The feeling of water sluicing down her back coupled with the errant fantasy of him pleasuring her with his fingers, his mouth, his cock, making sure she'd be full and satisfied, was almost too much to bear. Under any other circumstance, using the object of her affections to achieve release wouldn't cause this sort of conflict within her, but this instance only serves as concrete proof that not only is she attracted to him in an emotional sense, she is attracted to him in a sexual sense as well, and it bothers her.

It seems like such a ridiculous and farfetched concept not because of her, but because it's him, it's Junkrat, it's the madman with fire in his hair and insanity in his eyes and a lit fuse in his fist—but it's also Jamison Fawkes, the young man with a knit brow and lost limbs and filled sketchbooks who scrounged to keep himself alive in the aftermath of the Omnic Crisis in Australia. Through the ample time she's spent with him over the past couple months, she's realized that both identities are two sides of the same coin, two shadows cast by the same figure, and she can't say when her interest in his work or in his character had developed into this utter mess.

Satya draws a sigh, tracing the crystal in the heart of her palm with her fingertips. If the image of him kneeling over top of her would somehow disappear, she would truly appreciate it.

Thankfully, the meeting seems to pass without most of its usual tedium. Jack Morrison addresses their part in the reveal of a shady operation being conducted under Lucheng Interstellar's nose, and Winston elaborates on the president's decision to provide their ragtag group of mercenaries a monetary contribution as a reward. While a chunk of it will be funneled into the watchpoint's upkeep and the procurement of some sorely needed technological supplies, the rest is to be evenly divided and then distributed among the entire team.

"It's less than I would like," Winston admits, adjusting his glasses, "but it's better than what we've been able to give. If we keep this up, maybe in the future it'll be a more common occurrence. I know we don't have the UN backing us anymore, so no straight commission work or salaried jobs like before, but that doesn't mean we can't develop connections. I think Lucheng Interstellar was a good start, all things considering." He manages a toothy smile. "So, for now, everyone gets approximately four percent. It's not an enormous amount, but it's not pocket change. Think of it as a 'good job' bonus."

Pleased murmuring spreads throughout the room, and when Satya casts an inquisitive look toward Junkrat, she finds him grinning in pleasure.

After summarizing the remainder of the meeting with Lucheng Interstellar, Morrison steers the conversation toward tactics, providing Tracer with firm yet affectionate glances while doing so as if to indirectly admonish her for separating herself from the scouting group at Lijiang. Most of the conversation revolves around positioning, priorities, and sticking together to create a cohesive unit, which in turn leads to further points made by Winston about looking out for one another while on the field, during combat or otherwise. It isn't anything Satya hasn't heard before, especially since the encounter in Dorado where she and Mercy had been separated from the others, and she finds her thoughts drifting in between pieces of input from her peers.

It isn't long before Winston places his paw up over the tactician table's projected map of Lijiang and brushes it aside with a single gesture, allowing a larger map of the world to form in its place. The same marked coordinates McCree had stolen from Talon are superimposed across the light blue landmasses in the form of red dots, dispersed across the continents in a scattered array. The one by Lijiang's position on the map has been changed to green, indicating a successful investigation.

As the meeting turns toward what set of coordinates should be pursued next, Satya catches sudden movement in her peripheral. She glances to her right, beyond the sitting forms of Mercy, Ana, and Reinhardt, over toward the back wall where the junkers have taken residence. Winston's chipper baritone talks of probabilities and the potential for increased activity—not to mention Satya's brief interaction with the terrorist named Reaper and what multiple news sources claim to be a brief sighting of Doomfist in a city several hundred miles from Numbani's outskirts—but Satya's attention has detached from the conversation, rendering it a droning murmur in the film of her ears, and she finds focus on Junkrat instead.

He's shifted in his chair, his good leg crooked and resting against the armrest as he presses the heel of his boot into the cushion's edge. His body is at an angle, his elbow propped on the opposite armrest, and he lets the end of his peg keep flat to the floor to help him rock the chair back and forth. Heavy shadows obscure part of his face, leaving half illuminated by the soft blue light emitting from the three-dimensional map projected in the center of the room, and judging by the slanted turn of his mouth and the sharp crease in his brow, he appears more bored than anything else—hence the rocking, she assumes, and perhaps the change in posture as well. She can't quite see his other arm with how he's pretzeled himself in the chair, but it looks to be draped over his stomach, and she imagines him tapping absently along his belt or against the ever-present canteen hooked by his waistline.

It's strange, but there is a small, sequestered sliver of herself that wishes she were more comfortable being in a casual setting with him. She might do what he'd done for her with the tiny casings and create something small to keep his idle tendencies occupied, or she might whisper things to him concerning the meetings topics to help maintain engagement. The curious thought of holding his hand comes to mind, prominently and with a flutter behind her breastbone, and she bites at the inside of her cheek to banish it.

"Jack, Winston—I'm sorry to interrupt, but might I speak?"

Reinhardt's gravelly voice captures Satya's attention. She wrenches her gaze away from Junkrat to settle onto where Reinhardt sits in his own chair, his great arms crossed over the thick plane of his chest. Something grave has crossed his grizzled features, she notes; his good eye is trained on Morrison, as if he expected some sort of backlash for his request, and his mouth has thinned into a grim frown. It reminds her of how he'd looked in the workshop, immersed in conversation with Torbjörn about the happenings at Switzerland. The severity of death and war have aged him well.

"I promise it is important," says Reinhardt, his thick eyebrows furrowing together. "You know I would not ask otherwise."

"Even if you just wanted to comment on breakfast, you'd be more than welcome to add to the conversation." Winston grins, and with a casual swipe at the hologram, he zooms the map back out from the particular set of coordinates that were under discussion. "The floor is yours, Mister Wilhelm. What's on your mind?"

From the opposite end of the tactician table, arms folded and jaw set, Morrison only nods his assent. His blue eyes are cold chips of steel in the pale light. His jagged facial scars stretch under the strain of a stern countenance, adorning his face with a fierce solemnity Satya recalls from the warehouse in Dorado, but there is a trace of concern in the creases in his brow.

"Thank you," says Reinhardt. "I realize this is off topic, but with all this talk of pursuing another encounter with Talon, I thought it would be best to address it now." He lets his gaze sweep across the room, appraising the others amongst the chairs, and Satya watches his stark white eye glisten in a film of blue cast from the hologram. "This is… well, a highly personal matter, to be frank. It's something I hoped I could avoid, but with how things are turning out, it does not seem like that will be possible. I'm afraid something will need to be done, and soon, or else it might start to severely affect my position here."

"You know we're all friends here, Reinhardt," says Mercy, offering an encouraging smile. "Personal matter or not, it is no less significant. Whatever it is, I know I can say with utmost certainty that it will not affect your position among us at all. I'd hoped you would have known that."

Reinhardt's expression softens. "Sometimes an old man forgets."

"Oh, nonsense," says Ana. She leans forward from her chair and pats his shoulder from behind. "I think that is you being stubborn more than anything. Your memory hasn't dulled just yet."

"Ah, but I think it has rusted just a little," says Reinhardt. "I'm not as young as I used to be, you know. The same goes for my armor. It is no secret that the Crusader does not perform as well as it did. It is missing a few necessary components, and I'm sure if you were to ask Torby, he'd tell you the power core is starting to retain an even lesser charge than it used to all those years ago."

"Ha, I'd tell you a lot more than that," says Torbjörn. "The hull itself is durable, sure, but there are only so many times I can weld bullet holes shut. Cracks and hairline fractures are harder to repair if they run too deep, and there are getting to be quite a lot of those. Metal is metal, but it gets weaker just slapping thin layers overtop the injuries. Remaking all those plates would be a far better option than trying to repair something that's got more holes in it than a block of Emmental cheese."

"I know. It is unfortunate." Reinhardt sighs, combing a hand through his thick head of hair. "As much as I tried to maintain the Crusader all these years, the truth is that it is very old, and in need of more care than the simple repairs Torby can provide."

"They aren't simple," says Torbjörn. He sniffs, as if affronted by the statement. "I'd like to see you do some welding."

"I will have you know I've done plenty of it, little man. I know how to take care of my armor. Brigitte and I repaired the Crusader while travelling in Germany, many months before Winston's recall. It needed parts then, too, but I ignored her warning because the situation required it." Reinhardt's eyes settle on the map overhead, the large scar carved across his left pinching with the worry shaping his face. "Still, that does not negate the fact that its age is starting to show. It needs a new power core. That much is certain. It could also use new parts to its hull. Replacing some of the pieces altogether would do it good, I think. Perhaps some of the joints and other internal components as well. This is why I would like to ask a favor."

Tracer leans forward in her chair, interest arching her eyebrows. "All right, then. What's the favor? I don't suppose we're going to pop down to the manufacturer and have a word about the warranty?"

"Warranty?" Reinhardt regards her with a lionlike grin. "Ha, if it were so simple, I would have had a replacement Crusader five years ago. Maybe ten! I could have had many replacements if I'd wanted. Then the damage from the war wouldn't linger, and I would not be such a burden on us now."

"You are not a burden," says Genji, a soft and even voice from behind Satya. "Neither is your armor. Do not mistake minor inconvenience for a burden. You have done many great things made possible by your armor, things all of us are very thankful for, and I wouldn't find it a burden to search for a more permanent means of repair."

McCree nods in agreement, tilting up his hat with his thumb. "Shimada's right, y'know. You kept us all in one piece, both then and now. Shields are mighty useful, and I know I don't mind that rocket hammer of yours. I don't see why trying to keep your suit running right would be a burden on any of us. So, c'mon. Out with it. What's your favor?"

Reinhardt clears his throat, as if nervous, and affords the room an almost apprehensive look. "I would… I would very much like to visit the village of Eichenwalde. It was the last stand of many brave Crusaders in Stuttgart's defense during the Omnic Crisis many, many years ago. It was also the last stand of Balderich von Adler, my master. He lost his life there, but he was able to bring about a turning point in the war. His death—all of their deaths—saved thousands of lives. Stuttgart would have been decimated had it not been for their noble sacrifice."

He laces his fingers together and raises his gaze up at the world map splayed overhead once more. His brow rumples, the crows' feet and worry lines etching with poignant remembrance. There is a palpable sorrow in how his shoulders slope, how his back curves, how his mouth slants, tough and weathered and something thought long gone that seeps up through the cracks, and Satya wonders just how many friends Reinhardt has lost.

"The village has fallen to rot since the war," says Reinhardt, "but their armor remains. Balderich's armor remains. I wish to go to Eichenwalde and retrieve it. I also wish to bury Balderich, to give him the gratitude he deserves. If there are others in the ruins, I would like to bury them as well. They endured a warrior's death; they deserve a warrior's burial." He pauses for a long moment, his fists clenching in his lap. Reinhardt's heavy stare flicks to Morrison, to Winston, and then to the rest of the room. "I ask this favor because I would require transport for Balderich's armor. I could not hope to do it alone. I can bury my master, but I cannot bring his armor back to Gibraltar. Not without assistance. It is too great a task for the last Crusader to handle on his own."

Morrison's countenance has eroded into something soft, worn, solemn. With one hand pathing along the back of his neck, a slight smile stretches the scar by his mouth. "You'd need more than just the transportation," he remarks, his voice a gruff scratch across the room. "You'd need some able bodies to go with you to make sure the area is secure. A team of four or five should do the trick. If you're going to go to some secluded village out in the middle of nowhere, I won't have you going alone."

"Jack's right," says Torbjörn, twisting one of the braids of his beard. "You might as well bring the lot of us with you. You'd need someone to make sure the armor is in good shape to begin with, after all."

"You'd need a pilot as well," adds Tracer. "How else do you plan on getting there?"

"And you would require fast, reliable transportation back to the ship," says Satya. She weaves a wireframe in between her palms, displaying the crude form of a teleporter base between her fingers. "I can guarantee a swift connection between the ship and our destination. Once you have the armor, we can transport it through the teleporter and be on our way. Quick, clean, and simple."

"I don't suppose you'd be in need of some heavy lifting, yeah? Them things don't look too light." Junkrat jerks a thumb back at Roadhog with a sly smile. "We got you covered."

"I should like to assist as well." Zenyatta's synthetic voice sounds from somewhere behind her, gentle and even. "Burying the dead is a laborious task, but it may be made easier with help. I would make amends for what damage my brethren wrought in wake of the Crisis."

"And I'd like to bring an elixir or two along, just in case." Ana lifts herself from her seat and pads over to Reinhardt's side, her thin hand reaching out to brush a lock of his mane from his face. "A knight can never be too careful, you know. He needs his comrades. And all of us would be more than willing to lend a hand."

Reinhardt's shoulders droop as he covers his mouth with his hand. Satya thinks she can see him shudder, but she can't be certain. "Thank you, my friends. You are very kind."

"Hey now, we don't need no thanks, all right?" McCree nods in Reinhardt's direction. "Just looking out for you is all. Think of it as returning the favor."

"He's right, you know," says Mei, patting her hands over the top of her weather drone. "What friends would we be if we didn't help? Poor ones, I'd think."

"Rather poor ones, indeed," agrees Mercy. She offers Reinhardt a gentle touch on the shoulder, light yet encouraging, and smiles with tangible warmth. "Don't worry, Reinhardt. We will come with you. Eichenwalde, you said? I remember that name. It was all over the news all those years ago, wasn't it? The Crusaders' last stand."

He nods in affirmation, a slow and pensive gesture. "It is a very old place, and rich with Germany's history. There is a great castle there at the back of the town, built many centuries ago. It used to be just another part of the village's charm, some sort of attraction for tourists and travelers, but it eventually became the last bastion between Stuttgart and the omnic march." Reinhardt stifles a dark chuckle. "Stone walls flanked by a dozen Crusaders hold surprisingly well against bullets."

"A grim outcome. The slaughter of an entire unit in exchange for the safety of a city. Necessary, and yet unnecessary all the same." Ana draws a weary sigh. "At least they will be honored properly. They were brave soldiers, much like their companion here. I hope this will help put you at ease."

Reinhardt's mouth thins in a wan smile. "Not quite. But it is a start, I think. I carry on in their name. I also carry on in the name of Overwatch. I will honor the Crusaders and my master by quashing whoever is responsible for the events that threaten us with another war. Justice will be done."

"Noble, but justice needs a little direction first." Morrison grins in amusement across the tactician table, unfolding his arms in the pale light from the hologram. "We'll have to work on assigning a team together and decide on a suitable time for deployment. While I'm sure all of you would like to make the journey, we still need some bodies hanging around the watchpoint. Torbjörn's and Symmetra's defenses are impressive, but no system is foolproof."

"Aye, but it's damn close," says Torbjörn.

Satya provides him with a pointed look behind Mercy's back. "You're welcome for the support."

Torbjörn grumbles under his breath, but gives her a playful wink.

"The quicker we decide on the details, the better off we will be." Genji adjusts himself in the chair, crossing his arms over his chest. Some of the outer plates of his armor have been removed, Satya notes, and a smooth bodysuit lies beneath. "It is in our best interest to do it as soon as possible. After we retrieve this set of armor and return, we can hit our next mark that much sooner. Whatever operations Talon has for Doomfist or any other artifacts, we must be ready to meet them."

"While I'd normally agree with you, there are a few things we need to take care of first before half of us take a trip to Germany," says Winston. "Our communicative frequency and the devices, for one. I don't trust what happened to Lena's, especially with it falling into Talon's hands, so it will be up to me and Symmetra to make another set."

"My notes are very thorough," says Satya, a swell of pride blooming in her chest, "and I already have plans in mind for another prototype. I can get right to work after we finish here today, so I may have something for you tomorrow. I can integrate whatever sort of changes you plan on making to the inner receiver without input, but it would be best if I could see the intended size before anything becomes 'official,' so to speak."

"Most definitely," says Winston, and flashes a proud grin at her. "I'll hop back to the lab and start tinkering as soon as we're done. I might be able to make do with what we have, but don't be surprised if I need to place an order or two for some extra parts."

"All right, duly noted." With a sigh, Morrison folds his hands together and squints up at the world map. "Well, since our options are restricted for the time being, let's reconvene on this in another couple days and see where we're at. In the meantime, let's try to keep a focus on Talon. They're aware we have intel of theirs, but to what extent, I have no idea. All I know is I'd rather be prepared for whatever they have for us at the next set of coordinates, so avoiding an encounter for now is the best course of action. At least until we get Reinhardt's Crusader back in action. Then we can go from there."

"Does that mean we're breaking for lunch, then?" asks Tracer. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm famished."

Winston glances down at his laptop over the rims of his glasses. "Well, it's half past noon. I'd say that's close enough. Why don't we pick this up tomorrow, Commander? We can go over our progress for the communicators and check for any new leads."

"Fair enough. These chairs are uncomfortable anyway." Morrison raises himself from his seat and gives his stiff neck a crack. He groans in discomfort, but the release of tension lets him hold a laxer posture. "All right, tomorrow at 0900 hours. Go grab lunch and enjoy the rest of your afternoons. I'll see everyone in the morning."

As everyone starts to gather themselves up from their respective chairs and head toward the exit, Satya keeps a long sigh of relief locked within. While everything had not been quite as bad as she'd anticipated, it doesn't stop the lingering thoughts. She could have paid more attention if she had been so inclined, and it bothers her that she'd been so invested in something—no, not something, someone; she must face the truth—that she'd found herself too detached from admittedly very important conversations to retain the details. She remembers something vague about Doomfist and Numbani, something about the sighting of Reaper, but what exactly had been said?

Biting at the inside of her cheek, frustrated with herself, she blocks out the noise of shuffling footsteps and rumpling clothes and slinks past Genji and Mei and out of the conference room with a controlled yet hasty stride. She needs to clear her head, desperately, and she knows no better way of doing so than immersing herself in her work. After all, she'd promised Winston another prototype to undergo his scrutiny, and it would be poor etiquette not to fulfill her promise.

With renewed purpose, Satya crosses the watchpoint grounds and makes her way to the workshop. Ritual guides her hand across the cool keypad, and when the door hisses open for her to climb through, she is relieved to find it empty and unused—it looks like Reinhardt and Torbjörn had finished up their respective projects before booking it to the meeting. After glancing once over her shoulder to make sure no one has followed, she slips inside and allows the entrance to shut behind her.

She finds that Junkrat's portion is still as cluttered as it always is, coupled with stray items scattered across the floor from Torbjörn's corner of rumpled blueprints and dismantled turret components. A locked tablet is hooked up to the room's ceiling projector, perhaps something Torbjörn had been showing Reinhardt concerning the Crusader, and the familiar hum of machinery churns back behind the walls. It seems odd to consider, but in spite of the people she shares this space with, it gives her a strange sense of peace and comfort, as if this were some sort of hallowed ground meant only for builders and those with a spark of creative blood in their veins. It feels even better when among her own things: this is a small slice of the outpost meant for her, an orderly space where everything has its place, and when she approaches the table with small turrets and discarded teleporter bases positioned just so and her writing utensils stashed away in the correct bin and her projects filed in proper order, the heartening swell of serenity swaths over her shoulders.

Perhaps it's too soon, but it's starting to feel like she might truly belong here.

Turning her focus toward the production of a new communicator, Satya combs for the sheaf of blueprints for the communicators out from among her other projects poised along the back shelf. She thumbs between the set for her newest teleporter model, another for various sentry turret enhancements, a thicker set for an old prototype shield generator, and yet another for the inner workings of her photon projector before she finds the flattened pages depicting her and her teammates' ideas for designs. Tugging them out, she flattens them across the tabletop and smooths out the creases and wrinkles with the pads of her fingers. The papers are curled and twist upward when she draws away, and so she presses two ends down under the weight of a pair of blocky white pencils.

Slowly, Satya flips through the pages as she studies the varying designs. Her own slew of models pepper the front pages, ranging through four distinct types and each of their intricate shapes to fit their wearer's head, and then graduate in a gradual pattern toward sketches and written paragraphs of ideas from the others. Winston had scratched out a few suggestions across two pages for her to consider, Mercy had written one or two just beyond Winston's entries, and Mei had sketched a couple final critiques. Reinhardt had mentioned something on his own addition concerning the integration into the Crusader, but accommodating the request would be too far out of scope for Satya to achieve without ample input from Winston.

She peels back another page patterned with Genji's elegant handwriting. Below it is a blank sheet divided by thin white gridwork: a fresh slate. It would be a decent place to sketch out a few more ideas before graduating to an entirely new set of blueprints for the next prototype, and it would save her from having other pages dedicated to brainstorming in an otherwise clean array of work. It would separate one project from the next, and give her a better sense of organization.

With her right hand, she plucks another white pencil from the metal canister toward the back of the tabletop. She smooths the heel of her palm out across the blank page, coercing the slight curls toward the ends of the sheet to flatten themselves against the metal table. As she glides her hand across the center of the page, a different texture presses up beneath her lifelines and causes her to take pause. Her brow wrinkles in puzzlement; she recognizes what it is—various lines raised from the back of the page due to previously applied pressure through writing—but she doesn't remember taking any kind of notes on the opposite sides of any of the sheets. In fact, she doesn't remember anything being written past Genji's comments. Perhaps one of the others had decided to write additional suggestions or ideas beyond their allotted page? Or perhaps Torbjörn had rifled through her things and stumbled upon her blueprints?

Frowning in thought, Satya takes the end of the sheet between the black fingergrips of her gauntlet and pulls it back. When she turns and sees what is splayed across its surface, shock yanks her a sharp step backward from the open page. The pencil clatters to the tabletop, and surprise knots itself in her throat.

Over the entirety of the turned page is a full, intricate, and incredibly detailed set of designs for a potential prototype. There is a large primary sketch in the very center of the page, utilizing the majority of her ideas while applying certain requests from the others, ultimately building off of her current model, and there are two smaller sketches located in the top leftmost corner and the bottom rightmost corner with small tweaks made to the initial prototype design. A fourth and final sketch rests at the bottom left-hand corner, portraying an entirely different approach to a communicator—instead of the general shell-like shape to cover the ear, the model has more of a skeletal resemblance, hooking around back behind the user's ear with a prominent arc while the housing for the inner circuitry would rest inside the user's ear itself, much like a hearing aid.

Scrawled narration encompasses each drawing in slanting blocks squished about their exteriors, pointing out specific changes between the displayed models with white blocky arrows and small squares scritched around certain sentences to emphasize importance. The handwriting itself has an almost hasty look to its letters, some of them narrow and others mashed together, as if the writer had been pressed for time when transcribing their ideas. The text consists of mostly capital letters, she notes, although some alternate between capitals and lowercase. The overall style looks vaguely familiar, especially with the scrawled and scratchy feel, but if she's seen it before, she can't quite remember where.

As Satya further inspects the page, she catches sight of something that makes her freeze. Among the copious amounts of text are a handful of small drawings fitted in the designated would-be margins. While drawings in themselves do not particularly warrant surprise, the ones on the page are not just any drawings—each one depicts a caricature portrait marked with prominent yet recognizable features: wild hair shaped into three prominent spikes, a sloping widow's peak, the rigid angles of a sharp face, and two small dots to represent eyes. The caricatures differ in expression from drawing to drawing, some laced with excitement while others hold a more thoughtful countenance, and each seems to react to the text they have been scribbled beside.

There is no question: everything on this page belongs to Junkrat. The fleshed out designs, the chicken scratch handwriting, the little images of himself; everything is a product of his time, his energy, and a cornucopia of nagging ideas. When exactly had he managed this? she wonders, pathing the black grip of her finger down the small depressions in the sheet of paper. Had the sheaf somehow been passed to him while the others were adding their suggestions? But if it had, wouldn't she have seen it upon its return? Or had it been after The Incident, when he'd taken them from the lush outcrop for 'safekeeping'? Or did he somehow manage to steal them away from her space in her absence only to return them to their designated spot sometime later?

Sudden realization forces her to take pause. Reinhardt's comment in the workshop following post-Incident: pencils. Yes, she remembers, pencils; quite clearly she remembers pencils, that Reinhardt had mentioned Junkrat was in the workshop looking for pencils—her pencils, no doubt—and had spirited away back to his room with the least amount of interaction he could manage. Pencils, pencils; Junkrat must have worked on them on the very day she'd mustered the courage to go after him and ask for their return. But if that is the truth, if he'd really produced all of this in a single sitting shortly before she'd arrived, then why had they been so far beneath his bed? Had he simply stuffed them there after finishing with the thought that she wouldn't want to confront him? Or had he been too uneasy, too unsure about his own designs?

Satya flattens her pencil upon the table and takes a deep, shuddering breath. Her eyes scan the scribbled writing as she attempts to gather herself. She doesn't know what to make of this, especially something so detailed and in depth. Only Winston's notes might rival their intricacy, and those are related to her work through his portion of the project; they concern the inner circuitry he'd replicate and provide for each model. In fact, despite the rudimentary nature of the language in the texts, the detail might even rival her own. There is a great amount of depth here, an impressive amount, and she supposes she would need a good block of time to sit down and study everything, and once she gets a better idea of where he's coming from with these proposed models, then perhaps she might try to implement particular pieces into a new prototype.

As she scans the rest of the page, something else snags her attention. Down below at the very bottom of the page is what looks to be a hastily written note, cramped into smaller letters and separated from the other blocks of text. The white tip of the pencil had been pressed harder here; there is a greater indent upon the sheet in the path of where each letter is shaped, as if a coil of frustration had driven his hand.

Her brow wrinkles and she brings her right hand down to frame the note. Next to the slope between her thumb and forefinger reads the following:



Before she continues reading, her eyes dart up to the top of the note. Biting at the inside of her lip, her thumb traces over the scratchy letters that compose her first name. She knows it isn't like other names, not like typical English or Anglicized names—she has had many a person ask how to spell and pronounce both her first and last name—and a part of her wonders where he might have found the spelling. Had he looked it up somewhere, perhaps? Or he had asked Athena?

Bewildered, Satya drags her fingers down to the remainder of the note. Certain pieces have been scratched out into jumbles of static white graphite; it looks like he'd been indecisive and plagued by second guesses concerning his word choice, and lacking an eraser, he had been left with no choice but to scratch them out. Other words have thicker letters than others, the product of lining over them again and again and with increasing strength, although whether the bolding is unintentional otherwise, she can't be sure.

The rest, riddled with corrections and fixes, reads:

I DON't KNOW [hard scratches are here, crossing out two words; why you—] WHeN YOU'Re COMiNG bACK FOR THiS? I'D bRiNG iT bUt YOU [more scratched out words, an entire line] RAN OFF! DON't WANt TO [scare—? oh] MAKe ANYtHiNG WORSE . . . WHeN YOU GEt iT bACK I DON't MiND tALKiNG AbOUT [more scratches; what you di—] ALL tHE DRAWiNGS, STiLL GOT A LOt OF IDeAS! MiGHT HeLP A biT!

Her pulse quickens. The implication strings a twinge down her back and she finds her breathing has grown shallow. After so long of trying to ignore The Incident and purge it from her waking memory, it is such a strange, twisting feeling to have proof of its occurrence written out in front of her, even in inexplicit terms. Neither of them have mentioned The Incident at all or acknowledged it to one another in any way; she'd made sure to maximize her distance in the aftermath to prevent such a confrontation, altering her routines to ensure her presence would never coincide with his, and he'd seemed to do the same, although his reasoning had apparently been for something else—don't want to make anything worse.

Was that it? she wonders, pressing the pads of her fingers against the writing. Was that why he'd acted the way he had? Did he want to avoid exacerbating the situation, avoid making her uncomfortable? And he wants to talk. He's wanted to talk. About his designs, certainly, but if the ruthless scratch marks are any indication—

Clenching her jaw, Satya's eyes dart down to the very end of the page. Just below, there is only a single sentence scribbled beneath the bulk of the note, written with an even harder pressure into the paper:


All of her stills in a gripping panic. There is no way she could possibly misconstrue the reference. He means The Incident, surely; he means sitting on the outcrop with her, one leg crossed; he means dusk exhaling its stars across the sky as the ocean gathers the sun's sinking rays; he means the gravity of the pause she'd taken, the adjustment of his shirt; he means her taking him by the chin and leaning up to kiss his cheek. And maybe he means earlier that morning, too. Maybe he means staring at her in the hangar under the shadow of the ORCA or keeping her secured in his lap with his arm around her side or grinning as he'd swiped pieces of chocolate cake from her plate.

And he doesn't mind. He doesn't mind. He doesn't mind.

But what does that mean, she panics, flustered and overcome—does that mean he liked the gesture? Does that mean he wants it to happen again? Does that mean he's interested? Does that mean he's decided his previous interest isn't something worth pursu—

"I'm telling you, mate, she ain't like that."


Oh, no.

Satya's fingers curl, crinkling the surface of the page. A thick string of tension coils down through her hands and twists into her knuckles and metacarpals and into the heels of her palms. The percussive drum of her heart tightens down her throat, and she finds that her mouth has become far too dry. Something vicious whorls in the hollow of her chest, gnashing against her lungs and pressing up against the backs of her ribs, and she wishes she could somehow carve it out and wrench it away, but she can't. Leaning her weight against the workshop table, she stares at the white handwriting scrawled across the rigid gridwork and the vivid blue of the page, and yet everything seems to devolve into a smeared blur; none of the words spur recognition, none of the letters register; there is only the rich palette of sunset and a shock of body heat and the repetitive churn of I don't mind.

It makes sense now. It truly does. She had been right: all the others are noncandidates, and they're noncandidates because they always have been. None of them have shown anything but camaraderie and friendship. None of them have continually sought out his company and enjoyed idle conversations at the ocean's edge or at the workshop or looking out over the craggy beaches down the slope of the Rock. None of them had agreed to participate in a competition to see who could save the other the most—just for us—and none of them had been cajoled into an outing into downtown Gibraltar under the guise of owing half an engine.

Slowly, Satya brings her palm against her mouth as a trembling exhale releases from her lungs. She's the one he was talking about, isn't she? She is. She must be. She's the one he had been referring to that morning in the hangar. She's the one he spoke of while he toyed with the sapphire blade between his fingers, drenched in sunlight and with the scent of motor oil clinging to his clothes. He said she was too good for that sort of thing—flirting? Does he really think she's too good for flirting? What else does he think she's too good for?—and vehemently denied any sort of involvement, citing that any participation would jeopardize their employment. And while that might be true, as it is never a good idea to get romantically involved with those you work with, she starts to wonder if that had only been a means to mislead his prying bodyguard.

Satya continues to stare at the note, throat tight and palms sweating and unable to draw a proper breath. Since she was assimilated into Vishkar's academy in her youth, she has spent her life interacting with people in various respects. She has spoken with established clients, prospective customers, mayors, city councils, and citizens hailing from an array of backgrounds. She is not unused to how one is expected to behave and socialize with others, and she has perfected her corporate façades to facilitate those kinds of interactions. There are some things she has trained herself to be acutely aware of, like certain types of body language or voice inflection, but there are some aspects of social interaction that do not quite click, and it can be a challenge to parse the context of some actions from the context of others.

As a result, subtle things like flirting are often lost in translation. It does not help that interpersonal relationships have always proved somewhat difficult to navigate on varying levels, especially regarding touching and eye contact. Both are necessary in select situations in the business world, and she has always made do with the discomfort of both throughout her entire professional career. Acclamation had been a rather slow process to endure, but things like handshakes are swift and simple, and staring at someone's nose is an easier feat than looking at them head on.

There are exceptions, of course. Sanjay is one of them. His continuous presence post-academy has made him a stable fixture in Satya's life, and under his tutelage, she was able to pave a path for herself up Vishkar's corporate ladder. His company has always taken the edge away after a difficult meeting or a particularly stubborn client, and when she'd lingered in Utopaea among Vishkar's offices, embraces or a locked arm provided her with a steeping sense of comfort. Years ago, Arasi had been yet another exception; lacing hands during late morning brunches and soft hugs while practicing Bharatanatyam sequences in Arasi's living room had been frequent and appreciated gestures, and coy kisses on hot and rainy afternoons filled the spaces between projects and travel. Even after their departure, Satya had greatly cherished both their company and relationship despite their views concerning long distance and career paths. A few of her other colleagues—José, Eesvari, Maraan in particular—through years of working together and becoming well acquainted through shared projects have wedged their way into exceptions as well. Their presence has become a comforting thing, José's in particular, and never has she minded an affectionate embrace from any of them.

There are exceptions, of course, as there always are, and it should not come as a surprise that she now finds Junkrat among them. Touching him is not like shaking hands with a potential client, a distinguished public figure, nosy news staff, or prying journalists. Gazing at him is not like keeping eye contact with a person of authority who can singlehandedly decide the fate of Vishkar's presence. Talking with him is not like her business oriented meetings with Sanjay, or the childhood tales she'd shared with Eesvari, or even like the tender note Arasi had left for her on the day they'd left. Everything is altogether different: his touches are to haul her onto rooftops or carry her from harm while a round lies punctured in her leg; his eye contact always accompanies wide smiles, ranging laughs, and the occasional simper; his conversations are teasing and prodding and punctuated with off-color jokes or collections of very bad puns.

And flirting, she realizes, running the pad of her finger across the small depressions across the page. It's been flirting. The teasing, the staring, the coaxing, the team exercise, the grenade shells, the outing, the tea, the bloody handstand—it's all been flirting. Every single last bit. When he'd flashed a wild grin and called her dynamite, when he'd settled the tea boxes atop her head by the outcrop under sunset, when he'd stolen portions of cake from her plate on the ocean promenade, and even when he'd called her snippy while traversing Lijiang's streets—gods, it's been everything, hasn't it?


Everything since when? When had this started? How long has she stumbled about not knowing? Before the hangar, surely, but how long before the hangar? When she'd been tied up in a weapons trafficking warehouse in Dorado? When she'd fled with him over the hot stone of Gibraltar's streets? When he'd clasped his arms around her waist and swore on his mother's grave before the ocean could heave up to meet them both?

She digs her teeth into her lip and slams her hands down against the tabletop, crinkling the blueprints beneath in cracked whorls spiderwebbing out from the broken threads switched into the valleys of her palms. Tension cords through her shoulders, her back, her arms, flanking the sides of her throat and locking a tight knot down under the dip of her chin. The scratching presence of disbelief pricks at the sides of her ribs and she finds herself spun in a flustered tangle she does not know how to disengage from.

Never has she felt so incredibly blind.

As she continues to stare at the note, the sound of the workshop door sliding open carves a tendril of shock through her bones. She recognizes what comes next: staggered footsteps punctuated by the unmistakable click of metal against metal striking with every other step. They begin to make their way toward the rightmost side of the room with intent, with purpose, and she doesn't need to look to know that the gait belongs to Junkrat. It's telling how its pace alters as he paths between piles of inventory, shifting amongst displaced parts and bottles of components, and it draws to a halt as he takes pause before the back tables, parallel to where she stands. Rummaging then commences at her peripheral; he sweeps aside unnecessary pieces and half-finished compositions and rumpled scraps of discarded papers—a decidedly noisy affair, and yet somehow less percussive and intrusive than his very first week in the workshop.

With a brimming hum of anxiety smothered under her skin, Satya folds the blueprint pages back over into their appropriate position. She takes care to let her frantic haste remain unnoticed, cording every movement with the fluid precision she channels into her mudras and the expressions Bharatanatyam requires. After the note has been buried amongst the pages, she collects the white pencils scattered along the tabletop and places them back into their marked bin. She then curls up the blueprints, ensures they are properly aligned, and sets them back among her various projects. Shaking adrenaline has flooded her from the realization of the note's significance, and another shot rockets through beneath her breastbone at his presence. The vivid imagery of his dreamlike counterpart poised over top of her and guiding his mouth across her wrists begins to dominate her thoughts, and when a familiar clench of want wrings taut in her lower belly, she knows she has no choice but to leave. Staying here would only place her in a position she does not yet want to be in; confronting him about something so personal in nature is not something she could possibly be ready for this soon.

Drawing herself into a straight and rigid posture, Satya holds in a sharp breath and pushes herself away from the tabletop. She is careful and deliberate in her movements: she turns to her left, her back to Junkrat, and she starts her way toward the workshop door. Half-finished pieces scattered about from Torbjörn's projects stare at her at their places from the opposite side of the room, turret bases and firing mechanisms and discarded sheets of metal not yet forged into their proper product. Reinhardt's towering Crusader armor hangs on its giant frame in the far corner, the colored slot of the visor providing her with a judging stare as she strides across the room.

Just before she can make her way to the threshold, Junkrat's voice arises amongst the noise of his searching.

"Oi, you ever been to Germany?" It's accompanied by soft clinks and the occasional scuffles of his rummaging, a palpable sliver of curiosity hewn into its timbre.

The temptation to glance over to her right coils into her nerves, but she resists. Satya releases the caged breath in her lungs, short and swift as if it somehow hurt to keep inside, and she reaches for the smooth metal climbing up her forearm with the pads of her fingers.

"I have, yes. Several times, in fact. I travelled there with a colleague of mine to gauge further expansion in Munich." She hones her focus to keep her tone smooth and tempered, but it captures something much colder than what she'd intended. "Vishkar offered its expertise with reparation efforts there after the war. From what I understand, there were a lot of plans to overhaul the damaged sections of the city."

A brief, thoughtful pause, and then: "That's not where we're going, is it?"

"No, it isn't," she says, and tries to coerce her voice into sounding less rigid. "Reinhardt mentioned it was a small town near Stuttgart. Eichenwalde, if I remember correctly. Munich is in another region altogether."

"Right. Still, should be a fun little jaunt, yeah? Never been myself. Always wanted to do a little more travelling. Something to do while we wait. Might not be blowing up a tower, but least it's something." Something cylindrical rolls across the metal surface of the tabletop, angled from his direction; the sound of his hand snapping down over top of it commands the silence of the room. "But it's weird, innit? Wandering about some dead town, collecting some dead bloke's armor. Wonder if there's anything else there other than a bunch of old skeleton knights."

Satya keeps her stare along the shape of the door. She follows the rectangular edge of the metal threshold, the etched grooves into the face of the door itself, the sheen of the chrome reflecting metallic sheaves of light into the room. The familiar logo of Overwatch has been embossed across its surface, dark paint smoothed across the lower pieces while a streak of orange crests the very top.

"I wouldn't know," she says. "Reinhardt said the town was all but destroyed during the war. Remains of omnics, I imagine."

"Yeah? Reckon so? Well, that's fine by me." Junkrat makes a very pleased noise from his half of the room. "Target practice."

"There is a shooting range for that, you know," she reminds him.

"That shoddy little lineup? Pff, you seen them targets Scarface's got set up? Flimsy. None of em's gonna hold up against what I'd lob at 'em. 'Sides, watching some bot blow up's a hell of a lot better than a piece of painted wood."

Absently, she is surprised Torbjörn hasn't yet offered his skills in manufacturing some sort of practice robots for the rejuvenated shooting range, but she does her best to file the thought away for a later time. "Regardless, isn't that the purpose of targets? You're supposed to hit them, even if they are flimsy. It helps exercise your muscles through repetitive action and hones your aim."

"Aim? Oi, I didn't say anything 'bout aim. Who needs aim, anyway?" He laughs, amused and lilting between octaves, and what sounds an awful lot like a mine casing setting down atop the table follows shortly afterward. "Aiming's overrated. I just like the fireworks."

Satya finds herself checking over the rise of her shoulder. Across the room, Junkrat leans himself against the surface of the back tabletop, his right elbow offering further support as his posture curls inward with lingering laughter. Patched camouflage shorts frame the cut lines of his hips, drawing attention to the blond trail that dips below his belt, the ripped and frayed ends falling just short of his knees. His blond hair is pale under the workshop lights, and yet the bleached sheen from the sun combs through in scattered highlights. The broad plane of his shoulders is soaked bronze, marred by uneven marks arcing over his trapezius muscles and pathing by his collarbone; the shirt, she thinks, and the thick straps from his grenade harness.

The desire to capture his jaws and pull him down toward her threads deeper and deeper through her bones.

Junkrat takes pause and looks up to meet her gaze, amusement latent in the richness of his eyes. He grins, a soft and familiar glint of gold at the corner of his mouth, and lifts himself away from the tabletop with a casual shove of his elbow. He clasps something in his left hand; it's held tightly in the knot of his fist, blanching his knuckles as he sidles his thumb from side to side along his curled forefinger. He takes a couple of steps away from the scattered pieces strewn about the smooth metal surface of his project space before drawing himself up to his full and staggering height.

"Oi, catch!" he says, and slings the object toward her in the gentle arc of an underhanded toss.

Satya spins around halfway and reaches out to snatch it midair. She captures it between the black grips of her fingers, pressing it flush against the crystal embedded into her palm. Brow creasing, she thins her lips in thought and opens her hand. Balancing upon the sleek sapphire gem, a small crimson grenade shell rests with the artistry of another painted smile worked over its hull in white paint. The welded seam between the two halves has been done with a steadier hand than before, and along its circumference are little dots—no, not dots, she thinks; they are too elongated, and with what look like deliberate edges; crystals, perhaps?—each dabbed onto the casing with enough sky blue paint to give them a raised appearance. Smoothing her right thumb over the intricate line, she finds that the new decorations provide yet another different texture to his creation.

"Right, that's three for three," he says, gesturing to the shell. "Forgot to give that to you after the long drop. Reckon now's as good a time as any, seeing as how we're tied and all. Might find another lying around for the fourth. Well, if you get a fourth. Don't think you'll have much trouble with how the last three went, but skill's skill, innit? Saving my neck sure seems to be one."

"Did you make an entire set of these?" she asks, raising her stare to afford him a stern, questioning look.

"Maybe. Maybe not. Don't matter, really." He shrugs and reaches out with metal fingers to one of the small vials lying on the back table. Poising it between thumb and forefinger, he twists his wrist back and forth, taking advantage of the sheer range the ball joint provides. "I make a lot of 'em. Good for keeping busy, right. Having a go at a little painting's not so bad, either. Makes sure this thing's still working like it should." He nods at his prosthetic hand for emphasis. "If things get shaky, then I need to find me a new neuroboard."

Satya's heart pounds in the back of her mouth and she knows she needs to leave but the grenade shell seems to have pinioned her in place. It stares at her from the flat of her hand, its smile beaming at her as it stares upward with x-marked eyes. "You're ambidextrous?"

"I'm what?" The question seems to take him by surprise.

"Ambidextrous," she says. "It means you can write with both hands. Usually it is supposed to be equally well, but I wouldn't discount adequate proficiency by any means."

"Oh." Junkrat rolls the vial between his fingers, as if contemplative. "Well, I dunno. Never really thought about it. Reckon so. Left's better than the right, but not by much. I think I used the other one for writing when I still had it. Y'know, before this arm. Been a long time. Don't really remember. I know this's not nearly as good as the real one was. I can write and draw little things, but it takes longer. S'better for trigger pulling than for something like painting."

"Was this done with your prosthesis?" The azure paint dotted along the casing's seam has been executed in a particular pattern, alternating between opposing sides of the welded line, and it seems like each small drop had been placed deliberately. "If it was, I would say that your proficiency is more than adequate."

"Face was with me right, and the little marks was with me left." His palm settles on the back of his neck, the callused pads of his fingers scratching by his hairline. "Y'know. Just for practice. Brushing up."

"I see." The little shell smiles at her, silent laughter shut between its painted teeth, and the scratched writing of his note resonates under her skin. Lines of pressed white graphite compose his imaginings into the undersides of her thoughts, and she finds herself tightening her grip upon the casing. "I'm curious, and I must ask… Do you draw with your right hand as well?"

"Eh. Sometimes. Depends, I guess. It's different 'cause you can't feel much. Feeling's just not the same way, y'know? Least not with this thing. S'more like ghosts than anything else. Maybe other models are better, right, the real ripper ones with all them sleek designs and proper sizes. They got sensors, I think. Something like that. Good ones, and better neuroboards stuffed in 'em. Things like that. Let you feel more." His mouth slants into a thoughtful line as he continues to toy with the little vial, guiding it between the bends of mechanical fingers and over the flat heads of the screws over his knuckles. "Don't gotta worry about all that with the real one. Drawing's easier. Don't have to pay too much attention or anything. No worries 'bout snapping pencils. Just find a page and start scribbling."

Satya pulls her gaze away from the smiling shell and locks her gaze with his. There is something strange that shapes his countenance—regret, perhaps, or enveloping nostalgia—and it delves into worry lines and shifts into the bruiselike smudges painted beneath his eyes. His adam's apple dips in a swallow, and the rest of him seems to still. The bottle comes to a gradual halt beneath the orange metal of his palm.

"Well, regardless of whatever obstacles you have, you draw very well," she says. The words are quieter than she'd anticipated, the kind of cool and calming quiet that trails the fingers of rainy days and sticks to the windowsills as the drops roll down in shining sheets of glass. "You have a very keen attention to detail. It's quite remarkable."

"Nah. I dunno about that. S'just scribbles. Nothing important. Gets ideas out so I don't gotta think about 'em." His shoulders bob in a nonchalant shrug, and the amber in his eyes seems to sharpen under the workshop lights. "Where'd you go about seeing scribbles of mine, anyhow?"

"Your notebook." It's said too fast, she thinks, as if the staccato punctuality of a response could somehow expose its purpose as a white lie, but she pulls in a steeling breath and consciously regulates her voice to slower, softer, and more deliberate tone. "I remember seeing it aboard the ship on more than one occasion. You showed it to me briefly, if you remember. I thought the designs were impressive. So were the ones in your room. You mentioned you have designs for prosthetics as well. The very nature of such things dictates that they must be detailed. With all of the small components in explosives, your line of work is no exception."

Junkrat's fingers curl back over the vial. His posture slackens as he leans himself back against the table, metal elbow resting upon its chrome surface, and his jaw begins to work as he bites at the edge of his lower lip. The small bottle starts to make its way between screws and hinges again, tumbling over and under and into the flat of his palm.

"Right, yeah, I forgot about that," he says. "I did show you some of 'em, didn't I?"

"You did. They were ideas for new variations of your explosives, or at least that's what I assumed. That was several weeks ago. More recently, I remember seeing some sort of unique weapon design over in your workspace. I'd never seen anything like it." The ramping intensity of his stare causes her to turn her gaze back toward the side of the room, strewn amongst his chaotic piles of miscellaneous inventory. She bites her tongue; the compelling pull to mention what she'd found scrawled toward the unused pages of her blueprints seems to burn at the back of her mouth, aching as if she'd swallowed a coal.

"It's a rework," he says, and reaches over toward the stack of rumpled papers shoved to one side of the cluttered tabletop. He thumbs through the pages with his left hand and plucks one out from amongst the stack, splaying it open across the smooth surface for further inspection. "Eh, well, sort of. More of an entire overhaul, come to think of it. Whole new everything. S'just something I wouldn't mind trying when me current one decides she's had enough. She's still ticking, though, so might be a while before I get a chance to give this a go." With a shrug, he slides the page back across the table by the pads of his fingers and lets it linger near the stack. "Only problem is I'd need to do some extra scrounging to find all the right bits and bobs to throw her together. Procuring ain't easy, 'specially with how she's gonna work."

"I assume that would include more of your so-called 'scrap runs,'" she says.

Junkrat flicks the tiny bottle upward into the air with a twitch of his thumb before catching it again. "Probably. And probably a drop of tea, too. Might pop by that shop again if we're around."

"We?" Satya's grip on the grenade shell tightens, and she begins to roll it back and forth between the black grips of her fingers.

"Yeah. Me and Hog. He won't let me drive his bike on me own or else I'd be doing my scrapping solo." Carefully, he settles the vial back against the table, thumb and forefinger curled around the curved glass of its body. "Could probably nick some old clunker or one of them nice techno rigs if I really wanted. Nobody's ever watching in this place and hot wiring's real easy. Skip 'round town and swipe what I need in a heartbeat. Even if I did, don't think the monkey would be too keen on the idea. You ever seen how big he gets when he's miffed? 'Less I feel like being launched over 'cross the pond, it's the either the big lug and his bike, or I hoof it down a bloody mountain."

"Well, while I am quite glad you don't have any plans to steal someone else's vehicle," she says, clasping the shell far too tight, "I sincerely doubt Winston would throw you across the ocean for it. Even if he were angry, I find it unlikely he would want to threaten your life in any way. He would have Roadhog's ire to contend with, and I'm certain there would be others who would be just as cross."

Junkrat glances up at her, his left hand resting against the side of the table. "Others? Ain't that a little generous?"

"I don't think so. I know I would certainly be displeased with such disorderly conduct displayed by someone who holds a high position of authority within our group." She turns her focus back toward him, and with earnest. A knot of strength curls down beside her lungs and digs its roots through her bloodstream. "Even if you do choose to steal a vehicle, no one will throw you anywhere. I can't speak for the local authorities on that matter, of course, but even if they do still somehow utilize barbaric corporal punishment, they would definitely not toss you into the ocean."

A smile cracks its way in. "Right. Well, that's a relief. I can sleep easy now."

"That doesn't mean the choice not to steal is any less prudent," she says.

"Hey, all right, I'm working on it. I am. Sorta. Got the tea, remember? No accosting or anything. Cross me heart." Angling himself toward her, Junkrat hops up on the surface of the table and lets his prosthetic leg hang off the side. The empty vial begins to travel between both hands, rolling along fingers and under knuckles before capturing in his left fist. His shoulders slump with his leaning posture, and as he tucks his boot over the metal plate of his knee, he affords the smooth glass a thoughtful look. "This stuff's bloody hard yakker, y'know," he says, thumb tapping against its surface. "Working with an outfit like this. Going legit. Gotta keep your gob shut and your head down 'cause of all them politics. Feels like you got a box around you or something. Dunno how you stand it."

"Practice." With a deep breath, Satya shifts her attention away from the warmth unfurling through her chest and along her fingertips and directs it at the floor instead. "There are a number of things that require practice, and adapting to a new set of rules and surroundings is one of them. You said yourself this is nothing like Junkertown. Was that tea the first thing you've ever purchased here?"

"Maybe," he says.


"Right, I said maybe. I didn't say it was. Said maybe."

Satya raises an eyebrow. "Maybe."

"Maybe." He offers a dismissive shrug. "Maybe or not, everything's set up. Well, for the most part. Had it in the works for years, right, but never bothered. Never really needed it. No point when you're popping from place to place. But now that all this's come about, reckon might as well. Least now you don't gotta keep track of my tea tab or anything."

"Whatever you incurred was paid back with the tea on the Catalan. As far as I'm concerned, there is no tab. If there are more in the future, then I assume they will be paid back in a similar manner."

Junkrat pauses, his hands coming to a gradual still. "There'll be more," he says, and it isn't a question.

"I wouldn't protest. I did say I like sweet things on occasion." Satya slides the shell to her other palm, and the warmth from her gauntlet webs through her body heat. "Unless you would prefer otherwise."

"Well… you had errands. That's what that cloth shop was, right? And the box that old sheila gave you. That's why you went. You went to meet up with her. Well, and for tea. The boxes and all that for Nan." He begins to fidget with the vial once more as his shoulders draw inward. "Right, yeah, so unless you owe me another engine I don't know about or you got some other errands you're keen on finishing up, I'd say you're off the hook. 'Sides, you seemed in a right hurry to get back once we started going up the Rock. If having a ride downtown ain't your cup of tea, I ain't about to force it."

Heat brims too closely beneath her skin. It seems to stick against her skin and breathe through her clothes, and there is no way of escaping the pull that clenches at her stomach. She wants to say that it's true, it wasn't her cup of tea, that sitting in his lap and being pressed against him was an entirely foreign feeling, but in spite of that, she has no qualms about doing it again. She wants to say that there is no amount of disliked tea that could make her avoid riding with him a second, third, or fourth time, and that she finds both his and Roadhog's company a strange sort of comforting. She wants to say that he most certainly wouldn't have to force her; in fact, he'd most likely have to pry her away once she got comfortable, and she doesn't know how to feel about that other than completely and utterly lost.

This is doubt, she thinks, watching the soft creases frame his brow. He doesn't mind, he doesn't mind, but she's spurned further attempts at getting close and this is doubt because she doesn't reply with witty rejoinders or equally sharp sarcasm like before; this is doubt because he'd made her laugh on the beachside and he'd seen one of the small red creations she'd kept as talismans planted by her bedside and she'd whisked away with winter in her eyes; this is doubt because she'd given him the rest of her milk tea and still she'd run from him and proceeded to avoid him for the entirety of the following day; this is doubt because the kiss she'd carved upon his cheek must still burn.

"It was not forced." Her tone is smooth and even, a tempered blade with a silken surface, and yet far softer than before. "I chose to go of my own volition. At any point prior to our departure, I could have told you I would have rather made the trip myself. And if I'd wanted to leave, I have no doubt you and Roadhog would have returned me."

Junkrat's peg begins to swing in a slow pendulum. The hinges protest in soft creaks between the orange plates. "Right. Yeah. Yeah, sure. We woulda popped you back if you wanted, no worries. But you didn't say nothing."

"No, I didn't," she says, "because it was something I wanted to experience."

Slowly, Junkrat's countenance begins to soften. His eyes rise from the mountainous landscape shaping the floor in front of him, bright and wide, and his jaws clench with a swallow. Tension cords through his neck and shoulders as he uncurls himself; hard muscle coils taut down his belly and through his arms, and his posture overcorrects into a stiff line. His foot slides down from the plate of his knee and hangs off the table, ankle hooking around the metal peg to keep it still. Shadows fracture across the contours of his face, his jaws, the cut line of his collarbone beneath the paleness of the workshop lights. The vial migrates to his prosthetic hand, and he closes it in his fist with purpose. With the other hand, he begins to trace where she'd kissed across his right cheek with the backs of his knuckles.


"Jamison," she interrupts, perhaps a bit too harshly, but a fluttering panic has erupted in a heavy pounding in her chest and she feels she has no choice: harshness will push him back, and that is all she can hope to do. She knows he wants to talk, he must want to talk, he must, his note said as much, even if it only mentioned designs, but she can't.

He stares at her with a half open mouth, prosthetic fingers clenched around the glass vial. Startlement has claimed his body language; all of him sits in rigid stillness, one fist in his lap while the other lingers by his cheek, his good leg crooked at an angle to still his right. Something seems to jolt through his hand, cracking through uneven heartlines crissing over his fingers and palm, and he then combs the pads of his fingers through his widow's peak and the mess of new growth at the back of his scalp. Amber eyes dart from her to the floor, to Reinhardt's armor, to his piles of inventory, to the stowed chairs, and back to the floor again before locking onto her with a gripping intensity.

Before he can manage another word, she opens her hand to display the crimson shell.

"Thank you," she says, and gives it a delicate twist between her fingers. "I do appreciate these. They prove to be a good distraction."

"My pleasure," he says. It's so much lower than before, as if it were still too earthed down inside of him to be heard, and it reminds her of how he'd sounded by the beachside as he dredged up the painted casing from the damp sand.

Tucking the crystal patterned shell back into her palm, she encloses it within her fist and turns back toward the door. The black grips of her gauntlet find the small panel on the wall beside the doorframe and press one of the larger keys. A soft hum whirs inside the wall, and the door slides its way to the side to let her through. One final glance tells her all she needs to know: he's watching, and with uncertainty.

Satya makes her way back to the barracks with a brisk pace. His creation rests firmly in her hand and she can't stop herself from tracing her thumb over the raised textures. Her heart continues to drum a hastened rhythm, loud and intense and splintering, and it nearly drowns out the criticisms crawling out of her inner conscience: you cannot run away from this, you cannot hide, you cannot avoid it forever; it will only build and build and build until it towers above you and consumes you whole, and he will be the cause of its destruction—and the strike of her pulse thrums over each syllable, a drowned echo in the back of her mind, leaving only a constant rhythm she cannot ignore.

The Incident comes rushing back, just as it always does, and she finds herself rolling the shell between her fingers. She needs space to think, to breathe, to process, to understand herself and the note and everything that implies, and all she can think of is guiding him into more than a chaste kiss on the cheek.

He doesn't mind, she thinks, another cadence layered beneath her heartbeat: he doesn't mind, he doesn't mind, he doesn't mind.

When she finds herself back in her secluded space with her desk and her gauntlet's case and the empty glass of water and the two shells resting in silence at her bedside, she slides off her shoes and climbs over top of the crisp blankets. The desire to feel the pressure of them drawn over her scratches at her consciousness, but she brushes it aside and breathes into the coolness of her pillow. The textured casing is still clasped in her hand, now flat against the blanket, and she rolls it against the lifelines of her palm as she moves it over the sheets.

Jamison doesn't mind. He doesn't mind.

But does she?