Author's note: This is the first update to this story. There haven't been any significant changes to the story itself. I changed the story's title to Flight of Fancy and updated the name of this first chapter to the original title of Sunday Morning Stroll. (Please bear with me; I'm still learning about how to upload stories properly.) I've also added a cover image and edited several formatting errors I missed. I also noticed a couple of inconsistencies in Angela's speech patterns; I made the decision for her to not use contractions halfway through writing the story and missed changing some of them in the final edit. Finally, I've updated the end of the original author's note about Angela's ringtone on Fareeha's phone in this chapter. I didn't realize when I first posted this story that the link to the YouTube video for the song would be removed. (By the way, the song is "Circadian Rhythm" by Silversun Pickups.) Everything else is in its original format, including the remainder of this author's note.
This is the first in what I'm planning as a series of short stories leading up to something a bit bigger. Don't ask me just how much bigger, exactly; I'm trying to not think about it too much for fear of finding an excuse to talk myself out of doing it. (Now that I write this, though, it might make for a decent NaNoWriMo project if I can manage to work my way up to it in time.) I'd like to take this opportunity to give advance warning of potential changes of varying significance that I'm already planning. Short of scrapping the entire project, I'm leaving the entire writing open to changes I deem necessary. I'm making a decision now, roughly halfway through writing this first short story, to give this a quick glance to check for proper spelling and any other inconsistencies and then post it.
I have several doubts about the way I've written this, mostly regarding the liberties I've taken with the lore. I want to remain as close to canon as possible before I completely contradict those efforts and start shipping, but there's much I don't know, and no doubt far more that has yet to be released. My main concern is Mercy's refusal to use contractions. I'm not sure why I decided to go with this or any of the other choices I've made while writing this (especially considering the use of contractions as I'm pretty sure I've heard Mercy use them in her in game voiced lines). I just liked it and ran with it. I've actually got concerns about the dialogue overall and will likely end up redoing it entirely. That reminds me: Fair warning, there's a fair number of obscenities scattered throughout this story. If that bothers you...well, that's one of the few things that I'm not planning on changing, but just the same, apologies in advance. There's also a concern that there may be too many references to the lore that might end up confusing anyone not overly familiar with the details of the story behind the game. I tried to make those references more like easter eggs for the people that catch them, but it's entirely possible that parts of the story will just feel like post-requisite reading. It's mostly the names that everyone uses to refer to each other that could throw a wrench into the works, so I'm hoping that I'm just overthinking the whole thing.
I'm sure I'll make changes later, but I know myself well enough to know that if I take too much time reviewing it, it will inevitably become an excuse to not post it at all. Please consider this a very rough first draft and bear with me as I fret incessantly over the fine details.
The sun was shining brightly above the park, lending unseasonable warmth to what would have otherwise been a chilly spring morning in Zürich. Even the clouds seemed to be cooperating, scattering early in the morning and showing no signs of reforming anytime soon. The sun was slowly climbing higher in the sky, and rays hit the windows of the office buildings and apartments of the city, making them sparkle in the distance. A gentle breeze blew through the trees, exciting the birds into a beautiful chorus. Several flew overhead as if for no reason other than to make their presence known and add to the serenity of the scene. All around the park, blankets were being spread out on the ground near a large stage that had been constructed near the center. Film crews were making final preparations, checking cameras and cables and inspecting broadcast antennas. Children ran across the grass, scattering the last of the morning dew. It was a perfect day to be Fareeha. It would have also been an exceptionally fine day to be Pharah if something had needed killing. To be Security Chief Amari, however...
"Damn it all!" Fareeha cursed at the ground as if it could hear her. She looked down at her shoe, firmly planted in a mud puddle. In a desperate attempt to take in the scenery, she stopped watching where she was going just long enough to forget the rain that had come the evening before. Most of it had dried, but there were still a few scattered puddles. Inexplicably, she seemed to be finding every last one of them. She glared at the mud on her shoe, the only blemish on her perfectly tidy dress uniform. She knelt to the ground while pulling out her handkerchief to wipe it away, and as she did another breeze tossed several locks of her hair around playfully. She tried to enjoy the sensation, but it was no good. She wiped the mud away, having to make several additional passes to remove a few stubborn streaks from the otherwise flawless patent leather. She even tried to appreciate the restored flawless gloss as she buffed it, but she couldn't manage it. Finally giving up on enjoying the day, she muttered several more obscenities in Arabic before having to consciously remind herself that it was only mud and wasn't actually mocking her.
"Oh, my...such language. And with so many children about..."
Fareeha had to stop herself from cursing again when she realized she wasn't alone. Worse still, it was one of the few people that would just happen to know enough Arabic to know that she'd said something unbecoming. As if that weren't enough, it just had to be Angela. She stood quickly and rigidly, as if expecting a superior's reprimand. Angela only laughed at the instinctual reaction. "And I thought I had a hard time waking up. I take it mornings do not agree with you?"
"Mornings are fine." She continued to stare ahead sternly, trying desperately to ignore the warmth that had spread across her cheeks.
"Oh?" Angela merely looked at her expectantly, struggling to conceal the smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
"Most of them." Unaware of her unnecessary stiffness, she continued to stand and stare ahead stoically.
"But it's such a lovely day! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, it's warmer than I'd ever dared to hope for so early in the year...it's as if the day was made just for us, considering why we're here. How could you possibly be so cross on a wonderful day like this?" Unable to contain her smile any longer, she turned to face Fareeha, mirroring her pose and standing at attention.
"It's as easy as it is any other day if you have a good enough reason, doctor." Angela's smile faded at the terse response, and her shoulders slumped. The realization finally dawned on Fareeha that she was talking to Angela as if she were a soldier, and even to someone who was a soldier by trade, this simply didn't make sense despite her military affiliations. Even without knowing her personally, it couldn't be more obvious from her unwaveringly cheerful demeanor that she wasn't the type to give orders or reprimand anyone. Worse than that, her misdirected anger had given her the wrong impression of her feelings. That seemed to be happening quite often lately when Angela was near; it was if someone was misinterpreting her words for her before they came out of her mouth. "I...I'm sorry, Angela. I didn't mean to take it out on you."
"Take what out on me, Fareeha?" Her smile didn't return, but instead of looking hurt, she looked concerned. Great, Fareeha thought. Now she's worried about me. The only thing keeping her from cursing again was remembering exactly how this conversation started. She took a deep breath, finally relaxing her stance while Angela looked on.
"It really is nothing, Angela. It's just as you said; I'm not having a good morning."
"Nice try. Now, what is bothering you? Or do I need to order you to tell me?" Angela stood at attention again, doing her best impression of an officer speaking to a subordinate. She pursed her lips and furrowed her brow, staring into Fareeha's eyes intently. Despite her efforts, her childlike innocence and inability to keep a straight face kept it from being at all believable, but her true goal was accomplished when Fareeha started smiling and stifling a laugh in spite of herself.
"Are you absolutely certain you're part of a military organization?" Unable to contain herself any longer, she began laughing in earnest. Angela began laughing along with her, dropping her carefully assembled expression in an instant.
"I'm a doctor! Intimidating people isn't in my job description." She took a step closer and placed a hand on Fareeha's shoulder. "Come, now...tell me what is on your mind."
Damn. Fareeha knew better than to expect the matter to be forgotten so easily, but she did hope against hope for a brief moment. "I'm just...I'm not cut out for this. This is not in my area of expertise, and it certainly wasn't mentioned when I took this job."
Angela's expression rapidly shifted from concern to confusion. "Of all the things you do in what you call a normal day's time, being in a park full of children is what you find difficult? You would think someone were shooting at you."
"I'd rather that they did. At least I know how to handle that kind of a situation. That's what I was trained to do. The drill instructors never taught us how to handle...them."
Angela looked around, but saw nothing other than the families setting up picnics and the children running through the grass as they waited for the speeches to begin. She turned back to Fareeha and raised an eyebrow. "Surely you don't mean...?"
"They make me uncomfortable." She shivered slightly as she said it.
"But they are just...children!" Angela burst into uncontrollable laughter. Fareeha scowled with all of the intensity she could muster, although she knew it was for nothing. Angela was quite possibly the only one that could see through her harshest glare and through to the complete lack of malice beneath it. Still, her frustration wasn't lost on Angela, who tried her best to rein in her fits of giggles. "Oh, come now...after all of the dangers you've faced and all of the times your life has nearly come to an end in battle, surely children are not the one thing that could make the battle-hardened Pharah tremble in fear!"
"I don't know what to do with them. They're so small and fragile...what if I accidentally stepped on one of them?"
"They are children, love, not porcelain dolls. You can't hurt them so easily." Though Fareeha knew it was an innocent use of the word, hearing it still made something stir in her chest. Angela saw the momentary faltering of her expression and took advantage of the opportunity to continue. "Whatever would make you think that you might hurt them?" Now that the question had been posed, it did seem like a silly concern, so Fareeha tried to simply move past it.
"It isn't just that. I don't know what they expect of me. If they were my bosses, they would expect to be obeyed. If they were soldiers, they would expect orders. If they were the enemy, they would expect a rocket lodged in an uncomfortable place. But children..."
Angela burst into another fit of giggles. She wrapped her arm around Fareeha's and started to tug gently, pulling her along as she began to walk aimlessly along the park's pathways. "Even in your frustration, your concern is for another. I suppose that is why it seemed so out of character for you to simply be having a bad day. Sulking simply does not suit you." Fareeha turned away, hoping that the blush coming across her cheeks would go unnoticed. She was quite unaccustomed to hearing someone compliment her. This wasn't the only thing disrupting her focus at the moment, though; the fact that Angela was so close was more than enough to have her out of sorts at the moment. She didn't offer any resistance to the walk around the park, but Angela kept their arms firmly linked. It wasn't often that they were quite this close. She could only barely hear the words as she took in just how soft Angela was. It was hard to believe that she served as a frontline medic. The breeze brought a faint, flowery scent to her nose that could only be Angela's perfume. The smell made her head spin, and she nearly stumbled before realizing that she wasn't even paying attention to where she was walking. She struggled to bring her attention back to the conversation before her mind could wander any farther. When she finally collected herself, she turned toward Angela, who was looking at her expectantly.
"Are you alright, Fareeha? Your mind seems to be elsewhere."
Shit. "I'm just...thinking."
"What about, love?"
Shit, shit, shit. "...nothing, really. Maybe I'm just worrying too much."
Angela smiled brightly, and Fareeha only just managed to maintain her hastily regained composure. "Of course you are. All they truly want from you is your attention. Besides that, the children adore you. I do not doubt that you're half of the reason that they came here today. You did not think they came here to hear me give a speech about international cooperation, did you? Have you not noticed yet?" She looked around at the children, and Fareeha followed her gaze, looking for a detail she'd missed in her worry and frustration. Most of the children were still running and playing or sitting down with their parents, but the ones nearest them looked up at the two of them with wide-eyed expressions. Several of them trembled slightly.
"They look like they're about to be executed." Fareeha frowned as she looked ahead again, trying to not meet any more of their gazes. Angela only chuckled.
"Look again, love. Or have you forgotten your training?"
"What does that have to do with...?" She trailed off and examined the children again, this time trying to look at them as she would examine an enemy in battle. It made her uncomfortable to think of them that way, but the mystery was starting to get the better of her. Her eyes immediately went to their hands, habit leading her to attempt to assess potential threats and look for weapons. Rather than weapons, she suddenly noticed that the ones nearest them kept rummaging around in their pockets or running to parents on nearby blankets and excitedly asking for something. Though none of them approached the two, they all seemed to be holding pens, markers, books and pieces of paper. Fareeha looked back to Angela, entirely nonplussed.
"What...what are they doing? Homework? On a Sunday?" Angela could barely contain her laughter as she leaned in closer to whisper.
"Homework?" Angela stared at Fareeha incredulously. "No, love...they want your autograph."
Fareeha looked back to the children, still staring at the two of them as they passed. Occasionally, one would take a step in their direction but seem to think better of it and turn away. She saw a small group of children ahead, taking turns nudging each other in their direction before finally blushing and turning away. She was caught entirely off her guard; she never even thought to attempt to contain her surprise.
"Surely you did not think they were expecting you to shoot them...?"
"They looked scared and didn't want to come near me. That only happens before I shoot someone." The thought made her feel uncomfortable when she thought about it. She waited to hear Angela start laughing at her again, and only turned to her when the silence went on for too long.
"Fareeha, love...you must remember that these are children. You are a hero to them. That is why you are here today, remember? To show people the softer side of Overwatch. They need to see that we are not monsters or mindless killing machines, and that they were right to trust us to protect them. Not to prove them wrong, but to prove them right."
"I know. That's what worries me." The realization hit her when she heard Angela's words. "I can't do that if I'm going around and scaring children. I...don't know how to do this." Hearing herself say the words hit her harder than thinking them; she wasn't used to not being able to complete a mission.
"You're already doing this. They came here because they wanted to see us...because they wanted to see you. After hearing of the brave and beautiful Pharah that flies through the air and rains justice down upon their enemies, you've become a hero to them. It is only natural that they should want to see you for themselves...and perhaps get an autograph, should you be willing to oblige them." Angela could see Fareeha's hesitation and added, "just try. Smile at them."
"I thought we weren't here to scare them."
Angela's expression became uncharacteristically impatient. "Oh, come now, love. You have a beautiful smile."
The compliment made her heart skip a beat, but she still didn't trust herself with the task. "Isn't there something else I could try first?"
Angela gave an exasperated sigh. "Very well...just wave at them."
Fareeha didn't think much of this idea, either, but it seemed to carry far less risk. Also, the fact that Angela seemed so confident in her was impossible for her to ignore. She looked up at a small group of children they were approaching and gave a small wave with her free hand. A little girl squealed, and all of them began laughing and shouting at each other as they ran away. Fareeha's expression faltered slightly as she watched her fears being confirmed. She looked over at Angela, who was unexpectedly smiling at her. "See? What did I tell you?"
"What do you mean? They screamed and ran away."
"Yes, but did they look scared to you?"
Fareeha thought on the matter as she replayed the moment in their mind. They were screaming and running away, but they didn't look particularly afraid. "What were they saying?"
Angela raised an eyebrow before realizing that they were shouting at each other in German. "They were arguing over which one of them you were waving to."
"They...what?" No matter how much logic there was in Angela's assumptions up to this point, the thought was difficult to process.
Angela smiled and gave Fareeha an exasperated sigh as she called out to another child nearby. He looked terrified to have been singled out, but Angela ignored it and waved him over.
"Angela...what are you doing?"
"Proving you wrong, for which I expect a fine dinner tonight in compensation." Before there was time to take in what she'd just heard, the child had slowly and nervously made his way to them. Angela was smiling and chatting away in German while Fareeha looked on, every bit as nervous as the boy. After a seemingly endless few seconds, the boy handed Angela a piece of paper and a marker, which she immediately handed to Fareeha.
"His name is Julien. Write something nice on here for him."
Fareeha's hands shook slightly as she took the paper. It was a photograph of her in her armor from a flight test she did at a similar gathering several months before. "Something...something like what?"
"How about, 'To Julien: Justice rains from above!' They love hearing you say that."
"Justice...rains...from above." She simply wrote the words without thought; going through with this was hard enough without thinking about what she was doing. She signed her name at the bottom and attempted to hand it back to Angela, but she merely checked looked it over and quickly whispered, "don't forget the exclamation mark after 'above,' love." She then handed it back and glanced downward in Julien's direction. I had a feeling that was too easy. Fareeha quickly added the punctuation mark and then knelt down and handed the picture and marker back to Julien, who could only stare at her. He suddenly smiled and wrapped his arms around her neck, hugging her tightly before running off back to his parents. His mother smiled and waved at her, and her father said something she didn't understand.
"They said, 'thank you.' " Angela gently nudged Fareeha in the ribs, which she took as a cue and forced herself to smile and wave back to them. Angela waved and shouted something to them before taking Fareeha's arm again and pulling her along.
"See? That was hardly worth so much worrying, was it?" Fareeha only stared ahead nervously as several other children nervously approached with pens, books and scraps of paper in hand. Behind them, they could see parents smiling and waving as they prodded the children forward.
Before Fareeha realized it, nearly three hours had passed. She'd long since lost count of how many times she'd signed her name. Every autograph she gave out got the attention of another child or parent, and before long the entire small park had made their way to her with something to be signed. It stood to reason that the time had passed so quickly as there were no breaks to mark the passing of time; as soon as she finished signing something, Angela was ushering another group of children toward her. Nearly every group had parents in tow with cameras at the ready. She'd been photographed more in those few hours than in the rest of her life combined, and she'd autographed everything from notebooks and photographs to prized possessions. At one point she even signed her name on the cover of a book that was a beginner's guide to cybernetics. She'd handed it back to a girl in a wheelchair that Angela told her had said that she wanted to be just like Fareeha when she grew up. The entire experience left her disoriented. She was familiar with the feeling of being respected and depended upon, but never in quite this capacity. It was strange and new, but not at all unpleasant. She didn't break out of her reverie until she felt Angela pull away from her, saying that it was nearly time for her to take the stage. Fareeha escorted her to the steps of the stage, much to the dismay of the children that had crowded around her, autographs in hand but still unwilling to let her leave. She was surprised to find herself sorry to have to leave them.
As Angela prepared to take the stage, Fareeha's thoughts of the day's events started getting pushed out of the way in favor of staring unabashedly. She had taken her seat in the front row of chairs in front of the stage and was surrounded by foreign dignitaries and members of the press hurrying to fill the seats around her. Including the families watching on the massive screen above the stage and listening through the speakers scattered throughout the park, there were roughly a thousand pairs of eyes on Angela. Fareeha was confident that she didn't stand out enough to be noticed.
Angela approached the podium in the middle of the stage and began by addressing the crowd. Her words went by Fareeha in a rush, and she barely heard any of them. Finally free to let her mind wander, she started to wonder how she ever ended up in such a miserable state, and all over a person. This simply wasn't like her; she had plenty of people to whom she answered and plenty more that served alongside her, and far more that she routinely risked her life to protect. All of them were important to her. Some of them she even considered to be her family. She would gladly die to protect any of them, and yet they couldn't bring these unfamiliar feelings out of her the way Angela did. She thought back to when they first met, in the middle of a war-torn country and unexpectedly finding themselves to be part of the same mission to save innocent lives. She wasn't hard to recognize, even from a distance and through the smoke rising from the fires around her while she was nursing a plasma burn on her abdomen. She was famous around the world, for her unparalleled skill as a doctor as much as her time as a member of Overwatch. Fareeha never liked her much. Angela's skills were indisputable, but it was her views on warfare that always irritated Fareeha. Those speeches on pacifism made her feel that all that she sought to accomplish on a daily basis was being disgraced. In that moment, however, when they found themselves on the same side of the same conflict, she found herself forced to accept the opportunity to hear more; this was something she had always actively avoided, so she expected this to be a particularly unpleasant mission. Much to her surprise, she found herself in a number of deep discussions on the matter with Angela, many of which would carry on late into the evening. Even if she didn't completely agree, she came to realize that they were both working toward the same goal: A world that didn't need people to fight for it. More than that, Fareeha found it impossible to not come to respect someone that worked so hard purely for the benefit of others.
This was sufficient explanation for why she respected Angela, but it still didn't explain her feelings as they were now. For all of her thinking on the matter, she couldn't even deduce how it began. She could only remember the first time she noticed it. She found herself with some free time and had accepted an invitation from Angela to finally see Switzerland. Fareeha loved to see new places, and anywhere in the world that she hadn't seen for herself was the perfect place to take a vacation. She spent a week letting Angela take her to every last one of her favorite places in Zürich. It was nice enough, but what made it special to her was the company. It was the first time she had ever seen Angela so lighthearted. When she wasn't fighting her way through a battlefield or desperately trying to save a life, there was no end to her happiness. Though Fareeha had come to know this side of her in conversations with her, there was something different about seeing it in person. She was unaccustomed to being around anyone that smiled so much...at least, in any way that was at all believable. More than that, it was infectious. During that week, Fareeha often found herself wondering why her face felt so sore and tired only to realize that she was smiling. It was shocking to catch herself at it at all, much less almost constantly. It wasn't until much more thought on the matter weeks later that she realized that it made her happy just to see Angela happy. Several months and as many visits later, she started catching herself counting the days until their next meeting. Fareeha continued to think back to those trips they would make for no reason than to see each other in person. The more they saw each other, the harder it was for her to return to Giza. As much as she loved Egypt, the thought of making the trip there alone was becoming painful. She found herself thinking about Angela more when they were apart, often only to pass the time. With neither warning nor provocation, Angela would find her way into Fareeha's thoughts and she would almost immediately find herself lost in recalling everything about her to memory. She even found herself consciously noting details of the experience of having her nearby, from the way her eyes sparkled when she found a new book to read to every last detail of the scent of her perfume. She never wasted an opportunity to retain every minute detail of the feeling of being near her...when she wasn't looking, at least. Even now, she couldn't tear her eyes away from taking in every fine detail of her delicate face. She was particularly fond of the way her pale eyeshadow brought out the brilliant blue of her eyes, and the way the soft pink coloring on her lips sparkled in the sunlight.
"What are you looking at?" The words snapped her out of her reverie with a startling jolt. It felt like physical pain, as if she'd been electrocuted. She nearly jumped out of her chair before turning to meet Lena's mischievous stare.
"What? I—nothing! What...what do you want, Oxton? When did you even get here?"
"Somewhere just after 'peace is,' but just in time to catch 'a global concern.' Among other things..." Unlike with Angela, Lena's teasing was relentless. Fareeha already knew this all too well, and her mind raced to find a way to turn the conversation in a different direction.
"There's nothing to witness here other than exhaustion. I spent half the morning signing autographs. Did anyone say anything to you about that? I knew there was something off about the way they told me about this whole thing. 'Just a meet-and-greet,' they said, but wouldn't give me any more details other than to wear a dress uniform. I'm pretty sure I liked them better when they were only sending me to meet people trying to kill me—wait, where were you the whole time? Surely there were no end of children wanting the legendary Tracer's autograph."
"Like I said, love, I just got here."
There's that word again, Fareeha thought as she waited for the dizzying rush of emotion that followed it every time she'd heard it today, but this time it rang hollow. It just sounded like any other word she'd said in the same breath. It was normal enough as she said it all the time, but it was nothing more than that. The stark contrast hit Fareeha all at once as she realized that it only affected her when Angela said it. She'd been using it quite often when speaking to Fareeha lately, but she never said it to anyone else. Fareeha forced the thought from her mind as she felt the confusion inside her regaining its strength. Applause erupted throughout the park, signaling the end of Angela's speech. Fareeha had a sinking feeling that she was about to be glad for the noise to mask the rest of the conversation.
Goddamn it. "W-what about her?"
"You're not good at this, you know. You're a dab hand at making things explode, and I give you all credit for that, but you might want to leave dodging things to me."
"You—that is—oh, just forget it!" Lena could only stare open-mouthed for a moment as Fareeha quickly stood. It was so unlike her to lose her carefully constructed composure that even Lena couldn't bring herself to continue her teasing. As Fareeha began storming off, Lena blinked in front of her.
"Wait! Wait...look, I'm sorry. I was just having some fun. I didn't know you were wound so tight about the whole thing. I'm just not used to seeing you out of sorts about anything, you know?" She smiled apologetically, and even in the midst of her frustration, Fareeha couldn't bring herself to stay angry. She took a deep breath as she realized that this was the second time today that she'd needlessly upset someone out of frustration.
"I'm sorry as well. I'm just not at all myself today. I'm not accustomed to being this upset by anything, either."
"Well, this never is easy, is it? Especially when that's what's on the line." She quickly glanced at Angela, surrounded by smiling dignitaries and shaking hands while trying to escape the crowd that was starting to form around her. Again, she was glad for the interruption; she knew she was going to need the extra time when Lena continued. "It makes sense that you're nervous about it. She's a real catch, after all. It's not like there's enough tall, gorgeous world-famous war hero doctors to go around. She might not go for it, and then things get really awkward. Worse than that, the competition is getting fierce. You should see the queue outside the park just hoping to get a chance to get a chance."
"What makes you think they're here for anything like that?" Despite her best efforts to sound flippant, Fareeha couldn't keep the concern out of her voice.
"You two never do spend much time looking at your fan sites, do you?" Lena chuckled, unable to stop herself from getting in a little more ribbing. "You wouldn't believe it! I even heard a few rehearsing their chat-up lines on the way in—" Lena stopped herself at the sight of Fareeha's look of dismay and quickly decided to change tactics. "Think about it this way: You're already halfway there. At least she likes you, so you've already got an advantage." Fareeha nodded, but she didn't look at all motivated. Lena decided to try one more time. "Just a little friendly advice, love: I might have all the time in the world, but you should probably get on with it, don't you think? Time waits for no man, after all...well, you know, usually." She smiled widely and poked the glowing center of her chronal accelerator. "Besides, even if it did, they wouldn't." She nodded toward the park entrance, and Fareeha could just barely make out a crowd gathering at the gate. She couldn't even see the street they were standing on.
"Just think about it, alright? And maybe sooner rather than later." Lena smiled kindly before giving her trademark casual salute and then suddenly disappearing into a flash of blue light, leaving Fareeha with a slightly clearer head but feeling more frustrated than ever. It was hard enough just to internalize what was on her mind, but to have to hear it from someone else was all but unbearable. Worse than that, she'd noticed, and fairly easily. If she had managed to pick up on something as subtle as an unusual expression, then surely Angela...
"So, what did you think? How did I do?" Fareeha's blood ran cold when she heard Angela's voice just behind her. Between the embarassment of having been caught off her guard so many times in the same day anhd the fear of not knowing how long Angela had been listening to her conversation, all she wanted to do was disappear the same way Lena did. Having neither the option at her disposal nor any true desire to lose any time she could be spending with Angela, she quickly composed herself and arranged her face into what she hoped was a pleasant expression before turning around.
"You were amazing, Angela. I have to say that you were right about today. Everyone seemed to respond favorably; this can only help our cause. More than that, they really do love you." Fareeha stopped herself as she thought of the lines that she'd just heard were forming at the park's entrance. It took her a moment to realize that Angela didn't even seem to notice the praise.
"You certainly are on edge today. I'm starting to worry about you." She didn't appear to be joking. She looked at Fareeha with concern in her expression, but decided to not press the issue. She simply wrapped her arm around Fareeha's and once again started to gently pull her along for another walk in no particular direction.
"I am sorry that I did not say so sooner, but thank you. It was nice to hear you speak so highly of me. I thought I was awful up there."
"What? What makes you say something like that?"
"I only got through that speech because I already knew what I was going to say. I wanted to leave the entire time. I do not care for crowds, especially when they are all staring at me."
Fareeha was a little surprised to hear that she would be at all shy. It was cute. "Stage fright? You? I never would've guessed. You looked very comfortable up there."
"Well, to be honest, my mind was elsewhere." Fareeha waited for her to elaborate, but she remained silent. It took a few seconds for her to speak again.
"Still, I regret having teased you earlier for worrying about how today would go...even though I was right. Recall if you will that not one child asked for my autograph the entire time you were present." She couldn't resist smiling and adding that, and Fareeha didn't consider holding it against her. Playfully teasing her was simply a part of Angela's nature. "At any rate, it was not until I was on the stage that I remembered that there could be something reasonable to fear from a celebration." She suddenly looked down at Fareeha's hand, staring at it for a moment as though she were just seeing it clearly for the first time.
"What is it, Angela?"
"You are wearing different prosthetics today."
Fareeha looked down at her hands. She had all but forgotten that she was using the prosthetics that replicated the look and feel of human flesh. They were normally stored in a footlocker with her dress uniforms. "Oh, these? I thought it might be somewhat less...well, distressing. For the children, I mean." She couldn't help feeling irritated by them now that she was thinking about them.
"But you do not care for them."
"How did you know that?"
"You never wear them. When you are out of your Raptora armor, you always wear the chrome prosthetics or the ones that are painted. I have only ever seen you wear these that one time the ones you were wearing malfunctioned and you didn't have any others with you. You frowned at your hands all day."
Fareeha turned away and looked off into the distance, hoping the blushing she could feel spreading across her cheeks wasn't obvious. She didn't want to admit it to herself, but she felt honored that Angela took quite so much notice of her. "Well, as I said, it was for the children. I didn't want to scare them."
Angela smiled sweetly. "You really were nervous about today. Hopefully you believe me now when I say that it was not necessary. The children loved you." There was a long pause, and Fareeha could tell that Angela was still looking at her. She couldn't tell for certain as she was still avoiding making eye contact, but her expression seemed slightly off. She was smiling as she usually did, but there was something about it that she couldn't quite place. She was relieved to not have to wonder about it any longer when Angela eventually spoke again.
"I still do not quite understand something, love. What is it about your appearance that makes you think that you would scare the children? You look strong and brave."
Fareeha continued staring forward, certain that the increased warmth spreading across her face was only growing more intense. Hearing a compliment from Angela was enough to make her forget to worry about her appearance. "I suppose I was overthinking the matter. I was wondering why they always look at me the way they do, and I jumped to conclusions. I was under the impression that the things that look different about me were the cause. My prosthetics and my tattoo. I have to admit, they do look strange."
"Nonsense!" Fareeha looked at Angela in surprise in spite of herself. Even Angela seemed surprised by how loudly she'd uttered the word; it was clear that she didn't intend to do so. "That is to say...there is no truth in that statement. As I said before, your prosthetics make you look strong and brave. And, for the record, your tattoo only makes you more beautiful." Her cheeks reddened slightly, but she showed no signs of acknowledging it and pressed on. "Besides, The Eye of Horus is something in which you take great pride, as well you should. Even if the children were afraid, you should not have to be ashamed of it. Or anything else, for that matter. It is true that your tattoo was the first thing I noticed about you the first time I saw your face, but I was hardly afraid. On the contrary, it made me feel that I could trust you to watch out for me in battle."
Fareeha took a moment to process all of this while keeping a straight face. It was not the easiest thing she had ever done, and she was merely hoping that she was doing so effectively. "As much as I appreciate that, you're probably the only one I would ever expect to know the history behind it."
"No matter." Angela waved a hand in dismissal. "The fact remains that it suits you. Besides, that tattoo was the reason I first..."
"The reason you first what?"
Angela's cheeks reddened again and she turned her head downward, her eyes fixed on the path they were following. She did not continue, and though Fareeha was desperate to hear her finish that sentence, she finally decided that she had upset Angela once already, and wasn't willing to risk doing so a second time.
They wandered aimlessly in silence for a few minutes before Fareeha's phone started ringing. She looked at it and grimaced, then muttered a quick apology to Angela, saying it was about work and it should only take a moment. These calls were never pleasant; all Fareeha could do was hope that they would merely be short. She spoke quickly with a superior, recounting the day's events and assuring him that she had seen nothing of consequence take place. Her business concluded, she turned back to Angela, who was stifling a laugh.
"What is it?" With her nerves having been strained so many times throughout the day, Fareeha couldn't help being more nervous than usual around Angela.
"That song on your phone...is that from that old space movie?"
"Oh, that? Yes, it's just for work. I like to choose ringtones that seem appropriate."
"A song about an evil overlord?"
"Like I said, appropriate."
A smile crossed Angela's face that was unsettlingly reminiscent of Lena's. She took Fareeha's arm again and, as they were walking, she reached into her purse and started digging for something. Just as Fareeha was about to ask why, her phone started ringing again. Without thinking about it, she stumbled as she heard Angela's ringtone playing. She looked down at the phone that was still in her hand as if hoping to see something that would prove her wrong. As if in outright defiance of her wishes, a picture of Angela looked back up at her. It was a rather impressive photograph that she'd downloaded from a fan site. A journalist had taken it years ago in the middle of a war zone as she was hovering in her Valkyrie armor and reaching out to pull him out of the rubble of a collapsed building.
"You chose that picture?" Angela smiled as a blush came across her cheeks. "Hmm...I am not familiar with that song, though. What is it?"
Fareeha's mind slowly lurched into gear as she recovered from the shock of having one of her secrets unveiled and began her attempt to turn the conversation in any direction but this one. "It's an old song from my mother's collection. It's actually from just before her time, but she always did love old things. You know, it's strange in a way; it's actually an American song, if I recall. I can't imagine how she ever came across it. Then again, she did travel quite a bit when she was in Overwatch. It's actually pretty good music, though, so I'm not complaining about it. I could send you some of the better songs..." Her voice trailed off as she looked over to see if her plan was working. Judging by the way that Angela was all but bouncing in anticipation, it couldn't have failed more spectacularly. Seeing that she was only delaying the inevitable, she admitted defeat and asked the question in spite of already being sure of the response.
"What is it?"
"Why did you pick that song for me?"
Shit. "As I said earlier, I just pick whatever seems appropriate at the time."
"Why was it appropriate? What is it about?"
Shit, shit, shit. "I'm not sure, but it seems to be about being close to someone but far away at the same time."
"Oh?" She continued to stare expectantly.
"Do you remember when you first gave me your phone number? You were on your way back here to Zürich at the time, but I was still on assignment in Giza."
"Ah...I remember now." Fareeha had to consciously remind herself to not sigh with relief when it became apparent that Angela was out of questions. Though she was relieved, she was also bothered by a nagging suspicion that Angela wasn't entirely satisfied with the answer. The way she abruptly changed the subject didn't help ease her mind.
"By the way, where did Tracer run off to? I was going to say hello, but she disappeared before I could make my way over to you."
So that's why she took off like that. Fareeha begrudgingly offered Lena silent gratitude. She was obviously giving them time to be alone...either that or she saw Angela coming and wanted to end the conversation before it could be overheard. She truly was grateful even though she still couldn't quite shake the feeling of annoyance over the intrusion on her thoughts. More annoying than that was the fact that she was right. Annoyed or not, wasting the opportunity she created seemed a poor way to thank her. She took a deep breath and steeled herself.
"What is on your mind, Fareeha? You look like you are about to be redeployed again."
"Er...nothing, really. I was just wondering what your plans were for the evening now that this is done."
"Well, dinner, of course."
"Oh? Dinner?" Fareeha thought she had readied herself for every possible polite variation of "no" that she might hear, but she still felt woefully unprepared.
"Yes, love, dinner. Remember? The one that I told you I would be expecting in exchange for proving you wrong earlier? Surely you did not think I would forget?" Angela did her best impression of a look of irritation, but as usual, it didn't last long before the corners of her mouth betrayed her by slowly turning upward. "I even have a place in mind. It is a lovely little place on the top floor of my hotel. I often find myself there when I return home. I do not have a reservation, but they always manage to find a place for me. I am certain they would be willing to do me the favor again. Meet me up at my room at, say...seven thirty?" She spoke as though the matter had been decided, but she still waited for a response.
"Er...yes, of course. Seven thirty. I'll be there." Fareeha choked on the words as she forced them out. Her mind was a blurred mess, and it was only some small fraction of her senses that urged her to speak the words rather than simply stand there staring.
"O-oh! Wonderful! It is a date, then! I will head back there now and start getting ready! See you tonight!" Angela smiled widely, looking oddly relieved as she walked away with a surprising spring in her step. Fareeha couldn't even begin to work out what she must have been thinking; she had only just managed to regain full control of her own mind.
As she stood there, watching Angela walk in the direction of the aerial transport vehicles reserved for the visiting dignitaries, she tried to process everything that had just happened in the last few minutes. She took a moment to clear her mind, then found herself saying aloud, "it's just dinner. That's it. She just wants to go out to dinner." It seemed like a bad idea to read too much into the situation. After all, she wasn't accepting an invitation; it was her idea, so it was nothing more than a dinner date between friends. Despite her best efforts, however, she couldn't stop herself from getting lightheaded when she thought about it.
"Told you so."
Fareeha rounded on Lena, who had seemingly appeared out of thin air behind her. She began cursing rapidly in Arabic while clutching her chest, but Lena never lost her mischievous grin. She only roared with laughter at the animated response. "I'm...I'm guessing it's for the best that I can't understand any of that!" Clearly defeated, Fareeha settled for turning away and scowling as Lena struggled to compose herself. "Well, I did tell you. So, what's the plan? What's next on the agenda?"
"There is no plan. There is no agenda. I'm just going to go back to my hotel and get dressed for dinner. Just. Dinner." She continued to look away from Lena as she spoke, but to no avail. Lena merely blinked in front of her and continued her interrogation.
"Oh, just dinner, you say? Come on, Pharah, you know I know better."
"So much for what you know. That's all it is. Dinner. It was...her idea."
For a brief moment, Lena looked as if she were slowly deflating as she processed the implications of this development. She shook her head and recovered quickly. "Just because it was her idea doesn't mean it isn't good news. In fact, it could be great news."
"You don't have any way of knowing that."
"Neither do you." Lena's smile was slowly returning, but it was gentle. "Come on, since when have you been the quitting type?"
It was obvious that Lena was goading her into acting by pretending to challenge her character, but Fareeha couldn't deny that she was still right. Even just looking at it logically, there was no way to go but forward. "I...suppose I'll just have to ask her."
"That's the spirit! Need any help getting ready?"
"Why would I need any help getting ready?" She thought about the question for a moment, and panic began to set in as she realized that she had absolutely no idea how to prepare for the evening. She wasn't one for dressing formally outside of work, so she had no frame of reference for dressing appropriately for an evening this important. The fact that she had no idea if it was even an important evening yet only complicated matters further.
"That's...not a good face." Lena looked confused as she attempted to guess at what Fareeha was thinking.
"Do you know anything about dresses?" Fareeha tried to ask casually, but the worry in her voice couldn't have been more obvious. Lena only responded by smiling widely and taking her by the wrist, halfway dragging her across the park lawn toward the transport vehicles entirely in spite of a steady stream of protests that eventually trailed off into more scowling. Fareeha looked at the watch on her free hand and felt another jolt of panic as she realized that it was nearly four o'clock. Even if Lena were going to listen to her, there wasn't time to argue. She knew that she was only getting one shot at this, and she felt certain that she was going to need every last second to prepare to take it.