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Because Coffee.

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Fareeha walks into the kitchen and the moment she enters, she knows Jack and Gabe are arguing again. Its one of the recurring themes in the cafe kitchens. Over time the argument eventually turns to them highlighting each other's insecurities and then degrading to shouting matches, which then leads to Genji throwing them out of the door.

Fareeha hangs her jacket on the hook behind the door. Genji comes around, sighing, drying his hands on the trusty towel he keeps tucked on the band of his pants.

"What is it this time?" She asks, half-apprehensively and half-warily, because she so isn't ready for their argument. She needs a coffee first. Gabe was pretty adamant about them not drinking their own coffee but she had flipped that suggestion off a long time ago. Genji shrugs.

"Didn't catch it in time. They are at the shouting phase, but I just saw Olivia storm to them, so they should be here in three, two, one." Genji says, and on cue, Olivia enters, Spanish expletives and all, ushering Gabe and Jack into the back of the kitchen. Jack and Gabe each croak out a feeble "Hey" to her separately, then go back to glaring at each other. Genji completes the process, pushing them out of the doors, and then coming back sighing.

"Hey" Fareeha greets Olivia. "Some morning, huh?" She smirks. Olivia engulfs her in her arms and they give each other a peck to the cheek.

"Ayye, chiquita." Olivia sighs. "Did they even love each other in the first place?" She wonders. Genji laughs and Fareeha snorts.

Everyone knew they were bros before they became hoes for each other.

"We all know the answer to that." Genji gives a knowing smile, then goes to the counter to get Fareeha a mug of strong black coffee. Fareeha follows him. She takes the first sip and lets the bitter taste wash over her mouth. Her eyelids lighten like someone suddenly lifted the weight of the world off of them. She keeps them closed just for the sake of it.

"God bless caffeine." Fareeha sighs in a way that almost sounds orgasmic, and Genji chuckles.

"Take care of cowboy there. Did you guys even sleep last night?" Genji inquires, but does not wait for the answer, because the endless advice about proper sleep and dark circles seemed to be falling on deaf ears. He disappears behind the aisle in the middle of the kitchen.

Fareeha opens her eyes and registers the slumped figure on the counter. His unkempt hair and a general atmosphere of cigarette smoke around him told her that he was way more sleep deprived than she was. She pours another cup of coffee and slides it to him. It stops by his fingers, sloshing dangerously close to the rim. Jesse's fingers touch the mug.

"Thanks." he croaks out. Fareeha ruffles his hair fondly.

"When did you fall asleep?" She asks

"Halfway through the fifteenth episode." Jesse replies, and Fareeha chuckles.

Yesterday was binge-watch Thursdays she and Jesse religiously followed to the T. Yesterday they had decided to see Community again, because they were either too lazy or too burnt out from the cafe job to be finding something else. Genji had offered millions of times to procure a season or two of other shows(he was especially adamant about Quantico), but both of them almost always managed to conveniently forget about following through. Fareeha was out by the end of the first season, and slept in, whereas Jesse bolted to reach the cafe on time. He had run out of the days he could skip or come late. She was in way better shape than he was, though, who certainly looked like he would drink more coffee than he would serve today.

"Maybe you should take a day off?"

"Gabe gon' kill me." He croaks, then raises his head from between his arms to slurp at the coffee hungrily. Fareeha leaves him to recover and puts on her apron, and then whips out the notepad she takes orders with. She remembers Genji kicking out two people earlier and goes out into the alley to see Jack and Gabe back to groping each other.

"So I see you guys are back to normal. Come back in." She says, interrupting Gabe, who was nibbling at Jack's ear. She rolls her eyes at the frustrated groan and retreats, letting them finish and go back to work. Olivia is flipping eggs and bacon at the same time, with perfect precision, because Fareeha knows she's a machine. She's absolutely adorable too, and a god when it came to cuddling.

"You had breakfast, chiquita?" She asked, voice now in mom mode, and Fareeha chuckles, sliding her pad into the kangaroo pocket on her apron. They had close to an hour before the cafe opened and they started the breakfast rush. There was still one person that needed to be here before they could begin.

"Nope. Won't miss those eggs for anything." Fareeha replies fondly and removes a plate from the stack of clean ones. Gabe enters at the same moment, and spots Fareeha.

"Hey, stop!" He says, but Fareeha takes the plate and Olivia scoops some of the eggs and bacon on it.

"I'll wash them, Gabe." Fareeha says irritatingly, and takes a bite. "So, what were you guys arguing about?" Fareeha asked mid-chew, placing herself on one of the stools they kept at the corner on the inside of the counter. Olivia continues to make more eggs and for everyone else, because she knew no one was responsible enough to be eating breakfast by themselves. She takes another plate and passes it to Gabe, full of food. Gabe takes it without any protest. Jack arrives soon after, and Olivia passes him his plate. Gabe opens his mouth to speak.

"Mmmpf!" Jack blurts out in appreciation. "We should weally keep you fo ourshelwes." He interrupts, Olivia laughs, and Gabe shoots him a glare. It was clearly evident who was in control of the relationship here. Gabe buried his anger with a spoonful of eggs and stood quiet while chewing.

"We were wondering if we should add in Turkish coffee to the menu or not." He says after swallowing his first morsel.

"What's there to think about?" Fareeha shot back, and Olivia grunted in approval. Genji came back and asked the same question.

"Exshactly! Fareeha makesh them sho goof!" Jack protests through another mouthful, and Gabe ignores him.

"We cannot find coffee grounds fine enough for it." He says. "The grinder we had didn't make them fine enough."

"Well, maybe that could be a novelty." Genji replies. Fareeha nods while chewing on her breakfast. "And I'm sure pounding will take care of the grounds."

"Well, who has enough time to pound?" Gabe shoots back. Jack looks at him with fuck-me eyes and Genji gets uncomfortable at the implication. Fareeha simply snorts. She won't be surprised if she didn't find them grinding against each other beside the closet sometime in between the rush.

"Well do we need to stock on it? Why can't we pound it fresh?" Olivia says, turning from the pan and giving Genji his breakfast. Olivia collects hers into another plate and digs in.

"I'll do it." McCree croaks from behind them, and everyone remembers about his existence. Olivia walks to him and throws her arms around him, going mom mode again.

"Awww pobrecito!" She coos. "Let me get you some breakfast." Jesse groans in defeated approval buried somewhere under her arms. Olivia neglects her breakfast to make McCree some. Fareeha dumps her plate in the sink and waits for others to finish.

"Where the hell is that girl Lena?" Gabe snarls, and Olivia shoots a glare in his direction.

"Leave that poor girl alone, puta!" She fires back protectively. "You want her to bring supplies and expect her to arrive early, and then wait tables all day long! I wonder how she hasn't called human rights activists on you!" She says, stabbing the spatula in his direction, making small chunks of egg fly off it. Gabe seethes silently and murmurs to himself. Everyone chuckles at this. Gabe might have the age advantage and also the advantage of owning the place, but no one fucks with Olivia. She kept the place together better than Gabe could ever hope for. Plus, everyone loves her when she isn't angry. She is the mother hen the staff will never admit they needed. Especially Gabe.

"Fine." He admits in the end, and goes to prepare materials for cooking. Jack takes waiting and Fareeha retreats behind the scenes on the sink. Fareeha waited tables only when the rush was too much to be handled by Lena, Jack and Jesse. Other times she relayed orders, ensured the materials keep flowing in and kept Olivia company at the counter. Olivia brought Jesse his breakfast, and prodded him with the plate until he straightened and started eating. She then picked up her neglected breakfast, and talked to him until he was awake completely. She takes their plates and dumps it in the sink.

"Did Jesse even sleep last night?" Olivia asked.

"I dunno. I was out cold."

"Oh."

"Yeah. By the way, what are you getting for today's dinner?" Fareeha asks, wiping the first plate off.

"I don't know, chiquita. Maybe takeout."

Fareeha shudders. "You know Gabe is gonna kill you, right?" Every friday, the staff had dinner at Gabe's house, something in line with his principles of family and togetherness. Fareeha was pretty sure he was the real-life version of Dominic Toretto. Always yapping about family and stuff. Fareeha had almost asked him once to plan a heist or two for them. She was happy she didn't, though. But she did know that he would have managed to plan and execute one as well, knowing how he was.

"Ah, I'll cook something then and there." 

The easiest was to get to their house, because they lived right above the cafe, but the hardest was to go back, because they had the best of mattresses, and she somehow always ended with Olivia, who was the hardest person to break away from. Its things like these that force Fareeha to think that she should get into a relationship soon.

The back door opens and Lena bursts in. "Hiya everyone!" she chirps, barging in with armfuls of groceries. Fareeha was quick to help, setting them at their respective places. "I hope I was on time?" She asks, although she knows the answer. Gabe rose from making his pancake batter to tell her off but he fell back when he spotted Olivia glaring at him.

"Nonsense. You are right on time." Olivia answers with a sweetness that makes Fareeha and Lena sick. Genji notices their expressions behind Olivia's back and gives them a knowing smile. Fareeha goes back to doing the dishes and Lena suits up for waiting the tables

______________________________________

"Hey." Moira says feebly while slumping into one of the stools, and Fareeha looks up from the newspaper. The afternoon rush had given way to a relaxed evening, in which caffeine fueled teenagers were replaced by responsible, generously tipping individuals from the upper echelons of society. Rich people turned up because of the general air of easiness at the cafe and the fact that Gabe made killer pancakes. Even Olivia's creative expletives were not enough to extract his secrets.

"Hey!" Fareeha beams and gives her a quick over-the-counter hug. She notices her exhausted face. "Rough day?" She asks, reaching under the counter to fix Moira a cup of coffee. Moira groaned.

"You have no idea." She replies. Moira was ridiculously famous and rich, and was a very good friend of theirs(family, as Gabe would say). Why she didn't go anywhere else, was something that eluded Fareeha. But she was thankful, because her appearances here had massively raised their Google ratings.

Someone else sits beside Moira, and Fareeha knew who it is. "Hey, Ice Cold Amelie." Fareeha says and Ice Cold Amelie smiles, they exchange a quick hug as well. She looks similarly distressed.

"I won't ask." Fareeha says reassuringly and pulls out another cup. "What else except coffee?"

"Pancakes?" Both of them ask almost simultaneously. Fareeha chuckles and goes to find Gabe. Olivia appears from the back of the kitchen. 

"Moira and Ice Cold Amelie!" she says in her thick Spanish accent. "How have you girls been? I didn't see you around for ever."

"Yeah, we've been busy with the ridiculous conferences and stuff. We actually just came back from London. Couldn't miss Gabe's dinner for our lives, especially if it meant missing his food." Moira says, running a hand through her short, fiery ginger hair and Ice Cold Amelie stays quiet, like she always does. She does smile in agreement, though.

"You girls made a good decision for once in your lives." Jack says, looming from behind, engulfing them in his arms, which the women returned with fond smiles. In his hands was orders from the patrons, which he gave to Olivia. Olivia disappeared into the back of the kitchen to get the orders ready, replaced by Fareeha. Jack takes the counter.

"Pancakes coming in three." Fareeha says. "You guys were just in time for the dinner though." Fareeha adds, her elbows on the counter, facing both of them. Moira lets out a hungry groan, which Fareeha knows meant I know, right?

"Two Macchia- howdy ladies!" Jesse appears, pinching an order between his index finger and thumb, but promptly forgets about it when he spots the women. He huggs them from behind, and snuggles his face between their shoulders. "And to think I was not gunna see you guys for dinner again. It would have been lonely for the movie, and Lena picks the shittiest ones I have ever seen. She doesn't have Ice Cold Amelie's taste." Moira chuckles at the distant, offended "Hey!" that Lena let out from somewhere behind them.

"When was the last time you actually slept?" Amelie asked, speaking in a complete sentence for the first time in the evening. "And when was the last time you had shaved?" Moira asked, clearly distressed by his stubble, which was digging into her shoulders, through the fabric of her expensive linen shirt. But she had no intention of throwing him off her. Amelie didn't notice. She never noticed much anyway.

"Maybe last year." Gabe emerges, each hand holding a stack of pancakes, dripping with maple syrup, and Jesse twitches at the tone. "I have never seen him do anything responsible with his free time." He snips again, and swats the order pressed between his fingers to take a look. "Genji! Two Macchiatos!" He turns back and shouts. He realizes that he did not tell Genji about the newest entrants and turns to shout back again. Genji appears some time later, clutching two Macchiatos, that Jesse took and sped away. The two women dig into their pancakes.

"Hey guys!" Genji chirps cheerfully, and gives them an over-the-counter hug. "I missed you! You didn't tell me the trip to London would be this long." He says, hurt. His expression is one-fourths teasing and three-fourths kicked puppy.

"Sowwy." Moira and Amelie offer. But their apology loses most of its effect when their faces are stuffed with pancakes. Amelie's mouth had syrup dripping from the corner. Olivia laughs. So does Genji.

Fareeha was distracted from their conversation by a booth, which was housing a harrowed blonde woman, papers, journals and stationery strewn about the table like the place had just been ransacked. Her glasses were askew, so was her hair, and so was everything, but the blonde was too absorbed in work to notice anything at all. Fareeha noticed with small shock the number of cups that were circling the booth.

"She has practically drunk her bodyweight in coffee since she camped there in the morning." Lena appears beside her at the edge of the counter, and Genji us at the other side, elbows on the counter just like Fareeha, all three of them looking at the booth. "She's tipping really nice, though." Lena adds.

The woman in the booth raises her eyes to meet theirs, goes pale, and with a small jump of fright, returns to the sheaf of papers she was perusing. Genji and Lena's eyes are flitting between the blonde and Fareeha, because Fareeha's expression was telling them too much right now. Their eyes meet and they share a knowing glance.

Fareeha's face is neutral, her mouth is slightly ajar, but her eyes give her away. They were flickering up and down the blonde's form, taking in every little bit of information like she was about to give a test where every question would be related to the blonde's appearance. She continues staring blankly until most of the patrons are gone, and the rest were close to leaving. Everyone else joins Lena and Genji to see how she was practically stripping the blonde with her eyes. Fareeha doesn't realise what she is doing, but the rest could see, and their amusement is unparalleled.

"Did she eat anything?" Fareeha asks, prompting everyone to go back to cleaning. Moira and Amelie continue to look on, over the plates they just demolished the pancakes in. Olivia swoops in, swipes the said plates off the counter and disappears behind the aisle.

"I don't think so." Genji replies. "I don't think Olivia had any order from that table for the whole day." He leans back, so that his head clears the aisle. "Olivia! Did we have any food orders from table eight the whole day?"

"No!" Olivia answers from behind the aisle.

"I wouldn't be surprised if she exploded from that much caffeine not fifty metres from the door." Fareeha says disinterestedly, straightens and walks to the fridge. She extracts the breakfast leftovers and microwaves them.

"Hold it a little longer, chiquita! I'm going upstairs to make dinner after this!" Olivia says.

"It isn't for me." Fareeha replies, and walks out front. She retrieves the keys to Jack and Gabe's house, and passes them to Moira. "You guys get cooking, I'll deal with her." Fareeha says, and walks to the booth with a plate of food, which was now the only table that was occupied. Everyone followed her with their eyes. Olivia leans from behind the aisle to see.

"Ten bucks says they will be banging on that floor in three months." Gabe appears out of nowhere and wagers. There is a smirk on his scruffy bearded face.

"Three months? That is too optimistic, don't ya think, love?" Lena replies. "I wager ten against. But they will bang on that floor alright."

"Do we even know if she's straight or not?" Genji asks, the only voice of logic presently.

"Oh, I know Fareeha. Trust me." Gabe growls proudly, the smirk deepening.

"Ah, good for Chiquita!" Olivia appears, wiping her hands dry with a hand towel.

"Put me down for a thousand." Moira replies. "Me too." Amelie chimes in. Everyone looks at them. Lena looks positively alarmed.

"Calm down. Pay us ten if we win." Moira replies. Amelie grins in agreement.

"Rich people and their wagers." Jack mutters under his breath. "I'll wager fifty." He says aloud.

"I'm calling fifty too." Jesse calls out. Gabe glares at him.

"I'll take that off your cut." Gabe growls, prompting everyone to look at him disbelievingly. "What?" Olivia shakes her head on this.

Genji looks at everyone incredulously. "Why are we even betting if everyone is wagering on the same thing?"

Everyone struggles to swallow their laughter as they make their way upstairs, leaving Fareeha with the harrowed blonde.

______________________________________

Fareeha approaches the blonde carefully, taking slow steps, like she was a terrible alligator, and one wrong move would send Fareeha to her doom. She notices that the papers are now spilling onto the floor and the bird's nest that her head has become, no doubt from the endless fidgeting. Her clothes have definitely seen better days, and she looks one wrong spelling away from a nervous breakdown. Fareeha stops at a safe distance of four steps. That gave her plenty of time to react, in the event that the blonde did explode.

"Hey, you alright?" Fareeha says, feeling the terrain in front of her.

The blonde, true to eight cups of caffeine, shoots bolt upright and looks at Fareeha with alarm, blue eyes blown impossibly wide. "What happened? Are you guys closing?" She squeaks.

"Calm down" Fareeha drops opposite to the blonde and starts collecting the papers off the floor. She taps them straight on the table and starts collecting the rest.

"Wh-what are you doing?!" the blonde squeaks again, her pitch higher with ever rising alarm. Fareeha doesn't stop. The blonde is too alarmed to do anything except squeaking anyways.

"Look at you. You are one spelling mistake away from a nervous breakdown. And one drop away from caffeine overdose." Fareeha says, not raising her eyes. Once done with the papers, she sets them aside and puts the plate in front of her. "Eat. You have been living on coffee since the morning." Fareeha commands.

"Th-Thanks." The blonde says softly, being adorably self-conscious. She looks at the eggs, bacon and pancakes on the plate and gingerly lifts the fork.

"I admit we don't limit the cups of coffee, but it would be really great if you didn't die from too much coffee. Its kinda bad publicity for a cafe." Fareeha says nonchalantly, trying very hard not to focus at the heart-melting sheepish expression the blonde was making.

"A person cannot die from too much coffee." The blonde says, suddenly brimming with confidence, sounding like she knew the fact better than anyone in the world. She chewed slowly, taking small measured bites.

"Oh. How do you know?" Fareeha asks, striving to continue talking.

"I'm a doctor." She says, semi-proud, semi-afraid-of-bragging.

"Nice." Fareeha whistles. "That explains all these papers and you being a mental car-crash." Fareeha swears she saw a faint blush creep on her cheeks.

"The eggs are nice." The blonde speaks again.

"Olivia's eggs are the best." Fareeha replies proudly. "So, are you from around?"

"Yes." the blonde replies. "The med school. I never noticed this place earlier." her sheepishness increases. She finishes the food.

"Let me get you a glass of water." Fareeha says chivalrously, and shoots off the booth. By the time Fareeha returns, the blonde was clutching her head, no doubt from too much studying. She registers Fareeha and takes the glass of water, drinking gratefully. Fareeha takes the empty glass from her twitchy fingers after she is done.

"Thanks, I'll get going." the blonde starts to rise.

"Whoah there. I cannot trust you with so many cups of coffee being out all by yourselves." Fareeha knew this because Moira is famous for being up to all kinds of shenanigans with too much coffee and a filled stomach late at night. They often need to keep someone up to watch over her. Usually it is Amelie, because she was the best at waking others up if things went out of control. It seemed rich people could afford to have weird tendencies. "Sleep here. I will let you out in the morning."

"No. Thank you so-"

"Oh no. Not taking no for an answer. I have experienced what this combination does."

"I have to-"

"No."

"Tomorrow is my-"

"No use if you lose your mind, trust me."

The blonde considers it, and her expression is a cocktail of unsure and thoughtful. "Is that safe?" she asks, looking around.

"Oh you have no idea. Gabe is laser with shotguns and Genji throws knives like a ninja. And I know a little fighting myself. I'll be locking the door and lowering the blinds too." Fareeha says, and her chest puffs out unconsciously.

"I hope I'm not bothering you guys. You seem to be having a family dinner upstairs." She says like she is the biggest burden on this earth.

"Oh I don't think anyone will notice if you sleep downstairs. They will be too stuffed to check." Fareeha says. "Don't worry." She winks.

The blonde relents. "What's your name? Just in case I run into someone else in the morning?" The blonde says. Fareeha wondered if the blonde remains sheepish like this everytime.

"Fareeha." She says. "Yours?"

"Angela." the blonde replies. She blushes slightly, from embarrassment or something else, Fareeha doesn't know.

Moira, Ice Cold Amelie, Lena, Jesse, Olivia and Genji were leaning on each other on the massive sofa Gabe had found at a garage sale, eating bowls of rice pliaf that Olivia had whipped up in a surprising time. Jack and Gabe were nowhere to be seen, and Fareeha knew exactly what they were up to.

"Gosh, these guys are worse than two horny teenagers." Fareeha mumbles, announcing her arrival to the house.

All of them followed Fareeha with their eyes, turned backwards, and watch her pull out a comforter and a pillow. She freezes when she spots the others looking at her.

"What?" She says, eyes darting from one pair of eyes to the other, going left to right.

"You're being late. We are waiting for you to begin the movie." Ice Cold Amelie, of all people, replies, big amber eyes and all, before stuffing her mouth with a spoonful innocently.

"Sorry." Fareeha breathes out, and quickly walks downstairs, grabbing the keys on the way down. They turn back to the TV, all of their faces wearing smug smiles, except Lena. Fareeha returns soon after, and joins the gang on the sofa with her bowl. Amelie had done the movie selection today(thankfully), and they were watching The Rundown, a cheesy Dwayne Johnson action flick. Fareeha leans into Olivia, and Olivia takes the chance.

"Did you put her to sleep, chiquita?" Olivia whispers, and she knew everyone else was listening beside her. But Fareeha did not need to know that. Fareeha hums in response, chewing and watching intently.

"Did you get her name?" Olivia asks, tenderly.

"Angela." Fareeha whispers, and snuggles tighter against Olivia, who wrapped her free arm around Fareeha's shoulder. Everyone smirks again, especially Moira, who looked like she could break out any moment bragging.

"Might as well give me the money now." Moira whispers victoriously to Lena, who had her head on Moira's shoulder, inner arm looped around hers.

Lena smacked her arm hard enough for it to hurt.

Chapter Text

Jesse stirs first. His eyes are still closed but he is pretty sure someone is lying over him because his legs are numb. He openes his eyes and all he can see is the ceiling. Lena lies beside him, sprawled away at an awkward angle. On his belly lies Moira's head, to her side are Fareeha and Olivia, Olivia's arm still wrapped around Fareeha's shoulder, on his legs. Ice Cold Amelie is sandwiched between Moira and Olivia, her head digging into Jesse's hipbone, which was sore already. Lena's foot is at an uncomfortably close distance to Jesse's face. Jesse turns to the side to see the foot inches away, and he winces.

"I wanna die." Jesse croaks. His eyes are burning from sleepiness.

"I need more of that food in my life." Moira croaks, only her mouth moving. "I love you Olivia."

"Love you too." Olivia answers feebly, grogginess making her drawl. Fareeha stirs.

"Mornin' everyone." Fareeha breathes into Olivia's collarbone, Voice soft enough to be a whisper, but somehow it isn't. Olivia pulls her closer. She is dubbed 'Cuddle god' after all.

"Morning, loves." Lena groans, running her palm over her face. 

"Mornin'" Moira answers.

"I can't feel my legs." Jesse groans, feigning immense sadness and helplessness. Like he has really lost his legs. Maybe then Gabe would give him a day off.

"Maybe we'll have to amputate." Moira replies. Jesse fake-gasped.

Everyone heard heavy bare feet coming closer.

"I wonder how much I will get paid for just one of these pictures of the world renowned Moira O'Deorain, lying asleep in a shady apartment over a cafe. Talk about being a rich man." Gabe's deep gravelly voice fell on their ears.

"Shut the fuck up." Moira snaps.

Ice Cold Amelie stirs, both Moira and Olivia stiffen.

"You all shut the fuck up before I commit a bunch of murders." She says, irritated. Jesse twitches again.

"Oh yes." Gabe says with a relish. "Ice Cold Amelie: Moira O'Deorain a victim of a brutal quintuple murder, killed by close aide Amelie Guillard in an argument over sleep." He says it like a news headline. "God, I should open a newspaper." Gabe marvels over his own ability. Amelie chuckles softly.

"Where's Genji?" Lena asks the ceiling.

"Downstairs." Gabe replies. "Atleast he's responsible with his sleep. Jesse, get up." He says.

"Gabe please." Jesse breathes out.

Jesse knows the effort would be futile, because he had goofed off all his holidays, which was a week a month. That meant he is basically Gabe's bitch until the next month, and next month is still some time away. He tried to move, but he remembers he was pinned to the floor. He gives it his best shot anyway.

"Jesse." Amelie growls. "Stop moving." Jesse goes still immediately.

Gabe's mind goes click. Very loudly.

"Ice Cold Amelie?" He asks. Amelie hummed in acknowledgement. "Wake Jesse up. I will let you sleep in then." He says, and Jesse twitches in alarm. Amelie smiles and extracts herself from between Moira and Olivia. She runs her nails over his face teasingly.

"No. Gabe, you monster." Jesse shudders. "No!" He groans in anguish. His body contorts with every touch, sending him snaking along the floor. Ice Cold Amelie continues tickling him with her nails until he scrambles to his feet and bolts to the bathroom.

"Thank you." Gabe says curtly, and Amelie smiles, dropping to sleep where Jesse was.

"Can we sleep now?" Lena asks, puppy faced.

"Not you." Gabe says. "Grocery run. Come on." Olivia scowls. Lena pouts.

"I'll do it." Fareeha breathes into Olivia's collarbone again. Lena's face brightens. She crawls to Fareeha and engulfs her from behind.

"I love you." Lena groans in relief, pressing a kiss to her head. "You are an angel." Lena blurts out, and then falls asleep. Gabe shrugs.

"I just want groceries." He says. "Olivia, you wanna get up or not?" Gabe asks, his voice tinged slightly with concern. Olivia almost never took a day off and Gabe would actually be happy if she slept in. Instead she rises from the mess of limbs and sleeping people. Moira turns to her side, trying to go back to sleep but she just can't seem to fall asleep back again if it's morning already and she has woken up. Moira blames her head for this.

"And see you guys eat crap for breakfast? No!" She snaps and Gabe shrugs again. She really is team mom. Gabe turns away to hide his smile, walking into the open door of his room. Fareeha rises and untangles herself from the jumble of limbs. She pads to the bathroom to join Jesse and Olivia, who are busy brushing. Everyone has toothbrushes and some sets of clean clothes stashed at Gabe's house, because he's Gabe. Too goddamn caring but too edgy to admit it aloud. He would rather make them sleep in his house than send them home when he can avoid it. And if he cannot, he personally sees them home.

That is what everyone loves about him, He is unyielding outside, but he does give a shit. He could have let Jesse sleep but Jesse needed a lesson in time management. He would continue until Jesse learnt. He really didn't even want to reprimand Lena for being late everyday, but she needs to learn too. Gabe never did anything more than necessary to make their lives miserable. He could have been softer, but he needs to be strict. He needs to be the villain counteracting Jack and Olivia's spoiling.

"No more extra sleep than an hour." Gabe calls from his room.

"I hate you." Amelie rasps, and Lena whimpers silently.

______________________________________

Angela wakes up when she hears the sounds of a mop going splat on the floor. She can smell the faint aroma of strong black coffee brewing somewhere. She stirs on the pillow, burrowing herself deeper into the comforter, before uncoiling herself. She sits up and notices someone looking at her intently. She meets his eyes, confused blue ones meeting composed, almond shaped black ones. The owner of the eyes is neither surprised nor irritated. He continues to mop the floor, coming closer with each step. She eyes him curiously, watching his movements. Smooth, precise and practiced well.

"Good morning!" He chirps, continuing to mop. "Angela, isn't it?"

Angela nods slowly.

"Sleep well?" Genji asks. Angela nods slowly again. He sets the mop to the side after finishing, dumping it in the bucket and leaning the stick on the nearby wall, and walks to the booth she was in. He also stops at a distance of four steps.

"If you are awake, please sit on the stools." He says gently, meaning no ill. "So that I can clean up here before the cafe reopens."

Angela goes red and collects the comforter and the pillow into her arms. She rises and deposits herself on the counter, where some stools were placed. She sits with the comforter and the pillow in her arms, looking around. Her attention shifts to the back of the kitchen where a Hispanic woman descends the stairs and the first thing she notices is Angela, sitting awkwardly on the stool with the comforter and the pillow in her arms. Their eyes meet and the woman brightens, walking to her with a pleasant expression on her face. Following her is Fareeha, an unkempt guy and an older, edgier bearded man. The man walks like he owns the place. But all edginess melts away when he spots Angela, and he shoots a genuine smile in her direction.

"Buenos dias, chica!" The hispanic woman is the first one to close the distance between them, and she pulls the comforter and the pillow out of Angela's arms, passing it to Fareeha, who turns around and goes up the stairs to deposit them in the house. The woman puts her elbows on the counter and beams at Angela. Angela returns the bright smile with a sheepish one. "Did you sleep well?" The woman asks. Angela nods awkwardly. Gabe stands beside Olivia, giving Angela a kind, reassuring smile. Angela relaxes. Just a little.

"Morning." Gabe greets her, his deep voice at its softest.

"Good morning." She replies softly, to both of them, eyes cast downwards. Her awkward smile makes their hearts melt.

"Hey." Fareeha stops on Olivia's other side, and gives her a smile one gives to old acquaintances. "How's the head?" She asks.

"Its alright now." Angela smiles.

"Good. Now you can beat it to death all over again." Fareeha chuckles and Angela blushed slightly again. Olivia and Gabe exchange smirking glances. Fareeha remembers something and smacks her face. "God, where are my manners." She groans into her palm. "This is Olivia." Fareeha waves towards Olivia with jazz hands, who gave her a wave. "This is Gabe." Fareeha stopps behind Gabe and claps her hands on his shoulders, peeking from behind his back to look at Angela. Gabe smiles at her and Angela returned one, a little more confident now. "And that is Genji." Fareeha pointed her chin to the almond-eyed guy and Angela turns around to smile. Genji bowed in response, hands on his legs.

"And this is Jesse." Fareeha points to the unkempt guy, who was slumped on the counter one stool away, his head buried in his arms. He raises a hand and waves. "Howdy." He croaks, not raising his head. Gabe swats the back of his head and Jesse lets out a strangled yelp.

"Get this homeless guy and this beautiful woman some coffee." Gabe says, and walks to the back of the kitchen. Angela blushes. Fareeha grins and pulls out two cups of coffee, passing them to Olivia, who fills them with strong black coffee and passes them a cup of coffee each. Jesse groans his thanks and Angela holds the cup in both of her hands, eyes trained on it, a sheepish smile on her face.

"Thank you very much." she says softly. Angela performs a quick calculation in her head. She can afford this cup of coffee, but then she will have to walk home. And given the distance, she will have some pretty impressive blisters from the thin-soled shoes she is wearing. But it breaks her heart to even think of rejecting the coffee, given how kind they are with her.

Olivia smiles and walks to the back of the kitchen. "Breakfast!" She calls out to anyone that listens. She spots Gabe, who is making pancake batter, smiling to himself, right beside her station, where she makes breakfast.

"She's too cute." Gabe chuckles softly. Olivia chuckles too.

"Really innocent too." Olivia chimes in. "Like a little angel. I really like her." Olivia coos fondly. She starts making eggs and after they are done, walks to the front, which housed the refrigerator. She spots Angela quietly sipping her coffee, occasionally glancing at McCree and exchanging small talk with Fareeha. She smiles, pulls out the bacon from the refrigerator and walks to the counter, joining Fareeha.

"Ayye chica! You are hungry?" She asks Angela. Angela looks up from her cup of coffee.

"I'll go home and make some breakfast." She says quietly. Olivia is quick to pick up the undertone of guilt. Angela thinks that she is burdening them.

"Nonsense, chica! No one skips breakfast here! You are not burdening anyone!" Olivia chirps, plowing through any and all awkwardness that Angela harbors. Angela looks up to meet her eyes, her expression three-fourths surprised and one-fourth grateful. Her lip quivers.

"I-I don't have money to pay for anything except this coffee." Angela squeaks. The guilt and embarrasment is too evident.

"You sleep here, you eat here." Gabe reappears, wiping his freshly-washed hands on his hand towel. "You slept here last night, that means you will join us in breakfast. Its on the house. Don't worry." His voice is firm, but it has no coercion behind it.

"You are so kind. How can I pay you back? Please?" Angela says, pleading. Fareeha spots the faintest of tears forming in her eyes.

"Okay." Gabe says, prompting Fareeha and Olivia to look at him disbelievingly. "You can do one thing. Just stop yapping and eat." Gabe smiles, and takes off before Angela could protest. She looks at Gabe's retreating form with amazement and shock. Fareeha and Olivia smile. Too hard on the outside, but actually gives a shit.

"I cannot thank you guys enough." Angela says, her voice small. "I have never met people that are as kind as you are in this city." Fareeha laughs, so does Olivia.

"I know." Fareeha chuckles. "We are suckers for hapless people that stay camped up in our cafe all day long drinking obscene amounts of coffee."

Angela giggles. It isn't full drawn laugh, but it fills the place with warmth when it rings together with Fareeha's laughter. Like peace in a land ravaged by war. Like the sun after eons of darkness. Olivia's heart melts again. She couldn't help but join them. Suddenly, Moira's hands clap Fareeha's shoulders. She peeks from over her shoulder to see what the fuss was about.

"What are you guys all laughy-laughy about?" Moira asks, one eyebrow raised. "And Olivia, I admit I don't know squat about cooking but isn't the bacon also supposed to be cooked after thawing?" She says, facing Olivia. Olivia blushes and disappears in the depths of the kitchen. Genji laughs, who in the meantime has placed himself beside Jesse, nursing him to wakefulness. Nobody notices Angela going still in awe. Her eyes are darting about the form of Moira, too shocked to believe that it is indeed her, in the flesh.

"D-D-Doctor O'Deorain!" Angela squeaks and everyone looks at her. Angela shoots to her feet and stands straight. "I'm a big fan of your work on Neurosurgery!" She squeaks in admiration again. 

"Hey." Moira greets her and Fareeha gives her way to come up front. Moira raises her hand and Angela takes it in both her hands, squeezing hard. Moira gives it her best shot anyway. "Angela, right?"

If people can melt, Angela fits that bill perfectly. She takes a moment to compose herself and then nods vigorously. "Yes, Doctor! I'm a practising neurosurgeon at the med school!" She squeaks in pride, and her chest puffs out unconsciously. Moira smiles. Angela then remembers something and her face goes from awkward happiness to full on alarm. "My presentation!" She gasps. She runs to the booth where her stuff is kept neatly together and starts frantically shuffling all her papers in order, walking back absentmindedly to her seat without taking her eyes off them. Olivia appears just in time, both hands holding a plate. Ice Cold Amelie, Jack and Lena descended the stairs and spotted Olivia with the breakfast. Lena made grabby hands for the plate, but Olivia pulled it out of her reach just in time. Gabe appears, eyebrows raised at the commotion.

"What happened?" Gabe asks, giving a quick peck to Jack, which wakes him up immediately.

"Angela here has a presentation at the med school." Moira replies. "And you are giving a presentation in this shape?" Moira gestures to her wrinkled clothes, her ruffled hair and her worn out face. "You'll freak the audience out. Ice Cold Amelie!" Moira turns back and calls, and Amelie appears. Moira waves to a ruffled Angela. "Fix her."

Ice Cold Amelie's amber eyes roam over Angela's form, and she twitches. "Merde." She croaks. "I need more than just my hands." She turns back and glances questioningly at everyone, a silent plea for some contribution. Fareeha clicks.

"I know. Use Jack's stuff!" Fareeha says, and Jack looks distressed. Fareeha is gone by the time Jack has formed a retort. Ice Cold Amelie turns and claps her hands on Angela's shoulders.

"Wash your face." Ice Cold Amelie says, silky, smooth, effortless. Angela washes her face at the sink, and returns to the stool she was sitting in, face dripping with water, droplets running down her cheeks and dropping off her chin dramatically. Everyone surrounds her like they are witness to either a major breakthrough, or the dissection of an extraterrestrial species. Amelie is their residing fashion counselor, and helps everyone dress up for their dates and parties. However, she isn't living her role as frequently as she did earlier because everyone was going through a dry spell presently. Fareeha appears with all the materials and dumps them on the counter beside Amelie.

"Now sit still." Amelie says. Fareeha joins the others in a circle and Amelie gets to work, her expression blank but eyebrows knotted in concentration. Angela is rock-still, too afraid to move. All she has for indication is the anticipatory expression of the staff surrounding her in a circle and the tugging on her hair, and Angela suddenly realized how guinea pigs felt when being experimented upon. Amelie was apparently wrestling her hair in place, if the tugging was any indication. Angela wants to run far away but she can't. So she closes her eyes. For a few minutes all she feels is a brush here, a tug of hair there, some smoothing here and a little blowing there.

"There. Bonjour." Ice Cold Amelie says, her voice husky and satisfied. Angela opens her eyes to see everyone looking at her with satisfction. Moira has a smirk on her face. Everyone is holding plates of food, some half eaten, some empty. Fareeha had finished and dumped hers in the sink already. She watches with her hands folded over her chest, a proud smirk on her face. Olivia appeared with a plate full of food and places it in front of Angela.

"Eat up, chica!" Olivia chirps. Angela dug in. She moans in appreciation before she could stop herself.

"Told you Olivia's eggs are the best." Fareeha says, snorting.

Going red on hearing snorts and giggles, she stuffs her face with as much she can. Before any reasonable amount of time passes, the plate is empty. She sighs in relief. She was more hungry than she looked. Genji slid her a glass of water and she downs it in a single breath. And then she lets out another long sigh.

"Thank you. Thank you!" Angela says. She stands up to go.

"Wait." Gabe says. "You said you didn't have any cash on you. How are you going to go back?"

"I was going to walk home." She answers. Amelie facepalms.

"And ruin all that work?" Amelie says it like it was the stupidest thing she has ever heard of. Angela stops to consider.

"I'll take her. I have to go that way for groceries anyway." Fareeha offers. She turns to Gabe. "I'm taking the bike, Gabe."

"Okay." Gabe calls from the back of the kitchen. Fareeha reaches under the counter to fetch the keys and the helmet. She walks to the door. "Let's get you home, Angela." She calls out to Angela. Angela turns to the staff and gives them a little bow.

"Thank you very much for having me." She squeaks, and blinks away the tears before anyone notices.

"Just keep visiting us." Gabe appears, replies and smiles. Angela gives them all a sheepish smile and takes off after Fareeha, who is already gone.

"Wow. She's such a bundle of nerves. I wonder how she became a doctor in the first place." Moira comments as soon as the door closes.

"Don't say that. She's a sweetheart. She was nervous on seeing you." Olivia chides. Moira rubs the back of her neck.

"I'm only human, after all." Moira says, faking a hurt expression.

"Well, I would love to have her visit again." Gabe smiles. So does everyone. They would love to have her back.

______________________________________

When Angela reaches her, Fareeha was already on the bike. Gabe owns a Ducati Sport 1000 Biposto from his heydays. It is slightly dusty, but still runs like a dream. Fareeha is the one who does most of the riding when Gabe opened up the cafe, using it to get groceries or run small errands around the city. Angela swings her leg over the bike and Fareeha waits patiently until she settles. She wears the helmet offered to her.

"All good?" Fareeha says, her voice muffled by the helmet. Angela nods. Fareeha looks over her shoulder. "You might wanna grab on."

Angela places her hands on Fareeha's shoulders. Fareeha takes her hands and clasps them around her belly. Angela stiffens.

"You'll see." Fareeha says. She thumbs the starter and the old Ducati wakes up with a roar. She slots the first gear and the bike shoots forwards. Angela is thrown back, and she grabs onto Fareeha's midriff, burrowing her cheek into her back with a faint yelp. Fareeha keeps the throttle pinned almost all the time throughout the journey, backing off only to brake hard and take a turn. It isn't that Fareeha was riding recklessly, she was just riding fast. She kept good distances with other cars and used the indicators well.

"Speed bump!" Fareeha calls out right before the bike hits a speedbump, and Angela, despite her grabbing, is launched into the air for a split second. She lets out another yelp and grabs onto whatever part of Fareeha she can find. She lands on the seat again and tightens her grip, pressing her knees into the seat, bracing herself for another merciless explosion of speed. Fareeha backs off the throttle instead, and looks at Angela over her shoulder. But Angela was glued to her back, her cheek pressed between the shoulderblades, eyes screwed shut for the speed that never came.

"Uh. Angela?" Fareeha asks, awkwardly.

"Hmm?" Angela replies, still glued to her back. She rises from her position after Fareeha does not reply for more than three seconds. She looks at her eyes through the helmet.

"Uh." Fareeha motions to her hands, silently praying Angela hasn't noticed the goosebumps all over her skin. Angela follows her arms, noticing the elbows buried into her sides, and then follows it to her hands. Her cheeks are afire in an instant when she realizes she is grabbing onto her breasts, each hand square center. She quickly loops her arms around Fareeha's midriff again and buries her face into Fareeha's back to hide her fiery cheeks.

"I'm so sorry!" She lets out a muffled squeak. She is going to die of embarrassment.

Fareeha lets out a breath she did not know she was holding. She bends down again and grabs the handlebars until her knuckles are white. Angela feels each motion of her midriff, every muscle tectonic, hard, unyielding under the supple softness of her skin, the thin cotton fabric offering no dampening. The motions were small, infinitesimal, but there, whenever Fareeha maneuvers the bike. Angela is suddenly black eyed and punch drunk with touch, not wanting to break off but praying she wasn't pressing too hard into her. She closes her eyes, the air blowing around her, tickling her arms, whistling through her hair, the thrum of the L-twin reverberating in her ears with the roar of the wind, and the subtle shift of muscles of this stranger keeping her company. She was holding on as a necessity, but now was doing so for the touch, the subtle warmth radiating from the thin layer of cotton comforting her more than the endless expensive comforters and mink pillows could.

And comfort was something she was denied all her life.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. This came too, when the heady cocktail of the engine thrum and wind roar died down and all she could hear was the chirp of birds and the solid silence of the trees. Angela opened her eyes and looked around. She was at the main building. Her euphoria died down, her hormones receded and she scrambled off the bike, papers clutched in her fingers, hard enough to crease it but soft enough not to tear it. 

"So, I hope I will see you at the cafe again?" Fareeha says after removing her helmet, noticing Angela feeling her hair and setting the errant strands back into arrangement. Angela has a different kind of grace, one that somehow gets amplified with her sheepishness, each movement efficient, as little as possible, as much as necessary. She stands taut, with a deliberation Fareeha can't replicate in a lifetime. Fareeha is all sharp angles and hard edges. Angela was something much softer.

"I surely will come there again." Angela says, and there it is again, the faintest traces of tears forming at the corners of her eyes, looking like guilt but feeling like gratitude. "I will never forget the kindness you showed to a person like me." She says, a million years of pain compressed in just a single sentence, and Fareeha is overwhelmed with guilt, even when she said or did nothing wrong. Fareeha concentrates on the handlebars to process the sentence.

"Wait, a person like me? What do you mean?" Fareeha says, looking up from the handlebars, face contorted in curiosity but Angela is already gone, her warm, sheepish presence reduced to still air and the distant noise of footsteps.

Chapter Text

Fareeha absentmindedly shuffles through the endless, white-lit aisles, never-ending shelves of powder-coated beige populated with tiny explosions of color, each fighting their own war with their neighbours, a war to claim the attention of anyone that passed. Each burst of color neatly contained within every imaginable shape that some boffins at the design team meet deemed good for marketing, Fareeha looked like she had been caught in the middle of an abstract painting. All the products lost though, because Fareeha isn't walking in the aisles. Her head is miles away, only one sentence ringing through the familiar darkness that is her mind.

People like me.

It held all the meaning of the world, also no meaning at all. It could be telling the saddest of stories, or could be a half-baked attempt at humour by a haplessly overworked doctor who held one of her not-bound-by-blood family in god-like regard. Fareeha can easily accept the second theory because it fits, but no one was that good of an actor(except Johnny Depp, Fareeha maintains defiantly, because that man is a god) to fake such a sad expression and the tears in her eyes could never be fake. The statement sounded so broken, but so hopeful at the same time.

Gradually her thoughts drift to all the conversations she had with the blonde-haired bundle of nerves. She tries to remember to the way the words rolled off her tongue, the variation of tones in each sentence but Fareeha suddenly realises with a bang- like hitting her head on a cabinet, that she never heard Angela's voice in a complete sentence. All the time, she heard either a low breathy whisper, or her panicked squeak, and Fareeha couldn't help the smile flitting across her face when she remembered the giggle.

Then her thoughts wander to her shimmering blonde hair, her brilliant blue eyes. Angela had a certain elegance, a different kind of beauty, that no amount of sheepishness or disheveled appearances could cover.

And then Fareeha let logic have a say, and logic had just a single statement, left hanging there like a punchline in the middle of a pregnant pause.

Why are you thinking about her so much?

Fareeha then realizes her breathing is hitched for no reason at all.

Fareeha kneads the bridge of her nose with her index finger and thumb, coming back to the moment. Fareeha catches herself in the middle of the toiletries section, between millions of rolls of toilet paper packed in different sheets of plastic by different manufacturers, same thing different packages, turns around to go to the section that deals with eating, not its aftermath, and starts collecting the supplies.

______________________________________

Jack looks up from the table he's just finished waiting and he knows who has entered when he spots the bell jingling and the door swinging wide. He follows the dark haired head, pointing downwards at the screen, eyes roaming the length of a tiny piece of technology, all the attention compressed into five point five inches of LED space. Just witnessing the deed makes Jack wince. He shakes his head and slowly removes himself from between criss-crossed chairs that held patrons.

By the time he's out, the head has traveled far enough for him to warrant some quick walking. The newest visitor walks absentmindedly to the gigantic pillar in the center of the cafe, which doubles up as a place where the patrons leave memories, and the staff leave notes. Jack walks fast, faster than anyone(Gabe has to jog to keep up when Jack walks at max attack), and suddenly everything is slow, Jack making three steps for every step of the visitor, stretching his hand out, not trying hard, but just reaching out, and soon he catches the back of the head, fingers spread out, gripping hard, stopping the visitor's face just inches from the thumbtacks and the pillar. Jack grits his teeth in a kind of frustration that arises from reprimanding someone endlessly, but them continuing to do the same things over and over again.

Jack takes a breath, and lets it out slowly. He clenches and relaxes his free hand.

"Hana." He says, eerily calm, making Hana lift her head off the screen immediately. She notices her environment, twitching at the proximity of her face with the thumbtacks, turns around, and throws her arms around Jack's midriff, burrowing her cheek into his chest, forgetting the wretched device for a moment.

"Hey dad!" She coos into his chest, hugging him tighter, unmindful of what Jack's current mood was. "I'm really sorry about not coming yesterday." She says, equally casual. Jack almost cracked. He needed to let Gabe have her head first, then he could make her a sandwich to help her in the aftermath. Hana loves sandwiches.

Jack opts to shake his head, putting both his hands on her shoulders and steering her to the stool right in front of the counter. Almost on cue, Gabe appears. Hana's and Gabe's eyes meet. Hana's expression is caught, and Gabe has a weird mix of hurt and absolutely angry. Jack takes his hands off her shoulders and lifts the partition between the two sides of the counter, to slip to the other side of it to get the remaining orders ready. But the food orders and caffeine requirements of some patrons can wait, because the licking is going to be epic.

"You did not come for the dinner." Gabe said. His voice at his lowest. He folded his arms over his chest, looking dead into her eyes. Hana's eyes were darting everywhere except meeting Gabe's.

"Sorry." She whispers at the end.

"Not even a phone call." He croaked again.

She doesn't say anything, opting to meet Jack's eyes and pleads him for backup.

"Don't look at me." Jack says, throws his arms up in surrender, and swiftly makes his way to the back of the kitchen to get the stuff ready. Hana opens her mouth to speak but closes it again. She looks down on the hardwood floor, hands on knees, shoulders slouched. Gabe's glare holds her still.

"Well, if it isn't Almost Adopted Hana." Moira's voice falls on her ears and her head whips upwards. Their eyes meet.

"What are you doing here? Weren't you in London?" She asks, faux-curious. Hana is desperately clawing for anything that might give her an edge.

"Well she came all the way from London for dinner, and you couldn't make time for it even when you live in the same city." Gabe growled, Hana cowered into her previous position.

They stay like this for some time. Moira has a proud smirk on her face, Gabe continues to glare into the back of her head, and Hana can feel it burning through her skull.

"Why?" Gabe breaks the silence eventually.

"I was out with a guy." She whispered, overwhelmed with guilt, feeling criminal for skipping out on dinner. Gabe's weekly dinner.

"Out with a guy?" Moira and Gabe say at once. Moira is curious and darkly proud of the little one, Gabe has half a mind to whip out the pump action shotgun. 

Hana sighed at the long day ahead of her. She should be embarrassed and maybe even scared about the events that are about to follow, but she isn't.

______________________________________

 

"Okay." Moira says, brushing breadcrumbs off her ridiculously expensive pantsuit like it costs five bucks and was bought at the nearest pharmacy. "Tell me about it." Jack made Moira a sandwich too because the woman was hell bent on eating everything that Jack and Gabe made. She would probably get fat if she kept at it and she would be a Snapchat news meme and twitter joke, but she doesn't seem to give a shit.

"About what?" Hana says, munching on her sandwich, refusing to be baited. Moira is sitting beside Hana. Olivia is sitting on the other side, running her fingers absentmindedly through Hana's straight black hair. Ice Cold Amelie faces Hana. Fareeha is on one side, Jesse is on the other. Genji is standing beside Jesse, elbows on the counter, and Lena keeps alternating between Fareeha's side and Genji's. The evening rush is done with, and now they have a slow and steady night, something which Jack and Gabe can handle pretty easily, so the gang decide to deal with Hana's predicament.

Ice Cold Amelie makes a disbelieving noise, so do the rest. Olivia snorts.

Hana sighs. "Okay." she says, putting her sandwich down. "We shared the bench in class. He asked me out for a walk right after, we walked and he turned out to be a nice guy and we started talking and it was night by the time I realized. Turns out all of our classes are the same."

"Hmm..." Ice Cold Amelie muses. "This is neutral ground for now." She says, like this is a tactical situation. "Let him take the lead."

"Wait, what?" Jesse says, turning to Ice Cold Amelie. "He just walked with her. How can you even say if he's interested?"

"Shh." Fareeha hisses, turning to Jesse. "Woman knows what she's doing." Jesse shrugs. "So he's made the first move now." Fareeha says, hoping to steer the conversation back on track.

"Yes." She said. "He made the first move. So all we can do is react." Lena nods, impressed.

"Not necessarily." Genji cut in. "What did you guys talk about?"

Hana froze. She knew this was coming, but was hoping it would not. "Nothing much." She said, attempting to bury the sentence with loud munching on the sandwich.

"Hana." Olivia said, stern. Team mom is in the house again. Hana sighs.

"Fine. Just don't laugh, okay?" She says, suddenly sounding very vulnerable. The rest hum in consent, however their previous behavior makes something about the hum much more complicated than it used to be. Fareeha glances at the just-opened door, then goes back to looking at Hana.

"So we were just walking around and he asks what color I like." Hana says, biting down the rest of the sentence.

"So?" Moira says, unimpressed, and Olivia shoots a warning glance at her.

"So what did you say, Hana?" Olivia asks sweetly.

"I said yes." Hana realizes her mistake too late and bites a chunk off, munching hard, praying no one heard her. The gang would laugh at this eventually but Hana hoped they would stay true to their promise.

That is the problem. They didn't.

"Holy shit" Moira roared in laughter.

"This is too good!" Lena shreiked.

McCree is on his belly, slamming the floor with the bottom of his fist. Genji and Ice Cold Amelie are leaning on top of each other, laughing. Moira and Fareeha are laughing too, albeit more composed than the rest. Olivia is laughing, doubled over herself. A lone middle aged patron looks up from his newspaper to see what the hell happened suddenly. The couple on the nearest table nearly jumped. The door opens again and the bell jingles.

Fareeha can't help but look at the door everytime someone enters or exits, hoping that the one entering will be the blonde, hopefully devoid of any study material this time, and Fareeha would try to wrestle the secrets out of her, maybe over a muffin and a coffee, and finally find answers about the statement that has been haunting her for the whole day. She is slightly crestfallen when it isn't her for the umpteenth time.

She knows she shouldn't be sad about not meeting a stranger that had bunked in their cafe for a night again, given that many do, but she is, and she doesn't know why.

Maybe she's just curious.

Yeah, she's just curious.

Gabe and Jack are watching from a distance, wanting no skin in the game which they call 'relationship advice'. They look at Fareeha's pensive expression and the suppressed curiosity she has whenever the door opens. Gabe and Jack both smile at Fareeha trying hard to stay in the middle of things, but getting distracted by the door opening and closing.

"Should we step in? Hana looks pretty ganged-up right now." Jack says with slight concern, fixing the lids on two large coffees to go.

"No." Gabe says immediately, removing a warmed muffin from the oven and places it on a saucer. "They are old enough to give actual relationship advice."

"I don't think so." Jack says, taking coffee cups into one hand. "But Ice Cold Amelie would make an excellent strategist if she uses her head like this where she should."

Gabe sighs at the implication and adjusts the cupcake dead center on the saucer. "What beef do you have with her being a make-up artist? She does her job well and look at the paychecks she gets."

"I never said anything." Jack shrugs innocently.

Gabe's phone buzzes. He fishes it out of his pocket, aware of Jack's eyes on him and he reads the ID. He knows the contact and the conversation that will follow, so he acquiesces, giving Jack the saucer and a knowing nod. Jack nods back, a silent agreement to make sure he has his privacy for the duration of the call. Gabe exits into the alley from the back of the kitchen, and swipes his thumb across the screen to pick up the phone, making sure he closes the door behind him. He breathes in and exhales slowly, bracing himself, before raising the phone to his ear.

"I was wondering when you'd call." Gabe says, expressionless, kicking a balled newspaper away. "It was a week already."

"I know." the other side replies. "How is she doing?"

"Very fine, actually. How are you?"

"I'm doing good."

"Really?"

"Yes, Gabriel."

Gabe is caught slightly off guard by the usage of his full name and he tenses. No one calls him that, not even Jack. But the voice on the other side isn't anyone either.

"So, you just called to know if she's doing okay or not?" Gabe's voice carries a barely-masked bite. He hopes that the caller does say something more, or else.

"No." Gabe relaxes at the answer. "How is she doing, emotionally?"

"She's taking it like a champ. Just like you- she has literally beat me to shit in general fitness for three months straight now."

"You aren't as young as you used to be."

"And isn't this question old too now?" Gabe shoots back. He grits his teeth just to vent some of the anger away. The caller does not answer for a moment. Gabe wants to ask, and he's been holding back since many calls. But he feels ready now. He just has to pick the right moment.

"There wasn't a choice, Gabriel." the caller says at the end.

"There wasn't a choice? There wasn't a choice? Are you shitting me with that? Do you actually believe that bullshit yourself?" Gabe seethes. His chance is here.

"This was the best course of action."

"Tell me, how the fuck is abandoning your child, your own flesh and blood, the best course of action? I don't wan't to let those people leave my house late at night, don't want to bind them with society, and they aren't even mine." Gabe says. "I was always a hardass, you said it so yourself, that I ought to loosen up a little. And if a hardass like me can be like this, what explanation do you have to abandon her like that? She at my door, at my care- when she is nothing but fucking sixteen, with no goddamn notice, no goddamn whereabouts at three in the goddamn morning, and she's crying hysterically? What did she do to you to deserve something like this?"

There is silence at the other side, but Gabe is not done talking. Emboldened by the silence, he contemplates the other question.

"You could have come with her." He says at the end, and his voice is weak, pleading for an answer, and he suddenly feels vulnerable.

"I need to keep her safe. They have an eye on me, and they think she's dead, so she's safe with you. It is better this way."

Gabe rolls his eyes. "How is this better? I can't give her everything you can."

"That is a sacrifice we must make then."

"But why? Why? You are so good with handling things like this. You saved mine and Jack's asses when the committee found out, and it was fucking genius. Why didn't you do something like that to save her?"

"Because she was caught, Gabriel. She was caught with a girl. In her bed. If it was me who found out, I would have smoothed things over. But it wasn't me. It was him who found out. He was disgusted and appalled. He wanted to have her killed for such a disgrace. This was all I could do. It isn't easy for me either."

"And you couldn't convince him otherwise? Don't give me that bullshit. He's your dad, for god's sake. He would have listened."

"We are talking about she being a lesbian here. A lesbian in a world where only male, female and straight exist. Not something like a boy he doesn't approve of, or something like she doing drugs. Our relation was already at breaking point when I joined. This pushed things over. He isn't the best of people, but he is my father, Gabriel."

They have hurt many people in the past, and these days, anything that is remotely close to a compromise comforts him to no end, and if the caller can balance two very delicate situations like this, he's backing it with all he's got. He prepares another question in his mind, loading it like a bullet into the sniper rifle of his tongue.

"What about you?" Gabe asks. "What do you feel about her? Are you homophobic like him too?" Gabe blurts out, but regrets it instantly. He has changed, but sometimes the old, impulsive him does come to the surface, and that almost always leads to regret in the night, when he's rolling on the bed.

"Proud of her, proud of her choices." The voice tells him, and he believes it. It sounds like everything is forgiven.

Gabe says nothing, the caller says nothing, but none of them hang up.

"He isn't gonna live forever, you know." Gabe offers, because that is all he can offer. "You will have free will when he's dead."

"Yes. He is on life support now. The doctors said that he had four months to live but he proved everyone wrong. He is resilient, after all."

"Just like you." Gabe says. There is a forced breath on the other side and he knows its a snort. "Just come over after he's buried, okay? Please don't deprive her of your love."

"Its not that simple. You know that, Gabriel."

"Tell me about it. She's dead to you, you're dead to her, Sam is actually dead. Why do you always stick me up with difficult shit?" Gabe says, walking in tight circles, looking down. He then elects to sit on the concrete next to the door. Damn the pants, he can wash them later. This conversation is far more valuable than a scrap of denim.

"I cannot just barge into her life like it isn't nothing after being gone for so many years. She thinks I'm dead. It isn't simple to explain coming back from the dead when you've grown up thinking that your parents died saving you."

"Its just been six years. You can catch up."

"Its not that easy. She won't understand."

"I, of all people, understood. Jack understood. Why do you think she won't?"

"The resilience goes both ways. She's his granddaughter. And if his resistance is any indication, then she will be a mountain to climb. We didn't have the best of relationships before this debacle either. She always rebelled, and I always tried to reprimand."

"She is resilient for sure." Gabe says in admiration. There is a longer silence this time. Gabe has a million things to say, but most of them are just disjointed thoughts or swear words.

"Sometimes I wish we were still together, you know. When you'd take all the decisions, and I would just stay off everything. When did I get stuck with babysitting Jack, and the rest of the people, and her, above all?" Gabe tells the voice in the end.

"Didn't you always want a daughter?"

Gabe says nothing immediately because he knows he is cornered. "Yeah." He admits. "But not with this much drama." He adds, to lessen the impact of his defeat. Gabe hates to lose.

"I trust you and Jack with my life, Gabriel. She couldn't be in safer hands. We might be dead to each other, but I still care about her, I still love her. I would never let her suffer if it was in my power. Not a single day goes by without me missing her."

"Yeah. Preach it." Gabe says, flat. He hears a faint burble of laughter that he was secretly dying to hear since the call last week. A small smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. It tells him that the caller is still human. Still the same he yearns to see. Still the same he wishes to get worldly wisdom from. He realizes he's pressing the phone into his ear far too hard than necessary, but he doesn't bother to ease off.

"I miss you." Gabe says. Its his longing talking now. "Please come back. To her. To us." Gabe imagines his voice getting thick but he knows that its impossible. He has remained stoic through much worse, where others would break. This is nothing. "She will find a way to forgive you and love you. She loves you a lot more than she lets on. I swear I have seen her keep your pictures in her wallet."

"I miss you. I miss her, I miss Jack, I miss everyone." the voice answers, and he can taste the longing in the caller's voice too. They remain silent again. Gabe looks into the distance.

"Promise me you will come back." Gabe says. The voice is cold and raspy, but the tone is warm.

"I promise." The voice answers back immediately and Gabe is hit with a rush of relief when he is answered instantly. It affirms that both of them want the same thing. Crave the same thing. Hope to achieve the same thing. There is another silence, and Gabe is relishing the presence of the voice, still strong when he had thought it had once been lost forever. It was just an unexplained letter, but Gabe knew the writing like the back of his hand- the way the i's were dotted, the way each paragraph ended with a swish. A call soon followed. Gabe went all guns blazing, throwing back any and all platitudes and being very angry in general, but Gabe being Gabe, soon reduced to a sopping mess in the alley. Promises were made, and they corresponded every week. Gabe, in this alley, whenever the call came, true to his vow.

"I'm so proud of you." The voice says in the end. "I'm so proud of the man that you have become, Gabriel."

Gabe allows himself to smile. The sentence, with that voice, is like a kiss to the forehead.

"Take care." Gabe says at last. "I have her covered."

"I will. Just make sure Jack doesn't keep making a fool of himself." The voice is now fond.

Gabe laughs. "Its already too late for that."

"Good night." the voice says.

"Good night." Gabe echoes. He waits until he is hung up on, and then looks at the screen. Their conversations are never long, never have been. Both of them are masters in saying a lot in very less. Such is their way.

Chapter Text

The next Sunday rolled around, and with it brought a lazy morning. Gabe always slept in today, but he still woke up by eight(old habits die hard, like Jack says), so there was no actual sleeping in for the staff anyways. He stretched, popped his back, brushed and descended the stairs, stretching his neck side to side. Moira and Ice Cold Amelie were gone to Gibraltar this time, for another convention. To Gabe it seemed that Moira was doing more conventions than the job she went to college to study for.

But Gabe is not judging. He is very deliberately not judging.

He looks around and the kitchen is spotless, the countertops are shiny and the sink looks new-right down to the pesky edges- the one where the stainless steel meets the granite, that somehow always escape cleaning. He whistles softly. The smell of coffee wafts into his nose and his head turns to the source. A fresh brew is on the table beside the front counter. Gabe reaches for the cupboard right above and pulls out a cup. He pours himself one, straight black, just the way his almost numb tongue likes it. Strong enough to make him feel something. His tongue was numb due to endless exposure to his abuela's fiery paella. He is still ready to bet it would make Olivia cry, despite her superhuman gastrointestinal toughness.

If Olivia wasn't Spanish, Gabe would have been impressed. But it seems that all Spanish children were blessed with Grandmothers that made the best of food, even if it did almost kill them.

Well it seemed that way to Gabe, anyways. But his opinion has been said to be jaded on more than one occassion.

Gabe takes a sip and turns around to see Genji on the other side of the counter, perched on a stool, glasses on his nose, perusing a sheaf of papers held by a clip. His cup is empty and has been placed carefully to the side. One of his elbows is on the table, arm tucked close to the chest, a hint of a sharpie poking out from his hand. He is absolutely still, only his eyes moving, roaming the width of the sheaf of papers clutched gently between his fingers.

"Morning." Genji says, not looking up. His lips curl upwards, only slightly. His eyebrows are perfectly neutral and so is his face. So deadpan, it might actually have been funny in any other situation.

"Morning." Gabe takes his cup. "When did you get here?"

"Hour and a half ago. Had to clean up before you guys made a mess all over again. I would really appreciate if you kept the edges of the sink clean." He said, eyes still on the rows of sentences on the paper. "And does Hana always wake up this early?" he says.

"Morning, dad." The sound comes from somewhere below on the other side of the counter. Gabe peers over the edge to see Hana, lying on two stools put side to side, her head on Genji's lap, reading Shakespeare, the original. Not some abridged version bought from the dollar store, but the real deal. Gabe's eyebrows rose, not at her being awake, but at what she was reading. Hana, though a very accomplished gamer, had a notoriously strict sleep schedule.

Thanks in no small measure to Jack.

"Morning, Hana." Gabe says softly. "You sure you can handle that?" He says.

"Dost trust thy daughter, Gabriel." Hana says, her voice suddenly thick with heavy English.

"Impressive." Genji says, smiling into his papers.

"Umm. Okay." Gabe says, and turns away to refill Genji's cup and get Hana one too. He returns soon and sets the cups at their places on the counter.

"Thanks." Both say in unison. Gabe smiles and disappears behind the aisle to prepare today's brunch menu.

Every sunday, the patrons have a choice to order their favorite breakfast, in obscene amounts, or with such a massive amount of sides that they can safely skip lunch, if they manage to walk out in the first place. This day is capitalized on by the nearby college goers, mainly because the increment in price barely offsets the massive increase in amount. Gabe loved it because it helped clear the stocks that were on the verge of getting spoiled or expired(The cafe has been subjected to practically endless surprise health code violation checks, but there was nothing that was even close to the unacceptable limits. The inspectors stopped bothering after some time).

As Gabe is in the process of finishing peeling the last of potatoes, Olivia comes in through the door, bang smack at nine-ten, punctual as always. She deposits her stuff in her locker(nine small ones Gabe pinched from old school stuff they were about to scrap. Gabe has an eye for old stuff) and spots Gabe, who is wiping his hands, smiling. She throws her arms around him, as she does with everyone when she meets them for the first time in the day.

"Morning." She says, her voice husky from leftover sleep.

"Morning." Gabe replies and notices the voice. "Please take a day off for once." He says, and a hint of pleading enters his voice.

Olivia chuckles and breaks off, turning away to walk to the front. Gabe follows her with his eyes, his face mildly concerned. Olivia spots Genji on the other side of the counter. Genji sets down his papers and moves the cup out of the way before Olivia throws her arms around him.

"Morning." Genji groans from under her arms, wrapping his around the small of her back.

"Buenos dias." She coos fondly, and fails to notice Hana. Hana remains quiet, because she is too engrossed(or too overloaded) to notice anything. Olivia notices the half-full cup of coffee beside Genji's, senses the temperature, which was swallowable, and downed the coffee in one go. She sighed in relief when the caffeine kicked in. Genji went back to his papers, not bothering to tell Olivia.

Suddenly, a hand appears from under the other side of the counter, too small and young to be Genji's(also too far off), and pats the wood surface, searching for the cup. Olivia starts in surprise.

"Whomst'd've taketh my beverage?" Hana's half-annoyed-half-curious voice came from under the counter, muffled slightly by the book. Genji's eyebrows shot over the frame of his glasses. Gabe stopped doing whatever he was.

"What the actual fuck?" Gabe's voice rang from the depths of the kitchen. Olivia's eyebrows rose too.

"I'm pretty sure that isn't even a word." Olivia tells Hana, who hasn't bothered to move.

"I agree." Genji chimes in.

"You, of all people, is saying that?" Hana said pointedly.

"I am an English major, you know." Genji said warily.

"English major who works in a cafe." Hana said, and Olivia covered her mouth to hide her laugh. Gabe didn't bother to do that.

"Touche." Genji sighed in acceptance. Hana had a point, after all.

______________________________________

Today is Genji's day off, meaning he takes the counter and Gabe takes his place, and others are free to switch as well. Usually this ends up in a massive staff role reversal, but Gabe had trained them to do all tasks equally well, so that everyone could have a little change of scenery. That meant the chefs became the waiters and vice versa. Genji took the counter, and kept reading and editing from his sheaf of papers all day long, glasses on, and being a very boring host in general. If it was not for brunch Sundays, Genji's boring hosting would have offset all the weekly profits.

There was another objective that was fulfilled. The role reversal kept the staff humble, allowing them to suffer the plight of their counterparts. Just one day was enough for making sure no role was taken for granted(Lena knows this the best because she has to clean up in the end, and the mess is often unholy). Genji got off only because he was always on time and kept the kitchen spotless, and also had a keen sense of the perfect ratio to make the best cup of coffee. Plus, he was a writer, and writers can't write much when they are busy alternating between stoves and juggling dishes.

Genji is returning to the counter after relaying the orders to the back when he spots Olivia still standing at the counter, looking at him expectantly.

"Did I miss something?" Genji said, and glanced backwards before returning to look at Olivia, his hand up, glancing back and forwards repeatedly, and his feet apart, spread more than normal, like he was about to get into a fight, or worse, get killed(Gabe almost fired him once for not including water in the menu, that is why he is a chef these days).

"No" Olivia said and Genji sighed in relief. He placed himself back where he was. Olivia followed him with her eyes.

"Are you happy here?" She asks, when Genji has settled completely. He looks up from his papers and stops twirling the sharpie between his fingers.

"Of course!" He said, and he meant it. His face immediately became concerned. "Olivia, Hana was just joking." He said reassuringly, leaning over the counter.

"I know that." She rubbed the back of her arm. "I mean, just look at you. You were supposed to become a writer!" She waved at him in admiration. "You joined college and even graduated with flying colors! But you're working in a cafe, Genji. Isn't this holding you back?" She said, her voice colored with concern and maybe even guilt.

Genji sets his papers down and tilts his head to look at her. "Hold me back? You guys are literally the best thing that has happened to me!" he waves around the kitchen. "When I left Hanamura, I was not sure of what I would do with my life after all that fiasco back home. You guys took me in and now I'm living the free life I wanted to live for so long!" He said, and put both of his hands on her shoulders. "I could never have been happier, Olivia." He says in the end.

Olivia smiled sheepishly. "Are you sure?" She asked once again, even though she knew the answer well.

"Yes." Genji says.

"Are you guys done talking?" Gabe appeared out of nowhere, right beside Olivia, slapping an order at the table. "I need these ready stat." He said.

Fareeha chose the same moment to arrive with plates-omelettes in one hand and a massive stack of bacon in the other. "Are you trying to actually drive this place into the ground?" she said pointedly, swiping the order off the counter, Olivia took the plates quickly. She looked at Genji, who was rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment. He reared his head and winked at her.

Olivia turned away to hide her smile.

______________________________________

"Sheesh!" Jack said, wiping sweat off his brow. "We didn't realise it, but we are shortstaffed."

"I agree." Jesse croaked, and Gabe scowled at him. Olivia had switched with Lena when things started getting out of control.

"We need no one else." Gabe growled. "Come on, Jesse, take these to table three." He passed Jesse two trays- one with an obscene pile of omelettes and the other with a similar pile of french fries. Jesse began to grumble but he stopped when Gabe shot him a glare. He grimaced at the amount of food.

"God, is that even legal?" Lena commented when she appeared with three orders in her hands, feeling sick on seeing the amount of food

"We'll know soon." Jesse said, and took the trays away. Genji took the orders silently to pass them to the back, and returned to his spot he had been in since the morning. Fareeha appeared from the depths of the kitchen, clutching the three orders Genji had just passed.

"Gabe, what have we done?" She asked, her face pale, for the lack of a better word. "When did it become this bad?" she said it like she had contributed in the creation of a terrible abomination.

"Forget breakfast, I don't even want lunch now." Lena said. 

"Ugh, that makes two of us." Fareeha croaked.

"Where's Olivia? And Hana?" Jack asked.

"Olivia is handling three things at once- pans, plates and fryer. Hell, even Hana has started cooking." Fareeha rumbled.

"HANA STARTED COOKING!?" Jack thundered, and vaulted over the counter, Fareeha threw herself out of the way just in time. All of them looked at Jack storming to the depths of the kitchen. He reappeared some moments later, ushering the teen out.

"But dad, Olivia is literally getting 360 no-scoped!" Hana protested. "She needs my help!"

"What were you cooking?" Gabe asked, edginess replaced by genuine curiosity.

"Eh. Just looking over the fries." She said, and glared at Fareeha "That was toxic."

Fareeha simply shrugged. "Woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do. I have no beef against you cooking but Jack's orders."

Hana turned back to Jack. "Dad, I can do this. I can help her!" 

"Nope." Jack said sternly. "Go sit on the counter, I'll get you a sandwich." The sudden offer of sandwiches instantly placated Hana, and she took her place on the stools. Jack, making a satisfied huff, turned around to start on her sandwiches.

"Hey boyscout!" Gabe called out. "Who's gonna wait the tables?"

Jesse chose the same time to appear with two more orders in his hands. Jack turned around to lock eyes with Gabe(and maybe even slip in a subtle fuck-me invitation, hell, maybe even bend him over, seeing the name Gabe had used), but his eyes fell on the new orders instead. He winced.

"Oh." Fareeha said, and paled even further.

"My." Lena croaked.

"God." Jack completed.

Genji recoiled at the team's predicament, silently collected his belongings, folded his glasses inside the case and dumped them in his bag, stashing it inside the closet. He pulled out his apron and tied it behind his back.

"Genji." Lena said in protest.

"You don't need to." Fareeha said in concern. "You will never finish your book this way."

"Come on. You guys are getting pummeled. Its no fun when you guys are all stressed and overworked." He said, and disappeared into the back of the kitchen with a smile on his face, which felt like he was smiling at a private joke. "It was getting kinda boring too when there was no one to interrupt me." He said as he made his way to the back of the kitchen.

"He isn't the hero the cafe deserves, but the one it needs." Jesse said, like he was telling the tale of a man who was stuff of legend.

"Shut the fuck up." Gabe snapped, swatting at his head. Fareeha and Lena snickered uncontrollably.

Olivia is switching back and forth between the pans facing her and the fries on the left. She moves instinctively to the left to tend to the fries. Genji slips in from behind her and flips the eggs on the pans. She completes the fries, grabs the plates to finish the eggs and Genji pivots about her back to collect the fries on a plate and slides them to the end of the counters. He pulls out the thawed bacon and they turn again, Genji spreading the bacon on the pans and Olivia sliding the eggs to the end of the counter. Genji starts the process and Olivia pivots with him to continue with the bacon. Genji pulls out more thawed fries, drops them smoothly into the fryer, shaking them up, and they both remain like this for a few seconds.

"I had this, you know." Olivia said fondly. Although she hadn't seen Genji since he had stepped in, their movements were telepathic. It had taken them months to develop such a rhythm and only the two of them had it down. This was their jam. An oily, deep-fried, breakfast-y jam, but a jam nonetheless.

"I know, right?" Genji snickered. "Fareeha needed a little break." He lied.

Olivia snorted. "You are a terrible liar."

Genji doesn't need eyes to sense the speed of her movements- slower than usual. The rustle of her clothes, the subtle whiff of air caused by their movements told him all he needed to know. It wasn't the effect of just a day of sleep deprivation, but the wariness caused by something done day in, day out for what feels like an eternity. He chooses his words in the crackle of oil and potatoes, piecing his sentence with utmost care. He fails to put it subtly so he tries the direct approach.

"When was the last time you took a day off?" He puts it out, just like that.

Olivia sighs, because she knew this was coming. "I'm fine, Genji. I'm just a little tired." She pauses. "I'm fine." she repeats, trying to dispel any doubts he had.

Genji made a disbelieving noise. "Its okay to take a day or two off sometimes, Olivia."

She waves it off. "I would be too bored holed up in my apartment all day long."

Genji reminisces on her timing patterns and finds nothing wrong. "Olivia. You leave at ten smack. Your apartment is fifteen minutes from here even if Lena drove. Now, if you take atleast quarter of an hour to have dinner, you can still sleep at eleven. You come bang smack at nine ten each day, meaning you wake up by eight to get ready very relaxed. That means nine hours of sleep." Genji says, and glances at her to give her a quick once-over. "Picked up any new habits recently?"

Olivia laughed at the implication. "Relax, Genji. You're reading too much into it."

Genji examined the tone quickly, but there was nothing wrong there too. He decided to let her go. "Maybe, but I'm just worried." He shrugs. He piles the fries on the plates and slides them out. "You do tend to overwork yourself without realising it."

"You are here to stop me when that happens." Olivia said

"Yeah, but you need to listen to me in the first place for that to work." Genji replied and Olivia chuckled. "Why do you work this hard?"

"I don't know." She says. "I just, don't want to sit still, you know? Keep doing something."

Genji shakes his head. There is no talking her out of this.

Well, for now, at least.

______________________________________

"Agree now?" Fareeha said, sipping on her glass of iced tea.

With Olivia and Genji back in the kitchen, the rush had turned around. The brunt of work had shifted from the kitchen to the counters. With orders coming in and going out with amazing swiftness. Gabe, Jack, Jesse and Lena were having a very hard time keeping up with the combined might of Genji, Olivia and Fareeha. They had finished the brunch rush and closed, because Lena was threatening to give any moment. Fareeha made them all iced tea, because none of them had the stomach(or the heart) to eat anymore after surviving the horrifying rush, and seeing so much food. Lena was turning green slowly with each minute and Fareeha decided to throw in the towel when Lena looked ready to puke.

Plus, everyone does need a breather sometimes. Gabe was determined to soldier on but he had been cowered into submission by Olivia.

Everyone looked at Gabe with a look that forced him to agree, or there could be a mutiny on the cards. Well, they would try their best, and lose miserably by the coming friday, accepting his dinner in a flurry of apologies and come back to work the next day sharp on time.

"You might be right about being shortstaffed." He tells her, and the staff sighs in relief. "But since its your idea, you get someone."

"What the-"

"I have just the person for it, actually." Jack cuts in, sipping at his tea before talking again. "Remember Torbjorn? The Swedish mechanic that had helped us with servicing the Ducati?"

"Who's gonna forget that guy? He took care of it like it was his baby." Gabe said. "What about him?"

"He has a daughter that is looking for a part time job. Torbjorn just does not want her to work in the family business for now. He said his wife was against her working there for the time being."

"Oh. The ginger with a tattoo on her arm?" Gabe turned to Jack. "The one who was lurking around the Duc?"

Jack nodded and Gabe smiled with amusement. "How did you know?"

"We had a conversation when you were off riding." Jack said. "Her name's Brigitte."

"Nice." Gabe says, finishes his tea and gets off the chair. "Fareeha, since it was your idea, you will show her the ropes."

"No good deed ever goes unpunished." Fareeha lamented. Lena patted her back in sympathy.

"Don't worry chiquita, I'll be helping." Olivia reassured her, and Fareeha smiled weakly.

"What would I do without you saving my butt?" Fareeha groaned and Olivia laughed.

Chapter Text

Gabe enters from the back door with mid-day emergency groceries(Lena always brings just enough to keep her out of trouble) when he notices that there is a very expensive jacket hanging on the coathanger and Moira is washing the dishes, the front of her black trousers splattered with water and the sleeves of her satin shirt folded, and her arms elbow-deep in water. The way the clothes are wrinkled tells him that Moira slept in them.

"What the hell Moira." Gabe growls. "Does Ice Cold Amelie know you're here?"

"Yeah." Moira says absentmindedly. Gabe watches the expression and knows exactly what the hell she is doing here. Moira raises her hands to itch the tip of her nose but realises her hands are sudsy and dumps them back in the bubbles. Her eyes are too bright and her eyebrows are knotted in concentration.

"How many cups of coffee did you have since the morning?" He asks, and Moira has a caught expression on her face.

Lena appears with an empty pot of coffee and the look of distress on her face means that was the last of the lot. "Who drank a whole pot?"

Gabe turns back to Moira and she is washing the dishes with mind bending ferocity, oblivious to the world. He shakes his head and whips out his phone to text Ice Cold Amelie. Lena retreats to make another pot of coffee.

Moira is at the cafe. He texts. It shows read immediately.

I thought she was sleeping with her door locked. She replied.

And she's washing dishes. Gabe typed quickly. And she drank a whole pot of coffee.

Amelie sends two shocked emojis. I'll be there in five. She adds immediately.

Pancakes? Gabe replied.

Yes please. She replies as soon as the message is delivered.

He slips his phone back into his pocket and watches Jesse trying to figure out where to put the fifth dish to carry. two are on his palms and the other two are securely balanced on the crooks of his elbows. Lena is busy with preparing the rest of the orders and Gabe notices the bright orange tights and white crocs with a white shirt that looked like it had been pulled out of the laundry in the middle of the washing. There were blotches of unwashed detergent, pale against the fabric.

"Can I ask why are you dressed like a tangerine?" He says. He shoots a warning glance to Jesse and he deserts the fifth dish to distribute the ones he had.

"I had nothing else." Lena shrugs. "Laundry day." She adds to clarify her being in the kitchen when she is far better at waiting tables, blaming her loud tights.

"Is that why you have taken the kitchen knowing you can't take pressure for shit?" He replies. Gabe knows better than to let her in the kitchen for longer than an hour because the last time Gabe had allowed Lena to take over cooking, she had charred half of the food going out of the kitchen and after three straight hours her fumbling had broken half of their dishes, not to mention the amounts of food wasted. What was worse was that Lena had turned into a ball of nerves and a mess of tears, apologies and self-deprecation. Gabe had to call the day off to make sure they didn't have to wheel off the little Brit to the asylum.

Despite of himself, he really liked the chirpy little woman who also swept away more in tips than in actual salary sometimes.

"No, I have taken over because Fareeha is training Ginger to wait tables." She tries to look annoyed but considering her size and the way she is, she ends up looking even more harmless.

"Ginger?" Gabe says, and raises his eyebrows, pulling out his apron from the closet. "You started picking on Brigitte already?"

"No!" Lena protests, her expression hurt, voice suddenly shrill. "That was the first name that came to my mind."

Gabe finishes tying his apron and pushes Lena aside "Get back outside."

"I got this Gabe!" Lena tries fighting back but what the hell. How do you even move a mountain?

"Moira's in the back hopped up on a full pot of coffee." Gabe says grimly and removes himself from the stove. "Be my guest."

"So that's where the coffee went." She says it like she has cracked the biggest of mysteries. Gabe raises his eyebrow and Lena realises the gravity of the situation.

Lena pales. "I'll be going then." She says, looks down, and vacates the kitchen with amazing swiftness.

Gabe watches her go and wonders where he went wrong in life. Jesse returns to get the last dish and spots Gabe brooding. He smirks while picking up the dish.

"Having another existential crisis, pops?" He hazards.

"Get the fuck out of here." Gabe snaps at him.

______________________________________

Angela has been in the cafe for seven straight days. She started staying here much longer when she found out the coffee was much cheaper than the Starbucks near the med school, which could have cost her a kidney and maybe even her eye if she did dare to have another.

She is too engrossed in her work to notice Fareeha looming from the depths of the tables from one corner of the cafe.

"I have to ask. Is your roommate that terrible?" Fareeha puts it out bluntly.

Angela raises her head to meet Fareeha's eyes and has a curious expression on her face. "Not really. But why my roommate?" she fires back.

"I dunno. I just thought you came here because your roommate was either a crackhead or a really terrible person." Fareeha answered.

Angela fights hard to contain her laughter but a snort escapes nonetheless. Fareeha smiles. It feels like victory.

"Coffee?" Fareeha asks and knows the answer, but lets Angela nod in agreement anyway. Angela notices that Fareeha is there whenever her cup runs dry or her stomach gets bored of too much caffeine and demands some actual food. Angela tags this as just her experience, nothing more.

Just experience, definitely.

Angela spots the ginger-haired girl following Fareeha. "Hi." She says softly, and the girl nods with a smile on her face

Fareeha smiles and takes off to get her a cup, and notices the ginger following her. Angela does a quick once-over and deduces that the second waitress is definitely European, and also a trainee, judging by the general sheepishness and lack of confidence, also the look in the eyes absorbing every last detail and action.

But then suddenly, the door opens and the hair at the back of her neck stands on end. Her head whips up at the source of the tinkle. The new entrant looks around. When her eyes land on Angela, recognition spreads across the face. The entrant wastes no time to bound over and practically crash beside Angela in her booth, jostling her to the side.

"So this is where you disappear to!" She concludes and looks around for a fleeting moment. Angela recovers and notices the hastily combed red hair, the omnipresent red sweater, that she had gifted her the last christmas and the patterned tights she had slept in, alongwith Angela's slippers.

It was a very interesting turn of events when the said woman had landed as Angela's roommate, trunks, chirpy hellos and all, but her life has been better with her around. She does make very good food, puts up with Angela's work ethic and also sometimes buys her coffee so she can yammer at her all day long.

And although Angela has to make sure that she goes to her classes, wakes up in time, does not mess up her attendance and does not turn up in classes looking like a nuclear holocaust survivor, she is very thankful for it.

It was safe to conclude that she had just brushed, combed and come over. Angela does not answer and quietly reclaims her previous position. Angela knows that to keep her roommate from talking too much, she has to participate the bare minimum, and give monosyllabic answers when the need arises.

"Hmm, has a nice vibe." The entrant steamrolls though the silence. "I can see why you like this place." She says, while Angela returns to her work. She continues like this for some time, but pauses when she realises that her roommate is being uncharacteristically non-hyperverbal. She raises her head and notices that her roommate is staring into the distance.

"Em?" Angela asks, and then puts a hand on her shoulder to shake. "Emily? You okay?"

Angela turns to see where Emily is staring and there is only one thing.

Lena's bright orange bottom.

Well, that answers a lot of questions.

Angela turns around and frowns at Emily. "Em." She says sternly. "Its rude to stare."

Emily's reverie breaks and she looks at Angela like she just called the Monalisa crap. She grabs Angela's head by the sides and turns it towards the general direction of Lena's bottom. Emily is measured and precise, like showing Angela the greatest piece of art there is.

"Angela." She says like she is trying to make Angela see reason right in front of her eyes, jabbing her hand in the direction of Lena's bottom. "That ass."

______________________________________

"You okay, Lena?" Genji inquires when he spots Lena looking ruffled, and serving with a huff.

"Yeah, I'm fine." She says disinterestedly and takes off to the counter to deliver more orders. Genji stops at the counter to take a breather when he notices a redhead sitting with Angela, who was always alone in her booth.

"Who's the new girl?" Genji inquires, not looking back at who heard.

"I dunno." Gabe answers, coming back from handing Ice Cold Amelie some pancakes and making sure Moira was escorted out without anything breaking or someone calling 911(and making sure no paparazzi got a glimpse of this). Both of them observe the redhead looking around and then stopping at Lena's bottom, following it around the cafe like an object of extreme interest

"Okay, she sure wasn't joking when she said her tights were loud." Gabe says. Both of them then observe Angela chiding the redhead and then the redhead pointing towards Lena's derriere, both of them arguing. The redhead finally stands up in her booth and cups her hands around her mouth. Angela makes a mighty last-ditch effort to stop the redhead, to no avail.

"GURRRRRL YOU GOT ASS!" The redhead screams and the whole cafe, with the patrons, is shocked into silence. Spoons stop in the middle of their trajectories, mouths stop mid-chew, and everyone turns to the source of the sound. Lena stiffens up and turns backward to see that it was her who was being complimented. Angela looks down and goes red in embarrassment. Gabe can notice Angela shrinking and Lena glancing over to him, the look in her eyes saying See? I told you so!

"Well this got interesting." Gabe says, and puts his elbows on the counter.

Angela stands up, collects her papers and practically drags the redhead out of the cafe in absolute silence. The redhead, undeterred, manages a playful swat on Lena's bum, which is too innocent to be taken wrongly(Gabe knows it well, because Jack does it all the time), and Angela goes redder, if possible. Lena looks very harassed. Angela redoubles her efforts, wraps her arms around the redhead's torso and pulls her out of the cafe with surprising muscle. The redhead mimics a phone with her fingers and screams "CALL ME!" as she disappears behind the door, her bare slipper-clad heels dragging on the hardwood.

"I'm pretty sure she isn't coming back now." Genji says in the end. Gabe lets out a sad sigh at the loss of a potential regular customer. Fareeha emerges from the depths of the kitchen for a glance. She stops when she notices that Angela's booth is empty.

"Where did Angela go?" Fareeha says.

"Gone." Gabe says. Genji takes off to clear the booth for a group of sleep deprived teenagers, who looked like they had pulled an all nighter. Gabe turns around to meet Fareeha's eyes to confirm. "And judging by what happened, I think she's never coming back."

The look on Fareeha's face is somewhere between acknowledgement and faint disappointment.

Genji returns with a napkin in his hand and Lena follows soon after, clutching at the tray particularly hard.

"See what I mean?" Lena whines.

"Calm down, she's gone now." Gabe replies. Genji is still staring at the piece of paper. Lena huffs and for the lack of a better word, pouts.

"She actually left her number here. Name's Emily." Genji says, and offers the paper napkin to Lena. "You want this?"

Lena swats the paper out of his hands and stuffs it into the kangaroo pocket in her apron. Something about the action tells Gabe that he hasn't seen the last of it.

______________________________________

Jesse is sprawled across the cheap, almost-scrap sofa they had rescued from the sidewalk(And then spent a whole day fixing), with one leg dropping to the floor and the other on Fareeha's lap. It is time for binge-watch Thursdays and Lena would join them too. They usually don't allow anyone else that day, because of all the shushes they have to dish out when someone says something in between, which does get repetitive after the third time(Genji is the only one who is bearable, as he stays quiet all the time. Olivia had practically smashed the TV on the tenth shush once). Lena was given a pass, well because you never say no to irresponsible amounts of ice-cream.

Lena enters soon after with three buckets of ice-cream. A chocolate for Jesse, vanilla for Fareeha and a strawberry for herself. She also had an external hard disk in her hand, undoubtedly some more serials, when Fareeha had told her that they were going to watch Community for the fifth straight week.

Lena agreed that Senor Chang is an epic character, but she didn't love him that much.

"What did you get?" Jesse inquires, to which Lena smirks.

"Wait and watch." Lena says, and plugs in the hard drive into the TV. Jesse sits up straight to allow Lena space to sit.

And that is how he found himself watching Brooklyn Nine-nine beside a grinning Lena and an interested Fareeha. He looks at them, and by extension, himself, and concludes how hopelessly single they all are, eating buckets of ice cream while watching TV serials.

"We need to get you laid, Fareeha." Lena puts words to Jesse's thoughts, removing the spoon from her mouth with a loud pop, when they are moving from one season to the other. Jesse can wait, its Fareeha who is going through a longer dry spell. She started exercising to offset the mess of hormones in her and she forces Jesse to do it too. All that exercise has given her a scary six pack and she has beaten Gabe in pushups for three months straight now. As far as Jesse can remember Gabe was undefeated. Which made it all the more necessary to channel some of that energy somewhere else. Jesse has become bigger too, but its Fareeha who has gotten scary.

Feminine still, sure, but scary.

"I agree." Jesse echoes, and Fareeha looks at both of them disbelievingly. She waves them off and rises to use the bathroom. Lena turns to Jesse as soon as Fareeha is out of earshot.

"Well?" Lena asks him.

"What?" Jesse says.

"How do we get her laid?"

"Well, um, by getting her laid?"

Lena swats at his arm which makes the spoonful of icecream in his hand sway dangerously. Lena recoils immediately. Jesse shoves the spoon in his mouth before it can fall.

"Any interests?" Lena asks when the spoon is out of the way.

"I dunno. Maybe the blonde doc that stays camped up all day long? Doc whatshername..." Jesse trails off to remember the name.

"Angela?" Lena says, and she remembers today's episode.

"Yeah, that one." Jesse says and Lena snaps out of her thoughts. "They do talk a lot, if you see how much she talks with us."

"Jesse, you aren't exactly a conversationalist."

"I am conversing with you right now." Jesse points out.

"Exactly." Lena waves at what he just did and Jesse gets the point.

"Okay, you win." Jesse surrenders.

Lena straightens up in victory. "Well, we need to get them out of the cafe if we want to get her laid."

Jesse recoils. "Gabe will have our heads, you shit." he says immediately.

"Well that is what we need to work out." Lena snaps. "We need to train Ginger so well that she can swap in for Fareeha."

"Ginger?"

"Brigitte!" Lena says in exasperation. "God, am I the only one who gets the name?"

"Maybe." Jesse shrugs. "You are weird." He concludes.

Lena swats at his arm again and Jesse moves the spoon out of the way just in time. Jesse decides to continue the offensive, on getting the reaction he wanted.

"Hey, what about the redhead from today?" Jesse says. "You could use getting laid too, you know? And she seemed pretty interested in your ass."

Lena looks genuinely harrowed now, and Jesse chuckles. "You're so bad." Lena says in the end.

Lena, though very chirpy, cheerful and energetic, is a very easy person to trigger.

"Sorry." Jesse says, wraps his arm around her shoulder and gives her a small apologetic hug. "So, 'Operation Getting Fareeha Laid' is on now?"

Lena brightens immediately when Jesse mentions it. "It is on." She digs into her bucket of ice-cream and holds out a spoonful. Jesse mirrors.

"To getting Fareeha laid." Jesse offers.

"To getting Fareeha laid." She says, and they clink the necks of their spoons. Some ice-cream does splatter, but none of them care to acknowledge.

Jesse eats the spoonful and smirks.

There are worse missions in life.

Chapter Text

"I'm sorry, Angie!" Emily half-protested, looking in Angela's direction with puppy eyes. Angela continues to violently comb her hair, exasperation clearly evident in every movement.

Its been over a week since the fiasco at the cafe and Angela had barricaded herself inside her room in embarrassment. She did go to classes, but came right back after. Emily tried every single approach- standing in front of her door every morning to get her to notice Emily, trying to catch her in the corridors after every class and even banging on her door all Sunday, but Angela continued to be unresponsive.

This makes Emily try more desperate tactics.

"I'll apologise to them!" Emily closes her eyes and says it, not expecting her to respond one bit. But the idea has caught on because the hacking through the golden hair has stopped. Emily opens her eyes slowly, one after the other, and spots Angela looking at her with an expression that says nice idea.

Fuck.

Emily has not, does not and will not say sorry to anyone. Its her rule. To never apologize for what she is, or what she does. Except real messups because she isn't a dick. Angela, to this day, remains the only one to have broken that rule.

"How about a truce?" Emily asks, clearly on the back-foot. But Angela's expression, and the way she's walking towards her, definitely means that Emily has reached the point of no return. She knows Angela won't back off, and Emily has no intentions to send her back into isolation, especially when she hasn't talked to her for a week.

"No. I want a proper apology." Angela says for the first time, and sits graciously on the sofa beside Emily, hugging a large pillow that they keep on the sofa in case one of them is too tired to make it past the sofa. But on more than one instance they have woken up stacked like Jenga blocks. In that case the pillows make sure there are no bruised ribs next morning.

"But there are many cafes! Can't you find some other cafe that sells cheap crappy coffee?" Emily protests, desperately looking for footholds, handholds, hell, anything that gets her out of the situation.

"No, and their coffee is very nice." Angela replies, taking the offensive.

"But why?" Emily probes.

"Because..." Angela begins, but stops herself.

"Because what?"

"Because...It feels..."

"It feels what?"

"...Like home." Angela says, burrowing her nose into the pillow, praying silently that Emily had not heard the last sentence.

But Emily heard that last sentence. Clear as day.

Like home.

A place where Angela feels comfortable. Feels safe. Goes with her head held high. A place where she can be herself, even if it means to be buried under tons of study materials. A place where she is taken care of. Emily smiles at the idea of Angela feeling at peace somewhere on this wretched planet except their room. She now knows why Angela was so embarrassed when Emily had so openly complimented the waitress there. Why she was so afraid of the concept of never going back there. Emily now realizes that she has to make sure Angela can return to that place with dignity.

Its been barely two weeks but Angela already is calling that place home. Emily has to investigate.

"Do you like being there, Angie?" Emily asks tenderly, tilting her head to the side to see Angela's face. Angela says nothing, choosing to nod into the pillow instead.

"Do they treat you well?" Emily asks, now concerned. 

Angela nods again. "They treat me like one of their own. I don't know why."

Emily smiles. "You deserve a lot more love than you think, Angie."

Angela says nothing, nose still burrowed into the pillow clutched in her arms. Angela raises her eyes to look at Emily. Something in Emily breaks- something in the general vicinity of her sternum.

"Okay." Emily admits defeat. "How about cupcakes?"

 ______________________________________

"GET BACK HERE YOU UNGRATEFUL LITTLE SHIT!" Gabe roars over the din of the kitchen.

"WHAT ARE YOU CALLING ME UNGRATEFUL FOR, YOU OLD FART!" Jack roars back, a freshly-made pancake in his hands.

"WE'RE LITERALLY JUST A YEAR APART!" Gabe shouts

"THAT IS ONE EXTRA YEAR OF BULLSHIT!" Jack answers

"YOU'RE THE ONE FULL OF BULLSHIT!"

"SAYS THE ONE WHO HUMPS ME IN HIS SLEEP!"

"ATLEAST MY EQUIPMENT STILL WORKS!" Jack fires the last insult.

"Ooh, shots fired!" Fareeha quips from the corner and chuckles, while taking away two dishes of pancakes, and disappearing into the crowd.

"Oh my god." Genji groans.

"I did not want to hear that." Jesse croaks.

Brigitte is looking around the kitchen in absolute horror, eyes searching for anyone that might help diffuse this situation, then Olivia appears like like a literal angel, but she looks worse than the two, her eyebrows knotted in anger, fists clenched at her sides. Jesse is casually watching on Brigitte's right side, and Genji is sighing on the left. Jesse looks to his side and chuckles when he registers Brigitte's expression, which looks like she is expecting this place to become a sudden warzone.

"I'd get used to this if I were you." Jesse leans over to the side to make sure she heard. Brigitte looks at him in confusion.

"Oh this is a regular feature here." Genji explains. "These two seem to be a very twisted species of symbiotes. They just fight, sometimes talk, fuck, and then continue to suffer each other's existence."

"Couldn't have said it better." Jesse commends, and the three of them continue to look on.

"Cállate!" Olivia screeches over them both, and their shouting match crumbles against Olivia's anger. "Qué demonios estás haciendo?" She growls. Jack looks at Olivia in bewilderment, and Gabe makes an understanding expression.

"He's being a little shit." Gabe explains

"You're being a little shit." Jack fires back.

"Estás jugando?" Olivia snarls and seizes both of them by the arms. She shoves them out of the door and comes back.

"Esto es muy frustrante." Olivia sighs while returning. Brigitte has disappeared into the depths of the kitchen now to assess the damage, even though she can't do shit about it.

"Wow, aren't you guys a tight knit group." A vaguely familiar voice says from behind them. Jesse, Brigitte and Genji jump in surprise. They turn around to see Angela and the redhead standing by the counter. Angela is beaming and the redhead has a disinterested expression on her face, as well a cardboard box in her hands. Everyone looks at the box and she notices this. Angela elbows her and she sighs.

"Hey!" Jesse greets them. "How are you guys?"

Olivia, who is in the line of sight, but behind the aisle, notices Lena stiffening up and going still.

Angela begins to reply but Emily cuts her off "Apparently the last time I had caused quite a scene here in this cafe." the redhead begins, mechanically. "I noticed that I had embarrassed myself, my roommate Angela and also might have harassed one of your waitresses."

"Which one?" Olivia asks.

"Ya know, the one with the great ass. Spunky. Short brown hair and lovely-lovely brown eyes." The redhead says with admiration and Angela elbows the redhead again, this time much more violently, while going red. Everyone snorts and Olivia side-eyes Lena to see that she looks halfway between flattered and stressed.

"So anyway." The redhead says after being elbowed for fifteen seconds straight. "Here is a peace offering. Just let us keep visiting." the redhead pushes the box to them. Genji is the first one to reach it and picks it up awkwardly.

"Thank you for this, uh..." Genji says and then searches the Redhead's face for an answer.

"Emily." Emily adds. "Since I did not know your individual tastes, I played safe with them."

Genji opens the box on hearing this and uncovers a healthy amount of chocolate cupcakes. Olivia looks over Genji's shoulder.

"Cupcakes!" She exclaims.

"CUPCAKES!" Jesse roars and lunges for the box. Olivia swipes the box out of Genji's hands just in time. Jesse skids to a halt and looks at her with eyes of utter hurt.

Jesse is the only reason the cafe does not sell cakes of any kind.

"You get just one." Olivia says, and hands Jesse his cupcake. He takes a bite and goes weak at the knees.

"Thanks." He says hoarsely. "I don't remember the last time I had a cupcake so good." Angela beams at him and Emily smirks. Jesse reaches for another one, but his hand is swatted away.

"Only one!" Olivia chides.

"Relax! This one's for Lena!" Jesse replies. Olivia passes him one reluctantly. Jesse makes his way to the depths of the kitchen to Lena. Lena is stacking pancakes on a dish.

"Angela's here." He says. "And so is Emily."

"I noticed." Lena says it like she is expecting to be teased.

"So, how do we get them to talk?" Jesse surprises Lena by saying this. Lena stops and looks at him. Jesse passes her the cupcake. Lena takes it

"I dunno." She says. "I thought we had some idea about Angela but she's so reserved."

"True that." Jesse says and takes a huge bite of the cupcake. He gets an idea mid chew and lets out a huge "hmmpf!"

"What?" Lena says. She waits for Jesse to chew and swallow.

"How about we ask Emily? She must know something!" Jesse says. "She's her roommate, ya know."

"Maybe." Lena says. Jesse can sense the resistance in her voice.

"Come on! She said sorry! And she looks like a good gal. She brought these cupcakes." Jesse defends. "Go talk to her about this!"

"Why me?" Lena demands.

"Emily will feel better if you talk to her." Jesse says. "Atleast I think."

"If you say so." Lena lets out a defeated sigh.

"Okay, I'll distract her." Jesse says and goes out to the front to see that Emily and Angela are still at the counter.

"Hey doc." Jesse calls out and Angela looks at him. "You ain't leaving now, are you?"

"No!" Angela says like she's been accused of a triple murder. Also like that was the most absurd idea she had heard of.

"Well, then I might as well get you your booth." Jesse says, lifting the corner partition and gesturing her to follow.

As soon as Angela is led away by Jesse, Lena bounds over to the redhead still on the counter. Emily notices her coming and gives her a genuine smile.

"I'm sorry. We got off on the wrong foot. I shouldn't have hit you. But you have the prettiest ass I've-"

"I need your help in getting Angela and Fareeha together." Lena blurts it out, straight to the point. No time for bullshit. Emily pauses, recoiling slightly, then shrugs.

"Okay." Emily says, without skipping a beat.

"Really?"

"Okay. But what do I get?" Emily adds.

"What do you want?" Lena says it like she saw it coming.

"Since you asked so politely." Emily makes the fingers in the shape of a V and makes a licking gesture behind it. "I wanna Eat. that. ass."

Lena frowns at Emily's 180. Some of her anger against the redhead returns. Lena was foolish to expect the redhead to be actually sorry.

"Well." Lena says carefully. "No."

"Come on. You got the best ass in the world." Emily says lazily with a brutally bright smile. Lena holds her ground.

"No." She insists.

"Okay. How about a date?" Emily puts it out like she knew she would be rejected.

There is a silence.

"Okay. Just a date." Lena says, and holds out a prohibitory finger. "Just. A. Date." 

Well, some sacrifices need to be made for friends. She can withstand her for the duration of a date.

Emily looks considerably brighter. She winks at her. "You also have very pretty eyes." She says, and turns around.

Lena has a very conflicted expression on her face. She doesn't know whether she should feel flattered or harassed.

Brigitte notices Olivia taking two cupcakes outside by the back door- where they had banished Jack and Gabe to.

"Olivia!" Brigitte calls out and Olivia stops just short of the door. She turns around.

"What happened?" Olivia asks and Brigitte silently takes a plate out of her hands. "That's for those two out there."

"I'll give it to them." 

"But just one?" Olivia asks. "Those two are quite big, you know. And they will be very hungry."

"Trust me with this." Brigitte gives her a small smile and goes out the door. Olivia shrugs and takes the plate away.

"Jesse!" Olivia calls out. "Its your lucky day today!"

______________________________________

Gabe and Jack are sitting on the ground, backs to each other. Brigitte closes the door behind her and walks to them. She stops between them. Jack and Gabe look at her.

"Hey." Both of them greet her.

"Hi." She says. She sits in the gap between them. There is a long silence. Brigitte loops her arms around her legs.

"Are you hungry?" She asks both of them.

They say nothing, but their stomachs betray them with a massive growl. Brigitte smiles.

"Here. I brought a cupcake." She says and both of them look over their shoulders to see just a single cupcake.

"Just one?" Gabe asks.

"Let him have it." Jack says and begins to rise. But Brigitte puts a hand on his shoulder.

"You two share this." Brigitte says. She then wordlessly leaves.

The only thing they hear next is the sound of the door closing. Both of them catch a glance of the cupcake and then each other's eyes, on which they look away swiftly. Hunger has them both stealing repeated glances at the cupcake. Before they know it, little by little, both have rotated ninety degrees so that now they are sitting side by side, staring at the brickwall in front of them. Gabe glances at the lone cupcake, daring both of them to take it before the other does.

"You gonna eat that, or?" Gabe says before he can stop himself.

Jack does not look at Gabe. Instead, he picks up the food item and splits it even. He passes it to Gabe wordlessly and begins silently chewing. It barely does anything to sate their hunger, but they eat it nonetheless, savoring each bite. Unfortunately, it ends as soon as it begins, and both of them are left wanting. There is another silence. Both of them contemplate what to say to the other. Do they apologise? Do they accuse? or do they just stay here for the rest of the day? Their stomachs remind them that the latter is definitely not an option.

In the end, they both decide to wing it. Just like the good old days.

"I'm sorry." Both of them blurt out at the same time, surprising each other. "It was my fault." Both of them say again. This time, they are snorting. Soon, they start chuckling and then they start laughing in earnest. Their laughter continues for a few more moments, until they are wiping tears off the corners of their eyes.

"You do know I didn't mean that last insult, don't you?" Jack says guiltily.

"It was pretty creative, though. It caught me off guard." Gabe says. There is a pause.

"Do I really hump you in my sleep?" Jack asks. His voice is full of curiosity.

"You hump my leg." Gabe says. Jack laughs. "Its really cute though, in case you were wondering." Gabe tells Jack while he is still laughing.

Jack's laughter dies down with a sigh. "Man. Do you remember what we were fighting about?"

"Nope."

"Me neither." Jack says. "Why do we fight so much?"

"Maybe 'Reeha is right." Gabe says. "We are slowly becoming old, cranky granddads."

"We haven't even touched the fifties yet." Jack says.

"That is old." Gabe says. Jack chuckles again. He turns to see Gabe's smiling visage. How the corners of his eyes crinkle when he smiles. How his eyes get bright. How his edginess and unjust strictness becomes endearing with repeated exposure. Jack finds himself smiling too.

"Maybe it is." Jack says in the end.

______________________________________

Angela is sitting in her customary booth, sipping on a tea when Fareeha catches a glance. She wastes no time in making her way to the booth.

"Hey! You're back!" Fareeha chirps.

"Hi!" Angela tries to match Fareeha's enthusiasm and prays Fareeha hasn't caught the faint blush creeping up her cheeks. Fareeha sits down opposite to her. "I heard from Gabe that you were gone for good?"

"And here I am." Angela replies softly. She raises her cup to take a sip, only to realize that it was empty.

"Looks like you ran out."

"Yeah." Angela smiles sheepishly. "Refill please?"

"Actually, I have something you might like." Fareeha rises and takes her cup. "Hang on."

"Okay." Angela says, and follows her going to the kitchen with her eyes. She notices the stout gait, how the feet fall dead straight every step, how the little ornaments on her hair swing with each step, how her hips sway subtly. How her ears are hidd-

Shit.

Angela forces her mind blank until Fareeha reappears with a larger cup in her hand this time. She sits in opposite to her and sets the saucer and cup in front of her. An aroma of coffee and cardamom fills her nose.

"Try it." Fareeha says. Angela takes a sip. Then another. Then another. "How is it?"

Angela then remembers that she had to pass judgement on the beverage as well. "I haven't drunk anything like it before. Its very good." Angela says.

"Thanks." Fareeha says. "I made it."

"Its marvelous." Angela repeats. "You make this very well."

Fareeha smiles proudly. She strangely feels better than the other patron's positive reviews. Like this mattered more than the others. Maybe its because she came back when Gabe was sure she won't, and this coffee is supposed to reaffirm her faith in this cafe.

"No study materials and excessive stress today?" Fareeha asks. Angela smiles into her cup.

"I took your advice for taking a little time off." Angela replies.

"But what do you keep stressing over all the time?" Fareeha asks

"Neurosurgery studies."

"Give me the short version." Fareeha says.

"Well, um, I deal with anyone who has a spine, or nerves, or both. Preferably both." Angela says with a chuckle, and Fareeha laughs. Its loud, rather shameless, and Angela takes in all the little details again. The crinkle of her nose, her eyelids screwed shut. Her laughter comes to an end and their eyes lock, Fareeha looking on with a smile, and Angela with a look that is somehow something more than simple humor.

And just like that, several moments pass, blue to brown, sea to earth. Angela's mind is a perfect blank against the only stimulus there.

Suddenly, a redhead looms into view. She walks to the booth with her hands on her hips.

"Someone's busy here!" She chirps. Their eye contact breaks and both of them look away. Angela goes red much more noticeably this time. She turns to Fareeha. "I'm Emily. Angela's roommate." Emily holds out her hand which Fareeha takes.

"Nice to meet you." Fareeha says. "This is your first time here, I believe?"

"Oh no. The first time I was here, I had caused a scene involving one of your waitresses, that forced my roommate here to bail. I think the name's Lena?" Emily says.

"Oh." Fareeha says, and rises from the booth to let Emily sit. Fareeha makes a beeline for the kitchen. She doesn't notice Angela following her with her eyes, or the way Emily is looking at them both.

Fareeha has to talk to someone.

______________________________________

Genji and Brigitte are busy cleaning up. Brigitte is wiping the countertop and Genji is mopping the floor. A question suddenly pops into his mind.

"Brigitte?" Genji asks, not raising his eyes

"Hmm?" Brigitte acknowledges.

"Jack and Gabe came back from their timeout in arms. What black magic did you perform?"

"It was simple." Brigitte replied with a smile. "I made them share a cupcake when they were hungry. We are many brothers and sisters. Whenever any of us had a fight, mamma would make them sit outside until they were hungry. Then she would make them share food so that they would reconcile over it. Pappa firmly believes that all you need for settling disputes is an empty stomach and-"

"And an open heart." Genji completes the statement.

"And an open heart." Brigitte confirms. "You've heard of this?"

"Yeah. An old friend had told me this once." Genji tells her. "You surely grew up in a family of values and principles."

"You too." Brigitte replies. "You seem to know your stuff." She says.

"Oh trust me." Genji says while taking the mop and bucket away. "You have no idea."

Brigitte should be worried about the statement, but the way Genji says it, she chooses not to.

Chapter Text

Angela is jerked awake when she hears the exasperated, but muffled scream. The first thing she does is scramble for her phone. Another scream ensues and Angela fumbles with the phone, dropping it in the process. After a small skirmish with friction and her center of gravity, she finally grabs the phone and turns on the screen.

"Oh no." She says and launches off the bed. She runs to the source of the screaming, which is the bathroom.

"Emily?" She hazards. "Em, you need something?"

The screaming stops. There is a sound of the door being unbolted. The door opens slightly and Emily peeks, a single red watery eye and a tuft of red hair visible. Angela tilts her head and offers her an apologetic smile.

"Hanging in there?" She asks tenderly. Emily nods feebly, and then lets the door open. She is still in her robe, her hair is all over the place and her legs are pressed together awkwardly. Angela wastes no time to engulf the smaller redhead into her arms. Emily starts whimpering.

"Shh, its okay." Mercy coos, while stroking her hair.

"This sucks." Emily says between breaths.

"I know." Angela says. "You hungry?"

Emily says nothing, choosing to nod instead. "Some coffee wouldn't hurt." She says after a few moments of silence.

"Okay then. Get dressed, lets go to the cafe."

______________________________________

"Is table six's order ready yet?" Gabe asks the depths of the kitchen, and gets no as an answer. The slow Friday morning has them lazing around. Genji has found enough time to start editing on his book. Jesse is sitting beside him. Fareeha, Olivia and Jack are in the back, talking and cooking. Lena and Brigitte are cleaning tables, chatting to each other. Gabe decides to go to the back, where they are talking.

"What do you keep writing in here anyways?" Jesse asks him.

"Well, you won't understand it anyway. Half the time I can't understand it." Genji replies

"Bummer. So what is it?" Jesse says

"Just bits and pieces of writing here and there. Tying them together, or trying to, anyway."

Jesse spots the dictionary beside him.

"Do you really need a dictionary after becoming an English major?" Jesse says while pointing to it.

"I don't need it" Genji says defensively. "Its a thesaurus too so it helps in word selection sometimes."

"Oh." Jesse says, eyes still on the dictionary. Genji raises his eyes from the paper to look at Jesse. "Um, do ya mind?"

"Take it." Genji says. Jesse is quick to reach over and grab the dictionary. He starts leafing through the pages. Fareeha, Olivia and Jack are back to the front.

"Hey guys, I thought you were too absorbed in talking back there?" Jesse says, flipping.

"Gabe makes everything boring." Olivia says, and shrugs. "Jack, what the hell did you see in him?"

Jack shrugs. "I have become immune to it. Plus, he's really cute when you talk to him specifically."

"Cute?" Fareeha asks "Are you sure you're talking about Gabe? The guy with the beard and voice deeper than Morgan-Fucking-Freeman?"

Genji snorts violently.

"I dunno about talking in English but he's sure cute in Spanish." Olivia replies

"Cute in Spanish? We have subtitles for that kind of shit too?" Fareeha shoots back. Genji and Jesse struggle against their laughter.

"He's in the back, you know." Lena appears, who seemed to have caught the last few sentences. Brigitte goes to dump the trays in the back.

"I asked him for a pancake." Fareeha says.

"Oh." Lena says. Brigitte emerges with a scared look on her face.

"Is Gabe upset about something?" Brigitte asks them.

"Darlin' that's him focusing." Jesse says, faking a drawl. "Can't notice a bomb if it blew in his face."

"Oh." She says.

Jesse continues to flip but then stops at a single page, reads something and does a double take . "Oh god." He croaks.

"What happened?" Olivia asks.

"Did you guys know that the plural form of beef is beeves?" Jesse replies.

"What the actual fuck?" Jack says.

"Holy shit." Lena replies.

"Hey Gabe!" Jesse calls out. Gabe grunts. "Did ya know that the plural of beef is beeves?"

They hear a metallic thud. Olivia goes to check. Gabe has planted his face into the metal counter, perfectly nose-first. His nose is pressed against the surface and he is staring into it

"That" Olivia announces "Is the face of a broken man."

______________________________________

Gabe's reading a newspaper behind the counter when Angela and Emily desposit themselves on the stools. "Hi!" Angela speaks for both of them.

Gabe raises his eyes from the paper. "Hey its you guys again." He says. "Want your booth?"

"No, we're okay, thanks." Angela says.

"Can I use your bathroom?" Emily blurts out and Angela looks at her with uncertanity.

"Are you sure about that?" Angela asks. Gabe looks between them. Emily nods and Gabe points her in the right direction. As soon as she is gone, Angela turns to him.

"Umm, Mr Gabriel?" Angela says. Gabe stiffens ever so slightly.

"Just call me Gabe." He answers, and tries his best not to let any edge slip into it. Angela makes a note to never say that again.

"Sorry. So, Gabe, Please be careful around her today." She says. "Its one of those days."

"Oh." Gabe says and folds his paper in half, putting it under the counter. "I have just the stuff." He says and smiles, before going to the back. Emily returns.

"You okay?" Angela asks. 

"Yeah. And for a record, there isn't a mess." Emily replies. She looks skittish, a tripwire, something that could blow if you decide to as much as look at it. Fareeha emerges and Angela looks at her like she always does- Eyes wider than usual, mouth slightly agape and blood rushing slightly to the cheek.

Anyone would do that, if the only actual physical interaction involved between them was grabbing the other's boobs during a ride, and came flashing to you whenever you saw them.

"Hi." Angela's voice betrays her, and it sounds like a yawn.

"Hey." Fareeha says and smiles, putting her pancake on the counter between them. "How's the day?"

"Good." Angela says, finding her voice again. "Yours?"

"I've got a warm pancake, no rush and maple syrup. Its rarely better." Fareeha says, and turns to Emily. "How are you doing?"

Emily turns to her, pulling wildly against the mental restraint in her head. "Okay." she replies quietly.

Gabe appears with a bowl of walnuts, almonds and raisins and puts it in front of Emily. Emily looks at the bowl.

"Eat. There is more stuff coming when you're done with this." Gabe says and retreats. Fareeha looks at the bowl and realization spreads across her face. She abandons her spot to get Emily the water they usually serve in summers- Cold water with mint in a bottle.

"A bowl of dry fruits." Fareeha says. "I get what you're going through." She pours out the water into a tumbler. "Here, this should help."

Emily helps herself. After all the tumult inside her, she realises how hungry she was, and the cold water with the walnuts puts the state of the stomach to okay. Gabe appears with a big glass of chocolate shake. Big enough to embarrass half the German bars during Oktoberfest.

"Here" Gabe says and puts the monster of a glass in front of her. "Drink this. If you still feel like having something, Tell me." This time Gabe stays, and watches her drink. Emily responds with a moan as soon as the shake hits her tongue. She then downs the glass in a fashion on par with competitive drinkers.

"Yes." Emily groans in satisfaction and sets the glass back on the counter. "This is exactly what I needed."

Gabe then passes her a tissue. Emily realises that she must have made a moustache on her face. She wipes herself clean.

"Thank you thank you thank you." Emily says.

"My pleasure." Gabe says. "You still hungry?"

Emily goes red when her stomach still has the audacity to rumble after a milkshake that big. "I think so."

"How long since you last ate?" Gabe asks.

"I think its been a whole day." Emily replies. Angela looks at her with wide eyes

"I saw that coming." Gabe says and turns around.

Angela looks at Gabe's retreating form. "Wow. He knew exactly what to give."

"What do you mean?" Fareeha says, pushing the plate towards her, egging her to eat.

"Nuts have fiber and some other necessary minerals to keep health up. The chocolate shake took care of the rest." Angela says, going full on nerd for a second. "Its exactly what women on a period need."

"Well." Fareeha says, and cuts the pancake in half. "When half your workforce are women, you do get a knack for taking good care of them. And when you're Gabe. Especially when you're Gabe."

"He seems to care a lot for you guys." Angela replies.

"He's edgy, easy to trigger and generally a piece of shit. But if you still stick around after all that, he will hold onto you like there's no tomorrow." Fareeha replies. "Wanna share this?"

"Don't you want to eat it?" Angela replies.

"I asked just for the sake of it. I could use some help." Fareeha says

"Isn't that an abuse of privileges?" Angela takes a fork and hovers it over the pancake

"If you can't abuse it, it isn't a privilege."

Angela hasn't heard truer words. 

______________________________________

Hana arrives at the cafe later than the usual noon, but Gabe knows what's wrong when Moira and Ice Cold Amelie enter behind her too. All three of them comically dump themselves on the stools, Moira in the middle, Hana at the end and Ice Cold Amelie on the other side, but fail to notice Angela gaping at her beside Ice Cold Amelie. Moira turns to see Angela's open mouth and stills.

"Angela." Moira offers her hand and Angela takes it immediately, pressing too hard.

"D-D-Doctor O'Deorain." She manages at last.

"How was the presentation?" Moira asks, paying no heed to the pressure

"You remember?" Angela says incredulously.

"You don't leave much to forget, dear." Moira replies, Angela goes red, and Hana narrowly misses a massive snort.

Ice Cold Amelie is still neutral.

"Moira." Gabe reprimands. "Behave."

"What?" Moira protests. "I wasn't making fun of her. Who doesn't remember Ice Cold Amelie preening her?"

"I do." Ice Cold Amelie supports. Gabe huffs dismissively.

"Nice recovery." Hana whispers into her ear. Moira turns to her and sneaks a wink, and Gabe looks at Hana disapprovingly. She turns back to Angela.

"I hope you are staying for lunch, dear?" Moira asks her.

Emily is just emerging from the basin and spots Angela talking to someone. She then looks at the others around her and ducks as soon as she sees the face. Ducking through the tables and the awfully surprised crowd, she sneaks out of the cafe. She then whips her phone out and dials Angela.

Angela is in the middle of the conversation with Moira when her phone rings.

"I'm sorry, Doctor O'Deorain, but I need to take this."

"Oh please do." Moira smiles. Angela smiles back sheepishly and gets off the stools.

"Hello?" She says.

"Come outside." Emily says.

"What happened?" 

"Just come outside."

"But what-"

"Just. Come. Outside." Emily says and kills the call before Angela can respond. Angela turns around and walks to the counter. Moira turns to her.

"I'm sorry Doctor O'Deorain but I have to go. It was a pleasure to talk to you." Angela says and surprises herself by not stammering.

"The pleasure's all mine, dear. Do keep visiting." Moira says and shakes hands with her. Ice Cold Amelie shares a curt nod with her and Hana waves. Angela then makes her way out. She is ambushed by Emily as soon as she emerges.

"Lets get out of here." Emily says, and pulls on Angela's sleeves.

"Emily? What happened? Are you okay?" Angela asks concerned, being dragged by the smaller redhead.

"I have a headache." Emily says, and refuses to speak on their way home.

Back at the cafe, Hana giggles, and Moira looks at her.

"Well what was the comment for?" Gabe demands

"Relax, Gabe. I won't say anything hurtful to that little guinea pig." Moira replies

"Why guinea pig?" Hana asks, turning to her.

"Well they are small, weak, and make for excellent testbeds." Moira says, and her expression darkens for a moment.

"Whoa, easy there Jerkyll and Hyde." Genji surprises everyone by- 1. Appearing without a noise and 2. Making such an ancient reference.

"Jerkyll and what?" Hana asks.

"Old book." Genji says with a sideways glance that says you don't want to go there and Hana loses interest. Jack emerges from the back holding two plates in his hands. Hana gets off her stool and attacks Jack with a hug as soon as he crosses the counter. Jack raises the plates over his head.

"Hi dad." She coos into his chest.

"Hey." Jack says fondly. Hana releases him quickly and Jack saunters away to distribute them. Hana takes her place.

"So where was it this time?" Genji asks.

"Can we please leave it?" Moira groans. "I hate these sciency boffins naming me chief guest on every convention on every goddamn country on this planet."

Genji, Gabe and Hana laugh. Fareeha emerges this time.

"I'll get you guys something." Gabe says and Fareeha replaces him. Moira, Hana, and Ice Cold Amelie exchange hugs with her.

"Did Hana come with you guys?" Fareeha asks and Moira nods.

"So that means you bro-"

"Yes I did 'Reeha but you won't get it. Last time you drove it I had to wear a crash helmet."

"Don't forget the rear tires." Ice Cold Amelie adds and Fareeha gives her a warning glance.

"Lets not forget those." Moira says.

"But its a Jag!" Fareeha protested.

"And a good one at that, 'Reeha. Its comfortable, its big and it does the job. Please don't turn it into Gabe's bike." Moira pleads. Fareeha, for a lack of a better word, crosses her arms over her chest and pouts.

"Are we discussing Fareeha's scary driving?" Jack reappears with a sheaf of orders in his hand from a freshly-filled table.

"See what I mean?" Moira says.

"Okay fine. You win" Fareeha says. Genji pats her back. Jack goes to the back, where Gabe is making pancakes and Brigitte is looking at him from a distance, face half parts curious and half parts horrified.

"This is a big one, Gabe. I have a table left so please take this." Jack says.

"Where's Lena?"

"Cleaning up on tips I guess."

Gabe says nothing and instead flips the pancakes on the plates.

"I got it." Gabe says and Jack gives him a quick peck to the cheek before leaving. "Brigitte?"

Brigitte almost jumps. "Hmm?"

"Take these to the counter up front. Take all liberties with the maple syrup on two of them, a cube of butter on the third. They will know what to take." Gabe says and pushes three plates of pancakes to her. Brigitte silently prepares them as per the instructions and walks to the front.

Hana is laughing at something when she notices the ginger hair tied into a bun, a few strands hanging, attractive hazel eyes, the mild spray of freckles around the nose and a smile that could make a statue go weak in the knees. She blinks a couple of times to clear the haze of goddess-like gorgeousness clogging her vision and side-eyes the rest to see that they are completely fine.

Oh shit.

"Oh so you must be the new recruit Lena keeps raving about." Moira says. "I'm Moira."

"I'm Brigitte." Brigitte says

"I'm Amelie." Ice Cold Amelie says and Fareeha has a very strong urge to tell Brigitte the official version of the name, but she bites it back.

"My Hana is name." Hana stutters and closes her eyes when everyone looks at her, because Hana is as composed as they come. "I mean Hana I'm. I mean I'm Hana." she says. Moira looks confused, Ice Cold Amelie looks genuinely interested, Fareeha looks at her with wide eyes and Genji has an expression that says I'm so done with this shit.

Brigitte giggles a little and Hana is thankful her mind is not overloaded with forming a sentence right now, as a figure of Swedish goodness has taken center stage. She sets the plates on the table and Hana absentmindedly takes one. Moira prods her with her finger.

"Since when did you start liking maple syrup?" Moira asks with eyebrows raised and Hana notices. She immediately switches the plates and notices the eyes on her. Especially Brigitte's.

Double oh shit.

______________________________________

 

Unfortunately, with none of Hana's intervention, Brigitte has been prevented from going home and been suspiciously invited to the family dinner. While the others know the reason(whatever it may be), Hana will have to investigate later if this was supposed to be a conspiracy to drive her crazy. So instead of letting them win(Hana always goes for the worst case scenario because its very possible with them), she's in the kitchen with Olivia. Its filled with all kinds of delicious smells that should probably be declared illegal.

"So how's things, Olivia?" Hana asks, desperate to unload her head.

"They are going well." Olivia says, cheerfully stirring the contents of whatever the hell she's cooking. "Could you pass me that?"

Hana passes her the requested item. "What about the neighbors?"

"Those two?" Olivia stops for a moment to look at Hana. Hana nods. "They still make very terrible coffee."

"Invite them over." Hana replies.

"I don't know the exact words but they said they were too much of something to come to a cafe. I will try again though." Olivia says

"I would love to see Gabe's face when even you start bringing in customers." Hana says with a malicious tone. "He will know how much he actually contributes to the foot traffic around here."

"Do you like seeing him stressed out?" Olivia asks.

"I'm sadistic that way." Hana says and Olivia chuckles.

Brigitte chooses this moment to enter and Hana stiffens.

"Wow, this smells too good." Brigitte says.

"Its only half done." Olivia says.

"Ooh. Does that mean it will be twice as good when done?" Brigitte asks and Hana blushes violently when Brigitte coos.

"Maybe." Olivia chuckles. "All you can do is wait."

"I can't." Brigitte says and swiftly vacates.

"Isn't she a sweet-" Olivia says while turning to Hana but stops on seeing her. Hana exits the scene with agility that could give sprinters a complex. Olivia comes back to the living room where the gang is setting up the movie and seating, minus Brigitte or Hana.

"Guys, did you notice Hana is ac-"

"Yeah, we did." The gang answers in unison. Olivia smirks and knows what the answer is.

After the movie, all of them are just lying on the jigsaw puzzle-like mattresses. Hana is too red, Fareeha is too shocked(The movie was so bad that they couldn't even sleep), Jesse is just staring at the ceiling, Olivia is playing with Fareeha's hair, Brigitte is too wired(and awkward, shut up everyone it happens) to sleep, Genji is drumming at his belly, other arm under his head, Moira is downstairs, because it was somehow prudent for her to drink a cup of coffee right after a massive dinner. Ice Cold Amelie is downstairs, keeping watch. None of them move, make a noise, or do anything to alert everyone, because everyone thinks everyone else is asleep.

Moira stumbles upstairs and sits down at the edge. Ice Cold Amelie joins her.

"Thank god we didn't drink there." Ice Cold Amelie whispers.

"Oh yes. Last time we were allowed anywhere near alcohol I remember you were found naked in the association president's tub. The wife's face after that was pure. Gold." Moira whispers back.

"That was the most terrible headache I ever had."

"You are a fucking animal when you get drunk, Ice Cold Amelie Guillard." Moira whispers. "Talk about an ON switch."

"Please. Have you seen yourself?" she replies

"How did you do that?" Moira asks.

"I don't know. One moment I was drinking and the other moment I was running away with a towel wrap."

The silence changes. Genji is pretty sure he's asphyxiating not trying to laugh. Jesse's eyes will pop out any minute, Fareeha and Olivia have stilled, thankful their backs were to the pair, Hana turns even redder and Brigitte is listing the reasons she should have rejected the invitation.

"I think they heard us." Moira whispers.

"Merde." Ice Cold Amelie curses under her breath.

Genji manages to control himself. The silence changes again.

"Can we just take a moment to appreciate the fact that Ice Cold Amelie, our Ice Cold Amelie, was found wasted in someone else's bathtub?" Jesse puts words to the thoughts.

"Let's not forget butt-naked." Olivia adds.

"The image in my head is delicious." Fareeha chimes in. "Gabe will be so secretly proud."

"I just wanna hear the president and his wife's argument." Genji says.

And then just like that, the room explodes in laughter.

______________________________________

"Aren't you too young for this?" Jack cuts in, his face passive, his misplaced fatherly side rearing its head

"Geez, dad, I'm 19" Hana replies, blowing a raspberry.

"I will need alcohol to continue this." Gabe says

"And I will need some earplugs and a barf bag." Fareeha says.

"Say no more." Moira says, and produces a bottle of vodka out of nowhere. It looks cheap, and completely out of place in Moira's expensive hands.

"All that money, and you get us cheap vodka?" Jesse raises an eyebrow

"The expensive stuff is made for the weak." Moira explains. "You'd drink a whole bottle and still not feel a tingle. This," Moira raises the bottle "Is a neurological nightmare."

"Slav elixir." Genji offers.

"I do need something that can erase memory." Ice Cold Amelie says sickly. Brigitte offers her an understanding smile.

"I have a very strong feeling we are going to regret staying awake tonight." Olivia offers the words of wisdom.

"We are all examples of taking very bad decisions." Lena counters

"Talk about pandora's box being opened" Jesse says.

"For the first time, kid, I will agree with you." Gabe says

"I feel so honored." Jesse replies

"Don't push it." Gabe chides.

"I don't know why I agreed to this." Brigitte says in the end. "I should have gone home."

"Like I said." Lena tells her. "Bad decisions." Lena then wraps her arm around Brigitte. Hana feels more in her element when everyone is here to distract her.

"So now." Moira says and slams the bottle in the middle of their satanic circle. "Spill your secrets, like we did ours."

"You had coffee." Jack protests. "You set this up."

Moira looks at him and winks. "Its been a while since we did this, Jack."

"I'll get the shot glasses." Fareeha says and gets up. "I know where Gabe."

Gabe opens his mouth to say something, but closes it, because a lot of mouths are going to open today.

For once, he wishes Moira is right about the vodka.

Chapter Text

Genji knows he's drunk too much when the walls are jelly.

He's staring at the ceiling, which is dancing before his eyes.

"That definitely wasn't vodka." Genji informs the ceiling.

Genji manages to place his arms under him and hoists himself up on shaky legs. He falters on both of his legs and falls. After gaining a semblance of balance, he sets off on his quest to find the first or any human he can. His drunk head is unable to map the place, so he looks for the first hallway or door he can find. Soon enough, a door materializes to his left. He slaps the handle thrice before using his other hand to steady the door, and he turns the handle.

He takes a good twenty blinks to register the figures in the darkness- Jack and Gabe are in arms swaying side to side. Jack bobs his head in an attempt to sound fond.

"I love you." Jack says and boops Gabe's nose.

"No, I love you." Gabe says.

"I love you more." Jack drawls.

"No, I love you more." Gabe drawls, and inches closer to him.

"Okay I'm done here." Genji says, and shakily gets to his feet again. He tries to walk out but trips on the doorsill and lands face-first on the opposite wall with a very loud and sickening crack. His forehead throbs madly and his eyes screw shut.

The alcohol does nothing to numb the pain, but instead makes it feel disconnected, which makes it all the more irritating.

Ice Cold Amelie materialises and runs to him.

"Genji!" She says, all French and unimpressed and disapproving. She helps him straighten up.

"You traitor." Genji drawls accusingly, blinking hard. "What the fuck was in the vodka?"

"It was just vodka. You guys downed three bottles straight." she replies. She lets Genji go to see if he can still walk. Genji stays upright, albeit shakily.

"I thought there was just one?" Genji asks.

"No, there were three." she replies.

"I'm okay." Genji says, blinking the tears from his watering eyes away, and supporting himself on the wall.

"Amelie!" Moira roars from somewhere Genji can't place. 

"Be right back." She says, and runs away.

"Okay." Genji says, and turns around. Another door materialises in front of him. He gets the door handle in the first attempt this time. The door swings open and three people are sitting on the bathroom floor. Hana and Brigitte are in the tub, looking at something between them, and Fareeha is under the shower, the water falling on her head, eyes closed, back straight against the wall, trying to meditate like a monk meditating under a waterfall. Her clothes are soaked.

"'Reeha?" Genji asks.

"Hi Genji." Hana says, and hovers her hand over something between them. Genji stumbles towards them to see that they are playing drunk chess.

"Hey, hold the board steady!" Hana says, grabbing onto the sides of the tub.

"You hold the tub steady!" Brigitte fires back, steadying herself with her hands on the tub floor.

Fareeha wobbles dangerously and then falls to her side with an unceremonious plop.

"Dammit, someone hold the earth still!" She exclaims. "Its moving around too quick!"

Genji falls on his butt, grabs the tub with his hands and feet. And then he pulls hard.

"Got the tub!" Genji says. "Hana make a move!"

Hana takes the knight and makes a beeline for the king, plowing through the remaining pieces.

"Checkmate." Hana says, swaying. "GG. EZ!" She gets up and begins to dance.

Brigitte looks at the board, first confused, then angry. She flips the board, and all the pieces fly away in different directions. A white knight falls in front of Fareeha, who is still on her side.

"This game makes no sense!" Brigitte says, exasperated.

"Hey horsey!" Fareeha says, and grabs the piece with her free arm. "Lets go for a riiiiiiide!" She starts playing with it.

"Have fun guys." Genji says, and gets to his feet. His foot slips and he lands on his butt. He attempts to get up again and slips, but does not fall this time. He hobbles away through the door, and then the objective of his quest flashes before his mind.

Olivia.

Olivia, forever the voice of reason. Always making sense, even when drunk. She has led him through these drunken nights without shenanigans more times than he can count. All he has to do is to find her, and be rest assured that he does not do anything embarrassing for the rest of the night, or let on something that Moira could make fun of.

Isn't that what best friends are for?

"Olivia?" Genji calls out. There is no answer.

"Olivia!" he says, much louder this time. There is still no answer.

Genji makes out the outline of the kitchen from just the fringes of his shaky and untrustworthy visual range. He hobbles to the kitchen and finds Jesse lying on the floor in just his underwear.

"Jesse?" Genji asks, not sure if the person before him was conscious or not. He has a cowboy hat on. His clothes are spread around the kitchen like he flung them away.

Jesse jerks awake on the sound and raises his head slightly. "Hey Genji!" he pats the floor beside him. "Come here."

Genji decides to listen. Its not like he has to go anywhere. Olivia can wait. She has enough brains to stay smart even when drunk. He lies on his back beside Jesse.

"Why are you in your underwear?" Genji asks. Apparently his mind still has enough functionality left in itself to still ask questions he doesn't want the answers to.

"Livin the dream." Jesse replies.

"What dream?"

"Being a stripper."

Genji snorts so hard that he chokes on his own spit. He starts coughing violently, and Moira appears this time.

"Genji!" Moira kneels and tends to him. "You alright?" she asks him, rubbing his back.

"I always wanted to be a stripper. Magic Jesse." Jesse says, making a camera gesture with his hands, unmindful of what just happened. Moira's eyes widen before bursting into laughter.

"Oh god this is gold! And that Magic Mike reference!" Moira says, blinking her tears away. Genji rolls on the floor in laughter.

"Magic Jesse!" Genji laughs.

Jesse laughs with them, like it was their encouragement for him. After some moments, he calms down and waves his arms. "Guys. Guys." He says and the laughter dies down. "We should always follow our dreams."

"True that." Moira says.

"Dreams make us human, they give our life purpose." Jesse continues, his voice almost sagacious. "Dreams give us motivation, a drive, something to believe in."

Genji props himself up on his elbow to listen. He blinks hard to focus.

"We should never give up on our dreams because if we have no dreams, we have no life." He says. "Moira! You always wanted to be a neurosurgeon, right?"

"Yes."

"And Genji, you always wanted to be a writer, right?"

"Yeah man." Genji replies.

"Would you guys have ever achieved it if everyone around you told you it couldn't be done?"

There is silence.

"We need to believe in ourselves, and our dreams. We need to believe we can. Because it is only us that can defeat us." Jesse says, and his hand drops on the floor by his side.

"Wow Jesse that's pretty inspirational coming from you." Moira says, looking into the distance. And she gets no reply. She turns to him. "Jesse?"

But Jesse is asleep. Dead asleep.

"He's out cold." Moira concludes.

"But Magic Jesse." Genji says and they laugh again. "Have you seen Olivia?" He asks after their laughter dies down.

"I don't know, Genji. I saw her going downstairs I think."

"Downstairs? Drunk? What use are you even when sober, Moira?" Genji accuses, speaking in clear sentences despite his blood alcohol level.

Moira looks genuinely guilty. "I'll go check-"

"I'm going downstairs, keep the others under control." Genji says with a heroism he could not believe himself. He scrambles to his feet.

Genji suddenly knows the whole place like the back of his hand. He walks to the door in the front, and suddenly the door to Gabe and Jack's room flies open. Genji is squished against the wall by Jack's six-foot-one, 220-pound figure, knocking the wind out of him.

"Ack!" Genji hacks out. "What the fuck!"

"I said I love you more!" Gabe roars from the depths of their room.

"No, I love you more!" Jack says, and throws himself into the room, using Genji as a launchpad. Jack's punch connects and they start fighting. But they forget that they are drunk, so they end up swinging fruitlessly. Jack aims for his face, but his fist slides off Gabe's scruffy face. Gabe tries a swing and actually connects, sending Jack crumbling into the bed. Gabe dives and they start wrestling with each other.

"I said I love you more!"

"No I said I love you more!"

"MOIRA!" Genji roars and Moira comes running from the kitchen.

"What happened?" Moira skids to a halt in front of him. Genji sways right, then left, and then points to the room. Moira goes pale.

"Crap."

Genji's phone rings the minute Moira screams for Ice Cold Amelie.

"Hello?" Genji says much more drunkenly than he would have liked.

"Genji?" a familiar voice replies.

"Now what the fffffffffuck do you want?" Genji snaps, spitting a little.

"You called me."

"I did?" Genji says, thoroughly bewildered.

"Are you drunk?"

"Of course I'm drunk you shit! I won't call you if I was sober! Actually I would never call you if I could help it!"

"What are you-"

At this time the Frenchwoman rushes in and swats his phone out of his hands, again looking all French and unimpressed and disapproving. 

"Genji is not feeling well right now, so he will call you later." She says and kills the call before the person on the other side could even reply. She slips the phone back into his pocket.

"AMELIE WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU?! I CAN'T WRESTLE THESE GORILLAS ALONE! HELP!" Moira screeches from the inside. Sounds of struggle and grunting ensues.

"Stay safe." Amelie wishes him and runs into the room.

Genji continues on his quest to find Olivia. He stumbles to the door. The door flies open to reveal the stairs, something he does not have to think about descending when sober, but feels incredibly daunting when faced with drunk. He takes his time, feeling the step, then leaning his weight on it and balancing himself. He repeats this process for the remaining stairs.

After a good part of five minutes, Genji descends the final step and checks if both of his feet are actually on the floor. After that, he starts looking around.

"Olivia?" Genji calls out.

"Genji!" Olivia replies from the depths of the kitchen. Genji walks to the rear, and Olivia is facing the sink.

"You okay?" Genji asks, stumbling towards her.

"I think-" Olivia begins, but then throws up. Genji is quick to get her hair out of the way. Olivia pukes until she is retching bile. 

"Easy, easy." Genji says, and struggles to balance.

Olivia turns on the tap with a shaky hand and cleans up silently. "That was-hic-aw-hic-ful."

"You okay there?"

"Hic-I'll manage-hic." Olivia says and falls on her butt.

"Moira!" Genji calls out and hears the slamming of feet. He proceeds to help Olivia up but his own stomach now wants to follow Olivia's suit. The high alcohol, and with the added motivation of Olivia throwing up, has made Genji's stomach mutinous.

"Oh fuck." Genji groans and faces the sink just in time as his stomach lets it rip. Contents of his stomach spray across the sink as Moira descends the stairs. After Genji is done emptying his stomach, the nausea's gone, but his head feels even worse. The whole world turns to jelly again. Genji falls on the floor, on his back. Something catches in his throat and he starts coughing.

"Oh come on." Moira groans, and reaches out to Genji, while keeping her other hand on Olivia to keep her upright. Moira stretches herself and manages to grab Genji by his sleeve. Pulling with all her one-armed might, she manages to drag Genji closer to Olivia. After setting them back to back, so that neither tumble, Moira straightens. She turns to look at the sinks. Her stupidly expensive clothing is splattered with water and her sleeves are folded.

"Oh for fucks sake, look at that." Moira laments. "You fucking repainted the sink. God, I will now have to clean that up." She leaves them to go upstairs again. Ice Cold Amelie appears on the stairs this time.

"Atleast you guys made a mess where it can be cleaned up." She says with relief. "Hana threw up in the tub on Brigitte, and then Brigitte threw up on Hana, and then Fareeha threw up. It will take me close to one week to wash this stench off. And its surprisingly hard to clean up after drunk people.

"Hic-thanks." Olivia drawls. She then reaches for Amelie's hair, her voice suddenly high-pitched. "Your-hic-hair is so-hic-soft."

Amelie raises an eyebrow, but then smiles. "I know what to put in there."

Olivia falls asleep and Genji tries to look at her but her back to him means he is just craning his neck to no avail.

"I guess I-I-I'll sleep too." Genji croaks lazily, and falls to his side, then Olivia topples over him. Amelie snickers.

Moira appears at the top of the stairs with a bucket, sponge, soap and atleast three different room fresheners in her arms, with perfume in her breast pocket.

"Seems like we both will need a fresh bottle of perfume tomorrow." Moira says.

"How are the others?" she asks.

"Out cold. All of them." Moira replies.

"I guess we got more than we bargained for."

"More than we bargained for? Woman, we got no secrets out of them except Magic Jesse up there and we have to clean up as well. Three bottles of vodka wasted."

"Well, doesn't that tell us something."

Moira stops beside her and looks at the sink. She cringes a little, gripping the handle tighter.

"I'm never getting these shits drunk again." Moira tells her in the end.

"You can say that again." Amelie says, and sprays herself with Moira's perfume.

Chapter Text

Genji's mouth tastes like wet dog.

He raises his head from between his arms and the first thing he notices is that he is sitting on one of the stools, and Olivia is beside him, but on the other side. His head is splitting. He grabs his head with one hand and props himself up with the other.

"Aw this fucker." Genji curses his head. Olivia stirs and raises her head. Her hair is a nest, her eyes are bloodshot and judging by the expression, she has the exact same set of symptoms as he does.

"Mierda." Olivia groans and kneads her eyes.

Genji remembers nothing of what happened yesternight. All he remembers is flashes, and a single word, which he decides to ignore.

Magic Jesse.

"Do you remember anything?" Genji asks Olivia.

"Puking." Olivia replies.

"Aw not that." Genji grimaces. "Did anything very embarrassing happen?"

"Nothing. Not. A. Thing." Moira answers from somewhere behind him and he turns around to see her curled up in a booth. Ice Cold Amelie is asleep in the one opposite to Moira's. Moira swings her legs out of the booth to sit and kneads her eyes. Her folded sleeves are stained, and her shoes are nowhere to be found. "Plus, you shits threw up, and we had to clean up after you. Why the fuck did you guys have to throw up?"

"Why the fuck did you have to get us drunk?" Genji fires back.

"He has a point." Ice Cold Amelie replies. "Plus, we did get one secret out."

"Oh yes." Moira facepalms herself with a smile. "Magic Jesse the stripper."

It makes sense for Genji, all at once, which makes his head hurt spectacularly. He clutches at it with both of his hands and groans. His precious mind, corrupted by the memories of one of his family expressing their dream of being a stripper. It did disturb him to some extent, but who was he to judge? He was being supported for his dream to be a writer. Once he realizes the hypocrisy of the whole situation, he notices he isn't disturbed anymore. Instead he is proud.

Well you support the dreams of the people you care about. Why should this be any different?

"So that's what it is." He hacks out. Olivia looks like she has fallen asleep on the counter, but he cannot confirm due to the mess that her hair has become. He then racks his brain, one thing at a time. He has forgotten to brush, so that is first. Then would be cleaning up and getting a fresh set of clothes. Third would be to do something about the goddamn headache. Finally his mind settles on the biggest task at hand.

Getting the cafe to run with the hands they have available.

"We have to open the cafe." He blurts it out.

"Merde." Amelie groans.

And that is the moment when Fareeha stumbles downstairs, her hands grabbing whatever she can for her life. "Tell me I wasn't in these clothes." she says, pulling at her fresh t shirt.

"You weren't." Moira replies. "You threw up all over the ones you had on originally. God bless Gabe for stockpiling all our clothes."

Fareeha lets out a sigh of relief, stumbles to the table and crashes on the stool on Genji's other side. There is a pause. "Has anyone seen Lena?"

Everyone freezes, except Fareeha. Fareeha raises her head on not getting the answer "Oh."

Genji turns slowly to Moira, and Moira has a caught expression on her face. "You fucking forgot Miss Blackout?!"

At the same moment the backdoor opens and Lena enters, holding a bedsheet to her chest, and naked. "Guys, I might have made an eighty year old grandmother visiting her grandchildren gay. Very, very gay."

Genji turns to Moira and looks at her with accusing eyes. "Okay, Okay I get it." Moira protests. "Since all of you are accounted for, I'm gonna bail." She says and walks away, twirling the keys of her Jag on her fingers. "Amelie?"

"I'll stay." She replies. Moira shrugs and walks out. There is a silence in which everyone recharges a little. Lena fashions a toga out of the bedsheet.

"Okay, now that definitely wasn't the whole list, was it?" Fareeha asks after five solid minutes of silence. 

"I interrupted three straight marriages, managed to donate my only set of clothes to goodwill and might have made friends with a hobo." She continues.

"Congratulations. You outdid yourself this time." Genji adds

"Oh no. The best was when she forced Chiquita to chase her across the city." Olivia tells him. 

"Fuck yes. That one." Fareeha says. "I still have zero idea how a person even drunk could do that. Like what the fuck were you thinking?"

"I dunno." Lena shrugs. "That is the point. I don't think."

"But making a grandmother gay. A grandmother visiting her children. How the actual fuck do you even explain that?" Genji demands.

"I think not wearing any clothes did the trick. I guess that is where I got this bedsheet from. As far as I can remember, I might have been spotted by her naked and the rest is history." Lena explains casually.

"Damn, your hormones are worse than Jack and Gabe when you are drunk. And you somehow manage to turn every woman gay when you are drunk." Fareeha concludes.

"I wish I was the grandma." A familiar voice that does not belong here at this time answers. All of them start and raise their heads to see Emily standing by the edge of the counter, leaning on one elbow.

"Hey." Everyone except Lena answers. Lena makes sure her improvised toga is not letting anything peep.

"Can I ask how you got in?" Fareeha starts.

"The front door is open." Emily answers. Olivia rises to see Angela entering and closing the door behind her. She turns around and waves brightly at Oliva. Olivia somehow manages to answer.

"Hey guys!" Angela chirps.

"Hey." They answer, half dead

"Are you guys okay?" She asks, concerned.

"They're hungover." Emily talks for them. Fareeha raises her hand and points to Emily.

"This." She says.

"Then I have just the thing." Angela says. "Can someone point me to the refrigerator?"

"I'll do it." Fareeha says and slumps off the bench. She leads Angela to the back. Emily looks at Lena

"Angela is a classic case of the Florence Nightingale effect." She begins. "Give her something or someone to care for, and she gets attached. How do you think I get her to give a shit? She always gets me out of these terrible hangovers. Practically a nanny to me."

"Oh." Lena concludes.

"I have a terrible headache, otherwise I would have eloquently expressed how beautiful that is." Genji says.

"You did a good job anyway." Ice Cold Amelie replies.

Fareeha reemerges, this time with a massive bounce in her step. "Angela is magic. Like true, witchcraft kinda magic. That thing made everything go like-" she snaps her fingers. "-that."

Genji springs up, which startles everyone. "So what are you waiting for, you useless lesbian?" He snaps. Fareeha looks three parts surprised and two parts pissed. So does everyone else. "Get me the elixir you speak of."

"Right away, Duke of Crapstonshire." She quips and disappears. Olivia snorts violently at this.

"You guys might wanna hurry." Emily says. Amelie makes an enquiring noise. "Because the customers are here." She says and points to the door. The remainder of the gang scrambles for cover. Emily chuckles. "Looks like you will need backup today."

"I would hate to admit that." Lena says. "But yes. Jack and Gabe haven't woken up yet, Brigitte had her first taste of the stuff, so she will be out for the day. How will you help?"

"I was a waitress at a diner in school. I can help. And Angela cooks well enough." Emily replies.

"That's it then." Olivia replies this time, sounding authoritative and mom-like. "Amelie, take the counter, but don't bite the face off the first stranger that comes to it, comprende?"

Amelie wants to bite Olivia's face off in that instant, but she doesn't, because who else can cook the eggs to the Olivia perfection?

______________________________________

After Angela's hangover cure, Everyone is back to normal. Actually, there is now a spring to their steps too. What was in it, no one knows, but it was sheer magic. Genji and Olivia have managed to carry the kitchen to its normal capacity, thanks in no small measure to Angela's help, who has been making smaller side items like omlettes, french fries and the stuff. Fareeha is relaying orders, doing the dishes, keeping the stocks full, which is depleting at a steady rate. After some time, Fareeha anticipates the the end of their daily groceries and runs off to get more stuff. Angela naturally takes over the sink.

Genji and Olivia are in sync, moving telepathically, creating culinary masterpieces when their roll is broken by a crash and a strangled yelp, which surely belonged to Angela.

Olivia is the first to whip around and sees that Gabe is draped over the sink and Angela has stepped back, both of her hands covering her mouth, eyes blown wide in both horror and surprise.

"Gabe!" She calls and runs to him. Angela is too frozen to do anything. Genji quickly picks up the broken dish.

"I can work." Gabe slurs. "Get me my apron."

"Disparates!" She snaps. " Solo mírate, eres un desastre!"

"Estoy bien" Gabe shoots back and gets up. "Solo me duele un poco la cabeza''

"Sal de aquí!" She says and whacks him on the ass. Gabe jumps forward in surprise. He ascends the stairs slowly and closes the door behind him.

"He didn't look too good." Genji says, and looks at Olivia. Olivia turns to Angela.

"You okay, chica?" She asks. Angela nods shakily and gets back to work

"Any chance you can make the people upstairs some elixir too?" Genji says and settles for calling Angela's cure elixir. Because that's what it is. Magical stuff that eradicates hangovers.

"I think the stocks just ran out." She replies. 

"Not yet." Fareeha emerges from the rear door with armfuls of groceries, which Angela promptly unloads. "Thanks a lot." Fareeha says and beams towards Angela, and Angela's cheeks bloom for a moment. She grabs the bag a little harder than necessary and it disintegrates, making all the vegetables fall to the floor. Angela yelps in surprise and drops to collect. Fareeha chuckles and squats to get help her. During the scramble, their hands touch. Its electric, its something else.

Angela has a wave of goosebumps ride over her skin. Electricity runs through her fingers, her breathing hitches. All in a single moment.

So much, yet so less.

It ends as soon as it happens, and the groceries are collected and taken care of. Fareeha shows no change in behavior, but Angela has turned into a bundle of nerves. She gets to working it away by doing the dishes and Fareeha gets to restocking the stuff.

The good things never last as long as we want them to. But they are worth their little moments.

______________________________________

Up front, Lena has settled into her groove, taking orders, bringing them to the counter, and taking the dishes away. The thing is, Emily does not disrupt Lena's rhythm, rather improves it.

Lena notices the patrons leaving behind dishes on a table while she serves another. By the time she is done serving, the dishes are gone. She shows the new patrons the table and another set of orders is sent to the counter. She never comes across Emily. Its almost like magic, and Lena can't help but be impressed.

Their zone is a different one, different from Genji and Olivia's. Genji and Olivia work with each other, picking up where the other leaves. Emily and Lena are working around each other, filling in gaps, smoothing over things, doing what the other cannot attend to. When Lena thinks of it, Emily replaces Jack with uncanny smoothness.

After everything is done and dealt with, and the rush eases off, Lena manages to catch Emily as she delivers an order to the counter.

"Impressive." Lena says. "You know your stuff."

"At the diner, it was my job to run cleanup and fill in gaps." Emily explains. "You're the one who's got the moves."

Lena fights away her tendency to be flustered. It feels weird to be praised by that mouth.

"So, Do you have any more pointers to get Angela and Fareeha together?" Lena asks, not willing to delve into personal information but not willing to stop talking either. She needs to know what's up.

"Take your time to get to know her. She is the most uncomfortable when people try to rush things. Look at me. It took me three full months to get her to hold a conversation for more than a few sentences. She takes her time, Fareeha should too."

"Are you trying to say we're rushing things?" Lena says accusingly. Emily chuckles.

"No nothing like that. This time it seems the opposite, that Angela's rushing things. I haven't seen her call a place like this home in just a week or two."

"Home? She really feels at home here?"

"Yep. I just can't figure out what she loves here. I mean the Hispanic Arnold Schwarzenegger is caring and all-"

"His name's Gabe." Lena cuts in.

"Yeah, okay. The Olivia chick is nice too but I just can't see what she can see here. Maybe someday I'll figure it out. You tell me something now."

Lena grows uncomfortable. "Okay?"

"What's Fareeha's story?"

Lena pauses, thinks and then speaks with deliberation. "I don't know myself. All I know is she has been here before me, is a sweetheart and a super-cool person to hang out with. Always helps you out when you genuinely need it, and very supportive. She's a little too creative with insults sometimes but she's lovely."

"Hmm." Emily accepts. "Tell me about you, Lena."

"We aren't that friendly yet."

"We never will be if you stay like this."

"Why would I want to be friendly to a person that harasses me?"

"Honey." Emily says teasingly. "My way of flirting is different. I'm gay and I was flirting with you. Kinda differently, but you get the point."

"How do you know I'm gay?" Lena fires back.

"If you weren't, you would have clarified it then, not be flustered and all blushy-blushy." Emily replies.

Lena opens her mouth to defend herself but then closes it, because she's caught. "Yeah, I'm gay too." she says in a low voice, staring at the floor. Emily leans on the counter with her elbow. Lena's mind prepares another question for her, without her having to think about it.

"But why are you still after me when I'm not being friendly to you?" Lena asks, and her voice carries a warning. Emily locks eyes with her.

"If I didn't think you were worth the trouble, I wouldn't have taken it." Emily says. At the same moment, Amelie arrives with Emily's orders, and Emily takes them away. Amelie looks at Lena thinking hard.

"You okay?" She asks.

"Yeah, I'm okay." She looks at Amelie and flashes a nervous grin. "Its just-" she says and looks at Emily's retreating form. "-nothing."

______________________________________

Its the evening and by some divine intervention, they haven't been faced with the same traffic as they usually do, which means the improvised workforce has held their own pretty well. Genji and Olivia are now at the counter, and there is a small group of rich bankers discussing in one corner. One table has a mother looking like she has relaxed for the first time in months. One table has a couple on them while the others have different combinations of people, all talking, eating and sipping relaxedly.

Amelie is busy writing down the last letter of the crossword when Genji spots her.

"Hey that's mine!" He says and swats the newspaper out of her hands and sees that all the spots have been filled with deadly precision. He makes an approving noise. "Okay you did it well. But I do it."

"C'est la vie." She says and shrugs.

They then notice the stool in front of them taken by a guy. Tall, kinda slim and wearing a white shirt, black pants with well polished oxfords, a lapel and a bowtie. Not to mention the expensive watch. Not as expensive as what Amelie and Moira usually wear, but not far off either.

"Evening." Genji says and smiles. Amelie swats the paper out of his hands when he's greeting the newest patron, and starts filling in the numbers on the Sudoku grid. "What can I get you."

"Bonsoir." He says and Amelie's ears perk up. She lets nothing out, though. "One coffee please." He says, voice thick with French, and Genji glances at Amelie before nodding and walking off. Amelie continues with her relentless number filling. Genji reappears and puts the cup in front of him.

"There you go." He says and steps back.

"Merci" He says and smiles. He takes a sip and then gags.

"Is something wrong?" Genji asks.

"C'est terrible!" He chokes out. "What is this? Boiled dirt?"

Genji looks offended. Amelie raises her head this time.

"I dunno. People here love it." Genji replies, shrugging. "What were you looking for?"

"I think there has been an error. Can you get me a fresh cup?" He asks, voice still very polite.

"Sure." Genji says and gets him another, a stronger cup. The visitor still gags. "I don't think our coffee agrees with you."

"Comment le sauriez-vous?" He says. "Vous ne savez même pas le goût du café"

"Excuse moi?" Amelie says, rolling the paper and throwing it in the corner of the counter as a warning. She rises from her spot. The guy looks at her and sizes her up. Amelie does the same, but with a look of content only she can muster. And Genji, for once, does not want to be on the receiving side of it.

"Ce café est terrible" He continues, unmindful of her obvious warning.

"si vous ne l'aimez pas, alors vous pouvez partir" She replies, acid in her tone. No one talks to her family like this and get away with it. The man's expression hardens too.

"Vos manières sont-elles aussi mauvaises que votre café?" He snaps. Fareeha emerges to see what is going on. Angela follows. They notice a staring contest, and Genji looking at them as if he has no clue what is going on.

"Parle pour toi-même."  She says and continues to look on. The man gets up forcefully, startling Genji and Angela. Fareeha's expression turns acidic when Amelie looks at her for physical help, a hint of vulnerability in her amber eyes. Fareeha grabs him by his arm and pulls him roughly towards her. He is an inch shorter.

"Are you getting out or should I throw you out, French Fry?" Fareeha snarls.

"Mind your hands." He says and tries to pull his arm away, but Fareeha's grip is stronger.

"Mind your tongue." She snarls again. He takes a step back. "If you do anything disrespectful, I will skin you. Come back when you get some manners." She says and shoves him away.

The man turns away roughly and leaves, muttering curses as he gets out. As soon as the door closes Fareeha turns to Amelie. "You okay?"

"Yes." She says and continues with the paper like nothing happened. "Thanks." she says and beams at Fareeha. Fareeha is back to cheerful in an instant, like her angry side and her cheery sides changing like the flick of a switch.

Angela hasn't looked at anyone in more awe in her life.

______________________________________

The cafe closes and they get to finishing up, near the kitchen. Genji is already gone. Olivia and Emily are cleaning up while Lena is arranging the chairs. Fareeha and Angela are by the counter.

"Thank you." Fareeha says and Angela smiles sheepishly. "You really saved us today. I wonder what Gabe would have done if we had closed today."

"You're welcome. Plus, I had fun too." Angela says and Lena straightens up behind her at a distance. Fareeha's eyes flit between the two.

"I need to make it up to you." Fareeha says.

ASK HER OUT. Lena mouths. She keeps repeating it.

"You don't need to. Consider it me paying you back for letting me sleep here."

"Pffah." Fareeha waves dismissively. "Its Gabe's rule. Always help people in need. You don't need to pay me back for that."

"So this is my rule too. Always help people in need." Angela says, refusing to be baited. "You don't need to pay me back for this."

Fareeha pauses and rubs the back of her neck, and Angela smiles confidently at the small victory. She has to ask her out, one way or another. Not because Lena said so, but because, well, the med school student needs to learn how to loosen up. Fareeha cringes whenever she watches Angela being a harassed mess in the middle of a pile of papers chugging coffee like a German during Oktoberfest.

"Okay, so umm, can we go out?" Fareeha blurts it out before she can stop herself. Olivia and Emily freeze. Lena hops in excitement and covers her mouth. Angela's eyes widen and her cheeks bloom furiously. She was in awe, her fingers were still tingling with the touch and now her breathing was hitched too. She had seen the example of her kindness, also snippets of her strength. And the possibility of being with her in a neutral environment, where none of them have any worries on their minds, excited the blonde to no end. She wants to say something, but her voice betrays her. She Instead looks down.

Breathe in, breathe out. This is just a date. Breathe in, breathe out.

She might or might not be in a relationship. I don't know yet.

What if she already has a girlfriend? What if she isn't into nerdy bookworm women like me? What if she likes jocks?

"So what will it be?" Fareeha asks again, in case she didn't make herself clear. "Can you go on a lunch with me?"

WhatshouldIdowhatshouldIdowhatshouldIdo

"Umm, Angela? Are you spacing out?" Fareeha asks, tilting her head to see. "Don't leave me hanging here."

Angela's mind is a storm, hurricane, tornado and all other natural disasters combined. She has no idea what to do, so she decides to say the first thing that comes to her mind.

"How does Monday sound?" Angela blurts it out just like Fareeha and smacks her forehead internally.

Who goes out on a lunch date on a Monday? Angela who the hell goes out on a Monday?

But they work on a Sunday-

Angela! Fareeha can take a day off! Its called Sunday for a reason!

I'm such a disastrous, dorky lesbian.

Awkward nerds like you are destined to die alone.

Angela resigns to her fate, assumptions and shattered hopes and steels herself for a no. Fareeha smiles.

"Its a date." She says. Olivia and Emily release breaths they did not know they were holding. Lena punches the air and wildly flashes thumbs up. Angela looks up in a mixture of wide-eyed surprise and Intense euphoria. She has half a mind to jump in celebration, but she doesn't.

"See you on Monday then." Angela says and vacates the scene swiftly. Emily follows after her swiftly. Lena runs to Fareeha and throws her arms around the bigger woman.

"Yes!" Lena screeches. "A date!"

"Lena, relax. Its just a date." Fareeha replies. Olivia emerges.

"Ayye chiquita! A date! Finally!" Olivia says and hugs her from the other side.

"Guys, Its just a date. Why are you people so excited?"

Only if Fareeha knew what the hell was going on.

Chapter Text

"Finally you get a date, 'Reeha!" Hana says as she enters from the back. She wastes no time throwing her arms around Fareeha's midriff. Fareeha facepalms for the umpteenth time, after clearing her hands of suds.

"Don't you have a group study session right now?" Fareeha fires back, not returning the hug.

"It can all wait for a day. I told them Gabe was having a mid-life crisis and I would get them all pancakes."

"You said what?" Gabe calls out from the front and peeks over the aisle. Hana looks at him with puppy eyes. Fareeha cringes internally.

"Please dad?" She pleads. Gabe deadpans and retreats. Hana turns back to her. "Guess that didn't work."

"Atleast let me work." Fareeha replies and elbows her in the cheek.

"Oh, aren't you a ray of sunshine today?" Hana grumbles and lets her go.

"Then you should see Lena." Genji cuts in and Olivia laughs. "You will go blind when you see how bright she is today."

Jesse saunters in, clutching an order slip. "Someone please throw some water on Lena. She's practically jumpin' around the joint. And yeah, four flat black." He says and hands the order to Genji. Genji goes to the coffee machine, and Hana follows for the pretext of getting one herself. Jesse leans against the counter beside Fareeha. "So, what place have you thought of?"

Jesse is the only one who reacts to things like Fareeha does, so he has been pretty casual and conversational about it. Jesse's lack of emotional range means Fareeha is quite comfortable with talking about practically anything and not draw a big reaction out of him.

"I dunno. The place where all of us had lunch for Gabe's birthday?" She replies and shrugs, putting away a freshly washed dish.

"That place? What was it called..." Jesse trails off and pinches the bridge of his nose to remember.

"La Casa de mi Abuela." Olivia says and Jesse snaps his fingers. 

"That one."

"Is that the only place we know of?" Genji says, returning with the four cups on a tray. Jesse takes them away. "There must be more places."

Hana follows with an oversized cup in her hands. "But that place is too... uh... you know, Dad." She says.

"I can hear you, Hana!" Gabe calls out again. Hana waves dismissively with a pfft.

Brigitte returns this time, looking particularly happy. "I got my first tip!"

"Hell yeah, gurl!" Fareeha hollers and hugs Brigitte with her free arm. She looks around proudly and puffs her chest out. "I trained her well."

"Yeah." Brigitte giggles and grins. Hana looks particularly flushed. Brigitte breaks away and turns to Fareeha. "Did you decide where to go?"

"Nope. We never go out because we have Olivia making all this gold." Fareeha says. Olivia turns around and gives Fareeha a peck on the cheek.

"Muchas gracias chiquita!" She chirps. Fareeha grins.

"Okay since you guys have zero idea where to go, I'm gonna send Hana to hunt a few places. No way you're taking Angela to that place." Lena cuts in and dumps six cups in the sink.

Hana dumps her cup next, defiantly refusing to look at Brigitte even with her peripheral vision. "I brought my scoot so I'm bailing."

"Wait!" Jack calls out. "Take Brigitte with you." He says while peering over the edge of the aisle.

"What? Why?" Hana half-protests, blood rushing rapidly to her cheeks.

"Well, Let's just say that you aren't exactly economical." Genji replies.

"I couldn't have said it better." Jack agrees. "Plus, Brigitte might know of a few joints herself." He looks at Brigitte. "Brigitte, you don't mind, do you?"

"I guess I can show you some." Brigitte says and disposes of her apron. She stops in front of Hana. "Let's go."

Hana says nothing, instead forcing herself not to admire Brigitte's strong arms, not covered by her tee and thinks hard about her helmet.

She fails. Spectacularly.

______________________________________

Emily paces around the room with sickening speed and Angela is sitting on the couch, looking at her nervously.

"Em? Please sit down you're making me nervous." Angela says feebly. "Who is this 'fashion advisor' anyway?" she asks, sketching quotation marks with her fingers.

"Relax, Angie, she will be here any moment." Emily says excitedly.

As if on cue, the door to their dorm room is knocked on. Emily brightens and opens the door. Recognition spreads across Angela's face.

"Glad you could come." Emily says with a smirk.

"I'm doing this for Fareeha" Ice Cold Amelie replies, smooth as silk, and steps into the room as Emily gives her way. Angela gets on her feet.

"Hi." She says.

"Salut chérie." She replies and puts her hands on Angela's shoulders, steering her to the couch.

"Cherry?" Angela asks.

"It means darling, Angie, now let the woman do her job!" Emily says a little too enthusiastically, which makes Angela jump a little

"Are you sure about this?" Angela says to no one in particular.

"Plutôt sûr, chérie" Amelie replies reassuringly, the words rolling effortlessly off her tongue, as if she was born to talk in a thick french accent and reassure nervous women, but Angela knows nothing about French, which confuses her even more. "Relax." Amelie says and starts rummaging through her bag.

All Angela can do is hope that this idea isn't like the others Emily had in the past. For now, all she does is relax.

______________________________________

"How is this place?" Brigitte says, looking around with a smile that says she has memories of the place. 

Hana is less flustered when she has something else to focus on. She looks at the wooden floor, bohemian deco style and the relaxed aura. The open air seating with minor overhead protection means hearing others talk is very difficult unless one is right next to them. Hana huffs with satisfaction.

"You have been here?" Hana asks, not looking at Brigitte.

"Yeah. Lots of times. Mama and pappa come here when they want to relax. I have come here only thrice but there is something magical here. They always talk with smiles and loving words when here."

"I think I see why." Hana says and sits on one of the benches on a whim. She picks up the menu card to see the variety, but her eyes fall on the prices instead.

"What?" Hana says, shocked. "This thing is like a dollar menu."

Brigitte looks confused. "Isn't that supposed to be a good thing?"

"No. Half the things in our cafe are costlier than this. Its supposed to be a date, Brigitte."

"Exactly. Its a date. So shouldn't we focus on the place, and not on the menu?"

"You don't understand." Hana says, looking at Brigitte like she doesn't see the genius of it. "Angela is a neurosurgeon. A doctor. Doctors don't have taste for cheap stuff like this. Doctors like five star hotels." Hana says and her mind fills with the images of sipping champagne idly in an expensive five star hotel, drinking in the air of sophistication and tasteful silence. The individual sitting in front of her is a faceless entity as of now but Hana does not care for she is too absorbed in the glamour of it.

"Umm, Hana?" Brigitte asks with uncertanity.

"What?" Hana says, half confused and half annoyed. How dare anyone interrupt such a beautiful daydream?

"Do you have any places in mind?"

"Actually, I do." Hana says and makes a beeline for the scooter, and Brigitte follows straight after.

Hana starts talking. "This place has literally the best fancy stuff. Its like the best in terms of just pure glamour."

"So, you like the glamour and the showing off?" Brigitte speaks a little louder to be heard over the noise of the wind roaring in her ears. Hana learnt her riding from Fareeha, so there is always a fair bit of speed involved.

"No, its the sophistication, the quiet and the lighting. Really helps to focus on the person in front of you." Hana shouts back.

"Oh, nice!"

"Yeah, and the champagne or any other expensive wine just puts the cherry on top."

"But you seemed pretty sensitive to liquor that day." 

"Hey, you were the one who threw up first."

"But didn't you throw up right after?"

"That was me throwing up because I saw you throw up." Hana explains. Suddenly a car swerves in front and Hana swerves to avoid it. Brigitte grabs onto Hana's midriff to catch herself and the scoot rights itself, thanks in no small measure to Hana's skill. Her face burns, for she can feel every muscle in Brigitte arms tense and relax to stabilize Brigitte. It ripples against the thin fabric, and she can feel it against her skin.

Hana opens the throttle to the stop because she isn't sure of what to do.

______________________________________

"Fancy water and Caviar?" Lena jolts. "It isn't a goddamn business meeting for god's sake!"

"I told you so." Brigitte says, shrugging with her arms folded. Hana makes an effort not to ogle.

"Whatever." Hana dismisses. "Its got the perfect stuff for taking out a doctor to lunch."

"Hana, even I don't go to a place that fancy." Moira says. "Plus, I don't think anyone should go to such a place on the first date."

"Agreed." Jesse says and gently nudges Fareeha.

Fareeha is sitting in the middle of the group, assembled at Jack and Gabe's house. They faked running out of stocks and closed early to help Fareeha with the perfect date. Fareeha has no room to agree or disagree because the conversation changes speakers so fast that she has no time window to have her say. She responds to Jesse by shrugging. Jesse smiles apologetically.

"I dunno, but that is the way the first date should always go." Hana returns.

"Can you take someone on a date there?" Lena fires back.

"I dunno, maybe?" She says.

"Whoah there, you're still in school, remember?" Genji cuts in. Olivia is musing beside him, reluctant to impose.

"I Stream too, Genji."

"Can we let chiquita have a say?" Olivia speaks for the first time. 

"Pssh. its her first date in forever. She'll need our help anyways." Lena interjects swiftly. Fareeha raises her arms in exasperation.

"How about an amusement park?" Genji proffers.

"What are they, nine?" Lena fires back.

"Hey-" Fareeha tries to interject.

"Okay how about the park? Its calm there and good for having a long talk." Genji suggests.

"That is more like second or third date material." Moira says. Brigitte and Lena hum in approval. Jesse and Olivia look at Fareeha nervously.

"Guys-"

"What's the problem with the place I showed?" Brigitte demands.

"Yeah." Genji cuts in.

"Yo guys-"

"Its too cheap. The place has to be cheap but not that cheap." Lena explains.

"Can I tal-"

"It should be perfect." Lena says. "I think the Spanish restaurant we went to is the best bet as of now."

Fareeha clutches at her head. Jesse decides to intervene. "Hey guys if you would listen to her-"

"Yeah, listen to what she has to say-" Olivia tries to support.

"But that place is too noisy and messy!" Hana protests.

"Well we cannot go with your expensive restaurant either." Moira fires back.

"Everything will not happen to your terms, Moira." Hana fires back.

"Exactly, neither it will happen to your terms Hana." Lena cuts in.

And then everyone starts talking all at once. Lena, Hana, and Moira arguing why their theory is the best, Jesse and Olivia trying to stop them. Fareeha's fingers dig into her scalp as she tries to tune it out, but the noise continues to grow like  a crescendo, everyone straining their voice to be heard better. It hardens until it becomes painful.

"SHUT THE FUCK UP EVERYONE!" Fareeha bellows and springs to her feet. Silence falls. "That's it I'm getting out of here." 

"But-" Lena tries to stop her.

"Not. A. Word." Fareeha snarls and storms downstairs. As soon as the door closes Jack comes running in, hastily putting on his shirt and looking very sleepy.

"Was that 'Reeha?" Jack enquires to which Jesse nods. Jack shakes his head and retreats to get his slippers and diffuse the situation. Jesse folds his arms and turns to look at the women. "Way to fuck it up there, girls. Way to fuck it up." He says and walks off to the kitchen to get himself a glass of water.

Lena looks like she could melt with all that guilt.

______________________________________

Fareeha is angrily mopping the floor when Jack spots her while descending the stairs.

"'Reeha?" He asks

Fareeha snaps out of her thoughts and looks for Jack. She locks eyes with him, her expression bewildered. Jack smiles amusedly. He stops behind the counter.

"You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm just, you know, thinking." She replies.

"Thinking about what?" He asks.

"Like these guys have freaked out so much over me just taking Angela out for lunch that its pissing me off. Like Lena literally sent Hana and poor Brigitte to scout the best restaurants in the city. I don't even know if I will even be able to afford the water there. Don't they have that 'sourced from the mountains of the Himalayas' kinda shit there?" She says and Jack laughs. Its deep and bassy. Fareeha frowns and nods to agree to the stupidity of the idea.

"They are excited for you to finally go on a date after all this time." Jack says. "I do get that Lena gets carried away, but she wants to make it as special as it can be."

"I get it, but what the hell? Why can't they let me talk or give my opinion? Its just a lunch, for fuck's sake." She says, fidgeting with the handle of the mop.

"Fareeha, Lena cares. She wants this to be perfect. What's the matter, you don't like Angela?" He quips.

"No, nothing like that!" Fareeha protests. "I just wanted to take her out on lunch so that I could thank her. Plus, she could use the loosening up. I mean just look at her. Its been a month here, and have you seen her once without her books and the study material? I just want her to slow down for once."

"Ah yes. Slowing down." He says and sits on the stools. He beckons Fareeha towards the stool on his left. She obeys. "Tell me something. Do you like her or not?" He says, looking right into her eyes. Fareeha recoils a little.

"I mean, she's a nice person and all, but I know nothing about her. Like nothing, except that she loves coffee, for some reason always looks embarrassed, has a very outspoken roommate and could keep studying until peeled off the table." She replies

"You know a lot, to be honest." Jack says.

"You think?"

"Yeah. When your mother made me and Gabe meet, we didn't even know each other's names. Ana just pulled me outta work and dumped me on a table in the field cafeteria and just left. Another person just comes up and asks me if he could share the table. We sat close to an hour in silence. The worst part was that Ana had taken my phone, so I couldn't even ask her what the person looked like. All of a sudden this guy starts grumbling about weird people, and then I'm confused as fuck. One thing leads to another and soon we're fighting. Not the shouting, but literally being separated from each other by the security. Needless to say, it was a disaster."

"Whoah."

"I know, right?"

"So, what happened next?" Fareeha asks, now genuinely interested.

"Ana told me that it was him I was supposed to meet. And now we had a genuine opinion of each other- that one of us would not be walking out if we were left alone in a room. Ana was devastated. She wanted it to work. Very bad. She felt deep in her heart that we were meant to be together."

"And?"

"I told her that if she believed it could happen, then maybe we should give it another shot. But, this time, it was different."

"What happened?"

"I let go. I didn't let my reservations hold me back. I let the heart have its way. Decide for itself if it was the best course of action. Gabe, well, was Gabe. But he tried to make it work too, but in his own way. We talked, a little, but it was progress."

"So you stopped thinking?"

"Exactly. I breathed. Long deep breaths. Focus on what I felt. Not what I was thinking. I realized I was feeling good."

Fareeha looks into the distance. Jack does too.

"The thing is, I trusted Ana. She wanted the best for me. Lena is like her that way. Her instincts are very strong. If she believes that this date is worth something, I would back her."

Fareeha nods thoughtfully. She then turns to him. "So I need to trust her and just go with the flow?"

"Yes." Jack nods. "Human relationships are meant to be slow, uncomfortable, messy processes. They look like they aren't worth the effort, that the return is too small, but in the end, its worth every little thing you put into it. There are no shortcuts, there are no quick fixes. There were fights, big ones, big enough to put what we had in danger. It was scary, it was stressful, but we stuck, because that is life. You fail, you learn and you live. It scares me sometimes at night what would have happened if we had given up."

"So you do think that this can go somewhere?" 

"How can you know if you don't even try? If it does, very well, if it does not, it isn't a loss. You still get a nice lunch."

Fareeha laughs and throws her arms around his midriff. "You know your stuff. I'm impressed. Gabe doesn't have shit against you."

Jack runs his hand through her hair. "We are fundamentally different."

"Yeah." Fareeha says. "Gabe makes sense. You feel right."

"I guess you can say that." Jack chuckles. 

"Do you have something in mind?" Fareeha asks him

"Well, after all that stuff upstairs you still want ideas?"

"Exactly, Jack. I want ideas, not an itinerary. I'm not a fucking baby." 

Jack chuckles, and looks up, then closes his eyes to remember. "Yes, there was this one time we went out. Gabe had come with his bike. I suggested that we take the car, but he was adamant for the bike. We didn't do much eating, or visiting places. We just had a falafel so that we won't starve, and most of the time we were just riding. Going to the hills, taking the scenic backroads and staying off the bigger roads. It was calm, it was relaxing, it took the edge off our schedules, and we were practically cuddling on the bike. At last we went to a lake with coffee and had the longest talk about anything and everything imaginable."

Fareeha can imagine that pretty clearly. "Wow, that sounds relaxing."

"Oh it was. I can't just tell you to go there, its just an idea for you to think about. In the end, I guess you should go where your instincts take you. I say take Gabe's bike." Jack tells her.

"Thanks a lot." Fareeha replies. "That is the only good idea I've gotten all day."

Jack chuckles. "They only want the best for you, but they got a little carried away making it perfect. Now go get some sleep, young lady. You got a date tomorrow."

"Good night." Fareeha smiles and tells him before going to get her jacket.

"Good night." He replies.

Jack watches Fareeha leave, and closes the door after her. He fondly remembers all the good times he and Gabe had in all these years. He silently goes to his room with a smile on his face, ignoring the gang's reactions and spoons Gabe.

"How'd it go?" Gabe asks when Jack plants a peck to his cheek. His voice is husky from sleep.

"Pretty well. These guys are just like Ana was for us." Jack says. "Oh, all the memories."

"Why do I feel you told her about the one on the lake?" Gabe says

"You can read my mind." Jack says, and burrows his face into the space between his chin and neck.

"Its obvious" Gabe explains. "You rave about that date everytime someone mentions the word. Olivia has heard it so many times that she can recite it word to word."

Jack withdraws his limbs and turns over to the other side. Gabe raises his head. "Jack?"

Jack does not reply. Gabe curses himself.

"Jack, I'm sorry." He pleads. "Please come back here, you're so warm."

Jack does not reply. Gabe sighs.

It's going to be a long night ahead.

Chapter Text

Fareeha wakes up an hour earlier and wastes no time to get to the cafe. She enters the alley and walks to Gabe's bike. The unuse has left the bike dusty, but it still fires on a single turn of the key.

"Good girl." Fareeha says and rolls the bike out to the faucet near the door which was solely there to wash the bike, or to wash things a sink cannot handle. On one occasion the faucet was used to clean Jesse because of an almighty mess he had made which had included coffee and pancake batter.

"Lets get you cleaned." Fareeha says and gets to work. Her cleaning is meticulous, dodging the wires, avoiding the chain, cleaning the hard-to-reach corners. The Ducati sheds all the grime it has accumulated sitting in the corner of the alley.

Fareeha is wiping the bike dry when she hears Lena's voice.

"Morning." Lena says softly, guilt clearly evident in the voice. Fareeha rises and turns to her to see that Lena is looking down on the ground with something clutched in her hands. "I'm really sorry about yesterday. I should have realized that you could make that decision for yourself and I was dumb for forcing you. So here, have this." She says and holds out her lucky shirt. It is a bright red shirt with the words 'Keep calm and carry on'. It's a size too big for her, she always wore it on her off days and swears that her tips skyrocket whenever she wears it. Fareeha knows the value behind the shirt and the way Lena guards the shirt.

Fareeha says nothing, instead pulls Lena into a hug, engulfing the smaller woman completely. Its Fareeha's renowned you-don't-need-to-explain-anything hug. Fareeha put in all her sincerity into the hug. Lena was shocked into trying her best at hugging the bigger woman.

"You don't need to apologise." Fareeha murmurs softly into her ear. Lena hugs her back hard.

"I will never force you into anything ever again." Lena says with a shaky breath.

"Lena, you care, and that is far more valuable than any forcing you do. I don't know what it would have been like if I didn't have you and the guys watching my back." Fareeha replies, and runs a hand through Lena's short hair. "Thank you so much for everything."

They stay in this embrace for a while. Lena breaks off first and holds out the T shirt to Fareeha.

"Here, my lucky shirt should make this date go smoothly." She says.

Fareeha looks at the T shirt and then discards the one she was wearing, right in the alley. She puts on the garment and it fits. Perfectly. It is a size too big for Lena but it fits Fareeha like a glove. Fareeha observes herself and then looks at Lena.

"How do I look?" She asks.

"This fits you perfectly." Lena replies. "Now go get em, tiger."

Fareeha engulfs Lena one more time. "Thanks a lot for this." She says.

"Good luck." Lena says while Fareeha swings her leg over the freshly-cleaned Ducati Sport 1000. The bike fires on the first crank, like always. Fareeha didn't meet any of the others because Jesse had wished her good luck when Fareeha was leaving the house, Olivia and Genji had sent messages(and then a hailstorm of good luck GIF's immediately after), and Hana had called three in the morning to say sorry. Brigitte had called in the morning too, promising to not let Fareeha's absence hinder the cafe's functioning. Amelie had sent a video in which she had forced Moira to apologise and wish her well for the date.

"I have all the luck I need." Fareeha tugs at the collar of her shirt with a brutally bright grin and then takes off.

______________________________________

Fareeha almost doesn't recognise Angela. She is wearing a flowy summer romper jumpsuit with her hair still messy, but tied up better. Her face looks fresh, free of the accumulated stress and sleep deprivation, Like the rain on the mountains- washing away the dust and lifelessness of summer, ushering in freshness and vibrancy. Her hair is still messy, but it somehow makes her appear even more vibrant than before. Fareeha swears she didn't need the sun in that moment.

Then it dawns on her that Amelie was out the whole day yesterday and now knows where she went.

"You look beautiful. Ice Cold Amelie sure did work her magic on you." Fareeha says nonchalantly. Angela looks up with curiosity.

"How did you know?"

"She was out the whole day yesterday. And looking at you, I can say where she went." Fareeha replies and Angela blushes a little again. She mounts the bike and positions herself comfortably.

"All good?" Fareeha asks, and then produces an open-face helmet when Angela nods. "Safety first, even though I hate to ruin that hair."

Angela smiles and clasps her arms around Fareeha's midriff, ignoring the rush of goosebumps that rise across her skin when she feels Fareeha's abdominal muscles. Fareeha takes the bike off the stand and cranks up the L-twin, which settles into a rumble. Angela steels herself for a massive rush of speed, determined not to grab Fareeha's boobs for safety this time, but the rush, the explosion of power never comes. The Ducati glides off a standstill and builds speed smoothly, Fareeha not even trying to wring the engine for all its worth. The shifting is smooth, and the speed is pleasant, though still a little faster than the rest of the traffic.

"Hey, I'm sorry for the rough ride I gave you the last time." Fareeha says, louder than usual to be heard over the wind and the rumble of the motor.

"I accept your apology." Angela replies.

"Got any places in mind?" Fareeha begins. "Since its your day today maybe there are some places where you want to go?"

"Actually, I had nothing on my mind." Angela replies sheepishly and then curses herself for not picking out places to go out on. "Did you have anything in mind?"

"Nope."

"Oh." Angela says, and her head is in chaos, crashing and burning, trying to make sense of the situation that just befell them. The date was over before it even started. Before Angela can start crying and reduce herself to a sopping mess, Fareeha speaks up again.

"I say let the bike take us where it wants to." She says and opens the throttle a little more. The rear drops ever so slightly and Angela grabs on a little harder. After navigating a few turns, they are out of the city, away from the noise, the traffic and the clutter. The unmarked back road is lined with trees and other varieties of plants, and the difference is marked- the air feels cooler, lighter and far easier to breathe. Angela rests her cheek against Fareeha's back, feeling the wind ruffle a few bangs that escaped the helmet, tickle her skin. Its therapeutic. The wind, the rumble of the motor and the cool air. Its relaxing.

Fareeha smiles when she senses Angela sigh with content.

"Having fun back there?" Fareeha asks.

Angela chooses to hum in approval, and Fareeha's smile grows.

Jack, this sure does work.

______________________________________

Jesse is clearing up a table close to the huge glass window they have. He picks up a dish with a cup when he hears the roar of thunder. His head whips up to see dark clouds forming and the sun being surrounded by the clouds. He stops to see them move, and they are moving surprisingly fast. In a matter of seconds, the sunlight is gone. He gapes at the clouds, plate hanging in air, and then remembers the date.

"Oh shit." He croaks.

______________________________________

They are high up on the mountain roads when it starts raining. The rain patters over their helmets mercilessly.

"Shit!" Fareeha curses. "Angela, you okay back there?"

Angela practically shrinks into Fareeha's back to keep whatever part of herself she can keep dry. Her hair is saved by the helmet, but her clothing was designed to be airy and comfortable, not rain resistant, and as a result, Angela is drenched. Every drop that falls practically falls onto her skin, straight through the fabric that refuses to offer protection, or maybe is incapable of offering any.

"Yeah, I'm okay!" She lies.

Fareeha spots a convenience store and parks close to it. They quickly disembark and dash to cover, but Angela can't run so fast with her current footwear, or run at all. Fareeha hangs back, helping Angela move faster. Angela tries running and being light on her feet at the same time, and as a result looks like someone walking over red hot coals, or someone attempting to walk over water. Fareeha grabs her hand and helps her along, firm yet gentle, and now Angela looks flustered as well, praying that no one, especially Fareeha, is watching how awkward she feels.

After what feels like an eternity to Angela, they reach cover and take off their helmets. Fareeha smiles and beats her hair back into shape.

"Looks like the rain gods smiled on us." Fareeha says, chuckling.

Fareeha turns to check on Angela upon getting no reply. She turns to see Angela retying her hair, eyes closed in concentration, the romper jumpsuit now reduced to spandex by the might of rainwater and a nifty phenomenon called surface tension. The fabric sticks to her like a second skin, each curve, each bump, each dip thrown into great relief. The undergarments are visible, but so is skin, and for the first time, Fareeha seems to lose her rock-solid composure. Blood rushes to her cheek. Her hands twitch. And then she realises how long it has been. How long it has been since she last felt, since she last touched. Since she last felt special. Since she was last made love to. It crashes against her like an apocalyptic tsunami, crashing against inhibitions, but Fareeha's mind is something else. Something that refuses to bow.

Fareeha tears her eyes off Angela's figure right when Angela opens her eyes, and trains them on her own shoes. They are wet, drenched and will definitely show premature damage if not tended to soon. But Fareeha curses herself, because she hasn't been permitted to see something that personal yet. It feels like a violation. She wants to apologise for it, but is it a crime if no one finds out?

"Is everything okay?" Fareeha asks, forcing her eyes to lock with Angela's, not daring to move them downwards. Angela looks exasperated, but she smiles back.

"I'm a little too wet to take shelter now." She replies.

Fareeha surveys herself and yes, they are too wet for any shelter to make any sense for them. She forces her eyes to meet Angela's again.

"So should we get back out then?" Fareeha asks. Angela opens her mouth to reply but then she stops, looking into the distance behind Fareeha. Fareeha turns around to see what Angela was looking at. A small boy, standing in the middle of the parking lot, looking very confused, holding a helmet in his hand. Before Angela can say anything, Fareeha is out in the rain and brings the boy to shelter.

"His name is Jake Hong." Fareeha says as soon as they get into earshot.

"Hi." Jake replies. Angela notices he's Asian.

"Did you get lost?" Angela says, sounding quite maternal, which fills Fareeha with something she does not understand.

"Yeah, kind of. I was supposed to go back on my bicycle and it had the map on it, but it looks like I either parked it somewhere and I do not remember it, or it has been stolen." He replies, sounding quite composed and calm. Angela commends the boy internally. Fareeha smiles.

"We can drop you. We have a bike." Fareeha speaks up this time. "You can recognise the place, right?"

"Yeah." Jake replies.

"Off we go then." Fareeha says, and the three of them march towards the bike, unafraid of the rain, and seat themselves. Fareeha at the helm, Angela at the back, and Jake in the middle. "I hope we don't run into any cops."

They make their way out of the parking lot, and with Jake's directions, they get deeper into the small mountain town. After a few turns that neither Angela nor Fareeha bother to remember, they end up at a Chinese restaurant, not big, not small either, but in a rather pleasant middle ground. The name at the front says 'Hong Restaurant'.

"Ladies, welcome to the Hong Restaurant." Jake says, extricates himself from between them rather easily, and then frames the door of the restaurant with his arms. Angela and Fareeha share a quick glance and then follow him inside.

"Jake? Is that Jake?" A voice rings from the depths of the restaurant as soon as they enter.

"Yes mama!" Jake answers, sounding like a kid for the first time since they met him. "I think the bicycle's stolen, but I found two ladies that gave me a lift!"

The source of the voice arrives. Angela and Fareeha register the slightly obese Asian woman, hair curly and eyes bright, and a cheerful smile. "Hello!" She chirps.

"Hi" Both of them answer.

"Thanks a lot for bringing Jake here safely." She says, and her gaze wanders to their clothing. "Oh my, you ladies are drenched!" she says.

"Yeah, we came from the city and it started raining when we reached here." Angela says.

"Oh. Did you people come to sightsee?"

"Oh, actually we were on a date." Fareeha blurts before Angela can reply. Angela blushes furiously while looking down and Fareeha flashes a grin. A grin spreads across the woman's face as well.

"Ooh!" She coos. "You got nice taste!" She says. "Let me check if I have some extra clothes." She turns to Jake. "Go get them the big towel."

"Sure!" Jake replies and runs off. Mama Hong turns towards the depths of the restaurant. "VIVIAN! GET ME TWO PAIRS OF CLOTHES NOW!" She screams and another, more shrill voice replies, the words unrecognizable. More unrecognizable screaming ensues and eventually dies out. Fareeha and Angela look at each other, standing awkwardly in the middle of the restaurant. Jake is the first one to appear with a gigantic towel that can easily engulf the two of them and still have some space. He leads them to the corner table next to a window overlooking the valley and beckons them to sit. They wrap the towel around themselves. Jake disappears into the depths of the kitchen again. Huddled close, Fareeha is reminded of their proximity again.

"I'm really sorry that this had to happen on our first date." Fareeha says.

"It wasn't your fault." Angela replies. "Plus, I'm loving it here." She replies and smiles, prompting Fareeha to smile too. Soon, another younger woman appears who had to be Vivian, because the wary expression on her face showed that she had a hard time recently. Angela and Fareeha change into the clothes they were offered, after exchanging a flurry of thank-you's and we will return this ASAP.

"Now you beautiful ladies sit here and enjoy each other's company while I whip up some food." Mama Hong says and scurries off before any of them can protest. Angela and Fareeha look at each other and burst out laughing for no reason at all. Their laughing resides after some time and they look into each other's eyes again.

"Well, I promised you lunch, and here it is." Fareeha says, as Mama Hong appears with some specialty Chinese items.

They don't talk while eating because they were so hungry with their escapades. Adding to that was the fact that they didn't have any breakfast and had been on the road all this time. After a few minutes of frantic munching and slurping, their intensity dies down, and they resort to taking a lazy bite here and there.

"So, feeling relaxed now?" Fareeha asks, bending forwards a little.

"Yes. Very, very relaxed." Angela replies with relief. "Now I feel like I can dive into my studies aga-"

"Whoah whoah whoah, not now. Atleast not until you reach back home." Fareeha cuts in.

"Sorry." Angela replies. There is a silence for a short while.

"But you are a hard worker, I'll give you that." Fareeha replies.

"You work hard too." Angela fires back.

"You can say that." Fareeha chuckles "But my hardwork is more of the physical kind. Yours is more-" Fareeha says and points her finger to the head, clutching the chopsticks in her hands. "-brainy."

"Oh, so you have a thing against brainy women?"

"Not against. I never had problem studying or getting grades but I can't stand books." Fareeha replies. "It just gets too much to handle after a while. So I decided I would be better of doing things rather than thinking and reading and writing."

"Oh." 

"Actually, I do have a thing for nerdy, brainy women." Fareeha blurts it out but then realises its too late, so she decides to roll with it. "They know their stuff. They're smart and easy to talk to. And some of them are so beautiful."

Angela blushes. Fareeha smirks at her victory and concludes it wasn't that bad. Angela is too flustered to actually say anything so they enjoy their silence. Angela thinks hard of a retort and sifts through her mind for anything, anything that could fluster Fareeha as much. She thinks and thinks, looking out into the valleys to get an inspiration.

"I don't know what you're talking about. I'm not as beautiful as you are." She replies, hoping it did not sound too cheesy.

But that does the trick. Fareeha goes red instantly, and fumbles with her chopsticks multiple times. She does not dare to look up because she cannot comprehend how things flipped around so quick. Before Angela can continue the offensive, though, Fareeha stands up.

"I think we are done here? I'll go get the check." Fareeha says and escapes. Angela giggles at the way she made Fareeha squirm and now she has a new favorite reaction to draw from her. Angela pledges to keep it that way.

______________________________________

Their wet clothes have been packed into a bag, many thank you's have been exchanged and by the time the rain recedes for good, its evening. They wipe the water off the seats and position themselves comfortably.

"Thanks for the meal!" Angela chirps.

"Do visit us again, ladies?" Mama Hong says

"Sure thing!" Fareeha replies and cranks the motor. The L twin blares to life and they take off, waving back to Mama Hong, Jake and Vivian. The ride back is the same as the ride to the mountain- calm, therapeutic, relaxing. Angela rests her cheek against Fareeha's back, feeling the warmth radiate off the shirt.

Fareeha again senses their proximity, how close they are, and how vulnerable and exposed she feels. This was supposed to be just a lunch, but it evolved into something else entirely. Fareeha wasn't sure how she should react to this. It feels so odd, but its also been six years since she last did this. Date someone, go out with someone. She then remembers things about her last relationship- the one she had when she first came out to her crush. It was another bookworm- Fareeha always loved the shy, booky types- and it was the tender age of sixteen.

But when she thinks of the time she had with Angela, she feels she can come back out of her shell- start embracing what she is all over again. Gabe didn't judge, neither did Jack, Jesse, Olivia, Lena, Genji, Ice Cold Amelie, Moira or Brigitte. Maybe she needs to shake off her fear and start dating again and as luck would have it, Angela would be the one to draw her out of her shell.

And just like that, Fareeha smiles at the prospect of dating and falling in love again.

When they reach the university, darkness has fallen. Angela disembarks the bike and tries to take the bag with her clothes but Fareeha stops her.

"I'll take care of this." She says.

"But my laundry wil-"

"No, let me do it." Fareeha says.

"Fine." Angela relents. There is a sweet silence.

"Hey Angela, uh, do you think we can do this again? I really liked it." Fareeha says, letting her fears go.

"I liked it too." Angela replies. Fareeha grins and rubs the back of her neck.

"So, um, uh, will I see you at the cafe again?" She asks.

Angela does not answer. Instead, she grabs whatever collar she can grab, pulls Fareeha closer and plants a kiss to her cheek.

"Sure." Angela chirps and turns around swiftly, feeling a rush being so forward and brave.

She knows she has hit her mark when she hears Fareeha fumble with the bike, almost drop it and scuff her shoes on the pavement.

She can do this.

Oh she can so do this.

Chapter Text

Olivia knows its that day when she wakes up. Everything feels off. Her mind seems slow, her body feels heavy and her legs feel too hot under the duvet. She rubs her eyes and considers her phone for a moment. As she looks at it, the phone buzzes. Olivia sighs. She lazily picks up the phone off her nightstand and unlocks the screen. And in the notifications tray there is just one message, From Genji.

Happy birthday ;)

I talked to Gabe. You don't need to come today.

Olivia smiles at how all of his messages are like a friendly wave. He always uses perfect grammar, full words and proper punctuation, even when messaging, a force of habit due to his English majors. Olivia starts typing.

Thanks.

it shows read within the next ten seconds, another habit of his to reply as fast as possible. She smiles at this too. Then the typing bubble pops up and while Genji types, Olivia looks at the curtains blocking the window. She gets off the bed, moves the curtains out of the way and then climbs back into her bed. Genji's reply waits for her.

How are you feeling?

And Olivia mulls over the question. She thinks for an answer, looking out the window.

I'm good. She lies.  

It shows read immediately again and the typing bubble comes on much faster than earlier.

Come on.

Olivia smiles. Genji can read her through any facade she puts up. Before she can type out a response, Fareeha's caller ID fills up the screen. Olivia sighs fondly and then swipes her thumb over the green button.

"Happy birthday!" Fareeha's voice rings through the speaker. Its hearty and loud, but not deafening.

"Thanks chiquita."

"Hey let me talk to her." Jesse's distant voice fills her ear.

"You got your own phone, call her with that phone." Fareeha replies while Olivia listens on.

"'Reeha why the fuck would I do that when you're already calling her?" Jesse fires back.

"Fuck off." Fareeha says, voice slightly lower. Olivia knows she is off the phone to flip jesse the bird.

And then a scuttle ensues. Olivia hears thuds, evident of Jesse wrestling the phone out of her hands. The phone drops to the ground with a crack and then a collective whack is heard, meaning both their hands landed on the phone at the same time.

"McCree no!" Fareeha grits mid struggle.

And then the sound of a loud swipe and then a series of louder sounds mean Jesse has wrestled the phone out of her hands and also Fareeha into the ground.

"Cunt!" Fareeha seethes from the distance.

"Stay down, miss." Jesse mocks. "Well well, if it isn't the birthday of the beautiful-beautiful Olivia. Happy birthday, pardner." Jesse says.

"Shut the fuck up wild west!" Fareeha snarls from the distance. Then a whimper is heard.

"And that's what you get for being a potty-mouth. God I should wash your mouth with soap." He says in a reprimanding tone. Olivia laughs at this.

"And as I was saying, Happy birthday, miss." Jesse says smoothly, without a hint of struggle in his voice, which meant that he had done a good job of incapacitating Fareeha.

"Thanks." She says.

And then, an almighty thud ensues.

"Holy shit!" Jesse screams and then another thud. "Hold your horses!"

"You're fucking dead now!" Fareeha roars and Olivia laughs again. She hangs up laughing, covering her face with her free hand, and the sounds of their fight, which Jesse was certainly losing, dies. She calms down, looking at empty half of her bed and wishes there was someone she could wake up next to, someone who would kiss her awake on her birthday and then make her feel like a princess.

Loneliness is truly a bitch.

And then, the biggest of crashes comes from the corridor outside her apartment. Olivia jumps out her bed and runs out to see that her neighbours have tried transporting a sofa through the stairs and it is somehow lying upside down like a disappointment.

Except that it isn't neighbours, but two medium sized women packaged into one. even with the abundant sunlight coming in through the large window by the stairs, its easy to see the definition of all the muscles hard packed into her arms. her hair is clipped short in a way that almost looks involuntary and then was colored pink as a final stand against the tyranny of whoever saw that haircut through. Her broad back is facing olivia who is comedically peeking through the door with just her head poking out. She has a black tank top on with black Adidas sweatpants and the classic three stripes running down the side.

"Blyat." The mountain of a woman curses softly. her voice is deep in a way that signifies a tough upbringing, but not a byproduct of so much muscle. Despite all that muscle, the neighbour looks feminine in her own different way. She then proceeds to grab the upside-down sofa and flip it effortlessly with just one arm, but catching it so it doesn't make another racket in the corridors.

"Looks like you do not need my help there." Olivia speaks up after a few moments of observation (and admiration), on hearing which her neighbour whipped her head around. Olivia smirked at her reaction. But her neighbour looked more surprised than flustered. She didn't look like someone who couldn't be flustered by things that easily.

"Actually, I do." the neighbour says. "The old neighbours move out yesterday. Is easy to lift and throw couch but it makes a lot of noise and it will be hard to take sofa in there." 

"I'll help." Olivia says, positions herself behind the other side of the sofa and lifts it just as easily, though with both her hands and lifting with her legs.

"Good form." The neighbour says.

"Thanks." Olivia says casually. "I'm used to lifting heavy stuff like sacks of flour."

She lifts her end of the sofa. "Oh. You bake?"

"Nope, I work in a cafe." Olivia replies as they steer the sofa into the completely bare house. Olivia looks around. "Wow, they took everything."

"Is no problem. I wanted my own stuff anyways." She waves it off and the produces a bag of snacks from somewhere inside the pockets of her gigantic sweatpants and points its open mouth toward Olivia. "Semech- I mean sunflower seeds?"

"Oh sorry. I haven't brushed yet." Olivia declines politely.

"Oh. Sorry for disrupting your morning routine." The neighbour says, shakes out some sunflower seeds into her cupped palm and banishes the rest back into the depths of her pockets.

"I can help you with the rest too if you want." Olivia offers. this will be a nice way to spend the day off.

"You don't have to go to the cafe?" 

"Its my day off."

"That sounds nice." The neighbour says and then turns to Olivia. "What is your name, good neighbour?"

"Olivia." She offers her hand but she knows she has bitten off more than she can chew when the neighbour's massive hands swallows hers and puts on a pressure she cannot return.

"Aleksandra Zaryanova" The neighbour says. "You can call me Zarya."

"Nice to meet you Zarya. I'll be back in a few." Olivia says and walks away, but stops at the door. "What about your breakfast?"

Zarya whips out her pack of sunflower seeds and shakes it. Olivia considers it and then makes a beeline for her shower.

This poor woman needs a hearty breakfast.

______________________________________

Genji knows its unusual of Olivia to not reply to his messages. He knows she feels lonely on her birthdays, but today has to be an exception.

He calls Gabe. Gabe answers on the second ring.

"Yeah, Genji?"

"Hey Gabe I'm gonna be a little late. Gonna go check on Olivia."

"Okay, but be quick. We're gonna be fucked if you go missing on Olivia's day off."

"Got it." Genji says and quickly puts his clothing on. He decides on a huge bar of chocolate and leaves for Olivia's place. He unlocks his bicycle and then pedals away furiously. He knows Olivia is lonely and wants to make sure she is set for the day. Olivia can't handle being still or having a lazy day. She needs to keep doing something. And for that, Genji has loaded some TV serials for her to watch and keep the boredom at bay. Its surprising how much time a good TV series can kill.

When he reaches her apartment, he notices that the door is open and her apartment is empty. 

"Olivia?" he calls while he looks around the house. He checks everywhere- Her bed is made, her phone was found on the nightstand, her shower looks like it has recently been used and there are a few freshly-washed utensils beside her sink.

Genji wanders outside. He contemplates calling her but then remembers that she doesn't have her phone with her.

Then Olivia's distant chuckle is heard from another open door a few doors down.

"Like this?" 

"Heels flat on the ground." A heavy Russian accent replies.

Then a dull thud is heard. More chuckling follows. Genji goes to the door and spots Olivia trying to squat beside a huge Russian woman with short pink hair. The Russian holds her hand to help her balance. Both are oblivious to the newest entrant. Genji watches on curiously.

"This is hard." Olivia snorts.

"Is hard to balance, but useful when there is no place to sit." The Russian says.

Genji decides he can now step in.

"Olivia?" He says. Olivia's head whips upwards and she stands up straight. Genji is slightly sweaty, holding a huge chocolate bar and looks ruffled. Zarya quickly forms an opinion. Olivia runs to him and gives him a hug.

"Why don't you have your phone with you?" Genji asks.

"Well, I was helping Zarya move in. The older neighbours moved out yesterday." She then smacks her forehead. "Where are my manners. Genji, this is Zarya, and Zarya, this is Genji. He's family."

Zarya gets to her feet effortlessly and offers her hand. Genji takes it.

"Pleasure meeting you." Genji says carefully. He then turns to Olivia. "I had come to check on you to see if you were bored but you look occupied."

"Yeah, I'm gonna help Zarya move. Don't worry about me." Olivia smiles.

Genji looks at the thumb drive and the bar of chocolate. He hands them over to Olivia nonetheless. "Here, just in case."

Olivia takes them and then gives him another hug before he leaves. After he is gone, they look at the empty room that has just a couch in its middle like a punchline.

"Shall we begin?" Olivia proffers.

______________________________________

"We need to do something for her birthday." Lena muses when she puts on her apron. "Genji said that Olivia's feeling pretty lonely."

"Well the first thing we should do is make sure you do not have a nervous breakdown from all that pressure." Jesse says and Lena swats at his arm.

"For the first time, He's right" Gabe says. Lena looks at him with a look that says Eh tu, Brute? "What? He has a point."

"Come on, don't gang up on her." Jack swoops in for the rescue. Lena looks relieved. 

Then the doors burst open and Moira enters, her necktie tied around her forehead like Rambo, her sleeves folded, hands poised like claws and looking ready to wage a war. "Lets do this!" she growls. Ice Cold Amelie enters behind her, covering her face with her palm. "She ate all the instant coffee." Amelie explains.

"Oh." The rest say and then relax. "Point her to the sink." Gabe says casually. Amelie grabs Moira by the shoulders and then steers her to the back of the kitchen, to the sink. The rest get ready to take on the onslaught of customers.

Somewhere in the middle of the relaxed breakfast rush, Angela and Emily appear and sit on the stools. Emily looks and Amelie and says hi. Fareeha comes to the counter when she spots the two women. Angela smirks and so does Emily. 

"So, what brings you two beautiful women here?" Fareeha says with a smirk.

"Yeah one woman made away with my clothes during my date and I haven't seen them back since then so I came to check." Angela replies instantly. "And I heard someone here makes some ridiculous Turkish coffee so I had to see."

Fareeha's confident smirk falters and gives way to evident, but subtle sheepishness. "You could have just said yes you know." She replies softly.

"Oh okay." Angela backpeddles. "I just wanted your lovely Turkish coffee."

"Okay coming right up." Fareeha beams, instantly switching from victimized to cheerful. When Fareeha is out of visible range, Emily turns to Angela with a shocked expression on her face.

"What the fuck did that date do to you? Since when did you grow a pair of balls?" Emily says and Ice Cold Amelie snorts.

Angela, true to her usual nature, goes back to being sheepish. Emily laughs and then smacks at her arm. "God don't be a pussy again, you were lovely then! So smooth, and did you see Fareeha's expression then?" Emily then turns to Amelie "How smooth was that huh?"

"Pretty." Amelie agrees. "I haven't seen Fareeha so flustered for a long time. Good job."

"Speaking of flustered, where's Lena?" Emily enquires.

As if on cue, Lena appears with a stack of used plates, dumps them on the counter and then takes off at an amazing speed, without registering either of them. Her movements are jittery. Emily leaps out of her stool and makes a beeline for the stressed woman. Lena is cleaning up the table when Emily catches her.

"You alright?" Emily hazards.

Lena's head snaps upwards and she looks at Emily with wide eyes. Then she relaxes a little. 

"Oh. Hi Emily." Lena says distractedly. Lena has softened drastically towards Emily to the point where they have friendly conversation and occasional flirting behind the scenes while Fareeha and Angela's relationship blossoms center stage.

"Are you okay?" Emily asks again when she has Lena's full attention.

"Yeah I'm okay! I cannot afford to be not okay today, especially when Olivia's not here and the cafe cannot afford anyone slacking and if I slacked I would be bringing the whole cafe down and then the cafe would go into loss and then we might have to close this place down and then I will be jobless and then I would have to live under a bridge and-"

Lena never finishes her sentence because Emily turns her around, and then kisses her, forcing Lena to sit on the table. Lena's eyes go wide for the duration of the kiss and she blushes furiously. Angela, Fareeha and Amelie look on with open mouths, staring at the events that just unfolded. Angela covers hers with her hands.

"What the fuck just happened?" Fareeha croaks.

"I don't know." Amelie croaks back.

Emily breaks off and Lena looks at her with a shocked visage, surprised beyond measure herself. The nearby patrons look on with shock. Most of them are regulars, so they know that Emily has been courting the waitress for some time right now, but this went from zero to a hundred pretty fast.

"Okay now?" Emily says, paying no heed to her surroundings. "You were freaking out and I didn't know what to do."

Lena continues to look on with shock. Silence falls in the cafe. All of the eyes fall on them, waiting for any reaction from Lena, who remains the way she was. With every passing second, Emily starts doubting her decision and grows more and more uncomfortable. After a few more moments she concludes that it was a grave mistake. All she can think of presently is to apologize and hope that whatever progress Emily made was not run into the ground.

"I'm sorr-"

This time, Emily is interrupted as Lena grabs her head by the sides and pulls her hungrily towards herself. Their lips collide and Lena kisses her with a thirst that makes Emily squirm. They continue kissing, and Lena leans back until Lena is lying on the table, and Emily is lying over her. Lena grabs Emily by the butt to keep her in place while she hungrily explored her lips. And this sudden switch of dynamic makes Emily jump.

Back at the counter, the women have been paralysed, with both surprise and shock.

"About time that happened." Jesse says, making them jump. He's nursing a bruise over his left cheekbone that was gifted to him by Fareeha. Jesse turns back and shouts. "Genji! you owe me hundred bucks!"

"What the fuck?" Genji says and runs to the front. "Already? Couldn't these two wait for one more day?" he says disbelievingly.

"Oh hell yes." Jesse says. "Pay up, bitch!"

Genji lets out a defeated sigh and then slaps a hundred dollar bill into Jesse's waiting hands. "There goes my savings."

"Helllllllo money!" Jesse says victoriously. The women look at him and make an enquiring noise. "You see, we had made a bet that they would kiss within a month when Emily made her first entry into this cafe and according to my calendar, today was the day I would have to pay up."

Lena and Emily break off when the need to breathe becomes more necessary than the need to kiss.

"God its been so long." Lena pants "Its been too long. I missed this so much."

"So you're not angry?" Emily pants.

"God, no." Lena replies breathily and grabs Emily by the butt again. "You're so delicious. Come back here."

And they begin kissing again. Jesse cups his hands around his mouth, and so does Genji. Before they shout, Jesse turns to Fareeha. "We agreed on this too." He then turns forwards. "Okay, one, two, three-" 

The two men draw their breaths.

"OH LADIES! FIND A ROOM!" They shout from across the cafe and the patrons burst into scattered laughter. Some laugh, others don't, but all of them smile. Emily and Lena break away rather quickly, making Jesse and Genji double up in laughter, high fiving each other.

"Priceless." Genji laughs. "This is so worth the 100 bucks."

______________________________________

Its Evening by the time Zarya and Olivia have finished the setup. In that time, Olivia learns that Zarya had come over from Russia to study Kinesiology and work part time at a gym. They set the last of the the furniture into place and then look at their handiwork.

"Thank you very much, good neighbour." Zarya says it like she now owes Olivia her life.

"Hey its what neighbours do. Help each other. You will be seeing me asking for your help when I need to move stuff."

"I think you can do that yourself. You are strong woman." She says.

Genji and Jesse walk into the room and grab Olivia by her arms, picking her up and then walking off.

"I'll be seeing- what the fuuuuuuuuuu..." She exclaims but then her voice dies as Genji and Jesse take her away.

"See you soon, Neighbour!" Zarya says it like Olivia had not been taken away by a stranger and her best friend.

"Guys put me down, I was talking to her you shits!" Olivia says.

"Talk to her later." Jesse says. "We got your birthday to celebrate."

As they turn to enter Olivia's house, the room erupts with a huge, chorusing "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!". Olivia spots everyone, Moira, Amelie, Fareeha, Lena, Gabe, Jack, and Brigitte too. She is dropped to her feet. Gabe speaks.

"Feliz cumpleaños, cariño. Gracias por cuidar de nosotros, por apoyarnos y por amarnos como nosotros te amamos a ti." Gabe speaks for the gang.

"That, and honestly thanks for keeping us well fed. I dunno how we would have been if you weren't there feeding us." Fareeha adds. "Love you, Olivia."

Oliva feels tears lick at the corners of her eyes but does not bother to flick them away. How can she say she is alone? How can she possibly feel lonely and deprived of love when there are such people in her life? 

"Thank you so much." She says, her voice shaky. "Just, come here!" 

The gang just swallows her. Every part of her is hugged and the problems associated with a football victory huddle come to light. They break off when Olivia is at the verge of asphyxiating. Then she notices that Lena looks awfully happy. Too happy in fact.

"Lena looks very happy today." She states.

"Oh Lena and Emily made out today." Jesse says nonchalantly. Olivia's eyes widen and she turns to Lena slowly.

"It was just kissing." Lena explains.

"I did see some butt being grabbed here and there." Genji says and Lena looks at him with a betrayed expression on her face. "Just putting it out there."

"Wow, one off day I take and this happened." Olivia smacks her head.

"Well it actually happened because of you." Ice cold Amelie explains. "She was freaking out because we were shortstaffed and that if she freaked out she would burden us. but then the kissing happened and then, well, she turned into something of a machine."

"The classic case of blue balls." Jesse says.

"Blue balls?" Brigitte asks

"Oh you pure soul." Moira says and pats Brigitte on the head. "When did this happen? Who's Emily?"

Wait, so you're telling me you have never met Emily?" Lena asks incredulously, to which Moira shrugs.

"Fuck that," Moira begins, and whips out an expensive bottle of wine. "right now, we celebrate!"

"No, not that again." Brigitte says, her eyes widening at the sight of the bottle.

"Relax little girl, Its stupidly expensive and won't get you drunk." Moira says and puts her arm around Brigitte's neck. "Its not everyday you get to taste the 1947 Cheval blanc."

"Cheval blanc?! Are you fucking kidding me? That thing is over a hundred and twenty five K!" Genji says and snatches the bottle from her hands. "Holy fuck this is legit!"

"The benefits of being rich." Moira says smugly. "And excessively impulsive."

"True that. Impulsive you are." Fareeha says. She then turns to Jesse. "Didn't you have to do something?"

"Do what?" Jesse asks obliviously. Olivia notices the bruise on his cheek and smiles.

Fareeha gives him a meaningful stare and then Jesse remembers. "Yes!" He says and smacks his forehead. Then Olivia is quickly settled onto her sofa and the gang sits around her in a circle. A glass of wine is placed into her hands. The lights are dimmed. Then Jesse appears, wearing cowboy clothing. Olivia knows what's coming.

"I hope you're not gonna do what I think you're gonna do." Olivia says. Jesse pays no heed, and then jumps onto the sofa, straddling her.

"This one's for you, Olivia!" Jesse screams and rips off his shirt. The room erupts with hoots and wolf-whistles. Olivia covers her mouth with her hands in a mixture of horror and second-hand embarrassment, but when she notices the smiles of the people, the Joy with which Jesse performs his 'activities', she goes along with it, finding enjoyment in it, hooting alongwith them. Because she is happy with the people she loves the most, and they are happy too, which matters the most.

And she wouldn't change this moment for anything in the world.

Chapter Text

Genji is bringing the cleared plates from a table to the counter when his phone buzzes. He knows the number well, all too well actually, and he hasn't recieved a call from this caller in ages. He swipes his thumb across the screen rather excitedly. He fails to notice Brigitte behind the counter and Hana sitting across her on the stools.

"You son of a bitch!" Genji says it like a greeting.

"Ayy, Genji, my man!" The caller replies. "How ya doing man? How's the book going?"

"Man, fuck the book, tell me about your adventures in the mountains!" Genji says.

"Dude, the weed here is top notch. Like the people here got the perfect stuff, man."

"Didn't you go there to get enlightened or something?"

"Dude, I am enlightened. I feel like I can float over to the clouds and just chill there man."

"That is not what enlightenment means." Genji facepalms and laughs into his palm.

"Dude, enough of that spiritual shit!" The caller replies "I called you to tell you something. I'm done with my research on the hermits here, and it turns out they're fucking stoners too, so I'm coming back now. You still have your place and my room, right?"

"Never gave your room to anyone else." Genji replies. "Plus, you're the one with instability, Zen."

"Yeah man." Zen chuckles. "Hey, how's Olivia and the guys? Its been forever since I saw them."

"They are as you left them." Genji replies. "Moira will flip on seeing you, though."

"Wait, how's her coffee addiction?"

"Its as fucked as it was before."

"Oh shit. She did not use the program I gave her did she?"

"Damn Zen. Everyone does not have your kind of willpower. Who the fuck manages to quit smoking in four months flat?"

"I did switch to weed, though." Zen corrects. His drawl is noticeable. But that is how he is most of the times.

"And weed doesn't kill you, well atleast until more research surfaces. Plus, coffee is completely harmless."

"Not at her level of consumption. What's she doing, two full pots?"

"Nope, I think she switched to eating instant coffee a few days ago according to Ice Cold Amelie."

"Fucking hell." Zen laughs. "By the way, Amelie's gonna love the blank canvas that my head has become now."

"Don't tell me you shaved your head."

"Fuck yeah, bro. I did." Zen replies. "It suits my tiny-ass head better. I might get some of those dope nine-dot-thingies tattooed on my head too."

"Holy shit." Genji replies. "You have to come back sooner."

"I'm coming this weekend, dumbass." Zen replies fondly. "Try not to go insane by then. Hey, by the way, do any of you want some weed?"

"Fuck. You." Genji says, and hangs up while Zen laughs on the other side.

"Is Zen coming back?" Hana asks

"Oh yeah he is." Genji replies and walks off. Hana squeals in excitement.

"Who's Zen?" Brigitte asks.

"He's another member of this huge family. He was Genji's roommate in university. Used to work in your place. He had taken investigative journalism unlike Genji who took creative writing. Last I heard he was off to some mountains in India I think."

"Oh." Brigitte says and looks down on her hands, continuing to peel a layer of skin off a callous on her palm. Hana notices the palm, how it matches the rest of her hard, graciously muscled body. Hana seizes her chance and takes Brigitte's hands into her own. She runs her thumb along the palm, noting how leathery and worn it feels.

"Your hands are tough." Hana says casually, trying to drink in all of the sensation.

"Yeah. Me and Pappa do a lot of heavy lifting in the workshop. You should see his hands. They are like leather." Brigitte replies nonchalantly.

"I bet they are." Hana replies awkwardly, continuing to idly rub her thumb across her palm. Brigitte likes the touch, and wants more of it, so she takes Hana's palms into her hands, turning them around. Hana's hands are as soft as Brigitte's are tough. The skin is smooth as well. Like freshly kneaded dough.

"Your hands are soft." Brigitte says. "Very soft. I'm envious."

Brigitte wants to hold on. The touch is different. Its not because of the relative softness of her hands but rather something else. The problem is she can't put a finger to what that is. But she likes it. A lot.

Hana's having her share of fun when she notices Fareeha looking over Brigitte's shoulder in the distance. Brigitte is lost in thought while Hana notices Fareeha's eyes going wide. Fareeha mouths a disbelieving 'NO!' and looks on. Hana grimaces and tries to shoo away Fareeha, but she fails.

______________________________________

Its evening, and Genji finds himself sitting beside Ice Cold Amelie, who had come over for lunch. Moira, luckily, was sleeping off after being up researching for two days straight. Moira doesn't always work but when she does, it always is something noteworthy.

"Its Maelstrom, for sure." Genji suggests. Amelie is filling up the crossword and Genji was unable to wrestle the newspaper out of her hands without tearing it, so he resorts to sitting beside her and suggesting her words. Amelie tries out the word and it fits.

"Impressive." She says.

"I'm the one who does it every day." Genji says. "No wonder you took so long to figure out the crossword before I came to help."

"Sore winner." Amelie groans. "Don't rub your English on our faces."

"If you got it, flaunt it." Genji says and shrugs. Amelie smiles and playfully whacks him on the arm. "Hey, by the way, Zen's coming back."

"Really?" Amelie asks disbelievingly.

"And he's shaved his head."

"Are you fucking kidding me?" She exclaims.

"Zen did say you would love the blank canvas on his head." Genji says, and Amelie laughs.

And that is when the man appears. The formal clothing, pencil moustache and the angular face, back again. He plants himself right in front of them. Just like the last time. Amelie's laugh falters. Her expression turns acidic. Genji looks at Amelie first and then at the man. He isn't angry, rather apologetic.

Genji decides to let him have the benefit of the doubt.

"You're back." He says. "More, terrible, coffee?" He adds with a fake french accent. The man twitches a little.

"Sortez!" Amelie roars and slaps the counter with her palm, and quite loudly too, because Genji's arm flies to her knee under the table. Amelie tenses a little when Genji grabs onto her knee.

"What the fuc-" Fareeha says as she emerges and then stops when she notices what is happening. Fareeha's expression hardens and she walks menacingly to the man. Genji shoots off the chair and puts his hands up to restrain Fareeha.

"Whoah, easy!" Genji says. "Atleast let him talk!" He then turns to the man. "You should start talking now. I can't hold them forever."

The man seizes Amelie's hands in his own, startling the frenchwoman.

"Je suis sincèrement désolé de mes actions, je n'avais aucune intentions de vous insultez ou d'insulter les autres." He says and looks Amelie in the eye. His expression is earnest.

"Pourquoi étiez-vous si irrespectueux alors?" Amelie asks, with no intention of backing off.

"I was just researching the kinds and quality of coffee offered here." He explains. "You were the most polite, so I came here first."

"Still not getting you." Fareeha says roughly. "And I'm still not convinced to let you stay."

The man raises his palms as a gesture of surrender. "I own a coffee plantation." He replies. 

"Oh." Fareeha says, feeling rebelled by her expression of both acceptance and confusion. "Take a fucking sales course, french fry. You don't sell shit like this."

"I know." He says, and then produces a bag of coffee from his jacket. "Would you please try this?"

Amelie swipes the bag of coffee beans out of his hands. "What if he wants to poison us?" She asks and the man looks positively stung.

"Relax." Genji says and takes the bag. He disappears into the depths of the kitchen. While he makes the coffee, the counter is silent, and tense. The man keeps flitting his eyes between the two women tensely. Fareeha keeps her gaze trained on the man. So does Amelie.

Then Genji rushes in.

"I will need your card."

______________________________________

Hana sometimes wonder what her real parents would have been like.

Would they have been as loving as Jack and Gabe are? Or would they have been like a conservative family? One that imposed every restriction in the world on her?

However, she can only wonder, because all she knows is Jack and Gabe have been around forever.

Then her phone buzzes. Its a message from Yuna. Yuna is her friend from their eSports team, which they call MEKA. Hana never tried to know the acronym. She was there just for the fun.

Y: Did you ask your dads about the prom?

Hana rolls her eyes.

H: Its not until a long time

Y: We need the time to prepare ;)

H: Its not mandatory to have a date.

Y: No friend of mine goes to the prom single.

Hana breathes in and breathes out, longer than usual.

H: I'll see what I can do.

Y: No, just do.

H: WTF is all this pressure?

Y: I want this prom to be perfect and I want a big picture of all of us in prom with a date so that I can cry over it when I'm old and have kids.

Hana sends her three laughing emojis

Y: But seriously, ask them.

H: Relax, Yune.

Y: DO IT.

Hana sighs silently and unnoticeably. But she does not think Gabe would have noticed even if she had done it out loud. He was too focused in his job, just like he always has been. Hana contemplates the question. She does not feel the pressing need to have a date, but she is under no circumstance going to take someone she barely knows. In the end, she just decides to go with it.

"Dad, what do you think about me getting into a relationship?" Hana puts it out there.

"How old are you?" Jack replies instantly. He's finishing up an order of french fries.

"19"

"Exactly."

"What?"

"Gabe, tell her."

Gabe faces her, and plants his hands besides her legs, on the counter. "When you think of a relationship, you think of the sex, the notion of physicality, the thought of bodies pressing against one another or the responsibility?"

Hana hesitates. Gabe stays absolutely still, eyes fixed on hers.

"Answer me honestly." He adds, carefully. "One, or two?"

"One." Hana says.

"I hope you have the answer." Gabe says it with a tone of finality, but does not bother to look away. He waits for a confirmation.

"But isn't love supposed to mean sex?"

"That's lust, dum-dum." Jack replies without turning back.

"What's the difference?" Hana enquires.

"Lust is thinking with your dick." Gabe says and stops himself. "Or in your case, thinking with your, umm, lady parts."

"And love?"

"Love is thinking with your heart, and by extension, your head as well." Gabe completes "Its a responsibility. Its a life choice. Its as much a big deal as your career choice, because it determines the further course of your life."

"If you truly love someone, you don't need to get them out of their clothes to actually tell them how much you love them. At that point it largely becomes millions of small, thoughtful gestures."

"Like Jack knows that I have the habit of kicking my sheets away in the night so he covers me up again. And again. And again."

Hana opens her mouth to speak.

"So why is sex called lovemaking?"

Jack and Gabe share a knowing laugh. "I saw that coming a mile away." Gabe says.

"What?" Hana says, clearly ruffled now.

"Those two are as same as oil and water." Jack explains. "Sex is basic, its mechanical. Its what animals do."

"And lovemaking is, well, very, very deep. Its-its-" Gabe begins, and then gestures towards his body with clawed hands.

"Hard to explain." Jack completes with a chuckle. "You can't put a word to what that feels like."

Jack completes his job and then turns to face Hana. Gabe gives him a little space so that both of them are facing her.

"The point is, we don't want you to be thinking that way." Jack begins. "We have no qualms with you dating, but we need you to make rational decisions. Make sure you listen to your heart, and use your head. Don't let lust guide you. Don't make snap decisions based on one night stands. People marvelous in bed might not be the best people to spend a life with, though people worth spending life with are always magical in bed. Because its not putting up a performance or reaching heights of stimulation, Hana. Its deeper, it connects hearts, it connects bodies, it connects souls. Its a big deal."

"That is why we usually frown over young people in relationships. All they want is sex. Teenage is wild, Hana. Its just a fucking cocktail of hormones." Gabe explains. "People at this time think relationship is an all season pass for free sex, or making people jealous over Instagram and Snapchat."

Hana's eyes widen. "You know about all that?"

"We know what our daughter does, and internet helps a lot. Twitch seems pretty interesting too! You did make a killing last time." Jack replies

"Don't worry, though, we are not gonna force you to follow us. Our hands are full with the cafe." Gabe says. "And dealing with all the DM's Jack gets on his Instagram account from straight women. Believe it or not, your dad Jack has over a thousand followers, most of which are women."

"Poor them." Jack laughs. "I can sense their disappointment through their messages."

"The point is," Gabe steers the conversation back to topic. "just be careful out there, and I don't think I need to say this but I will- don't be afraid to talk to us. Gay or not, talk to us. We have our shit sorted, carino."

Hana pauses, processes the conversation and then whistles. "This conversation was insanely easy. My friends say that their talk with their parents usually ended up in shouting matches or doesn't even begin, just uncomfortable silence."

"If our daughter has to think twice about sharing anything and everything with us, and if we cannot be there for her when she needs us, we have failed as parents." Jack says. "I can never comprehend the people who can trust their children with all this social media bullshit yet their children are hesitant in talking to them about stuff. The thing is, they want to, but they don't fearing what their parents would think."

"Those are the kind of people who think celibacy is the best and yet watch BDSM in secret." Gabe says. Jack and Hana guffaw. Hana throws her arms around Jack and Gabe and pulls them in with surprising strength. Jack's nutritious sandwiches finally yield their results. "This is why I love you guys so much! The best dads anyone can ask for. Like you guys actually understand rather than accuse us or blame technology."

"Trust me, we have our own set of teenager problems." Gabe says softly while they stretch their impromptu family hug. "You have two dads that never left the teenage."

And Hana does not think to need of her biological parents.

Because fuck it, two dads are always awesome.

Chapter Text

Genji has been getting a lot of phone calls these days. Most of them are Zen updating Genji with every single event that happens in his life and sometimes other calls. He loves to take calls.

But today's call is different. One he does not want to take. Genji reads the number, takes a huge breath and swipes his thumb across the screen begrudgingly.

"Yes?"

He is met with silence on the other side, and some heavy breathing. Genji can sense the hesitation, but he has no time to waste.

"Okay I'm hanging up."

"Genji, wait!" Hanzo finally calls out. Genji puts the phone back to his ear.

"How can I help you?" Genji replies, his voice stiff. He does not want to have this conversation.

"Father is sick." Hanzo says.

Genji pauses for Hanzo to add anything else, but he doesn't.

"Yeah, so?" He replies

"He wants to see you."

"Well, that option isn't on the table anymore, is it?"

"But, he's our father."

"Oh right! He's our father! Who didn't give a single fuck about what made me happy! Who was wrapped around Little Hanzo's finger! Hanzo this, Hanzo that!"

"But Genji-"

"Hanzo. Aniki. Listen to me. I have your number only because Fareeha wouldn't let me delete it. I have zero intentions to have any relations with any of you. The only person I truly counted as my family there is dead. So please. Leave me alone."

"Did you just call me Aniki?"

"It was so that you would shut the fuck up." Genji says, his talk turning to an impatient gritting shout towards the end of the sentence. "Now I'm saying this again. Leave me alone. I don't want anything to do with you or Fath-, I mean Sojiro."

"Genji pleas-"

Genji does not stop to listen. He kills the call and then blocks the number, still not deleting it, because Fareeha didn't ask him nicely, rather tell him that she would skin him alive if he deleted the number.

"Hanzo?" Fareeha asks, and Genji whips around to see Fareeha peeking out from behind the aisle. Genji gives out a low grunt and Fareeha knows what that means. She slowly makes her way towards him. Genji droops on the stool. Fareeha plants her hands on his shoulders.

"Why do you keep telling me to keep his number? Genji asks, not raising his head. "I left that life behind, Fareeha."

"How you feel about your family is a complicated thing." Fareeha says.

"Especially if you have an older brother."

"Yeah, but deep down, you still love em. You think you don't, you feel you don't, but you do. No matter how small or faint that feeling is, it is there, and it will come when its too late. When all you can do is regret."

"So what you're saying is you want me to make up with them?"

"Certainly not. I cannot possibly ever ask you to do that. Hell, if I was in your place, I would do it too. What I'm trying to say is, keep them at the fringes. Don't push them out completely."

"How would that work?"

"Listen, I know this might be very close to impossible, but maybe, just maybe, you come around. Just maybe." Fareeha holds up her hands to surrender. "And what if you have pushed them away completely? What if now you were desperate to make things right, but they are already gone from your life?"

"But Fareeha, you guys are my family now. You guys were there when I needed family the most. Those people cast me away like dogshit."

Fareeha says nothing, instead applies gentle pressure on his shoulders. She then locks eyes with him. 

"Promise me. Promise me you won't cut yourself off completely. For me." She pleads.

Genji sighs resignedly. "Okay. I promise."

Fareeha knows Genji will come around. Its just a matter of when.

______________________________________

Fareeha cocks an eyebrow when she notices only Emily entering. She shrugs off her raincoat and rubs her arms before walking in. The monsoons have taken over the city, and every day is a relentless shower. Emily's hair sticks to her forehead. She plucks them off irritably before finally stopping behind the counter. The first thing she does is look for Lena.

"She'll be back." Fareeha says. "Where's Angela?"

Genji looks at her while she says this to see the expression on her face. Fareeha notices this and stays deadpan. 

"About that. Angela is-"

Fareeha fails to listen to the rest of the sentence because it dies in Emily's throat. And that is because Lena sneaks up from behind and throws her arms around Emily's waist. She snuggles her head between Emily's chin and neck. Emily purrs and leans into the touch.

"Hey." Lena whispers softly and smiles into Emily's neck.

"Hi." Emily whispers back, leaning her head into Lena's, Not moving in order to prevent sacrificing their closeness.

"This is so cute that I'm gonna puke." Genji states. 

"Me too." Fareeha chuckles. 

The two women sway a little, side to side, before breaking off. Emily smiles dreamily and settles into one of the stools. Lena runs off to take orders.

"In retrospect, we should have made the bet on Lena instead." Genji says, to himself, but it is somehow loud enough for Fareeha to hear.

"Bet? What bet?" Fareeha asks and Genji straightens up.

"I said that out loud?" Genji enquires and Emily nods apologetically. Genji turns to Fareeha. "Ignore it."

Fareeha opens her mouth to speak, but she is interrupted by Gabe, who is peeking out from the depths of the kitchen.

"'Reeha the stocks are running low. Refill em." He says. Fareeha nods and walks off. Genji sighs in relief.

"That was a close one." Genji croaks.

"What bet is it?" Emily asks, one of her hands is under her chin.

"You see, when Angela first came here, Fareeha was admiring her a little too enthusiastically, and we guys had made a bet that they would be banging on the floor in three months." Genji says. "Seeing as it has been almost three months and there is still no sign of even a kiss, we can safely assume Lena is going to be pretty rich in a week or two."

"How much was the wager?"

"Amelie and Moira said a thousand each, Jack said a fifty, Jesse and Gabe said a fifty too, and Lena wagered ten against, so if they don't bang in the next week or so, Lena will have herself two thousand one hundred and fifty bucks."

Emily's eyes widen. "Holy shit."

"I know, right?"

"How much did you bet?"

"I didn't." Genji replies. "I was trying to talk them out of it."

"How much will Lena have to pay?"

"Ten each, that makes it fifty. We didn't want to make her broke."

Emily snickers "I understand."

There is a short moment of silence in which Genji sighs at another text Zenyatta just sent him.

Oh boi this hostess is the shit. I'mma get her number

Genji doesn't bother to reply. Emily is thinking something and then speaks as soon as Genji locks his phone.

"Actually, I might be able to help." Emily begins. "Angie is sick due to the changing weather. She's been cranky all day, partly because I don't know how to cook up a comfort food for her, and secretly because she cannot see Fareeha."

"Really?" Genji asks and look at her with piqued interest. "So, what you got on your mind?"

______________________________________

"Where the hell are you? Its nine in the night!" Angela tries to sound angry but with a runny nose, she ends up sounding even more harmless. She throws another wrapper of a granola bar into the bin, but it bounces off and lands on the floor. Angela looks at it with a betrayed expression, like it was the last thing she expected to betray her. Gravity and her ability to throw things into a bin. Her skill was honed when millions of throws were attempted when every botched sheet of paper was discarded with thinly veiled anger. Soon, the shots started landing, to the point where Angela was binning things across the room without even realising it. Each arc was perfect, like a finely composed piece of Beethoven.

Emily has given up on convincing Angela to join a basketball team, because the woman doesn't even have time to breathe. And the idea of exercise seems to fall on deaf ears every time. But that could partly be Emily's gay head thinking about all the muscled fit women and maybe snag one for herself.

"I'm on the way, almost there." Emily replies from the other side of the phone. "Hang on!"

Angela hangs up and pulls another tissue out of the box, after discarding the one in her hands. The bin beside her bed is overflowing with spent tissues, and on the nightstand is a myriad variety of OTC medicine, all meant to make sure she isn't sick but none apparently working. Angela wrings the fresh tissue in her hands with exasperation. She curses her sickness, and then herself for catching such a bad fever. She had meant to ask Fareeha out this time.

But the day off showed her how many holes her plan had. She didn't have a vehicle of her own. Emily's scooter barely qualified as one, if it did manage to start, and it always started when Emily did it, and never when she tried. The second problem was the venue. It was raining like hell and with no vehicle, she had no option but to choose something in the city itself. But then what would she choose that wouldn't blow every last bit of her purse into oblivion?

Angela hears the sound of the door opening and she decides she will talk to Emily about it, but all her plans come down crashing and burning when Fareeha enters the room. Fareeha, in a split second, averts her eyes and Angela's arms fly to cover herself, as she has been sitting in nothing but a very loose vest to cool off. And it was loose was probably an understatement. Neither Emily nor Angela know about the source of the garment, but since have concluded it was inherited by them from the earlier dwellers of the room.

"Whoops, sorry." Fareeha says and darts out of the room quickly while Emily enters like nothing happened. Angela scowls at Emily.

"What?" Emily whispers.

"What is she doing here?" Angela hisses, hands still crossed over her chest.

"I got soup!" Fareeha replies from outside the room and Angela goes red when she realises how loud she was. "Emily told me you were sick. So I made you chicken soup and Gabe sent pancakes!"

Angela jabs her finger toward the chair, on which a T shirt is hanging. Emily passes the shirt to her and Angela slips it on. The shirt says SHOW ME YOUR KITTIES. "You can come in!"

Fareeha walks in and Angela notices a flask in one hand and a wad of foil in the other, which would have to be the soup and pancakes mentioned earlier. She moves her legs to the side to let Fareeha sit. Fareeha looks uncomfortable, albeit slightly. She looks like she is out of her element. Which is saying a lot, considering that never happens with Fareeha.

"How are you feeling?" Fareeha asks.

"I'm okay?" Angela says and curses herself for sounding so uncertain. She notices Fareeha's gaze wandering to the nightstand where the medicines are.

"You sure?" Fareeha asks and Angela looks at the nightstand, and then down. Fareeha chuckles.

"Here." She says and opens the flask. "This should fix stuff up."

Angela is handed a cup full of hearty soup, that smells very nice and drives away the sick air that has filled the room. Angela takes a sip and is sure she has tasted liquid gold. She smacks her lips appreciatively.

"Ah, you like it!" Fareeha says. "I wasn't sure of what you would like so I took some risks."

"This is so good!" Angela says. "What did you put in it?"

Fareeha wags her finger. "Not telling. Want you to keep visiting me."

Angela smiles. Emily is nowhere to be found. She is in the living room, texting.

plan is success they talking rn

Genji's reply is instant.

Good. lets ride it out now.

______________________________________

Jack notices Gabe's phone buzzing beside him on his nightstand. Gabe had gone to sleep earlier, as he occasionally does, or maybe it could be the aftermath of the previous night where Jack had been a lot more than frisky. Jack checks the number, and his face changes to confused seriousness. He then vacates the room with the phone, closing the door behind him.

"This is off schedule. Is there a problem?" Jack says.

"They moved him to the ICU." The voice replies.

"Oh." Jack says, unsure whether he should be happy or serious. "How much time does he have?"

"Two months max." The voice replies. "But this time he doesn't look that good."

"Is that good or bad?" 

"A little bit of both. I will move there as soon as its over."

"Do you have a place to live here? Should I search you one?"

"That would be nice. Where's Gabriel?"

"He slept early."

"And her?"

"She's dating now."

there is visible silence on the other end.

"She... she started dating again?"

"Yeah, university girl, practicing neurosurgery." Jack says. "Real sweet too."

Another silence. "She's moving on. Finally."

______________________________________

Emily has been bored into sleeping. Angela and Fareeha have been talking and laughing for hours now. The soup and pancakes have long since been finished and Angela is listening intently, with Fareeha telling her anecdotes about all the humorous events that have happened in the past. It started with an awkward joke, then it got better little by little. Angela pitched in too, doing her best to match Fareeha's enthusiasm. Their laughter dies down for the last time and then Fareeha looks Angela over.

"Feeling good now?" she asks.

Angela quickly checks her temperature by palming her forehead. "Looks like the soup did its magic."

"So did the pancakes." Fareeha says and they make eye contact. Silence falls for a minute before the contact breaks off and Fareeha searches around desperately for something to look at. She then rubs the back of her neck and laughs nervously. Then her eyes fall on the mess in the room.

"This room needs cleaning." Fareeha states. "Lemme clean it up for you."

"No you don't need to do that!" Angela protests.

"You're sick, and the state of the room isn't doing you any favors either. I got this." Fareeha says and gets to work. Angela straightens to help but a prohibitive finger from Fareeha stops her. Angela notices Fareeha move. The way the ornaments on her hair sway when she bends over to pick something up. The way her lips are curled into the faintest of smiles.

Its a matter of picking up things and putting them into a bin. Its long, repetitive and tedious, but Fareeha seems to take some kind of pleasure in doing it. There is no grudging. Its easy for her to do. Maybe that is why she loves the life of a cafe barista and not of a hard-charging aspiring neurosurgeon. She has embraced the monotony of repetition and done it head on with no fear. She likes the predictability, the calmness of it all. The rush of a cafe is worlds apart from the nerve-wrecking tension of the surgery table. It harks Angela back to simpler times. When people had time to stop and smell the roses. Know the difference between the blue of the sea and the blue of a lake.

Their lives are worlds apart. Angela's is walking a razor-thin tightrope and balancing a plate on her nose. Fareeha's is like the cushion under the tightrope, always there, saving people like Angela from a bad fall into insanity with no therapy, rather the simplest of things- good food, cooked by a person who loves people and wants to see them happy. It is as important a job as any.

And then Angela's gaze wanders to Fareeha again, and this time she is lifting off the bin and taking it away. There is no strain in her body. Its like she was born to lift things, and yet she looked like all the muscles in her body were built for dexterity rather than pure power. It makes her trustworthy, and safe to be with, in a single glance. The way the muscles of her corded forearms bunch together, looking like steel cables, ones that were at home anywhere, be it delicate tasks or things that require strength. 

There is something about the way the woman in front of Angela moves, and its not the muscles or the way she hums to herself while she works. Its a different thing. Right there but so hard to explain to someone who doesn't see it.

Before Angela would like it to end, the last wrapper, incidentally the one that refused to bin, was banished to the bag with the rest of its brethren. Fareeha lets out a sigh, goes to wash her hands, with directions from Angela, and then returns with her intoxicating, peaceful, faint smile. She sits where she did when she first sat.

"You get some sleep. Its getting late now. And please take tomorrow off too."

"I will."

"I can get you the breakfast tomorrow as well if you want."

"I think I'm good enough to get the breakfast myself now." Angela replies "Your soup made sure of that."

Fareeha smiles. "I think I will be going then."

Fareeha is about to get up when Angela pulls her into a hug. Fareeha is shocked into stillness, her arms still by her sides.

"Thank you very, very much for getting me the food and keeping me company. Means a lot to me. A lot." Angela says. Fareeha slowly raises her hands and hugs her back.

"It was the least I could do." Fareeha replies.

And then it hits Angela. This is the perfect moment to do this.

"Can we go out, again?" Angela says, and Emily wakes up in shock in the next room. She frantically searches for her phone and conviniently forgets to listen Fareeha saying "Yes" sheepishly. She finds her phone and texts Genji.

E: angie asked her out omg

G: Good progress.

E: no angie asked her not farreeha

G: Its Fareeha.

E: thats not the point rn I will have to scout out places for her

G: Please. Don't. We tried last time and it was disastrous. Let them figure this out.

Emily tries to think what could they have possibly done that it turned out disastrous. She tries, and fails, and then decides to go back to sleep when Fareeha leaves the dorm.

Chapter Text

"Bro!" Zenyatta screams across the cafe, as soon as he enters the place from the front door, his arms open wide.

Genji's head whips up at this sound, and he stops writing the reciept. "Bro!" He screams back, over the din of the cafe, opening his arms equally wide. Genji vaults over the counter and they both run towards each other. Genji almost knocks over Lena, who jumps away just in time, her arms holding trays. They had just began setting up for today's cafe duties. 

Genji and Zenyatta practically tackle each other and then jump around in a huddle like one of those obnoxious college football players.

"How the fuck are ya?" Zen shouts.

"I missed you so much!" Genji shouts back. "We all missed you!"

"You did?" Zenyatta asks, raising an eyebrow.

"Yeah, sure." Gabe appears from the back. "You were alright." He says and bumps his fist with Zenyatta's when he offers it. Then Olivia comes in and gives him a much gentler hug. They break off and Zenyatta looks around.

"Where are the rest?" He asks.

"Oh they haven't come yet. Jack's sleeping upstairs." Gabe replies. Zenyatta notices the scarf around his neck.

"I can see why. He was hunting. Rawr." Zenyatta says and makes a kitty paw. Gabe goes red but hides it effectively.

"And yeah, your job is gone." Genji says apologetically. "We were getting shortstaffed so we needed to fill the spot."

Zen smiles, and something about the smile makes Genji groan and facepalm.

"That's gonna be interesting."

______________________________________

Zenyatta reaches for the apron as soon as Brigitte does and both of them lock eyes at the same time.

"Now who the fuck are you?" Zen says. Brigitte recoils a little.

"I, um, work here?" Brigitte says uncertainly.

Zenyatta lets go of the apron but takes a step towards Brigitte. He is shorter by an inch, but still controls the physicality of the conversation. He faces her threateningly. Brigitte lets go of the apron and takes a step back. Zenyatta might be bald and having a monk like nine circles tattooed into his head, he still looks scary.

"Now listen to me you little shit. You come into this cafe and take my job? Who the fuck do you think you are?" He says, looming before her. Brigitte shrinks despite her size advantage. Zenyatta can make anyone piss their pants. Brigitte's eyes dart around, trying to look for anyone that could help her. Her lip quivers. She was offered the job by Jack, it was smooth sailing, but why didn't anyone tell her that such a job could also be monopolized? Why not even Fareeha, her mentor?

Brigitte's eyes start to water. "B-b-but I was offered this job!" She protests feebly. That is when Hana spots them. Her eyes go wide. She starts walking rapidly towards the two. And right when Brigitte is about to start crying, Zen drops his facade and chuckles.

"Oh my god Zen! Stop harassing her!" Hana chides. Zen laughs.

"Goddamn this little girl pussied out!" Zenyatta says in between laughs. "How does she handle asshat customers?"

Brigitte looks equally horrified and confused by this sudden change. Hana puts her hand on Brigitte's shoulder. "Brigitte are you okay?"

Brigitte does not reply, and looks down. Zen swats the apron out of the hanger and holds it out in front of her. "Lesson one." He begins. "Always hold your ground. You never have anything to fear if you are right. Who the fuck taught you, by the way? Lena?"

"Oi!" Lena calls out from a distance.

"She's still learning!" Hana replies.

"I taught her." Fareeha replies out of nowhere.

"No shit! No doubt she pussied out! You never tell the important stuff first!" Zen snaps. Fareeha looks offended. She takes a threatening step towards him. Zenyatta holds his ground and faces her. "Oh, getting angry, are we?"

"I'm still at the fence." She says, and grabs him quickly in a standing arm lock.

"Not this again." Zenyatta says, and quickly reverses their positions without effort, and a bored expression on his face, saying that he has dealt with this too many times. Fareeha flails uselessly and despite her size and strength, she fails to break out. "You will never win, Amari! Never! Stop trying!" He says and releases her. Fareeha rubs her shoulder and grimaces. Brigitte looks on in horror at the events that unfolded, seeing her strong and brave mentor being rendered useless by someone who has nine circles on his head and is smaller than she is.

"It was atleast worth trying." She says.

"You know what? I missed that." Zenyatta says. He and Fareeha bump fists, like it was what they did.

______________________________________

It was a convenience that Zen returned on Friday, meaning he was able to meet Amelie. Moira, however, was no where to be seen, on the pretext of some research she did. Brigitte was helping Olivia cook when Zen enters the kitchen.

"Hey kid." 

Brigitte turns around because she knows she's being addressed.

"I don't think if you noticed it or not, but I was messing with you. I wanted to see how good you were. But I was wrong to test someone who had zero experience."

Brigitte locks eyes with him. He has maintained eye contact all this time.

"Sorry." He says with a tone of finality and leaves, not giving Brigitte time to reply. Brigitte turns around slowly.

"He's improved tons since the last time I saw him." Olivia says, stirring the contents of the pot. "It was practically impossible to get a sorry out of him earlier. We knew when he was serious and when he was kidding though. He used to let us know he was sorry, but never say. Maybe the hermits did smooth out his ragged edges."

Soon, everyone settles in a circle and start eating. Fareeha then remembers she still hasn't told Gabe about the date.

"Hm, Gabe, could I get an off tomorrow?"

"Day off? What's up?"

"Angela, uhm, uh, asked me out."

And the whole room explodes in wolf-whistles, cheering and encouragements.

"So, 'Reeha, how is Angela?" Zen asks.

"Kinda like Brigitte when you were harassing her." Hana cuts in.

"What the fuck."

"No nothing like that." Fareeha corrects. "She was a bit sheepish when she was new here but now she's alright."

"Hey, that opinion sounds biased." Jack says, and the rest laugh. "You can have your off."

"Hey, um, Gabe? I need an off tomorrow too." Brigitte pipes up this time.

"What do you need it for?" Gabe asks, turning to her.

"Pappa and Mama are going out for the weekend and I need to watch my young siblings." She replies.

"Hmm..." Gabe muses, and his eyes fall on Hana, who is eating obliviously. He gets an idea. "You want Hana to help?"

Hana sits up bolt-straight, and ignores the morsel of food in her mouth. "What?"

"That sounds like a good idea! Hana is wonderful with children!" Olivia chimes in. Lena, who has been listening all this time, leans towards her left, where Hana is sitting dumbfounded. 

"That's the chance, love, take it!" Lena whispers.

"She's right." Fareeha whispers from the other side. "Snag that beefcake before someone else does!"

"But I don't know if she's gay!" Hana hisses, but the talking from the other members drowns it out. Amelie leans in from Fareeha's other side. 

"You guys are too loud." Amelie warns Fareeha, and then goes back to her eating.

"Sorry." Fareeha whispers softly and then leans into Hana again. "Just try. Maybe she is gay. Then you get your date for the prom! You can show Yuna up!"

"First Yuna, now you guys too? Come on!" Hana protests.

"I do think that sending Hana would be a good social activity though." Genji adds, and Hana glares in his direction.

"I agree." Amelie chimes in. Jesse nods in approval

"I DO TALK TO PEOPLE!" Hana screams over the din.

"Calm down there, Hana." Zenyatta says. "Just go with the flow."

Only if Zen knew about her predicament. 

"I'll fill in for the kid." He says.

______________________________________

Moira gets off her bed, kneading her eyes violently, cursing whoever knocked the door and dared to wake her up. These days, it was those pesky children next door who liked to bug her when she slept, and never when she was awake, but the problem was she slept in the daytime and did her research in the night. Between all those conventions, occasional high tier surgeries and her shenanigans, she had no time to sleep in the night, and thus she decided to sleep whenever she can, wherever she could.

But today, she had been disturbed one too many times, and today she was going to open the door and-

"You fuck-ing-ing-ing-ingholyshit, Zen!" Moira says and engulfs Zenyatta in her arms. Zen's arms flop around as Moira swivels side to side. "Zen, I missed you so so much!"

"Goddamit woman!" Zen chokes out. Moira is surprisingly strong despite her gangly frame. Blame Jack's sandwiches and Gabe's pancakes, as well as her lifting heavy scientific instruments. She hates when anyone else except her touches her stuff. Not to mention the books when she was actually a student. "How much do you lift?"

"Enough to lift my stuff." Moira says, pressing her cheek into Zenyatta's head. "Nice haircut."

"Thanks. Were you sleeping?" Zen says, looking at her disheveled appearance.

"No." Moira says and looks behind her to see if her house is presentable. It isn't. There are cups of coffee strewn all over the place. For once, she wonders when she bought so many cups of coffee.

"Come on." Zen says and Moira lets him in. Zen looks at the mess and whistles. "No doubt Gabe was wondering where all the cups went. I can't take these back on a bus."

Moira rubs the back of her neck. She rushes to the sofa to make some space for Zen to sit. And then the clock catches her eye.

"Oh fuckfuckfuckfuck fucking fuck-" She exclaims and runs to her wardrobe.

"Late again?" Zen asks.

"I have surgery day at the hospital today. Usually I'm the on call surgeon for high importance cases to accommodate my research but one day a week I need to stay there." Moira says from the depths of her wardrobe.

"Okay get ready quick. I'm getting these cups. You still have the Jag right?"

"Yeah. Keys are on the nightstand."

Zenyatta goes into her bedroom and stops in shock. Clothes strewn everywhere, on her bed as well, and there is just enough space for Moira and her comforter. He navigates through the mess and grabs the keys. He collects the cups and deposits them in the XJ's trunk, and then proceeds to take the car out of parking, stopping right outside the foyer of her apartment. Moira comes running and crashes into the passenger seat, closing the door a little harder than necessary. Zen drives off slowly, befitting the image of the car.

"I'm in a hurry, Zen."

"You haven't had breakfast either. Jack's making you sandwiches, so we will grab those and then go to the hospital."

Moira says nothing. Several moments pass in silence. Moira starts tapping her foot on the mat.

"Can we go a little faster?" 

"I have atleast a hundred bucks worth of ceramic in the trunk. I know this thing is a rocket, but I need the cups to reach the cafe in one piece."

"Fine." Moira huffs indignantly. They do reach the cafe eventually, where Olivia comes outside, holding a pair of sandwiches in one hand and coffee in a paper cup in the other. Its flat white with relatively weaker coffee so that Moira isn't too jittery. Held between her fingers in the hand that holds the sandwich is also a small water bottle. Jesse follows her. Zen opens the trunk and Jesse empties it.

"Buenos dias!" Olivia says and hands her the sandwich first. Moira opens her mouth wide to bite almost half the sandwich off. "No!" Olivia chides. Moira closes her mouth completely.

"You guys do know that I have to be somewhere in time, right?" Moira asks them, turning around to look at Zenyatta too.

"The hospital calls us first, if you remember. It was your idea to do that." Olivia says. "I told them you will be late. So eat like a human!" 

Moira grumbles and starts eating while Olivia keeps a close watch. Jesse has emptied the trunk and taken all the cups in for washing by the time Moira has finished her sandwiches. Olivia then hands her the bottle of water, with a prohibiting gaze. Moira takes the bottle and drinks slowly, draining it whole. Then, finally, she is handed the cup of coffee. 

"Llévatela!" Olivia says and closes the door.

The Jaguar glides away, faster than before, but still slow for Moira's standard. They invariably end up on a long red light. The traffic is ridiculous. Moira huffs.

"I envy you." Zen blurts out.

"What?" Moira says, taking a sip from her cup.

"Look at yourself. Neurosurgeon, doing high profile cases, too busy to even sleep or clean up."

"I always thought you saw me as a rich brat."

"I didn't know you then." Zenyatta says in a low tone.

Moira shifts in her seat to face him fully. "Zen. What's up?" She says and puts her coffee in the cup holder.

"You know I feel just, just, aimless." Zen says. "I did journalism, I hung out with the hermits in the mountains, I look like a monk, but what next? I don't have anything now. I crossed off my bucket list for college but what now?"  

Moira says nothing, because she knows he has more to say. She waits.

"I never had a calling. I still don't. I just-, I just don't know where this life will go next." Zen says, hanging his head. The traffic has no intention of moving. Moira looks out the window, and a smile creeps on her face.

"You know? I don't know what I'm doing either." 

Zen straightens. "What?"

"Yeah."

"What do you mean? You're successful, we are sitting in a fucking Jag as we talk!" Zen protests. "This is the epitome of success!"

Moira waves her hand dismissively. "Its all just details. Money. Cars. They just come and go." Moira says and turns to look Zen in the eye. "I do this because this is the only thing I'm capable of doing. This is the only thing I have been doing all my life. I'm so practiced at it that its autopilot. I sometimes scare myself when I notice how many days I go without actually thinking. Without actually searching the last recesses of my mind. It all feels robotic. I have started charity work these days. Today's day is free for anyone that needs a neurosurgery. I work late into the morning today. That still doesn't make me feel much. It doesn't make me cry when I see people cry in joy that their problems have been fixed. I do feel happy, relieved, but not like crying. It doesn't hit me as hard." She says, and goes back into staring out the window, her hand under her chin.

"But isn't that good? Being so good at something so important that you don't have to think about it?" Zen replies.

"You know why I'm either busy or riled up all the time? Because I'd drive myself insane if I thought about where my life was supposed to go. This job might not make me feel fulfilled, but it keeps everything numb. When I actually start thinking I dump all this caffeine in my body." 

"So, we are both clueless about life." Zen replies with a defeated tone. "I thought I would find answers with you."

"You couldn't find the answer when you were smoking weed with hermits. How could you find answers in a coffee-crazed surgeon?" Moira says and chuckles when Zen smiles at the realisation. "I'm just winging it for now. Maybe the answer will show itself. Sometimes, you find answers when you didn't know you were looking."

The traffic finally starts clearing ahead of them. Zen rotates the dial to put the car into drive. He revs the engine and takes the parking brake off. Moira knows what's coming.

"I like the way that sounds."

Chapter Text

"Thanks a lot for helping me." Brigitte says with an innocent earnestness only she can manage. Behind her is the commotion associated with a bustling household. Only a little part of her is visible through the half empty door. Just her head and arm.

The house is a happy one. On a farm estate, with a garage attached to the side. The front of the house looks rather run of the mill, but it looks like the ones people see in movies. Wood construction, windows with wooden frames, a big teak door with an ornate knocker, and not to mention the tiled roof with the monstrous chimney. Hana knew about the place only in words, as Gabe often frequented the place with his bike, trusting Brigitte's father with the Ducati's care and upkeep. The bike was rare, and it was a welcome relief when Gabe found out he would not have to give up his prized bike for the fear of inappropriate maintenance.

Hana readjusts the monstrous bag hanging by her side, containing a gaming console, as well as a lot of books, and a board game. It has been weighing her down a little, but she hasn't let Brigitte take the bag either. The sky is cloudy, and the winds are cool.

Its pride that she inherited from her fathers, if not their genes, or their immense strength. Jack and Gabe still toss her around the way they did when she was a baby.

"Hey, no issue. I would have been getting bored all day long anyway." Hana says and waves it off. She manages to avert her eyes from Brigitte's arms, which she has never seen sleeved. As if the universe is testing her ability to resist temptation.

"Oh please do come in." Brigitte says and then lets the door open wide. There is no one in her immediate line of sight, but as soon as Hana crosses the threshold of the door, she is bombarded with bodies, like flies attacking a leftover morsel of food. Hana raises her arms to accomodate.

She registers a pair of twin boys, a girl who would be a few years smaller than she is, and a cat that looks at home in a mountain setting. Its fur is huge, and Hana is the enemy, seeing how it hisses.

"Shush, Lutefisk!" Brigitte scolds the tiger patterned cat, and the feline abandons its initial hostility to perch atop the wide windowsill. Hana then notices a baby in Brigitte's arms, something she didn't notice before. The smaller children are chased away for the moment.

"Wow, you have quite a job on your hands with all these little brothers and sisters."

"Oh shit I did it again didn't I?"

"Did what?" Hana asks, puzzled.

"These are my nieces and Nephews. I'm the runt of the litter. I always call them siblings for some reason."

Hana stops for a moment to think. "Literally or figuratively?" She asks, almost drooling at the possibility of stronger women.

Brigitte laughs. "Its more figuratively. I did defeat my bigger brother Hans once in arm wrestling. He's been gifting me protein powders since then as a running joke."

Hana swallows. "I see."

______________________________________

"So, pull the choke, tilt the scoot to the side of the engine and then?"

"Kickstart." Angela says, completing Emily's sentence with an understanding nod.

"Okay, try it." Emily says and steps back. Angela positions herself like Emily mentioned, and then went through the motions. Emily practically crosses her fingers as Angela positions her foot on the kickstarter.

Emily holds her breath as Angela heaves and kicks.

The engine sputters to life. 

"You did it Angie!" Emily hollers and throws her arms around Angela. Angela grins, hugging her back with a single arm, holding on to the scooter with her other. Emily breaks off, and then looks at the scooter again. "Do this a few more times?"

Angela nods, encouraged and repeats, successful each time. Emily looks at her roommate proudly.

"Now go, before you get late. This thing is slower than you think." Emily says, hands her one helmet to wear, the other to carry for Fareeha. As Angela sputters away on the scoot, Emily shouts after her.

"Go get em, Tiger!"

Angela nearly loses her balance.

______________________________________

"So this is Adriel and Adryan." Brigitte says, pointing to the twins. Hana waves, the twins wave back excitedly. They have ginger hair, and a similar explosion of freckles across their faces as Brigitte. They are quite sturdily built for kids.

"This is Hannakarin." Brigitte says. The preteen decides to shake hands with her instead. Hannakarin has short blonde hair, terminating a little over her chin, and she has traditional Swedish clothing, though slightly modernised. Her hands are rough, just like Brigitte's, but not as much. Hana suspects helping out at the farm. And she can spot a similar musculature.

"And this cute little thing here-" Brigitte says and bounces with the baby a little, to settle him. "-is Magnus." Magnus has skin devoid of the wrath of freckles, light brown hair and the brightest baby blue eyes. Magnus runs his little hands through Hana's hair, and fortunately, he doesn't pull. Brigitte then makes a discovery.

"Ugh, looks like Magnus needs a diaper change." Brigitte says warily. "Children, make Hana comfortable while I clean up?"

Brigitte does not wait for a response and walks off. Hannakarin rolls her eyes.

There is an awkward silence for a few moments. Hana decides to break the ice.

"So, guys, you have any ideas?" Hana says, her hand on the bag.

"Actually," Hannakarin says, hands behind her, twisting left and right with a mischievous smile while the twins encourage her. "We had some ideas." she completes, Looking at Hana's open hair with a mixture of longing and anticipation.

The bag is stowed away and forgotten, and Hana is surrounded before she knows it.

______________________________________

"Ready?" Angela asks, taking the scooter off the stand when Fareeha sits on it.

"Yeah." Fareeha says, clipping the helmet to her head. Fareeha clutches the handles on the sides of the seat.

The engine spits again as they move, a rather slow pace set by the scooter, compared to the far superior Ducati Sport Classic 1000's ability to both gain speed and hold on to it. They make their way to the destination for today. Fareeha has no idea where they are going, so she rides it out.

The wind is much less violent, and rather than a powerful thrum that washes you with superiority, the noise is a wheezy putter by the two stroke engine, that would probably do nothing to change their current speed even if the throttle was opened to the stop.

After weaving through traffic, Angela stops by the sidewalk and puts the scooter on its stand. Fareeha looks at the destination and smiles, hiding it right before Angela can see.

"I have heard this place serves really good food." Angela says.

"I sure hope it does." Fareeha says, hiding her smile again. They ascend the stairs and enter the restaurant. The waitress there looks at them, and recognition spreads across her face when she spots Fareeha.

"Welcome back!" She says, and Angela looks between the two in utter confusion. "Table for eight?"

"Make that two." Fareeha replies with a smile. "Its just me and her today."

"Sure." The waitress says with a nod.

"How is the chef doing?" Fareeha asks, and Angela looks on in a mixture of defeat and hopelessness. She wanted to surprise Fareeha.

"I'll be sure to send your word." The waitress says while she leads them to a table in the corner. its open, and rather secluded too. "Welcome to La Casa de mi Abuela." The waitress says with a smile directed at Angela. Angela flops on the chair with a huff.

"Angela, are you okay?"

Angela says nothing, and breathes out violently. Fareeha chuckles.

______________________________________

Magnus's diapers have been replaced in a secluded room and when Brigitte comes back with the baby in her arms, she is in for a sight.

Hannakarin is finishing up on the braided low bun on the back of Hana's head, while she plays a round of chess with Adriel and Adryan. For a moment, Brigitte pauses, mesmerized by the sight of Hana smiling when she is shown the product of Hannakarin's handiwork. The twins cheer on in their own way, with hoots that certainly weren't learnt about from the house.

Brigitte feels a little something. A little warmth in the cheeks. A little tingle in her hands, and a little weak in her knees.

"Moster, how does she look now?" Hannakarin asks, with an expectant expression on her face. The twins look on in anticipation too.

"It looks beautiful." Brigitte says in a way that makes Hana turn around, because she did not know what the word 'moster' meant. She goes red in response and buries her face in her palms. The laughter rings through the air, filling the house.

After a few moments of peace, Hannakarin has taken a liking to the visitor, and so have Adriel and Adryan. They look at Hana with a fondness only kids can muster. Brigitte weaves in between the four of them, helping the twins with chess, juggling Magnus between her arms, and visiting the kitchen to figure out a way to feed everyone. And to sort through what she felt when she saw Hana. It wasn't like anything she ever felt before. Something different, intoxicating.

Outside, Hana spots the cat, who looks at her warily, back tensed like a drawn bow, teeth just at the edge of being bared. Like an arrow just waiting to be released.

They lock eyes, Hana trying to figure out what is going on, and the cat deciding if it should attack or not.

Hana tries the friendly approach, and smiles. Lutefisk is thrown out of whack, the feline expecting, and conditioned against, a hostile outsider behavior. The feline relaxes, but still walks the other way, circling her, and settling into Hannakarin's lap, as if marking its territory. Hannakarin absentmindedly strokes the head, while thinking hard against the twins.

"Nice cat." Hana begins, taking the offensive once again. Lutefisk raises its head, looking at Hana with mixed surprise.

"Dad brought him from the farm one day when he found him alone as a kitten in his farm, buried in hay trying to keep himself warm. He has become the house cat since then. He never leaves me anywhere. He was really skittish when he first met moster, but he loves her too now."

There is silence in which Lutefisk looks on, egging her.

"What breed is he? I haven't seen a tiger-patterned long haired cat in my life." Hana says with intrigue, and Lutefisk looks on in exasperated surprise, as if worried about the teenager's questions.

"We don't know actually." Adriel explains. "We have a running joke that Lutefisk's mum was a tiger and his dad was a very brave cat." He says, and the twins snicker wildly, and prompting Hana to snort. Hannakarin rolls her eyes. Hana whistles internally at how well Lutefisk can follow a conversation.

And then comes the moment both of them were dreading.

"Would you like to hold him?" Hannakarin offers, picking Lutefisk in her hands, surprising both of them. Hana takes the offensive once again. She will make everyone in the house like her.

"Put him here." Hana says, reorienting herself so that Lutefisk can be placed in her lap. Lutefisk is slowly lowered, and Hana looks on precariously. As soon as contact is made, she expects something to happen, but nothing does. Hannakarin retreats her hand and Lutefisk looks at the girl with a mixture of betrayal and surprise. Hana and Lutefisk retreat as far away from each other while not moving themselves relative to each other, and Hannakarin decides its enough.

"Looks like we should let him take things at his own pace." The girl says, and puts Lutefisk back into her lap. Lutefisk looks positively relieved. Hana notices that Brigitte is nowhere to be seen, and curious, she goes to the kitchen.

Brigitte is rummaging through the cupboards, juggling Magnus in her arms, trying to find anything that she could use to make some food.

"Need help there?" Hana asks, and Brigitte turns around, fixating on Hana's hair for a moment before nodding with a smile. The warmth in her chest grows.

What is this?

"If you could hold Magnus for a moment I could try making something." Brigitte says.

Hana, unsure of how one handles a child, says yes nonetheless, taking Magnus in her arms, expecting an explosion of either poo or crying. She looks into the baby blue eyes, and none of those things happen. Hana smiles awkwardly, and the baby responds in kind, much more comfortable and genuine in his smile. With the ice broken, Hana removes herself and the baby from the equation, after suggesting that sandwiches will do.

Lutefisk watches as Hana walks out of the kitchen, with the baby in her hands, smiling and laughing with her, and Hana looks on with innocence, offering friendliness to the feline.

And then, Brigitte arrives in a seriously short time with sandwiches for lunch, which they all gobble down with incredible quickness. Hana then offers them gaming and they take it, with Lutefisk skirting around, watching the members of the family warm up to the outsider.

Halfway through the evening, Lutefisk decides that the visitor isn't very bad after all.

______________________________________

Zenyatta and the others are gathered at Fareeha's and Jesse's apartment. Jesse is fumbling with the wires while Genji gave suggestions as to where things would go. Olivia is fixing food while Moira and Ice Cold Amelie chatted with her.

"Been quite a while since this happened." Zenyatta says, entering with empty bowls for Olivia to load popcorn and other snacks.

"True that." Moira says. "But we did keep up with the fridays, though."

"Damn, I missed those."

"Don't worry, the best thing about fridays is that it comes often." Moira replies with an edge of exasperation and the women giggle. Zenyatta laughs out loud.

Genji and Jesse get in with defeated expressions on their faces. Amelie reads them quickly.

"Still no luck?" She asks. Jesse and Genji shake their heads. Amelie pushes them aside and walks off, and the two follow her.

And then, thunder and lighting make their appearances.

"Fuck." Jesse, Genji, and Zenyatta say in unison. Moira stiffens and Olivia knows whats up. Amelie stills.

"Will 'Reeha be okay?" Zenyatta is the first to ask. Moira shrugs.

"I dunno." Olivia says. "I can only hope."

______________________________________

The thunder rolls on, and Angela can notice Fareeha getting more and more uncomfortable with each flash of lightning.

"Fareeha? Are you feeling alright?" Angela asks, loud enough for only Fareeha to hear. 

Fareeha shows no hesitation. "Angela, can we go somewhere else?"

Angela says nothing, instead choosing to take her helmet and flee the scene with her as fast as possible. When they are on Emily's scooter and off on their way, Angela speaks.

"What's wrong, Fareeha?" Angela asks, concerned and curious at the same time.

"Angela, can we just go to the cafe?" Fareeha says. Her volume is the same but the strength in it is much lesser.

Angela turns the scooter in the cafe's direction, not once speaking or paying attention to what and how she feels, because she is focusing on getting Fareeha home as fast as the small two stroke heart of the scooter would allow, and also partially praying the engine wouldn't sputter and die, leaving both of them hanging and Fareeha far more uncomfortable than she is currently.

But their first date was in the rain. And then Angela realises what was the exception then.

It was just raining then. No thunder and no lightning. Just and endless pelting from the clouds. Right now, there is no action, just warning from the clouds up above. And a very spectacular warning at that. It could be compared to a light show going on in the heavens. Or maybe an EDM concert.

And soon, the cafe looms into view. The winds have started blowing, and have brought with them the smell of the rains. Fareeha enters the place, followed closely by Angela, from the back door. Fareeha locks the door behind her while Angela knocks on the door to Jack and Gabe's house, atop the stairs.

Jack looks surprised when he spots Angela.

"Hey!" Jack says cheerfully, despite the clear indication that he had been interrupted during something he was rather absorbed in. He was clutching a book in his hands, the title of which Angela couldn't catch.

"Hi!" Angela says, smiling back, matching his cheerfulness, though also forgetting to not let the awkwardness slip in.

"Aren't you supposed to be on a date or something right now?" Jack says, leaning on the doorframe.

"Oh yeah, but I didn't feel so good, you know? All the noise from the restaurant and the thunder was making me very uncomfortable. I really didn't want to bother you guys, especially this late in the night." Angela replies. "Especially when you seemed to be engrossed in a book."

There is a very subtle spread of understanding across Jack's face, and he swiftly glances Fareeha before smiling. "No problems." He says, and lets them in. Jack is in the bedroom by the time both women get into the house.

"Gabe!" Jack hisses. "Get up!"

Gabe rolls to get on his back "Not today, please, let me sleep. I don't wanna read a shitass Pulitzer winner again please let me sleep."

Jack looks offended "To Kill a Mockingbird wasn't 'shitass'" he says with air quotes.

"Of course it was. Where the fuck have you seen a court session go so long?"

Jack swallows his argument. "That was not what I came for."

"Oh fuck." Gabe croaks. "Not that either. I'm dead tired with all that work."

Jack's eyebrow twitches. "Fareeha is here, and so is Angela."

Gabe's eyes open, and at the same time lightning flashes through the windows.

"But why are they here instead of her own house?" he asks, his voice cracking due to sleep.

"Zen and the people are doing the movie night today at 'Reeha's place.

"Oh." Gabe points to the closet and then retreats back into the covers, his back to Jack. "Give em a blanket they'll be fine."

Jack swings the John Green across Gabe's head. Then a few times more. Gabe grunts in fake agony and somehow manages to grab Jack squarely by his face.

"Get out." He says, dead serious. "Let me sleep. Please."

"Fine" Jack relents and whips the comforter back on him, giving a quick peck on his temple and then taking off with a blanket. He notices Angela and Fareeha sitting awkwardly on the sofa, facing the television in the dark.

"There you go. The kitchen is that way if you guys need anything." Jack says, showing her the kitchen and then taking off to his room, closing the door slowly. Angela holds the blanket awkwardly in her hands, running her thumb over the surface. She brought Fareeha here but what next? But why not Fareeha's own home? 

Angela then realises she knows so little about the barista and Fareeha knows so much about her- Her home, her roommate, her affection with coffee, and obviously how gay she is, considering Angela didn't even bat an eyelash before saying yes to what clearly was a proposal for a date.

And what worries her more is that she knows nothing about Fareeha. Other than the facts that she is an exceptional rider.

"Can I have that?" Fareeha says weakly.

Angela is snapped out of her meditation when she notices Fareeha wasting no time to bundle herself up in the blankets. And then her stomach rumbles discreetly. Fareeha buries herself deeper into the blanket.

"Are you okay now?" Angela hazards, and then another flash of lightning ensues, followed by a deep, loud thunder, that startles everyone in the house.

Fareeha says nothing, instead adjusting herself for the most warmth she can get. Angela's stomach rumbles right after.

Angela looks at the kitchen, and then at Fareeha's form.

"Fareeha?" Angela asks again, even softer

Fareeha grunts.

"You wanna eat something?"

Fareeha grunts again, and Angela knows what it is. She gets off the couch and goes to the kitchen, taking steps gingerly, looking around to register all the materials available. True to Gabe's attention to detail, every single food item is available to whip up practically anything that Angela's skill can afford. Angela starts by heating milk, letting it boil and then adding in elbow macaroni, letting the milk boil off.

Fareeha straightens a little when the smell hits her nose.

Angela follows with adding in two types of cheese- equal parts mozarella and cheddar, cooking them until the cheese and the rest of the dish have become one. Then the salt, pepper and oregano follow.

By this time, Jack is sniffing.

"Who the fuck is cooking now?" Gabe croaks.

"Amgela. By the smell it looks like its mac and cheese. 'Reeha can't cook mac and cheese for shit."

"Right. Then who makes the mac and cheese?" Gabe asks with genuine confusion.

"Lena."

Gabe doesn't answer, Jack goes back to his book. Fareeha has straightened out of her blanket. 

Angela loads up the bowls with food and brings them to the sofa. Fareeha takes the bowl gratefully, and ignores her stomach to wait for Angela to sit. They begin eating together. Fareeha hums in appreciation.

"Wow this is quite good!" Fareeha says, stuffing her face.

"Thanks a lot." Angela says. "Its a common thing I make when hungry."

"You make it quite well, considering the fact that I cannot cook this dish for my life. I have to ask Lena to make it, who never misses an opportunity to rub it in my face."

"Is that so?" Angela asks with genuine curiosity, and then realises this is the perfect opportunity to glean more information. "Now that I think of it, I know so little about you and you know so much about me."

Fareeha straightens. "Really?"

Angela turns a little. "Yeah, really."

Fareeha turns to face her completely, forgetting the rain. Lightning decides to spare them a few moments.

"So what do you want to know?"

______________________________________

After dinner, all the kids have been banished to sleep, and Hana sits beside Brigitte, controller in her hands, the light from the TV the only source in the darkness. Sleep threatens to take over, as Hana struggles to keep her eyes open. Despite what Brigitte said, Hana wanted to believe this was their first date. Everyone in her family knew. And even the kids did, considering how they behaved when the two were together.

And when every member of the family has received their share of love, Lutefisk has claimed Hana, demanding his share. He weaves in and out between her tired arms, pausing for a moment to snuggle into her belly, purring all the while.

Hana has given up on actually stroking the feline, seeing he seldom stays still, so she games while Lutefisk roams around.

Suddenly, Brigitte pipes up.

"Hana?"

"Yeah?" Hana says with a sleepy drawl, turning a little towards the Swede.

"You know, I have been-"

Lutefisk jumps on her shoulders and purrs into her ears. Hana grabs the cat and gently puts him back into her lap. He does not relent.

"And I think its best for you to know-"

Lutefisk tries again, this time aiming for her upper arm. He succeeds, and proceeds to lick Hana on her cheek. Hana grabs him again and puts him back with a warning glance.

"I don't know how I say this but-"

Lutefisk meows, and rather hard at that. Hana took the brunt of it, because the cat was right on her. She hisses at Lutefisk to stop so that Hana can hear what Brigitte is trying to say. But the cat hisses back, and starts his expedition a little more eagerly.

Brigitte goes on, Hana keeps struggling with the cat, and minutes pass like this. Brigitte elaborates on every single thing she feels.

"So, thanks a lot for helping me today." Brigitte says with a tone of finality and turns towards Hana, who has fallen asleep on her shoulder, Lutefisk still roaming around her.

And before she knows it, Brigitte falls asleep too, right then and there.

The next morning, Hannakarin finds both of them, Hana having taken a more comfortable position in Brigitte's arms. Hana's braids have held, surprisingly, and there is a look of absolute peace on their faces.

"What a score, moster." She mutters, and then goes off to rein in the others so that her aunt can have her share of sleep.

Chapter Text

Olivia gives her house a fleeting look to see if she has missed anything. She turns around and closes the door around her when she is satisfied that there is nothing left behind. As soon as she enters the hallway, she hears cursing coming from Zarya's apartment, her door open.

"Blyat." Zarya's faint voice issues from the depths of the apartment. Olivia stops to peer into her house.

She spots Zarya, head hung, hunched over the counter with an empty box of coffee in her hand.

"Morning!" Olivia says, with the brightest chirp she can muster, in the hopes of lifting the Russian's mood. Zarya lifts her head on the sound, and gives her a defeated, but genuine smile.

"Out of stuff?" Olivia asks, letting herself in. Zarya straightens and faces her.

"Is nothing." She says, voice thick due to sleep. "I will get new coffee today."

Olivia smiles and slings her bag over her shoulder, wrapping the scarf around her neck a little tighter. She puts her palm on Zarya's gigantic back. She can feel the heat radiating from the layer of fabric in the cold. Zarya was used to it.

"Get dressed, lets get coffee at the café today." She offers. Zarya looks at her in slight apprehension as she makes her way to the door. "Its on the house. Now come on!"

The Russian picks up the remaining part of her tracksuit and whips it over her ginormous torso.

______________________________________

"Holy fucknuckle on a stick." Jesse croaks, as he beholds the towering form of the Russian. Her size has cast a shadow over Jesse's entirety. Zarya looks around nervously, trying to fixate her gaze on objects so that she can avert her eyes from all the curious glances and stares in her direction. Genji has stopped in the middle of wiping the counter with a damp cloth. Fareeha looks on, plates suspended in her hands. Lena looks on, the order book clutched between her fingers. Jack is the only one with a semblance of calmness, as he distributes the orders among the tables, also glancing behind him occasionally to see why anyone wasn't doing anything.

Gabe, who was also slightly frozen on seeing the sheer size of the woman, catches himself in time and claps to snap the others out too. He starts barking orders.

"Jesse! Get Zarya in here. 'Reeha, get me the stool from the back and put it here. Genji, get this woman the biggest cup of coffee you can find. Straight black, no sugar." He barks the last order after a quick glance at her eyes and posture.

The said staff starts moving, but they are still much slower than what Gabe is used to, or for that matter, what they are used to themselves.

"NOW!" He snaps, and this also makes the patrons avert their eyes. Olivia and Jesse usher her to the stool that Fareeha just placed behind the counter, obscured from the view of many people. In one smooth series of movements, the Russian is hidden, and a rather large cup of coffee finds its way into her hands. The excess number of people is purged from the kitchen, and the onlooking staff is dispersed to do their duties. Zarya looks around apprehensively once again, but finds out that no one is staring in her direction. She uncurls a little, and takes a sip. Its exactly what she needed. Straight black, no sugar, and a shit ton of it.

Turns out big bodies have bigger metabolism.

"Thank you." She says, her voice booming in the decently sized kitchen. Olivia smiles, who has been watching all this time, whose gaze Zarya didn't mind. Zarya then sips in silence, while Gabe stays on the counter, guarding her from unwanted attention. Fareeha assists him, looking around too, their combined might daring anyone to even glance behind them. Zarya feels much more secluded, her privacy restored.

"That has to be the biggest fucking person I have ever seen" Jesse whispers to Lena as they return with trays full of used plates. "Bet she would destroy Gabe in arm wrestling without even thinking of it."

Lena stops. "Jesse, love, is that really the only thing you can think of right now?" She says, her entire existence rolling its eyes. "Aren't you thinking of how weird she must be feeling with all these people staring at her?" 

"I mean, yeah, I get it." He begins. "Just how you must have felt the day Emily first came here. What did she say that day?" Jesse says, scratching his chin in mock remembrance, while Lena dares him to say another word with her gaze. He steamrolls through it anyway. "Gurrl you got ass!" He says in a shrill whisper, throwing his head backwards, his back arching like he was in a round of limbo. The utensils in his hands don't move even a bit.

Lena rolls her own eyes this time. If these utensils weren't breakable and a property of the café, she would have introduced some of them to his head. Rather forcefully too.

"Would you like more?" Olivia asks, when Zarya tips the cup to finish the last drop.

"No, no, is good." She replies, passing the cup back to Olivia, holding it with both hands as a gesture of immense respect. "Thank you very much. This is exactly what I needed."

Olivia smiles. "That is how Gabe is."

Zarya stands up from her stool, and Olivia moves as far back as she can, so that the bigger woman can have her personal space. Zarya reaches to her pockets to retrieve a wallet, which was a rather simple, but hardy, and still strangely feminine in a very universal way. It was made of velvet, and had a rather forgettable shape. Olivia stops her.

"You do remember what I told you, right?" She says, reminding her of the conditions she had put forth. And as if on cue, Gabe turns backward.

"Hey, its on the house." He says, strengthening Olivia's stand. "We made the change a few weeks ago, so we needed as much feedback as possible."

"It is really good." Zarya says, and looks at Olivia asking for directions. Olivia ushers her to the back, where the back door swings open to reveal Moira, Ice Cold Amelie, Hana and Zenyatta entering, talking to each other. Zarya stiffens for a moment, steeling herself for another round of staring. The four new entrants register the hulking form in front of them, but it draws no reaction. Moira and Amelie give her friendly nods, Hana grins and waves.

"Sup?" Zenyatta says, cocking his head back in acknowledgement. Zarya, too confused to even react to what he said, just grunts, nods and swiftly exits. Hana runs to Gabe and tackles him from behind with a hug.

"Morning dad!" She chirps, and Gabe smiles, ruffling her short, straight hair. Zenyatta offers him and Fareeha a fist bump, after getting one from Genji. He then notices Lena, Jack and Jesse hurrying about, bouncing between tables like pinballs, hardly keeping up with the people. 

"Where's the kid?" Zenyatta enquires as he reaches for the aprons, looking around to make sure he hadn't missed the trainee.

"I dunno." Jesse shrugs as he dumps a tray full of cups on the counter. Hana gallantly offers to take it inside. Moira and Amelie follow soon after, and another exchange of hugs follows. Zenyatta finishes putting on the apron and darts into the thick of the café, whipping out his order book.

______________________________________

It has been weeks since the switch to the Frenchman's coffee was made, and the café traffic has increased to the point where Zen is practically employed full time. He is still looking for a job. It is something Moira told him to do so that he could find his calling. Moira and Fareeha are washing dishes in the kitchen, discussing the political merits of having marijuana during a governmental meeting. Jack is chatting with Hana as he makes her a sandwich. Brigitte had come a few minutes into a rush, carrying a box no one asked about. It was stowed into the staff lockers.

"Okay, so Gerard, your coffee has bowled the customers over." Gabe begins. "Now I don't know what magic or drugs goes in them, but they taste good and have a good kick. So for now, you are our new supplier. We can officially stop buying shit wholesale from that store."

"My blend haz fifty percent Robusta in it." Gerard says, sounding quite knowledgeable. "Zat is where the magique comes from." He completes, and Amelie rolls her eyes from the corner of the counter. on hearing the accent. Zenyatta is busy beside her, both of them defiling Genji's sacred crossword and sudoku panels in the newspaper.

"You want a cup?" Gabe offers, and Gerard accepts graciously. Gabe disappears to get him a cup. Gerard looks sideways to lock eyes with Amelie.

"Impressionné ?" He asks in rapid French. Zenyatta's ears perk up.

"Tu n'as rien à me prouver." Amelie replies. Zenyatta continues musing over the words. Gerard shifts a stool sideways to face Amelie. Zenyatta watches every single move from the edge of his peripheral vision. 

"Laisse-moi donc te donner quelque chose." He says, his voice suddenly dripping with silkiness. He seizes Amelie's hands. Amelie stiffens momentarily. Zenyatta decides whether he looks or not, its the same thing. "Que dirais-tu si je t'invite pour le dîner à mon domaine et que je te montre ma collection de fin vins, ainsi que de vous offrir un avant-goût de certains vins que je fais de mes propres vignobles?"

Amelie tightens her grip on his hands, and he stiffens.

"J'en ai moi-même assez de vins." She replies, her voice becoming silky as well. She then swiftly untangles her hands and vacates the counter. Zenyatta snorts, and makes no effort to hide it. Gerard sighs.

"Tu reviendras un jour!" He calls after her as she leaves. Amelie doesn't bother to give him a reaction.

"You know, she likes a man who is a little more than a dick." Zenyatta offers a free piece of advice. Gerard looks at him with disinterest. "I mean I know that you guys were talking about wine, the only thing you French people are capable of discussing anyway, but that is a weak subject. I mean Christmas three years ago she outdrank Me, Jesse, Genji and Lena combined."

"Who ze fuck are you?" Gerard asks him lazily, eager to be done with this conversation.

"Me? I'm the guy with the balls." Zenyatta replies instantly.

"What does zat mean?" He asks, a little more interested now.

"Whatever you make of it." Zenyatta replies and winks, deliberately leaving out the fact that he makes the best spaghetti and meatballs in their family.

Gerard has never looked more revolted in his life.

______________________________________

Emily enters the café, and she pins Lena to the nearby wall first thing, right after Lena hurriedly puts the trays on the table. Their noses are millimetres apart, their breaths hot on each other's lips. Their public display of affection nearly makes an elderly woman jump out of her seat, as it was incidentally the wall right beside where she was sitting. Emily pins Lena's hands over her head, and her shirt rides up her belly, her legs on Emily's hips. Her cheeks are beet red. These are the only evidences Lena ever gets of Emily's strength, which is plentiful if her effortlessness is any evidence. Plus, Lena isn't very heavy to start with, a full one hundred and ten pounds soaking wet.

"I got a Christmas party at the university coming up and I need to bring a date. Interested?" She asks matter-of-factly.

Lena takes a moment to calm her breathing but she fails. "Sure." she squeaks in between breaths.

"Sweet." Emily rasps, and then kisses Lena with a ferocity that might as well have sucked the life out of her. 

"Oh my." The elderly woman gasps softly, putting the handkerchief to her mouth to hide her blush, and her uncontrollable smile. Emily stops and looks at her.

"You want in too?" She asks her, and Lena goes even redder. The elderly woman blushes harder and chuckles softly.

"I don't think I will be able to keep up with you two." She says softly. Emily grins and Lena looks at the redhead with helplessness. She looks around to see if anyone is watching, but after today morning's episode, no one wants to look around.

"I gotta run, I have to submit an assignment. Take care of Angie for me." Emily says, squeezes at her bum, which makes Lena squirm, and then lets her go. Emily makes her way to the front door, turns around to lock eyes with the elderly woman, makes a finger phone and puts it to her ear. "Call me" She mouths and winks. The old lady waves her off while still blushing abashedly. Lena takes a long look at her and then she realises.

"Wait, aren't you the grandma I turned gay the night when I was drunk?"

At the counter, Angela sits down on the counter. Amelie waves and Zenyatta looks at her with a second of curiosity, and then Amelie whispers in his ears. Realisation spreads across Zenyatta's face, and he gets off his stool.

"Hey doc, I'm Zen. What can I get ya?" Zen says, and Angela smiles.

"Hi Zen! Could you get me Fareeha?" Angela replies innocently, missing all the unintended cheekiness.

"Sure." Zen says, and then turns backward to scream. "'Reeha! At the counter now! Your girlfriend's here!" 

His scream makes Angela blush, and she is pretty sure everyone in the café heard him. "We are just dating." She clarifies. Zenyatta grins.

"Give it time, honey." He says. From the back of the kitchen, ensues a series of snorts, a strangled yelp, a series of hurried tinkles, a crash, which was definitely a plate meeting is end, and then the squeak of rubber. Fareeha emerges a moment later, her face red.

"Ah, you're here. This beautiful doc here would like to have you." Zenyatta says, and the collective staff behind them stifles a snort. Fareeha looks at him mutinously, while Angela looks down to hide her face. Zenyatta grins, slaps her back and walks off into the depths of the kitchen.

"You bastard." Genji chokes out, while clutching his sides from all that silent laughing. Jesse's rolling on the floor silently, while Olivia shook her head disapprovingly. Zenyatta goes to the sink and joins Moira in dishwashing, picking up right where Fareeha left off, and he presents his argument for using marijuana in their discussion. Amelie, who has finished the crossword and the sudoku, resigns to reading the news.

"Ignore him." Fareeha says, getting back to normal. "He's a little shit. What's up?"

"I had a Christmas party coming up, and I was allowed to bring a guest. So, um, I was thinking if you were available that day." Angela says, and then looks at Fareeha with an expectant expression.

"Hey, uhm-"

"No problem if you have other plans." Angela cuts in, raising her hands in surrender.

"Its okay, I had no plans. I don't think Gabe or Jack would let me have any if they hear about this, and trust me they will. So yes, I will come with you."

Angela brightens. And then the kitchen explodes in applause. Fareeha turns to see the staff cheering, all their faces rammed into the small shelf space from where orders are passed.

Angela laughs and hangs her head. Fareeha grins and rubs the back of her neck.

Angela knows this is why she keeps coming here.

______________________________________

"Hey Mr G!" A young woman of Hana's age greets Gabe. She has shoulder length hair, and atleast two inches taller than her, and she reminds him of Hana quite a lot.

"Hey Yuna." Gabe says with a smile. "Its been ages since you last came here."

"Yeah, I have been mighty busy, you know, with the party coming up and me finding a date for Hana."

Gabe makes an impressed expression. "Hmm. Busy girl." He says, and grins, which Yuna returns. "I'll go get Hana."

Soon, Hana appears with a smile. The two hug over the counter.

"Girl, I got you dates." Yuna says and points in the direction of an empty table. "Lets pick."

Hana hesitates. "I'm not so sure about that." 

"Aw come on." Yuna says and yanks her off the counter. Hana lets herself be dragged around, but rather reluctantly. Yuna deposits her in a booth and sits on the other side. Brigitte notices all this.

"Who's that?" She asks.

Zenyatta, who was poring over Genji's notes for his book, looks up and takes in the visitor. "Oh. That's Yuna. Hana's classmate."

"What are they doing? Hana seems uncomfortable."

"I think Yuna is showing Hana some prospects to take to the Christmas party." Zenyatta says.

"How is this one? He looks smoking hot." Yuna says, and scrolls through the pictures, but Hana says nothing, and feels nothing. Boys aren't her thing. But Yuna doesn't know.

"I don't know, Yuna." Hana says.

"Hey listen now." Yuna says and lowers herself a little to add a little more force. "I don't know about you but I want this to be perfect, alright? We are supposed to be the coolest people in the class right now. We are streamer extraordinaire. Lets keep this reputation, alright? Now pick a guy. They all want to go with you. Ah, the benefits of being famous." Yuna says.

Hana grows more and more uncomfortable with each photograph, not wanting to see pictures of boys trying to be seductive for no apparent reason at all. They were supposed to enjoy life, not try to bang girls. The age for that comes and comes hard, and honestly doing stuff right now will diminish its value when its good to do so. Hana muses on, but Yuna shakes her by the arm after each change. She hates it, and it continues getting worse.

"Do you like anyone?" Yuna asks. "I need to go, Hana, just make a decision."

And then Brigitte comes in. She smiles apologetically towards Yuna.

"Really sorry to interrupt, but Jack wants to talk to Hana about something." Brigitte says. Yuna huffs exasperatedly.

"Alright." Yuna says and gathers her stuff to leave. "Hana, I want to hear from you on this, alright?" She says and leaves. Hana sighs in relief as they walk to the kitchen.

"What did dad call me for?" Hana asks Brigitte.

"He didn't." Brigitte says and grins. Hana laughs and doubles over.

"Thanks a lot." Hana says after she is done laughing. "You literally saved my life. I did not want to see any more skinny shirtless boys."

"I have something for you." Brigitte says and takes her by the wrist. Hana doesn't resist this time, rather goes along willingly. Brigitte makes her sit on the stool and goes to the back. She then emerges with the box she had stowed in the closet earlier. She places it between them on the counter and opens it. Inside is a cake, in the form of a rather large donut.

"Wow, this looks tasty. What is it?" Hana asks with genuine curiosity.

"Its called vetekrans, or coffee cake. I made it." Brigitte says. "Thanks a lot for helping me with my nieces and nephews." Brigitte says with innocent gratefulness. Hana has no idea what to say. The Swedish beauty in front of her has captivated all senses.

"Y-you're welcome!" Hana says, and then notices the cake being pushed towards herself. Brigitte prompts her to eat. "Can we share?"

Brigitte lights up, and Hana decides she has found who she is going to take to the date. The only thing that remains is to let off Yuna.

______________________________________

Its night, and Genji has gone to sleep. Zenyatta surfs channels, switching along, when his phone buzzes. His screen shows Amelie's face.

"Sup?" He says.

"You were looking for a job, right?" Amelie says

"Yeah, you got news?" Zenyatta says, straightening on the couch.

"Actually, I had made some calls, and they had a few jobs. Not what you're looking for, though."

"What are they?" Zenyatta asks anyway.

"I have one for a stage hand, one for catering and the third one is too ridiculous."

"Come on, just tell me."

"The third one calls for a model."

"Oh."

"I mean you could do it, but you need a little more meat on you. What are you? Five-eight and one forty?"

"I dunno, I could ask Olivia's neighbour to talk to me, and I'm five nine. An inch is a lot, miss."

"You're still short to me."

"Not everyone is born six feet tall, dumbass."

Amelie chuckles on the other side.

"So, what do you think?" Amelie asks. "You really serious on the modelling job?"

"I could, you know, try?"

"Sure, you could. But are you sure of this?"

"Yeah. Its only twisting yourself in weird positions and pouting to look attractive, isn't it?"

Amelie laughs in earnest, and quite loudly. "Its a little more than that." she hacks out and then keeps howling in laughter.

"But is that pouting or do they use pumps?"

"No, they are born duckfaces."

This time, Zenyatta laughs, but stifles it too, and thus looks like someone who's had a seizure. Genji emerges from his room, leaning against the door, not quite willing to let Zenyatta know. He wants to eavesdrop even though Zenyatta wouldn't mind.

"Tell them I'll come. Maybe my head would be a novelty. And I'm going to talk to the giant first thing tomorrow."

"Okay. You're really sure?"

"Yes!" Zenyatta says, and hangs up.

"Got a job?" Genji asks and Zenyatta turns around. He nods a little.

"Yeah, but I have to bulk up a little. Gotta get back some meat I lost smoking weed."

"Sure, how about talking to Fareeha? She did manage to bulk up Jesse despite the potato he is."

"I'm gonna explore all avenues, bro." Zenyatta concludes.

And when he goes to his bed that night, he feels something he hasn't felt in a long time. Excitement.

Chapter Text

Jack wakes up suddenly, like one does with cold sweat, but the problem is, Jack has just begun sleeping when he is hit with the memory of finding a house.

"What happened?" Gabe groans into his comforter when Jack's sudden rousing throws his arms and legs off where they were.

"I just remembered. We have to find a house. Remember the phone call I told you about?"

"Oh fuck." Gabe says, motionless. "How long ago was that?" his voice is muffled by the comforter.

"Close to three-and-a-half weeks ago."

"And how long did we have then?"

"Four weeks."

"Crap." Gabe says, and his voice is quieter this time. "We are gonna have a bitch of a time tomorrow. Anything else we forgot?"

"Yeah. The bet." Jack says after a few moments of remembering

"The bet?"

"You know, claiming that Angela and Fareeha will bang in three months?"

"Yeah, that. How much did you owe?"

"Fifty. You?"

"Same."

"You remember the rest of the wages?"

"Yeah, its two thousand one hundred and fifty combined"

"What the fuck?"

"A thousand from Amelie and Moira each. They were too confident."

"Lena's gonna have a field day with that."

"There's nothing we can do about it." Gabe says.

Jack continues to gloss over the issue at hand. Gabe unearths his head from the mess of comforters and pillows. "You want to find a house now? Its twelve AM!"

"Yeah. Right." Jack says softly and goes back to sleeping. Gabe's limbs return to their default position, suffocating Jack a little bit. Jack doesn't mind

______________________________________

"Holy shit." Lena says quietly, looking at the massive stack of cash in her hands. Moira and Amelie are holding their heads, on the counter, looking downwards, while Olivia patted their shoulders.

"Fucking thousand dollars." Moira lamented.

"I thought we would win." Amelie followed up.

Fareeha fumed away, violently washing the dishes for the day ahead while Jesse stayed with her.

"So I have become the newest guinea pig for your entertainment?" Fareeha accuses, stabbing the air with the foamy sponge. "Oh, so Fareeha finally started dating? Bet on how long until she is found banging! She doesn't know where to go on a date? Fucking turn the house into a warzone, and don't listen to the person concerned! Fareeha's date doesn't like attention? Scream like an asshole and let the whole fucking café know!" Fareeha slams the sponge into the edge of the sink, making a few small bubbles fly, and filling the air with the smell of dishwashing soap.

"'Reeha, calm down. We're excited for you. That finally you started dating again." Jesse says, his voice tender, which was a surprise in itself. Fareeha was a landmine currently, and he did not want to trod on one. "Zen was just messing with you."

"Be a little less excited, for fuck's sake!" Fareeha snarls. Jesse jumps a little. "And I have decided. No more telling you guys about anything. Boom. Done."

Jesse gasps a little, but catches himself in time. "Aw, 'Reeha, don't do that!" he exclaims. "I'll get everyone to apologoise!"

"No, only ones who get to know are Olivia and Genji." Fareeha fires back. "Because only they seem to have a functioning mind."

Lena chooses this exact moment to come in.

"Hey, I was thinking we could do some shopping for our dates? I have more money than I know what to do with." Lena says matter-of-factly.

"Yeah, that is a good idea." Fareeha says, and wastes no time to dispose of the apron and the remaining workload. Jesse picks it up as an apology. Fareeha quickly pulls Ice Cold Amelie and Moira off the stools.

"What-"

"Moira shows us places and Amelie picks the dresses." Fareeha says, not in the mood to listen to protest. "I drive." And then, she marches them out of the door. Moira makes a mental note to buy a new set of rear tires for the XJ.

"Well, that is all the help gone." Gabe says, as he and Jack descended the stairs. "I guess its an off day today." He says, his voice drooping noticeably.

"Off day?" Jesse asks, popping his head out from behind the aisle. "Are you guys off too?"

"Can't we have an off day for ourselves once in a while?" Jack swoops in, and Gabe looks relieved.

"I guess." Jesse says, and goes back to the dishes, as the two leave. "Wait. Why am I still washing this then?"

Outside, Gabe readies the Ducati. Jack stops him.

"Its too cold for that." Jack says. "Lets take the car."

"Does that thing even run?"

"Yes. Yes it does. I got it running finally." Jack says, as he opens the garage squished in the small alleyway. Its large enough only to park a car and a bike side to side. He then whips the cover off.

"When do you even work on the thing?"

"Whenever I get the time. Some parts were giving me too much pain so I had to order them. And what a pain it was to actually get original parts for this. People just didn't have the right part numbers."

Brigitte, who was entering from the alleyway, froze on seeing the car and walked to it. Gabe, surprised on seeing such a reaction, jumps aside to let her through. Jack smiles.

"Um, Jack, is that yours?" Brigitte croaks.

"Yeah. But what happened?" Jack asks. He knows the car looks good but its nowhere near the modern ones. "Something wrong?"

"C-Can I touch it?"

"Sure!" Jack says, more and more curious with each passing second.

Brigitte puts her hand on the car. "This is a legend."

"More like a bucket of bolts right now." Gabe says and snorts.

"No, really. One of these, in pristine condition went for five hundred and fifty thousand at an auction in 2015."

"Five hundred and what?!" Gabe says, mouth open, much louder than needs to be heard.

"Holy shit." Jack croaks. "Grandpa wasn't joking when he said this was a treasure."

"Of course its a treasure!" Brigitte says, turning back, feeling like the two didn't understand the gravity of the situation. "Only fifteen hundred of these were made in its entire lifetime! Dad would freak if he saw this. You have to bring it by the shop." she says, almost begging by the last sentence.

"Yeah I think I will have to, because I can't get some things right no matter what." Jack says. "But for now, we have to go. You can go home too. Its an off day."

"Off day? Ooh, are you guys going out on a date?" Brigitte says, switching topics rapidly.

"Yeah." Jack says. "Kind of." 

The two men get into the car, and Jack puts the key in. It starts on the first crank. Which shocks both Gabe and Brigitte. Brigitte's mouth opens once again in admiration.

"Told you I got it running." Jack says and then pulls out of the garage. The mustang pulls away, leaving behind the faint smell of fuel. Brigitte knows what Jack couldn't get right.

______________________________________

"Perfectly straight, my man!" Zenyatta says, checking if their freshly made bowling alley was up to snuff. Genji breathed a sigh of relief on the approval, and moved the last of the chairs out of the way. Brigitte was sitting beside Olivia as they watched the carnage, all the furniture hastily moved to the side to make a bowling alley. Moving all the furniture also gave them the chance to do a much more thorough cleaning. Win-win, as Olivia said.

"Why didn't you guys do it in the alley?" Brigitte asked. "There was lesser stuff to move."

"Kid, Bowling is a precarious sport." Zenyatta replies "The concrete outside is uneven, unlike this perfect hardwood."

"And not to mention the cold." Jesse chimes in. "I don't want my fingers going along with the ball when I do my High Noon™"

"High Noon™?" Brigitte asked.

"Jesse's 'special move'" Olivia said, with wariness, making air quotes to show how cheesy she felt it was.

"Says the one who literally screams 'turn off the lights' in Spanish when she bowls!" Jesse replies with air-quotes of his own.

"Hey! Apagando Las Luces™ has never failed to give me a strike!" Olivia fires back.

"Well, in all fairness, it is a lights-out move." Zenyatta shrugs. Olivia grins at the victory, and Jesse waves her off dismissively. Genji starts unpacking the contents of the box and whistles when he admires their condition.

"Goddamn, I never expected Gabe to keep it so safely." He says.

"Not to mention not move it from where he kept it." Jesse says and starts helping Genji unpack, filling the air with puffs of dust. "Ooh doggies! Three balls and a whole set! Untouched!"

Hana enters from the rear door, hand horns in the air and head thrown back. "BOWLING!" she screams, which makes Brigitte jump off the stool and Olivia sigh. The three boys make hand horns of their own, raising them as high as can be, their heads lowered.

"BOWLING!" They scream back. Hana wastes no time to dump her helmet and remaining belongings in the closet and join them.

"Damn, this alley is plumb-line straight!" Hana says, admiring from all angles. Zenyatta bows in gratitude.

Soon, the balls are set, the skittles marked with chalk and put together. Jesse, Zenyatta, Hana and Genji assemble at the far end of the alley, near the door, and Olivia watches on the other side, where the skittles are set close to the counter.

"Alright, lets make a bet I can win." Jesse says, and the other three roll their eyes. "First one to five full strikes wins. We all go one by one."

"Sounds fair." The other three agree. "What's the bet?"

"Fifty each," Jesse says. "I win this, and then get you guys some Christmas presents."

"You didn't shop for Christmas?" Olivia demands. Jesse shrugs. "I will kill you if you skip this year!"

"Don't worry, I got this." Jesse says reassuringly, adding a wink for good measure.

"He's going to lose." Olivia says, burying her face in her palm.

______________________________________

"What the fuck." Fareeha says when she looks at the price tag for the umpteenth dress for the date. "Its just two fucking layers of cloth sewn together and some decoration thrown in. And it costs a hundred bucks."

"What did you expect?" Moira says, waving another alarmed, suited saleswoman off, who came in scurrying when she heard Fareeha. "This is the 'expensive' stuff we get. I just actually lost hope to ever find half decent clothes here, and that is why I go formal."

"What was the theme, Lena?" Fareeha asks a sulking Lena, who gave up as soon as she entered. Lena raises her head from her magazine.

"Swing."

"Swing?"

"Oh its 1920's 1930's music. Really fast and dance-y music." Lena explains. "I'm just gonna go with a vintage waistjacket and jeans to go with some boots and a hat if Emily bothers me too much."

"That seems like a nice, safe bet actually." Amelie chimes in, who has been reading a magazine of her own, but with far more interest. 

"So you're saying I should wear that too?" Fareeha asks.

"Not the exact same thing, but something else? Like suspenders and stuff?" Amelie finally raises her head out of the magazine. Moira nods in approval.

"I mean that's what I'd wear." Moira adds. "Seeing its gonna be really cold out there."

"God this is frustrating." Fareeha groans and hangs her head.

______________________________________

"What happened to this one?" Jack asks the agent, and the agent predictably shrugs. Jack can see that the fireplace had definitely taken what looked like a Molotov cocktail, not to mention the old windows and peeling wallpaper. The house was full with the faint smell of mildew and other unfavourable bacteria. Dust clouded around their feet as they moved further in. The bedroom had a window that would bring sunlight right to the bed in the morning, despite being surrounded by other buildings. There was space for a closet. The kitchen was, enough. So was the washroom. Everything was adequate, not more, not less. A perfect balance. 

And just like that, Jack could imagine waking up idly, not a worry in the world, taking his sweet share of time to get off the bed and then saunter to the shower to truly wake up. Then make himself a good breakfast and then just curl up with good books.

Bliss.

But both Jack and Gabe could see it felt like a home. The small apartment had just a single bedroom but it felt warm. It felt cosy. They could imagine a home here. A corner for a lonely soul, who could make this place a lot better.

"I love this." Jack says. The estate agent straightens a little in excitement, getting hopeful that he could finally get Jack and Gabe off his back. "I'll take it."

The estate agent rubs his palms together for a round of haggling. Too bad Gabe was ready from the start.

______________________________________

"Guys, we need to make sure Jesse wins." Olivia addresses Hana, Genji and Zenyatta. She leans over the counter so that her whisper could be heard better. Genji leans on the counter on her left, Hana faces her and Zenyatta leans on the right.

"True." Zenyatta says, sipping on the tea he was called to drink. "Otherwise Gabe will eat him alive. I want Christmas to be peaceful."

The others nod in approval. "So, the only way I can see here is to botch our play." Genji proffers.

"Nah, he isn't that dumb. He'll see right through it." Zenyatta quickly retorts. Hana nods again. "We can't botch our play."

They sip their teas in silence for a few moments while Jesse made sure all the necessary conditions for High Noon™ were favourable. Jesse had finished his tea long ago and was readying himself for the best strike the others had ever seen. Brigitte was watching curiously, the only one on the other side of the alley with him, assisting him with a cloth to wipe off dust from the alley.

"How about we botch each other's play? Jesse wouldn't doubt that would he?" Hana says, and Olivia is so impressed by the brilliance of it that she seizes Hana by the cheeks and plants a kiss bang smack on the centre of her forehead. Hana wipes it off just as quickly with her sleeve.

"Its good and all," Genji says, after a nod. "but how do we not botch Jesse's play without him getting suspicious?"

"Leave me to it." Olivia says and winks. Zenyatta shrugs.

"Come on guys, I want to make sure each of you see me win!" Jesse says, borderline smug.

Genji hopes whatever Olivia is thinking of works, because he has no intention of letting Jesse win. Hana, Zenyatta and Genji stand beside Jesse, looking on at the skittles with a precarious expression on their faces. Jesse lifts up the ball, tucks it below his chin, and breaks into a run.

"Its hiiiiiiiiiiigh noon!" He drawls while he runs to the line. "Draw!" He shouts, and then launches the ball forward. The bowling ball lands on the hardwood with a thud and rolls with insane speed right to the centre of the skittles. There is an almighty sound and then all the skittles fall, thrown to the sides by the force of the ball. But interestingly, the ball does not hit the counter. The expression on the others eases while Brigitte claps, having returned to her position behind the corner. She scrabbles across the wood in her socks to get the ball. They had all agreed to take their shoes off to keep the alley clean.

"Like sittin' ducks." Jesse says, pumping his fist. Zenyatta jumps to his feet.

"Bitch you got nothing against my Transcendence™" He says and gets the ball from Brigitte, who was too bored to do anything else. Zenyatta doesn't take a run up, but rather takes two steps and then smoothly launches the ball onto the hardwood, without a thud. The ball rolls with a speed albeit slower than Jesse's, and there is no drama. The ball strikes the skittles as elegantly and all of the skittles roll on the floor. Zenyatta throws his arms upward, rotating to face Jesse. "Gaze into the iris, bitch."

Genji and Hana laugh while Jesse tries to casually brush it off, trying to silence Olivia who was banging the counter in her laughter. When their laughter dies, Hana goes to the alley, getting the ball back from Brigitte, tearing her eyes off the contour of her arms showing through the sweater, and focuses forward. She takes a similar approach to Zenyatta.

"Nerf this!" She screams, and flings the ball forward, surprisingly fast for a person of her stature. The ball plows through all the skittles, and Brigitte has to scramble to prevent the ball from hitting the counter and leaving a crater. Hana spins around. "Is this easy mode?" She says, no doubt aimed at Jesse. Zenyatta offers her a fist, which she bumps promptly and takes her place beside him.

"Looks like I'm the only one left." Genji says, and takes the ball from Brigitte, not forgetting to add a thank you. He lines up, a small run up on his mind as well.

"RYUJIN NO KEN WO KURAE!" He roars, and flings the ball with all his might. The ball goes with a speed that could only be called meteoric. The skittles fly in all directions, and Brigitte has to throw herself in the way to stop the bowling ball.

"I see you bust that move out finally." Zenyatta says as Genji admires the carnage.

______________________________________

"Hey." Fareeha says, as soon as the phone is handed over.

"Hi." Angela replies on the other side.

"H-How are you?" 

"I'm good."

The air is filled with the same charged tension again. The anticipative silence. None talked, because they waited for the other. They could stay silent like this for hours and still click off feeling completely satisfied. Fareeha digs the tip of her shoe into the tiles, making a squeak.

"So, uh, I didn't get the exact date for the party. When is it?"

"Its during new years eve."

There is another silence. Fareeha wants to hang up and then lie to the others about asking her, but Lena is right in her face. Lena was the one who had made the call with her phone to Emily, on the same number she was given on day one, because it never occurred to Fareeha to ever ask the budding doctor for her number, despite them having been to two dates, and the doctor visiting the café almost every single day.

But then it was pointless, because Angela visited often. They shared news and what not, with Angela holding a steaming cup of Turkish coffee and Fareeha indulging in pancakes, chatting like old ladies, lost in each other like giddy young girls. They talked in a million different tones, loud when not required, quiet for no reason at all. It was dumb, smart, rude and immensely considerate at the same time, yet they never noticed it. Only the others around them did. There were bursts of chatter with silences, when they would just stop and watch, reading each other perfectly. Like how Angela's subtle, nervous glance towards her cup meant it was time for a refill, or how Fareeha's extra bite of the pancake meant Angela needed to break the silence.

Go on. Lena mouths.

"So, uh, its kind of a rule in the house to invite people who aren't going home for Christmas, because Olivia said quote unquote 'no one deserves to spend Christmas alone.' So, uh, you and Emily are invited to our home for Christmas."

Another charged silence. 

"Sure. Me and Emily will be there." Angela replies, almost like she was elbowed in the ribs to say those words.

"Sweet. See you then!" Fareeha says and clicks off as soon as possible. Lena looks at her expectantly, and then pumps her fist in victory when Fareeha nods.

"With that out of the way, lets make you sexy." Ice Cold Amelie says, pulling Fareeha towards a store whose name she couldn't pronounce even if there was a gun to her head.

______________________________________

Jack and Gabe admire their handiwork. The apartment has been cleaned, the aura of death has gone, and now the apartment looks borderline homely, much closer to their vision. Some pieces of interior were snagged from questionable stores and put into place with refined hurriedness. They were so hard at work that they had to discard a part of their clothing to keep working at the desired efficiency.

"We still got it." Jack says, huffing a little harder than usual. A sheen of sweat is visible on his shaped arms. He turns around to look at Gabe, but he knows the expression, and what is going on behind those eyes.

Before he can react, his arms are pinned to the wall by the wrist, and Gabe is breathing hungrily, hot air colliding with Jack's throat. Jack can feel the proximity, the sharpness of the teeth, without even looking. Jack knows every centimetre, every tick of his nerve, every beat of his heart. He has it all mapped out, committed to memory like it was his life.

And right now, Gabe was holding back, fighting against himself. Stopping in that precarious of a position, right on the line. Too close, too far. Like asking for permission.

Jack lowers his head a little to take a look, but all he can see is his back, heaving. "What? Don't give up now." Jack says, weak. He was only standing because he was nailed to the wall. His knees had given up long ago.

And that sets something free. Permission granted. Gabe begins the trek of his lips along Jack's skin. Jack hisses a little. there is a scrape of teeth left behind after every kiss, like a trail of breadcrumbs.

Gabe stretches a little to undo his clothing. Impatient, willing, and extremely hungry. Quick. Get this over with.

Every piece of clothing in the way is discarded with reckless abandon. Gabe holds Jack still, earlobe clenched between teeth, while he rifled through the pockets with his sole free hand, the other still high up, not letting Jack move. 

Control is important.

He finds it, and bites harder in victory. Jack. Always the thoughtful one. Always sneaking a tube into his pockets. It was their lesson during their youth. Always be ready. Gabe prepares himself with a growl, deliberating. Just a predator playing with his food.

"Just-just stop making it worse." Jack says, voice escaping through gritted teeth, looking away. "Don't be a pussy, Gabriel."

Gabriel. Like launch codes to a nuclear missile. The earlobe is left alone.

Its serious now. Gabe uses his fingers first. Ease him into it. Control is important, courtesy more so. Jack hisses, and Gabe feels movement, restlessness. Jack cranes his neck to get his teeth close to Gabe's ears. He bites in.

"Gabriel Reyes-Morrison." Jack rasps. "Stop fucking about, goddammit. This isn't the nineties."

Gabe enters him, and Jack draws a sharp breath, moving upwards by instinct. Accommodating. Stretching. The fingers helped a lot.

Gabe sets a determined pace. Reminiscent of their youth, of the painfully short stints in public bathrooms. With utmost secrecy, stealth and determination. Gabe was possessed now.

"That's it." Jack growls, hunger consuming him too. His words were the only thing he could use right now. The rest was just to help himself stay in the right place.

The orgasm comes, and it comes hard. Like a million lightning strikes. Jack groans, and makes a mess on Gabe's belly. Gabe buries his face into Jack's neck, moaning into his skin. They disentangle just as fast, heavy breathing, sweat and what not.

And now they had another mess to clean. 

______________________________________

"What the fuck?!" Genji screams as he misses his third strike by two skittles, and Jesse continues on a roll. They go for another round, and Jesse wins that round too. Zenyatta would have torn his hair off if he had any.

"Looks like we had some beginner's luck there." Jesse says, while the others seethed. Genji watches Olivia idly set the skittles back to their original position and nonchalantly take her place. Brigitte takes her position, as a glorified catcher, only with no protection and much heavier projectiles coming her way. She seemed to welcome the challenge.

Jesse lines up for what could be his fifth and final strike, also meaning his win and him winning enough to buy Christmas gifts for everyone. Brigitte, seeing that he was winning against all odds, was rooting for Jesse now, cheering for him, now that he had a chance. He raises the ball under his chin, and then stops.

"You know what?" Jesse says, swinging the ball to his side. "Brigitte. Come and take a swing."

Brigitte points to herself, just to make sure there was no one else with that name. "Me?"

"Come on!" Jesse says. "You have been sort of a lucky charm to me with all that cheering. Only fair you get a shot. And if you don't, I'll mop em up next round." Jesse says, and winks. The other three deflate a little more. They believed him now. Almost.

"Okay, I guess." Brigitte says, and takes the ball. Her back is straight, her position is perfect. She takes a four step run up, just to be sure, and flings the ball. It goes, not bad, and hits the skittles. Brigitte's eyes go wide as she realises it was a strike. Her arms fly around the nearest person to her.

It was Hana.

Hana goes still, letting Brigitte indulge herself, shouty and quite happy. Hana then wraps her arms too, slowly, gingerly, testing the waters, laughing with her. It doesn't feel awkward, despite the premise. It doesn't feel forced.

It just feels...

right.

It feels natural. It feels the way it should be. Hana closes her eyes and squeezes a little more. Fortunately, Brigitte is too jubilant to notice, and she plays along. Hana takes it as a victory. Jesse throws his arms in the air, basking in his bowling glory. Genji and Zenyatta plan to find places to hang themselves. Instead, they go to Olivia and slouch there, who consoles them.

"Didn't need to botch play, huh?" Genji says, hurt, and completely disappointed in his untrustworthy special move, Dragonblade™.

"I did botch your plays." Olivia says quietly.

"What?" Zenyatta says and straightens up. Olivia points to the skittles and puts them up. They are all too close, but that is unnoticeable from the far side. They are so close that movement in even one skittle would result in a strike.

"That was for Jesse." Olivia says, doing the slav squat Zarya taught her. She then goes ahead and rearranges the skittles again, a little off perfect alignment again, in such a way that it was borderline impossible to score a strike, and always miss by a skittle, for authenticity.

They snicker wildly at Olivia's genius, and praise her with expletives and promises of revenge, which sounds more like death threats. Olivia makes a mental note to tell them next time.

In the back, Brigitte breaks off, not awkward, just all smiles and grins. Hana smiles too, a little red in the cheeks. She has made her mind.

"Umm, Brigitte?" Hana says. Brigitte nods, listening with genuine, innocent interest. "Can I ask you something?"

Chapter Text

Olivia stirs on her bed, surrounded by the softest and warmest comforter known to her. Just as she likes it. The day has come, bringing with it the spirit of Christmas. Olivia is not one for lying on the bed after waking up, so she just proceeds to shower and put on whatever was the warmest. Olivia had the intention of checking if her newest neighbour was off to meet her family or not, and if not, just invite her to the café for Christmas. That is exactly how it works.

Because no one spends Christmas alone, atleast until she is alive.

As soon as she scrabbles to the corridor in her footwarmers (Jesse's only thoughtful gift till date, she maintains), the scent of food fills her nose. She cannot place the smell to a dish she knows. It does smell like something is being fried, so that's a start. She also knows Zarya is the one cooking because the smell gets richer as she makes her way to her home. The door is open, as usual. Olivia takes the liberty to let herself in. Olivia thinks Zarya keeps the door open to be appear more friendly than her proportions might suggest, but also maybe because no one would want to take her on in a fight, even if it meant it was a burglar.

"Zarya?" Olivia calls out, over the din of the kitchen. There is a fumble, a crash, and then rather shushed string of Russian expletives. Olivia courteously waits in the living room. Zarya pokes her head out of the kitchen.

"Merry Christmas!" Olivia chirps.

"Merry Christmas!" Zarya replies, trying her hardest to match Olivia's enthusiasm, but her deep voice fails her. Spectacularly.

"Can I come in?" Olivia asks, leaning forwards a little bit to see what was going on.

Zarya pauses a beat, leans a little backwards to see behind her and then looks at Olivia again.

"Yes." Zarya says. Olivia walks to the kitchen, all the while there was the hurried commotion of cleaning up. Olivia rounds the archway of the kitchen to find that Zarya had spilled what was most definitely flour. Fortunately, though, the flour had not been kneaded into anything, so it would be easy to clean. Olivia notices a small pot filled with oil and some finished food items that looked a little like meat cutlets. She then notices Zarya with a broom, hurriedly cleaning the mess she had made. Despite her size, she was surprisingly agile, easily moving her heft around.

Olivia then notices one of the food items beginning to float on the oil. It had browned to the point of perfection.

"Uh, Zarya?" Olivia says. "You should tend to the food. Let me finish up the cleaning."

Zarya's head is quick to whip to the direction of the pot. She launches off the squat she was in and tends to the food, after handing the broom to Olivia, and they set to their tasks. Olivia sweeps all the spilled flour and collects it into a pile. Zarya extracts the finished piece and adds in another. As soon as the new piece touches the oil, it sprays a little, and some droplets scald Zarya's hand. Zarya shakes her hand. Olivia cringes.

"So, are you going to spend Christmas alone?" Olivia asks, looking for a dustpan.

"Yes. I will make some more Piroshki, some Pelmeni and then some Plov for dinner." Zarya says, rolling the Piroshki in oil to cook it evenly.

"So, why don't you come to Jack and Gabe's for tonight?" Olivia asks, and finds the dustpan in the closet under the sink.

Zarya stills, and then looks at Oliva, almost comically. Her mouth is ajar a little. She looks awkward, overwhelmed, and a mess of other emotions as well. She then looks at her food, then at Olivia.

"You can bring that tonight. You contribute to the food." Olivia says. "I'm sure the guys will love your food."

Zarya looks conflicted now. Her gaze flits between Olivia and the cooked Piroshki as she extracts it from the oil. "But, I will make things awkward?"

"You won't." Olivia says, and gingerly puts her hand on Zarya's corded forearms. Zarya doesn't move, and keeps her gaze on Olivia, thoroughly bewildered. "Trust me. No one should spend Christmas alone."

Olivia finishes dumping the flour into the dustbin. Zarya is still looking at Olivia, and another Piroshki is floating over the pot, held by her fingers delicately. "I have to repay you. You are too kind." she says, and gently lowers the uncooked Piroshki into the oil. She gets scalded again. Olivia then swiftly exits the kitchen, and is out of the house in a matter of seconds. She returns a few moments later with a number of utensils, and a big pot. Olivia offers them to Zarya.

"For starters," Olivia says. "you can teach me how to cook Piroshki."

A smile stretches across Zarya's lips. The one which doesn't stay back no matter how hard you try. Olivia smiles, and then chuckles. Zarya grins and rubs the back of her neck, looking down on the floor. She steps forwards.

"Sure." Zarya replies, and accepts the utensils. 

______________________________________

"Angie! WAKE UP!" Emily screams and dives onto Angela's bed. She then starts bouncing up and down. Angela then buries herself deeper into the comforter she was sleeping in.

"Let me sleep." Angela protests feebly, her voice muffled.

"Where's your phone?" Emily asks, looking around. Her own phone is pressed to her ear.

"Why?" Angela asks.

"Cos its mama. She's been calling you for ages." Emily replies.

Angela pauses for a second and then shoots up straight. Emily grins a little. "She woke right up, mama."

"Give me that!" Angela hisses and snatches the phone from Emily's hands. She presses the speaker to her ear. "Merry Christmas, mama."

"Merry Christmas, child." A benevolent voice replies on the other side. "I couldn't seem to reach you on your phone."

Angela digs through the comforter to find the phone. She presses the lock button. Nothing happens. "The phone died. Sorry."

"You have to take more care of yourself, child." 

"I'm really sorry mama. I'm too busy these days. But that is no excuse." Angela says, her voice low. "I should call you more. I'm sorry."

"Too busy dating that hot beefcake!" Emily shouts. Angela scowls.

"Date? You really have been busy, Angela." Mama says, her tone becoming mischievous for a moment.

"Its nothing, really." Angela replies sheepishly.

"What does she do?" Mama asks.

"She works at the café." Angela replies.

"Oh. Is she good?" 

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, do you trust her?" Mama says, motherly concern flooding her voice. "Is she polite? Does she treat my child right? Is she good to people?"

"Yes. Yes she is." Angela says, without a trace of doubt in her voice. 

Mama seems satisfied. There is a moment of silence.

"How's the orphanage?" Angela asks, running her hand through her hair, trying to tame whatever she can. She fails. "How's Efi?"

"Very good, child." Mama replies to both of the questions at once. "The children have been pitching together money for a while now. Even Efi put a part of her research grant forward."

"What for?"

"To get me to visit you. I'm coming January end." Mama replies.

"Oh my god, that's great!" Angela says. "Mama that's really great news! Its been a while!"

"One year too long. One year too long." Mama replies wistfully, almost like she was apologising.

"Its okay, mama. what matters is you are coming now. Its all I need." Angela replies thankfully. "Say hi to Efi for me."

"I will, child. Bless you." Mama says.

"Bye." Angela whispers, a little longingly. She lowers the phone. Emily is looking at her like she is waiting for something.

"What?" Angela asks.

"We have to get some more gifts, you know. I got a call from Olivia before this. There is an extra guest coming."

"I think we should buy some extras as well, just to be safe." Angela replies.

______________________________________

"We should have done this last week when you won!" Genji huffs, running.

"You know me," Jesse strains, and then takes a moment to breathe, running as hard as he can. "if tomorrow isn't the due date-"

"Then today isn't the do date!" Zenyatta cuts in, running at full speed too. "FUCK!" 

The three boys had forgotten to buy gifts for Christmas, and were reminded by a panicking Jesse, who had practically kicked their door down at nine in the morning. Genji and Zenyatta had whipped their clothes on and then just dashed to the mall with all their might with Jesse in tow. They took a bus, which was agonisingly slow, and started running from the stop.

They slide into the mall and pause for sharing strategies. Confused and amused nearby people watched them.

"All right guys, spread in all three directions, and snag whatever you think is best." Genji starts.

"What do you guys want?" Jesse wheezes, his head flitting between Genji's and Zenyatta's forms.

"Fuck us right now!" Zenyatta says, bending over to breathe. "We'll just get each other a drink later."

"Good call, good call." Genji pants. They run in three different directions, their shoes squeaking under strain.  

"Remember guys, one extra guest!" Jesse shouts right before the other two went out of earshot.

"One extra guest, got it!" Genji shouts back. Zenyatta just gives a thumbs up, because he was too busy running at his absolute limit.

______________________________________

"So that is the filling." Zarya says, putting the bowl with the filling aside. "Now we make dough."

"Okay, just give me a moment." Olivia says, closing her eyes to remember what they had done. "Did the eggs come before or after blending?"

"After." Zarya replies. Olivia opens her eyes and nods. "Okay, so now we melt butter, and mix it with milk."

Zarya proceeds to melt a whole block of butter. She puts it in a cup, and then puts the cup in the boiling water. The butter melts, and is then mixed with the milk. She then sets the resulting liquid aside. Zarya then goes to the ratty fridge, that works surprisingly well, and produces a mustard yellow cube.

"This is yeast block." Zarya says, and puts it in a small bowl. "We take some water, warm water, and mix."

"How warm?"

"Lukewarm. You don't want yeast to die." Zarya says, and then stops to make sure Olivia was following.

"Go ahead."

"Now we mix the water and cube, and then add the milk-butter." Zarya says, and then follows up with action. "And then, we add some salt, some sugar, and then add flour. Make dough."

Olivia nods. Zarya looks at her briefly to make sure Olivia was not getting bored. She decides to get her something. Olivia shuffles her feet when she realises she is being handed a drink.

"What is this?" Olivia asks.

"Is Kvass." Zarya says. "I made it."

Olivia takes a sip. "This tastes...interesting."

Zarya smiles and then puts her glass of Kvass aside. She continues to knead the dough.

"Once this is done, we divide into small parts and..."

But Olivia had stopped following. She was busy observing. Admiring. How her hands worked with dexterity and expertise. How she wielded the rolling pin and worked it with precision.

"Then we put stuffing."

Zarya had a faint smile on her face. There was a veil of fondness behind her eyes as she worked. Maybe she was remembering her home. Maybe she was remembering her Babushka make the same thing while she watched in wonder. Watched it all unfold. The magic of it all. The smell of home, love, perfection. No amount of professionalism could match this. No number of Michelin stars could come close to this. It was a domain of its own. Every house had its own five star chef, behind that wrinkled skin, white hair and wizened visage. Perfect in a way no one else could ever be.

And as she prepared the Piroshki by wrapping the dough around the filling, her fingers were delicate with the dough. She was careful with the filling, considerate with pinching the dough around it. All that strength, yet she was as gentle as one could be. She was equally delicate with frying the Pirozhok. Olivia could see the love Zarya was pouring into each piece. How she was voraciously living her memories through an act so simple as cooking. How she was keeping her Babushka's legacy alive.

There was simply no way that anyone could not like something cooked with so much love.

______________________________________

Moira and Ice Cold Amelie are the first ones to arrive, and they had followed the dress code to the T, which called for the most comfortable clothing they could find. Moira is in woollen pyjamas, black with batman wing pattern in yellow. Ice Cold Amelie was in pyjamas too, but hers was pink with dark blue, which looked more athletic than comfortable. They give Jack his gift, and then make their way into the café.

"Merry Christmas, I guess." Jack says, looking down on his gifts. Moira and Amelie wish him back, and get themselves comfortable. For tonight, the furniture had been moved away, and replaced with mattresses and pillows, not to mention quilts and blankets to make sure everyone was warm and comfortable. It was Hana's idea to do this, and everyone liked it, so they stayed with it. Sometimes Hana brought her console for a little competition, and other times Jack brought books for people to read. This time, however, everyone was pulling all stops. Hana was bringing her console, Jack had lined his books up, and Jesse had offered to do a little stripping for the ladies. Jack did not want to see how that would turn out.

Hana came in shortly after from her dorm, with a console in her hands.

"Merry Christmas, Dad!" Hana says, and hugs Jack. Jack smiles and ruffles her hair. "Where's dad?" She asks.

"I don't know." Jack replies, arms still around her shoulders "He should be upstairs. Get the TV and set up."

Hana nods, and then makes her way upstairs. Fareeha and Lena arrive right after. They come with a stack of their own.

"Merry Christmas, Jack." They say and then assault him with a hug on both sides. Jack chuckles and hugs them back. Hana chooses this exact moment to descend the stairs.

"Moira? You might have to go to Olivia's place. She needs to bring all the food with her. Take some containers from the kitchen." Hana says, and then wastes no time to go back up.

"Wow, she's busy." Fareeha comments. Moira gives her an apologetic shrug and leaves. 

Angela and Emily come moments later. Lena is ambushed as soon as she opens the door, hungry kisses, desperate hands and telling each other how long it had been. Angela leaves them to their own devices. Fareeha stands up and ushers Angela to the mattresses where she was talking with Ice Cold Amelie. Jack joins them too. Then Gabe and Hana descend the stairs with all the hardware. Gabe was carrying the TV while Hana led the way with the console, wired to the TV.

"Don't you think you should have done all the wiring after you brought it down?" Jack suggests. Gabe and Hana stop. Gabe's expression is of exasperated agreement.

"I told you, Hana." Gabe groans. Hana ignores him and continues to lead the way. They finish setting up, with wires extended from the kitchen, and then join the others in a circle. Soon, the door practically explodes open. Jesse, Genji, and Zenyatta enter, arms full of shopping bags. Their faces were red, they were breathing like asthmatic dogs and they would probably be bathing in sweat if it wasn't so cold outside.

"Merry," Jesse says and collapses face down on the mattress.

"Christmas," Zenyatta says and collapses beside him.

"Everyone." Genji completes and collapses beside Zenyatta.

"I really wish I could do something about you guys sometimes." Gabe says, shaking his head. 

"We made it." Jesse croaks into the mattress. The others chuckle. The three boys take some time to catch their breaths and then join right into the conversation. After a few minutes, Moira, Olivia and Zarya arrive, carrying containers full of food. Moira locks eyes with Emily and freezes.

"You have got to be kidding me." Emily says and facepalms. "Angie, couldn't you pick someone else to fan over?"

"What happened?" Lena asks Emily with a confused expression. "You know Moira?"

"Of course I do. She's my elder sister." Emily groans into her palm

A tomblike silence fills the air, while everyone processed the information. Jesse leans a little toward Lena, who was sitting beside him. "So you were about to smash Moira's baby sister." He whispers.

"I wanna die." Lena whispers back, her mouth agape. She can see all the similarities. The similar hue of the hair. The same sharp nose. But Emily's features were softer. 

"Its-Its been a while." Moira addresses Emily.

"Yes. Yes it has." Emily replies. She then gets to her feet. "I think we need to talk. Privately."

______________________________________

"So, how's Máthair?" Moira asks her.

"She is good."

There is a silence. Emily decides to take the offensive this time. "You did not need to make such an extreme move, you know."

"You think so?"

"Yeah, I mean we could have worked out an alternative with dad."

"Step dad." Moira corrects her. "I never would have had a problem with dad anyways."

"You could have reasoned with him, you know?" Emily says. "He had no qualms about sending me to college."

"You know exactly what made him do that." Moira replies, her tone tired. "He would have rushed to marry you off to a business associate's son for the sake of money, since the elder daughter had fucked off to where he couldn't touch her. Bastard would sell his own mother."

Emily cringes a little. Moira continues talking. "I got a scholarship, got the fuck out of there and became something. The poor bastard gave up once he found out I didn't need him. Found a family of my own here." She completes, proudly gesturing downwards, where the rest were. "They care more about me than both of them combined."

"So you will never forgive him?"

"Never." Moira replies immediately. "I'm not a goddamn cash cow you just marry to someone for money."

"What about Máthair?" Emily asks her.

Moira deliberates for a moment. "Not her either. She only had to support me a little. But she needed food to eat, and that son of a bitch was a man with money. Guess who spread the legs then?"

"Deirfiúr stop." Emily implores. "She's our mother."

"Doesn't seem like it." Moira replies. "But I care about what is going on with you. Except the banging Lena thing. You don't need to ask me for permission. You are a free soul."

Emily snorts. "Everything is nice. I mean not as rich and nice as you, but nice nonetheless."

There is a silence. Moira knows what to say next. "I guess both of them still ask you to be on the lookout for me and bring me back?"

Emily nods. "They say you are an ungrateful one."

"Can I trust you to keep this a secret?" Moira asks. Emily nods again. "I have your back if you have mine. I promise."

Emily smiles and spreads her arms wide, eyes a little watery, her face a request, and she looked like she was seven again, asking her elder sister for hugs when she returned with an injury while playing outside. Moira wastes no time to close the distance and envelop her in a hug. Emily buries her face into Moira's chest. Moira presses her lips to Emily's head. "I missed you." she says.

______________________________________

"So this is a Piroshki." Zenyatta asks, holding one in his left hand.

"Yes." Zarya replies. "But Piroshki is plural, Pirozhok is singular."

"And this is a Pelmeni?" Zenyatta holds out the one on his right.

"Yes."

Zenyatta quickly chomps on the Pirozhok to make space for the glass. "And this is called Kvass?"

"Yes." Zarya replies. "Which one do you like?"

"Hell, woman, I like all of them." Zenyatta replies immediately. "So this is the reason for those guns?"

Zarya chuckles a little. "No, training is important."

"About that." Zenyatta addresses. "I need to put on a little meat. Not much, just to hide the bones. I heard you work in a gym?"

"Yes. I can train you." 

"Sweet." Zenyatta says. He goes ahead and eats a little more. "This stuff is delicious."

Zarya glances at Olivia, who was beaming at her. Zarya smiles back. She was welcomed like she was known for years. News was exchanged, talking was done like she was one of them. After Moira and Emily had returned, gifts were exchanged and then the food came. Everyone loved it, which further strengthened Zarya's confidence. Currently, everyone was scattered. Amelie had found a very interesting book, Hana was teaching Moira about the game. Genji, Lena, Zenyatta, and Emily were doing shots with Kvass. Angela was reading a book beside Amelie, curled in a blanket, and Fareeha just watched from a distance.

How her eyes followed the page while she turned it, how there was a little frown furrowing her eyebrows a little bit in concentration. How her blue eyes scanned word after word with speed, no doubt practised with all those hours reading coursebooks. How her hand was close to her nose, covering her mouth completely.

Jesse then arrives and collects everyone in a circle.

"Time for a little show." Jesse says. "Merry Christmas."

He then starts stripping, slowly, amidst howls and cheers from the people. Fareeha watches from a distance again, watching her smile, grin and clap to Jesse's efforts, like a child watching something new, something wonderful.

She knows it, knows the feeling, but she needs to be sure.

"Hey Zenyatta, help me a little." Jesse says. "You do a little stripping too!"

Zenyatta, caught completely off guard, goes on the defensive. "Excuse me what the fuck."

Everyone bursts into laughter. Fareeha watches again. Watches her laughing at her hardest, clutching her stomach. And then it happens. She snorts. Hard. Everyone briefly stops, looking at Angela and her eyes go wide, and her hands fly to cover her mouth, with a squeak. There is a moment of silence, and then everyone bursts laughing again, laughing with her, not at her. Angela then laughs again, snorting, not a care in the world about how it looked or felt to the others. They were all a family for that moment.

That is when Fareeha was sure.

She was in love.

She was oh so much in love.

Chapter Text

"And you said yes?" 

"Why do you think I would collect you guys then? Of course I did!" Brigitte replies.

Brigitte was sitting in the center couch with her elder sisters surrounding her. Torbjorn and Ingrid sat on the other side, facing her. Ingrid was a little proud, but Torbjorn had a conflicted expression on his face. Hannakarin had been granted a special seat in this impromptu meeting, only because she had first hand information on the incident. Even the spouses had been asked to sit this one out.

"So, as I see it, she had taken quite a lot of time to work up a courage." Karl, the eldest of the siblings, said while he scratched his beard. Hannakarin nodded in approval. Karl looked the most like a Nordic hunter, with wide shoulders and large arms. He was wearing an ugly christmas sweater that Ingrid had made for him two years ago.

"Like I said, pappa, Hana was too shy around moster while she was pretty cool around us." Hannakarin added. "And her hair was a dream to play with."

"You're getting distracted." Anna Lindholm, the sister elder to Brigitte, addressed Hannakarin. Hannakarin deflates visibly. "Hair is not a very nice criteria, I'm afraid." Anna had long, braided blond hair, just like her mother. She was wearing a similar sweater.

"Don't be discouraged." Jan, the one elder to Anna, winked toward Hannakarin. "So, is she always flustered around you?" He says, turning to face Brigitte. Jan had a trendy undercut and a beard that seemed to grace every single model these days. It was more well kept than Karl's, which was just an uncontrolled wilderness. His hair was a darker shade of ginger. Out of all the siblings, he looked the closest to Brigitte. His trendy upkeep extended to his clothes too, with leather jackets and jeans.

"I often notice her looking at my arms." Brigitte says. "And she practically freezes on every touch. I found that out first hand when I hugged her after scoring a strike."

"OOOH Little Hana is gay for muscles!" Ebba Lindholm says in between a burble of laughter. She was the second eldest, elder than Jan. She was holding Magnus in her arms, who was feeding from a bottle of milk. The others laughed. Ebba had shoulder length brown hair with a small spray of freckles on her nose. She also had the ugly christmas sweater on. Ingrid had made one for each of the siblings.

Torbjorn watched it all unfold, while looking in visible confusion. Ingrid gave him a little squeeze.

"We should have sent her there for Christmas." Karl suggests. The others nod. Torbjorn decides he needs to step in.

"Hej! No one in the Lindholm family spends Christmas anywhere other than home." He growls.

"Ignore pappa, he is the last person you should go for advice." Ebba cuts in.

Torbjorn raises his arms in exasperation, his face betrayed. "Ebba!"

"What? Mamma had to do all the heavy lifting to get you off the shop and be a little romantic." Jan supports Ebba. Torbjorn looks at him next, his eyebrows threatening to merge with his hairline.

"I didn't raise you kids to oppose me!" Torbjorn protests. Ingrid laughs.

"They are right, gubben." Ingrid says. "Sorry."

Torbjorn decides to stay silent.

"So, what do you feel?" Karl says, after waiting for a moment. Ingrid gave him the go-ahead.

"Its...different." Brigitte says softly. "I mean I quite enjoy seeing her squirm and be a little mess, but I like being around her."

"They're both whipped. I can't believe this." Anna says. 

"Seeing her squirm, that is some imagery right there." Jan teases, and both Karl and Ebba give him a whack on his either arm. Torbjorn looks alarmed at the poorly-timed joke. Ingrid knows he's trying to work out the mechanics of how that would work. He is always like that. Always trying to know how everything works. She shakes her head in fond weariness.

"I could pay to see how Hana behaves around her, honestly." Anna replies, and Ebba gives her a whack too. "Lets make you beautiful."

There is a silence in which everyone nods. Hannakarin looks starry eyed with all the hairdressing opportunities. "But you did tell them to bring the Boss 429 to the garage, didn't you?" Torbjorn asks in the end.

"Pappa, please!" the siblings shout back warily.

______________________________________

"Looks like someone is doing overtime." Zen comments as he watches Ice Cold Amelie prepare Fareeha, Lena and Hana at a frantic pace. It was already afternoon, and the way Amelie was going, in a meticulous, thorough fashion, it was doubtful if she would make it.

"Remain silent." Amelie rasped. She had multiple hair clips pressed between her lips. Zenyatta was shocked that she could even talk. Amelie finishes her job on Hana and rushes her off in a way that was almost scary. They called her Ice Cold Amelie because of her focus and not to mention a stare to make a statue go weak in the knees when she was disturbed. Not to mention her total unwillingness to voluntarily socialize with people and talk only when there was something more than small talk.

Amelie then moves on to Lena, and her hands fall to her sides when she notices Lena's hair. "Now what do I do with this nest." She laments.

Lena shrugs. "I dunno, I just liked the hairstyle."

"Such a foolish, little girl." Amelie comments. Lena squirms a little. "Hey, now don't give me that 'bottom' bullshit right now!"

Amelie groans, and spits out the hairclips to the side to do something, and summons hairspray from her bag. Zenyatta decides its best not to interfere and goes off to make sure the café was running smoothly. Olivia appears soon after with a milkshake and prods her with it. Amelie gives Olivia the trademark stare but gets no reaction. There was only one person Amelie could not trump in sheer anger. It was Olivia.

No one fucks with Olivia.

Amelie accepts the milkshake and downs it in a single breath. The others look taken aback. Olivia shakes her head and goes ahead to complete the orders.

Jesse bursts in the rear door with fresh clothes in his hands.

"There's your dress 'Reeha. But its new why did you need to dry clean it?" Jesse says

"I hate the smell of new clothes." Fareeha replies

Jesse shakes his head incredulously. "You are one hard woman to understand."

"I guess that is why she loves women. She went way off the spectrum of male understanding long ago." Zenyatta comments when he appears with a tray full of empty cutlery. "Only women can understand her modus operandi now. Like, not even the regular ones. She needs like, doctors and shit."

Jesse laughs even though he didn't understand half of the second statement. Genji roars in laughter and startles a few nearby patrons up front on the counter. Olivia had started laughing when Zenyatta had finished his first statement. Amelie had to take her hands off Lena's head to prevent messing up the hair she had spent so much effort to complete. Lena laughs to the point she could roll off the stool.

Fareeha looked murderous.

______________________________________

Karl had volunteered to see Brigitte off with the rest of the siblings in his SUV, after they were done decorating Brigitte to their heart's content. The home was eerily silent. Torbjorn and Ingrid were still sitting close to the fireplace. Torbjorn was looking into the fire.

"I still can't come to terms with it." Torbjorn says.

"I know it isn't what usually happens, but I trust her." Ingrid replies. "I would ask you to trust her too. Matters of the heart are difficult to understand."

"I don't mean that. I mean, she is so young." Torbjorn muses. "It was only yesterday she could fit in my palm."

Ingrid smiles, and tucks away a little of her greying hair. "Time flies."

Torbjorn rests his head on Ingrid's shoulder. His eyes are soft. "Maybe she is still too young to understand love."

"Maybe she is." Ingrid replies. "But she has us to catch her."

In the university parking, The siblings watched the Ford Mustang Boss 429 pull up to the parking.

"Damn, that thing really is neat" Jan comments. Anna lets Brigitte out, and at the same moment Jack and Gabe emerge from their car, with Hana emerging soon after.

"Should we get out too?" Karl proffers.

"There's too many of us." Ebba replies.

"I say we watch, and then wing it." Jan suggests and the others agree.

They struggle to make a sound when they watch Hana's expression as she looks at Brigitte for the first time. Her eyes are wide in wonder, she is almost solid in her stillness. It was like her entire body had suddenly lost its functionality and was rebooting.

"Whoah, Little Hana has gay dads too!" Anna says. "They look pretty relaxed, though."

"Have you heard about their cafe? Brigitte keeps telling me about it. Its filled with gay people!" Jan says in curious wonder, like it was another country altogether. "We should visit sometime."

"If this works out, sure, why not?" Ebba replies. "I have to see the environment which turned Little Brigitte gay."

"Hey, kid." Gabe says, and snaps Hana out of it.

"Hi Gabe." Brigitte greets him back. "Hi Jack." She greets Jack too. He answers with a smile. "I'll have her home as soon as possible."

Karl slaps his face. "She said that. Why?" He groans.

"Ouch." Anna says. "That looks cheesy from the get-go.

"Goddammit Brigitte." Karl curses silently. Ebba doesn't bother to speak.

"Relax for a moment. It doesn't matter what she tells the dads. What matters is what she tells little Hana." Jan replies.

"Out of all the 'cool guy' stuff I have heard you speak, this one made the most sense. Good job, Jan. You grew up." Ebba says proudly.

______________________________________

"Relax, Lena, you will be okay." Moira assured Lena as she festered in the front seat. Amelie had given up on Lena's hair and had asked her to wear a hat instead, which worked wonders. She had gone with a more natural makeup alongwith her planned attire- Jeans, boots, and a vintage looking waistjacket. Fareeha had gone for a suit that looked a little 1920's gangster, minus a hat. A midnight blue shirt with suspenders and trousers with the sharpest pair of oxfords Lena had ever seen. It suited her frame well, not to mention Amelie's choice of the brightest red lipstick and some more trickery that was difficult to see outright but enhanced her beauty greatly. Everything suited Fareeha's bronze skin.

"I'll take care of her, just be back to pick us up." Fareeha replies. Amelie is on the back seat, tending to Fareeha's suit.

"Fuck no." Moira snaps. "You walk your dates home, useless lesbians."

This makes Lena relax a little, while Amelie snorted in the back seat.

"Come on, lets just get it." Lena musters, and shoots out of the seat as soon as Moira gets to the university. She turns around to look at Fareeha.

"Goodluck" She says, and Amelie pushes Fareeha out where Lena is waiting for her. They start walking to the large main building, which was shaped akin to the white house. Fareeha always thought it was a running joke of sorts. Lena's breathing was in sync with her walking, which was increasing by the moment.

"Lena." Fareeha sighs. "Relax. Breathe a little slower."

However, as they cross the building and Fareeha looks at Angela, she forgets to take her own advice. Angela's attire is a simple one- A black swing dress with an intricate flower pattern running down one side. She wore simple, flat heeled shoes for dancing and stockings for the cold. Her hair was bunched up tightly in a low braided bun, and she had a bare minimum of makeup on. Not because she hated it, but rather because she didn't need any. Emily was dressed in a safari-esque suit but only Lena noticed that

Angela stops at a courteous distance while Fareeha still struggles with the concept of respiration. "Hi." She says.

Fareeha manages to gain a little bit of sentience back. "Hi" she replies. "You look beautiful today."

______________________________________

"You look, uh, pretty." Brigitte says, while Hana is too overwhelmed to even talk. Brigitte had gone for a heavy fur coat, with some heavy set winter slacks and boots. Hana was looking dapper with a pantsuit and a purple shirt underneath. However, any attempts for a conversation is thwarted when Hana spots Yuna walking to her, with a disgruntled boy in tow.

"Here she comes" Hana mutters to herself, and steels herself.

"Hey girl." Yuna says and hugs Hana. She looks at Brigitte, with a little distaste after giving her a once-over. "Who's this?"

"She's with me." Hana says, her tone wavering a little. Yuna's face finally contorts to what it actually was. She looks at the boy behind her in disbelief, and his eyebrows raise in a manner that indicate betrayal. He had a suit on, and a hairstyle that looked straight off a fashion magazine. But he was lanky, so it hurt his appearance more than actually enhancing it. Yuna was wearing a dress that looked more summer than winter.

"Hey, I don't want any more of this, Okay?" Yuna says and waves Hana off completely. Brigitte decides not to interfere. "Here's Ron, He wanted to go with you."

"Hey." Ron says nervously. Hana disregards him.

"What about Brigitte?" Hana asks, her voice still protesting, not firm.

"Send her home or something." Yuna says. Both Brigitte and Hana raise their eyebrows. Hana stays still. Yuna then looks at Brigitte. "I don't think you should be anywhere near Hana with that fur jacket and those boots are hurting my eyes. What is this, the army?"

Hana says nothing, and Brigitte looks dead into her eyes, her expression impassive. Yuna, in an act of defiance, seizes Hana by the wrist. Brigitte turns her head to follow Hana. Hana looked down, in shame or anger she did not know. If Hana did leave her here, she would forget this part of her life, and go on with it, her job and her family. Pretend to forgive Hana when she came apologizing, but then just drift away.

But that was not necessary. "No." Hana said. Her voice was feeble, but her resolve was firm. Rock solid.

"What?" Yuna said, her tone indicating a warning. Hana yanked her arm away, and forced Yuna to look at her.

"This is my prom. As much as yours." Hana says, her eyes watering a little, but completely unwavering. "I go the way I want to. And I want to go with someone I can trust. And I trust Brigitte more than I trust you." Hana says, and their fingers intertwine just like that. Warmth fills their chests. Brigitte looks Yuna dead in the eye. Her expression still impassive.

"No!" Yuna snaps. "We rep. Come on." she says and seizes Hana's wrist again. This time Brigitte steps in. Her hand clamps onto Yuna's forearm in a crushing grip. Yuna twitches. Ron looks at the whole scene with uncertanity.

"Off." Brigitte says, her voice and tone both neutral in a way that is scary. Yuna's resolve shatters into a million pieces. Yuna lets Hana go and Brigitte steers Yuna away, with the might of her grip alone. Yuna now looks a little scared. Hana looks relieved. Confidence fills her.

"If that is the case." Hana addresses her previous instruction. "I think I will break off." she says, and pulls Brigitte by the collar of her fur coat into a shameless, and incredibly bold kiss. Ron raises his eyebrows in amusement. Yuna looks like she was stabbed in the back. Hana takes her time to savour it, while Brigitte was too surprised to reciprocate appropriately. Hana gets on her toes to lean in a little more. After a few more more moments, Hana breaks off, adrenaline rushing through her veins, blood thundering in her ears. She was intoxicated. High on her bravery. "And yes, I'm gay. Deal with it. GG." She says, making a victory sign. Brigitte blinks. A lot. She was still processing information.

Yuna wants to say something, but her dictionary betrays her. She stomps and walks off. Brigitte had regained consciousness and braced Hana by the hip. A little industrial in her touch, but Hana didn't mind. Hana turned a little to look at Ron. "Sorry Ron."

Ron raises his arms in well-mannered defeat with an amused smile on his face. "I'm cool. She was forcing me a little anyways." He says and leaves.

They laugh, kiss a little more (with Brigitte more active this time), and then run off to dance their hearts off, and shamelessly empty the food table.

______________________________________

The dancing is intense.

It wasn't a regular dance with slow music and couples. It was a dance circle, with people coming by turns to bust out their moves. Caravan Palace was on full song, to the amusement of Lena, who was quite surprised to see the band performing live. people in the circle tapping their feet and grooving in approval. Fareeha breathed a sigh of relief. She had practiced some moves, with some insight from the very knowledgeable Lena. Angela looked like she was ready to dance as well. Emily was dancing with all her might, her moves slick and executed with perfection. She ends, some hair plastered to her forehead, and she beckons Lena to come in with a finger. 

Lena obliges, and busts out a set of moves that shocks Emily to an extent. After all, Lena knew this pretty well. At the end of her dance, Emily just tacked Lena off the center with a kiss, amidst hoots from the circle, and just disappeared into the crowd. Fareeha knew that was the last time she was seeing her in a public place. Angela moves into the center, the circle encouraging her, claps to the rhythm of the music. She grabs the hem of her dress, and dishes out a very pleasing, elegant, yet energetic series of shuffles and kicks that would make Zoe Colotis proud. Angela slaps her foot on the hardwood floor, and Fareeha just dashes in, with some kicks and moves of her own.

Angela waits a little, and then just gets into the center again when Fareeha ends her sequence. They close distance. Fareeha halts.

"Do I have your permission?" Fareeha asks, her body tense like a coiled spring, ready to dance in either scenario.

"Yes, you do." Angela says and seizes her by the hands. None knew what move was to follow next, but they went in, a blind leap of faith. They dance together, each step in perfect synergy, the kicks timed perfectly. Angela took one chance to let Fareeha spin her around, and then Fareeha returned the favor. Their dance ended, and they took off quickly, and in her peripheral vision she could see Zoe pointing to her in appreciation. Angela was laughing again, all snorts and giggles.

"You dance pretty well." Angela says, after her laughter died. They sat on a table at the far end of the hall, where the music was fainter.

"Thank you." Fareeha says, a little winded. "I learned from the best."

Fareeha had her questions ready. The only thing left was to ask them at the right time. "Hey, can we go outside? It's hard to talk here."

______________________________________

Emily didn't even wait for the door to lock completely (a task Lena had to follow up on) as she pinned Lena to the wall of the tight janitor's closet. They had already flung their clothes to the far corners of the closet. Some landed on bottles of cleaning solutions, others on the floor.

"Whoah hey! I don't have extras." Lena hissed, eyes bright, hands tangled in Emily's hair, while Emily clawed at Lena's underwear.

"That means I get to see you naked for longer. I don't see how that is a disadvantage." Emily says, struggling with the clips on Lena's bra. Lena squirms when her back touches the cold wall.

"Its cold." Lena reminds her. "God, I thought you were supposed to be good at this."

"Bras are the work of the devil." Emily admits, and Lena twists her arm to free herself. Emily uses all her willpower not to look at Lena's chest.

"Not my proudest way to end the year, but I'll take it." Lena says as Emily bites into her neck instead. "Don't fucking suck my blood." she hisses.

"I wish I could." Emily growls into her ear, worming her finger into the hem of Lena's underwear. "I'd bet my tuition you would be a treat."

Emily carefully flings the piece of clothing away and gets on her knees. Lena has to bend her neck to see when she senses nothing for a few moments. Emily is looking at her with an uncertain expression on her face.

"Um, You are sure you are okay with this aren't you?" Emily asks. "I'd do you all day every day, but, erm, you know."

Lena shakes her head. She is so wet it hurts. "It's pretty late to ask," Lena says as she grabs Emily by the head and guides her. "but yes, I'm sure."

With the permission granted, Emily gets to work, tongue and two fingers in, and renders Lena incapable of speech or cognitive function.

Emily was sure Lena's orgasm was more explosive than the fireworks outside.

______________________________________

Fareeha had found them a convenient bench that overlooked the sky, under an arch. It was a short way, and they were sitting close to each other. Fareeha notices how close they are. She wants to hold Angela's hand, but all those years dealing with Jack and Gabe's desperation, she had learnt to always have consent, no matter what it was

"Angela, can I hold your hand?"

Angela looks at her with a slight frown on her face, but she smiles. Fareeha felt stupid, but she knew permission was important.

"Yes, yes you can." Angela says and takes hold of Fareeha's hand. "Thank you for asking."

A few moments pass while they look at the stars. Fareeha felt like she was sixteen all over again. When she first realised how gay she was. Angela decides she needs to ask for permission too.

"Can I rest my head on your shoulder?" Angela asks. Fareeha twitches a little, but she smiles stupidly and nods. Angela looks at the stars, head on Fareeha's shoulder, idly rubbing her thumb in circles across Fareeha's palm. Her hand was warm.

"Angela, I wanted to ask you something." Fareeha says softly. 

"Hmm?" Angela hums.

"Its been three dates. I don't mind you taking the time, I enjoy it myself. But where is this going? What are we?"

Angela pauses for a few moments. "I take some time to trust. Its the way I am. But I think I can ask you now. You have earned it. You deserve it."

"Ask me what?" 

Angela takes her head off Fareeha's shoulder to make eye contact. Her eyes look even more beautiful in the moonlight. "Would you want to be my Fareeha?"

"Your Fareeha?" She asks, looks upward at the decorations, and smiles. "Its got a nice ring to it."

Angela, satisfied, returns to her previous position. Fareeha chuckles a little at the victory. "Hey, I don't know if you think this but I think me meeting you was a coincidence."

"You do?" Angela asks her, still looking at the stars.

"And I think this is a coincidence too." Fareeha says, looking up at the decoration again and grinning.

"What is a coincidence? Me inviting you here?"

"No." Fareeha says. "That we are sitting under a mistletoe." 

The decoration was supposed to stay for Christmas, but it was a lucky accident. Angela looks up and then chuckles. "Yes, we are." Angela confirms.

Fareeha feels anticipation rising in her chest. "So, um, can I kiss you, Angela?" She asks, stupidly, but permission is important.

Angela chuckles. "Yes. You can kiss me. Thank you for asking." 

Angela faces her, frames her face with her hands, and their lips meet. Right as the clock strikes twelve. It was under the stars. Lit by the moon. In the winters. Like the fairytales said.

Well, under the mistletoe was just a bonus.

Nothing like a little more good fortune to start the new year.

Fareeha breaks off, but she felt unsatisfied. "Can I have another?" She asks, like a kid asking for candy, emboldened by the permission.

"Yes. Yes you can." Angela says, and smiles into the kiss.

______________________________________

"BRIGITTE AND HANA SITTING ON A TREE!" The siblings screamed in the SUV, while Brigitte sat on the center in the second row. "K-I-S-S-I-N-G."

"Guys stop." Brigitte said, burying her face in her hands.

"FIRST COMES LOVE." 

"THEN COMES MARRIAGE."

"THEN COMES JUNIOR IN A CARRIAGE." They scream, but Jan stops. "Wait, how would that work?"

"Its just details." Karl says. "For now, WE SING!"

They sing another round of the song. "So, Little Brigitte has gotten her first kiss." Ebba says.

"And the thing is, Little Hana did it!" Jan adds. "That is an explosion of gallantry there."

"Who cares. The thing is, SHE GOT HER KISS!" Anna screams.

And then they sing the song, at the top of their lungs, until their voice is raw.

______________________________________

Gabe's phone buzzes as he lay beside Jack. He takes a look at the caller ID. Jack watches all this, and squeezes his hand harder. Gabe picks the call.

"Happy new year." Gabe wishes. "Give me some good news."

"Happy new year, Gabriel." The voice replies. "I have some good news, in fact."

"So please tell me." Gabriel demands.

"He is no more. I am on a plane. I should be there in ten to twelve hours."

Gabe smiles. "Good riddance."

"Good riddance indeed. I am going off the grid for now. See you on the other side."

"See you on the other side," Gabe says, and Jack throws his head back in glee. "Captain Amari."

Chapter Text

"Where is she?" Zafar, Yusuf Amari's close aide, hissed in the silence to his goons. The goons shook their heads. "This is an important time for her to be here."

Soon, a man emerged from the mortuary. His face was hardened by the sun and politics alike. He had a salt-and-pepper beard with a streak of white atop his pale black hair. His eyes were a little reddened, due to the lack of sleep. His name was Malik Amari, the most pivotal and powerful man to ever grace politics. He catches Zafar talking to his goons.

"What are these men doing here?" Malik growls quietly. Zafar shrinks a little. The goons shuffle their feet.

"Sir, Your sister. She is nowhere to be found." Zafar tells him like it was a crisis.

"So you are telling me, my sister, Ana Amari, who lost her child, her husband and practically her freedom to that monster down there," Malik says, pointing to the mortuary where Yusuf Amari was resting. "is gone?"

Zafar and his men fester in the uncomfortable silence. Malik knows what that means. He closes the distance between them.

"Yusuf Amari snatched her career in the UN peacekeeping force, He snatched her husband, Sam, he snatched her daughter, and my Niece, Fareeha from her." He spits, his voice acid, searing the air between them. "All for politics. And yet she loved him back." Malik turned to the biggest goon in the group of four. "You remember the car going down the cliff, don't you? You remember Ana's face when you brought her in, don't you? You remember how she cried for days on end without food, don't you?"

The goon freezes solid. Malik's face hardens even more. "You are so lucky Ana is still alive." He rasps. Zafar was pretty sure he would piss his pants any moment. Malik Amari was the strongest Amari of them all, physically, mentally and politically. The news said Malik was untouchable even for Yusuf in his prime. He whips out his phone and his aide comes in running, moments after the phone disconnects. The aide was bulky, with brilliant black hair and strong arms. His name was Amon. He wore a safari suit and had a walkie-talkie strapped to his shoulder.

"Make sure none of these men are alive by the next hour." Malik says, like a rock flung down a mountain. Final, irrevocable.

"B-but sir you said we were lucky!" Zafar protests. "Please be merciful!" He cries, falling on Malik's feet. The goons follow suit.

"My sister is the merciful one." Malik says, looking down on them. "I am not my sister."

"But you said we were lucky!" Zafar tries again.

"Lucky, because you will not be tortured before dying." He says, and turns to Amon. "Throw them down the same cliff they sent Sam's car in. I want you to make sure they die. If they survive the fall, bring them back to the top, and throw them down again."

Amon nods and calls his men on the radio. Zafar cries and grabs onto Malik's feet. "But I was your father's most trusted man! What will happen to his party? What will happen to his legacy?" He tries again.

"Yusuf Amari's legacy died the day Ana Amari joined the UN. And his conservative party died with him." Malik says. "Don't worry. I won't stop until I get through each and every one of his party members. You will join your god soon."

Amon's men come and take Zafar and his goons away. Malik starts walking down the hallway with Amon behind him.

"Sir. May I say something?" Amon says softly and reverently.

"Sure."

"I think that was a little too extreme for a liberal." He says, his tone indicating he was measuring his words very carefully.

"I am a liberal, not non violent." Malik says. "Some people understand only violence."

They walk for a few more moments in silence. Malik talks this time.

"Did you put her on the plane?" Malik asks Amon.

"Yes sir. We took the back roads and kept her hidden. Just like you asked. There were gunmen at every point for her safety. I have sent a trusted aide with her as well."

"The pilot?"

"The same that pilots you. The most trusted man."

"What about her hospitality?"

"Air hostesses, all food and drinks available sir. Air hostesses and the rest were picked personally too."

"And a phone?"

"Yes sir. That was made sure of too."

"Thank you, Amon. I will call you if I need you again." Malik says and Amon takes his leave after a bow. Malik whips out his phone once again and dials a number.

"Is everything alright?" He asks when Ana answers on the other side. 

"Yes brother. I could have taken a normal plane."

"Nonsense." He replies immediately. "You will reach there in a while. There are people for your aid in the plane."

"Thank you." Ana replies. There is a moment of silence.

"Just do me a favor." Malik says. "Just send me a picture of what Fareeha looks like when you get there."

"I will." Ana says and waits for a moment. "Please be merciful to Zafar."

Malik is not someone who minces words. "I won't." He says in a manner that tells Ana he would have no further discussion on the matter. Ana sighs on his brother's steadfastness. When Malik had found out what Yusuf had done to Ana and his precious niece Fareeha, he went on a lengthy six year vendetta against the then most powerful man in politics. Sleep was not necessary. Food and cleanliness was dealt with clinical speed. His grip on the Conservatives was unshakable. The news heralded him. The people voted him in a landslide. The only thing that stopped Malik from erasing Yusuf earlier was Ana. She believed everyone deserved kindness. But Malik was not his sister. He removed everyone that Yusuf could reach out for backup as soon as he hit his deathbed. 

Politics was a bloody profession. And Malik learnt that first hand when he saw the carnage Yusuf inflicted on Ana's husband. His car was found. Sam was beat up and strapped into the car. Everyone in the area ignored the unholy sound of a car crashing down the cliff. Only because the conservatives did not approve of marriage outside of their own religion. And if the people found out Yusuf was letting such things happen, it would have decimated his career in a matter of seconds. It was honor killing at its peak.

Ana had found Sam when she was in US for her duty. He was a nice man. Someone Malik valued and respected. They married in secret. But when Yusuf found out that Ana was pregnant with Fareeha, he forced her into the house. Sam was forbidden from ever coming in contact with her ever again. But love is a powerful thing, the straw that broke the camel's back.

But Malik's victory was a hollow one. He wanted Yusuf to witness how mercilessly Malik was going to eradicate his ancient ideals. His party and his people. Make him die a million deaths and then force him to live. But Ana stopped him. Malik was never angry at that. It was just what his sister was. He patiently waited.

He waits for a moment again before talking. "You are a free soul now." He says, and clicks off. He takes a deep breath. There was so much he had to do.

And it would begin with dismantling Yusuf Amari's party, his legacy, and everything he stood for. Because Ana held him back all these years. Now he could exact his revenge for keeping his niece away from him for so long. The niece he played with for hours on end, and then be found the next day snoozing with her splayed across him. The niece he helped with homework and school. The niece who told him about her first and only girlfriend with genuine fear and absolute trust. The niece he shielded from all politics and media.

The niece he saved the day Yusuf Amari was out for blood.

The only motivation was that he could see his niece's face once again. And maybe feel a little more human once again.

______________________________________

The Ford Mustang Boss 429 is parked in the darkness, almost invisible save for the glint of the headlights. Jack and Gabe are standing by the door, which dealt with private aircrafts. After a few moments of waiting in the dusk, Ana Amari emerged. She was just like they remembered her. Trim. Rather small at a five feet eight compared to Jack and Gabe's six feet one. Age had whitened her hair, but not undermined her fitness, or her appearance. Her gait was still strong and unshakable. Her eyes were still as sharp as they remembered. 

The only shame was that she was not in the majestic uniform she used to wear when she used to command the two men. Right now it was a dark hoodie with the hood drawn all the way that obscured all of her face. She was wearing dark jeans with shoes made for running. It was urban camouflage for night. That is what Jack and Gabe used when they had to sneak out in the night the moment their hormones overtook. It was their instrument of rebellion.

Jack and Gabe quickly take either of her hands and kiss it. Ana graciously accepts the greeting with a smile, and then ruffles their hair.

"Welcome." Jack says. They quickly seize the luggage from Amon's aide after a curt nod and dump it in the trunk after seeing him off. They escort her to the car. Despite a lot of insisting, Ana took the back seat. Jack and Gabe get in the car and drive off.

"Any problems in coming here?" Jack asked Ana, shifting into third.

"Nothing at all. My brother was too elaborate."

"You know what he means, Captain." Gabe explains. "Will there be more people coming after you and 'Reeha now?"

"None. And I think Malik killed the last one that could the moment I got onto the plane."

"He didn't waste his time." Gabe comments.

"He never does. You have no idea how desperate he is to see her again." Ana replied. "He literally erased anyone and everyone who could come in our way, as soon as father was hospitalized."

"I wish he could come too." Jack adds.

There is a silence in which Ana observes the scene through the windscreen and the car makes its way to the apartment. They are quick to escort Ana and her luggage to the apartment. Its furnished bare-bones. All the furniture was there, the kitchen was stocked, but none the decoration. The men knew their captain would like to make this place her own.

"This is the place I was talking about." Gabe says and gives her a tour. "I hope you like it."

"You know me too well, I'm afraid." Ana says. "This is exactly what I wanted." she says and quickly gets to making tea.

They sit on the sofa, sipping from their cups. "I will get you some books to read tomorrow at the very least and get you a TV at the very most. You wouldn't believe the amount of garage sales here." Jack says.

"Nonsense." Ana says. "I cannot keep you boys away from your work anymore. You have a cafe to run. I will find something on my own. A job maybe."

They do not react, because they had seen that coming. They tried anyways. "There are some bakeries and grocery shops here. You want me to look for something?" Gabe offers.

"Nothing. I need nothing from you now." Ana says. "Except one thing."

______________________________________

"Holy shit we need to exorcise Emily the next time she sees you naked." Zenyatta says as he examines Lena's neck, pulling her RAF jacket collar aside. Emily, who was sitting on the counter with a cup of coffee in her hand, looked smug. Angela looked at the scene like she was betrayed about not knowing this first. It was the breakfast rush. Moira and Ice Cold Amelie had swung by to have a quick chat before going off for their profession.

"Please tell me this was not the only damage you did." Ice Cold Amelie asks Emily. Emily waves to Lena to explain.

"Let's just say I would have to indulge in public nudity to show you guys." Lena says. Zen mouths NO in disbelief. "I don't think I will be doing much sitting today, or wearing bras for a few days." Lena says and Jesse does a rather loud wolf whistle which prompts Gabe to stare him down, and then Olivia staring Gabe down.

Moira raises her hands to calm everyone down. She then points to Angela and Fareeha "Lets talk about these two gay women for a while." She says and leans over the counter with her elbow. "Under a mistletoe right as the clock struck twelve. Smoothest fucker I have ever seen. Trust me." she says and the others nod in impressed agreement. Angela blushes and looks down. Fareeha looks smug as well.

"And and and lets not forget it," Genji says, rapping the counter with his finger. "This kid right here kissed our Hana!" He says and grabs Brigitte by her shoulders.

"And yes, kid." Zenyatta says, pointing towards her with his finger, his features serious. "if I see her crying because of you even once, I will tear you to pieces."

Brigitte gives out a nervous laugh, but everyone is looking at her deadpan and no one follows with her. Her laughing stops.

"He's right." Fareeha says.

"You have her heart." Moira warns her next. "If you break it, Hell will follow."

Ice Cold Amelie nods in a way that scares her to no end. Brigitte looks genuinely terrorized now.

"We can promise you that." Genji is the one to conclude and gives her a pat on her shoulders. Olivia steps in to save the day.

"Well she doesn't have any intentions to do that!" She protests. "Let her breathe its been only two days!"

"I was just warning her." Zenyatta shrugs and turns to Moira. "Hey you going to the hospital?"

"Yeah." Moira says and looks at her watch. "I should actually be going."

Zenyatta quickly takes his apron off. "I need to be at the gym, its in the way. Drop me there?"

Moira nods and waits for Zen to finish. Olivia comes in running.

"Wait! If you're going to the gym take this." Olivia says and hands him a wad of foil. Probably her eggs.

"For?" Zenyatta says.

"Zarya." Olivia says and then disappears to tend to her orders. Zenyatta turns around to face the others who were thinking the same thing. 

"Is she...?" Zenyatta says, pointing with his occupied hand between Olivia and the door, which meant Zarya. "Are they...?"

"Looks like it." Fareeha replies and shrugs.

______________________________________

"Olivia sent you this." Zenyatta says and holds out the wad of foil. He then carefully watches her.

Her first reaction is sheepishness. She looks at the package with longing as she takes it, and then delicately unwraps the package to see what was inside. It was like studying the sea. There was a million little things going on. The subtle darting of her eyes, the way the corners of her mouth fought against the rest of the muscles on her face to stop her from smiling stupidly. She delicately wraps the package again, and then scurries off somewhere.

"Holy shit. I thought that was a neighbor thing." Zenyatta whispered to himself.

Zarya was quick to come back. Too fast to have eaten whatever Olivia had sent her. He was the authority on it because he had won a handful of eating competitions when he was in the Himalayas. Zenyatta surmised that it meant she had packed the food off, delicately, into the bag, and was going to savor it in her free time. She came back with a spring in her step.

"Let's train." She says, and slaps Zenyatta's back with such enthusiasm that he nearly flips.

And he wished he had handed her the package after he had trained. Zarya was so happy that she ran with him on the treadmills. She egged him on until he was sure there was acid in his lungs. He dropped to the mats, heaving like an asthmatic dog. His legs burnt horribly and his feet felt like they had crumbled.

"I should have smoked less weed." He wheezed, prepared to die in a pool of his own sweat. Zarya stood tall over him, hands on her hips.

"That was just warmup. We go leg day today." She says, looking down on him.

"What?" Zenyatta chokes. "Isn't the first day chest day?"

"Not here. All strength comes from legs." She corrects him. "We do olympic lifting. Not the bodybuilding blyat others do."

"That sounds scary." Zenyatta says and attempts to get on his feet.

"Is scary, but it makes you strong as a mountain." She replies. "But right now we only train basics."

"Basics." Zenyatta huffs. "Basics is good."

But the basics he didn't see coming was squats and squats on end. Zenyatta had no idea something so basic was capable of causing so much agony in his posterior chain. His lower back hurt to the point he could sympathize with old people. His legs were lead and so was his butt. He was so sore he couldn't stand, but he also couldn't think of sitting. He is walked out by Zarya who was holding him up.

"You did good." She offers.

"Oh did I?" Zenyatta replies.

"Eat food, get rest. We lift tomorrow." She says.

"Do me a favor." Zenyatta says. "Kill me already."

______________________________________

"Love, what's wrong?" Lena says as she inspects Emily. Her eyes were red. She was sniffing. They were standing behind the cafe in the alley as they had just closed. "What happened?" She says, a little worried now.

"I hurt you." She says quietly.

"What?"

"I couldn't stop thinking about what you said this morning. That you couldn't sit well for a while." Emily whimpers. "I'm so sorry."

And that is when she starts crying in earnest. Lena looks alarmed at the sudden development in events and does what people usually do. Lena embraces her and strokes her head.

"I'm such a selfish and useless piece of shit. I harassed you, I bugged you and I hurt you." She continues to curse herself. "You are an angel. I'm just someone who doesn't deserve you."

"Shh shh shh." Lena comforts her. "Hey, its okay. I had fun too."

Emily kept crying while Lena kept trying to calm her down. She started moving around like a waltz, only much more awkward. Lena realized how much her words had affected her. She made a secret pact to not talk like that ever again, even though it was meant to be boastful and full of pride.

But what had truly escaped her comprehension was how Emily truly was. Was she opening up to her? She was sorry for all she had done to Lena, and while Lena minded none of it, it hurt her a little to think if Emily spent sleepless nights thinking about how badly she treated Lena. Was she really that guilt ridden? Was this the real Emily? caring and forever doubting herself despite all the external coolness? Did she treat all women before her the same way? Or Lena was the exception?

"Why do you still keep tolerating me?" Emily asks, buried under Lena's arms, sobbing on her jacket.

"You remember what you told me?" Lena says softly into her ear. "Because you are worth the trouble, love."

Emily's sobbing subsides. She looks up, teary eyes and red nose. "Really?" She asks, her voice feeble.

"Yes. Worth every single hickey." Lena says. Emily giggles and cries a little at the same time.

Outside, Fareeha was by the door. Angela was facing her. There was the same charged silence again.

"Well, I could have stopped you for longer, but we have to close." Fareeha says.

"Well, I couldn't have stayed for longer" Angela replies. "I need to study. Tests are coming."

"So, that means I can't see you for a few days?" Fareeha says, and Angela deflates a little when she confirms it. There is another charged silence in which Fareeha formulates her question. "Before you go, can I have a kiss?"

"I was thinking the same thing." Angela says and smiles. "Yes, you can."

Angela does not have a vertical advantage like Fareeha does when they stand. So she gets on her toes, and kisses her, hands on her cheek, and Fareeha receives with a stupid smile, bracing Angela by the hip to make things easier. It made them breathless, cheeks blazing and hearts hammering. They break off, and Angela hugs her for added measure.

click.

______________________________________

Olivia notices Zarya ascending the stairs with her bag slung across her shoulder. She abandons unlocking her door to meet Zarya. Zarya stops with a smile, right outside her door.

"Happy new year." Zarya wishes her.

"Happy new year." Olivia wishes her back. "Did Zenyatta give you the package?"

"Oh yes." Zarya says and ruffles through her bag to fish out the wad of foil, completely unscathed. "I do not eat in gym so I brought it back."

"Oh." Olivia says. She doesn't know what to say about that. Zarya looks down at the package to think of something.

"I wanted to share it with you." Zarya clarifies. Olivia looks up at her, something coming back to her face. Zarya opens the door. "After you."

Olivia settles herself on the sofa while Zarya gets the food warmed up and brings it on two plates with the necessary cutlery. Zarya passes Olivia the plate and then sits beside her on the same sofa. The sofa creaks a little, but neither of them mind. Olivia knows what the food tastes like because she has been cooking it for years. What she wants to see is Zarya. Zarya looks relieved, probably hungry or surviving on bland protein shakes since breakfast. She munches on each bite with so much relish, drawing it out to the maximum. Her jaws worked overtime, the muscles tensing and relaxing. Her eyes fondly on the food. 

Olivia was already done with her share of food. Zarya had shared what was originally meant only for her. There was nothing that she didn't share. She always welcomed Olivia into the house. She had given her company, someone to talk to. She had given so much. And never even thought of asking of anything. Olivia had to invite her, even though she was well to do alone

Maybe it was time to change that.

Olivia leaned in. A little. Zarya knew what was going on. She stayed still, eyes descending to track Olivia. She moved closer, and Zarya's heart rate quickened. Her breathing hitched as their mouths came closer. 

Zarya panicked at the last moment and shot off the sofa. Olivia looked at her bewildered, red-faced form darting around the small coffee table. Her own expression was incomprehensible.

"I'm sorry," Zarya says, very, very nervous and scared a little. "but I can't do this." She says and fidgets with her hands, which had suddenly become very interesting things.

"What's wrong?" Olivia says. She beckons her to sit. But Zarya lets her actions speak, looking everywhere except Olivia.

"I'm tired, and I am feeling sleepy." She lies, and knows she is lying. Olivia knows too. "Can I meet you tomorrow?"

"Sure!" Olivia chirps, relieving Zarya of any more awkwardness. She leaves with her things. "Good night!"

"Good night!" Zarya answers and opens the door. She closes it right after Olivia leaves and slumps against it, burying her face in her hands.

"Why am I like this?" she groans

______________________________________

Malik Amari's phone buzzed while he brooded on his sofa in the darkness of the night. That is how he was. Always in action. His mind working when his body wasn't. He swiped his thumb across the screen. It was a message from his sister.

A: You wanted a picture of Fareeha?

M: Yes.

A: It isn't much. Jack had to do a little bit of hiding to get the picture. It was dark.

M: Anything will work for now. Anything.

A: Okay.

Malik receives the picture and quickly downloads it. Its in the darkness, and the only source of light seems to be coming from some cafe behind them. But the sight he wasn't prepared for was his niece. She was towering over a woman with golden hair, still wearing the golden hair ornaments from so long back. She was strong in her stance. Malik could sense her strength through the picture.

But what truly got to him was what Fareeha was doing. Her eyes were shut, and her lips were locked with another woman, who was on her toes to reach her properly. Fareeha's hand was across the small of the woman's back, and the expression of peace told him that she was at peace.

At peace, and embracing what she really was. The thing which had caused Yusuf Amari's crusade. What had made Malik into what he was now.

She was back to loving herself, and loving someone regardless of what they were. Love was an abstract concept. It wasn't about the bodies. It was about the souls.

Malik is a strong man. He didn't cry when he saw what had happened to Ana. He didn't cry when he found out that he might never see his niece ever again.

But right now, seeing his niece after so long. After oh so long.

He cried.

Chapter Text

Ana Amari's first purchase in the country was a pair of glasses. She didn't need them. Her eyes were as strong as they come, but it was a very nice alteration to her appearance. It had a black frame with thick red arms, the same plastic stuff young women wore for Instagram, and it was the only style available. The second thing she bought was makeup, the industrial, no fade stuff that wouldn't budge even with sweat. Not that she needed any, but rather she needed to hide the tattoo under her eye. It was an hour long process to find the perfect shade. If she didn't hide the tattoo, it would be a dead giveaway.

The third purchase was clothing. She went in and brought the most inconspicuous sweatpants, sweatshirts, hoodies, t shirts and what not. Then came the shoes. Somewhere between running and fashion.

And after doing all this in the night when it was easier to hide under a hood, her morning ritual began. She hid the tattoo with the makeup first. then she tied her hair in a braid, opposed to her usual open hairstyle. Third, she bundled up her wiry frame with sports clothing, and lastly, put on her glasses. It was the small things that made all the difference.

And then she went out to look for a job.

Her needs were simple. She needed enough to pay the rent, and the job had to be behind the scenes, and not somewhere where she had to meet people. And soon she found one, in the nearby grocery-store-cum-deli. The advertisement called for someone to package the groceries and prepare deli items. It was nothing Ana could not handle.

"Is the job still open?" Ana entered, pointing to the piece of paper stuck to the corner of the front window.

"Finally." A weary, deep, but benevolent voice answered. "Its been an eternity since I put that up. You're hired?"

Although Ana was happy she got the job, the easiness of it escaped her. Would there be literally no formalities at all?

She spots a head floating over the counter. A dusty book was slapped to the counter. "Just sign yourselves in and attach all the stuff you need." The voice replies and the head ducks under the countertop once again. Ana huffs and just fills herself in with all the documents and rotates the book back to the other side. A meaty hand emerges and takes the book away. Another thud says that whoever was behind the counter didn't even take the time to see the details. Not that it was faked or anything. Ana was ushered inside. Jack had told her about the easy trusting nature of the people here. There were very little crimes here.

However, Ana concluded that the keeper had seen her already and concluded she could do no harm. She was simply too well dressed and well kept together for that to be the case. Ana carried herself as a woman who could never mean to do any harm. Everything tucked in a tight space, a habit from her UN days. In the UN, your first objective was to be friendly, not to be someone who knew they had the bigger gun. Peace was eventually more rewarding always.

"So I will be at the counter if you need me." The keeper said. The formalities were completed and Ana was given her apron.

"Do you own this place?" Ana asked. She could make small talk because there was no one coming.

"Me? No. I'm just a science student trying to pay some bills." He says. He had a grizzly beard and a neglected hairstyle with small glasses. He was big, and rather rounded. It was a zero sum game, because he looked pretty harmless. Someone who wouldn't hurt a fly. He also looked awkward everywhere. And he was sitting slouched on the stool, making him so much smaller.

"Oh. Biology?" She asks.

"Nah. I like astrophysics." He replies. "Always loved stars and planets."

"Heavy stuff." Ana comments as they wait for customers. There is a silence where Ana watches the street and the keeper produces a book from the innumerable counters and begins reading. Ana then remembers and smacks her forehead. 

"What's your name?" She asks. 

"Winston." He replies, not bothering to raise his eyes from his book. "Yours?"

Ana hesitates. The town is small. Name takes no time to pass around. Fareeha is here. She must not know. Ana's brain was going a mile a minute. No one can know. The need to know basis is only on four entities. Jack. Gabe. Malik. The Government. Quick, think of something. What is the risk? How many people does this man know? Will the information be compromised? Will this chain extend to Fareeha? Is there a backup name? Is there a real name? What is her name?

Her years of military training was rushing over her. Taking over her thought processes like a virus. She does not know how to react. The static in her head grows louder and louder as unrecognisable male and female voices barked orders, growing louder by the moment. Hours of time and space compressed into a single second.

Silence.

"My name is Ana."

"Oh. Nice to meet you. Do you mind if I call you granny though? I mean no offense, you look young and all, but I guess I could call you granny?" Winston offers.

"Sure." 

Winston now seemed interested in talking. Like Ana giving him her name was a bond of trust. He carefully stashes his book and turns to her. The stool creaks.

"So Granny, what do you cook?" He says, setting his glasses right to the top of his nose. "I am kind of hungry."

______________________________________

Olivia wasn't a woman who overthought things. She let things go the way they did and cross bridges when she came to it.

But the events of last night kept replaying in her head. How uncomfortable Zarya was. How she panicked when Olivia came closer. How she fidgeted and looked nervous. Olivia had known over the years that the one thing she could trust was her gut. It had helped her in a million previous situations. But something told her it wasn't her taking too fast. It was something else entirely. It wasn't Zarya being awkward either. She was leaning into it at the start as well, but remembered something and then the wall came in.

Her meditation was rudely interrupted when ice cold water hit her skin. She shrunk and then quickly turned off the tap. Cursing silently, she dried herself and then whipped on the warmest possible clothes to compensate. It was just seven thirty in the morning, so she had some time before she left for the cafe.

Olivia knows things unravel and truths come to light by themselves. They always do. Truth emerged from the well by herself. There was no one pushing her out because she was the only one left. And thus Olivia didn't need to become Sherlock to get to the bottom of stuff. She was too busy taking care of two grown kids each much older than her and then more. But she could always sort out the awkwardness.

A conversation doesn't take much time.

And Gabe would actually praise her if she came in late.

Well, that means Olivia is talking over coffee.

She knocks on Zarya's door moments later, there is a dull thud, a small crash and then slapping of feet on hardwood. Zarya opens the door. Olivia covers her mouth on seeing Zarya.

"I'm really sorry I should come at a later-" Olivia says and tries to escape.

"Is ok is ok." Zarya assured her breathily, clutching the towel closer to her collarbone. Her hair was dripping. She had just rushed out of the shower to open the door. In the cold.

That required a kind of bravery that Olivia had no comprehension of, or any will to replicate. Zarya ushers her in and then darts to her room. Their roles had reversed. Now Olivia was the awkward one. The couch was biting her. Olivia felt she had done what was a crime. Interrupt someone during their ritual. The only thing which prepares them for the rest of the day.

Zarya emerges, all fresh and smelling of sports deodorant. She is wiping off the remaining water from her head. And suddenly Zarya is back to being the slightly ruffled, strong and kind hearted individual she usually was. 

And now Olivia isn't even sure if Zarya was hiding something.

"You wanted to talk?" Zarya asks, toweling her ear.

"Oh, yes, I actually had made us coffee." Olivia says. "I am really sorry for last night."

"Ey I was just smelling bad yesterday, I did not want you to be uncomfortable." Zarya explains, her thick accent filling Olivia's ears. "Gym training is hard. You smell like pig."

"Oh." Olivia says.

Was her gut really betraying her this one time? She thought as she retrieved the cups from the kitchen of her own home. But as soon as she exited the kitchen, she spotted Zarya standing at the door.

"Can I come in?" Zarya asks. Olivia remembers she never called her over. Not once. Olivia hacks out a nervous laugh and invites her in, and sits her on the sofa. Gabe and Jesse had volunteered to find her some furniture and she quite liked it. Jesse, while being a total goofball all the times, did deliver when asked for. He had a keen eye for good stuff. Genji and Zenyatta had volunteered to move it in.

Olivia passes her the cup and sits on the sofa beside Zarya, sitting at an angle to face her. Zarya sips a little.

"So, I just wanted to make sure there was no awkwardness between us." Olivia says. "It was all my fault. I was taking it too fast."

Zarya says nothing. She chooses to nod to show acknowledgement.

"And I wanted to say that I am sorry." Olivia says. "I hope we can continue the way things were?"

Zarya waits for a moment to compose an answer. She opens her mouth to talk, but then Zenyatta literally explodes into the house.

"OLIVIA WHERE THE FUCK ARE YO-" He screams, but notices the scene before him and freezes mid-process. Olivia looks at him with a half-murderous-half-surprised look. He spots the coffee in their hands and the subtle look of relief on Zarya's face. "Shit."

Zarya pounces on this oppurtunity and looks at the clock. "I need to go to gym. Thank you very much for coffee." Zarya says and shoots out of the house, after making sure Zenyatta was going to be at the gym. Olivia looks at Zenyatta with a very predatory glance. Her teeth grit in anger. Zenyatta tries to backpeddle, but hits the door. He holds out a finger to talk.

"Olivia, listen." He says, very carefully, like trying to take his foot off a pressure mine. "I did not mean to do that. I did not know you had called her over to coffee."

Olivia slowly puts her half full cup of coffee on the table and rises from her sofa, making her way to him threateningly. Zenyatta shrinks against the door. It had suddenly become a scene from a horror movie. Zenyatta's mouth was agape in fear.

"I had just come over to check on you, I'm very sorry." He squeaks. "Please don't punch me in the dick." He says, holding his hand out to stop her, even though he knew it wouldn't do anything. He wants to say anything that would stop her, but his voice dies in his throat. He accepts his demise to the furious woman, who was, in this moment, an incarnation of El Diablo.

Olivia doesn't punch him in the dick. She kicks him there. Zenyatta remains coiled on her door for an hour, gasping for air, every muscle in his body tense, veins looking like they were about to spontaneously explode, not speaking, because he was an inch from painful death.

Olivia, meanwhile, just sat down and finished her coffee.

______________________________________

"Finally, the gang is back together." Zenyatta says, talking like rain had fallen in a desert after millenia. He raises his arms to welcome Jesse, Lena, Fareeha and Hana, who had brought Brigitte along. Hana and Fareeha had armfuls of microwave popcorn. Lena, the delicate handed in this case, was handling the ice creams. She rushed to the fridge and put them in, rubbing her hands as she returned. Olivia was someone who was more of a guest entrant, and had declined to join them today because she placed good sleep over TV shows and junk food because she had so many people to take care of.

"So, any news on Olivia?" Fareeha says, kneading a pillow into a comfortable shape and then resting on it.

"Oh yes." Zenyatta says. "And the news is fucked."

"What do ya mean fucked?" Jesse pipes up, trying to grab onto some popcorn, using his talk as distraction while Lena made some more. Hana swats his hand away.

"What I mean is, that Russian Hercules is sending mixed signals all over the fucking place. As far as I can read her, she loves being around Olivia, but freaks the fuck out when Olivia gets close. I mean, I did interrupt what I can only assume Olivia trying to take things forward. And when I entered, that woman was fucking relieved."

There is a silence in which everyone processes the information. Fareeha rubs Zenyatta's back in sympathy, because she knows the aftermath had to be nuclear. Zenyatta accepts the respects with a solemn nod. Lena joins them and Hana fills her in.

"So, loves, what do you think?" Lena asks everyone

"I say we leave her the fuck alone." Zenyatta replies immediately. "I am still feeling that kick."

"It wasn't a punch?" Genji asks incredulously. "How damned angry did you make her?"

"Wait. Does the equipment still function?" Jesse asks him.

"Its not like I'm having a lot of opportunities to find out, am I?" Zenyatta shoots back, raising his arms in the air. The other two boys give him a sad two finger salute. The others sigh.

"Might as well get the show running, Love." Lena prompts Fareeha and she goes on to the right channel, which was airing a show called 'Chopped'. Today it was giving out bone marrow as an ingredient.

"Holy shit, who uses ingredients like that?" Jesse comments. The others hiss him into silence. And in the silence of the people and the sound of the narrative, Brigitte's hand slides towards Hana's, their fingers intertwining. And on instinct, Brigitte looks at Hana, who was watching the show with interest. Hana absentmindedly glances Brigitte and then locks eyes when she notices Brigitte looking at her. There is that absentminded, goofy smile between them. Something which was hard to explain. Like a secret language. 

Hana scoots closer, Brigitte does too. Hana decides to cling onto Brigitte's toned arm, running her hand across every groove, every crest, covered by her sweatshirt, other hand tangled with Brigitte's, feeling the warmth radiating through the wool on her cheek. Brigitte raises her arm and Hana ducks under, and the newfound closeness leaves them both pink in the face. They watch for a few more moments, and then Hana wants more. They shuffle around a little more.

"Who the fuck is playing twister back there?" Zenyatta groans and looks behind him to see Hana and Brigitte frozen. "You girls want a room?"

"Take mine." Genji offers. "Zen's room is probably a dumpster."

"True that." Zenyatta confirms.

Hana rolls her eyes. She looks at Brigitte and cocks her head in the direction of the door. Brigitte smiles and they tiptoe out of the apartment, Hana grabbing the keys to her scooter on the way out.

The city was calm, but awake. There were lights from drugstores, from small diners and fashion stores. They scooted along the roads, seeing less cars, only the blare from the engine keeping them company. Brigitte, who was naturally the pinion on this ride, wrapped her arms around Hana's small, slender midriff, resting her chin on her shoulder as they rode. Cold air assaulted them, but their collective warmth was enough to battle it. Brigitte closed her eyes, choosing to feel the wind, occasionally peppering Hana's neck with small, short kisses, making Hana's skin rush with goosebumps. 

They stop eventually, getting ice cream, sitting beside each other on the seat, their sides squished against each other. It was cold, and the ice cream didn't do any favors, but that was the last thing on their minds. Hana looks beside her and watches Brigitte digging into her vanilla cone, eating with patient hurry, speeding up, slowing down to keep up with Hana. Hana notices a little ice cream on the tip of Brigitte's nose. They giggle and Hana wipes it off, Brigitte offering her a thanks, their eyes lit by moonlight, their actions considerate.

And just like that, their hands find each other again, fingers tangled once again. Warmth filled their chests, warmth flowed through their veins and warmth spread through their hands. No amount of cold could overcome this, nothing came close to this. And right there, in that moment, they needed nothing else.

They don't speak, because they don't have to.

Silence was their messenger tonight.

And silence is all they needed.

______________________________________

Moira lets herself into Amelie's apartment, and knows what's going on when she hears the sound of a music box playing somewhere in the depths of the apartment. She gingerly makes her way inside, praying to not find any surprises, and finally finds Amelie looking at herself in the mirror. Moira surveys her. She also spots old newspaper clippings beside her. They were yellowed with age.

"Take that off." Moira says. Her voice soft and weary at the same time. The tone indicated they had been over this a million times. "That always makes things worse. You know that."

Amelie says nothing, continuing to look into the mirror. Moira might as well have not been there. Moira knows that was a dangerous thing. She quickly finds the small mahogany music box and shuts it, breaking the spell. Amelie looks a little less solid, a little less hypnotic. Moira positions herself behind Amelie to try and communicate. Amelie's eyes register her presence.

"Take that off." Moira repeats. Amelie looks down in a mixture of guilt and wistfulness. Her toned, exposed back arches a little to allow Moira access to the zipper. Her skin is cold. It had to be. It was her bare skin against the winter. Granted the house was warm, but that was no excuse. Moira unzipped the dress and gave her privacy, and found her a set of clothes, passing it through the barely open door. Amelie put them on and emerged from the wardrobe. Moira was relieved to see her fully dressed and warm once again. Amelie's expression is unreadable. 

Moira knows the only way of communication right now was touch. Not speech. Amelie's eyes were low. Her lips were a thin line. Moira banishes the dress, the clippings and the music box back into a box and puts it away. She knows Amelie will find it somehow in the future, but that was the least of her worries. Moira returns and engulfs the other woman into her arms. Amelie neither resists nor accepts, just lets her do it.

"I should have been more careful." Amelie says, her voice a shade over a whisper, managing to crack even then.

"Its okay." Moira assures her. "Atleast it wasn't bad."

Moira reaches for Amelie's wrist and holds it up, looking at the faint scar across the wrist's width. Amelie knows what she was looking at. "I was not thinking of doing it." Amelie explains.

"Lets take this outside." Moira says and steers her to the living room. Setting Amelie on the sofa, Moira made a beeline for the cabinet and poured them both a glass of wine. Amelie accepts the glass, and Moira sits beside her. They drink in silence for a while and Moira watches carefully.

"I should have been more careful that day." Amelie says, breaking the silence between them. 

"Nothing you can do about it now." Moira comments. "Does it still hurt?"

Amelie shakes her head. Moira takes a sip from her glass. There is silence again.

"There was so much left."

"I know."

"There was so far to go."

"I know."

Moira waited for the tears to come. It was a pattern. It was discipline with Ice Cold Amelie Guillard. Moira imagined Amelie to be happy, cheerful, and a ray of sunshine. Probably more so than Olivia. But Moira never had the opportunity to find out. She had found Amelie at her lowest. 

Moira was still fairly new to Jack and Gabe's establishment. She was desperately looking for ways to pay them back. She was taken care of by the staff then. Zenyatta talked to her. Genji always made sure she was well fed and Olivia cooked items of preference for her, even though Moira insisted otherwise. She credited them for taking care of her when she was all alone, tackling college and her loneliness. Olivia made sure Moira did not sacrifice sleep for studying. Jack made her sandwiches sometimes. They still were as tasty as then. Hana was smaller. She was more worried about gaming and school teachers then.

It was just another sunny day when Jack had come in, with a woman in his arms, his expression grim. Her hair was unfurled, messy, and her hands were limp. Gabe knew it was serious, because Jack hadn't even taken the time to park his car in the garage. All talk between the staff was replaced with grim silence as the woman was quietly lowered onto the stools, right beside Moira. Moira saw Amelie Guillard for the first time- Eyes unseeing, wild tear tracks and a blank expression. She was sitting a little lopsided. The cafe kicked into high gear, tending to the woman.

It was later in the day Jack revealed how he had found Amelie Guillard. He was just coming back from a quick grocery run when he found her sitting on the railing of the bridge. Planning to jump. She was crying. Howling. Jack talked her out of it, discreetly, not attracting any attention and then brought her back to the cafe. For some days, she was kept at their house, with the staff working overtime to tend to the woman and try to get her back on her feet.

After some weeks, it was too much. The traffic into the cafe was rising, and the lack of sleep for the staff was taking its toll. Moira knew it was her chance to contribute. She volunteered to take care of the Frenchwoman. She took Amelie back to her home and saw the coincidence. She lived in the same apartment and the same floor. Moira watched over her.

There were a lot of close calls in the past. There was a time she had tried alcohol and sleep medication. Then there was the slit wrist. Then one time Moira had to break the door to stop Amelie from hanging herself. In these moments Amelie Guillard opened up to her. Disaster bonded them. In dark rooms and hospital wings. Amelie seldom woke up and didn't see Moira first. Moira was there when Amelie didn't have the will to get off her bed. Moira took her to conventions, drunk with her on parties and forced her into the shower at the start of the day. Moira made Amelie her personal fashion advisor and make up woman. Moira yelled her into the bed when Amelie wanted to curl up with a bottle of alcohol on her balcony.

Moira had come so far, and yet she had so far to go, when these incidents were nothing more than just tiny niggles at the back of Amelie's head.

But every train of thought came to a halt when Moira felt fingers framing her chin. The skin was cool. The lips made contact next. Moira's eyes closed on instinct. The grip on her glass of wine tightened.

Amelie Guillard was kissing her. Moira could feel her knees on her sides as she allowed herself to be lowered until the armrest braced her back. Moira slowly lowered the glass onto the floor and rested her hand on the crook of Amelie's elbow.

So this is what they had descended into.

Amelie broke off a few moments later. Their breathing was heavy. Their lips glistened. Eye contact was made. Both pairs were desperately searching for answers. Trying to figure out what had just happened. Actions would have to do that because neither could find words that could fit. Amelie descended again. Moira allowed a little more access. Both of them tasted like wine. Moira discovered her shirt was unbuttoned when she felt cool air hit her chest as they moved.

Moira needed to stop. She needed to be clear.

"What is this?" Moira asks her, her voice soft, meant only for Amelie, eyes firmly locked with hers.

"I don't know." Amelie answers, equally soft. Not daring to break eye contact.

The tears Moira had prepared herself for never came. Both of them were acting on instinct. Things became infinitely simpler. Nothing to blame. Moira sensed something in Amelie's hips give. The resolve behind her eyes was clear as day. Moira never knew it had become something like this. She was too busy dealing with so many things. And right then she could see the fault. How dysfunctional things would be.

"This will change so many things." Moira adds. Her grip on Amelie's arms tightens. Amelie's hand rested on the center of her chest, like a stethoscope.

"It will."

"I'm not the person you're looking for. I can't give you everything."

"You saved my life so many times."

"I was in the way."

"You cared for me."

"It was a side effect."

"You are all I need."

"No. This isn't simple. This isn't what you think. This is not as simple as me preventing you from killing yourself. This isn't as simple as me getting drunk with you in inappropriate places. This isn't as simple."

"Why do you think that?"

"I don't want to hurt you. I don't want to drive you back into the darkness. I can't keep up with the commitment. Its not for me. Its for you."

Moira had read about this. The Opposite Florence Nightingale Syndrome. It manifested itself after long durations.

But what Moira wasn't ready to deal with was how she felt about it all. She couldn't lie about the wetness between her legs. She couldn't lie to herself about this. About how these feelings were temporary. It was all a lie. 

The truth was that Moira was not used to trust. She wasn't used to another woman's feelings. She wasn't used to being loved. The family back in the cafe was different. The way she cared for them and they cared for her was different. Being alone for so long, she had forgotten that things like these even existed.

And she was scared. She was scared she wasn't enough for her. She was scared she would fall short, and damage Amelie more than she could tolerate. And just the thought of that made her breathing hitch. The thought of Amelie Guillard. Dead. Alone. Because of her. Because Moira wasn't good enough.

Amelie was still looking into her eyes. Paused. Waiting for her to say more. Her hands moved. Framing her face once again. Her lips glistened.

"I'm scared." Moira blurts out. She was suddenly back in her past. Feeling exposed, vulnerable, as lonely as ever when she had just moved in. "I'm scared I'm not good enough. I'm scared I'll drive you back to suicide." She says and gets closer to her, close enough to feel Amelie's breath on her lips. "I'm much too invested in your wellbeing to risk that. I'm too invested to let you love me like this. Too invested to put you in a dysfunctional relationship. I know you, but I know myself much better. And I cannot commit to this."

It hurt. This silence hurt. The knot in her throat hurt. The uncertanity in Amelie's expression hurt. But Moira was ready to trade in a few days of temporary sadness for peace. For the guarantee that Amelie will be much happier. Moira couldn't possibly keep up with love, seeing so much was going on. Her work. Discovering Emily and getting her back. Helping Zenyatta find his true purpose. Finding her own purpose. And do all that with loving someone so unstable as Amelie. Amelie was getting better, almost a different woman to what Moira had met, but Moira could under no circumstance risk all this. It was betrayal to Amelie. Betrayal to her family.

And this manages to make its way to Amelie. Her fingers retreat. Realization spreads across her face. She concludes it was nothing but a little desperation. Moira watches her, ready to spring into action whatever happens. She was in a compromised position right now, her undone shirt exposing her a little bit, but that was easy to deal with. Her wet undergarments were easy to deal with too.

"I think I was a little out of control." Amelie says, freeing Moira. Moira quickly buttons her shirt and picks up her glass of wine. "Sorry."

"It happens to the best of us." Moira says. "I have to say, though. French people are fucking great at kissing. You made me so fucking wet there."

Amelie laughs. "Glad you liked it." She says. Both of them know its no use pretending it didn't happen. Might as well deal with it and move on. Amelie retrieves her phone from the small table while Moira refills their glasses. "Pizza?"

"Pizza, some french wine and some movies? Fuck yeah."

Amelie orders their favorites and sits down beside Moira once again. Moira passes her the glass. Amelie looks at her as she takes it. "No matter what, I got you." Moira says.

Amelie turns to the TV to hide her smile.

Chapter Text

He wiped his tears on his sleeve. 

His mother had died long ago. His father had joined her just now. His lawyer was sitting across him, a mosaic of papers littering the grimy surface of the table in the hospital canteen. His lawyer, because the actual person the lawyer was responsible for was making a trip to the mortuary, and He was supposed to naturally inherit him. The Lawyer kept perusing the documents, hand on his mouth, elbow on the table. There were wrinkles on the edges of his eyes, probably from squinting to read the fine print. He had a stubble and a haggard air about him, which was uncharacteristic.

But it was expected. Not everyday the owner of a gigantic conglomerate passes away. 

"Is there something wrong, Mr Takahashi?" He asks his lawyer.

"Yes, yes there is." Mr Takahashi, the lawyer, replies. "This being a problem depends of whether you know of this or not." 

His voice is formal, clear and appropriately loud. Just like any cookie-cutter lawyer. But what set him apart was his ability to keep Shimada Corp alive and free from trouble. They talked in English because Japanese was a forte of the people here. It gave them some free reign to talk and reduced the chances that someone eavesdropping might send this information to the news and make it a disaster. This was one of Mr Takahashi's many precautions. The man knew his job.

"Know of what?" He asks.

"That your father, Sojiro Shimada, has bequeathed only half of his property to you. And its not the corporation." Mr Takahashi replies.

"What?" He replies.

"Yes. He left that to one Genji Shimada. Complete ownership, all shares and assets. He left you the personal property. All the cars, the houses, the apartments, the malls and the rest." Mr Takahashi says and pauses. "This is quite a fortune in itself. You wouldn't have to work and still live a very very comfortable life."

Hanzo says nothing.

"But here is the problem. The Genji Shimada mentioned here has no address attached, and he doesn't seem to be in Japan. And that means Shimada corporation has a major hole in its board of directors right now."

"I see." Hanzo replies, straightening his jacket. "Thank you, Mr Takahashi."

Mr Takahashi rises and collects all the papers into a neat pile for Hanzo. He bows. "Better find this Genji Shimada pretty soon. He is about to get very very rich." he says while walking away. Mr Takahashi joined Sojiro after Genji had left, filling the void.

Hanzo stares at the pile of papers. He can see the genius of it all. No doubt Sojiro Shimada was as smart as his business associates said.

Hanzo's grandmother told him its not age, not disease that killed people. It was regret. She always told him regret will kill one if they allow it to grow inside them. And maybe that is why she was still alive and Sojiro Shimada was dead. His grandmother had no regrets. She woke up happy, she lived happily and slept happily. She didn't have the fear of dying. She had crossed the age for that long ago.

And that is why he was in Okinawa, head on his grandmother's lap.

"Regret killed him didn't it?" Hanzo says.

"Yes it did."

"He regretted not listening to Genji when he was speaking. Poor man couldn't even see Genji before he died." Hanzo said.

"And are you going to do the same thing? Let regret consume you? Let it make you a hollow man?"

"But how do I? He never listens." Hanzo explains.

"Sometimes, you have to do something more than a phonecall. Sojiro was not stupid. His company can take care of itself. You go and apologize to him." She replies "Don't repeat your father's mistakes."

Hanzo was on a plane in the next hour.

He was not going to let regret destroy him.

 ______________________________________

"I don't like this one bit." Genji says grimly as he mulls over the newspaper. "This means he's coming here."

Olivia, who was standing behind him, looked over his shoulder. Her expression was careful. "That means he is serious about making things right."

Fareeha, on hearing this, comes to the front, wiping her hands on a towel. She looks relieved. "That is the good thing to do."

Genji turns around on the stool to look at them. "Whose side are you two on?"

"Yours." The two women answer immediately. "But, that man is risking quite a lot to come and meet you." Fareeha adds. "Give him a chance."

"I couldn't care less about him or the company, alright?" Genji says, waving the newspaper to make his point. "Even if it has my name."

Gabe emerges this time, in his hands a cup of freshly made coffee. They were getting ready for breakfast. "I think its got to do more with tradition." He offers. "The funeral must call for the whole family, and it has to be huge, considering how big your old man was back there. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the whole nine yards."

Gabe and the others wait for him to consider the possibility.

"What if its none of the above?" Lena offers. "We are talking about the man who was heading a conglomerate, love. There has to be a lot of property. What if he is just coming to hand you over what's yours?"

"He must have a lawyer to take care of that." Genji replies. "This is different."

Jesse, who was asleep on the counter, wakes up when Jack prods him with a tray. He shoots up, ramrod straight, bewildered, his eyes obscured by the grey hoodie, his cheek indented with marks from his zipper. "Wha-what did I miss?"

"And then we have this little shit." Gabe says, and Jesse appears stung. Gabe then prods Zenyatta, who was out cold right beside Jesse. Zenyatta waves his arm to swat away Gabe's hand.

"Lemme shweep." He drawls. "Shweep makesh mushles gwow." he says again, words slurred by drool.

Everyone else laughs. Genji laughs, and then his eyes fix on something outside the cafe. His laugh falters, but his smile remains. He chooses to not look anymore, and continues laughing with the rest. They then scatter, leaving Zenyatta alone on the counter to sleep. Somewhere between the breakfast rush, when the air inside the kitchen is a heady mixture of fried objects, coffee, pancakes and what not, Lena comes in, bringing with her what was practically a mountain of cutlery on stacked trays. Fareeha, who was hard at work on the basin, looked up and her eyes widened.

"Where the fuck are they putting this stuff?" She asks, using the rim of the basin to brace herself. Lena carefully dumps the contents into the sink, which had been emptied after so long.

"I dunno love." Lena says apologetically. Fareeha gets to washing again. Lena waits for a moment, and then opens her mouth to speak. "Hey, I was thinking, how about we visit Angela and Emily today?" She says, idly rubbing her index finger in circles on the rim of the sink.

"Hmm." Fareeha says, considering the proposal. "Sounds like a good idea. From what I know about Angela, she must be busting her brains out over her upcoming exams."

"Yeah." Lena agrees. She looks at Fareeha expectantly. Fareeha's face finally takes the shape Lena wanted to see, someone who has made their mind.

"I think we should go." Fareeha says, looking at Lena and nodding to confirm. Lena smiles and then disappears. Fareeha then realizes. 

"What the-" She says, and looks around to see if anyone else had been seeing the same thing. Olivia chuckles. "Little fucker just wanted to see Emily. I got so used."

"You should see Angela too." Olivia advises. "She would definitely like to see you."

"On that note, what about you and Zarya?" Fareeha hazards. Olivia looks down, and lets out her giddy, unguarded smile. Something that was very close to impossible in a public setting because she was that careful. She shifts the weight on the balls of her feet and then turns away to hide it. Fareeha needs no further explanation for that. Fareeha grins and shakes her head, and then turns it to look at Olivia's back.

"Ask her out or something." Fareeha tells her, regardless of whether Olivia hears it or not.

______________________________________

Hanzo watches from the side opposite to the cafe. He had spent quite some time roaming around the city, not bothering to check the watch or the phone even once. The phone had become a constant nuiscance, vibrating constantly since he landed, so he elected to turn it off. His suit jacket had been donated to a sleepy, but thankful homeless man, and replaced by a hoodie, his face obscured by the drawn hood, sunglasses on his eyes for extra privacy. The sky was bright, but under the shade of the small tobacco shop in addition to his hood and sunglasses, it didn't matter much. He was sleepy, he was definitely jetlagged, but that wasn't the biggest of his worries at the moment.

There he was. Little Genji. reading a newspaper, talking to people. Hanzo recognizes Zenyatta, the man from the one remotely recent picture of Genji he had. A bearded man prods him awake, and then they laugh on something Zenyatta says. Hanzo takes the eyewear off to see better.

Genji laughs a little, and then by some divine intervention, their eyes meet. Genji's laugh falters, but his smile stays, and right then, right there, the look in his eyes told Hanzo so much.

Stay away.

Don't come anywhere near this.

I don't need you anymore.

You're too late.

Hanzo turns away, unable to take the streams of information coming his way. He looks at the small spittoon at the corner.

"Are you going to buy something, sir?" The shopkeeper asks him. Hanzo's sunglasses return. He turns to the shopkeeper and buys the cigarette to placate him. He chews on its butt, just to keep his mouth busy.

You're too late.

But was he, though? He had a lot of his life left. Genji was still very young. Agreed, the way he and Sojiro cast him away was truly cruel, he would have to try harder than that to actually make sure Genji listened.

Hanzo steps off the shop and makes his way deeper into the city. He needed to formulate a plan for this.

He spits the chewed cigarette into a trashcan, and wanders off once again.

______________________________________

Fareeha knew Angela and Emily would be distressed, but she didn't expect them to be so bad.

The living room was a mess, there were entire mounds of pop tarts, moon pies, and granola bar wrappers. Whole containers of hundred percent Robusta beans were lying empty beside the trashcan which had exceeded its capacity probably in the first two days. There was dirty, laundry-worthy clothing lying around in the room, and to add to it, there was the frantic sounds of Angela and Emily stressing over their studies.

Fareeha and Lena share a quick glance that communicates Oh shit, and then launch themselves right into the action. They both telepathically decide to visit the women first.

Fareeha finds Angela on the table, the only source of light coming from the little lamp beside her. Fareeha knocks, but Angela doesn't bother to listen. She is too engrossed in her book. So engrossed that pulling her own hair wasn't enough of a stimulus to break her off from the wall of text.

"Angela?" Fareeha says, uncertain if Angela actually heard her. Angela does, and slowly turns around, surprised and embarrassed in equal measure.

"Fareeha." Angela says, her mouth ajar. The pen, which was held by her teeth, clatters to the ground.

"Hi." Fareeha says. She inspects Angela. Her hair has seen better days, and she looks like she forwent the basic human rituals of sleep and hygiene altogether. She estimated Angela to have slept in the the current clothing for atleast three days. It was winter, so Fareeha wasn't surprised she didn't look that bad.

For once, Fareeha was actually happy that she wasn't in Angela's place.

"Hi." Angela replies, still not over the initial shock of seeing Fareeha. Fareeha decides she will have to take action. She walks over and closes the book, and all the other associated notebooks and tucks away the other stationery items. This seems to stir something in the blonde. She then squirms in her seat helplessly, wanting to snatch the books away but still unable to actually follow through.

"FareehawhatareyoudoingIamreadingfromthatbookpleasegiveitbackIneedtostudyifIdon'tstudyIwillfailandthenIwilldi-" Angela lets loose, sounding like a high pitched 80's heavy metal singer.

Fareeha quickly drops to her knees and sandwiches Angela's face between her palms. "Angela." She says, her voice even and soft. "Breathe."

Angela stops. Her face calms.

"In." Fareeha says. Angela breathes in. "Out." Says Fareeha. Angela huffs. Fareeha raises her eyebrow in a way that prompts Angela to follow up.

"In." Angela says, and breathes in. Fareeha accompanies her.

"Out." Angela says, breathing out. Fareeha nods slowly, breathing out with her. 

They repeat this. In. Out. In. Out. Angela breathes, Fareeha watches. Grounding the blonde in reality. Away from the madness of difficult to pronounce words, hard to understand concepts. Fareeha's thumbs glide across Angela's cheeks, adding in another sensation to bring her back. In the process, Angela simply forgets about it all, because it was so simple, so easy, to just get lost into Fareeha's eyes. So simple to just watch them darting back and forth, millions of tiny movements, as the other woman studied her.

It was so simple.

It was just so easy.

"Hi." Fareeha says in the end, completing the process.

Angela, now fully aware and appreciative of Fareeha's thoughtfulness, smiles, her cheeks squished between Fareeha's hands. "Hi."

"How are you?" Fareeha asks, eyes unmoving.

"I'm good."

______________________________________

"How is this?" Lena asks, her voice soft. Her hands worked hard, moving in slow, tight circles, her fingers threaded through Emily's fiery red hair, the pads of her fingers working the shampoo into her hair, massaging her scalp.

Emily had been pursued to clean up far earlier than Angela, and that is how Lena found herself having her second bath of the day, flesh cold, water warm, shampooing her hair. Lena always believed that the surefire way to calm someone down is to draw them a bath and then shampoo their hair. That is how Lena dealt with occasional stress.

But there was one difference, she was alone during those times, but right now, with this woman in front of her, freckled back, fiery red hair, she felt different. There was a different kind of relaxation associated with this activity, the feeling of someone else relaxing to her touch, forgetting their worries was undoubtedly something else. The power she had, the power of alleviating another, filled her with a different type of contentment. Sure, tending to oneself was incredibly rewarding too, the simple joy of just waking up and feeling new every day, but this, something about this was worlds apart.

"Keep going..." Emily says, barely able to hold onto this plane of existence. "...don't stop..."

Lena smiles a little more, and lets Emily indulge. But Lena doesn't go on for too long. Its cold, and Lena couldn't possibly live with the guilt of making Emily sick right before her exams. She lets the hot water pour over the both of them, and Emily lets her know that this was even more welcome. Just sitting there was slowly freezing them.

"Oh my god Lena you wonderful woman." Emily groans in appreciation. "Open a spa. Please. Just for me."

Lena chuckles as she pours more water over both of them. "Just for you, love?" She answers with a question. "I don't know, doesn't sound like a very good business plan."

Emily rises, and pulls Lena up too, and then seizes her by the waist in one smooth motion. Lena is caught off guard, like always. 

"What if I pay with kisses?" Emily asks. She kisses Lena to make her point. Lena braces one of her hands against Emily's wet cheek.

"Hmm." Lena hums when they break off. "Sounds like a nice deal to me." She says, and the both of them laugh, their laughter echoing off the tiled walls. They kiss a couple more times. Then they dress each other, when the water gets cold and makes them clammy, punctuating it with a number of kisses. Lena just puts on what she was wearing. She had changed for the occasion so the clothing was actually pretty new. Lena goes back to tending to Emily once again, toweling her hair off, and notices from the corner of the door, Angela rushing into the bathroom, towel whipping over her shoulder. Fareeha stands at the door soon after.

"What's up?" Emily asks her.

"Sup. Angela's been freaking out over something and she can't just seem to get this one thing right." Fareeha says. "I convinced her to bathe to relax, but she will freak out again once that wears off."

"Oh." Lena says in acknowledgement. She continues drying Emily's hair. Emily suddenly straightens, her face like a lightbulb turned on.

"I know!" Emily pipes up. "I know who can help!" She says, and then dives for her phone. Lena has to pull the towel off in time to prevent tearing her hair off.

"After you people eat something, though." Fareeha tells her, holding out her palm.

______________________________________

"Is that a threat, Emily?" Moira seethes into her phone.

"No, Deirfiur, come on. Why would I threaten you?" Emily replies from the other side of the phone. "All I'm saying is Angie needs your help. She's been stressing over this for so long. Please help her. And me."

Moira deliberates for a moment. She thinks whether she was actually going to do this. Tutor someone. She buries her face into her free palm

"You tell me." Moira says, raising her head. "Is it worth the risk? You know how she is. What if I scare her off? What if I confuse her even worse?"

"But you teach so well!"

"Emily I only have the patience to teach you. And you are so easy to teach."

There is a pause. "Please. For me."

Moira kneads her eyes with her fingers. "Alright. Come over."

Moira disconnects, and then kneads her eyes again. She then takes a moment to look around the house and then freezes.

"Fuck." She tells herself and launches off the chair. The first thing she does is knock at Amelie's door. Ice Cold Amelie opens the door. Her expression tired, and the TV remote in her hands.

"I need help. Emily's coming over." Moira huffs. The Frenchwoman's expression changes. She turns off the TV and throws the remote on the couch, and silently follows her into Moira's apartment. She freezes when she notices the mess.

"Merde." She curses softly.

"Sorry." Moira shrugs. She darts to the closest thing to her and picks up her trench coat, and then another, and then picks up her pants that she didn't bother to check if it was wearable or practically toxic waste. Amelie takes the charge with the cutlery, which challenges her physical capabilities with its sheer amount. She picks up the foam, the soap, and gets to work.

By the time both of them are done, Moira is on the sofa, waiting for Emily, having found a nice, ginormous blanket she could curl into, something she thought she had lost from that movie night months back. Amelie sits beside her, and accepts Moira's offer to get into the blanket. There is a few moments of silence, Amelie turns to see Moira fast asleep on the couch, her head backwards, held by the back of the furniture. Amelie resets Moira's head in a way that would not leave her paralyzed in the morning, and then braces her own head in the warm spot between Moira's neck and shoulder, after planting a kiss on her cheek. It was the most French thing Amelie did, kiss people after they fell asleep. It was different in its own little criminal way.

Angela enters their house first, and then stops Emily from entering all guns blazing, pointing to the sofa where both of them are sound asleep.

"Should we wake them up?" Angela whispers, leaning her head to the side for even more silence.

Emily raises her hands in surrender. "I want to live longer." She whispers back, and then yawns. "That blanket looks inviting, though."

Emily just digs into the blanket and claims Moira's free side, placing Moira's arm over her own shoulder, and gets to the business of sleeping with frightening efficiency. Angela looks around awkwardly, being the only non sleeping resident, debating whether she should sleep or not. Angela then yawns too, and her body urges her to take the offer, the eyelids drooping. Angela considers the fact that sleep hasn't exactly been one of the more prominent parts of her life, and after that warm bath and that truly delicious dinner, the idea of sleep was a very tempting one.

In the end, Angela just shrugs, and takes Amelie's free side, curling herself in the blanket. Amelie's arm goes over Angela's shoulder as she shifted in sleep, that being the only comfortable position in the end.

______________________________________

"Close up for me please?" Winston says, giving his puppy dog expression the best he could. Ana smiles and nods. Winston launches himself at her wiry frame, but Ana is a tough woman. She doesn't budge one bit.

"Don't stay up too long!" Winston calls out as he leaves. Ana smiles again. She then cleans up the tables, the counter and the kitchen. 

And as she is about to leave, a man comes scrabbling to the door. He had almond eyes, a slightly jet-lagged face and hair that looked like it had seen quite a lot of ruffling and hands running through. The bangs hung over his face. He also had a hoodie that looked like it had been worn over a suit.

"Sorry, we're closed." Ana says, patient.

"Please? I need some food. I'll pay double!" The man replies desperately. "I'm very hungry!"

Ana deliberates for a second, and then looks at him through her glasses. Inspecting. She decides the man could use some food, and she wouldn't mind the double pay. She walks in and turns on the lights, stopping for a moment to put on her apron and then getting into the kitchen. "What would you like?"

"Anything. Anything you can make that will kill my hunger. That is all I ask."

Ana catches the accent. It was too thick to be from here. The grammar and style was too formal. Ana makes him sandwiches with all the leftovers she had from the day. The man looks utterly relieved on seeing the sight of the sandwich. He gets down to wolfing the sandwich with an intensity that makes Ana believe the man just went bankrupt and this was his last proper meal.

"Easy, you're going to choke on that thing." Ana says and sets down a glass of water in front of him. "I can't have you dead here in the night."

The man slows down drastically. He swallows and puts his fingers on the glass. "My apologies. I had forgotten my manners."

"You sound like you are far from home." Ana says, swinging a chair and sitting on it the wrong way front.

"I came here to see my brother. After a long time." The man replies, and then takes a bite.

That seems to arouse some sympathy in Ana. She had one thing in common to the stranger at the moment.

"So, how was the reunion?" Ana asks him.

The man stops eating and looks at the tray. Ana knows.

"I couldn't bring myself to meet him."

Now there were two things in common. Ana settles herself on the chair more comfortably. The man keeps brooding, and probably cursing himself internally.

"You two weren't on the best of terms when he left, were you?" She asks, tenderly.

The man's silence answers her.

"He left the house when he was young. He wanted to be a writer. Father wanted to make him his right hand man, his successor to the company. My little brother is a great man. He values people, and relationships, not businesses and money."

"And were you jealous?"

The man pauses, and nods again. His eyes are on the tray all the time.

"I was. I thought he was too emotional to run a business." The man says, stopping to take a sip from his glass. "He lacked the ruthlessness you sometimes need to make a business flourish."

"I see. And you thought you had all it takes?"

"I did. The company thrived, but my brother's absence took its toll on father. He regretted being so tough on him. He started drinking to numb the pain."

"That never goes well." Ana commented quietly. The man nods in agreement.

"The drinking took a toll on him. He died yesterday, wait, that's today...argh..." The man says, getting lost in timezones and jet lag.

"Doesn't matter." Ana tells him. The man takes a few moments to compose himself. Ana could see he was fighting to hold back tears. "So, regret killed your father."

The man's head shoots up on hearing the statement. His eyes are wide at the coincidence. "What a coincidence. My grandmother told me the same thing."

"Experience is universal, Hanzo Shimada." She replies.

Hanzo's face loses its color. "How..."

Ana gets up, reaches over the counter and comes back, slapping a newspaper, which carried a big headline with Hanzo's grainy picture as he boarded a plane.

SHIMADA CORP IN TROUBLE? SON RUNNING AWAY?

"Kuso!"  Hanzo cursed under his breath. Ana says nothing. Her expression is deadpan.

"I will say nothing." She assures him. Hanzo's features soften in gratitude. "However, to live in peace, you will have to improvise. Get a haircut. Ditch the suit. Do something to the face. Maybe grow a beard?" She offers. Hanzo now listens to her intently.

"I will." He promises. They sit in silence as Hanzo finishes the rest of his sandwich and drains the glass of water. He stands up and bows, then extracts his wallet. "I thank you for the meal. How much do I owe you?"

"A hundred." Ana says, her voice even. Hanzo's eyebrows shoot up.

"A hundred?"

"You made me lose reading time. I was in the middle of Tolstoy at home. Plus, you can afford this. You eat far more expensive stuff." Ana says and shrugs.

Hanzo laughs. "Spoken like a true capitalist." he chuckles, and surrenders her the money.

 ______________________________________Extra content______________________________________

Here is a picture of the kitchen where most of the magic happens. Didn't have the cash to actually commission one so eh.

Kitchen Layout

Pls forgive my handwriting. Its absolute crap.

Chapter Text

Olivia is sure she forgot how to breathe when she saw Zarya in the morning.

There she was, in the middle of the room, right arm bent and the other arm stretching it behind her back. She was wearing nothing save for a sports bra and a pair of loose, cuffed sweatpants, which made Olivia shudder a little. Her hair had begun to lose color. The loud, bratty pink was fading, revealing brilliant auburn hair at the roots, the most beautiful shade of brown she had ever seen. Olivia watches at the forever-open door. How the muscles moved around, bunching together and then releasing tension, like a well oiled machine. How her back flexed and unflexed, or how her arms changed shape as she moved them around. Zarya repeats the same process for the left as well. She was sitting on the floor, legs at right angles, one foot on the floor.

Then there was her face. It tensed when the arm began stretching, moving in an arc, the eyebrows slightly furrowed, eyes closed in concentration, as if she was telling every strand of her muscle to relax, to let go of the tension. Like she was calming them down, trying to explain that it was for their own good.

Finally, the offending strands relaxed, and her arm made its way to the apex, her elbow pointing upwards. Zarya's face relaxed, a serene calmness spreading. She takes a deeper breath, and stands up, needing no help from her arms, and then stretches down to touch her toes.

Olivia wonders how it is possible. A woman of her size, a woman of her dimensions. So big, so strong. So voluptuous. And yet, so nimble. So graceful. A case study in balance.

Her eyebrows are slightly curved, and yet something on her face was so peaceful, like this calmed her to no end. Zarya then begins twisting to pop her back and spots Olivia. Olivia snaps out of her meditative gaze.

"Good Morning!" She greets.

"Good Morning! Aren't you feeling cold?" Olivia answers.

"No. Russia is much colder." Zarya answers. "Come in! You want some coffee?" she asks, going to the kitchen to get a glass of water.

"No, its okay. I just came to ask something." Olivia replies.

"Da. Say it over coffee!" Zarya insists and a smile cracks the surface of Olivia's mouth. Zarya is quick to fix some, and that makes Olivia think if Zarya always had some coffee ready on hand just in case Olivia decides to visit? She has no time to think otherwise because Zarya returns with two steaming mugs and sits beside her, making the sofa flex slightly with her might. Olivia resettles herself.

"So, I was interrupted the last time I talked to you." Olivia begins. "I wanted to say that I made things awkward."

Zarya hums, taking a sip. She was much more confident today. There was no tension in her shoulders, and so much more of her was facing Olivia.

"Yes?" Zarya urges her on.

"So, I thought, um, can we go on a date?"

Zarya stops. Not in surprise. Not in shock, but rather, in thinking. She raises her eyes to meet Olivia's. "When?" She says with no hesitation.

Olivia, taken slightly aback with the lack of hesitation, thinks quickly for a schedule, as she was close to a hundred percent sure Zarya would bolt like last time. 

"Tonight?" Olivia blurts out the first thing that comes to her mind.

Zarya stops, eyes looking over the brim of the mug. There is a pause. "Ok."

Olivia grins. She puts her barely-drunk-from mug of coffee on the table and rises. "See you tonight." She says, and then leaves, because she was late for her job.

Zarya smiles at Olivia's retreating form, and then looks down on the mug she abandoned. Zarya picks up the mug, and finishes the coffee off, because it was a waste to leave it lying there. She then looks at the mug, thinking how she should approach this.

She had a ton of baggage from her past, things she had become strong enough to carry by herself. Zarya had made sure no one needed to carry any of it. No one.

But now, with this new development, it was hard to think. Hard to trust. Could she trust Olivia to not break when she let the weight descend? Or would she be like everyone else, scared out of their minds?

Zarya knows she will have to tell her. It would definitely not be as soon as this date, but there will be a time when truth will have to be told.

And Zarya is not looking forward to that day.

______________________________________

"Late again?" Gabe asks her, a smirk on his face, when Olivia breaks off from her hug. She was first, as usual.

"She said yes." Olivia says, slightly surprised. "I did not expect that."

"Why was that?" Gabe says.

"She has been awkward before this. It was almost like a different person today."

"She's getting to know you. That's all." Gabe says, wiping off a thin layer of dust off his pan.

"No, that's not what I mean." She replies. "This was the kind of awkward you are when you are hiding something."

"Give her time." Gabe replies. "You shouldn't expect her to trust you right off with sensitive stuff. I know you. She doesn't. Give her time."

Olivia pauses and looks down. "You're right. I'm too impatient."

Gabe chuckles. "You have been alone for quite some time. This is understandable." He comments, wiping off remnants of dust and dirt over the kitchen surfaces. "Atleast now you have something else to do than scream at me all day long."

Olivia punches Gabe on the arm playfully as he keeps chuckling to himself. "I'm not that bad." She defends.

"No, you aren't bad one bit." He adds. "But you are late, and still haven't put your apron on." He adds, shedding the softness instantly. Olivia smiles at the predictable change and shrugs off her trench coat. She puts on her apron just as quickly and gets to work. Genji and Zenyatta arrive next. Genji is energetic, as usual. Zenyatta is sleepy, but a little lesser than what he was when he had just started with training. Genji hugs Olivia, gets a nod from Gabe. Zenyatta gets the hug too, and then a fist bump from Gabe.

Then, Moira and Amelie enter, and settle on the stools, beside a sleeping Zenyatta.

"Morning." Fareeha greets them when she arrives.

"Morning." Amelie and Moira answer. Their faces show that they came straight after brushing. Olivia notices this. She then surveys the others. Everyone needed a breakfast. She quickly goes to the fridge and pulls out a crate of eggs.

"Breakfast?" She asks. Zenyatta shoots up straight.

"Well what the fuck are you waiting for?" He asks, and everyone else laughs. Olivia gets to work and the others fill in slowly

Emily and Angela enter as Fareeha is finishing up the dishes and everyone is getting the cafe ready.

"Morning!" Angela chirps.

"Morning!" Fareeha answers, wiping her hands on a small towel, and then tucking it on the waistband of her pants. "How were the exams?"

Angela settles herself beside Ice Cold Amelie while Emily loops her arms around Moira's shoulders, wishing her and getting a kiss on the cheek as a response. Moira holds onto Emily's clasped hands. "I was taught by Doctor O'Deorain. It was bound to go well."

"Didn't you just come over and doze off on the sofa?" Moira says.

"No! The next morning!" Angela defends like Moira had just been convicted of mass homicide. "You were exceptional in your teaching!"

"Told you." Emily whispers in Moira's ears. She then straightens to address Fareeha. "Where's Lena?"

"Oh, she should be in the restrooms. Its her day to clean" Fareeha says and points to the place. Emily nods and then walks in the direction of the said restrooms. She opens the door, slips inside, and then puts out the board CLEANING IN PROGRESS in front of the door before closing it.

"Oh damn." Fareeha comments.

"They are going to slip a lot." Zenyatta brings to light the possible pitfalls.

Amelie, who had downed her cup of coffee, turns to Zenyatta "Let's go, its your first shoot today."

______________________________________

Emily felt like she had walked into an ambush, as she was the one pinned to the wall.

"Hi." Lena says.

"Hi." Emily breathes out.

Lena notices how Emily is when things are no longer things are under her control. How she loses control over herself too, how her hips undulate, how her breathing hitches. Lena presses her lips against the newly uncovered skin, the exposed stretch of belly. Emily hisses on the contact, her arms fighting to free themselves from Lena's grip, high over her head, but Lena isn't done yet.

Emily's logical part of the brain knows it should be impossible for Lena to be holding her hands up like that, while she was down there, but the way Emily is slumped over the lidded toilet seat in a way that is impossible to explain, most of her back flat on the lid, the arms against the wall at angles to her body, Lena somehow makes it happen. 

These sounds Emily makes, all these lovely hisses and impatient squeaks and hungry moans, she wants more of these. Lena ventures further, peppering the skin with kisses, uncovering more of her. Lena wants to dive right in, but all these sounds are too good to pass on. Her breathing is heavy, and the sheen of sweat is slightly creeping up on her forehead.

Emily wants to say something, but she has nothing to say, because what does one say in these circumstances? Lena listens nonetheless, abandoning her discovery of Emily's skin to find her mouth, those waiting lips. Emily moans into Lena's mouth, begging to do more, and Lena releases her hold on Emily's wrists, and those hands find her exactly where she wanted them, one on her flank, the other already lost in the short, wild, brown hair. Emily wants to pull her closer, and tries her legs, but they find no purchase.

"Too much clothing." Emily breathes between their lips.

"Too much clothing." Lena answers with a breath of her own. She shucks off her RAF jacket carefully, now only in a full sleeved shirt. Emily meets her halfway, letting go of her long jacket. The cold was creeping onto their skin now, but that meant they would have to seek each other for warmth, and that is exactly what both of them wanted, what both of them needed.

Emily makes more noises, and Lena wills herself downward, getting on her knees, preparing Emily. Peeling off all layers of clothing. Lena pauses a little when she uncovers Emily, taking in the view in front of her. Emily watches her do this, her face red, her freckled nose crinkling at the top.

It is then Lena realizes. Between all those times they have done this, she has never seen this part of her. Emily always just took care of herself, slipping her hand into the layers of clothing and somehow the issue of pleasuring her took care of itself. But now, right here, Lena thinks that maybe Emily was ashamed?

"I get razor burn if I shave it." Emily explains, even though she doesn't need to. It was a courtesy, an attempt at transparency. Lena feels heat radiate to her face when Emily's thighs crack a little more, and then hesitation shatters. Things become instinctive. Infinitely simpler. Lena drifts to her, finding Emily with her tongue. Emily makes noises again. Lena slides in her fingers at the response, easing her open. Emily's hips move upward when Lena finds her other orifice with her fingers, and soon, its too much, too many.

Lena watches Emily once again, making all these beautiful noises, squirming under her touch. Lena uses her thumb, rubbing, increasing pressure. Lena curls her fingers a little, in response to Emily closing around her like a fist. After a few moments, Emily finally breaks, her scream dying in her throat, her hips jerking like she had been possessed.

"this feels so better when I'm not the one doing it." Emily manages to speak in the end. She gives up any more attempts at forming more sentences and closes her eyes to savor the afterburn.

Lena kisses her a little more. "Don't you think we have too much sex sometimes?"

"Hey, might as well do it now, while we are still young." Emily says weakly, still naked from the waist down, her eyes closed in exhaustion, slumped on the closed toilet seat. "Plus, I am seeing you after a week. You know how long a week is, right?"

"While we are still young?"

Emily looks at Lena with half lidded eyes. "Imagine how messy things would be in the old age, with tweaked backs, painful knees and the sort. So might as well have as much as we can."

"Good point." Lena chuckles, and rises to locate her clothes. She then freezes, looking back at her. "What?"

Emily realizes. "In the Old age?" Lena asks again.

"Like I said." Emily starts. "Old age will creep up on us one day or the other. And when we are old, it will be trouble for us to have sex with our partners."

Lena's curiosity wanes. She was thinking too much. She starts looking around to find her RAF jacket.

"Hey, where are you going? We still got you to do." Emily says, holding onto Lena's wrist. Lena is still fully clothed. She looks down on her from over her shoulder.

"Who's gonna finish the cleaning?"

Emily, despite her condition, quickly reverses their positions, and pins Lena by the cheek on the seat lid, her hip raised high up, like being presented.

"I said," Emily begins, readying her fingers. Two for one, two for the other. "after I do you."

Emily plunges in, and laughs when she senses Lena jumping forward.

______________________________________

Zenyatta's hands refuse to move. Zenyatta's mind refuses to move his hands.

His palms hover over the skin of the waist, the most beautiful shade of caramel he had ever seen, slightly darker than his. The camera waits. Waits for him to make contact. He looks at his hands, and wonders why he doesn't dare to make contact.

Is it because of his past?

A hand closes around his wrist, the same skin. Slender fingers, trimmed nails.

"Its okay." The owner of the hand answers, and then guides his to the waist. 

Zenyatta looks up to the brown eyes, the exotic eyelashes, the perfect curve of the nose, the cut of the face. She is a beautiful model, beautiful enough to the point where he's wondering how twisted the universe was to put him in the same room as her, with her guiding his hands. Her lips were copper, glistening against the light. Blood roars in his ears. She was just in her underwear. So was he. Her palm was flat across his chest.

click click click click click

Zenyatta doesn't notice anything. He's uncomfortable. So uncomfortable being so close.

"First time?" She asks. Zenyatta looks into her eyes. He wants to run away. He looks at Amelie, who was standing behind the camera crew, and had done his makeup. Breathe, she mouths.

"I didn't see this coming." He admits. "I guessed it would be the solo shit. I didn't know I would be feeling up strange women. This shit's making me uncomfortable."

click click click click click

"A gentleman!" She chuckles. "So, is it because I'm a beautiful stranger, or is it because you're interested in men?"

click click click click click

"Actually, its neither." He explains, looking into her eyes apologetically. "Its a long story."

She smiles. She is so beautiful. He feels like its a violation, with his palm on her waist.

"Well, atleast we have one thing in common." She says. "Its a long story."

Zenyatta smiles and forces himself to look at her ankles. Every little bit of her is perfect. 

click click click click click

"Its not a fault, though." She tells him. "Its just that things in our life have changed the lens through which we see the world. Its unique. We just don't see others the same way."

She guides his other hand as well, putting it on her thigh. Zenyatta's hand freezes in place when he makes contact, like it had been welded.

"Doesn't this make you uncomfortable?" He asks her, his face a question. She had to be feeling uncomfortable. She smiles again. She loops her arms around his neck, but she makes no effort to close the distance between them.

click click click click click

"You get used to being touched everywhere, whether on camera or off it. Whether you like it or not." She replies. "Maybe that is why I don't feel anything different these days."

Zenyatta says nothing, electing to look at the cameraman who flashes him a thumbs-up. Zenyatta scrambles to free the woman. She smiles at the gesture. Amelie quickly gets to the white walls, beyond the lights. The woman holds out her hand.

"Can I have a name?" She asks. "Its not everyday I meet someone like me."

Zenyatta takes her hand. This is one touch he has no problem with. "Zenyatta. Call me Zen. And I'm sorry for the touching and stuff."

"Satya Vaswani." She says and accepts his undue apologies with a smile. "I hope I get to work with you again." 

Satya turns to Amelie. "How are we looking?"

"You worked your magic as usual." She says. "The pictures look mind blowing."

Satya smiles, and then gives Amelie the customary hug and a peck on the cheek. She turns to Zenyatta one last time. "See you soon."

"Yeah." He replies, and she leaves. Amelie takes him by the arm, clutching a sheaf of photographs in her other hand.

"Lets get you paid." She says and marches him away.

"Woman I just survived an amount of awkwardness that would have killed anyone else." He says, stopping her. "Atleast let me breathe."

______________________________________

Angela had stolen Fareeha from the cafe and smuggled her to Fareeha's apartment. They were cuddling on the sofa, looking at whatever movie came first. Angela over, Fareeha under. There were bowls of popcorn on the table in front of them, and all the curtains were drawn for an extra theatrical effect, blocking out the afternoon sun.

"So this is your idea of Valentines day?" Fareeha enquires.

"I like peace." Angela answers. "Its always crowded outside today, and I don't want to spend my time with you and a lot of other people."

Fareeha chuckles. "Sounds fair."

They watch for a few minutes in silence. Fareeha has one hand on her back, the other on her head, while Angela rested her cheek on the warm spot between Fareeha's throat and collarbone. It tickled the other woman, but it was an inconvenience she was willing to take. Their legs were tangled. Angela reaches for the TV remote and changes a few channels.

"Do you like me around you, Fareeha?" Angela asks idly, still surfing channels, still cuddling Fareeha.

"If I didn't, you sure as hell wouldn't be here." Fareeha replies, moving her hand from Angela's back. "But why do you ask?"

"Nothing." Angela says, dismissing the small talk.

"Hey," Fareeha says, tilting her head to meet Angela's eyes. "what's wrong?"

"Its nothing, really." Angela backpeddles. "It was just a blank thought."

"Its strange for even a blank thought." Fareeha says, and Angela locks eyes with her. "Tell me Angela."

Angela pauses for a moment. She hides her eyes with a curtain of blonde hair.

"Its nothing. I-I, I can't-, I don't know how to say this."

"Say it anyway." Fareeha says, and then tucks her hair away to look at her. "I will listen."

"Its just that I have never been this close to anyone. I am used to staying alone. This is me shooting arrows in the dark."

Fareeha smiles. "This isn't an exam." She assures her. "There is no passing or failing here. Just you. How do you feel about this?"

"Its a lot of things. Most of them, I can't even understand."

"Do those things feel good?"

Angela smiles at this. Her hair falls back down. She tucks them back.

"I like the kisses the most."

Fareeha grins. "Would you like more of them?"

"Sure." Angela says, and descends.

______________________________________

Zenyatta seethes in the chair. Amelie is beside the boss. The boss has a pot belly, greying hair. His only saving grace was his money, and his fame, the proof of which was the paparazzi prowling behind the frosted glass wall. It was cheeky as hell, so close, yet so far.

But what infuriated him more was how he had told Amelie to sit on the armrest of his chair and show him the pictures. The boss' palm was across her butt.

"So, what do you think?" Amelie says. Her voice is professional.

The boss runs his hand a little more. Zenyatta grips the corners of the arm rest even harder. His teeth bare by instinct.

"I was about to leave. Why don't you come over later and show me these?" He says, his voice sultry. Amelie looks so uncomfortable. "We could have drinks too." He says, and gives Amelie a few pats.

Zenyatta decides its enough. "MOTHERFUCKER!" He roars.

Amelie has only a split second to react before Zenyatta's foot collides with the Boss' chest, all his strength from the leg training coming into use, sending the old pervert through the glass wall, onto the street. The paparazzi that had been lurking around tensed like deer caught in headlights. The boss rolls on his back, shards crunching under his sloppy figure, his eyes wide in horror.

"Do you know what you're doing?!" He tries to threaten. "Do you know what it means?!"

"What I'm doing is going to jail." Zenyatta says with no remorse or fear, climbing over the table and walking to him, shards crunching beneath his shoes. "And that means there is one less pervert."

He closes the distance and grabs his expensive collar. "You are gonna call that woman over to your house?" He demands, pointing to Amelie, who was standing nervously, her legs pressed firmly together, looking down. "And you're gonna have drinks with her?"

Zenyatta can already see the memories coming back, on the fringes of his vision.

He couldn't do anything back then. But he is strong now.

He hears the slapping of feet on marble.

He will fight back. He will fight back so hard.

The boss looks in horror as Zenyatta moves like he has never moved before. His fists do not collide. They crash, like a meteor making its mark on the earth. He makes noises. Far more basic to be a growl. The two guards were no match for his ferocity, his purpose.

Amelie quickly whips her phone out, and frantically swipes her fingers across the screen to find that one contact. That one name.

E.C.A

She finds it, and then hits dial.

Zenyatta rises and looks at the boss, who is not moving, paralyzed in fear. He screams. But it doesn't sound like its coming from his throat. It sounds so much deeper. There is years of pain in it. There is years of anger in it. It sounds like his very soul is screaming, lashing out in fear, in pain, in anger, in disgust.

"You deserve to die." Is the only thing he growls, before seizing the boss' throat and squeezing with all his might. The boss' eyes get even wider.

Suddenly, all his anger quells when Amelie's shaky hand finds Zenyatta's shoulder.

"Stop. Please. For me."

Zenyatta's grip slackens. A police cruiser arrives onto the scene while the media people had themselves the field day of the century. Flashes lit the place like a million suns. Amelie holds onto Zenyatta, hiding her face behind his arm.

The door swings open and a woman emerges. Flat white hair. Red eyes. A rare genetic condition. Something related to Albino tigers. But her skin had been spared. She was normal otherwise. She had a formal pantsuit on, but without the jacket. Her sleeves were folded in exasperation, and she could desperately use a break. But what was important, was the badge on her shoulder holsters, over the waistjacket, especially the name on it.

Elizabeth Caledonia Ashe.

"This is not the kind of reunion I wanted." She croaks, pinching the bridge of her nose.

______________________________________

Olivia hasn't seen anyone look so beautiful while trying so less.

Zarya was wearing a pair of Nike high tops that looked like basketball shoes, with a pair of form-fitting indigo jeans. She topped the look off with a grey hoodie and a beanie on her head, which just gave space for a little of her brown hair to show through. The smile on her face as she approached her was even better. No makeup, no bullshit. Just pure, unadulterated simplicity.

Olivia notices a rose beneath her chin. She takes it.

"Happy Valentines day." Zarya wishes.

"Happy Valentines day." Olivia answers, blushing a little, twirling the flower between her fingers. Her unguarded smile broke through her lips again, making her look like a child, not a full grown woman who babysat six women and five men on a day to day basis.

"I have a place in mind." Zarya says and offers Olivia her arm. "Would you like to go there?"

Olivia loses control of her bodily functions as she stares into Zarya's eyes. She then remembers about the question. "Y-y-yeah." She stammers.

They reach the fair by the old quays. The night sky is lit with stars. Zarya leads her to the ferris wheel, opening the door with one hand and holding onto Olivia's hand with the other. Olivia sits first, and then Zarya follows. When the door is completely in place, the wheel starts rotating. Zarya lifts her arm to let Olivia in.

Olivia presses her ear into Zarya's collarbone, feeling the shift of her muscles. She observes how Zarya's breathing is deeper and slower, like something much bigger, like the churn of the sea. And though she is riddled with muscles, she is still very soft. It relaxes her, and with the gentle wind from the movement tickling her ear, it makes everything better.

"You like it?" Zarya asks her.

Olivia hums, and Zarya smiles, looking up. She observes. Olivia joins her soon after.

"I can see Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Orion's belt." Olivia says, and then turns her head to look around. "I can see every single constellation tonight."

"You know a lot about stars." Zarya comments.

"I love stars. I used to watch them every single night they were there." Olivia says, a veil of fondness over her eyes, like she was living the memories. "Then I read a book that told me about all these constellations. So I started watching more stars."

"Oh." Zarya says, urging Olivia on.

"I love watching the stars." Olivia concludes. "I just don't get enough time to watch these days."

"So go on." Zarya says. "Tonight is yours. Watch all you want."

At this moment, their compartment touches down. The keeper looks at them, and Zarya signals for another round. She looks around to see if she wasn't holding anyone else up, but there was no one here. They were the only ones on this ride as of now, and the keeper was delighted at the repeat business. Zarya signals him to hold it at the top most position.

When the ferris wheel stops at the top most position, Olivia looks much more happier, closer to the stars. Zarya looks at her, mouth ajar in wonder, with Zarya's rose close to her chest. Zarya watches as Olivia's eyes trace every single constellation known to her. Zarya can't make heads or toes of what is going on above her, but its better to look at Olivia at this moment. Look at how she becomes a little girl, the stars reflecting off her fond eyes. Its like watching a constellation of its own, much closer to earth.

And when its almost time to close, as they descend for the last time, Olivia steals a kiss on Zarya's cheek when no one is looking. Zarya freezes a little, but gets herself unstuck before it became awkward. Zarya adds in a hefty tip in addition to the fare, and off they walk to find something else. Zarya's arm has found a permanent residence around Olivia's shoulder, while Olivia's arm made itself at home around Zarya's waist.

And as they contemplate what to do next, a group of buskers looms into view. Their earnings were reasonable, and they seemed content with the idea of closing, but then Zarya interrupts them. The vocalist looks at them, and the way they were with each other, he smiles, and his mates ready their instruments.

"Lets play a dance for these ladies, shall we boys?" He asks them, and they smile. "Since you guys look properly whipped, lets have a little pop, huh?"

"Sounds like a good idea!" Olivia says, still in her half-embrace.

The guitar plays, so do the bongos, and another vocalist comes into the scene. Its a lively rap, about someone meeting a beautiful Ethiopian woman and how her presence was all kinds of explosive, and how they talk, with the night culminating in an exchange of numbers. The protagonist calls her the next day, with both of them telling each other more, like how the woman was kind as an angel. And then the chorus came in.

 

Then she aimed at my chest with love in her eye.

I said she aimed at my chest with love in her eye.

 

She was walkin' around with a loaded shotgun

Ready to fire me a hot one.

It went bang, bang, bang Straight through my heart. (Straight through my heart)

Although I could have walked away,

I stood my ground and let her spray.

She shot me, she shot me Bang, bang she shot me.

 

Zarya and Olivia danced as the song played, pace brisk, their feet light on the concrete, sticking to a basic set of widely known dance moves. The song ends soon, and Olivia huffs, the dance winding her up more than she estimated. Her cheeks were red. Zarya looked none the worse for the wear, accustomed to much harder physical activities. The buskers tip their hats when Zarya drops a 50 bill.

"Thank you!" She says and they vacate the scene. And just like that, they are back at the apartment. Zarya stops outside Olivia's door. Olivia opens the door and stands between inside and outside.

"Thank you for today." Olivia says. "I loved it."

"You're welcome. I am happy that you are happy."

Olivia knows its the right time now. She extends, standing up on her toes, framing Zarya's face from both sides. Their lips meet. Zarya responds much more enthusiastically, one arm around her waist, lifting her up like she weighed nothing. Olivia's eyes are blown wide open at this, and then she picks up the pace, trying to match Zarya's enthusiasm, wrapping her legs around Zarya's hip.

Zarya braces Olivia's back against the nearest wall to focus more on the making out. Zarya is so enthusiastic, Olivia observes, so strong, but so gentle. They break off when their survival instincts kick in. Olivia meets her forehead.

"Too fast." Olivia breathes, her lungs working overtime.

"Too fast." Zarya agrees, and sets her down. Olivia opens her eyes to take another look at her. "Good night."

"Good night." Olivia wishes back, and follows Zarya as she walks to her own apartment and closes the door behind her. Olivia tries to walk, but her legs shake like they had forgotten how to work. Olivia has to grab onto her sofa to steady herself, her knees shaking like crazy. They finally give out a couple of seconds later, and she falls sideways onto the sofa.

"Mierda." She says, loud enough only for herself, licking her lips and then catching the rest of her breath, her face buried into the fabric.

Chapter Text

Gabriel doesn't always let Jack take the lead, but when he does, Gabriel changes. 

Gabriel always holds his hands back, placing them in a way that doesn't hinder Jack one bit. Most of the times they are just looped around Jack's neck.

Jack likes this version better. The way Gabe just shifts around in his arms, the way Jack's lips just get lost in his beard, and the rasp he lets out right after the lips brush the neck. The way he hisses between the teeth when Jack descends to his chest. The way his skin feels when he puts pressure with the tips of his fingers

"No pares, por favor" Gabe hisses. Jack smiles.

This was another quirk with Gabe. Whenever Gabe relinquished control, his vocabulary faced some serious issues. He spoke only Spanish in this trance. Jack was wildly bewildered during their first times, but Jack learnt with time. Just the basics, enough only for understanding this split personality.

Jack descends to gain access and gets to work, neck drifting between Gabe's legs.

And Gabe has every reason to be like this way too. Jack is so gentle with things. Gentle enough that Gabe almost curses himself when he consumes Jack with so much hunger. Jack is much more selfless, making this a two-man job like this is supposed to originally be. It was like a ritual. Taking care of Gabe first and then taking the leftovers for himself. 

Jack slathers Gabe with some more. Any amount of lube was too little for Gabe. He was just that sensitive to Jack. Jack wraps his fingers around him. Gently, gingerly. Testing the waters in front of him.

"Mas fuerte." Gabe pleads. Gabe shifts a little, changing his angle against Jack, doing the only thing he was capable of easing the hunger. Jack grips a little harder, setting a teasing pace. Just perfect, too much, just not enough. All at the same time.

"Eso se siente tan bien." Gabe moans again, throwing his head back, deeper into the pillows. He grabs onto the mattress to hold onto this plane of existence. His hips start moving in sync, and then Jack brings his lips. Gabe practically goes unmade. He doesn't bother with talking, as his peak draws closer. So close.

"Me vengo." Gabe practically screams, his voice at the peak of the crescendo.

Jack knows its time. Its second nature for him, to know every tick. He uses his thumb to add in more sensation. Gabe explodes, and Jack watches. This was nothing less than art. Gabe heaves, his eyes gaining a little of his composure back. But Jack wasn't even close to done. This time, he uses more lube, and eases himself inside. Bewilderment flashes across Gabe's eyes for a moment, and then its more of the way Jack likes. The hardass face, all squirmy and begging. Jack's lips are lost in the beard again, kissing the edge of his chin, and then his neck, and then staying at his chest.

"Eso, justo asi." Gabe groans again. Jack can feel Gabe too, clear as day, clenching, sucking, pulling him in. He wants to groan, but that would spoil this beautiful soundtrack ensuing from Gabe's mouth, and thus it just ends up being an impatient growl from the depths of his throat. His pace is slow, focusing more on pressure than pure brute force. Jack loves this, but Gabe just loses it.

And just like this, Jack comes, long, loud, and lovely as fuck. He rests his forehead against Gabe's collarbone, breathing hard.

"Happy Valentines day Gabe." Jack pants.

Gabe says nothing, more focused on getting as much oxygen as he could. The next things happen in silence, cleanup, shower, and then the cuddling, skin on skin, under the sheets. This was another quirk. Gabe couldn't sleep without cleaning himself up.

But then, in that afterglow, Jack's phone buzzes. He has half a mind to ignore it, but no one calls him in the night if its not important. He stretches his arms so that Gabe wouldn't be moved and slides the phone closer with his fingers clumsily. He gets a little more alert when its Amelie. He presses the phone to his ear. The panic freezes him to an extent.

"Jack?! Jack! Zen! He's-He's-this-glass-Lizzie-police-boss-healmostkilledhim-" Amelie sets off, like a machine gun.

"I'm coming." Jack says. Firm. He launches himself off the bed and Gabe knows something is wrong. Gabe shortly admires the luxurious curve of Jack's bottom moments before he slips on his trunks.

"What-" Gabe says groggily. He had begun to fall asleep, and that might explain why Gabe was staring like it was a dream.

"Zen did something."

"What? What happened?"

"Amelie had to call Elizabeth."

Gabe's eyes open wider. He shifts to get off the bed. Jack holds up a prohibiting finger.

"Stay here, I will sort this out. I need you here, since the cafe needs to open tomorrow, and we have a guest."

"Oh, yeah." Gabe remembers, and then falls back into the pillows. 

______________________________________

"Angie, will you relax?" Emily says warily, looking down from Angela's pacing form. Angela stops mid pace.

"What if mama doesn't like her?" Angela says like she was very afraid, and very certain of the possibility, and then getting scared about why that thought was entering her mind. Emily notices this, and then Angela notices her noticing this.

"Do you even want her to like Fareeha?" Emily asks her, one eyebrow raised and her voice higher than usual.

"Of course I do!" Angela protests. "Its just, Its just-"

"Calm down." Emily says with her palm on her face. "Fareeha is a gem. Mama will see that."

Angela calms down a little. But her midway expression distresses Emily even more.

"Okay, how about you go on and pick mama up with Fareeha and I warn the cafe people?" Emily offers, and Angela brightens at the suggestion, enough to grab Emily and give her a rib crushing hug. Angela was cripplingly strong when she was excited enough.

"Alright, Angie I need to be alive to get there." Emily croaks. "Lets sleep now?"

Emily hasn't seen Angela fall asleep so fast in her life.

______________________________________

Jack knows Amelie is traumatized when Elizabeth doesn't come to greet him. He finds Huey, waiting for him at the steps of the station.

"Really sorry to have you up, sir." He says, giving Jack respect he hadn't recieved even in the UN peacekeeping force.

"Never mind, Huey." Jack says, smiling a little. Huey smiles too, still stunned at the fact that Jack was accurate with the triplets everytime.

"This way, sir." Huey says and leads him to the inside rooms, and not the office. Jack knows why. Huey opens the door to one of the overnight rooms the station had, complete with a big sofa, microwaves and coffee machines. Amelie is buried in Elizabeth's arms, her shoulders shaking uncontrollably. Jack closes the door softly. Elizabeth watches him enter, but she doesn't move. 

"Nothing's gonna happen." Elizabeth ensures her, pressing her lips against Amelie's head. "You are okay. I got you. Nothing's gonna happen."

Jack knows its one of those anxiety attacks that happen to her when things get out of hand. The event had to be jarring.

"Amelie?" He hazards. Amelie freezes, turns around, and then runs to Jack. Jack catches her, and a fresh wave of tears ensues. "Are you okay?"

Amelie nods into his chest, wetting his sweater. Jack couldn't care less. He runs his hands through her hair to calm her down.

"Why are you crying?" Jack asks her, to get her to talk, to make any other noise than the painful wail she was making presently.

"Zen, He-he-jail-" Amelie jabbers, losing her grip on English. "Il va aller en prison à cause de moi."

"Shh shh shh relax." Jack coos, patting her head. "I'm here."

Amelie sniffles

"I'm here." Jack repeats. "It will all be okay."

Amelie hiccups. Jack knows how scary it must have been, seeing Zenyatta get so violent so quickly. He couldn't comprehend how scared Amelie must have been when she had reached out to calm him. Jack doesn't know if he would have been able to stop him. Not to mention the imminent threat Zenyatta was possibly under.

"I'm here." Jack says, and turns to Elizabeth, who had been watching them. Water, he mouths. Elizabeth scrambles and gets him in a paper cup. Jack takes the cup and tilts his head to look. "Amelie?"

Amelie peeks with one teary eye and spots the cup. She takes a sip.

"More." Jack says.

Amelie drinks a little more. Jack watches her, and coaxes her to down the whole cup. She looks down.

"Feeling okay?" Jack asks her, head still tilted, searching her features. Amelie nods.

"Want something to eat?" Jack asks. Amelie shakes her head.

He steers her to the sofa, patting her to sleep, her head on his lap. Her breathing calms after some time, and she slips into slumber. Jack watches her, making sure there were no more hiccups, and she didn't wake up suddenly, long enough for Elizabeth to get some shut eye too. She sits on the facing sofa. Jack doesn't even realize when he falls asleep himself. After he wakes, he sets Amelie's head down on the sofa, and completes the process with a blanket, letting her sleep.

Jack then rises and Elizabeth wakes up to the minimal noise.

"When did you become such a light sleeper?" He asks.

"Its the media." Elizabeth smiles, rubbing her eyes. She rises and hugs jack. "They will jump at any opportunity to defame the police."

"How are you Elizabeth?" Jack says, softly as to not wake Amelie.

"I'm good. I'm really sorry, I just don't get time to visit, there's always too much work and-."

"It is okay." Jack says with a smile. "What happened?"

"As far as what I have been able to gather from the place, the guy Zen sent through the glass wall was a honcho in the fashion business, real famous and all. He also beat down the bodyguards and then almost choked the boss guy to death. Amelie stopped him at the right moment otherwise it would have been much worse."

"What's the legal damage?" 

"Nothing for now. I haven't heard of a single charge come his way yet, but seeing how that bastard is, he might try to play dirty."

There is a pause.

"What about Zen?"

"He insisted going into the slammer, I dunno why. Said he couldn't sleep and Amelie needed to stay away from him. I bandaged him and gave him some red bull when he asked for it."

"You didn't give him something to eat?"

"He just left the food there." Elizabeth says, and leads Jack to her office. Jack doesn't know how long he had been watching over Amelie, because the sun was already out. "We should talk here."

______________________________________

"Come on! You gotta understand this!" Fareeha begs, standing dead center in Moira's living room.

"Fareeha, you're being a dumbass right now!" Moira snarls back. "I won't do that ever, for fuck's sake!"

"Come on!"

"Take the goddamn Jag but I am not going to be the fucking driver!"

"Its her mom!" Fareeha answers. "Come on you gotta back me up here, woman."

Moira resorts to looking down on the floor.

"One for all, all for one." Fareeha says, and holds her hand out, like the one when given to someone about to slip off a cliff. "Remember?"

"Goddammit." Moira seethes. "I was kinda hoping you wouldn't throw that out." she says and then takes Fareeha's hand. "I am not a driver though. I am coming as a friend."

"Okay." Fareeha relents, and grips Moira's forearm. Moira returns pressure. "Then you're coming as family."

Moira goes off to get the keys, and is almost on her way out when Fareeha grabs her by the crook of her elbow and pulls her back in.

"Forgetting something?" Fareeha says and points to Moira's torso. Her shirt was wrinkled, and she was wearing boxer shorts.

"Oh. Right." Moira remembers. "Snazzy clothing."

Fareeha had worn her own pair of formal clothing too, with a grey satin shirt and form fitting pants. The sleeves were folded, as always. And the one button at the collar was undone. As always. Fareeha had even gone through the trouble of actually combing her hair straight and tie them with her traditional golden hair beads Ana had given her. Moira disappears into her bedroom and emerges minutes later wearing a bright blue polo shirt and khakis. Fareeha whistles a little at the choice.

"Can we move now?" Moira says. Fareeha says nothing, choosing to smirk instead. She lets Moira lead the way.

______________________________________

"Okay people, remember this. Mama is so intuitive it is borderline mind reading." Emily says, as the cafe staff listens to her uncertainly, standing in a comical line behind the counter. Jesse raises his finger and opens his mouth to talk, but then closes it. "Yes, she creeped the absolute fuck out of me the first time too, but she is very nice."

Olivia, who has been listening intently, decides to talk after a few moments of uncertain silence. "Any food preferences?"

Emily looks at Olivia with a mixture of thankfulness and realization. "Thank goodness you brought that up. Do not try to impress her."

"Wait what?" Gabe pipes up, hands crossed over his chest, like he was deciding to heed Emily's advice or not.

"She's a simple woman, so you should do you." Emily explains. Olivia nods. Gabe huffs.

"Any more instructions?" Genji asks her, like a trooper asking his general for permission.

"Angie has been freaking out about this, so we need to make sure Fareeha passes her inspection."

"Love, you say it like its a huge deal." Lena cuts in fondly. 

"Trust me." Emily says warily. "Its worse."

The troops disperse. Brigitte, who was a waitress and on the bench for this meeting, was passing by when Gabe notices her and calls her aside. Brigitte, slightly terrified, takes the wad of foil from Gabe's hands. Gabe then scrawls an address onto a small piece of paper.

"Hana's scrimming for a-whatsthename-esports championship, and she most probably will forget her nutrition." Gabe says and produces another wad of foil, this one bigger. He holds it up. "That was breakfast. This is lunch." Gabe says. "Bring her here for dinner, and if she says no, tell her its Friday. Should scurry right over."

Brigitte nods. Gabe waits a few moments, and then sighs when Brigitte still doesn't move.

"You can go." He says, and Brigitte vacates the scene with swiftness that would make Lena sick.

______________________________________

Fareeha knows where Angela got her grace from.

Orisa Oladele has the kind of grace that is hard to define. Its ingrained in every single thing she did. Her feet always fell straight, her posture was taught, and though her clothing was basic, it suited her well. Her skin glowed with vitality that can only come through care. Fareeha walks forward, and takes Orisa's hand, kissing the back of it.

"A pleasure to have you here, ma'am." Fareeha says. Orisa smiles and withdraws her hand.

"Pleasure is all mine, dear." Orisa replies. Angela attacks her with a hug next. Angela giggles and snorts while Orisa ruffles her hair with her free hand.

"I'm sorry child. I should have been here earlier."

"Doesn't matter, Mama."

"I'm sorry Efi couldn't come either."

"Doesn't matter, mama."

"If I may?" Fareeha speaks, offering to take her luggage. Orisa is a strong woman too. The luggage didn't move one bit under her grip.

Fareeha takes the luggage and rolls it away. Orisa and Angela follow close behind. Outside, Moira waits, leaning on the car door. When Orisa gets close enough, Moira offers her hand.

"Ma'am." Moira says, giving a confident smile and a small nod. Orisa takes her hand.

"Strong grip. A rebel too." Orisa muses. Moira's smile falters a little.

"Pardon?"

Orisa snaps out. "Oh, its nothing, dear." she says, waving it off.

Moira lets Orisa and Angela sit first. Fareeha glances at Moira as they open their doors.

"What the fuck?" Moira whispers, eyebrows knotted.

"Just go with it. Please." Fareeha whispers back, and they sit in.

______________________________________

"Hey!" A boy opens the door. He looked Korean. "Are you Brigitte?"

"H-how do you know?" Brigitte asks, answering a question with a question, slightly rattled.

"Oh, I had to know. How could I not know about the girl who made Yuna quit the team? You are quite the talk." He answers sweetly. "That is why they had to slot me in. I try, but I'm not that great, honestly." he says, rubbing the back of his neck

"Is that so?" Brigitte says and looks down. Brigitte had no idea about the consequences. She could be making the team lose.

"Hey, its okay." He says, and offers his hand. "I'm Daehyun."

Brigitte takes the hand. They shake. Daehyun returns a remarkable amount of pressure. "I'm Bri-wait you already know the name."

Daehyun chuckles softly. "Are you here for Hana?"

"Yeah." Brigitte nods. "Gab-I mean her dad sent her food."

"Oh, Mr Reyes-Morrison sent food? Come right in!" Daehyun says with visible excitement. "You should have said that before!"

Daehyun ushers Brigitte in. Brigitte is hit with an explosion of reds, greens and blues and a lot of purples too. The computers glowed like alien technology, and there were cries, in both English and Korean. Hana was screaming in English while the others did in Korean. Brigitte spotted her, headphones on, shoulders tensed, fingers dancing deftly across the keyboard. Her eyebrows are tensed, and the way her hand moves the mouse, small, precise movements, like the CNC machine in her dad's garage, was remarkable.

Here, Hana was a different beast, leading the charge, calling out targets, doing so many things at once. Her speed was breakneck, her precision was immense. And this is where Brigitte is left in awe. This kind of mastery was insane. Brigitte looks on with her mouth ajar.

"She's incredible at this." Daehyun comments.

"Y-yeah." Brigitte answers.

The game ends, in what most probably sounded like a victory, as the room suddenly erupts in cheers. Hana stands up quickly, propelling the chair backwards, making it roll across the hallway. Her jubiliant screams died in her throat as she spotted Brigitte, standing close to the door awkardly. Hana smiles, runs and throws herself into Brigitte's arms. Brigitte catches her on instinct. Hana's lips meet her next. Brigitte almost drops the food in surprise.

The room is now filled with wolf whistles and hoots. Brigitte goes red, so does Hana.

"I-I brought food." Brigitte says, softly, but everyone hears it nonetheless. The room erupts again. Brigitte is unsure how six people could eat so little food, but its when Hana unwraps the breakfast package the size of the wad hits her. It had twelve pancakes packed tightly, which made it two for everyone. It felt small in Brigitte's hands.

"Get the maple syrup!" Another boy, with glasses and a lanky figure, screams in his heavy accent. Daehyun quickly runs to do the same.

______________________________________

"So, what do you think will happen?" Jack asks her. He swills the cup of coffee in his hands. Elizabeth's standards had clearly gone down since she had left the place. Jack was only drinking the coffee because he needed to stay awake and alert. No matter how much he tries, a night of sleep sitting on a sofa wasn't exactly sleep.

Maybe he was getting old.

"I dunno. Maybe attempted murder, maybe a lot of other things. Harassment. Could be a lot of things, Jack. Perception is a fucker."

Jack swallows, even though he hadn't been chewing anything.

"And how can we save him?"

"There isn't much hope, honestly, because this guy has both money and influence to seriously outgun us."

Jack sighs. 

"But, there is only one thing we can do here." Elizabeth says, running her hand through her hair, shaking her sleepiness away. Jack becomes more alert by just hearing those words.

"What?"

"Self defense."

Jack takes a few moments to figure it out. "So, how would that work?" he says when he fails to do so. Legalities was his weakness. Gabe handled those things.

"Amelie can give us a statement to leverage things, but since there was zero video or photo proof, this is a very small leverage. Media coverage will be wild too, so I dunno what will happen."

Jack hangs his head. "Oh, Zen, if only you had a calmer head." he whispers.

"Come on, Jack." Elizabeth says. "You know how he is."

"But he needs more control over himself."

"Jack, come on now." Elizabeth defends. "He wouldn't do that unless he had a reason."

"But we don't know the reason yet."

"Amelie didn't tell you?"

Jack looks up. "No, she was too shaken, so I left immediately."

"From what she told me, this boss guy was groping her."

Jack's hand closes into a fist.

"And he was also indicating something worse, as he was trying to get her into his house. Something about drinks. Saying he would see Zen's modeling pictures there."

Jack screws his eyes shut. "Goddammit." he grits between his teeth. He punches his thigh. He felt angry, helpless and scared at the same time. "Why do people do this."

"Not all men are like you or Gabe, or Jesse, or Genji, or Zen, Jack." Elizabeth says, pride in her voice, fingers intertwined. "And that is why I don't think Zen did anything wrong."

Jack doesn't want to answer this immediately. He takes his time to calm himself down, taking another sip of this terrible coffee. Him forming coherent thoughts was very important right now.

"I know, I know. Its just, you know..." Jack says, sorting through his dictionary to find the right word. "...extreme."

"Sometimes you need extreme, Jack." Elizabeth says. "Trust me, if that had happened in front of me, or to me, things would have been more or less the same."

Jack wants to reprimand her. Tell her escalating violence can end in only one thing. He opens his mouth to speak, but then the door swings open and Dewey, the second triplet, pokes his head in.

"Morning, Mr Reyes-Morrison."

"Morning, Dewey."

Dewey smiles back hurriedly, slightly surprised how Jack could tell them apart even when he saw them so less, and how Elizabeth couldn't, even though she sees them everyday. He turns his head toward Elizabeth. "You might wanna see this, Ma'am."

"Not now, Louie."

"But I'm Dewey."

"Whatever, Dewey. Not now. I'm busy."

"This is kind of related to why Mr Reyes-Morrison is here." Dewey replies. Jack's eyebrows rise on hearing this.

"What?" Elizabeth says, resettling herself on the chair. "What is it?"

"You might want to come out. The mob is too big for that office."

Jack's blood freezes.

Mob? Too big for the office?

"Okay." Elizabeth says, her expression similarly grim. She puts on her shoulder holsters.

"I need to come too." Jack says, in a tone which says this was non-negotiable. Elizabeth says nothing, nodding instead, and Dewey ushers them out to the front. Huey is there too. And this is where Jack first lays his eyes on the mob. There was a woman leading them, caramel skin, shapely, but in nightwear. The others were similarly pleasing aesthetically. Some had fading hair color, others had exquisite shapes to their chins, and still others had the most perfect nose he had ever seen.

But the crowd here wasn't angry. They were all calm. There was the buzz of silent conversations, anticipation. There was no hostility. Like these people wanted to see someone, not lynch them to death. Elizabeth goes forward.

"Can I ask why are you people here?" She asks the crowd, and everyone goes silent. Jack's fist closes by his side.

Will this be another Korea?

The woman leading the charge comes forward. "Yesterday, a man attacked the boss for a large fashion conglomerate."

"His charges haven't been decided yet." Elizabeth fires back. Huey and Dewey were ready for action too. They were confident. Jack tries to ready himself too. It had been a long time since Korea. Almost twenty years.

"Great. Because we wanted to testify." The woman says.

Elizabeth's train of thought falters. "What?"

A man close to their leader steps forward. "Yes, ma'am. Sexual harassment. I would like to press some charges of my own."

Jack relaxes. This would not be another Korea.

______________________________________

Olivia's teeth gnash together.

"Are eggs and pancakes the only things you people can cook?" Orisa asks them with uncertanity, sitting on the stools. Gabe twitches a little. Angela jumps to the rescue, absolutely terrified.

"No, Mama!" She tries. "They make these things only for breakfast!"

"Oh." Orisa says, satisfied with the answer. "Its just that cafe's have a large menu."

"This isn't something we serve." Olivia says, pointing to the eggs. Her anger is held back by a string. This eerily calm tone makes Fareeha swallow. Genji is so scared that he doesn't even want to talk. He continues preparing his order. "This is special."

"We people are used to routine, ma'am." Jesse swoops in, dishes in his hands. "Feels wrong if we don't get this everyday."

"Oh, discipline." Orisa says, chuckling a little to herself. "You sure do seem to benefit from it." she says to Jesse.

"Yeah. This line of work needs it." Jesse says, surprising Gabe with the maturity of it. Gabe knew the tone was supposed to sound like a judgement. But the way Jesse handled it surprises him. "This cafe is built on discipline."

Orisa is stunned to a degree too. She looks at the plate of eggs with a different look now. She takes the fork, and begins eating in silence. Gabe extricates Olivia out of view. Emily remembers to breathe again. Fareeha and Moira exchange uncertain glances while Jesse walks away like nothing happened.

"She will get either herself or us killed." Moira whispers, so soft that Fareeha has to strain to hear it, even though Moira's mouth was so close to her ear. Fareeha gestures her to hang on.

"Do you mind if I cook?" Orisa says, and Fareeha goes white. Genji almost drops the plate, and Gabe freezes. "I know that routine is important, but can I cook? Its not everyday I visit."

Gabe's hands retreat from over Olivia's shoulders and he slowly inches backwards. "Sure?" He says.

Orisa brightens, and makes her way to the back. Gabe quickly takes Olivia out of swinging range. Genji lets the woman have her space, right where Olivia cooks. Gabe restrains Olivia in the exact right time, and Olivia struggles against his arms. Gabe plants his feet for more control. Olivia was proud of her role. Possessive to the point of obsession, and it was only fair anyone else even remotely challenging that position angered her greatly.

"Zorra!" Olivia growls. 

"Remember, do this for Fareeha." Gabe strains, reminding her. "Por ella." He adds, remembering the language.

______________________________________

"This game is hard!" Brigitte says, dying what seemed like a millionth time. "Hana, you truly are great."

"You think?" Hana says, and mounts Brigitte, sitting on her thighs, making Brigitte blush a little. "Usually girls like you don't prefer nerds?"

"N-no, I don't think you are nerdy." Brigitte protests. "I think you have something great."

"You do?" Hana says, her voice soft. Brigitte can't see anything, because the screen was the only source of light, and Hana right in front of it only made a silhouette visible. The others had gone to sleep, which was peculiar, but Brigitte had decided not to make anything of it. Hana descends and kisses her, palms on her cheeks. "Thanks for the food."

"Gabe made them, I just did the delivery." Brigitte tries to deflect the praise.

"Gabe's food would have been useless if there was no one to deliver it, wouldn't it?" Hana says, her tone getting more and more fond. "You are the most important link."

"Speaking of food, Gabe wants you home for dinner." Brigitte cuts in.

"We still have an hour left." Hana says, and this confidence is making Brigitte squirm. "I haven't finished my thank you yet."

Hana descends once again, and Brigitte has no choice but to squirm.

______________________________________

The gate rattles open and Jack takes stock of Zenyatta's situation. His hood is drawn, obscuring all of his face except the end of the chin. A can of Red Bull is pinched between his index finger and thumb. One leg is flat on the bench, the other at a right angle to it. Jack then notices more cans littering the floor. His other hand is flat on the metal bench. Both the hands are bandaged.

Elizabeth had taken full care of him.

The door clangs shut.

"Thanks Louie." Jack whispers to the third triplet, that worked under Elizabeth.

"I'm right here, Mr Reyes-Morrison." Louie whispers back. "Just knock if you need me."

Jack smiles and nods, and then turns around to look at Zenyatta.

"Why are you here, Jack?" Zenyatta asks him weakly. "You have a place to run. Don't bother with me."

"Why didn't you sleep?" Jack says, ignoring everything else. He sits on the edge of the bench.

"Bad memories marathon." Zenyatta replies, matter-of-factly, like it was something that happened on a day to day basis. "Mind's been binge watching since the beginning of season one."

Jack looks down while Zenyatta sips from his can in silence.

"Did you really want to kill him?"

"Yeah." Zenyatta answers immediately.

"Would that have solved anything?"

"You weren't there, Jack!" Zenyatta hisses at him, turning his head towards Jack. "You didn't see Amelie's face. You didn't see how resigned she was to this."

Jack decides not to talk.

"And you know what was worse? She was ready to take that, like that was how it is, like a fucking toll. Without thinking of an alternative. For me." Zenyatta continues, rapping the can on the metal. "How fucked must the situation be if Amelie, our Ice Cold Amelie was ready to go to that house and take whatever that motherfucker was going to do? She said nothing when that bastard was groping her butt. Now think how worse it would have been, molesting? Rape? All for just some fucking pictures?"

Jack screws his eyes shut and raises his hand, like the possibility was causing him physical pain. Zenyatta goes back to looking at the wall, counting the bolts on the bench in front of him.

"Now think how many models he must have gone through before me." Zenyatta talks again. "And trust me, that fucker would do it again on the first chance."

"And you think you could have ruined your own life, so much more years ahead for that?"

Zenyatta pulls his hood back. His eyes are red. His nose is puffy. "Look into my eyes, Jack." He growls.

Jack forces his eyes to meet his.

"If anyone threatens my family, if anyone tries to do them any harm, I will fucking kill them. No matter who. No matter how famous or powerful."

Jack tears his eyes away. Zenyatta draws his hood, concealing his face, and takes a long swig.

"This is our code, Jack. One for all, all for one." Zenyatta reminds him. "This is why you have all these broken people feeling so safe with you and Gabe. This is why I am ready to spill blood. You took me in when there was no fucking hope for me. From that juvie. This is why I won't die for you. I would live for you." 

Zenyatta points to his chest, so hard that the first third of his finger bends the wrong way. Jack spots tears dropping from the darkness of the hood.

"You have no idea how fucking proud I am to be called your family." He concludes. He quickly wipes the tears on his sleeve and takes another very long sip, tipping the can over and then flinging it in front of him. The noise of the can clanging all over the cell echoes in their ears.

"I am so proud of you." Jack echoes, his face somber.

"You know, what all those religious, self-affirming asshats that visited that juvie told me? May god help you. Do you remember what you told me that day?"

"I will help you." Jack answers, instantly.

"Do you remember what you told Amelie when she asked you how you could give her something to live for?"

"I will help you."

"Do you remember what you told Fareeha, when her own fucking religion turned its back on her, because of what she is?"

"There is no god. Only us. And I will help you."

"Do you remember what you told Lizzie and Jesse when they had no direction, no place to go, no money, no home? Even when you were saving pennies at the end of the day?"

"I will help you." Elizabeth answers, her forehead resting against the bars, tears trailing over her cheeks, eyes screwed shut, teeth bared. Her grip on the bars was white knuckled. Her voice was shaky. "Because there is no god. Only us. And I will help you."

Elizabeth quickly opens the cell door and bounds over to hug Jack and Zenyatta, never bothering to stop her tears. They stay like this for a few more moments. Elizabeth breaks off when she is back in control of her emotions.

"Wassup Lizzie?" Zenyatta asks her. "So, how many charges did he press before you had to walk him out?"

"None." Elizabeth replies. "As a matter of fact, you have started a revolution. Someone leaked the whole incident. I have a whole mob of models up there testifying against the pervert. We are slapping a self-defense on you, and a fuck ton of harassment on him, and Amelie wants to testify."

"Leave her out of this Lizzie." Zenyatta replies instantly.

"You started the fight." Jack cuts in. "Let her end it." 

______________________________________

"How many more days, 'Reeha?" Gabe asks warily. Everyone was around the table, with the exception of Jack, Zenyatta, and Amelie. Genji nervously glances at Olivia.

"Two." Fareeha answers like it was a bomb.

"Fuck, this will be the longest two days." Jesse comments.

Olivia says nothing, attacking her food with a spoon. "Replacing me." She grumbles.

"Por ella." Gabe reminds her. "Por ella."

Fareeha wants to say something, but this would be hard.

But the good thing was, her family was ready to go through it all.

That meant they would make it. Surely.

Chapter Text

Olivia fumes.

She fumes during her shower

She fumes while she puts her clothes on

and she fumes while she leaves her house.

Olivia knew her role. She was supposed to be like a mother, the anchor, the provider of food and logic, if need be. It angered her. Angered her when someone even remotely came close to challenging her position, something she had worked so hard for, something she loved so much.

Gabe had taught her how to make eggs. She had wasted so many eggs mastering her recipe. She had a hold of it now, enough to the point where no one wanted to eat eggs from anywhere else except her hand. The staff needed her. Depended on her. For their breakfast, for their friday dinners, for all kinds of food between those.

It was hard to evade the borderline motherly concern that came with it. But Olivia embraced it, went head first for it. Trivial things stopped mattering like not getting that extra hour of sleep, or the walk to the cafe, because she had something so much better. The feeling that came with making something that people depended on you for, that was something impossible to replace with anything. But the way Orisa came in and challenged that. So easily, without any resistance at all. That is what infuriated her, made her angry beyond any measure. How could someone challenge what she had without putting in a fraction of what Olivia had? Without taking even a little bit of the pain Olivia had taken?

But most of all, she was scared. So scared. About the fragility of it all. Could anyone just march in and take her post?

Her fuming is interrupted by a call.

"Olivia?" The voice calls out, and all anger dissolves immediately. Olivia stops at the foot of the stairs, and turns around to see Zarya. Her hair color was fading fast now. And this shade of brown was far more beautiful than the gnarly bright pink earlier. Olivia takes a moment to take in the woman, running her eyes over the face, the arms and then down to the bare feet. Zarya had just gotten off her daily stretching session. Zarya then smiles. "Good morning."

"Good morning." Olivia says, trying her hardest to sound chirpy, but a little edge slips in nonetheless. Zarya smiles wider. 

Olivia remembers there was a newer feeling down there in her heart too. It was nascent, a seedling, but it was there, and it was growing stronger.

"You are angry." Zarya says, immediately after, making no effort to sugarcoat things. Olivia smiles in her caught expression. She rubs the back of her neck. Zarya folds her arms in front of her. She turns around. "Come."

"What?" Olivia says. "I'm sorry, I need to go to the cafe."

"No." Zarya says, holding her hand up. Polite, but firm. "You make bad food when you are angry."

Olivia waits for Zarya to complete.

"What are you angry about?" Zarya says, waits a moment but then raises her hands in surrender. "No problem if you don't want to."

Olivia relaxes, and then smiles, shaking her head. "Here?"

Zarya points her to the open door of her house. "Over coffee, then? I cannot let you leave house angry and then make bad food. Bad food is crime."

Olivia snorts. "That is true."

______________________________________

"So, where to today, Mama?" Angela asks, sitting on the backseat of the taxi, with Orisa squeezed between the two of them. Fareeha stares out of the window. And then she turns her head, looking at Angela's face instead. How there wasn't a trace of worry, how her eyebrows were no longer knotted.

But most of all, how her lips glinted. Angela didn't bother with lipstick or lip gloss, just the balm, and today her lips were so alluring. But in between was her mother, Orisa, looking at Angela with a fondness that Fareeha had thought she had forgotten about. Fareeha notices how fondly Orisa looked at her daughter, tiny creases at the corners of her eyes, lips in a faint smile, like she was living in both the past and the present at the same time, like young Angela was talking back to her, about all these places to go.

Fareeha smiles too.

"What do you think, Fareeha?" Angela speaks.

Fareeha snaps out of her thinking, blinking a few times. "What?"

Orisa seems to notice this more than Angela does, but Angela steamrolls through. "I was thinking we could catch a movie?"

"Yeah, we should. I haven't been to a movie in what feels like forever." Fareeha agrees. The taxi passes the cafe, and Fareeha can feel the staff telling her good luck. Angela updates the driver with the information and the speed increases a little more, with a new destination in mind. Angela and Orisa continue their animated discussion, but Fareeha isn't paying attention. Her mind is occupied with other thoughts.

If her mother was still here, what would she say about this? Would she approve, or would she disapprove?

But more than her mother, it was her uncle she couldn't stop thinking about. Fareeha fishes her phone out of the pockets of her trousers and opens up the contacts. His number was still there. Not for calls, not for correspondence, but as a token. This was the one constant across all her phones. Fareeha entered this contact first. She often just stared at the blank contact screen at nights, on the bed. Nights when she just couldn't sleep. She had a picture for everyone else. A blurry picture of Jesse running away from Gabe, A picture of Gabe chasing away Jesse, part of the same picture. Genji's picture was him perusing his papers, glasses on. Zenyatta's was holding a bowling ball. Olivia's was from one of their fridays, lying on the floor, Olivia's arm around her neck. Jack's was him beaming, holding an empty tray in his hands. Hana's was a picture Fareeha had chanced upon when Hana was sleeping. Moira was her driving. Amelie was with her at work, clips pressed between her lips. Lena's was a selfie of them together.

But for Malik, Fareeha had no pictures. Nothing. Just memories. And his lingering, wizened voice. Deep, concerned, patient.

Fareeha closes her eyes to remember.

"What do you feel?"

"I feel different when she is around. Its like I start liking everything a little more. Liking me a little more, despite what I-"

She feels the ghost of a finger across her lips.

"Its not an abnormality. Not an abomination. Don't think of it that way."

Fareeha smiles.

"I am proud of you, no matter what. So is Ana. So what are you going to do today?"

"Steal a kiss."

And then suddenly, Angela's lips become an object of extreme interest.

______________________________________

Zarya's life has been going too fast these days. Working at the gym leaves her with too little energy and too little time for anything else. Its a mind numbing circle of lifting, watching over others lift, and then more lifting, then more of watching others lift. If she got time to breathe, it was with protein shakes and what not.

This here, this pace was more to her liking. Holding a cup of coffee, something that was made in a kitchen for a change, and in front, or technically beside her, the woman she loved to listen to. Olivia hadn't even started talking yet. She was taking a sip, eyes closed, most probably enjoying the sensation too. Maybe she was slowing down too, and her job left her with too little as well. They both were too busy to enjoy things in life. But right now, doing this, stopping and smelling the flowers, maybe they needed this. Maybe they needed a break, even if it was sudden.

Olivia hasn't ever seen someone be so much at ease with themselves. Zarya was wearing unmarked overalls, but they were bunched up at her hip, her upper half exposed as usual, like she was putting up a show without even realizing it. Her bicep was flexed, elbow on the backrest of the sofa, fist against her temple. Her pink was almost completely gone, only the edges of her hair remaining, and the shade of brown was brilliant. Artistic. Olivia couldn't find apt words for it. Not in English at least.

"So, what is it?" Zarya prompts her.

Olivia remembers what she was here for. She was here to vent, to talk, maybe even bitch about things. She looks at Zarya once again. Zarya had a faint smile across her lips, prompting her to go on.

"Its nothing, really."

"It cannot be nothing if it makes you angry." Zarya replies, her tone soft. "Is ok, Olivia."

Olivia sighs. Zarya was so persuasive. She takes a sip, lets the coffee flood her mouth, taking in the taste, and swallows.

"You know Angela, the woman Fareeha is dating, the one with the blond hair at the party?"

Zarya nods. She doesn't want to speak, so she will try to not talk until it was absolutely necessary.

"Her mother is visiting right now. And Emily has been pretty serious about the whole thing. Turns out Angela might have to break up if her mother does not approve."

Zarya makes an expression of acknowledgement, her eyes widening a little.

"So we have been very careful around her these two days. Gabe has been especially careful. And that is why he let her take the kitchen."

Zarya's eyebrows rise.

"He let her take the kitchen. My kitchen. Where I cook. My place."

Zarya now knows what was wrong. Olivia was possessive of her position. Proud of what she did. It would make Zarya angry if anyone just marched into the gym and replaced her. In front of her eyes.

"So that is why I was angry." Olivia concludes. "Not a big reason, I'm afraid." she says, snorting a little.

Zarya looks at Olivia and then at her kitchen. She had already made her mind.

"You don't go to the cafe today." Zarya says.

"What?"

"You want to cook, take my kitchen." Zarya offers, beckoning to her kitchen. "Cook for me today? I will be the assistant."

"Don't you have to go to the gym?"

"Is OK, I take a leave."

Olivia is a little shocked. Would Zarya really take a day off for something so small?

"Is OK, I am sure. I want to eat real food today. My tongue feels numb from protein shake."

Olivia smiles, closing her eyes. "So what would you like to eat today?"

______________________________________

"I have good news and bad news." Gabe announces, hanging up and putting his phone in his pocket.

"Gimme the bad one." Jack says, putting on his apron. 

"Olivia won't be coming."

Jack smiles. "I know the good one already."

"Yes." Gabe smiles back. "Olivia won't be coming. So we have just one thing to deal with."

"But, we are short of one cook."

Lena, who had been hearing this, pokes her head out from the front. "I can call Emily for help."

"Can she even cook?" Gabe asks. "Waiting tables is okay, but we need a cook today."

Jesse swings in this time, bringing his empty tray, and a slip in his hands. "First order: Four Large french fries. Who the fuck even orders this?"

"Do you own job." Gabe grits through gnashed teeth, pulling out a lot of potatoes and getting to work. Jesse winces a little and retreats. So does Lena.

"Call her in." Jesse begins. "Gabe doesn't want to admit it but he does need help."

"But, we don't know if Emily can cook, love."

"Its not like we have any options, do we?" Jesse replies. "Just call her in."

Zenyatta, who was dozing away on the counter, is woken up by Gabe. "You don't have to go to the gym today. Zarya's called in sick."

Zenyatta's fist raises. He gives it a little pump, and then puts it back down, framing his head.

"But you have to work now. Fill in for 'Reeha."

"Gabe, I hate you." Zenyatta says, his voice muffled.

"You have five minutes." Gabe tells him and retreats. Brigitte enters from the back, greets everyone and puts her apron on. Hana enters soon after, sleepily.

"Aren't you supposed to be in a-whatsitsname-scrimmage?" Gabe asks her, his voice has a little edge in it.

"Let me live. I have been scrimming since last week." Hana says. "Dad?"

"Yeah?" Jack answers.

"Can I please get a sandwich? And where did Brigitte go?"

"Choose one snack." Gabe says, and Hana goes red. Jack guffaws loudly.

"Dad!" Hana shrieks.

"Yes, Hana?" Jack answers, getting in on the teasing.

"Not you, the other one!"

______________________________________

Now was the chance.

Fareeha knew it.

Angela was busy scheduling the food. She had ordered for three tubs of popcorn to be delivered to them sometime during the movie. Fareeha wasn't paying an ounce of attention, because all her concentration was on Angela's lips. She had to steal a kiss!

And the best thing was, that Orisa had gone to the restrooms.

Fareeha closes the distance, enough to startle Angela as she turned around.

"Hey gorgeous." Fareeha says.

"H-hi." Angela breathes out. She nods when she senses Fareeha's hands hovering around her hips. Fareeha pulls her closer.

"So, what do you think about Mama?" Angela hazards. 

"I can't stop thinking about you in the first place." Fareeha says. "Let alone anything else."

Angela reddens. Her eyes dart to the sides to see if anyone was looking, but everyone was too busy with their own movie, and popcorn.

"Stop it." Angela whispers, not meaning it one bit. Her cheeks burned. What if Mama saw them?

"How can I?" Fareeha says, her voice extremely soft. "With those lips of yours?"

"D-do you want a kiss?" Angela asks in a shaky whisper.

"Bingo." Fareeha says. "Can I have one?"

Angela is hanging on by her toes, and the majority of support was coming from Fareeha. 

"Yes, you can kiss me." Angela says, and closes her eyes. She waits for a few moments.

"Okay, lets go to the hall now!" Orisa's voice hits their ears, and Fareeha almost drops Angela. It was lucky that Orisa was checking her watch, and thus, hadn't seen them. Fareeha straightens Angela and creates distance with scary speed. Angela straightens her dress, and tries to look normal. Suddenly, the concept of standing still on her feet feels daunting, after how weak Fareeha had made her knees. "Angela? Child? Are you alright?"

Angela glances at Fareeha, who looked like she would droop and wilt any moment. She forces her knees to comply.

"Y-yes, I'm okay." Angela replies. The three of them walk to the hall. Angela is the first to get into the row and get her seat. Fareeha moves to follow her, but is obliviously cut off by Orisa, who moves in next. Fareeha crushes the cushion and makes the seat creak to hold herself, to not bump into Orisa. Fareeha then takes a deep breath, and files in last, giving up all hope.

She can't seem to concentrate on the movie. All she can think of is her distance from Angela. Fareeha leans against the backrest, and Angela does too, their eyes meeting for a second. Angela gives Fareeha a small, sheepish smile. It had apology on it. It filled Fareeha with more hope. Now Angela was behind her too.

Fareeha hasn't attacked a tub of popcorn with more enthusiasm ever before in her life.

______________________________________

Zarya breathes in. Takes in what had become of the house's atmosphere. There was the smell of the best food she had ever seen being cooked in the house. Olivia was right. The kitchen was her place. Her sanctum. Zarya couldn't cook that well even if she tried her hardest. But what was even better was how Olivia was loving every minute of it. Every second of it. She was humming, her hips swaying lightly, alluringly. Zarya was lucky the food smelled that good.

"This smells delicious." Zarya tells her.

Olivia smiles, and continues to hum, tending to the Paella she was cooking. She would make something else for dinner too, if Zarya allowed it. The rice finally cooks, and Olivia goes to find plates, but the cabinet is empty.

"Blyat." Zarya, who was looking from the living room, curses. Her eyes dart to the sink, which was almost overflowing with used dishes and crusted spoons. Olivia searches a little more and finds one spoon. Nothing else.

"Well, looks like this will have to do." Olivia says.

"I'll wash dishes!" Zarya offers, launching off the sofa, but is cut off by Olivia.

"The food will be too cold until that time." Olivia says, and Zarya's mind takes her back to someone who sounded like this. Impossibly gentle, but undoubtedly firm. Zarya gives up, and lets Olivia bring the pan to the living room. For some reason, Olivia wants the table moved and Zarya does it quickly. They sit facing each other on the carpet. Maybe it was so that they could eat less awkwardly. Zarya doesn't want to know the reason. 

"Go ahead." Olivia says, offering the spoon. Olivia is sitting in the lotus position, watching the pan between them. Zarya sits with her legs spread, framing both of them. She takes the spoon, scoops a little, blows on it to cool it down. A few grains fly off due to the force, and Zarya looks at them fall with a scandalized expression. Olivia presses her lips harder together to stop her from snorting. Zarya fixates on the fallen grains of rice for another moment before eating the rest. Her face changes immediately, eyes going wide. Her eyes then close, and her face becomes more like enjoyment as she savors every last grain. Zarya then quickly shovels a few more spoonfuls into her mouth, making her cheeks pop. She chews with a drawn out hum.

Olivia smiles fondly, with her chin tucked in a little, trying to hide her mouth. Zarya opens her eyes, and looks at Olivia's face. She then tries to speak, and then remembers mid way that her mouth was full. Her hand flies to cover her lips, and Olivia finally loses control. She giggles, her own hand to her mouth. Zarya quickly swallows and then offers her a spoonful.

"You can eat. I already know how it tastes" Olivia says, teasingly, but also partly meaning it. She could taste the dish as she cooked it, it was burned into her very muscles. She could feel what every ingredient did as she put them in.

"Ok." Zarya says, and actually starts to put the spoon in her mouth. Although Olivia wanted Zarya to have the morsel, she didn't expect her to actually follow up with it. That shows up on Olivia's face. Zarya catches that, and stops the spoon millimeters from her lips, smiling. She then chuckles, and Olivia does too, looking down. Zarya then offers again and Olivia accepts this time.

She knows the recipe by heart. She knows how much of each ingredient she has put in. She knows exactly how it would taste, down to the aftertaste, but right here, right now, why was this better? Why was the taste that much better? 

"Tastes good." Zarya voices her feeling. "You are not angry anymore." She adds, after another bite.

"How could I? I was cooking!" Olivia agrees and protests at the same time. 

And they eat, they talk, they laugh. The pan empties before any of them realize it. Zarya scoops for another spoonful, but scrapes metal instead. Both of them look down on the empty pan with a few stray grains of rice.

"Oh." Both of them say together, a little sadly, and then smile. Zarya gets up with the pan and the spoon, dumping it in the pile of crockery and gets to washing. Olivia slinks from behind her, with a cloth in her hand, and starts wiping the finished plates.

"Thank you." Zarya says, handing her the last plate. Olivia nods, fondly, and then wipes it off. Zarya reaches over Olivia to put the dishes, getting so close. Their proximity makes Zarya halt and look at Olivia. There is a difference of height. A considerable one. Olivia stares into Zarya's eyes. The woman who had taken a day off and surrendered an important part of her home to Olivia, all because she was a little angry over something so small. So trivial.

Zarya looks back. She looks into Olivia's eyes, and she thinks-

It doesn't matter what she thinks, because Olivia gets on her toes. Frames her chin with her hands. Kisses her. Softly. Gently. Zarya abandons the plate and braces Olivia by the small of her back. They forget to breathe. They forget to think. Time slows down.

Olivia is the first to break off. Zarya reestablishes eye contact immediately. They had kissed. Once before. But this felt like the first one. Olivia wanted more. She rises again, and their lips meet again. A little more pressure this time. Olivia breaks off first again, a little short of breath. Their foreheads meet this time.

"Thank you. Thank you very much." Olivia says. "Thank you for taking the day off. Thank you for calming me down. Thank you."

Zarya smiles. "You are welcome."

______________________________________

Fareeha had decided to show Orisa the restaurant she and Angela had gone to on their first date. Mama Hong recognizes them right away, and ushers them in. Fareeha stops, and Angela turns around. She nods again when Fareeha gets closer. Fareeha braces her back again.

"Can I have a kiss?" Fareeha asks.

"Yes. Yes you can." Angela says, and closes her eyes again.

As if on cue, the door swings open once again.

"Let's go, children! The restaurant is pretty good." Orisa says, and then looks on. "Did you fall, Angela?"

"I slipped." Angela lies, after Fareeha almost drops her again. Fareeha's mouth is a thin line curved slightly upward. She nods and straightens Angela. Angela cringes internally at how crushed Fareeha looked, but she also knew Orisa's concern. She was used to herding children around, and thus she had the intuition to sense if people were with her, if people were following her or not.

"Let's go." Fareeha croaks feebly. "I am starving too."

Angela cringes again, and then gets closer to her, wrapping Fareeha's arm around her hip. "I am so sorry." she almost whispers.

Fareeha says nothing, choosing to nod instead. They enter, and then Mama Hong brings them the same things she did the last time, but for three this time. Fareeha has lost interest in food, and for life in general. Orisa notices this.

"Fareeha, child, you should eat. This food is fuel for the body." Orisa tells her.

"I know, but the popcorn is making me feel greasy in the stomach. I'll eat a little." Fareeha replies, and eats a morsel with absolute lifelessness. Angela wants to end the suffering, to ease the pain Fareeha was in, but she can't. She needed to rein herself in, avoid sacrificing her relationship for a kiss.

Orisa knows. She has been watching everything. She has been watching them so closely, even if she pretended to not be doing it. Orisa was adept at pretending to be oblivious. It was how she had raised Angela, and also kept other kids at the orphanage under control. She was taken aback. Taken aback at how considerate Fareeha is. How she asked for permission for everything else. How she waited for Angela to acknowledge Fareeha's actions and then make a permission. Orisa had no doubts Fareeha would take rejection with grace, but it would be impossible to deny in the first place, because the permission was asked for with so much respect. Orisa had also interrupted them twice, to just see what Fareeha would do. It was not exasperation. 

Fareeha was not exasperated. Fareeha was not angry. She was just slightly saddened. She also didn't try to force her way once. Not try to do one thing that could make Angela feel unsafe or threatened. It was immense respect. It was consideration. It was treating Angela with decency, the way her baby girl deserved.

"Have you guys been on more dates after that one?" Mama Hong replies, unmindful of the situation. Fareeha says nothing, stuffing her mouth solemnly with dumplings. Angela decides she has to step in.

"Yes. She is my Fareeha now." Angela says, pointedly, without realizing it. Orisa catches it, and Mama Hong giggles a little.

"SEE VIVIAN? THIS IS WHY I TELL YOU TO GO OUT!" Mama Hong screams in the direction of the kitchen. Vivian screams back, but none of them make sense of what she screams back. All of them can hear the exasperation behind it. Angela and Orisa laugh while Fareeha gives them a weak smile. They finish their food, say their thanks and then hail another taxi. Orisa gets back to thinking as soon as they move.

My Fareeha. So that is what you call her, baby girl?

She smiles to herself. And then wonders at how quickly time has passed. It felt like it was only yesterday when little Angela was holding onto her finger with all of her fist.

She is yours. She is yours all right. You deserve her.

______________________________________

"We are waiting outside, mama." Angela says, and then goes through the door. Orisa follows her, looking around.

Gabe stiffens to a degree when Orisa stops a few steps later. She was about to leave, dead set on it, but something stopped her at the last moment. Fareeha was waiting with Moira, Angela and Emily outside, and so were the rest. Orisa turns around.

"You know, I haven't seen her this happy since forever." She says with a bittersweet smile.

Gabe says nothing.

"When I was young, I had found her. No address, no origin, no one knew where she came from. But she held onto my finger, and didn't let go." She begins. "She was so tiny. So little. She needed more attention than anyone else, it was natural at her age. But the other kids didn't like it."

Gabe looks on. Orisa's expression changes. Her face is full of reminiscence. A tear licks at the corner of her eye. She flicks it away, and her strength is back.

"She was too good. Too good for any family. No one came. No one ever gave her a home. First she was too young, then she shot off to the other end. No one ever gave her friendship. She just buried herself in books. All alone."

Gabe's expression softens a little. His grip on the edge of the counter loosens.

"I took her in. I became her mother. Her mama." She says, her voice cracking a little. She was trying so hard. So hard to stay strong. But how could the tears be stopped? "I gave her family. Worked a million jobs to keep her happy, and the orphanage running. The donations came, but they weren't enough. She felt so lonely, only because the other kids hated the attention I gave her. They alienated her. And then she decided to become a doctor."

Gabe raises his hand, to maybe comfort her. But the distance was too much.

"You know what she told me? You know why she wanted to become a doctor?"

Gabe decides he should speak. "Why?"

"Because she knew the pain of having no friends. She wanted to make sure no one ever lost theirs."

Gabe's eyebrows knot. He desperately searches for something to say. He finds nothing that will make things better. Orisa makes no effort to stop her tears.

"She is my baby girl. And its the first time she has found friends. First time she has found love. Please. I beg you. Keep her happy. Don't let this be an illusion. Don't break my baby girl."

Gabe looks on. Now he wants to speak, and has the words. But he can't.

"Promise me." She pleads.

Hana's face flashes before Gabe's eyes. And things become clear.

"I promise." Gabe says. His resolution is firm. "I got her back."

Orisa's face relaxes. "Thank you, Mr Reyes-Morrison. Its hard to find men like you."

"Me?" Gabe snorts. "I'm just a gay man nearing a mid-life crisis dealing with too many overgrown kids, miss Oladele."

______________________________________

Ana's eyes go to the door when the bell jangles. She then looks at Winston, who was lost in his book. She walks out, after checking her disguise, ruffling Winston's grizzly hair.

"I should get your salary too, young man."

Winston realizes. "Sorry gran." He says, and then gets lost in his book again. Ana shakes her head and then stands tall to see. This man had a rough beard, but a sleek hairstyle. His clothing looked more hardy as well, with hiking boots, a jeans folded at the bottom, and a jacket.

"What can I get you?"

The man looks up at her in a mixture of shock and relief. Ana stops for a second. She feels like she has seen the creases at the corners of the eyes somewhere, but can't place them.

"Are you okay?" Ana asks him.

"Are you sure you cannot recognize me?" The man asks, and when he asks in that tone, recognition spreads across Ana's face. She smiles.

"This is a very convincing disguise. You look positively like a caveman now." Ana replies. "Well done."

Hanzo chuckles. "This beard went out of hand, I'm afraid."

"Anything can get out of hand if you let it." Ana says, and then crouches to pick up the sack of potatoes. She lifts it effortlessly, her legs doing all the work. Winston twitches on hearing this and tosses his book.

"Gran! I'll get it for you!" Winston protests, standing up so forcefully that he sends the stool clattering to the floor. "You shouldn't-"

"Its okay." Ana replies, her voice under no strain. "You carry on." 

Ana walks off to put the sack in the right place at the back. Winston looks at the scene in awe. Hanzo does too, his mouth slightly ajar.

"Wow." Winston says.

"She is strong." Hanzo comments. "Sugoi."

Winston's eyebrows knot, and he turns to Hanzo with a question on his face.

"It means incredible." Hanzo explains. 

"Oh." Winston says, and then picks up his stool, and then his book. He descends, getting lost in his book once again. Ana reemerges, dusting her hands off. Hanzo nods and takes the same table he did earlier, and Ana sits there a few minutes later, another sandwich on the tray in her hands. She sets it in front of him, and Hanzo accepts, bowing a little. He doesn't begin wolfing it down this time, splitting it in half and pushing one half towards Ana. Ana takes it.

"Have you made any progress?" Ana asks him, taking a bite. Hanzo would be paying anyway, so she can eat.

Hanzo shakes his head. Ana waits for him to take a bite, chew and then swallow. He takes a sip from the glass of water. "I need to formulate an attack plan for this."

"Attack plan?" Ana chuckles. "Its your brother, Hanzo, not a war."

Hanzo twitches at Ana saying his name out loud, and his head whips toward Winston. Winston shows no change, meaning he was lost beyond aural distraction. "I was actually here for more advice."

Ana was about to take a bite, but she stops. "Advice? From me?"

"You are here to meet someone too, aren't you?" Hanzo says. "You have the same look behind your eyes. And you wouldn't have been so interested in my cause if you weren't."

Ana's expression doesn't change. She takes a bite instead. And then she nods while chewing. "My daughter." She replies after swallowing. "After six years."

Hanzo says nothing. He takes a sip from his glass. "How were you going to do it?"

"I don't know." Ana replies blankly, looking out of the window. "The circumstances we parted in were extraordinary."

"Couldn't be as extreme as mine." Hanzo tries to comfort her, his tone reassuring.

"She thinks I'm dead." Ana replies, and the color drains from Hanzo's face.

"Oh."

"Yeah."

Ana finishes the rest of her half. Hanzo stares at the tray, still trying to process the information. He looks up finally, and Ana is still staring out of her window, her chin resting on her hand.

"Have you thought of something?" Hanzo asks her.

"No." Ana says, shaking her head. "I don't know how she will take the news. She is proud, and hates being lied to."

"I see." Hanzo says. "Same as Genji."

"I wish I could tell, but her safety would be in danger." Ana says. "I was so close to telling her. But I wanted her to be safe."

Hanzo doesn't want to know any more. Her circumstances were so epic that his faded into insignificance. The matter of getting Genji to listen was a trivial thing now.

"But six years is a long time. Too long for any apology to make any sense." Ana says. "I don't know if I can ever muster the strength to meet her. I don't know if I should."

"Nothing should keep a mother from her children." Hanzo replies. "Our mother passed away a few years after she gave birth to little Genji, due to some complications from his birth. Father was always lenient with him, because mother had given him to us in her place. Genji grew up without knowing a mother's love, in a world dominated by men. But he had mother's gentle ways. He was good to everyone around him. He greeted everyone, even the lift operator in our office building. He talked to the employees whenever Father told them off, cheering them up."

Ana smiles.

"Father was convinced Genji would make a leader. A good one, but a flawed one. He didn't trust Genji to make hard decisions. There were many fights between them. Genji believing in the people, father believing in his corporation. I sided with father. Always. Because he was father."

"Genji wanted to be something else. I can feel it."

"He indeed wanted to. He wanted to be a writer. Tell stories." Hanzo says. "That was useless in running a conglomerate. Father snapped one day and told him something no parent ever should."

Ana's eyes close to receive whatever was coming next.

"That he wished god took Genji instead of mother."

Ana's eyelids press harder against each other. That was criminal. And then the thought crosses her. Would Fareeha think the same? So angry that she would wish Ana had actually died that night? Her eyes fly open to save herself from the imagery.

"That is terrible." Ana comments, her voice barely over a whisper.

"Genji left, with all his stuff, and only a handful of money. We never heard from him. He went straight to the university to study writing. We knew. I tried to reach him, but he didn't reply to even me. I was the villain, because I trusted father more."

"Its the natural thing to do." Ana says. "Trust someone who has more experience than you do."

"I was lucky to find his number." Hanzo says. "He did pick up some calls, and then call me mistakenly when he was drunk. The painful thing was that he didn't want to talk to me even when intoxicated."

Ana's lips form a thin line. "Then I know what you should do."

Hanzo looks up. "What?"

"Talk to him. You will have to begin it. He will hate you. He will punch, bite, kick and even scream to push you away, but you must keep trying."

Hanzo looks down on his half eaten sandwich to process the information. "I will do it."

"Good."

"But promise me one thing."

Ana finally turns to look at Hanzo. "What?"

"Promise me you will talk to your daughter too if I do so."

Ana wants to decline. She doesn't know if she can deliver her end of the promise, and she never makes promises she can't hold up.

"I can't promise that." Ana replies, no hesitation in her voice.

"I don't care." Hanzo insists. "Promise me. If I talk, you talk."

Ana looks away. Hanzo holds his hand up, like he was preparing for arm wrestling.

"We both need our families." Hanzo says. "Lets get them back."

Ana takes his hand. She doesn't have one bit of idea how she was gonna do it, but this might be just the thing she needs right now.

Chapter Text

"Hey, Olivia! Watch it!" Genji calls out, snapping Olivia out of her trance. She straightens the pan in time before she can spill the pasta sauce she had spent the last five minutes making. Genji looks at her with concern. He abandons his stove and turns to face her completely. Olivia looks down and puts the pan on the stove.

"I can take over if you don't feel like it." Genji offers. 

"No, I-I'm okay." Olivia says, and goes back to cooking full force. Genji watches her for a few more moments to make sure, and then goes back to his work. Jesse walks in a couple of minutes later, to get the orders. He freezes mid walk and stares at Olivia, whose fingers were entwined with a few locks of her hair.

"What the hell?" Jesse says, his pitch higher than normal. Genji whips around to see Jesse first, and then turn the other way to look at Olivia playing with her hair, stirring the pasta sauce absentmindedly, which had now become a darker, maroon sludge. The pasta was still by the sink, now strained dry.

"Okay, what the fuck?" Genji says, his fist on his hip. Olivia snaps out of her thoughts once again. She looks at Genji, then at the pan, her eyes wide. Genji shakes his head, and then takes the pan out of her hands. Olivia reaches out for the pan as he pulls it away. She then looks into his eyes.

"Is anyone home?" Genji asks, knocking on her head. Olivia looks down sheepishly. Genji frowns a little. "What's wrong?"

Zenyatta walks in to get a cup of coffee, but stops when he looks at the scene. He doesn't make his presence known yet.

"N-nothing." Olivia says softly.

"You have been spacing out more since Angela's mother left. What's up?"

On hearing this, Olivia looks down. A slight blush creeps up on her cheeks. Zenyatta can see it clearly, but Genji and Jesse cannot, due to their proximity to her. Zenyatta slinks away before anyone can spot him. He knows that in years of knowing Olivia, this has to be the first time he has seen her like this. And now that Zenyatta thinks of it, she has been like this since she took her day off.

But before he can say anything, The doors to the cafe open and in comes someone who hasn't come for a long time. Jesse turns to the door and his eyes widen.

"Look who shows up." Jesse says, and opens his arms wide. "About time too."

Elizabeth, a little sheepish on being so late, hugs him nervously. "Sorry."

"Ain't no problem." Jesse says. "Cops' job is a busy one."

Elizabeth turns around and another person enters through the door. Zenyatta knows who it is. She looks around, surveying the place, and then her eyes fall on him. She gives him a confident smirk. Zenyatta knows to give her a cold shoulder at this time would be the rudest thing he can think of. So he gets out of the counter, and walks to them.

"'Sup Lizzie." Zenyatta says, and Elizabeth hugs him too. He cocks his head toward the new visitor. "Sup?"

"Hey." Satya Vaswani greets him, smirk still on. "So this is where I can find you."

"Its the home base of sorts." Zenyatta shrugs. "So, what brings you here?"

Elizabeth and Jesse have been watching them while they talked.

"Who's that?" Jesse leans in and whispers to Elizabeth.

"She testified for Zen." Elizabeth whispers back. She looks at Jesse then. He has changed too. "Don't we have catching up to do too?"

______________________________________

It was a lucky thing that the booth was empty. Zenyatta watches Satya as she settles herself on the inside of the booth. He then glances in the direction of the counter, where Jesse and Elizabeth are in animated discussion, probably just catching up. He then looks back at her. He isn't uncomfortable now, since his hands are no longer on her skin.

"So, why did you want to meet me?" Zenyatta says.

"I just came to say thanks."

"Thanks for what?" 

"Thanks for giving us the strength we needed to step up and talk."

"And why did you need 'strength' to go and do it?" Zenyatta says, a little edge creeping into his voice.

Satya's expression does not change. "People fear their livelihood."

"And not their self respect? No wonder models are whored out." Zen says.

"That is how the industry works." She replies.

"Well then fuck the industry." Zenyatta says. "I can't even think what that motherfucker would have done if I wasn't there."

There is a few moments of silence. Satya presses her lips harder together, like she wanted to say something, but was weighing her words carefully. She looks at him, how relieved he looks that he was there to save Amelie on time.

"Was it your mother?" Satya asks, finally collecting herself enough to ask. Her voice is soft, so no one except Zenyatta can hear her. 

"What?" Zenyatta asks her quizzically, his expression surprised. Satya knows she has caught him off guard.

"Were you two close?" Satya asks again, putting her hand on his, giving it a little squeeze, trying to comfort him, to reach out to him.

Zenyatta's eyes harden instantly, like a door being slammed into the face. He looks away, but doesn't withdraw his hand. "I don't talk about that anymore."

"Sorry, I shouldn't be so nosy." Satya says, giving up the attempts, and sips onto her cup.

"Thanks for the consideration." Zenyatta says, initially wanting to say something that stings, but deciding against it eventually. She was just being curious.

"So, what is your next assignment?" Satya asks him to relax the atmosphere.

"Next modeling assignment?" Zenyatta asks her incredulously. "How many more bosses do you want me to beat down?"

Satya chuckles at this. "So you won't carry this on?"

"I don't know. I feel pretty aimless at this point." Zenyatta shrugs, rising from his place. "I am finding something that just clicks. I'm off to the gym. Hang around, have some food. I recommend the eggs, if Olivia can get her wits together today."

Satya nods, and then watches him leave, then hail a bus right outside the door. 

She couldn't be wrong.

She wants to know more about this man called Zenyatta.

______________________________________

"And that guy was such an idiot, he parked the car right where it was, and also left a note." Elizabeth finishes, and Jesse rolls in laughter, slapping his knee hard. Elizabeth laughs with him. She missed this. She missed this so much. The cafe, her family and the coffee, which was savory. She swills the dark liquid in the cup, smiling, looking at him laugh. She tries to remember the last time she laughed herself, with all the work she always had. It was always this case, that case, and then the three triplets with their names. It was all too busy stuff.

But this slowdown was needed. Her to-do list was never empty, and never would be until she retired from her job. 

Gabe appears from behind the aisle, mixing pancake batter. "Jesse. Get the groceries." He says abruptly.

"Aw come on Gabe!" Jesse protests. "Lizzie never comes over! The last time she did was when I didn't even grow a beard!"

Elizabeth laughs. Gabe shakes his head. "Why do you think she is off the hook? You come to the house, you work."

"Sure!" Elizabeth says and launches off her stool to get her apron, which she was sure Gabe had still kept. She finds it, folded away in a corner, clean and ironed, waiting for her. It has her name written over the pocket. She wears it and goes back in time. The badge and shoulder holsters (always keep the firearms on you, and always keep them safe, Gabe had taught her with his shotguns) were put in place of the apron. She evens out the fabric, and grabs an order book from the counter.

"Back to where you belong!" Jesse teases.

Elizabeth knows Jesse means to tease her, to draw a reaction from her. But she can't bring herself to dispute him. To prove him wrong. This was her roots. This was where she had decided to become a cop. This was where she learnt the biggest lessons of life, from the grumpy Gabe and the kind Jack. This was where she had found her family. This was where her life in the streets had ended.

"Yes." She says reverently, running her fingers over the lettering of her name. "This is where I belong."

Gabe appears again, and was visibly pissed. "Will I have to do this again? GET GOING!" He growls, and Elizabeth promptly forgets nostalgia for her life. Jesse launches off the stool, grabbing the keys to Elizabeth's 1982 Suzuki Katana. Elizabeth slaps his hand off. She had gained a taste for classic superbikes from Gabe. While Gabe preferred the Ducati, Elizabeth liked Japanese makes.

"Put that back." She says.

"Come on!" Jesse replies. "I won't drop it this time!"

"You know I had to replace the front section the last time you rode it? And you know how rare parts for that bike are? Crash Gabe's bike. Not mine."

"You broke it, you own it." Gabe replies from the depths of the kitchen, which meant any damage Jesse did would be on his dollar. Jesse abandons the idea of taking Elizabeth's Katana and takes the keys to the Ducati instead.

Elizabeth walks into the thick of the cafe, and is met with stares. She is a vastly different woman from when she used to wait tables here. Her life has become a lot more public than what it was before. People know her. But she doesn't mind. She proudly walks to the first freshly filled table and takes the order, whipping out her book.

"What would you like to have today?" She asks, and then notices that its one of the big shot reporters, definitely here for the fill of caffeine.

"It's unusual to see you here, Captain Ashe." The man says. He is slender, well dressed, and wearing a pair of Gunnar glasses, indicating his long hours in front of a screen. She had prior experience of keeping him off sensitive cases and keeping information from getting leaked to him.

"Its where I used to work." She tells him.

"Is the job of a Captain not luxurious enough?"

"I am not a Captain today. I am just Elizabeth today." She says, and feels his eyes go over the name tag. She keeps her eyes trained on him.

"This is a very, unconventional, way of taking a break, I must say." He says. She can hear his smirk in his tone. She could also read him already writing a sizzling news report.

"If you are in the house, you work." She says. "Its my roots. This made me what I am. I like to remember where I came from. Keeps you from being cocky. So what will it be?"

The reporter, clearly caught off guard by such a well formed answer, stutters for a few seconds, praying that he can find any crack, any crevice to hold on, any insecurity, but Elizabeth gives him none. She looks proud, confident, and completely at peace.

"One Espresso. Large." He croaks, and Elizabeth quickly writes it down. She then walks off because she knows he doesn't want anything else.

______________________________________

Moira feels miserable.

"I need a fucking break." She tells herself. She was so wary of her work. Even though she liked being behind a desk and researching for hours on end, but today? She wasn't even touching her workspace with a yardstick. She throws the covers off of herself and goes to clean up. During scrubbing her teeth she decides to visit Amelie.

Amelie has been feeling down lately. Partially because she blamed herself for what happened with Zenyatta. She wanted him to have his job for more than a day. It wasn't her fault at even one place, but she still felt guilty. Guilty about setting him up with such a job, guilty about putting him in such a situation. Not to mention she would have to face the consequences for what had happened with the boss. She had no idea what had happened to him, and not a clue about what would happen to her. Would she be fired? Should she have to start going freelance for makeup? Find theaters and movie studios to work with?

There were so many things that could happen to her, and she wasn't ready for any of them. So she tries to focus on tucking her shirt into her pencil skirt (Amelie was a rare breed of makeup artists that loved to dress formally and sharply. It was her money, and it was her wish) and getting her hair ready. She then focuses on the cereal, not thinking, not fearing anything, but it was so hard to shake off the feeling of impending doom.

She was so not ready.

She walks to the door, focusing on her breathing, and opens the door. There she was. Ginger hair. Boxer shorts. An oversized T shirt. Moira had just showered and switched from sleepwear to sleepwear. She is leaning on the door, by her elbow. Moira surveys Amelie.

"Aren't you looking hot today." Moira says, and Amelie moves to the side to let her in. Moira gives Amelie a hearty whack on the butt for good measure. "I wish I had an ass like that. That thing could start wars."

Amelie ignores the aftershock of the blow. "Bonjour." She says, and watches Moira drop on the sofa and put her feet on the coffee table.

"Morning." Moira greets back. "So, off for work?"

"Oui." Amelie says. "You?"

"I need to take a day off. Desperately need to take a day off." Moira says. "So I thought I would raid your drinks cabinet and then cry for hours on end watching cheesy TV series."

"That sounds...tempting." Amelie admits. She wants to do anything except go to work.

Moira can read her expression like a book. "So why don't you take a day off too? Don't tell me everyone expects you at work right after the fiasco."

Amelie looks down, clutching the strap of her bag with both her hands. "Moira?"

"Yeah?" She replies, already elbow deep in the cereal box, chewing distractedly.

"Was it my fault?"

"Your fault? Kind of."

Amelie knew Moira would agree with her. "I knew it. I shouldn't have taken Zen."

"Dumbass, the fault was that you should have socked that pervert's ass to hell, and Zen should have stopped you." Moira corrects her immediately. "Don't tell me you got such legs and can't kick with them? I thought your legs were strong as shit. I remember you lifting off Jesse like he was nothing."

"He literally weighs nothing." Amelie chuckles. Moira chuckles too. She then pats the space beside her.

"Come on. A day off never hurt anyone."

Amelie looks at the door. And then at the space beside Moira. After another moment of deliberation, she lets go of the bag, taking Moira's offer, and instantly feels a little safer, a little certain, and a little happier.

______________________________________

Zenyatta knows something is wrong with Zarya too. Because he is breathing like an asthmatic at the end of his running (cardio still isn't his strong suit) and she is staring distractedly out of the window. Zenyatta breathes even more desperately to grab her attention. Zarya snaps out of her trance and looks at him.

"What now?" He asks her, breathing suddenly in control. But he didn't expect Zarya to notice anyway.

"We do legs." Zarya tells him, and Zenyatta almost collapses.

"We did legs yesterday!" He protests. "Do you wanna pop my kneecaps off?"

"Nonsense." Zarya replies "You are wrong about kneecaps."

"But I am right about doing legs yesterday! Woman, what's wrong with you?"

"Nothing." Zarya says almost immediately. She then goes to her notebook which stored workouts for her clients.

"Its olympic lifts today." She says.

Zenyatta hangs his head. "Always hated those."

"Come on, is easy. I will do with you." She says, and they both grab an olympic barbell each. Zenyatta begins laboring with his weights, trying to keep his form intact, and when he is completely spent, he looks at Zarya, who is following an awkward, slow rhythm.

He thinks. Olivia has been spacing out too. Zarya is spacing out too. Its all happened on the day both of them took the day off.

Then it hits him.

"Holy shit!" He hisses to himself.

______________________________________

The real reason why Jesse didn't want to take Gabe's bike wasn't because Elizabeth's was cooler. It was because the bike hated him with a passion. Especially the transmission. No matter how gentle he was, no matter how hard he tried, the gears would grind. 

And that is how he went to the market, with the Ducati SportClassic 1000 stuck on third. He stalls the bike as he stops.

"Damn bike." Jesse curses and puts it on the stand. The stand creaks a little, giving Jesse a fright. "Don't take that personally, darling. I don't mean it" he coos, and the bike settles. He then sticks his hands out, to see if the bike would throw another tantrum, and to stop it in time if it actually does. It doesn't. He slowly walks away.

On the first grocery store, he finds a new person tending to the vegetables. He had a wild beard, a sleek hairstyle, and was wearing a plaid shirt. The shirt was stretching over his form. He was built, but in a natural way. Not in a gym.

Needless to say, the man was attractive. Very attractive.

Jesse knows this is the only store he will buy from. Fuck the prices.

"Mornin'" Jesse says.

"Good morning." The man replies. His accent clearly indicated he wasn't from around here. His accent made things even better.

Don't get distracted.

"I need this stuff." Jesse says, and then passes the man the list.

"Please give me a moment. I will fetch these for you." He says, and then begins collecting the materials. He notices that the sleeves are folded, above his elbow. His forearms have a few veins popping out, and the lines emerging and receding as his fingers worked was a sight in itself.

Jesse shakes his head.

Don't get distracted, dammit.

"So, you from around?" Jesse asks him. Its the only way he can stop staring.

"No, I moved here recently." The man replies.

"Oh. College?" Jesse asks him. It wasn't common for the university to attract people from outside. These people usually took part time jobs like these.

"No. I moved here because of my brother." The man says wistfully. "He is a fussy one, but he is all I have."

"I see." Jesse says, trying to match the formality in the man's voice.

"Truthfully, I am the fussy one." The man says. "I realised it late."

"No worries, atleast you realised it." Jesse assures him. "So, got time to roam the place?"

"Pardon?" The man says, squinting a little.

"I mean, ya got any time to do sightseeing yet? This place is great." Jesse clarifies immediately. And then kicks himself internally.

"I wish to sometime." The man replies.

Jesse runs out of things to talk about. There are a few more moments of awkward silence in which the list is completed. The man collects everything in two large shopping bags. Their fingers touch, and a little jolt of static jumps between their fingers.

"Whoah." Jesse says, withdrawing his hand as soon as it happens. He fights back the blush. "Static." He says again distractedly. The man smiles, and Jesse has to use all his might to stop his knees from buckling.

"That would be ten." The man tells him. Jesse smacks his forehead.

"Aw man, stupid me. Forgot to pay." Jesse says and whips out the wallet. He fumbles a little with the bills and gives him the money. He then awkwardly picks up the bags. "Thanks for the stuff."

"Thank you for shopping!" The man chirps. Its practiced. Definitely, but who cares?

Jesse smiles, nods and goes to the Ducati. He knows the man is watching him. He can feel the eyes on his back. Then he remembers the bike. He sets the bags on the tank and prays to the bike to start smoothly while wearing the helmet. He swings his leg over the seat and the stand gives up on him. He catches the vehicle in time, but a few vegetables fall off. He considers abandoning them, but the man is back. He grabs them, dusts them off and gives them back to him.

"Make sure you wash these off." He says.

"Sure." Jesse says, putting the bike in neutral and thumbs the starter. The bike starts in one go.

So far, so good.

"Nice bike." The man comments.

"Thanks!" Jesse says, and commends himself for not saying more than necessary. He puts the bike in first, delicately, and the gear slots in. Jesse takes another breath and then gently lets the clutch go. It glides away smoothly, and now Jesse understands how Fareeha manages to ride this bike so well.

But right now, all Jesse was able to think was how he had just averted a disaster with the bike.

Atleast he didn't make a fool of himself.

______________________________________

"Is something wrong, Olivia?" Elizabeth asks her, when Olivia finally remembers to greet Elizabeth with a hug.

"She's been spacing out like crazy since the morning." Genji comments, now manning both stoves, delicately juggling between dish to dish, tossing the egg for some seconds and then alternating to take care of the pasta next.

"You sure you can handle all that? I can help." Elizabeth offers.

"Eh, I got this more or less. And Gabe's helping too." Genji says, and both of them turn to look at Gabe, who is frowning in concentration. He finally looks at him.

"What?"

They go back to looking at each other. "As you can see, I got this, Lizzie."

"Okay." Elizabeth says and goes to the front. She notices the doors open and Zenyatta enters. He spots Elizabeth and his eyes widen. He walks as fast as he can.

"Lizzie. You know Olivia's been spacing out?" He asks her.

"Yeah, she's been acting wierd."

"So, Zarya has been spacing out too."

"Who's Zarya?" 

"Oh shit." Zenyatta realizes. "She's my trainer and Olivia's neighbor. Olivia had invited her for Christmas."

"Okay. So Zarya has been spacing out too." Elizabeth says, indicating him to continue.

"And both of them have been like this since they took their day off."

"Oh." Elizabeth says, realising.

"That means something happened that day."

"Do you want to know what was that something?" 

"Hell no woman. The last time I pried in I got my balls kicked up my throat."

"Ouch." Elizabeth cringes. "Is the equipment alright?"

"That's off topic." Zenyatta reminds her. "But for the record, there was no damage."

"Okay." Elizabeth says, raising her hands in surrender. "So what do you think happened? Sex? It does that to people."

"Fuck no." Zenyatta says, repelled. "Its been so little time. This ain't the criminal records you are used to. Olivia has been living alone for a while, but she has the most level head here."

"Okay." Elizabeth accepts, begrudgingly. She was at a break, but not her cop mind. "Maybe a kiss then?"

"That sounds more probable." Zen says. "Now I'm talking to Lizzie, not the goddamn Captain. Welcome back."

Elizabeth guffaws loudly. At the same moment, Jesse enters and deposits the groceries on the counter, sitting on the stool and then sighs dreamily, cheek on palm. Elizabeth and Zenyatta glance at each other, and then turn to him.

"Jesse?" Elizabeth tries to ask him.

Jesse sighs again, even dreamier. 

"Fucking hell." Zenyatta says and hangs his head. Elizabeth puts the bags in the back. He watches Jesse be dreamy for a few more seconds until Gabe's unholy scream erupts from the depths of the kitchen.

"JESSEFUCKINGMCCREEAREYOUFUCKINGKIDDINGMETENBUCKSFORTHISSHITIWILLTAKEITOFFYOURSALARYYOUINGRATE!"

Gabe comes storming in, but stops when he spots Jesse. In his hands is the bill, crumpled by his rage.

"The fuck happened to him?" He demands

Zenyatta and Elizabeth shrug.

______________________________________

Amelie hasn't laughed so much in a long time. She laughed until her stomach gave up, she laughed until her eyes watered. Her skirt was ruined, her shirt was wrinkled, but none of that mattered. Moira was right there, roaring in laughter right beside her. Moira had switched from Grey's Anatomy to Brooklyn Nine-Nine, because she knew Amelie was down.

And now, here they were, laughing like idiots at the antics of idiots.

They get through the last episode of the season, and then go to the next. Amelie giggles at a joke, and then turns to Moira to see if she had seen it too. But Moira was asleep. Amelie quickly mutes the TV and looks at her. Her face was so serene, so peaceful. She didn't look one bit like the caffeine-crazed doctor who loved to research her butt off, often spending more than a week straight in the same set of clothing. The same woman who made surgeries look like everyday things. The woman with mind blowing mental resilience.

But most of all, the woman Amelie felt safe around. The woman always there to pick her up. The woman who could read her like a book.

"Merci." Amelie whispers, because her voice would crack otherwise. Tears well up.

She was so thankful Moira happened to her. Amelie doesn't know what would happened otherwise. She would most probably be dead. She was so thankful Jack had found her on the bridge that day. It all led to this, this small, peaceful moment. Where she could feast her eyes on this sight.

Amelie looks at her lips. Her mouth was slightly ajar, her breathing was deep. Amelie just braced Moira's head, and gave her a kiss on the forehead. "Merci." She whispers once again, making no effort to stop her tears. "Merci." She repeats, and keeps repeating, dissolving in her tears of gratitude. 

Tonight, she would make sure Moira had the best sleep of her life. She lifts her off, paying no heed to her weight, and sets her down on her own bed. She puts the fluffiest of the pillows under Moira's head, and gives her the fluffiest comforter she had (they were both incidentally for Amelie to sleep well) and then lets her be, coming back to the sofa and continuing with the TV series.

Things just felt infinitely happier now. They were still as bleak as ever, but Amelie didn't care.

Moira was watching her back.

Chapter Text

"H-hic-hey-hic-Jimmy!" Emily hiccups, swaying around.

Jesse turns around to see at least two empty bottles of vodka lying on the floor, rolling around unceremoniously. Zenyatta is looking positively grim. They were at Emily's dorm, at the exact location Lena had scrawled to them this morning. Angela was nowhere to be seen, but Zenyatta had heard Fareeha mentioning a date in the morning too, so he assumed her to be at Fareeha and Jesse's apartment.

"How much did they even drink?" Jesse asks. 

"I dunno." Zenyatta shrugs, and then looks at Emily. "Hey yo Emily!"

Emily quickly turns to him "Hi!" She says. Zenyatta could bet his skin she didn't even know who he was at this moment. Emily wobbles to her feet and then hugs Zenyatta. "Are you my uber?"

Zenyatta turns to Jesse, lowering Emily. "She is fucking hammered."

"Which means Lena would be around the same." Jesse replies.

"And that is a fucking problem." They say together. "Ayyy!" They say and share a fist bump.

"But we need to find Lena. Its lucky she did ask us to pick her up, though." Zenyatta says.

"Lena? Lena?" Emily drawls. She begins looking around on the floor. She looks under the blanket they were sitting on.

"Where could she have gone?" Jesse thinks

Emily looks under a book.

"I dunno man. We should get outside." Zenyatta says. "Atleast we can begin on finding her. I do not want her outside drunk the way she is."

Emily checks her pockets. "Lena? You in there?" She whispers.

"I wouldn't be scared for her, man." Jesse says. 

"I ain't scared for her, you idiot. I'm scared for the people she finds." Zenyatta replies.

Emily picks up the empty bottle of vodka and looks inside it, one eye closed. Jesse and Zenyatta shake their heads. 

"We need backup." Jesse says.

Zenyatta whips out his phone, but thinks better of it. "You know what? You call. I'll take care of her."

"Little shit." Jesse says under his breath.

______________________________________

"Look, Jesse. There is no fucking way I'm tagging along for this wild goose chase." Fareeha tells him. "You boys find her today."

"But 'Reeha, you're the one with the experience!"

"I'm with Angela, for fuck's sake! And she came in the morning to talk to me about it! There is no way!" Fareeha hisses into the phone, holding it close to her mouth. "Call Jack. He has a car too."

"But-"

"Fuck you." Fareeha whispers into the phone, right as Angela appears into their kitchen with groceries in her arms. Jesse's protesting voice dies inside Fareeha's pocket.

"I'm really sorry for making you work." Fareeha says. "Its just that most of our eating happens at the cafe so me and Jesse barely use this kitchen."

"Its okay, really." Angela replies. "I was able to buy exactly what I needed." She says, putting the paper bag on the counter.

"Where did you find an open store this late?" Fareeha enquires.

"Oh, I picked them up this afternoon." Angela explains.

"So, what are we cooking today?" Fareeha asks, her voice soft, looking over Angela's shoulder.

"Stew." Angela says. "Beef stew."

"That sounds tasty." Fareeha comments, as she watches Angela chop tomatoes.

"It is tasty, only when Mama cooks it though." Angela replies. "I know the recipe, Mama taught me, but I don't have the magic she does."

"Don't worry, it will turn out good! I will help!" Fareeha defends. "Tell me what I can help with!"

Angela giggles a little at this, and then produces some oil and onions. "Thank you, Fareeha. Get started on these onions then?"

"Sure!" Fareeha says, and scrambles to get the onions cooked, spreading some oil on a pan and getting to work. In between, Fareeha glances up to look at Angela, her new hairstyle, and how the hair framed her face. Fareeha didn't think it was possible but she looked even better with shorter hair. Her eyes popped just fine.

Plus, this expression of hers. Eyebrows slightly furrowed in concentration. Lips slightly turned upwards, and eyes working overtime, flickering between cutting red bell peppers, then a small dash to Fareeha's pan, and then to the chopped tomatoes. Angela's eyes then move to look at Fareeha, who realises this too late. Angela's expression changes to that of slight surprise, and then her hands go to her hair.

"Fareeha? What is it? Its my hair isn't it?" Angela says, trying to fix her hair.

"N-no." Fareeha says. "Actually, the onions are done."

"Oh." Angela says and puts some of the chopped tomatoes into the pan. They crackle. Angela lets out a satisfied huff and gets back to finishing up her bell peppers. Fareeha looks at her again.

Your hair is perfect.

______________________________________

"Um, Zen, where is your shirt?" Jack asks, leaning over the window of his Boss 429. Genji is leaning in from the back seat. 

"Its a long sto-" Zenyatta begins, but Jesse interrupts him, snickering wildly.

"Emily threw up on him." Jesse manages, and then begins laughing in earnest, doubling over.

"Fucking traitor." Zenyatta rasps uninterested and takes the back seat. Genji gives him a sympathetic pat. Jesse then enters and carefully closes the door.

"So, boys, where to next?" Jack asks them to know if any had ideas as to where Lena would go.

"I dunno." All three of them say in unison. "Ayyyyyy!" they say again and exchange fist bumps. Jack sighs and revs the 429 V8 to drown them out. The Mustang escapes in a cloud of tire smoke.

"Ooh! She's still got it!" Jack comments. Then all of them smell some fuel, which had to be the faulty carburetor. Jack backs off immediately.

"No, she hasn't." Zenyatta says almost instantly.

"She's old." Genji adds.

"Get her fixed." Jesse concludes.

Jack sighs again.

"This will be a long night." Jack whispers to himself while the others discuss where Lena could have gone.

"I think she wouldn't have gone far, considering she must be on foot." Genji presents the sound argument.

"Or we look for the first sign of trouble and stop there." Jesse pitches in

"I second that." Zenyatta says.

"Me too." Jack agrees.

"Okay then." Genji huffs.

And thus, they began to look.

______________________________________

"Hey." Moira says, leaning on the doorframe.

"Popcorn." Gabe says, handing her bags of microwave popcorn. Moira takes them and Gabe walks in. He sits on Amelie's sofa. "Why is it that whenever I get here, I always get herded into Amelie's apartment?"

"You have been there." Moira says. "Do you really want to be there, though?"

"Nope." Gabe answers instantly. Moira huffs in satisfaction and leaves to get the popcorn ready. Amelie enters, singing, but then stops mid chorus when she spots Gabe.

"Yo." Gabe says.

"G-Gabe?" She asks, as if Gabe being here was too extreme.

"Don't judge me." Gabe says. "Jack's gone with the boys and I was bored."

"And now, we watch Grey's anatomy." Moira appears, popcorn in her hands.

"How the fuck did it cook so fast?"

"Its microwave popcorn, Gabe. Its made to cook fast." Moira says with a weary voice, and hands Gabe his bowl. "Lemme get the other bowls ready."

"Wine?" Amelie says, still kind of shocked.

"Amelie, I ain't gonna bite. I'm just here for some quality TV." Gabe says.

"So that would be a yes." Amelie tells herself and pulls out a bottle, and then gets glasses for them. She sits beside Gabe, pouring him a glass.

"Popcorn and Wine. Why the fuck not." Gabe says and takes the glass. Moira returns with two more bowls and drops beside Amelie.

And then they start watching. Between episodes, Gabe picks up the bottle to pour himself another glass. The bottle turns out to be empty.

"The fuck?"

"Shh!" Moira hisses, her eyes watery. Amelie's blinking her tears away. They are drinking copiously, but Gabe knows its having minimal effect, because he was on his third glass and wasn't feeling anything, except the fact that popcorn was a terrible dinner substitute. He gets up, passing the TV on his way out.

"Gabe!" Amelie hisses this time.

"What? I'm just getting a new bottle." Gabe hisses back. The TV continues to blare full volume. Gabe gets to the cabinet and opens it to see rows on rows of bottles.

"What the fuck?" Gabe whispers to himself. He turns around to look at the two staring intensely at the TV. "Is this monthly supply or what?"

"Bi-weekly." Moira says hurriedly, probably to stop Gabe from talking.

"Fucking hell." Gabe comments to himself. He pulls out a bottle at random and comes back, passing the TV once more. Amelie and Moira give up on hissing at him this time. He pours them each a glass. He takes a sip. It tastes exactly what the previous one tasted like: Cough syrup mixed with flat soda. He checks the label to see the alcohol content and notices its 0%.

"Oh my god." He whispers to himself, and doesn't bother with the glass this time.

______________________________________

"What-" Jack says.

"The-" Genji says.

"Actual-" Zenyatta says.

"Fuck." Jesse completes.

They look at the carnage at a wedding reception. There are disgruntled guests. One elderly gentleman is being helped to his feet, while still others are resetting their clothing. 

"It has to be this place." Genji says and they scramble out of the Mustang. Jack is the closest to a guest.

"Sir, what happened here?" Jack asks, in the most polite fashion possible.

The guest looked like they he was about to have a heart attack. Jesse, Genji and Zenyatta look on.

"Man, call 911 first." Zenyatta says. Jesse scrambles for the dialer on the phone.

"I-in-inside" The guest wheezes. Jesse completes the call. 

"Sir, the ambulance will be here soon." Jesse tells him, but the four of them know the expression on the man's face told them he was ready to embrace death. They rush inside. 

Inside, the band has stopped playing. The singer is looking on in confusion. There are guests on their feet. Some are sitting, their faces buried in their palms. Some are enjoying the show. Jack and the gang make their way to the front. In the center, right in front of the band, the bride was crying in what was presumably her mother's lap. Her father was consoling the mother. And there was another disgruntled man. This had to be the groom. 

"What happened here, sir?" Jack says. The rest decide to let Jack talk. Zenyatta pays no attention to the guests staring at him and his lack of shirt.

"A woman just came running in here, claiming she was my daughter's lover and kissed her!" The mother pipes up. Jack's hand flies to cover his mouth. "They want to cancel the wedding!"

The bride runs her hand across Zenyatta's arm, taking his hand. "Can you marry me?"

"Woman. Chill." Zenyatta says, his hands in front of him, stopping her from doing anything else.

"Who are you people?" The father asks.

"We, uh, she is my daughter." Jack says, and Zenyatta's caught a little off guard by how fluidly Jack says it. Jesse and Genji don't pay attention to it. "She was on a date, and, uh, things went out of hand."

"Well, you should have looked out!" The father says angrily.

"We are sorry, sir." Genji says, putting his hand on the Father's arm.

"She was never meant to escape." Zenyatta says grimly.

"We failed to contain her." Jesse adds, equally grim. The guests look at them like Lena's behavior was suddenly justified. Jack nods solemnly.

"And then this scum touched her butt!" The bride roars, pointing to the groom. He shakes his head in horror, raising his hands in surrender. "You did! I saw you! I was right beside you!"

Half the guests gasp. Jack looks at him.

"He slapped that ass!" Someone from the crowd screams.

"No! He held on to it!" Another sound ensues.

"He did both!" A woman screams this time.

"Boys, Get 'im." Jack says. Jesse, Genji and Zenyatta launch themselves at the groom like a pack of rabid animals. the groom takes off too.

"I'm gonna punch him in the dick!" Jesse roars.

"That's gay!" Someone from the crowd screams again.

"That's the point!" Jesse screams back.

"I'm gonna punch his face!" Genji screams.

"Imma punch him every-fucking-where!" Zenyatta roars at the end, as they run off.

______________________________________

"So that's the preparation process done." Angela says. "We'll give it a few minutes and then it should be ready."

"Alright." Fareeha says. "Wanna hog the sofa until then?"

"Sure!" Angela says and they just sit on the sofa, next to each other, in utter silence, only the faint gurgling of the stew from the kitchen keeping them company. Angela looks slightly uncomfortable, setting and then resetting her hair too many times.

"Fareeha?" She asks uncertainly.

"Yes?"

"Is my hair really okay?" Angela says. "I know I do this every summer and I have done this since I was a child but I never had a-" She stops. "Can I call you my girlfriend?"

Fareeha chuckles at this. "Don't tell me I'm a side chick and you have a second girlfriend somewhere too."

"N-no! I don't have a second girlfriend!" Angela protests, and then realizes what Fareeha did. "Oh."

"And to answer your question, yes, you can call me your girlfriend." Fareeha says in the end.

"So, as I was saying, I never had a girlfriend before to tell me this." Angela says, and sets her hair once again. "Do I look good?"

Fareeha comes closer to Angela, closing the distance between their faces until Angela's breathing hitches for a moment. "You look gorgeous." Fareeha tells her.

"O-Okay." Angela whispers.

"Can I kiss you to tell you how beautiful you look?" Fareeha says.

"Y-yes?"

Fareeha dives right in, both hands finding Angela's face, taking their spot on either side of her jaw. Fareeha then straddles Angela as well, giving her time to brace her back against the armrest. Angela does nothing except place her arms on Fareeha's hips, her thumb brushing Fareeha's belly, over the ridges of the Adonis belt, as Fareeha's shirt moved to reveal it. Fareeha breaks off when the urge to breathe is too much to simply ignore.

"More." Angela breathes out as soon as their lips part. Their mouths meet again, more fiercely.

"More." Fareeha echoes this time. 

"More." Angela says again. Fareeha's lips press against Angela's jaw.

"More." Fareeha kisses the edge of Angela's jaw, scraping her teeth gently against Angela's earlobe.

"More." Its the space between her jaw and neck.

"More." Fareeha traces a line of kisses down Angela's neck. Angela hisses between her teeth.

"More." Fareeha smells like the earth right before rain falls.

"More." Her teeth scrape Angela's collarbone.

"More." Her hands unbutton Angela's shirt.

Its in the moments they break off to breathe, is when the reality of it all hits Angela. What she is about to give into. How many things this would change.

She looks at Fareeha, mouth ajar, eyes dreamy, her hair beads glinting in the limited light. The sound of Fareeha's breathing. The sound of her own breathing. The blood roaring in her ears. Her heart hammering against her rib. Angela places her palm on Fareeha's shoulder.

Angela wasn't ready for this.

Fareeha senses it right away. What the palm on her shoulder means. What Angela's subdued squirming below her means. What the tinge of concern behind her eyes means. She locks eyes with Angela. Fareeha realises her own fault. How she had begun to blatantly overstep her boundaries. She is suddenly overrun with guilt. She wastes no time to dismount Angela, and sit on the couch with her face buried in her hands.

"I'm so sorry." Fareeha says, her voice cracking. "I was about to do such a terrible thing to you."

Angela gets off her awkward position and sits up beside Fareeha. She puts her palm atop Fareeha's shoulder again. She uses her other hand to peel Fareeha's hands off her face. Fareeha is crying. Her expression is so easy to read. She looks like she just did something terrible. Fareeha turns to look at Angela through watery eyes.

"I was about to force you to have sex with me." Fareeha says. Her hands are pressed between her knees. "Without your permission."

"Almost." Angela says, wiping the tears off. "And I didn't even need to stop you, or tell you that its going too fast. I'm sorry, Its a new thing for me."

"But that doesn't mean I don't have to ask for permission!" Fareeha says, softly, making no effort to establish contact. Fareeha half-heartedly looks at Angela's unbuttoned shirt. "Look how close I was!" She says, guiltily buttoning her shirt back on, and then going back to staring at the floor. "I ruined this date."

Angela smiles, and then kisses Fareeha gently on the cheek. "Fareeha, look at me."

Fareeha turns to lock eyes with Angela.

"You actually made it better."

"I did?"

"Yes, you reminded me how much I trust you." Angela says. "How safe I feel around you."

Fareeha says nothing, because she sensed Angela wanting to talk more.

"You make me feel in control. You never even touch me without my permission." Angela begins. "Sex makes people crazy, it lowers inhibitors and boosts all those reward mechanisms, so I was almost sure it was too late for me to say anything."

This makes Fareeha look away in guilt once again. Angela pulls her back.

"But you made me feel even safer when you just stopped. Without me even saying a word." Angela says. "Some don't stop even when they are told to."

"I hate that kind."

Angela pauses for a moment, and then kisses Fareeha on the cheek once again, all the while Fareeha continued to stare at the floor.

"Thank you." Angela says. "You're so considerate, so kind, and most of all, so beautiful." She says, pulling back Fareeha's beaded hair. Fareeha turns to look at her, taking this as her cue. "I'm proud to call you my Fareeha."

"My Fareeha." Fareeha echoes, and blushes. "I like how that sounds."

Angela smiles, and in that moment, the aroma of cooked food hits their ears.

"Its ready!" Angela says excitedly, and darts off the sofa. She returns a few moments later with just one bowl and a spoon. Angela then sits beside her, and she can finally see the contents of the bowl. There is rice at the bottom.

"Where's yours?" Fareeha says.

"Right here." Angela says. "There's actually a way to eat this, you have to hunt for the pieces of meat and vegetables and get the perfect amount of rice per spoon, so I thought I could show you."

"I would love it if you showed me." Fareeha says and closes her eyes, wondering what she did to deserve someone like Angela.

______________________________________

"This has to be it." Genji says, and Jack slams the brakes, making the Mustang skid along the asphalt. "Look."

The four boys look at the open gates of a dog pound, and then a whole swarm of dogs running out, while a hapless young teenage boy in pound uniform (Jack surmised he was on part time duty, and it was his first time dealing with disaster) chasing after the dogs fruitlessly. Jesse and Jack dart out of the car to shut the gate before more dogs escaped. They are able to save most, though it would be a long day for whoever caught those dogs for a living tomorrow.

"What happened here, boy?" Jack asks him.

"Someone just came in and freed every single dog in the pound!" The boy says, his breathing telling them that he was most probably going to die to a heart attack.

"Chill." Zenyatta emerges and calms the teenager down.

"Where's your shirt?" The teenager asks him.

"Its too hot out here for a shirt. Look at you, you're sweating." Zenyatta fires back. Jesse stifles a laugh. Zenyatta glares him into silence.

"Fair enough."

"Did you see the one that did this?" Jack asks.

"I dunno, but the cameras showed me someone small. It was a woman, and she looked drunk too." The teenager says. "But when I realized what she was about to do, I ran to stop her, but it was too late."

Jesse and Genji exchange side-eyed glances.

"She also took one of our youngest puppies."

Zenyatta shakes his head.

"Did you see where she went?"

The teenager nods, and points to the city. "That way." He says, and then frowns a little. "Do you know her?"

Jack hesitates for a split second, but Zenyatta swoops in.

"Nah, man." He says. "We were just out for a night drive, and saw this-" Zenyatta says, and gestures to the dogs, who were barking, and moving around them like static. "-so we thought we'd help."

"Thanks a lot." The teenager says, and he looks like he would burst out crying. "I thought I would lose this job."

Jack smiles awkwardly, and begins herding the dogs to the building. Jesse and Genji hang back to talk.

"This is gonna be such a long night." Genji says.

"Tell me about it." Jesse sighs.

______________________________________

Gabe is happily watching the TV, and by this time, both Moira and Amelie have bottles of their own, sniffling, and then taking a swig.

But what has made Gabe smug, and happier than what he had come with, was the discovery he had made.

his doubts become belief when Moira appeals for a break to take a leak.

"Pause this, I need to take a piss." Moira says, and sets her wine bottle carefully on the table, before scampering to the bathroom. Amelie follows Moira with a look of longing on her face, pausing the video.

Gabe waits for a moment.

"Does Moira know?" He asks.

Amelie's head whips towards Gabe. "What?"

"Does Moira know you have fallen head over heels for her?" Gabe says bluntly.

"What are you talking about?"

"Little girl, you are so bad at hiding emotions like these." Gabe chuckles. "I don't even need to see you to read you."

Amelie feels betrayed at Gabe's statement.

"That is not what I'm talking about, though." Gabe begins. "Does Moira know this?"

"She doesn't." Amelie admits. "I had a close shave with a kiss."

"A close shave? With a kiss? What the hell are you talking?"

"I had one of my episodes, so she thought I was being unstable." Amelie explains. "She did tell me she couldn't keep up with a relationship at this moment."

"I agree with her." 

Amelie looks at him with a shocked face.

"What?" Gabe shrugs. "She possibly can't be expected to give time to a relationship like this. Have you seen how busy she is at times? How unstable her work schedule is? In all honesty, I am shocked she still manages to keep her health with this stampede her life is right now."

"So you think this can't work either?"

"Nah." Gabe says immediately. "But since Moira doesn't know yet, get the fuck out."

"Why?!" Amelie hisses.

"One sided love will kill you." Gabe says, his voice even, his expression grim against the limited light of the TV. "Get the fuck out before its too late."

Amelie's eyes fall. Gabe shakes his head a little.

"Moira is right. This won't work." Gabe begins again, jabbing Amelie's temple with his first two fingers. "Use the damn head. Don't go down this suicide path. Trade in that long term disappointment with some short term pain. Its better that way. You were lucky one time, Jack found you. This time there will be no one to talk you off that bridge."

Amelie's expression remains the same. She decides not to talk.

"Go out, see other women, or maybe even men if you want to."

"Maybe I should take the coffee guy's offer." Amelie suggests hopelessly.

"At your own fucking risk." Gabe says. "That guy is nowhere close to Moira."

"Why do you think that?"

"He had a shouting match with you and insulted our coffee on his first visit to the cafe." Gabe says. "Trust me, if I was there, I would have been more extreme than Fareeha was."

"But he was right about the coffee."

"You really want to change the topic now?" 

"Sorry."

"But at this point, I would give you the go ahead to even date Gerard." Gabe admits. "Anything that gets you off this trajectory."

Amelie looks down to process this information. At the same time, the bathroom door opens and Moira emerges, walking back to the sofa and taking her seat. She grabs the bottle of wine by the neck and lifts it off, taking a swig.

"Alright, pissing done, lets move on." Moira says.

"Yes Amelie." Gabe says, beckoning to the TV remote. "Lets move on. You wanna take a piss too?"

"No." Amelie says immediately, to both his questions.

______________________________________

Ana is busy at her counter, filing away the memos for the day. Hanzo is brooding at the corner of the cafe, in the corner with lesser light, stroking a puppy, who was sleeping in his lap, where he can see everyone coming and going. Hanzo's beard had grown even wilder, making him even more unrecognizable. He was forming strategies to talk to Genji, trying an infinite permutation and combination of words, battling whether Japanese would be good or plain English.

But the thing was, the more he thought of it, the more variables were introduced.

Winston is busy tending to a small built woman, who had hobbled here with a puppy in her hands. The said woman had her arms wrapped around Winston's form, cooing endlessly.

"You're sho beeg, and sho warm!" She drawls. Winston looks at Ana helplessly.

"She is so drunk." He whispers to her. Ana chuckles a little.

"You're like a beeg teddy bear!" She drawls again. Hanzo looks at her with a little distaste. No one should drink this much. He even doubted where the woman had found this puppy from.

Then he notices a Ford Mustang Boss 429 leisurely glide along the road. He internally whistles at the color and the condition. Their father always admired Mustangs, as they were pinnacles of power in his mind. Sojiro always wanted one of these in his garage, but was never able to find a decent one that someone wanted to part with.

The said Mustang glides along a little more, and then stops abruptly. Its reversing lights turn on, and it reverses rather jerkily for Hanzo's taste. It then stops right in front of the cafe door. Two men climb out of the front seats. One of them was from that day when Hanzo had begun his job at the grocery store. He noticed the other, and something at the back of his mind told him that he had seen this man before. The passenger seat folds forward and the people emerging from the car makes Hanzo's blood freeze.

It was Zenyatta.

And then Genji.

Hanzo's legs forget to function. His hands stop moving. Ana senses his horror and looks at the door to see Jack entering the place. They both freeze for a split second, but recover before the others enter.

"Quite late." Ana says, giving the smallest of nods to Jack. "We are about to close."

"Actually, this woman right here." Jack says, and gestures towards Lena hugging Winston with all his might. "She is my daughter." Jack tells her pointedly.

Ana makes a point to look at Lena's form more carefully. "I see." She says, getting off her stool, and setting the sheaf of bills aside. "Quite drunk, though."

"Yeah." Jack says. "She was on a date, and things went out of hand. She can't control herself that well."

"I see." Ana mentions. "She did get rid of most of the alcohol in her system, though. Threw up right after we brought her in."

"I am so sorry." Jack says.

"No problem." Winston says this time. "We were able to point her to the washroom in time."

"Oh, that is wonderful." Jack says, and then kneels to get closer to Lena. "Lena?"

Lena, on hearing a familiar voice, breaks suddenly off Winston, who takes a breath of relief. Lena then glues herself to Jack's form. "Hiiiiiiii Jack!"

"Hey, kid." Jack says. "You okay?"

Lena nods fervently. "I got me a puppy!" She then begins looking around. Hanzo knows he has to move. So he does. He gets off the stool and walks to Jack. His heart threatens to escape his chest, yet he keeps walking, as he had a strategy in mind. He stops right under a light, extending his arms to offer the small puppy. Zenyatta picks the puppy from Hanzo's hands and flashes him a nervous smile, which Hanzo returns with a nod and a smile of his own. His heart skips a little beat when Genji passes him, paying no heed to his face, happy to finally have found Lena. The three of them leave while the one from the market lingers around and stares at Hanzo.

"Hey! You're the guy from the grocery store!" Jesse says, quite squeakily.

"Yes." Hanzo says feebly, and then clears his throat to get his voice back. "Yes, its me."

"See any sights yet?" Jesse asks. "I can take you some places."

"I will surely take you up on the offer." Hanzo says. His knees are still trembling, but his pants hide that fact.

"Alright then, G'night!" Jesse says with a two finger salute.

"Good night." Hanzo says, with another small smile and nod.

Jesse walks away, and sits into the passenger seat of the car. The Mustang pulls away, and then Hanzo finally remembers to breathe.

Chapter Text

Hana wipes away a tear. In front of her was the DEFEAT screen, and behind her were frustrated sighs, and some Korean expletives, carried along with the sighs. 

The scrimmages were bad, and dismal at some points. Hana seemed to miss shots she never missed even in her dreams, run in when she didn't need to and do a lot of other mistakes that she never made. She buries her head in her hands, sobbing quietly. Suddenly, all her dreams seemed to dissolve, and the cup was not in her hands anymore. The image in her head was a terrifying one. Tears continued to stream, wetting the table under her.

And then, she feels a hand on her shoulder. She looks up to see Daehyun, with a painful expression on his face. He squats to bring himself on Hana's eye level.

"Are you okay?" He whispers. The others had gone to calm their frustration down.

"I'm so useless." Hana squeaks. "I'm bringing everyone down."

"No." Daehyun says, his voice even and confident. "You're just tilted. You need to reset."

"Do you think I have time?" She asks, tears still streaking down her cheeks. Daehyun moves his hand to find hers, giving her a reassuring squeeze.

"There is always time." He says. "I've called your dad already, he will be here soon. Go home. Reset."

Hana beams at him, and wipes the tears away. "Thank you." She whispers.

"Now get your stuff, he must be here any minute." Daehyun says and gets up to do some relaxing himself. He never understood why people got so angry over a game, but now, after being on the right side of it all, he understands why. Its just like any other sport. People have dreams here too. Its not just video games anymore.

Daehyun was subbed in Yuna's place after the fiasco with Hana and Brigitte, and all he seems to do these days is calm his teammates down and hold the team together. He is more happy with this role of his, because it isn't as hard as trying to keep up with his teammates. He manages, but only just. And he's happy to just be here, among so much better players than him, a thought he plans to ruminate on for the rest of the day, as he watches Hana walk out of the door.

Gabe is waiting, leaning on his Ducati, one helmet waiting for her. Hana walks slowly to him, and then gets buried under Gabe's arms.

"Hi, Dad." She says, her voice low.

"Hey, carino." Gabe says. "Were you crying?"

Hana nods into his chest.

"Why?"

"I was playing so trash today. Its terrible." Hana mumbles. "I almost feel like giving up."

"hmm." Gabe says, patting her head. "Do you want some ice cream?"

"That sounds like a good idea."

______________________________________

"Jack, can I talk to you?" Amelie asks him, sliding into one of the stools. She was without Moira today, and Moira was laying wasted on her bed. Hana and Gabe had arrived a few minutes earlier, and were chatting in the kitchen. Jack was slightly annoyed that Gabe didn't think of getting him an ice cream, but it was something he could let slide.

"Of course you can talk to me, Amelie." He says and looks up at her. "But something tells me this talk needs more than just talk. Lemme get you a sandwich."

Amelie waits for a few minutes, thinking of how she would present her predicament to Jack. Jack returns with a healthy-sized sandwich on a plate. He puts it in front of her and sits on the stool on the other side of the counter.

"Tell me." Jack says, slapping his thighs to show his readiness.

Amelie repeats her entire conversation with Gabe and then explains him the situation. Jack listens, his back straight, his arms folded over his chest, his expression neutral, his eyes trained on Amelie's slouching form. He grunts from time to time, to keep prompting her on. When she ends, Jack takes a deep breath.

"So, what-"

"Too much talking, Amelie. Eat." Jack cuts her off and beckons to the sandwich. Amelie takes a bite and tries to talk more. "Come on, kid. eat this slice off." he says, and tells Fareeha to bring a glass of water.

"What's up?" Fareeha asks. Amelie looks at Jack with an uncertain expression.

"I don't think Amelie wants you to know yet." Jack says with an apologetic smile.

"Okay, but whatever it is, we gotchu." Fareeha says. Some of Amelie's discomfort goes away. Jesse comes in and goes by the time Amelie finishes her slice. She begins to quickly drain the glass but Jack beckons her to take it slow.

"Feeling good?" Jack asks her when she sets the empty glass on the counter. Amelie nods, still looking down.

"So, what is bothering you?"

"Do you agree with Gabe?"

"Gabe is the mindful one, so, unfortunately, yes."

Amelie looks down. She really wanted Jack to disagree.

"But." Jack says. "I need to ask you something."

Amelie looks up. Jack takes this as his cue to continue.

"How do you feel around Moira?"

Amelie looks down once again.

"I feel safe. I feel like she can read me right away. I feel like she understands me."

"Doesn't Olivia do that as well, for all of us?"

Amelie wants to say something but she doesn't have anything that would make sense. Jack had made a ridiculously bulletproof point.

"The thing is, Amelie, what different things do you feel around her?" Jack continues. "What is different from the things you already feel around, you know, us." He says, unsure of what Amelie thinks of them.

"Family." Amelie states first, to get that out of the way. She doesn't say anything else.

"Amelie, no offense, but could this be lust talking? I mean I know squat about how women function and this is more experience than knowledge talking, but when I was your age, Gabe and I sneaked out almost every night to fuck."

"You think the same way?" She asks, looking clearly insulted at being questioned about her true feelings.

"No, dear-" He begins, but notices some of the glass still occupied with water. He gestures her to drink it. Amelie obliges. "You haven't told me the thing yet."

"The thing?"

"The thing! The thing that tells you, that finally lets you know that yes, this is my life partner." Jack explains. "The thing that took me three years of mindless fucking to find in Gabe."

"What was it?" Amelie asks, forgetting her own angst for a second.

"It was nothing, I was, you know, just down with a severe case of dehydration after a long search mission in the desert. I didn't tell Captain, but I could have killed for some Dr Pepper. Not the crap the city sold, and definitely not the god-awful orange flavored electrolyte solution. True Dr Pepper that my hometown had. When I woke up, I found Gabe, shushing me, icebox in his hand. It was the night, the wing was supposed to be empty, and here he was. He opens the icebox and there it is- the forbidden elixir, and atleast a dozen of them. I was twenty something at that time. Gabe then actually went ahead and slept beside me on the same crammed bunk. We were invariably found next day with all those cans and he practically got dishonorably discharged."

"Wow." Amelie says. "Was Gabe grumpy?"

"No, and that is when I knew I had found the thing."

"What did you find?"

"When Gabe stole a glance at me during the Captain's grilling, there wasn't a single bit of regret in his eyes, not a single bit of anger, not a single bit of embarrassment. The look in them told me he would do it again without thinking twice. Anything to make me happy."

Amelie takes a few moments to blink. "Wow." She reiterates. "Wow."

"Have you found something like that?" He asks her. Amelie shakes her head without a doubt.

"I hope you understand why I was trying to pin this on lust." Jack says, apologetically.

"Yes, yes I do." Amelie says quickly. Suddenly her own predicament sounded stupid.

"And yes, it was lust that led to this as well." Jack adds. "So all hope is not lost."

"Maybe." Amelie mutters, playing with the empty glass.

"For now, I would say, give it time. Give Moira a little space too?" He proffers.

Amelie looks so alarmed at the suggestion that Jack prays he could have taken that back.

"What's wrong, kid?" He asks.

"I'm afraid of doing that." Amelie says. "Giving Moira space. What if she goes away from me?"

Jack doesn't even need to look at her to know she was shuddering.

"That is the challenge. Maintaining the right distance." Jack says, pulling the glass away from her hands, and taking the small dish away too. He turns away to hide his smile. Amelie was closer to the thing than Jack had thought.

______________________________________

"Pops, please." Jesse groans, following Gabe with a manner that makes it look childish and nostalgic at the same time to Zen. He looks up from Genji's notes for his book. Amelie was raiding Genji's crossword yet again, her elbow on Zen's shoulder. It was an off day for her. Hana was redecorating the pillar they had in the center of the cafe, as the paper was fading from age. Lena gave a few suggestions as she came and went. Brigitte was having a rough time, with Hana making grabby hands for her butt whenever she came close.

"Why, McCree? Why should I give you a day off?"

"Be-"

"Actually, why would I give you a day off?" Gabe says, irritated, but his voice has no edge in it.

"Its too hot to work!" Jesse protests.

"I'd give anyone a day off except you." Gabe says, and he knows he doesn't mean it.

"Well, gimme one while you're at it." Zen says.

Gabe looks at Zen for a little while, a moment Lena chooses to saunter in with her tray. She's visibly sweating, and there is the red creeping up on her cheeks. She fans herself with the tray, closing her eyes. "Its too hot, Gabe. Day off please?"

"Wha-"

Then Fareeha arrives, running ice over her face, through a napkin. Gabe's head swivels to look at her. "Fuck its hot today." She says, now cooling her throat.

"Hey gimme some of that." Zen says.

"Fuck you." Fareeha says, giving him the finger in case the words weren't enough.

"Love you too." Zen grunts and goes back to trying to focus on the notes. He lasts for a few seconds before he shoots off the stool. "I'm getting some of my own." he says, and disappears behind the aisle.

There is a little screaming, involving a lot of it from Olivia and a little defeated screaming back from Zenyatta, but he makes it back with an ice pack of his own. Olivia storms in with a spatula in her hand.

"Hijo d-" Olivia begins threateningly.

"Lenguaje" Gabe cuts in.

"¿Cómo demonios hago las bebidas para los clientes si se toman todo el puto hielo?" Olivia thunders.

"¡Cálmate ya, carajo!" Gabe chides, clearly very irritated

"Ooh, I want some too!" Lena says, and then looks at Olivia with puppy eyes. "Please?"

Olivia pinches the bridge of her nose. She waves Lena off, utterly and completely defeated. Lena brightens, giving Olivia a hug from the side.

"Thanks love, you're the best!" She says and scampers off to the back.

"Necesito un día libre" Olivia groans into her hand. Gabe's head whips in her direction.

"No, ¡¡tú no!!" Gabe exclaims.

Jack arrives at this precise moment.

"Hey guys, what happened?" He asks, looking around to see everyone collected around Gabe.

"We need a day off." Everyone, except Gabe echoes together, hilariously. Brigitte comes in with a harried expression on her face. 

"Hana isn't letting me work!" She squeaks, carefully. She definitely doesn't want to piss off Hana's dads. Gabe sighs

Genji arrives next, with completed dishes in his hands, on a tray. "Here, some more orders." He says, and then waits for orders from any of them. Brigitte takes the trays away.

"Yo, isn't this heat melting you?" Zen asks him. Genji notices the newspaper and pen in Amelie's hands and lets out a defeated sigh, removing the napkin he always keeps tucked under the waistband of his pants, he wipes his forehead with it.

"I'll live." He replies. "What about you people?"

"We call mutiny." Zenyatta says.

"No you don-" Gabe begins

"MUTINY!" Jesse roars. A few harried customers look their way. Hana pokes her head out of the pillar.

"What the-" Jack says, walking in with orders in his hand. 

"WE WANT FREE-" Jesse begins again, but a well placed punch sends him crumbling to the ground.

"Gracias" Gabe huffs in relief.

"hmph." Olivia says, rubbing her knuckles.

"F-fuck she's strong." Jesse croaks. Genji picks him up. Zenyatta puts his ice pack on Jesse's blooming temple, without looking up from the notes. Genji swats the newspaper away from Amelie's hands and discovers there was only one word left. He lets out a defeated huff and gives it back to her.

"What was Jesse screaming about?" Jack asks.

"Apparently all of them are too hot to work." Gabe answers.

Zen looks at Jesse, with a look that suggests him to talk. "What? I ain't talking." Jesse says. "Olivia is standing right beside me."

"It is hot today." Jack says, pulling on his shirt to let some air in.

"Goddammit." Gabe says and buries his face in his palm. He takes off somewhere. Zen lifts the ice pack and Genji inspects Jesse's temple, which was destroyed not very long ago.

"Looks like you will live." Genji says.

"Thanks doc." Jesse says. "That was some good news. I can finally live my life to the fullest."

Hana then appears and grabs Brigitte by the butt once again. Brigitte jumps with a tiny yelp, prompting a dirty side eye and a lopsided smirk from Lena.

"I swear these girls are worse than Jack and Gabe." Zenyatta comments. Brigitte goes red.

"Nope." Genji cuts in. "Nothing beats Jack and Gabe's 'teen phase'."

"Fuck yeah." Fareeha agrees, making Jack go red this time. "That was one big month long orgy and us trying to prevent a porn leak."

Genji and Jesse laugh. "I couldn't have said this better." Zenyatta comments between laughs. Amelie is chuckling, her hand covering her mouth. Fareeha, Olivia and Lena are rolling over each other laughing. Brigitte continues to climb the shade card for the color red. Hana changes a little color too.

"Shit man that laughing made me hotter." Jesse says. He slaps the ice pack to his face once again, much to Zenyatta's dismay. "I really need a day off."

"We all need a day off, bro." Zenyatta adds.

"I know how to solve that." Gabe reappears, holding a box in his hands that all of them know all too well.

"I like the way you think, Gabe." Jack says, giving Gabe a peck on the cheek.

______________________________________

"Brigitte?" Hana calls out, her voice low. Brigitte turns to look at her. Their hands were threaded together, sitting beside each other in one of the booths, away from the rest of the staff, who were now bowling to settle their disputes. Hana had taken the time off to reevaluate her life in general. She thought long, and hard about everything she could think of. Was she happy? Was this where she wanted her life to go? What about when she was too old to play video games this well? It all weighed in on her.

"Yes?" Brigitte replies.

"Do you have dreams?" Hana asks, resting her temple on Brigitte's shoulder. They had excused themselves from the commotion for a little time in peace together. Gabe had offered them the living room upstairs but they wanted to watch where this was going too. Hana looks at their hands.

"Dreams as in the ones I see when awake or the ones I see in my sleep?" Brigitte asks for the clarification.

"The ones you see when awake. Dreams about the life you want," She says, and hesitates for a second. "your partner. Your perfect house."

"Well, I'm already in one." Brigitte says, looking at the scene in front of her with peace in her eyes. "A workplace where people care for me, a really hearty, open and happy family back home. I don't make a crazy amount of money, but it fulfills my needs. Maybe a farm too and a dog. A tiny house with a tiny chimney on it. I originally used to think of a man in my life, but thanks to you, that changed drastically." Brigitte says, laughing a little by the end of it.

"Do you still want a man?" Hana asks, slightly glum.

"No. Not at all." Brigitte says immediately. "Now my knight in shining armor is a woman."

Hana giggles a little at this. "I expected you to be more chainmail and axes and horned helmets rather than the shining armor."

"I liked the Knights better than the Danes in terms of style. And the horned helmets never existed." Brigitte clarifies. "As I said, I'm just someone with simple tastes. It doesn't take much to keep me happy."

"Your dream sounds so...peaceful." Hana says, taking a long breath. She swears she could smell the domestic air right then. "I'm envious."

Brigitte snorts at the appreciation. "What about you?"

"Mine is more flashy." Hana says. "I love the feeling I get in my hands when I'm there competing, people screaming out to cheer you, fingers dancing across the keyboard, mouse moving like a machine. The casters shouting with excitement. And then it comes down to the last moments. You make no mistakes, the casters are tracking you like hawks, the crowd is screaming your name. You make the game winning play and the arena explodes. There is confetti, there is screaming. History is being made and you were the one writing it. You lift the cup. There is nothing that beats that."

"Wow." Brigitte says. "That gave me goosebumps."

"And then I come back to my little house and smile to my strong wife who has been farming all day long. And then I show her the cup and spend the rest of the day in her arms."

Brigitte goes redder faster than Hana has seen anyone achieve that feat. Hana giggles at the intended effect, and continues her offensive. "Then its lazy days, farming and a lot more me in her arms, and her food and peace and quiet. Not to mention kisses on the tractor."

Brigitte looks straight ahead, hoping she could gain some composure before she disintegrated and collected into a pool.

"Jesse, you might want to check the skittles and make sure Olivia doesn't mess with them." Genji points out.

"What?" Jesse asks, anger rising in his voice. "What the fuck?"

"Well, she does that, and something tells me she might be doing it right now, because there is no way in hell Zen misses his Transcendence™ three times in a row."

Jesse looms over Genji and he shrinks a little. The only thing Jesse truly and utterly hated was cheating. He's gone before Genji can ask him to exercise a little subtlety. He seizes Olivia by the arm and shoves her behind the counter. Olivia wants to fight back, but the sheer fury in his eyes makes her shrink. She has no choice but to let him drag her wherever he wanted.

"What the fuck is going on. Wanna tell me about it?" Jesse says, slowly. 

Gabe, who has been watching, sits up straight. "Shit."

"N-nothing." Olivia says. She tries to pry her arm out, but Jesse doesn't even budge. His eyes are cloaked dangerously by shadow.

"I promise." Jesse says. "If I investigate right now, and I find out that you have been helping Gabe screw up our scores, I will drop one of those on your feet." He says, pointing to the sixteen pound bowling ball Zenyatta was preparing to send down the alley. "Tell me if ya got something, before Zenyatta bowls."

"W-will you let me go?" Olivia asks. She knows Jesse will drop the ball on her feet.

"No." Jesse says. "I will drop it. But you will get the rest of the day off."

"Fine." Olivia says. "Gab-"

"No. Tell everyone." Jesse says. "EVERYONE. COME HERE!" he roars, and everyone collects around the corner. "Spill." He growls.

"Gabe told me I could have a day off if I made everyone lose." Olivia says.

"Fucking knew it!" Zen says, raising his hands in jubilantly. He and Genji share a fist bump. Fareeha, Lena and Hana look betrayed. Brigitte was just watching the show. Ice Cold Amelie was indifferent, but interested.

"Dammit, Gabe." Jack groans, facepalming. Gabe looks up in exasperation.

"Fine. All of you get your day off." Gabe says. "There. Happy?"

"Not yet." Jesse says. "Zenyatta, get the bowling ball." He says and turns to Gabe and Olivia. "Its time for execution."

______________________________________

"Amelie, can you take care of this little girl here?" Jack says, leading the puppy to Amelie. "She needs house training."

Amelie grimaces for a split second before her expression returns to normal. "Collar?" She asks.

"Oh, not now. The vet said she's got to be atleast ten weeks for that. She's six right now." Jack replies.

Amelie has an uncertain expression flash before her eyes. She looks at the puppy, now investigating her feet, and then looks up. "Lena?"

"Apartment doesn't allow pets. Same for Olivia, Fareeha, and Genji's apartments."

"Here?"

"Imagine the health and safety department when they find out. Plus, we won't be able to give her time."

Amelie's expression goes pensive for a second. "Definitely not Moira then."

"I did think of her but she doesn't have your, uh, patience."

"Hana?"

"Hana doesn't want a puppy near her gaming equipment."

"I see." Amelie says. She then tries to pick up the puppy, but ends up doing it wrong. The puppy yelps in protest. Jack shows her the way, and Amelie succeeds in picking her up. "Does she have a name?"

"Not yet." Jack says, and looks around. "Since everyone won with their day off, Lena's not around to do the honors."

"Should I name her?"

"Okay, I guess." Jack shrugs, and Amelie gets to thinking. "Just don't name her after som-"

"Baguette." Amelie says. "Baguette is the name."

"-some french pastry." Jack finishes.

"Baguette isn't pastry." Amelie explains. The puppy evidently shows interest at her new name. "She likes it."

"I don't even wanna argue with you on that." Jack says. "Alright, take care of her. Who knows, she might let you step back, think whether you need just a companion or Moira is still the answer."

Amelie gives him a hearty hug, which Jack returns. "Thanks for the advice."

"I'm always there for the advice." Jack says. Amelie looks over his shoulder to see Gabe hopping on one foot. She breaks off to look at Gabe.

"Will he be OK?" Amelie asks, and cringes a little when Gabe thuds to the floor.

"He's fucking unbelievable, you know." Jack says. "I'll deal with him."

Amelie leaves and Jack retrieves an ice pack from the freezer. He places it upon Gabe's foot. "What the fuck were you thinking?"

Gabe says nothing.

"You call them kids and when it the time comes to give them a legitimate day off, you first put it on the line with a stupid bowling competition and I really get that, but then you fucking rig the game? What the fuck is wrong with you, Gabriel Reyes-Morrison?"

"They ask for holidays too often." Gabe says, his voice small

"That was literally the first one I heard Jesse ask for in the last three months." Jack says, changing the angle of the ice pack. "You really deserve this."

"I really deserve some hate sex at this point, carino." Gabe suggests. 

Jack looks at him with an expression that tells Gabe he's given up. Jack rises from the kneeling position, and throws the ice pack on Gabe's chest.

"Ow! That hurt!" Gabe squeals.

"Go fuck yourself." Jack says, and goes up the stairs, making a point to slam the door to their home.

"Don't leave me here!" Gabe protests. There is no answer.

There are worse ways to spend the rest of the day.

______________________________________

Zarya is very delicately examining Olivia's foot, an ice pack in her free hand. She is trying very, very hard to not ogle her legs. It was extremely hard to not ogle Olivia, because her airy sundress suited an apron as much as it suited her. Zarya could understand her choice of clothing given the weather, but right now, it was making it extremely hard to focus.

Zarya had experience with treating injuries that happened when someone dropped something heavy on their feet. Olivia was in pain, and her grimaced face was making Zarya cringe too. She gently lifts up the foot and lowers it into a bucket of ice by her side. Olivia's face suddenly turns into one of surprise, then changes to relief as she gets used to the temperature. The act also seemed to cool her down as well. Zarya knows because Olivia plunges her good foot in the ice and sighs in relief.

"That feels good." Olivia says.

"Working in a kitchen in summer must be torture." Zarya comments, picking up the ice pack and standing. "You want this?"

"Yes." Olivia says immediately and grabs the ice pack, eliciting a mild chuckle from Zarya, who sits on the other end of the sofa. Olivia turns to look at her, pressing the ice pack into her neck to cool off. Zarya was absolutely comfortable, wearing her trademark sports bra and shorts. She wasn't sweating either, just comfortably sitting on the sofa, the fan supposedly enough for her.

"Are you even feeling the heat?" Olivia asks her. Zarya shakes her head.

"Is OK." Zarya says. "If you want to be cooler, you first put fan, then fan isn't enough, so you put AC, then AC doesn't feel enough. This is OK."

"Hmm." Olivia hums. She waits for a few moments during which Olivia observes her, eyes closed, head pointing upwards, her breathing slow and even. Olivia notices that Zarya breathes from her belly, and not her chest, because her abdominal muscles were sure doing their share of work (and also looking really good while at it, but Olivia doesn't want anyone to know). Then Zarya gets off the sofa to kneel and extract Olivia's injured foot from the bucket of ice. Zarya's hands brace Olivia's knee and gently lift the rest of her leg out, setting it down on the floor. Olivia gives Zarya a mild slap on her shoulder, making her go still.

"I'm a hard working respectable woman, and don't try and feel up my legs, okay?" Olivia says. Zarya's head whips up, abject horror in the eyes. Her hands retreat immediately, going up in surrender. 

"I'm so-so sorry Olivia." Zarya says, eyes blown wide, her face changed like she had been hit with a tidal wave of guilt. "I did not mean to be disrespectful. I am very sorry for touching you in a wrong way. I was only trying to cause you less pain."

Zarya doesn't have the termity to look up to Olivia's eyes. She feels guilty. Guilty as hell. She trains her eyes on a spot on the floor. That is when she hears a snicker. Zarya looks up to see Olivia laughing, her hand covering her mouth. She shakes her head fondly, her shoulders shaking in silent laughter.

"You are so cute." Olivia chuckles. She beckons Zarya closer and kisses her, still giggling. Zarya's look of relief makes her giggle a little more. "It was a joke, querida."

"A cruel one." Zarya says, looking down, her face showing clear signs of embarrassment. "I thought I had disrespected you. I was really scared."

Olivia's expression is uncertain. Now she looks like the guilty one.

"But I really like the sound of your laugh." Zarya lets out. She smiles, still looking down. Another burble of laughter escapes Olivia. Zarya blushes a little when the sound hits her ears. Zarya wraps the bandage around Olivia's foot in charged silence, a little red still on her cheeks, very careful that her hands did not wander, neither did her eyes. But Olivia's skin was exquisite. A little darker than hers, sure, but exquisite. Soft, supple, yet tough. A perfect balance. Zarya finishes up on the bandaging and offers a hand. Olivia takes it, hoisting herself up, testing her foot.

"Careful." Zarya says. Olivia progressively adds weight on her foot. She takes a few limps.

"I think its pretty oka-" She says, but then puts the wrong weight in the wrong place. She falls with a grimace, but Zarya catches her in time, arm around her hip. And in that moment, their eyes lock up. Zarya searches in Olivia's eyes for any pain.

"Are you alright?" Zarya says, eyes firmly trained on Olivia's. Green on brown.

"Y-yes. I am." Olivia says, her cheeks blooming fast. She lets Zarya lift her up and set her down on the sofa. Something wakes up in both of them. Olivia is the first to frame either side of Zarya's face with her palms and pull Zarya in. After a few minutes of heated kissing, hands wandering a little, from arm to face to hair, Zarya breaks off.

"D-Do you want something to eat." Zarya asks, breathlessly.

"Y-y-yeah." Olivia stammers, nodding vigorously.

Zarya takes off, her face red, walking far quicker than necessary. Olivia puts her hand to her chest, to coax the heart from not killing her. She looks at her feet and smiles, shaking her head.

Maybe the bowling ball falling on her foot wasn't as bad as she thought it was.

 

Chapter Text

Emily loved her room.

Especially the way the sunlight fell right on her bed, at the exactly right time.

It was mother nature's very own alarm clock.

But right now, she was loving her life. 

Emily spots the skinny shoulder, and the collarbone poking out. Lena was curled in a fetal position, as the smaller spoon. Her mouth was slightly ajar. She was still peacefully asleep. Emily snuggles closer, tucking her fiery red hair behind her ear. This makes Lena stir a little. She groans a little, her voice thick and cracking due to sleep.

"fiwe mowe minutess." She drawls, making Emily snicker silently.

"Its your day off." Emily says. "Sleep all you like."

And let me watch you, She thinks.

"Thanks Emily." Lena drawls, drawing another small burble of laughter. Lena gets back to recovering her sleep, while Emily watched her features: The curve of her nose, the slow rhythm of her breathing. The spray of freckles on her nose. How her hair looked like a permanent collection of cowlicks. Or just how a smile tugged at the corners of her lips after Emily kissed her on the cheek. Seeing Lena naked and making her writhe was good, but watching her sleep in her arms and listen to that morning voice?

"Ugh, how did I land a girlfriend this cute?" She asks herself.

"You think I'm cute?" Lena drawls again, her voice thick, cracking and oh so cute.

"The cutest." Emily replies softly, kissing her on the jaw. "I can go if you want to sleep more."

"Nodon'tgostayhereyouaresowarm." Lena drawls once again, going extremely fast as if Emily would go away if she didn't say everything in under a second, also grabbing her wrists to discourage her. Emily holds her tighter.

"Lena, the weather is warm, not me." Emily replies. "I'm hot."

Lena sighs and deflates visibly at the attempt.

"What was that?" Emily asks, burying her face into Lena's neck, and then proceeding to tickle her. Lena writhes in her place, giggling in protest, trying to slap her hands away, but Emily was too fast. Lena tries her next tactic, trying to get away, but even that was futile.

"Please please please!" Lena squeals. "I'm sorry!"

"What am I?" Emily asks her, lips so close to Lena's ear she can feel the breath as she struggles.

"The hottest! Now stop!" Lena says quickly. Emily pauses for a second.

"And?"

"And?"

Emily begins tickling her again. Lena squeals once again. "What else do you want me to say?!" Lena manages between her giggling. Emily says nothing, and Lena writhes until she figures it out. "Okay okay okay! You are the funniest too! Please!"

Emily finally stops her show of playful domination, concluding with a genuine kiss to the cheek. Lena closes whatever distance she had created in the struggle, and nestles against Emily, who was now on her back, one hand behind her head, and the other around Lena's shoulder, staring at the ceiling. Above them, the fan spins, not fast, not slow, just there.

"D'you have any plans for today, love?" Lena asks her, adjusting a little, eyes still closed, cheek glued to Emily's collarbone.

"Nothing." Emily replies, staring off into the distance. Right now, right there, she had all she needed. "You?"

Lena grunts to say no. Emily begins to think. "There are so many women, so many possibilities, and look how the universe works. Us lying on the bed, together. Nothing to see, nothing to do, content with just each other."

Lena opens her eyes and props herself up on this remark. "Did the heat get to you, love?"

Emily sighs, closing her eyes, and gets ready to tickle Lena once again.

______________________________________

"This is gonna be one long fucking day." Zenyatta says, as he gets them both a bowl of cereal, but without milk. He sets them on the table in front of the sofa and Genji pours a can of soda into each. They sit in front of their corresponding bowls, scoop a spoonful each and clink the necks. They take a bite, but gag instantly.

"Fuck this didn't taste that bad back then." Genji coughs.

"We've grown up beyond repair." Zenyatta gags. "Fuck adult life." he concludes and puts the spoon down. Genji looks up at the ceiling and sighs.

"Looks like this day off is over before it began." Genji says, when Zenyatta's phone buzzes. He retrieves the phone from the pockets of his pocket and looks at the message.

"Aw you gotta be fucking kidding me." Zen comments.

"What's up?" Genji says, making another attempt at eating the cereal, and gagging immediately. "This thing is cursed ugh."

"That woman from the studio, uh, Satya." Zenyatta says. "She wants to meet."

"You have her number?" Genji asks, sitting up on the sofa, suddenly very interested.

"Wait what the fuck?" Zenyatta says, looking at him with a disbelieving expression. "No. Hell no. She's made Amelie the messenger and-" The phone beeps "-she has my number now." 

"Yep she definitely likes you." Genji says, pointing at him with the spoon.

"Genji, stop." Zenyatta says. "You should be the last person talking about that. You definitely remember writing school don't you."

"Shit." Genji mutters under his breath.

"Yeah. Remember that chick you told me about? The one from your school? What was her name? Naka-naka-"

"Nakamura." Genji completes. "Motoko Nakamura."

"Even her name sounds cute." Zenyatta says. "When did you meet her?"

"Elementary school." Genji mopes.

"Who coincidentally met you at high school?"

"Motoko."

"Who fucking showed up at writing school?"

"Motoko."

"Who told you that Motoko definitely likes you?"

"You did." Genji mumbles.

"Didn't hear ya?"

"Tekartha Zenyatta." Genji says, out loud.

"Who blew her off all through school and then was too much of a pussy to ask her out?"

"I was."

"What was that?"

"Genji Shimada."

"And then, who got drunk on convocation night, went to her dorm, butt naked and then waved his-"

"Look, I get the point, okay?" Genji says, throwing his hands up in surrender. "I am the last person who should be talking about relationships."

"Finally." Zenyatta says.

"So what do you think about Satya?" Genji says. "Clearly you should know, Mister Superior Judgement."

"Genji do you want PTSD from the next morning to return?"

"Sorry."

"What I think is its more a case of things in common." He says with a nod. Genji mirrors the action. "Feels like she's looking for a friend."

"Or I dunno she looked at the abs an-"

"Genji, I swear-"

"Okay, okay, how about I come too? Case out the place." Genji says, proudly.

"Genji, bro, you're sensible, and a brilliant-brilliant writer, and I love you, but please, you are anything but a wingman."

"That hurt me more than it should have." Genji admits.

"Drinks after I sort this out?" Zenyatta offers.

"Sure." Genji says.

______________________________________

"Merde." Amelie rasps. Baguette looks up at her, waggling her tail. In Amelie's hands is bread and biscuits. "What do dogs even eat?"

Around the puppy was an assortment of food items: Cereal, crackers, actual baguettes, croissants and Amelie had to stoop as low as wine to see if Baguette liked something. She didn't. She just gave them a sniff and then turned away. Amelie puts down a bowl of bread next. Baguette considers this one, but turns away at this too. She tries biscuits and gets the same result.

"What do you want?" She asks the puppy, shaking her hands at the animal, as if it could answer her. Baguette continues to sniff around sofas.

Amelie gives up and dials Jack.

"Hello?" Jack's familiar voice fills her eyes.

"Bonjour." Amelie says.

"Morning, Amelie. Do you need something?"

"I needed help related to Baguette."

"Oh. What is it?"

"What do dogs even eat?"

Jack registers some genuine disbelief at that. "I thought you would know."

"I don't, Jack. Please tell me. Baguette has been crying since the morning."

"Since the morning?" Jack says like he already knows the problem. "Amelie, is Baguette sniffing around?"

"Yes?"

"Amelie, honey, what's gonna come next is not going to be pleasant."

"What do you-" Amelie replies, but then notices Baguette squatting down. Almost sitting, but not quite there yet. At the foot of her coffee table, right where the carpet is.

"C'EST QUOI CE BORDEL?!??!?!" Amelie roars a few moments later.

Baguette strolls away like nobody's business.

"Yep, it happened." Jack says, holding the phone at an arm's length.

______________________________________

"FUCK! AGAIN!" Jesse screams in exasperation, clutching his head and falling to his knees. Fareeha looms above him, making finger scissors.

"You fall." Fareeha says. "Scissors beats paper."

"Nooooooo." Jesse cries. "Not again!" he says, pounding the floor. Fareeha disappears into her room. Jesse stays on his knees, still mourning. Fareeha appears with an almighty stack of clothes a few moments later and dumps them on Jesse's slouched form.

"Did you collect them?" Jesse asks with hurt coloring his voice.

"Hell yeah." Fareeha replies. "Talk about luck."

"Why do I smell underwear?" Jesse says from under the mountain of clothes. 

"I just threw some in since you were going for the laundry."

"How are we still living together?"

"Gabe, magic of coffee and you owe me half of your last month's rent." Fareeha replies like she was used to this question. But internally, she was commending Jesse for not only getting the half of the remaining day off, but also dropping the ball on Gabe and making Jack angry enough to give the staff another complete day off.

"Fuck." Jesse groans. "Take it before I forget."

Jesse rises from the mound and pays her the amount, which Fareeha gracefully receives in her wallet, stowing it in her pocket. "And that's this month's rent too."

"And you're broke."

"You have to rub it in, don't ya?"

Fareeha sighs and brings her wallet out once again. "Here, this should cover the laundry and your transport."

Jesse goes in and brings his laundry too. They wrestle the dirty clothing into two baskets. One for Jesse, and one for Fareeha.

"So, what are you gonna do today?" Jesse says, dropping down to the floor to search for his shoes. He begins by looking under the table.

"I dunno. I was actually thinking to go visit Angela."

"That is a very good idea." Jesse says. He comes up fruitless in his search for the shoes under the table. He ducks between the table and the sofa next. "So, date?"

"I didn't ask her out, so it won't be actually a date if that makes sense?"

"Date, but not a date. I get it." Jesse says, now blindly searching under the sofa with his arm. "So, something like movies and popcorn and stuff?"

"I was thinking something like that." Fareeha says, nodding in agreement.

"So, you guys bang yet?" He asks nonchalantly.

"Jesse!" Fareeha groans, clearly irritated. "Angela and I are not together for sex!"

"Oh, okay." Jesse says, scooping one shoe out, and also a lot more dirt with it. "Fuck. So, what are you together for then?"

"I love being around her." Fareeha says, rubbing the back of her neck. "Talking to her is also really nice."

"Woah, okay." Jesse says, finally fishing out the second shoe. "So its more of the soggy stuff like companionship, support and shit?"

"Yeah." Fareeha says. "And its not soggy, alright?"

"How do you even know? Gabe and Jack have been together since forever and have you seen anything except a complete bone-fest?" Jesse counters. "The only time they support each other is when boning."

"You're impossible." Fareeha says. "Don't you see them talking to each other, or maybe when they think they are alone?"

"They bone right after that don't they?" Jesse replies.

"Ugh. I'm just wasting my time." Fareeha groans and grabs the keys to Gabe's Ducati. She had made a point to take the bike. "Clean up the room too when you come back."

"What the fuck do you think I am? Fucking Cinderella?"

"You lost, didn't you?" Fareeha says, ducking into her room to get the jacket. "Alright, I need to go now, and get on with the 'soggy companionship' stuff." She says, emerging back from the room.

"Its all just a set up for sex, 'Reeha. Admit it." He replies. Fareeha turns to look at him with an expression that makes Jesse recoil a little.

"You won't understand this, Jesse. Relationships aren't just sex." Fareeha says, the teasing in her voice gone, sitting beside Jesse, holding his hand. "I really want to show you how it feels like, but its only going to happen once you find someone yourself. And you will really get what I say once you do." She gives his hand a little pat and leaves without saying more.

"Do you yourself know why you are together with her?" Jesse fires back immediately. He turns his head to look at her.

"Of course, I-" Fareeha begins, but then falters. 

Jesse gets to his feet. "The day Angela first came to the place, I saw how your eyes were roaming over the woman." He says, his words clear, his voice even. "And I know what Jack and Gabe are together for. They've been through shit. They've raised a child that has never seen a mother, together, and still done a better job at it. They were connected by their deployment. What do you have to justify that your so called 'relationship' other than just attraction?" He says, now in full attack. "If I was with someone it was to bone and bone only, and I got no problems admitting that."

Fareeha wants to say something, but she cannot. Jesse sits beside her again, this time its him holding her hand. "We are still a fucking mess of hormones, and complete horny ones at that. Stop lying to yourself, and admit it for what it is. And go clap those cheeks."

Fareeha's face contorts in disgust. "You had to say that didn't you?"

______________________________________

Moira comes running into Amelie's house, holding a frying pan in her hand, still in an oversized shirt and boxers, her sleep attire. "I heard screams."

Amelie is sitting on the carpet, her hair all over the place, and one hand lost in it. Her eyes are looking into the distance. Moira takes in the rest of the carnage. Bowls with all kinds of food strewn. Some empty, some just knocked over. Moira decides to tend to Amelie. She slides beside Amelie and practically skins her knees off.

"You okay?" She asks, and gets no response. Fear mounts.

But before Moira can do anything else, a tiny yelp emanates from the bedroom.

"What the-" She says and rises, walking slowly to the source of the sound. Baguette shoots from under the bed and scampers off between Moira's legs. Moira's frown deepens. She then smells something. "Oh that little bastard."

Amelie stays the way she was, during Moira's extensive dogturd cleaning program, which involved a lot of under the bed maneuvering, discovering a new species of lint and a lot of holding breaths that could be taken onto the competitive stage. She drops the plastic bag in the trashcan with a victorious huff, and then scoots beside Amelie. Moira discovers her heel getting wet close to the corner of the bed, and realizes what had happened. She fights back a gag.

"I get what happened." Moira croaks.

"She fucking ruined the carpet." Amelie seethes. Moira has only a split second to grab Amelie as she lunges towards the tiny ball of fluff. Baguette scrambles away, and Moira has to use all her might to wrestle Amelie down. Amelie manages to drag them both toward the direction of Baguette's escape. Moira has to resort to hook her legs behind the backs of Amelie's knees to immobilize her.

"Amelie, don't commit murder in the morning, for fuck's sake." Moira grunts

"I will eat that bitch!" Amelie roars. Moira hears a distant yelp. She internally begs the little puppy to run further away.

"If you have to eat, just eat something else!" Moira tries again.

"That dog is here to make my life hell!" Amelie growls. "PUTAIN DE MERDE!"

"Amelie! Calm down! She's just a little puppy!" Moira shouts to match Amelie. This seems to get to her. Amelie stills. "Can I let you go now?"

Amelie nods, and Moira slowly retreats, watching carefully, ready to spring into action. But that is not needed. They take their original places, on the carpet. Amelie goes back to staring at the wet spot on the carpet.

"Relax. She needs house training." Moira replies quickly, before Amelie made her mind to disembowel the tiny puppy. Baguette invariably finds them and begins sniffing Moira. "No, you don't." Moira says and dumps the puppy in the bathroom, close to a drain. "Here is where you do the thing."

Baguette looks up at Moira and tilts her head in curiosity. Moira sighs. She lets Baguette stay and walks back to the living room. Amelie is still sitting on the carpet. Moira sits beside her once again, staring at the wet spot in the carpet. Amelie's stomach rumbles, but Moira knows she isn't noticing it. Moira's stomach rumbles soon after. Its almost ten in the morning and they haven't had anything other than crippling agony and irreversible carpet damage. Moira runs out of the apartment and then appears a few minutes later, with paper bags in her hands. She sits down beside Amelie again, but this time in svelte silk shirt and satin pants.

"Burrito from round the block?" Amelie asks before Moira says anything.

"With a quesadilla on the side to go." Moira replies like it was recited.

"Merci." Amelie says softly and takes the bag. Baguette comes sniffing, but the snarl that follows makes both Moira and Baguette scamper away, Moira holding the puppy in her arms like she was about to score the biggest touchdown of the century. They watch from a safe distance of the other corner of the room. Amelie eats like just any other human from that distance. Baguette, now having established Moira was key to her staying alive, doesn't fight back the touch.

"That woman is dangerous." Moira whispers. Baguette hides under Moira's legs.

______________________________________

Jesse knows the sun is out for his blood. He had a sleeveless shirt to cope with the heat, but that backfired on him. He was sizzling on the way to the bus, and was practically cooked by the time he was pushing the door to the laundromat. As soon as he enters, he is hit by the cool air of the air conditioner.

"Bless the air conditioner." Jesse says under his breath and walks to the small seating area in the middle of the laundromat, surrounded by washing machines and dryers, where a man is patiently waiting for his clothes to complete. When Jesse gets closer, he lets out a breath that is halfway between a sigh and snort.

"You really have to stop following me around!" Jesse says, careful to sound casual. 

Hanzo looks up from his phone and smiles when he spots Jesse. "This city is indeed very small, sir."

"Tell me about it." Jesse says, and sits beside Hanzo. "And please, call me Jesse."

"Jesse it is." Hanzo replies.

"What's your name?"

Hanzo hesitates for a second. He had seen this man with Genji and Zenyatta, and he was most definitely staff of the same cafe. If Genji found out, he would be infuriated.

"Takuma." Hanzo replies with the first name that came in his mind.  What kind of name is that? He thinks.

"Sounds like an uptight name!" Jesse says. He awkwardly begins sorting through the clothe.

"My father was old fashioned." Hanzo replies with a chuckle.

"Its alright." Jesse says. "People say my name is supposed to be a girl name." he adds, trying to sympathize. Hanzo chuckles.

"So we are both stuck with bad names." Hanzo comments.

"And with each other. Atleast for a little while." Jesse replies, and wonders for a moment how he became so smooth suddenly. "You about done?"

"No, I had begun, as a matter of fact." Hanzo says.

"Oh." Jesse says, and celebrates internally, spacing out for long enough to spill Fareeha's clothes, and the underwear makes a point to be the most visible. Hanzo goes still for a moment. Jesse's head rapidly swivels between the clothes and Hanzo's half confused half curious expression.

"Housemate. I lost a bet and I had to laundry." Jesse explains immediately. He prays it was on time.

"I see. Are you always this unlucky?" Hanzo asks, chuckling by the end of it.

"Sometimes, but not always." Jesse replies. "Plus, sometimes she volunteers. So that is forgiven."

"Your camaraderie with your housemate seems very nice."

"It is. It is." Jesse agrees, even though he has no idea what the word means, while he loads up the two washing machines with coins and sets them to work. They wait in the comfortable silence, punctuated by the steady hum of the washing machine. By the time they are done, Jesse finishes loading up his baskets. As if on cue, his belly grumbles.

"Dammit." He curses under his breath.

"You are famished." Hanzo comments. "You need some food."

"I'll have some when I get home. I only got enough change left for the bus." Jesse says, and Hanzo looks a little pained at this.

"Allow be to buy you some lunch." Hanzo replies, with a minuscule bow in Jesse's direction. "It is the least I can do."

"Hey, don't be so formal with me." Jesse says. "Tak-whatwasitagain?"

"Takuma." He says. "Let's go?"

"Hell yes!" Jesse says, rubbing his belly.

______________________________________

Zenyatta had found her waiting on the stop, wearing a simple dress, deciding to ditch glamour for comfort. She was devoid of heels either. Zenyatta shakes off the image of models always wearing heels out of his head. She still looked radiant. Her skin was glowing as usual. But something about her was off. Zen could feel it.

"You okay?" He asks.

"Its fine." She replies, a mask of a smile covering her face. Zenyatta decides to not question.

"So, what up?" Zen begins "Did my fuckup cause you any troubles in other projects?"

Satya's face contorts a little in what seems like wariness. She hides most of it in time. "Its fine, but I don't want to talk about it."

Zenyatta's brow furrows a little. He knows the tone all too well. But he doesn't know the woman well enough to spare her this courtesy. Zenyatta thinks, and fears if he can spare her the courtesy anymore.

"Fine. What do we talk about?" He begins. "Actually, begin by answering this question."

Satya looks at him.

"Why hang out with me?" He says bluntly. "Sorry, I might be a little too direct, but why me? What do you want from me?"

"A mirror."

Of all the answers he expected, this wasn't one of them. "What?"

"You asked me to answer the question. And I did." Satya quips. "Now, how are your dance moves?"

"What?!" is the only thing Zenyatta can muster before Satya seizes him by the wrist and takes him away.

______________________________________

Fareeha can't stop thinking about what Jesse was saying. The Ducati was cruising along at a speed Fareeha didn't need to pay attention at. As she whizzed past cars and other slow traffic, Jesse's talk was echoing through her mind.

If I was with someone it was to bone and bone only, and I got no problems admitting that.

She shakes her head a little and takes a right, stopping in front of a store. She quickly dials up Angela. Angela picks up on the second ring, like she always does.

"Hi."

"Hey." Fareeha says. "Would you like popcorn?"

"Sure!" Angela says. "Wait, let me ask Lena and Emily too."

Then Fareeha hears some muffled sounds, that belonged to Angela, then one from Emily, and finally one from Lena. A further set of sounds tells her Angela was back to talking to her.

"They would like buttered and salted ones." Angela replies.

"Sure." Fareeha confirms. "Be there soon."

"I'm waiting." Angela replies. The voice is even, and the tone is calm and peaceful, rather than bubbly and excited. And the way Angela says it puts Fareeha's mind at ease immediately. Jesse's line fades away.

Fareeha smiles a little as she clicks off. She then walks through the doors, knowing exactly where to go. She quickly makes her way to Angela's place, and now, all of a sudden, a question pops up in her mind.

Why are we together?

And then, the source rears its head. The operating word was we and not I. Angela had to have some answers, and if not answers, she could lead Fareeha to it. She makes her way to the door and knocks. Angela is right there. She is beautiful, as always, and calm, and peaceful.

"Hi." She says.

"Hello." Fareeha replies. Angela gives her a hug, arms around Fareeha's neck. Warm. Soft. Fareeha wraps her arms around Angela's midriff. Warmth rushes through her. Its there, yet she can't show it. It fills her, yet she can't measure. Fareeha closes her eyes, because that is what feels right. This feeling of peace. This feeling of completion.

And as she enters, Angela takes her hand. Their fingers thread together.

And then, they walk in.

Chapter Text

Satya pants and laughs awkwardly as she slumps on the nearby arcade machine. Zenyatta continues to smash combo after combo on the machine, moving rhythmically to the music, eyes glued to the screen, moving his feet to catch the arrows on time. He finishes the song with another record to his name. He turns around to see Satya, panting too, but not as much as she was.

"You can move." She comments.

"Oh you should meet my trainer. She puts me to shame." Zen replies.

"I'd rather catch up to you first." She says and pushes herself off the arcade machine she was leaning on. 

"What's next?" Zenyatta asks, fanning himself.

"I'm burning up." Satya replies. "Let's get something to cool ourselves down."

They leave the gaming arcade, walking out into the heat. Satya grumbles a little.

"So, how do you want to cool down?" Zenyatta says, intending to get her talking

"Let's get something to drink?"

"Okay." Zen replies, when he remembers his promise to Genji. "What kind?"

"Something soft, but cold." Satya replies, and Zen sighs a little in relief. "What happened?"

"Nothing, I just promised Genji I would go for drinks with him after." Zen says. "Two times would be overkill."

"Oh, I see." Satya says. "I usually prefer to not drink in public."

Zenyatta knows why. "Good call."

The rest of the journey is made in a silence that is half awkward, walking along, not talking because none of them know what to talk about. They soon reach a small deli, and Zenyatta is hit with a sense of deja vu as he enters. Its when he spots the lady with the glasses and the haggard man brooding in the corner, he remembers the night the boys were out to find Lena and he was without a shirt. The man in the corner freezes on spotting him, and so does the lady, but he doesn't show he knows. They take a seat near the window, as the sun has begun to set. Satya orders them both some soda. Zenyatta raises an eyebrow.

"What?"

"I thought you would go for something more, you know, fancy."

"Let me live. I don't destroy my teeth every single day." Satya says. Zenyatta chuckles and watches her take a sip, and then sigh in satisfaction. "Alcohol doesn't have this."

"Ah yes, the familiar feeling of cold and your teeth disintegrating at the same time." Zenyatta comments

"Also someone shoving fingers up your nose."

"From the inside?"

Satya nods, as she experiences the feeling first hand, nodding through closed eyes and crinkled nose. "From the inside." She adds.

Zenyatta spots the haggard man looking at him over Satya's shoulder, and then looking away quickly. He then glances the lady, who doesn't hide the fact that she is looking. He turns his attention back to Satya, who was looking into the distance, doing some brooding of her own.

"I feel so conflicted with this job." She comments

"Why?" Zen replies.

"Sometimes, I feel like doing nothing else, but on other times, I don't even want to think about it."

"Is that when you feel more like a commodity rather than a person?"

Satya smiles distantly.

"When I was young, my parents were my world. They used to think I was their princess. It was such a happy time. I would do anything to please them. But as I grew up, we became more and more distant. They wanted me to be a doctor, like every parent wants their daughters to be back home. But I wanted to do modeling."

"Why modeling?"

"I just love the feeling I get when I strike a pose, when I have to represent a fashion major and make them look good."

"So you love the showiness of the whole thing?"

"You can say that." Satya says. "Its basically me doing this for the same reasons you do what you love."

"Well, I took journalism because I love pissing important people off."

"That is dangerous."

"Yeah, around the same as modeling."

"What? How?"

"Well, the thing is, models are seen as a commodity by people you work for. And when you turn a human into a commodity, bad things happen." Zen says. "History is witness."

"So why did you leave journalism?"

"Well, I crossed out my education bucket list. Did everything I wanted to do while I was still in college."

"And there were no plans after this?"

"Nope. I actually didn't expect to live this long."

"What? Why?!" Satya asks in a way that hits Zen a little too close to home. His eyebrows furrow. Satya catches this and her voice dies down immediately. He spots the bearded man looking in his direction after Satya's outburst.

"I thought my end would be me smoking some super strong weed and then tumbling off a mountain." Zenyatta says in a way that sounds both impossible and probable at the same time

Satya wants to laugh at this, but how much Zen believed that statement scares her to an extent. "Did you really believe it could happen?"

"Well, the Himalayas are no joke. The places where the I used to smoke were small ass caves on the side of a mountain with really crazy drops."

"What were you doing there?"

"A final year thesis on the nomadic hermits."

"Really?"

"Not really, I just heard they had some A grade weed. And I needed to write a thesis for investigative journalism so I bit the bait and went up there." Zenyatta replies with a chuckle. Satya chuckles and shakes her head. "Anyways, back to you." He says, pointing to her. "What did your parents say about this?"

"Well, I tried to make them understand, but they didn't like it one bit. They thought I had lost my way."

"Well, that is natural." Zenyatta agrees. "Their princess wanted to whore herself out for the camera."

Satya looks offended.

"Well, that is what models look like to the outside world. And to your employers. I did modeling too, and punched the first one who thought so."

"And then you got fired."

"Ass or cash, woman. Cash doesn't matter if your ass isn't worth anything."

Satya chuckles. "So anyways, my parents did not want me to do this, but I loved doing this. We had so many fights. They would meet me at the door sometimes to berate me. Sometimes would try to not even let me leave. They started hiding the car keys, so I used the bus, and then stopped giving me money altogether. But by then I was making my own money. So they confronted me finally. They asked me to make a choice. Family or Modeling."

"And you did."

"I chose between two halves of myself."

Zenyatta says nothing. The conversation had taken a much serious tone now. He swears he heard her voice waver toward the end. She is now looking into the distance, her eyes vacant.

"A happy home, lost. Its just me now. All alone in this cold world. Originally, the consolation came from what I loved. But then, the rainbow ended, and there was no pot of gold at the end of it all. Don't get me wrong, I love to model, but all the things you have to endure to get to your happy place is just-just-" Satya says, clawing air "-a lot to take."

Zenyatta looks down. His own hell is coming back on the fringes of his vision. He fights it down.

"And earlier, I could talk to someone about this, even if they didn't want me to do it. But now, all alone, when you come back home and have to hold it all in because there is no one. All the colleagues from work have their own lives."

Zenyatta looks at her. She now looks miles away from what she usually does, from a confident individual to this.

"I just need a friend." She says, a little broken.

Zenyatta looks out for a second, before looking at her again. He stands up. Satya looks away from the sunset and locks her eyes with him. He extends a hand. "Let's go. We got somewhere to be."

Zenyatta escorts her out of the door, and then comes back to pay. The lady is right there, and she smiles in his direction. Zenyatta smiles back too, but then does a double take when she returns him the change. She hesitates for a split second.

"Is there something wrong?" She asks.

"Nothing." Zenyatta replies with a smile. "Its just that you reminded me of someone."

Ana waits with bated breath. She wanted to know for sure her cover was still intact. She felt in her pockets for her phone, to call Jack and Gabe if that was the case. "Oh. I see."

"Have a good day." He greets her, turning his head to look at Hanzo, who was eyeing him carefully, and giving him a curt nod too. He then leaves. Ana and Hanzo remember to breathe a few moments later.

"This will keep getting more and more difficult as time passes." Hanzo comments. He waits for Ana's acknowledgement, but it never comes. Hanzo looks up at her and notices reminiscence on her face, her eyes a little watery, like she suddenly remembered something substantial.

"Please excuse me." She says, retrieving her phone and disappearing into the kitchen. Winston, who had been making notes all this time, pokes his head out.

"What happened to gran?" He enquires, his voice slightly thick from staying silent for so long.

"I have no idea." Hanzo replies.

______________________________________

 

"Where are we going?" Satya asks him, as they make their way up a set of stairs. She notices Zenyatta has been silent for the entire bus ride and the walk to whatever place they had to be at. She wants to know, but a little part of her says Zen wants to keep this a surprise. He stops after climbing another flight of stairs, in front of a door. He twists the knob and steps inside. She follows him.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for assembling here on such short notice." Zenyatta addresses the darkness ahead of him. Satya follows him and its when she stands beside him she notices a whole group of people. Angela, Fareeha, Lena and Emily were on the sofa, Jesse and Genji were piled on top of each other on a lone beanbag, and Olivia was on the other side of the sofa, her foot bandaged, on a chair. All of them were illuminated from the light of the TV in front of them.

"Hi!" They all chorus together.

Satya turns to look at Zenyatta, who has this confident smirk curling his lips. He turns to meet her eyes. He opens his mouth to speak, but then Moira and Amelie filter in behind them, holding Baguette between them. Moira has a bag in her hands.

"We're here." Amelie replies in a flat tone that scares Satya a little. She thought she was used to how lifeless Amelie sounds, but it catches her off guard every time.

"And we have an absolutely irresponsible amount of alcohol." Moira replies. The others cheer. Satya then looks back at Zen, who was gazing in her direction.

"You said you needed friends, didn't you?" He says. "I got you covered."

Moira darts forward, already retrieving the first bottle. "Let's get fucking hammered."

"And you don't have to worry about being taken advantage of here." Zen says, grabbing another bottle from the bag as Moira passes him. "We look like idiots, but aren't. Drink to your heart's content."

"Thank you." She says, her voice soft and unsteady.

"Just get drunk already." he replies and passes her the bottle. He then walks to the boys. "WHO WANTS TO DO SHOTS?" he roars.

Genji and Jesse cheer, and the three musketeers take off with a bottle of vodka and shot glasses of their own. Genji doesn't remember anything after that, as he downs detrimental amounts of alcohol, and is lying on the floor. Jesse is laughing in the near distance in the hallway, all by himself, and Zenyatta is passed out on the bed beside him. Gauging from where he was lying he concludes he fell off the bed they were doing shots on. From the sound on the windows he can conclude it is most probably raining. His first action would be-

The phone in his back pocket buzzes. He fumbles it out and tries to make sense of the caller ID, but his vision is making him see double. He manages to pick up the call and stays silent as he puts the phone to his ear.

"Genji?" The voice asks.

Genji knows what he wants to say, but the sheer luck of him butt dialing this individual drunk twice shocks him into silence. He decides to hang up instead.

"Please. Listen to me. Just once." Hanzo pleads on the other side.

Genji draws his knees to his chest, and decides to humor him, leaning his back on the wall. He still remains silent. Hanzo will not earn that privilege, even when Genji is drunk. Hanzo waits for a moment, and begins to speak.

"I know you are most probably drunk and called me by accident, and I know you may not remember this when you wake up. I also know you will not talk to me, even when drunk, like you said last time. But you can listen, and that is all I need."

Genji shifts a little.

"I was wrong." Hanzo continues. "I was wrong to think I could cast you out and continue to live like nothing happened. Wrong to think I could discard such a massive part of me, my life, and continue to feel complete."

Genji feels tears lick the corners of his eyes. He tries to curse them back into his eyes.

"I was wrong to not see what you were, what you loved, what defined you, and tried to help father with molding you into something you were not. We tried taming someone born to be free. We tried to cage a sparrow."

Genji sniffles. He barely holds onto his emotions. Somehow.

"We were wrong, we were so wrong. So wrong to cast away this beacon of innocence, someone who reminded us that we were only humans at the end of this day in this dirty world of business and money."

Hanzo pauses for a moment to collect himself.

"And when the sparrow left the house, he took all the warmth, all the innocence with him. It was just four walls now. Four very cold walls."

Tears burn through Genji's eyes.

"We were cold. So cold. Father realized this too. But it was too late. Too late for him to admit his own mistakes. The cold was too much for him to bear alone, without his sparrow, his Genji."

Genji rams his free fist into his teeth to stop himself from crying out. He had to stay strong. He had done it for so many years. He could take it. Just a little more. Hanzo's voice was wavering ever so slightly, despite him being the most composed man Genji had ever known.

"He couldn't take it, and I can't either, honestly. Not for much long. I do not deserve forgiveness, and I do not expect it either, but you are the only family I truly have. I know you have no intention to return, but if there is a chance, no matter how small, it will be enough to return warmth to me, my life, and maybe make me human once again, make me feel human once again."

Genji is at the edge.

"Come home, sparrow. Your nest is still empty."

And with this, Hanzo clicks off. Genji finally breaks, and rams his fist further in, crying in earnest. Tears flow uninterrupted, and he buries his face into his legs, his shoulders shaking, remembering good and bad, sweet and bitter, light and dark. He was strong, strong for so long, dammit. He felt weak, he felt so broken but most of all, he felt so alone, all by himself in this moment. He cries because that is all he can do. He cries until he can't cry anymore, he cries until slumber takes over.

______________________________________

They dance in this slow, lazy waltz, moving around in a cycloid. Fareeha's hands are on Angela's waist, and Angela is holding onto Fareeha's shoulders. Outside, the rain patters, once again. Lena and Emily are still watching the movie, albeit a lot more drunk than she would have liked. Moira and Amelie were most probably chasing Baguette somewhere. Jesse, Genji and Zenyatta were most probably out cold right now. There isn't much light from the overcast grey sky, but its not like they need it. The door is closed, and they have no idea how or why they are dancing without music, so awkwardly.

And neither do they know how it began raining when the sun was burning them up in the day.

"Angela, can I ask you something?"

"Yes, you can, Fareeha."

"Have you ever asked yourself why are we together?"

"What do you mean?" Angela asks, no change in voice, dancing along. She looks up to match Fareeha's gaze.

"I mean, why are we together? What is the reason? What connects us?"

Angela smiles. In a way that tells Fareeha how trivial and how easy the question is to answer.

"You and me. We connect us." She replies.

"You don't get it, I mean, ugh, like-"

"I know what you mean." Angela replies, gently. "You are trying to find a logical answer to matters of the heart."

"What do you mean?"

"Fareeha, have you seen how your leg jumps when you get hit on your knee?"

"Yeah?"

"Why that one place? Why doesn't your leg jump when I hit you on the thigh?"

Fareeha knew she had to answer this question smartly. "Because there's a nerve there that makes me do it?"

"Why is that nerve there? Why not anywhere else?"

"Because that is how its meant to be?"

"Can you explain why?"

Fareeha looks away. "No." She says, her voice low. Angela raises an eyebrow, and Fareeha returns a sheepish smile.

"Fareeha, some things are just meant to be. You can't explain them, but no one needs you to either." She says. "What do you feel around me?"

Fareeha deliberates for a moment, but doesn't find a word she can use. So she goes for the closest one. "Really good."

"There, you have your explanation." Angela says. She uses her fingers to make Fareeha look into her eyes. "Things sometimes don't need to make sense if they feel right."

Fareeha smiles a little, and then looks away. The rain continues to patter onto the windows.

"Did someone ask you for a reason? A connection between us?" Angela asks after a few moments of silence. Fareeha's head whips in Angela's direction.

"How did you know?" Fareeha says

"The question was out of the blue, also, you do pay a lot of attention to what people say." Angela explains. "That is one of the things I admire."

Fareeha blushes.

"However, I also know the person who asked you about this is close to you for you to take the question seriously." Angela continues.

Fareeha rubs the back of her neck. "Nothing. Jesse was just saying all relationships are just a set up for, uh, um, sex."

It was Angela's turn to blush at this. "Has he been in a relationship yet?"

"No." Fareeha says, laughing softly and shaking her head.

Angela laughs with her. "I thought so."

______________________________________

Malik sits down on his sofa, once again in the dark. It had been months since Ana was gone, and while he did appreciate the freedom she had found, he also lamented her absence in these free times. So its nothing but surprising when his phone buzzes and its her.

"As-salamu alaykum." Ana greets him. There is an undertone of strain in her voice.

"Alaykum as-salam." Malik replies, his voice taking on a softness he didn't know he had. "How are you?" He asks.

"I am weak, akhi." Ana says, her voice wavering dangerously for a moment.

Malik sits straight in urgency, and almost calls Amon into his room, the distance between him and Ana amplifies his promptness. Amon reads this and rushes into his room, standing at the door. "Are you safe? Do you need help?"

"I am fine. I am safe." Ana reassures him. "But I am so weak."

"What happened?" he says, leaning back. Amon recedes.

"I have lived alone for so long, I have forgotten I have a baby daughter."

Malik remains silent.

"Today, a customer reminded me that Fareeha still exists."

Amon has left. The boy was talented at reading people, that is why Malik had chosen him as his aide.

"How did I move on? How did I learn to live without such a major part of me?"

Malik searches for an answer but has nothing.

"How did I forget Fareeha?" she asks, no, begs. "How did I forget her in just a week, and continued with this new job, this new life?"

"Habits." Malik replies.

"What kind of mother has habits like these, that make her forget she has a daughter?"

"The mother who wants to see her daughter safe." Malik answers immediately. "Your subconscious just needs time to realize that Yusuf doesn't haunt her anymore."

Ana takes a few moments to process this information. "What if I forget her once again just like this?"

"You will not, if you just told Fareeha. You so close, but so far."

"If you were in my place, would you be able to just march up to her and tell her the truth?"

Malik hesitates for a moment. "No." He admits. "Its almost cruel when you think about it."

"And no matter how much I talk myself into doing it, I just don't feel ready."

"But the longer we stay away from her, the longer we keep this from her, the crueler it gets."

"I know, Akhi."

"And you will have to do it yourself. Take your time, sort out your feelings."

"Why me alone?"

"She will be much angrier and much harder to deal with if I have to come in and tell her you are alive but too scared to tell her yourself."

Ana takes another moment. Malik had a point.

"I promise. I will smooth things over. Just get the ball rolling."

______________________________________

Genji's biological clock kicks him awake. He wakes up with a gasp, feeling some serious stiffness in his neck and lower back. He extracts his face from between his legs and notices in the midst of his aching body and throbbing head that his cheeks felt crusty. He puts his free hand on his cheek and confirms that he had been crying. He remembers doing nothing of the sort, though. In his other hand was his phone. He opens up the phone registry to see Hanzo on a received call, and then on a dialed call.

Genji just huffs and gets on his feet. It must have been another butt dial and another rebuff.

He tied his crying to the shots and then a freak rush of memories related to the call. It used to happen to him often when he was younger, when he was weaker.

He walks out of the room, giving Zenyatta a once over, who was out cold on the bed, moving on with life like nothing happened last night.

Like last night was just another instance of him getting absolutely fucking hammered.

And butt dialing the absolute bastard of his brother once again.

He stumbles to the hallway where he is absolutely convinced that last night could not have been any more normal.

"Guys." He says out loud. "Jesse's lying butt naked in the hallway. Again."

Chapter Text

"I'm sorry, Brigitte." Hana says, moving away a few stray strands of hair. "I will be back soon."

It was cute to see Brigitte being so sad and dejected for what was just a week of seperation. Hana had to just go to Korea, play the championship games, win if possible, and then come back home, with that cup. Brigitte looked like she was sending Hana to a battle she might not return from.

"A week isn't that bad..." Brigitte trails off, after a few moments of thinking. Brigitte's hands were on Hana's hips, Hana sitting on the tiny cupboard behind the front counter, where the coffee machines usually sat. But those were drying off right now, the cafe yet to open. Hana's arms are linked around Brigitte's neck.

"I'll get you some souvenirs. How about that?" Hana says, trying to cheer her up. "It would have been something else if we could have gone together."

"Yeah..." Brigitte replies absentmindedly. She honestly hadn't even thought of asking her parents. Going on a date was different. Going to a different country altogether? That was out of the question, even when she tried to fantasize about it. She hadn't even called Hana to dinner, even once!

And that is when Brigitte begins to wonder. She really loved Hana's company, and one week of seperation was looking to be gloomy for her. They had been seperated for over a week many times, but then she knew she could just visit Hana anytime she liked. This? This was different. However, that was not the bigger issue. The bigger issue was Hana not having met her parents, or even her siblings. Her nieces and nephews were just kids, and therefore that was different. Hana's dads knew Brigitte well, they spent lots of time with her, but the other way around was not the case. So far, neither Pappa or Mamma had raised any doubt, or any questions about this relationship, which was a huge relief to begin with, but she felt like she was shortchanging them by not introducing Hana to them, and Jan, Karl, Anna and Ebba. Her siblings, although teasing about it initally, accepted this relationship with open arms, telling her that it was none of their business to decide who she loves and who she doesn't.

Its not a matter of asking for approval, rather a matter of showing off, telling them how proud she was of the girlfriend she had found.

"Hana, I was thinking...could you come to my house for dinner, after you come back from Korea?" Brigitte asks in a small voice, raising her eyes to meet Hana's.

"Why? Are you afraid your family will disapprove of me?"

"No!" Brigitte starts. "Actually, its the opposite. I wanted to show off. I want to show how good my girlfriend is." She says, red creeping up on her face. Hana blushes, looking down too. "Anna, Karl, Jan and Ebba told me its none of their business to tell me if I should have a girlfriend or a boyfriend, and they trust me because I'm an adult now, so I want to show them that they are right."

Hana has run out of words to say. Brigitte was actually proud to have her as her girlfriend, and her family was also approving. But there was a pang of uncertainty deep in her heart, which grew a little more when Brigitte mentioned being an adult.

Brigitte's family trusted her decisions as an adult. Without a shadow of doubt. Hana knew it was easy to trust the woman holding her, with her long hair, and freckles, and those reassuring muscles. Not to mention the warm hugs and the safety she felt. Thinking about it objectively, Hana knew Brigitte was a full blown adult: She had a job, was good at taking care of her nieces and nephews, and was really family-oriented: She helped her father at the garage too. She got along with everyone in the cafe, and all of them treated her as an equal, even though most of them called her 'kid'. It was her association with Hana more than anything else. Brigitte was also responsible, getting the job done: Be it Gabe's food delivery runs to Hana, or Keeping up with Jack, Jesse, Lena, and Fareeha for that matter.

That brings the topic to herself. Hana made no bones about the fact that she spent most of her days hunched in front of a screen mashing buttons. She did have a source of income, it was her streaming, and had a job, if her team counted for anything, but she didn't have much time to help Jack around did she? Neither did she do things for people in her own family. Just because they didn't ask for them didn't mean Hana wasn't thought of a candidate even once. And then she looks at Brigitte, admiring the spray of freckles: Were they equals?

Hana shakes the thought off for the time being, when she realizes she had been wondering in silence. "I-I guess we could do that?"

Brigitte's face lights up, and she pulls Hana into a tender kiss. "I can't wait for the dinner! You would love Mama's cooking!" she says, and then pulls Hana into another one.

It is this moment Gabe reappears, holding the glass pots to the coffee machines. He stops a little distance away, letting his daughter finish the kiss. "Now, if you ladies are done doing some PDA, I would like my real estate back. These bad boys need space to make coffee." he says, politely, in a gently teasing manner. True to themselves, the two ladies go red, and quickly vacate the spot. Hana goes up front, and Brigitte suits up. Gabe sets the pots up with the machines and goes to the door to get their mail.

"Dad?" Hana calls out, making Jack turn around, who was wiping away the counter, even though Genji and Fareeha cleaned it every night. Just to be sure.

"Yes, Hana?" He replies with a smile.

"What does being a true adult feel like?"

"True adult?" Jack repeats, chuckling a little. "Are you not an adult yet?"

"What I mean is, what is the difference between you and me, if we are both adults-" She says, then raises her hands up a little in surrender. "-assuming we are both adults" she clarifies.

Jack smiles into the distance, thinks for a few seconds, and then looks at Hana, who had taken this time to sit on the stools. "So, lets assume you and Brigitte had to live together-" He begins, inciting a blush. "-and had to pay the rent, the electricity, the water, food, and other stuff, all by yourself, without anyone there to help you." He says, and Hana's blush recedes, replaced with what looks a little like horror. "And here comes the good part. You have to do the cooking yourself, and then wake up every day on time to go to work, or in your case, stream."

Hana's face is completely colorless now. "And whatever free time you have, you can have fun." Jack concludes.

"B-but-"

"Also, whatever complications arise: like getting sick, emergencies, its all your job, with no backup. Then its the love, catering to your partner: compromising with them. Like how you might need to take the couch, or have fights only you can resolve, and no one can help you with it. Then after all this is done, you have to help others who can't do this stuff yet. And the day you can do this without getting so scared you don't want to leave the bed," Jack tells her, grabbing her shoulders and giving her a little shake, maybe trying to shake some color back into her face. "Welcome to adulthood."

"That is too much!" Hana finally manages, which isn't much more than a squeak.

"Oh it isn't. All of these things are habits. Look at you for a second. You wake up everyday at a fixed time?"

Hana nods

"Have a fixed streaming schedule?"

Hana nods

"Also earn money from the streams to pay for your own things?"

Hana nods.

"Always sleep on time?"

Hana nods.

"And you are committed to a team and religiously follow the schedule?"

Hana nods, realizing what Jack was saying. "You aren't really so far off aren't you?" Jack says, smiling a little more. "Relax, you have your whole life ahead of you. There is lots of time for you to get ready for this! You learn to walk before you run."

Hana nods, smiling once again, assured her dads were the best source of advice. "But I am not really close either?"

"Ah, you'll get there." Jack says with a dismissive wave. "Many people don't even begin. Now, get your stuff together and get going. The van must be here."

And as if on cue, Hana hears the horn of their team van. She tallies all the things with Jack's suggested checklist, giving everyone a hug, Brigitte a kiss, which reliably makes her blush, and then departing from the front door. She notices King hanging out of the window, and Overlord with his face buried in his hood, popping out from the sliding door, both of them screaming like madmen. Casino was shaking his head, his face in his palm. Hana looks for Yuna out of habit, and it makes her freeze when Yuna is actually visible. She looks uncomfortable. She looks for Daehyun next, and finds him too. She doesn't understand the sudden change, but doesn't waste time to think it out. She loads her things into the back of the van and sits beside Yuna.

"Hi." Hana says, looking out of the windshield.

"Hi." Yuna replies, looking out of the window.

"How have you been?" Hana asks, mind suddenly replaying Jack's advice of fixing her own fights herself. 

Like an adult.

Hana knew their last interaction wasn't on the best of terms. It wasn't on any terms at all when Brigitte had moved Yuna out of the way, filling Hana with a little warmth at the thought. What Yuna had done that day was unreasonable, but it wasn't unforgivable. Hana was also guilty of projecting her interests on other people sometimes, Moira for example, calling her for games when they got together, not paying much heed whether Moira was doing it to humor her, or out of interest. Hana could understand why Yuna did what she did, seeing how her preferences was something they never discussed, because it was never thought about. It was a given for Yuna. Part of her feels bad at not communicating things like these. She feels she has failed a little at her being a friend.

Despite it all, Yuna had watched out for her, going as far as to appear with a date. The action was unwelcome, definitely, but its the thought that mattered, didn't it? On the nights Hana used to go by the PC bays at the dead of night, to relieve herself or to hydrate, it was hard to ignore the empty spot that Yuna had left behind. Daehyun was the impromptu replacement, but he didn't dare occupy that space, being the respectful man he was, not wanting to mess up a configuration Yuna must have spent hours tailoring to herself, in the event she returns. Even Daehyun knew Yuna would be back one day, and would want to get right into the stuff. Even Hana held a little hope in that regard. No matter how things had gone that day, it felt wrong to leave things there.

But before Hana could make an offer, Yuna did that herself.

"Hana, can we talk, you know, after this?" Yuna says, in a small voice, and Hana didn't need any explanation to know that this meant as soon as they had some privacy to themselves. Yuna is a proud lady after all, and she would definitely want to deal with this without causing more of a mess.

"Sure." Hana says, with a small, sincere smile. 

______________________________________

Amelie's first face for this day was Moira, who had let herself into the house, while Amelie fixed some breakfast for herself. Nothing too fancy. Just some omelettes and bacon to fill a void, not to arrange a feast for one. Amelie was a woman of efficiency. She didn't like to waste time where it wasn't necessary.

"Can I have some cereal?" Moira asks, voice cracking a little. "Mine ran out."

Amelie grunts, like she usually does. Baguette comes in, greeting Moira. Amelie grunts to acknowledge Moira's comments on Baguette's growth, without looking up from her pan.

"Looks like someone is in a good mood." Moira comments, setting her bowl down, reaching over Amelie's shoulder to get to the cabinet where the cereal is kept.

"What's cooking?" Moira asks, suddenly right beside Amelie's ear and the frenchwoman's breath hitches, along with an eruption of goosebumps across her skin. Suddenly, her grip on the handle of the pan is white-knuckled, and her eyes are closed. "Make me some too? Then I can ditch the cereal?"

Amelie takes a moment to recover from the sensory assault. She grunts, gluing her eyes to the pan.

"You're the best." Moira whispers into her ears, causing another overload. Amelie closes her eyes for a few moments to regain composure. She spends the time to prepare breakfast in an uncomfortable, squirmy silence.

Its the tension in silence that gets her. The silence that deafens her, when Moira leaves for a few moments, while Amelie finishes the second portion. Amelie senses the footsteps returning, but by the sound of it, she could deduce Moira was barefooted, which meant she was fresh off her shower. Amelie marvels how she remembers the small things, the subtle signs, being so well-versed in the other woman. 

Amelie didn't pay much attention to Moira's appearance when she had so mercilessly assaulted Amelie's senses, but when she lays eyes on the woman, she has to take another moment. Moira's wearing a sky blue shirt, sleeves folded carelessly, and the first few buttons forgotten. Amelie can see. Its very less, just a hint, just a sliver, the tiniest tease, but she can see. One slender hand holds up the phone, the other plays absentmindedly with Baguette's ears. The legs are wrapped in form fitting trousers, feet on the coffee table, one leg over the other.

This is why wisdom tells you to get your clothes tailored.

Other people wore fancy stuff for different reasons: Some showed off, some liked to look pretty, some liked to suit the environment. But Moira? She just wore expensive clothing just because she could. Got the best fabric just because she could. She didn't dress for anyone, or tried to look good for someone.

It was the not trying that made it even better, or in this case, even worse.

But this stirs something deep within her chest. Something warm, bittersweet. How this felt so domestic. Making breakfast, eating it with Moira, before going out and being adults. A part of her hoped she could do this more often, every day in fact. Something about this commitment was surreal, and calmed her mind down. She knew it was a tired fantasy, Moira having told her a relationship like theirs was a recipe for disaster. Amelie saw some sense to it too: Moira's job asked too much of her. All those surgeries, not the scheduled ones, but the unscheduled ones. All those times when they were sipping wine and enjoying crying over dramas, and then Moira was rushing out of the house the other moment. Then other days she wouldn't see the redhead for the entire day. And a few days Moira would be spread across the sofa, like she just fell as soon as she opened the door. Moments like these, these were rare. More far apart than she would like.

The answer was pretty clear cut. The biggest factor in a relationship had to be the other person actually being there when needed. But Moira was more needed to save lives, not literally, but more like restoring normalcy to lives stricken by nervous problems. Amelie could be hurting for presence, starving for affection and still wouldn't be able to do anything if Moira had to rush out for an emergency. It would drive her insane, maybe even drive her to the fate Moira had charted for her.

But then again, a tiny part of Amelie was screaming. Screaming louder than everything else. Hope. Stupid, mindless, devoid-of-logic hope. That it could work out. That something would happen and they could make efforts. Amelie could make efforts. Something. Anything to make it work. That somehow, despite of everything, they could wake up next to each other. That somehow, they could be something.

Amelie swallows, even though she wasn't chewing. She sets the plates once Moira moves the legs out of the way. Baguette lunges for the breakfast, but both women pull away at the right time. Amelie then chases the puppy away, finally sitting down beside Moira, who had begun with the breakfast already. The way Moira is practically scarfing down the food means she is late. Again. Which meant there wouldn't be peace today. Just silent hurry. Amelie feels something in her gut coil at the realization. Amelie looks for the keys and finds them on the table, further confirming her dull dread. Moira scarfs down the last strips of bacon, swipes at the keys and launches off the table, taking a little of Amelie's lifted mood with her. Moira's mere presence was all she needed at some times.

"Moira!" Amelie calls after her. Moira pokes her head out, having stopped in time. "Water!"

"Ooh, sorry." Moira says, and then steps in to practically inhale the glass of water Amelie was holding out for her. "Thanks." she says, giving her a grin. She then darts away again, and Amelie realizes when she hears the slapping of feet against hardwood.

"Moira! Shoes!" Amelie calls again.

Moira doesn't return this time. Baguette yelps a little, turning Amelie's rising dread into annoyance in an instant.

"What do you want now?"

______________________________________

Amelie huffs and wipes her brow, surprised at how bad her stamina had become. It had barely been half a mile and she was breathing heavy. The original plan was to just stroll around, and let Baguette relieve herself but it had crashed and burned disastrously. Baguette looked none the worse for the wear. She actually looked like she had just warmed up, kipping around, sniffing poles and garbage cans. Her feet hurt, and her calves were on fire. The only saving grace was that Baguette was on a leash. And they were in a park, so even if the puppy ran off, there would be someone to do something.

She decided to make a habit out of this and get back in shape, like she was in her glory days. She hops out of that train of thought before it goes where she dreads. Baguette tugs at the leash with all her might, the harness around her tiny body forcing her to dig her claws into the grassy soil. The pull on Amelie's side is laughable at present. Amelie lets the puppy lead the search for the perfect spot to let loose. Her thoughts wander to the subject of Baguette. Any idiot could notice Baguette was growing at an alarming rate. It had taken the puppy just a week and a half to be able to scale Amelie's bed. It wasn't disgusting per se, but it was an acceptable way to wake up. Also, the puppy's fur was growing fast, almost making Amelie think that Baguette's fur had been clipped to help her cope with the summer heat.

That is when she spots someone she had forgotten about, but not someone she didn't expect to meet. She blinks twice to make sure.

But there is absolutely no doubt about it. She felt like the universe was out to get her. Her mouth feels bitter all of a sudden.

Gerard Lacroix, the insufferable snob. Looking all the more snobbish with his expensive tracksuit, holding a leash to an impressive sight: A well groomed dark poodle, with vibrant trimmed fur, making her think for a fleeting moment that the dog might actually have better hair than her. Amelie almost wants to whistle at the sight, but spit at Gerard. Who was he dressing up for? Amelie notices she has spotted the oaf, but he hasn't. So she still has a chance to escape, without having to interact with that man, for the cafe, because she believed he was the kind of a man who would not supply them coffee out of sheer spite, because Amelie didn't say hello. She begins to look for an escape route, but Baguette shoots that plan down too, surging ahead at the sight of more dogs to interact with. Puppies were inquisitive, and this one was being a source of such trouble to her she has half a mind to let the leash go and duck into a shrub. But as soon as Baguette gets to sniffing the poodle, Gerard looks at Amelie, naturally, because he was finding the owner. 

His mouth twists in what looks like a smile from Amelie's distance. She was supposed to be enjoying this walk. After breakfast.

Okay, maybe it wasn't a really good decision to do that.

"I did not know you had a puppy." Gerard says, and the tone catches Amelie off guard. There wasn't any hostility, or smugness to it. She tries to process this information, assuming Gerard would only mean bad to her and her family. "Majestic breed too." Gerard continues, and the tone was genuine. He was talking like he was truly interested. Amelie wants to believe its a front, but the morning had taken too much of her mental energy for her to keep making things up in her mind. She decides to wing it, letting Gerard have the benefit of the doubt for once. "Do you walk her here often?"

"No." Amelie answers. Her tone is a little too stiff, she notices. Good. Just because she wasn't shouting the man down didn't mean she couldn't be cautious. "I noticed the place and brought Baguette here."

Gerard smiles at the choice of name. Amelie watches him carefully. "I guess she does look like a baguette from some angles." he comments thoughtfully. "I had just begun my walk too. Would you like to join me?" He asks, his voice polite. Amelie wants to shout him down right now, but she couldn't go back on her own word to herself, about giving the man a chance. 

"I guess." Amelie replies, voice uncertain.

______________________________________

"But this is worrying!" Gabe says, waving the sheets in his hand. Hana's report card didn't hold a very promising result. It came to them when their daughter was gone for the gaming championship with her team.

"Is it?" Jack says, gentle as ever. "We both know how she is. We have raised her."

"Yes, but- this. How do you explain this?"

"Lack of motivation."

"How?"

"Gabe, Hana is nineteen now." Jack says. They had taken a few minutes off their respective work to go upstairs and discuss. "She's on that edge now. And when someone is over there, its scary for them. Everyone expects her to suddenly start behaving like an adult. After nineteen years of carefree life, with all of us there to catch her, she is suddenly supposed to leave the nest, live her own life. For her, all of this coming to a stop so damn fast, its scary. She doesn't want to face that reality, because its all of those things together- getting a job, living on her own, getting a taste for handling and living around people not from her own family, and the other adult stuff. The thought of just abandoning her current situation and placing herself in a lot of pain, that is overwhelming. So she's trying to escape, draw it out. Make it last longer."

"But wasn't it the case for us too?"

"Was it, Gabe? You joined the military because you wanted to be more than your neighbourhood, greater than your counterparts. I joined because I didn't want to be a burden to my parents, with all that college fees. I never expected a farmer like dad being able to send me to college, Gabe, and I was honestly okay with it. We became adults because our circumstances needed us to do that for survival. Hana has no such circumstances. She's had a good schooling, she's had the chance to go to college, and she's already making steps toward a career."

"Do you think it is actually a career? Playing video games for money?"

"Gabe, our careers didn't make sense for our parents too. Why go out there and get shot or blown up when you could stay behind and work? But they trusted us with our decisions."

"But military is a normal career."

"You can't expect Hana to behave like an adult if you can't trust her with her own decisions. You have to treat her as an adult if you expect her to behave like one. Much of that 'rebellious teen' cliche is because people expect teenagers to behave like adults but treat them like kids."

"Okay, then how do you say we should go ahead with this?"

"Ease her in slowly. Let her build her confidence." Jack says, putting his apron back on. "There is a reason I let her stream, let her feel what adhering to a schedule and putting effort into getting money feels like. Let her have faith in her abilities as an individual. Not using her face there has some safety reasons to it as well. Then there was the professional gaming. Let her get a taste for working as a team, and having a real job, with the pressure that comes with it. There are a lot more challenges coming up for her now."

"Like?"

"Adjusting around people, handling herself around strangers, being a professional. It doesn't come to someone suddenly."

"But, its not right to just let her go. What if she gets into trouble?"

"If you stop someone too much, even if its just to protect them, it will anger them. They will do the thing you don't want them to do just to spite you, to show you you have no control over them. This rebellion, this sense of defiance, that is what hurts people and relationships more. Sometimes, you have to tell them, give them the information and trust them to do good."

"And what if Hana actually does something wrong?"

Jack looks at Gabe with a slightly tired smile. "Have some faith on your upbringing, Gabe."

Gabe stops and processes all this information. He just begins reminiscing on nineteen years of Hana Reyes-Morrison, torch passed onto them by Hana's biological parents, making sure the legacy lived on. And invariably, he smiles. Jack might not know what his kids were thinking, which was Gabe's specialty, but he could feel what Gabe was thinking, and pulls him into a hug.

"She's nineteen already..." Gabe croaks a little. His voice is far from cracking. This tone was more of elation, satisfaction. The feeling when you scale a mountain and look back at the way you took. Jack rubs the top of Gabe's arms.

"Time surely does fly." Jack says. "But, its not over yet. Just because she's ready to take on adult responsibilities doesn't mean she doesn't need us anymore. There is a lot more mess to unravel for her right now."

"I know but- She's grown so much." Gabe says, softly, lips still stretched in that distant smile. "Its been so long."

"That's what parenting a dozen or so kids does." Jack says, drawing a chuckle out of both of them.

"But, it would have been impossible without you." Gabe says tenderly, leaning into Jack a little. "I love you."

This side of Gabe didn't come out in public at all, which made it all the more savory.

"I love you too."

______________________________________

For Zarya, her morning showers were just a part of a ritual, meant to wake her up, prepare her for the day of hard training ahead.

But her evening shower was something far more different. She preferred to sit, instead of stand, her head placed right in the center of the spray of water. Others may pin this to exhaustion, but they would never know. Never know how Zarya used this to hide her tears. A habit from so far back she couldn't let go of.

But it wasn't in her power to reject this habit completely either. Because it was a result of her circumstances more than anything. Just like this too.

She raises the small, paper-thin piece of stainless steel. It was a shaving razor she kept hidden. Changing its location frequently, hoping no one finds this. This was her escape. From this overwhelming pain, from this mind breaking feeling of inadequacy.

It would be fine, she reminds herself. These feelings of not being as good as her counterparts. placing the edge of the razor on the inside of her thigh, carefully, methodically, roughly measuring the distance. This needed to be hidden from view. Others couldn't see it. Especially not Olivia. 

And for a moment, mental and physical pain is one and the same, pressing the edge deep into skin, pulling onto it, making a bigger cut, drawing blood, but its lost quickly in the torrent of water-another advantage of showers. She feels her mind shutting down thoughts: isolation, inadequacy, and a lot of others, offloading this mental stimulus to focus on her physical stimulus, to tell her that suddenly her skin had been cut open, that she needed to pay attention to this sudden crisis. It calms down the torrent of emotions, bringing her back from hell, slowly, surely.

Pain was something she could take. Pain was something she was used to.

Her breathing comes back to her control, and the tension is gone, all of her calming down to get her to focus on the pain, on the deep cut she had made. It grounds her, bringing her back to the present.

She was calm now.

She gets back on her feet, letting the fresh injury burn a little under the running water. It throbs, it hurts, but this is something she would rather choose than be in her own personal hell. She pads outside after a little while, toweling herself off, and then tending to her wound. This was another necessary precaution. A septic wound out of nowhere would only lead to more questions, and Olivia would be one of the people asking too. She closes the wound and then wraps bandage around it, then wearing the necessary undergarment: A pair of trunks. She then quickly wears the other items of clothing, padding out of the shower to her living room, now toweling her head. She could let air dry it, seeing how short her hair was, but she was doing it for the added distraction.

But there is someone in her living room: Olivia.

She can't stop the smile at the corners of her mouth. Olivia closes the distance between them and embraces her, and Zarya suddenly feels better, warmer. Usually this ritual left her cold, prompting her to curl up under a blanket, but this warmth was something more than skin deep. It warmed something deeper within her, something she couldn't place.

"Hi." Zarya says.

"Hi." Olivia replies, holding on a little tighter for a moment before releasing her. "Long time no see."

"Yeah," Zarya says, rubbing the back of her neck. "I was busy."

Her thigh gives her a sharp throb at this.

"I was busy too." Olivia replies. "Cafe's been stuffed these days." she says, chuckling a little.

"I see." Zarya replies, chuckling with her. It wasn't forced. "We are free for now atleast. Free to breathe."

"And since we are both free, can we spend time together?" Olivia asks her. "We could cook dinner."

Zarya agrees immediately. "What would you like to eat?"

They spend the next hour making a decent amount of food, seeing how both of them were pretty hungry after a hard day of work. Zarya feels her mood improve, slowly.

But Olivia knows something is off. Zarya isn't that chipper as she usually is, and she wants to hear it from her. Zenyatta had told her that some gym goer had pissed Zarya off, telling Zen that he would be better off with a male trainer. Zenyatta had defended her, but Zarya had asked him to let it go. 

"Rough day?" She asks, as she closes the lid on the container to complete the final phase of cooking, leading Zarya on.

Zarya stills for a moment. Did Olivia know? It wouldn't be hard, seeing how Zenyatta was right there too. But how much should she tell her? Just the incident? Or her reaction to it? Telling Olivia how she coped with it was out of the question. She knew Olivia wouldn't understand, just like many people before her. Wouldn't understand this method, pinning it to mental instability, and then maybe pulling away. As much as she wants to tell her, she won't. Not after the date. Not after the kisses. Not after all the time they spend together.

"Ah, is nothing." Zarya waves it off dismissively.

Olivia says nothing, because it was a calm, peaceful time, and she didn't want to ruin this just for the sake of wanting to know more. If Zarya told her it was nothing, Olivia would trust the woman with it. 

They eat in comfortable silence, feeling full, and sleepy now. Olivia volunteers to wash the dishes, but Zarya effectively bars Olivia from the kitchen. Olivia struggles a bit for the sake of being playful, and they laugh. Olivia gives the woman her space. But she still doesn't feel like Zarya is perfectly fine. She has to put this out, that she was available to talk to, to listen. She stops at the doorsill.

"Zarya, if you have to talk about anything, I am just a few steps away." Olivia says.

Zarya now knows Olivia knows, and that Zarya wasn't completely normal. Her wound suddenly throbs a little more, as if it was alive, wanting to seek Olivia's attention even if Zarya herself wouldn't. But Zarya doesn't budge. She couldn't let her know. No matter what. She was attached to the woman in a different way now.

"Thank you." Zarya replies. "Good night."

"Good night." Olivia replies with a smile, slightly disappointed with Zarya not taking her up on the offer, but it was the woman's decision, and Olivia had to respect it. She leaves.

The house is suddenly too cold to Zarya now. She was full, so she goes on to the next phase of her ritual, and buries herself under the warm comforter. A small pang of hunger in her heart wishes Olivia could be here to hold her, warm her up a little. For now this would have to do.

______________________________________

"She's in her room." Emily says, opening the door wide for Fareeha. Emily had called her when she had noticed how Angela was practically running on coffee, forgetting to sleep or eat. Fareeha gives Emily a short hug too.

"What's up? Did she not prepare?" Fareeha inquires.

"That's the wierd thing. She's done." Emily says, in a way that implies the strangeness of it all. "She was done last week."

"Last week?" Fareeha asks incredulously. "and you're telling me now?"

"Its what she does all the time!" Emily hisses in reply, making it sound like Fareeha's name had crossed her mind as an afterthought, rather than the first thing. "I called you in to cheer her up!"

Fareeha leans over to see Angela looking completely okay, but the limited light didn't tell her the entire story. "Just get her to sleep. If she would listen to me I wouldn't have called you."

"I'll take care of it." Fareeha says, walking into the room. Its dark, like it always was. Angela was reading intently, however, the creases on the corner of the pages told Fareeha she had read through this section multiple times. "Hi." Fareeha says softly, not wanting to make Angela jump. Angela kneads her eyes for a few moments, pushing the chair back and standing up, rubbing her face as if trying to chase sleep away, then finally turning around. A smile tugs at the corners of her mouth.

"Hi." Angela replies, spreading her arms for a hug. Fareeha takes her up on the offer, pulling her into a hearty embrace. She can hear Angela sigh in what feels like relief. Like someone had lifted the weight of the world off her back. For a fleeting moment, Angela holds on a little tighter. They stay like this for as long as they can be. But Fareeha feels resistance when she tries to break off, meaning Angela was holding on.

"You should take breaks more often." Fareeha says, letting Angela indulge. "And also, aren't you done?"

"I was done, but I had nothing else to do." Angela replies nonchalantly.

"You could have dropped by the cafe, we could have gone for the movies, or you could have just come for dinner one day?" Fareeha counters, trying to crane her neck a little, to see if she could catch Angela's eyes. She fails. She then feels Angela's fingers thread through her own. Fareeha makes a note of this. "Anyways, you need to get some food in you."

"Hmm." Angela hums, drawing closer.

"Do you have anything in mind?" Fareeha asks.

"Pizza?" Angela says.

"You haven't eaten really well for the past few days, so I think you should eat something more filling." Fareeha suggests. "How about some sandwiches instead?"

Angela makes a sound that vaguely resembles approval. Fareeha tries moving to the kitchen, but is held in place. "Angela..."

"Sorry." Angela lets out a small voice, releasing her hold for Fareeha to break off, but not that easily either. Fareeha was most probably pinning this to something else, maybe sleep making her seek Fareeha's support to remain awake a little longer, but Angela's need was different. Staying short of sleep and pulling all nighters was second nature to her. But this? this was not like sleep. This wasn't like hunger either. This requirement, this need, this was far more older and far more deep rooted than anyone could think.

It was starvation at this point.

Angela wasn't anyone's favorite at the orphanage. Everyone seemed to blame her for something she didn't do. And thus, she spent her time alone, isolated, having a deep wish to make friends, having someone to talk to, to play with, to share her books with. Mama did what she could to keep Angela entertained, but even she knew that the kids had singled her out, and there was always something different to the creases of her face when she came in contact with this reality, like it was something she had done. It only confused Angela at times. Angela would watch from her bed, or from the corners of the room, stuck to a pillar, or the edge of the wall. Able to do nothing but just watch. Watch the children laugh, play, and something she wish she could have done in that moment. Watching them hug, watching them show affection to each other like this.

Angela assumed if she could just be in the general vicinity of those children, maybe some of them could notice her, give her that affection she so desperately needed. But it didn't happen. They called Angela 'Mama's favorite' and whatever attempts she was making for friendship was better appreciated someplace else, and maybe she should try another 'Mama's favorite', but there wasn't anyone else with that title other than her, was there? It gave rise to a different kind of pain. A dull ache. Like her stomach was empty, but it was her heart doing this. She remembers the change in Mama's behaviour from that point onwards. How she was suddenly flooded with affection and was given all she wanted.

It was a relief, but a temporary one, a band aid over a gaping injury. Angela still craved to play with the other kids, to hug them, to hug an equal, to note how it felt, her inquisitive mind begging for that kind of stimulus. But after months of trying, she had given up. She retreated, and went to her corner, having made up her mind. She had only one friend. Books.

She buried herself in any and all kinds of books she wanted. It eased the pain away, plunging her into different worlds, taking her away from her predicament. She read until she slept, and then she slept until she could read again. A habit had formed. A habit of acquiring information. Her attention was then turned to the kind of books they gave to school children. This new form of mental stimulation was mind-blowing. The revelation that she could unlock deeper and deeper layers of understanding was like having a friend in that moment. And that hunger receded, slowly. Like a stomach that had given up on nutrition after being empty for so long.

Angela grew, the only constant in the orphanage, others getting adopted, or being reclaimed by a distant relative. Every new face that came here, was just that, a face. The others that came did interact with her, but her desire was gone. The hunger to make friends, the hunger for touch, for contact, it was gone. Angela had found something far better. A stronger coping mechanism. She could just turn the off switch on emotions and go on an expedition of knowledge

School was done with in a blur, and when she joined college, she got a taste for friendship. True friendship. Emily.

Angela still remembered their first hug. When Emily had hugged her for acing the preliminary tests. For Emily the action was a passing thought, a small gesture of happiness, nothing out of the normal. But when Angela was finally exposed to this embrace, this warm, safe feeling, she felt raw. It made her burst into tears, howling desperately when her need for touch had finally been satiated. It had caught Emily off guard. Angela still remembers sleeping glued to her roommate, too terrified and too desperate to let go, who by this point had played along just to comfort Angela. 

But now, as their individual relationships had blossomed, those touches were gone. Angela had been fed some contact, but she longed for more, much more, as if her heart was making up for all that starvation so early into her life, but it was also inappropriate to ask of it from Emily now. As platonic as they had been, a line needed to be drawn, especially after Fareeha and Lena's entry into their lives. She could accept if she was given contact, but she could not seek. And Angela found herself holding on to her old habits. Going on expeditions of fact finding, but there was a limit to what a book could tell her, and Fareeha's timing was impeccable. Angela doesn't waste time eating, going as fast and as efficient as possible with it, wanting to be done with the sleeping, as the worst of her touch starvation had been staved off. Fareeha tucks her in, politely, considerately. But as the woman turns to leave, Angela grabs at her wrist. Fareeha turns around.

"Can you stay?" Angela asks, her subconscious already having braced for rejection. Old habits died hard.

Fareeha must have read something in her face, because she silently removes her biker jacket, wearing a basic T shirt and trackpants, as if she had expected this request, and joins her under the duvet. And as she feels Fareeha more or less encasing her, she feels like she could cry.

"I'm here." Fareeha says, fighting back tears of her own, remembering Gabe telling her about Angela, and how he had promised Orisa that he would watch Angela's back. It wasn't a threat. It was more like a set of instructions. A guide. Telling Fareeha that speaking wasn't the only way Angela really talked. That she would have to be receptive: Look for touch, look for signs, for indications, and it didn't take her anything more than their first hug to tell that Angela needed touch. She pulls her closer, her front pressing into Angela's back, trying to cover as much of the other as she could. "I got you." She reiterates softly, remembering how she had broken down after hearing Angela's past. She was angry at the world for a moment, angry at how someone could rightfully mistake something so necessary and so innocent as something carnal, how children sometimes mistook care for preference. And as much as she hated all this, she had no control over it. 

Fareeha knew her arm would go numb by the morning, seeing how it was under Angela's midriff, her weight pressing into her limb, but she just didn't care. Angela was more important.

Far more important.

"I'll hold you." Fareeha promises, the last thing she says before sleep pulls them both under.

Chapter Text

“Fareeha,” Angela gasps. Her hands roam the other woman’s body. Her fingers trace the ridges of defined muscle, travel the grooves and plains of skin seeking to remember them all at once. She doesn’t know where they are—the light is there but only just - just enough to let Angela see the bronze skin shine - and Fareeha’s eyes look at her, clear as day. Warm, safe, floating in the sensations.

Angela pulls the woman in, their lips meet with a passion she doesn’t remember feeling. Fareeha surrounds her, arms on either side of her head. Her hair beads caress Angela’s cheek. They are cool and solid. Tangible. Gold, most definitely, glittering points of light.

And then Angela feels it. Feels Fareeha inside her. A surge of pleasure runs through her, branching along the rest of her body like lightning, electric aftershocks tingling in the nerve endings. She gasps, holding onto Fareeha’s back, as hard as she can. She is jostled back and forth as Fareeha sets a rhythm.

Angela feels herself relax, accommodating more and more of her, until Fareeha is practically grinding her hips into her. It’s intense. Mind-blowing. It’s something she has never experienced before, this odd feeling of being filled.

Heat rises to her cheek. Her ears burn. Heat fills her body as Angela approaches the peak and teeters on the edge of the cliff. Her entire body tenses slowly, as if preparing her for when she falls.

She screams when Fareeha pushes her off the edge. She feels the rush run through her entire body, making her tremble with pleasure. Involuntarily, she kicks the air, and Fareeha, who is still keeping up the rhythm, comes making a different kind of warmth spread through her, deeper, much deeper, as if right in her core.

As the two of them catch their breaths, coming back to their senses, Fareeha pulls out, and Angela lays her eyes on her toned arms, the ripped abs, her shapely chest, and when her eyes roam between her legs —

What?

Angela’s eyes fly open as she wakes up with a tiny gasp. There is darkness around her. Her eyes remain wide open as she lets her breathing calm. She confirms she is in her own room, sleeping on her side. She definitely feels something between her legs; it must be the aftermath of that dream. She feels the arm around her midriff and almost squeaks out in horror before realizing she had fallen asleep with Fareeha.

And even if it’s Fareeha’s deep gentle breathing right behind her ears that makes her feel safer in this wild mess of thoughts and sensations, Angela carefully wriggles herself out of her arms and silently walks to the bathroom, opening the door as little as possible and closing it behind her quietly. She quickly removes her leggings and puts the damp panties in the hamper, which are completely useless by this point. She doesn’t have enough in her to deal with it right now. She checks her leggings next: they have miraculously survived the incident, and the smell hasn’t kept.

She goes to the sink, looking at herself in the mirror. Her face is flushed and her eyes are wide open, pupils still slightly dilated. Amidst the confused thoughts swimming in her head and the blood roaring in her ears, she tries to remember the sight that made her wake up. It fills her with a strange cocktail of fascination and shock, and…

Before leaving the bathroom, Angela splashes some water on her face, to achieve a little more clarity. She stops on the way back, just by the edge of the bed, looking down on Fareeha. Reason having abandoned her long ago, she lets her hand roam a little, and only peculiar curiosity moving her hand now. Her fingers make contact with cloth, feeling Fareeha’s body radiate heat to the pads of her fingers. She moves them about, almost patting her down. Fareeha recoils a little in response, hips moving a little to readjust, breaking the contact.

Angela almost sighs in relief, as if she is lucky to not have her dream bleed into the reality, and then blushes hard when she realizes how lewd - how inappropriate - she had been with her touch, her fingers straying somewhere so private without the knowledge of the other woman. It was like a violation. She ignores her burning cheeks and quickly lies down. Burrows into Fareeha’s front, placing herself back where she had been when she woke up. Fareeha also brings her arms back into position, holding her again.

Angela falls asleep fast, desperate to put this behind her.

______________________________________

Church Bells toll in the distance. Genji looks at the pair in front of him. They were so unmatched. The man looked like he was fresh off prison. And the woman looked like the most innocent he has seen, walking with an upbeat strut. The man can't keep his neck straight, or his face for that matter, when he looks at her. Then he remembers, he is here to officiate this marriage. He says his things, but all that reaches his ears is a buzz.

The man says "I do."

So does she, and they kiss. He feels a packet of loneliness explode in his heart.

I get strung up from her loving
I wish she'd care to see
But she only cares when she's got the time
And I fret so much about her loving
I wish she'd let me be
But our destinies got us intertwined

They laugh, amidst a shower of confetti, both of them full of innocence, truly happy to be with each other.

And is it really my fault
I get a shiver when I see her with those other guys
Wearing the jacket I bought
I can't help but lose my temper and I don't know why

Genji watches Zenyatta part the curtains for a second pair. A short man, looking like he does. He's quite chubby, a stark antithesis of the pair before them. The woman, with her flawless dark skin, beaming smile and brown eyes. They stop a couple of feet ahead of him. The woman is wearing a visor and the man was holding a racket.

He officiates them with a practiced ease. They are now in this bond forever

I get jealous, but I'm too cool to admit it
When the fellas talk to my girl I ain't with it
I get jealous, but I'm too cool to admit it
When the fellas, talk to my girl I ain't with it
I ain't with it, I ain't with it, I ain't with it
I ain't with it, I ain't with it, I ain't with it
I ain't with it, I ain't with it, I ain't with it
I ain't with it, I ain't with it, I ain't with it

Zenyatta ushers in the next pair. How long has it been? He can't say.

The man hasn't bothered wearing a shirt, his entire torso is covered with tattoos. The woman is in a proper wedding dress, but with short hair and violet lipstick. She's slender, he'd dare to say, and quite charming with her understated smile.

He reads them some vows he has in a book, closing it with a clap, and announcing them married, when they say the magic words. Their kiss is a lot more tender, more gentle. More considerate. He feels his heart ache in longing.

What is she thinking, too much uncertainty
Why can't she give some sort of sign
You know and I know a thing or two about loyalty
But that girl don’t pay it no mind

His loneliness rises with each pair. He wonders, how do men like this find a woman like this, and he's stuck here marrying all of them, not knowing his own chances?

And is it really my fault
I get a shiver when I see her with those other guys
Wearing the jacket I bought
I can't help but lose my temper and I don't know why

He spots the next pair, a ma-

a...woman? Two women? Two men? The pair in front of him is androgynous to a fault. Both have short blonde hair. One's dressed in black, the other in white.

Atleast they look they are matched evenly. He marries them too, and their kiss is much more passionate than the others. At some point he contemplates offering getting them a room.

I get jealous, but I'm too cool to admit it
When the fellas talk to my girl I ain't with it
I get jealous, but I'm too cool to admit it
When the fellas, talk to my girl I ain't with it
I ain't with it, I ain't with it, I ain't with it
I ain't with it, I ain't with it, I ain't with it
I ain't with it, I ain't with it, I ain't with it
I ain't with it, I ain't with it, I ain't with it

He knows the next marriage is a traditional one. Everyone is wearing hats, and the bride is wearing an attire Genji has no word for except "cowboy." he decides not to judge the veil on her hat. The groom tips his hat to him.

He has to update his dictionary.

Walking beside her is the groom, who, despite the rugged looking clothing and beard, looked like he had been forced into the dress. But looking at the bride, he cracks a disbelieving smile, as if wondering how he could be so lucky.

Loneliness drowns his heart. Zenyatta elbows him to snap him out of his reverie. He reads them their vows and announces them married when they say "I do."

Then, he's suddenly in a dark room, with an overhead light. Four veiled women, dressed in what looks like a white leotard. He can't see their faces, but he knows his fate his mocking him, the way they dance. And then Zenyatta is dancing in the middle, with his suit and white sash, looking all holy. Then all the brides, devoid of their bridal dresses, looking at him all sultry. As if they were mocking him too

He screams.

I get strung up from her loving
I wish she'd cared to see
But she only cares when she's so inclined
And I fret so much about her loving
I wish she'd let me be
But out destinies got us so intertwined
Back in 2011, I decided
To not let this play with my mind
But when the boys from out of town
They come back around
I feel like committing a crime, yeah

The next couple breaks him. He can never forget her face. How could he. He knows it as long as he can remember. How cruel, to hit him with this when he feels so lonely

Motoko.

Motoko Nakamura.

Old flame.

With a man that looks like he's in the mafia. With silver teeth and all. Zenyatta backs off with his hands in the air. He feels a strange kind of desperation and rage fill him up. He helplessly eyes the groom. He tells her that he loves her. This Groom. His Motoko. She smiles.

Oh he isn't letting this happen. Not her. Not with this guy. Not like this.

No way in hell.

The grooms snaps his fingers to break his meditation again.

Fuck him.

I get jealous, but I'm too cool to admit it

he shoves the groom out of the way

When the fellas talk to my girl I ain't with it

he grabs Motoko's hand and runs. She gives him no resistance. All he can hear is her laughter. Ringing in his ears. He then hears the groom cursing behind him.

I get jealous, but I'm too cool to admit it

His lungs burn, but he doesn't care. He rounds the corner to the exit.

When the fellas, talk to my girl I ain't with it

He bursts through the door, and looks for the car. The white convertible. He doesn't care to check whose it is, because Zenyatta is in the front seat. He runs, Motoko's laughter still ringing in his ears.

I ain't with it, I ain't with it, I ain't with it

He opens the door and lets Motoko sit in.

I ain't with it, I ain't with it, I ain't with it

He follows after her and practically shouts at Zenyatta to gun it.

I ain't with it, I ain't with it, I ain't with it

The car takes off in a cloud of dust.

I ain't with it, I ain't with it, I ain't with it

Genji opens his eyes, the dream burnt into the back of his eyes. He stares at the ceiling. Daylight has broken through the windows. He mashes the bridge of his nose, and then kneads his eyes.

"Kuso." Genji curses, losing his hold on English momentarily.

How desperately single was he for Motoko to show up in his dreams? He places his palms on his face, not ready to leave the bed. He remembers how he had run away with her, out of the wedding chapel, in the groom's car. Her laughter echoing in his ears. Exactly the same way she used to sound. His heart does a tiny flutter at the memory. He wants to remember how her hand felt in his, but at this point, it feels like he's trying to hold on to water. His mind begins to replay Motoko's memories. Her smile, her laugh, or how her lips felt.

But then, reality hits him. The circumstances he had left her with. How she had gone to a place where he would never return to. After all those years together. Things not said. Things they could have talked about to make it better, but didn't

Hanamura.

Not after how he had been thrown out of the house, with his belongings, and a tiny amount of money slapped in his face. Ordered to get out and come back when he's responsible. How he had to break a bond with so many things. How he had to leave behind his love life, his childhood, his grandmother of all people. His country.

Before Genji pays much attention, his feet have taken him to the kitchen, and he's rummaging about in the overhead closet of their tiny kitchen. It was there so that this apartment could be advertised as having a kitchen. With a triumphant noise he finds the container of coffee and he can't be bothered to wait and make coffee. He takes a spoon, plunges it into the grounds and shoves a spoonful into his mouth.

"Okay, that is definitely not normal." Zen comments. He's wide awake.

Genji realizes what he's doing, and droops. His father was making him upset even after his death. And his brother is in the same city, harassing god knows who.

"ano hito." Genji growls, leaning on the counter, grabbing the edge. He curses his father again.

"Daijoubu desu ka?" Zenyatta asks him without missing a beat. Genji nods dejectedly. "Choushi wa dou desu ka?"

"Daijoubu." Genji replies.

"Bullshit." Zenyatta says instantly.

"Motoko," He begins, but hesitates a little. "muda da." he says at the end.

"Dude." Zenyatta replies after this, realizing that his limited Genji-taught Japanese wasn't going to hold a candle against the teacher himself. "What about Motoko? She okay?"

"Nothing, its just-" Genji says, hesitating for another moment. "I saw her in a dream. Again."

______________________________________

The second time Angela wakes up, she doesn't want to do anything except lay still. The time could be anything at the moment, seeing how daylight was these days with clouds and stuff. Fareeha's arms are wound around her and the amount of warmth she was basking in was blissful. Fareeha's arms didn't dare stray anywhere except her midriff, because Angela didn't permit her to do so. It wasn't like Angela said no, Fareeha never asked. And the lines where touch was innocent and where it was lewd were blurred if she was being honest.

However, the thought of lewd touches makes her cheeks bloom wildly as she remembers herself waking up last night and touching Fareeha there. She tries to remember why she did it but all she can remember is the fragments of a dream and her touching Fareeha in a sleepy haze. Fareeha and...

...penises?

Her cheeks go beet red as she tries to make sense of the situation. She checks for her panties by shifting her legs a little, and sure enough, they aren't there. Which means she had a wet dream for sure. But why Fareeha and penises? Angela tries to link this with what she knows, sorting through her head and finding information, but that strain of knowledge is incomplete. She knows all about female genitalia, male genitalia, and the act of heterosexual intercourse. But nothing on homosexual. It wasn't very hard logically, but there had to be theories about it. Theories about the dynamic of it all. Theories about how-

Before she gets lost in her mind, Fareeha wakes up, taking a deeper breath and tightening her embrace for a moment before letting go. Angela feels Fareeha's breath tickle her ear.

"Good morning." Angela greets her with a soft voice, which was cracking a little due to sleep.

"Morning." Fareeha says, adjusting a little more. "Did you sleep well?" she says, but its very breathy and silent, almost like a loud whisper. It makes Angela smile.

"Yes, I did." Angela confirms. "Very hard not to fall asleep when you're so warm."

"Warm it is." Fareeha drawls. "I could get used to waking up like this."

That statement does something to Angela, and she can't place it. It must be something to do with endorphins. She does see the appeal of getting to sleep and wake up like this every single day, but as it stood, it was close to impossible. Fareeha had an apartment, but Jesse shared it with her. She couldn't invite Fareeha to live in a dorm because well, it was for the students, and the question of Emily having no place to live was another thing. She lets the thought go because there was no answer to it. Yet.

"Would you like breakfast?" Fareeha asks, in the same breathy voice. Angela was sure if this continued she would melt here.

"Is it necessary?" Angela asks in her own cracking voice. "You're so warm."

"Yeah," Fareeha agrees after a short pause. "I could take a day off, to be honest."

Angela giggles a little. "Oh, stop." She says. "Don't make so many sacrifices for me."

Fareeha lets out a small, slow, sleepy laugh. The voice is deeper, and it stirs a little affection in Angela's heart, as well as her gut.

"I have to do some research for a paper so I won't be able to stay so warm for long." Angela says, trying to not let the longing slip in her voice, but it does.

"Come on." Fareeha whines. "How important could it be?"

"It counts for half of my assignment." Angela lies. The actual reason was to get to the depth of the reason behind her dream. She needed to know. It was a primal instinct. This itch to know things. What she understood, she wouldn't fear.

"Oh shit." Fareeha says, a little louder. "Atleast we can stay for a few more minutes and then I can make us breakfast?"

Angela snuggles a little more into Fareeha. If they had a limited amount of time with it, they might as well take full advantage of it.

______________________________________

"You still remember the ground rules, don't you?" Genji says, holding the neck of a beer bottle. He was leaning against the bar on his back, propped on his elbows. Zenyatta was leaning on his side, propped up on one elbow, nursing his own bottle of beer.

"Of course." Zenyatta says, taking a long swig. "Borders, personal space and consent? Hell yeah"

"Glad to know you haven't lost your touch." Genji says in relief. "I really don't see the reason to do this."

"Not the reason?" Zenyatta asks. "This whole operation was your idea."

"I thought it was a good decision at the moment." Genji says, but when he sees everyone enjoy themselves, with friends and acquaintances, he can't bring himself to do it. "They are all just here for having fun. I don't feel like shoving myself in their faces trying to get over my pain."

Zenyatta wants to laugh, but there is a lot of truth in his words. They would be ruining a lot of peaceful, fun nights.

"I sound like such a pathetic loser, moping in a bar trying to get over a woman he's seen in his dreams." Genji says, and Zenyatta can't stop himself from laughing.

"Oh god, stop." Zenyatta guffaws. "You do sound like a wet blanket but don't be so hard on yourself."

There are a few moments of peaceful silence where he looks in the distance. Genji takes this time to reminisce.

"Sometimes I wonder," Genji says, taking a sip and readjusting himself "how different things would have been if things didn't turn out to be the way they did turn out."

"One thing I can say for sure is I would have met you nonetheless, but we definitely wouldn't be here hearing you mope over a cold one."

Genji chuckles. "Yeah, that would be one thing."

There is another silence in which they watch the bouncer throw out a completely hammered guy.

"But would I have been with you people in that case?" Genji wonders.

"If I knew the answer, I would tell you, but honestly, there are so many things that could have been, that couldn't have been, but here we are." Zenyatta replies, taking a long swig, as if this statement took something from him, that needed beer to be replenished. "Tell me something."

Genji makes an inquiring noise, turning his head to meet Zenyatta's eyes.

"Imagine if things went the way you think they should have." He begins "Would you have been with Motoko now?"

"Maybe." Genji replies, with a bittersweet smile, looking into the distance. "Maybe I would have popped the question by now."

Zenyatta smiles a little and looks down, just because he feels like it. Maybe to process it all. Maybe to think a little. The silence wasn't prohibiting. It just let them think. There was the thrum of music, but the silence between them drowned things out. It was their own little bubble.

"Sometimes I wish I could have known." Genji says. "If me and Motoko could have been something. Before she went back to the Rural asscrack of Japan."

Zenyatta almost sprays his drink when he hears the remark mid swig. Genji laughs loudly, slapping his thigh, having to put the bottle aside to laugh.

"Is that what you call Hanamura now?" Zenyatta says, coughing when some beer catches in his throat.

"More or less. That thing was where my shitty assfather did his number on me."

Zenyatta laughs a little more. "I thought that place would grow more considering how it has one of the biggest business families of Japan."

"I don't think any of that is left anymore." Genji says, grabbing the bottle from the counter and raising it. "Serves him right." he says, pausing a little before taking a sip.

"He's dead." Zenyatta reminds him. "You are angry at a person who can't defend himself."

"What about your case?" Genji asks.

"This night is about you moping over beer, not the other way around." Zenyatta says, suddenly feeling very hypocritical and self aware about what he had just done, but there was no way in hell he was going there. Not today, maybe never. Genji notices him noticing this, but they say nothing. Their friendship was stronger than any and all the uncomfortable questions, but it was also about understanding each other's silences as well.

"I guess." Genji says.

"But in all fairness, he's dead." Zenyatta replies, trying to make up for his hypocrisy. "He's dead. The topic ended with him, so I really don't think there is anything we can say about it."

 

"You're right." Genji admits. "Its the not knowing that kills me sometimes."

"Its a road not taken." Zenyatta replies. They look ahead once again, emptying their bottles. "But there is still one guy out there trying to reach out to you."

"Hanzo doesn't count, Zen." Genji says. "But I guess that's a different conversation for a different day."

Zenyatta honors this. Genji puts his empty bottle on the counter, where its taken away. "Well, I am moping, not you. Go ahead." He says, gesturing Zenyatta toward the crowd.

"Nah, not interested in this shit anymore. Playful and all is okay, but serious? Nah."

"Hmm." Genji muses. Another pair of bottles arrives. Genji takes a sip and lets a husky sigh escape. "I'm okay with it."

"Nah, the thing is, I feel like I would become someone I am trying so hard not to be."

"You are nothing like that guy." Genji replies, knowing very well what Zenyatta was talking about. "Don't worry about it."

"I don't want to, but I really won't take risks." Zenyatta replies bluntly. "I can never be sure."

"I guess." Genji replies again, eager to end this topic here. Things always got messy when they discussed those things

______________________________________

"I'm sorry." She says in a tone that is hard to miss. It was full of hurt and guilt. Yuna had pulled Hana to the side, when they were switching flights and had a little downtime. The boys and the rest of the staff was asleep, trying to conserve energy. "I thought I knew you. That you preferred boys, and not girls. If I had known Brigitte was someone you wanted to come with, I wouldn't have done what I did."

Hana feels a slight pang of guilt.

"I mean, its my fault too." Hana says. "I should have told you when you were finding a date for me. I didn't want to hurt your feelings." She admits.

"And yet you let me hurt yours." Yuna replies as if on cue. "I should have asked."

"I should have talked." Hana replies.

"And I treated Brigitte really badly too." Yuna adds.

"Yeah, the jab about her shoes was uncalled for." Hana replies, and the two of them giggle a little.

"When I thought about them, they did look cute in the snow." Yuna says. "The two of you looked cute too."

Hana blushes at this praise. "Well, she is cute..."

Yuna spreads her arms wide, asking for a hug and Hana doesn't hesitate to comply. They pull each other into a practical bearhug.

"I missed you, girl." Yuna says.

"I missed you too." Hana replies. They stay in the embrace for a little longer before breaking off. "I promise to talk to you more."

"And I promise to listen to you more." Yuna says. They smile. They were back to being friends. "When are you introducing me to Brigitte? I need to say sorry to her too, you know."

If this was her idea of making things right, then Hana was loving things already.

"I can't wait for you to meet her."

______________________________________

Genji was drunk as hell, and this probably wasn't a really good decision, but seeing how alcohol always lowered inhibition, he wasn't seeing it as wrong at this moment. He could reason that whatever the reason, there was no reason for Motoko to hold onto such an ancient number, the one he had from years ago, from their last time together, when they hadn't yet sorted through their feelings and given it a name.

But right now, with her contact pulled up on his phone, it didn't feel that bad of an idea. He was close to a ninety five percent sure Motoko won't wake up. But he didn't know. And all that discussion about not knowing, it was killing him. He didn't want to spend his time knowing about things that could have been anymore. He wanted to be sure about things.

And this is why he was going to make this call, to make sure there was no chance, that Motoko didn't hold onto foolish hope like Genji did, and had moved on. It would give him closure. Tell him to let it go. Let her go, set her free, even though he couldn't restrain her in a way that mattered.

Fuck it, he thinks, and dials it, pressing the phone to his ear. He hears the dial tone.

Strange.

It could be that the number had been allocated to someone else. He could see it happening, so he sticks to his guns.

Each subsequent ring feels longer as Genji waits for the inevitable. He waits for what feels like an eternity, and breathes deeper, not realizing he had been holding it in anticipation. It could be time zones, meaning Motoko would be in deep sleep or it could be broad daylight. His drunk mind doesn't remember what time it must be in Hanamura right now, but he could assume it must be night atleast.

But as he is about to hang up, something happens that makes his heart stop. 

"Moshi moshi?"

______________________________________

"Angela?" Moira greets her. It wasn't a greeting per se but she was surprised to see the woman at her doorstep.

"H-hello doctor O'Deorain. Good evening." Angela says. She's clutching a book in her hands.

"Is there something you need help with?" Moira asks.

"Yes." Angela says. "Actually I-" She begins, but goes red and looks around. "Can I come in?"

"Of course." Moira says and opens the door wide. Angela scurries in and Moira closes the door behind her. Angela looks around.

"You have seen the place before." Moira comments. "How can I help you?"

"I need you to explain me something." Angela replies.

"Okay." Moira nods. "What is it?"

Angela opens her mouth to speak, but then closes it and hides her face between her hands. "Its too embarrassing."

"How will I know if you don't tell me?" Moira replies. "Now come on. Tell me."

"Its-its." Angela hesitates. "Its related to a dream."

"A dream?"

"It was me and Fareeha, and it..." Angela trails off, going red again. Moira sighs. Angela can't believe she's asking her idol about things so personal. "...Fareeha had a-had a-"

"Had a what?" Moira asks, her tone even. This was Fareeha's girlfriend, there was no way in hell she wasn't gonna treat her nicely. But at the same time, Angela's feeling of embarrassment was getting very old very fast. She would have to endure this bundle of nerves, with her face in her hands. "Come on, had a wha-"

"Fareehahadapenis." Angela blurts it out, and for a few uncomfortable moments where there is absolute silence between them. Angela slowly looks up to see Moira thinking impassively.

"Of course she had a penis." Moira replies. "Its a dream, its not supposed to make any sense."

"It was a wet dream." Angela replies, to get a reaction out of her. A reaction would have been better to Angela at this point so she could believe atleast someone found this as weird as she did.

"She doesn't actually have a dick if that is what you're worried about."

"I know." Angela replies immediately, remembering the inappropriate touch, making Moira raise her eyebrow in response. Angela goes red for a second at the implication. "Don't you find it weird?" Angela asks, desperately.

"Weird, why? Because you are a lesbian?" Moira replies. "Its a dream, its your head trying to make sense of the information you give it. I could have a dick, my dick could have a dick in a dream." Moira says, and Angela cringes a little. "Okay, lets take this from the top. Why are you worried?"

"It feels weird." Angela says, fidgeting with her hands.

"What? Pre-Op transgender people?"

"No!" Angela replies immediately, a little too loud. "Sorry. But this in a dream is weird."

"I would say the other way would have been more believable but lets humor this possibility. Why is it weird? It could be for a number of reasons. Even wet dreams are normal, dicks are normal too. As for Fareeha and dicks, it could be a number of reasons. Scientifically, bit of your brain could still be thinking like a straight, and its mixing signals and this is me grasping on straws, but seriously, a therapist would help you more in this regard, if you are uncomfortable with it."

"I'm not uncomfortable with it, its just a little weird." Angela clarifies. 

"Why is it weird? Because you fear it will change things? Perhaps make things weird?" Moira says.

Angela feels a weight lifted off her shoulders when Moira puts it to words. Her fear right up there. She had touched the woman in her sleep. She felt guilty for how trivial things were. Moira notices the change in her expression. She feels all her annoyance leave her. To see how much Angela valued the relationship as it was. Her own expression softens a little. She gets the idea at that moment. 

Moira had met Angela's adoptive mother, and she looked like someone who would preach the values of sex as something bad if done before marriage. What if Angela finding this weird was more tied to the timing of the dream rather than the nature of it? Angela looked like she was seeing this as bad thoughts. Urges, in simple terms.

"Tell me one thing. What's your belief on premarital sex?" Moira asks, deciding to change the approach. 

This question apparently catches Angela off guard, which tells Moira she'd nailed the reasoning. Angela thought of sex as something major, life changing. Sex was obscene, not meant to be talked about openly.

"So, you've been raised puritan." Moira says bluntly. She feels the tone is a little too straightforward. "In short, sex is taboo to you?"

Angela fidgets again. Moira had nailed the problem, though not the way she wanted her to. "Not exactly taboo..." She trails off.

"Of course." Moira says. "So you mean you will wait until marriage to talk about sex? And until that time you will avoid these things? Ignore them? Let these things fester, keep yourself in the dark?"

Angela looks down. Moira grabs the woman by the shoulders and gives her a little shake.

"Sex isn't a milestone of life, or an irreversible thing. Its something people do. Its something people indulge in to explore, to know themselves better, to become more confident in their sexuality. Stop glorifying it for what it isn't. This isn't something you can't go back from. How can you be confident about being a lesbian if you can't even talk about these basic things without losing your shit?"

Angela takes a few moments to process this. "I guess you are right..."

"Well, you have your second opinion. At this point you should be concerned with exploring yourself and your sexuality with a person who respects you and your personal space, rather than wait for marriage and end up with someone who doesn't. And with all these years of living with Fareeha, I can bet a handsome amount you stumbled upon a goldmine." Moira replies. This was faster than she had expected it to be. "Is there anything else?"

"Yes." Angela replies. Moira's heart sinks a little.

"Okay," Moira says, rubbing her face. "What else did you want to know?"

"About homosexual dynamics." Angela says it in a scientific language to make it less awkward, and it tends to do the opposite. There's that weird silence again. "What I mean is, I tried to research about this and look for writings and stuff on it, seeing how I had incomplete knowledge about how this works, and that is how I had my dream, so I thought I'd ask you."

"Why me? Emily would have been a better bet. Isn't she banging Lena on what feels like a daily basis these days?" Moira says. "Also, she's your roommate and you would have been more comfortable with her instead of going red here."

"Emily would laugh at me, and since you are older, you are the one with...experience?"

Moira rubs the bridge of her nose. She knew she'd find a million papers and articles on it but here Angela was. But seeing how much a simple dream had harried her, she could see the woman tying herself in knots over the smallest things. Although this was something that partners should discuss themselves, Angela had no groundwork at all. Moira had half a mind to show her a few cosmopolitan articles but then she remembers how absolutely shit they were, written by someone who probably couldn't have sex to save their own life. A personal, one-on-one talk is good. She never thought she would be doing the talk, not to mention for a practical stranger and a fully functioning adult. Do this for Fareeha, she reminds herself.

"Alright, just go sit on the table, I'll be there in a minute." Moira says, and pours herself a glass. She needs alcohol to endure this. Do this for Fareeha.

When Moira arrives on the table, she notices Angela sitting ready with a notebook spread open in front of her.

"Ar-are you going to be taking notes?" Moira asks, her tongue faltering for a moment.

"Yes." Angela replies like it was the most normal thing to do. "Is there something wrong?"

Moira mashes the bridge of her nose again. She retreats, coming back with an entire bottle of alcohol, and setting it down beside her.

She would need it.

Do this for Fareeha, she reminds herself again.

"Okay, so there's two types, tops and..."

Chapter Text

Amelie hears Moira's footsteps, the crisp tap-tap-tap of the shoes. She begins making a second portion of breakfast, because despite Moira being as scientifically methodical and meticulous as she was, she couldn't be trusted to feed herself occasionally. Then Amelie hears the noise of paper hitting a surface. She turns to see Moira looking at a few bunches of papers laid out side by side. Baguette saunters in, sniffs the sheets, decides they aren't food, and saunters away.

"Bonjour." Amelie says, finishing up the eggs.

"Bonjour." Moira replies, looking over the papers. Amelie sets the food on the countertop itself, because Baguette was growing at an alarming rate. At this point, Amelie didn't know what age Baguette was, it wasn't normal for her to grow this fast and this big.

She would have to ask Gerard, because the walk with him had revealed that he wasn't as big a snob she had expected him to be. He was actually someone whose presence she could bear. And his plentiful knowledge about dogs was also admirable.

"What are these?" Amelie asks, passing Moira her plate. 

"You know I have to take a student in for an internship?" Moira says. Amelie nods. "So these are the candidates." Moira picks up a sheaf, showing it to her. "What about him?"

Amelie considers the man. "He's big."

"And what about her?" Moira shows her another application. The woman was as lanky as Moira was, although with long black hair.

"She looks like you." Amelie says.

"Okay, I'm offended by that."

"Why?"

"Because this woman looks like a psychopath to me."

Amelie almost chokes on her morsel when Moira says that. She takes a sip of water and then laughs. Moira sets that sheaf of papers down and picks another one, holding it out in front of her, chuckling.

"Now what about her?" 

Recognition spreads across Amelie's face. "That's Angela!"

"Exactly." Moira says, finally getting to her breakfast. "Now who do you think I selected?"

"How would I know? You tell me."

"I selected Angela. Her work is impressive to say the least. Others aren't bad, but she's that good."

"That's good news!"

"But there's one problem."

Amelie's smile dulls. "What is it?"

"Someone in the panel thinks this is a personal decision. Now what I don't get is, who at the university knows this?"

"Someone jealous? Or someone who wants her for themselves?"

Moira thinks, and then something clicks in her head, as her pensive expression is replaced by clarity. "You know what? I think I know who it is." Moira scarfs down her breakfast and then pulls Amelie into a crushing hug. "You fucking genius." Moira says, and then darts out of the door. Amelie blushes a little, propping her chin on her palm.

"Oh, Moira!" Amelie sighs dreamily.

______________________________________

"Well, well, aren't you glowing today, Olivia." Moira says, when Olivia gives her a hug. "Buenos dias." 

"Ay, buenos dias." Olivia chirps. "You want some breakfast?"

"Oh, I'd love some, but I need to run. Just came to collect Fareeha."

"Chiquita? Why?"

"I'm going to the university, related to some business concerning Angela, and I thought I'd take Fareeha too."

"What did Angela do?" Gabe asks, making the two women jump. He was absolutely noiseless if he chose to be. 

"Dammit Gabe!" Moira hisses. "How the fuck does a two hundred pound, uh-" she considers his attire-"barista like you move so silently?"

"Excellent choice of words, kid." Gabe confirms. "Dodged a bullet there."

"Who dodged a bullet?" Jesse arrives, with a tray full of dishes. He brightens when he spots her, dumping the dishes a tad too hard. They don't break, luckily, but Jesse gets a swat to the back of his head anyways. Jesse then uses this momentum to give Moira a hug too. "Lookin' crisp today."

"Oh thank you." Moira replies. "Where's 'Reeha?"

"Outside, getting the coffee shipment." Gabe says.

"Thanks." Moira says, walking out to the counter to see Elizabeth sitting on the counter, wiping her face. "Captain." she greets her.

"Aw don't use that tone on me! Come gimme a hug." Elizabeth coos, and Moira gives her an over the counter hug.

"Its rare seeing you here." Moira says.

"Ooh I could say the same for you, Darlin'" Elizabeth says, propping her chin up by the elbow. "Have some of the eggs yet?"

"I already ate."

"Aw bummer."

"So, day off today?" Moira says, inspecting Elizabeth. "You could use the rest."

"Oh no." She replies. "Was missin' the eggs and the coffee. I gotta go back to the precinct now."

"You want me to give you a lift? Its the least I can do for you."

"Ooh, color me fancy." Elizabeth says, waiting for Moira to lift the partition and get to the other side. "Well, don't mind if I do."

Moira offers Elizabeth her elbow and she takes it. They walk outside, giving a smiling nod to Genji, Jack, and Brigitte. Outside, they spot Fareeha signing the shipment, sitting on a pile of coffee sacks. "I don't remember you two being a thing." 

"Well, this fine lady offered me a lift in that mean Jag. How could I refuse?" Elizabeth says in her high pitched lilt-heavy falsetto.

"Oof," Fareeha says, "so you started taxi?"

Elizabeth bursts into laughter, rolling backwards and leaning onto one of the many piles of coffee sacks. Moira chases after Fareeha, but after a few minutes of running around, Moira gives up. There was no beating Fareeha at running. Zenyatta probably could, but he didn't have Fareeha's stride length.

"So, going to the hospital?" Fareeha asks, hands on her hips.

"Actually, I was going to the university to fight for your girlfriend." Moira says. Fareeha shuffles her feet and squints. "She's getting an intern with me. So I wanted to ask if you want to come as well."

"I'll come." Fareeha says, trying her hardest to sound nonchalant. 

"You ain't fooling anybody." Elizabeth says, and its Moira's turn to laugh. She grabs the two of them and pulls them towards the Jag. "Lets go ladies, lets make ourselves useful."

______________________________________

"She should be around here," Fareeha says, pointing to the group of white coats in the distance, as they draw closer, they watch the scene unfold.

Fareeha feels fear, she feels anger coursing through her veins when she watches those men grab Angela. Her Angela.

She practically launches herself out of the car, but Moira's slender fingers clamp around her wrist. She looks at Elizabeth and then at Moira in confused rage. Why was she stopping her when her Angela was-

"Watch." Elizabeth says, and points to Angela.

One of the men snatches her book away and Fareeha notices the change in a split second. Angela's shoulders tense, her feet spread out, as if bracing her. It happens when she throws her entire weight into the man and tackles him to the ground. The other lackeys look at this sudden change with a start and then look at the scene unfold with uncertainty, all the while Angela wildly rains fists on the man below her. The two lackeys begin to approach a decision and advance toward her girlfriend, but she's already running as fast as she can. Fareeha is practically flying by the time her fist makes contact with the one closest to her. He crumbles to the ground. The one remaining lackey runs to her with his fist drawn, but Elizabeth, running behind her, uses her size to her advantage and sends the man flipping with a clothesline, skidding to a halt. They both look at Angela, who was now bashing the man over his head with her book.

Fareeha pulls her off the man effortlessly, while Elizabeth, rounds them up. She squats beside them. One was clutching his head, the other was clutching his jaw and the third was just ruffled and slightly shocked. Angela had done quite a number on them.

"EMILY DON'T STO- oh hi Fareeha." Angela says, her mood switching as soon as she spots the woman, and turns back into her sheepish self. Whether she was red from Fareeha's touch, or from the physical exertion, she couldn't know. Fareeha releases her immediately, when the acknowledgement was made, giving the woman her space back.

"Mind telling me what was that about?" Elizabeth says, looking at the three men, who had no answer for them, especially for Elizabeth, whose badge was on open display. She didn't want to show the gun and the holster, but it was still visible. Occupational hazard. "'Reeha, I say we throw them in the slammer?" She says this and almost laughs at the reactions of the three men. She wouldn't abuse her power, ever, but this was a reaction she liked to draw from delinquents.

"Definitely." Fareeha says. How dare them.

"I can get them in for a day or two." Elizabeth adds, pulling on the identity card of the one closest to her, who recoils a little, seeing it was her who had sent the man crashing into the ground. "Eve teasing. Should get them thrown out of med school. Yeesh. I thought y'all were supposed to be good people."

"No." Angela says, firmly. The two women look at her.

"What do you mean Angel-" Fareeha begins, but is cut short when a finger flies up to stop her. She jerks to a stop.

"No." She repeats. "These vile creatures have learnt their lesson. That they will be dealt with if they take too many liberties. There is no need to punish them further for this." She says, and Elizabeth wants to cower a little when she notices her eyes, which are alight with ice cold fury, while the rest of her body was in a polite, attentive stance: Legs together, book clutched with both hands over her front. But the voice of her tone was searing. Full of venom. "People will forget them, society will shun them. Time will truly punish them. Their degrees will be useless, as no one will want to be treated by someone who doesn't respect anyone's boundaries." 

The three men whimper when Angela walks through them, kicking the closest one to the side. Fareeha wordlessly follows her, completely clueless about how she should deal with this. Elizabeth mouths WOW when Fareeha glances in her direction. She gets to her feet.

"You heard the lady! NOW SCRAM!" She barks at the men and they scramble to their feet, running for their lives.

"That has to be one of the most beautiful sights I have seen for a while now." Moira comments, who was leaning on her black Jaguar, parked a little ahead of them. Moira had taken the time to park the car, seeing how Fareeha and Elizabeth combined were grossly overqualified for the situation. They didn't need Moira to pitch in, even when she gladly would have. "Lesson for life: never piss a peaceful person off."

Angela blushes a little at this compliment, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, smiling softly, and leaning into Fareeha, who wraps her arm around her shoulder.

"What was that book about?" Elizabeth asks, curiously. "Somethin' personal?"

Angela looks at the book, as if she had just remembered about it. "Oh, I needed to return this to the library." she says, back to her innocent self. "Before I was interrupted." she says with a bitter tone. "Doctor O'Deorain, why are you here? Are you visiting the university for a seminar?" She asks, a little bit of fangirling still slipping in.

"Remember the surgery internships your class has?"

"Yes?"

"Yeah, so I volunteer each year to take someone in for the internships. I selected you."

Her eyes widen.

"R-Really?"

"Yeah, but someone in the panel thinks its a personal decision, seeing how I had rejected the best of the best and picked you over them."

"I mean they could be ri-"

"Nonsense. Your track record is fucking brilliant." Moira says, her tone even and brutal. "And I think I know who pulled this fuckery. That bitch Zhou."

"P-professor Zhou?" Angela asks.

"Yes." Moira says with three-fourths disgust and one-fourths anger. "That bitch hates me for the head surgeon job. She wanted it too but I got selected. Now she makes students lives hell. Angela, do you mind accompanying me? I need to give some people a piece of my mind. And I want you to watch."

"B-but this is rash!" Angela protests. "What if this convinces them this is a personal decision?"

"I couldn't give even half a fuck about what they think. You deserve this one, and I will flip this university upside down if it comes down to it."

Moira begins to storm forwards, but is stopped by Angela's question.

"Is the decision personal?" Angela asks her.

"Nope. I don't want any of those chucklefucks anywhere near my work, especially not fucking 300 pound Hercules. Other surgeons can teach him but I want someone who has a little grace. Someone who know's what they're doing." Moira says. "Your presentation on C1-C7 vertebra and the effects of long work hours on those? Refreshing. Even though its an already researched topic, what a relief it was to read it written by someone who knows what they're doing." 

Angela blushes even harder at this. "Thank you." She says softly.

"Also, if I didn't think you were up for the job, I wouldn't have taken you, no matter who you were banging and how close they are to me." She puts it out, in her infamous brutal honesty.

All the other three women take the same shade of red. Angela looks at Moira with a horrified, betrayed expression, as if her entire conversation had been blown wide open, and Moira had blatantly violated any semblance of doctor-patient confidentiality they might have had. Fareeha was wearing a reprimanding scowl, and Elizabeth had not bothered to make an effort, electing to facepalm instead.

"Oh, Moira." Elizabeth groans.

"It is what it is." Moira says. "So, Fareeha, you mind if I borrow your girlfriend to get her an internship?"

Fareeha's scowl deepens. Moira sighs.

"It would be better if you two called it for what it is, and talked about it like adults rather than just be giddy little girls. Angela, you're about to become a doctor. You need to be more mature about this. You know how beneficial talking is. Fareeha is a fucking gem of a woman. Don't shortchange each other by leaving things unsaid. Bare things out with each other, talk." Moira says, using her hands for maximum effect.

Angela and Fareeha look at Elizabeth for support. "She has a point." Elizabeth agrees. Fareeha sighs, while Angela still remains red. "I don't wanna admit it, but the leprechaun speaks the truth."

Moira does a dramatic gasp, with her fingers splayed over her chest. "I am offended." She whispers, even though it was clearly evident it hadn't even made a dent. She turns to Fareeha. "Now, Fareeha, you mind?"

"I don't think its my choice here. Ask her." Fareeha replies. Moira looks at Angela with an inquiring noise. She nods.

"Come on. We got some bitches to burn and get you an internship." She says, and walks off, Angela scurrying behind her. Fareeha and Elizabeth debate whether they should stay or not, and then come to the decision to leave.

______________________________________

 

"Stand down, Zhou, you practically lost your medical license last time I was done with you." Moira says disinterestedly.

Professor Zhou was a chubby scientist, and it was hard to take her seriously even when she was very angry. Her lip quivered.

"I will not stand for this!" She protests, and then turns to the panel. "This is clearly a personal decision. She is helping a family member out with this!"

"As much as I am not interested, can I know how you got this information? Because last time I know, I never mentioned a last of kin in any form whatsoever." Moira says, and Professor Zhou falters. "This means two things. Either you have a childish grudge so bad against me that you went this far to procure so much personal information, or you want Angela to yourself. Both are pretty wrong things."

Angela, who was looking from the corner, squeaks when she hears herself mentioned. The panel gives her an apologetic smile to comfort her.

"And speaking of Angela, I'd have no one else except her. Not the 300 pound gorilla called Andre, or that lanky psychopath called Miriam."

"Language, doctor O'Deorain." Maximillien, the head of the panel, says patiently, something on his impassive face saying he had dealt with her plenty of times. His fingers were steepled over his mouth. "I admire your brutal honesty, but I expect you to treat the students with respect. They have suffered through countless hardships to make it this far. You were one of them, Professor Zhou was too, and we had the respect for the two of you."

Moira considers this, and her face shows acceptance. "My apologies, Doctor." She says solemnly. 

"Apology accepted." Maximillien says. "Please continue."

"As I was saying, I was particularly impressed by Angela's work on the cervical vertebrae and their response to long work hours. I noticed a painstaking attention to detail and a very strong knowledge of the subject material. As an aspiring surgeon looking for an internship, and as someone who looks for people who know their work, I strongly believe Angela is the perfect pick."

"We were impressed by that presentation as well." Maximillien comments. "And as much as Professor Zhou's allegations might hold substance, we have no reason to deny a student this opportunity." He says, signing on the sheet of paper. He then passes the paper on to his counterparts, steepling his fingers once again, turning his attention to professor Zhou. "And as for you, Professor, I recommend you, as a well-wisher, that you stop delving into other people's lives. While this is truly damaging to your reputation if revealed, I respect you immensely for your work, and I am positive you will improve upon this." He says, now looking at the two of them. "I was a trip down memory lane seeing you two fierce doctors argue so passionately. I wish you well on your endeavors and hope we meet on better conditions next time." He says and everyone laughs, Angela smiling a little, now that the situation had been diffused. "This meeting is adjourned"

Professor Zhou is the first to leave. Moira gives them a small greeting and leaves, Angela follows her out, and squeaks in horror when she notices the scene unfold before her. Professor Zhou was pinned to the wall, Moira's fingers around her chin. She was lifted off her feet, and was looking at Moira with a look that Angela knew was very very far from fear. She didn't have the heart to tell Moira. Professor Zhou's clothes were disheveled, her glassed were skewed, her jacket off one of her shoulders.

"Listen closely, Zhou. Don't make me come over here ever again. Because if you do, I will fuck you up." Moira says, and Angela does not know how to react to this weird tension between the two of them. Was it sexual? Angela could only wonder.

But a few moments later, none of them had to wonder, when Professor Zhou grabbed Moira's head by the sides and pulled her into a wet kiss. Angela squeaks again and averts her eyes by turning around, and then squeaks once more when she spots Maximillien standing behind her.

"About time those two sorted through their feelings." He comments, his hands in his pockets. He smiles a little and then walks away. "Congratulations on your internship, Angela. Its quite a feat being fought for, by none other than Doctor O'Deorain too."

"T-thank you, Doctor." Angela says to his back.

"Ladies, you know our policies on PDA." Maximillien makes a final comment before making a turn and disappearing.

"Fuck me." Professor Zhou says, and her tone was clearly sexual this time. Angela goes red as she watches the scene unfold. "Fuck me up."

"What the-" Moira gasps as their lips break contact. She releases the professor immediately, who descends to the floor and doesn't bother to break the fall, as if her legs had been turned to liquid. Moira turns to Angela, and then walks off to the exit, grabbing her by the wrist. "I need some bleach."

"D-Doctor! Wait!" Professor Zhou says, pressing her legs together, reaching out for the woman who was walking as fast as possible to get away from her. "I love you." She whispers after her retreating form, in a slight smile and longing whisper, glasses still skewed, clothing still ruffled. Angela is practically dragged to the Jaguar as she tries to make sense of the situation, and tries to decide whether she should remember this or just use bleach like Moira was suggesting. But she comes to a grinding halt when she bumps against Moira's back.

"I'm-" Angela begins to apologize and then spots what made Moira stop. A woman with long brown hair, tied into a high bun with a few bangs hanging over her face. She was wearing a set of sleek, long linen pants and a lilac form-fitting shirt, with the sleeves folded over her elbows. The look was finished off with a pair of shiny black flats on her feet. The woman was perched on the Black Jaguar's hood, but got on her feet when she saw Moira approaching. Angela looks at Moira's face, which had a strange, reminiscent expression on it.

"Moira." The woman says, with a smile. Angela places her accent as British.

"Donna." Moira says, and Angela can practically taste the longing in the doctor's voice. Moira then releases Angela's wrist, which had gone numb long ago. Angela rubs feeling back into them. She turns to look at Angela half-heartedly, as if her focus was elsewhere. "Prepare for your intern. I'll see you later."

______________________________________

"You could have given me a fucking mobile number." Moira breathes out as she fumbles with Donna's shirt buttons, while fervently kissing her.

"Are we having sex or are we talking?" Donna says, equally breathless. Donna had made far more progress with Moira's clothes, having gotten rid of her shirt, and was fumbling with the buttons of Moira's pants. "Because we can only do one thing right."

"Sex. Definitely sex." Moira replies. "I'm not turning down sex after you coming thousands of miles just to fuck me."

Donna laughs with her hands on Moira's shoulders, and this allows Moira to make a breakthrough, discarding the lilac shirt to the floor. The pants come off much more easier. "Its not just to fuck you, but yeah, most of the motivation was to see you. Naked or not." She says in that high end British accent, saying fuck like it was below her to use such crude words. Being so sexy should be illegal. Moira gasps a little when Donna picks the doctor up and deposits her on the bed. "God, you're light." she coos.

"I didn't think I was exactly light but here we go." Moira replies, discarding her panties while Donna took the time to nibble on her ear and press a line of kisses across her jaw. Moira hisses in pleasure at this.

"Oh you're definitely lighter than Zhou." Donna teases, and laughs when Moira's face screws in displeasure. "She's so horny for you."

"Yeah, I found that out today." Moira croaks, but its cut short when Donna's fingers brush the inside of her thigh, hitching her breath dangerously. The mention of Professor Zhou had kind of turned her off, but Donna being Donna, it was impossible for the mood to be spoiled. She arches her back and feels Donna's hands snake under her to unclasp the bra. Donna quickly discards the undergarment, then straightens to take care of her own. Moira watches the unveiling of Donna's skin like the first time, not realizing she was holding her breath.

"Breathe." Donna chides, laughing a little. Moira blinks and breaks out of her trance, taking a deep breath. She watches Donna descend between her legs, but still not there yet. "Now, don't make me talk while eating you out."

"I can't guarant-oh fuckfuckfuckfuck." Moira says, losing her train of thought when Donna begins with her, lurching into her lips, her stomach doing a flip at this sudden stimulus. Moira's fingers card through Donna's hair, steering her deeper in.

"Steady, love, steady." Donna says, calming Moira down. "You're being very sensitive right now."

"What can I do." Moira huffs. "Its been so fucking long."

"Wait, what about Amelie?" Donna asks, stopping, one eyebrow raised.

"Stop talking." Moira whines softly, grabbing Donna's head and steering it between her legs, clearly irritated by the interruption. Donna gets back to work, making Moira moan, her chest rising and falling rapidly. "God, you're good."

Donna decides to not speak, shifting the angle of her mouth against Moira, a little deeper this way. Moira reacts with a moan, finding this angle a lot more better. Donna was using just her tongue, not wanting to do much more, seeing how sensitive Moira was. It doesn't take much to make the woman writhe all over the bed.Donna can feel Moira's peak building, her breaths getting shallower, her legs twitching in response. Moira screams when she orgasms, and Donna remembers the open door they had forgotten in their reckless, trashy lust. She lunges for Moira's mouth, cutting Moira's scream off with a kiss.

"Golly, keep it down!" Donna says breathlessly, when Moira finally descends from the orgasm. "Do you want the whole building at your doorstep?"

"Wouldn't that be entertaining." Moira huffs, managing to be snarky even when she was so spent. Then they hear a sound from the depths of the apartment.

"Moira?" Amelie asks, gingerly walking toward the bedroom. She had heard the scream from her own apartment, and while she had a pretty good idea of what that scream was, she wanted to be sure. That tiny part of her was screaming, fighting, biting scratching for it to not be true. For the reason behind that scream to not exist. That Moira had dropped something on her foot and it was her screaming in response to that. But as she walks slowly toward the bedroom, her realistic side begins to chide her. The reason was what she always feared. That Moira had already moved on, and Amelie was the dumb one to hold on.

Inside, Donna raises her eyebrows in awe. "Her response time is mind blowing." Moira runs her palm over her face. She didn't know what she was feeling. Her mind was occupied with her orgasm and her recovery from it. Donna's warm palm makes contact with Moira's bare belly. "Holding up okay, love?"

"I need a moment." Moira says softly. "Amelie!" She calls out. "Give me a minute!"

"I'll talk to her." Donna says, quickly picking up Moira's shirt and buttoning it. She then throws the sheets over Moira, who didn't have it in her to even move from her position into a more comfortable one, lying splayed on the bed at an awkward angle. Moira wants to stop her, but she doesn't have the energy. Donna turns to look at her. "We aren't done yet."

Amelie stops. Her dread rises when Moira says those words. Did she need that time to wear clothes? Why did she need to wear clothes? She was always clothed. She then hears the footsteps. Bare feet. But its not Moira. Its not her footsteps. Donna walks out of the room, and any hope Amelie had is absolutely crushed in that moment. She looks at the shirt, and her heart sinks even more. It was Moira's shirt, the same one she was wearing this morning, when she was looking so good. When she was sitting so close to her, asking her opinion on the interns.

"Amelie, Hi!" Donna says, and walks to Amelie, and when she draws closer, she catches the smell. That smell. That despicable, harrowing smell. Donna wraps her arms around Amelie. She was the same height as Moira. Amelie can't find anything in herself to hug her back, so she lets her arms stay by her sides. Amelie takes a short breath and Moira's scent fills her nose, but now its mixed with the smell of sex, making it so much more painful. She stops her breath. She won't let Donna corrupt this. What was this woman doing here? Why was she not a thousand miles away, where she should be? How was she in Moira's bed, wearing her clothes, making her scream? "You look like you've been taking care of yourself."

Why was it her?

Amelie nods half heartedly. The floor was now biting her, Donna's presence was biting her. The air was biting her. Her insides were biting her. All she wanted to do was to run. Back to her apartment.

But she stays.

"You people are busy." Amelie says. To anyone outside it wasn't any different from her usual tone, but Moira always caught that, didn't she? Wouldn't she catch the hurt behind those words? But what was the use? "I was just checking in, because Moira usually doesn't scream." She huffs, maybe to release some pain, but it just makes the pain worse. Was she wrong to hold on after all? Why wasn't Moira the one who could have come out? She could have convinced herself that it wasn't anyone, that it was her just sleeping and wanting to be comfortable. "Good night. It was nice to see you again, Donna."

"Likewise." Donna says. Atleast the woman had the tact to not rub it in Amelie's face.

"Say goodnight to Moira for me." Amelie says, and each word is like acid, searing her insides as it comes out. She walks away, and tries to do it as fast as she can, but why was she so slow? Why did it hurt so damn bad? Why? She doesn't hear Donna's greeting, which just passes her ear like a numb buzz

An eternity passes