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A rose at the curtains close

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Amélie Lacroix did not feel the cold. In fact, she felt very little of anything. That was how they had made her after all.

The snow fell in white swathes, and the coat she wore was entirely for show. 

Why she had chosen to come here at all, she was uncertain, but whatever it was she sought was conspicuous only by its absence. Years it had taken her to step on this ground, and now as she stood before the bones of the man she’d loved, and killed, and they’d buried without her, Amélie found only a hollow abyss where her heart should be.

She did not love him.

But, she remembered what it had been like to.

She remembered vividly the press of his lips to hers, the brush of his fingers across her knuckles, how warm he had always felt when he held her close in the safety of their bed, or the tender way he would murmer her name. 

She remembered what it was like to miss him. Those times they’d spent apart - him, dedicated to the success of Overwatch, herself busy with the many rehearsals and performances her ballet career demanded. 

It was his absence that made his return all the sweeter. After days of snatching only glimpses of one another she’d see him waiting patiently in the front row, and he’d toss a rose at her feet, and when the applause died down he’d find her backstage and sweep her up in his arms without hesitation. Then they’d drink, and dine, and laugh, and the weeks that followed were always bliss. It was in those times that Amélie had felt at peace.

Then Overwatch would call again, and his side of the bed would grow cold and empty. 

She hadn’t minded though. She’d known he would come back to her.

These days she only slept in a single bed.

Amélie stared at the grave, but no matter how hard she tried there was only the same bleak, static void she invariably encountered. Nothing stirred within her chest. Perhaps it was crueler this way. Tears were a response she could not give so she stood waiting, waiting for a cue, for something she knew she needed to offer even if it felt like she were only going through the motions, tracing shadows...

Would Gérard forgive her if she mourned?

She let the rose she’d carried fall from her fingers, hitting the snow without a sound. The stark red of the petals could only make her think of blood.

She remembered a lot of blood.

Sometimes Amélie still danced when no one was there to see. It felt something like this - steps all perfectly in place but still inexplicably vacant, a piece slipping through her grasping hands like smoke tethered to the breeze. 

She could chase it, but she could no longer hold it.

“This isn’t a day for the dead, amiga . There are better ways to spend it.”

Amélie lifted her head, glancing over her shoulder to see the figure standing mere feet away. The coat Sombra wore was several layers thick and fur trimmed, but the woman still hunched into it against the crisp winter air and the gentle flutter of snow, her head poking out comically.

The days when her sudden appearance would have been startling were long behind them. Amélie had given up questioning it.

Raising one eyebrow she pinned the spy beneath the cool yellow of her gaze.  “Like at the end of a bottle?”

“Ah, you know me too well,” Sombra said with a chuckle, sinking further into her coat. “Am I that obvious?”

“If you had somewhere better to be, you wouldn’t be here with me.”

The statement hung between them, and even though she could taste its truth Amélie wondered if it would have been better left unspoken. 

Sombra’s lips pressed tightly for a moment.

“Pretty depressing for both of us,” she muttered, but she was smiling, a wry and twisted thing. Her tone brightened, settling into something more playful. “Come on, I don’t want people thinking I’m the lonely kind of sap who ends up at a bar by themselves this time of year, do me a favour? My treat?”

Sombra pulled a credit card from her pocket, waving it back and forth enticingly.

Amélie followed the movement with her eyes. “I have expensive tastes,” she said.

Sombra’s grin widened. “Oh, this isn’t my card.”

She could have asked whose it was. She could have scorned the woman as she was so often prone to do. 

Yet instead she found herself turning back to the grave, eyes roving across the mottled grey headstone and to the blood red rose that lay abandoned, slowly buried beneath the falling snow. 

There still felt as if there were something she was missing. A word or plea, a prayer, a goodbye, an epiphany where the past would come tumbling back to greet her with every sharp affliction and the pain at least would be an answer. 

How many years had she delayed? How many years wasted, hoping what? Fearing what?

They were only words carved on rock, only old bones buried deep beneath the frigid ground - he would never kiss her lips again nor tracer her knuckles with his fingers, and she would never feel anything but a gaping emptiness that stretched like a chasm between them.

She did not love him.

She did not miss him.

But she knew that she should. 

She knew she wanted the rose to be more than a dead flower, to mean something she hadn’t the capacity to feel, nor to speak.

“He’s not going anywhere, Amélie.”

The words were soft, the softest she’d ever heard from Sombra. She could almost pretend they were imagined, a whisper of the wind.

When Amélie tore her gaze away she found the woman had closed the distance between them, coming to stand at her side with the credit card hidden away and her hands shoved deep into her pockets. 

Sombra was watching her.

There was nothing demanding about it. That was strange, for Sombra. In the time they’d known each other Amélie had grown accustomed to the subtle manipulations, the need for attention, the constant goading and playful mockery - Sombra always wanted something, whether it was a favour or a reaction. 

With her earlier suggestion she had expected her to say something more, to spell it out with perfect reason or to dig her nails in and pick at wounds too numb to sting.

Sombra said nothing though. She simply huddled in her coat and waited.

As the silence continued Amélie found herself sighing.

“He never liked the winter,” she said eventually. 

Amélie had always found it funny how Gérard grumbled his way through the winter months, constantly at odds with the cold no matter how many extra socks he wore. She had loved to tease him about it. She would make hot cocoa and they would snuggle on the couch together with a blanket wrapped around the both of them, cocooned from the world.

The omnic crisis, Overwatch, Talon… it had all seemed so distant back then.

Amélie closed her eyes. 

Against the darkness of her lids she could almost pretend she was back there, but as the memory played out she could only outline its shape, could not fill it with the warmth it needed, could not pull what she sought back to the present.

What did she hope to gain from any of this? What use was it pursuing the ghost of a man long gone, and a woman she could not be? They served her nothing.

It was a pointless indulgence.

“Very well,” she said with finality, opening her eyes again, “let’s go. I suppose someone should keep you from making a fool of yourself.”

Sombra’s grin crept back. “Awww, you do care.”

“Don’t flatter yourself. The last thing Talon needs is you spilling their secrets in whatever hovel you drink in, I’m… protecting their interests.”

“Call it what you like,” Sombra said, freeing a hand from her pocket long enough to give it an idle flick, “so long as you get a move on. It’s freezing out here.”

She exhaled a misty breath as if to illustrate her point, taking a few steps back and waiting for Amélie to follow.

The grave still stood before her, but Amélie ignored it. It had no tangible meaning, and for every grating aspect of her personality Sombra was solid, and real, and already prattling away without a care.

The wine would be real too. Its taste would be no phantom. 

Slowly, Amélie turned, her heels crunching over the snow as she allowed the distance between herself and the grave to grow, confidence working its way into her stride.

She drew her coat closer around herself. 

The winter air was biting. She did not feel it.

But, she remembered what it was like to.