𝙹𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝙼𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚒𝚜𝚘𝚗 (𝚂𝚘𝚕𝚍𝚒𝚎𝚛:𝟽𝟼), 𝙹𝚎𝚜𝚜𝚎 𝙼𝚌𝙲𝚛𝚎𝚎, 𝚂𝚑𝚛𝚒𝚔𝚎 (𝙰𝚗𝚊 𝙰𝚖𝚊𝚛𝚒)
Some twenty-five minutes later, the sound of Ana’s heavy boots crunching against gravel could be heard on the path up to the safehouse. Her commandeered hovercar had been abandoned somewhere both inconspicuous and far enough away from the location itself so as to not draw attention to it. There was no way it would be anything more than a temporary shelter for twenty-four, maybe forty-eight hours, especially with the new information Ana had gleaned from the pockets of one of the many mooks.
Upon marching up to the door, knocking once and reciting the password with a tired smirk beneath her mask, Ana took stock of the situation: the Cowboy was on the ground, surely more exhausted than she felt, and Jack was up and pacing. That awful visor of his made it impossible to detect any discomfort in his features, which were stoic enough to begin with.
But she didn’t have time to dally. Ana crouched down next to Jesse, unsure as to whether he was conscious or not, but she didn’t particularly care. This wasn’t the time for a grand unmasking, when she would stroke his hair and tell him she was so, so sorry, and that she didn’t mean to leave him in the dark –– there would never be a time for that. Instead, her goal was to extract a small, pin-shaped device tucked between the loose threads of his serape.“Tracker on him,”
she explained brusquely, voice low and masculine through the modulator.
Jack paused in his passing, visor trained on the device in Ana’s hand. “How long do we have?”
he meant for the inevitable reinforcements, but also made to look at Jesse’s currently prone form. That leg - his eyes darted to it - needed fixing up before they got into any more scuffles.
Without any further responses, Jack turned toward the lone cabinet: a heavy, metallic thing pressed into one of the walls. Searching through it gave them rations to last the night, as well as the object Jack meant to search for. With the small medkit in hand, he moved beside Jesse, dropping down to sit perpendicular to him. He paused, for a moment, looking down at the now opened box before lifting his head to meet Ana’s mask.“Would you like to do the honors, ma’am?”
he asked, holding out the box to her. The unspoken ‘He is one of yours, after all,’ was just on the tip of his tongue, but the gesture translated those words well enough. She didn’t need to hear it; it might tip her over the edge. They couldn’t reveal themselves, not yet - not ever.Ana. I can’t--I can’t feel m’arm… it’s not there ‘ny more. I--I can’t see it, Ana. Ma, please. I can’t--
Jack Morrison was a thorn in her side and had been ever since she laid eyes on the blue-eyed, blonde-haired baby from the Midwest. As if it wasn’t difficult enough to be in the same room as McCree without the ‘good old days’ –– and the bad –– flooding back into her mind with all the force of a tsunami.
But, with first-hand knowledge of how the esteemed Commander used to patch himself up on the field to avoid visiting one of the medical teams, it was better she take matters into her own hands. Ana snatched the kit from him, rifling through with soldierly precision until she had taken a brief inventory. “Is this really all you could afford?”
she muttered accusatively at someone who was not present. “It’s no wonder Blackwatch went up in flames.”
A crumpled up note from ‘Rexx’ was the only apology for the missing opiates. Most of what was left was past its sell-by dates by four years or longer. One single-use nano-injection remained, and she separated it from its protective casing with ease. Ana was no doctor. She didn’t learn how to fix up her teammates in the clinical cleanliness of a lab environment. With little haste, she used her own dagger from her guerilla days to remove all the fabric she could from the leg wound for better inspection.
It was deep, but not life-threatening, nestled amongst the bruised and mottled flesh of previous injuries. It would be a waste to use one of her own darts on it, because it didn’t need the heavy duty healing of triage nanomachines. (And she was running low, though if McCree needed it, she’d use a hundred of them before she let him suffer.) Some stale biotics would be enough to get him up and going again, performing all the functions of a medic in one swift injection.
All she had to do was stitch
.“There’s a field in the general area that repels signals, so I’d give it a few hours –– five, six if they manage to get a search team together on short notice,”
Ana told him as she set about checking McCree’s pupils with a pen-light for a concussion. Definitely unconscious too, though that was obvious from the lack of any protest. “Lucky cowboy.”“Hm,”
Jack lifted himself from his knee, sliding into one of the metal chairs - they needed a good dusting, but he didn’t mind. Give or a take a few hours, they all had time to rest up, eat, get refueled. But the countdown started the minute Ana voiced their window of time; it meant Jack would take most of his time to pace and formulate ideas. He never did well, waiting - he’d rather things just happen immediately.
For all their time, he might as well do something useful. Jack piled the rations onto one of the tables, still seated, and took his time reading over expiry dates. “For all the children you have,”
he commented, his gaze hidden by the red of his visor, “the one you treat the best is the one you didn’t bother birthing. You were closer to him than I. Make me regret not caring for Jesse as you did, but you know how Gabriel was about his particular charges.”
Even for how little Ana cared about her actual children - it was painfully obvious she shed no tears for them for how she left things - it was obvious something nagged at the back her mind. Seemed the only person she ever regretted leaving was unconscious on the floor. Jack frowned, not having caught on for long how much she loved Jesse. Like her own. But, not, since she didn’t actually care much of her own.“You know, I always used to say I wanted a son,”
Ana reminded him with a wry grin. Both of them knew it wasn’t the whole truth. It might have been, once, when she was a much younger woman, but after her first daughter was born, she swore no more––with the exception of her second-born, who was the result of a cold, brokered deal. Antoine, the sleazy Canadian who served alongside her in Egypt before the Omnic War, wanted an heir of his own to raise. Ana needed crucial information on UN corruption. “Fareeha… well, I’m proud of her, and Nefera isn’t one of mine. I don’t think I’ve ever said more than a few words to her. I doubt she remembers them. McCree was the one who needed a little extra care, that was obvious from the moment Gabriel wrangled him in.”
With the wound stitched and the pause growing longer, she tutted. McCree’s six-shooter was far too close to someone who might wake-up at any minute, and all of Blackwatch knew how twitchy the kid could be. Ana slid it away from him with her heel. “I wish I could say it’s all down to motherly urges, but it’s not. It’s not just that. It’s narcissism.”
Shrike’s opaque mask still covered her face, beneath a hijab, but she tapped where her missing eye would be. “I needed to teach someone this –– The Eye of Horus; Jesse’s Deadeye –– before I lost it. Not just anyone would do. Fareeha was always more talented with weapons of less finesse, and the Eclipse boy showed promise, but didn’t treat it seriously enough. He didn’t have the right constitution for cold-blooded murder.”“But Jesse was perfect for it.”
Jesse McCree was more than just a son or a protege: he was the next step in a legacy Ana thought would die out with her. Just as she would hear her mother’s voice each and every time she had looked down the scope with impossible concentration, so too would he hear hers forevermore. One day, McCree might even continue the cycle on his own. Ana hoped she would be there if or when it happened.
Jack was no hypocrite, however, so he didn’t mention his observation. Just like Ana, his children weren’t usually on his mind. Not that they were his own, to begin with. The UN wanted a white picket fence, nuclear family and he provided if only to rub the salt into Gabriel’s wounds. But, he had his conditions and they adhered to them: adopted children, a beard of a wife, and enough work to keep away from actual interaction. And they had their’s, to which he spat on multiple times over his and Gabriel’s many “romantic” reunions inside storage closets and empty meeting rooms.“Looking back, I can’t imagine how petty I was,”
he said, wondering if Ana cared to listen. “We could have avoided a lot if my own pride hadn’t gotten the best of me. But you aren’t here to listen to an old man’s regrets, or apologies: I wanna know how you managed it. Slipping under the radar for so long.”
Ana thought it best to let sleeping dogs lie. Digging up the memory of Gabriel would do nothing but hurt the both of them. He had been one of her closest friends in the end, and though she would have never admitted it in front of him, Captain
Amari once considered him and Jack to be brothers––little brothers, back when they were wide-eyed teenagers fresh out of training.
It hurt to think of what had become of them. All of them.
She answered his question. “Antoine… That is, Fareeha and Nefera’s father, promised me a lifetime of favours. Probably because he knew he couldn’t follow through with them all, the sleazy––”
Ana cut the following curse-word off. It wasn’t bad blood between them so much as it was absolute frustration, which anyone with even the tiniest sliver of sense would feel in the man’s presence. “I made it to Quebec, and he equipped me out with everything I’d need. Physiotherapy. Real therapy. And after that I just...”
Continued existing, in spite of it all. “I’m sure you understand. I thought you and Gabriel had destroyed each other in Zurich,”
she explained. Although she would never voice it aloud, Ana thought it would have been the most fitting end to their explosive rivalry: both going up in flames at the same time. “I didn’t expect you to survive––or to become a bounty-hunter, like me. You were…”
A dark laugh broke the stillness of the room. “So vanilla.”
Would be a fitting end for bitter rivals and bitter lovers. Jack didn’t deny that, simply chose to turn his attention toward the stacked rations in front of him. But her comment got him chuckling, regardless and a weary smile stretched his lips behind the mask. “I’m afraid I’m still very vanilla,”
he said while leaning back in the chair - it creaked at his weight, “I’ve just become a bit spoiled - I might as well be curdled milk, now I-”
Jack’s head snapped to the side, locking onto the sudden groan and yelp from McCree’s direction. The cowboy shuffled, groggy, but visibly shaken by his sudden surroundings. His hands padded at the emptied holster. Confusion settled in, just before panic as he failed to draw more space between what he’d supposed were his captors. A number of noises, garbled in the back of his throat, came out to an uneffective threat - Jesse growled a number of times before falling onto his ass.“Th’ hell’s goin’ on?”
Jesse tried barking, voice rasping as he winced at the prickles in his throat, “Where ‘m I? Where’s m’ gun?”
His hands grasped at his emptied supply of flashbangs, brows pinching.“You’re gonna rip those stitches, kid-”“Fuck you,”
Jesse snarled, already setting himself into a corner. Out of all the past agents, Jack found out the hard way just how dangerous Jesse was when backed into a corner. Unlike most, the cowboy had a lot of experience on the streets, so self-preservation tended to gain a heavy foothold over his most basic instincts. Jack made no move, though he did incline his head toward Ana, hoping she’d know best how to handle it. After all, she was the one observing Jesse’s interrogation and knew just how much the kid had humiliated him that first time. He wasn’t going to make that same mistake, now.
A small beep and a flash of red caught his attention, however, and Jack used that excuse to wander to the far side of the bunker.“Sit down before you fall down,”
Ana (as Shrike) ordered. She had almost forgotten. She almost sounded like her old self, like the mentor McCree would definitely have recognised. Shrike’s gruff, androgynous voice wasn’t enough to mask her own affectations in front of someone who knew her well. She had to act the part. “Don’t be a fool and think. Look around. You recognise this place, don’t you?”
Ana didn’t give him time to answer. “It’s an old Blackwatch safe-house. You’ve been here before. You led –– my acquaintance here to it. If we wanted to kill you, or drag you off to collect your bounty… Son, you’d already be in Talon’s hands.”
After ten years on his own, Jesse knew when to let the fight go, but that didn’t make him suddenly amicable. He kept to his corner, wincing as he slid down against the wall to grasp his calf. For a moment, he contemplated picking the stitches, but thought better of it - it just made him feel like a kid again. Though, in setting himself in the bunker’s corner, keeping a steady vantage point of two of his saviors and/or captors. He wouldn’t judge, a man needed money, but it didn’t make him trust the two any more. Because that was a double edged sword: a man needed money, so he’d do anything for it.
Still, Jesse let himself lull, tipping his head back as he gave a sweep of the small room. Reyes had dragged him here after a botched mission - his fault. Chewing him out on the way there meant Reyes cool off once they’d trudged their way through the warehouse. He stilled chuckled hearing the rough, gravel of his voice repeat the bunker’s password and how it lit up after that, even if he hid the smile afterwards.
Jesse sighed, watching as the Jack (Soldier:76) made his way to address the two of them. “A mutual benefactor says we’ve got reinforcement on the way: a sword and a hammer,”
Jack said, casting a look at Jesse who’d somehow found a cigar to chew on in the ten seconds he took to talk, “we just have to sit tight.”
He still stared at Jesse as he spoke, pausing for a good enough time to annoy Jesse into giving a response.“Got somethin’ on my face, pendejo?”
He only got a scoff before the soldier turned his partner around. “We have four hours to pack up and go before they get here. You understand who I’m talking about, right? We can use the commotion to jump ship. I understand that there are… things that you want to avoid.”“Did you say ‘hammer’?”