Old Lullabies Die Hard / overwatch
A kid. Morons want to draft a damn kid.
Jack is wordless, slouched against the back of his chair at the round table. Wouldn't have been caught dead slouching in the glory days. The glory days: yes sir, no sir, posture straw-straight like the marching lines you had to keep. Those days are long gone. Just like his posture.
The rest of the people at the table are leaning forward. It signals interest, openness. Or so a corporate book with a dogeared cover used to tell him.
Silently, Jack tags them all in his head. Tags them so he can judge them.
Angela. Jesse. Winston. Lena. Tourbjorn. Reinhardt.
They're all leaning around a single picture fixed in the center of the holographic round table. Others are supposed to be there, more members of an organization that most people would like to forget. Maybe that's why they're not there.
"As do I."
"Sure thing, luv."
They look at Jack. He looks at the picture.
"Oppose." Kicks his feet on the table.
"Jack." Angela is obviously biting back her exasperation. Well, it's obvious to him, at least. Most people wouldn't catch the two-degree dip of her brow or the tiny shift of her porcelain—engineered—jaw. "You're always opposed. Might you share your reasoning?"
"Probably the dirt on her sleeves or the kind of hairspray she's usin'," murmurs Jesse with a bass chuckle.
Jack doesn't budge. "She's a kid."
"She's one of South Korea's most advanced MEKA pilots in existence. She's more qualified for combat than some agents twice her age."
That wasn't what Jack had meant, but he doesn't correct Angela.
"Do what you want," he says. Stands up. The motion makes his chair screech across the ground. Some of them wince, thinking of high-whining sirens or the whistle of long-range artillery. "You always do anyway."
He leaves the room. They all agree: new girl it is.
The new girl comes. He doesn't talk to her. He's not in charge of that. So she doesn't talk to him.
She's not in charge of that, either.
Winston contacts him. Asks for a bit of a favor. One extraction, fast, from the heart of a rubble of ruins. There's rumors that something nasty is welling up underground, something under the government's eye.
It's no surprise. The government's only ever kept a careful eye on Overwatch. Any other corruption is ignored. Put off. Smoothed over.
Winston scraps together a strike team: Jack, Tracer, Angela, himself... and the new kid. It's not until he ships them out on a private jet when Jack is given the location, and for good reason.
There's no place he could possibly loathe more.
But something makes Jack's mouth disobey his mind. Where he means to say do you think I'm insane, he ends up saying well, too much trouble to fly all the way back. So into Zürich he goes.
They move silently. They're used to moving silently. One wrong step, and the Petras Act puts them behind bars. Well. Not that the UN would be able to catch them, really, but Jack's not a man who likes to try his luck. Lady Luck's never smiled on him. He left that to Jesse.
He's watching the team from a healthy distance at the top of a decapitated building, pulse rifle ready and heated in his hands. They're at the door, trying to force their way past an electronic lock using one of Winston's contraptions.
He hears something loud and mechanical behind his left ear. Whips around and raises his gun.
It's just the new girl camped in her shiny pink mech, the android manifestation of a princess slumber party. Jack lowers his gun.
"Mornin'," says the girl. Waves.
"This is high ground," Jack says. Terse. "You're not supposed to be here."
"You're not a MEKA pilot," drawls the girl inside the giant machine. "How would you know where I'm supposed to be?"
"Fine. I'll rephrase. You're not supposed to be here because I'm here. Run along."
The girl looks at him.
Opens her mouth.
He knows what she's gonna say. Knows it with iron certainty.
He raises his gun. She doesn't flinch.
"You won't shoot me, Pops."
He pulls the trigger.
A single pulse rockets from the muzzle of his gun. It swings wide, missing her cockpit by a good yard... and hits the wireless transmitter at the top edge of her vehicle.
A green light on her interface flickers red.
"You—you just took down my stream!" she shrieks.
She glares red-hot bullets at him and flies away from the high ground. He doesn't see her for the rest of the mission.
Kids these days.
They return from Zürich. There's not much to bring back. Just a cloaking device, a large dome of it that spreads over humans and buildings and anything except the cold, hard ground. In Zürich, it cloaked an underground laboratory and its neighboring factories, but those facilities won't have use for it anymore.
Winston finds an abandoned compound somewhere in the eastern part of Russia. Spruces it up, gets all the maintenance working again. And at its heart: the newly commandeered cloaking device. Jack imagines the scientist feels guilty about it with every motion, but guilt isn't enough to stop anything. Never has been.
So when Winston contacts the stragglers of Overwatch and says, so, I found this compound that's out of the way, maybe we could all stay there, like, uh, old times, Jack can't seem to refuse.
Mess hall. Sleeping quarters. Lookout. It's like a home away from home, memories away from memories. Jack sits on a bench at the compound, taking in the dry, frosted air of eastern Russia. Not exactly weather for a vacation spot. But he's never liked good weather. You always see too clearly in it.
"Hey! You!" bites out a high-pitched voice.
The new kid, now dressed in a onesie that's an eye-burning mixup of blue grape, searing pink, and freakish white storms from across the way, her heavy steps sending plumes of snow rocketing upward with each footfall.
Jack breathes out of his nose, annoyed. "What are you doing here, kid?"
"I have a name, you know. It's Hana Song."
"What are you doing here. Kid."
"Hana. And I'm here for the same reason as you, Pops." She plops on the bench next to him. Stretches out her legs to purposely dig her heels into his thigh. "Living at a compound. How exciting."
"Aren't you supposed to be back in your own house with your dolls and teacups?"
"No dolls, lots of teacups. Korea and all." She shrugs. "And my country's post-crisis. They don't need me anymore. But stream life must continue, and you guys are the type of people to give out fun missions that my subbers want to see."
You guys, she said. Not Overwatch. Tactful. They must be on stream.
He really hopes she's been careful in filming the facility.
"Have fun with that."
"I will. Tons."
He waits for her to leave. She doesn't.
"What," he says, impatient.
She huffs. "You know, for some reason unknown to mankind, my stream adores you."
"The chat exploded when you shot my wireless transmitter. Ugh. I'm tired of seeing kappas and 'REKT.' They think you're hilarious." She pouts. "You'd think they would've taken my side."
He almost scoffs. Crowds always turn. Just a matter of when.
Then Hana jumps off of the bench, raises her hand, and starts typing furiously on this gadget that's fixed to her arm like a brace. The movement's sudden. Sudden enough to make Jack twitch for his hip out of reflex.
"What are you doing?" he says.
"Changing the title of my stream to grab more viewers. 'Tracked down that grumpy old fisherman. Interview live!'"
"I was a farmer, not a fisherman. Get your facts straight."
"Big whoop." Click click click goes the keyboard on her arm piece. "And we're done! Let's see what the stream asks."
He stands up and strides away. Big, lengthy strides that force Hana to jog in order to keep up. But jog she does. Just keeps on following him.
"Ooh, first question. This one's a doozy. Really popular fan theory." She clears her throat twice for additional drama. "Are you Jack Morrison, raised back to life by the nefarious necromancer Dr. Ziegler after the collapse of the Swiss Headquarters in Zürich?"
Jack stops. Glares at her from beneath his visor.
She bursts into giggles. "Yeah, okay, that's what I thought. No way you could be Jack Morrison. How could he turn out like you?"
Jack glares away.
"Honestly, Morrison seemed really annoying. One of those overly peppy, gung-ho patriots who always believed the best of everyone. Though, to be fair, he was probably just at the mercy of the media's marketing campaign. Heroes never have much say in their public image."
That makes Jack think.
Oddly cynical thing for a kid to say.
"Kid," he says, but she's already steamrolling on.
"Next question! Are you actually Ana Amari, but cross-dressing and using a voice changer?"
He growls. "Kid...!"
"Okay, how about Gérard Lacroix? Lots of fans think he faked his death and that Amelie went to Talon because she was ordered to make sandwiches too many times."
Jack stills. "There's something you should know, kid. And all the kids on your stream."
She quiets and looks expectantly at him with bright eyes.
"Some might tell you not to disrespect the dead. Truth is, don't disrespect the living, either. Unless you can protect yourself when they show up one night at your bedroom window with a big smile and a bigger gun."
"Is that what happened to you?"
He looks at her. "I could protect myself."
He stalks away. Doesn't know if his words were effective. Doesn't care.
She stops following him, and that's all that matters.
He shoots to blow off the steam. Goes to the range, a place of structure and order that he easily understands. Always was a military man at heart.
The mission to Zürich, though long over, has never ceased to haunt his mind. Still a wasteland, cleared only of toxic chemicals and environmental hazards due to regulations. The rest of the mess goes untouched. It's an ironic monument that the world has silently agreed to keep in pristine condition.
Visiting Zürich again makes him think of bright sunlight on alloy, the arc of a beautiful fountain, artistic statues erected in a garden of flowers.
Visiting Zürich again makes him see it all burn.
Jack removes his visor. Looks at the cluster of holes in tight formation around the target's bullseye. It resembles something. A frowning face, maybe.
"And here we see the old fisherman in his natural habitat. What a shot! What should we ask him, viewers?"
Jack bites his inner cheek and whips around. "I'm not answering anything," he snaps.
Hana is leaning against the door frame of the range. She jumps to attention. "You understand Korean?"
"Enough of it. Now turn that thing off."
She's quiet. He can tell that she wants to say no.
"Will you shoot my transmitter again?"
"No. I'll pick you up and throw you out."
"I know martial arts."
What Jack thinks: So do I. And I'm biologically enhanced. And I have at least 35 more years of combat expertise. And, and, you're a kid.
He looks at her.
"Big whoop," he says.
She turns off the transmitter.
Zürich makes him dream of the Headquarters, rich and lush in color, everything his world was rid of.
Sometimes he dreams that there are two women with him. One hasn't aged a day. Another is faceless, because he doesn't know how she'd look if she had grown up.
Those dreams are short-lived.
It's probably better that way.
10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 5.
The target withdraws into the ground. Jack grunts, a rumble against his neck, and reloads.
"Hi there, Pops!" Hana swings into the range, cheeky and bright-eyed. "Was that a five I saw?"
"Won't happen again. Run off, kid."
9, 8, 10, 8, 8, 6.
Damned pulse rifle. Damned fingers.
"Uh oh, the old geezer's getting rusty. Might want to activate your tac-visor for, y'know, that stationary target."
"Don't you have an alphabet to learn?"
"Already graduated kindergarten. Class of '61." Hana wiggles her fingers.
"Huh. Could've fooled me."
8, 7, 6, 8, 7, 7.
Sees concentric ribbons on the target. Curses.
"Well, to be fair, you did avoid another five."
"Shut up, kid."
"I have a better idea." Hana digs deep. Pulls out her pistol, bright and shiny and sleek and everything that Jack isn't. "Competition? Three rounds, six shots each."
"Not interested." Jack raises his rifle.
"If you win, I'll leave the range. And I'll never bother you again."
Lowers the rifle.
"Of course, it's not like you're actually gonna win."
He growls. "Hold on to your diaper, brat."
Hana's no slacker. Countless ejections from her mech have forced her to learn the way of the pistol. She's solid and consistent. But she's no crack-shot, not like Jack had to be when he served his time.
The thrum of competition has, somehow, brought back his good form. 10's, constant, unbending. It's no surprise. That's the Jack Morrison that the world knew. Excellent, always, all the time.
"Looks like you're gonna have to leave the range."
"Never say never, Pops. Upsets are a thing."
He's on 120 points, twelve shots of perfect 10. Hana's just finished her third round for 153.
34 points in six shots. That's all he needs to win.
"Still believe in upsets?"
If Jack won, it'd always be this quiet. A lifetime of peace in this roomy compound, without being teased, distracted, aggravated.
8, 8, 7, 5, 2, 2.
Hana looks at the target. Looks at Jack.
"Are you making fun of me?"
Jack lowers his rifle. Stoic. "Don't know what you mean."
"I play to win. So do my opponents." She drops her pistol, shoulders tense. "We don't lose intentionally. That's just BM."
Jack's eyes narrow. "There's no reason why I would lose intentionally."
Throws his rifle on the rack. He doesn't bother cleaning it out. He'll be back later, anyway. And so will Hana Song.
Here's how it all began. How he all began.
The story starts just like the papers say. He was a bright-eyed farm boy who packed his bags at eighteen, hiked the roads to the big city, and jumped head-first into the military, because anybody can be anything; or so they said, and who was a country bumpkin from a far-off podunk to argue?
It wasn't so glorious. Not at first. He didn't get along with the city kids. They didn't get along with him.
Li'l country dog should run back to his outhouse with his tail between his legs!
He ignored them. Showed those city kids how to shoot a bullseye on that rifle, just like he was nailing a coyote back home.
No, fool. Country grit.
Grit made by long harvest seasons and longer planting seasons. Grit made by older brothers who sometimes, often, mixed up friendly teasing with bullying. Grit made by Jack Morrison.
He aced his tests, flew past his troop. They hated him for it, and they showed it. So he ended up seeing the same person day in and day out—a young medic, one with a gentle smile and a bright wit. She graduated early, came to the compound for residency. Her dream was to be a field medic, right in the action and the panic and the brutality. She was kind and lovely, but there was just a chip of her that was slightly demented, and Jack loved it. Jack loved her.
That was the problem.
Everything Jack loved always turned to ash.
There's a covert mission. Monaco, retrieval, quick and easy. Angela's the one to put the request in. There's some data in some secure government function and she wants it badly, just as Angela is wont to do. That's always been her problem. That's always made her more dangerous than him, and he's the one with the pulse rifle.
The force is meant to be discreet. Just him, Hana, and Angela. Jack grumbles a bit. Grumbles that "discreet" includes a flying battle tank splashed with hot pink and minimalistic bunnyheads. Winston offers to go in his place. That only makes him grumble more.
So here he is. Monaco, retrieval, quick and easy.
Except retrievals are never quick and easy. Jack's learned this. Learned it until it was stuck down in his heart, blocked his arteries, congealed his blood. The only thing that's ever been quick and easy is death.
So here he is. Monaco, retrieval, surrounded by guardsmen on high alert from an alarm.
("Oops," said Hana, "that wasn't the button I wanted to press.")
They backwheel through the labyrinth of French-pressed streets, splitting off and rejoining in a chaotic, synchronized waltz under the Atlantic moon. Jack fires tirelessly until his rifle feels glued to his arms. Angela's at his back, mending up any melted muscle with that staff of hers, and Hana, Hana is somewhere in the side alleys, bowling over clumps of security guards with her rocket boosters.
Get back to the ship; that's all they need to do. Get back to Winston's ship.
Except the ship is cloaked. And in motion.
Jack growls as the—scientist—yelps over the comms.
"I, uh, found the guards."
"Uh... still looking on that one."
Pulse fire skims past Jack's leg. Blazes up his hip in a searing bolt of pain, only to cool at the touch of a golden beam. The lightly charred flesh sews together before his eyes. "Well, hurry up," he growls into his comm.
"I'm trying," said the—scientist—in a rare moment of complaint. "You guys called me over on really short notice. I wasn't prepared."
Jack empties another clip over his makeshift cover: an unsuspecting consumer-grade SUV. Angela's brows are furrowed as she crouches beside him and draws her pistol.
Jack's comm blips with static in his ear.
"Don't you worry your pruny gray head, Pops!" chirps Hana. "I could do this forever!"
She punctuates the statement with a barrel of gunfire. He hears screams, downed men. Maybe he should feel sorry for them. But he doesn't. He's an old soul, an old soldier, and he's seen too many people die for it to be a novelty anymore.
"Found you!" crows Winston suddenly over the comms. "I'm landing at the pier. Jack, cue me when to uncloak."
Jack bites his cheek to keep from cursing. The pier. A good minute of hard sprinting, minimum. Without cover.
Angela looks at him. "You're good, Jack," she says. "You won't get hit."
"You know who else spews that kind of bull?" Jack says. "Rookies. The ones in coffins."
Because the vets know—all it takes is one bullet. One press of a trigger. One lucky ricochet.
"Sounds like you guys need a mech," says Hana's voice over static. "Like... the one that's coming right at you!"
Out of nowhere, Jack swears, a giant, atrociously pink bucket of bolts vaults over the nearest building and screams by them. It pivots sharply in a tight circle, and behind the protective windshield, Hana waves.
"Hop on!" she calls.
No time to argue. Jack clutches one fin, Angela the other. Hana skims over the road in a whirl of mech legs, aided with the barest pinch of rocket boost.
Jack inclines his body, placing the metal between him and the enemy. Bullets ping off of the surface. He's unscathed.
"Bad news!" blips Winston's panicked voice. "They tried to fire some artillery at you guys. It missed by a long shot."
"How's that bad?" Jack demands.
"Well, uh... it hit my landing gear."
"I mean, it was either the cockpit or the landing gear."
"So, what do we need to do?" says Angela, crisp and levelheaded with optimal efficiency.
"I can hover, but we'll have to be quick or they'll hit us again. You'll have to make a jump, like, uh, thirty feet?"
Jack scowls. "We're not all"—gorillas—"scientists!"
Hana breaks in. "Guys, we're almost at the pier!"
"Hovering!" barks Winston. "I'm at fifty feet and descending!"
"How the hell are we supposed to make a thirty-foot jump?" Jack snaps.
"Can't Zig-Ziegler fly?"
"Not with passengers."
Hana's quiet, eyes fixed on the rapidly approaching edge of water.
"Say," she murmurs.
Jack feels a chill. "No."
"I'm gonna try something just an eensy, teensy bit crazy."
"Don't do it, kid."
"Pops, you don't have high blood pressure, right?"
"Because I can't have you fainting like a little girl."
"Stop thinking whatever you're thinking, kid."
"Great! Because I can only do this if I don't think. Chubal, yaedul-ah!"
And at that moment, Hana jams her thrusters at full speed and sends her mech screeching into the sky. Jack feels the wind tear into his cheeks with the sheer force as he grips tightly against the mech's fin. The air shimmers, and in front of them, Winston's ship materializes in a pop of clean metal and vivid engine fire.
Then the mech's overheated boosters fizzle into darkness.
For one second, they coast in a gentle arc, still soaring on the wings of their initial momentum, and then—then Jack's stomach rises to his throat as the mech starts to plummet.
But then, there's a clear, confident voice from inside the cockpit:
And Hana launches, launches forward and out and breaks her fall on the boarding ramp with a somersault. She vaults back to her feet and whips around, hands outstretched.
Angela moves swiftly. Hauls one arm around Jack's waist, pushes away from the mech. Her wings flare, tremulously, shaking at the added weight—but the slight boost brings her close enough to grip Hana's arms. Without hesitation, Hana throws her weight back, and they slingshot into the ship.
The boarding ramp closes.
Outraged cries and plinking bullets are muffled from behind sheets of metal, where they slouch against the walls, breathing heavily.
Hana pulls herself to her feet, only to crumple at the knees.
"Yeesh... what a ride."
She crawls across the knobby floor and towards the cockpit, disappearing through the hatch.
Angela looks at Jack.
"See?" she says with a knowing smile. "She's not so bad."
Jack spares a glance out the portside viewfinder, where clusters of troops dive behind cover as the falling mech shudders and glows. He breathes.
"No. She's not."
It's not so bad, said his wife.
She'd lost an arm out on the field. Wasn't a big deal to replace it, but it made one thing clear: she'd never run a surgery again. Just superficial wounds. Metal fingers, no matter how fine, were no replacement for human hands.
Liar, said Jack.
She'd crumpled into tears against his chest.
The little one.
I can never hold her. Not with both hands. Not like a mother should.
It's bad. It's terrible, Jack.
They return from Monaco, and the first thing Hana does is seize a plate piled with food and plop down at his table in the mess hall in his seat. Not that there's placeholders or name tags. Not physical ones, at least. Just the ones in his mind.
She eats with gusto and drinks sugary beverages without conscience, as if it's a pure coincidence that of all the empty tables at the mess, she happened to pick his regular one, and of all the four seats at that table, she happened to pick his regular one.
He briefly entertains the idea of kicking her out. Making her leave.
But somehow, he ends up sitting in the chair opposite of her.
"You have no idea how much this hits the spot," Hana belches as he takes his seat.
"Close your mouth when you chew."
Hana mimes zipping her lips.
"And elbows off the table."
"Really? Your elbows are on the table."
"When you're over fifty, you can put your elbows on the table too."
Hana rolls her eyes, but lifts her elbows off of the table.
Jack glances at a cut over her cheek. "You seen Ziegler about that?"
He gestures to his cheek. Her hand comes up absently, and she winces when her fingernail barely brushes against the surface.
"Oh, yeah. It's just a scratch. She took out the swelling. And any possible infection."
"Could've closed it up."
"I asked her not to."
She looks at him.
"In Korea, skin's a reflection," she says, and he understands.
It doesn't feel natural, waking up in a body that's healthy and whole and in peak condition when you've just witnessed ashy red skies and burning fields thick with bullet rain and halves of young men collapsing on top of you with their limbs ripped from their body by angry shells the size of your head. You feel empty on the inside. Torn up. Pummeled to a sliver of a shadow. Sometimes you wish your skin was as raw as the bleeding in your soul. Jack's scratched at it before, scratched until he felt less discrepancy between his inside and outside. Didn't stop the medics from patching him up again.
Hana abruptly stands up with her tray. Stretches gently before she starts trotting off.
"Just where are you going?" Jack demands.
Hana tilts her head. "I'm going to the training range. Duh."
"Not with that still on your plate."
Hana looks down at the little pile of leafy greens busheling out of her plate. "I'll feed it to Ganymede, Pops. It won't go to waste."
"Waste isn't the problem." Jack glares at her. "All I've seen you eat are meat and noodles."
"The two core groups of the food pyramid."
"They are. In Korea."
"They're. Not. What the hell are your nutrients?"
"Seratonin and endorphins. Easy peasy, Pops."
"True story. I get nutrition from winning." Hana flips her hair. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some APM to rai—"
Jack slams his fist against the table. Ceramic clatters against wood as all conversation pulls to an immediate halt.
"Eat the damn vegetables."
Hana sits and eats the damn vegetables.
No child likes vegetables. Not unless they grew up on a farm all their days with the luxury of their grandmother's unmatched cuisine.
When Ellie was still in her mama's womb, Jack was determined.
She'll love vegetables whether she wants to or not.
Then she popped out red and scrawny and weak and barely holding onto the tendrils of life, given to her at the sacrifice of her mother. Jack felt her tiny fingers curl around his pinky and saw the last remnants of his wife in her eyes.
Ellie didn't eat many vegetables. Not as long as she cried the right amount of tears.
Somehow, midsummer comes. The frigid snow of their Russian base melts into subarctic sludge, a muddy, icy syrup that soaks through the boots and through the skin and into the marrow of Jack's age-old bones. He spends most of his time indoors. No more hours lounging around on benches, feeling the weight of his pulse rifle in his hands and thinking of the days when he was always busy. Why had he been so busy? Too busy to look deep and quiet at the face of his wife, his child. Now he never feels busy. There's too much space for his thoughts in between his ears.
But this day, Jack sits outside, reading the global gazette. Terrorists. Conflicts. Extremists. The world had only changed for the worse.
He hears light footsteps trod across the snow, and knows the voice before he hears it.
Not Pops. Jack feels that warning light in the back of his brain spring to wheezing life.
He looks up.
Hana Song's spine is stiff and her arms are folded. Hips cocked, chin jutted forward a few millimeters—she's petulant and angry. Her foot taps rhythmically, impatiently, against the cement.
"So," he says, "now you know."
"Now I know."
He considers this for a moment. "How'd you find out?"
"Doctor Ziegler slipped."
Angela didn't slip. Just like Hana Song didn't call her Doctor Ziegler.
Hana's face tightens at his silence.
"What bothers me is that you weren't the one to tell me."
"Why would I? To a girl tromping around broadcasting confidential information in 8k HD."
She snorts, but he thinks there might be a few tears behind it. "I'm not streaming, Morrison."
He looks for lies. Sees none.
"Why not?" he says.
She looks at him with glassy eyes. "I don't know."
There's the lie.
"I do," says Jack.
For a traumatized kid traipsing around with a cocky facade—thicker than Crusader armor, Kreuzritterrüstung—it's got to get lonely.
Jack's a grown man, overgrown, with no facade, just acts as he is, bitter and strong like the black, black coffee he drinks.
And even he gets lonely.
Jack wasn't supposed to end up alone.
His gentle, stubborn little medic was supposed to be alive. And so was his little girl. But both succumbed to the omnics, even if in different ways.
His wife was in her second trimester when she got the call. Strike force for a lab in Warsaw. They needed a medic, one of the best and brightest. Someone who could figure out how the equipment worked in the least amount of time possible.
Her metal arm wouldn't be a liability, but an asset.
It was dangerous. But she needed it. And he needed it for her. Someone who was once the best and had it wrenched away from her—it left an emotional scar that didn't heal.
(Later, much later, he'd know all about that.)
So she went. And she came back.
Bloodied and bruised.
The baby... Jack, the baby's hurt... I failed... I failed, Jack...
They'd won. At a terrible cost, like all victories. She'd taken a blow to the abdomen, even if not a bullet. She wouldn't stop clutching her stomach, fretting over her unborn. They took her to see doctors, many doctors, but they all said the same thing:
The child's development could possibly see drastic changes. Perhaps you would like to consider starting again.
Starting again. Killing the tiny little daughter inside of his wife for the sake of imperfection. The sake of convenience. The sake of selfishness.
If Jack Morrison had never been one thing, it was selfish.
He and his dainty, demented little nurse agreed: no. That baby would be born.
Hana gets over the whole grumpy old farmer-not-fisherman is secretly the biggest Overwatch celebrity to exist conundrum.
Sometimes he wishes that she begrudges him.
The world so easily forgets.
And then one day, it doesn't.
On one day of the year, the world allows itself to remember—remember a day that he would very much like to forget.
He makes sure to shut himself in the secondary lounge. Communications off. Internet severed. Holo-vids disabled. He doesn't need to look and see streamers, balloons, parades and parties and political repartee. Speeches to honor the war veterans of the Omnic Crisis, toasts to remember the fallen, and stories of the heroes who once were, of an Overwatch in its glory days and a Jack Morrison in his glorious ways.
Omnic Crisis, Omnic Crisis, Omnic Crisis. The day of remembrance.
Jack's plan is to sit in this lounge chair and drink this coffee and read this book. Paper, classic. Published in 2015, give or take. It doesn't really matter. What matters is that it feel worn and rugged in his hands, something tangible, something that isn't sleek and bound in polished chrome.
Then his plan is interrupted.
He hears the footsteps keenly: syncopated socks over shiny tile. Louder, louder, louder—and then the door flies open and Hana Song bursts in, a blur of magenta and grape and all other blobs of kindergarten colors.
"Pops! There you are! Do you have any idea how long I've been looking for you?! I was running around like a decapitated chicken!"
"Good exercise." He drinks his coffee.
There's a box in her arms. She flings it on the sofa next to him, nonchalant. "Are you... reading a paper book? Your age is showing, Pops."
"Back in my day, age was a badge of honor. Meant you were good enough to live."
"Well, here in my day, being old just means you're old. And that the government is losing money on you."
"Government loses money on everything anyway."
She cracks a smile at that.
"Well, woulda ya look at that," she says. "The Golden Boy of Overwatch, saying such scandalous things."
So maybe she hasn't completely forgotten her grudge. The thought eases Jack's mind.
"What'd you come here for?" he says gruffly. "Complaining about the government?"
She shrugs. "Let's be real, Pops. When are we not?"
He waits for her to continue. She shuffles, left, right.
"Well, I… came to say hi."
Her face scrunches up and he almost snickers. "You suck, Pops."
"Not done, then."
She opens her mouth, closes it, opens it again. "No. Never mind. It's stupid."
"Since when has that stopped you?"
But her face is serious and set, and Jack feels his humor starting to slip away. She's carrying a burden that dwarfs her petite stature, and he has the vague feeling that if he pokes too much, it'll burst.
Hana breathes and it's shaky. He's not used to hearing that kind of breath from a kid.
"It's just... Today's the remembrance day for the Omnic Crisis, y'know? I kinda wanted to do something... different."
He closes his book and sets it down, waiting.
She breathes again. Paces to the left, then back, to the right, then back. Like she's waffling between a decision with every footstep.
"You know. Well, actually, you don't. On special days, my mom would have me wear this traditional dress—it's called a hanbok—and she'd braid my hair and wrap it around my head. Not that I could do that now, since my hair's too short. But... still."
"Go ahead. What's stopping you?"
Hana straightens and her jaw locks in place. "Nothing. Nothing's stopping me. I'll go braid my hair right now."
She marches out of the lounge and down the hall. Jack blinks.
Then she slides back in, skating over tile with her socks.
Jack looks up, fingers frozen in the middle of turning his page. "What?"
"I don't know how to braid my hair because my mom never taught me." Hana breathes in a rush. "She said she wouldn't teach me until I had a kid of my own but until then I never needed to know because she would always do it for me but she can't anymore so I don't know how to braid my hair."
Jack watches her shuffle back and forth, staring at her own feet.
Hana peeks at him from beneath her hair.
He tosses his book on the table and jerks his head. "Get over here and sit down."
Hana's brow furrows in confusion, but she obediently plops next to him. He deftly divides her hair into three thick, silky sections.
"Pops?" she says. "What are you doing?"
"What you can't," he says tersely. Tugs the hair—left over center, right over center, left over center. A sleek twine starts to emerge from her scalp.
Hana's surprisingly quiet. Not one quip, not one question. She doesn't ask where he learned to braid, or why, or how. He doesn't tell her.
"What're you wearing with this?" Jack says, breaking the silence.
Hana shrugs. "Does it matter?"
"Depends. If it's got buttons, the braid'll need to be up or it might snag."
Hana looks surprised that he thought of such a thing. If he's honest, so is he.
"It's here." She reaches out a foot and kicks the lid off of a cardboard box.
"White tissue paper. Interesting fashion choice."
She scowls. "Open it, Pops."
He pulls it over and shoves the tissue paper aside. His eyes fall over the smooth, saturated silk, embedded with intricate stitches of floral embroidery and little signatures of navy-blue cranes.
"It's the last thing my mom gave me," Hana mumbles.
"Ah." Jack returns to her hair. "When did they pass?"
Hana laughs coldly. "My parents? They didn't. They sent me to military school. Glory and honor for dae han min guk." She claps. It's a dry and shallow sound that rebounds off the walls.
"Too much attitude?" Hana mutters.
"I thought you were conscripted."
"I was. While I was still technically too young for the program. They lied about my age, and government was so desperate that they pretended they didn't know the truth." Hana shrugs. "Whatever. My parents wanted to show off that their NEET of a daughter was finally useful for something. You know, the one who did nothing but sit around the computer all day."
"You were a star."
"One who never left her room. And it wasn't until I murdered omniums by the thousands that I became the 'nation's little sister.'"
"Too much attitude?"
"You're talking to the bitterest man in Overwatch, kid."
"It's nice." She stretches slowly so she doesn't disturb his work. "I feel like you actually understand me."
The baby was born.
Should've expected it. That medic went nutty as a fruitcake after the mission, and she only got worse.
Jack doesn't remember the man who said that. He only remembers he broke his jaw, his nose, his ribs, his knees.
It was a fair price for a broken heart.
Later, Jack finds this worn spool of yarn just lying around a table.
He sits down and pulls the end. Bites it out into three segments. It's red in color, the kind of red that makes him think of smoky skies and rusted earth exploding around him. He ties a knot and starts the pattern. Left over center. Right over center. Left over center. Right over—
"I didn't know you could braid, Jack."
Jack looks up. Angela's leaning against the door, holding her staff delicately in three fingers.
"There's a lot of things you don't know about me."
Angela falls silent. Steps out the door. Jack brings right over center, left over center, right over center—fingers empty with the multicolored ribbons he doesn't hold. Not anymore.
Rainbow ribbons. They used to burn his eyes. Vivid, gaudy, pressing blood-red and lime-green and angry cyan against his irises. He hated them, once upon a time. Once upon a pre-Omnic time.
There was this street booth that he used to pass by all the time. A ratty, beaten-up little stall made up of a folding table—not even a hovering one—with a large pin-board covered in ribbons. Satin, silk, cheap cotton blend. Polka dots and stripes and lace. Sometimes, when they walked around town on his day off, she'd look at the booth with big eyes and swing his hand.
He never saw the use for them. Pretty, cheap little trinkets that would be lost within the week.
Something else, Ellie.
She'd loved those ribbons, loved them dearly. But when he'd put his foot down, she stayed quiet. Stayed quiet for her daddy and his pile of mounting bills. Stayed quiet for the red numbers on his ledger, printed as ridges between his brows.
One day, he'd succumbed. Took out a few of those precious bills and grabbed one of those bright, bright rainbow ribbons.
That day, the skies and streets turned red.
Sometimes, he likes to pull up a holovid and just look. Look deep and long, embossing the hard-chipped edges of the marble gravestone into the backside of his retinas. There's no flowers there—just ribbons, ribbons tied in giant fabric blossoms that spill over the verdant, weed-spotted ground. He should go back. Go back, clean it up, put on some nice flowers. Carnations, maybe. Or lilies.
"I'm back," says Hana's voice.
A different voice might've sent him scrambling to close the holovid. He just lets it run. Pours a glass of liquor.
"You missed a great fireworks show," says Hana. "They really go all-out for the Omnic Crisis."
He downs the liquor. "Fireworks. Not great for vets."
"That's why I watched it in my mech."
She plops on the ground next to him and reaches for the bottle. He swipes it away.
"Come onnnn. It's a holiday."
"Just a sip? I'm old enough. Mentally."
"You're a kid."
"Yeah. And a hardcore killer. Don't worry, I won't drink and fly."
"You won't like it."
"I can be the judge of that."
He narrows his eyes at her.
"It's a holiday."
He grunts and shoves a shotglass at her, filling it halfway. Cooing in delight, she downs it. And promptly spews it out.
"Gyuck—! What is this, raw piss?!"
"Do adults seriously drink this for fun? Why not chug a bottle of vinegar while you're at it?"
"Jin-seuk and Da-eun said that too. I think you're all weird."
Hana shuffles and looks away.
He realizes the answer. "Your parents."
She shrugs. So. The relationship's frayed even more. Maybe she saw them at the celebration. Saw something that made her want to stop calling then eomma, appa.
No parents and no kids. Two people in this room with no family.
Jack downs another shot. Hana fiddles with the sleeves of her hanbok, her cherub face distant.
"You know, everyone was wondering where you were," she says.
"We missed ya."
He knows what she means.
Her eyes fall—finally—on the holo-screen, and she twitches. He sees the motion she didn't complete: jump up, jump back, shuffle away. Gravestones have a way of bringing the macabre, even to a seasoned soul.
Jack drinks again. The buzz of alcohol doesn't punch even a hairlength into his half-synthetic body.
Hana looks at him, looks at the bottle, looks at the holo-screen.
"Who'd you lose?" She crouches at the gravestone. Her voice is soft, gentle, everything she isn't.
His eyes drift to hers from the cold marble.
"A kid like you."
No one had expected the air strike.
Not the United States Armed Forces, who scrambled at the chaos of the newly declared Omnic War, in which the nation could no longer stay neutral.
Not Jack Morrison, who bought a handful of ribbons for a girl and a handful of carnations for a woman.
Not Ellie, who lay buried beneath the wreckage of her elementary school.
"I got my livestream paycheck," says Hana.
They're strolling along the compound. Well, partially strolling. For Jack, it used to be daily training. Jog seven times around the compound, brisk pace, high steps. Then after Remembrance Day, he gained a pint-sized leech that shuffled in step next to him and chattered nonstop. Somehow, she slowed him down. The jogs became power-walks. The power-walks became strolls.
The strolls became conversations and highly inefficient to his daily schedule.
He cared less and less as time went on. Schedule be damned.
"That proud of being employed?" he says.
"Beats working at a coffeehouse."
"Coffeehouse isn't a bad place to be."
"You would know, wouldn't you? By the way, caffeine's a drug. So you're a legit junkie."
"What, should I switch to cocaine?"
"Sure wouldn't make you look any uglier."
She suddenly stops, and so does he. Habit.
"You know, Pops, in Korea, we have a tradition for the first paycheck," says Hana.
"Is this even your first paycheck?" he says. "You've been streaming for a while."
"Shush. I haven't been able to fulfill the tradition yet. Let me connect with my cultural heritage."
She draws something out of her pocket. A small box, around the size the of his fist. It's simple and elegant, quality black cardstock with gold trim. She tosses it at him, nonchalant, and he catches it instinctively.
"There. Tradition fulfilled. See ya." She skips away.
Jack eyes the box for a moment. It speaks of money, of careful consideration given to the details and the brand, of waffling back and forth before finally gathering up the willpower to hand over the hard-earned cash. He wonders, just a bit, what that Korean tradition for the first paycheck could possibly be.
Then he opens the box. It glides smoothly in a luxury matte finish.
He reaches in and gingerly extracts a shiny, brand-new—
—pair of dentures.
Taped to the bottom of the box is a note dressed in loopy, bubbly handwriting: You might not think you need these, but everyone else does. Love, .
"Kid," he growls.
More snickering in the distance.
He rolls his eyes.
He doesn't toss the box.
—that night, when he retires to his quarters, he finds another box.
It's after a long day of training. Lena claimed she was rusty, he knew he was rusty, the both of them figured that they could do something about it. So in the five-and-one-half hours after lunch and before dinner, he tried to shoot down a blinking target shouting jibes with southeastern British flair, and she tried to get close enough to land a pulse bomb on his old, battered uniform. They briefly considered setting the weapons to stun. That was what smart veterans would do, because chances were chances, and Murphy's Law had a way of surfacing in the most inconvenient scenarios. But they didn't. So the 'nades could have killed Jack if he hadn't perfectly dodged, ducked, and rolled every time, and the pulse bolts could have killed Lena if she hadn't timed and calculated her blinks with only milliseconds of error margin.
And then in the fifth hour, Winston jumped in (quite literally, right in the crossfire with his barrier activated) and chided them on weapon safety and that was the end of that.
The frenzy was almost enough for Jack to forget about his brand-new dentures—until now, the moment he returns to his quarters and steps into the minimalistic, perfectly-kept room as expected of a military man, and finds another box.
It reminds him of the dentures. Black, luxury matte finish, clean corners and a single logo embossed in good foil in the center, as if it's expensive and more than a sneaky little joke. This box is bigger, though—much bigger, hefty, taking up one quarter of his bed.
A switch activates in Jack's brain and he steps back.
It's possible that the box isn't from Hana at all.
He's about to activate his comm and call over Winston to screen it, but something stops him midway, leaving his hand halfway in transit to his ear.
If it is a gift from the bratty girl, he's not certain he wants anyone else seeing it.
He rounds the room, cautious. Always keeping his eyes on the box. His ears are open, ready to hear any faint beeping or humming or any other sign of electrical wirework. Only silence greets him.
The smart thing would be to call Winston, or at least Angela. Some doctor or some scientist. Jack's lived long, too long for it not to be embarrassing to die from an exploding box that had roughly a 72% chance of being a trap.
Why, Pops, you scared? teases the imaginary Hana in the back of his head.
He sighs low and frustrated and, without any further thoughts, shuts off his brain, strides across the room, and flings off the box's lid.
A golden glow spreads over his room.
Jack isn't sure what he was expecting. Matryoshka boxes, maybe, one stacked inside the other until they became some impossibly small that he couldn't open them. Or a walking cane, plastic if Hana wanted to play around, snakewood or brass-and-oak if she was at least semiserious. Or maybe luxury toothpaste to go with his dentures. If dentures even needed toothpaste.
But he knows that, of everything he was expecting, it was definitely not a golden gun.
It's a pulse rifle, just like his current worn and torn companion, same outdated model, but shiny and new, as if it was custom-made by some outsourced party who knew how to make good guns and how to make them look like old guns. The rearsight, the barrel, the trigger guard, all plated in beautiful, sun-yellow metal that makes the grooves and the little mechanical parts catch light like solid fire. The grip is still solid, sturdy rubber, perfectly functional and resting easy in his callused palms.
It's the Excalibur of firearms.
The cosmetics are frivolous and he shouldn't care—gold plating does nothing for a gun's accuracy—but Jack finds a piece of his schoolboy spirit rising up with a smile. Youthful admiration at a weapon that just looks—
"Cool," he says aloud. The word is too young for him, but he doesn't take it back.
He hefts it in his arms. A good weight, honed and refined. Where'd a kid get money like that?
A slip of paper flutters to the ground. He squints at it.
Here you go, Pops! Had to win a LOT of matches for this one. Take care of it.
And signed below is not her celebrity signature, not her call sign, but a simple "Hana Song," the kind he might see on a school registration form or in the top-right corner of an essay.
He stands there for a moment, looking at the note and looking at the gun.
There's a gentle clearing of a throat from behind him. If he didn't recognize the voice, he would have whipped around, clamped a pulse magazine, raised the gun, flicked the safety, pulled the trigger, all in one motion, a testament to years and years of combat expertise. But he recognizes this specific voice, this specific clearing of the throat. So he stays still and keeps looking at the gun. It's nice to look at.
"So," says Angela's voice. "I see that Hana finally came through."
He doesn't need to turn to know she's leaning against the doorway, staff clasped in her fingers, her typical gentle, somewhat amused smile playing on soft lips.
"She's been trying to give that to you for hours." Angela pauses. He thinks it's somewhat strategic, making him anticipate what she's going to say next. "She was supposed to do it this morning, but she lost her nerve. Made a quick flight on her mech to buy dentures at the nearest city. I heard it was quite a search. Eastern Russia is not known for catering to seniors."
He lets out some sound between a snort and a laugh. His eyes drift back to the gun and silence falls.
Angela smiles. Jack clears his throat. "The hell is it for?" he says, gruff.
Angela's eyes soften.
"It's Father's Day."
headcanons yup. this fic took me seven months to write. i'm kinda sad that the lunar year patch was released during that time cuz the hanbok scene was one of the first scenes i wrote and. now it looks like i just ripped of blizzard. o well. cri.