When they had been young men together, it was an absolute given that they would live forever. They were indestructible, invincible, incredible…
What had seemed unlikely at the time was now a given. Time, that most deadly of enemies, could be staved off only so long without making serious and usually highly questionable concessions and Jack Morrison was not the kind of man to whom deals with demons came easily.
Or at all, for that matter.
The morning he’d found that first grey hair nestled contentedly within the blond had woken him to the fact that his own mortality was a challenge he now had to face every day. He’d reached the decision, when he’d developed a constant and inexplicable nagging ache in his lumbar spine, that single-handedly taking down the forces of Talon was infinitely preferable to blowing out the considerable candles on his metaphorical birthday cake.
It was good-natured grumbling for the most part. The recruits were seemingly getting younger and this newcomer, the young British woman, made him tired with her boundless energy and effortless optimism. Still, there was something – what was the word she’d taught him again? Ah, yes. Something chipper about Lena Oxton that made him smile beneath the scowl. Quite a long way beneath the scowl.
She’d certainly proven herself in the field. The King’s Row Uprising had given her every opportunity to fail but the reports from Lindholm, Wilhelm and Doctor Ziegler had been pleasing in the extreme. A little prone to setting off on her own perhaps, but that was where her unique ability allowed her to shine. Lena – or Tracer as the team had dubbed her – was able to zip in and out in the blink of an eye creating carnage and confusion in her wake. Even the Omnics found it hard to bring her down. She was absolutely an asset to the team and despite his forced professionalism, Morrison found his attitude naturally softening around her.
She’ll twist you round her little finger, that one. Watch out for those paternal instincts, Jack.
Gabriel’s words echoed in his mind and he switched his consideration to that of his long-time friend. Reyes was changing, too. Not just ageing as he was, but there had been a subtle shift in his mindset. The two had always complemented one another; Reyes was the shadow to Morrison’s often blinding light. He was the chaos to the calm. Reyes had always been sombre and moody but of late, that had been more pronounced. It was just one more worry to add to the considerable pile. Thinking of Reyes troubled him more deeply than he had the capacity to express. Had he been of a different mindset, he would have sat down with the man. Talked the matter through. But there was no time these days. He had to oversee the organisation’s logistics from headquarters while Reyes was frequently out in the field commanding Blackwatch.
Was that… envty he felt? That Reyes still had the rein to go out and fight the good fight while he was looking at a comfortable desk job for the remainder of his time to be served?
“Commander Morrison?” There was a rap at the door that tore him from his reverie. He pushed thoughts of Gabriel Reyes to the back burner where they could simmer gently until such time as he could address the matter.
“Cadet Oxton. Thank you for coming to see me. Please.” He waved vaguely at the desk opposite him. “Take a seat.”
She was a slight little thing, slim as a reed and leaving the impression that she could break in a stiff wind, but he was well aware of her strengths, not to mention her courage. Young she might be, but there was a fearlessness to the young woman that was greatly admirable. But she had not come to see him to receive his praise. His task today was infinitely more complex than that.
With caution evident in her eyes, she sat down. Her right leg jiggled slightly; it was nigh on impossible for her to remain stationary for any length of time. It could have been irritating in someone else, but Reyes was right. She had twisted him round her little finger. Yet another sign of his softening into middle age.
Morrison put on what he hoped was his most serious expression.
“You’ve performed in the field in a most exemplary fashion…” He began his well-practiced speech, brow furrowed in a stern manner. He leaned forward on the desk, his chin resting in his hands as he studied her with intensity. She squirmed and not just with restlessness. “But I’ve been asked by Engineer Lindholm to – ah – have a word about your practical jokes.”
“Oh?” Her innocence fooled nobody, but she seemed to be thinking about his words. Then her eyes widened. “Ohhhhh… that.”
“Blinking into Torbjorn’s workshop while he’s working and replacing his hammer with one that went ‘squeak’ when he used it…”
“Was hilarious,” she interjected with an infuriatingly infectious giggle.
“Need to get people round here to lighten up,” she chirped, brightly. “I know, I know, there’s war and all that stuff, but sometimes you just have to say ‘bollocks’ to it all and have a bit of a giggle. I put all his tools back. Nothing blew up, exploded or generally went wrong, so it’s all fine, right, Commander?”
He was losing control in a way he didn’t understand.
“Good talk.” She got to her feet, made finger guns in his direction and beamed her smile. “I like what you’ve done with your hair, by the way – are those silver highlights? That’s pretty cool. Cheerio!”
She’d already gone.
Nothing where she’d been except a vague and passing imprint of her shape on his retina. Morrison sighed, wearily and wondered exactly when it was he had woken up and lost control of his own life. With a deep sense of letting go of who he had been, he not only embraced the encroaching stereotype, he welcomed it home after the second date to meet his parents.
“The youth of today,” he muttered to himself. “Don’t respect their elders.”