The first time Sombra met Gabriel Reyes she was unimpressed.
She had just joined Talon, the initial excitement regarding the idea of her new employment having waned after enduring hours of briefing and filling out pounds of paperwork. As it turned out, ingress into an organized terrorist superpower was lengthy, anticlimactic, and really, truly boring. Sombra thrived on action and chaos, so needless to say she was less than enthusiastic as some vapid, banal grunt showed her around and introduced her to higher-ups with all the charisma of a rat carcass.
(Sombra was a mastermind when it came to reading people, but if people were books then this man's pages were blank. He had dark hair trimmed and styled conservatively, moderately muscular physique, and a boring, symmetrical face characteristic of what most people considered attractive. His voice was deep and he spoke without a noticeable accent or opinion towards anything, leaving no impression whatsoever. He was like a white-collar variety of criminal and it instantly made Sombra wary. She’d been surrounded by thugs and con artists her entire life, and this wasn’t how she knew them to act.)
Nevertheless, she followed the dull agent through the Venice base as she internally nursed her wounded enthusiasm. She offered firm handshakes and clipped, fake-polite greetings to each superior she met, neither impressed nor concerned by their colourful reputations and serious, appraising glares. They all seemed the same breed as the faceless man guiding the half-assed tour; stoic, condescending, and wholly lacking personality.
That was, until The Reaper.
Even Mr. Mundane Nothing-To-Say warned her before guiding her into the room containing Gabriel Reyes. (He hadn’t told her Gabe’s name, but when you had as much intel as she did it wasn’t hard to recognize the famous Overwatch frontman and the notorious shotgun-wielding criminal were one and the same.) Sombra had heard much about the Reaper and his prominence and had grown to respect him greatly, which, coming from her, was one hell of a compliment. She was almost giddy as she followed the agent, whose boring name she didn’t remember, through a thin keypad door towards what she thought was a legendary criminal.
What she saw, however, was a grown man wearing a ragged black cape and eating cereal out of the box in a cramped stainless-steel kitchenette.
The grunt introduced Sombra, repeating the same rote spiel he’d regurgitated for everyone else.
“Hey,” Gabriel had replied through a mouthful of Captain Crunch, lifting a broad, scarred hand in greeting.
She couldn’t resist then, sass was itching at the base of her tongue and she knew she must have pulled a skeptical face from the infinitesimal quirk playing about one of Gabe’s bushy black eyebrows.
“Really? You’re Gabriel Reyes, the famous Reaper everyone won’t shut up about?”
“Yeah, what of it?”
“Nothing, I guess I just expected more from one of the world’s most famous criminals than loitering in the kitchen eating cereal with their bare hands.”
“What, did you want me to throw a party? Dress up in my best suit to meet the new rat Akande plucked from the Muertos?”
Even though his words were mocking and his gravelly tone was far from friendly, something about Reaper eased the apprehension Sombra had been brewing since first meeting Mr. Conventionally-Attractive-Symmetry. He was something the others weren’t; he seemed alive. Human. And most importantly, he could handle a bit of cheek without pulling rank like her past Los Muertos higher-ups.
Sombra laughed, abrupt and loud. “Oh, I think we’ll get along great.”
And she had been right. Over time they gained rapport with one another, falling into an almost friendly routine of snark and mutual disdain towards Talon antics. She and Gabe shared a sort of relationship other agents were far too scared to culminate with their superiors; something less like coworkers and more like friends.
Despite this, Sombra didn’t quite consider Reaper her friend. There was a disconnect between the two of them that both parties were aware of yet never spoke of. For all their similarities, Sombra and Gabriel were wildly different people with mismatched morals. Sombra pursued her own interests, using Talon as a conduit for what she needed, and Reaper knew this. For some unspoken reason, Reaper was derisively loyal to Talon, and Sombra knew this. Together they created their own disjointed form of symbiosis, ebbing and flowing adjacent to each other as acquaintances. They were there when they were needed, and that was all.
Time passed, and gradually, Sombra didn’t need Reaper as often. She seemed to have found a new infatuation in Widowmaker, taking her taunts and witty remarks to the cold, beautiful sniper rather than the brooding man with the wrinkles and scars. He didn’t deny his skepticism at first; Sombra was like a magpie with a grudge when she wanted something and he was more than familiar with her desire to pursue all things new and shiny.
He learned over time, however, that the dynamic between Sombra and Widowmaker was more than just a surface interest. He’d caught the hacker snooping through Widow’s files more than once, and, to his surprise, even the stoic assassin occasionally asked an offhanded question about Sombra and her past. The rare smiles and laughs Sombra pulled from Widowmaker and the beaming pride she held from causing them didn’t go unnoticed by Gabriel.
Reaper had assumed their relationship was a relationship for quite some time when he finally got confirmation. Akande had just assigned him a mission in Madrid and advised he bring Sombra with him to take care of security measures, so he made his way to the spy’s quarters of a gloomy winter morning. He stopped outside the door with his fist raised, however, when he heard warm, hushed murmurs from inside the room. Two voices, both distinct to his ear despite the wall muffling them.
“I should go, ‘Kande said Gabe would be dragging me along on some mission today.”
There was a shuffling beyond the door, then a squeaking sound of surprise. “Ne me quitte pas,” came a low, sleepy hum, and Gabriel didn’t need to understand French to tell what was being said.
“I have to, araña, we don’t want him to get suspicious.”
He knew it was against the rules, pursuing coworkers, so he didn’t know why he turned on his heel and left the lovers to their morning. He didn’t know why he set out on his mission then without collecting Sombra, and when Akande discovered this and asked for an explanation, he still didn’t know.
But he did know, didn’t he? He just didn’t want to admit it to himself. It was a baffling thought; how could some snide, arrogant woman over twenty years his junior, fresh out of one of the most notorious gangs in Mexico, ingratiate herself to him enough that he refused to report her wrongdoing? Maybe he just pitied her and Amélie, clinging to one another for comfort in a world intent on squeezing them dry for all they were worth. Maybe he didn’t care enough to bother telling. Or maybe it was because she was his friend, the only one worth a damn since he’d left Overwatch, and he cared about her.
When he ran across her sneaking from Widow’s quarters early one morning a few weeks later, he waited for her in the kitchen and offered her a coffee (black, three sugars) when she sheepishly entered. They stood in silence for a few minutes before he spoke.
“You love her, don’t you?”
A weak smile found itself on her lips. “Yeah. I really do.”
He paused to scald his throat with coffee before going on. “You know you’ll have to leave if you want to stay with her long-term, right?”
“I know. I have plans drawn up on how to cease her reconditioning and get our things in order before we go.”
It was hard to admit he was hurt by the apprehension in her voice. He’d never think about ratting her out; he knew what happened to traitors.
“And you know they’ll come after you. Relentlessly.”
She glanced up at him with something akin to hope in her eyes. “Gabe. Come with us?”
When he slid off his mask to meet her eyes, a sad smile adorned his face. “No, Sombra. I’m too old. I’ve spent enough years on the run.”
“Come on, I know you don’t like this place anymore than we do-”
“That’s my burden to bear, Sombra. Not yours. Talon is the place for me now.”
A thick, pregnant silence overtook the room before she finally said, “Can we at least keep in touch?”
“You and I both know that’s too risky. I won't be the reason you get caught.”
“I’m gonna fucking miss you, Gabe.”
He was sure he was imagining the crack in her voice. “I’m going to miss you too.”