Jack hates fighting on Sundays.
Sundays are for coffee at midday. For long walks, for late nights with take-out food that’ll leave him queazy in the mornings, for rolled-up magazines with old, faded news articles, and pages worn from too many fingers turning, rumpling, and folding them. Sundays aren’t for this.
The building is gutted, dilapidated, and bleak. The windows have either been shattered entirely, or covered in such a thick layer of grime they blot out any moonlight that might try to breach their dusty frames. The air is stale, and sour. It leaves a bitter, awful taste at the back of his throat, it makes his skin utterly crawl. The stairs are covered in dust, in broken shards of splintered wood from furniture that had long ago been plundered, or eroded away with time.
It stretches high towards the sky, wired with too many fried electrical lines until not a single switch seems to respond to his careful touches. Doors have been blown off their hinges entirely, and shattered glass crunches underfoot with almost every step he takes.
He does his best to nudge a chair leg from his path with the tip of his pulse rifle, the tinny glow of his visor proving to light his blue-tinted surroundings with a slight flash of merlot-red as he moves, listening, keenly aware of the too-thick silence-- for it feels suffocating, utterly doused in dust.
He’s positive, now, that he’s the only soul on the premises, even as he advances up a rickety set of stairs that creak under his every step. It doesn’t take him long to be sure— there’s not a single sign of life, nor a fingerprint of presence upon any dusty surface.
Carefully, he lowers his rifle into his left hand, gloved fingers curled loosely around the handle as he lifts his gaze above, to the winding staircase that spirals towards the top of the building, so high that the enriching Dorado fog makes the rotting ceiling almost difficult to make out. He makes it to the first floor, and a loose draft kisses his flesh, rustling his flaxen hair, sending goosebumps sprinting loosely down his spine as he moves his right hand to his opposing shoulder in brief confusion— for the window before him is sealed shut.
He peers at it for a moment, thumb digging loosely into his shoulder, before he turns away with a loose hiss, positive now that the tip he’d been given was utterly bogus. This place isn’t up to par with the Los Muertos gatherings he’s come to know— not even they would sink their standards low enough to utilise a venue so close to crumbling under its own scaffolding (he can hear it creaking warningly with every slight draft, as if it’s swaying somewhere, high, high above).
Jack turns away, moving his rifle into his right hand as he starts back towards the stairs, left hand lifting to slide his visor from his brow, clicking it off with a smooth sweep , he tucks it into his jacket, leaving his mask in place just in case as he moves back towards the stairs because despite the resolute, complete stillness permeating the air-…
He feels off.
He feels like he’s being watched.
He lingers by the stairs, fingertips settling against the last inch of polished bannister as he glances over his shoulder, the barrel of his gun pointed down. Something stirs at the base of his spine, a low twinge of complete discomfort. A feeling he’d long-ago learned to equate with the knowledge that he is being watched.
Jack knows to trust his instincts, it didn’t take any military training to teach him that.
“Who’s there?” He calls, voice lacking his usual edge. He almost sounds wary, he almost sounds afraid. He clears his throat, brows pulling faintly together when he feels, hears, sees nothing.
Movement stirs beneath him, and he drops his gaze, watches with a detached sort of surprise as stray, gathered clusters of dust drift over the toes of his boots. That same, cold, wrong breeze brushes over him, and he swallows, lifting his gaze, and his gun, until he cradles the barrel beneath his left hand.
“Come on.” His words come little more than a rumble . “I’m too old for games.”
If he was more naive, if he was younger, maybe he’d call the anticipation in his stomach fear, maybe he’d blame the steepness of his heartbeat on wariness, maybe he’d blame the fluttering, boiling, churning in his stomach on worry.
There’s a bounty on his head, after all.
He turns, sharply— towards the source of that voice. It’s gutted, and hollow— like a wounded veteran trying to speak over the blood filling his lungs in his very last moments. It’s inhuman, it’s as wrong as this stale, choking air. It’s coveted with pity, as if Jack is a rat caught by his tail in a trap, frantically wriggling for freedom.
But he sees nothing. There’s no one there.
He’s standing alone, and it’s frustrating him.
“Oh, Jack . Look at you.”
“How do you know my name?” He asks, turning again, pointing his gun at nothing, at thin air because it’s the air he’s begun to distrust. He can’t hear anything over the pulse of his own heartbeat ringing in his ears, heavy and weighted. His hands are shaking ever so slightly upon the handle of his gun because Los Muertos he can handle, vagabonds who have had too much to drink, he can handle. Angela and Lena’s irresponsible games— he can handle.
He’s never had to fight something he can’t even see.
A touch drifts over his collarbone, something hollow, and cold. He turns sharply, jerking away from it with a soft grunt.
A hand closes around the sway of his waist, a hand tipped with iron talons that dig into his jacket. He sucks in a gasp, he tries to turn, but another hand shoots out to grab the nozzle of his gun, holding it in an iron grip, it’s wrenched from his hands abruptly, and he’s twisted until he’s shoved unceremoniously into the dusty wall before him, inhaling flecks of peeled-off wallpaper and dust.
He growls, he pushes back, he tries to fight, but this stranger, this being, is stronger than him. It pins him in place, one hand clamped over his waist, while the other snags hold of his right hand, and twists it over the small of his back. He tries to tug against it, he tries until his muscles tremble and his joints ache, and he fears his wrist might just break within his glove.
He stops fighting. He deflates. He’s out of breath. He’s not as young as he used to be.
The creature behind him is silent.
He turns his head, cheek pressed into the wall before him as he tries to see what has captured him, who will be the one to cash in on his hefty bounty, but all he sees is black. It isn’t Los Muertos, and he takes a small semblance of relief from that. He’s spent so long hunting them that being captured by them would only be another humiliation branded by his name.
But whomever it is, they aren’t saying anything. They aren’t moving, their grip isn’t wavering, isn’t weakening. They don’t relent. Jack falls silent, gaze dropping to their leather boots, set on either side of his own upon the dusty, faded floorboards. He can hear it breathing, rattled, hazy, and choked, as if they’re fighting against some fluid caught in their lungs. That stale scent he’d caught in the air upon first setting foot in the building is suddenly everywhere, seeping into every pore of his skin until he can’t hope to escape it.
Still, they haven’t said a word.
Jack struggles. He hears it draw in another rattling breath, and he closes his eyes, feeling it draw closer— too close, that stale air ghosts over the crest of his masked cheekbone.
“They let you get so old.”
He opens his eyes. There’s something so familiar about that voice.
“I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.” He says, weakly— left hand lifting to press uselessly to the wall before him.
The creature lifts his pinned wrist until pain flickers across his features, until he feels his muscles strain, and his bones dangerously creak. If it pulls him any further, his shoulder will dislocate. He feels it draw closer, and he closes his eyes again.
“If only they could see you now. Overwatch darling, covered in scars, in his dusty jacket. Holding onto old times, are you, Jack?”
He grits his teeth. A muscle jumps in his jaw beneath his mask. “I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.”
That hand on his hip tightens. Those iron-wrought nails bite into his skin, into the insides of his wrists as he’s turned with enough force to have the air left in his lungs rushing free as he’s pinned back in place, snagged wrist forced above his head instead of behind him as the chipped-away wall clings to his fading jacket.
The creature before him is a man. He’s positive of that. Clad head to toe in black leather, in a coat with a hood that shrouds their features, with a mask shaped distinctly like a bird of prey, with slitted, empty eyes, and a strange, black, awful vapour creeping in an endless stream from its eyes, and from where its mouth ought to be.
Jack tips his head back, tries to crane as far away from this being as he can. He’s left breathless for a moment, caught in confusion, in surprise, in fear. His blue eyes search the stranger’s mask wordlessly, as if seeking some answer as to why its poisoned voice is so familiar to him.
A wicked hand lifts, almost disembodied as it reaches for him, as a sharpened, cloying talon brushes against the edge of his mask, as if contemplating stripping it away. It drifts down the soft curve of his throat, towards the collar of his jacket, until it reaches the zipper keeping it closed.
Jack stays still. Well aware that any one of those talons could open his yielding throat with a mere, careless flick.
“You don’t know, do you?” It tips its head, and Jack swallows as he brings his gaze up again. “You don’t know who I am?”
A sound leaves the mask, a sound too similar to pity for Jack’s liking, a chiding click of a tongue, perhaps. It snags the zipper of his jacket, and it pulls it, slowly, down.
The black crew shirt he’s wearing beneath is thin, and it clings to his flesh, stretched loosely across his chest, clinging to his tapered waist. He doesn’t look away from the mask, away from this thing’s movements, because everything about him is familiar, from the way he’s standing to the way his touches rove, curious, malicious, thoughtful— calculated.
Who is he?
“You don’t know what they’ve done to me, do you? You don’t know—.. ” That hand slashes sharply, abruptly down his chest, pain sears through him as a trio of shallow cuts bloom red with his blood, his shirt hangs, torn open over his chest, rising and falling with his steep breaths. Pain flickers loosely across his features, but he still doesn't look away from that burnished, white mask.
“Did you keep yourself in the dark? Was the truth too horrible for your fragile heart? Did you never stop to wonder what might have happened to me? No, you wouldn’t have had time. Did it get to your head, Jack? Seeing yourself, embalmed in bronze, standing proud as the poster boy of Overwatch?” the backs of those talons graze thoughtfully over his scarred, bared chest— over his marred, alabaster flesh, pausing at the base of his throat.
Jack’s gaze is unwavering. He doesn't look away from that mask.
“An inspiration, that’s what they called you, wasn’t it?” It asks, words thick with derision. “I never knew what they meant by that. You never inspired anything in me. I hated you. I hate you.”
Jack’s voice is scarcely more than a whisper, but now he’s sure.
The revelation inspires something cold in his chest.
Gabriel doesn’t move.
He’s still, that vapour thickens as it curls in loose tendrils from the slits of his eyes, from the cut of his mouth. A talon-like hand spreads, and curls as if caught in indecision whether it ought to seize Jack’s throat, and suffocate him against the wall. Jack can feel his blood running in thin, hot rivulets down his chest, but the pain is numb to him. Everything is numb to him— the stale edge to the air, the cold draft billowing in from seemingly nowhere, the fear that had taken root in his chest.
His free hand lifts, bold and assured, for Gabe’s mask.
He reaches for him, iron nails bite into his wrist as his fingers wrap around Jack’s arm, but he doesn’t stop him, he simply holds onto him as Jack’s thumb eases under the mask. His hand is shaking, unsure of what he might find beneath (will Gabe be as disfigured, as old as him?), and he pries the mask away, lifting it from beneath his hood until it slips, unfeeling, through his fingers, vanishing into billowing, thick smoke before it can ever make contact with the dusty floorboards below them.
Gabe’s eyes are red.
They glow in the dark, as red as the light in Jack’s visor, as red as the blood running down his chest. Smoke hisses from his parted, too-full lips with every breath he takes, blacker than black, and tinted with tiny pinpricks of light that remind Jack far too much of the night sky. His eyes are hooded with dark purple circles; his once-olive complexion is waxy, and mottled with scars. The worst spans over his left cheek, towards the bridge of his nose (from the explosion, Jack knows) , and the corner of his lips is grizzled, and drawn away from his teeth, displaying sharpened incisors into a permanent grimace. His dark hair falls in careless, thick curls over his brow, cut messily short as if Gabe had done it himself out of necessity. A five o’clock shadow has begun to grow along his jaw, but the beard Jack remembers so well is gone.
He doesn’t look as if he’s aged a day .
He leans in, until Jack is inhaling his thick smoke, until his head begins to spin from a lack of oxygen. He closes his eyes, his gloved hand drops to curl into a loose fist in the front of Gabe’s jacket.
He can’t name the plethora of emotions burning in his chest, only that they’re there, that they’re warm, that they’re insistent, and that they have his eyes wet.
“I thought you were dead.”
“I am.” His guttural reply has Jack lifting his gaze again, peering into those deep, merlot eyes that lack the warmth, and familiarity he’d once known. Gabriel Reyes had deep, chocolate eyes that reminded Jack of caramel, the eyes of a dreamer.
“Gabriel Reyes is dead.”
“You killed him.”
That hand releases his wrist, and reaches for his throat. Nails bite into his flesh as they grip him, pressing down against his windpipe until he struggles just to draw in a breath. Gabriel sinks closer to him, exhaling his smoke over Jack’s lips until he’s forced to drink it in, struggling to choke back a breath of his own. He releases Jack’s other hand, and he strips that mask away from the lower portion of his face. Those dark eyes drink in every bit of him he has yet to see with a sadistic, bright-eyed, half-smile as he struggles just to breathe. Jack scrabbles feebly at the front of his jacket, he kicks at nothing, and he becomes sure that this will be how he dies.
“You’re so pretty , Jack.” He goads, “You’ve always been so pretty. Maybe that’s why they decided you should be the commander.” His hand relents. Jack coughs against his smoke, he struggles to swallow down a gulp of air, but the only thing Gabe gives him is that inky black vapour. His words are snide, and cruel. He hovers closer, and closer with each one. So he breathes in that smoke, and he allows himself to delight in the way it makes his head spin.
“All that blonde hair, all those doe-eyed smiles, and those pretty, pretty blue eyes.” He leans in, and he catches Jack’s lips in a demanding, brutal kiss.
His teeth sink into the bow of Jack’s lower lip, until the coppery taste of blood sneaks into their parted lips, until a too-long tongue flutters against his, until he chokes on it as that hand tightens around his throat, and a sharpened incisor catches against his lower lip. Jack grips at him, knows its a bad idea, and holds him anyway. His heart is beating so loudly he wonders if Gabe can’t hear it.
His friend is alive, his friend is here, his friend is in his arms, and somehow that’s enough to block everything else out.
Their chests press flush, Gabe wedges a knee between Jack’s parted thighs until he jerks sharply, and tries to break the kiss, but Gabe is greedy, Gabe is insistent. He growls into the kiss, those sharp nails traverse listlessly down his chest again, leaving raised, red lines in their wake, always coming close, but never quite carving through flesh like they so easily could.
He hisses, breathing smoke into Jack’s mouth until he exhales it again through his nose. His head is spinning, his hands are groping uselessly at Gabe, his heart is pounding rabbit-like in his chest.
His hips jerk, and sweep forwards, grinding shakily against Gabe’s thigh as a hand grips at his fleshy hip, nails biting into his skin until blood beads, peaks, and seeps along his too-pale skin.
The kiss breaks, but Gabe doesn’t draw back, he tips his head down, watching the slow, desperate hitch of Jack’s hips for a moment, guiding him, unpitying, with that iron-wrought grip.
“Look at you go.” He murmurs, voice thick with appreciation, soaked in warmth. “If only they could see their all-American darling now. What would they have to say about you, Jack? So disappointing.” He coos, thumb rubbing a bloody circle into the dip of his hip. “ This should’ve been on their posters, a blown up picture of you, flushed red, and ready to come on your enemy’s thigh.” He hisses, smoke puncturing his every word.
“You’re such an inspiration , Jack. You’re such a good man .” He goads, softly. Jack’s breath is caught in his throat. His hands curl into fists in the front of Gabe’s jacket, pleasure soaks him, builds low, low in his stomach, sparks at the base of his length, spurred on by every filthy word out of Gabe’s mouth. The hand around his throat tightens for a stretch, forcing his eyes up, until they meet awful, awful red.
“You’re going to come.” He hisses, “Come on, Jack. You’ve always been so good at following orders.”
..and that’s all it takes. His head tips back, until he feels Gabe’s thumbnail snag against the hinge of his jaw, and that hand set on his hip creeps down until nails bite into the swell of his backside through his leather trousers as his back arches, as that pleasure coiled low in his stomach pulls too tight, as the base of his length throbs with warmth. It floods through him in a sharp, white rush , until he sees stars, until he sees nothing but black smoke, and Gabe’s dead, red eyes.
“So pretty. So pretty .” He whispers, a quiet chorus behind the choked-off, pitiful sounds falling past Jack’s parted lips, echoing hollowly through the gutted tower.
The hand around his throat relents, draws back, and drifts down his bloodied chest.
“You’re a mess.”
Gabe draws back, Jack slumps against him, ears ringing in the silence between them as he draws in his broken gasps, trying, vainly, to catch his breath. He tries to bring Gabe into focus, he tries to look at him.
“..are you going to kill me?”
There’s a heavy pause, and Jack isn’t sure if it’s the aftermath of his orgasm, if it’s the smoke he’s inhaled too much of, or if it’s his ever-present exhaustion, but he feels suddenly weak.
“Not yet.” Those heavy words are the only thing that keep him holding on as Gabe tips his head down, and affords Jack another lungful of smoke. He breathes it in, greedy, until his head spins, until his stomach turns, and his knees buckle.
“You don’t deserve death.”
His vision turns black.
* * * *
He wakes, later, much later.
The sun peeks in through his open bedside window, bright and endearing against the striped-orange sky. He feels as if he’s been saddled with the worst hangover he’s ever felt— his head is heavy, and a dull, commanding ache throbs between his eyes as he pries his eyes open, and does his best to free himself of his twisted bedsheets.
Only his trousers are left on his form, with his jacket, torn-apart shirt, visor, and mask set on the deflated armchair by his makeshift bed.
Jack’s room is modest, and hardly on par with a cheap motel. His single bed is rickety and worn-away, the walls are faded, and once displayed a proud sunflower print, but now all he can make out are the stems. He’s given a view of the harbour, of the busy streets below, with his very own sink, and a bathroom with plumbing that works only when it’s late enough at night, and a grime-encrusted kitchen he has yet to brave.
He props himself up on an elbow and winces as pain sparks down his chest. He looks down at the scabbed-over cuts leading from his collarbone, down to the dip of his navel, and his throat feels coarse, and dry— his free hand lifts to wind loosely around it, and it aches.
His lips sting as he skirts his tongue over them, and he manages to haul himself, sluggishly, upright.
The rifle is by his bed, still intact save for a few new scratches with a folded newspaper clipping tucked carefully against the safety lock. He frowns faintly, and he leans forwards, reaching for it, other hand curved close to his aching, bruised throat.
Something stirs at the base of his spine, a low twinge of complete discomfort.
His apartment smells stale.
He unfolds the clipping with clumsy fingers, and squints wearily down at the words etched in pint-sized font. Every line is blacked out, save for one.
“…—a black-robed terrorist known only as the ‘Reaper’. His identity and motives are a mystery. What is known is that where he appears, death follows-...”