Chapter 1: Everyone Gets a Turn (to Apologize)
Hana and Jesse's original last names are their middle names because why not?
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jesse Mccree Reyes wasn’t normal. He wasn’t particularly abnormal either, but while Gibraltar High School was a veritable breeding ground for eccentric personalities, he was relatively quiet, which made him a target. Whether it was was the faint western accent, the cowboy hat he’d insisted on wearing the first couple of days or-well, he was somewhat unhealthily obsessed with cowboys, and people at school at taken notice.
It didn’t help that he’d only lived in Gibraltar for a little over a year, and hadn’t made any real friends. He was picked on, lonely, and it was getting harder to hide it from his dad. He didn’t know if his father would do anything to try and help, but he did know that anything the man tried to do to help would be infinitely worse than the man doing nothing.
So he’d gotten desperate. The others liked making jokes? He could make jokes.
That was when he made his second mistake.
“You’re not famous! You’re not special!”
Hana Morrison was decidedly weird . She insisted she was famous, she occasionally came to school with weird markings on her face, she was obsessed with some weird bunny design-and she was loud .
The two of them had butted heads before, Hana mocking him for wearing his serape despite the warm temperatures. They’d almost come to blows. If he’d known then what he was about to learn…
“You’re just an attention whore!”
So he’d been mad. So it had stopped being a joke. So he’d been a huge jerk, and deserved what’d he got.
Making fun of Hana Morrison didn’t make the others his friends.
Making fun of Hana Morrison didn’t earn him any respect.
But that wasn’t because they’d all suddenly gotten a conscience.
No, when he made fun of Hana Morrison,
She beat the shit out of him.
Wednesday, September 17th, 2044
Satya Vaswani was, ultimately, a good boss. She was strict, and could be a bit of a taskmaster, but she didn't have to give him the day off at all, given that he had asked for it at the last minute.
In about...an hour, or so, Gabriel would appreciate that. Right now, he was pissed.
Jesse hadn't even told him about the last student-parent event, and now he was going to be late to this one. And it was a barbeque . He’d be mad if Jesse made him miss a regular barbeque, let alone a school one.
Gibraltar High used to have been an elementary school, before being extensively renovated. It had left them with a wide open grassy field, which the school board had decided to make regular use of. The school didn't have recess, but events like this were fairly common, at least compared to normal schools.
It took Gabriel nearly 10 minutes to find a parking spot-or rather, give up on finding a parking spot, park a block away, and jog over to the field. It wasn't that big of a town. Was anyone at work?
Well, I'm not.
He wanted to find Jesse right away, but the field was thick with parents and students, and he’d skipped lunch.
“Gabriel,” Angela said, sounding pleased to see him. “I was wondering if you were going to make it.”
“Hey Angie. You're serving food?”
“My name is Angela.” There was no bite to her words. “I've already had to say that once today. And yes, Mr.Rutledge is out sick.”
“Out sick like ‘has a cold’ or out sick like ‘Junkrat did something crazy and now I have to stay home’ sick?”
“That’s not his name!” She snapped at him.
“Hey, hey,” Gabriel held up his hands defensively. “I don’t know the guy. That’s how he introduced himself to the kids.”
She grumbled something under her breath, before sighing. “I think he’s actually not feeling well. He has some respiratory problems, but he always seems to get over it quickly.”
He accepted a plate from her and smiled.
“I better go find Jesse. Thanks Angie!”
He wandered around the field aimlessly, munching on his burger. It wasn’t bad, considering it was school food. He’d finished it by the time he finally caught sight of the telltale red and yellow serape. In the middle of a ring of yelling and jeering kids.
He pushed his way through the ring of kids to see Jesse on the ground, arms shielding his face, a girl on top of him, punching him repeatedly.
That is even more disappointing.
He started forward, quickly getting angry before he-and everyone else-was interrupted by a thunderous yell.
“HANA SONG MORRISON!! ”
The voice wasn’t familiar, but the tone was, and he stopped moving on reflex. The man sounded like a drill sergeant. The girl looked up, frozen in something like horror. Jesse relaxed slightly, looking up to see the source of the interruption.
Gabriel turned, like the rest of them, to see an irate, 6ft blonde man storming through the crowd, who hurried to get out of his way.
“Um, um,” The girl held up her hands and began to protest as the man came closer. Gabriel was mute, part of the audience now.
The man, still furious, completely ignored the girl's protests, leaning down and scooping her up, throwing her over his shoulder without hesitation.
“But I didn’t-he said-I just-he started-”
“ YOU ARE IN SO MUCH TROUBLE!!”
Jesse sat up, rubbing his eyes blearily. Gabriel stepped forward, keeping one eye on the pair as they vanished from sight. He helped Jesse up and brushed his shoulder off. The boy wouldn’t look at him, red-faced. The crowd around them began to disperse, and Gabriel cleared his throat awkwardly.
“Do you, uh...want me to get you some...self-defense lessons or…”
Jesse hung his head in shame.
“There really wouldn’t be any point.”
The third loud sigh from the living room was the second sigh too many. Gabriel growled under his breath, turned down the dial on the stove, and grabbed a towel, wiping his hands off as he stepped out of the kitchen.
“Do you need help Jesse?”
The boy jumped slightly, clearly lost in thought. His pen clattered as he dropped it on the coffee table.
“Oh, uh, no, sorry dad.”
“I don’t believe you,” He grumbled.
“It’s just history,” Jesse said weakly.
“Alright, but I’m chaining you to the dinner table until you tell me what happened today.”
Jesse mumbled something, but didn’t protest.
Gabriel threw the towel over his shoulder and returned to the kitchen. He’d meant to go shopping on the way home, but never got the chance, so he was making do.
Spaghetti. It was always their last resort.
He called Jesse over and they ate in silence across from each other, Jesse wolfing down the food as fast as he could. He hadn’t, to Gabriel’s knowledge, eaten at all that day, but he also knew the boy was going to make a break for it.
Sure enough, the moment Jesse’s plate was clean, he attempted to push his chair back, but Gabriel caught it with his foot, and Jesse just lurched awkwardly in his seat.
“The more you whine, the longer this conversation is going to be.” Jesse sunk in his chair, like he was trying to hide. Gabriel sighed internally.
“Did you start it?”
“You didn’t throw the first punch, did you?”
“No. Just…” Gabriel waited. “Hana’s always been...she always says she’s so famous and that we just don’t get it, and…”
“You were making fun of her.”
Jesse nodded. “It...wasn’t the first time we’ve argued.” He glanced over to the coffee table, where his homework was sitting, half-done, along with his other stuff.
The serape. Gabriel thought. It was still early fall, and he was obviously the only kid wearing one. He never quite understood why his son insisted on carrying it around, especially as it was bound to generate teasing.
“I just got mad today. Said some stupid shit.”
“Stupid crap. Whatever.”
Relaxed as Jesse acted, Gabriel was, at times, forcefully reminded his son was a teenager.
“She part of the group that always picks on you?”
“N-no, but how do you-” Jesse sat up straight, but Gabriel held up a hand to forestall him.
“You always forget I’m personal friends with half the staff there.” Jesse turned slightly red. “Angie- Ms.Ziegler was worried about you.”
“Because that’s what I need,” Jesse said miserably. “I’m already gonna have to go see her tomorrow because of today!”
“Poor kid,” Gabriel muttered unsympathetically. “Look,” he said, speaking at a normal volume. “For what it's worth, I told her to back off. Live your life, kiddo, but did you really think I hadn’t noticed you haven’t hung out with anyone since...well.” He cleared his throat. “Contrary to your strongly-held belief, I’m not that old. I want you to make friends, Jess, but the last thing you need is your father trying to make the other kids like you.”
Jesse smiled as Gabriel released his chair. “I’ve hung out with some people,”
They got up from the table and Gabriel grinned. “Glad you enjoy movie night, but I don’t really count in this context.”
“Hey!” Jesse tried to sound indignant as Gabriel grabbed him in a headlock and ruffled his hair.
“Go finish your homework, Hijo. I’ll take care of the dishes.”
“‘Kay!” Jesse flashed him a grin and hurried back over to the coffee table.
Relieved that the talk had gone well, Gabriel hummed to himself as he cleaned the plates, idly wondering if he should ‘forget’ his phone at home or ‘accidentally’ turn it off tomorrow. He really didn't want to have to duck out of work two days in a row.
He knew that it didn't matter what happened tomorrow.
This was not over.
Thursday, September 18th, 2044
Jesse lounged in the shade provided by the old maple tree. The school's field was ringed with them, and it was a warm, sunny day, perfect to lay back and take a nap, his serape bundled up to act as a pillow. Let the others call him an old man. These nice days were going to start running out fast, and he’d enjoy them as he saw fit.
Ms.Oxton was out and had apparently forgotten to leave the substitute a lesson plan. Unable to get a clear sense of where the class was at, the substitute had given in and let them outside to enjoy the weather. He’d clearly wanted to get out as well.
He heard someone approach and cracked an eye open to see Hana Morrison walk up, arms behind her back, not looking at him. She was alone, not with the few girls she normally ran around with.
Jesse groaned quietly but sat up, blinking his eyes several times to adjust.
“What do you want?” He would rather pretend yesterday never happened. If they forgot about it, maybe everyone else would too.
“I...um...are you okay?” The actual question came out in a rush, like it was pulled out of her.
“Huh?” It wasn't what he’d expected. “Uh...yeah.” He wondered what she was getting at.
“I just...I’m sorry!” She ducked her head. “I'm so, so sorry! I was having a bad day and I just-I’m sorry!” Jesse just stared at her, mouth slightly open.
They stayed that way for several seconds, each waiting for the other to say something. Eventually, Hana looked up, looking nervous.
She’d gotten one good punch in yesterday, before he’d started blocking. It still hurt, where she’d hit him.
He didn’t buy it.
“Yeah right,” he snorted. She looked up, apparently confused. “You aren't sorry. Your dad is just making you apologize.”
“Wh-what? No! I-”
“Oh save it, Drama Queen, you aren't a good actress! I saw him yesterday. Bet he just gave you an earful and told you to say sorry, like any parent does with a little kid.” Hana actually took a step back, looking shocked. He didn't care. All the frustration and stress of the school year was bubbling up, and after yesterday, he didn't bother to keep it down. “Did he promise to give you your phone back if you apologized? You're such a spoiled brat!”
He was gonna say more until he actually looked at her.
She looked on the verge of tears.
The rest of his rant died in his throat as she turned on her heel and ran toward the school.
She was faking. She had to be faking.
Oh god I hope she was faking.
Dad's going to kill me.
Well, if he was going to die, he might as well get some rest first. He couldn't really bring himself to feel bad about what he’d said.
It wasn't until the end of the period that he learned he had a much bigger problem than his dad to deal with.
Ms.Ziegler was stalking across the field, heading straight toward him.
She looked angrier than he had ever seen her before in his life.
When his dad entered the counselor’s office, Jesse found himself wishing that Mr. Tekhartha was there. His father would undoubtedly still have been called, but neither of them understood the man much. Ms.Ziegler was a different matter.
“What's the damage?” Dad asked. His voice was resigned, like he’d been expecting this.
“Before we get into that,” Ms.Ziegler’s voice was level, but Jesse could tell it was forced. “What, exactly, did Jesse tell you happened yesterday?”
Dad didn’t seem to understand.
“He told me the truth, Angie. He started it by making fun of her.”
The tiniest sliver of hope was dashed as soon as it had appeared.
“There is little difference between an omission of truth and an outright lie,” Ms.Ziegler said. “He called Ms.Morrison an attention whore, among...other things.” Her smile was icey. “I was also told there was some choice...Spanish words as well.”
His father turned to him very slowly, his expression frozen on his face, but Jesse could all but see the anger boiling beneath the surface.
One day, Jesse would notice how much trouble speaking without thinking got him into. Today was not that day.
“Ah, well, I, uh, might've forgotten to mention-” He cleared his throat. “You know, class already started and I really should-can I be...excused?” His voice trailed off into a whisper, but both adults heard him.
“While I applaud your dedication to your education, Jesse,” Ms.Ziegler lied. “I'm afraid the answer is no. I, however, am needed elsewhere.” The door opened, then closed, leaving the two of them alone.
Gabriel Reyes was a large man. There were very few other people built to scale with him, and Jesse had only ever seen two men taller. His father knew it too, often using his height and build to intimidate others. Jesse normally found it entertaining, particularly when he scared off an annoying salesman or the like.
As his father placed a hand on each arm of his chair and leaned down to look him in the eye, he found out it wasn't much fun to be on the receiving end.
“So, Jesse, what happened today ?”
Jack Morrison had simple wants. He wanted stability for his family. He wanted to do well at his job, and help people. He wanted his daughter to do well, and be happy.
Said daughter was where it all got complicated.
Hana was energetic, competitive and emotional. She threw herself into everything she chose to do, refused to take no for an answer, and walked through life with a confidence bordering on arrogance.
And he couldn't for the life of him figure out where she got it from.
He’d adopted her when she was 3, and raised her by himself for the 12 years since. For all the ways Ana and Angela teased him about it, he couldn't see the similarities between them. It didn't help that Hana was obsessed with his mortal enemy.
They'd both given up on him at this point. Hana had never made him understood what she did, why she did it, or what on earth it was supposed to accomplish. All he knew was that she played games, there was a lot of yelling, but that she would yell at him if he barged in on her.
It seemed, though, that whatever she did was at the crux of this current problem. From what he’d gotten out of her-after he was done yelling-the boy had been making fun of her for talking about it.
Not that it really mattered, not to him. It didn't matter what the boy had said, it didn't give her an excuse to hit him. Even if he was a little proud that she’d taken down a boy a full head taller than her, seemingly without issue.
He’d hoped that, after some coaxing the night before, that today would be the end of it. Hana was grounded, and seemed to really understand that she’d done wrong. She swore she would apologize, and then everything could go back to normal.
So when he got a call from Angela asking him to come pick up Hana, he felt a drop of disappointment. Mostly concern. But he really had wanted to avoid this.
He got the short version from Angela, Hana not in a mood to talk as she held onto his arm. The boy had rejected her apology, rather rudely, and Hana had run to the woman, crying. She said there was more to it, but that it was being dealt with 'presently’ and she would get back to him afterwards.
The car ride home was quiet. Hana could be quite emotional when it came to movies and stories, but it took a lot for another person to make her cry. It also took her a while to really come down from being that upset.
They'd get home, talk about it, and then he’d put on a movie. She’d be fine by bedtime.
She still wasn't talking when they got out of the car and entered the house. He wasn't going to force her, not yet. Not until he had something to bribe her with. Hana never wanted to have “talks.”
She dropped her backpack on the floor and flopped down on the couch, having the sense not to try and escape upstairs. Jack continued into the kitchen, and began to go through the pantry. It was his day off, and he’d gone shopping while Hana was at school.
“Popcorn, cereal, or chips?” He called back to the living room. There was a pause.
“What kind of chips?” Hana called back.
“Potato or Barbeque!” He didn't have to hear her sigh to know she had. “You didn't think I would buy Doritos after yesterday?”
“That's what I thought,” He muttered, pulling the bag down and returning to the living room. Hana reached for the bag, but he held it up, out of reach. “Talk first.”
“Why do you do this to me?”
“Because it works.”
Hana groaned dramatically, but the corners of her mouth tugged up into a smile. She shifted to make room, and he sat down next to her, putting the chips on an end table.
“So,” he prompted. “You tried to apologize.”
“Yeah I-I didn't know what to say. I knew I shouldn't have hit him, but-he said some really mean things, Dad.” She turned to face him, expression pleading with him to believe her. “I know that doesn't give me the right to hit him, but he did.”
“Oh, I believe you. If I'd been there, I would’ve given him a piece of my mind. But of my mind, Hana. Not my fists.”
“Well yeah,” Hana mumbled. “You would kill him.”
“You were getting there.” She laughed in spite of herself. “And then?” He prompted her again.
“I said I was sorry but he didn't believe me. He said you were just making me apologize so I could get my stuff back. Called me a spoiled brat, and I just-I guess I was so busy being mad yesterday that I didn’t have any time to be upset. So it all just kind of came back up.”
Jack put an arm around her shoulders and squeezed lightly.
“What did he say to you?”
“I don’t even know,” She said with a sigh, leaning her head on his shoulder.
“You don’t know?”
“Some of it was in Spanish.”
“He speaks Spanish?” She shrugged slightly, and Jack rolled his eyes. “Well, I’m sorry that happened, but-” Hana groaned, but he ignored her. “but , I’m not really surprised. You may not be kids anymore, but you aren’t adults. Someone had decked me and then apologized the next day, I doubt I’d believe them either.”
Hana frowned, but nodded. “I...guess.”
“And tomorrow, when his dad makes him apologize, you’re not going to want to accept it either, because he made you cry.” She made a noncommittal noise. “Hana, I really don't want to have to leave work to go in tomorrow to deal with this.”
She looked up, concerned. “You wouldn't have to-” she hesitated, realizing he certainly would. “I don't want you to have to do that.” She whispered, looking down.
Jack smiled ruefully. He was a cop, and sometimes he worried that he’d overblown the importance of his day-to-day work to her. Not that it wasn't important, it was just that Hana seemed convinced that if he missed work, someone was going to die. Gibraltar was, overall, a peaceful city.
“Just don't attack anyone.”
“I know it's hard, and I’m unfair, but just make it through Friday without beating up Spanish-speaking cowboys, and we’ll be fine.”
“Dad!” Hana managed to yell at him before dissolving into laughter. He let her ride it out, smiling. He didn't think his freshman year in high school had involved such theatrics, but Hana was well equipped to handle them. She’d survive.
He nudged her when she was done. “Go pick out a movie, kiddo. You can get on your homework later.” She leapt up from the couch grinning.
She’d summed it up fairly well, he thought. Both kids had gotten a chance to be angry, and both had gotten a chance to be upset. Hopefully by the weekend, this would all be behind them.
They weren't 10 minutes into the movie when the phone started to ring.
Dad turned the car off as they pulled up by the house, but he didn't unlock the doors. Neither of them even unbuckled their seatbelts.
“So,” He sounded angry. “Let's review.” Jesse stared out the window, not saying anything.
“Fine,” Dad growled. “The school announces-a week and a half in advance-that they're holding an outdoor Barbeque, parents invited. Something I had to hear about from Angela.”
I knew you'd be working.
I didn't think you'd want to come.
I didn't want you to see how miserable I am around all those assholes.
Jesse said nothing.
“Then you go pick a fight-a little different from what I heard-insult a girl, call her an attention whore and a bitch, and rightfully get beaten up for it.”
How can you say I deserved to be hit?
Yeah, I did deserve it.
But how can you say that?
“Then you lie to me-”
“You don't get credit for telling me everything the second time!” His father snapped.
I thought I said enough!
I didn't want you to get this mad.
I want to go back to yesterday.
I knew you'd be ashamed of me.
“- you make the poor girl cry, so I have to get called out of work-”
Why does that even matter? You're a construction worker.
I hope I didn't get him in trouble.
“- only to hear all about how horrible we both are!”
“They know where you learned the Spanish from, idiota! ” He said, driving the point home. “Now not only do we all have to go in on Monday, I get to have a special heart-to-heart with that stupid ape of a principal the day after! Do you have any idea how much work I’ve had to take off on short notice? Do you have any idea how bad-” He stopped short, leaning back in his chair and drawing a hand across his face.
“Of course you don't know, you're only 15,” His father muttered, as though reminding himself.
He sounded tired.
I didn't know this would happen.
I didn't want you to get in trouble.
I'm sorry Dad.
He couldn't speak.
“I don't know when I'll have a day off after this,” Jesse could barely hear him. “Just-” Dad's key fell in his lap. “Just go inside. Go to your room. I need to cool down.”
He needed to say something.
He unclipped his seatbelt.
He paused halfway out of the car.
“Why, Jesse? Just... why ?”
I don't know.
I wanted other people to like me.
I didn't want to sit alone at lunch anymore.
“Because… I wanted something to happen. Something to change.”
“Well congratulations kid.” It didn't sound as nice or as friendly as it usually did. “Something did.”
Jack got up from the couch and walked over to the phone, picking it up with a feeling of resignation.
Oh. It wasn't work.
“Oh, uh, yes. Sorry.”
“This is Gabriel Reyes. Jesse’s father?”
An awkward pause. He could hear the man clear his throat.
“Look, Angie forgot to call you before she left, so she asked me to call you. We’re supposed to go in with the kids right after school on Monday.”
He didn’t think he’d ever heard anyone else call her Angie. She barely let him do it.
“Wait, so, she forgot to call me from the school, so she called you to ask you to call me?”
“Yes, yes she did.”
He could practically hear the man roll his eyes.
“And look, I...I’m sorry. For all of this.”
Jack smiled, and lowered his voice so Hana couldn’t hear him. “If you have to apologize for what he said, I have to apologize for what she did. So...sorry.”
He heard a snort.
“Well I think that just leaves the boy left.”
“It'll work itself out. Things like this always do.”
“Hmph. I'll take your word for it.” A pause. “Uh...see you Monday, I guess.”
Jack, Gabriel, and the other “adult” characters are in their early 30s, Hana and Jesse are freshmen (15), and the rest of the characters are split. Every character introduced in the game at the start of writing this will make an appearance at some point. Also, Winston is not an actual ape, just very big. Calling him ‘ape’ is a cheeky joke.
If it wasn't obvious, Jack and Gabriel don't know each other. They know a lot of the same people, but never really crossed paths themselves.
Also, my hope in these early chapters is to kind of 'drip-feed' information about the characters and world, to avoid doing in big, immersion-breaking chunks. Not really sure I succeeded, but uh...yeah. (I'm not sure what else to say.)
Hope you enjoy!
Chapter 2: Problems Poorly Buried
There’s a different version of the Omnics and the Omnic Crisis for this stories canon. The short version is that it was a war between the U.N. and others, and a group of nations that *called* themselves the Omnium. The long version (I promise there is one) will be explained in the story at a later date.
Oh, and Bastion, Orisa, and Athena aren't robots. Just people.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Monday, September 22nd, 2044
“So, level with me,” Mr.Morrison said as they exited counselor Zenyatta’s office. “Have any of you ever understood anything that man has said? Ever ?”
Hana stroked her chin, apparently deep in thought.
“I think...he introduced himself. Right after we sat down.”
Jesse laughed as Mr.Morrison rolled his eyes. He stole a glance at his father, who didn't seem amused. The weekend had burned away most of the negative feelings, but that didn’t mean all their problems were solved.
As if on cue, his father’s phone began to buzz. He sighed, held up a hand as Jesse drew breath to speak, and stepped away to answer it. Jesse looked down at his shoes, while the Morrison's slowed down, curious.
“...Yeah, yeah of course. Right after I drop Jesse off...yeah.”
He was getting called into work. Gibraltar was in the middle of a large-scale expansion, and Symmetra was stricter on her deadlines than even the city was.
Gibraltar was in a period of extreme growth. In the past 5 or so years, crime had plummeted, new businesses had opened, and the old military base had been opened to the public for tourism. Combined with the seaside setting and the old news that several high-profile soldiers from the war with the Omnium had ‘retired’ to the city, and public interest in the country had turned toward the now flourishing city.
The business his father worked for was run by a young woman named Satya Vaswani, a former head of the Vishkar corporation who had broken away from the company to form her own business-and taken several other top execs with her. She’d named the company Symmetra, but the name had quickly become synonymous with the woman herself. She’d gotten an exclusive deal with the city to oversee all new developments, and was determined to do it on schedule.
“Well, come on,” His dad said, walking over and clapping him on the shoulder. “Let’s get going.” He glanced over his shoulder toward the Morrisons. “Sorry again about all this.”
Mr.Morrison held up a hand. “No hard feelings.” Hana nodded in agreement, smiling slightly at Jesse, who smiled back.
“I’ll call someone over to watch you,” His father’s voice floated out of his bedroom. “Probably Angela, if she’s free.”
I can stay home by myself, Dad.” Jesse couldn’t keep a plaintive note out of his voice. He was 15, after all.
“Oh really?” His father emerged in uniform. Most construction companies might not have strict uniforms, but Symmetra required it.
“What am I gonna do? Burn the house down?”
“You say that like its a joke, but-”
“I was nine , Dad!”
“You were ten !”
“It was a big deal Jesse, I had to buy a new oven!”
“Yeah, well, now I know how to make Macaroni and Cheese properly, and we don’t have any anyway!” They glared at each for a second, before Dad snorted, and they both started laughing.
“Ok, ok, you probably won’t burn the house down. Again.”
“That house is still standing.”
“As far as you know.” Dad shook his head, chuckling. “I’ll ask someone to look in on you. But mind you, you’re still grounded, and your homework still needs to get down.”
“Yes sir,” Jesse said, rolling his eyes.
“That’s about the level of excitement I would expect.” They hugged, briefly. “Alright kiddo, I’ll get home as soon as I can.”
“Be safe.” His father had never been seriously hurt at work, but others had, and it always worried him.
Dad just grinned and winked as he left.
No one ever came to check on him. It worried him at first, but his dad came back around 10, mumbled something about him Jesse needing to go bed, before going into his own room.
Jesse sighed as he peeked in the door. His father was splayed across the bed, fast asleep, like he’d walked in the room and just fallen on the bed.
“Night Dad,” he muttered as he pulled the door closed.
Tuesday, September 23rd 2044
“...wait, wait,” Gabriel said, standing up. “That's not right.”
“Gabriel,” He said, a little more snapish than intended. “We've known each other long enough.”
“Gabriel,” Winston conceded. “We have a lot of different corroborating accounts on this. It's not something one child made up.”
“Listen, I know Jesse said some bad things, but this is different.”
“Exactly. That's why you and I are having this talk.”
He really couldn't stand Winston sometimes.
“Look, I get a foul mouth when I'm drunk, or in a bad mood.” He paused. “Especially when I'm both. And yes, Jesse picked up some of that, but I don't talk like this. Especially about other people! And I like to think Jesse has better things to do in his free time than look up even cruder Spanish.”
Winston steeped his fingers and looked over them at Gabriel, clearly not convinced, and he let out a growl of frustration.
“Even barring all of that, Jesse isn't stupid enough to lie to me a second time, especially since I said I'd be talking to you.”
Winston sighed. “I don't blame you for feeling so strongly about this Gabriel, but as I said, a lot of students reported this.”
Gabriel clenched and unclenched his fingers. He didn't believe this. Jesse wouldn't lie to him a second time. Hell, Jesse hadn't technically lied to him the first time. His son knew better than that, and his son was better than that. If Gabriel didn't stand by him now-
“Did Hana Morrison report this? Say anything on this?”
“Um…” Winston hesitated, frowning. “No...I suppose not. But-”
“Just ask her?” Gabriel asked. She’d struck him as an honest girl, if a little over the top. “Please?”
Winston sighed. “Alright, alright. But only because you said please.” The man gave him a sly smile. “I know it's not easy for you.” He picked up the phone before Gabriel had a chance to answer.
“Hana Morrison, please report to the principal’s office.”
Hana looked up, about to take a bite out of her pizza.
“What now ?” She groaned, setting the pizza down.
“Maybe it's unrelated.” Fareeha suggested. “Maybe you did something else .”
“Hey!” Hana exclaimed, punching her arm as the older girl laughed. Fareeha was a senior at the school, and often acted like Hana’s older sister. Their parents were close, and Fareeha had often watched her when they were younger.
“I doubt it,” Jesse spoke up. He’d been quiet since Hana had waved him over. “This is when Dad is supposed to be meeting with the principal.”
“But they only want me?” Hana asked, frowning.
“Maybe you should go too, Jesse. Just in case,” Fareeha suggested.
“Not if I don't have to,” The boy muttered. “If I'm going to die, I'll wait to find out later.”
Hana sighed, and stared down at her uneaten slice of pizza.
“I know it wasn't going to taste good, but I was still looking forward to eating it.”
“Don't worry,” Fareeha said. “I'll make sure no one steals it.” She gave Jesse a pointed look, and the boy held up his hands.
“Hey, hey, be nice,” he said. Hana stared down at his conspicuously empty plate, and gave him a suspicious glare.
“Neither of you can prove anything,” He muttered, crossing his arms.
“We’ll never have to.” Fareeha’s threat was good-natured. Hana got up from the table, waving goodbye as she walked out of the cafeteria. It wasn't far to the principal’s office, and when she entered, Mrs.Athena, the secretary, just smiled and waved her through.
Sure enough, Mr.Reyes was there, leaning against a side wall. The principal, a very large, but friendly man, smiled at her.
“Thank you for coming, Hana,” Winston said. The principal insisted on going by his first name, which Hana didn't mind. Many of the staff, including Winston, were familiar with her father, and she’d met many of them outside of school.
“Of course.” The response was automatic, and she sat in the chair in front of the principal’s desk. She quickly realized that it was where Mr.Reyes must have been sitting, and began to stand back up, giving the man an apologetic look. He held up a hand, smiling slightly.
She supposed that to many, Mr.Reyes must be a frightening figure. He rarely seemed to smile, he had scars running down his face, and he was big . As tall as her father, and broader. But she didn't mind him. Her dad had scars running down his face as well, and even if he was more cheerful than Mr.Reyes, she could tell they were the same type.
“Now, Hana,” Winston said, drawing her attention back to him. “We wanted to...clear up some...inconsistencies, in what happened last week.” He frowned slightly as Mr.Reyes, and sighed, clearly not happy. “What exactly did Jesse call you? Specifically, what did he say in Spanish?”
Hana blinked, looking back and forth between the two men.
“Uh...it was...puta? I think…” She glanced at Mr.Reyes, who nodded.
“That's what I was told.”
Winston’s frown deepened.
“That's...all he said? In Spanish, I mean.”
“Yeah…” Hana said slowly. “Why?”
In response, the principal groaned and buried his face in his hands.
“This just refuses to go away, doesn't it?” Winston’s voice was muffled, but understandable.
“You’re telling me?” Mr.Reyes sighed.
“Apparently whatever translation program they were using didn't teach them how to pronounce the words,” Gabriel said as he and Angela walked to the parking lot. “And their guess at how to pronounce them was terrible.”
“And of course, Jesse can pronounce it all just fine?” Angela sounded more amused than annoyed.
“Well, yeah,” Gabriel said defensively. “It's the difference between hearing someone say it and just looking at a page in a book.”
“A phone screen,” She murmured.
They stopped at the edge of the lot, and Angela turned to him.
“Apologize to Jesse for me, would you? I don’t mean to excuse what he did say, but I shouldn’t have believed those kids. I know Jesse better than that.”
Gabriel ran a hand through his hair, smiling ruefully. “You think you’re bad? I was that mad at him because of what he did say.”
“I think I had a hand in stoking that fire,” Angela said, shaking her head. “Weird thing to be relieved about, isn’t it?”
“That he wasn’t quite as bad as we thought he was? I’m more relieved that I don’t swear like that when I’m drunk.”
Angela arched an eyebrow at him. and he hesitated.
“I...don’t, do I?”
“You certainly used to, but you’ve adjusted to civilian life-and civilian language-well enough.”
“When did I scream about prostitutes and other women like that in Overwatch?”
Angela’s smile faltered. “It was...after Egypt.”
When Commander Ana had lost her eye and a half dozen men and women had died.
This was why they didn’t talk about the war.
“You said something to the effect of Ana being the toughest woman you know, and me being a miracle worker. With a dozen or so expletives added in for good measure. I didn’t ask for a full translation.”
“Leaving it forever a mystery what I really said.” Gabriel forced a smile on his face. “I should get to the car. School’s out in a few and I don’t want Jesse beating me there.”
She knew that, of course, but smiled and nodded anyway.
“Of course. I’ll see you around, Gabriel.”
He got in his car and waved as she drove out of the lot, before leaning back in his seat and rubbing his eyes. Life in Gibraltar could be so surreal. A town chock-full of war heroes. He’d go down to the grocery store and see Wilhelm Reinhardt, the most high-profile crusader still alive, buying bread, and then grabbing a tray of mini-cupcakes because he couldn't help himself. He’d watched Lena Oxton, an ace fighter pilot turned English teacher, lose a drinking contest with Mako Rutledge, a guerrilla fighter turned cafeteria chef, with Winston, the lead scientist from Overwatch R&D, (now a high school principal), passed out before the other two had even gotten tipsy. Lena’s girlfriend had closed the bar early to take them all home herself.
He’d been the last to move to Gibraltar, at least from Overwatch, and it still struck him how...domestic, it all was. How quiet their lives here were.
The school bell rang, and the doors opened to release a stream of kids.
He wouldn’t trade this life for anything.
But that didn’t mean he couldn’t think it was strange.
Jesse listened to the clink of dishes coming the kitchen while he absent mindedly filled in his homework.
It was history, and it was early enough in the year that Ms.Oladele hadn’t given them any critical thinking questions, and dates and names were easy for him. His father always said that he just ‘had a head for it’, but Jesse always felt that it was just because he enjoyed it. He actually wanted to attend that class.
Just as the smell from the kitchen reached him, he heard his father call to him.
“You want cheese?”
Dad never wanted to make hamburgers. Had something happened?
Oh. He must feel bad.
Dad poked his head around the corner.
“Did’ja hear me?”
“Oh, uh sorry. Yeah, I do.” Dad shot him a curious look, but disappeared back into the kitchen.
Hana had, perhaps unwisely, told him everything. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to feel, but he knew that what he felt was bad. Dad had stood up for him, and that mattered, and yet…
He blinked and looked down at the large dark spot on his paper. He’d been running his pencil back at forth on the paper without thinking about it.
He tried to erase it, before giving up and just writing the answer next to it. Let the teacher be confused.
“Jesse! Yours is ready!” He put his pencil down and walked into the kitchen, where the burger was sitting on a plate ready for him. He grabbed it and moved to the table without a word, not looking at his father while he did the dishes. Dad liked to cook his burger longer than Jesse preferred, but he was cleaning the other dishes.
“So, uh…” Dad started, over the noise of the sink. “How was school?”
Jesse took a large bite of the burger before answering. He really didn't want to talk.
“Alright,” He said, food in his mouth.
“Don't talk with your mouth full.” The correction was automatic, with no feeling behind it. A pause.
“You and Hana made up?”
Jesse grunted, and heard his father sigh.
“I'm sorry, ok?”
Jesse didn't look at him.
“And if it means anything, Angie is sorry too. We shouldn't have gotten so mad.”
No, you shouldn't have.
“Thanks,” He muttered. He wasn't even sure if his father heard him.
Another sigh. What did Dad expect? He’d just found out that what felt like half the school had worked together to try and get him in trouble.
I'm not going to pretend to be happy for you.
“Jesse…” Dad's hand rested on his shoulder, and he shrugged it off, trying to eat.
The hand returned, Dad's grip firmer this time.
“Jesse, we’re going to talk about this.”
“Talk to yourself if you want to that badly!” He growled, standing up and shaking his father's hand off.
“Do we have a problem?” His father demanded.
You’re not helping anything!
Leave me alone!
“You can't help anything!” Jesse snapped.
“I can try!”
“And do what!?” Jesse demanded, turning to face him. “What could you do that wouldn't just make it worse?”
His father seemed taken aback by the question.
“How would I make it worse?” Dad asked, confused.
And before he could stop himself, Jesse yelled, “Hana already gets made fun of for being adopted! I don't need that in my life too!”
Silence fell between them. Jesse might as well have slapped his father, the look he was giving him.
“I…” Jesse started, then stopped, staring at his shoes. It wasn't a lie. And he couldn't take it back. After a moment, his father just walked out of the kitchen. After a minute, he heard the door open, and flinched as it slammed close.
On the stove, the remaining burger burned.
Gabe feels guilty and tries to make up for it, but alas, Jesse is 15. And I don't know about you all, but I said some stupid stuff at 15.
Chapter 3: Running Interference
Tuesday, September 23rd 2044
“Yes...yes thank you Jack. Emily is working tonight, thankfully, so she’s keeping an eye on him, and Lena will probably be there before you, so I'm sure it'll be fine.”
Jesse tuned out the rest of the conversation. Dad had apparently had the sense to call Angela before actually leaving, but had still driven straight to Tracer’s, the local bar.
That he’d driven there was the main problem, and after Angela had found out, she’d called the bar.
He’d only heard part of the conversation from there, but she’d called Mr.Morrison, of all people, to bring Dad home.
He heard the click of the phone being hung up, but didn’t move. He was curled up in a ball on the couch, quietly hating himself.
He heard Angela sigh, and then felt her sit next to him.
“Are you going to talk?” She didn't ask how he felt. Maybe it was obvious.
He didn’t answer.
“It wasn't all you, you know. There's a lot going on for your father right now.”
Yeah, and all of it is either about me or because of me. Jesse thought bitterly.
“There's a lot of pressure on him at work. The government's been showing a lot of interest in Gibraltar. There's a lot Symmetra is expected to do.”
“It doesn't help that he has to work more,” Jesse muttered.
“No, it doesn't.” Angela agreed.
He couldn't stand the silence.
“I said I didn't want to be made fun of for being adopted, ok?” He could feel her eyes on him, and shifted to face further away from her. “They already make fun of Hana for it,” he mumbled. “If they found out I was, they would be even worse.”
“Who, exactly,” Angela's tone was carefully neutral. “Are ‘ they ’?”
“That won't help. You all getting involved would just make it worse.”
“Jesse, that's not right. If they've been attacking you-”
“The only one who attacked me was Hana!” Jesse snapped at her, sitting up.
She wasn’t impressed. “And did it occur to you that she was only upset enough to do so because these other students were making fun of her?”
It hadn’t, actually.
“Just because we work at a school doesn't mean we’re all blind or deaf, you know. We know there's been problems among the students about,bullying. I got so angry at you because I thought you'd been part of it, but you clearly got swept up in it just like Hana did.” She stood up and walked a few feet away, resting her hands on the back of a nearby chair. “We've been hands off this whole time for precisely the reason you want us to be now. But don't let yourself be tortured just to preserve some stupid status quo, ok?”
He didn't answer.
Something soft hit him. He untangled himself and found his serape on top of him. He clutched it to his chest.
Did she know?
Did it matter?
The answer to the first question was probably ‘yes’, but he didn’t know the answer to the second.
“Look,” She said. “Teenagers say stupid things. And sometimes grown men do stupid things. Just apologize, okay? It’ll work itself out.” He drew breath to answer her, before she cut him off. “But maybe wait until tomorrow, to be sure he’ll actually remember you said it.”
Jack didn’t bother taking his jacket off when he entered the bar. One drink wasn’t enough to get him drunk, and he was sure the girls would offer, but they’d been putting more pressure on some gang activity on the west side and he was tired.
“Alright smart guy,” Lena’s accent was unmistakable. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
Mr.Reyes’s voice was noticeably slurred. “Trick question! I don’t know if you’re counting your thumb or not!”
“I’m not-that’s-I’m not holding it up anyway! It doesn’t matter!”
“Don’t get all upset just b’cause I figured out your little trick.”
Jack rounded the corner to see Emily behind the counter, head resting on her arms, apparently defeated. Reyes’ back was to him, apparently delighting in the reactions he was eliciting from Lena.
“Oh, hey Mr.Morrison,” Emily said, looking up at him.
“Jack.” He corrected her automatically.
“In your dreams,” Emily replied sweetly.
“He, uh...ok?” Jack asked, nodding toward Mr. Reyes.
“Hm? Oh yeah, he's fine.”
Jack raised an eyebrow at her, and Emily blushed faintly.
“He was pretty down when he came in, but I think we all gave his son a little too much credit. He wasn't a drink in before he decided he was over it.”
“He’s still here.” Jack pointed out. “And rather drunk.”
“I got the feeling it's been awhile since he's gone out drinking. He seemed to just decide he was already here, so he might as well have fun.”
“After storming out of his house without telling anyone where he was going?” He was not giving Jack a very good second impression.
“I think he's...a bit of a dramatic.”
Jack groaned. Wasn't everyone these days?
The sound caught the attention of the bickering pair down the bar. Lena’s eyes lit up and she bounded over to him, Reyes awkwardly turning around in his seat to face them.
“Commander!” Lena said, wrapping her arms around him and squeezing before jumping back out of his personal space.
“Jack.” He corrected her.
“Never!” Lena said dramatically, before hopping up onto the counter to sit next to her girlfriend.
Jack rolled his eyes, but couldn't keep the smile off his face. Lena was infectious.
“Commander?” Reyes asked, squinting at him.
“Not anymore,” Jack sighed. Reyes seemed confused.
“Right, sorry,” Jack said. “Automatic response. I was a Commander, back in Overwatch.” Reyes’ eyes lit up with interest.
Emily, chin resting on a hand, rolled her eyes. “Isn't everyone in this town retired from Overwatch?”
“Pretty much!” Lena giggled.
“Yeah but...I dunno you,” Reyes said. Jack raised an eyebrow at him.
“Surely you're not that drunk?”
“No, no!” Reyes waved an arm at him. “I mean, you're Morrison, from school, but I don't remember you from service.”
It was Jack's turn to study the man with renewed interest.
“Now I think of it,” Lena said, halfway lost in thought. “You weren't in London when I worked with him. Or Egypt. Or...yeah, wow, you two did a helluva of a job avoiding each other.”
Jack decided against continuing the conversation. He was curious, but it was a matter to investigate later, when Reyes was sober.
“Gabriel. Call me Gabriel!”
“Gabriel, then.” The man grinned at him. “Angela asked me to take you home, to make sure you didn't try to drive yourself.”
Gabriel scoffed. “‘Course I wasn't! What kinda man she take me for?”
“A drunk one,” Jack replied dryly. Gabriel narrowed his eyes, took a breath, paused, held up a finger, paused again, then dropped the finger and shrugged. “Good talk. Get your coat, I don't wanna leave my daughter home any longer than I have to.”
Gabriel let out a dramatic sigh, but acquiesced, grabbing a coat and standing up, noticeably off-balance. He took a step, then frowned, turning toward Emily.
She waved him away. “I have your bill. Pay later, when you're sober enough to properly regret tonight.” Gabriel nodded his understanding, which appeared to be a mistake, and he had to grab the back of a chair to steady himself.
“Good God, Reyes!” Lena exclaimed. “You must have worse tolerance than I do!”
“Shaddap,” Reyes snapped, opening his eyes to glare at the chipper brunette. “I don’t drink much.”
“Raising a kid does make going out for drinks more complicated,” Jack agreed, stepping over and grabbing Gabriel’s upper arm.
“I suppose you’d know,” Emily said, shrugging. “One single dad to another, and all that.”
Jack spared Gabriel a curious glance. He hadn't really thought about it, but now he did, he realized he had heard nothing of a Mrs.Reyes.
The mention of his kid seemed to subdue Gabriel, and Jack, mindful of the reason Gabriel had come here in the first place, elected to leave, waving goodbye to the girls and leading a compliant Gabriel out to his car.
“So, what's your address?” Jack asked as he started the car.
“O-” Gabriel paused, holding a hand up to his mouth, and for a horrified second Jack was sure the man was about to throw up in his car. Instead, Gabriel just burped, shook himself, and answered. “124, North Super Street.”
Jack blinked. “...Really?”
Gabriel turned to him, frowning, “Yeah...why?”
“That's-that's just a couple blocks from me. I live at 176 North Super.”
Gabriel looked as stunned as Jack felt. “An’ we-we never saw each other?”
“I...guess not.” Jack frowned. “We must drive by your house on the way to school every morning. How could we have never seen you?”
“We hafta get up early,” Gabriel said, clearly still drunk. “I work early. So I-I have to take Jesse in early.”
“Huh…” Jack hummed in thought as he reached down to put the car in reverse when Gabriel caught his hand.
“Hey, can I ask you a question?”
“Uh...sure.” Jack said, pulling his hand away.
“Your-your Hana, she’s adopted, right?”
“She ever...seem bothered by it?”
Jack wasn't sure what he had been expecting Gabriel to ask, but this wasn't it.
"Bothered by it? I...don't think so.” I didn't think so until you said something. “Why?”
“Something Jesse said,” Gabriel shrugged.
“He gets bullied for it?”
“No, he said she does.” Jack's jaw dropped, but no words came out. Gabriel squinted at him. “Should I have...not said that?”
Jack didn't answer, instead putting the car in reverse and driving out of the lot.
“So I shouldn't have.” Gabriel seemed to nod to himself. “Shouldn't have.”
God, he's drunk . Or maybe it was more that he was just talkative when inebriated, rather than assuming the man was just hammered. The result was the same, and now that Jack’s mind was grappling with the revelation that Hana was being bullied because she was adopted, he didn't really have the energy to deal with the mans idle chatter.
Thankfully, it wasn't a long drive, and Gabriel didn't seem to mind being completely ignored. They pulled to a stop in front of Gabriel's house, and he watched the door open, Angela visible, leaning against the door frame.
“Least I know why Angela asked me to go get you,” Jack muttered, more to himself than to Gabriel, but the man responded anyway.
“It's cuz we live so close!” He declared, fumbling with his seatbelt. “We should hang out sometime!”
“Ah, I don't know-”
“Come on! I owe you a drink after this, at least.”
“Maybe, sometime,” Jack said, amused. He was sure the man would forget this conversation.
“It's a date!” Gabriel said, managing to get his seatbelt off. He flashed a smile at Jack and opened his door. “I can make it to the house myself.”
“Forgive me if I'm skeptical,” Jack responded dryly.
“I do,” Gabriel said, patting Jack's hand. Jack was unable to resist the temptation to roll his eyes, and Gabriel threw the passengers door open.
“Thanks for everything, Jackie,”
“Do not call me that,” Jack growled.
Blank surprise crossed Gabriel's face for a moment, before it settled back into a placid smile. He held up his hands as he stepped out of the car. “Sorry officer, I won't do it again,”
Jack didn't dignify that with a response, just reaching over and closing the door. He watched Gabriel make his unsteady way up to the front door before switching the car into drive and making the short, two-block trip to his own home, pushing Gabriel from his mind. He and Hana needed to have a talk.
Angela had her best disapproving mom look going as Gabriel made his way up to the door.
“Honestly, Gabriel-” Her frown deepened as he drew nearer, and she leaned. “Are you even that drunk?”
He grinned. “I'm very pleasantly buzzed, if you must know.”
Angela rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Why are you like this?”
“There's no easier way to gauge someone's personality,” Gabe said, rolling his shoulders. “That I can write off and pretend never happened, anyway.”
“You put on this... charade just to get to know Jack?”
“No,” Gabe said, frowning at the implication. “I went to drink because I was upset, and I'm definitely drunk. I just sobered up a bit on the ride home.” He glanced down the street. “Can't believe we live so close.” He muttered, more to himself than Angela.
“You didn't know?’ She arched an eyebrow at him.
“Hey, he didn't know either!” Gabe said, raising his hands defensively.
Angela scoffed and rolled her eyes, before standing aside to allow Gabriel to get past.
“Jesse’s in bed, though I doubt he’s asleep.”
“I doubt your doubt,” Gabriel said, yawning. “Boy loves to sleep. Angry or not.”
“Angry?” Angela frowned. “He's not angry.”
“No?” Gabe asked.
“At himself, maybe. Not at you. He felt awful about what he said.”
“Huh,” Gabe rubbed at his chin. Angela waited for a response. “I need to shave.”
“Calm down, Angel.”
“It's Angie! I mean Angela! I mean-I'm going home!”
Gabe laughed and turned to watch her as she stalked towards her car.
“Thank you! For everything.” He called after her.
She sighed as she dug her keys out of her pocket, before turning to look at him, a soft smile on her lips. “You know you can count on me for anything, Commander.”
“And I'll always have your back, Valkyrie.” He said, giving their standard reply.
He stayed on the porch, waiting for her to start up her car and pull out. He waved as she left, before turning to go inside, taking care to lock the door as he went.
He shed his jacket, hanging it up on a rack near the door, before struggling with his boots. After almost falling over, he elected to go sit on the couch to pull them off, throwing them carelessly by the door, before leaning back on the couch. It was so tempting to just let himself pass out...but no. He had done enough damage to his image tonight. He didn't need Jesse to come out in the morning to find him passed out on the couch.
With an enormous effort, he stood up, shaking himself slightly, and making his way to his room. He paused by Jesse’s door and listened for a moment. He heard nothing.
“Go to bed!” He called through the door.
After a seconds pause, Jesse yelled back. “I am in bed!”
Gabriel rolled his eyes and kept walking. Jesse’s snoring would wake the dead. If it was quiet, if meant he was awake. He had enough sense to stumble into the bathroom and throw back some mouthwash. He had an alarm set for tomorrow, but knew he was going to be hungover, and move slowly. The mouthwash was no substitute for actual morning hygiene, but it would help if he didn't get to it. He didn't even bother to close the door all the way, falling on the bed, and he was asleep almost immediately.
Wednesday, September 24th, 2044
Gabriel pretended not to hear his door pushed open. His head hurt, and he was determined to stay in bed as long as he could. He made no move, or gave any sign that he was awake, but Jesse apparently decided to throw himself on the bed next to him regardless.
“Oof!” Gabe had to move slightly to make room as the bed rocked.
“Mornin’ Dad!” Jesse could be so damn cheery in the morning.
Gabe responded with an indistinct grunt.
“You snore. You were too quiet to be asleep.”
“You snore too,” Gabe grumbled.
“Guess I get it from you.”
“You're adopted.” Jesse gave vent to a loud, horrified gasp. “And you're not Latino either.”
“Well, now I know you're lying.”
“Son, I know I've explained to you what a hangover is before. Do you want something?”
There was a pause, and then the bedsprings creaked as Jesse sat up properly. “I'm sorry.”
Gabe managed to lift his head, so he could see Jesse’s guilty expression. “I'm sorry too,” he said, reaching out and shoving the boy lightly. Jesse’s face turned into a grin, and he shoved back. “You'll never push me out of bed. I'm bigger than you.”
“A heavier sleeper, too. Least when you drink.”
“You slept through your alarm.”
“Mierda! ” He sat up fast, dragging the blankets with him and knocking Jesse from the bed. The boy fell off with a yell of surprise, but the bed was far from the wall, and he landed harmlessly on carpet. “Lead with that next time!” Gabe yelled, leaping out of bed as he saw the time. “I'm going to be late!”
“I guess I thought our father-son bonding and reconciliation was more important!” Jesse called as he rushed to the bathroom.
“Not since you turned 12!” Gabe called back. “Go get ready for school!”
The next 5 minutes were a rush of activity around the house as they hurried to get ready.
“Not gonna make it,” Gabe growled as he checked the clock. The school was the opposite direction of the worksite he was assigned to today. “I just had to drink…” Normally, he woke up well before Jesse, so he could get ready at his own pace, and start breakfast before he woke the boy up. When Jesse was woken up, he was a grouch, but when he woke up on his own, he was almost insultingly good-natured.
“Sorry Dad,” Jesse said, sounding guilty.
“‘S not your fault kiddo. I was the bigger idiot last night by far.”
That gave him an idea.
He grabbed the phone and immediately looked for previous calls. The Morrison's were at the top of the list, just under Angie. He apparently didn't call people that often.
He put the phone up to his ear, foot tapping impatiently. Morrison was ex-military, there was no way he hadn't woken up yet.
After 3 rings, the phone picked up.
He sounded tired, but Gabriel could make time to feel bad later.
“Hey, this is Gabriel Reyes. I uh-wanted to thank you for last night, but mostly I need another favor.”
There was a pause.
“What do you need?”
Bless the soldier that was unwilling to turn down a desperate man.
“Can you pick up Jesse on your way to school today?”
“What?” Jesse asked, looking up from the toast he’d been scarfing down. Gabriel angrily made shushing motions at him with his free hand.
“I slept in. I was just hoping-since it's on your way…” He trailed off, not knowing what else to say.
It was hard to tell, over the phone, whether Mr.Morrison was sighing or yawning.
“Sure, I don't mind. Just tell him to listen for me honking.”
“Thank you!” Gabriel sighed in relief. “You're a real lifesaver, Morrison.”
“Morrison!?” Jesse asked, indignant. Gabriel ignored him.
“You're welcome.” Mr.Morrison audibly yawned.
I would expect a military man to handle mornings better .
At least, that was what he wanted to say. But he didn't want to chance making the blonde mad.
“Thanks again,” Gabriel said, before hanging up.
“Dad!” Jesse whined, sounding more than ever like a petulant child. “I don't want to go to school with Hana!”
“Deal with it! They'll honk when they're here!” Gabriel barked as he threw his jacket over his shoulders and hurried out the door. He paused before he closed it, before calling back; “Have a good day, Son! I love you!”
“Do you though!?”
He closed the door behind him, grinning.
Jack watched Jesse hurry out his house, backpack held in a hand instead of resting over his shoulder, his serape fluttering in the wind of his passage. Hana made a disgusted noise from the passenger's seat.
“Be nice,” Jack warned her. She didn't respond. They'd yet to talk about last night. She'd been asleep when he got home, and he hadn't wanted to start such a conversation so early in the morning.
Jesse hesitated for a second when he reached the car, as if unsure what to do, before reaching out and opening the door to the backseat. He tossed his back in the far seat before climbing in himself, carefully closing the door behind him.
“I, uh...thanks, sir.” Jesse mumbled, not look at them as he buckled in.
Hana made another disgusted noise in response.
“Hana…” Jack growled.
She sighed. “You're welcome,” she said in a long, suffering voice.
Jack raised an eyebrow at her. “What did you do for him, exactly?” Hana blushed, and Jack decided to ignore her, looking at the boy in the backseat through the rearview mirror. “You're welcome, Jesse. We only live a couple blocks away anyway.”
Jesse finally looked up at him, confused. “Wait, you do?”
“Yeah, you didn't know?” Hana flipped her hair over her shoulder contemptuously. “Really, cowboy. Come on.”
“Hana you found out 5 minutes ago.”
“Why do you never take my side on anything?” Hana whined, crossing her arms and pouting while Jesse did a poor job of hiding a smile.
“Your Dad and I only found out last night.” Jack said, speaking to Jesse. “That why Angie called me to pick him up, and why he called me this morning.” He put the car in drive and pulled back out into the street, heading toward the school.
“I don't think I've ever heard anyone aside from Dad call her Angie,” Jesse said, seemingly more to himself than to either of the people in the front seat.
“We have a history. I served in Overwatch, back when it was active.” Jack explained.
That perked Jesse’s interest. “Really? So did my Dad!”
Jack didn't take his eyes off the road, but he could tell Hana was interested as well.
“Another thing we learned last night. We were never on assignment with each other. We must’ve been the only agents who never met. Now that I think about it, Angie probably assumed we knew each other.”
“Really?” Hana asked, animosity toward Jesse momentarily forgotten.
Jack smiled. “Yeah. We were a close-knit group. Why do you think so many of us came to this town together?” He heard Hana grunt in acknowledgment, apparently thinking. He didn't know why she’d gone back to gone back to being angry at the boy, but it probably had more to do with it being early in the morning than anything. He was happy to distract her from it.
“Hey…” Jesse started slowly. “I just realized-Dad drove to work this morning, didn't he?”
“I...assume so…” Jack answered slowly.
“But didn't he-I mean, his car was left at the bar, right? Because you drove him home.”
“Oh, that's what you meant.” Jack said. “Angie called some of my friends. Well, they're probably your Father's friends too, now I think about it. They got the car home.”
“Ooh.” Jesse said. A short pause. “Who?”
“So that's how my I got my car back.”
“Really, Gabriel? What did you think happened?” Amari’s tone of voice, even over the phone, did an excellent job of making people understand just how disappointed in them she was.
“I didn't think about it at all until I was already in the car.” Gabriel answered defensively. “And then I had other problems. Namely, getting to work without one of your men pulling me over.”
“I'm pretty sure you just admitted to committing traffic crimes to a police chief.”
“Oh, please, I didn't admit to anything specific enough to warrant investigation.”
“I have criminal intent on record if we catch you on the traffic cameras .
“On that note, how did you explain to Fareehah that you could pick the lock to a car door?”
“Oh, we had that conversation ages ago. Wilhelm locks himself out of his car all the time.”
“Wait, his regular car or his cruiser?”
“Come on, Gabriel, you know the answer is yes to both.”
“Such a forgetful giant,” Gabriel chuckled. “How he ever managed that Crusader armor is beyond me.
“Absent mindedness does not equate to clumsiness. You're thinking of Winston.”
Gabriel laughed. “Well I should let you get back to work. I've still got a few minutes left on my break.
He heard her sigh. “I don't understand why you're so dead set on keeping that job. Not that there's anything wrong with construction, but I'd hire you on in a heartbeat.”
“I wish you'd at least give me a proper explanation. You can't think we’d judge you, whatever the answer.”
“I just don't want to, Captain.”
“Chief,” Ana corrected, though he could hear the smile in her voice. “Live your own life, Gabriel. But I'm not going to stop worrying about you.”
“I hope you never get it in your head to complain about your son's sass.”
“No comment. Now I've gotta get back to work. Thanks again.”
“Of course. Have a good day.”
The phone clicked off and Gabriel squeezed his eyes closed. He supposed he couldn't blame Captain Amari for not believing him when he said he just didn't want to join the police force, but if there was some deeper reason, his therapist hadn't figured it out.
Gabriel was just done with being a hero, done with fighting bad guys and keeping order. He'd lived that life, and it had been enough for him. He wanted a normal, simple job so that he could look after himself and his son, and live a normal, simple life.
He opened his eyes and checked his phone. His break was over. It was time to get back to work.
“Ughhhhh,” Hana groaned as she sat down at the lunch table. “Dad's gonna be so mad at me...”
“What'd you do?” Jesse asked, sitting down next to her.
“What she didn't do, I'll bet.” Fareehah said, from Hana’s other side.
“It's not my fault history is boring!” Hana said.
“It's your fault when you don't do the homework.” Fareeha murmured, taking a bite of her pizza.
“What's wrong with history?” Jesse asked.
Hana narrowed her eyes at him. “Nothing to you cowboy, I'm sure. Some of us prefer to live in the present.”
“And still others prefer to live in the imaginary future where they're famous and their grades in school don't matter,” Fareeha said, swatting Hana with a folder she’d had out.
“Hey…” Hana pouted. “It's not imaginary…”
“Whether it will happen or not, it's still not now. You need to take school seriously.”
Hana screwed up her face and stuck out her tongue. “Thanks, Mom .”
“You should really be nicer to people,” Fareehah said, arching an eyebrow at her.
"Why should I bother?" Hana questioned, voice filling with something like a snobbish disdain. "Everyone here is beneath my notice."
“Well, if you keep being rude, Jesse might put his homework back in his bag and not let you copy it before class.”
“My new best friend was gonna do what now?” Hana asked, whipping around to stare hopefully at Jesse. The man had his backpack propped up next to him, the days assignment in his hand, smiling sheepishly.
“If your dad can be half as scary as mine can be, then...well, I wouldn't put anyone through that.”
“A true hero! I've had you all wrong, Jesse Reyes!” Hana declared, before diving for her own backpack.
“The quickest way to a woman's heart.” Fareeha said, rolling her eyes. She noticed, though, that Jesse had a small smile,on his face the rest of the lunch period.
“Ah, crap.” Jesse groaned, looking at the newest message on his phone.
I'm not going to be able to pick you up from school today. They asked me to work a double-shift and I can't take a break long enough to get you home. Sorry bud, but after missing so much work earlier, I can't really say no. Angie said she'll give you a ride if you wait for a bit after school.
“What is it?” Hana asked, glancing over at him curiously. There was no assigned seating in Ms.Oxtons class, and they'd sat next to each other.
“Dad can't pick me up today.” Jesse answered, running a hand through his hair.
“You have to walk!?” Hana sounded alarmed. It was 10 minutes to drive to school from where they lived.
“No, Ms.Ziegler offered to drive me.” Jesse made a face.
“What's wrong with that?” Both of them jumped as Ms.Oxton seemed to appear out of nowhere, one elbow on Jesse’s desk, propping up her chin.
“S-sorry Le-Ms.Oxton! We'll get back to work!” Hana squeaked, as a wave of laughter rippled through the rest of the class.
Ms.Oxton waved a lazy hand at them. “It's just homework, I never said you all had to be quiet. But really, what's so bad about Angie?” she lowered her voice at that, so the rest couldn't hear.
“Well, there's nothing bad about her,” Jesse answered, face burning. “Just-it's weird, getting a ride from a teacher.”
“Nurse,” Ms.Oxton corrected. “But point taken.” She glanced at Hana. “Don't you two live next to these two though?” She asked Jesse, indicating Hana. “I'm sure the Commander would give you a ride.”
The teenagers frowned at her, before Hana’s expression cleared.
“Oh! You mean Dad!” She turned to Jesse. “Yeah, I'm sure he wouldn't mind.”
Jesse seemed unconvinced. “I don't wanna...impose,” He said slowly, apparently taking a second to find the word.
“But it's ok to impose on Angie, is it?” Ms.Oxton asked, the raised eyebrow contradicting the smile threatening to break through.
“Tell you what Jesse, why don't you come over for a bit and help me with today's history homework and we’ll call it even.” Hana offered.
Jesse’s face cleared, and he smiled. “Sure! Is he gonna be ok with me coming over?”
“To help with homework? He’ll be thrilled.”
“Helping though, not just giving her the answers.” Ms.Oxton warned.
“Oh, of course.” Jesse said, while Hana raised her hands to proclaim her innocence.
Smiling, Lena turned away before rolling her eyes. “They'll be even when he does something for her after her Dad drives him home. Teenagers.”
“Hello again, Jesse.” Jack said, as the teenagers piled into his car. “I assume Hana forgot to text me something?”
“Oops!” Hana covered her mouth, blushing.
“Yes, then.” Jack glanced at Jesse through the rearview mirror. “Did your father have to work late?”
“Yes, sir.” Jesse answered nervously. “But um, Hana asked me to-”
“To help me with my homework!” Hana cut him off, smiling sweetly ather father. “You know I hate history homework.”
“I do know that,” Jack said, raising an eyebrow at his daughter. “What does that have to with poor Jesse here?”
“What's that supposed to mean?” Hana asked, affronted.
“History’s my best subject, sir.” Jesse said, shifting uncomfortably. “Hana really did just ask for help.”
“Well...alright.” Jack said slowly. He was picking Hana up on his lunch break, which meant he'd be leaving shortly after he got there. Jesse seemed like a well-behaved boy, though. Or at least one with a healthy amount of caution.
“Thanks Dad!” Hana said, reaching over and hugging his arm. Jack smiled as he backed out of his parking spot.
“Was someone else supposed to give you a ride?”
“Yeah, Ms.Ziegler, but I told her you would give me one.” Jesse gave Hana a sour look. “When I thought you'd already said yes.”
“I'm sorry, ok? I mean, I was sure he’d say yes, and he did, didn't he?”
Jack rolled his eyes, still smiling. “You know what they say about assuming, Hana…”
“See you in a few hours!” Dad called.
“Be safe, love you!” Hana called back, before she heard the door close. “Alright,” she said, clapping her hands together.
Jesse looked up at her curiously. “What?” He was sitting in the middle of the floor, Hana having claimed the bed, and the desk covered in a clutter of folders, papers, and cords that were supposed to go to the computer that she was still grounded from.
She hopped off the bed and went over to the TV her Dad had mercifully returned to her at the beginning of the week. From the small, hand-me-down entertainment center the TV stood on, she pulled out her PlayStation and two controllers.
“Hana…” Jesse said, voice tinged with worry.
“Oh, come on, cowboy! We can finish the homework later!”
Jesse looked unconvinced. “We...are on thin ice as it is.”
Hana considered him for a long moment. He wasn't wrong. “What about...just what's due tomorrow? Then we play?”
“Sure! But...Ms.Oladele’s work isn't due until Friday.”
Hana shrugged. “So just come over tomorrow! I mean, it's what? A minute to walk over? I got a new multiplayer game before I got grounded and I've been wanting to play it.”
Jesse blinked, apparently surprised, before grinning. “Sounds like a plan to me!”
She left the PlayStation where it was and walked back over to the bed. The only homework she had due tomorrow was math.
As if on que, she heard Jesse say “Ugh, math.”
“Oh, come on, it's easy.” She said, glancing at him. Jesse stuck his tongue out at her.
“Maybe for you. I hate math.”
“Whoa, hey, I didn't say I liked it,” Hana defended, raising her hands to proclaim her innocence. “Math sucks. This just isn't very hard.”
Jesse rubbed the back of his head, looking at the paper. “I know its not, I'm not that bad. But we're supposed to learn this stuff really well right? So we can use it later. Math never sticks in my head.”
She understood that. It was how history was for her.
“All those dates and names do, though?” She asked.
“Well, I like history. It makes it a lot easier to learn. Math is always so...forced.”
“Well, why don't we help each other?” Hana suggested. “If we’re both good at what the others bad at…” she let the idea linger, and Jesse seized onto it.
“Yeah! We could help each other study!” He said eagerly.
“Ok but first, an important question.” Jesse waited. “Are you going to complain if I start calling you my cowboy study buddy?”
“To other people? Yes.”
Ms.Oladele is in reference to Orisa, not Efi. In this story, Orisa is Efi's older sister.
Chapter 5: It's a Date
Wednesday, September 24th, 2044
“It's not that I mind you going over to a friends house, considering that friend lives two blocks away,” Gabe said, pinching the bridge of his noise while Jesse was busy looking anywhere but at him. “It's that I mind not being told!”
“Sorry Dad…” Jesse muttered, nervously playing with his serape.
Gabe gave vent to a long sigh. “It just didn't occur to you to text me? I had to come home to an empty house and no explanation. You remembered to tell Angie, for pity's sake!”
Jesse’s face was beet red, but Gabe caught the smile he was trying to hide.
“What's so funny?” He asked, a hint of a growl in his voice.
“Nothing! Just, well… Hana forgot to text her dad too.”
Gabe closed his eyes. “Two peas in a pod, apparently. You at least got your homework done?”
“Yeah!” Jesse answered quickly. Gabe raised an eyebrow, examining the boy suspiciously. “Come on, Dad, does Mr.Morrison seem like the type to let us get away with not doing homework?”
He had to give the kid that one.
“Fine. Just go to bed.”
“What? But it's only-”
“Go to bed, Jesse, and be glad that's all the trouble you're getting into.”
The boy's shoulders slumped, and he slowly walked out of the living room, before apparently remembering something, and turning around.
“Hana, um, wanted me to go over to her house tomorrow, too. Can...I?” He asked slowly.
Gabe held his gaze for a long second, before shrugging. “Sure. Not right after school, though, I'll be picking you up.”
Jesse frowned. “Are you sure? I mean, Mr.Morrison didn't seem to mind-”
Gabe pinned him down with a stare. “Can you say, for sure, that Mr.Morrison is aware you're expected tomorrow?”
A long 5 seconds passed between them.
“Then I'll be picking you up tomorrow.”
“Go to bed.”
A sigh. “Yes, sir.”
Jesse retreated to his room, and Gabe walked over to the couch before throwing himself down on it, reaching over to grab the remote. It was only 7 in the evening, and he was sure Jesse would be staying up for a few hours regardless, but Gabe had to do something to punish him.
It had been unpleasant to come home and find his son missing, but he’d just called Jesse’s cell and the boy had shown up not 2 minutes later, red-faced and muttering apologies. The truth was that Gabe was just glad Jesse had finally made a friend. In light of that, he wasn't really mad or offended that texting him had just slipped his sons mind. But Gabriel had a talent for appearing mad, and it wasn't the first time he’d employed those skills against his son.
He wasn't focusing on the TV at all, his mind wandering. They'd imposed on poor Jack Morrison again , even if it was for better reasons this time. He wanted to make it up to the man, but there wasn't really anything he could do. He was sure the man wouldn't accept money, and it wasn't the right thing to offer anyway.
Something to offer…
That gave him an idea.
Thursday, September 25th, 2044
Dad had disappeared into the kitchen as soon as they'd gotten home, and Jesse was getting restless. He didn't want to unpack anything, since he and Hana still had homework to do, but he didn't like waiting around.
“What are you doing?” Jesse called.
“Baking!” Dad called back.
“As in cooking food, generally with an oven!”
“I know what baking is!”
“Then why are you asking? And moreover, why are we yelling? Walk your lazy butt over here if you want to talk!”
Jesse groaned and stood up, leaving his backpack by the couch as he walked over to the kitchen poking his head around, to see that his father was, indeed, baking.
“Daaaad,” Jesse whined. “Why are you making me wait for you if you were gonna bake something?”
“God you sound like a kid,” Dad jibed goodnaturedly. “And it's not gonna take much longer. I got everything ready last night. Just have to actually, you know, bake them.”
“Bake what?” Jesse asked, venturing further into the kitchen. “You're baking cookies?”
“And they're not for you,” Dad answered.
“They're for the Morrison's?” Jesse asked, frowning.
“And some are for Angie. I promised last night when I called her.”
“Why'd you call her?” Jesse was feeling hopelessly lost.
“Figured she'd know if they had any allergies. So I promised to make her some in exchange for bothering her.”
“But why do I have to wait for you to make these?”
“Because they're our apology, kiddo. In case you forgot.”
Jesse felt his face flush, and he retreated from the kitchen, though not quickly enough to escape his father's “That's what I thought.”
It wasn't long before he heard the oven going off, and he could smell the cookies for the first time. And they smelled good. He couldn't remember the last time Dad had made cookies, but he could remember how good they were. He poked his head back in the kitchen.
“I don't suppose you made some for us too?” He asked, hopefully.
“You mean did I make you some?” Dad asked, intent on the tray he was carrying to the counter.
“Well...yes. Did you? Pretty please?”
Dad just gave him a look. “Sure, Jesse, come get one.”
No, he knew this game. He walked over and grabbed an oven mitt, only for his father to swat him on the head.
“If you know they'll burn you hand, you should realize they'll burn your tongue too.”
“Child abuse!” Jesse accused, rubbing the back of his head.
“Not as abusive as letting you get burned.”
“Dad, the only reason I went for the oven mitt was because you let me burn myself before.”
“You have no proof. Besides, pain teaches kids valuable lessons.”
Jack was surprised to hear the doorbell ring, and even more surprised to hear the thunderous noise of Hana running downstairs.
“Hey Dad! Is it ok if Jesse comes over?”
Jack just sighed and walked over to the door, opening it to reveal both Jesse and his father, the latter with a plastic container in his hand and a bemused expression on his face.
“Afternoon, neighbor,” Reyes said, chuckling.
“I take it you heard that?” Jack asked, as Hana walked up to stand beside him.
“Yeah, our kids are awful.”
“Hey!” Jesse said, offended. “I told you about today.”
“Yeah, today.” Reyes shook his head.
Jack stood aside, noting Hana’s blush and deciding she was embarrassed enough. “Come on in, I don't mind.” Jesse ducked his head as he stepped inside, giving Jack a small smile before turning to Hana. Reyes, however, stayed on the porch. When Jack turned to him curiously, he held out the container.
“Thought it was a way to say thanks,” the man said. “Not much I can do to make up for all the help, but I figured everyone likes cookies.”
Jack took the container, surprised. “Thank you.”
“No, really, thank you.” Reyes said, looking over at the kids. “For everything.”
Jack smiled and nodded, stepping back to close the door.
“Text me when you're heading home, kiddo!” Reyes called.
“Ok! Thanks Dad!” Jesse called back. Reyes waved as he left, and Jack closed the door, thoughtful. Maybe he’d been too harsh on Reyes. Everyone had rough patches in their life. He seemed to have just met the man during one.
“Soooo…” Hana said slowly, walking over to him. “Cookies?”
“Apparently,” Jack answered walking over to the coffee table and placing the container down. He popped the top off and was greeted with the pleasant aroma of freshly-baked cookies. Chocolate chips, by the look of them. “He made these this afternoon?” Jack asked, looking up at Jesse as he took one.
“Yup,” Jesse said, nodding. “That's why we didn't come over right away.”
“And here I thought it was because you hadn't told anyone,” Jack muttered. He doubted Jesse heard everything he said, but he clearly got the jist, as he stopped talking and stared at his feet.
Hana, unbidden, came over and took a cookie as Jack took a bite. Peanut-butter chocolate chip. His favorite.
“That's delicious!” Hana exclaimed after she took a bite. She turned to Jesse, who was standing awkwardly in the middle of the living room. “Your Dad can cook?”
“Err, yeah?” Jesse answered, uncertainly. “I mean, he’s not a chef, or anything.”
“Do you not want one, Jesse?” Jack asked, holding one out to the boy.
“I'd love one,” Jesse said gratefully, walking over to take it. “Dad just said-I mean, they were for you. So he wanted me to wait until…” Jesse cleared his throat. “Thank you, sir.”
“It's alright,” Jack said, amused. “And stop calling me ‘sir'.”
“Ok, sir-I-I mean, ok, Mr.Morrison.”
“It must be nice, having a dad that can cook,” Hana said, taking a second cookie.
“What's that supposed to mean?” Jack asked, offended. “I can cook.”
Hana gave him a look that was something like pity.
“Dad, you know I love you, but...no you can't.”
“What do you think you eat every night?”
“Takeout.” Jack glared at her. “Or something Aunt Ana made for us because she felt bad for me.” Well, now it really hurt. “I mean, yeah, the food you make is edible, and all, but you have about the same range of cooking I do.”
“That's because it's the amount of cooking you should be able to do.” Jack defended. “When you eventually move out!”
“Sure, Dad, but you're not living on your own, are you? I think it's expected that you cook more than pasta and hamburgers when you have a child.”
Jack stared at her. Hana met his gaze, unflinching.
“You know what I think?” Jack said. “I think these are my cookies, not yours.” And so saying, he scooped up the bin of cookies and walked out of the living room, ignoring her protests and apologies.
Jack relaxed on the couch, the TV turned up just loud enough that he could hear it over the kids. He wasn't really concerned that they were already playing video games. Hana might think she was sneaky, but she could only bear to keep quiet when playing for so long, and it had been long enough this time that he was sure they'd gotten at least most of their work done. Cramming work before bed or right before class was something he’d been just as guilty of as a teenager as he was sure the two upstairs were. So long as they got it done and were smart enough not to 'let him know', he was fine with it.
His thoughts drifted toward the newly-cleaned container sitting on the kitchen counter. He’d stashed a bag of the cookies in the pantry for Hana to ‘find' later, (that she could have, so long as she asked first), as he’d never intended to eat all of them himself, but he had eaten more than he thought he would. They were good.
He’d thought to just send it back with Jesse, but he wasn't really interested in what was playing on the TV, and the setting sun was tinging the sky with a pleasant orange glow. It would be nice to stretch his legs.
He got up to put his shoes on, wondering if Reyes would say anything. The man had seemed genuine when he dropped his son off, and Jack had no wish to make things between antagonistic, but he would be the first to admit that his social skills needed...work.
He grabbed the container and lid off the counter and headed for the door, pausing when he reached the stairs.
“Hana!” He called.
The noise of the game ceased, and he heard her door open.
“Yeah?” She called back,
“I'm going to take a walk! You two behave yourselves!”
Her door closed, and the noise of the game resumed. Jack shook his head, smiling.
Nothing to worry about for her, apparently.
But in a way, that was nice. It was why he was comfortable leaving her alone in the first place. She would continue to do exactly what she was doing, with or without him.
He made sure to lock the door behind him as he left the house. He was going to need a jacket on his walks soon, but it was still comfortable for now. He strolled down the sidewalk, the bin tucked under one arm, trying to think what he would say if Mr.Reyes tried to apologize again. With luck, all he would have to do is give the bin back, smile, wave, and walk away, but while it wasn't fair to judge someone just by what they were like when they were drunk, he had the feeling Reyes would talk more.
Why didn't I just leave this for Jesse for to take back?
Because I felt like I needed an excuse to go for a walk at this time of the day, even though I didn't give a reason to Hana.
Well, yeah, he didn't need to give Hana a reason. She knew he liked to take walks. It was just that there were other people around, for once.
He almost walked clear past 124, and turned on his heel to go up the walkway to the house. He knocked sharply 3 times.
He didn't have time to consider, as the door swung open.
“Mr.Morrison? Is everything alright?” Reyes asked, looking concerned.
“Oh, yes, of course.” Jack should've considered that reaction. “I just wanted to stretch my legs, thought I'd bring this over.” He held out the tub.
Reyes accepted it, looking relieved. “Here I thought Jesse had done something.”
“No, he’s fine,” Jack said, waving a hand. “I suppose I can understand that.” Wait, that sounded rude. “I mean, either of them seem like they could go back to each other's throats at a moments notice.” What am I even saying?
Reyes, however, chuckled. “That's teenagers for ya. Enemies one week and friends the next.” He shrugged. “All's well that ends well, though.”
“I'll agree to that,” Jack said. Especially since it's a chance to change the subject. “Thanks for the cookies by the way. They were good.”
“Yeah?” Reyes face lit up with a smile. “Glad to hear it!”
“Though I did stop the kids from having any. They were being mean.”
“Mean? Mean how?”
“Well, more Hana than Jesse. I'm not exactly a whiz in the kitchen, and apparently you are.”
“I don't know if I'd go that far.” Reyes said, shifting his weight from foot to foot. “But I'm not terrible.”
“Where'd you learn?” Jack asked, curious.
“Mostly just cookbooks, though my abuela -my grandmother, she taught me a bit. I found being able to cook was a good way to make friends in basic, so I got practice in.”
“Your unit was lucky.” Jack grimaced, remembering his own groups pathetic attempts at making meals. “Mine insisted that my food was bland and tasteless, and were sure they could do better.
“Was your food bland and tasteless?”
“Probably, but they definitely couldn't do better.”
They laughed, and Jack felt himself relax a bit.
“Maybe I can make the two of you something, sometime,” Reyes said. “Put my supposed skills to the test.”
“Oh, you don't have to do that-” Jack started, but Reyes was already shaking his head.
“No, I think it's a good idea. There's not a lot I can do to say thanks, but I can cook.” Reyes was sounding more sure of himself as he spoke. “I'll make you guys dinner sometime.” He eyed Jack curiously. “And we’ll call it even?”
Jack hesitated. It felt like he was imposing, but he understood that Reyes must have felt much the same way. If he had the chance to clean the slate between them…
And a nice home cooked meal sounded really good.
“Alright, deal.” Jack said. On reflex he extended a hand, and he was surprised that Reyes immediately took it. His grip was firm, and Jack had to resist the urge to test his strength as they shook.
“Just saying though, if wouldn't take much to carry from one house to the other, but if you want it fresh …” Reyes let the sentence hang.
“You want to come over to our house cook?” Jack asked, before hurriedly adding, “because that's fine.”
“I was thinking you two could come over here. That way I know I have everything I need.”
Considering that their kitchen had more snacks than seasonings, Jack had to give him that.
“That sounds fine. We’ll just coordinate through the kids?”
“The ones that can't even remember to tell us where they are? Do you have a cell phone on you?”
Jack did, and before he even registered what was happening, he added the first new contact to his phone in almost 3 years.
“We’ll have to figure out a time we’re all free,” Reyes said, flashing him a disarming grin. “But I've kept you long enough.” He raised the hand holding the plastic bin. “Thanks again, Morrison.”
“Yeah, uh, no problem,” Jack managed, backing down the porch, raising a hand in farewell as he turned away. He heard the door close, but didn't relax until he was back to the sidewalk.
What the heck just happened to him? One minute they were making awkward small talk and the next it seemed Reyes had made good on his drunken promise to take him on a date.
No, no, that is not what just happened. The conversation had just moved fast. And Reyes-he probably gave that flashy grin to everyone. Jack had just gotten the wrong idea.
He took a deep breath and shook himself. He got stuck in his own head at the best of times. He was usually able to hide it. That Reyes had gotten past that for a second didn't mean anything.
It had just been awhile, that was all.
Maybe he’d go for a jog, instead of a walk.
Friday, September 26th, 2044
“Come on Jess, we're gonna be late!”
“Can't I just catch a ride with the Morrison's? I'm tired.”
“It's your own fault if you didn't get enough sleep last night,” Gabe snapped at him. “And you can't treat them like your own personal taxi service!”
“But they said they don't mind!”
“Jesse,” Gabe sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I don't know what gave you kids the idea you can speak for us, but you can't. Hana is not the one driving, and is not the one making that decision. And you do not get to decide what I am ok with. If Mr.Morrison really feels that way, he can talk to me about it, because I am not bothering that man with anything ever again if I can help it!”
Jesse had sunk as low into the couch as he could, not looking at his father.
“Got it,” Jesse mumbled.
“Great. Now grab your stuff, and let's go already!”
“Harsh,” Hana said, giving Jesse a sympathetic look.
“True,” Fareeha countered. “Seriously, try to put yourself in your parents shoes for the past few weeks. I swear, Mom got a headache just hearing about it.”
“Well...yeah…” Jesse muttered. “He was still kinda mean.”
“He was probably tired too,” Fareeha said, before taking a bite of her sandwich.
“How early do you get up?” Hana asked.
“Around 5:30, 6?” Jesse said.
“ 5:30 ?” Hana exclaimed. “School doesn't start until 7:30!”
“Well, Dad always has us get up a little earlier than we need to so we have ‘time to wake up’.” Jesse said, a little defensively. “But he usually starts work at 7, so he needs to drop me off before that.”
“And the construction is at the far end of town.” Fareeha said, before turning to Hana. “Maybe you should ask your dad about carpooling. That way they could both sleep in.”
“You're right.” Hana turned a serious expression on Jesse. “You won't survive at this rate.”
“I-it's not that bad,” Jesse said, letting out a nervous laugh. “I just usually go to bed early.”
“Exactly!” Hana said. “If you're going to be friends with me, you're going to have to stay up late playing video games!”
“Oh, your concern is...so moving.” Jesse said flatly.
“And utterly transparent,” Fareeha jibed.
“Quiet Ms. “I have to study for college so I can't play with you”.”
“The gall I have,” Fareeha muttered, before getting up. “Come on troublemakers, lunch is almost over.”
Saturday, September 27th, 2044
Gabe dragged a hand down his face. “I just don't want to bother you anymore.”
Morrison shook his head, the polite smile remaining fixed to his face. “It's fine, really, you're right on our way to school.”
Gabe remained unconvinced. “What if...hmm…ah! How about I take the kids home?”
Morrison seemed momentarily confused, before his expression cleared. “Oh, you mean-yeah, that would work. I usually take lunch to go get Hana.”
“Great!” Gabe said, clapping his hands together. “You get lunch and the boy and I get to sleep in a little more.”
“Everyone wins,” Jack agreed, looking amused.
“Thank you, really.” Gabe said, offering his hand.
Morrison accepted, and they shook on it.
“I still owe you a dinner though, don't I?”
Morrison's smile faltered for a moment, before his expression cleared. “Ah, that's-you really don't have to.”
“No, no, I insist,” Gabe said, mostly failing to hide his smirk. He didn't know why, but there was something fun about pushing the blonde man like this. It seemed to be the only thing that got through his army-trained defenses.
“Oh, alright,” Gabe said, waving a lazy hand at him as he stepped back from the door. “But I'll make dinner for you eventually, Morrison.”
Morrison cleared his throat, evidently buying time to think of a response, and Gabe elected to turn on his heel and leave, waving a hand in the air as he did.
“I'll see you later!” He called, flashing a grin over his shoulder. Morrison didn't answer, merely waving a hand as he closed the door.
Jesse looked up as Hana slipped back into the room and slowly closed the door.
“What’re you doing, sneaking around in your own house?” he asked, as she hopped back up on the bed. Jesse had taken up residence on a bean bag in the corner, history notebook open in his lap.
“My father has very keen senses,” she explained quietly. “And he might be coming up here at anytime.”
Jesse arched an eyebrow at her. “So?” He kept his voice down, though.
“ So eavesdropping looks bad.”
“Eavesdropping is bad.” Jesse corrected her.
“Until I turn 18, it's the only way to find out what's going on.” She snapped, before going silent, apparently listening. “If he was going to come up, I think he would’ve done so already. We’re safe.”
“I thought cowboys were ride or die, you traitor.”
“That's not cowboys, thats women with bad boyfriends. What was so interesting to listen to anyway?”
“Well, they were talking about carpooling…”
“Yeah, that's why Dad walked over with me,” Jesse said, frowning.
“Well, apparently my Dad will be taking us to school and your Dad will be taking us back. Pretend you don't know, though.”
“What do you take me for?” Jesse asked, offended.
“A 15 year old who dresses like a cowboy.”
“That is a solid comeback,” Jesse muttered, before clearing his throat. “But that wasn't all, I take it?”
Hana shook her head, a strange gleam in her eye. “Did you know your Dad promised to make dinner for us? As in Dad and I?”
Jesse blinked. “No…”
Hana stroked her chin. “He was almost... teasing Dad about it. And I haven't seen Dad that stutter-y in a long time.” She looked at Jesse. “Is your Dad...single?”
It took a second, then two, before he scowled at her.
Hana’s face fell. “He isn't?”
“He is , but no, you're not doing this!”
“Aw, c’mon Jesse!’
“No!” Jesse snapped, and Hana seemed taken aback by his forcefulness.
“Am I...missing something?” She asked, hesitantly.
Jesse deflated slightly. “Dad got...burned, really badly, last time he was with someone. He hasn't put himself out there since.”
Hana seemed sympathetic. “When was that?”
Jesse hesitated. “Before...before he adopted me.” Hana stared at him. “Like, right before. Or close to.”
“That's a...weird way to rebound.” She said slowly. Jesse glared at her. “N-not that it's a bad thing, I...I'm gonna stop talking now.”
Jesse grunted, and looked down at his notebook.
After a second, Hana spoke again. “But still, that was a long time ago, wasn't it? And he seemed-”
“Just leave it!” After a moment, Jesse added, “please. I don't even know if Dad likes guys. I do know he does like to mess with people, and that's probably all it was.”
“Ok.” Hana sighed. She pulled her own history notebook out. “Can I see your notes? Please?”
Jesse rolled his eyes and got up, moving over to the bed.
“Geez, how do you write so much down during class? I can barely listen.”
“We can't all have attention disorders.” Hana punched his arm. “Ow.”
They sat in silence for awhile, Hana copying his notes while he doodled on the notebook paper.
“So…” Hana started, without looking up. “How long ago...were you adopted?”
Jesse didn't answer at first, keeping his eyes fixed on the revolver now dominating a corner of the page.
“I mean, you're obviously comfortable calling him Dad, and everything. I just-” she stopped herself, and sighed. “I'm sorry. I've just never known someone else who was adopted.”
Jesse carefully detailed the gun chamber.
“‘Round 10 years ago. I was 5.” He said quietly. “He knew my birth parents. Didn't want me to end up in foster care.”
“Oh.” Was Hana’s only response.
“What about you?” Jesse asked.
“I was barely 3. Dads last deployment was in Seoul. He...just took me back with him, I guess.”
“I was 3. I don't remember. My birth parents must have died in the war. I don't know whether Dad knew them, or me, or if he just decided to adopt…” she trailed off.
“You haven't asked?”
“Do you ask your Dad about the war?” Jesse looked up and met Hana’s eyes. After a second, he looked away.
They fell silent again, the only sound the scratching of pencil on paper. Jesse could tell they'd both shared as much as they were going to, today at least. It was a sensitive subject.
“Too quiet.” Hana said.
“What?” Jesse looked up at her, confused.
“It's too quiet!” Hana declared, much louder. “Let's take a break! We have all day if we need it.”
“O-oh, sure.” Jesse had to lean back out of the way as Hana jumped off the bed, moving to the TV.
Jesse shrugged to himself.
That was one way to get rid of a bad mood.
Sunday, September 28th, 2044
Gabe took in a deep breath of the crisp morning air, before shivering rather violently. Apparently, the night was warmer than early morning, if his foggy breath was any indication.
He usually took walks at night, after Jesse had gone to sleep. His day-to-day involved plenty of outside exercise, but he found a walk around the neighborhood helped clear his head. This morning, however, he’d woken up early, and failed to get back to sleep.
He shook himself in a vain attempt to dispel the chill. His old hoodie was usually enough for his nighttime wanderings, but the days were getting colder, and he’d likely have to curtail his activities soon.
He bit his lip as he thought of the oncoming winter. Work would inevitably slow as it got colder, and probably come to a halt with the snow. He didn’t have the expertise for interior work, and while he could provide labor for them, the simple fact was that there would be fewer hours available.That was still a few months off, but he had to think about looking for at least a part-time job for the season.
He was distracted from his musings when he noticed someone ahead of him. The golden head of hair that was reflecting the morning sun gave him a guess as to who it was.
Well, that and the fact the fact that the man was a muscular, broad-shouldered 6 foot tank of a man. But also the hair.
“Morrison?” The man started and whipped around to look at him, and Gabriel raises his hands. “Hey, easy, didn't mean to spook ya.”
Morrison relaxed as he recognised him, and his expression closed back up into his usual polite smile. “It's alright. I'm just not used to anyone being out here this early.”
He should've known better. If their position had been reversed, he would have been just as startled.
“Sorry,” Gabriel said, coming up alongside him. “I should've known.”
Morrison shrugged. “I mean, its not like there was a better way to get my attention.”
It was a fair point, so Gabriel elected to let the matter drop.
“What brings you out this early?” He asked, changing the subject. He noted that Jack was more bundled up than him, though not by much. He was wearing a grey hoodie, thicker than the casual black one Gabriel was wearing, and he had thin gloves over his hands.
“I usually am,” Jack said. “I take...walks.” He seemed hesitant, but Gabriel smiled easily.
“And you go early in the mornings because there's usually no one else around, right?”
There was the just the faintest hint of a blush on the mans face, but the uncertain light and cold air made it impossible to be certain.
“Don't worry, I'm not offended. I do the same thing. Usually at night though. I just couldn’t get back to sleep this morning.”
Morrison's face cleared, an amused look in his eye.
“What is it?” Gabe asked.
“Nothing, just-thinking about Lena said back at the bar. You'd think we’d been trying to avoid each other.” They laughed, and Jack resumed walking, Gabriel falling into step beside him.
“That's right…” Gabriel said, rubbing his chin. “She called you...Commander, right? That nights still pretty fuzzy for me.” After a second, he added, “thanks again, by the way. I know that wasn't the best first impression.”
“It's alright,” Jack said dismissively. “And yes, I was a Strike-Commander.”
Gabriel let out a low whistle. “That's an impressive title. And you went from that to-what do you do?”
“I'm a police officer.”
“Ah, you work for Amari.” A moment later, Gabriel frowned. “Wait, you work for her ? She was a Second, right?” A Second was the soldier shorthand for a Strike Force Vice-Commander. SFVC never took off, despite some people's best efforts.
“She was my second, and yes, I do. I had quite enough of being in charge.”
“She was your-” Gabriel stopped short and looked at Morrison. “Did you have a codename? Or-or get married, or divorced, or something? I worked for Amari a half-dozen times, how did we never meet?”
Morrison came to a stop as well, frowning. “You worked for her?”
Gabriel bit his tongue, realizing he had slipped up, before he saw the understanding dawn in Morrison's face.
“Ah, you were-” he stopped himself and coughed. Both men glanced around, out of sheer force of habit.
“Yes, I was.” Gabe replied curtly.
“In that case, we were likely kept apart.” Morrison said, lowering his voice. “Strike-Commanders were...public faces. Had to...keep our hands clean. Be able to claim...ignorance, if things happened.”
Gabe hesitated for a second, before stepping closer and whispering. “I headed Reaper.”
He felt a wave of relief when Morrison seemed to recognize the name.
“We all served a purpose,” Morrison said, taking a small step back, looking around.
“I know,” Gabe said quietly. “But how we served matters. I don't want to be lumped in with... them .
“I understand.” Morrison said, just as quietly. “I doubt we’re in danger of being overheard, but…”
Gabriel stepped back as well, nodding. “Of course.” After an awkward second, they resumed walking.
They enjoyed an almost companionable silence as they did a slow circuit of the neighborhood, each man lost to his own thoughts. They reached Morrison's house first, and came to a stop at the walkway leading up to his door.
“Call me Jack.”
Gabriel smiled. “Jack, then. I just remembered…” He took a step away, turning to continue facing the other man while he spoke. “It's just that, well,” he said, backing away as he spoke. “I owe you dinner and a date, don't I?”
Jack turned positively scarlet as the words reached him, and Gabriel turned away, not even trying to fight his laughter as he left the man to stew.
Gabriel's being a little mean, isn't he? I'm sure it'll work out.
To clarify a couple points, in this version, a Strike-Commander isn't the overall head of Overwatch, just a high ranking, high profile member. Gabriel did not run Blackwatch, he just headed up one of its teams. And neither man seems very fond of the other teams, huh?
And lastly, while I never say this enough, feedback is always appreciated! I don't have a beta, so I'm bound to miss errors or inconsistency's from time to time, and I love to hear what you guys think of the story.
Thanks for reading!
Chapter 7: Trouble on the Breeze
So I really haven't paid much attention to the dates I set, aside from making sure they match up properly. (Day of the week/how much time passed.) But as I’m getting into explaining the AU’s history I realized that the story was set too long ago to make sense. So I went through and changed the dates. You’re not crazy, they used to be different.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Friday, October 10th, 2044
Jack shook himself as he entered the house. The autumn chill was settling in, as leaves began to change colors and a cold wind blew seemingly nonstop.
He didn’t turn around as he hung his coat up on the rack, hearing the noises of the game being played in the background.
“Hello, Hana. How was your day?”
He didn’t let a flicker of emotion show on his face as he turned around.
“Hello to you too, Jesse.”
“Evening Mr.Morrison!” Jesse flashed him a winning smile that Jack ignored, walking past them and toward the kitchen.
“Any reason you two are down here?” He asked, not even bothering to ask about Jesse’s presence.
“Bigger TV!” Hana answered, intent on the game. There was a loud boom from the TV as Jack filled a glass with water. “I just wanted to see Jesse lose in higher definition.”
Jack turned back to face them, arching an eyebrow as Jesse stuck his tongue out at Hana.
“We’ll go upstairs now.” Hana was already unplugging the console as Jesse gathered up the controllers.
“Oh, Dad made some lasagna.” Jesse said. “We already ate, but it's in the fridge if you want to reheat some!”
Jack rolled his eyes, but smiled. “Say thank you for me.”
Jesse disappeared from sight, following Hana upstairs, before his head popped out from around the corner. “Oh, and Dad says that this still doesn’t count as making dinner for you.” And he vanished before Jack could respond.
“Oh of course it doesn’t count,” Jack grumbled to himself, opening the fridge and seeing the pan. “He’s just making food at night and giving it to me, it's not the same thing at all.” He pulled the pan out, unable to ignore his growling stomach, and set about the kitchen to reheat some of it.
It had been a weird couple of weeks.
Jesse had become a regular presence in his house, usually coming over after school to play games. Hana had been over to the Reyes’ a few times, but aside from praising the quality of the snacks-at which point Jack was sure she was just messing with him-she’d found little to do. Jesse didn’t have any of Hana’s gaming consoles, so they were over here far more often.
I wish I had known that just not buying the video games was an option, Jack mused as he sat down, placing his food on the coffee table and turning the TV to the news channel.
Apparently, Hana had moaned about Jack's lack of cooking while she was over at their house, as Gabriel had taken to sending food with Jesse when he went over. First, it had been another tin of cookies, then brownies. After that, Gabriel had shown up with a pot of stew, claiming that he’d meant it to be his and Jesse’s dinner, but he’d forgotten about a prior engagement and didn’t want the food to go to waste. Jack had believed him, at the time, but after the second such incidence, Gabriel dropped the pretenses, and Jesse often showed up with trays or pans of homemade dinner.
He would ask the man to stop, but he had to be honest with himself. The food was good, and healthier than his and Hana’s usual fare. Gabriel-on one of the few times he’d actually gotten a chance to speak to the other man-had insisted that he liked cooking, and told Jack to take it as payment for watching Jesse so often.
It was a flimsy excuse. The kids were 15, they hardly needed watching, but whether Gabriel just wanted to cook for them or was genuinely concerned about their nutrition, Jack wasn’t ungrateful enough to make him stop.
“Temperatures are likely to drop into the 30s overnight, so bundle up!”
Jack chewed slowly as he watched the news broadcast. Now that he knew to look for him, he’d found that Gabriel did wander the neighborhood most nights. He never seemed to go far, and Jack was sure he did it for the same reasons he took walks in the morning-it cleared the head, and gave them some alone time. More than that, he knew, was that for men like them, sleep could be stressful. He didn’t dream often, but he had pleasant dreams even less so. Considering what Reyes had done, it was likely only worse for him.
It was strangely reassuring to see him out there. It confirmed, at the very least, that Gabriel was troubled by what he had gone through. What little he knew of Blackwatchs operations had led him to believe that most of its agents did their jobs without remorse.
He turned down the volume on the TV, just enough to hear the noise coming from upstairs, and he squeezed his eyes shut. It wasn't good to dwell on such things. The war was like a past life now, and it had been one he’d left behind. He had stopped being a soldier the moment he’d found that poor little girl buried in rubble, alive despite everything.
I am a depressing person. He opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling and felt irrational laughter bubbling up in his throat. Don’t think about the war, it makes you sad. Think about horrific civilian casualties instead.
He shook a little with silent laughter. No one would ever expect such macabre humor from Strike-Commander Jack Morrison. The farm boy turned war hero wouldn’t dare utter a bad word, let alone joke about death or injury. He wondered if Gabriel would get the joke. Strangely, he felt pretty confident the man would have laughed too.
“...complaints from downtown businesses have increased due to…”
Jack sat up and focused on the TV, grabbing the remote and turning the volume up.
“One store owner said that what had started as graffiti on the wall of his building has now grown into full-blown vandalism. You can see here behind ,e, this window has been smashed, seemingly by a bat…”
Jack growled quietly as he watched the footage. It hadn’t been a bat - the break was too centralized. Someone had thrown a rock, probably, and Jack guessed they hadn’t expected to do so much damage. There was none of the trademark skull graffiti around the building, which led Jack to believe they’d gotten scared and left. Still, if they didn't receive any repercussions, he knew the kids would be emboldened the next time they went to cause trouble.
His phone buzzed, and he saw the caller I.D read Ana . He grabbed it, muting the TV as he answered.
“Ana, what's going on?”
“I’m fine, thanks for asking. How are you doing?”
Jack rolled his eyes.
“Don’t roll your eyes at me.”
“Ugh, come on Ana, its spooky when you do that.”
“I just know you too well. And every time I’m right, I’m only encouraged to do it again.”
“Speaking of, I take it this is about the news broadcast?”
“I guessed you’d be watching. Fool called the news the same time he called us. We couldn’t keep the cameras out, not without making far too big a deal out of it.”
“No graffiti, though. Probably some local kids who scared themselves.”
“I agree, but the problem is who’s encouraging them. We’re confident Los Muertos is trying to set up shop here. Their mistake. This is my city.”
Jack felt a smile creep across his face.
“Need me to come in?”
“Not tonight, at least. Besides, I want to do this clean. We gather evidence first, take them in and lock them up. No casualties.”
“Hard to complain about that. What about the kids they’re trying to recruit?”
“Reinhardt has already volunteered to work with the youth reformation program. He’s eager to show the kids the error of their ways either through intimidation or hugs. He hasn’t decided which yet.”
“We all know he’s going to pick hugs. He always picks hugs.”
“Let him pretend he’s still a scary Crusader, Jack. It’s good for his pride.”
Jack chuckled and shook his head. Reinhardt had never been scary, Crusader armor or no. Well, with the exception of any enemy he charged at. They had probably been scared.
“Call me if you need me Ana.”
“I know dear. But I’ve heard you’ve had your hands full lately.” Jack blinked in surprise, and Ana continued. “Is Gabriel’s cooking really that good? We went for drinks a couple nights ago. He’s very flattered that you’ve been accepting his food. I think he has a crush.”
“You went and got drinks with him? How well do you two know each other?” Before Ana could answer, he added: “And I sincerely doubt that.”
“Well of course you doubt it. Being oblivious is part of your charm. And Gabriel and I went through basic together. His food was certainly edible then but I don’t know if I’d say it was good enough to get delivered. Though I suppose, for a guy who thought MREs tasted good…”
“Is there anything else work-related you wanted to discuss, Chief Amari?”
“Don’t be a grump, old man.”
“I am not old!”
“Of course you aren’t, Jack.” Ana’s tone was very patronizing. “I always wondered if you and Gabe would get along. Glad to see you do. I’ll keep you informed, Jack.”
“Alright, then I’ll see you Monday.”
Wednesday, October 15th, 2044
Hana swung her legs below her desk idly, staring at the chalkboard in a daze. She started when Jesse dug his elbow into her side.
“At least look like you’re working,” He growled. “She’s coming over here.”
Hana shot a guilty glance towards Ms.Oladele, who was slowly walking down the aisle, as she usually did, checking in with students to answer their questions without disrupting the quiet class. She refocused on the paper.
When was the Omnium formed?
March 22nd, 2028.
When did the war with the Omnium begin?
March 22nd, 2029.
This was history she knew. The Omnium had simmered for just a year after forming. The way it was written, everyone had known the group had meant trouble when it was formed, but hadn’t been willing to fire the first shot.
Name 3 nations that were part of the Omnium.
Saudi Arabia, China, Australia.
Most of the bordering countries had joined as well, especially those wedged in-between the superpowers.
She bit her lip, thinking. South Korea had been one of the few nearby countries to openly oppose the Omnium. When the war was reaching its end, the Omnium had launched a last-ditch effort to take the country, which resulted in widespread destruction. She didn’t have any solid memories of her home country, but it was unpleasant to think about nonetheless.
“Alright?” She looked up to see Ms.Oladele smiling kindly down at her. “A question giving you trouble?”
“Oh, no, sorry Ms.Oladele. I’m just thinking.”
“Of course. Try to get as much done as you can. I’m sure you’ll have other homework tonight.”
She walked on, Jesse just giving her a smile and shake of his head as she passed. When she was two students down, he turned to Hana, looking vaguely concerned.
“What's got you so out of it?” He asked quietly.
“Oh nothing, just...Dad’s all wrapped up in that gang business downtown. I’m worried.”
“Oh yeah, I heard about that. They messed with one of the construction sites downtown. But that's just a bunch of teenagers spray-painting graffiti and stuff, isn’t it? It's not like your dads in any danger.”
“That's what I thought too,” she muttered, pausing while Ms.Oladele passed behind them. “But then Fareehah said that apparently this is being caused by some real gangsters trying to recruit people. I’m sure Dad’ll be fine, I just...I get stuck on it, I guess.”
Jesse seemed sympathetic. “Sorry, Hana.” He glanced down at the paper. “Though I suppose this isn’t exactly the best material to take your mind off it either.”
“What?” Jesse asked, frowning.
“Nothing, you just sound like my dad.”
Jesse made a face. “I don’t want to sound like your dad!”
“I’m telling him you said that.”
“Please don’t. He’s large and scary.”
“ Scary ? Jesse Reyes, you-”
They both jumped in their seats and blushed. Jesse looked back down at his paper, and Hana glanced over at the person who had shushed them.
A/N:There is no meaning to the countries I listed as being part of the Omnium. I just decided it would be in that area of the world, googled a map, and picked a couple of names.
Chapter 8: D.Va
The animated shorts are always so GOOD and Shooting Star was no exception. It really got me wanting to make something for D.Va but I didn’t have any ideas for a standalone story. Then I remembered that there was a part of this story that I haven’t really touched so far…
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Saturday, October 18th, 2044
“Hey, Hana I-”
“What? Jesse get out! I’m recording!”
“I’m-ugh, I’ll have to redo all of it! Don’t you know to knock before entering a girls bedroom?” Hana paused the display on her computer and took off her headphones, turning in her chair to glare at Jesse, still standing in the doorway. “You didn’t even say you were coming over.”
“If you mean texting you, I did,” Jesse said, holding his hands up to proclaim his innocence. “And your Dad sent me up, I didn’t know you were in the middle of something.”
Hana groaned and and leaned back against her computer chair. “Guys suck.”
“I feel like that's a pretty unfair generalization.”
“All the guys in my life suck.”
They shared a laugh, and Jesse shifted awkwardly in the doorway. “Do you, uh, want me to go?”
Hana waved a hand at him. “No, you're fine, I can do it later.” Jesse entered the room, closing the door behind him and taking a seat on the bed.
“What are you recording?” He frowned. “I’m not missing a school project, am I?”
“No, no, it's…” she sighed. “I don’t know what to say. You are the most tech-illiterate teenager I have ever met.”
Jesse shifted uncomfortably on the bed. “Well-s’not my fault. Never had that stuff.”
“Oh-Oh! I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to-I’m sorry.”
“Hey, it's fine,” Jesse said, face flushed. “I mean, hard to miss what you never had, right? I’m alright.”
“You’re wearing a cowboy hat,” Hana whispered.
“And that's alright, Hana!”
Hana snickered and turned back to her computer, saving her footage before closing the game. She doubted she would use it, as she would have to edit around Jesse’s disruption, but it didn't hurt to hold onto it.
“But really, what is it?”
Hana moved her mouse around the screen aimlessly, gathering herself. She wasn’t so troubled as to think this would end her friendship with Jesse, but she was sure he wouldn’t understand.
“I...record myself playing video games and post them online. And people watch them.”
She kept her eyes focused on the screen, slowly tracing a letter 8 with the cursor.
“Uh...ok?” She glanced over at Jesse, who seemed confused. “Why?”
Hana shrugged, choosing her words carefully. “Sometimes it's because they think I’m funny. Sometimes it's because I’m really good. Sometimes both.”
Jesse digested the information, thinking. “Is it like...teaching people how to play games?”
“No. I mean, some people do, but I don’t.” She paused, trying to think of a way to better explain. “Think of it like...watching sports. Or specifically, an athlete watching sports. A football player watches major league football for a lot of reasons. They might watch it to see what the players do, and how to do it, or just to admire the skill they have.” It seemed to be making sense to Jesse, so she pushed on. “But people also like commentary. Sometimes it's serious, sometimes its goofy. See,” she indicated the mic on her headphones. “I record the game and myself, so people see me play and react. And I mean, I know its just video games,” she smiled weakly. “But it's something.”
Jesse considered her. “It doesn’t sound like it’s ‘just video games’ to you.”
It wasn’t the answer she had expected. “Well...no.” Her hands came together in her lap, and she stared down at them. “I don’t know-maybe it's just because Dad can such a technophobe, but…” she took a deep breath. “I love doing it, it's really important to me. And it's just hard because there’s no one around who understands it.”
The silence stretched between them for a few seconds, before Jesse broke it.
“Well, I still don’t understand it,” he said, pretending to check an imaginary watch, “But I’ve got time if you wanna try to explain.”
“Yeah?” She asked, smiling, and he nodded. They spent the next several minutes at the computer, Jesse on his knees, elbows on the desk as Hana walked him through how the website worked.
“...and I can track the individual stats here, for my videos, but for other people, the easiest way to see how good my channel is by the subscriber count. I mean, it doesn't tell then how good I am, but it's the clearest way to see how big the channel is.”
“Ok…how many do you have?” Jesse asked.
“Well…” Hana said slowly. “A few...thousand.” She brought up the page that showed the number.
“Well-” she started, then stopped. Jesse looked at her, confused. “I mean, yeah, it's a lot,” she said. “I don't want to sound ungrateful. But the big channels have millions of subscribers. Tens of millions.” Jesse stared at her in wonder. “A lot of people use this site, you know. Just nobody around us.”
“Apparently,” Jesse said, shaking his head. “Crazy the things we don't know about.”
Hana smiled. “I'm sure you know a few things like that that I don't.”
Jesse didn't seem to believe her. “I mean, I can probably name more western flicks than you, but with every day I know you, I feel more and more like I don't anything about the world.”
“Nah,” Jesse said. “It's good, isn't it? Just a lot I never thought about before.” He got up and moved back to the bed, and Hana noticed the backpack he'd brought with him for the first time.
“Really? You brought homework with you?”
“If we get it done today, we don't have to worry tomorrow.”
“You know what Jesse, I take back my apology.” Hana shook her head sadly. “Making you less lame is a solemn and thankless duty, but one I undertake every day.”
He rolled his eyes. “I'm not sure the professional video game player has the standing to call me that.”
“Only because our town is stuck 3 decades in the past, somehow.” A thought seemed to strike her. “Hey, actually, do you think you could let me record you for a second? Or at least take a picture?”
He looked at her warily. “Why?”
“Because I've mentioned you,” she giggled. “People are very interested in my cowboy friend.”
He scowled at her. “You're so hung up on that.”
He glared at her, but knew full well he had no rebuttal.
“Do you want me to...do anything?” He asked hesitantly, changing the subject. She shook her head.
“No, just an image. I mean, I've gotten used to you, but you do look pretty silly.”
“You know, if you keep mocking my appearance I might just say no.”
“It's not you, dork. It's the hat and that weird jacket thing, not to mention the absolute confidence you walk around with despite having them on.”
“One, it's hard to tell sometimes, two, it's called a serape, and three, don't make fun of the serape!”
“Huh?” Hana blinked.
“The serape isn't part of some ‘look', ok? It's...it's something else.” He looked away, and she thought she caught sight of a faint blush on his cheeks.
He didn't answer.
“It's alright if you don't want me to take a picture. It's not like I have to.”
“No, it's fine,” he muttered. “And-sorry. I know it's silly.”
“What's silly?” Hana asked cautiously. Her curiosity was peaked, but it was clearly a sensitive subject for her friend.
He didn't say anything, still not looking at her, and she tried again.
“Hey, you didn't laugh at me. I won't laugh at you.”
For a second, she thought it hadn't worked, and was about to move on, when Jesse spoke.
“I guess-I mean…” he rubbed the back of his neck, looking around the room, as though worried someone else might be there. “I've never really talked about it before.”
“Not even with your dad?” Hana asked, before she could stop herself. She had assumed it had come from his father.
Jesse shook his head, the dusting of red returning to his cheeks.
“It's not...bad, or anything.”
“Of course not!” Hana said, before she could stop herself. Jesse looked at her, eyebrow raised. “Sorry. I'm just...really curious now.”
“Not that exciting,” he said, frowning. Hana shrugged, this time not saying anything. Jesse heaved a sigh, squeezing his eyes closed, before speaking. “You know I said Dad adopted me when I was five?” Hana nodded. “I don't have a lot of memories from that time. But this…” he fingered the serape, looking down at it. “My...mom, was in the middle of making it, before she died.”
“Oh,” Hana said quietly. “Jesse I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean-”
She fell silent as he shook his head, and he smiled at her.
“That's not it, not really. I don't remember a lot, but there's one really clear memory I do have, after the funeral, after Dad had taken me in. I had trouble sleeping through the night, and I didn't know Dad that well yet, but he always comforted me.” He seemed like his thoughts were a long way away now as he spoke, a small smile on his face. “And one night, I went out to find him, since I'd woken up, but I wasn't noisy. And I saw him, in the living room of that little house, trying to finish the serape by lamplight.”
“He could sew?” Hana asked, before instantly regretting breaking the moment. Jesse just laughed though.
“No, he could not. He must've pricked his fingers 3 times just in the few minutes I was watching him, cursing under his breath in Spanish every time. But he kept trying.” He rubbed a hand over the serape. “You can't even tell what my mom had done and what he finished now. And when he gave it to me, I knew it was really from both him and mom.” After a moment he added, so quietly Hana could barely hear him, “I think that night was when I started to think it was going to be alright.”
Hana didn't say a word, pretending she hadn't even heard that last part. Silence fell between them, but it wasn't uncomfortable, and Hana turned to her own backpack, pulling out their weekend homework.
“So, what did you want to do first?”
Sunday, October 19th, 2044
Hana scrolled down the page, leaning closer to the computer without realizing it.
“Whatcha looking at?”
“God dammit Jesse Reyes!”
He quickly retreated out of arm's reach, laughing, as she twisted violently in her chair at the unexpected voice. She noticed her father in the doorway, not bothering to hide his amusement, and glared at him until he closed the door and left.
“ Men ,” she huffed, turning away to hide how red her face was.
Jesse’s laughter subsided a few seconds later. “You get scared easy, Hana?”
“I get surprised easy,” she replied. “Being scared is different.”
“Sure, yeah, whatever you say.”
“I hate you.”
“Yet you keep letting me into your room.”
“If you'll recall,” Hana said, turning to glare at him. “This marks the second time in a row when I have expressly not done so.”
“Well…” Jesse shrugged, grinning, not finishing the thought. “Anyway, what are you looking at?”
“Online?” He moved back over to stand next to her.
“For what I'm looking for? Yeah. No way I'll find it in this town.” She turned to him. “What are you gonna be doing?”
Jesse raised an eyebrow. “Maybe put on a fake beard? ‘Bout all I'm missing.”
“I suppose when you spend every day in costume…” she sighed and turned back to her computer.
Jesse chuckled, and leaned back in toward the computer. “So what are you so sure you can't,find here?”
“It's the costume of a video game character.” A pause. “From a South Korean game.”
He looked at the list of costumes curiously as Hana slowly scrolled down the page.
“She kinda looks like…”
“Me?” Hana looked at him, smiling. “I thought so too.”
“‘Thought'?” Jesse asked curiously.
“Before Aunty Amari moved down here, Dad took me with him to visit her. I was eight, I think? And I saw the game with this character on the cover and I begged Dad to get it for me.” She smiled wistfully. “I think I made him feel bad, actually. I kept saying that she looked like me. Or maybe it was the looks he was getting from other people. But either way, he bought it for me.” She reached down to one of the desks cubbys, and after a moment, produced the game case.
“What kind of looks was he getting?” Jesse asked, taking the box from her and looking over it. M.E.K.A was spelled out on the cover, with the character that resembled Hana standing next to a robot below the letters.
“I didn't notice them at the time, but Aunty was there, and she mentioned it last year, when the topic came up. She said that about half of the people around us looked sympathetic, and the other half were judgemental.”
“What?” Jesse asked, laughing, looking up from the back of the game case. The game was apparently about a group of mech pilots fighting evil robots off the coast of South Korea.
“The way she put it, the people probably assumed I was Dad's biological daughter, and that my Mom was out of the picture-like they thought she was dead or had just left. So some of them felt bad for poor little me, and the others were pressuring my failed husband of a father to get his little girl the game.”
“You sound like you're quoting someone.”
“Paraphrasing. Aunty Amari is very mean to Dad when she wants to be.”
Jesse laughed and returned the game to her. “So you mean Fareehah’s Mom, right?”
“Yup! She served with Dad during the war, and they stayed good friends ever since. I've known her my whole life.”
Jesse rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “That's weird. My Dad and her know each other from the war too. They aren't as close as it sounds like her and your dad are, but don't you think our Dads should've met?”
“I've been wondering about that too,” Hana said. “I mean, have you noticed the way they both seem to know everyone ?” There had been plenty of times, when Mr.Reyes had been picking them up, that they'd happened upon some of the faculty members. Usually, they greeted Mr.Reyes by his first name, as though they'd known each other for some time, a greeting he had returned. The same situations often occurred in the morning, when her father dropped them off.
“Yeah...maybe they did meet? And they just don't remember?” Jesse suggested.
“I suppose that's possible...but they remember everyone else.” Hana shrugged. “Whatever.”
Jesse mirrored her, grinning. “Whatever.”
She turned back to the computer screen, not taking the bait. “I wish these weren't so expensive.”
Jesse peered closer at the screen. “Oh, wow. Yeah.”
“These are officially licensed costumes,” she said, frowning. “So they look right, but they're more expensive. I can't really afford them.”
“ You can't?” Jesse asked curiously. “What, your Dad still gives you an allowance?”
“No, I...actually make some money off the video site. Not a lot, but it's not like I have bills to pay.”
“Cool,” Jesse said. “So if you got big enough, it could be like, an actual job?”
“Yes Jesse, like an actual job,” She answered dryly.
Jesse ignored the tone and looked back at the costumes. “It's weird they make it so pricy. It's not a very complicated design. I mean, it's mostly just solid lines of a single color. It’d be easy to put together.” Hana perked up, turning to him curiously. Jesse didn't notice, talking more to himself than to her. “Although I suppose that's not fabric. It's supposed to be a jumpsuit, so it wouldn't look the same…” he trailed off, noticing Hana staring at him. “Uh…”
“Are you saying you could make this?” She asked, eyes sparkling.
“Um, I-something like it, maybe? Like I said, it wouldn't look the same if it was made with-”
“I don't care!” She interrupted him, excitedly. “If I bought the materials, could you really make it?”
Maybe it was the offer to buy the materials, or just her obvious excitement, but Jesse seemed to lose some of his hesitation.
“Something like it, anyway. I doubt I could do any of the detailing, but just a rough look alike? I think so.”
“In time for Halloween?”
“If you help me with my homework.”
“I will! I will! I totally will!”
Jesse backed up a pace, face flushed. “Y-you know it's not gonna be very good, right? Especially compared to those.”
“I'm not getting those anyway. And I've never had a homemade costume before!”
“Well…ok. I'll do my best.” Jesse was beat red.
Hana actually felt like jumping and down, but settling for rocking in her seat, clapping her hands. “This is gonna be so cool! I didn't know you could sew.”
“There are some hobbies aside from video games, you know.”
Excited as she was, Hana ignored the jibe. “My Dad has the rest of the day off, I'm sure he'd take us to a fabric store.”
“Well hold on, I don't know how much I'd need, or what shade to get and stuff.” Jesse protested.
“Well, come on then!” Hana stood up from her chair impatiently, gesturing toward the computer. “The measurements listed for these are good, and you can see the picture.”
Jesse was still red as he sat down, pulling up a full-sized image of someone in the costume. “Uh pencil and paper?”
Hana grabbed some and gave it to him. “I'll download a picture on my phone too.”
“Hey uh,” Jesse began, turning to face her. “Maybe don't spread it around that I'm doing this?” After a moment, he added, “or that I... do this? I never mentioned it for a reason, you know.”
She didn't need to ask him what the reason was. They were both in high school. “I won't, but it'll be great! Don't worry so much.”
“I'm worrying more than ever,” Jesse mumbled. “I mean, Dad knows I mess with this stuff, obviously, but I've never told anyone else.”
“Aw,” Hana said, throwing her arms around his neck and squeezing once. “Thanks Jesse.” He was scarlet as she pulled away, and she had to resist the temptation to continue messing with him. “I've never said your name or anything in my videos, so they won't know who you are when I say you made it.” After a moment, she added. “Though I suppose I shouldn't show them that picture of you, huh?”
“Well, I mean, it's not anyone we actually know, right?”
Hana considered the question. “Well, Fareehah watches from time to time. But she'd probably find out you made the costume anyway.”
“Probably,” Jesse agreed, conceding the point. “In that case, I guess it doesn't really matter.”
“Awesome! You're the best!”
“Hold on, how do you work this camera? I want to record that.”
“Oh, shut up.”
Well, despite that detour to Jesse's memory lane, this was a Hana chapter. Can't believe I actually stuck to what I set out to do.
Also, I know I never actually said the words “YouTube”, but...it's YouTube.
And one last thing, since I'm worried it'll get taken the wrong way-there are reasons for Jesse's lack of exposure to technology and his spotty memory of early childhood. They aren't just devices to drive exposition. (I mean, they *are* those things, just with actual in-story justifications.) All will be explained in time.
Thanks for reading, and comments are always appreciated!
Chapter 9: An Unexpected Tipping Point
Thursday, October 23rd, 2044
“I’m sorry , ok? It was one time!”
“Your obsession with correlating the frequency of your offenses to their severity really needs to be-”
“ God you get so weird whenever you spent time with Ms. Amari!”
Gabriel smacked Jesse with the piece of paper he was holding, unable to hide his smirk.
“Seriously, just because it was one time, doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.”
“Fine,” Jesse muttered, taking the paper, the large red C written on it visible. “But it still isn’t that big of a deal.”
“No, it isn’t,” Gabriel allowed. “But it is the lowest test score you’ve gotten all year. And it just so happens to come after your first missed homework assignment of the year.” Jesse’s face was flushed, but he said nothing. Gabe sighed. “Look, I know I sound like a tight-ass, and bad weeks happen, I just want to make sure this isn’t the start of a trend , kiddo.”
“It won’t be,” Jesse muttered, not looking at him.
“Well, I’m convinced, thank goodness we had this talk.” Gabriel crossed his arms, but Jesse didn’t say anything. “Jesse.” His voice was firm, and Jesse looked up at him, sighing.
“I’m fine Dad, promise. I’ve just been staying up late, is all.”
“And not doing your homework or studying when you do. What have you been up to?”
Jesse turned red again.
“Oh,” Gabe said, a little awkwardly. Something creative .
“Well, don’t let it interfere with school anymore.”
“Yeah, sorry.” Gabe waved the boy away, and Jesse retreated to his room immediately.
He wondered what he’d done to elicit such a reaction from the boy. Jesse never failed to clam up and turn red whenever the topic of his interest in sewing was even implied . Of course, he had no idea if Jesse behaved the same way around other people - didn’t know if anyone else even knew he made his own costumes - but it was concerning for him nonetheless.
He’d been worried, at first, that Jesse’s interest in needlecraft had spawned out of their financial issues - that the 12 year-old boy had sought to mend or modify his own clothes, after seeing Gabriel do so to his work clothes. That had been a shameful moment in his life, before he found that Jesse’s interest was less serious - he was interested in making costumes and the like, a curious outlet for his interest in western culture.
It was still shameful, though. That he couldn’t even provide his son a proper Halloween costume.
Still, it had worked out. It was an outlet for Jesse, and saved money. In exchange, he made a point of leaving it alone. Let Jesse get comfortable with it in his own time, and never even mentioning his western-inspired dress. It was because he’d made the conscious effort to step back from it that Jesse’s continued embarrassment bothered him. Had he made the bad choice? Did Jesse take his silence negatively? Or had he said something, a comment he didn’t remember that the boy had taken to heart? He didn’t know.
He glanced toward the door to Jesse’s room and sighed. Sometimes, he was forcibly reminded that he didn’t know what the fuck he was doing.
“Just turn it down Hana! The first time I get an official noise complaint is the last time you see that damn machine!”
Jack tuned out her complaints as he marched back to the couch, and sure enough, the noise from her room faded from his ears. He took a drink from the glass of water on the end table and picked up the remote, resuming the news program.
“This makes the third incident of connected vandalism. Experts say the graffiti at this site could indicate organized activity, and if you’ll look over here… This seems to be a half-finished mark spray painted onto the sidewalk. Possibly, someone interrupted in painting a gang sign-”
“Damn fearmongers,” Jack growled as he changed the channel. Perhaps it was the peace the Gibraltar public was used to, or the lack of actual injuries at the crime scenes, but the apparent tendency to call the press before the police just didn’t-
Didn’t make sense.
Jack frowned at the ceiling. He wasn’t directly involved in the investigation - just extra vigilant on his patrols, as Ana had asked him to be - so he didn’t know if the possibility had been raised, but it was suspicious that the news crews always seemed to get to the scene at the same time or even before the police.
Unwilling to take the chance that the investigation hadn’t considered a tie to the news station, Jack got up and walked over to where his phone sat, plugged in and charging. There was something… else , too. Something nagging at him, stuck in the back of his mind. Jack wasn’t the kind to brag, but he knew his powers of observation weren’t to be dismissed out of hand. He’d noticed something, a detail lingering at the edge of his subconscious, and he knew better than to dismiss it out of hand.
Ana picked up almost immediately.
“Amari. What is it, Jack?”
“My turn to complain about a taciturn greeting, is it?”
“No, it isn’t. I sign your paychecks. Something on the news report peak your interest?”
“So they did get there first?” He asked, annoyed.
“Yes. It seriously muddles any hope for physical evidence we get. And they’re ready to throw quite a public fit if we take action against them for it. I’m tempted to deal with the bad press if it gets us a lead.”
“I was wondering - have you considered a possible tie between the news station and the gang?”
“We have.” Ana confirmed. “It struck me as suspicious too. However, the station head turned over records before we even really asked. The man's opportunistic, and greedy enough not to turn down the leads, but he isn’t willing to face indictments. All the stations records check out.”
Jack rubbed his chin, fingers pricking on the slight stubble he hadn’t bothered to shave off that morning.
“There’s something…” He started, then trailed off. “Something.” He repeated.
A testament to how long they’d worked together, perhaps, was the fact that Ana didn’t even poke fun at Jack’s word choice.
“You know I trust your instincts, Jack. What do you need?”
Jack was quiet for a minute, thinking. He wasn’t part of the investigation - it wasn’t something on their end that had bothered him.
“All the crime scene news reports.”
Jack hesitated a moment longer.
“No.” He answered firmly. “That’s not what's bothering me, they’ll just be a distraction. I’ll come in to see them.”
“What about Hana?”
“She’ll be fine. She’s 15.”
“Only 15,” Ana corrected him. “And not the most aware of her surroundings.” Ana paused. “Fareeha can drive, you know. She could go over, stay at your place while you’re here.”
Jack considered the offer. Hana might be offended, that Jack felt she needed a babysitter. But she would understand his caution, and he didn’t have any other reason to refuse.
“Alright. I’ll be there in 10.”
“I’ll have someone get them compiled for you, and call Fareeha.” With that set, they said their goodbyes and hung up. Jack grabbed his coat and walked over to the staircase.
“Hana!” He called up. “I’m going out for a bit! Fareeha will be here in a few minutes, listen to let her in!”
Hana popped her head out of her door, looking concerned.
“Alright...” She said slowly. “Be careful, ok?”
He gave her a reassuring smile. “I’m going to check on something at the station,” he stressed. “I just don’t know how long it’ll take.”
Hana nodded, her expression clearing up, and disappeared back into her room.
Jack smiled to himself, and turned to leave. He had work to do.
Friday, October 24th, 2044
Jesse stared at Fareeha in silence as the car rolled along.
“Is it that crazy I have my own car?” Fareeha asked, glancing at him in the rear-view mirror.
“I’ve met your mother,” Jesse replied. “There is no way this was easy to get.”
“You just don’t know her very well.” Hana said from the front passengers seat.
“What's that supposed to mean?” Jesse asked.
“That the title for this car may never be in my name,” Fareeha answered. “It’s not for casual use. Mom keeps the keys with her unless she’s out of the house. But her job can keep her away at all sorts of odd hours, and sometimes, I need to get around.”
“And sometimes, her job keeps both of our parents away, and this way Fareeha can drive me to school.” Hana was sour as she glared out of the window at the passing houses.
“I have it on good authority that they both stayed in the station all night,” Fareeha said, a conciliatory note in her voice. “They weren’t off doing anything dangerous. Just up late enough that there was no point going home.”
“Which will lead to something dangerous,” Hana muttered. Fareehah didn’t argue that one, and Jesse could see her worried look in the mirror.
After a few uncomfortable seconds passed, Jesse piped up.
“You do know both of your parents are war-hardened highly trained badasses, right? I mean, don’t you think you’re worrying too much?”
Hana turned around to glare at him.
“Are you really saying that if your Dad was wrapped up in this, you wouldn’t worry?”
“I’m not saying I wouldn’t worry at all ,” Jesse said, “But even if he just works construction now, there was a point in his life where he was honest to God probably one of the most dangerous men on the planet. And that is something Ms. Amari said. Don’t get me wrong, I know that bullets are bullets, but slap some body armor on the man and put him against a group of street thugs, and I’m betting on him.”
To Jesse’s slight surprise, his words actually seemed to have a positive effect on the girls, and the rest of the trip to school continued in slightly more pleasant silence.
Of course, it wouldn’t last.
“Maybe it’s something else,” Jesse said, as he and Hana looked out the window, to see the plume of smoke rising from downtown. “I mean, a fire’s never a good thing, but there’s no reason to think-”
“Just shut up, Jesse,” Hana said, pulling away from the window and walking back to her desk. Jesse could only watch her go, an unpleasant know in his stomach. He didn’t know what to say.
The mood in the lunch room was subdued. Word of gunfire heard downtown had circulated throughout the student body, although no one knew anything about it - only that it had happened.
Then, the ding of intercom rang throughout the room, and Secretary Athena’s voice could be heard.
“Would Fareeha Amari please report to the Principal's office. Thank you.”
Fareeha stared up at the intercom, fists clenched. Hana reached over and squeezed her arm. Fareeha flashed her a stiff smile, before getting up from the table, grabbing her backpack and walking out of the hall. The other students did a poor job of hiding their worried stares.
Dad was leaning against the car as he and Hana emerged from the school building. He stood up upon seeing them, and addressed Hana as she got closer.
“Your father is fine,” He said, not bothering with preamble. “And Ana is too. No serious injuries.”
Hana let go a deep sigh, and Jesse turned to his father, frowning.
“What happened? No one seems to know.”
“It's only just wrapped up. Technically, I'm not supposed to know. But Jack wanted me to make sure Hana didn't worry about him.” He gestured for them to get in the car, and they obeyed, Jesse circling around to get in the passengers side. Once in, they buckled up and Dad started the car, but made no move to back out.
“Apparently, Jack noticed the same field reporter was getting the tip off to every crime scene. No station records implicated her, but they've got her cell phone records now, and, well, those do. They found out who her contact was through those and traced him back to their little hideout. They went to take it this morning.” Dad hesitated for a second, before seeming to decide to continue. “Most everyone involved surrendered immediately, but this whole effort was organized by a few more… hardcore gangsters. Career criminals who knew they'd be going away for life. So they ran. Lit the warehouse they'd been using on fire and booked it. Ana, Jack, and couple others gave chase, while the rest organized evacuations and civilian safety. One of the gangsters opened fire when they cops caught up, and caught Ana in the arm. She'll be in a sling for a week or two, but nothing more serious. Lord knows what poor Fareeha was thinking. She just got called because Ana couldn't drive herself and Jack and Rein have paperwork to do. Anyway, they disarmed the idiot and put him and his fellows in cuffs. If it wasn't a life sentence before, it is now.”
They sat there, the noise of school getting out going on around them, thinking through the story.
“So that's it, then?” Jesse asked. “Shows over?”
“There might be one lurking around town still, but only hanging out to catch a ride somewhere else. Ana's not confident enough to call it 100% done. But ultimately, these guys just aren't that hard. They might've stirred themselves up into something worse, but they never got the chance. Ana's just pissed someone got shot. It ruined her perfect round-up.”
“Not mad she got shot, though?” Jesse asked, laughing. “Just that it happened in general?”
“Ana Amari is quite the woman, cowboy. Doubt she even felt it.”
“So Dad…?” Hana started.
“Should be home sometime tonight.” Dad finished. “You can stay with us until then.” Hana nodded her understanding, and Dad pulled out of the parking spot.
“You know,” Dad said as they drove. “Funny side-effect of this is some job security for me.”
“Whaddya mean?” Jesse asked.
“The kids hideout was an old warehouse, owned by one of the big gangs front companies. Got repossessed by the city, and is probably gonna be sold to Symmetra. Not sure what she's planning on doing with it, but the structure wasn't heavily damaged in their little fire. Means a good load of interior work for the winter.”
“I didn't realize that was a problem,” Jesse said, frowning.
“Nature of the business. It's outside work. Harder it is to work outside, less work gets offered. But depending on what she wants to do with the space, I could be looking at regular full hours all throughout the season.”
“Oh… good?” Jesse said, uncertainty.
Dad rolled his eyes.
“Why am I discussing job security with a 15 year-old?” He asked no one in particular.
“I don't know, Dad. I don't know.
Saturday, October 25th, 2044
There was always noise.
Usually, it was distant. Far away explosions, that couldn't be seen or felt, but heard. In their absence, gunfire.
It was worse when it was close. Gunfire on the other side of the wall, the thin wall of a bombed out building that would be so easy to shoot over, or knock down, anything he could to help as listened to the battle go on, and people get hurt, and-
But stay down, sir, you have to stay down. They're a distraction so we can get by, if you waste that, then you wasted them.
We have to get through, you know that.
They're just soldiers, Gabriel. You know that. We are stronger.
He opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling.
He wasn't soaked in sweat. He hadn't knocked anything over or cried out, or done anything else to wake his son up.
Yet somewhere inside himself, he felt these dreams, these nights, were worse than the others. They weren't of high stakes combat, or frightening incidents. They were reminders of choices he had made, and was forced to live with.
He squeezed his eyes shut even as he removed the covers. He wasn't going back to sleep, he never did. He opened his eyes and glanced at the clock. A little after 2 in the morning.
Jesse was a heavy sleeper. Even more so now that he was staying up later. He wouldn't notice Gabriel leaving for an hour or two.
He idly wondered, as he got dressed, what his son had been working on. Jesse always got so defensive and embarrassed whenever Gabriel pried about his more artistic ventures that he hadn't even bothered to ask, but he knew Jesse already had his own costume for Halloween.
He shrugged to himself as he stepped out of his room, and took care to walk quietly to the living room, over to where they hung their coats. The days might not yet be bad enough for heavy coats, but the nights certainly felt like they were. He just had to move them to a cold climate. Couldn't go home to Los Angeles, no, because it was “expensive” and “you're literally completely broke, Gabriel” and “you want to take a child that dresses like a cowboy to a LA public school? Really? You're a monster.”
Well he got bullied anyway, Angela, so look who was wrong.
He was careful with the door as he stepped outside, making sure not to make any undue noise. His breath fogged up the air in front of him.
But that was good. The fresh, cold air, his exercise, his son and his friends - think about anything, focus on anything.
Anything aside from his dreams.
Jack wasn't sure what woke him up. He'd collapsed on the couch soon after he'd gotten home, too tired to bother heading up to his room. He opened his eyes, giving no other indication he was awake. The living room was dark - Hana must have turned off the lights and TV, the curtains in the windows closed.
He kept his breathing even, careful not to make any visible movement. It might've been nothing - might've been a dream. The events of the day had stirred up old memories of service, but also the paranoia.
There - the creak of a floorboard. Hana sneaking downstairs for a late night snack? His mind insisted otherwise.
Another creak. Coming nearer him. There wouldn't be another noise like that, now that whoever it was had stepped onto the carpet. Jack strained his ears. Whoever it was was picking their way towards him slowly and deliberately, but that didn't mean it wasn't Hana. He didn't want to scare her - or god forbid hurt her - if he was just overreacting.
His heart was racing, but he kept his breathing even. If it wasn't Hana...well, it wouldn't be the first time someone tried to kill him in his sleep.
“If one got away, they aren't talking,” Ana had said. “And it'll take time to go through and check with all their would-be recruits. Stay on your guard.”
They'd caught the gangsters by surprise. If there had been a lookout, they'd bailed instead of warning their fellows. Ana was at the hospital, or the station, signing paperwork. Not anywhere she was vulnerable. Jack, however, had gone to the station, and then straight home. Easy enough to follow, if someone was so inclined.
He could hear breathing now. And it was far too heavy to be Hana's. The man it must belong to was almost directly behind the couch now.
Jack would wonder, years in the future, what his life might have become had he chosen differently that night. He hadn't been able to shake the needle of worry, that some lingering war trauma hadn't been stirred up by the previous days events hadn't fooled his senses, and that it was simply his daughter checking up on him. So when he flung out his arm, rather than grabbing his assailants throat, as he had been trained, he grabbed the man's wrist instead. The struggle the opportunity created would change his life, after all.
The man grunted in surprise as Jack's iron grip latched around the wrist of the hand holding his knife. He jerked backwards, and as Jack got a good glimpse of his figure, he sat up, managing to grab the man's other wrist before he could react. They struggled for a moment, but Jack was stronger, and as the man leaned back, he jerked him forward, managing to pull the man over himself and the couch, to crash down onto the coffee table, which collapsed under his weight.
A light went on upstairs.
The man managed to free the hand not holding the knife and socked Jack in the face as he tried to get on top of him. The shock and pain was enough for the man to free his other hand, and began slashing wildly Jack's direction. Jack backed up, coming to his feet as he stepped out of the knife's range. The assailant got to his feet, advancing, apparently confident. A small, smug part of Jack's brain told him that the man clearly had no idea who he was messing with.
With a roar, the man rushed forward, lunging recklessly with the knife. Jack dodged to the side and managed to snag the man's wrist, wrenching it hard enough to cause the man to drop the knife with a sharp cry of pain. Jack maintained his grip as he swung around behind the man, his other arm wrapping around the man's throat, hoping to choke him out. They struggled briefly, before the man, with a strength born of desperation, surged backwards, smashing Jack into a cabinet. Glass shattered, stars exploded into his vision, and he felt a hot trickle of blood on the back of his head.
And over all that, he heard Hana scream.
Gabriel, as he’d taken to doing, started his walk heading south, toward the Morrison's. There was no real reason for it, as he did a circuit of the neighborhood, and passed their house regardless. Still for the past month or so, he’d taken to doing his route in reverse. He didn’t spare much thought for it.
He slowed as he came up to the house, wondering if Jesse’s newest project was related to them - or rather, to Hana, in particular. Were they close enough that Jesse would’ve told her? It did nothing to assuage his own doubts about Jesse’s reluctance to speak to him about it, but he hoped they were close enough friends that he was willing to be honest about his interests.
A light went on upstairs. Gabriel frowned. What were they doing up this late? He’d have thought they’d be fast asleep. His frown deepened as he drew level with the house and saw the front door cracked open.
Perhaps Jack had moved something inside, and had forgotten to close the door all the way?
Even as he decided that was unlikely, he heard a scream - from someone who had to be Hana-come from the house. Without hesitation, he sprinted up to the door, shouldering it open as he went. He saw Hana, looking terrified, silhouetted at the base of the stairs by the light coming from the second floor, and two men struggling in the living room. Jack’s easily identifiable blonde head caught the light, and as Gabriel took in the situation, the second man freed himself from Jack’s grip, the man apparently stunned.
Gabriel charged in without hesitation, tackling the unidentified man even as he went for something on the ground. They rolled, Gabriel failing to get a hold of the man, who extricated himself and tried to stand, just as Jack - seemingly recovered - swung his leg around, planting his foot in the intruders stomach. Gabriel took the opportunity to grab the man from behind, seizing his wrists and forcing him face first into the carpet, planting a knee in the small of his back to immobilize him.
The only sound in the room for the moment was the mens heavy breathing. Gabriel looked up at Jack, who seemed rather taken aback to see him.
“Hi,” Jack seemed too dazed to manage more. Gabriel grinned at him in spite of the situation.
“Hey.” He felt an odd desire to laugh, and looking at Jacks face, the blonde felt it too. Just then, however, the man underneath him squirmed, and brought them back to the matter at hand.
“Handcuffs?” Gabriel asked, and Jack nodded, slightly shakily. The blonde turned away and over to the door, pulling Hana into a tight hug when he reached her. Gabriel didn’t comment on the detour. The intruder was still winded from Jacks kick, and he wouldn’t begrudge a father comforting his child after an incident like that.
Jack pulled away, and kissed Hana’s forehead.
“I’m alright,” he murmured. “We’re all safe.” Hana nodded. “Can you call the station, tell them to come down? Ana might still be there, and if she’s not, Reinhardt is.” Hana nodded again, sniffed, and walked over to the phone, Jack patting her shoulder as she went, before retrieving a pair of handcuffs from his uniform.
After they had the criminal situated against a wall - and rather crudely gagged, as once he’d gotten his breath back he had spat an unending stream of curse words at them - Jack turned to Gabriel, dusting his hands off.
“Thank you, Gabriel. That was getting hairy.”
“Hey, just being neighborly,” Gabriel said holding up his hands with a grin. “I’m sure you’d do the same for me, given the chance.”
“Rather hope I don’t get that chance,” Jack replied, a touch ruefully.
“Agreed.” Gabriel shot a glance at Hana, sitting at the kitchen table with a blanket wrapped her shoulders, determinedly not looking at the cuffed before lowering his voice, and adding, “You know you’re bleeding, right?”
Jack frowned, sending a glance Hana’s way as well before answering in the same low voice, “Is it that obvious?”
“I don’t think she’s noticed, but Amari’s gonna give you hell if you try to hide it from her.”
Jack grunted in acknowledgement of the fact, before changing the subject. “You should probably stick around. They’ll want a statement from you.”
Gabriel nodded his understanding, but pursed his lips. All this noise could possibly wake his son.
“Alright if I go grab Jesse first?”
Jack shrugged slightly. “So long as you come right back.”
“I will. Give me 5 minutes.”
It took him 3, thanks to ingrained army discipline. Gabriel led a bewildered Jesse up to what was now a line of cop cars, most with lights flashing, though mercifully, the sirens were off. Reinhardt Wilhelm, giant that he was, spotted them over the cars and waved them through, one of the nearby officers standing out of the way respectfully. Reinhardt walked with them into the house, where Ana, Jack, and Hana currently were. They passed by the would-be murderer on their way, and Jesse’s eyes widened as he saw the man, though to his credit, he kept his mouth shut.
“I don’t care that it’s a small cut, Jack, this is not a negotiation!” Ana, arm in a sling, yelled at her rather sheepish looking officer. Jesse went over to where Hana was sitting, the girl apparently amused by the spectacle, and after a moment, Reinhardt went to stand by them.
“Ana, I just don’t think it’s necessary-”
The women gave vent to a sigh of frustration, before spotting the newcomers out of the corner of her eye.
“Gabriel!” She snapped. “Tell Jack to go to the hospital!”
“Go to the hospital, Jack,” Gabriel said sternly. Jack rolled his eyes.
“As a matter of fact,” Ana growled. “ Take him to the hospital!”
Gabriel raised an eyebrow at that. “You have an ambulance outside,” He pointed out mildly.
“And I have a stubborn blonde mule standing in front of me,” Ana replied, shooting a glare at Jack. “If I don’t have someone reliable ride along with him, I have no guarantee he won’t bully his way out of the vehicle before he makes it through the hospital doors. Reinhardt can watch the children.”
“The teenagers,” Jesse grumbled, sleepiness overriding his caution.
“The silent observers,” Ana corrected him with a dark look, and Jesse clammed up.
Gabriel sighed. “Alright, alright, I’ll ride in the ambulance with him.”
“Seriously?” Jack asked, a touch incredulous.
Gabriel looked at Ana, then back at Jack. “Yes. Seriously.”
Jack grumbled, but complied, walking over to leave with Gabriel. Hana waved cheerily at him as he passed.
“I’ll send someone to get your statements at the hospital,” Ana told them. “And they'd better find you there.”
After a quick once-over by the paramedic, Jack and Gabe were left to the relative quiet of the back of the ambulance, the driver not bothering to use the siren this late at night. Jack stared up at the ceiling for a time, before looking at Gabriel.
“Think I owe you a drink,” He said, after a moment.
“And I still owe you dinner!” They shared a smile, before Gabriel added. “Let’s split the bill sometime.”
He extended a hand, and Jack, after the faintest hesitation, shook it.
Chapter 10: Holiday Fervor
A Holiday chapter is never late, nor is it early. It's just proof about how bad I am about dedicating myself to a writing schedule.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sunday, October 26th, 2044
Jack tapped his foot against the hospital floor, impatient. Ana, reading something on her phone, ignored the noise.
“Ana…” Jack growled.
“Jack.” Came the even reply.
Jack sighed, and glanced around the waiting room. There were a couple others at the far end of the room.
“ Ana, ” Jack repeated, irritably.
“ Jack, ” She answered, matching his tone without looking up.
“Can I just go already!?” Jack burst. He knew he sounded childish, but he didn't care.
“Not until the doctor sees you, young man.”
“Yes, so the doctor can tell me nothing's wrong and I can go, right?”
“Now Jack, you aren't a medical professional. It's not appropriate to-”
“Ana, we both certified as medics during the war, and you know as well as I do that there's nothing wrong with me!”
“Something wrong with your personality right now.” Ana muttered.
“You aren't nearly as funny as you like to think.” Jack snapped back.
“I also pay you, Jack. Maybe remember that?”
“The city pays me, actually, and you don't have probable cause to fire me.”
Ana rolled her eyes, smiling in spite of herself. “Jack, be serious. You know you probably have at least a minor concussion. The cut isn't the issue, the impact is. Let the doctor check you over.”
Jack sighed. “I know, I know, but we've been sitting here for almost 2 hours. And you strung me up and kept me away from home all day besides.” Jack had, very briefly, visited home in the evening yesterday, but Ana had kept him to light duty at the station, and insisted on him being kept for examination before that. “I'm just worried about Hana. She was terrified yesterday.”
Ana gave him a kind smile. “Give your daughter some credit, Jack. She bounced back quickly, and she's not alone besides.”
“That's the other issue,” Jack grumbled. “I don't like imposing on him.
“Oh, please.” Ana rolled her eyes. “Just go try and tell Gabriel you feel like your imposing. The man's got a laundry list of reasons why you aren't.”
The corner of Jack's mouth hitched up into a smile. “I'd say we're pretty even at this point.”
“I would too,” Ana agreed. “He would not. Let him help, it makes him feel better.”
Jack sat back in his chair. “I just want this over with.”
“I'm sure it will be soon.”
Jack frowned as he watches the other couple get called into the office.
“Didn't they get here after us?” He asked.
“Yes, they did.” Ana answered.
“Why did they get called up first?”
“Oh, I told the Doctor to help you last.”
Jack stepped out of the car, mouth wide open, staring at his house in a mixture of horror and amazement.
Gabriel walked across the lawn toward him, grinning.
“What did you do to my house?” Jack asked, staring at the ridiculous display.
“Improved it!” Gabriel declared proudly. Every inch of the lawn and porch was covered in Halloween decorations. A few he recognized as old decorations he owned, but the vast majority of fake ghosts, ghouls, goblins, witches, pumpkins, and scarecrows couldn't be his.
“Is mostly mine.” Gabriel turned back to to survey his handiwork proudly. “We don't usually put everything out each year, we tend to pick a theme, or maybe decide on a certain number of decorations and pick until we meet it.”
“But why!? ” Jack burst, closing the car door sharply and stepping around the car to stand by Gabriel.
The man turned to face him, glaring, and wagged a finger in Jacks face.
“Because Hana told us you never do anything to celebrate Halloween.” Gabriel crossed his arms. “And rather than call CPS, I decided to just have you make up for lost time.”
“You... no !” Was all Jack could manage. He looked at the yard in disbelief. “We do celebrate Halloween! Some of these decorations are mine-”
“That you haven't put up in years ,” Gabriel interrupted.
“Because she's a teenager Gabriel!”
“Holiday fun does not stop just because you get older, Jack. Besides, you're outnumbered. Why do you think Ana dragged her feet all day?”
Jack felt like his eyes were going to pop out of his head, and Gabriel, failing to hide his grin, indicated a figure bent over in the yard. Fareeha noticed them and waved.
“We're setting up a fog machine!” She called over.
“No you aren't!” Jack called back.
“Yes we are!” And so saying, she returned her attention to whatever she was working-presumably, a fog machine.
“Foods ready!” Came Hana's voice from inside the house. Fareeha perked up, stopping what she was doing and disappearing into the house. Gabriel turned to Jack, smirking.
“Those are some fresh-baked cookies coming out of the oven. You can have some if you promise not to sneak out at night and tear all these down.” Jack groaned and slumped his shoulders, defeated. Gabriel cheerily slung an arm around the blonde's shoulders and all but dragged him up to the house, through the rows of mismatched decorations.
Thursday, October 30th, 2044
“A-ha!” Ana declared. “I was right! You two are the same size!” She stepped away from Jack as Gabriel raised a hand to his chin, studying the blonde.
“You must have a hard time shopping for clothes too then.” Gabriel mused, and Jack chuckled, nodding his head in agreement.
“The way clothing manufacturers assume people just automatically grow out in both directions…”
“Hey, could be worse,” Gabriel said, tapping a fist against Reinhardts chest. “We could be this giant.”
Reinhardt, dressed casually for once, let out his usual booming laugh.
“Principal Winston and I share a tailor,” he told them. “I haven't been able to buy clothes from a store in nearly 30 years.”
“Yet you maintain you've never taken steroids or growth hormones,” Jack said, tone mock suspicious.
Reinhardt held a hand to his heart. “You wound me, Commander.”
Jack rolled his eyes, smiling good-naturedly. “Nothing ever could, Crusader Wilhelm.” He turned back to Ana, intent on asking her why she wanted his shirt size, when she all but jumped to place something on his head. Jack shook his head, caught off-guard, and when Ana shoved something into his arms, he took it on instinct, looking down at a plastic circle, with red and blue strides, and a white star in the middle.
“We’re going as the Avengers!” Ana said proudly.
Jack blinked. “No we aren’t.”
“Yes we are!”
“Already got the costumes, friend.” Gabriel sounded sympathetic as he pulled a bow out of where it had evidently been hidden behind Jack’s couch.
“When did you even-”
“Tossed it there when we came in. Hid it behind my back on the way in.”
“I am going to be Thor!” Reinhardt yelled, grinning.
“Shouldn’t you be the Hulk?” Jack asked, taking off the Captain America helmet Ana had placed on him.
“Yes, he should,” Gabriel agreed, smirking.
“I was blonde once,” Reinhardt disagreed, shaking his silver-white mane of hair.
“You did go grey early,” Gabriel remarked.
“It’s not grey !” Reinhardt protested. “It’s-”
“Not important, is what it is.” Ana barked, shutting down the conversation. “I lost a bet with Fareeha and now I have to dress like Black Widow for Halloween, so I’m roping you idiots into it with me. No buts.”
“What bet did you lose?” Gabriel asked, curious.
“She wears the same stupid costume every Halloween. I wanted her to change it. We made the bet months ago, when the weather was nicer.” Ana shook her head. “That girl knows her way around a basketball court. She could get an athletics scholarship if she wanted.”
Jack shook his head. “Every other thought you have for her is about college. Don’t you think that’s a bit suffocating?”
“I helped save the world,” Ana replied defensively. “I’m allowed to place my expectations high.”
“I did too,” Jack pointed out, remembering their old argument. “But I’m not overburdening Hana just because I can justify it.”
“Kids deserve some freedom,” Gabriel agreed.
Ana turned to him, raising an eyebrow ominously.
“Freedom to dress like a cowboy everyday, Gabriel?”
Gabriel crossed his arms. “That’s not fair, Ana. That’s not fair at all.”
Jack, unable to help himself, snorted, and Gabriel glared at him.
Friday, October 31st, 2044
“How dare you, Jesse Mccree!” Hana gasped. “How dare you upstage me like this!”
Jesse grinned unabashedly at her, dressed head to toe as the one and only Sherlock Holmes.
“Hey, I said I would make you a costume, not that it would be better than mine.”
Hana put her hands on her hips, decked out in the cloth jumpsuit Jesse had put together for her. “You said you were going to be a cowboy!”
“Wrong!” Jesse said, holding up a hand to forestall her. “I implied I would be a cowboy.”
Hana huffed and turned to examine herself in the hallway mirror. She’d managed to rouse her father early today, so that she would have time to change at the Reyes’ before heading into school.
“It is nice,” She said begrudgingly. “And it was really nice of you to make it for me.”
“It doesn’t look right, since it’s cloth,” Jesse said. “But it’s not like anyone will know what it is anyway , so…”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m wearing it for me anyway.”
“And all the clothes you have on underneath it.”
“Freezing to death is not on my list of Halloween to-do’s, so yes, I am.”
“Shame we're not having a costume contest!” Fareeha exclaimed, sitting down across from them at the lunch table. “That's amazing Jesse!”
Jesse ducked his head, blushing in spite of himself.
“Meanwhile you're wearing the same costume you have for the past 3 years,” Hana said, pointing as Fareeha with her fork.
“Don't be ridiculous!” The girl looked down at her rather generic military uniform. “This year it's for the air force! See?” She indicated a small pin attached to the front of her shirt, a pair of silver wings with the words 'Air Force’ between them.
“Oh yes, that definitely counts,” Hana drawled, making a show of rolling her eyes to heaven.
Fareeha snickered. “Not like it matters. I can't wait to see Mom. She has to dress up like a superhero.”
“Really?” Jesse asked, having difficulty conjuring the mental image.
“Yeah. And I think she's roping your dad's into it, too.”
Hana’s eyes widened at that. “Dad hasn't dressed up in years!”
“How did you live with that man!?” Jesse asked, horrified.
Hana frowned at him. “Jesse, it was funny with the decorations, but you know some people just aren't that into the holidays, right?”
Jesse shrugged in response. “'Course I do. But it's fun to mess around, at least once a year. Just makes him seem like more of a stick in the mud than usual.”
“You know, Jesse,” Fareeha said, “people could drum up some pretty similar complaints about your old man. Most people own some kind of game console these days you know.”
Jesse scowled. “That's different.”
Fareeha blinked in surprise, but didn't say anything, able to tell she'd stumbled into a sore spot. To both girls surprise, however, Jesse sighed and apologized.
“Sorry. I know I'm too touchy about that.”
“It's alright,” Hana assured him, and Fareeha nodded. “It's not our business.”
Jesse pulled his hat off and ran a hand through his hair.
“It's not - I mean, I don't know the story.” Seeing he had the others attention, he continued. “Dad was dead broke when he took me in. Like, as broke as a man could be and not be in jail. I don't know why. And ever since, he's been trying to scrape by for both of us on whatever job he could get. We had to move around a lot because rent prices kept going up where we lived, so I never got to settle down and really make friends anywhere. Eventually, Ms.Ziegler talked him into moving up here, and helped him get a job.” He shrugged. “Gaming consoles were too expensive. But he always managed to make the holidays fun. So we take them kind of… seriously.”
Hana and Fareeha exchanged a look, breaking eye contact when Jesse looked up.
“Well, you're here now,” Fareeha said.
“And we're your friends!” Hana added.
Jesse smiled at them.
“That fits you way too well.”
Jack looked over the cheap blue costume, grimacing.
“That bothered we're the same size?” He asked, and Gabriel shook his head.
“No, I mean, you , as Captain America. Fits way too well.”
The blonde rolled his eyes, but further comment was prevented by Ana's voice coming from the living room.
“Oi! Captain America, Mexican Hawkeye! Get down here already!”
“Wow, really?” Gabriel muttered, walking over to the stairway. “We'll be down in a minute, you Egyptian-Russian super spy!”
Jack snorted. “Why is she in such a hurry?”
“Think she's hoping to get away before the kids get back,” Gabe said, walking back to Jack. “No way am I letting her.” Jack nodded in understanding, grinning.
After a moment's pause, Gabriel, taking great interest in one of the walls, asked: “Is your work schedule, you know, the same every week?”
Jack blinked, surprised by the question. “Uh, yeah. I can be kept late by paperwork, or if something special is going on - you know, like the Los Muertos incident - but otherwise, it's Monday-Friday, during the day. Why?”
“Oh, just…” Gabe subconsciously raised a hand to the back of his head. “Mine's kinda all over the place. Wondering about getting drinks.”
“Oh.” Was Jack's only response. He'd agreed to get drinks, but Gabe was acting noticeably odd. If he commented on it, history told him he'd say the wrong thing. Instead, he checked his watch. It was a bit of a process, pushing up the sleeve of his costume to see it.
“Fareeha was driving?” He asked, and Gabe nodded, pulling a curtain back to look outside.
“And speak of the devil, she's here.” He said. He sounded almost… grateful? But before Jack could comment, Gabe walked past him and over to the door.
“Come on, let's get this over with,” He said, waiting in the doorway. Jack shrugged a little to himself, and walked past Gabe, who closed the door politely behind himself. They went down the stairs to see Ana, arms crossed, looking away from her grinning daughter in an apparent attempt to hide her blush.
“It's not a 'laugh out loud’ moment,” Fareeha said, her smile threatening to split her face in two. “But man, am I glad we made that bet.”
Hana and Jesse, wisely stifling their laughter, caught sight of the two men coming, and Hana put her hands on her hips, scoffing.
“Really?” She asked. “Dad as Captain America? What kind of creative stretch is that?”
Jack threw his hands in the air. “Am I missing something?”
He was answered with nothing but disappointed sides.
They subjected themselves to a few group pictures, before Ana, Reinhardt and Fareeha bid their farewells.
“You two going to any Halloween parties?” Fareeha teased, knowing damn well Jack would never allow it.
“We're our own Halloween party!” Hana declared.
“Oh yes, playing video games in costume , how new and different,” Jack drawled, rolling his eyes.
“Must you attack me for everything I do, Dad?” Hana asked, mock-offended, as she made her way past the adults. “I don't judge you for how you live your life!”
“Yes you… do,” Jack said, trailing off as Hana disappeared upstairs. “All the time.” He muttered.
“You know, Jack,” Gabriel said, looking at the blonde over his shoulder. “Sometimes I think you have no idea what you're doing.”
Jack regarded him for a second, as Jesse awkwardly stepped past them.
“That's a nice outfit, Jesse,” He said. “Nice to see you in a different costume for once.”
Jesse, wisely, made his escape, while Gabe tutted at Jack.
“Making fun of a teenager to try to get back at his parent. Shame on you.”
“You know Gabriel,” Ana said, completely ignoring the men's squabble. “If the kids are going to stay here all night, you might as well bring your candy bowl over for trick or treaters. It's not like you'll get any real alone time at your own house tonight.”
“And people will have pretty high expectations for this house,” Fareeha added. “You have a fog machine, and everything.”
Jack glared at her briefly, before turning to Gabe. Gabriel shrugged slightly. Jack shrugged in response.
“Why not?” Gabe said, chuckling.
“Wonderful!” Ana declared, taking Fareeha's hand. “We'll be on our way!” Reinhardt, true to form, held the door open for the women to walk out ahead of him, waved at the men, and ducked under the door frame to leave.
They had barely made it down the steps before Fareeha erupted into giggles.
“They're going to look so gay !” She snickered, and Ana nodded sagely.
“All roads lead to Rome, my dear. Even if they're the last people to figure out they're into each other, it'll happen eventually.
“I confess, I had my doubts,” Reinhardt said, chuckling. “But they do seem to get along well, don't they?”
“With Hana and Jesse the way they are, they don't really have a choice. It's like a movie where the two leads’ dogs wrapped them up with their leashes.” Fareeha said.
They reached their respective cars, Reinhardt making his way around to the drivers side, while Fareeha hesitated, glancing back at the house.
“Want to make another bet?” She said, turning to her mother.
Ana considered her. “How long until they admit they're together?”
Fareeha nodded in confirmation, and they held each other's gaze for a long, quiet minute. Then Ana held out her hand. Fareeha walked over and grasped it with her own.
Happy Soldier:76-is-actually-really-gay-day! In celebration, I finally finished my Halloween chapter.
Gonna be Christmas in July at the rate I'm going.
Regardless, hope you enjoyed, and comments are always appreciated!
Monday, November 10th, 2044
Jack nursed a cup of coffee while he leaned against his squad car, hoping the heat from the cup would spread to his entire body.
Stupid Ana, making him drive to the stupid airport in the stupid cold morning to pick up the stupid new cop. This was not what the city's officers were for. He didn't know why she wanted someone to pick up the new officer at all - Ana wasn't such a slave driver that the newbie would be starting straight off their flight.
It did seem obvious that Jack would be in charge of training the new recruit, which was why Ana had sent him specifically, but that didn't explain the chauffeur service. He didn't even know who he was expecting - they just knew to look for him , the officer waiting outside.
The thought brought a small smile to his face, thinking about how it must look for someone to go straight from a plane to a squad car. Like some prisoner transfer - though of course, that would look very different. They'd probably think whoever it was would be someone important.
Passengers began to trickle out of the airport doors, and Jack found himself cursing Ana again. If she'd just told him the newcomers name he could've waited inside with a sign. It would've been awkward to do so in uniform, but it would've been warmer . Lost in thoughts as he was, he didn't even really notice the person approaching him until they spoke, or more accurately, squealed.
“Commander Morrison!” The woman proclaimed, hurrying over and somehow, despite her diminutive stature, pulled him into a bear hug. Jack grunted slightly - he'd forgotten how deceptively strong she was - and patted her on the shoulder with his free hand.
The woman pulled back, grinning up at him, before jumping to attention and saluting.
“Cadet Mei Ling-Zhou, reporting for duty!”
Jack felt a smile creep across in spite of the cold; Mei just had one of those auras about her.
“Stand down, we're not military.” She complied, grinning, and Jack added. “I'm also not your boss.”
“You're training me though, aren't you?” Mei asked as Jack motioned to the car, and they went around to get in.
“I assume so. Ana likes having me do it. She says it prepares them for her .”
Mei giggled as she sat down and closed her door.
“That sounds right. She was always scarier than you were.”
The thought made Jack smile as he started up the car. “She always said it worked better that way. I was supposed to inspire people, and she was supposed to actually do something useful with all the inspiration.”
He backed out of his parking spot and made his way into the slow commute out of the airport.
“Ana didn't tell me it would be you. It's good to see you, Mei.”
His old squad member beamed at him. “It's wonderful to see you as well! I'm excited to see so many old friends here!”
“What brings you out here?” Jack asked, eyes trained on the slow-moving car in front of him. He was in no particular hurry, but couldn't help but feel the commuters were moving slowly since he was in his squad car. “I didn't think you'd ever leave the Arctic.”
Mei sighed. “I have just enough grant money to keep all the equipment running. Which doesn't leave anything for me.” Jack tsked in disapproval, and she turned slightly to face him. “It's not as bad as it sounds. Until I have more data, I can't do much, and what I can do, I can do remotely.”
Jack still growled under his breath at the flippant nature of government spending, but he supposed it was a good thing they were still giving Mei any funding at all.
“So what brings you out here specifically?”
“I was talking to Bastion, actually.”
“I forget he's here sometimes,” Jack muttered, more to himself than Mei.
“He's the quiet type,” she said, in apparent agreement. “But he's happy here. Especially since he gets to keep Ganymede in the classroom as his teaching assistant. Anyway, he put me in contact with Winston, who referred me to Ms. Amari. Though I think he's hoping to hire me as a teacher.”
“I could see that,” Jack mused, as he merged onto the small strip of freeway that separated Gibraltar and the airfield. Mei certainly had the training to handle work as an officer, but she was a scientist first. “You'd certainly be a better influence on the kids than some members of the staff.”
“You mean Jamie?” Mei asked gently.
“Do you know he introduced himself as Junkrat to the kids?” Jack said. “And the nonsense he pulls sometimes - I swear, if Mako didn't keep him from doing really crazy…”
“Oh, you know he's not that bad.” Mei scolded. “He just lives life his own way. He's not going to hurt anyone.”
Jack sighed. “I know. And I'm glad we managed to get him a job in the city. Lord knows the man needs some form of stability. He just tires me.”
“You still can't manage to get mad at him though, can you?” Mei sounded amused. “You never could.”
Jack pursed his lips, offering only a grunt in response.
“Sorry,” Mei said softly. “I know you don't like to talk about-” She stopped herself, looking out the window. After a moment, and making an obvious effort to change the subject, she said, “I don't think I could teach though.”
“A classroom of teenagers can't be that much worse than the Omnium.” Jack joked. He was a notorious wet blanket when it came to talking about the war, preferring to box up the memories and stow them away. He didn't joke about the war much because his sense of humor tended to dip into the macabre.
Mei laughed a little. “I wasn't the best at dealing with them either.”
They were doing a terrible job at avoiding the topic.
“You did fine,” Jack said quietly, merging into the exit lane. “Besides, if it wasn't for you, I'm not so sure Jamison would be around to complain about.”
Mei folded her hands in her lap, looking down at them.
“I suppose I should go see him, shouldn't I? At least let him know I'm in town.”
“Do me a favor?” Jack asked. “Wait until the weekend. Otherwise he's liable to march right out of class to go say hi.”
Mei giggled at the image. “It's so hard to imagine him in a classroom. Does Hana have him?”
“Yes,” Jack sighed. “She loves him.”
“Exactly,” Jack groaned, before the topic of school brought another question to mind. “Do you know Gabriel Reyes?”
“I don't think so.” Mei frowned at the question.
“Finally,” Jack muttered. “Someone besides me who didn't.”
Mei was obviously confused, but seemed to dismiss the issue. “How is Hana doing? It's been so long, and she was so little the last time I saw her!”
“Not so little anymore,” Jack said grimly. “And getting to be more of a handful every day.” He relaxed slightly. “Still, I'm sure she'd like to see you. You should come over for dinner sometime.”
“Did you finally learn to cook?”
The fact that her question seemed genuine only made it sting more.
“Well,” Jack said begrudgingly. “Usually it's not me that cooks it…”
Wednesday, November 12th, 2044
“Did you get the same assignment from Junkrat today?” Jesse asked, craning his neck to look at Hana in the backseat.
“Jesse…” Gabe growled, not taking his eyes off the road.
Jesse rolled his eyes. “Sorry, did you get the same assignment from Mr. Fawkes ?”
Hana wisely smothered his laughter. “Yeah, I did.”
“Do we really have to get all of this stuff?” Jesse asked, digging the paper out of his backpack. “I'm pretty sure we haven't even learned what half this stuff is .”
Gabe rolled his eyes at the we part. The kids didn't notice.
“Maybe that's part of the assignment.” Hana suggested. “It might be simpler than it looks.”
“I think you're giving him too much credit,” Jesse murmured.
“Don't worry Jesse, I'll make sure you get it all, thanks for asking,” Gabe drawled. Jesse sat forward in his seat, face red.
After a moment, he added, “Thanks Dad.”
After dropping Hana off, and heading inside, Gabe motioned toward Jesse's backpack.
“Let me see,” he said, and after a seconds confusion, Jesse pulled the chemistry assignment out of his backpack and handed it to his father.
“What do you think?” Jesse asked.
“I think Hana's probably right. Something like baking soda, but broken down into its compounds or something.”
“Didn't know you were a chemist,” Jesse teased at his father's confident tone.
“I learned a thing or two in my day,” Gabe said dryly, scanning the paper. As his eyes went further down, however, his brows began to draw together, until at the end of the page, he looked… furious.
“- Fuck , Jack!?” Gabe yelled, brandishing the paper in his hand toward the blonde man, Hana and Jesse watching from the stairs, wide-eyed.
“What?” Jack asked, bewildered. He took the paper from Gabe's hand, frowning, but his shock seemed to evaporate the instant he saw the names at the top of the paper. “Oh god, what is it this time?”
Gabriel seemed further incensed by Jack's reaction. “This is the recipe for a bomb , Morrison! I know it is! I've made them for…” he paused, sparing a half-glance towards the kids before snarling through clenched teeth “my old job!”
Jack groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. “Of course it is.”
“What do you mean ‘of course it is’!?” Gabriel demanded, horrified. “Has he done this before?”
Jack just sighed, before walking over to the phone. “I'll call Winston.”
Gabriel just stared after him, torn between bewilderment and anger.
“We were gonna put glitter in them!” Jamison defended. “You know, glitter bombs!”
“ GLITTER BOMBS ARE NOT ACTUALLY BOMBS YOU TWITCHY LITTLE SHIT!”
Jack felt that it was probably a good thing he was standing between Gabriel and Jamison.
“Ooh, he's scary ,” Jamison said, miming hiding behind Jack.
Maybe it wasn't such a good thing.
“Gabriel, please.” Winston wasn't quite pleading, but he was clearly as concerned about the vein going in Gabriel's neck as Jack was. “No one got hurt. And the students are obviously not going to go through with making them.”
“Why are you both so calm about this?” Gabe asked, looking back and forth between Jack and the principal.
“Mr.Fawkes has a history of setting these kinds of… non-curricular assignments. We make… allowances for him.”
“ Why though?” Gabe demanded. “Why does he still have a job here!?”
“Well because I always get caught, mate.”
All three men turned to look at the Australian, in various states of surprise.
“What?” Jamison asked, shrugging. “It's fun, innit?”
As Gabriel's eye began to noticeably twitch, Jack decided now was an excellent time to remove the man from the room.
Gabe didn't talk to him as they crossed the school lawn over to Jack's car - they hadn't bothered driving separately.
He blew out a long breath as he sat down in the passenger's seat, dragging his hands down his face in an obvious attempt to calm down.
“Ok,” Gabriel started, clearly making an effort to stay calm. “I'll grant that - with the kind of parents some of his students have, he could believe that someone would catch what was up with his experiment.” He turned to Jack, not bothering with his seatbelt. “What I don't get is you, and everyone else just… being ok with this. Even if you know he has a history of this, he still gave your daughter an assignment to build a bomb .”
Jack sighed. “I've known Jamison for a long time. I know him better than most. I can give you my word he won't hurt anyone. Even if no one had caught him, he probably would've launched the bombs into the sky or something. Still illegal, but not hurting anyone. He… doesn't want to hurt people anymore.” That last bit, as Jack had expected, got to Gabriel.
The man leaned back against the passenger seat, staring out of the window and at the school.
“Where'd you find him?”
“You remember the Omnium base in Australia? The one that self-destructed?” Jack asked.
Gabe swore under his breath. “I didn't think anyone survived that.”
“Just two. Jamison and Mako. He got a proper prosthetic after the war, but when we found Jamie, he had a stick of wood acting as a peg leg. Probably would've died from infection after much longer. And Makos lungs never recovered from the radiation. It's part of the reason they stay here. Angie can treat them just as well as any hospital, and they can live far more normal lives during.”
“Junkrat and Roadhog,” Gabe muttered. “I remember now. Didn't they get kicked out by the Queen's radicals?”
“As far as I know, it was for good reasons. They hated the Omnium, not anyone else. 'Course, this all second-hand information. Only person Jamison really talked to aside from Mako was Mei.”
“Who?” Gabe asked.
“Oh, sorry. Mei Long-Zhou. Signed up during the war to get college tuition, wound up getting deployed with me and Ana when we went to clean up after the last round of Omnium strikes against Australia. She was around Jamison's age, and tending to him kept her away from the action, for the most part.” Jack tapped the steering wheel a few times. “Jamison… does his best, in his own way. After everything he went through… keeping this job, staying in Gibraltar and at the school, it gives a kind of stability. He sees the same people every day, people he trusts, and it… keeps him calm. Relatively speaking. If he's here, he's not anywhere else. If he's teaching, he's not doing anything else.”
“Meaning you all think he could be a danger to others or himself,” Gabe said pointedly, and Jack just nodded. Gabe sighed. “Is that why everyone's here?” He asked. Jack looked over at him, an unspoken spoken question on his features. Gabe elaborated. “Because they know there are others here. Others who understand. People who won't judge them for having episodes, or be hurt by their paranoia.”
Jack nodded slowly, continuing the train of thought. “They can put their talents to new uses. See kids every day and be reminded that what they did was good, and right, and worthwhile. We're a community, like it or not.” He straightened up, and Gabe looked at him, a soft smile on his face.
“I think it's a good thing,” Jack said. “We can all get something we need here. I mean, look at how quickly Hana and Jesse became friends when they realized how much they had in common.” He glanced over and saw Gabe's smile.
“What?” He asked.
“Nothing,” Gabe said innocently. “Just thinking… I can see your old Strike-Commander side, poking through a little bit.”
Jack frowned. “What?”
“Don't worry about it,” Gabe told him, chuckling. “Just take me home, golden boy.”
Is it killing the joke if I say this was posted in honor of Soldier:76-is-really-actually-gay *week*? I feel like it is. But I felt like writing more so I did.
Thanks for reading!
Saturday, November 16th, 2044
Hana rested her elbow on the window sill, propping her chin on her hand as she looked down at the ground.
“Forgive me, my dear prince,” She began in a singsong voice, before immediately dropping the tone and saying, flatly, “but my hairs not that long.”
“I ain’t a prince!” Jesse called, offended. “And I sure as hell ain’t your prince. Now let me in, I’m cold!”
Hana gave vent to a long-suffering sigh before closing her window, giving vent to a small shiver herself, slipping off the blanket that had been resting around her shoulders, and put on a pair of slippers, before descending down the steps. Dad had run out for groceries. She opened the door and stepped back as Jesse came in, before slamming it closed and locking it.
“Bit much?” Jesse asked, looking at the door in mild surprise.
“No,” Hana said, turning to face him, before she choked with laughter. “What are you wearing?”
The answer was at least two jackets, 2 pairs of socks, and Hana suspected - but didn't ask - multiple pairs of underwear.
“Jesse, I'm cold too but if you're going this hard in November how do you ever expect to survive actual winter?”
Jesse looked at her with something very much like terror on his face.
“Whaddya mean, actual winter?”
“I mean it's not winter,” Hana said, struggling not to laugh at Jesse's horrified reaction. “Sure, we're having a bit of a cold snap, but it's bound to be get colder.”
Jesse looked stunned.
“Why on earth did Dad move us up here then!?” He demanded, despite the fact that Hana obviously didn’t know. “Who can live in this kind of cold?”
“Literally everyone else.” Hana answered, smirking in spite of herself.
“Well you're all freaks,” Jesse said, with an air of finality.
“Fuck, its cold,” Gabe growled as they entered the supermarket.
“Mind your language,” Jack said, without looking at him. It was just as well; he didn't see the hand gesture Gabriel made in his direction at the comment.
“Why am I even here?” Gabe asked, speeding up his walk to fall in step with Jack as the blonde grabbed a shopping cart.
“Because I don't know what to buy,” Jack said, matter-of-factly.
Gabe archer an eyebrow. “They list ingredients in cookbooks, ya know. You could've checked.”
Jack frowned at him. “You don't look at a cookbook when you cook.”
Which was true - Gabriel had made food at the Morrisons a few times now, and had simply brought whatever he needed with him.
“That's because I'm making food I've made before. Look, why are you so dead-set on this?” Gabe asked, changing the subject.
“Because as you, our friends, and my loving daughter keep reminding me, I can barely cook toast,” Jack answered, a bit more snappishly than he'd intended. “Besides, I don't like sitting around doing nothing while you make us food. I want to at least learn enough to be able to help.”
Gabriel looked torn between amusement and pity. “I don't mind helping you learn, Jack, but you know there are actual classes you can take right?”
“Yeah, but this way I can keep it from Ana for as long as possible.”
And Gabriel, needing no further explanation, led the way into the store.
They wandered up and down the isles, pulling down items almost at random as Gabriel tried to think of what they'd need, Jack struggled to remember the contents of his kitchen, and both of them resigning themselves to the fact that they would have to make a second trip later in the week, as they wouldn't know what they'd forgotten until they tried to cook something.
“You wanna start tonight?” Gabe asked, as they carried their groceries out to Jack's car.
“Sure, if you don't mind.” Jack agreed, unlocking the trunk so they could put the bags in. “When will you be free next?” He asked, jerking his head toward the supermarket.
Gabe thought for a second. “...Wednesday, I think. I'll double-check at home. Do you wanna run out here after you get off work?”
Jack nodded as they got in his car, though a small frown had appeared on his face.
“Have you thought about getting a different job?” He asked Gabe as he started the car.
Gabriel seemed surprised at the question.
“Thought about it? Yeah, but there's not many options up here, aside from minimum wage work. And I don't have a lot of qualifications on paper.”
Jack looked at him, the frown deepening. “I'm sure Ana would-”
“No.” Gabriel cut him off sharply, before softening. “Sorry. Had this conversation already. I'm… done with that work.”
Jack's frown turned sympathetic, though he kept pressing. “You could still do office-work, you know.”
At that, Gabriel gave him a rueful smile. “I could never stand by and file paperwork if anything was happening. No, the only way to be apart from it is to be separate from it completely.” After a moment, Gabriel added, by way of explanation, “I went into private sector work right out of the war. Security services, bodyguard work, you get the idea. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Didn’t end well.”
“Oh,” Jack said, by way of response. It had been a common thought for many of them, those still far too young at the end of the war to live off of a pension for the rest of their lives, to put their skills to use before they got rusty. Jack and Ana, with Fareeha and the newly adopted Hana along, had looked for a place to settle down, deciding that it would be better to make sure they knew at least one other person in town.
They had been offered a variety of positions, their reputations preceding them, but turned their noses up at the idea of government jobs, and accepted the police departments offer instead, especially since the then-chief was nearing retirement.
“I guess I understand,” Jack said into the silence. Gabe looked over at him, surprised. “I turned down the police chief job, after all. Wouldn't take a lieutenant's position either. Just wanted to work. I was sick of leading.”
Gabe grunted in response. His elbow was on the window sill, chin resting on his hand.
“Wouldn't mind a pay raise though,” He muttered, and Jack shifted uncomfortably.
It had become apparent early on that just about everything Jack owned was nicer than Gabriel's. It wasn't a massive gap - after all, they lived in the same neighborhood - but from the house, to the car, even to the electronics they owned, Jack's seemed newer, better cared for, or, most obviously, more expensive. Jack had heard whispers of Gabriel's money troubles, but while no one seemed to think he'd done anything bad, he hadn't worked up the nerve yet to ask his friend about it.
Without another word, Jack started the car and they set off toward his home in a slightly uncomfortable silence. A couple months ago Jack would've assumed Gabriel was brooding, but he knew the other man well enough now to guess that he was simply embarrassed at sharing so much.
They got home and unloaded, each carrying an armful of groceries into the house, but to Gabriel's surprise, after putting down the last of the groceries, Jack headed for the door.
“Forgot to lock up?” Gabriel asked, but Jack shook his head.
“No, just had a thought. I'll be back.”
“Wait, but what am I… supposed to… do.” Gabriel trailed off as the door closed.
Jesse and Hana's heads peaked out from around the upstairs corridor, looking down at him.
“Hey Dad!” Jesse said cheerily, noticeably overdressed.
“When did you get here?” Gabe asked, a little incredulously.
“Pff, I've been here,” Jesse said dismissively.
“Where did Dad go?” Hana asked, frowning at the front door, through which they could hear the sound of Jack driving away.
“No idea,” Gabe said, shrugging.
After a moment, the kids seemed to shrug, disappearing out of sight again.
“Your homework better be done!” Gabe yelled after them.
“It's Saturday!” Jesse yelled back, and Gabe rolled his eyes, before examining the empty living room. Jack hadn't said whether Gabe should stay or not. It wasn’t surprising - Jack Morrison, at least as far as Gabriel had known him, seemed to have a one-track mind. After his eyes landed on the 60 inch LCD TV, Gabe shrugged and plopped down onto the couch, finding the remote on an end table, and began flicking through the channels.
It was almost 30 minutes before he heard Jack pull back in. He sat up a little straighter, but stayed where he was as Jack entered the house and hung up his coat.
“Honey, I’m home!” Jack said cheerily, smirking as he turned around to look at Gabe.
Gabe stared at him.
Jack stared back.
Several seconds passed.
“I’m so sorry,” Jack said.
“You should be.” Gabe replied coldly. Jack ducked his head, suitably ashamed.
“So what was your brainwave, boy scout?” Gabe asked, electing to leave Jack’s joke in the past, where it belonged.
“Ah, well,” Jack started, before turning red and looking away. “You ever think of an idea that seems really good at the time and you don’t think about it being weird until it’s too late?”
“No, but I bet you have them a lot.”
Jack glared at him, still red, before he fished in his pants pocket, and pulled out-
Two identical keys.
Gabriel stared, bewildered.
“Yeah, I know!” He said, crimson now. “I forgot what it usually - well, what this usually means. I just thought that you and Jesse are around so often it could be… y'know, useful. It wasn’t until the employee asked me who I was getting them for that I actually… thought about it.”
Gabriel shook his head, groaning.
“Well-!” Jack shoved the keys at him, flustered. “They’re made now, aren’t they! Just take them!”
Gabe dragged a hand his face, staring at the keys in Jacks hand. Then, quite unexpectedly, he pushed past Jack and out of the house.
Jack stared at the door in confusion, before jumping almost a foot in the air when Hana’s voice asked from behind him
“Now where’s he going?” She asked, frowning at the door. They had evidently come downstairs after Jack had returned.
“I bet I can guess,” Jesse said, faintly amused.
“Jesse!” Jack said, spinning around. “How long have you been here?”
Jesse gave him a deeply disappointed look before turning to the kitchen, pointedly not answering the question.
“Did you guys get any snacks while you were shopping?”
Sure enough, about half an hour later, Gabriel stormed back into the house, snatched the spare keys from Jack, and pressed two of his own into the blonde’s hand, Jack accepting them timidly.
Hana shook her head at the display. “They’re nuts. Why does it matter so much?”
Jesse shrugged. “Dunno. Who do you think grabbed the ice cream?” He asked, before returning his attention to the cone in his hand, his dislike of the cold weather doing nothing to dampen his enjoyment of the treat.
“Oh definitely your dad,” Hana said, before tossing her empty wrapper into the trash.
The neighborhood quickly became used to the sight of the inhabitants of 124 and 176 wandering up and down the street almost aimlessly at odd hours of the day. The early risers were already used to seeing the two older men walking together in the early morning - although the early onset of almost freezing temperatures had curtailed that quite a bit. And while borrowing a cup of sugar was neighborly, most people knocked on their neighbors door and asked, instead of letting themselves into the house when the neighbor wasn’t home and just taking the sugar.
Hana and Jesse and also concluded that Jesse’s room was better insulated than Hana’s, and could be seen, on weekends, carrying Hana’s consoles and accessories down the street, determined to do what they could to stay warm, as both their parents were stingy with the thermostats.
Add to that the ever-present burden of school and the regular entertainment of listening to Jack Morrison struggle to cook anything under the gaze of his admittedly impatient teacher, and the two teenagers were falling into a very comfortable routine.
They could never guess what would come along to disrupt it next.
Bless the people on my Twitter timeline for posting R76 pics and guilting me into writing more.
Friday, November 29th, 2044
Thanksgiving came and went quietly, with the Reyes’ and the Morrisons sitting together and enjoying a fairly simple meal. Neither man had bothered to spring for a turkey, and Hana had spent the evening trying to guess which dishes her father had made - and hurting poor Gabriel's feelings when his were declared ‘tasteless'-and all four of them very politely declined to ask why the others weren't seeing family over the holiday.
Friday dawned bright and cold, although Jesse and Gabriel had been adapting admirably to the cold weather, at least in front of their friends. Admittedly, Gabe had become a little more lenient with the thermostat than in years past, but Jack and Ana didn’t really need to know that.
Jesse, however, was noticeably subdued during school, spending most of the early classes staring vacantly off into space, only to be sharply elbowed by Hana when the teacher was trying to get his attention. The other kids teased Jesse for his apparent daze, though they didn't set in on him as they might once have done. The write-ups and apparent scolding from their parents after the incident at the start of the school year seemed to have made them wary of really going after someone again.
“Ok, spill,” Hana demanded all but slamming her lunch tray down in front of Jesse.
“What?” He asked distractedly, looking up from where he had been picking at his food. “Spill what?”
“What's gotten into you today? Why are you so spacey?” Hana sat down, frowning at him.
“Nothing,” Jesse said, unconvincingly. Hana glared at him. Jesse tried again. “Really, nothing. Not a big deal.”
Hana crossed her arms, and Jesse sighed.
“Look, it’s - I shouldn't say.”
Hana’s frown deepened. “Uh, it sounds like you should. You're worrying me.”
Jesse shook his head doggedly. “I'm not saying. Not my place to say.”
“Ok, what does that mean?” Hana demanded.
Jesse sighed again. “Yesterday… got my Dad thinking, is all. About some bad memories. He didn't say anything to me, but I could tell. And it's just bothering me. And I ain't saying any more than that!” He added hotly, before catching sight of the look on Hana's face. “What?” He asked.
“Oh, just… I get that, I guess.” She propped her head on her hand and stared off into space. “There’s a lot about them we don’t know, huh?” Jesse didn’t know what to say to that.
“You know, I’m from South Korea,” Hana said unexpectedly. “Dad adopted me while he was still there, during cleanup. I’m technically a dual-citizen.”
“No technically about it,” Jesse said earnestly. “You are, aren’t you? Didn’t you say you were adopted when you were three?”
“I guess, but… do you have any memories from that age? Some people do.”
They were crossing into rarely-tread territory now, but it seemed, to both of them, that this time was fine.
“Real vague ones,” Jesse said slowly. “Never asked Dad about my biological parents much. They… didn’t go a good way, that I know. Not sure if it was an accident, or if they got into some bad stuff or… what. Don’t know how they knew Dad either.”
“You never asked?” Hana questioned, wide-eyed.
“I did, few years back. He said he’d tell me more when I was older. Whenever I think about it lately, I figure he’ll give me the same answer if I ask again. What about you?”
“My parents died in the war. Dad picked me up from some rubble, never really put me down. There’s old propaganda stills of it, so he couldn’t really pretend it didn’t happen. Not sure the press ever put out stories about him adopting me, but…” She shrugged, and Jesse understood the conversation to be over.
Just as he turned his eyes to his food, however, the bell rang, signaling the end of lunch.
“Dangit,” Hana muttered, pizza halfway to her mouth.
Jesse, however, shrugged, and began to stuff his face as fast as he could, all the while gathering up his stuff.
Saturday, November 30th, 2044
Gabriel stared at the TV without really seeing it. Some old western was on, but he had no idea what it was about. His mind was a million miles away.
As such, he actually started with surprise when his front door swung open. He whipped around to see Jack pushing the door shut with his foot. Spare key or no, the blonde always knocked. Army-trained manners.
Jack, however, simply flashed him what Gabriel was sure was a glare before turning his back to him. Just as Gabriel opened his mouth to ask what Jack was doing, his coat landed on top of him.
He extricated himself after an embarassingly long struggle, fighting down a blush as he glared at Jack over the coat.
“What?” He asked, a little more aggressively than he intended.
“I owe you a drink,” Jack said, oddly cold.
Gabe stared at him, grappling with an odd mix of new emotions. Anger was easiest, so he went with that.
‘“Hoping to pry my sob story out of me?”
“Gonna try. But one way or another, I’d rather see you drunk than like this,” Jack narrowed his cold blue eyes, “And considering how we met, you must realize thats a low bar to clear.”
Goddamn, He thought. He’s hot when he’s angry.
“Fine,” Gabe growled, looking away. “You’re paying.”
“I’m paying for the first one,” Jack corrected. “I’m also driving. Don’t push it.”
Gabriel didn’t, and after hollering at the kids - who had holed up in Jesse’s room and did an admiral job of pretending they hadn’t heard anything - threw his coat on and followed Jack out to his car.
The drive to Tracer’s was silent, Jack keeping his thoughts to himself, and Gabriel struggling with his.
Did he want to tell Jack? It was better to decide before he started drinking. Ana knew some of the story, as did Angela, but he’d never really sat down and told the whole thing before.
Now that he thought of it, between the two of them, both women had about the whole story.
He snuck a look at Jack, who was keeping his eyes firmly on the road.
He wanted to tell Jack, he thought. It was an odd feeling. He’d kept a tight lid on the events of his life in the years between the end of the war and adopting Jesse, but it wasn’t as though people had been trying to find out his secrets. He just kept it to himself out of habit.
Besides, he’d never had a friend like Jack. He trusted the man would understand in a way Ana or Angela wouldn’t - that he would listen, not advise .
And if all else failed, he might be able to wring enough sympathy out of the man for two free drinks.
Emily greeted them as they entered, starting to make their drinks before they’d even hung up their coats, and serving them as they sat down, at the far end of the bar. Jack told her to put it on his tab, and they settled in, Gabriel drinking gratefully.
“Well?” Jack asked, abruptly.
“Aren’t you direct?” Gabriel grumbled, glaring at the drink in his hand instead of his friend.
“What I’m not is subtle. And I couldn’t be if I tried. You’ll talk or you won’t. I’ll save my energy.”
Gabriel let out a noise that was somewhere between a sigh and a chuckle. That was Jack, alright. He took another drink, building up the courage to say it.
Just as Jack opened his mouth to ask again, Gabriel spoke, cutting him off.
“I have a daughter.”
Jack’s mouth closed. Opened again. Closed again. Then, finally;
“You mean… a daughter . A-”
“A biological daughter, yeah.” He sighed. “Olivia.”
“Oh. I, um, I didn’t realize - I - where is she?”
It wasn’t the first question he would’ve expected, and judging by the flush on Jack’s cheeks, it wasn’t the one the blonde had meant to ask. To his surprise, Gabriel smiled at the flush creeping up his friend’s face.
“I don’t know,” he answered honestly. “Her mother took her away more than 10 years ago.”
“Oh… oh . Oh my god, Gabe, I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Gabriel muttered. “You weren’t involved.”
“So then… you adopted Jesse-”
“Little under a year after. Was a bit of a legal mess, after everything, but… I couldn’t let him go.”
Silence fell between them, both men paying more attention to their drinks, before Jack apparently worked up the nerve to ask the burning question.
Gabe swirled the dregs of his beer in the glass, mulling over his thoughts. He decided blunt honesty was best.
“I knocked up a squad member, near the end of the war.”
Jack stared at him. Whether he was waiting for Gabriel to continue or was shocked into silence - given how straight laced he was, the latter seemed likely - Gabriel had the chance to continue speaking.
“We were in Russia, for the end. Things were tense - well, life-threatening, obviously. Our job was to make sure the Omnium couldn’t detonate any nukes with their dying breath, so… stakes were high. Wasn’t any love lost between us, but we were there, we were scared… went at it more than once, to be honest. Only thing we ever agreed on was that it was good.” Gabe shrugged. “At the time, anyway. Wasn’t until after the war she told me she was pregnant. We were both clean and didn’t feel like wasting time and requisitions for - well. Guess we learned our lesson.”
Jack downed the rest of his glass. Gabriel didn’t blame him. The farm-grown country boy must be near his limit. The thought made him smile.
“She was a real bitch, I'll tell you that.”
“I gathered,” Jack said, coughing as the drink went down. “Who-” He stopped short upon making eye contact with Gabriel.
“Do you really want to know?” Gabe asked, a touch apprehensive.
Jack seemed to consider the question.
“The hell kind of man were you that you got with that bitch!?”
“A desperate and stupid one, Morrison! How many bad decisions have you made with women?”
“Yeah, well, you're gay, it doesn't count,” Gabe grumbled, crossing his arms and glaring at his empty glass.
“I never told you that,” Jack muttered, not looking at him.
“I'm a fucking detective, I guess,” Gabriel shot at him. Jack glared back.
“...But you do regret sleeping with her, right?”
“Of fucking course I do, she ruined my life!”
“Good.” And with that, Jack flagged down Emily for a refill for the both of them.
Gabriel stirred his with his straw for a moment, before snorting with laughter. Jack looked at him. Gabe looked back. And then both men were cracking up with suppressed giggles.
“Never do anything small, do you Gabe?” Jack asked, still snickering. “Sure, all men make mistakes, but when you get someone pregnant it's the fucking Widowmaker . How do you even fuck up that bad?”
“By fucking up that good, farm boy. I am God's gift to all the fair folk of this beautiful blue rock.”
“‘All the fair folk’, huh?” Jack asked, amused.
“Absolutely, sunshine. Get me drunk enough and you might find out how I earned that title.” Gabriel felt an almost savage pleasure at the sound of his friend choking on his drink.
After Jack had wiped up his spilled drink - and shot him an angry, red-faced glare that Gabriel found he thoroughly enjoyed - the blonde seemed to shake himself, and Gabriel knew he was forcing himself back on track.
“So,” Jack said, confirming Gabriel's impression. “You got her pregnant, but didn't find out until after the war. Then what?”
“Well, like I said, there was no love lost between us. Things got a little hairy for me. You know custody hearings tend to lean toward the mother's case, and I didn't have much of an argument to make. Amélie had her parents estate. She didn't need me around. So we reached an… agreement, I guess. I may not have meant to knock her up but it was still my kid, you know?” Gabe shook his head a little.
“Amélie may have had her family's estate, but she wanted more. She used some of the money she had to start-up her own private security firm. She didn't want to run a large firm. A few, high-class targets. But she was wary about using the Widowmaker name. She thought it made her sound more like the threat than the protection.”
“I wonder why?” Jack muttered. Gabe snorted before continuing.
“So, she used me instead. She couldn't parade me around publicly, but she didn't want to besides. She whispered the name Reaper in the ears of the clients she wanted and that usually persuaded. Helped that I looked and acted the part at the time.”
Jack gave him a curious once-over.
Gabe, not missing the action, smirked. “Curious? I have a couple tattoos.”
Jack, rather than blushing, arched an eyebrow. “I've never seen any proof of that.”
“You want some, boy-scout?”
At that, he could've sworn Jack smirked, though it was hard to tell, what with the rather appealing shade of crimson he'd turned. He was pretty confident Jack had been flirting with him, and that the blonde was just too easily embarrassed to be any good at it.
Gabriel decided he could work with that.
“Anyway,” Gabe continued, “When I wasn't running odd jobs for her I could stay at the house with Olivia. Amélie had very little interest in being a mother, so for the first few years it seemed I was practically her only parent. Some people who worked in the house looked after Olivia when I was out but I was the only she would ever really listen to.”
Gabe felt his spirits falling as his eyes drifted toward his drink.
“It was alright. I hadn't really had any plans after the war, and I was doing what I was best at. But…” He sighed. “It came crashing down pretty hard. Amélie decided she was done with me. I was too by the book. Didn't like playing loose with the rules like we used to, wanted to stay clean with the law after the war. Not to mention I was always rushing assignments, wanting to get back home as soon as I could. When Olivia was almost 4 years old, Amélie decided she was big enough that she didn't need me anymore.”
Gabe took a drink.
“I told you I didn't have much a legal case, but she went farther. We hadn't been getting on well, and she… it wasnt out of any motherly feelings. Not because of any attachment to Olivia, but because she was a vindictive bitch. She played up my PTSD from the war, presented made-up stories about me from employees in the house, and I've always thought she paid off the judge. I was stripped of all of my rights. No visitation, nothing. I was fired, kicked out, cut off from everything.”
Jack didn't say anything, waiting. Gabe stared at his drink, grateful for the moment to gather his thoughts.
“It didn't stop there. I didn't know what to do. I was slumming at motels and - and drinking a lot. And Amélie called me.”
Jack growled under his breath, and Gabe felt a smile touch his face.
“She had a job. Not for me, she was doing it herself. She was flying out to Dubai for a long-term assignment and… needed a babysitter.”
“No fucking way,” Jack groaned, dragging a hand down his face.
“Oh yeah,” Gabe said wryly. “And not at her house. She was taking Olivia to Dubai with her. I'm not sure if she needed to or not. And I… it was my daughter, Jack. What was I supposed to do? She promised not to tell if I watched her, and I wanted to see her. And again, and again… I must’ve followed them halfway around the world, again and again. I didn't know what else to do.”
“That's where all your money went.” Jack realized.
“Yup.” Gabe answered, swirling his drink. “Went broke and then some chasing them around for years.” He downed the drink. “Then Jesse's birth parents died.”
“It was between Amélie’s trips. I was in the midwest, and I touched base with them. We weren't friends, really. They weren't in my unit in the war, but they were both in a unit I worked with a lot.”
“What happened?” Jack asked in a whisper.
“There was a gang in the area. They weren't impressed with them much. It wasn't… wasn't a hit. It was a robbery. They wanted to intimidate them by breaking in and messing with their house. Jesse's parents woke up and fought back, but the gang had brought guns. Jesse woke up during it and - well, he doesn't remember it. The trauma took a lot of his early memories.”
Gabe sighed again.
“The person they'd named as his guardian had passed on a few months before, they didn't have any relatives… I grew up in foster care. I couldn't bear to let the poor kid be put in there. I took responsibility and eventually formally adopted him, and once I did that… I couldn't follow Olivia around anymore. It was never sustainable, and I knew it was only a matter of time before Amélie cut me off again. I still feel awful about it. Haven't seen her in over a decade, now.”
“...Shit.” Jack breathed.
Gabe rubbed the back of his neck, not looking at Jack. “Spent the next decade scraping by and paying off the bills that I could. Eventually, Angela insisted I move up here.” He shrugged. “And you know the rest.” Silence fell between them, and Gabe was grateful that Emily was tactful, keeping her distance from them.
“Ana knows about me getting mixed up with Amélie,” Gabe muttered. “They have a history, after all.” Jack made a noise indicating he knew about it. “And Angela was a big help with Jesse. Never told the whole story like this before. Not even to Jesse.” He took a deep breath and looked up. “Guess this is practice.”
He turned to look at Jack, who was looking back at him, a strained look in his eyes.
“Well,” Jack said, after a long second had passed between them. “I feel better about my life.”
Gabe laughed. “Fuck you, Morrison!”
Jack grinned. “Not until you show me your tattoos.”
Gabe's eyebrows shot up, staring at Morrison in amazement. The blonde turned away to hail Emily to refill their drinks, but not fast enough for Gabe to miss the blush on his face.
His smirk only grew as Jack forgot to tell Emily to put Gabe's next drink on a different tab.
Was anyone wondering where Sombra was? ;)
Also, I know, in a weird way, Moira makes more sense, but I actually plotted this part out *before* Moira was introduced, and she doesn't really fit the role the way Widow does anyway.
Chapter 14: Stupid Old Men Are Afraid of Technology
But Jesse, what’s your excuse?
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2044
"Could you stop fidgeting?" Hana asked, looking up from her homework.
Jesse, definitely not focusing on his homework, continued to fidget.
"Just tell me what it is?" Hana asked. Jesse ignored her.
It was definitely whatever had been bugging him for the last few days, of that she was sure, but he had yet to share it with her. Whenever she had pushed the issue, he had clammed up, stammering that he didn't know if it was ok to share or not.
Haha respected Jesse's respect for his father's privacy, but it was painfully obvious to her that Jesse was bad at keeping secrets, and that he was dying to tell her. The only question was when his restraint would fail him. In the meantime, she decided to try a new tactic to bring him back to reality.
She threw a pillow at him, scoring a direct hit to the head. Jesse fell back on his bed, the pillow over his face. He lay there for a few seconds, apparently contemplating his next course of action.
"If you refuse to tell me what's going on-" Hana began, before Jesse sat up and threw the pillow back with surprising speed. Hana was ready for it though, and caught the pillow with both hands. She lowered it slowly, making eye contact with Jesse over it.
He looked afraid.
"Hey-" Gabe began, opening the door to the room that was not his sons on the second floor of what was not his house in which he was currently the only adult. "What do you two want… to… eat," he trailed off, watching as Hana placed the final pillow atop a pyramid shaped pile of pillows that presumably contained his son.
Hana looked up at him. Gabe looked back.
"He'll learn to stop picking fights he can't win eventually." She said, very matter-of-factly.
Gabe slowly nodded, before clearing his throat.
"Anyway - dinner? Victor gets to choose?"
There was a muffled noise of complaint from within the pillows, but neither of them could understand it.
"That sounds fair to me," Hana replied sweetly. "How about-"
They were interrupted by a loud noise from downstairs.
Specifically, the noise of one Jack Morrison yelling "Fuck!" loudly.
Apparently, Jack was home.
Gabe leaned away from the doorframe, looking down the stairs.
"Language, Jack!" Gabe called down the stairs.
"Eat a dick, Gabe!" Jack called back.
"My goodness boy scout, where did you learn to talk like that?"
If Jack responded, neither of them heard. Gabe rolled his eyes and turned back to Hana.
"Seriously though, I should go and check on him."
Hana nodded mutely, torn between amusement and apparent confusion.
Hana waited until Gabe reached the base of the stairs before whipping around to look at Jesse, who was in the process of excavating himself from the pile of pillows.
He scowled at her, but, impatient as she was, she simply pushed the other pillows off of him, made an aggressive shushing motion, and seized his wrist, dragging him out of bed and creeping down the stairs. Jesse knew her too well to argue at this point.
"...don't even know how I managed it," Her Dad grumbled. "The coat hook is such a small target."
"But it is metal," Gabe answered, a touch of sympathy in his voice.
"I dropped my wallet," Jack sighed. "And stood up too fast."
"Even the most battle-hardened soldiers curse when they stub their toe," Gabe said, chuckling. "This is the same principal."
Hana braved a peek out and felt her eyes widen in surprise. Her Dad was sitting on the floor, one knee drawn up to his chest. His back was resting against Gabe's legs, who was on the couch, apparently checking his head.
"How are the kids?" Dad asked, and Hana jerked her head back so fast she almost banged it into Jesse's.
"Depends. Does Hana normally bury her opponents in a pillow tomb when they lose a pillow fight with her?" She heard Gabe ask.
"Yes," Dad answered, without hesitation.
"Fine, then." They both chuckled. Then Gabe said "I don't think you broke skin."
Hana signaled to Jesse it was time to retreat, and they scurried back up to her room.
Hana jumped on her bed and turned to look at Jesse, who seemed a little confused.
"They seem… close," She said carefully.
Jesse gave a slight shrug. "They're friends."
"So they are," Hana said, nodding. "So they are." Jesse picked up his notebook, not answering her.
"And they seem," Hana insisted. "To have gotten a lot closer recently."
Jesse stared at his notebook, brow furrowed, before he dropped it on the floor and sighed.
"Yeah, and I know why."
Hana blinked. This was not what she had been getting at, but her curiosity was now peaked.
"If Dad can tell your Dad, then I don't see why I can't tell you."
"Yeah!" Hana said, before she could stop herself.
Jesse gave her a bit of a pained smile, and shook his head.
"I guess I always felt it was his secret, you know?" Jesse said, turning to look out the snow-flecked window. "'Specially since he never actually…. told me."
"Oh," Hana didn't know what else to say, staring at Jesse intently.
"It was a long time ago. Dad had a meeting with - I'm not sure. Someone checking up on me, I think? But I eavesdropped, and the government person said - well, they asked about his… daughter."
Hana felt her eyes widen.
"You have a-"
"Sister, apparently," Jesse finished. "Dad doesn't know I know."
"Where did you find the self-control not to ask him about it?" She asked in amazement.
"From his answer," Jesse seemed a little sad now. "I'd never heard him sound so sad before. Or since. The guy asked him where she was, how she was doing, and when the last he'd seen her was. All he could say was he didnt know, he didn't know, and… a long time."
"Oh… that's terrible." Hana said sadly. "Where is she now?"
Jesse shrugged. "I don't know. How could I?"
Hana blinked. Then she frowned. Then she asked: "Did you hear her name?"
"Uh, yeah?" Jesse turned to her, frowning. "Olivia, why?"
But Hana had already gotten up off the bed and walked over to her computer. Jesse cocked his head, watching her in confusion.
Hana pushed the chair away from the computer desk, one hand gesturing toward the screen, and the most deadpan expression on her face he had ever seen.
"Found her," Hana repeated, in the same monotone voice.
"How?" Jesse asked incredulously, stepping closer.
"Well Jesse, as it turns out, the internet is a thing ."
Olivia lay on her stomach, slowly tracing her cursor around her computer screen.
As she had programmed, a purple, pixelated skull followed it, leaving a trail of smaller purple skulls in its wake, vanishing a few seconds after they had appeared. She was so bored even coding wasn't cheering her up, and that was never a good sign.
She turned over to lay on her back and stared up at the vaulted ceiling. Olivia had never quite been able to get over how ridiculous the room was. The ceiling had a Victorian-Era style, which wouldn't be so bad on it's own, it didn't have an arch and a window that was obviously and hopelessly out of her reach. She had never been brave enough to ask how it got cleaned.
The carpets were a lush purple, in a room at least twice as big as it needed to be, especially given that Olivia only really needed her bed, computer setup, and a charging station. Accounting for the fact that she feared the butler's wrath if she left empty food wrappers around, the room was an almost entirely empty space. It made her feel very small, sometimes.
She was interrupted from her contemplation of the pointless extravagance of her bedroom by a noise from her computer. She rolled back over to see what it was. A message request.
Frowning, she opened the website that had sent the notification and looked at the name.
Hana Morrison .
Olivia had never heard of her. She opened the message and settled in to read.
Hi, Olivia! I know this is weird, and that you don't me, but I just learned about you!
From your brother. Who has apparently never logged on to a computer in his life.
Did you know you have a brother? I hope so. Or this is gonna be way more awkward than I signed up for.
Your Dad is on the first floor of my house, too.
I really hope you know who I'm talking about, this is already super awkward.
Message back telling me if I'm crazy?
"But what if it's someone else?" Jesse insisted, looking back and forth from the computer to Hana.
"Ok one," Hana said, holding up one finger. "Reyes is not a common last name. Now I don't know how many people in the world have it, but I certainly haven't bumped into anyone else with it."
Jesse drew breath to interrupt, but Hana rolled on.
"Two," she held up a second finger. "Her profile specifically states that she's using her Dad's last name, not her moms, so she can hide this account from her mother. And three, even if this is a coincidence, and I am wrong, nothing bad is going to happen to either of us, because this girl is in France !"
Jesse stared at her. There was a ding from the computer. They turned to look, and saw a video chat request.
"I believe that puts the score at Hana:2, Jesse:0."
Jesse's shoulders slumped as he stared at the computer incredulously.
Hana rolled her chair closer to the desk and messaged back.
No webcam. Audio only ok?
A thumbs up response, and then a call request.
"Does she speak English?" Jesse asked.
"We're about to find out." Hana replied, accepting the call.
It took a moment to connect, and after it did, they sat in silence, neither of them willing to speak first.
"Uh… Hola," came a girls voice from the computer.
Hana and Jesse exchanged a look.
"Uh… habla ingles?" Hana asked, and Jesse was sure they were the first Spanish words to ever pass through her lips.
Jesse spoke up before Hana could.
"Is that a 'no' in Spanish or a sarcastic 'no' in English?"
"Second one," came the reply, followed by a short chuckle. "We were messaging in English, chicka. Of course I speak English."
"Oh, right," Hana said, blushing.
"You definitely don't speak Spanish though, do you?"
"Leave me alone, I'm Korean."
"And raised by the whitest dude ever," Jesse added. Hana turned to him, incredulous.
"Ever looked in a mirror, Jesse? You are literally dressed like a cowboy, like you are every day !"
"Yes!" Hana said, turning back to the computer. "And I - actually, I can send you a photo, I have one!"
Jesse could do nothing but groan as Hana leaned forward and quickly brought up and sent the photo she'd taken of him before Halloween.
"Oh, wow, that is… definitely a cowboy outfit. I thought you were exaggerating."
"Look, I just-" Jesse started. "I mean - why stop now, huh? I've gone this long with it, right?"
"I guess…" Hana said slowly. "Why did you start dressing like a cowboy?"
"Tell you later," Jesse mumbled.
"Tell me later too." Olivia chimed in. "I am your sister."
"I'm basically his sister at this point too," Hana said, turning back to the computer and subsequently missing the blush erupting onto Jesse's face. "Though I always wanted a sister more."
"Hey, if you two are that close, maybe we'll get there," Olivia said, laughing. "But really, you've gotta fill me in! How'd you two meet? Why are you only teaching out now? And, uh, who are you, chicka?"
"My names Hana, for one," Jesse rolled his eyes, but she ignored him and continued. "And two, I only just found out you existed. It just apparently never occurred to your family to look you up online."
Jesse sighed. "We don't even own a computer. Dad always got stuff he needed done at the library or work. And I used the schools or the library's."
"And mine." Hana added.
"Well yeah, now, mostly yours and your Dads."
"Why didn't you have a computer?" Olivia asked in apparent disbelief.
Jesse shrugged, before remembering she couldn't see him. "Money, I guess. And I mean - we have phones. I can call and look stuff up and get emails, and all that. Not a lot you actually need a computer for."
"If you aren't interested in having fun, I guess." A pause. "Wait, is that why you dress like a cowboy?"
"It's not unrelated," Jesse admitted and Hana snorted.
"Ok, so you're a pair of super technophobes then?" Olivia asked, and then, not waiting for an answer, said, "That explains a lot, even if it is anticlimactic."
"What makes it anticlimactic?" Hana asked, confused.
"You two tell your story first. This is so sudden and I am starved for context."
"That bad?" Jesse asked, chuckling.
"You have no idea. I've used to knowing what's going on, you know? But you and Papi have been the greatest enigma of my life. I wanna hear everything."
Jesse and Hana exchanged another look.
"Well…" Hana began. "I guess it really started when I beat Jesse up."
Because not everything has to be complicated. Sometimes you can just Google it.