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“Gabriel Reyes?”

All three of the men stood up, prompting the nurse to smile and shake her head. “You can’t all be Mr. Reyes.” Jack let out a sigh and sat, pulling Genji back into his lap and getting a bit of resistance from his unhappy fiancé in doing so. Gabriel crossed the short distance of the waiting room to the nurse.

“He’s asking for you. Normally we don’t let visitors up to the critical care unit outside of visiting hours but he’s struggling against us, even with the sedatives and pain killers. He’s gotten a blood transfusion but we’re waiting on your family doctor you requested to head his care to arrive before we administer another; he’s still low but he’s okay. We’ve stopped the bleeding and the wound is clean and under control. Loss of limb is pretty traumatic. We thought it might help if he sees you for a few minutes. He won’t stop calling out for you.” The nurse relayed all this with a professional calm. Gabe’s heart surged at her last sentence; Jesse was suffering alone all this time. He was probably scared out of his wits.

Gabe followed the nurse into the elevator and through the busy halls upstairs until they came to the room Jesse was in. Gabe heard him before he saw him; Jesse was asking the nurse in his room quite loudly if his Gabi was coming soon. He could hear her respond in hushed reassurances.

Jesse’s head swiveled in his direction, and Gabriel had to bite back a reaction. It was really gone. Cut just above the elbow, nothing but air where there should have been the rest of his arm. The stub was heavily bandaged, but looked clean and free of blood. The nurses must have cleaned him up pretty well at some point. The nurse looked up and followed Jesse’s gaze, smiling politely at the visitor. She turned back to Jesse, asking if he would be alright for the moment alone they were being granted. Jesse’s enthusiastic nodding prompted both nurses in the area to leave them be, the one who brought Gabe in letting him know it was only for a few minutes. He nodded in understanding, keeping his eyes on Jesse.

The young man looked paler than his usual coloring, weak. He stared back at Gabe with unreadable eyes. No joy to see him, or horror to be seen in this state. Just blank. “Don’t,” Jesse whimpered out when Gabe crossed the room to him, reaching out, “Don’t touch me.” Gabe blinked in surprise but backed up a step or two. Jesse blew out a sigh that turned into a strange laugh, his posture in the hospital bed slumped.

“I was passed out when they brought me in. I screamed when I saw it, first time I woke up. They had to sedate me. I was freakin’ out, Gabi. Came to again… I dunno. Not too long ago. But I screamed again, scared the shit outta the nurse next to me. It hurts, Gabi. Even with the pain killers they say they got me on, it fuh-fucking hurts. Every time I see it. I just remember.” A sob burst out of Jesse finally, tears flowing easily like a burst dam breaking. His voice had hitched several times while he had been talking.

“They didn’t get it in one chop, Gabe. Naw, it took a few h-hits. And they were laughin’. Like it was the funniest goddamn thing in the world how much I was hollerin’. He had my head in his lap, stroking’ my hair and smilin’ at me on their way to dump me. Like he hadn’t just cackled in my face while he recorded what they did on my own god damn phone. I thought I was gonna be sick. I think I was, before I blacked out.” Jesse was staring at his remaining hand in his lap, fidgeting with the knit blanket draped over his legs. Gabe felt nauseous just hearing this. It was unreal. Jesse had told him stories of Xander’s cruelty, but it was always followed with a disclaimer that Xander wasn’t a bad guy, he could be sweet, and maybe sometimes Jesse deserved it anyway. Gabriel hated that. No matter how terrible the stories got, Jesse remembered Xander fondly at times. It was forgivable to a degree; it was the boy’s first boyfriend, after all, with only some confused flummoxing over his sexuality with some random people before he met Gabe.

“At l-least I don’t gotta look at that big ugly scar or shitty tattoo anymore. He really c-cut himself outta my life!” Gabe winced at the ugly laughter that intermingled itself into Jesse’s wet sobs and moved closer. Jesse barked out another “Don’t touch me!” when he caught sight of his boyfriend reaching out to him. He wiped at his face with his hand, only smearing the constant flow of tears across his cheeks and nose. His chin was dripping with the salty water now.

Gabe wanted to pull his boy to his chest, to shush his crying and tell him he was safe now, but he knew it was pointless. He wasn’t sure anything he said would be helpful right now. Jesse was growing hysterical at this rate, and any attempted soothing from Gabe might only make it worse. He could only stare at his shoes while Jesse gasped in deeper and deeper breaths until they became calmer and shaky.

“I would understand,” Jesse finally whispered out, so lowly Gabe had to lean in to hear him, “if y’all wanted to split now. My stuff’s still mostly packed up already, y’know, just seems like a s-sign.” A sob half-escaped him, getting bitten back quite literally behind his clenched teeth. “An’ don’t keep me around out o’ pity either—“


The younger flinched at the sound of his name, but to his own surprise only spoke louder, “Gabi, don’t. Don’t tell me you still want me, that y’all still want me around. It’s only gonna make it so much harder when you dump me.”

A small, cold hand was at Gabe’s shoulder before he could answer that with protest. He turned to see Dr. Ziegler behind him, forcing her usual professional smile on her face. “Gabriel,” she began softly, “they’re turning his care over to me, now. I would like to do an examination of my own in private, if you don’t mind. Jesse is starting to exhibit signs of hysteria and he is still producing adrenaline from shock. Not to mention he is still low on blood; I am starting another blood transfusion as soon as possible. I think it is best he does not receive visitors again until I can stabilize his body as well as his mind.”

Angela Ziegler: their private doctor and a master of politely telling someone to clear a room. Gabe resisted the urge to refuse to leave. She was right. Jesse needed to calm down and rest and his presence wasn’t helping. He moved as though to leave, then turned in the doorway, arms crossed.

“I want constant updates. Even if there’s nothing new to report. I need to know his status or I’ll come find out myself.” It was only a mostly idle threat. But Gabe hated being left in the dark, and he knew Jack and Genji would want the updates as well. Genji himself would probably scale the building and bust through the window if he couldn’t know how his best friend was doing in such a crucial time.

“Of course. Go get some rest, Gabriel. I have your number.” Gabe shook his head, informing her he was not planning on leaving the lobby downstairs until Jesse was stable to her standards. Angela shook her head and smiled but did not scold him like he thought she might. Gabe gave Jesse one last look and an “I love you” before he left the room. Jesse wouldn’t meet his gaze, still trying to control his tears.

Jack and Genji were standing in the lobby with Fareeha when he returned. All three turned to at him as he approached.

“Gabriel,” Fareeha said in greeting, nodding towards him. It struck him for a moment. He had known her for as long as he had known her mother, since she was a young teenager with an affinity for soccer and a fantasy of bringing justice to the world. Ana had taught her to fire a gun but it was Gabriel and sometimes even Jack who took her to the range on occassion to perfect her shot. That headstrong teenager was a grown woman now, living out her biggest dreams as part of the LAPD with aspirations so big it worried her mother and stepfather to death. Wilhelm was loudly supportive of her when she sought to join the police force, but in private he would lament his worries just as openly as Ana. Not to say they weren’t proud, but Fareeha had a penchant for jumping headfirst into danger. Which is why she made it to Jesse as fast as she did. And for that, Gabriel was thankful.

“I need to get official statements from everyone involved, and then I need one from Jesse himself. How is… what is his condition?” Fareeha’s voice softened a bit.

“Angela is here, looking him over herself now, but he was stable enough for me to see him. They got the wound under control but he lost a lot of blood. He’s got some drugs in his system so I don’t know if he’s in the state to be giving you his story. He was also a bit hysterical. I’d wait until Angie clears him if I were you.” Gabe’s mouth tightened a bit, remembering Jesse’s slurred words. Jesse had some insecurities, he knew this, but it was heartbreaking for them to rear their head at this critical time.

Fareeha nodded before visibly trying to regain her professional composure. “Right. Well. Let’s get your statements out of the way.”

The hospital graciously provided a quiet room for them (though it gave the impression that the hospital was used to this). They all told the same story, but it was required for them to all give separate statements regardless. When Genji’s turn came around, his statement was given with a tired voice and averted eyes, but no emotion shown other than that. The neutral Shimada façade was wearing on him as the night went on, refusing to betray any distress.

The sun was rising by the time they made it back out to the lobby, the early rays of light making themselves known through the glass double doors of the hospital’s front. Fareeha thanked them and gave them all tight, reassuring hugs, her police persona dropping quickly.

“I’ll contact you when they release Jesse’s phone from evidence, but that could be a while. I’m sure that’s the least of your worries right now, though,” she offered before she left them, giving Gabe a tight smile.

“Did they find the guy who did this? Or anyone involved?” Gabriel asked, mouth set tight again. Fareeha’s frown mimicked his own as she shook her head.

“I’ll check when I get back to get an updated answer, but they were long gone by the time they left him and contacted you. This is part of a bigger issue in the gang world. I’m not in the gang violence department, so I don’t know the whole story, but I do know that Deadlock has been rumored to be moving their influence towards Mexico. Rumors say they’re joining forces with Los Muertos but I don’t know how true that is. Either way, last I heard, the border was informed to look for the van and people seen in the CCTV footage, but I can’t say that they were really on their way down there or if they’d be caught going through anyway. But the detective heading this case thinks they were on their way to Mexico and took a detour here. I’ll call you when I know more.” Gabriel nodded his thanks and accepted another hug before she went to the front desk, asking for Angela.

“Someone needs to feed the dogs and be at the office in a few hours,” Jack said, “I know you don’t want to leave right now. I’m going to drop Genji off at the house and I’m going to head to the office. I can send Genji over here later so you can switch with him and get some rest. Okay?” Gabe wasn’t looking at him. Jack let out a huff of air, staving off his irritation. He was no stranger to Gabe’s bullheaded attitude. “You are going to get some rest whether or not you like it. Jesse will be okay. He’s stable. Angela has him in her care now.”

Gabe walked out with them to the car, the rising sun warming his skin from the freezing hospital air. “He wasn’t okay, Jack. He was telling me he was so sure we didn’t want him now. Wouldn’t let me say otherwise. Angela made me leave, he was getting so upset.”

Genji frowned, crossing his arms. “I’m coming back later. You don’t have to switch with me when I do. But I want to see him. I don’t care if Angela won’t let me.” Jack gave him a look, but Genji ignored it. “Don’t strain yourself. You can’t stay fueled by coffee forever.” Genji stood on tiptoe to kiss Gabe’s cheek before getting into the car. Gabe allowed himself a small smile at that.

“We only took one vehicle. Let us know if you need to leave.” Jack gave him a tight embrace, a concerned look on his face when they parted.

“I’ll be fine, Jackie,” Gabe murmured, though it didn’t ease Jack’s worry. “It’s Jesse we should be concerned about.” Jack blew out a sigh and shot him another look, but relented and got into the car as well.


As chatty as Jesse was when Gabriel had seen him, he had nothing much to say when he was declared stable and moved to the recovery ward, allowing him visitors. Genji had come in to his room with Gabe asleep in the chair next to the bed, Jesse watching over him silently. Jesse had only raised a finger to his lips when Genji appeared.

“He was asleep when I woke up. Don’t think he slept all night.” Jesse’s voice was gruff but quiet. Genji frowned just a bit, standing next to the bedside opposite of Gabe. He wanted to hug and cling on to Jesse but everything in his body language suggested he shouldn’t try.

“Jack hasn’t slept either. Hana sent me a picture of him asleep in his office earlier. I told him to take the day off. Surprisingly, he listened to me. He’s on his way now.” Jesse actually let out a soft breath of amusement, which Genji took as a good sign. Gabe had made him seem so unwell. But he seemed fine now.

“I suppose he should get an eyeful so he knows he ain’t missin’ out on much to leave me behind. The sooner y’all realize you don’t need this broken mess bringin’ you down, the better.” Genji frowned, but it went ignored by Jesse, still turned away. So this is what Gabe was talking about.

“You know we aren’t leaving you,” Genji said softly, setting a hand on Jesse’s leg. Jesse flinched, but didn’t react further.

Gabe was jerked into wakefulness by the shout of a protesting nurse after Jack, who was walking through the door. “No more than two visitors at a time!” She was scolding, following him in.

“I’m allowing it. Let them be,” Angela called from hallway, passing the area with a fresh cup of coffee in her hands. She stood outside the doorway until the nurse left, looking begrudged to have been shooed away by a visiting doctor. Angela entered and smiled at them all, looking like she hadn’t rested at all since her arrival. “If you three could please see me at some point, they’ve set up a temporary office for me down the hall.”

The three tried to engage Jesse in any kind of talk, but he seemed more interested in staring anywhere a person wasn’t, only answering in irritated grunts at times. After half an hour of failed communication, Jack proposed they go talk with Angela. Jesse looked almost relieved at the idea of being left alone.

“With trauma like this, especially considering he’s lost an arm, we may see Jesse go through the stages of grief. This is a loss for him. He will most likely be stuck on a mixture of anger and depression for quite some time. You must be prepared to support him regardless of his moods. Have you given any thought to a prosthetic limb yet?” The men all shook their head.

“It’s been too early to talk about that. Jesse will barely talk to us at all, beyond talking about how he thinks we’re leaving him now. We do know someone in the prosthetic business, though,” Gabe told her. Angela nodded, taking a long sip of her coffee before speaking again.

“If he chooses to have a prosthetic, it will be much longer before he reaches acceptance. First, he will have to learn how to function with one arm. Then he will have to start all over again, learning how to use his prosthetic. It will be incredibly frustrating for him. And in turn, for you all as well. I must know if you are prepared to go through this challenge with him. Because that is what it will be, for all of you.” Angela gave them all stern looks, but it was unneeded.

“We’re a family. We’ll get Jesse through this, together,” Jack said with confidence.


Jesse fought them at every turn. He wouldn’t accept any comfort offered and begrudgingly accepted help when it was needed. Eating was a hassle, every time. It wasn’t that it required more than one hand to eat, but just the fact that Jesse could no longer even lean on his missing elbow as he ate was enough to discourage his appetite, if there was even one to begin with. Jack had experience with getting Genji to eat when his appetite was near non-existent towards the beginning of their relationship, but his old tricks weren’t going to work with Jesse. It was like Jesse was trying to lay down and die any time they weren’t forcing him to engage in anything.

Gabe was a constant in the small hospital room when he wasn’t at home getting some decent sleep or working in the office for a half day every other day, trying to catch up with what he was missing when he was gone. Jack handled the office fine during the day, coming to visit at night along with Genji.

“You don’t have to always be here,” Jesse had grumbled once, “I’m fine alone. I’ve told you as much.”

“You don’t eat when we’re not here to make you,” Gabe countered, “Angela thought she was going to have to put you on IV nutrients. Still thinks that, with how little you’re still willing to eat for us.”

Jesse had only grunted at that. He didn’t say much if he didn’t have to. Genji would talk his ear off to fill the silence, but there was only so much he could say in one visit. Genji had also smuggled his puppy, Blue, in once. It was worth it to see Jesse light up just a bit at seeing his puppy, who was elated to see her suddenly missing master. Angela had caught them 15 minutes into the visit and had made Genji promise not to bring her in again, but she couldn’t deny that Jesse had actually smiled for once since coming to the hospital.

Coming home was something Jesse began looking forward to after that. He claimed it was just to see his pup again, but they knew there were other things on his mind. They had gotten settled into the new house, but it seemed awfully empty and quiet without Jesse there. Gabe could barely stand being there. Jesse should be home, cuddling up to Jack in his recliner, playing video games with Genji on the couch, distractedly going over schoolwork on his laptop at the kitchen table, half-naked and laying out on their bed with that smug grin and confident flirtatious attitude the minute Gabe walked into their bedroom. The house wasn’t a home without him in it.

Angela had declared his healing at a point where he could continue to heal at home, after some time. They had all come together to charter him home, but when asked if he wanted to stop for dinner at any of his favorite restaurants, he merely continued to stare out the window and muttered that he just wanted to go home. Of course, they had all agreed, he should be home, finally. Jesse had pushed past them all to go into his small personal bedroom once they arrived, Blue hot on his heels in pursuit of her owner. It was agreed to give him some space until dinner arrived, having ordered delivery, but it was discovered that he had crawled into bed and fallen asleep when they went to get him to come eat. Any attempts to rouse him were only met with the sight of him curling up tighter and covering his head with the blankets. Shutting out the world. Even Blue was evicted from the bedroom, left whining at the door outside. The puppy had tried her best, tugging at the blankets and pouncing on the sleeping mass that was her master, but Jesse’s temper with his baby had been surprisingly short.

Hospital fatigue. Settling in. Exhaustion from recent events. Whatever they wanted to call it, after a week Jesse was still curled up in bed, refusing to eat much or move unless necessary. Any attempts to get him up or engaged in anything was met with baseless anger, tears, or both. Though the tears seemed to be a constant. It broke their hearts when they reached the point that they realized they hadn’t seen him without a tear-stained face in some time. They forced him to drink water, in attempts to keep him hydrated, refusing to leave him be until he finished entire water bottles for them. He had gotten good at glaring at whoever had brought it to him as he downed the entirety of a bottle in one go.

No one took it personally, though Genji was pouting after every attempt to get Jesse to stop his corpse act. Gabe was allowed the most time with him out of them all. Jesse would let himself be pulled close in his boyfriend’s embrace, if only for a few minutes, accept larger bites of food than Jack or Genji could offer him for meals, let him to clean and monitor the tender, still healing stub of his arm. It was an improvement. Every week he was a little more willing to engage, less hindered by knee-jerk reactionary emotions, sleeping less though still quite a bit.

Fareeha had come by with his phone after a while, the blood cleaned off, the metal and glass ensured to be disinfected, and the videos and call history wiped from the phone’s memory before it was handed over. He spent all his time browsing through websites or playing games if he wasn’t sleeping or being visited. Angela came by to check on his healing progress once a week, remarking it was good for him to be learning how to use something as commonplace as his phone with one hand. He was getting close to approval for a prosthetic, but no one had brought it up to Jesse himself. Not yet.


A soft knock at the door startled Jesse out of his half-sleep. He called out his usual “go away” as he readjusted to the waking world. He had been on the cusp of another nightmare; he couldn’t help but be secretly grateful for the intruder. The door opened and shut softly, and even with his back to the door Jesse could tell from the near-silent, light footsteps that Genji was attempting another visit. Jesse grumbled, rubbing at his itchy face, cheeks tacky from his earlier crying. Didn’t he have better things to do?

“You don’t have to move if you want,” Genji’s surprisingly gentle voice came, “But I have a bag of your favorite chips and I’m watching Lonesome Dove. Feel free to join me.” Jesse snorted at that. Genji hated those old Westerns. He had complained every time Jesse convinced Jack and Gabe to watch them with him. Then again, Genji complained about anything that wasn’t picked by him.

“You hate Lonesome Dove,” Jesse muttered out, ignoring the rasp of his raw throat. A hand rubbed at his side on top of the comforter before Genji’s weight next to him made the bed dip. Jesse tried to ignore the sound of the chip bag opening and the opening theme playing on the TV on the opposite wall, the movie being mirrored from Jack’s tablet that was now sitting on the bedside table.

“But I love you,” Genji retorted, carding a hand through Jesse’s unwashed hair.

5 minutes later, Jesse turned over to watch the movie, instinctually cuddling up against the body in bed next to him. With a little adjustment, his head now rest on Genji’s shoulder, forcing him to sit up since Genji was sitting up with his back supported with the large pillow he had brought with him as well. The sweet chili flavored chips were offered soon after the position shift, and when Jesse just couldn’t be bothered to reach his hand into the bag, Genji readily fed them to him.

Jack and Gabe found them both fast asleep hours later, empty chip bag knocked onto the floor and the two younger men still sitting up against the large pillow, mouths slightly open as they breathed softly in sync.

Jack nudged Genji awake, helping him roll out of the bed from under Jesse’s body as Gabe sat on the other side of the bed by Jesse. The couple left the room as Gabe stroked Jesse’s cheek, waking him gently with soft murmurs.

“Let’s get you cleaned up, dulcito,” Gabe suggested when Jesse’s eyes opened, focusing on his lover, “You’ll feel better after a shower.”

Jesse protested weakly, but allowed Gabe to scoop him up into his arms. He could admit it would be nice to get the greasy feeling out of his hair, scrub at his skin and get his face feeling fresh again, but he just didn’t have the energy to try. Fortunately, Gabe did, though Jesse couldn’t bring down his walls to feel or show his appreciation at the time. Jesse would rather lay down and die than keep going after what happened to him, but the bastards wouldn’t let him do it.

They passed Jack and Genji in the hall as they trekked out of the room towards their shared bedroom. Jack had a fresh set of sheets and a new comforter in his arms, Genji with a clean outfit for Jesse to lounge in once he was clean. They gave him warm smiles as they passed back to his small private room, but Jesse could only feel guilt. They were keeping him clean, fed, and attempting to keep him distracted from his negative thoughts and constant flow of tears. He didn’t deserve this treatment. If anything, Xander’s re-emergence from the shadows and into his life again only proved he was trash and deserved to rot like it.

The eloquently tiled and ridiculously spacious shower in the master bath was a welcome sight, despite this thinking. All four of them could stand in the enclosed shower and still have some room to move. There were three shower nozzles, one on either side and one gentler rain-like drizzle from above, that ensured whether someone stood or opted to sit on one of the two built in seats in the corners, they would be close to, if not in, the path of the spray.

Gabe turned on the water and gave it a moment to warm up and for him to strip them both before once again picking Jesse up in his arms and taking them both into the shower. Jesse was sat on one of the seats, where the tiles had thankfully warmed from the water. The spray only hit his legs, but he would only have to lean in to wash himself. Jesse leaned back against the wall, the tiles there a bit cooler and not yet heated up, letting Gabe massage his shampoo in thoroughly. The conditioner followed and soon a full body scrub with his body wash, Gabe gently getting him to lean into the spray and wash off between each new product.

Jesse had started his crying again at some point without him even noticing. Gabe had attempted his best to get him to stop before he washed Jesse’s face last, kneeled between his legs and petting his cheek, cooing reassurances that everything was alright. Jesse had tried once to explain to them all that he wasn’t in control of the random fall of tears, but it didn’t stop them all from their gentle treatment when it started.

After being towel-dried the best Gabe could manage, he was handed his toothbrush with a bead of toothpaste applied, told to simply try his best when Jesse stuck the bristles in his mouth and barely guided them against his teeth. His dentist had painstakingly filled all of his cavities despite his horrific dental anxiety, a nightmare for everyone involved when it was discovered, so he figured he at least owed the poor woman some effort to keep his mouth healthy.

Gabe had been incredibly gentle around the flesh at the end of his stub, and treated it as instructed once Jessi had spit and rinsed. Everyone seemed to be taking the missing arm better than he was, minding the still very tender area of the impromptu amputation and being careful not to engage him in anything that required more than one hand. Jesse took the pain pill offered to him, washing it down with the opened bottle of water set out for him. He had never complained about the pain, nor had he told anyone it had decreased to a constant dull ache at this point, but Angela insisted on keeping him medicated for it. No one would just let him suffer like he deserved.

Eventually Jesse was dressed and back in bed, his clothes and sheets fresh as well as his body. Gabe had him curled up in his lap, stroking his still damp hair. Jesse wasn’t attempting to doze off immediately as he might normally, actually feeling a bit of refreshed energy, and Gabe was enjoying the small victory in silence. Jack and Genji would be back soon with dinner, and they would all pile on Jesse’s bed somehow and let him pick a movie to watch together. Jesse had tried sitting with them in the living room recently but he had wordlessly fidgeted and fussed the whole time until he had gotten up and retreated back to his room. He was still not ready to leave the security of the cocoon he had made for himself, but they were proud of him for beginning to entertain their requests for him to rejoin them in the rest of the house. It didn’t last long, and sometimes they were met with angry rejection at the idea, but he was still starting to show signs of a will to live that was the biggest relief of all.

“So,” Gabe murmured against his ear, “Angela says you’ve got maybe another week and a half before she could approve you for a prosthetic.” Jesse stiffened in his lap, as predicted, and Gabe held his breath in anticipation for the response. When nothing was said, “It would be your choice, Jesse. You don’t have to—“

“How soon?” Jesse spoke up suddenly, twisting himself to look at Gabe directly. “How soon could I have one?”

Gabe blinked in surprise, not expecting that response. “Well, we have a friend in the business. The best, actually. Akande Ogundimu. If you want, he can be here in two weeks to fit you for one. He deals with some pretty advanced technology as far as prosthetics go. As for when you would actually get it, I couldn’t say. Akande could tell you much more than I ever could.” Jesse considered this in silence, resting his form back against the broad chest against him.

After a while, sitting in silence with Gabe rubbing his back in slow circles, Jesse looked back up at him. His face was slightly reddened, eyes wet with tears threatening to fall. “You’d still want me even if I didn’t get one, right?” Gabe let out a soft laugh, simply relieved to hear Jesse not insisting Gabe didn’t want him at all, for once.

“I’d want you even with three arms,” He teased, pressing a kiss to Jesse’s warm neck. Jesse laughed, short and rough, pushing against Gabe’s shoulder. It was the first laugh Gabe had heard since the first night at the hospital, an angelic sound in comparison to that hysterical moment.

“Gabe, come on,” Jesse had said with a crooked grin, swiping quickly at the tears that did manage to escape down his cheeks. He protested no further, though, seeming happy enough with that answer. While Jesse’s good moods were short-lived, at least they existed at all now. The lifespan of this one seemed promising, especially when Jesse perked up slightly at hearing the front door open to announce the return of the rest of their group. There were still hard days ahead, but for now, at least things seemed to be looking up.