Chapter 1: Paper
Jack takes a shower first and spends at least an hour prepping himself for the call, trying to look as good as possible after an entire day of patrolling and fighting in the rain and getting coated with mud and other shit. Smiling through the entire shower, stomach fluttering with excitement, Jack rushes through everything. Without bothering to dry his hair properly he dresses in his best PJs. taking a seat on the bed and propping the holopad in front of him. He waits patiently, staring at the clock and wondering how slow time feels when you are focusing too much on it when a familiar ringtone breaks the silence. Clumsily, he presses the ACCEPT CALL button and grins widely when Gabriel's handsome face appears on the screen.
"Happy anniversary!" Jack greets him, cheeks hurting from smiling too hard. Gabriel laughs at him, probably because he must look like a fool.
"Damn it, you beat me to it," Gabriel jokes. "Happy anniversary, Jackie. Is Seattle treating you well?"
"Not at all," Jack snorts. "I spent this whole day looking like a drowned rat. Can't wait until this hell is over," he pauses, taking a moment to swallow past the small lump in his throat. "Can't wait to be with you again."
"Jesus sugar tits, straight to the point.” Gabriel laughs but it comes off as sad, his smile faltering a little. He looks tired, with dark circles under his eyes, his face a little pale. It's still early for him and the sun shines brightly on the other side of the country, peaking into the frame from the window on Gabriel's left and Jack can picture him nestling there, on a lumpy couch at the Arizona base, body hot and sweaty under the unforgiving sun.
"Do you miss me?" Jack blurts out, immediately feeling awkward after. But Gabriel doesn't laugh at it, he just covers his mouth with his hand, eyes fixed on the screen, looking lost. The distance between them suddenly feels greater than measurable in kilometers, greater than physical.
"More than anything," he says, and Jack feels his heart constrict and seize up, warmth blooming through his chest. He reaches for the screen only to remember he can't touch Gabriel. He won't be able to touch him for a long fucking while. It's the kind of sacrifice that comes with fighting in a war.
"I miss you lots," Jack sighs, slumping on the shitty pillows, wishing he was at home, in their own bed, with Gabriel resting by his side, warm and lazy and content. "I can't believe we've been married for a year already."
A dopey grin takes over Gabriel's face, mirroring Jack's own. "I know, I'm still bragging about it to my cousins."
"Are they still mad about you being the first one to get married?"
"Fuck yeah, they are! And it doesn't help that I love bragging about you," Gabriel says, eyes soft. Jack feels his heart do all sorts of flippy motions. He sees Gabriel sigh before speaking again, resting his bearded chin on his hand. "I'd fuck your brains out if you were here."
"Sounds like a good time. I wouldn’t complain," Jack hums, feeling the tip of his ears flush. "There's a lot of ways I'd love to celebrate our first anniversary. I guess we'll have to save them for when we’re together again."
"I guess," Gabriel smirks. "Can't wait to hear all about your devious, obscene fantasies."
"I love how you instantly think the worst of me."
"Well, you are pretty kinky," Gabriel says. "C'mon, show some skin. Give me a good anniversary present."
Jack steals a glance at his sleeping bunkmate, then goes back to his original position. All clear. He takes his shirt off slowly, aware of Gabriel's heated look on him at every movement, putting on a show for him. When he's done taking it off, he's bare-chested with his hair mussed, skin flushed with the tiniest bit of arousal.
"God," Gabriel groans. "I fucking love your chest."
Jack smiles crookedly. "Glad to know you like what you see."
"Don't play dumb, you know I love every bit of you," Gabriel answers, getting flustered. Jack runs a hand down to rest over his own heart, willing it to calm down.
"I love you," he blinks away the sting of tears, chasing them off. "I promise you next time we'll be together.
"Jackie," Gabriel says, softly. "You know that's out of our control--"
"Still," Jack cuts him off, firmly. "I'm willing to try. I don't want to be separated from you ever again. I hate knowing that I'm not there covering your back."
"Listen," Gabriel says, carefully. "They’re assigning me a new squad soon. There have been talks about forming a special task force and they'll allow me to pick whoever I want for the team."
Jack's breath hitches.
"... And I want you with me, Jack. I want you on my six. Always," Gabriel smiles. "Happy anniversary."
"I'm, I mean--" Jack stutters, still too excited to form words. "I'm honored that you'd consider me for this, Gabe."
"Ugh, Jackie," Gabriel drags a hand down his face, laughing. "Don't get like that. Don't do the kiss ass thing with me. I'm not commander right now, I'm your husband."
"Well," Jack grins, from ear to ear. "Can't wait to serve by your side again, Commander Husband."
Gabriel squints at him. "Cheeky. Very cheeky. Call me that again and I'm filing for divorce."
"Sure, sweetheart. Sure."
They talk until Jack falls asleep with his head pillowed on his hands, a soft expression on his face, video still on. Gabriel watches him sleep until his own eyes start to fall shut, and he drinks in the sight of Jack's peacefully sleeping face one last time before cutting the call and going to bed, feeling like an idiot in love more than ever.
He settles under the covers quietly, nuzzling his own pillow and closing his eyes tightly. When he's drowsy enough with sleep, he pretends Jack's there, nestled by his side.
For now, it's enough.
Gabriel falls asleep counting the days until they'll be together again.
Chapter 2: Aluminium
Gabriel and Jack spend the end of the crisis on bedrest, recovering at a military hospital. Just like the rest of their team. The worst of them is Jack, who took two bullets for Gabriel and kept going until everything was over and the adrenaline decided to leave his body, having to be carried by Reinhardt until they were safe enough and the field medics could reach them.
Gabriel had been, understandably, pissed.
Now they are about to get released from medical care with the eyes of the world upon their backs, future uncertain and reconstruction waiting ahead of them, the UN breathing down their necks, waiting for answers, waiting for them to step up.
He wants a fucking break.
So, Gabriel ignores the incessant ringing of his phone, texts Adawe to tell her they won't be making it to their meeting and grabs Jack by the arm when he is passing down the hallway across him, freshly out of his bandages and finally wearing clean clothes.
“Let’s go,” he says, without letting Jack stop, just walking until they are out of the building. Jack looks at him with a confused frown as Gabriel drags him to the parking lot, and obediently refrains from asking questions until they both have their seatbelts on when Gabriel finally gives in to Jack’s grumpy, confused looks.
“I needed a break,” Gabriel confesses, hands clasping the steering wheel tightly, knuckles almost white with tension. Jack rests a hand over one of Gabriel’s own and looks at him with a much softer face.
“That’s okay,” he says, unclasping one of Gabriel’s hands from the steering wheel to lace their fingers together. “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know. Nowhere. Anywhere,” Gabriel sighs. “I don’t care as long as I’m with you.”
“Well,” Jack smiles, dimples showing. “You already got me, so. What’s the next step?”
He leans into Gabriel’s side to kiss him on the cheek and he closes his eyes, smiling, a contented sound leaving his lips. “I feel like eating.”
“And what do you want to eat?” Jack asks through lidded eyes, tracing circles on Gabriel’s chest with an open palm, fingers spread.
“I could use a burger.”
“Really?” Jack raises an eyebrow at him. “You save the world and that’s all you can think of eating? A burger?”
“McDonald’s, actually,” Gabriel huffs.
“Oh,” Jack says, with an annoyingly nasal voice. “Excuse me, baby wants some McDonald’s.”
“What’s so wrong with McDonald’s?”
Jack crosses his arms, looking like an oversized and very, very annoyed child. Gabriel snorts. “Fine, be like that.”
Gabriel starts the engine without looking at Jack again and starts driving, thinking of the nearest McDonald’s. He tries not to smile when he feels Jack melting against his side and resting his messy, blond head on his shoulder. He’s got him wrapped around his finger and he knows it, Jack knows it, everyone fucking knows it.
Once at McDonald’s, Gabriel buys almost everything on the menu, makes Jack help him carry the bags to the car and then drives some more until finding a liquor store. There, he buys two six packs of the finest beer he’s able to find. They drive for another ten minutes until reaching the viewpoint he knows he’d find in this city. They sit on the back of the truck, wolfing down fries and burgers hungrily after days of hospital food, only interrupted by fits of laughter and jokes.
“Happy anniversary, I guess,” Gabriel says, after finishing his second Big Mac. Jack snorts and throws a fry at him.
“Our anniversary was like, two weeks ago.”
“Yeah, but we were busy destroying homicidal robots,” Gabriel retorts. Jack pretends to be thinking long and hard about it, then stuffs his mouth with more fries.
“True, true,” he smiles at Gabriel. “We can celebrate now. Romantic dinner, candlelit, bunch of roses,” he jokes, pointing at the bushes near their parking place. The only things lit are the city lights, as even the stars are out of sight, the sky too heavily polluted to let their twinkling light shine through.
“Oh, please,” Gabriel rolls his eyes. “You’ve never been romantic. You don’t have a romantic bone in your body so don’t come here and judge our McDonald’s Sponsored Anniversary Dinner.”
He takes a sip of his beer until Jack snatches it away from his hand and climbs all over him to settle comfortably on his lap. Gabriel’s hands immediately go to Jack’s hips, squeezing lightly. Jack kisses the corner of his mouth then licks the salt from the fries off Gabriel’s bottom lip, like the gross animal he is.
“Ten years of marriage,” he whispers, still covering Gabriel’s face with kisses. He pats Jack’s behind lovingly.
“That’s, mmm, aluminium, right?” he asks. Jack laughs against his mouth, finally kissing him full on the lips. Gabriel welcomes the warmth of his mouth happily, head pleasantly buzzing thanks to the alcohol, clinging to Jack to chase away the chill of the night. He lets his tongue slip out and greet Jack’s until the kiss gets so heated they have to cling to each other, warmth pooling in Gabriel’s gut. Jack grinds against him, a sigh leaving his lips, and Gabriel starts to fumble with his own pants. The night is cold and they aren’t wearing anything more than a couple of jackets but he swears Jack’s body is burning up. He frees his own erection, hard as a rock, helps Jack with his own pants and takes their cocks together in his fist. He uses his other hand to hold Jack in place, laying it over Jack’s lower back.
“Gabe,” he breathes hotly, squirming and writhing on Gabriel’s lap, eyes hooded and cheeks flushed. Gabriel feels himself boil with arousal and affection, flicking his thumb over the tip of Jack’s cock, making him whine. He spreads the pre-come leaking out of their cocks, fisting the both of them in a firm pace, thighs trembling.
“I want to fuck you so bad,” Gabriel groans, burying his face on Jack’s collarbone, pressing kisses and sucking on the skin there. Jack runs a hand down the soft buzz of his scalp, fingers trembling.
“Later,” Jack laughs between moans. “In bed. We’ll get a fancy hotel room and I’ll let you do whatever the fuck you want to me--” his voice breaks, and he arches his back, squirming. “Just keep going.”
Gabriel does. He jerks them off together until they are coming almost at the same time, come staining their jeans and shirts. They laugh at the mess, feeling like teenagers who are fumbling around with their first boyfriend for the first time, Jack dropping his head on Gabriel’s shoulder and pressing a gentle kiss to his jaw.
“Mmm, happy anniversary, Commander McDonald’s” he mumbles, cradling Gabriel’s beard and petting it softly. Gabriel turns to kiss his temple.
“Happy anniversary, goldilocks.”
Chapter 3: Silk
Many thanks and all my love to my beta, Gonzo, for being the sweetest, most patient person ever!
“Let me see if I understand,” Gabriel asks, perplexed. “The Italian minister of tourism gave us a free stay in this fancy spa because he hit on you and he didn’t know you were married?”
“Yup,” Jack replies, popping out the ‘p’ at the end, slightly annoyed. “I’ve explained this to you like, four times. He felt bad because he was drunk and he spent an hour flirting with me.” He wiggles his fingers at Gabriel, wedding band glinting. “He was a little bit slow.”
“Man,” Gabriel huffs. “I don’t know how you handle so much bullshit.”
“You were supposed to be there,” Jack glares at him. “And make it more tolerable for me. But instead, you bailed on me, like a coward.”
“I was in the medbay!”
“With a sprained wrist that healed overnight!” Jack shakes his head. They’ve been standing in the middle of the hall for an hour now and he’s tired. He walks to the main counter and checks them in, leaving the bags to Gabriel. By the time he’s done, he’s got keys to their room and he’s looking forward to taking a nap in peaceful, wonderful silence. Gabriel seems to get the message because he doesn’t say anything else during the elevator ride.
Still. Jack starts to feel guilty.
“I’m sorry,” he sighs, leaning against the elevator’s wall, shoulders slumped. “I know you just wanted to stay home and eat some pizza. I’m sorry I made you come here to… Fancyland.”
“Fancyland,” Gabriel snorts. “That’s one way to describe this place.”
He grabs Jack’s hand and he immediately laces their fingers together in response, a small smile on his face. “Thank you.”
“It’s okay, Jack,” Gabriel says. “I guess this could be good for us. I mean, we’ve never been to a place like this before and so much opulence does make me jumpy, but... It’s good to try new things.”
“It is,” Jack squeezes his hand. “And we’ve been tired lately.”
“Not gonna deny that,” Gabriel answers as they step out of the elevator and walk across the hallway to their suite. Once they’re there, they leave their bags on top of the bed and scatter around to examine their fancy room. Jack notices how sturdy and big the bed is, and how fluffy the pillows looks, and has to refrain from rubbing his hands together.
Meanwhile, Gabriel is being a brat. As always.
“This soap smells like my whole salary!”
Jack huffs. He hopes he doesn’t end up drowning Gabriel in the hot springs.
"Are you complaining about the nice massage you just got?" Jack asks. He's pretty sure the massage itself costs a small fortune. "I thought you were looking forward to relaxing."
"I was!" Gabriel protests. "But, I mean-- I don't know, I was thinking of Netflix and Chill back at home. That kinda stuff."
Exasperated, Jack lets out a frustrated sigh. "We can Netflix and Chill any weekend."
"I know, I know. I'm sorry," as Gabriel wraps both arms around his back, Jack resting his head against Gabriel's firm shoulder and closing his eyes.
"Would a bath cheer you up?"
"A bath would cheer me up very much, yes," Jack feels the curve of Gabriel's smile pressed against his neck, the edge of his goatee tickling him and making him laugh softly.
"Okay," Jack turns, leaving a kiss on Gabriel's temple. "Take off your clothes, I'll go fill that obscenely expensive bathtub with water. No weird oils involved. None at all."
Rubbing his hands together, Gabriel flops down on the bed and lies there like an unfashionable sack of potatoes, grinning like the lazy bastard he truly is. "I'll leave you to it, then."
Jack shakes his head, barely holding back laughter. "Unbelievable."
He goes to the bathroom and takes a quick look at his surroundings, appreciating how ample the space is. The tub looks big enough to hold two super soldiers and allow some room for movement. There's a gift basket sitting at the edge and when Jack decides to examine it, he finds some soap, oils and other toiletries. He grabs a simple looking bath bomb and tosses it into the tub as the water begins to fill it. To Jack's great pleasure, the bath bomb makes enough bubbles to cover everything, and he’s almost giddy at the prospect of an actual self-indulgent bubble bath.
"Hey, Gabe," Jack calls him as he gets rid of his shoes and then his pants. "Come over here, bath's ready."
Soon enough Gabriel is poking his head into the bathroom, obstinately not taking a single step past the door frame and staring suspiciously at the bubbles. "I didn't know this was going to be a bubble bath."
"Just get in the tub," Jack orders him, the tiniest bit annoyed. "Go, get all nice and wet and I'll join you in a bit."
"What are you planning?" Gabriel asks, still a little bit mistrustful. He pads barefoot to the bathtub and throws one last glance over the bubbles before lowering himself in, appreciating how much space he has once he's sitting there and stretching his legs.
"Nice, isn't it?" Jack asks him, not even trying to conceal the cheeky smugness in his voice. He grabs a shampoo bottle from the gift basket, pours a little in the palm of his hand, then leans against the outside wall of the tub behind Gabriel, and starts washing the dark fuzz on his head and massaging gently. Gabriel leans his head back and lets out a pleased noise as Jack's fingers slide firmly over his temples.
"You're so spoiled," Jack whispers, watching as Gabriel smiles, satisfied and content, eyes still shut.
"Yeah, but I'd rather have you in here right now. Join me?"
"Only if you ask nicely."
"Join me, pretty please? With cherries on top?"
Jack snorts. "So polite," he laughs as he pours some water over Gabriel's scalp, finishing up quickly. Once he's done, he goes to the side of the tub and sends it a considering glance. "Where do you want me?"
"On my lap," Gabriel says, letting his arms hang lazily off the rim of the tub to make more room for him. Jack nods and does as he's told, straddling Gabriel's lap nicely. He arches his eyebrows as soon as he feels how hard Gabriel is.
"Well," Jack grins, throwing his arms around Gabriel's neck and looking at him brightly. "Fancy meeting you here... Commander Bubbles."
Gabriel groans. "You did it. You just killed my boner."
"You liar!" Jack protests, "I know that's not true! I can feel you down there!"
"That's not my dick," Gabriel says, in a matter of fact tone and a completely serious face. "That's a shark."
"Wow," Jack deadpans. "Would you look at that, my boner is also gone now."
"Shut up and give me a kiss."
He does as he’s asked, lowering his head to gently press his lips against Gabriel’s, starting with a soft kiss and growing bolder as Gabriel’s hands grip his hips. Jack sucks on his lower lip, nipping and licking into Gabriel’s mouth until the air between them grows hot, feeling his body melt under Gabriel’s firm hands and the warm water gently lapping against him/them as they move together. One of Gabriel’s hands goes to his pec, squeezing just the way Jack likes it. He throws his head back a little, exposing the long line of his throat. Gabriel’s hand goes to rest there, tracing the expanse of it until his fingers stop over Jack’s pulse.
“I want you,” Jack says, feeling painfully honest. Gabriel’s whole face softens at that.
“You always do.”
His tone isn’t teasing anymore, and Jack has to grab him by the shoulders to keep upright as Gabriel’s fingertips graze his hardness and then decide to move lower until he’s teasing at the furled ring of muscle of his entrance. Jack moans once one of Gabriel’s fingers slips in, thighs slightly tensing.
“I think there’s lube in that gift basket,” he gasps. Gabriel’s finger leaves him and Jack watches as he uncaps the bottle of lube and slicks his fingers with it, slowly slipping two of them inside of Jack afterward.
“Mmm,” Jack hums, breathy and pleased, feeling Gabriel move inside him and appreciating how well he knows him, how well he can make him arch his back and shiver. “This is nice.”
“Yeah,” Gabriel kisses his collarbone, pressing his face against the flushed skin there, voice lowered to an intimate whisper. “You look hot.”
Jack doesn’t bother answering, instead letting out another moan. He kneads at Gabriel’s shoulders until he’s leaking, his whole body trembling with arousal, fucking himself nicely onto Gabriel’s hand. Craving more and eager to feel closer to him, he tips Gabriel’s chin up with his hand and looks into his eyes, admiring how dark they look when clouded with desire. “I want you,” he repeats himself, then presses a kiss to the corner of Gabriel’s mouth. “When are you going to get to work and fuck me?”
“Why are you always so fucking bossy,” Gabriel whines, finally pulling his fingers away from Jack. He grabs him by the hips again, lifting Jack up. “Hold onto the tub.”
Jack does, clutching the borders of the tub as soon as Gabriel raises his hips and holds himself in one hand, guiding his cock into him, until he’s pulling Jack close to his body again, now deep inside Jack’s body. Jack moans into Gabriel’s mouth, looking for a sweet, open-mouthed kiss, starting to roll his hips. He bounces on Gabriel’s cock until they’re both fumbling and panting, water splashing noisily everywhere.
“I’m close,” Gabriel grunts, letting go of his hips to sneak his arms around of Jack’s waist, pressing him flush against his chest. “I’m really fucking close, God, this is so good--”
Jack laughs. He laughs and laughs until he’s moaning and arching his back as much as he can, thighs quivering with the force of an upcoming orgasms, fingers grasping and digging into the meat of Gabriel’s arms, heat pooling in his belly until it’s too much, too good, too soon.
He melts, slumping over Gabriel’s body as he spills over them, Gabriel coming inside him soon after. Jack rests his temple on his shoulder, a lazy smile on his face, wet hair dripping on his forehead. Gabriel is gently rubbing his back, heart still beating too fast. His grin takes over his whole face.
Jack kisses his chin. “Look at you, suffering during your fancy vacation.”
Gabriel rolls his eyes at him. “Oh, shut the fuck up.”
Chapter 4: Crystal
“I’ve been thinking,” Jack leans against the kitchen counter, resting his weight on his elbow. “There’s this really fancy Thai place downtown and I know you love Thai food, and we never do the fancy thing, but it’s a special occasion, so…” Jack runs his fingers through his greying hair, looking at him somewhat nervously.
Gabriel hates himself a little for what he’s about to do.
“I can’t, Jackie,” he replies, pointedly not looking at Jack as he makes himself a cup of coffee. “I’ve got too much work to do. You know how it is.”
“Oh,” Gabriel hears the disappointment in Jack’s voice and his fingers clench around the handle of the mug. “That’s okay, I mean, are you sure you don’t want me to pull some strings and—“
“No,” Gabriel says, this time turning to face Jack. “Can’t. Raincheck?”
Jack’s pitiful excuse of a smile doesn’t reach his eyes. “Yeah, sure.”
He thinks Jack’s going to leave it at that and goes back to staring at his coffee, a frown etched on his face, when Jack proves him wrong by stepping right up into his space and kissing him on the cheek.
“Bye,” he hears Jack mumble. When Gabriel raises his head, Jack’s already out of the kitchen. He drags a hand down his face, wanting to scream, and ends up throwing what’s left of his coffee down the sink. There’s a lump in his throat, a knot of frustration trying to claw its way out of him.
Gabriel puts a lid on it.
Tiredly, even if the day has just started, he makes his way out of his quarters and takes the familiar route to Blackwatch’s headquarters, heading for Moira’s lab.
She’s already there by the time Gabriel arrives and she doesn’t look impressed at his tardiness. Moira cocks one thin, snobby eyebrow at him and gestures for him to follow her towards the back of her lab to a discreet door with a security pad, where she taps in the code that allows them inside her own personal, private space.
“Sit,” she says. There are dark circles under her eyes and she looks like it’s been a good while since the last time she saw the sun. Gabriel thinks she probably stayed up all night again, preparing for today’s session. That would explain her apparent lack of patience. He goes along with whatever Moira says and demands for the next couple of hours, strapped to the chair and being put through tests that are meant to push the limits of his body, feeling nauseous and tired and getting too many crappy memories from SEP.
He swore he wouldn’t be a human guinea pig ever again and yet, here he is. His nails are turning black, a side effect of today’s horror show, and he hopes it doesn’t last, since he doesn’t feel like explaining to Jack why he’s looking like he’s ready to rock it at a goth concert and start reliving his scene phase again.
Oh, fuck. Jack.
Gabriel’s been trying really, really hard, all day to not think about Jack.
“You’re distracted,” Moira complains as she attaches more nodes on his scalp. “And I need you focused. Why are you so scatterbrained today?”
“I’m not being scatterbrained,” Gabriel grunts, irritated. His back has been hurting for an hour already, and he thinks his legs fell asleep at some point. “I just want to get this done soon. It’s Friday and I wasn’t supposed to work late today.”
Moira looks at him with surprise. “You had plans for today, Mr. Workaholic?”
“Yeah,” Gabriel coughs, throat suddenly feeling raspy. “Today’s my wedding anniversary.”
Moira sends him a long, suspicious look, then checks her wristwatch. They’ve been running tests all day and it’s been long since the sun actually went down. “Fine. I need to get some sleep, anyway. Just go.”
She removes the straps and helps Gabriel to his feet, body still a little bit shaky and sore. Gabriel gets dressed slowly and carefully and drinks a glass of water before going. If he’s lucky and he doesn’t take too much time, he could be home soon and still have dinner with Jack. On his way to their apartment, he decides to go for some pizza so he can surprise Jack for their anniversary, and fantasizes a little about them cuddling on the couch, watching old movies and eating greasy pizza. It’s been a while, Gabriel contemplates when he’s standing in line at the pizzeria, waiting for his order. It’ll be just like old times.
By the time he gets home, his heart sinks as soon as he sees all the lights turned off. That can only mean one thing: Jack’s fast asleep and Gabriel was too late.
Too little, too late. That’s been his whole theme lately.
He turns the kitchen lights on with a defeated sigh, shoulders slumped and dragging his feet. He leaves the pizza box on top of the kitchen table and decides to grab a slice before going to bed.
He’s going to the fridge for a beer when he notices it: the lonely pot that sits on top of the oven. Gabriel goes to check what’s in there and as soon as he lifts the lid, he’s hit by the wonderful smell of his grandma’s best guiso. His eyes start to water, face hurting from how hard he’s salivating, but also from the little note stuck to the side of the pot. EAT ME, it says, scrawled in Jack’s ugly handwriting.
Gabriel’s chest aches.
He scarfs down two bowls of guiso, pizza all but forgotten. He stuffs himself with Jack’s food and Jack’s love and promises to cut the shit out, promises himself to be better, to push himself harder, to be more open, to care more.
He’s almost sobbing by the time he crawls into bed, belly full and heart sore, and wraps his arms around Jack’s back. He kisses his greying temple and nuzzles his neck, listening to the huffy sounds Jack makes when someone is disturbing his beauty sleep.
Jack smells like clean bedsheets and toothpaste and like home and Gabriel tears up again because he’s not sure what’s happening to them. He’s not sure what’s happening to himself.
Jack turns, still asleep, and hides his face in the crook of Gabriel’s neck, unaware of his existential crisis. Unaware of a lot of things.
Gabriel holds Jack tight and hopes, for their own good, that it’s enough.
Chapter 5: China
Once again, a thousand thanks to my beta, Gonzo, for helping me out so much with this fic!
CW: Suicidal ideation, violence, alcoholism.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He’s beating some thug to a bloody pulp, some animal who tried to sneak up to a woman in the dead of the night, streets silent and devoid of life. The perfect moment to terrorize and prey on the innocent.
So Jack gets to this piece of shit, grabs him by the scruff when the girl screams for help. Tells her to run as fast as she can and keeps the man in a chokehold while she turns the corner and gets to the safety of her home. Once she’s in, Jack tosses the man to the floor and beats him until he’s crying and praying for mercy, pleading for a God he doesn’t deserve to speak of. He’s cutting his knuckles on this bastard’s chipped teeth, fist sore and bloody, anger pouring through his veins when a phone falls to the floor. The screen is the only thing lighting up the alley, a stark September 7 shining in bright letters.
He had completely lost track of the days. He only, and barely, had known what month it was thanks to the brittle brown color of the leaves. Jack almost doubles over at the knowledge, legs and hands trembling, his other fist still grasping at the man’s shirt. He lets go, sitting on the filthy floor, ignoring the whimpers and pathetic little sobs of the man next to him.
“Next time I’ll kill you,” he says, finally getting the strength back to rise to his feet. He steps on the man’s chest before going, foot pressing in until there’s the sickening crunch of bone breaking.
He goes back to the tavern, taking a seat at the farthest corner of the bar, where the light doesn't quite reach his haggard body, and grabs a napkin to wipe away the blood that's splattered on his face and beard. Asks for a glass of bourbon by making a sign with his fingers, not bothering to check if he’s been seen. The bartender already knows him.
Soon enough, a glass is in his hands. He lifts it slowly, blearily noting the familiar clink of the ice cubes. This is, probably, the last day he’ll be spending in this town, and the last day he’ll be able to afford something as nice as this. It’s cheap vodka from now on as he moves to the next place. He squats in abandoned buildings. Sometimes he camps out in empty alleyways, making a fort out of recycling materials. He has sold cardboard, cleaned toilets, swept curbs and raided for supplies when money has been short and people haven’t been able to look past his pitiful aspect and hire him for a job. He’s been hungry, he’s been numb, he’s been absolutely fucking wasted.
Jack closes his eyes. Breathes. Downs the rest of the glass.
Three hours later he’s walking back to the place he’s been staying in, dizzy and unsteady after drinking two bottles of bourbon. He pukes next to his sleeping bag when he tries to lie down on it, and curls up on his side, shivering with cold. Holds himself in a way that lets him pretend he’s being embraced by someone else. Someone who loves him.
There’s no one but him.
In another life, he thinks, staring at the moon through the broken windows of the abandoned warehouse. In another life, he’s that bright-eyed and dumb kid who joined the military at eighteen because he was hungry for more. In another life, a simpler one, maybe, he’s a countryside vet, like he always wanted to be when he was twelve years old. He’s an E.R. nurse, supporting doctors and tending to the wounded. He’s taking care of the farm next to his aunts, willing to take over as his cousins go to college. In another life, he’s someone else.
Always someone else.
He’s a vet, looking at Gabriel’s sick dog, completely smitten with the handsome city slicker who was traveling by with his pet and needed help. He’s a nurse and Gabriel is the patient who keeps coming back to the E.R. with bullshit excuses just to flirt with him.
Jack’s eighteen again, in basic, and looking at his commanding officer from the end of the line. And it repeats, and repeats, and repeats. Like playing the same song on an infinite loop. And the thing that stays with him, the thing that never, ever changes is that Jack always loves Gabriel.
“Happy Anniversary,” he mumbles in the dark. The smell of vomit only makes him want to puke more. It’s only bile and alcohol since he doesn’t remember the last time he cared to buy some food. Maybe some bread, a day or two ago. If he had something he could have tried to make dinner now, to honor Gabriel properly, even if their marriage came so close to disintegrating at the end. Even if the fire between them was so close to dying shortly before Zurich went down in flames.
There are things in Jack’s life that stay forever, as constant as the sun. Love. Loyalty.
He carries his wedding band on a chain, next to Gabriel’s and his dog tags. The clinking sound they make against each other used to distract Jack when he ran. Now, it’s a reminder that they are still there, right above his chest, proving that everything was real. He can stare into the mirror and look at that poor reflection of himself and say to himself: “You were loved, once. You were cherished, once. You were alive, once. You had everything, once.”
Rinse and repeat. Every time he wakes up with the heavy weight of his revolver strapped to his thigh.
(Sometimes, if it’s too cold and his bones hurt too much and he’s tired and drunk, he presses the muzzle against his palate and counts to ten, holding his breath, and reminds himself why he is still standing.
You’re still here, he tells himself. You just need time to get your shit together.)
Jack drags a hand down his sweaty face and rises to look for a cloth inside his duffel. He finds a dirty old shirt and uses it to clean up the vomit, not caring that much about the mess now that he’s about to drift into sleep. He’ll worry about it tomorrow.
When he’s done, he grabs his only blanket, the one Gabriel’s grandma knit for one of his birthdays and covers himself with it, burrowing into the soft wool until he’s swaddled in it.
Like this, he can pretend he’s not going to bed alone.
Thank you so much for reading and staying with this story until the end! This was my first multi-chaptered fic in years and I'm really happy that I got to finish it even if the chapters were so tiny. Stay around, a surprise will be coming up soon!
The beeping sounds of the alarm clock wake him up first thing in the morning. The sun’s not even completely up yet, just the way Gabriel had planned it the night before, and he slams his fist over the clock until the annoying sound stops. Then Gabriel rolls until he’s facing the other side of the bed, where Jack’s currently sleeping soundly, snoring and drooling on his pillow. Gabriel snorts at the sight of the wet spot on Jack’s pillow and ruffles his hair, taking a moment to rest his hand on Jack’s untamable bedhead. He had been pretty sick last week, unable to hold food down and suffering constant headaches. Gabriel worries still, even now that Jack’s been feeling better.
There are a lot of things that they’ve been trying to learn and relearn from each other since their tentative reconciliation and their subsequent new relationship. Gabriel has been teaching Jack to navigate around the new corners of his body and the struggles that the past decade has meant for it.
Jack’s been there for him, walking by his side and sometimes carrying him on his way back to humanity. He has provided Gabriel with warm meals, with nagging reminders about his medicine, with a gentle hand in the middle of the night after a painful nightmare. A few years ago, Gabriel wouldn’t have thought that all of this would be possible again.
They’ve allowed each other the chance to learn forgiveness.
(And if Gabriel is honest with himself, he’s lucky he even got that last chance at all.)
Later, when he’s done with breakfast, Gabriel goes back upstairs with a cup of steaming coffee and a plate of pancakes with fruit. He leaves the tray on Jack’s bedside table and wakes him up by pressing a kiss against his chin. Jack scrunches his nose a little and ends up opening his eyes after Gabriel has kissed him at least two times more.
“Rise and shine,” Gabriel smirks, eyeing the way Jack clumsily tries to rise into a sitting position, hair sticking out in every way possible and eyes swollen with too much sleep. The new sleeping aids have been doing wonders for him.
“It’s been only a month since we retired,” Jack croaks, voice even deeper from snoring all night. “Why are you torturing me this early?”
Gabriel huffs impatiently, reaching for the cup of coffee on Jack’s nightstand and handing it to him in hopes of making him more awake. “C’mon, you used to be the early riser in this relationship.”
“That was before. I’m a senior citizen now, leave me alone,” Jack grumbles, begrudgingly accepting the coffee and taking a slow sip, closing his eyes as the steam and smell hit his face. “What are you plotting?”
“Surprise trip.” Smugly, Gabriel crosses his arms and throws Jack his proudest, biggest smile. “It’s my anniversary gift to you.”
“Okay,” Jack raises his eyebrows, then uses his free hand to reach for his glasses and puts them on quickly, blinking behind the thick lenses. “First of all, our anniversary is in two days. Second of all, I wanted a dog.”
“We’ve talked about this,” Gabriel huffs, unyielding in the face of Jack’s stubbornness. “We’ve just retired , we can’t have a dog yet.”
Grumbling against his cup of coffee and looking like he just wants to go back to sleep, Jack decides to sulk like a little kid. “Fine,” he mutters, sinking further under the covers, like he’s been doing since autumn started. “Whatever you say. You’re the boss, Commander Spoilsport.”
Gabriel rolls his eyes, patting Jack’s knee under the covers. “How’s your back?”
Jack shrugs in response. Gabriel bites his lip, resisting the urge to push him. “Okay then,” he summons a smile for Jack, despite how annoyed he feels. “Then drink your coffee, get dressed and we’ll be going.”
“You haven’t told me where we are going.” Jack frowns, his pale hands cradling the coffee mug. Gabriel kisses his temple before getting up.
Reaching under the bed, Gabriel gets their previously packaged duffels with a triumphant smile.
“We’re going camping, Jackie.”
These are the facts:
Gabriel has always absolutely abhorred camping. He hated it as a child who got dragged by his parents, he hated it as a teenager who had to go with his friends so he wouldn’t feel left out.
He despised camping during the war.
But Jack doesn’t. He doesn’t hate camping.
When they were young and had recently met, Jack loved survival drills. He excelled at them, proving how good he was at caring for himself in the wild. He taught Gabriel most of the shit he knows about setting camp, boiling water and eating wild… things. They did it for fun once, a little before getting married, near Jack’s family farm in Indiana, and Gabriel hated it so much that Jack promised to never, never again submit him to that kind of torture again.
(There were bees and a trip to the E.R. involved.)
Now, walking among the giant trees in Redwoods National Park, Gabriel feels pretty hopeful. He’s been planning this for months: the perfect romantic retreat so Jack can rest and Gabriel can ask him to get married again. His sister had planted the idea in him a little before their marriage anniversary, told him all about how their parents strengthened their marriage by renewing their vows.
He wants that. Gabriel wants to stop feeling like he and Jack are treading carefully around the other, constantly tip-toeing so their new relationship doesn’t fall apart around them. He wants to make Jack happy and to show him that he’s fully committed, that he’s learned from past mistakes, that nothing will come before what they have.
Gabriel needs this trip to be perfect .
Okay, so things don’t go as smoothly as they should. Gabriel is no boyscout (unlike someone he knows ) and he spends the first hours after arriving at their campsite trying to assemble their tent. It doesn’t… go as well as Gabriel would want it to go and he ends up faceplanting on top of a bunch of fabric and sticks until Jack comes back with the logs for the bonfire. He takes one look at Gabriel’s miserable figure and shakes his head, setting the wood on the floor and putting himself to work on their tent.
He’s frustratingly fast, and once he’s done, he smirks at Gabriel. Challenging him.
Sometimes, Gabriel wishes they weren’t so stupidly competitive.
They go fishing, Gabriel accidentally pushes Jack into the river, completely clothed.
He fails to start a fire and ends up throwing a tantrum, so he tells Jack to stay put and just bask in the afternoon sun while he can.
(Jack ends up sunburnt.)
As the sun sets, Jack starts a decent fire, asks Gabriel for their cooking instruments and starts to make dinner. It’s nothing fancy or elaborate, just a stew that Jack prepares using cans of beans as a base. His skin still looks an angry red and he’s slumped in a way that displays some soreness. He looks tired but happy, and his clothes are dry enough that he’s not in any danger of catching a cold.
“I thought you didn’t like camping,” Jack muses, stirring the contents of the pot.
“People change,” Gabriel lies, averting his eyes. He settles his look on the stew. “Beans from a can, Jack? What are we, cadets?”
Jack shrugs as Gabriel wrinkles his nose in distaste. He has wrapped himself in that blanket that Gabriel’s grandma stitched for him so long ago and that he loves so much, even as threadbare as it is now. “It’s not so bad. I’m used to it.”
Gabriel’s about to protest that they never eat cheap stuff like that when he decides to close his mouth and just… contemplate things. A thought suddenly comes to him: he doesn’t know a lot about the way Jack spent life on the run. And he swallows an uncomfortable lump at the idea of making Jack sleep on the floor and eat cheap food.
He forgets, sometimes. About the seven years they spent apart. He erases them from his mind and heart so that he can keep the anger at bay. So he doesn’t live a haunted life, smoke pouring out of him all over again.
(Ana has told him it’s not healthy, that he’s hurting himself just as much Jack does, only in different ways.)
“Gabe?” Jack’s gravelly voice snaps him out of it. He’s holding a mug filled with stew for him, carefully handing it to Gabriel. “Don’t feel bad about today, okay?”
Gabriel nods, absent minded. He wonders why Jack didn’t protest about coming to this place.
(He knows the answer and the truth is that, after all these years, Jack would follow him anywhere and that’s—
That’s too much.)
“Hey,” Gabriel whispers, the only sound outside of their tent being the chirping of cicadas. “Do you feel better?”
He slips into Jack’s sleeping bag carefully, hugging Jack from behind and resting one hand on top of Jack’s chest. At that small gesture, Jack huffs out a quiet laugh.
“Yeah.” Gabriel can't see Jack's face, staring concernedly at the back of his neck. He can hear the soft fondness in Jack’s tone, though. “Yeah, I’m okay. Don’t worry about it anymore.”
“I’m sorry,” Gabriel sighs mournfully, disappointment heavy in his gut. “I just… wanted to give you something good. Make you feel special. I’ve been worried, you know. You never talk about how you feel.”
There’s a rustling sound and then one of Jack’s calloused hands is covering Gabriel’s. “I’ve always been like this, love.”
“Yeah, well,” Gabriel snorts, trying to disguise his bitterness at that. “You’ve gotten worse.”
There’s a moment of silence where Jack just leans closer, his back snug against Gabriel’s chest. Then he’s shifting a little and turning his head, nuzzling Gabriel’s cheek and pressing small kisses to Gabriel’s beard. “Thank you.”
“For what?” Gabriel frowns, confused as Jack continues to press kisses against his jaw. They’re close enough now that he can see Jack’s face in the dark: the way his brow furrows when he squints to see things better, the stubble already growing on his jaw, his long eyelashes.
“For your patience.” Jack smiles, the curve of it pressed against Gabriel’s cheek now. “For trying too hard for us. For…” Jack smile falls, nose nuzzling near Gabriel’s cheekbone during a beat of silence. “For still loving me.”
Gabriel’s throat closes up and all of a sudden breathing seems like a challenge. He feels like he’s twenty-three years old again, and staring at the young, nervous blond soldier at the end of the line. He feels like he’s twenty-four years old, with his head resting on Jack’s lap after a shitty round of SEP shots, Jack’s cold, clammy hand resting on his forehead.
It never ceases to amaze him, the ways Jack can surprise him and steal his breath away until Gabriel feels almost crushed by the way Jack loves him. Gabriel hangs his head low, like a worshipper, heart beating too fast, hands sweaty. Humbled.
Gabriel looks for Jack’s mouth in the dark and kisses him hungrily, nipping and licking into his mouth eagerly, wanting to get as much of Jack as he can. Jack makes a humming noise, happy. He grinds back against Gabe’s crotch, letting out a laugh as soon as he notices how hard Gabriel is. “Well,” Jack starts to say. “What a surprise.”
“Don’t get cocky,” Gabriel grumbles without any real bite. He likes the way they’re pressed together right now, even if Jack’s probably going to end up with a kink in his neck tomorrow morning. They’ll worry about it later. He slips a hand inside Jack’s sleeping pants, pushing them and his underwear down until Jack kicks them off. He’s sucking on Gabriel’s bottom lip when he grabs Jack’s throbbing cock in his hand and gives it a soft squeeze.
“There’s lube in the smallest pocket of my backpack,” Jack whispers, breathy and soft. Gabriel fumbles in the dark until he finds Jack’s backpack and fishes out a package of lube. He squeezes the contents of the package into his hands, smearing his fingers with it and going back to his previous position against Jack’s back, spooning him. Gabriel drops a kiss between Jack’s shoulder blades, then presses his forehead against the sweaty skin there, breathing in the smell of Jack, biting back laughter when he smells his own, fancy soap that Jack hates so much because he says it makes him smell like a gingerbread house. He rests a hand on the bone of Jack’s hip and slides the other between Jack’s legs, until he’s slipping two fingers in easily, and getting even harder as he thinks of having fucked Jack the night before. He feels Jack breathe deeply—a good sound, a happy sound.
“Good?” Gabriel asks, an excited smile on his face as he pushes his fingers deeper inside, listening as Jack releases a punched out moan.
“Yeah,” Jack mouths against Gabriel’s sweaty temple. “Keep going, love it, love it so much—”
“I know you do,” he slips his fingers out of Jack, clumsily trying to get rid of his own pants. Exasperated, he opts for getting his cock out without much further ado and lining himself up between Jack’s legs impatiently. Gabriel smushes his nose against the back of Jack’s neck as he pushes inside him, cock painfully hard and leaking. He groans as he bottoms out, buried completely in Jack’s tight and welcoming heat, lifting one of Jack’s thighs so he can go deeper once he starts thrusting. He uses his other arm to sneak around Jack’s waist, so he can hold him close.
Jack laughs. It’s a husky, shuddering sound. He kisses Gabriel cheek. “Your arm’s going to fall asleep.”
“And your neck is going to hurt tomorrow, so. Wanna stop?”
Jack huffs. “No way,” he grabs a fistful of the sleeping bag, trying to ground himself. “Shut up and make love to me.”
Gabriel starts moving with slow, measured thrusts, feeling Jack squirm in his arms. Soon, his pulse is racing, and he’s engrossed in the feel of Jack’s body and their combined smell, with how familiar and in sync they can be together. No matter where they are. No matter how much time has passed. No matter the years spent apart.
They always come back to each other.
The thought brings tears to Gabriel’s eyes, and he silently chides himself for his sentimentality during the whole trip. He wants to do things right. He wants to do right by Jack .
He wants to give back everything Jack has ever given to him, and more. The house, the dogs, the garden. Anything and everything.
Gabriel wraps a hand around Jack’s flushed cock, stroking fast and hard as he increases the pace of his thrusts. He turns his face towards Jack and they kiss open mouthed and messily as he comes inside. Jack follows just close behind and stops Gabriel just when he’s about to pull out.
“Stay there,” Jack pleads, warm and pliant and content between Gabriel’s arms. “Please. Just a little while.”
Gabriel doesn’t have it in him to say no to him.
They fall asleep like that.
In the morning, Gabriel wakes up first, the sky outside still dark. He’s still cuddling Jack’s sticky, sweaty body.
He thinks of his carefully crafted plan. Of walking through the woods and finding that clearing full of flowers, or looking for a hill with a beautiful view. He pictures kneeling under the moonlight, ring in hand. Big dramatic gestures. (That Jack never really cared for, anyway.)
He shakes Jack awake.
“Hey, hey, hey,” he avoids getting elbowed in the face by a narrow margin and soon enough, Jack’s sleepy and annoyed face is squinting at him. His hair is mussed and his face flushed thanks to the shared warmth of their sleeping bag. There’s drool on his chin and he looks ready to throw Gabe off a cliff.
Gabriel loves him.
“C’mon, move,” he lifts Jack’s upper body, ignoring his whines and groans, and searches for Jack’s glasses. Jack wrinkles his nose when Gabriel puts them on his face, and almost trips twice on his way out of the tent, the morning chill hitting their naked skin immediately.
He sees Jack swallow all complaints once he sees the first rays of sunlight filtering through the giant trees, bathing everything in brightness. A slow, relaxed smile blooms on Gabriel’s face as he watches Jack’s awed face. He grabs his hand, lacing their fingers together, and watches the sunrise with him.
“Yeah?” Jack asks, his eyes still fixed on the landscape. Gabriel stops himself from going on another trip to Nostalgia-land so he doesn’t spend the next twenty minutes reminiscing about their honeymoon in Miami or their life-changing trip the Andes.
He wants to focus on now. On Jack’s sweet, scarred and aged face. On his pulse, his smell, his warmth. His love.
“I…,” Gabriel laughs, pretty sure that Jack’s going to call him a sap. “Marry me.”
Jack finally looks at him, blinking bemusedly. “We’re already married.”
“Marry me again, you fool—see? You’re making me ruin the romance, you always do this!”
Before Gabriel can start a tantrum, Jack is throwing arms around his neck and burying his face there, shaking. Gabriel feels something wet on the collar of his sweater.
“I get it, I get it,” comes out Jack’s muffled response. Then, a small sob. “Yeah, okay.”
“I’m going to marry you. Again.”
Gabriel’s chest feels like it’s going to explode. “Good,” he sighs, relieved and happy, arms sneaking around Jack’s waist and pressing him against him. “Smart choice.”
Jack kisses his jaw, then pulls away a little so he can look at Gabriel’s face. He thumbs at Gabriel’s cheekbone, misty-eyed and shaky, a small smile on his face.
“But I want a dog.”
“God damn it, Jack!”