“You already know the answer to that.”
“Even if I do know, I reiterate.” Gabriel pinned him with an unamused look. “First pet.”
Jack sighed and draped himself over the log he claimed as a bench. “Golden retriever named Bailey. And admit it, you’re running out of questions.”
Gabriel shrugged, and Jack took the moment of silence to admire the way the moon and starlight lit up his features. For once, he was glad for Gabriel’s no-artificial-light-at-camp rule. “You got anything better to ask for round six of twenty questions?”
“Fair point.” Jack fiddled with the stick he’d been trying to whittle and squinted at it. If he tilted his head a little to the right and held it juuuuust right, it sort of looked like a hedgehog. “Favorite music genre?”
“Jazz and EDM. First dance?”
“You’re asking a lot of ‘first’ questions,” Jack remarked. Gabriel gave him a smile.
“Just answer the damn question.” Jack thought for a moment and felt a smile spread across his face.
“Fifth grade, my grade school.” Jack sighed dreamily. “Lucas Rogers and I snuck out and held hands until Mrs. Adams found us and dragged us back to the gym. Best hour and a half of my life.”
“That’s not what you said last week when I let you detonate that omnium,” Gabriel accused.
Jack laughed. “Fair enough. Top five, then. And I’m not saying the order, so you can’t ask that for your next question.”
Jack squinted. “Now I’m curious. What’s your first dance?”
“Preschool. My moms wanted me to do piano lessons so I asked if we could compromise for ballet.”
“That is…” Amazing. Fantastic. Perfect, just like you. “Not what I expected from someone leading an international military operation.”
“I get that a lot,” Gabriel snickered. “Alright, next question. Is your shining dance career sufficient preparation for Ana demanding a dance from all of us at her wedding?”
“Wait, she was being serious about that?” Jack scrambled and hit his shoulder against the log.
“Yeah.” Gabriel covered his mouth with his hand and Jack glared at him. Rude. “And I don’t think she’d appreciate a farm boy stepping on her Louboutins the French Prime Minister and her wife gave her. Rumor has it the PM picked them out herself.”
“Ana’s the worst,” Jack whined.
“Ana’s pretty much the reason we’re all still alive,” Gabriel countered. “I think one dance at her own wedding isn’t much to ask.”
“Debatable,” he muttered.
Gabriel squinted. “You can dance, right?”
“Yeah, of course I can.” Not. Gabriel broke out laughing.
“Oh god, you can’t dance, can you?” he wheezed. “Don’t lie to me, dude, because I’m going to make you prove it to me if you try to give that bullshit again.”
Jack glared at him. “Fine. I can’t dance for shit. Are you happy now?”
“Kind of.” Gabriel gave him a shiteating grin. “Want me to teach you how to be a half-decent dance partner so Ana doesn’t spend her wedding night in jail or hiding your corpse?”
Jack nibbled on his bottom lip. On one hand, dancing with his commander wouldn’t be any help for his (metastasizing) crush. On the other hand, Gabriel did have a point and Jack would hate to make Ana’s wedding memorable for all the wrong reasons. Ana was terrifyingly competent at whatever the hell she wanted to do.
“Fine.” Jack heaved himself up and offered his hand to Gabriel with the best bow he could muster. “May I have this dance?”
“Slow it, farm boy.” Gabriel rummaged through his duffle bag. “You can’t expect me to dance without music.”
“Of course.” Jack rolled his eyes in (what he hoped was) an affectionate manner. “We can’t expect our prima donna to dance without his orchestra.” He peered over Gabriel’s shoulder and squinted. “Really? Ella Fitzgerald? You’re such a sap.”
“Girls love it. According to my, uh, women-attracted friends.” Gabriel tapped the screen and stood up. “You ready?”
“As I’ll ever be,” Jack sighed. One ticket to disasterville it was, then.
“Alright then.” Gabriel’s smile glinted in the moonlight. “Show me what you’ve got.”
Jack tried not to gulp as he gingerly placed his hands on Gabriel’s hips and swayed awkwardly to the music, standing as far away from Gabriel as he possibly could. This was a terrible idea.
“You are the promised kiss of springtime that makes the lonely winter seem long…” the music player sang.
“Seriously?” Gabriel snickered. “You’re going to be dancing with Ana at her wedding, not a middle school dance.”
“You offered to teach me, not to make fun of me,” Jack pouted. “Teach me, maestro.”
Gabriel laughed again. “Okay, so your left hand goes here, and you hold onto my left hand. Got it?”
“Yeah,” Jack breathed. He privately hoped that his face wasn’t nearly as red as it felt or that Gabriel could feel how clammy his hands were.
“You are the breathless hush of evening that trembles on the brink of a lovely song…”
“Alright, you’re going to be leading me, which basically means what it sounds like,” Gabriel directed. “Use your hands to nudge me in the direction you want me to go to, and just… go with the flow.” Jack nodded and stepped back and forth, trying to follow the lilting beat of Ella’s voice.
“You are the angel glow that lights the stars…”
“Jesus Christ, dude,” Gabriel wheezed in between peals of laughter, “you have the worst moves and sense of rhythm I’ve ever seen, like, ever. And I taught toddlers beginning ballet in college.”
“I’m trying,” Jack said petulantly.
“The dearest things I know are what you are…”
“Okay, okay,” he relented. “Don’t be scared to move around your space. Or to move more than two steps in the same direction.”
“And yet we’re moving in more than one direction,” Gabriel teased. He moved his hand to the top of Jack’s shoulder. Jack tried not to blush too much. “Relax your shoulders. You’re dancing, not being interrogated. And quit looking at your feet, it’ll look like you’re looking down her dress.”
“Maybe I’m nervous that I’m being judged by my jackass commanding officer and stepping on his feet,” Jack muttered traitorously. “Or my terrifying second in command.”
“You’re a special operations military squad. Everyone is going to judge you. Also, be a little more firm with your hands when you’re leading.”
“Someday, my happy arms will hold you, and someday, I’ll know that moment divine, when all the things you are are mine!”
“Like this?” Jack winced as he practically pushed Gabriel so they were almost touching.
“Pro tip.” Gabriel grimaced. “Try to keep your fingers as flat as possible so you don’t dig your fingers into Ana’s waist. I have a feeling she’ll be less forgiving than me.”
“Flat fingers.” Jack nodded. “Like this?”
“Yeah, that’s great.” Jack didn’t know it was possible to blush more. “Okay, I think you’re ready for twirls, girls love that shit. What you need to do is raise your right arm and twist it like this and… Nice!” Gabriel grinned and Jack temporarily forgot how to breathe. “You’ve successfully twirled me.”
“Well,” Jack stuttered, “I’m only as good as my teacher.” Smooth, Morrison.
“Flattery will get you nowhere.” Dammit.
“You are the angel glow that lights the stars, the dearest things I know are what you are...”
“Okay, now lead into a twirl. Nice.” Jack ducked his head, hoping Gabriel wouldn’t notice the full body flush that was currently flooding his entire body. “Okay, do you wanna learn a move that everyone will be super impressed with?”
“Sure.” Shoot me now if it’s what I think it is.
“Someday, my happy arms will hold you, and someday, I’ll know that moment divine…”
“Alright, I’m gonna show you how to dip your partner.” Now would be a great time for a surprise omnium attack. Like, any minute now. “Alright, what you want to do is lunge to the side, but make sure you keep both feet on the ground.”
“Uh huh,” Jack said, trying to keep the panic out of his voice. “And then?”
“Okay, I’m going to pivot aaaaand… Wait, keep a good grip on me, otherwise…” Gabriel yelped and slipped onto the dirt ground, inadvertently dragging Jack down with him.
“...when all the things you are are mine!”
Abort, abort, Jack panicked, wincing as gravel dug into his left arm. Suddenly, he found himself on top of Gabriel, their noses almost brushing. “Um. Hi.”
“Hey,” Gabriel said in a dangerously high voice, his face noticeably turning pink. “So, uh…”
“Fancy seeing you down here,” Jack laughed nervously. “You come here often?”
“I try not to, since. You know.” Gabriel gestured around himself. “It’s the ground.”
“Yeah…” Their noses were definitely touching now. Oh god, it’s happening. It’s definitely happening. Breath, Morrison, stay calm, hyperventilating isn’t attractive.
Gabriel yelped and shoved Jack off of him. Jack screeched as his head banged uncomfortably against the ground. “Ana!” Jack said hysterically. “Hey, girl, my dude, how’s it’ going? What’s up?”
“Couldn’t sleep, so I went for a stroll to double check the perimeter,” Ana said with a bright grin. “Everything’s clear, by the way. Just thought you should know.”
“Great! Excellent!” Gabriel smiled and tried to pull himself up on the log.
Ana leaned against a nearby tree and raised an eyebrow, the smirk on her face getting wider. “I wasn’t interrupting anything, was I? It looked like you two were in the middle of something, but I couldn’t tell what was going on.”
“Nope! Nothing happening at all,” Jack said in a totally normal and calm voice.
“Well then, I’m sure you’d be happy to know that I can relieve you from keeping watch now.”
Jack frowned. “We don’t change shifts until another half hour.”
“But you two look so exhausted, and I’d hate our commander to not be sharp for our op tomorrow,” Ana crooned. “Please, Gabriel, get some sleep. And you too, Jack.”
“You’re not taking no for an answer, are you?” Gabriel groaned.
“Not at all.” There was her signature shiteating grin. “Go on, time to sleep. In your separate tents. Preferably now.”
“Demon,” Gabriel muttered under his breath.
“Sorry, Gabriel, I didn’t catch that, can you repeat what you just said?” Ana called.
“I said ‘good night,’ Ana!” Gabriel shouted over his shoulder. “G’night, Jack,” he said in a softer tone, flashing a small smile in Jack’s direction. “You owe me a dance at Ana’s wedding too, now.”
Jack laughed quietly. “Night, Gabe.”
The camp fell into the comfortable silence, save for the quiet rustling of leaves and Ana’s footsteps against the forest ground. He glanced around his empty tent, almost expecting one of his teammates to give him a knowing look and heckle him for the dopey grin on his face.
Maybe, if (when, he chastised himself) they make it to see Ana’s wedding, when the music has gone soft, Jack would hesitantly pull Gabriel in closer and search his eyes for any resistance, and if there wasn’t any, he’d softly sing the song Gabriel played for them, his voice anxious but earnest.
“Someday, my happy arms will hold you, and someday, I’ll know that moment divine,” he’d murmur, relishing in the way Gabriel melted into his arms. “when all the things you are are mine…”