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Sink or Swim

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Jack Morrison does not think he’s a complicated man.

He’s a typical farm boy. Blue eyes, blonde hair, straight back and straight laced. Polite and chivalrous, knows when to say ma’am and sir with a slight northern twang to his words. He can put on a plaid shirt and drive a tractor, and can also drag on an old pair of dungarees and throw hay bales for the afternoon.

He knows how to cook basic meals and not burn the roof down, play the occasional tune on a guitar, shoe a horse and whistle a dog. He knows how to skid down country roads in a pick up truck without flipping the vehicle, and knows how to clean up the scratches so his Papa won’t see.

Jack Morrison is a simple man of simple pleasures, and he never thought the day he signed up for the military, like his Papa before him and his Grandfather before that, that he’d never lead a simple life.

 

...

 

Jack doesn’t know what the SEP was when he arrives on the Los Angeles Army Camp. All he knows when he arrives is that his commanding officer had approached him a few days previously, informed him he’d been volunteered for some military program, and was to catch the next transport out of Egypt the following day.

He’d followed orders without question, but now as he stands at parades rest in a deserted corridor with another man he’d never met for company... he wonders if maybe he should’ve asked questions after all.

The other man had arrived at the same time, both clambering out of separate jeeps in the Army hanger to be greeted by some jumped up corporal in his Army greens. Jack had greeted him but the other man had looked down his nose at the corporal, and no surprises when Jack saw his rank emblem. A major following behind a corporal, who he outranks by at least fourteen steps, that also looks newly promoted and is already too big for his boots must be frustrating.

It’s frustrating for Jack too, but after a few strokes of the corporal’s ego and the man is ranting away enough for Jack to just check out as they follow him into the winding corridors.

He doesn’t believe he was mistaken when he’d seen the major’s impressed look.

But now they stand in silence with their backs ridged waiting for who knows what, the corporal’s instructions of “just wait” unclear and irritating, but Jack doesn’t know the camp well enough to go bustling about to figure out if this is what they’re to do or if it’s some shitty prank.

The other man doesn’t seem too fazed though, and after a few moments of awkward silence he suddenly lets out a loud huff and turns to Jack with a grin on his face.

“Think this is a joke?” he asks, “or reckon management is being assholes?”

Jack blinks at him in surprised, astounded that he’s actually being spoken to by a man who outranks him twice-fold. Not too mention the fact that the man drops out of parades rest to lean casually against the wall, and that throws Jack for a loop. If anything, the military has told him that when in doubt they’re too fall back on polite protocol, something the major clearly has a different view of.

So, he doesn’t know what to say back, although he can’t help the disapproval on his face as he observes the major.

Clearly the man notices, as his grin gets wider. “Relax, soldier,” he says with a slight Spanish accent, and Jack flushes at the nickname. “The Brass are just probably testing our patience. No point in stressing out while we wait for them to get over their superiority complex.”

The other man raises an eyebrow obviously waiting for a response, and Jack doesn’t give any as he stands at attention and tries not to crack under a searching eye.

“You have freckles when you blush, you know,” the man muses to Jack, and Jack’s mouth opens before he can catch himself.

“I’m not blushing,” he protests before blushing furiously at the lack of respect. “Sir!” he tacks on quickly.

“Sure thing, Freckles,” the man laughs, grinning hugely. “But seriously. Please relax. You’re making me nervous.”

Jack doesn’t relax though, in fact he practically straightens his back more and continues to flush from head to toe, and the other man rolls his eyes as he grins at Jack’s obvious discomfort. What an ass.

“Or not,” he mutters before he holds his hand out to Jack. “I’m Gabriel Reyes,” he introduces himself. “What’s your name, Freckles?”

Jack stares at the hand for a moment. It takes a brief second before his politeness wins out over military etiquette and he shakes Major Reyes hand firmly.

“First Lieutenant Morrison,” he introduces, “pleased to meet you, Major Reyes.”

Major Reyes snorts and shakes his head. “Maldita sea. Don’t do that,” he says as he drops his hand away. “We’re probably going to be seeing a lot of each other on this program. I’d hate to be referred to like that all the time. Just call me Gabe, or Reyes if that hurts your delicacies too much.”

Honestly, Jack has never met a major so casual before and it leaves him floundering with no etiquette to fall back on. He’s speechless for a moment, but it seems Reyes is a talker as he just plows on, ignorant to Jack’s attempts to pull himself together.

“Morrison though, huh? Got a first name to match that rank of yours? Or do I just keep calling you Freckles?” He grins again, large enough to be almost blinding, and Jack genuinely has no idea what to do as he blinks back stupidly.

“Sir,” he finally manages to struggle out, “I don’t believe we’re-“

Reyes cuts him off with a groan and tilts his head back until it hits the wall. “Figures you’re a stickler for the rules,” he bemoans, and Jack’s mouth remains open as he blatantly gapes at the other. Reyes just glances at him but gives him a crooked smile as he pushes off the wall to stand in front of Jack.

“Sir, I mean no disrespect,” Jack starts to say, but Reyes barks out an obnoxious laugh as he reaches back to ruffle his own hair.

“I love it when people say that,” he chortles, “then promptly say something disrespectful. Go on, Freckles. What were you going to say?”

Jack stares at him stupidly before clearing his throat. “Sir,” he tries again, “I’d very much like to not get into trouble with the Brass. Their superiority complex may be unreasonable, but it does mean when they crack down, they crack down hard.” He hesitates for a moment before finishing his sentence, out of line or not. “And when they crack down they usually pick on the smaller rank, sir. I’d rather not become a Brass punching bag.”

Reyes seems to be speechless for a moment, just blinking vaguely at Jack as Jack tries desperately to stay still and not fidget nervously. It feels uncomfortable and makes Jack hot around the neck, so he drops his gaze and shifts his weight where he stands as he waits for whether he gets a scolding or not.

“A northern boy, huh?” Reyes says after a while though, and Jack glances up to see he’s stepped away and assumed a parades rest across from him. Reyes raises an eyebrow when Jack makes eye contact, and that constant grin is back. “I’ll stand at rest, Freckles, just so you don’t catch the punishment. But there’s nothing more boring than silence.”

Jack shakes his head in disbelief, utterly astounded over who the hell this man is, but frankly he can’t hold back the smile tugging at his lips. The moment Reyes sees it his own one gets bigger.

“Wondered if there was a smile in there,” Reyes comments, and Jack huffs as he turns his head away to look down the corridor. The smile won’t go though and it takes him a moment to rearrange his face to something more neutral.

“Sir,” he starts up again when his face is back under control, and he grasps for something to say to change the damn subject “What are we doing here? I was told about the SEP but I have no idea what it is. Hell, sir, I don’t even know what SEP stands for.”

Reyes looks shocked across from him, and Jack frowns at the change of the joking atmosphere.

“You don’t...” Reyes starts to say before he sighs and shakes his head. “Course not, communication in this shithole is at an all time low.” He clears his throat and glares at the door they’re waiting to open up. “It’s the Soldier Enhancement Program, Freckles,” he says, and Jack doesn’t know if he likes those words let alone the use of that nickname. “It’s one of the higher ups ideas. They’ve been doing research for years now trying to figure out how to alter cells to, well, enhance certain skills to try combat the Omnic Crisis. Regular soldiers aren’t cutting it now with the increase of Bastion and Titan production, so we’re gonna need something bigger and better to combat that.” He snorts and glances back at Jack. “Basically you’re about to be a guinea pig, Morrison.”

Jack stares and stares and tries to wrap his head around the words. Enhancement? What the hell is that about? He gets that they’re in peril with the Omnic population increasing by the day, and becoming more violent, but genetic enhancement? That seems to be a pretty extreme solution to the problem. Hell, the German’s are just making huge suits of armour in their Crusaders Division. Why can’t they do something like that?

He has questions, ones that he wonders if Reyes will be able to answer, but before he can ask the door they’ve been waiting for in the corridor swings open and a woman in a white lab coat stalks out.

“First Lieutenant Morrison,” she calls, and Jack’s back goes ridged as he stands at attention. “Major Reyes, would you accompany me?”

Jack waits for Reyes lead, after all he is the superior officer, and Reyes gives him a small smile and a roll of his eyes before stalking off down the corridor. Jack swings easily into step behind him as they go, and the other man seems to take up the whole hallway, his back straight and attitude seems to fill up all the space. He practically screams a demand for respect, bleeds authority, and despite the fact that he seems like a completely casual joker, Jack already feels a respect for him brewing. Underneath the swelling embarrassment, of course.

The woman escorts them into the room tucked off the side of the corridor, and Jack immediately feels uneasy. It’s clearly a laboratory. There’s beakers bubbling full of blue liquids in one corner, an array of medical equipment, sharp and shiny, lining various shelves, and multiple doors leading off the main room. When he looks through one of the open doors he sees a medical chair with various straps and machinery revolving around it, looking like some sort of horror movie room.

If he were to break out in a nervous sweat he doesn’t think anyone can blame him.

There’s a collection of other soldiers in the room, all from various branches and all sitting with taunt discipline in a line up of chairs. Jack counts thirteen others, the majority of them being marines, and all of them look about as nervous as he feels. Reyes is the only one who seems calm, almost confident as he strolls towards the last two spare seats at the end of the line. Jack trails along behind him and perches uncertainly on the edge of his chair, while Reyes spins his around and straddles it.

“Thank you all for coming today. I’m Doctor Elizabeth Kelly. I hope everyone’s trip was safe?” the woman pipes up once they’re seated, and Jack watches her carefully. She doesn’t seem at all suspicious, more distracted by the tablet she’s holding in her hands. Her fingers fly across the screen as she talks, and Jack doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that the beakers in the corner fizzle and the machinery beeps as she does so.

When no one responds she glances up confused, but then shakes her head and offers them all a small smile. “Sorry,” she says awkwardly, “I’m not use to dealing with military. I’m a civilian genetic engineer, a new field.” She waits for their reactions and when she gets none she continues. “Myself and my team have been employed for the sake of this program. You fifteen are the second group to be inducted into the enhancement pro-”

“Has this has been tested on humans before?” one of the marines interrupts, and while Jack thinks he’s rude for doing so he does have to admit the same question is on his mind.

Kelly looks uncomfortable before sighing and lowering her tablet as she avoids eye contact with them all. “I’ll be honest with you,” she says. “No, this hasn’t been used on humans before. The closest we got was sending the prototypes to the Horizon Lunar Colony where they practiced on fifteen primates they have. The primates have become more conscious, more human, and from there we’ve mixed various other prototypes into the mixture that were used on other animals to encourage the five senses, as well as influence the nervous system.” She clears her throat and looks over at the beakers, gesturing at them vaguely. “This serum will do a lot of things to you, will change a lot of genes that effect your senses and your adrenal receptors, but I can assure you that it will be safe.”

There’s some murmuring from the other soldiers, mainly from the collection of naval officers. One woman amongst them looks a little green, but it’s not an overwhelming bad response compared to what it could be.

Jack finds there’s a question on the tip of his tongue though, and before he can stop himself he has to ask. “And after this,” he says, “after we go through this process then what? What happens to us?”

Kelly glances at him and for a moment Jack thinks he sees a confidence in her, but when her eyes drop to her tablet again Jack doesn’t feel optimistic at all.

“Unfortunately I can’t answer that,” she replies quietly, still refusing to look at any of them. “I’m only the gene engineer here, and the rest of my team are geneticists not military in any capacity. What is planned for you outside of this compound... I haven’t been privy to that knowledge.”

After a quick glance around Jack can see he’s not the only one unhappy with that answer. Reyes in particularly looks mutinous for a moment, but when he glances over at Jack he schools his expression into something much more neutral. Jack admires a man who can do that, but also remains wary of a man who can easily lie with his expressions.

Kelly is also watching them uneasily from over the top of her tablet, and when everyone looks directly at her she takes an uncertain step back. Jack doesn’t blame her. Looking around the room he realises he’s the lowest rank here so being on the end of unimpressed senior officers would unsettle him as well.

Surprisingly though, it’s Reyes who breaks the tense atmosphere as he stands up with a flourish and pushes his chair out of the way as he opens his arms to Kelly.

“Alright then,” he says cheerfully, “where’s the paperwork, Doc? I’m assuming we’ve got some contracts to go over before you start jabbing us with needles and pointing torches in our eyes?”

Kelly looks relieved to have someone to focus on instead of the wall of glares, and she gives Reyes a relieved smile. “Of course,” she agrees with a nod that throws more hair out of her already messy up-do, “I’ll pair you all off with another member of my team to go over the necessary paperwork. It’ll be very long winded unfortunately. Human experiments aren’t exactly common. More frowned upon really.” She flushes and shakes her head. “But this one has been definitely approved by a proper comity and everything, I can assure you of that!”

Reyes snorts and claps Jack on the shoulder, surprising him with the jolt. “No worries, Doc,” Reyes says easily. “We’ve all handled worse.”

Jack gapes up at him but doesn’t say anything as Kelly lets out a few orders and a team of scientists come out of nowhere, swarming their group. Jack isn’t quite sure what happens after that, but the next thing he knows he’s standing in front of Kelly herself as the rest of the soldiers are paired off and dragged away. He watches her work, eyeing up her frizzy hair and twitchy fingers and he wonders when the last time she got some sleep was. He won’t bring it up though. He’ll just be polite and read the contract and in the end he has no doubts he’ll sign it.

“I’ve read lots about your career so far, Mr. Morrison,” she says to him as she smiles, tapping her fingers on her tablet nervously. She’s almost shy as she glances up at him. “I look forward to seeing what happens with you. You already have such excellent genes judging by the preliminary tests you underwent on the way here. I’m sure they’ll be most receptacle to the treatments and serums.”

“That’s…. good?” Jack replies, and it must be good enough as she brightens and nods her head. She gestures towards one of the rooms lining one side of the main lab, and Jack trails along behind her as she starts to tap furiously away on her tablet.    

“Morrison!” he hears Reyes call out though, and Jack halts in his steps to turn and look over at the man. He’s standing in the doorway of one of the side rooms, the scientist he’s been paired up with already looks like he’s exhausted from the sheer energy radiating off him. Reyes holds up a hand in mock salute, and really they can be charged for that behaviour, and gives Jack a cheeky grin. “I might catch you around, huh, Freckles?”

Jack blinks at him, speechless for only the thousandth time today, before he can’t help the smile that breaks out over his face in sheer disbelief.

“It’s Jack,” he calls back, raising his own hand in farewell, not a mock salute though. He’s not stupid. “Catch you later, Reyes.”

The returning smile it’s frankly ridiculous, but Jack does finding it endearing as he follows Kelly into the room, shaking his head all the while. It seems like Reyes is going to be one hell of a man to deal with, but Jack doesn’t think he’ll mind. It’s hard to find a guy with that much personality in the military, but it’ll be a breath of fresh air after all these stifling experiments that he’s about to undergo. No, Jack doesn’t think he’ll mind have Reyes around.

Good thing too, since he has a feeling he’ll be stuck with this guy for a while to come.

 

 

Chapter Text

The SEP is a lot more intense than Jack ever thought it would be. He knew it would be borderline torturous with being strapped to a bed and shoved full of needles, and he knew that it would be undoubtedly painful with the serum being loaded into his system.

He didn’t think the side effects would be so bad though.

They’re all kept separate for the first two weeks and numbered off from fifteen to thirteen. Jack is given the number twenty-one and told that the reason they’re separated is to reduce cross-contamination. It’s a flimsy excuse at best, especially when he hears the occasional yelling and screaming from the rooms around him, and in the end he doesn’t really mind the isolation. He’s always been more of a suffer alone person anyway, so the days after treatment when he heads back to his room and crashes because his eyes are burning, or sounds are too loud, or his head is outright throbbing... well those are the days he likes to be alone.

There are moments though where he’s desperate for some sort of social connection. He has his head down a toilet one day, retching violently as his stomach grumbles with its emptiness, and he wishes miserably for someone to be there to hand him a cold flannel, rub his back, tell him it’s going to be okay.

But there’s no one except for Kelly who sticks her head in, turns a horrid shade of green, and promptly bails on him.

Eventually, they’re all reintroduced to each other in a large barracks in the next building over from the science lab. There’s a shared dining hall with food prepared each day that they all attend together, and there’s a shared common room that the Naval officers quickly commandeer, but despite being piled in together they still stick to their rooms and isolation.

Jack decides against really getting to know many of them, and he has no doubts he’s not the only one to decide that. At first the Marines are hardly ever seen, the Naval officers are exclusive, and the Air Force all seem too awkward and stilted to hold a conversation with. Although Jack doesn’t mind sitting quietly in the common room when it’s full of others. It’s some sort of company at the very least for those days where Jack craves that social connection and even if he’s reserved and alone most of the time. Eventually though, Jack finds he doesn’t lack company at all.

Especially not when Reyes won’t bloody leave him alone.

The day they’d all been ushered into the food hall with their new assigned rooms and hot food being piled up in front of their eyes as Kelly had decided that a solid diet is to replace their fortnight-long liquid diets, Reyes had sidled up beside Jack, dropped an arm over his shoulders, and dragged him to a table that quickly became theirs. He didn’t stop talking once, not the first day or the second, not even the third, and eventually Jack found himself warming up to him and his antics.

Reyes has a humour that’s just as dry, witty, and punny as Jack’s fathers. He finds that he’d missed those type of jokes that left him groaning into his hands and Reyes killing himself laughing beside him. The man doesn’t stop at Jack though, and even though they become almost exclusive with each other through Reyes’s badgering, Reyes slowly starts to command the attention of everyone in any room he steps into with an ease he envies.

It’s clear to see the man has always been a leader. Jack has never wanted to be one, always happy to follow, and it’s so easy to slide into being Reyes second as Reyes slowly starts to take command.

In the meantime, treatments happened every day. Reyes is with him every time, right up until they’re separated for their individual treatments, and when they crash together afterward it’s normally a relaxing time as the two recover from their latest treatment. Considering Jack had previously being going hammer and tong on the front lines for easily a year, a nice break in pace is just what he needs.

They get some free time allocated to them as well, and Jack is pleasantly surprised to find that Reyes is an absolute movie fanatic. On the days that they can get to the common room first, beating the Naval officers who always have the tendency to oversleep, they monopolise the TV and stream movies, new and old. Some of the Naval officers take offense at first, but after a while Reyes’s easy smile and welcoming presence leads to most of the group of enhanced soldiers crashing into the room with them. After the third time Jack joins Reyes in campaigning for movie food to be provided the common room is supplied with a decent stack of junk food and a pile of bean bags just for their marathons, and at Kelly’s smile when she pops by to see them Jack can see that Reyes dragged her into the campaign as well.

There’s an interesting sense of camaraderie. Despite not mixing their groups often there is an acknowledgment that there is no hierarchy amongst them. The Naval officers had started it, the small few that had taken offense to Jack and Reyes taking over the common area, but soon they filtered into the background as the rest of the soldiers relax. Despite that, there is an unspoken unanimous acknowledgment amongst everyone that Reyes is their unofficial spokesman.

Although, if one soldier needs assistance or watching after a tiring session, needs anything at all, then they will all pitch in. Jack thinks himself lucky that even though he’s been bone weary tired after these experiments that he’s still not as bad as the Marine who’d vomited every ten minutes, so much so they’d all agreed on shifts to watch him to ensure he didn’t drown in his own muck while sleeping.

Reyes is louder when they’re all in a group, but he’s always ready to let others have the spotlight. Jack finds his wit and humour not only hilarious as the days go by, but also a sort of lifeline as they progress through Kelly’s exhausting experiments. On one occasion Reyes has half of the scientists in the labs in belly laughs alone, and Jack thinks that Kelly especially deserves a laugh as her hair gets frizzier and frizzier by the day and her clipboard shakes violently in her hands as she assesses them with a trembling voice and a worried gaze.

It’s fine, Jack thinks. It’s fine and he can cope with being a guinea pig. He’s a soldier after all, and soldiers are made to endure, to adapt.

Somehow he manages to avoid the side-effects that land the men in overnight care under Kelly’s flighty gaze, but soon the day comes where the serum is a little bit too much and Jack’s luck runs out. Kelly had thought he was ready for more than he actually was, the dosage too high, and Jack has to drag himself out of the lab after their session with a splitting headache and all of his senses working at roughly double their usual degree.

Kelly had been apologetic, but Jack had just waved her off as he’d shuffled away with his hands clapped firmly over his ears and his jaw locked tight.

Everything feels like it’s on fire, his nerves so sensitive that even touching the walls to make his way back to his room sets his fingertips alight. His eyes hurt with the sheer strain building behind them, everything around him in such high detail that he can see the small cracks in the wall and filaments from the light bulbs above him. A Marine passes by and Jack spots the lint building on his shirt, and when he asks if Jack’s okay his voice is like thunder in Jack’s head. It rings and rings as he waves the Marine off, ignoring the worried look her gets, to drag his way to his room, and when he opens his door to finally make it to his sanctuary he almost cries in relief.

Somehow he stumbles around his room until he crashes on his bed with all the curtains closed, two pillows shoved over his head trying to block out the noises around him, and a pain radiating all over his head at the overstimulation.

Too much, just too much all at once.

He sticks out a hand to feel for his nearby trash bin as a wave of nausea overwhelms him, and as he vomits his retching sounds are too loud, making the headache worse, making his stomach roll, making himself vomit more. It’s a vicious cycle that doesn’t stop until he’s finally just heaving with nothing in his stomach and exhaustion settling in his bones.

He knows he should really call for some help, maybe find that Marine from the hall again. Anyone would help him in an instant, all having gone through the same at different points, but Jack can’t find the strength to really get up and just lies with his whole body throbbing, a cold sweat breaking out as he drags back the pillows and considers suffocating himself.

Of course, that is right when Reyes decides to visit.

“Yo, Freckles,” Reyes calls as he waltzes in the room, and Jack clenches the pillows so tightly he can hear the fabric starting to tear as Reyes voice practically thunders through the room. “Was wondering if... whoa, Jack, are you-”

“Stop talking,” Jack grits out through clenched teeth, and god he thought Reyes was loud through the two pillows but compared to his own voice being kept in the pillows around his ears it was nothing.

“Jack, what the hell? Are you alright?” Reyes asks, and each step he takes ricochets in Jack’s brain until he’s almost smothering himself with how hard he’s pressing the pillow to his head.

He can’t reply, the words too lost in his aching head, and instead he manages to flip out his arm from under the pillows to show Reyes the new needle marks littering his arm.

It’s well known amongst the group on the program that if a soldier still has their marks it’s been a bad session. Kelly always tries to heal them at the end, one of her biotic emitters specially designed to close up needle punctures, but the machine itself is too loud to use if a soldier is overstimulated. The last time she’d used it on an Air Force officer who was hyper-aroused had caused him to almost end up in a frenzy.

A violent frenzy.

He hears Reyes sharp intake of breath when he sees the markings, and Jack jumps as he feels Reyes fingers slow trace over them. The gentle touch raises goosebumps on his skin, the hypersensitivity caused by the serum dulled enough from his purging that it doesn’t hurt as much, just tickles really and he shivers.

Thankfully Reyes doesn’t say anything as he ups and leaves the room, and while part of Jack misses the touch and company, the other part just reveals in the silence. Hopefully the pain medication Kelly jabbed him with as he’d left will kick in soon, but for now he just rides out the pain with fisted hands and gritted teeth.

Surprisingly, Reyes comes back into the room a while later, long enough for Jack to have adjusted to being alone and become almost disgruntled at his arrival. Everything is still too loud, but it’s not as bad as when he’d first left the lab, which is good since he can hear Reyes rustling around his room, the clanging of the trash can and the running of a tap. Jack almost pulls out of his cocoon to see just what the man is doing, hoping he’s not cleaning for Jack, but stops when he feels the bed dip beside him and feels Reyes’s thigh pressed against his lower back.

He just patiently waits. No doubt the man has a reason for coming back in even though he knows it’s painful for Jack. Reyes wouldn’t cause unnecessary pain just for the hell of it.

So when Reyes reaches out and tugs the pillows off of Jack’s head, even though his ears are basically screaming and eyes feel like they might bloody bleed at this rate, Jack lets him. When Reyes pops a finger under Jack’s chin and tilts his head up, Jack lets him. 

Reyes doesn’t say a word though as he fixes something over Jack’s ears, and Jack can feel the construction of ears muffs and he takes a deep breath as suddenly all the noises are just gone. They’re still muffled, he can still hear the Marine next door banging away at something and the Naval officers in the corridor arguing about something, but he can’t hear specific words now and he feels his body relax as the sweet dullness settles over his ears.

Then Reyes shoves something over his eyes, and when he opens them it’s to see it’s to see nothing but pitch black, and after a moment he recognises the satin feel of an eye mask. He feels frankly ridiculous, knowing it’s probably something nicked from one of the soldiers that Reyes would have grabbed, but he doesn’t want to argue as the realisation that the silence and darkness is really starting to help. His body is unwinding, his muscles relaxing, and the strain behind his eyes is especially starting to ebb away.

But then Reyes surprises him even more by settling down on the bed beside Jack, lying down so they’re side by side. Jack’s about to question him, damn his thundering voice, but he’s silenced as Reyes tugs Jack in until Jack’s face is against Reyes collarbone and his head is tucked neatly under his chin. Reyes’s arms come up, one wrapping around Jack’s head to add that extra layer over his ears, pushing the earmuffs taunt against Jack’s ears, and his other arm slings loosely over Jack’s hips. Reyes’s is still flat on his back, and after a few heartbeats Jack finally curls both arms to press against Reyes’s side and juts his knees to press against the side of Reyes’s leg.

Reyes doesn’t say a word the whole time, and neither does Jack as he just counts his blessings and waits for the last of the pain medication and the preventers Reyes’s has provided to really kick in. They don’t speak, and Jack just focuses on Reyes’s warm hand on his hip as well as the rising and falling of Reyes’s chest. It lulls him to a doze, and then after a while he falls asleep with his head clear.

All night Reyes’s stays with him, and then somehow, some-bloody-how, Reyes turns out to be a damn decent guy in the morning when all he does is give Jack a smile, asks him how he is, then disappears out the door with the mask and earmuffs in hand while demanding Jack meet him for lunch.

Jack doesn’t linger on what’s happened, chalking it up to being one soldier helping another. It’s what they do. They support each other, look after each other, and that’s just fact.

So it makes sense the next time when it’s Reyes who’s had a hard session, who’s lying in bed damning the world and himself for agreeing to this program, that’s got the painful headache and stinging eyes, Jack doesn’t hesitate in heading to requisitions to get a pair of earmuffs, tracking down the major with the eye mask, and wraps Reyes up and away from the world.

Then, in the morning, Jack doesn’t say a word and just orders one hell of a big lunch for them both.

Somehow that’s how they get through those rough days of painful needle marks and throbbing heads. They never talk about it but when their sessions become too hard, when they struggle to look after themselves, when they really need someone to just wrap them up and tell them they’re okay, when they just want to get away, there’s a mutual agreement to just disappear to their own silent world.

If Jack happens to buy a set of eye masks with cats on them that makes Reyes’s laugh, or if Reyes’s hunts down a set of ear muffs covered in enough glitter to mortify Jack, well, that’s just all part of it.

 

 

Chapter Text

Of course, just because they start the program it doesn’t mean the war stops.

Someone with too many medals and not enough brains decides the best way to train the SEP soldiers is by throwing them in the deep end, and Jack has never hated the military more than the day he finds himself just outside of some small shitbox town in the back reaches of Missouri, pinned behind a big ass wall frantically trying to reload his rusted piece of shit rifle as a horde of Omnic is storming towards him.

He’s completely alone, having lost most of his group three checkpoints back. The only three that had stuck with him are currently high tailing it to find a trained medic for the one that has had his leg blow off and is potentially unconscious somewhere at the last checkpoint. Jack struggles with leading, never one to raise his hand and take charge, but for some god awful reason someone somewhere has decided the SEP soldiers would do better with their own groups, each with a group of soldiers under their lead. He’s not a bad amateur medic though, and the guy missing the leg behind him has one hell of a tourniquet wrapped around him. It’s the only thing Jack could do before pushing on, and he damn near prays as he hopes the bastard will get help.

If Jack gets out of this alive, he’s going to deck the first Brass he sees.

The rifle in his hand is uncomfortable. He’s used to the clean pulse rifles back at barracks that he’d been assigned to train with. This rifle feels clunky and weighty, not balanced properly, rusty enough his hands are orange and the damn magazine keeps jamming, and he thinks he’d do better with his fists alone against the Omnic than with this antique. He’d had it shoved into his hands on arrival and no one saw fit to listen when he tried to say otherwise.

He’s a soldier though. He adapts. Even if it means having to duck for cover more often because the damn thing keeps jamming up at the wrong damn time.

Jack’s just managed to click the magazine in when a humanoid Omnic comes flying over the wall, and it shocks him enough that his instinct is just to lash out. He catches the Omnic with the butt of the rifle, slamming up into its head with enough force to send it crashing to the ground. He’s still not fully reloaded, the hammer not cocked back, but he has enough energy to put the damn thing out of commission with a few hard hits.

He barely has enough time to cock his rifle for the next lot though as the next six, a mixture of humanoid and Bastion, tear straight through the wall, and Jack swears as he takes aim and starts backing up away from the only cover he has. Maybe if he’s lucky, and can hopefully put some of them out of commission in the process, he can make it back to the last checkpoint and get some damn backup.

He manages to take out the two Bastion Omnics before they shift into turret form, avoiding their clumsy shots as he thrashes one with a well-timed melee hit and shoots the other one mid-turret shifting. The other four humanoids advance towards him though, ignoring their fallen, and he grits his teeth as he fires two bullets into one Omnic and doesn’t down it. The rifle promptly jams, and with a shout he swings his rifle at the others.

It doesn’t matter though as one of the Omnics smashes the rifle from his hands, the hit vibrating up his bones painfully, and he takes a few stumbling steps back as the rest advance. Two are weaponised, something Jack doesn’t often see, but he knows the Omnics that are weaponised are the most dangerous.

Jack’s pretty sure he’s counting down his last minutes as a handgun is slowly brought up to be aimed at his face, and he has half a mind to close his eyes and hold his breath right before a spray of bullets slams into the Omnic‘s chest, and he watches with wide eyes as the Omnic drops to the ground in a heap.

“Well don’t just stand there, Freckles! Hit something!”

Of course it’s Reyes, and Jack can’t help but let out a relieved and hysterical laugh as he stumbles forward to reach for his shitty rifle, the remaining three Omnics scrambling over the new arrival. Without turning to look for Reyes, Jack swings his rifle forward to smash into the side of the Omnic beside him, sending it stumbling before he leaps forward and starts to hammer at it. The Omnic is beeping something furious, it’s hands trembling as it reaches for something, anything, and Jack almost feels guilty before he grits his teeth and slams the butt of his rifle into the Omnic’s faceplate. The lights on is forehead flicker a couple of times before going out, and Jack lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.

By the time he stands up it’s to see the wreckage of the other three Omnics and a worried looking Reyes picking his way over to him.

“You alright, amigo?” he demands as he gets closer, and Jack watches as Reyes throws his two shotguns to the side before pulling a new pair out from behind his back. He’s always thought that was wasteful, but considering the man just saved his ass he thinks he’ll hold off on the critiques this time.

“Yeah,” he replies, sounding completely breathless. “I’m fine. Just a bit winded.”

“A super soldier being winded?” Reyes snorts, grinning coyly. “Mierda, don’t tell Doc. She’ll freak out and have to put us back through the last nine months to see why.”

That makes Jack wince. No one wants to go through the last nine months. The bad days have finally trickled down to only once in a blue moon and they’re finally up to training with their new enhancements. He makes a note never to mention anything to Kelly lest she does make them repeat the entire experiment and he’s back to being in a bed, hating the world and wishing to be suffocated.

“Here,” Reyes calls, and Jack looks up in time to catch a rifle Reyes throws him. “Thought you could use this.”

It’s his pulse rifle, the usual one he practices with, and Jack lets out a sigh of relief as his hand fits smoothly around the handle and the weight is just perfect. “Thank god,” he says, grinning at Reyes as he waves the other piece of trash before dropping it into the muck beneath them. “This antique was doing my head in.”

Reyes gives the rifle in on the ground a disdainful look before he rolls his eyes. “Malditos bastardos out here aren’t properly equipped,” he mutters. “Just had to help out a few down the line who only had pistols. It’s ridiculous.”

Jack shakes his head. He’s also astounded at the requisites the troops have been given. How do they expect an Omnic Crisis to end if they’re not going to equip their soldiers properly?

He’s about to pipe up with an answer though when he hears the awful sound of a Bastion unit whirring, and he turns in horror to see a Bastion settling down into turret mode just on the other side of the wall. Jack’s eyes are wide and horrified as he can see the turret starting to wind, and he falls with a muffled shout as Reyes slams into him and sends him crashing behind what’s left of the wall.

He grunts as the air is pushed from his lungs, mud pressing into his open mouth and he almost chokes on the sludge as Reyes slams to the ground beside him. The sound of the Bastion’s turret firing repetitively above them thunders through the air, and Jack grimaces as his ears protest.

The mud is seeping through his clothes, chilling him to the bone as they lie waiting for the turret fire to finish and Jack blinks the stinging mud from his eyes to look at Reyes who’s watching him with a set jaw, his face lit up occasionally by the bright light emitting from the turret.

“You go left, I’ll go right,” he barks at Jack who just nods and starts to slide through the mud without complaint. There’s a small part of the wall up ahead that’s fallen apart, and with some careful manoeuvring he thinks that he’ll be able to crawl through. His rifle is a reassuring weight in his hands, and when his hands find the crumbled brick he glances back to Reyes.

He’s crouched just below the wall on his own side, and with a brief nod the two wait for a lull in the firing before they fly over the wall. Jack has his rifle already pumping as he goes, his target the Bastion unit that’s stopped to reload, and it’s easy for the two of them to destroy it with some well-placed bullets. It lets out a dying whirl before it practically crumbles to pieces, and Jack pulls to a halt over it’s remains.

They don’t anticipate the other Bastion unit though, and Jack swears as he sees it appearing behind Reyes with it’s submachine gun training on him already. Jack lets out a shout, but all it does is turn Reyes’s stare and Jack charges across the ground between them.

He’s just in time, slamming into Reyes as the Bastion opens fire. Reyes lets out a surprised shout, and Jack cries out as he feels a bullet lodge itself into his shoulder. He’s lucky that’s the only bullet in him from the Bastion’s spray, but as he crashes back to the ground and his vision spots as he thinks he’s not that lucky.

Reyes twists beneath him, one of his shotguns aimed perfectly as a shot rings out and a spray of bullets slam into the Bastion, sending the machine sprawling backwards. Jack rolls off Reyes with a groan, letting the man crawl out and finish off the Bastion, and Jack presses a hand to his wound and sucks in a deep breath as the pain rattles through him.

He hears Reyes moving around over top of him, but Jack’s hearing doesn’t pick up anymore whirring or clanking so it’s safe to assume they’re alone for now. It’s confirmed as Reyes drops to his knees at his side, and Jack blinks up at him as Reyes’s hand comes down over his wound and pushes hard enough for Jack to hiss.

“You’ve been hit,” Reyes points out, and Jack can’t hold back his laugh.

“What was your first thought?” he asks, gritting his teeth as Reyes presses down again. He’s disgusting and filthy, and he doesn’t have high hopes of keeping his wound clean, let alone free of infection.

“Shut up,” Reyes growls, but there’s a slight smile on his face. Good. Jack wants to reassure him he’s okay. It’s only a bullet wound, and he’s handled those before the enhancements, before the advanced healing. He’ll cope.

It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt though, and he yelps as he sits up with Reyes’s aid. He leans against the man for a moment to catch his breath, and he sees the concern all over his face. He opens his mouth, about to insist that they continue on with the mission, but Reyes cuts him off before he can begin.

“Come on,” he orders as he shifts his hands on Jack to under his armpits. “I’m calling the retreat. I’m going to get you to safety, okay?”

Jack rolls his eyes, and as Reyes pulls him up his wound pinches painful making him hiss. Reyes quickly lowers him back down in worry, and Jack gives him a tight smile.

“Not if I bleed out first,” he mutters, and he hears Reyes laugh as he rearranges Jack to lean against him.

“Let's try not to make this a completion, please?” he asks, and Jack snorts before pushing himself off Reyes. He’s got a wounded shoulder, not leg. He should be fine.

He leans forward to scoop up his rifle, thankful it can fit in one hand as his other arm screeches in protest with the strain it puts on his wound. Jack gives it a filthy look and tries to ignore it as he steadies himself before turning to Reyes with a cocky grin.

“I’m fine,” he says, and Reyes rolls his eyes. “So what’s the plan, Reyes?” Jack hitches the pulse rifle into a comfortable position, ignoring the tugging on his other shoulder. “I think I can manage a few more checkpoints.”

Reyes stares at him for a minute, looking completely surprised, before he groans and shakes his head. “Dios,” he mutters, “I can’t decide if you’re a total idiot or just really fucking brave.”

Jack snorts. “Let’s hope for the latter. The former is too depressing to think about.”

Reyes laughs, and reaches over to pat Jack on his good shoulder. “Ever the optimist,” he chuckles before pointing in the direction of the checkpoints they’ve already conquered with one of his shotguns. “I’m not letting you back into the fight. Not with that shoulder of yours. We go back.” His smile drops into a glare that Jack winces at. “The only plan from here on, Freckles, is keep your ass down and don’t die.”

“Can’t be doing that,” Jack jokes, giving Reyes a smile as he tries to break the tensity of the moment. “Who’d tell you your curry is shit if I wasn’t around?”

The outrage on Reyes face makes Jack burst out laughing, and he doesn’t stick around for the tirade he’s no doubt about to get. He kicks into a jog back down the street he’d come from, ignoring the jostling of his arm and Reyes’s shout of disapproval, but after a moment he hears Reyes pounding along behind him.

He still gets an earful, Reyes bitching about Jack’s bland northern taste buds or whatever, but Jack doesn’t much care. It’s an easy distraction as they jog along, but eventually he trails off as they approach the previous checkpoint only to see it being assaulted by more Omnics.

Jack pauses only briefly, glancing at Reyes for permission. He may look angry, probably pissed at Jack having to be involved in a fight with his wound, but he does give a nod and Jack grins at him before turning forward and pushing back into the foray.

There may be a bunch of Omnic’s straight ahead, and he may have a wound that will no doubt bite him eventually.

But he’s got Reyes as his side, and frankly he wouldn’t want anyone else.

 

 

Chapter Text

Jack has always liked shooting ranges. Since he first joined the military he’s always enjoyed using them as an outlet, especially since there’s no annoying mother around to prod him and tell him “shooting things as a coping mechanism isn’t very healthy, Jack.”

He thinks she clearly hasn’t tried it, and the silence as he shoots rounds upon rounds into the training bots is calming as well as useful.

He’s practicing with a pulse pistol today, mainly because two weeks worth of training with shotguns has driven him to the edge of insanity. He needs a wide knowledge of weapons, it’s part of their SEP training, but the weight of a shotgun feels wrong in his hands. He’s always preferred a rifle, but this pistol isn’t half bad. It fires quickly and efficiently, but the bullets tend to spray out per shot. Jack has to really focus on his accuracy as he practices, each shot a vibration down his hand.

He’s been at it for hours now. His arm is aching from being held straight in the air for so long, his fingers feel slightly numb where they sit on the trigger, and frankly he’s pleased about the welcome distraction as someone joins him in his cubicle with a dramatic huff.

“Tell me, Freckles,” Reyes says, and Jack jumps in surprise and fumbles with his pistol. He didn’t realise he could still be snuck up on with how finely tuned his ears are now. “What’s the english word for meapilas? I want to be able to insult the gilipollas in his own damn language rather than my own.”

Reyes does look suitably wound up, gritted teeth and wild eyes, and Jack slowly puts down the pistol on the bench beside his pulse rifle before turning to appraise the man.

“You know I don’t know what either of those words mean, right?” he states with a raised eyebrow, and Reyes gives him a frustrated look.

“Why not?” he snaps, irritable an understatement. “You’ve been around me for long enough, amigo. If you don’t know any Spanish by now I’m less than unimpressed.”

Jack snorts. “I know a few words, but not a lot,” he replies, and he tries to fight off the smile on his face. “In any case, what’s happened? You’re not normally this grouchy unless you’ve had a run-in with the Navy Officers and they’re off doing specialised training.”

Reyes still looks unimpressed but shrugs his shoulders as he moves to lean against the wall opposite Jack. He doesn’t say anything, just continues to look filthily down the range, and Jack rolls his eyes before reaching out to punch Reyes shoulder. Reyes mutters in response and shoots him a glare, but it does seem to have the result Jack was after as he humphs and drops his crossed arms to gesture wildly.

“One of the men I was working with before the SEP has just been promoted to leading the platoon I was working with,” he mutters darkly, and Jack raises an eyebrow. Before he can ask why that would upset him Reyes plows on. “The cabrón had agreed with me to wait until my return to discuss succession for our leading Colonel. He was looking at retiring once I returned from the SEP but wanted to leave it to us two to decide who would succeed him.”

“And…?” Jack prompts when Reyes falls silent and looks moodily out at the training bots.

“And the gilipollas informed the Colonel I’d decided not to be in charge of our platoon. He’s retired, Major mierda has been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and now I’m cast out waiting to see what the hell will be in store for me once I leave this joint.”

“You were suppose to go back after this?” Jack asks, blinking stupidly. “I thought that we were all going to be reassigned? I heard one of the marines talking about it.”

Reyes shakes his head and shrugs. “I don’t actually know. But I assumed they wouldn’t just drag us from our stations, never to go back.” He glares down at the ground. “I hate being in the dark.”

Jack blinks at him for a moment, wondering just what to say. It’s not fair for Reyes, he’ll give him that, but it’s not like Reyes was certain he was going back to his platoon after this. None of them know what’s going to happen next month when their training is finished, the program complete. Kelly has been brimming with excitement at their results and it seems like they’re exactly what was expected. Jack has a small feeling that Gabe isn’t actually upset about what they’re suppose to be doing after this. After all, being a soldier meant not having and guarantees about the future.

“So what’s this really about?” Jack asks hesitantly after the quiet between them stretches too long, and he’s surprised when Reyes suddenly slams a fist onto the bench beside his weapons.

“What the hell are we doing?” he growls, looking particularly vicious. “No one is saying anything. No one in this fucking program knows what’s going to happen to us next month, and it’s frustrating.”

Scary too, Jack thinks but he chooses not to say it aloud. Reyes hasn’t been the man to ever admit being scared, and he doesn’t think he’ll start now.

“I swear, if I have one more hijo de puta try to tell me that I just have to wait and see, I’m going to go coastal,” Reyes continues to rant, and Jack just stays quiet and listens. “Kelly has been prattling on about how we’re going to be meant for great things, but every time I ask for elaboration she clams up and sputters out some bullshit excuse about restrictions and hierarchy.”

“You know,” Jack hesitantly says, “she might actually be bound by a gag order.”

Reyes rolls his eyes. “Who gives a shit,” he snaps, and his hand is starting to inch towards the pistol Jack has lying on the bench. He stealthily pushes it just out of Reyes’s reach as the man glares at him. “You’d think someone would break eventually and actually tell us. Marcus has been breathing down my neck since he found out I’ve been asking around.”

Jack blinks at him stupidly, and Reyes groans as he runs a hand over his face.

“One of the Naval Officers,” he responds, and Jack just nods. He doesn’t really know the Naval Officers. “Him and his cronies are badgering me. Saying I’m the leader of the group so I should be taking point in all enquires.” He shakes his head. “Cabrón needs to get off my back.”

“Too be fair,” Jack starts again before clearing his throat, and really he knows that Reyes doesn’t want a reality check and just wants to let out his frustrations, but Jack can’t let him get too carried away. He can’t afford Reyes starting to build resentment to the others, not when they all live in such close quarters and the last fight resulted in a mass split between them all. “I mean,” he tries again as Reyes narrows his eyes at him. “You are the unofficial leader, Reyes. You’re the one who’s leading the pack.”

“You’re not half bad yourself,” Reyes retorts, and Jack frowns. “Everyone comes to you with their problems.” He pauses and purses his lips, looking unimpressed. “Well, everyone but the Navy, but we don’t credit them with having brains most of the time.”

Jack shrugs, hiding back a smile at that comment. “I’m an agony aunt,” he tells Reyes, feeling a little depressed at the thought. “Always have been. My Momma said I got it from her.”

Reyes seems to deflate a little at the mention of Jack’s Momma, and he gives Jack a smile as the tension drops from his shoulders and he leans back against the wall on his side of the cubicle.

“You reckon your Momma would be proud of you?” Reyes asks, and Jack drops their eye contact to shuffle his feet. He feels his cheeks redden a little, slightly embarrassed at the question, but when Reyes nudges his foot with his own Jack looks back up with a small smile.

“I think so,” he replies honestly. “I think she’d be proud of what I’m trying to do to end the Omnic Crisis.” He hesitates before asking Reyes the same question. “Do you think your Momma would be proud?”

Reyes sighs and looks away, and there’s something more there that Jack can see. Reyes’s eyes are haunted looking for a brief moment, the thousand yard stare, and it dawns on Jack that he actually doesn’t know much about the man’s background. Sure, they’d all listed off their previous platoon groups in their weekly group counselling that Kelly had insisted on, but no one ever pried into anyones past. Reyes’s state, the sudden tension back in his shoulders, it really makes Jack wonder just what Reyes did before the SEP. For some reason he thinks that it wasn’t anything as simple as being a soldier on the front lines.

He doesn’t ask though. It’s not his place. If Reyes were to tell him out of his own free will then Jack would be happy. But in the end, he has no right to pry into anyones backgrounds.

“I don’t know,” Reyes says, and Jack jumps at his voice as it knocks him from his thoughts. When Reyes looks back at him that stare is gone but there a shudder in place as he shrugs. “I don’t know what my mama would think of me. A part of me never wants her to know what I’ve done.” He glances away. “What I’m capable of.”

Jack looks away, unsure really what to say. He pauses for a moment and wonders if there is actually anything to say, but after glancing down at his weapons on the table he straightens his spine and drops a hand on Reyes’s shoulder and gives him a tight squeeze.

“I think she’d be proud,” he tells him, voice thick with confidence as Reyes blinks back at him. “You’re a pretty great guy, Reyes. Your mother would be proud of what you’ve accomplished.”

Reyes snorts, but he gives Jack a weak smile as he sighs and turns back to him. Jack can see his hands are twitching, probably aching for some sort of stress relief, and Jack glances back at his weapons before he drops both hands on Reyes’s shoulders and gives him a brief shake.

“You know,” Jack muses to him, dropping his eyes to the ground. “My Momma always use to tell me that it’s okay to not know what’s next if you have the right people with you.” He glances up to see Reyes looking intently at him, and Jack gives him an awkward grin. “I think that whatever is next for you will be next for me too, Gabe. I wouldn’t worry.”

Reyes stares at him, blinking a handful of times before breaking out into a large grin. “You called me Gabe,” he says, and Jack flushes red as he drops his hands and turns back to the weapons on his table. “It’s about time.”

“Shut up,” Jack mumbles. “Listen to what I’m saying. It’ll be alright.”

There’s some shuffling behind him, and then Jack is surprised when Reyes’ drops a hand on his shoulder and squeezes. “Thanks, Jack,” Reyes murmurs. “You’re too damn nice to a cabrón like me, but I’ll take it.”

Jack snorts and shrugs off the hand before reaching for once of the two pistols he has. Without a word, he chucks it to Reyes who happily reloads it with experienced hands and takes his place beside Jack in the firing booth.

They don’t speak as they fall into the steady repeating motion of firing their pistols. They spend the rest of the afternoon like that, side by side and pumping ammunition into various training bots that come across the range. Jack reckons that Requisitions might have something to say with the sheer amount they go through, each of them pumping their frustrations into each unlucky bot, but by the end of it Reyes’s hands aren’t shaking anymore and he looks a hell of a lot calmer.

“You do this often?” Reyes asks him when they’re packing up, Jack crouched down to pick up the few bullet shells they’d used when playing with the traditional revolvers over the pulse weapons, and Jack glances over to see him holding Jack’s pulse rifle and carefully aiming it down the shooting range. Jack can’t help but smile. It had taken a while to realise that Reyes only ever used shotguns, and it was obvious to him why when he realised the man can’t hold a rifle worth a damn, let alone use one efficiently.

“God, correct your handling before you do yourself an injury,” Jack laughs as he stands up and starts to move Reyes hands. He feels Reyes’s eyes on him the whole time he does so, and he ignores the flush creeping up his neck at the sheer intensity coming from Reyes. He lets Jack show him how to hold a rifle though, patient as Jack moves his hands, corrects his stance, and eventually nods in satisfaction when he’s positive that the man won’t hurt himself in anyway. The man still looks horrendously awkward, but he’s less of an eyesore.

“Freckles, you didn’t answer my question,” Reyes says when Jack nods, and Jack glances at him to see he’s still intently staring at Jack, and he definitely blushes under Reyes’s gaze.

“Yeah,” he answers, one hand coming up to cover the back of his neck sheepishly. “Dad introduced it to me when we were hunting stoats on the farm that were attacking Dad’s chickens, and it just… I just found it to be…”

“Calming?” Reyes offers, and Jack smiles.

“Seems kind of violent really, but the motions are repetitive and you can always imagine what’s bugging you at the other end of the barrel.” He shrugs and looks away. “My Momma always thought I was crazy. I can’t imagine what she’d think if I told her I would imagine it was her at the other end if she’d been particularly horrible that day.”

Reyes cracks out a startled laugh, and Jack can’t help the smile he gives the man in response. It’s nice that someone doesn’t immediately want to ship him off for psychoanalysing over it for once, and Jack may love his Momma to pieces but she is a helicopter parent at times. Reyes just chortling as he drops the pulse rifle to his side and shaking his head is a pleasant surprise.

“Ah, Freckles, you are a wonder,” Reyes comments, and Jack rolls his eyes as he glances away.

They don’t really say anything more, the easy camaraderie filling the since as Reyes helps Jack clean, restock, and pack everything away, and when they make their way back to their rooms before dinner Jack sees that Reyes looks a hell of a lot better. He seems more relaxed, his shoulders less hunched, and if anything Jack considers his day well spent if it means that Reyes feels better.

He does swear that whatever comes next, they’ll face it together, no matter what. It’s taken a long time for Jack to find someone he’s this comfortable with, and he’ll be damned if he’s going to lose him.

 

 

Chapter Text

The last few weeks of SEP is practically torture. Jack spends more time passed out completely exhausted than he does awake and moving around.

The Commanders inform them it’s to test their newfound abilities before they move on and be assigned their new positions. Jack thinks they’re just having a laugh when they drag them all out of bed at the ass crack of dawn and have them running practice drills for hours.

It’s good though, it’s a good representation of what it’s like on the front-lines. Jack knows he’s not the only one that was on them before being pulled aside for SEP, and the ones that were don’t struggle as much as the others. He watches the Air Force soldiers in particular flag faster, their enhancements not enough to get them completely use to the hard and fast drills.

Gabe seems fine to Jack’s eyes. He keeps up with them all, practically flies ahead. Jack notices that he’s put through certain different drills, and he’s observant enough to know that Gabe is being groomed for a leading position.

It’s after one of the grueling sessions when Jack is walking back from the ablutions that Gabe surprises him. He’s moving down the hallway when he stops and stares, watching as Gabe stands in the hallway shoving a bloody mattress of all things into Jack’s room.

Jack doesn’t have the energy to call him out on it. Frankly, he’s worried that he’ll open his mouth and chunder. He’d passed a bunch of sick soldiers on his way back, all of them looking worse for wear after being shoved through training simulations for eight hours straight. He knows the Commanders are pushing their limits but holy shit.

When he approaches Gabe the other man glances up and gives him a tired grin.

“Wanna give me a hand?” he asks, and it just goes to show that Jack either trusts him or really doesn’t care anymore as he just shoulders in beside Gabe and helps him push the mattress the rest of the way in the room.

He stares when the mattress drops to the ground and Gabe flops on top of it. He feels a bit stupid really just hovering in his own room, but he really doesn’t know what to do.

“Ah...” he finally manages to say. “What’s going on?”

Gabe gives him a large grin before closing his eyes and stretching out. “Decided that the risk of choking on my own vomit in my sleep after these nightmare drills was too high,” Gabe replies cheerfully. “Thought I’d crash in here with you.”

Jack gapes at him for a moment before just turning away. He goes about his room putting his things away and straightening up the place, and he tries not to think about how domestic it feels. He can hear Gabe’s breathing slowing down behind him, and when he glances over he sees the man has drifted into a light sleep.

He smiles to himself.

When Gabe wakes up Jack commands his help as he drags his own mattress down onto the ground. Gabe looks ridiculously happy as they shove them side by side and gather enough bedding to make their beds.

It’s not the most comfortable, but Jack has to admit that the presence of another person does help him sleep. The adrenaline from the drills still thrums in his system whenever he retires to bed, and every little noise in the building has him on edge. Knowing Gabe has his back makes him relax enough to at least have a few kips before being dragged out of bed the following morning.

It doesn’t go unnoticed though that the two are sharing a room, and, despite the seedy rumours that has Jack turning red and Gabe cackling, the Commanders grab the opportunity with two hands. The two of them are put through their paces together and steadily they learn each other’s quirks in battle. Gabe always makes jokes, constantly commenting on the situation with a sort of dark humour, and Jack indulges him as they tear through objective after objective and take on bot after bot.

When given the opportunity to equip themselves how they see fit, Gabe laughs as Jack picks up a biotic emitter and tucks it into his belt. He stops laughing though when they’re pinned down in a simulation by a group of training bots, both exhausted, and Jack slams the emitter on the ground to rejuvenate them. They finish the sim quickly after that, and Gabe stuffs a handful of emitters into Jack’s arms when they’re done.

Then comes the day when they’re finally being assigned. Jack wakes up beside Gabe with a small smile, ready to be out of this joint, but he notices that Gabe’s smile looks too strained.

“Hey,” he says, reaching over to nudge Gabe’s shoulder. “Lighten up. We’re out of here today.”

Gabe stares back at him, his eyes looking heavy, and Jack wonders if he’s slept at all. He frowns and nudges him again, feeling worried as Gabe looks away and sighs.

“Gabe,” Jack murmurs, “it’s gonna be alright. Don’t worry about it. We both know they’ve got a position lined up for you somewhere commanding troops. You’re gonna be sorted and okay.”

“But what about you?” Gabe asks, shocking Jack. He glances back over at Jack and he looks miserable. “Where will you go?”

Jack sighs and drops his hand away from Gabe to tuck against his side. “Wherever they send me, I guess,” he replies. It’s a weird thought to think he’s going to be separated from Gabe after over a year spending every day with him. He doesn’t want to be away from the man too long though, and a small part of him hopes that all of the simulations they’ve been out through together will lead to Jack being assigned to Gabe’s group.

Hopefully it’s not wishful thinking.

“I’ll be alright, Gabe,” Jack reassures him when the silence goes for too long. It doesn’t put a smile on Gabe’s face, but it does make his fists unclench and his body droop.

They lie in silence for a bit longer before Jack finally musters up the energy to get out of bed. It only takes a little bit of coercion for Gabe to do the same and soon they’re moving around the room methodically getting ready before heading to the dining room.

There’s only a handful of other military personnel in the room. No Air Force in sight, two Navy, and the rest Marines. It’s not surprising since some of them have dropped out of the program along the way. Brass told them it was due to “conflicting schedules” while the screaming they’d all woken up to in the night says a different story.

Gabe has always told Jack to put it out of his mind. He’s always been more willing to accept the brutalities if necessary.

The others that aren’t there have no doubt already been escorted to their new postings. A marine leaves the room under orders from a stern looking Commander and she looks about as nervous as Jack feels. Gabe exchanges a look with him as they take their seats at their shared table. There’s not much more time left, and Jack can’t help but feel like there’s a clock ticking down somewhere.

Of course what Jack expects and what he gets has never been the same, and sooner than later a woman comes marching into the hall with a pencil skirt and tight lipped face that makes Jack think she’s probably sucked on a lemon.

“Major Reyes,” she calls, her voice cutting through the room. “First Lieutenant Morrison, if you would care to come with me.”

Jack certainly hadn’t anticipated being called together, but he dutifully stands up and falls into step with Gabe. The woman doesn’t say another word as they approach, just turns on her heel and marches from the room. She walks ridiculously fast for how high her heels are, and Jack quickens his steps to not get left behind.

None of them say anything as they walk through the halls, and that makes Jack brim with anticipation. He can see Gabe’s eyes starting to narrow as the silence settles into a tense atmosphere, and Jack hopes that Gabe will keep a lid on his temper. He doesn’t fancy doing damage control today.

They must have easily walked to the other end of the damn compound by the time they turn off into a side room. Gabe is vibrating beside him, with what emotion is anyone’s guess, and even Jack is starting to feel ticked off. The woman hasn’t addressed them once expect for a sharp “keep up” when she took too many turns and they’d both floundered trying to find her.

Once the door of the room they’re in closes though, she breaks the tense atmosphere.

“Take a seat, soldiers,” she instructs as she moves around the room to take a seat behind the large desk. There’s two more chairs in front of the desk, and she waves her hand vaguely at the two before she ignores them for the mountains of files on her desk.

Jack waits patiently for Gabe’s lead, and when Gabe nods he steps forward and settles in the one furthermost from the door. He knows Gabe gets antsy if he’s not in view of the exit, and it doesn’t surprise him when Gabe sits down he sits on the edge.

The woman clearly notices as well as she raises a perfectly manicured eyebrow before turning to appraise them both.

“I’m Under-Secretary-General Gabrielle Adawe,” she introduces herself. “I’m here on behalf of the United Nations to talk to you both about your posting following the completion of this program.”

“And that is?” Gabe jumps in, his voice steely and eyes narrow. Jack watches as Adawe smiles at Gabe’s clear hostility, and he doesn’t like that it’s almost shark like.

“Major Gabriel Reyes,” she says with that smile still on her face. “It says in your file you’re not a very trusting person.” Gabe’s hands tighten into fists but Adawe doesn’t seem fazed as she reaches for one of the files on her desk, flipping it open. “Enlisted at nineteen, been involved in the crisis since. Only twenty-seven years of age and you’re already a Major, impressive. Two distinguished medals under your belt, and it looks like you had a potential promotion coming up as well.” She looks up to quirk her head at him. “Firmly recommended as well by your leading Colonel despite the circumstances around one of those medals. Why is that?”

Jack genuinely feels uncomfortable. He didn’t know that Gabe had medals already, and the way Gabe’s fists are so tight that they’re bone white makes him think Gabe didn’t want anyone to know as well.

“War is hell, Undersecretary,” Gabe snaps, “men have to do things they’re not proud of.”

She nods her head along. “Indeed,” she says. “Have you done many things you’re not proud of, Major?” When Gabe doesn’t reply she sighs and turns back to the file in front of her. “In any case,” she continues into the tense silence, “we allowed Major Beddingworth to take the promotion instead of you. We have much bigger plans for a man such as yourself.”

Gabe lets out a little noise that sounds involuntary, and Jack glances over to see how he’s barely sitting on the chair now. Luckily Adawe seems finished with him. He doesn’t doubt that Gabe would’ve been out of his seat in a moment if she’d continued.

“First Lieutenant Jack Morrison,” she calls, and Jack can feel his hackles start to rise. “Enlisted the same year as Major Reyes, despite being a year younger.” She glances up to raise her eyebrow at him this time. “You must be nineteen to join the military, Morrison, how did you manage to join at eighteen?”

Jack shifts in his seat, noting he hasn’t just got Adawe’s stare on him but also Gabe’s. “There was an attack on Bloomington, ma’am,” he says politely. “Our family farm is only ten minutes or so out of the way so my father and I went to assist. We don’t have much military presence out that way.” He closes his hands into fists a couple of times. Shouldn’t this already be in his file? “When we got there it was just in time. The Omnics had destroyed half of the city. The Major in charge of the platoon instructed us to join in, and with some help of some others we managed to push them back. The Major… well, he knew I wanted to join the military and considering the circumstances and the crisis he got me enlisted on a special recommendation.”

“And why did he know that, Morrison?” she prompts, and Jack glances down at his hands, feeling a flush coming to his face.

“Major Bishop, well now Colonel Bishop, is my Uncle, ma’am.”

He hears Gabe suck in a breath beside him, and he glances over to see him staring straight back at Jack with wide eyes. He also sees Adawe steeple her fingers together on her desk and smile brightly at the two.

“Colonel August Bishop,” she muses, “hmm, isn’t he the Colonel who’s just retired? The one who was replaced by Beddingworth?”

No. No way. Jack stares at Gabe who, despite looking shocked, cracks a small smile.

“Bishop is your uncle?” he asks, and were it not surreal Jack would crack a laugh. He just nods his head though and thinks, yeah, makes sense. He always thought some of Gabe’s moves were a bit familiar. Of course Bishop had taught him them.

“In any case, gentlemen,” Adawe pipes up after a lull where she lets Jack and Gabe have their moment of solidarity. “The reason you’re both here is not a coincidence. The United Nations has been working with certain key members of all facets of the military for quite some time. We helped fund this program in return for each facet providing recommendations on who they believe should be involved in it.” She gives them both a small smile, this one more genuine than sharp. “Colonel Bishop recommended you both. Despite our concerns that he was bias towards you, Morrison, you have proved yourself both prior and within this program. Not many can stand being on the front lines for over a year at such a young age.”

Jack can’t help but think she’s being slightly patronising, but he takes the praise at face value.

“What is this a lead up to?” Gabe asks, back to being steely. “Why are we both here?”

Adawe looks at him for a moment before she reaches down to her desk and pulls out two manila folders. She hands them over to them, and when Jack takes it he’s sees a symbol printed on the front. It’s black and orange, a circle with an arrow in it forming a ‘w’ within the ‘o’.

“Considering both of your histories and skill sets, you will both be moving forward from this program into Overwatch.”

“Never heard of it,” Gabe responds, and Jack watches as he flips the folder over a few times before glaring at Adawe.

She just smiles. “Of course not, you’re the first two members.”

Jack just about swallows his tongue in surprise, and he stares at Adawe in complete shock. Somehow Gabe looks just as neutral as he always does, but Jack can see the signs of his unease through his tapping fingers. Gabe never fidgets unless he’s been completely caught off guard.

“Want to explain more?” Gabe demands, and Adawe purses her lips as she sits back in her chair, fingers steepled once again.

“Reyes, we might need to talk about this attitude problem of yours,” she scolds. “It was mentioned you also have authority problems, but goodness this is a bit excessive.”

“Ma’am,” Jack intervenes before Gabe can open his mouth. “We’re just both a bit tired. It’s been a hell of year, and I think I can speak for all of us in this program when I say we’re all nervous to see what’s next.”

She glances over at him and Jack’s pretty sure there’s something else to her smile. “Of course,” she says, “I can appreciate that.” She sits up a bit straighter and Jack subconsciously follows her lead. “Gentlemen, Overwatch is a new organisation being funded by the United Nations. We’re taking a select group of people with exceptional skills and forming a Strike team to combat the Omnic Crisis, you two included.”

Adawe leans forward to pick up a file herself and flicks it open, gesturing for them to do the same. Jack does so, and he glances down to see a photograph of a woman looking right back.

“Captain Ana Amari,” Adawe says, and Jack flicks up the photo to see a long list of credentials underneath. “Top sniper in the Egypt military. Goes by the callsign “Horus”. Her cybernetic eye has increased her visual accuracy by six, meaning she’s one hell of a shot. Also dabbles in basic medic work,” she glances at Jack meaningfully, “something I think you can also appreciate. She’s been leading the local Cairo militia for the last two years against the Omnic threat, although it’s believed that the end goal is to bridge relations between Omnics and humans, rather than eliminate Omnics entirely.”

She flicks her page over, and Jack follows suit. Beside him he can hear Gabe following suit, but when he glances over it looks like Gabe has sucked on a lemon. He has to hide a small smile as he turns his gaze back to the folder. Underneath Amari is another file, and Jack looks at the large man decked out in even larger armour.

“Lieutenant Reindhart Wilhelm,” Adawe informs them, and Jack glances over to see Gabe also looking at the beast of the man. “The Acting-Leader of the Crusaders, a militia group formed to combat the Omnics. Originally we had organised to have the previous leader Balderich von Adler but unfortunately he was recently KIA. Wilhelm was chosen by Colonel Balderich on his death bed to take his place, and considering the man is a tank in all manner of the word, we agreed. Our only concern stems from initial reports detailing his reckless behaviour. With some steady guidance though, especially with what Colonel Balderich has detailed in his own personal recordings of the Crusaders, I believe he will be exceptional towards our cause.”

Then finally the last file is of a manic looking dwarf who seems to have actually posed for the photo with a turret.

“Torbjörn Lindholm, freelance engineer. Before the crisis he was well known for his weapons systems within the Ironclad Guild, leading to most militaries contracting him for his work. Unfortunately, Lindholm is incredibly anti AI, which put him at heavy odds with all of this employers. Since the Crisis began he has stayed out of the firing line, potentially very resentful to the ignorance regarding his distrust, but considering he had hands in many schematics of the Omnics we are now fighting he has agreed to be part of Overwatch. Lindholm is very useful when it comes to building defences, especially turrets.” Jack glances up to see Adawe cracking a smile. “He does love those turrets.”

“So we have support, tank, defence, and two offence,” Gabe pipes up and Jack glances over to see him glaring at Adawe. “How long have you been planning this?”

Adawe smiles, and it’s only because Jack is looking that he can see the small creases at the corner of her mouth that shows she’s really starting to get tense.

“A long time, Major Reyes,” she responds before gesturing at their folders. “This is the perfect strike team, one that humanity desperately needs.”

Jack nods his head slowly. It makes sense, and frankly he’s won over. It’s not him that matters though, and he waits for Gabe to have the final say. By the looks of it that doesn’t go unnoticed by Adawe.

“And who will be leading this strike team of yours, then?” Gabe asks, and there’s a little less edge to his voice. It seems he’s starting to accept the idea himself.

That shark-like grin is back, and Adawe is directing it straight at Gabe. Jack knows the answer before she opens her mouth.

“Why, Major,” she jeers, “I thought it’d be obvious by now. There’s no one better suited than yourself.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Unsurprisingly, they don’t get along.

Jack thinks that they should’ve seen it the moment the aircraft landed in the SEP Headquarters hanger. The fact the three new members of the Overwatch team came out at separate times, none of them interacting, was a sure sign that they’d have their work cut out for them.

Immediately Wilhelm and Gabe clash. Well, Wilhelm clashes with everyone. He’s loud, boisterous, insubordinate to a painful degree, and knows just how to hit a nerve. Within the first day Jack is forced to separate Gabe and Wilhelm from their third fight, and the beeline Wilhelm makes for Lindholm makes Jack sweat in worry.

Lindholm, on that note, speaks in nothing by Swedish, refusing to acknowledge any of them in English. Jack tries to start a conversation but Lindholm snaps at him with a chorus of obvious swear words before disappearing towards where his workshop will be. He’s lugging a handful of suitcases on a trolley that are bulging with machinery behind him, and Jack doesn’t want to know why Lindholm had to bring his own pieces. Probably the trust issues that his file mentioned.

Amari is the complete opposite, and finding her is difficult over the first week. If she’s not sitting quietly in a corner with her rifle then she’s nowhere to be found. Jack has had experience with snipers before, knows they like to keep hidden, but this is ridiculous.

Meanwhile Gabe is on edge, fidgeting furiously whenever Jack sees him, and constantly chaffing at the bit to go another round with Wilhelm. The only time he seems calm is when they’re tucked away in Jack’s room together, and even then Gabe is a wound up mess who will obviously snap if Jack hits a wrong nerve.

It’s exhausting.

He tries to stay out of the firing line as much as possible, choosing to stick to observing on the side. Gabe is clearly in charge, the obvious Commander, but none of the others respect that. It seems more like a red flag to Wilhelm than anything else, and Lindholm clearly has never reported to any superior before. If Amari were to be found, Jack thinks maybe she’d at least respect Gabe’s rank.

“What the hell was Adawe thinking?” Gabe moans one night as he flops beside Jack, waking him up from his light sleep. He’d been doing self inflicted drills all day to avoid everyone else, but unfortunately it means he’s tired and at his wits end.

“Probably about humanity,” Jack grumbles. “You know. Friends. Family. The greater good.”

“You sound bitter.”

Jack groans as he rolls onto his back and rubs his face. On his left, Gabe is perched up on his elbow looking down at him, the glow from the cracks of the door lighting up his silhouette. He can vaguely see Gabe blinking at him, his brow furrowed, and Jack resists the urge to push him over.

“Not bitter,” Jack eventually replies. “Just... disappointed. This isn’t really working out as well as we all hoped. I knew there’d be some trust building and team work involved but...”

“We’re not getting anywhere with a giant, a ghost, and an angry gnome?”

Jack genuinely has to hold back a laugh, a snort slipping out instead, and in the dark he sees Gabe’s brilliant smile. Angry gnome is the perfect way to describe Lindholm, but wholly unprofessional.

“Gabe,” he scolds, “that’s really not helping our cause. Your fighting keeps adding to the fire.”

Gabe seems suitably chastened as he flops down onto his back. Jack can’t see his face, but does hear his sigh.

“I don’t know what to do, Jack,” he admits quietly, his voice barely above a whisper. “I’m suppose to be their leader, and I can’t see past my own anger. Hell, I barely know anything about them, definitely not enough to start forming a team, and-”

“Just ask,” Jack interrupts, reaching out to grope around for Gabe’s arm. He finds his wrist and gives it a gentle squeeze. Frankly, Jack feels overwhelmed as well, but he can do this. He can do anything for Gabe.

“Help me?”

Jack smiles into the darkness and squeezes Gabe’s wrist again. Out in the hallway he can hear a loud crash followed by a chorus of angry German and bitter Swedish.

Fick dich, kleiner Mann. Und deine Türme auch!”t

Fan tå dig, stor oaf. Jag pissar på din hammare och spottar i ögat!”

“Of course,” he responds, and Gabe’s sigh of relief is almost enough to drown out Jack raging thoughts of this is insane.

In the morning when Jack peeps out the door he sees black scorch marks lining the walls and a turret with a hammer sized dent in it. Deciding those two might still be in less than stellar moods, Jack opts to hunt down Amari first.

It takes the majority of the day, but by mid-afternoon Jack finds himself clambering up on top of the base roof. It’s an ugly sight, all legs and no coordination, and as he heaves himself up and rolls over onto his back, it’s to see Amari sitting in the middle of the roof watching him with a raised eyebrow.

“You may need some practice, jundiin,” she says as soon as he looks at her, and Jack can’t help but flush red and glance away.

“The serum enhanced a lot of things,” he replies, “but unfortunately there’s no cure for clumsiness. Gabe has always been the graceful one out of the two of us.”

She hums in acknowledgment but otherwise doesn’t say anything as Jack approaches her. She does shift a little on the wooden beam she’s perched on so he can sit beside her, but she doesn’t say anything about it. Jack takes it as a positive sign that she’s almost inviting him to sit though, so he does and glances out to where she’s looking.

The whole base can be seen from this one spot. They’re currently on the eastern block, it having been cleared of SEP soldiers for the Overwatch members, and the busy western block that’s designed for other contingencies lies out right in front of them. The connecting hanger a hive of activity, and Jack sees that there’s another plane looking ready to leave. He wonders briefly where it’s heading too.

“Your alijaysh is a lot different from my milishia,” Amari comments after a long silence, and Jack glances over at her with a raised eyebrow. Her voice is heavily accented, but unfortunately he struggles with Spanish, let alone Arabic. She picks up on it though and gives him a strained smile. “Your military, jundiin, is much different from my…”

“Militia?” Jack offers, filling in the spaces, and she looks at him for a moment before nodding.

“Yes, militia,” she agrees. “You are a lot less strict. More of a,” she waves one of her hands vaguely, “jumbled mess than an organised unit.”

“Your militia was the best, wasn’t it?” Jack asks, remembering the footnotes written all through her file. “I heard you’ve defeated many Omnics and almost singlehandedly prevented the Crisis from invading Cairo.”

Amari snorts beside him. “Rumours,” she murmurs, but does give him a smile. “Some are true, some are not. The people of Cairo are safe, jundiin, and that is all I care for.”

“And this?” Jack prompts, taking the opportunity. “This Overwatch idea… do you care for that?”

Al’abalah,” she sighs, and Jack doesn’t know what it means but her tone is the same as when Gabe calls him an idiot in Spanish, “I would not be here if I did not believe in the idea.”

“But…?”

Amari rolls her eyes but smiles. “You are very astute, jundiin. I believe in the cause, and I believe in the organisation, but this group of people,” she pauses to look at him. “I’m not too sure this group of people will work well. You are too young, Reyes too brusque, Wilhelm too obnoxious, and Lindholm…” she smirks, “well, as Reyes said, he’s an angry gnome.”

Jack groans and drops his head to his hands. “Please tell me Lindholm hasn’t heard him say that.”

“No, but Wilhelm has. And Wilhelm has told Lindholm.”

Jack lets out another groan and scrubs his hands over his face. This was going to be a mission to fix, and a nightmare to start sowing the seeds of trust between them. He’ll have to scold Gabe again later and tell him to lay off the angry gnome thing.

“I can’t speak for Lindholm or Wilhelm,” Jack says, “I don’t know them well enough. But I can speak for Gabe.” He drops his hands to link his fingers together and glances over at Amari. “And you’re right, he is brusque. He’s a total ass when he wants be. He can be conceited, stubborn to a fault, self-righteous, terribly insubordinate, and he has a ridiculous temper on him. But he’s also brave, intelligent, loyal, noble, and one hell of a soldier.” He stops to make sure Amari is listening, and she’s giving him another smile that has a little edge to it.

“You truly believe this of our new commander?” she asks, and Jack bites the inside of his cheek as he nods. Her stare is genuinely unsettling, almost hawklike, and he wonders just what she is really thinking.

“I do,” he replies. “I would trust Gabe with my life, and I would hope he would trust me with his. I would like to include you all in this. I speak for not just myself, but Gabe as well when I say that we’re not interested in a mindless assault team. We’re after a group of people ready to look out for each other, ready to help, ready to save this planet.”

“And if this planet doesn’t deserve saving?” Amari asks, and Jack doesn’t falter.

“Then we save each other, because we damn well deserve it after all the shit we’ve been through.”

Amari stares at him, her gaze gradually softening, and Jack refuses to squirm as he maintains eye contact. He doesn’t back down, doesn’t falter. He wholly believes everything he’s said, and he can feel his back straightening as he practically demands Amari to argue with him.

“You know,” Amari says after a moment of silence. “I have a daughter.”

Jack blinks at her, not at all prepared for the sudden change of tone. He opens his mouth to reply with something but Amari seems to pick up on his cluelessness.

“Fareeha,” she continues. “She’s four years old and has a mind of her own. She’s my aibnatu hulwa , but she’s a little jundiin as well. I dread to think that one day she’ll grow up and become one, become part of this horrid lifestyle. But she’s headstrong and full hearted already.”

“Sounds like her mother,” Jack comments quietly, and Amari snorts and glances at him.

“I like you, jundiin,” she ends up saying, smiling at him. “It would be an honour to call you a sadiq.” When he blinks blankly she laughs and reaches over to clap his shoulder. “Friend,” she says, “it would be an honour to call you a friend.”

Sadiq,” Jack repeats, completely butchering the pronunciation, and Amari continues to laugh loudly. Jack flushes for the second time and glances away, but it’s a pleasant warmth that crawls up his neck. A warmth that signals a beginning.

Eventually they move from the roof and Amari departs to find Gabe. She doesn’t tell Jack what she is going to say, but her smile is warmer than it had been when she first arrived, and Jack hopes that she’ll continue her cheer on to his friend. While she goes one way, he goes the other in hopes of finding a certain German.

Wilhelm is easy to find when he puts his mind to it. He listens for the sound of angry yelling and the shaking floor of a hammer, and he finds him in one of the training rooms. It’s utter chaos, training bots littering the ground and Wilhelm’s armour spread through the room like a breadcrumb trail, and Jack is pretty sure that Wilhelm is systematically progressing through the room destroying everything.

But Jack isn’t an idiot, and like Amari said he is rather astute, and he notices the way that Wilhelm is moving. His shoulders are hunched and tight, his head is ducked low, his hold on his hammer is tight enough for his knuckles to be white, and the man’s breath isn’t the hitched of exhaustion, but of a man in despair.

Jack can see a grieving man from a mile off, and this giant is grieving.

“Everything okay?” he calls as he steps into the room, and he thinks better of it the moment he yelps and ducks the sudden hammer swinging for his head. He glances up to see Wilhelm looking down at him with wide eyes, and he immediately backs up.

“My apologies, soldat,” he practically bellows, his accent thicker than Amari’s and Jack really has to focus on his words. “I did not mean to swing for you.”

“I shouldn’t have snuck up on you,” Jack responds as he stands back up and holds his arms out in surrender. There’s no need too, but he feels better as he watches Wilhelm lower the hammer and stare at him. “I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”

“I am wonderful,” Wilhelm says, and the grin on his face is so blatantly fake that Jack is almost offended to think Wilhelm expects him to fall for it. “There is many training bots here for me to test my liebe on. She is a fine weapon, isn’t she?”

Jack looks at the hammer Wilhelm is holding out, and he smiles as he nods. “Indeed,” he agrees. After all, the hammer is rather beautifully crafted. “Did you receive it from your mentor? Balderich?”

The flinch he gets at the name seals it for Jack, and he knows that Wilhelm is definitely grieving for his former mentor. Wilhelm fidgets for a moment before the grin on his face slides into something more tense and tight lipped.

Ja,” Wilhelm says. “I was recruited into the Crusaders a number of years ago, and Kommandant Balderich found me suitable to inherit his own hammer from his youth. She is the liebe meines lebens.”

At this point in the day Jack thinks that he’s going to have to buy an Arabic dictionary and German dictionary to match the Spanish one tucked under his pillow. No doubt when he gets to Lindholm he’ll need a Swedish one.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” he says quietly, stepping closer to Wilhelm so he doesn’t have to raise his voice to be heard over the crackling static of broken bots. Wilhelm’s smile cracks a little bit, and Jack focuses on that as he continues to talk. “I don’t want to say I knew him, after all I only read about him in files and in news articles, saw him on the occasional vid, but he seemed like an amazing Colonel. What he wrote about you… he greatly admired you, Wilhelm.”

Wilhelm’s cracks are growing larger, and his voice shakes when he replies. “That is kind of you to say, soldat, but I fear I may have been a disappointment to him at times.”

Jack snorts and shakes his head, easily gaining Wilhelm’s attention with his rudeness. “I think we’ve all disappointed our superiors at one point or another,” he says with a half-smile. “I was lucky to never really be close to my own superiors. They always relegated me to being the messenger boy due to my age. I had to prove myself twice as hard to even be noticed.” He pauses to reach up and scrub the back of his head. “Gabe’s superior was my Uncle though. It’s almost a certainty that he would’ve disappointed him time and time again. My Uncle is no nonsense, strict enough to put most other commanders to shame, and Gabe…” He laughs. “Gabe is the polar opposite.”

“He is rough around the edges,” Wilhelm agrees. “I see his potential, but he seems reluctant to reach it.”

Jack sighs. Wilhelm has no idea. “Yeah,” he says with a nod, “I think Gabe is terrified of being in charge, and I don’t blame him.” It’s now he takes the chance, determined to bridge the gap between Wilhelm and Gabe. “You would understand that being Acting-Charge of the Crusaders. That crushing fear of failing will ruin a man before they even have the chance to succeed.”

He sees the way Wilhelm frowns for only the briefest of moments. Maybe it’s the first time he’s noticing how similar Gabe and his own positions are. Vastly different in the journey to get there, but the emotions and expectations are just as heavy on each side.

“It is overwhelming,” Wilhelm admits after a long silence. “I lost a freund and Kommandant and the expectation to take over for him is stressful to say the least. I dread to know what it’s like to be in charge of an international organisation such as Overwatch while the Crusaders within Germany alone feels…”

“Like suffocating?” Jack offers, and Wilhelm nods with a sad smile. Jack isn’t quite prepared for the raw honesty, but he appreciates it nonetheless. “I think that Gabe could use help. He won’t listen, he’s terrible at taking advice, but the quiet support he needs. This organisation is being lead by the UN, and god knows what their real agenda is.”

Wilhelm snorts before he surprises Jack by reaching out and clapping him on the shoulder. It just about sends Jack through the floor, but he manages to stay on his feet even as he wobbles dangerously.

“You are loyal, soldat,” Wilhelm tells him, his smile a genuine one this time. There’s still grief there, but there’s also the hard edge of purpose that wasn’t there before and Jack clings to that. “I will consult our Streikführer in the morrow to offer my help, preferably without more confrontation. I will keep in mind your advice, but unfortunately I favour the more forward approach.”

Jack laughs. “I’ll make sure I’m not around,” he chuckles, and Wilhelm guffaws with him. “But thank you, that’s all I ask.”

He doesn’t hang around much longer after that, mainly because he sees Wilhelm’s fingers flexing on the hammer hilt and he knows he’s itching to demolish more bots. After all, Jack has just ripped open a wound with a few select words and changed the man’s perspective.

It’s comforting to know Jack’s not the only one who uses violence on unsuspecting training bots as a form of catharsis.

Lastly is Lindholm, and Jack hunts him down after dinner and feels sweat building up at the nape of his neck the whole way down the corridor to the man’s workshop. The corridor feels like it’s on fire with the amount of steaming billowing out of the workshop, and the occasional explosion followed by Swedish swearing is a little alarming.

Lindholm is weary when he first steps in, demanding something in Swedish that Jack just blinks at. When he doesn’t get a response, Lindholm halts the spinning wheel beside him, drops the ridiculously large piece of metal he’s holding into a bucket that lets out a loud hiss of steam, and turns towards him with a rather bitter look.

“What do you want, dumhuvud?” he snaps bitterly, his voice heavily accented and it’s clear that english doesn’t come to him as easily as the other two. Jack does add that mental note for the Swedish dictionary, if only to make things easier for the man as he adjusts to the english speaking America.

“I wanted to see how you’ve settled in,” Jack says, keeping calm and making sure his voice is slow. Lindholm stares at him hard, and there’s a flash of confusion before the man storms towards him.

“Why?” he snarls, and Jack has to resist the urge to high tail it out of the workshop. In the lighting of the molten room the man in front of him looks like he’s practically glowing. Angry gnome isn’t as scary as an on fire angry gnome.

He takes an internal breath, pulls up his big girl panties, and just lunges straight into it this time with a handful of honesty and a little bit of terror.

“Because we’re a team,” he replies calmly. “Unfortunately we’ve not been acting as one for the last week, and it’s about time someone hauled their ass down here and got the run down on your turrets. No point in having the best engineer in the world and not knowing a damn thing about him.”

Lindholm, and this surprises Jack more than anything else so far today, stares at him for a long long moment before breaking out into a brilliant smile.

soldat!” he cries, throwing his hands in the air before gesturing behind him at the smouldering room. “Come! Come look at my vacker maskin!” He doesn’t wait for Jack to reply before hauling him over towards what looks like a half made turret in the corner, already ranting away.

Most of his speech is a spewed mess of broken english and clear Swedish. Jack struggles to keep up, but Lindholm makes up for it by using his hands for most of his explaining. Jack clicks on pretty quickly when he notices how Lindholm lights up with the more questions Jack asks him, and he steadily gets more animated until the angry gnome is nowhere in sight.

So Jack gets it pretty quickly. In front of him is a bitter man, granted, but in front of him is also a man who has been a continual outcast. Undoubtedly his size would never have worked in his favour, which makes Jack furious to think about, but also the man is a genius. Lindholm walks him through so many turrets and defence systems that Jack thinks the world is lucky Lindholm is a decent person. In the wrong hands this could do so much damage.

By the end of their talk, Lindholm is jostling Jack around good-naturedly. He’s still calling him soldat, no matter how much Jack insists he call him something other than soldier, but Lindholm just smiles and shakes his head. He’s a genuine person, someone who loves his machines and loves his turrets, and this isn’t someone that Jack can convince to speak to Gabe first.

No. Gabe is going to have to approach Lindholm himself, and with a handful of questions and some genuine interest Jack thinks the team is going to be well under way.

 

 

Chapter Text

Their first mission together is a total disaster.

They’ve come a long way since they first got together. Gabe had listened to Jack and actually approached the others, and Jack had hauled his ass to the local bookstore to accumulate various dictionaries and guides. Within a matter of days, there was a compulsory team building night two times a week where Jack would slam a guide down and insist they do something from each of their countries.

Gabe had eyed the Spanish guides with a raised eyebrow, insisting he was a born American, but Jack politely informed him if he was going to act like an asshole and swear at them all in violent Spanish and nothing else then they were going to treat him as one for the two evenings every week. There were no arguments after that.

In retaliation, it seemed the other four had all mutually agreed to continue addressing Jack as ‘soldier’ in their individual languages. Jack soon got used to responding to soldat, jundiin, and soldado even though each time it made him grit his teeth and grunt out his name is Morrison, or Jack if they can’t struggle through that.

Gabe thinks it’s hilarious, and it’s typical that he uses Jack’s suffering to bond with Wilhelm.

But despite the trust building between them, the training exercises that Gabe forces them to do religiously, and the generally pleasant atmosphere instead of sheer hostility, it’s still not enough to help when the damn base is attacked.

Jack’s woken up in the middle of the night by a loud bang, something he vaguely registers as an explosion, and when he blinks open his eyes it’s to see Gabe lurching up and settling into a crouch beside him. Immediately Jack responds in the same way, rolling to his knees and steadying his hands on the floor in case of the need for a quick rise to his feet.

“What’s happening?” he demands, straining his ears as he listens for another explosion. There’s nothing though, and he wonders briefly if it’s Lindholm at it again, but the sheer tension radiating from Gabe makes him think otherwise.

“I don’t know,” Gabe hisses back, and Jack is thankful for the enhancement of their vision so he doesn’t have to strain to see the other in the dark. Gabe’s hands are twitching, and Jack watches as he slips it beneath his pillow and pulls out one of his shotguns. “That wasn’t Lindholm, though. It came from the hanger. Lindholm is on the other side of the building.”

“Maybe he’s testing?” Jack asks, but it’s more just for a second view rather than a serious suggestion. They all know Lindholm has claimed more space to test his inventions, he doesn’t need the hanger.

Gabe doesn’t dignify him with a response, just pushes up from the ground and strides across the room. Jack stands up in time to catch his pulse rifle and a pair of combat pants as Gabe throws them at him, and he hurriedly shoves them on before heading for his boots. Gabe meets him at the door with his shotguns ready and loaded, and Jack nods at him to know he’s ready.

They don’t have time to push open the door though as it suddenly smashes open, and they barely have time to step back from the wide swing before Lindholm and Wilhelm come piling through.

“Wasn’t me,” Lindholm immediately says, and the man is covered head to toe in grease and smells like cooked human. Jack doesn’t want to know what he’s been up to, but there’s about three ready-made turret packs in his arms, his rivet gun stuck to his hip, and a rather crazed look in his eye.

“Amari has gone to scout out the situation,” Wilhelm informs them, standing up straight. He’s less prepared looking than Lindholm, only in his sleeping clothes like Gabe and Jack, but his hammer is slung over his shoulder. “She wouldn’t wait to report to you first, but she does have her earpiece and comm on her.”

Gabe hisses a swear under his breath but just shakes his head. “We gotta communicate better,” he mutters. “It’s fine, I’ll let it go this once. Lets get our gear sorted and get in contact with her.”

Jack’s already grabbed their comms from the table behind them, and he holds them out when Gabe turns to him. He gets a smile as Gabe takes them and sticks the earpieces in, already fidgeting with the comm to get onto the right line. Jack does the same, and he can see Lindholm and Wilhelm shuffling in place nervously as they wait.

“Amari,” Gabe snaps as soon as the earpiece and comm line is set. “What’s your status?”

There’s a crackling in Jack's ear for a moment before Amari’s voice comes over the line. She sounds breathless and a little worried, and Jack doesn’t like the idea of Amari being flustered.

I’m just outside of the hanger. There’s a group of humanoid Omnics that are attempting to blow open the hanger doors, and by the looks of it, the east wing is under attack by Bastion’s. The explosion we heard must’ve come from there.

“How many are there?”

Easily seventy humanoids, maybe more in the east wing with the Bastion’s. There’s… there’s not many other personnel I can see, Reyes. Only Omnics.”

Gabe shares a glance with Jack, and Jack doesn’t envy Gabe’s next decision. Get them out, or try fight back?

“Amari, retreat,” he orders after a hesitant moment. “There’s too many for us, and I can’t count we’re going to have backup. We’re gonna have to get out of here and report before we make any decisions on fighting back.”

Amari replies with an uncertain affirmative, but her end of the line starts to crackle with the sound of movement before it clicks off. Jack lets out a relieved breath to know she’s listening and coming back, but the thought of being overrun by Omnic’s knocks the relief away pretty quick.

“There’s a problem,” Wilhelm pipes up after a moment, and Jack almost swears loudly because of course there is.

“What?” Gabe demands. He’s tenser than normal, and Jack knows it’s because of the prospect of having to fight with a team that still has arguments over pizza toppings let alone their approach to assaults.

Wilhelm looks nervous, clearly picking up on Gabe’s anger, and he shifts about before finally spitting it out. “My armour,” he says. “We can’t leave without it. It’s still in the hanger waiting for Lindholm to repair it.”

“Why the hell is it in the hanger? It’s never in the hanger!” Jack almost yells, completely shocked and yet not overly surprised.

Wilhelm seems unimpressed at Jack’s response, and he points an accusing hand over at Lindholm. “ Kleiner mann could damage it in that workshop of his,” he explains roughly. “I wouldn’t risk my armour being ruined by one of his beschissene türme.”

“Shitty towers?” Lindholm practically screeches, and Jack has to hold back a groan. “Fan tå dig, pig man! Your armour is nothing compared to my vacker maskin-

Meirda, shut up!” Gabe roars, yelling over the two before their bickering can really start. Luckily the two fall silent and Jack wonders briefly if Gabe is about to have an aneurysm or something with the vein start to pop in his forehead. “Look, we can’t leave Wilhelm’s armour here-”

Danke.”

“-least the bloody Omnic’s get it and shove some AI into it or whatever.” Gabe scrubs a hand over his face and glances over at Jack, who tries to look supportive but probably just looks exhausted. “We go to the hanger, we find Wilhelm’s armour, and then we get the hell out of here. We don’t engage unless necessary, we sure as hell watch each other's backs, and for the love of god you all listen to me.”

Wilhelm and Lindholm both look suitably chastened and they just nod their heads, and the comm line must’ve been open as Amari comes crackling over with her affirmative. Jack just reaches out and places a hand on Gabe’s shoulder and gives it a tight squeeze.

“Absolutely, sir,” he says, meaning it with all sincerity but Gabe just gives him an irritated look.

“Drop the sir, pendejo,” Gabe mutters, but there’s no heat in his voice. He reaches over to nudge Jack lightly in return before pushing Wilhelm and Lindholm out of the way and filing out into the hall. Jack goes to follow but pauses once to grab a biotic emitter to tuck in his boot.

With this team? He has no doubt they’re gonna need it.

They meet up with Amari a few corridors away from the hanger. She looks tired and drawn out, and there’s a few scrapes on her hands that shows she’s been scaling the outside walls. Jack takes her hands to look over gently as Gabe gives them all another quick rundown on his plan.

It’s agreed that when they get to the corridor leading into the hanger that Amari and Lindholm will take the nearby stairwell to the catwalks above. By the time they get access to the hanger there will no doubt be a few Omnic’s starting to trickle in, so if Amari keeps watch and Lindholm plants a few of his turrets then the cover fire should be enough for Gabe and Jack to escort Wilhelm in to retrieve his armour.

Jack eyes his pulse rifle, Gabe’s shotguns, and Wilhelm’s hammer, and honestly hopes that Amari and Lindholm will give them some bloody good cover fire.

They don’t waste any more time as they jog down the hallways, warming up as they go. There’s no point hamming into a battle with cold limbs. The same damn principle as exercise, and Jack can feel the nerves starting to fire through him as they jog. Gabe is the perfect picture of relaxed, and Jack envies him.

Amari and Lindholm split off, Amari flying effortlessly up the stairs while Lindholm clambers behind her grumbling under his breath. Gabe makes a comment under his breath about ‘angry gnome’ that has Jack snorting and Wilhelm barking out a laugh, but otherwise they remain quiet as they wait for Amari’s next round of intel.

They’ve broken into the hanger,” Amari says through the comm after a long few minutes that has Jack practically vibrating with nerves. “There’s not many, only about twelve. It looks like they haven’t managed to open the doors enough to let them all in.”

“And Wilhelm’s armour?” Gabe asks, and there’s a tsking on the other side as Amari looks.

Found it. Not far from the door you’re at. Maybe twenty meters. The Omnic’s are heading over that way, so I suggest moving quickly. Lindholm is setting up his turrets now.”

Gabe grunts an acknowledgment before he turns to Jack and Wilhelm. Jack straightens his back and hoists his rifle as he waits, and Gabe doesn’t say a word but merely nods before walking towards the doors. He lies his hand flat and turns back to them and when both nod he takes a deep breath and pushes open one of the doors.

There’s no sudden rain of bullets, and Jack thinks they’re damn lucky as they slip in. Amari is right, the armour is only a few meters away tucked in a glass casing, but there’s also a small group of Omnic’s making their way over as well. Jack slips in to follow Gabe as they creep along the back wall, using the crates and shipping containers as cover. Wilhelm lumbers behind them, a little less subtle, but he manages to stay out of sight and keep as quiet as possible.

They’re close enough to almost be breathing on the Omnic’s though when it all goes to shit, and Jack has half a mind to rip Wilhelm apart if they get out of this alive.

The glass case the armour is in is suddenly shattered by one of the larger Omnic’s, and as soon as it crashes to the ground the others swarm forward to start picking up pieces. Jack can feel Wilhelm starting to tense behind him, and he hisses a warning to Gabe that falls flat as suddenly one of the Omnic’s rips the chest plate nearly in half and Wilhelm roars.

He doesn’t listen as both Jack and Gabe yell out, just vaults over the crate he was behind and charges towards the group of Omnic’s with his hammer swinging. Jack swears at the same time as Gabe and they both tear out from behind their cover with their weapons raised. There’s not much they can do though with Wilhelm’s hulking mass in the way, and they just have to settle for rushing in for closer combat.

The cracking noise of a sniper goes off though, and somewhere above them Jack knows Amari is. In his earpiece he can hear some muffled Arabic, but he pays no mind as he sticks to Gabe and hauls ass. All of Omnic’s are well aware of their presence now, and Jack spots the rest of the Omnic group that is over by the ruined bay doors starting to turn their way.

“Lindholm,” Jack practically yells into the comm line. “Please tell me your turrets are running?”

The only response he gets is a loud cackling from the rafters and the sudden spew of bullets as the token noise of turrets rattling starts up. Jack almost praises him in relief, but focuses instead on slamming into the nearest Omnic and firing at it from point blank range.

Gabe is right beside him doing the same, easily falling into place against Jack’s back, and they spin around to try cut down the Omnic’s as Wilhelm smashes them aside to get to his armour. He’s not killing them though, and the moment they’re on the ground they’re crawling back up to go for round two. Jack wants to yell at Wilhelm, but he knows the asshole won’t listen with the sheer determination in him at the moment.

“Amari!” Gabe bellows, not needing to be so loud but clearly trying to hear himself over the sound of thunderous bullets and screeching Omnic’s. “How many?”

Too many, Reyes!” Amari yells back, her teeth clearly gritted with how tense her voice is. “They’re all coming through! We haven’t got enough weapons to focus on you and the door. Lindholm is trying to organise a second turret but it will take time!

“Focus on us! If we can get the armour we can get Wilhelm’s shield. That should provide us with cover to retreat-” Gabe cuts off with a harsh yelp, and Jack glances over to see him stagger with an Omnic standing beside him with a bloodied knife. Jack swears and lunges, slamming the butt of his rifle into the Omnic’s chest and moves for Gabe to swing his shotgun up and blow it across the room.

“Fucking hell,” Jack swears, panting slightly as he slides away to slam his boot into an Omnic and fire at another.

“You can say that again,” Gabe mutters, rolling his shoulder that’s bleeding a bright red before swinging back into the fray.

There’s more than the original twelve or so. Clearly, the Omnic’s from the door are racing towards their group, and Jack is finding it hard to find a spare gap that’s not being taken up with an Omnic. They’re not the fighting kind of Omnic’s. They’re too skinny and short, more humanoid than anything else, but they’re reckless and armed with knives and pistols that can do damage if they’re not careful.

Wilhelm manages to swing through and start collecting up his armour, and Jack moves closer to his back to watch it as the man quickly starts to pile it on. Gabe is only a few seconds behind him, but it’s enough time for Jack’s back to be exposed.

He can feel the knife slip into his side, only scraping the outer flesh, but it hurts enough that he yells out as he swings his rifle around. It meets air though as he sees the Omnic get blasted away, and Gabe is suddenly right there with a white face and an angry expression.

“Alright?” he demands.

Honestly, he’s not. It hurts and Jack is aching from the vibrations caused from hitting and kicking sheer metal people, but he won’t tell Gabe that when the man is watching him with a bloodied shoulder and no doubt the same aches.

“Never better,” he lies before swinging around to go for another Omnic. He runs out of ammunition pretty quickly, and he doesn’t have the time to grab the magazine from his pocket to reload so he aims for melee instead. He sees Gabe run out himself and he just throws his shotguns point-blank at the Omnic’s before dragging two more out of the waistband of his pants.

There’s just so damn many, and Jack doesn’t know if he’s relieved or terrified when he hears the crackling of the comm and Amari comes through.

Don’t panic,” she says, “Lindholm has his turret ready and aiming at you. It can pick up heat signatures so it won’t hurt you, but be prepared for the bullets.”

“What the fuck, Amari?” Jack can’t help but yell, but it’s drowned out by the sudden barrage of bullets raining down around him. He immediately freezes, seeing Gabe do the same. Behind him, Wilhelm is still gathering his armour to put on, and Jack has half a mind to lunge over and stop the crazy bastard but is genuinely too scared to move.

It stops almost as quickly as it started though, and Jack glances over to see the Omnic’s outside of a twenty meters radius have stopped and started looking at the roof. Beside him, he can hear Gabe mutter a warning into the comm, but he doesn’t pay attention as he hurriedly reloads his rifle and checks on Wilhelm.

It’s only because he’s watching Wilhelm snap the last piece of his armour into place that he doesn’t see the Omnic below him move, and he feels a sudden pressure as the Omnic wraps a hand around his right ankle and squeezes. He feels his bones creak beneath his leather boots, and he lets out a startled yelp and rips his foot out of the Omnic’s grip to slam it down on the Omnic’s head.

The pain in his ankle increases twice-fold, and Jack has a sickening feeling he’s cracked the bone. He places it down on the ground and almost crumbles under the pain, but grits his teeth as he looks over at Gabe.

“Can we go now?” he snaps, and Gabe’s eyes drop to his foot before glancing at Wilhelm.

Wilhelm is the one that replies though, and he steps forward between Gabe and Jack with a large grin on his face. “Fear not, genosse,” he says to Jack, “my shield will assist us.”

His shield bursts forward from his arm gauntlet, and the moment it flickers its brilliant blue the Omnic’s across from them open fire. None of the bullets hit them, only pelt against the shield, and Jack lets out a sigh of relief as he hobbles to a nearby crate and slides to the floor.

Gabe is beside him in an instant, Wilhelm slowly backing up, and Gabe reaches out to touch his ankle. Jack hisses, already feeling its tenderness, and Gabe sighs.

“Did you bring an emitter?” he asks, already reaching out for Jack’s other boot where it’s blatantly showing. He pulls it out and gets ready to slam it to the ground, but he’s stopped as Wilhelm lets out a shout and they glance up to see half the group of Omnic’s charging.

Gabe swears and shoves the emitter into Jack’s hands before standing up with his shotguns out. He starts firing immediately, his face one of concentration, and Jack shoves the emitter back into his boot to struggle to his feet and pull out his rifle, hurriedly shoving a new magazine in it as he goes.

Wilhelm has dropped the shield now and is swinging with purpose at the Omnic’s. He’s protected with his armour, and Jack is envious as he stands with Gabe with both only clad in their now bloodied sleeping clothes. Gabe is especially looking worse for wear, and Jack notes the blood on his shoulder, the scorch markings on his shirt, and the way he’s heavily leaning on his left foot. Jack grits his teeth as he looks away in time to see bullets rain from the rafters from two different turrets with the occasional telltale sniper beam following amongst them.

“Gabe…” he starts to say, focusing a bit much on the sniper beam and if he’s not mistaken he thinks he sees a few Omnic’s doing the same. “Amari-”

“I know,” Gabe cuts him off, and he starts to bark into the comm line, momentarily distracted. It’s perfect timing for two nearby Omnic’s to charge forward, and Jack bites down hard on his cheek to ground him through the pain as he limps between Gabe and the two.

One immediately swings for Jack, holding a large carving knife, and Jack dodges the blow to bring his rifle up. It hits the Omnic in the chin, sending it tumbling, but it distracts him from the second as it throws itself forward to land a hard blow against Jack’s solar plexus. He stumbles himself, feeling the wind knocked out of him, and he gasps for breath in the time it takes for the Omnic to rear back and land another blow to his cheek.

His ankle barely supports him, and he swears through the pain as he heaves his weight onto his left foot and aims his rifle at the offending Omnic. He swings wildly, watching as the Omnic backs out of his range, and as he swings the rifle he slips his hand down to wrap around the trigger. He shoots the one on the ground, hearing the thankful clunk of the Omnic crashing to the ground again.

The one standing lets out a chilling noise, a cross between a harsh beep and deranged scream, and Jack flinches at it before parrying the Omnic’s fist with his forearm. His arm aches immediately, and he grits his teeth once more as he watches the other fist come up.

He doesn’t have time to block that one, so he takes the blow to his face and rolls with it. His face erupts into pain, and he feels the trickle of blood on his cheek from the cut the metal hand no doubt made. He’s bitten his tongue too, the swollen muscle aching along with everything else, and he tries to take a deep breath to calm himself.

It works just enough to steady him as he rolls back from the blow and uses both hands to slam the side of his rifle into the Omnic’s head. He hears the crunch of metal as the Omnic’s faceplate crumbles, and he doesn’t wait as he slides his hand back down the rifle and presses the muzzle straight to the Omnic’s face before firing.

It crumbles to the ground, and Jack just about goes down with it if it wasn’t for Gabe suddenly swooping in beside him to catch him by the waist.

Meirda, Jack,” Gabe swears as he starts to lower him to the ground. Around them is the glowing blue of Wilhelm’s shield back up, and Jack is thankful for the reprieve. “You’re getting your ass kicked.”

Jack rolls his head to look up at Gabe who’s face is pretty damn swollen and there’s a trail of blood in the corner of his mouth. “Speak for yourself,” he mutters, and god, he feels like he’s been hit by a freight train. “Where’s Amari?”

Gabe shifts them enough to get them at least mildly comfortable as they just hold their ground for a moment. “On her way down. Lindholm is at the doors already waiting for us. Apparently, the Bastion’s from the east wing are on their way over. We gotta move.”

Jack rolls his head to see Lindholm is in fact by the doors. His rivet gun is out and he’s inching his way towards them, obviously not keen on just waiting for them to get to him. He’s not that far away at all, and Jack thinks that some more cover to get them out of here is a fantastic idea.

“Come on,” Gabe says after a tense moment, “we need that emitter to get you out of here. You’re a bloody mess-”

He’s cut off by Wilhelm and Lindholm’s sudden screams of “Amari!” and Jack glances up in time to watch in horror as Amari appears on the edge of one of the catwalks only to be fucking shot by a lucky Omnic. Jack can’t stop his hitched gasp as Amari staggers, sways, then promptly pitches off the fucking edge.

“Holy fuck,” he swears, starting to stagger to his feet. Wilhelm is letting out a battle-cry, and Lindholm is tearing across the gap between them all. Gabe is yelling out orders, commanding Wilhelm to stay put and all but screeching at Lindholm, but neither will listen as they tear forward.

“Jack! Your emitter!” Gabe is yelling, “Wilhelm, stop! You’ll leave us unprotected!”

Jack stares at them all as he scrabbles for the emitter. His hands are shaking and he can see Wilhelm listening but getting antsy, his focus clearly not on the Omnic’s around them but Amari’s crumpled body across the way.

“Come on, Jack! We need to get you up!” Gabe shouts in his ear, shocking Jack enough he stuffs the emitter into Gabe’s hands. He realises what’s happening though when Gabe fidgets with the emitter, glancing over to Amari briefly with a wild look before he turns back to Jack. He’s about to slam it down when Jack reaches out and covers it with his own hand.

“No!” he calls over the ruckus and the blood rushing in his ears. “Get Lindholm to get it to Amari! We’ll keep them distracted as we move out and he can use it on her!”

“Jack-”

“She could be dying, Gabe, if not dead! I’ll be okay, but Amari…” he trails off and pleads with Gabe with his eyes, and he sees the conflict Gabe clearly has before he lets out an angry yell and turns to Lindholm.

“Get to Amari,” he orders as he stuffs the emitter into Lindholm’s hands. “Stabilise her as much as possible then haul your asses out of here. There’s another exit on the right wall near her that should lead you outside. We’ll keep them distracted as long as we can until we see you moving. We’ll meet you by the tree line at the back of the west quarters, got it?”

Lindholm blinks at him for a moment, and Jack dreads the thought that their language barriers are kicking in at the wrong damn time, but then Lindholm is nodding and tearing off behind the crates towards Amari. Gabe lets out a sigh of relief before he’s turning back to Jack and without a word he’s hauling him up and shoving his shoulder under Jack’s armpit.

“Tell me you can shoot that thing one handed,” Gabe grumbles, and Jack barks out a hysterical laugh before reshuffling his rifle and aiming it past Wilhelm’s shield. There’s not as many Omnic’s now, the onslaught lessening. There’s still enough to overwhelm them, but they’re spread out and clearly not organised. Maybe they didn’t expect this type of resistance? It would make sense since it’s only been humanoids so far and they’re not the heavy hitters like the Bastion’s or, god forbid, a Titan.

Jack struggles at first to balance the rifle properly, but he makes do as he fires what’s left of his clip into the horde of Omnic’s and starts a painful shuffle back to the door they came in. Wilhelm is slowly moving with them, his shield the biggest cover they have, and surprisingly in his hand is one of Gabe’s shotguns. His hammer is strapped to his back and he handles the gun awkwardly, but it’s better than nothing.

Over the way, Jack can see Lindholm firing his rivet gun as he stands over Amari with the emitter beaming. She doesn’t look like she’s moving, still just a crumpled mess on the floor. Jack focuses his fire on the Omnic’s closest to them, and it pays off when the emitter clicks off and Lindholm bends down to scoop her up over his shoulder and disappears into the shadows of the hanger.

“Let's go,” Gabe commands the moment he sees them go, and Jack agrees as he lays down cover fire and hobbles as fast as he can to the door. Wilhelm backs back with them, moving just as slowly as they are, and it takes them until the end of both of their weapon’s clips to get them to the hanger door.

Gabe drags Jack closer to the wall, and he waits until Wilhelm is through the doorway before he reaches over and slams a hand down on the control panel before hitting a massive red button.

The door slides shut before another armoured door comes bolting down over top and there’s the sudden noise of alarms starting to go off in the building followed by flashing red lights. Jack feels a sense of dread come over him, not realising they’d forgotten about the alarm, and he turns to stare at Gabe in shock.

“Hopefully whoever is left can get out,” Gabe murmurs, and he doesn’t wait for Jack to say a word before he’s crouching and slinging Jack over his shoulder. Jack lets out a startled yelp, and, despite his pride beating at him to demand Gabe to let him go, he knows this is realistically the best way to get out of here.

So he lets Gabe carry him, and he grips his rifle tight as he hangs over Gabe’s shoulder in a fireman hold as Wilhelm pounds down the hallway after them.

They’re only a couple of corridors away from freedom before there’s a sudden explosion that rocks the building. It’s massive, much larger than anything Lindholm has ever done, and Gabe stumbles hard enough that Jack clings to his waist and grits his teeth. Behind them Wilhelm swears, and when jack glances up its to see him teeter despite his stabilising armour. It’s not the only detonation though, and soon amongst the flashing red and blearing noises, there’s the constant sound of explosions.

Jack has half a mind to insist that Gabe leave him behind, after all he is slowing them down, but he knows that he’ll just get an earful of Gabe’s bitching. So he just holds on and grips his rifle as tightly as he can. He can smell the acrid smell of smoke starting to filter through, and out of the corner of his eye he can see a thick layer of smog starting to build along the roof.

“Move faster, Streikführer,” Wilhelm bellows. His voice sounds raw, and Jack knows it’s from the smoke. Even he is starting to feel it filtering into his lungs, and he hopes that Gabe is okay. The man is starting to falter a little with each step, exhaustion starting to settle in, and Jack pulls up a mental map to figure out just how far they are from the exit.

They’re all starting to cough and gag when they finally break out of the building, stumbling for the tree line and Jack can feel Gabe’s hold on his start to loosen as he starts to slide through his grip. He’s not surprised when they hit the bushes that Gabe lets go, dropping him to the ground, and he tucks his head as he goes down with a grunt and flash of pain.

“Fuck, Jack, Meirda, I’m sorry,” Gabe is immediately apologising through his ragged coughing, but Jack waves him off as he rolls to his side and starts to cough out a lung. Wilhelm has dropped to a crouch beside him, his large hand rubbing Jack’s back, and when Jack glances up he sees Wilhelm’s face is covered in soot and he looks miserable.

Looking behind him he feels utterly horrified as he sees the building… the place he’s called home for well over a year is completely ablaze. There are still explosions going off, mainly towards the east wing and hanger now, but the west wing is burning so bright that Jack can feel the heat where they sit.

“Lindholm?” he croaks out, his throat feeling like sandpaper, and Gabe kneels beside him to help him sit up. “Where are Lindholm and Amari?”

Gabe shakes his head, worry written all over his face. “I don’t know,” he says, and it sounds like it pains him to admit. “Lindholm hasn’t checked in. I can’t reach him over the comms. I’ve given him our position but…”

Gabe trails off and Jack has a sinking feeling as another explosion ricochets through the night. The thought of Amari and Lindholm being caught in one makes him feel a bubbling panic under his skin. He tries to struggle to his feet, ignoring the sheer agony radiating from his ankle as he does so, but it can’t even hold whatever weight it was holding before.

He feels useless and it’s an awful feeling. He can’t do anything but sit with Gabe and Wilhelm hidden behind the bushes and just wait and watch and it’s so despairing that he feels physically ill. Gabe reaches out to him, noting his distress, and Jack feels his warm weight settle along his side. He leans in close and watches as Wilhelm struggles for a moment before succumbing as well and crashes on Jack’s other side.

They wait, they sit and wait and it’s frustrating. They’ve no way to contact anyone, their small personal comms not able to reach outside of their own line, and the dread that Lindholm and Amari won’t come back is thick in the air.

But then it happens, and all three stiffen as the bushes behind them rustle horrendously before a battered and bruised Lindholm crashes through with an unconscious Amari hauled over his back.

He barely has time to put her down before Wilhelm is flinging himself towards him and wrapping them both up in a giant hug.

Du schöner bastard ,” he cries, and Lindholm looks suitable confused as Wilhelm practically swings him around. Gabe is on his feet in a flash and extracting Amari from the mess of brawny men, and Jack watches as he slowly lowers her to the ground in front of him.

She looks a mess, probably worse than them all put together. She’s definitely got some broken bones, at least an arm and a leg with the awkward angles they’re poking out at, and there’s blood crusting in her hair and bruises already starting to break out beneath the blood and soot. Her skin is clearly not as tough as Lindholm’s, who are clearly used to forge heat, and there are various burns littering her skin that are starting to blister.

“We got caught up in the explosions,” Lindholm says when he breaks away from the overwhelmed Wilhelm and sinks to the ground beside Jack. “Whatever the emitter did to help has kept her alive, but we need to get her some medical attention.”

“I will go,” Wilhelm suddenly pipes up, shouldering his hammer, but Gabe reaches out and shoves it hard enough that Wilhelm almost drops it.

“No,” he says sternly, and Jack can see how uncomfortable he is having to make this decision. “No. We do what we can for her now but we can’t move. If one of us splits off to find help and gets ambushed then we can’t help you. We’re all too exhausted and two of us need a hospital. We stay, and we wait, and Meirda, we pray.”

Wilhelm looks chastened, but he doesn’t argue as he resignedly sinks down beside Lindholm and pulls Amari’s head into his lap to ensure her airways are open. Jack doesn’t think he wants to know what condition her lungs are in if Lindholm is having a fit. After a hesitant moment, Gabe joins them, sliding in beside Jack again and taking his weight, and all four conscious members let out deep sighs.

There’s nothing they can do until help arrives, and Jack feels exhaustion seep into his bones he watches the buildings burn around them.

 

 

Chapter Text

During their recovery, Jack makes a rule that they all have to speak English.

It’s the only common tongue between them all, and frankly, he’s tired of being in a room with four others all screeching at each other in Spanish, Arabic, German, and Swedish. He can’t read his dictionaries fast enough to keep up with them all, and at this point, he genuinely doesn’t want to.

Gabe backs him up immediately and slams down on the English thing. There’s still the occasional word like normal, but now the long rants in aggressive Swedish or loud German have trailed to a zilch.

The medical ward they’ve all be confined to becomes much quieter after that, and Jack can finally hear himself think. Amari and himself have a bed each tucked away with Amari hooked up to wires and covered in casts, while Jack lacks the casts but has a horrendous amount of bandages. When the other three had been informed by Adawe that they were to be confined to their own barracks away from the medical ward they kicked up a phenomenal fuss that had Adawe’s usual perfect composure starting to show cracks before she agreed they could stay together.

Jack’s pretty sure Gabe did that on purpose, but Lindholm and Wilhelm seem more than determined to stay with them.

Unfortunately, none of them thought about the fact that they haven’t been confined in a small space for over twenty-four hours before, and within twelve they’d started to snap at each other's throats.

Surprisingly Amari is the main culprit though. Jack chalks it up to her being confined to her bed and in a lot more pain than anyone else. He takes the time after realising that to ask about Fareeha, and when everyone clicks that she’s a lot more approachable when talking about her daughter, Fareeha becomes one of the most well talked about topics.

Adawe has them confined for two weeks before she lets them out. They don’t even get a reason for their confinement until then, no matter how long Gabe has spent braying at the door and demanding answers. Adawe is reluctant to even see them, and then one day she walks in like nothing is wrong and sits them all down with a withering look.

“I don’t know how you managed it.” she says as her way of greeting, “but somehow you managed to destroy over forty Omnics alone with only a few weapons and no armour. This is why you were all chosen. To see you in the field with full back up available and proper resources, you’ll be unstoppable.”

Jack doesn’t really care about being unstoppable at the moment, and it looks like no one else does either as they all glare at her and wait for answers.

She pauses before continuing on, glancing at the door briefly as she moves further into the room. She perches on the edge of a spare sheet. As usual, she’s carrying a horrendous amount of folders, and she fiddles with the corner of one as she shoots glances between them all and the door. Jack’s never seen her this ruffled, and it automatically has him on edge.

“We’re not sure yet how this happened,” she says after a careful moment, her voice low. “Your headquarters was top secret, need to know only. There were only five of us in total who knew where you were, and I was the only one in regular contact with you. Colonel Bishop and I are actively trying to figure out if one of them is a mole, or if there was an information slip by accident.” Adawe hesitates and looks over at Gabe. “I give you my sincere apologies, Strike Commander Reyes, although I commend you on your quick thinking and leadership skills.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my team,” Gabe responds harshly from where he’s sitting beside Jack’s bed. Jack reaches out subtly and places a hand on his lower back, feeling the tension burning there and hoping Gabe will relax a little knowing he has support.

“Of course.” Adawe smiles and it looks so fake Jack cringes. At least she’s back now instead of nervous Adawe she was before. “Still, it’s good to see you have come together cohesively. With our investigation underway, I can finally allow you to leave this medical wing and begin exploring the rest of the camp. I advise you don’t tell anyone who you are though until we locate the gap in our security, and I especially advise, Morrison and Amari, that you remain in bed until the doctor’s clear you for light duties.”

“Like hell,” Jack hears Amari mutter, and he smothers a laugh.

“Once we have the all clear, we will be sending you to the front-lines,” Adawe continues, and it’s only the pinching of her eyebrows that shows she heard Amari. “There is currently an uprising beginning in Greece with a group of Omnic Extremists. We’ve been keeping an eye on it for weeks now, but it’s beginning to escalate.”

“Escalate how?” Gabe asks on everyone's behalf.

Adawe gives him another one of her no-humour tight-lipped smiles. “We’re beginning to keep a body count, Commander,” she says, and Jack sucks in a tight breath. “I would suggest everyone rests up quickly so we can get you out as soon as possible. We’re currently in triple digits, and I would hate for it to become more.”

Jack genuinely hates her callousness, and the look on Wilhelm’s face makes him wonder if he’s going to have to push Gabe to intervene, lest Wilhelm straight out murders Adawe. He sees Amari has a tight hold on Wilhelm’s forearm though, and Lindholm has casually angled his chair so it’ll form some sort of obstacle if he snaps.

Despite it being terrible circumstances, and it being Adawe’s observation, she wasn’t entirely wrong when she said they’ve formed a sort of cohesion.

“How soon until we move out?” Gabe asks after a long period of silence, and Jack fists Gabe’s shirt tightly at the words. He doesn’t disagree with the question, his own urgency pushing him to want to leave, but even though he heals quicker with the serum in his veins he knows Amari is still holding a broken arm and shattered ankle.

Adawe doesn’t look particularly impressed. “As I said, Commander, when the doctor’s give us the all clear-”

“I’m fine,” Amari pipes up, her tone leaving no room for nonsense. “I’m currently able to weight-bare, I can still use my fingers, and my concussion wasn’t as severe as it could’ve been with the emitter used. If I’m capable of performing in an op, there’s no reason why a super soldier with a higher healing rate can’t as well.”

“She’s right,” Gabe jumps in before Adawe can speak. “I trust my team to be honest and not foolhardy. If they are capable of running a mission without causing problems then I trust them to run a mission without causing problems.” He glances at Jack when he finishes, and Jack sees the question in his eyes.

“Of course,” he says with a gentle smile. “Always with you.”

The way Gabe’s eyes soften makes Jack feel warm in his stomach… which shocks the ever-loving hell out of him to realise, but he decides now is definitely not the time to think of it. Instead, he fixes Adawe with a hard stare and watches as she glances between them all.

“I won’t argue,” she ends up saying, but it’s clear that she’s only a word or two away from doing so. “I just want you to be aware of the possible mission dangers before you fly into it with guns blazing.”

Jack thinks she must’ve been prepared for this outcome as she starts to hand them all folders from the pile on her lap. She does seem the sort to be organised for every outcome though, and Jack gives her a polite smile as he takes the folder from her and watches as she moves to the door.

“All the information is in your briefs,” she says, inclining her head at their folders. “Be wise about your decision, and if you choose to leave then I will wish you luck now. I leave for the UN in the morning to aid in our investigation so I will not see you until this mission is complete.”

“It’ll be done,” Gabe responds, and Adawe stares at him before smiling that shark-smile from the first time they’d been in her office.

“I’m sure it will, Reyes. Whatever the cost.”

She doesn’t elaborate, and Jack can feel Gabe stiffen immediately under his arm, but nothing else is said as she walks out the door with a sharp efficiency. Jack watches her go with a frown but doesn’t say anything on it as he waits for everyone else to speak first the moment the door is shut.

Predictably it’s Wilhelm who shatters the silence.

“We must go,” he insists the moment he can, his voice all but booming through the room. “The slaughter of innocents must be stopped.”

Jack glances over to see he’s already got the folder on his lap open, and he has to look away. He doesn’t think he can look at those photos Wilhelm is looking at with an unsettled stomach. Already he feels queasy at a glance, and he holds a hand to his mouth briefly.

“I understand, but I can’t risk our team's safety if we’re not fully healed yet, or prepared,” Gabe replies, his voice having lost the hard edge he had for Adawe. “Amari?”

She looks up and gives him a bright smile. “I’ll be alright, qayid al’iidrab,” she says cheerfully, holding up her casted arm and wiggling her fingers at him. “If we can keep me on the outskirts of this mission though that would be preferable. Otherwise, I’m sure Lindholm won’t mind playing donkey again.”

“Lindholm might,” Lindholm mutters beside her, but there is an affectionate smile on his face that shows he’s not serious at all.

Jack smiles at the three before he turns his attention back to Gabe, and sees that Gabe is watching him with an intense look that has Jack swallowing. There’s a heat in Gabe’s eyes, something fierce and protective, and he breaks out another smile for him.

“Hey, if you want me to get off this bed and do a marathon with you right now, I will,” he says, and Gabe’s serious mask cracks just a little bit, and Gabe’s lips quirk in a small smile as he shakes his head affectionately at Jack.

“Don’t sass me, Freckles,” he scolds, but he does nod his head and sighs. “Alright, let's look at the briefing then. At least plan out the mission before I make any decisions.”

Wilhelm lets out a victorious shout, something that makes Jack cringe at the loudness before he descends on Gabe with a vengeance. Jack sits back and just watches them go, happy to listen to their planning especially when Lindholm joins in. Amari stays out of it alongside him, just listening and watching, and she gives Jack the occasional smile as they do so.

Eventually, they have a plan. It’s rough and frankly there are a few holes they’re going to have to fill up with impromptu thinking, but there’s a plan nonetheless. It’s written down in messy scribbles and diagrams over some old schematics Lindholm had in his coat, and Jack can barely read most of it. Gabe looks happy though, and if that’s the case then Jack is damn sure whatever this mad concoction is it’ll work.

Wilhelm and Lindholm are just standing up to make their way to the door to hunt down some dinner when Jack finally does speak up, and it’s nothing to do with their mission at all when he calls out.

“I just want to say something,” he says as everyone turns to look at him. He takes a moment to struggle into a proper seating position, his ass having gone to sleep somewhere along the way of planning, but when he does he grins at everyone in the room. “Hi,” he says with a wave, “I’m Jack Morrison. My friends call me Jack, but some of them like to call me soldier in their languages. It’s a bit strange, but I guess friends are.”

There’s a moment of silence as they all stare at him, but it’s Amari who catches on.

“Pleased to meet you, Jack,” she says with her own smile. “I’m Ana Amari. I really like being called Ana. Amari was my Dad, and Mrs. Amari was my mother. I don’t mind the occasional ‘beautiful’, though.”

Jack holds back a snort but grins back, and then Wilhelm is stepping forward.

“I’m Reinhardt Wilhelm. I’m terrible at responding to Wilhelm, so if you ever need me just call for Reinhardt.”

Lindholm looks at them all like they’re bloody crazy, but then he shrugs and holds up his hand in a half-assed wave. “Torbjörn,” is all he says, but it’s enough and there’s a small smile cracking on his face that Jack thinks is a success.

He glances over at Gabe, and Gabe is looking right back. There’s a genuine smile on his face, even if it’s barely visible, and he shakes his head at Jack but speaks nonetheless.

“Gabriel Reyes,” he says quietly. “I’ve only ever had a handful of people call me Gabe,” he continues and almost shyly glances up at them all. “I wouldn’t mind a few more.”

That makes Jack’s stomach definitely swoop, and he can’t help his blinding grin at Gabe who rolls his eyes.

 

 

Chapter Text

After Greece, they just don’t stop.

They never get assigned a new set of headquarters outside of their transport, and even then their transports vary between large quarry trucks to specially designed jet crafts. Jack learns very quickly along with the others that they need to be able to live out of a simple backpack each with the amount of moving around they’re doing.

It meant a healthy and long conversation with Reinhardt that no, they cannot take souvenirs from every mission, that yes, a Bastion head is too big to carry around. Somehow he squirrels them away anyway.

Jack sees more of the world in the span of weeks than he ever thought he would. Eventually though it all blends into one, and the entire team stops being fascinated with the new countries they land in and just begin to accept that the moment they land there’s a briefing and a fight waiting on the other side of their doors.

Somewhere between Greece and Russia, Ana’s arm fully healed and got her back to full strength. Between Britain and France, Torbjörn broke his nose so severely he’s lucky it didn’t come off. They end up in Germany at another point and Jack and Gabe have to support Reinhardt as he collapses with grief then rein him in as his cockiness grows around the Crusaders they fight alongside. They face so many Bastion units in open field that Jack is positive they’re outnumbered, and by the end they lose a lot of Crusaders on that mission and that has Jack genuinely worried for Reinhardt’s stability for a long time after.

When they land in Russia for the second time they end up in a street fight that takes out a phenomenal amount of buildings. Jack gets pinned under one and shatters a kneecap, and Gabe gets so frantic about it that he slams every emitter Jack has on the ground and all but commands his knee to fix itself. It’s better within six weeks, but throughout that time Jack has to convalesce in some Russian hospital while the others take various missions around the country.

It’s not until Egypt, four months after leaving the States, that Gabe gets taken out. He gets pinned down by a horde of Omnics without any of the team around, and it takes them an hour to reach him after stripping apart the Temple of Anubis. His broken body is tucked away in some side room and he’s barely able to even call out to them. It’s only because of the buckshot from one of his shotguns that slams into the wall behind him that Jack even notices where he is.

Of course all Gabe has to say when they’re dragging him out and piling him into their evac transport is “I lost my damn shotgun”, and Jack has to hold himself together lest he cry or laugh.

Their cohesion as a team improves, and soon their mission plans are easy to organise with everyone just knowing where they fit. Gabe works them hard with their training, and eventually they take more and more risks that just pay off.

Adawe is pleased to see them the next time they touch down on American soil after an easy twelve months hoping between countries. They drag their sorry asses off the jet straight into the heat of this backwash town in Texas with their bags slung on their backs and their hands tight on their weapons, and Jack reckons they look like either a hardened bunch of criminals or a pack of damaged and depressing animals.

“Welcome home,” she says to them, shining her bright teeth in that fake smile. Jack and Gabe both straighten their backs and nod in response, but Ana waves her off and starts to tug Torbjörn and Reinhardt away.

“You deal with her,” she shoots over her shoulder, “we’re gonna go find some food that doesn’t taste like ass. We’ll put some aside for you.”

Gabe snorts and Jack smiles at them affectionately as they walk out of the hanger. Honestly, he wants to troop out after them, but he’s determined to stay with Gabe while Adawe is around. Mainly because he doesn’t want Gabe to rip her throat out with his titchy attitude.

“Adawe,” Gabe grunts at her after a moment. “Good to be back. Bishop contacted us to say we’re needed in the Southeast.”

“Georgia,” she replies immediately with a nod. “We thought we’d managed to contain some of the Omnic fighting to South Carolina months ago, but it seems a small faction got away and has built up a hefty resistance. We think they’re the final terrorist cell in the United States, but our troops can’t go at it alone. We needed to call in Overwatch.”

“Typical,” Gabe grumbles, and Jack elbows him sharply in the ribs as Adawe’s eyebrow sky rockets. He has to bite back a scolding and instead smiles at Adawe.

“We’ll take our twenty-four hours leave then head off, ma’am,” he says, making sure to keep his elbow dug into Gabe’s side so he doesn’t speak. “I think you can understand how tired we all are. A good nights sleep and a decent feed will do wonders before our next mission.”

Adawe is still glaring at Gabe but she breaks that icy look on her face with a hard smile to Jack. “Of course,” she agrees. “You’re our best soldiers. We can’t be sending you off wounded and tired. I’ll see to it you have anything you wish for during your stay, and I’ll meet you tomorrow morning for send off.”

Jack nods his head and watches her give Gabe one last look before stalking off. Immediately he deflates, and he glances over to see Gabe looking murderous.

“Nice to know now she’s thinking about our health,” he snaps, and Jack takes a deep breath to hold back his sigh. “Bloody bruja has been sending us with inadequate supplies into battle for months.”

“Gabe, let it go,” Jack interrupts him before he can fall into a tangent. Gabe looks like Jack just bit him, and Jack winces before reaching out to place a hand on his shoulder. “Come on. We’ve got twenty-four hours before we’ll be hauling ass through another pack of Omnic’s, hopefully for the last time. I really don’t feel like talking about Adawe the whole time.”

Gabe blinks at him for a couple of times before he cracks a half smile and reaches over to nudge him. “Always a soldier,” he huffs but he’s nodding his head. “Lets get out of here. I’m over military camps and ration pack food, I need a good feed and some time out.”

Jack doesn’t argue, doesn’t think he really wants too. Spending some time with Gabe alone sounds like just what he needs, so he follows behind as they drop their packs in the quarters they’re directed too before gathering their civvies and heading out.

The town they head into is smaller than Jack thought. He doesn’t really know where they are, somewhere close to the border of Mexico in any case since the town has a distinct Latin American vibe to it. Gabe leads him towards the town square without saying a word and soon Jack finds himself overwhelmed with the smells in the air coming from the food trucks and stalls surrounding them.

“Looks like some sort of festival,” Jack points out as they wander between the vendors, and Gave looks over to give him a small smile.

“It’s Dia de la Raza, Jack,” he tells him, and when Jack just stares Gabe snorts and shakes his head. “Columbus Day, Freckles. As an American, I’m ashamed of you.”

“I thought Mexicans didn’t celebrate Columbus,” Jack says as he glares at Jack before he frowns. “Anyway, aren’t you Spanish?”

Gabe bursts out laughing which surprises Jack and leaves him smiling. “,” Gabe chuckles, “soy Español. We celebrate Dia de la Raza in Spain as well though. Although there it’s meant to be a celebration of the hispanic influence we left on America. In any case, when celebrated there it’s not Columbus Day, more like the counter. We celebrate the resistance of Native Cultures to the Europeans when they arrived in the Americas.”

“So it’s the Hispanic way of saying fuck you?” Jack asks, and Gabe snorts another round of laughter and reaches over to shove Jack playfully.

“Sure, Freckles, if that’s how you wanna look at it.”

Jack rolls his eyes but doesn’t respond as he glances away to look at the town square. There is in fact a celebration, but it’s rather mixed with Columbus in some parts and obviously… anti-Columbus in others. It makes him smile a little at seeing the clash of cultures, especially since no one seems fazed at the trashing of the man or the idolising at him.

“So,” he prompts after a little while of them just standing and observing. “Which one of these would be good for food? I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”

Gabe doesn’t reply, just smiles at him before tugging him towards a rather long line. Jack just patiently waits along side him, watching as Gabe gets into a discussion with the older lady in front of them in fast speaking Spanish, and he doesn’t begrudge the man for not exactly including him in the conversation. He’s happy to just stand and look and inhale all the delectable smells around him.

Unfortunately he’s too busy looking around to notice they’re at the front of the queue, and he feels guilty when Gabe pulls him aside and shoves a small container into his hands.

“How much do I owe you?” he immediately asks before even opening the container, and Gabe just glares at him and ignores the question. It always grinds Jack’s gears that Gabe won’t let him pay him back, but he’s in too good of a mood right now to start a fight. Instead he just glares right back before opening the container.

There’s a small pile of fried looking dough sticks covered in sugar and cinnamon. His belly growls at the sight, and when he picks one up he’s surprised to feel the heat coming off of it.

“What is this?” he asks, and Gabe’s cough gets him to look up to see Gabe holding out a takeaway coffee cup with the lid off. “And what’s that?”

“Churros,” Gabe replies as Jack drops the churro back into the container and reaches out with sugar covered fingers to take the proffered cup. “And that’s champurrado to drink with it, or dip them in if you’re feeling like it.” Once Jack takes the cup Gabe takes his own off the top of his container’s lid and beckons Jack to follow him. “Basically donuts and hot chocolate.”

Frankly that sounds delicious, and when they find a place to sit on the town well with their back to the water and facing the festivities, Jack dives straight it. He knows Gabe is watching him with a smile as he chomps down on his food, mixing it with the champurrado with a delighted moan, but he doesn’t much care. The food is beautiful, sweet with a hint of cinnamon spice that just warms him up. When he does look up and away from his food it’s to see Gabe looking at him with such a soft look that Jack genuinely thinks he’s made it up for a moment.

He gives him back just as soft a smile, and he watches as Gabe’s eyes dip to look at his lips before he glances away.

The warm feeling in Jack’s belly blooms even more, and he’s more aware of how close they are now and how warm Gabe’s thigh is against his, and he slowly places the empty container down and picks up the coffee cup to roll between his hands. Gabe is holding his own as he looks away, and Jack takes the time to discreetly watch him.

He’s known there’s something growing between them for a while now, but he’s not been too keen to acknowledge it. If he wants to be exact, he knew there was an immediate attraction when they first met, but over time its bloomed into something bigger and more. They work well together, fit seamlessly enough that even the team acknowledges it. The knowing smirks Ana sends him whenever Gabe reaches out to brush his arm or correct his hold on his rifle makes him flush warm and bright.

Jack was almost sure something was going to happen when they were in Russia. The sheer desperation that Gabe had shown had been obviously more than one would show for a friend, and his determination to always be with Jack despite the missions was phenomenal. Jack woke up so many times to Gabe sleeping in the chair beside him, and admittedly Jack would just watch him before falling back asleep.

There’d even been times he’d woken up to find their hands clasped together, and he’d flush but hold tighter.

But nothing has happened yet, and Jack thinks he understands why. They’re in the middle of a crisis, and, even though Torbjörn had aggressively reminded Jack that they might all die, he gets that now is not the time to start something. They’ve got people to save, missions to complete, and figuring out their feelings for each other really doesn’t fit in between.

“My abuela use to make churros and champurrado for breakfast on Sunday mornings,” Gabe says quietly, interrupting Jack’s train of thought. “She moved in with us after abuelo died. I never knew my Father so it was only my Mama, my sisters, and I. When she moved in she took over our care while mama worked. Part of that ended up with us being woken up early on Sundays for breakfast then shoved in the car to go to church.”

“You’re religious?” Jack asks, before instantly regretting it. Gabe never opens up, and one of the first times he does he asks such a stupid question? It’s the unanimous rule amongst them. No discussions on politics or religion, lest they end up fighting.

Gabe smiles. “No,” he says anyway and Jack relaxes. “But abuela was. My sisters followed her lead when we started attending, but I never really got into it. I use to beg out of it with the excuse of looking after mama after her night shifts at the hospital, but abuela always knew I just didn’t want to go.” He glances over at Jack, and Jack’s breath stops at the raw look on Gabe’s face. “Now I wish I’d always gone. I know she wouldn’t want me to regret anything, but I was an ungrateful teenager and that sits with me.”

“I’m sorry,” Jack murmurs and Gabe grimaces.

“She was strong,” he says. “Strong and independent. abuelo use to come to see us sometimes just to get out of the house. He use to complain that she’d be completely renovating and couldn’t keep up. We’d go visit and all that’d happened was she’d moved the couches.” Gabe shakes his head and Jack smiles at the thought. “She immigrated from Spain when she was in her mid twenties then met and married abuelo. All of our lives I can’t remember a time she wouldn’t be teaching us some part of our culture, even though abuelo was a pure American through and through. He tried to keep up though, and I remember when we were learning Spanish as children he’d be sitting right beside us doing the same.”

Gabe sighs and looks down at his hands. Jack does the same and just lets the man reminisce in quiet for a bit. He wonders if he should tell Gabe some of his own stories about his grandparents, but he barely knew them.

“All my life there’s only really been my parents and I,” he eventually says, and Gabe looks up at him with a raised eyebrow. Jack ducks his head to glance away again but continues. “My grandparents on my Mum’s side died before I was born, and Dad’s parents died in an accident with some Omnics on their farm when I was six. One of them malfunctioned when they were milking cows one day, and in the explosion the whole shed came down on them. After that there was only the three of us.”

“What about Bishop?”

“He’s not really my uncle,” Jack confesses with a awkward smile. “He’s one of Dad’s closest friends, and he sort of adopted me as an honouree son after his marriage fell through due to his postings.” Jack shrugs. “He’s always been good to me. He’d look after me for days at a time. We use to plays soldiers when I was little.” He smiles at Gabe. “I’d always be the commanding officer and he’d be my dutiful second. We’d play for hours.” Jack shakes his head and his shoulders slump. “He got me into there military at my own request. My father, William, argued with him until he was blue in the face, but I was so stubborn that I refused to listen to my father and went with Bishop instead.” He sighs and wrings his hands together. “Sometimes I think I shouldn’t have gone.”

Gabe nods slowly but otherwise doesn’t say much in response. Jack can’t blame him. After all, there’s no much to say in the end. What’s done is done. They sit in silence for a bit longer, each thinking different thoughts about different people, and when they finish their drinks they slowly get up and start making their way back to camp. They wind through scores of people as they go. Children screeching and playing, exhausted adults, endeared grandparents. It’s a beautiful atmosphere, and Jack feels warmth in his chest as they walk side by side and the back of his hand brushes Gabe’s.

They’re just on the outskirts of the town when Gabe stops him though, and Jack stumbles to a halt before he’s pulled into a tucked off alleyway by Gabe. He’s even more surprised when Gabe pushes in so close to him, and he thinks his breathing stops completely as he stares into Gabe’s eyes.

He wonders if this is it, if this is the moment. But then Gabe drops his eyes and moves back an inch before talking.

“I looked at the mission report on Georgia,” he says, and Jack relaxes just a little even though it’s in disappointment. “It’s not looking good, Jack.”

“What’s wrong?”

Gabe looks hesitant before he sighs and his grip on Jack’s arm loosens. “The casualty count is in five digits,” he says forlornly. “And in the higher end. The Omnics there are extremists, insane extremists. There’s reports of suicide bombers taking out entire platoons. This mission… it’s going to be risky.”

“So were all the others,” Jack replies, but he can see that Gabe is trying to say something. He has half a mind to tell him to spit it out already, but he sees Gabe’s eyes steel over before he speaks again.

“The other ones we had a fifty percent chance of making it out,” he mutters, “but this one… Jack, this might be the final battle. They’ll be desperate, like wild animals. We’ve got less than a fifteen percent chance. This is practically a suicide mission.”

“Gabe,” Jack interrupts. “I get it. This is dangerous, more dangerous than we’ve ever experienced over the last year. But we have a good team though that we can trust, that are skilled. You know that, so what is this really about-”

He doesn’t get to finish though as Gabe is suddenly surging forward to slam their lips together, and Jack grapples with Gabe’s jacket briefly before latching on. The surprise in him is phenomenal, massive, but as it slowly sets in that Gabe is fucking kissing him it slips into something more pleasant.

Jack responds instantly, using his hold on Gabe’s jacket to haul him closer and opens his mouth to let Gabe in. Gabe lets out a breathy little noise that has Jack’s belly flipping before he flattens Jack completely against the wall. It’s intoxicating, overwhelming, and Jack gasps and moans and lets himself just melt into Gabe. The heat pools between them, brewing between their bodies as they press and slide against each other, and Jack can’t keep his hands still as the urge to just touch fuels him. Gabe lets out more little noises, each one disappearing as Jack kisses and kisses him, and each noise makes Jack’s grip tighten until it must be bruising.

His hands end up on Gabe’s cheeks, sliding to wrap around the back of his neck, and he presses forward for one more dirty long kiss before he breaks away panting and brings their foreheads together. Gabe’s panting too, his eyes half closed and his cheeks a bright red, and Jack can hardly look away from his bruised and swollen lips.

He doesn’t stop himself from leaning forward to kiss them again, and Gabe practically keens as he tries to chase Jack’s lips when he pulls away. Jack can’t help but smile, and his laugh is breathless as he closes his eyes to lean against Gabe.

“Wow,” he ends up saying into the space between them, and Gabe snorts a laugh that has Jack giggling along. He feels giddy, his body warm and bubbly, and he really really doesn’t want this moment to end.

But end it does, and soon Gabe is opening his eyes and looking serious as he moves one of his hands from Jack’s hips to cup his cheek.

“Like I said,” he murmurs, so quietly that Jack hardly hears him. “Practically a suicide mission. I couldn’t leave this unsaid. I can’t do that to either of us. I… I don’t know what I feel for you, Jack, but god, it’s something.”

Jack looks at him, really looks at him, and he gets why Gabe told him about his abuela. Gabe has the regrets of years written all over his face in this moment, regrets that run deeper than his abuela, and one day Jack will ask him about them all. But right now? Right now he knows that Gabe doesn’t want to add him to that list.

It’s still not the moment that they want. It’s not the dazzling moment where they run into each other's arms and fall madly in love with a happily ever after on the horizon. No, it’s the moment where they’re huddled in a dingy alleyway with swollen lips and uncertain feelings and the dawning dread that after tomorrow one of them might not come back.

“When this is done,” Jack says, brushing his thumb across Gabe’s cheekbone, “when this is all over with, this whole fucking Crisis, we figure it out. We figure us out.”

Gabe smiles at him, and it’s small and gentle and it’s the same damn smile from when he was sitting beside Jack with a handful of churros and a champurrado in hand, and Jack just about melts.

“Until then, Freckles,” Gabe agrees, and he leans in for one last slow and languid kiss.

Jack knows when they break apart they’ll go back to being Morrison and Reyes, professional soldiers from an elite strike team, so he takes his time with the kiss, drags out this moment of Jack and Gabe, professional lovesick idiots.

Then when they break apart, he locks it away, puts on his game face, and makes a vow that no damn Omnic is going to get between them.

 

 

Chapter Text

Georgia is a colossal fuck up.

It takes two months for them to complete their mission, and by then the damages within their team and the surrounding troops and civilians is so damn vast it doesn’t feel like a victory. It sure as hell doesn’t feel like the end of the Crisis.

The body count soars past five digits straight into six and bordering on seven, and Jack wonders how many there would be if they included Omnics. The battlefields around them and the towns they fight in are littered with bodies, flesh and metal, and there’s blood and oil coating the stretch for miles. The smell has burnt its way into Jack’s senses, and he doesn’t think he’s ever going to get the stench of death out of his clothing or skin.

Physically his team is fine, but mentally he knows they’re all severely damaged. Personally, he doesn’t sleep well anymore, not since the first night he was forced to sleep while the screams of dying and chatter of Omnic’s fired around him. He’s plagued by nightmares, horrific ones that haunt him.

He found solace in their camps by crawling in beside Gabe. They’d tried sleeping in each others arms the first night, Gabe’s eyes just as wide and horrified as Jack’s, but their unprotected backs had left them constantly waking up in sweats. Eventually they’d settled with their backs against each other, both grasping an individual weapon and their free hands entwined. Jack knows they’d promised to wait until after the Crisis to address what’s between them, but the sheer need for comfort is so overwhelming that he doesn’t think anyone can begrudge him this.

Ana becomes more quiet, more reserved, and when they’re not out fighting she sits in the corner of their tent with her rifle lying over her lap, expression blank. Jack doesn’t know how often she sleeps, but in any case she does so sitting up, and her knuckles are constantly white, the only sign she’s in just as bad shape as the rest of them.

Reinhardt and Torbjörn always stay by the front of the tent or room they’re huddled in, and while at first they slept soundly now they’re just as paranoid as them all. Torbjörn insists on setting up a turret every time they stop and make camp, and soon a turret in the middle of the tent, or whatever building they’ve deemed appropriate to settle in, pointing to the door is just a part of the setting up process. Torbjörn sleeps with his hammer tucked under his pillow now, close to his turret and always tense. Reinhardt… Jack admits he was impressed when he realised that Reinhardt had been bothering Torbjörn for weeks with his engineering questions, but only too make long lasting shield batteries that don’t require being on his gauntlet. On some nights, the hard nights when they all can barely sleep, Reinhardt activates a shield to block the entrance and grips his hammer tight.

They all see so much, experience awful things. Jack watches Omnic’s slaughter without discrimination. Man, woman, child, none are safe from an Omnic with a vendetta, and none seem to care for their lives either. They’re relentless in their assaults, never tiring like a human, and Jack struggles with the idea that they’re up against literal killing machines.

The humans… he hates what he sees his fellow man do. He sees them pull captured Omnic’s apart slowly, ripping off limbs and forcing them to crawl. He sees torture and dehumanisation, things that make him sick to his stomach. Where an Omnic shows ruthlessness a human will show cruelty.

It’s in Georgia that has Jack really questioning the whole point of this. He starts to understand both parts and he doesn’t know what scares him more. The white hot rage he feels on behalf of humans or the never ending sadness for the Omnics?

It’s typical that it’s at the end he starts to finally think about why.

“We can’t sympathise,” Gabe murmurs to him one night when they’re alone some shitty room with Ana keeping watch outside. Jack squeezes Gabe’s hand so hard he’s almost sure he breaks it, but Gabe squeezes back and rolls his shoulder back to bump Jack. “You hear me, Freckles? We can’t. We can’t do that to ourselves.”

“But they just-”

Soldado,” Gabe snaps, his voice hard and harsh, and Jack feels his back snap straight automatically at the commanding tone. “We cannot compromise ourselves. You can’t compromise yourself.” He pauses and when he next speaks his voice is so soft that Jack strains to hear it. “I need you, Jack. Don’t do this.”

Jack doesn’t promise anything, but the guilt and fear churns in his guts and he hates the idea of what this could do to Gabe. He holds his hand tighter, and refuses to let go even when Ana appears. She gives them a once over, but her eyes are so damn blank now and her knuckles so damn white that he can’t tell what she’s thinking.

It takes them six weeks just to break the frontline. Six weeks of Jack screaming himself hoarse and his hands vibrating with every clip he expends. Reinhardt leaves a trail of used batteries behind him and his hammer is so badly drenched in body and mechanical fluids that he’s just given up cleaning it. He’s grim and dark compared to what he normally is, and Jack hates it.

Torbjörn ran out of turrets in the first two weeks, and his rivet gun is a poor substitute. He tries to make new turrets out of salvaged pieces, but they’re not as good and they’re shoddily made. Jack and Gabe have to pull him away from many a lost cause, bearing the aggressive Swedish thrown at them and supporting him through his exhausted meltdowns. Jack watches his team fall apart and he feels himself starting to break along with them.

Gabe though. Gabe is the worst, and Jack hates how as the days go by the sicker and crueler the smile on Gabe’s face becomes. He’s ruthless, rivalling the efficiency of the Omnic’s, and Jack feels cold tendrils of fear whenever he sees the sheer blood-thirst coming off the man in waves. His anger is evident, and Jack dreads the day he’ll find Gabe amongst the men tearing apart Omnic’s for sport.

So he holds his hand tight at night and prays to a God he never believed in, and hopes that it’ll all come to an end.

The seventh week is when they find the leader of the Omnic’s. Adawe contacts them to confirm, something she rarely does. The only contact they’ve had from her is fortnightly comm calls for updates. She listens to their reports impassively, but Jack sees the way her eyes narrow when they begrudgingly report on Gabe’s leadership skills. He’s not bad, in fact he’s so damn good that they’ve not sustained any horrific injuries, but he’s becoming more reckless and no one can avoid reporting that.

She tisks but doesn’t say a word about it.

They get orders on the eighth week to take out the ‘head motherfucker’, as Torbjörn nicknames the lead Omnic. The group refuses to refer to the lead Omnic by it’s chosen name. Jack knows they can’t humanise Omnic’s, not now. Not when they’re so damn close to the end.

There’s enough intel gathered to know the best way to approach the lead Omnic and their lead subordinates, and even though Jack knows it’s going to be the damn end he’s terrified at the sheer price this could cost them. The lead Omnic is heavily fortified, locked behind doors and walls with hundreds of Omnics between them and Overwatch.

The team agrees, but they also know that this has to end.

“Whatever the cost,” Gabe mutters, and even though those words play havoc with Jack he agrees with them.

It takes them two days to plan the assault. It’s meticulous, right down to the last detail, and there’s at least six back-up plans in case of the unexpected. The town the Omnic’s are currently using as a base is only a small farming town, but the vantage points are all in the Omnic’s favour. Jack already knows there will be casualties, and he feels selfish hoping that it’s none of his team.

The night before the mission Jack sits up late with Gabe. They don’t speak, just sit quietly with the tent to their back and their team sleeping fitfully around them. Torbjörn doesn’t really look like he’s sleeping at all, and Reinhardt keeps whimpering and calling out. Only Ana seems okay, but even then Jack can see her hands flexing and nails scratching the back of her hand until it’s ruby red.

“We can do this,” Jack ends up saying into the quiet, and Gabe stiffens beside him. “We have a plan, we have backups, we have the best team. We can do this, Gabe.”

Gabe’s hand is entwined with his own, and Jack drops his eyes to watch him squeeze and roll their hands together.

“I hope so, ” Gabe replies, and Jack can hear the hollowed despair. “I have faith, Jack, but...” he pauses, and Jack waits patiently until Gabe looks at him with a awful deprecating smile. “I’m terrified.”

“I know,” Jack quietly says, and he leans until his whole body is tucked against Gabe’s. He doesn’t care that the team can probably see them, he just needs this comfort, and with the way that Gabe’s hand is tightening on his neck, he knows that Gabe needs this too.

Three hours later they’re up and creeping through the early pre-dawn morning, trying to keep out of sight of the Omnic heat detectors. Jack follows behind Gabe with Ana at his side. Torbjörn and Reinhardt are with the main pack of soldiers, Reinhardt’s shields ready for action and Torbjörn carrying recovered turrets.

They’re not as prepared as they should be, but they’ll have to make do. Jack has a handful of biotic emitters left, all tucked into his belt, and Ana has a packet of sleep darts hanging from her own in a satchel. They’re not useful against Omnics, but they’re under strict orders to only incapacitate the humans that fight alongside the Omnics and Ana handles that from a distance. With the intel they have about the number of humans on the Omnic side, he hopes what she has will be enough.

When they approach the outskirts of the town Ana breaks away, streaking off into the dark and Jack knows they’ll find her on a roof eventually. They’d agreed she’d move faster on her own to find her own vantage point, and the added scouting that Gabe knows he can trust is a bonus. Jack slides in closer behind Gabe, positive the man can feel his breath on his neck.

They slip further and further into the town, avoiding Omnic patrols as they go. Jack finds himself being pressed up against walls constantly by Gabe, but he grits his teeth and lets it go. Gabe is on an even higher alert than normal, and while part of Jack is frustrated at being shoved around unceremoniously the other part is damn near welcoming of Gabe’s protectiveness. They move so slowly that both Torbjörn and Reinhardt come over the comms at separate times to confirm they’re ready but Jack knows they’re not in position yet. They’re well behind the main forces now for their flanking, but it’s not far enough to figure out the exact location of the leader.

“Negative,” Gabe mutters into the comm as they pass another patrol, and it’s Jack’s turn to pull them into an alley. “We are not in position. We need more time, Rein-”

He’s cut off by an explosion rocking the air, so damn big that the ground shakes hard enough to send them crashing. Jack reaches out for Gabe at the same time he does and they grip each other’s arms as a cloud of dust flies over them and the sound of bullets flying starts to echo through the dark.

“Negative!” Gabe is bellowing into his comm frantically, “we are not in position! I repeat! We are not in position!”

It’s not us,” Reinhardt is yelling back over the comms, and Jack winces at the sheer volume. “We’re trying to figure out where it’s coming from, but-

Reinhardt’s voice cuts out, the comm line going dead, and Jack stares right back at Gabe as he taps his ear multiple times and calls out Reinhardt’s name.

“Everyone check in,” Gabe demands after no reply, and it takes a long moment before Ana comes crackling over the comm.

I’m here,” she says quietly. “I found the problem. It seems the Omnics found one of the groups and the soldiers triggered earlier than expected. I can’t find Reinhardt or Torbjörn but... it’s looking messy.

Gabe swears and drops his hand as he surges to his feet. Jack knows he’s got two options, continue trying to locate the leader or double back and find the others. It’s a war he’s not expecting to see on Gabe’s face.

“Ana,” Jack ends up calling into the comm, a crackled confirmation his acknowledgment. “We’re gonna need you to locate the leader. Gabe and I will see if we can find the others before pressing forward. Can you do that?”

Affirmative,” Ana says before the comm snaps shut and the line goes silent. Jack turns to Gabe a bit hesitantly, worries if he won’t like the shot he just called, but Gabe is smiling and nodding at him.

“This is why you’re my second,” Gabe tells him before he unsheathes his shotguns with flare. “Come on, let’s go find those meatheads.”

Jack snorts a laugh and pulls his pulse rifle off his back before following suit. They tear back through the town towards the sound of gunfire, explosions, and damn near screaming. Jack can already feel his hands starting to sweat around his pulse rifle, and he has to reshuffle his grip a few times as they sprint.

They come across the battle quicker than expected, and as they burst out of a nearby alleyway it’s to see Reinhardt swinging his hammer like a madman with Torbjörn hunkered down with a group of troops behind a damn car of all things. Jack immediately rushes to them and when he sees that most of them are wounded he yanks an emitter out to slam on the ground. Gabe is firing his way through the group of Omnics on the other side of the car, clearly trying to make a path to Reinhardt as he starts to yell at the man.

Jack ignores them to focus on the soldiers around him, and he glances up to see Torbjörn watching him thankfully.

“Status?” he asks, raising his voice to be heard over the gunfire, Gabe’s yells, and Reinhardt’s roaring.

“Ambush,” Torbjörn mutters, fidgeting with his river gun. “Fan. They came from behind. I think they knew we were coming, soldat. They’re too prepared. They’ve taken out half of this group already.”

Jack counts the heads and sees that from the twenty man group only nine blink back.

“And the others? Can you contact them?” he asks, and Torbjörn shakes his head. Jack swears. That’s sixty other men unaccounted for then. He knows the gunfire he’s hearing isn’t just from this battle alone, and that makes him dread the status of the other groups.

He glances back just in time to see Gabe reach Reinhardt and a bright blue shield pop up to cover them both. Slowly the two start to move back to the rest of the team, and the gunfire starts to lessen as they do. Whether the Omnic’s are running out of ammunition or recognise the shield, Jack doesn’t know.

The moment Gabe is back by his side Jack reaches out to grab his arm, pulling him closer and gesturing at the mottled group.

“This is all that’s left,” he tells him, “the others aren’t accounted for and Torb can’t contact them.”

Meirda,” Gabe mutters, running a hand over his face as he looks at the others. Reinhardt is standing over them all, his shield taking a hefty amount of damage but there’s the glow of more batteries on his belt that Jack finds reassuring. “Maldita sea. There’s no way to contact them?”

Jack shakes his head and turns to his emitter when it clicks off. He picks it up, already missing the pleasant golden glow in this hell hole, and pops it up on top of the car’s bonnet so no one will trip on it. Gabe is watching him do so, and while normally Jack would feel self-conscious right now he’s just damn near exhausted and genuinely doesn’t care.

“Boy scout,” Gabe mumbles, gesturing at Jack’s tidiness, and Jack rolls his eyes at him.

“Model citizen,” he shoots back, and Gabe laughs before turning back to Reinhardt, his shield, and the group of soldiers.

“I want the nine of you to see who else you can find,” Gabe eventually orders, and Jack realises he’s falling back on the back up plan’s back up plan. “Gather them up, assist them as much as possible, and then keep the Omnic’s distracted. We’re going to press forward and see if we can find this damn Omnic hijo de puta and blow their brains out before we lose anymore of you malditos bastardos.”

“Sir,” one of the soldiers starts to pipe up. “With all due respect-”

Mijo,” Gabe interrupts, glaring at the young man. “Shut up and do what you’re damn told. I’m trying to save your fucking lives, so let me do my fucking job.”

The soldier looks suitably chastised but doesn’t object as Gabe stands up and hauls Jack to his feet as well. Torbjörn follows suit and moves to stand beside them both as they all look at the small group.

“Reinhardt will cover you until you out of here,” Gabe tells them all as they stand. “buena suerte, soldados. Hopefully we’ll all see each other on the other side.”

They all blink back at Gabe, clearly uncertain how to take him, but he doesn’t give them a second glance. He just nods at Reinhardt who moves forward and gathers all the soldiers behind him like ducklings and starts to move them to the back of the closest building. Jack, Gabe, and Torbjörn all hunker back down behind the car and lay down cover fire as they go.

When Reinhardt appears back at their side Gabe lets out huff and turns around to lean back on the car. Jack watches as he covers his face with his hands, and Jack glances at Torbjörn who nods before Jack slips down to lean beside Gabe.

“What’s next?” he asks over the racket of Torbjörn’s rivet gun as the man continues to lay down fire. “We aren’t equipped for the plan you’re thinking of. For one thing, Ana is half way across town.”

“I know,” Gabe mutters and scrubs his face before reaching down to pick up his discarded shotguns. “We’re gonna have to improvise. We need to try to get to the leader. Ana, do you have any idea where they’re holding out?”

It’s takes a moment but Ana crackles back. “I think I have an idea. There’s a large warehouse in the middle of town that I’ve been seeing Omnic’s coming out of. In any case, we should start there.” She pauses for a moment before continuing. “I think most of the Bastion units are heading towards our camp. There’s only humanoids around me.

Gabe purses his lip as he swears, but nods. “Relay that information to Commander Spry back at camp.” At Ana’s affirmative, Gabe turns back to Jack. “Alright, new plan. Hopefully Spry can keep the Bastion’s distracted for us to move forward. Jack, I need you and Reinhardt to finish here then head towards Ana’s position and pick her up. Go slow, stay behind Reinhardt’s shield, and we’ll meet up with you at the warehouse. Torbjörn and I are going to head for the rooftops to see if we can find a good vantage point for his turrets. If we can block one of the exits of the warehouse it’ll make it easier to rat them out.”

Truthfully, Jack doesn’t want to be away from Gabe. His gut churns at the feeling of being separated but wether it’s sentiment or genuine fear for the situation he doesn’t know. He swallows back his doubts though and nods as he stands to head to Reinhardt. Reinhardt smiles at him and angles his shield slightly to accommodate him, and the two start to press forward. The Omnic’s stopped firing a while ago, but Jack sees the occasional shot shoot past and the heads of some Omnic’s hunkered down further up the way.

When he pauses to glance behind its to see Torbjörn and Gabe long gone, both having clearly taken to the shadows and hit the roofs. Gabe always has been more comfortable sneaking around, and Jack reckons that’s where they’ve always differed with their plans of attack.

He grits his teeth and tries not to think about Gabe as they press forward with Jack’s rifle powered up and ready to fire.

They make their way slowly down the lane, picking off the occasional Omnic. It seems most have retreated, and Jack knows they’ll be planning their own second assault or be heading to the group of soldiers acting as diversion back at camp. He doesn’t like that plan, never one for making a diversion out of people, but Gabe has to make those calls and Jack doesn’t envy him. For once Reinhardt is quiet, his normal bellowing war cries silenced as they try stealthing their way around. Unfortunately Reinhardt is a freaking tank so stealth is not his forte.

Jack calls for Ana a number of times, trying to figure out her location. She ends up saying she’ll find them so they continue on their direct path to the warehouse. It’s only maybe twenty minutes away, but it’s enough time for things to go wrong.

It’s always something that goes wrong.

It starts with Jack’s comm flaring up with Gabe’s startled yell, making him pause at the sudden sharpness in his ear, and it’s enough of a distraction to gain Reinhardt’s attention which in turn causes his shield to falter just a moment and then chaos descends.

Humanoid Omnics come pouring out of the side alleyways, and Jack stares as they start to swarm. Hardly any of them are armed, all aiming for close combat, and Jack swears as he realises that Reinhardt’s shield will be useless. His ears are still ringing as the chorus of Torbjörn’s swearing comes filtering through, and Jack grits his teeth through the noise.

“What’s going on, Gabe?” he demands as he hefts his rifle and Reinhardt twirls his hammer. The look on Reinhardt’s face is grim and scary, his hold on his hammer tight, and Jack shifts his weight to his back foot and waits for the first Omnic.

He doesn’t get a reply before the Omnic is on top of him, and with practiced ease he drops his shoulder and throws the Omnic over his shoulder. He hears the sound of the Omnic smashing to the ground, but doesn’t pay attention as he brings his rifle butt up with him and slams it into the chin of the next Omnic. Reinhardt lets out a battle roar beside him and Jack back tracks as the hammer comes swinging around, nearly collecting him as well as the group of Omnic’s, but as he backs off it’s directly into a group of Omnic’s coming from his right.

Jack dodges a metal fist coming for his face but can’t avoid the next one grazing his shoulder. It’s not a hard hit, but it’s enough to make him recoil. He uses the momentum to come flinging back with his own attack, his elbow jutting out to catch one smaller Omnic in the forehead while he kicks out to take another one out at the knees. Both impacts leave him gritting his teeth in pain. The only thing worse than a firefight with Omnic’s is hand to hand combat.

There’s more though, and while his attack sends two to the ground another comes flinging forward and throws itself on Jack’s back. He drops his rifle as he’s thrown off balance and he reaches up in turn to try drag the Omnic over his head. He doesn’t anticipate the clawed hands though, and he yells out in pain as the Omnic scratches the back of his arms as he pulls it off him.

Jack!” Gabe shouts through the comm, but Jack hasn’t got the breath to reply as the Omnic hits the ground but rolls up to lunge back at him. He dodges it but collides straight back into another one that wraps it’s arms around his neck. He reaches up to try tug the arm away but only meets unforgiving steel and his fingers scratch and catch on the jagged metal. It tears his hands and he finds it hard to breathe before he slams his head back.

The impact is phenomenal and leaves Jack blinking stars away, but it’s enough to confound the Omnic and he rips from it’s grip and rolls away. The two Omnic’s follow him but he manages to grasp around for his rifle and pull it up to fire two shots at them point blank.

As they fall he flicks his fingers to his ear. “Remind me to get a fucking pistol,” he mutters into the comm and he hears a harsh laugh on the end.

We all know you can’t aim for shit with a pistol, Freckles,” Gabe replies and Jack snorts before he stands up on unsteady feet. His body aches already, his head throbs, his hands and arms bleeding, and he has to wipe his hands on his pants so as not to make his rifle handle slippery as he looks for Reinhardt.

He swears when he spots him under a pile of Omnics, obviously having been rushed, and Jack races towards them with a shout.

“Rein!” he bellows as he barrels over to haul Omnic’s off of him. He doesn’t dare fire at this range, the risk of hitting Reinhardt being too high, but there’s just so many of them. Reinhardt spots him in the midst of the horde, and he shakes his head which makes Jack falter.

Ausweichen!” Reinhardt roars, and Jack’s German is pretty shabby but he’s heard that word enough times. He doesn’t think about the fact he’s got his hand on an Omnic as he throws himself flat to the ground, dragging the Omnic with him. His stomach hurts with the impact immediately, an involuntary groan slipping from his mouth, but it’s better than the pain he otherwise would’ve felt as Reinhardt lets out another battle cry before collecting all the Omnics in one huge swing of his hammer.

Jack lets go of the Omnic to cover his head with a yelp as spare parts from the rusty Omnic’s spray him. One smacks him on the back of the head, hurting the already throbbing skin from his bad head butt before, but when he glances up it’s to see only a handful of Omnic’s left from the ambush eyeing them as if trying to decide if they’re worth it.

The Omnic beside him, the one he’d dragged down, is staring at Jack when he flicks his eyes to it. He anticipates an attack, already clenching his rifle tightly, but he’s surprised when the Omnic just looks at him before the lights on it’s faceplate light up and flicker.

“Thank you,” it says, and if Omnic’s could be breathless Jack would say this one was. He doesn’t say a word, can’t quite think of anything to say, and he remains lying on the ground as the Omnic scampers to it’s feet and bolts off towards a nearby house.

“Do we follow?” Reinhardt asks as he barrels up beside Jack, grabbing him by the back of his shirt and hauling him up. Jack lets him do so, but bats his hand away when Reinhardt starts to dust him off.

He thinks about it for a moment, but really he thinks they’ve got bigger fish to fry. “No,” he says and Reinhardt nods and readjusts his grip on his hammer. It’s smeared black with oil, and Jack thinks that while his rifle handle is wet with blood at least he’s not at risk of flinging it away in the middle of a battle.

Wordlessly they look around to see the Omnic’s that were left have also scampered away, and with a nod to each other they start back off towards their destination. Reinhardt keeps his shield off this time, clearly trying to be subtle, which is a joke in itself, but Jack sticks to his side like glue.

They’ve moved maybe sixty metres down the lane when there’s a rustling sound above them, and Jack lifts his rifle to aim it on the target before lowering it in relief to see Ana drop from a nearby balcony.

She looks probably just as bad as they do. She’s bleeding from a cut on her forehead, her trademark hat long gone and her hair out of it’s ridged ponytail in a messy tangled nest, and she’s got a slight limp as she walks towards them.

“Got attacked by some strays,” Ana says as she gets to them and leans against Reinhardt. “I got most of them but I fell of the roof. Pretty sure I’ve at least sprained my bloody ankle.” She kicks it out to show Jack, and he tisks before reaching for his belt.

He’s only got three emitters left after the last eight weeks, one already having been used on the soldiers before, and it’s only with a little bit of hesitance that he slams it on the ground and watches the golden glow cover them all.

Ana lets out a groan of relief, immediately trying to weight-bear with only minor looking discomfort. Jack feels his head starting to clear, the throbbing dissipating slowly, and the sluggish bleeding from his hands slowly comes to a stop as the emitter beats out his enhanced healing. Reinhardt stretches as well, raising his arms over his head and lets out a delighted noise.

“That’s the good stuff,” he says, and Jack rolls his eyes but smiles. They stand in the golden circle until there’s a little beep and the emitter clicks off. Jack picks it up and places it in a nearby rubbish bin outside of one of the houses lining the street.

When he turns around Ana and Reinhardt are smirking at him. He frowns and crosses his arms.

“What?” he demands. “I don’t like littering. Sue me.” Ana snorts and shakes her head but doesn’t reply as she hoists her rifle up to lean over her shoulder.

“Come on, freunde ” Reinhardt calls after a lengthly staring contest between Ana and Jack. “We haven’t got much time.”

Jack agrees with a noise and turns to stalk off down the lane. The other two quickly fall into step and all three remain on high alert as they slowly creep their way down. They all jump at the occasional noise, and at one point Reinhardt almost takes out a cat with a swing of his hammer. If it hadn’t of been for a grumpy Ana then he probably would’ve too.

Thankfully they don’t meet much resistance on their way down, and when they’re only a few metres from the warehouse they hear the rushing sounds of feet coming towards them.

Before they’re in sight Jack already knows its Gabe and Torbjörn, and he can’t help but smile as they crash around the corner right into them.

“Were you ambushed as well?” Gabe immediately asks, appraising them all with a raised eyebrow. “You look like hell, the lot of you.”

It’s not like he can talk though, and Jack catalogues Torbjörn’s busted nose, cut lip, and awkwardly hanging arm, while Gabe looks breathless, his collarbone seems to be unnaturally pronounced, and there’s a phenomenal amount of blood on the side of his face.

“Shit,” Jack can’t stop himself saying as he steps forward to touch the side of Gabe’s face. “What the hell happened?” He trails his fingers up Gabe’s face and stops when he notices that the blood is coming from three deep gouge marks along the side of Gabe’s head. He reaches out to touch them but is stopped by Gabe’s hand coming up to grab his wrist.

“We got caught off guard laying down Torbjörn’s turret,” Gabe explains as he pulls Jack’s arm away but doesn’t let go. “We had to chase them down so none of them got back to report. Unfortunately, it seems like these Omnic’s are a good mixture of new soldiers and veterans who still haven’t gotten repairs.”

Ja , it seems Jack got into a scrap with one such veteran,” Reinhardt says, gesturing at Jack’s back. Jack almost squawks when Gabe roughly turns him around, and he flinches when Gabe’s spare hand runs over the tears in his jacket. The cuts underneath, while sated by the emitter, are still tender and sore and he hears Gabe give a long whistle.

“Have you had an emitter on these?” he asks as he prods, and Jack grits his teeth. “They’ll scar if you don’t.”

“I have,” he mutters and pulls away from Gabe who shakes his head with pursed lips.

Meirda,” Gabe murmurs but he smiles nonetheless. “Good thing I like scars then, huh, cariño?”

Jack almost swallows his tongue at the blatant show of affection and he feels a blush starting to crawl up his neck. The others don’t look at all phased though, and when he glances at Ana she just smirks and winks.

“Already knew, al’abalah,” she says. “Now how about we use that last emitter then gate crash this joint. I’m starting to get tired.”

Jack rolls his eyes but looks down at his last emitter. He glances at Gabe who looks torn before he takes a deep breath and nods. Jack is still reluctant, but Gabe’s collar bone and Torbjörn’s arm could really do with some form of medical attention, even if the emitter only really acts like a bandaid over an amputated limb. Better something than nothing.

He slams the emitter on the ground and watches as Gabe and Torbjörn instantly relax, Torbjörn murmuring a quiet “tack, soldat” as he glows that soft golden colour.

When it clicks off, and Jack’s found another trash bin to the amusement of the others, Reinhardt doesn’t even wait for orders before he takes one gigantic boot to the nearby back door of the warehouse and slams it open. Jack’s grip on his rifle isn’t the tightest, but it’ll do as he files in behind Gabe with Ana and Torbjörn behind them. Reinhardt already has his shield up and he’s cackling just a little as a shower of bullets reign down on them.

Jack knows exactly where the other few Omnic’s from his and Reinhardt’s street battle have gone, and as he looks around the large warehouse it’s well fortified. There’s crates and vehicles everywhere, perfect cover points, and there’s even a catwalk that a group of Omnic’s with, dare he say, sniper rifles pointed in their direction.

It seems like Gabe sees them at the same time and demands everyone dive for cover. Jack throws himself behind a large packing crate with Torbjörn right behind, the man muttering a fierce amount of Swedish swear words that would make a sailor cry. Reinhardt is still out in the open, but Gabe and Ana have dived behind a car and continued to make their way around the room.

We’re going to flank them,” Gabe calls into the comm, “keep them distracted and don’t get sniped.

Jack doesn’t say anything about the fact that Gabe’s weapons are currently the loudest out of all five of them and instead focuses on drawing the Omnic attention. He’s thankful that none of them seem to be keen for hand to hand, and he checks he’s got enough ammunition before he rolls out from cover to kneel at Reinhardt’s feet.

“Keep the shield up,” he orders as he sees Torbjörn rush to stand on Reinhardt’s other side. “We’ll see how many we can take out from here.”

He opens fire as soon as he’s finished speaking, aiming for the ones up on the catwalk. Even if he doesn’t hit them it does make them scatter quickly. Beside him, Torbjörn is focusing his weapon on the Omnic’s in front of them. His gun isn’t as fast as Jack’s rifle, but it’s aim is extraordinary in Torbjörn’s hands.

They work as a cohesive unit, Reinhardt telling them when the damage to his shield is getting too much so they have time to duck behind cover for him to change his batteries. Torbjörn needs to reload more and takes longer to do so than Jack, but he does more damage with each shot as he starts to use his buckshot on closer enemies. His arching projectiles though means he can hit targets behind their cover if he knows how to angle right, whereas Jack just rapid fires with his hit-scan.

Slowly they press forward, dodging over the scattered bodies. A few Omnic’s have fallen from the catwalks, clipped by Jack’s bullets, and he grits his teeth as he sees the occasional human body too. He doesn’t want to know why they’re there, if they’re there willingly or not, he just wants this over.

The sudden burst of shotgun fire is a welcoming sound, and Jack watches as Gabe comes flying towards them with his shotguns blasting. None of the Omnic’s seem to expect it, and Jack makes sure his shots are more precise so as not to clip Gabe while the enemy scrambles.

There’s also the occasional telltale trail of one of Ana’s shots, the silencer on her rifle muffling the noise when she fires. It’s utter chaos as all the Omnic’s drop and fall with phenomenal speed, and his heavy breathing lightens as the constant panic from these battles starts to lift.

When Gabe gets to his side there’s a large grin on his face. “Miss me, querido?” he asks, and Jack reaches out to punch his shoulder before shooting a burst shot into an approaching Omnic. Gabe glances behind him but just smiles back at Jack before turning to the other two. “We found a room leading off that’s surrounded by what looks like stolen Volskaya Industries prototypes. Torbjörn, we need you to see if you can deactivate them before we crash through.” Gabe throws his shotguns down on the ground and hauls out two new ones tucked in his belt. “We’ll cover you. Lets go.”

As a unit they tear across the warehouse floor to Ana. There’s not many Omnic’s left but whatever ones remain are silently picked off by Ana’s precise shots or Jack’s quick fire bursts.

When they reach the door Torbjörn insists they all stay back while he approaches. “Can’t have us all dying, vänner,” he says with a grin as he troops off. Jack finds his good humour in this moment slightly disturbing, but gallows humour really does make them feel better when they’re walking towards an uncertain fate.

Torbjörn gives them a running commentary that mainly consists of a steady stream of Swedish and insults towards Russians and the Omnics. Jack has to hold back his laughter but Reinhardt openly grins. Gabe just rolls his eyes and continues murmuring to Ana, something about a sensor or whatever, but Jack doesn’t pay much attention.

He does tune back in though when Torbjörn approaches them with a pile of metal and wires in his hands. He gives them all a crabby look but does look delighted at the prize in his hands.

“I’m taking one home,” he says joyfully as he pops it into the satchel at this waist that normally holds his turrets. “Might have some good ideas for further upgrades.”

“So it’s disarmed?” Gabe asks him, ignoring the man’s scavenging, and Torbjörn nods. “Good. Ana, are you able to get a reading on how many are in the room?”

Jack glances over to see Ana kneeling on the ground with some piece of equipment in front of her. He recognises it vaguely as a heat sensor, and he realises she’s trying to get a reading on what’s behind the door.

“Only about five, but this is only picking up heat signatures,” she says gruffly. “I think those’ll be the humans, but the rest… my guess will be as good as yours.”

“So we’re going in blind,” Gabe mutters and that really doesn’t sit well with any of them. “Alright, we’ve got this. Jack, any words of wisdom? A farmyard proverb maybe?”

Jack snorts. “A hard days word can lead to a fruitful harvest?” he offers, and while it’s a load of crap it does pull a few smiles from the others.

There’s not much else to be said after that as they approach the doorway. They’re going in blind so there’s no way to make a plan besides the usual send Reinhardt forward and hope his shield blocks everything. Even Reinhardt looks a little nervous right now, and that really doesn’t instil confidence.

They hover outside the door for a moment, all five breathing heavy as they stare at each other. Jack doesn’t know what to say to everyone, knowing that even though they’ve survived this much so far it doesn’t mean they’re going to survive what’s on the other damn side of the door. There’s a trail of bodies behind them, a potential trail in front, and Jack just doesn’t know what to say.

“I’m out of emitters,” Jack ends up saying, his belt empty and bear. The others glare at him but he sees them all glance down, cataloguing their own equipment.

“I’ve got one more battery.” Reinhardt informs them, hefting it up to show them. Jack grimaces but turns to Ana who’s holding up two ammunition clips.

“This better end up being hand to hand,” she sighs as she looks at them. “I’m almost out of bullets.”

“I’m good,” Torbjörn pipes up, and he flushes as four glares turn to him. “What? I left my last turret outside. I’ve got nothing but a rivet gun now and a winning attitude.”

“Shut up, Torbjörn,” Ana growls, and Jack stifles a hysterical laugh.

Gabe doesn’t say anything, just watches them all and obviously catalogues their statuses. Jack steps forward to rest a hand on his shoulder, making him jump a little, and Jack gives him a tired smile. He doesn’t have anything to say, too nervous to really know what to say, and he’s well aware of everyone turning their attention to the two.

What he doesn’t expect is Gabe’s sudden gruff, “fuck it” before he surges forward and kisses Jack.

Jack lets out a muffled yelp but immediately throws an arm around Gabe’s neck and drags him down that centimetre difference between them. It’s a desperate kiss, messy and painful when they click teeth, but there’s also sheer desperation in it and the knowledge that behind this door… behind this door is the damn thing that’s caused them torment for well over a fucking year now.

When Gabe breaks away he’s breathless but there’s a smile on his face. “Lets kick some ass, soldados,” he says before he releases Jack and smashes through the door.

Jack stays still for a moment as Torbjörn and Reinhardt rush past, the sounds of gunfire already starting up, and it’s only Ana’s clap on his shoulder that shakes him out of it. She doesn’t speak a word but her gaze says a thousand things, and Jack quickly shoves his head back in order before chasing the others.

Inside is a nightmare, bullets reigning down, Gabe yelling at everyone, the sounds of Omnic’s communicating as if through microphones, and amongst it all Jack clings to his rifle and avoids as many shots as possible. Numerous times Omnic’s get close enough to touch him, but they’re quickly swept away by a swing of Reinhardt’s hammer or Torbjörn’s sheer Swedish rage.

But then through it all Jack sees them, sees the damn leader and he knows it’s them. Knows its the damn Omnic is charge by the scratches down it’s faceplate and the lack of arm. He can see the brands on it that shows it’s from Carolina, and his blood boils at the sight. It seems Gabe sees it too as he flings himself forward, tearing through the foray towards the damn leader, and Jack wants to join but pauses a moment.

Because beside it are two Omnic’s that he recognises from three weeks ago. They’ve got the markings of bombers, suicide bombers, and there’s a sudden fear growing in the pit of his stomach as he sees the leader raise it’s hand and make some gesture at one of them.

Get down!” he screams, throwing himself forward to cover Ana and sends them slamming to the ground. Reinhardt’s shield flickers above them, obviously seeing what Jack’s seen, and Torbjörn is only just starting to slip behind it when the explosion rocks the room.

The shockwave is dulled by Reinhardt’s shield, but it’s so powerful it throws Reinhardt off his feet and the debris from the room starts to crumble on them. Jack can feel it smashing into his back, pushing out choked cries as he desperately covers Ana despite her yells at him to move. Reinhardt is roaring something, undoubtedly getting to his feet already, but Jack can’t hear anything from Torbjörn or…

Oh god, Gabe.

Jack flings himself off of Ana and stumbles his way through the wreckage around him. Omnic pieces are everywhere, a metal hand here and a metal leg there, but Jack pays no mind as he cries out for Gabe.

“Where the hell are you?” he bellows, storming towards where he saw the leader and feeling sick as he sees not just Omnic parts but human parts too. His stomach rolls at the thought it could be parts of Gabe but he tries to ignore it as he picks through the rubble to find him.

He’s never quite felt relief so extreme when he spots Gabe leaning up against a van, breathing heavily and clutching his head. Jack just about falls over himself as he races towards him, yelling his name, but it’s not until he’s almost on top of him that Gabe finally looks up.

Of course, if Jack’s ears are ringing he wonders just how Gabe’s are.

“Gabe,” he calls as he drops to his knees in front of him. There’s scratches marring Gabe’s face, some so deep it’s sickening, and those gouge marks on the side of his head have been ripped open again. The man looks pale, obviously losing a lot of blood, and Jack reaches out to grip his hands with blood slicked hands, and Jesus, Jack doesn't have anymore emitters on him. “Gabe, talk to me.”

Gabe blinks blearily at him, and when he smiles his teeth are red and his eyes slightly vague. “It’s over,” Gabe says, and his voice is so loud Jack almost recoils. “It’s finally over, Freckles.”

Jack can’t stop his sudden shaking, and he almost collapses where he’s crouched as he reaches up to cup Gabe’s cheek, holding desperately tight to him. “Yeah, Gabe,” he laughs almost hysterically as he rubs his thumb over Gabe's undamaged cheek. “It’s over. Fuck, Gabe, we’re alive.”

Gabe snorts and leans into Jack’s arm. “Some-fucking-how,” he agrees and he lets out a sigh as he closes his eyes. “I really need a nap.”

Jack thinks this is all wrong, that Gabe shouldn't be this bad at the end, and he slips onto his knees and moves to sit by Gabe. He wishes desperately for a bloody emitter, but he knows he won't get one as Gabe sinks into him, his head falling onto Jack’s shoulder with a happy sigh, and Jack scratches his hand up into Gabe’s non-scratched side.

Around them the building is still creaking as debris drops, there are Omnic’s still scattered about, and Jack is pretty sure he can hear Ana and Reinhardt swearing at Torbjörn, but in the end he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care.

Because it’s over. This whole fucking thing is over, and they’re alive somehow, and all Jack can really think to do is press a kiss to Gabe’s forehead and send one last damn prayer of thanks.

 

 

Chapter Text

In the immediate aftermath of the Crisis, when there’s still the occasional fight but it’s only really clean up duty, Jack learns to knit.

It’s not really an intentional thing. It came about when they’d landed in Los Angeles with a groaning Torbjörn and an unconscious Gabe and none other than Adawe there to greet them. She gives them all that tight-lipped smile, although this time it seems to reach her eyes, and advises them to follow her into the building.

She explains the camp they’re currently standing in is the newly issued Overwatch headquarters, although it still needs some last minute details, so if they wouldn’t mind could they please be once again confined to the medical quarters of the building until further notice?

Jack wants to scream, but Ana’s the one to agree on everyone's behalf. She hisses at Jack to shut up when he goes to object, and when they do reach medical he sees Ana immediately flop onto a nearby bed and let out a hiss of comfort. He gets it, gets the need to relax, but he isn’t happy about it.

Adawe seems thrilled though, and she looks just peachy as she informs them that whatever they need she is happy to accommodate for their seclusion.

Of all the people to speak up, it’s Torbjörn who does. He asks for a selection of knitting needles and yarn, and the sheer confusion on Adawe’s face at the request, the raised eyebrow she sends everyone, and no doubt the inconvenience this will cause makes Jack feel better as he smothers a laugh behind Reinhardt’s back.

Surprisingly, Torbjörn knows how to knit though, and when two crates are delivered into the general common room they’re occupying he hobbles in from his infirmary room to raid through them with Jack trailing along at his side. There are so many different types of wool that it makes Jack’s head spin, and really the only one he recognises is the cheap acrylics his mother used to make farming undershirts out of. He holds a bright red acrylic in his hand, but Torbjörn snatches it away muttering under his breath and shoves what feels like alpaca wool at him instead.

So as Gabe recovers in his own tucked away room, mostly in an induced coma with pure biotic fluid feeding into him to speed along the healing of the internal injuries he suffered from the explosion, Jack partakes alongside Ana and Reinhardt in Torbjörn’s Knitting Class. It’s chaos, Reinhardt’s hands are too big and meaty, Ana’s patience surprisingly dismal despite being a sniper, and Torbjörn’s eye starts to twitch after the hundredth time correcting everyone on how to hold the damn needles. Only Jack seems to be able to follow along, and frankly, he thinks it’s because having something to keep his hands and head occupied that isn’t life-threatening is a nice change.

As time goes by being tucked away in their little sanctuary, and a sanctuary it becomes as they block out the rest of the world and just rest, Jack slowly gets better. He makes scarves, so many damn scarves, and he tucks them all away in one of the crates to send out when they are released from confinement. No doubt there are some people out there who need them. But there are also mismatched booties he tries to knit, a disaster of a pair of gloves, one jumper that he thinks about knitting for Gabe but Torbjörn almost skins him alive when he mentions it. He doesn’t understand the reason behind that reaction, but after a brief internet browse, he realises that the last thing he wants to make Gabe is a jumper.

He ends up settling on making him a beanie, pulling out beautiful black imported possum wool to start on his mission. At the same time as confirming that Jack’s arms and back will scar, the doctors had also said the three gouge marks on Gabe’s head will too. Jack knows that despite all of Gabe’s gung-ho attitude, he is really conscious of his appearance. Jack can probably trace that back to little assholes at school making fun of the dark kid, and really he thinks that if Gabe had the option to at least hide his scars he’ll be thankful.

For a week straight he works on the beanie. He only works when he’s sitting by Gabe’s bedside, and he has to restart seven times and convince Torbjörn to help him. Tearing Torbjörn away from knitting his turret’s socks is hard though, but when he does come away to help it's with a teasing smile and a few seedy nudges as he tells Jack what to do “just for Gabriel”.

He’s about halfway through and finally getting the hang of it when Gabe grumbles a few times and opens his eyes. He’s done this a few times since they started waking him from the coma two weeks into confinement. He’s never really conscious, mainly just blinks and says a garbled mix of English and Spanish before going back to sleep. This time though his eyes are clearer and he smiles tiredly at Jack.

“Morning, cariño,” he says quietly, and Jack lowers his knitting to smile and reach out to touch Gabe’s arm.

“Hey,” he replies, keeping his voice low. Gabe still winces though, and Jack feels bad. The doctors had said the coma wouldn’t help his sensitivity to everything. The amount of medication they’d pumped into him to counteract the enhancement serum had been phenomenal and even Kelly had appeared for a few days to run some tests to ensure they weren’t actually going to kill him with the dosage.

Gabe yawns as he drops his hand to cover Jack’s. He’s looking better, less pale and drawn out. Everything that had been broken, his collarbone, his arm, the crack in his jaw, all of it is well on its way to repair and Jack seriously couldn’t be happier.

“What’re you doing, encantador?” Gabe asks him when he’s blinked blearily a few times and shuffled to look at him better. “It looks like knitting.”

“Had to do something,” Jack replies, and Gabe just smiles before looking pointedly at the bundle of material. Jack flushes and holds up the half-finished beanie, twirling it around for Gabe to admire. “It’s a beanie for you. In case… well, it’s a beanie.”

Gabe rolls his eyes, clearly knowing what Jack was trying to hint at, and he reaches out to scrunch the beanie in his hand. “It’s so soft,” he marvels, and Jack smiles.

“Possum wool,” he explains, and Gabe hums before dropping his hand and relaxing back on his bed. Jack lowers the hat back into his lap and reaches out to run his fingers over a patch on Gabe’s arm, his lips twitching at Gabe’s little-pleased noises.

“It’s been a while,” Gabe eventually says into the quiet. “What’s happening? Have you spoken to Adawe?”

Jack shakes his heads and pauses his ministrations to reach up and tuck some of Gabe’s hair away from his head. “No,” he murmurs. “That’s this afternoon’s job. She’s sending an escort to accompany me for a meeting. I think Colonel Bishop is coming for a visit too, but I highly doubt it’s anything special. After all, our leader is still out for the count.”

“I’m not out,” Gabe grumbles, but he pouts when Jack laughs quietly. Jack keeps his hand on Gabe’s forehead and strokes his hairline with his thumb, careful to mind the still healing wounds on his head, but he’s desperate for the contact. So many times he’s contemplated curling up on the bed beside Gabe only to have Ana give him a disapproving look that turns soft when he sighs. She doesn’t mean anything cruel by it, and really Jack gets exactly why he can’t do that.

“Jack?” Gabe calls out, and Jack almost gives himself whiplash as he looks up to stare at Gabe. He’s frowning where he lies. “Is everything okay?”

“Fine,” Jack assures him with a small smile. “Just… I’ve missed you.”

Gabe’s snort is halfhearted and Jack rolls his eyes before Gabe reaches out to touch his cheek. It’s such a gentle touch that Jack starts at the contact, but leans into it when Gabe’s hand follows his movements.

“Me too,” Gabe whispers, his voice so quiet Jack has to strain to hear it. “Yo también te extraño, dulzura.” 

Jack knows enough Spanish by now to blush a furious red at the endearment, and Gabe smiles softly as he brushes his thumb over Jack’s cheekbone. They don’t say anything more into the quiet space between them, just let their touches say everything they need too. Jack has to leave soon for his meeting with Adawe, but he’s loathed to tear himself from Gabe.

Eventually, there’s a knock on the door and Ana sticks her head in, her eyes going soft when she sees them. They don’t break apart, neither one willing to let go of the other, and Jack just watches and waits.

“There’s a couple of guards here for you, Jack,” she says after a moment, and Jack sighs. Gabe drops his hands from his face and he misses it straight away, wanting nothing more than to tell Adawe to piss off and crawl into bed with Gabe.

“Go,” Gabe says, and Jack doesn’t get how suddenly he’s the responsible one out of the two. “I’m not going anywhere. I’ll see you when you’re back.”

Jack purses his lips but nods as he stands. He lingers for a moment before he throws caution to the wind and leans down to press a kiss to Gabe’s forehead. Gabe makes a little noise of shock, and it sends warmth down Jack’s spine as he pulls away and smiles.

“Be back soon,” he says, but god how wrong he is.

It’s not just the guards waiting for him, and when he gets out into the corridor he sees Adawe standing just down the way with her clipboard in hand and a stern look on her face. Jack barely gets two steps before she speaks, and what she says has him hurtling to a halt.

“It’s about time,” she snaps. “Our plane leaves in an hour. We haven’t much time for a briefing.”

Jack stares at her with wide eyes, and he feels incredibly ineloquent as he gestures vaguely at the door and struggles for words.

“But, ma’am-” he starts to say but is cut off by a wave of her hand and the presence of two rather large guards pressing up close behind him. He’s under no illusions he could probably take them, and it shocks him even more to think that’s the first thought that comes to mind.

“No buts, Morrison,” she says as she turns on her heel and starts to walk away. Jack feels himself be jostled by the guards and nudged into following him. “We’re departing for New York immediately to meet with members of the United Nations to discuss the future of Overwatch. Colonel Bishop will remain here to brief the rest of your team when we have confirmation.” She glances back at him. “I will brief you further on the plane, but for now we have a bag packed for you and a plane waiting.”

Jack feels like a damn fish gaping after her, but he doesn’t argue, can’t argue. He just lets himself be pushed along the corridor and outside to board a damn jet on the compound’s tarmac, until he’s sitting in a comfy chair with Adawe across from him and the signs of the plane taxing off finally knocks him out of his daze.

What the hell?

“Ma’am,” he says, trying to get her attention, and Adawe looks up from her clipboard with a perfectly sculpted eyebrow raised. He hesitates for a moment but eventually charges ahead. “I mean no disrespect, but why am I here? Strike Commander Reyes is our leader, so wouldn’t he be better suited?”

“As you know Reyes is currently incapacitated,” Adawe replies without a hitch, almost as if she’d anticipated the question which, considering the situation, isn’t unlikely. “As you are his second I believe it is your role to step in when necessary?”

Jack flounders for a moment. “Well, yes,” he mutters, she’s really not wrong, “but this is a matter concerning the team’s future. I don’t feel comfortable-”

“Jack,” she cuts him off again, surprising him by lowering her clipboard to place on the side table beside her. She folds her hands in her lap and hits him with a hard stare. “I had intentions on filling you in when we got to New York. I believed you were a very typical soldier, loyal and appeasing, but I see that while that’s not incorrect at this moment it is not the case towards myself. I appreciate that you are in fact loyal to Commander Reyes, but now is not the time to be caught up in your… feelings.”

There’s a moment of fear that she knows about him and Jack, but she doesn’t look smug so he chalks it up to her fishing. What he does notice though is the use of Gabe’s old rank, and he frowns.

“Strike Commander,” he says, and she blinks at him.

“Pardon?”

“He’s Strike Commander Reyes,” Jack presses again, staring at her with a mix of a glare and a frown. “He’s earned that title, ma’am. I thought you’d remember that, considering you bestowed it on him.”

Adawe looks a little put out, obviously not use to Jack being assertive like this. He feels a little smug. Really, war changes a lot of things about a lot of people. The appeasing young soldier she knew after the SEP has taken a long walk and been replaced by Jack now.

She doesn’t say anything though which unnerves Jack. Instead, she just watches him with a small frown before she reaches for her clipboard to settle it in her lap. If it’s not folders, it’s that blasted clipboard, and Jack really wants to reach over and snap it in half.

His mother would disapprove though, and really Jack has been spending too much time around Gabe if his tolerance is this low now.

“Yes,” she finally cracks, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by Jack that they’re in the air before she speaks. “Well, unfortunately, there is some news that, once again, I was going to wait until New York to share with you. But you’ve tied my hands, Jack.” She clears her throat. “Congratulations, Strike Commander Morrison. You have been officially promoted as the new leader of the Overwatch organisation.”

Jack freezes, completely freezes with his mouth half open and his eyes wide as his brain short-circuits. He thinks he tries to say a few words, but all that comes out is a jumbled mess, and Adawe raises an eyebrow before she ducks her head to look at her clipboard.

“Unfortunately this means that Commander Reyes is receiving a demotion. We can’t exactly have two Strike Commanders, that can cause conflict even amongst a duo as close as you too.” It’s another pointed remark, but Jack is in too much shock to notice. “We do have a future assignment coming up for him in due course, although the details are still confidential. Not even you have clearance, Jack, but eventually, you’ll know when we introduce you both to it. He’ll need your help as Reyes is,” Adawe pauses and purses her lips. “Well, he’s a bit of an unpredictable character-”

“Unpredictable?” Jack snaps, shocked at his own tone but otherwise not caring. “You say he’s unpredictable and yet you’re the one who’s just dropped this on me? You can’t do this!”

Adawe glares, and Jack almost recoils at the sheer venom in her stare. “You need to understand, Jack, that I can, I will, and I have.”

That leaves him speechless, and he stares at her for longer before cracking out a shaky, “why now?”

Adawe shakes her head and there’s that empty shark smile again. “You say that like it’s only just been decided.” She sighs, not at all forlorn. “Gabriel Reyes was never meant to be the long-term leader of Overwatch for a magnitude of reasons. I’m assuming he’s never told you about what he was doing prior to the SEP?”

Jack can only shake his head, and Adawe grimaces.

“I would suggest asking,” she says. “Maybe not for a while though. I assuming he’ll take the news from Colonel Bishop rather hard. After all, we don’t have time to wait for him to get better before informing the team of this latest development.”

Jack suddenly feels sick to his stomach as he realises what’s just happen. He feels anger brewing in him at the realisation that Adawe has manipulated him, made him left his team, left Gabe, just when everything is changing. To them, it’ll look like he received news of his promotion and immediately galavanted away to hobnob with all the fucking UN dignitaries.

“You bruja,” he mutters, and he’s surprised when she laughs.

“I may not speak Spanish, Morrison,” she chuckles, watching him with mirth in her eyes that makes him uncomfortable. “But I’ve been called a witch in enough languages to know what that means.”

He glares at her. “What if I refuse?” he suddenly asks, and she stops her laughter to cock her head at him. “What if I refuse the promotion? You can’t leave Overwatch without a leader. I can’t let you throw Gabe under the bus. It’s not right.”

The final nail in the coffin is when she sighs and gestures around them at the plane interior. “I’m sorry, Strike Commander,” she says, not sorry at all, “but you already have.”

Jack stares at her with an open mouth, wondering if she realises what she’s just said, what she’s just implied, but she doesn’t even seem fazed as she shifts in her seat and pulls out another damn manilla folder.

He’s about ready to storm into her office and set every single one of those fucking things on fire.

“Now,” she says after clearing her throat. “When we reach New York we will be attending a UN meeting. You will be meeting all the politicians and leaders that will be involved in the process of running Overwatch. Of course, you are the leader, but after all a leader must have his advisors and,” she pauses to smile at him. “Well, you’ll have a whole lot of them. Of course, your first loyalty will always be to the Americas, more specifically myself and whoever will be appointed as Director.” Adawe looks to ponder for a moment before sighing. “Although the idea of a Director hasn’t fully formed within the UN yet, but I believe that Colonel Bishop will be promoted to Acting Director until the appropriate rank passes through the official channels to get confirmation that we will, in fact, have a Director to report to.”

Jack stares, stares and stares, but the mention of his surrogate uncle slaps him back into reality. “Colonel Bishop?” he says, and Adawe nods.

“Indeed. He would attend with us to this meeting but it would be unseemly for him to be present when they make the vote on the Director, and someone needed to stay behind to debrief your team.”

“Debrief?”

“Of course, Jack.” She frowns at him. “We’ll be away for almost two weeks. Someone will need to inform your team of the changes and send them off for their leave. I believe Captain Amari has arrangements to make for her daughter and husband to accompany her to live on base with you. It is a shame Chief Engineer Lindholm is not willing to make the same move.”

Besides the tidbit about Ana and Torbjörn, Jack is more focused on the first part. “You’re telling them about this now?” he asks in disbelief. “Can’t it wait until I get back? I need to be there for Gabe-”

“Your sentiment is touching, Jack,” Adawe cuts him off. “But as you can appreciate we’re in a very tedious situation. We’re on the brink of ending what little resistance remains of the Omnic’s and need the UN to certify the continuation of Overwatch. Your teammates, including Gabriel Reyes, need to take a back seat in your priorities.”

Unfortunately, and it pains Jack to think it, she’s right. She’s genuinely right because this is tedious, this is a dangerous time, and looking at the manilla folders shows a whole brief detailing just how damn close Overwatch is to being deemed unnecessary now. No matter who’s in charge of the damn organisation, Jack knows that Overwatch needs to remain. Needs to finish this Crisis right to the bitter bitter end.

He thinks of Gabe, in bed no doubt, not expecting Colonel Bishop to drop this bombshell on him, and even though it pains Jack he knows there’s nothing he can do.

“This Senator from Iowa,” he asks cautiously, knowing he probably screams defeat with his hunched shoulders and quiet voice. “It says he’s an Omnic sympathiser. Is this good or bad?”

Adawe looks thrilled, and she shuffles her clipboard over and leans forward in her chair. She starts talking a mile a minute, her hands gesturing occasionally, and even though Jack starts to faze out he tries to listen.

But god, god he can’t help feeling like he’s betraying Gabe. Can’t help it at all.

 

 

Chapter Text

When Jack returns a fortnight later, it’s to an empty medical quarters.

He’s not surprised, of course not. The team has all been sent away for leave, and he knows that Ana is definitely going to find her husband and daughter back in Egypt, and undoubtedly Torbjörn is off as well reuniting with his own family in Sweden. Reinhardt and Gabe though, he doesn’t know what they’ll do. Reinhardt’s family have all died over the years of the Crisis and Gabe… well, Gabe doesn’t talk about family.

Still, it’s a bit of a shock when he automatically walks back to the medical quarters and stops short at seeing how pristine and empty it is. The air has the tangy citrus smell of disinfectant, and everything looks so white that it makes Jack’s skin crawl. There’s not a hint left that they were there at all. The crate of wool is gone, the stain from Reinhardt’s currywurst on the rug has been scrubbed away, Ana’s pictures that Fareeha sent her that were covering one wall have disappeared and there’s no sign of any holes put there by their pins.

Gabe’s room is just as empty. The bed stripped back to bare, the tables all lined orderly against the walls, none of the extra chairs that they’d found to surround him.

The vase holding Torbjörn’s knitted flowers is long gone and when Jack rubs a hand over the table it was on the water stain, from when Reinhardt thought they were real and needed watering, isn’t there either.

It feels alien, something he wasn’t expecting, and Jack lets out a little huff before sinking to the floor with his back against the bed.

He knocks his head back on the frame and closes his eyes, clenching his hands tight around the manilla folders in his hands. They’re lists of people, all given to him by Adawe under instructions to review future Overwatch members, but Jack would much rather throw them in the trash and hunt down his current team. They’re all he needs for Overwatch, all he wants. He can trust them to watch his back and his there. They’re a team, people Jack loves and wants around him.

Unfortunately, he can’t help the little nagging voice in the back of his head that’s saying they don’t want to see him though. After all, he did just abandon them and run away to hold court with the United Nations right after being told he was promoted. What kind of image does that produce?

“You’re back.”

Jack jumps at the voice as it rings in the room, and he opens his eyes to see Torbjörn leaning in the doorway and looking at him. He’s in casual clothes, something Jack doesn’t think he’s ever seen him in before, and the lack of the giant metal claw and appearance of a normal arm is quite disconcerting.

“Just ten minutes ago,” he replies when it’s obvious Torbjörn is waiting for a comment. “What’re you doing here? I thought you’d be in Sweden by now. You were put on leave two weeks ago.”

Torbjörn shrugs and pushes himself off the doorway to come sit beside Jack. Jack automatically shuffles over to give him more space, not that he needs to since he is sitting on the floor and they’re not running out of that, but it’s just sheer habit and politeness.

“I thought I’d wait until you got back before Reinhardt and I leave,” Torbjörn says as he lowers himself with a grunt before stretching out. “Ana had to leave, but with a six-year old I don’t blame her. Apparently, Sam was getting frantic for her to come home. Fareeha seems like she’s a lot more like her mother than we thought.”

Jack cracks a small smile at the thought of a mini-Ana terrorising Cairo. Doesn’t seem overly farfetched, and he’s ready to meet the little girl who’s been sending him pictures of a great blond soldier charging into battle with his team behind him.

“I look forward to having two of them around here,” he says, and Torbjörn snorts and shakes his head. He’s smiling though, and Jack relaxes a little at the sight. He leans back against the bed again but keeps his legs crossed. Basic body language screams he’s weary and closed off, but Torbjörn has never been an observant type.

“So. Two weeks with dignitaries. That’s rough.”

Jack laughs. “Not as rough as spending it with a sick and bitching Gabe. How is he?”

Torbjörn stares at him with a frown. “You mean you haven’t been to see him yet?” he asks, and Jack blinks as Torbjörn goes from looking relaxed and hearty to angry. “You came here and didn’t seek him out first? Skit are you nuts, Jack? We all thought that maybe Adawe had gotten the jump on you, that you’re not the type to plan something underhand like this. Not seeing Gabriel first though-”

“Whoa whoa,” Jack cuts him off, shaking his hands and letting the folders slip to the floor. “I just got back ten minutes ago, Torb. I haven’t even had time to find him!” It’s a partial truth. The look on Torbjörn’s face shows he knows it’s not the whole truth either, and Jack bites his lip as he lowers his hands.

He fidgets briefly with the coat he’s wearing, a ridiculously blue monstrosity that Adawe had shoved him into. Torbjörn is all but staring him down as he waits for Jack’s proper answer, and it’s only because the confession is sitting on the tip of Jack’s tongue that he continues.

“I was worried he wouldn’t want to see me,” he confesses quietly. “I… I know how important leading Overwatch is to him and for me to suddenly come take it out from underneath him is… it’s unforgivable. I mean, I know that technically Adawe did blindside us all, but I could easily have said no. I could’ve refused and left Overwatch but…” He sighs and runs a hand over his face. “I should’ve said no instead of risking Gabe’s anger. Now I’m just scared he won’t want to see me.”

When he glances over to look at Torbjörn he’s surprised to see him looking soft and thoughtful. It’s not an expression Jack’s ever really seen on Torbjörn’s face, and he shifts a bit uncomfortably until Torbjörn speaks up.

“You know,” he starts to say, and his voice is equally as low and quiet as Jack’s. “I helped to build the Titan. I was a key member of building the schematics and piecing it together. I thought it would be helpful for humanity to have a machine so big and strong to help us rebuild and grow.” He sighs and glances down to look at his lap, and Jack feels a pang in his chest as he realises what’s next. “Then Norway happened, and after that Denmark, and then Germany then Poland then Belarus right up until the Titan armies were crawling through Ukraine into Russia and from there…” he trails off and sighs. “From there we know the rest. All because of me.”

“No,” Jack insists, “no, Torb. You couldn’t have know what was going to happen-”

Suddenly Torbjörn is looking up at him and there’s a smile on his face no matter how small or how deep the hurt is in his eyes. “No,” he agrees. “No, I couldn’t have known. I couldn’t have known what was going to happen after I made those schematics. Just like you couldn’t have known what was going to happen the moment you walked out of these quarters into Adawe’s path.”

Jack feels himself short circuit for a moment, and he shakes his head. “It’s not the same. That’s not the same.”

Torbjörn shrugs and reaches over to pat Jack’s shoulder. “Maybe, maybe not,” he replies, “but that’s not the point I’m making. I couldn’t have known about the Titan armies, but I do know that instead of wallowing in the realisation that I’d made walking death machines, that I’d made a decision that lead to people being hurt, I chose to try stop it. I chose to join Overwatch and start fixing instead of destroying.”

When Jack looks at him blankly, knowing what he’s saying but not piecing it together, Torbjörn laughs and bumps their shoulders.

“Oh, Jack.” he chuckles. “You’re a dumhuvud sometimes. I’m trying to tell you that it’s not about worrying over what was out of your control, but working with what is.” He nudges Jack a bit harder this time, and Jack winces at the roughness. “Which means getting up out of this depressing medical ward and hauling your ass down to see Gabriel. He’s not angry at you, even he understands that Adawe clearly had this planned, but I wouldn’t blame him for being angry that you came here to wallow instead of seeing him first. At least then he can do something about it instead of sending me to find your miserable ass.”

Jack blinks before he suddenly cracks a smile. Okay. Yeah. He gets it now, and he can’t help the little chuckle as he nudges Torbjörn back before pushing himself to his feet.

“Thanks, Torb,” he says with a smile, and Torbjörn waves him away with his own smile.

“Yeah yeah, you lovebirds would be lost without us,” he jeers, and Jack rolls his eyes as he leans down to collect his files. “Now go. Kiss and make up or whatever. I’m tried of his dramatic ass and it’s about time I go home and see my kärlek.”

Jack pauses at the doorway and glances over to see Torbjörn getting to his feet as well. “You said Reinhardt is going with you?”

Torbjörn grins. “You’ve got the house to yourselves, Mum. Keep Dad happy for us, would you? Hate to come home to a domestic.”

Jack is genuinely speechless, his mouth opening and closing like a fish, and Torbjörn just laughs uproariously as he pushes past Jack out into the main room before leaving the ward. He disappears out of sight and leaves Jack hovering uncertainly before he shakes his head and follows suit.

It takes him a while to navigate the halls but he eventually finds Gabe’s room. Unsurprisingly it’s right beside his newly assigned one, and Jack takes a nostalgic moment to smile before he hesitantly knocks on the door.

There’s a grunt from inside, and when Jack swings open the doors it’s to see Gabe sitting on his bed. He looks unstable, clearly having just only sunk down onto the mattress, and his pale face but red cheeks shows how tired he must be. Ana had sent him a few updates over the time he’d been away on Gabe’s health. He’s progressing steadily, but it will take a while to recover from surviving a blast.

Jack awkwardly hovers in the doorway, unsure what to say, until finally he just blurts out a simple, “Hi.”

Gabe stares at him, making Jack shuffle uncomfortably. “Hey,” he replies, and he doesn’t say anything else but does shuffle over slightly on the bed. Jack takes it for what it is, an opening and offer, and he slowly crosses over to sit down beside him. The bed dips with their combined weight, rolling them against each other, and Jack holds his breath at the feeling of Gabe pressed against his side.

They sit in silence for a little longer, neither obviously knowing how to start.

“How are you?” Jack ends up asking hesitantly, and it’s the same time Gabe sighs and says “Finally got away from Adawe?”

Jack stares at Gabe, and he can see the twitching of Gabe’s mouth before the two of them dissolve into laughter. It’s hilted, a little hysterical, but it’s bright and bubbly and Jack feels all the worry slide off his shoulders to settle at his feet. Gabe shaking against him makes him feel warm, and as he rights himself he feels Gabe nudge him.

“Who’d’ve thought it would be a bruja that would unsettle us,” Gabe comments, and Jack’s laughter cuts off into a hard sigh.

“I’m sorry, Gabe,” he says quietly, his voice sounding thunderous to his own ears. “I… what happened. I should never have accepted that promotion at the cost of you. It was unforgivable and I-”

“Jack, stop,” Gabe cuts him off, making him look up in surprise. Gabe is giving him a small smile, a sincere one. “It wasn’t your fault. Adawe has clearly been planning this for a long time. Mierda sucede, pendejo.”

Jack smiles at Gabe’s softness. “I just worry, Gabe. She started to say things about you that… I just didn’t…” He trails off when he sees Gabe’s face ashen even more, and he reaches out to touch his arm. “Gabe?”

Gabe pulls his arm away in a hurry. “She told you about pre-SEP?” he demands, and Jack’s surprised at the sudden harshness. “Jack, you have to understand-”

“Gabe, no,” Jack interrupts, reaching back out to clamp down on Gabe’s shoulder. “No. She started to but I cut her off. It’s not her place to tell me anything, no matter how much of a right she thinks she has. What happened? That’s your story to tell.” He glances down at the folders in his lap and resists the urge to throw them across the room. “She’s taken enough from you. I can’t, won’t, let her take away your choices like that.”

“You could order me,” Gabe mumbles, looking down at his clasped hands. “You’re my superior. Technically I have to do anything you say now.”

Jack shakes his head, reaching out to grab Gabe’s wrist and holding tight. “No,” he says. “Maybe on paper, but we’ll always be equals, Gabe. I will never pull rank on you.”

Gabe watches him with twitchy lips before he shakes his head with a small smile. “It’s better this way,” Gabe murmurs. “I’ve never been good with politics or, well, people. You’ve always been the glue between us all. I’ve always been the lurker in the background. Maybe it’s time to go back to it.”

There’s a hint to Gabe’s past in there, but Jack doesn’t latch onto it as he smiles back. Knowing that Gabe is okay with this, that’s he’s okay in general, it puts a lot of Jack’s worries to rest.

“In any case,” Gabe continues, “you may be Adawe’s chico de oro,” at Jack’s frown he snorts, “her Golden Boy, but you’ll always be my Freckles.”

Jack can feel a blush creeping up on his cheeks, and he pulls his hand away to splay on top of the files. He doesn’t know what to say, so he just smiles shyly instead and nudges Gabe’s side gently.

Gabe doesn’t say anything either, and the two sit in silence for a few moments before Jack glances up to see Gabe looking like he’s about to fall asleep. He notes the bruises under Gabe’s eyes, the half drooped eyes, and reaches up to pat Gabe’s cheek. It startles the man enough that he almost falls off the bed, and Jack frowns when Gabe looks at him sheepishly.

“Sorry,” Gabe mutters as he rights himself. Jack waves him off though.

“When was the last time you slept, Gabe?” he asks instead, and Gabe blinks at him with fake innocence. Jack’s frown deepens as he purses his lips. “Gabe.”

Gabe huffs and crosses his arm like a surly teenager. “It’s hard,” he mumbles. “I haven’t had time to get use to sleeping on my own again. We got back and were all crammed in the medical quarters and I was unconscious, then you left and, well, we all got booted to separate rooms and that was that.”

Hyper vigilance, Jack realizes, and were Gabe to ask he would admit he’s the same. Sleeping without someone at your back, watching it, for you, it’s too much to ask of soldiers just fresh back off the field. Jack’s managed to compensate over the last week by hoarding knives that were removed by room service every day when he was at meetings. There was a sympathetic cook though who, while not understanding exactly, slid him steak knives with dinner every night after they caught him filching butcher knives from the kitchen. It was his only chance of having a weapon to protect himself at night and, even though Adawe thought he was ridiculous, the feeling of a knife resting in his hand made him feel at least a tiny bit better.

Then Adawe had asked why he was so tired on their trip back home, and he’d lied. Told her it was the surrounding noise of the hotel they were in. He didn’t tell her it’s because the bed was too soft, the room too warm, the lack of Gabe pressed against his back. She’d believed his lie, even though he’d spent months on the battlefield sleeping to the sounds of blown artillery, Torbjörn’s turret ticking, and the nightmares waking his teammates around him.

“It’s too comfortable here, Jack,” Gabe continues after a moment. “Don’t get me wrong, I like the soft beds and edible food. It’s just...”

“Not right,” Jack finishes, his voice quiet. Gabe nods and drops his head to match Jack’s slouching. What a pair, Jack thinks, and he sighs.

He looks at the manilla folders in his hand, all filed with potential candidates for Overwatch. There’s a young Chinese scientist on top that he wants to show Gabe, wants to gush over how amazing her steps are in the scientific world and at such a young age. He wants to go through them all and judge all of Adawe’s chosen agents and roll their eyes over how she thinks she can get away with having so many on her personal payroll without them knowing.

He wants Gabe to tell him it’s going to be fine and that Adawe won’t break them apart, that Gabe will help Jack just like Jack helped him. He knows it goes without saying, but god, he wants to hear those words.

But he doesn’t. Instead he drops the folders to the floor, letting them tumble and not caring as pages fall out and scatter across the room. He doesn’t hesitate in turning to Gabe, and he ignores the questioning look to shove the man around until Gabe eventually lies down facing the wall. Jack slides in beside him, wriggling until their backs are flush up against each other, and he melts at the feeling of not just the warmth of Gabe’s back, but the knowledge that Gabe is here.

“Jack?” Gabe calls out, and Jack hums a response but doesn’t get a reply. Instead he feels Gabe’s hand snaking over his thigh until it finds Jack’s hand.

They interlace their fingers, and Jack squeezes tight as he sinks into the bed. Gabe’s right, the bed is too soft, but he’ll make do as he shuffles his head around and wriggles even further back against Gabe.

When they both go quiet, both as comfortable as can be, Jack quietly breathes out a “goodnight, Gabe” into the low light of the room.

He only gets a heavy sigh of breath back, Gabe already well on his way to sleep, and Jack smiles as he settles in to keep watch.

 

 

Chapter Text

Blackwatch is formed faster than Jack can really process.

One moment he’s standing in a control centre watching a series of screens and commanding groups of troops with Gabe at his side, alternating between offering advice and criticising Jack’s obnoxious blue coat, and the next Jack is being woken up at ass-o’clock in the morning by a grimy tired Gabe demanding that Jack haul himself out of bed for a debrief after the latest Blackwatch mission.

Jack does, no matter how confused and ruffled he can be by Gabe’s appearance or random timing. He lugs himself down to the debriefing room, listens to the rundown of what can either be an easy or downright horrifying mission, then he ensures everyone is alright before pulling himself back to bed.

Sometimes, if he’s lucky, Gabe will trundle along behind him and join him, but Jack notices that as the years go by it happens less and less, and what was originally Gabe and Jack’s room slowly becomes only Jack’s.

Jack asks him about it one time, and he watches as Gabe fiddles with the beanie Jack knitted for him before giving him some rough excuse about moving to the ‘basement’ to be closer to his men. Jack hadn’t blinked at the excuse, but when he looks back on it in years to come he really should’ve seen that was when cracks were starting to show.

But otherwise nothing changes. Jack still conducts missions with Gabe and the original team at his side. Reinhardt loses his bullheadness, becoming more of a boisterous clown that pulls a laugh from everyone. Torbjörn wears the mantel of ‘Angry Gnome’ like a damn medal, taking it too literally sometimes when he’s dealing with Blackwatch members. The two of them perform Operation White Dome together, and even though Torbjörn comes out with a missing arm it doesn’t deter him. Reinhardt cries and smothers him for days until Torbjörn gives him the roll of godfather to his new born, and when Jack meets Brigitte he has to laugh as the two men puff their chests like damn peacocks and Ingrid rolls her eyes. Amongst it all, steadily becoming Jack’s trusted second, Ana is still ever the same, maybe more passive with Fareeha running around the base.

Jack gets on well with Sam. He’s a Native American, incredibly proud of his heritage and willing to tell anyone who listens. Jack finds himself sitting in the common areas with the man for hours at a time with Fareeha playing between them while Ana mutters about her “damn husband yapping all the time”.

Jack thinks that’s why Ana and Gabe grow closer. It’s the shared pain of having two partners who really won’t stop.

Gabe and Jack… they’re not together, per say. They don’t mention anything in the year after the Crisis. Jack is hardly around as the formation of Overwatch picks up. He plays with politics and spends most of his time darting between LA and New York, while Gabe sticks in LA and slowly starts to build Blackwatch from the ground. When they’re together it’s easy, neither of them too determined to slam a label down on what they have. The closest they get is a picture Fareeha draws of the two holding hands, and Torbjörn cackles as he frames it to put on Jack’s bedside table.

It joins all the other photo’s amassed there, and Jack quickly gets the reputation of being the true softy of the group, no matter how often Reinhardt cries over happy endings and animals.

Gabe calls him cariño in private, Jack rolls out an affectionate cabrón in reply. Terms of endearment never have come naturally to Jack, and Gabe seems to love saying as many as he can just to watch Jack’s ears burn red. It’s good, it’s fine, it works.

Until the day it doesn’t.

It’s been stressful for the last few months. Blackwatch is thriving under Gabe’s management, and even though most of the members are criminals or questionable characters that Gabe recruits without permission, Jack firmly believes that Gabe knows what he’s doing. It causes a major rift between himself and Adawe as she slams down on Gabe’s managing and leadership skills at every meeting, and Jack fights back with tooth and nail, brimming with the utmost confidence in Gabe. Jack comes out victorious more often than not, but he can see the anger in Adawe’s eyes each time.

Then the Deadlock Gang mission comes along, and Jack finds himself leading it alongside Gabe.

At first they agree on what to do. It’s a universal agreement between the original Overwatch group that sending Torbjörn in undercover is a good idea. It leads to an afternoon of hilarity as they outfit him in a biker outfit, long white extensions that they plait, studded leather, and Jack pulls out his artsy side to apply temporary tattoos. Torbjörn’s frustrated and tired attitude by the end of playing dress up matches the outfit enough they almost send him in that day instead of the next week.

After he goes in they wait. They wait for easily eight months of Torbjörn’s recon. They play go between with Torbjörn’s family, Reinhardt taking time off to assist the family at home, and Torbjörn’s slow trickle feed of information is piled up into files on Jack’s desk. Many times Gabe and Jack pull all nighters sifting through the information trying to piece together a picture and design a plan, until finally the information slows to a trickle and all they have is all they can use.

So after ten months of careful planning and dedication, Blackwatch and Overwatch form together to descend on Route 66 with a vengeance. The Deadlock Gang, specifically their leader Ratchet Manaroe, weren’t expecting the attack but they sure weren’t underprepared. The revelation of Torbjörn’s double agency throws them off enough that Jack can send in the main Overwatch force to disrupt them, and he knows that somewhere Gabe is off with a small contingency doing who knows what. Jack’s sure Gabe has been given another mission, possibly instructions to seek out Manaroe himself, but he’s not positive.

Blackwatch’s missions aren’t always Jack’s business. Sometimes he has the feeling that even though he’s the leader of this damn organisation he’s still kept out of the loop just as much as he was when he turned up to the SEP.

The Deadlock’s put up a hell of a resistance. They get a few lucky shots at Jack, and he grits his teeth when the bullets skim him. They use old weapons, some damn modified old western weaponry, and Jack has half a mind to turn the damn things back on the gang just so they can get a taste of what it feels like to have shitty bullets pepper you.

Ana rolls her eyes through his bitching, nabs an emitter from Jack’s belt to slam on the ground, then races off after ruffling his hair. She’s gotten lenient in her mothering years.

Morrison?” Gabe’s voice crackles over the comm units when Jack and his crew are caught up in what could be the final stand off. Most of the Deadlock Gang that haven’t been killed or captured have hurtled down the Route 66 until they’d hit an old two story western hotel. So far they’d barricaded themselves upstairs and shot down at them from the balcony where there’s a decent vantage point. About a handful of Jack’s crew have injuries that could be serious, one of them definitely needing immediate medical attention, and Jack is weighing up the odds of just waiting the gang out instead of charging forward.

“Yeah, Reyes?” he replies, sinking back behind cover beside his troops. Reinhardt is crouching over them with his shield activated, grunting as several heavy artillery hit it and make it flicker. Jack hopes it doesn’t crash on them, lest they all get slammed with one well-aimed launcher the gang seems to have.

There’s a group splitting off from Manaroe’s to head into an abandoned diner. We’re about ten clicks from you. Reckon you could meet me to take these ones ourselves?

Jack glances around him and locks eyes with Ana. She smiles and nods. “Go,” she says. “We can hold the fort here, but take Torbjörn with you. It looks like the al’abalah is chaffing at the bit for a go at Manaroe.”

Torbjörn practically bounces up at the mention of his name, and Jack appreciates the thought of back up. He glances around at his crew, pausing as Bayless to touch his arm. The man is looking pretty pale and sickly, the blood still leaking sluggishly from the shrapnel wound in his side, and Jack presses another two emitters into his hand with a quiet word. Hopefully medical evac will be here soon and they can get Bayless out with the others.

“Affirmative, Reyes,” Jack mutters into his comm as he slinks away from the cover point with Torbjörn at his side. He’s thankfully lost most of the leather for the armour Ana had brought with her, but Jack still can’t take him seriously with the bright white plaits.

They tear off together along the canyon walls, sticking close and out of sight as they go. The diner that Gabe had said turns out to be a bit further away than Jack thought, and they jog past an old gas station before high tailing it back up onto a canyon ledge and skulking down to what looks like a graveyard for abandoned shipping containers.

Gabe is crouched patiently beside one of them, tucked out of view of the diner but obvious enough for anyone coming the other way to spot. He straightens when he sees them, and steps forward to intercept them lest they get spotted.

“Torby,” Gabe greets as they hunker down. Torbjörn huffs and reaches over to punch Gabe on the arm while Gabe practically laughs in his face. The goddamn nickname has replaced ‘Angry Gnome’ now that Torbjörn doesn’t mind it.

Jack rolls his eyes. “Not now,” he scolds as the two glance at him like children. “We’ve got a job to do. How many are in there, Gabe?”

Gabe still makes a comment under his breath, something Jack doesn’t catch but clearly Torbjörn does as he punches Gabe again. Jack doesn’t have to intervene though as Gabe pipes back up with the numbers.

“Not many, ten at most. I’m pretty sure it’s only Manaroe and his closest bastards with him.”

Jack nods and glances at Torbjörn who taps his chin thoughtfully.

“I saw Cooper and Ranshaw back at the hotel,” Torbjörn says, “so it’s not his finest shooters in there with him. I haven’t seen Yardy, Krank, or Gratter though so he’s probably got the brawns with him. No doubt the brains have bolted with the rest.”

“My team are rounding them up as we speak,” Gabe interrupts, and Torbjörn nods.

“We’ll be looking at hand to hand, vänner,” Torbjörn continues before glancing at Gabe in disgust. “Except you. Keep your shotguns out of my face and the spray radius off me or I’ll gut you in your sleep.”

“So hostile,” Gabe snickers, and it’s Jack’s turn to reach out and smack him. Gabe yelps and rubs his arm, clearly for show, and Jack rolls his eyes before hoisting his pulse rifle comfortably.

“Right, always look forward to hand to hand,” he mutters sarcastically, and Gabe snorts. “Come on, the sooner we get this over with the better. We’ll just smash down the front door and go in blazing. Manaroe has nothing on us, and Adawe did mention that the UN don’t mind if he’s brought in dead or alive.”

“I do,” Gabe murmurs, and that’s confirmation enough that he has his own agenda. Jack doesn’t comment or acknowledge the statement though, and instead just stands up and waits for the other two to join him before he starts marching towards the diner.

He doesn’t hesitate in rearing back and slamming his foot into the wood below the latch, the doors flying open, and Jack immediately swings into the cover provided by the walls as gunfire pelts out the doorway. Gabe is pressed up against him, his breath hot and heavy against Jack’s neck, and Torbjörn is taking cover on the other side.

Luckily the gang in the diner seem frantic, and Jack can count the firing patterns of at least seven different weapons. It means there’s still three unaccounted for if Gabe’s guess is right, but it means that all of the members will run out of ammunition at roughly the same time.

As if on cue the gunfire comes to a halt and the telltale click of reloading can be heard, and Jack gives Torbjörn a jerky nod before hurtling around the edge of the doorway to fire off into the diner blindly. Gabe is right behind him for only a moment before Jack sees him vault a nearby table and circle around the room towards the back where a half-assed barricade has been formed. Torbjörn joins Jack at his side with his rivet gun firing a deadly tattoo into the diner.

They get a few feet into the diner before Jack needs to reload, and he leaves Torbjörn firing as he ducks behind an upturned table and shoves a new clip into his rifle. He takes a moment to glance around at the layout of the diner before popping back out, noting there’s already a few scatter bodies where lucky shots have fallen the gang members.

Unfortunately, some of them arethey’re only crippled though, and they’re still firing at Torbjörn who seems more than willing to stand out in the open if it gives him a better vantage point.

There’s two burly men at the back of the room with a large woman beside them, and Jack has a suspicion they’re the brawn that Torbjörn was talking about. Only the woman has a pistol though and seems to be levelling it with Torbjörn slowly.

“You’re a bloody traitor, Brooks,” she yells over the gunfire, and Jack watches in horror as her finger twitches on the trigger before she pulls it back.

He manages to catch Torbjörn’s ankle and drag him down as the shot echoes through the room. Torbjörn lets out a horrific scream, still obviously having been hit, but Jack can’t afford him any attention as he rolls to his feet and throws his rifle up to target the woman.

He’s too late though as he watches Gabe charge her from his position. Gabe’s hand flies out to grab her firing arm and drags it down as he turns to shove his back against her chest. With a loud screech from her, Gabe throws her over his shoulder and sends her crumpling to the ground.

Gabe continues to pounce on her, but Jack glances away as he sees the other three men starting forward, and with a quick flick of his rifle he buries bullets into their bodies with practised ease. Torbjörn is still on the ground behind him, mumbling several curses, and Jack glances back to drop him an emitter before steadying his aim on the last few members of the Deadlock Gang, relieved to see that Manaroe is still up and kicking even if it seems he’s using the rest of the group as human shields.

“Put your weapons down!” Jack bellows, his voice cracking out in the room over the sounds of groaning men and Gabe’s one on one brawl with the woman. He flickers a glance to them and sees Gabe is winning, even if the woman is fighting insanely dirty, but Jack focuses more on Manaroe.

Manaroe is staring right back at him, and Jack is almost convinced the man is at ease until he sees the white knuckled grip Manaroe has on his pistol. It’s helpful to know that Manaroe is actually worried. That means there’s no back up coming. What’s in front of Jack is all that’s left.

“Piss off, Overwatch,” Manaroe sneers as he raises his pistol. “You have no business sticking your nose into our business. Route 66 has always been Deadlock territory, always will be. Ain’t nothing you can do about-”

Jack really does contemplate letting the bastard finish his monologue, but it seems Gabe has different ideas as he kicks the woman away from him and throws one of his shotguns at Manaroe. It’s with a heavy thud that it hits Manaroe in the temple and sends him crumpling to the ground, and it takes Jack a moment to process before he realises what just happened.

He has to hold back a snort, now is not the time, and he instead hefts his rifle and aims it at the group of men. “Stand down,” he orders again, and it’s with grim satisfaction that the small group slowly lower their guns and kneel on the ground.

The woman Gabe was fighting is lying in a crumpled heap, and Jack spares her a look before he steps forward to the rest of the group. Gabe is at his side immediately, and he gives Jack a smile before the two yank zip-ties out of their pockets and start to tie the members up. Most of them are bleeding horrifically, riddled with bullet holes that Jack is pretty sure aren’t from any of the Overwatch weapons. Manaroe does seem the type to sacrifice his team if necessary, and the thought of friendly fire makes Jack blanche.

He’s tied up three and pronounced one dead when he comes across the kid. He hadn’t noticed him in all the commotion, but it’s not like he stands out. He’s wearing a stenson that looks much too big and a blue Deadlock serape that covers most of his face, and when Jack drags his hands forward to zip-tie his wrists the serape drops to show an incredibly youthful face.

“What the fuck,” Jack mutters, unable to hold back, and he reaches forward to pull of the stenson only to recoil at seeing a bloody kid glaring at him. He winces when the kid spits at him, managing to duck the projectile, and with only a little squeak he rams the stenson back on the kid’s head and steps back.

“Morrison?” Gabe calls as he appears at his side, and Jack stares at him in shock.

“It’s a kid,” he says, and Gabe frowns. “Reyes, that’s a fucking kid. Manaroe had a god damn kid-”

“I ain’t no kid!” comes a rather pissed off voice, and both Jack and Gabe look down to see the boy glaring up at them with such a fierce gaze that Jack wonders how he’s not been seen of fire just yet. “Ya just a coupala old bastards!”

Jack holds back a startled laugh at the sudden bright grin on Gabe’s face. “Is that right, chico?” Gabe asks as he crouches down to knock the stenson off the kids head. “Well these couple of old bastards managed to kick your sorry ass.”

The kid replies some offensive garbage, something that Gabe seems to delight in, and Jack just stares and wonders what the fuck to do now.

The rest of the group are all adults, all old enough to make their own decisions, all old enough to be prosecuted by the damn law for things they willingly participated in.

This kid looks like he’s barely out of damn puberty with a bitchy attitude to match, and Jack knows that Adawe won’t have sympathy. They’ll drag him back to Overwatch and he’ll either be shoved in some juvie before sent to the big house, or he’ll be ‘invited’ to join one of Adawe’s pet projects. He’s young enough to suit her new idea of enhanced paratroopers, a project that so far has had numerous fatalities. Jack can feel the damn guilt crawling into his gut already.

“McCree?” Torbjörn’s voice startles Jack enough that he almost jumps a mile in the air. He looks behind him to see Torbjörn limping towards them, his hand covering half of his face and Jack feels nauseated at seeing the blood dripping between Torbjörn’s fingers.

The kid perks up from where he’s arguing with Gabe. “Brooks,” he calls with a large grin before he deflates. “Manaroe said you’re a traitor. Looks like he was right.”

Torbjörn snorts and stops to lean against Jack. “Not a traitor, pojke,” he says with a sigh. “Never was part of this gang in the first place. Always been Overwatch.” He grunts as he lifts his hand, and Jack gets glimpse of nothing but blood where Torbjörn’s right eye should be, and he remembers the inhumane scream Torbjörn had let out and feels sick. “Regretting that right now though. Who’d have thought Krank was a decent shot.”

Jack doesn’t comment that Krank wasn’t a good shot, it was probably due to Jack pulling him down. Now’s not the time to talk about that though, and he focuses on the kid instead. McCree, right?

“Got a first name, McCree?” Gabe asks as he pokes the kid in the side, and Jack has the urge to tell him off for antagonising the youth. It makes him feel old just thinking that though, so he swallows the thought and waits for a response.

McCree looks mutinous, and he opens his mouth to say something no doubt rude and stupid when Torbjörn cuts him off.

“Jesse McCree,” Torbjörn supplies. “Seventeen years old and one of the best sharpshooters I’ve seen in a long time. If Ana got her hands on him I think he could rival her one day. Too bad the kid likes to play with pistols over rifles, but he’s handy with either when the chips are down.”

“Seventeen?” Jack croaks, and even Gabe looks shocked. McCree just juts out his chin and glares at them all.

“Been runnin’ with the Deadlock’s for five years since my ‘rents were killed in the Crisis,” he says with an air of stubbornness and not a hint of sadness. “Ain’t no kid anymore. Manaroe damn well trusted me.”

The idea of a twelve year old running with this gang makes Jack feel sick, and knowing it’s because of the Crisis… Jack’s brain kicks into overdrive as he shares a look with Gabe that screams guilt.

“Manaroe used you, pojke,” Torbjörn sighs as he pushes off Jack to hobble towards McCree. He drops a hand to the kid’s head and ruffles his hair. “He only needed you for your Mexican citizenship, then he was going to get rid of you. You saw what he did to Carlston when he got done using her for smuggling to Canada.”

Jack only vaguely knows that story, having occupied one of the files on his desk, but when McCree’s face pales and he looks sick Jack knows it’s definitely one of the more gruesome stories.

“No,” McCree denies, but his voice is quiet and half-hearted. “He wouldn’t. He said we were family.”

Torbjörn keeps his hand lightly resting on McCree’s head, already mumbling more words, and Jack takes a quiet step back as he leaves Torbjörn to it. The kid looks more than just shell-shocked, and Torbjörn is looking worse for wear, so Jack taps into his comm to call for a medical evac. It’s time they got out of here.

He’s hovering just outside the diner in the shipping container graveyard when he feels Gabe loom up beside him. Half of their team have arrived, Reinhardt charging in with a loud bellow and Ana with a roll of her eyes, and Jack is thankful they’ve taken over as he leans back against Gabe’s chest.

“You okay, cariño?” Gabe asks him quietly, his mouth practically pressed to Jack’s ear. Normally Jack would love it, sink into the feeling of how close Gabe is, but he’s wound so tight that he can barely relax despite Gabe’s softness around him.

“What the hell are we going to do with him?” he murmurs back, trying to keep just as quiet. This isn’t a conversation he wants overheard, hell it’s not a conversation he really wants, but needs must and he turns to look at Gabe with wide eyes, surprised when he sees the kid’s stenson in Gabe’s hands. “He’s a kid, Gabe. We can’t let Adawe have him.”

Gabe raises an eyebrow at him. “We don’t owe him anything,” he says, and it sounds cruel but damn he’s right. Jack knows he shouldn’t be stressing about the fate of one damn kid when there’s so many out there, but this just feels different.

“I know,” he sighs. “I just… we gotta help him, Gabe. You heard Torbjörn. He’s the best sharpshooter. Adawe will love hearing that. She’ll indite him whether he wants to go or not and we know what she’ll do to him. I’ve seen the latest experiments,” and Gabe winces enough that obviously he’s seen them too. “This kid will die if we don’t do something.”

“Like what?” Gabe asks. “Overwatch can’t take him. You have to be over nineteen to even be considered. And Adawe will know he’s there and will figure it out. She’s not stupid. Not to mention the kid has enough personality to alert anyone of his presences in a ten mile bloody radius.”

Jack purses his lips, looking back at the diner where everyone is slowly trickling out. He sees McCree go past, head high and defiant as Torbjörn leads the way. “Maybe we could…” he pauses in thought before something clicks and he looks at Gabe wearily. “We could recruit him into Blackwatch.”

The look on Gabe’s face has him scrambling to explain.

“Think about it,” he says. “Most of Blackwatch is made of past criminals, people with skills that are too valuable to lock away. If this kid is as good as Torbjörn says then imagine what he’ll be like under your tutelage, under Ana’s. He could be an asset, Gabe, and it keeps him safe.”

“Blackwatch would keep him safe?” Gabe responds with a quirked eyebrow. “Jack, I know you’re stressed, but in what world-”

“We don’t have to register him as part of Blackwatch. Adawe will never know he’s there. The rest of the gang will be sent straight to prison after interrogation so she won’t get a chance with them, and we can smudge the landing records so McCree doesn’t appear on them,” Jack interrupts, and he gives Gabe a meaningful glare that has Gabe looking away sheepishly. “You’ve done it for years now. Do this one for me.”

Gabe looks hesitant, and Jack sees his grip tightening on the stenson he’s holding. Jack knows this is more than just recruiting a member of Blackwatch, that this is more than just jotting the kid’s name down and swiping him in. This is about committing to helping this damn kid, and somewhere in the back of Jack’s mind he chalks it up to being like adoption.

Mierda,” Gabe eventually swears and he rubs a hand over his face before giving Jack a small smile. “Never can say no to you, Freckles. We’ll adopt the kid, but if he pisses on the rug then you’re cleaning it up.”

Jack snorts and he reaches out to slip his hands over Gabe’s, squeezing them tightly. It’s the only affection he’ll show him until they get back to base.

“You know that kids and dogs are different, right?” he asks him with a smile, and Gabe snorts.

“This is a full blown teenager we’re committing to, pendejo,” Gabe replies and Jack winces. “God help us.”

 

 

Chapter Text

The biggest problem Jack has found since becoming Strike Commander, and one that Gabe constantly reminds him of when he's feeling petty, is that he has to deal with not only a horrendous amount of politicians but also the constant stress of Adawe breathing down his neck.

Like now, where Jack is tempted to fling himself over the desk and strangle her as she grills him once again about Gabe himself.

"It's getting out of control, Jack. Reyes cannot continue recruiting members to Blackwatch without the approval of the UN Council."

"Blackwatch works outside of the jurisdiction of the council," Jack reminds her through gritted teeth. "Only Overwatch reports directly to the UN. Blackwatch has its own chain of command under Bishop himself, and he reports to only certain members of the UN. Even you stepped down and gave up all responsibility for the division, Adawe.”

"Blackwatch is Overwatch," she snaps at him, her temper starting to show. She's always calm and collected, relatively pleasant to deal with in short bursts, but whenever Gabe is mentioned she becomes vicious. "In the manner of recruiting, all recruits must be certified." She pauses and gives him a hard look. "No matter how personal."

Jack doesn't even blink. She doesn't know about Jesse, not after the lengths that Jack and Gabe have gone to cover his existence. He's use to Adawe fishing for information now through pointed comments.

"Take it up with Bishop then," he deflects, crossing his arms. "I will not be your lackey, Adawe. As far as I'm concerned Gabe and I are equals and I will not be ordering him to do anything."

Adawe looks like he's bit her, and while a part of him is satisfied that she's backing off he wonders how it'll come back to bite him. He does make a mental note to talk to Gabe about recruiting though. After all if Gabe stops then Adawe will stop going for Jack’s damn throat every time she sees him and reduce his stress. Hopefully.

"Alright, Strike Commander," Adawe eventually says through taunt lips. "Shall we discuss what I originally called you here for?"

"That would be appreciated. I have joint training sessions with Blackwatch to attend this afternoon for supervision. The sooner I can prepare, the better."

Adawe's tight lips twist into that shark smile as she shakes her head. "Unfortunately, Jack, you'll have to cancel those sessions. This evening you'll be on a flight designated for Dorado to meet with Mexican UN Representative Fierro tomorrow morning. She has concerns that Overwatch is not performing their duties in regards to keeping her borders safe." She sighs and shakes her head. "You need to reassure her that Overwatch is capable of performing their job, but that their job does not include enforcing borders. We are a peace keeping organisation, not a security company. If she wants one of those then she should be addressing Helix.”

Jack really doesn't know what to say as he stares at Adawe. They'd established after the first time she'd whisked him away without a moments notice that he needed at least twenty-four hours notice before any deployments. This is the first time in seven years she's broken that rule.

"Adawe, I can't-" he starts to say but he's cut off by her raising her hand.

"We only received news yesterday morning, Jack, and travel plans were confirmed an hour ago." She fixes him with a hard look before standing up and walking to one of the bookcases lining the walls of her office. They're all impeccably ordered, meticulously labelled, and all that damn manilla colour. It makes Jack’s own office look like a tornado blew through it.

“Who will watch-”

She cuts him off with a glare over her shoulder. “Captain Amari will be in charge while you are gone,” she informs him. “I believe you have unofficially nominated her as your second. When you return we will begin the process of formally promoting her.” Adawe turns around with a bundle of folders held together by a rubber band and hands them to him. “After Mexico you’ll head to Nepal to supervise Representative Lakshmi’s meeting with the Shambali, then after that you’ll be going to Australia to assess this new movement named the Australia Liberation Front.” She pauses to glance at him and nods to the files in his hand. “All the information you’ll need is in there. A full background on the Shambali, assuming you don’t know about them already, and what we know about the ALF. Be careful with them. After all, the Australian Outback is currently a war zone.”

Jack sighs as he thumbs briefly through the Australian file. “I’d thought we’d left the fighting back with the Crisis,” he says as he scans the reports on humans versus Omnics in the Outback.

Adawe grimaces as she sits down. “I agree,” she says, and she sounds wistful enough that Jack looks up in confusion. Wistful about war? She gives him a small smile and that distracts him more. “I apologise for the late notice, Jack. I remember our agreement, but this cannot wait. Mexico only just contacted us and Nepal set the date for the meeting three days ago. Bishop and I agreed that sending you to Australia at the same time would save you from another trip another time.”

At least she’s thinking of him in some manner, and he nods at her as he closes the files. He stands up at the same time she does, a clear dismissal.

“Your flight leaves at fifteen hundred,” she tells him as she reaches over to shake his hand, and he takes it in a hard grip. “Good luck, Jack. Be safe.”

Jack gives her his own tight lipped smile and says his goodbye before walking from the room. The files in his hand feel heavier, in more ways than just physical, and he lugs them and himself down the hallways back towards the common living areas.

His footsteps ricochet in the empty halls as he walks, instilling a sense of loneliness in him. He hates that he’ll have to cancel the sessions this afternoon, especially after looking forward to them for the last three weeks when it was planned. A part of him is still angry at the sudden trip, but another part of him knows that it’s just what comes with the job.

He aches to see Gabe again, having barely seen him over the last six months. Differing mission schedules and their separation of sleeping quarters has meant their times together are not only cut short but are also becoming rarer and rarer. Jesse has helped them in the last three years with their sharing custody of him, but instead of a genuine couple he feels like they’re a divorced couple with bloody benefits.

The look on Ana’s face whenever he mentions his thoughts makes him want to retract them immediately. Her divorce from Sam has been harder on her than anything Jack has ever seen, and she crawled through an entire Omnic Crisis and still remained intact.

He’ll have to find another way to see Gabe, and he’s midway through planning a rendezvous before fifteen hundred hours when he stops short at a moody teenager swinging her way into the hall.

“Fareeha,” he calls, making the girl jump from where her nose is buried in a book. “What’re you doing on this side of base?”

She glances around her in confusion before turning back to him with a sheepish smile. “Sorry, Khal Jack. Mama says walking while reading helps stimulate the brain.” She snorts and closes the book with distaste. “I think she’s going crazy in her old age.”

Jack smiles as he steps forward to wrap his arm around her shoulder, tucking her in against his side. “It’s not old age,” he says, “she’s always been crazy. It’s a family trait, so I’ll be keeping an eye on you.”

Fareeha glares at him and hits him in the stomach, making him let out an “oof”. She packs a powerful punch, probably to do with sparring with Jesse all the time. His arrival had condemned Ana to a lifetime of worry as Fareeha has clung to him immediately and insisted on doing everything with him, from the mundane of watching endless movies down to reckless combat training.

Jack’s spent many a time down in the shooting range with the two of them trying to haul Fareeha away from the damn rocket launchers as Jesse cackles at her screeching of “but I’m the rocket queen!”.

Fareeha is still smiling up at him, and Jack gently chucks her chin with his fist. She snorts and bats him away before she starts to pull him down the corridor.

“Come on,” she says, “Khal Torb and Khal Rein are in the kitchen.” She glances over her shoulder and clearly sees the panic on Jack’s face as she laughs. “Don’t worry, Mama is supervising them. There’s been no explosions in the last hour so the oven must still be safe.”

Torbjörn and Reinhardt’s cooking experiences are legend amongst the Overwatch community, and Jack can feel the phantom tingling of his eyebrows from having been singed off two bloody years ago when Torbjörn wanted to make a cake for Gabe’s birthday. The cake was great, but the fact they had to have it in the medical wing put a damper on the party.

Gabe had found it hilarious, and Jack smiles at the memory of the man chortling in his bed covered in bandages, flour, and smeared in cake.

Fareeha is chatting away as they walk towards the shared kitchen. Jack only hears some of things she says, dividing his attention between her and the crashing and banging he can hear up ahead. There’s the tang of burning in the air but no hint of smoke, so Ana’s supervising must be doing some good.

They swing into the kitchen corridor and Fareeha shrugs off his arm as she races forward, already yelling in speedy Arabic to her mother before she hits the doorway. She’s probably trying to be heard over the chorus of aggressive German and Swedish, and Jack chuckles to himself as he follows her in at a more sedate pace. A loud German cry of “Fareeha!” has him snorting and he walks through the doorway into utter chaos.

He only has time to get a glance Reinhardt and Torbjörn arguing loudly at the bench and brandishing spatulas at each other covered in batter and powders, and he briefly sees Ana cackling at the table as Fareeha joins in the argument, before his eyes land on none other than Gabe sitting beside her with muddy boots up on the table and a ridiculously large grin on his face.

“Gabe...” Jack murmurs as he steps forward shakily, and Gabe glances over at him and his face somehow lights up more.

“Jack!” he calls, swinging his boots down and leaning forward. Jack drops the folders in his hands and stumbles forward already grinning as he reaches out to grasp Gabe’s shoulder. Gabe rolls his eyes at him and bats him away before standing up and enveloping Jack in his arms.

Jack lets out a deliriously happy sigh as he sinks into the embrace, clinging to Gabe’s jacket as he squeezes tighter and tighter. He hears Fareeha making some cooing noises and Ana scolding her daughter, but he doesn’t care as he buries his nose in Gabe’s shoulder and just breathes the man in.

“I thought you were in San Fran until this afternoon,” Jack says as they pull away, and Gabe looks at him with a quirked eyebrow. He looks different from the last time Jack saw him three months ago. His beard is thicker, his hair is longer and the curls are escaping just under the beanie Jack knitted him. There’s a new scar on his face too, just below his left eye, and Jack feels his stomach roll unpleasantly as he takes in the still pink puckered skin.

“I thought I’d come back early to see you,” Gabe replies, his smile so easy and natural. “Alcatraz can do without me for a few extra hours.”

Jack smiles back and shakes his head before diving in for another hug. He’s missed this, missed Gabe’s presence, his easiness, missed having Gabe against him. He feels Gabe’s hand travel up his back and settle against his head, fingers scratching through to tangle in Jack’s hair. He feels warm and fuzzy, and sighs peacefully.

“It’s sweet and all, but can’t you get a room, jefe?”

The drawl of Jesse damn McCree makes Jack jump, and he pulls away from Gabe to glare at the wannabe cowboy leaning against the doorframe with a shit eating grin, that goddamn stenson, and of all things a damn red neckerchief tied around his neck.

“You brought him too,” Jack mutters, and Gabe laughs beside him and squeezes his hand where it still rests on Jack’s waist. “He looks even more hick than before.”

“Sorry, cariño,” he snickers. “Can’t leave the chico anywhere by himself. Already half of Alcatraz want to slaughter him.”

Jesse just looks mighty pleased at that statement, and Jack groans as he pulls away from Gabe to slouch into a vacant seat by a sympathetic Ana.

“We’ll get you some private time, Jack,” Ana reassured him quietly as she pats his shoulder. “Don’t worry. I’ll even babysit if need be.”

Jack gives her a thankful look before glancing up to see Jesse slink into the room and catch Fareeha as she flies towards him with a loud “Jesse!” that almost drowns out the still bickering meatheads in the corner. Jack has to admit it’s a cute sight watching Jesse swing Fareeha around in a hug, and when he glances over at Gabe he sees the man’s face soften too.

“Hey, tío,” Jesse eventually greets Jack as he saunters to the table with Fareeha in tow. Jack rolls his eyes at the title while Gabe chuckles beside him. “Long time, no see. Jefe has been going mad without you around. He keeps taking out his frustrations on me.”

“And in turn you wind up Nichols and the other damn murderers,” Gabe replies, and he says it so casually that, even though Jack doesn’t flinch, he sees Ana shift uncomfortably beside him. Everyone is well aware of the type of people Blackwatch deals with, but having it referenced so easily does make everyone unsettled.

Jesse just smirks and turns away, letting Fareeha capture his attention as she starts to talk a mile a minute. Her speech is a broken down mix of English, Arabic, and the occasional Spanish, and Jack seriously thinks Jesse deserves a medal for keeping up with it all.

Beside him he feels Gabe shift his chair closer and settle down so their sides are pressed together. Jack smiles at the unsubtle approach but happily drops a hand down to link their fingers together. He glances over to see Gabe watch him with those same soft eyes, and he feels like a damn teenager as he drops his eyes to the table.

“Ready for the sessions this afternoon, cariño?” Gabe asks him, and Jack stiffens at the question and he knows that everyone sees it.

Just like that the warm vibes in the air dissipate and there’s a sudden tenseness to the air. Even Torbjörn and Reinhardt stop their chaos to glance over, and Jack swallows a lump in his throat before speaking.

“I can’t...” he starts to say, and falters as sudden shutters come down Gabe’s face. “I’m going to have to cancel this afternoon, Gabe. I’m sorry.”

Gabe doesn’t say anything, just looks at him, but Ana slowly gets up and crosses over to the discarded folders to pick them up and thumb through them quickly.

“Australian Liberation Front?” she says in disbelief, carding through the other few folders before dropping them on the table. “Nepal and Mexico? Where’s all this come from, Jack?”

“Adawe just received word of a meeting between the Shambli and the UN Rep in Nepal and they need a supervisor,” Jack hurried to explain. “Mexico is starting to accuse Overwatch of not doing their job, and Adawe wants intel on the ALF so we’re aware of what’s happening in Australia.”

“The ALF are an extremist group,” Gabe mutters beside him, drawing Jack’s attention. “That’s a dangerous request. Who’s your guard? I’m assuming you’ll be taking at least half of Overwatch with you.”

There’s a pregnant pause that has all eyes turn to Jack, including Fareeha and Jesse, and Jack fidgets for a moment before shaking his head. “It’s a diplomatic mission,” he says quietly. “Besides a small group of personal security from Overwatch, I’m on my own. Adawe doesn’t want it to look like we’re going in as a force instead of peace keeping.”

“Horseshit,” Gabe swears beside him, and Ana hisses at him to watch his language. He ignores her though to glare at Jack. “Adawe knows that’s insane. You’re the damn figure head of this organisation. If word gets out you’re unprotected and in a foreign country, who knows what’ll happen.”

Honestly, Jack was thinking the same thing, but he plasters on a smile and squeezes Gabe’s hand. “Don’t worry, Gabe,” he says calmly. “I never get into trouble.”

The dead silence that meets those words is telling enough that no one believes him, and despite his attempts to reassure them all, none look convinced. Not even when it’s fifteen hundred hours and he’s dragging himself towards the hanger with Ana and Gabe in tow.

“Be safe,” Ana says as she hugs him tight. “Come back whole. I’d rather not have to explain to Fareeha that one of her meathead uncles isn’t coming back.”

Jack gives her a tight lipped smile and claps her on the back. He doesn’t make a promise, he’s not stupid enough to do so, but Ana just nods and steps back as Jack turns to Gabe.

He doesn’t look happy, and Jack knows why. “I’m sorry, Gabe,” he murmurs, and Gabe huffs and drops his crossed arms.

“There’s nothing to be sorry for, Freckles,” Gabe sighs before wrapping Jack up in a hug himself. Jack wants to melt into the touch, wants to just feel nothing but Gabe, but the call of the jet behind him and the ticking of the clock calls him. He knows that they won’t see each other again now until he’s back from Australia and Gabe returns from setting up the Blackwatch base in San Fran, and god knows how long that’ll be, so he makes the hug count before he grudgingly pulls away.

He forces a smile on his face and shakes his head. “Don’t look so forlorn,” he scolds them, “this is just a diplomatic mission. Nothing bad will happen.”

Gabe glares, Ana groans, and Jack refuses to think that maybe he’s jinxed the mission with the words.

Of course he also refuses to acknowledge that maybe if he hadn’t of said them then maybe Dorado wouldn’t be on bloody fire as he taxies into the landing strip just outside of the city four hours later, two hours late, and with a horrendous sense of dread.

He watches what looks like half the town blaze in the distance, and he stumbles up to the front of the plane to stare out the front window alongside the pilots in horror.

Gabe’s worried face lurks in the back of his mind as he orders open the doors despite the pilot’s resistance, and he tries not to think about how much Gabe would be yelling at him right now as he hurries down the steps towards a waiting car.

“How long has this been going for?” he demands of the driver as he waves him towards the drivers side and hurries towards the passenger seat. Normally etiquette would dictate he wait for the driver to open the back door to be escorted into town, but now is not the time and etiquette be damned.

“Just in the last two hours, sir,” the driver says as he starts up the car with only mild hesitance after a glance at Jack’s thunderous face. “I was out here when the fire started, but it’s been spreading faster than a normal fire would.”

So multiple fires then, Jack thinks as they tear towards town. The driver has barely stopped all four wheels when Jack throws himself out, not really thinking about his lack of weapons but more focusing on the sight of hundreds of townspeople carrying buckets and hoses while yelling to each other. There’s crying, screaming, so much sheer panic, and Jack dives in without a second thought.

He runs past an old fire engine as he makes his way to the source of the fires. It looks rusty and barely capable of moving, it’s sirens a dull whine, and Jack makes a mental note to campaign to the UN Rep about getting these people some damn funding for situations like this. He’s torn between stopping to help, but presses on instead.

He finds the source quicker than expect, the blazing building so damn huge and bright it’s hard to miss. Jack takes some hesitant steps forward down the street to where so many people are gathered, and he lingers to stare at the collapsed sign from the building, taking a moment to translate before it clicks.

Dorado Orphanage

Jack feels his stomach roll at the realisation that the place on fire, the place burning down in front of him, is the home to so many children, and he has to poise himself for a moment lest he barf. He’s seen lots of shit in his time, but this is scratching the surface of too much.

He glances around to see if there’s anyone free he can grab, and he sticks out a hand to snag the sleeve of a passing teenager. He doesn’t know if the kid will have any English, but he tries anyway.

“What’s happened here?” Jack asks, gesturing at the flames, and the teenager blinks between him and the chaos before shakily pointing at another building across the street that’s already a dead black husk.

“They started there, ah, two hours ago? Then moved on to the rest of the city,” the kid manages to say, his voice heavily accented and Jack really has to focus. “They seemed infeliz, ah, unhappy? They said something about, erm, unfinished?”

Jack lets the youth go with a small thank you, and the kid nods before bustling off again. Jack glances over at the burning buildings before hiking his way through the crowd to the burnt husk.

There’s not much he can glean from just looking, and he nudges around the ashes with his feet until he hits something. Bending down, he rifles through until he picks up a small metal sign.

United Nations Representative Juanita Fierro

Jack drops the sign like it’s burnt him, and he stares at it in horror as he realises that this was the place he was to have the meeting. Whoever it is who’s done this must’ve been waiting for him to arrive before attacking and his delay... He swears and walks away from the mess, hunching his shoulders to try make himself smaller as he attempts to slip in amongst the crowd. If the culprits are still around he refuses to hurt these people by being caught amongst them.

Of course he’s easily distracted from his path to the car, and when he hears what sounds like a small child crying out he turns tail and sprints towards it. No one seems to hear it, and with how muffled it is to even Jack’s ears he knows that he’s only hearing it due to his enhancements.

He crashes down a side alleyway not far from the blaze with little thought to himself as he listens for the crying. It’s high pitched, hysterical, and every muscle in Jack’s body is burning with adrenaline as he tears towards it. He circles around behind the orphanage with care before heading to the collapsing buildings around it, and it’s in one of them that he spots a small girl crying.

She looks up at him as he approaches, and he winces when he sees that she’s pinned beneath a pile of rubble. Most of her left side is clear, but her right arm and most of her right leg have disappeared from sight.

Jack holds his breath for a moment before swooping in to her side.

“Hey sweetheart,” he says gently as he crouches beside her. Her cries have lessened in volume but she’s still sniffing and sobbing to herself. “Hey, hey listen to me. It’s going to be okay, alright? Can you tell me your name?”

He wishes he had Gabe or someone who can speak Spanish with him, but the young girl sniffles before choking out a quiet “Olivia.”

“Olivia,” Jack parrots with a smile. “That’s a beautiful name. Much better than silly old Jack.”

Olivia blinks at him for a moment before frowning. “Are you Jack?” she asks, and her voice isn’t as heavily accented as Jack expected. Her grasp on English seems pretty fantastic too.

“Yeah, I am,” he says before leaning forward to poke at the rubble. It’s lain in a nasty way, all piled together like a bad game of jenga, and he knows it going to take some time to pull off. Olivia let’s out a shriek as he goes to lift one piece of rubble, and he has to reach out and catch her hand to stop her clawing at him. “It’s okay, cariño,” he says, butchering the pronunciation but getting her attention. “I’ll go slow. It’ll be okay.”

“It hurts,” she whimpers, and god that hits him in the chest.

“I know,” he says, and he surprises himself by reaching forward with his other hand and wiping the mucky hair off her forehead. “We have to get these rocks off though or it’s going to hurt more.” She just blinks up at him with wide eyes until he pulls away and goes to pick up the first piece of rubble.

He’s stopped short though by a small golden tether appearing out of nowhere and attaching itself to Olivia, and he glances back to see a blonde woman approaching with caduceus staff in hand and wearing the uniform of a Red Cross medical worker.

“Would you care for some assistance?” she asks as she approaches him, and Jack stares at her before glancing down when he feels Olivia relax under his hand. Obviously the tether is doing its job, and Olivia is already starting to look better under its care.

“Thank you,” he responds before turning back to the task at hand. It takes some thinking and managing, but eventually he figures out where to start shifting the rocks. There’s a few times when one will wobble dangerously, at risk of causing more damage, but the woman does an excellent job of distracting Olivia as she settles down with them.

He hears them talking, catching little pieces as the time presses on. He hears that Olivia is ten, her parents were part of the Dorado Resistance, her favorite colour is purple, and one day she wants to be friends with lots of powerful people so she can make them help others.

It’s a bit haunting hearing a ten year old speak like that, clearly already scarred by the world despite her young age, and Jack grits his teeth while the woman manages to keep a bright smile as she talks to Olivia.

“Jack?” Olivia calls to him when he’s only got her leg left to free and the woman is tending to her arm carefully. He glances up to see that her tears have subsided but her eyes are still watery as she reaches out with her good arm to pat his shoulder. “I didn’t think anyone would find me. Thank you.”

The way she says it is so sincere, so damn painful sounding and so grown up, and Jack just about crumples as he reaches up to tangle his hand with hers. The trauma this girl must’ve been though cuts him to the quick.

“It’s okay, Olivia,” he murmurs and squeezes her hand. “I’m almost finished. And then we’ll get you to a hospital where they can look you over. You’ll be alright. I promise.”

“Are you going to leave me?” she asks, and he immediately shakes his head and moves her hand to kiss the back of it.

“No one will get me away from you, sweetheart.”

He waits until she’s placated enough and the woman has her attention again before shifting the rubble on her leg. There’s much less than was on her arm, and it’s only a few pickings before he lifts off the largest one and she’s free.

The woman lets out a pleased noise at the same time as Olivia, and Jack waits until the woman has checked over Olivia’s leg before he promptly scoops the girl up into his arms. There’s a gap left where she was, and as they take steps back the rubble moves with them to fall into the hole Olivia has left behind.

“Where’s the nearest hospital?” he asks the woman, and she just beckons for him to follow as she walks off. Olivia wriggles in his arms briefly before she drops her head on his shoulder and snuggles into his neck, and he tightens his grip as they walk through the streets.

The atmosphere is a less tense now, the fires having dulled down from the blazing to a crackle, and the people on the streets are less hysterical as they continue to put out what’s left. The rusty old fire truck has been connected to a water main, and Jack watches as the locals take turns blasting the flames with the powerful hose.

He has no doubts that the hospital is going to be packed and full, and as he stands outside the door and watches people rush in and out he glances over at the woman.

“Angela Ziegler,” she introduces herself, and he shuffles Olivia in his arms to reach out and shake her hand.

“Jack Morrison,” he responds before nodding at the hospital. “Reckon we’ll get her seen?”

Angela smiles and nods. “Of course,” she says, “I’m a doctor, Mr. Morrison. Come with me.”

As they walk through the halls of the hospital patients part like the Red Sea for her. Jack watches as Angela has a word for everyone, or a calming gesture, and as she moves through them all with her staff as her side he watches as she attaches her tether for only the briefest of moments with them all. A stance becomes more relaxed, a limp eases, a smile becomes softer, all because of a handful of seconds on the tether and Jack admires how good she is.

They reach a small room tucked off to the side of a ward and Angela beckons them in. There’s a bed already set up and waiting and Jack doesn’t hesitate as he crosses to it and eases Olivia down on the soft surface.

“Jack?” she murmurs as she clings to him, and Jack carefully untangles her fingers from his hair and pulls her hand from his coat. She blinks at him blearily and he reaches over to smooth back the hair on her forehead.

“Right here, sweetheart,” he says quietly. “I’m not leaving you.”

He ignores Angela’s interested look as he carefully sits beside Olivia. She’s ridiculously tiny for her age and there’s plenty of room for him to settle. He takes her left hand gently in his and slowly strokes the back of it with his thumb, murmuring calming words as Olivia settles against him and Angela starts to bustle around the room.

It’s his turn to talk to her as Angela works, but he finds that besides pulling out her last name, Colomar, and her favorite animal, bunny today and horse last week, she just stays quiet and starts to doze beside him. Angela is careful as she mends the broken bones with her staff, fixing them together before casting Olivia’s limbs.

Time presses on and Jack doesn’t stop his rhythmic soothing even when Angela stands up and announces she’s finished.

“You work for the Red Cross?” he asks as Angela is packing away her supplies around the room or in the bag at her hip.

“Sometimes,” she replies. “Sometimes I don’t approve of their methods or priorities, but I help where I can.” She crouches down to store something away in a bin before she pauses and looks at him. “You’re the head of Overwatch, aren’t you? Strike Commander Morrison?”

Jack sighs but nods. Angela seems to brighten and she stands up and claps her hands together gently.

“I’ve admired Overwatch for a long time,” she says. “The work you’ve done, the progress and steps you’ve made, it’s just wonderful to see.” Angela’s grin gets wider as she rubs her wrists. “I believe you will know Mr. Lindholm?” She pauses and Jack doesn’t think he imagines the flush on her cheeks. “His inventions for our organisation have been nothing short of a miracle. We’ve saved so many lives due to him.”

Jack’s about to reply a confirmation before he pauses. Torbjörn has only been making medical equipment in the last handful of years, and he stares at Angela with wide eyes. “I don’t mean to be rude,” he says, “but how old are you, Miss. Ziegler?”

Angela blushes and turns around to continue packing things away. “Nineteen,” she tells him, “but I promise I’m not incapable. I’ve been studying for years now and-“

Jack cuts her off with a wave when she looks at him. He has no doubts she’s fully capable. After all, her management of Olivia has been astounding and her bedside manner is wonderful. It’s interesting to see someone so young be so advanced, but it’s not unusual.

He doesn’t get to say much else though as there’s a knock at the door that grabs both of their attention, and Jack’s mouth drops open when he sees none other than bloody Gabe standing there.

“Hey,” he calls, and Jack immediately shushes him as he glances down to make sure Olivia is still asleep. Angela smiles, Gabe looks embarrassed, and Jack rolls his eyes as he beckons him in.

“Angela, this is Gabe,” he introduces and Gabe nods at her in greeting. “Although, I don’t know what he’s doing here.”

Gabe gives him a pointed look that Angela clearly manages to pick up on, and she flushes as she turns around. Both Jack and Gabe watch her as she finishes up before she slips from the room with a “I’ll be back soon” over her shoulder.

“Jack,” Gabe murmurs as soon as Angela is out of the room and he is able to take a few steps across the room to cup Jack’s face without an audience. “Are you alright, cariño? I came as soon as I heard about the attack. Is everything-”

“Attack?” Jack interrupts with wide eyes, but he still reaches up with his free hand to wrap around one of Gabe’s. “What do you mean attack?”

Gabe blinks at him before he frowns. “The attack on the town,” he says slowly, “the fires, the death. Jack, this was no accident. They knew you were here.”

Jack had gathered that, pieced it together, but he still sucks in a breath at the confirmation that all of this is because of him.

“Do we know who?” he asks, unsure if he wants to know the answer. Gabe drops their linked hands from Jack’s face and glances at Olivia. The girl is still fast asleep, and Gabe must decide that the information isn’t too sensitive that it can’t be said with her in the room.

“Lacroix has intel that places Talon as the attackers,” Gabe tells him, and Jack hisses a breath. “It looks like they’ve been in wait for days but Adawe didn’t care to tell anyone you were coming here. When Lacroix heard you’d left it was the same time the attack broke the news. We spoke to Adawe together and it looks like she’s going to allow Lacroix to start panning attacks on Talon operations for future emergencies.”

“He’s barely twenty-three.”

Gabe winces. “And we were barely nineteen when we were hauled into a damn war, Jack.”

Jack takes a deep breath at that, surprised at the impact those words have on him. Gabe watches him with worried eyes and Jack waves him off as he focuses on the other implication.

“Adawe knows you’re here?”

Gabe’s smile is sharp. “We told her when we were on route. I couldn’t afford to have her tell me no. I may not take orders from her but I couldn’t have her going to Bishop to ground me.”

Jack sighs and drops his head to press against their twined fingers. What a mess. He knows that if he goes back to the plane and finds his abandoned comms he’ll no doubt have hundreds of messages from an aggressive Adawe.

But Talon, Talon attacked Dorado. They’re still just a minor terrorist cell, a group of inconvenient opportunists that Gérard Lacroix has been tracking the movements of for over a year and now finally gets to at least make some plans of attacks for them. Jesse has told them so many times that the Deadlock Gang had been involved in large arms deals with Talon, and while they are still just minor blips, Jack has no illusions that one day they’re going to be prominent.

They can’t nip them in the bud right now though. They have no cause under their Peace Keeping Duties, and even though Gabe and Blackwatch have been subtly fighting back there is still nothing they can do besides let Lacroix fidget with plans and preach Adawe’s ears off and hope Talon won’t do anything too drastic.

What a mess.

“Who is this?” Gabe asks him after a while, shaking Jack from his thoughts, and he looks up to see Gabe staring at Olivia. It’s no secret that Gabe isn’t a fan of kids, even if they tend to take to him like ducks to water, and Jack’s mouth twitches with the beginning of a smile at seeing the morbid curiosity on Gabe’s face.

“Olivia Colomar,” he says quietly, glancing at her too. She’s well and truly fast asleep, her mouth slightly open and her chest rising and fall deeply. “I pulled her from the wreckage. Talon didn’t just attack the UN office, but took out a neighboring orphanage.” The words leave a bad taste in his mouth and he scrunches up his nose. “I don’t know the casualties, Gabe. Do I want to know?”

The look on Gabe’s face is enough of a response. Jack grits his teeth.

“The UN rep has gone missing,” Gabe says after another moment of silence. “Whether she’s dead or she’s run, who knows. It’s not our problem though. From here I’m escorting you to Nepal and Australia.” When Jack glances up with wide eyes Gabe just smiles bitterly. “I’ve already got people monitoring media to ensure there’s no confirmation that you were here. If we can keep this recorded as Talon attacking innocents rather than coming after you then it’ll be better. People won’t turn against Overwatch that way."

Jack bites his lip against his automatic angry response. Gabe’s right. Overwatch doesn’t need the bad reputation, nor does it need to be seen as gathering high profile enemies. “I hate this,” he says out loud though, and Gabe squeezes his hand, a silent acknowledgement.

“I know, querido,” he murmurs softly, genuinely. “We have to go now. You can’t stay here any longer without being compromised.”

Jack glances at Olivia before he sighs and lets go of Gabe’s hand. It’s difficult to think that he might be getting time with Gabe now, but it’s not what he really wanted. Not how he wanted it.

“That doctor,” he says, “Angela Ziegler. She’s currently working for the Red Cross but I think she’d be an asset for Overwatch. Can you to assign someone to her while she’s here for protection and to offer her a place on our team?” Gabe smiles at him and nods. Jack hates to give orders like this, but now is the time it needs to happen. “And I need another person to assist the Orphanage. There’s a lot of kids that are homeless now, ones like Olivia. I can’t have them falling through the gaps, Gabe.” He glances at Olivia and strokes her hair. “I’d take her home if I could, but she wouldn’t be safe. I need her to be safe.”

Gabe doesn’t make any comments, doesn’t mention that Jack’s just met the girl or that he’s seems to have imprinted on her like an overprotective mother. He doesn’t make those comments, just nods and turns to walk out the door.

“Fifteen minutes, Jack,” he says as he pauses at the door, “then we have to go.”

Jack nods with pursed lips before Gabe slips from the room. He can hear murmuring straight away and he knows there must’ve been guards at the doorway. One of the voices he recognises as Jesse’s, and of all the things to make him feel better it’s surprisingly hearing that ridiculous southern drawl that does it.

He contemplates leaving after him but he turns to Olivia instead and gently shakes her awake. It’s not hard at all and Jack has a suspicion she was actually awake the whole time, but he doesn’t say anything as she yawns a bit too wide and blinks a bit too blearily.

Definitely faking.

“I have to go now, Olivia,” he says to her quietly, and the lack of surprise on her face almost makes him cringe. “There’s some bad people I have to go help track down so they don’t do anything like this again.”

Olivia blinks at him before she gives him a tiny smile. “I know,” she says, “it’s okay.”

Jack thinks she’s so brave, and he squeezes her left hand tightly where it’s still in his. “I’m going to leave someone with you, okay?” he tells her. “They’re going to look after you and make sure you’re okay, and Angela will still be here to help you. You won’t be alone.”

The look on her face makes him think she doesn’t believe him, and that solidifies his determination to make sure whoever will be assigned to her will be a damn good person. He has no doubts Gabe knows that and is finding someone Jack would approve of, but he still makes a note to intimidate them before he leaves.

“It’s okay,” Olivia repeats, serious beyond her years. “Thank you, Jack.”

He doesn’t know what else to say, so he reaches out to pull her into a hug. He feels her relax against him briefly before she stiffens, clearly ready to push him away. He gets it, she doesn’t want to get close to someone who will leave.

“I’ll come back,” he tells her, promises himself, and she just smiles wholly unconvinced before she shifts on her bed to curl up. She looks so small and it makes Jack’s heart pang painfully, and he reaches out to tuck the blanket up and around her. He catches the glistening on her cheek and he doesn’t hesitate to reach up and wipe away the tears.

They don’t say anything as Jack just comforts her quietly until she does start to doze off, and time ticks by so fast that it’s well over his allocated fifteen minutes before she genuinely falls asleep. It’s much different, shallows and light snores, and Jack smiles as he pushes the hair off her face and makes sure she’s settled.

When Angela comes back in with Gabe at his side he only gives her a nod before standing up. Gabe tangles their fingers together, obviously seeing how much Jack needs the comfort over the subtlety, and Angela just smiles at them.

He gives her a brief goodbye before he walks out, and tries very hard not to think about the lonely girl behind him.

It doesn’t work.

 

 

Chapter Text

The three day trip to Nepal and the meeting with UN Representative Ratna Lakshmi and Tekhartha Mondatta is so smooth and easy that Gabe spends the entire time on edge.

In turn, Jack feels his hackles raise and his neck itch as Gabe prowls around outside the building while the meeting take place. He finds it hard to listen to the two representatives as he sees the top of Gabe’s beanie appear in all the windows, and were it not serious then Jack would be laughing. Not listening to the representatives isn’t too much of a problem though. All three are under no illusions that Jack’s presence is merely a comforting statement to the UN, and under no circumstances are the other two at odds with one another.

Lakshmi especially seems very pro-Omnic, and Jack admittedly finds it hard to relate to her. Although, he guesses that she’s only even been confined to office spaces with the Omnic’s whilst Jack has had too many point weapons in his face to count. The scars on his back and arms tingle every time he looks at Mondatta, and something makes him think that maybe Mondatta knows.

After the meeting closure, and Jack’s finished scribbling a half assed report for Adawe, they’re invited to pursue the city at their discretion. Mondatta is a very quiet monk that doesn’t particularly interact with him outside of the meeting, whether from weariness or he’s picked up on Jack’s own feelings he doesn’t know, and he takes his leave quickly. Lakshmi, on the other hand, has no qualms about linking her arm with Jack’s and trailing him down the corridor.

“There’s a bar not far from here,” she’s saying when Jack finally tunes into her. Jesse and Gabe are walking behind them, and Jack finds himself continually distracted by Jesse’s yabbering. “Only a way down the road. It tends to only serve those from, well, higher positions, but they have a nice cocktail list and the environment is beautiful.”

Jack raises an eyebrow at her, and Lakshmi coughs to cover her flush.

“Unfortunately, Jack,” she mutters, “whilst we are more advanced with our relations with the Omnics, we are still elitist.” She quirks her own eyebrow back at him. “Find me a country that’s not though.”

“A drink does sound lovely,” Jack replies instead, and Lakshmi’s lips twitch with a smile before she turns back to ushering him away.

“Yes,” she agrees, “especially after Dorado. Have you heard anymore news on the matter?”

Jack thinks about Olivia and Angela, how Angela is on her way to recruitment with Overwatch and Olivia has... well, disappeared to put it bluntly. He’d frozen at that news when he’d received it, enough so that Gabe had to snap at him to knock it off with such a ferocity that Jack had felt himself blast back to the first Omnic Crisis in a heartbeat at the order.

“No,” he tells her. “I do believe they’re still on the lookout for Fierro, but she’s still missing. No one has heard from her.”

Lakshmi clicks her tongue and shakes her head. “Poor Juanita. Hopefully the attackers didn’t get their hands on her,” she muses. “That would be a nightmare to deal with. I have no doubt that Overwatch will be looking into it.”

Jack just gives her a tight lipped smile and decides not to mention that Overwatch is a peace keeping organisation. It’ll fall on deaf ears, it always does. Somehow the world has decided that Overwatch’s mission is to fight wars instead of monitor threats and strike where necessary.

It’s exhausting, Jack’s exhausted, and the idea of hard liquor is incredibly welcoming to him.

Lakshmi chatters away as they walk, detailing the city’s sights and events for the evening. Clearly she wants Jack to have a taste of their culture but all he wants is to just go to bed.

He glances back at Gabe who gives him a sympathetic look while Jesse rolls his eyes and mimes sticking his fingers in his ears. If it weren’t so inappropriate Jack would laugh, although instead he winks at Jesse before turning back to Lakshmi.

Somehow Lakshmi does pick up on his slowly dwindling energy, and she pats his arm gently as they approach the bar she’d spoken of. It’s only a few buildings down from the UN quarters, and Jack reckons she must take plenty of diplomats here. He notes the high security camera subtly tucked around the place which all but solidifies that thought.

“I must leave you to it,” Lakshmi says brightly, although her voice is quieter now they’re in public. “You look tired, Jack. A nice drink then maybe a kip before anything else. Off to Australia after this right?” Jack nods and she tisks. “Dangerous place at the moment. I’m not too sure what they’re thinking sending you there.” She shakes her head before pulling away from Jack with another pat on his arm. “I’ll see you in the morning before departure. Have a pleasant evening, and don’t hesitate to ask for anything.”

She gives him a brilliant smile before swanning off back down the street, her own personal guard falling into step with her. Only Gabe and Jesse are left with him, although Jack is under no illusions and has no doubts Gabe would’ve contacted agents to hustle over and settle in the bar for extra protection. It’s a surprisingly endearing thought.

“Come on then,” he mutters at the two as he heads for the door. “I need a drink.”

The two trail after him, Jesse murmuring away and Jack tunes him out. The bar isn’t very full, the patrons a mixture of Omnic and human. He spots the familiar face of Tranger, one of Gabe’s men, sitting at the bar, and he gives Gabe a narrowed eyed glare that Gabe snorts at and gives him a unashamed grin.

The three make a beeline for the bar and Jack doesn’t hesitate to pull up the chair next to an Omnic as he orders a scotch. He’s never been a fan of alcohol, but a hearty glass of scotch reminds him of his father back in Indiana and he finds great comfort in it as he rolls it between his fingers.

Jesse wanders off the moment drinks are ordered, heading off towards either the group of young patrons that are giggling over drinks or the obvious Blackwatch agent at the table beside them. Jack doesn’t pay attention in any case, instead watching as Gabe hovers at his shoulder and doesn’t sit down.

“Not staying?” Jack asks, and he doesn’t realise how resigned and heavy his voice sounds when he speaks. Clearly Gabe picks up on it too as his face falls and he gives Jack an apologetic taunt smile.

“Sorry, cariño,” he murmurs, voice low, “I have to go and secure the hotel we’ve got for the night.”

Jack sighs and clenches his hands around his glass. “And no one else can do it?”

“I don’t trust anyone enough when it comes to you.”

It’s such a blatant sentence of affection, as blatant as Gabe ever goes, and yet Jack doesn’t really register it. Instead he just nods his head and murmurs a goodbye before chucking back the scotch in his glass and signalling for another.

He doesn’t even hear or notice Gabe has left until Jesse causes a ruckus with the two groups that has Jack glancing over. Gabe isn’t in sight, obvious enough by the fact he hasn’t gone over to haul Jesse’s ass away. It makes Jack’s chest pang.

He gets distracted once again though by the bartender approaching him but placing a glass in front of the Omnic on Jack’s left. It’s an odd looking blue liquid in the glass, almost fluorescent, and Jack stares at it until he realises the Omnic is watching him with it’s face lights flickering.

He knows enough Omnic body language to know the Omnic is smiling at him, his knowledge having been gleaned from a book that had joined the other foreign language books in his room. Gabe always chucks off about how he should just become the Overwatch translator with how many he’s collected.

The Omnic surprisingly chuckles beside him, and Jack glances back with a blush on his cheeks.

“Indeed,” the Omnic says, “it must be an odd drink for you to see. No human can have it after all.”

“I didn’t think Omnic’s could... drink?” Jack replies, feeling incredibly stupid. The Omnic glances at him before gesturing to a corner of the bar. Tucked away at a table is a group of Omnic businessmen, all holding different glasses full of fluorescent liquids.

“Not many of us,” the Omnic says. “I certainly cannot, but in a bar I believe that social etiquette states one must order a drink.” The Omnic flickers it lights at Jack again. “There is an upgrade to our systems that allows an Omnic to taste and feel the textures and flavors of human foods, although in the process some Omnic ones were created. Of course, the upgrade must be paired with the added feature of an Omnic orifice, although only businessmen or politician Omnic’s deem it necessary to have so as to ensure their client and human co-workers are comfortable.”

Jack genuinely had no idea, and when he glances back to the corner it’s to see one Omnic sipping it’s drink from a clearly metal mouth. It’s rather disorienting, and Jack quickly turns away.

There’s a period of silence before the Omnic speaks up again, and Jack is surprised at the metal hand shoved in front of his face.

“I believe human etiquette requires we introduce ourselves?” the Omnic says. “I am Zenyatta. I refer to myself as male gendered. I am a Shambli monk.”

Jack blinks a couple of times before taking the cold hand for a shake. “Jack Morrison,” he introduces. “Ah, also male. I work for the government.” He pauses before smiling “Are you new at this, Zenyatta?”

Zenyatta hums a happy noise as he lets go. “I know who you are, Strike Commander,” he says. “My brother is Mondatta, the monk you met with today.” He pauses for a moment. “And yes, I do believe I am. I was only activated last year. My brother wished for a companion to share his findings and religion with, although I do believe he is sorely disappointed.”

Jack’s mouth drops open and he genuinely feels horrid for asking such a rude question in retrospect. Zenyatta doesn’t looked fazed though, and both turn back to their drinks. Jack chucks his one back whole, really needing the liquor to settle his stomach now, and he orders another with a flash of his fingers.

He drinks his third one slowly, mindful of the Omnic humming and whirring beside him. He doesn’t expect their conversation to continue, but by now Jack really should really expect the unexpected.

“The human male you walked in with,” Zenyatta says after a quiet moment and Jack glances up in surprise. “The older male. Is he your partner?”

Jack stares at the Omnic for a moment before blurting, “what?”

Zenyatta quirks his head to the side and his lights flicker just the once. “Your partner,” he repeats before gesturing in an entirely too human way. “Your mate? I believe it is referred to as your significant other?”

Jack blinks a couple of times before he glances at his drink as the question sets in. It confuses him that an Omnic would ask such a question. It doesn’t confuse him that an Omnic would ask a question so personal, their programming not including general social etiquette sometimes, but the type of question throws him off.

What throws him off more though is that his immediate reply isn’t yes.

He thinks quietly of Gabe, of a man he loves and adores but hardly sees. Only in passing after various months as their relationship has broken down to glancing touches and short moments, maybe a chaste kiss if they’re lucky. Jack thinks about his cold and empty bed, only shared for sleep and nothing more. He thinks of their separate rooms and Gabe’s endearments that no longer have Jack’s heart thumping and his cheeks flushing. Gabe’s hands don’t leave that sweet burning on his skin anymore, instead a dull ache knowing that it won’t last, and Jack loves him with all his heart but he doesn’t know what they are.

“It’s complicated,” he ends up murmuring to Zenyatta, and the Omnic doesn’t reply for a while as Jack tosses back his drink and focuses on the burning in his stomach rather than the ache in his chest.

“Indeed,” Zenyatta says after a moment and he hums loud enough to catch Jack’s attention. “You know, Jack, I am part of the Shambali. Mondatta is our leader with very strict rules and policies that are in place for us to better serve a higher purpose in our attempts to find enlightenment.” Zenyatta’s lights flicker again and his fingers tap on top of the bar in a human display of discomfort. “I do not often say this aloud, but my preferred methods of practice is very different from my brothers. He prefers a dogmatic approach, whereas I prefer a more empathetic approach.”

Jack frowns, not too sure of the relevance. Zenyatta doesn’t appear fazed though, even if Jack isn’t sure how that would look.

“Despite all this, it does not mean my brother and I struggle with our different views. He allows me to explore my own methods as he does himself, and along the way we meet and discuss.” Zenyatta’s head cocks to the side and Jack has a feeling he is being scanned. “It does not make our relationship complicated, Strike Commander Morrison. But it makes it different.”

He gets where the Omnic is heading and for a moment he’s angry, angry that Zenyatta would compare himself and Gabe to a couple of Omnics, but he deflates almost as soon as the anger comes. It doesn’t matter if they’re a different species. In the end, Zenyatta has a point, and Jack dwells on it as Zenyatta taps away beside him on the bar and flickers his lights at him.

“So what you’re saying...” Jack starts to say, trailing off as words leave him, and Zenyatta lets out a hum beside him.

“Human’s have this flaw that makes them think things that are broken are irreparable,” Zenyatta muses. “Some are. But more often than not hard work and endurance can fix a great many things. I am sure you are no stranger to that notion.” He flickers his lights and Jack finds himself smiling back. “Strike Commander Morrison, if it is complicated because of reasons that can be fixed, you owe it to yourselves to try.”

Jack doesn’t get to reply, unsure if he can even come up with one, before Zenyatta slowly stands up beside him. He shoulders the backpack that has been sitting beside him, and Jack briefly wonders where he’s going, before Zenyatta drops his metal hand to Jack’s shoulder.

“My brother has informed me you will be in the city for the evening,” Zenyatta says, and his lights flicker faster than they have so far and for some reason Jack feels a flush on his cheeks as Zenyatta squeezes his shoulder. “Nepal is a beautiful place. Perhaps an evening to yourselves here will make a difference.”

With those final words Zenyatta flickers his lights one final time before patting Jack’s shoulder and leaves the bar with a wave. Jack knows his mouth is open as he watches him go, unsure how he feels as the realisation that he just got love advice from an Omnic sets in, and that it was good advice to boot.

He has five seconds or so of a crisis thinking about it before someone clears their throat behind him.

Jack turns to see Jesse has taken Zenyatta’s seat now, and he’s look at Jack from under his stenson with a ridiculous grin.

“I reckon you’ve just been told to get laid by a monk, tío,” Jesse says, and Jack snorts as he pushes Jesse off his stool.

The kid squawks and squeaks as Jack turns back to his half finished drink. He doesn’t bother to help Jesse up, and he even sticks a foot out to nudge him back over when he tries to. Jesse really should learn to mind his own business. He does let the kid up eventually though, and Jack starts in on his drink as Jesse slumps in Zenyatta's vacated seat.

After that third scotch though Jack decides it’s time to leave. He flags the bartender to pay his tab with a handful of crumpled bills flogged from the jet’s currency bins before he turns to Jesse.

He’s half asleep, practically snoring, and Jack shakes him awake to tell him to get a move on. It’s blatantly obvious the kid has had a bit more to drink than the one Jack had ordered for him, and he rolls his eyes as he shuffles Jesse’s ass out the front door and down the street.

The hotel they’re staying at is only a couple of streets over and Jack spends the walk hauling Jesse along until the kid starts grumbling about Gabe killing him. Jack rolls his eyes and shakes him awake enough until Jesse is blinking blearily at him. Without talking too much Jack arranges them so it at least looks like Jesse is carrying him instead of the other way around as they walk up the steps into the hotel lobby.

They’re greeted by an obvious Blackwatch member in the hotel uniform, smiling pleasantly at them over the desk. Jack grits his teeth through the charade of pleasantries before taking the proffered key cards.

“If you have any worries, sir,” the man says, “then the room on your left has one of our floor managers for you to see. We wish you a pleasant stay.”

Jack grumbles a thank you and hauls Jesse to the elevator, ignoring the two other Blackwatch agents he goes past. They’re all eyeing Jesse with narrow eyes, and Jack glares back at them all until they glance away. Either they’re getting sloppy or Jack’s getting more perceptive, and he hopes it’s the latter. He’ll have to talk to Gabe about it later.

After unceremoniously dropping Jesse’s drunk ass off into his assigned room and settling him into bed, Jack takes away his key and leaves the room. He has no doubts the kid will be a menace in the morning, and Jack really doesn’t want to know who he fleeced out of the rowdy group in the bar for those drinks.

He contemplates stopping off in his room but instead by passes it to stand outside the ‘managers’ room. He knows it’s Gabe behind the door, and he takes a few deep breaths and remembers Zenyatta's advice before hesitantly knocking on the door.

It’s swung open almost immediately and Jack is met with a shotgun pointing right at his face, and he doesn’t try to read into the fact that instead of ducking his automatic instinct is to just raise an eyebrow.

“Jack?” Gabe says, appearing out from behind the barrel with wide eyes. “You’re back early. What happened?”

Jack doesn’t respond to the question. Nothing happened, he just wanted to see Gabe. He pushes past him without a word and wanders into the room. Gabe closes the door behind him with a quiet click but also doesn’t say anything as he trails behind Jack with, no doubt, a raised eyebrow.

Admittedly, Jack’s missed that eyebrow.

He turns around with a bit of flair, causing Gabe to stumble to a halt and drop into parades rest. It’s so formal, it makes Jack’s chest clench.

“I just wanted to see you,” he ends up finally saying. “If you’re busy I’ll leave-”

“No,” Gabe cuts him off, stepping forward into Jack’s space. “No, I’m just surprised. I didn’t think that… I mean, I didn’t know-

It’s Jack’s turn to cut him off and it’s with a harsh laugh as he drops down to sit on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands. “God dammit,” he swears under his breath, “what a mess we are. It’s been so long that we’re even doubting being around each other now.”

He feels the bed dip beside him, and when he peeks out between his fingers he sees Gabe staring at the ground with his shotgun dangling between his fingers. It’s a horrible sight, seeing Gabe so lost and confused, and Jack doesn’t know how to fix it.

“It’s been well over six months since we actually had a conversation lasting longer than ten minutes, Jack,” Gabe says to him quietly. “A year since we’ve been at least a slight couple."

“Since Deadlock,” Jack agrees, and Gabe smiles sadly at him.

“And before that… it’s been seven years since we formed Overwatch the ‘peace keeping organisation’, and six since Blackwatch. We’ve not been a couple in a long time.”

“You left,” Jack mutters, feeling a sudden burst of white hot anger curling in his stomach. “We were fine until the formation of Blackwatch and then you left.”

“Jack-”

“No, Gabe,” Jack interrupts as he stands up with his hands balling into fists at his sides and stomps across the room. “No, we were fine until you left. I could cope with hardly seeing you, I could cope with the lack of dinners and moments alone because we always had our space. I could always count that at some point in the damn night I’d wake up and you would be beside me, you would have my back. And then you left and I haven’t… we haven’t-”

“Do you think I had a choice, Jack?” Gabe suddenly snaps, standing up and towering over Jack. Jack puffs out his chest in challenge that Gabe clearly meets with wild eyes. “I had to leave! I had to move down to the damn basement!”

“Why?” Jack demands. “Give me a damn good reason why!”

“You see who I work with,” Gabe snarls, throwing his hand out in a wide gesture. “You’ve seen the people that have been recruited into Blackwatch. They’re not nice people, pendejo! They’re murderers and rapists and old gang members who’re all chaffing at the bit to just fight and kill.” He glares so hard that Jack can feel a hole burning through him. “I have a man who killed three families to try and escape a gang where he was torturing women and children because he wanted to. Instead of throwing him in prison, Bishop agreed with Adawe that he has ‘potential’ to be a decent agent, to do the things no one else wanted!”

Gabe lashes out suddenly, throwing his shotgun across the room with such force that it shatters a lamp on impact. Jack barely blinks.

“He’s bound by contract to stay with us, but if I say one word wrong, give an order that has loop-holes, give him free reign of any kind then he can walk free. He can go on a mission that I ordered him to when I was distracted and he will find the loop-hole and abuse it, Jack. And he’s not the only one.”

Jack can feel his whole body start to shake, and Gabe isn’t faring that much better as his hard gaze softens into a pleading one.

“I have molesters who love children and knives,” Gabe mutters, “I have women and men who look at Jesse like he’s a piece of meat, and no matter what I do I can’t get rid of him. I can’t send Jesse back to Overwatch because he won’t go. He calls me jefe and has so much damn trust in me and I’m the only thing standing between him and a horde of people who would love to get their hands on him.”

The gazes of some of the agents in the lobby now make Jack’s skin crawl, and the key card to Jesse’s room is burning in his pocket at the realisation that if he didn’t have it… if he hadn’t made sure that Jesse’s room was sealed tightly shut… it makes him feel sick to the stomach.

“I had to leave, cariño,” Gabe continues quietly, his voice dropping quieter and quieter. “I had to put myself between you and them. I couldn’t… I have to protect you all and I couldn’t do that where I was.”

“Gabe…” Jack murmurs, too many emotions choking him slowly, and he has to look away lest the burning behind his eyes becomes worse. He has to say it, no matter how childish it sounds. It’s on the tip of his tongue and it hurts. “What you’ve done, Gabe, it’s… I understand, but us? What about us?”

Gabe lets out a noise that sounds like a wounded animal and he drops back down onto the bed. “I thought I could work it,” he admits. “I thought it would be okay, that I’d still see you and we could make it work. And then Bishop was there and giving me orders, sending me places to set up bases, handing me more recruits that are getting more and more dangerous. And at the same time Adawe is-”

“Keeping me swamped,” Jack finishes for him. “Sending me to different countries. Making me meet with politicians and organising peace keeping movements. Keeping us apart.”

“I don’t think it’s intentional,” Gabe tells him as Jack slowly sinks back onto the bed beside him. “But if it were this would be Adawe’s best move yet. It’s tearing us apart.”

“I’m sorry,” Jack says quietly past the lump in his throat and Gabe sighs before reaching out to lace their fingers together.

“Me too.”

They sit in silence for a moment, the only noise the ticking of the clock across the room and their hard breathing. Jack’s hand feels numb where he’s holding Gabe’s. It feels wrong, so damn wrong, and for a moment he wonders if the Omnic was wrong about things being reparable.

“I get cold at night,” Jack eventually says, catching Gabe’s gaze. “I don’t have my personal heater anymore. It’s a shame.”

Gabe’s smile is rough but it’s there and he squeezes Jack’s hand. “I don’t exactly miss your cold feet,” he says, and it gets a snort from Jack, “but I miss your back against mine. I struggle to sleep now.”

Jack thinks that he’s the same, that he hasn’t had a decent nights sleep since Gabe stopped sharing his bed, and he glances out of the corner of his eye at the bed. It looks soft, decadent, and while he doesn’t know about them he thinks maybe this could be a start.

It’s harder than he thought it would be to tug Gabe backwards onto the bed, but when Gabe notices what he’s doing he comes willingly. In silence the two arrange themselves under the blankets with their backs against one another. They don’t take off their clothing, and Jack knows the pair of suit pants will dig into him all night and Gabe’s head will sweat like mad until his beanie comes off at some point.

But when he feels Gabe’s hand slowly slink across Jack’s thigh to graze his fingers, and when Jack tangles them back together, he thinks it’s going to be worth it.

 

 

Chapter Text

Somewhere along the way to Australia, Jack manages to convince Adawe that walking into the war torn Outback dressed in a bright blue jacket with an Overwatch symbol acting like a massive target on his chest is probably not the best of ideas.

She seems reluctant to even acquiesce to his request of wearing civilian clothes, and he pegs that up to the fact that she can obviously see Gabe lurking behind him. Jack pulls a leaf from Gabe’s book though and informs her that’s what he’ll be doing, and even though she looks like she’s eaten a lemon she gives a sharp nod.

So Jack takes it upon himself to pull out one of Gabe’s t-shirts and smuggles away Gabe’s favourite green hoodie. He knows he’s not been subtle about it, especially when Jesse lets out a low whistle that draws attention to Jack, but he just quirks an eyebrow in challenge and Gabe waves him off.

One night hasn’t changed a lot, but Jack finds himself more willing to understand Gabe, and Gabe seems to be more affectionate when the others aren’t looking. Fraternisation is still a huge no, but Jack doesn’t care for that particular rule when he feels Gabe press a kiss to his temple on his way to the cockpit.

Jack finds he doesn’t need his hard earned hoodie when they reach Australia. He shoves it in his backpack anyway for overnight but otherwise finds himself already starting to sweat in his shorts and shirt as they disembark.

Somehow Jesse is still in long pants, stenson, and neckerchief, and Jack just exchanges a long look with Gabe before giving his full attention to the two men standing in front of him as their greeting party.

“Jack Morrison,” the larger and older of the two says as he swoops forward to shake Jack’s hand. “Pleasure to meet you, mate. Name’s Eddie Smith, but everyone calls me Mick.” He grins good-naturedly as he just about sends Jack sky high with the ferocity of his hand shake. “Mum was an Irish immigrant so the damn drongos round here think they’re having a laugh calling me that. Not that I care. Pack of cu-“

“Mick!” the other one yells over top just as Jack’s eyes go wide.

“-nts, you know,” Mick finishes nonetheless with a big smile. He jerks a thumb over his shoulder at the other. “Don’t mind Roadie over there. Originates from New Zealand so he’s a bit of a delicate soul. Doesn’t like our language very much.” Eddie leans forward and cups his mouth as if to whisper a secret. “Don’t really care for Kiwis out in the sticks here. All “bro” this, “cuz” that, and Kia Kaha or whatever. They’re like our younger siblings though so we put up with them.”

Jack blinks in surprise at Mick before Roadie suddenly stomps forward and smacks Mick out of the way to offer his hand.

“Mako Rutledge,” he introduces himself, his accent alarmingly different from Mick’s. “Not a complete dick like that one over there but he’s right. Call me Roadie. Better than getting hundreds of people having a damn crisis over how to pronounce my name.”

In a bit of a daze Jack shakes his hand before, as if on autopilot, he introduces Gabe and Jesse. The two are also met with a boisterous greeting, a couple more red-faced inducing words, before their attention is back on Jack.

“So, mate,” Mick says with a large grin. “Heard you’re over here to case out the place. No worries with us. You’re a bloody hero with how you took out those fucking Omnic’s in the war. Shit, you could ask us to build you a damn statue if you wanted.”

Jack laughs awkwardly and shakes his head. “Not really partial to statues, sorry, Mick,” he says and Mick just shakes his head and nudges him over to Roadie.

“Roadie here’ll take care of you lot while you’re around,” he says as he ushers them forward to what looks like a large compounded camp. “Course our leader is a bit busy at the moment but as her second she sent me to greet you, and as her third,” he gives Roadie a grin, “I’m letting Roadie take over.”

Roadie rolls his eyes and Jack has the feeling he’s not the only one being steamrolled right now.

“In any case,” Mick continues as if everyone is somehow keeping up. “I’ve got myself a raid for this arvo to take care of.” He pauses to tap his face. “On second thought, should’ve organised taking you with us so you can see how we handle the cu-“

“Mick!”

“-nts.” He gives them all a massive grin. “Ah, hindsight. What a bitch. Anyway, I’ve got myself a durry waiting for me back at camp before we cruise out. I’ll see you boys when I get back.” Another massive grin and he pats Jack on the shoulder so hard he almost sends him through the floor. “Take care, mates! Kia Ora, and all that.”

“It’s Kia Kaha,” Roadie groans as Mick bounces away. “You just said it two seconds ago.”

Jack, frankly, doesn’t even know where to start recovering, and the sudden high pitched giggle behind him from Jesse, that isn’t immediately subdued by Gabe, makes him think he’s not the only one.

Roadie though turns to them with a smile. “Sorry bout that,” he apologises as he rubs the back of his neck. “Aussies, aye? No surprises there.”

Gabe seems to choke behind Jack who just rolls his eyes and gestures at the compound.

“You’re all cramped in here?” he asks, and Roadie looks at the compound before gesturing them forward with a nod.

“We move up and around so often there’s no point in making anything bigger and solid,” Roadie explains as they walk in between the tents to the centre of the encampment. “We did have a larger camp for a time but the Omnic’s overrun it about three months ago now. Lost half our men in the battle and we’ve stayed on the fast and loose ever since.”

“How many?” Gabe pipes up behind Jack and Roadie glances at him with a hard stare.

“Too many,” he replies. “We didn’t anticipate the losses but it’s spurred the rest of us on. The bastards won’t be taking our land.”

Jack reaches back to settle a hand on Gabe’s wrist, managing to at least graze it with his fingertips as he tries to get him to calm. While Jack still struggles with Omnic’s and their rights, Gabe has opinions that can swing either way at any time.

Now is not an appropriate time or venue to risk his opinions.

They trail along behind Roadie further into the camp. He gives them a brief rundown of the layout of the camp before pulling them towards the ‘strat’ tent. Roadie says half of them are too lazy to use full words most the time, and Jesse coughs out a “same” from behind.

Inside the tent is a hoard of maps detailing the Omnic placements, and Roadie hands them over without hesitation.

“Overwatch is a peacekeeping organisation,” Roadie says when Jack raises any eyebrow at the casual approach to his snooping. “There’s nothing for you to peace-keep here. We’re not stepping out of our borders, we’re not involving other nations. We’re a resistance, and last I checked that only comes under threat monitoring not threat intervention.”

“Well read,” Gabe speaks up from where he’s also thumbing through some stacks, and Roadie gives him a toothy grin.

“I’m not like the others,” he chucks off. “I’m a Kiwi. I have brains where these airheads have space.”

Jesse, in his corner, snorts and Roadie grins, at the response. Jack smiles as well, recognising the affection in Roadie’s voice despite the words, and when he glances at Gabe he can see a copy of his smile on his face.

The three of them, Jesse being exempt to sit in his time out corner lest he set something on fire with those damn cigars Jack can’t get him to stop puffing, all settle down around the table of maps. Gabe sits incredibly close, pressing his ankle against Jack’s, and Jack has to hide his blush as Roadie gives them a knowing look.

Gabe and Roadie discuss placements and battle plans as Jack scans through the maps, taking note of camps, personnel, numbers and equipment. He jots them down on a tech pad he’d brought from the plane with him, and Roadie fills in the gaps if Jack asks. Of course there’s classified information that Jack can’t get his hands on, but there’s enough intel to keep Adawe happy.

At some point Roadie hauls Jesse from the tent with intentions on bringing back tea, and Gabe stifles a laugh behind his hand as they leave.

“You drink tea now?” he asks as he leans back in his chair to look at Jack. Jack ignores his raised eyebrow as he continues to shuffle around the maps into tidy order.

“Ana keeps shoving it down my throat,” he tells Gabe, not acknowledging the way Gabe flinches and his posture becomes more stiff. “Normally it’s some sort of green tea monstrosity, but it’s not half bad when it’s regular tea.”

Gabe doesn’t say anything as he falls silent, and Jack sighs as he drops the maps and reaches out to take Gabe’s hand.

“Hey,” he says, tapping his other hand on Gabe’s cheek to make him look up. “Stop it. We talked about this. We have to let go what’s happened and start over. I’m sure when we get back Ana will happily feed you terrible tea until you catch up.”

Gabe’s lips twitch in a small smile and he shakes his head. “I don’t think I need that kind of torture, Freckles,” he replies and Jack rolls his eyes but smiles nonetheless.

They break apart when Roadie and Jesse come back in, obviously not fast enough at the smirk on Jesse’s face and the gentle smile on Roadie’s. Jack clears his throat as he pulls back to sit properly in his seat, letting go of Gabe’s hand in the process and it doesn’t escape his sight when Gabe flexes his hand at the sudden missing weight.

“Just gumboot tea,” Roadie says as he walks around the table to drop a tray on top. There’s a surprisingly dainty tea set settled on it, and Jack tries not to think about how strange it is to have such fine china in the middle of the Outback.

He doesn’t question what gumboot tea is, assuming it’s safe in any case, but Roadie still seems to spot his hesitance. He doesn’t offer an explanation though as he pours them a cup each and adds milk and sugar.

Jack takes the teacup with gentle hands that he knows Roadie will appreciate, but doesn’t take an immediate sip from the steaming cup. Instead he looks at the odd pattern wrapped around the cup that matches the rest of the tea set, and he glances at Roadie with the question on the tip of his tongue

“It’s a Kowhaiwhai,” Roadie explains before Jack can ask as he points at the patterns. “My mother’s Koro, uh, Gradnfather, he hand glazed and painted them for her before she left for Aussie. It represents our whanua, our family. They’re normally found in our marae’s but her Koro wanted her to take her family with her.”

Jack smiles, running a thumb over the red, black, and white pattern. It’s an endearing thought to take ones family genealogy with them in such a delicate tea set.

“She also gave me this,” Roadie continues as he pops down his tea cup and reaches for a necklace tied at his neck. It’s a large hook made out of a green stone, and Jack leans forward just as Jesse approaches the desk for a closer look too.

“What is it?” Jesse asks.

“It’s a pounamu,” Roadie tells him, and when Jesse repeats and butchers the damn word Roadie laughs. “No, pronounce it like poo-nah-moo.”

“Pounamu?” Jesse tries again and Roadie nods.

“This one is a hei matau, or a fish hook,” he says as he twiddles it between his fingers. “It represents strength and determination, and it brings peace, prosperity, good health and provides safe travel. Mum got given it for her travel over here and when she passed, she passed it on to me.”

“She must’ve been a big lady,” Jesse muses, and Jack’s eyes go wide as he slams his elbow into Jesse’s side. Jesse winces and glares at him, but Roadie is back to laughing.

“Well, look at me,” he says gesturing to himself. “I’m no small unit.”

It’s true, he’s not small at all and Jack isn’t too sure what’s muscle or fat but he knows that size doesn’t matter when it comes to strength. After all, Torbjörn still hasn’t lost his Angry Gnome title in these years past.

Jack smiles into his tea cup as he has a sip while Jesse splutters and tries to apologise. Roadie is roaring with laughter at the attempts though as Gabe keeps hissing at him to shut up. It’s a bit of a disaster really, but Jack finds himself relaxing as the three in front of his squabble and squeak.

Of course, relaxing never is good for Jack. Something always does tend to go wrong.

The sudden explosion outside of the tank shakes the ground to such an extent that if Jack hadn’t already fallen out of his chair, then undoubtedly Gabe would’ve tackled him to the ground and he leaps on top of him. He sees Roadie yanking Jesse down by his ankle and the screech as Jesse hits the ground, but he has to close his eyes as another explosion rocks the earth and Gabe flattens them to the floor.

It’s loud and suffocating for a long moment as yelling and screaming start up outside, and Jack stiffens as the crying filters through as well. He hates the sound of crying, flashes of Dorado and Georgia and so many fights suddenly assault him, and it’s not until Gabe is shaking him frantically that he’s able to snap out of it.

“-ck! Jack! Come on! Pull it together!” Gabe is yelling, and Jack stares at him before he shakes his head and sits bolt up right. The tent around them is half caved in, paperwork everywhere and the smell of smoke is starting to burn in the air.

“Jesse?” he calls, clinging to the front of Gabe’s shirt as he looks around. “Roadie?”

“We’re here,” he hears Roadie bellow back from somewhere, and Jack glances around until he sees Roadie shuffling on all fours towards them and dragging Jesse. “We’re alright, the kid is okay.”

Jesse sees them and immediately hurries forward, scrabbling across the ground until he’s right beside them. Jack reaches out to touch his face as soon as he gets to their side, the pale skin cold under his hand, and Jesse leans into it automatically with a sigh.

“You alright, mijo?” Gabe asks him, and Jesse huffs before looking at them with watery eyes.

“Fine,” he croaks, the shock obvious in his face. Jack knows it’s been well over a year since the kid has been in any sort of situation like this, and he’s not entirely sure how involved Jesse was in the Deadlock Gang operations. The shaking of his hands is enough to make him think he wasn’t that involved at all.

Roadie coughs beside them, and Jack drops his hand and glances at him with a flush on his cheeks. Roadie gives him a sly grin before shaking his head.

“This isn’t Omnics,” he says gruffly as he moves towards them again before ducking as another explosion rocks the camp. “The ones out this way don’t have access to explosives. This isn’t them.”

“Then who…” Jack starts to say but trails off as Gabe looks at him in horror.

“Talon,” Gabe mutters and Jack swears. Roadie looks at them with a frown before his face slackens and he sits with a heavy frump.

“The terrorist cell?” he asks them, and when Gabe nods he lets out a low whistle. “Shit. We’ve never had any problems with them. What could they…” He stops and stares at Jack and it obviously clicks as his face goes from confusion to anger to worry. “Fuck. Bugger. We gotta get you out of here.”

Jack swears as Gabe yanks him up harshly before he grabs Jesse with the other hand. Roadie is by their side in an instant, and Jack is surprised when Gabe shoves him straight into the larger man’s chest.

“Keep an eye on him,” Gabe orders Roadie as he reaches to his side where his shotguns are holstered. Beside him Jesse’s shaking hands grab his own gun. “We need to scout out ahead as we get him to the jet. I’m trusting you to keep him safe.”

Jack blinks at him in shock as Roadie lets out a rumbling affirmative behind him, and he doesn’t hesitate in reaching out to snag Gabe’s elbow.

“Gabe-” he starts to say but Gabe shakes him off and shoots him a glare.

“No,” he snaps. “You’re not armed, you’re not prepared, and this is my job. You stick to Roadie and we’ll get you to the transport, Jack. I’m not risking you getting hit because of your damn ego.”

The ferocity of his words makes Jack stop his retort before it comes out, and Gabe nods before taking Jesse’s arm and hauling him to the half collapsed entrance. Roadie’s hand on his shoulder is what stops him from also stepping forward, and when he glances up Roadie just gives him a grim smile and a nod.

They wait in silence as shots ring out, explosions go off, and dread builds in Jack’s stomach until Jesse pops his head into the tent and hisses at them to hurry up. Roadie keeps his large hand on Jack’s shoulder as they rush out after Jesse, and Jack looks around for a sight of Gabe.

The campsite is a mess, but there is a complete lack of Omnic’s. Between the mix of rag-tag humans who’re fighting with scraps and sheer violence, there’s human’s dressed all in black rushing between them all with large automatic weapons. Jack’s never been against Talon, but he’s seen enough photographs and reports to know that’s exactly who they are.

Roadie’s grip steers him after Jesse despite the fact he still hasn’t seen Gabe, and even though the urge to find him is stronger than his survival skills he still forces himself to chase after Jesse with Roadie hot on his heels. They don’t meet any resistance on their way through the tents although there are numerous bodies, and Jack recognises the wounds caused by shotguns.

There is a group that spill into their path, and it seems they know exactly who they are as they immediately open fire. Jack is practically lifted off the ground as Roadie throws him into cover behind a collection of barrels as Jesse yells and starts firing right back. Jack cries out for him, hoping to get his attention and get him to cover, but his voice is drowned out by noise.

There’s another sudden flash of black though, and it’s almost with a personal vendetta that Gabe comes out of the shadows and lunges towards the group. Jack feels his voice hitch in his throat as he watches him move, his shotguns an extension of his body as he stands amongst them and pivots at a ridiculous speed as he just fires. Bullet after bullet meets it mark as the group of Talon members just drop to the floor.

The dust clears with the last body, and Gabe stands there staring at them. “What are you waiting for?” he roars, and Jack blinks before tearing out from behind the barrels. Roadie swings in behind them as Jack hauls Jesse along, and Gabe waits for them before sprinting off down the pathway. He moves faster than them all, even if Jack knows he can keep up he still stays with the other two, and Gabe is almost vicious as he dispatches stray Talon agent after stray Talon agent.

Jesse is panting hard enough that Jack dreads the thought of having to carry him until he sees the jet peeking out behind the tents. He almost swings Jesse up over his shoulder just to get them faster, but he skids to a stop as he sees a group of Talon agents swarming the jet.

“Gabe!” he calls, and Gabe falters from where he’s just dropped another agent. Jack gestures at the jet and Gabe follows his line of sight, only to swear as he comes back to them.

“Now what?” Jesse asks as he pants with his hands on his knees beside Jack, glaring at the swarmed jet and Jack honestly feels the same anger.

Jack shakes his head as he tries to think of a damn solution. There’s too many for them to take, a whole damn horde really, and the odds of all four of them against the group are not in their favour. He’s contemplated turning tail and finding some other way out of here before Roadie suddenly clears his throat.

“I’ve got this,” he tells Jack just as Gabe gets to them. “I’ll distract them. You get on that jet, you get out of here, and for the love of God you start slamming Talon. First Dorado, now this. They’re after you.”

Jack stares at him with an open mouth before shaking his head. “They outnumber you, Roadie,” he says. “You’re only one person.”

Roadie raises an eyebrow before gesturing at the camp. “Nah,” he snorts. “I’ve got a whole army with me. Look, I’ll distract most of them and you just have to do clean up. It’s no big deal.”

“And if you’re killed?”

Roadie shrugs. “She’ll be right,” he says before smiling and patting Jack’s shoulder. “Seriously. It’s fine. Go.”

Jack stares and wants to demand Roadie snap out of it, but Gabe clears his throat and bloody well thanks Roadie. Jack glares at him too but no one seems to pay attention to him as Roadie claps him on the back and races forward. He’s not far from the jet when he turns to give him a cheeky grin before he pulls what looks like his own shotgun off his back and just fires directly into the Talon agent group.

It takes out a fair amount, his shotgun clearly upgraded to fire at automatic weapon levels of speed, and Roadie is practically cackling before he runs out of ammunition. When he stops the Talon agents manage to regroup, crawling over the bodies of their fallen comrades, before Roadie lets out a loud bellow and bolts towards the camp line six or seven tents over from them. Gabe hustles them into the shadows, Jesse also watching with bated breath, and as soon as the majority of the survivors have taken off after Roadie they start to move forward.

There’s only a handful of agents left, and Jesse’s dead eye training comes in handy as he pops them off before Gabe swings forward to finish the rest. Jack feels utterly useless standing by, missing the feeling of his pulse rifle as he watches the chaos, before Gabe is yelling at him and he’s tearing up into the jet.

Jack wonders if Gabe got ahold of Ray to start the engine as they’re barely on the jet before the closing door is slamming behind them and they start to move forward. They’re not even in their seats yet, and Jack hauls Jesse across the room as he tries to keep their balance to shove him into one. Jesse is babbling something nonsensical, whether excited or stressed Jack doesn’t know, but Gabe is right behind them as all three crowd into a close huddle.

Jack can feel Jesse pressed up against him on one side and Gabe on the other, and while it’s reassuring to know they’re both there he still thinks of Roadie no doubt running for his damn life at the moment. He glances past Jesse to look out the window, but the jet’s moved faster than he thought as the camp is already hundreds of feet below them.

“Don’t stress,” he hears Gabe saying beside him, his hand warm and comforting on Jack’s knee. “He’ll be fine. They’ll all be fine. Talon were after you, Jack, not a bunch of scavengers. They’ll be fine.”

It rings true, it makes sense, but Jack has the good awful realisation that even though the Omnic War has ended…

Overwatch’s has only just beginning.

 

 

Chapter Text

Overwatch doesn’t get lulls in their fighting. They may have the title of Peacekeepers, but Jack knows a lie when he sees one. Adawe stands on the front line and spoon feeds the public their great deeds and the wars they win, but she never tells them what happens behind the scenes.

Doesn’t tell them that Dorado and the Australian Outback had just been the beginning, and when it’s not Talon it’s the rest of the world combusting so badly that Jack finds himself questioning just what the hell he thinks he’s doing leading Overwatch in this.

The ALF self-implodes, and Jack watches for years as the updates of the toxic and radioactive wasteland the Outback has become slowly tappers off into nothing but reports of junkers and scavengers, and stews in frustration when Adawe slams down on them. He fights tooth and nail to go, to assist, to pull as many people out of the radioactive nightmare but Adawe tells them it’s not their place.

“We’re peacekeepers, not nannies,” she snaps at him, and Jack fights back every urge to scream back.

Dorado barely recovers before the Los Muretos Gang starts a damn anarchy that Overwatch is forbidden from interfering with. Jack thinks of Olivia, long gone and unlikely to be seen again, and his fists clench around rifles as he fires off round after round into the shooting range, and when that’s not enough he hits walls till he bleeds. Angela patches him up, her gaze caring and understanding, but he can see her shoulders starting to stiffen with each report that comes in, each incident they could’ve prevented.

England starts up their own personal war against the Omnic’s, something that makes Jack’s skin crawl with memories, and the Shambli move into a world wide protesting monastery rather than the quiet one they once were. The Shimada Clan takes Japan by storm, and while there’s only a trail of information being pushed out, from agents brave and stupid enough to infiltrate the Clan, the things that are seen are indescribable.

Through it all there’s hints of Talon, hints of fights needing that extra push, gangs that need extra firearms, more artillery from military organisations finding themselves in terrorist hands and Jack knows to his very core that Talon is behind it.

The world is crumbling and Jack doesn’t have enough hands to gather the pieces.

Somehow though, and Jack doesn’t know how, Overwatch stays together despite their own cracks, despite the seething Blackwatch underneath them and Adawe’s infallible empty smile above them.

Ana helps as much as possible, picking up the slack where Jack can’t manage, and he grits his teeth as she sits with him for hours, leaves for missions at the eleventh hour, lets Overwatch become her life as she pushes away Fareeha through all of her teenage years. It’s brutal when Ana realises that somewhere along the line Fareeha grew up, and she all but smothers her in her attempts to rectify their relationship. Sam is already long gone, but Fareeha stays.

Jack doesn’t know how much longer she will.

Jesse lurks in the background, with Jack when he’s not with Gabe. He’s still a kid in their eyes despite being with them for nine damn years and creeping into his twenties. Jack only sees the kid with the stenson and bad attitude when he looks at him though, and it makes his heart clench seeing Jesse slowly switch his neckerchief out for a Blackwatch uniform.

But it’s not all bad, he thinks. Angela moulds to their family so well that Jack is honestly surprised that she wasn’t a part of it from the start. She’s quirky and gentle, and she’s able to calm them all with a gaze and a flick of her staff. Fareeha adores her, following her around with starry eyes that has them all laughing behind their hands.

Then there’s Gabe, and despite everything being so damn oppressive at times Jack wouldn’t stop it for a moment as Gabe smiles at him over every meeting, accompanies him on every mission, sticks to him so much that Jack wonders when they became one person again. Sometimes he thinks about Zenyatta, muses out loud what the equivalent of a fruit basket is for an Omnic, and he deals with the weird stares he gets in response.

Sure, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. They still don’t share a room, there’s still months that go by with no contact, but Jack gets it now. Gets why he’s okay with it.

The world could go to shit, and Jack wouldn’t care as long as he still had Gabe.

Throughout it all they find time for each other. Gabe will haul Ana down to the training areas for a sparring session, Reinhardt will force feed them currywurst on a regular basis no matter how red their faces go, Angela and Torbjörn spend hours together on her machinery for her medical wing despite everyone’s attempts to pull them away, and more often than not Jack finds himself babysitting everyone.

He’s Uncle Jack to Jesse and Fareeha, but dammit all if there’s not the constant chorus of “Mom!” directed at him from the whole team that has Gabe snorting until Reinhardt belts him on the back and all but shouts “Daddy!” as they all drop with laughter. Gabe still shudders at any reminder, and Jack reminds him as often as he can when they’re tucked away together and the only retribution he faces is a hard pillow to the face.

They’re a family that hold tight as can be during everything, and Jack slowly recruits more and more until they’re brimming with those loyal to the original Overwatch, to him.

There’s Gérard Lacroix. He was hand picked by Adawe to spearhead all missions on Talon despite Jack’s disagreements. He was young and boastful, but Jack’s seen him mature over the years into a harder man. There’s still the French twang and rolling laughter from when Jack met him as a green recruit, but now he slides into their family with a biting wit, a tactical mind, and his young wife on his arm.

Amélie Lacroix is so sweet and graceful with a contagious laugh and eyes that brighten a room, and everyone constantly reminds Jesse to put his damn tongue back in his mouth whenever he sees her. A ballet dancer turned Overwatch member, Jack appreciates her handle with a sniper’s weapon under Ana’s tutoring. Admittedly, Gabe and Jack do use Amélie’s presence to encourage Jesse to work with Ana on his aim. After all, just because he has a laser on the edge of his weapon doesn’t mean he’s always going to be a perfect shot.

He gathers Mei-Ling Zhou into their family. She’s been there since the start, a small scientist huddled amongst larger names, but Jack picked her out the moment he saw her teaching Fareeha how to look after bees. He’d watched them out of the corner of his eye as he inspected their labs, admiring Mei’s gentle hand and genuine passion for the environment, and seeing Fareeha in a beekeepers suit much too large was too good a sight to miss.

Mei is kind and sweet, her humour dry and sudden, and Torbjörn especially adores her. The day Jack has to send her to Ecopoint Antartica is the day he worries he’ll be on the other end of Torbjörn’s army of turrets as he glares at him with one eye and waves a large metal claw at him.

She stays though to help Jack with their next recruit, a bloody gorilla of all things. Gabe had just about wet himself laughing when Jack had shown him the file until he realised Jack was serious. Of course, despite the seriousness, Gabe still snickered to himself as they waited for Winston to arrive.

When he does he’s quiet and shy, obviously traumatised. Jack had read the confidential files on what happened on the Horizon Moon Colony, and the images still make him feel queasy. Winston is only one of the two subjects that escaped, the other still unaccounted for, and even though it’s more than disorientating having a gorilla speak to you and bloody report to you, Jack takes it in his stride.

Winston bonds well with Mei, well more her little robot Snowball, and she helps him start to create an AI named ‘Athena’. He steers clear of most of the group, especially Gabe and Jesse, but Angela thinks he’s fascinating and Reinhardt encourages him into some sparring. He’s always wanted an equal opponent, and even though Winston is hesitant and clearly nervous, everyone joins in to watch as him and Reinhardt battle it out.

Admittedly there are tranquillisers littered around the room at all times that only Jack and Ana know about, but he has seen the reports. He knows what happened. He won’t let that happen here.

Then of course there’s Slipstream, or Lena Oxton. She’s so damn full of energy that Jack’s eye gains a twitch whenever she just appears to talk a mile a minute, and Ana had to stop Gabe from putting a damn shotgun through her head when she shocks him one time. It takes too long to remind her that they’re veterans and don’t do well with surprises, but by the time that gets through?

Well, Jack would much rather have her bubbly attitude than the long silences in between.

They keep her tucked away in a small room resistant to her time-leaps and, even though she looks so pained at being kept from general population, she knows its good for her. It hurts Jack to see someone so bright and bubbly stomped on like that, but it has to be done.

Which leads him to today where he’s been given Jesse duties and has the damn kid following him around while Gabe cackles off in the downstairs basement with a bunch of hardened criminals. That still makes Jack’s skin crawl, the idea of him being alone, but Gabe reminds him each year that he’s getting better and better at it. Jack looks at him and sees there’s something else, there’s something lurking behind Gabe’s eyes that he knows is something to do with pre-SEP but he doesn’t ask. He waits for Gabe to come to him about it but he never does.

He hates it.

Jesse is being surprisingly quiet today, although Fareeha did leave a few days ago to visit her father. Jack’s not surprised that he’s missing his constant companion, and he makes a mental note to send Jesse to bond with Reinhardt for a few hours. A bit of boisterousness will do him good, especially since Fareeha is so damn full of life now that she makes Jesse look like an old man.

“Alright, kiddo?” he asks Jesse as they walk down the corridors. Lena is locked away above the science labs, close to Winston’s personal one. He’d insisted on being assigned to Lena to test and design something to assist her in staying in the present, and Jack isn’t too sure how close he is to succeeding despite his numerous attempts.

Jesse seems to shake himself out of a daydream and smiles at Jack. “Yeah,” he laughs awkwardly, scratching the back of his head in such a sheepish gesture that Jack quirks an eyebrow. “Just thinking, ya know?”

“Don’t think too hard,” Jack mutters as he enters in a key code for access to the upstairs stairwell. “Gabe would kill me if you fried your brain under my watch.”

“Ha ha,” Jesse bites back sarcastically as he trails along behind him. “Jefe would be surprised I even had a brain.”

Jack hides the upturn of his lips as they walk. Jesse would be surprised just how highly Gabe thinks of him, often referring to him as mijo out of conversation and out of sarcastic terms. Jack had teased Gabe mercilessly until he too had accidentally started to refer to Jesse as their son, and the Jack had promptly stopped and refused to babysit him for weeks until Gabe pleaded.

Of course he’d said Jesse was missing him and Jack caved even if their ‘son’ is twenty-six damn years old and has more attitude than anybody Jack knows.

“Worried about meeting Lena again?,” he ends up asking after they get to the top of the stairs. Last time Jesse had come with him Lena had disappeared for ten minutes before popping out right by Jesse’s ear already mid-conversation. The manly scream Jesse had let out somehow got recorded and filtered around the base after that.

“No,” Jesse mutters, causing Jack to look back at him with a smirk. Jesse glares at him. “I’m not. I’m thinking about other things.”

“Good god, what’s the world coming to, huh?” Jack sighs as he cracks open another door and ushers Jesse through first. “Let me know if I can help you, buddy. Don’t want your brain to turn to mush or anything.”

Jesse huffs and crosses his arms as they walk, and Jack smiles as he drops his eyes to the folder in his hand. He doesn’t say anything though as they approach the final door, the one with Lena behind, and he keys in the code to enter the antechamber first.

Jesse files in behind them and they close the door to the corridor before opening the one into Lena’s room, and Jack doesn’t hesitate to walk in to find her. It takes him a couple of seconds, probably because he’s sees she’s fading in and no doubt wasn’t in the room herself for a moment, but he does see her curled up in her window seat looking rather tired and edgy.

Not a good day then.

“How many times today?” he calls out as he approaches, and Lena glances over at him before giving him a tired smile and dropping her head onto her bent knees. She looks exhausted, and Jack snags a blanket from a nearby ottoman to drape over her shoulders.

“Twenty-eight,” she answers as he gets closer, he voice small. “I think the longest I’ve been here so far is eleven minutes.”

Jack checks the clock on the wall and sighs. It’s only late morning and she’s been in an out so often already? He drops the blanket over her shoulders and tucks it in properly before sitting down across from her on the window seat, gesturing at another nearby ottoman for Jesse to take. He does so with a bit of hesitance, but straightens up when Lena glances at him.

“Hey Lena,” Jesse greets her with a small smile, and Lena smiles back and gives him a little wave.

“Looking older, Jesse,” she tells him. “Last time I saw you, you still had that neckerchief thing going on.”

Jesse blinks at her for a long moment, clearly wondering what the hell she’s on about, before he smiles at the same time Jack does. “What year were you in?” he asks, and Lena squints her eyes for a moment before she sighs and shrugs.

“I don’t know,” she answers honestly before glancing at Jack. “You didn’t have that scar on your cheek though.”

Jack frowns and reaches up to touch the thin line beside his mouth, the scar faint and white now. He’d gotten it six years ago in the middle of Numbani when a rouge OR-14 attacked him and Ana at a routine meeting with the UN Representative. He hasn’t though about that meeting in a long time, nor the scar, and he shakes his head as he drops his hand.

“At least six years ago,” he tells Jesse who’s just wide eyed. Lena nods though and drops her chin back down.

“It’s hard keeping track,” she says quietly. “Winston said he’s still trying. He’s got something new to start on, some accelerator or whatever. I’m not too sure though.”

“Don’t lose faith, Lena,” Jack gently chides her as he reaches out to touch her hand. She smiles at him and glances at the touch before groaning.

“Nothing has worked so far, sir,” she reminds him. “Maybe this is it though? Maybe this is what is suppose to happen to me. I don’t know. I’m not a big fan about destiny, but if this were my destiny it does suck a bit.”

Jack bites back a response, knowing there is nothing really to say besides empty promises. Jesse looks just as conflicted, and when Lena looks at him Jack can see the exact moment she tries to brighten up. It scares him really how she can just flick like a switch, how she makes herself brighter. He wonders how she does it, and he wonders if it’s healthy.

“So!” she says, her voice loud and chipper, “where to after this visit? People to see? Meetings to arrange?”

Jack gives her an indulgent smile before patting the folders sitting on his lap. “Off to see Gérard,” he tells her. “He says he’s got a few more things for me to review before sending to Adawe. No big deal.”

Lena’s face lights up, genuinely lights up this time, and she grins. “Is Amélie going to be there?” she asks, and the way Jesse straightens up makes Jack groan and cover his face.

“What is with you lot and your obsession with Amélie?” he asks them, dreading the response, and Lena just laughs loudly.

“Apart from the fact she’s gorgeous?” Lena replies, and Jesse makes loud agreeing noises. “Honestly, sir, she’s a real beauty. A real French belle.”

“It’s Southern,” Jesse cuts in with a smile, “but you’re right. Mrs Lacroix is one hell of a woman.”

Lena hums and gives him a cheeky grin, and Jack resists the urge to just leave the two to it and set Amélie on them with a taser later. “This could count under harassment, you know?” he reminds them, and Lena just scoffs and waves her hand as she drops her feet to the ground.

“Don’t be silly, sir,” she says. “Even if she didn’t lap up all the attention, which she definitely does, we mean no harm by it. She’s a genuinely lovely woman!”

“She could kick my ass and I’d thank her for it,” Jesse muses and Lena lets out a accompanying sigh that sounds so wistful Jack wants to throw up.

Oui oui,” she murmurs and Jack groans.

“If you two start teaching Fareeha anything like this, you know Ana will…” he starts to say, but Jesse cuts him off with an outrageous laugh.

“You know Fareeha is too busy crawling up Angela’s ass to even look at anyone else,” he chortles like an old man. “I mean, I know she’s only, what? Twenty-one or two? But I’m pretty sure she’s ready to settle down with our residential medical officer and have creepy falcon angel hybrids.”

Lena starts giggling and making cawing noises that has Jesse cackling, and Jack drops his head into his hands. Idiots, he thinks. He surrounded by idiots.

“Oh hush, sir,” Lena laughs as she nudges him in his seat. “You were probably like this with Commander Reyes! Gushing over his eyes and dreaming about his big strong arms.”

“Been thinking about those arms, huh, Lena?” Jesse interrupts and Lena squawks as she reaches over to punch him. Jesse just dodges her and laughs. “Wait until I tell jefe you’ve been lusting over him. I’ll let him know you were drooling hard enough to make a damn pool.”

“You wouldn’t!”

Jesse cackles once again as Lena stands up to chase him around the room, fists waving and words flying. He rolls his eyes and watches them with a small smile, admittedly enjoying their antics. It’s been a while since there’s been such jovial horseplay genuinely started in front of him since he’s established his role as the big bad Strike Commander. Normally he gets privates saluting him in the hallways and conversations dying at the sight of him.

There’s only a select few who don’t care for his rank, and despite it being tedious at times he does find it refreshing.

While the two are spiriting themselves around the room like utter children, Jack picks up the discarded blanket to fold before rummaging in the bag he’d brought with him. He pulls out a matching set of pink scarf and mittens, something bright and bubbly he’d been knitting in his spare time. He still hasn’t stopped the hobby, half the time thinking it’s the only thing that keeps him sane, and he goes to place them on top of the folded blanket when suddenly Lena is right beside him.

There’s something off about her, and when she reaches out to touch the matching set he realises it’s because she’s starting to tear up. Jack hates tears, never really comfortable around them despite his reputation of being the ‘gentle one’ out of him and Gabe. He shifts nervously until Lena smiles brightly at him.

“For me?” she asks as she holds them up, and Jack smiles.

“Yeah,” he replies softly. “Winston told me it gets a bit chilly up here at night and, well, I don’t want you freezing to death. We still need you, Cadet.”

Lena looks ridiculously happy as Jesse appears at her shoulder and gawks at the knitted items. He looks at Jack with a betrayed look as he crosses him arms.

“What’s this about?” he asks. “I’ve known you for how long and you’ve never knitted me anything. I’m starting to think it’s a personal thing, tío.”

Jack snorts and doesn’t bother to tell him about the red and gold serape he’s been spending the last two years slowly knitting out of a special cotton blend crafted by Gabe’s grandmother. It’s still only half finished, a project that’s going to take a lot longer than some simple knitted mittens and scarf, but he’s proud of it so far.

He has every intention on letting Jesse stew as well.

“Maybe I just like Lena more, kid,” he says as he stands up to ruffle Lena’s hair. He’s not expecting the sudden hug as Lena crashes into him, but he returns it swiftly and pats her back. “Alright, kiddo, it’s fine. No big deal.”

“Thanks, sir,” she murmurs as she pulls away, and Jack smiles down at her before gesturing at the door.

“We’ve got to go, Lena, but let me know if you need anything.” He feels horrible leaving her but pauses at the door with Jesse at his shoulder. “I’ll have Angela come up later. She was pestering me about your flu status yesterday so I think I’ll let you fend for yourself with that one.”

He doesn’t hear a complaint, only a happy trill from Lena, and he makes a mental note to ensure Angela stays for a while before he cracks open the door and ushers Jesse out.

There’s still something off about the kid, Jack thinks as they walk towards Gérard, stopping in places for Jack to address an agent with a kind or inspiring word. Normally, Jesse would be mocking him for doing so, muttering under his breath and being a pain, but he’s silent. It makes Jack’s shoulders tense, wondering if the kid’s in danger or something like that, but the closer they get to Gérard the less likely it seems that Jesse will say anything.

But they’re not too far down the corridor towards Gérard’s office when Jesse finally pauses. It’s poor timing, Jack really does want to get these papers all signed off before Adawe comes crawling after him. He shudders at the thought, fully appreciating now what Gabe means when he says she’s a bruja.

“Uh, Commander,” Jesse says, and that makes Jack’s back straighten as he turns to face the kid. Jesse will never refer to him or Gabe by rank unless it’s important. The last time that happened Jesse and him were under fire by a pack of aggressive Los Muretos in a burning bloody building and Jesse wanted to know if they were going to die.

His hackles are already up as he looks at Jesse, and it’s not helped by how nervous he looks.

“Everything okay?” Jack asks cautiously, and he watches as Jesse shuffles and bites his lip. He never does that unless he’s beyond nervous into petrified, and Jack feels a sudden wave of worry. Were Gabe here he’d be already jumping in demanding to know who Jesse got pregnant, in an attempt probably to calm the air, but Jack isn’t so colloquial or dismissive. There could be so many options, but Jack has a sinking feeling. He wonders if now is the time Jesse wants to leave, maybe uproot from Blackwatch and Overwatch and strike out on his own.

The thought makes Jack nervous, and he almost misses Jesse clearing his throat awkwardly.

“Look,” he finally says, and Jack snaps his eyes up to meet his. “I’ve been wanting to say this for a while. It’s been nine years since I joined with you, six since you took me on my first mission which was… well, Australia was a bit of a bust.”

Jack holds back a sarcastic reply and just waits as Jesse collects himself.

“I just want to ask, Commander,” he continues hesitantly. “I want to know if… if I can run my own operation.”

Jack freezes, blinks, freezes again, then just stares at Jesse as he tries to wrap his head around what the heck Jesse just asked. Were they not standing in a public corridor outside labs full of nosey scientists he might’ve dropped his files to show how surprised he is, but he doesn’t and just blinks a few times before reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose.

All that stress for this.

“... you want to run your own op?” Jack manages to say after a lengthy silence, and Jesse just nods his head and wrings his hands.

“Yes. I think... well, I know I’m ready,” and when Jack goes to reply Jesse shakes his head and waves a hand to cut him off. “No, really, listen. I know it doesn’t seem like a long time but I’ve been under your’s and Gabe’s tutelage for nine years and I just want to prove myself. I can do this, I know I can.”

“Jesse, you’re just a-“

“I’m not a kid anymore, Jack,” Jesse interrupts. “Ana has been teaching me so much, and I know Blackwatch manoeuvres like the back of my hand, and you and Gabe have coached me through all of it. Jack, please.”

Jack feels a lump crawling up into his throat and he desperately wishes that Gabe were here. He can’t willingly send Jesse out on a mission, not on his own and definitely not spearheading one. Adawe still doesn’t know about the dodgy circumstances around his recruitment, and Bishop only vaguely knows of his existence because when Jesse came of a certain age they put him down as a member of Blackwatch during a recruiting drive. He’s not known to the Brass and the moment he starts going on missions himself...

“Jesse, we can’t afford to have you on your own,” Jack says calmly, forcing himself to keep his voice level. “The moment that any attention is drawn to you...” he trails off as Jesse sighs and leans against the corridor wall.

“I know, it’ll bring attention to Adawe and Bishop,” Jesse mutters before shaking his head. “But Jack, I’m old enough now. Brass don’t know about me or your connections to me. I’m just another recruit finally being shoved out-”

“But you’re not,” Jack snaps. “You’re not just another recruit. I don’t care if Brass knows or not, Jesse. You mean too much to us-”

“I know!” Jesse yells overtop of Jack. “I know, but I’m suffocating here! I feel like I’m worthless! That’s there’s no point! Jefe always says I’m his second, but I’m not! Not really!” Jesse pauses to straighten up and uncross his arms, his jaw held so tightly it looks painful. “If you fall, Jack, then Ana will cover for you. Then if she goes there’s Reinhardt and Torbjörn. After that it goes through the channels until Overwatch is sitting at bloody Angela’s feet. But what about Blackwatch?”

The question throws Jack and he can’t help but stare with a half open mouth. He hadn’t thought about it, and the crude look on Jesse’s face makes it apparent he noticed.

“Exactly,” Jesse says. “If Gabe falls, who’s next? Nichols? He’s a mass murdering psychopath. Strath? I’m pretty sure he was a cannibal at one point. Erntust? He killed families for fun. Would you trust any of them to lead a bunch of other raging nutcases?”

“I haven’t... Jesse,” Jack clears his throat. “Jesse, it’s not my place. Leadership is up to Gabe and Bishop. I promised years ago that I would never interfere.”

“But you’re the one that signs off on missions,” Jesse points out. “Gabe might be my leader and boss but your his. You could sign me off for a mission, start to train me as Gabe’s second. That way if anything goes wrong-”

“Those are some big shoes, kid,” Jack interrupts, and Jesse looks almost childish at those words. Jack sighs and massages the bridge of his nose as he closes his eyes.

He has to concede to Jesse’s point. There is no one to hold together Blackwatch if Gabe goes. They’d only ever glanced on the topic whenever it was mention, Gabe always reassuring Jack he wasn’t going anywhere, but it doesn’t change the fact that there’s a festering pit of criminals down in the damn basement who’re only stopped by Gabe. If he goes... Jack swears.

“I’ll talk to Gabe,” he ends up saying, and Jesse almost whoops in excitement. “We still might say no, and if we say yes it won’t be anything exciting. You have to be prepared for that.”

“No, no, that’s okay,” Jesse chirps nonetheless and Jack groans as he’s swept into a very energetic hug. He smacks Jesse on the back a couple of times to try get him to release, but he’s only dropped when he’s pretty sure Jesse has cracked a rib.

“Don’t be an idiot,” he chides, but Jesse’s energy is infectious and Jack rolls his eyes as he gestures down the hall. “Shall we go? We’ve still got the Lacroix’s to see before we tackle O’Deorain.”

“O’Deorain?” Jesse asks as he swings in beside Jack, a certain spring to his step now and that casual attitude back. Jack huffs and holds his files a little closer to his chest.

“She’s becoming dangerous,” he mutters. “All the scientists are complaining, particularly Angela. I thought nothing of it until Adawe produced a petition from other Overwatch officials after her last unethical paper. We need to have a chat with her and discuss her future with Overwatch.”

“Oh.” Jesse winces and claps a hand to Jack’s shoulder. “A good old fashioned dismissal. At least the mundane still happens in this place despite the super enhanced soldiers, talking gorillas, time jumping Brit’s, and super hot ballet dancers.”

Jack groans, smacks Jesse in the stomach, and hauls him down the corridor.

 

 

Chapter Text

It ends up taking almost a year for Jack and Gabe to prepare Jesse for running his own operation.

They’re like mother-hens, as Ana keeps calling them, as they make Jesse do drills until he can’t move, practice shooting until his fingers go stiff, run him into the ground and then run him that little bit more.

Then they sit him down and feed him up and tell him he’s doing such a great job and neither of them click at all at how stupid they’re being.

Ana is the one to actually get Jesse the mission. It’s a solo one, no back up necessary. In and out over three days in Hanamura, Japan, to collect intel on the suspected nuclear arms deal between the Shimada Clan and Talon.

Easy. Probably one of the easiest missions they ever could hand out to someone, and Jack watches as Jesse buzzes over it for days before being seen off at the hanger by Jack and Gabe.

Ana mutters something about parenting and idiots when they come back. Jack ignores her.

Such a routine mission should go without a hitch, so when Jesse’s aircraft pops up on the radar two days later Jack’s blood runs cold when a request for not just Angela, but O’Deorain as well, comes over the radios.

He wastes no time in tearing out of the control room, Ana right behind him but falling back without extra enhancements, and without a word he collects Gabe from the cafeteria as he flies past. He hears Ana mutter some things to him that has Gabe hurrying to match Jack’s pace but he only spares Gabe a glance before rounding the corner to the hanger.

He almost crashes into Angela as she hovers awkward at the doorway with her staff in hand, O’Deorain cross armed and staunch behind her in a lab coat. There’s a bit of black smoke curling off a burnt corner of the otherwise pristine material.

Jack only nods at them as he hurries past, bursting into the hanger just as Jesse’s aircraft lands and the loading ramp starts to drop. He’s ready to tear up it and haul Jesse down personally, but he’s stopped by Gabe’s hand resting over his wrist.

“Wait,” is all Gabe says and Jack instantly freezes. His breathing stops as well, and he waits with his entire body coiled and tense for Jesse to come down the ramp.

Surprisingly, he does.

Jesse walks down with a slight limp to his step, but his black stenson is still on his head, makeshift serape wrapped around his body, his boots still click on the floor, and there’s a slight glow of a lit cigar.

Jack feels all the adrenaline leave his body in a rush, almost collapsing at the sudden relief, but Gabe’s hand tightens on his wrist until he looks past Jesse and sees a electric stretcher following behind him. There’s a body on it, one he doesn’t recognise, and he shakes off Gabe’s hand to step forward.

“Hey, kid,” he greets, reaching out to clap Jesse’s shoulder before yanking the cigar out of his mouth to toss to the side. “These’ll kill you. We’ve been over this.”

Jesse gives him a lazy grin back, and Jack notes that he has a split lip and a nasty bruise over his eye. “Sorry, tío,” he says. “It’s been a long mission.”

Gabe joins them by swinging in to give Jesse a brief hug. Jack watches the blatant affection with a small smile and achy heart before turning to see Angela and O’Deorain hovering over the body on the stretcher.

He doesn’t look good, whoever it is. There’s a missing leg and the other looks worse for wear. Half his right arm is mangled, his chest covered in badly wrapped bandages that are all soaked red. His face is hidden beneath more bandages, only a smidgen of green hair showing under them, and Jack doesn’t know if he wants to see what is under all the cloth.

But his chest is rising and falling so he glances at Angela, who already has her tether attached, and gives her a nod.

“Get him stabilised,” he orders, and Angela nods before glancing wearily at O’Deorain. “O’Deorain, assist her. I want to be able to talk to him-”

“Genji,” Jesse suddenly calls out from where Ana is hugging him, “his name is Genji.”

Angela and O’Deorain nod as they start to escort the stretcher into the building, but Jack freezes alongside Gabe and Ana.

“Genji?” Ana repeats, and when Jesse nods Jack feels his eye twitch.

“As in Genji Shimada?” he asks, and Jesse slowly nods again. “As in the second son of Sojiro Shimada, Master of the Clan?”

“... yes?” Jesse says wearily, and Jack groans as he covers his face. He’s not the only one as Gabe cusses and Ana smacks Jesse’s arm.

“You better explain, mijo,” Gabe growls, and Jesse pales. “And you better explain now.”

Jesse looks hesitant as he flicks his gaze down to his arm, and Jack’s eyes narrow at the movement with a sense of suspicion, before Jesse takes a deep breath and nods at them.

“I was in that club, you know, the one that all the big mafia meet ups happen in?” he says in a rush, “the one with the geishas? I was in there and I saw this pretty lady who was just maravilloso and I got a little distracted-

“Jesse!” Ana scolds but Jesse ignores her.

“-and she didn’t really like that so she called over a couple of bouncers who went to throw me out and it was just when the new Shimada master came in-”

“Hanzo?” Jack fills in and Jesse nods before waving him off. The fact he uses his right arm instead of his dominant left makes Jack’s eyes narrow even more and he glances at where Jesse’s serape is covering his left arm. It’s obvious that something isn’t right, and Jack takes a step closer to Jesse.

“-and I didn’t want to go since, you know, intel and all that,” Jesse continues, oblivious to Jack sidling up to him. “So there was a scuffle, that I won by the way, but by the time I got back to the club the Shimada’s had left-”

“You lost them?” Gabe asks and Jesse shakes his head as he gives Gabe a slightly manic look. It’s medical induce, Jack knows. He’s seen enough solider shot up on adrenaline and heavy duty painkillers to recognise that look.

“-out the back door so I followed them and when I got out there the older brother was just dropping Genji in the alleyway and he looked like he was pretty much dead and I obviously couldn’t just stand by-”

“You didn’t,” Jack groans at the same time as Gabe while Ana snorts loudly.

“-so I intervened and when I’d finished with the guards the older brother had already disappeared and left Genji in the alleyway and I couldn’t just leave him so-”

“You brought him back here,” Gabe mutters and Jesse grins proudly.

“-I brought him back here.”

Jack pinches the bridge of his nose while Gabe just looks flabbergasted. Ana is merely hiding a small smile that makes Jack’s eye twitch as he glares at her. Only Jesse. The kid who picks up strays if Jack or Gabe look away for more than ten seconds.

“What the hell did the brother do to cause missing limbs?” Gabe asks which catches Jack’s attention, and Jesse winces and scratches his chin. Once again it’s with his right hand and Jack frowns as he slowly starts to piece it together. Tenderness, inability to use the arm, clearly high levels of pain medication, and Jack is almost positive that Jesse might have one of the rarely used liquid biotic emitters in his system.

They’re only to be used in dire situations, and Jack can feel his blood starting to run cold..

“I have no idea,” Jesse answers awkwardly, and when Jack raises an eyebrow he sighs. “Fine. So maybe we got chased down by a few henchmen and there may have been an explosion or two. It’s fine though. I got him out, and I got out in mostly one piece, and-”

Jack doesn’t let him finish talking though as he feels an overwhelming sense of dread come over him as it clicks into place that something is definitely wrong. He leans forward, closing the last of the space between himself and Jesse, to touch Jesse’s left arm but his hand meets nothing solid as he pushes the serape against Jesse’s hip.

“Jesse...?” he mumbles faintly, and when he grabs a fistful of the serape and yanks it comes off easily enough to show that Jesse is missing a fucking arm.

“Yeah, about that,” Jesse says, looking down at Jack with wide eyes, before his face goes white, his mouth drops open, and he promptly faints.

After a few seconds of dead silence, Jack blinking as the realisation sets in, the three swarm forward to haul Jesse inside. Gabe lifts his legs while Jack manages to lift Jesse’s torso without touching the badly bandaged stump that’s now on show. Ana races ahead to open up the doors for them, and Jack grunts under Jesse’s weight as they try to manoeuvre him into the building without banging his arm.

Gabe is muttering as they go, his words harsh and scolding, but the utter terror on his face reassures Jack that he’s not actually angry. Just very very scared.

They manage to get to the medical wing in one piece with Gabe already yelling out to Angela as Ana throws open the door with a loud bang against the wall. Angela looks absolutely haggard as she glances up from where she’s working over Genji, her caduceus staff pulsing brightly where it’s lying beside the boy, and her face pales at the moment she sees them dragging Jesse in.

“What happened?” she demands, her voice an extremely high octave of sheer disbelief, as she waves O’Deorain over to Genji. She rushes to Jesse’s side, staring down at him for a moment before Jack grunts and she directs them to place him on the spare bed beside Genji. Within moments, she has a IV line stabbed into Jesse’s only arm as she mutters under her breath. Jack doesn’t catch most of it, but he steps out of her way as he moves up the bed.

“Asshole was too busy looking out for the Shimada kid to worry about himself,” Gabe mutters in response as he moves to stand with Jack at Jesse’s head. Jack can almost feel the tension radiating off of him as a fist comes down on the bed beside Jesse’s head. “Mijo, usted es un fucking idiota.

“I think he’s taken a biotic shot, Angela,” Jack talks over him, and he reaches out with a hand to settle it on Gabe’s lower back to reassure him that Jack is here. “I can’t confirm it, but the’s got that look about it.”

“You’re probably right,” Angela mutters, as she pulls up Jesse’s eyelids. She lets out a small hiss and pulls away. “Maybe more than one. His entire system is flooded with it.”

Jack glances at Gabe to see him looking teary eyed, but also incredibly angry going by the set jaw and blazing eyes. He wonders if he’ll have to intervene and keep Gabe away from Genji, especially since Gabe will blame the kid for Jesse’s state, but he’s reassured when Jesse makes a couple of noises as his eyes flutter open, and all the tension floods from Gabe’s shoulders.

“Fuck, that really hurts now,” Jesse manages to say as he struggles to sit up but is promptly pushed back down by Angela.

“You’ve done a good job, älskling,” she says as she hangs up a fluid bag before she floats around the other side of the bed and starts to unwind the bandages around the stump. “It’s time for you to let me handle it though. I’ve put some sedatives into your IV bag that’ll make you relax, okay?”

Jesse blinks at her, his gaze unfocused, and Jack winces as he comes out with a garbled slur of “you and Amélie are like God’s angels, darling.”

Gabe groans, Angela flushes, and Jack rolls his eyes. He leans forward and pats Jesse’s cheek, gaining the kids attention despite his unfocused eyes, before calling his name softly. Jesse blinks at him before narrowing his eyes, and Jack just smiles

“You’ve done good, Jesse,” he tells him and Jesse brightens at the praise. “Get some rest. We’ll be here when you wake up.”

Jesse seems to take that in, looking thoughtful as he smiles back at Jack before he nods his head awkwardly. Angela’s palm comes out of nowhere to push his head back firmly against the bed, but it doesn’t faze Jesse at all as his smile drops into a solum look “Just promise me something?” he says, and Gabe is right beside Jack in a moment, both leaning over Jesse.

“Yeah, mijo?” Gabe says, gentle and tender, and Jesse looks ridiculously goofy all of a sudden.

“Can Torbjörn make my prosthetic?” he asks, eyes sparkling like a kid with a new toy. “I want a fucking cannon.”

Gabe and Jack immediately deflate, even as Ana starts laughing behind them. Jack shoots her a glare that she just smirks, her mirth too much to cover up, at before Jack turns back to Jesse.

“We’ll think about it,” he ends up saying and Jesse nods happily, the goofy look sliding off slowly before his eyes start to droop and his breathing gets heavier.

It’s only another minute or two before the sedatives kick in, and when Jesse is fast asleep Jack and Gabe take a step back to let Angela at him without their being in her way.

Jack glances over to see how Genji is doing, but O’Deorain seems to have it under control as she bustles around him with machines beeping and wires connected up to the poor kid. He still doesn’t trust O’Deorain, only keeping her in Overwatch since letting her loose on the world might be too dangerous at this point, and Brass doesn’t want anymore accusations and problems on their doorstep, but he has to admit she does know her health care.

“He comes from your side of the family,” Gabe murmurs after a moment, and Jack turns to stare at him with a raised eyebrow.

“Bullshit,” he replies. “Recklessly looking after people? That’s you through and through, Gabe.”

Gabe smiles at him before reaching over to wrap an arm around Jack’s waist, pulling them together until their sides bump and Gabe turns to bury his head in Jack’s shoulder. Jack hums as he weaves his hand under Gabe’s beanie to twine his fingers into his hair while he drapes his other arm around Gabe’s shoulders. He can feel Gabe trembling slightly against him, a sign of adrenaline leaving him, and Jack just holds tighter, not caring for their audience.

“Kid scared the shit out of me,” Gabe mutters into his neck, and Jack sighs.

“Me too,” he agrees before he glances up to see Ana watching them. She gives him her own small smile before gesturing at him to follow her. The medical wing isn’t the most appropriate place to have a crisis over their not-son.

Jack gently guides Gabe from the medical wing until they make it to Jack’s room. Ana opens the door for them politely and turns to go, but Jack catches her arm as he pushes Gabe forward and towards the bed. She pauses, clearly not expecting Jack to speak to her, but he gives her an apologetic smile.

He gives her some brief instructions regarding the Shimada boy and his medical treatments, and Ana quirks her eyebrow but nods and walks away to collect the information he’s asked for. Jack watches her go before turning back to Gabe who’s sitting on Jack’s bed with hunched shoulders as he stares down at his fidgeting hands. He looks small, something Jack isn’t use to seeing, and Jack feels his chest squeezing unpleasantly as he takes a deep breath.

“Can’t even take five seconds of a break, can you?” Gabe asks before Jack can say anything though, and he looks up with a resigned expression as Jack walks forward to join him. Jack gives him a wry grin before sitting beside him.

“Give it ten minutes and there’ll be someone knocking at the door asking for something,” he murmurs as he sits to face Gabe’s side, and Gabe sighs before leaning the side of his head against Jack’s forehead. Jack reaches out to droop his arm around Gabe’s hips and huffs against Gabe’s cheek.

They sit quietly in silence, both just trying to regulate their breathing as they come down off their adrenaline highs. Gabe is still trembling and Jack’s hearing is still haywire, but slowly their senses dull until they’re just sitting in each others embrace. Jack cards his fingers through Gabe’s hair, having knocked the beanie off onto the bed behind them, and he twines the curls around his fingers. He’s not seen it this long for a while, not since Gabe’s last mission where he disappeared for a year and didn’t tell Jack, and the sudden realisation makes him want to sigh.

“Work is really starting to get between us,” he ends up mumbling into the silence, and the laugh Gabe lets out makes Jack grimace with it’s harshness and how it feels slightly broken.

“Really?” Gabe asks sarcastically. “I thought we’d decided that eight years ago in a crappy hotel room in Nepal.”

“It wasn’t crappy,” Jack defends, and Gabe snorts. “It was five star.”

“It had terrible room service and smelt like essential oils,” Gabe points out, and Jack bats his head as Gabe starts to laugh. He enjoys this, their easy camaraderie. It pains him to think that Gabe will be going away again and Jack won’t know when he’ll next see him.

Unfortunately he can’t help asking when they fall quiet, even though he knows he won’t get an answer. He never does. “How long this time?” he asks quietly, and Gabe huffs before he pulls completely away from Jack. Jack, feeling burnt, pulls his arm away from Gabe’s hips but Gabe’s hand catches the one dropping from his hair.

“You know I can’t answer that,” Gabe reminds him, giving him an apologetic look. Jack smiles as laces their fingers together before dropping their twined hands from Gabe’s hair to Gabe’s lap.

“I know,” he murmurs, because he does. He gets that Blackwatch is need to know. It just hurts, is all. “I just… I get worried about you. A lot. Almost as much as the kid.”

Our kid,” Gabe says as he flips their hands over to cover Jack’s with his other hand. It’s warm, and Jack can feel the callousness of both of Gabe’s hands on his. “As much as you mutter away about how much of a dick he can be, in the end he’s our boy. Our mijo.”

Jack grimaces and glances down at their hands. “Do you ever wonder what would’ve happened if we hadn’t become part of this Overwatch?” he asks quietly, his voice small and quiet. He feels Gabe start to stiffen beside him. “If we’d stopped after the Omnic Crisis, and it was just you and me as a couple of veteran soldiers?”

Gabe hums for a moment, stroking his thumb across Jack’s index finger. “Sometimes,” he admits. “Sometimes I think about how we could’ve retired to Indiana. Gone back to your home state. Bought a farm and raised… I don’t know…”

“Chickens?” Jack offers with a smile, and Gabe laughs and shakes his head fondly.

“Sure,” he says. “Chickens."

Jack smiles at his laughter. He’s always loved Gabe’s laugh, how carefree it is. He loves watching him dip his head just slightly, showing his teeth in a grin. It’s marred a little now with the scars on his face, the wrinkles slowly growing beside them, the worry lines that continue to grow deeper, but Jack still thinks he’s one of the most handsomest men he’s ever met.

He loves Gabe. Enough that his heart hurts at the thought of being without him and he has to close his eyes for a moment to try and get that thought out of his head. But Jack knows that its a hazard of the job, that he can’t just expect Gabe to sit behind a desk and send everyone else out into the front lines. Gabe’s never been like that, but there are moments where Jack wishes he were. Wishes they could’ve had something different than just stolen moments.

“We could’ve gotten married,” Jack whispers after a while, the thought so bright in his mind that it stings, and Gabe looks at him with wide eyes that Jack looks up to meet. “Maybe had a few kids. Gotten a dog."

“I like cats,” Gabe seems to say automatically, and Jack smiles at him and it makes his face ache..

“Maybe two cats,” he agrees. “We’d have to keep the rodent population down on a farm.”

Gabe nods, and his eyes are bright as he smiles gently and reaches out to touch Jack’s face. “We still could,” he says, his fingertips light on Jack’s cheek. “Take the kid with us.”

Jack shakes his head, and he can feel pressure building behind his eyes. “Which one?” he asks with a sigh, but theres a small smile on his face. “We’ve got too many now, and if Jesse has his way he’ll keep bringing home strays.”

Gabe laughs. “All of them,” he decides, his smile delightful. “We’ll take the whole lot and run away. No more secrets, no more meetings, no more power plays. No one has to be the bad guy, and no one has to be good. We can just be us.” He runs his thumb over Jack’s cheekbone as he drops his voice. “Well, us and our motley crew of stupid children.”

Jack laughs and shakes his head, imagining the two of them on a farm with their horde of bizarre children. “Maybe Reinhardt can be our portable tractor?” he says with a grin. “Save us money on buying one.”

Gabe is smiling right back at him, but as Jack’s slowly fades Gabe’s becomes softer, more bittersweet. It takes Jack by surprise, and he starts to call Gabe’s name when he’s suddenly cut off by Gabe leaning in and kissing him. It’s slow and gentle, Gabe’s thumb stroking his cheek, and Jack flounders for a moment as his brain short-circuits. When was the last time Gabe kissed him? When was the last time he kissed Gabe?

Gabe seems to pick up on his train of thought as he sighs and leans further into the kiss, pouring more in and deepening it as Jack gasps and clings to Gabe. He returns in kind, letting himself be consumed, and when Gabe pulls away it’s with a soft noise that has Jack looking at him with doe eyes.

“Will you?” Gabe breathes in the space between them, so quiet that Jack can feel his heart thumping in his ears as he holds his breath. “Jack? Will you marry me?”

All the air leaves Jack’s lungs at those words, his eyes widening and his mouth curving into a blinding smile-

The door bangs open.

The two of them leap apart like scolded teenagers, pulling away even their hands as they glance at the doorway to see Ana standing with wide eyes and red cheeks.

Asif!” she apologises as she walks in, averting their gazes as she hands over a folder to Jack. “I didn’t mean to intrude. I got the information you asked for.”

Jack takes the folder from her with a frown. “Already?” he asks. “Are they not still stabilising him?”

Ana shakes her head. “Angela has it under control. Luckily Jesse’s only major injury seems to be his missing arm, leaving her more time to focus on Shimada.” She juts her chin out to point at the folder. “In there is both Angela and O’Deorain suggestions. I’ve also briefly spoken to Torbjörn.” At Jack’s confused look she shakes her head and points with her finger at the file. “All in there.”

Jack flicks it open, ignoring the images on the top of the file. They’re gruesome and he’s seen them in person, so he holds them up to look at the writing underneath.

It’s a series of recommendations by both medical experts. Angela is all for saving Shimada at the cost of a series of mechanical prosthetics put together by Torbjörn. There’s a bunch of crudely drawn schematics by Angela with Torbjörn’s comments scribbled beside them. It seems her idea is to essentially reconstruct him.

O’Deorain’s idea’s are more gruesome consisting of allowing her to experiment on Shimada as he’s not far off from being declared brain dead. He wouldn’t know what’s happen, be essentially dead, and O’Deorain would be able to perform her experiments manipulating genetics on a living person to see the results.

Jack feels sick.

“Ana,” he says as he glances up to look at her, “go see Torbjörn and give him the green light. I want him and Angela to pause their construction of a biotic rifle and dedicate their time to getting Shimada on his feet.” He pauses and reads over O’Deorain paragraph again. “And I want O’Deorain away from him. Issue the medical wing with a guard.”

Ana nods, looking a little relieved and Jack doesn’t doubt that she’s read the paragraphs herself, before she bustles out of the room looking determined. Jack watches her go, and the minute the door closes he slumps his shoulders and rubs a hand over his face.

Beside him, Gabe clears his throat.

“Getting Shimada on his feet?” he asks, and Jack glances up at him before he hands over the folder. He watches Gabe skim through them, turning his nose up at one point at something, before he closes it and lets out a low whistle. “O’Deorain certainly has some ideas.”

“She’s a geneticist with a hint of pretentious crazy,” Jack mutters. “Of course she has ideas.”

Gabe shakes his head, his lips slightly quirked. “What’re you going to do with the Shimada kid after you get him up though?” he asks, and Jack raises an eyebrow that Gabe rolls his eyes at. “I’m not an idiot, Jack. You’ve got something planned. And a part of me thinks it involves me.”

Jack winces at how easily he’s been read, and Gabe groans as Jack gives him an awkward smile and takes the file back from him.

“He’s a member of the Shimada clan,” Jack ends up saying over top of Gabe’s groaning. “We’ve been on their tail for years now. Ever since they sparked our interest by putting a nuke on the damn black market and selling it to the Viskhar.”

“Fanatics,” Gabe mutters, and Jack nods his head.

“We can’t let the Shimada Clan continue, lest they turn into the next Deadlock Gang and they’re already well on their way to getting that mantel. If we save Genji, give him a new body, train him to be an agent, we could use his knowledge to take them down.”

“And if he objects?” Gabe asks, and Jack doesn’t know how to answer as Gabe sits up straighter and turns to him. “What then, Jack? If he doesn’t want to sell out his damn family what’re you going to do? Take all his prosthetics away? You’re giving the kid the worst choice. Join Overwatch and live, or die. You’re starting to sound like Adawe.”

Jack grits his teeth and glances down, his fingers clenching the paper beneath them. “I don’t know what else to do,” he admits. “The Shimada’s are becoming too much for us to deal with, Gabe. We have to do something drastic or we’re going to lose our chance to nip them before they become too big.”

Gabe doesn’t answer straight away, but when he does Jack can hear the anger in his voice. “And Overwatch?” he demands. “You can’t put the kid in as an agent. Adawe will get wind and she’ll be a monster. Either take the kid away or abuse the shit out of his position. You can’t…” he trails off as Jack keeps looking at him, waiting for him to twig, and Gabe narrows his eyes before they widen and he shakes his head. “No,” he says, waving a hand. “No. Not happening.”

“Gabe-”

No, Jack!” Gabe cuts him off. “I’m not taking in another stray! No! Besides the fact that I took on Jesse for you, we can’t smudge the entry again. Maybe with Jesse we could since Blackwatch was so new, but now it’s got rules and regulations and we can’t just slide someone in and act like they’ve been there all along!”

“Yes we can,” Jack tells him, and Gabe glares at him. “We can. We get Jesse onboard and it will work.” When Gabe looks away Jack grabs his arm. “Listen, Gabe. This is a chance. This is a chance for Blackwatch to take out the Clan, a way for Overwatch to do some good. Please.”

Gabe huffs and crosses his arms, shaking Jack off who lets his hands fall back into his lap.

“You want me to adopt some half omnic kid?” he asks, and the way he says it sounds bitter and harsh, and Jack sighs.

“Gabe-”

“No,” Gabe interrupts. “I get it. I understand. But on one condition.” Jack raises an eyebrow as Gabe pauses before he huffs. “Give me O’Deorain. I know she’s on the brink of being removed from Overwatch and I want her on Blackwatch. She’s a good candidate, both a medic and can hold her own.”

“She’s dangerous.”

“So is everyone else, Jack,” he says with a glare. “Look around. We’re in a dangerous environment. It’s well known that people who fight with violence end up attracting violence. It’s O’Deorain or nothing.”

“Gabe,” Jack tries to protest and he waves the file at Gabe. “She sucks the life out of people. I’m not exaggerating! We’ve all seen her experiments. We’ve seen what she’s done to herself. No one’s molecular cells should ever be able to do what hers do.”

“And yet we sit here as enhanced super soldiers who did the same thing,” Gabe snaps. “Don’t be a hypocrite, Jack. It doesn’t suit you.”

Jack grits his teeth and glares at the ground. He doesn’t want to agree, every part of him screaming out that this is a bad idea. That O’Deorain can’t be trusted, especially not within Blackwatch. But he has to agree, he has too. For Genji’s sake, for Overwatch’s sake, for everything’s sake.

“How’d we go from talking about marriage to this?” he muses out loud, and he feels Gabe stiffen beside him. “Fine, Gabe. You win. Take O’Deorain. I’m trusting you to keep her in check.”

When he sees that Gabe looks a little shellshocked, whether at the marriage comment or that fact that Jack has agreed, he doesn’t know. Jack stands up, clutching the folder and brushing lint off his uniform as he goes. The blue really is horrendous.

“I’ll have Ana inform O’Deorain of the decision,” he decides as he walks to the doorway. He pauses with his hand on the door pad, glancing back to see Gabe still sitting on the bed. He wants to go back, maybe curl up with Gabe and not move for the next few hours, if at all.

But there’s a small hint of resentment in him from their conversation, and he grits his teeth once again, pulls a breath in and out of his nose, before sighing and giving Gabe a small smile.

“I’ll see you when you’re back, yeah?” he says, and Gabe looks up. “Good luck. Come home in one piece.”

Gabe gives him a lopsided smile that doesn’t fully reach his eyes and nods his head. “I’ll see you then, Freckles,” he murmurs.

Jack wants to say something else, maybe address the conversation before where Gabe… but he can’t. It’s gone now. The moment dissipated and the question hangs empty in the air between them. He wants to talk about it, maybe answer, but he can’t.

Instead, he leaves.

 

 

Chapter Text

Somehow they get a break.

There hasn’t been a break for well over five years for Overwatch, the times between disasters growing shorter and shorter until Jack is juggling two disasters at once as well as the whole team and trying to keep his head afloat to boot. Although somewhere between Talon attacking the Shambli temple and Adawe being promoted to the Acting Director, until one is elected by the UN, there is a moment for the team to gather together for a break.

It’s conveniently around Christmas, and Jack nods his head and ooh’s and aah’s at the right time as Ana petitions him to have a Christmas party and, at his distracted approval, she recruits Amélie, Jesse, and Fareeha into organising it. Within a matter of days the base goes from the typical bland military grey walls to a tasteful Christmas paradise that genuinely hurts Jack’s eyes at times.

Tinsel lines the walls, the odd bit of mistletoe hangs in doorways, baubles are hung from hooks along the walls in clusters, wreaths frame each door, and it seems there’s a decorated tree in each room. It’s almost over the top, but Jack doesn’t want to ruin anyone's fun.

At this stage, they all need some.

Amélie approaches him at one point with a smile and a warm mug of spiced wine when Jack is sitting in his ridiculously bright red and green office, curtesy of Ana and Fareeha, and Jack takes it with a small smile as the warm smell already makes him relax.

“Thank you, Amélie,” he says, and she waves him off as she perches herself up on his desk with her own mug.

“You work too hard, mon cher,” she drawls slowly and smiles brightly at him. “My mother use to always say ‘petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid’.” At Jack’s raised eyebrow she huffs delicately. “It means ‘little by little, the bird makes its nest’.”

“Oh,” Jack says with a raised eyebrow, and Amélie tips her head back and laughs.

“I’m saying, Jack, that you rush rush rush, and have no patience,” she says, and Jack starts to reply but she holds up one polished finger to stop him. “Tonight is the Christmas party and I have no doubt you planned on missing it, mon cher.”

Jack’s mouth remains open, ready to disagree, but he realises that he hadn’t really intended on going. Not with all the paperwork past his ears, so much of it that it’s off his desk and spilling onto the floor. He closes his mouth and gives Amélie a sheepish smile as she smirks.

“Is that why you’re here?” he asks her, “to ensure I come to the party?”

“Perhaps,” she replies before tapping her red nails on the pile of folders beside Jack. “Perhaps I am also here to encourage you to share the load. Captain Amari has told me many a time that she will do anything required. There must be something you can entrust to her.”

Jack pauses for a moment to do a mental scan of the pile, already picking out a handful of cases to hand over to Ana. He doesn’t say as much to Amélie though, but she seems to have read his mind as she smiles and takes a sip of her wine.

He raises his own and has a taste of the sweet drink, enjoying the warmth as it seems to flood to his stomach and spread out over his body like a soft blanket. It smells like cinnamon, and he can taste the leftover spice on his tongue.

“Good, no?” Amélie asks, and Jack nods with a smile. She looks well pleased as she takes her hand off the pile of folders and cups both her hands back around her mug.

Jack can’t help but admire how beautiful she is. When Gérard had announced Amélie was joining Overwatch as an agent, Jack had had his doubts. Upon first meeting Amélie she had seemed almost pretentious and arrogant, but she’d lost her outer shell eventually and become the belle of Overwatch. Sweet and kind, Jack had been worried that she would be too delicate for Overwatch’s halls.

But she’d soon fit in, and while Jack had originally seen her as a sweet woman with ballet skirts and dainty heels, he’d underestimated how much of that was stage persona. The woman who walks these halls is a classic beauty, a remnant of late classical woman like Audrey Hepburn, with a whip-like tongue and a sharp smile. Her missions had mostly been undercover when she’d joined. A date of a senator, a stealth task into a Talon base, the occasional mission with Blackwatch. All alongside her husband, creating an efficient team.

Then, of course, Ana saw her potential, and Jack has never seen such a terrifying duo with sniper rifles. Ana’s steady patience and Amélie’s lethal aim is renown around Overwatch, not many willing to cross the deadly woman.

“Jack, you will be there tonight, won’t you?” Amélie asks as she prods him with her hand, interrupting Jack’s thoughts. He glances up to see her watching him with a raised eyebrow, and he smiles at her.

“Of course, Amélie,” he says. “I wouldn’t dare say no to you.”

She laughs once again, and Jack thinks that it’s loud enough for Jesse to hear and no doubt faint. He understands the ridiculous crush half the base have on Amélie even if he prefers a certain Blackwatch Commander.

Merveilleux,” she cheers with a brilliant smile. “We’re meeting in the common room at eighteen hundred. I look forward to seeing you there, Jack.”

With that she slides gracefully off the desk and slips from the room, her heels make a muted click-clack on the floor. Jack watches her go with a fond smile before turning back to the folders at hand with a sigh.

It takes him a few more hours before he finishes the report he’s working on, an Overwatch mission in Iraq that ended with sixteen dead and four Talon operatives in custody, and after that, he separates a few of the folders to hand over to Ana when he sees her. It doesn’t even occur to him to leave them to be delivered tomorrow, only for him to get them to her new while its fresh in his mind.

He scoops them up and heads straight to the common area, noticing it’s nineteen hundred hours and he’s late. He’s still wearing his uniform on top of it, and he groans when he thinks of the disappointed look he’ll get from Amélie.

Part of him wants to just ignore her, let her realise that his job is hard and time-consuming and something like this Christmas party isn’t high on his agenda, but the other parts of him registers the joyful yelling and cheering from the common room when he swings into the connecting corridor and makes him think that he should at least try.

He pauses. For his group, for his family, he will try.

Jack back-pedals down the corridor to head to his room, placing the folders on his desk for tomorrow as he hurriedly sheds his coat and uniform pants. A quick scurry around the room makes him come up with a rough pair of jeans and a hoodie that he throws on before he shoves his hands in his pockets, to resist grabbing the folders, and makes his way back to the common area.

When he stands in the doorway he lets out a sigh of relief seeing that no one is particularly dressed up. Of course, the Lacroix’s are decadent as always, Gérard in full tuxedo and Amélie in a gorgeous black evening gown, but besides that everyone seems pretty casual.

Reinhardt and Torbjörn are both in half-assed dress suits, although Torbjörn is still wearing his oil-stained jeans, as they sit on a shared couch. When Jack looks closer he can see Brigitte tucked in between them, eighteen years old and looking just as oil-stained as her father. They’re the loudest of the group, mainly Reinhardt as he boasts about some mission or rather.

Ana isn’t too far away, watching Reinhardt with gentle eyes and a kind smile. Jack’s own lips twitch at that, wondering if the two will ever actually talk about what’s between them. Reinhardt had been her rock with her divorce from Sam, and the two have never quite shed that closeness.

Amélie seems to have an audience as Lena, Jesse, Fareeha, and Genji all surround her with large dopey eyes. Amélie doesn’t look like she minds, although Jack sees she’s paying extra attention to Lena. Jack watches Lena too for a moment, hoping that Winston’s new chronal accelerator holds out for the evening so Lena can enjoy herself. She looks fine though, not a hint of anything wrong, and Jack makes a note to applaud Winston for the breakthrough.

Speaking of, Winston is sitting quietly in a corner by himself with a jar of peanut butter. Jack almost makes his way over to him but sees Angela on a mission armed with bananas, peanut butter jars, and no doubt hundreds of questions of about the chronal accelerator. He leaves them to it, not wanting to get in-between that scientific nightmare.

The only person missing is Gabe, and Jack scans the room multiple times before huffing and giving up. If he wasn’t going to come then he could never expect Gabe to either.

Jack decides to approach Gérard at first. The man is quietly standing by the food table watching his wife with a small smile. Jack doesn’t want to announce his appearance at all to the room, just wants to sneak in, and he’s just stepping off to see Gérard when he’s spotted suddenly.

“Jack!” Lena calls out, grinning so brightly it’s like looking at the damn sun as she bounds over with Jesse and Fareeha right behind her. “You’re here, love! We were thinking you wouldn’t turn up!”

Jack gives her a large smile back. “Of course I would,” he tells her, even if it’s a blatant lie. “After all, Mrs. Lacroix invited me directly. I couldn’t exactly say no.” He glances up at that to see Amélie smirking at him over her glass of wine. He playfully glares at her and she gives him a wink in response.

Khal Jack,” Fareeha greets as she pushes Lena out of the way to latch her arms around Jack. She’s twenty-seven now and stronger than she’s ever been, and Jack feels the air leave his lungs in her crushing grasp.

“Hey kiddo,” he manages to gasp before he squeezes her back just as tightly. She takes it as the challenge he meant, and she grins as she tries to hug him tighter until Jesse lets out a groan and forces them apart.

“Shit, you two,” he says as he drags Fareeha back a few steps before clapping Jack on the shoulder. “At least leave a bit of him for me to say hello to.” He gives Jack a huge grin that Jack returns with his own shoulder thump.

“Looking good, kid,” Jack tells him, and Jesse actually flushes a little and tips his stenson in a ‘much obliged’ kind of way. Jack has to resist the urge to snort at the action but Fareeha doesn’t hold back.

“Stop doing that, al’abalah,” she scolds Jesse with a whack to the back of the head. “You look ridiculous.”

“It’s western!” Jesse protests. “All the ladies love it!”

“I can assure you we don’t,” Amélie smoothly interjects as she approaches, and Jesse looks absolutely heartbroken at her words. “Mon cher, you came,” she directs at Jack as she holds out her hand, and Jack raises an eyebrow before raising her hand to his lips. She gives him a marvelous smile at the action, and he rolls his eyes at her.

“Of course,” he responds. “I believe a young woman was very encouraging. I couldn’t disappoint.”

“Stop flirting, you’re both taken,” Ana interrupts as she arrives at their motley group, pushing aside Amélie to give Jack a quick hug. Jack almost laughs at the motion, knowing where Fareeha got her manners from. “Good to see you, aleaziz. We were getting worried you would fall into your work and not come back out.”

Jack smiles as he hugs her back before pulling away. “Wouldn’t be flirting with this one,” he says as jerks a thumb at Amélie. “She’d chew me up and spit me back out.”

Amélie laughs and Ana gives her a sharp look. “He wouldn’t be so scared if I told him your last simulation score, hubun,” she says and Amélie’s smile instantly disappears as she looks at Ana in horror. Jack doesn’t listen in for the reply, already moving away from the two as he catches Genji slowly drifting away from the group.

The kid has been with them for five years already, slowly crunching through to help dismantle the Shimada Clan, and yet he still hasn’t settled with them. Jack doesn’t like the way he’s so avoidant and hesitant to join them, so he likes to make a point of greeting him whenever they cross paths, even if the red-eyed psychopathic look does make him hesitant at times.

Gabe continuously refers to him as a murder-baby. Jack tries to tell him it clearly doesn’t help Genji if Gabe calls him that to his face. Gabe insists Genji likes it.

“Genji,” he calls out as he approaches, and he watches as Genji freezes before slowly turning to face him. Normally the top half of Genji’s chest is exposed as the hooks, wires, and metal prosthetics are too bulky to be hidden. Tonight though he’s wearing a shirt with a grumpy looking cat on the front, the words around it saying ‘ho ho no’.

“Sir,” Genji responds when Jack gets closer, and Jack waves him off.

“No need for formalities, Genji,” he tells him, and Genji looks uncertain. “Trust me, it’s a night of informalities if anything.” He grins and reaches out to clap Genji’s shoulder, hovering his hand over Genji’s arm for a moment to make sure Genji is okay with the touch. Jesse has given reports on how Genji can sometimes react to unexpected contact, and Jack doesn’t want to end up on the other side of Genji’s sword.

Genji remains quiet but seems to appreciate the touch as he glances at Jack’s hand with a smile to his eyes. It took Jack a phenomenal amount of time to learn to read eyes since Genji’s mouth is never visible. The difference between anger and happiness took a while, but after some heavy reading from one of Jack’s numerous dictionaries about different languages he thinks he’s got it pretty alright.

It also probably helped that Jesse stole his body language dictionary and returned it with hundreds of notes over the pages specific to Genji.

“If someone doesn’t end up half-naked and dancing on the table tonight then I’ll have failed in showing you a good time,” Jack tells Genji who lets out an unexpected laugh. “Trust me, it’s Overwatch tradition. Every time there’s a get-together someone ends up doing it.”

“Is that so, sir?” Genji says, and Jack rolls his eyes at the formalities but nods enthusiastically.

“Didn’t Jesse tell you about Reinhardt last year?” he asks, and Genji shakes his head. Jack smiles. “Off you go then, go and badger him for the story.” He shoves Genji gently, and Genji glances at him before awkwardly shuffling off to Jesse’s side.

Jack watches him go with a smile before he turns back to the room. Everyone seems more relaxed now, and Jack wonders if it’s because he finally completed their numbers. He thinks very briefly of O’Deorain, now the official Blackwatch medic, but she’s on Alcatraz with the majority of the Blackwatch Force.

Angela and Winston both send small waves his way, and Jack responds with a small smile. He spots Fareeha muttering to her mother as she inches towards Angela, and he has to stifle a laugh as Ana blinks a couple of times before suddenly loudly declaring how wonderful her daughter is and did you know she was going into the Egyptian Military?

Fareeha looks like she’s about to die of embarrassment, but it does catch Angela’s attention, and if Jack isn’t wrong then he thinks that was what was intended.

Reinhardt and Torbjörn are looking Jack’s way, and he raises a hand as hello. Torbjörn mirrors his action while Reinhardt bellows out a hello that Brigitte joins in on. Jack grins at their boisterousness, especially as Torbjörn gives his daughter a long-suffering look, and he’s tempted to go over and say hello but he’s stopped as familiar arms wrap around his waist and pull him back.

“Hey,” Gabe murmurs in his ear, and Jack smiles as he leans back against Gabe’s chest.

“Hi,” he replies before he turns in Gabe’s arms to face him. “How’re you, stranger?” he asks, and Gabe smiles at him before plucking at the hoodie Jack’s wearing.

“I wondered where this went,” he says as he rolls the fabric between his finger and thumb. “I’ve been missing this since you came to Alcatraz three years ago. Have you had it all this time?”

Jack blushes and dips his head. “Maybe,” he mumbles and Gabe laughs loudly, loud enough to gather everyone’s attention and Jack winces as all eyes turn to him. There’s only a handful of smiles and Lena looks like it’s her birthday, but no one moves to greet Gabe or interrupt them so Jack relaxes as he turns back to Gabe.

“I didn’t think you’d be here,” Jack grudgingly admits, playing with a cord from Gabe’s own hoodie. Gabe raises an eyebrow at him and Jack flushes. “I mean, I thought you’d be too busy. Jesse told me at lunch that you’ve been shut away for a while.”

Gabe smiles gently. “I was,” he confesses, “but a certain French woman ‘encouraged’ me to come.”

“She got you too, huh?” Jack asks, but there’s no malice. In fact, he actually feels the slightest bit thankful towards Amélie. After all, they are both incredibly useless so some coordination is probably advised.

Gabe only nods in response and doesn’t say more, leaving Jack to just run his eyes over him. He’s not wearing his beanie for once, his hair in a tight crew cut that leaves the scars from years ago, the three gouge marks from the final battle of the Omnic War, on display. He drags his fingers over them gently before dropping his hand to run over the puckered scar beneath his left eye. It never had healed up nicely, always sticking out on his face. It joins the criss crossed scar on his left cheek, the faint scar on his jaw from shaving accidents. Gabe’s face tells a story, and Jack tries hard to read it only understanding half the book.

“Hey,” Gabe interrupts his thinking, and Jack glances up to see Gabe watching him intently. “Stop that. You’ve got that face on again, that overthinking face. It’s okay.”

Jack opens his mouth to answer, whether to deny and defend himself or to laugh he doesn’t know, especially not as the shrill noise of his phone ringing draws his attention away.

He quickly pulls his phone from his pocket and reads the caller ID. Seeing Gabrielle Adawe on the scene makes him swear under his breath, and he quickly heads for the sliding door behind Gabe to walk out onto the veranda. He catches Gabe’s smile fall, but he doesn’t think much on it as he steps outside.

It’s a cool night, the air still and silent around him as he moves to lean on the railing. If he’s going to deal with Adawe then he might as well be comfortable, and even though he thinks that he should really turn around and join his crew, the phone vibrating furiously in his hand says otherwise.

He’s just about to answer the call when Gabe’s hand comes out of nowhere and covers his own, wrapping around the phone and pulling it away from him. Jack follows it by instinct, turning to glare at Gabe who’s watching him with a raised eyebrow.

“Really?” he asks, and Jack flushes. “Mierda, Jack. Can you go one night without answering a phone or writing a report?” He pauses to glance at the phone that stops ringing and drops to voicemail, and Jack winces at the aggressive message he’s going to get. “Are you ever out from under her shoes or is it just really comfortable there?"

Jack glares at Gabe, filled with righteous indignation, but he slowly deflates as he realises Gabe is right. He’s always damn right, and Jack drops his hand holding the phone to let it fall at his side.

“I know,” he murmurs quietly in response. “I’m sorry, Gabe. I didn’t…” He can’t finish the sentence, not knowing where he was even going with it, and Gabe reaches over and takes his chin between his thumb and forefinger to raise it.

“No work tonight,” Gabe tells him. “Please, one night. It’s all I’m asking.”

Jack hesitates for a moment, and the fact he does makes him frown before agreeing with a hum. He doesn’t want to be a workaholic. He doesn’t want to replace his family with phone calls, reports, and Adawe. He shoves his phone back into his pocket and turns fully to face Gabe.

“I’m here,” he says with confidence. “I’m here, I’m all yours.”

Gabe smiles at him and shakes his head. “I might have some competition,” he chuckles as he nods behind Jack at the common room. Jack glances over to see Jesse and Fareeha not so subtly leaning on the wall beside the sliding door. Jack grins and promptly ducks his head to hide it.

“Later maybe?” Jack offers, and Gabe looks strangely bittersweet as he nods. Jack runs his hand down Gabe’s arm to squeeze his hand tightly before he turns to walk back inside, dragging Gabe along with him.

Jack tries not to feel guilty for crashing their moment as he walks through the door, but he’s immediately ambushed by Jesse and Fareeha who throw all his thoughts to the wind. He pulls Gabe along with him though, keeping him close, and if Gabe’s grip seems a little tighter and almost desperate he doesn’t mention it.

He’s made his way through the youth gauntlet after some time, managing to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ his way through their stories. Jesse tells the same ones over and over again, embellishing as he goes, and Gabe mutters corrections in the process. Jack hides smiles and coughs back laughs as the two talk over top of one another. Fareeha’s are much newer, mostly of her trials entering the Egyptian Army, and Jack spots Ana’s disapproving look and Angela’s love sick look and immediately decides to stay out of that one.

Eventually, he’s accosted by Torbjörn, who seems to be determined to drink more whiskey, burp in everyone's faces at least one, and strip most of his clothes off to Brigitte’s mortification. Jack snorts and leaves that alone as well, and even Gabe seems torn between amused and horrified as Brigitte chases her father with a large blanket and his pants in hand.

Ana eventually pulls him aside with a cheery smile and a ruddiness to her cheeks. The Santa hat perched on her head makes Jack’s lips twitch, and as she slurs out a “good to see you here, jundiin”. Jack feels a twinge of nostalgia at his old title that’s flushed away by worry as she tips sideways and lays herself out on the floor.

Fareeha looks mortified but when Angela rushes to Ana’s aid with Fareeha right behind, Jack gets a sober wink from Ana before she goes back to groaning dramatically.

Of course, that’s Reinhardt’s cue to get worked up and become full of despair, and it’s like a terrible Shakespearian play as he crashes to his knees beside her. Jack feels Gabe’s hand on his shoulders pulling him away from the catastrophe with a laugh.

There’s a moment where everyone pulls themselves together long enough to hand out presents. Jack watches as the visible part of Genji’s cheeks flush at the amount of presents given to him, so many that he has a reasonable pile in front of him with all presents garishly wrapped. Jack is pretty sure he sees a stray tear at one point but doesn’t bring it up.

Jack finally gives Jesse the serape he’s been knitting over the years. It’s a brilliant red and gold and large enough to cover him completely if need be. Gabe groans at the sight of it but Jesse whoops and yells as he tackles Jack in thanks. Fareeha mutters about it being an eyesore and Jesse ignores her as he throws it around his shoulders and grins so hard Jack is worried his face will crack. It’s soon accessorised by Gabe’s present, a tacky belt buckle with the letters ‘BAMF’ that Jesse practically crows over it and it’s Jack’s turn to give Gabe the stink eye.

“He’s your son,” Gabe tells him and Jack laughs so hard it almost hurts.

Our son,” he responds, and the soft look Gabe gives him makes his heart thump in his ears and he seeks out Gabe’s hand once again. Gabe holds him tight and his thumb rubs the back of Jack’s hand, and Jack almost melts.

The vibe is cheerful, nostalgic, happy, and Jack feels himself relaxing more and more as Jesse acts out anecdotes that Genji joins in on, Fareeha mutters sarcastic commentary that has Angela giggling, Ana blushes under Reinhardt’s attention, Amélie and Gérard mingle with people far below their social station, Torbjörn traumatises Brigitte with a half-naked dance on some awful table that has Winston finally joining in by assisting Lena at throwing empty jars of peanut butter at the engineer.

Amongst all the chaos Jack holds Gabe’s hand and smiles brightly, and when their eyes meet Jack can’t help but move forward to wrap his arms around Gabe’s neck and kiss him.

There are wolf-whistles behind them, mostly coming from Jesse and Fareeha, and Jack laughs into Gabe’s mouth as he pulls back and sees the same amount of joy reflected back at him from Gabe.

“Hey,” Jack says quietly, and Gabe quirks his head to the side. Jack kisses him again before dropping back down. “I love you, you know.”

Despite the war, the missions, the endless nightmare these last few years have been, despite the unspoken answers and hard questions, they’ve never really said those three words. They never have needed too.

But Gabe’s face lights up so bright and fast that Jack feels stunned as Gabe crushes him forward for another kiss.

“Oh god,” Jesse calls out, catching Jack’s attention. “Mom and Dad are kissing again.”

“It’s like walking in on your parents but worse,” Fareeha groans beside him, dodging Ana as she tries to smack her daughter, and Jack joins in the laughter as everything dissolves back into chaos around them.

Gabe is watching him though, and when Jack looks back Gabe seems almost bittersweet as he trails his thumb over Jack’s cheekbone.

“I love you too,” Gabe tells him. “That’ll never change, Freckles.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Amélie is kidnapped in the Rome explosion.

Jack doesn’t know how it happens. One moment they’re all peacefully enjoying Christmas and breaking into the New Year with a whoop and a shout, and then February comes along and Rome is burning down around them and Amélie is gone.

She’s gone for months. It takes them a long time to figure out who took her, Overwatch’s enemies too numerous now to narrow down quickly. It takes until Gérard is awake and leading the search with a vengeance, despite Jack’s protests that he can’t even get out of the hospital bed, for them to finally figure it out, and of course it’s Talon who has taken her. Jack feels like hitting something at the obviousness.

They have to find out where she is though, especially considering there’s almost hundreds of Talon bases around the world, and Gérard grows more and more frustrated by the day. They barely have enough intel confirming that Talon has captured her, and the information on where she might be is even less.

Which leads them to Antonio Bartalotti, one of Talon’s lead operatives who destroyed the Oslo base in Norway which ended in Gérard creating the Rome Blackwatch base in retaliation. It’s easy enough. Gérard already has Bartalotti on Blackwatch’s surveillance list for several weapons smuggling rings over Europe, as well as the destruction of Oslo, and he’s definitely on the list of high ranking Talon operatives. They need a lead on Amélie to track her down and Bartalotti will definitely have an idea on it, so Jack unofficially sanctions Blackwatch’s mission to Venice to capture him. With Gérard’s information from before the Rome explosion and the new information gathered by Gérard’s agents after said explosion, Jack will have enough to throw in Adawe’s face if she comes calling.

He still lets Gabe know that he’d rather take Bartalotti down through the official channels, but the idea that he’ll have word on Amélie leads him to think that Blackwatch’s way of doing things might be the way to go.

Of course, Gabe is thrilled at the opportunity to go after Bartalotti, and Jack doesn’t blame him. He’s been a thorn in Overwatch and Blackwatch sides for years now and they’ve never had a proper reason to go after him. Technically, they still don’t, but Jack will move mountains and bullshit his way through bureaucracy for Amélie if he has to.

His only rule is that Blackwatch must remain covert, because ideally, Jack wants to keep this as quiet as possible and not have to involve Adawe or anyone else. Gabe reassures him in the hanger as they lay flags over all the coffins of those that died in Rome, and Jack thinks of Gérard in a hospital bed with Angela by his side with each flag, that they will be untraceable.

It doesn’t happen.

Jack hears it from Jesse first when Blackwatch arrives back in Los Angeles. He’s part of the greeting party, along with Angela and Winston and, as he watches the four walk down the loading ramp with a certain lack of prisoner, he hears intense arguing between Gabe and Jesse that he’s never heard before.

“We were supposed to be covert, Reyes!” Jesse is yelling, and Jack looks past them to see Genji and O’Deorain slinking behind the two arguing and keeping quiet themselves.

“Things change, mijo,” Gabe snaps back, looking ready to lung forward and take Jesse out. That surprises Jack the most, especially considering how close the two are. If Jack sees one more shrug and finger guns fro the two then he thinks he might go mad.

But he’s rather that than this horrid argument as Jesse gnashes on his cigar before spitting out the end and pointing an accusing finger at Gabe.

“Not ‘shoot him through a fucking window’ change!” he snarls, and that peeks Jack’s interest. He subtly reaches down to hit a few buttons on his wrist panel and he freezes when he sees the headlines of the international news pop up. “You should’ve consulted us first!”

“There was no time! We made it all out, no one is dead, get a fucking grip.”

“Get a grip? Fuck you, Reyes!” Jesse cries before he lunges forward and before Jack can intervene Genji already has Jesse by the arms and is pulling him back. O’Deorain steps between the two, hands on both of the men’s chest, and if Jack isn’t mistaken they’re glowing purple quite threateningly.

Quickly, Jack moves forward to intervene and gains all of their attention with a sharp bark. Gabe looks instantly guilty as he drops back and away from O’Deorain. From the headlines Jack has just read? He bloody should be.

“What was my one request, Gabe?” he asks, his voice deadly quiet as he gets close to the group, and he watches as Gabe swallows thickly and doesn’t meet his eyes at all. Enough of a guilty admission, and Jack locks his jaw and resists the urge to tear into him right then and there. “To interrogation room five,” he orders heatedly and, when Gabe glances up at him, Jack just glares. “Now.”

Gabe doesn’t argue, just shoots past Jack and high tails towards the building like a dog with a tail between his legs. Jack doesn’t watch him go and instead turns to the other three who actually shrink back as he turns his barely contained wrath on them.

“Calm down, Jesse,” he demands, and Jesse looks mutinous. “Or I’ll have you put in solitary for the rest of the week.” He glares at O’Deorain and Genji next. “I want all three of you to report to Angela and get whatever wounds you have assessed. I don’t care for your macho attempts to brush it off right now. You will go.” He holds up a hand as Genji starts to say something. “After I’m confining you all to the medical wing until I can get to you for debriefing. You will stay there.” He sees Jesse opening his mouth to argue, and Jack glares at him hard enough that his mouth snaps shut with an audible click. “Go.”

“Yes, sir,” O’Deorain replies, clearly the responsible one of the three as she pulls at the other two, and Genji yanks Jesse away to follow behind as O’Deorain leads the approach Angela. Immediately, Angela starts to fuss over them, and Jack watches them go before he grits his teeth and turns to walk inside as well.

He pops his hand to his ear and taps into Ana’s private line. She answers with a chirpy hello, and that just sets Jack’s nerves even more on end as he swallows down his anger.

“Report to interrogation room five,” he orders briskly, glaring at anybody who gets in his way at the moment. He is not in a good mood. “Pick up Gérard as well, and look at the Italian headlines as you walk. I want you fully versed before we dive into this mess.”

Ana gives an affirmative and clicks off the line just as Jack swings into the corridor of the interrogation room He pauses just outside the door and takes a deep breath, pinching the bridge of his nose and rolling his neck on his shoulders. This is going to be long, this is going to be hard, and he is not at all equipped for it.

Gabe is already sitting at the table when Jack walks in. He looks exhausted, his face drawn and eyes slightly sunken. He manages to give Jack a half-smile though that Jack can’t return, and when he doesn’t Gabe slumps further in his chair.

“Scale of one to ten,” he mutters, glancing at the table in front of him, “how badly have we fucked up?”

“Twelve,” Jack replies as he pulls out a seat and drops to sit as well. He reaches out to hit a few buttons on the table to activate the computer in it before throwing out some headlining articles onto the screens around the room. There are some gruesome photos of Talon agent bodies that pop up. Some are grey and gaunt, curtesy of O’Deorain. Some are dismembered by Genji’s blade. There’s torn off limbs and huge pools of red from Gabe’s shotguns. Perfect holes in foreheads from Jesse, no doubt.

Gabe watches them all flicker up on the walls impassively before turning to face Jack.

“Want me to explain?” he asks, and Jack shakes his head.

“Not until Ana and Gérard get here,” he tells him before he rubs a hand over his face and pins Gabe with a look. “What were you thinking, Gabe? This is a mess. I don’t know… I don’t know what I can do about this.” It’s true, he doesn’t. He was only prepared for if the capture of Bartalotti got out, not fucking murder.

Gabe looks hurt for a moment before he opens his mouth to answer. Thankfully though, and Jack feels horrible for thinking it, he’s cut off though by the door flying open and Ana storming in with Gérard trailing behind her.

“Are you serious, Gabe?” she yells as soon as she’s in the room, and the door slams behind her adding to the drama. “One rule. One fucking rule! Blackwatch has to follow rules, Gabe, no matter what you and Jesse preach!”

Gabe looks shellshocked at Ana’s reaction for a moment before his face goes hard. “Where you there?” he snaps back at her, starting to rise from his seat. “Did you have to make that split-second decision? No! So get off your fucking high horse, Ana, you have no idea-”

“Enough!” Jack roars at them, and both instantly fall silent. Jack slowly gets up from his chair and offers it to Gérard, still grey and washed out from the attack on Rome and his recovery in Switzerland. He gratefully takes it.

Jack turns his gaze to Gabe, still mid-rise from his chair, and Ana, who’s steadily turning red, and his nostrils flare as he glares.

“Sit,” he demands of them both. Gabe quickly drops into his seat but Ana continues to glare down at him instead of listening to Jack. “Ana,” he scolds, and she gives him a damn near mutinous look he raises his eyebrows at her and she grudgingly takes a seat. “Yelling isn’t going to solve anything,” he informs all three of them. “No matter how mad we are, there’s no point in taking it out on each other.” Ana starts to mutter and Jack raises his voice over her. “We’re all on the same side,” he points out, and Ana’s mouth shuts. “And we’re in this together.”

He pauses to make eye contact with each one, waiting for them to nod their heads in agreement. Jack doesn’t actually care if they do agree or not. Fact is, they are in this together.

“Having said that,” he continues after a moment and turns to look at Gabe. “What the fuck happened?”

Gabe looks at him for a long moment, seeming to assess him, and Jack sees his eyes flicker to the window behind them. Obviously, he meant to, or else Jack would never have seen him do it, and when he glances behind himself its to see Jesse suddenly ducking out of view.

With a huff, Jack walks to the door and rips it open to glare down at Jesse. He has a brief moment where he contemplates having the kid dragged back to medical, but instead, he decides maybe Jesse can be helpful in this moment.

“Get in,” he snaps, and Jesse blinks a couple of times before he shuffles by awkwardly. Gabe looks unimpressed to see him, and as he walks past Ana he gets a clip to the back of the ears and a reprimand in haughty Arabic.

“Hey!” Jesse calls as he rubs the back of his head, but Ana just glares and points at the chair beside her wordlessly. Jesse settles down into it, holding himself gingerly enough that Jack hopes he’s seen Angela for whatever is hurting him, but right now Jack needs to get a damn explanation for these two cowboys and he stalks back over to the table.

“I need to put this on record,” he informs them all as he hits a few buttons on the table, and while Jesse looks wide eyed and a little lost, Gabe just nods in agreement. Jack’s glad there’s no arguing.

He glances around at the room as he hits the record button, and the table turns a steady red to show it. The screens around the room still hold their headlines, and Jack glances at them before turning to the room.

“For the sake of the records, does everyone here consent to being recorded?” he asks, and each person gives an affirmative, even if Jesse sounds petulant. Jack sighs before he turns to Gabe. “Alright, Gabriel, start from the beginning.”

Gabe looks hesitant for only a moment before he starts. “We arrived in the Venice safe house and set up surveillance on the manor. We executed our plan under the cover of darkness,” he pauses and glances at Jack. “You sure you wanna hear about this, Jack?”

Jack grits his teeth, at this rate they’ll shatter before they’re done, and waves a hand at all the screens. “You haven’t left me much choice.”

“Whatever happened to plausible deniability?” Gabe asks, and Jack almost snorts as his lips twitch.

“Little late for that,” he snaps, and he hasn’t felt this angry or wound up in years. “Tell me what actually happened.”

Gabe laughs, and it’s a smoky one that Jack doesn’t recognise. He looks slightly twisted for a moment, and Jack makes a mental note to find out what the hell is going on with Gabe before Gabe starts talking and Jack pays attention.

“Well, Jack, that’s one hell of a story,” Gabe says before he cracks his neck and straightens his spine. “We executed our plan under the cover of darkness,” he repeats. “Then all hell broke loose. We followed the original plan and infiltrated the manor. From there, I evaluated the situation and made my decision. And I stand by it. When you’re on an operation, things don’t always go according to plan.”

“By plan you mean you weren’t going to shoot Bartalotti through a bloody window?” Ana interrupts, and Jack throws her a dirty look for the unprofessional language. She doesn’t seem to care though as she glares at Gabe.

“Like I said,” Gabe mutters, “I evaluated the situation. Things changed.”

“What, exactly, changed?” Gérard finally chimes in, and Jack silently thanks him for it. At least Gérard doesn’t seem upset, which is a wonder since Gabe has essentially destroyed whatever knowledge about Amélie they could have gotten from Bartalotti.

Gabe looks hesitant for a moment, and Jack wonders if he’s thinking the same thing as he avoids Gérard’s gaze, before he casts a look at Jesse and sighs. “Bartalotti started talking,” he says quietly. “I didn’t think he’d say anything of worth, but he did. He told us that we had no evidence to really hold, that if we took him in he’d be released within the week. He’s got powerful friends in powerful positions. There was no chance of us being able to get away with a snatch and grab.” Gabe glances up at Jack and Jack remembers the conversation from the Switzerland headquarters in the hanger. “There was no chance we were going to get away with not eliminating him either. He could reveal Blackwatch with a snap, and he could twist the public to be automatically against us.” Gabe shakes his head, and Jack can see what he’s saying. “I couldn’t let that happen.”

“So you killed him,” Jack sighs, and Gabe nods.

“It was the only outcome I could see where this didn’t all go to waste.” Gabe looks down at the table, his fingers clenching around the edge. “We killed everyone, there were no witnesses that we knew of. His death was… messier than I anticipated.”

“You shot him through a window,” Gérard says blandly, and Gabe actually smiles even if it doesn’t reach his eyes.

“Hell of a fall.”

Jack groans and rubs a hand over his face. What a nightmare. As Gabe said, Bartalotti has friends in high places, not to mention his connections with Talon. This won’t go away, and he’s worried those headlines on the wall will only increase in number if someone somewhere who knows about Blackwatch and can put two and two together…

He turns to Jesse, who’s munching on the end of an unlit cigar and glaring at his boss, and Jack clears his throat to get his attention. When Jesse looks his way, Jack yanks the cigar out of his mouth and glares him out of his protests.

“What about you? Anything to add?” he asks, and Jesse pouts childishly at him before he offers a cocky smirk.

“Where do you want me to start?” he jeers, and Jack scowls at him and watches as the smirk slowly drops from his face and Jesse glances at the table. “Everything was going according to plan,” he says quietly. “We were going to get in, get the target, and get out. But then all hell broke loose. It’s like the whole damn city was trying to kill us.”

“A whole city of Talon,” Gabe mutters, and Jesse nods along. “We were surrounded, Jack. There was no way to get out unnoticed.”

“You shouldn’t have been there,” Jack says for the sake of the record, and Gabe opens his mouth before closing it as he realises what Jack is doing. Officially, Jack has to reprimand them. “What this is going to do to Overwatch’s image… Blackwatch has been exposed.”

“The calls will start coming in soon,” Ana tells them, her fingers tapping against her arm in agitation. “The law suits, the complaints, everything. Everyone you’ve silenced will find the courage to step forward.”

“This is a nightmare,” Gérard sighs before he pushes back from his chair. “I’m going to get started on the PR. Hopefully, we can nip this before it grows too far out of our control.” He sighs as he gets up and leaves, and Jack watches him go before he turns to Ana.

“Ana,” he calls to get her attention. “Would you escort Gabriel’s subordinate-” no names, Jesse can’t be found out, especially now, “-to the medical wing. I believe he has wounds to be assessed. Stay with him until myself or Gabriel arrive.”

Ana purses her lips but nods and gestures at Jesse. He slowly falls into step with her as they leave the room, and Jesse glances back briefly before he disappears out the door and down the corridor with her.

The moment they’re out of sight, Jack slumps down into the chair Gérard vacated and drops his head into his hands. Gabe sits across from him, silent and tired, and Jack honestly doesn’t know what to do with him. He reaches out and turns off the recording, the table turning back to the usual blue, and he scrubs a hand over his face before he looks up at Gabe.

“I’m not kidding when I say we’re screwed, Gabe,” he says quietly. “We’re lucky Adawe isn’t already here. I don’t know what I can do to stop her.” He fists his hands in front of him. “One rule, Gabe. One.”

“I know.”

Jack barks out a laugh and shakes his head. “Did you though? Because you seem to have done the complete opposite.” He covers his eyes. “I asked you before you left to think about whether this mission would help Overwatch keep the world safe. Overwatch can’t keep the world safe if it’s shut down.”

Gabe doesn’t reply and Jack glances up to see him looking guilty. Jack sighs. He doesn’t know what his intentions were reminding him of that, but making Gabe look like this wasn’t one of them.

“Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if you’d stayed Strike Commander,” he muses aloud as he drops his hands to the table. “If we’d swapped roles and I’d been Blackwatch.”

Gabe snorts across from him, and Jack looks up to see one half of Gabe’s mouth quirked up. “You would never have survived Blackwatch, Freckles,” he says, and Jack knows he’s being sincere and not rude. “I was always the one willing to do what needed to be done.” He smiles properly even though it looks pained as he reaches across the table, his fingers covering Jack’s. “After all, you’re mom, I’m dad, right?”

Jack can’t help but smile as he flips his hand and interlocks their fingers. It’s not comfortable but Jack needs the physical touch right now. He needs Gabe to ground him, but instead, it feels like the two of them are just lost together.

“I can’t keep protecting you anymore, Gabe,” he admits quietly, and it hurts. “I’ve tried for years, but I can’t do it on this one. This is too big. I can deny it, tell the press we had no idea what Blackwatch was planning, and I can protect you there.” He presses his lips together and shakes his head. “But Adawe…”

“Maybe it’s time to stop protecting me so much,” Gabe murmurs, and Jack looks up at him hopelessly. “I can do this. I can look after my team.”

“You don’t get it,” Jack argues, and his grip on Gabe’s hand is tight. “Adawe… Gabe, I can’t-”

“I know,” he interrupts. “She’s a vulture, a damn bruja. But Bishop will intervene. He will stop her. I trust him to do so.”

Jack doesn’t. Sure, Bishop might be his Uncle but he knows greedy men when he sees them. Instinct is screaming at him this is all wrong, that surely there’s more he can do somewhere that doesn’t leave Gabe open to the vultures, but he knows this is it. Italy is such a colossal fuck up that he has to let Gabe in, let Gabe take the blame. He doesn’t want to, everything in him demanding to protect, but it’s throw Gabe to the wind or let Overwatch be dragged down with him.

“I’ll take the fall,” Gabe tells him, moving their hands to properly entwine them and runs his thumb over Jack’s index finger. Jack doesn’t think he deserves such a gentle touch. “I don’t want you involved in it. You’ve done so much for me and now it’s time for me to step in.” Gabe reaches across and touches Jack’s face with his finger tips. “I’ve got my team, they’ll help me.”

“Jesse’s a child, O’Deorain is unreadable, and Genji is murder crazy,” Jack mutters, and Gabe laughs. It’s that smokey laugh again, like something is sitting in his lungs, and it’s just wrong.

“Yeah, Angela kind of messed up with the whole red eyes thing,” he jokes and Jack finds himself cracking his own smile at him at the thought of red-eyed Genji staring at them all. Gabe smiles back at him and rubs his thumb over Jack’s cheekbone. “There it is,” he murmurs as his eyes soften. “I miss that smile.”

“I’m always smiling,” Jack responds automatically, and Gabe shakes his head. His hand is warm on Jack’s cheek. So warm.

“Not this one,” Gabe almost whispers, “the one just for me.”

The silence is weighted, heavy in the air, and Jack feels his smile slowly slide away as the seriousness of the situation comes inching back. He grits his teeth and looks down, Gabe’s hand slipping from his face, and he loosens his grip on Gabe’s fingers.

“I’m sorry, Gabe,” he apologises once again, apologises for so many things at once, and he’s not surprised when Gabe lets him go and stands up. The chair screeches against the floor and makes him flinch where he sits.

He’s surprised though when Gabe comes around the table and slips his arms around Jack’s shoulders. He pulls him close, and Jack’s face presses just below Gabe’s chest. It’s warm and safe and Jack knows he doesn’t deserve to feel that way.

“Hey,” Gabe calls down to him, his fingers sliding into Jack’s hair gently, “it’s going to be okay. I got this, Jack, trust me.”

Jack hums a noncommittal answer, and Gabe tilts his head up to place a gentle kiss on his forehead. Jack sighs at the contact and slides his eyes closed, keeping them shut tight as Gabe pulls away and that warmth goes with him.

When he opens them, he’s alone.

 

 

Chapter Text

Eventually, they do find where Amélie is.

Gérard gets news that Talon have a hostage that’s surrounded by security at all times. It only takes a few more prods at the right people before there are photographs of Amélie sitting tied to a chair thrown on Jack’s desk and he’s ordering Blackwatch to retrieve her.

He goes with Gabe to bring her back. Overwatch shouldn’t be involved, he knows that, but Amélie is family and he’ll screw as many rules as he wants to just to rescue her and bring her back home.

Their rescue team consists of all five original members of Overwatch, Jesse, Genji, and one very very angry Gérard, who wields a large shotgun and a vengeance in his eyes that has even Gabe weary of him. They infiltrate the Talon base early in the morning, and exit well before midday with an exhausted and hurt Amélie in their arms.

It doesn’t click in Jack’s brain that it was too easy.

She seems fine, only has a few token scars from interrogation. Gabe pulls Jack aside and mentions that something is wrong, that Talon wouldn’t just leave her with a few scars for their troubles, but there’s no leads or proof that there’s anything else to the situation. Jack ups the security around the Lacroix’s and Gabe assigns Jesse to personally watch over the two while they scout for trouble, and that’s as much as they can do.

He bumps into her one evening. It’s late, late enough to call early, and Jack has received a memo from some agent that someone is using the shooting range without the range control’s permission. Jack doesn’t particularly feel like investigating, after all his eyes are out on stalks and his fingers are cramped from typing out reports until the sun is almost rising, but he knows he must.

Of course, he’s surprised when he sees it’s Amélie. He reaches the bottom of the stairs and peeks into the room to see her standing in one of the cubicles, back ramrod straight and a non-Overwatch issue sniper rifle in her hand. It’s too sleek, something that’s obviously new and dangerous. Jack has heard from Gérard that Amélie’s been putting effort into buying weaponry and armour to keep herself safe so he doesn’t question it as he leans against the wall and watches her effortlessly fire bullets into the target at the end of the range. She’s skilled, he can see that, and it makes him frown to see.

She wasn’t this good before she was kidnapped. Amélie was definitely still learning under Ana’s tutelage and wasn’t nearly this controlled before. But now her aim is nearly perfect each shot and almost all the bullets enter through the same hole each time. It’s intimidating, in all honesty, and Jack can feel his thoughts starting to betray him as he wonders if just maybe Talon-

“It’s rude to stare, Jack,” Amélie suddenly calls, jarring Jack from his thoughts as he jumps, and when he looks back at her face instead of the rifle he can see her staring at him from the corner of her eye. “You might as well come in. It’s not like I’m going to bite.”

Jack’s lips quirk as he shakes his head. Of all the people he knows, Amélie is definitely the one that would bite. She’s right though, and he takes the last few steps before walking to her side. Amélie watches him come closer before she drops the rifle and pulls out the magazine, the clicking noise relaxing to Jack’s ears.

“You’re up late,” he says as he leans against the wall of her cubicle. She glances up at him briefly before looking back at her rifle and shrugging.

“It’s hard to sleep,” she tells him, and Jack feels a flash of sympathy. Sleeping after what’s happened to her must be almost impossible. Sure, Amélie has been an Overwatch agent for a long time, but she’s never experienced anything close to torture and interrogation in her missions before. Not many agents have.

“I’m sorry,” Jack murmurs as he looks down at his crossed arms and tries not to feel awkward. It’s a new feeling, in honesty. Jack has never felt overly uncomfortable in Amélie’s presence, but right now there’s almost and empty coldness to her. The warmth of the woman who brought him mulled wine isn’t quite there anymore.

“There is nothing for you to apologise for,” Amélie replies as they both look up and at each other. Her eyes are almost calculating as she regards him, and it’s unsettling to be on the end of the cold look. “You didn’t cause me any harm, Jack. You’re not to blame.”

“You know I am,” Jack can’t help but correct, and it spills from his mouth without his consent and it makes him feel worse when he sees Amélie flinch at his words. She looks away and doesn’t reply, and that makes Jack’s throat feel suddenly very tight as he looks away.

He glances instead at the rifle Amélie has and admires it. Up close it’s even sleeker than before. A mixture of white, grey, and black with small orange lights along it, and if Jack isn’t mistaken then he’s sure it’s actually a collapsible rifle where the sniper rifle feature is actually secondary to the primary automatic mode. He reaches out to pick it up, aware of Amélie’s grip on the handle tightening for a brief moment before she lets Jack pull it from her grip.

It’s light and easy to aim with, and Jack turns it over and over in his hands, pausing when he spots a small spider symbol with a red hourglass on it on the barrel of the rifle, and he slides a hand over it before looking up at Amélie.

“A black widow?” he muses, and Amélie’s eyes are hard as she assesses him before she takes the rifle from his hands and covers the symbol with her own.

“A reminder.”

“Of what?” Jack can’t help but ask. Amélie doesn’t answer him straight away, just reaches for another magazine that she clicks into place with a hard shove instead. Her jaw is clenched, and Jack doesn’t think he’s ever seen her that way before, and for another brief moment, he really wonders what happened to her.

“A Nigerian proverb,” she says to him though as she raises her rifle and aims down the range. Jack jumps when she fires, not expecting it, and Amélie lowers her rifle and hits the button to bring the target back towards them.

It’s a perfect shot to the paper, a bullet directly through the heat in a neat hole. Jack feels uneasy as he looks at it, especially when he glances up to see there’s a smirk on Amélie’s face and, for the first time since she’s been back, Jack can see some brightness in her eyes.

“The spider that knows what it will gain,” she murmurs, and her voice is even slightly gleeful, “sits waiting patiently in its web.” When she glances up at Jack she looks almost excited, and Jack swallows the lump in his throat as he takes a hesitant step back.

There’s something definitely different about her, and Jack makes a note to inform Gérard and maybe get someone to look further into what’s happened with Amélie. She may be back, she might be safe, but Jack isn’t one hundred percent sure that the Amélie they know wasn’t left behind in that dingy Talon basement.

“Amélie,” he says, keeping his voice low and soft, and when she glances up at him he can see the joy slowly leaking from her face the longer she looks at him. “What happened in that basement?”

Amélie blinks at him for a long moment, her brow furrowing deeply, before she suddenly drops the rifle on the bench as if it’s burnt her and Jack can see her hands are trembling as she looks horrified.

“I…” she starts to say before suddenly she’s covering her mouth with her hand and tears are appearing on her cheeks as she shakes her head. “Jack, I can’t… there was just so much. They’ve changed me. I’m… I’m not who I use to be…” Her eyes are wide, all the coldness gone, and Jack takes a stray step forward until he’s scooping her into his arms. Her head is pillowed against his chest and she’s letting out broken little sobs, and Jack’s arms are so so tight around her.

“I’m sorry, Amélie,” he says into her ear. “I’m so so sorry. I failed you. We all did. What happened it… I’m sorry.”

She cries more, and Jack forces his own back as he sways them gently on the spot. He doesn’t remember Amélie feeling so cold before. He thinks of the beautiful and decadent woman who’s normally so warm and soft, so damn graceful.

But the woman in his arms is cold and hard, and she’s so so hurt that Jack just doesn’t know how to piece her back together.

“We’ll get through this together,” he tells her, and his voice is firm and hard, and he can feel her nodding against him. “You’ll be Amélie again. I’ll make sure of it.”

She pulls away, and Jack can see that there’s the hardness creeping back into her eyes. The tears have dried up already and her grip on his shirt is painfully tight. There is something wrong here, something so so wrong, and Jack wracks his brain for anything that could tell him what it is but nothing is coming to his head.

“You promise?” she asks him, her voice small, and Jack reaches up to grip his hands over hers and he nods.

“I promise.”

A week later, Jack wakes up to Gérard murdered, and Amélie missing.

Jack feels empty the moment he receives the news, a feeling of defeat crashing over him so vividly that when he gets to his office he can do nothing but sit at his desk and stares at nothing for a long time. Long enough that Ana comes and goes, leaving a note for him to read later to inform him she’s taken over the Lacroix case, and Jack doesn’t move until Gabe walks into his office and slams his hands down on the desk.

“Jack,” Gabe snaps, and Jack glances up at him and sees just how tired and worn Gabe looks. He’s almost ashen, his skin taken on a grey tinge, and Jack never would’ve through the Lacroix’s would’ve made Gabe worry this much. “Jack,” Gabe repeats, and Jack shakes his head and stares at him. “You need to snap out of it. We’ve got things to do. I know Gérard’s dead, and Amélie is missing, but we’ve got a breach in security somewhere, potentially a mole, and a massive organisation whose morale is dropping at a phenomenal rate.”

Jack blinks at him, hearing his words but not registering, and he can only ask one question. “How’s Jesse?” he asks quietly, and he sees Gabe’s shoulders slump as he walks around the desk to lean against it in front of Jack.

“I haven’t got a real word to describe him,” Gabe mutters. “But bad might suffice. He blames himself.”

“It’s not his fault,” Jack murmurs, and Gabe sighs and rubs a hand down his face.

“Try telling him that,” Gabe replies. “Genji is with him at the moment and I’m looking at sending the two on a mission just to get them out of here. The investigation is going to destroy the kid otherwise.”

“He has to be here for the investigation, Gabe,” Jack tells him, frowning as he sits up. He can feel his head starting to clear, the haze he’s been in dropping away. “He has to at least make a statement.”

Gabe’s gaze turns shocked before hard, and he frowns at Jack. “Technically he wasn’t there,” he says. “I may have assigned him, but on paper, Jesse doesn’t even exist. Gérard’s murder is going to make the front page, and I’m not going to risk Jesse getting caught in the crossfire.”

Jack knows he’s right, and he can’t respond as he rubs a hand over his face and keeps his eyes covered. This is a mess, and Jack’s so frayed he doesn’t know where to start to set it right.

“Okay,” he eventually says, and he takes a deep breath before rolling his shoulders and sitting up straight. “Okay, you’re right. Send Jesse and Genji to Tokyo. Your last report said the Shimada Clan was arranging a weapons deal there with the Red Suns. See if the two of them can disrupt the meeting or get their hands on some more intel.” He glances up at Gabe to see him still frowning but nodding slightly. “Get them out of here for the investigation. I have no doubts that Adawe will be overseeing it personally, so the more people we get out of the area means less collateral if she loses it.”

Gabe’s lips twitch slightly at the comment, and Jack barely finds himself able to respond with his own smile, but Gabe nods and pushes off the desk no matter what. Jack watches him straighten before he leans over to wrap one arm around Jack’s shoulders and pull Jack’s face into his neck.

“We can do this,” he tells Jack, and Jack’s arms come up to cling and he lets out a wet laugh into Gabe’s neck. “All of us, together. We can do this.”

Jack doesn’t believe him one bit, feeling so hopeless it’s like a soul-sucking pit, but he clings on until Gabe leaves before he turns to his desk and picks up a pen. He can mourn later, he thinks, at the moment he’s got work to do.

He’s correct though when two days later, one day after Jesse and Genji leave for Tokyo and hours after Torbjörn, Reinhardt, and Brigitte take an impromptu trip back to Sweden, Adawe storms into his office with a horrendous frown.

“What the hell, Morrison,” she snaps as greeting, and Jack wearily stands up to offer her his hand in a handshake but she looks at it with such disgust that he drops it back to his side and waits for her to sit. She doesn’t, instead standing with a hand on her hip and the other white-knuckled tight around her ever-present clipboard. “Gérard Lacroix is murdered, Amélie Lacroix has gone missing, Blackwatch is authorising missions I’m not informed of even though the Italy disaster hasn’t died down and the whole organisation is still grounded, and some of your team have just decided on impromptu vacations? There better be an explanation.”

Jack stares at her before gesturing at the seat she’s standing beside. She looks like she’s going to ignore him, but at his hard look she grudgingly sits down.

“I have Ana Amari currently attached to the investigation of the Lacroix case, Gabrielle. She’s attempting to locate the hole in our security that allowed the event to happen, whether through a mole or lapse in protocols,” he informs her calmly. “Blackwatch is not under your jurisdiction nor mine, as we’ve discussed in the past. If you have a problem with Blackwatch then you need to take it up with Bishop himself.” He pauses to take a breath and ignore the way Adawe’s face is steadily turning purple. “All of Blackwatch’s missions are not my doing. Gabriel Reyes is in full control of his organisation and any-”

“Is he?” Adawe suddenly interrupts, and Jack feels cold at the look on her face. “I can assure you, Strike Commander Morrison, that Commander Reyes does not have the organisation under control. In fact, it seems like quite the opposite.” She slams a folder down on the desk and Jack doesn’t have to look to know it’s the Italy file.

Despite that, Jack doesn’t like what she’s implying, and he feels his hackles starting to rise. “Under-Secretary Adawe,” he starts to say, his voice hard and authoritative, “I believe you are above any such rumours that are undermining Commander Reyes position in Blackwatch. From what I have seen Blackwatch is one of the most heavily controlled and efficient-”

He’s cut off once again by Adawe. This time though she pulls a file out from behind her clipboard and slams it down on the desk in front of him.

“I believe, Strike Commander Morrison, that you might be too close to the Blackwatch Commander,” she says venomously. “If I am correct you were aware of the Blackwatch mission two years ago in Cairo that resulted in the death of twenty-three Blackwatch agents and one hundred and six civilians?”

Jack freezes at the mention of that mission, remembering it so clearly it’s like yesterday. Gabe and Jesse had both been on that mission, and the haunted looks they’d come back with and the sheer aggression Gabe shows anyone if it’s mentioned means that the mission has been carefully stowed away to never be spoken of.

“As I said,” Jack manages to say once he hurtles over his shock. “Blackwatch is outside of my own jurisdiction so I am not privy to the particulars about their missions.”

Adawe’s eyes narrow and she reaches out to tap the file. “I want you to read it,” she tells him, her voice deadly firm. “I want you to read the entire mission summary and then I want you to come back to me and look me dead in the face and tell me you’re happy with how Blackwatch is progressing.” She pauses to fix him with a stare. “And I want to see if you can bring yourself to do it, Morrison, because if you can then I can safely assume you belong down there in that basement of criminals than up here in a pretty office with a pretty statute staring down at you.”

She leans forward in her chair, her eyes narrow, and Jack has never seen such a venomous look on her face. He finds himself holding his breath as he leans back.

“If you only knew what your precious Gabriel was like before all of this,” she snarls, waving her hand in the air, “I have a hard time believing you’d protect him as much as you have.”

With that she stands up with a flourish and leaves his office, her heels clicking with each step and the door slamming behind her with a finality.

Jack can’t bring himself to breathe properly let alone read the file straight away, and so it sits on his desk for the remainder of the afternoon as Jack tries to forget about Adawe’s presence and suffocates himself in his work. He fills out reports and mission summaries, checks in with Ana about the investigation of the Lacroix’s, approves missions and leave for agents, and when it’s early evening and the sky is dark outside he finally cracks and pulls the file towards him.

When he opens the folder on top he has to close it again almost immediately as he realises it’s an entire folder of photographs and details of the incident, and the sheer gore he sees makes his stomach roll and his head light as he feels utterly repulsed.

It takes a moment to open it back up, and when he does he sifts through the images with a cold stare, moving them all aside to get to the words beneath. There are so many pictures though, so much devastation and sheer brutality that Jack feels his heart start to sink as he starts to wonder just who caused this.

Then it’s there, in black and white in multiple pages. The deaths, the gore, the clearly tortured individuals that had been caught in the crossfire of Talon and Blackwatch in Cairo… they weren't caused by Talon. It’s right there, and Jack can hardly believe that Blackwatch did this.

He reads through the report with a rolling stomach, his nauseousness increasing as he reads words like “unavoidable”, “execution”, “torture”, and each word adds to the sinking feeling in his heart.

It takes some time for him to piece it all together, the file a shambled mess of different reports from different people, but he eventually finds Gabe’s own report and reads it with tears prickling the back of his eyes and a sense of raging injustice starting to build in his chest.

They’d found a loophole, he interprets from Gabe’s cool and collected report. The Blackwatch agents had found a loophole in Gabe’s instructions and wrecked havoc on the Talon Base before branching out into the nearby Cairo residential neighbourhood on a blood rage. Gabe had tried to reign it in, aided by the few agents that were loyal to him, but most were killed in the resulting battle until the ones who’d begun the riot were held at gunpoint and executed by Gabe personally.

That alone makes Jack drop the paper and cover his mouth with his hand. He knows that Gabe is hard, that Gabe has always been the one to make the hard choices, but personally conducting an execution of multiple men has been outside of Jack’s imagination this whole time. It’s a war crime, a mark against humanity, and the thought that Gabe has done it feels wrong.

Underneath all of the papers of the Cairo incident he sees there’s another document, this one separately titled and clearly not part of the Cairo file, and when he picks it up he sees its a list of UN representatives leveling allegations of corruption and illegal activity towards Overwatch, at the top of the list Egypt. Jack drops the paper like it’s burnt him, and he stares at the black letters until they bleed into one.

Eventually, he manages to breathe past the lump formed in his throat, and when he does he sees a flash of red before he gathers up all the papers and storms from the room.

With each step he takes to the basement he feels more and more anger brewing in him until he’s standing outside the Blackwatch Commander’s office and he throws it open with as much gusto as he can.

Gabe glances up from behind the desk, the fact he doesn’t jump at the suddenness of Jack’s entry makes Jack think he's used to people storming into his office, but when he sees Jack his eyes go wide and he quickly stands up in a jumbled hurry.

“Jack-” he starts to say but he’s cut off when Jack slams the file down on Gabe’s desk.

“Explain, Gabriel,” Jack snarls, feeling so much fury it’s bubbling under his skin. “Explain now or so help me I will have you arrested on the spot for war crimes.”

Gabe looks shocked enough at Jack’s words that he drops his eyes straight to the file and tentatively pokes at it. Jack wants nothing more than an explanation, something tangible to give Gabe an excuse, but the longer Gabe stays quiet the more Jack realises it might not happen.

Finally, though Gabe sinks into his chair and covers his hand with his face. He starts to talk, his voice muffled by his hands, and Jack’s hands curl into fists at his side.

“I lost control, Jack,” Gabe mumbles. “I was distracted that day. There’ve been… experiments that Moira has been conducting on willing participants and I saw what some of the results where and it threw me off.”

There’s something else he’s not saying, not the full truth, but it’s enough for Jack to latch onto as Gabe drops his hands and stares at the file.

“I didn’t give the agents clear enough instructions, and Nichols was with us. He’s always been the one to take things literally, tried for years to find some loophole and that was the day I finally slipped. After we raided the Talon Base, he took a small group and started in on the nearby civilians. His reasoning was that I hadn’t designated them as innocents and he was ordered to eradicate all threats. If they weren’t labeled an innocent, they were clearly a threat.”

Jack stares at Gabe’s haunted face for a moment before he weakly settles into a seat. “All those people then…” he starts to say but trails off as Gabe slams a hand into the desk.

“I was busy with the Talon Operatives,” he snaps, anger evident, “and I didn’t have a fucking clue what Nichols was doing. He was torturing people, drawing out their deaths, pillaging and fucking raping with the others. It was chaos.”

Jack hears the pause, that there’s more, and he raises an eyebrow as Gabe watches him before letting out a shuddering breath.

“They got a hold of Jesse,” he continues, and Jack’s breathing stops and his head fills with alarm bells. “They didn’t do much to him in the grad scheme of things. He was trying to stop them and Nichols has always… fancied Jesse. He roughed him up a bit but before anything got… mierda ‘serious’ Genji got to me.” He stops, and Jack hears the metal of Gabe’s desk starting to screech in protest as Gabe all but crushes the desk beneath his hands. “When I finally saw what was happening I saw red. I ordered those that were loyal to me to round up as many of the betrayers as possible, and I personally executed every. Single. One.” He stops to look up at Jack, and Jack sees the hard man he’s always know was there but barely got to see. “I don’t regret it, Jack. Nichols and the others needed to be stopped. There was no way I was going to let them come back here after all they’d done.” He glares at the file. “Their mistake was thinking that Bishop would protect them. Bishop wasn’t there so I made the call.”

“There’s no comment from Bishop in there,” Jack points out, gesturing at the file, and Gabe snorts.

“There is,” he replies before he leans forward and ruffles through the file to pull out a piece of paper. The words on it have been blacked out, a stamp over the whole page marking it a classified. “It’s been blacked out on record. Bishop couldn’t endorse what I did, it is a war crime. But he didn’t condemn it either. His words were that there was no right choice, no appropriate way to deal with the situation. He had it blacked out lest Adawe find out.”

Jack takes the piece of paper to hold himself, turning it over and seeing some faint words through the back side of the paper. There’s no way it would be readable though, and he drops the paper back on top of the file to lean back in his chair, scrubbing his face with his hand.

“This is a mess, Gabe,” he ends up muttering. “Adawe is out for blood. I think her main goal is Blackwatch.” He pauses to meet Gabe’s eyes. “I can’t defend you, Gabe, if I don’t know the full story. Especially not after Italy. If this goes public too, there’s nothing I can do to stop the UN condemning you. They’re in the middle of electing a Director to take over the entire Overwatch division, and I know that Adawe is going to be their damn puppet. If she gives them this information… Gabe, you’ll be-”

“I know,” Gabe cuts him off with a sigh. “I don’t regret it, Jack. I can’t. But I know.”

Jack pinches the bridge of his nose and lets out a shuddering breath. This is such a fucking mess. He doesn’t know what to do.

There’s no explanation that will save Gabe from this. Cairo is a fuck up of the highest orders that’s come back to bite Gabe, and Jack has to find a way to stop that. He knows Adawe won’t stop with Gabe in sight, not when he’s right there, and suddenly Jack knows what to do.

There has been talk for a long time now about moving the Overwatch base from the United States to Switzerland. Angela has been trying to convince Jack for too long that moving to Switzerland will open the doors for more medical advancements, a potential partnership with the Red Cross Association, and also a larger facility with the encampment only housing Overwatch rather than Blackwatch as well.

Jack’s never wanted to take the opportunity. Selfishly, because he knows that the strained relationship between himself and Gabe will take an even worse toll if he moves countries. At least Gabe can always return to Los Angeles and Jack will be there, but if he moves to Zürich like intended…

Jack thinks it’s time to stop being so selfish.

“There’s been talk,” he starts to say, quietly and hesitantly, “about moving the main Overwatch Headquarters from LA to Switzerland. We need to make heavier leaps in progress towards our medical research, and Switzerland will not only provide us with access to the Red Cross but to various other medical experts.”

Gabe looks stricken, and Jack tries not to make eye contact. “Jack,” Gabe starts to say. “You’re not…”

Jack waves him off, letting him trail to a halt. “If we move our headquarters to Zürich, as intended, then Adawe will also be forced to uproot from New York and accompany us. As the defacto leader of Overwatch, until a Director is decided, it is compulsory for her to accompany the main masses of her division.”

“Jack, what’re you saying?” Gabe pleads, and Jack squeezes his eyes shut and clenches his fists.

“I’m saying, Gabe, that I think it’s time to live up to the rumours and move to Zürich,” he says with finality, and he hears Gabe’s sharp intake of breath. He glances up to see Gabe looking confused, hurt, worried, and Jack grits his teeth.

“Why?” Gabe asks, and Jack knows he’s asking the real reason, not the bullshit he’s just sprouted, and he finds it hard to find his words but he eventually holds his head high.

“Because with Adawe here you’re not safe,” he says with surprising clarity. “You were right years ago, when you told me the Brass is trying to cause a rift between us. Adawe has been out for you since the day you first shoved her rank back in her face and disrespected her. If I move our base of operations to Switzerland then she’ll be obliged to come.” He sighs and glances at his closed fists, forcing them to relax. “If she’s not here then there’s nothing she can do to you. All of these problems will go away. We won’t have to keep Jesse quiet, or keep Genji out from her line of sight. She’ll be gone, and you’ll be fine… they’ll be free.”

The silence is heavy for a long moment, and Jack finds himself suffocating in it as Gabe stares at him with such wide and hurt eyes. He can’t maintain that eye contact, breaking it off to glance at the screens behind Gabe, and he feels his entire world stumble to a halt as he sees a photo tucked off to the side.

It’s him. A photo that Gabe had taken of him when they’d taken a trip to Gibraltar. Jack barely remembers the day, having been so caught up in bureaucracy, but that moment… he remembers that moment so well on the cliff side watching the damn sunset with Gabe all sentimental beside him.

If anything, it makes Jack’s decision solidify even more.

“You’ve always told me to stop being so blind,” Jack continues after a pregnant pause. “That I need to stop being the person who learns things last. This is me taking the initiative and moving you out of the firing line. I’ve been dealing with Adawe for decades now, Gabe. I’m not going to leave you under her guillotine anymore.”

He glances at Gabe and where his face had been an ashen grey before it’s now almost white. His hands are white-knuckled on the desk in front of him, and Jack wonders which way he’s going to snap. It hurts him to think he doesn’t know, not after all these years.

They’re different people now and Jack feels the realisation stab into his chest with a white-hot blade.

“And what about us, Jack?” Gabe asks eventually, painfully quiet.

Jack can’t help the little huff he lets out, and he gives Gabe a strained smile that hurts his face. “We haven’t been an us in a very long time, Gabe,” he all but whispers, the words loud in the room despite their quiet decibel. Gabe flinches at Jack’s response, and if he could Jack would shovel those words back where they came from.

“You truly believe that?” Gabe asks, and Jack hangs his head and shakes it.

“Gabe,” he starts with a murmur, “when was the last time we slept together?” At Gabe’s hitch of breath, he looks up to see the confusion on Gabe’s face. “No, not sex,” he quickly amends. “Slept together. As in slept in the same bed. When was the last time we did that?”

Gabe’s silence is all the answer Jack needs, and Jack’s smile doesn’t reach his eyes.

“Exactly,” he says. “You never really came back, Gabe. I thought after Nepal…” he trails off, trying to ignore the pinching feeling behind his eyes. “It doesn’t matter,” he ends up saying. “Clearly I thought wrong.”

“Jack,” Gabe calls, and Jack glances up at him to see an equally distraught look on his face. “I swear I tri-”

“We last kissed at Christmas,” he interrupts, thinking back to ten months ago. “Truly kissed, I mean. Not rushed moments in the corridor. Before that, I can’t remember how long it’s been. A year? Maybe two? We stopped being an us years ago, and we’ve just been going through the motions.”

He doesn’t want to mean those words, but it’s the truth. He thought after Nepal they’d be alright, and they were for a time. Gabe never left, he stayed in Los Angeles, he stopped doing as frequent trips away. But that only lasted a few months before they fell back into bad habits.

Jack doesn’t know the last time they were in Los Angeles together for longer than a handful of weeks, let alone months. Overwatch and Blackwatch swallowed up so much of their time that whatever they had truly suffered.

He’s expecting a fight, but Gabe does something Jack isn’t expecting. He sighs and nods his head.

“I know,” Gabe says, and it floors Jack. “I love you, Jack,” he tells him with so much sincerity that it hurts. “And you’ll always be my cariño, but you’re right.”

The laugh that comes from Gabe is so self-deprecating and painful that Jack feels it deep in his bones.

They sit in silence for a moment, Gabe’s words hanging between them, and Jack knows this is it for them. If he walks out that door now then they won’t get back together, this is the end of the line and Jack is the one breaking it. He doesn’t want to. All he wants is for Gabe to tell him he’s being stupid and for him to get a grip, pull Jack into his arms, kiss away his fears

But he knows if that happens they’re just going to wind up back at this spot sometime in the future and Jack will be kicking himself for thinking they’re not at a dead end after all.

The silence stretches out for even longer than Jack can think is comfortable, and after a beat or two more, he eventually stands. He has things to do, things to plan and procedures to put in place. He picks up the file discarded on Gabe’s desk, and then he waits a moment more.

But Gabe is quiet and hurt, and Jack can’t bring himself to stay any longer. He turns away quietly, walking towards the door to leave, and when his hand is on the door handle Gabe’s voice finally rings out.

“You never did answer me,” he says, his voice a murmur but loud enough that it thunders in Jack’s ears. “You never said whether you would or not.”

It doesn’t take Jack long to realise what Gabe is referring too, and the memory of sitting on his bed with Gabe pressed beside him, matching smiles and the talk of farms and chickens and children and marriage ripe in the air.

The memory feels like a punch to the stomach, and Jack loses all of his breath in one go as he scrabbles for purchase on the door handle like it’ll hold him up.

He knows what his answer would’ve been. What it always would’ve been for Gabe. But Jack can’t say it now, knowing that it would ruin everything.

“We’re old soldiers, Gabe,” he finally says, unable to turn around. “And old soldiers don’t get happy endings.”

“You truly believe that?”

Jack can’t answer him, can’t tell him the truth, so he wraps himself in the idea of bittersweet endings and nods his head. “Yes,” he whispers. “I truly do.”

He doesn’t wait a moment more after that as he opens the door and throws himself out into the corridor.

 

 

Chapter Text

The first year in Zürich, Switzerland is wonderful.

Jack feels weariness fall off his bones as the year progresses. They make advancements in medical engineering with the assistance of the Red Cross, and within six months Jack’s own biotic fields have wider range, Ana’s biotic rifle heals at double the rate and over an extended period of time, and Torbjörn is so damn proud of Brigitte when she holds up the schematics of small packs of portable armour.

It’s overwhelming in it’s success, and when Adawe announces a large statue of Jack will be going up at this base as well, gold this time, he tries to argue that it’s the entirety of Overwatch that have made these leaps and bounds. He only signed off the paperwork and ooh’ed and aah’ed in the appropriate places.

She tells him off for being too modest and plasters him over more recruiting propaganda, and Jack listens to Ana when she tells him to just give up.

He’s given a full year Blackwatch free as well. Despite their break up, Jack would still have had to contact Gabe multiple times as the Heads of their divisions, but Ana had given him a silent look and he’s handed the reigns over to her for the first year.

The first conference call he has with Gabe when that year is up is surprisingly easy. Gabe is more laid-back than Jack has ever seen him, whistling and joking on the feed as Jack gives his report. He’s casual, almost too casual, and when Jack walks away he finds himself stewing over it.

“Relax, Jack,” Reinhardt had told him when he voiced his fears to the large man. “Maybe Gabe has finally taken that ‘chill pill’. I wouldn’t worry about it.”

So, Jack pushes it to the back of his mind and signs more papers for Blackwatch missions and he sees the names of Gabriel, Jesse, and Genji fly over his desk countless times and each time makes his chest clench but he smiles nonetheless. They’re alive and well and that’s all he can ask for.

But nothing is ever really that easy, and as they come into the halfway point of the second year in Zürich there is a Director of Overwatch finally elected by the United Nations, and when Jack hears William Petras’s long list of credentials he actually finds himself excited at the prospect of working with such a man.

That excitement is extinguished within the first meeting as Petras orders Jack into a seat and starts to scream the odds, throwing out changes so fast it gives Jack whiplash.

Jack’s plan to send a scouting team to Ecopoint: Antarctica, after some blips and paper-thin intel comes in that there is life despite the freak environmental storm, is quickly squashed by Petras.

“The information holds no concrete evidence,” Petras informs him in their meeting, peering at him over the top of a glass full of scotch. He’d offered Jack one, and Jack had to force down his repulsion. “We will not waste precious resources on what is, essentially, a hunch.”

Jack tries not to think of Mei, dear sweet Mei with her companion Snowball, but he can’t help it as her face floods his vision. She’s not a hunch, he stands to argue, but Petras snarls at him to sit down.

“Changes will be happening, Strike Commander Morrison,” Petras tells him as he stands from his seat. His gaze is on the statue outside that Jack wants to just tear down. “First, the team you have amassed for the Antartica mission will instead be sent to Watchpoint: Gibraltar.”

“Gibraltar is a ghost town used for training!” Jack argues, but it falls on deaf ears as Petras talks over top of him.

“We will strengthen it’s walls and begin using it as a secondary base. The original base in Los Angeles shall be turned over immediately to Blackwatch which,” he pauses to glare at Jack, “will be going under some serious management investigation. Blackwatch is a barely floating ship, and whether it needs to be sunk and rebuilt, or whether it’s salvageable, will be up to me to decide. Not your little friend Reyes.”

Jack can almost feel his jaw cracking with how hard his mouth is clenched. Petras looks at him down his nose before he waves a hand and continues with his long list of orders.

When the meeting is finished Jack finds himself speechless at the man’s requests, but he can’t deny any of them lest he be slapped with a charge for disobeying orders. It pains him to do it, and Ana looks disheartened by almost all the orders, but do it he must.

Within the month, Winston is placed on a shuttle and sent to Gibraltar. He looks as betrayed as a gorilla can, and Jack bites his tongue and tries to look stern even as Lena cries openly in front of them and reassures Winston she’ll come see him soon. Jack knows she won’t, not with Petras’s plans of testing the chronal accelerator, but Jack will be damned if he doesn’t shield the girl as much as he can.

Fareeha is forced to leave, and Jack feels that like a blow to the gut. Ana angrily confronts him in his office when she receives the news, slamming down his door and roaring at him. Jack takes every one of her words and tries not to break under the ferocity of them, and when Ana finally trails to a halt he quickly moves to comfort her.

It doesn’t compare to Fareeha’s response to the news though, and Jack isn’t prepared for her entrance into his office.

The door almost comes off it’s hinges with how hard it’s thrown against the wall, and Jack thinks that Fareeha is almost glowing with the sheer anger radiating off of her.

“Really?” she opens with as she slams the door shut and stalks forward. “Fucking really, Jack?”

Jack doesn’t know what’s happened to Khal Jack. Probably long gone with Jesse and tío and any other affection that the kids once held for him. He closes his hand into a fist and breathes through his nose for a long moment before replying.

“Fareeha, please,” Jack says as he stands from his chair and holds his hands up in surrender. “I don’t want-”

“Don’t want to what?” Fareeha cuts him off with an ferocious growl. “Send me away? Then go and tell Director alqarf that! What the hell! After all we’ve been through, after what you mean to me,  you’re just going to stand aside and let him send me away?”

“I don’t have a choice, Fareeha!” he yells overtop of her, watching as her eyes narrow and he feels nervous. “I have to listen to what the Director says! I can’t refuse a direct order, Fareeha! You know that.”

The viciousness of her glare makes him stop for a moment, the sheer bitterness in her face reminding him of someone. He finds himself stuttering to a stop when he realises it’s Gabe that he sees in Fareeha, and he doesn’t know if the lump he swallows is good or bad.

“I’ll remember that,” Fareeha suddenly sneers. “I’ll remember that when I’m neck deep in a firefight with my new family and they give me an order to abandon everyone and I just will.”

“Fareeha…”

“No!” she yells, gesturing wildly. “That’s what you’ve done! You’ve turned your back on this family! You’ve split us all up with no hope of recovering-”

“I had too!” Jack suddenly roars, and Fareeha comes to a sudden halt and stares at Jack with wide and surprised eyes. He knows it’s because he rarely gets this fired up, but she’s hit so many nerves today he feels more than a little frayed. “You don’t get it, Fareeha. But I had no choice. Moving Overwatch to Zürich was the safest thing to do for a lot of people, a lot of people we call family. I didn’t move because of any other reason except to protect my family.”

Fareeha looks at him for a little longer, eyes wide, before they droop and she glances at the ground. “But what about the other option? The one Gabe gave you?” she asks so quietly, her voice barely above a whisper. “You could’ve had it all, Jack, but you chose not too.”

Jack tries to find words, scrambling for them desperately as he realises that Fareeha knows about that day, about Gabe’s question, but Fareeha just shakes her head and turns around. She doesn’t give him time to say anything, and as she pauses at the door she glances briefly over her shoulder.

“Goodbye, Jack,” she mutters, her voice hard to hear. “I hope you’re happy.”

She leaves, and Jack waits for the door to close before he slumps into his seat with his head in his hands.

He stays that way for a long time, right up until Angela knocks at his door with a horde of paper work. He ignores her questions, refusing to answer even the basic of “are you okay?”. He sees the sadness in her eyes, knows she’s so close to Fareeha, that there’s something more there, but Jack can’t even find it in himself to apologise.

So he doesn’t. He sets up a barrier and keeps everyone at arms length, and it works for a time. He thinks that maybe if Petras stops seeing how close he is to people then maybe he’ll stop tearing them apart.

How wrong he is, especially when it’s only a few weeks later that Reinhardt barges into his room and holds out a report Jack only vaguely has a memory of.

“Forced retirement,” Reinhardt bellows at him, and Jack quickly closes the door and snatches the paper from Reinhardt’s waving hands. He doesn’t recognise much of the report, but his signature is there at the end in stark black ink and Jack has to turn to Reinhardt with no damn explanation on his tongue.

“I didn’t… Rein, I didn’t…” he starts to say but he can’t get words out as a furious and teary Reinhardt glares at him. “I didn’t write this, I can assure you. I don’t know how-”

“You’re being their puppet, Jack!” Reinhardt snaps, talking over top of him. “First Winston, then Fareeha, now me. Who’s next? Torbjörn? Ana? Angela?” He shakes his head, and he looks heartbroken. “They’re picking us off one by one and you’re letting it happen.”

“I’m not!” Jack protests through gritted teeth. “This isn’t an official document, Reinhardt. This isn’t to be put in action unless it’s agreed upon by myself, Adawe, and Petras in a formal meeting. This will not happen.”

Reinhardt doesn’t look convinced, and Jack honestly doesn’t feel it as the sinking feeling of losing control continues. Nonetheless he holds his head high and backs his words because they can’t do this without him. Petras might be slowly draining him of power but he still has enough left to do this one thing at least.

He manages to convince Adawe at their next meeting that forcing Reinhardt to retire is a mistake, and even though he’s not positive she’s going to agree she gives him an indulgent smile and informs him that they will refrain until there is complete reason to dismiss him. Jack takes it for the victory he needs, and when Reinhardt gets news he claps Jack on the back and thanks him.

It’s then that Jack thinks he can catch his breath, maybe pause for a moment, but then alarms are going off and Petras is demanding there be an investigation into the Cairo incident as well as the Italy disaster, despite Jack’s attempts to stop him, and then it happens.

Null Sector. Uprising in King’s Row.

They’re banned from intervening, he finds out. Petras had spent hours on the phone to the Prime Minister trying to convince him to let Overwatch intervene, but after having allegations lain against Blackwatch by the Japanese Government and the following investigation into the credibility of the claim by the UN, it’s no wonder the Prime Minister doesn’t trust their organisation.

Jack thinks it’s ridiculous, especially as news gets out that hostages have been taken including Mondatta and Mayor Nandah inside the Power Plant being used as Null Sector’s headquarters. Jack thinks that surely the Prime Minster will let them in then, but he’s not entirely surprised when he receives news that they’re to be suspended, pending investigations, instead.

What truly surprises him though is that on day twenty-seven, almost a month after Uprising first began, Jack finds out Petras has ordered Gabe to report to Zürich. When Ana finds out she looks thrilled at the prospect, but Jack finds himself unable to fully comprehend that he’s going to see Gabe after almost two years apart, and it’s a panic reaction that has him denying the request to be part of the greeting party.

He’s so damn tired now, so exhausted as problem after problem piles up and suffocates him, and he doesn’t even have the strength to defend himself when Ana catches wind that he has no intentions of greeting Gabe.

She corners him hours after Gabe has arrived and Jack has perfected the art of avoiding him. She approaches him in the corridor outside their rooms and she looks furious, and Jack has to lean against the wall in the corridor they’re in lest he collapse right then on the spot.

Thankfully it looks like Ana’s concern wins out over her fury as she hurries to his side and cups his cheek. “Jack?” she calls as she raises his head, and he watches her with tired eyes as she sighs. “Oh Jack, you’ve worn yourself into the ground. Come on, lets get you to your quarters.”

He dutifully goes with her. He finds himself on edge as they navigate the corridors of the Zürich base. It’s nothing like Los Angeles where he’d felt relaxed and comfortable. Whereas here, even though it’s only been in the last year since Petras arrived, he finds himself looking around every corner and wishing for his pulse rifle, always on edge for the next disaster.

When they do get to his quarters, Ana dumps him down on the bed and sets about fussing over him. Jack finds himself with a warm tea and blanket over his shoulders in no time, and when he feels her starting to tug off his shoes he tells her to stop.

“I’ll be fine,” he says to her over the rim of his mug, and she still looks concerned with a pinch in her brow, but she does relax as she sits at his nearby desk chair.

“Jack,” she says quietly, her voice awfully low and Jack leans in to hear her better. “This is getting out of hand. Since moving here it’s been chaos. Since Petras was elected we’ve been chaos. I’m not just thinking of Fareeha, but everyone. When was the last time you spoke to Gabe?”

He frowns at her question. “Only last week,” he tells her. “We had a conference call to discuss the terms of Overwatch borrowing Genji for more political attack’s on the Shimada Clan now that his brother is no longer part-”

“No, Jack,” Ana interrupts him, raising a hand. “When was the last time you actually talked to Gabe? Not work. Not duty. Actually spoke to him?”

He opens his mouth to answer but finds no words come out as he racks his brain and falls spectacularly short. It’s like an icy cold bucket of water is tipped over his head as he realises that he hasn’t spoken to Gabe as friends in a long time. Too long, and he gapes at Ana as she sighs and drops her head.

“I don’t know what happened with you two,” she murmurs, wringing her hands together while Jack continues to flounder for words. “You worked so well together. I’ve never understood the break up.”

“We weren’t really together,” Jack says, and it feels like practised words, no real emotion put in them. He drops his own head to stare at his tea, the steam making his face damp. “Not in the end. We hadn’t been together properly for years, Ana. We were going through the motions.”

“Maybe so,” Ana tells him as she glances up with a hard look on her face. “Maybe you weren’t shagging or rutting like teenagers, but you were together. You worked together. Romantically or as friends, it never mattered. You were partners and that’s never changed from the moment I met you both until now.”

“There were cracks, Ana-”

“Stop,” she cuts him off. “Stop it, Jack. There were cracks that you both put there. Both of you are the most self-deprecating overprotective assholes I’ve ever met. You both spent so much time trying to protect each other from the outside that you never bothered to protect each other from yourselves. The relationship never fell apart. You and Gabe were the ones that fell to pieces and neither of you were there to pick each other up.”

Jack hears the words like a crushing weight on his ears, and his grip is so tight on the mug that his knuckles are white. She’s right, he knows she’s right. They destroyed themselves trying to protect each other.

“Adawe hardly listens to me now,” he admits slowly. “I’ve spent so much time protecting Gabe from her that she no longer trusts my judgement whenever Blackwatch is involved.”

Ana hums. “Just as Bishop refused to let Gabe move back to the Overwatch living quarters because he was worried about compromising Gabe and turning him biased.”

Jack suddenly feels like he’s short circuited. His fists clench so suddenly the porcelain mug cracks and shatters under his hand as his eyes go wide and he stares at the startled Ana.

“What?” he asks, his voice barley above a whisper. Ana doesn’t seem to hear him as she starts to move towards the shards of porcelain in the ground, but Jack holds up a tea-covered hand to stop her. “Ana. Ana, what did you say?”

“Jack, the mug-“

“Ana!”

She stops, pausing in the middle of getting up from her chair, and she stares at Jack before she drops open her mouth and covers it with her hand.

“You didn’t know...” she says, muffled by her hand. “Oh, Jack, he never told you?”

“No,” Jack murmurs, feeling his stomach rolling unpleasantly. “No. He didn’t. He just never came back.” He sighs and glances up at Ana with a badly placed crooked smile. “It doesn’t change much. No matter what, in the end we hardly knew each other.”

“You know that’s a lie.”

“Do I?” he asks, and he genuinely means the question. He really doesn’t know if he knew Gabe in the end, if he knows him now. They’ve changed so much, done so much. Just because he knows Gabe tried to come back doesn’t change much.

Ana looks ready to argue, her eyes narrowed and lips taunt, but thankfully they’re conveniently interrupted by a knock at the door and Lena poking her head through looking distraught enough to send Jack to his feet.

“Excuse me, sir,” she says, her voice wobbly at best. “Pardon for interrupting but there’s a situation. Urgent situation. Petras is calling for you. There’s been news on Null Sector.”

Null Sector, Jack thinks two hours later when he’s making his way towards mission control after dealing with a harried Petras on the phone, is seriously the icing on a cake he didn’t order. As he walks he sends a memo to Winston, who’d arrived days ago to assist in measuring Lena in case she needs to be sent in to rescue Mondatta from the hostage situation, to let him know he’ll be stopping by in a few hours to get the measure himself. He has hopes that if she is to be sent in that Lena will do an excellent job.

Not that it will happen. Jack’s hands are going to be permanent fists if this bullshittery continues.

The first time he sees Gabe since the man got here, is when he walks into the mission control room and sees him lounging on a chair in front of the hundreds of monitors, easy smile and mid banter with Ana, and Jack feels the wind knocked out of him at how natural this all feels.

Gabe looks better than he did when Jack left. There’s still a grey tinge to his skin that Jack doesn’t like the look of, and it makes him wonder vaguely about the experiments he’s seen O’Deorain conducts on willing participants, but he ignores it in favour of deciding it’s the lighting. Surely Gabe wouldn’t let himself be a lab rat again? It doesn’t matter though.

Because Gabe looks good. He’s wearing the beanie Jack knitted for him, and that feels like such a lifetime ago, along with his usual Blackwatch uniform. That damn hoodie that Jack knows Gabe stole back after the last christmas party they had. There’s still that puckered scar under his left eye, the one that Jack can never ignore, his eyes are still that beautiful warm brown, his beard still perfectly shorn, everything about him so Gabe that Jack feels the swooping feeling in his stomach that Gabe has always created.

He squashes it down as he steps forward to greet Gabe.

They don’t chat, not really. Jack can feel his shoulders stiffen as he gives both Gabe and Ana a full run down of Petras’s orders. Gabe looks throughly unimpressed, always having the authoritative problems, and Ana looks like she’s sucked on a lemon with how furious she is. She mutters something in Arabic about the British Prime Minister that seems very unflattering, and Jack finds himself sharing a smile with Gabe.

That throws him off, and he quickly schools his face into a serious expression just as Gabe turns to the monitors and taps on the keyboard a few times. When some of the monitors flicker over to cameras, Jack isn’t surprised, but seeing Jesse on the other side of those cameras and hearing his voice suddenly filtering through the rooms speakers throws him off completely.

Hey jefe,” Jesse says over the comm. “Was wondering if you forgot about me. Things are heating up.

Jack stares with an open mouth at the monitors, recognising Jesse’s surroundings as King’s bloody Row, and he can already see Petras frothing at the mouth if he finds out. He turns a hard glare onto Gabe, but Gabe isn’t looking his way as he calls back to Jesse and asks for a status update.

In all honesty Jack clings to Jesse’s voice as he reports back to Gabe. He hasn’t heard from the kid since he moved to Switzerland, and during his brief talks with Genji he knows it’s because Jesse resents him for splitting them up. Just like Fareeha, and Jack thinks it’s poetic really that the two are so alike.

He moves to stand at Gabe’s right shoulder, Ana at his left, just like during the Omnic Crisis, and Jack feels a solidarity between the three of them as they listen to Jesse before he mutters a “I’ll call you back. Things are getting a little dicey here” and switches off their comm line.

When Ana asks why Jesse is there, Gabe typically deflects with utter bullshit, and Jack knows they’re not going to get an answer out of Gabe so he changes the subject. He’s surprised to learn of Gabe’s positive opinion towards the Omnic’s, but a part of him recognises that some of those words are directed at him. He thinks of the large gold statue in the courtyard outside and not for the first time does he think about smashing it down.

In the end though, despite all of their professionalism and promises to Petras to obey orders, Jack listens to Lena and stands in his office and watches the plane take off with Reinhardt, Torbjörn, Angela, and Lena onboard. There’s a terrible sense of dread in his stomach, and he’s honestly terrified that their mission is going to go spectacularly wrong, after all they are blowing open the doors as Jesse suggested and tearing their way through King’s Row illegally, but needs must.

Jack knows that he won’t be the best person to instruct them on their mission from mission control and, despite every part of him screaming to turn in the opposite direction, he decides to ignore the phone calls from Petras and the invasive news headlines to find Gabe.

He eventually locates him in the labs with Winston and Genji, the three of them speaking quietly as Winston seems to be running tests on Genji. It throws Jack for a moment, but he doesn’t let it stop him as he walks into the lab and catches Gabe’s attention.

“Hey, chico de oro,” he calls, and the nickname causes Jack to misstep slightly and gape at Gabe. Gabe doesn’t bat an eyelid though and just raises an eyebrow. “Come to join the peasants?”

“Gabriel!” Winston scolds, but Jack shakes his head.

“It’s alright, Winston,” he says and steps forward until he’s only a metre or so away from Gabe. “Gabe, may we speak in private?”

“Can’t exactly deny the boss, can I?” Gabe responds, his voice light and joking but eyes hard. “What do you want, Morrison?”

The tone is brutal, and Jack flinches hard enough that he sees a passing moment of regret in Gabe’s eyes before they hardened and Gabe gestures for Jack to lead the way.

“The group is on route,” Jack informs Gabe as they walk from the room, Genji and Winston’s voices faded out as Jack directs them to a nearby empty lab. “If you see fit to notify Jesse of their presence, then I can guarantee that he will not face any retribution for being in the area.”

“Awfully bold of you to promise something you don’t know if you can give,” Gabe comments as he walks into the lab and leans against a nearby bench. “After all, it’s no secret that Adawe and Petras have you dancing for them like a puppet. Tell me, is it hard to see out of their asses? Or do you having a viewing window to see us mortals?”

Jack’s anger is instant. “What the fuck is your problem, Gabe?” he demands, fists tight as he glares at the emotionless man. “I’m trying to look after our boy-”

My boy,” Gabe cuts him off furiously, “doesn’t need to be involved in this hare-brained mission! It’s bad enough I let him go to do scouting! He doesn’t belong there! The Prime Minister said no, Jack, and you’re willing to upset the fucking UN because Lena came and poured her heart out to you? You’re the one always scrambling to shove rules and policies in our faces. Forgive me for ever thinking you would listen to them too.” Gabe shakes his head. “You’re a fucking hypocrite, Jack.”

“I know that’s not what this is about!” Jack yells at him, glaring so hard he’s worried a blood vessel might burst. “You’ve never bothered with the rules before, Gabriel. I’ve had to haul myself over coals and barbs with fucking Adawe staring down at me to damn well cover for you and your disregard of them over the years! Don’t you dare get on your high horse and start preaching at me!”

“You didn’t have to,” Gabe snaps, leaning forward into Jack’s space. “I was fine on my own with Bishop. You never had to intervene, Jack. You chose too.”

“Chose?” Jack laughs, bitter and hard. “You’re not naive enough to think that Adawe wouldn’t have had you discharged and thrown in jail numerous times over the years. Moving here, to Zürich, was the only fucking way to ensure that wouldn’t happen over the Cairo incident.”

“And yet Petras is investigating it anyway!” Gabe chimes in, practically snarling now. “Why did you really move here, Jack? You could’ve told me the truth!”

Jack feels himself stumbling to a verbal stop, his voice freezing in his throat as he looks at Gabe. He doesn’t see anger or hatred like he’d expected. No. When he looks close he sees betrayal and hurt and it suddenly clicks.

Of course. With Petras announcing a full investigation into Cairo, something Jack had assured him wouldn’t happen with moving Overwatch, Gabe of course feels betrayed. Jack feels his tongue is too big in his mouth and his eyes too wide for his head as he realises that Gabe doesn’t believe he moved to Zürich for him, for his sake. No. He thinks something else.

“Gabe, you’ve got it all wrong,” he says, holding his hands up in surrender. “I moved for you, only you. I could stop Adawe but I could never dream to stop Petras. This investigation...” he trails off, watching Gabe’s shoulders start to slump and Jack feels his chest clench. “I never meant for this to happen.”

Gabe stares at him with narrowed eyes before he sighs and crosses his arms, looking away from Jack. “I don’t know if I believe you,” he admits honestly. “Bishop said... never mind. It doesn’t matter what he said.”

Jack frowns and reaches out to lightly touch Gabe’s elbow with his finger tips. “It does, Gabe,” he tells him. “What did Bishop say?”

Gabe glances at thin before he huffs and drops his arms, pushing Jack’s away in the process. “Nothing,” he says. “Bishop just... he said that Zürich was a way of Overwatch splitting from Blackwatch and leaving it to take the fall. He said Adawe knew Petras would attempt to demolish Blackwatch and you laid me down as the scapegoat before heading here.”

Jack feels himself floundering for words, eyes wide. “Gabe...” he murmurs, too shocked to really speak. He hasn’t spoken to Bishop in years, Adawe taking over all communication with him, but he still holds an affection for the man as if he’s his estranged uncle. To hear him saying these things about Jack hurts more than he can ever admit.

“I believed him,” Gabe continues to say. “On principle. You weren’t there to deny it, Jack. You blocked all contact with me for a year and when we do get in contact you’re cold and formal? What did you expect me to think?”

“I thought it would be easier for us,” Jack tells him. “The idea of leaving you behind but still seeing you was too painful. I had to do it.”

Gabe watches him with guarded eyes, and Jack hopes that he’ll accept what he says. He never meant to hurt Gabe. He never meant for communication to breakdown to an all time low. He has a moment of sheer anger towards Adawe, Bishop, and Petras. He won’t foot them with all the blame, but they damn well deserve some of it.

“You’re Adawe’s chico de oro,” Gabe eventually mutters. “Everything you say will be tainted by that bruja. I don’t know where we stand anymore, Jack. There’s too much between us.”

Jack grits his teeth and fists his hands at his sides. “I’m still me, Gabe,” he says. “I’m still the same Jack who tried to teach you to use a pulse rifle. The same Jack who held you through those damn migraines through SEP.” He hesitates before stepping forward into Gabe’s space. “Still the same Jack you had churros and champurrado with in the middle of Dorado.”

He reaches out to lay a hand on Gabe’s shoulder, Gabe watching him wearily, and Jack can see the cracks underneath.

“Jack,” he croaks, voice tender in the air. “I’m not the same. There’s… things that have happened to me that you wouldn’t understand.”

“Try me,” Jack says confidently, and Gabe looks like he’s ready to answer, ready to open up.

But there’s a sudden knock at the door causing them to spring apart, and when Jack glances over he sees it’s Ana who sticks her head through to see them

“Sorry to interrupt,” she says, and the annoyed turn of her nose let’s Jack know she means it. “But they’ve landed in Kings Row. Mission starts in ten. Who’s leading?”

Jack pauses before he glances over at Gabe, unsure whether he’ll agree or not especially after their talk. Hopefully, some of Gabe’s fears have been elevated but they’ve not had much time to really talk about things.

Gabe looks grim, but he nods his head and gives both Jack and Ana cocky grins.

“Lead the way, Captain,” he directs at Ana, and Ana let’s out a breath of air before gesturing for them to follow her.

Jack swings into step behind Gabe as they go, and makes a mental checklist to speak to Petras and Adawe about dropping the Blackwatch investigation. He promised Gabe he would ensure all investigations will be dropped, and he will use everything he has to make that happen.

He glances up at Gabe as they walk, Ana leading them, and when Gabe looks back at him Jack can still see the hesitance and worry in Gabe’s eyes. He grits his teeth and tries not to think about it.

Uprising is their priority now.

 

 

Chapter Text

It’s not often that the Strike Commander of Overwatch is sent out on a mission.

Hardly ever. Jack has steadily gotten used to his position behind a desk pushing paper and making executive decisions on other people’s lives. Every time it’s made him grit his teeth, made him want to curse and swear, but he knows that he does more for the greater good behind this desk than being without. Having a rank to pull makes things a damn sight easier than not having a rank and doing who knows what.

So the day that Adawe mentions a group of Overwatch scientists being held hostage by Talon in Cairo, Jack jumps at the chance to go. Adawe addresses him coolly, all warmth she ever had for him long dissipated, but she agrees a few days later and orders him to take Ana as well.

He doesn’t question the order, just signs the mission papers and gets on the next transport out of Zürich.

The team he gathers is one of the best. Five in total. They all come with no resistance, boarding their drop ship at a moments notice with their packs already and smiles on their faces.

There’s Mirembe, a beautiful woman from Uganda who speaks fluent Swahili and has a ridiculously good grip on explosives. Her husband has cancer, Jack knows, and he’s signed off on multiple leave visits for her to support him. She’s always bright-eyed, always kind, and Jack adores the pleasantness she always radiates.

Beside her is Kimiko. Japanese-American born with a silver tongue and three kids that Jack has baby sat once or twice. While he’d lost track of the brats, she sorted them with a quick efficiency that she always applies to her work. Jack admires her courage, her ability to always handle any situation.

Singh is a damn jokester, already mid-laugh with the others. Jack often enjoys his company when he turns to the shooting range for stress relief. Singh’s steady presence and honest gift with rifles is incredible. His sister has Down Syndrome, their parents both gone, and Jack knows that humour can go a long way but Singh’s seriousness when it comes to his sister is no laughing matter.

Bayless and Al-Farouk have been around since the early days, the two of them often joined at the hip. Jack has sent soldier upon soldier to the two of them for training due to their excellent camaraderie. Bayless has the gentlest nature of anyone Jack has known before, right down to hoarding sick and wounded baby animals in his rooms, which Jack blatantly ignores, while Al-Farouk balances him out with a quiet gruffness and level-headedness.

Then there’s Ana. She sits across from him in the back of the transport, and for a brief moment, Jack feels like it’s old times. Her hair is grey now instead of black, her rifle has more notches on it than Jack has ever seen, there’s her fair share of wrinkles and saddened eyes, but she’s still just as fierce and beautiful as Jack has ever seen her, and as he watches her clean her rifle meticulously he’s thankful he’s always had her at his side.

“Just like old times, huh?” he calls out to her over the racket of the plane. She glances up at him, clearly having been in her own world, and gives him a warm smile.

“Shall I start referring to you as jundiin?” she replies. “I can pull out my authority voice and everything. Make you as scared of me as you use to be.”

“I was never scared of you,” Jack snorts, and Ana laughs.

“Whatever, Jack,” she says. “Gabe placed bets at the start to see who would scare the little jundiin first. The scary lady from Egypt or the unnaturally aggressive gnome from Sweden.”

Jack hears the laughter from the rest of their group and he can’t help but smile. “Definitely the angry gnome,” he says over the chatter. “Torby’s still just as terrifying. Especially when he chugs back some of that molten core shit he brews.”

Ana grins back and nods her head in agreement. “Unnatural, I tell you,” she chuckles before dropping her head back to her rifle.

The fact that he sees she’s etching in some more notches does kill the humour, and while the others continue to laugh amongst themselves he falls silent and glances at his own rifle.

He’d stopped doing notches after the first fifty people. Gabe had seen him once sitting with his rifle in his lap and his hand trembling with a chisel he’d nicked from Torbjörn’s workshop. He’d not resisted when Gabe had pried it from his grip and pulled Jack tight into his arms, shushing his jabbering and pushing the weapon far away from them.

“Don’t do this to yourself,” he’d told Jack, murmuring into his ear. “Greater evils have been done for lesser good.”

Jack doesn’t know where Gabe had gotten that quote from. He’d never said it again, and Jack has a small feeling it has to do with whatever Gabe did before the SEP. He’s never been privy to that part of Gabe’s life, but he’s also never wanted to know if Gabe didn’t want to tell him. He’s taken Gabe’s words to heart though, and he’s worn them like an extra set of armour ever since.

The jumping of the transport, clearly on its descent, shakes him out of his thoughts and he clears his throat as he stands up. Every eye in the transport turns to look at him, and Jack can almost hear Gabe laughing as he realises he has pre-mission nervousness.

He hasn’t felt like this in a long time.

“Alright,” he yells over the engines. “Down there is a lab full of scientists depending on us to get them out. There’s also a team of agents meeting us from Arequipa who will escort the scientists to Peru when this is all done. The UN has allowed us a wide berth to complete this mission, but I’m hoping we will have no casualties.”

“Not with Mama Bear watching over us!” Singh calls out to Ana, grinning as the others laugh at Ana’s roll of her eyes.

“I do have my kinamura today,” Ana replies with a smirk, holding her faithful rifle up high. “People don’t get back up with .338 rounds in them.”

They all grin happily, but Jack can see the steel in Ana’s eyes. She’s playing it up for their benefit, but he spots a familiar tiredness to her shoulders that he knows is a bone-deep weariness that she can’t shake away.

Jack smiles with them, just to appease, but quickly turns serious. “In any case,” he says, “look out for each other. I’m instigating the buddy system when we land. There’s been rumours about a new Talon sniper that…” He pauses and twists his mouth. “There’s chatter that they’re incredibly good. I want everyone with backs to each other until Ana declares it safe otherwise.”

The group all murmur but it’s an affirmative that Jack takes. He sits back down for landing, and when they all pile off he’s glad to see them taking him seriously as they all pair up, Singh ribbing Bayless and Al-Farouk as the two immediately gravitate together. It makes Jack smile, seeing just how comfortable the two are together, and he actively chooses not to notice the way Bayless’s hand is a bit low on Al-Farouk’s back, or Al-Farouk’s eyes linger a little too long on Bayless when he speaks.

Ana catches Jack’s eye and she grins as she walks past him. “Fraternisation?” she murmurs in his ear as she goes, and Jack pushes her gently and shakes his head. He knows fraternising is extremely forbidden, but Jack really really doesn’t care.

The others are well paired off too, and Jack is thrilled to see the other three members of his team actually joining with some of the Arequipa soldiers. He doesn’t think about himself not having a buddy, not overly fazed as he walks down the loading ramp to greet the captain of the Overwatch troops from Arequipa with a hard handshake. He recognises a decent amount of the group, and before long they set off with Ana disappearing up into the nearby buildings.

It’s easy, he thinks. Too easy. They get to the lab with only a handful of skirmishes that all Overwatch agents walk away from without a scratch. Ana takes out the occasional stray, constantly informing Jack of her position changes, and very soon they’re standing outside the lab with the handful of scientists running the gauntlet of Overwatch agents to safety.

After a few moments of hesitation, Jack puts his hand to his earpiece.

“All units,” he barks into the comm, “This is Morrison. We have the hostages. Moving out.” He switches over briefly to the private line between himself and Ana. “Ana,” he calls, “you ready?”

He gets an immediate response. “Roger that,” Ana says. “I’m looking out for you.”

Jack hears the buzzing of Ana’s drones before he sees them, only because of his SEP enhancements, and he glances up to see them fanning out over the space between them and the transport. Something feels off though, and Jack can’t quite peg it.

“Singh,” he calls, and Singh looks up from where he’s standing by Kimiko. “Pull in. We need to close ranks. Something’s not quite right.”

Singh nods though and turns to bark out Jack’s order before he moves to stand by him. When he pops his hand up to his own ear piece, Jack can’t help but smile just a bit as he hears Singh cut into the general line.

“Take care of us, Mama Bear,” Singh says with a cheery smile, and there’s a small chorus from the other four of Jack’s group.

Jack waits patiently for Ana’s confirmation to move, halting the other troops as they wait in place. Time ticks by slowly and Jack can feel his heart thumping loudly as he thinks that something is wrong wrong wrong.

Clearing a path,” Ana finally calls over the comm, and Jack looks immediately at Singh who starts to yell out orders to form up.

“What these scientists know about the project can’t fall into Talon’s hands,” Jack responds quickly to Ana, not bothering to elaborate. He doesn’t know anything besides the name of the project and the importance of it anyway. “We need to go!”

Another beat goes by and Jack can feel the tenseness now as the others start to click that something is wrong. He swears. He doesn’t need scattered or panicked troops. That always leads to disaster.

Looks like you’re all clear,” Ana says, her comm line crackling. “Take the alley to the right, and cut through that warehouse.”

At Jack’s nod, Singh barks out another set of orders and as a tight unit, they start to move, edging their way towards the alleyway with the scientists firmly in the middle.

They’re just around the corner when Jack hears the first shot ring out, and with absolute terror, he turns to see Bayless let out a guttural scream, the scientist beside him starts screaming, and the group descends into chaos.

“Agent down!” Al-Farouk is screaming as he sprints towards Bayless, and Jack hears Mirembe yelling at the scientists to move move move. He shoves past them to rush to Bayless’s side, almost there when the second shot rings out.

It feels like slow motion as Jack watches Al-Farouk fall to the ground, his heart in his throat as the two slump beside each other. He pauses mid-step, sheer horror on his face, and it’s only when a scientist crashes into him that he tears his eyes away.

“Where’s the shooter?” he bellows into the comm line, throwing himself towards Bayless and Al-Farouk. He drops beside them to feel for a pulse but there’s nothing, both already staring sightlessly with perfect holes in their heads, and it’s only Mirembe’s cry that has him ripping both men’s dog tags from their necks and rushing back towards the others in the warehouse. “Ana! Report!”

Looking!” Ana cries, and Jack growls as he barges into a particularly slow scientist and hauls him into the warehouse. They slam the doors and huddle down as close to the ground, and when Jack glances at the last three of his team he sees them all staring back with white faces.

“Bayless?” Kimiko whispers, and Jack shakes his head. “Al-Farouk?”

“No,” Jack mutters back, and Mirembe lets out a distraught noise as Singh grips her by the back of the neck and Kimiko punches the ground. “Ana will get the sniper. We’ll get out of this,” Jack tries to reassure them as he glances at the dog tags before stuffing them into his pocket. He knows Ana will, but damn his confidence isn’t strong.

Jack quickly shuffles everyone to the other side of the warehouse, the transport only being a short distance sprint away, but he looks at the scientists and knows they won’t be fast enough if there’s more than one shooter out there.

“Ana?” he calls, but he only hears the crackling of static before Ana’s frantic voice comes over the comm.

I’ve been engaged,” she yells, out of breath, “changing position!”

Jack swears before he moves to the side and glances at Singh and one of the Peru soldiers. Silently, the two creep towards the entrance and glance out the doors, and Jack feels his chest clench.

Everyone good?” Ana asks over the comm, and Jack is just about to reply when two shots ring out in the air.

“No!” he cries out, his voice joining Kimiko’s and Mirembe’s as a solid shot rips through Singh’s chest and sends him sprawling to the ground with the Peru agent right behind him.

Kimiko lunges forward to assist them, but Jack grabs her arm and almost wrenches it off as he pulls her back. She crying out something fierce, and Jack drags her close to his chest as he slams his hand on his ear piece.

“Ana,” he snaps, “can you get a handle on this shooter?”

Pretty sure there’s two of them.”

Jack pauses for a moment before he feels ice cold at the sudden dread. “I’ve been hearing chatter about a new Talon sniper,” he repeats. “Moves like lightning. This could be him…”

He doesn’t get a reply, just stone silence, and he looks around the room of terrified people and waits for Ana’s signal. The transport is so close, and dammit he won’t lose anyone else.

Morrison,” Ana calls over the main line, and Jack feels a damn chill down his spine at the use of his last name. She never uses his last name. “The pink building, third floor, corner window. Break when you see impact.”

Jack opens his mouth to reply, ask her what she’s thinking, but he’s already glancing out the window of the warehouse in time to see Ana’s drones collide with the window of the pink building.

He doesn’t hesitate.

“Everyone move!” he roars, pushing Kimiko away from himself and sending them all surging out the door. He briefly drops into a crouch to yank Singh’s and the other agent’s dog tags before bursting from the warehouse with his pulse rifle at the ready. The scientists manage to keep pace with the agents, barely but enough, and Jack charges along beside them. “Ana, you too!” he bellows as he runs.

No.”

One word is enough to send Jack staggering to a halt just outside of the transport, his eyes wide as he looks at Mirembe. She looks terrified, obviously hearing Ana as well, and Jack swears.

“Evac’s on it’s way,” he yells down to Ana. “Wheels up in two! Now beat feet.”

There’s no reply though, and Jack stands in plain sight desperately looking for a sign of Ana on the ground or in the buildings, and he sees a flash of metal jumping from a window in front of a sign advertising Ilios. She isn’t running towards them though, in the opposite direction, and Jack takes a step towards her only for Mirembe to grab his elbow and yank him back.

“Disengage, Ana!” he yells into the comm, desperation clawing his throat. “That’s an or-”

He doesn’t get to finish his sentence, the tell tale click of a comm turning off ringing in his ear, and he feels utter terror crawl down his spine as he watches Ana disappear from sight at the same time a horrendous gun shot rings through the air.

Ana!” he screams, but there’s no reply, only the empty streets of Cairo looking back at him and the stench of metal and gunpowder suffocating him as he starts to dart forward. Mirembe is yelling something at him, tugging him back as hard as she can, but he can’t hear her over the blood rushing in his ears as he fights against her

But he can’t move as suddenly Kimiko is there and yanking on his other arm, and the two of them heave him up onto the transport as they yell at Ray to take off already. Jack tries to call out, tries to fight them, but they hold him back as the ramp slowly closes, cutting off Jack’s view as he tries to break free, and the engines whirring loudly for take off drowns out his yells.

“We can’t leave her!” Jack all but howls, his throat raw and breaking, and he scratches Mirembe’s armour with his nails and tries to claw out of their grip until they’re both forcing him to the floor on his knees and breathing heavily in his ear.

“She’s gone, Jack,” Mirembe cries into his ear, her voice hitched and pained. “Mama Bear is gone.”

“No!” he denies, pushing her away and turning wild eyes to the group of horrified Peru agents. “Turn back. That’s an order, turn back!”

“Negative!” Kimiko snarls at the agents that start to move, and Jack glares at her with all his might. “The commander is not in his right mind! We move to the next in the chain of command.” She pauses as horror dawns on her face. “That’s me…” she murmurs, and Jack throws a particularly hard shove her way, sending her stumbling.

“I swear, Major, if you don’t turn this transport around-” he starts to say but Mirembe’s hand is over his mouth and he has half a mind to damn well bite down on her, but Kimiko is already shouting orders to return to Switzerland immediately.

Jack tries to struggle more, but the moment the jet thrusters burst into life and roar through the ship, he feels an overwhelming amount of defeat as he slumps forward. He presses his forehead to the cool metal, his arm still tightly held by Mirembe as she stumbles to her knees beside him, and Kimiko slowly releases his shoulders as she stands up.

He doesn’t fight anymore, just kneels still as he tries to come to terms that leaving Ana behind was necessary. He can feel tears starting to prick behind his eyes, the prickling feeling nearly unbearable, but he forces them back and refuses to break down in front of these agents. He can feel their eyes on him, each one burning into his side, and his breath is horrible and shuddering.

He’s the goddamn Strike Commander, Ana would’ve told him. Pull yourself together and damn well act like it.

Jack balls his hands into fists as he takes deep breaths until his head feels lighter. Kimiko is beside him again, talking in a low tone with Mirembe who sounds awful as her voice cracks and wavers. Jack knows he should stand up and take charge, that this isn’t fair on the others, but he can’t find the damn will as he raises his head to look up at the two women.

“Jack,” Mirembe murmurs, reaching out to touch his cheek, and there are definitely tears welling in her eyes and shining on her cheeks. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. We couldn’t risk everyone for her and I wish we could go-”

“We lost Ana,” he cuts her off hoarsely, and Kimiko nods while Mirembe lets out a shuddering sob and covers her mouth. He sighs as he glances down to his fist at the dog tags gripped in them. “And Bayless, and Al-Farouk, and Singh.” Each name feels like a stab to his chest, and the prickling behind his eyes feels worse and worse.

“What a fucking nightmare,” Kimiko mutters, and Jack huffs alongside Mirembe, who is trembling where she sits beside him.

“Understatement,” he says before glancing at Kimiko. “Switzerland?”

“It’s closer and we need to regroup,” Kimiko explains. “The other agents are all pretty shaken. No one was expecting this much of a fuck-up.” She drops her gaze and Jack catches her flexing her hands in and out of fists. “I’ve already sent a message through to Switzerland command who’s passing it on. Lindholm and Wilhelm will meet us and finish escorting the scientists to Peru. From there they’ll take the information the scientists have to Gibraltar-”

“No,” Jack cuts in. “Call back and arrange Cadet Oxton and Agent Shimada. I want them to escort the scientists. Torbjörn and Reinhardt need to be grounded until I can inform them of…” His throat seizes and he squeezes his eyes shut. “Of Ana.”

It hurts him to say, but Kimiko doesn’t argue as she stands and disappears towards the cockpit. Jack glances up at Mirembe, who gives him a watery smile, and he manages to sit up to pull her into his arms. He holds her tight for the rest of the journey home, ignoring his wet shirt from her tears, and when Kimiko comes back he pulls her into his other side and the three just try to breathe.

They only break their little bubble when Ray calls over their descent over the comms, and when the three stand they help each other to look at least somewhat presentable. Shit might have just hit the fan, and it might be a fucking disaster, but Jack at the least needs to look like he has it together.

Genji and Lena are waiting when the loading ramp drops and quickly start to rush towards them before the ramp has even hit the ground. Jack meets them halfway, trying to keep his face as neutral as possible, but he can see the other two know something is wrong. Lena looks worried, buzzing on the spot with energy, and Genji seems confused.

“Sir,” he says as soon as Jack in within hearing distance. “Everything alright? I thought that you were heading directly to Per-”

“Ana’s gone,” Jack interrupts, and Genji falls silent as Lena gasps. “Potentially KIA, but not anywhere near our frequencies to state otherwise.” The shock is palpable from them, but Jack refuses to acknowledge it as he presses on. “We can only give her the regulatory two-week window before confirming her status. I…” He grits his teeth and looks away.

“How?” Lena asks, her voice very small. She looks horrified, her hand hovering over her mouth as her eyes well with tears that Jack also desperately wants to shed.

“We lost her and a few others to some damn Talon sniper. She was trying to protect us and in the process…” He pauses, refusing to tell them that Ana turned off the communicator herself. That’s something he’d rather not share, and he holds his head high and meets Lena’s watery eyes. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?” Lena parrots as she shakes her head, her hand trembling as she reaches for his elbow. “No, Jack, are… are you okay?”

Jack has to look away as he feels his throat clog. No, he’s not. He can feel his nerves fraying and his back is sagging and the damn prickling in his eyes is beyond unbearable and he doesn’t know how much longer he can keep it together. He refuses to break and lose control in front of everyone for a second time, refuses, and he squares his shoulders.

“I understand you will need to process this,” he says, falling on autopilot as his eyes fixed on a spot just above Genji’s shoulder. “But unfortunately, I need you both to escort these scientists to Arequipa.” He makes the mistake of looking at Genji and he hates that the kid’s eyes are so damn sympathetic. “From there, Ray will take you to Gibraltar to deliver the information the scientists have to Winston.” He rips his gaze from Genji and looks at Lena. “Understood?”

“But sir, Ana-” Lena starts to say and Jack cuts her off with a raised hand.

“Do you understand, Cadet?” he asks gruffly, feeling the end of his teether coming closer. Lena looks shocked at the aggressiveness but awkwardly nods before shuffling past him. Jack wants to reach back and grab her, pull her into a hug and let her break down because these two both know Ana, but he can’t. He can’t let them mourn until the damn mission is finished, and Jack’s resolve is slowly cracking.

Genji pauses beside him as he marches forward, and he reaches out to place a hand on Jack’s shoulder. “My mother used to tell me that someone only really dies when those that are alive stop remembering them,” Genji murmurs, his voice unnaturally soft and he squeezes Jack shoulder. “We will never forget her, Jack.”

With that, he walks past, and Jack feels his resolve starting to crumble. Without waiting for the transport to take off, or waiting for Mirembe and Kimiko to catch up, he marches straight into the building towards Torbjörn’s lab. He desperately tries to pull himself together as he walks, pushing all thoughts of Ana to the back of his mind. The mission isn’t over, there are Reinhardt and Torbjörn to tell, Adawe to report too, Gabe to tell…

Jack feels his chest seize. Gabe.

When he swings into Torbjörn’s lab it’s to see both Torbjörn and Reinhardt in mid-laugh. Something that would normally make Jack smile just leaves him feeling crushed, and even though it’s easier that Reinhardt is there as well, Jack doesn’t think he can cope with both Torbjörn and Reinhardt’s grief all at once. Destroying this moment is going to hurt more than he can imagine.

He rolls his shoulders and holds his head high though, and it’s the first time Jack doesn’t smile at the hearty hello he gets from both of them.

“Jack?” Reinhardt calls out when he sees Jack’s stony expression, and his smile slides off his face as he steps forward, concerned. “What’s wrong?”

Jack takes a moment to take a breath before he grits his teeth, raises his head to make eye contact, and lets out in a huge rush, “Ana is gone.”

For a moment everything is silent and still, Reinhardt and Torbjörn blinking at him, and Jack wonders how long it’ll take to click. Reinhardt frowns and takes a hesitant step forward.

“Gone?” he repeats, his voice shaky, and Jack fists his hands as he nods.

“Gone.”

Suddenly, Torbjörn is slamming a hammer onto an anvil, breaking the fragile silence, and Reinhardt collapses where he stands. Jack quickly hurries to the large man’s side, reaching out to try and support him, and Torbjörn takes the other side as the two manage to shift Reinhardt until he’s leaning against the benches. Jack feels a pang as he sees large tears already flowing from Reinhardt’s cheeks while the man denies and denies.

“What do you mean ‘gone’, Jack?” Torbjörn demands, his face hard as he stares past Reinhardt. Jack swallows the lump in his throat, refuses his own tears, and lets out a jagged breath as he settles into a crouch at Reinhardt’s shoulder.

“We got pinned by a sniper,” Jack explains quietly, his voice cracking. “Ana… she was engaged and chose to take chase after them instead of retreating. We… we couldn’t wait for her. There was too much at stake-”

“So you left her?” Reinhardt cries, his anger evident through his tears as his glare burns into Jack. “You fucking left her? What the hell were you thinking? She could be out there alive and injured and you’re here telling us she’s dead?”

“I don’t know if she’s dead,” Jack protests. “Only that she’s gone. Cairo is overrun with Talon, Reinhardt. We can’t just turn around and go back-”

“Yes, we can,” Reinhardt snarls, struggling to stand with Torbjörn’s firm hand on his chest. “Give me a transport and I’ll be there in a matter of hours. I’ll look for her. Finish the job you couldn’t do, junge.”

Jack bristles at Reinhardt’s tone and even Torbjörn looks shocked. “Calm down, Rein,” Jack says with his hands up in surrender. “There’s nothing I could’ve done. Ana chose to engage rather than retreat-”

“And you left her without backup,” Reinhardt interrupts again, and Jack grits his teeth at the blatant disregard. He takes a deep breath though and holds it together. God dammit.

“Rein,” Torbjörn cuts in, locking gazes with Reinhardt and forcing him back to the ground with a hard shove. “We can’t go after her. Jack’s right, Ana chose to go by herself. We can’t put ourselves or the lives of others at risk for her. If she’s alive, she’ll come back. You know she can look after herself.”

Reinhardt’s nostrils are flaring and his eyes are wide and enraged, but Jack watches as the fight drains out of his body and Reinhardt slumps back against the bench. He holds in a breath though as Reinhardt seems to fight with himself before he huffs and crosses his arms.

“You’re right,” Reinhardt mutters before suddenly he slams a fist into the ground and lets out a spew of German. “Verdammter Talon. Ich werde ihnen die Kehle durchschneiden, wenn sie Ana verletzen.

Jack exchanges a weary glance with Torbjörn, but Reinhardt seems to have said it all as he drops his head into his hands and his shoulders start to shake. Torbjörn covers the man as much as possible, arms around his neck as he pulls Reinhardt’s head to his chest, and Jack wants to drop to the floor and mourn with them but he can’t. Someone has to report to Adawe, to Petras, to the fucking UN, and Jack runs a hand over his face as he steals his expression into something impassive.

“Torbjörn,” he says clearly, and the man looks up at him. “I need you to tell Angela. Can you do that for me?”

Torbjörn looks uncertain for a moment before he grimaces and nods his head.

“Will you be alright?” Torbjörn asks him quietly over Reinhardt’s head, and Jack quirks his lips briefly into a small smile.

“Always,” he says before he pushes up off the floor and leaves the workshop. He lingers briefly outside in the hallway, taking one last moment for himself before he rolls his shoulders and heads for his office to call Adawe.

Six hours later, he finds himself in his quarters on the floor, all meetings finished with, all briefs delivered, and in his hands is a strong bottle of whiskey that he curls around trying to hold himself together.

Genji and Lena had reported their safe arrival in Gibraltar and he’d debriefed the squad over video call before explaining to Genji and Lena what happened in better detail. Thankfully, the two have each other and are going to inform Winston personally, and Genji offered to inform Gabe and Jesse. Jack had taken the offer, knowing it’s the cowardly thing to do but also knowing that he won’t be able to do it himself.

He’d received a message from Jesse, just a short “I’ll tell Fareeha” that Jack had admittedly pressed to his chest and taken deep breathes over. Gabe hadn’t contacted him at all, and Jack knows he shouldn’t be upset, but that was the final nail in his resolve that drove him to find a bottle of cheap whiskey and the cold floor of his quarters.

Jack, frankly, hasn’t felt this alone in a long time. Reinhardt doesn’t wish to speak to him, Torbjörn was torn over who to comfort until Jack sent him away with Angela in tow, Genji and Lena at least have each other as they travel to Gibraltar where they’ll have Winston. Jack is pretty sure Jesse and Gabe have each other at this moment, most likely toasting to Ana’s memory in LA or on Alcatraz. Whether Fareeha is with them or somewhere else, Jack doesn’t know.

But Jack? He’s alone, and that pushes out a few more shudders as he takes another swing to shove down the sobs building in his throat.

He hears the bell on his door ping, but he ignores it in favour of crawling around his room until he finds his desk and slides underneath it. He doesn’t want to answer it, doesn’t want to be Strike Commander Morrison right now. He wants to just be Jack and mourn his damn friend in peace.

Despite not answering the ping though, he still hears the door slide open with a woosh, and Jack refuses to move to greet who it is. Instead, he closes his eyes and wishes them to go away as he curls further and further under his desk and hopes they don’t find him.

He's surprised though when the footsteps stop right in front of the desk, and a quite “oh, Jack,” rings through the room before Jack opens his eyes and sees Gabe looking right back at him.

“Gabe?” he mumbles, not too sure if he’s seeing right, but when Gabe grimaces at him and drops to a crouch Jack can’t stop the choked sob ripping from his throat as he flings forward to attach himself to Gabe’s chest.

“Hey, easy there,” Gabe tells him as he catches him and steadies him with a strong hand. Jack can’t hold back now though as he buries his nose into Gabe’s neck, letting his tears fall and his breathing hitch with indignity he hasn’t allowed himself to show.

Gabe carefully manoeuvres them to the ground, sliding them back under the desk together, and Jack just holds on for dear life as he’s manhandled into a better position between Gabe’s legs.

“A whole bottle, Jack?” Gabe murmurs as Jack glances up to see him holding what’s left of the whiskey. “You should have called me. I would’ve come sooner.”

Jack can’t find a reply, too distraught to say anything at all, and he just clings to Gabe’s hoodie, their hoodie, and sinks into his hold. Gabe places the bottle down with a quiet clink before reaching up and digging fingers into Jack’s hair, and he makes soft noises, gentle ones that has Jack’s chest unclenching slowly, bit by bit until he’s hiccuping against Gabe’s skin.

“I’m sorry,” Jack whispers into their space. “I fucked up. I shouldn’t have let her go. She’d still be here if-”

“Jack, stop,” Gabe interrupts him, tugging sharply on Jack’s hair and making him wince. “There’s no point in doing what if’s. We’ve been over this before. What happened, happened.”

Jack sniffs before he pulls away a little and reaches into his trouser pocket. He pulls out four sets of dog tags, one for Singh, one for Bayless, one for Al-Farouk, and one for another agent he doesn’t know.

“I could’ve saved them,” he tells Gabe, who shakes his head and opens his mouth but Jack rushes over top of them. “I knew the mission was too easy. I could feel it in the air and I did nothing.”

“A feeling doesn’t count, Jack, you know this,” Gabe sighs, and Jack wants to yell at him and tell him he’s wrong, that their whole life is about gut instincts. “Everyone went in knowing that not coming out was a possibility. Ana did what she had to do.” He touches Jack’s face gently and rubs a thumb over Jack’s cheek. “We know Ana. We know she would’ve taken these deaths personally. She was never going to come out of there until she found that sniper. They just… got to her first.”

Jack freezes. “We don’t know they got to her,” Jack mutters with wide eyes, and Gabe looks pained as he pulls Jack’s head into his chest and wraps a hand around the back of Jack’s neck.

“We heard the chatter,” Gabe tells him. “The sniper got back to the Talon base. Ana would never have let them go unless she was killed. I’m sorry, Jack.”

Jack lets out an inhumane noise and reaches up to grip Gabe’s arms as a fresh wave of anguish comes over him. He killed Ana. He killed Ana. He should’ve pulled her out, ordered her to retreat sooner, gone and dragged her damn ass out by force if he had to.

“Jack, stop. Stop it.” Gabe is calling out to him, and Jack realises he’d been saying it all out loud. Gabe’s hands are tight on his back and neck, and Jack winces at the slight pain. “This is not your fault, cariño. Stop this. You’re not to blame.”

Jack clings tighter to him and breathes in deep, letting the smell of Gabe fill his senses. It’s not the same as usual, and that raises a flag in Jack, but it’s washed away as Gabe rocks them quietly on the spot.

“I’ve already spoken to Adawe,” Gabe mumbles to him. “She’s agreed to do the reporting and take over for the next few days. You need time. We all need time.”

“But there’s the Travesty case-” Jack starts to protest, and Gabe pulls him away to look him dead in the eyes.

“No,” Gabe says simply. “No. I don’t care. You need to stop. We all need to stop and just take the time to grieve. A death like this isn’t going to blow over in a few days.”

Jack gapes openly at Gabe, surprised when he sees that Gabe’s eyes are ringed red but are still dry. It’s not right, but now isn’t the time to question it. Instead, Jack slowly nods, hiccups, and lets Gabe pull his head forward to plant a small kiss on Jack’s forehead.

“You’ll stay with me?” Jack asks him quietly, heart on his sleeve and ready to be broken. Gabe smiles against his forehead though, a small quirk of his lips, and Jack leans into his embrace and holds on tight.

“Always, cariño” Gabe says. “Always.”

 

Chapter Text

Things don’t get easier after Ana dies.

Jack is honestly surprised that he manages to keep up with the things that happen around him. It feels like each day is a new rollercoaster and Jack is barely gripping the safety rails.

Angela leaves. She declares that she’s done with the military machine and wants to actually start saving people, not just those that the government and UN deem saveable. Jack can’t fault her in her logic, but seeing her in her old Red Cross uniform instead of her Overwatch uniform as she leaves the compound does leave a sting in his chest.

Reinhardt is forced to retire not long after. Jack will never forget the utter betrayal on his face when Jack had to hand him the letter. He feels even worse when he has to explain that he didn’t agree to it, that Petras and Adawe overrode him, and Reinhardt, the man who was always so wonderful and joyful with a heart of gold, calls him weak and pathetic in the same damn sentence before he leaves with Brigitte trailing behind him with her own scathing look.

Genji is next. Jack doesn’t even get to say goodbye to him as his discharge papers are rushed across his desk by one of Adawe’s underlings. He knows the Shimada Clan has long since been dismantled, but it still pains him to know that Genji won’t stay around. Jack does get a letter from him though, explaining that he needs to learn to live as half man half machine, and something triggers a memory of a kind Omnic in Nepal that Jack jots down in his response. He might not be able to do anything for Genji anymore, but steering him in a potentially good direction might be within his power.

Then, Jesse leaves Blackwatch, and Jack feels it like a blow to the chest. He only hears of it months after he’s gone when Gabe briefly mentions it over a conference call and Jack is scrabbling to demand answers. Gabe doesn’t linger to answer Jack’s questions, and Jack has to turn to paper work to find answers. There’s nothing written down about why Jesse has left though, and Jack looks at the damn photo he still has of the kid in his office and feels like he can’t breathe

Despite their departures, Jack doesn’t feel as broken as he does the day a new bounty comes down on his desk, personally delivered by Adawe, and Jack feels his blood run cold and his hands shake as he picks up the piece of paper.

“Jesse McCree,” Adawe says in front of him with her arms crossed. “Bounty of sixty million dollars. Dead or alive.”

“No,” Jack snaps, slamming the paper on his desk and standing up. “No. I will not sign this.”

“Jack,” Adawe sighs. “You signing it is only a formality. Petras has already dropped the bounty on the market. England is baying for his blood having found out he’s a member of Blackwatch,” she pauses to glare, “something you did not inform me of, and he was already in King’s Row during Uprising before we even made noises about intervening. The Prime Minister wants McCree’s head, and Petras is willing to give it to him!” She slams her hands down on the desk and leans forward. “And so he should! He’s a dangerous criminal with black ops training who no doubt has a vendetta against this organisation and the abilities to destroy us! He needs to be brought it.”

“This is ridiculous!” Jack protests, waving the piece of paper in the air and trying not to be revolted by it “Jesse wouldn’t harm a fly! I will not-”

“Strike Commander Morrison,” Adawe smoothly interjects, throwing Jack off. “I trust you are not letting your personal life influence your decisions. I understand there was a… relationship of sorts between yourself and Agent McCree, but now is not the time to get sentimental. I expect this to be signed by the end of the day.”

“But-”

“The end of the day, Strike Commander,” Adawe repeats firmly, tone scathing and eyes hard. Jack falls silent, his hands balling into fists and his jaw clenching, but he doesn’t say another word as Adawe leaves the room.

He slumps into his seat the moment she’s gone and picks up the bounty again, staring long and hard at the amount due for Jesse, and then looks even longer at the picture. Jack feels his heart clench as he wracks his damn brain for some way to fix this.

It’s the worst moment of his life yet when he realises there’s nothing that can be done.

“Oh god,” he mutters, covering his face with a hand and trying to stop his hitching breath. “What have I done.”

As soon as he wraps his head around it, he sends word for Lena. The girl comes in practically bouncing off the walls and Jack smiles at her energy. She’s changed so much from the girl he recruited. Now Tracer and so brave, so smart, reckless as hell and cocky to boot. He’s spent so much time pulling her from the lines that she calls him ‘mum’ and he calls her ‘stupid’ and it’s okay.

“Lena,” he starts off by saying, catching her attention and holding it. “I need you to do me a favour.”

“Anything, love!” she chimes back in response and where her enthusiasm would normally make Jack cringe he finds a brief solace in it now.

“Take Torbjörn and leave for Gibraltar,” he instructs her, ignoring her open mouth and frown. “There are some things happening that I’m not sure of the end result. Gibraltar has Winston and a few others we can trust. I want you two to be safe.”

“Is something going to happen?” she asks quietly, and Jack grimaces.

“I don’t know, Lena, but I don’t want to take any more risks.” He pushes the bounty over to show her and winces at her gasp. “Jesse is already in danger. I’m going to try everything I can to stop this but there’s not much more I can do. I need you two to be safe. You’re the last two I have here.” Jack pauses and tightens his hands into fists underneath the table and doesn’t tell Lena that there is nothing he can do. “Please, Lena.”

Lena looks torn before she tearfully nods. “If you need anything,” she starts to say but he cuts her off.

“I’ll call you first,” he finishes and she smiles despite them both knowing he won’t. He stands up and reaches over the desk to shake her hand, but he’s not surprised when she darts around to hug him. He lets himself cave, and he pulls Lena into a ridiculously tight embrace as he tries to breathe and focus. She’s letting out shuddering breaths against his chest, and Jack can feel her arms tightening more and more until she finally pulls away. It’s testament as to who she is as Lena still smiles up at him through watery eyes before bounding out of the room.

The moment she’s gone, Jack drops back into his seat, covers his face with his hands, and lets out a muffled yell. He’s alone now, he thinks. He’s all alone and it’s his fault.

He stands up from his desk and stalks to the window to look out at that ugly statue. Gold and gaudy, Jack has never liked it. The resentment it caused in Gabe, despite them both trying not to let it bubble to the surface, has taken more out of Jack than he could ever possibly admit.

He wishes he could go back, but he doesn’t know what time or when. Not really. He can’t pick a time in the past where it was wonderful and perfect.

Not until he glances back to his desk and sees the wall of reports of Overwatch’s corruption, and he sees the word Dorado and finds himself thinking of churros and champurrado and a damn festival he’s never seen again, and Jack wishes he could go back to then.

There’s a knock on the door an hour later, Adawe back to see if he signed the bounty. Jack refuses to speak to her and stares out the window until she leaves with a grudging noise and a promise to come back. He doesn’t know what to do, not right now, not until he sees a familiar Blackwatch shuttle touch down outside the hanger and minutes later the door barges open as Gabe comes flying through looking flustered and so angry it’s tangible.

“What the fuck, Morrison!” Gabe shouts at him before the door is even closed, and Jack slowly turns around to face him properly. “Are you fucking kidding me? How could you do this to our boy?”

Jack feels those words like a physical blow, and he falls back on his diplomacy. “I didn’t sign it, Gabe,” he says impassively. “Petras-”

“Oh, so it’s Petras’s fault?” Gabe snaps, stalking forward into Jack’s space. “No. Don’t blame anyone else. You could’ve stopped this!”

“I only learnt about it this morning,” Jack tells him quietly, not rising to anger. “Petras put out the bounty late last night. All they want from me is to sign it for formality to parade it around and declare that Overwatch is willing to go after their own if it will bring justice.”

“There is no justice in this,” Gabe snarls, and Jack grimaces and nods his head in agreement.

“I know,” he mumbles before he walks to his seat and slowly sinks into it. “There’s nothing I can do, Gabe. I’m only the figurehead now.”

“Even the figurehead has power.”

“Not enough,” Jack admits, flexing his fingers. “Not nearly enough to save our boy.” He drops his head into his hands and sighs, waiting to hear what Gabe will say next. He hasn’t got the energy to defend himself anymore, nor the willpower to continue. He wonders if Adawe will take his resignation? Maybe it’s not too late to leave himself.

The silence drags on for such a long time that Jack pulls his hands away and looks up to see Gabe standing at the door, his back to Jack and his hand hovering above the door pad, and Jack wonders why he hasn’t left until Gabe’s voice rings out, hurt but echoing.

“What happened, Jack?” Gabe asks him, so quiet and pained. “What happened to us?”

Jack can’t stop the sudden rush of air that leaves his body, and his back slumps until he’s resting once again with his hands to his face, palms against his eyes, elbows pressing against the desk top, mouth open as he tries to catch his breath again.

“I don’t know,” he answers truthfully, each word like a strike to his heart. “I don’t know what happened, Gabe. I’m sorry.”

Gabe lets out a hard laugh, no joy in it at all. “Me too, Jack,” he replies, and when Jack glances at him he’s surprised to see Gabe leaning forward with his forehead against the door.

Despite his hesitance, Jack slowly gets up to cross over to him. He pauses only briefly, knowing that touching might be out of order, but he has never been able to resist Gabe as he leans forward to press his forehead to the back of Gabe’s neck and slides his arms around Gabe’s waist.

The shuddering exhale he hears from Gabe makes Jack bite his lip. Gabe has never been one for emotion, never one to lay all his cards on the table or wear his heart on his sleeve. No, but right now Gabe seems to be falling apart and Jack doesn’t know if there are enough pieces of himself left to catch him.

“I think of Dorado sometimes,” Gabe eventually says into the quiet atmosphere, and Jack squeezes his arms around him as he listens. “We should’ve stopped then. We should never have gone to Georgia.”

“We never would’ve met Jesse,” Jack tells him, even though he wants to agree. “Or any of the others.”

Gabe huffs and slowly turns around to face Jack, and Jack looks up expecting to see watery eyes but it’s only the red ringed circles he’d seen when Ana had died. The thought makes his throat swell up, a lump holding back any of his words, and he balls his hands into fists in Gabe’s t-shirt. A part of him, just fleetingly, wishes he was wearing their hoodie, the soft fabric something Jack could burrow his face into and just hide from the world. But he’s not, there’s no trace of that hoodie and there’s no trace of the beanie Jack made him and really this Gabe isn’t his Gabe in so many ways.

“Our kids, huh?” Gabe mumbles gently, his hands coming up to grip Jack’s waist as he pulls him from his thoughts. “Couldn’t leave them.” He sighs and drops their foreheads against each other. “We should’ve taken them with us. Gone to your family farm.”

“Raised those chickens.”

Gabe smiles, and it hurts Jack. “Yeah. The chickens,” he says quietly, and Jack’s eyes are burning with the tears he keeps forcing back.

“You told me once,” Jack murmurs. “That if I didn’t do something that I’ll need a lot more flags for a lot more coffins.” He pauses to see Gabe watching him carefully. “You were right. I should never have bowed to the UN. I should’ve defended your actions in Cairo and in Italy. I shouldn’t have split us up.”

“You did what you had to, Jack,” Gabe tells him, and Jack wonders if either of them believe that. “As did I.” His thumbs are rubbing patterns into the top of Jack’s hip bone, and Jack feels himself slumping further and further against him. “I’ve always said not to deal in what if’s,” Gabe continues. “Don’t start now.”

Jack finally leans completely against him, dropping his head onto Gabe’s shoulder and breathing against his neck. Gabe is so grey now, he thinks to himself. His skin has a grey tinge that Jack doesn’t understand. He wonders if he should ask, but he can’t find the words as he clings to Gabe.

He can almost hear the minutes ticking by as they stand together, and he doesn’t want to break the silence. If he does he has to face the fact that he has nothing left, that there’s no point in being the figure head of Overwatch if he can’t do anything with it.

“We could still go,” Gabe suddenly says, and Jack freezes in his arms. “There’s nothing holding us here, Jack.”

Jack wants to so badly. He yearns to leave, to get away from this hellhole. He steps back only the slightest bit before glancing up at Gabe with wide eyes and too much hope.

“Really?” he asks, and Gabe frowns. “Even now, after all this time, you still want to leave?” He doesn’t actually know if he wants to hear the answer, but Gabe just smiles and reaches up to brush Jack’s cheek.

“I told you I’ll always love you, Jack,” Gabe tells him softly. “That is never going to change. I want all of you, whether it’s here in a stuffy office surrounded by bureaucracy,” he pauses to lean forward and kiss Jack’s forehead, “or on some stupid farm with a menagerie of animals and adopted children.”

Jack lets out a watery laugh and leans against Gabe again, trying not to sniffle. Gabe cards a hand through Jack’s hair and he leans into the touch.

“I should’ve stopped you moving here,” Gabe confesses, his words ruffling Jack’s hair. “I never wanted you to go, but I knew you needed to leave. I should’ve told you this so long ago and I’m sorry.”

“I was stupid and blind,” Jack replies before he huffs. “I still am, I’m afraid.”

Gabe hums and his fingers pause mid-stroke to pull Jack even closer, close enough that Jack doesn’t know where one of them ends and the other begins. “It’s alright, pendejo,” he says. “We’ll go be stupid and blind together. Leave this fucking hellhole.”

Jack smiles. “We’ll get married,” he says quietly, more of a question, and when Gabe’s arms tighten around him he smiles even wider. “We’ll have to find Jesse. He’ll be upset if he can’t be flower girl.”

Gabe laughs in Jack’s ear and the sound is so fucking nice that Jack just wants to hear it more and more.

“I think he’ll be in contest with Reinhardt,” Gabe chuckles. “And Genji has always volunteered to officiate.”

Jack snorts and shakes his head, feeling his own laughter building up. “Torbjörn will have to bring one of his turrets as a date,” he says, and he feels Gabe shaking with laughter against him. “Ingrid will bring her mob of delinquents.”

“Brigitte will have to hold Reinhardt’s hand the whole way through,” Gabe chimes in and Jack shakes his head with a grin.

“Fareeha and Ana….” he trails off, and he feels Gabe slump suddenly as they sober. He glances away from Gabe, back out the window, and he can feel his grip on Gabe starting to loosen as the memory of Ana… oh god, Ana.

“Jack,” he hears Gabe call, and he looks up to see Gabe looking sympathetic and worried. “Jack, come back to me.”

“Even if we leave, I worry this will never end,” Jack admits sullenly. “So much has happened, so much is still to happen. I worry that-”

“It’s time to stop worrying,” Gabe interrupts. “I want you to come with me, Jack. I want us to leave. Today, tomorrow, I don’t care.” He pauses to reach up and cup both of Jack’s cheeks, and Jack doesn’t think he’s ever seen Gabe look so desperate. “Please,” he says. “Please, let’s go.”

Jack knows he’s going to say yes. He can’t resist Gabe, he loves him too damn much, and he opens his mouth to answer when there’s a knock on the door.

“Commander Morrison,” Adawe’s voice rings out, tinny and irate. “Have you signed that bounty yet?”

Jack hears Gabe’s hitched breath and Jack glares so intensely at the door he thinks it might explode under his sheer force of will. “No,” he snarls back, making sure his voice is raised enough that Adawe will hear him. “And I never will. I’m through with this, Adawe.”

He doesn’t get a response. When he looks back on this later, he thinks he should’ve questioned it, but right now in the moment he instead turns to Gabe and leans forward into his space.

“Let’s go,” he says, and Gabe’s face lights up and the greyness of his skin recedes enough that Jack thinks he must’ve been imagining it. “Let’s go, right now. I won’t do this anymore.”

Gabe looks so excited, so thrilled, and Jack wants to just look at him like this forever, and he leans forward across the space to kiss him because dammit he can and-

BOOM!

Whatever floor was beneath Jack’s feet is suddenly stripped away in the white-hot heat that floods through the room. Jack’s grip is ripped away from Gabe as he’s flung across the room, slamming into a nearby wall with a cry and dropping back to the floor.

His hearing goes, a distant ringing that has his head throbbing, but he doesn’t have time to pick himself up as another explosion rips through the air around him and he’s thrown once again into nearby rubble and wall, crashing into them hard enough that his breath is chased from his lungs and his vision flickers dangerously.

There’s still more explosions though, and Jack can feel his entire body screaming in protest as he’s tossed around like some rag doll, debris catching him and tearing chunks off his body with pointed rocks and sharp rubble. He feels a stone smash him in the side of his head, making his flickering eyesight turn off completely for a moment before he opens his eyes and just sees blurriness matching the ringing in his ears.

When he finally does stop falling, finally hits the ground and stays down, he can feel a rain of debris falling on top of him and crushing him into the floor. A large rock or something is on his back, pushing down on him and he can almost hear his ribs starting to crack in protest. There’s smoke everywhere, swirling around him and suffocating him slowly where he’s pinned, and it’s reflex to open his mouth and try to breath.

It’s the worst thing he could’ve done as smoke and fumes pour down his throat and leave him coughing horrifically, his body convulsing and shattering more bones as debris pushes down down down on him. He feels wet around his head and shoulders, and the pain tells him it’s blood leaking over his body and staining his clothes.

He lies still for a long moment, trying to catalogue what’s happening and get his bearings, but he can only hear the screeching of a broken building around him and the dust and smoke continues to clog his throat and nose. With a yell that tears his vocal cords, he pushes up and rolls out from underneath the debris, yelping when he rolls straight into a sharp piece of wiring that sticks straight into his thigh. He snarls as he rips his leg away, gritting his teeth through the pain, and he slowly staggers to his feet to look around him.

He’s outside, he recognises, the sky still visible through his blurred vision. There’s smoke and dust everywhere that he can barely see through, but there’s piles of rubble all around him and fire blazing in pockets everywhere. The heat is extreme on his skin, and he can feel the beginning of burns up and down his arms.

Not that he cares as he feels his heart jump into his throat at the realisation that Gabe isn’t anywhere he can see.

“Gabe!” he cries out, the word so painful that he feels his throat tear under the effort of it. “Gabe! Where are you?”

He stumbles forward, his thigh screaming with every movement and his chest clenching so painfully that he almost drops straight back to the ground. He glances around him to see if there’s anything that will help, and he thinks it’s bloody Divine intervention when he spots a canister that looks a lot like one of the biotic emitters he keeps tucked away in his office.

He staggers over to it and reaches out to pick it up with torn and bloody hands, and when he clicks it down into the ground he feels almost instant relief as all of his wounds go from pissing blood to a sluggish stop. His ears and eyes don’t change though, and there’s still enough smoke and dust in the air that his lungs are still screeching, but when the emitter clicks off he can at least walk without collapsing.

After a moment of trying to take deep breaths fruitlessly, Jack lurches forward and wobbles dangerously through the wreckage of what was the Zürich headquarters. His hearing is starting to filter in other noises, creaking and groaning of the building, screams and cries from people he’s spotted around him, the sound of fire crackling and the high pitch noise of sirens wailing in the air. He ignores it all though in favour of calling out for Gabe as he hobbles to find him.

It takes so much time that Jack is convinced days have gone by when he finally stumbles over a familiar body, and he glances down to see Gabe’s face sticking out from underneath a whole pile of rubble.

“Gabe!” he yells as he drops to his knees, ignoring the shocking pain radiating through his legs in favour of reaching out with abused hands to scratch aside the wreckage. The jagged ends of the foundations and walls covering Gabe cut into his hands until he’s practically using bloody stumps to pull rubble aside.

He doesn’t stop though as he yanks until a piece of concrete finally gives way and Jack can lean forward to feel for a pulse. His hands are wet and slippery though, and he can’t feel a damn thing through his tender nerves in his fingers.

“Gabe,” he calls again as he pulls back, feeling sobs starting to build in his chest as Gabe remains quiet and stares straight at Jack with sightless eyes. He shakes him, his hands leading red imprints over Gabe’s shoulders as he does so, desperate for some sort of response.

There’s nothing though, and Jack checks for his pulse again and again and tries to convince himself it’s because he can’t feel the ends of his fingers anyway. But what’s visible of Gabe’s chest isn’t rising and falling and Jack thinks he can see smoke coming off of Gabe and he’s sure he’s making it up but it’s swirling around him and smells like death and-

Jack!”

Jack jumps at the call of his name, and he glances around blindly to see none other than Angela streaking towards him in her Valkyrie suit and welding her staff with precision.

“Help him!” he yells back, cupping Gabe’s cheek and turning straight back to him. He pats his face a few times before he escalates to slapping him with urgency. “Gabe, wake up. Please. Gabe, wake up.”

There’s no response though and a sob rips from Jack’s chest that hurts every part of his body, and he slaps and slaps Gabe until gentle hands are taking his and Angela is kneeling in front of him demanding he snap out of it.

“Jack,” she says, cupping his hands between hers and ignoring the blood leeching into her gloves. “What happened? What’s going on?”

“I don’t know,” he answers honestly, and Angela stares at him before dropping his hands and turning to Gabe. She doesn’t look confident as she reaches over to take his pulse, and Jack feels an order bubble out of him before he can stop himself. “Give him your healing tether,” he instructs as he reaches for her staff, and Angela stares at him.

“Jack, you need it right-”

“Give it to him, Mercy,” he snarls, knowing how cruel he sounds, especially when she flinches, and he can see she wants to argue but she pulls up her staff and attaches it to Gabe without question.

They both sit and wait with bated breath, Jack looking for any damn signs of life and Angela watches him with concern that he ignores.

“Come on, Gabe,” he mumbles as he reaches out again to cup Gabe’s check. “Come on.”

The sound of rubble moving distracts them both though, and Jack glances up to see figures walking towards them through the haze. He can’t make out who they are or what they are, but they’re formed out into a line and he can see very fuzzy outlines of guns, and beside him, Angela gasps.

“It’s Talon,” she says, and Jack’s blood runs cold.

He turns back to Gabe and starts to shake his shoulder. “Gabe,” he demands, “wake up. Wake up now. Gabe!”

“Jack! It’s not going to work!”

“Wake the fuck up, Reyes!” Jack screams over top of her, shaking Gabe so violently that the rubble moves around him and Angela lets out a cry as she starts to hit Jack’s arms. He ignores her though, shoving her to the side with his shoulder as he leans over and shakes and shakes Gabe because he has to wake up.

Nothing is happening though and Jack can feel his stomach starting to drop as Angela’s yells and pulls at his arms and the sound of moving rubble from Talon agents fills his ears and the sheer panic starts to overwhelm him until he’s sobbing hysterically and-

Gabe moves.

Jack freezes as Gabe’s shoulder twitches, and it’s not of his doing as Angela rips his hands away with strength he didn’t know she had and Gabe’s shoulder continues to twitch and his eyes start to shine a bit more except… except the irises are starting to change colour and Jack watches in horror as Gabe starts to convulse.

“Gabe,” he calls, starting to lean forward, but Angela intervenes and pushes him away with that same inhumane strength.

“There’s nothing you can do,” she snaps at him, eyes wild. “You need to leave! Jack, you can’t let Talon get their hands on you! You have to go.”

“But Gabe-”

“I’ll take care of him,” Angela reassures him before she shoves him once again. “Now go! Get out of here! I’ll try and find you later but just go. Gabe would want you to be safe!”

Her words trigger something in Jack, and he stumbles on his knees a few inches away before he glances down at Gabe’s convulsing body and Angela’s soot and tear-stained cheeks, and realises she’s right. With a grunt, he hauls himself to his feet, manages to correct his lack of balance, and beings to sprint through the rubble and debris around him away from the Talon agents.

Everything in him is screaming in protest, everything hurts so much he can feel his vision starting to go white, and the only thing he can hear is his own breathing as it hitches and falls into hyperventilating.

But he runs, and he doesn’t stop until Angela and Gabe are long behind him and he’s almost out of the compound when he sees another group of Talon agents starting to converge from the other end. He swears as he screams to a halt faster than his body is prepared for and he slams into a pile of rubble with a grunt.

He feels his knee shatter at the contact, filling him with white-hot pain as he bites his tongue to try stop from yelling out, but he only succeeds in drowning his mouth with blood, and he can feel it building in the back of his nose and throat until he can’t breathe.

He falls to the ground, unable to see or hear or do anything except shudder in uncontrollable pain as the Talon agents converge on him, and he fists his hands and tries to think of fighting but his body won’t listen as he lies helpless. He tries to fight to stay awake, to try and get back up for fucks sake, but nothing is working and he’s trapped in his own damn body.

He can feel unconsciousness starting to creep over his head like a hood, his vision flitting in and out again, and he gasps for Gabe and hopes to every God Jack’s never believed in that everything will be okay.

The last thing he sees before he falls unconscious is a Talon agent stop in front of him, and when he looks up he sees familiar eyes looking straight back.

Hola, Jack,” the woman says.

Jack blinks at her for a long moment before passing out.

 

 

Chapter Text

When Jack wakes up, he thinks he’s dead.

He doesn’t feel pain, just a whole lot of nothingness as he looks around and sees only white as his vision slowly adjusts. There’s a slight blur to it that wasn’t there before, and Jack thinks that if he really were dead then that wouldn’t be the case.

He glances around a little bit more when his sight is mostly back, and while he’s right that everything is white it’s only because it’s white walls, white floor, white bed, white everything and so sterile that Jack knows immediately where he is.

It’s a damn hospital, and he has no idea how he got here. He only remembers the woman, the smoke, the pain, the disaster, and he can feel the ache of his body slowly starting to return as the memories of what happened floods him.

He has half a mind to call out for Gabe, but the last time he saw him he was convulsing under Angela’s medical aid. No doubt Gabe won’t be here, and he has a small feeling he won’t want to alert anyone of who he is as he turns his head to the side and sees the woman from before sitting beside him tapping away at various holographic screens.

It may have been nearly twenty years, and she may have changed a phenomenal amount, but Jack still recognises her nonetheless.

“Olivia,” he says quietly, his voice croaky and raspy, and it hurts as he shifts to look at her. The woman glances briefly at him before shutting the screens down and turns to him with a small smile.

“Hello, Jack,” she replies softly. “It’s been a long time.”

A very long time he thinks, and he tries to marry up the image of the terrified small child with this cocky young woman in front of him and fails miserably. He doesn’t see Olivia really, but he does see someone else when he notes the augmented wires on half of her head, the purple gauntlets covered in buttons and switches, and the small machine pistol sitting on top of Jack’s bedside.

So. Olivia is Sombra, the damn Talon agent there’s been chatter about for a long time. Somehow it makes sense.

“To what do I owe the pleasure?” he asks her hesitantly, and the smile she gives him is almost unsettling.

“Once upon a time a man saved me from a collapsing building and sat by my side in a hospital,” she says. “I thought I might repay the favour. Although, I wasn’t an unconscious heavy old man so I think I get extra points.”

She drops her head to rest her chin on the bed bars and smiles up at him. Jack is unsure how to respond, so instead he settles for just looking around.

He recognises the hospital vaguely as the one Angela liked to frequent for her volunteer work. Clearly he’s still in Switzerland, which isn’t much of a surprise, and by the lack of chains and people present in his room he has no doubts he’s been admitted as a John Doe or under an alias.

He can feel how much his body aches, his knee a special kind of throbbing. His face especially smarts something horrid, and when he shakily reaches up to touch it he can feel the weird texture of facial bandages running town his face in two diagonal lines. He lingers briefly on them and glances over at Olivia.

“They will scar, unfortunately,” she says to him, reaching out to touch the back of his hand and pull it away from his face. “Lacerations that gave way to burns. The rest of your body should heal mostly in one piece but those… they’re definitely going to scar.”

Jack almost sighs at his bad luck, but he’s not surprised. Once again he thinks of Gabe, hoping the man is alright and somewhere Jack can find him, but he’s unsure.

Slowly, he turns to face Olivia again and struggles to find something to say to her.

“You’re still here,” he eventually ends up saying. “I left you in Dorado.” That still unsettles him, remembering the moment he was informed that Olivia had disappeared despite Jack’s orders. Clearly, she’d wanted too and Jack doesn’t fault her for that, but it the failure to protect and give her a better life has always stuck with him.

“Yes,” Olivia replies factually, not a hint of anger in her tone though. “And it took me a long time to realise you had to, and even longer to forgive you.” She shrugs and rolls her eyes. “Children can be quite silly, no?”

He stares at her uncertainly before he smiles with a small nod of his head. “Yes,” he agrees, “but they can also be pretty smart. I’m sorry for leaving you, Olivia. I didn’t wish to.”

Olivia waves him off and shakes her head. “No seas tan estúpido. I was used to being alone anyway, Jack,” she says. “In any case, I wouldn’t have been easy to look after. I was ten, and not exactly as easy to maintain as one named Jesse McCree.”

He’s not even surprised at the sudden name drop, and he’s really not surprised she knows Jesse. To get a bounty on Jesse’s head, he’d have to have made some unpleasant decisions in which circles he ran in, and the likelihood of that overlapping with Sombra is pretty high. He just smiles and shakes his head at her, admittedly feeling victorious when she frowns at obviously not having been asked about how she knows about Jesse. There’s something more sly about her now. Sure, the young girl had been sweet, but fear does a lot to people, and ambition is the only way to get to where she is now.

“In all seriousness, Olivia,” he says as a complete change of topic. “Why are you really here? And not here in this hospital, but here in Switzerland?”

Olivia looks cautious for a moment before she goes back to her casual attitude. She reaches out to pick up her weapon instead of answering him, and Jack feels tense as she starts to play with it. He can see the safety is on, but the idea of anyone just rolling their gun around in their hands for something to do does make him unsettled.

“The truth?” she asks and Jack frowns. She smiles and holds up a hand. “Sorry, sometimes people don’t appreciate the truth. But, I came here to see you. Not to take you to a hospital and haul your ass across the city, mierda no, but to find you in repayment for saving my life.” She pauses and tisks. “Which technically I already have, so maybe you don’t need this information.”

Olivia.”

“Fine fine,” she clucks and she goes back to leaning on the bed sides. “I had hoped to reach you before anything went south, but I had just arrived in the neighborhood when the bomb went off.” She pouts. “A shame, I would love to have seen how easy the Overwatch security would be to break through. Mierda sucede, I guess.”

Jack doesn’t tell her that it wouldn’t have been that easy with an AI lurking in the way. That’s information she doesn’t need, that no one needs. Athena’s copies are incredible and extremely difficult to work against, and Jack thinks it’s because Winston programmed her with such a personality.

Olivia watches him with a searching eye before she sighs, drops her gun back on the bedside table and turns to him with linked fingers.

“I’m going to be honest with you, anciano,” she tells him. “Not just because I owe you my life, but because I like you. Not many people are willing to save an orphan, let alone sit with them and offer them a way out.” She smiles and leans over to boop his nose. “Just because I didn’t take the offer doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it.”

He watches her wearily, but he can see she’s telling the truth. There’s nothing for her to gain otherwise.

“I heard about a plan amongst Talon to attack the Switzerland base,” she explains after a moments pause. “I knew about Oslo, about Rome, but Switzerland was where you were. I tried to get to here early enough to tell you of the plan but as I said, I turned up when the explosion happened.” She fiddles with her fingers and taps her foot on the ground, clearly not use to staying still for long. “I don’t know if it was Talon. I joined up with their forces when I got to the site and they looked just as confused.”

“You’re a Talon agent now,” Jack comments, and Olivia looks at him with a smile.

“Mercenary for hire,” she corrects. “Although I do often work for Talon. Pedazos de mierda they may be, but they pay well, and some of their missions aren’t crimes against humanity. On the rare occasion, we actually do save people.”

Jack can’t stop his own smile at her flippancy, and her own smile turns softer as she regards him. He can see her eyes linger on the bandages on his face before she shrugs and continues to fiddle with her fingers.

“I managed to pull you out before any of the other agents spotted you,” she continues. “Not that they would’ve. You looked a wreck. I hardly knew who you were until I looked past all the blood on your face, and even then it was still a mission. You looked like hell.” She looks up and gives an over exaggerated wince. “Still do, I’m afraid.” At Jack’s hard look she lets out a puff of air and leans back into her chair. “I wasn’t with the Talon agents when I first arrived, as I said, and I didn’t make much of a scene about me joining them either, so they didn’t notice when I took off. After finding you and hauling your ass through the rubble, I brought you here, registered you as a John Doe, and haven’t left your side since.”

“Why?” Jack asks. “Why register me as a John Doe?”

Olivia shrugs. “Instinto. I have a feeling that whoever set off that explosion will be looking for you, Talon or not. Better to be safe than sorry.”

Jack nods slowly at her reasoning. It makes sense. The explosion wouldn’t just be a fluke or a problem in the workshops or labs. There were too many for that, and they all seemed to be aimed in certain areas. Jack’s memory is foggy, but he knows that much, can remember that much. His arms burn with the memory of pure heat on them, and he forces down the urge to rub them.

He grits his teeth as he tries to think of what to do next. There’s not much except seek out the others and regroup. He doesn’t know if he will go back to Overwatch, but he has to find Gabe. He glances up at Olivia, and remembers the multiple screens she had in the air as well as her reputation. A skilled hacker, and that’s what he needs right now .

“Olivia,” he says quietly, and she perks up and cocks her head to the side. “I need you to do me a favour.”

“Hmm,” she hums. “I think I’ve already done you a favour saving your ass, anciano.”

“Olivia.”

“Fine,” she says, holding her hands up and rolling her eyes. “I guess I can do you another favour. What is it?”

He pauses before asking, not too sure if he really wants to let her in but knowing he hasn’t got many options. At least he can put a small amount of faith in Olivia if what she’s said so far is true.

“I need you to use your…” he gestures vaguely at her technology. “Doo-dads,” he pauses to let her laugh, “to help me find someone.”

“Who?”

“Gabriel Reyes,” he says, surprised at how much Gabe’s name hurts him to say. Flashes of sightless eyes and a seizing body cross back over his face and he tries to bury the memory in favour of watching the sudden guilt cross Olivia’s face.

“Jack…” she starts to murmur, looking hesitant and sorry. “I… I don’t know how to tell you.” She pauses and cards her hand through her hair before turning to him with a set face. “I looked him up the moment you got settled,” she tells him with a stern look. “I remember that you had some sort of relationship, and when I got the records of flights in and out of the Switzerland base I saw that he’d arrived an hour or so before the explosion. Matching up with the fact a bounty dropped last night for Jesse McCree and knowing that he was placed into Blackwatch by yourself and Reyes, I assumed he was there for you.”

“How do you…” Jack starts to say but Olivia holds up a hand and grimaces.

“If you know where to look then you learn a lot of things,” she says simply before taking a deep breath. “Jack, there’s been a list posted online following the explosion yesterdays.” She pauses and pops up a screen that she clicks on. “A memorial list, you could say,” she tells him as she turns the screen to face him and Jack sees thousands of names listed.

“Are you-” he starts to say, eyes wide in horror, but Olivia cuts him off.

“Reyes is on the list,” she says quietly, her voice small. “You’re on there too, Jack. You’re marked as MIA, but Reyes is marked as deceased.”

Jack pauses, hesitant to ask anymore questions, but he has to. “How do they know he’s not MIA?” he asks her, dreading the answer, especially when she drops the screen.

“The ones marked as deceased are found bodies, Jack,” she tells him and she reaches out to place a light hand on his arm. “Your body hasn’t been found since you’re here. Reyes… lo siento, Jack.”

Jack feels his whole world come to a grinding halt, all of his breath leaving his body in one fell swoop and Olivia’s calls of his name is drowned out into white noise as his vision tunnels and he’s almost positive that the pain in his chest is the genuine feeling of his heart breaking.

He can’t breath, can’t function, can’t see or hear anything but the overwhelming tidal wave of pain as the realisation that Gabe is dead flows through him. His throat closes, his vision is black, and he doesn’t know if he wants to scream or if he can scream.

It can’t be true, he thinks. Gabe can’t be dead. No. Angela was with him. Angela can heal and cure anyone. She pulled Genji back from the brink of death she can damn well do the same to Gabe.

He ignores the voice in the back of his head telling him it’s so so different because it’s not. It’s not. She can heal him, bring him to life, bring him back to Jack.

But she can’t because Gabe is dead and Jack doesn’t know what that awful hitched noise is but he thinks it’s from him and he can hear Olivia calling his name but he thinks the crashing from somewhere in the room is still the pieces of his heart cracking more and more until he feels a sharp sting on his face.

“Jack!” Olivia is yelling. “Snap out of it!”

He feels another sharp sting, and when he blinks his vision comes back and he sees Olivia standing over him reeling back for another slap, and he doesn’t have the time or brain to tell her to stop as he watches it come down in an arch and strike him once more.

When she pulls back for another he finds it in himself to shoot his hand up and grab her wrist.

“I’m here,” he manages to croak, each word painful on his throat and loud to his ears. He watches as Olivia stumbles as she steps to his side, and he slides his hand down from her wrist to her fingers to grip before dropping his arm to his lap.

“Jack,” Olivia calls again, her voice quieter this time, and when Jack looks up he sees her dropping his bedsides and sitting on the edge of his bed. Her chair is lying on the ground behind her, overturned, and Jack thinks that was the crashing noise.

He doesn’t blink when Olivia reaches out to place her hands on his shoulders and squeeze tightly. He doesn’t react at all as he tries to process what the fuck is going on.

Because Gabe is dead and Jack doesn’t think he can live.

“Jack, look at me,” he hears Olivia saying, and he glances up at her. “What do I need to do for you? Por favor, Jack, ¿qué puedo hacer? What can I do?”

He looks at her for a long moment, looks at her face and he sees the small child from years ago and wonders just how the hell they wound up like this?

It only takes a moment after that to make a decision. He can’t live, but he’s not going to die. He’s an old soldier, one that’s been betrayed and out-manoeuvred, and he sure as hell isn’t going to let that slide.

“I want you to mark me as deceased on the list,” he tells her, his voice gravelly and gruff, and she looks at him with wide eyes. “Can you do that?”

“Of course,” she replies instantly before catching up to the request. “Are you sure? It means-”

“I know what it means,” he cuts her off, and she frowns at him but slowly nods. “I’m tired of being everyone's chico de oro. Tired of having other people manipulate my life how they want it.” He sits up straighter despite the agony in his ribs and his protesting knee. “I’m going to find the bastards who did this, and I’m going to do it my way.”

Olivia looks strangely concerned for a moment before she nods and pops up another screen, clicking away at it and Jack watches as his name and face appear on the screen, and where it said MIA is now stamped out with DECEASED.

He grits his teeth and nods. “Thank you,” he says, and Olivia glances at him and her lips turn up into a smile.

“You’re welcome,” she responds before she leans over and picks up her gun and drops it on his lap. “I think they did this thousands of years ago, some weird pledge thing with swords but,” she pauses to tap the gun. “I’m going to help you, Jack. In my own way. But for now I’m going to get you out of here and get you set up.” She leans in and smiles. “If you’re gonna be a vigilante you’re gonna need some mercenary help.” Olivia laughs. “That, and a cool name, anciano.”

Jack watches her for a moment before he picks up the gun and hands it back to her. She takes it with a smile, and he goes to pull his hand away but the medical wristband catches his eye. He reads the word ‘patient’ and sees a number, and when he looks up at Olivia he gives her a grim smile.

“Got one already?” she asks him with a raised eyebrow, and he nods his head and flashes her the wristband.

It’s symbolic really. Jack Morrison died in this bed. A new man is born.

“Soldier 76, reporting for duty.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Six months later, Jack is standing in some shitty truck stop in the middle of Missouri on route seventy-six, staring at a rack full of trucker hats and crappy jackets.

They’re posing as a father/daughter couple on a road trip to Colorado from Indiana just for a holiday for the Fourth of July. In truth, they had gone very briefly back to Bloomington where Jack was born and visited his headstone. Olivia had insisted on laying flowers while Jack had wanted to tear away the headstone and smash it to smithereens.

They’d settled on walking away, Olivia muttering under her breath and Jack glancing at the country lane that lead up to his family farm. He’d walked away from that too.

They’re really on their way to Colorado to track down Watchpoint: Grand Mesa. Olivia had spent months tracing Jack’s old biotic rifle through the systems until she’d landed on some Helix Security’s intel and found it being held at the compound. Jack still remembers her groans when he’d decided to break in and retrieve it.

Having arrived in Indiana straight from Zürich, they’d stolen a car and traveled across the states, taking the long route to Colorado through the deep south, and while Olivia pops gum and hums along to the tunes over the store speaker system, Jack looks at a monstrosity of a jacket and thinks he does need a disguise for Soldier 76.

He doesn’t show Olivia as he pulls the leather jacket from the rack, supple under his fingers and ridiculously patriotic. The huge seventy-six number on the back is what really caught his attention, and he drags his fingertips over it before stuffing it in the bottom of the basket and piling food on top as Olivia appears with an armful of trashy foods.

Jack berates her the whole way out of the shop, the shop keeper just rolling his eyes and marking them off as another Northern family. He doesn’t comment on Olivia’s skin colour nor the fact her eyes are purple or there are wires tracking down her neck. Jack honestly thinks he doesn’t care.

They steal another car in a nearby restaurant carpark, dropping the keys for the previous stolen vehicle where the new one was parked. Olivia rolls her eyes and calls Jack stupid, and Jack ignores her as he guns the car onto the nearby highway.

They don’t talk much. Jack can’t find it in himself to do small talk and Olivia seems content to just play with her screens and orchestrate conspiracies. Jack doesn’t ask and she doesn’t explain.

He thinks a lot about his previous team members when they drive in quiet. He’s always been tempted to ask her for updates on them, knowing she’ll have their records up in moments, but he finds the idea of letting Olivia know too much about him at this stage unsettling. He thinks of Lena, Winston, Genji, Angela, Reinhardt, Torbjörn, even O’Deorain at times. He tries not to think about Ana or Gabe.

He asks her about Jesse exactly once, and the look on her face makes him nervous of what she’s going to say.

“I met him a few years ago,” she tells him as she taps her feet on the dashboard to the tinny music on the old radio. “In San Fran. He recognised me and tried to arrest me. I tasered him and dropped him off outside Alcatraz.”

“That would’ve gone down well,” Jack mutters and Olivia smirks.

“I saw Gabe when I was there,” she says, and Jack feels his heart clench and his breath hitch at the break in taboo. “Interesting guy. Reminded me of Batman.”

The simple statement has Jack laughing hard enough that he hunches over the steering wheel and almost drives them off the road. Olivia yells at him between her own laughter until Jack is wiping his eyes and straightening them up.

They don’t talk about either man after that. Olivia steers clear of their names and Jack can’t bring himself to think about anyone now, let alone mention anyone from the old days. Jack Morrison left a lot of people behind. Soldier 76 doesn’t have anyone at all.

When Olivia sees his new jacket she laughs loud enough to undoubtedly be heard through the walls of the crappy motel they’re in. She pats the leather a few times before shaking her head and grinning at him, and Jack frowns at her.

“Very patriotic, anciano” she snorts, and Jack rolls his eyes. “I’d compare you to Captain America, but I think we’ve got the whole DC thing going on.” She reaches up to ruffle his hair and he tries to bat her away. “My own personal Superman. Mi héroe,” she gloats. “Although Clark Kent has less scars and better hair.”

He reaches out to swat her but she slips out of his reach and retreats to her own room to suit up. He smiles fondly after her before turning back to his gear he’s assembling. There’s not much that he has now. A trashy handgun from a back street vendor in Austin, a rifle that jams most the time stolen from a Deadlock member they bumped into on Route 66, and Jack isn’t too sure if the biotic emitter he jams in his back pocket will work well but Olivia had crafted it from Jack’s memory and the prototypes at least worked on smaller wounds.

Watchpoint: Grand Mesa is about an hour walk from their hotel. Olivia spends the whole time bitching about the distance and trying to convince Jack they could just drive until they’re five minutes out, but he doesn’t respond so she gradually fades into sarcastic muttering. It does put a smile on his face, remembering that Ana use to do the same, and in that moment it’s comforting to think of.

The compound is heavily fortified, but Jack remembers hiring Helix Security and going over the plans for the base. They’re not infallible, and with Olivia’s extra tech it’s easy enough to slip over the wire fencing halfway down the compound line with a watch on his wrist beeping how long until his stealth invisibility runs out and recharges.

They make it to the first set of buildings before they flicker into appearance, and Jack streaks off down the side of the buildings beside the fence line to get closer to the main building. Olivia runs beside him, practically skipping where he stomps, and he watches as she throws a translocator over the fence line along the way with a smile.

“Just in case we get caught,” she mutters to him as she jogs. “If I can get out then I can come back for you. No point in us both going down.”

She makes sense and Jack just nods as they slink further into the compound. At first, Olivia had thought Jack was ridiculous in wanting to find his pulse rifle and gears, but when Jack had just glared at her and started to spew war stories she’d groaned and set about trying to locate it.

Jack always makes up the war stories, just to annoy her, but she doesn’t need to know that.

Surprisingly, the compound isn’t as heavily fortified as Jack remembers, and they manage to skulk past two patrols without the need of cloaking. Olivia is muttering away under her breath again, something about being too easy, and Jack has to resist the urge to snap at her for jinxing the mission.

They do meet more resistance though as they move inward to the inner buildings. Jack continuously has to push Olivia back against the buildings as patrols walk past, and on the third time she punches his shoulder.

“I can do stealth!” she hisses at him, and Jack glares at her.

“Without your cloaking?” he snaps back and Olivia promptly shuts her mouth. Jack doesn’t feel smug, there’s no time for that, and instead he just beckons for her to follow as he rushes across the distance between two buildings.

There’s a building up ahead that Jack thinks looks deserted. He shuffles up to it quietly and peeks through the windows, and when he sees no light he reaches out to click a button on Olivia’s wrist and look at the map of the compound.

“Only three buildings away,” Olivia says as she points out their destination. Jack watches as she clicks a few more buttons and then an array of red dots pop up on the map. “Heat sensors,” she explains when he frowns.

“Technology has gotten a lot better,” Jack mutters, and Olivia rolls her eyes and mumbles something about being an old geezer. He doesn’t listen as he counts the red dots between them and their destination.

Seven, he factors. Maybe four if they let two of them go past. He glances over to the side of the building they’ll come from and grimaces. There’s too much light, they’ll be spotted.

It seems like Olivia is thinking the same as she reaches into the satchel at her side and hands him a small box.

“Tranquillisers,” she says as he cracks it open to see ten needle bullets looking right back. He recognises them as the same ones Ana used, adjustable for any weapon but more practical for handguns. “Overwatch grade. I stole them from Rome.”

“Rome?” he asks as he loads up his handgun. He doesn’t trust his rifle enough to not blow the ass out and get him or Olivia first.

“Rubble attracts scavengers, anciano,” is all Olivia replies with before she reaches into her pocket and pulls out a hand device that wraps around her fingers. He knows it’s to hack weapons and stop them from working, but he can’t decide if he actually wants her to get close enough to use it.

Clearly she hears what he’s thinking as she rolls her eyes, wiggles her fingers, then promptly tosses herself out into the open right in front of the incoming patrollers.

Jack swears as he charges out as well, already with his hand gun aimed and cocked as he points it at one of the patrollers. Obviously, they don’t expect them as Jack manages to shoot a needle right into one’s neck as Olivia slams her elbow into the other's nose. She raises her hand and with a quick flick of the fingers she hacks both of their weapons while Jack fires another needle into the other's neck.

“Easy as,” Olivia says as she grins up at Jack, and Jack rolls his eyes before grabbing her arm and pulling her further towards their goal.

The next patrol is much the same, although Olivia starts off by hacking their weapons before Jack steps out from the shadows and fires twice, quickly and efficiently. The two patrollers fall straight to the ground, holding their necks as they gurgle something, but Jack doesn’t stop to listen as they grab a patroller each and drag them around the corner to prop up behind some barrels.

“Normally I avoid people,” Olivia says as they activate their cloaking and run down one of the main straights. There’s no one in sight besides the cameras and Olivia had assured him that the cloaking devices hide heat readings as well. “This is much more fun, and violent,” she continues after a moment.

“Cut the chatter,” Jack grouches and Olivia blows him a raspberry right before her cloaking wavers, dropping down briefly enough that she’s visible, and Jack tackles her behind what looks suspiciously like an anti-aircraft turret.

He pauses behind it for a moment, and when he looks at the logo printed on the side of the turret it’s not Overwatch’s. It’s a red and black ’T’, and Jack blinks stupidly as he recognises it as Talon’s.

What the hell is Talon equipment doing in an Overwatch base?

He doesn’t have time to linger on it though as he sees three patrollers making their way over, and Olivia’s grip on his arm suddenly tightens to a painful degree. The patrollers look suspicious as they talk into their comms, continuously glancing their way, and Jack hisses.

“Shit,” Olivia swears as she hits her cloaking device before glancing up at the approaching patrollers. “Think they’ve seen us?” she asks, and Jack grits his teeth.

“Maybe,” he replies. “Your cloaking stopped too early. They might’ve seen something suspicious on the cameras.”

“What do we do?”

Jack glances down at her briefly before grimacing and lunging forward. There are no immediate cameras in the area off the main straight so it’s highly unlikely they’ll expect a forward attack, and the choked off cry from the one he hits with a carefully aimed needle isn’t into an open comm line. Jack takes that as his cue as he rushes the other two.

The first one lunges at him, taking Jack by surprise as they catch him with a clothesline before grabbing the collar of his jacket and tossing him behind them. Jack hits the ground with a grunt, and he hears Olivia yell something before she’s rushing forward and throwing herself at the third patroller with a cry. Jack wants to warn her to be careful but can’t as his own patroller steps forward with a kick right to his chin.

His face explodes out in pain but he rolls with the kick and lunges to his feet. He takes a second to shake his head and try to clear it before he jumps forward with a well placed punch that leaves the patroller stumbling.

He follows it up quickly with a kick to the back of the knee and the patroller goes down, grunting harshly at the pain, and Jack yanks out his hand gun to ram the barrel into the patroller’s neck before firing.

It’s overkill but Jack doesn’t care as the patroller slumps to one side and, breathing hard, he turns to Olivia and waits for an opening between the fight before shooting one nicely aimed dart into the back of the patroller’s shoulder.

What he doesn’t expect though as the patroller falls to the ground, is for their face to fall Jack’s way and he finds himself staring straight at Fareeha.

It clicks suddenly as he looks at her lax face. He remembers Ana mentioning something about Helix Security and Fareeha, but he never expected this, never expected to see her here and now. Quietly, Jack slinks to her side, his hands shaking violently as he kneels beside her and sits her up until she’s leaning against his shoulder.

She’s out cold, and Jack doesn’t think he’s seen Fareeha look this peaceful since she was a child. He reaches out to rub a thumb over her cheek, admiring the tattoo on her eye just like Ana’s. She looks so young still, but he can see where stress lines are creasing her mouth and there’s the beginning of crows feet beside her eyes. She’s so young, he thinks, and clearly seen so much already.

He can’t put the young woman he last saw to the soldier in his arms, and he grits his teeth as a fresh wave of guilt and anger flows through him as he realises that at some point he forgot to watch Fareeha grow up.

“You know her?” Olivia asks from behind him into the dead silence, and Jack jumps as he remembers she’s there before he lowers Fareeha carefully to the ground.

“No,” he lies, not willing to let this secret go as he watches Fareeha’s slack face for a moment longer before he turns back to Olivia. “She just reminds me of someone I did.”

Olivia opens her mouth to question him but Jack walks right past her towards the towering building just past the turret. It’s the high security facility holding his rifle, and he catches sight of a few cameras dotted around. Instead of cloaking he just drops his head and watches the ground as he jogs.

He doesn’t look back at Fareeha as he goes.

There’s no one between them now as they approach the main building. Jack does spot blue dots flickering in the corners and vaguely recognises them as laser turrets, something he knows Helix delights in using to protect their buildings, and he’s seen just what those lasers do to people as well.

“Oh for fucks sake,” Olivia grumbles beside him as he tucks them back into the shadows away from both the cameras and turrets. “Are those C-52 sentry turrets? Vishkar made?”

“Can cut through solid diamond,” Jack mutters. “You don’t want to get caught by them.” He takes her wrist and tugs her along just outside of the turrets reach, glancing up at every doorway along the way for the telltale blue lights. “On the positive side, they’re expensive and require a lot of energy to run. Helix only uses them for their main openings into whatever they’re protecting.” He pauses when he sees a back door tucked away at the rear of the building that doesn’t have blue dots near it. “There’s also only a maximum of six allowed in one area due to power surges, and the fact that their computers can only handle six turrets at a time.” He tugs her over to the doorway and takes a chance of stepping into range. Nothing happens and he smiles at Olivia. “Bingo.”

Olivia glares at him. “What would I have done if you’d fucked that up, pendejo?” she asks, and Jack shrugs.

“Gone back to uncovering world conspiracies,” he says and she glares even harder. He just gives her another smile before turning around and promptly smashing his fist into the control panel.

It short circuits and the door slides open, and Jack grips his handgun tighter as he slinks through the doorway into a dimly lit corridor. Olivia is right behind him, cursing in Spanish, and he ignores her as they move carefully and somewhat quietly.

There’s no sign of any movement that Jack can see, but he does remember a lot of red dots on Olivia’s map. Heat signatures. He’s worried that they’ll come across a horde of Helix Security around the building protecting that bloody rifle.

Maybe not humans though, he realises as they careen around a corner right into a damn Omnic.

Olivia let’s out a muffled yell just as Jack falls back on instinct and slams his handgun right through the weak metal of the Omnic’s neck. The circuitry frizzles and sparks for a brief moment before the light in the Omnic’s head flickers out and dies.

“What the fuck,” Olivia breathes, and Jack drops the handgun and the Omnic to take a shaky step back. It looks like a Nulltrooper Omnic, one of the ones from Uprising. Jack was positive though that the model had been destroyed with the bomb in Kings Row and any survivors were deactivated and turned into scrap metal by the Blackwatch clean up crew.

“Does this tie in with any conspiracies?” he asks as he stares down in horror at the Omnic. Olivia appears at his shoulder, looking equally shocked as she crouches to poke at it.

“Talon,” she says, and Jack frowns at her. She glances up and rolls her eyes. “I’m not unobservant, anciano. I saw the logo on the turret outside. I’ve had the theory that Talon has been using old Omnic’s as soldiers for a long time but had no proof.” Olivia turns back to the fallen Omnic and taps it a few times. “Although, Helix being a part of it is something I never would’ve thought of.”

“Helix is funded by the United Nations,” Jack suddenly adds and, when he sees Olivia’s eyes widen, he quirks an eyebrow at her. “Talon should have no influence on them.”

“Unless Talon has infiltrated the United Nations as well,” Olivia points out, and there’s a certain almost gleeful look on her face as she leans forward and starts snapping photos of the Omnic.

It’s a bold statement, and Jack grits his teeth as he glares at the robot for a long moment. There’s a lot to discuss there, but they don’t exactly have time to be throwing conspiracies back and forth. He contemplates pulling out his handgun from the Omnic’s neck but, with how wedged in it is it, he knows it won’t dislodge easily. It’s going to be easier to just abandon it and use his shitty rifle.

“Let’s go,” he orders briskly, knocking Olivia with his shin. “I don’t want us to get caught by any reinforcements. Omnic or not.” Olivia agrees, taking one last look at the Omnic before falling in behind Jack as he continues down the corridor.

They meet five more Omnic’s along the same damn corridor, each one seeming just as surprised at Jack and Olivia’s presence as they are at the Omnic’s before Jack either uses brute strength to deal with them or Olivia hacks and disables them. She starts to record it as she goes along though, muttering into a microphone and discretely taking more pictures.

Jack is too busy to scold her.

The fact there’s not a human in sight is what gets Jack, and he feels himself starting to tense more and more. There should be human reinforcements somewhere, the damn red spots on Olivia’s map enough evidence to show they are around here, but they don’t bump into any of them as they stop outside of a large door with a huge control panel and Jack knows the rifle is behind here. He frowns down at the panel for a moment, wondering if maybe they’re on the other side of the door, but he’s interrupted as Olivia clears her throat.

“Allow me,” Olivia says, stepping forward and pushing Jack to the side, and before Jack can stop her the door slides open and Jack catches a glimpse of what looks like a small bloody army of Omnics and humans before he pushes Olivia out of the way.

The opening fire is loud on his ear drums and agonising where a few decent shots graze his skin. His left arm blows up in pain and his knee buckles a little before he lurches to the side of the doorway, slamming his shoulder into the wall as he hauls Olivia further down. He can hear the sound of Omnic’s charging forward, the thumping of metal on the floor a familiar awful noise, and he grips Olivia tighter.

“Come on,” he snaps as he breaks away from the wall and charges down the corridor, gritting his teeth as he nearly lifts Olivia airborne with how fast he’s going. “We need to get you out of here-”

“What about the weapon?” she interrupts, voice high and clearly surprised as she tries to keep up. Jack glares back at her as he yanks her around another corner. He has no idea where he’s going, just is hoping for the best.

“I’ll try get it but it’s a weapon, Olivia,” he tells her, and she starts to make a noise that he cuts across. “You’re more important.”

Olivia is silent for long enough that Jack glances back again only to see a large smile adorn her face. “Thanks, Mom,” she says sweetly, “but you’re not getting away that easily.” She pulls them to a halt and Jack stumbles, barely catching himself as he nearly goes careering into a wall. He whirls around to growl at her, but the words die on his tongue as he sees her looking at a nearby air vent.

“You want to go in there?” he asks and she gives him a shrug

“No place to go but up,” she cheerfully tells him. “Come on.”

Jack looks back at the vent for a moment. He knows he won’t fit in there, he’s too broad shouldered and much more bulky than Olivia. But she’ll fit in no worries, and he reaches up to pull the grating off and gives Olivia a boost, already formulating a plan.

When she turns around to help pull him up, Jack slams the grate back into place.

“Jack?” Olivia calls down to him, her fingers wrapped around the bars of the grate and eyes wide. “What are you doing?”

“Get out of here,” he orders. “I’ll distract them. Just go. I won’t have you caught up in this fight.” He grits his teeth. “My fight.”

Her mouth drops open, and Jack is expecting the rant of aggressive Spanish fired at him, but it doesn’t change his mind as he glances towards the corner of the corridor where he can hear the clanging sounds of advancing Omnic’s.

“Go,” he barks, ignoring her protests as he slams a hand on the grating before he turns tail and sprints down the hallway. Not too fast to leave their line of sight but not slow enough to let them catch up.

He has no idea where he’s going, Olivia’s map only a small memory, but he follows his instincts as he tears down the corridors with the whiring and beeping behind him, and he hopes that Olivia didn’t trigger their motion monitors as they’d charged past her.

Typically though, he comes to a halt at a dead end. He should’ve taken the turn behind him instead of going straight, and all that’s in front of him is a large metal wall and a locked door beside him.

He swallows the lump in his throat and slowly turns around to face the group of Omnic’s.

There’s about eight, a number he used to happily take on. But that was before his achy knees and stiff shoulders came into play and he had weapons he could trust at his side. He rolls his arms and shakes his hands before he reaches for the rifle on his back.

He manages to squeeze out two shots before it jams, but luckily they hit two separate Omnic’s. Not that it matters though as Jack notes that the bullets only cracked their surface metal, and he quickly swings his rifle around like a club and grits his teeth.

The first one jumps at him without warning, suddenly in his face with its turret slowly coming up, and Jack falls back on instinct as he rams the handle of his rifle right into the Omnic’s neck joint and whips out his leg to imbalance it. The Omnic goes down with a whirl and Jack has enough time to finish it off with a solid hit to the head before he feels a stinging pain on his arm and looks up to see another Omnic pulling back to aim it’s sharpened fist properly at him.

He dodges with a grunt and lashes out with his elbow, hissing at the white pain when he connects with the back of the Omnic’s head. It doesn’t go down though and Jack has to avoid its retort at the same time as ducking from the third one’s assault. He finds himself on the ground just as the second Omnic lifts its foot and slams it just shy of Jack’s leg.

He tucks and rolls away, avoiding the other advancing Omnic’s, and grits his teeth as he tries to stand, only to get a nasty blow by a metal elbow between his shoulder blades. He stumbles forward right into another Omnic who throws him back, and he loses his breath as he’s slammed back to the ground with purpose.

Somehow he ducks the muzzle of a turret aimed at him and he swings the rifle still in his hands to knock it off centre. The floor gets a round of bullets fired into it, and the noise ricochets in Jack’s head.

Despite his protesting muscles he rolls forward until he’s right below one of the Omnic’s and slams his rifle up between it’s legs, using as much force as possible and shorting a handful of wires. He reaches up to grab the flailing cords and rips them out, ignoring the sparks in his face and the singeing of his fingers.

He doesn’t see the other Omnic creeping up behind him though, and he grunts as it punches him in the back of the head, making his eyes burst in black dots as he stumbles forward. He grunts when the Omnic above him crashes down on top of him, still whirling and beeping but not able to use it’s legs, and Jack drags himself from underneath it with a groan over his aching body.

His hands are scratched and bleeding from the wires cutting him, his grip on his rifle is weak at best, and he barely has time to roll over before the an Omnic rips the rifle out of his hands and throws it, leaving him unprotected.

With a sudden rush they’re all on top of him, only six now pressing down over their fallen comrades, and Jack doesn’t know what to do as six turrets line up and the lights flick red and-

“For gods sake, I can’t leave you alone for five minutes, anciano. EMP activated!”

All seven working Omnic’s falter and spark for a moment, and Jack watches with wide eyes as they shut down and Olivia drops from her jump, the purple code she’d throw out around herself fading into the air.

“I thought I told-”

“Yeah, whatever,” Olivia interrupts as she walks towards him slowly, taking photos with her wristband of the inactive Omnics. “I’m an adult now, Mom, I can do what I want.”

Jack has half a mind to dress her down with some tough words, but instead he bites back his scolding and takes her proffered hand.

“How did you get around without them seeing?” he asks as he wipes the spilt oil and blood from his hands on his pants and kicks his useless rifle to the side. They need to leave and he’ll have to find a replacement. It’s not something he’s overly thrilled to think about.

Olivia just raises an eyebrow and wiggles her fingers at him. “Cloaking,” she says. “Told you I knew what I was doing.”

Jack rolls his eyes but still reaches out to clap her shoulder. “Thank you,” he says sincerely. “That was incredible.”

“Incredible or not,” Olivia mutters, avoiding his eyes and blushing at the praise, “they’ll only stay like this for another minute or two before they’re back online. We need to go.”

She looks like she’s ready for an argument, but Jack nods his head.

“Agreed,” he says. “It’s too dangerous. We need to go now before anybody wakes up.”

The devious look on her face makes him frown, and he only clicks when she grabs his arm and hits a button on her wrist.

Jack immediately feels his entire body squish into nothing, all breath leaving his lungs in a sudden rush and his eyes feel like they’re bulging as he opens his mouth in a choked yelp. He can feel Olivia beside him, but instead of a solid mass she feels like liquid over his entire left side of his body, and the sensation makes his stomach roll and flip unpleasantly.

Within a moment though it’s over, and Jack crashes onto solid ground with a groan and his stomach curdling unpleasantly. His breathing is harsh as he rolls to the side to glance up, but it hitches when he realises he’s staring up at rows of trees and a dark night sky.

“Olivia?” he calls uncertainly, and jumps when he sees her standing a foot away.

“Translocator,” she says, tossing the small device in her hand up and down. “You’ll get use to it. Couldn’t be bothered leaving the long way.” She runs her eyes over him critically. “All in one piece? I’ve only ever done side-along with one other person and frankly? Widow is half the size of you.”

Jack gapes at her as he pushes himself to his feet, and he contemplates calling her out on running such a risk but decides to leave it alone. He flicks the dirt off his clothes, grudgingly admitting to himself he might need some new pants. When he finally turns his attention to Olivia he feels a mixture of guilt, over leaving the rifle and putting Olivia through all of that for nothing, and awe over Olivia’s quick thinking.

“That’s amazing,” he says as he stands and takes her delicate wrist to look at the translocator in her hand. “You made this yourself?”

He doesn’t mistaken the blush on her cheeks as she ducks her head. He smiles and squeezes her wrist, and he’s about to move back when she pipes up.

“We should probably get you healed, anciano,” she says before reaching behind him to unhook the biotic emitter from his belt. She doesn’t wait for his confirmation before she slams it on the ground and Jack watches a gentle golden glow covers them both.

It works, and Jack watches as a cut on Olivia’s cheek slowly scabs over, his achy bones start to feel stronger, and the general feeling of the emitter washes over them until they give each other soft smiles and relax.

“I have something for you,” she tells him and reaches behind her into the satchel slung over her shoulder. He feels his heart skip a couple of beats as he waits, and he doesn’t dare hope.

But it’s fine as Olivia pulls out the damn pulse rifle they’d gone for, and Jack takes it with awe and relaxes immediately at the familiar grip. He squeezes his hands and flips it over, admiring the dedication behind making the rifle in the first place.

There’s the handful of marks made at the hilt, one half scratched where Jack remembers Gabe stopping him. That brings a pang to his chest and he looks away. He can still remember the feel of the chisel between his fingers, Gabe’s hand over his, firm and strong, he remembers Gabe’s breath on his cheek and his front pressed against Jack’s back...

He drops the gun loosely to his side, feeing scolded and pained. Olivia is watching him like a hawk and he grits his teeth against the burning in his eyes.

“Thank you,” he murmurs, reaching over to squeeze her shoulder. “It was dangerous, and you shouldn’t-”

“Have done it and risked yourself,” Olivia finishes for him mockingly. She shakes her head. “Don’t be an idiot, anciano. It was easy to sneak through the vents and grab it while you played distraction.” Olivia smiles at him. “In any case, I owe you a lot, Jack.”

“You don’t owe me anything,” he starts to protest but she glares and cuts him off.

“I got you another thing,” she says, still glaring as she reaches back into her bag. “I contemplated Doomfist’s gauntlet but that looked too big, so,” she pauses to pull out a mask of some sort, and Jack frowns until she shoves it at him. “Here you go.”

Jack takes it carefully with one hand, his eyes wide as he recognises the tactical visor. Only two ever made, the first destroyed at the end of the First Omnic Crisis by Bishop himself, while the second was kept tucked away and preserved.

Jack knows what he’s holding is two tools of destruction, and he grits his teeth as he looks at Olivia.

“You’re insane,” he says, “but thank you.” She smiles and waves him off.

“You want to save the world, anciano, you have to have the equipment.”

Jack glances down again at the rifle in one hand and the visor in the other, and he thinks of all the things he can do now. Of all the places he can go, all the missions he can perform, how he can do this.

He thinks of Gabe and hopes that everything he will do, Gabe will be proud of.

“Just use it for good, yeah?” Olivia suddenly says, and she’s smiling despite the edge to it. “I’d hate to accidentally be the cause of the end of the world.”

Jack rolls his eyes at her exaggeration, but smiles nonetheless.

 

 

Chapter Text

After Grand Mesa, Jack tries to lay low.

Surprisingly, Helix Security doesn’t remain quiet about the break-in, and Olivia takes great delight in printing and cutting out all the articles about them. She even buys him a folder to keep them in, and every time Jack throws it out it turns back up amongst his duffel bag within days.

He deigns to look at one article but very quickly, upon reading “the dashing anti-hero”, he screws it up and throws it at a smirking Olivia’s head. He doesn’t read another one after that but Olivia keeps collecting the trash.

After a while though, Jack can see she’s starting to get antsy. He can tell she’s torn between running away or staying with him, clearly use to working by herself now that being in a team is foreign to her. He watches her pack and repack her bag while shooting him cautious looks, but then he sees her constantly watching him, waiting to see where he goes with hawk eyes before following.

She doesn’t want to leave, but the urge is obviously itching under her skin.

Jack calls her out on it one day. They’re sitting on the back porch of some two-star hotel where the air smells like cheap cigarettes and the noises of people around them are questionable. Jack doesn’t care, he can tune it out, but the way Olivia fidgets makes him think this isn’t for her.

On the table between them is a cheap tea for Jack that he’d bought because the packet had a sphinx on the front. The coffee for Olivia looks like tar and her grimace every time she sips makes Jack think it probably tastes like it too.

“Olivia,” he murmurs, not wanting to raise his voice. She glances at him and gives him a flat lipped smile, tense and unusual.

“Yeah?” she responds, her voice quiet too. Maybe she also doesn’t want to break the frigid air.

“You need to leave,” he says simply, and watches as her face turns pale and her mouth drops open. “It’s time now. You’ve done a lot for this old man, but you can’t stay in one spot. It’s not your nature.” He leans forward in his chair and hangs his hands between his knees. “I’m grateful, and I know we’ll see each other again, but it’s time you moved on.”

“What about you?”

Jack shrugs. “I’ll be fine,” he reassures her. “I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve. I’m sure I can survive.”

Olivia watches him for a long hard moment before she purses her lips and nods. “Okay,” she says. “When the time is right, I’ll leave.” She reaches over to touch the back of Jack’s wrist. “I’m always here for you, you know that. Whatever wacky or stupid thing you’re doing, if you need me I’m there.”

He raises a hand to cover hers and gives it a squeeze. “Always,” he says and she smiles brightly. They stay that way for a moment before turning back to their mugs and their promise lingers in the air.

The next morning, Olivia is gone.

Jack isn’t surprised. He picks up the note with his name and a number scrawled across it. He doesn’t read it, untrusting as ever, but pockets it and the small comm device she’s left behind, before he gathers his own bag and leaves the hotel.

He doesn’t think about how his bag has been packed for weeks now, just waiting.

He keeps himself unshaven and buys a tacky baseball cap to wear. He looks rugged and dirty at times, but he doesn’t think about it as he ducks his head and refuses eye contact lest someone sees his scars.

He’s had enough of “thank you for your service to your country” for a lifetime. He doesn’t want it again. He doesn’t deserve their praise, not after all his failures.

It takes him a handful of weeks to make his way down the countryside to California. He hitches rides, steals cars, buys tickets for buses, and at one point takes a brief flight. He doesn’t use the same method twice in a row, and each one he has a different look. Jack blends in and isn’t noticed, and when he gets to LA there’s a feeling of loneliness creeping over him that Olivia had held back.

Jack stops in a crusty old cafe with a creaky sign and a horde of college students on his way to his destination. He sits in the middle of the shop with his shoulders tense but the need to blend in more urgent than his paranoia. When the lady comes to drop his coffee off she barely glances at him, her eyes clearly trained on the young man behind him.

Jack doesn’t say a word, just shoves a tip into her distracted hand, and reaches into his pocket to pull out Olivia’s letter.

It doesn’t say much he doesn’t already know. There’s an apology, a short explanation about how she’s never been use to staying in one spot, a handful of thinly veiled jokes at his expense, and the code for turning on the communicator followed by her number to dial. He reads it all with a smile on his face and when he’s done he tucks it into his coat pocket to keep safe.

When he leaves the cafe he feels no eyes on him but it doesn’t keep the paranoia at bay.

Eventually he makes his way to his destination and he stands in front of the old Overwatch Headquarters, the one from years ago that was nearly burnt to the ground, with his hands in his pockets and his cap low over his eyes. The buildings are still black, look fragile, and the signs on all the fences around the buildings scream “CONDEMNED” in bright red letters. Jack still sees memories everywhere he looks, and when he jumps the fence and enters the creaky remains he sees more.

The walls are covered in graffiti and messages. Jack recognises some of them, and he runs his hand over one wall that has Jesse’s name sprayed on it with a cowboy hat beside the name. His hand comes away black and sooty, but the paint remains untouched.

Jack knows that Gabe used the ruins as a place to train Blackwatch personnel. It’s why they never bulldozed the place and used it for something else. Signs of training is evident by the broken doors, cracked walls, the places where new dust has settled where old dust was disturbed. There’s a few marks on one of the floors that looks horrifyingly like dried blood, and Jack stares at it for a long moment before moving on.

He finds the control room easily enough, and he’s relieved when he sees that there’s three screens out of the many that are blink red lights at him. He knows Gabe never officially put this place down as Blackwatch’s training facility, wanting to keep it off the map and forfeiting updates and groundskeeping in the process. In theory the Overwatch shut down shouldn’t have reached here.

Jack drops his duffel down by the door and settles into one of the chairs in front of the consoles. It takes him a moment of drumming his fingers on the tabletop before he reaches forward and taps in Winston’s access command.

It wouldn’t do to put in his or Gabe’s. The likelihood of that popping up on Petras’s memos is too high to take the risk.

Thankfully, Winston doesn’t seemed to have changed anything as within a few taps Jack is looking at the old Overwatch screensaver with shortcut links to every website ever patrolled. Jack glances at a couple of the more familiar ones, but all he sees is news about violence on Omnic’s, humans being assholes, and he’s pretty sure he recognises one of the anti-Omnic protestors as his parents neighbour, the bigoted preacher.

He clicks off those at that thought and instead turns to the screen with the satellite. He knows he shouldn’t, but in a few clicks he’s looking at his parents house in Indiana. It’s still white, still has rolling verandahs, and he wishes the feed was live so he could see what’s happening. It’s not though, and Jack gives the birds eye view one quick memorisation before turning back to the monitors for business.

He clicks into the deceased and MIA listings for the entire organisation. He spots his name followed by Gabe’s and Ana’s, and when he comes across Jesse’s it’s stamped with AWOL. That makes his fists clench over the touchpad and his jaw clinch uncomfortably. Jesse isn’t AWOL, he’s running for his damn life thanks to Petras.

Jack trails through the list, finally noting those that died in Switzerland, and the list is long enough that it hurts him to read it after a while, his chest aching and eyes stinging. He’s just about to click out of it when someone catches his attention.

Claus Shiverman. 34. Intelligence. DECEASED.

He hovers over the name for a moment, dread building in his gut. This isn’t right, he thinks. Claus Shiverman, Overwatch Intelligence agent, isn’t dead.

Jack saw Claus two months ago in Delaware, walking with his wife and child down a busy bloody street. He’s not dead.

But the file says he was found in the main meeting room in Switzerland and perished under the rubble. Jack follows the information through so see that there was apparently a huge meeting taking place at the time of the explosion, reasons unknown, and that it took them multiple days to dig everyone out and the amount of people were phenomenal. There’s a footnote that Jack reads that says that recovery efforts are still going on, nine months down the line, and more bodies are being pulled from the meeting room.

Jack frowns before he clicks out of the listings and taps on the recordings for meetings on the day of the explosion. He knows he held the last meeting that day, some disaster with Gérard’s old intelligence crew complaining about the new leader Petras had instated, and Jack knows he took the keys to the meeting room back to his office after it was finished. He knows that.

But it’s right there. After his meeting there is a recording of several officers meeting with the vast majorities of their crews. There’s another footnote continuing on with explaining that while the reason for the meeting is unknown, it’s heavily believed to have been some sort of treasonous meeting. Jack narrows his eyes as he reads that. Sure, plenty of members of Overwatch were unhappy with Petras’s developments, but not enough to hold a mutiny.

There’s not a lot of explanation that Jack sees. He checks the records to see if there were any other keys issued for the room besides his own, but no other keys were taken out of the safes that day. There’s also a lack of records that shows the default panel was used to get in instead, only to be used if there was no key to get into the room. In fact, the last use of the panel was Jack himself last year.

The whole meeting is blatantly fudged, nothing marrying up enough to be convincing but only to someone who was there, knows all the protocols, and has access to the records. Jack stares at the meeting time that didn’t happen and at Claus’s DECEASED status and feels an overwhelming feeling of shock.

Of course. Petras made it illegal to have anything to do with Overwatch in the Petras Act. No mentioning, no advertising, no nothing. Then there’s someone like Claus walking around with information they don’t want released, and the ability and curiosity to dig deeper...

Jack slams a fist on the console, throwing the screens off kilter with the ferocity of his hit, and he swears as loud as he can.

Petras is doing this. He must be killing off the threats to the Petras Act.

Jack turns back to the consoles and hits a few more buttons until he’s searching through the web for the bounty listings Blackwatch use to use, for recruiting or to add their own bounties. Jack never endorsed Gabe drafting from the listings, especially since he would always go for the five star bounties for the dangerous criminals, but it did leave them with some good soldiers so Jack always carefully overlooked it. He did a lot of things for Gabe that in retrospect he shouldn’t have done, but Jack knows he’d do it all again.

He shakes the thought from his head as he focuses back on the screen. There’s plenty of Blackwatch specific firewalls he needs to get through before he can access the part of the web the county listings are on. Eventually though, he gets through them and when he finds the list he clicks on it with a lump in his throat.

Jesse’s face greets him as the top bounty, and Jack’s nose flares and his teeth grind together as he forces himself not to click into that bounty and he makes himself look past it into the other listings. Thankfully, there are pages and pages of bounties to take his mind away from Jesse, and it takes a long time of looking, enough that his head is pounding with a headache and his hand is stiff from scrolling, but he finds what he’s looking for under the completed bounties list.

Claus Shiverman. 34. Ex-Overwatch Intelligence Agent. Rated : 4. Bounty : $60,000.

The confirmation of what he’s looking at knocks the wind out of Jack’s lungs, and he stares with wide eyes at the bounty. He didn’t want to be right, not at all, but the evidence in front of him is blatant. Claus a four star is unbelievable. The guy could barely hold a firearm without being a complete disaster. That’s why he was relegated to desk duty. Jack locks his jaw as he scrolls down, and it’s horrifying as he sees that Claus isn’t the only desk agent to be on the list with such a high ratings and bounties.

Petras must be placing bounties on ex-agents to try and silence them.

It definitely seems like something Petras would do, Jack continues to scroll down the listings and for others. There’s the normal listings placed by crime lords and sometimes the feds, but there’s not many Overwatch specifics that he can place on Petras’s shoulders.

That is until he tumbles across Moira O’Deorain, labelled as an Ex-Blackwatch Medic at a rating of five and a bounty of $150,000. He swallows, his eyes lingering on the photo of her mid-coalescence ability that’s always made Jack uncomfortable. Eventually he presses on and keeps looking, freezing up more when he comes across Shimada Genji, five star rating and a bounty of $300,000. Jack hits a few buttons, wondering if he can delete the listing but comes across an error. His override won’t work, and he stares at Genji and makes a silent apology.

As he continues to look, more and more Blackwatch names pop up, people he recognises and some that he doesn’t as he goes along until finally he can’t take it anymore and closes out of the listings, his shoulders hunched and head heavy.

He swings around in his chair and drops his head to his hands. He needs Olivia right now. Needs her to tell him all of her conspiracies so he can figure out what one this nightmare pieces into.

Petras issued the Act and then he must’ve placed bounties on all the Overwatch agents left alive that are heavy risks. But then, would that mean that the Switzerland explosion was intentional? Most of the personnel in Zürich were loyal to Jack rather than the overall Overwatch organisation. Jack had made it that way, and even though it was starting to change with most of his original team choices leaving, Jack could still at least trust the Zürich personnel to be on his side whenever Petras or Adawe starting screaming the odds.

That makes Jack pause, and when he really thinks about it the Overwatch members that are on the listings, like Claus Shiverman, are all the members that were mainly loyal to Jack. It’s plausible, he realises, that Petras is definitely putting the bounties out on those loyal to Jack because they’re the ones most likely to break the damn Petras Act.

But Petras couldn’t do it alone. He’d have to have some help from someone who knows both Blackwatch and Overwatch. Who would know all of these people at least somewhat personally. Who’d have the inside look.

It makes sense, Jack thinks. If there is anyone who could attack Overwatch personnel and have the capabilities of doing so without them even being aware despite all of their training… it would be Blackwatch.

It would be Gabe.

Jack shakes his head and stands up. He won’t think like that. He can’t think like that. Gabe would never betray him in that way, and he ignores the voice telling him to consider it as he picks up his bag and strides down the hallway.

Tonight he will rest, he decides. Tomorrow will be the time to think things through and decide where to start. For now, a rest in his old quarters will do him good and…

He freezes in the doorway of his old room and his chest feels suddenly incredibly heavy.

He remembers Gabe telling him that he use to stay in their old quarters if he did an overnight drill at the ruins with his members. Jack use to tease him about it, and it was such a sweet running joke between them for such a long time. It’d been so long since jokes like that were exchanged between them after the move, and Jack had, in all honesty, forgotten all about it.

But now he looks and sees the two old mattresses from the SEP lying side by side in Jack’s old crappy room, and a lump fills Jack’s throat and his eyes burn as he drops to his knees on top of the one that use to be Gabe’s and settles into it.

Memories blast him for a long moment, each night the two spent on these flashing through his mind right behind the memory of Gabe pushing his stupid mattress through the corridors to get here. Jack still remembers the resignation he’d felt as he’d just helped Gabe and not bothered to question his motives until much later.

“Decided that the risk of choking on my own vomit in my sleep after these nightmare drills was too high,” Gabe had told him. Now Jack looks back on it, and he remembers stolen kisses in a Mexican alleyway, he wonders if that were the truth.

He splays his hand over Gabe’s pillow. It smells like dust and smoke, and there’s no hint of Gabe, but Jack’s memory can fill in the spaces as he pushes his face into it and takes a huge breath.

No, he thinks. Gabe would never betray him. Not his Gabe. Not the Gabe that wanted to sleep by Jack but covered it up with stupid excuses. That Gabe is too soft and sweet and Jack loves him more than anything.

He pauses. In the end though, Gabe wasn’t his Gabe.

Jack sighs. Tomorrow, he thinks again. Tomorrow will be the day for thinking this through and making decisions.

For now, he reaches for the two blankets nearby, crappy faded SEP issued ones that Gabe had always complained about being too scratchy, and throws them over himself. He leans into Gabe’s pillow again and closes his eyes, trying to imagine Gabe behind him, back to back.

Tomorrow, he decides.

Chapter Text

He ends up in Hanamura after LA.

The idea of heading to the original source of the bounty list came after he loaded the list onto a memory drive in the old headquarters. After all, whenever Blackwatch had wanted to add to the list they had to go through the Yakuza gatekeepers, but looking at the sporadic adding of Blackwatch agents to the list makes Jack think there must be an alternate route that can be used.

Most of the clans in the Yakuza refused to work with Overwatch, which rules out Petras being able to work with them, but from stories that Gabe told him Jack knows that they willingly worked with Blackwatch until the Italy incident. Jack thinks that maybe if he finds a few informants and batters them around using some of the blackmail Blackwatch has on them he can get to the source of the list and find where the alternate route is.

It’s a simple plan, but what he doesn’t expect when he ends up in Hanamura, is Shimada Hanzo.

Jack’s standing in the middle of some side street with wood carts being pushed past him and the sight and smell of cherry blossoms in the air when he realises he has no plan to speak of. He’d not done any proper research, and frankly, he doesn’t know exactly where he is. Jack hasn’t been to Japan since well before Overwatch moved their main headquarters to Switzerland, and even then it was Tokyo, not Hanamura. The only information he knows is that Hanamura is where Gabe use to go to place bounties personally, but that doesn’t really help.

So, Jack struggles on where to start. It’s been a hell of a long journey and he’s exhausted in more ways than one, and when he catches sight of an open temple he’s automatically drawn to it.

He hasn’t actively mourned for anyone in a long time, and when he stands at the bottom of the stairs and sees the sticks of incense and the empty frames he thinks that maybe this could be a good place to start. According to tradition, when he mourns he also channels the person, and he could really use some of Gabe and Ana’s ideas at the moment.

As he climbs the steps, incense and an empty frame gripped in his hand, he remembers a long time ago when he’d been on babysitting duty with Genji and Jesse and it was the anniversary of Genji ‘death’. Genji had been in a good space that day, away from weapons and without a murderous glint in his eye, and he’d insisted on teaching Jack and Jesse parts of his culture’s memorial traditions. Jack has never forgotten the moment Genji knelt with sticks of incense burning as he drew symbols in the air and, even though Jesse had been mouthy and stupid, Jack had appreciated the idea of the tradition.

He shuffles his duffel into a nearby cubby hole when he reaches the top, most of the wall empty with only a handful of bags. From the sound of the inner shrine, there aren’t that many people either, and Jack fishes around in his duffel before pulling out a photograph to place in the wooden frame.

It’s an old one of himself with Gabe and Ana. Torbjörn had taken it at the end of the First Omnic Crisis, the angle of the camera an obvious reminder of their photographer, and Jack sweeps a finger over Gabe’s face before opening the back of the wooden frame and sliding the photograph into it.

He turns to the shrine with the photograph and incense sticks in hand, and he walks quietly through the arch to the room of people kneeling on cushions. He’s unsure where to go for a moment, unable to remember if Genji said anything about seating arrangements, but after hovering in the doorway uncertainly he ends up just picking a cushion one over from another man near the back of the room.

Jack’s just approaching it when the man sits up from where he’d been bowing in front of his own photograph, and the first thing Jack sees is none other than Genji in the photograph, and when he glances at the man he almost trips at seeing Shimada Hanzo.

Shimada Hanzo, who killed his brother. Shimada Hanzo, who ruled the Shimada Clan with an iron fist until he went AWOL. Shimada Hanzo who sits alongside his brother on the bounty list. Shimada Hanzo, whose death would see someone live comfortably with the sheer size of the bounty living on his head. Shimada Hanzo, who Jack has never met and has never had any intention on doing so.

He almost backtracks straight out of the shrine in fear that Shimada will recognise him, but the wooden frame sits heavy in his hand and instead, he just tries not to look at Shimada as he heads to the cushion and sinks into a kneeling position.

Shimada glances his way as he kneels, and Jack musters up a brief smile before looking down at his lap. He’s here now, and it’s not like Shimada will know who he is. Any contact with the Shimada Clan was through Blackwatch, and in any case, Jack doesn’t look at all how he did when he was Adawe’s golden boy. Brown hair and a brown beard have gone a long way to hide Jack’s appearance.

It really doesn’t settle him though, especially not when Shimada clears his throat. Jack jumps at the noise and glances over with his head tilted down and panic building, but it’s only to see Shimada glaring at him.

“Are you a tourist?” he asks gruffly, and Jack hesitates a moment before nodding.

“Yes,” he lies. “I thought that-”

“Our temples are not for people to demean our religions like they are tourist attractions,” Shimada growls, and Jack catches the way Shimada’s splayed hands are tightening into fists. “I suggest that you leave before you offend anyone in this room.”

Jack’s eye twitches and he straightens his back as he glares at Shimada. “Rather brave of you to assume I don’t know your traditions,” he snaps with a vicious look, and Shimada’s eyes narrow. “You don’t know me or my past. I suggest you leave me well enough alone and mourn your own loss instead of worrying about mine.”

With a huff, Jack turns back to settle on his cushion properly. He can almost feel Shimada’s heavy gaze on him, and he tries not to let his nervousness show as he sets the photograph down and lights one of the incense sticks. From memory he draws the symbol of death in front of himself before setting the stick into the holder by the frame, followed by lighting another stick and drawing the symbol of peace. He’s just pulling out the next incense for the symbol of forgiveness when Shimada speaks up once again, disrupting him.

“Indeed. A tourist who knows our way of remembrance,” Shimada says quietly, making Jack look at him with narrow eyes, not exactly pleased at being interrupted. “Not something that is common.” Shimada shifts uncomfortably on his seat and Jack is surprised when he speaks again. “My honest apologies. I am used to our religions being glorified and desecrated by tourists.” Shimada’s nose is flared and his jaw locked. “Certain places have been… desecrated in the past by tourist wishing for cheap laughs and shock value.”

Jack bites his lip, wondering if he should answer, but he finds words come easy as he thinks about some of the places Shimada is no doubt thinking of. “I understand,” he agrees as he rolls the incense stick between his fingers. “The monopolisation of your culture, of so many cultures… it’s despicable.”

Shimada looks surprised, and Jack wonders if he was expecting a fight, but his expression returns to a neutral look quickly. “Yes,” he hums, and his eyes are still hard. “Nothing is sacred these days.” He pauses before he nods his head towards Jack’s handful of sticks. “Do you know much of the remembrance traditions?”

Jack glances at the stick of incense in his hand and the photo of Gabe and Ana and remembers when Genji showed him what to do, how to connect with those in the afterlife. The bittersweet feeling sits hauntingly on his shoulders, like a thick cloak he can’t shake off.

He gives Shimada a tight smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. “A student of mine showed me your tradition once,” he tells him, resisting the urge to look at the photo of Genji lest he give anything away. Shimada’s eyes are sharp, and Jack knows he’s probably already picked up Jack’s nervous tick of fidgeting with his shirt. “I don’t partake often, but today it felt like something I had to do.”

Shimada nods slowly. “A good student, then,” he says, and Jack can’t help his smile turning fond as he thinks of Genji. It’s odd to be sitting in front of his brother and would be murderer, and the only reason Jack isn’t wanting to lunge across the distance between them and make Shimada pay for what he’s done to Genji because that is not his place. If anyone deserves revenge, or even deserves to offer forgiveness, it’s Genji, and Jack will not take that away from him.

That mind frame alone is also odd, but at this point? Jack is use to things being odd these days. Not much makes sense anymore.

Jack dips his head when he realises Shimada is still watching him. “Yes, he was,” he says honestly. Shimada hums and turns back to his own incense and photo, but pauses before gesturing at the photo in front of Jack.

“Your friends,” he says solemnly. “Were they lost on this day?”

It takes Jack a moment as he glances at the photo and feels a sharp ache in his chest. “No,” he replies, and he can’t help but reach out and move the frame to face him more, almost shielding it from Shimada’s view. “But I believe there shouldn’t be a select day to mourn those lost.”

Shimada nods slowly, his eyes curious as he regards Jack before he glances down at his photo. Jack looks as well and notes that the photo is the exact same as the one Genji always had tucked away on his armour where he thought no one could see it. Genji’s youth is apparent in the photo, the shock of green hair on his head makes Jack think of a boy who was young and fearless before he appeared in Blackwatch, someone who actually enjoyed life and clearly had no idea what was in store for him in the future. Shimada, himself, looks young in the photo where he stands beside Genji, but Jack can see the young man already has the weight of the world on his shoulders.

It makes something ache in Jack’s chest.

“It is the anniversary of my brother’s,” Shimada murmurs to him, dragging Jack’s attention back to him instead, and Shimada reaches out to trace a finger over Genji’s face. He looks so lost and mournful at that moment that Jack feels sympathy for him. “I killed him,” Shimada confesses, and Jack’s breath hitches.

He never expected this, not so casually nor to Jack. But he sees the way Shimada glances at him and he knows what this is. A confession to a stranger, someone who will listen but not understand, someone who will take his words as an exaggeration and not realise the truth behind them.

“I feel that way too,” Jack tells him, and it’s honestly the bare truth. Maybe he didn’t fire the shot that killed Ana or set off the bomb that murdered Gabe, but it sure as hell feels like it. If Shimada can confess then so can he. “If only I’d moved faster, called an order sooner... not been so blind.”

“You are a soldier?”

Jack grimaces. “Sometimes,” he mumbles. “Sometimes I feel like the worst in the world.”

Shimada nods. “Loss makes fools of us all,” he says, and Jack feels a connection to that sentence more than anything else. It wraps around his throat, suffocating him, and he drops his head to look back at the picture in front of him. He lingers on how young they look in the photo, right before Blackwatch when Jack and Gabe were so fresh with one another. It pangs Jack to remember.

He lights the incense still in his hand, letting the faint crackle it sets off ground him, and he bites back bitter tears and a wounded heart as he thinks a silent thought in their memory. He draws the final sign of forgiveness in the air, meaning it with every movement of his arm, and when he places the stick beside the other two the heaviness doesn’t go away.

Beside him, Shimada is doing the same, and Jack wants to tell him so badly of Genji’s survival as he sees Shimada’s shoulders shaking. But it’s not his secret to tell, and he certainly wouldn’t want to go against any of Genji’s wishes. He can only watch as Shimada Hanzo mourns a living man and he hopes that maybe one day it won’t be like this.

“I’m sorry, Shimada,” he murmurs, so caught up in the moment that it takes him a few beats to realise his screw up. He glances at Shimada with wide eyes, only to see pained ones looking back as Shimada inclines his head.

“As am I, Jack Morrison,” he replies, and the air around them becomes so tense that Jack doesn’t know what to do as they hold a taunt gaze, neither blinking as they regard each other.

He thinks of his rifle, back in his bag at the entrance, but Shimada isn’t making any movement from the floor and his intensity slowly wavers away until he drops his gaze all together and looks at the ground.

“I recognised you from the moment you walked in,” Shimada says quietly. “As I am sure you recognised me. The organisations we worked for have made targets of us both.” He glances up and nods at Jack’s brown hair and beard. “Changing the colour of your hair does not do much to hide your demeanour, Commander.” He settles down the stick of incense he had been holding. “If you are here to kill me, I welcome death with open arms.”

Jack blinks at him for a long moment before shaking his head. “Believe it or not, Shimada,” he says. “This is all a coincidence. You’ve been out of the Clan for years now. I have no quarrel with you.”

“Not even when it was one of your men who found my brother?” Shimada asks sharply, and Jack flinches at the tone. “You know what I did to him, and yet you still let me walk free?”

“It wasn’t one of my men,” he answers truthfully, skating by on a technicality, and Shimada looks doubtful. He can’t spill about Genji now, so instead, he turns back to his photograph and incense. “In any case, I would be a hypocrite to place the blame on you. I killed two of my own family, betrayed more in the aftermath. I’m sure that beats your one.”

“The explosion at Switzerland killed Gabriel Reyes,” Shimada says, frowning at Jack. “Ana Amari was killed in battle by an opposing operative. Neither has left personal blood on your hands.”

Jack doesn’t know how Shimada knows their names, but he’s also not surprised. A man being hunted by a Clan and with his own bounty would have skills that ensure his survival. Among them could be having informants or maybe he has a gift with computers, like Olivia. He, no doubt, would have access to large groups of information somewhere, even if maybe it means breaking into the Shimada Castle which, when Jack thinks about it, sounds highly likely.

Jack suddenly frowns though. Obviously, Shimada knows there is a bounty on his head, but he’s still mourning Genji which means he hasn’t seen his brother on the list as well. Jack wants to bring it up but, once again, Jack can’t risk him finding out about Genji if he were to read the list, so he lets it lie instead of asking. The man looks more than haunted, but his hands are strong where they are tight into fists again and his shoulders are tense. Signs of a warrior, of a killer, and the guilt Jack feels at not telling him about Genji lessens as he thinks of what this man has already done.

Eventually, he turns back to Shimada with a grimace. “Maybe you are right,” he says. “But for now my guilt won’t change. I should’ve done something more, saved them both. Then I wouldn’t be here in this cursed shrine sending prayers for forgiveness.”

Shimada watches him carefully before surprising Jack by reaching out across the space between them and touching Jack’s shoulder. “One should not live in the past, Commander. You will lose your mind if you do.”

Jack freezes, the words so carefully similar and yet so completely different from ones that Gabe told him over a marked rifle a long long time ago. He feels the lump in his throat, almost permanent now, grow thicker and he reaches up to squeeze Shimada’s wrist. He doesn’t say anything, no words easy enough for the moment, and instead they kneel in silence until Shimada’s hand slips from Jack’s shoulder and their hands fall back to their laps.

Silently, they turn back to their remembrance. Jack performs the rest of the ritual Genji had painstakingly taught him alongside Shimada, and when they finish they get up side by side and leave their photographs with the incense burning at the front of the shrine.

When they step outside, Jack hoists his duffel to his shoulder and watches as Shimada slings a bow and quiver onto his back. The man looks intimidating with his weaponry and an exposed tattoo on his left arm. It’d been on the opposite side so Jack hadn’t seen it fully, and he’s almost sure it’s giving off a blue glow. It must be a trick of the eyes.

“What are you doing here in Hanamura, Commander?” Shimada asks him, and that shocks Jack. He didn’t expect any conversation to really continue, just for the two to depart in mutual silence, but as he looks up at Shimada’s face to see Shimada frowning at him. “It’s highly unlikely for a man such as yourself to be just visiting on a whim,” he continues when Jack doesn’t respond quickly. “There must be a reason.”

Jack contemplates lying to him. He could make up some bullshit excuse about being on the run and Hanamura being a place to blend in, but that might be stretching the truth. Of all the places in Japan to blend in, Hanamura is not on the top of the list. It’s a city run by criminals, mainly Yakuza, and even the traditional archaic ways dating back thousands of years are not enough to encourage tourists to the city.

He could tell Shimada the truth, he thinks. The likelihood of Shimada knowing information about the bounty list is reasonable, and it doesn’t seem like he has any intention on dobbing Jack in or attacking him in any way.

“I’m trying to find if there is another way to access the major bounty listings without having to go through the Yakuza,” Jack ends up saying, and Shimada’s eyebrow goes up. “From what I understand of the listings, the responsibility of monitoring and controlling them is passed to whatever clan has the most influence within the Yakuza.” Jack shuffles on the spot and rearranges his duffel on his shoulder. “I want to know if there are loopholes though.”

Shimada’s gaze in unflinching for a long moment and Jack wonders if he’s just made a huge mistake until Shimada suddenly cracks out into a half-smirk.

“Indeed,” he muses before he nods. “The Shimada Clan had the most influence within the Yakuza for many centuries and was in control of all international bounty listings.” He purses his lips and glances away from Jack. “With my father’s death, that influence went away, and I was unable to continue on in his steed due to… unfortunate circumstances.”

Jack doesn’t want to interrupt to say he knows what those circumstances were, that Genji’s death has clearly torn Shimada apart, and Jack’ll never forget the day that Genji found out his brother abandoned their old clan. It wasn’t pleasant.

“The bounty listings are currently under the control of the Yamaguchi-gumi Clan,” Hanzo continues, oblivious to Jack’s thoughts. “But you are also correct in assuming there are loopholes. There have always been other ways to add to the list, but most are closed up as soon as they are found.” Hanzo glances back up at Jack and he’s frowning again. “Often the loopholes are caused by inside jobs. Unfortunately, all bounties must go through a Yakuza member.”

Jack swears under his breath. There goes the idea that maybe Petras has something to do with this. He already knows the Yakuza refuse to work with Overwatch, and Petras is too big of a name for him to use a cover to gain access.

It leaves the theory that someone from Blackwatch is doing this, and Jack hates that theory with a damn passion. He can’t condemn Gabe. Not yet. Just because a few fingers are pointing his way doesn’t mean it's him.

“It may interest you to know,” Shimada pipes up again, and Jack glances at him almost desperately. “The Yamaguchi-gumi clan worked quite closely with the Deadlock Gang on Route 66 in America.” Shimada’s face takes on a wistful look for a moment. “I have recently encountered a man who was there dealing with the remnants of the Deadlock Gang whilst I was there pursuing certain members of the Yamaguchi-gumi. We uncovered that both groups also have large dealings with Talon.

Talon, Jack thinks, and the memory of the Switzerland headquarters being combed by Talon forces reminds him that, of course, Talon is involved in this too. It’s another player to add to the game, and Jack can almost feel Olivia’s jealousy over the conspiracy he’s clearly unveiling.

In the back of his mind, he vaguely registers what Shimada was saying about the man he encountered, and a part of him hopes it was Jesse. It’s foolish o think, but dammit, Jack can only think of the high bounty on the kid’s head and he hopes he’s okay.

“Thank you,” he eventually says to Shimada, and Shimada merely inclines his head in response. Jack is tempted to reach forward and clap him on the shoulder, but Shimada doesn’t look like the kind of person who can just be touched willy-nilly.

They seem to be in sync though as they both turn to the stairs at the same time. Jack’s grasp on his duffle bag is tight, and he doesn’t miss the white-knuckled grip Shimada has on his bow.

“I feel we may meet again, Commander,” Shimada says as they descend the steps side by side. Jack doesn’t answer but does hum in acknowledgement. “Until then, be careful. You clearly have a mission,” he pauses and surprises Jack by reaching out to catch his shoulder again. “Do not let it consume you. Your loved ones would not want to lose you to vengeance. Those closest to you would not want you to suffer for some misguided sense of justice.”

His voice is heavy and loaded, and Jack wonders if the man is holding a secret just as Jack is. He peers at him for a moment before he nods his head.

“Strong advice I suggest you also follow,” he suggests, and Shimada blinks blankly. “Do not lose yourself to your own guilt."

Shimada surprises him again by giving him an awful smile, one full of self-loathing and doubt. “It is too late for me,” he says, his voice thick with grief. “I must face retribution. But for you, Commander, there is still much for you.” He inclines his head until his mouth is close to Jack’s ear. “Return to those that live, Commander. They need you more than you will ever know.”

With that, he pulls away and gives Jack a firm nod before turning around and disappearing down the last few steps to melt into the crowd. Jack watches with wide eyes, feeling strangely breathless, and it takes him a long moment to collect himself before he too pushes off into the crowd.

He’s got some Yamaguchi-gumi to find.

 

 

Chapter Text

Jack always knew that being a vigilante meant fighting alone. Vigilantes don’t have allies. Maybe the occasional sidekick, and Jack always thinks of Olivia and tries not to laugh, but there are no allies in the vigilante game.

What Jack doesn’t expect, and scolds himself for not thinking about it, is that a vigilante always ends up against a damn mercenary.

Jack just never thought his mercenary would look like the grim reaper and sound even worse.

He bumps into him on Alcatraz of all places. He’d gone back to America against his better judgement, traveling through Mexico on his way through and poking through a few details of local crime lords with insight into the bounty list, and he was convinced the place was empty when he arrived.

After all, Alcatraz was never officially listed as a Blackwatch hideout, and Jack finds himself really thinking hard as he realises the amount of things Blackwatch did off the record. It seems like it’s building up as Jack looks more and more into it, and it leaves him feeling rattled.

The top half of Alcatraz is still the same. The old damp prison is still there with rusted bars and collapsed walls. He almost rolls his ankle on a piece of rubble as he walks through the main entrance into the ruins and snags his arm on a protruding nail. Luckily, his leather jacket takes the brunt of it and Jack grumbles about having to fix the bloody thing again.

But it’s further down the back that it’s different, and it takes Jack a while to figure out where he’s going. After all, he’s only been to Alcatraz twice and both times he was escorted by Gabe. A few pokes at a few walls later he finds the hidden lever that pulls back and shows the biometric scanner to open the door into the hideout. He stares at it for a few moments, knowing he won’t be able to get through. Only Blackwatch members. Gabe never gave him the authority to bypass it.

That unsettles him even more, just another mark to Gabe’s name and, with a huff, Jack lifts his rifles and slams the butt into the scanner a couple of times.

With a hint of luck, the biometric scanner flickers blue and the door clicks open, revealing a dark stairwell. Jack glances down it but sees no sign of light. Thankfully, he thought to wear the visor that Olivia had stolen, and he clicks a few buttons before night vision flicks on and bathes the stairwell in black and green.

He slowly starts his way down, gripping his rifle tightly and keeping his eyes trained on the stairs. It’s still dark with the visor on, and he grits his teeth as he tries not to misstep on any of the deteriorating steps. Gabe never made things easy.

When he gets to the bottom though, he’s surprised as there’s a flicker in the corner of his visor and before he knows it there are automatic lights turning on the whole length-way of the corridor spread out before him. The oppressiveness of the hideout lifts at the light, and Jack clicks off his night vision as he walks forward, keeping the visor on just in case. Doors are leading off everywhere, the whole corridor lined with them, and Jack trails along reading the signs. There’s a break room, a training room, a debriefing room... all the usual rooms Jack is used to seeing, and he finally stops when he sees the control room.

Another quick, but precise, smash to the control panel opens the door, and Jack looks around the room as automatic lights flicker on in there as well. The room is dusty and unused, and he stirs the air as he walks through towards the consoles lining the other walls. The machines clearly haven’t been used in a long time as well, and he clicks a few buttons to power them on.

He’d tried accessing the old Blackwatch member listings back at the old Tokyo Blackwatch Headquarters, but all the machines looked liked they’d been tampered with and a few looked like they even had security alerts on them. Jack had avoided them despite needing the list to compare against the bounty list he’d managed to persuade a few drunken yakuza to part with.

Jack, admittedly, thanks Gabe’s paranoia for not registering Alcatraz as the machines boot up with the Blackwatch logo flickering onto the screens. He smiles as he sits in the main seat, dragging the keyboard towards him after leaning his pulse rifle against the desk leg, and with a few clicks he types in Gabe’s name and profile and is sent to the main dashboard.

He never really got used to the Blackwatch servers, all of them meant to distract and confuse outsiders who got their hands on them. He does remember vaguely Gabe pulling up the member listings a few times to list the dead though when Jack was present and, after a few attempts, Jack manages to copy him and the full listing appears.

It’s the decoy listing though, an extra layer of protection for the Blackwatch agents that Jack knows was originally to distract Adawe, and after a few more clicks and two attempts at Gabe’s override password Jack finally gets through to the actual full list, the one with Jesse and Genji’s names and details. It makes Jack pause as Jesse’s face pops up on screen, the face of a gruff seventeen-year-old with a chip on his shoulder and a sneer that always made Gabe laugh.

Jack smiles again, this one more bittersweet, and he lingers before clicking off and shoving the memory drive with the bounty list into the monitor's main tower. He sets about downloading the Blackwatch list, and makes a mental note to get the Overwatch list as well. He needs to cross compare, see who’s on the list, and figure out more about them. If there’s any link that could pinpoint whoever started this mess then he has every intention of finding it.

The download looks like it’s going to take time, and Jack drums his fingers as he wonders what to do in the meantime. Slowly, he gets up and makes his way back to the main corridor. He hasn’t got much of an idea of what he’s looking for, but as he walks down the corridor he spots a door labeled Commander Reyes, and he feels his heart stop.

There’s a lump in his throat as he approaches the door, and he swears when he realises he forgot his rifle. He doesn’t go back for it though and instead looks at the scanner to get into Gabe’s room. A part of him is curious to know if his hand will work as he reaches out to open the biometric scanner, and he takes off a glove to push his bare hand against the scanner.

The scanner registers green and the door slides open, and the realisation Gabe had Jack’s palm scanned for his room too makes him feel an ache deep down.

Gabe’s old room is cluttered, Jack notices. There’s none of the military precision from the LA Headquarters that Jack remembers. LA was sparse and impersonal, but Alcatraz... Jack notes that there seem to be souvenirs and knick-knacks covering every surface.

There’s an entire shelf covered in small wooden animals, and Jack reaches out to pick one up. It’s a roughly carved rabbit, clearly beginners work, and on the bottom are the initials JM. Jack knows each of them will have the same initials, all done by Jesse on late night Blackwatch missions where Gabe taught him to whittle wood and Jesse taught Gabe patience. So much patience.

There’s one of Jack’s old baseball hats on the desk, and Jack recognises it from the inter-Blackwatch/Overwatch baseball game with a deep blush. He remembers Gabe pulling him aside afterwards when they were alone in the changing rooms, telling him its tradition for opposing teams to swap shirts, and Jack blush is enough to remember the rest.

He turns away and looks through the rest of the room. Jesse’s first pistol that he blew the ass out of sits on the bedside table, one of Genji’s broken blade hangs on the wall in two pieces, Gabe’s hoodie that Jack always referred to as theirs is wrapped around a pillow, an open box full of Gérard’s favourite German cigars, old and faded French ballet tickets framed beside photos, so many photos.

Jack feels something fragile in his chest break when he sees the largest photo is one of him and Gabe. He remembers it, just after the Omnic Crisis when they were still young and felt free and like the world had taken them on and they’d won. He hates the two young men in that photo, hates how naive and stupid they were.

He has to look away, and he instead glances at the other photos. He reaches out to pluck one stuck on the corkboard, Gabe with Genji and Jesse. There’s a note scrawled across it in Jesse’s writing, and Jack smiles at the “Grouchiest Dad Award” in tacky capital letters.

Jack folds that photo and slips it into his pocket. There’s so many he remembers, the one of himself with Ana and Gabe, Winston’s graduation, Fareeha’s birthday party, an entire album worth of Torbjörn with his turrets and Reinhardt lurking in the background, Brigitte and Fareeha pining down Genji and Jesse, Ana teaching Amélie, group photo after group photo.

So many of Gabe and Jack that Jack can’t remember taking. He can’t remember ever being that happy, that blissful. But he must have. The joy on the face of his younger self couldn’t be faked.

He sighs as he turns back to the bed and reaches out to snag the hoodie up. There’s the tear in the pocket he put there accidentally with a pocket knife, gunpowder stains in the shape of fingers lining the sides, the hoodie cords frayed at both ends, and the green hoodie has faded into a lightly tinged grey. It feels worn and soft under his hands and he bunches it in his fist before shoving it in the satchel at his side.

He has to leave after that. He can’t be in this room anymore. There are too many memories, some he’s not partial too, and Jack quickly leaves the room with the door sliding shut behind him.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t notice the approach of another person, and as he grits his teeth and turns to make his way back to the control room he instead gets a face full of shotgun.

“Hello, Soldier,” the other person growls from under a skull mask, and Jack only has time to blink before dodging out of the way of a sharp shotgun blast.

He drops to the floor in a heap and rolls to the side, his ears ringing frantically and he can’t get his bearings quickly enough to dodge a foot coming towards him at impressive speed. It hits him right in the solar plexus, winding him as it sends him sprawling, and he coughs harshly as his eyes flicker with black spots.

Jack grunts when he’s kicked again before he manages to roll away and back up against the wall, his legs awkwardly sprawled in front of him as he pants heavily. A clawed hand tangles into his hair, yanking his head up just as the handle of the shotgun slams across the cheek.

His face explodes in pain and he feels a trail of blood dripping from his lips. Everything hurts, but he grits through the pain and forces his eyes open to look up at the skull mask hovering over him.

“White this time?” the mercenary says, his voice harsh and gravely as he strokes Jack’s hair before yanking it a few times. “I preferred the brown. Now you look your age.”

“You know nothing about me,” Jack spits back, glaring hard even if the mercenary won’t be able to see past the visor.

The mercenary doesn’t reply, just lets Jack’s hair go and raises a shotgun to press the muzzle to Jack’s forehead.

“No,” he eventually says, “I don’t. I don’t care either.” The muzzle is pushed harder, cutting into Jack’s skin. “All I care about is why you were in that room.”

Jack glances over at Gabe’s old room before glaring back at the mercenary, folding his lip into a hard line. He refuses to answer, and he hisses when the mercenary’s talons rake back through his hair, scratching his skin painfully.

“Tell me.”

“No,” Jack defies him, and despite not seeing the mercenary’s face Jack can feel the anger building. The muzzle drops away and Jack can’t feel any serious wounds as he scrunches his nose, but when he looks back at the mercenary he feels his stomach drop.

He’s not completely sure but, unless his eyes have started playing tricks on him, the mercenary’s figure is starting to blur and a sudden feeling of rot starts to fill the nose filter in Jack’s mask until he’s almost choking on the smell of death as the corridor fills with black smoke and the mercenary seems to be that smoke.

Jack thinks he’s crazy, but a memory of O’Deorian experimenting on herself… on being able to vanish in a puff of smoke and appear nearby… Jack thinks that maybe this is what’s happening. The mercenary must have a connection with the old Overwatch geneticist. Jack’s never seen it anywhere else.

“Why?” the mercenary is roaring, his voice loud enough to snuff out all the thoughts in Jack’s head and the smoke becomes thicker and Jack is genuinely choking as he scrabbles at his throat. “Why that murderer?”

That makes Jack pause, and he manages to choke out a reply. “He was a good man,” he snarls with what breath he has. “You’re wrong.”

The smoke dissipates and is replaced by cackling laughter, skin crawling and loud as it seems to come from all the smoke in the mercenary’s face.

“You’re a fool,” he snarls, “Reyes was a murderer.” He leans forward, his mask close as the smokes billows out and surrounds Jack in a cocoon of black. “He killed families. Women, children, all because he was told to. He was a murderer.”

Jack moves closer, defiance making him brave enough to almost crash their masks together. “So was I,” he snaps. “War is hell. It makes good men bad, and bad men worse.” He finds the strength to slam a hand out into the mercenary’s shoulder, only for his hand to go right through. It only makes him angrier. “Anyone saying different is selling something.”

The mercenary stays quiet for a moment before a deep hiss comes out. “Reyes was evil,” he says, and Jack almost lunges forward with a tight fist but holds back at the last moment.

“No,” he says defiantly. “No. He was a good man made to do bad things. Not a damn day goes by where I don’t regret listening when he said he was tired of being the bad guy.”

The words come out faster than he can catch them, and he pales and hopes the mercenary doesn’t pick up on the slip. He doesn’t know if he’s in luck though as the mercenary slowly shrinks back into himself, the black smoke slipping back and forming his body. His shotguns gleam at his side and Jack swallows hard.

But the mercenary doesn’t raise them, just continues to look at Jack with that emotionless mask, until he finally takes a step forward hesitantly.

Jack holds his breath.

“Mor-” the mercenary starts to say, and Jack feels himself freeze, but he’s cut off by a sudden call from down the corridor.

Reaper!” a woman shouts, and Jack turns at the same time as the mercenary to see a blue woman walking towards them, and Jack feels himself start to itch at the thought of being outnumbered. It all goes away though as the woman gets close enough to identify and Jack feels his whole world drop out from under him.

Because walking towards him, purple and lethal but still damn graceful, is Amélie Lacroix.

Jack can’t find any air as he stares at her and wonders just what the fuck is happening as the mercenary calls back, his words lost to Jack’s ears, and Amélie pauses to appraise Jack aloofly.

“He is not our mission, mon cher,” she says to the mercenary, to Reaper, and she glances away from Jack to look back down the corridor towards Gabe’s room. “We are here for other things. Leave him.”

Just as Reaper looks away, and Jack notices they’re both distracted, he takes his chance and lurches to his feet. He’s unstable, his body screaming in protest no doubt from the smoke having suffocated him, but manages to right himself enough to sprint back down to the control centre. He hears Reaper shouting something behind him but Amélie, oh god Amélie, is shouting over him and Jack doesn’t look back as he tears into the control room, grabs his rifle, yanks out the memory stick and rushes to the second exit on the other side of the room.

He doesn’t know where he is as the corridor he ends up in lights up having not been disturbed, but he doesn’t care as he picks a direction and sprints down it like the hounds of hell are on his heels. Somehow he gets back into the upper levels in the prison, and he doesn’t stop running until he’s on his stolen boat sailing back across the San Francisco Bay, and only then does he chose to glance back at the island.

Then he sits down in an exhausted heap as the panic and realisation that Amélie fucking Lacroix is alive, and the picture from Gabe’s room burns in his pocket, and his heart won’t stop pounding and he finds that this time, when he can’t catch his breath, it’s not because of smoke.

 

 

Chapter Text

It takes a few weeks for Jack to make his way back to Dorado. He contemplates a few times not actually going and instead using the communicator in his satchel that Olivia had left him, but he needs to do something to get his mind off what happened at Alcatraz, and making his way down the country to find Olivia is enough to keep him distracted.

The moments where he’s sitting in the back of a truck, smuggling over the border, or crashed in cheap truckie’s hotels, or staring out the front screen of highjacked vehicles… those are the moments he can’t get a grip on his thoughts and feels suffocated.

He sees the news floating around him during the time. News of the Second Omnic Crisis has even reached the back streets of small Mexican towns, and Jack reads reports on casualties over fifty thousand and when he balls up the newspapers in his fists he thinks that Gabe and Ana didn’t die for this.

There’s the assassination of Tekhartha Mondatta, and Jack sees in some photos Amélie and, in others, Lena. There’s one of the two falling from a roof, and despite it being blurry that one takes his breath away. He hasn’t seen Lena since the fall of Overwatch, not even to check up on her, and he feels guilt swallow him until his neighbour in the next-door booth asks him to hand the condiments. He pushes the paper away and leaves the diner and tries to focus on one foot at a time.

After that it seems the seal has been broken, and Jack is soon looking at news updating on outlaw Jesse McCree robbing a train and riding away from one hell of a freight crash on Route 66, Crusader Reinhardt Wilhelm saving small villages in Germany with Squire Brigitte Lindholm at his side, Ironclad member Torbjörn Lindholm rescuing Boklovo from an awoken Titan, a Helix Security Team lead by Fareeha Amari defeating the God Program Anubis in Egypt.

The news is everywhere, and Jack can barely catch his breath between each piece, so when he gets to Dorado and finds some low life Los Muertos stealing from a young girl, he’s almost thankful for the small gang to take his frustrations out on.

Finally, Jack does find Olivia, not at all because of the tracker Jack slipped in her bag well over a year ago now. She’s in Castillo, sitting in the Los Muertos bar, Calaveras, throwing back drinks while a party seems to be going on behind her. Admittedly, it takes Jack a moment to recognise her when he steps into the bar. Hair spiked pink, wearing black, and covered in the phosphorescent paint that’s typical of the Los Muertos gang. He knows she’s been part of them before, back when she was growing up, but he’s never seen her blatantly in their colours.

Jack approaches her quietly, dodging the majority of the party-goers. Olivia glances up once when he sits beside her, but she does a double take before she lets out a low whistle.

“Looking good, anciano,” she says, reaching over to rub her fingers through his dyed black beard and hair. “Although, you’re a little pale for black. I prefer the blonde boy next door look.”

“Sure you do,” Jack replies easily, reaching up to catch her hand. “What’re you celebrating?”

She raises an eyebrow before glancing around the room. “I guess the start of the fall of LumériCo,” she mumbles. “Although I’m getting a little tired of the cheering of my name. Who’d think that people would be this obsessive over someone who only did it for their own reasons?”

You’re the one that leaked about LumériCo?” Jack demands, and Olivia raises her cup of bronze liquid in a mock cheers.

“Guilty,” she snarks before downing the glass in one go and slamming it back on the bar. She clicks her fingers once and the bartender appears immediately with a refill. He’s covered in the phosphorescent paint as well, clearly a member of the gang, and he glances once at Jack before looking at Olivia.

¿Algo para tu amigo?” he asks, and Olivia glances at Jack before nodding and gesturing at her drink. Before Jack can protest, he’s handed a glass of whatever Olivia is drinking as the bartender watches him intensely.

He takes a sip and fights back the wrinkle of his nose. Bourbon. He’s never been a fan.

Gracias,” he says despite it, and the bartender beams as he glances at Olivia who just waves him away with a role of her eyes.

“As I said,” she mutters. “It can be a bit frustrating being a god.”

Jack snorts so hard the bourbon almost shoots up his nose, and he coughs into his fist as he glares at her. The worst part is she looks sincere, and he bites back a sarcastic remark as he drops the glass onto the bar and turns towards her completely.

“Why did you leak the information on LumériCo?” he asks her with all the authority of a parent. “I thought we agreed when you left that you’d lay low.” He waves a hand at the thrumming bar. “This is not lying low.”

Olivia pokes her tongue out at him. “Besides the fact that Portero used the company's funds as his own piggy bank?” She clicks her tongue and holds up one finger as a mark. “Or that he was personally bribing public officials?” Another finger. “Or that he created a system of payoffs beneficial to LumériCo only?” Another. “Or that he planned to seize privately held land via government expropriation to expand LumériCo's facilities throughout Mexico?” One more finger. “Could be any of those reasons, maybe?” she says smugly as she wiggles all four fingers. “Or, maybe it’s out of the goodness of my own heart?” She wrinkles her nose at that last part, and Jack just glares at her.

“You don’t care about any of that,” he tells her, and he sees her wince and deflate a little but he doesn’t feel bad at all. “I know you, Olivia. Why did you really do it?”

She watches him for a long moment before she sighs and picks up three folders he hadn’t realised were sitting on the bar beside her, probably because they were under bright purple and phosphorescent gloves. “Because they were a stone's throw away from figuring out who you were,” she admits quietly. “And they were getting a little too close to Olivia Colomar for comfort.”

Jack frowns and glances down at the three files, only for his breath to hitch when he sees ‘Soldado 76 - Clasificado’, ‘Jack Morrison - Clasificado’, and ‘Sombra - Clasificado’ all stamped on top. He glances at Olivia briefly before flicking through them, and he sees just what she meant by them tying all of Jack Morrison’s motives and methods to Soldier 76’s. It’s all laid out with pictures and references, right down to comparisons on his physique as both Morrison and Soldier.

“Shit,” he mutters, and Olivia laughs.

“Yeah, anciano,” she agrees. “Shit.”

He flicks through them for a little bit longer before slamming them shut and downing the bourbon in front of him, ignoring the burning feeling. If LumériCo could put this together, then he dreads to know what someone else could do. He glances up at Olivia to ask the question but she’s already ahead of him.

“The only reason I could see them looking into this is that I found connections between Portero and Talon,” she explains. She taps her wrist but no screens pop up. “I’ve stored it here, but it looks like Portero and Antonio Giordani were close friends.” Olivia takes a deep breath before her next words. “Antonio Giordani was also known as Antonio-”

“Bartalotti,” Jack finishes for her with wide eyes. She nods and Jack has to close his eyes for a moment as he remembers the Venice incident, the fallout and disaster that it caused. One rule. There was one rule. “You’re telling me this is linking back to Blackwatch?”

“Specifically that Retribution mission,” she says and Jack glares at her until she shrugs. “Sorry, I needed to fact check. I just tapped into the old Blackwatch LA headquarters.” When Jack opens his mouth, she raises a hand to placate him. “Don’t worry, I didn’t trigger any alarms!”

Jack glares at her more. She’s going to be the death of him one day with how reckless she can be. He doesn’t answer her though and instead turns to look at the folders. So, LumériCo was looking into him? Why not Gabe? What makes him the special one when Gabe was the actual leader of the Retribution mission?

The memory of Gabe sparks his memory into why he’s actually here. When he looks back up he sees Olivia waiting patiently, running a finger over the rim of her glass until it makes a soft musical noise.

“I have a favour,” he asks, and Olivia shakes her head.

“So this wasn’t just a catch up then?” she sighs dramatically, and Jack narrows his eyes at her sarcasm.

“I went to the Blackwatch headquarters in San Francisco recently,” he tells her, and he can see her eyes light up with recognition. Of course, she’s been there before with Jesse once. “When I was there I bumped into some… mercenaries.”

”Mercenaries?”

“Mercenaries,” he repeats and she frowns. “One of them was dressed like, well, the grim reaper, called himself Reaper too. And the other I recognised.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a picture of Amélie from a long time ago, long before she became… whatever she is now. He pauses since it has Ana in it as well, but decides that it won’t matter. “Amélie Lacroix,” he says, tapping her face. “Do you recognise the name?”

Olivia blinks at the photo for a long moment before looking up bemused. “That’s Widowmaker,” she answers, and Jack frowns. Olivia taps the photo a few times. “That’s a top Talon operative. Widowmaker.”

“Widowmaker?” Jack parrots, and Olivia nods. He glances down at the photo of Amélie. “I knew her as Amélie Lacroix,” he tells her and Olivia shakes her head.

“No, she goes by Danielle Guillard when she’s not Widowmaker,” Olivia protests, and that sparks a memory in Jack.

“The Château Guillard,” he murmurs and, when Olivia taps his forehead to get his attention back, he shakes his head. “Guillard was her maiden name. I remember her mentioning a Château near Annecy in-” 

“Southeast France,” Olivia finishes, and Jack nods. She sits back in her chair, staring at the image before her. “I shouldn’t be surprised. There’s no reason that she’d risk using her real name in a place like Talon.”

“How did she get the code name?” Jack asks, the words ripping out of him without any control. He doesn’t want to know the answer really, already having his damn suspicions because he’s had them for a long time, and the way Olivia eyes him makes him want to know even less.

“She killed her husband,” Olivia says simply. “Apparently he worked for Overwatch,” she pauses, and Jack raises an eyebrow. “He turned on her, she killed him, and has been working for Talon ever since.” Olivia takes the photo from Jack and shakes her head. “Holy shit.”

Jack nods. “She was kidnapped,” he tells Olivia, looking at the photo wistfully. “We saved her, but she was different when she came back. Not normal. Gérard was found dead and we assumed Talon had taken her again, but I was blocked from any investigations. She wasn’t a priority.” He sighs. “She must’ve been… I don’t know. Brainwashed?” Suddenly, he freezes as he looks at the photo and remembers the black widow mark on Amélie’s sniper rifle that she’d had in the shooting range the week before Gérard’s death. “The spider that knows what it will gain sits waiting patiently in its web,” he murmurs as he remembers the line Amélie had said to him, something he thought as throw away but now that he thinks about it…

Olivia makes a noise beside him as Jack glances at her. “I know that phrase,” she says, and Jack raises an eyebrow. “Widow is always muttering it under her breath, and I’ve heard Doomfist say it to her a few times.”

Jack shakes his head. “A Nigerian proverb,” he mumbles as it clicks. Of course. It makes sense. Amélie had all the signs sitting right there. The reference to Doomfist, his home country of Nigeria, the black widow a reminder of her mission, the coldness that had radiated off of her. They’d killed Gérard the moment they’d brought Amélie back. “It was so obvious,” and he swears under his breath.

Olivia hums in acknowledgement, but Jack sees she’s not looking at Amélie anymore but at Ana. He doesn’t like the calculating look in her eyes, clearly adding something up.

“Who’s this?” she asks, and Jack gives in to the urge to take the photo back and tucks it in his pocket as he avoids looking at Olivia’s curious face.

“No one,” he mutters before changing the subject. “The other one, Olivia. Who is he?”

“Reaper?” she asks, and when Jack nods she shrugs. “I don’t know who he is. No matter what, I can’t find anything on him. All I know is that he and Widow spend a lot of missions together.” She narrows her eyes. “You want me to find out, don’t you?”

Jack can’t help but look sheepish. Olivia groans and drops her head into her hands as she mutters a string of abusive Spanish. Around them. Jack sees some of the bar patrons getting fidgety as they look between her and Jack with frowns, and Jack really doesn’t want to get into a bar fight. Thankfully, she lifts her head and reaches over to pat his cheek.

“You’re going to kill me one day, anciano,” she mutters before dropping her hand and standing up. Jack follows her, frowning when he sees she doesn’t pay for their drinks, but when he offers a wad of cash the bartender brushes him away. He glances at Olivia to see her watching him with mirth and he glares.

“Boy scout,” she mocks and Jack glowers more.

“Model citizen,” he replies, and suddenly Jack feels like he’s back in Georgia with Gabe laughing at him as he recycles his emitter even though the world is burning down around them. It hits him with a jolt, and he finds it hard to breathe for a moment.

Olivia doesn’t seem to pick up on it though as she leads the way out of the bar, pausing briefly beside two patrons who’re crammed at a table scribbling on a napkin. One of them is abnormally large with a gas mask over his face, and the other one has a maniacal face, a prosthetic leg and arm, and smells a lot like gunpowder and explosives.

To Jack, they look an awful lot like the Junker Outlaws that recently blew up a skyscraper in Sydney, Australia after killing the CEO of Hyde Global. The ones with a combined bounty of twenty-five million.

“The guards are changing at twenty-three hundred instead of twenty-two hundred tonight,” she tells them both with a gleaming smile as she taps on the napkin in front of them, and the smaller one rattles off a thank you in a thick Australian accent before scribbling furiously.

Jack doesn’t know if he’s imagining the larger one staring at him.

He doesn’t focus on it though as he follows Olivia from the bar and down the road. Jack doesn’t question where they’re going until Olivia is typing in some complicated code outside a doorway and they’re let into a room that, frankly, is ridiculously purple.

“Someone might think it’s your favourite colour,” Jack comments as he looks around the room. One of her translocators is on the table half demolished, one whole wall is purple and covered in her links of conspiracies, and there are numerous files piled up on a table where she dumps the three from the bar as she walks past into a side room.

“It’s actually green,” she calls out through the open doorway, and Jack stays away as he lurks in the room. The wall of conspiracies has his face and hers linked. It makes him smile.

“And yet, we stand in purple.”

She makes a comment he doesn’t hear, and he waits patiently until she comes out. When she does though it takes him a moment of intense blinking before his mouth straight up drops open.

“What?” is all he says, and Olivia glares at him as she rearranges the brown wig on her head, completely clean of phosphorescent colours and no longer sporting a neon pink mohawk.

“It’s the Talon uniform they gave me,” she tells him grumpily, and Jack finds himself walking over to rearrange her wig himself. It’s painful watching her tug and pull without a mirror. “I have to cover up my head so they don’t see my cybernetic graft.” At Jack questioning look she sighs. “No one else in the world has this type of graft. I made sure of it. The person who gave it to me…” she trails off, staring into the middle distance, and Jack grimaces.

He tugs the wig a couple more times and it sits in place perfectly. She gives him a warm smile when he steps away, and he can’t help but return it.

He then stands back awkwardly as she moves fluidly about the room, picking up her gun and extra pieces that are accessorised in black, red, and white. She must have a whole separate set just for her Talon outfit, Jack realises. It makes sense since Talon is such a huge power at the moment that it’s surprising Olivia can get away with only being a part-time mercenary.

“You wear it all the time?” he asks her as she drops her pistol and a bagful of translocators into his arms, and she shakes her head as she wanders back towards the piles of stuff in the room.

“Not on missions. I can’t run the risk of it dropping over my eyes.” She hauls up a duffel bag and starts to pile things in it. “In those scenarios though, I’m either alone or with Widow, and she won’t rat me out. We have an understanding.” There’s a sinister look on her face. “The wigs alright though. I normally have a mirror to correct it but the last one broke when I was… well, doesn’t matter what I was doing.” She shoulders the bag and picks up a few tablets before walking back towards him.

Jack can’t help but frown as she stops, and he shuffles the things in his hands so he can reach out to grip her shoulder. “You don’t have to do this,” he says. “Tell me no. I don’t want to be the asshole who only sees you to request things.”

Olivia smiles and reaches up to pat his hand with her free one. “It’s okay,” she reassures him. “There’s a mission they’ve been begging me to go on for a few months now.” She wiggles her fingers towards the conspiracy wall and Jack sees a few images pop up of… Katya Volskaya? “This just means you owe me big. Don’t think I won’t ask for a huge favour one day.”

Jack smiles. “No matter what, I’ll do it,” he promises her. She laughs and shakes her head before squeezing his hand and relieving him of the pistol and translocators.

“Don’t make promises you don’t know you’ll keep,” she warns him, and that makes Jack flinch. She obviously sees him do so and she drops her weapons and the tablets into her bag before surprising him by reaching forward to hug him. He blinks a few times before wrapping his arms around her tightly.

“Olivia-”

“It was my fault,” she mutters into his chest, and he frowns. “My fault that I ran away when I was a kid. You tried to help me, Jack. A promise that I broke.” She pulls back and looks up at him with a smile. “You’re here now. That’s what counts.”

Jack looks back down at her and feels a warmth in his chest. He remembers a small ten-year-old too wise and too worn for her years. He looks at this disaster of a thirty-year-old, who plots and schemes and does enough illegal things that she should be jailed for years, and he feels proud.

“Be safe,” he tells her, and she rolls her eyes. “Get out of there if it gets dangerous. No stupid antics.”

“Sure, Mama,” she mutters and Jack flushes and cuffs her lightly on the back of the head. She yelps and pulls away, but there's a small smile on her face.

Jack watches her rearrange herself once again before glancing around at the room. She seems to spot something as she picks up one of the folders from on top of the precarious pile, and Jack raises an eyebrow as she hands him a small piece of paper along with the file.

“The code to my room,” she tells him, pointing at the paper. “You can stay here as long as you like.”

“Thank you,” he replies before holding up the file with a raised eyebrow. On top is the bounty poster for the mercenary Shrike, a name Jack has glanced over every time he’s gone through the bounty list. Their bounty is a hefty price, almost as much as the elusive Soldier 76 at the moment, and it’s definitely something Jack keeps on his radar. When he glances up, Olivia purses her lips and nods.

“I want you to look through that file,” she says. “It’s about two people. A patient in the Cairo hospital years ago named Janina Kowalska, and the mercenary named Shrike.” Olivia glances up at Jack. “I think they’re connected, and I think you will see how.”

Jack stares at the file before shaking his head and smiling. “You’re a mystery, kid,” he says, and she grins at him before walking to the door.

“Take care, Jack,” she calls, and Jack watches as she reaches into her duffel and tosses him something. He catches it to see its the tracker he put on her last time, and he looks up to see her grinning. “Next time we meet, it’s on my terms.”

With that she turns and leaves the room, the door clicking shut behind her, and Jack holds the tracker and file and hopes she’ll be alright.

 

 

Chapter Text

Jack expected to find Ana when he arrived in Giza. He expected the search, he expected the gun pushed to his head by some thug, he expected to break into Hakim’s Compound. He even expected some semblance of a fight.

What he didn’t expect, was Reaper appearing right behind him and firing a fucking shotgun straight into his back.

Luckily, the armour under his jacket absorbs most of the blow, but pellets still sink into his skin and send him sprawling. He can hear him talking, growling out some monologue that makes Jack just wants to turn around and tell him to shut up, but he’s on the ground and stuck though, the pain so extreme he can’t barely hear the words Reaper is saying over the pounding in his head. He hears “Jack”, he hears “Switzerland”, and those two words alone send off a spark of panic that has him struggling to his feet.

Despite the pounding in his head and the throbbing pain in his back, Jack manages to move a few centimetres before he hears the sound of a rifle going off, the guttural noise of Reaper being hit, and he turns to look for the sniper, only to spot them just as another shot is fired.

It hits him right on his shoulder, and he expects a burst of pain only to be surprised as the cool feeling of relief crawls over his back and under his arms. It’s the same feeling a biotic emitter use to give him, and he flexes his shoulder before glancing up at the sniper in surprise.

“The pain…” he mutters to himself, his fist clenching and nothing hurting. “It’s gone…?”

Suddenly, the sniper is yelling though, and it’s been years since he’s heard that voice but Ana is so recognisable that Jack’s heart practically sings as she screams down at him.

“Get in there, Jack!” she’s bellowing, and without hesitance Jack flings himself forward and tackles Reaper, throwing him to the ground in a crash of bones and armour.

He manages to straddle him, the shotguns flung from Reaper’s grip, and he avoids Reaper’s flailing claws as he wails down on him. Fist after fist into Reaper’s mask, but Reaper thrusts up with his hips and dislodges Jack before he can break the mask. He sprawls out beside Reaper and quickly rolls to his feet in time to dodge a nasty kick.

Ana isn’t shooting anymore, and Jack thinks it’s because he’s too close to Reaper as he evades a fist to the face but catches a knee to the stomach. He grits his teeth and swings back, blocking Reaper’s fist with his forearm and slamming his elbow into Reaper’s neck.

It doesn’t matter though as Reaper comes in for another punch, almost brushing off Jack’s attack, his spiked gauntlets tight and sharp and Jack doesn’t have enough momentum to pull back. He can only watch as the fist collides with the shotgun wounds curling around his side, and he falls in a screaming heap to the ground.

Vaguely, he can feel Reaper standing over him, and Jack dreads whats to happen next only to hear a ping. Glancing up, he just catches the sight of one of Ana’s bullets bouncing off Reaper’s gauntlet before a sinister “you” comes from the mercenary and he’s tearing away from Jack and across the compound.

Halfway across, he starts to fade, and Jack feels terror as suddenly Reaper is behind Ana and he doesn’t have the breath to yell out her name. He struggles to turn over, wincing when the sound of the fighting two hit the ground with a whump, and he grits his teeth and forces himself over in time to catch Ana ripping off Reaper’s mask and looking at him in sheer horror.

He can’t catch the words coming out of her mouth, nor understand anything but the guttural noise from Reaper, but something must’ve happened as suddenly Reapers is fading out again and the black smoke is whirling around Ana who slumps to the ground.

The silence that’s left behind is just as suffocating as the smoke, and Jack watches Ana’s back before struggling into a sitting position and breaking the tender air.

“For a second there I was worried you really were going to kill me,” he calls out, and Ana’s shoulders stiffen before she’s standing up and whirling around to look at him with a set jaw and a hard look.

“Maybe I should have for what you pulled,” she snaps at him as she walks forward to loom over him. “I had this place staked out for days before you came and ruined everything. You better have a good reason.”

Jack pauses before deciding that honesty is the way to go. Carefully, he reaches up and unclasps his mask. “I was looking for you,” he says honestly as he pulls the mask down to show his face, and Ana flinches no doubt at seeing how scarred Jack’s face is. “I thought you were dead, Ana.”

Ana stares for a bit longer, her eyes trailing down the bigger scar across Jack’s face, before shaking her head. “Just like the world thought you were,” she counters. “But I saw the news reports. You’re so hardheaded you wouldn’t know how to die.” She leans over in front of him and looks long and hard at his scars. “All the same, you’re lucky to be alive.”

Jack grimaces. “My old boss use to say there’s no such thing as good luck. Just good genetics.”

Ana frowns for a moment before clicking that Jack is referring to Petras. Back when he became Director, his gaze only for Jack as he’d ignored everyone else, lecherous enough that Jack had felt more than uncomfortable as Ana had pressed a fist into his back to keep him from stepping back. Jack remembers it vividly, remembers Adawe’s quirked lips and hard gaze as she’d encouraged Petras’s wandering eye.

Jack hated it.

“He sounds like a jerk,” she mutters with a secretive smile, and Jack can’t help but smile back.

“Kind of was,” he agrees as he starts to get up. “This is my war, Ana,” he tells her in all seriousness, and she straightens. “And you’ve given it up. Or else you’d have told me you were still alive.”

Ana bristles. “You don’t know what I went through, Jack,” she argues. “I’d failed everyone. I decided it would be better if I were just a ghost.” She pauses to scuff at the ground with her boot and sighs. “But I realised even a ghost can protect those who need it. I don’t care about your war, but I care about you.” She pins him with a look and waves her hand to the area around them as if it’s an example. “You need me Jack, you need someone to watch your back.”

Jack is pleasantly surprised, and he can’t help but chuckle a moment “And here I thought I was supposed to be recruiting you,” he says with a wry grin, and she just shakes her head despite the small upturns of the corners of her mouth. He turns around, fingers playing with his mask. “We should get moving.”

“Just tell me one thing,” Ana calls, and it stops Jack in his tracks. He glances briefly over his shoulder as she continues. “What are you going to do when the fighting is over?”

Jack pauses before he shakes his head. “I’m a soldier, Ana,” he tells her. “Our war’s never over.”

She doesn’t say anything as he slips the mask back over his face. It’s not safe here in any regard. With one last look around for any other unexpected enemies, he walks staunchly to where Reaper’s mask is lying. He scoops it up, flipping it over in his hands until the bone-white front is looking at him. 

“How the hell did he know my name?” he asks out loud as he grips the mask tighter. He glances behind him at Ana, surprised to see her looking back pale and worried. “How did he know about Switzerland?”

“Jack…” Ana murmurs as she steps forward, oddly as if she’s approaching a scared animal. Jack frowns behind his mask and automatically steps back out of her reach when she goes to hold his shoulder.

“What?” he demands. “Ana, what have I missed?”

She looks like she’s in agony, face pale and drawn and eyes so haunted that Jack feels his stomach already plunging to his boots at the sight of her alone.

“Jack, I don’t know how to tell you,” she continues hesitantly, and Jack narrows his eyes and opens his mouth to demand more but is promptly railroaded as Ana lets out her words in a rush. “It’s Gabe. Reaper is Gabe.”

Jack’s entire world screams to a halt at those five words. He can hear the blood pounding in his ears, his eyes falling into tunnel vision, and he feels the earth drop out from beneath his feet as he tries to comprehend that Reaper is Gabe?

“No,” he mutters, shaking his head and backing even further away from Ana, his hands coming up between them. “No, you’re wrong. That’s not Gabe. No, that’s-”

“Gabe,” Ana repeats, stepping forward and forcing herself into his space and Jack actually accepts her help as he all but collapses on her. “I’m sorry, Jack. I took off his mask. I saw his face. He’s…” she trails off briefly and Jack can hear the tremor in her voice. “He’s not who he use to be.”

“That’s not Gabe,” Jack denies, ignoring her attempts to make him look at her. “No. You’re fucking crazy. Gabe… Gabe’s dead. Angela would’ve contacted me if he-”

“Angela thinks you’re dead, Jack,” Ana cuts him off. He glances up at her and doesn’t resist when she pulls the mask back down off his face. She reaches out to cup his cheek, sliding her thumb over the end of one of his scars. “Oh, Jack,” she murmurs. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Jack just watches her face, desperate to see some sort of sign that she’s lying, that she’s making it up. It can’t be Gabe. Reaper can’t be Gabe. That’s not even a possibility.

“You have to be mistaken,” he insists. He holds up the mask and shoves it at Ana. “This thing isn’t Gabe. This eldritch monster can’t be Gabe. Not…” he trails off, unable to continue as memories swarm him. Unwanted memories, all clicking together.

The first time he saw Gabe in Zürich. The grey tinge to his skin. How he wondered if Gabe had joined in on O’Deorain’s experiments. How, every time Jack saw him after that, he got worse and worse, greyer and greyer and Jack chalked it up to being tired and drawn but it was unnatural.

Standing in some shitty office with Gabe. “I’m not the same,” he’d said and Jack had challenged him, told him to try me, and then Ana was there and Jack… Jack never brought back it up.

After Ana died, when they were wedged under Jack’s desk and his nose was shoved in Gabe’s neck and he couldn’t smell him, and he remembers that raising a flag. He remembers Gabe’s eyes, red ringed and dry, no tears to be seen, and he remembers being suspicious but he didn’t think about it because he was drunk and drunk people think stupid things.

Before the explosion. Those red ringed eyes, Gabe’s skin so grey he looked dead, and he remembers struggling to find words in the chaos around them.

Then god, god he remembers standing over Gabe who stared and stared at Jack as Jack clawed at the rubble and he remembers smoke whirling around them that smelt like death, smoke that’s now all too familiar, and he remembers Gabe moving in the rubble, his body seizing, his eyes changing, everything convulsing as Jack is forced away and oh god.

He remembers, and he feels horror filling him as he looks at Ana and murmurs a small “no” before dropping to his knees, his hands catching him but shaking at the effort.

Ana goes down with him, crying his name, but Jack won’t listen as he realises that Reaper could be Gabe, it makes sense to be Gabe. Reaper knows his name, knows Switzerland, knows Jack. He doesn’t want it to be true, no, it can’t be, but everything points to yes, it is, and Jack can’t breathe.

Because it makes sense. It makes fucking sense because the Gabe at the end wasn’t the Gabe he knew, wasn’t the Gabe he fell in love with, and he remembers sitting in the LA Headquarters surrounded by proof that the explosion was caused by Gabe and if… if he could turn into that then the explosions wouldn’t have mattered to him. God, it makes so much sense and Jack doesn’t want to believe it but the coincidences are adding up until they’re not coincidences and Jack doesn’t want to admit the truth but there’s so much proof

“Jack, talk to me,” Ana calls as she catches the hand Jack’s using to scrabble at his throat, her other hand pulling off his mask to cup his face, shaking him gently. “Come on, Jack. Breathe. It’s okay.”

He, somehow, finds it in himself to look up at her, making eye contact that hurts, and he shakes his head while grudgingly and painfully accepting that maybe, just maybe, Reaper is Gabe.

“Okay?” he parrots, the words feeling like ash in his mouth. “This isn’t okay. Ana. If that’s Gabe…” he trails off and slams a fist into the ground, ignoring the pain creaking through his tired bones. “This is my fault.”

“Jack,” Ana snaps, “don’t be stupid.”

He shakes his head and pulls away from her grasp once more, his hands reaching up to grip patches of his bleached white hair, and he sets his jaw and refuses to let the tears fall.

“I shouldn’t have left him,” he tells her as he thinks of leaving for Switzerland, leaving Gabe at the explosion and maybe if he’d stayed with Gabe they wouldn’t be where they are. “I should’ve stayed. If this is really Gabe then it’s my fault for leaving him. I could’ve taken Talon-”

“Your face is almost split in two!” Ana interrupts, glaring at him. “You couldn’t have taken anyone!”

Jack glowers right back and tugs his mask from her grip. He can’t be caught in this blame game with Ana, not when he knows it’s his fault. Ana looks irritated as he clicks the mask into place, but he needs it. Needs that barrier between the two of them as his eyes prickle and sting.

“We need to find O’Deorain,” he tells her, steel in his voice as he scoops up Reaper’s discarded mask, and Ana frowns. “She’ll know. She’ll confirm.” He rolls to his feet, Ana moving at the same time to join him. “I remember when she was in Overwatch. Her genetic experiments. Gabe might’ve been part of them. She can tell us.”

Ana looks at him with wide eyes and an open mouth. “Jack… who knows where she’ll be,” she protests. “She’s got a bounty almost as high as ours. She’s not going to be easy to track.”

Jack is already shaking his head though. “I don’t care,” he tells her through gritted teeth. “We find O’Deorain. We have too.” He grips Reaper’s mask tight in his hand, glaring down at it with a stinging bile in the back of his throat. “If it is Gabe, if you’re right, then I damn well owe him that much.”

Ana still seems uncertain, but Jack doesn’t care as he turns to make his way out of the compound, already filtering ideas on how to find O’Deorain. He hears Ana fall into step behind him, but he can’t look at her. Reaper’s mask is a heavyweight in his hand, pulling down on him as he tries to not lose himself to the thoughts about Gabe and Reaper and maybe O’Deorain. Not now, not when he can barely see the road in front of him and his fists are tight at his sides.

Ana walks at his back one again though, something Jack never thought would ever happen, and he breathes hard as he tries to focus on that instead.

He owes her that much, at least.

 

 

Chapter Text

Finding O’Deorain is surprisingly easy, and Jack knows that he’s not the only one surprised. Ana checks and rechecks Jack’s information before finally admitting it’s correct, but they both still hold some suspicion over the ease.

He’d found her most recently produced paper and tracked it to the source. A few prods at the publisher, a handful of money, and a blood nose later, Jack had the address to her lab.

It’s in Oasis, Iraq. Jack hasn’t been to Iraq since the First Omnic Crisis so he gives the reins to Ana, who has been back, who leads him to the golden city. It’s futuristic, bright and shiny, and Jack knows he’ll stick out in his 76 outfit more than normal. His bleached white hair is a bit of a problem too, something that Ana points out as she prods his head on the plane trip to Oasis.

She laughs ridiculously hard when he comes out of their cheap hotel with a clean shaven face, black hair, green contacts, and a thick layer of makeup covering his scars. She pokes at his face and raises an eyebrow when her finger comes away with a layer of foundation on it.

“I didn’t think you’d know what makeup is,” Ana ribs him as he stashes his rifle away in a rough guitar case and pulls out a pistol. He glares at her which only makes her smile more as she waves the makeup covered finger in front of him.

“A call girl in Tokyo taught me,” he explains as he clicks in the magazine and cocks the pistol. “I helped her pull a bullet from her father, and she taught me to blend.” He smiles at Ana. “Pun intended.”

She looks pleasantly surprised and chucks him gently on the shoulder. “You’re a toad, Morrison,” she says before brushing past to store her rifle beside his. She pulls out her own pistol to run similar checks that Jack is doing on his own, and for a long moment Jack feels a comfortable familiarity in the moment.

When he realises they’re missing Gabe though, the feeling disappears and Jack’s shoulders stiffen.

“Reckon she’s got the place booby-trapped?” Ana asks, oblivious to Jack’s rapid mood change. “I don’t remember her being overly paranoid but-”

“She sucks the life out of anyone that gets too close,” Jack interrupts gruffly. “That’s not a metaphor either. I don’t think someone like that is ever going to be particularly paranoid.”

Ana tisks but agrees with a nod of her head. She holds up her pistol to show him its loaded and ready, and he clangs his against hers in a show of solidarity before shoving it into the holster on his belt. He’s not sure they’re going to need weapons, but considering O’Deorain is unpredictable it’s better to be safe than sorry. It doesn’t mean they can show off though, and Jack drags on a hoodie to cover the hilt poking out.

He can see by the way Ana eyes the hoodie he’s wearing that she recognises it, but she’s doesn’t make any mention. Jack’s thankful for that. He doesn’t think he could explain finding it at Alcatraz amongst Gabe’s things, not when the image of Gabe in his head is being constantly mashed with the image of Reaper.

It takes them about an hour to track down O’Deorain’s private lab, her public one easy to find and completely empty. It’s down an alleyway that’s crushed between two skyscrapers, tiny and tucked away, and the street is the Oasis level of immaculate and gold. Bu,t the closer they get to the door leading to O’Deorain, the more it starts to feel dreary, hopeless, dark.

Ana and Jack exchange a look, both of them thinking the same thing. The alley feels so much like the smoke that comes off Reaper’s body. Jack feels his spine prickle but rolls his shoulders as he opens the door.

The first thing he’s assaulted by is the overwhelming smell of animals. He creaks the door open a little wider to see cages upon open cages full of fat fluffy animals. There’s rabbits, a handful of ducks, what looks like a mutated cat with an extra head, and a horde of guinea pigs. They’re all quiet, only the occasional peep from the ducks where they sleep amongst hay, and Jack cracks open the door more and more until it’s wide open and he’s locking eyes with an unimpressed O’Deorain.

“Hello?” she calls from where she’s leaning over a rabbit, her gaze only lingering on Jack for a moment before she turns back to the rabbit with disinterest. “May I help you?”

Her voice alone, elitist and pretentious, makes Jack’s stomach curl and his eyes narrow. He’s never been able to cope with that, and luckily Ana pushes past him to approach O’Deorain before Jack says anything.

“Moira,” Ana addresses her, and Jack doesn’t miss the surprise in O’Deorain’s face. O’Deorain drops her hands down by her side, and Jack definitely doesn’t miss the way her right hand seems to be glowing purple.

“Captain Amari,” O’Deorain murmurs. “What an interesting surprise. I believe you died in Cairo some years ago.”

Ana gives her a tense smile. “An exaggeration, I’m sure. Especially since I stand before you now.”

O’Deorain smiles. “Didn’t die, or raised from the dead? You never know these days.”

That catches Jack’s attention, and he can’t stop himself as he surges forward right into O’Deorain’s space with gritted teeth and blazing eyes. “So you know then,” he snaps. “You know about Reaper.”

O’Deorain blinks a few times as he leans into her, and she narrows her eyes before smiling sinisterly. “Strike-Commander,” she greets with a wide smile that shows too many teeth. “I didn’t recognise you, although I assume that was the point.” Her tone is still just as condescending as it was when she was with Blackwatch. “What a pleasant surprise. Back from the dead as well.” She leans forward until her nose is all but touching his. “I suggest you choose your next actions carefully, lest I be forced to send you back wherever you were dug up from.”

Jack goes to reply but feels an awful tugging feeling in his gut, and he glances down only to see O’Deorain’s left hand pressed to his stomach and swirling with purple smoke. When he glances up at her, he sees her raise an eyebrow before he reluctantly pulls away.

The tugging feeling disappears immediately, and Jack raises a hand to cover his stomach and try to catch his breath again.

“We’re not here for hostilities, Moira,” Ana tries to placate, interrupting the two by pulling Jack back behind her. O’Deorain looks at her impassively, almost quirking her head to the side.

“You’re not?” O’Deorain asks sarcastically before reaching out to pat the rabbit on the table. “Do you hear that, Ravioli? They’re not here for hostilities. Although, I do believe the Commander would willingly put a bullet between my eyes.” She strokes the rabbit a few more times before turning her gaze to Jack. “Isn’t that right?”

Jack goes to open his mouth, but Ana elbows him hard enough he shuts up.

“We’re not here for the bounty, if that’s what you’re thinking,” Ana informs her, opening her arms to show her empty hands. “We came to talk. We’ve got questions that we think you have the answer too.”

O’Deorain watches her wearily before turning back to the rabbit and picking it up. She moves across the room and pops it down beside two other rabbits before turning back to them with narrow eyes.

“And I should believe you…?’ she asks, and Ana goes to reply only for Jack to have enough.

He remembers O’Deorain having a superiority complex. He just needs to appeal to it.

“You know who Reaper is, don’t you?” he starts off, and the way she doesn’t flinch all but confirms it. “Please, O’Deorain. I need answers. I know you have them. You know more about… about Talon and mercenaries than you should.”

“How would you know that?” she asks, and Jack flicks a hand over at the cork board in the corner covered with wanted posters, her own front and centre. She doesn’t even look, just smiles at Jack and taps her hand with her face. “Why would I help you? You wished to throw me out of Overwatch a long time ago. Something I don’t view favourably.”

“We were wrong-” Ana starts to say, but Jack talks over her.

“You were dangerous,” he tells her, and he sees a gleam in her eyes he’s not sure he likes. “You performed unethical experiments on yourself and members of the organisation. You were a certifiable mad scientist and we could’ve have someone like that on board.” He steps forward once more into her space, and this time she doesn’t seem to care. “I know you performed experiments on members of Blackwatch, and they were brilliant experiments despite being unethical. I know, and I don’t care.” He takes a deep breathe. “But did you ever experiment on Gabe?” he finally asks. “I need to know, O’Deorain. Did you?”

O’Deorain observes him, her eyes cold and calculating. Eventually, she turns away, placing her back to them as she walks to a nearby bench.

“My experiments were incredible,” she says, and Ana mutters something that Jack doesn’t catch. O’Deorain turns and glares at her but her focus does turn back to Jack. “You only saw the negative. You saw the accidents, the nightmares I created. You didn’t look further.” She smiles, and it’s sinister again. “That’s what I love about it here. They saw my potential, agreed that I was making leaps and bounds in my experiments. So much so, that they awarded me the position of Minister of Genetics.” O’Deorain shrugs as she leans against the bench beside her. “They looked, Strike-Commander. Something you failed to do.”

She opens her arms, her hands facing up. Jack isn’t surprised when her right-hand flares up and thick purple tendrils rise from it.

“You saw me take life,” she sighs, twirling her wrist and Jack catches sight of enlarged veins on the back of her hand pulsating with the same colour purple. “But you never looked closer. You never saw me save life.”

Jack is, admittedly, surprised when O’Deorain holds up her left hand where her veins pulsate yellow and a yellow spray flares out from her palm in a replica of her right hand. It reminds Jack of the glow of his emitters, of the colour of Ana’s biotic rifle rounds. He accepts when O’Deorain points the spray his way and he feels the yellow mist fall over him and his bones feel better, his pain from his wound from a nasty mercenary trying to collect his bounty the other day eases, and Jack feels caught up in the wonder.

“See,” O’Deorain gloats. “You never saw this. You never wanted too.” She stalks forward, “Gabriel did. Gabriel saw the wonder. It’s why he wanted me when you threatened to kick me out.”

The reminder of Gabe has Jack grit his teeth and he glares at her. “Did you experiment on him?” he asks again, his voice holding no room for arguing. Unfortunately, he forgets that O’Deorain never did do authority.

“That was always the problem,” she sighs as she leans back against the lab table beside her. “You were ignorant to my ways of light, he was ignorant to my ways of dark.” She holds up her hands again and lets out a little more mist. “Light doesn’t exist without dark,” she lets out a stream of purple, “and dark cannot be dark without light.” She purses her lips and drops her hands. “Blackwatch gave me the opportunity to use both, but it came with a cost.”

“Did. You. Experiment. On. Gabe?” Jack demands as his fists tighten, and he feels Ana move nervously behind him.

O’Deorain glances at him, looking down her nose. “Yes,” she says simply. “He wanted light, but you can’t have light without dark.” She sighs. “It’s a shame we never got to finish. Switzerland blew and Angela got in the way. Now he’s…” she trails off before waving her hand vaguely. “Now he’s ruined.”

Jack can’t stop himself letting out a shout of pure rage, his heart thumping in his chest as he lunges at O’Deorain with a snarl. He forgets about her enhancements though, and he lands on thin air as O’Deorain lets out a sigh and disappears. He stabilises himself on the table and turns to look for her, blood pumping and rage boiling, and O’Deorain appears near the exit right beside the cages with Ana between them.

“If you don’t settle down,” she calls out, “I might have to ask you to leave.”

Jack lets out another roar as he flings himself towards her, pushing back Ana who stumbles away, and O’Deorain is watching him impassively as he charges towards her ready to take her the fuck out and his arms extend with his fingers itching for her damn throat under them and-

Nothing. Absolutely nothing as Jack registers a sudden prick in his neck, and he glances behind him to see Ana holding up her pistol right before he topples to the floor with a sleeping dart in his neck.

He feels nothing for a while. It’s nice. Nothing at all as he floats in blackness. It’s not like a normal sleeping drug, it doesn’t knock him completely out. He can still register the things around him, can vaguely hear Ana and O’Deorain talking, but he can’t find the energy or want to call out and partake.

That’s okay though, he thinks. He doesn’t really want to talk to either of them. Not right now. Right now, he wants to enjoy the feeling of nothing. Not being able to feel anger, hurt, or betrayal? It’s blissful.

Although, when he wakes it with a startled hitch of breath and his eyes bolt open. He’s still on the floor of the lab, but there’s a pillow shoved under his head haphazardly and his mouth tastes like cotton. His tongue’s too big for his mouth and he swallows a few times past the lump in his throat as he tries to sit up.

“Easy now,” he hears Ana say, her legs appearing in front of his eyes. “Take it slow, Jack. Those things can give your body a nasty shock.”

“No shit,” he manages to mutter, and he slowly pushes himself up to see Ana crouching down to look at him with worried eyes. “Nice shot,” he compliments, and the worry in her alleviates to something a little less awful.

“You were going a bit mad,” she murmurs. “I didn’t want anything bad to happen.”

He gives her a small smile before wincing as his body screeches in protest. Ana’s arms drop under his armpits to help him up, and it takes more effort than he thought it would. He’s panting a little, and that worried look is back on Ana’s face.

He’s surprised when suddenly O’Deorain is right beside them, holding out a test tube full of golden liquid the same as her golden mist.

“Drink this,” she says, shoving it into his hand. “It’ll ease your nerves. Going from adrenaline to nothing can unsettle them greatly.”

Jack looks at the tube wearily but, at Ana’s nod, he downs it in a shot. It doesn’t take long until he feels an almost peppermint cool feeling covering his body, his nerves easing, and he gives the tube back to O’Deorain with a silent thank you.

“Feeling calm enough to discuss this like rational adults?” O’Deorain asks him as she takes the tube, and Jack glares at her. She simply raises an eyebrow. “I won’t be telling you anything unless you settle down.”

“Moira,” Ana scolds, and Jack wonders just how long he was out when he sees O’Deorain bristle but huff out a sigh.

“Fine. Get him up at the table,” she instructs as she moves away. Ana does as she says though and helps Jack to his feet before guiding him to an already organised set of three chairs around a table. Jack happily sinks into one and waits as Ana takes the seat beside him and O’Deorain glides into the one on the other side of the lab table.

O’Deorain fidgets for a moment after they’ve sat, playing with a piece of paper and twirling a pen through her fingers. No one says anything, Jack waiting for O’Deorain to start and O’Deorain clearly waiting for Ana’s cue. Ana looks long suffering and sighs.

“No baiting each other,” she starts off by saying. “Moira. Please. Start from the beginning.”

O’Deorain looks like she’s been bitten but she gives Ana a taut nod before locking eyes with Jack. “I did experiment on Gabriel,” she states, and Ana lays a hand on Jack’s wrist when he bristles. “It was his idea. He offered to be a test subject just after you moved the Overwatch Headquarters to Zürich. He seemed to be in a rut and I thought that subjecting him would be a good idea. A way to take his mind off things.”

Jack opens his mouth to reply but Ana cuts him off with a glare. He falls silent and gestures for O’Deorain to proceed.

“He’d seen what I could do with my fade ability,” O’Deorain continues. “He wanted something similar. It made sense. He fought with shotguns so getting close to an opponent was optimal for fighting. If I could give him something similar then it would be a great asset for him.” She taps her fingers on the bench. “I did tell him that he wouldn’t get the same ability as myself. After all, the serums I use react with DNA, and we all have different genetic makeups which create various results. He insisted though, so we proceeded.”

“This was in the first year?” Ana asks, “the first year of moving to Switzerland?”

O’Deorain nods. “I used the serum and it worked. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what he wanted. I all but turned him into a ghost and he wasn’t… well, he wasn’t happy. Called himself a dried up ghoul at one point.” She snorts. “Ever the drama queen.”

Jack has half a mind to agree and half a mind to smash O’Deorain’s face into the bench. He stays quiet instead.

“When he saw what was happening he cancelled the experiments. I told him we couldn’t stop, we hadn’t finished. He didn’t understand that I meant he’d only received two-thirds of the serum.” She pauses and all sarcasm and wit leaves her, making her look pale and gaunt. “I tried to explain but he refused to listen.” She grits her teeth. “Then the explosion happened.”

“That was it?” Jack interrupts. “You didn’t give him the full serum and now he’s like this?”

O’Deorain glances at him. “No,” she says. “No. Angela intervened.” She reaches up to rub a hand over her face, a tick Jack remembers her only ever doing when she’s extremely frustrated. “When Angela attempted to save him in Switzerland she skipped a step. To get to my standard of abilities, I applied all the dark energy I used followed by a certain amount of contradictory light energy. More dark is required than light to influence DNA, but that is only because of the sheer power in the light.” She holds up her hands until they’re both glowing with her seperate abilities before dousing the dark with the light, effectively smothering the dark cords wrapping around her hand. “Light is always more powerful. If they were to be given in equal amounts, then light would severely overwhelm the dark. That is where Angela and I clashed with our methods. She only ever used light energy and never learnt much about dark energy. When attempting to save Gabriel, she-”

“Only used light,” Jack fills in at a whisper, remembering the pulsing caduceus staff, and when he looks up O’Deorain is nodding.

“Correct,” O’Deorain agrees. “When applied correctly, the dark energy works like bonds, it fixes itself to the very DNA within us and mutates it into a better and more powerful cell. Gabriel had two-thirds of his DNA mutated while the other third was left untouched. Light energy effects dark energy and natural cells in different ways.”

“How so?” Ana asks.

O’Deorain grits her teeth. “Natural cells need more light energy to be able to heal because dark energy does have a certain level of predetermined healing, a sort of passive healing, whereas natural cells don’t. Using the amount of light energy needed for natural cells on dark cells can overwhelm the dark cells.” She shakes her head as she looks at Jack and Ana. “For saving someone like Genji Shimada, pulling him back using nothing but pure light energy was fine because there was nothing for it to react with besides all natural cells. But Gabriel…” She rubs her face again. “Angela used the same amount of light energy from Genji on Gabriel, the amount needed for natural cells, but she didn’t know that the dark energy cells were there. She used too much light energy on him.”

“She overloaded the mutated cells caused by dark energy?” Jack hazards a guess, and O’Deorain nods again.

“She obliterated the dark energy which caused the death of the third of his DNA that was untouched. The natural cells would’ve needed more light energy to heal, which her caduceus staff would’ve registered, but the caduceus staff isn’t suitable to register dark energy and the amount needed to heal the natural cells was too much for the larger majority of his cells to handle,” she explains. “The Reaper you see now? The one that smells like death and decay? That’s not Gabriel made from dark energy. That’s Gabriel made from too much light energy.”

There’s silence for a moment before Ana pipes up. “I always through light energy, healing energy, was good?” she says. “How can it corrupt?”

O’Deorain looks at her. “Have you ever read about angels from the Bible, Captain?” she asks. “You cannot look at them for they will kill you. They’re made of light energy. There is such a thing as too much.”

She taps her fingers again and Jack finds himself zoning in on them as he tries to think this all through. It’s complicated and messy, but it’s starting to make sense.

“Why is he not dead then?” he ends up asking, the words ash on his tongue.

“Light energy must always try to heal. It’s just its basic foundation. After all of Gabriel’s cells were destroyed, the light began to rebuild him but it mixed with the dark energy that was left behind. Gabriel’s abilities, that he’d acquired from the dark energy, were kept but mutated into something more,” she tells them. “While I can move my molecules through a certain bit of air, forming my body within a three-metre window, Gabriel is unlimited. He can turn himself into a literal ghost. He can fade anywhere into any form of transparency that he wants. He can travel from one spot to another as I do but with perfect precision.” She purses her lips. “He smells like death because… because he is a horrendous mix of dark and light. His abilities are built on dark energy so they use dark energy to work, but he was recreated with light which is designed to target and destroy the dark cells, but also is compelled to repair whatever is destroyed.” She shakes her head. “He is both dark and light, and light is constantly putting out the dark and recreating it at the same time. Keeping himself solid is a struggle, keeping himself sane is worse.”

“So his body is in a constant war,” Ana mutters. “It’s trying to kill itself.”

O’Deorain nods. “Yes,” she says. “Gabriel’s body is in this suspense of dying. From an experimental point of view it’s fascinating to see the body locked in this stasis but from a human point of view,” she pauses and glances at Jack uncertainly. “He’s in nonstop torture and his body is the chamber he’s locked in.”

Jack finds it hard to breathe, his chest aching in sympathy and pain. Gabe is alive, for one thing, and that sends fireworks to his brain and his brain sends agony everywhere else. Jack left him, Jack left him in the rubble with Angela and if he hadn’t…

If he’d stopped Angela from trying to resurrect Gabe, hadn’t demanded she tie her tether to him, had just let Gabe’s body work itself out naturally then he’d be here and he’d be fine and Jack would be able to look and him and touch him and not worry about when a shotgun was going to come to his head.

If only he’d know that Gabe was this way. That Gabe didn’t need the light. Dammit, if only he’d bothered to take the time and listen to Gabe. Listen to him when he tried to tell Jack everything. Stopped everyone from interrupting and just listened.

If only he wasn’t so damn selfish. If only he’d not moved them to Switzerland then maybe Gabe wouldn’t have volunteered to be part of these experiments. If only he’d not allowed O’Deorain to join Overwatch, if only he’d tried harder to stop her from going Blackwatch.

Gabe is this way because of him. Gabe is stuck in this endless torment because of Jack and his stupidity and all of his goddamn golden boy attitude.

He really has been nothing but a chico de oro, and in the process, he’s put Gabe in a fate worse than death.

“I have to know,” he says after a long moment, and O’Deorain watches him with curious eyes. “The explosion… Was Gabe a part of that?”

O’Deorain cocks her head to the side. “You all were caught in the explosion, Commander.”

“No,” he shakes his head. “No, I mean the planning. It was caused by Talon, wasn’t it? I know that Blackwatch was slowly taken over by Talon, I know that. But Gabe…”

There’s a long moment of hesitance before O’Deorain sighs. “I don’t know,” she answers, and it’s honest enough that Jack knows she’s not lying. “I was never that close to Gabriel. Sure, I was there for moments of his time but that means nothing.” She sighs. “The Reaper I know now has no resemblance to the man he was before. Whether that is the insanity slowly taking over or because he truly was never the man we thought we knew, I don’t know.” She leans forward across the table and laces her fingers together. Her stare is hard as she regards Jack. “In the end, Strike Commander, did any of us really know him?”

It’s the worst question she could’ve asked, and it settles in Jack’s ribs like a kick and he has to close his eyes and bite back the pain. Ana makes a noise beside him, something wretched and horrible, and Jack hears her murmuring his name.

“Jack?” she says. “What are you thinking? Gabe-”

“No,” he interrupts her. “She’s right. He’s not the Gabe we knew.” He grits his teeth and squeezes his eyes even more shut until they’re hurting. “He’s Reaper now.”

She says something in reply that he ignores. He doesn’t look up until he’s ready, until he has a hold on his emotions, and he fights back the thoughts of Gabe, his Gabe, to replace it with Reaper, and then when he can breathe without a single hitch he finally addresses O’Deorain again.

“Why are you telling us all of this?” he ends up asking O’Deorain, his voice wavering and hesitant. “You work for Talon now, it’s on all your files and records. Why would you tell us this?”

He glances up to see O’Deorain watching him carefully.

“I have alarms, you know,” she says, waving a hand vaguely in the air. “I have triggers that let me know when someone is researching me or anyone I have major contact with. My publisher is incredibly loyal to me, and he’s been threatened many a time but he has never caved. I chose to let him tell you where I was.” She pauses to press a few buttons on a nearby tablet and up pops a camera view of the alleyway. “I also have enough security and traps to incinerate anyone who so much as steps in this alleyway with dangerous intent.” She flicks the button and the camera shuts off. “I knew you were coming.”

Jack glares at her. “And you let us come.”

“Yes,” she agrees. “I did. Because I knew what you would be here for.” She pauses to flick up another camera, and this one is, surprisingly, of Hakim’s Compound, the fight with Reaper playing out on the screen. “Contrary to my usual opinions, Gabriel Reyes is the one experiment I would like to go back and change. Maybe force the serum on him. Maybe stop the experiment altogether. Stop him before he left for Switzerland.” She glances at Jack, and Jack is surprised when she smiles at him. “I was the last person he spoke to before boarding that plane. Did you know that?”

“No,” Jack replies honestly. “I didn’t.”

Her smile drops into something bittersweet. “After McCree and Genji left, it was just the two of us. He told me things I consider myself privileged to know.” She glances at Jack again and surprises him completely by reaching out to touch his wrists on the table. “He told me about you. I have never felt for someone the way he felt for you. I envy that.”

“I’m sorry,” Jack finds himself saying, unsure what else to say. She doesn’t comment but does incline her head in a sort of thank you.

“I wish to help him,” she declares, straightening her back and watching the two. “Talon holds no interest for me. My position has been elevated by my connection to Reaper, but Talon’s goals are far from my own. I wish only to conduct my experiments.” She points over at her lines of cages. “So far the rabbits have been the closest to humans I’ve found that I can tolerate. Pigs were too much trouble.”

Jack blinks at the cages before looking at her in alarm. “You’ve stopped testing on humans?”

“For now,” she answers honestly. “Until I have the opportunity to fix Gabriel, I will refrain from humans. I will not run the risk of another mistake without fixing the first one.” She leans across the desk to look at the two of them. “I led you here, allowed the lines to be open, because I know you can help me.”

“You think you can fix him?” Jack asks with a small voice. He doesn’t want to hope, but if there is a chance to get Gabe back, to recover him from Reaper and have him back, then he will try as hard as he can to make that happen.

“There is a possibility,” O’Deorain says, and she frowns as she holds up her right hand and lets out a few wisps of golden mist. “Fixing him will not be easy, but I believe if we can stop his cells from degenerating at such a fast speed and reverse their effects, we can save him.” She drops her hands and pins Jack with a look. “I know the extent of which I’ve affected his cells, and I’m positive finding out from Angela what processes she used will not be hard. And with you with me, Strike Commander, then I believe I will have an understanding of the effect the SEP had on your cells as well.”

“How invasive will that be?” Ana jumps in, and Jack is relieved that she’s asked the question for him.

O’Deorain shrugs as she plays with her nails. “Unfortunately, I don’t know.” She flattens her hand on top of the table and quirks her head to the side. “In any case, it won’t matter unless we capture Reaper in the first place. There’s no point in conducting scientific experiments unless there is a goal in mind.”

“By we, you mean the three of us?” Ana asks with a raised eyebrow before shaking her head. “Reaper is an enigma to two of us, if not all three. We wouldn’t be able to do it without any support.”

There’s another smile, and Jack doesn’t know if he’s comfortable with O’Deorain smiling. She turns away to pick up a tablet by itself on a nearby table and, when she turns to give it back to them, Jack is surprised to see the Overwatch emblem on the front.

“A friend of mine intercepted this and downloaded it to my tablet,” she tells them. “She said that I would most likely have visitors at some point that will need to see this.”

Jack doesn’t comment on that, wondering if it’s Olivia though, and instead takes the tablet and presses play. He hears Ana’s gasp when Winston of all people pops up on the screen. Sweet, sweet Winston, looking imploringly down the camera lens, recalling Overwatch agents, appealing to the hero in them all.

Jack glances at Ana, she looks back, and the both of them sit speechless.

“The return of Overwatch,” O’Deorain suddenly says, and Jack glances at her to see her smiling brightly at the both of them. “Seems like a good opportunity.”

Jack feels like a fish out of water as he glances at O’Deorain, Winston on the screen, then up at Ana who looks terrified and hopeful all at once.

“This isn’t their war,” he murmurs to Ana, and Ana rolls her eyes and smacks him on the back of the head.

“It’s everyone’s war, Jack,” she scolds him. “We don’t have to do this alone. We can go. We can help. We can have a family.” She touches his cheek. “We can bring Gabe home”

Those are the words to say to Jack, and he feels himself stiffen before he glances up at O’Deorain.

He nods at her, a small okay dropping from his mouth with conviction behind it that he hasn’t felt in a long time. O’Deorain straightens, eyes wide, and beside him, Ana lets out a long breath. Jack glances once more at Winston before he straightens his shoulders and nods again.

“Alright,” he says. “Where do we begin?”

 

 

Chapter Text

Where they start, apparently, is boarding the next flight to Gibraltar with forged passports.

O’Deorain doesn’t come with them and Jack, admittedly, is pleased. Ana had clearly changed her opinion of O’Deorain while Jack had been knocked out, and she had happily sat beside O’Deorain as she introduced Ana to all six of her rabbits, all named after different foods. Jack had taken one look at Spaghetti’s giant claws and unnaturally sharp teeth before offering to find the forged passports himself.

Ana had rolled her eyes and O’Deorain had smirked. Jack had just bailed out the door to find the local forger.

Thankfully, security isn’t all that tight from Iraq. They manage to smuggle their weapons through in guitar cases that have separate lead lined compartments. Jack almost thinks it wasn’t necessary as the security waved them through without a word or glance at the cases.

But, when they finally get to Gibraltar, Jack finally stumbles as he realises that neither of them actually thought they’d get this far. How they’re going to join Overwatch again when they’re both suppose to be dead hasn’t crossed either of their minds, but surprisingly when they leave the airport there’s a grinning Lena Oxton leaning against a parked car right outside the doors.

“Hello love,” she chirps to Jack as she bounds over, pulling off her sunglasses as she practically bowls into him in a tight hug. “It’s about time I finally bump into you in my own timeline. Last time I almost missed you since your flight came in early. That’s the first time that’s happened.”

Jack doesn’t quite know what to say as she pulls back and kisses him on both cheeks before turning to Ana with a bright grin. Ana seems just as confused as Jack as she accepts Lena’s hugs and kisses, and they both wait until they’re piled into the car with Lena in the front to tackle her about it.

“Oh,” she says, faltering for a moment after Jack questions her, and he sees a momentary flash of pain in her eyes before she turns her gaze to the steering wheel. “Of course. I’m sorry. I’ve just lived this moment over and over so much so that I'm used to it by now. Of course you…” she trails off before she shrugs and grins at them again. “I think this is number two hundred and twelve? It’s hard to keep track after a hundred but I’m pretty sure-”

“Lena,” Jack growls, and it's like old times as she straightens and shoots him an sorry smile.

“Sorry,” she apologises. “As I said, I’ve done this a lot. I’ve talked to Winston about it and he agreed that it’s definitely the best idea to pick you up rather than let you go through that lengthly process of trying to conveniently bump into us during missions. I watched that one about a fifty times before Winston and I agreed I could just intervene at the airport instead of waiting. Although that gets awkward when I obviously know who you are and… yeah.” She pauses, gives them a meaningful look before she revs the car into gear and takes off from the airport. “Don’t worry though! No one else back at base knows you’re alive. Except for Winston of course because, well, I tell him everything, and of course I know since…” she trails off again, that same look showing up from before with the haunted eyes and Jack already hates it. “Yes. Well. Never mind. Time jumping isn’t the most fun thing in the world but when it comes to moments like this I can’t complain!”

Jack exchanges a glance with Ana who looks just as swept away. He smiles and claps a hand on Lena’s shoulder.

“I’ve missed you, Lena,” he tells her honestly, and she glances at him with a watery smile.

“One hundred and eight times I’ve heard that,” she mumbles, “and I’m never going to get sick of it.” She reaches up to cover his hand with her own and squeezes before dropping it back to the wheel. She’s a sporadic driver, fast and speedy, but Jack can cope with that.

“So what happens from here?” Ana asks from the back. Lena glances at her in the rearview mirror and gives her another one of her cheery smiles.

“Well, from here I smuggle you into Gibraltar, avoiding Reinhardt and Torbjörn in the process. They’re on guard duty today but hopefully this’ll be a timeline they get into one of their arguments-”

“Shouldn’t that be every timeline ?” Ana jokes and Jack hides a laugh behind his hand.

“-then I get you to Winston, who’ll scan your biometrics into the system, before we go meet everyone! We’ll introduce Ana as herself, and Jack as Soldier 76.” She glances at Jack wearily. “Unless this is a timeline you want to introduce yourself as, well, yourself?”

“No,” Jack says. “No. Soldier is fine.” He glances at Ana who gives him a tired look. “I’m not ready yet.”

Lena nods. “Although I think in a month or two Jesse will figure out who you are.” At Jack’s alarmed look she winces. “Right. Sorry. Okay, so Jesse is there. And, obviously, Reinhardt and Torbjörn. Angela is in and out a lot of the time but she won’t be back for a week. And Brigitte is there,” she pauses to let out a low whistle, “and boy, she’s grown up. The others that are here, you won’t know. We’ve done a bit of recruiting while waiting for you.”

“Waiting for us?” Ana asks, and Lena nods happily.

“You’re our leaders,” she informs them. “Winston is doing a great job but he hates formulating battle plans. We really need you two to take over in that department, lest Jesse come back missing his prosthetic arm again.”

Frankly, it’s a lot of information, and Jack finds himself struggling to keep up as he sinks back into his chair and tries to process. Lena is still chatting away, but Ana seems to be happy to take up the conversation as Jack looks out the window. Jesse is going to be there. Jesse McCree, who he hasn’t seen since before Switzerland, and that alone makes Jack’s stomach swoop unpleasantly with nerves.

At least he has a month or two to figure out how to tell Jesse who he is and, undoubtedly, break the bad news about Gabe. That’s not something he’s looking forward too.

Thankfully, they’re not that far out from the base when Jack zones back into Lena chattering away about a woman named Emily. He listens with one ear but finds that he can’t focus on much as his nerves brew and bubble. When Lena finally pulls into the base, Jack finds it easy to duck down and hide in his seat, the urge to crawl into a foetal position high.

“Thank god it’s a timeline where they fight,” Lena mutters as they drive through the gates. “Last time they came down to say hello and I had to make you two climb the walls. Brigitte found you and thought she was hallucinating.” She winces. “Yeah, that wasn’t fun.”

Jack hears Ana snort in the back seat and he covers his own smile as they cruise through the base, all the way until they get to the main building where Winston’s lab is. Lena hops out of the car to do a quick scout before hauling them both out and ushering them right into Winston’s path.

The first thing Jack thinks, when he sees Winston, is that he’s a lot bigger than he remembered. The second thing is wondering if Winston is intending on suffocating him as the gorilla lunges towards them both and scoops them up into a hug.

He pats Winston a few times on the shoulder, begging to be let go, but Winston is muttering something to them both that’s unintelligible. Ana is either choking or laughing beside him, and Jack relaxes into the wall of furry muscle and waits until Lena pipes up and asks Winston to let them go.

“Sorry, sorry,” he apologises as he lets them go and pushes up his glasses. If gorillas could blush then Jack is pretty sure he would be. “Tracer has told me so many times about this moment, but we were never sure it would happen in this timeline.” He glances at Lena. “There were a few where you actually were dead and that was even more unpleasant to deal with and-”

“Winston,” Ana politely calls, her hand on Winston’s hand. He jumps and looks down at it before nodding.

“Right.” He clears his throat. “Time jumps and loops are tricky business. But you’re here!” A wide swing of his arms almost takes Ana out, and Jack smothers a smile. It’s refreshing to have Winston around, he missed his enthusiasm.

“I’m sorry, Winston,” he says, weary of Winston’s flying hands as he reaches out to pat him on the arm. “I should’ve told you years ago I was alive. I should’ve seen you after the fall-”

Winston shakes his head and waves him off with a flick of his hand. “Water under the bridge, Commander,” he says with a smile. “You’re here now and that’s what matters.” He grins at the two of them before turning around to point at a nearby blackboard. “There’s so many missions, extractions, eliminations that need to be done. I can’t organise all of them to save my life” He gives them a sheepish look. “I’m not of the military strategy mind but, Commander, with you here you can help us. Tell us what to do. Where to go. Assist in the training of new agents. You can lead us to where we need to be.”

Admittedly, Jack feels a little overwhelmed, and he blinks at Winston a few times with an open mouth until Ana steps forward.

“I think a tour and introductions would be a good place to start, my dear,” she says, placing a gentle hand on Winston’s arm. “We can’t plan without knowing who we’re working with.”

Winston looks dumbstruck for a minute before nodding. “Of course,” he cheers, “I believe a majority of the team is currently at the range. We’ve established a routine of firing practice every Wednesday afternoon. In theory, the only two missing should be Reinhardt and Torbjörn, and I’m sure you’ll both like to see them separately from the team anyway considering your history…” He trails off, blinking at them as Ana raises an eyebrow and Jack hovers his face with his hand. Winston snaps on a grin as he starts to usher them towards the large door on the other side of the room. “Although, admittedly we are a team of ruffians so we might have to track the others down, especially since some of them have the tendency to disobey orders, but I’m sure that will change with you in charge now.” He pauses at the door to glance back at Jack with a frown. “Commander, will you be wearing a mask?”

Jack already has his jacket in hand with the visor poking out of its pocket when Winston turns back. He holds them up as answer and gives Winston a smile before pulling it all on. The world around him goes red the minute the visor is down, and a part of him has missed it, missed the comfort of anonymity.

He falls into step with Ana and Lena as Winston takes the lead. Gibraltar hasn’t changed much from what Jack can see. Still the same walls and halls with a few more scratches and dings along the way, maybe from new members, but none of them stand out. Although, as they walk through some more of Winston’s labs, he does catch a sent of familiar smelling smoke that sits like ash in his throat, and he sees claw marks he knows haven’t been put there by Winston.

“We were attacked a few months ago,” Winston tells them when he catches Ana staring as well. “The mercenary, Reaper, broke in to steal our system records of Overwatch members. He managed to get away with only a handful, but it was enough.” Winston sighs and shrugs. “I don’t know what he was really after. He didn’t seem like he had intentions on killing me, but he wasn’t nice about it either.”

Jack winces and wonders if he should tell them about Reaper’s identity, but he decides to keep quiet. There’s nothing to achieve from dropping that bombshell. It’ll only end up with everyone wound up and upset, and that’s the last thing Jack wants to do. A glance at Ana shows that she seems to be on the same page.

The knowledge that Reaper has a few Overwatch agent’s records makes Jack nervous. He’s seen who’s on the bounty list, no doubt something Reaper peruses being a mercenary, and he wonders if he needs to be on the lookout for Overwatch agent contracts being fulfilled.

He can’t think about that now, not when he’s trailing behind the other three into the firing range where he can hear giggling and yelling.

The first person he sees is Jesse, and whatever breath was in his lungs immediately evaporates as he sees the bastard is wearing the stupid serape that Jack knit him so many years ago. It’s tacky and has a horrendous amount of holes in it, but it’s tied tight around his shoulders as Jesse kicks back with a cigar in his mouth and curl up of his lips while he watches the others with an ease. Jack feels Ana’s hand on his elbow, squeezing tightly through the leather of his jacket, but he can hardly feel it as he recognises the stupid bloody BAMF belt buckle the boy is wearing as well, and for a brief and horrible moment he wishes Gabe, his Gabe, was here with him.

He wants to leave the room, catch his breath, take a damn moment for himself, but Winston is already calling everyone to attention and Jack catalogues everyone immediately, surprised at the sight of some of them.

Besides Jesse there’s Brigitte, tall and beautiful, and Jack finds it hard to remember how old she is. She’s got mechanic oil streaked over her clothes and face, and she looks blissfully happy as she turns to welcome the new comers, eyes sliding straight over Jack to land on Ana.

He knew they'd be a surprise from the old members of Overwatch, but the sound Brigitte lets out is almost inhumane as she drops her weapon, despite Jesse’s protests, and flings herself at Ana. She’s babbling something in broken Arabic, words long since unused by her rough accent, but Ana is crying too as she holds the girl close.

Habibat alqalb,” Ana is murmuring as she rocks them gently, Brigitte clinging tight. “Oh, habibat alqalb.”

Jack watches them with his own heart aching. He considers pulling off his mask, but he’s not ready. It’s not like he’ll have a similar reunion in any case. Everyone here he alienated at the end, let them all fall by the wayside and he deserves their animosity. So, he can’t reunite with everyone now. Sometime soon, he thinks, but not now.

Jesse cracks soon after that and Jack watches the shock roll off his face into something more broken and hopeful. He lunges towards the two, swinging Ana and Brigitte both into a tight hug as he throws out his own terms of endearment while the rest of the room looks on.

Jack recognises three of the others from the news. Lúcio Correia dos Santos, the Brazilian DJ and freedom fighter is one. He’s watched through the news the man taking down Viskhar Corporations, and beside him is the woman from Vishkar who assisted him, Satya Vaswani. She looks too uptight to be comfortable, but the way she’s leaning against Lúcio implies a sort of closeness that Jack guesses comes with taking down an entire corporation and throwing every value she grew up with to the wind.

Hana Song is the other one, the former professional gamer and now mech pilot from Korea. She’s popping gum and looking on at the reunion with interest, blocking in Satya on the other side of Lúcio, and if Jack isn’t mistaken it seems like she’s trying to become a barrier between the newcomers and Satya. He looks on with interest and makes a note to ask about that later.

Mei-Ling Zhou is standing just behind them, eyes wide as she looks at Ana, and Jack feels his stomach drop at seeing her alive. He near rips his mask off then but makes note to do it when he can get her alone. He owes her a thousand apologies, and even then he knows that won’t be enough. She looks well. There’s colour in her cheeks, her friend Snowball floating at her side and acting as an armrest, and she seems delighted at seeing Ana.

But then there’s the other person in the room, the one standing rigidly still with a torn expression on her face, and Jack doesn’t know if Fareeha is going to murder her mother or cry like the other two.

“Mama…” she calls out, voice small and uncertain. Jesse and Brigitte fall away from Ana as Fareeha’s voice cracks through the room. There’s silence loud enough that everyone can hear Fareeha’s heavy breathes and Ana quiet “Aibnatu hulwa”.

The moment's tick by painfully slow before Fareeha bursts forward with a startled cry and slams into her mother, both of them letting out grunts but not letting go as they both start to cry. Jack gently pushes Ana up when the two begin to sway, steadying them before they fall, and he hasn’t seen Ana cry like this in a long time, unabashedly as she strokes her daughter's long hair.

“I got your letter,” Fareeha is saying when Jack tunes in. “I didn’t hope to dream. I thought maybe it was a prank but… oh, Mama….”

“Fareeha,” Ana murmurs, clutching her close. “I’m so sorry. Fareeha, I’m sorry for leaving you behind. I’m not justified in anything-”

“You had things to do, Mama, I understand,” Fareeha cuts her off. “I get it. I’m not happy but Allah, it’s good to see you. I didn’t think you would come.” She pulls back a little, sniffling as Ana wipes away her tears. “How did you hear about Recall?”

Jack sucks in a breath as he realises they hadn’t talked about this. He sees Ana falter for a moment, her eyes flicking briefly to him, but thankfully Lena steps in.

“I found her,” she says cheerfully, catching everyone's attention. “You know, all that time jumpy stuff I do. I’ve meet Ana so many times that it was easy to send out a Recall to her as well!” Lena gives everyone a huge grin despite her blatant lie, but Jack wonders if maybe it were true in another timeline.

Fareeha is grinning at Lena and still holding her mother close when Winston clears his throat. “As you can see everyone, Ana is back,” he says before turning to the other three huddled together. “This is Ana Amari, ex-second in command of Overwatch. She was believed dead on a hostage recovery mission in Cairo a few years back but,” he smiles at Ana, “as you can see she’s more than alright.” He then waves at Jack and, for the first time, all eyes are on him. “Accompanying her is Soldier 76.”

“Soldier 76,” Hana pipes up from the back. “Is that your real name?”

“Don’t be a dick, Hana,” Lúcio scolds as he moves and offers his hand to Jack. “I’m Lúcio. Don’t mind her. She can be a brat at times.”

“Hey!”

“Soldier,” Jack introduces as he takes Lúcio’s hand in a solid shake. “Ex-mercenary.”

“Oh, so you two were in the business together?” Mei asks as she steps forward to shake his hand as well. “It’s good to know you’ve been looking after her. She’s special to us.”

“Yeah?” is all Jack can say as he shakes her hand followed by Brigitte’s and Jesse’s, and if he holds onto Jesse’s for a moment longer than necessary then that’s his business. “She can certainly hold her own.”

Ana shoots him an appreciative glance before addressing the crowd. “Soldier found me in Giza,” she explains, and this they have talked about. “I was attacked by Reaper and he came to my aid. Haven’t separated since.” She grins at him. “It’s nice to have someone watch my six when needed.”

“Like you need it,” Jesse mutters. “Bloody woman, you’ve got eyes in the back of your head.” He yelps when Ana smacks him upright the head, muttering a muted “mierda” and wincing when Ana glares at him for the language.

She drags him into a headlock alongside Fareeha afterwards thought and Jack has to force down a laugh. Brigitte has moved back to Ana’s side as well with Mei tagging along, and despite the other three keeping their distance there’s a camaraderie to the air that Jack used to feel surrounded by his old team.

He glances as Lena and tugs her arm until she slides over to his side.

“I think we should carry on without Ana,” he mumbles to her. “She’s going to be occupied for a while.” He glances over to see they’re all laughing, and he smiles before taking a step towards the doorway. Lena glances between the small group and himself before joining him out in the corridor.

“You don’t have to keep your identity a secret,” she tells him as they walk along. “You know it’s just going to end in tears when they do figure out it's you.”

Jack grits his teeth but nods. He can’t deny her truth. “I know,” he says. “But I’m just not ready yet. I’ve done too much, hurt so many. I need time, Lena.”

She just gives him a sad smile and small nod before gesturing at the next door. “Genji is here,” she informs him as she knocks at the door. “He brought his master with him. An Omnic. Be nice.”

Jack doesn’t have much time to process that before the door is opened by Zenyatta, and Jack feels his brain momentarily grid to a halt as he recognises the Omnic. There’s some exclusive bar back in Nepal that has their memories imprinted, and he is automatically reaching out to take Zenyatta’s hand in his before Zenyatta's words reach his ears.

“Greetings, Commander,” Zenyatta is saying. “It has been a long time. I am afraid I cannot say time has been kind to you.”

The fact Zenyatta just knows who he is throws Jack, and he blinks for a moment with a wide mouth before Zenyatta pulls away his hand and holds it up to his face, most likely where his mouth would be. A very human reaction, but Jack remembers Zenyatta being so interested in human behaviour.

“Apologies,” he says. “I did not know your identity was to be kept secret.” He taps the side of his head. “Omnic’s have much better senses than humans. I am sorry for the invasion of privacy.”

“No,” Jack cuts it. “No, it’s fine. I should’ve known someone would’ve picked up on it.”

Zenyatta’s lights flicker on his face, a smile, and Jack smiles at him knowing Zenyatta can see beyond the mask. The Omnic floats back, how he’s floating Jack still doesn’t know, and when he glances behind him Jack can see Genji standing in the room.

He looks better, Jack thinks. The fact that his whole face is on show throws Jack for a moment, not use to seeing all of Genji. Jack remembers that Genji used to have all of his face but his eyes covered, but now only his jaw is mechanical and parts of his skull has shiny metal parts.

He’s much more different than just his outer appearance though. He’s calmer, more at peace. There isn’t a brewing aura around him that acts as a warning symbol for anyone who gets close. He’s more comfortable, and Jack can’t help but smile when he sees that Genji no longer has red eyes. They’re gone now, and Jack recognises the same brown eyes he saw in Hanzo years ago.

“Genji,” he calls out, knowing there’s no point in playing the Soldier card, especially since Genji, undoubtedly, heard them at the door. He remembers the enhancements Genji was equipped with under Torbjörn’s careful hands and how it lead to the boy picking up numerous rumours and secrets to spread around the bases. He smiles. He misses that Genji.

“Commander,” Genji replies, his eyes wide and Jack does him a favour by flicking the latches of his mask open and he pulls off the visor. When Genji sees his face, his eyes go even wider before crinkling in joy as he steps forward. Jack expects a hand shake, but his hand is ignored as Genji shoots straight in for a hug.

Jack feels his eyes prickle but he ignores it as he reaches up to enclose Genji in his arms. He holds the boy tight, now a man but always the boy on the stretcher to Jack. He’s not as bulky as he once was, he’s more slim-lined and clearly he’s had some upgrades along the way, but he’s still so damn comfortable in Jack’s arms that Jack just squeezes him close. It has him wondering if going back and throwing off the mask to Jesse will get this reaction as well.

“I hope Jesse doesn’t know yet,” Genji says, his voice muffled by Jack’s chest. “I need to lord this over him forever.”

That surprises a laugh out of Jack, and he’s unbelievably pleased to know they’ve still got the sibling rivalry going. He wonders briefly of Hanzo, if Genji has contacted him yet, but it’s not his place to pry. Instead, he pulls back and he drops his hand to Genji’s shoulder to squeeze.

“It’s good to see you, Genji,” he tells him earnestly. “I’ve worried about you since the day you left.”

Genji blushes, actually blushes, and Jack is in awe of such a human reaction on this kid’s face. Going back a few years, Jack would never have expected to see Genji be like his old self in anyway, convinced that Genji would be mostly machine for the rest of his life. He makes a note to ask who upgraded Genji, but he has a strong feeling it might be Angela.

“I”m sorry, Commander,” Genji says stiffly, knocking Jack from his thoughts. “I wished to contact you but… I couldn’t. I mean-”

“Hey,” Jack cuts him off. “You don’t need to explain to me, kiddo. I’m not exactly the best role model for letting people know I’m alive.” He smiles and reaches up to ruffle Genji’s black hair. “You look better, kiddo. More at peace.”

“I am,” Genji agrees before he glances at Zenyatta. “Zenyatta has helped me a lot with finding my inner peace. When I found him I was… less than agreeable to be around. I was so mad. At the world, at my clan, at my family, at Hanzo.” He looks up at Jack and his eyes crinkle into that smile. Despite being on show, it’s clear that Genji’s mouth is still unable to be used for expressions. “But now I’m better. I’m happy.” He shrugs. “There’s still a way to go, but I’m there.”

“It is time to reconnect,” Zenyatta calls out, and Jack glances behind himself to see Zenyatta flickering his facial lights happily. “As it is for you, Commander. You have both spend so long looking for ways to repent, to aid in your retribution, but you need not punish yourselves any longer.” He floats forward to touch Jack’s shoulder. “Genji is ready to reconnect, to end his self-punishment. But I feel that you are not there, Commander. Not yet.” He flickers his lights again. “But one day you will. I look forward to then.”

Jack feels more breathless than he did when he walked in. He’s forgotten what Zenyatta is like, the air around him already feeling welcoming and accepting, not a single hint of negativity from the Omnic. It stirs emotions he’s not ready to face, and he’s thankful when Lena pipes up.

“Only a brief hello unfortunately,” she says to the other two. “You can catch up with Jack later, but for now I’ve got to introduce him back to the others.” She grins playfully. “Torby will have my hide if he sees a stranger walking around and I haven’t introduced them!”

Zenyatta pirouettes and flashes his lights at Lena. “Of course,” he replies. “Do not let us get in your way. I look forward to seeing you more, Commander.”

Jack raises a hand in acknowledgement, smiles at Genji again, before he claps on his visor and clips it into place. He feels confined this time instead of relieved when he puts it on, and as he leaves the room he starts to wonder if staying hidden is really the best thing in the end.

“Torby and Reinhardt should’ve switched shifts by now,” Lena is saying as they wander down the corridors to the workshops. Jack recognises the smell of oil and burning metal. It’s welcoming. “In theory,” Lena continues oblivious to Jack, “Lúcio and Satya would’ve swapped but who knows. Ana being back is going to keep everyone pretty excited.”

Jack just nods along as they go, not particularly ready to talk yet. Today has been overwhelming so far, and he already feels apprehension at walking in and lying to Torbjörn and Reinhardt. He wants to show them who he is but the emotions he got from Genji were too much. Seeing two people he’s been with since the beginning and dealing with those emotions is going to be even worse.

There’s clanging of metal as they approach, and Jack can hear Reinhardt and Torbjörn yelling at each other in a bastardised tongue of English, Swedish, and German. It makes his lips quirk in a small smile and he glances down at Lena who smiles back at him.

“They haven’t changed,” she says before she pushes open the forge doors and calls out. “Hello! I’ve got someone for you to meet!”

“Tracer!” Reinhardt bellows back, standing up from where he’d been sitting on an anvil beside Torbjörn. He’s huge, and Jack tries to remember if he was that big before the explosion or if Reinhardt has had some inexplicable growth spurt.

Lena grins at the large man as she gestures him over, and Jack is glad for the visor as it lets him eye up Reinhardt. He looks older, so much older, and Jack wonders what he’ll say when he sees Ana again.

Reinhardt makes his way through the debris in the workshop to scoop Lena up into a hug, chortling away with some endearments for her as he goes. She squawks and smacks him a few times on the shoulder until he drops her and beams down at Jack.

“And who is your friend?” he asks, still just as jolly as Jack remembers him, and Jack holds out his hand to shake Reinhardt’s giant one.

“Soldier 76,” he introduces himself, Lena too busy trying to catch her breath from being crushed. “At your service.”

Reinhardt takes his hand and almost shakes Jack along with it. “Reinhardt. Pleased to meet you,” he responds before gesturing at Torbjörn who’s glaring at them from a distance, his grip on his hammer white-knuckled tight. “This is Torbjörn, residential engineer. He has an attitude that will be offensive at best. I apologise for him in advance.”

Jack has to bite his tongue and swallow back some laughter at the disclaimer. He always knew Torbjörn had attitude to burn, but Reinhardt giving warning is priceless. Part of him aches for Gabe to be by his side to laugh with him, to take joy in the fact their friends haven’t changed, but he’s quickly reminded that Gabe isn’t Gabe anymore and Reaper wouldn’t stand with Jack and laugh.

He turns to Torbjörn out of good manners and offers his hand, but he’s not surprised by the glare Torbjörn sends him as he refuses the handshake.

Fucking legosoldater. Gå ur min smedja.,” Torbjörn mutters as he turns back to the white hot metal he’s holding over an anvil. Jack blinks for a moment before dropping the hand and clearing his throat.

“Fucking engineers,” he replies, copying Torbjörn who looks up in alarm. “Couldn’t be polite if their lives depended on it.”

Torbjörn splutters for a moment, glancing at Reinhardt who is chortling beside a grinning Lena. He scowls at them both, looking particularly irritated, before he drops the forceps in one hand and extends it to Jack.

Surprised, Jack takes it, but he really should’ve expected his fingers to be crushed in such a steady handshake. Thankfully, he’s tougher than that, and he squeezes back just as hard.

“Torbjörn,” Torbjörn introduces himself, the corner of his mouth twitching. “You know Swedish?”

“A bit,” Jack replies as he pulls his hand away. “A friend of mine taught me a long time ago.” He knows that Torbjörn can’t see his face but he swears he can feel Torbjörn’s eyes boring straight into his. It makes him fidgety and nervous, but he refuses to bend under Torbjörn’s unrelenting gaze.

Luckily, once again, Lena steps in. She takes Jack’s arm and starts to tug him out of the room. “Anyway,” she chirps as she pushes Jack along. “We’ve got to get Soldier settled in. Just a quick introduction-”

Boo doo boo doo!” comes a noise from the corner, and Jack just about jumps out of his skin when he sees a Bastion unit waving at him from the corner. His hands quickly fall to his side where his pistol is kept, and he has it out and pointed at the Bastion when Torbjörn suddenly stands in the way, the muzzle of the gun pressed to his forehead.

“Cease fire,” he orders as he glares at Jack, and Jack only takes his eyes off the Bastion for a moment but it’s the moment he needs when he sees Torbjörn’s eyes filled with a protective passion. It’s insane to think that Torbjörn, the most anti-Omnic person that Jack has ever met in this world, is standing between Jack and a damn Bastion, and if anything that is enough to give Jack the benefit of the doubt he needs.

“Is that-” he starts to ask, but he’s cut off as Torbjörn interrupts.

“That’s my Bastion unit,” he snaps. “It’s of no harm. I suggest you put the weapon away.”

Jack can’t though, can’t put it down as he stares at the Bastion. It’s not doing anything besides obviously charging, with half of it’s wires attached to the wall sockets, and Jack eyes it wearily until he sees a flash of colour and a bird settles down on the Bastion’s shoulder pads where Jack, looking closer, can see a birds nest.

“That’s it’s friend, Ganymede,” Torbjörn tells him, still pressed to Jack’s gun fearlessly. “I took them both in after an incident near Zürich. They’re under Overwatch’s protection.”

Jack has the mind to remind him that Overwatch legally doesn’t exist, but he can see the fight brewing and instead takes the option to lower his gun and slowly stow it back in the holster. He doesn’t take his eyes off the Bastion unit though, and he waits until Lena places a hand back on his arm.

“Come along, Soldier,” she says quietly and carefully, obviously not wanting to antagonise anyone even as her grip tightens on Jack’s arm until it’s almost painful. “We’ve got to get you to your quarters yet.”

“I apologise,” Jack says gruffly, ignoring her and directing his apology to the Bastion. “I didn’t realise you were a friend.”

The Bastion looks him, he assumes by the turning of it’s head, before it’s light flickers and it beeps a few times his way. Torbjörn seems distracted enough that Jack can take the escape now, and he nods at Lena to lead the way.

No one says anything as they leave, and when they’re halfway down the hall Lena lets out a deep breath and scrubs a hand over her face.

“And Winston said this would be easy,” she mutters, and Jack glances down only to see her scratch her head and smile. “That’s alright, love. It has been years. Come on, lets get you to your room. I’m sure you must be tired.”

Jack blinks a few times before he smiles behind his mask. She’s right, it’s been years, but at least Lena hasn’t changed.

She chatters away as they walk to where his assigned room is. He doesn’t have much in the way of material items, only a handful of things in his bag he left back in Winston’s lab. He goes to make mention but Lena assures him she’ll pick it up for him.

His room is in the same wing as everyone else’s, and when he opens the door he’s reminded of the first day he spent with the S.E.P. It’s blank and tidy and there’s nothing personal about it at all. He thinks of the handful of pictures he’s picked up over the years, looks at the cork board and thinks he can pin them there. But he has to be careful. He doesn’t want too many clues of who he is plastered over the walls.

“Thank you, Lena,” he says as he stands in the room, and he takes his mask off with a quiet click just to look at her so she can see his sincere smile. “Thank you for this.”

Lena smiles back at him, but her smile seems a little strained. “It’s okay,” she says. “I can’t exactly call you Jack though, can I? It might give away your identity.”

It’s rhetorical. She already knows the answer. He reaches out to squeeze her shoulder in apology but she just pats his hand and pushes it away. Her smile is a little more tender now, her eyes slightly watery, and Jack feels horrible putting her in this position.

“I’m sorry,” he apologises to her, sincerity in every word. She shakes her head though and takes a few steps back until she’s in the corridor.

“It’s okay,” she tells him, and he doesn’t think even she believes that. He grits his teeth and turns his gaze to the floor. It’s not okay, not really, to divide the group up into who knows and who doesn’t.

Genji, Zenyatta, Lena, and Winston versus everyone else? It’s not right, and Jack once again wonders if he should tell the others who he is.

But he’s not ready, he won’t be for a while, and he glances up to see Lena still in the doorway with that bittersweet look on her face.

“Hey,” she calls softly. “Welcome back, Jack.”

He smiles tightly at her, and despite all the doubt brewing in his chest and all the confusion in his brain, there is absolutely one thing he is positive of. One thing he truly believes.

“It’s good to be back.”

Chapter Text

Jack had thought the group currently at Gibraltar were a unit, an assembly of people who trusted each other and watched each other's backs. He thought they’d protect each other when it comes to training, to actual firefights, to genuine challenges they must face.

He doesn’t think he’s been that wrong for a long time.

It feels like a flashback to when Ana, Torbjörn, and Reinhardt had first arrived. There’s that thin layer of tension, of everyone standing on the tip of a cliff waiting to be pushed only to drag the others with them. There’s no easy camaraderie, and when Ana looks at Jack he knows what she’s asking.

Ana gels neatly, but Jack recognises the signs of her blending back into the background again. Her reunion with Torbjörn is something to laugh at, his wide eyed surprise and her short “Well, I had to come back. I was worried you'd get bored not being able to stick your nose in my business” has everyone nearby giggling. Torbjörn accepts her immediately, spending more time with her until Reinhardt gets over the initial betrayal of seeing her.

It’s flirting after that and Jack, admittedly, isn’t fazed. He always knew that Ana and Reinhardt were heading towards something, and he knows that time isn’t their friend anymore. He encourages it in his own way, ensuring they’re together, orchestrating moments for them. Genji and Jesse are the only ones not oblivious to his subtle manipulations, but where Genji smiles at him and helps, Jesse glares and unsettles Jack at every turn.

Although, where Ana seems fine with everyone, taking that role of gentle advisor, Jack sees her clashes with Fareeha.

He doesn’t mean to overhear their arguments, especially not this last one. He’d been sitting in the back of the common area, dozing with his feet on the table and mask over his face as he pays half-attention to what’s in front of him. It seems like the majority of the others have crashed on a series of different couches and cushions to watch Hana’s latest live stream on the large screen taking over the majority of the wall. All attention is focused that way, except of course Fareeha, who follows her mother into the room towards the back where Jack is sitting, voice already raised.

“I always dreamed of the day we would fight together,” Fareeha is saying, and Jack watches Ana’s face twist before she turns to her daughter with a hard look.

“Wanting a better life for you is all I ever dreamed of,” she tells her, and Fareeha glances down at her feet, shuffling nervously but Jack can see her hands tightening into fists.

“Mum,” she murmurs, her voice loud enough for Jack to hear but not anyone else. “I know why you didn't want me to join Overwatch, but it's still what I want.”

Jack sees Ana fighting with something. He remembers how much she never wanted this life for Fareeha, always wanted her away from the battles and the blood and gore. He remembers a time where Ana considered sending Fareeha to Sam in Canada to grow up, just to get her away, and he doesn’t think he’ll ever forget the look of defeat on her face when she decided against it.

“I didn't want that life for you,” Ana admits quietly before she raises her head, eyes steeled. “But I know that it's your decision, and I will support it.”

Her words are almost hollow, and Jack wonders how much Ana really does believe what she says. Fareeha looks more settled though, and she smiles as she reaches out to touch Ana’s arm.

“Mum,” she starts again, and this time Jack can see she’s changing the subject. “Don’t you think it’s time you told Sam you’re alive?”

That alone sets even Jack into a ridged state, let alone Ana who pushes Fareeha’s hand off and takes a step back. Sam has always been a sore spot for Ana, always, and he knows that Ana has never let that get in the way of Sam and Fareeha’s relationship but he also knows she won’t let anyone tell her how to run that broken relationship.

She looks fiercer as she addresses Fareeha. “You let me worry about what your father needs to know,” she informs her stiffly before she pushes past her and out the door, leaving Fareeha to stand with her hand half raised and wide eyes. They flicker to Jack, and he tries to turn his head so it looks like he’s not listening, but he must fail as Fareeha glares at him.

“It’s not polite to eavesdrop,” she scolds him, crossing her arms. Jack winces but glances back at her. “I don’t trust you. I know it was you that broke into Grand Mesa. I don’t know who was with you, but you cost me a promotion.” She narrows her eyes and points at him. “Luckily, I got one back after Anubis, but you’re lucky I wasn’t on my game.”

Jack hesitates before replying. “Your mother is proud of you,” he tells her honestly, and she gives a short laugh.

“You don’t know my mother very well, then,” she snorts. “I’m keeping an eye on you, Soldier 76.”

She’s out of the room before he can respond, and when he turns his head to return to dozing he can see Jesse watching him with interest. There’s no way he can see Jack’s face, but Jack feels those eyes bore into him hard enough he ends up leaving the room anyway.

There are more tensions than Jack realised though as the weeks press on and more conflicts arise, more often than not right in front of him. His knowledge of the Gibraltar base helps him to blend into the shadows, the others only noticing when their argument is done and by then they’re often too hurt to say anything to him. He starts to recognise people by their backs alone as so many are turned to him.

Angela turns up and doesn’t recognise Jack, which he is endlessly thankful for. He finds himself barricading his room from the others as the memory, the realisation, of what happened at Zürich with Reaper fills his head and he can’t get it out. Every time he sees Angela, he feels a mixture of emotions, the main one being anger and he knows it’s not fair, that she didn’t know any better, but it’s consuming and he has to remove himself to his room more and more often.

She recognises Ana though and, after the initial greetings where they happily reunited, Angela doesn’t waste time in reminding everyone of her anti-military ways as she starts criticising Ana’s use of the biotic rifle she’d acquired at some point during her Shrike days. There’s talk of her cybernetic eye as well, and Jack knows that Winston pulled the two apart when Angela refused to back down over repairing it for Ana despite Ana’s rejection.

Jesse and Brigitte clash one sparring session that Jack is present at. He’s lurking in the corner and watches the groups of two scattered around the room with a critical eye as they all practice. Genji and Lena are like a well-oiled machine as they fight against Angela and Hana. The latter is an unlikely pair, and Jack is thankful that all four of them are open to Jack’s critiquing as he pushes and prods them all different ways.

Across the room though, Brigitte and Jesse are locked in an intense fight. It’s odd for Jack to see them at odds with one another, use to the easy camaraderie they had with Fareeha when they were younger, and when he watches the disaster of the two sparring together it makes him wonder just what happened.

He’s not entitled to that information though. He’s the one who broke apart the family in the first place.

He wants to open his mouth and assist the two, but he’s fearful he won’t be welcome. Brigitte is too slow on the defence and Jesse to quick on attack, and Jack’s fingers itch with the need to correct them. Neither are a good match working side by side, but opposite one another it’s even more of a disaster as they blatantly exploit each other's weaknesses with a nasty finesse. It’s fine though, or Jack thinks it is since there’s been no bloodshed, but that’s until the topic of Reinhardt comes up and Jesse clearly can’t help but make a comment.

Believe me,” he calls to Brigitte as he dodges a swinging flail, and Jack edges closer to them. “I’d get wanting to wear the armour and all.” He grunts as he rolls to the side and Jack tries not to yell at him about the damn serape being in the way, “but following the old man around must be nothing but trouble!”

Brigitte’s teeth gnash and she slings her flail again, catching Jesse in the shoulder and sending him swearing to the ground. Jack instinctually lurches forward, stepping in between them with his hands held up and, while Jesse mutters behind him, Brigitte just glares past him at the cowboy.

“I don't see it that way,” she snaps down at him. “To me, it's an honour.”

Jesse goes to reply, Jack hears his intake of breath, but he cuts them off. “Cool it, you two,” he snaps at them, ignoring Brigitte’s eyes narrowing at him and the tightening of her grip on her flail. “That’s enough.” He glares behind him at Jesse, even though the kid won’t see it past the visor, as he addresses him. “You’re practising with Genji.” He returns Brigitte’s glower. “Brigitte, hit the showers.”

They both scowl at him, but thankfully his authority is enough to get them to both backdown and go their separate ways. Jack stays standing in place, arms out protectively, and he spots Lena following Brigitte as Genji walks towards him with a raised eyebrow.

“Playing mum already?” he asks as he stops at Jack’s side, and Jack snorts.

“I don’t know what’s happened for them to be so angry towards one another, but they need to sort it out.”

Genji nods his head before shrugging. “Overwatch may have gotten back together,” he says. “But there are definitely rifts. Not everything we’ve all done since leaving in the first place has been particularly positive, and Jesse’s on the bounty list,” he pauses and scratches his cheek. “Even though we all know that he didn’t deserve to be on the list in the first place, he’s had to do some shit since that would’ve earned him a place since he left Blackwatch.” Genji nods at Jesse, who’s flicking and playing with his pistol as he glares at the two. “Brigitte preaches a lot about justice, so I guess that might be a reason for the rift.”

“People have to do different things to survive,” Jack mutters, and Genji nods beside him. Jack shakes his head, wondering if he should maybe try and intervene between the two again as more of a mediator, but he decides against it and instead, he gestures for Genji to follow him towards Jesse. He thinks maybe workout with Genji might tone Jesse’s bullshit down, but it seems Jesse is in a confrontational mood as they come to a halt in front of him.

“You might be fast, Genji,” he snarks from where he’s standing a distance away as Genji pulls out his sword slowly. “But you ain't faster than a bullet.”

Jack doesn’t have time to call him out on his shit before Genji is snapping back. “Why don't we find out?” he retorts before charging the cowboy.

Jack gives up trying to play any form of mediator and just watches the two clash and clash until Jesse is breathing heavily with enough bruises covering him that he’s purple, and Genji looks just as bad and is panting worse with his mechanics whirling unhappily. He wishes Gabe where here for this moment, wishes he could shove him in the direction of his two ‘sons’ and tell him to sort it out.

But he’s not here, and instead, Jack pulls them apart and sends them both to the showers as a headache rises in his forehead. He rubs it softly and leaves the sparring to the others.

One of the real disasters though is that, where Jack thought was a solid friendship, there is actually a huge chasm of aggression and anger between Lúcio and Satya. Jack had seen the way he’d protected her when Jack had arrived, but he slowly starts to think it was more bravado and an attempt to show unity in front of a stranger. He gets caught up in many of their fights, fights he wants no part of but unfortunately he seems to have the knack of getting caught up in them, and he tries hard to ignore them even as Ana pushes and prods and reminds him that he’s always been the one to simmer down fights and bring people together.

He doesn’t want to do that again.

But then there’s one fight too many for him. He knows it starts with one of Satya’s flippant comments about Lúcio as he cleans his weaponry out on the common room table, but it’s obvious something else must’ve happened recently to make the comment such a hair trigger for Lúcio. Jack is walking him through it, teaching him how to clean it without scratching the metal, when the fight bloody well starts.

Satya walks past them without a bother until she notes what they’re doing, and she pauses to lean over Lúcio’s shoulder. She sneers at them, reaching out to poke Lúcio’s gun before muttering, “you should return what you stole from Vishkar.”

Lúcio snorts. “Stole? Psh. You need to go ask your ex-bosses where it all came from; then we can talk.”

Satya looks infuriated and Jack pauses in his teachings, sensing the upcoming fight. He grits his teeth. As he said, he never wanted to go through this again, this whole mediating business. He did it at the beginning of Overwatch, he won’t do it again. He won’t.

“I know it was your father. I was in a position where-” Satya starts to say, but Lúcio cuts her off as he whirls around in his seat to glare at her.

“Vishkar was using you!” he tells her, so much conviction that if Jack didn’t already know it as the truth he’d believe Lúcio immediately. “Just like they used my father.”

“Your father was a Vishkar employee,” Satya snaps. “He understood our company's vision. A shame he never educated you.”

“You still see yourself as Vishkar?” Lúcio shakes his head. “Fine. What you Vishkar will never understand is that people should be free.”

Satya laughs and it’s awful, a near cackle. “What you call freedom is an illusion that causes more harm than good. What you call freedom, I call anarchy.” She glares at him. “Vishkar is building a better future for humanity.”

“You believe that?” Lúcio demands “I don't even know what to tell you.”

Satya opens her mouth but Jack interrupts, standing up and slamming his hands down on the table. It shakes with the aggression, and both Satya and Lúcio glance at him with wide eyes before closing their open mouths as he unclips only the eye visor off the mask just to be able to glare at them.

“Stop,” he orders, his voice thick with authority and both of their backs go ridged. “Fighting over this is not helping anyone, let alone yourselves. Satya, Lúcio is right. Vishkar were using you. I’ve read your files, I read them before I even came here. Your leader, Sanjay Korpal, was in league with Guillermo Portero, head of LumériCo, and both were looking for cheap ways to scam money.” He stops to hold up a hand to interrupt Satya who drops open her mouth to start protesting. “I know what happened when you couldn’t find blackmail on Calado. I know Korpal destroyed the building,” He stands up to face Satya who’s looking visibly shook. “I know the damage it did to the neighbourhood,” he continues, seeing the way she flinches and drops her gaze. “Vishkar is not a safe company, they don’t want to better the poor. They want control, Satya. And they’re willing to work with whoever it takes to get there.”

“How do you-” Satya starts to say but Jack cuts her off.

“A friend of mine took part in the ending of LumériCo,” he tells them truthfully. “She found many files along the way. Korpal, Portero, and Antonio Bartalotti were part of Talon’s inner council.” He pauses before finally turning to Lúcio who winces at Jack’s glare. “And you,” he says. “Your father may have created your technology, but it was owned and patented by Vishkar. There is no right answer on who owns it. For now, it’s in your care. You will do well to remember that instead of attacking when someone disagrees, you need to educate.” He turns his gaze back to Satya before sighing. “You’re both just kids,” he tells them, and it’s true. They’re so damn young. “We’re in a world that doesn’t discriminate who they’re willing to trample over to get what they want. You’re on the same side. Look after each other.”

The two glance at each other wearily, but Jack can see maybe something has hit home to them. He can’t follow up with much more as the two awkwardly exchange apologies, so instead he walks away as he clicks the eye visor back on. He can’t say more, can’t give them any other advice except for what he has. He can’t protect the two of them if they won’t protect each other.

He thinks he’s almost escaped them when he hears Satya’s voice call his pseudo-name, and he pauses briefly before turning around to see her approaching him. She looks uncomfortable, and Jack feels it enough that he almost gives her a bullshit excuse to walk away. He doesn’t though, not when he sees something in her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” she says quietly, gripping her hands in front of her like a life line. “No one… No one else has spoken to me and confirmed my worst fears. I knew about Korpal’s… misdeeds, but I never wanted to believe them.” She glances up at him and gives him a faint smile. “Thank you.”

“You’re better than Vishkar, Satya,” he tells her honestly. “I hope you see that.”

She nods slowly, reluctantly, before she takes a deep breath. “There was this girl,” she continues after moment. “Her name was Rosa. I… I got lost in the middle of this protest. I thought they were all fools. Who wouldn’t want Vishkar’s glory to improve their neighbourhoods? Improve their homes?” She shakes her head. “I was foolish. Yet this girl… she helped me, and it made me want to do it for her.” She looks horrendously guilty all of a sudden, and Jack doesn’t know what to say. “But she was caught in the fire that Korpal set, the one I could’ve prevented if I’d looked harder. One side of her face… it was completely disfigured, completely burnt. I hoped that with our technology we could help her, fix her so she didn’t look so broken.” Satya bites her lip and glances down. “Six months later, we had fixed the neighbourhood and yet Rosa still looked just as disfigured as before.” She looks up at Jack. “That was the moment I decided that there was something wrong with Vishkar. Two months later and I met Lúcio, and even though I still feel so loyal to Vishkar, I knew what he was going was right.” She shakes her head. “Their hold is not completely gone, but we started the movements of pushing Vishkar away from the Brazilian people.”

“You did the right thing,” Jack says, and all he can think of is Olivia. Ten-year-old Olivia caught in the rubble from an attack meant for Jack. He reaches out to Satya’s shoulder. “I had something… similar. In Mexico a long time ago, years now, there was a girl caught up in an attack that was meant for me.” He clears his throat, can’t bring himself to meet Satya’s eyes even if she can’t see them. “I rescued her, but that was when I started to realise the cost of… of what my job was doing to me.”

“You were a mercenary?”

“Of sorts,” he says, a half-truth. “I was never a very good one, but this girl pushed me. Reminded me of why I became a… mercenary. It took me years to find her again, but she’s different now.” He looks down. “Part of me will always wonder if I could’ve done more. The other part knows I’ll never find out.”

Satya looks just as wounded as Jack feels, but she reaches out and awkward touches Jack’s arm with the tips of her fingers. “Thank you,” she says, “for trusting me with this.”

Jack doesn’t know what to say so he just nods and clears his throat. “I believe Lúcio could do with some company now that I am gone,” he says, waving over at Lúcio who is watching them with a curious eye. “Would you mind assisting him with his weapon cleaning? I believe yours might need some attention too.”

Satya nods her head slowly, clearly seeing the opportunity he is offering her, and she gives him a half-smile before turning back to Lúcio. Thankfully, he pushes out the chair beside him for her to settle into, and Jack barely waits for them to start talking before he makes his way out into the corridor.

There’s no one in front of him, and Jack almost sinks against the wall in relief but jumps when he hears Ana come up behind him from the common room.

“I told you you’ve still got the mothering thing going on,” she says as she approaches him. “Forging bonds between everyone. I thought you wouldn’t be happy doing that again.” She grins at him and claps his shoulder. “Must be instinct by now.”

Jack snorts. “I’m a little rusty,” he admits. Ana laughs and shakes her head.

“Bullshit,” she says before jerking over her shoulder with her thumb. “Well, if you feel like doing some more mediation, Angela and Reinhardt are having a fight in the kitchen over whether he should have Brigitte as his squire or not.”

“Again?” Jack groans. “You’d think she’d give it up by now.”

“Considering she’s still ragging on at me about replacing my eye, I’d think not,” Ana responds before clapping his shoulder a few times. “Go work your magic, why don’t you? Everyone here could probably use some Mama Jack.”

She gives him a grin that quickly slides off as the familiar sound of boots and spurs clicking on the ground comes around the corner, and both Jack and Ana stare as Jesse enters their corridor. Immediately, Jack panics at the thought Jesse may have heard Ana say his name, but the cowboy is just watching them with a raised eyebrow as he approaches.

“Evening, Ana,” he greets with a tip of his hat before glaring at Jack. “Soldier.”

“Jesse,” Ana greets back kindly. “I thought you were taking Hana through some drills?”

Jesse shrugs, glancing at Jack but mostly focusing on Ana. “Kid has too much spirit,” he mutters. “Doesn’t listen to me. She’s going to blow up her mech one day and end up killing herself.” He sighs. “Not much I can do to help.”

Jack opens his mouth to tell him off, tell him to get his ass back down and help her lest he sic Gabe on him when he’s back, but nothing comes out as all the conviction leaves him. Gabe isn’t here, and he sure as hell wouldn’t be telling Jesse off if he were. He grits his teeth instead and looks down at his tight fists as Ana chuckles.

“She is spirited,” she agrees. “But I don’t think leaving her is going to help anyone in the long run. Take me with you. If I could teach you and Amélie, I can certainly teach Hana.”

The causal use of Amélie’s name surprises Jack, and he can see it surprises Jesse too. Jack’s flinch at the name clearly doesn’t escape Jesse’s notice either as he frowns in Jack’s direction before grinning at Ana.

“It's an honour fightin' by your side, ma'am,” he says with another tip of his hat, and Jack rolls his eyes at the same time as Ana.

“Heh,” she huffs, shaking her head, “you always were a charmer.” She pats Jesse’s arm and turns to Jack. “Want to join us for some target practice?”

The look on Jesse’s face would’ve been enough to make Jack disagree if he weren’t thinking so already. He shakes his head and holds up a hand.

“Sorry,” he says, “but I have to get back to my room. I have some research I’ve been working on that needs my attention.”

Ana nods and Jesse continues to glower, but Jack doesn’t care as he slips away from them. He feels Jesse’s gaze on him the whole time, and he makes a mental note to be more careful about who he speaks to about his identity from now on.

He’s just making his way down to his door when he spots Lena leaning beside it, and he groans when he sees files in her hands. The idea of files coming back into his life had frustrated him at first, memories of Adawe and all her manilla folders too much, and he’s still not warmed up to the idea. He stops in front of Lena and holds out his hand, accepting them when she hands them over.

“What is it now?” he asks gruffly. “Settle a disagreement between Angela and Jesse? I know that’s a big problem at the moment.” He sighs. “Kid’s been smoking cigars since he was thirteen. We couldn’t snap it out of him, so what makes Angela think she can? Flap her angel wings a few times and some education sessions?”

Lena laughs, but it’s awkward and halted enough to get Jack’s attention. He glances at her to see she’s worrying her bottom lip before he grunts at her to spit it out already.

“We’ve got some new recruits coming in,” she tells him, pointing at the files.

“You’ve got problems with your current recruits,” he mutters, “who thought it was a good idea to add in new ones?” Lena opens her mouth to answer but Jack shakes his head. “Seriously, Lena. Satya and Lúcio are always at each other's throats, Jesse isn’t a team player, Hana is barely handling the stress from her move from Korea, Winston never comes out of his lab, and Mei is struggling with reconditioning herself into this environment. Angela is sitting on her nerves about PTSD enough that Mei is going to snap, let alone everyone else as Angela badgers them with her own sense of righteousness. Fareeha and Ana can’t seem to go a day without clashing over some argument. You’re only here some of the time with your time jumps since your accelerator was damaged at Mondatta’s assassination. Reinhardt is busily fluctuating between being happy Ana is alive and being betrayed, and everyone is dealing with those mood swings. And Torbjörn is so busy in his forge that we see him less than we do Winston!” He pauses for a breath and grips the files tight. “The only one that doesn’t seem to have a problem with anyone is the bloody Bastion unit that plays with its bird all day long!”

“And helps Mei in her lab?” Lena offers weakly, and Jack rolls his eyes with a grunt.

“Sure,” he snaps, “whatever. Why are you, or Wisnton, encouraging more people in who’re going to cause more problems?”

Lena looks a little overwhelmed for a moment before she gives Jack and awkward smile. “In all honesty?” she asks. “Winston and I were talking about passing over full leadership to you.” She must know that Jack is going to go mental as she holds up her hands. “No, wait, listen! You’ve done this before, you’ve lead some of this team already, you know how everyone clicks and ticks! I’ve seen you with the others diffusing the situations. You know how to do this, Jack. You can bring us together!”

Jack blinks down at her and slowly takes off his mask despite thinking he probably shouldn’t in the corridor where he can be seen. He has to breathe fresh air though at the thought that they want him to lead again.

“I can’t,” he tells her. “I can’t do that again. I tried it once, Lena, and I fucked up. So many died because of my decisions.”

“Jack…”

He shakes his head and looks at her with wide imploring eyes. “Understand this, Lena,” he pleads. “I can’t do it again. I can’t put myself through that.” He gives her a strained smile. “It’s a self-preservation thing.”

“Jack,” she sighs, stepping forward to grip his arms. “I know what happened. I know you blame yourself but it wasn’t you. Talon… Talon had taken over Blackwatch. It’d seeped in when we weren’t looking. I know you’re trying to figure out how. I know you’ve got your own mission with all those lists I see in your room.” She squeezes his arms tightly. “But we need leadership, we need you. Winston doesn’t know what to do and we’re all going to suffer.”

Jack blinks a few times and starts to shake his head. “Lena, I can’t.”

“Please,” she pushes, and Jack can feel his resolve starting to crumble. “We need you, Jack.”

“I-”

“Jack?”

The new voice shatters the tension between himself and Lena, and with a sickening feeling, Jack turns to see Jesse looking at the two of them in utter horror. His eyes flick to Jack’s face, slowly cataloguing every part that he can see, and Jack feels fear building in his chest as Jesse takes a shaky two steps forward.

“Jesse,” he calls, “let me-”

“No,” he interrupts, and Jack watches as Jesse’s face completely closes up, eyes ice cold as he regards Jack with a hard glare. The shutters go down and Jack doesn’t know what to do. “No. I didn’t come here to… oh Dios mio . No.” He shakes his head before turning to glare at Lena. “Ana sent me to find you.”

Lena blinks at him, glancing between the two subtly before nodding. “What’s wrong?” she asks a little hesitantly, and Jesse glowers at Jack again before swinging his arms out in a general wave.

“Mind telling me why Shimada Hanzo is standing at the gate?”