Jesse McCree braces himself against a still-standing wall as it shakes from the force of an explosion, praying that it won’t collapse on him. There’s silence for a half minute as everyone waits for the rubble to settle, then a zip of pulse fire from the other side of the wall starts the fighting up again. He takes a deep breath before palming a flashbang and poking his head around the doorway.
They knew that this was going to be a firefight - some scientist made a breakthrough in omnic intelligence and decided to tell the media all about it. As soon as it hit the wires it became a race to see who could get their hands on the woman first: Overwatch or any one of their multiple enemies. Jesse and the rest of his Blackwatch team - down to just him, Gabe, and Genji after the Moira shitshow a few months back - had been on their way back from a completed mission, but were diverted over to the scientist’s location as they were the only ones close enough. This means it’s three versus dozens, at least until the Overwatch team that Morrison is sending gets there.
According to their last communication, Gabe is holed up with the scientist somewhere on the floor above him. Looking around and seeing only Talon and Null Sector fighting each other, Jesse tosses the flashbang and scrambles back around the wall. It goes off, and his way is clear to get to the staircase. Jesse heads down the hallway with gun at the ready, glancing in rooms and clearing them one by one. Four rooms down he looks in and sees a woman huddled in a corner wearing a stained lab coat. Gabe is nowhere to be seen.
“Ma’am, my name is -” Jesse starts, but the woman raises her head in a jerk and stares at him with fear-bulged eyes, her arm making shushing movements.
“She already got the other man, you need to go,” she hisses. “They’re not here for me.”
Jesse frowns. “Yes, ma’am, they are. I’m part of Overwatch, we’re here to -” He stops, hearing the faintest of scraping sounds behind him, but it’s not enough warning. There’s a quick sting of pain at his neck, and the last thing he sees as he sinks down with his vision greying out is the woman’s mouth forming the words ‘not again ’.
Jesse slowly opens his eyes, his eyelids feeling fuzzy on the inside. Trying to move, he finds he’s restrained - legs, torso, arms, even his head is strapped down. He hears beeping that speeds up, and he identifies its tempo as his own heart rate. He’s not sure what he’s wearing, but he can feel that it’s not his armor. As he’s twisting his arm to see if the dull pain there is an IV of some kind, a shadow falls over him.
“Hello, Jesse. How are we feeling?” Moira’s smooth voice has never been a particularly welcome presence in Jesse’s life, but now it's something familiar and safe.
“Moira! Get me out of these restraints and we can get out of here.”
She gives a soft chuckle, and there’s a trickle of cold down Jesse’s spine. “Moira?”
“It’s nice that you think I’m in danger, but that’s not quite the case.” Jesse hears her measured footsteps take her around the room, and there’s a soft clinking of glass and metal.
“Aren’t you workin’ as the Minister of Genetics for Oasis nowadays?”
“As my day job. I also have other employers.” Moira finally steps close enough for Jesse to see her, and his mouth goes dry. Under her lab coat she’s wearing the red-highlighted black and silver of Talon. It’s almost close to what they wore in Blackwatch, but somehow just subtly wrong.
“How long have you been workin’ for them?” Jesse asks. He doesn’t add was it when you were with us? but he’s sure she hears it anyways.
“Long enough,” she says unhelpfully. “Talon is giving me a quite extraordinary amount of money and some lovely supplies in order to do some experiments for them.”
“What kind of experiments?”
“Memory control and alteration, primarily. I believe you’ve already run into some of my results.” Moira does something that tilts the table that Jesse’s on, raising his upper body. He can now look around a bit - he’s in a stark white lab, startlingly similar to Moira’s lab in Blackwatch. There’s an IV bag on a stand next to him, dripping something slowly into a tube that leads to his arm. On a table similar to what Jesse’s on is a slim figure with long dark hair. Jesse squints, until his eyes widen in recognition.
“Indeed. She’s done nicely for us so far, but I’m not quite finished with her yet.” Amélie Lacroix had vanished some months back, presumably taken by Talon agents. She had been rescued and brought back home, but just two weeks later she murdered her loving husband and Overwatch agent Gérard and disappeared once more. Everyone had been fairly certain that Talon was behind everything given how many times they had tried to kill Gérard in the past, but they had no proof. Until now.
“We did quite well in wiping her memory and suppressing her personality, but she has a ways to go until she is the perfect weapon we know she can be,” Moira continues calmly, like she’s not discussing the intimate destruction of someone’s life. The table tilts back down to its previous position, Jesse once more only able to see the ceiling.
“Is that my future, then?” Jesse has never been glad before that he has no family left, no romantic attachments - but now it means that there won’t be anyone defenseless for him to kill. All his friends are agents who can take care of themselves.
Moira laughs, this time with a note of glee that makes all of Jesse’s muscles tense. “Oh no, no. The pleasure of working with my old team? I have far better plans for you.”
“What are you doing with my teammates?” The question is flat, tone hiding fear and anger.
“Nothing upsetting, I promise. I am being honest here, Jesse. You might end up enjoying all of this. My previous subjects did.”
“Are your previous subjects still alive?”
“Some of them.” Moira comes into view, and she’s holding a syringe and a complicated piece of machinery that has four electrodes coming off of it. She leans over and injects the syringe into the IV drip hanging above Jesse.
“If I ask what you just put in me, is there any chance I’ll get an answer?”
Moira leans over, smears some cold gel onto Jesse’s temples. “No. But don’t worry, it’ll just put you to sleep with no ill effects.” She attaches the electrodes and sets the machinery down on a stand. The other two electrodes hang loose. Jesse looks up and tries to focus on Moira’s face, but everything is pulling into a tunnel with blackness around it.
“Go to sleep, Jesse McCree. It will be interesting to see where you wake up.”
The tunnel closes, and Jesse’s eyes shut onto darkness.
Jesse swirls the ice in his drink, wondering to himself why he was there. On one hand it was fairly obvious - he was at Monroe’s with his coworkers after a long day at the paper and they were all relaxing. Everyone is paired off though, into their various couples - Shae and Martin, Jim and Randy, Ellie and Yan. Jesse’s not quite sure how he ended up with so many friends in perfect little romantic duos, but here he is alone at a table with melting ice and a bowl of peanuts to keep him company.
A screech of a chair, and Momiko throws herself into the seat beside him. “Who died, Jess? You remember that I’m on obituaries, not you, right?”
“I’m fine, Momo. Just feelin’…” he waves a hand in the air. “Eh.”
“You’re twenty five and hot with a steady income and a byline. Just because we’re surrounded by disgustingly domestic people doesn’t mean that you should just sit here and feel sorry for yourself. When was the last time you went on a date? Hell, when was the last time you got laid?”
Jesse rolls his eyes. “It hasn’t been that long.” He thinks, but when he tries to remember his last date it’s just fuzzy greyness that refuses to solidify into a face. “God. It must really be a while, I can’t even remember my last date.”
“There are no lesbians around in this godforsaken bar, so do me a favor and find someone before we both dissolve into puddles of unsexed twenty-something.” Momo was his best friend at the paper, a sparkplug of a woman who wrote the obituaries and horoscopes with equal amounts of inappropriate humor. “What about that one?” she points at the bar.
There’s a man walking up to the seats there, back to them. Jesse can’t tell much about him other than he’s tall and built with dark hair, wearing a grey blazer and fitted slacks. When the man pulls off the blazer as he sits to reveal a tight button down shirt, both Jesse and Momo’s heads tilt to the side in appreciative unison. Plus very well-fitting slacks, they see as he sits down. Damn.
“Take one for the team and get up there. If you strike out come back with another drink for me. Blah, blah, additional baseball metaphor,” Momo says with a gentle push on his shoulder. Jesse rolls his eyes but gets up, smoothing down his shirt before he goes. At the bar, he makes sure to be just a seat over from the man. He catches Vernon’s eye.
“Another bourbon, Jesse?”
“Thank you kindly.” Jesse waits as his drink is poured, fingers drumming on the table. God damnit. He can’t do this. Jesse can charm the pants off of anyone given an opening, but making the first move has never been his style. Vernon slides the glass over and Jesse reaches over to take it, already resigning himself to buying Momo a drink and spending another Friday night alone. He doesn’t look where his arm goes as he reaches to grab the bourbon, and before he knows it he’s knocked the glass of ice water Vernon just set down into the lap of the man next to him.
“Shit! Oh lord, I am so sorry.” Despite having a lap full of ice and water, the man hasn’t jumped up, just given a deep sigh like he practically expected it. Apologies keep falling from Jesse’s lips as he asks Vernon for napkins, and hands a stack of them to the man who half-heartedly dabs at his lap.
“Again, I really apologize. Let me buy you a drink.”
“It was just water, don’t worry about it. It’ll dry.” The man’s voice is smooth and deep, and tickles something in the back of Jesse’s brain, like a song he hadn’t heard since childhood and had forgotten about ‘til just now.
“No really. I insist. What are you drinkin’?”
The man finally looks up at Jesse, and his breath catches in his throat. He’s all blade-sharp cheekbones and neatly shaped facial hair, surrounded by intriguing scars. It’s his eyes that hook Jesse in though, deep brown and glittering in the dim light of the bar. Just like his voice, there’s something almost familiar about his eyes, something that Jesse could swear he knows.
At least he’s not alone in it - the man’s eyes dart around Jesse’s face before settling on his own gaze, eyebrows drawing down a bit in what looks like a combination of puzzlement and near-recognition. “I’m drinking whisky.” Jesse looks away to ask Vernon to put the drink on his tab, and when he looks back the man’s eyes have narrowed. “This is going to sound like a line, but have we met? I swear there’s something familiar about you.”
Jesse sits back and shrugs. “If you know the Ledger, maybe. I’m a journalist there.”
The man’s voice now has a definite edge of suspicion. “You’re not Marcus, are you?”
A chuckle makes its way out of Jesse’s throat unbidden. “God no, he’s actually my big rival in our department.” He holds out a hand. “Jesse McCree.”
The hand that shakes his is firm and callused, at odds with the suit he’s wearing. “Gabriel Reyes.”
Jesse grins, the name hitting a recognizable note from articles that have come across his desk. “Ah, so that’s why you’re afraid of Marcus. He really has it out for you all at the prosecutor’s office, doesn’t he?”
Gabriel rolls his eyes. “I take it you’ve heard of me. Unfortunately the court of public opinion is a real thing, and Mr Marcus thinks that he’s judge, jury, and executioner on it.”
“Well, you don’t have to worry about me - I do the crime beat, so I get the criminals before they get to you.” Jesse tilts his head. “What do you do, exactly? I recognize your name as bein’ associated with the prosecutor, but I admit that’s about it.”
Gabriel sits back, taking a sip of his drink. “I’ve been a state's attorney, but today I got promoted to assistant DA.”
Jesse reaches over and clinks his glass against Gabriel’s. “Congratulations! So why the long face? Even before I drenched you, you looked like someone kicked your dog.”
“It’s a promotion, but it means I’m doing more in the office and less in the courtroom. I like the action, it’s where I feel at home. Administration…” Gabriel shifts before shrugging. “I’m good at it, doesn’t mean I like it.”
Jesse shrugs himself. “It’s a Friday. You have a couple days to relax at least. Take advantage.”
Gabriel laughs a bit, but it’s not a happy sound. “Wish I remembered what relaxation was.”
“Well, you’re here now with me and it’s a pretty relaxin’ place here. I know I’m not askin’ anything of you.”
Gabriel eyes him over the lip of his glass, and there’s an immediate shift in the atmosphere, a tension that seeps in. Jesse raises his own drink to his mouth and take a sip. He doesn’t miss how Gabriel’s eyes follow the movement of the glass, stay on his lips as he licks the traces of bourbon away.
Well, then. Gabriel had looked pretty damn straight, but it’s not like Jesse himself hits the usual stereotypes. Jesse lets the corner of his mouth tug up in a crooked smile, and Gabriel raises his gaze to meet his eyes steadily, face showing no shame at having been caught checking him out. Jesse shifts in his seat to face him a little more square on and lets his knee bump against Gabriel’s. He doesn’t pull his leg away and Jesse is about to say something that will either get him laid or punched when a phone goes off.
Gabriel turns away, his leg moving and leaving a cold spot on Jesse’s knee. He turns back with his blazer in hand, fishing a ringing phone out. “Reyes,” he snaps, and Jesse smiles to himself behind his glass at the obvious frustration in his voice.
He listens for a moment. “Then arrest him. If there’s evidence that he was drunk while he was in the hospital, let alone the OR…” he pauses, listens, and sighs. “Do you need me to write up a warrant application? ...Okay. Give me half an hour.”
Gabriel hangs up, slipping his phone into a pocket as he puts his coat on. He tosses the rest of his drink back before sliding off the seat. “So Jesse.”
“Is this a regular bar for you?”
Jesse smirks a bit. “It is.”
“Perhaps I’ll see you around then.”
“Maybe. Try and relax a bit this weekend, enjoy the promotion.”
“I’ll try. And Jesse?”
A quick flash of a grin, one that might have made Jesse’s knees weak had he been standing. “Call me Gabe.”
“zrmghtirRfhtYo proUyoqrwenC, fhJmrhtEommander Reyes, you can’t go in there!” Nonsense evolves into comprehensible speech as Jesse swims up toward consciousness. Everything feels numb and fuzzy, like there’s a blanket draped over his senses. Almost from a distance, he feels a hand at the side of his face.
“Jesse? Jesse!” He knows that voice, has had it in his ear for twenty years now.
“Mmrf. Guh. Gabe?” It takes a few tries to get the word out. Jesse lifts eyelids that weigh thirty pounds each, and slowly a face comes into focus in front of him. There’s something off about it, though Jesse can’t put his finger on it just right now.
“Jesse, oh thank god.” Jesse’s eyes close as Gabe’s mouth catches his own in a familiar kiss. He darts his tongue along the edge of Gabe’s teeth and pulls it back to let him catch Jesse’s bottom lip between his own teeth before letting go, the same kiss they’ve been doing for years and years. Jesse pulls back slightly, uses a hand to pull Gabe’s forehead down to rest against his own.
Someone clears their throat awkwardly. “Um. Commander Reyes? Agent McCree?” That’s their last names, but he’s not sure where the titles are coming from. Jesse lets Gabe’s neck go to allow him to straighten up, though he keeps his other hand twisted in his shirt. They’re both wearing matching sets of soft blue clothing, and there’s a trickle of blood coming from the crook of Gabe’s arm. Jesse looks down at his own arm and sees an IV.
The person that spoke steps forward. She’s competent looking, a doctor’s coat on with blonde hair pulled back into a tail, her worried blue eyes flicking back and forth between the two of them. The two other people in the room stay where they are - a woman with a tattoo under her eye who looks like she’s halfway to either laughing or crying and a tall blond man who is frowning and rubbing at his temples like he has a headache. Out in the hallway on the other side of the room’s windows Jesse can see a man half-covered in a strange sort of armor with a facemask that doesn’t disguise the fact he’s laughing his head off.
The blonde woman speaks tentatively. “Do you two know where you are?” Gabe and Jesse both look around, look back at each other, and shrug.
“Some kind of hospital?” Jesse offers. The three people in the room exchange looks.
“Do you know who I am?” She looks familiar in a vague way, but that’s it. Both Jesse and Gabe shake their heads.
The woman with the tattoo steps forward and fixes her eyes on Jesse. “Do you know your name?”
“Of course. Jesse McCree.”
“When is your birthday?”
“January 8th.” The woman glances over at the blond man, who nods.
“How old are you?”
“45.” That has an effect. Everyone shifts and looks at each other.
“Hey.” The blond man is looking at Gabe. “Do you know who I am?”
Gabe looks at him closely, has a look on his face that vacillates between suspicion and bewilderment. “I...I feel like I should. But I don’t.”
The man asks the same questions of Gabe as the woman did of Jesse (Gabriel Reyes, March 24th, 60). Just like with Jesse, the age is what everyone reacts to. Jesse takes the time to look Gabe over. He looks...too young. The lines on his face aren’t quite as deep as they should be. His hair is buzzed short like it was years ago, but Gabe grew it out because he knows Jesse likes it. Something is wrong.
The blond man steps forward, close to Gabe. The woman with the tattoo looks at him and says warningly “Jack…”
He waves her off. “Let me try this.” He leans over, starts to whisper in Gabe’s ear. Gabe looks confused, then more confused, then suddenly his face goes blank. Jesse lets his shirt go - there’s something in Gabe’s face right now he doesn’t recognize. Gabe steps back from Jesse, looking at him with an expression Jesse could only call growing horror.
“Gabe? What’s wrong?” Jesse’s never seen Gabe like this.
“You...we…” Gabe closes his eyes for a moment before looking at the blonde doctor. “Ziegler. What the hell happened to us?”
The doctor - Dr Ziegler? - opens her mouth then hesitates, looking at Jesse. She looks over to the man that the tattooed woman called Jack. “Whatever you said to Commander Reyes. Can you do that for Agent McCree?”
He shakes his head. “Gabe and I have a lot of history. Jesse and I don’t.”
The doctor sighs. “Okay. Let’s try this then.” She walks over to Jesse, stands in front of him. “I need you to look at me, focus all of your attention on me right now, okay?” She takes his hand, presses cool fingers to the pulse in his wrist. “Answer the questions I ask you without thinking about it, just the first thing that comes to mind. I might repeat questions, just keep going.”
“All right.” Jesse replies cautiously.
“45. Wait.” Jesse frowns. He wants to say something else. “That’s not right, but…”
“It’s okay, just keep going. Siblings.”
“Where are you now?”
“The Overwatch Medbay.”
At that thoughtless, automatic answer, something snaps in Jesse’s head. It’s like being hit by a hurricane with no rain, a tornado with no wind. His eyes widen and look around in panic. Angela is still holding his wrist, Jack is standing next to Ana, and Gabe…
Gabe is staring at him with the same look of disorientation and anger that Jesse is sure is on his own face. “What. What the fuck just happened.”
“Jesse.” His eyes are drawn back to Angela. “Name, age, occupation.”
“Jesse McCree, thirty, Blackwatch agent. Now someone tell me what the hell is going on.”
Jack steps forward as Angela lets his wrist go. “I know nothing is going to keep you two in here,” he holds up a hand to stave Angela off as she opens her mouth. “You and I both know they’re going to leave as soon as we turn our backs, and you told me yourself they’re physically fine. Go back to your quarters and have a shower, let’s all meet in the Overwatch Situation Room in forty five minutes. Gabe, with me. Jesse, Genji’s out in the hall. I want you two with escorts for the foreseeable future until we figure out everything.”
Jesse pulls the IV out of his arm, taking a bandaid from an annoyed Angela and slapping it on with half his attention. Genji comes in, nudging Jesse’s foot with a mechanical knee.
“Back to reality?”
Jesse looks at him sourly. “Don’t think I didn’t see you laughing it up out there.”
A slightly metallic chuckle comes out. “Well when I see you and our commander kissing with quite so much passion…” At Jesse’s groan the chuckles die down. “What happened with you two?”
Jesse’s quiet as they pace down the hallway. “It’s like I have two sets of memories. One set I’m here, with y’all as an agent. In the second I’m an editor of a newspaper and I’ve been married to Gabe for fifteen years.”
He pauses, as he realizes Genji has stopped in the hallway. He looks back, meets his wide red eyes. “What?”
Jesse shrugs, they continue walking down the hall. “He’s the city’s DA. We have a house, just paid off the mortgage. Two dogs, one’s still a puppy pretty much. I wanted a cat too but Gabe’s allergic. We do Thanksgiving with his dad and sister, Christmas with my mom. We went to Madrid for our last anniversary.”
Genji frowns. “That is...certainly something.”
“You’re telling me.” They walk in silence for a bit, taking turns through the hallway. Every once in awhile someone Jesse knows will pass by and give him a surprised look.
They finally reach Blackwatch quarters, and Jesse types in his code quickly. Genji follows him inside. “I don’t need a babysitter.”
“And if you keel over in the shower? I would rather be a bother to you than deal with your funeral.”
“Thanks, I think.” Jesse’s legs feel wobbly as he undresses in the bathroom. Not like he’s been on his back for ages, but like he’s been down for a few days. He can tell he’s lost conditioning, though exactly how much will have to wait until he can get into a training facility. “How long were we gone?” Jesse starts the shower up, but doesn’t hear a reply. “Genji?” He pokes his head around the door.
Genji is sitting in Jesse’s desk chair, flesh fingers tapping a pattern on the desk. “I...don’t think I should tell you. Just wait a bit for Jack.”
“Okay. Keep an ear out for me dyin’.” Jesse showers quickly. His hair is too long, though his beard has been trimmed some. Not exactly how he styles it, but close enough. He uses his trimmer to get his facial hair under control a bit before wrapping himself in a towel, shuffling into his quarters and looking around.
Everything has dust on it. Not so much to indicate he’s been gone for years, but enough to be worrying. The rooms smell like Jesse’s shampoo now, but when he first entered there was the scent of staleness. Two of his cacti are dead, though his three hardier ones look like they might survive. Jesse slips his underwear on and roots through his drawers for something to wear. He pulls on jeans and socks, then goes to his closet for a shirt. He pulls out one of his favorites, a red button-down with embroidery on the collar. God. He remembers Christmas that year -
Jesse leans forward to grab the package out from under the tree. “My turn!” he says, as Buck and Roscoe come over to snuffle at him. The dogs eventually settle, Buck with his head on Jesse’s thigh and Roscoe tucked against Gabe’s side. Jesse settles back into the curve of Gabe’s arms, murmuring, “Wow, Gabe, Santa’s handwriting looks real familiar.”
Gabe digs his chin into the meat of Jesse’s shoulder, making him yelp before pressing his lips down to kiss away the sting. “Keep complaining and maybe Santa will take it back.”
Jesse tears away the paper, revealing a crisp red shirt. He traces his fingers over the yellow flowers embroidered at the collar. They’re the same flowers that his mother grows outside her house in Santa Fe - columbine and marigolds. His mother had to stay at home for the holiday this year, and Jesse misses her. He leans back and catches Gabe’s mouth in a sweet kiss, threading his fingers through his husband’s so their wedding rings clink together. They’ve been together for ten years and married for five, and yet the depths of what he feels for Gabe still shocks him -
Jesse is sitting on his bed and breathing hard with no memory of how he got there. Genji is knelt at his feet, and he reached up to tentatively puts a hand on Jesse’s knee.
“Are you okay?”
Licking dry lips, Jesse unclenches his fingers from where they’re locked around the shirt. “How long - what happened just now?”
Genji gently takes the shirt from Jesse’s hands and sets it aside. “You pulled the shirt off the hanger, looked like you were off in another world for five seconds, then sat down. Maybe another ten seconds for you to fully…” he trails off, not sure how to describe it. “Come back.”
“It felt like a good three or four minutes of memory. Memories about that shirt, and my mother? My mother’s been dead since I was a kid. And I bought that myself a few years back.” Jesse’s aware that he’s babbling, but Genji just stands and turns to Jesse’s dresser, coming back a few seconds later with a plain Overwatch logo t-shirt. Jesse takes it gratefully and puts it on. There are reasons the two of them aren’t just teammates but friends.
Glancing at his tablet, Jesse realizes they need to go. He gets up and they walk in silence to the Overwatch side of the facility, Jesse thinking about what just happened and Genji thinking his own thoughts.
They’re the last ones to get to the situation room. Jack and Ana are on one side of the table with Gabe on the other, Angela leaning against the wall. Jesse enters and sits in his usual seat next to Gabe, but he hesitates before dropping down into the chair. Genji isn’t a usual attendee at their meetings like this, but he perches on a table at the side and stills to the point where he looks like a statue.
Jack touches the tablet in front of him, and a familiar scene is projected in front of them - the lab where their team had gone to capture the scientist. He starts speaking, with no preamble. “This is the laboratory in Brussels, where Gabe’s team went to try and liberate Dr Regina Watson before any criminal elements captured her. We have some information from comm logs and Agent Shimada - the last evidence we have of either of you there was Gabe saying that he had the scientist, and Agents McCree and Shimada saying they would be there shortly.”
Jack hits another button, and it’s a view from one of the Overwatch Orca’s security cameras. It showed the lab overrun with Talon and Null Sector fighters, with the occasional blue of Overwatch agents breaking up the grey and black. “An Overwatch team lead by Captain Amari arrived half an hour after last recorded communication from Commander Reyes, and was able to successfully rescue the scientist, whom Agent Shimada had found.” Jack looks at Gabe and Jesse with a laser-like blue gaze. And that was the last we saw of you for four months.”
“Four months?” Jesse blurts out in incredulity. He can’t stop himself from poking at his own thigh for a moment. “We’re not in the shape we should be in if we were gone for four months.”
Instead of answering, Jack brings up a new picture, what looks like some kind of campus. “Brookhaven National Laboratory, on Long Island. This is where we located you, three days ago. It was abandoned by the US government some years ago, but apparently has been taken over.” Another picture appears, and it’s the lab that Jesse remembers being in and talking to Moira. “You two were in here, hooked up to a machine with the usual paraphernalia that coma patients have around them. Look familiar?”
Gabe shakes his head. “My memory goes from being hit with a dart at the first lab to waking up here.”
Jesse nods, hesitantly. “Yeah, I remember being there. Wakin’ up inside. Talkin’ to Moira.”
The name gets a reaction from everyone in the room - even Genji sits forward a bit. “Explain,” orders Gabe, like he forgets that Jack is the one leading all of this.
Jesse shrugs. “I woke up in full restraints on a lab table, some kind of IV in my arm. Moira was there, wearing Talon gear.” No one is surprised at that. “She said that she was workin’ for them as well as Oasis, doing work in memory alteration. She had...she had Amélie Lacroix there.”
Jack and Ana tense and look at each other. “How did she look?” asks Ana.
“Fine, I suppose. She was strapped down to a table like me and unconscious, but all right.”
Ana reaches over to Jack’s tablet, flicks a photo up on the screen. It’s Amélie, but wrong - she’s a strange blue color, eyes golden, her hair too long and almost tentacle-like. “Amélie Lacroix surfaced about two months ago, using the moniker ‘Widowmaker’. She’s been working as a Talon-directed assassin, taking out numerous high-level targets.”
Jesse shrugs, eyes on the screen. “She was a normal, human color last I saw her. Moira said something about how they were turning her into a weapon.”
Ana and Jack look at each other, having some silent conversation that Jesse can only guess the contents of. Jack goes back to the picture of the lab. “Did Moira say anything else?”
“Just that she was glad she was able to capture former team members. She put something in my IV that knocked me out and put electrodes on my head. She said…” Jesse hesitates, but they need all the information. “She said that what was going to happen, I might enjoy it. That her other subjects had.” Jesse feels Gabe shift beside him, but doesn’t look to see his expression. He doesn’t want to know what it is. “That’s the last I remember before waking up in the medbay.”
“There was a tip sent to us from a mole we have in the outskirts of Talon. He wouldn’t have heard anything himself normally, but he did repair on an omnic at the lab, got suspicious at why they would have two people kept under for so long with so much omnic support, and called us. It was pure chance at all that we found you,” Ana says quietly.
“We found you two in good health, surprisingly,” Angela starts, when the silence in the room has stretched to the point of awkwardness. “No feeding tubes, it appears that you got your nutrition from your IVs. Don’t be surprised if you have issues keeping food down - you haven’t processed anything solid for awhile. There were electrodes placed on your major muscle groups. We think that they were regularly stimulating you, keeping everything from atrophying. I’m sure you’ve lost tone and endurance, but nothing compared to if you were just lying there. You were being checked on regularly - someone had to turn you and make sure there were no bedsores, keep hygiene up, as well as change out the IV and catheter bags.” Jesse was intensely relieved he had somehow missed the catheter removal.
“We’ve taken possession of the device that the two of you were connected to. There was no evidence of human intervention in your care, it was likely omnic-assisted. Tech department is still working on the device, but they have managed to determine that it was broadcasting its data. Where it was sending it to and what it was sending to you, we don’t know yet.” Jack sighs. “And that brings us up to speed on this whole thing, unless there’s anything you two can add.” Gabe and Jesse both shake their heads.
Angela steps forward, looking Gabe and Jesse each in the face for long seconds. “You two are going to speak with Dr Martin Mendelssohn, a psychiatrist friend of mine here at Overwatch. It’s obvious that you two had some mental trauma, and you need to work through it with a qualified professional.”
Gabe is already shaking his head. “Not necessary.”
“It’s indeed necessary, Gabriel,” Ana’s sharp voice cuts in. “If we don’t determine exactly what was done to you, we can’t figure out why they would do this and what their next move might be.” She fixes the two of them with a narrow-eyed look. “Barring the unusual way you woke up,” Gabe and Jesse both wince minutely. “Have you felt any other ill effects?”
“I had...some kind of flashback,” Jesse says hesitantly.
Angela leans forward. “Of what?”
“Of…” Jesse trails off. He turns to Gabe, speaks quietly. “Have you said anything about what you remember?” Gabe shakes his head, not meeting Jesse’s eyes.
“I have a...second set of memories. Of a boring, normal civilian life. There are no omnics, no war. I work for a newspaper. Gabe is a lawyer. We’re...together. Have been for a long while.” Jesse can feel his face heat up.
“Are those the same memories that you have?” Angela asks Gabe curiously. Jesse feels like he was stabbed in the guts by an icicle for a moment: what if what he went through he’d gone through completely alone? Before he has time to freak out, though, Gabe is stiffly nodding his head. That gives Jesse the stability to continue.
“It was odd. I was just getting a shirt to wear, one I’ve had for years and years, and then it was like...this memory, this flashback of getting the shirt. But it involved someone who’s been dead for decades, none of it was real. It felt like maybe four minutes of time, but Genji said from the outside it was just a few seconds.”
“The time dilation is interesting,” Angela says thoughtfully. “You were gone for four months, so in your memories this equalled…”
“Twenty years,” Gabe says quietly, before Jesse can answer. “I know that I had memories of when I was younger, but it’s all fuzzy and unclear. It starts feeling - real, for whatever that means, when I’m forty.” He glances over at Jesse. “The bar, when I got promoted.”
“When we met for the first time,” Jesse says with a soft smile on his face, before he remembers where he is (and who he is) and it vanishes. “I was twenty five. Huh,” he says in realization. “Our ages don’t match up.” In real life Jesse is thirty and Gabe is fifty, and they met when Jesse was seventeen.
“Hmm.” Angela glances down at her tablet, then back up. “Martin says he’ll be available tomorrow, and will contact you tonight on appointment times. As soon as you set something, please message me so I can get both of you started on a physical therapy regimen that will get you back into shape.”
Jack stands up. “I think we’ve covered all we can at the moment. But first…” he fixes Jesse and Gabe with a grim eye. “The - how did Ana put it? - unusual way you woke up.” Gabe and Jesse both find somewhere else in the room to look. “It absolutely cannot happen again. The only reason you aren’t arrested now is the lack of cameras in the medbay. This is not public knowledge and does not leave this room, but there’s a UN investigative group looking into us, particularly Blackwatch. They are combing through files and examining every bit of tape to find ways to get rid of everyone. There’s no looking the other way for things like fraternization: Jesse will be kicked out and Gabe arrested due to commander status, and since you two are the most prominent Blackwatch members it will give them reason to tear it all apart and then start in on Overwatch. Stay professional. Or else we all pay.”
Jack leans back, the tension that had built up easing a bit. “Now. I want each of you to be accompanied by one of us,” he gestures to himself, Ana, Angela, and Genji, “for a while, until we’re sure that you’re not going to keel over or attack us. Don’t tell anyone that happened just yet, say you were on a deep cover mission. If Moira was working for Talon, who knows who else might be as well. Dismissed.”
Jesse gets up and makes his way over to Genji. Gabe is off like a shot, at the door practically before Jesse is upright. As Gabe is undoing the locks, Jesse catches up to him and grabs his arm. Gabe jerks out of his grip and Jesse tells himself that it’s okay, that he’s not being rejected.
“Can we talk?”
“Not. Not now, McCree. I need some time to process things.” Before Jesse can respond, Gabe is out the door and gone, Jack grumblingly going after him. That...hurt, oddly. Gabe hasn’t called Jesse ‘McCree’ in years, not since Jesse became his second-in-command in all but name.
Genji walks up behind Jesse, claps a friendly hand on his shoulder. “Let’s get some food. You haven’t had coffee in four months.”
“Haven’t had alcohol either,” Jesse says with a faint smile as they walk towards the kitchens.
“My babysitting duties do not extend to holding your head over a toilet, so let’s wait on that until you’re a bit more stable.”
“God damnit Gabe, I know the problems with this. But I am your husband and you are shutting me out!”
“I told you: I can’t talk to you at all about this. The defense already wants me to recuse myself from the whole thing because of your job, and honestly they have a pretty damn good case for it.”
“Then recuse yourself. You’ve done it before, what’s the issue?”
Gabe sits heavily on a tall stool at the kitchen island, shoulders slumped under his Sonoma County DA Basketball Team t-shirt that’s faded nearly white after a hundred washes. “This case is huge. We could break up the biggest human trafficking ring the county has ever seen and save a ton of lives.” He rubs over his face, combing through his beard. Jesse knows there’s something he’s embarrassed about, something he doesn’t want to say.
Jesse stands behind Gabe, tugs him back against his chest. He scratches his fingers through his hair, knowing that Gabe will have his eyes closed in pleasure. He swears the man likes scratches and pets more than the dogs do. “And you’re not tellin’ me something, darlin’.”
“...if it’s successful and we win, James thinks I’ll have a good shot at winning the DA position.”
Jesse slides his hands from Gabe’s head to his shoulders, wrapping them around his upper chest. “Really?”
Gabe nods, beard scratching Jesse’s forearm. “I could actually get things done there, make some real changes.”
Sighing, Jesse rests his chin on Gabe’s shoulder. “I know no one likes that we’re together, a journalist and a prosecutor. But you know that I’d never betray your trust, not even accidentally. If you’re really worried that much, maybe I can see if I can move to the culture section for a while.”
“You’d do that? You love the crime beat.”
“Yeah, well.” Jesse shrugs the best he can against Gabe’s back. “Jill’s been talkin’ about maybe retirin’ in a year or two. If I can get experience in other sections of the paper, maybe someday I could make editor.”
Gabe smiles, presses a kiss to the side of Jesse’s face. “That would be great. I know you could handle it.”
“Speaking of handling it.” Jesse’s arms tighten. “You have to talk to someone about the case. If it’s not me, then someone at work. You’re stressed and snappy and I know you’re not sleepin’. I know it involves kids and innocents and you don’t do well with that. Don’t let it take you over. And even if you can’t talk about details, you can always talk about how you feel. Don’t close me out.”
Gabe reaches up and wraps his hands around Jesse’s arms. His nails comb through the hair there, ruffling it up and smoothing it out. He turns his head, dragging his lips up Jesse’s sandpapery stubbled neck. “You need to shave.”
“Mmmph.” Jesse doesn’t sound too concerned about it. “Too lazy.”
“You know,” Gabe drawls against Jesse’s ear, biting his earlobe gently and shifting back to press against Jesse’s hips. “It’ll be harder for me to talk about the case with my mouth full.”
Jesse grins, and yanks Gabe’s head around to meet his lips.
Jesse blinks at the ceiling. He can hear Genji on the couch, the tubes in his body making quiet shushing noises as he sleeps. It’s early, probably around five given the barely-there light from the windows. He has a meeting with the shrink at nine.
Where is he even going to begin? Does he talk about how he has an entire relationship, an entire boring civilian life bouncing around in his head next to the information on how to field strip a dozen types of rifle and how long it’ll take a man to bleed out if you sever his femoral artery? Does he talk about how he doesn’t know what to do with the fact that he apparently had no problem marrying another man, and one that was his commander to boot? Does he talk about how the memories he secretly likes the most aren’t the sexy ones but rather the ones where he and Gabe are just curled up together quietly?
Jesse turns over and tries to go back to sleep.
At nine o’clock Jesse is sitting in an uncomfortable chair in a small waiting area next to the medbay. A door opens, and he looks up to see Gabe exit, carefully shutting the door behind him. He looks tired. Drained, almost. He catches Jesse’s eye, does something with his mouth that might be a smile or might be a grimace.
“Looks like it went well.”
“Have fun in there. The man’s got the bedside manner of a Rottweiler whose tail you’ve just stepped on.”
Jesse rolls his eyes and gets up, knocking lightly on the door. A deep voice tells him to come in. Dr Mendelssohn is a small, slight man with a voice like a rhino’s charge. He directs Jesse to sit on a chair, then looks - glares, really - at Jesse with his tablet in front of him and hands ready to type. This isn’t a man who waits to take notes until after the session, apparently.
“I’ve already met with your commander,” the doctor says. Jesse keeps expecting him to have an accent given his look and name, but he sounds like he was taught English by an omnic set to ‘generic American’. “It was not the most productive of talks.”
Jesse snorts. “Sounds like Gabe.”
The doctor cocks his head, adjusting his glasses. “Now are you talking about Gabe your commander, or Gabe your husband?” All right. They’re going in with the big guns straight off.
“Both, I guess? They’re both the same guy. Same personality, same everythin’. Other than the obvious differences in circumstance.”
“And yet one is your platonic superior officer and the other you remained in a committed romantic relationship with for two decades. Why is that, do you think?”
Jesse had thought that this would be trying to help him, not putting him on the spot with some real uncomfortable questions. “Uhm. We’re...compatible, I guess? We work well together?”
“Those sound like you’re asking questions, not giving me answers.”
Damn, this guy was an asshole. Jesse could work with that. “I’m sure that you’ve seen our record. I have been on Commander Reyes’s strike team for ten years, and we have the highest success rate of any team in Blackwatch. We obviously work well together.” His words were delivered in the style of giving a report.
Surprisingly, the shrink’s mouth relaxed - not a smile, but not the frown he had. “All right, then. Tell me about how you and Commander Reyes met. Both here and in your memories.”
“Well, he picked me up in a gang raid,” Jesse said dryly. “And that kind of set the tone early on.”
“How old were you?”
“Seventeen. Though I was one of the gang’s founders.” Jesse wasn’t especially proud of his Deadlock days, but sometimes he had a weird nostalgia for what he and Ashe had built.
“Did you get along back then?”
Jesse can’t help the snort that came out. “Not particularly. But then I didn’t see him much for a few years, they had me catch up on all the school I missed until I was old enough for trainin’. Then I was in the general group for a while before bein’ recruited to Gabe’s team when I was twenty.”
“And your relationship has been good ever since?”
“Sure. We argue a lot, but it helps us figure out what we’re doin’. Blackwatch doesn’t have seconds, like Ana is to Jack, but I suppose I’m close enough.”
“When did that happen?”
“Few years back, I guess.”
Mendelssohn flips through a few screens on his tablet. “Five years back, perhaps?”
“Sure, sounds right.”
Mendelssohn looks weirdly pleased at the answer, and moves on to what Jesse does in his day-to-day life as an agent.
Two hours later, Genji pops up like a bad penny to pick up Jesse from the shrink’s office and drag him to lunch. “I’m sure you really don’t have to be with me this much,” Jesse says with slight annoyance. He likes Genji, but he doesn’t like being treated with kid gloves.
“No one is saying it, but I think they are all worried about Amélie.”
Jesse’s silent for a moment. That’s a valid point. “Do you think I’m going to snap and kill y’all in your sleep?
Genji shrugs. “I do not like to think so, but we all though Amélie was fine too.”
“So they figure if you’re up my ass all the time I can’t get away to kill whoever.”
Genji makes a slight movement, and a small dart appears in his hands, as quickly as his shuriken do. “Ana gave me some of her sleep darts. I am fairly sure I can hit you before you kill anyone.”
Jesse roots around in the fridge. All his own food has been spoiled or eaten, but there are items that they keep for anyone to eat - staples like bread and milk. “You want some scrambled eggs?”
“No, but if you could fry up a few I would be grateful.” Genji moves to start up the rice cooker.
“Make some rice for me too, please.”
They have a lunch of eggs on rice. Jesse garnishes his liberally with hot sauce, only for Genji to take it away and trade it for his own, plain version. “You haven’t eaten real food in months. Do you really think a belly full of hot sauce is the way to go?”
Jesse grumbles but acquiesces, using just a bit of salt and pepper. He can only eat half his portion, which would normally be not enough - his stomach has shrunk. Afterwards they headed back to the medical wing for Jesse’s appointment with Angela.
She puts him through his paces, testing reflexes, muscle tone, and flexibility. He’s lost a lot, but whatever they had done to him kept everything from completely atrophying. She gives him a diet and exercise plan, reminding Jesse uncomfortably of when he first came to Blackwatch and they had to whip him into shape. It involves a truly unfortunate amount of protein. Genji, unsurprisingly, would be his sparring partner.
Jesse is exhausted by the end of the day: sitting on his ass for four months has absolutely wrecked his stamina. Gabe has been working out in the training room next door - no doubt on the same type of Angela-assigned plan - and when Jesse sees him he looks frustratingly more composed. Likely the damn SEP picking up the slack.
They happen to leave the training facilities at the same time, and as Ana and Genji are deep in a discussion about sharpening stones Jesse falls back a few steps to talk to Gabe.
“How you holding up?”
Gabe doesn’t answer for a a bit. “I’m...all right. Keep getting hit by memories at the strangest of times. Was wrestling with Jack, hit the mat to tap out and the next second I’m hitting a desk in a courtroom, arguing a case.”
“Same. It’s a little like...well, I know you’ve seen the same kind of shit I have, you know how it can hit you out of nowhere when you’re fresh off a bad fight. It’s like that, but...good.” Benevolent PTSD. That’s a new one.
“And that’s a problem. Same one as shell-shocked soldiers have. How are we supposed to complete missions if we’re freezing up and in the middle of flashbacks, no matter how non-violent they are?” The note of frustration in Gabe’s voice is obvious.
“It’s been one day. This isn’t something that’s going to be fixed that fast.”
“I know. Mendelssohn said that he wants to do sessions with us together.”
“Oh, that’s gonna be enjoyable. I don’t know about you but that was an intensely uncomfortable two hours of my life that I’ll never get back.”
Gabe grunts in agreement, and they walk the rest of the way back to Blackwatch quarters in silence. At the split where the hallway where Gabe’s rooms were forked off from where Jesse and Genji live, Jesse turns to Gabe.
“I know that after all of this I’m the last person you want to see. But. You know. I know what you’re going through. So if you want to talk about it, I’m here.” He claps Gabe on the shoulder and headed off to take a shower, Genji in tow.
From behind him he hears Ana. “Gabriel, are you all right? You looked flushed.”
“Yeah. Just...another one.”
Jesse idly wonders what caused the flashback, and what it was.
“Genji, you know I love you. But if we don’t spend some time apart I will unplug all your tubes and fill them with motor oil.”
Genji taps a thin cylinder that wraps around his arm. “Start with this one. It is actually filled with oil, and it needs flushed out.”
“God damnit, you know what I mean.”
Sighing, Genji nods. “I do. And as fond as I am of you, I would truly like to go back to my own bed. Let me message Jack, see if we can figure something out.”
Ten minutes later, Jack is striding into the room. “Three days and you’re already snapping? I thought you two were teammates, brothers in arms.”
Jesse glares at him without much heat. “You know it’s different. We’ve spent full weeks on stakeout together, but this is home. I just want to be able to sleep in my own damn bed without a babysitter.”
“What we can do is lock you in. Once you’re in your rooms for the night, Genji can leave and we’ll secure it from the outside.”
“Seriously? Locked in like a puppy you’re afraid will escape.”
“Take it or leave it. It’s what we’ve been doing with Gabe for the past few days. I dealt with his snoring for years in SEP, like hell I’d subject myself to it again,” says Jack with a shrug.
You just have to tilt his head to the side and up , thinks Jesse before he can stop himself. No. That’s another person, another life. Not where he is now.
He shrugs himself. “Fine. Anything for a bit of privacy.” For days he’s either been with Genji, Jack or Ana, or the shrink. He hasn’t spent five minutes without another person breathing down his neck for far too long, and Jesse is a man who values his alone time.
That evening Jesse shuts the door to his quarters with Genji on the other side. There’s a clunk as the lock engages, and when Jesse tries the door it won’t open. He turns to look upon his empty rooms. Finally.
Jesse spends the first hour just sitting and reading, undistracted by another person. It’s glorious. Getting up and stretching, he realizes - he can actually undress in his bedroom now, get naked wherever he wanted because there’s no one around. It’s not like anyone in Blackwatch was particularly body shy after having spent so much time together on missions where there was zero privacy, but Jesse was trying to be considerate to Genji.
Leaving a trail of clothes behind him, Jesse turns the shower up as high as it will go. He spent hours working on hand-to-hand today and he can feel the dried sweat on his scalp. He steps under the steaming hot spray, letting the water pressure beat out the knots in his back. After a few minutes he’s relaxed, relaxed enough to let a hand trail downwards.
Barring any inappropriate experimentation or sample-taking (and honestly he wouldn’t put either past Moira), Jesse hasn’t gotten off in over four months. He’d held off while Genji was there, feeling bad enough that the man had to be glued to him. Jesse wraps a hand around himself, and closes his eyes, lazily flipping through his mental catalogue of usual fantasies -
The pads of Jesse’s fingers are wrinkled, they’ve been wet for so long. His right wrist is cramping and his left arm is sore from holding Gabe’s hips still, but it’s worth it. He crooks his fingers again and there’s a broken moan from above him, accompanied by the soft squeaking sound of sweat-wet silk sliding against skin and polished wood. Jesse rests his head against Gabe’s soft inner thigh, idly watching the slow stream of white trickle down his angry red cock as he continues to rub against Gabe’s prostate.
Gabe’s restrained hands clench on nothingness, twisting in the repurposed Hermès ties that he’ll probably never be able to wear again. His head is thrown back far enough that all Jesse can see at his angle is his straining throat, skin reddened all the way down to his chest. They’ve been at this awhile, and Gabe’s hips and the bed are absolutely sodden with what Jesse has milked out of him. Thank god for foresight and waterproof mattress pads.
“Jesse…” he can only recognize his own name in the rasp from past experience.
“Yes, darlin’? Want me to stop?”
“No. Yes…? No…” Gabe sounds absolutely wrecked, the most powerful lawyer in a thousand square miles reduced to pre-verbal vocalizations and uncontrolled muscle twitches.
“Want me to finish you off?”
Gabe’s head moves, tilting down enough to catch Jesse’s gaze. His pupils are the size of bullet holes, huge and black and deep enough to drown in, his head jerking in something like a nod. Jesse takes pity on him and reaches his free hand up to gently grasp Gabe’s straining cock. It only takes a few careful strokes for him to finally come for real, shooting white ropes hard enough that one catches in his beard. He collapses afterwards, arms dangling in their restraints and legs falling open obscenely.
Jesse finally pulls his hand out of Gabe and moves up the bed, pressing gentle kisses to Gabe’s slack mouth as he feels around for the scissors. The ties are a lost cause.
Jesse comes back to himself leaning against the shower wall, softening cock in his hand while white streaks get slowly washed away down the drain. He doesn’t have any memory of the orgasm but his deep breaths and weak knees tell him it must have been a good one.
He dries off and makes his way unsteadily to his bed. He knew that in his memories Gabe and him had been together, but until now it was all the kisses and touches of a long-term relationship. There’s a difference between the memories and the flashbacks - the memories are like recalling films he’s seen, like watching home movies that he was part of. The flashbacks are like he’s there , as if he’s actively living it in real time. So far they’ve been relatively connected to what he’s been doing: flashbacks of cooking with Gabe while he’s eating with Genji, of going for runs with the dogs while he’s working out. Hopefully that means he won’t suddenly be shunted into technicolor sex scenes while doing mundane tasks, that wouldn’t be comfortable for anyone involved.
He goes to bed naked with only a sheet on, his skin feeling strangely sensitive. Tomorrow is the first therapy session with both him and Gabe, and anxiety about it rolls around in Jesse’s head until sleep finally overtakes him.
Jesse gets to the waiting room early, dropping into a chair next to where Gabe is sitting and typing rapidly on a tablet. They don’t speak or look at each other, and Jesse can’t figure out if the tension is something that is just in his head or is felt by both of them. Right at nine Dr Mendelssohn opens his door, gesturing for the two of them to come in. The chairs available to them are tilted towards the center, ensuring that they’ll be forced to look at each other.
They’re all silent for a few minutes as Mendelssohn types away on his tablet, then fixes each of them in turn with an assessing eye. “I’ve spent several days speaking with you two alone. Now I believe it’s time for you two to start working through this together. This kind of group discussion is good for working through shared traumatic experiences.”
Both Gabe and Jesse make muted noises of protest, then simultaneously cut themselves off. They dart looks at each other: Gabe looks vaguely horrified as Jesse feels his face redden. Mendelssohn raises an eyebrow. “Care to explain, gentlemen?”
Jesse looks at the floor, opens his mouth when it’s clear that Gabe isn’t going to say anything. “It’s obvious that neither of us is particularly enjoyin’ any of this, but I’d hesitate to call it a ‘traumatic experience’. It was a calm civilian life. The traumatic experience is what we’ve gone through in Blackwatch every day.”
Mendelssohn looks at Gabe. “Commander Reyes? Do you feel similarly?”
Gabe is staring down at his hands without seemingly seeing them. He’s making an odd little gesture that’s both familiar and completely new to Jesse - petting at the base of his fourth finger on his left hand with his thumb, like he’s trying to scratch an itch. Jesse knows all of Gabe’s tells and that’s not one of them, but it also seems like something he’s seen a thousand times before though he’s missing some context. He nearly doesn’t realize Gabe is hesitantly speaking.
“Pretty much, I think. My main concern is something that I’ve spoken with Jesse about already - it’s not the content of these false memories that bothers me. It’s all nonviolent and nothing like the horrors we’ve seen here. I’m worried about when we go back to work, about us being involuntarily incapacitated by our own minds, putting us and our fellow agents at risk.”
Mendelssohn nods. “That’s understandable, but I think you both have some misconceptions about what I mean by ‘traumatic’. I know that you lead stressful, violent lives, and that these memories must seem tame in comparison. Please note that I’m not calling them ‘false’ - for all intents and purposes they were real to you. And that is the issue. You two were in a long-term relationship where you lived together and depended on each other, and all of that is gone now. You had a home, a life together and now it’s vanished. That is in and of itself traumatic.”
“But we’re both still here. And we still have a life together, pretty much - we’ve been on the same team for a decade now,” Jesse protests.
“Platonically,” says Mendelssohn steadily. “Please be honest with me, nothing here goes outside of these doors and nothing short of felony confessions will make me betray doctor-patient confidentiality. Have you two had any sort of romantic or sexual relationship together, ever?”
They both shake their heads, not looking at each other. Nothing had ever happened. That didn’t mean that Jesse hadn’t thought about it at length. “And so there you go,” Mendelssohn states. “Regardless of how you both told me that you two were yourselves in this other life, there was a fundamental difference between then and now, a major relationship that was lost. Also, although you two were the focus of the experiment, you had friends and coworkers that you also lost, more relationships that didn’t exist.”
“And family,” Jesse says quietly.
Gabe looks at him in the eyes for the first time. “What do you mean?”
Jesse spreads his hands helplessly. “My mother. She didn’t exist.”
“What do you mean?” Gabe says with a frown. “She obviously existed. You’re here, aren’t you? Everyone has a mother.”
“She died when I was ten, Gabe. She...she never existed the way that we saw her. I never knew her as anyone other than a child. The woman you met was just...I don’t know. As much of a fantasy as your coworkers.”
Gabe looks almost lost. “So the woman we spent all those holidays with, who told all those stories about you as a kid…?”
Jesse shrugged. “The stories were real, I guess, but they were my memories filtered through and adapted. It was what I wished she could be.”
Looking surprisingly upset, Gabe is back to looking at his hands. “It wasn’t the same for me, I guess. I mean, everything was in our heads, but if you met my dad and sister today they’d be pretty much the same people as in the memories.”
“Oh.” Jesse didn’t realize that. He knew that Gabe had a sister and theoretically had to have had parents, but he hadn’t ever talked much about his family. He didn’t realize that he’d pretty much met the real deal.
After a long pause, Mendelssohn clears his throat. “As you can see, this is the kind of thing I was talking about. You’re going to run into unexpected issues like this, and they might not be clear at first because of your different experiences. I’d like to have the three of us meet every other day, but I want you two to spend at least half an hour a day together discussing the situation. Is that doable?”
Gabe glances over at Jesse. “We can combine it with Angela’s plan, talk while training.” Jesse nods.
Mendelssohn straightens up. “There’s something that we have not discussed much that is probably a matter for the investigative team -”
“We’re the investigative team,” Gabe interrupts.
Frowning, Mendelssohn hits a button on his tablet. “I believe that Commander Morrison -”
“I don’t care what Jack wants to do. We were targeted and taken off the grid for months. We are going to find out who did this to us.” His voice is implacable, and Jesse can’t help the warmth running through him at Gabe’s use of ‘we’.
Mendelssohn sits back. “Well, that’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about. The motive behind what happened. You believe you were targeted?”
“Based on what Jesse said, I do.”
Mendelssohn’s attention turns to Jesse. “Bring me up to speed, in your own words.”
Jesse laces his hands behind his head. “The person I spoke to before I went under was our former teammate, Moira O'Deorain.”
“Did you have a good relationship with her? Why is she a former teammate?”
Jesse and Gabe exchange long glances. “It’s...complicated,” Jesse finally says.
Gabe clears his throat. “Her being brought on the team was not...public knowledge. After a mission that was exposed, we had to disavow her. That was just a few months before this whole situation happened.”
“So her leaving wasn’t a choice. Were you all close?”
Another exchanged glance. “I trusted her as a member of Blackwatch,” Jesse says after a pause.
“But not on a personal level?” asks Mendelssohn.
Jesse laughs a bit bitterly. “I don’t know if Moira had a personal level. She kept everything pretty close to her chest. Which could sometimes be hard, as the rest of us are fairly friendly.”
“That’s you two and,” Mendelssohn checks his notes. “An Agent Shimada.”
“Genji, yeah,” Jesse says with a nod.
“Commander Reyes. You trusted her?”
Gabe is silent. “The main impetus behind her being hired was to do research on a sensitive subject, one that’s above either of your clearance levels. Her joining my team was...almost a cover story. Which is one of the reasons why I think she never fully integrated with the rest of us.”
Jesse is surprised at that. He knew that Moira was doing something that she only talked to Gabe about behind closed doors, but he didn’t know that it was why she was brought on.
Mendelssohn types something. “Back to the matter at hand - you believe that Moira targeted you in specific?”
“She definitely said she was happy to be workin’ with our team, but I don’t know how much preparation she had. I mean, we only found out we were bein’ diverted over there that day. Maybe she knew we were coming, I have no idea.”
“Moira talked about other subjects though, correct? There have been no other abducted Over- or Blackwatch members other than Amélie, so they must have been random,” Gabe says.
“So maybe we were being targeted personally, or maybe she just wanted an Overwatch person. It felt like she wanted us, though,” Jesse muses.
Gabe straightens up, clasping his hands together. “And that brings us to...why this? What’s the benefit of the two of us living these alternate lives? And regardless of what the doc is saying, it wasn’t traumatic the way it might have been. We could have been in endless war, constant torture, and instead I was a goddamn lawyer.” He sounds almost put out at the fact.
“It makes me worried that there’s something hidden in all of it, that we’re going to end up like Amélie or worse,” says Jesse quietly.
Gabe reaches his hand out towards Jesse then pulls it back, an aborted movement that Mendelssohn misses while typing and Jesse pretends he doesn’t see.
“Or perhaps they just didn’t finish. That’s unfortunately the kind of thing that only time will tell. Talking about it and trying to get a handle on everything will help, however,” says Mendelssohn, not unkindly. “Well, that’s our time for the day. I’ll see you two individually tomorrow.”
They stand and leave, and when they go back to the kitchen neither of them talk about how they’re walking just a little too close to each other, shoulders brushing.
Later that day Jesse works himself hard during training, trying to exhaust himself. Aside from the flashbacks, Jesse has been having long dreams that he’s sure are flashbacks, that have the same living-through-it feel. He keeps waking up emotionally drained and feeling things for Gabe that he shouldn’t. Perhaps if he’s physically tired, he’ll be too tired to dream.
After their first meeting they ran into each other at the bar a few times accidentally, and then a few more times on purpose. Things never quite go anywhere - most times either Jesse was called away for a breaking story or Gabe had some emergency happening with a case. The first time they manage to make it all the way through a meal, they smiled at each other afterwards a little too long and went to their respective cars alone. They exchanged numbers after their second drink together, and though Jesse has no problem with one night stands or occasional booty calls, he somehow just doesn’t want to do that to Gabe. He stares down at his phone one Saturday night feeling lonely and horny, finger hovering over the call button, but can’t bring himself to press it. He feels no shame, however, in getting himself off that night with two fingers inside himself, imagining they belong to a certain lawyer.
Things come to a head on a Friday night, perhaps a month after they first met. Jesse doesn’t drink much but he feels dizzy all the same, high on the smell of Gabe’s cologne and the hot press of a muscled thigh against the side of his own. They both feel the strain, touching each other just a little too much, Gabe bending his head close to Jesse’s when murmuring in his ear as Jesse brushes Gabe’s arm with his own and watches goosebumps rise.
They finish their meals earlier than usual, neither one wanting to waste time with another drink. Outside the street is empty, and Gabe crowds Jesse back against the brick wall of the bar. Jesse goes willingly, hands reaching to grab the lapels of Gabe’s coat and bring him in. Just as Gabe is leaning forward, his phone starts ringing. Gabe continues his motion forward, but instead of going for Jesse’s mouth he lets his head fall against his shoulder. He bangs it against the muscle and bone a few times as Jesse tries not to laugh before straightening a bit and pulling out his phone.
“What,” he nearly snarls, Jesse finally giving in and laughing out loud at him. They’re close enough that Jesse can hear a bit of the other person, a man talking quickly and with a note of panic. Gabe listens for a minute while Jesse smooths his hands over his woollen coat, finally saying, “Unless the man is actually bleeding on the steps of the courthouse, I don’t care.” Well… Jesse can hear the other man saying. As Gabe continues to talk, Jesse’s own phone vibrates. It’s a text from Marcus, saying that he’s at the county courthouse with a crew from ABC7, some kind of revenge shooting involving witnesses from a gang case.
He nudges Gabe, shows him the text. Gabe sighs and cuts off the guy on the phone, saying “Reporters are already on the scene, I’ll be down to make a statement to them in just a few minutes.” He pauses then grins, catching Jesse’s eye. “Don’t worry, I have my sources. See you in ten.” Gabe hangs up his phone, stepping back as he sighs in annoyance.
“I’m sorry this keeps happening -” he starts, but Jesse cuts him off with a hand on his shoulder and a shrug.
“I’ve had to leave as many times as you have. We have the careers we have, and sometimes that means failed dates.”
The corner of Gabe’s mouth quirks up a bit. “So these have been dates?”
Jesse opens his mouth then closes it again, realizing what he said. “I don’t know about you, but I’d like them to be.”
Gabe’s expression turns into a real, broad smile - something rare, thank god, because it’s downright devastating. “Me too.”
“Do you have something to write with?” Jesse asks as he reaches into his back pocket. Gabe pulls out a pen from a pocket on the side of his briefcase and hands it over. Jesse extracts one of his business cards from his wallet, then scrawls something on the back before handing the card and pen to Gabe. “In case you get done early, that’s where you can find me.” Gabe looks at the card before tucking it in his pocket. “That neighborhood is right by the courthouse.”
Jesse smirks as he walks over to his car. “Isn’t that convenient?” He gets in and drives away, watching in his rearview mirror as Gabe stands there for a bit looking after him before moving over towards his own car.
When he gets home Jesse takes a quick shower and puts on a comfortable pair of sweatpants. At least now Gabe knows where he lives. If they ever do get to booty-call territory, then -
His thoughts are interrupted by a knock on the door. It’s a cop knock, forceful and rapid. Jesse’s neighborhood isn’t the safest, so he’s expecting the police on the other side to tell him about a break in or mugging. Instead he gets Gabe, shouldering his way inside and grabbing at Jesse’s face as he kicks the door shut like an afterthought.
As far as first kisses go, it’s a pretty damn good one. It’s all wet lips and tongue and passion, Gabe pushing Jesse back until his hips hit the entryway table, key dish rattling against the glass tabletop. “I thought you were at the courthouse,” Jesse gasps out as Gabe pulls his mouth away to bite at his jaw.
“If you turn on channel 7 you’ll probably see me,” Gabe growls as he licks his way down Jesse’s throat. Jesse is trying to keep his head together enough to push the coat off of Gabe’s shoulders, but the fine wool feels good enough against his bare chest that it takes him a minute or two. As Jesse backs them towards the bedroom, his fingers nimbly work to unbutton Gabe’s shirt as Gabe uses the doorway to help lever his expensive leather shoes off without untying them.
When they finally get to the bed Gabe is down to his underwear and one sock while Jesse has a series of livid red marks going up the side of his neck. Gabe is apparently a biter, and as he pulls his mouth away from Jesse’s collarbone with a satisfied noise he pushes him down to fall back against the bed. Jesse reaches behind him to turn the small bedside lamp on. At Gabe’s raised eyebrow, Jesse gives him a slow once over. “I want to see you,” he says with a slight rasp to his voice, reaching a leg out to tug Gabe’s underwear down a bit with a toe. Gabe rolls his eyes and pulls off his underwear properly, giving Jesse just a glimpse of dark hair and veins standing out under reddened skin before he’s falling on top of Jesse.
Jesse is obviously hard in his sweatpants with nothing underneath, and the drag of Gabe’s hips over his own brings a soft moan. Gabe somehow manages to pull the pants off while keeping his lips on Jesse’s and soon it’s all friction, the too-rough drag of damp skin against damp skin bringing Jesse close to the edge far too quickly. “Wait,” he says as he tries to focus through the haze of endorphins, pulling away to yank open a drawer and pull out lube and a condom. “Want to come with you in me.”
Gabe groans something that might be words or might just be the sound of lust as he grabs the lube and slides off to prop himself up on his side. He flips the cap open and drizzles a cool line of it down Jesse’s cock and balls before sliding a wide hand up and down, coating Jesse in a slow, tight stroke. He trails his hand down farther, the push in of one broad finger barely noticeable against the push in of his tongue to Jesse’s mouth. Gabe fucks his fingers into Jesse in the same tempo as he fucks Jesse’s mouth with his own, filling him from the head on down.
Jesse’s hands are restless, moving eagerly over the muscles of Gabe’s body that are usually covered by suits. He feels around for the condom and opens it blindly, tearing his mouth away from Gabe’s to look down and see what he’s doing, smoothing it over Gabe’s length with a practiced hand. He pulls his legs up to his chest in a silent invitation that Gabe takes, holding the back of Jesse’s left knee with one hand as he lines himself up with the other.
It’s a slow push in, until Gabe bottoms out and takes Jesse’s other leg in his now-free hand. He smirks down at Jesse in a way that makes him reach above him and grab onto the headboard just in case. It’s a good thing he does, because Gabe does his best to fuck Jesse through the mattress with hard steady thrusts, Jesse’s braced arms the only thing that keeps him from being shoved up against the wall.
It’s overwhelming, all sweat and heat and the slap of skin slamming into skin. Gabe is nearly soundless, his deep breaths that grow steadily more ragged the only audible sign of what he’s feeling. His face is another story, forehead wrinkling in concentration like Jesse is a case he has to solve, greedy eyes roaming over Jesse’s body. His hips speed up at the end, then slow as he comes with a nearly silent gasp. Dropping Jesse’s legs, he falls forward to brace himself with one hand, the other wrapping around Jesse’s still slicked length.
Jesse lets go of the headboard to reach up and thread his hands through Gabe’s hair, pulling him down into a sloppy kiss. Gabe’s hips are still slowly pushing forward and back, he’s stayed hard enough to keep moving inside Jesse. When Jesse clenches down thanks to a swipe of a thumb just under the head of his cock, Gabe’s grip tightens, and it’s enough to send Jesse shuddering down into orgasm. He moans into Gabe’s mouth, the sound mostly swallowed up by lips and gasping breaths.
Gabe considerately does his best to collapse to the side of Jesse. They lay there together for long minutes as their breathing slows and the sweat cools, until Gabe moves just enough to pull the condom off and sloppily knot it, tossing it in the direction of the trash can. Jesse wipes himself off with a few tissues, throwing them in the same direction as the condom. He wraps a lazy arm around Gabe’s shoulders, and a heavy head rests on his chest. Jesse feels Gabe’s breaths smooth out into the rhythms of sleep, and he soon follows.
The next morning Jesse wakes up alone, sheets cold beside him. There’s no evidence of what happened the night before, even the tissues and condom are neatly tucked into the bottom of the trash can. There’s no note, no texts on his phone, and Jesse lays grumpily in bed for a few hours until Momo messages him to ask if he’s up for brunch. He replies that it’s great as long as there’s alcohol, and drags himself into the shower. His sore hips and the lingering traces of lube in his still slightly loose entrance let him know that he didn’t imagine it, and by the time he gets to brunch Jesse’s moved from hot frustration to cold anger.
That fucker. Jesse’s never going to see him again.
Jesse’s days take on a strange routine over the course of the next few weeks. Wake up, run and then breakfast with Genji. Meet with Mendelssohn either alone or with Gabe. Lunch. Training. Meet with Jack, Ana, Gabe, and sometimes Angela. If Angela is there, get subjected to some various memory tests. Training with Gabe and questions panted out around blocked punches and gunfire. Dinner. Paperwork - they’re not allowed out on missions, but Blackwatch is damn well making sure they stay busy. Shower. Read. Dream about another life. Sprinkle generously with flashbacks that can be triggered by anything from looking a second too long at the flex of Gabe’s back muscles to Reinhardt handing him a stack of pancakes.
“I just wish they would just stop,” Jesse says in a moment of bald-faced honesty during a session with Gabe and Mendelssohn. “I can be doing absolutely fucking anything and then I’m gone for however long my brain holds me.”
“Mmm,” Mendelssohn hums in that infuriatingly calm way of his. “What about you, Commander Reyes? How have you been handling the flashbacks?”
Gabe shrugs a shoulder, looking almost embarrassed. “I haven’t had any for a while now.”
Jesse stares at him, mouth hanging open. “What.”
“I just haven’t. I was getting them a lot, same as you, and then they just kind of died off. I still dream, still have memories, but they’re...fuzzier than my real memories.” Gabe is looking at the desk now. Jesse knows Gabe, knows all of his tells, and he’s not giving any of them right now other than that compulsive finger petting on his one hand that Jesse hasn’t quite figured out yet. “I was going to talk to Jack and see if I could start actually working again.”
“That’s interesting,” Mendelssohn says, and proceeds to grill Gabe for the next half hour. They all talk about whether there’s any difference between Gabe and Jesse and what happened. The eventual conclusion is that one of three things happened.
There may have been some crucial difference between Gabe going from being knocked out straight into the machine, and Jesse waking up and talking to Moira in between. The SEP enhancements to Gabe may have done or prevented something. Or, and this was probably the most likely, is that there’s an X factor that they’re not aware of. A fourth, obvious, solution that they don’t discuss is that it’s all sheer chance.
After the session Jesse finds himself walking away angrily, fast, like he’s trying to leave Gabe and all the memories behind. Gabe catches up though, tugs on his shoulder until Jesse stops.
“We’re not supposed to go off alone, Jesse.”
“I don’t really want to spend time around you right now, Gabe.”
He sighs. “I’m sorry that you’re still going through -”
“It’s not that, you ass. I can deal with the goddamn flashbacks of a life I will never get to have. What I can’t deal with is being trapped in this facility for one more godforsaken day. You’re going to be able to go back on duty soon, and I’ll. Still be here.” Jesse didn’t realize how upset he was until he got going, and now he’s panting breaths into the silence.
“I’m not able to go anywhere yet,” Gabe says gently. “I still have to talk to Jack. And maybe we can figure something out.”
“Sure. Something where I’m kept on a ship out of sight babysat by whoever doesn’t move fast enough. I’m never going to shoot anything ever again.” His bitterness surprises even him.
“I have a headache. Tell them they can lock me in, I’m not going anywhere for the rest of the day.” Jesse leaves Gabe standing in the hall, walks back to his quarters with a straight back that slumps more and more as he passes hallway after hallway.
Jesse naps, dreaming about the first dance at their wedding to a Lou Reed song that Gabe insisted on when Jesse vetoed his original choice of Death Grips. Jesse whispers as they move around the dancefloor that he still thinks it doesn’t speak well for their marriage that their song is about heroin addiction and all their lawyer and crime journalist friends probably know it. Gabe just grins and pulls him closer and rumbles low in his ear along with the music that it’s such a perfect day, he made him forget himself. Jesse closes his eyes and holds him tighter, and wakes with tinkling piano in his ears and a smile on his lips that falls away as his eyes open and stare at the ceiling.
It’s getting harder and harder to keep everything separate. It’s not like he thinks that he and Gabe are married, that he thinks they have the house and the dogs - that’s all just facts. It’s the emotions that are seeping in, because what Jesse felt in that alternate life was painfully real.
In his thirty years on this earth, Jesse McCree has never really been in love with someone. He’s loved, of course - loved his mother, loved his friends and his teammates, yes, even loved Gabe. But he’d never been in love, not like this. And now he knows just what that’s like, a love that builds up for decades’ worth of trust and companionship
He has to hold himself back from automatically kissing Gabe hello, from sliding his hand along his lower back and scratching his nails along the dip of his spine, from making him an extra portion at lunch. He wants to kiss Gabe’s forehead so the wrinkles smooth away, to rub his right shoulder where the tension always knots up. (He’s not going to think about all the things he wants to do to Gabe when there’s no clothing in the way.) He wants to sleep curled up against someone again.
And worst of all, Jesse can’t tell anymore what urges were there before and what’s from the false memories.
That’s what he’s been lying by omission about, of course. That he didn’t feel anything for Gabe before this. He did, half in a ‘he looks good fighting he must be good in bed’ way, half in a ‘I trust him with my life’ way that combined to make Jesse lazily think about broad shoulders and a growling voice when he jacked off late at night. He’d made sure to keep it low-key, though: Jesse had been dumb enough to sleep with colleagues before and knew how it would always come tumbling down. And with a superior it would be even more foolish. But now? Now, when he knew how Gabe was in bed, when he knew the capacity for love and trust between them?
It was too much.
For the first time in thirteen years of service to Overwatch and Blackwatch, Jesse didn’t want to be there.
Life went on, though not exactly in the way that Jesse had expected. He was still under watch and Gabe wasn’t. He didn’t know exactly what Mendelssohn said - he and Gabe kept meeting with him daily - but Gabe now had free reign of the facility. It could also be that Jack and Ana were just sick of him, Jesse wouldn’t put that past them.
Gabe wasn’t going out on missions, though. And, now that Jesse thought about it, Genji also wasn’t going out anywhere with how he had been babysitting Jesse. It was odd, and seemingly as soon as he’d realized how strange it was, they had an unusual therapy session.
When Jesse walks into the waiting room Gabe is already there, the tightness in his shoulders visible at a distance. He meets Jesse’s worried eyes, and makes the eyebrow movement that says ‘wait, I’ll explain later’ that Jesse is well-familiar with. When Mendelssohn opens the door and waves them in, Gabe practically leaps up. Once in the room he prowls around, checking the doors and windows with narrowed eyes. Mendelssohn notices - Gabe’s hardly being subtle - and when he asks about it, Gabe fixes him with a look that makes the psychiatrist sit back.
“How far does doctor-patient confidentiality stretch?” he asks directly.
Mendelssohn blinks. “Well, the limit is generally seen as when you intent to cause harm to yourself or others.”
“And when we’re soldiers that cause harm every day?”
Mendelssohn sighs. “You know what I mean. I’m talking about on a personal level outside of mandated missions.”
“Good. I need you to put these in.” Gabe tosses Mendelssohn a pair of earplugs. Mendelssohn just raises an eyebrow and waits in his infinitely patient way. Gabe cracks his neck and shifts his shoulders, glancing at Jesse before looking back at the shrink.
“I am telling you this with the expectation that your loyalty to your profession is greater than your loyalty to the organization. There’s something...going on with Blackwatch. Jesse and I are being observed and followed every moment of the day, and we are unable to speak in private. Except for here. I am asking you, as someone who has been doing as you ask for months now, to do as I ask. I swear that we’re not intending anyone harm, we just need to talk without being listened to for a bit.”
Mendelssohn looks at Gabe for a long moment, then looks at Jesse. Jesse tries to make his face as impassive as possible, but he doesn’t know how well he does. He has no idea what Gabe is doing right now. Mendelssohn sighs, nods, and sets the earplugs aside. He holds up a set of earbuds, and when he touches a button on his tablet Jesse can hear faint music coming from them.
“If I put these in, will it be acceptable?”
Gabe stiffly nods. Mendelssohn puts in the earbuds, then considerately turns towards the wall next to the door as he starts typing on his tablet. Gabe stands, grabbing Jesse’s arm as he tugs him over to the far wall and pushes the chairs out of the way so they can stand near the corner. They’re standing close, closer than they’ve physically been - barring training - in half a year.
“I’m not sure what all happened during the months that we were gone, but I’m finally getting some of the big picture now that I’m not being watched all of the time. Blackwatch is basically being eliminated out from under me and I had no idea,” Gabe speaks rapidly, and the stress in his voice is clear.
Jesse frowns. “What do you mean? As in they’re not sending teams out on missions or…”
“As in the teams are gone , Jesse. Amendalora’s strike team is dissolved - all the members are now part of Overwatch. Williamson? One person is in Overwatch, the others all retired. Same with three of the other teams - either retired or transferred sideways. I’m assuming someone in Overwatch is giving the orders. I’m sure you’ve noticed Genji’s not doing anything because he’s up your ass all the time, and even now that I’m out, I’m grounded. A lot of our old mission files aren’t in the system anymore, either.”
“Did it happen because we were gone?”
Gabe sighed. “I’m not sure. I don’t know if it was because I wasn’t here or…”
Gabe nods glumly. “I keep trying to pin Jack down, but I’m fairly sure at this point he’s just avoiding me.”
“Is there anyone left, at all?”
“Our team. Abramson’s team is all still here, I think because they were on a long-term mission in the Arctic for most of the time. Also McLeod’s team is still here. Well, so to speak - they’re in Malawi at the moment.”
Gabe sound so...defeated. Jesse realizes how it must feel for him - the group that he’s worked for so hard to build up over the years has crumbled out from under him while he’s been unconscious. His left hand is doing the itching thing again while his right hand is methodically cracking its knuckles against his thigh. His broad shoulders have narrowed with tension.
“I don’t know what we are anymore.”
Jesse moves before he can think about what he’s doing, before he can consider consequences. He steps forward and hugs Gabe. Not the way they’ve hugged for the past ten years that they’ve been on the same team, no. The way that they hugged, the other them. His right arm slides underneath Gabe’s to wrap around his shoulder blade while the other gently pulls the back of Gabe’s head until it’s resting in the crook of Jesse’s left shoulder and neck. Gabe moves automatically too, one arm smoothly sliding around Jesse’s waist while the other goes around his shoulders.
They’re easy and comfortable until suddenly they’re not, both men stiffening as they realize simultaneously that this Isn’t What They Do. Before Jesse can pull away, though, he feels a hot breath brush against his throat in a sigh, and Gabe just nestles his face in more comfortably. They stay like that for long minutes, and as Jesse slowly scratches Gabe’s scalp and feels his warm breaths dampening the collar of his shirt, he realizes that he never wants to move.
Nothing lasts forever, though, and so eventually they both step back. They don’t meet each others’ eyes, though they’re still standing too close to one another.
“I’ll -” Gabe clears his throat when the word comes out husky. “I’ll talk to Jack about getting you loose. If I’m doing okay, then you should too. Even if you still have the flashbacks, it’s not like you’re violent during them or anything. Once that happens maybe we can start to be a real team again.”
Jesse nods, not trusting his own voice just then.
They turn to walk back to Mendelssohn, only to find him watching them with an inscrutable look on his face. His earbuds are still in but his eyes are as sharp as ever.
“Bets that he’s going to leave that alone?” mutters Jesse.
A cough disguises a chuckle from Gabe. “No bet.”
They sit down, facing the doctor who takes his earbuds out and taps to stop the music. “Good talk?”
“It was.” Gabe pauses for a moment, before leaning forward. “Dr Mendelssohn. I know, as we all do here, that Jesse is still having flashbacks. But speaking as someone that had them and now doesn’t: life really isn’t that different. And I could really, really use Jesse as an active agent. Not out in the field yet, but at least not shackled the way he has been. Could you make some kind of recommendation to Jack that he be allowed to start working again? He’d be with me most of the time anyways, other than possibly meals and time in quarters agents usually aren’t alone.”
Mendelssohn’s eyes narrow, but not meanly. “Does this request have anything to do with the talk you just had?”
“Yes and no -” Gabe starts, but Jesse cuts him off.
“You want real mental trauma, doc? Try bein’ tied to five rooms for a few months after a lifetime spent travelling. I am goin’ crazy not being able to do anything other than eat, sleep, train, do paperwork, and get my head shrunk. No offense.” Mendelssohn inclines his head. “I’m not sayin’ give me a gun and let me loose - you can handcuff me to an Orca if you want. But I am a veteran of over a decade of this organization, and y’all are treating me like I’m seventeen and fresh out of the gang again. I could do good again. I could...do something. Anything.” Jesse peters out at the end of his speech, feeling weary.
Mendelssohn looks carefully at them both before folding his hands. “I’ll set up an appointment to speak with Commander Morrison as soon as I can. May I discuss your progress?”
Jesse pauses. There had been some pretty emotionally bare times over the past few months. “Use your discretion, doc. You know who I am at this point, what I’d likely be comfortable sharing.”
“Thank you for that trust, Jesse. I’m sure you’ll hear something one way or another from Commander Morrison soon.” It’s a clear dismissal, and Jesse and Gabe get up and leave with nods of thanks to the doctor. Once in the hallway, Gabe waves Genji back a bit so they have a bit of the illusion of privacy.
“Thanks for that,” Jesse says quietly. “Was going to say something about it myself, but it might mean a bit more comin’ from you.”
“Not a problem. Once I get you back, maybe they could actually give us something to do as a team.” Gabe’s gaze is fixed at some point in front of them. “And thank you. For before.”
Jesse nods his head hesitantly. He still doesn’t know if it was the right thing to do. He’s pretty sure that the best course of action for them in this post-memory aftermath would be to never touch each other again, but what’s done is done. And now Jesse has not just a fuzzy memory or flashback of another life, but an actual flesh-and-blood recollection of what Gabe felt like in his arms. He’s not sure if that will help him adjust or just make him long for what he can’t have.
Later that evening, after Jesse’s been locked in for the night, he gets a message from Jack that he will be allowed to act as an agent again. Not allowed out of HQ without an escort or allowed out on missions, but he’s a free man again. Jesse turns his head at the sound of a clank, and when he tries the handle to his door it opens. He shuts it carefully. Knowing it opens is enough.
“Awfully young, aren’t you.” It’s not a question but a flat statement, delivered by a woman who stares at him with Gabe’s eyes set under delicate eyebrows.
“Christy…” Gabe’s voice has the weariness of an older brother who has heard it all before. Jesse holds up a hand to stop him, before holding it out to Gabe’s younger sister, Christina. She stares at it and then him, not taking it. Jesse just waits patiently. He’s interviewed a hundred teenage criminals who had more hatred than her, and still got them to talk in the end. After a long minute she takes his hand, giving it a firm shake that belies her own hand’s small size.
“I’m not that young, I’m twenty nine. Have a driver’s license and everything,” Jesse says mildly as they walk away from the airport terminal towards Christina’s car.
“Mmm,” is all she says as they walk through the parking lot. As Jesse loads their luggage in the back of the car, he can hear Gabe pulling his sister aside at the front.
“If this is payback for how I treated Matias…”
“Maybe you shouldn’t have practically made him wet himself, Gabi.”
“That was fifteen fucking years ago!”
“Yeah, back when you were the same age as your boy toy back there.” She’s right, and Jesse bites his lip on a smile as Gabe sputters. He walks up to the front, just as Gabe is getting ready to retort.
“Everything okay, darlin’?” he asks easily, like he didn’t just hear everything.
Gabe slips an automatic arm around Jesse’s waist. “Everything’s fine. Let’s go, I’m sure Dad is expecting us soon.”
Before Jesse can do anything Gabe shoves him in the front seat to sit beside Christina, taking the back himself. There’s some stilted conversation about how this person or that from the neighborhood is doing, a bit about Christina’s kids. Jesse knows their father isn’t in the picture but certainly isn’t going to ask why now.
When they get closer, Christina slips into Spanish as she asks Gabe some pointed questions about when they took a break a year ago. She finishes with: “You spent Christmas all broken-hearted and depressed. And you’re bringing the man who did that to you into our home?”
Jesse catches Gabe’s eye in the rearview and raises a brow, Gabe smirking a little in return. “You are aware that he was the one that broke up with me, right?” he says in Spanish, taking no small amount of pleasure in Christina startling enough to swerve partially into the left lane.
“I wasn’t, actually,” she says, back in English.
“Not that’s particularly your business -” (“It really, really isn’t,” grumbles Gabe) “- but it had nothing to do with us personally. We were frustrated at tryin’ to make our careers work with each other.”
“You’re at a newspaper, right?” It’s the first time she’s asked a question of Jesse directly, apart from their awkward greeting.
“I am. Biggest one in Sonoma County.”
“Not a lot of money in that, is there?” There’s some kind of challenge in her voice, one Jesse is confused by.
“I do fine. I’m the head of my section, crime and breaking news.”
“Is that how you found Gabe?”
“I found him in a bar, actually, but I did recognize his name. When we met I was just a columnist.”
“Useful having a prosecutor around then? Help you move up in the ranks?”
Ah, Jesse thinks. There it is.
“Christina. You’re being rude.” Gabe is not amused.
“Pardon me for being protective of my brother who has too much money and few successful relationships.”
At their laughter, Christina glares back in the mirror at Gabe. “What.”
“Jesse makes more than I do, Christy. Especially after his last promotion.”
Before she can answer, Christina’s attention is taken up by pulling into the driveway of a large ranch-style home. They’re on the outskirts of LA proper, Gabe’s father having moved out near the Angeles National Forest as soon as the kids were out of the house. Gabe opens the door and is immediately overrun with what seems like a thousand dogs with tails that wag into blurs. Later he’ll find out that there are actually six of them, but at the moment it feels like a neverending pack.
Jesse jumps out and runs around to pulls Christina’s door open before she can open it herself. As Gabe is distracted, he looks at her with a measuring eye. “Listen. Christina. We don’t have to be friends, but I’ve been with Gabe for years now. We live together. We share finances equally. I don’t know what you think I’m trying to pull over on him, but I love him and he loves me.”
She glares at him, until her gaze moves over his shoulder to Gabe and softens. “He’s just...had a hard life. Not like you might think, half of it’s all self-inflicted. After our mom died in a stupid robbery and the guys that did it got off, he spent the next thirty years trying to...I don’t know, atone for it.” She looks hard at Jesse, trying to see something in his face. “He doesn’t trust easy, never did, not even when we were kids.” At Jesse’s snort, she rolls her eyes, looking in that moment more like Gabe than ever before. “Yeah yeah, might run in the family. But it means that he hasn’t let himself live, hasn’t let himself have relationships. You’re the first guy in well over a decade that I’ve even known the name of. And I won’t allow you to hurt him.”
Jesse knows that Gabe’s a private person, it took them forever to get to the trust that they’re at now. He also knew that he’s never been one for long term relationships, was told that flat out early on. But to hear it from family, to know how he’s made his way through the labyrinth that is Gabriel Reyes...it’s weirdly touching.
“I love him,” Jesse says again. “I’m not askin’ you all to accept me like he does, but give me a chance.”
Christina eyes him up and down, then dismisses him with a flick of long hair. “Eh. I’m not the one you have to worry about, kid.” Like he was summoned, the front door opens to reveal Gabe’s father.
Despite what Christina said, he’s a pleasant man that Jesse takes a shine to right away. He’s steady, quiet, a contrast to Gabe’s intensity and Christina’s brashness. It makes Jesse wonder what Gabe’s mother must have been like. Christina’s twin boys are all over Jesse, trying to get him to tell bloody stories of criminals, all the gory details that boring Uncle Gabe refuses to tell them.
It’s Thanksgiving so happily they don’t have to worry about presents - just eating ridiculous amounts of food. They collapse into bed that night and fall asleep in seconds, full stomachs and a day of travel knocking them out. Jesse wakes at three in the morning when his bladder complains, and when he comes back to bed Gabe is sleepily pawing at the empty space in bed next to him. They wake up a little, just enough to lazily rub off against each other before falling back asleep. The next morning Christina mocks Jesse as soon as Gabe and her dad are out of hearing range for the hickey on his neck, but it’s not mean.
At the end of the trip Jesse gets hugs from everyone, although the rib-cracking one from Christina is accompanied by a whispered threat in his ear that as a park ranger she knows exactly where to dump his body if he ever does Gabe wrong. When she pulls back, however, she winks and kisses him on the cheek. They’re not all family yet, but they’re getting there.
Jesse laces his fingers through Gabe’s on the plane back and thinks about Christmas, imagining Gabe in his mother’s house. It’s a nice thought, that their relationship isn’t just them anymore, that it’s a larger network too. Like they’re starting to find a place in the world for themselves.
Things get better and worse now that Jesse’s not under lock and key. Better because he can finally breathe, better because they’re actually sent out on missions. Worse because he’s now in the role of handler, rarely leaving whatever form of transportation they’re taking. Worse because Gabe keeps touching him.
It’s nothing overt, and Jesse honestly can’t figure out if Gabe even realizes it or not. It’s little things - an arm pressed to his own when they’re sitting next to each other at a meeting, a leg leaning up against his under the table at lunch. Letting his beard brush the sensitive curve of Jesse’s ear when he whispers something, or a hand steadying him when Jesse stumbles on a trail they’re following. The hand is just a bit too...everything, though, spreading out warm and broad and cupping his shoulder blade.
It’s nothing that Jesse can call out, and Gabe never seems to mean anything by it, indeed doesn’t seem to know he’s doing it. Every time, though, it’s a little twist of the knife into Jesse’s gut of what he can’t have.
After a while Jesse is finally allowed some combat time. They get into a fight in Saskatchewan, having led a group of farm equipment omnics that bucked their programming away from Regina and out into the plains. It’s glorious, no chance of killing anyone - just man versus machine. Jesse hasn’t felt so alive in months.
He gets a slash to his back that slides in around his armor from some kind of thresher machine. He can feel that it’s messy but not deep, hasn’t hit the muscle. Because of the location, though, he can’t hold it together or bandage it himself. Genji is in the middle of putting temporary butterfly stitches in when Gabe flies in and shoves him aside. He’s upset, almost frantic in a way that Jesse can’t recall seeing before. Jesse lets him finish bandaging him up before turning and pushing Gabe away, annoyed and frustrated.
“What the hell, Gabe? It’s just a cut. Same as has happened a thousand times before, same as you’ve bandaged up a thousand times before. Why are you freaking out?”
Genji quietly makes his escape out the side door of the Orca as Gabe glares at Jesse. “You’re hurt, you idiot. For the first time since all this shit started most of a year ago. Forgive me for giving a fuck.”
“This isn’t you giving a fuck, this is you nearly goddamn panicking over something minor. I know I don’t have SEP to make me heal quick like you, but it’s not like this is anything life-threatenin’.”
“I -” Gabe seems almost as frustrated at himself as at Jesse. “I’m sorry, okay. It’s a...weird adjustment, to see you in danger. My head isn’t....around it yet.” He rubs at his temples almost viciously. “I don’t know if we should work together in combat for a while.”
Jesse’s stomach drops. “You’re grounding me again?”
“No, no. I just. It’s a me problem, not you. I’ll try to have us coordinate with McLeod’s team a bit, see if we can combine.” He’s quiet, and the sound of the Orca’s engines seems very loud. “I can’t focus when I’m worried about you.”
Jesse nods and heads outside, desperate for a breath of air that doesn’t smell like his own blood and Gabe’s sweat. He grabs Genji before coming back, everyone strapping in for the return flight. His brain is racing, though. This is what Mendelssohn was afraid was going to happen, had mentioned it again just yesterday when Gabe told him they’d be going on a combat mission.
He had fixed them with a skeptical gaze. “I want you to be prepared to not handle this well.”
Jesse and Gabe had both laughed. “We’ve been fightin’ together for a decade, doc. I think we’ll be fine,” Jesse had said. Shows what he knew.
Despite his frustrations at both Gabe and himself, Jesse lets the vibrations of the airship lull him into sleep, tension headache finally easing.
After Gabe spends one glorious night in Jesse’s bed and then fucks off without so much of a by-your-leave, Jesse gets mad. It’s a cold, slow anger, one filled with betrayal and frustration. After Momo, the easiest going woman in the world, finally snaps at him for being an ass, Jesse takes a step back to look at himself. It’s weird, how upset he is. They met maybe a half dozen or so times total: a couple of drinks, two meals, one night together. That’s not enough to be feeling as upset as he is. Jesse is surprised at himself: he’s never been one to fall hard and fast, he’s always been casual, easy with his romantic and sexual partners.
Gabe is different. Gabe is under his skin, somehow.
After two weeks of moping and avoiding Monroe’s, Momo says that if he won’t drink there then he’s at least got to be social somewhere. They end up at a bar on the west side that Jesse isn’t familiar with. Momo makes him change, going through his closet and throwing at him a fitted shirt and pants that she declared years ago he wasn’t allowed to wear because no one would look at her while he was wearing them.
The bar is far nicer than Monroe’s and Jesse doesn’t feel comfortable. He ends up talking with a man at the table next to him out of sheer boredom, and can tell that the guy is far more interested than Jesse is. Just as Jesse’s wondering how to get out of the conversation, he feels warmth behind him and his conversational partner is staring over his left shoulder with an expression of something like fear. He babbles something and leaves, and Jesse somehow isn’t surprised when the presence behind him comes around and ends up being Gabe.
“You don’t get to do that, you know,” Jesse says mildly. “You left. You don’t get to scare off a baby bunny, let alone someone I’m talkin’ to.”
To his credit, Gabe looks awkward. “I’m...god, I’m not quite sure where to start.”
“An apology would be nice.”
“I’m sorry. I really, truly am, for leaving without waking you.”
“And for not calling.”
“Ahm. That too. Well, at least that one I’m not completely at fault for.” Gabe pulls a phone out of his pocket, one markedly different from the one he’d had before. “I left so early because of a major problem in a case.” At Jesse’s suddenly interested look, Gabe smiles a bit with fondness and exasperation. “Nothing I can tell you, Boy Reporter. In any event, my phone was confiscated right then and there, along with all the contacts.”
“You know where I work,” Jesse says calmly, now amused at seeing Gabe squirm. “You could have called the paper.”
“Yeah. I realized that eventually, but at that point a week had gone by and I figured you didn’t want to talk to me any more.”
“Pretty much.” Jesse watches Gabe’s face fall, before saying, “I might be persuaded to give you my number again, though. Over a drink.”
Gabe is an intimidating man, both by profession and physicality. In that moment, though, the small light of hope that springs up in his expression makes him seem almost fragile, and Jesse can feel himself falling with no desire to ever recover.
Their lives are almost back to normal. Jesse still has flashbacks a few times a day and dreams far too vividly at night. Gabe still touches him too much but manages to get a handle on himself when they’re in combat situations together. They’re on almost no Blackwatch missions, though - they still go out, still fight, but it’s always when attached to an Overwatch squadron. Abramson’s team is gone, and McLeod’s is likely going to as well given that Carey had to leave when she got pregnant.
Gabe comes to him one evening when Jesse is curled up on a couch, watching a Kurosawa marathon bolstered by bourbon.
“Close enough for talkin’ but don’t make me shoot anything.”
“Good enough.” Gabe looks around, then sits on the couch. Too close, but what’s new? “There’s something I was wondering if you’d do for me.”
“Is this a personal favor or a Blackwatch thing?”
A pause. “Yes.”
“Have you heard anything about what’s happening in London?”
“Null Sector. City’s shut down, for the most part. Surprised we’re not there already, actually.”
Gabe runs a hand through his hair, sighs. “Jack’s forbade it, says that we have to listen to what the mayor wants.”
Jesse gives a lazy, alcohol-drenched smile. “Since when do you listen when Jack forbids something?”
Gabe smiles back, edged and dangerous. “Exactly.”
“...Things are getting a little dicey here. McCree out.” Jesse clicks off of his com, snatches up his hat, and runs as fast as he can from the enormous omnic bearing down on him. There are times to fight and times to run, and alone in a locked down city with no backup is the latter.
He holes up in a shot-out building, updating his map of where the omnic defenses are as fast as he can.
“You safe?” Gabe’s voice crackles over a private channel.
“Yeah. You okay? Thought I heard Jack’s voice there.”
“He’s...not happy. I’ve got him thinking about sending people in though, so first step accomplished.”
Jesse finishes typing and sends the information off to Gabe with a touch. “Just sent you everything. Hopefully that’ll be enough to set a fire under Jack’s ass.”
There’s a pause, no doubt as Gabe is opening and looking at what Jesse sent. “Perfect. Get out of the city and alert when you’re clear for a pickup. Fio’s waiting for your call.”
“Will do.” Jesse moves from shadow to shadow, making his way through block after block. Once he’s near the river in a clear spot he sends out the alert, and is on his way back to headquarters soon. He’s feeling good, feeling wired at getting out with good intel and no injuries. A successful mission, the way they used to have them.
Strapped in to the ship, he starts to tug his gloves off. One of them is caught on his watch and he has to pull -
“Stop tugging, you’re going to rip it.”
“What’s it caught on, anyways?”
“Your ring, I think.” With some manipulation Jesse manages to pull Gabe’s glove off, a thread hanging off of the left hand. “Loose thread got wrapped around.”
Gabe shakes his hand out, his wedding ring sliding back and forth. Jesse catches his hand, strokes along the warm metal. “Wish we could have gotten this to fit better.”
“Unless you wanted to solder it right on me, we can’t.” Gabe has large hands, an enormous span with big knuckles. His actual fingers are more narrow, though. His wedding ring had to be a certain size to fit over the knuckle, but it meant it was loose on his actual finger. It’s led to Gabe spinning it around as a tic.
As he starts up now, Jesse holds his hand still, wrapping his own fingers around. “Calm, darlin’. Calm.”
Gabe takes a deep breath, straightening up under his tailored suit. He closes his eyes and when he opens them he has that look on his face, his professional look, his ‘will take you down and step on the body’ look, as Jesse jokingly calls it. It softens as his eyes move to Jesse, and he leans forward for a quick kiss.
He lets Jesse’s hands go, cracking his neck and shooting his cuffs. With a deep breath, Gabe walks out onto the brightly lit stage to applause, and shakes the hand of the city’s mayor. Half an hour later, Gabe is installed as the new District Attorney for Sonoma County.
Jesse blinks, and finishes pulling his gloves off. There was something in that flashback, something he should have paid attention to, but it’s slipping away as he crashes from the adrenaline.
The debrief is nothing short of torturous. Ana is disappointed, Jack is angry, and Gabe sits so close his arm hair keeps brushing Jesse’s, making him flinch every few minutes. At the end, however, the Overwatch leaders grudgingly acknowledge the need for the intel, and within half an hour additional personnel are sent to London.
Jesse went through the adrenaline crash and came out the other side, and now he’s wired. He goes for a loping run around the facility, but it just takes the edge off. He ends up in the training rooms, retrieving Peacekeeper from his quarters on the way. He blasts away targets for hours, until his arms shake and his muscles feel like they have recoil built into them. He turns, covered in sweat and cordite, and somehow isn’t surprised to see Gabe leaning against the doorway.
“They’re still fighting, but Jack says it’s going well in London.”
“Glad it was helpful.” Jesse breaks Peacekeeper down, cleans her quickly with practiced motions.
“You done, or you want to spar some?”
Jesse laughs somewhere deep in his throat. “I don’t think that would be a good idea.”
“I can’t tell if you’re bein’ willfully obtuse or what.”
Gabe frowns. “What are you talking about.”
“Every time you touch me, Gabe, which is all the goddamn time nowadays, it makes everything harder.”
He steps forward, because of course he does. Reaches out, puts a hand on Jesse’s shoulder. “Jesse -”
Gabe pauses. His face goes hazy for a second, five seconds. He blinks, and when his eyes meet Jesse’s they’re fond and full of something Jesse can’t put name to or else he’ll scream.
“You. Fucker. You lied about not having them anymore.” Jesse doesn’t know if he wants to punch Gabe or kiss him. He pokes him hard in the chest, backing Gabe up into the wall.
“I had to get out of there, Jesse. I usually have good enough control that I can cover.” He doesn’t sound sorry, meets his gaze with no remorse. “I couldn’t do my job locked up. Everything was falling apart, I had to get it back.”
Jesse understands, he really does, but that all vanishes beneath his anger. He slams Gabe back against the wall before he knows he’s done it, one wrist on his sternum with his fingers practically wrapping around his throat, the other hand fisted in his shirt. “You made me think I was going through this alone, that there was something still wrong with me!” Maybe if he sounds angry enough, it will cover up the shaking. “Why couldn’t you tell me? Lie to everyone else, Gabe, but don’t fucking lie to me. I am the only goddamn one who understands you right now.”
Gabe doesn’t fight back, doesn’t do anything but stare at Jesse with blazing eyes and shallow breaths that Jesse can feel under his fingers. Jesse meets his gaze from a foot away, sees blown-wide pupils and the faintest touch of red atop sharp cheekbones, and his anger changes, mutates.
“Are you goddamn serious,” he murmurs. “This is turning you on right now.”
“No.” Gabe’s expression is steady, but Jesse can feel his pulse speed up slightly. He lets the shirt he has clenched in his right hand go, and slides his hand down, down. Gabe’s eyes widen, and he shakes his head in refusal. “I’m- not…”
Jesse’s hand slides over him, hardness easily felt through sweatpants. “Lie to me again, Gabe. I dare you.” He knows he should be worried about cameras, about investigations, but he just doesn’t care right then.
Gabe breathes deeper, more ragged, but doesn’t say anything. Jesse lets his fingers wrap around almost-familiar flesh, held apart by the distance of memory and layers of fabric. His grip tightens, moves.
“You’re going to talk to me. You’re not going to lie to me. And after this, you stop touching me, because I cannot handle it, Gabe. I can’t have you givin’ me all these reminders of what I’m not allowed to have.” Jesse’s voice is venomous, matched by the brutal grip he has on Gabe’s cock. Gabe hasn’t moved, frozen against the wall with too-dark eyes and lips that glisten when his tongue swipes along them.
Jesse squeezes his way across Gabe’s length before he finds what he wants, drags a vicious thumbnail down under the crown hard enough that it would draw blood if the fabric wasn’t in the way. Instead he feels a strangled noise under the hand on Gabe’s throat that doesn’t make it past Gabe’s lips, and sudden spreading dampness under the fingers of his other hand.
He steps back and looks at Gabe leaning against the wall, panting and wide-eyed. “Good talk.” Jesse picks up Peacekeeper and holsters her as he walks out, leaving Gabe alone in an empty room with slowing breaths and a dark patch on his grey sweats.
Something had to give. With any luck, this would be the end of the matter.
It’s not. Why would it be?
Gabe stops touching Jesse completely. There is space between them when they sit, messages on his tablet instead of whispers, Genji taping him up after missions.
Instead, Gabe looks.
Jesse feels the weight of it, when they’re at meetings or on missions or across the room at trainings. When he catches his gaze it’s never angry or lustful or anything, really. He just...looks.
(Jesse is reminded every damn time of when he caught Gabe looking at him during that very first drink in the bar, that steady gaze and lack of shame. He tells himself it’s different this time, it’s different.)
He keeps going, day by day, week by week. Blackwatch is gone, every single part of it except for Jesse and Gabe. The media had never quite let go after latching on after Venice, and they keep getting leaks from somewhere, pictures and bits of information they just shouldn’t have. After the revelation of Moira’s betrayal even Jack stopped really defending them publicly. Genji leaves, saying that his personal journey needed to continue elsewhere. Jesse can’t blame him.
Jesse wakes up and puts on the black shirt, the white and red emblems, and he’s so tired. He’s tired of being yanked out of his head a couple of times a day, he’s tired of working with Overwatch members who look at him like he’s a stain on their white cassocks, he’s tired of the dance around Gabe. He’s tired of wanting, of needing.
It might still have kept going, if it wasn’t for the fucking dog.
Taylor over in Medical is a pretty decent guy, and he and Jesse often end up on the same morning runs. They’re not really friends, it’s just nice to have someone to pound the dirt at the same time you do. On a long loop around the Watchpoint that passes through some woods, Jesse hears the sound of something in pain. He stops, Taylor slowing down after a few more strides.
“You see something?” he asks. Jesse doesn’t answer, he’s pushing his way into a tangle of winter-dead vines. Huddled in the remains of a bush is a ball of shivering fur. When Jesse kneels down the fur unfolds into a medium-sized grubby dog. Its paws are too big in a half-grown way, and though she - Jesse lifts her up to check sex - is thin, she’s uninjured. Once she realizes that Jesse is friendly and has lots of nice salty skin to lick, she covers him in doggy kisses. Jesse finds himself laughing in a way that feels new, feels fresh. He wonders absently as he combs briars out of tangled fur how long it’s been since he laughed without sarcasm or an ulterior motive.
They walk back, Taylor and Jesse passing the dog back and forth, not willing to put her down long enough for her to walk. They go back to Taylor’s home turf in medical, and Jesse washes her in an industrial sink while Taylor scans to see if she belongs to anyone. She doesn’t, and Taylor jury rigs some vaccines and pre-emptive antibiotics after some frantic research and - oddly enough - a call to Ana, who unbeknownst to Jesse used to run sighthounds as a girl.
Ana shows up with Gabe in tow, right as Jesse’s flat on his back with the dog on his chest licking his face and wiggling her butt in the air, because that’s how his luck goes. Ana laughs and Gabe smiles, kneeling down and asking “May I?” before reaching out at Jesse’s nod.
Gabe’s hand accidentally covers Jesse’s as it curves around the dog’s ribs -
The ground is hard, and Gabe has to stamp down on the back of the shovel to get it into the half-frozen dirt. Jesse would help, but he’s drained. Empty of tears, empty of emotion. He sits on the back porch with his arms wrapped around his knees, trying not to look at the blanket-wrapped bundle just behind him. The blanket had been Buck’s favorite, he would drag it around the house, ignoring how it also swept up dust and stray bits of food and goddamned everything on the floor. Jesse knew he’d never be able to look at it again without tearing up, so he’d shrouded Buck in it.
Lost in his thoughts, he doesn’t notice when Gabe sits down next to him.
“He was sixteen, Jesse. That’s old, especially for a big dog like him.”
“I know.” Usually when people move in together, their big purchases are a new bed or a dresser. Jesse got Buck. He belonged to both him and Gabe just as Roscoe did, but Jesse was always first in Buck’s eyes just as Gabe is really Roscoe’s. Dogs own their humans as much as the other way around.
Jesse stands, back creaking a bit. He takes care of himself, but the downward slide after forty is a real thing. He bends, hefts up the heavy bundle of blankets and what was once one of his best friends. Gabe doesn’t offer to help, knows it would be rejected. They cross the backyard, stop just where it turns to woods. The hole seems so small. Buck was a big, friendly dog, it doesn’t feel right that he can fit in something so cramped.
Kneeling, Jesse gently sets his burden in the grave. He and Gabe push the dirt in with their hands, not bothering with the shovel. They stamp it down afterwards, and if it wasn’t for the slightly darker color of disturbed earth one would never know anything happened. Gabe holds Jesse close, but there aren’t any tears. They were cried out long ago.
“I emailed Anahis,” Gabe says quietly into the side of Jesse’s head as his hand covers Jesse’s. “Her cousin does stonework, said he could make up a marker.” Jesse nods, and they stand in the chill winter air until their toes are numb.
Jesse blinks, his vision swimming with unshed tears. He looks at Gabe, and there’s a second or two before Gabe jerks his head slightly, coming back to himself. He looks down at the dog, then up at Jesse with warmth in his eyes that fades as he takes in Jesse’s expression.
Standing unsteadily, Jesse looks over to see Ana and Taylor deep in conversation and thankfully unaware of him before pushing through the doors and out into the hallway. He gets most of the way down the hallway before slipping into an unused waiting area. Medical is an emptier place nowadays without Blackwatch around to get injured all the time.
Jesse’s head is in his hands, but he can sense Gabe come in and sit in the chair next to him. They’re quiet for a few minutes, Jesse getting control over himself. He sits back and stares up at the fluorescent lights.
“Buck died.” Gabes face lights up in immediate, compassionate understanding.
“I can’t fucking do this. I can’t be brought down out of nowhere because I’m mournin’ a dead dog that never existed in the first place. I...I can’t do it anymore.”
“Can’t do what?” There’s a thread of something that’s almost like panic in Gabe’s voice. “Jesse, can’t do what?”
Jesse looks at Gabe, meet his eyes. His cheek is itchy and when he swipes at it his fingers come away wet. He’s not sure if it’s from the memory or what’s happening now. “I’m sorry, Gabe. I really am. Consider this my letter of resignation.”
“Please...please don’t.” Gabe is breathing too hard. “Don’t leave me here to do this alone.”
“You’ll be fine. Just annoy Jack until he gives you an official Overwatch admin title.”
Gabe’s hands flex on his knees, before his left hand starts up its usual routine. “We’re getting better, right? It’s easier to handle, less than it used to be. We’re almost recovered. Don’t let this one thing drive you off.”
“It’s not just one thing and you know it, Gabe. We’re...better, yeah, but I don’t know if we’re better because of each other. Or if we keep draggin’ each other back down into this life that we never went through.”
“I won’t touch you ever again, I promise. We’ll figure out something with Jack. We’ll…” Gabe trails off.
“You know I’m right,” Jesse says, more gently than he should bother with. “You think we’re getting better?” He nods to Gabe’s left hand. “Tell that to the wedding ring that your body is so convinced is there.”
Gabe’s hand stills and Jesse watches him blink and make the connection, face falling. Gabe looks cracked. Not broken, not yet, but on the way there. Jesse would have more sympathy, but he’s pretty sure he’s in even worse shape. He gets up, chair squeaking loudly against the floor of the silent room.
“I’ll message you and Jack tonight, make it official.” He turns and leaves, determined not to look back at Gabe because he doesn’t trust himself to not do something foolish.
His resignation goes through, and he’s given a week to get his affairs in order. Packing takes both more and less time than he anticipates - he has fourteen years’ worth of belongings, and it’s hard to weigh their emotional value when he’s trying to keep to two suitcases and a shoulder bag.
Jesse wanders around a lot, walking through memories as he walks through the halls. Even the flashbacks seem to tone themselves down in the face of so much nostalgia. He spends an afternoon with Angela that’s admittedly mostly just them playing with the puppy (she gets named Havoc, and Jesse can’t help but laugh). There’s a morning with Ana, where she fills him with what feels like a lifetime’s worth of tea and delicate crumbly cookies. She’s not happy that he’s going, but she understands.
“Look after him,” he tells her earnestly. She studies his face, nodding as she wraps a narrow hand around his own and squeezes.
There’s a final summative session with Mendelssohn, of course. He doesn’t tell him everything - no talk about the touching or looking, certainly nothing about jacking Gabe off - but he does end up confessing about the dog incident and how much it affected him.
Mendelssohn leans back in his chair, takes his glasses off for the first time that Jesse can remember. “Professional opinion, at the end of the day and after a year of this. I think that they failed.” Jesse cocks his head, confused. “I’ve listened to you and Gabe separate and together for hundreds of hours. If everything wasn’t under codeword clearance I’d be writing my next book on you two. And after everything, I still can’t figure out what Moira and Talon were trying to do. I honestly think that they were trying...something, and it just didn’t work.”
Jesse has a faint smile on his face. “So you trust me to go out into the world and not start killin’?”
“I think that if they wanted you to kill, you’d have done it already. All your emotional connections are here. If they took the time to get into your head like that, it would have to be because it was something that was difficult for you personally. If they simply needed a killer they could have just made another Widowmaker and not bothered with the whole charade.”
Jesse doesn’t know if Mendelssohn is right or not, but it’s not like he has any answers himself. He does know that neither he nor Gabe would have survived without the taciturn little man, and he leaves him with a hug that surprises both of them.
It’s the last night before he leaves. His room is empty but for the sheets and pillows he’ll be leaving behind, his bags sitting on his empty desk. He’s had the same quarters since joining Gabe’s team, so there’s eleven years’ worth of himself soaked into the walls.
Jesse hasn’t said goodbye, hasn’t talked to him really since telling him he was resigning a week ago. He actually looked for him today, and when he asked Jack he was told that Gabe went out on a mission the day before, but he should be back before tomorrow. Even though he knows that it’s probably a bad decision, Jesse wants to see him before he leaves, wants some kind of closure.
He lays down, not bothering with anything other than underwear because all his sleep clothes are packed. It’s the same bed, same pillows he’s had for years but everything feels off, unsettled. He tosses and turns, finally drifting off to sleep in the early hours of the morning to the faint sounds of soft rain.
Jesse has just started up a dream about a business dinner when they found out his editor was unexpectedly allergic to turmeric when he’s jarred from sleep by a pounding on his door. He muzzily gets to his feet, not bothering with the lights before he opens the door.
Gabe is there, rain-soaked and disheveled. He’s still in his armor and has three hastily done stitches along his hairline, traces of blood evident here and there. He’s wild and beautiful and terrible and he stares at Jesse with everything anyone could ever want in his eyes, finally saying in a low voice, “I needed to know, just once I need to know -”
Jesse doesn’t let him finish, pulls him inside with desperate arms. The armor cuts into Jesse’s bare chest but he doesn’t feel it, his nerves are all focused on Gabe’s lips sliding over his in a kiss that’s new to his body but not his mind. Gabe licks his way in, hot tongue an abrupt contrast against rain-cooled lips. Jesse pulls off his hat and throws it somewhere, tries to wind his hands into hair but it’s too short. He settles for holding onto the back of Gabe’s head with one hand and frantically undoing armor with the other.
They pause as they realize how ridiculous it is, and set to ridding Gabe of his many, many layers. Jesse kneels to unbuckle his boots as Gabe pulls off his chest armor and layers of jackets and shirts. There’s a nervous moment when Jesse undoes a buckle too fast and Gabe’s grenade belt his the ground, but when nothing blows up he keeps going. Finally, finally Gabe is as bare as Jesse is and they’re immediately on each other.
Every touch is new, every touch has been done before. Jesse has had flashbacks and memories of sex with Gabe a thousand times over, but none of it compares to the real thing. His hands trace over scars and muscle, sliding on damp skin. His own body feels lit up like a Christmas tree, Gabe burning his fingerprints into his skin with every frantic grasp.
They’ve made their way back to the bedroom, and Jesse pulls Gabe back onto the rumpled sheets. Gabe’s upper body is just a bit broader than Jesse’s, just enough to make him feel enveloped when Gabe presses him down into the bed, hands gripping Jesse’s wrists tightly before loosening and moving up to wrap his fingers around Jesse's own.
Their hips rut together, underwear likely the only thing that keeps them both from coming right there and then. Jesse’s eyes roll back as Gabe kisses down his neck, finding every single hot spot he has that goes straight to his cock. He realizes that Gabe’s lips aren’t just kissing but are murmuring against his skin - let me inside you Jesse please want to be in you - and far be it for Jesse to deny Gabe what he wants right now.
Jesse pushes Gabe up until he’s off of him and kneeling, getting up to root around in his bag for a minute before locating a bottle of lube. He strips off his underwear as he lays back down on the bed, spreads himself out before looking up at Gabe’s startled eyes and bluntly ordering, “Open me up.”
Gabe leans down and gives Jesse a slow, filthy kiss that makes him wonder in the back of his mind why they weren’t doing this from the start, fraternization charges be damned. Gabe works his way down, leaving red marks and wet spots as his mouth travels from place to place. Jesse doesn’t even see the lube bottle, just feels a wet finger gently circle his hole before pressing in at the same time Gabe takes him into his mouth. It’s too much too fast, and Jesse pushes Gabe’s head up with clumsy fingers.
Time goes fuzzy for a bit, and Jesse squirms under Gabe’s teeth that are gnawing a raw spot on his hipbone. Jesse can feel the stretch, knows he’s ready. Gabe pushes his legs out, pushes them wider, and Jesse almost misses the press in against the screaming of his tendons. Then it’s the only thing he can feel, a slicksweet slide with just enough of a burn to make it interesting.
“Jesse” Gabe breathes into his mouth like a curse when he bottoms out and “Jesse” he groans like a prayer as his hips start to move and “Jesse” he says like it means something, like they could have more than this. Jesse just closes his eyes and twines his legs around Gabe’s narrow hips and slides into a rhythm that he knows to his bones.
He’d half-expected it to be boring, to feel too familiar. Instead it’s overwhelming, everything almost frightening the way it was when he first had sex as a teenager and didn’t know his own body yet. He feels like he doesn’t know himself underneath Gabe, like Gabe might know his ins and outs better than he does. He certainly knows how to get Jesse going in the best of ways, and Jesse’s eyes fly open on a moan when he hits the perfect angle. He keeps going, driving into Jesse tirelessly like he didn’t kill people today, like he doesn’t still have blood mixing with the sweat on his skin.
Jesse’s fingers dig in to a broad back, biting into flesh when Gabe gets a hand on him and strokes once- twice- and Jesse’s gone. His legs tighten, muscles holding down so hard that Gabe can’t thrust anymore, just grind deep inside. As he comes down from the orgasm, nearly vibrating out of his skin, Jesse relaxes bit by bit until Gabe is free to fuck hard into him again. He’s pliant, sex-drunk and meeting Gabe’s thrusts with easy rolls of his hips.
He tweaks a nipple here, bites into a straining neck muscle there, playing Gabe’s body like the fine-tuned instrument it is until his thrusts start to lose their steadiness.
“Jesse, Jesse I, I -” he’s trying to get something out around the onslaught of his hips and Jesse is terrified of what it might be so he crushes Gabe’s mouth to his own, drowning his words in furious kisses that bleed at the edges. Gabe comes on a series of ohs that don’t make it outside of Jesse’s mouth. He feels the twitching and throbbing inside of him, tries to press him in closer with his legs, wants them to be a single creature of damp flesh and pleasure.
Gabe doesn’t pull out right away, but relaxes down onto Jesse. He’s heavy, but not enough for Jesse to make him move. Their breathing slows, Gabe’s head tucked under Jesse’s chin like it belongs there. After long minutes where everything cools and starts to get uncomfortable, Gabe gets up, returns with one of his shirts to wipe them down. He tosses it to the side and just stands there, looking down at Jesse.
Jesse can’t quite read the look on his face. It’s a hundred emotions, fighting for real estate in his expression. He can’t see any regret, though, so he stretches out a hand, says “Stay.”
Gabe reaches out in return, tentative. He just had his lips over every inch of Jesse’s body, but this is the hard part. He takes Jesse’s hand, lets himself be pulled down onto the bed. They curl up together like it’s the ten-thousandth time they’re doing this instead of the first, and drift off to sleep in minutes.
There’s a soft buzzing noise, and Gabe opens his eyes. He tries to sit up, but a heavy arm is pressing him down into an unfamiliar bed. He shifts it aside, looking down at Jesse sleeping beside him. He didn’t anticipate them ending up here, but as he brushes shaggy hair out of a tense face that’s gone soft with sleep, he can’t complain.
Gabe slips out of bed and walks naked into the living area, finding his tablet flashing and buzzing with an incoming call. He tugs a shirt on before sitting at the desk and tapping to bring the call up. He doesn’t recognize the caller’s number, but the only people that would know his number at all likely have a damn good reason to be calling at four in the morning.
He taps to answer the video call, and frowns when a black screen appears. Before he can do anything there’s a rapid series of bright flashes and a familiar voice saying “Foxtrot. Strawberry. Hacksaw. Nine four alpha green.” Gabe’s frown fades, his face completely blank. The screen clears to show two faces, one shiny and robotic and one with red hair and mismatched eyes.
“Gabriel. Acknowledgement of protocol alpha.”
“Are you alone right now?”
“Jesse McCree is in an adjoining room asleep.”
A faint smile. “Well then. Are you two having fun together?”
“He resigned and is leaving tomorrow.”
“Oh, a last goodbye type of thing. That’s less interesting.” Moira types something, sighing when she doesn’t see what she wants. “Standby protocol four, Gabriel.” Somehow his face goes even more blank, eyes staring blindly ahead.
Moira moves off screen, and the omnic that remains cocks his head in an oddly human fashion. “Can you control him fully?”
“I don’t try. Anything too complex tends to shut down everything as the brain questions it, so it’s best to go with simple, direct orders. Like a very old computer, if you will.”
The omnic peers closer, trying to see details of Gabe’s face in the dark room. “So this is who you spent months brainwashing. I don’t understand why you bothered at all, you managed to get the Lacroix woman under control in just days.”
“We only needed her to do some executions, before we went in and fine tuned her. It’s a far more intricate process when you need the subject unaware and completely functional but carrying out your orders. Ones that in particular go against his delicate moral sensibilities, more fool him.”
“Hmph.” The omnic looks at the documents Moira is working with, clearly unimpressed with her test subject. “I suppose I just don’t understand why you didn’t just do the usual mental torture and send him on his way, instead of the whole multi-brain extended creation scenario. It seems like far more work than it’s worth, and you need an additional compatible person who is virtually useless. A waste of resources if you ask me.”
“That’s because you’re not human, dear. If you want someone to dismantle the very thing they’ve worked their entire lives towards and do it without question, you can’t reliably do it with torture.”
“You give them everything they ever wanted. More flies with honey, darling.” Moira comes back on screen, but vanishes as a set of blueprints are displayed. “Gabriel. Memorize and acknowledge.” There’s a long pause as Gabe’s eyes move over the screen. “Acknowledged.”
“Gabriel. In four weeks’ time, you will enact protocol God Game Rainbow. Acknowledge.”
“What will that do?” the omnic inquires.
“Build and set off the bomb that I just gave him the blueprints for, destroying Overwatch once and for all,” she says casually. “Oh, and seeing if all that genetic manipulation I put him through actually comes to anything. Lord, I’d like to finish that particular experiment off.” She turns back to the screen. “Let’s get this ball rolling, I have test subjects to check on. Gabriel. Enact closing protocol four beta six.”
“Acknowledged.” Gabe ends the call, deletes it from his call log, and opens the email application on his tablet. He then sits, blank-faced, until he blinks rapidly and wakes up.
Okay, so he’s sitting with a shirt and no pants on at Jesse’s desk, with his email in front of him. Was he...sleep-emailing? Gabe taps on his sent messages, but the last one was from hours ago. He shrugs. No harm done. He hasn’t mentioned it to Mendelssohn out of fear he’ll put him on meds, but ever since they were rescued he has the occasional bout of sleepwalking. Nothing serious, although he’ll sometimes wake up somewhere out in the Watchpoint when he know he went to sleep in his own bed. It’s never been anywhere dangerous, really, so he hasn’t cared too much.
There’s still hours before his first meeting of the day, so he slips back into bed, smiling a bit as Jesse’s arm blindly pulls him closer to him in sleep. Gabe falls asleep himself, more content than he’s been in a long time.
When he wakes the next morning, Jesse and all his things are gone. It hurts, but he knows himself well enough that if they had said goodbye in person it would have hurt a lot more. Gabe sighs, stretches, and gathers up his discarded clothing and armor from the night before. It’s a long day of meetings ahead, the first of many without Jesse by his side. Gabe trails a final, sentimental hand over the crumpled sheets, then squares his shoulders and leaves.
It’s been almost a month since Jesse left. His whole past - imagined and real both - seems to exist at a remove. The only things finite out here are sand, sun, and survival of the fittest. He’s stayed far away from Deadlock territory, but the Southwest will always be his home. He buys a cheap pickup truck, one he can fix himself with a few tools and determination. Nights are spent at cheap motels or in the bed of the truck under the stars.
He finds himself starting to head north, and though he knows to his core it’s a bad idea he can’t help himself. He gets to the coast, heads up to the Pacific Coast Highway and lets himself get lost in the rhythm of the road. He goes north, north, north until he stops in Tomales Bay, parking illegally on a beach and falling asleep to the sound of seabirds and waves.
Jesse turns himself east, then, driving slowly and carefully into Sonoma County. It doesn’t match up exactly to what’s in his head - the big landmarks are there but none of the streets are the same. He knows that all his familiarity comes from Gabe’s head and his memories of when he visited there summers as a child, but it still feels like he should know it better.
He drives until he sees a house that’s not theirs, but almost could be. A woman comes out of it with a baby on her hip to check the mail, looking curiously at him. They must not get many serape-wearing bearded men in dusty trucks in this place. He waves, and she waves back hesitantly as he drives away.
It’s nice there. But it’s just not...them. The real them. There are tree lined streets and picket fences and things that might have worked for the parts that they were playing, but not the real Jesse and Gabe. There’s nowhere to put a target range, for one. Jesse feels weirdly satisfied afterwards, a confirmation that this life, while a pleasant fantasy, would never match up to what he really had with Gabe. Nothing someone dreamt up could ever be good enough for him and Gabe. They deserved the world.
Jesse checks into a hotel, nicer than the places he’s stayed for most of his trip despite the storm that’s rolled in. He has a drink at the bar, the bartender changing from the news to a basketball game at Jesse’s request. Sheer exposure to Gabe over the years has turned him into a Lakers fan against his will. He stops himself after two, not wanting to get sloppy drunk in a place like this.
In his room he lays back on the bed, staring at the dark ceiling. It’s too black here, the streetlights small and tasteful instead of the big orange security lights he’s used to. The rain outside has hidden even the moonlight. He finally gets up and turns the TV on. Every channel is showing the same thing, some big explosion that happened somewhere in the world. Jesse doesn’t care, he’s too tired. He puts it on mute, letting the flickering screen softly light the wall. He falls asleep quickly, so he never sees the screen start to show the lists of the dead with Overwatch emblems behind them.
It’s a rainy fall day, and the air is full of salt and the sound of waves crashing, interspersed with the faint sounds of thunder. Jesse and Gabe had both arranged for a few days off to spend at a small cottage up over the border into Oregon. They didn’t talk about it, but it’s somewhere around a year from when they got together, depending on whether you counted their first time meeting, their first time sleeping together, or when they got together for real a few weeks after that.
They’re not a very demonstrative couple, are Jesse and Gabe. They don’t touch much in public, they don’t have cute pet names for each other, they don’t make a big deal about presents or dates or things that Jesse thought as traditionally couple-like. It bothered Jesse at first, whose previous relationships had involved rather needy people. He soon realized that Gabe’s quiet stability was everything he wanted and never really had before, balancing him out. They touch all the time at home, when it’s all for them and not other people. It works out.
There’s a chill in the October air, and Jesse finds himself shivering involuntarily. Gabe slings an arm over his shoulder, tucking him under the best he can when they’re the same height. Gabe runs hot, and is always willing to lend Jesse his body heat when needed.
They make their way up to a rocky outcrop, using each other for balance as they gingerly climb over wave-wet rocks up to the top. They pause there, and at a gust of wind Jesse wraps his arms around Gabe’s waist, comforted in the knowledge that they’re the only humans around for miles, and this small section of the world belongs to them.
Jesse stands in the warmth of his lover’s arms and watches the foggy sea go in and out. He moves his head back a bit, bracketed by Gabe’s arms around his shoulders. He looks at his face, dark brows and light scars and wonders how ever he got here, how he managed to get this man here with him.
“I love you, you know,” Jesse finds himself saying conversationally. It comes out so effortlessly that it’s almost frightening. Despite how long they’ve been together, despite the fact they haven’t spent a night apart in weeks, neither of them have said it. Jesse had turned it into a big thing in his head - maybe it was one of those couple things that they just didn’t do. But he did love Gabe, he did, so very much. And so for whatever reason the cold ocean and gloomy sky is what finally brings it out of him.
Gabe turns his head, looks at Jesse with those dark eyes that he could drown in as easily as the sea before them. “I love you too,” he says like it’s the most obvious thing in the world, like saying water is wet or grass is green.
He tilts his head and their foreheads rest against each other. Jesse is surrounded by warm breath and cool salt air and as they stand there he thinks this is it, this where I am meant to be, this is who I’m supposed to be with.
The thunder of the memory mixes with the thunder of the storm outside the hotel, and Jesse McCree turns over in his sleep and dreams of a life that he’ll never get to live.