Jesse hears a vaguely familiar-sounding voice outside the door, though he can’t pick out any words. He’s expecting another Deadlock member being dragged in, or one of the agents who arrested him coming in to question him.
What he gets is Gabriel Reyes, which—holy fuck, is he going to jail. He is going to fucking die in jail.
Well, at least he knows why he recognized that voice. He must’ve heard him on TV a dozen times.
“Hey there, beautiful,” he says, flashing the man an easy grin like he don’t have a black eye and ain’t cuffed to the table. Reyes looks unimpressed, no surprise, and steps into the room.
“Down, kid,” he says. “Which one are you?”
“The name’s McCree,” Jesse says, tipping his head like he’s tipping his hat. He’s an O too, of course, but still, might as well be mannerly about things. Especially because this is probably the last time he’s gonna be seeing the outside of a prison for at least the next fifteen or twenty years. So yeah, might as well be pleasant while he can.
Anyway, there’s still an even chance he’ll be able to put the lockpicks the agent who searched him missed to good use. It’s definitely best to play agreeable until then. Not that he really thinks he’s gonna catch Gabriel goddamn Reyes off guard, but Gabriel goddamn Reyes ain’t gonna be the guy camped outside his cell. He ain’t that interesting a catch.
Reyes grunts in acknowledgement and takes an obvious sniff of him. Jesse’s smile turns wry. If Reyes thinks he’s gonna smell a lie on him, well, he’s got another think coming. Jesse never smells like he’s lying. It’s a point of pride, at this point.
“Buy a man dinner first, why don’t you,” he says casually, leaning back in his seat. Reyes don’t say anything. He’s standing real still, and his grip on the file in his hand is a little too tight. Jesse eyes him warily, not sure what to expect. This is a weird start to “Bad Cop”, if that’s the way this is going.
Reyes looks at the file in his hand. He blinks, slowly, and then drops it like it’s burned him. Jesse raises an eyebrow, watching it hit the table. The display skips, but stabilizes into a picture of his latest mugshot and a list of associated crimes. “JESSE MCCREE” it says real clearly, along with a lot of more damning stuff. Although considering they got busted over an arms deal, it ain't anything especially bad. Definitely ain’t nothing worth dropping the file over.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost, old man,” he says. Reyes don’t say a thing, but breathes in raggedly, staring at him like he’s expecting a rattler to spring up and bite him. Jesse ain’t exactly comforted. It’s some kind of ploy, obviously—he ain’t no stranger to being questioned, there’s always a ploy—but hell if it’s one he knows.
Reyes turns on his heel and leaves the room, and Jesse blinks after him in bemusement.
Now what in hell was that all about?
He needs Jack. That’s all Gabriel can think, with that scent in his nose and that name written in bright letters on his datapad. He can’t think anything else.
He can’t think anything else.
He strides down the hall quickly, not making space for anyone but barely noticing anyone else anyway. He hears Ana’s voice, but doesn’t look her way. He needs Jack. It has to be—it has to be Jack.
“Gabriel,” Ana says again, catching his arm. Gabriel yanks it back and keeps walking. There’s a numbness spreading through him, which is the only reason he’s not screaming the place down. He needs his alpha right now. Jack should already know, should already be here, should—
He yanks open the door of Jack’s office, and Jack is already halfway to it. Gabriel ignores the agent Jack was talking to and Ana on his heels and grabs onto him, burying his face in his neck to scent him. Jack smells exactly like Jack has always smelled, but for once there’s nothing soothing about it. There’s nothing wrong with his nose. He’s not imagining things.
It’s too specific. Too certain. Too—
“Gabe,” Jack says, his arms coming up around him, and Gabriel nearly bursts into tears.
He pulls back and yanks Jack out of the office, dragging him back towards the interrogation rooms, and Jack follows him easily. He doesn’t ask what’s going on, which Gabriel is grateful for. The words are too big for his mouth; too big for his heart, aching and bewildered and horrified all at once.
And longing. So longing.
He can’t be right. But he knows he’s right. It’s been nearly fifteen years since he last smelled that scent, and it was a child’s scent then, not a grown man’s, but—not a man, he corrects himself. Looks aside, he’d be a teenager. A kid.
If Gabriel’s not crazy, which he’s not. He knows that scent better than any other in the world. Even Jack’s never made the same impression. He can’t be wrong. Not about that.
Anyway, if he’d been going to go crazy, it wouldn’t have taken this damn long.
“He isn’t talking to me,” Ana says. She’s still following them, Gabriel realizes, though he doesn’t look back to her.
“It’s alright, Ana,” Jack says, his voice a soothing rumble that soothes nothing in Gabriel at all. Ana doesn’t smell particularly soothed either, but really, he can barely smell her at all, even accounting for the faintness of a B’s scent. His nose is too full of a scent he’d thought he’d never smell again, except maybe in tragic little hints from old, old clothes and toys that he was too wrecked to pack away. Jack hadn’t been any better. He doesn’t even remember who’d packed them up in the end, but it hadn’t been one of them.
Gabriel’s packed up and put away a lot of things, but this . . .
He pulls Jack into the observation room. On the other side of the one-way mirror, Jesse McCree looks bored out of his mind. His hat’s cocked. Gabriel looks at him, now, tries to place—does he recognize any of those features? Are any of them familiar? It’s hard to tell, the way the brim of that hat sits. That nose has been broken once or twice, too. But he’s close enough to the right age, he’s the right gender, he looks mixed, he . . . he . . .
“Gabe,” Jack says carefully, which is how Gabriel knows he looks like he’s about to lose it.
“Look at him, Jack,” Gabriel says. The words are still too big for his mouth.
Jack looks. Jesse McCree leans forward to skim his abandoned file, looking no less bored and no more like anyone he might bear any resemblance to. Gabriel wants to break the window and snatch him up and kill whoever gave him that black eye. It was probably one of the arresting agents, but he doesn’t care, he’ll kill them anyway.
This can’t be right. Can’t be real.
But he knows his pup when he scents him.
“What am I looking at, Gabe?” Jack asks, and Gabriel barks out a laugh. Jack can’t see it either. He should’ve taken him right into the room, except he’s not sure he can be in that room right now. That’s their pup. Their dead pup. Their dead pup, looking like a grown man and running with Deadlock.
“Just—go in there,” he says. “Go in there and then come back.”
Jack gives him a searching look, his hand catching briefly on his elbow and squeezing, but he goes without asking anything else. Gabe keeps staring through the mirror, waiting for . . . something. This to make sense. This to stop. Maybe he’s having a nightmare. This seems like the kind of nightmare he’d have. Any moment now the omnics will blow in the wall and it’ll all go even further to shit.
Jack steps into the interrogation room, and Jesse McCree does a damn good job of pretending he wasn’t looking at his file. Ana turns on the speaker.
“Which one are you?” Jack asks, picking up the file.
“The name’s McCree,” the kid drawls easily, word for word and beat for beat a perfect imitation of the last time he’d said it. Maybe he says it that way every time. The accent’s all wrong—too Southern—but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s been fourteen years. A lot more than an accent can change in that time.
“Jesse McCree,” Jack reads off the file. Gabriel doesn’t know if anybody else would catch the hesitation in his voice on that name, though maybe Ana might. Jesse McCree doesn’t, or at least doesn’t react to it.
“The one and only,” he says. “Can I smoke in here, handsome?”
“No,” Jack says dubiously. Jesse McCree sighs in theatrical disappointment.
“Now that’s just cruel,” he says. Jack ignores him, and reads his file. Gabe wonders what’s in it—he didn’t get that far himself. He could call up a copy of it, but watching Jack read and Jesse McCree sit there cuffed to the table is somehow infinitely more important. He tries to figure out if they look alike. He tries to figure out if he really is crazy. Without that scent in his nose right now, part of him’s doubting his memory.
But he was so sure.
Jack spends quite a while reading the file, neutral and blank the whole time. Jesse McCree looks increasingly bored, less and less like an outlaw and more and more like a teenager. Part of Gabriel thinks he’s too young to be involved in this, no matter who he is. His whole life shouldn’t be fucked up just because he fell in with the wrong crowd as a kid.
Jack closes the file and leaves the room. Jesse McCree sighs, thumping his forehead down onto the table and knocking his hat back on his head, balefully watching him go. Gabriel watches him, trying to recognize those microexpressions.
Jack comes back into the observation room.
“Well?” Gabe demands, not taking his eyes off Jesse McCree.
“It’s not him,” Jack says quietly. “He smells similar, I know, but—”
“But what?!” Gabriel demands as he whips around to glare at him, voice louder than he means to make it. He feels stricken, almost—cut to the core. How can Jack not tell? He’s not crazy. He knows it’s their pup. How can Jack not tell?
“But we’d have known!” Jack hisses back, his eyes flaring. “It can’t be him. There’s no way he could’ve survived and we wouldn’t have known!”
“Bullshit!” Gabriel snarls. “I know my pup when I smell him!”
“He’s not our pup!” Jack snaps. “You think I don’t want him back just as bad as you do? You think I wouldn’t cut off my own damn arm for that to be him? It’s not. It can’t be.” He doesn’t sob, because they’re working, but Gabriel knows the sound of despair in Jack’s voice like the back of his hand. It helps, almost—knowing it hurts Jack too. It’s always helped, fucked up as that probably is.
But he’s not right about this.
“It’s him,” Gabriel says, no doubt in him at all.
“It’s not,” Jack says, pain buried in his voice and frustration in his face. “It’s just a coincidence. Just—forget about it and send him to prison with the rest of them.”
“I am not sending my pup to supermax!” Gabe snarls at him.
“He’s not our pup!” Jack shouts back.
“Well, it’s not as if we can’t check,” Ana says reasonably, and they both remember she’s in the room, and both turn towards her in the same moment. Gabriel feels a bit stupid, and imagines he looks it too. “There’s nothing keeping us from running a DNA test, after all.”
“Ana . . .” Jack says wearily. Gabe is this close to hitting him, and hates it.
“Yes,” he says, clenching his jaw stubbornly. “We’ll run his DNA.”
A small female B in a headscarf comes into the room next. Jesse’s starting to feel downright popular. She stops and inhales, carefully, and a strange look flickers across her face as she looks at him.
“Hello, Mr. McCree,” she says, voice neutral but pleasant. Jesse almost laughs at how “Mr.” sounds in front of his name. “If I may have a moment of your time, we’d like to run a DNA test.”
“A DNA test?” He squints at her. They’ve already got him dead to rights, what could they possibly need his DNA for?
“Humor us, please,” the woman says, holding up a cotton swab. Jesse’d rather have a lawyer, frankly, but with Overwatch that probably ain’t gonna do him much good. He lets her swab his mouth, figuring it’s easier than putting up a fight, and gives her a flirty wink as she does. She gives him a wry look in return, then thanks him and leaves. He looks around the empty room, already bored out of his mind again and debating how smart it is to blow his one chance at an out right now. They seem way too interested in him at the moment, it probably ain’t the best time to be mounting an escape.
Ashe is gonna be right pissed if he misses a chance to, of course, but really, when ain’t she?
. . . although, come to think, there is a vent right there . . .
Well, he’s got lockpicks for a reason, don’t he?
Ana’s taken the swab to be tested—their DNA is already on file, obviously—and Jack looks at Gabe who’s staring through the observation room window and just . . . can’t. He can’t.
But he’s going to, of course.
“Gabe,” he says. He didn’t ask Ana if Jesse McCree smelled like—Jesse. She only met him a few times. They were deployed, mostly. He’d always thought they’d have more time, someday.
“What?” Gabe is still staring through the window.
“Gabe, if he’s not . . .” Jack trails off. He can’t imagine how Gabe will react if he’s wrong. And he is wrong. They’d have known, if their pup were alive. They’d have known.
“He is.” Gabe grits his teeth. He looks betrayed. Jack understands why, but it’s not Jesse. The similarity is a coincidence—an uncomfortable one, an unfortunate one, but a coincidence. He’s seen stranger. They both have. They’ll see stranger again.
“Gabe,” he says, and reaches for him. Gabe pulls away; stalks right out of the room. Jack follows him, helpless to do anything else. That’s his O, the only one he’s ever wanted, and he can’t just let him leave like that. Can’t just let him feel like that.
Damned if he knows how to fix it, but he has to try.
“Get away from me,” Gabe says.
“You know I can’t,” Jack says. Gabe glares at him. Are his eyes wet, or is that the fluorescent lights in here? Jack wants to give him what he wants so badly, but what he wants is impossible. What he wants right now is a gun runner with a rough past and a rap sheet the length of Jack’s arm. Even if McCree were a Boy Scout, of course, this would still be a problem.
He doesn’t know what to do about this. He doesn’t know how to fix this. Gabe doesn’t need him to fix every problem in his life, obviously, much less want, but in a situation like this . . . it’s hard not to try, in a situation like this.
As far as Gabe’s concerned, of course, right now he’s probably part of the problem.
“That’s him, dammit,” Gabe says tightly. “I know my pup when I smell him.”
“You think I wouldn’t?” Jack asks.
“Apparently you don’t,” Gabe snaps.
Jack remembers what Jesse smelled like. Similarities aside, McCree smells more like cigar smoke and gunpowder than anything else. He’s big and loud and beat-up, old for his age and a professional criminal with no shame and no regrets, and nothing about him makes Jack think of their pup, except the name and the barest hints in his scent. He doesn’t think he’d have made the connection at all if not for Gabe’s reaction. Who would’ve?
Gabe, obviously. But who else?
“Gabe,” he says, not sure if it’s sympathy or pain on his face right now.
“Shut the fuck up,” Gabe says. That’s definitely fury on his face. Jack’s surprised he hasn’t hit him yet. He looks like he’s about to. He looks like he wants to. It’d be better if he would, some part of him thinks.
He wishes he were the one who was wrong here. He wishes he deserved hit. He’d take anything Gabe threw at him, if it meant he was the one who was wrong here. He’s never wanted to be wrong so bad in his life.
He’s not, though. That’s the problem.
“I’m sorry,” Jack says. He wants to grab onto Gabe and wrap him up in his arms and let him hurt, but he can tell Gabe would sooner bite him. “You know I’d do anything for you to be right.”
“I am right!” Gabe snarls, his eyes flaring and teeth bared. He looks like he’ll never let Jack touch him again. It hurts.
It makes Gabe feel better when he knows Jack’s hurting too, so that’s probably what that’s about.
“You know I think about him too,” Jack says, because letting Gabe know he’s bleeding is usually the best way to calm him down. He doesn’t really expect it to work right now, but it’s a habit. Instinct.
“Don’t talk to me about what I think,” Gabe hisses, stalking forward and grabbing him by the jacket. Jack doesn’t resist; doesn’t even bring his hands up to touch him. “You looked right at him and didn’t see a damn thing!”
“Because it’s not him, Gabe,” Jack says, the words slicing his tongue like a knife. They’re true, because of course they’re true, but they fucking hurt. Gabe shoves him away. Jack expects hit again, but still doesn’t get it. Maybe it’s because they’re older now, have these positions. Maybe Gabe just doesn’t trust himself to stop. “You know that—”
“No, I don’t!” Gabe snaps without letting him finish. “Neither do you!”
“I do,” Jack says, pained and tired. This is a raw wound every time, and right now he feels like Gabe’s about to stick a live wire in it. He’s going to let him.
It’s not going to change anything. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for Gabe, but he’s not going to lie to him.
Gabe opens his mouth to say something live-wire, and Ana steps into the hall behind him. Jack only notices her because he can’t not notice someone moving near him, even after all these years. She’s holding a datapad. Looking at it.
The look on her face is . . . strange.
“Ana?” he says reflexively. Gabe turns his head. Ana keeps looking at the datapad.
“Jack,” she says. It’s an acknowledgement, but nothing else. She looks like . . .
“Oh,” Jack realizes, and stares at the datapad. Gabe snatches it out of her hands; Ana lets him. Jack feels numb, his head suddenly stuffed full of cotton. He doesn’t look at the pad. Gabe already is. That look on Ana’s face says everything it could, though.
“They ran it twice,” Ana says. Gabe throws the file back at her and stalks right past Jack, heading back the way they’d come without a word. Jack doesn’t need to look, but he sees it anyway, in big green type.
It’s a match.
And he’s the worst alpha and worst father he could ever have possibly been.
Gabriel starts off stalking, but breaks into a run almost immediately. He was right. He knew it, but now everyone else knows it.
Everyone except the one person it’s most important to have know, that is.
He jerks to a stop right outside the door to the interrogation room, suddenly and sharply aware of just how little idea he has of what to say. Jesse was three. He might not remember anything about them at all. He clearly didn’t recognize them as anything more than Gabriel Reyes and Jack Morrison. Gabriel doesn’t even know where he’s been all this time.
He should’ve read the fucking file.
He grips the door handle, telling himself he’ll figure it out on the other side, and opens the door. The interrogation room is empty. He blinks. For a second, he thinks he went to the wrong room, but no—that’s Jesse’s file on the table, plain as day for anyone to see. For the next second, he thinks someone’s taken him, and his blood fucking boils.
Then he sees the empty handcuffs and crooked vent cover, and realizes that no, they’re just fucking idiots who left an SEP brat alone and unsupervised in their base for more than fifteen seconds.
Overwatch really ought to know better than to have vents this big and sturdy, Jesse thinks as he crawls through them, although he’s gonna take full advantage of the oversight. It’s a tight fit, but he fits well enough to get around. He’s pretty sure if he were any bigger in any direction it’d be a no-go, though.
He has no idea how to get out of the building, but wandering around semi-lost until he figures it out is still better than sitting around bored out of his mind in an interrogation room. Probably ain’t gonna be great for him if he gets caught—and he is almost definitely gonna get caught, Jesse ain’t that optimistic—but hey, once again: still better than sitting around bored out of his mind.
Anyway, what, he’s gonna give up that easy? Not fucking likely. He’s good at this shit, so he might as well do it. Especially considering this might be the last thing he does outside a prison cell for a damn long time.
Jesse comes out in a laundry room, seriously considers stealing a uniform and trying to fake his way out, then decides that’s gonna be no good without a security pass. No way he’s getting one of those without heading someplace with security cameras, and that’s too much of a risk right now.
Also, Overwatch ain’t got any style. He don’t really wanna wear their shit anyway.
He sighs to himself, tipping his hat back on his head as he looks around the room, and tries to think. Okay. Limited escape routes. No security pass or idea where he’s going. No idea where any other Deadlock members are, no idea which Deadlock members are even in here . . .
Yeah, his options here are not great. Not great at all.
Gonna have to stick with the vents, he figures resignedly. Maybe if he’s lucky he’ll find the armory on his way out, though come to think that’s probably covered in security cameras too. Tch.
This is not an ideal situation. No resources, no gun, no allies, no nothing.
Well, he’s dealt with worse, Jesse thinks to himself with another sigh, stretching his neck as he wryly eyes the cramped vents again. Back to the drawing board it is.
“The vents,” Jack echoes.
“You heard me,” Gabriel says.
“He’s in the vents.”
“Keep up, alpha.”
“. . . he gets this from your side of the family.”
Gabriel snorts, not taking his eyes off the security cameras. They sent a bunch of the grunts in after him with dire warnings about what would happen if they hurt so much as a hair on the kid’s head, but they haven’t had any luck finding him so far. Hopefully he’s still in there. Hopefully he hasn’t gotten his hands on a weapon. Hopefully he hasn’t hotwired a car and escaped completely. Gabriel is not prepared to have to launch a full-on manhunt for his missing pup. They’re already pretty dangerously close to it.
He’s still not sure he’s forgiving Jack for this. A manhunt would be just a little too much additional stress right now.
“Well that’s not good,” Jack says, and Gabriel whips his head towards the screen the other’s looking at. He sees an agent half-fallen out of a vent and struggling not to drop the rest of the way. The camera doesn’t give a clear view of what’s happening, but the agent—Peters? is that Peters?—doesn’t win the struggle and hits the floor.
Gabriel gets a glimpse of an empty holster as Peters scrambles to his feet, and swears to God the man had better have gone in there unarmed. He sees the man grab for his comm, but there’s no sign of it, and Peters runs out of the room cursing.
Hm. Well, that’s pretty telling.
“Target’s in the western corridors,” Gabriel says into his own comm, his eyes still on the small screen and looking for any glimpse of their pup even knowing Jesse is no doubt long gone from that room. He’s smart, going by what Gabriel’s had time to skim of his rap sheet--he wouldn’t have stuck around any longer than it’d taken him to kick Peters out. He’d probably been gone before the man had even fallen.
Seriously, an SEP kid loose in the vents. This was going to be a goddamn nightmare to deal with.
“Maybe we should try talking to him,” Jack says.
“What, you want to turn on the intercom and have at it in front of the entire base?” Gabriel snorts.
“Kind of, yeah.” Jack glances at him. And—fair enough, really, Gabriel thinks; he also does not care what anyone else thinks about this situation. He also really doesn’t want surprised by any SEP side effects, because those are definitely a thing and definitely a dangerous thing. If they could talk the kid down before he gets too violent . . .
“Gabriel,” Ana’s voice says over the comm line, breathless and wry. “You have a very scrappy child, my friend.”
“Scrappy?” Gabriel looks for her on the monitors, and finds her hopping down out of another set of vents.
“He just kicked me,” she says, touching her face carefully. “He’s wearing spurs, if you hadn’t noticed.”
“Of course he is,” Jack mutters. “You okay, Ana?”
“I’m just fine,” she says. “I’m going to sleep dart your boy now, though. Don’t take it the wrong way.”
“Why haven’t you sleep darted him yet?” Gabriel asks irritably.
“I did mention the spurs, Gabriel,” she says, pulling out her tranq pistol and giving it a look-over before getting onto a table and crawling back into the vents. “Won’t be much longer now.”
A scattered tangle of familiar cursing comes across the line, and Gabriel pinches the bridge of his nose with a sigh.
“Ooo,” Jack says, wincing as Ramirez and Nicholson fall out of another vent a few screens over. Neither has their comms anymore, or any visible weapons.
“Perhaps a little longer,” Ana amends.
“He’s seventeen!” Gabriel bursts out with, throwing his hands up. “Hell, he’s barely seventeen, his birthday was two months ago!”
“Are you proud, or upset?” Ana asks.
“I can be both, dammit!” Gabriel scowls at the screen, then Jack. “My side of the family my ass, only you could be this difficult.”
“If you say so, sweetheart,” Jack says. Gabriel bares his teeth at him, then returns his attention to the security monitors. He definitely hasn’t forgiven him yet. Jack didn’t even recognize their pup. Jack didn’t recognize their pup and doubted him about their pup. Gabriel is definitely going to stay angry about this for—well, at least until he gets his hands on their pup. He probably isn’t going to care about much else then, he knows. He'd like to meet the O that would. Hell, just the parent that would.
The door opens behind them. Gabriel doesn't take his eyes off the screen.
“Torbjorn?” Jack asks. “What are you doing here?”
“Cross-referencing,” Torbjorn grunts. “Your pup's a sly one.”
“. . . what's the remote for?”
“My turrets, of course!”
“You put a turret in a vent with my pup?!” Gabriel demands, head swinging towards the man with fire in his eyes.
“I put multiple turrets in a vent with your pup,” Torbjorn says, unphased. “Calm down, they aren't lethal.”
“If they so much as singe a hair on his head—” Gabriel threatens as Jack holds him back from snatching the remote away. He's seriously considering punching them both.
“Better I singe him than he hurt somebody,” Torbjorn says, eyeing the security screens speculatively. “You're going to have enough trouble keeping the boy out of supermax as it is.” His remote beeps, and he looks down at its little screen with a frown. “Eh?”
The remote beeps very loudly.
“Aw, hell!” Torbjorn says. “My turrets!”
“I hope he fried them,” Gabriel hisses.
“No, but he did just take out seven at once, damned if I know how,” Torbjorn says. “Luckily, I have more than seven.”
“How many more?” Jack asks warily. Torbjorn smirks.
“Quite a few,” he says, and looks up to the security feed again. Gabriel and Jack automatically follow his line of sight just in time to see one of the vents collapse outright and dump out a teenage boy with a gun and a flood of tiny turrets on wheels. Jesse does not look happy.
He looks even less happy when Ana leans out the vent after him and nails him point-blank in the chest with a sleep dart in the second before he brings up his weapon. Gabriel is grateful that their pup did not just shoot one of their best friends, but also already halfway out the door. That’s his boy. He needs to know he’s alright.
He nearly runs over a few agents in the hall and on the stairs, but that’s those agents’ problem. He rips open the door of the room Jesse fell into and finds Ana shooing little roomba-looking turrets away from his unconscious body with the butt of her rifle.
“What took you?” she asks. Jesse groans. Gabriel wants to grab onto him and never let go again, but the kid probably wouldn’t take that well. He wants to know how he’s even alive, how he’s here, how—
“What fucking hit me?” Jesse mutters, and Gabriel stifles his racing thoughts.
“That would be me,” Ana says, leaning over him and offering him a hand up. “Alright down there?”
“Um,” Jesse says, looking bemused enough to take her hand. She pulls him to his feet. “Yes?”
“Good,” she says, patting his arm. “Oh, look at you. My, how you’ve grown.”
“How I’ve what?” Jesse asks.
“We need to talk,” Gabriel says, because that’s the best he can come up with. Jesse jerks in surprise at the sound of his voice, then stares at him warily. Jack comes into the room behind him. Gabriel can’t bring himself to look away from Jesse for long enough to acknowledge him. There’s no way there’s any semblance of a normal expression on his face, but he doesn’t give a shit.
“Jesus, who died?” Jesse says.
“You did,” Jack says. Jesse looks extremely alarmed. Gabriel’s still barely resisting the urge to grab him and scent him and kill everyone who’s ever laid a hand on him, ever.
“The DNA test came back,” Ana explains, mercifully. “I don’t suppose you remember your parents.”
“Don’t see as how that’s relevant to my arrest,” Jesse says, still wary. Ana pats his arm again. Gabriel would be doing the same, if he was functioning at a high enough level to have made his way over there yet. He feels like if he moves, Jesse will disappear or Ana will say the test was wrong. He feels like if he breathes he’ll lose this.
“You’re not an orphan,” Ana says. “Your parents are Overwatch agents.”
“That’s hilarious,” Jesse says. They all just keep looking at him. “. . . and you ain’t laughing. Jesus Christ.”
“That’s what the DNA test was for,” Ana says. “Your mother recognized your scent. We were just confirming it.”
“My mother,” Jesse repeats in a strangled voice. He looks like he wants back in the vents. Gabriel wants to hold him so badly.
“We’re so sorry,” Jack says. “If we’d known you were alive—”
“I am very alive, thank you kindly,” Jesse cuts in, pulling away from Ana and glancing around the room in obvious pursuit of an escape. Gabriel wants to shut every door in the building, though he’s aware that’s an irrational response and not going to endear the kid to them. Because they need the kid endeared to them. Because they need to make a good impression on their own pup.
Hell. Hell. He could fucking cry, except he’s too overwhelmed to even manage that.
“Listen—” Jesse says, but Gabriel really can’t.
“We’re your parents,” he says, and Jesse stares at him in disbelief.
“You are not,” he says. Gabriel doesn’t flinch, but only because he’s years past being the kind of person to flinch.
“We are,” Jack says. “When you were three, your uncle took you into Burbank. There was an omnic attack. He died. We thought you had too.”
“Anybody can read my damn file,” Jesse says, his eyes still flickering around the room. Gabriel can smell his unease. He wants to soothe it away. He knows he’d just make it worse trying. He never would’ve thought finding their pup again would be like this. Definitely he wouldn’t have pictured the handcuffs and tranqs, if nothing else.
“We’re your parents,” he insists roughly.
“Very funny,” Jesse says. “Didn’t think the social worker would’ve written that down.”
“Written what down?” Ana asks. Jesse laughs.
“She told me I used to pretend that, when I was a pup,” he says casually, leaning back against the wall and crossing his legs. “Every kid in the system pretends their parents are somebody important at some point.”
“You told a social worker we were your parents?” Jack asks.
“Like I said, anybody can read my damn file,” Jesse says. Gabe’s mouth goes tight, and a sudden fury rises in him—Jesse told them, and they didn’t believe him. This didn’t have to happen. They didn’t have to lose him.
“You weren’t pretending,” Jack says. Jesse laughs again.
“Look, I don’t know what you think you’re getting out of me with this, but ain’t we already got enough rope to hang ourselves?” he asks, spreading his arms. “Ain’t much else you can nail us with.”
Gabe wants to go over and grab him and drag him home. Gabe wants to find that social worker and strangle them for not believing his pup when he asked for them. Gabe wants—
“Believe what you want,” he says brusquely, turning on his heel and striding out of the room. Leaving him makes his inner omega want to scream, but right now—right now there’s paperwork to do. There’s a lot of paperwork to do. He’s getting their pup released into their custody come hell or high water, and he’s doing it now.
“Keep an eye on him, Ana,” he hears Jack say behind him, and a few moments later the other’s caught up with him. “Gabe.”
“Remind me I can’t kill anyone for this,” Jack says, and Gabe snorts. It comes out a little strangled, and a lot bitter.
“Get in line, Morrison,” he says. “I’m his damn mother. I have first dibs.”