The light of the small lantern in the face of the oppressive darkness around them seemed to narrow down their world to the circle of visibility and that was it. Just the two of them for miles, alone in an area that they had reconned hours ago and secured.
Gabriel was nervous.
Not the kind of nervous that showed on his face, the broad brush strokes of military life and growing up Black and Latino in the U.S. made it an early lesson to control visible emotions. This was the kind heart fluttering, sweaty palms nervous that only ever seemed to happen around one person. Jack Morrison was becoming a serious health hazard and he had to answer for his part in Gabriel’s palpitations. Pretty boy, pretty eyes, way too cute bundled up in standard military gear for this kind of outing.
Arguably, this was neither the time nor the place to contemplate Jack’s beauty as the snow fell around them and the light of the lantern caught the subtle red in his hair.
Surviving Jack with a cold, surviving the run on the Kemerovo omnium, hell, even surviving the “Jesse Special” that McCree had made for last week’s group dinner, and he was done in by low light and Jack’s damned face. The Russian Defense Forces were already on their asses enough for their continued interventions, he didn’t want to add Pissed because the Commander couldn’t Control his Crush on his Boyfriend to the list.
Kemerovo was as secure as they could make it for now, but the threat of the god programs was one that required constant vigilance. This meant long nights out in the Siberian wastelands, looking for a god among the hollowed out bones of destroyed omniums. If Gabriel was still prone to clutching a rosary and making pleas to the skies, he would have asked for a little help. For all his tries at secularity, one look at the man next to him made it seem like those pleas might have been answered.
He was a fucking cheeseball when it came to Jack and not denying that had come about somewhere around the second close shave with death. Being Strike Team Leader during the potential end of times for humanity had a way of making those experiences a little too common. It gave perspective though, which Gabriel was happy for.
Gabriel knew that Jack had a tendency of sanctifying him, seeing pearls in everything that dropped from his mouth, but for Gabriel, it was the opposite. Jack was the ground beneath his feet, the reminder that sometimes being bound to the earth was the only way to stay centered on the important things. The glow of red tints in blond hair. The quiet of the night in Siberia where despite the cold wind around them, they were together and warm by the light of a lone lantern.
The quiet that was measured by their steady breathing was broken by the quick inhale of Gabriel’s breath in preparation for The Conversation.
“If you could be anywhere right now, where would you pick?”
The sharp gaze Jack levels at him speaks to their long and intense soldier training. The cold and dark was enough to get even the most elite of military forces resting their eyes for a few short seconds. Green Berets had nothing on the SEP though.
Jack’s wry grin makes this entire scenario a bit sadder than Gabriel intended. Wishing for better things are for soldiers that can see an end to a war. Jack and Gabriel’s positions as the main tacticians and strategists for the Omnic Crisis came with the job of commandership, but makes it so fanciful daydreams are useless in the face of reality. Gabriel’s heightened sense for making plans eases the excuse to stray from the here and now, however. He wants to imagine a better future for the sake of making the reality of their lone lantern and cold Russian watch easier to bear in this same here and now.
“Somewhere warm,” is Jack’s predicted response.
“Good looks on narrowing it down, Sunshine.” Gabriel’s quick quirk of lip seems second nature around his boy, Jack has a way of making the dreariest of circumstances just a little better by his presence alone.
Jack’s shy response makes that quirk of lip turn into a full blown smile. “I don’t know. I mean, I’ve always wanted to visit L.A.”
Maintaining that smile is a little harder when throwing down the gauntlet, but Gabriel feels too raw to maintain eye contact for long. He knows it shouldn’t be such a big deal after too many nights sharing a bunk in SEP and the subsequent safe houses that are prerequisites to lives spent running and gunning for the big dogs in world governments, but this feels bigger than even the fate of the world. The small circle of visibility from their lantern speaks the truth when it narrows it down to just the two of them. Gabriel wants a life outside of close shaves with death, he wants to plan for a future that doesn’t involve sending the love of his life to the front lines.
“If I told you we could make that a reality, actually settle down somewhere that doesn’t stink of burning metal, would you do it?”
Jack sits up to face Gabriel full on. No escaping those pretty eyes, then.
“In a second. What’s this about Gabriel?” Full name, even. Enhancement made it so an artificial calm saturates their bodies in times of stress, but Gabriel imagines he can feel his heart pounding out of his chest anyways.
“I don’t want you to get your hopes up or anything just yet, and you’ll have to get used to way more casual uses of Dude than you’re probably comfortable with, but I’ve been looking at houses in North Hollywood.”
Jack’s shocked silence hits Gabriel right in the gut. He’s not used to feeling insecure, comes with clawing your way up from the bottom and having to chew through all the red tape life can throw at you, but this is too close, too able to rip a chunk out of him than he’s comfortable with.
It’s necessary to put into words though, he owes Jack the comfort of a life outside this hell they’ve survived together. He wants him to know that he’s looked outside this small circle of light and seen a life that holds only happiness for them. For once, he wants to get outside his head and share this together.
“You’re asking me to move in with you? Like get a house, pancake and coffee mornings, the whole thing?” Jack’s sitting up has turned into him leaning into Gabriel’s space and their little circle of light narrows down further to Sunshine’s face. Jack is so specific in his imaginings, it makes it obvious that he’s thought about this. Gabriel’s chemically regulated heart jumps to his throat.
He doesn’t mean to make it seem like he hasn’t put his whole soul into this one question, but that same brush stroke that limited emotions to somewhere other than his sleeve makes it so he self-preserves like he’s waiting for the worst. “I mean, I’m sure you’d want to go back to Indiana for a bit after we finish killing gods, but I just wanted to put the option out there.”
“Damn it you asshole, of course I’d say yes. Fuck Indiana.”
Jack’s lean turns into him throwing his entire body into a hug. Gabriel sprawls trying to keep steady with the bulk of both of their Super Soldier immensities, and one too many limbs flying disrupts their lone lantern. Falling over with a quiet spark, it blinks twice and shuts off.
With their little circle of light disrupted, the darkness that Gabriel had watched so closely erupts into their surroundings, diffusing it into an entire world that had been hidden from view. The stars above them and the cold white blankness of the Siberian tundra would’ve once made Gabriel question his place in the world. Now, with his boy in his arms and a future that stretched beyond a little circle of light, it didn’t scare him quite as much.