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In Alio Loco

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            You got off the plane, no longer a fancy butler, but a Blackwatch bum in sweatpants and a hoodie.  Gabriel, Captain Amari, and Jesse were waiting for Jack and you.  Jesse hugged you and Gabriel gave you a measured manly arm clasp.  You saluted Captain Amari.  Jack and Gabriel embraced, one of those masculine one-armed half hugs that was better suited for comrades than lovers.

            You handed Jesse a box of pastries, madeleines included, and Captain Amari a box of loose leaf teas.  There were macarons for Genji, when he got back from his mission.  You'd bought Gabriel a fabulous replica of a musketeer hat.   It was black with a huge white feather.  Very Blackwatch pimp.   It was in your luggage. 

            Jack and Gabriel were off, speaking in business-like hushed whispers, that you suspected was just cover for the fact they were going to go tear each other's clothes off. 

            You blinked.  That was unnecessarily graphic.  You were going to have to try the vibrator attachment out soon. 

            "Winston softened the cyborg up," Jesse told you.

            "What?"  You couldn't picture Winston condoning any torture.

            "He disconnected his arms.  The guy can feel them, but he can't move them.   Gabriel's been... Well, he waited for you."  Jesse sighed.  "He was not happy about everything.  He almost handled the pickup instead of me.  But Captain Amari reminded him that leadership couldn't just up and run off to Paris whenever the fancy struck them." 

            You laughed.  "Jack is a beast in combat.  He downed four cyborgs in minutes, all T-box shots.  Like, they should have sent three times as many." 

            "I could do that!" Jesse said.

            "Yeah, I know.  But one minute he was all smiley and shit, then it's "I'm a serious super soldier, watch me kill things! Rawr!" Then he wouldn't talk to me for hours because I got the last guy with my tanto."

            Jesse coughed.  "What?"

            "The last one had Ainsley hostage and was all "surrender or I'll kill Overwatch Barbie."  So Jack went out to face him, and I snuck up behind him and stabbed him in the throat.  Wait, am I getting predictable?"      

            "I guess it's better than you constantly going for the family jewels.  The implications are certainly less...disturbing."  Jesse shook his head.  "Thanks for the pastries.  Was that tea you got Captain Amari?"

            "Yeah, figured it'd go with the cakes." 

            Jesse lifted his hat to scratch his head.  "I appreciate it, Lucky." 

            "I'm rooting for you," you said. 

            "Well shucks," Jesse grinned.  "Any lucky fellas catch your eye?  I can give you lowdown."

            You shrugged.  "Not there yet.  Just...looking."

            "Any good-looking ones?"

            You remembered Jack smiling up at you in Paris.  You remembered Gabriel's deep concentration while he rubbed your back.  You almost smacked yourself in the head.  They were good looking.  They were also together.  "That hacker, Riggs.  He's cute.  Doesn't talk much though."

            Jesse shrugged.  "I've thrown him around in the mat a few times.  He's not as tough as you."

            "Ouch, poor guy."  You weren't the worst person in Gabriel's class.  But you were the one getting kicked around the most.  "Is that your "friendly" way of telling me he's not worth my time?"

            "I don't right know," Jesse said.  "Gimme a week.  I'll have it figured out."




            You were surprised to see Jack in the interrogation viewing room.  The Strike Commander needed plausible deniability.  He didn't need to come witness Blackwatch's dirty work. 

            "I'm here for Gabriel," he said, reading your look.  "And because those bastards came after me."

            Captain Amari, Lacroix, and Jesse joined you. 

            The surviving cyborg was strapped to a table.  His arms and legs had already been removed, but they were still connected through wires.  He was pale, sweat dribbling down his face.

            "State your name, affiliation, and mission," Gabriel said, sounding bored. 

            "Yancy Koch.  Nguyen Private Security.  We were to capture and extract Jack Morrison."

            Anh Nguyen's man then.  You got your tablet out and began to take notes. 

            "Where are you based out of?"


            "Where'd you get your fancy limbs?"

            "Work.  Most of us were...injured vets.  We signed contracts with the House of Nguyen.  They gave us a second chance at life."  You felt an involuntary twinge of sympathy. 

            Gabriel's jaw clenched.  "I see.  How were you going to get him out of there?"

            "We had roof access.  A transport was supposed to meet us once we confirmed possession."

            "Were you supposed to kill all the witnesses?"

            "Everyone but Morrison and Petras.  We had her picture.  She was deemed too valuable to kill."

            You could feel Gabriel's stare through the glass.  He couldn't possibly see you, could he?   

            "You ever been to Canada?"

            The cyborg began to hyperventilate.  "I-I-"

            And like that, your sympathy evaporated.

            "Thought so," Gabriel said.  He took out his bolt cutters and patted the cyborg's left hand.  "Just how sensitive are these?"

            "I can't feel anything," the cyborg began.

            Gabriel tore through the index finger and the cyborg locked up, his eyes widening. 

            "Does that hurt?"


            Gabriel plucked off the middle finger.  "Is that so?"

            "I don't feel a thing." 

            Gabriel snapped the ring finger and pried it out of the socket. 

            You could feel eyes on you, but you kept taking notes.  Why was it those fingers?  You're the one who lost them, not him.  But then, who were you to judge?  You went for the neck.

            "Fair enough.  I was just checking."  Gabriel picked up a curved blade.  "You've got plenty of flesh to work with.  Did you or your party spare anyone in the Yukon?"

            "I don't know.  My orders were to ensure there were no witnesses."

            You stretched your left hand out, very careful not to close it as you clenched your right fist.  You really needed some kind of armored gloves if you were making hard fists.

            "You like shooting noncombatants, Koch?"  Gabriel slid the blade up his abdomen, and a red line sprung up behind it. 

            "Oh God, I was just following orders!"

            "Keep him alive," Jack said, and you belatedly realized Gabriel was wearing an earpiece. 

            "You're going to tell me all about those orders, Koch. And if I'm satisfied, you might get to live," Gabriel said in a low voice.  "And if I'm not, well, I'm sure I can find ways to cheer myself up."



            Some of Koch's data didn't add up and you charted it accordingly. Gabriel was personally chasing down a lead in Siem Reap, and he'd taken Jesse and Genji, expecting heavy resistance.  It irked you a little that he'd left you behind, but then who would be left do paperwork?  Gabriel liked going on missions and maybe it was better you didn't do a lot of runs together.  He was even more obnoxious when he had guns.

            You sucked down some sludgy coffee and debated begging Ziv to bring you some food.  He could drop off more reports and maybe grab you a burger.

            A familiar single knock sounded, and the door opened.  Jack strode in, in full Strike Commander regalia, carrying a bag. 

            "Gabriel's still out," you said. 

            "I know."  He pulled up a chair and set the bag on your desk.  "I brought some cake.  Figured you could use a break." 

            "Thanks," you said.  Because this was the first time Jack had come to the office with the clear purpose to visit you and not Gabriel.  It probably meant he needed something.  You put your work aside and cleared space. 

            Jack had brought an entire small iced chocolate cake.  It smelled of chocolate and fruit jam.  If you remembered correctly, Jack had some meeting in Vienna yesterday.  "Is that a sachertorte?"

            He gave you a funny look.  "Am I the only person who didn't know what this was?  Ana told me to buy one for her.  I thought you'd like one too."

            You shrugged.  "You're the Strike Commander, not a food critic."

            "That means "yes you hoosier, quit being such a bumpkin."

            "I would never directly disrespect a man who brought me cake."  You steepled your fingers.  "Not while the cake was still on the table anyway." 

            Jack snorted as he pulled out a canister of whipped cream and plasticware. "While I suspect you could eventually eat the whole thing on your own.  I want to try it."  He proceeded to cut you a large slice and sprayed on a generous dollop of whipped cream.  You got up, refilled your coffee, and poured him a cup. 

            "Thanks, Jack."  You gave it ten seconds.  "Do you need something?"

            Jack continued cutting the cake.  "A clone to handle all my public appearances.  And a vacation."

            Huh.  You sipped your coffee. 

            Jack took a bite of the sachertorte.  His eyes widened, a looked up at you with slight awe.  "This is really good," he said, mouth full of cake.   It was kind of adorable. 

            You took a fork and cut yourself a bite.  Chocolate sponge cake with apricot jam and chocolate icing.  This was wasn't too sweet, and rather dense.  You sipped your coffee, savoring the taste of expensive chocolate. 

            "What's the occasion?"

            "Does there need to be one?" Jack huffed. 

            "No.  Cake is a good enough reason for cake."  Jack occasionally brought food to your meals.  You and Gabriel did most of the cooking.  Sometimes Jesse would join in.  But Jack and Genji mostly just showed up to eat.  You didn't begrudge Jack that.   He had a crazy schedule.  Eating with Gabriel was more about companionship than freeloading off Blackwatch.  Maybe you were just bad at accepting gifts.   And maybe Jack was behaving suspiciously. 

            You ate your cake, waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

            "I guess I wanted to say "thanks."  For having my back in Paris."  He smiled at you brightly.  It was a good smile, all light and Jack Morrison's patented blinding charm.  You pulse sped up for a moment. 

            "You're welcome," you said, keeping your voice as bland as possible.

            "You're suspicious," Jack said, the smile fading.  He studied your face with the cool calculation of the Strike Commander.  You were getting used to how he did that.  It was unnerving, but that was Jack.  He had buckets of charisma and he channeled it accordingly. 

            You shrugged.  "Being part of an undercover investigation into the black ops arm of a security agency does that to you." 

            "So I shouldn't bring you gifts?" 

            "You don't usually," you said.

            "I-you're right."  You expected the sheepish smile, the hand on the back of the head.  Maybe an embarrassed "sorry."  Something cute to disperse the tension.  Instead he just looked you in the eye and said, "I'm a shitty friend." 

            You shrugged.  "I figure you got my back in a firefight.  That's good enough."

            "It's really not," he said, looking a little disturbed.  "We had this talk in Paris." 

            You shrugged.  "You're the Strike Commander.  That alone takes its toll on your personal relationships."

            "...Yeah."  Jack sighed.  "I noticed." 

            "I mean, being a shitty friend doesn't help either."  You put some cake in your mouth before you added to that. 

            Jack narrowed his eyes and sat back in his chair.  "Do you think I betrayed, Gabriel?" he asked flatly.      

            "If you mean, do I think you're part of the conspiracy that tried to kill him?  No."  You looked down at the cake.  You hadn't really expected him to come out and directly ask you.  Because honestly, you didn't think Jack really cared what you thought.  "I don't know enough about what happened in your relationship to say whether or not you "betrayed" him at some point." 

            You wondered then, if you were wrong and about to pay for it.  But after that day on the roof in Paris, you couldn't help but trust Jack.  Maybe you were getting too paranoid. 

            "You were suspicious of me in the beginning."

            "Yes," you agreed.  "I was suspicious of everyone."  You still were.  You just hid it better. 

            "Why?"  Surprisingly, he didn't sound hurt.  There was a genuine query there. 

            "The situation didn't add up." 

            Jack leaned forward on the desk.  "Explain." 

            You'd been thinking about this for awhile.  Talked about it with people.  Did some good brainstorming with the understanding that you would never say that shit to Jack Morrison's face.  Ha!  "So, Ziv is really good at his job, don't you think?"

            "Agent Mihret is an asset," Jack said.  "His skills are impressive and he's got leadership potential." 

            "You think we should promote him over Winston?  I mean, Winston's so...Let's just say, maybe the general public would like a young handsome man and not a gorilla in charge of our tech.  You know?  The image is all wrong.  Sure, Winston is capable but-"

            Jack stared at you, disappointment on his face.  "Have you been listening to Gabriel's conspiracy theories?"

            "Fast forward.  For whatever reasons, you give Ziv Winston's old job.  Are you going to demote Winston and shuffle him off to climate-change R&D?  He'd be good at it.  You know, give him something to manage, but then you make sure everyone knows that Ziv's in charge.  You could give Winston a consultant status, come up with another position title worthy of his experience, or give him a chance to save face.  But you don't."

            Jack wasn't slow on the uptake.  "That's bad management."

            "Yeah, I agree." 

            He sat back in his chair.  "Go on."

            "Doesn't mean Ziv's not qualified.  Doesn't mean Ziv is bad at the job.  It does make you wonder what upper management is trying do besides sabotage Winston.  I mean, I'd be worried about the strain on their friendship, wouldn't you?  They certainly wouldn't be working well together after that."

            Jack inhaled sharply. 

            "I can't take credit for the theory.  Me and some others worked this out."  You weren't going to mention Jesse and Captain Amari just yet, in case Jack didn't take this well.  "So it doesn't make sense.  Not unless someone was actively trying to fuck over Gabriel.  I mean, the situation sucks and Gabriel's proud. He's going to take it as a slight."

            Jack was quiet.

            "And then I thought about Captain Patel.  She's my personal hero, but she was a real stickler for the hierarchy.  I have to ask, was SEP really rigid about the command structure?  I figured they have to be.  If your super soldiers don't respect authority..."

            Jack nodded.  "Yes.  Hierarchy was drilled into us.  Aishani was no exception."

            "You were Gabriel's second.  And suddenly the roles are reversed.  That's not going to be a smooth transition.  Less so when Gabriel gets shuffled over to Blackwatch.  He's going to wonder if you had some bearing on that decision, you know, to get him out of the way."  Because Jack was proud too.  He'd rise to the occasion and then resent Gabriel for not being happy for him.  "Overwatch has all kinds of psych evals and forecasting analytics.  You really think we should have missed that?"

            Jack was watching you closely, his face too blank. 

            Your throat itched. 

            "Gabriel has always been difficult."  Jack sighed.  "They told me I had a cleaner record, and I was a less...divisive figure." 

            "That's true," you agreed.  "I don't think you're a bad man for the job, Jack.  I just wonder why they treated Gabriel they way they did." 

            Jack nodded curtly.  

            "You're obviously leadership material," you said, because you didn't want to hurt his feelings.  His big super soldier feelings.  "Being Gabriel's second had to be rough.  You had to be approachable, friendly, someone the squad could come to if they were too...shy to deal with Gabriel."  And he had to be tough too, because that kind of environment didn't allow for weakness.  It explained how he was so good at being the charming idealistic leader one moment and the ruthless Strike Commander the next.  "Shin did the same thing for Captain Patel.  He smoothed over a lot of her rough spots."

            "You do it too," Jack said.  "There's been a sharp drop in HR complaints about Gabe." 

            "Probably because we're on a molehunt, he personally killed two former agents, and has been weeding out the shitty ones.  Everyone's thinking twice about filing complaints." 

            Jack shook his head.  "You act as a buffer for him."

            You shrugged.  "I'm his assistant; it's my job."  You'd learned more from Shin and Captain Patel than you realized.  Like how to deal with grumpy super soldiers.  Most importantly: feed them a lot and don't make eye contact when they're wound up.  "But my point is, whoever made that call, handled it so badly, you have to wonder, was it on purpose? And once you look at the purpose, you also have to wonder who stands to gain?"

            Jack cut another slice of cake.  "So your suspicions?"

            "Petras is obviously high up there." 

            "He promoted me," Jack said.   He took a deep breath, not looking at you. "There were several UN figures that played a role and encouraged me to take the job.  I can make a list."

            "That'd be helpful."  You took another bite of cake.  "So back to my suspicions.  At first, I wondered how you could miss the big glaring red flag that, but then I learned from personal experience. Gabriel is really good at being petty and enraging people to distraction."

            Jack laughed at that. 

            "After seeing you together, I don't think you would willingly betray him."  You paused.  "You haven't had this talk with Gabriel yet, have you?" 

            Jack looked at the floor.  "You can be alarmingly insightful, Lucky."

            "Yeah, I know your first impression of me was that I was an idiot.  I give that out a lot." 

            Jack laughed, not denying it.  "I feel like an idiot.  When you explain it like that...well damnit, how did I miss it?" 

            "Ego," you said without thinking.  Then you popped a bite of cake in your mouth because damnit, friend or not, this was your boss's boss and maybe you shouldn't be that honest. 

            "You're as blunt as Gabriel complains you are."  Jack sounded tired.  He rubbed his eyes. 

            "I don't know why that surprises you.  And that's the pot calling the kettle colorist epithets.  While on fire." 

            "Sometimes I take people for granted," Jack said after a minute.  "I'm sorry."    

            "You brought me cake," you said, unsure of how to take that.  "As long as it's not poisoned, that's a declaration of friendship in my book." 

            "Thank you for helping me see myself."  He looked at you so earnestly, it hurt.  It was easy to see how Gabriel fell into those blue eyes and never crawled back out.  "I get too caught up sometimes." 




            Winston pulled some interesting location data from the dead cyborgs.  Koch had spilled quite a bit.  And Anh Nguyen had bumped herself up the head of your list. 

            Jack had kept Ainsley's tablet.  He and Gabriel had chairs behind Gabriel's desk.  Lacroix and Captain Amari  took the couch.  Jesse and Genji sat with you around your desk. 

            You went first, giving a recap of Gleeson's testimony.  Everyone had the transcripts.  Then you explained the conversation you'd had with Ainsley as the Assassin-Butler. 

            "Wait, you talked her into quitting?" Gabriel asked.

            "It's what she really wanted," you said sincerely.  "I only helped her realize that."

            "Huh," he said.  "I thought she wanted in Jack's pants."

            "She did, but he was too much like her father, and she just couldn't deal with the implications of that realization."

            Jack covered his face.  "Unnecessary-" 

            "She kept bringing up her uncle," you continued.  "Either Ainsley is a completely unwitting fool.  Or she's a genius mastermind implicating the Director in her plot.  I'm kind of leaning toward the former, but the latter actually wouldn't surprise me.  She said her uncle liked Jack better than her, wanted her to seduce him into the family, and made plans for a "men's only" retreat for the first month of August in the New England area.  It all sounds sketchy as hell to me."

            "Agent Mihret found very high level tracking software in her tablet.  She might not have willingly given away your location," Captain Amari said.  "He's inspected her terminal and found traces of similar work." 

            "She said her uncle would come down and "help" her with work.  I'm assuming he had access to everything she could see, and then some."  You'd written a report up that night, because Ainsley had said too many things that you needed purged from your head. 

            "That the director is conspiring with a hostile UN member is a pretty farfetched accusation," Lacroix said.  "I take it you have found more tangled things."

            "Well, it seems that your old base was in just the right spot to pick up some very interesting data transmissions," Jesse said, looking at you.  "Winston said something about northern lights and magnetic pulses and Agent Cohn's unauthorized tech modifications, but I stopped paying attention.  You guys received massive packets of encrypted Talon weapon programs.  It covers pulse rifle production, neural reconditioning, some highly unethical biology mods, and that's just the stuff the nerds have decrypted.  The real jackpot is that some of the location tags haven't been scrubbed or rerouted.  So we can find where some of this data came from.  Hanoi was on the list, if you were wondering." 

            "The Shimada are their allies in this," Genji said.  "There are contracts out on Captain Amari, Commander Reyes, and Strike Commander Morrison.  But interestingly enough, you're the priority target, Agent Lacroix.  As is your wife."

            Lacroix narrowed his eyes.  "Send me everything."

            "Agent Mihret has also finished decrypting Vialli's data.  The old bat stockpiled blackmail on his allies," Captain Amari smirked.  "He kept locations, in lat-long, down to the seconds.  His information also corroborates the weapons R&D.  And yes, these cyborgs are mostly being routed through Hanoi."

            "It looks like all roads lead to Hanoi," Gabriel said.  "I'll start planning the op."



            "Riggs is a homebody," Jesse said, not very enthusiastically.  "Writes letters to his mother, gets snickerdoodles sent weekly, and no one has anything negative to say about him."

            You stirred the milk.  "I don't want to think about it today."

            "OK darling.  Is some of that for your poor chilled Jesse?"

            You were in the staff kitchen, trying to decide which type of hot chocolate you wanted most.  You had a whole backpack of cookies- you might have gone overboard, but given the occasion, you weren't taking any chances. 

            There were dark chocolate curls with a generous mix of fresh peppermint oil.  There was an organic fair trade milk chocolate with mini-marshmallows.   There was a wonderfully spiced Mexican hot chocolate filled with chili powder and cayenne pepper.   And there was whiskey.  Lots of whiskey.  Maybe you'd do that instead. 

            You poured Jesse the milk chocolate with mini-marshmallows and stirred in the milk. 

            He took it eagerly. "Ow hot!  That's a lot of chocolate, sugarpie.  You feeling OK?"

            "I-"  You paused.  You weren't sure how you were feeling just yet.  Maybe because you were trying not to.  Justice, you believed, would be the best therapy, but your shrink kept talking about how important it was to have a future to work toward.  Something not tied to the trauma of your past.  Something just for you. 

            Jesse nudged you.

            "I don't know," you said.  "It's an odd day."

            "Well, I saw Morrison limping toward the Commander's office.  Maybe you should go commiserate."  Jesse's tone was odd. 

            "Maybe," you said. 

            You looked up to see Jesse frowning down at you.  "You ain't pining after someone, are you?"

            "No one alive," you said.  "Pining" wasn't even the right word now.  Thinking of Shin made you sad.  It made you determined.  But he was dead and you had accepted that a long time ago.  It was more the absence, the place where he used to be.  You dreamt of him last night.  You were eating ice cream and throwing pennies in a pond.   Captain Patel was going to meet you there. It was a nice dream.  You still woke up with tears on the pillow. 

            "Oh."  Jesse sipped his chocolate.  "This is good," he said.  "Want me to take you out to town?  You can meet a good-looking...whatever you're in the mood for, and have some fun?"

            "I've thought about it," you admitted.  "But I'm not there yet."

            "OK," Jesse said.  "You let me know.  I'm a great wingman.  Well, better than your other options."

            You tried picturing Genji as wingman, and cracked a grin. "Thanks Jesse."

            "Want to watch a movie?  I have Transformers XXII.  They cast omnics as-"

            "Nah, I'm going to go finish mapping some of the notes.  I want the next phase of Shit Spiders done before winter's up."   You poured the milk into a thermos and packed your chocolate back up in your backpack.  You could decide what you wanted after you got back to the office. 

            You walked in to see Jack sitting in Gabriel's chair face down on the desk, Gabriel was working his shoulders.  Jack groaned, and Gabriel laughed. 

            "That's what you get for being stubborn."  

            Jack said something unintelligible.   

            "Should I use Winston's lab instead?" You asked. 

            "Nah, Jack doesn't need a happy ending," Gabriel said.

            "Jack needs all the happiness he can get," Jack muttered.  "And failing that, Jack needs food."

            You closed the door behind you.  "All I have are sweets."

            "I'll take them," he said, not raising his head. 

            "Should I ask?"

            "UN meeting.  Director Petras was asking uncomfortable questions.  Some about Ainsley.  I put him off, but uh...that's the spot Gabe." 

            You grabbed three mugs from the cupboard.  "Spicy, mini-marshmallows, or peppermint?" 

            "Marshmallows," Jack said.  "Wait what am I getting?"

            "Spicy," Gabriel said.

            Rolling your eyes, you made them each a mug of hot chocolate.  There wasn't enough warm milk left for you to have a full batch, so you topped off the peppermint with whiskey. 

            You set the mugs down on Gabriel's desk. Jack sniffed the air and raised his head.  "Whiskey?"

            "That's in mine.  You have milk chocolate." 

            Jack picked up his mug, closing his eyes and inhaling.  "Oh, that smells good."

            Gabriel sipped his. "That's a lot of hot chocolate, chica."

            "I wasn't sure what I wanted, so I ordered three different kinds."  You pulled some cookies out of your bag.  "I might have gone overboard with the cookies."

            Gabriel raised a brow.  "What's the occasion?"

            You contemplated lying.  Your period was the perfect excuse, and you had been saving that one.  But honesty was the best policy with Gabriel.  "Shin's birthday."  You took a drink, the burn of the whiskey made up for the tepid temperature of the chocolate.  The peppermint combined with the whiskey wasn't bad.

            Jack and Gabriel exchanged a look.  You sank back in the chair.  "Don't get all wound up.  I wasn't throwing him a party.  I just knew today would  Figured I'd need a pick me up.  Got a little carried away."

            Jack opened up a box of sandwich cookies, chocolate with cream filling.  "You want to talk about it?"

            "Not really."  You took a cookie.  "Not much to say.  Just...feelings." 

            "Psych have any helpful insight?"  Gabriel asked. 

            You shrugged.  "Thinks I need to put myself out there more.  I mean, we were together less than a year.  And it's almost been a year since everything went tits up."

            "No timetable on grief," Gabriel said.  "You're ready when you're ready.  It's not a race or a competition."

            "Yeah.  I don't know.  Shit Spiders means there aren't a lot of people I can trust.  Maybe Shin just represents a time when I was happy and things were simpler.  Fuck if I know."  You downed the rest of your chocolate and refilled your mug with whiskey. 

            "Are you...unhappy here?" Jack asked. 

            "Meh.  It's not the location.  It's the fucking conspiracy.   It's all complicated and stupid."

            "What would you be doing if you weren't here?" He took another cookie.  "I mean, when this is over.  What do you want to do?"

            You shrugged.  "I haven't gotten that far." 

            Gabriel gave you a sharp look. 

            "What?  It's not like I'm planning to lay down and die.  I'm just really focused on the now.  This is a lot of work.  But I like it here.  I'd probably stay on."  You paused.  "Why?  You thinking about retirement already?  I know Gabriel's old, but-"

            "Step onto the mat.  I'll show you old..."

            "All that stuff I say about hope and the future isn't bullshit, Lucky."  Jack crossed his arms ignoring Gabriel.  "We all need something to work toward.   It makes us fight harder.  I know we're all swept up in something bigger than us, individually.  But it's not going to last forever, and you need to start planning what you want to do after."

            "Yeah, maybe."  You kind of wished you hadn't said anything now.  Jack's pep talk was well-meaning.  But now you felt like a charity case.  Poor grief-stricken Lucky Strike.  Doesn't know how to live outside a crisis. 

            Because one day, Gabriel Reyes and Jack Morrison weren't going to be in Overwatch.  One day Captain Amari would be gone.  One day Jesse or Genji might up and quit or never come back from a mission.  And then...?

            You hung your head.  And then it would be a mess all over again.  You didn't want to see that day.  The thought of it broke your heart, because now it seemed inevitable.  How could you have thought otherwise?  "Wow, now I'm even more depressed than when we started.  Good talk."  You grabbed the whiskey, but Gabriel caught your wrist. 

            "You and me.  Mat.  Let's go."

            "I'm not sober," you told him.

            "Oh I'll sober you up," he promised. 

            You tried to pull away.  "I'm not in the mood."

            "Come on.  Don't make me drag you," He said, yanking you to your feet. 

            You thought about making him drag you kicking and screaming.  That would just lead to more disturbing rumors about everyone's personal lives.  Mostly yours. 

            "Aww, she's sad, I'm gonna beat her up.  That'll fix it," you muttered.

            "Just gonna knock some sense into you," Gabriel grumbled. 

            Jack sighed.  "I'll get a med kit."



            You were mostly sober by the time you got the gym.  It was late.  The gym was empty.  You had your basic fingers on, so no drugging him and running.  You thought about just running.  You could hide under Captain Amari's bed forever.  You'd live off tea fumes and biscuit crumbs.  Jesse could smuggle you candy. 

            Jack sat there, holding his mug of hot chocolate and eating your cookies.  He seemed oddly calm about the whole thing.  Maybe he was still holding a grudge over all those times you were stupid-honest.

            Gabriel stripped down to a thin white t-shirt and sweat pants.  You did not need to watch him stretch.  You didn't need to see how well-muscled he was all over.  He could easily crush your head with his thighs.  Or pretty much any part of his body. 

            You rubbed your forehead and then tied your hair back.  You took off your gloves and studied your fingers. 

            "Better warm up," he said.

            It would hurt marginally less if you were loose when he kicked your ass.  You began your stretches, pointedly not looking at either of them.  You'd take a hit, ragdoll, and beg off because you had work to do in the morning.

            When you stood, Gabriel had his hands up.   He grinned at you, the set of his jaw nowhere near friendly.  His eyes gleamed with excitement.  You nearly took a step back. 

            "Come on, Lucky Strike.  Show me what you got," he rumbled, crooking a finger. 

            So much for Plan A.  He was getting into this. 

            You went for the ankles, practically sliding into him.  He kicked at you and you lunged past it, grabbing his knees and knocking him off balance enough to take him to the ground. 

            It was like hitting a rock, a very warm ,slightly hairy rock, but the impact hurt you more than him.  You punched him in the liver, but not hard enough.  You weren't sure you could break past his six pack shield.   He rolled sideways and you fell backward, forcing yourself to tuck and roll.  You got back on your feet and Gabriel smirked at you from the floor. 

            "Come here," he growled.  "You're going to end up on the ground anyway.  I'll save you the fall." 

            You charged him, springing off the mat into an airborne kick.  You struck his chest, but Gabriel's hand caught your ankle and whipped you to the floor.  Landing on your back, you bit into your lip.  Blood filled your mouth.  

            "You always did like doing things the hard way," he said, straddling your chest, his knees pinning your shoulders to the mat.  You thrashed underneath him, but it was like hitting a brick wall.  He was heavier than Jack or Genji and you couldn't budge him. 

            He shifted,  leaning over you.  One hand went to your neck.  You froze, his fingers pressing lightly on your throat.

            "You should tap," he said.

            You turned your head to the side, forcing yourself to breathe.  Gabriel wasn't going to choke you out.  Gabriel wouldn't hurt you...badly.  He gave a squeeze. 

            Rational thoughts evaporated.  Snarling, you grabbed his thigh, and bit down hard through the fabric.  You bit till you could taste blood, the searing heat letting you know it wasn't yours. 

            Gabriel swore in a violent stream, and grabbed his thigh.  His weight shifted and you slid out from under him, blood dripping down your chin.  You wiped your mouth with the back of your hand and charged, your left hand straightened. He whirled, his arm snapping out to knock you away.  He was fast, but not as fast as Jack, and you ducked underneath and lunged up, smashing into his chest with your metal fingers.  You'd been aiming for the neck, but he'd dodged. 

            His arms closed around you, trapping you in a bear hug.  Your ribs creaked as he squeezed you against him.  Hard things dug into your soft tissue, your hips, your stomach. 

            "I should bite you back," Gabriel growled, his voice a rasp.  He stared down at you, pupils huge. 

            "Fuck you," you hissed back, glaring up at him. You tried to squirm away, but he had you pinned.  You threw yourself forward, crown of your head smacking him in the nose, just like he'd showed you.  Gabriel swore and you reared back, going for another shot. 

            He slammed you into the mat before you had a chance.  You rolled sideways, and drove your elbow into his stomach as he tried to pin you again.  The short punches in the floating ribs might have repelled a normal human, but Gabriel flipped you around, his arm wrapping around your neck, pressing your back to his chest.  You couldn't reach his arm to bite, so you kicked.  When that didn't work you shot your elbow back, trying to hit a weak spot.  He didn't choke you this time, just held you immobile against his chest.  Panting, you tried to slip out of the chokehold, your fingers digging into his arm.  You pressed hard, searching for the nerve that would make him release you.  You squeezed, till you felt his arm spasm. 

            Slick with sweat, you slid down and sprung forward, feeling the air whoosh overhead.  He'd grabbed at you and missed.  You whirled, straightened your left hand and struck as Gabriel charged you, driving you back down into the mat.  You hit him in the neck, but his momentum carried him forward, throwing you on your back. 

            He gagged, holding his throat and glowering down at you.  You went to hit him again, but he dropped off of you.  Unsure if he was plotting a second run, you tapped.             Then you went flat on the mat, all your limbs burning.  Gabriel had gone half strength, at most.  You had no illusions about that.  It didn't matter.  You were in one piece and he was sitting overhead rubbing his neck.  Good.  He was the one that went after you.  You'd just used his own strength against him.

            "You OK, Lucky?"  Jack asked gently.    

            You were going to hurt so much tomorrow.  "I hate you both."

            "You bit me!" Gabriel said, his voice raw. 

            "You were choking me.  What else was I going to do?" 

            "Tap out," he said.

            "Yeah, that'd be the logical thing to do," you said.  "But if you...strangle me, I don't react well.  And unlike Jack, you knew that going in.  I have no sympathy."  You closed your eyes.  Your heart beat in time with the blood in your skull.  You were already hurting pretty badly.  If Gabriel tried to go for another round, you were going to tear his face off.  Actually, you'd probably just die.   

            Someone crouched beside you, and you cracked open an eye.  Jack's gloved hand tilted your chin up and he wiped your mouth off with a soft cloth.  He wore a look of concentration. 

            "I can't tell how much of that is yours and how much is Gabe's." 

            "Half?" you guessed.  He dabbed at the wounds and his gloved fingers brushed against your lips.  Jack's focus was on your mouth and it made you self-conscious.  "Did I bite a chunk of my lip off or something?"

            "No," he said abruptly and put one hand on the side of your neck.  You flinched.  "Does that hurt?"

            "A little."  You were going have bruises, probably in the shape of Gabriel's fingers.  "I think my back is going to be one big bruise," you said. 

            "Hold on," Jack said, and the comforting yellow light of a biotic emitter began to numb your pain. 

            Gabriel sat down on the other side of you, giving you a good look at the bloody tear in his pants.  You couldn't see the wound, but you'd ripped his pants with your teeth. 

            "You bit me," he said, still incredulous. 

            "Sorry," you said a little insincerely.  "You freaked me out."

            Gabriel sighed.  "Yeah, I got it. No breathplay.  Message received, Lucky."   

            Jack was blushing now.  Maybe watching Gabe fight really did it for him.  You couldn't blame him.  Gabriel was good looking.    

            "We should clean up the mats," Jack said. 

            "I'm going to lay here a bit longer."  You tried to move your left shoulder.  That didn't feel right..  "How was this supposed to help?"

            "If you wanted to mope, I thought I'd give you something to mope about." 

            "Gee, thanks." 

            Jack moved over beside Gabriel and started cleaning the bite. Gabriel crossed his arms.  "Got you out of your head, didn't I?"

            You turned on your side so you could look at him.  "Not following."         

            "You think yourself into a corner and get stuck.  A little exercise fixes that."  Gabriel's hand lingered on Jack's shoulder.  "Thanks," he said bending over and kissing Jack.

            You turned your head.  They were right beside you.  You could feel the heat radiating off them.  And you weren't completely oblivious.  Gabriel had been hard while fighting you.   You'd felt him very clearly when he'd trapped your body against his.  He was...proportionally big.  You closed your eyes.  Well, there were some unsavory implications there.  The most likely one was that Gabriel got turned on from hand-to-hand combat.  It figured.   It explained why he rarely sparred in his combat class. It explained why Jack showed up to them so often.  No wonder he was so grumpy after combat missions.  The chafing had to be hell. 

            Jack groaned, and the tension in the room ratcheted up.  You could not stay here and listen to this.  No matter how much you wanted to. 

            "I'll get the bleach wipes and clean this up.  Then I'm going to bed," you said, struggling to get upright. 

            Gabriel released Jack and gave you a neutral look  "We making you uncomfortable?"

            "I'm tired," you said.  "Everything hurts." 

            "Wore you out already?  After one mouthful?" 

            Those two were ready to go.  Gabriel was dropping innuendo like cluster bombs.  Normally, it didn't bother you, but normally you didn't have to go wash the taste of your commander's blood out of your mouth. 

            "It's not that I bit you," you said.  "It's that I nearly lost my teeth to your thighs then drowned in your blood.  I'm done for the night."

            Gabriel gripped your forearms and hauled you up against his side.  "We can get this cleaned up.  Do you need to go to the infirmary?"

            "I'm fine.  Just sore." 

            You took a step.  You'd kicked Gabriel and your foot felt like you'd smashed it against a rock.  You were going to be limping. 

            "Take the emitter," Jack said. 

            "Thanks."  You hobbled out of the gym, desperately not thinking about whether or not Jack and Gabriel were going to wait till they got to a private room. 



            You dreamt of him holding you to the mat, his hips pinning you down.  You started to say Shin's name, but it was Gabriel's weight on your body and Jack's hands on your wrists.  Gabriel gave the most deliciously masculine laugh before leaning over and biting down on your neck, teeth not quite breaking flesh. 

            "This is payback," he said.

            You whimpered as he ground against you.  You could feel the outline of his cock very firmly between your thighs. 

            "He likes it when you struggle."  Jack kissed the other side of your neck, his tongue flicking down your collar bone. 

            "Let's get you warmed up," Gabriel purred, tearing your shirt off.  "Don't worry, we'll be doing things the hard way..." 

            You woke up then, sore, horny, and mortified.  Apparently dating Shin had made sparring into foreplay for you too.   He would've been so amused.  It was finally time to try out your vibrator attachment.



            "-So in conclusion, while the noise level is acceptable, I feel it could be reduced and the heat output needs to be better monitored.  You could make thermal control part of the package as well.  And you could improve range of use by offering programmable patterns of vibration as well as additional lubrication options, rotors, and a softer covering to prevent chafing."

            Torby and Angela stared at you in comic horror.

            "Still, it was a satisfying prototype.  Will you be wanting it back?"  You asked. 

            Torby narrowed his eyes at you.  "Well played, Lucky Strike."




           Jack gripped the bars of Gabriel's headboard.  He was too tense for restraints tonight.  Gabriel knelt between Jack's tensed legs, his teeth worrying at the Strike Commander's inner thigh. 

            "Stop teasing, Gabe."  Jack was hard, he had been since he'd watched Gabe wrestle you to the ground.  It got worse when you bit Gabe.  You'd caught him staring, your swollen lips stained with blood, your body shaking with exhaustion.  The memory made him ache.  "Either suck me or fuck me, can't take the edging right now." 

            Gabriel pushed three of his fingers past Jack's lips. " Get them wet for me."  Gabriel's voice was a low rumble.  Jack eagerly slid his tongue over the digits and Gabriel pushed them in to the third knuckle.  

            Jack sucked on Gabriel's fingers, his hips jerking upward, wiggling his invitation. 

            "So needy."  Gabriel pulled them out.  "Turn over.  I want to pound you into the mattress," he growled. 

            Jack rolled over, his fingers digging into the sheets.  "I think you mean you want to pound Lucky into the mats, with your cock. 

            "Smartass."  Gabriel's calloused fingers slid into Jack's puckered hole.  Jack clenched around him, knowing Gabe enjoyed some resistance, just like he liked the burn of being stretched.  "But still so tight," Gabriel thrust roughly, as Jack began to pant.  "Gotta get you nice and sloppy." 

            "Fuck...I can take it Gabe.  Just hurry up."  Jack shuddered as Gabriel's fingers sped up, going deeper.  Jack buried his face in the crook of his arm. 

            Gabriel withdrew his fingers and grabbed the lube off the nightstand.  Jack stiffened as Gabe worked the cool gel into his passage. 

            "Going to wreck you tonight, Jack.  Can't hold back now."  Gabriel pressed the head of his cock against Jack's entrance.  He was long, but it was the girth that was intimidating. 

            Jack moaned into the bed as Gabriel slowly pushed in, the pleasure of being so full momentarily blanking his mind.  He clawed the sheets, his whole body shuddering from the intrusion. 

            "Gabe," Jack gasped, his neglected cock leaking against his thigh.  He pushed back against the thickness stretching him.  It burned along that fine line between pain and pleasure in a way that wound Jack up and left him gasping.   

            One of Gabe's hands slipped around his throat.  The other gripped his weeping cock.  Jack squirmed as Gabriel's mouth slid down his neck. 

            Gabriel was in to the hilt, his body trapping Jack against the bed.  Gabriel had always run dangerously hot, and Jack writhed, sweat already beading on his forehead.    

            "I felt your eyes on us," Gabriel's voice was low and hungry.  "You wanted to see her under me almost as much as I wanted her there."  Gabriel's fingers firmly squeezed Jack's cock, and began to stroke. 

            "Damnit, Gabe."  Jack's hips jerked, as he fucked himself between Gabriel's cock and slick hand. 

            "Were you hoping to have her between us tonight?"  Gabriel drove into Jack's ass.  "Or were you thinking I'd bring you both back here and fuck you like this while she sucked you off?" 

            Jack whined, the images vivid in his head.  Those pretty lips wrapped around his dick while Gabe slammed into him.  The hand on his cock sped up.  

            "You're so filthy, Jack," Gabriel purred.  "Fantasizing about a threesome with one of your subordinates."

            "You have no room to tal-"  Jack groaned as Gabriel picked up the pace. 

            "Tell me about it," Gabriel commanded. 

            "I wanted to hold her wrists while you stripped her," Jack said, strain creeping into his voice.  "I wanted to watch you inch inside her, see the look on her face while you filled her up for the first time."

            "Fuck!"  Gabriel swore.  "Jack-"

            "Do you think you'd fit?  It'd be such a stretch..." Jack teased.  He felt the moment Gabriel's composure snapped, his thrusts becoming hard and desperate.   There were no words now.  Jack pushed back, trying to ride it out.  The older man's hands tightened around his neck and cock.  Gabriel's hips jerked and he came inside Jack, hand still milking Jack's cock. 

            Jack's eyes rolled back as Gabriel's hot cum filled him.  A few more ragged thrusts into Gabriel's hand, and he came too, semen splashing his chest.   He laid there a moment, legs shaky.  Gabriel kissed the back of his neck and withdrew, cum oozing out of Jack's stretched hole.

            It took Jack a few minutes to remember he had legs and sentience.  He rolled over and Gabriel was there, kissing him hard enough to bruise.

            "You fucking tease," Gabriel said without rancor. 

            Jack laughed softly.  "You liked that a lot."

            "Yeah, but I didn't realize you did too." 

            "I never had a problem with her."  Jack could feel the blood rushing to his face. 

            "You weren't always interested either."

            Jack's blush grew.  "I've been thinking about it more."

            "Since Paris?" 

            Jack rubbed the back of his head.  He knew Gabriel wanted to hear him admit it.  "You dressed her up and put her in my colors.  What was I supposed to think?" 

            Gabriel laughed.  "You prick.  It was the fight that did it.  You just like them tough and crazy."

            Jack couldn't refute that.  After all, Gabriel embodied those traits.


            They'd gone a few more rounds, Jack having no trouble switching roles.  More relaxed than he'd been in weeks, Gabriel lay there sweaty, sticky, and fulfilled.  The bite mark on his thigh throbbed and he grinned at the bruise that was forming.  It would fade soon, but he liked knowing it was still there. 

            "You deserved that," Jack said, nestled against Gabriel's chest.  It was a small thrill every time he looked over and saw Jack's blonde hair on his pillow.  He didn't want to get used to this.  He loved knowing Jack was here, pressed against him. 

            "Yeah," Gabriel stretched, he ached, but in a good way.  "But she didn't tap out or run away.  That's progress."

            "I guess."  Jack yawned.  "She's not me, Gabe.  You can't just throw her on the mat and expect that to get her going.  And she definitely noticed that you were turned on."  

            "Probably.  Didn't mean to let it go that far," Gabriel muttered.  "I got carried away."

            "Mmm.  You'll have to apologize.  Might have freaked her out.  Don't think this is how she goes about things." 

            "Fuck," Gabriel muttered.  "You're right."

            "Can I get that in writing?" Jack asked.