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In Alio Loco

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            Yesterday had been Shin's birthday.  You'd celebrated by drinking and getting your ass kicked.  You'd bitten Gabriel and had involuntary dirty thoughts about two of your commanding officers.  Shin would probably be pretty amused. 

            The biotic emitter had taken care of most of the bruising, but your muscles felt like wet clay.  You were back at your desk, sorting through another chunk of the Greenland data dump. 

            You found a cache of pictures.  Valdez cooking.  Lao and Valdez kissing.  A blurry one of Nwazue raising her middle finger at the camera.  Rivka and Lao building something haphazard and covered in wires.  Simon bandaging Valdez.  Captain Patel looking off-camera.  Captain Patel shooting into the distance.  And Shin.  Shin and Valdez sparring.  Shin and Nwazue drinking. 

            These were Lao's files.  You sat back in your chair and cycled through them, finding one of you after you'd just joined up.  Your uniform didn't fit right, and you were slumped against a wall making a dramatic "why me?" face.  Shin stood beside you laughing. 

            You weren't going to cry.  Because you were happy.  Because all you had before were their ID photos from central records.   It was stupid and superstitious, but yesterday was Shin's birthday.  It would be like him to give you a gift for his birthday, a day late.  You blinked rapidly and downed your coffee. 

            You would look through these later.  Alone.  Now you just had to focus on the Hanoi angle.  Genji was off again, gathering intel on Nguyen's movements and facilities.  You had to check Vialli's coordinates against known facilities in Hanoi.

            You got more work done when Gabriel and Jack weren't here.  It was lunchtime and Gabriel hadn't come in yet.  Well, you didn't actually expect him, given what he and Jack had to have been up to last night.  And you didn't need that image in your head, any more than you needed to be having dirty dreams about either of them.

            You met Jesse in the mess hall and to your surprise, that cute hacker Riggs was with him.  Jesse invited him to sit with you.    

            "You know Lucky Strike," Jesse said brightly. 

            Riggs smiled, but he didn't make eye contact.  "By reputation," he said shyly. 

            "Oh God.  I'm afraid to ask."  You picked at your fries.  He sat across from you, mac and cheese untouched.  "OK, spill," you said, having enough of delayed gratification.

           "You killed a cyborg mercenary with a knife," Riggs said, still not looking up at you.  "You punched the Strike Commander into entering your chili cookoff.  You have metal claws underneath those gloves.   You're a certified badass, ma'am." 

            You turn your head slowly to Jesse.  Jesse smirked and shrugged.  "I...what?"

            "You watch TV with your eyes closed," Riggs said earnestly. 

            "I'm...napping." 

            "Really?  You always answer when people talk to you." 

            You looked between him and Jesse.  "Jesse, what did you do?"

            "Don't deny it!" Riggs said.  "I saw you punch Commander Morrison.  You took him to the ground!  He spars exclusively with you in class!"

            "Uh...I don't have...claws," you said.  "But the cyborg thing is true."

            "I knew it!  Those normie Overwatch techs didn't believe the reports!  You and Commander Morrison took down those terrorists in Paris and saved all those politicians.  The Parisian tabloids ran blurry pictures of Commander Morrison's aide-de-camp "Ms. Strike."  And for the record, I totally believe your relationship is purely professional ma'am.  I don't countenance that kind of talk. But you fought alongside the Strike Commander, just the two of you.  You saved Director Petras' niece!   I bet it was awesome."

            You remembered a blood-soaked cafe, too many dead bodies, and a terse, angry Jack Morrison.  Saving Ainsley Petras wasn't awesome, considering the amount of crying she did.  But you didn't regret it.  "Yeah, I guess," you said. 

           "I mean...before that mission, we'd all heard rumors. But we know better now ma'am.  You and Commander Reyes were on a top secret mission in Canada.  I heard that when you wouldn't talk it was the Shimada that took your fingers-"  His eyes widened when he saw your face and he hastily dropped his gaze. 

            "Those circumstances are classified," you said stiffly. 

            "Oh my God, I'm sorry.  You don't have to tell me twice."  He was practically shaking with excitement.  "It was the Shimada!"  He mouthed at Jesse. 

            Jesse was shaking with silent laughter. 

            "I'm just a regular agent, Riggs," you said, even though that was a lie.  Regular agents didn't have a rumor mill coming up with bizarre inflations of their exploits. 

            "Of course, ma'am," he said.

            "Yes, ma'am," Jesse repeated. 

            You resisted the urge to throw your plate at his head.

 


 

            "Thanks, Jesse.  I know this is all your fault, somehow."

            "It's mostly because you dropped Morrison," he said, not quite denying it.  "And the aftermath of the Paris trip.  It's not just Riggs.  You're getting mighty popular, Lucky.  Following in Ana's footsteps."

            "You're calling her "Ana" now?"  You folded your hands under your chin.  "Tell me more."

            "Ain't nothing to tell yet, Lucky."  But he preened under the attention.  "I'm making her some chili this weekend."

            "Don't forget the bread bowl," you said. 

            "That's what she said."  Jesse paused.  "I said that literally.  And I picked up some baklava on my last mission.  Reckon that'll get me invited to tea."  He looked around.  "Where is the Commander?"

            "Probably taking the day off," you said.  "He kicked my ass last night," you said.  "Called me out to the mat and then threw me around." 

            "What'd you do?"  Jesse leaned forward with a smirk. 

            "I got "mopey."  Which is bullshit because I made him hot chocolate.  Well, him and Jack.  They got my cookies too."

            Jesse stared at Gabriel's chair.  "I don't get it."

            "Me neither.  I think he was trying to cheer me up."  You shrugged.  "It seems like a Gabriel thing.  "Here's some physical pain to distract you from your silly feelings."  It kind of worked.  Don't you dare tell him that."

            Jesse leaned back in his chair.  "Morrison was there too?"

            "He brought the med kit."

            "Darling, are you-?"  Jesse stopped.  "You good with this?  It's not crossing any lines?"

            "I don't really like the extra pain, no.  But Gabriel wasn't going at full blast or anything.  And Jack gave me a biotic emitter afterward.  That worked wonders."

            "Hm."  Jesse crossed his arms.  "Everything's go well, though?  It's staying friendly?  Morrison's not...scratch that.  Everyone's getting along?" 

            "Those two are always..."  You shook your head.  "I'm totally jealous of the amount of sex they're getting."

            Jesse made a face.  "What?"

            "They keep their clothes on in front of me, but they're not hiding what they're doing.  I might have to take you up on the wingman offer soon.  I'm just...rusty."

            "Won't know till you try," Jesse said, adjusting his neck kerchief. 

            And my perception of my surroundings is completely off."  You shook your head.  "I can't ever ask Riggs to dinner, because he's got a bad case of hero worship and that would be weird."

            "I thought so too."

            "You could've just told me."

            "Would you have believed me without seeing it for yourself?"  Jesse dusted off his hat.  He had an odd smile. 

            "Good point."  You laid your face on your desk.  The circumstances of your problems had changed, but the end result was the same.  You were alone and needed to get laid. 

 


 

           

            You'd mapped out the various locations of interest between Vialli's coordinates, the 9th Circle data dump, and the cyborg extraction information.  Nguyen had a large compound what remained of the Old Quarter in Hanoi.  It wasn't in her name, and in fact had been hidden under the aegis of several shell companies, but it was large and connected to a private shipping company that Genji had traced to the Vialli family.  You'd put in a request to Winston for closer surveillance via drones.  He didn't specialize in SIGINT, but he and Ziv could work something out. 

             The office door slammed open and your pistol was in your hands before you realized it. 

            "Code White," Gabriel shouted.  "Gear up!" 

            The blood drained from your face.  You grabbed your go-bag, and followed him out.  Code White meant an agent's family was under attack.  Gabriel's people were on the west coast of the United States.  Jack's family was somewhere in the middle.  Fareeha and her dad were somewhere in Canada, near the west coast.  Those were all a long distance away.

            You, Jesse, and Genji didn't have family to worry about.  It was one of those rare moments your lack of roots felt lucky. 

            Jesse and Genji were already in the locker room.  You strapped on your gray Blackwatch armor and pulled on your modified armored boots.  Your tanto rested in the small of your back and you holstered your pistol on your hip. 

            Jesse tossed you a long gray scarf.  "Dress warm."

            Fuck.  You'd avoided cold weather missions since you left the 9th Circle.  For obvious reasons.  You wrapped the scarf around your neck and pulled on your charcoal heavy coat. 

            "Where are we headed?"  You picked up a carbine and extra magazines.  It was your best performance gun: light weight, medium range, selective fire, and excellent accuracy.

            "French Alps," Gabriel barked.  "Move out."  The four of you jogged up to the transport dock.  Captain Amari was already in the ship.  You climbed in and immediately began switching out your prosthetic attachments. 

            "Agent Lacroix sent out a distress signal twenty minutes ago.  He was vacationing with his wife.  We haven't been able to make contact and the entire area's gone dark.  Satellite imagery has brought up a lot of activity."  Captain Amari gave you the rundown.  Lacroix was supposed to be in some kind of ski resort with his wife.  He'd likely fled the area to avoid civilian casualties and seek refuge in some of the hunt lodges in the mountains.  He knew the area well and was an experienced skier.  The biggest concern was hostile forces.  The second was avalanches.  The elements came in third.  Oh goody, because the cold and snow had been your biggest worries.

            Overwatch was going to secure the area.  Your Blackwatch squad was going to rendez-vous with Lacroix and provide protection.

            You equipped your combat attachments and secured the others in your belt.  You pulled on your gloves.  Captain Amari distributed biotic emitters and additional cold weather gear.  You took one of the ridiculous earflap hats, because stupid-looking or not, you didn't forget being cold.

            Jesse snickered.  "You going to be able to move under there, Lucky?"

            "Fuck you.  Fuck snow.  Fuck Talon."  You repacked your bag: med supplies, chemical hand-warmers, radio, emergency flare, canteen, ration bars, extra ammo. 

            Genji was staring now.  He didn't say anything, but he didn't need to. 

           "It's not heavy," you told him.  "These boots are heavy.  They're going to suck.  Also, put on a shirt.  You're making me cold just looking at you." 

            "Ease up, Lucky."  Gabriel inspected the shotgun across his lap.  "It won't be like last time."

            Of course it wasn't going to be like last time.  You were prepared.  You tightened the straps of your bag. 

 


 

            Muzzle flares lit up the night.  The snow and the moon left the landscape with an almost dreamy brightness.  You hit the ground running.  The Overwatch squad had encountered heavy resistance around the ski chateau Lacroix had been visiting. 

            The pilots dropped you further into the mountains. 

            "Ana, get in position.  Jesse, you're with Genji.  Lucky, you're with me.  Move out!" 

            The snow came up past your ankles.  Gabriel held two shotguns, and you jogged behind him.  He stopped, holding up his hand.  He gave an odd whistle, almost a birdcall. 

            There was no response. 
            "Down," he ordered and you dropped, switching to a prone shooting position.  The snow was pretty and fluffy.  But you weren't fooled.  The cold would set in soon and everything would be miserable.   Gabriel crouched beside you.  He pointed and you could see three figures in white jackets moving in the snow.  They were armed. 

            You looked through your sights.  "They're wearing masks and one has cybernetic legs."

            You stayed in position, till Gabriel gave the go ahead.  You shot fast, dropping them in bursts.  The cyborg took two, and you were going to confirm that kill personally. 

            You looked up and Gabriel was smiling fiercely at you.  You grinned back, until you remembered your theory about his combat arousal and had to drop your gaze.  The two of you stayed low as you approached the bodies. 

            They were dead, but you cut the cyborg's throat and circuits, just to be sure.  You found his radio and Gabriel clipped it to his belt.   

            "Targets spotted!"  The radio crackled.  "Southeastern quadrant!  All available units converge!"

            Gabriel radioed details back to the others.  "Ana has eyes on them.  They're bunkered down, with about two dozen hostiles closing in.  Genji and McCree are going to take the ones in the south.  We're going to come in from the west."

            You reloaded before moving.  Gabriel was much faster than you.  Now you knew he wasn't even trying the other night.  Which was a little demoralizing, considering how sore you still were.  The cold wind hitting your lungs made running miserable and seemed to halve your endurance.  You tightened your scarf, wrapping it around your mouth.   You were going to check into a hotel once you got back to Switzerland.  And you were going to spend the entire time in a hot tub.  You were going to drink hot chocolate.  You were going to put the hot tub in front of a fireplace and fill it with hot chocolate. 

            Shots whizzed by your ears and you dropped to the ground taking cover behind a tree.  Gabriel began to shoot, double-firing his giant shotguns.  You caught sight of muzzle flash in the distance and looked down the scope.  You got off two shots before you had to duck again.  Fuck fair fights.  You'd give an ambush any day. 

            You bellycrawled behind a log and from this angle you could see the head better.  You got off another two shots, and the enemy sniper's head exploded.  You looked up to see Gabriel on the move again.  His hellfire shotguns didn't need accuracy.  You just pointed them in a direction and voila!  Instant splatter!

            Your fingers were starting to get cold.  You glared at your breath in the air, and got back up, jogging behind Gabriel. 

            "We're getting close.  Take shelter by those rocks," Gabriel said.  He was sweating, despite the snow collecting on his hat, and you had an unpleasant moment of déjà vu. 

            You pressed yourself against a large rock and peeked around the corner. 

            About a hundred yards out you saw a tiny wooden lodge built into the side of the mountain.  The ratta-tat-tat of automatic fire caught your attention. 

            You got on your stomach and began thinning the crowd.  You weren't as effective from this range and you couldn't tell if Genji or Jesse were in the treeline to the south.  Best not to depend on it. 

            Gabriel ran forward, shotguns primed.  To your relief, Genji burst through the forest in the south, bloody sword drawn.  Jesse was close behind, already fanning his revolver. 

            You crept closer for efficiency's sake.  You focused on picking off the ones just out of Gabriel and Genji's short range attacks.  You'd downed another couple of hostiles when you heard the snow crunch behind you.  You rolled to the side, gun raised. 

            Two men in white jackets had their guns trained on you. 

            You didn't hesitate.  You fired, shooting the nearest one in the head.   You shifted, but not fast enough.  The second man got off three shots, hitting you square in the chest.  You reeled backward, unable to breathe.  Your chest was on fire and you gripped your gun tighter.  He stepped toward you, intent on checking his kill. 

            You clutched the carbine and pulled the trigger, dropping him to his knees.  Blood bubbled behind the mask and he fell backward.  You groaned and felt your chest.   It didn't cave.   No blood seeped out.  Your armor had done its job. 

            Wincing, you rolled back over and lined up another shot.  The woman's head exploded before you could pull the trigger.  You weren't sure where Captain Amari was, but you were glad it was near here.

            "Withdraw!"  Gabriel's voice came over your radio.  "They've set explosives.  They're trying to trigger an avalanche!"

            Of course they were.  You wheezed a laugh and climbed shakily to your feet.   Gabriel was rushing toward you and Lacroix, looking annoyingly dapper and strangely stylish, bounded behind him, a graceful brunette woman keeping his pace. 

            Great, a civilian was going to make you look bad. 

            You heard the rumble before you saw anything.  They'd set the explosives by Lacroix's shelter.  You jogged toward the rock formations, knowing you wouldn't be able to get clear of the area in time.  The most you could hope for was that the curve of the mountain would partially shield you. 

            Gabriel caught up to you there and even as the wave of snow crashed down, he caught your arm and pulled you against the rocks. 

            "Swim!" He ordered.

            You thrashed, knowing you had to keep the snow around you loose, and that you couldn't let yourself get disoriented.  Gabriel stayed anchored to the rocks and didn't let go of your arm. 

            You lost sight of Lacroix and his wife.

            Snow flowed around you, but the dangerous slabs of hardened ice didn't manage to cross the rocks. 

            Eventually the rumbling stopped, and you were only partially buried, almost floating on top of the snow.  You'd gotten lucky.  The rocks broke up the flood and the snow around you was loose.   Gabriel was only chest deep.  You looked around.  "Lacroix?"

            Gabriel swore.  "Start digging."

            You slid your pack off and began to kick through the snow.

            "Over there!"  Gabriel pointed a few yards out to a jaunty red scarf sticking out a sea of white.  You dragged yourself over.  Even if it was loose, it was wet and heavy snow. 

            "You alive?" You asked, clawing at the spot marked by the scarf.  .

            "Mais oui, bien sûr," Lacroix said, a little muffled. 

            You dug, trying to create an air passage above his head.  He blinked up at you,  his wife smiling and nestled against his chest.    

            "Ah, Lucky Strike.  This is my wife, Amélie.  Thank you for coming to assist."

            "Anyone need medical attention?"

            "Non, just some help getting out." 

            You would take all the small mercies you could get.  "Can you move?"

            "Not quite.  If you could keep digging?"

            You looked over your shoulder.  Gabriel was working his way out.  Your hands were freezing and you just wanted to go drown in that hot tub full of cocoa. Your kept bailing. Lacroix and his wife helped, speeding along the process. 

            Gabriel was on the radio.  "Genji, Ana, and Jesse got clear.  Transport's picking them up first."

            You worked your way back to your pack.  You'd gotten a hang for the weird swimming motions.  You tossed the Lacroix couple some handwarmers and stuffed some down your shirt.  You hissed as they came in contact with your bruised skin. 

            "You OK?" Gabriel asked.

            "Sore," you said.  "How are you not freezing?"

            "Side effect of SEP.  When the adrenaline sets in, I burn hotter than most.  Not great in tropical climes, but it makes cold weather ops easier.  The downside is I need to eat more." 

            You got a ration bar out of your backpack.  "I am prepared." 

            "You sound like a boyscout."  He took it though, eating it in two bites. 

            "No, that's your boyfriend.  I'm a survivalist.  And after all this I'm moving somewhere tropical.  No snow ever."

            Gabriel snorted.  "Come here." 

            You were too cold to protest. Gabriel pulled off his gloves and placed his warm hands on your icy face.  You sighed. 

            Amélie murmured something in French. 

            "Yes, this is the most exciting double date we've been on," Lacroix said. 


 

            "What happened to your armor?" Jesse asked after you'd taken off your soaked overcoat managed to clean some of the snow off on the transport.  You'd have to change out of everything anyway.  Your socks were soggy.  That was the worst. 

            You looked down.  Oh, that was bad too.  Severe cracks, like fault lines, spread through your chest plate.  You wouldn't be using this piece again.  You could kind of see the smashed bullets, only because you knew exactly where they hit; you had the bruises to map them. 

            "Weird.  That doesn't normally happen when you get shot," you said still looking down.  "Maybe the impact combined with the cold fucked up the plate?" 

            "When were you shot?" Gabriel barked, eyes flashing. 

            "Two guys ambushed me after you went to clear a path for Lacroix.  I killed one, but the other shot me in the chest.  I played dead for a second, then shot him when he came to check on me."

            Gabriel's face was hard.  "Take it off."

            "I uh...need some help," you said.  The adrenaline was starting to wear off and already you knew you were in for a world of pain.    

            Gabriel didn't wait for Captain Amari.  He unstrapped the chestpiece and pulled it off you.  You exhaled slowly, the lack of a constriction a relief.

            "Show me," Gabriel ordered. 

            Jesse leaned back in his seat, his expression hard to read.  Genji wasn't paying attention, which let you know he was totally paying attention because he making an effort to look like he wasn't. 

            You pulled off your hoodie, stripping down to your bra.  A massive blue-purple bruise had already started forming in the center of your chest.  It stretched from above your collarbone to right below your sternum.

            "Head and throat shots are where it's at," you said.  "Otherwise they just get back up."    

            Nobody laughed. 

            Gabriel's mouth thinned.  He knelt in front of you and poked a rib on your left side. You seized up, pain jolting through your body. 

            "Don't do that again," you hissed through clenched teeth. 

            He ignored you and poked the other side.  His prodding fingers weren't comfortable, but it didn't hurt nearly as much on your right side.  "Have you been spitting blood?"

            "No.  I would have said something." 

           Jesse turned on a biotic emitter, and the warm yellow light numbed some of the pain.  "You shouldn't be relying on these too often, Lucky." 

            Captain Amari handed you a dry hoodie.  "It's fine, Gabriel.  She can go to the infirmary once we get back."

            You sighed.  So much for your hot tub plan.

 


 

            Bruised ribs, no internal bleeding, big sucker of a bruise.  You were fine, except for the pain.  You sat in the infirmary wearing a stupid paper gown.  Gabriel sat in one chair, Jack leaning against the wall while Angela gave you a mostly clean bill of health. 

            "Did you get all these bruises from this mission?" She asked.

            "Did some sparring yesterday."  You didn't look at Gabriel or Jack.  They were mostly faded, but Angela knew you'd used a biotic emitter.  She could probably guess how old they were. 

            Angela shook her head.  "With who?  Reinhardt?  You need to be more careful, Lucky."

            You went to shrug, then winced.  "Yes, ma'am."

            "Eat a good meal, use the emitter, come see me when you get up tomorrow.  You'll probably be fine." 

            "Thanks."  You pulled your pants on.  Then you turned around and put on your hoodie.  No bra right now.  The pressure would be unpleasant. 

            You slouched on the exam table.  Breathing was a little uncomfortable.  But you did it anyway.  Gabriel gathered up your things. 

            "Glad you're OK," Jack said.  He'd watched the entire exchange silently, occasionally placing a hand on Gabriel's shoulder.  "You need anything?"

            "I had this elaborate plan to rent a hotel room so I could use the hot tub because fuck cold weather fighting...but I don't think I'm leaving the base tonight."       

            Gabriel regarded you grimly.  "Did you get hurt because you weren't in fighting shape?" 

            You blinked.  It took a moment for your patented Reyes-Regular English translator to kick in.  "It had nothing to do with last night's sparring.  I was a little slower, but even at my best, I can't guarantee I would have been able to kill both those guys before one got a shot off.  And speaking of last night...are you OK?"

            Gabriel snorted.  "I have idiot-rabies now, but other than I'm good."

            You shrugged and immediately regretted it.  "Can't tell the difference."

            Jack laughed. 

            Gabriel glared at him, then took a deep breath and looked you dead in the eyes.  "I pushed it too far last night.  I'm sorry."           

            You weren't sure if he was apologizing for choking you, or having an erection, or putting you in that situation in the first place.   But you had it a feeling it was for all of the above. "You should be.  I made you hot chocolate and you beat me up."

            Gabriel awkwardly examined the floor.  "Yeah.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Sorry."

            Oh, he said it twice, he must really be feeling guilty.  Good.   "We're good, Gabriel," you said. 

            "Let me help you back to the office.  Or your bedroom.  Or the rec room.  Where do you want to sleep tonight?" 

            "Office," you said, getting up. 

            Jack and Gabriel escorted you back to the office, Gabriel carrying your things and Jack hovering beside you, like he wanted to say something, but wasn't sure how. 

            You lowered yourself onto the couch with a groan.  Gabriel set up the emitter and you sighed. 

            "I have to write up my report," he said.  "Will it bother you if I stay?"

            "It's your office, stupid," you mumbled. 

            "She's getting hungry," Jack said. 

            You opened on eye.  "How can you tell?"

            "You start name-calling."

            "I'll get you something to eat," Gabriel said.  "What do you want?"

            "Something warm," you murmured. 

            Gabriel left you there with Jack.  Jack pulled a chair. 

            "If we ever do something that makes you uncomfortable, you can tell us, you know that right?" Jack asked.

            "Uh-huh."  You closed both eyes. 

            "If you're not comfortable telling us, tell Ana.  She'll do it."

            "Yup," you agreed.

            "You're not actually listening and you're falling asleep."  He laughed softly. 

            "Got it in one."

 


 

            When you awoke, Gabriel was at his desk.  The biotic emitter was still running, and your aches had diminished enough for you to sit up comfortably. 

            "You were out for twelve hours," he said, not looking up.  "How are you feeling?"

            "Hungry."

            Gabriel snorted.  "How's your pain?"

            "In my stomach, because I'm hungry."

            "Idiot," Gabriel muttered.  "I made you chicken and lime soup last night.  You were out cold by the time I got back."

            "You took too long.  I passed out from hunger," you said.

            Gabriel got up and went to the minifridge.  He got out a covered bowl and reheated it for you. 

            "Thank you," you said and drank it straight from the bowl.  It was hot, a little sour, and hit the spot.    

            "You had a close call last night," he said.  He sat down beside you, hands folded in his lap.

            "I managed to avoid losing fingers, getting blown up, or buried alive." 

            "You managed to get shot."    

            "You going to be unreasonable and mad at me for something I couldn't control?"

            "I want to be," he said gruffly.  "But no, that's not fair." 

            " That's big of you," you said.  "I appreciate it."  You put the bowl on the floor and debated lying back down. 

            "What can I do?"

            You blinked.  Gabriel either brought you things or told you in a roundabout way that you needed them.  He didn't ask open ended questions.  To be fair, who knew what you would ask for on bad day? The heads of your enemies in hand-woven baskets?  Elaborate prototype weapons?  More cake, probably.    

            "Do you care if I go back to sleep?"  You yawned.

            "That's fine," he said, not moving.  "May I sit here?"  Gabriel was looking straight ahead, and not at you.  There was a familiar unpleasant tension in his shoulders.  He held himself rigid and still, but he practically vibrated with uncomfortable energy.    

            The last time you'd seen him anything like this was with Gleeson.  It hit you then that you'd scared him.  That last night's run combined with your ruined armor triggered something unpleasant in his psyche.            

            "Where's Jack?" You weren't sure what to do. 

            "Had some meetings he couldn't skip," Gabriel said, still not looking at you.

            "I'll probably curl up against you because you exude the warmth of a thousand heat rocks."  That was true, though you hadn't cuddled with Gabriel since that night in the Yukon.  And you weren't going to call that "cuddling."  That was self-preservation.    

            "I don't mind," he said, shoulders lowering a few centimeters.  He finally glanced over at you. 

            You wrapped your blanket around yourself and leaned against him, his body familiar, the heat comforting.  He delicately rested an arm around your shoulders.

            "Is this...too much?"  he asked.  "You don't have do this."

            "Are you kidding?  You're like a giant hot water bottle," you said, trying to sound flippant. 

            "Ah."  He nodded.  "That's OK then."  

 


 

            Jack walked in to find Gabriel sitting on the couch reading his tablet, you were asleep against him, your head resting against his upper arm.  You had cocooned yourself in one of the many blankets you left around the office. 

            "She OK?" 

            "She's fine," Gabriel said.  "Woke up hungry, talked some shit, and went straight back to sleep."

            "You OK?" Jack asked, already knowing the answer. 

            "Doing better," he said. 

            "She really did a number on her armor.  Reminded me of that time in Kandahar."  Jack pulled up a chair in front of Gabriel.  "I was fine too, Gabe.  Just sore."

            "Scared the shit out of me, Jack.  Thought you were bleeding out underneath."

            Jack leaned in and kissed him.  "We're all here, Gabe.  We survived.  It's going to be fine."

 


 

            You opened your eyes as you felt Gabriel shift beside you, and promptly pulled yourself upright. 

            Jack held Gabriel's face in his hands, their foreheads pressed together.  Jack caught your eye and smiled knowingly.  Then he nudged Gabriel.  "You woke her up."

            "Well, there goes my plan to see if we could have sex without her noticing."  Gabriel sounded more himself. 

            "What is wrong with you two?  Do you do this Captain Amari?"

            "No, but I don't make soup for Ana either." 

            Apparently making soup for someone meant you could be a shit to them.  You began unraveling the blankets.  Your muscles still ached, but you felt much better.  It was very warm in the office, probably from Gabriel's crazy body heat.  And with Jack sitting here, it almost too cozy.  Like you shouldn't get comfortable because they needed their space. 

            "Lacroix OK?" You asked. 

            "Oh yes, he and his wife are recuperating.  Ana's handling it." 

            "All right.  I'm going to go get changed and washed up."  And you'd avoid the office for the rest of the day.