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Thicker Than Water

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He hadn’t meant for this.

McCree should have known better, he taught him better, dammit. But that hadn’t stopped him pulling Morrison out of harm’s way and taking the sniper shot to the chest himself.

He watched as the kid dropped lifelessly to the floor.

He shouldn’t have cared. McCree was just another traitor, another person he had failed. But the deep crimson blossoming across his shirt was an all too familiar sight to the older man, and it screamed of death.

He was vaguely aware of Akande demanding he move to the extraction point, but his body remained frozen in place, eyes fixated on the weak rise and fall of his ex-protégé's chest.

Through the haze he heard Morrison shout before a second shot rang out. Widowmaker had the entire strike team pinned.

He realised grimly that he was the only person who could get within 5 feet of McCree.

He almost walked away. Talon had found what they came for and were evacuating. In two minutes, this would be nothing more than another shit-stain in the Overwatch history books.

The only problem was that Jesse didn’t have two minutes.

It was a split-second decision, but one that convoluted and twisted his purpose in the world in ways that not even he could have predicted. Cursing internally, he surged forward towards the fallen agent, a single thought running though his mind.

He should have left the damn kid back at 66.

Chapter Text

There was too much blood.

That was the first thought that ran through Gabriel’s mind the moment he fell to Jesse’s side. The second was that he had absolutely no idea how to fix this. He had managed to drag the other agent behind some level of cover, but the sudden focus of gunfire on his position had deterred him from attempting to move him any further.

There was too much blood.

He hovered unsure for a moment, before steadily pressing a gloved hand to the bullet wound. It did little to stem the torrent of coppery liquid from rapidly spreading across the concrete floor.

Grimacing, his gaze travelled to the kids face. A pair of hazy cognac orbs stared back at him, confusion and rage swimming deep below the surface, rapidly dwindling with every passing second.

It was then that he realised he was still wearing his mask. The skull shaped armour had become like a shield to him, separating the monster known as Reaper from any trace of the human that had once existed. Nobody but Amari and Morrison even knew he was still alive.

Was he still alive?

He tore the facade off as if it had burned him.

He observed cautiously as a trace of sorrow flickered across Jesse’s features, before just as quickly fading into a look of of understanding. He tried to speak, but the words failed to form, a shaky breath escaping his lips instead.

Gabriel knew in what remained of his heart that it would be one of his last.

He swore under his breath. The kid was dying, and he couldn’t do a damn thing to save him.

The rest of the strike team was still scattered across the warehouse, the air think with the sound of gunfire. Amari was frantically shouting into her com unit, Oxton and the elder Shimada at her side desperately attempting to hold the line. Genji and Fareeha seemed to be in an equally precarious position, with the latter firing rocket after rocket in an attempt to turn the tides of the shootout.

It wasn't working.

Lost in the chaos, he barely registered the thump of a small metal cylinder as it rolled into his foot.

He could have sworn he had never seen anything more beautiful in his entire life.

The biotic emitter seemed to hum as he slammed it into the ground, the soft golden light embracing Jesse’s body as it was released from its vessel. Gabriel held his breath. After what felt like a lifetime, McCree’s shallow breathing began to even out slightly.

In the corner of his eye he spotted Jack, face obscured behind a mask of his own yet still seemingly watching him, the holster for his own biotic emitter blatantly empty.

A ghost of a smile tugged at his lips. He nodded faintly to the other man, the gesture conveying a thousand unspoken words.

He was consciously aware that he still had a chance to leave, to walk away from this mess knowing that he had done everything in his power to save Jesse’s life.

Yet one look at the broken figure in front of him erased that option from his mind.

With finality, he lowered himself to the ground, cradling his ex-protégé's torso to his chest.

“Help is coming kid, just hang on”.

Chapter Text

“I ain’t telling you nothing!”

Seventeen. Jesse McCree had only been seventeen when Reyes had dragged him kicking and screaming into that interrogation room, his clothes still tainted with the smell of gunpowder. Twenty goddamn years ago.

Gabriel sighed as he dropped the paperwork onto the cool metal of the table, his patience thin and his mind weary.

“Look kid, I didn’t come for information, I came to make an offer”.

The teen scowled in response, but Gabriel didn’t miss the crystal sheen in his bloodshot eyes.

“You downed 5 of my best men, for your own sake you should be glad we don’t have to plan a funeral”.

The kid had the sense to look down at that, his eyes burning with unshed tears and barely tempered anger.

“Look mister, I don’t know what you…”

“How about we start with a name?”

The messy haired boy looked up apprehensively, before his face twisted into a scowl.

“I told you, I ain’t telling you nothing!”

Gabriel slammed his fist into the table. “Listen here kid, this is the last chance I'm gonna give you. Either you cooperate or I’ll make sure you spend the rest of your days rotting in the highest security hellhole I can find”.

The kid mumbled in defeat, the fight leaving his body.

“The names Jesse”.

“What?”

“You asked for my name… it's Jesse McCree”.

Reyes stared for a moment before opening the folder in front of him. “Well then Jesse McCree, how about you and I strike a deal. You help me out with a few things and I don’t lock you up with the rest of your so-called friends”

Jesse stared indignantly at the floor. “What business have you got recruiting someone like me?”

“You’re a damn good shot kid, and I’m feeling particularly charitable today”. He said with a smirk. “All you have to do is sign these papers”. He pushed the folder towards McCree, tapping at the bottom of the paper. “Your call kiddo”.

The teen’s brow furrowed in contemplation. He sighed again. “They’ll kill me for this you know, Deadlock ain’t mighty fond of turncoats”.

Gabriel raised an eyebrow at that. “Then be thankful you’ll have us at your back. I can’t say the same for you if you choose to leave here in restraints”.

McCree nodded slightly before lowering the pen to the page.

“One more thing mister…”

“Call me Reyes”

“Right…Reyes. Can I get my hat back?”

And for the first time that week, Gabriel Reyes smiled.

 

The memory seemed so distant now as he sat in the drop-ship, his hands still trembling and soaked in blood.

It was a mystery that they had even let him on the damn thing in the first place.

Despite the events of the last 30 minuets he couldn't bring himself to look at the near lifeless figure presently slumped in the corner.

 

“Reyes what did you do?!?”

Twenty-Nine. It had only taken Jesse McCree 12 years to challenge Gabriel’s judgement.

“Looks like we’re going with plan B”

Gabriel caught the look of defiance on the younger man’s face.

Neither had the chance to respond before the roof gave in.

The confrontation wasn’t over, however, as Gabriel found out several hours later when McCree all but kicked his door down.

“Jesus Gabe, what the hell happened back there?!”

“I'm not in the mood McCree”

“Well tough shit! You damn near got us all killed! You owe us an explanation!”

“Us? I don’t see O’Deorain and Shimada with you.”

“God dammit Gabriel! That was a damn execution! He was unarmed for Christs sake…”

Reyes interrupted him with a snarl. “This doesn’t concern you Jesse! You don’t get to question my orders. You just have to follow them!”

Silence spread across the room.

“Look Reyes, I know things have been difficult lately but you can’t keep shutting people out like this. First Jack and now…”

“Get out”

The abruptness seemed to catch the younger man off guard. He opened his mouth to respond, but ultimately decided against it. Without a word he left the room, leaving Gabriel alone to his thoughts once more.

The silence was suffocating.

 

In retrospect, he wished he had listened, or at least heard the younger man out. It was the first time that he had pushed Jesse away.

What he wouldn’t give to take that back. And now, as dozens of machines hummed around the source of his regret, it didn’t seem likely he was going to get the chance.

 

“I'm leaving”

By Thirty-One, Jesse McCree had had enough.

Gabriel didn’t even respond.

“So that’s it then. No goodbye, no nothing”. he accused, voice breaking slightly.

Gabriel looked up from his desk, but purposefully avoided his second in commands glare, his face stoic and devoid of emotion.

“What do you want me to say Jesse”.

“I don’t know Reyes! I feel like I don't know you anymore!”.

“Then it looks like we’re done here. Close the door on your way out.”

Jesse stared in disbelief. For the first time in his life he couldn’t find the words to respond.

Slowly, he turned to leave, but something prompted him to stop, his silhouette illuminated against the soft light of the hallway. With an expression that could only be described as mournful, he turned to face the one person he thought he could call family.

“Goodbye Gabriel”.

The world seemed to grow colder as he stepped through the door.

 

Reyes was sure he had felt every emotion possible in the chaos following that day. The anger, the pain and the hatred had kept him alive.

But it was in moments like this, as his mistakes were depicted as clearly as the blood on his hands, that he wished he couldn't feel anything at all.

Chapter Text

The ocean was on fire, the dying embers of the evening sun bleeding into the cool blue of the water of below.

He recognised her footsteps instantly.

“Well well, if it isn’t the righteous Bastet herself.”

She fell into place besides him, her ever watchful gaze seemingly fixed on the endless ocean laid at their feet.

“What happened today wasn’t your fault Gabriel…”

He laughed; a ragged noise not dissimilar to a whimper tearing its way from his throat.

“I may as well have pulled the trigger and you know it.”

A sigh escaped his lips, the muscles of his face contorting into a grimace before relaxing again.

“I'm a monster Ana…on the inside and out. No point trying to deny that now.”

She was staring at him; a cautious sympathy hidden behind the copper of her iris.

“We’ve all made mistakes Gabriel. I’ve seen the way Fareeha looks at me when she thinks my back is turned.”

He turned towards her, eyes ablaze with an inky darkness.

“You didn’t betray the closest thing you had to a family Ana!”

“Maybe not. But I failed to stand with them either.”

He watched as a sad smile passed over her features, the final rays of the setting sun catching the silver of her hair. By contrast, the very same pillars of light seemed to pierce him, dappling his shadow with gold as wisps of smoke formed and reformed mindlessly.

“He was furious you know…”

He turned to her; an eyebrow raised.

“Jesse. When Jack and I arrived here he didn’t say a word, just stared as if we were ghosts. Took him two weeks to finally say something…”

 

“Talon are planning something Ana!” He slammed his fist on the table. “I refuse to be caught a step behind yet again!”

“Calm yourself Jack! You are working yourself to death.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time…”

The voice from the doorway caught them by surprise.

He was older than when she had last seen him, his hair longer and his face more furrowed, but he was still the same old Jesse McCree, even after all these years.

It was only when she found his eyes that she realised something was amiss. The usual warmth seemed to have been extinguished by a hollow darkness.

“Jesse, I…”

“Save it. Did you ever actually stop to think about us? Did you ever pause for just one damn second and remember the people you left behind?”

“This isn’t the time McCree.”

“I said save it Morrison!”

He stepped forwards; the wetness of his cheeks evident now as he moved into the light.

“Did we really mean so little to you?”

Even Jack seemed to flinch a little at that.

“Have… have you got any idea how hard it is to plan a funeral when there ain’t anything left to bury?!”

The anger seemed to melt away suddenly, raw anguish taking its place.

“I…hell…we mourned you…all three of you…”

It took all of her composure not to break down as she moved swiftly to stand in front of him.

“Jesse…I’m so sorry. It was too dangerous to get any of you involved…”

He shook his head, opening his mouth to respond before closing it again. Then, much to her surprise, he drew her towards him, burying his head in the fabric of her jacket.

He clung to her as if she would disappear if he let go.

 

“We never told him you were alive you know…couldn’t find the words.”

He could do little but hum in response.

“I could see it in his eyes though Gabriel, every time he looked at us. He never would have admitted it but I could tell…”

The air around him suddenly seemed suffocating.

“…He wished it was you…”

And with those simple words, the levee broke.

Hot tears began to trail silently down his ashen skin, the last ounce of his façade shattering as he fell to his knees.

“I failed him… I fucking failed him Ana. He tried to help me before this all went to shit and I…I threw it all back in his face…”

The world was silent save for the gentle lapping of the waves below.

“And now…” he whispered, voice breaking. “God Ana…what if he…”

He felt her drop to the floor next to him, a gentle hand finding his. In that moment, the scars of their shared past seemed to be forgotten.

He drew a shaky breath before continuing, the words cursed as he spoke them into existence.

“What if he never wakes up?”