gabriel reyes is a dead man.
he may have been alive, once, but those days feel so far and few in between. he hasn't felt alive for some time now. the dark circles under his eyes and the pallid color of his skin make him look more like death than anything corporeal. like ash, like bone, like the corpse he's turned into. he's still flesh and blood, as much as a wraith can be. it pumps through his veins as his cells regenerate and die, regenerate and die, regenerate and die. over and over and over and over and over. a cycle never-ending and monotonous.
he wishes they'd just let him go.
he remembers stories his mother told--so religious, as many latino families living in los angeles were--about death and rebirth, about respecting the dead and honoring their memories. his parents left offerings, mourned at funerals, but respected the ghosts of their past. they held onto them not as weights to hold them down, but as fond mementos. they kept the legacy of the dead alive, so that some part of them may still remain. but they hoped that the spirits found peace, lit candles, smudged sage. anything to honor the dead but keep them at bay.
his family would have hated to see him like this. some abomination that was kept from death. half in the grave, part of some terrible spirit realm. just stuck in between them. like being buried in a coffin only two feet down, not enough dirt to cover the lid, not enough to crack the wood, not enough to suffocate the still breathing body inside. no, he had to stay alive. he had to walk to world in sorrow and in rage, in guilt and grief and agony.
death is supposed to be permanent; its an affliction you can't cure. in his case, death is not an escape, it is not a release, it is a prison. he's trapped in the cage of his own body with a still beating heart. his body screams for the day he can finally lay himself down and give up, let go of his anger and antics and finally be free of himself and of the pain of his past. the world is not so merciful.
the thoughts and desires of a live man differ greatly from those of a man that has no life left to give.
he's been vindictive in his life, he's been petty in his life, but in death he is a goddamn machine. he is ruled by his need for vengeance and control, the need to make everyone just as unhappy in death as he has been. gabriel reyes has never been mentally sound, he's known that almost all his life, but in death that feeling seems to grow and grow and consume him. like the inky blackness that floats around him, it is all-encompassing. he was able to hide all those terrible things about himself before. back when he really had a reason, back when he was fighting for...something.
he's no longer sure if he was fighting because he wanted to build a better world for himself, to change those things about himself he hated, or because he met someone he wanted to do it for.
he remembers the secret program he'd been brought into, he remembers very little, however, from the time he was deconstructed and built up again. the soldier program is a well-kept secret and there are only one hundred of them. he is number twenty-four out of the group and, later, the blue-eyed blonde haired menace from the squadron over is number seventy-six. and, later still, they both joined a team of heroes, overwatch.
gabriel does not think back to those times where he and morrison were rivals, friends, everything in between and beyond, because it makes his thirst for vengeance that much worse. for he sits and stews in his misfortune and anger, and knows that he is no good for jack, he's always known that a thug from california has no business being anything to a good boy from indiana. it is a self-inflicted distance he tries to add to no avail.
he is not upset over giving jack leadership of overwatch despite his senior officer status. blackwatch suits his tastes, covert and quiet and he would not have to suffer the public affection; besides, jack has always been better than him at winning hearts--he won over gabriel's, a true test of dedication.
his world is steadily falling apart long before his body even starts.
further genetic tests done by the scientist he himself employed are breaking him apart. he asked for this, he knew he did, but he didn't ask for this. he didn't ask for this thin veil of sanity that he can feel wearing away piece by agonizing piece. he didn't ask for the mood swings, he didn't ask for the dissociation, or the disconnect from personal relationships. he and his teammates are falling apart before he knows it and rialto is the tip of the iceberg.
when overwatch falls apart it is mourning morrison's death; a coffin without a corpse. he oftentimes wonders if he's gone forgotten, if because he was not the world's sweetheart, if others will care about the tragedy he's become. a walking shadow, some unholy abomination, and he can't stop the terrible things he wants to do. forcing others to suffer seems like the best way to find absolution. join the team that overwatch was fighting against, exact revenge--for what, sometimes he doesn't even know--and then finally, finally there will be the light at the end of the tunnel.
everything gabriel reyes does after overwatch is a twisted bid for redemption so that he may, finally, be able to find himself in death, rather than acting in her favor.
mijo, if all the other children jumped off the golden gate bridge, would you?
to be honest, he wonders if that's a trick question. in his mind the answer is 'yes', because there's no risk of being harmed, because the san francisco bay is right underneath. he's certain this isn't what his mother wants to hear, so he dutifully remains quiet. its not as though she asked if he'd jump off the empire state building, that's nothing but harsh concrete at the bottom; besides, he's heard that the heart-attack would kill you on the way down.
i'm taking to you, gabriel!
he flinches and stares up at her, gives a broad shrug, "but mama, there's water under--"
the look she gives him is enough to actually be murderous. he has inherited that from her, the same as he has inherited his father's pride. she raises her hand, points her finger at him, and he recoils, because hispanic mothers are scary when they're angry. he's shocked she hasn't taken off her sandal yet and threatened him with it. his abuela would have. he's just a dumb teenager, tall and lanky, getting lost and caught up in things he shouldn't.
after a run-in with the cops, it is his first and last time in jail. his parents leave him there, hope that it'll knock some sense into him. shockingly enough, it does. the omnic crisis isn't too far off and in a time where heroes are desperately needed, he starts wondering if, maybe, he can do some good instead of consistently fucking up. he hates to see his parents upset with him. it is, by far, the worst thing to hear as a young adult.
he could do some good, sure. maybe he could be a hero.
he remembers not thinking too much of jack morrison when he met him; he looked every bit the farm boy that he turned out to be. tall and blonde and blue-eyed and shockingly naive at times. gabriel didn't necessarily consider himself judgmental, he'd tried to be better than that, but even he judged the new kid on the scene.
and then he got to know him, more personally than anyone else in the program.
the program hand-picked one hundred soldiers to add to its ranks and not all of them made it through the genetic tests, but he and jack had. out of the one hundred named soldiers, less than half made it through, and less than half of those still saw it through to the end. he and jack, as it turned out, became a packaged deal. where there was one, there was the other. the only time in his life where gabriel would willingly follow someone else instead of making his own way.
jack pulls the cigarette from his lips and gabriel scowls, reaches for it, but gets that annoying grin instead. you shouldn't be smoking, its bad for your lungs. he scoffs, and loudly, stares up at the blonde with general annoyance, which doesn't phase his partner in the least. it used to, he thinks, at some point. he hopes, at least. jack snuffs the cigarette out and gabriel is already mourning its loss--jack has been trying to get him to quit for months now, but gabriel is so far into the addiction he doesn't know if he can.
i got something else you can do with your mouth, instead.
the boldness is not new or unwelcome, but he recalls the first time jack ever put his foot forward, went for the thing he wanted, and its amusing to this day. gabriel snickers at that, "that's bold of you, to assume i even want something else." he does it to see jack cluck his tongue, to watch the ghost of a pout on his lips before he brings them down to find gabriel's own.
being addicted to a person will always end in tragedy.
"what'd you think was gonna happen here, jack?" he asks, voice like gravel and muffled unpleasantly behind his mask. he hates this confrontation bullshit and if he'd have been able to, he would have finally finished off morrison when he was given the chance. there was too much at stake here and it was just the two of them, no one in the whole goddamn world but them. the street could be busy and bustling and all gabriel would be able to see was himself and jack morrison, soldier: 76.
and he remembers the stance jack took then; defensive but not offensive. gabriel knows that look, can feel the intensity of the other's stare behind the slightly cracked visor. he knows what he'll see is disappointment and fervor, maybe an ache to figure out what went wrong and why they wound up this way. sometimes he asks himself that too and how can he really blame anyone but himself? he finds it easier to blame overwatch for the rise and fall and collapse of everything he'd known because its easier than to live with guilt.
"you think that you're gonna say something that's gonna make me realize everything i've done up until now was wrong?" he bites the words, twirls a shotgun in his hand as he flourishes in grand form; dramatic, he'll never be anything but. "that you're the good-natured country boy that's gonna come save this beast from his self-inflicted curse?" the idea, in itself, is laughable. no one can save him from this, there's nothing left to save anyway.
they used to be whole, once.
and gabriel doesn't pull any triggers, doesn't move an inch closer, he doesn't do anything but stare at his friend, lover, rival, from feet away and he wonders if there'd be anything left of them both in a few years. when everything was said and done and they were nothing but hollow shells of the men they once were. he can feel parts of himself slowly drifting away, like the smoke that sometimes rises from his skin while his cells decay and rejuvenate. sometimes he wishes they could go back, thinks he might have done things differently. really, he just wants to be wholeheartedly in love and young again.
"we both know that ain't gonna happen. this isn't a fucking fairytale anymore, there's no fixing this."
its very final, it feels like a nail in the coffin his body doesn't actually occupy. its overwhelmingly painful and for a long time later gabriel wonders why. he clings to the past in a way that's so unhealthy, and he should move forward; he hopes that finally killing morrison will do this for him. but the chances he's had and never took are the ones that ricochet in his head the most. he wonders why its been so hard when its been so easy to kill even innocent people. he is unforgivable in his transgressions but he also knows that if there was anyone out there that would, it would still be jack. everything about gabriel reyes is now a ghost, a dead man masquerading in the world of the living. he doesn't really belong anywhere, anymore.
can you hear la lechuza, nieto?
they're words no child wants to hear from their abuela. he's heard it, the owl quietly sounding outside his window sometimes. he's seen its eyes, once or twice, or at least he's sworn he has. the quiet, gentle hoot of what he'd come to learn was just a barn owl that lived in the tree in the backyard. his family, superstitious as most hispanics were known to be in the area in which he grew up, told stories of the bruja that took the form of an owl, la lechuza, to warn children that she may be coming for them if they don't straighten out. a terrible story told by parents that wanted their children to behave.
he wears the mark of la lechuza on his face, on the way he glides, shifts his form to that of nothing but wisps of smoke. in his adult years he's maintained the stories and thinks, perhaps, there's more truth to them than his cynical mind wants to admit. the shapeshifting owl that steals souls, its such an ironic twist of fate that life would make him this. the one thing that truly scared him from his childhood and he might become it himself.
behave, nieto, or la lechuza will come for your soul.
let her take it now; he doesn't need it anymore.