“A neuro-kinetic collider.” Hanzo pockets his cell phone. “The explanation was extensive. To summarize, it was an instantaneous swapping of our neural networks: synapses, DNA communication –-”
“Okay, okay.” Jesse runs his hand back through his silky black hair for the fortieth time since sunrise. “Don’t need all that. All I gotta know is how we switch ‘em back.”
Hanzo clenches his jaw at their window terrace. He'd been so pleased with this room when they first landed in Monaco: a seaside vista just secluded enough to serve as home base for two wayward bounty hunters. Now he doesn't know if he'll ever feel pleasure again. “It is very unnerving having to listen to my mouth try to produce your accent. Can you not speak normally?”
Jesse snorts with what sounds like all of Hanzo’s body. “You think I’m the one who talks funny?”
Hanzo achingly lowers McCree’s body onto the plush leather couch; his parts are still sore from the botched mission and whatever that thing did to them. “I made an appointment in Oasis. It will be exceedingly expensive. And it will be weeks before they can see us.”
“This is not a typical procedure, McCree. I was lucky to even find a team of doctors willing to try. And we can work during that time -- a few worthy contracts will put us in the green.”
“How’re we supposed to hunt bounties like this?”
Hanzo takes Peacekeeper out of ‘his’ holster and hands it to Jesse. “You are still you. You can still fire a gun.”
Jesse savors the weight in his palm, twists his wrist this way and that. Then he spins it around his finger and aims at the full-length mirror.
“Well, shit. Gonna need to work on the muscle memory a bit, but, I must say -- you look damn good with a pistol in your hand, Mr. Shimada.”
“I know,” Hanzo drawls, taking up Stormbow and testing the string. “I had to shoot us out of that situation in Miami. Remember?”
“Oh, yeah,” Jesse grins, tonguing his canine tooth. “That was mighty fine.”
Hanzo shakes his head, pointedly turns his gaze elsewhere -– seeing McCree’s flirtatious smirk on his own face is beyond uncomfortable. “Perhaps next time, I’ll fire the gun, and you can watch from above. That way we won’t be in danger of this sort of thing happening again.”
“How was I supposed to deal with twenty cyborgs and a mech in a locked down casino lobby? We’re lucky we got out of there with just our bodies swapped.”
“You call this lucky?” Hanzo gestures to all of himself. “I have to walk the earth as you for two to three weeks. At least crippled in a hospital I wouldn’t be so…” He looks down at himself, struggling to select only one negative aspect of McCree’s body, “…Filthy.”
“I ain't filthy. If it’s so bad, do some laundry. Take a shower.”
Then both men look at each other with the same sudden, spine-rattling tension. Jesse slowly raises his brows. Hanzo slowly shakes his head.
“Oh, shit,” Jesse starts to laugh, half-covers his mouth. “Oh, fuck.”
“No. There are other ways,” Hanzo waves his metal hand, glaring across the room, “There is some way around this.”
Jesse leans back on his hips, arms crossed, looking at him with a raised brow. He looks so superior, Hanzo sneers internally. Is that what I look like?
“I’m waiting, darlin’.”
“Do not call me that.”
Hanzo holds his fist in front of his mouth, brows furrowed at the floor. He gives it his all, but every idea he can generate to keep McCree from touching and/or looking at his own naked body is more stupid than the last.
So he just stands up and cooly straightens his already-straight shirt sleeves. “It doesn’t matter. We are both adults.” He turns one raised brow to Jesse. “As long as you can keep from doing anything inappropriate, we may both get through this with our dignity intact.”
Jesse is checking himself out in the mirror. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
Hanzo stares with a killing expression.
Jesse catches his eyes in the mirror and scoffs. “What? You think I’m more of a pervert than you?”
“You cannot go a single day without touching your own cock.”
“Why, Mr. McCree, you went and lost all your manners…”
“Give me your word that you will not do anything to my body that I would not approve of.”
“Jesus, honey,” Jesse turns back to the mirror, spinning his gun again, “That’s probably a real long list.”
“You know what I am talking about,” Hanzo hisses, standing up and stepping closer. “Promise me,” and here his tone becomes liquid nitrogen, “Or I will think of something that you would not approve of.”
Jesse slowly turns to face him, immediately annoyed to find himself much shorter. “Touch a hair on my head, Shimada, and you won’t be able to take back the things I do.” He taps his temple with his middle finger, looking half-wild. “I got a lotta good ideas for new tattoos.”
“So it’s the hair you are concerned with,” sneers Hanzo, crossing his arms and looking down his nose with all the coldness in the world. “It’d be a pity if anything were to happen to it.”
They both bare their teeth; a stalemate on the French Riviera.
After a tense truce and a few days' adjustment, the pair manage to get on a hypertrain out of the country. The gunslinger is acclimating well to his new body, which, to Hanzo, means he’s grown even more insufferable: the shameless flirting, the way he keeps leaving the top buttons of his shirts undone, wielding Hanzo’s regal appearance like he’s the star of a film inside his own head. It’s all the archer can do to make him stop, but he’s exhausted enough just with making sure the man never spends too much time in the bathroom.
He takes his seat in their compartment and sighs, making no effort to hide his frustration. Jesse, to his credit, orders a bottle of rye he knows Hanzo likes and pours him a glass. It’d be a much more effective olive branch without his intolerably smug expression; as if he’s saying, There, there -– this ain’t so bad.
It was better when we could retain some independence, Hanzo muses. He met Jesse six months ago when the man politely (if a bit ham-fistedly) interfered in a bar fight that Hanzo was more than capable of handling on his own. The gunslinger found that out quickly enough, and after a couple more drinks (in a different bar), he proposed a job that required two men yet bore a hefty paycheck. Hanzo, tempted by the prospect of living well for a change, accepted, and they’ve been raking in the cash ever since. There were still, of course, arguments; Hanzo couldn’t go a day without criticizing something Jesse did and Jesse couldn’t seem to keep his attitude in check no matter the circumstances. But it was all abated by the fact that they could, at any time, leave one another alone -- permanently, if it came to that. Now Hanzo can barely stand to let Jesse out of his sight, and their respective tempers are beating up against each other like storm waves on the hull of an already rickety ship.
“You wanna order some steaks?” Jesse is looking at a menu with an open expression of primal desire –- something Hanzo has definitely never seen on his own face. “60-day aged prime ribeye…”
“How many times must I tell you... we have to conserve our money.”
“Aww, hell.” He flings the menu across the cabin. “What was the point a’takin’ the hypertrain then?”
“Because it’s the last thing our enemies would expect.”
“Well,” Jesse reaches around his jacket pocket for a cigar, “You look mighty good in your disguise, if I do say so myself.”
“Only you would consider a ten-thousand-dollar three-piece suit ‘a disguise.’”
“On me, it is. Now, for your person,” he gestures to himself, pops the crisp white collar, pulling the open buttons even further open, “You always dress nice, but these little touches do wonders. You saw the way the conductor was checking me out, right?”
Hanzo glares. “You cannot continue acting like a fool, McCree. Unlike you, my reputation is not already in shambles.”
“Honey, I’m helping your reputation. You got the looks of a damn supermodel -- throw in a little charm, some niceties? Shit, you could run the whole damn world.”
“Do not call me that, and drop that smile. You only look like you’re mocking people.” Hanzo gestures with his left, lifts his glass with his right, “And I already run things -- with dignity. I do not expect you to understand.”
“Oh no? Why’s that?”
“You did not grow up in that body. Your upbringing was nothing like mine.”
“Yeah, but you don’t have clan goons to keep in line or parents to impress anymore, do ya?”
Hanzo informs Jesse of just how far over the line he is stepping with a single look. “My ancestors are as much a part of me as this,” He jerks up the sleeve on Jesse’s arm to reveal the circling dragon, “And they always will be. It is who I am.” He shoves him as he leans back, glaring iron. “I would ask you to respect that.”
Jesse leans back, regards him with his own steely gaze; his ability to render a poker face has only improved with the asset of Hanzo’s chiseled features. “Alright, alright. Can I ask you to respect something in turn, then?”
Hanzo sighs through his nostrils. “What?”
“Can you loosen the hell up while you’re wearing my skin?”
“Please stop using that phrase.”
“I mean it. I got a reputation too, and, yeah, it’s got a sixty-mil bounty attached to it, but I tip my hat to strangers and let little old ladies have my seat. You can’t be ignoring all of humanity the way you been doing, like you’re locked inside my,” Hanzo glares, so Jesse adjusts, “Face. You’re not in a cage.”
“That is exactly where I am,” Hanzo mutters, plucking the cigar from Jesse’s hand and taking his own drag. “As for my manner, I am just as much of a gentleman as you -- if not moreso.”
“Yeah, but you got this… you’re much colder about it. Don’t make that face, you know I’m right. You’re taking shit for granted. You ain’t got these debonair features anymore, you gotta take a different approach. Listen -- I already, I mean -- you got a mean mug. Even in that suit, with your hair combed back and your beard all trimmed,” and here Jesse makes a face that confesses all his feelings about Hanzo’s fastidious grooming practices, “You got the face of a wanted criminal. People aren’t gonna treat you as nice if you don’t lay out a little charm now and then. Could fuck up our job.” He takes back his cigar and leans back, muttering, “Since that’s all you care about.”
Hanzo elects to ignore Jesse’s bad attitude, as usual, and takes up his drink. “I will attempt to be more personable. But I think you do yourself no credit. You are not the…” Hanzo drifts off as he tries to think of a way to describe Jesse’s old pictures of his Deadlock days without insulting the man’s appearance. “I do not believe that people look at you and see a reprobate.”
“You tryin’a tell me I’m ruggedly handsome?” Jesse smirks.
Hanzo rolls his eyes, bringing his own glass up to block his mouth, “If your ego is so low as to require my constant voiced approval, then yes -- you are roughly handsome.”
“My oh my, Mr. McCree,” Jesse snickers, leaning forward to tap his glass against Hanzo’s, “I do believe we can teach you some charm yet.”
Hanzo smirks back, lets out a dry hmph, and downs his glass in one go. The trip will pass more quickly if he’s drunk.
“McCree. McCree, wake up.”
Jesse flies up, jostling the truck’s flatbed. His wild eyes scan the darkness as he throws off the quilt. Peacekeeper is already in his hand.
“No –- my arm. Your arm.”
Hanzo is sitting up on the cot, clutching the space where prosthetic meets flesh. Jesse can just make out the clammy sweat catching the desert’s full moon, beading between the deep creases of his brow.
He presses a hand to Hanzo’s right shoulder and squeezes, the other hand going to his wrist.
“Phantom pain,” he mutters. “Your brain wants an arm to be there. It’ll pass. Helps if you hurt yourself.”
“Yeah, like… grab your thigh, punch it. ‘Deferred pain.’ Sounds weird, I know, but I learned it from a –-”
“I learned something similar,” Hanzo grunts, immediately digging his nails into his thigh. “My sensei.”
Jesse nods, continues to grip Hanzo’s shoulder. He brushes the sweat off his brow with the end of his flannel sleeve. “Tell me about him. Your sensei. What was he like?”
“Ruthless man,” Hanzo wheezes, features bunched, now jabbing his knuckles into his thigh muscle. “He was from Crisis-ravaged Okinawa. Bald, mean. Clever. Taught me without… my knowing I was being taught.”
“Had a teacher just like that,” Jesse drawls, keeping his voice steady and smooth as best he can with Hanzo’s raspy, guttural voice; the sound of caring words out of Hanzo’s mouth is jarring. “Old soldier. Hard-ass extraordinaire. Taught me that technique in case I ever had to endure torture.”
“Did you? Endure torture?”
Then Hanzo looks at him with his very own stricken brown eyes and it’s all Jesse can do to keep his heart inside his chest. Under the endless starry vault, ears full of wind and his own racing blood, he would swear he was experiencing a miracle –- witnessing his trauma from another side, as if he were looking at an old scar from a great distance. Like those pictures he once saw of the Grand Canyon viewed from space.
He rubs up and down Hanzo’s good arm. “Yeah. But it’s over now.”
Hanzo looks at him in sweating disbelief and then bows over. “Amazing.”
Jesse chuckles weakly. “What? What’s amazing?”
“I never knew you endured this,” he pants, “You seem so… light…”
Jesse knows it’s getting hard for him to focus, so he just grips his shoulder harder, gives Hanzo his hand to hold. The pain doesn’t pass for another fifteen minutes, and by that time, Hanzo is so exhausted that he just slumps back onto the cot and passes out. Jesse makes sure he’s comfortable, adjusts the arm, and pillows the red serape under his head. It’s funny, but he can still make out Hanzo’s eyes behind his own: intense, focused. The way he carries himself, even a gesture as small as putting on reading glasses or the way he pours a drink -– it’s all so quintessentially Shimada. He wonders if Hanzo can see him through his old eyes.
Jesse looks out at the dry scrub of the Judaean desert, scratches his beard and thinks, of course he can -– that’s why he hates it.
Then he lays down by Hanzo’s side, the dragon on his wrist resting atop the hand he used to shoot with.
“Ah, fuck, c’mon, Hanzo. I done enough.”
Jesse huffs on the floor of a white-stucco roof in sunny Cairo. He’s been working out with Hanzo for more than an hour, but the man insists that he do twice as much, as he has a much fitter physique to maintain. Jesse wants to comply, but he can’t stop staring at the bowl of fat, glossy fruit on the table (left out by their landlady, who definitely has a little crush on Jesse’s performance as Hanzo ‘I’m Aware of How Handsome I Am’ Shimada,) and a full jug of ice water that is sweating even more than he is.
“Come on, Han… I still got a headache from last night. One more rep ain’t gonna make you any more swol, trust me.”
“You would not have a headache if you drank water between shots,” Hanzo mutters, already sitting and cooling himself with a fan made from palm leaves. “Fine. Give up, if that’s who you are.”
Just for that, Jesse peels off his damp shirt, tosses it in Hanzo’s face, and beats out twenty more burpees with enough grunting shouts to disturb the neighbors. Hanzo watches him with a blank stare, but hands him an iced drink with half a smirk when he finishes; a very effective olive branch.
Then Jesse falls into a chair and the wooden lattice over their heads sprinkles diamond-shaped lights on their mutually tired bodies -– still very much swapped. Two and a half weeks of hard work have at least made them drop the complaining: Jesse has gotten used to his limber, powerful form and Hanzo has grown into his long legs and quick hands. They perform well enough with their respective weapons, both swearing that they’ve even improved upon their technique, given the challenge of working with an unfamiliar pair of hands. If most of that is just competitive bragging, neither have called the other one out on it. Either way, two successful contracts have not only cleared them for the doctor in Oasis but set them up for a well-deserved vacation day.
“Goddamn, Cairo is beautiful,” Jesse sighs, crossing his ankles on the roof’s edge alongside the potted plants, smiling out at a sea of similar white roofs. “Hand me that knife, honey.”
“Stop calling me that.” Hanzo gives it to him, barely heeding his muttered apology. He watches Jesse cut into a grapefruit as he taps the folded fan on the table’s edge. “Perhaps we can visit the lanes of Khan Al Khalili later.” He roughly nudges Jesse’s leg with his own foot. “Buy you something to combat that smell.”
“Not a bad idea,” Jesse sips at his water, “Could take some horses out to the desert, too.”
Hanzo pulls in a drag from the wooden mouthpiece of a tall hookah. “We always ride horses.”
“Yeah, because it’s the best. What else you wanna do?” He cuts under the fruit’s skin, trying to make a bowl. “Coming up on your last days inside that beautiful body. Anything else you wanna see it do?”
Hanzo’s eyes shoot up. Jesse seems fully occupied with his fruit, calmly sinking his entire mouth into one juicy half; happy as a pig in mud, as he liked to say. Totally ignorant of the thoughts he just ignited in the archer’s head.
No one could ever call either of them undisciplined. Even with the drinking and the often-flagrant spending, both Hanzo and Jesse are professionals hardened by ruthless masters. They’ve both kept to their word every step of the way during this strange and difficult time. Jesse’s adherence to a code of honor is one of the reasons Hanzo decided to work with him in the first place. Though neither could ever really be called ‘good men,’ they were certainly honest, and Hanzo would never do anything to destroy the bond of trust they’ve both worked so hard to build.
Hanzo examines Jesse when he thinks he isn’t looking and wonders just how much he has stuck to Hanzo’s stipulations of ‘nothing I wouldn’t approve of.’ He’s made sure that Jesse take only very quick showers and not use the bathroom unless he absolutely has to, which, while somewhat Draconian, has been met with little rebellion. He has no reason beyond his own natural suspiciousness to believe that the gunslinger has acted untoward… except that the man can’t even seem to keep himself from throwing out overly-affectionate nicknames every half hour. And still stares at himself in every passing mirror.
But Hanzo’s own behavior hasn’t been quite as above-board as he would like. There have been times he’s caught his reflection -– Jesse’s reflection -– and lingered with deep, appreciative staring. It makes his skin even warmer just remembering. Everything about the gunslinger can be qualified as broad: face, shoulders, chest, hips… elsewhere. Wild hair and appealing spots of softness. Old tattoos and interesting scars. So different from Hanzo's own body, so sumptuous in its thick proportions. Hanzo distinctly remembers the first time he resigned himself to showering, how even his Spartan method of self-cleaning hadn’t stopped the rush of arousal at experiencing McCree’s infuriatingly attractive body under the luxurious slide of soap. He hasn’t yet taken himself (or Jesse’s self, rather) in hand, or even touched this body with more than the intention of self-maintenance, but now, staring at the dripping jug of crystal-clear water, he knows that their impending deadline is only going to make the temptation harder to bear –-
“Ahh -- shit! Shit, Hanzo -– what’s happening?!”
Jesse is holding out his left arm, where the tattoo has begun to shimmer in the high noon sun. Hanzo can see scales emerging, pulsing, a serpentine tongue flickering and disappearing near his fingers. Three-toed feet clawing as if trying to get out from under the heavy skin. A brief thread of lightning.
Hanzo stands at once. “We’re in danger. We must have been followed. Let’s go.”
“The fuck’s goin’ on,” Jesse moans, standing, gripping his arm like he’s trying to trap the dragon inside, “I’m gonna pass out, Jesus, I -– I can hear ‘em, they’re coming –-”
“Nothing is coming,” Hanzo hisses, guiding Jesse inside so they can start throwing their things into their bags, “They would not obey you even if you called them.”
“Well, shit, are they gonna listen if I tell them to stop? I can feel them, Hanzo, fuck, they’re… Jesus, they’re fuckin’ angry,” Jesse groans, still managing to pack but moving as if he were being electrocuted, wincing terribly. “Or, not angry, just -– wild -– just, fuckin’ –- I’m gonna –- my heart’s gonna fuckin’ stop, holy shit –-”
“Come here,” Hanzo beckons Jesse closer and tugs him into his chest. He encircles Jesse, easier now that he has this larger body, enveloping him so as to blot out the light. “Think of the desert. Think of riding horses. Your hand on the reins. Your heels down. Your back straight. Picture it all. The dragons are like water -– like a storm. You can ride this out.”
Jesse shudders in his arms, feverish and disheveled. Hanzo presses his chin over Jesse's head and replays the fear he’d seen in his eyes. He knows that fear well: from the very first time he’d witnessed the dragons. The first time he learned that his body housed far more than his own soul. The first time he knew that he’d have to keep both hands on short, invisible leashes for the rest of his life –- leashes pulled so tight as to cut lifelines into his palms.
“Okay, okay,” Jesse seems to rally, possibly at the urgency of the dragons, “Let’s get going. Shit -– I’ll bet it was Marco’s men. He’s been dogging us since Istanbul.”
“We will deal with him.” Hanzo tosses his holster to him and heads for the door. “The dragons will see to that.”
“Is it always like this?” Jesse gestures his arm, where the coiling has smoothed but not ceased. “This… hunger?”
Hanzo stops with his hand on the doorknob. “Always.”
Then he looks back, and swallows hard at Jesse’s open expression of despair. “…But I have learned to handle it from those who had to do it themselves. It is easy for me.”
Jesse sighs harsh, slings Peacekeeper into his holster. Walks with relief in his shoulders.
Hanzo lets him pass and follows him out. Stares at his back and wonders about his compulsive lie. Could he not stand to see anguish like that on his own face? Has he ever acquainted himself with the face of his own pain?
They make their way through narrow streets, keeping to the shadows, stopping to make sure they aren’t being followed. Hanzo watches Jesse, the way he’s adapted so well to that body. The man is so flexible, so well-equipped to navigate the constant changes of life. If he would break faith with Hanzo’s rule, he would likely do it with the same light-hearted manner in which he does everything in life: easy come, easy go. He’d appease his own indiscriminate, wildfire appetites and then think nothing of it fifteen minutes later. Such is the life of a wandering gunman; forgivable, if not condonable.
But nothing for Hanzo has ever been that simple. If he exposes himself to appreciating Jesse’s body, the desire will only grow deeper. He’ll feel less and less in control and never be able to shut it down again. The dragons’ hunger is always so vast, so unending –- difficult not to feel like it’s his own.
By the time they are both huddled in the back of a bus, Jesse’s shoulder tiredly drooping against Hanzo’s, the archer has buried his feelings to a satisfactory numb. Only a few more days, he tells himself. Only a few more days and then… you can decide where to go from there.
Oasis is as stunning as ever, but neither men get to see much of it before they are escorted off the plane and straight to the academy. A lecture hall full of ministers swarm them all at once, questioning and double-questioning, poking and prodding, dodging Jesse’s swiping metal arm when they get too forward. This continues for over half an hour before Hanzo demands to speak to the doctor in charge. After some delay, they are finally led from the lecture hall into a series of beautiful offices, whispers trailing in their wake.
After another hour of discussion, they agree to undergo the procedure in the morning. “Even a successful transfer will not likely be total,” the doctor warns. “You will both still have residual traces of one another’s neural pathways. Shadows of memories that will not be your own. Nerves that will take months, even years before they respond like they used to. And the risk of total mental annihilation,” she lifts her eyes to look at both of them in turn, “Is five to one.”
Still, they agree. “Knew I was saving up my luck for something special,” drawls Jesse, fighting to keep a grin on his face.
That night, they wordlessly agree that the best thing to do is go to a fancy restaurant and get roaring drunk.
“This one,” Hanzo has his nice white shirt fully open and is pointing to a small round scar just below his left nipple. “Tell me about this one.”
“Oh, man,” Jesse lifts their fourth bottle of champagne from its bucket to place against his overheated face -– Hanzo’s body gets warm and flushed long before Jesse’s body does. “That one was a Blackwatch mission in Zagreb. My boss went in first, but I still got in front of him fast enough. Serves me right -– didn’t check m'corners. Was still pretty green back then.”
Hanzo cracks open a lobster claw and douses the meat in butter. “You took a bullet for your boss?”
“Hell yeah,” Jesse tilts the bottle to his lips, seems to remember where he is, and re-routes it into a flute glass instead, spilling a trail on the way. “Shit, I’d do it again, too. Man taught me everything I know. Well,” he slowly spreads his lips into a grin and affects a ridiculously bad wink at Hanzo, “Not everything.”
Hanzo can only chuckle into his flute, making him choke when the bubbles hit the back of his throat. Jesse leans over to slap his back, much to Hanzo’s chagrin, as well as that of every other person in the restaurant.
“Jesus, and here I thought I’d gotten rid a’that gag reflex.”
Hanzo lets out a loud exclamation in Japanese, shoving Jesse away with a laugh.
“Guess it’s a mind-over-matter kinda thing, eh?”
Both of them are snort-laughing loud enough to warrant being thrown out. Hanzo tries to protest, but there’s no arguing with an omnic maître d’ -– they’re one of the most resilient models ever made. “Worse than a Bastion,” Jesse muses as he virtually drags Hanzo out into the night-cooled street.
Hanzo isn’t entirely sure how they got themselves onto a solar-sail ship. Somewhere between the street-food (to make up for the restaurant), Jesse’s sweet-talk (to borrow the ship) and Hanzo’s careful negotiations (exchanging his watch in case they don’t bring it back), they wound up laying back on a white deck, floating down the Euphrates river like a fallen leaf. Hanzo has a pink flower behind his ear from the hanging gardens. Jesse is wearing a glittering scarf that Hanzo bought for him after he’d loudly lamented not having one just like his. The gleaming beauty of Oasis eventually overrides their tipsy conversation until they’re both contentedly watching the city pass them by, not a sound but the lapping waves and the distant hum of civilization.
Which is just enough calm for Hanzo to start nursing intrusive thoughts. “Do you think we’ll survive the procedure?”
“Alright,” Jesse sits up, takes off the scarf from around his forehead, “That’s enough booze for you.”
He reaches for the bottle, but Hanzo just leans further and further back, until Jesse overestimates his reach and falls on top of him. Hanzo, laughing, easily shoves him off with the cowboy boots he decided to wear for the first and last time.
“You’re always serious,” whines Jesse, a completely new sound to Hanzo’s ears.
But he’s getting used to being surprised. “I am not,” he scoffs, “You appreciated my joke about the… uhh…” He stares very seriously at the water, as if that is where he kept his memory.
“Oh yeah,” Jesse seems to get it anyway, trying to sit up and failing, “Oh Christ, I thought I was gonna die. You don’t get in a lot of shots, archer, but,” he hiccups, “When you do?” He sends Hanzo a smile that, even through Hanzo’s face, is effortlessly stunning. “Fuckin’ bull’s-eye every time.”
Hanzo lets out a laugh that almost sounds like his own –- a low, gravely heh-heh-heh. It must’ve been exactly as uncanny as he thinks, because Jesse stops and looks back at him with wide eyes.
They stare, Jesse’s mouth fixed in a strange smile, until the burning in Hanzo’s chest drives him to look away. Then, berating himself for his cowardice, he blurts out: “I could get used to this.”
Jesse, as soft as his staring: “what do you mean? Heh… you could live in that body forever?”
Jesse sits up, scoff-laughing. “Well, that’s mighty flattering darlin’, but I’m afraid I’ll have to blame that one on the booze.”
“I am serious, McCree.”
“Oh, c’mon,” he scoffs harder this time, “I know I’ve been making a big to-do about how great it is being inside your goddamn perfect body, but there ain’t no call to get dramatic. We’re gonna do the thing tomorrow and everything’s going back to the way it was.”
Hanzo clenches his jaw. He doesn’t see it, but Jesse does the same.
“What if it fails? I am not saying it will,” he lifts a hand before Jesse can protest, “But, five-to-one… what if it does? I am not like you, McCree. I must consider the consequences of all of my actions.”
“Hey, fuck off, I consider my consequences plenty,” Jesse brays, getting deeper into his accent the more his temper lights, which comes across as even more absurd coming from Hanzo’s throat. “Tell me the consequences of staying where we’re at, huh? Nevermind all the body shit neither of us got the wherewithal to deal with -– aren’t you gonna miss bein’ you? Shit, Hanzo, I know I make fun, but it ain’t like we just traded skins. Your body is –-”
“Nothing to me.”
Jesse locks up. Stares with parted lips but no words. Unsure of what Hanzo needs to hear, unsure of how he feels. Even sharing bodies, there is still so much they cannot communicate to one another; things they maybe could never communicate to anyone.
Then Hanzo lowers his head, shakes it slowly. “I do not mean…” He waves a hand, dismissive, “Of course, I hope the procedure works. Of course I am still going to go through with it and –-”
“Nah, just,” Jesse leans forward, keeping his eyes on Hanzo’s, gazing with that warm and roguish way of his, that look that Hanzo finds impossible to resist. “Finish what you were gonna say. I don’t mind. Get it out. Might be the perfect time for it.”
“Don’t pretend to be nicer than everyone else,” Hanzo growls. And then, almost trying to hide the words: “I like that you do not pretend.”
“No pretending,” Jesse replies, humoring the beginnings of a smile, putting his hand on Hanzo’s boot and giving it a shake. “I really wanna hear what you think.”
So Hanzo keeps his new eyes on his old ones, if only to ground himself through words that feel wrong, unfamiliar, but necessary in the light of Jesse asking for them. “I have always treated my body as a tool. To keep it under control, because of the dragons and… everything else. I have never felt any one way about it. It is a means to an end.” He squints, realizes that he is too drunk to be doing this, and coughs, “I simply meant, I would consider the option of keeping things as they are… if faced with the option of total obliteration.”
“That ain’t gonna happen,” Jesse plies, a hand rubbing Hanzo’s shin. “Hey. I’m glad you don’t hate being in my body anymore. We both been doing good with what we got handed –- I think that’s pretty damn commendable. But we’re gonna get set right, and things’re gonna be even better from here on out.” He leans his head downwards until he’s caught Hanzo’s downcast eye, then leads him upwards with a tilt and a smile. “We had a damn good adventure, archer. And we’re gonna have a few more after tomorrow.”
Hanzo does not smile back, but he nods slowly, letting his black thoughts fall one at a time into the river. He lifts his hand to put over Jesse’s, but the gunslinger pulls away before he can.
“Besides,” and here Jesse lays on his belly, chin propped up on Hanzo’s boot, “I enjoy life a lot more when I get to stare at your eyes instead’a mine.”
Hanzo brushes his knuckles under his jawline, smirking at the water. “And I don’t think I could get through life with a,” he pretends to forget the words, then emphasizes them: “'tramp stamp.'”
“Hey, that tramp stamp is fuckin’ cool.”
“You said it was ‘the mistake of youth and drink.’”
“Well, I take it back. I stand by my tramp stamp,” Jesse swipes the bottle from Hanzo, clean as a thief, raises it in a toast, “And all it stands for.” He takes a swig.
Then Hanzo reaches for the bottle. Jesse, still chugging, evades him. So Hanzo leans over, drunk on the power of his superior reach, and places a kiss on Jesse’s pumping throat.
Which makes Jesse choke, sputter, and whirl around so quickly that he topples off the boat and falls into the river. Luckily, the wind is still slipping past the sails, or is dead entirely –- either way, the ship isn’t going anywhere.
Half an hour later, they stumble back into their hotel room, both partially soaked –- fishing Jesse out of the river while laughing his head off proved to be too much for Hanzo's already compromised coordination.
“…And that’s how I wound up with knife scar number six. Thank Christ I had a metal arm by then,” Jesse starts peeling off his jacket and shirt, “Would’ve been a goner otherwise.”
“And I would have missed an enjoyable evening,” Hanzo chuckles, walking across the room to also remove his clothing. “Tragedy evaded.”
Jesse grabs a towel and tosses one to Hanzo, beaming. He’s grinning so much that Hanzo imagines his cheeks must be sore -– he’s sure his own mouth hasn’t smiled this often in a long time. Maybe ever.
Then the gunslinger picks up a deck of cards from the dresser. “Let’s play a game.”
“No more drinking games,” Hanzo mutters, going for glasses and ice and water. “I already have these smoker’s lungs to contend with.”
“I’ll make it real easy -– this dodgy liver’s ready to go any day now,” Jesse roughly pats his gut, smirking daggers at Hanzo, who sends them right back. “Strip poker. Only when I lose, you have to take something off.”
“That is hardly fair,” Hanzo scoffs, “Seeing as how you are enamored with your own body already.”
“I am not! Just don’t hate it neither. Come on,” Jesse shuffles in midair, showing off. “It’ll be a hoot. We haven’t played cards in an age.”
“But we have seen each other naked and scrubbed ourselves clean for going on twenty-one days. There’s nothing left to reveal. The cat, as you like to say,” Hanzo hands Jesse his water, “Is out of the bag.” He turns to his bag, relieving himself of his pistol and ammo. “We need to rest anyway.”
“Alright, alright.” Jesse sets down the cards, hangs the towel around his neck and heads for the bathroom. “I smell like pond scum, so I guess I’ll be givin’ yourself one last scrub. I’ll go hell for leather, yeah yeah, I know,” he brays at Hanzo, hurrying away with a thrown hand.
Misinterpreting the look Hanzo gave him entirely.
The bathroom door snips shut and Hanzo’s eyes snap to the corner beside the enormous windows, where a full-length mirror stands idle.
Quickly, he moves it to face the bed.
I won’t do anything, he tells himself as he sits on the edge and starts unbuttoning his shirt. I just want to look. One last time.
He strips with held breath until he’s wearing only McCree’s red boxers. Then he lets out a long sigh, air from the pit of his stomach, and strokes with both hands. Calloused fingers drag up the thick route of hair, spread over the tawny pectorals, stroke the generous thighs. Already he can feel his cock start to stir, but he doesn’t pay it any mind. He just wants one last memory to savor. The texture of his hair, the swell of his skin; it won't be long before it's out of his reach forever.
But then he catches his own eye and something draws him in. His hands slow to a halt over his belly. He leans forward, staring into the voids of his pupils. Like a veil falling away, he realizes that he doesn’t actually look like Jesse at all. The smile-wrinkles around his deep brown eyes haven’t been utilized in a long time. That card-shark glint is gone. The sun-kissed essence is nowhere to be found. Behind Jesse’s amber-browns is something downturned, archaic –- lost.
Is that me? Hanzo leans forward, gently pulling the skin beneath Jesse’s deadeye. Is that what I bring with me?
Then Jesse bursts from the bathroom, still bundling a towel tightly around his damp waist: “Hanzo, we gotta talk.”
Hanzo calmly moves to slip under the blankets, as if he’d just been climbing into bed, but he's too late -- Jesse stares hard at the mirror before he lends Hanzo the most smug look he's ever seen.
“I’ve done nothing wrong,” Hanzo shoots out, in the defensive tone of someone who has done something wrong.
Jesse raises his brow, dry as a dead leaf. Beginning to smirk. “Sure.”
“I was looking at your eyes! I had…” Hanzo drifts off, his brow knotting with sudden anger –- anger he cannot source. “They look different.” He glares at the sheets. “They look different like this.”
The gunslinger is canny enough to pause, even if he doesn’t entirely believe him. He makes sure his towel is fixed before sitting on the other side of the bed, one knee bent up. “What do you mean?”
“Can’t you see it?” Hanzo, knowing he’s on the waning end of drunk, knowing that they’ve been flirting all night, knowing that he’s still half-aroused from staring at Jesse’s body in the mirror, still stares fervently at Jesse and nearly takes his hand: “your eyes look so different with me in here.”
And Jesse blinks, really looks at him, but then just raises his brows with gentle incredulity. “So? I noticed that on day one.”
“You look…” Hanzo turns back to look at the mirror. “Darker. Angrier.” He glares back at Jesse. “It is hard to look at.”
“How you think I got to be the way I am?” He chuckles, shaking his head. “You ain’t ever seen my face when I mean to kill, honey. I only ever look that nice when I’m looking at you.” Glancing away, uncharacteristic shyness carefully masked. “I mean… we all grow around the face we were given. I played the cards I was dealt. But, no pretending now -- honestly, when I look, I see...” he moves closer, eyes now locked on Hanzo’s, searching him as if looking for something very specific. Something he knows will bring him joy, like a child hunting for his favorite treat.
When he finds it, the smile he gives Hanzo is enough to make him forget about mirrors entirely. “I think I look a touch more badass with you in there. Like how I thought I’d grow up to be.”
Hanzo’s throat goes through the physical motion of scoffing, as if by habit, but no sound comes out. He stares at Jesse until the urge to chuckle moves through. “You always look ‘bad ass.’” He leans over and moves a piece of long black hair behind Jesse’s ear so that nothing obscures his shit-eating grin. “I look a touch happier.” Hanzo cannot help but return the smile. “It’s not bad.”
“Not bad at all,” Jesse murmurs, capturing Hanzo’s hand, boldly placing a kiss in the palm. “I like hearing your voice. You make me sound like someone worth listening to.”
Hanzo closes his eyes, rubs his hand up Jesse’s jaw, speaks in a slurred rasp but gets the words out: “you are always worth listening to, Jesse.”
He sways forward. Their foreheads touch. Jesse lets out a shallow sigh. Their cheeks and noses brush, and then they fall against each others’ mouths.
They both inhale like they’ve been holding their breath. They both raise hands to cup the other’s jaw. Air shoots in and out of their nostrils like they’re both handling nuclear material, like any second the other’s lips will cease softly folding between the other's and the whole building will burst into flames.
Jesse is the one who gives his tongue first, who moans all the way from the pit of his stomach, and Hanzo is the one who channels his lightning-hot response into a sudden bite that surprises even him.
“Hot Christ,” Jesse gasps when they part, tonguing his swelling bottom lip. “Please let me touch you.”
Hanzo tenses. “You –-”
“I mean this, I mean you,” he grasps at his throat, strokes down to his pecs, “I been good, I swear, I’ve only ever looked and… petted, just a lil’… honey,” he goes for another kiss, nods his head under Hanzo’s chin to adorn his throat, “Please, open your eyes, it ain’t that bad…”
“This is beyond narcissism,” Hanzo mutters, still running his hands through Jesse’s hair, his hair, tilting his head to let Jesse lick his neck. “This is,” and then he says a phrase in Japanese that Jesse only gets the gist of, something that ends in a groan.
“It ain’t, you said it yourself,” Jesse pulls back to face him and stroke the rounds of his cheeks with his thumbs. “You can see me in here.”
But Hanzo is still clearly uncomfortable, hardly opening his eyes enough to see.
“Hey,” the gunslinger kisses him again, soft and playful, “Go back to the mirror. Go ahead, I know you wanna.”
“Jesse,” Hanzo breathes, hesitant, “I don’t…”
“If you just wanna lay here and kiss, that's fine, too."
"Or not kiss, we could just talk, or... whatever you wanna do,” Jesse pants, “I’ll do whatever you want, honey. Just tell me what to do…”
Then Hanzo opens his eyes completely, hooks his arms under Jesse’s knees and pins him to his back. He looms, hands on the backs of Jesse’s thighs, ignoring how the towel bunches up as he leans over and licks the plumpest part of Jesse’s shock-slackened lips.
“God damn,” Jesse breathes out, hands splayed above his head, “I like how… I like when you’re…”
“Bigger?” Hanzo chuckles, pressing Jesse’s knees to his ears. He murmurs against his lips, “I do not need to be taller to make you feel like mine, cowboy.”
“N-nah,” Jesse agrees, shuddering all over. “You sure as hell don’t. But you make it look damn good.” He reaches around and glides his hands up Hanzo’s ass.
Which makes Hanzo sizzle. “You’re so… hairy.”
“It somehow,” he leans back, drags the tips of his fingers over his happy trail, “Makes you even more sensitive.”
“S’how I know when it’s about to rain,” Jesse cackles, mirroring Hanzo, stroking down his abdominals. “Fuck, I –-” He bites his lip and growls the rest.
“Tell me,” Hanzo growls back, leans forward again to close the space until their faces blur with closeness. “I want to hear what you think.”
“I want you so bad, honey,” Jesse whines, “Been wantin’ you even before we switched. Can't take my damn eyes off you. This whole time… s’been torture. Please.”
“Please, what,” Hanzo murmurs, lowering himself to flick his tongue against Jesse’s nipple, knowing he'll love it. “Tell me what you want.”
“Ahh,” he sighs, fists Hanzo's hair, “I wanna make you feel good.”
“You have more than that on your mind,” Hanzo runs his tongue again, “I know you.”
“Ha, you do, do you?” Jesse breathlessly laughs, squirming. “I want you to… do to me what you wanna see my body do.”
“Hmm,” Hanzo grins, reaches up to cup Jesse’s jaw, obviously pleased. “Interesting idea.”
Jesse can't help but glow. “Yeah?”
“And what if I don’t want to be the one who –-” and then Hanzo leans down and mutters obscenities into his ear.
Jesse’s jaw goes slack. “Fuck.” He grasps for breath. “Then, fuck, sweetheart –- shit, honey, if you don’t wanna, I will.”
“We are drunk,” Hanzo points out.
“We sure are.”
“This is still,” and then he uses that Japanese phrase again.
“We’ve done weirder shit,” Jesse whines.
“Okay, okay,” Jesse gives in, "It’s the weirdest. But I want you, honey. I’ll do whatever you say." He reaches around Hanzo's hips, boldly strokes him through his boxers -- steals in like a thief. "I just want you.”
And the glowing sincerity of his voice makes Hanzo hiss and bite his throat, makes him grind down until Jesse answers with a moan. He doesn’t want to think anymore. He doesn’t want to be more than a trusting body. He doesn’t want to waste this night which, despite Jesse’s determined optimism, might be their last.
“Kiss me,” he whispers.
And Jesse does, and they fall against their sides, and Hanzo peels off the towel and his own boxers so there’s nothing to block their skin, nothing to save him from the overwhelming heat of Jesse’s body against his own. They rut like teenagers, unwilling to allow a centimeter's space between them. Grinding and stroking and licking their fill.
“Fuck, baby,” Jesse sighs, takes himself in hand, pumps slowly, “What you do to me…”
“What do I do to you,” Hanzo growls, plying for worship, stroking himself in turn.
“Made me feel like I was gonna bite my tongue off, wanted you so bad,” Jesse noses his throat, kisses his pulse, “Wanna touch you all the time. Makes me stiff every time you look at me.”
“Hm,” Hanzo captures his mouth, kisses invasively, playfully doubtful: “I would have noticed.”
“It’s true. You make me so hot, honey,” Jesse strokes his chest, then strokes Hanzo’s, “I'd suck you dry with just a word, no questions asked. Anywhere, anytime. Make me feel like I'm burnin'. Like I’m goin’ fuckin' crazy.”
“In that case,” Hanzo pushes aside Jesse’s hand so he can stroke their cocks together, “Let me.”
The gunslinger whines low and sharp in his chest until Hanzo presses him with another absorbing kiss. He kisses to seize, to hold, to capture the wildfire that is Jesse McCree and make him savor the moment. He strokes them long and slow, accentuating every twist of his palm with another glacial drag of his tongue. Memorizing every ridge and fold.
Jesse is at his wit’s end, as he said, dying a little more with each passing second. Body trembling, hands roaming. The space around them grows as hot as a jungle, misted with sweat, rain and champagne breath. Hanzo keeps looking down the hills of his chest, past every brown curve, to where their cocks join in his hand -– in Jesse’s hand. He doesn’t need to look up to know that Jesse is doing the same.
He's never felt more present. When he looks up at the mirrors of Jesse's blown-out pupils, he thinks he might finally understand eternity.
Then Hanzo growls against his lips: “I could fuck you like this."
He’s answered with a moan, barely controlled, teetering on the edge. Just shy of desperate.
So he starts stroking faster. “Would you like that?” He thumbs the heads of their cocks, sharing slick, bringing it down to wet his grip. Jesse starts panting like a racehorse. “Would you like me to hold you in my lap, with your legs spread before the mirror?” He pushes his mouth to Jesse’s ear, pours in liquid flame. “Would you like to watch yourself split open on my cock?”
If Jesse was wrecked before, now he looks absolutely insane. Uninhibited in body and soul. Moaning, bucking, scraping. Mumbling worship and begging in equal terms.
Hanzo finds he doesn’t mind kissing his own face, stroking the cock he knows is his, enjoying the body he only ever thought of as a means to an end. When Jesse pleads his name, thrusts into his hand and comes loud enough for them to hear two floors down, the warm pulsation that accompanies the electricity in his groin overflows, percolates, a little of it sticking to the dark-eyed vessel he’s known for so long but never really looked at in the right light.
He finishes in Jesse’s eager mouth. Drags him up slow, adores his lips. Practically yanks him back when he tries to leave to clean themselves up, vibrates like a star when Jesse folds easily back into his embrace. Sticks a knee between Hanzo's legs and never moves.
It feels like hours before they’ve drifted off, neither truly willing to change the sheets, or dry off, or detach from one another for even a moment. Jesse strokes Hanzo's hair, hums off and on. Hanzo isn't sure he ever sleeps. The sun isn’t long to rise. His heart never truly stops racing.
When Hanzo sees that it's time, and kisses Jesse’s head on his chest, he denies himself the black despair threatening tears and hastens the man so that together they might face the day.
He wakes in cool darkness. For a post-op room, it’s remarkably barren, outfitted only with dim blue shades over day-tinted lights. It reminds him of the rivers of the southwestern United States, where the waters run aquamarine.
Then he remembers that he’s never been to the southwestern United States.
His neck cranes to the side -– he no longer has the reach.
Jesse, weak and shaved but very much himself, grins like a soft candle from four feet away, stretched out in a hovering white bed of his own.
“The genuine article,” he winks without moving his head.
The archer breathes out ten years’ worth of tension. He smiles as wide as he can, wider than he knew he could. “I remember the Colorado river.”
“Yeah?” Jesse beams back, eyes wet -- overwhelmed. “That’s good, baby. That's real good.”
They smile sleepily at one another until the gunslinger suddenly sits up with a groan.
“Jesse. Lay down, you fool.”
“Can’t do that, Han,” he mutters, obviously in pain, a rolling device dragging after all the cords stuck to his head. “Gotta get closer.”
He climbs into Hanzo’s bed and juts his knee between his legs just like the night before. Hanzo sighs hard again, lets him tuck his head under his chin, finds his smell beyond the antiseptic and tries not to hold on too tight. He gently touches the skin where the multicolored tubes meet the gunslinger’s skull -- soothing as he is soothed. The small room seems to hum with energy, but both men are languid against each other, as if partially melted. Drunk on nothing at all.
“Did you already pay?”
“Damn. I was hoping this meant we could skip out on the tab.”
Hanzo chuckles, “I think these,” he gives one of Jesse’s head-cords a gentle tug, “Have to stay in for awhile longer anyway.” Pausing, he pokes a finger into the wide neck of Jesse’s white smock, pulling it open and looking down.
Jesse looks up, his lashes brushing Hanzo’s cheek. “Han?”
“Just checking,” he mutters, looking back at him.
“You makin’ sure they didn’t take all my hair?”
Hanzo holds his jaw and kisses him with open eyes. “Would have been a pity.”