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Jack Morrison had seen a lot of shit in his life. He had witnessed a near apocalypse, had been one of the few who stood in its way. He had led humanity to triumph with the man he loved by his side, only to watch it fall again, his heart shattering upon its impact. He had seen loss, death, rebirth.

And yet despite the blinding, sometimes unbearable remorse that choked him every living day and every living moment, what he was currently witnessing was still one of the most painful things he had ever seen, and he was powerless to stop it.

"Mighty fine shot there, pardner," McCree drawled, tipping his hat and flashing his teeth. "Felt it go right through my heart."

Hanzo snorted. "Pity you survived."

Morrison winced.

This had been going on for months now with no sign of an end and no matter how many times he saw it, it never got easier.

"Stop teasing," Genji chuckled. "Focus on the task at hand."

McCree had a habit of harmlessly flirting with anyone in range. He never meant anything by it, and that it was happening to Overwatch's newest recruit was so routine, it was almost comforting.

But there was one small, barely perceptible difference: a slight tick of McCree's mouth, so minor and so brief that Jack barely saw it at all. It was one of his few tells, one that only a handful of people had ever seen and even fewer were able to recognize—McCree was actually hurt.

Which meant...fuck.

---

Jack dismissed it at first.

It was a crush. No harm done. McCree would realize Shimada wasn't interested and he'd move on.

Except that months passed. And he didn’t move on.

Jack watched the two of them like a hawk, and while the flirting lessened, other things took its place.

McCree would cook too much of the rice dish that Shimada had once off-handedly described as "not inedible", and would deliver it to Hanzo's door, only to be turned away as soon as the bowl had been grabbed from his hands.

He would "accidentally" run into Shimada at the training range so often that they eventually made an appointment around it.

He was always the first to visit whenever Hanzo ended up the in med bay, and was always the last to leave.

He was fond of Shimada, and was using every trick in the Blackwatch handbook to ensure that no one knew.

Fortunately, Jack had witnessed every trick in the Blackwatch handbook firsthand (and was usually a day too late to stop it), and he knew to look, so he saw every bloody detail.

Once again though, it shouldn't have meant a damn thing. McCree had always been Reyes problem, never his. And even that had been a decade ago—a decade that all three of them likely wanted to forget.

Except, for some reason, Jack couldn’t quite shake the gnawing feeling in his chest—the one that felt like heartburn but clearly wasn't. And he couldn’t shake that quiet voice that sounded remarkably like Gabe's—Reyes'—the one that had a habit of returning when he least wanted it to.

"Our boy's helpless as fuck," when McCree literally tripped over himself to get on a two-man mission roster with Hanzo in Ilios, which allowed for Lúcio to get the mission instead.

"Our boy has a heart of gold, but can't see past his dick," when McCree had to flee the gym in terror after Hanzo arrived one day to train shirtless.

"Our boy."

Jack slammed his hand into the gym wall hard, causing Hanzo to turn and raise an eyebrow.

Fuck.

---

He found McCree lounging by himself in the rec room the next day.

“Conference Room 3. 15:00,” Jack barked. McCree looked up at him with mild surprise.

“Just me?”

“Did I stutter, soldi…yes, just you,” Jack amended, remembering where and who he was now.

Jack decided to hit the nail on the head, so to speak. They were all adults. He and McCree would have a conversation about the importance of expressing feelings. McCree would express said feelings to Shimada. It would be easy.

What Jack forgot was that it had never been easy between him and McCree.

It all came back to him the minute McCree sauntered into the room 15 minutes late, holding a coffee, and eyeing him like he already didn’t like what he was about to say. Jack blinked and the boy was ten years younger, 20 pounds lighter, but still had the same expression. He blinked again, and the reverie faded.

“You’re late,” he grumbled.

“Tell me somethin’ I don’t know,” McCree answered easily. He sat a few chairs away from Morrison and leaned back so that he could put both feet on the table. “Like what all this is about.”

Jack drew a breath to speak before realizing he hadn’t really thought about what he was going to say. Not that this was ever a problem for him with anyone other than Jesse McCree. For some reason, they’d just never developed a vocabulary with each other beyond commands and snark, and neither mode would be effective for this conversation. In the past, Reyes had always said what needed to be said.

“Well?” McCree raised an eyebrow. The expression was new, and entirely reminiscent of a grumpy archer assassin. It brought Morrison back to his mission.

“You like Shimada.” That didn’t come out exactly right, but it was a start.

McCree’s eyebrow rose higher. “Naw, Genji and I are just bros.”

Jack recognized the deflection. “The older one.”

“Hanzo?” McCree snorted. “We’re barely even friends.”

“That doesn’t mean you don’t like him.”

“Sure, I like him well enough.”

This wasn’t going anywhere. Time to change tack.

“Look,” Jack huffed. “When a man loves ano—”

McCree spat out his coffee and his chair fell forward. “Holy shit, this is a ‘birds and the bees’ talk?! How old do you fuckin’ think I am?!”

“Not old enough to stop pining from afar,” Jack shot back.

“Old enough to know a lost cause when I see one,” McCree grumbled.

“Have you tried?”

“Tried what, exactly? You know what, don’t answer that,” McCree quickly amended. “This is why you wanted to see me?!”

“No. Yes.” This wasn’t how it was supposed to go.

“Look, I’m not sure where this is all comin’ from, but I’ll thank you to mind your own business.” McCree stood, still scowling.

“I’m only trying to help,” Jack protested.

“Well, don’t,” McCree snapped, turning to leave. The hiss of the electronic doors couldn’t mask the extra heavy clang of his spurs as he stomped away.

In retrospect, Jack should have seen it coming. His relationship with McCree had always been cordial at best, strained at worst. McCree had never liked the kind of authority that Jack represented—he had spent an entire lifetime fighting it, in fact. He should have—

“You *could* have done a lot of things, boy scout, but in the end, it still might have gone sour. Life’s too messy for your kind of planning.”

The voice purred at him too familiar and too present all at once. As was often the case, Reyes had been right that evening, so many years ago. Gabe was always the one he turned to for support and advice, but he had spent years on his own now with nothing but a voice in his head.

“You’re not a quitter though, are you Jack?”

“Not a chance,” Jack muttered to no one but himself.

---

The day after, Jack set out in search of Shimada instead. He found him on the practice range alone, shooting bullseyes with a bored and deadly accuracy. Hanzo nodded to acknowledge him as he entered before turning his attention back to the bots.

Jack walked up to the stand beside him, loading his rifle. Hanzo turned, and only then did Jack realize that he had selected the shooting stall closest to Hanzo even though all other stalls were empty.

However, Shimada returned to his practice, and didn’t seem to care.

“You’re a good shot,” Jack offered when he thought it safe to say so.

Hanzo paused, and his bow lowered just an inch.

“Thank you.” He lifted his bow to fire again.

Jack shot another round before speaking again.

“McCree’s also a good shot.”

“Is he.”

Hanzo didn’t even blink this time before responding.

It had been a silly thing to say: Hanzo and Jesse trained together all the time. Jack scrambled for something else.

“Taught by the best.”

“Hmm.”

Another disinterested hum, another shot landing its mark.

“He’s got nice eyes too.”

Hanzo had already drawn another arrow, but stopped before letting it go. He turned fully.

“Excuse me?”

“Nice eyes,” Jack repeated, regretting it the moment he did.

“Are you about the confess to me your feelings for McCree?” Hanzo frowned, lowering his bow.

“What?! No. No! I’m just commenting on how kind his eyes are. Warm. Buttery.” This was not going well. Luckily, or perhaps, unluckily for Jack, McCree walked in just at that moment. Said eyes lit up the minute they settled on Hanzo, and twitched when landing on Jack.

“What’s goin’ on here?” McCree asked, his voice not betraying the panic that Jack could recognize despite his shuttered expression.

Hanzo shrugged. “The soldier was just telling me how much he admired your—”

“Shot,” Jack interrupted, packing up his rifle with practiced, superhuman speed. “Good shot. Best shot.”

The look on McCree’s face was equal parts horrified and murderous.

“Gotta go,” Jack mumbled, already in motion. “Paperwork.”

He could have sworn he heard laughter as the doors shut behind him, but once again, it sounded too much like Reyes to be real.

---

Jack waited two weeks before he found another opportunity. He walked into the rec room one evening to find the Shimadas watching some sort of program while McCree was watching Hanzo. It was now or never.

"What do you boys do for fun?" he barked.

McCree turned to face him with great panic, sensing what was to come. His eyes screamed nononono.

Oblivious to this, Hanzo turned his head. "We go to...the club." He fixed his eyes on Jack solemnly when he got to the last two words.

"What is this, the early 2000s?" McCree laughed nervously. He was ignored.

"The club?" Jack repeated, confused.

"Yes," Genji nodded, catching onto something that Jack did not understand. "The club."

"Fine," Jack grunted.

Hanzo raised an eyebrow. "Would you like to go to...the club?"

"Yes," Jack nodded. "To the club," he added when neither brother responded right away.

"Y'know they're just tryin’ to make you say that because it sounds funny right?" McCree groaned.

"Do you even dance?" Genji turned fully now as well. "Because that is what we do. At the club."

"I used to go all the time."

It was one of those sentences that immediately sounded like a lie before it was even completed. Once again, the brothers were looking at him expectantly.

"To the club?" Genji asked.

"Yeah. The club."

"So we will go then?" Hanzo inquired calmly. "To the club?"

"Will y'all. Please. Stop. Sayin’. That." Jesse lowered his head until it was between his legs.

Not knowing what the kids wore these days, Jack consulted Athena, who had told him to dress “casually”. McCree let out a high-pitched whine when he saw the red tropical shirt Jack had chosen. He pulled Jack into his own room, and threw shirts at him until they found one that both fit and was not plaid (partially because Jack had sworn of plaid years ago, partially because he was feeling resentful of being deprived of what he thought was his most casual shirt). They finally agreed on a plain black shirt that Jack decided to leave unbuttoned low enough to make McCree visibly uncomfortable.

They arrived at the docks, and McCree's jaw nearly hit the floor when he saw Hanzo in a moto jacket and a pair of sunglasses that were clearly not needed. While Shimada seemed oblivious to McCree’s appreciation, the long stretch he took that conveniently accentuated his chest muscles took a second too long to be unintentional. And McCree definitely noticed it. Jack hissed a long sigh through his teeth as he turned the other way to roll his eyes. It was going to be a long night.

They made their way to the mainland, and Genji expertly navigated the streets to a club with a blue neon sign and black walls. It looked like it would have been too cool for Jack even in his youth. Genji somehow knew the bouncer, and they were allowed in right away. They found a table at which to settle.

McCree's face nearly hit the floor when Hanzo took off that jacket to reveal a loose black tank top that had arm holes almost done to his waist. Jack kicked Jesse as soon as they sat down.

“Ow!” McCree gathered himself enough to shoot a glare at Morrison.

“Well?” Jack leaned in to bark.

“Well what, old man?” McCree hissed, rubbing his shin.

“See if anyone wants a drink,” Jack growled each word separately so that he was understood. He took some consolation in seeing McCree swallow the retort he had prepared, clearly realizing this wasn’t a bad idea.

“They won’t have sake,” Hanzo sighed. “Just bring me a whisky bourbon. Neat.”

Just when Morrison thought McCree’s face couldn’t have lit up further with admiration. Jack rolled his eyes again.

“I’ll help,” Genji offered. “My drink is complicated.”

“No, you just want to start charming the bartender early in hopes of free drinks,” Hanzo snorted.

Genji shrugged, but flashed his brother a charming smile. “Just as it always was. Except this time, you won’t have to haul my ass home.”

“We will see about that,” Hanzo muttered.

McCree shot Jack a warning glance as he left that had absolutely no effect.

Morrison sat with his fingers laced together on the table, not betraying how he was actually scrambling for the appropriate thing to say. He now regretted putting a stop to Genji’s pre-game.

“So,” he tried.

“So,” Hanzo repeated, his voice flat. He leaned back and crossed his arms as though he were waiting for something.

“McCree also likes bourbon.”

“Does he.” Hanzo’s tone suggested that he already knew.

“He also sees to like your company.”

This was likely as smooth as it was going to get for Morrison.

“Really.” Once again, Hanzo didn’t seem surprised. Well that was interesting.

“So…”

Hanzo waited.

“You gonna…”

Morrison wondered whether Hanzo was giving him the look he used to give those who questioned his authority during his yakuza days. It wasn’t half bad, as far as intimidation went.

“…act on that…?”

Hanzo raised an eyebrow.

“You are suggesting that he is interested in me.”

Morrison nodded. “Yeah.”

Oh good. At least one of these two losers understood.

“And you want me to do something about it?”

Shit. The man had a point.

“The boy’s a bit shy.”

Those weren’t his words, not originally.

“The boy’s a bit shy.”

Gabe had just given McCree a shove towards his new room, after ordering him to shower before going down to the mess.

“But he’s got potential.”

Jack shook himself out of the unexpected and unwanted reverie.

“Potential?” Hanzo asked. Jack realized he must have spoken that second sentence out loud too. Not left with any better option, he nodded again.

“I do not tend to think of my romantic interests in terms of potential.” Hanzo tilted his head and his eyes narrowed. “What exactly is your stake in this?”

Jack froze. He didn’t have a clear answer to this question, not even for himself. Luckily, he saw Genji and McCree walking back, drinks in hand.

Hanzo turned his attention to them as well with interest, as though he were deep in thought. They each claimed their respective drinks and clinked glasses. Jack noticed that McCree downed his much too quickly and reached for a second that he had ordered at the same time.

They sat in an awkward silence, punctuated by a bass line that was to loud for Jack’s liking.

“Do you dance, McCree?” Hanzo asked suddenly.

Even under the bluish lights of the club, McCree was visibly bright red.

“What now?”

“Do you dance, cowboy,” Hanzo repeated with a small smile.

“Do you?” McCree asked with genuine curiosity.

Genji snorted. “Does a fish swim?”

Hanzo knocked back the rest of his drink and stood. He nodded towards the dance floor, and Jesse froze like a deer in headlights. Jack kicked him hard under the table, but to no avail. Eventually Hanzo shrugged, and gestured to his brother instead.

As soon as they disappeared into the crowd, McCree slumped down into his seat, looking dejected.

“What are you waiting for?” Jack leaned in to growl.

“I can’t dance,” Jesse mumbled into his bourbon.

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“Wasn’t a priority in the gang. Or in Blackwatch,” Jesse slumped even lower.

“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?!”

That brought McCree to life. “Exactly what was I supposed to say?! ‘No, y’all have a good time now, but I’m just gonna sit in my room alone and drink myself to sleep?”

Jack grit his teeth. “Fine. We’ll call it an early night and we’ll try again next time.”

“Oh no. Nononono. ‘We’ ain’t doin’ any more of this. You are gonna stop right now,” Jesse growled.

“Just because you’re chicken shit doesn’t mean—”

Jack stopped mid-sentence. The Shimada brothers were already sauntering back. Several men and women trailed them, as though they wanted to ask them to stay, but Jack and McCree gave them identical glares and they quickly dispersed.

For a minute, Jack was relieved. Maybe the Shimadas had also realized that they were too old for this. The unsettling gleam in Hanzo’s eyes meant that this relief was short-lived.

“I’ve had my fill of this place,” Hanzo announced. “Let’s find another.”

“What.” Jack and Jesse spoke at exactly the same time, with equal incredulity.

Genji shrugged. “The music’s not great. Come on, I know somewhere else we can go.”

“Naw, I think I’m gonna call it,” McCree shook his head. “I’m gettin’ too old for—”

Jesse stopped himself mid-sentence as his eyes settled on a muscular man in a tight-fitting shirt, who was stalking towards their table, his eyes only on Hanzo.

“Ya know what, second club sounds fun. Let’s go,” McCree amended. He stood and practically pushed Hanzo out the door, glaring daggers at the interloper the entire time.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Jack muttered under his breath, as he allowed Genji to pull him to his feet.

They were not kidding.

The pattern repeated itself at each new venue: the Shimadas would take to the dance floor, and McCree would sit glumly at their table, unresponsive to any of Jack’s commands or threats.

Three hours later, Morrison decided that the next time he came across a club that was under siege by omnics, he would just let it burn.

“You are doing this on purpose,” Jack managed to hiss at Hanzo in private after the fourth club.

Hanzo shot him a serpentine smile. “As are you. It’s the only reason we are here after all, isn’t it? The only difference is that I am actually good at whatever it is we are doing.”

Jack managed to swallow down the urge to kill, partially because it was already hard enough running Overwatch without murdering members in public, and partially because he knew that on some level, Shimada was right.

By the fifth club, Jack was slightly drunk and completely done.

“Look,” he growled, addressing McCree through clenched teeth. “You like Shimada, right?”

Jesse turned his eyes dolefully towards the crowd that had formed a small circle around the brothers and didn’t reply.

“Take it from me, kid. It won’t work unless he wants you too. All of you. That includes all the embarrassing things that you do. And it definitely won’t work if you don’t even try.”

Still no answer.

“Remember that holiday gala we had to go to every year?”

For a minute, Jack didn’t think that McCree was going to answer that question either. They had never discussed the past before, likely because they both figured there was nothing that was worth returning to. Jack began to wonder thought whether this had been the right move.

“Black tie,” McCree finally muttered. “Open bar.”

“Where Reyes always forced me to drink so much I’d forget myself enough to dance with him?”

McCree chuckled, despite himself. “You are the worst dancer.”

“Stepped on his foot more than I stepped on the floor,” Morrison agreed, also smiling at the memory. “But Gabe never minded.”

“No. He didn’t.” The certainty in Jesse’s voice suggested that he had Reyes had talked about this in the past. Other than the acknowledgement though, McCree seemed uninspired by the story. Jack counted the seconds as another minute passed in silence.

“Fine,” Jack finally grumbled. “If you’re gonna mope the rest of your chances away, you’re gonna have to do it alone.”

“Good. That’s what I wanted all along,” McCree shot back, taking another sip of his drink.

Morrison grasped his glass with too much force and marched towards the bar. He sat down at an empty seat and threw his drink back to find it empty.

Before he could get even more upset, the bartender slid another whisky in front of him. Jack blinked at it. Someone had tried to buy him a drink at the second bar they went to as well—someone several decades too young. This entire night had been a disaster.

“What are you doing, Jack?”

That voice always returned when he least wanted but most needed it.

He sighed and grabbed the new glass without looking up, feeling like he had earned it. He could deal with the consequences after.

“No, I mean it. What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

Jack turned his head so fast, his neck cracked.

Evidently, the ‘consequence’ was much closer than he’d thought.

Sitting on the stool beside him in a black hoodie, sipping on a negroni, was Gabriel fucking Reyes.

Jack reached down for a rifle that wasn’t there.

“Cool it, boy scout,” Reaper rasped. “Not here for a fight.”

“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t fuck you up right now,” Jack leaned in to hiss.

“Because Jack Morrison is currently sitting in a fucking club, chaperoning three fucking children, and if that isn’t a sign of the coming apocalypse, I don’t know what is.”

That shouldn’t have been funny, but Reyes always managed to catch him off guard. It didn’t help that Jack was almost three sheets to the wind, despite his super soldier liver.

Reyes must have sensed the change in the air, as his shoulders visibly relaxed. “So tell me what’s happening.”

Jack frowned into his drink.

“Or you can keep going it alone. That always works out so well for you, doesn’t it?”

Jack bristled again. He stood to loom over Reaper. “Listen here, you—”

“Sorry.”

Jack pulled back, surprised.

“I’m sorry,” Reyes repeated. “That’s not why I’m here.”

“Why are you here?” Jack demanded.

“Intel said someone was acting strange.”

“’Someone’?”

“You. McCree. Doesn’t matter,” Reyes shrugged it off.

“You have intel tailing us specifically?!”

“Had to have been something pretty serious if it’s brought Jack Morrison to the club.”

“You’re changing the subject,” Jack accused, but he felt his resolve cracking just a little.

“What did McCree have on you? Guilt?”

“No!”

“Intel?”

“He isn’t blackmaili—”

“Dick pics?”

Jack couldn’t stop himself: he burst into laughter and couldn’t stop. Reyes waited for him to finish before trying again.

“Pretty sure you’re not here on official business. So what’s the harm of telling me?”

Morrison was about to begin listing the incredibly long list of potential harms, when he realized that none of these could overpower his need to share how shitty this month had been with someone else, and Gabe had always been the one he preferred complaining to in the past.

An hour later, Jack was still gesturing wildly as Reyes pushed a third whisky in front of him.

“Six months. Six. And still the goddamn ingrate hasn’t even figured out how to look the man in the eye without blushing like an overripe peach.”

“I’ve missed your farmboy slang,” Reyes snorted.

“Shut up and focus,” Jack snapped.

Reyes laughed. “Alright, alright, fine. Look, the boy’s not had the most practice or the best luck with romance. You’re going to have to cut him some slack.”

“You always wanna cut him some slack,” Jack grumbled. This conversation felt far too familiar in far too many ways.

“What can I say? Always saw the potential in him. He might be a screw up in some ways, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve a chance.”

The words cut too close to another situation, and they both felt it in their bones.

“So do you have advice or are you just here to laugh at me?” Jack asked to shake away the conversation neither one of them wanted to have.

“First, I don’t think you’re doing as bad as you think.” Reyes nodded over to the table where McCree had been sitting. Jesse had just downed the rest of his drink, and was currently stomping towards the Shimadas like he was stomping into war.

“Thadda boy,” Jack slammed his hand on the bar harder than he’d intended.

“Second,” Reyes continued. “Jesse is acting as I’d expect. But I don’t know Shimada well enough to say what he’s thinking.”

“So what do we do then?” Jack pouted. Alcohol always made him belligerent. He only realized he had said “we” when Reyes froze half way to bringing his glass to his lips.

Reyes took a long drink. "You've done all you can based on all you know. So what's the next step?"

Jack blinked at him. Gabe's lips turned up to form an unsettling smile that after all these years still somehow made Jack's heart clench with affection.

"The next step," Gabe rasped. "Is to do what you always did when you couldn't handle something yourself. Call in a specialist."

---

The next day, Jack found himself sitting across from Hanzo’s brother in an awkward, silent standoff, with Reyes by his side.

Genji squirmed uncomfortably in his seat at the hole in the wall coffee shop Gabe had insisted on after he first insisted on coming along.

Jack didn't have to guess at the reason for Genji’s uneasiness: he had kept his visor fixed on Reyes from the moment they all sat down.

"He's with us on this one," Jack grunted.

The reassurance didn't seem to help at all, and Jack couldn’t blame the boy. He himself had woken up with a throbbing headache like he’d not had in years, Reaper’s contact in his phone, and a mountain of regret and unanswered questions. He considered reporting the encounter, but something he was still trying to understand stopped him.

"It's about your brother," Gabe added with a dark, ominous growl.

Jack wasn't sure whether Gabe was intentionally trying to make things worse or not. Knowing him, he probably was.

Genji sat straighter, and placed both hands on his lap, so that they were in reach of whatever knives he had hidden in the pockets of his green hoodie.

"We're trying to help him—" Jack tried again.

"—get fucked—"

"Goddammit Reyes you're doing this on purpose," Jack finally snarled.

"What?" Despite the flatness of the voice modulator, Jack still clearly heard the bullshit in Gabe's voice. Luckily, so did Genji.

Shimada chuckled. "It is good to see that some things never change."

Morrison didn't want to give him time to elaborate, so he changed the subject. “McCree’s sweet on your brother.”

“McCree?!” Genji repeated.

Both men across from him nodded.

Genji laughed for a full minute before he realized that they had not joined in, and that it therefore was not a joke.

“You can’t be serious.”

They continued to stare, waiting for Genji to figure it out himself.

“I assure you that he does not,” Genji insisted. “I have known McCree for a long time. If he had feelings for my brother, I would be able to tell.”

Morrison and Reyes turned slowly to look at each other.

“What?” Genji’s voice fell even flatter than usual.

“Hate to break it to ya, kid, but you’ve always been shit at reading people.” Reyes didn’t sound like he felt bad for telling Genji at all.

“As a trained practitioner of ninjutsu—”

“Not questioning your stealth,” Jack cut in.

“—I am able to gather information about my surroundings.” Genji’s voice sounded strained, even through the modulator.

“Yeah. Surroundings,” Reyes acknowledged with a nod.

“But you have trouble reading emotions. You managed to miss that Angela was clenching her teeth so hard at the end of the last mission that they nearly shattered when you asked for healing,” Jack pointed out.

“Angela loves helping me,” Genji protested. “She says that I am her most frequent patient!”

“And you managed to miss that your yakuza family was causing your brother so much stress that he was cracking beneath the surface,” Reyes added.

“To be fair, my brother has always been difficult to—”

“For six years,” Reyes finished.

Genji crossed his arms across his chest. While his face was not in view, he was clearly sulking.

“…so will you help us?” Jack asked after another strained silence.

Genji thought it over.

“Despite the personal slight, yes,” He replied after some time, his arms still crossed. “This would be good for them both. And you will need my help reading my brother.”

Once again, Jack and Gabe turned slowly to look at each other.

“No, I’m pretty sure you can’t help us with that,” Reyes’ voice was flat, but Jack could tell he was at it again.

“But we could use your help on other things,” Jack added before Genji could throw the shuriken that had somehow appeared in his hand. “Make use of your keen observations skills.”

Just as quick, the weapons disappeared. “Oh?”

Beside him Gabe snorted and leaned in to whisper into his ear. “You always were the diplomatic one.”

Jack tried to ignore Gabe like he tried to ignore the familiar warmth of Gabe’s body leaning against his own.

“You could tell us what he likes.”

Genji nodded, leaning forward in his chair. “Yes. Of course. He likes cake.”

Jack was ready to work with that information alone when Gabe cut in.

“What type, what quality, how much can he eat? What?” Reyes turned to look at Jack, sensing his stare. “Details are important.”

“You can’t expect Genji—”

“Chocolate, light sponge, good quality, he will eat an 8 inch by himself if you let him,” Genji replied without taking a breath. He tapped his visor. “Surroundings.”

Jack was glad that his sunglasses hid how hard he was rolling his eyes, and had a feeling that Gabe was doing the same from under his hoodie.

“Alright, We can work with this,” Reyes nodded, taking out a holopad. “Go on.”

---

Later that afternoon, Jack cornered McCree in the hallway. McCree turned to run the other way the second he saw Morrison coming, but wasn’t fast enough. Jack grabbed him by the shoulder and was about to pin him against the wall when he remembered that this was supposed to be a friendly talk. He settled for letting go and standing just a step too close to emphasize his friendliness.

“He likes cake,” Jack barked without preamble.

“What now?” McCree asked warily.

“Cake,” Jack repeated. “Chocolate. Light sponge. Good quality.”

“And exactly why would I get him a cake outta the blue?”

“To court him.”

Court him?! What is this, the 17th century?”

“You keep making these ‘old’ jokes, but how exactly do you expect to get anywhere without trying?” Jack hissed.

“That’s what I’ve been tryin’ to tell you for weeks, I am not expectin’ to get anywhere! I don’t want to!” McCree’s voice was taking on a familiar edge, one that he had inherited from Reyes. The tone irked Jack far more than it should have.

“Well your actions speak louder than your words, as impossible as that seems,” Jack snapped.

“Why exactly are you so bent on fuckin’ up my life anyway?” McCree demanded.

“I’m just trying to help. You’re the one making things difficult!”

“Jesus, Gabe was right about you, you just don’t listen!” McCree punctuated the last two words with a hard jab at Morrison’s chest. They both seemed to realize at exactly the same time what McCree had just said. There was an awkward, long pause, after which they tried to speak at the same time.

“…he said that about me?”

“…I shouldn’t have said that.”

“When?”

“Look, we should just drop—”

“Because he’s right.”

That brought Jesse to a full stop. He took a step back, lowering his arm.

“I never listened to him,” Jack admitted. “Even thought he was right. I even knew he was right. But I couldn’t.”

There was a breath of silence as Jesse tried to wrap his head around what Jack had just said.

“He knew that,” Jesse offered. “He knew you had to stay the course. Just like he had stray from it.”

“He always said what I couldn’t,” Jack snorted a chuckle that sounded far too watery for his liking. “Always did what I couldn’t.”

“You both did what you had to do.” Jesse took another step back and looked to the floor to give Jack more space. “That brought you to opposite sides of the field, but I’m still tryin’ to figure out whether that means we’re on opposite sides.”

Jack thought back to the past week, back to when he found out that Gabe was still watching, still looking out for them. He looked up to find Jesse peering at him with concern. That too felt familiar.

“It’s fine,” he tried to reassure the boy, like he had in the past when he had taken too hard of a beating, either in battle or from the higher ups. “I’m—"

“Ah, Jesse.”

Both men took a quick step back as Hanzo approached.

“Thank you for the cake.”

“The cake?” Jack and McCree repeated at the same time.

“The one you left for me on the table. With the note,” Hanzo clarified with a long-suffering sigh. “You are correct: I have earned it after spending three whole days on mission with Genji.”

“Right. That cake,” Jesse nodded. “With that note.”

“However, it is much too large for me to finish.” Both Jesse and Jack knew this to be untrue, but neither contradicted him. “Would you like to help?” Hanzo inquired.

“Would love to,” Jesse beamed and didn’t even need to be kicked this time before responding. As the two of them walked away, Jesse turned back to give Jack a small, sheepish grin. Jack gave him a small salute in return, already realizing what had happened.

In his pocket, his phone buzzed to confirm his suspicions.

HELLFIRE: Sometimes the boy just needs a push. Sometimes you gotta do it yourself.

RUSSET: Great. He’s already mad at me.

HELLFIRE: Won’t be if he gets some.

RUSSET: wtf

HELLFIRE: You’re right, I regretted that right after I sent it.

“Always doing what I couldn’t,” Jack chuckled to himself.

---

Things went much more smoothly in the weeks after, partially because of Genji’s help, partially because Jesse seemed more open to advice.

Jesse was ready with a travel mug full of tea and a couple of cookies when Hanzo stepped off the Orca after a particularly rough mission. He arrived in the rec room one evening with a large, fluffy blanket that Hanzo started pulling into his lap even before it was offered. Hanzo allowed Jesse to sit beside him to share.

While Jack was pleased with their progress, it did come with an unexpected consequence: Gabe had somehow reentered his life like he’d never left. Jack would text Reyes updates just as frequently as Reyes would demand them. They would commiserate over about McCree’s fuck ups, and would begrudgingly acknowledge his victories. It felt exactly like old times, and the feeling was both easy and horrifying.

The voice in Jack’s head that sounded suspiciously like Gabe’s had disappeared completely now that it was not needed. The barriers that Jack had painstakingly put up around his heart—the ones that had taken over a decade to create and were still incomplete—were cracking.

It was making him sloppy.

“So, you still think about him huh?”

Jack stuffed the old picture from his SEP days back into his breast pocket. McCree had never managed to sneak up on him before. Sloppy.

“I think about him lots,” Jack grumbled. “To predict his next move. It’s good protocol.”

McCree snorted. “Oh, is that how you wanna play it?”

“What do you want?” Jack growled in lieu of an answer.

McCree shrugged, rubbing at his neck. “Just wanted to say thanks.”

“What?” Jack was sure he’d heard properly, but it didn’t sound right.

“Thanks,” Jesse repeated. “For tryin’.”

This was a conversation for which Jack did not have the words.

“I know you do your best, even though you and I never really saw eye to eye. Just wanted you to know that I see what you’re doin’. Always have. And I appreciate it.” Jesse’s body language suggested that he too was feeling the strain of treading this new territory, but he persevered, nonetheless.

“It’s my pleasure,” Jack managed finally. He stood and put a hand on McCree’s shoulder. “You grew up fine, Jesse.”

It was Jesse’s turn to look stunned. He tried to start saying something several times, but each time his eyes just got more and more glassy, and that was definitely something that Jack didn’t know how to handle.

“It’s going well with Shimada.” Jack was almost certain that the change in topic would help Jesse calm down, and was therefore not ready when McCree walked awkwardly towards him, both arms raised for a hug. Jack panicked and tried to sidestep. McCree tried to adjust, tripping them both, and they ended up falling sideways in a knot of tangled limbs.

Ana walked into the room just in time to witness the fall and the resulting struggle, and promptly turned to leave again.

---

Jack knew that the situation was untenable. He also knew that in thinking so, he was thinking more about Gabe than he was about Jesse, as McCree seemed to be doing fine now. As often was the case, Gabe was the one who brought it to a head.

He received the text message as soon as the Orca had left the ground:

“These coordinates. Right after landing.”

Jack rolled his eyes.

RUSSET: You know I’m on mission, right?

HELLFIRE: Yeah, against my unit. Meet first.

Jack frowned at his phone. A part of him knew that he’d have to meet Reyes in battle again eventually. A larger part of him quietly hoped that day would never come.

Reyes sent three more messages demanding confirmation, which Jack pointedly ignored. He did manage to slip away to the abandoned courtyard as his team was setting up their defense.

Reyes materialized from the shadows the moment he stepped into view. “Oh good. You got my message.”

Jack recognized the sarcasm in his voice and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I got your message.”

“I need you to lure the boy here.”

“Why?”

“We’re going to run a rescue scenario,” Reyes cracked his neck and rolled his shoulders back. “We’re going to make it look like he’s going to lose, and Shimada is going to rescue him.”

“What?! No!”

Reyes turned and Jack could feel his annoyance despite not being able to see his face.

“What is it now?” he asked impatiently.

“They don’t know you’re on our side.”

Reyes chuckled. “I’m not.”

“Don’t give me that bullshit,” Jack warned. “Why the fuck would you be watching out for us if you didn’t care?”

“What difference does it make?”

“They’ll be shooting to kill.”

“I can take care of myself.”

I want to take care of you too.

Jack swallowed down the words, berating himself for again failing to say them, just like he had failed to say them when it counted so many years ago.

Reyes turned to face him. “You what?”

Jack blinked. Oh. Or maybe he hadn’t.

“I—” Jack tried to dig himself out of the situation.

“So many times I’d wanted to hear you say that,” Reyes mused. “So many times in my head, I thought I did.”

“I’ve heard you in my head too,” Jack heard himself speak again without meaning to do so.

“And what do I say?” Reyes took a tentative step towards him, with new intention.

Jack blushed, and wondered how good Gabe’s vision was now through the mask.

“Nothing worth repeating,” he tried to brush it off.

Gabe stopped in his approach, and Jack could have kicked himself. “Have it your way, boy scou—”

“Stop right there.”

Hanzo’s voice was an absolute surprise and horror.

“You will release him.”

Reyes and Morrison turned to find Hanzo with his bow raised and pointed at them. Jesse was close behind, Peacekeeper also raised.

“This isn’t what it looks like,” Jack took a step towards them.

“Naw, this is exactly what it looks like,” Jesse shook his head, not lowering his gun. “I thought you were actin’ strange.”

“Clearly Reaper has brainwashed you,” Hanzo continued. “He has been controlling your actions for weeks.”

“That’s ridiculous. Ask your brother. He’ll tell you—”

“Exactly how sane is that story going to sound, Jack?” Reyes cut in.

Dammit, he was right.

“Fine,” Jack relented. “Take us both back. We’ll sort this out on base.”

“I can’t go back with you.” Reyes had already taken out both guns. “Not without a fight.”

“What?!”

“They already suspect my loyalties. It’ll be a death sentence if I go with you.”

“This is madness!” Jack’s worst fear was quickly coming true. There was no way Gabe could win against both McCree and Shimada, and there was no way that he could surrender. “You can’t…I can’t…you…”

“Jack.”

McCree hardly ever called him by his first name. Jack turned to blink at him.

“Jack.” Jesse’s voice was chiding like Jack had never heard. “How exactly do you expect to get anywhere without tryin’?”

At first, Jack was more shocked that Jesse had not only been listening to him, but had actually remembered what he’d said. Then, all of a sudden, his own words made a lot of sense, and he knew exactly what he had to do.

He raised his rifle and turned it against Jesse and Hanzo.

“What,” Reyes turned to face him. “Are you doing.”

“What I shoulda done 10 years ago,” Jack admitted. “Standing by your side.”

“What,” Reyes hissed.

“I was wrong. I should have seen the signs. Should have stood with you instead of against you.” Jack recited the words he had been practicing in front of a mirror by himself for the better part of a decade, words he never thought he would be able to say.

“You always pick the worst possible times, Morrison,” Reyes snarled. “They’re just going to think they’re right!”

“I don’t care,” Jack shook his head. “As long as I prove myself to you.”

“Prove what, for fuck’s sake?!”

“That I can’t do this without you?” Jack asked with a small grin.

Reyes snorted. “That much was always true.”

“That I don’t want to do this without you,” Jack tried again. “That much has also always been true, even if I’ve not said it. This whole fiasco has just reminded me of how much I’ve missed this. We stand together from now on. I’m on your side. No other.”

Jack could tell that Gabe’s resolve was wavering. He was tapping his guns against his shoulders, just like he used to when conflicted.

“You have the worst timing,” Reyes finally repeated. “Always have.”

“You make it work,” Jack shrugged.

Reyes huffed. “Yeah. I guess I do.” He reached up to unlatch his mask. Before Jack could ask what he was thinking, he felt Gabe’s glove at the back of his neck just a second before being pulled in for a kiss. It was everything that Jack had remembered it to be—passionate, insistent, desperate. It was home.

“Looks like you were right darlin’. Shoulda never doubted you.”

“See that you do not forget it.”

Jack was so distracted by how right this all felt, he almost missed the exchange. Gabe didn’t. His entire body tensed, and drew back to face the other two men.

“What.” Reyes spat.

McCree, as always, was unperturbed by Gabe’s anger. “Genji came to us right after you talked to him. Told us what was up.”

“He did what?!” Reyes and Morrison growled simultaneously.

“I surmised the truth of the matter,” Hanzo said, finally lowering his bow. “That Reyes was helping because of some affection he stilled harboured for you and Jesse. And that you were allowing his aid for the same reasons. Both of you were too stubborn to admit your feelings, but I decided that given the correct circumstances, you would do so. Am I wrong?” Hanzo added mildly when both men looked ready to argue.

Jack ground his teeth. Gabe, on the other hand, burst into maniacal laughter.

“So you’re telling me you turned our plan against us without us knowing? A former black ops agent and military strike commander?” he turned to Jesse, who was looking concerned and like he thought Reyes had finally lost it. “This one’s got potential.”

Jesse grinned exactly the same grin as when Gabe praised him in the past.

Jack wasn’t so easily pacified. “You were already going out. And pretended that you weren’t so we’d keep trying.”

“We had sex the day after we went to the club.” Hanzo looked nonplussed by his own admission, unlike everyone else around him. “It has been going well ever since.”

“Honeybee. Why.” McCree turned bright red.

“They should know,” Hanzo shrugged. “It was exceptional sex.”

McCree flushed even more for a completely different reason as shot Hanzo an absolutely sinful look, and Jack began to wonder whether all of this had just been a colossal mistake.

“Well, if we managed to get Shimada to go out with the boy, I guess there’s nothing we can’t do—” Gabe relented.

“Hey, I’m right here,” Jesse complained.

“But this doesn’t solve our problem,” Reyes continued. “I still can’t go back with you. Even if I wanted to.”

“How predictable.” Hanzo raised his hand to give a signal.

“What? Oh nonono…” Gabe realized what this meant right away, but couldn’t move fast enough to stop it.

Genji dashed forward from the shadows and hit Gabe hard on the back of the head with the butt of his katana. Gabe slumped forward into Jack’s arms, unconscious.

“Surroundings,” Genji announced, once again tapping his visor. He was purposefully ignored.

“We’re still gonna talk about this,” Jack warned.

“Aww, come on, Jack,” Jesse groused, leaning into kiss Hanzo on the cheek. Hanzo squirmed, but otherwise looked pleased. Jesse threw one of Gabe’s arms over his own shoulder just as Jack did the same with the other. “All’s well that ends well.”

“Later,” Jack grunted, his heart feeling lighter than it had in a long time. “Let’s go, boys. It’s about time I hauled his ass home with me again. What?” he turned to Hanzo and Jesse to address their long-suffering groans. “You two have been at it for months. It’s time for a little payback.”

“Perhaps we have made a miscalculation,” Hanzo fell into step beside Jesse to mutter, and McCree just laughed.

As they made their way to the Orca, Genji slowed his steps, falling behind as something occurred to him.

“Wait. How long have you and Reyes been together?”