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Rekindle All the Dreams it Took You a Lifetime to Destroy

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The man who was once Jack Morrison kneels in the dirt of a nameless town.

He strips his heavy glove off, digs his fingers in. There’s a layer of fine ash above the soil, grey and drifting around his fingers like strange water. The dirt underneath is good, though - dark and loamy. The ash will only make it better, make it easier for things to grow.

People don’t realize how that works, if they don’t know agriculture, if they don’t know how to cultivate. Fire is good for growth, good for living things. All the shit that was bound up in detritus breaks down when it goes up in flames, gives the nutrients that were locked up in the dead matter back to the earth.

If you really want things to blossom, blow them up first. 

(And isn’t that a heavy handed metaphor.)

Jack straightens with a creak of his back and a crack in his knees. Everything SEP did doesn’t stop the fact that bodies don’t like existing quite like they did before fifty. Every morning there’s a molecule more of pain as he gets up.

But he still gets up.

He activates his visor, scans the remains of the town. After the rogue omnics had blown up the nearby factory, the townspeople had crept back into the skeletons of their houses, trying to salvage what was left of their lives. A nice idea, at first. But cockroaches and rats will always survive, whether in animal or human form, and they started streaming in to go after defenseless farmers and widows and kids who had their lives blown to bits. Gold doesn’t burn, though. Neither do the precious metals and minerals in ruined tech. So the vermin came, and the man who still had Jack Morrison’s moral compass buried within him heard about it and followed.

There’s no one here now, however. No life signs showing up on his screen. Jack unsnaps the strap holding his rifle down to better have it close at hand. The town, as he paces down through it, is empty. There’s scuff marks, though - people were running here, either from something or to something.

He finds nothing, until he pokes his head into what used to be some kind of store. The shelves had protected things, so there had still been some stock left. Half of it’s gone, trails from boxes and cans dragged through the ash. Jack follows the scent of decay and rounds a corner to go into the back room and finds - a body. No wait, multiple bodies.

A half dozen, in a circle and facing where Jack is now standing. They look like they fell right where they stood, no chance to move around or rush whoever took them down. Jack crouches, flips them over one by one. Each was taken down by a single shot - either in the head or chest. 

It’s ridiculously good shooting, almost suspiciously good. There’s no sign of creeping black rot, they’re not the shotgun blasts that Gabriel would do. It’s just...instant, perfect death.

Jack stands with another crack of his back. It looks like someone already took care of things here. He wonders who it was.

-x-x-x-x-x-

Early morning in Dorado. He opens his eyes, stares at the cracks in the ceiling until they come into focus. Rolling carefully to his side, he sits up. His left arm is bound in a sling, tied to his side the best he could using just one hand. Jack unwinds it slowly, testing out the flex as he goes. Looks like everything’s in place, if not exactly healed up.

He swings by Dorado every once in a while even though he hates the weather, some kind of misplaced sense of duty. It’s why he doesn’t like to talk to anyone he isn’t putting a bullet in later: he starts to give a shit as to what happens to them despite his best intentions. The gangs are starting to expect him, though - he made the mistake of stopping by an established hideout and they swarmed him. Crushing weight holding him down in the dirt as neon painted faces screamed at him.

Here’s a fun little fact about the Soldier Enhancement Program that they didn’t tell them in the brochures: just because you enhance the body doesn’t mean the body can always handle it. Jack Morrison was able to lift multiple men up off the ground from where they were pinning him down with just one arm. Jack Morrison was able to throw them into a wall, his strength and their own body weight smashing them into the concrete, pulverizing bone and splattering blood. Jack Morrison was able to fight his way out of a thirty man brawl on his own and leave nothing but broken, moaning bodies behind.

Jack Morrison did all those things, but it didn’t stop his biceps muscle from tearing away from his shoulder, didn’t stop the tendons of his forearm from tightening until they shattered the bone underneath, didn’t stop his fingers clenched in a fist from driving through the fabric of his glove and the fabric of his flesh until his fingernails scraped and splintered against his bare metacarpals. 

The beating he takes from others is nothing compared to what his own body can do to himself.

There’s dried blood and tenderness, but everything seems to move in the right order when Jack gingerly unwraps himself. The few times he’s been in a firefight around Ana he’s gotten some help, but other than that he’s gotten used to piecing himself back together over the years. He pulls his jacket on, moving on automatic to get everything into place. He gets his gear bag, straps himself back together with buckles and gritted teeth. Steals down the stairs silently and out the door and -

A dead man is collapsed on the steps. One blank eye stares up at the hot blue sky, the other is an empty hole of blackened blood and red flesh. It’s too hot for body temperature to mean anything, but the stiffness of the joints when Jack tests them out says he was killed not long after Jack limped back here. No doubt friends of the men he’d hurt, here to try and finish the job. Someone killed him before he could ever get there.

Killed him, and killed...four, no, five others, Jack counts as he creeps around the building, bodies secreted into alleyways and dumpsters. They were all hidden, tucked away from prying eyes. The one on the steps is a message, though. 

Jack just has no idea what it means.

-x-x-x-x-x-

He slips through a doorway, making sure that no one sees him.

Normally Jack would be willing to toss anyone that crosses him into the nearest hard surface, but right now it’s a little different. He’s in the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, all ancient striped surfaces and intricately carved ceilings. Jack left his religion buried in the guts of the first man he killed with his hands, but it’s hard to shake a Catholic upbringing. 

This late at night no one is around, just the occasional priest making his quiet way from capilla to capilla. Jack’s done for this mission (mission he calls it, like it’s anything as formal as that), intercepting some gunrunners before they could get their cargo to the local Talon group. He wouldn’t be here at all if he hadn’t gotten together with Ana recently, had a lecture about looking around him every once in awhile at something other than threats.

Jack doesn’t pray. He knows too much about how the world works for it to mean anything now. He still finds an odd comfort in the silence of churches. The motionless air, the scent of orange oil and incense, the knowledge that apart from merciless omnics even enemies tend to leave alone places of worship.

He’s about to sit down when he looks to the front of the sanctuary and sees someone seated in the middle of a pew. About to leave for more solitary places, Jack pauses. There’s something he swears he can recognize about their body language, though he has no idea why anyone he would know would be in a church in Spain at three in the morning.

The head turns. “You gonna stand there, or come and sit?” 

Despite himself, Jack goes and sits.

They sit in the quiet for a while, neither man praying nor looking at each other. Just...sitting. Existing. Eventually Jack clears his throat. “So where did you go after you disappeared?”

Jesse McCree sighs and leans back in the uncomfortable wooden pew like it’s somehow an easy chair. “Gabe sent me out after Ana. I found her.”

“She didn’t tell me that.”

A creak from the wood, like Jesse is shifting in place. “She wouldn’t remember, I don’t think. Didn’t remember me, didn’t remember herself. Took a peek in the files, from what I could tell the doc thought the memory loss might be permanent. She back to normal?”

A long pause, and a priest’s footsteps echo faintly. “Are any of us?”

They’re sitting here alone in silence, two American men who grew up far from home, who came of age soaked in blood and glory. Jack doesn’t know Jesse, not really. He’s Gabriel’s dog, ready to be loosed when it calls for violence. Clay molded to Gabriel’s hands, that he would shape into whatever role he wanted Jesse to be right then - gangbanger, lothario, dumb thug, intelligence officer. Fighter, lover, killer. Jack doesn’t know him, outside of that context.

Jack thinks about it: to them being here, to the bodies in Dorado, to the perfectly executed bodies in that town before that. Six shots, six dead men, six empty chambers in the gun that’s by Jesse’s side even now. “Have you been following me?” he says eventually.

The click and hiss of a lighter, a stream of smoke blown up to the carved ceiling far above them. After a minute Jack holds his hand out. Jesse raises his eyebrows, but hands the cigar over. There’s a soft noise as Jack hits the releases on his facemask, a clank he sets it on the pew beside him. 

“Didn’t know you smoked,” Jesse says, as Jack closes his eyes against the soothing buzz of nicotine slithering its way into his system. He wordlessly hands the cigar back to Jesse after another drag. As much as Jack doesn’t know Jesse, Jesse doesn’t know Jack. Doesn’t know that there was fuckall else to do when you’re on a tractor all day, so you might as well learn to roll your own cigs. Doesn’t know that he taught Gabriel to smoke, doesn’t know how he fell hard and fast by watching his cheeks hollow out against the sharp bone on the inhale and wanting to know if he’d look like that with something else in his mouth.

“You never answered my question.”

Jesse sighs, ashes against the edge of a hymn book. “You’re not subtle. ‘Specially not in that outfit.” Jack turns slightly, meets Jesse’s eyes for the first time. Makes a show of looking his overwrought movie cowboy costume up and down. Jesse smirks, shrugs, looks away. “Yeah, well.”

“I’m done working with other people,” Jesse says, finally. The sentence sounds unfinished.

“But?”

“But I’m also agreeable to makin’ my life easier, keep from gettin’ shot in the back.”

He doesn’t know, he can’t know, Jack thinks. The scars Jack still has that healed so slowly and now exist as mysteriously black lines, branching out like a lightning strike. He can’t help but shift slightly in his seat, ache radiating down his back. Jack pulls out his tablet, something a contact of his swore was encrypted to hell and back. He taps his way to a screen, holds it out to Jesse.

“In case there’s something too big to handle on your own,” he says shortly.

Jesse taps away, there’s a faint buzz from where he no doubt sent himself a message. “You too,” he says. He gets up, hands the half-smoked cigar to Jack, and walks away.

Jack takes a long pull and watches the smoke vanish into the air as he listens to spurs clink their way away.

-x-x-x-x-x-

Jack sits in a dusty, rusty diner at the side of some nameless road in New Mexico and listlessly pokes at a bowl of hashbrowns and gravy. He’s been tracking a man around here, a killer who keeps taking feet and leaving the rest of the bodies. Sometimes they’re still alive. Jack would have left it for the police, but he’s tracked the guy across four states now and the most recent victim lasted just long enough to make eye contact with Jack before dying. He takes that personally.

There’s a screech of metal legs on linoleum and the wheeze of ancient vinyl seats giving up their breath, and Jesse plunks himself down in a seat across from Jack. A waitress stops by, sets down a cup of coffee and greets Jesse by name.

“You’re in my territory,” Jesse says, as he stirs sugar into his coffee.

Jack raises an eyebrow. “Didn’t see ‘property of Jesse McCree’ when I crossed the state line.”

A plate of something involving eggs and salsa and chili fries that Jack doesn’t recall seeing on the menu is placed in front of Jesse, with a murmured thanks sweetheart in return. The only sound for a while is the scrape of cutlery on plates.

“Been tracking someone across half the country,” Jack says eventually. “Nothing big, just a nasty piece of work.”

“Y’need any help?”

It’s a credit to Jesse and what Jack remembers about him that he actually pauses for a moment before shaking his head. “Just legwork at this point.”

Jesse nods. They keep eating. Both men put away food with the efficiency of soldiers who don’t know when their next meal is coming from - some habits die hard. 

“Got a place to stay?”

Jack is both surprised and not by the offer masquerading as a question. He gives a short nod in response.

“I’m around, you got my number.” Plate clean, Jesse tosses down a few bills and leaves as quickly and quietly as he came. Glancing at the money, Jack sees that he left enough for both of their meals. He leaves more for a tip anyways.

Two days later, Jack’s bolthole that he’s been staying in has a footless body with an enormous pool of blood in it. He packs up his motorbike, leaving behind all his clothing except what he’s wearing because it’s soaked in red. He’d been fairly sure the man knew Jack was after him, but this is just insulting.

A mile outside of town Jack pulls over and sends a message.

“It’s not much, but it’s home,” Jesse says an hour later, as he opens an apartment door and gestures for Jack to come in.

Jack looks around curiously. There’s some knickknacks here and there, but not enough to say this is truly someone’s home, somewhere loved and lived in. More than temporary, less than permanent. Nothing he recognizes, but it’s not like he was ever close enough to Jesse back in the day to see his quarters. There’s a whole wall of books, half looking like they were hauled out of a dumpster, which surprises Jack. He notices there’s a distinct lack of technology.

When he mentions this to Jesse, he smiles a bit. “Got a friend. Bit of a hacker. She’s made me right paranoid as to what tech can do. Got a tablet and not much else.” He gestures to the couch, faded and tattered but comfortable looking. “Yours as long as you want it.”

Jack’s not planning on being here past killing the man he’s after, but he appreciates the offer. Jesse makes dinner, some kind of stew, heavily spiced enough that Jack can’t tell what the meat in it is. Jesse tells Jack that he’s welcome to anything in the room with a wave at the bookcase, then disappears into his bedroom for a while. He emerges some time later in his leathers, wrapping a red serape around his shoulders.

“Gonna go out for a bit.”

He’s wearing rather more weapons than someone would wear to go to a bar, so Jack raises an eyebrow and lowers the Cormac McCarthy book he’s been working his way through. “Need backup?”

Jesse shakes his head. “Nah, shouldn’t be anything worth anything.” Jack watches him leave.

He’s startled out of sleep an unknown number of hours later, book still open on his chest. Jesse’s stumbling, and the dim light shows what looks like a gunshot to his leg. Jack’s up in a moment, getting an arm under Jesse’s shoulder and helping him to a chair. Jack unbuckles the chaps on that leg as Jesse unscrews a cap on an unmarked bottle and takes a slug. 

“Looks like a through and through. You got scissors?”

“Fuck no, I like these jeans. Help me get ‘em off.”

It’s a process, getting him out of weapons and boots and armor. By the time they actually get down to the jeans Jesse’s listing to the side, blinking slowly. Jack mentally calculates the rate of blood loss and comes up with a number that’s unpleasant. He strips Jesse down to his tattered underwear, finally just picking him up when Jesse’s not able to stand. Jack shoves doors open with his elbow until he finds the bathroom. He dumps Jesse in the tub, finding a well-stocked first-aid kit under the sink. 

Jesse doesn’t come to when Jack sprays him down in the shower, washing the blood away to see what the damage is. That’s worrying, but Jack ignores it in favor of hauling him out onto the tile floor. He picks the bits of fabric out of the wound before he closes it up with small, neat stitches. It’s much easier to repair someone else than himself, he thinks absently. Jack flips him over, rests an elbow on Jesse’s ass as he pieces together the flaps of skin blown apart in the exit wound. More stitches, some gauze and tape and it’s about as good as he can get it. 

The idiot’s tech aversion apparently extends to biotic emitters, unfortunately. Jack picks Jesse up again - he’s just glad the other man is still unconscious and can’t hear the grunts and cracks that come out of Jack during the process. He dumps Jesse on the bed of what can only be his bedroom, putting a towel under his leg for when it inevitably will start leaking. 

Jack looks him over dispassionately. Jesse’s not a teenager anymore, even his twenties are long past. Youthful leanness has broadened into solid flesh, thick thighs (albeit one with a hole in it) and broad shoulders and a build that says it’s muscle for use and not show. Jack doesn’t really remember what it means to be attracted to someone anymore, but he thinks to himself as he shuts the light off that he could almost imagine being interested in that. Almost.

The next morning when Jack gets up, Jesse’s still asleep. Jack leaves a note of thanks scrawled on a piece of cardboard torn off of a twelve pack box. He finds his target without too much trouble, manages to leave the body on the steps of the local courthouse even though it’s broad daylight. He heads out of town on his bike, not stopping until he hits the next state. He pulls out his tablet to find a message, reading simply, ‘you too’.

-x-x-x-x-x-

He doesn’t mean for it to become a thing.

It does, though. Somehow.

If Jack’s in the Americas, eventually he’ll find his way to Jesse’s New Mexico base for a night or two. He learns that Jesse will cook anything, as long as it involves rice, beans, meat, or eggs. Jack grumbles about scurvy and starts bringing a bag of vegetables whenever he shows up. 

One day he stops by, helps Jesse with a gang that’s been bothering both of them on and off in various parts of the country. If they slam them down hard enough here the word will spread and they’ll hopefully get left alone. Wounds taped up and alcohol located, they’re sitting on the couch drinking and watching some renovation show on Jack’s tablet, Jack with interest and Jesse nearly asleep. Jack keeps getting distracted for some reason by Jesse’s arm resting on his knee, his fingers moving in half-awake twitches that make the tendons in his forearm do interesting things.

Jack’s uncomfortable at his own interest, at the idea of being interested.

Both men sit up suddenly at a scratching at the door handle, and a moment later Ana Amari is standing and tucking her lockpicks away. “I don’t suppose you have any tea,” she says mildly, as Jesse looks at her in shock and Jack with vague annoyance.

They start to rotate safe houses after that, based on the continent. Western hemisphere, they’re at Jesse’s. Africa and the Middle East, there’s Ana’s place in Cairo. Europe, Jack has a cabin on the northern German coast that belonged Reinhardt’s family several generations back before being abandoned. 

It’s mostly Jack and Jesse - Ana is more wary, has her own set of contacts. Jack will still stumble into his cabin sometimes and find a delicate tea cup sitting in the dish strainer or some honey cakes tucked away into the freezer. More often it’s beer cans crushed in the trash and a bottle on the porch half-filled with ashes and cigar stubs.

They all refuse to admit they depend on each other, much less enjoy each others’ company. It occurs to Jack more than once that Jesse fits in the way Gabriel used to, like the phantom fingerprints of Gabriel’s training that are all over former Blackwatch Agent McCree make it easier for Jack and Ana to accept him into their space.

Jack keeps an eagle eye out for black smoke, but there’s been nothing since Egypt. He still waits for the other shoe to drop.

-x-x-x-x-x-

At a bar in Alberta, Jack’s tucked away into a corner with a bottle of some local beer and a tablet full of Null Sector information he’s been gathering. There’s a familiar bark of laughter, and he looks up to see Jesse, tilting his hat back and the corner of his mouth up, fingers long and purposeful on the pool cue he’s holding. The look in his eyes as he grins at the oil worker in front of him says where he hopes the night is going, but then he catches sight of Jack. The smile shrinks but becomes genuine, and Jesse excuses himself to come over and sit down in Jack’s booth.

“Fancy meetin’ you here.”

Jack just takes a drink of his beer.

“What’re you in town for?”

Tapping at his tablet, Jack pushes it over to Jesse. “Null Sector. Apparently running some of the refineries out here from behind the scenes. Interested in taking some of them out? Might be some money it it.”

“You got a place to stay?”

“Yeah.”

“Let me bunk up and sure.” 

They sit drinking and talking quietly for a while. They’ve been around each other enough over the past year or so that this is something they can do now. Paying, they walk out the door, Jack more steadily than Jesse. Jack’s got a room right next door, the barest of essentials.

Jesse throws himself down onto the bed, grinning up at Jack. “Where are you gonna sleep?”

“In the bed I paid for. Shove over or take the floor.” 

Jack feels like he should find it worrying how the sound of Jesse’s steady breathing, shading just slightly into snores, is a familiar and comforting sound at this point. Worrying that he can fall asleep in the room with another person warm at his back, that he feels all right with not being the closest one to the door. Before he can find it worrying that he should be worrying and isn’t, he’s asleep.

The next morning dawns easy in a hail of gunfire - Jack can take down omnics all day. It’s less killing and more target practice. As long as they’re away from civilians, he’d happily destroy omnics for the rest of his days. They end up at a diner afterwards, high on the adrenaline of a job well done and pockets full of money that had been socked away in the offices.

“You’re disgusting,” Jack says, vaguely horrified as Jesse shoves what seems to be half a slice of pie in his mouth all at once.

“I’m charmin’,” Jesse says in a spray of crumbs and a whiff of apples and cinnamon.

Jack rolls his eyes, as Jesse brushes bits of crust out of his beard - he’s crude and tactless and Jack wonders where all that etiquette training Blackwatch drilled into him went but underneath it all, Jack is still goddamn charmed.

That’s...not good, he realizes, as he recognizes the feeling. 

By mutual unsaid agreement they go and drink after. Jack has enough money that he can actually buy the somewhat absurd amount of liquor it takes to get him drunk. Getting unsteadily to his feet, Jack checks in with Jesse on his way out the door. 

“Nah,” Jesse says with a alcohol-hazed grin. “I’m good for the night. See you around, Morrison.” Jack looks at the hand of the man Jesse had been flirting with the night before that’s now on Jesse’s hip and how Jesse is in no hurry to move it, and nods.

That night, for the first time in decades, Jack feels what it means to sleep alone.

-x-x-x-x-x-

Jack’s on a rooftop in Columbia, watching rain sheet down. He’s sheltered by the overhang to the stairwell, stairs that lead down to a small bolthole apartment that belonged to Gabriel off the books a lifetime ago. He tenses at the sound of the door opening, yet somehow nearly expects it when he turns his head to see Jesse making his way up.

“Thought that was your stuff downstairs,” is all he says. 

Jack wonders how Jesse knows about this place, whether Gabriel told him as part of Blackwatch or - something else. Jack tries not to think about the tangled web of their relationships, for the most part. He and Gabriel were never anything defined, never anything exclusive. They kept snapping back together like an elastic band loosed of tension, year after year after year, forever finding ease and discomfort in each others’ arms. He doesn’t know what Jesse and Gabriel were like. Doesn’t want to know. 

Jesse lights one of his ever present cigars, hands it to Jack after a moment. They pass it back and forth wordlessly as the rain pours down. They don’t talk about why they’re there, much less at the same time. Jack has long suspected Jesse has a tracker on him, but doesn’t have it in him much to care.

The storm rolls past - the rain has died down to a drizzle, there’s thunder in the distance moving farther away from them and the world has that odd grey-yellow tinge that makes everything seem slightly unreal. Jesse seems relaxed at first glance, but there’s a thrumming tension in his body, like the storm seeped into his bones and doesn’t want to let him go. Jack wants to know if he tastes like lightning.

As if the stray thought was a command, Jesse stubs the cigar out on the wall and steps forward. A firm thumb moves over the largest scar on Jack’s face, Jesse’s eyes tracing over it so intently that Jack can almost feel it. He’s unsurprised, somehow, when Jesse steps forward and kisses him.

It’s quick, just a press of hot chapped lips there and pulled back along with Jesse’s hands.

“Sorry,” Jesse mutters, cheeks ruddy and eyes staring past Jack’s shoulder.

Jack sighs. “Do you even know what you’re sorry for?”

Jesse meets his eyes, the heat in them banked into embers by his confusion. He’s so proud, so stubborn, even when it’s the worst thing for him. Jack wants to blame Gabriel for it, for turning him into this, but he remembers Jesse being dragged in spitting and cursing and twisting in the cuffs. Snarling insults into Jack and Gabriel’s faces like they couldn’t have him killed with a snap of their fingers. So as much as Jack wants to blame Gabriel, blame Overwatch, blame Blackwatch, it’s just...who Jesse is. 

Goddamn idiot.

Jack opens the door and goes downstairs, shoulders relaxing minutely as he hears Jesse following him. The last remnants of the storm are gone, leaving the apartment full of that orange evening light you can only really get at the equator. Jack stops in the doorway to the bedroom, noting that Jesse’s bag is already there next to Jack’s. 

It’s that, perhaps, that makes him turn and look Jesse in the eyes and say, “You want this.” It’s half question, half statement. Jesse nods silently and a half dozen emotions cross his face in as many seconds. Jack gives a single nod of his own, turns, and strips his shirt off. 

Minutes later he’s naked, laid bare in the evening setting sun. Jesse sits back on his heels between Jack’s legs, cock unashamedly twitching as he looks over Jack’s body. The scars, hidden over the years by a succession of uniforms. Hair faded from gold to silver. A machine, crafted so well by the military that it won’t run down even when Jack desperately wishes it would. 

Jack closes his eyes as Jesse leans forward to scrape his teeth over his chest, letting them catch hard on his nipple. “I -” he starts, biting off the sound as Jesse’s nails rake over his flank. “I might not - be able. To finish.” Perhaps it’s trauma, perhaps it’s working his body to the limit for decades, perhaps it’s just being well past fifty with mysterious chemicals in his veins. Jack just knows that it’s work to orgasm now, work that he never has the time nor the will to put in.

But Jesse, now. Jesse is looking down at his body with the same narrow-eyed expression he would get when Gabriel told him no. When someone said that he shouldn’t take that last drink, when told that a target was impossible to hit. He falls upon Jack, heavy muscles forcing the air out of Jack’s lungs and mouth sealing Jack's up so he can’t draw breath. A hand rough with gun calluses and the fights of a hundred countries wraps around his cock, and Jack gets hard unexpectedly, painfully fast.

Jesse makes a smug, satisfied sound in his throat that Jack would roll his eyes at if the lips traveling down his throat didn’t feel so good. There are nips and bites here and there but that hand, slick with spit and Jack’s own wetness, just keeps pumping like a piston. It stops suddenly, only to be replaced by enveloping warmth. Jack looks down to see Jesse’s wide, expressive mouth wrapped around him, the almost embarrassing redness of his cock sliding in and out smoothly. It’s good, so good that there’s an edge of self-hating curiosity that runs through Jack’s brain that wonders who else has seen Jesse like this. Whether it was - no, stop thinking about that. 

A sudden roughness, and Jack looks down to see Jesse’s fingers sliding into his mouth along with Jack’s cock. They come out wet and shiny, and even though Jack knows what’s coming it’s still a shock to feel them pressed against his entrance. Jack’s tight, body unwilling to let any intrusion in. Jesse’s determined, though, and soon is inside up to the knuckle - two fingers stroking easily inside and a thumb pressing below Jack’s balls. Blinking open dazed eyes, Jack looks down to see that Jesse’s own eyes are closed, lashes long and casting shadows on his scruffy cheeks. He’s frowning as his head moves up and down, focused the way he is when he’s aiming that ridiculous gun of his.

It’s something about realizing that this determination, this focus is on him, on Jack, that pushes him over the edge more than anything physical. It’s been so long since someone touched him, cared about him like this that the orgasm almost hurts, hurts like a last kiss or a final goodbye. Jack covers his face with his arm as he comes with a sound like pain, and breathes raggedly through Jesse working him all the way through it. 

Jack hears a soft sound, a slick sound, and tiredly moves his arm to see Jesse working over his own cock with determination. His eyes are closed and his arm jerkily moves through his hair, and as his back arches and his muscles stretch with sun on golden skin, Jack thinks to himself that this may be one of the most beautiful men he will ever sleep with. Jesse’s eyes open, pupils wide and drugged looking, and he locks gazes with Jack as he comes. It gets on the sheets, on his hand, on Jack’s hip, but Jesse just keeps going until he’s softening in his own fist. 

A few lazy swipes with the edge of the sheet and Jesse is collapsing back into bed, half on Jack’s chest. The sun has finally been eaten by the horizon and it’s still relatively early, but Jack lets himself slip into slightly confused but satisfied sleep.

Jack isn’t someone that’s ever kissed many people. He’s fucked far more than he’s kissed. It’s something that’s too soft for who he is and what he has to do, too intimate for most of his encounters. In the morning, though, Jack kisses Jesse goodbye. He kisses him like he doesn’t mean to, like he doesn’t want to, but his mouth is still soft and hot. Swallows Jesse’s noises up, draws him in like a last breath. 

Jesse doesn’t protest when Jack leaves. Leaves Jesse in the bed that smells like them and heads out of the country, because they’re Soldier 76 and Jesse McCree who is finally loosed from the restraint of his masters, and staying together isn’t something that people like them get to do.

-x-x-x-x-x-

They don’t change their habits, don’t see each other more often.

Not at first.

But then Jesse meanders in to the German cabin during spring, tells Jack that he’s been fixing up a place in Dorado. Neither of them tell Ana about it and that - perhaps that’s when it, when they become a choice they’ve made rather than a situation they’ve fallen into.

A choice. What a novelty, in lives like theirs.

-x-x-x-x-x-

Jack hates summer.

No, that’s not right. Jack loved summer once - the hazy dreamy days of an Indiana July, with the dust hanging heavy and golden in the air and fireflies making the evenings into the smallest of fireworks shows. Or even the warm summer nights of a Swiss August, the regular evening rains soaking everything gently like damp caresses.

This, though. The heavy, oppressive heat of Dorado. Jack never feels clean - his sweat soaks into his armor, feels heavier than the carbon plate he used to have to wear as infantry. The only relief comes when he can come back to the apartment, strip everything off piece by piece, take a cool shower that he never really dries off from.

Jesse will come home, wander into the bedroom to find Jack stretched out in sweatpants and nothing else on his skin but evening sun and perspiration.

 (Try wearin’ some shorts, darlin’, he’ll say, and Jack will grunt and reply that Shorts are for people with a helluva lot less scars and Next you’ll have me in socks and sandals and Jesse will laugh and reply You could make anything look good, Morrison and at that point well Jack just has to kiss him.)

Jesse draws Jack’s pants down, until his hipbones jut out and wiry blond hair peeks out at the waistband and somehow he feels more naked with his legs covered and Jesse’s eyes on him than if he were unclothed. And Jesse - Jesse that creature of the sun, of deserts and dry places, who was born with a baked in tan and a squint - licks a long line up Jack’s hip where the sweat beads up. Nips at the damp skin of Jack’s flank, in between the unfeeling scars where it’s thin over the ribs and muscle. Laps at a nipple like it could do something other than make Jack squirm, make him tug him up until he can taste his own salt on Jesse’s tongue.

It’s nothing they’ve labeled. Nothing they talk about. Perhaps that’s why it works, because they’re not Strike Commander Morrison and Blackwatch Agent McCree, they’re not even Soldier 76 and Jesse McCree who is still defining who he is, they’re just two people outside of time and place. 

-x-x-x-x-x-

It lasts until it doesn’t.

It lasts until a firefight in Australia, until a junker with a fucking chainsaw takes Jesse’s arm off at the elbow and Jack’s trying too hard to staunch the blood to pay attention to where the rest of the arm ends up. Jesse only survives because Ana’s there, because she shoots Jesse full of biotic darts until his chest looks like a pincushion and he’s staring interestedly into thin air and smiling goofily.

They get back to a safehouse and Jack has Jesse’s head on his lap while Ana works on his arm. He realizes, suddenly, what it looks like. Hunched over, hands stroking through Jesse’s hair as Jesse gazes up at him, adoring and stoned off his ass. Jack tenses, starts to draw back, but Jesse grabs his arm. It’s probably him being an asshole at first but then Ana does something that makes her start cursing under her breath in Arabic and sweat breaks out on Jesse’s forehead and Jack’s right back where he started.

Later that night when Jesse is finally patched up the best he can be and sleeping, Ana makes tea for them. 

“Jack -”

“Don’t.” Support or condemnation, there’s nothing that Jack wants to hear from her right now. If he could shoot a hole in the floor and fall through it, he would.

“I was just going to say that it might be good for you. For you both,” she says as she stirs honey into her cup. Jack rolls his eyes at her and drops his mug off in the sink, the sound of her soft laughter following him into the bedroom. He sits in a chair that night and watches the rise and fall of Jesse’s chest, wondering when he started to care. Wondering when he started to care this much.

Jack gets them to Jesse’s place in Arizona, because he can’t take fucking Dorado for one more day. For the first time in their...whatever it is, they spend time together. A lot of time. Somehow, though, somehow Jack’s okay with it. They’ve learned to move around each other in small spaces by now, how to exist simultaneously without losing it. It’s one of those things Jack feels shouldn’t be happening, like they should be arguing more, storming out on each other. Nothing’s perfect, there are days Jack spends out on the road, days Jesse spends in bars. They always come back in the end.

Jesse finds the guy who does most of the work on his bike, gets the name of someone who does specialized metalwork. He crafts an arm for Jesse, something that has echoes of the tattoo that was left to rot in the Australian dust. The hacker that Jesse’s mentioned for years shows up, looks Jack over with judgmental purple eyes. Jack wears his facemask everywhere but home, but he knows that Sombra is aware of exactly who Soldier 76 used to be. She does the hair-thin nerve hookups on Jesse’s arm, making it into a seamless whole.

They’ve been sharing a bed all this time but not fucking. Every time Jack rolls over and looks at the bandaged stump he’s overwhelmed with guilt, with one more thing that fell apart and he wasn’t able to stop. He doesn’t know what’s in Jesse’s head, just knows that Jesse never reached for him during those long weeks without his arm. Now that he has his replacement, though, it’s on the table. Jesse gives him lingering looks that Jack looks away from, wraps hands around him in the middle of the night that Jack pretends he’s asleep for.

“I’m whole now, isn’t that enough?” Jesse finally spits out one night, standing in front of Jack who had just flinched away when Jesse tried to kiss him.

“Lookit me,” Jesse says, fire in his voice and sparks in his eyes. “Look at me and tell me I’m broken.”

Jack doesn’t know how to say that even with the dead family, even with the missing arm, even with the only home that he ever really knew burned to ashes by the two men his universe revolved around - even with all of that Jack would never think of Jesse as broken.

But Jack? Jack with his body held together with strips of nerveless flesh, Jack with the father who thought he was dead and the mother that died cursing his name, Jack with his legacy lying in ashes and blood…

It’s not that Jesse is broken. It’s that Jack couldn’t protect him, in the end.

He looks at Jesse and doesn’t know what his face is doing, but the softening in Jesse’s own expression says that he gets it. Gets Jack, at least right now. Jack knows that a relationship needs words, that they’ll have to use them later. Right now though it’s enough that Jesse wraps himself around Jack until the lines between them are blurred, until something between them starts to mend and meld.

-x-x-x-x-x-

They go back out into the field, the both of them, working together more often than not. Jack’s solo jobs tend to be about protecting this or that person, Jesse’s are the ones that earn them money.

On the battlefield is when Jack gets to forget about who he is, who he was. When he gets to be nothing but pure reaction and adrenaline. 

Here, with Jesse holding his gun in one hand and a flashbang in the other, hat shading his eyes, he’s unfamiliar. Not unrecognizable, no, but miles and miles away from the man who fourteen hours ago was writhing on his back in Jack’s bed, saying No your fingers, darlin’, just like - oh, oh. Like this, Jesse is a killer. Like this, Jack wonders if Jesse could kill him. 

If anything, anyone could - Jesse could.

It’s a comforting thought.

They don’t live together per se, but they end up in the same places time and time again, enough that they don’t pretend it’s not something, now.

Jack is always vaguely surprised at how he can be quiet with Jesse. He still has cemented in his head the public version, Jesse McCree in his late teens and twenties - gregarious, friendly, flirting with anything that moved. Jack realizes that he doesn’t know how much of that was an act, whether Jesse was like that behind closed doors or not. He realizes that Gabriel knew, realizes that he gets angry (still, even now with Jesse in his bed), wondering exactly how much Gabriel knew.

Jesse McCree in his thirties seems different though. Quieter, more tired, but also more secure in his own skin. Late nights often find Jack settled back on the couch with Jesse on the floor between his legs, doing endless maintenance work on his ancient gun or more often than not reading. Jack threads his fingers through Jesse’s hair, combing it back. There’s grey in the strands now, threads of silver amongst the gold-edged brown. Jack’s fingers are thick and blunt, scarred with decades of work that even SEP could never completely heal away. 

Once upon a time Fareeha would sit with him and determinedly teach him how to braid her doll’s hair, with the eventual motivation of getting Jack to braid her own. She would slap his hands away with her thin brown fingers like Jack wasn’t the most powerful man in an international organization, and show him once more how to do it right. For all the training Jack Morrison suffered under a hundred military leaders, no one could teach precision like a focused elementary school girl.

The sense memories slowly return, and Jack’s fingers work in Jesse’s hair, unsure and then faster. Jesse dogears a page before shutting his book’s cover, and stretches. He puts a hand up, feels the braids Jack has put in. Smiles. Presses a kiss to the thin skin of Jack’s inner thigh and says that it’s late and there’s a gang to kill in the morning.

Jack gets up and pulls Jesse to his feet and takes him to bed. Because somehow, that’s his life now. Soft, satisfied noises come from the bedroom as two tablets on the coffee table blink to life and flash the word RECALL.

They’ll find the tablets in the morning, look at each other with tired, worried eyes. The man who once was Jack Morrison and the man who has finally become Jesse McCree don’t know what they’re going to do, but they’ll do it. Together or not. One way or another.