“Your curse... Until you have earned the release, you will suffer this hereafter.”
Genji thought she was joking. Thought it was a cruel taunt to mess with him. To mess with them both.
“Oh, Genji...” Zenyatta steps into the room, and Genji scurries into the corner, hidden by the nightstand. “Genji... It is you, is it not?”
Genji can’t help the small noise of despair that makes it past his throat.
“Please, my dear Genji... Come out,” Zenyatta whispers, crouching to the floor and holding out his hands.
Slowly, hesitant with shame, Genji crawls out from behind the nightstand, a tiny, slender green Eastern dragon with short brown nubs for horns and white fur along the ridge of his spine to the tuft at the tip of his tail. A mewling growl pours off his tongue as he looks up at Zenyatta.
“Oh...” Reaching out, he turns his hand palm up, waiting for Genji.
After a long moment, Genji stretches forward and touches his muzzle gently to the tip of a finger. The touch seems to break whatever hesitance Genji has left, and he practically leaps into Zenyatta’s arms, mewling desperately.
“Oh, my Genji... my precious Genji...” Zenyatta continues cooing gentle reassurances, stroking his fur gently and cradling him against his shoulder. Standing carefully, Zenyatta carries him to the bed, gingerly settling against the headboard while Genji curls up on his chest with a small whine.
They stay like that for the remainder of the night, Genji dozing occasionally as he grows more comfortable in Zenyatta’s company. Then, as the first rays of morning light stream gently through the window, both are surprised when Genji’s body shifts and warps, lengthening, fur, horns, and tail retreating. The scales shed from his skin as he grows, too quickly for either to react, until Genji is straddling Zenyatta, naked.
“Oh,” Zenyatta whispers into the stunned silence. A wash of blotchy red spreads over scarred skin, and Genji scrambles off Zenyatta and off the bed.
“I- Zen, I-” He stammers, back pressed to the wall and trying ineffectually to cover himself.
“Shh, Genji... It is alright, my dear,” Zenyatta assures, rising from the bed and reaching out.
“I- I am so sorry...” Genji devolves into Japanese babbling, on the verge of a complete breakdown, and Zenyatta steps in, gently cupping his cheek.
“Genji,” he says softly, waiting until Genji stops speaking to lean in and touch the base of his faceplate to Genji’s jaw, omnic energy sparking between metal and skin.
“My fault...” the ninja rasps, accent heavy. Zenyatta hums shortly, shaking his head and leaning on him.
“No, my love; it is no one’s fault.”
“I angered her; the witch...” Genji whispers, nuzzling into his neck.
“No. She was vengeful, vindictive. We merely happened to be in the vicinity when she finally exploded.”
“Mercy,” Genji scoffs, aching. “A terrible, ironic name... I am so sorry, Zen-”
“Stop apologising, Genji; it is not your fault.”
“If this is what will happen to you, I-” Genji continues, wrapping his arms around the omnic and holding tight. “I do not want to see you suffer that. It- It hurt... so much...”
“I do not feel pain, Genji,” Zenyatta reminds. “Not as you do. If I am to become a creature at night, I will count it an unusual and interesting experience.”
Every night for a week, the same thing happens; at midnight on the dot, Genji collapses in breathless agony that lasts a full five minutes as his body compresses and contorts into the tiny form of an Eastern dragon. Zenyatta holds him as best he can, whispering reassurances and making sure they stay in physical contact throughout. After, they spend the night cuddling and dozing until the sun rises and the transformation reverts in a fraction of the time it took at midnight.
“You know I still love you, right?” Zenyatta whispers one morning, caressing Genji’s cheek and watching the way the light of the sunrise plays across the bumps and ridges of Genji’s scars.
“Yes,” the ninja hums, basking in the touch. “It can be hard to remember at times... Hard to believe that I deserve someone like you...”
“What we deserve and what we get are rarely the same,” Zenyatta notes. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
That night, Genji strips at two minutes to midnight while Zenyatta arranges the pillows, both of them preparing for the transformation. They settle into the bed, and Zenyatta guides Genji through several breathing exercises to calm him; it hurts less when he’s relaxed.
Midnight comes and goes. Nothing happens.
“Is the curse broken?” Genji whispers after a half hour has passed, hardly daring to believe.
“Perhaps,” Zenyatta answers, still holding him. “We can hope.”
Sunrise comes, with no transformation, and the following night, Genji strips again, just in case. Seconds tick by, midnight drawing closer, and they dare to hope the curse has been lifted.
Midnight arrives. Genji holds his breath, but it's Zenyatta who jolts, a stifled cry of surprise and pain crackling from his voice box.
"Zen? Zenyatta??" Genji grabs at his arm, yanking back in shock when his hand grasps flesh instead of metal. He scrambles to a seated position as Zenyatta trembles and twitches, metal frame slowly softening and changing colour.
At five minutes after midnight, Genji is staring in stunned disbelief at a very human young man with smooth olive skin, vivid and dazed blue eyes, and nine little black dots on his shiny bald head.
"Zen...?" he breathes, reaching out but stopping himself before he touches the man.
Panic begins to cloud the vivid blue gaze, and abruptly Genji realises he isn't breathing. He almost tells the monk to do just that, but it occurs to him that Zenyatta may not know how; after all, breathing is not necessary for an omnic.
Leaning down, Genji seals his mouth to Zenyatta's and blows breath into him. Then he presses hard on Zenyatta's chest. He repeats those actions until the monk figures it out himself and begins taking short, awkward breaths.
"Yes, just like that," Genji says, choking on a relieved laugh. His hand stays on Zenyatta's chest, pressing lightly and lifting to help him time his breaths. "Just like that, Zen; you are doing so well."
Zenyatta shifts forward ever so slightly, and then frowns. His mouth opens, and closes.
"Breathe out and shape your mouth," Genji explains gently, exaggerating the movements of his own lips and tongue a bit as an example.
For the rest of the night, Genji teaches Zenyatta how to move his mouth to form words while the monk struggles to maintain his breathing. When sunrise comes, both are relieved to see the monk return to his metal form, and for a long moment, Genji clings to him.
"I am so sorry," he says into Zenyatta's chest. "I did not know- I would have prepared-"
"It is not your fault, Genji," Zenyatta murmurs, quieter and less decisive than usual; the experience has shaken him, and he tightens his hold on Genji. "Neither of us could have expected that. Thank you for helping me breathe."
"...Is it... Is it anything like breathing as an omnic?" Genji dares to ask, shifting so he can tilt his head to look at Zenyatta.
"The motions are similar, but more of my body is required to breathe as a human," Zenyatta answers slowly, torn between interest and uncertainty. "It is... a chore. I am grateful it will only last a few hours at a time."
Much of the day is spent with Zenyatta observing Genji closely to learn the habits of humans that he will need to survive if he transforms again; it makes Genji mildly uncomfortable and self-conscious, but he bears it silently, doing his best to exaggerate everything so Zenyatta understands. At midnight, the monk becomes human. Once again, he struggles to breathe, and Genji breathes for him for a few moments until he picks up the pattern.
After the fourth night, Zenyatta no longer needs the help.
After two weeks, he’s learned to whisper, but hasn’t quite figured out how to use his vocal chords. His words are often slurred or mumbled, but Genji has no problem understanding him.
“Eventually I will learn to speak properly,” Zenyatta states one night as they’re preparing. “I have made up my mind, and I will use this experience to gain a better understanding of humans.”
“I do not doubt it,” Genji chuckles, sliding under the covers beside the monk and snuggling close; unlike his omnic body, Zenyatta’s human body grows cold easily, and with autumn well underway, the nights are often frigid, so Genji shares his body heat with the monk.
“Is it odd?” Zenyatta asks, pressing close as midnight ticks steadily nearer. “Seeing me human?”
“...It is certainly different,” Genji admits. “I have grown so used to your appearance that the change is... It can be disorienting.”
Zenyatta hums but says nothing else, clinging to the ninja when the transformation begins. Once it’s complete, Genji starts to say something, only to be cut off by a press of soft lips against his own.
The kiss is awkward, inexperienced; chaste but clearly meant to be more. In fact, Zenyatta looks frustrated when he pulls back, leaving Genji momentarily stunned.
“Wrong,” the monk whispers, mildly annoyed. “Not right. How?”
“H-how do you... k-kiss?” Genji clarifies, still struggling to catch up. Zenyatta nods and brushes his thumb over Genji's lower lip.
For a long moment, Genji hesitates, irrationally concerned that he'll enjoy kissing human Zenyatta more than omnic Zenyatta, and flustered by the fact that the monk wants to learn in the first place.
“Please.” Zenyatta tilts his head back, pursing his lips a moment and then grinning. Genji can’t help a laugh, and he lays his hand on the monk’s cheek. Sighing, Zenyatta nuzzles into the hand, expression soft and content.
A flutter explodes in Genji’s chest. More and more, he feels like this is not so much a curse as it is a blessing, that the witch saw what they needed and gave them this. How else can he explain the joy of seeing every little unconscious expression on Zenyatta’s face? It’s given him a new perspective and insight into the monk’s moods, which translates surprisingly well to when he isn’t human; he notices the little things he used to miss: a faint head twitch, a slight change in posture... the tiny indicators of Zenyatta’s mood that he didn’t understand before.
“Zen...” Swallowing, Genji takes a breath and focuses on this moment. Shifting his hand, he mimics what Zenyatta did, brushing a thumb over the monk’s bottom lip. He tugs it down and presses his thumb gently between Zenyatta’s teeth.
His heart skips when the monk’s eyes fall closed and his tongue presses against the pad of Genji’s thumb. Heat courses through his veins at Zenyatta’s faint, breathy whimper.
“Oh Zen...” he breathes, rising up on his arm and leaning over the monk to kiss him properly. It’s still awkward as Zenyatta tries to keep up with Genji’s desperate desire. It takes a moment for Genji to get control of himself, to pull back and let the monk breathe, but he only waits a few moments before leaning in again, kiss gentler this time.
“Taste good,” Zenyatta murmurs, barely audible. “Hot...”
“Yeah,” Genji chuckles, pressing his lips to the corner of Zenyatta’s.
“No...” The monk takes his hand, drawing it down to his smooth, lean chest, where a heartbeat pulses hard and fast beneath his ribs. It rises with a deep, shaky inhale under Genji’s palm, and holds as Zenyatta pushes his hand further down.
“Zen...” It’s hard, but Genji stops him from going any further, desperately wanting to continue but knowing he doesn’t dare. “Do not tempt me...”
“Genji.” The first thing he learned to say, and the mix of chiding and desperation brings a groan of want to the ninja’s tongue. “Please.”
“Are you sure?” Genji asks, straining against his reluctance. Zenyatta nods firmly, grip tightening on his hand.
“I love you.” The soft, tender reminder breaks down Genji’s hesitance and he stops balking, letting Zenyatta guide his hand.
It’s different this time. All of their past trysts have been one-sided, one way or the other; Genji tugging on wires, or Zenyatta stroking flesh. This time, it’s mutual; burning need pressed to hot skin, shared groans and mingling breath.
For several long seconds after, neither can move, and it takes Genji a moment to realise Zenyatta is unconscious, blissed out. He watches the monk, content, tracing the lines of his human features with gentle fingers. Part of him wishes he could feel things better with the prosthetics that replaced his hands, but the other part is glad he has no reason to love this version of Zenyatta more.
“It really is a curse...” he whispers, drawing his hand away from Zenyatta’s cheek.
“Why?” Zenyatta breathes, stirring but not yet opening his eyes.
“Nothing; no reason,” Genji answers, forcing a smile.
“Genji... No lies.” Vivid blue eyes open, focusing on his face. He hesitates, but if he knows anything about Zenyatta, it’s that the monk will not give up until he gets his answer.
“...What if...” he falters, hating himself for even thinking it. “What if I come to love this face more?”
“Genji. Am I truly any different, whatever face I wear?”
There’s no chance for Genji to respond. Sunrise has arrived, and Zenyatta jolts, shuddering his way through the reversal.
For the first time, Genji doesn’t hold him through it.
The next night, neither transforms. The following night, Genji hides away from Zenyatta and suffers a transformation to dragonhood on his own. He spends the night evading the monk, staying as far from him as possible. When morning returns him to human form, he dresses and heads to the only place he can think to go.
“Brother... I do not know where else to go...” Hanzo looks him up and down, glances over his shoulder, sighs.
“Come in,” he offers, stepping aside. He’s wearing pyjama pants and an oversized button-up shirt that Genji knows does not belong to him, and a moment later, the reason steps into the kitchen.
“Mornin’ darlin’,” Jesse yawns, shirtless and wearing only boxers. Then he stops, staring at Genji, who stares back.
Everyone has known for months about the relationships between Jesse and Hanzo, and Genji and Zenyatta. However, where Genji and Zenyatta were open about their relationship from the start, neither Hanzo nor Jesse has said anything to confirm or deny their relationship. This is the first real proof that even Genji has seen.
“Uh, Hanzo?” Jesse speaks up hesitantly.
“He was there, Jess,” Hanzo mutters tiredly, pulling out a chair from the table and sinking into it. He sighs heavily, scrubbing at his eyes. “Zenyatta too.”
“The witch,” Genji says, more of a question than a statement.
“And a curse,” Hanzo whispers, dropping his hands and staring at them.
“Mine is dragon,” Genji explains quietly. “Zenyatta’s, human.”
“Fox,” Hanzo replies, nodding at Jesse. Then, hesitantly, lowering his gaze; “Omnic.”
“Oh... Han...” Leaning across the table, Genji grabs his hand for a comforting squeeze. Of all people, Genji and Jesse understand Hanzo’s fear most; when the older brother lost his legs a few years after nearly killing Genji, he thought it his retribution for what he did, and it caused him to fear that he’d eventually become more machine than man.
“We been dealin’ with it,” Jesse sighs, gripping Hanzo’s shoulder as he places a steaming mug of coffee on the table. “Slow goin’, what with the alternatin’ moons and all that.”
“Moons?” Genji frowns.
“Do you not have the same pattern?” Hanzo asks, holding the mug tightly between his hands. “One on waning moons, the other on waxing moons?”
“We...” Genji flounders, thinking back. “Two weeks. And a day between that neither changes.”
“Mmhm; new moons and full moons. And the new moon was two nights ago,” Jesse notes, gently rubbing the space between Hanzo’s shoulder blades. “Who changed last night?”
Silence falls; Genji doesn’t know how to begin, Hanzo doesn’t know what to say, and Jesse doesn’t know if he can help. After a long moment, Jesse finally clears his throat.
“Why, uh... Why a dragon?” he asks.
“The witch targeted things we fear,” Hanzo murmurs, sipping his coffee. “Dragon... because of our training?”
“...Yes.” Genji folds his hands in his lap. Then he scowls. “But... Why would Zen fear being human?”
“Honestly? Didn’t think he’d be scared of anythang,” Jesse huffs.
“...Maybe it is not his fear,” Hanzo says quietly.
“Ain’t his fear?” Jesse frowns. “Then who’s is it?”
“Genji, why did you come here?” Hanzo asks instead of replying. He looks up at Genji, staring hard. The younger brother can’t meet his gaze.
“Genji?” Jesse prompts when he doesn’t speak.
“I-” Genji swallows around the lump in his throat, regretting his decision to come here. It’s a struggle to get the words out. “I slept with him. The last night he-”
“What’s wrong with that?” Jesse asks, perplexed.
“Jess...” Hanzo shakes his head at the cowboy. Taking a breath, he reaches across the table to take Genji’s hand this time. “You did not take advantage of him, brother; he loves you.”
“That is not-” Genji breaks off, pulling away. “I know he wanted it; I made sure it was not just my own projection.” Shrinking in on himself, he forces himself to speak, even though it’s the last thing he wants to do. “He was human , Hanzo... not the man I fell in love with; I should not have slept with him.”
“Genji...” Hanzo breathes, sympathetic pain etching creases in his features.
“Listen, Genji,” Jesse sighs, leaning on the table. “It ain’t like that; Zen’s the same guy whether he’s made of flesh or made of metal.”
“No,” Genji insists, barely holding himself together. “I- I wanted to touch his skin. His skin . Not metal. Not wires, not- not scratches; I wanted to feel... warmth.” He takes a deep, shuddering breath and looks up. “How can I look him in the face and tell him I love him when that desire plagues my every waking thought?”
“Is it wrong to wanna explore every aspect of your lover?” Jesse asks. “Wrong to wanna hold him, no matter what he looks like?”
“No, no, I-”
“Genji.” Something in Hanzo’s voice makes the younger brother pause, getting his attention. Hanzo is gripping the mug so tightly his knuckles are whitened, and he’s trembling noticeably. “Do not tell me that appearance matters. Do not dare to come into my house and tell me that looks make the man.”
The mug shatters in his grip, spilling coffee and ceramic shards everywhere. Hanzo jolts, staring at the mess in shock.
“Shit...” Jesse drags Hanzo’s chair back forcefully, quickly grabbing his hands and checking for cuts. “Okay... Okay, good. Don’t touch anythang, darlin’; gonna go get somethin’ to clean this up.”
“Yes...” Hanzo whispers, still surprised. Jesse brushes his hand through Hanzo’s hair and kisses the top of his head before leaving the room.
“Han, I-” Genji stammers after a moment. “I did- I- So-” Swallowing and taking a deep breath, he tries again. “Han. I am so sorry... I never intended to-”
That must snap Hanzo out of his stupor, because he shakes his head, raising his hand.
“Stop, Genji. She preyed on our biggest fears. She focused on you because you made yourself the center of her attention; Zenyatta has no fears, so she doubled up on you instead. This is something you will have to come to terms with if you ever want to break the curse. I am... still struggling with mine.” Huffing a wry laugh, he scrubs a hand over his face. “We are both fortunate to have come to terms with our history before we met Mercy; I know I would not have survived seeing your face again...”
“You and me both, brother,” Genji sighs.
An oddly companionable quiet settles over them while they wait for Jesse’s return, broken only by the distant tick-tock of the ancient grandfather clock in the hall.
“...What should I say to him?” Genji asks timidly, thoughts leaping from his tongue before he can stop them. “I am not sure I can face him now...”
“Tell him the truth,” Hanzo says bluntly. “Trust me; it is better to have it out in the open, to share it and discuss it, than it is to bottle it up inside.”
"Words of wisdom, but far easier said than done," Genji grimaces.
"You need to talk to him, Genji," Hanzo insists. Then he scoffs a noise of amusement. "Jesse used to tell me that communication is more important in a relationship than it is on a mission, that anyone can spot the enemy, but no one knows if or why you are scared unless you speak. It took me almost a year to be comfortable telling him what I think and feel, but it was the best decision I have ever made, the biggest step in our relationship."
“What’s the biggest step?” Jesse asks, dressed in jeans now and bringing a washcloth, a broom and a dustpan.
“Communication,” Hanzo says blandly, a faint smile on his lips as he stands and steps around the mess to take the dustpan and washcloth.
“That it is,” Jesse laughs, carefully sweeping up the pieces of ceramic into a pile. Genji watches them work together so perfectly, moving around each other with the careless ease of long-refined teamwork.
When it’s clean, Jesse gets another cup of coffee for Hanzo and then offers one to Genji, who hesitates and then shakes his head.
“No... Thank you.” Standing, Genji pauses. “I... I envy you, brother. I always have, but now...” He sighs. “You have something good here. You will break your curse; I do not doubt that in the slightest.”
“Genji...” Hanzo reaches out, but Genji steps away, shaking his head again.
“Thank you, Hanzo.”
Zenyatta is sitting against the back of their couch when Genji returns, legs crossed in full lotus and hands clasped in his lap. His mala beads are nowhere to be seen.
“Genji!” Zenyatta is on his feet in an instant and across to the entryway, throwing his arms around the ninja in a tight embrace. Being just larger than Genji, he envelopes the ninja in his arms. “Where were you? I was so worried!”
“Zen...” Genji buries his face in Zenyatta’s robe, buries himself in the cool, clean scent of his lover.
“Where did you go?” Zenyatta asks, pulling back and cupping Genji’s jaw. “I had no idea where even to look.”
“I am so sorry,” Genji breathes, leaning into his touch. “I- I needed...”
“Needed what, my dear?” Zenyatta hums, stroking his cheek gently.
“I- A moment to think.” Unsettled and terrified, Genji closes his eyes, taking a breath and gripping Zenyatta’s wrists. “Zen, I- Do you... regret it?”
“Regret...? Do you mean two nights ago?” Genji nods, and Zenyatta sighs, still caressing him. “No, Genji; no, I regret nothing. I love you. I am delighted to have given you something I could not before.”
“No, Zen, I- You do not understand...” He gently pulls away from the monk, nudging his hands away and shifting back. “I... wanted it...”
“Of course you did,” Zenyatta replies, perplexed. “It is a natural human response to being with your loved one.”
“Tha- No, I-” Genji swallows past the lump in his throat, wrapping his arms around his middle. “I wanted that... more... than what we had.”
“...What do you mean?”
“Touching your skin... feeling your warmth... I desired that, more than...” Faltering, Genji forces himself to reach up and place his hand against Zenyatta’s chestpiece, covering the place where a human’s heart would be. He stares at the differences between the metal of his hand and the metal of the monk’s body. “More than this.”
The lights on Zenyatta’s forehead dim and then flare in realisation. He covers Genji’s hand, unusually quiet and inscrutable, and then gently pulls the ninja’s hand away, turning to move deeper into the house. Genji’s breath catches, certain it’s some kind of rejection, and he struggles to take in enough oxygen.
Then Zenyatta returns with a bag. A broken noise of horror scrapes past his throat.
“Genji,” Zenyatta says gently, setting the bag by the door and reaching out for him. Genji jerks back away from him, shaking his head. He can’t speak, so he doesn’t try. Zenyatta watches him for a moment, then goes to the desk and writes a quick note. Tapping it, he goes back to the door, picking up the bag and leaving.
Hanzo doesn’t even wait for Jesse to park; he’s out of the door before it stops moving and up to the front door. Jesse catches up when he stops to remove his boots, then falls behind again taking his own shoes off.
“Genji?” Hanzo calls, hurrying inside. He stops abruptly at the wall of scent that slams into him.
“Oh hell,” Jesse grimaces, covering his nose. “Been a while since I last soaked in that smell...”
“Genji?” Hanzo calls again, breathing through his mouth as he moves deeper into the house. He almost trips over several bottles on the floor of the main room; kicking them aside, he steps cautiously around the couch, sighing when he finally finds his brother, strewn out on the couch with a bottle in hand.
“ Sugata o kesu ...” the ninja grumbles.
“Genji...” Hanzo ducks the bottle flying past his head, rubbing away the droplets that hit his face.
“I said go away!” Genji snarls, grabbing his wakizashi from the floor and half sitting up.
“Calm down there, buddy; we’re just worried about you.” Jesse nudges bottles toward the wall, out of the way so he can get closer.
“I do not care,” Genji hisses, starting to rise and slipping back down with a low groan of pain.
“Genji... Where is Zenyatta?”
“Gone,” Genji spits venomously, agony undercutting his anger. “Left.” He drops his blade in favour of a nearby bottle, which turns out to be empty, so he scowls and tosses it across the room.
“Gone where?” Jesse frowns. “Ain’t like a monk to just leave like that, no explanation, and certainly ain’t like Zen.”
Covering his face, Genji gestures vaguely at the desk, and Hanzo goes over immediately, not sure what he’s looking for.
“A note,” Genji mutters. “Could not bear to read it...”
“You ain’t read it yet?” Jesse exclaims, staring at him. Genji shakes his head slightly.
“Here,” Hanzo says, picking up and unfolding the note the moment he finds it. “My dear, I will never stop loving you; I will return. She can make it permanent. Always yours.” He looks up at Jesse, confused. “She?”
“Make what permanent?” Jesse adds, equally lost.
An uneasy silence follows, stretching for a long moment. Then Genji gasps, jolting upright.
“Human!” He stares in horror at his brother. “Mercy! He is going to ask her to make him human!”
“It’s been four days already,” Jesse points out. “If she’s still near where she was, she ain’t that far away; coulda gotten there in two, three days.”
“There is no way to catch up in time,” Hanzo sighs, setting the note down.
“Wh- No!” Genji struggles to stand, stumbling and falling onto the couch.
“Genji...” Hanzo lays his hand on the younger brother’s shoulder, only for Genji to swat it aside.
"I did this," he snarls, furious at everything, himself included. "I ruined it all; I have to stop him before he does something he most certainly will regret!"
"Even if he does-"
"He can hardly breathe on his own!" Genji snaps, cutting Hanzo off. "He will never survive being human!" Again he tries to stand, but this time when he stumbles, Hanzo catches him, grimacing.
"Fine; we will go. But first, you need a shower."
"And make it quick, cuz we best get to getting," Jesse says grimly. "He's had at least most the day to plead his case."
It takes less than an hour for Genji to clean up and the three of them to leave. Jesse speeds most of the way, until midnight approaches, when he pulls over to switch with Hanzo, who refuses to drive until both men have finished their transformations. Then he makes a mockery of Jesse's seeming recklessness, prompting fox and dragon to cuddle uneasily in the passenger seat.
A two-day trip takes only one, and they arrive at the place where they were cursed around midday. Despite persistent searching, however, they don't find anything for a long time.
"Once again you trespass where you do not belong," a confident, familiar and alluring voice calls out, drawing their attention to the highest point of the ruins, where the witch herself stands, gold hair bright against dark red horns, wings outstretched. "One curse was not enough for you, meine kleinen ?"
"Mercy!" Genji shouts, fury rising. "Where is he?"
"Where is who?" she returns casually, leaning gracefully on her staff.
"You know who," he snarls back. "Zenyatta!"
"Ah, the monk." A slow, amused smile curls her lips, and she waves her hand. Two ghostly images appear beside her, one of Zenyatta as an omnic, the other as a human. "Which one? The one you fell in love with, or the one who stole your heart?"
“Give him back!”
“Genji, stop,” Hanzo snaps, grabbing his shoulders and preventing him from lunging forward.
“Hold on, partner,” Jesse adds. “She obviously ain’t givin’ him back without some kinda test.”
“Good to see at least one of you has a brain,” Mercy laughs. “I suppose I should have expected it from the fox.”
“Shut up, witch,” Jesse retorts instantly. “Just tell us what the test is.”
“Maybe not so much of a brain as I hoped,” she hums, tilting her head in amusement.
“Oh...” Hanzo breathes.
“What? What is it?” Genji demands. Tearing his gaze from the witch, Hanzo turns a sad, apologetic look on his little brother.
“You must choose.”
“Ch-” Genji’s gaze snaps up to where the witch stands, flanked by the visages of his lover. “No. No, I- Why are you doing this?”
“I need a reason?” Mercy scoffs, wings tucking against her back as she shifts to crouch. “You entered my home of your own volition, ninja. It is my right to punish you as I please.”
“Then punish me ,” Genji pleads. “Leave Zen out of it! I led us here!”
“And he chose to follow,” she replies. “I see into your hearts, miene kleinen ; you will learn your lessons, or you will suffer these curses forever.”
“What lessons?” Hanzo scowls, frustrated and disgusted. “How to face our fears? You see into our hearts; you know we have faced them again and again and come out all the stronger for it. What makes this curse any different?”
Mercy sighs heavily, looking around in mild exasperation.
“You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink,” she mutters, shaking her head and standing. Twirling her staff, she points it at Hanzo, who immediately grabs for his bow and an arrow while Jesse steps between them. “You fear becoming cold, heartless; the ruthless machine your clan set out to groom you into. Every day, omnics are destroyed, killed , because of what they look like. Any one of them would sell their soul to look like you, heartless or not. And every single one feels ... You fear becoming a machine, but even a machine can love.”
Hanzo’s arrow thunks softly to the cobblestones at his feet, and Mercy’s staff shifts to Jesse.
“The wily one. Smart, sly; ever ready with roguish charm to enchant anyone who sees you smile. You’ve used those talents to scheme and connive your way through life, and more than once, you’ve gotten someone killed because of it. But you cannot bury your past; ask your lover, his brother... No matter how you try to hide it, it is a part of you; the only thing you can change is how you use those skills in the future.”
Even before the staff moves, the bottom of Genji’s stomach drops out, and he stands petrified as her attention turns to him.
“How broken you are... Very nearly murdered by your own brother, left in pieces to be patched up, half the man you once were. An assassin because nothing else made you feel more alive. Until you wandered into a monastery... Now your world revolves around one man, who cannot even satisfy your most basic needs-”
“That is not true!” Genji cries out desperately.
“-who sees the truth inside you every day and yet never leaves,” Mercy continues, ignoring him but to raise her voice over his. “Did you never stop to wonder why? You feel incomplete, a shattered vase with no purpose now that you can hold nothing; that your dragon stays with you is a mystery you avoid facing because you will have to face yourself and all your scars. You cannot look your lover in the face because you know that the moment you meet his gaze, he will see just how shallow and broken you really are.”
“Enough!” Genji demands, voice breaking under the force of his emotion.
“You push him away as strongly as you cling to him,” she presses. “And one day, the strain will be too much; everything between you will snap, and one or both of you will leave with new scars!”
“Yet never once have you considered that he might fear the same thing.”
“...What?” Hardly daring to believe his ears, Genji stares at the witch.
“Look at you...” she scoffs, setting her staff upright and sneering down at him. “So intent on your own pain that you are blind to that of the one you profess to love. You fear betrayal and abandonment so strongly that you cannot see he is already preparing himself to watch you walk out the door, even as he does everything he can think to make you stay.” Turning, gestures at the human image of Zenyatta. “He came begging me to make him human. For you. Because he saw that you wanted that, more than this.” She waves toward the omnic image.
“No,” Genji says, shaking his head.
“No?” Mercy cackles. “You cannot lie to me, Shimada Genji! Why do you think I chose that curse for you? You never changed; you are still the playboy of your youth-”
“-always ready for the next attraction to come along and pique your fancy!”
“I have changed!” Genji bellows, silencing the witch for a moment. She stares coldly at him, and he takes advantage of whatever precious seconds he has. “I have changed. I feared exactly that ― being so shallow ― and I let that fear come between us, but I have spent days wanting nothing more than to see him again, no matter what he looks like. I love Zenyatta for who he is, not what he looks like, and I-” Taking a breath, he lets it out slowly, calming himself. “I thank you for giving me the chance to realise that. Please... Give him back to me.”
Mercy watches him for a long moment, inscrutable. Then she raises her staff and the images vanish, reappearing in front of the ninja. Jesse catches Hanzo’s shoulder when he starts to step closer to his brother, keeping him back.
“Choose,” Mercy commands. “You will get him back, but how is up to you.”
Ganji falters, looking between the two faces of his lover, and then reaches out as though expecting his hands to go through the images. Instead, one hand taps against metal, the other brushing skin, and he hesitates, caressing both. Then he throws one arm around each, embracing both images tightly.
“I cannot,” he whispers. “I cannot deny any facet of him, even one so temporary.”
Mercy’s brow quirks upward, and then she laughs, softly at first but growing until she struggles to stand without her staff, wings flaring to keep her balance. All three men stare at her in confusion.
“Oh, I love when I’m wrong,” she chuckles, wiping her eyes. “Take him.” She waves a hand, and the human Zenyatta vanished, making Genji stumble. The other form stumbles into him, and they both struggle for a moment to stay upright.
“Genji?” Zenyatta breathes, stunned.
“Zen!” Genji grabs him again, burying his face in the monk’s neck.
“You have learned your lesson,” Mercy hums. “Your curse is over. However, you intruded on my territory, not once, but twice. So his curse will remain.”
“What...?” Zenyatta looks up at Hanzo and Jesse, then turns his head to look at Mercy, holding Genji close.
“I can accept that,” the ninja says quietly, nuzzling into Zenyatta.
“You two have a way to go,” Mercy says, looking pointedly at Jesse and Hanzo. “Don’t come back.” She slams her staff on the stones and light explodes out from her, enveloping everyone.
After the light comes darkness.
Hanzo jolts upright in bed with a gasp. A quick glance around shows that it’s his own bed, his house, and beside him is a familiar circle of white-framed red fur, snoozing peacefully. Reaching over with a sigh of relief, he brushes his hand through the coarse fur, fingers digging into the softer, downy fur beneath. Immediately the fox raises his head, looking around sharply, ears and nose twitching.
“We are safe,” Hanzo hums, scratching gently behind Jesse’s ear. “It is...” He quickly checks the clock on the bedside table. “...just after one.”
Jesse shifts and stands, nudging Hanzo’s hand for a moment. Then he gives a soft little bark, head cocked curiously. Hanzo smiles gently, leaning down to kiss the top of Jesse’s head.
“I am fine; thank you.”
Jesse purrs at that, then perks, jumping off the bed and going to the door. Pausing, he glances back at Hanzo, who chuckles and throws back the covers.
“Coming,” he says, grabbing one of Jesse’s shirts and tugging it on. Jesse leads the way out of the bedroom and into the kitchen, where he paws at the door leading out of the house. Hanzo frowns. “Where do you want to go?” The reproving look that earns him makes him roll his eyes. “Jess, if we are home, then they are too. Stop looking at me like that. They are fine.”
After a long moment, he gives in with a heavy sigh.
“There are days that I hate you, cowboy,” he mutters, heading back to the bedroom to dress properly. Jesse trills, following, and butts up against his legs while he changes. After tying back his hair, Hanzo scoops up the fox and carries him to the car.
It’s a short, uneventful drive to the tiny cabin Genji and Zenyatta own, and Hanzo parks a fair distance away, in case they’re asleep. Jesse hops out after him and trails along behind him to the porch, where Hanzo knocks and waits a moment. There’s no answer, and Hanzo hesitates until Jesse paws at the door, looking up expectantly. Sighing and shaking his head, Hanzo reluctantly grabs the spare key hidden above the window frame and lets them in, carefully staying quiet.
A mistake... The door to the bedroom is open, giving them a perfect view of a private scene; a fully human Zenyatta is mostly undressed and perched on Genji’s lap, the ninja bared to prosthetics and guiding his lover’s motions, teeth and tongue drawing strangled gasps and groans from Zenyatta even as the monk tries to push Genji down on his back and take control.
Hanzo immediately covers his eyes and turns away, glancing around his feet for Jesse, only to find the fox sitting in the bedroom doorway like a sassy cat, watching.
“Jesse!” Hanzo hisses as loudly as he dares, trying not to get his brother’s attention.
“Let him watch,” Genji calls, apparently unbothered by the audience. Hanzo accidentally catches his gaze over Zenyatta’s shoulder as the monk glances back, also seeming unbothered.
“I did not- Jesse wanted to check on you...” Hanzo explains sheepishly, tearing his gaze away and looking elsewhere.
A smile quirks at Zenyatta’s lips and he leans down to whisper in Genji’s ear, nipping the ninja’s earlobe and making him shudder with a soft groan.
“We do not mind,” Genji manages, trailing his hands up Zenyatta’s sides. “Zen enjoys showing off.” The bite that follows is much harsher and he winces, jerking his head back to give the monk a look that’s returned tenfold. This time when Zenyatta pushes him down, Genji goes willingly.
“Showing off my toy,” Zenyatta says, breathy voice just barely audible as he turns a playful smirk on Hanzo and Jesse. “Have a seat.”
Jesse glances up at Hanzo and gives a small yip, pointing his nose at an armchair in the corner of the room. Hanzo looks at Jesse, then at the couple already enjoying themselves on the bed. Sighing, he goes to the chair and sits, moving his hands so Jesse has room to jump up on his lap, curling up to watch the show.
It’s going to be a long night. But surprisingly, Hanzo finds he doesn’t really mind; his brother is finally happy, and however long it takes, he’ll work things out with Jesse. They have nothing but eternity ahead of them.